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3. We may raise still higher in our contemplation of this wonderful connexion of God's works.
As favours to particular persons may be publick blessings ; and national blessings may extend their influence to mankind in general; so God's mercies to the human race may operate to the benefit of other intelligences; as the sun beams, which enlighten the earth, are reflected back to the skies.
When God sent his Son from heaven to redeem us from guilt and ruin, it was not for our sakes only, but for his name's sake, that the glory of his wisdom, grace and holiness might be displayed throughout the whole intellectual world. The angels in heaven praise God for the wonders of his re. deeming love to mankind. They give glory to him, that there is on earth peace, good will to men. They desire to look into this astonishing scheme, which, by the publication of the gospel is opened to their view, as well as ours. Paul was sent to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, not only to make men see what is the fel.. lowship of the mystery, which had been hidden from ages ; but also to the intent, that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. Angels now join with saints in the new song to him who was slain, and has redeemed us. by his blood : And every intellectual and virtuous being, through the creation of God, ascribes, and will ascribe, riches and blessing, and glory and hona our, to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.
1. Our subject teaches us, that God's moral government is a scheme of most astonishing benevolence.
The calamities, which he sends among men, are designed to promote that virtue and righteousness, on which the happiness of rational beings depends. His mercies to particular persons terminate not with the immediate receivers; but in their operation, run on and spread around, beyond the reach of imagination. Yea, blessings bestowed on the human race, contribute to the improvement and joy of angels.
Under such a government, Who shall complain? In obedience to it, Who can but be happy? The Lord reigns ; let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad. This is the united voice of the myriads which surround his throne; “Praise our God, all ye his servants; and ye who fear him, both small and great. Give praise, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Be glad and rejoice and give honour to him.
2. We learn that benevolence is an essential part of true religion. If the blessings which God be. stows on us, are not for our sakes only, but for the sake of others, then we should apply them to the benefit of others, as well as our own.
To the nature and intention of God's government we no farther conform, than we act with a regard to his name, in imitation of his goodness, and with a view to the happiness of our fellow creatures, in conjunction with our own. All injustice, avarice, ambition, cruelty, fraud and selfishness, are contrary to the design of God's government, and to the nature of pure religion. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and he who in these things serveth Christ, is accepted of God, and approved of men.
3. We learn farther, that under all the adversities of life, we have reason to confide in God's care, and submit to his will.
There is in the works of God, an extensive connexion, which we cannot comprehend, but which his wisdom perfectly understands. Events, which appear to us adverse, may, in their operation and design be blessings. Dispensations, which seem to be against us, may be intended for us. thing will God withhold from them, who walk uprightly. All things are working together for their good. To know God's will, and stand approved in his sight should be our only solicitude. Secure of his favour, we have nothing to fear. trust in him and do good, and no evil will happen
He careth for us ; we may cast our cares upon him. He is a faithful Creator, unto him we may commit ourselves in well doing.
4. We learn from our subject the folly and impi. ety of envy and discontent.
Do you envy the man who possesses a larger portion of earthly good, than youself? Remember, it is given him, not for his own sake, but for a more general purpose. If he has a larger portion, he has also a greater trust committed to him, and a more difficult part to act. There is more required of him, and he will have a greater account to render. Is this an enviable situation? You wish for his honour, or his wealth. Do you wish too for his obligations to discharge, his duties to perform, his accounts to settle, when he shall close his steward. ship? No: But still you desire his worldly condition. You desire then to have riches and honours for your own sake-to have them without an obligation to do good with them, or render an account for them. What is this, but to desire the scheme of God's government were changed, or you were made independent of it? Do you wish that others were free from their
obligations to mankind, or their accountableness to God ?- If not, Why should you covet such a situation for yourself ?- What advantage is there iñ earthly things, but as they are means by which you may supply your real wants, relieve the miseries and promote the happiness of those around you, and provide for yourselves treasures un failing in the heavens ?
You look on the superiour condition of another, and are discontented with your own. But why discontented ? The abundance given him is not for hris sake only : It is for your sake also, if you need it, and Providence sees best that you should receive it. The riches of one are a benefit to many. If he has not that benevolence, which becomes his ability, yet heaven is wise and good. Things are so constituted, that even from the miser's fountain some involuntary streams will run, at which others may drink and be refreshed. Whatever the rich man's heart may be, the God who gave him riches is as kind to others as to him. This man is as real. ly dependent on his fellow men, as the
men, as the poorest of his neighbours, and can, no more than they, subsist without aid. The variety which we see in men's outward circumstances, is intended for general good. A perfect equality would be inconsistent with human happiness. It would put a stop to mutual succour and assistance ; to the reciprocation of benefits. It would weaken the springs of industry, and check the spirit of enterprise and invention. It would tend to poverty, rudeness and misery. The bounties of Providence are dispensed with wisdom; and all, though possessed by the sons of men in different measures, tend to the general good. Every virtuous and industrious man draws from the common treasury a share according to his wants. The poor have this ; the rich can have no more. Let every man study to be quiet, to do his own business, and to be content with such things as he has.
To conclude : How glorious will God's providential government appear, in the result, when all VOL. I.
its designs, connexions and effects shall be unfolded to our view !
Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see with open face. Then we shall rejoice in that, which now is matter of complaint, and discern wisdom in that, which now looks like confusion. Let us acquiesce in the ways of God's providence, and submit to the terms of his gospel, and then all things are ours. Whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are ours, for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's. To him be glory. Amen.