|« Prev||SECTION IX. Concerning that objection against…||Next »|
Concerning that objection against the doctrine which has been maintained, that it makes God the Author of Sin.
It is urged by Arminians, that the doctrine of the Necessity of men’s Volitions, or their necessary connexion with antecedent events and circumstances, makes the First Cause, and Supreme Orderer of all things, the Author of Sin; in that he has so constituted the state and course of things, that sinful Volitions become necessary, in consequence of his disposal. Dr. Whitby, in his Discourse on the Freedom of the Will, 146146 On the five Points, p. 361. cites one of the ancients, as on his side, declaring that this opinion of the Necessity of the Will “absolves sinners, as doing nothing of their own accord which was evil, and would cast all the blame of all the wickedness committed in the world, upon God, and upon his providence, if that were admitted by the assertors of this fate; whether he himself did necessitate them to do these things, or ordered matters so, that they should be constrained to do them by some other cause.” And the Doctor says, in another place, 147147 Ibid. p. 486. “In the nature of the thing, and in the opinion of philosophers, causa deficiens, in rebus necrssariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est. In things necessary, the deficient cause must be reduced to the efficient. And in this case the reason is evident; because the not doing what is required, or not avoiding what is forbidden, being a defect, must follow from the position of the necessary cause of that deficiency.”—Concerning this, I would observe the following things.
I. If there be any difficulty in this matter, it is nothing peculiar to this scheme; it is no difficulty or disadvantage wherein it is distinguished from the scheme of Arminians; and, therefore, not reasonably objected by them.
Dr. Whitby supposes that if sin necessarily follows from God withholding assistance, or if that assistance be not given, which is absolutely necessary to the avoiding of evil; then, in the nature of the thing, God must be as properly the author of that evil, as if he were the efficient cause of it. From whence, according to what he himself says of the devils and damned spirits, God must be the proper author of their perfect unrestrained wickedness: he must be the efficient cause of the great pride of the devils, and of their perfect malignity against God, Christ, his saints, and all that is good, and of the insatiable cruelty of their disposition. For he allows, that God has so forsaken them, and does so withhold his assistance from them, that they are incapacitated from doing good, and determined 76 only to evil. 148148 On the five Points, p. 302, 305. Our doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of men’s sin in this world, no more, and in no other sense, than his doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of the hellish pride and malice of the devils. And doubtless the latter is as odious an effect as the former.
Again, if it will follow at alt, that God is the Author of Sin, from what has been supposed of a sure and infallible connexion between antecedents and consequents, it will follow because of this, viz. that for God to be the author or orderer of those things which, he knows beforehand, will infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing, in effect, as for him to be the author of that consequence. But, if this be so, this is a difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of Arminians themselves; at least, of those of them who allow God’s certain foreknowledge of all events. For, on the supposition of such a foreknowledge, this is the case with respect to every sin that is committed: God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and such events, such sins would infallibly follow. As for instance, God certainly foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there should be such a man born, at such a time, and at such a place, and that his life should he preserved, and that he should, in Divine Providence, be led into acquaintance with Jesus; and that his heart should be so influenced by God’s Spirit or providence, as to be inclined to be a follower of Christ; and that he should be one of those twelve, which should be chosen constantly to attend him as his family; and that his health should be preserved, so that he should go up to Jerusalem, at the last passover in Christ’s life; and it should be so ordered, that Judas should see Christ’s kind treatment of the woman which anointed him at Bethany, and have that reproof from Christ which he had at that time, and see and near other things which excited his enmity against his Master, and other circumstances should be ordered, as they were ordered; it would most certainly and infallibly follow, that Judas would betray his Lord, and would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell, for his horrid wickedness.
Therefore, this supposed difficulty ought not to be brought as an objection against the scheme which has been maintained, as disagreeing with the Arminian scheme, seeing it is no difficulty owing to such a disagreement, but a difficulty wherein the Arminians share with us. That must be unreasonably made an objection against our differing from them, which we should not escape or avoid at all by agreeing with them.—And therefore I would observe,
II. They who object, that this doctrine makes God the Author of Sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, The Author of Sin. I know the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very ill. If by the Author of Sin, be meant the Sinner, the Agent, or Actor of Sin, or the Doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the Author of Sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the Author of Sin; rejecting such an imputation on the Most High, as what is infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what I have laid down. But if, by the Author of Sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of Sin; and, at the same lime, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that Sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is meant, by being the Author of Sin, I do not deny that God is the Author of Sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense,) it is no reproach for the Most High to be thus the Author of Sin. This is not to be the Actor of Sin, but, on the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein, is holy; and a glorious exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature. And, I do not deny, that God being thus the Author of Sin, follows from what I have laid down; and, I assert, that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the Arminian divines.
