Imágenes de página

good works; Thirdly, The existence of this defect, is not only justified but imperiously demanded as the judicial result of a certain constitution of things, connected with the first entrance of sin into the world, but sufficiently worthy of God.

III. The farther concern of the Deity with the existence of moral evil cannot long detain us. As unfolded by Scripture or exemplified in facts whose character and relations are there fully ascertained, it consists in limiting wickedness with regard to its objects, measure, and duration, and in directing it thus limited to glorious ends; an interference which evidently befits the Supreme, as at once agreeable to his nature and a proper demonstration of his government.

To illustrate by instances, would be to quote a great part of the sacred volume. On the several forms of limitation it is sufficient to refer to Ezek. xxi. 20—22, for the first, which respects the objects; to Job i. 12; ii. 6, for the second, which respects the measure ; and to Isaiah x. 12, 25, for the third, which respects the period of duration. The directive agency, with the several ends proposed, will fully appear in a brief sketch of the divine government as unfolded in Scripture, to be afterwards given. The principles already established supersede the necessity, also, of dwelling on the use which God makes of sinful agents, and of their very impiety and wickedness, in accomplishing his purposes. In addition to our former discussion, it may be sufficient to remark, First, That, according to Scripture, the success of the wicked in criminal courses is no evidence of his approving the immorality which attaches to their actions or motives, though it may indicate an entire approbation of his own purpose, or of the great ends ever worthy of himself, to which all such success is more nearly or remotely adjusted ; and Secondly, That his motives and designs in producing actions relatively wicked, are totally different from those of the creature.

What he intends as an intelligent actor, is always conformable to his nature as the Holy One, and to his province as the Judge of all. Then, it is usually the very opposite of what the instruments intend, who are subject to a law, and whose motives go far to determine the moral quality of their deeds. Should it be alleged that human motives themselves may be either good or bad, and should the question be put, Are these independent of the Deity, and is his efficiency and permission solely concerned in the actions of creatures ?' The answer is obvious: Both actions and motives fall under one rule in judging of the divine efficiency and permission, though,



for the sake of simplicity, we have chosen hitherto to illustrate the subject by a reference to actions. God physically upholds the faculties of a free agent in the perception of motives and in feeling their influence, permitting at the same time the bad quality or defect in these actings of the mind, which defect, we have seen, he is under no necessity of preventing, either from his own nature or otherwise, if the agent be an innocent creature in a state of probation, while on judicial grounds, as we have also shown, it is altogether unavoidable, if the agent be in a fallen state.

For the purpose of confirming and illustrating these positions, we may appeal to the most prominent fact in the whole economy of divine administrations,—the sufferings of Jesus. “Of a truth, Lord, Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the Gentiles, and people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." But surely “they thought not so, neither was it in their hearts." Although the execution of the divine purpose had been expressly intended by them, it was not their province to fulfil it, or to contribute voluntarily in the slightest degree to its accomplishment. They could not inflict all the sufferings requisite in making satisfaction for sin ; and as it belonged not to them to exact this satisfaction, but to the Judge of all, so it was no part of their duty to forward the work, even by contributing in part to the infliction of the requisite sufferings. But how entirely opposed to the divine purpose were their views and motives! They counted Jesus an impostor ; God regarded him as his Son and the Saviour of men. They meant to disprove his Messiahship; God, to establish it by fulfilling the prophecies relative to the manner and circumstances of his death, and even realizing the character in that event. They meant to preclude the erection of that spiritual kingdom, which so little accorded with their wishes and expectations ; God, to found it for universal expansion. They, in common with the infernal powers under whose instigation they acted, evinced decided antipathy to the character and claims of Jesus ; God, as when the fire descended on the victim, showed by the very infliction of the sufferings his high approbation of the sacrifice. They sinned by violating all the laws of justice and humanity; God, in the work partially accomplished by their instrumentality, expressed in the most adequate form his detestation of sin. See Acts xi. 23. iii. 14, 18. Rom. viii. 3.


[ocr errors][merged small]

The only apology to be made for the length of the preceding discussion, is, that it relates to what has always been regarded as the main dificulty on the question proposed. If what has been stated be agreeable to reason and scripture, it will aid in the solution of all other difficulties, and render the remaining part of the task comparatively easy.

Physical evil may be viewed as either simply penal or as also corrective. Punishment is clearly the original idea ; for, supposing a Deity, no reason can be assigned, or even conceived, for the existence of physical evil, as destructive of the happiness of creatures, but its absolute necessity for the demonstration of his holiness, and the vindication of his authority. Correction can only be connected with some plan of moral regeneration ; which, if it exist, will be eminently illustrative of divine goodness, and of the triumph of the Deity over physical evil itself, in converting it to purposes most beneficial to the creatures, as well as glorifying to him. But such a plan,

a we have seen, must involve, as a fundamental arrangement, the previous removal of all judicial grounds of procedure.

