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and variety of the works of the Creator, and finishes by acknowledging, that all we know is nothing in comparison of what we are ignorant of. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing, He hath compassed the waters with bounds. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power. By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Yet these are only parts of his ways ! Job xxvi. 7. &c. Weigh these expressions well. This firmament, this earth, these waters, these pillars of heaven, this boundless space, the sun with its light, the heavens with their stars, the earth with its plants, the sea with its fish, these, lo, these are only parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him! The glorious extent of his power who can understand ! Let us then, placed as we are on the borders of the works of nature, humbly exclaim, O the depth !
III, Providence is the third path to God, and affords us new motives to adore his perfections: but which also confounds the mind, and makes us feel that God is no less incomprehensible in his manner of governing the world than in that of creating it. It would be easy to prove this, if time would allow us to examine the secret ways which providence uses to govern this universe. Let us be content to cast our eyes a moment on the conduct of providence in the government of the church for the last century and a half.
Who would have thought that in a neighboring kingdom, a cruel and superstitious king, the greatest enemy that the reformation ever had, he, who by the fury of his arms, and by the productions of his pen, opposed this great work, refuting those whom
he could not persecute, and persecuting those whom he could not refute, who would have thought that this monarch should first serve the work he intended to subvert, clear the way for reformation, and by shaking off the yoke of the Roman pontiff, execute the plan of providence, while he seemed to do nothing but satiate his voluptuousness and ambition ?
Who would have thought that the ambitious Clement, to maintain some chimerical rights, which the pride of the clergy had forged, and to which the cowardice of the people and the effeminacy of their princes had granted, who would have believed, that this ambitious pope, by hurling the thunders of the Vetican against this king, would have lost all that great kingdom, and thus would have given the first stab to a tyranny which he intended to confirm ?
Who would have imagined that Zuinglius would have had such amazing success among the people in the world the most inviolably attached to the customs of their predecessors, a people scrupulously retaining even the dress of their ancestors, a people above all so inimical to innovations in religion, that they will hardly bear a new explication of a passage of scripture, a new argument, or a modern critical remark, who would have supposed, that they could have been persuaded to embrace a religion diametrically opposite to that which they had imbibed with their mother's milk.
Who would have believed that Luther could have surmounted the obstacles that opposed the success of his preaching in Germany, and that the prond emperor, who reckoned among his captives pontiffs and kings, could not subdue one miserable monk ?
Who would have thought that the barbarous tri
bunal of the inquisition, which had enslaved so many nations to superstition, should have been in these provinces one of the principal causes of our reformation ?
And perhaps the dark night which now envelops one part of the church, will issue in a bright morning. Perhaps they, who in future time speak of providence, will have reason to add to a catalogue of the deep things of divine government, the manner in which God shall have delivered the truth oppressed in a kingdom, where it once flourished in vigor and beauty. Perhaps, the repeated blows given to the reformed may serve only to establish the reformation. But we abridge this third article, and proceed to the fourth, in which we are to treat of the depths of revelation.,
IV. Shall we produce the mortifying list of unanswerable questions to which many doctrines of our religion are liable; as for exaple, those which regard the Trinity, the incarnation, the satisfaction, the union of two natures in Jesus Christ, the secret ways of the holy Spirit, in converting the souls of men, the precise nature of the happiness to be enjoyed in the intermediate state between our death and our resurrection, the faculties of glorified bodies, the recollection of what we shall have seen in this world, and many more of the same kind ?
All this would carry us too far from the principal design of the apostle. It is time to return to the precise subject which inspired him with thisexclamation. The words of our text are, as we have intimated, the conclusion of a discourse, contained in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of this epistle. These chapters are the cross of divines. The questions there treated of concerning the deVOL. V.
crees of God are so abstruse, that in all ages of the church, and particularly since the scism of Plegaius, divines orthodox and heterodox have employed all their efforts to give us a system free from difficulties, and they have all failed in their design.
To enable you to comprehend this, we are going succinctly to state their different systems; and the short view we shall take will be sufficient to convince you, that the subject is beyond the reach of the human mind, and that though the opinion of our churches hath this advantage above others, that it is more conformable to right reason, and to the decisions of scripture, yet it is not without its abysses and depths.
Let us begin with the system of Socinus and his followers. God, according to them, not only hath not determined the salvation of his children, but he could not even foresee it. Whatever man resolves depends on his own volition, and whatever depends on human volition cannot be an object of the knowledge of God, so that God could not foresee whether I should believe or not believe, whether I should obey or not obey, whether I should receive the gospel or reject it. God made no other decree than that of saving such as believe, obey, and submit to his gospel : these things depend on my will, what depends on my will is uncertain, an uncertain object cannot be an object of certain knowledge : God therefore cannot certainly foresee whether my condition will be eternally happy, or eternally miserable.
This is the system. Thanks be to God, we preach to a christian auditory. It is not necessary to refute these errors, and you feel, I persuade myself, that to reason in this manner is not to elucidate, but subvert religion ; it is at once to degrade God from his Deity and scripture from its infallibility,
This system degrades God, for what, pray, is a God, who created beings, and who could not foresee what would result from their existence ? A God who formed spirits united to bodies by certain laws, and who did not know how to combine these laws so as to foresee the effects they would produce? A God forced to suspend his judgment ? A God who every day learns something new, and who doth know to-day what will happen to-morrow? A God who cannot tell whether peace will be concluded, or war continue to ravage the world? whether religion will be received in a certain kingdom, or whether it will be banished? whether the right heir will succeed to the crown, or whether the crown will be set on the head of an usurper? For according to the different determinations of the wills of men, of king, or people, the prince will
nished or admitted, the tyrant or the lawful king will occupy the throne; for if God cannot foresee how the volitions of men will be determined, he cannot foresee any of these events. What is this but to degrade God from his deity, and to make the most perfect of all intelligences a being involved in darkness and uncertainty like ourselves.
Further, to deny the presence of God is to degrade scripture from its infallibility, for how can we pretend to respect scripture when we deny that God knows the determinations and volitions of mankind? What then are we to understand by all the express declarations on this subject ? For example, what doth the psalmist mean? O God, thou hast searched and known me. Thou knowest my down sitting and up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts afar off. Thou art acquainted with all my ways, for there is not a word in my tongue but thou knowest it altogether. Psal. cxxxix. 1, &c.