« ElőzőTovább »
to a principle of action inherent in his nature, would seem to involve the subject in deeper difficulty, because, if the only principles of moral action in Adam were holy, the question returns; How could a holy principle be the cause of a sinful action? Dr. Dwight is of opinion, however, that a fallacy lies concealed under the vague and equivocal word, principle. He admits that there is a cause of moral action in intelligent beings, frequently indicated by the words principle, affections, habits, nature, tendency, propensity, and several others;' terms indicating a cause, the existence of which is proved by its effects, but the real nature of which is to us wholly unknown. They intend no more than this; that a reason really exists, although undefinable and unintelligible by ourselves, why one mind will, either usually or uniformly, be the subject of holy volitions, and another, of sinful ones.' The existence of such a cause must be admitted, unless we acknowledge it to be a perfect casualty that any volition is sinful rather than holy. But there is no such thing as a casualty in this sense; that is, an effect uncaused. This unknown cause is what the Scriptures denominate the heart. It is the state of mind out of which volitions arise, and from which they receive their character; a state of mind neither unchangeable, nor so powerful as to necessitate that the volitions should uniformly correspond to it, so as absolutely to prevent either from sinning, where the mind is inclined to holiness, or from acting in a holy manner, where it is inclined to sin. To explain the effect in question, therefore, it is necessary only to suppose that a temptation actually presented to the mind, is disproportioned in its power to the inclination of that mind towards resistance.'
6 There is no proof, from the nature of things, that finite strength and stability are sufficient to resist all possible motives to sin. From facts, we are irresistibly led to admit the contrary doctrine. Angels, though entirely holy, yielded to such motives, as did our first Parents also, who possessed the same virtuous character. These facts furnish a strong presumption, at least, that it is not within the limits of created perfection, to resist temptation in all possible cases; and that the final perseverance of saints and angels, both in a state of trial and in a state of reward, is derived ultimately from the Almighty Power of God.'
We are desirous to exhibit Dr. Dwight's sentiments, rather than to express on these points any opinion of our own. Some of our readers may be surprised that he makes no reference to the negative principle in created beings, on which theologians have generally laid so much stress. His object is, let it be remembered, to dispose not so much of the metaphysical as of the moral difficulties of the subject; and the consideration alluded to is purely metaphysical, and adapted to meet a philosophical objection. Leibnitz, in reply to those who contended that God is the only agent in the Universe, remarks: When we say that a creature depends
upon God for all that he is, and for all that he does, and even that his preservation is a continual act of creation, we mean, that God is constantly imparting to the creature, and producing in him, all that is positive, all that is good and perfect, every perfect gift coming down from the Father of lights; whereas the imperfections and defects attaching to his operations, proceed from the original limitation of which the creature could not but be the subject from the earliest commencement of his existence, owing to the ideal reasons which set bounds to his nature. For God could not bestow upon the creature every thing, without making him a God. It was necessary, therefore, that there should be different degrees in the perfection of things, that there should also be all varieties of limitation.'. . .. . Evil, then, is like darkness; and not only ignorance, but even error and malice formally consist in a certain species of privation. The will of the creature tends to good in the abstract; it ought to go forward towards the perfection which is suited to our nature; and supreme perfection is in God. There is in all pleasure some sense of perfection. But when the mind stops short at the pleasures of sense, or any other kind of gratification, to the prejudice of its higher interests, such as health, virtue, union with God, felicity, the defect consists in this privation of an ulterior tendency. In general terms, perfection is positive; it is an absolute reality: imperfection is privative; it proceeds from limitation, and tends to further privation. Thus, it is a saying as true as it is ancient; Bonum ex causa integra, malum ex quolibet defectu. And again: Malum causam non habet efficientem, sed deficientem."*
Important, however, as this distinction may be in philosophical reasoning, it contributes very little to a satisfactory view of this inscrutable subject; and we are disposed to agree with Dr. Dwight, that the most adviseable method of examining it, is, to consider the man and the facts, and not the abstract principles.' But the very terms, sin and holiness, are abstractions; and his own statement of the case assumes a metaphysical character. It seems, indeed, impossible, if we go beyond the literal circumstances of the fact, to avoid adopting such a phraseology. Thus much is clear and certain, that man fell through forgetfulness of God, and therefore, it cannot be viewed as otherwise than most equitable, that he should have been suffered to fall. And further, since the display of his own perfections is the highest end which an Infinite, Self-existent Being can propose to himself in the creation and government of his creatures; it is conceivable how it should be infinitely worthy of God, to allow of an occasion being afforded for the exercise of mercy to those who had so come short of glorifying him by obedience. To suppose that God was bound antecedently to interpose, is to hold, that sin merited the favour of God, which is a contradiction in terms; and yet, a secret disbelief of the demerit
*"Theodicee," Tom. i. pp. 106, 7.
