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The whole nature of virtue consists in con forming to, and the whole nature of vice in declining from, the will of God. All God's creatures are created to fulfil his will.
The sun and moon obey his will by the necessity of their nature. Angels conform to his will by the perfection of their nature. If therefore you would show yourself not to be a rebel and apostate from the order of the creation, you must act like beings both above and below you; it must be the great desire of your soul, that God's will may be done by you on earth, as it is done in heaven. It must be the settled purpose and intention of your heart to will nothing, design nothing, do nothing, but so far, as you have reason to believe, that it is the will of God, that you should so desire, desigri, and do. 1
It is as just and necessary to live in this state of heart, to think thus of God and yourself, as to think, that you have any dependence upon him. It is as great a rebellion against God to think, that your will may ever differ from his, as to think, that you have not received the power of willing from him. ; You are therefore to consider yourself as a being, that has no other business in the world, but to be that, which God requires you to be ;
to have no tempers, no rules of your own, to seek no selfish designs nor selfish ends, but to fill some place, and act some part in strict con formity, and thankful resignation to the divine pleasure.
To think, that you are your own, or at your own disposal, is as absurd, as to think, that you created, and can preserve yourself. It is as plaini and necessary a first principle, to believe you are thus God's, that you thus belong to him, and are to act and suffer all in a thankful resig. mation to his pleasure, as to believe, that in him you live, and move, and have your being.
Resignation to the divine will signifies a cheerful approbation and thankful acceptance of every thing, which comes from God. It is not enough patiently to submit ; but we must thankfully receive, and fully approve of every thing, which by the order of God's providence happens to us. For there is no reason, why we should be patient, but what is as good and strong a reason, why we should be thankful. If we were under the hands of a wise and good physician, who could not mistake, nor do any thing to us; but what certainly tended to our benefit ; it would not be enough to be patient, and abstain from murmuring against such a physician ; but
it would be as great a breach of duty and gratitude to him, not to be pleased and thankful for what he did, as it would be to murmur at him.
This is our true state with relation to God; we cannot be said so much as to believe in him, unless we believe him to be of infinite wisdom. Every argument therefore for patience under his disposal of us is as strong an argument for approbation and thankfulness for every thing, wbich he does to us. There needs no more to dispose us to this gratitude towards God, than a full belief in him, that he is this being of infinite wisdom, love, and goodness.
Da but assent to this truth, in the same manmer, as you assent to things, of which
you no doubt; and then you will cheerfully approve of every thing, which God has already approva
ed for you.
For as you cannot possibly be pleased with the behaviour of any person towards you, but because it is for your good, is wise in itself, and the effect of his love and goodness towards you ; so when you are satisfied, that God does not only do that, which is wise, and good, and kind, but that, which is the effeet of an infinite wiss dom and love in the care of you ; it will be as necessary,
have this faith, to be
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thankful and pleased with every thing, which God chooses for you, as to wish your own happiness.
Whenever therefore you find yourself disposed to uneasiness, or murmuring at any thing, which is the effect of God's providence over you, you must look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God. For every complaint necessarily supposes this. You : would never complain of your neighbour, but that
you suppose, you can show either his unwise, unjust, or unkind behaviour towards you:
Every murmuring, impatient reflection under the providence of God is the same accusation of God. A complaint always su poses ill usage.
Hence also you may see the great necessity and piety of this thankful state of heart ; because the want of it implies an accusation of God's want either of wisdom or goodness in his disposal of us. It is not therefore any high degree of perfection, founded in any uncommon nicety of thinking, or refined notions, but a plain : principle, founded on this plain belief, that God is a being of infinite wisdom and goodness.
This resignation to the divine will may be considered in two respects ; first, as it signifies a thankful approbation of God's general prović
dence over the world ; secondly, as it signifies a thankful acceptance of his particular provi. dence over us.
First. Every man is by the law of his creation, by the first article of his creed, obliged tą consent to, and acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of God, in his general providence over the whole world. He is to believe, that it is the effect of God's great wisdom and goodness, that the world itself was formed at such a particular time, and in such a manner ; that the general order of nature, the whole framę. of things, is contrived and formed in the best manner. He is to believe, that God's providence over states and kingdoms, times and seasons, is all for the best ; that the revolutions of state, and changes of empire, the rise and fall of monarchies, persecutions, wars, famine, and plagues,, are all permitted, and conducted by God's providence, to the general good of man in this state of trial.
A good man is to believe all this, with the same fulness of assent, as he believes, that God is in every place, though he neither sees, nor can comprehend the manner of his presence.
This is a noble magnificence of thought, a true religious greatness of mind, to be thus affected with God's general providence, admiring