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THROUGH DIVINE INTERPOSITION,
AN ADVANTAGE TO THE UNIVERSE,
THIS NO EXCUSE FOR SIN, OR ENCOURAGEMENT TO IT,
ILLUSTRATED AND PROVED;
GOD'S WISDOM AND HOLINESS IN THE PERMISSION OF SIN, AND THAT HIS WILL HEREIN IS THE SAME WITH HIS REVEALED WILL,
SHOWN AND CONFIRMED,
FROM ROMANS iii. 5-8.
“With him is strength and wisdorn : the deceived and
deceiver are his.” - Job xii. 16.
that grace may abound? God forbid.” — Rom. vi. 1, 2.
I quite agree with those who think ministers ought not to bring into the pulpit dry speculations, or dark, abstruse, disputed points, which have no tendency to make the heart better and influence the practice, but shall be far from agreeing with any who may think the subject of the following sermons to be such. If God has given us sufficient evidence to determine that all the sin and misery in the universe is for the general good of the whole, and shall answer some good end that shall much more than counterbalance the evil, then, doubtless, it is of importance that all should attend to the evidence, and believe this truth.
It is, I conceive, evident beyond contradiction, that this truth must be believed in order to a true and cheerful submission to God's will as it is manifested in what he does and what he permits. For he who cheerfully submits to God's will, submits to it as wise and good, either seeing it to be so in the instance his submission respects, or believing it implicitly; for it is not our duty, or indeed possible, for us to be reconciled or submit to absolute evil, or evil as such. But if the sin and misery which take place in the world are not for the general good of the universe, then they are absolutely evil, or evil in every view and sense; and so God's will to permit sin and misery is not wise and good, and, therefore, cannot be submitted to.
That “ there is no absolute evil in the universe"* is a maxim on which is grounded all implicit submission to God's will, in his providential directing and disposing all events, which we are required to be ready on all occasions to exercise. So far, therefore, as this truth is doubted, or out of view, so far there can be no sincere, cheerful submission. Is it not then of great importance that this truth should be maintained and held up to view ? and that, especially, at a time when it seems to be much out of sight to most, and begins to be even called in question by many ?
The more a Christian's heart is filled with true benevolence, the more ardently he wishes and seeks the good of the uni. verse; or, which is the same thing, the more conforined to God he is in true holiness, the more averse he is to absolute evil, and the further from a reconciliation to it; and nothing would tend more to cross and distress him than that there should be any such thing in the universe. And if he should suppose that God had permitted that to take place which was, on the whole, a disadvantage to the universe, he must divest himself of his benevolence, before he could be reconciled or submit to it. And it must, therefore, be peculiarly satisfy. ing and pleasing to find the contrary revealed as a certain truth in the Scripture. If Christians, therefore, tamely give up this truth, where will they go for support and comfort in dark and evil times ?
As, therefore, this truth is of such use and importance to Christians, it was needful that the objections made against it should be answered - especially that most common one found in the text. The commonness of this objection, and the plausibleness with which it appears to many who do not attend closely to this matter, was the inducement so particularly to consider it, and show its groundlessness and absurdity, which is done in the second sermon.
* “If the Author and Governor of all things be infinitely perfect, then whatever is, is right, of all possible systems he hath chosen the best, and, consequently, there is no absolute evil in the universe. This being the case, all the seeming imperfections or evils in it are such only in a partial view; and with respect to the whole system, they are goods."— Turnbull's Christian Philosophy.
If we cannot reconcile God's permitting sin with his goodness, holiness, and his revealed will, then the permission of sin is a dark and unaccountable affair to us indeed, and we cannot be reconciled to it, or justify God herein. It becomes us to justify and approve of all God's ways to men, - to see and
acknowledge his righteousness in all he does; yea, it becomes us to be well pleased with all God's ways, so far as they are made known to us, for in this way alone shall we be able truly to rejoice that the LORD reigns, and hath done whatsoever pleased him.
They who cannot reconcile God's permission of sin to his wisdom, holiness, and revealed will, can really understand and be reconciled to few or none of God's
to men; for almost all God's conduct towards men is built upon this, or some way
related to it, as all must be sensible on the least reflection.
If, therefore, this attempt, imperfect as it is, shall afford any light and help to any in these important points, the labor and expense will be richly compensated.
SHEFFIELD, June 19, 1759.