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The same Subject continued.
Eccl. iii. 14. I know that whatsoever God doth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it; and God doth it, that men should fear before him.
IN the preceding discourse the exercise of piety has been considered in a number of particulars. The last mentioned was devotion, and several things included in this have been considered. Another branch of devotion now requires our attention.
Petition is that part of devotion in which we, ia our address to God, express our desires, or ask him to do or grant that which to us appears good and desirable. This requires a more particular consideration, as some have thought it not consistent with the doctrine of God’s decrees, foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass; because, according to this, every thing is fixed, and cannot be altered. It has been said, there cannot be any reason or motive to pray, or make any petition, to an unchangeable God, whole design cannot be altered, and who has fixed all events, without a possibility of any change.
Before any attempt is made to remove this objection, and supposed difficulty, it must be observed, that it equally lies against the foreknowledge of God. For if God certainly foreknows every thing that will take place, then every event is fixed and certain, otherwise it could not be foreknown. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” He has determined, and passed an unchangeable decree, with respect to all that he will do to eternity. Upon the plan of the objection under consideration, it may be allied, What 315 reason or motive can any one have to ask God to do any thing for him, or any one else, since he infallibly knows from the beginning what he will do, and therefore it is unalterably fixed? Therefore if it be reasonable to pray to an omniscient God, it is equally reasonable to pray to an unchangeable God. For the former necessarily implies the latter. But in order to show that the objection is without foundation, the following things must be observed.
I. If God were not omniscient and unchangeable, and had not foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, he would not be the proper object of worship, and there would be no foundation, reason or encouragement to make any petition to him.
This it is presumed will be evident to any one who will well consider the following observations.
First. If there were no unchangeable, omniscient Being, there would be no God, no proper object of worship. A being who is capable of change is necessarily imperfect, and may change from bad to worse, and even cease to exist, and therefore could not be trusted. If we could know that such a being has existed, and that he was once wise and good and powerful, we could have no evidence that he would continue to be wise or good, or that he is so now, or that he is now disposed to pay any regard to our petitions, or is either willing or able to grant them; or even that he has any existence. What reason of encouragement then can there be to pray to a changeable being? Surely none at all. Therefore, if there be no reason to pray to an unchangeable God, there can be no, reason to pray at all.
Secondly. If God be infinitely wise, and good, and omnipotent, supreme and independent; then he certainly is unchangeable, and has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. This has been proved above, or rather is self-evident. But if he be not infinitely wise and good, &c. then he cannot be trusted; he cannot be the object of that trust and confidence which is implied, and even expressed, in praying to him.316
Thirdly. The truly pious, benevolent, devout man would not desire, or even dare, to pray to God for any tiling, if he were changeable, and disposed to alter his purpose and plan, in order to grant his petitions. Therefore he never does pray to any but an unchangeable God, whole counsel stands forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations. He is sensible that he is a very imperfect creature; that his heart, his will, is awfully depraved and sinful; that he knows not what is wisest and best to be done in any one instance; what is best for him, for mankind in general, for the world, or for the universe; what is most for the glory of God, and the greatest general good; and that it would be infinitely undesirable and dreadful to have his own will regarded so as to govern in determining what shall be done for him or any other being, or what shall take place. If it could be left to him to determine in the least instance, he would not dare to do it, but would refer it back to God, and say, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” But he could not do this, unless he were certain that the will of God was unchangeably wise and good, and that he had decreed to do what was most for his own glory, and the greatest good of the whole; at the same time infallibly knowing what must take place, in every instance, in order to answer this end; and consequently must have fixed upon the most wise and best plan, foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass. Therefore, whatever be his petitions for himself, or for others, he offers them to God, and asks, on this condition, always either expressed or implied, If it be agreeable to thy will: for otherwise he would not have his petitions granted, if it were possible. And he who asks any thing of God, without making this condition, but sets up his own will, and desires to have it gratified, whether it be for the dory of God, and the greatest good of his kingdom, or not; and would, were it in his power, compel his Maker to grant his petition, and bow the will of God to his own will; he who prays to God with such a disposition, is an impious enemy to God, exercises no true devotion, 317and cannot be heard; and it is desirable to all the friends of God that he should be rejected. Resignation to the will of God always supposes his will is unchangeably fixed and established, which it could not be, unless he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
Thus it appears that if God were changeable, and had not foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, there would be no foundation for religious worship, or reason for praying to him; or that there can be no reason or encouragement for prayer and petition to any but an unchangeable God.—I proceed to observe,
2. There is good reason, and all desirable and possible encouragement, to pray to an unchangeable God, who has from eternity determined what he will do, in every instance, and has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
This will doubtless be evident, to him who will duly consider the following particulars.
