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profess to disclose so much of the purpose of God and the plan of its execution, as may be profitable to us in the present very limited state of our faculties.
The following sketch is presented to the sceptic, without reference at first hand to its sacred original, simply as showing him the possibility of reconciling facts and appearances in the present constitution of things, with the existence and government of a Deity, apprising him at the same time of the difficulties which may be expected to occur in the singular arrangements of such a constitution, and the complicated relations of its several parts, or of the several events which each part either presupposes or requires. The Christian will regard it as of higher authority and greater utility. The former may perceive from it that both the purpose and the plan are sufficiently worthy of a God, that they are even such as no being but a God could either devise or superintend. The latter, already convinced of the existence of a God, may find in the expansion of his views still more stable rest to his soul.
In the sketch we merely collect and arrange the views which have been rising before us, as agreeable to reason and sanctioned by Scripture, in the preceding solution of difficulties; and to this arranged outline we appeal finally, as the true Fons Solutionum with regard to all difficulties, however impracticable it may be to show its application to every particular occurrence.
Among all the diversity of possible designs, our world seems to have been either formed, or selected, for being the scene of A Triumph over Moral Evil.
Such a triumph might consist, not only in showing that moral evil or sin may be permitted to display itself among rational beings, without implicating the Deity, but especially,– First, in evincing the superiority of the divine government to that species of evil, though allowed to operate and display its malignity in every possible form, during a long period of forbearance ;-Secondly, in inflicting such punishment as might demonstrate the divine opposition to moral evil, or glorify the justice and holiness of the Deity, either on the guilty themselves, both during the period of forbearance and at its conclusion, or on one substituted in their stead, whose character should render the demonstration as complete as it is possible to conceive ;-Thirdly, in rescuing a vast multitude entirely from the
power of moral evil, even after it had established its dominion over them, freeing them eventually from every vestige of a fallen state, and exalting them to higher honours and felicity than could have been otherwise attained. In these subjects of redemption would be exemplified complete victory over sin and death, and him that hath the power of death, that is the devil. And in all the ways we have mentioned, would the very existence and prevalence of moral evil be rendered subservient to a manifestation of the glories of the Deity, for which obviously no place could have been found in the works of Nature, or any ordinary course of Providence.
Now, what we have supposed as sufficient to constitute a triumph over moral evil, is pressed upon our minds by the whole tenor of Scripture as the actually intended form of divine manifestation in our world. This, we apprehend, will be admitted by every candid inquirer.* The
is revealed to us chiefly in the details of its appropriate plan of execution. But these present the following things, as constituting the peculiar or discriminative form of divine manifestation in our world ; and they are obviously things for which such a purpose alone could provide, but at the same time all-worthy of God, and sufficient to justify both the purpose, and all that has been done, or may yet be done, in the execution of its appropriate plan.
1. A new and most effective illustration of the Moral Attributes of God, by the existence of their opposite, Moral Evil or sin, the contrast with which, at once renders them more definite, under the ideas of holiness, justice, goodness, truth, &c., and places their excellence in a most forcible light before the minds of all the rational beings to whom the illustration either already is, or may yet be made known.
2. An impressive demonstration of the awful Majesty of God, the sanctity of his legislative authority, and the inconceivable respect he has to his own nature and rights, by the
• There has, indeed, been a controversy with regard to two schemes known to theologians by the names of supralapsarianism and sublapsarianism. But if each scheme had been properly stated and temperately considered, the one might have been found to be nowise inconsistent with the other. By opposing the latter to the former, we greatly embarrass the solution of the difficulty regarding the permission of sin, and most disadvantageously limit our view of the divine purpose in other respects. If the author be deemed supralapsarian, in connecting salvation with a triumph over moral evil as the original purpose of the Deity, to which the covenant of works was subordinate, he is at the same time sublapsarian in the proper application of the term, since he regards the covenant of grace, strictly taken, as founded on the presupposed breach of the covenant of works, and therefore posterior in the order of nature or of just conception, though confessedly prior in existence.
various forms in which sin is punished,—whether by inflicting the penalty on a substitute capable of making complete satisfaction, or by sacrificing the temporal and eternal happiness of the offenders themselves, and even subjecting the rest of the creation to vanity and bondage on their account.
3. Satisfactory evidence that rational beings are accountable to God their Creator, though not formed in a state of maturity: For this evidence provision was made in the preparatory constitution, that transaction in which the first pair were assumed as the representatives of their posterity. Both by the fact of such a transaction, and by the consequences of its violation, the responsibility of the human race even in infancy, before their faculties are so unfolded that they can act for themselves, nay, from the first moment of conception, is fully ascertained. The evidence appears in the sufferings and death of infants, in the concern required to be shown about their salvation, in the bearing of the institution of baptism on their fallen condition, and in other indications of their relation to the law, their susceptibility of guilt, and their subjection to punishment.
