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their various mutual conflicts, in their more private offences, and in their united opposition to the cause of God. « For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.”
We proceed to a
4th. Argument in defence of the doctrine under discussion, which is, that prayer is of fered to God upon the principle, that all creatures are dependent upon and subordi. nate to him, as the instruments of his provi. dence. If this principle be not granted, the mouths of the saints, of all God's praying people, will be effectually shut, in respect to most of those humble petitions, which are dictated by their piety. If the king's heart is not turned by the hand of the Lord, even as the rivers of water are turned; what en. couragement have his subjects to pray for peace, and the blessings of good government under his reign ? Their offering such a request to the most high God, implies a belief, that it is his province to work, by the instru. mentality of men, in securing to the subjects of his favour those benefits, which appertain to the social state, and are the result of that connection, which subsist between man and man. If men act any otherwise than as the instruments of divine providence, they, and not God, should be supplicated, in prayer, when those things are needed, which are to flow immediately from their hands. In this case, Daniel, instead of making his supplica
tion to God, as he did with great humility and fervour, for the return of the Jewish captivity, should have prostrated himself before the king of Persia, whose decree was necessary to procure the release of the captives. How could Daniel, or any of his piOus brethren in captivity, indulge a hope of ever escaping from that forlorn state, otherwise than by trusting in God, that he would put it in the hearts of their rulers to liberate them and give them permission to return to their own land ? As God had brought theny there without a miracle, so they had no reason to anticipate a miracle to bring themy back again. Their redemption was to be effected in a way of human means and exertions. Accordingly, Nehemiah made
application to Artaxerxes for his patronage in aid of the work of restoring Jerusalem to its former glory, as the place of God's peculiar residence, and the dwelling place of the church. But this did not supercede his pray.. ing to God, as the power, on whom alone the success of the undertaking would ultimately depend." Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request ? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, un. to the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.” He first prayed to God, and then presented his petition to the king; which implies his acknowledgment of God, as the
supreme orderer and disposer of events, and the need of creatures as instruments, by which God delivers his people from a state of adversity. This doctrine of God's absolute dominion over the hearts of men, even of the wicked, and his use of them as the instruments of his providence, is contained in queen Esther's instructions to Mordecai, upon the occasion of her proposed appearance before the king tosue for the life of her people, whose extermination was threatened and even resolved upon.
Mordecai had, by a messenger, represented to Esther the need of her making intercession to the king, upon this occasion. But it was hazardous to the life of any one to come in before the king, unless called for. « Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer ; Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day : I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish I perish.” The object of this fast was to procure, by humility and prayer, for the queen a favourable reception and audience with the king ; which is tantamount to saying, that God acts upon the hearts of men, even the wicked, to bring good to pass for those he loves, and that, in this way, they become instrumental of what he designs towards the subjects of his government. Upon what other ground could the apostle Paul
put confidence in the promise of Jesus Christ to him in the following passage,
" Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vis. ion, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace : For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee for I have much people in this city.”. This divine promise supposes it to be a prerogative of God to cause the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of the wrath to restrain ; to do with men, as men do with the instruments, by which they attain the end of their vocation.
Our next attempt will be to show, how God gets glory to himself in the disposal he inakes of sinners, agreeably to his eternal plan of government, and in fulfilment of his most holy counsels. Upon this head I must study great brevity: Why, it will be asked, need an oinnipotent and infinitely wise God resort to such instruments of government as wicked men, rather than confine himself to various orders of pure and upright beings, for the means of displaying his Godhead? Taking a hint from the apostle Paul, I might, with as much propriety, ask why there should be, in a great house, any vessels except of gold and silver ; and why those that are of wood and earth might not be dispensed with entirely. Will any one question, whether it is at all to the advantage of household concerns to have some, that may be termed vessels unto dishonour, that is, too course and homely for the same department with the
i snore sumptuous and beautiful ? You will
not consider this sin.ilitude as my own. I am indebted for it to inspiration. It is to illustrate an important truth, viz. the following, that God glorifies himself in the wicked, as really as he does in the righteous. “ For we are unto God," says the apostle, "a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.” Though God is said to have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth ; yet in such, the apostle says, there is a sweet savour unto God, which implies, that he is glorified in them. And in the ninth of Rom. he tells us in what point of view God gets glory to himself from the vessels which are unto dishonour, even impenitent sinners among men.
66 What if God, willing to shew his wrath and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ; And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles ?” The apostle is here professedly showing,why there should be not only vessels unto honour,but also unto dishonour; and he says, that God endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, that he may
have occasion to shew his wrath, and make his power known, and also to make known the riches