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tion? If they had any repentance, it was God who gave it to them; and had he no purpose what he would himself do? Must we suppose, because the Lord did not reveal to the Ninevites, nor to Jonah, that he had determined to give them repentance, that therefore he had no such determination in his own mind ?
After the fall of man, we read, “ And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” To sup. pose that the Creator was, on the whole, really
sorry that he had made man, is to suppose him to be completely disappointed : But if this be true, we must forever give up the idea of an infi. nitely great and perfect Being. Christ, under the character of Wisdom, in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, speaks of rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth, and having his delights with the sons of men. This rejoicing appears to have been in foresight of the pleasing work of redemp. tion, which he designed to accomplish in this world, which was then foreseen to be apostate. All things are said, by the apostle, to be made by Christ, and for him. The work of redemption, it is evident from the scriptures, is the chief of God's works. When therefore it is said, that it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, we ought to understand this as expressing, in the first place, his feelings toward this thing when viewed by itself. Although the Most High is infinitely delighted with his system, considered as a complete whole, and with the different parts of his system as viewed in relation to this whole ; yet there are parts of it, which viewed
by themselves, are altogether disagreeable, and it is perfectly suitable, and of great importance, that he should express the feelings of his heart towards the different parts of his works as viewed by themselves. It is suitable and of great importance, that we should know that sin is that abcmninable thing which the soul of the Lord hateth; and also that he hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. If there were no other things in tlie creation but sin and misery, the Lord would heartily repent that there was a crea. ture made. When therefore our world became sinful, and exposed to misery, the Lord expressed his feelings towards this event as considered by itself, by saying that it repented him that he had made man on the earth. This also implied a change in his feelings, which would be attend. ed with a change of conduct, towards man upon his apostasy. Repentance in us implies a change in our feelings towards sin---it implies an abhorrence of that sin which we once loved. This re. pentance in God implied a change of feelings towards man..-it implied an abhorrence of the same creature in which he had taken delight; and that because he had departed from innocence and had become a sinner. But all this change of feelings and of conduct was according to the eternal counsel of his will.
When, concerning a certain wicked thing prac. tised by his covenant people, the Lord says, that he did not command them to do it, neither came it into his mind, we ought by no means to understand him to say, that he did not know that they would conduct in this manner; for if there has
one thing taken place, that he did not know would take place, who can tell how many other such things will take place ? On this supposition, the Divine Being himself cannot tell : Therefore neither men, nor even God can tell, whether the kingdom of Christ will stand, or fall. The truth is, the Holy One of Israel did not command his people to do that abominable thing which his soul hated, neither came it into his mind to command them; nothing could be more abhor. rent to his nature, or farther from his thoughts. But this does not prove that God did not determine to give them up to do this very thing; or that he did not, according to the language of the apostle, send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie. " With him is strength and wisdom : the deceived and the deceiver are his." (Job, xii. 16.) What wicked men mean for evil, a holy God means for good : Therefore it is sure, that the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain.
II. From the view which has been taken of this subject, we conclude that it must be owing to very wrong views of what is necessary to constitute divine perfection, that any should be found, who, out of regard to the character of the Deity, oppose the idea of his having a perfect plan, in. cluding every event which comes to pass. Those, who oppose this idea, do it from a professed re. gard to the character of God, to save him from the imputation of being the cause of sin. Per. haps, this was what led the Persians to invent the doctrine of two Supreme Deities, one the first cause of all good, both natural and moral, and the
other the first cause of all evil; that is, of all sin and misery. But whatever they might think of this divinity, the God of Israel pointedly disapproved of it. He declares to Cyrus, who was a Persian, “ I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness : I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isa. xlvi. 6, 7.) It is not for the honor of Jehovah, to suppose that he has an equal ; or to suppose, that the universe is governed according to two Supreme counsels. The great Eternal says, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” The Holy One of Is. rael is at an infinite remove from being a sinner; neither would I say that he is the author of sin : for the apostle says, “ God is not the author of confusion." The author of a book gives us in his work, his own sentiments and feelings; but surely sin is not the image of God, it is not the transcript of his heart.* But though it is, in its
* What is here said against calling God the author of sin, is not de. signed to oppose the sentiment advanced by Dr. HOPKINS, and others, that God is the efficient cause of sin. The Supreme Being has no such agency in sin as to make him a sinner, or an approver of sin ; but sinners do not act any more independently of Him, than saints. Sinners are said to be sensual “ not having the Spirit.” This means that they are destitute of holy influence. The Spirit, in his office as Banctifier, dwells not with them. But still their hearts are in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; and he turneth them whitherso. ever he will ; see Prov. xxi. 1. If all that God did to sinners was merely to withdraw from them, and leave their hearts to put forth in. dependent volitions (if this were possible) though it might account for their continuance in sin ; yet it would not account for their com. mitting just such sins as they do. On such a supposition, there would be nothing to make it certain, that the Lord would always make use of the wicked to accomplish his purposes. But since their hearts, as well as the hearts of good men, are entirely under his control, he can, and will do all his pleasure. If he pleases to send Joseph into Egypt, he can tun the hearts of his brethren to sell him-If he pleases to send him into prison, he can make use of his wicked mistress to effect
nature, infinitely displeasing to him, it serves to give him opportunity to display his perfections to far greater advantage, than he could otherwise have done ; and in this way to make a more stable, perfect and happy kingdom, Is it to the honor of the Supreme Being, to suppose that his original plan has been broken up-.-that sin has disconcerted all his counsels---that he is now fly. ing before the enemy and making the best shift he can, to save every thing from going to ruin ? How much more for the honor of God to believe, that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.--that he laid his plan in infinite wisdom---that he is absolutely independent, so that none can stay his hand---that the stormy wind fulfils his word, and that the wrath of nations will praise him.
III. The subject to which we have been at. tending may be improved to comfort the friends of God. Under all the uncomfortable things which they meet with in this world, how sup. porting, to believe, that all these events are a part of a most perfect plan of divine government! A full and cordial belief of the doctrine of divine decrees is the foundation of many pious affections and duties. It makes all the little events which occur solemnizing to the mind. This it. If God please to show his power in Egypt, he can prepare the way by hardening the heart of Pharaoh. If his holy designs require Ahab to go up to Ramoth-Gilead, he can turn the heart of Ahab to go. If he desires to punish a hypocritical nation, he can send the Assyrian monarch to Jerusalem, to do it; sce Isa. X. All this he can do, with out destroying the agency, or the character of sinners; or without partaking of their sins. What they mean for evil, he invariably means for good. Since, consistent with his holiness, God can turn their hearts at his pleasure ; is it not matter of rejoicing that he alway's does it?