First. Prayer is as proper, important and necessary, in order to obtain favour from an unchangeable God, as it could be were he changeable, and had not foreordained any thing.
Means are as necessary in order to obtain the end, as if nothing were fixed and certain. Though it was decreed that Paul and all the men in the ship should get safe to land, when they were in a storm at sea; yet this must be accomplished by means, and unless the sailors had assisted in managing the ship, this event could not take place, and they could not be saved. Prayer is a means of obtaining what God has determined to grant; for he has determined to give it in answer to prayer, and no other way. “Ask, and ye shall receive,” says our Saviour. When God had promised to do many and great things for Israel, he adds, “Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them:” [Ezek. xxxvi. 37.] The granting the favours, which God had determined to bestow, was as much suspended on their asking for them, as if there had been nothing determined and fixed about it. There is as much regard had to prayer in 318granting favours, and the prayer is heard, and God gives them, as really and as much in answer to it, as if there were nothing determined and foreordained respecting them: for the decree includes and fixes the means, as much as the end; the method and way by which events are to take place, as much as those events themselves. The one depends on the other, as much as if there were no decree, and nothing fixed; yea, much more: for the decree fixes the dependence and connection between the means and the end: whereas if there were no decree, and nothing fixed, there would be no established connection, but all would be uncertain, and there would be no reason or encouragement to use means, or do any thing to obtain an end.
Surely, then, there is as much reason and encouragement to pray to an unchangeable God, and this is as important and necessary, as if there were nothing fixed by the divine decrees, and much more: yea, the unchangeable purposes of God are the necessary and only proper ground and reason of prayer.
Secondly. Though prayer is not designed to make any change in God, or alter his purpose, which is impossible; yet it is suited and designed to have an effect on the petitioner, and prepare him to receive that for which he prays. And this is a good reason why he should pray. It tends to make the petitioner to feel more and more sensibly his wants, and those of others for whom he prays, and the miserable state in which he and they are: for in prayer these are called up to view, and dwelt upon: and prayer tends to give a sense of the worth and importance of the favours asked. It is also suited to make persons feel, more and more, their own helplessness, and entire dependence on God for the favours for which they petition, of which their praying is an acknowledgement: and therefore tends to enhance them in the eyes of the petitioner, when given in answer to prayer, and to make him more sensible of the free, sovereign goodness of God in granting 319them.1010 A kind and wise father, who designs to give his child some particular favour, will bring the child to ask for it before he bestows it, and will suspend the gift upon this condition, for the benefit of the child, that what he grants may be a real advantage to him, and a greater than if it were given before the child was better prepared to receive it, by earnestly and humbly asking for it; and that the father may hereby receive a proper acknowledgement from the child, and be treated in a becoming manner. And in this case, the petition of the child is as really regarded, heard and granted, and the child’s application and prayer to the father is as much a means of obtaining the favour, and as proper, important and necessary, as if the father had not previously determined the whole affair. And when the children of such a father know that this is his way of bestowing favours on them, they will have as proper motives, and as much encouragement, to ask for all they want, as if he had not determined what he would do antecedent to their asking him; yea, much more. In sum, this is suited to keep the exigence and character of God in view, and impress a sense of religious truths in general on the mind, and to form the mind to universal obedience, and a conscientious watchfulness and circumspection, in all religious exercises.
Thirdly. It is reasonable, and highly proper and important, and for the honour of God, that the friends of God should express and acknowledge their entire dependence on him, and trust in him, for all they want for themselves and others, and their belief in the power, wisdom and goodness of God; and all this is acknowledged, expressly or implicitly, in prayer to God. It is also reasonable and proper that they should express their desire of those things which are needed by themselves or others, and which God alone can give or accomplish: and such desires are expressed in the best way and manner by petitioning for them. And in asking for blessings on others, and praying for their enemies, they express their disinterested benevolence, which is an advantage to themselves, and pleasing to God, even though their petitions should have no influence in procuring the favours which they ask. And in praying that God would honour himself, and advance his own kingdom, and accomplish all the great and glorious things which 320he has promised to do for his own honour, and the good of his people, they do not express any doubts of his fulfilling his promises, but are certain he will grant their petitions; but they hereby express their acquiescence in these things, and their earnest desire that they may be accomplished; and also profess and express their love to God, and friendship to his people and kingdom; and do that which the feelings of a pious, benevolent heart will naturally, and even necessarily, prompt them to do.
