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of the Israelites. God meant to try and prove them, to see what was in their hearts. And the changes they passed through answered this purpose. Revolutions always have this effect.
5. God causes sudden changes, to restrain the corruptions and evil designs of men. This appears from the history of Babel. So it was in Egypt. Pharaoh laid a plan to subject the Israelites to perpetual bondage. But a great and sudden revolution blasted his designs. This was the case at the Revolution in England. The accession of William and Mary saved this state and country from impending ruin. So it was at the late Revolution. A scheme was formed for the oppression of Americans. And this has been the case in respect to individuals. Some sudden change has dashed the designs of those who were meditating evil. It is in vain for man to appoint, for God can disappoint.
6. God causes many changes to pass over individuals to try and refine their graces. This appears from the history of Abraham, of Job, of the primitive Christians, and from the history of saints at this day.
7. One great and important end God has in view in all the great changes of the world, is to promote the good of the Church. For this purpose he caused the changes in Egypt and in Canaan. For this end he raised up and destroyed the great empires of Babylon, of Persia, of Greece, and of Rome. For this purpose he destroyed the temple and city of Jerusalem. And for this purpose he is still shaking the kingdoms and nations of the earth. And he will continue to overturn, and to overturn, and to overturn, till the kingdom of the Prince of peace shall be established through the earth.
1. God subjects the world to perpetual changes. It is better for it, in the present state of human nature, to be in a changing, than in a settled condition. The mutability of the world has been a subject of complaint in all ages. Men have imagined that a steady, uniform state of human affairs would be much more desirable, than a state of perpetual changes and revolutions. Many think a state of universal peace and rest would be more favorable to knowledge, virtue, and happiness in the world. But this is doubtless a great mistake. For God has ordered it otherwise, for many weighty reasons, which are plain and obvious. The mistake of mankind upon this subject, seems to arise from overlooking the present state of human
nature. It is the character of fallen man to be given to indolence and vice. Very savage and very refined nations show that men are naturally indolent. Very savage nations are indolent. They eat and sleep. Very refined nations do the
The reason is, that such nations are not obliged to be active. China has never been torn by external revolutions and convulsions. And the Chinese have made little progress in knowledge, in virtue, or happiness. The savages are generally at rest, and make no discoveries in the arts, or progress in virtue. Hence it is evident, that great and frequent changes are necessary to rouse the attention, and draw forth the latent powers and abilities of men in the pursuit of knowledge, of virtue, and of happiness. Though revolutions and changes have made dreadful havoc in the world; though they have destroyed libraries, demolished works of art, and buried the learning and improvements of nations and kingdoms in oblivion, yet there is reason to believe, there has been, and is now, more virtue, more happiness, and more knowledge in the world, than if no wars had taken place, and no revolutions had passed over nations and kingdoms, but all the world had been united as one large empire. The men after the flood built Babel, on purpose to prevent the dispersion of mankind, and those changes and revolutions which they foresaw would probably result from a dispersed and divided state of the world. But they misjudged. So God thought, and therefore confounded their designs. The hearts of men must be greatly altered before they can enjoy a fixed and peaceable state. And therefore till the millennium takes place, revolutions will be necessary and beneficial. This is the scriptural representation of the matter. When men shall have a disposition to attend to the works of the Lord, and his great designs, and when they shall generally approve of his designs, then they will see and feel sufficient motives to employ all their time, and exert all their abilities in the service of God.
2. Are changes and revolutions beneficial to the world? Hence we learn that it is a favor to live when great changes and revolutions take place. It is a benefit to have objects to rouse the attention, and excite the exertions of the mind. That generation of Israel who, from twenty years old, spent their lives in a changing and tumultuous state, were the best generation of that nation. It is written, “ Thus saith the Lord ; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first-fruits of his increase.” They were highly favored, to be called to see the revolutions in Egypt, in the wilderness, '. and in Canaan. So it has been a great privilege to us, to live in this age of the world, and be spectators of the great revolutions which have taken place before our eyes.
New scenes have been constantly opening. We have had better opportunities, than any before us, to be knowing, virtuous, and happy. And nothing but the corruption of our hearts has prevented great progress in these. We have, however, reason to believe, that we have made more progress in all these, than if no revolutions had taken place. We are still in a state favorable to improvement. The world is in convulsions. The heart of God and the heart of man are clearly displayed.
3. Is the world perpetually changing ? Then we learn the absolute importance of religion, in order to happiness in this changing world. We have nothing else to depend upon. All things else are changing and passing away. We cannot de
. pend upon health ; upon riches ; upon honors; upon friends; or upon ourselves. God alone is unchangeable, and therefore the only proper rest to a rational and immortal mind. All who rest here are safe. Storms may rise ; empires may fall; and all things change, but they are safe. Those who neglect this, are daily exposed to lose all.
