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the power, the wisdom, the justice, and the goodness of God.
I BEGIN with this observation, That in order to accomplish the great purposes carried on by the Government of the Universe, it is necessary that the Divine perfections be displayed before mankind in a sensible and striking manner. We are not to conceive the Supreme Being as hereby seeking praise to himself, from a principle of ostentation or vain-glory. Independent and self-sufficient, he rests in the enjoyment of his own beatitude. His praise consists in the general order and welfare of his creation. This end cannot be attained, unless mankind be made to feel the subjection under which they are placed. They must be taught to admire and adore their Sovereign. They must be overawed by the view of a high hand, which can at pleasure control their actions, and render them subservient to purposes, which they neither foresaw nor intended. Hence the propriety of God's making the wrath of man to praise him. We easily conceive in what manner the heavens and the earth are said to praise God, as they are standing monuments of that supreme perfection which is displayed in their creation. The virtues of good men obviously praise him, by exhibiting his image, and reflecting back his glory. But when even the vices and inordinate passions of bad men are made to praise him, in consequence of the useful purposes which they are compelled to accomplishi, this, in a particular manner, distinguishes and signalizes a Divine hand ; this opens a more wonderful prospect of the administration of Heaven, than if all its subjects had been loyal and willingly obedient, and the course of human affairs had proceeded in a quiet and regular tenour.
1. The wrath of man redounds to the praise of Divine power. It brings it forth with full and awful lustre, to the view of mankind. To reign with sovereign command amidst the most turbulent and disordered state of things, both in the natural and moral world, is the peculiar glory of Omnipotence. Hence God is described in Scripture as silting on the flood, riding on the wings of the wind, dwelling in the darkness and the tempest ; that is, making the most violent powers in the universe minister to his will ; giving them scope or restraining them, according as suits the purposes of his dominion. As he stills, at his pleasure, the raging of the seas, and the noise of their waves, in like manner he stills the tumults of the people. When the passions of men are most inflamed, and their designs just ripe for bursting into execution; often, by some unexpected interposition, he calls upon the world to observe that there is One higher than the highest on earth, who can frustrate their devices in a moment, and command the earth to be still before him. Proud fleets, destined to carry destruction to neighbouring kingdoms, may cover the ocean.
He blows with his wind, and they are scattered. Mighty armies may go forth to the field in all the glory of human strength; but the issues of battle are with Him. He suspends on high the invisible balance which weighs the fate of nations. According as the scale inclines, he gives to some slight event the power of deciding the contest. He clouds the sky with darkness, or opens the windows of heaven to let forth their flood, He dejects the
hearts of the brave with sudden terrour, and renders the hands of the strong, weak and unperforming at the critical moment. A thousand unseen ministers stand ready to be the instruments of his power, in humbling the pride and checking the efforts of the wrath of man. Thus, in the instance of haughty Sennacherib, and that boasted tempest of wrath which he threatened to pour upon all the Jewish; nation ; I will put any hook, says the Almighty, in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. In that night the destroying angel smote the host, and he departed with shame of face to his own land. When the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; when the kings of the earth set themselves, and its rulers take counsel together, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. +
II. The wrath of man is made to praise the wisdom as well as the power of God. Nothing displays more remarkably the admirable counsel of Heaven, than its arranging the train of events in such a manner, that the unruly passions of the wicked shall contribute to overthrow their own designs. History abounds with examples of their being rendered the unconscious ministers of Providence, to accomplish purposes directly opposite to those which they had in view. Thus, the cruelty of the sons of Jacob, in pursuing the destruction of their brother Joseph, became the means of effecting his high advancement. Thus, the wrath of Pharaoh against the Israelites, and his unjust attempts to detain them in bondage, proved the occasion of bringing them forth from the land of slavery, with signal marks of the favour of Heaven. Thus, the inhuman plan which Haman had formed for ruining Mordecai, and extirpating the whole Jewish nation, paved the way for Mordecai's high promotion, and for the triumph of the Jews over all their enemies.
2 Kings, xix. 28.
† Psalm ii. 1, 2. 4.
After this manner the Almighty snareth the wicked in the works of their hands; and erects his own counsel upon the ruin of theirs. Those events which, viewed apart, appear as spots in the Divine administration, when considered in connection with all their consequences, are often found to give it additional lustre. The beauty and magnificence of the universe are much heightened by its being an extensive and complicated system ; in which a variety of springs are made to play, and a multitude of different movements are, with most admirable art, regulated and kept in order. Interfering interests, and jarring passions, are in such manner balanced against one another; such proper checks are placed on the violence of human pursuits; and the wrath of man is made so to hold his course, that how opposite soever the several motions seem to be, yet they concur and meet at last in one direction. While, among the multitudes that dwell on the face of the earth, some are submissive to the Divine authority; some rise up in rebellion against it; others absorbed in their pleasures and pursuits, are totally inattentive to it; they are all so moved by an imperceptible influence from above, that the zeal of the dutiful, the wrath of the rebellious, and the indifference of the careless, contribute finally to the glory of God. All are governed in such a way as suits their powers, and is consistent with rational freedom; yet all are subjected to the
necessity of fulfilling the eternal purposes of Heaven. This depth of Divine wisdom in the administration of the universe exceeds all human comprehension, and affords everlasting subject of adoration and praise.
III. The wrath of man praises the justice of God, by being employed as the instrument of inflicting punishment on sinners. Did bad men trace the course of events in their life with attentive eye, they might easily discover the greatest part of the disasters which they suffer, to be brought upon them by their own ungoverned passions. The succession of causes and effects is so contrived by Providence, that the wrath which they meant to pour forth on others, frequently recoils, by its effects, upon themselves. But supposing them to escape those external mischiefs which violent passions naturally occasion, they cannot evade the internal misery which they produce. The constitution of things is framed with such profound wisdom, that the Divine laws, in every event, execute themselves against the sinner, and carry their sanction in their own bosom.
The Supreme Being has no occasion to unlock the prisons of the deep, or to call down the thunder from Heaven, in order to punish the wrath of man. He carries on the administration of justice with more simplicity and dignity. It is sufficient that he allow those fierce passions which render bad men the disturbers of others, to operate on their own hearts. He delivers them up to themselves, and they become their own tormentors. Before the world, they may disguise their sufferings; but it is well known, that to be inwardly torn with despite, revenge, and