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every circumstance of life, to view infinite wisdom, as ordering all things which concern us in the wisest and best manner, Nor could any thought be more shocking to a pious mind, than to conceive the DEITY as unconcerned in human affairs; the devil ruling in the children of disobedience without control; and all things jumbling along in this wicked world, without the least prospect of any good end ever to be answered. But if all things, good and bad, are under the government of infinite wisdom, this affords a sure prospect of a happy issue. And under such a wise and perfect government, we have the greatest inducement to go on cheerfully in the ways of our duty; having always an implicit faith in the supreme Ruler of the universe. Wherefore, the truth of the doctrine being thus plain and evident, I shall only attempt to show,

I. What we are to understand by God's permitting sin. And,

II. The wisdom of God in the permission of sin. And then, III. Conclude with a practical improvement.

I. What are we to understand by God's permitting sin? 1. Not that he loves sin, or that there is any thing in the pature of sin that he approves of; for it is the abominable thing which his soul hateth. When he viewed the temper, conduct, and design of Joseph's brethren, they each of them appeared perfectly odious in his eyes. Their envy and malice be abhorred; their cruel and barbarous deed he detested; their design intimated in that saying, "And then shall we see what will become of his dreams," he perfectly disapproved.

2. Much less are we to imagine that God, in permitting sin, deprives the sinner of the freedom of his will. Joseph's brethren felt themselves at liberty; and in the whole affair, acted according to their own inclinations, just as they pleased.

3. God's permitting sin consists merely in not hindering of it. He saw that Joseph's brethren, considering their temper, and how they had their brother out in the field, and how that the Ismaelitish merchants would soon come by, &c. would

Genesis xxxvii. 20.

certainly sell him, unless he interposed to hinder it. And he could have hindered their selling as easily as he hindered their murdering him. But he did not. He let them take their


4. And yet it is self-evident, God never permits sin in the character of an unconcerned spectator, as not caring how affairs go; but as having weighed all circumstances and consequences. Therefore,

5. God never permits sin, but only when, on the whole, all things considered, he judges it best not to hinder it. And therefore,

6. At whatever time God forbears to interpose to hinder the commission of any act of sin, he is not only justifiable in his conduct, but even commendable and praise-worthy; because he has chosen to act in the wisest and best manner. But this leads me,

II. To show the wisdom of God in the permission of sin. And I will in the first place begin with some instances that are more plain and easy, and afterwards proceed to what is more intricate and difficult.

1st Instance. And to begin with the affair of Joseph, there needs little to be said, to show the manifold wisdom of God in it; for it does not appear that God could, as things were circumstanced, have taken a better method for the advancement of Joseph to be governor over all the land of Egypt, than this. It was a method suited to humble Joseph, and, wean him from the world, and bring him to an entire resignation to God, and dependence upon, and devotedness to him ; and to prepare him for so high a station, that in it he might conduct with all fidelity to Pharaoh, and humility, goodness, and condescension to all around him ; to the honour of the God of Israel, and to the reputation of true religion, in the midst of a people sinking down fast into idolatry and wickedness, It was a method suited to give him a high character in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all Egypt; as one dear to the great God, full of wisdom and benevolence, and the fittest man in Egypt to be so highly advanced and so far betrusted. From a poor prisoner, he rose soon to so high a character, and

was so highly esteemed, as to become a father to Pharaoh, and to all Egypt.

Nor does it appear that, as things were circumstanced, God could have taken a better method than this to provide for the sustenance of Jacob's family; of the Egyptians, and of the nations throughout the land of Canaan, through a famine of seven years' continuance. It was a method suited to dispose Pharaoh and all Egypt to receive Jacob's family kindly, and give them a hearty welcome; as they were the kindred of Joseph, their great benefactor. It was a method suited to humble Joseph's brethren, and not only to bring them to repentance for their sin, but to a better temper in general. And as the selling of Joseph had been matter of severe trial to Jacob, who verily thought him dead, and expected to go down to the grave sorrowing; so, in the issue, the whole was suited abundantly to establish him in the belief of the being and perfections of God, and of his government of the world; and to give him an affecting, ravishing sense of the holiness, wisdom, goodness, power, and faithfulness of the God of Abraham his father; and to confirm him in the expectation of the accomplishment of all God's promises. And, in the mean time, the Egyptians, and all the nations inhabiting the land of Canaan, were provided for with food through a long and sore famine, in a manner suited to convince them of the vanity of their idols, and to bring them to an high esteem of the God of the Hebrews, to whose kind interposition their whole support was owing. And thus God left not himself without witness, in that dark and benighted age of the world, when all the nations were sinking fast down into idolatry. For the whole affair of the selling of Joseph; of the conduct of his mistress; of his unshaken virtue; of his imprisonment; of his interpreting the dreams of his fellow-prisoners; of his being brought to Pharaoh's court and interpreting his dreams : of his advancement, and of all his conduct in that high station, would naturally be noised abroad, not only throughout all Egypt, but also through all the land of Canaan, from whence they daily came into Egypt for bread; yea, the news of these things would be apt to fly far and wide among all the nations round about, to the glory of the true God, and to the honour

