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view which is taken of the most interesting doctrines, it is of great importance to establish precise and just conceptions respecting it.'
It seems to us that the way to establish precise and just • conceptions respecting' any subject, is not to confound things that differ, but to keep them distinct. Now, if we are to believe that those attributes which are, as Dr. Smith expresses it, ‘not
opposite and opposing,' are therefore not truly distinguishable,as, for instance, that goodness and justice are in reality the same thing,- we imagine ourselves to have much less precise conceptions upon the subject, than we had before. Is there no other way, we may ask, of exbibiting the manner in which his several attributes harmonize in the conduct of God, than that of con. founding our conceptions, by taking away all distinctions from among ideas that are distinctly intelligible? But let us hear the definition which the Author proposes, with a view to give his readers precise conceptions on the subject.'
Justice in God,' he asserts, • is the treatment of every person in the manner which is best suited to his moral state.'
Surely this is childish. Such a definition would apply with nearly equal precision to any other of the moral attributes of Deity; and after all, it either assumes every thing, or it means nothing in the argument. What are we to understand by the phrase "best suited'? If it means best suited to the end of making the individual ultimately virtuous, then it assumes the very point in dispute; and it moreover declares, that the creature may claim virtue on the ground of justice: to petition for it, therefore, as grace, would be hypocritical. But if it means 'best
suited’ to the ultimate object of the Divine government, then it passes quite wide of the argument: it may be granted, although it be true, that the wicked will be left to their abused liberty.
We are accustomed to think of Justice, simply, as the rendering to every one of his due; of Goodness, as the bestowment of that wbich cannot be claimed or demanded; of Mercy, as the remission of punishment, due to sin ; and of the barmony of these attributes in the Divine conduct towards sinners, as consisting in the provision made by Sovereign Goodness, for the honour of Justice, in the exercise of Mercy. We hear much from certain quarters, of what God owes to His creatures, but nothing of what He owes to Himself, In truth, the Rational Theology, as it is termed, amounts, both in feeling and in fact, to the impious supposition, that the Supreme Being is the Trustee of the Universe, responsible to His creatures for the faithful discharge of His office, and the eventual good conduct of their concerns.
The following passage contains too gross a misuse of unquestioned fact, to be passed over unnoticed. Addressing himself to the supposed opponent of his views, Dr. Smith says,
• How can you be happy? How can you be happy even for yourself? How great are the chances that you are not in the number of the elect! How many thousands are passed by! How few are chosen! How much more probable is it that you are among the thousands than among the few! Why do you believe that you are the favourite of Heaven ? What mark is engraven on your forehead; what sensations are peculiar to your heart ; what is there in your dispositions or your conduct by which you have ascertained the important fact? You think you are one of the elect. It may be so, But it may not be so. When the chances are so much against you, you cannot be certain of any thing. It is then uncertain whether you are destined to the enjoyment of unutterable and everlasting pleasure, or to the endurance of endless and inconceivable torments. You flatter yourself that the happy portion will be yours. But men easily flatter themselves. What if you should be buoying yourself up with a delusive expectation! When such happiness is at stake, when such misery impends, and when both are shrouded in such awful uncertainty, how can you enjoy a moment's peace ?'
We beg to introduce here a short extract from a work to which Dr. Smith refers in terms of the highest encomium. « The wicked, without doubt,' remarks Dr. John Prior Estlin, ' constitute by far the greater part of the human race. This • truth, which although it is reconcileable to infinite benevolence, 6 yet to a heart which is susceptible of the finest human affections,
is, after all, a most painful consideration, cannot be evaded. • The voice of infallibility bath spoken it; the elevated standard of Christian morality, compared with the general moral state
of mankind, confirms it; every analogy of nature points out to 'it : “ Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and • broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be ' dispositions or your conduct by which you have ascertained the
that go in thereat, because strait is the gate, and narrow is
the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Does Dr. Smith assent to this statement, or is he a Christian only while he can stand in the sun-shine of revelation, and a Deist, when clouds and darkness are round about it: We will presume that he does believe that the many are lost, that the few are saved ; that many are called, but few chosen. Now then, we will suppose some one, triumphing in the unclouded brightness of Deism, who should upbraid the Author of these Illustrations, with his gloomy and horrible persuasion. “How' may such a one say, 'can you be happy? How can you be . happy even for yourself? How great are the chances that
you are not in the number of the saved! How many thousands are passed by! How few are chosen! How much ' more probable is it that you are among the thousands, than among the few! Why do you believe that you are the favou
rite of heaven? What mark is engraven on your forehead; o what sensations are peculiar to your heart ; what is there in your
inportant fact? You think you are one of the saved. It 'may be so. But it may not be so. When the chances are sor nuch against you, you cannot be certain of any tbing. It is then uncertain whether you are destined to the enjoyident of unutterable and everlasting pleasure, or to the endurance of very protracted and intolerable torments. You flatter
yourself that the happy portion will be yours. But men easily 'fatter themselves. What if you should be buoying yourself
up with a delusive expectation. When such bappiness is at 'stake, wben suci misery impends, and wheu both are shrouded
in such awful uncertainty, how can you enjoy a moment's * peace? To so pointed a remonstrance, what would Dr. Smith reply? We may suppose him to speak thus, and we think the caviller would be well answered. "Firinly persuaded as I am • of the truth of Christianity, however painful may be the thought,
and to whatever o.lium or ridicule the confession inay expose 'me, I do confess to believe that a future state will increase • the misery of by far the greater part of the human race,
for a very protracted period. I acknowledge too, that this • conviction is incon patible with the thoughtless and brutish • mirth of the Epicurean; and with the peace, or rather the in
