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their misconceptions, extricate them from their difficulties, and fortify them effectually for the future against “ those providential causes” which have heretofore proved so fruitful to them of mistake and “unfounded and excessive alarm!”
Who, from the brilliant proofs with which the foregoing specimens of his logic are fraught, of his knowledge of the subject, can distrust his ample competence to this task, or doubt the propriety of thus resigning the subject to his sole disposal ?
THE PERMISSION OF EVIL.
The author of the review, in the Christian Spectator, of Dr. Fisk's sermon, which was made the subject of an article on a former occasion, has reappeared in the late December number of that work, and restated his views respecting the reason of the admission of sin into the divine kingdom, and presented more at large some of the considerations on which he relies for their support, and for the refutation of the theories of his opponents. His competence ably to treat this subject, and accustomed openness and candor, excited high expectations from his renewed discussion of it. Far more capable than his associates of grasping the wide range of principles which the question involves, and tracing them through their various relations, familiarized with it by a long course of study, and a skilful logician, it was naturally felt, that were his system susceptible of being disentangled from perplexity, and placed on open and
satisfactory ground, he would not fail to accomplish it. What then is the result of his renewed effort at its vindication? I shall look at it first in its relations to the representation of it, and objections to its doctrines, which were presented in the article already refered 10; and next to the hypothesis which I have advocated on the subject.
His theory then, as I on that occasion stated it, is, that the entire exclusion of sin from a moral system is impossible to God, and that the reason accordingly of its admission into the present system is, that he is incapable of prevent
“ Can Dr. F.,” he asked,“ prove the reason" of the admission of sin “ to be any other than this, that God could not exclude all sin from the universe, and yet have a moral system?" “ Can he prove that the alternative presented to God in creation was not this—no moral system, or a system in which some of his subjects would abuse the high prerogative of freedom, and rebel ?"-Christian Speclator for December, 1831, p. 607-604.
For the support of this theory, he relied on the twofold assumption, that to permit sin that might be prevented, is inconsistent with benevolence; and that the nature of free agents is such, that it is impossible to prove that God can prevent them from sin, by any influence he can exert on them, “ short of destroying their freedom.” In regard to the first, he said,
“ The argument on which” the Universalist "relies, as the real basis of his faith, is the following: God as infinitely benevolent, must be disposed to prevent sin with all its evils. God as omnipotent can prevent sin in all his moral creatures; God therefore will hereafter prevent all sin, and thus render all his creatures happy forever. The infidel reasons exactly in the same manner, and comes to the same
conclusion." “God either wills that evil should exist, or he does not. If he wills the existence of evil, where is his goodness? If evil exists against bis will, how can he be all powerful? and if God is both good and omnipotent, where is evil?"
Now it is manifest, that these several conclusions of the Universalist, the Infidel, and the Atheist, are all derived from substantially the same premises. If the premises are admitted to be true, the conclusion follows with all the force of absolute demonstration."
“ Here, then, the advocate of truth is bound to show that there is a fallacy in these premises. Where then does the fallacy lie? The premises rest on two attributes of God, his power and his benevolence. As to his power, the argument assumes that God can by his omnipotence exclude sin, and its consequent suffering from a moral system. Those who admit this assumption have, therefore, no plea left for the divine benevolence, except to assert that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good; and that for this reason it is intro. duced into our system, and will always be continued there by a being of infinite benevolence. But can this be proved? Is this supposition consistent with the sincerity of God as a lawgiver, the excellence of his laws, the known nature and tendency of sin, and holiness, and the unqualified declarations of the divine word, that sin is the abominable thing which his soul hateth,' and that he would have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth?"
In respect to the other, his language was,
“ We are thrown back then to consider the other branch of this argunent, viz: the assumption that God, as omnipotent, can prevent all moral evil in a moral system. Is not here the fallacy? We know that a moral system necessarily implies the existence of free agents, with the power to sin in despite of all opposing power. This fact sets human reason at defiance in every attempt to prove that some of these agents will not use that power, and actually sin.There is, at least, a possible contradiction involved in the denial of this; and it is no part of the prerogative of onnipotence to accomplish contradictions." p. 616-617.
Such then is his theory, as it was exhibited in his former discussion, and such are the grounds on which he relied for its support.
To the first of these assumptions I objected, that he overlooked in it the fact, which he admits, that the Most High voluntarily created and upholds the universe, with a full foresight of all the evil which it involves; and that in place, therefore, of furnishing any means of a refutation of the reasonings of atheists, it yields to them the position, from which, by his own concession, their “conclusion follows with all the force of absolute demonstration :” since if, as they claim, and he grants, the permission of sin that might be prevented is absolutely incompatible with benevolence, then, inasmuch as that which exists might have been prevented by not creating the universe, its existence demonstrates that the Most High is not a being of goodness. That assumption, therefore, I argued, must, by his own concession, be given up, and the fact admitted that sin may, on some principle or other, be voluntarily permitted, consistently with the divine goodness; and that the only question to be determined respecting it accordingly is, whether the method of its permission is that which his scheme represents, viz.; by the gift to free agents in the act of creation of a power which God is incapable of controlling; or that which I advocated, by the measures of his providential and moral administration.
To the other position—that the nature of free agents is such that it is impossible to prove that God can prevent them from sinning by any influence he can exert without destroying their freedom, founded on the fact that under every possible preventing influence they must still possess the power to transgress ; I objected that it proceeds on the assumption that they may be determined in their choices by their mere power of volition, independently of a moral influ