of the true religion, and to the condemnation.of an idolatrous world, who had forsaken the Lord Jehovah, and gone after idols, that could neither see, nor hear, nor help. All which good ends, and many more, God had in view. Wherefore,

Although Joseph's brethren acted a very wicked, cruel, God-provoking part, in selling their brother, notwithstanding all his cries and tears, and the anguish of his soul, with an envious, malicious, and impious intention to prevent the accomplishment of his divine dreams, scoffingly saying among themselves," And then we shall see what will become of his dreams;" yet, at the same time, the God of Abraham acted truly like himself, a noble, a God-like part, in letting them take their course, with a design to over-rule it, as he did to accomplish his dreams; and that in a way so much to his own glory, and so much to the general good. And how know we but that the infinitely wise Governor of the universe, when he permitted angels and man to fall, and things in the intelligent system to take such a course as they have, designed to over-rule the whole so, (according to a plan he had then in view,) as that, in the issue, God should be more exalted, and the system more holy and happy than if sin and misery had never entered?

But to proceed to a

2d Instance of the wisdom of God in the permission of sin. Sometime after Joseph's death, when the children of Israel were greatly multiplied, there arose another king in Egypt, who knew not Joseph, nor paid the least regard to his memory; who, to enrich himself, attempted to bring the Israelites into a perpetual bondage; and to that end set task-masters over them, who made them serve with rigour. And, observing how exceedingly they multiplied, lest they should become too numerous and potent, and get themselves up out of a land in which they were so abused, Pharoah ordered the midwives to kill their male children. But the midwives proving unfaithful to his injunctions, he laid his commands on all his people in general, to take every male child and cast it into the river*. All which was inhuman and barbarous to the last degree.

As God had provided for the kind entertainment of the

* Exodus 1.

Israelites, by the means of Joseph, whom he sent before them, so he could have provided for the continuation of their tranquillity, and restrained Pharaoh from this tyrannical conduct. But he chose to bring all these distresses upon them, to wean them from the idols and pleasures of Egypt; to make them mindful of the promised land, and to prepare them for their approaching deliverance, and for their wilderness-travels. Therefore, he wisely let Pharaoh take his course. For the Israelites were so kindly received in Joseph's day, and so generously provided for, that they began after a while to forget the land of Canaan, and feel themselves at home, and fall in love with the customs and idolatries of Egypt. And had it not been that Pharaoh attempted their slavery, and treated them with so great severity, there would have been danger of their forgetting the God of their fathers totally, and incorporating at length with the Egyptians; so that they greatly needed these distresses to make them willing to leave Egypt, and discern the goodness of God in their deliverance, and to awaken them and their posterity, in ages then to come, to a sense of their great obligations to God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage*.

Besides, at the same time that God, by the cruel tyranny of Pharaoh, was preparing the Israelites for their deliverance, he also over-ruled his barbarity to give an occasion of raising them up a deliverer. For Pharaoh having ordered all the male children to be cast into the river, Moses' mother, after having concealed him three months, durst keep him no longer, and so left him in an ark of bulrushes, at the side of the river, to the mercy of the cruel Egyptians. Here Pharaoh's daughter finds him; is touched with compassion; relieves the poor weeping infant. And now Moses is called the "Son of Pharaoh's daughter," and is educated in Pharaoh's court, and instructed in all the learning of Egypt; and finally, completely furnished for the glorious work designed him. For Pharaoh seeking Moses' life, he was obliged to flee to the land of Midian; where, in the solitary life of a shepherd, he spent forty years, until he became the meekest man on earth. And being thus endowed with an extraordinary measure of human learning and of divine grace, God sends him to deliver

* Exodus xx. 2.

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