Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

a

such a Being in his communicative goodness may have formed, are all subjected to moral evil and its consequences, merely because we are so. The fall of comparatively a small proportion of rational creatures could furnish all the

scope

that might be requisite for the glorification of the Deity by a triumph over evil. The very restoration of an innumerable multitude of the fallen, and their elevation to higher honours and happiness than they could otherwise have attained, would necessarily constitute a part of the triumph. If we appeal to those Books which give the best account of the origin of evil, they inform us, that all rational beings have not been permitted to fall; and they describe the plan of triumph as involving the restoration and elevation supposed; they show us " a multitude which no man can number out of every tongue and people, and nation, with palms in their hands,” stationed “ around the throne” in the highest heavens, and there conjoined with the “ innumerable company of angels,” who also stand in the presence of the Almighty, see his glory, and celebrate his praises.

That there ought to be a preponderancy of good, however, even ii a fallen state, is a hypothesis still more inadmissible than the former. Take it absolutely, and it would preclude the possikility of any complete vindication of the Deity by physical evit, either in the exile of incorrigible beings whose happiness must be supposed to be entirely destroyed, or in the sufferings of a sul stitute for the guilty, with whom, for the time, no such preponderance could have place. Take it in relation to a system of forbearance, the necessity recognised by rost writers against atheism is incautiously admitted ; there an be none. Good to a certain degree must, indeed, be enoyed, otherwise the idea of forbearance is lost. But why a preponderancy? Is it not enough that the good be proportioned to the nature and designs of forbearance ?-Should a preponderancy really be discovered, it will be an argument a fortiori of the benignity and mercy of the Deity. In this view we allow, and are happy to appeal to the vast preponderancy of good in the present constitution of the world. Fallen though we are, the ordinances of heaven have not been deranged, nor has the earth been moved from her best position in the system, in order to render our existence absolutely miserable. We have “ rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons," the " sun rises and the showers fall,” for the benefit of both “ the just and the unjust.” Our physical capacities of pleasure are not destroyed, nor even greatly impaired. The fecundity of useful animals has not been exchanged for the well

a

known, and often-remarked infecundity of those who are less useful or dangerous. The curse of the thistle and the thorn has not surmounted the labours of man; neither does the earth refuse the reward of his toil. Wars, famine, and pestilence, are not always nor everywhere prevalent. Wickedness itself, naturally calculated to gender confusion in a thousand forms, and to turn “ the world upside down,” is visibly restrained. The supreme Power hath evidently said both to it and to physical evil in general, “ Hitherto'shall ye come,”—so far as may not overwhelm all the comfort of existence, or even displace a large proportion of happiness, and no farther ; here shall all your dreadful energies be stayed.” Occasionally he may suffer them to burst the barriers he hath set, but the inundation is neither universal nor permanent, “ they return

, again to the place he hath commanded for them.” Rather like “ the flood of Egypt,” it ultimately benefits the scene of apparent devastation. By shewing, at any rate, how easily the Deity could accumulate the miseries of man, it serves to render the benignity of that habitual control, which might otherwise escape our attention, at once conspicuous and impressive.

But this forbearance, or system of control, combined with wondrous munificence, which, with regard to the beings who abuse it, could only be justified by a future state of retribution, is, with regard to all other beings, angels, men, and inferior creatures, connected with another scheme still more benignant, by which it is farther regulated and directed to an increase of happiness. It is, according to Scripture, intended to give place for the execution of that God-like scheme which involves the moral regeneration of an innumerable multitude of the human race. This, we are assured, wherever it is effective, gives joy to the angels, who are also honoured to hold a particular station under the Messiah, by whom it is conducted, and to perform offices for the redeemed, which doubtless increase their own felicity. To its immediate subjects it gives instant release from the penal character of all physical evil, renders the pressure which may remain “light” and beneficial, removes it entirely at last, and compensates for all their sufferings by an overbalancing “ weight of glory,” which it fits them for sustaining. As gradually developed in the extension and effect of the gospel, this wonderful scheme of divine administration tends even to renovate the state of the world, to dissipate the visible influence of the curse,—to diminish the necessity of judgments,—to augment the sum of public and

social happiness, and in every respect ameliorate the present condition of mankind. In the language of prophecy, a sort of paradisaic state shall return ;—“ Instead of the thorn shall come up the myrtle ; the wilderness and the solitary place shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose ; the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” This lan, guage is no doubt figurative, but it marks such a state of things as shall be “ to the Lord for a name, an everlasting memorial,”-shewing to what a vast extent he has counteracted the baleful though necessary influence of physical evil, even in the region of sin, and without departing from his essential rectitude, or sacrificing in the smallest degree the interests of his glory. Eventually, the scheme will effect “ the liberation of the Creature from all the bondage of corruption."

