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the exercise of moral freedom must be excluded, and this will make the manifestation of God's justice impossible. A little reasoning will clear up this point. We must either suppose God will make a secret of his justice, will make men happy or miserable, without letting those very men, or others, know why he does so; or else we must believe, he will give them leave so to act, as may convince themselves, and all who know them, that the Judge of all the earth hath done right, and dealt justly by them, in making them happy or miserable. God, as I have already hinted, needs not to be informed by any trials we can undergo, what sort of men we are, or should be, on such trials; but he tries us himself, and suffers us to be tempted by our enemy, that we may know ourselves, and be either conscious of the virtue, for which we are made happy, or self-convicted of the vice for which we are condemned; and that all who know us, may magnify the justice of God by seconding the sentence, be it to life or death, which he shall pronounce upon us.
As, without temptation, there can be no exercise of virtue, so neither can there be any manifestation of it; for how can any one guess what sort of a man he would be, if he were never tried? And how can he be tried, if he is never tempted? And if, without a trial, he cannot so much as guess, whether he would be constant, or fickle; virtuous, or vicious; how is it possible for others to be, in any degree, either witnesses or judges of his virtue ? Now, if neither he, nor they, can at all judge, whether he is a good, or a bad man, surely it follows, that they can by no means glorify the justice of God, either for his acquittal or condemnation. If this were the universal practice of God towards angels and men, it could never be known whether God is just or not; and, consequently, virtue could never be honoured, nor vice disgraced, in the sight of either. How far this would tend to diminish the glory of God, and render ineffectual the sanctions of his law, let every rational creature judge. Thus it is plain, that the manifestation of God's justice, on which his honour, and the government of the universe depend, depends itself on the permission of temptation. St. Chrysostom, in his oration concerning Providence, speaks very beautifully, and very sensibly on this subject. He puts the usual foolish objection; “ If God governs the world with power, why did he not, immediately upon the tempter's deceiving our first parents, reduce him to nothing ?' And he answers ; In not destroying the devil, God hath acted agreeably to right reason; for he only persuades, and leaves it in our power to disobey. Why would you,' says he to the objector, rob us of the crown proposed to virtue? or deprive God of the glory redounding from our victory? And if many, through the permission of temptation, shall fall into sin, and be punished, is it not their own fault? And would it not be hard to take away from the good all opportunity of exercising their virtue, to save those, who do not suffer so much by the temptations of the devil, as by their own idleness and perverseness? Let us suppose,' continues he, that there is one adversary, with whom two champions are to contend ; and that of these two, one is a debauched, effeminate, cowardly, wretch; but the other, a man of true bravery, and great prowess. If now you take away the adversary from them both, which of the two do you injure? Is it the base coward, or the resolute champion? No doubt, it is the champion; for, as to the coward, you save the wretch the shame of a present defeat; which will, in the end, be no considerable advantage to him; for
you only give him time to plunge himself without the help of an adversary, into infamy and slavery, by means of his cowardice; which he will certainly do, and consequently, will be no great gainer by escaping the present encounter. But then, as to the true champion, you take from him all the opportunity of signalizing his virtue, and rob him of the glorious crown he might have won.'
Lastly, If there is no temptation, there can neither be any transgression, nor any repentance, and, of course, no demonstration of God's mercy. It would be unjust in God to make men sin, that he might shew his mercy in forgiving. But he willeth neither the death nor guilt of a sinner; he only sets good and evil before us; and if we are so stupidly perverse as to choose the evil, rather than the good, we are not to blame him for what may follow. Much less are we to think he acts unaccountably, if he takes from hence a gracious occasion to call us to repentance, and, upon our sincerely repenting, manifests his infinite goodness, and compassion, in forgiving all that is past. Shall not God be permitted to shew he is merciful, because we are capable of abusing that freedom of will he hath bestowed on us, as the chief excellence of our nature? Or shall we think ourselves hardly dealt with, if, after voluntarily obeying the temptations of the devil, rather than the commandments of God, his infinite goodness, in order to reclaim and save us, should require a total reformation of our manners; Besides, if, in pity to our natural weakness and corruption, he helps us by his grace to make this reformation, have we not infinite reason to bless and magnify his mercy, that does every thing, consistent with our liberty, to snatch us from that destruction, which our own blindness and wickedness are labouring to bring upon us? If a man should drop his purse, as by accident, in the way of his servant, in order to try his honesty, should we charge him with injustice for so doing? And if, having found the servant insnared by his own dishonesty in this experiment, his master should labour to reclaim him; and, on finding signs of amendment, should forgive him ; should we say he was accessary to the sin of his servant? Or rather should we not applaud him, as a most indulgent and compassionate master? But if, by these means, the servant should be actually reclaimed, will it not be happy for him, that he was tempted? Was he not dishonest before he found the purse? If he was, surely his master, who could have wished to find him faithful, and by no means tried him in order to make him otherwise, did not make him a whit worse than he found him. Perhaps, if this temptation had not been thrown in his way, his villany had not been discovered, and consequently not reformed. If this reasoning is sufficient to justify such a master, why shall it not be admitted as a full justification, in the like case, of Providence?
