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but physical laws out of the universe. If I may shut my Maker out of all events happening according to these laws, why not myself and every other rational agent? And if I set my neighbor's house on fire, or cut his throat, why not refer these things to the class of facts happening according to the laws of muscular motion ? You shall not tell me that my rational and moral nature acted through the instrumentality of the firebrand or the knife; because this is to assert what you have just denied, viz. that intelligent and moral power acts by physical
On my principles I admit your solution, but then it spoils your philosophy; for I shall as soon believe that an axe can hew wood without the agency of man, as that physical events can be produced, or physical law exist, without the agency of God. And I shall as soon deny the hewing of wood with an axe in my hand to be my own act, as deny the production of an event by physical laws to be an act of the divine providence. In truth, all moral order is maintained, and all moral events come to pass, by the intervention of physical law. And thus the conclusion forces itself upon us, that the disposing of the lot is as much the act of God, as if he were to perform it by some visible interposition. And therefore a wanton or needless appeal to him by the lot is a profanation of his name. VOL. III.
It will not avail to plead," the unseemliness of supposing that men of profane minds can, whenever they please, compel the Almighty to become umpire between them.” The same objection applies to the oath. Shall men of profane minds compel the Almighty at their pleasure to ascend his throne of judgment, and decide on perjuries and blasphemies? Such language is irreverent and ought not to be uttered. The plea, however, may be retorted. Shall the laws of God's world be suspended, or his ordinary agency interrupted, because men choose to be wicked? Shall they oblige him to work miracles in order to keep himself out of the way so often as they incline to sport with his providence ? Nay, his appointments stand. His laws go on.
His agency in them ceases not for a moment. And if men convert them to an unholy use, he will not alter his course to prevent either their crime or their punishment.
To exhibit this matter in another light. If the divine providence is not to be considered in the lot, why is it to be considered in any other action? And if in no other, upon what principle can there be any religious worship? Why should men pray? Is the Most High to leave them in their pastimes and sins, and come at their beck in the hour of trouble? How can there be any future retribution ? For this proceeds upon the supposition of God's perpetual presence and
agency; as there is none in earth or heaven, but himself, who can render to every one according to his works.
The sum is, that against the interposition of God's providence in the decision by lot, there can be advanced no arguments which do not lead directly to atheism. Consequently, all such arguments are false; and a decision by the lot is a decision of God's own providence. And as the lot, in every form and under all circumstances, is an appeal to him, it ought to be employed in a manner suitable to its nature. What the
proper use of the lot is, and how it is abused at the expense of much sin, shall be pointed out hereafter.
It has already been proved from the very nature of the thing, that a lot is, in every form and upon every occasion, an appeal to the Most High God as the Governor of the world, and that the decision obtained by it is to be regarded as his decision. My doctrine, however, comes clothed with an authority much higher than that of argument, the authority of his own oracles. The
lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. (Prov. xvi. 33.) This whole disposing, a good translation from a term of great latitude, cannot comprehend less than the following declarations :
1. That as soon as the lot leaves the hands of men, it passes into the hand of God.
2. That the direction of it to its issue is his own act; and,
3. That he acknowledges the result as a judgment given by himself,
Can there remain any doubt on this point with a serious mind ? Is there any suspicion that the reasoning upon it may have been overstrained, or the sense of the passage just quoted mistaken? Let us compare them with scriptural facts.
The patriarch Jacob, on his dying bed, foretold by the spirit of prophecy the future condition of his sons, and even marked out the districts which some of them should inhabit. Moses, in his parting blessing, was equally particular with respect to certain of the tribes. And yet the land of their inheritance, by a statute of Moses himself, was directed to be divided by lot : and was actually so divided under the inspection of Joshua, Eleazer, and the principal men of the nation. Thus, also, in the election of the first king of Israel, Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, was pointed out to Samuel the prophet by special revelation, as the man whom God had
designated for that high station. For The Lord had told Samuel in his ear, saying, To-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel. And when Samuel, the next day, saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! This same shall reign over my people. In pursuance of this intimation Samuel took Saul apart, and poured a phial of oil upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?
This affair, the reader will notice, was between Samuel and the new monarch alone, as the former had, of set purpose, excluded all wit
It appears also to have been kept a profound secret. For when God had given to Saul "another heart," and the prophetic spirit had fallen upon him, the people were astonished, and said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? But had they known the nature of the interview between him and Samuel, they would have been prepared for this singular, and to them inexplicable, occurrence.
Shortly after these transactions, the good old prophet assembled the tribes of Israel, before God, in Mizpeh ; and when he had, in the most dignified manner, but without success, remonstrated against their folly and their sin in reject