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you find evil does exist, what supposition would afford most satisfaction?
That it exists altogether against the will of God, through his. not having power or wisdom sufficient to prevent it? and that, now it does exist, he can only do his best to check and restrain, and at length to conquer it; in which he will, it is hoped, succeed at last?
Or, that it exists by his wise permission, and under his absolute controul; and will, contrary to its own natural tendency, and to the intention and design of all sinners, eventually be made subservient to the divine glory in all things.
If it be no blemish in the divine character to permit sin, then it was no blemish in the divine character to purpose or intend to permit it *. If all that God does is right, it could not be wrong to resolve to do so; God could not intend doing well too
If God does permit sin, and decreed to permit it, no doubt he had wise and good ends in so doing: and as he has wonderfully united his interest, not only with the interest of his obedient creatures, who never fell, but also with the interest of the redeemned from among men, we may conclude, that the plan which he has actually chosen to adopt, shall not only promote his own glory more than any other which could possibly have been chosen; but shall also, on the whole, promote creaturehappiness more than any other supposable method of regulating the universe.
Some, however, seem strangely shocked at this! as if they could be better satisfied if we would admit that God had chosen. a worse plan than he might have chosen, than they can be with our supposing that he has chosen the best! Their feelings are to me incomprehensible.
God has chosen to conduct the universe according to the plan which actually is executing. This they admit.
The plan God has adopted is the wisest and the best: it will advance his glory more than any other; it will produce a greater sum of happiness than any other. At this they marvel, and are shocked!
I also marvel at them! and can go no further.
† See Edwards's Remarks on Important Theol. Controversies, p. 147.
RESIGNATION TO THE WILL OF GOD.
CHRISTIAN Resignation is the act of giving up our own will, in submission to the will of God. It is founded on the knowledge and love of God, and in a confidence in the faithful care of Providence over our individual happiness; not in dis
tinction from, but in connection with, the happiness of our fellow-creatures. As Fortitude has some traits of character not unlike those of Resignation, we shall bring them both forward, and mark with slight touches their shades of difference. Fortitude may be said to be a masculine grace; Resignation a feminine one, of the same family,mild, humble, retiring into the bosom of her father. Fortitude bears evil, because it is irremediable; because suffering is the lot of humanity; because it were folly to waste life in lamentation, for that which, if improved, would be of lasting advantage. Resignation arises ininediately from the effect to the cause; and thus she expresses herself: "The cup which my Father hath given mc, shall I not drink it? Shall I receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall I not receive evil? I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him." Fortitude has chiefly to do with the judgment; Resignation with the heart. Fortitude is that noble plant which invariably turns to the sun of reason; Resignation that lovely flower which as certainly unfolds to the Sun of Righteousness. Then let its uses and cultivation be subjects of our enquiry.
The most obvious advantage of Resignation is in trouble. It reconciles the mind with wonderful facility to the divine appointment. By what unknown character shall that day be distinguished, in which Resignation is not of use to the Christian? Distress comes down to trouble the waters of the soul; Resignation pours gently upon them her smooth oil, and immediately there is a calm. This lowly grace evidences our reconciliation to God, and promotes communion with him; for, it is fair reasoning to conclude, we love that Being whose will we prefer before our own. We must have some ground of preference; we must be convinced it is the expression, or acting of a mind of superior wisdom and goodness: and this knowledge of God, which is effectual to self-resignation, is surely connected with eternal life. We may safely reason from analogy here: Do we easily enter into their schemes of whom we have no high opinion, for whom we have no sincere regard, especially when those schemes immediately oppose our own? Rather, through all the relations and connexions of life, does it not appear, that the higher a person stands in our esteem, the more readily shall we give up our own wishes, that theirs may be fulfilled; and in this resignation there is a refined self-interest; for our gratification exists in their pleasure. May not earthly things, in this case, be fairly considered as types of heavenly ones If, then, resignation to the will of God be a proof that we love him, it promotes a rational, as well as scriptural persuasion, that we are in his favour; for we love hin, because he first loved us. This is the joy of reason, as well as of faith. That this act, or habit of the mind, promotes communion with God, who will dispute?
Can two walk together unless they be agreed? With what holy confidence and complacency in God, does that mind approach him, which is not only tinctured with faint colourings of Resig-. nation, but through which it is intimately mingled, so that, in this sense, it becomes one spirit with Christ! Disagreement arises from different interests; but here, the heart adopts that expression of our great Forerunner, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt."
Virtues must be estimated in the scale of morals, not only as they increase our individual comfort, but as they promote our. usefulness. Let us examine Resignation by this rule: It is impossible for a mind - always disquieted by present circumstances, or fear of future, to look around, in order to increase the general stock of happiness, or to alleviate individual distress. Sunk in discontent, whose joy or sorrow is sufficient to rouse him from attention to his own? The unhappy sufferer, weak and desponding, has forgotten that there is One who careth for him. Does he not know, has he not heard, that "the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not? neither is weary? that there is no searching of his understand ing" and care? Alas! this miserable being is destitute of resignation!