4. Is the world perpetually changing ? Then we learn that all the blessings we enjoy, are greatly enhanced by the channel of great revolutions and tribulations, through which they come. These revolutions enhanced the blessings of Noah-of the Jews -and of the Gentiles, when the Jews were broken off. And all changes and revolutions which have passed over the world, enhance our blessings. For, these are, in a sense, the fruit of all the changes that ever have taken place. But especially they are the fruit of the revolutions in Europe and America. A revolution in Europe planted us here. And a revolution here has established
We live upon the dead; wear their clothing ; possess their houses; improve their farms; read their books, and are taught by their lives. The world has been laboring; fighting; studying; living; and dying for us. What a precious price has been paid for our liberties; for our learning; for our peace; for our religion. What blessings do we enjoy which have not been mentioned ? If our interest remains, it is a wonder. If our friends are alive, it is a wonder. If our prospects are bettering, it is a wonder.
5. What great reason have we as a people, and as individuals, to praise God. This duty must be performed, in order to glorify God, or enjoy him. Let all be exhorted to perform it, both the old and the young. Especially let saints praise the great Author of changes and revolutions, “ for his wonderful works to the children of men,” as David did in the one hundred and seventh Psalm.
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD NOT STRAITENED.
"O THOU that art named, The house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord
MICAH prophesied in the time of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Jotham was a pious prince, but he did not exert himself to promote the cause of religion, which rather declined, than flourished during his reign. And after his death, his son Ahaz proved a vile idolater, and employed all his royal power and influence to corrupt his people, and draw them away from the worship of the true God.' This was a time of darkness and distress to all the real friends of God, while the enemies of religion were triumphing, and bidding defiance to the solemn warnings and admonitions of the prophets. They said to them that prophesied, “ prophesy not. They wished and endeavored to silence those who brought the messages of God to them, when they reproved and threatened them with the marks of the divine displeasure, for their stupidity, disobedience, and rebellion against him, whom they had once acknowledged to be their God. Hence the prophet addresses them under the appellation of the seed of Jacob. “You descended from that pious ancestor, and have enjoyed great and distinguished privileges in consequence of your relation to him. And now dare you doubt, whether the Spirit of the Lord be straitened ?' The text naturally suggests this general observation :
It betrays great stupidity to imagine that the Spirit of the Lord is straitened.
1. I shall show that the Spirit of God is not straitened in his 0;;eration or influence upon the minds of men : And
II. Show that it betrays great stupidity, to imagine it is.
I. I am to show that the Spirit of God is not straitened in his operations and influence upon the minds of men. Here I would observe,
1. The divine Spirit is not straitened in regard to the variety of his operations. He may exert restraining influence, or awakening influence, or convincing influence, or sanctifying influence. He has a free and uncontrolled access to the human mind. Though we know not the mode of the Spirit's operation upon the minds of free, voluntary agents, yet we know that the same Almighty Spirit, who gave them understanding, and all their intellectual and moral powers, is able to operate upon them just as he pleases, and produce just such effects as seems good to him. If he only intends to restrain men from action, as he did David from destroying Nabal, he can do it. Or if he intends to awaken them from their stupidity, to set their sins in order before them, and cause them to see the fatal consequences of rebelling against God, he can do it. Or if he means to fasten conviction upon their consciences, and make them feel that they deserve to be cast off forever, he can set the law home upon their consciences, and reduce them to a state of self-condemnation. Or if he means to make them the vessels of mercy, he can shed abroad the love of God in their hearts, or take away the stony heart, and give them a heart of flesh. can mould them into the divine image, and make them partakers of the divine nature. And when he has done all these things, he can work in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure, or carry on the good work which he has begun in their hearts. The Spirit of God is never straitened in his common, special, or supernatural operations. He exerts, with equal ease, every kind of divine influence upon the minds of men.
2. The Spirit of God is not straitened in regard to the extent of his power and influence. He is omnipresent, and capable of acting to the uttermost parts of the universe. This David realized as well as believed. " Whither shall I
from thy Spirit ? or whither shall I flee from thy presence ?" The divine Spirit pervades and surrounds the whole universe with his presence.
And hence he is able to operate upon any of mankind, or all of mankind, without overlooking a single individual, let him be where he will. Nor has the atonement of Christ restrained the extent of his influence, as some imagine. Christ did not make atonement merely for the elect, nor did he purchase the influences of the Spirit for them alone, as some have taught. But he made an atonement for all mankind, and opened the way for the divine Spirit to operate on whom he pleases. There was no occasion for purchasing the Spirit, for he is as ready and willing to operate upon the minds of men, as the Father was to send the Son, or the Son to come and suffer for sinners. So that the Spirit of