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This may appear from several considerations.
1st. The moral perfection of God, which is concerned in every part of his government, makes it desirable that he should act as a sovereign.
The glorious attributes of Jehovah render it perfectly safe for him to fill the throne of the universe, without having any one for his counsellor. No wisdom can be imparted to him by those whom he charges with folly; nor light thrown around any subject in his view, by minds comparatively dark. While doing his own pleasure, he does only what perfect wisdom and goodness dictate; and what will appear the more glorious the better it is understood. That he never acts from the impulse of passion without judgment, or from incorrect conceptions of things, or without sufficient reason for acting as he does, is certain from the perfection of his nature. The excellence of his character is carried into every act of his sovereignty.
When God was about to visit Jerusalem for the sins of the people, he told them by his prophet, " Ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it." This general idea is correct concerning all God's works. He has good reasons for every act of his government. But his motives are drawn from his own perfect mind. Could we see all things as he sees them, we should discover his wisdom and rectitude in all his ways. And the fact, that he does not always assign the reasons of his conduct, nor enable us to perceive them, furnishes no evidence, but that in doing his own will, he is uniformly directed by wisdom and goodness that can do no wrong. While we have the privilege of looking into God's works to see his glory, we have no right to arraign and condemn them; nor to demand the reasons of his conduct. Still he has so far unfolded his character, and disclosed the general reason of his conduct, as should perfectly satisfy his creatures, and secure entire confidence in his sovereign administration.
When God passed by apostate angels, and provided a Saviour for guilty men-when he chose from among all the nations of the earth, the seed of Abraham for his peculiar people, to whom he sent his word of truth and grace; and many of whom became heirs of salvation-when he subdued the opposing heart of one of the malefactors crucified with Christ, while the other was left in his obstinacy--when he humbled Saul of Tarsus, while his associates in persecuting the church perished in their rebellion-he acted in view of reasons satisfactory to his own perfect mind. And these same reasons will make his sovereignty to appear infinitely glorious in the view of all holy beings, when eternity shall pour its light on such interesting subjects. To say that God does not exercise his sovereign pleasure in preparing for glory vessels of mercy from among our fallen race, because it would seem arbitrary and partial, is arguing from false premises; since he has as good reasons for leaving some wilfully and wickedly to reject the Saviour, as for drawing others by the cords of love.
2nd. In reclaiming some of his apostate creatures, God bestows an unspeakable blessing.
What he does in forming them for glory is a substantial good-a real addition to the sum of holy and happy intelligence. This consideration should silence all complaints against the sovereignty of God in turning some of our apostate race from the ways of death. If one portion of the corrupt mass
of mankind be formed for the Master's use in his holy kingdom, is it not matter of rejoicing, even though the rest should remain without form or comeliness. Preparing these vessels for glory is a real blessing, both to themselves and Christ's holy kingdom. Intelligent creatures, then, in all worlds, instead of making it a subject of complaint, should rejoice in it. Why should the eye of any one be evil because the Lord is good? If in his plenteous mercy, he gives more to some, than they can claim, though it be not given to me, still it is just occasion for praise and thanksgiving to God. And that it is not matter of actual rejoicing with all, is to be ascribed to the want of that love which seeketh not her own, and in the midst of suffering rejoices that others are happy. We hear of joy in heaven when one sinner repents, and if the spirit of that world reigned in our bosoms, we should also rejoice, if only one solitary sinner were redeemed. All complaints against God for doing his sovereign pleasure, spring from feelings, that can never harmonize with the songs of angels or with the supremacy of Jehovah.
3d. God would have been just in leaving all to perish in sin.
Mercy always supposes the destitution of rightful claim in him who receives it. Since condemned sinners can be saved only through the merey of God, there could have been no reasonable complaint, had he given up all to indiscriminate ruin. This would have been an act of strict justice. Who of our sinful race would presume to lay claim to the favour of his dishonoured Sovereign, since he has forfeited every thing by rebellion? He is allowed to plead for mercy, but can claim nothing as his just due, but shame and perdition. The whole system of means—all the successive dispensations for man's recovery, are perfectly gratuitous. The great atoning sacrifice for sin, the revelation of divine truth, the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, the remission of sin, and the gift of eternal life, all flow from the unmerited favour of the Most High. If then all mankind might have been justly left without mercy and without hope, the Lord may, surely, have mercy on whom he will have mercy, without giving any reasonable occasion for complaint. If he could have been gloriously righteous in showing favour to none, surely he is not less so, in granting saving grace only to some.