That it is most certainly so, that God is in such a manner the Disposer and Orderer of Sin, is evident, if any credit is to be given to the Scripture; as well as because it is impossible, in the nature of things, to be otherwise. In such a manner God ordered the obstinacy of Pharaoh, in his refusing to obey God’s commands, to let the people go. Exod. iv. 21.) “I will harden his heart, and he shall not let the people go.” ( Chap. vii. 2-5.) “Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may lay mine hand upon Egypt, by great judgments,” &c. ( Chap. ix. 12.) “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.” ( Chap. x. 1, 2.) “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him, and that thou mayest tell it in the ears of thy son, and thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done amongst them, that ye may know that 1 am the Lord.” ( Chap. xiv. 4.) “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them: and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host.” ( Ver. 8.) “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel.” And it is certain, that in such a manner God, for wise and good ends, ordered that event, Joseph being sold into Egypt by his brethren. ( Gen. xlv. 5.) “Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.” ( Ver. 7, 8.) “God did send me before you to preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance: so that now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” (Psal. cvii. 17.) “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant.” It is certain, that thus God ordered the Sin and folly of Sihon king of the Amorites, in refusing to let the people of Israel pass by him peaceably. (Deut. ii. 30.) “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thine hand.” It is certain, that God thus ordered the Sin and folly of the kings of Canaan, that they attempted not to make peace with Israel, but, with a stupid boldness and obstinacy, set themselves violently to oppose them and their God. (Josh. xi. 20.) “For it was or the Lord, to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour; but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses.” It is evident, that thus God ordered the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah against the king of Babylon. (Jer. lii. 3.) “For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem, and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.” (So 2 Kings xxiv. 20.) And it is exceeding manifest, that God thus ordered the rapine and unrighteous ravages of Nebuchadnezzar, in spoiling and ruining the nations round about. (Jer. xxv. 9.) “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against all the nations round about; and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.” ( Chap. xliii. 10, 11.) “I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant: and I will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword.” Thus God represents himself as sending for Nebuchadnezzar, and taking him and his armies, and bringing him against the nations, which were to be destroyed by him, to that very end, that he might utterly destroy them, and make them desolate; and as appointing the work that he should do so particularly, that the very persons were designed that he should kill with the sword, and those that should be killed with famine and pestilence, and those that should be carried into captivity; and that in doing all these 77 things, he should act as his servant; by which, less cannot be intended, than that he should serve his purposes and designs. And in Jer. xxvii. 4-6. God declares, how he would cause him thus to serve his designs, viz. by bringing this to pass in his sovereign disposals, as the great Possessor and Governor of the universe, that disposes all things just as pleases him. Jer. xxvii. 4-6. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that arc upon the ground, by my great power, and my stretched out arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me; and now I have given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar my servant, and the beasts of the field have I given also to serve him.” And Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of as doing these things, by having his arms strengthened by God, and having God’s sword put into his hands, for this end. (Ezek. xxx. 24, 25, 26.) Yea, God speaks of his terribly ravaging and wasting the nations, and cruelly destroying all sorts, without distinction of sex or age, as the weapon in God’s hand, and the instrument of his indignation, which God makes use of to fulfil his own purposes, and execute his own vengeance. (Jer. li. 20, &c.) “Thou art my battle-axe, and weapons of war. For with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee I will destroy kingdoms, and with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and his rider; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee I will break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid,” &c. It is represented, that the designs of Nebuchadnezzar and those that destroyed Jerusalem, never could have been accomplished, had not God determined them. (Lam. iii. 37.) “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord commandeth it not?” And yet the king of Babylon thus destroying the nations, and especially the Jews, is spoken of as his great wickedness, for which God finally destroyed him. (Isa. xiv. 4-6,12. Hab. ii. 5-12. and Jer. chap. i. and li.) It is most manifest, that God, to serve his own designs, providentially ordered Shimei’s cursing of David. (2 Sam. xvi. 10, 11.) “The Lord hath said unto him. Curse David.—Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.”
