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not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” In these passages it is denied, that the bad actions of men may be ascribed to God, and equally denied on the other side, that the good actions of men may be ascribed to themselves: but yet it is asserted in these same passages, that the agency of God is concerned in disposing men both to good and evil, or in their good and bad actions. Here is no difficulty, if we only allow, that there is a propriety sometimes, in ascribing the actions ‘of men wholly to themselves, and sometimes in ascribing their actions wholly to God. It is proper sometimes to ascribe men's good actions wholly to themselves, and sometimes equally proper to ascribe their bad actions wholly to themselves. While on the other hand, it is sometimes proper to ascribe men's good actions wholly to God, and sometimes equally proper to ascribe their bad actions wholly to him, This single idea will solve a seeming difficulty, which runs through the Bible.
2. Since the Scripture ascribes all the actions of men to God as well as to themselves, we may justly conclude, that the divine agency is as much concerned in their bad, as in their good actions. Many are disposed to make a distinction here, and to ascribe only the good actions of men to the divine agency, while they ascribe their bad ones to the divine per mission. But there appears no ground for this dis
. tinction in Scripture or reason. Men are no more capable of acting independently of God, in one in. stance than another. If they need any kind or degree of divine agency in doing good, they need precisely the same kind and degree of divine agency in doing evil. This is the dictate of reason, and the Scripture says the same. It is God, who worketh in men both to will and to do, in all cases without exception. He wrought equally in the minds of those, who sold, and in the minds of those, who bought Joseph.
He wrought as effectually in the minds of Joseph's brethren, when they sold him, as when they repented and besought his mercy. He not only prepared these persons to act, but made them act. He not only exhibited motives of action before their minds, but disposed their minds to comply with the motives exhibited. But there was no possible way in which he could dispose them to act right or wrong, but only by producing right or wrong volitions in their hearts. And if he produced their bad as well as good volitions, then his agency was concerned, in precisely the same inanner, in their wrong as in their right actions. It is upon this ground, and only upon this ground that all the actions of men, whether good or evil, may properly be ascribed to God. His agency in making them act, necessarily connects his agency and theirs together, and lays a solid foundation to ascribe their actions either to him, or to them, or to both, as the design of the speaker or writer may require.
3. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves, then it is easy to form a just and full view of divine Providence. If God is actually concerned in all human actions, it necessarily follows, that he constantly and absolutely governs the moral as well as the natural world. All denominations of
Christians are agreed in the belief, that God governs the sun and moon, the earth, and all material objects, in all their motions, revolutions, and effects, by his constant and powerful agency. But with respect to the moral world many imagine, that God only upholds moral agents in existence, and preserves their active powers without exerting any influence upon their wills, which move them to act, in every instance, according to his own pleasure. If it were possible, however, for moral agents to act, without any divine influence upon their wills, as some suppose, it is easy to perceive, that their actions would be solely their own, and could not in any sense be ascribed to God, nor considered as under his providential control. But since mind cannot act, any more than matter can move, without a divine agency, it is absurd to suppose, that men can be left to the freedom of their own will, to act or not to act, independently of divine influence. There must be therefore, the exercise of divine agency in every human action, without which it is impossible to conceive, that God should govern moral agents, and make mankind act in perfect conformity to his own designs. This is the only Scriptural representation of divine providence; and according to this representation, it is easy to see, that all actions, as well as all events, may be traced up to the overruling hand of God. Pious men of old had this just and full view of divine : providence. Joseph ascribed the whole series of actions and events, from the time he had his extraordinary dreams, to the time he made himself known to his brethren, to the hand of God. Job ascribed all the evil as well as all the good he experienced to divine providence, though he knew that Satan and his agents were concerned in his afflictions. All the good
and all the evil which takes place in this world, takes place under the providence of God, and therefore his hand is to be seen and acknowledged in every event, without a single exception. None can have a full and just idea of the universality and perfection of divine providence, without considering God as governing all moral agents in all their moral conduct, by a powerful and irresistible influence. It is a gross absurdity to suppose, that the providence of God is more exten
, sive than his agency, or that he ever governs men, without exerting a positive influence over them.
4. If it be true, that all the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as tothemselves; then it is proper to submit to God under all the evils which he brings upon us, by the agency of created beings. Whenever they act, they actunder hisinfluence, and according to his providential will. If they do us evil, he is the primary cause of the evil, and his hand, and his heart, and his counsel, are to be seen and submissively acknowledged. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? No evil can come to a city, a family, or person, without the divine agency. God sometimes brings natural evils upon mankind by his own hand alone, and sometimes by the hands of his creatures. All will allow, that we ought to submit to God under the afflictions, which come immediately from his holy and righteous hand. But it is no less evident, that we ought to submit, when he makes use of the most malignant agents to punish or purify us. Agreeably to this the apostle Peter observes, “Servants, be subject to your masters, with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thank-worthyifa manforconscience toward Godendure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?
but if ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently,
, this is acceptable to God.” Whether we are afflicted by Satan, or by the instrumentality of wicked men, we have the same reason for submission, as when we are more immediately corrected by God himself; be, cause neither Satan, nor wicked men, can do us any harm, but under the agency of Him, who governs their hearts and hands. When Job was so severely afflict. ed by Satan and the servants of Satan, he ascribed his afflictions to God, and cordially submitted to his will, who had made use of those instruments to chastise him. When David was insulted and abused by Shimei, he said the Lord had bidden him; and therefore submitted to God, without the least murmur or complaint. If we always thus viewed the hand of God in all the evils, which we receive from our fellow creatures, we should feel the propriety of silence and submission under all the natural evils and calamities which fall upon us.
5. If the actions of men may be ascribed to God as well as to themselves; then God will be glorified by all their conduct. Whether they have a good or bad ing tention in acting, God has always a good design, in causing them to act in the manner they do. Joseph had a good design in visiting his brethren, and in conducting with propriety, under both the smiles and frowns of providence; and God had a good design in guiding the motions of his heart and the actions of his life. So that God will be forever glorified by the life and conduct of Joseph. Joseph's brethren hadą
. malevolent intention in abusing him, and finally selling him into Egypt; but God had a good design in both foretelling and guiding their wicked actions. So that God will be glorified by all their conduct. And since God equally governs all the actions of all men, wheth,