« ElőzőTovább »
which utility man alone is to be the judge, are substituted in room of the clear, determinate, and unalterable law of God. I shall now shortly attempt to prove, that the principle of expediency, as furnishing the rule of moral conduct to man, is utterly false and untenable,- from a consideration of the moral perfections and government of God,—from the moral constitution of man,- from the numerous evils of which its adoption would necessarily be productive,-from its opposition to divine revelation :-and from the incapability of man to discern all the consequences of his actions.
THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPEDIENCY PROVED TO BE FALSE AND UNTENABLE, FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE MORAL CHARACTER AND GOVERNMENT OF GOD,
That in creating the world, and in conducting his government in regard to it, the object of the Deity is the good or happiness of the universe, is a position in which all, according to this general statement of it, will readily acquiesce. It is highly probable, however, from the deductions of reason, and it is fully established by Scripture, that in connexion with this object he had in view his own glory, or the illustrious manifestation of the fulness of the divine nature. Not only is it affirmed in the sacred writings, that this is the ultimate end for which the world was created, but it is declared that all the dispensations by which he conducts his government in regard to it, are made
subservient to this. The great event to which our attention is there so constantly directed, the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ, is intended, as we are repeatedly told, for the furtherance of this object. “ God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In promoting the good of that universe to which he has given being, and over which he reigns, he promotes it in connexion with the manifestation of the moral excellencies of his nature. These consist, not merely of benevolence, but of the purest rectitude; and we are taught, by revelation, and by the established order of providence, that neither of these perfections can be exercised in a way which would compromise the honour of the other. While we are assured that his tender mercies are over all his works; we are informed by the same divine authority, that “ the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." His object, therefore, cannot be the happiness of the creatures that he has formed in his own image, apart from their moral improvement. He designs their happiness, but it is in connexion with their moral excellency, and the glories of his righteousness as well as of his goodness.
We cannot, indeed, conceive, that a being of infinite purity and rectitude, who is the supreme Ruler of his accountable creatures, as well as their Creator, would make their happiness, in whatever way they might
choose to enjoy it, the object of his care, without regard to the justice and judgment by which his government is conducted. As the Judge of all he must do right, though his doing so involves in it the punishment, and consequently the misery of transgressors. We approve his procedure in such a case as in itself right, without at all thinking of the useful consequences that may result from it. “We have an immediate approbation of making the virtuous happy, and discouraging the vicious, abstracted from all consequences. Were there but two beings in the universe, one of whom was virtuous, the other vicious; or, were we to conceive two such beings, in other respects alike, governed apart from the rest of the world, and removed for ever from the notice of all other creatures; we should still approve of a different treatment of them: that the good being should be less happy, or a greater sufferer, than his evil fellow-being, would appear to us wrong *.”
While the Deity seeks the happiness of the universe, it is in subordination to the manifestation of the moral glories of his nature, and in connexion with the improvement of his creatures in virtue. The exercise of his justice, not less than of his goodness, is implied in his government of intelligent and accountable creatures. He could neither be a being of infinite perfection, nor a righteous moral governor, unless, possessing boundless rectitude, he shewed it in his treatment of his subjects; but mankind, under the conviction that he is a perfect being, and a righteous governor and judge, confidently rely on the equity, as well as on the benevolence, of his procedure, and when suffer
* Price's Review, &c. p. 27.
ing from the injustice and oppression of their fellows, look for an ample adjustment at the tribunal of the eternal Judge.
He wills and wishes the happiness of his creatures, doubtless, but it is in accordance with the glorious ends to which I have alluded. All that we know of his moral government in this world confirms the truth of this position. There are evils innumerable connected with the present state, which man cannot by any efforts escape, and which the God of infinite goodness allows to impair the happiness of his creatures. V. are it true that he wills and wishes the happiness of mankind apart from all other ends, who will affirm that his will and his wishes are accomplished here; “ Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” The inlets to sorrow are almost as numerous as the sources of enjoyment. Is it maintained, that the ultimate design of the Deity in these evils is the happiness of his creatures ? Be it so: two things are clear from the fact that their moral improvement is aimed at, and is, in a great measure, to constitute their happiness,—and that though we admit that utility be the rule by which the Deity conducts his government, it is a rule which is utterly unsuited to man. How can he, with his limited faculties, and with his comparative ignorance of the nature and qualities of beings, and the tendency of actions, be capable of making expediency the law of his conduct? It is only for Him who sees the end from the beginning, to know all the consequences of a'single action, and to determine the way in which the good of that universe which he has formed shall be secured.