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age to come, whether that glory shall be enjoyed speedily or at a distant period,-in this world or in the kingdom of heaven, let him remember that there is but one way to that glory ;—following the example of Hin, whose days were given to labour, and his nights to prayer; and who, while his heart was ardently and unceasingly directed to the good of men, said in all things~" Not my will, but thine be done.”
Note [FF]. p. 153.
Incorrect views of divine sovereignty have a powerful influence on men's feelings and habits in regard to their own salvation; and by consequence, have a connexion with the attempts which are made for the salvation of others. If sovereignty be viewed as arbitrary determination, having little or no connexion with means, then the conclusion is obvious, that God may convert a man, whether he attends to means or despises them. Such an individual naturally becomes hardened and careless. He reasons in the same way respecting the salvation of others, and feels himself discharged from all obligations to endeavour its promotion : he conceives that what God wills he must accomplish, whether men do their duty or neglect it; nay, that attempts on his part may actually interfere with God's purposes. It is well known, that individuals have avowed this sentiment, both as it regards the application to themselves, and the application to others.
It is unnecessary for me to combat the gross absurdity which the sentiment involves, which, happily, is not very generally avowed; though there is reason to fear that it exerts a latent influence to a very considerable extent. It seems as if it did honour to God, and as if it accounted, at least in part, for the present state of the world, which it is supposed
would have been better than it is, had God seen meet so to order it. I am convinced that the object of this feeling, or language, when it appears in the form of language, is not so much to vindicate God's ways, as it is to apologize for man's indolence and indisposition to do the will of God. It is a common artifice of Satan to get men to oppose the “ secret things of God, which belong to him alone,” to “the things that are revealed, which belong to them.” By this means, he effectually accomplishes his object to keep them in disobedience, and at the same time, quieting their conscience under it.
It seems an unquestionable truth, that there cannot be any real opposition between the secret and the revealed purpose of God. He cannot require his creatures to do any thing, which he secretly wishes them not to do; or which he employs secret measures to prevent. With Him there can be no contradiction; though it may sometimes be very difficult, perhaps impossible, for us to harmonize his providence and his commands.
The secret designs of God, we have no means of ascertain. ing, but as they may appear by his word or his providence; consequently they do not, and cannot, form the ground or reason of our duty. They belong to God himself, and therefore whatever is hard or mysterious in them, he will in due time unravel, vindicate his own proceedings, and maintain his own glory.
If therefore God has commanded us to repent and believe, no reference to any principle of a secret or mysterious nature in the divine administration, can or ought to prevent our complying with the divine command. If he has commanded us to use all the means in our power to make known the Gospel to every creature, his secret determinations respecting nations or communities, ought to have nothing to do with our carrying into effect the injunction. When we depart from these obvious
principles of conduct, we forsake the revealed will of God, which alone belongs to us, and invade the secret recess of the divine purpose, which belongs exclusively to Him.
Could it be shewn that any creature had fully complied with the revealed will of God, but was prevented from enjoying the promised result, by the secret purpose of Heaven, we should be involved in inextricable difficulty. This, how. ever, never can be. To the church, the duty belongs of making known the Gospel to all nations. This is the revealed will of God. We cannot doubt, that had he pleased to employ other means, he might bave enlightened all nations by the Gospel long ere now. But having fixed the means of carrying on his own plans, and promised his blessing on their proper and zealous employment, unless we could shew that our endeavours had been equal to the commanded duty, and to our opportunities; or that having been made, they were not seconded by divine co-operation, we have no reason to blame God for not having universally established his kingdom in this world, but the strongest reasons to hlame ourselves for remissness, selfishness, and unconcern, about the glory of God, and the salvation of our fellow-creatures. Without doubting that all things are, as seem good, to the Supreme Governor, we need pot hesitate to assert, that had the Church exerted its native powers, and remained in its original purity and vigour, the world would, long ere this, have been as the garden of the Lord.
Note (GG] page 158.
Our exertio for the diffusion of the Gospel must neces. sarily be ivfluenced by our views of the future, as well as of the present and the past. If it is our conviction that the present dispensation of mercy is to come to a close withia
a very limited period, and that the subjugation of the world to Christ is to be accomplished in a manner and by means altogether distinct from the preaching of the Gospel, it is not likely, if any regard is paid to consistency, that we shall be very zealous in the employment of means, which can so little avail, or the extent of whose operation must be so very limited and temporary.
So far from sympathizing with those who are very confi. dently predicting the completion of the present dispensation within a period, which they themselves fondly hope and desire to see; I have no hesitation in expressing my persuasion, that we are still nearer the commencement than the termination of the christian era. If “the Gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all nations before the end come;" and if this is to take place by the exertions of the church, and the blessing of God on those exertions, it is very evident that this extensive diffusion will not be the work of a day. The means for accomplishing it were never so fully in the pos. session of the church as now; and to expect their sudden extinction, when they are only beginning to be employed, is certainly not like the usual method of the divine proceeding. No reasoning on the meaning of unfulfilled prophecy will convince me, in opposition to what I conceive to be the obvious meaning of plain scriptural declarations, and the analogies of God's providential operations.
That the christian dispensation is designed to be progressive in its iufluence and success in the world, as it is progressive in its operations on the human character, seems clearly to be intimated in the figurative language which is used respecting it; and in the numerons prophecies which refer to its sinail beginnings and its final increase. Perhaps it might be shewn, were we sufficiently acquainted with the state of religion in the world, that it has been progressively advancing, however slowly, from the commencement to the
present day. Like the human body, it has its periods of languishing and revival, but it still maintains its increase, till it arrives at maturity. Like the light, it may be subject to the passing cloud, and the occasional eclipse, but it still continues to move onward, shining more and more to the perfect day.
In looking at the future fate of Christianity, I am surprised to observe so little notice taken of America. The attention of most of the interpreters of prophecy seems to be exclusively directed to the seat and empire of the mystical Babylon, as if these were the only objects of importance in the prophetic word. Allowing that the vials of divine wrath were poured out upon the seat of the beast, and that both the beast and the false prophet were cast into the burning lake, there exists in the christian states of the new world, ample provision for the final and universal establishment of Christianity. A country which is doubling its population every twenty-five years, and more than doubling its resources in the same period; and animated with the noble spirit of liberty which grows with its growth, and strengthens with its strength, promises great things. It has already taken the field in the warfare of propagating the Gospel in a manner worthy of its greatness, and bids fair, in the march of Chris. tian exertion and benevolence, to leave us far behind. Already it has its Missionaries in Palestine, in the East Indies, in the South Seas; and, at the last meeting of the American Board, for Foreign Missions, held at New York, in the month of October, subscriptions were entered into, to add an hun. dred thousand dollars per annum to the income of the Society. Looking at these gigantic efforts, which may God continue and increase, we are almost disposed to believe there may be truth in the idea of Jonathan Edwards, that the Millenium shall commence in America. It is singular that at the distance of nearly a century from these operations,