Now if punishment be the primary design, the existence of physical evil in all its forms need not surprise us for a moment; -it was to be expected as the necessary consequence of moral evil. The atheist will remember, that we are bound only to reconcile its existence with that of a Deity; and the form of reasoning is simply this: If there be a God, moral evil exists, for the actions of men are manifestly not conformable to his nature and laws; but moral evil cannot exist under


form of divine government, without being stigmatised by suitable marks of judicial displeasure ; among these may be the surrender of the fallen to the domination of sin, but as this domination is still moral evil, and productive of a greater prevalence of it, and as, through the power of delusion and habits of depravity, it is usually connected with many imaginary pleasures, something different from it, and more decisively declarative of the divine displeasure, was necessary-something calculated to disturb, and even ultimately destroy, these imaginary pleasures themselves,—something calculated to show the insuperable power of the Deity over sin in its very domination, and to attest the undiminished responsibility of sinful creatures, whatever be the state to which they are surrendered ; and since there are only two species of evil, moral and physical, the latter only


could answer these purposes,-its existence therefore was to be expected. Should we go higher, it would only be to say, that as it is nowise inconsistent with the nature of God to permit the existence of moral evil, and as there may be grounds sufficiently worthy to justify the permission, it cannot be inconsistent with his nature that when the happiness of the creature comes into competition with his glory, the former should in due proportion be sacrificed to the latter, and the superiority of the latter, or its incalculable value, be thus most convincingly attested to all intelligent beings.

The Physical is evidently adapted to the Moral state of the world,—either as originally intended, or as now actually existing. If it be alleged, that there are many things within the sphere of physical evil, by the very constitution of nature, which could not have been different from what they presently are, whether sin had existed or not, noxious plants, carnivorous animals, the tendency of vegetable and animal substances to decay, the scorching power of the sun near the equator, and so on ;-we beg leave to suggest, 1st, the power of the Deity to have so modified the human constitution as to have rendered it impassive to these evils ; 2dly, the prophetic phraseology employed in describing the removal of the curse, or a great abatement of its visible effects, “ the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, they shall not hurt nor destroy," --for these allusions to the primitive state of things may warrant us to conclude, that prior to the curse the warfare among

animals had not taken place, that with regard to man at least, the divine control, the knowledge with which he was endowed, and the majesty of his appearance, were his defence from every thing noxious, and but for the curse would have continued to protect him. It is most probable, however, that God, “ to whom all his works are known from the beginning," originally intending this world to be the scene of all that has happened, so arranged its natural economy at first as to suit a temporary state of innocence, but at the same time be properly adapted to the existence of moral evil, and the whole consequent plan of glorifying himself.—While the state of primeval innocence lasted, the tree of life was, to our first parents, the sacrament and symbol of their present safety as well as of their promised happiness ; but in noxious plants, carnivorous animals, and other departments of nature, they might see ministers of vengeance prepared to execute the threatening, should they


[ocr errors]

transgress. The Scriptures are consistent in representing the lordship of man as for the time acknowledged by all the inferior creatures. And they concur with reason in attesting the penal nature of physical evil as it presently exists. The death of human beings “ entered by sin ;” and it is “ the bondage of corruption " under which “ the whole creation now groaneth and travelleth in pain.”

There are two hypotheses on the subject of Physical evil, of which sceptical writers have taken advantage, and which seem to have been incautiously admitted by respondents,—the first, the necessity of universal good,—the second, the necessity of a preponderance of good even among fallen beings. Universal good, in point of happiness at least, is so clearly disproved by facts, that no subtilities of argumentation in any attempt to establish the idea of its existence, can ever satisfy the mind. But the error lies in conceding its necessity. At once we perceive, that the hypothesis can have no other basis than the inadmissible idea, that a Deity is absolutely precluded by his nature, both from permitting the existence of Moral Evil, and from choosing to glorify himself by a triumph over it. Unless either or both of these can be proved to involve a contradiction, the hypothesis ought to be dismissed. It will be enough if there be a vast preponderancy of good in the general system. And, 1st, the highest good is the Happiness of the Deity, consisting in the possession and manifestation of his essential perfection. To this, the permission of any thing introductive of misery among the creatures must be adjusted in one form or another, and in some form too, we should

expect, which could not otherwise have place. In such case, however, the infringement on creature happiness is not to be compared with the object to which it is subservient. But, 2d, as it were strange if the Deity could not glorify himself by created beings without involving them all in misery; as in fact, the idea which reason forms of a Deity is not a Being necessarily dreadful, whose happiness is incompatible with that of all other beings, far less a malignant being, who, without regard to the claims of his own glory, wills others to exist merely that they may be miserable,—it must also be expected, that Happiness will exist among the creatures, and that it will greatly preponderate in the universe at large. This brings us to a question of fact, which it seems impossible in our present circumstances to determine. But this impossibility advances nothing against all our other proofs of a Deity. And certainly we have no reason to conclude, that the millions of inhabited worlds which

« AnteriorContinuar »