Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

a

and whether the books which unfold such a plan, do not thereby uccredit themselves as a revelation from God.

Grant, then, that a suitable occasion may exist, or be predetermined and permitted for the sake of the plan. This will be that state of things which we are to consider in the next section as preparatory to it, controlled and otherwise greatly affected by it. We commence with saying, that in any original constitution of matter and spirit, there can be no scope for displaying some of the most deeply interesting and captivating attributes of a Deity,-mercy, compassion, and grace in its proper acceptation. But if a fallen state which might give place for the manifestation of such attributes should exist, and God were to deal with the unhappy and unworthy subjects in their own persons according to the essential rectitude of his nature, they must perish, and the attributes could never be displayed. Instead of this, the Scriptures declare, that “ God hath set forth Christ a propitiation for sins, that he might be just, and at the same time the justifier of the ungodly,—that he loved us, and spared not his own Son, but delivered him up to the death for us all,—that this Son who was made flesh for the sufferings of death, is the eternal Word who was with God, and was God,—that it hath pleased the Father that all fulness (both as to the grounds and sources of happiness) should dwell in him, --and that in him men shall be blessed even with an eternal weight of glory.”—In this work of Redemption, how admirably do all divine perfections harmonize! A brighter theme never occupied the mind of created beings than this: “ Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have embraced each other. Truth springs from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.” Even in that work over which the morning stars sang together, there was no such display of a Deity, -of what he is or can be. The gospel brings before us the divine excellences in full manifestation, while it proclaims the name of Jehovah as the “ Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, pardoning iniquity, yet not clearing the guilty." It reveals at the same time the divine Persons as sustaining certain peculiar characters in the execution of the most amazing of all their purposes ; and thus ascertains their distinct subsistence in the one Godhead, which could not be displayed by the works of Nature or Providence. Then it presents such a demonstration of the perfections common to these divine persons, as must appear to the intellect of every created being to be adequate, or at least far more complete and illustrious than any other conceivable state of things could admit of.

[ocr errors]

a

What the holiness of a Deity is, in his absolute hatred of sin and love of righteousness, could not have been displayed to the utmost by any infliction of punishment on merely finite beings. What the all-sufficiency of a Deity can bestow, could not be adequately discovered by all the beneficence of nature ; there was still behind the possibility of blessing fallen creatures with all spiritual blessings, and crowning them with glory in heaven. What the Love of a Deity could do, failed also to attain its full manifestation in all his respect for innocent beings, while it could purpose and effect the restoration of the guilty, by not sparing the Only begotten, but giving him up to all the penalty they had incurred. In the plari to which we refer as revealed in the gospel, infinite love and eternal justice have each its perfect work. Mercy too is aggrandized beyond all that can be shewn by a system of forbearance, in delivering from the utmost misery and elevating to the highest honours and felicity which it is possible for a Deity to confer; Wisdom demonstrates its infinitude in devising all this ; Power in carrying it into effect. Here then it may be said is the very image of God,-something which, though we cannot fully comprehend it, may be styled an adequate manifestation of the Deity,—that which after all his works in Nature was still wanting, a true representation of him as he is. Hence accordingly the Scriptures constantly speak of this plan, as in its form, execution, and effects, the proper medium of seeing God here and hereafter. And the Revelation which discovers it, is styled “ the glorious gospel of Christ, who is THE IMAGE OF God, the image of God, not only in his divine person, nor simply because as mediator he is officially God's ambassador or representative to us, but also because the whole of this plan in which the divine persons and the divine perfections may be said to have their fullest manifestation, centres in his mediatorial character and work.

