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SERMON XXI.

GOD DESIGNS THAT MEN SHALL KNOW THAT HE

GOVERNS THE WORLD.

"AND I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there ; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth."-Exodus, viii. 22.

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THERE is no instance of God's conduct more celebrated in scripture, than his delivering his people from the hand of Pharaoh and from the house of bondage. He wrought miracles of mercy and miracles of justice, in order to bring about that great event. And he wrought both for the important purpose of displaying his supremacy and dominion over the world. This God declared to Pharaoh, when he said, “I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.” Lord, is a word which expresses authority, and signifies ruler or governor. To know that God is the Lord in the midst of the earth, is to know that he not only fills the earth with his presence, but also governs it with his almighty and invisible hand. And to make men know this, which they are so unwilling to know, is the constant design of God in the course of his providence.

I. I shall make this appear. And
II. Show why he designs to make them know this truth.

I. I am to show that God designs to make men know that he governs the world. This will appear, if we consider that he declares this to be his great object in his conduct. There is no other reason which he so often assigns for his conduct as this. He

gave this reason for the miracles of his goodness to his own people. “To the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.” He gave this as the reason of the awful displays of his vengeance upon Pharaoh : "For now I

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will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in

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deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” He gave this as the reason of his conduct towards Nebuchadnezzar: “ While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." But it is unnecessary to recite all the places in the Old Testament, in which God gives this as the reason of his conduct, “That ye may know that I am the Lord.” We find this phrase used in this sense more than fifty times. Such repetitions of the phrase give it a peculiar emphasis, and naturally lead us to conclude, that it is indeed God's great design, in the course of his whole conduct, to make mankind know that he governs the world.

It appears also from the manner of God's governing the world, that his great design is, to make men know that he governs it. He governs it like himself, and not like any other being; which is naturally calculated to make men know that he is indeed the supreme Governor. In every age, he has brought about events which have surprised and astonished the world. And his providence every day displays, more or less, his unsearchable wisdom and goodness. So that whoever are wise and will observe these things, even they may know that God governs the world. His manner of governing the world is truly divine, and displays his divinity to all who will observe it. Here I may observe, in the first place, that God governs in a manner which is contrary to the dictates of human reason. When God had called Abraham from his kindred, and given him not only a title to, but possession of, the land of Canaan, we should have been ready to say, it would have been best to have preserved him and his posterity in the place designed for their national residence. But God saw fit to carry his people into Egypt, to continue them there four hundred years, and finally carried them back, through hosts of enemies and streams of blood, to the place where they were once happily seated. A thousand instances of this nature might be mentioned, in which God orders things contrary to the dictates of reason in shortsighted creatures : and all such instances of the divine conduct,

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serve to make men know that the world is governed by a Being who has wisdom superior to their own.

Again, God governs the world in a manner contrary to the expectations of creatures. Men are constantly looking forward and expecting that certain particular events will take place. And very often they imagine they see good grounds for their expectations. They observe previous natural causes, which they conclude will produce the expected effects. They lay their account that the race will be to the swift; the battle to the strong; wealth to the industrious; and honor to men of wisdom and merit. But God, in his conduct, often disappoints such expectations. Every day is a day of disappointment to thousands. Things are constantly taking a new and unexpected turn, and no event is certain until it takes place. Time and chance are perpetually disappointing the most strong and well-founded expectations. No man knows what even a day may bring forth. God governs the world so absolutely, and so contrary to human expectations, that the most careless observer might see his hand in the common course of his provi. dence. Besides,

He governs the world contrary to the desires of men. They wish he would bestow more good, and send less evil. They wish he would prevent some events, and bring others to pass. They wish he would spare some lives, and destroy others. They wish, in a word, that he would consult their desires, in all the dealings of his providence. But he governs all things after the counsel of his own will, and pays no regard to the desires of men, which are inconsistent with his wise and gracious designs.

Thus God crosses the reason, the expectations, and the desires of his creatures, in the course of his conduct, by which he means to make men know, that he is the Lord. I am

II. To show why it is his great design in the course of his conduct, to make men know, that he governs the world. Here I would observe,

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 concern 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, while 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 inquire, 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 chief 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 to give this instruction 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 Creator, 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 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 abundant." 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

He found no safety in God, whom he had despised, and against whom he had opposed himself with all his heart, and with 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

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