It is certain, that God thus, far excellent, holy, gracious ends, ordered the fact which they committed, who were concerned in Christ’s death; and that therein they did but fulfil God’s designs. As, I trust, no Christian will deny it was the design of God, that Christ should be crucified, and that for this end he came into the world. It is very manifest by many scriptures, that the whole affair of Christ’s crucifixion, with its circumstances, and the treachery of Judas, that made way for it, was ordered in God’s providence, in pursuance of his purpose; notwithstanding the violence that is used with those plain scriptures, to obscure and pervert the sense of them. (Acts ii. 23.)” Him being delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God 149149 Grotius, as well as Beza. observes, NOT ENGLISH must here signify decree; and Elsner has shown that it has that signification in approved NOT ENGLISH writers. And it is certain NOT ENGLISH signifies one given up into the hands of an enemy:”— Dodd. in Loc. ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Luke xxii. 21, 22. 150150 “As this passage is not liable to the ambiguities which some have apprehended in Acts ii. 23. and iv. 28. (which yet seem on the whole to be parallel to it, in their most natural construction,) I look upon it as an evident proof, that these things are, in the language of Scripture, said to be determined or decreed (or exactly bounded and marked out by God, as the word (NOT ENGLISH ) most naturally signifies) which he sees in fact will happen, in consequences of his volitions, without any necessitating agency; as well as those events, of which he is properly the author.” Dodd, in Loc. “But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on the table: and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined.” (Acts iv. 27, 28.) “For of a truth, against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts iii. 17, 18.) “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers; but these things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” So that what these murderers of Christ did, is spoken of as what God brought to pass or ordered, and that by which he fulfilled his own word.
In Rev. xvii. 17. “The agreeing of the kings of the earth to give their kingdom to the beast;” though it was a very wicked thing in them, is spoken of as “fulfilling God’s will,” and what “God had put into their hearts to do” It is manifest, that God sometimes permits sin to be committed, and at the same time orders things so, that if he permits the fact, it will come to pass, because on some accounts, he sees it needful and of importance, that it should come to pass. (Matt. xviii. 7.) “It must needs be, that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” With (1 Cor. xi. 19.) “For there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
Thus it is certain and demonstrable, from the holy Scriptures, as well as the nature of things, and the principles of Arminians, that God permits sin; and at the same time, so orders things, in his providence, that it certainly and infallibly will come to pass, in consequence of his permission. I proceed to observe in the next place,
III. That there is a great difference between God being; concerned thus, by his permission, in an event and act, which, in the inherent subject and agent of it, is sin, (though the event will certainly follow on his permission,) and his being concerned in it by producing it and exerting the act of sin; or between his being the orderer of its certain existence, by not hindering it, under certain circumstances, and his being the proper actor or author of it, by a positive agency or efficiency. And this, notwithstanding what Dr. Whitby offers about a saying of philosophers, that causa defitiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est. As there is a vast difference between the sun being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and the brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence; and its being the occasion of darkness and frost, in the night, by its motion, whereby it descends below the horizon. The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter kind of events; but it is not the proper cause, efficient, or producer of them; though they are necessarily consequent on that motion, under such circumstances: no more is any action of the Divine Being the cause of the evil of men’s Wills. If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun; and it might be justly inferred, that the sun itself is dark and cold, and that his beams are black and frosty. But from its being the cause no otherwise than by its departure, no such thing can be inferred, but the contrary; it may justly be argued, that the sun is a bright and hot body, if cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with and confined to its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of light and neat. So, inasmuch as sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the Most High, but, on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and, under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence; this is no argument that he is sinful, or his operation evil, or has any thing of the nature of evil; but, on the contrary, that he, and his agency, are altogether good and holy, and that he is the fountain of all holiness. It would be strange arguing, indeed, because men never commit sin, but only when God leaves them to themselves, and necessarily sin when he dues so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God; and so, that God must be a sinful being: as strange as it would be to argue, because it is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when the sun is present, that therefore all darkness is from the sun, and that his disk and beams must needs be black.
IV. It properly belongs to the supreme and absolute Governor of the universe, to order all important events within his dominion, by his wisdom: but the events in the moral world are of the most important kind; such as the moral actions of intelligent creatures, and their consequences.
