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tions which have ever been made against them may be fairly and fully answered. And it is no evidence to the contrary, that we hear so many say that they have never heard them explained, and the objections answered to their apprehension and satisfaction. It is only saying of themselves what Christ said of some who heard him preach : " Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not."
3. If God's secret will respects the taking place of future events, then all uninspired men who pretend to reveal God's secret will, or to foretell future events, are guilty of both folly and falsehood. For secret things belong to God only, and he only can reveal them. He justly claims this supreme preroga. tive. “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." He challenges the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, either to foretell' or to escape the public calamities which he secretly intended to bring upon his disobedient people. There are many in the pagan, and some in the christian world, who pretend to look into futurity, and foretell things which God has never revealed; but they are guilty of egregious folly and presumption, and ought to be avoided, despised and condemned. Pharaoh sought to the magicians to confront and oppose Moses, but all in vain. Belshazzar applied to such impostors, who were constrained to acknowledge their ignorance and folly. None by searching can find out God, nor discover his secret will in a single instance.
4. If God's secret will cannot be known, then it can have no influence upon the actions of men. They are extremely apt to complain of the doctrine of divine decrees, because they imagine it lays both a restraint and constraint upon their free and voluntary actions. They say, if God has decreed all things, then he constantly restrains them from doing any thing which he has not decreed, and as constantly constrains them to do every thing that he has decreed; so that his decrees totally destroy their free agency. But his decrees, which are his secret will, cannot possibly have the least influence to restrain them from acting, or to constrain them to act, for this plain reason; that they do not and cannot know what his secret will is, till after they have acted. While the decrees of God lie a secret in his own mind, they cannot have any more influence upon the actions of men than if they did not exist in his mind. The secret will of God, which is not known, never is or can be a motive to any person to do or not to do what is decreed. Judas did not know that it was decreed that he should betray Christ, before he had determined and agreed to do it, for thirty pieces of silver. It was the money, and not the decree, that governed his free and voluntary act. Joseph's brethren did not know that it was decreed that they should sell him into Egypt, till after they had done it; so that they acted as freely and criminally as if it had not been decreed. Ask those who object against the divine decrees as being inconsistent with free agency, whether they ever felt restrained from doing any thing they pleased, by the secret will or decree of God, and they will frankly say that they never did feel any restraining influence from it. Or ask them whether they ever felt constrained by the secret will or decree of God to do any thing which they did not choose to do, and they will frankly say that they never did feel any overpowering or constraining influence from it. Neither scripture, nor reason, nor observation, nor experience, affords the least ground to object against the secret will or decrees of God, as being inconsistent with men's being altogether free and voluntary in all their actions.
5. But if God has a secret will respecting all future events, and will always act according to his secret will, then it is easy to see the real cause why mankind are generally so much opposed to the doctrine of divine decrees. It is entirely owing to their fears that he will execute his decrees, or bring to pass whatever he has decreed. This, they see, throws them into the sovereign hand of God, to dispose of them according to his eternal purpose which he formed before the foundation of the world. This is a most solemn and interesting truth, which every natural heart perfectly hates and opposes. If God can execute his decrees consistently with the perfect freedom of every moral agent, then he can cause every sinner to choose life or death, and be the free and voluntary instrument of his own salvation or destruction. And since God's secret will is unknown, no sinner can know whether he shall choose life or death, be holy or sinful, happy or miserable to all eternity. It is not the decrees of God which trouble sinners, but the agency of God in carrying them into effect, without their knowing what they are until they are fulfilled. By his invisible agency upon their minds, he governs all their views, all their thoughts, all their determinations, and all their volitions, just as he pleases, and just according to his secret will, or eternal purpose, which they neither know beforehand, nor can resist, evade, or frustrate. They sometimes call this fate, but it is something far more disagreeable to them than fate. If they were governed by fate, they would not be accountable for their conduct. But they are governed by a divine agency on their minds, which is not only wise, and holy, and powerful, but at the same time perfectly consistent with their own moral liberty and freedom. They are entirely and constantly under the control of divine providence, which is God's most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions, according to his secret will. This secret will, for aught they know, may disappoint all their desires, all their hopes, all their expectations, and destroy all their happiness for ever. They know not but it is God's eternal, secret and irresistible will to make them vessels of wrath, fitted by their own free, sinful choice, for destruction. The carnal mind of every person in the state of nature rises in enmity and opposition to this secret will of God, is not reconciled to it, neither indeed can be. But if this be true, cries every sinner, what shall I do? My case is deplorably and desperately wretched. God has often told you so, but you would not believe it.
Can you now believe otherwise ? Can
you believe that God has no secret will ? Can you believe that he will not 'execute his secret will ? Can you believe that your opposition to his secret will can frustrate it? Can you believe that God will give up his secret will to gratify your unsubmissive will ? These, say you, are hard sayings. I hope they are not true. I will go to the Bible, and see if they are to be found there. I will go to God, and not to man, to tell me the truth. I beseech you to go, and I venture to say that if you do go, you will return converted, or condemned.
