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passed between us and the ancient Chaldeans, some Copernicus, or Newton, or Kepler, may arise, who, after long and painful deductions, may unfold the law of the vicissitudes of day and night. He may speculate, that perhaps in future ages the period may arrive when observations and science shall avail to elucidate the laws of cold and heat alternating at distant periods: discover an arrangement of seasons, and tell, like bards of old, why the winter suns hasten so much to dip themselves in the ocean. To such beings, literally beings of a day, such discoveries would be as great as those of our proudest astronomers.
Some discoveries of modern astronomy seem to intimate that our conceptions of time and distance have hitherto been but the conceptions of ephemerals, in comparison with the grander views now opening upon us. During the thousands of years that the heavens have been observed by men, the stars, excepting a few wanderers, have been regarded as relatively fixed. With some slow vibrations of the entire heavenly sphere, recurring after vast periods, and as one of our own astronomers has well expressed it," beating the seconds of eternity,”—the same heavens look down upon us, in the same arrangements in which they looked down upon the ancient Chaldeans. At length it seems to be determined that our system of suns and worlds is moving with immense rapidity, in an orbit which will require millions of ages to comp.ete the circuit, and yet with an apparent motion so slow, that centuries are required to make the change perceptible. What then are our old conceptions of distance and time?
Now suppose creatures who live through, and comprehend, the great years of the entire revolving system of our universe ; and who measure their lives by the march of revolving ages. They may comprehend things in the purposes of God, in which we can, as yet, trace neither wisdom nor plan. Things which are most painful to us may to them appear most glorious. Nor is it unlawful to suppose that there are such creatures; creatures who shouted for joy when these worlds were made, and who count it but yesterday since they came to announce the glad tidings of a Saviour's birth. Indeed, if they have never sinned, and know no death, what matter if their
year comprehends so many millions of ours? And if they witnessed, and remember, the creation, the career, and the final conflagration, one after the other, of many such worlds as this; such periods will be familiar to us too, if we ever reach the heavenly inheritance. Then we shall understand what an apostle meant, when, so many ages before the end of the world, he said, “Brethren, the time is short!" Yes, Time is short!
Now, if beings, literally beings of a day, would be so lost and confounded in our simple change of seasons, and even in oor vicissitudes of day and night;—if we in our turn are lost and confounded amid the vast machinery and vast revolutions of the ages which measure the years of sinless beings,-how poorly are we qualified to sit in judgment on the plans and ordinances of the most high God! They comprehend immensity! They embrace eternity! The insect of a day sees a little, and failing to grasp the entire plan, which would fill him with wonder and adoration, he forms his judgment from what he sees. He rashly judges his Maker; blames the constitution and government of this world, fills his soul with murmuring and discontent, and dies! We readily see his mistake. His existence is too brief for knowledge. He has no faith in the Divine wisdom and goodness. Are we in no danger of similar mistakes when we fancy that we can find out the Almighty unto perfection? Can we venture to sit in judgment on God; and that too from what we see in our brief day spent amid winter or storm? Suppose we do see difficulties in the history of the fall, and in the ruin of all mankind by the sin of their first parent, so that “by the offence of one, judgment comes upon all men to condemnation;" the counterpart of the "justification of life” which comes upon all believers in Christ? The difficulties are not removed by rejecting the account given in the Bible. The mournful part of our native depravity and ruin belongs not to any one scheme of Christianity alone, but to Christianity itself; and not to Christianity alone but to every possible form of Theism. Nor do we remove, or evade, the difficulties by interpolating into the scriptural account any explanations or provisoes to satisfy our reason in our present state of knowledge. On the contrary, such
explanations and provisoes, however well meant, and whatever difficulties they have seemed for the moment to evade, are soon found to do no more than simply to introduce some new, and still more baffling, element of disturbance. Either they necessitate a change in some other important doctrine, or in some way they break the harmony and integrity of the scheme of salvation which God has revealed, and whose harmony and integrity are essential to the greatest power of Divine truth over the conscience and the heart of man. Is it not the safest and most reverent course, to limit ourselves to a fair and natural interpretation of what God has written, without attempting to vindicate the Divine justice and goodness by any additions or explanations of our own; which additions or explanations may in the end prove the greatest possible obscuration of the Divine justice and goodness?
