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seeing see not.' John xii. 40. compared with Isai. vi. 9. he hath blinded their eyes. Rom. i. 28. ·God. gave them over to a reprobate mind.' 2 Thess. ii. 11. • God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.?
But though in these, as well as in many other passages of the Old and New Testament, God distinctly declares that it is himself who impels the sinner to sin, who hardens his heart, who blinds his understanding, and leads him into error; yet on account of the infinite holiness of the Deity, it is not allowable to consider him as in the smallest instance the author of sin. Hos. xiv. 9. the ways of Jehovah are right, and the just shall walk in them ; but the transgressors shall fall therein.' Psal. v. 4. thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee.' Rom. vii. 8. sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.' James i. 13, 14. let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.' iv. 1. • from whence come wars and fightings amongst you ? come they not hence, even of your lusts which war in your members ? ' 1 John ii. 16. for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. For it is not the human heart in a state of innocence and purity, and repugnance to evil, that is induced by him to act wickedly and deceitfully ; but after it has conceived sin, and when it is about to bring forth, he, in his character of sove
reign disposer of all things,* inclines and biasses it in this or that direction, or towards this or that object. Psal. xciv. 23. he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness, yea, Jehovah our God shall cut them off ;'— that is to say, by the infliction of punishment. Nor does God make that will evil which was before good, but the will being already in a state of perversion, he influences it in such a manner, that out of its own wickedness it either operates good for others, or punishment for itself, though unknowingly, and with the intent of producing a very different result. Prov. xvi. 9. 'a man's heart deviseth his way, but Jehovah directeth his steps. Thus Ezek. xxi. 21, 22. when the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way in doubt whether he should go to war against the Ammonites or against the Jews, God so ordered the divination, as to determine him on going against Jerusalem.t Or, to use the common simile, as a rider who urges on a stumbling horse in a particular direction is the cause of its increasing its speed, but not of its stumbling,—so God, who is the supreme governor of the universe, may instigate an evil agent, without
* ...... Therefore was law giv’n them to evince
Their natural pravity, by stirring up
Sin against law to fight. Paradise Lost, XII. 287. 't Deus interdum peccatores inscios et præter mentem suam ad objectum aliquod contra quod peccent, potius quam ad aliud dirigit ; vel ad hoc potius peccatum, quam ad aliud quod animo ante conceperant, eos ferri sinit....cum rex Babylonis ambitione sua incitatus bellum gerere constituisset, at penderet adhuc animo, nesciens utrum Judæos an vero Ammonitas impetere deberet, Deus ita direxit sortes, quas consulebat, ut in Judæos, quorum peccata ultionem suam magis provocaverant, expeditionem illam militarem susciperet, Ezech. xxi, 29, &c. Curcell. Institutio, III. 12, 7.
being in the least degree the cause of the evil. I shall recur again to this simile hereafter. For example, God saw that the mind of David was so elated and puffed up by the increase of his power, that even without any external impulse he was on the point of giving some remarkable token of his pride ; he therefore excited in him the desire of numbering the people: he did not inspire him with the passion of vain glory, but impelled bim to display in this manner, rather than in any other, that latent arrogance of his heart which was ready to break forth. God therefore was the author of the act itself, but David alone was responsible for its pride and wickedness. Further, the end which a sinner has in view is generally something evil and unjust, from which God uniformly educes a good and just result, thus as it were creating light out of darkness. By this means he proves the inmost intentions of men, that is, he makes man to have a thorough insight into the latent wickedness of his own heart, that he may either be induced thereby to forsake his sins, or if not, that he may become notorious and inexcusable in the sight of all; or lastly, to the end that both the author and the sufferer of the evil may be punished for some former transgression. At the same time, the common maxim, that God makes sin subservient to the punishment of sin, must be received with caution ; for the Deity does not effect his purpose by compelling any one to commit crime, or by abetting him in it, but by withdrawing the ordinary grace of his enlightening spirit, and ceasing to strengthen him against sin. There is indeed a proverb which says, that he who is able to forbid an action, and forbids it not, virtually com
mands it.* This maxim is indeed binding on man, as a moral precept; but it is otherwise with regard to God. When, in conformity with the language of mankind, he is spoken of as instigating, where he only does not prohibit evil, it does not follow that he therefore bids it, inasmuch as there is no obligation by which he is bound to forbid it. Psal. Ixxxi. 11, 12. my people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me : so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust, and they walked in their own counsels.' Hence it is said, Rom. i. 24. wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness,'—that is, he left them to be actuated by their own lusts, to walk in them; for properly speaking God does not instigate, or give up, him whom he leaves entirely to himself, that is, to his own desires and counsels, and to the suggestions of his ever active spiritual enemy. In the same sense the Church is said to give up to Satan the contumacious member, whom it interdicts from its communion. With regard to the case of David's numbering the people, a single word will be sufficient. For it is not God, but Satan who is said to have instigated him. 2 Sam. xxiv. 1.# 1 Chron. xxi. 1. A
*· But they shift it; he permitted only. Yet silence in the law is consent, and consent is accessory.' Telrachordon. Prose Works, II. 9. • Yea, but to permit evil, is not to do evil. Yes, it is in a most eminent manner to do evil ; where else are all our grave and faithful sayings, that he whose office is to forbid and forbids not, bids, exhorts, encourages?' Ibid. 182.
† As if they would confine th' Interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Samson Agonistes, 307. • | Perrexit autem ira Jehovæ accendi in Israelitas, quum incitasset adversarius Davidem in eos, &c. Version of Tremellius. Our authorized VOL, I.
similar explanation applies to the passage in 2 Sam. xii. 11, 12. • behold, I will raise up evil avainst thee out of thine own house,'--that is, the evil of punishment, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour,'—that is, I will permit thy son to go in unto them, according to the counsel of Ahithophel ; for this is the meaning of the word give, as has been just shown. As to the popular simile of the stumbling horse, the argument drawn from it is itself a lame one ; for the sinner, if he be really instigated, is not instigated simply to act, as in the case of the horse, but to act amiss-or in other words, he is instigated to stumble, because he stumbles.* In both the instances above adduced, God had determined to punish openly the secret adultery of David: he saw Absalom's propensity to every kind of wickedness; he saw the mischievous counsels of Ahithophel, and did nothing more than influence their minds, which were already in a state of preparation for any atrocity, to perpetrate one crime in preference to another, when opportunity should offer ; according to the passage of Proverbs quoted above, xvi. 9. 'a man's heart deviseth his way; but Jehovah directeth his steps. For to offer an occasion of sinning, is only
translation renders the passage differently. The anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
** Atqui, inquies, id fit quia sunt mali, non quia Dei concursus eos tales reddat, veluti cum agaso armentum equorum aut asinorum claudorum agitat, causa quidem est incessus illorum, sed vitium ipsis adhærens est causa cur claudicarent. Respondeo istam similitudinem claudicare, nec posse applicari primo hominis peccato, quo cætera omnia inevitabiliter fluere existimant. Nullus enim tunc in eo erat defectus, qui efficeret ut Deo ad agendum impellente male ageret.' Curcell, Institutio, IV. 2. 3.