. We have many examples of such petitions and prayers for those things and events, which the petitioners, antecedent to their prayers, knew would certainly, be accomplished. We have a decisive and remarkable instance of this in David, the King of Israel, in the following words: “And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as thou hast said. And let thy name be magnified forever, saying, The. Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. For thou, O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer before thee. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant. Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue forever before thee; for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it, and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever:” [2 Sam. vii. 25-29.] Here David not only prays God to do that which at the same time he knew and acknowledges God had promised to do; and therefore it was established as firm as the throne of the Almighty, and decreed that it should take place; but he says that this promise of God, making it certain, was the reason, motive and encouragement to him to make this prayer: “Thou, O Lord, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an 321house. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant; therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer before thee.” We hence are warranted to assert that it is reasonable and proper to pray for that which God has promised; and that the certainty that it will be accomplished is a motive and encouragement to pray for it. How greatly then do they err who think that if every event is made certain by God’s decree, there is no reason or encouragement to pray for any thing!
Our Saviour, in the pattern of prayer which lie has dictated, directs men to pray that God would bring to pass those events which were already fixed and decreed, and therefore must infallibly take place: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed he thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” &c.
Christ himself, in the 17th chapter of John, prays for those whom the Father had given to him, that he would keep them through his own name, and that they might be one, as the Father and Son were one; might be kept from the evil in the world, and be sanctified through the truth; that they might be with him in heaven forever, and behold his glory. At the same time he knew that all this was made certain to them; for he had before said, that all that were given to him should come to him, and he would raise them up at the last day; that he would give unto them eternal life, and not one of them should perish, as none should be able to pluck them out of his hands, or his Father’s. He prays, “Father, glorify thy name;” not because this event was uncertain, but to express his earnest desire of that which he knew was decreed, and could not but take place, and his willingness to give up every thing, even his own life, to promote this. Again, Christ prays in the following words: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” The event for which Christ prays in these words was decreed 322from eternity, and the decree had been long before published, in the 2d and 110th Psalms. “I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” And he had declared the certainty of that for which he here prays, since his incarnation. He had said, that all power in heaven and earth was given unto him; that “the Father had committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. St. Paul, when speaking of God, often introduces the following words: “To whom be glory forever, Amen;” which is not to be considered as a mere doxology, by which glory is ascribed to God; but it is rather a wish, or desire, that God may be glorified forever; and the Amen corroborates it: as if he had said, “Let it be so; this is the most ardent desire of my soul, including the sum of all my petitions.” Here then the Apostle utters a desire and petition for that which he knew was decreed, and would take place.
The last words of Christ to his church are, “Surely I come quickly.” Upon which promise the following petition of the church, and of every friend of his, is presented to him: “Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.” Here is a petition, in which all Christians join, praying Christ to do what he has promised; and which therefore was as certain as a declared decree could possibly make it: and the petition is grounded on this promise and decree published by Christ, in which the petitioners express their hearty approbation of the coming of Christ, and earnest desire of this important and happy event. And if it be reasonable thus to pray for an event which is fixed and made certain by an unchangeable decree, and cannot be altered, as in the instance before us; then it is reasonable and proper to pray for any thing or any event which appears to us desirable and important, 323though we know God is unchangeable, and that all things and every event are fixed by an unalterable decree.
