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promotes holiness in his kingdom at large. Then the withdrawment of the Spirit and the relaxation of restraint, which lead to increased sin, are, in some instances, better for the holiness of the universe than more light and restraint and less sin in their stead. And why, upon the same principle, may not sin and its punishment be better in some cases for the holiness of the universe than perfect obedience in its stead? It is impossible to reconcile a single instance of abandonment in any world with the highest efforts of God in every case to restrain sin. But he does abandon sinners on earth and in hell. And if he can promote the public good by letting sin loose to rage when he could have restrained it, why may he not benefit the the universe by suffering sin to come into existence when he could have prevented it? I admit that judicial blindness results from nothing on God's part but the withholding of influence and restraint when he might have applied them; but his manner of speaking of this seems to imply more absolute dominion over mind than our brethren are willing to allow. “God gave them over to a reprobate mind." “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour ?” “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned.” . “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed."* I admit that God's appointing them to disobedience was only decree
* Rom. 1. 28. and 9. 21. 2 Thes. 2. 11, 12, 1 Pet. 2. 8.
ing not to do all he could to sanctify them. But if all that God could do was to invite them by his Spirit, and the issue depended on their self-determining power; and if for a time he did invite them and did all he could for their salvation ; it would be strong language to call the withdrawment of a rejected invitation to obedience an appointment to disobedience. How could he appoint to disobedience if he had no power to prevent it? The language becomes still stronger. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” “The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded; according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber; eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear.” “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart.” “Why hast thou made us to err from thy ways and hardened our heart from thy fear?”. God is said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, of the Egyptians, of Sihon, and of the Canaanites.*
All these texts, I suppose, prove no more, as to the wicked, than that God withdrew his influence and restraint: but I think they imply a power to prevent sin. At least they show the permission of sin in the excess when that excess might have been prevented. And they seem worded with too much authority for one who can
* Exod. 7. 3, 13. and 14. 17. Deut. 2. 30. Josh. 11. 20. Isai. 63. 17. John 12. 40. Rom. 9. 18. and 11. 7, 8.
only invite but cannot control. Can it be seriously thought after all these representations, that God had nothing more to do in those cases than to send his word and illuminating Spirit and restraining providence to do his best to keep them from sin and to make them holy, and afterwards, in discouragement, to withdraw his restraint and inviting Spirit? You might as well say of a faithful minister, who had followed his hearers with unremitting entreaties and tears, that he had sovereignly hardened the obstinate, because he had withdrawn, discouraged, to another people; especially if he was the only minister on earth.
It is the common doctrine of the Bible that God can restrain from particular sins. God said to Abimelech, I also withheld thee from sinning against me; therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.” “This day,” said Phinehas,"we perceive that the Lord is among us, because ye have not committed this traspass against the Lord." Nay more, in language which cannot be misunderstood or explained away, we are assured that God can unlimitedly restrain sin, and that he will restrain all that does not contribute to his glory; in other words, that every sin which he allows to exist will promote his praise. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."* Were there no other text in the Bible on the subject; this ought forever to settle the question : and I cannot but wonder that, with this single
* Gen. 20. 6. Josh. 22. 31. Ps. 76. 10.
text on the sacred page, there should be, among believers in divine revelation, a remaining doubt on earth.
In all the common affairs of life God is certainly able to turn the hearts of men as he pleases. Many texts in proof of this were cited in the fourth chapter. I add another thought. Christ has received from the Father power to conquer sin and all its pernicious effects. “Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”* When the apostle uttered this he had his eye directly on the effects of sin as exhibited at the bottom of the grave, and affirmed that the mighty Conqueror would subdue death and all things else. And shall sin itself, the greatest enemy and cause of all, elude his power? These two things, his power to control the heart in common matters and his power to subdue sin, place him on an undivided throne. Such a throne, to the joy of the holy universe, he does fill. “My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure.” “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven and in earth, in the seas and all deep places." “ The counsel of the Lord standeth forever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” “He is of one mind and who can turn him ? and what his soul desireth even that he doth.” “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing, and he doth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth ; and none can stay his hand or say unto him, What dost thou ?"'* This looks like any thing but weakness and disappointment and frustrated desires; any thing but inability to regulate the moral universe as he pleases; any thing but being defeated in his attempts to restrain his creatures from sin or to bring them back to obedience. Such a theory assigns to him a very limited empire : and certainly it takes from the universe its highest consolation. If the question could be put to every holy being in heaven and earth, Shall all the counsels of infinite wisdom and love stand ? shall all the wishes of infinite benevolence be gratified ? one universal shout, “ as the voice of many waters," would respond, “ Amen :-alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
* Phil. 3. 21.