of sin, lies at the bottom of the sceptics reasonings, or rather feelings, on this subject; a disbelief arising from viewing sin in relation to human infirmity, instead of in its more important and primary relation to the holiness and claims of God.
It appears to us to be incorrect to say, that Adam, prior to his defection, was the subject of no other principle of action than a holy principle; or that his defection arose entirely from what has been termed a negative cause. There was a positive principle of action involved in his transgression, a principle neither holy nor unholy in itself, but deriving its moral character from the direction of its exercise. We are not going to plunge again into abstractions; we mean only to remark, that an inclination to seek its own enjoyment is an inherent and necessary principle of all animal and intellectual existence: it is a universal instinct, founded in the nature of things, since it is impossible to conceive of a being that should not seek its own happiness, Man participated in this principle in common with the brute creation; and because he was capable of a higher happiness, a happiness suited to a moral agent, the principle which impelled him to seek that happiness was not, on that account, either virtuous or the contrary. It was a necessary principle, one upon which he could not but always act. But then, what distinguished him from all inferior ranks of existence, was his being the subject of another principle, which bound him to his Creator; and this principle not being necessary, its exercise being voluntary and rational, it followed, that the former might be called into exercise, while the latter remained dormant. The principle which bound him to his Creator was a natural tendency, leading him to seek that happiness which he could not but instinctively seek, in God. But this natural holy tendency, was not a necessary law of his being. God was even then an object of faith; and the religious exercise of his intellectual powers, which was requisite to keep alive the principle of love to God, and to subordinate the natural principle of self-gratification to that which was designed for its guidance, was not essentially different in Adam before his transgression, from what it is in the Christian now. was properly faith as opposed to animal instinct.
It is the incommunicable property of the Divine Nature, that the source of happiness and the end of his operations are within himself. It is an essential law of created intelligence, that the source of its happiness should be without itself, and that its perfection should consist in union to the source of its happiness. This union, it is manifest, can be only of an intelligent and voluntary nature; it is the principle of love. Nothing is more clear from even the concise narrative of Scripture, than that our first parents, when they listened to the tempter, were induced to seek their own gratification independently of God,-that they did not, at the actual time of transgressing, love God,-that they had for the time lost the sense of God, that the principle of faith was wholly merged in the instinct of self-gratification, and that the prevalence of in60
ferior motives over those infinite considerations which should have enforced obedience, arose from the blind operation of a natural principle, neither holy nor unholy in itself, in the suspension of that higher principle of love to their Maker, which, in a holy nature, the faintest act of remembrance, the slightest recurrence to the Invisible Author of their being, might seem sufficient to have awakened. The transgression involved an act of self-idolatry: it was a withdrawment from God as the supreme object of affection and confidence. To maintain, then, that the Almighty was bound to prevent sin, involves one of these absurdities: either that a created nature should have been so constituted as that its union to the Divine Being should have been other than moral and voluntary, so as to afford no scope for moral agency; or, that the crea ture's voluntary withdrawment from his maker, his ceasing to love the Author and Source of his happiness, affords a reason why he should have been made the subject of a special act of favour.
