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vantages we enjoy from the works of nature, and
compare them with the greater works of grace manifested in the gospel, it will appear that the methods of Providence, by which we hope to be saved, and which we have from revelation, are liable to no other objections than those are by which we live and which we see daily with our eyes. In both cases we may justly express ourselves in the words of the text.
PSALM VIII.-VERSE 4.
What is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man,
that thou visitest him?
WHEN we consider the care of Providence over the children of men, as it is manifested either in the works of nature or of grace, we naturally fall into the reflexion of the text, and wonder to see so much done for men, who seem to have no merit or desert equal to the concern showed for them. If we look up to the heavens, and view the sun, moon, and stars, and consider the power by which these mighty bodies were formed, the wisdom and contrivance by which their motions are regulated and adjusted; we see plainly, by the benefit we receive from them, that they were intended for our service : and yet what are we that we should be so served ? If we look round this earth, the place of our habitation, we find it filled with many kinds of creatures, and adorned by the bountiful hand of nature, as if it were meant to be a seat of pleasure and happiness; and we are sure that this part of the world at least, was made for the benefit of man: here he is lord, and has dominion over the works of God; for on earth there is no creature to rival him in power or wisdom, or that can challenge any share of authority with him. But this lord of the earth, does he not come into it helpless ? is he not wretched whilst he is in it, and oftentimes miserable when he is to go out of it? What must we say then ? that this noble palace was erected and adorned merely to be turned into an hospital to receive the blind and the lame, the diseased in body and mind; to be the
; seat of him who is like a thing of nought, and his days like a shadow that passeth away.'
If we go on from the works of nature to the works of
grace, the same reflexion will pursue us still.
One would imagine that man, who had received so much from God, should at least continue to serve and obey his supreme Lord, and to acknowlege the Author of these great and good gifts : so far from it, that God was in a manner expelled from his own creation, and stocks and stones and the beasts of the fields were exalted and set up to receive the honor and worship due to the Creator. The morality of the world became answerable to the religion of it; and no wonder: for why should he not turn brute himself, who can be content with a brute for his God? The wonder lies on the other side, that God should continue his care and concern for such creatures; that he should be willing not only to forgive their iniquities, but that he should contrive the means of their redemption; and that in so wonderful a manner, as to send his own Son into the world, not only to instruct and reform them, but to redeem them by making atonement for their sins by his own blood. Who that considers this can help saying with the Psalmist, - What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him ?'
Though these reflexions should naturally lead us to admire and adore the goodness of God, who has done so much when we deserved so little ; for what stronger motive can there be for gratitude than undeserved favor ? yet have they oftentimes another effect: for when men consider that God does nothing without reason, and at the same time see so little reason why God should do so much for them, they begin to suspect whether he has done it or no, and to imagine that the whole history of the redemption is a cunningly devised fable. To consider the Son of God coming down from heaven, living among men, and at last shedding his blood for them, fills them with wonder and astonishment: and when they look on the other side, they can see nothing in man that bears any proportion to this concern showed for him, or that yields any argument to justify the wisdom of God in this method of his redemption.
It must be owned, there is something plausible in this way of reasoning ; and the more so, as it pretends to do justice to the wisdom of God, and cannot be charged with any great injustice
done to the character of man. But this prejudice, be the foundation of it good or bad, lies as strongly against the works of nature as it does against the works of grace : for it is as hard to conceive that God should create this world for the sake of placing in it such creatures as we are, as it is to conceive that he should send his Son to redeem us. If you can justify the wisdom and goodness of God in making such creatures, it will be no hard thing to justify his wisdom and goodness in redeeming them : for to open a way for men to escape out of a state of misery is a more divine and beneficent act, than the putting them into it. If you stumble at the dignity of the Redeemer, and think that the Son of God was too great a person to be concerned in saving men; for the same reason you should think that God or the Son of God was too great a person to be concerned in making such creatures as men: and from these and the like considerations you may as well conclude that God never made the world, as you do that he never redeemed it. But in spite of all these reasons, you see plainly that this earth was made for the habitation of men, wicked and inconsiderable as they are. Since therefore your consequence will not hold in this case, you have no reason to depend on it in the other; but rather to think that, since it was agreeable to the wisdom and goodness of God to exert his power to make such creatures, it was also consistent that he should exert his power to save and to redeem them.
It can serve to no good purpose to give men a great opinion of themselves, and of the considerable figure they make in the universe; nor can it be done with truth and justice. Experience, which shows us daily our own and the follies of those about us, will be too hard for all reasonings on this foot; and the mind of man, conscious of its own defects, will see through the flattery, which ascribes to it perfections and excellences with which it feels itself to be unacquainted. Or could a man, in spite of his own experience, be persuaded to think himself very considerable, and worthy of all that God has done for him; this opinion could tend only to make him proud and conceited, and to think the dispensations of Providence with regard to himself to be rather acts of justice, and due to his merit, than the effects of goodness and benignity in the gover
nor of the world. Such an opinion would in a great measure exclude a sense of dependence, and in a greater still a sense of gratitude; which are vital and fundamental principles in religion.
But if we set out with taking a proper view of ourselves in the first place, and with considering the many imperfections and follies to which we are liable as rational agents, the many weaknesses and infirmities which surround us as animal creatures; and then survey the works of Providence, and the great care of God over us, manifested in his various dispensations in the natural and moral world ; we shall easily enter into the true spirit of the holy Psalmist's reflexion, What is man, that thou art mindful of him ? or the son of man, that thou visitest him ? It is a reflexion naturally proceeding from the sense of our dependence on God, and leading to the highest degree of gratitude, whilst we contemplate with admiration the greatest of his favors, and consider ourselves as unworthy of his least.
This is the natural sense which the reflexion in the text suggests to us: yet has it, as I observed before, been used to other purposes; and some have thought it unworthy of God to suppose that in the great works of Providence he had any special regard to so inconsiderable a part of the whole, as the race of men appears to be. The objection, they think, grows stronger, when the scheme of Providence displayed to us in the gospel of Christ for the salvation of man is laid before them ; and it appears to them astonishing that God should interest himself so particularly in an affair, which seems,
when compared to the whole, of so little importance. If we ascribe this great work to the divine love and goodness, it cannot be controverted that they are strongly and evidently expressed and manifested in this proceeding; too strongly, it may be thought; since divine love and goodness must be bounded by divine wisdom, and can never degenerate into fondness and partiality; consequently, his love and goodness can never do what his wisdom does not approve as fit to be done.
On this foot it may be asked, where is the wisdom of erecting such a building as this for the service of such a creature as man ? The works of nature are so immense and wonderful,