Beside removing hindrances from the mind, and so rendering it capable of exertion for general good, it actually facilitates that exertion. Resignation is, what the term expresses, a giving up. Now, if we give up our own will as a rule of desire or conduct, we must receive the will of another for our rule; unless we act without rule, which few will acknowledge. That the will of God is our sanctification is evident, beyond dispute. It is plain, from his word and his nature: His word ains to destroy the root of iniquity; teaching us to "deny all ungodliness, to pluck up every weed of bitterness, to do his will from the heart." His nature is love; and " love is the fulfilling of the law;" and he gave his Son, that he might sanctify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
And it is evident that resignation greatly promotes the happiness of its possessors, by quieting anxious solicitude and the rebellious risings of uneasy passions; by diffusing through the soul her own delightful tranquillity, sweetiy laying it to rest on the bosom of its heavenly Father, wise and kind in the event of his dispensations, beyond the most enlarged wish!---by evidencing our interest in the favour of God, in the exercise of his grace; by increasing communion with God, the source of happiness; by preparing the mind for usefulness, by which we become more like God, whose title is, The Blessed or Happy God!
And let it be remembered, that, in proportion as we know the wisdom and goodness of God, and love the rectitude of his nature, so far shall we be pleased with, and rejoice in, the dis
pensations of his providence. The evident means then, of increasing this happy disposition is, to grow in the knowledge and love of God: and who can tell us plainly of the Father, but that Redeemer who was with him before the world was? He that hath heard, and learned of the Father, his own ignorance of God, goeth to Christ; and God giveth him the knowledge. of his glory in the person of his Son. By this too we are prepared to acknowledge him in his works: and let us remember, that the Scriptures testify of Jesus. In the economy of nature we find not his name; neither in the effusions of the most cultivated genius, unenlightened by the Spirit of God; nor in the deepest researches of metaphysical disquisition. All the productions of nature, all the corruscations of mind on this subject, emit no light. Let us then take heed to that which
shineth in a dark place.
Lastly, Are we farther anxious that our love to God! may keep pace with our knowledge of him? What says our Lord? "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." A consequence founded on the reason and natural tendency of things, as well as on the promise of Christ. Oh! blessed state of continuance in the love of God! When shall it be indeed unbroken? When shall we rest in our love, as God does in his!
Let us seek the knowledge of God, that we may do those things which please him, and abide in his love; so shall we have evidence of his favour, communion with his Son, be useful in the world, and sweetly resigned to his will! Newcastle.
ANSWERS TO QUERIES
In our Magazine for January, page 29.
Is the following observations, in answer to the queries proposed in your last month's Magazine, by your correspondent M. D. are not anticipated by a better pen, they are at your disposal. E. D. J.
Respecting the first query, viz. " How may we ascertain whether our thoughts be the result of a gracious influence,-the suggestions of Satan,-or of our corrupt nature?" I think it will be sufficient to observe (unless M.D. intended more by his query than the letter of it expresses) that all those thoughts, undoubtedly originate in the suggestions of Satan, or in the corruption of depraved nature, which may be denominated vain, rebellious, defiling, anti-scriptural, atheistical, &c.; all which are contrary to the honour, and obnoxious to the mind of God; and therefore, of course, cannot result from his influence: whilst, on the other hand, those originate with him, and exist
in our mind from his gracious agency, which are consistent with the word of revelation, which dispose us to revere its truths, to embrace its benefits, and to close in with its designs.
But I must add, that I much doubt whether M. D. has communicated the subject of his own wish in this query, as I cannot suppose, a class of thoughts, exclusively considered, the source of which can be doubtful. If they be evil, they cannot come from God; they must proceed from Satan, or from fallen nature. If good, they cannot originate with either of these; -they must be divine; unless we suppose that they are excited, cherished, and acted upon from base motives, and to base purposes: the existence of which, precludes at once all enquiry, and directs infallibly to the proper cause.
The second query is of the utmost importance, as it includes the fears, the hopes, and the perplexities of many pious characters. It respects the hearers of the word; those who do not forget the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is. It supposes, that those hearers are sometimes the subjects of comfortable impressions; and that these impressions are sometimes true, and sometimes false; and asks, When are these joys from God? and when are they only of that nature which stony ground-hearers are susceptible of? How may we know, how may we distinguish them?
To this enquiry I answer, We may know and distinguish them by the preparation of our minds for them,-the experience of our minds under them,-and by the disposition of our minds after them. 1. By the preparation of our minds for them. By comfortable impressions under the hearing of the word, we must, no doubt, understand, those which are the results of an evangelical exhibition of gospel grace; that grace which reigns through righteousness unto everlasting life by Christ Jesus; and which naturally regards its subjects in all their wants,-in all their dangers, and in all their desires. Now it goes a great way towards proving, that such impressions are from God, if there be fitness of mind for them,-if there be that previous experience which renders them suitable; not merely pleasant, as prescribing truths which reflect honour to God, and promise happiness to man; and which, by interesting our passions as creatures, may rouse and affect, but as presenting that which brings relief to a malady we feel, a burden we labour under; that which satisfies our hungerings, relieves our anxieties, and satiates our desires. In a word, that brings something to us which not merely excites our admiration, but accomplishes in us the supply of our need. We may be sensibly touched by the relation of the generosity of a Howard; but the subjects of that generosity felt far more, because their