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no regard to the desires of men, which are inconsistent with his wise and gracious designs.
Thus God crosses the reason, the expectations, and desires of his creatures, in the course of his conduct, by which he means to make men know, that he is the Lord.
It may be well to enquire why it is his great design, in the course of his conduct, to make men know, that he governs the world. In answer to this important enquiry, I would ob
1. God means to make men know that he governs, to give them just views of himself. They will never attend to his character, until they realize his governing providence. So long as they view God in heaven, and not in the midst of the earth; so long as they feel that he has no concern in governing themselves, and the world in which they live, they have no disposition to look into his character. They are willing to admit there is a God, who made the world, while they imagine he has renounced the government of it. And they feel little concerned whether he is great or good. They desire not the knowledge of him, but choose to cast him out of their thoughts. So Pharaoh felt when he was ignorant of his governing providence." And Pharaoh said, who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." There is nothing will awaken men's attention to the divine character, but the divine conduct. When they find that God is really concerned in disposing of them, and others whom they regard, then they feel interested to know his character. Then they are ready to enquire, whether his power is irresistible, his wisdom unerring, his goodness universal, his justice inflexible, and his designs eternal and immutable. His character becomes as weighty as his hand, which dispenses good and evil among his creatures. The moment men find themselves in the hand of God as the clay is in the hand of the potter, they begin to learn the divine character, and this is their grand study day and night, and nothing can divert their minds from the interesting object. They want to know, what will please him, and what will displease him. They want to know whether there is any possibility of frustrating his designs, or of getting out of his hand. His character, and conduct, and designs become more interesting, than the character, the conduct, and the designs of all other beings in the universe. This God knows will be the effect of making men know, that he governs. And for this reason, among others, he makes it his great object, so as that this instruction may be given to men. He would have them know himself and he
accordingly manifests his governing hand, to awaken the attention of stupid, sinful creatures to the character of their great Creater, and absolute Sovereign. This leads me to observe,
2. It is the great object of God in all his conduct, to make men know that he governs, in order to give them just views of their own character. Though men are naturally enemies to God, and to all good; though their hearts are full of evil and totally destitute of every holy and benevolent affection, yet they are very ignorant of their total corruption, and can hardly be persuaded to believe it. Indeed, they will not believe when they are only told of it by the word of God. They call all the descriptions of their hearts in question, which they find in the bible; and will not suffer themselves to believe that they are mortal enemies to their Creator, and to every other being, who stands in the way of their happiness. But when they are made to know that there is a God, and that he absolutely, supremely, and universally governs, they begin to become acquainted with their hearts, and find by most sensible experience that their carnal minds are enmity against God, and will not have him to reign over them. Men find no difficulty in submitting to necessity, but they find great difficulty in submitting to Divinity. No man ever knew his own heart, until he saw God, and saw him as a sovereign, who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy; and who will save or destroy, according to his own pleasure. This God knows, and therefore he aims in his conduct, to make men know that he governs. This knowledge will find their hearts, and make them acquainted with themselves. As soon as they know, that God governs the world with absolute sovereignty, they feel that they are not his dutiful subjects, but real enemies to his character and government, It is sufficient for God to discover his governing hand and heart to the world, to make the world feel the corruption and malignity of their own hearts. And for this purpose he aims, in his conduct, to let men see his governing hand, and realize their state of absolute subjection. For nothing short of this ever did, or ever can make them acquainted with their true character.
3. It is the great object of God, to make men know, that he governs, because, thus they will become acquainted with their real condition. They are naturally as ignorant of their condition as of their character. Though they are sensible, that they are not so good as they might be; yet they are not sensible, that their condition is so bad as it is. They live in ease, and cry peace and safety; and say to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundantly. While they
see not God's governing hand, they have peace and hope. So it was with Pharaoh: when God's governing hand was out of view, he had respite. He felt easy and safe. And nothing but new appearances of God's governing power and sovereignty could make him feel his danger. This, indeed, from time to time, brought him to feel his dependence, and to plead for mercy. When he felt that he was in God's hand, he fled to Moses to pray him out of it. He found no safety in God, whom he had despised, and against whom he had opposed himself with all his heart and all his might. The case is precisely the same now with mankind. They will not realize their perishing condition, until they feel that they live, and move, and have their being in God, who can save or destroy them, just as he pleases, and that none can deliver them out of his hand. Their knowing that there is a God; their knowing their own character; their knowing that there is a heaven and hell; and their knowing that they must take up their everlasting abode in a state of perfect happiness or complete misery, will not make them see their deplorable condition. For they may see all these things, and yet not see their real danger, which rises from their being absolutely in the hand of God, who can and will govern their hearts, as well as their external state and condition. It is only a sense of this, that cuts off all hope in themselves, and makes them despair of help from all beings but God.
