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pare the way, and open the door, for the most complete discovery of his own perfections? If so, and, in order to this, sin must enter into the world and prevail, so as to give mercy an opportunity to officiate; the final end of the law could not have been an. swered, if it never had been broken. And certainly it is not derogatory to the character of God to use his own law and all the subjects of it, so as to bring about the end, for which he made them. If it is consistent for God to value his own character, as a merciful being, it is consistent for him to take measures to bring it into view; and then it is consistent for him to ordain and bring about those moral actions in his creatures, which alone call for the exercise of mercy; and then, again, it follows, that he is chargeable with no self-opposition, or inconsistency, for requiring men to be holy, at the same time his hand is concerned in bringing into being those exercises, which are positively sinful. It is all in that order of things which is absolutely necessary to render his glory complete, that he may be the object of universal admiration and complacency to the rational world.
2. It will be objected against our doctrine, that it sets the bible against itself.
I answer, that it is much safer to interpret one scripture, which needs interpretation, so that it will harmonize with another, which is explicit; than it is to resort to a violent exposition of one to make it agree
with the construction, which we put upon another. It cannot be denied, that there are texts of scripture, which, in direct terms, assert the dependence of all creature agency on that which is divine. Now, are there any which expressly deny this? or peremptorily assert what is obviously contrary to it ? Many texts are mentioned, as operating a gainst our doctrine, such as the following: "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!. What could I have done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild. grapes? Wee unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not. live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he turn and live. Who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." Such scriptures as these, it is contended, contradict the supposition of God's having any direct agency in bringing men into a state of guilt and condemnation. But are they as explicit in contradicting the sentiment, as the following is in establishing it?" So then hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” How
do texts, which express God's willingness that all men should be saved, and that he has no pleasure in their death, and that he uses the most proper means for their salvation, prove that he has no interference, or influence, in causing them to become vessels of wrath fitted to destruction? If they prove any thing inconsistent with our doctrine, it is conceived they prove more than any judicious, or considerate, person would avow. When it is said, "O that they were wise," &c. does God mean, he would make them wise if it were in his power? Again, is it the meaning of these words, "What could I have done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it ?" that almighty power could not have made the church more pure? No person will dare so to limit the holy One. And if Christ would have protected Jerusalem, had she been faithful to her God, does this certainly imply, that no divine influence had been used to fit her for the doom, which she was about to suffer? It is certain, that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but does this prove, that every possible divine exertion is made to prevent the destruction of sinners; but the work proves too great for omnipotence to grapple with, and God himself is obliged to submit, though he does it with reluctance? A thought so irreverent can never be admitted. The foregoing texts only point out to us the things, which are, in themselves, good, and desirable on this account; and do, by no means,
imply, that other things may not be chosen out of regard to an important end, to be promoted by them. Had God any pleasure in the sufferings of Christ? and still it is said, "Yet it pleafed the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." When texts shall be produced, that directly affirm, that all the exercises of creatures are not from the hand of God, and that they may, in some sense or degree, act independently of him, we shall have good authority for what is objected, that our doctrine of creature dependence produces a discord in the sacred scriptures.
3. It will be further said, that if sinful exercises are the effect of divine power, it proves that God works against himself, in that he operates sinful volitions and desires in the hearts of men, and, at the same time, exerts his influences to restrain or withdraw them from sinful purposes. Restraining grace is a phrase which has been much used in the christian world, and, I fear, either without proper authority, or else without a I have no obproper understanding of it. jection to the use of it, provided a truth be found in the word of God, which may may be better expressed in these words, than in others. That God does restrain men from certain deeds, in one sense or another, is an undoubted truth. God restrained Abimelech from defiling Abraham's wife, as we learn from Gen. xx. "And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst. this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also
withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I not thee to touth her." Elihu also speaks of God's opening the ears of men and sealing their instruction, "That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.” Whether this means an external restraint, throwing obstacles in the way of one's executing the purposes he has formed, or a turning of the mind from one object to another; yet, in either case, it is not opposed to the doctrine, which represents all voluntary exercises as caused by a divine influence. If Abimelech had resolved upon an improper conduct towards Abraham's wife, and God interposed, by means of external occurrences, to hinder his fulfilling his intentions; this can be no proof, that Abimelech's heart was not turned by the hand of the Lord whithersoever he would. But if God restrained him by putting other things into his heart, this, instead of proving that his volitions were not implanted by the divine hand, would directly imply that they were. And if he was influenced, by a divine unseen hand, to put off a guilty amour, he might, by the same hand, have been influenced first to determine upon it. There is no absurdity in this supposition, any more than there is in supposing, that he who made the fowls of heaven, formed the crooked serpent also. If God restrains a man from shedding the blood of his neighbour, this does not imply that the object of it is to fill him with that brotherly love, which is essen