If the plan of a triumph over moral evil be intrinsically so grand, so supernaturally glorifying to the Deity, and of such general utility in (probably) augmenting the sum of happiness throughout the universe, as to justify his sacrificing to its accomplishment the happiness of many of the rational beings who have fallen, we need not wonder, that in the progress of its execution, a large proportion of the happiness of merely sensitive beings, formed only for temporary existence, should also be sacrificed. The sacrifice, in one degree or another, must have been unavoidable, since physical evil could not be felt by the human race without affecting the inferior creatures. The sacrifice, even of a large proportion of their happiness, might have been expected, under the operation of moral evil, prior to the universal extension and blessed effect of the scheme of recovery in the reign of Messiah. Yet after all, how little has the happiness of the inferior orders been diminished. Most of them seem to enjoy all that their natures will admit, subject only to those casual interruptions and infringements, which, according to present circumstances, contribute to the comfort, the conveniency, or the natural pleasures of man, their original lord. The “ whole creation" of inferior beings, animate and inanimate, is figuratively represented as “groaning and travelling in pain," stretching out the neck to look for deliverance, but it is rather as wishing that they were no longer in the unnatural state of being instruments of sin and ministers of wrath, than as oppressed by a load of suffering, of which the inanimate department is certainly incapable. They are represented as preferring their original destination, perhaps as sympathising with " the children of God,” and thus as desiring the conclusion of the present state of things, that the glory of the Deity may burst forth with unclouded splendour. The disadvantages and actual sufferings of the inferior creatures, which are more immediately connected with man, and therefore most deeply affected by his moral state, shall be greatly diminished by the general diffusion of mercy, benignity, and other Christian virtues, in the millennial age. And though the inferior animals are not destined to participate in the final release from the bondage of corruption, by a resurrection from the dead ; though even those which are alive at the consummation of all things mast perish with the works of men, in the conflagration of the world, as beings whom the Deity is nowise obligated to continue in existence; it belongs to the scheme of making all things new, that such part of the works of God as there is no necessity for destroying, be liberated from all its involuntary subjection to vanity, and from every vestige of deterioration by human transgression. Rom. viii. 19-23. 2 Pet. . üi. 5-7, 10, 12. Rev. xxi. 2-5.

It is plainly in reference to these results of the peculiar scheme of divine government in its progress and completion, that when the reign of Messiah is foretold in the prophets or celebrated in the Psalms, “ the heavens and the earth" are invited to rejoice, “ the world and all its inhabitants, the mountains and hills," the very trees of the wood," and every

” “ thing that liveth in the earth,—" to rejoice before the Lord, because he comes to judge the world.” And in the visions of John, as soon as this judgment or administration was committed to the Saviour, the song of the redeemed was heard, followed by the song of the angels, and this again by the voice of every

66 creature which is in heaven, and the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, saying, Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”—Ps. xcvi. xcviii. Rev. v.

III.—UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION.

On this head we shall take up at present solely the idea of partiality, reserving the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous for distinet consideration.

The objection or difficulty is this : “ We perceive many apparently partial distinctions in the world. Though all men must be equally related to a Deity, one is born heir to a large estate, is afterwards exalted to affluence, while another languishes in poverty and misery; the rich man is clothed in

purple, and fares sumptuously every day, while his brother in nature, and therefore at least his equal in claim, lies clothed in rags, perhaps covered with ulcers, at his gate. Some spend their years in prosperity, while others fail in all their enterprises, and are never able to rise above the penury of their lot. There are in the world high and low, rich and poor; and the mental discrimination is as great as the corporeal : some have strong powers, pre-eminent talents, and many advantages for improving them, all which are denied unto others.” Such indeed is the state of things in the world, and therefore the atheist concludes, “ that there is no God, because a Deity must be no respecter of persons;" and the Christian, believing that God is, and that he is no respecter of persons, yet supposing that in these distinctions there is something of this kind, either doubts the existence of a special providence, or feels his mind embarrassed, to the great disturbance of his spiritual exercise. The one proceeds chiefly on the idea of original equality in claims; the other, recognising the idea of penal evil in physical disadvantages, is persuaded that in this respect, too, all are originally on a level, and therefore conceives the difficulty rather aggravated than lessened.

Most true it is, that there can be no partiality with God. For let us consider wherein the respecting of persons properly consists. Does it not lie in attending to something different from the true characteristic of the person or his cause? Among men, this error appears, when our esteem and good-will are guided solely by exterior considerations,—when rank, power, riches or grandeur so secure our attachments as to render us blind to all other considerations, especially to those which ought to be principally taken into view as the proper basis of esteem. Again, we are guilty of respecting persons, when our conduct in bestowing favours is regulated by similar motives, rather than by the claims of necessity or justice. We perceive something perhaps in one individual, that suits our taste, inclinations, or habits, and allowing this to operate to the disadvantage of others who have equal or stronger claims to the countenance or help we bestow, are justly said to be prejudiced in his favour. That some respect should be had to civil distinctions, and to natural talents or acquirements, will be readily granted. The order of society demands it, and it can be productive of no detriment, provided we also assign their due place to moral qualifications, take care that our favour or charity be not monopolized by certain classes or individuals, and as to

« AnteriorContinuar »