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2. It is equally certain that the providence of God was concerned in this affair; and that Israel, having offended him he determined in this way to punish them.
3. God is said to do that which is done upon the minds of men by the ordinary influence of second causes, which causes would not have been productive of such effects but for their depravity. The hardness of clay, no less than the softness of wax, is ascribed to the sun: yet the sun's producing this effect is entirely owing to the qualities of the object on which it shines. God hardened the heart of Pharoah by so ordering things by his providence that certain considerations should present themselves to his mind when placed under certain circumstances; and which (he being righteously given up of God) would be certain to provoke his pride and resentment, and to determine him to run all risks, for the sake of having his will. In other words, he was led in the course of Divine providence into temptation; and there, in just judgment, God left him to its influence. With respect to David, it is probable his mind was previously lifted up with his great successes in war. It is after the relation of these that the story is introduced both in Samuel and the Chronicles. The Lord therefore providentially led him into temptation, and righteously left him in it; the certain issue of which was, that which actually took place.
If it be objected that this is ascribing sin to God indirectly, though not directly: I answer, it is no otherwise ascribing it to God than as any man is willing to have it ascribed to him. The conduct of a good father may, through the disaffection of a son, cause him
to go on worse and worse. His threatenings may harden him, and his kindest entreaties and promises excite nothing but contempt. What then? Is this to the father's dishonor? I trow not. It were strange, if God. must cease from doing what is right, lest sinful men should be induced by it to become more sinful!
The best use for us to make of such a doctrine is not curiously to pry into things too high for us: but when we pray, to say, Our Father lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!
Matt. vii. 7, 8. Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto u. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be
Luke xiii. 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
SOME have supposed a difference, in the latter passage, between seeking and striving; as though it were not enough to seek, without striving, even to an agony. But this does not reconcile the two passages: for seeking in the first is connected with finding, whereas in the last it is not.
The distinction appears to lie in the time and nature of seeking. Seeking, in Matthew, refers to the application for mercy through Jesus Christ, in the present life: but in Luke it denotes that anxiety which the workers of iniquity will discover, to be admitted into VOL. III.
heaven at the last day. The strait gate in this latter passage does not mean an introduction to the kingdom of grace, but of glory; and striving or agonizing to enter in at it, does not describe an exercise of mind which is necessary to conversion, but to final salvation. The striving here exhorted to is the life's work of a Christain, in order that he may enter into the kingdom of heaven at last. All this is manifest from the context, which determines it to refer to what shall take place at the great day, when the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and sinners shall begin to stand without, to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer, and say unto them, I know you not whence you are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity!
There is therefore no contradiction whatever in the passages. Every one that seeketh mercy in the name of Jesus, while the door is open, succeeds: but he that seeketh it not till the door is shut, will not succeed. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall scek me early, but they shall not find me.
Prov. xxvii. 2.
Let another praise thee, and not thine orn mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
1 Cor. xv. 10. 2 Cor. xii. 11. I labored more abundantly than they all. In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles.
So near is the resemblance of good and evil, with respect to their outward expressions, that the one is very
liable to be mistaken for the other. Vices pass for virtues, and virtues for vices. Thus indifference is taken for candor, bitterness for zeal, and carnal policy for prudence. The difference in these things may frequently lie not in the expression or action, but merely in the motive, which being beyond human cognizance, occasions their being so often confounded.
It is thus that a just and necessary vindication of ourselves, when we have been unjustly accused, is liable to be construed into self-applause. That which was condemned by Solomon, and that which was practised by Paul, were far from being the same thing; yet they appear to be so with respect to the outward act or expression. A vain man speaks well of himself, and Paul speaks well of himself. Thus the branches intermingle. But trace them to their respective roots, and there you will find them distinct. The motive in one case is the desire of applause; in the other, justice to an injured character, and to the gospel which suffered in his reproaches.
The apostle in defending himself was aware how near he approached to the language of a "fool," that is, a man desirous of vain glory; and how liable what he had written was to be attributed to that motive. It is on this account that he obviates the charge which he knew his adversaries would alledge. Yes, says he, 'I speak as a fool"....."but ye have compelled me.” This was owning that as to his words, they might indeed be considered as vain glorying, if the occasion were overlooked: but if that were justly considered, it would be found that they ought rather to be ashamed than he, for having reduced him to the disagreeable necessity of speaking in his own behalf.
Matt. v. 16. Let your light so shine before men, that that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matt. vi. 1. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
THIS is another of those cases in which the difference frequently lies in the motive. It is right to do that which men may see, and must see; but not for the sake of being seen by them.
There are indeed some duties, and such are prayer and the relief of the needy, in which a truly modest mind will avoid being seen: but in the general deportment of life no man can be hid, nor ought he desire it. Only let his end be pure, namely to glorify his Father who is in heaven, and all will be right.
Matt. ix. 30. Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.
Mark. v. 19. Jesus said unto, him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them what great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
THE foregoing remarks may be of some use here. Our Savior did not wish his miracles to be utterly unknown; for then God would not have been glorified, nor the end of establishing the truth of his Messiahship answered: but neither did he wish to make an ostenta