A profitable lesson may be learned from a slight survey of the many attempted explanations of the existence of sin and misery under the government of One who is Almighty, and of perfect wisdom and goodness. It has been assumed that men are competent to explain why God did not prevent all sin. Some have supposed that he was unable to do so without departing from a proper moral government. Some have maintained that he chooses that men shonld sin, as the necessary means of the greatest good. Most of the attempted solutions have assumed a defect either in the Divine power or in the Divine goodness.
Epicurus reasoned thus: “God either wills to prevent evil, and cannot; or he can, and will not; or he neither can nor will; or he both can and will.
“If he would, but cannot, he is imbecile; which is no property of Deity. If he can and will not, he is malevolent; which is equally abhorrent to Deity. If he neither can nor will, he is both malevolent and imbecile; and, therefore, not God. If he both can and will, then whence are evils ? or why does he not take them away?" Epicurus concludes, therefore, that there is no God.
Leibnitz supposed that the world would have been less perfect, if sin were wanting in it; and that, hence, there was a
necessity of God's bringing about the origin of sin."
Against such a view others supposed the problem solved by showing that sin is wholly of the creature, and no part of the Divine method or strategy. But even so, does it solve the problem? may it not be asked, further, did not God care to prevent it? or was he not able ?
Others supposed that sin is necessarily incidental to any– at least to the best-moral system: and asked, “Who can prove that sin will not be, when for aught that appears, it may be ?"
This did not affirm directly that God is unable, by any proper method, to prevent sin in a moral system ; though it had no validity as an argument save on the assumption of such promises.
This necessary contingency, and so a possibility of sin beyond the power of God to prevent it in a moral system, has been by others stiffened out into an absolute certainty. Thus (Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan., 1856), it is insisted that we must solve this problem, but may not waive the solution by saying, “ Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight,” for till the problem is solved we cannot know that we have a Father in heaven; nor" that what seems good in his sight is at all worthy of him, or kind to his children ;” nor, till we solve this problem, can we conclude as against the atheist, “ that coming light will vindicate the witness of sin and misery against the superstition of an assumed deity.” The affirmation is then made without further reasons than as a matter of pure rational insight, that there will be sin so long as God deals with his creatures “according to what is due to himself : in other words, If God always deals with finite spirits, according to the principles of honor and right, there will be sin.” But how can man know that, in all possible worlds, and among all possible creatures, God is unable to prevent sin without violating the principles of honor and right? Or, admitting that he cannot (which we can by no means admit), how can we certainly know that among all finite spirits there will certainly be sin, as long as God deals with them according to what is due to himself: or, according to the principles of honor and right? There is no rational insight of man competent to see this.
Another attempts to solve the problem, both for men and
angels, by assuming that God never intended or deemed it possible that his commands should be obeyed, till sin and consequent suffering should have supplied the motives indispensable to obedience. He therefore supposes that the holy angels are such as have sinned; and that having learned obedience by the things they have suffered, they have been restored.
Wbat is punishment? What is justice, under such a scheme? What can they be save shifts and pretences, rendered necessary as matters of policy, through some defect n the original constitution of man, or in the law which demands obedience? The scheme, accordingly, discards every thing like punitive justice, making sin only in itself a law of bad causation, demanding no further penalty, and requiring for the sinner no propitiation or redemption ; but only that he be influenced to repent, and to restore himself to righteousness.
All these theories, from the Epicurean downward, seem to be based on the assumption that the existence of moral evil admits only one alternative, viz., that God is either unable, or else unwilling to prevent sin in a moral system.
But may it not be that God is entirely able so to control a moral system as to prevent all sin, with no violation of the principles of honor or right, and with no infringement upon the freedom or responsibility of his creatures, whenever he shall see it best to do so; and that he is limited by no want of power or of goodness, but only by the holy counsel of his own righteous will ? May it not also be, either from some peculiarity in the cases themselves, or from their relation to the universal scheme of his providence in all worlds, or for some other reason, that he may see it best, in some cases, and in some worlds, to interfere ; and not best in others? May it not be that he is in no case so straitened as to be beholden to sin as the necessary means of the greatest good; and that he does not choose that men should sin, but only that they should be left to their freedom and responsibility? May it not be also that he is perfectly sincere in forbidding, lamenting, and punishing all transgressions ? Why it is best thus to permit sin, i.e., not effectually to hinder it, we may not understand. We