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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 of 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 subjec. tion. 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 “the Lord in the midst of the earth.” The world appears entirely different when it is seen 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, 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.
1. Since it is the great design of God in his conduct to make men know that he governs, it is evident that they are tremely 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 gov. erns; 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 them 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 anything 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 his own will." An obstinate unwillingness to know that God governs all his creatures and all their actions, by his constant, powerful, and irresistible 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.
2. 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 them 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.
3. Since God, for the reasons that have been given, means to make men know that he 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 : That
in their hearts, the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” And the apostle assigns the same cause of the same effect : “ There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." And all sinners are disposed to feel no fear nor concern respecting God so long as they can hold fast the deceit, that he has not the entire control of themselves and all their interests.
4. It should be the great object of religious instructers to make men know that God reigns. They ought to preach such doctrines, and in such a manner as will answer this purpose. And if they are taught and guided by the word, the Spirit, and the providence of the only living and true God, it will be their chief and constant object, in all their religious instructions, to make men know that the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and that he will do all his pleasure. “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things : to whom be glory forever.”
SINS WITHOUT LAW DESERVE PUNISHMENT.
"For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law.”—
Romans, ii. 12.
ACCORDING to the latest and best computation, nearly two thirds of mankind are now in a state of heathenism, and totally destitute of divine revelation. The character and condition of this large portion of the human race, has never perhaps been clearly and fully explained. Some consider the subject too difficult to admit, and others too unimportant, to require a thorough investigation. It is certainly a difficult subject, but it is as important as it is difficult. It lies at the threshold of Christianity, and is the first thing to be understood, in order to a clear knowledge of the necessity and consistency of the gospel scheme of salvation. The apostle evidently considers it in this light. For he begins this epistle, which contains the most complete system of the Christian religion, by ascertaining the character and condition of the Christian and heathen world. He saw it necessary to prove, that both Jews and Gentiles were all under sin, in order to exhibit the nature, necessity and universality of the atonement of Christ, which is the fundamental and comprehensive doctrine of the gospel. In the first chapter, he draws the character of the heathen, and in this second, he describes their condition. And among other things he says,
As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.” By those without the law, the apostle means the Gentiles, the Greeks, the barbarians, or the whole heathen world, who never had the law which was given to the Jews, and consequently had never broken that law, nor stood condemned by it; nevertheless they had sinned without law, and stood exposed to perish without law. The apostle meant
to prove, and did prove, that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, and stand guilty and justly condemned before God. But the design of this discourse is to show
I. That the heathen are without law.
A law is a rule of conduct given by proper authority and sanctioned by precept and penalty. There can be no human, or divine law without the sanction of reward and punishment. The heathen have human laws sanctioned by precept and penalty; but they have no such divine law. The law of God, clothed with divine authority, and sanctioned by precept and penalty, binds all those to whom it is given, but no others. So the apostle asserts : “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law." Now if the heathen are under no law, which God has ever given to any of mankind, then they are properly speaking, without law. And if we con
, sult the scripture, we shall find that they are not under any law that God has ever gfven to the children of men. For,
1. They are not under the law given to Adam. That law bound only our first parents. No other persons were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and no other persons ever transgressed that divine prohibition. I know it has been supposed by many, that the law given to Adam was a covenant of works, and that all his posterity ever since have been born under that covenant. But there is no ground for this supposition. The law or prohibition given to Adam was no covenant, and is never represented in the scripture as extending to, and binding any but Adam and Eve. If it bound any besides those persons, it must bind all their descendants. But if it bound all their posterity, then the heathen were under law, which is contrary to the express declaration in the text, that they are without law. Besides, the apostle tells us in the fifth chapter of this epistle, that there was no law given from Adam to Moses. - For until the law, sin was in the world ; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." Adam sinned against law; but from his day to Moses, mankind sinned without law; that is, without any revealed law, sanctioned by divine authority. From this it appears that the heathen are not now, and never were under the law given to Adam, or any covenant of works. 2. The heathen are not under the law of the Jews. The