« ElőzőTovább »
first sad seed sowing. In the fratricidal son re-appears, and in bolder characters, the same scene of crimination, falsehood, and impugning of God's justice. How complete the separation of man from his fellow, in this separation from God, his Maker.
But in this trial period, another character appears, whose influence also sweeps through the whole historic course. In the curse pronounced upon the serpent-tempter, God says to him,—“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
In this pre-announced hostility of these two parties, is given the cause and the programme of the conflicts of the ages. The introduction of a new representative personage—the seed of the woman, makes more clear and certain the personality of the serpent-tempter, who is confronted by him.
But who is this seed of the woman, thus introduced as the moral and historical opponent of the great tempter and deceiver ?
Recall here the primal condition of man, in perfect harmony with himself and his Maker, as the key to the temptation and the fall. Then this degeneracy places itself in our hand as a clew to the regeneracy which follows. Notice also, that both these personages—the seed of the woman and the serpenttempter—are presented under the law of pedigree. The lineage of the tempter is ethical only, an affinity of evil. Those are his children who do his works. The genealogy of the seed of the woman is both physical and moral. It commences with her who fell from her primeval loyalty and drew her husband along with her. It introduces the idea of a suffering, but finally conquering Messiah, an idea, which, like a thread of light, prophecy and history make more and more visible as . the plan of Providence unfolds.
Here, then, among these trees of Paradise, opens the great drama of providence and history. The chief dramatis persone, as now introduced, are the seed of the woman and the serpenttempter. Two competing kingdoms take their rise here. Two antagonistic forces,-truth and error, freedom and oppression, order and anarchy, meet here, of which these per
sonages are the respective leaders. Thus through the revolv. ing ages, these two rival powers have been struggling for the mastery.
Now one seems to bear down every thing of truth and good. Then it is checked, and the other makes advances. To a spectator of this first deflection, coming so near the starting point, it might seem that all was lost. But a little star glimmers in the darkness,-a foretold seed of the woman, whose recuperative puwer is so far felt in the family of the first offenders, that religious worship is restored. One son, at least, and probably the parents, turn back to faith in God and loyalty to his government. The lost life of love is thus made to reflow in the veins of humanity and to vitalize again the course of history.
But what has Providence to do in this dramatic action! where is the sovereignty? where the plan ? And to what do these dark beginnings tend? It will help us in seeking an answer to these questions, to glance at the factors which have now been brought into the historic arena. These are God, man, and the devil, or evil angels.
The construction of history will be theistic or pantheistic, colorless or Christian, according to the view taken of these three agents. On theistic principles, they are perfectly distinct, yet all act in the harmony of a divine plan, and according to the idea of a problem and progress in history.
The atheistic view entirely excludes the Supreme, and shuts out the possibility of a plan and rational history.
The pantheistic resolution of these factors into an eternally expanding and contracting substance, confuses every thing, and makes progress, except in a mere treadmill-movement, impossible. The effect and the cause are one. Being and non-being, something and nothing, are identical. Listen to one of these wise men out of the east.
“Mathematics,” says Oken, “is based on nothing. The eternal is the nothing of nature. Animals are men who never imagine, and men are the whole of mathematics. Theology is arithmetic personified. God is a rotary globe and there is no other form for him. The liver is the soul in a state of sleep; the brain is the soul active and awake. Circumspec
tion and forethought appear to be the thoughts of bivalve mollusca and snails. Gazing upon a snail, one believes that he finds the prophesying goddess sitting upon a tripod ; what majesty is in a creeping snail ! what reflection ! what earnestness! what timidity and yet what confidence!
Such is the acme of the pantheistic philosophy, the sublimation of rarefied modern theologic science. It has its starting point in the infinite as the nothing of nature, and its goal in the anthropologic wisdom and majesty of a snail.
How simple and intelligible in comparison with this confusion, is the course of providence in history. And how welcome the relief which it brings froin the inanities and platitudes of these heathenish speculations !
Of the three factors which appear in history, God as the divine, is supreme, the cause of all other causes and of all things. His agency is a perfect unit, and its characteristics, wisdom, justice, and love. He acts in and through his intelli
, gent creatures, and yet they act with as much freedom as if they were the sole agents. All things transpire according to his providential plan, and also in harmony with the creature's liberty and accountability.
