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tion than in the present age, when infidelity is mistaken for liberality of sentiment, when the uncertain dictates of corrupted reason are preferred and even set up in opposition to the infallible standard of truth, and when men of learning and genius are making attempts to hunt this doctrine from the world.
But we have reason to rejoice that those who are for us are stronger than those who are against us. This is the doctrine in which St. Paul gloried; this is the mystery into which Angels desire to look ; this is the subject of that new song which employsthe inhabitants of heaven above.
-Let us adopt the language of the heavenly assembly: “ Thou art worthy to take the book " and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast " slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy
blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, “ and people, and nation : Blessing, and ho" nour, and glory, and power, be unto him " that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the " Lamb for ever and ever.
The present impunity of the wicked reconciled
with the perfect government of God.
EccLEs. Chap. 8, Ver. 11.
“ Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily: therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
So great is the perverseness of the human mind, that it turns the strongest instances of God's wisdom and goodness into arguments against his very existence and providence; the means appointed for our improvement, we employ for our ruin; the very medicines of the soul we convert into deadly poisons. Nothing, for example, can be a clearer proof, than God's delaying for a time the punishment of sinners, that he is slow to anger and of great kindness, that he is unwilling that any should perish, but that all should return, repent and live: And yet, the text informs us,
and experience confirms the truth of the information, that, even, from this, the most dangerous
inferences have been drawn. These are of two kinds, and take their rise from two different classes of men, the scepticks or disputers of this world, who are disposed to doubt and cavil; and the wicked or profane who lay hold of every thing which seems to countenance them in their favourite pursuit. The former raise objections to the divine government, and consider the impunity, and, not unfrequently, the success which attends bad men, as contrary to that sense of merit and demerit which God has given us for the direction of our conduct, and as inconsistent with the administration of a wise, just, and perfect being. The latter have abused the goodness of God, have become bolder in iniquity, and have continued in sin though grace did abound.
Let us, therefore, try to justify the ways of God—to show the impropriety of those objections which are made to the plan of providence, from the delay which takes place in the punishment of vice-and to explain the folly and danger of those men whose hearts, because sentence against an evil work is not
executed, speedily, are fully set in them to do evil. This is the object of my discourse : and certainly I will have accomplished the purpose of addressing you from this place, if I am able to rectify your mistaken opinions about the divine government-to increase your reverence and love for the divine characterand reclaim the sinner from those paths which lead down to death.
The subject divides itself into two heads.
1. I shall show that God's sparing the wicked for a time is consistent with justice, wisdom, and goodness.
II. I shall show that the conduct of wicked men is highly absurd and unjustifiable, in taking encouragement to continue in sin, from this part of the divine providence.
1. I return to the first head, and shall begin with considering how far the justice of God is affected by this objection, or is consistent with this fact in his government.
1. It may be observed, then, that if things are stated in a proper light, and as they really are, objections against this attribute can have no place. God's government is of two kinds, natural and moral. In the former there is the same connection between actions and their consequences, as between the cause and its effect; so that the time, the manner, and nature of the consequence are precisely determined by the action, and as necessarily result from it, as the effect results from the cause. In God's moral government, on the other hand, though reward and punishment are, likewise, connected with the actions of moral beings, yet it is only in the way of desert : and the action is the occasion, but not the cause of that pleasure or pain with which we expect certain actions to be accompanied. Does any thing happen contrary to this in the diyine administration? What is the real state of the case? The wicked man is often great in power; he abounds in riches, and is successful in all his undertakings. But in this there is nothing inconsistent. . These are the natural consequences of foresight, application and industry; and they do not hinder the sinner from feeling also the natural consequences of his guilt, which are shame, remorse, fear, and self-condemnation. On the other hand, the good man, who keeps all God's commandments blameless, languishes in poverty, and groans under oppression. But this is not re