« PreviousContinue »
whom our Saviour hath pronounced blessed ; and of those to whom it is promised, that sowing in tears, they shall reap in joy. A great difference there is between being serious and melancholy; and a melancholy too there is of that kind which deserves to be sometimes indulged.
Religion hath, on the whole, provided for every good man abundant materials of consolation and relief. How dark soever the present face of nature may appear, it dispels the darkness, when it brings into view the entire system of things, and extends our survey to the whole kingdom of God. It represents what we now behold as only a part, and a small part, of the general order. It assures us, that though here, for wise ends, misery and sorrow are permitted to have place, these temporary evils shall, in the end, advance the happiness of all who love God, and are faithful to their duty. It shows them this mixed and confused scene vanishing by degrees away, and preparing the introduction of that state, where the house of mourning shall be shut up for ever; where no tears are seen, and no groans heard ; where no hopes are frustrated, and no virtuous connections dissolved; but where, under the light of the Divine countenance, goodness shall flourish in perpetual felicity. Thus, though religion may occasionally chasten our mirth with sadness of countenance, yet under that sadness it allows not the heart of good men to sink; it calls upon them to rejoice, because the Lord reigneth who is their Rock, and the most high God, who is their Redeemer. Reason likewise
* Matth. v. 4. Psalm cxxvi. 5.
joins her voice with that of religion; forbidding us to make peevish and unreasonable complaints of human life, or injuriously to ascribe to it more evil than it contains. Mixed as the present state is, she pronounces, that generally, if not always, there is more happiness than misery, more pleasure than pain in the condition of man,
On the Divine GOVERNMENT of the PASSIONS of
Psalm lxxyi. 10.
Surely the wrath of man shall
praise thee ; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
THIS Psalm appears to have been composed on
occasion of some remarkable deliverance obtained by the Jewish nation. It is generally understood to have been written in the reign of Hezekiah, and to refer to the formidable invasion of Judea by Sennacherib ; when the angel of the Lord, in one night, discomfited the whole Assyrian host, and smote them with sudden destruction. To this interposition of the Divine arm, those expressions in the context may naturally be applied; There brake he the arrows of the bow, the skield, the sword, and the battle. The stout-hearted are spoiled; they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob! both the chariot and the horse are cast into a dead sleep. In the text we have the wise and religious reflection of the Psalmist upon the violent designs which had been carried on by the enemies of his country, and upon the issue to which Providence had brought them. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. By the wrath of man,
we are to understand all that the impetuosity of human passions can devise or execute; the projects of ambition and resentment, the rage of persecution, the fury of war; the disorders which violence produces in private life, and the public commotions which it excites in the world. All these shall praise God, not with their intention and design, nor by their native tendency; but by those wise and good purposes, which his providence makes them accomplish; from their poison extracting health, and converting things, which in themselves are pernicious, into instruments of his glory, and of public benefit: So that, though the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, it is nevertheless forced and compelled to minister to his praise. The Psalmist adds, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain ; that is, God will allow scope to the wrath of man as far as it answers his good purposes, and is subservient to his praise; the rest of it shall be curbed and bound up. When it would attempt to go beyond its prescribed limit, he says to it, as to the waters of the ocean, Hitherto shalt thou come but no farther ; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.
All this shall be fully verified and declared by the last issue of things; when we shall be able more clearly to trace the Divine administration through its several steps, by seeing the consummation of the whole. In some cases, it may be reserved for this period to unfold the mysterious wisdom of Heaven. But in general, as much of the Divine conduct is at present manifest as gives just ground for the assertion in the text. In the sequel of this discourse I shall endeavour to illustrate and confirm it. I shall show in what manner the wrath of man is made to praise
power, the wisdom, the justice, and the goodness of God.
I BEGIN with this observation, That in order to accomplish the great purposes carried on by the Government of the Universe, it is necessary that the Divine perfections be displayed before mankind in a sensible and striking manner.
We are not to conceive the Supreme Being as hereby seeking praise to himself, from a principle of ostentation or vain-glory. Independent and self-sufficient, he rests in the enjoyment of his own beatitude. His praise consists in the general order and welfare of his creation. This end cannot be attained, unless mankind be made to feel the subjection under which they are placed. They must be taught to admire and adore their Sovereign. They must be overawed by the view of a high hand, which can at pleasure control their actions, and render them subservient to purposes, which they neither foresaw nor intended. Hence the propriety of God's making the wrath of man to praise him. We easily conceive in what manner the heavens and the earth are said to praise God, as they are standing monuments of that supreme perfection which is displayed in their creation. The virtues of good men obviously praise him, by exhibiting his image, and reflecting back his glory. But when even the vices and inordinate passions of bad men are made to praise him, in consequence of the useful purposes which they are compelled to accomplish, this, in a particular manner, distinguishes and signal. izes a Divine hand; this opens a more wonderful prospect of the administration of Heaven, than if all its subjects had been loyal and willingly obedient,