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it certainly follows, that the coming to pass of every individual act of sin is truly, all things considered, contrary to his Will, and that his Will is really crossed in it; and this in proportion as He hates it. And as God's hatred of sin is infinite, by reason of the infinite contrariety of his Holy Nature to sin; so his Will is infinitely crossed in every act of sin that happens, Which is as much as to say, He endures that which is infinitely disagreeable to him, by means of every act of sin that He sees committed. And, therefore, as appears by the preceding positions, He endures truly and really infinite grief or pain from every sin. And so He must be infinitely crossed, and suffer infinite pain, every day, in millions of millions of instances: He must continually be the subject of an immense number of real, and truly infinitely great crosses and vexations. Which would be to make him infinitely the most miserable of all Beings.
If any objector should say; all that these things amount to, is, that God may do evil that good may come; which is justly esteemed immoral and sinful in men; and therefore may be justly esteemed inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. I answer, that for God to dispose and permit evil in the manner that has been spoken of, is not to do evil that good may come; for it is not to do evil at all.-In order to a thing being morally evil, there must be one of these things belonging to it, either it must be a thing unfit and unsuitable in its own nature; or it must have a bad tendency; or it must proceed from an evil disposition, and be done for an evil end. But neither of these things can be attributed to God's ordering and permitting such events as the immoral acts of creatures for good ends. (1.) It is not unfit in its own nature, that He should do so. For it is in its own nature fit, that infinite wisdom, and not blind chance, should dispose moral good and evil in the world. And it is fit, that the Being who has infinite wisdom, and is the Maker, Owner, and Supreme Governor of the World, should take care of that matter. And, therefore, there is no unfitness, or unsuitableness in his doing it. It may be unfit, and so immoral, for any other beings to go about to order this affair; because they are not possessed of a wisdom that in any manner fits them for it; and, in other respects, they are not fit to be trusted with this affair; nor does it belong to them, they not being the owners and lords of the universe.
We need not be afraid to affirm, that if a wise and good man knew with absolute certainty it would be best, all things considered, that there should be such a thing as moral evil in the world, it would not be contrary to his wisdom and goodness for him to choose that it should be so. It is no evil desire to desire good, and to desire that which, all things considered, is best. And it is no unwise choice to choose that
that should be, which it is best should be; and to choose the existence of that thing concerning which this is known, viz. that it is best it should be, and so is known in the whole to be most worthy to be chosen. On the contrary, it would be a plain defect in wisdom and goodness, for him not to choose it. And the reason why he might not order it, if he were able, would not be because he might not desire it, but only the ordering of that matter does not belong to him. But it is no harm for Him who is, by right, and in the greatest propriety, the Supreme Orderer of all things, to order every thing in such a manner, as it would be a point of wisdom in Him to choose that they should be ordered. If it would be a plain defect of wisdom and goodness in a being, not to choose that that should be, which He certainly knows it would, all things considered, be best should be (as was but now observed) then it must be impossible for a Being who has no defect of wisdom and goodness, to do otherwise than choose it should be; and that for this very reason, because He is perfectly wise and good. And if it be agreeable to perfect wisdom and goodness for him to choose that it should be, and the ordering of all things supremely and perfectly belongs to him, it must be agreeable to infinite wisdom and goodness to order that it should be. If the choice is good, the ordering and disposing things according to that choice must also be good. It can be no harm in one to whom it belongs "to do his Will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth," to execute a good volition. If this Will be good, and the object of his Will be, all things considered, good and best, then the choosing or willing it is not willing evil that good may come. And if so, then his ordering accordingly to that Will, is not doing evil, that good may come.
2. It is not of a bad tendency, for the Supreme Being thus to order and permit that moral evil to be, which it is best should come to pass. For that it is of good tendency, is the very thing supposed in the point now in question.-Christ's Crucifixion, though a most horrid fact in them that perpetrated it, was of a most glorious tendency as permitted and ordered of God.
3. Nor is there any need of supposing it proceeds from any evil disposition or aim; for by the supposition, what is aimed at is good, and good is the actual issue, in the final result of things.*
* From the whole strain of our author's defence of his principles, in reference to the existence of sin in the universe, though there are many excellent remarks interspersed, and sound reasoning as far as his data would admit, yet he is evidently embarrassed; makes concessions which his general principles of moral necessity did not require, and shelters himself under covers that afford him in reality no effectual protection. To say, that the existence of sin is only a common difficulty, which belongs to every hypothesis-that though God is the author of sin, 33
Concerning Sin's first Entrance into the World.
