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reprobation revealed ? Is not the doctrine of divine agency in the renovation of the heart revealed ? Is not the doctrine of the divine agency in hardening the heart revealed ? Is not the doctrine of the final
perseverance of saints revealed ? Who will presume to say, that these doctrines are not revealed in the bible, and were not taught by Christ and his apostles? These doctrines have long been disputed among almost all denominations of christians; but why should they be disputed, if they were not revealedfun the sacred oracles ? Or why should those, who disbelieve them, employ so much learning, criticism, and metaphysical ingenuity, in attempting to explain them away. The
? acknowledged truth is, that they are revealed in the bible, and I will venture to add, that they are as plainly revealed as any other doctrines in it. This being true, we have as good a right to examine, explain, and inculcate these, as any other doctrines to be found in the word of God. These doctrines may be truly explained agreeably to the analogy of scripture, and the dictates of the soundest reason, and all the subtil and plausible objections, which have ever been made against them, may be fairly and fully answered. And it is no evidence to the contrary, that we hear so many say, that they have never heard them explained, and the objections answered to their apprehension and satisfaction. It is only saying of themselves what Christ said of some, who heard him preach, “ Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”
3. if God's secret will respects the taking place of future events ; then all uninspired men, who pretend to reveal God's secret will, or to foretel future events, are guilty of both folly and falsehood. For secret things belong to God only, and he only can reveal them. He justly claims this supreme prerogative. “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." "He challenges the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators,
either to foretel, or to escape the publick calamities, which he secretly intended to bring upon his disobedient people. There are many in the pagan, and some in the christian world, who pretend to look into futurity, and foretel things which God has never revealed ; but they are guilty of egregious folly and presumption, and ought to be avoided, despised, and condemned. Pharaoh sought to the magicians to confront and oppose Moses, but all in vain. Belshazar applied to such impostors, who were constrained to acknowledge their ignorance and folly. None by searching can find out God, nor discover his secret will in a single instance.
4. If God's secret will cannot be known, then it can have no influence upon the actions of men. They are extremely apt to complain of the doctrine of the divine decrees, because they imagine it lays both a restraint, and constraint upon their free and voluntary actions. They say, if God has decreed all things, then he constantly restrains them from doing any thing, which he has not decreed; and as constantly con
1 strains them to do every thing that he has decreed; so that his decrees totally destroy their free agency. But his decrees, which are his secret will, cannot possibly have the least influence to restrain them from acting, or to constrain them to act; for this plain reason, that they do not, and cannot know what his secret will is, till after they have acted. While the decrees of God lie a secret in his own mind, they cannot have any more influence upon the actions of men, than if they did not exist in his mind. The secret will of God, which is not known, never is or can be a motive to any person to do, or not to do what is decreed. Judas did not know, that it was decreed he should betray Christ, before he had determined and agreed to do it, for thirty pieces of silver. It was the money, and not the decree, that governed his free and voluntary act. Joseph's brethren did not know, that it was decreed, that they should sell him into Egypt, till after they had done it, so that they acted as freely and criminally as if it had not been decreed. Ask 'those, who object against the divine decrees, as being inconsistent with free
agency, whether they ever felt restrained from doing any thing they pleased, by the secret will or decree of God, and they will frankly say, that they never did feel any restraining influence from it. Or ask them, whether they ever felt constrained to do any thing, which they did not choose to do, by the secret will or decree of God, and they will frankly say, that they never did feel any overpowering or constraining influence from it. Neither scripture, nor reason, nor observation, nor experience affords the least ground to object against the secret will or decrees of God, as being inconsistent with men's being altogether free and voluntary in all their actions.