The apostle John says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him:” [1 John v. 14, 15.] To ask for any thing according to his will, is to ask for those things which it is agreeable to his will to grant; and this is to be known only by what he has revealed. When we ask him to do what he has declared he will do, then we know we ask for that which is according to his will; and consequently, that we have our petitions. But it will be asked. What are these things? I answer, That God will glorify himself in all things, and make the brightest display of his perfections and character forever; that he will promote and effect the greatest possible good of the universe; that he will make his church and kingdom perfectly happy and glorious forever; that he will accomplish all his designs and predictions, and fulfil all his promises to his church and people; and cause all things to work for the good of those who love him; and give his Holy Spirit to all who ask him. These, I think, must be the things we ask, when we know that we pray for any thing according to the will of God, and consequently know that he heareth us, and that we have the petitions that we desired of him. But in all these instances we asks: for that which God has said he will do, that is, has decreed that he will do them. And as it has been said before, if a decree in these instances does not render it unreasonable or improper to pray for their accomplishment; then, if God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, this is not in the least inconsistent with our praying for whatever appears to us desirable and good, and may not be contrary to the will of God to grant. But here it must be observed, that when we ask for any particular things or events which, though it may not be contrary to the will of 324 God to grant, yet he has in no way revealed that it is his will to grant our petitions; when we ask for any such thing, we must do it with an express or implicit reserve—If it be according to the will of God. Otherwise, or if it be not according to his will, we must withdraw our petition, and not desire to have it granted. Resignation to the will of God, whatever it may be, in all such instances, is essential to the pious petitions of a benevolent friend of God. And by thus referring to the will of God, and resigning to that, desiring it may be done in all cases, whatever petitions we may make, we do refer to the decrees of God, by which he has determined what he will do in every particular instance; for his will and his decrees are in this case one and the same, being fixed and unchangeable.
Fourthly. It is not only proper and important that the worshippers of God should express their desires of those things which they want, in praying for them; but were this not true, and were not asking for them the means and way of obtaining them; yet the pious friends of God would esteem it a privilege and enjoyment to be allowed and invited, “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to make known their requests unto him.” To them prayer is not a task, from which they would be glad to be excused, but they practise it with pleasure. They have great support, enjoyment and happiness in calling their cares upon God, and expressing the desires of their hearts to him. While others restrain prayer before God, and say, “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” the benevolent friend of God would pray, were it only for the enjoyment which he has in the exercise; and says in his heart, “I will call upon God as long as I live.” And though he is certain that God is unchangeable, and that nothing is done, or will come to pass, which is not foreordained by him, this does not tend to prevent or in the least abate the pleasure and enjoyment he has in making known his requests to God, 325or his desire constantly to practise it: but this truth gives him support and consolation, and increases his delight in calling upon God, and renders it more desirable and pleasant unto him: yea, were not this a truth, he could not find any reason for making his requests known to him, or any delight in doing it; and would not have any encouragement, or even dare, to ask for any thing, as has been observed and shewn.
And now this matter is to be left to the judgment of every one who will attend to it. It is hoped that it appears evident, beyond all dispute, from the light in which this subject; has been now set, that the doctrine of God’s decreeing whatsoever comes to pass is not only confident with all the exercises of true piety, but is the proper foundation for this, and is suited to excite and promote these exercises; and that there can be no real piety which is not consistent with this truth.
Improvement of the Subject.
I. It appears from what has been said on this subject, that they who are in their hearts opposed to this doctrine of the decrees of God, are strangers to true piety, and do not fear before God. Though they may have exercises which they call and think to be piety and real religion, and it may have an appearance of it to others; vet it has nothing: of the real nature of true piety, but is enmity and opposition to the true God. They may think they love God, and are speaking for him, and to his honour, and in favour of religion, while they are strenuously opposing this doctrine, as dishonourable to God, and destructive to all virtue and true religion: but they are deceived, and are really opposing and dishonouring the true God, and denying and renouncing that truth which is the only foundation or true piety.
This will, without doubt, be thought very uncharitable by many, as it condemns a great part of professing Christians, as destitute of true piety, and not real Christians. But is it the office of charity to give up the 326truth because it condemns ourselves or our fellow men? Is it uncharitable to think and speak according to the truth, and to censure those who are censured by the God of truth? True charity, or love, “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” If the subject we have been considering has been justly represented, and the truth established by undeniable evidence; then this inference that has now been made follows with the greatest certainty, and must be admitted, however many are censured and condemned by it, and be they who they may.