sensibility, which results from a stupid and wilful scepticism. • So far, therefore, you have an apparent advantage over me, ' and so far I must consent to lie under your pity, and to endure the • obnoxiousness of my belief. But, if the fact be so, it would • not be remedied-it would be aggravated -- by my incredulity. With respect, therefore, to my fellow-men, I seek to derive my peace of mind, not in blinding myself to their sad condition, but in the benevolent attempt, so far as I have opportunity, to • induce a happy change in that condition. As to myself, I perceive that the volume which constrains me to hold the
opinion you upbraid me with, commands the righteous to ' rejoice-to rejoice alrays, in the recollection and expectation of their personul felicity. From which I infer that there must be something intrinsical and satisfactory, whereon
this special and personal confidence may be reasonably 'founded. And therefore, although, if I am virtuous, that « virtue is so the gift of Ilim from whom all good things de'scend, that I may said to be chosen to, as well as fitted for sal'vation-I say although this is the case, you are guilty of a gross
misrepresentation, in stating it as if the hope of personal sal(vation could rise no higher than may be justified by a mathe• matical calculation of the chances against my being in the
nunzber of the happy few. If I am of this number, I may • boldly say, there are sensations peculiar to my heart : for
instance ; I love the Creator more than the creature; and I
would unhesitatingly choose rather to suffer affliction in the s paths of obedience, than accept the pleasures of sin for a
season. There is too, in my disposition and in my conduct, that by which I may ascer tain the important fact. Espe
cially I am disposed thankfully and humbly to accept the terms • of that mercy which, as an offender, I need ; and in some • ineasure, I evince the sincerity of this clisposition in my out' ward conduct. So far, therefore, as this is tie case, it is not 'true, as you affirm, that the hope of future happiness is 6 shrouded in an awful uncertainty.'
We are aware, that to some of our readers, assumptions and pretended reasonings such as the above, may seem barely entitled to serious remark. But they must reinember, that assumptions not at all better founded, and reasonings not at all more profound, avail with a large class of well educated, halfthinking persons, to tranquillize their minds under an habitual and systematic contempt of scriptural evidence, in instances wbere language has done all that language cap do, to convey the intention of him who employs it. ii nothing more be done, it is a great point gained, to intimidate the nonchalunce of demonstration. This is especially the case, when the attributes and the conduct of the Supreme Being-what He must do, and what He will do-are brought in question. We are in the road towards Truth, the moment we enter upon the overwhelming apprehension of our yet undetermined relation to the Infinite. The glimpse of a moinent-a confused suspicion which the mind is unable either to retain or to recal, may work for us the first movements of an auspicious modesty. So happy a scepticism may value as much to us in its moral influence, as the cloudless comprehension of the first created mind. Under its guidance, we thankfully set ourselves to gatller up froin what He has Hiinself revealed of His character, so much knowledge of the One, tbe Infinite, the Perfect Being, as is compatible with the present intancy of our understandings. Subsequent reasonings and demonstrations, it scrutinized, will prove to be nothing more than the atteinpt, by the aid of arbitrary signs, to subject the precious indestructible fraginents we have collected, to some artificial arrangement. .
It is true, there may be views of the nature of Evil, and of its relation to the Divine agency, wbich we migbt avow to be satisfactory to ourselves as individuals ; but we would introduce no principles which, whetber justly or not, might be called hypothetical. A just apprehension of this subject needs not include a single abstruse or doubtful discussion. Were we called to give advice to one whose fond confidence in this doctrine of Universal Restoration, appeared to be shaken, we should suggest an inquiry of the following kind: What is the fundamental Vol. X. N. S.
truth supposed or implied in the very rudiments of our moral constitution, in the involuntary dictates of conscience, in the aspect and general purport of revealed religion? Is it not this, that the Governor of the world, and the Judge of men, is not implicated in evil, nor on any ground obliged to effect its extermination? It has been argued,* that Man is treated as though he were free, and therefore, he is free. May we not in like manner say, God treats and deals with offenders, as though He were strictly unimplicated in the offence, and as though He were absolutely free froin obligation to remove it, and therefore, such is in truth the case. And thus, wbile the first principles of the moral system, the voice of unsophisticated conscience, and the language of revelation, all appear to imply that Evil is essentially Evil, -that it is strictly independent of the Divine causation, and is related to the agency of the Supreme Being, solely in the way of beneficent and limited counteraction, and that this limited counteraction is perfectly free, and while on the ground of the Divine veracity, we are justified in inferring the truth of these principles, from their implication in the moral system; we may affirm it to be a groundless assumption, on which rests this specious demonstration, that the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, ensure the issue of Evil, in the highest well-being of its subject.
It may be asked whether God, the Judge and the Saviour of men, presents himself to his creatures, as the subjects of sin and misery, under an aspect essentially different from that in which a good man, a benefactor appears, when be enters an hospital, or a prison ? It seems, indeed, indispensable to the existence of those mutual sentiments which are supposed to connect the wretched and the guilty with their benefactor, that there should be no room for the suspicion of the latter being in the remotest way so implicated in the calamity of the former, as
that they may imagine him to be bound, to the utmost extent of · his power, to repair the injury they have sustained.
If such a conviction of ill-deserving, as can be in no danger of approximating to the mere consciousness of misfortune, be indispensable to a right temper of mind, then is it necessary that we believe in the essential difference between good and evil, and the independent origination of the latter. If an unmixed and an unfeigned gratitude be requisite to our religious wellbeing, then must we acknowledge a wholly gratuitous interposition, as the source of personal salvation. And if these sentiments be essential ingredients in the virtue of offending creatures, then we have a solid ground, far more satisfactory than could be afforded by any pretended demonstration à priori,
* See Butler's Analogy.