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fearing, lest I have already put his patience to a sufficient trial by my copious citation of scripture; for which, the impossibility of finding elsewhere those documents which came home to my present purpose, must be my apology.
From what we have briefly suggested upon this topic, and from the examples we have produced, it may appear, that just views of Providence are powerfully calcu
buchadnezzar's success against Egypt, which reflects a beautiful light on the equity of Providence in rewarding even temporal services. “ It came to pass,” says the prophet Ezekiel, “in the seven and twentieth year, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus : every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages nor his army for Tyrus, for the service he had served against it. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey, and it shall be the wages for his army: I have given himn the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord God." Ezekiel xxix. 17-20.
lated to administer support to a man of piety under all reverses; under poverty and oppression, sickness and death. Even amidst the waste and desolation of his country, while he may bewail the wickedness or misconduct which brought on the catastrophe, he will find rest in the consideration, that it could not have taken place without the righteous disposal of the Almighty.
Let it be well observed, that it is only a good man, or, in other words, a man who is subdued to the government and grace of God, to whom this support fully belongs, or who is fully capable of it; such a man only has ground for an entire confidence in the divine favour towards him, amidst all the disorders and troubles to which he is exposed; or is prepared to acquiesce in all the dispensations of heaven towards mankind in general. Others, as they approach to this character, may expect to share in the consolations annexed to it. To all but the obstinate rebel, who will neither submit to the laws of his Creator, nor listen to the
overtures of his mercy, a ray of hope breaks through the thickest gloom of the present · state.
One great reason why a wicked man, wicked to the degree now described, can find no satisfaction in the view of Providence, as consisting in the government of God over free agents, is, because it leaves him responsible for his actions, and threatens him with certain vengeance on their account; he is therefore willing to divert his attention from this subject altogether, or perhaps to seek relief in some scheme of necessity, which, whatever other misery it may involve, will, if he can thoroughly persuade himself of it, save him, at least, from the anguish of a guilty conscience, and from the apprehension of any suffering which can properly come under the idea of punishment.
It appears, therefore, of the highest moment, that while we maintain the sinful volitions of men to be subject to divine control, we should exempt them from every kind of absolute necessitation ; lest, by contending for the government of God, we destroy the responsibility of man, and remove him out of that state of trial which we are taught to believe he is under during the present life. To guard against this destructive consequence shall be the business of the following section; which, though it may be censured as a digression, the reader, it is presumed, will regard with a favourable allowance, from a consideration of the great and pressing importance of the subject; especially at a season, when the strong hold of necessity is become the last retreat of infidels and atheists, and (what is still more to be lamented) is resorted to as a tower of defence by some who are professed advocates for evangelical religion, to which, in other respects, it is acknowledged they are an ornament.
On the Importance of distinguishing Providence
That the doctrine of necessity is as ancient as the days of our first parents, it would be rashness to assert. It might be supposed, however, without any great improbability, that something of this kind was insinuated in Adam's casting his offence upon Eve, and Eve upon the serpent. Be this as it may, it is certain, that an infusion of this doctrine has corrupted the streams both of religion and philosophy almost in all ages, and among all nations of which we have any literary records. Without attempting to demonstrate this by a particular deduction, which would here be unseasonable, I proceed to observe, that it was the felicity of the christian church, either to escape entirely this taint, or to be but slightly infected