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. 3. It is a divine prerogative to do good to men by putting favorable inclinations into the hearts of those with whom they have to do. Jacob acknowledges this, when he sends his sons into Egypt, the second time, with the following intercession for them. “And God Almighty, give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.” The same sentiment comes to view in God's promise to his people concerning the treatment they should receive from the king of Babylon.
66 And I will shew mercies
unto you, that he may cy upon you, and cause you to return to your own
This gracious promise was fulfilled, when God put it in the heart of Cyrus, to decree the return of the Jews, and the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem ; which answers to those words in the context ; “I make peace.” When Israel was on the point of departing out of Egypt, it is said that the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; so that they lent every man his neighbour jewels of silver, &c. This iinplies that God inclined them to be thus indulgent and liberal. Aside from this meth. od of doing good to men, that is, by raising up to them benefactors from among their fellow-men, we can see but little room for enjoying divine favor, without a recourse to miracles. Most of our enjoyments come to us from God through the hands of men.
4. It is a divine prerogative to deliver men from evil, or a state of adversity. Nothing
is more natural than for those, who believe in a divine superintending power, to have recourse to it for relief in a time of distress. To intimidate the Jews, and induce them to a voluntary submission, the Chaldeans haughtily rehearsed, how they had prevailed over the gods of other nations, not because they had neglected to act in defence of their res. pective nations; but because they were not able to deliver their people.
This implies, that the gods of those vanquished nations would have protected the objects of their care, or recovered them from their down-fall, had it been in their power. And because it is in the power of Jehovah to save, he may be relied on for redemption from the most aggravated evils. That this is the peculiar and exclusive prerogative of divinity is conceded by Nebuchadnezzar in the following decree. " Therefore I make a decree, That every people, language, and nation, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dung-hill ; because there is no other god that can deliver after this fort.
Having considered it a divine prerogative to do good to creatures; we now proceed to observe,
2. That to do evil, is also a work of the Godhead. By doing evil is not here meant, acting sinfully, or committing wrong. Imputing iniquity to the divine being, would, in effect, divest him of divinity. The idea
is, that all those effects, which among men are termed evils, owe their existence to the efficient will.of 2 being, who is uncreated, and therefore divine. The superstition, in which Cyrus was educated, ascribed evil as well as good to the influence of a divine pow. er, and, in this respect, the prophet charges no error upon that otherwise false and ab. surd theory in religion. The Persian theology is not condemned for supposing, that evil as well as good must be the effect of some invisible and uncreated power ; the absurdity is in tracing them to opposite causes, rather than to one and the same. The mis take is rectified in the words of Jehovah, shewing the mysterious and large extent of his government : “ I form the light and create darkness : I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.”. What is evil in the world is as much from the di, vine counsel, as that which is good. God expressly declares his own agency in the ca. lamities, which befall mankind, whether they accrue in some special channel, or in one which is altogether common; whether they are through the instrumentality of intelligent or unintelligent creatures. “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you."
Other texts are to the same import, viz. the following: - Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” Again, “ For the in.
habitant of Maroth waited carefully for good; but evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem.” That doing evil, or, in other words, inflicting judgments upon mankind, is a part of the proper work of God, is signified in the challenge given by the Most High to idols, claiming devout adoration from men, to support their pretensions by such divine operations, as properly belong to Deity. “ Do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.” As there is no system, or order of things, known, in which evil does not mingle itself with the good that is experienced, whatever power claims supremacy, or exercises rule, must be considered as originating evil, as absolutely as the good that takes place.
3. It is a prerogative of divinity to comprehend, in one entire plan, things past, present, and future. Heathen idolatry has confined this honor to that nature which is purely divine.
Superstition, therefore, never dreampt of getting along, and giving extent to its empire over the minds of men, with, out oracles. The gods must needs be consulted, and enquired of, respecting matters of remote date, especially about things still to come. Divinity was rarely ever ascribed to one, who was not believed to have a view of things future, as well as of those past and present, and consequently capable of making known what should take place at a future day. But what is mere fiction and pretence in pagan deities, attributed to them to exalt
their natures to an equality with their names, is, in Jehovah, a bright and splendid reality. “ Thus saith the Lord, the holy One of Israel,, and his Maker ; Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. Re member the former things of old : for I am God, and there is none else ; I am God, and there is none like me: Declaring
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” It is by giving indubitable proofs of his familiar acquaintance with all things, whether past, present, or future, that the God of Israel evinces his own absolute di.. vinity; and, in the following words by the prophet, he requires all, who would dispute preeminence with him, to substantiate their claims in the same way. cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen : let them shew the former things what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods."
As no one can reasonably pretend to divinity, whose mind does not pervade all duration, and clearly survey all being ; so this extent of thought is peculiar to the Godhead. It is a genuine and infallible test of divinity,
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