It is to be carefully observed, that the inference is, “Whosoever in their hearts, and in the exercise of what they call piety, oppose this doctrine of God’s foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass, have no real real religion.” Persons may, through the prejudices of education, or some other way, be led to misunderstand this doctrine, and have very wrong conceptions of it, and imbibe prejudices against it, in their speculations; and yet the exercise of their hearts be in some measure agreeable to it, in the practice of real piety. Their piety may not prevent or remove all their wrong and mistaken speculations and conceptions on this point. But if their hearts oppose this truth, which is the foundation of all true piety, their hearts are not right with God, but they must be enemies to him, and in the gall of bitterness, and bonds of iniquity, whatever specious pretences they may make of love to God, and of devotion.
On the other hand, persons may be right in their speculations on this point, and be fully convinced of the truth of this do6lrine, yea, be very zealous in arguing for it, and vindicating it against opposers; and yet never heartily submit to it, but really oppose it in their hearts, and be wholly strangers to every exercise of true piety.
On the whole, he who cordially submits to this doctrine, and has exercises of heart answerable to it, is a pious man, and fears before God, whatever his speculations may be. And he whose heart opposes this doctrine, in the whole tenor of his exercises, is a stranger to 327true piety, though he may be orthodox in his speculative opinion. It is desirable, however, that every man’s judgment and speculations should be according to the truth: and it cannot be easily accounted for that a person whose heart is truly pious and benevolent should continue to disbelieve and reject this doctrine, when under all proper and desirable advantages to get light and instruction, to have all his false conceptions of it removed, to know what it is, what is, and what is not, implied in it, and to learn the foundation and reason of it, and how expressly and abundantly, and in a variety of ways, it is taught and inculcated in the holy scriptures.
And if a person under all these advantages and instructions perseveres in renouncing and opposing this doctrine, as very disagreeable, and overthrowing all religion, with an obstinacy and zeal which appear to proceed from the disposition and feelings of the heart, we have reason to fear, yea, to determine, that the heart is not right with God, and that such opposition flows from this root of bitterness.
That the unrenewed, selfish, impenitent man should dislike and oppose this doctrine, can be easily accounted for. For it appears from what has been said on this subject, that it must be, of all things most disagreeable to him, and that to which one of such a disposition and character can never submit. But that he who is born of God, and has a humble, benevolent heart, and loves and fears God, and delights in the Bible, meditating therein day and night, is pleased to have God exalted, as a glorious, omnipotent, unchangeable, infinitely wise and good sovereign of the universe, and to have proud man humbled and abased before him; that such an one should not believe that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, but oppose and be displeased with such a do6frine, is quite unaccountable.
II. This subject teaches us the reason and importance of making the glory of God our supreme end in all we do.328
1. Because this is the highest, best and most important end that can be proposed and pursued, and therefore most agreeable to wisdom and benevolence.
2. Because God himself makes this his end in all his works. This is asserted in the truth which is established in the foregoing discourse, viz. That God hath, for his own glory, foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; and it has been shown that this must be the supreme end of the infinitely wise and benevolent Being, in all he does, and that this is necessarily included in the assertion in our text, “That whatsoever God doth, it shall be forever.” It is certainly reasonable that we should pursue the same end that God does in his works, and herein imitate him, as his children. If it be wise and benevolent in God to lay a plan and pursue it to glorify himself, to make the brightest display of his own perfections, wisdom and benevolence will lead us to do all for the same end.
3. Because the glory of God, the greatest manifestation and display of the divine character and perfections, includes the greatest possible good of the created universe; for in producing and effecting this, the omnipotence, infinite wisdom and goodness of God are acted out and manifested to the greatest advantage, to be seen by creatures. The glory of God, and the greatest happiness of the creation, therefore, cannot be separated, as two distinct and different ends, since the one necessarily implies and involves the other. The highest happiness of a creature consists in the knowledge and enjoyment of God, in beholding, loving and glorifying him; and therefore the more his perfections are manifested to the creation, the more happy will creatures be; and the greater the happiness and glory of the creation is, the more is God glorified, the greater is the display of his power, wisdom and goodness. Does it not hence follow, that the glory of God implies all possible good, and therefore is to be fought as the supreme end? How reasonable and important then is it that we should with zeal and fervour of mind constantly aim at this end, in 329 obedience to the apostolic injunction, “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God!”
