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years of age, or are detained in it to seventy or eighty, depends on the divine pleasure, for Jesus hath "the keys of death and of the invisible world." In like manner, his sovereign pleasure allots the bounds of our habitations; the nature of our employment, in a superior or inferior station; and the degree of prosperity or failure, that shall crown our labours or disappoint our hopes. Every prudent and laborious tradesman is not always successful; "the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." "Promotion," says the wisest of men, "cometh not from the East, nor from the West, nor from the South." Events, that contradict all probabilities, often take place, to shew man his dependence on a superior power; for sometimes, as we read in Hannah's song (1 Sam. ii. 8), “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them."
The sovereignty of God should particularly be owned by the afflicted and distressed, who form a large proportion of human beings, man being "born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." It is of great importance to know and remember, what was wisely observed to patient Job, that "affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;" that is to say, afflictions are not the effect of chance, they are in the hand of God; and therefore it is added, as a piece of advice to Job,"I would seek unto God, and unto God I would commit my cause."—I would submit to his rod, and seek relief from him. Even those events which seem to us casual, and, as to the agents concerned in them, undesigned, are under the direction of heaven; so it appears from Exodus xxi. 12, 13, "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death: but if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand, then I will appoint thee a place whi
ther he shall flee," that is, to the city of Refuge. This proves that nothing comes by chance, but the most casual events are under the control of divine Sovereignty.
To the wicked, afflictions are intimations of God's holy displeasure against their sins, and solemn warnings to fly from the wrath to come; but to the children of God they are parental chastisements, the effects of tender love, and wisely directed for their good. The sovereign hand of the Almighty should be owned in both.
That sovereign hand is, perhaps, more visible in the affairs of nations; they rise and fall, flourish and decay, and the connection between natural causes and effects may sometimes be plainly discerned; yet that the Ruler of the world directs and controls them is sufficiently evident, for in his hand are both the causes and the effects. This might be fully illustrated from the history of Israel, and other nas tions connected with them, from their first rise in the family of Abraham, to their dispersion: a great part of the Old Testament might be adduced for this purpose, but time forbids. God was pleased himself to illustrate this before the eyes of Jeremiah, by the emblem of a potter, who, with the utmost ease, formed a vessel of the yielding clay, and as easily broke it, and formed it again into another vessel, "as seemed good to the potter to make it." "Cannot I do with you, O house of Israel, said the Lord, as this potter"-destroy a nation, or erect an empire? Jer. 18. The craft, the envy, the revenge, the ambition of men are often the occasions of wars, and fightings, and revolutions; the agents may be wicked men, but frequently they are the mere instruments of a holy and just God, in punishing an individual or a nation, ripe for ruin. The agent may be wicked, but God is righteous. "With him," said the wise and pious Job, "with him is strength and wisdom: the deceiver and the deceived are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.
He looseth the bands of kings, or girdeth their loins with a girdle. He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them," &c. Job. xii. 16, &c. In this manner God displays, in every age, his sovereign dominion over the nations, his management of the children' of men, crossing their purposes, overruling their counsels, overpowering their efforts, and overcoming their opposition; and proving, to their confusion, that " in the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them." Exod. xviii. 11. And in nothing is this, his sovereign power, more conspicuous, than in producing great and good events from the evil actions of his creatures, as in the case of Joseph, whose glory in Egypt was the result of the envy and cruelty of his brethren, and of the lewdness and lies of Potiphar's wife. Their actions and intentions were bad, "but God meant them for good." The Sabeans and the Chaldeans pillaged Job, but the glory of God, as well as Job's greater prosperity, was ultimately promoted. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was a tyrannical oppressor of the children of Israel, who could proudly "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" but to him God says, "In very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." Exod. ix. 16. In a word, the greatest and most glorious event that ever took place in our world, the atoning death of Immanuel, was effected by instruments the most base and vile. It was by the "wicked hands" of the Jews, that Jesus "was crucified and slain;" but we are assured by St. Peter that even this was according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." The holy God is not the author, or abettor of the sins of men; it is impossible that he can concur in the moral evil of any human action; but we see that, in the exercise of his sovereign rule, he not only permits wicked men to perform bad actions, but by his infinite wisdom and power brings good out of evil. The sinner is condemned, but God is righteous.
The doctrine of God's sovereignty shews us, that ready obedience to all his precepts is our reasonable service. Is God the rightful Governor of the world?-are we his natural subjects?—has he made known his holy will to us?—and shall we not cheerfully obey him? As our Creator, we ought to obey him; as our Preserver, we ought to obey him; and especially as our Redeemer, we ought to obey him. "I am the Lord thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage," said Jehovah to Israel; and then he proceeds to lay down his law for their conduct"Thou shalt have no other gods before me," &c. Exod. xx. 2, 3. In like manner he speaks to us in the gospel, not from Sinai, but from Sion, "Because I am the Lord, and your God, and Redeemer, therefore are ye bound to to keep all my commandments.'
The great lesson enforced by this doctrine is, Humble submission to all his righteous pleasure. Is God the Sovereign of the world, infinitely wise, righteous, and good? Has he an undoubted right to do as he will with all his creatures? Then surely he has a right to do as he pleases with me. He is too wise to err; too good to be unkind. I welcome all his sovereign will, for all that will is love. He says to me, in this painful, or in that bereaving providence, "Be still, and know that I am God;" and my submissive temper shall yield obedience. I will adopt the praiseworthy language of the most patient of men, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." He will permit his suffering child to plead, as his only begotten Son once did in his agony, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" but I hope he will strengthen me to add, with profound submission, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Amen.
THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
Palm xxxiii. 5. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
N discoursing on the glorious perfections of God,
though all his perfections are his glory, yet this is particularly so called; for when Moses, the man of God, earnestly desired to behold a grand display of the glory of Jehovah, the Lord said, in answer to his petition, "I will cause all my goodness to pass before thee;" thus intimating, that He himself accounted his goodness to be his glory (Exod. xxxiv. 6); and it includes that mercy, grace, long-suffering, and truth, which are afterwards mentioned. When it relieves the miserable, it is mercy; when it bestows favours on the worthless, it is grace; when it bears with provoking rebels, it is long-suffering; when it confers promised blessings, it is truth; when it supplies indigent beings, it is bounty; and this is the principal view we shall now take of it. The goodness of God is a very comprehensive term; it includes all the forms of his kindness shewn to men, whether considered as creatures, as sinners, or as believers: but I purpose to consider the goodness, mercy, and love of God distinctly. All might, indeed, be comprehended in one word; but as these attributes are so amiable and encouraging, and as our happiness is so much concerned in them, K