The things which have already been offered, may serve to obviate or clear many of the objections which might be
in some sense, yet he is not the agent, therefore the phrase should be disliked and rejected, that though God wills the event of sin, yet he wills it not as an evil, but for excellent ends-that the events of moral evils are disposed by wisdom-that God may be the orderer and disposer of moral evil, which in the agent is infinitely evil, but in the orderer of it no evil at all-that in order to a thing being morally evil, it must be unfit and unsuitable, or of a bad tendency, or from an evil disposition; but that in willing the event of sin neither can be attributed to God-that if a wise and good man knew, with absolute certainty, that it would be best, all things considered, there should be moral evil, he might choose that it should be so that the reason why he might not order it, if he were able, would not be because he might not desire, but only the ordering of that matter does not belong to him-and that in the language of TURNBULL, "there is no evil in the universe,-no absolute evil; sins are evils only in a partial view, but with respect to the whole system they are not evil or mischievous, but goods, &c." to say these things and more of a similar east, is not calculated to satisfy a mind that wants the best evidence which the nature of the case will admit; and we strongly suspect, from his manner of writing, that our author's own mind was not satisfied with the solution which he has attempted.
In former notes we have had occasion only to explain principles adopted, or to point out others either more evident or more radical, on which those of the author were founded, or with which they stood inseparably connected. But at the elose of the present section we feel ourselves obliged to attempt, at least, the rectification of his principles; or, perhaps more properly, to point out other principles which we conceive are attended with no such embarrassment, are exposed to no self-contradiction, and which represent the great Supreme in a much more amiable light. The task is indeed arduous; but let it not be thought impossible, nor let the imperfection of language be confounded with the inadequacy of principles. And while we solicit the candour of the reader-whereby he will be prepared to make such allowances as the nature of the subject requires, be prevented from drawing hasty conclusions of the impracticability of bringing the subject of enquiry to a satisfactory issue, or of presumption in attempting it-we no less demand a strictness of examination. The real enquirer after truth, the christian divine, and the moral philosopher, should be solicitous, not to have the "last word" in controversy, but to make all possible advances in ascertaining the genuine grounds of acknowledged truths, in discovering radical principles, and in ascertaining their just bearings and tendencies.
1. The true point of enquiry is-not whether they be moral evil, or whether God be just? but-how the actual existence of sin, or moral evil, in the universe, is to be reconciled with the moral perfections and character of God? Therefore, the thing wanted is a middle term, or argumentative medium, whereby it may be shewn that this proposition is true, viz. There is no real inconsistence between the existence of sin and the moral perfections of God.
2. We may therefore consider the following propositions as first principles:
I. There does exist in the universe moral evil.
II. God is infinitely free from injustice, unholiness, and all imperfections.Hence,
There is no real inconsistence between the existence of moral evil and the moral perfections of God.
3. Now the question returns, What is the best evidence that there is no such inconsistency? Those who are satisfied with these plain propositions, the axioms
raised concerning sin's first coming into the world; as though it would follow from the doctrine maintained, that God must
and corollary, may have the evidence of faith, that there is no inconsistence between the subject and predicate of the last proposition. They may know so much of God as to be assured that the existence of sin in the world is no impeachment of the moral character of the Most High. For such evidence it behoves us to be thankful. Millions are now in heaven, who enjoyed no other evidence while on earth than that of faith. But this is no sufficient reason why those who have op portunity should make no further enquiries into the subject. Some, indeed, suppose that no rational evidence is in the present state attainable by man. But why any should so conclude it is difficult to say, except it be, that they wish to make their own minds the standard of all others, or their own attainments the ne plus ultra of moral philosophy. Such persons are not likely to acknowledge or perceive the real evidence, on supposition that it is laid before them, as their minds will be strongly prejudiced against all reasoning on the subject.
4. One thing however is incontrovertible, as necessarily connected with the axioms, that the existence of moral evil, and the spotless and infinitely excellent moral character of God are perfectly consistent; and therefore there must be somewhere good evidence of it. And another thing is equally plain, that the brighter the evidence we have of the truth of the proposition which asserts the consistency of the two axioms, the more will be our acquaintance with God's real character, and the real nature of sin, which all must allow to be advantageous. To which we may add; that increased evidence of such a proposition is far from being injurious, may be further inferred from this consideration, that the higher any beings arise in holiness and happiness, the more clear will be that evidence to their view.
5. The terms of the question are so plain, and so generally understood, that it is scarcely necessary to notice them; we may however briefly observe, that moral evil is what stands in direct opposition to the moral character of God; and that this latter includes universal rectitude or holiness and perfect benevolence, Therefore,
Whatever is perfectly consistent with universal rectitude, and perfect benevolence, is consistent with the moral perfections of God. The reader will observe, that what is asserted of rectitude and benevolence is different; the one is said to be universal and the other perfect only. Every attribute of Jehovah is in ITSELF both perfect and universal; but not RELATIVELY SO. Thus his rectitude is both perfect in itself, and universal with respect to its object; but his benevolence however infinitely perfect, is restricted as to its objects, both in extent and in degree. And this restriction is necessary two ways:
6. First, the objects of benevolence, at least in this world, compose a system; and every system, whether natural or moral implies a subordination and comparative superiority of parts; therefore the very idea of a systematic whole implies a restriction of benevolence as to extent and degree.