4. Because he who makes the glory of God his supreme end, and consequently seeks the greatest good and happiness of the creation, in the kingdom of God, IS necessarily happy himself. His benevolence, by which he makes this grand object his supreme end, and places his happiness in the glory of God, and the greatest general good, will necessarily render him happy, in seeing this end completely accomplished, as it will be to the utmost of his wishes, and far beyond his present conceptions. He must necessarily share in all this good, when it takes place; because, by the supposition, this is his chosen good. And while he leeks this as the grand object of his desire and happiness, and is at the lame time allured that it shall be accomplished, he has a great degree of enjoyment. He in a measure enjoys the good he seeks, in the allured prospect that it will take place. Thus universal, disinterested benevolence, which seeks the glory of God, and the general good, is the only affection which can interest us in that good which will take place to the highest degree, and give us our full share in It: whereas the contrary affection, self love necessarily excludes from all true happiness, because the selfish person places not his happiness in the glory of God, and the public good, the happiness and glory of his kingdom; but in his own exaltation and private, person al good. He is, of course, an enemy to the only true good and happiness, and so far as that takes place he is necessarily excluded and unhappy.
He therefore who, in this sense, denies himself, gives up all that separate, personal, private interest which self love seeks, and, in this sense, loses his own life, shall find or save his life; that is, shall be truly and eternally happy, in the exercise of disinterested affection to God and the members of his kingdom, which necessarily puts him in possession of the public good and happiness, and gives him his share in this social felicity, as one of the members 330of the society. But he who saves his life, that is, who, having no public, disinterested affection, seeks himself only, and is pursuing and seeking to save to himself a separate, private interest, for the sake of which he is ready to sacrifice and oppose the glory of God, and the general good—he shall lose his life; that is, shall lose or miss of all happiness, and must necessarily be miserable.
Thus we see in what respects, and for what reasons, it is our indispensable duty, and of the highest importance to us, to make the glory of God our supreme end in all we do; and, by what has been observed, we may learn what is implied in this. It is to set this above every thing else; to aim at and pursue nothing but this, and what is implied in it; to subordinate every thing with which we are concerned to the glory of God; to give lip and devote ourselves, with all we have and are, to answer this end, without making any reserve, freely renouncing all supposable or possible interest or good, for ourselves or others, which is inconsistent with the glory of God, or which will not conduce to it and promote it.
III. They who desire to know their own character, and the nature of their religious exercises, whether they bear the stamp of true piety, may examine and try themselves by what has been exhibited on this subject: whether the God which is revealed in the Bible, unchangeable in his being, perfections, designs, decrees and works, is the chosen and delightful object of their religious affections; of their love, fear, hope and trust; of their gratitude and joy; of their adoration and praise, to whom they make confession, and pray with perseverance and pleasure; and whether they are conscious that a God, who has not foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, could not be the object of these their pious affections.
As to those who dislike and oppose this doctrine, and say, they cannot love and worship such a God; and yet think themselves truly pious, and in the way to heaven, and that they are serving and honouring God in their 331 opposition to this doctrine; we will leave them to the day which shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is; at the same time being certain that if their hearts and all the exercises of them do oppose and reject the God who has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, and they live and die with such hearts, they will be found to be workers of iniquity, and ranked with them who “know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
IV. Let all who believe this doctrine be concerned to live answerable to it, and constantly fear before this God, and live in the exercise and practice of every branch of true godliness; and not, as many do, hold the truth in unrighteousness, and pervert it to bad purposes.
The Christian has learned to unite a conviction and sense of entire dependence on God, who orders and works all things according to his unchangeable decree, for every motion and right exercise of heart, with zeal and activity in religion, working out his own. salvation with fear and trembling, with self-diffidence, and. a sense of his own insufficiency for any good thing, and a humble dependence on God for grace to do his duty; because he knows that God worketh in him both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure: [Phil. ii. 12, 13,] And the stronger and more steady conviction he has that God overrules and orders all things for his own glory and the greatest good of the whole, even all the sin and rebellion of men, the more unreasonable and criminal does sin appear to him, as it is in its nature and tendency direct opposition to this event. And therefore the more does he loathe, abhor and condemn himself for his sins, and acknowledge his desert of eternal destruction: knowing that God’s foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass, leaves the sinner as free a moral agent, and as inexcusable and criminal, as if there were no decree in the case.
Blessed are they who understand these things, and know the only true God, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working; and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent, who exerciseth loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.332
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