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 wel. come the relief which it brings from 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 intelligent 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 came into the world not unforeseen or unprovided for. It caine 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 complete theodicy.

The human factor is created and dependent, and falls into the rank of secondary causes. Ethically, it is either antagonistic to the sovereign faétor, concurrent with it, or partly both. Since the lapse of man, the concnrrency 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.

Bat 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 distingnishing 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 crcator also. He 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.


1870.] The Trial Period in History.

423 dinate to the divine plan, and make a part of it. They are deterınined 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 18. Why was it permitted ? Who was the first tempter? Or did the first sin come withont 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,

which is pre-human. The evil that starts here cannot be detached from that providence which rules everywhere. It makes a dark scene of the unfolding plan. It projects itself into the human course almost at the starting-point, and runs its tragic race through all the generations of mankind.

We cannot, with some, resolve this evil into only " the shady side of good," or a “vanishing negative,” the mere "dust of progress.” It is an appalling positive, and thus far, it is the dominant phase of history. The problem of suffering is easily solved by the presence of sin. But whence and why came this sin? From the moral freedom of the creature and that infinite permissive wisdom and benevolence which the true idea of theism involves, a wisdom and benevolence which the works of creation everywhere proclaim, and of which the written revelation is still more full and expressive.

The influence of the evil angels or spirits upon the destiny of man is most evident and positive. It has changed the whole course of history. To accomplish his purposes, the prince of these powers of the air darkens the understanding, perverts the judgment, debases the will, and sows the seeds of discontent and strife. He is not mortal, like men, nor eternal, like God: possessing superhuman power, he is not omnipotent; moving with spirit-speed, he is not omniscient. His power is limited by a threefold barrier; the fiviteness of his own nature, the connection of cause and effect, and God's perfect control. Beyond any one of these he cannot take a single step.

Twesten portrays with a graphic pen, the characteristics of this peculiar personage:

"He possesses an' understanding which misapprehends exactly that which is most worthy to be known, without which nothing can be understood in its true relations; a mind darkened, however deep it may penetrate, and however wide it may reach. Torn away from the centre of life, and never finding it in himself, he is necessarily unblessed. Continually driven to the exterior world, from a sense of inward emptiness, yet with it, as with himself, in eternal contradiction; forever fleeing from God, yet never able to escape him; constantly laboring to frustrate his designs, yet always conscious of being obliged, in the end, to promote them. Instead of hope, a perpetual wavering between doubt and despair; instead of love, a powerless hatred against God, against his fellow. beings, and against himself."

Here are the three great factors of the providential course -God, man, and the angels-with their characteristics and relations. One is purely wise and good ; another is a mixture of good and evil; and a portion of the third is purely evil. The divine is always the dominant; the satanic ever the resistant. The human is partly with the one and partly with the other, with a providential movement, slow but sure, back from the starting point of evil, through the coming conqueror, toward the triumph of the true, the beautiful, and the good.

Art. VI.-The General Assembly.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, convened in the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, on Thursday, May 19th, at 11 A. M.

Being the first General Assembly of the re-united church its proceedings were regarded with extraordinary interest, not only on account of the magnitude, the new composition, and circumstances of the body, but on account of the many grave and delicate questions of readjustment and reconstruction to be decided by it.

According to the plan of re-union, as adopted, both Moderators of the bodies now united presided jointly, until the election of a new Moderator was effected the Rev. Dr. Fowler preaching the sermon, and the Rev. Dr. Jacobus performing all other duties of the office. Dr. Fowler preached froin Eph. iv. 4: “ There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling."

Among the many pertinent suggestions of this discourse, in regard to the best means of promoting the unity, purity, growth, and efficiency of the united church, we note one, which we trust will not be forgotten. He said :

The great doctrines of grace are committed to our stewardship. It devolves on us to keep and dispense them. Our Baptist brethren, who profess them, are occupied with the mode and subjects of baptism, and our Congregational brethren

« ElőzőTovább »