It is a gross absurdity to suppose, God could make any being both morally free, and infallible, because nothing can be absolutely infallible, that is not absolutely perfect; and nothing can be absolutely perfect, but God himself. And to what end should any creature be made morally free, if his virtue were never to be tried ? If the devil were destroyed, and all God's moral creatures raised to the utmost perfection of their respective natures, this would not prevent the possibility of sin ; for there was a time when this was actually the case; and yet sin, by means of freedom, and of temptations in paradise, nay, even in heaven, found footing in man, though pure and good, and holding a life of peace and joy, on the condition of his obedience; and even in the angels, though created sinless and holy, and possessed, as such, of unutterable glory and happiness.
That thus it is with all the rational and free part of the creation, we have sufficient reason for believing from what we know and feel of ourselves; and, without any farther arguing, we must conclude, if we have not lost the use of our reason, that it is best so, because it is so, let what will come of the wicked. But vain and wretched man must be cavilling, and finding fault, even with the work of God. He asks, Why hath God left imperfection, and a possibility of sin, in the moral world? What a pity it is, that this man of wisdom had not the making of himself, and the world he is to live in! As to the world, he would probably have given it one even uniform surface; or, if he had thought mountains necessary, he would have cut them all out into mathematical figures; he would have taught the rivers to run every where in right lines; he would have made the winds as stationary as the tides, and turned the very thunders into solemn music. Having thus prepared his world, he would have peopled it with beings, rational perhaps, but not morally free; or free, without a possibility of sinning; or rewardable, but not punishable; or forced to be virtuous, forced to choose good, rather than evil; that is, in a word, he would have peopled it with a living system of contradictions.
How infinitely more convenient, more beautiful, and more magnificent, is the natural world, as God hath made it, than it would have been, had every the smallest part been mathematically shaped, and so perfectly polished off, that the eye of a mite could have discovered no irregularity in it! And how infinitely more glorious is the world of created spirits, for being rational and free, and by those means, admitting a trial, than it could have been, had no one had it in his power to be good and virtuous, which must have been the case, had no one had it in his power to be wicked and vicious!
It may be objected here, that, if this reasoning is right, we shall not be incapable of sin even in heaven, nor, consequently, of falling from thence into the place of punishment, though we are promised eternal happiness in the life to
On what authority, either of reason or Scripture, the vulgar notion of our future infallibility hath been founded, I know not. But certainly, if we consult either the one or the other, we shall conclude, that, even in heaven, we shall still be but creatures, that is, morally free and fallible beings, for whom it may be possible to fall. The Scriptures tell us,
we shall be like the angels in heaven,' who, that they were morally free, and capable of sin, is also plain from Scripture, because we are there assured, that many of them kept not their first estate, but did fall into sin, for which, they are reserved in chains of darkness, for the judgment of the last day.' Now, that after this judgment, either the good angels, or the souls of just men made perfect, shall be transformed into absolutely infallible beings, we are no where told in Scripture. Indeed the joys of heaven, which we may for ever possess, if we please, and the torments of hell, which we then shall have escaped, shall give us all the security free and moral creatures are capable of, that we shall never fall. We shall be as wise, as pure, as holy, as creatures can be. and herein will consist our security, that creatures so wise, pure, and holy, will never choose to exchange a condition of so much glory and happiness for one of endless disgrace and misery.
But why should I have taken such a compass to justify Providence in regard to temptations ? Are not all those things, wherewith we are tempted, made good in themselves, often necess
essary to us, by their Creator? Were they never used otherwise, than as he, who made them, intended, instead of tempting us to sin, they would only serve as so many incentives to gratitude, and all the other virtues. What then is it that changes them into snares, and provocatives to vice? If the caviller, with whom we are disputing, will look impartially into himself, he shall there find those corrupt affections, those ill-governed passions, that pervert the whole creation, and turn the very works of God, gracious as he was in making them, and useful as they are both in his intention, and their own nature, into allurements and temptations. Nay, he shall find, that their most amiable or ex