These events will be ordered by something. They will 78 either be disposed by wisdom, or they will be disposed by chance; that is, they will be disposed by blind and undesigning causes, if that were possible, and could be called a disposal. Is it not better, that the good and evil which happen in God’s world, should be ordered, regulated, bounded, and determined by the good pleasure of an infinitely wise Being, who perfectly comprehends within his understanding and constant view, the universality of things, in all their extent and duration, and sees all the influence of every event, with respect to every individual thing and circumstance, throughout the grand system, and the whole of the eternal series of consequences; than to leave these things to fell out by chance, and to be determined by those causes which have no understanding or aim? Doubtless, in these important events, there is a better and a worse, as to the time, subject, place, manner, and circumstances of their coming to pass, with regard to their influence on the state and course of things. And if there be, it is certainly best that they should be determined to that time, place, &c. which is best. And therefore it is in its own nature fit, that wisdom, and not chance, should order these things. So that it belongs to the Being, who is the possessor of infinite wisdom, and is the creator and owner of the whole system of created existences, and has the care of all; I say, it belongs to him, to take care of this matter; and he would not do what is proper for him, if he should neglect it. And it is so far from being unholy in him, to undertake this affair, that it would rather have been unholy to neglect it; as it would have been a neglecting what fitly appertains to him; and so it would have been a very unfit and unsuitable neglect.
Therefore the sovereignty of God doubtless extends to this matter: especially considering, that if God should leave men’s volitions, and all moral events, to the determination and disposition of blind unmeaning causes, or they should be left to happen perfectly without a cause; this would be no more consistent with liberty, in any notion of it, and particularly not in the Arminian notion of it, than if these events were subject to the disposal of Divine Providence, and the Will of man were determined by circumstances which are ordered and disposed by Divine Wisdom; as appears by what has been already observed. But it is evident, that such a providential disposing, and determining of men’s moral actions, though it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least infringe the real liberty of mankind; the only liberty that common sense teaches to be necessary to moral agency, which, as has been demonstrated, is not inconsistent with such necessity.
On the whole, it is manifest, that God may be, in the manner which has been described, the Orderer and Disposer of that event, which, in the inherent subject and agent, is moral Evil; and yet his so doing may be no moral Evil. He may will the disposal of such an event, and its coming to pass for good ends, and his Will not be an immoral or sinful Will, but a perfect, holy Will. And he may actually, in his providence, so dispose and permit things, that the event may be certainly and infallibly connected with such disposal and permission, and his act therein not be an immoral or unholy, but a perfectly holy act. Sin may be an evil thing, and yet that there should be such a disposal and permission, as that it should come to pass, may be a good thing. This is no contradiction, or inconsistence. Joseph’s brethren selling him into Egypt, consider it only as it were acted by them, and with respect to their views and aims, which were evil, was a very bad thing; but it was a good thing, as it was an event of God’s ordering, and considered with respect to his views and aims, which were good. (Gen. I. 20.) “As for you, ye thought Evil against me; but God meant it unto Good.” So the crucifixion of Christ, if we consider only those things which belong to the event as it proceeded from his murderers, and are comprehended within the compass of the affair considered as their act, their principles, dispositions, views, and aims; so it was one of the most heinous things that ever was done; in many respects the most horrid of all acts; but consider it as it was willed and ordered of God, in the extent of his designs and views, it was the most admirable and glorious of all events; and God willing the event was the most holy volition of God, that ever was made known to men; and God’s act in ordering it, was a divine act, which, above all others, manifests the moral excellency of the Divine Being.
The consideration of these things may help us to a sufficient answer to the cavils of Arminians, concerning what has been supposed by many Calvinists, of a distinction between a secret and revealed Will of God, and their diversity one from the other; supposing that the Calvinists herein ascribe inconsistent Wills to the Most High: which is without any foundation. God’s secret and revealed Will, or, in other words, his disposing and preceptive Will, may be diverse, and exercised in dissimilar acts, the one in disapproving and opposing, the other in willing and determining, without any inconsistence. Because, although these dissimilar exercises of the Divine Will may, in some respects, relate to the same things, yet, in strictness, they have different and contrary objects, the one evil and the other good. Thus, for instance, the crucifixion of Christ was a thing contrary to the revealed or preceptive Will of God; because, as it was viewed and done by his malignant murderers, it was a thing infinitely contrary to the holy nature of God, and so necessarily contrary to the holy inclination of his heart revealed in his law. Yet this does not at all hinder but that the crucifixion of Christ, considered with all those glorious consequences, which were within the view of the Divine Omniscience, might be indeed, and therefore might appear to God to be, a glorious event; and consequently be agreeable to his Will, though this Will may be secret, i. e. not revealed in God’s law. And thus considered, the crucifixion of Christ was not evil, but good. If the secret exercises of God’s Will were of a kind that is dissimilar, and contrary to his revealed Will, respecting the same, or like objects; if the objects of both were good, or both evil; then, indeed, to ascribe contrary kinds of volition or inclination to God, respecting these objects, would be to ascribe an inconsistent Will to God: but to ascribe to Him different and opposite exercises of heart, respecting different objects, and objects contrary one to another, is so far from supposing God’s Will to be inconsistent with itself, that it cannot be supposed consistent with itself any other way. For any being to have a Will of choice respecting good, and, at the same time, a Will of rejection and refusal respecting evil, is to be very consistent: but the contrary, viz. to have the same Will towards these contrary objects, and to choose and love both good and evil, at the same time, is to be very inconsistent.