6. If God will certainly execute his wise and holy secret will, then all his friends have a constant source of joy under all circumstances of life. For he has assured them that in executing his secret will, he will cause all things to work together for their good. Though he may cause them to pass through dark and distressing scenes, yet he will never leave nor forsake them, but eventually bring them into light. It is his secret will to order all things in the wisest and best manner to promote his own glory and the perfect holiness and happiness of all who love him and place their supreme dependence upon him. None who have trusted in him, have ever found his faithfulness to fail. Those who have believed and loved the secret will of God, have found it to be an unfailing source of support, consolation and joy, under all the trials and afflictions which they were called to experience. Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Joshua, David and Samuel, Christ and the apostles, acknowledged the secret, governing will of God, and found it a solid foundation of hope and confidence under the singular trials which fell to their lot. That which so many call error, absurdity, and even blasphemy, they called the most important and consoling truth. And the same truth is still the ground of joy and peace to all who rejoice that the Lord reigneth. Indeed it would be absurd for any to rejoice in God, if they did not believe that he will govern all things exactly according to his secret and eternal purpose. This all good men do believe, and therefore are bound to rejoice in that secret will of God which the men of the world hate and oppose with all their hearts. All the promises of the gospel are founded in the secret will of God, and consequently all the hopes of christians are derived from it. It is their duty and privilege to live by faith in the universal government of God, which he constantly exercises over all creatures, objects and events, agreeably to the secret and eternal counsel of his own will.
7. If God's secret will be his governing will, and respects the existence of every thing that comes to pass, then it is very criminal in any to deny, or to complain of, his secret will. It is the same thing as to deny that God governs the world, or to complain that he does not govern it in the wisest and best manner. Mankind seem to be very insensible of the great criminality of denying, or complaining of, the secret will of God. It is as criminal as to deny that he governs the world, or to deny that he reigns in righteousness. But who would not be shocked to hear any man say that God does not govern the world; or that he governs it very unwisely, unjustly, and erroneously? There were some in Ezekiel's day, who boldly said, 6. The Lord hath forsaken the earth.” And there were many more, who boldly said, “ The way of the Lord is not equal." Are there not at this day, two just such classes of people ? one class, who boldly say that God has not an eternal secret will or decree respecting all future events, and does not govern all things according to his original and eternal decree, but leaves all the moral world to act independently without any divine control, and all the natural world to move on without his constant care and superintendency; and another class, who boldly say that “the way of the Lord is not equal," and he orders or suffers ten thousand things to take place which he ought not to order or suffer to exist. Must it not be highly displeasing to the Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Governor of the world, to hear his rational, dependent, ungrateful and undutiful creatures thus boldly deny the reality and rectitude of his universal government over them? God may properly address all who use such language, as he addressed persons of the same character of old. “ Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord; yet ye say, what have we spoken so much against thee?” To deny the reality and rectitude of God's wise, holy, universal government, is tantamount to denying all obligation to love him, to obey him, to trust in him, and to serve him. And is this a small offence ? Is it not sinning directly against God himself ? Is it not practically calling upon all the intelligent creation to rise up in open rebellion against VOL. IV.
their Maker ? These questions must, sooner or later, be answered by all who live under that government of God, which he exercises over all his creatures and works, according to his eternal and secret will. Can we justify ourselves in denying his secret will, or in complaining of it? God was highly displeased with those who murmured and perished in the wilderness. And he is still more displeased with those who murmur under greater light, and in the enjoyment of greater temporal and spiritual blessings.
Finally, this subject affords a just occasion for all to inquire whether they rejoice or regret that God always has, does now, and always will, govern them according to his secret will, or immutable purpose, which exists in his own mind from eternity. This question, were all intelligent creatures in the universe to speak their minds upon it sincerely and fully, would draw a line of distinction between all holy and unholy men and angels. And they will all finally be characterized and separated according to this essential distinction. Can there, then, be a more proper and important question proposed to the consideration of all intelligent creatures than this: whether they are willing that God should treat them through every period of their existence, just as he eternally determined in his own wise and holy mind to treat them? The question is perfecıly plain and intelligible. And some, no doubt, have solemnly considered it, and cheerfully answered it in their own mind. Though they know that they once were entirely unwilling that God should dispose of them for ever agreeably to his fixed and eternal purpose, yet they now know that they have been, and still are, willing that God should do all his pleasure with them, and all his other rational and immortal creatures. But are there not some who are conscious that they always have been, and now are, unwilling that God should dispose of them according to his secret and eternal purpose
who are conscious of this, believe that you are friendly to God, and prepared to enjoy him, either in this life, or in the life to come? While you sit in judgment upon yourselves, must you not separate yourselves from God and from all his friends, and sentence yourselves to the doom of his incorrigible enemies? But if you will now only give up your disaffection to God, and rejoice in his character and government, and make his revealed will the rule of your duty, you may reverse the sentence you have passed upon yourselves, and gain a hope of eternal life which cannot be shaken or destroyed. Be entreated, then, to rejoice in the Lord always, and receive the consolation which will certainly flow from such a reconciliation to God.
? Can you,