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It would be tedious, were it possible, to point out all the imperfections that are incident to the wisest and most unexceptionably of liuman institutes.
The evils resulting from them, notwithstanding the great good they do, and the impossibility of subsisting without them, are many and great, ernment alone is perfect, in which nothing needs to be altered, rectified, or revised. And such must have been the plan of divine government, from eternity, and such must it continue to be, world without end, in order that the subject may have full confidence in him, who is styled the “ Head of all principality and power ;" who has concerted the plan, and himself administers it with his own hand. A legislator, among men, may find it politic, and even necessary, to vary the maxims and rules of government, to suit the different characters and dispositions of the governed ; to be more or less arbitrary according to the changing humours and habits of the people. But God is under no necessity of shifting his ground, in the affairs of government, to keep his kingdom in the best state of improvement, or in the way to the happiest crisis possible. It was not necessary, when sin broke into the system, that God should review the plan of procedure, which he had determined upon, in order to find, whether some new and before unthought of method of conduct must not be adopted, in relation to apostate man. Though man had assumed a new moral character; yet the same
moral precepts continued to apply and to have force, and the system of divine dealings with him, henceforth to go into practice, was already provided and established from eternity. All that God has ever done, or ever will do, in governing the world, is eternal, in the divine counsels, and not merely the offspring of those occasions, to which it seems to have a particular respect. If God had from eterni. ty calculated, or designed, to govern inankind, as a race of innocent and holy beings, and adapted the principles and plan of administration to such a supposed state of things ; it will follow, that upon the fall of our first parents, and the general lapse of human na. ture, an entirely new theory of government must have been started, which would give us an example of a very notable change indeed, in the system of divine arrangements.
In. stead of supposing any thing like this, we ought, in honour to God, rather to conceive that all the changes, whether moral, physical, or political, that have ever taken place in mankind, have been in conformity to a divine constitution, which is as ancient as eternity. This will be to consider the Deity as an unchanging God, whose purposes will stand, and who will do all his pleasure. But if new provisions, and new regulations have been needed, as often as new events have transpired, the changes, through which the Deity has already passed, are countless.
The world has been continually exhibiting new appearances since it has been the habit
ation of men. Consequently providences, new to creatures, have been perpetually turning up,not as proving any change in the coun. sels of the most High ; but as manifesting the astonishing variety there is in that perfect connected
system of things, which is in the mind and will of God from eternity. The system is not violated, nor varied, when from punishing and laying waste a nation God proceeds to forgive and save them ; when, after having driven out the Canaanites, to make room for his people, he uses such as remain to scourge and amict his own heritage. It is not by virtue of any change in the scheme of divine government, that, after God had given Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor, he proceeds to abase him, so that he is deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory is taken from him. The whole scene is of use, and is an eternal device in the wise counsels of Heaven, to make the king know, that the most High God rudeth in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. no change in God, or in the plan of his
government, that the Jews, after being, for many centuries, the only nation within the pale of the visible church, are at length cast out of the vineyard and denied the honour and the privileges of their former interest in God's covenant. Finally, it is no argument against the unchangeableness of God's government, that individuals and nations are sometimes in prosperity and sometimes in adversity, and
that too without any very sensible change in their visible character.
Fourthly. The unchangeableness of God implies, that all his purposes are invariable and eternal. It is natural to ascribe
purposes, or deterininations, to him, by whose interpositions and influences, events, of whatever kind, are brought to pass. If things happen thus or so, in consequence of the operation of a divine hand, our common sense teaches us, that God meant it should be so. This is agreeable to our notions about common things. Every voluntary and premeditated transaction among men, supposes a previous purpose
in the doer of it. A man can never be said to do any thing, in which an outward effect is implied, without first determining to do it.
And if effects are dependent on the workings of divine power, we naturally say, that God designed, or purposed, them, before they came into being; and that his power produced them according to a foregoing purpose: If any thing takes place without a previous purpose in the most High, it must be because its dependence is not on his
power ; but on the power of some other being. But, in the language of scripture, we may say, that “all things are of God.” There is nothing, therefore, that can be traced to its origin, in any thing but the purpose of God.
The scriptures are as fully and direly to this effect as own reason. See the following passages : “ The Lord of hosts . hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thoughts
so shall it come to pass ; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand ; That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my moun. tains tread hiin under foot : 'then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth ; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back ?" Again. " Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffick. ers are the honourable of the earth ? The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.” Further ; " Therefore hear the counsel of the Lord which he hath taken against Edom, and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman.” Once more ; “Therefore hear the counsel of the Lord that he hath taken against Babylon, and his purposes that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans : Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out ; surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them." To these scriptures may be added the following in the book of Psalms. " The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.' This brief recital will serve to show, that there is no impropriety in the thought, that the providence of God