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truth, that God, by a most holy and wise government, contains all the thoughts and purposes of men, whether good or evil, within certain limits set by himself: and so orders and restrains them all, that in spite of the designs of wicked men, they themselves accomplish his purpose. And though the mode of his doing it is inscrutable and incomprehensible by us, yet the authority and full testimony of Scripture bind us to believe it, as a matter of fact.
Nor does the belief of this fact, as the ememies of the truth suggest, take away encouragement and induce despair. But, on the other hand, it is the very antidote against despair ; which Christ used, when hope in the minds of his disciples was about to expire; in his conversation with them, on the way to Emmaus. He told them that that event, which had put the extinguisher upon their hopes, had come about by the immutable purpose
of God; and so was a strong foundation for all their hopes.
But some will say, that where there is a necessity or certainty of any kind, there can be no liberty or contingency. And they regard this as an axiom indisputable. Yet it is a great mistake. Christ's obedience to his Father was most free; yet it was necessary and previously certain to be rendered, both by reason of his being without sin, and by a necessity of his nature, and by reason of his oneness with the Father. And the obedience of the saints and angels, and men in heaven is most free, yet their confirmation in holiness makes it necessary. And besides, if we should deny all necessity of free actions, we must deny that God acts freely, either in time by the government of the world, or in eternity by his eternal providence, decreeing or infallibly knowing all future and contingent things.
The controlling influenceof God's decrees is also seen in that the event and success of all human designs rest
with him. Even those actions of men, which are not designed by them, but are accidental, as in the killing of one by accident, the hand of God is acknowledged. So also the issue of a lot is by his appointment; and the falling of a sparrow is not without him. And God claims to be himself the Author of all success, of our daily labour, and ordinary enterprize, as in the building of a house, the keeping of a city, the taking of fish, and the like. Safety in battle is said to be of the Lord. In short, however things happen to man, whether prosperous or adverse, nothing happens without the ordering and controlling power of God's providence. And for the fact, that so much of evil occurs to good men, and so much of prosperity to the wicked in this life, the Scripture gives this general reason, and this solid consolation to the pious mind, that it all occurs under the ordering of a wise and holy God, and with a reference to the future and eternal judgment. And for all the dark passages of God's providence towards his people, there is this standing explanation, that he that sows in tears shall reap in joy, that these light afflictions shall work out an eternal weight of glory. And all the mystery found in the prosperity of the wicked, is solved in the thought that their joy is empty and fleeting, because destitute of peace of conscience ; and marred through all the life by the fear of death, and the want of a well grounded hope of a better life, and by a fearful looking for of judgment. All these imply that all the events in which we are interested are under the fixed appointment of infinite wisdom, and that through all the contingency of human affairs runs the certainty of a decree of God.
JOHN NEWTON'S TABLE TALK.
I have tried to make crooked things straight, till I have made these knuckles sore, and now I must leave it to the Lord.
If I want to fly, I must find him wings, and if I would successfully enforce moral duties, I must advance evangelical motives.
I should have thought mowers very idle people, but they work while they whet their scythes. So devotedness to God, whether it mows or whets its scythe, still goes on with its work.
My course of study, like that of the surgeon, has principally consisted in walking in the hospital.
My principal method of defeating heresy, is that of establishing the truth. One proposes to fill a bushel with tares. Now if I can fill it first with wheat, I will defy his attempts.
A Christian in the world is like a man who has a long intimacy with one, who at length he finds out was the murderer of his father, and the intimacy ceases.
We are surprised at the fall of a famous professor; but in the sight of God that man was gone before-it is only we that have now discovered it.
The devil told a lie when he said, all these things are mine, and to whomsoever I will I give them. For if he had the disposal of preferments, you and I, brother C-, should soon be dignitaries.
If an angel were sent to find the most perfect man, he would probably not find him composing a body of divinity, but perhaps a cripple in a poor-house ; whom the parish wish dead, but humbled before God, with far lower thoughts of himself than others think of him.
If two angels came down from heaven to execute a divine command, and one was appointed to conduct an empire, and another to sweep a street, they would feel no inclination to choose employments.
In divinity, as well as in other professions, there are the little artists. A man may be able to execute the buttons of a statue very neatly ; but I could not call him an able artist. There is an air, there is a taste, to which his narrow capacity cannot attain. Now in the church, there are your dexterous button-makers.
I would not give a straw for that assurance which sin will not damp. If David had come from his adultery and talked of his assurance at that time, I should have despised his speech.
There is the analogy of faith, which is a master-key, which not only opens particular doors, but carries you through the whole house. But an attachment to a rigid
ystem is dangerous. Luther once turned out the Epistle of James, because it disturbed his system. Dr. Owen will be ashamed of his wisdom and clearness, five minutes after he has been in heaven. I shall preach perhaps very usefully upon two opposite texts, while kept apart; but if I attempt nicely to reconcile them, it is ten to one if I don't begin to bungle.
When a man says he received a blessing under a sermon, I begin to inquire who this man is. The Roman people proved the effect they received under a sermon of Anthony, when they flew to revenge the death of Cæsar.
The Lord has reasons far beyond our ken, for opening a wide door when he stops the mouth of a useful preacher. John Bunyan would not have done half the good he did if he had remained preaching in Bedford, instead of being shut up in Bedford prison.
Dr. Taylor of Norwich, said to me, "Sir, I have collated
every word in the Hebrew Scriptures seventeen times, and it is very strange if the doctrine of the Atonement which you hold is there, and I have not found it.” I am not surprised at this. I once went to light my candle with the extinguisher on. Now prejudices, from education, learning, &c. often form an extinguisher. It is not enough to bring the candle—you must remove the extinguisher.
I have many books that I cannot sit down to read. They are indeed good and sound, but like half-pence, there goes a great quantity to little amount.
There are silver books, and a few golden books—but I have one book worth more than all, called the BIBLE; and that is a book of bank notes.
Ministers would overrate their labours if they did not
ink it worth while to be born and spend ten thousand years in labour and contempt to recover one soul.
I feel like a man who has no money in his pocket, but is allowed to draw for all his wants upon one infinitely rich.
am, therefore, at once a beggar and a rich man.
Ruby lip and laughing eye,
Voice of witching melody,
Full of artless, joyous plays,
Thou with loving eye dost gaze;