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lutions, and confirm the virtuous principles of his heart.
In these respects the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened.
What wonderful encouragement have sinners, conscious of their guilt, to engage in the great work of their salvation! A conviction of their numerous transgressions, a sense of their vast unworthiness and of the perverseness of their hearts, and a recollection of their past abuses of God's grace, need not dishearten them, for the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened. Even their present conviction is an encouragement. The grace of God which has awakened them, can complete the work begun. Only let them now take heed to themselves, that they resist not the Spirit, but comply with his friendly motions, and attend on the means appointed for their obtaining a supply of grace.
Let none make their own experience the rule by which they judge others, nor the experience of others the rule by which they judge themselves. We are not to conclude, that this or that person is a stranger to the grace of God, because he cannot give a detail of religious exercises exactly corresponding with our own; nor to conclude that we are in a state of sin, because we have never known all those feelings, which we have heard some others relate. For the Spirit of the Lord is not confined to human rules; but he operates variously as he chooses. His fruit, however, is substantially the same in all in whom he dwells. And if we find in ourselves that temper, which the gospel calls the fruit of the Spirit, we may conclude, that we have been the subjects of a spir itual change, whether we can distinctly recollect the time and manner of it, or not. If we see others, who, in the general tenor of their conversation, appear to be governed by the precepts of the gospel,
we are to regard them as real Christians, even though the manner of their conversion should not precisely accord with ours, or even though they should be unable to recollect any distinguishing circumstances of the change.
Let Christians be animated in the religious course, and proceed with constancy and zeal. Though they may foresee many dangers before them, and feel much weakness within them, yet they may be strong in the Lord; for his Spirit is not straitened. The Spirit who dwells in them, is greater than their enemies, who are in the world. And nothing will be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus their Lord.
The Sins and Miseries of Men not God's Doings, but their own.
MICAH ii. 7.
O Thou, that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord Straitened? Are these his doings? Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?
THESE words are an answer to the com
plaints of the Jews under the calamities which they suffered, and under the apprehension of sorer calamities with which they were threatened. These, the prophet observes, were not owing to the want of power, wisdom or goodness in God, for his Spirit is never straitened; neither were they his doings, but their own. God's government never hurts them who walk uprightly, but always ensures their happi
We have already shewn, in what respects it may be said, "The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened." Hence the prophet infers,
II. That the evils which men suffer are not God's doings but their own. The illustration of this truth is what now lies before us.
The scripture indeed teaches us, that "we receive evil as well as good, from the hand of God-that when there is evil in a city, the Lord hath done itthat he forms the light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates evil."
Some of the calamities which befal men seem to be more immediate operations of the divine hand. There are others which result directly from their own follies and vices. The latter, however, as well as the former, are, in scripture, ascribed to God's providence, because, in the constitution of his government, there is an established connexion between vice and misery. But still there is a sense, in which it may properly be said, "The evils which we suffer are not God's doings." For they are not the genuine effects of his original government, but the unhappy consequences of our perversion of it.
This is the language of the prophets; “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself-Thou hast procured this evil to thyself in that thou hast forsaken thy God. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord. Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter; because it reacheth to thine heart.-Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God."
From the perfection of God's moral character we may justly conclude, that he did not create rational beings to render them miserable, nor institute a government for the sake of spreading confusion and wretchedness among them. Our Savior has taught us, that God, from the foundation of the world, prepared a glorious kingdom for the righteous; but hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. When
God founded the world and placed man upon it, he prepared superior mansions for the reception of this new race, after their trial should be finished; but he prepared no hell for the punishment of the rebels of this race. The benevolence of his government was such, that not rebellion, but obedience was to be presumed. When some of the angels revolted, a hell was prepared for them. And when man, contrary to all reason, departed from God, and went over to the party of rebellious angels, he was justly doomed to that place of punishment, which had been already prepared for them. Man's hope of deliverance was founded on a new constitution.
If we believe God to be a most perfect Being, we must believe, that he is infinitely good; for goodness is essential to a perfect character. Whatever other properties a moral being may possess, if he is without goodness, we view him with entire disapprobation. Without this there can be no moral excellency. The nature of goodness is to will and choose the happiness of others. Hence, then, we may conclude, that God's government is framed and administered in such a manner as tends to the happiness of his subjects.
God's goodness, however, is not a blind, mechanical impulse, which does good in particular instances, without regarding the general happiness; but it is always guided by unerring wisdom, which discerns and chooses what is proper to be done. And on the other hand, his goodness is accompanied with justice, which never injures one for the superior happiness of another, nor injures a few for the happiness of a greater number. Goodness Goodness presupposes justice, and cannot exist without it. To do wrong to some for the greater benefit of others, is not goodness, but wantonness. If, among sinners VOL. IV. H