« السابقةمتابعة »
That the Scripture ascribes the actions of men both to themselves and to God.
I shall endeavour to illustrate the truth, the propriety, and the importance of this doctrine.
1. We are to consider, that the Scripture does ascribe the actions of men both to themselves and to God. It will be universally allowed, that the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to themselves. It ascribes to Abel his faith, to Cain his unbelief, to Job his patience, and to Moses his meekness. Having just premised this, I proceed to adduce instances, in which the Scripture ascribes the actions of men to God as well as to themselves. The first instance that occurs is in the history of Joseph. It is said his brethren sold him into Egypt, and at the same time God is said to send him thither. It is said God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart. Tlie same mode of expression is used in reference to the Egyptians. They hardened their own hearts, when they presumed to follow the Israelites into the midst of the sea, with a fixed design to overtake and destroy them. But God himself says he would harden their hearts on that occasion. “And I, behold I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them, and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his hosts, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.” Saul went of his own accord to Samuel, yet God says he sent him. Shimei cursed David of his own accord, yet David ascribed his conduct to the divine agency. The Sabeans and Chaldeans stripped Job of bis servants and substance; yet he says, “the Lord gave, and the Lord bath taken away.” God is said to do what the king of Assyria did. “O Assyria, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit, he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath accomplished his whole work upon Mount Zion, and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.” God is said to blind the minds and harden the hearts of those, who blinded their own minds and hardened their own hearts, in the days of Christ and the apostles. The prophet Isaiah speaking of the sufferings of Christ, say's, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” But we know, that it was Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Jews, who insulted, buffetted, and crucified the Lord of glory. I might mention God's giving love to those that love; repentance to those that repent; faith to those that believe; and purification to those who purify themselves. But enough has been said to show, that the Scripture ascribes the actions of men both to themselves and to God. I proceed to show,
II. The propriety of ascribing human actions to both human and divine agency. This, indeed, looks like a paradox, and is considered by many as a palpable absurdity, or a profound mystery. Accordingly, much ingenuity and learned labour have been employed to explain away those passages of Scripture, which ascribe the actions of men to God as well as to themselves. No pains have been spared to make it appear, that all human actions are absolutely independ
ent of, and unconnected with any divine operation upon the human heart. And could this be established, it would be difficult to show the propriety of ascribing the actions of men both to God and themselves. But the truth is, reason and Scripture unitedly afford a solid foundation for this mode of speaking.
Mankind are creatures, and by the law of nature absolutely dependent upon God. We cannot conceive, that even Omnipotence is able to form independent agents, because this would be to endow them with divinity. And since all men are dependent agents, all their motions, exercises, or actions must originate from a divine efficiency. We can no more act, than
, we can exist, without the constant aid and influence of the Deity. This is the dictate of reason, which is confirmed by the declarations of Scripture. We read thatóin God we live, and move, and have our being.” The wise man tells us, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue are from the Lord.” The apostle acknowledges, “that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” This all good men believe to be true, when they ask God to give them grace, and assist them in the performance of every duty. The apostle exhorts christians to live under an habitual sense of their dependence upon God in all their gracious exercises. He addresses them in this form: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." And he prays for believers in the same strain, in which he exhorts them to duty. “Now the God of peace,
that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ.”
Now, if men always act under a divine influence, then there is a great propriety in ascribing their actions to God as well as to themselves. If they do any thing whatever, it may be truly said, it was done by the finger of God. If Joseph's brethren sold him into Egypt, God may be said to send him thither. If the Jews crucified Christ, and put him to grief, it may be said he was smitten of God and afflicted. If one nation destroys another, it may be said God destroyed that nation. If one man makes himself rich, God may be said to make him rich. If one man make himself poor, God may be said to make him poor. If one man turn from sin, God may be said to turn him. If one man follow hard after God, God may be said to draw him. If one man grow in grace, God may be said to carry on the good work he had begun in his heart. There is no occasion, therefore, of rectifying that mode of speaking on this subject, which runs through the Bible. It is strictly just and agreeable to truth. Human agency is always inseparably connected with divine agency. And though it may be proper, in some cases, to speak of man's agency alone, and of God's agency alone; yet it is always proper to ascribe the actions of men not only to themselves, but to God. The propriety of the Scripture phraseology on this subject is sɔ plain and obvious, that it is strange so many have objected against it, and endeavoured to explain it away.
But since this is the case, it seems very necessary to show,
III. The importance of ascribing the actions of men to God as well as to themselves. We have no reason to suppose, that the sacred writers would have used such a mode of speaking, unless it were necéssary and important. They wrote with a view to instruct, and not to perplex mankind. And if we properly consider the natural tendency of this mode of speaking, we shall be convinced, that it is of great importance, and answers very valuable purposes. It is the design of God in all his works, to set his own character and the character of all his reasonable and accountable creatures, in the truest and strongest light. This leads me to observe,
1. It is a matter of importance, that the actions of men should be ascribed to themselves. They are real and proper agents in all their voluntary exercises and exertions. Their actions are all their own, and as much their own as if they acted without any dependence upon God, or any other being in the universe. If a man loves God, his love is his own exercise, and a real virtue and beauty in his character. If a man hates God, his hatred is his own exercise, and a real sin and blemish in his character. All the actions of Adam, both before and after his fall, were the fruit of his own choice, and formed his character, both as a good and a bad man. And this is true of all his descendants, whether saints or sinners. Their actions are all their own, and constitute them either holy or unholy, virtuous or vicious, and worthy of praise or blame, reward or punishment. Hence it is a matter of importance, that the Scripture should ascribe the actions of men to themselves. Una