4. God aims to make men know, that he governs, because this is a necessary means for exciting Christian affections. They ought to rejoice, that he reigns, and that they and all other beings are in a state of absolute dependence and subjection. But they must realize his supremacy before they can rejoice in it. They must feel their dependence, before they can exercise true submission and confidence. In short, they must realize, that God governs, before they can exercise any right affections towards him. But when they realize his universal presence and government, they have an opportunity of feeling and expressing every holy and religious affection. It is only in view of God as a Governor and Sovereign, that men can fear and submit and obey and worship before him. It is necessary, therefore, that God should make them see him in this light, in order to lay them in humble and cordial prostration at his feet. In this view of God angels fall down and worship before their Maker. It was in this view of God, that Moses and the Israelites paid their religious homage and praise before him, at the side of the Red Sea. And it is only in this view of God that men
can and will now submit and worship before the Lord in the midst of the earth. It may be added,
5. Another reason why God means, in his conduct, to make men know that he governs, is to excite right feelings towards all the creatures and objects around them. The earth is the Lord's and they that dwell in it. God is the owner of the world and he governs it as his own. He is, as he says he is, the Lord in the midst of the earth." The world looks infinitely different, when it appears to be in God's hand, from what it does, when it appears to be in the hands of men. And it is utterly impossible to see any creature, or any object in this world, in a true light, without seeing that creature and that object in the hands of God. Pharaoh never saw himself, nor his subjects, nor his kingdom in a true light, until he saw them all at the absolute disposal of God. Then they appeared as vain, impotent and empty as they were. And men now can have no just view of themselves, and the world in which they live, until they know that God is the Lord in the midst of the earth; or that he fills and governs the world. Therefore, in order to bring them to right feelings towards themselves and their fellow creatures and all surrounding objects, God in his conduct aims to make them know, that he is the Lord in the midst of the earth; and governs all things after the counsel of his own will.
Since it is the great design of God in his conduct to make men know that he governs, it is evident that they are extremely unwilling to know this truth. They are capable of knowing this truth; for it requires nothing but to distinguish the cause from the effect. This they can easily distinguish in ten thousand other cases, in which they desire to make the distinction. But if they are capable of knowing that God governs; then there must be some other great obstruction in the way, which renders it necessary for him to make such great and constant exertions, to bring them to the knowledge of it. He makes no unnecessary exertions. He must, therefore, see it necessary to use so many methods as he does, to make men know that he governs. And this necessity can arise from nothing, but their unwillingness to know that he is the Lord in the midst of the earth. Besides, we find from observation, that men are more unwilling to know that God, reigns than to know any thing else concerning him. They are more willing to know that he exists than to know that he governs the world. They are more willing to know that he possesses all divine perfections. than to know that he governs the kingdoms and nations and families of the earth. And they are even more willing to know that he has decreed all events, than
to know that he worketh all things after the counsel of hi sown will. An obstinate unwillingness to know that God governs all his creatures and all their actions, by his constant, powerful and irresistable agency is common to all mankind. This is true of Philosophers; as is evident from their opinions on this subject. This also is evident from the opinions of many Divines, and from the native character of all mankind. For they have the carnal mind which is enmity against God ;" and which renders them extremely unwilling to know that they are holden with all their concerns in his holy and sovereign hand.
In view of this subject we may see the wisdom and goodness of God, in some of the most dark and extraordinary dispensations of his providence. God has done a great many things in the midst of the earth, which, in the opinion of men, have spread a cloud over his wisdom and goodness, and which have led many to call these in question. But the end proposed will explain them, and discover the wisdom and goodness of all his conduct. God's placing Adam at the head of his posterity has been thought to bear hard upon his wisdom and goodness. But if he meant to make men know that he governs the world, he could not have taken a wiser and better method to produce this effect than to suspend the moral character, and consequently all the concerns of mankind, upon the probationary conduct of the first human being. God's drowning the old world, dispersing mankind at Babel, burning Sodom, his conduct towards the Egyptians, the Israelites and the seven nations of Canaan, were suited to make it known throughout the earth that he governs the world. The same effect is evident from his humbling the monarch of Babylon, his delaying to bring Christ into the world for so many ages, and the dispersion of the Jews. His conduct in raising, prospering, abasing and destroying nations is suited to make men know that he is the Lord in the midst of the earth. And his conduct in peculiar favors and frowns towards individuals answers the same purpose. All such dispensations of providence, as are most contrary to human reason, expectations and designs display the wisdom and goodness of God in an evident and affecting manner; since he intends, for most important reasons, to make men know that he governs throughout the earth and works all things after the counsel of his own will. Since God, for the reasons that have been given, means to make men know be governs, we see why they live so easy and secure in sin. It is because they do not realize that he reigns. The prophet gives this reason for the conduct of such men, as were settled on their lees: They say the Lord will not do good, neither will he