4. Proof of the tendency of sin to ruin its subjects irretrievably,—the very domination of moral evil, which renders the case hopeless as to all their efforts, being a part of the curse to which they are judicially consigned.
5. Proof of the power of God to devise and execute, what might of course have appeared to be absolutely impracticable, -a release from that domination, and a moral regeneration of the lapsed.
6. Decisive evidence of his Absolute Liberty, in choosing the subjects of this restoration, by fixing on such as he pleased of the human race, and leaving fallen angels to their doom.
7. A display of his benignity and power in establishing a more direct, interesting, and effective mode of communication with his creatures, than the Works of Nature,—by giving a revelation from heaven, and through the medium of this revelation, and the ordinances sanctioned by it, maintaining a supernatural intercourse with them.
8. Additional and most satisfactory evidence, in miracles and prophecy, both of his Being, and of his Supreme control over the laws of nature and the actions of free-agents.
9. A full disclosure of the Trinity of Persons in the One Godhead, by a peculiar and wonderful economy, which clearly ascertains their distinct subsistence, the order of their operation, and the personal properties of each,- for such is the economy of the plan for executing the great Purpose in Redemption. There, without derogating from their permanent equality, the order founded in their high and mysterious relations to one another is followed, and a distinct province is assumed by each, corresponding to the several objects embraced in this department of the Purpose.
10. A singular glorification of these Persons by one another, in consequence of the economical characters assumed, and at the same time a new sphere opened for each, in his own peculiar place, displaying the common perfections of Deity. The Son glorifies the Father in accomplishing the work given him to do. The Father glorifies the Son, in conferring upon him as the Mediator all power in heaven and earth, and in sanctioning all his official administration. The Spirit too is said to glorify the Son by taking of the things that are his, and showing them to men ; while by this, whether it refers to revelation or spiritual illumination, he is himself glorified as that Spirit who " searcheth all things, yea, and the deep things of God.”
11. A peculiar connexion of the Deity with his Works, by the incarnation of one divine Person, and by the mystic inhabitation of another in those who are redeemed,-both of these surpassing any connexion which naturally exists, or is otherwise possible, as far as we can conceive.
12. A varied and most illustrious display of the Divine Perfections in their full compass and harmony, for which neither the works of nature nor the government of innocent beings could furnish a fit opportunity, we may add, not even the government of fallen beings, supposing the existence of sin without a scheme of recovery.
13. A vast sphere for Divine Operation in many and exceedingly diversified forms, for which there had otherwise been no place,—in controlling, for example, the evil passions and corrupt propensities of the fallen,-in upholding the pillars of society, and steadily prosecuting the predetermined course of events, amidst all the disorder, real or apparent, which sin has occasioned,—in superintending and directing to the proper ends a system of things obviously far more complicated than that of nature,—in rendering physical evil, contrary to its original character and natural tendency, subservient to good,—in producing moral restoration,-in gradually effecting a restitution of all things from their present unnatural state occasioned by moral derangement,-in “ creating a new heavens and earth.”
14. A new sphere also, for the demonstration of religious
principle in a variety of ways eminently glorifying to God, which otherwise could have had no place, -as in the faith of the gospel and all that it implies,-in contrition and contending against sin,-in resisting temptations,—in acting a worthy part as members of the church,-in patiently enduring afflictions, &c.
Lastly, such a demonstration of the value of happiness, both by its loss and by the method of its recovery, as evinces the truth and extent of the divine benignity in bestowing it, and cannot fail to augment the gratitude and praise of all who enjoy it,—not of the redeemed only, but of angels too, and it may be of all other good and holy beings throughout the universe.
If such would be the results of the purpose we have stated when contemplated by reason, and if, according to Scripture, all these things really belong to the scheme of divine administration in our world, then we may be assured that the discriminative purpose,
for the execution of which our world was selected as the scene, was a triumph over moral evil in all the forms in which such a triumph can be accomplished, and that this purpose was in every respect worthy of God, as calculated to bring forward a singular manifestation of his glory. Yet it is to the plan absolutely requisite for executing such a purpose, that all the difficulties attach, which superficial thinkers are wont to allege as arguments against the Being or Providence of God.
THE PLAN OF EXECUTION.
This, as unfolded in Scripture, evidently consists of two departments, the one General, the other Special.
I. The General Department, comprises, 1. The permission of the existence and operation of Moral Evil among the creatures susceptible of it ;—first, among those of the highest order, the proof of whose fallibility determines that of all others ;-next, among the human race, by the violation of a peculiar federal constitution, most wisely and benignly accommodated to their state of probation, and at the same time calculated to justify the Deity in subjecting them all to the domination of sin.
2. A System of Forbearance,—to afford full scope for a demonstration of the nature and effects of Moral Evil among
all ghe beings infected with it ;—this system of procedure, to be