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servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me : I girded thee, though thou hast not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light,"
For the illustration of this text, I shall endeavor to show.
I. What the things are in their proper extent, of which God here claims to be, in some sense, the author, or cause. And,
II. How it is to be understood, that He forms, creates, makes, and does, all these things.
By light and darkness, peace and evil, must be here meant, I conceive, whatsoever comes to pass.
The word light, literally taken, signifies that medium by which material objects are seen with our bodily eyes and darkness, in the literal sense, is the want of this light. But, as light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing, for the eyes to behold the sun; and as darkness is uncomfortable, and many ways disadvantageous to us; so, these terms are frequently made use of to express joy and sorrow, happiness and misery, of any kind. See Psal. xcvii. 11, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Psal. cxii. 4, Psal. cxii. 4, "Unto the upright, there ariseth light in the darkness." And Lam. iii. 1, 2, "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath: He hath led me and brought me into darkness, but not into light." Nothing is more common than this metaphorical use of the words light and darkness; meaning by them comfort and trouble, prosperity and adversity.
By these expressions are likewise frequently meant, moral good and evil; holiness and sin. So the first is used in Matt. v. 16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." And the last, Eph. v. 11, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” And both together, in 1 John i. 5, 6, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."
It appears, then, that whatever is either calamitous or sinful, is expressed in scripture by darkness; and that all kinds of good, are signified by the word light. . Peace, is also an expression of very extensive import. Taken in every view of it, external and internal, it comprehends almost every thing that is desirable. Our Saviour expresses the whole legacy he willed to his disciples, by this one word. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you." And evil, you are sensible, is one of the most common words, for both sin and misery.
Nor is there any thing in our text, or in the context, to limit the meaning of these very universal terms. On the contrary, the words light and darkness, peace and evil, are plainly here used in their most unrestrained signification. It is the evident design of this whole passage to set forth, in the most forcible manner, that all the circumstances and actions of men, are subject to the providential ordering and direction of God.
Nor is this the only passage where such a doctrine is taught. It is said, Prov. xvi. 33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. Rom. xi. 34, " For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." And Eph. i. 11"Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
That God is the author of all good, will not be disputed by any, except an atheist and that all evils also, are of his ordering, or are some way sent by him, we are plainly taught. It is asked, Amos iii. 6, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not · done it?" There are all sorts of evils in cities, moral as well as natural; and yet this question implies a strong assertion, that there can be no kind of evil in any city, but what is ordered of God. Or, should it be supposed that natural evil only is there meant ; yet it is obvious to observe, that natural and moral evils are inseparably blended and connected, in many, if not all cases. A great part of the calamities in cities, and in all other places, are immediately occasioned by the iniquities committed in them: and undoubtedly it holds true, without any exception, that unholiness is the cause of all unhappiness. It is impossible, therefore, that God should bring upon us all the evils of suffering, in the manner they are brought upon us, without his providentially ordering the evils of sin.
Nor, indeed, can it be believed that God is the author of all good, unless we suppose him the designing cause of moral evil: for great good is occasioned by moral evil, in a multitude of instances. And it is observable that wicked agents, and the worst of actions, are often spoken of in scripture, as the instruments and means made use of in Providence, for accomplishing the most important and benevolent designs. Thus when Joseph's brethren, moved with envy, had sold him to be carried as a slave into Egypt, he tells them, "Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." And God calls Nebuchadnezzar the rod of his anger; and says, "I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, for to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart
Another instance, and the most astonishing one, of God's designing evil actions for good ends, we have in the crucifixion of our Saviour. Peter says to the Jews, to the Jews, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain."
Thus it is evident, that by light and darkness, peace and evil, we are to understand, every thing that takes place, in the natural and moral world: and that this text, thus understood, asserts no more than the common doctrine of scripture.
Respecting the manner in which the divine agency is concerned, in all actions and events, there may be danger, nevertheless, of entertaining erroneous ideas. It was proposed, therefore, to inquire,
II. How we are to understand, that God forms, creates, makes, and does, all these things.
Certainly, it is not to be understood, in a literal or strict sense, that He does, all that is done. "Far be it from God," says Elihu, "that he should do wickedness and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity." Doing wickedness, and committing iniquity, are synonymous phrases: but to impute to the Most High, any thing like what is commonly meant by either of these phrases, is evident blasphe
Nor are we to imagine, certainly, that God makes his creatures do, whatever is done by them, in any such manner as is inconsistent with their own proper agency. Rational creatures certainly act; and act as freely, as if there were no being above them to direct their steps, or to govern their actions. When God works in men, to will and to do that which is good; they, nevertheless will and do it themselves; and are really praiseworthy. And he does not, surely, so influence any to evil, as to render them unactive, involuntary, or undeserving of blame.
Nor do I believe it is meant in our text, or is true, literally and strictly speaking, that God creates, whatsoever comes to pass: particularly darkness, and moral evil.
But this must not be taken for granted, nor hastily passed over because, however indisputable, it is disputed. There are some among us, and some who are deservedly in reputation for wisdom, and general soundness in the faith; who appear to be of opinion, that God is the direct Author-the immediate Cause -the proper Creator, of all evil, as well as of all good -of all sin, as well as holiness, in heart and life-in thought, word, and deed.
This opinion, however, notwithstanding my high esteem and particular friendship for some of the holders of it, I am not yet ready to adopt, for several
1. To suppose that the actions of men, whether virtuous or vicious, are created, seems to confound all distinction between creation and Providence; or rather, wholly to exclude the latter.
The work of creation, we used to think, was God's making creatures and things, at first; or giving the beginning of existence to matter and minds, with their various properties, instincts and organiza. tions. And that God's works of Providence, were his preserving things already made, and governing all their operations. But according to this new philosophy, creation is all; Providence is nothing. For what preserving and governing of creatures or actions can there be, when every creature and every action, is every moment created anew? An action, a thought, or volition, whether good or evil, is a new and strange kind of creature, or created thing. But, in a theological view, the question before us is of chicf importance, as it respects moral evil. I add, therefore;
2. It appears to me, that to suppose God the Creator of sin, whether in principle or action, is hardly