We are aware that this by no means supplies a complete answer to the question which is in every child's mouth on first learning the existence and history, of moral evil, Why did God permit Adam to fall? It goes some way, however, towards showing the unreasonableness and unphilosophical nature of the flippant objections of full grown sceptics. To that question, the best answer that can be given in the present world, is, as our Author remarks, that which was given by our Lord concerning one branch of the Divine dispensations: "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." It was,' he adds, a dispensation approved by infinite wisdom, and seen by the Omniscient eye to be necessary towards that good which God proposed in creating the universe. To this it may be subjoined, that it was a dispensation which afforded occasion for a transcendent and ineffable display of the Divine character. And unless it can be proved that, on the whole, the fall of Adam was a greater evil in the system of the Universe, than the death of Christ was a good,-all the effects and relations of which stupendous event, no human intelligence can pretend to appreciate, no objection can lie against the legitimate conclusion which is established by reasoning ab effectu, that the existing system of things, is, in all its parts, the best possible.
The practical remarks which Dr. Dwight makes in the conclusion of this sermon, are most excellent. 1. How superior is the Scriptural account of the introduction of moral evil into the world, to every other! 2. How dreadful the evil of sin as exemplified in the malice of the Tempter!' 3. The only time of successful resistance to temptation, is the moment when it is presented." 4. The ultimate safety of mankind, when they are tempted, lies in God only.'
Had Eve sought the protection of God by the Adversary, she had never fallen.
when she was assailed Had she remembered
the character of God, she had never believed the declarations of the Tempter. Had she admitted no jealousy, no suspicion, of the Divine wisdom and goodness, she had, in all probability, kept her happy state.
The same dangers attend all her descendants. If we wish to overcome, or escape temptations, it is indispensable, that we remember the presence, and acknowledge the character of God; that we distrust in no degree his sincerity or kindness; and that we go directly to him for the succour which we need. The closing petition in the prayer taught by Christ to his disciples, is, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;" that is, Suffer us not to be led into temptation, but, should this danger betide us at any time, deliver us from the evil to which we shall then be exposed. Of six petitions only, of which this prayer consists, a prayer taught by him who knew all the dangers and necessities of man, this is one. So necessary did he determine this assistance and guardianship to be; and so necessary our continual prayer that it might be afforded.
In the first temptation, we see the doctrine strongly illustrated. Here no prayer ascended for aid. Here, therefore, no aid was given; and here, left to themselves, the miserable victims were of course destroyed. Let us, then, learn wisdom both from their example and their end. Let us avoid the one, that we may escape the other. For protection from tempters and temptations, both within us and without us, let our prayers unceasingly rise with fervent repetition. Especially, when the Serpent approaches, when the charm is about to begin, and when his mouth is ready to open and swallow us up, let our cries for help ascend to Heaven, that He who is swift to hear, and always prepared to pity and relieve, may mercifully extend his arm, and snatch us from the jaws of destruction.'
We feel restricted by the length to which this article has already extended, from entering in this place on any fresh topic. We must, therefore, in justice to the merits of the work, request the indulgence of those readers whose dissatisfaction with continued articles is equal to their impatience of long ones, in reserving some account of the contents of the remaining volumes till our next Number.
ART. XV. The Gold-winged Woodpecker, or Flicker. (Picus Auratus.) From Wilson's Ornithology.
Le Pic aux ailes dorees, BUFFON VII, 39. Pl. enl. 693.-Picus Auratus, LINN. Syst. 174.-Cuculus alis deauratis, KLEIN, p. 30--CATESBY, I. 18.-LATHAM, II. 597.-BARTRAM, p. 289.-PEALE's Museum, No. 1938.
With an elegant coloured engraving.
THIS elegant bird is well known to our farmers and junior sportsmen, who take every opportunity of destroying him; the