There is no inconsistence in supposing, that God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his Will it should come to pass, considering all consequences. I believe, there is no person of good understanding, who will venture to say, he is certain that it is impossible it should be best, taking in the whole compass and extent of existence, and all consequences in the endless series of events, that there should be such a thing as moral evil in the world. 151151 Here are worthy to be observed some passages of a late noted writer, of our nation, that nobody who is acquainted with him, will suspect to be very favourable to Calvinism. “It is difficult, says he, to handle the necessity of evil in such a manner, as not to stumble such as are not above being alarmed at propositions which have an uncommon sound. But if philosophers will but reflect calmly on the matter, they will find, that consistently with the unlimited power of the supreme cause, it may be said, that in the best ordered system, evils must have place.”—Turnbull’s Principles of Moral Philosophy, p. 327, 328. He is there speaking of moral evils, as may be seen. Again the same author, in his second vol. entitled, Christian Philosophy, (p. 35.) has these words: “If the Author and Governor of all things be infinitely perfect, then whatever is, is right; of all possible systems he hath chosen the best: and. consequently, there a no absolute evil in the universe.—This being the case, all the seeming imperfections or evils in it are such only in a partial view; and. with respect to the whole system, they are goods. Ibid. 37. “Whence then comes evil, is the question that hath, in all ages, been reckoned the Gordian knot in philosophy. And, indeed, if we own the existence of evil in the world in an absolute sense, we diametrically contradict what hath been just now proved of God. For if there be any evil in the system, that it not good with respect to the whole, then is the whole not good, but evil: or, at best, very imperfect: and an author must be as his workmanship is; as is the effect, such is the cause. But the solution of this difficulty is at hand; That there is no evil in the universe. What! Are there no pains, no imperfections? Is there no misery, no vice in the world? or are not these evils? Evils indeed they are; that is, those of one sort are hurtful, and those of the other sort are equally hurtful, and abominable: but they are not evil or mischievous with respect to the whole?” Ibid. p. 42. ’‘But he is. at the same time, said to create evil, darkness. confusion; and yet to do no evil, but to be the author of good only. He is called the “Father of lights,” the Author of “every perfect and good gift, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” who “tempteth no man,” but “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” And yet. by the prophet (Isa. xlv. 7.) he is introduced saying of himself, “I form light and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord, do all these things.” What Is the meaning, the plain language of all this, but that the Lord delighteth in goodness, and (as the scripture speaks) evil is “his strange work?” He intends and pursues the universal good of his creation: and the evil which happens, is not permitted for its own sake, or through any pleasure in evil, but because it is requisite to the greater good pursued. And, if so, it will certainly follow, that an infinitely wise Being, who always chooses what is best, must choose that there should be such a thing. And, if so, then such a choice is not evil, 79 out a wise and holy choice. And if so, then that Providence which is agreeable to such a choice, is a wise and holy Providence. Men do will sin as sin, and so are the authors and actors of it: they love it as sin, and for evil ends and purposes. God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of any thing evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that, he permitting, sin will come to pass, for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he does not hate evil, as evil: and if so, then it is no reason why he may not reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such.
