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From this part of the divine constitution, we may derive some useful instructions.
1. We see the reasonableness of intercession.
If God is pleased to employ some men as visible instruments of general good, we may rationally suppose, that he often, in a more secret and invisible manner, connects the happiness of many with the fervent prayers of a few, or even one godly soul. Of the Jews, in a corrupt period, the apostle says, “ They were beloved for their fathers' sake : For the christian churches which he had planted, he prays, that God would grant them his spirit and grace: And their prayers he solicits for himself, that God would assist and succeed him in his work, and support and comfort him in his trials. And he professes a full expectation of great and extensive good, from the united efficacy of his and their supplications and intercessions.
His prayers for them, and his request of their prayers for him, and his advice to Christians in general to pray for one another and for all men, are grounded on this principle, that God is pleased to grant favors to some, in consideration of the faith, piety and intercession of others.
If this were not agreeable to the plan of God's government, there would be no foundation for intercession in any case whatever.
Though we are assured that God will never save an impenitent sinner, on account of another's repentance or intercession, yet we may suppose, that, in answer to the prayers of godly friends, he often grants to sinners the means of repentance, and his blessing to accompany these means, and to render them effectual.
God has seen fit to place men in a connexion with each other. He has put into them affections and feelings, which lead them to associate together, and which interest them in each other's happiness,
He requires benevolence as a main principle of all virtue. For the encouragement of this benevolence, he is pleased to smile upon the regular operations of it, and to render them subservient to our mutual happiness. One exercise of benevolence is intercession ; and it is as reasonable to suppose that he should make our mutual intercession beneficial to each other, as that he should bless and succeed our instructions to children, our counsels to friends, our alms to the poor, or any other exercise of charity; for it is his influence that gives them efficacy.
Some will ask perhaps, How is it reasonable, that our future happiness should be made to depend on another's prayers? We have not the command of their hearts, we cannot oblige them to pray for us; Why should we be exposed to suffer for their neglect ?
You will not suffer for their neglect; you will suffer only for your own. Ask humbly and you will receive ; seek diligently and you will find. Comply with the terms of the gospel, and the blessings promised are yours. Do your own duty well and you are safe. God will not withhold from you any good thing, which you can claim on the foot of his justice, or his promise, whether others
you or not. But what if he vouchsafes to you some favours, which you have not asked, or which you have forfeited by neglect ? What if, in his good providence, he brings you in the way of some useful warnings and instructions, and grants you some awakened and convincing influences of his kind spirit, when you have not sought them? And, what if he does this in answer to the fervent prayers of others? Will you say that all this is wrong? Will you considerit as a matter of complaint ? Will you think it unreasonable that christian friends should implore for you that mercy which you have despised, and that God should iegard their prayers for you, when you make
none for yourselves?-God will injure no man-he will break his promise with no man: But he often bestows undeserved and uncovenanted mercies-he often continues, or renews abused and forfeited faVours. And these are not the less to be esteemed, because they are granted in consequence of the faith and prayers of others; but rather to be received with more admiring gratitude.
2. We see from this subject, that the doctrine of scripture concerning our being involved in the consequences of the primitive apostasy, is agreeable to the analogy of providence.
The scripture plainly teaches us, that the first man stood in a publick capacity, and acted for his posterity ; and that, in consequence of his transgression, they not only are exposed to death, but inherit a disordered constitution, a depraved nature, which, as soon as they begin their moral life, leads them astray. The Apostle says, “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. By one man's offence death reigned. By one man's diso. bedience many were made sinners."
Does this look hard and unjust ? It is nothing singular or uncommon.
If an offender against the state is punished with death or confiscation, his children suffer loss. The man who spends his substance in riot and debauche. ry, beggars his family as well as himself. The parent who, by intemperance, destroys his constitution, often transmits diseases to his children, which render their life unhappy, and issue in early death. Bodily disorders distemper the mind, disturb the passions, becloud the intellect, and introduce irregular inclinations. Not only bodily diseases, but mental dispositions, are often hereditary and trans. mitted from father to son. The vicious examples and corrupt principles of some parents, early deprave the minds and vitiate the manners of their VOL. II.
children, and it is no easy matter to recover them to right sentiments and a virtuous life. And why is it thought unjust, that we should partake of some unhappy consequences from the first transgression, rather than that we should be liable to suffer for the misconduct of our immediate parents? The latter we see to be fact; and it were absurd to deny the former. But whether we believe the doctrine in question or not, still mankind are mortal in body, and depraved in mind. They are liable to death, and inclined to sin. Either they were made so in their original state, or by some subsequent means they are fallen into this state.
And which appears most reasonable—That they should come out of the Creator's hands such as we now see them ; or, that they should be suffered to fall into such a state in consequence of the perverseness and disobedience of their first progenitors ?-Should you see a nation in a state of distraction and riot, violence and confusion, Which would appear most credible-That this was the original constitution of their government; or, that it was an unhappy state, introduced by the folly and injustice of some, who, being appointed to act for them, had abused and perverted their constitution ? If we deny the transmission of sin and death from the first offender, still we cannot thus get rid of sin nor of death. They are both in the world, and they both seem likely to continue : And our deliverance from them comes not by a denial of the cause which the scripture assigns, but by an application of the remedy which God has provided. This brings me to remark,
3. That our salvation through the atonement and righteousness of a redeemer, appears to correspond with the general constitution of God's moral gov. èrnment.
It is an essential part of the divine plan, that the virtue of some should not only benefit themselves,
but extend its kind and salutary influence to others. We see this to be the case among men; and prob. ably it is the case among all moral beings except those who are in a state of punishment. The an. gels, we are told, are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. On the other hand, the preaching of the gospel, by the apostles, was intended, not only to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which had been hid. den from former ages, but also to display unto principalities and powers, in heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God. And we are taught in the book of Daniel, that the angels strengthen and help one another in the services respectively assigned them. The glory of God's moral kingdom greatly consists in the benevolence of his subjects toward one another, and in the disposition of all to pro note the general happiness. Were it not agreeable to the divine constitution, that the virtuous actions of one should, in some way or other, redound to the benefit of many, there would be no room for benevolence : It would cease to be a virtue.
It appears then to be a credible thing, that when the human race had fallen into guilt and ruin, a Saviour should be sent from heaven, to instruct them by his doctrines, to exemplify their duty in his life, and also to redeem them from punishment by his death; and that the benefits of his righteousness and death should be made over to them, on their humble faith and sincere repentance. Though this dispensation of grace surpasses all human discovery, yet there is nothing in it contrary to reason, or to the analogy of providence ; but, in many respects, it corresponds with both.
The gospel teaches us, that we are justified by God's grace, through the redemption that is in Christ; that we have redemption through his blood ; that we are made the righteousness of God in him; and that