4th. When God in his sovereign pleasure effectually calls some of his sinning creatures, he does no wrong to others.
He leaves them with the feelings they cherish, in the course they have chosen, and in the state they desire. They wish not for the God the Christian serves, nor for the employments in which he delights. They are disposed to think his faith irrational, his devotion unpleasant, his self-denial folly, his humility degrading, and his hopes visionary. The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man.
It is not to be forgotten, that all who hear the gospel have life set before them; no less those that perish, than those who are saved. But they choose the evil and refuse the good. By the terrors of the Lord, by the love of Christ, and by the value of their souls, they are entreated to repent; but still they obstinately refuse. They are joined to idols and God lets them alone: -they are wedded to their sins and he gives them up to their hardness and impenitence of heart. They perish because they will cleave to their sins
and refuse offered mercy. Who can pretend that God does them wrong, in suffering them to make their own choice, however unwise and fatal ?
It is also to be remembered, that gospel sinners make this choice in view of consequences. They are faithfully counselled and warned. Their way to death is often intercepted by the stern rebukes of conscience, by the kind admonitions of friends, and by the alarms of providence, as well as by the threatenings of Sinai. Still, keeping their backs turned upon Christ and heaven, they rush through all restraints, and obstinately seal their condemnation.
Finally; The exercise of divine sovereignty in the sanctification of the saved, hinders no others from entering the kingdom and sharing with them in the blessedness of heaven. The fact that some are reclaimed and prepared for glory, is not the reason why others perish in unbelief; it makes impenitent sinners no worse, unless they complain, oppose, and blaspheme; neither does it throw any obstacle whatever in the way of their salvation. The path of life is never so thronged as to obstruct the Christian pilgrim; nor the kingdom of heaven so filled, but that there is still room.
of all the ransomed has not diminished the ability, nor exhausted the fulness of Christ as a Saviour, nor drained the treasures of God's pardoning grace. Neither has the conversion of some excited them to oppose that of the ungodly; but rather prompted them to labour and pray for the repentance of their former companions in sin. The conversion of some around them by divine grace, instead of throwing any impediment in the way of their reconciliation, should awaken their fears and excite them also to flee from the wrath to come; since, however vile, they may perceive their own salvation to be possible, unless they obstinately refuse subjection to Christ. The repentance of others, under the influence of the Spirit, adds nothing to their danger, robs them of no advantage, and is no encroachment upon their rights. They may still have a seat in the sanctuary, have access to the divine oracle, ask for mercy, and come to Christ for redemption.
If these things be so ; where shall we find occasion for complaint against the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners ? or why shall we not be cordially reconciled to the thought that he does his pleasure among the inhabitants of earth?
Our subject suggests the following reflections:
1. The sovereignty of God in saving sinners is a very different thing from what many suppose it to be. It has been represented, as God's making men happy or miserable without any regard to character; and even punishing them because he had power to do it, and without any respect to the laws of righteousness, or any reasons for doing as he does. But we have seen that God is far from saving some and condemning others through caprice and partiality. He never acts without satisfactory reasons, while in the most perfect exercise of his sovereign pleasure-reasons, though often beyond our sight, yet perceived by infinite wisdom and approved by perfect goodWhatever is necessary to display the excellence of the divine character, to vindicate the rights of the Godhead, and secure the blessedness of his holy kingdom, respecting the salvation of men, God will see accomplished in the actings of his wise sovereignty. These objects are steadily regarded in leaving some to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and in reclaiming
others, once equally rebellious. Whatever God may do in forming vessels for glory among our guilty race, where he has a right to dispense his blessings, and bestow his saving grace as he pleases; he will regard nothing but character in the decisions of the great day. Those who have not washed their garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, will have no share in pardoning grace, or in the joys of heaven.