The Arminians themselves must be obliged, whether they will or no, to allow a distinction of God’s Will, amounting to just the same thing that Calvinists intend by their distinction of a secret and revealed Will. They must allow a distinction of those things which God thinks best should be, considering all circumstances and consequences, and so are agreeable to his disposing Will, and those things which he loves, and are agreeable to his nature, in themselves considered. Who is there that will dare to say, that the hellish pride, malice, and cruelty of devils, are agreeable to God, and what he likes and approves? And yet, I trust, there is no christian divine but will allow, that it is agreeable to God’s Will so to order and dispose things concerning them, so to leave them to themselves, and give them up to their own wickedness, that this perfect wickedness should be a necessary consequence. Dr. Whitby’s words plainly suppose and allow it. 152152 Whitby on the five Points, Edit. 2. 300, 305, 309. These following things may be laid down as maxims of plain truth, and indisputable evidence.
1. That God is a perfectly happy Being, in the most absolute and highest sense possible.
2. That it will follow from hence, that God is free from every thing that is contrary to happiness; and so, that in strict propriety of speech, there is no such thing as any pain, grief, or trouble, in God.
3. When any intelligent being is really crossed and disappointed, and things are contrary to what he truly desires, he is the less pleased, or has less pleasure, his pleasure and happiness is diminished, and he suffers what is disagreeable to him, or is the subject of something that is of a nature contrary to joy and happiness, even pain and grief. 153153 Certainly it is not less absurd and unreasonable, to talk of God’s Will and Desires being truly and properly crossed, without his suffering any uneasiness, or any thing grievous or disagreeable, than it is to talk of something that may be called a revealed Will, which may, in some respect, be different from a secret purpose, which purpose may be fulfilled, when the other is opposed.
From this last axiom it follows, that if no distinction is to be admitted between God’s hatred of sin, and his Will with respect to the event and the existence of sin, as the all-wise Determiner of all events, under the view of all consequences through the whole compass and series of things; I say, then 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 bud 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, according 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 154154 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, 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 Eric 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 cast, 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 close 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 inquiry to a satisfactory issue, or of presumption in attempting it—we no less demand a strictness of examination. The real inquirer after truth, the christian divine, and the moral philosophers, 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 inquiry is—not whether there 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 shown that this proposition is true, viz. There is no real inconsistency between the existence of sin and the moral perfections of God. 2. We may therefore consider the following propositions as first principles: axioms. There does exist in the universe moral evil. II. God is infinitely free from injustice, unholiness, and all imperfections. Hence. corollary. There is no real inconsistent 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, and corollary, may have the evidence of faith, than 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 opportunity should make no further inquiries 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 rise 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, postulate. 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 abstracted 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 sovereign 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 cone 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, bis 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 gasses 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 effects. 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 power can no more be an object of appointment, than the most direct contradictions; and yet it is equally demonstrable that such a principle is the inseparable concomitant of every creature. It is of prior consideration to moral agency; for whatever is a property of a created nature as such, is of prior consideration to the agency of that creature. Consequently it is a property neither divinely appointed, nor yet a moral evil. 16. Liberty, in one sense, bears the same relation to good and evil, as rectitude does to benevolence and passive power. Liberty in itself is equally a medium between good and evil, as rectitude is between benevolence and passive power; and the medium is of a nature perfectly distinct from both extremes. To which we may add, that liberty united to or under the influence of, sovereign benevolence, generates virtue; but liberty united to, or under the influence of, passive power, generates vice. 17. From the premises it may be seen, that the existence of all evil, and especially moral evil, in the universe, is not inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. It is evident also that in no sense whatever except by a total misapplication of terms, can God be said to be “the author of sin.” Nor can it be said that God “wills the event of sin;” but the contrary is plain, that he does not will it either in a decretive, a legislative, or any other sense. 18. The great source of confusion into which many authors have plunged themselves, is, that they draw too hasty an inference in attempting to make not hindering an event to be ultimately the same as willing it. Upon their data, indeed, it may be true, while they regard every event alike to be the effect of divine energy, and even the worst, in order to answer a good end. And this will always be the case, for self-consistency requires it, until we see and acknowledge a metaphysical negative cause of moral evil, and an eternal nature of things antecedent to all will, with their infallible effects, when not counteracted by sovereign benevolence. 