What then ! are we so distinguished ? Is our globe, and no other, the scene of this manifestation of the Deity ? - Why not? Some world must have been selected ; and considering the dreadful nature and dismal effects of the state of things requisite to furnish the proper occasion for such a manifestation, it was better that but one world should be the scene, than that many should be affected by moral evil. The demonstration of what a Deity can do,—the uttermost display of his attributes, in one world is sufficient. May not this, if necessary, be easily notified to other rational beings throughout the rest of the universe ? Revelation expressly states, that by the mystery

[ocr errors]

L

of human Redemption, “ the manifold wisdom of God is made known” to beings who are not directly concerned in it, " to principalities and powers in heavenly places.” Speaking of the sufferings and glory of Christ, it informs us, that these are things into which “ the angels desire to look.” By these spirits, or by peculiar communications from the Deity, this high form of the knowledge of God may be imparted to other worlds; or the inhabitants of these worlds may be permitted occasionally to visit the third heavens, where the Redeemer resides, and there to behold and converse with the redeemed. If angels by this plan of recovery know what they cannot know from experience, how odious sin is; if they learn to set a higher value on their own happiness, by perceiving at what an expense happiness when lost must be retrieved ; if their views of the divine persons and perfections be expanded, and thus their blessedness increased, and their adorations elevated; why may not similar or the same advantages be afforded to the inhabitants of other planetary systems, with whose mediums of knowing and serving the Deity, we again, in our turn, may be afterwards acquainted ? “ The Lord Jehovah shall rejoice in all his works.

On this subject imagination may take her sublimest flight, without ceasing to be befriended by reason, or passing beyond the vast sphere of that light which bursts from the volume of divine Revelation.

1

SECT. II.

CONSIDERATION OF DIFFICULTIES ARISING FROM THE PRESENT

STATE OF DISORDER.

A SPECIES of evil exists which we denominate moral, because of its relation to the nature and government of a Deity. There is also much physical evil in the world. The existence of the former will account for that of the latter, and solve many objections drawn from it against the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. Yet both, and in general, the complex state of things arising from their existence, may become occasions of doubt, and furnish the most specious objections.

In the system of the atheist, what we denominate Morality can be nothing else but a calculation of pleasures. It can have no common standard ; for the calculation must not only be regulated by the opinion which each individual forms about pleasure or happiness, but it will be constantly varied even with the same individual by circumstances. Although the general interests of society which reduplicate upon the pleasures of a generous mind, should be taken into the account, still there can be no common standard, since

every man must calculate for himself. Nevertheless, the most sceptical on the being of a God can admit, that some kind of derangement exists different from physical imperfection, inconveniency, and pain. And since this kind of derangement, on the supposition of a Deity, must constitute moral evil, he may frame his objection against us upon this ground. He may say,--and even those who are persuaded of the being of a God, the rather too that they are so, may be perplexed with the difficulty," If

a

there be an infinitely holy and good Being, the governor of all, how came that which is so contrary to his nature and will to exist ? and how can his suffering its existence to continue, be reconcilable with either his own moral excellence or his benevolence to his creatures ? It could not enter into the world without his being the author of it, and this would be a contradiction. It could not continue without implying that he is either not able or not willing to suppress it, which equally involve a contradiction."

With regard to physical evil, the allegations naturally follow ; “ 1. Its existence and measure are incompatible with the presidency of a Being infinitely good : 2. If intended to be penal, it does not always exhibit this character,--does not at. tach to the proper objects, is not proportioned to the cause, nor adequate to the end."

Thence the objections founded on the complex state of things, _" the unequal allotments of time, the unequal distribution of punishments and rewards ; the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the good ; the inadequate punishment of sin ; the inefficiency of what are styled judgments or general calamities; and the apparent respect of persons, deduced from the visible state of affairs, the history of nations, and the doctrines of revelation."

Many of these objections seem to run into one another, especially under the last head. So far as there is any shade of difference, we shall avail ourselves of it, for the purpose of bringing forward in detail such considerations as may distinctly apply to each, or serve to present the whole subject more fully to the mind. We have not forgotten, however, neither ought the sceptic, now when he may exult as most on his own ground, to forget, the preliminary remarks with which we commenced our attempt at the solution of difficulties. As it is not to be expected, it cannot be reasonably required, that any created being should be able “ to search all things, yea, and the deep things of a God.” Let us proceed, duly apprised of the weakness of our powers. There are depths which might drown the highest created intelligence. And most appropriate is the admonition of the poet,

“ Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.”

1.-THE ORIGIN AND EXISTENCE OF MORAL EVIL.

li ts probable that the polytheism of the heathen was intended to account for this, or was partly founded on the im

« AnteriorContinuar »