2. Christians owe all their scriptural hopes of heaven to the sovereign mercy of God. That you, my brethren, are restored to the divine image, is not to be ascribed to any natural goodness or personal worth, that gave you a claim upon God, or that placed you within the scope of the gracious promise. In view of gospel grace, and your own pollution, and the miseries of sin, you renounce all such pretensions. Nor will you ascribe it to your parentage, or any worldly distinctions, since God is no respecter of persons. With the humble Apostle, you will impute it to the sovereign grace of God; and, in view of a depraved heart, and an unprofitable and erring life, you will be ready to say, with admiration and gratitude, "Lord, why was I a guest ?" That you have been effectually called, you will ascribe to the same free grace that provided a Saviour, and feel no less obligation to God for his Holy Spirit, in turning you from sin, than for his Son as an atoning sacrifice. A sense of this obligation you will cherish; and, while humbled at the footstool, and accounting yourselves less than nothing, with grateful hearts you will ascribe the glory to God, that you can hope for heaven, and while in the body have an earnest of the glorious inheritance.
3. Opposition to the doctrine we have considered, though common, is wholly groundless. The Apostle supposed that wicked men would complain. "Thou wilt say, then, why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" When Christ preached this doctrine at Nazareth, the people were filled with wrath. The carnal mind, full of selfishness and pride, is opposed to the truth which pours contempt upon all worldly distinctions, and abases rebellious worms. But who, in his right mind, can object to the sovereignty of God, since it is wise, holy, and good, such as humble souls rejoice in? The misery of sinners does not consist in their being in the hand of their Creator; but in their rebelling against his government. It is thy sin and shame, O man, to reply against God; it would be thy wisdom and glory to bow at his feet, and to resign thyself to him, to be moulded into his blessed image! The controversy that aspiring worms maintain against God, is certain in its result. They will lie down in sorrow. None but humble souls will find peace and safety, when God shall judge the world in righteousness.
Let me then, in conclusion, affectionately beseech sinners, as in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. It is, indeed, matter of exultation that God reigns as a Sovereign. For, the Judge of all the earth doeth right. The sovereignty of God is that of absolute perfection, and is therefore infinitely desirable. If He cannot do his pleasure, with safety to his kingdom, who Shall we, with all our sin and blindness, be his counsellors? Shall we presume to teach infinite wisdom, or give a more happy direction to perfect goodness? Rather let us cheerfully submit to the only wise God; and while angels rejoice that he fills the throne, let all the earth be glad.
Among mere worldly men, a certain robustness of spirit is often exhibited as decisively in matters of indifference, as in matters of moment. Of two ways, each may be pursued without crime, and without damage to any one: but there is a partiality for one course, and that course must be pursued at all hazards. Nothing of importance is depending upon the man's decision; and yet he is immoveably fixed. His firmness under such circumstances is a native obstinacy of character; not that exalted temper of mind, which asks for the path of duty, and fearlessly pursues it.
In matters of trivial concern, true evangelical decision may be easy and yielding. It exhibits a due respect for the feelings, wishes, and prepossessions of others. It was a bright characteristic of the apostle Paul; who was yet ready to become all things to all men, that he might by all means save some. At the same time, in matters of real moment, evangelical decision displays itself with unshrinking promptitude and perseverance. And such was the case, in which those three men upon the plain of Dura were called to act. An attack was made upon the very foundation of all true religion. The most daring indignity was cast upon Jehovah; and to join the general homage before the idol god, would be to sanction the gross impiety of the king, as well as to disgrace their own religion, and blast for ever their character. It was a case, therefore, imperiously demanding the decision they exhibited. Every thing precious in religious principle, as well as every thing tremendous in religious sanctions, required them to act as they did.
3. True Christian decision is exercised with but little anxiety about consequences.
The three Jews before the haughty monarch of Babylon, in adopting the resolution they did, were governed by other considerations than such as too commonly exert a controlling influence. They occupied stations of rank and power. A solicitude about consequences would have whispered, these must be sacrificed, unless the impious edict is complied with.' The furnace with its blazing horrors was before them; and the burning wrath of the king they knew to be relentless. So that the prospect immediately before them was, of course, inexpressibly appalling. They knew, indeed, that the God of heaven could sustain and defend them; but he had given them no explicit pledge of protection. Still, in obeying the clear injunctions of conscience and of God, they were willing to risk consequences.
The moment the Christian begins to inquire how a given course of duty will probably affect his reputation, his means of advancement, or his safety; that moment he adopts a principle of action which is wide