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this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve; saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God that it will be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.” “But, when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; and sounded, and found it twenty fathoms. Then fearing lest they should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour, as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved.This seasonable and solemn address had the desired effect, and proved the occasion of saving the lives of the whole company. For they complied with his advice, and took every precaution which their dangerous situation required. “And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to the land." This is the connexion of the words of the text; and in this connexion they plainly imply, that those who sailed with Paul, had natural power to frustrate the decrees of God. For he had decreed that Paul should stand before Cæsar; and that those who were with him in the shipwreck, should get safe to land. But yet, if the sailors had left the ship, as they once intended, they would have frustrated these divine purposes. For notwithstanding God had revealed these purposes to Paul, and he firmly believed they should be fulfilled; yet he expressly said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." These words, in this connexion, plainly convey this general idea, that whatever God decrees shall take place, by the instrumentality of men, they have natural power to prevent. If this point can be clearly illustrated and established, it will serve to throw light upon some important and interesting subjects. Accordingly, I shall endeavour to make it appear,

I. That God does decree, that some things shall take place, by the instrumentality of men.

II. That such things shall certainly take place.

And yet,

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III. That men have natural power to prevent their taking place.

I. It is too plain to be denied, that God does decree, that some things shall take place, by the instrumentality of men. We know, that he determined to preserve Noah and his family in the general deluge; and he employed not only their agency, but the agency of many others, to effect his purpose. He predicted the preservation of Jacob and his family in a time of famine; and he employed Joseph to bring about the event. He determined to lead the children of Israel from the house of bondage to the land of promise; and he employed Moses, and Aaron, and Joshua, as the principal agents, to accomplish his design. He decreed to overthrow the Babylonian, Persian, and Grecian empires in succession; and he carried into execution his purposes, by the instrumentality of Cyrus, Alexander, and Augustus Cæsar. He determined, that Christ should be crucified; and he brought about the great and important event, by means of many wicked hearts and wicked hands. He determined, that the gospel of Christ should be speedily spread; and he qualified and disposed Peter, and his fellow apostles, to propagate it through all Judea. He determined, that it should have a wider spread; and he raised up Paul to preach the glad tidings of salvation to the heathen world. And in connexion with this, he determined, that he should be carried to Rome, by means of a certain ship, and the instrumentality of certain sailors. These instances, and many more which the sacred writers have recorded, clearly prove, that God does decree to bring about the common events of providence, by the instrumentality of men. I proceed to show,

II. That whatever God has decreed to bring to pass, by the instrumentality of men, shall certainly take place. There is no room to doubt, whether that will take place, which God has determined to bring to pass by his own hand. This is so plain, that those who deny the doctrine of divine decrees in general, profess to believe, that God has decreed his own actions, and will most certainly act as he has determined to act. But many pretend to doubt, whether every thing, which God has decreed to be done, by human agency, will eventually come to pass. They suppose, therefore, there must be some uncertainty, with respect to such events as God determines to bring to pass, by human agency. But if God has decreed to bring about some events, by human agency, it is absolutely certain, that such agency will be exerted, and such events will exist. For, the divine decree always fixes the certainty of whatever is decreed, by establishing an infallible connexion between the means and the end. This is the difference between divine foreknowledge and decree. Foreknowledge does not make any future event, certain, but only proves that it is certain; whereas a decree makes a future event certain, by constituting an infallible connexion between the event decreed, and the cause or means of its coming to pass. When God decrecd, that Paul and his company

instead of preserving them, and so to prevent the event decreed and predicted. Though God decreed, that Hazael should kill the king his master; yet he had natural power to refrain from that traitorous deed, and so to prevent the evil, which God had determined and declared should exist. Though God decreed, that Judas should betray Christ; yet he had natural power to refrain from that action, to which he was bribed by the Jews and tempted by Satan, and so to counteract the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. In these instances, there can be no doubt but that those, who fulfilled, had natural power to frustrate the divine purposes, which depended upon their agency. And now to make it appear, that this is true in all cases, I would observe,

1. That when God decrees, that any event shall be brought about, by the instrumentality of men, he always decrees, that they shall have natural power to fulfil bis decree. This must be extremely plain to every one; for we cannot suppose, that God should decree, that any event should be brought about, by human agents incapable of bringing it about. But no man is capable of doing that which he has not natural power to do. When God decreed, that Hazael should destroy his royal master, he decreed, that Hazael should have both health and strength, to perform the traitorous deed, for had he been deprived of these, he could not have fulfilled the divine decree. This holds in all

. eases, in which a decreed event depends upon the instrumentality of men. The decree of God is so far from taking away the natural power of those, who are appointed to execute it, that it always secures that power. The decree which made it certain, that Judas should betray Christ, made it equally certain, that he should have natural power to perpetrate that crime; so that it was and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” And he said to his disobedient people, who went into Egypt with a design to frustrate his prediction, “Ye shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or yours.” It is absolutely certain, that whatever God has decreed shall take place, whether with, or without, human agency, shall infallibly come to pass; because in all cases, his decree has established an inseparable connexion between the means and the end. If men are the means decreed, they shall as certainly as any other means decreed, contribute to the end, and eventually bring it to pass. But yet,

III. Those events which God has decreed to bring about, by the instrumentality of men, they have natural power to prevent. Though God had decreed and predicted, that Paul should stand before Cæsar, and that all who sailed with him should arrive safe to land; yet these very men had natural power to prevent the fulfilment of the divine decree and prediction. If the centurion and soldiers had suffered the sailors to leave the ship, which they had natural power to do, it would have proved the destruction of the whole company. Or if the soldiers had killed all the prisoners, as they proposed, and as they might have have done, Paul would not have stood before Cæsar, as God had decreed. And though it was decreed, that the ship and loading should be lost in the storm; yet this damage might have been prevented, if the master and owner of the ship would have hearkened to Paul. So he expressly told them, when it was too late to rectify their error. Though God decreed, that Noah should build the ark, and save his family, yet he had natural power to neglect that work, and so to frustrate that divine purpose. Though God decreed, that Joseph should preserve his father's family in Egypt during the famine, yet he had natural power and opportunity to destroy,

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