5. But if God has a secret will respecting all future events, and will always act according to his secret will; then it is easy to see the real cause why mankind are generally so much opposed to the doctrine of divine decrees. It is entirely owing to their fears, that he will execute his decrees, or bring to pass whatever he has decreed This they see throws them into the sovereign hand of God to dispose of them according to his eternal purpose, which he formed before the foundation of the world. This is a most solemn and interesting truth, which every natural heart perfectly hates and opposes. If God can execute his decrees consistently with the perfect freedom of every moral agent ; then he can cause every sinner to choose life or death, and be the free and voluntary instrument of his own salvation or destruction. And since God's secret will is unknown, no sinner can know whether he shall choose life, or death, be holy or sinful, happy or miserable to all eternity. It is not the decrees of God, which trouble sinners, but the agency of God in carrying them into effect, without their knowing what they are until they are fulfilled. By his invisible agency upon their minds, he governs all their views, all their thoughts, all their determinations, and all their volitions just as he pleases, and just according to his secret will, or eternal purpose, which they neither know before hand, nor can
resist, evade, or frustrate. They sometimes call this
, fate, but it is something far more disagreeable to them, than fate. If they were governed by fate, they would not be accountable for their conduct.
But they are governed by a divine agency on their minds, which is not only wise, and holy, and powerful, but at the same time, perfectly consistent with their own moral liberty and freedom. They are entirely and constantly under the control of divine providence, which is God's most wise and powerful, preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions, according to his secret will. This secret will, for ought they know, may disappoint all their desires, all their hopes, all their expectations, and destroy all their happiness for ever. They know not but it is God's eternal, secret, and irresistible will to make them vessels of wrath, fitted by their own free, sinful choice for destruction. The carnal mind of every person in the state of nature rises in enmity and opposition to this secret will of God, is not reconciled to it, neither indeed can be. But if this be true, cries every sinner, what shall I do? My case is deplorably and desperately wretched. God has often told you so, but you would not believe it. Can you now believe otherwise ? Can you believe that God has no secret will ? Can you believe that he will not execute his secret will ? Can you believe, that your opposition to his secret will can frustrate it? Can
you believe, that God will give up his secret will to gratify your unsubmissive will? These, say you, are hard sayings. I hope they are not true. I will go the bible, and see if they be to be found there. I will go to God, and not to man, to tell me the truth. I beseech you to go, and I venture to say, that if you do go, you will return converted, or condemned.
6. If God will certainly execute his wise and holy secret will; then all his friends have a constant source of joy under all circumstances of life. For he has assured them, that in executing his secret will, he will cause all things to work together for their good. Though he may cause them to pass through dark and
distressing scenes, yet he will never leave, nor forsake them, but eventually bring them into light. It is his secret will to order all things in the wisest and best manner, to promote his own glory and the perfect holiness and happiness of all who love him, and place their supreme dependence upon him. None, who have trusted in him, have ever found his faithfulness to fail. Those, who have believed and loved the secret will of God, have found it to be an unfailing source of support, consolation, and joy, under all the trials and afflictions, which they were called to experience. Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, No
. ses and Joshua, David and Samuel, Christ and the apostles, acknowledged the secret, governing will of God, and found it a solid foundation of hope and confidence, under the singular trials which fell to their lot. That which so many call errour, absurdity, and even blasphemy, they called the most important and consoling truth. And the same truth is still the ground of joy and peace to all, who rejoice, that the Lord reigneth. Indeed, it would be absurd for any to rejoice in God, if they did not believe, that he will govern all things exactly according to his secret and eternal purpose. This all good men do believe, and therefore are bound to rejoice in that secret will of God, which the men of the world hate and oppose with all their hearts. All the promises of the gospel are founded in the secret will of God, and consequently all the hopes of christians are derived from it. It is their duty and privilege, to live by faith in the universal
government of God, which he constantly exercises over all creatures, objects, and events, agreeably to the secret and eternal counsel of his own will.
7. If God's secret will be his governing will, and respects the existence of every thing that comes to pass, then it is very criminal in any to deny, or to complain of his secret will. It is the same thing as to deny that God governs the world, or to complain that he does not govern it in the wisest and best manner. Mankind seem to be very insensible of the great crim