7. Secondly, the exercise of benevolence is an exercise of will; and the exercise of will implies diversity of objects, and a preference of some rather than others, to occupy the more excellent parts of the whole system; so that perfect universality or a strict equality of benevolence, without a distinguishing preference, is necessarily excluded by the very nature of benevolence in exercise.
8. Divine benevolence, therefore, admits of gradations, from the smallest degree conceivable to the utmost extent of the system; while rectitude admits of no such degree. Were we to attempt an illustration of so abstract a subject by mental images, we might say, that rectitude in its exercise towards the creatures, may be compared to a plain surface as widely extended as the universe, of infinitely perfect polish, and without a flaw in any part. Hence, in its exercise, it is universal as its objects; and can no more admit of degrees, than a perfect polish can admit of flaws. On the contrary, benevolence may be compared to a cone, in an inverted form, the vertex of which is in contact with a point of that plane, and which, from the least possible degree, is capable of rising at sovereign pleasure, in its exercise towards the universe, to such a height, as that the base of it may be, or may not be, of equal extent with the plane below.
9. From just views of benevolence we may infer, that its exercise is purely free, and undeserved by the creature; being the fruit of will, choice, and sove
be the author of the first sin, through his so disposing things, that it should necessarily follow from his permission, that the
reign pleasure. The absence of it, with respect to creatures, implies no flaw in perfect rectitude. Every degree of benevolence, from the least to the greatest, must be altogether optional. Perfect rectitude, with respect to created beings and each individual creature, may subsist, without any more benevolence than what is necessarily included in mere existence.
10. This being the case, the state of the universe in reference to perfect rectitude, and irrespective of benevolence, may be further compared to a balance in perfect equilibrium. The least weight of benevolence makes it preponderate, proportionally, in favour of virtue and happiness; but without which weight neither could take place.
11. But, according to what has been said in a former note, every created being is the subject of passive power; which, with respect to its influence on the creature, is, in some respect, the opposite of benevolence. In some, not in all respects. Benevolence is an exercise of will, and implies an agent; but passive power is a quality or principle inseparable from every creature, and from the universe at large. In reference to a former illustration, this may be compared to another cone exactly opposite, the vertex of which, from below, meets that of the other in the same plane. The intermediate point, and indeed every point in the same plane, may represent the perfect rectitude of God towards every individual; the inverted zone above, divine benevolence; the cone below, passive power, with its base necessarily equal to the whole plane, as it respects the created universe.
12. Hence we may say that the neutral state of any being is placed in the plane; his degree of influence from passive power, the predisposing cause of vice, is represented by a corresponding given part of the cone below; and his degree of predisposition to virtue from divine benevolence, is represented by a corresponding given part of the cone above. Or, to change the comparison, if a perfectly poised balance be made to represent perfect rectitude, then we may suppose weights at each end in all possible proportions, from the smallest to the greatest. Passive power not being the effect of will, but of the relative nature of things, and inseparably connected with one end of the balance, it is evident, that it can be counteracted in its tendency only by the weight of benevolence, or sovereign pleasure. Therefore, whoever on earth or in heaven, rises to, and is confirmed in virtue, his attainment must be the effect of mere benevolence. And whoever on earth or in hell, falls into, and is confirmed in vice, his deterioration must be the effect of passive power, as the predisposing cause of vice, which nothing in the universe can counteract but sovereign, free, unmerited, benevolence.
13. Consequently, all the good and happiness in the universe is the effect of benevolence, or sovereign pleasure, and exists above the plane of perfect rectitude; but all the evil and misery in the world is the effect of passive power, in union with free agency, and exists below the plane of rectitude. The one generates virtue, and raises to happiness and heaven; the other generates vice, and sinks to misery and hell.
14. Every thing in the universe planned, decreed, and effected by Jehovah, is a structure of benevolence. All He effects is good, and only good. The evil that exists is not his work. Benevolence has decreed an endless chain of antecedents, including the natural and moral worlds; and the consequents peculiar to them result therefrom with infallible certainty. But other antecedents, in this world and in hell, are constantly interposed by free agents under the influence of passive power, whose consequences also follow with equal infallible certainty. To the eye of created intelligence these counter positions, and opposite consequents appear blended in an inextricable manner, like the different rays of light in the same pencil, different gases in a given space, and different subtle fluids in the same body. But to the eye of omniscience they appear perfectly distinct, in their proper nature, in all their directions and bearings, in all their tendencies and
15. Instead, therefore, of saying, "There is no evil in the universe," we should say, "There is much evil in the universe; there is much on earth, and more in hell; but none of God's appointment. It is demonstrable, that passive