19. Let us now view the subject in the light of terms a little different. Much error often arises through the defect of language; and where there is danger of misapprehension, it may be of use to change expressions. Hereby a difficult subject may be taken by different handles, or a reader may apprehend it by one handle, which he could not by another. Let us then substitute the word equity Instead of rectitude. and undeserved favour instead of benevolence. postulate. Whatever is perfectly consistent with equity is also perfectly consistent with the moral character of God. 20. Whatever to the pure effect at equity and the nature of things, or essential truth, united, cannot be inconsistent with the moral perfections of God; the existence of morel evil in the universe is the pure effect of these; therefore the existence of moral evil in the universe cannot be inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. 21. The only ground of hesitation here is, now moral evil is the effect of equity and the nature of things? Liberty itself is a natural good, and therefore is the fruit of divine favour; and toe mere exercise of liberty must be ascribed to the same cause. But he who is hypothetically free to good, must be in like manner free to evil. For this hypothetical freedom either to good or to evil is what constitutes the morality of his acts of choice. Take away this hypothetical freedom, and you take away the essence of moral agency. It is plain, then, that to possess this freedom and consequent moral agency, is not inconsistent with the equity, rectitude, or moral perfections of God. Yet it is demonstrable that freedom cannot be influenced in its choice, so as to constitute it virtuous or vicious, holy or sinful, morally right or wrong, good or evil, but from two causes radically; divine favour and passive power. If the agent be under the influence of divine favour, a happy result, in the same proportion, is secured by the same essential truth as renders the choice of the great I AM, Infallibly good; which no one will say is inconsistent with the divine perfections. For though favour raises the agent above what rigid or pure equity can do, there is no incontinence between them; any more than between paying a just debt, and bestowing also a free gift in addition. But if the agent be not under the influence of undeserved favour, the only alternative is, that be must necessarily be under the influence of passive power. And as nothing can possibly secure a happy result but undeserved favour, or benevolent influence, a negative cause becomes an infallible ground of certainty of an opposite result Again. 22. When God gives to creatures what is their due, he deals with them in equity, but when God gives them less grace than is actually sufficient to secure from sin, or will in fact do so, he gives them their due. Were it otherwise, it would be impossible for any to sin. If to give them so much favour, or benevolent influence, as would actually preserve them from sin, were their due, it is plain that the God of equity would give them their due. and preserve them from sin accordingly. But the fact is widely otherwise. They are not all preserved from sin, though all might be. through the interposition of sovereign favour; therefore it is not their due, or equity does not require it 23. If it be said, it is owing to their own fault; it is very true; but how came any creature to be faulty? God made angels and men upright. And he has always dealt with every creature, however debased by sin, in equity. He has also given to every creature capable of sinning. liberty unconstrained. He often influences the disposition by benevolence; and the goodness of God, by providential and gracious dispensations, leadeth to repentance. But never has he dealt with any unjustly, or given them less than their due. Not a fallen spirit, however deeply sunk, can verify such a charge. Assuredly, they have destroyed themselves, but in God is the only help. A principle, of which God is not the author, as before explained in union with the abuse of their liberty, satisfactorily accounts for the fact. Our evil is of ourselves; but all our good is from God. 24. From what has been said, we may safely draw this inference, that tile existence of moral evil in the universe, is not inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. And the proposition would be equally true, had the proportion of moral evil been greater than it is. But some will continue to cavil, it is probable, because every objection is not professedly answered, and some difficulties, or divine arcana, will always remain. They will still be asking, why benevolence is not more universal, and thereby moral evil altogether prevented? Why the cone (to which benevolence has been compared) is not a cylinder, whose base is commensurate with the plane of creatural existence, and whose top rises ad infinitum? They might as well inquire. Why is not every atom a sun? Why not every drop an ocean? Why not every moment an age? Why not every worm an angel? Why not the solar system as large as all material systems united? Why the number of angels and men not a thousand times greater? And, to complete the absurdity of demanding evidence for every thing, as an objection against demonstrable truth. Why is not any given part on the surface of a cone, a cylinder, or a globe, not in the centre? To all such inquiries -and if advanced as objections impertinent inquiries—it is sufficient to reply, Infinite Wisdom has planned an universe, in which divine benevolence appears wonderfully conspicuous; and even the evils, whether natural or moral, which are intermixed, and which in their origin are equally remote from divine causation and from chance, are overruled to answer purposes the most benevolent, and the most wonderfully sublime. corollaries. 1. The only possible way of avoiding the most ruinous consequences—moral evil and misery—is to direct the will, through the instrumentality of its freedom, to a state of union to God, submission to his will, and an imitation of his moral perfections, according to his most merciful appointment 2. To creatures fallen below the line of rectitude, and yet the subjects of hope, prayer to God for grace, undeserved favour, or benevolent influence, is an exercise the most becoming, a duty to be most necessary and important, and a privilege of the first magnitude.—W. 80
|« Prev||SECTION IX. Concerning that objection against…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version