Moral evil caine into the world not unforeseen or unprovided for. It came neither by God's direct agency, nor because he had not power to prevent it if wisdom and benevolence had dictated. Every possible plan was open before the sovereign ruler,—that in which good is universal, that, in which evil is universal, and that in which they mingle. He chose the last, and this is the actual course of history. We may not be able to see all the reasons for such a choice. But that does not invalidate the wisdom of it, or the benevolence of the plan. The evil comes in against prohibition and against right, else it would not be evil. It comes in by providential toleration, else it would not come at all.
If God could not have kept sin out of history, and if its absence were necessary to the best administration, he is not infinite, not adequate to the best system of moral government. But since its existence is a palpable fact, and it is one of the great forces, and the problem of history turns so much on its treatment, its permission points to some object that will in the end vindicate the providential course as wise, and make history a coinplete theodicy.
The human factor is created and dependent, and falls into the rank of secondary causes. Ethically, it is either antagonistic to the sovereign factor, concurrent with it, or partly both. Since the lapse of man, the concurrency with the divine is the result of a recuperative providence, through the seed of the woman.
Only so far as the human will is brought into agreement with the divine, can the two agencies have a free and harmonious movement. And as this agreement is not absolute in the life of the best, while on earth, the human factor is here partly concurrent, and partly discordant—the discords in the history of good men vanishing more and more until they finally disappear in a complete and eternal harmony. Hence, the phenomenon of imperfection, of degrees in moral excellence, the triumph of good over evil in some, and that of evil over good in others.
Underneath all the forms of human agency, as opposed to fate, lies man's freedom. Of fatalism history knows nothing, for fate and providence are moral contradictions.
But what is freedom? Hegel defines it pantheistically, as self-sustained existence. It is its own object of attainment, its own law of development, and is under an absolute necessity of unfoldment. Hence, only the infinite and absolute is free. But since all is God, by this philosophy, all, in some stage, are free.
Historical, responsible freedom consists in the completeness of personality--the power of choosing and of refusing, as radical forms of moral conduct. This will-power is the indispensable condition of moral agency, the distinguishing feature of personality. The exercise of it constitutes the entire human part in history. All personal action must be free in order to be personal. This freedom is a primal part of God's image in man.
Hence, though man is a creature, he is, in a limited sense, a creator also. Ile originates his own thoughts, makes his own history, his character, and, to a certain extent, his destiny. Yet these human creations and this human history are subor.
dinate to the divine plan, and make a part of it. They are deterinined by providence, yet are perfectly free, and free because made to be so. To this freedom, which some call an illusion, consciousness bears the fullest testimony.
But there are some limiting impossibilities connected with this freedom of the human factor. It cannot detach itself from dependence on the Supreme Factor. It cannot withdraw itself from providential control, or subservience to the solving problems of history. It is limited by the finiteness of the human faculties. It can side with the good or the evil, but not with both at the same time. Nor can it stand neutral. The first deflectors from the primeval rectitude were free in their transgressions, and were moved to it by natural causes and influences. But when they had taken the step, and turned the historic course downward, a supernatural agency became necessary to turn it back again. Degeneracies come by the influence of natural laws and forces. But regeneracies spring from a power that is supernatural, that touches the will with a divine magnetism, that draws it back again to truth and good, in the fulness of its force and freedom.
Of the angels, the third class of factors, a part are loyal and a part disloyal. In respect to their origin, we have little or no definite information. But our knowledge of their existence is very clear, from what we know of their agency.
These angels had a beginning anterior to the creation of man; but how far anterior, we have no means of determining. Of those fallen from primitive holiness, one-the archtraitor, by guile and falsehood, drew the progenitors of the human race from a regular development to a schismatic and degenerate one.
It is in connection with these apostate spirits that the problem of moral evil first meets us. Why was it permitted ? Who was the first tempter? Or did the first sin come without temptation? What motive to evil could prevail over the tendency to good, where all was good ? How could wills, erect in truth and right, and with the strength of original constitution, bend downward to error and wrong?
These are metaphysical, rather than historical questions. Yet the providence which is in all human history, is also in this,