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an imbecility or imperfection of character, or paucity of resources, which might tempt to rebellion, or at least inspire distrust. But no such admission is necessary. The vindication of the moral character of God requires it not. For there is a view which can be given of the whole subject, calculated to exalt both the divine character and government. If He can, as He will, without doing violence to the voluntary agency of man, subdue his rebellious heart—if he has so adapted the motives and inducements to subordination and submission, as to reach, effectively, the hearts of his enemies, how much more easily might lle, in the first instance, have so established the principles of his government, and adjusted its administration, as to have prevented revolt among innocent creatures? Viust we believe that this was impossible?
But if God could have prevented sin, how comes it, it will be quickly asked, that a Being of boundless benevolence, who delights not in the misery of his creatures, and of infinite holiness, who abhors all workers of iniquity, should have allowed it to gain entrance, and to spread such wretchedness among his creatures? In reply to this inquiry, we remark, that the government of mind is essentially different from that of matter. To moral agents, God has been pleased to grant the power of discerning between right and wrong, and to choose and act, according as their minds and hearts shall be determined and affected by considerations and motives presented. Such is his divine constitution. Such power is essential to moral agency. Human beings are moral agents. To act for them, or to force them to act against their will, would be contrary to His own infinitely wise and sovereign constitution. All that is necessary to vindicate the divine purity in this matter, is, to shew that he has presented in the universe around, in the circumstances and condition of man's being, and in the provisions of his moral government, a suficient array of inateriel for motives and inducements to obedience. Who ean doubt this, that will, for one moment, allow his mind to contemplate the richness, vastness, wisdom and benevolence of the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth?
Throughout the whole of animated and vegetable nature, we may range with delight, admiring and adoring the wisdom and goodness of God, who has made all, and adapted them to the purposes of human comfort and felicity. Nor is inanimate nature silent in the praise of the Most High. Every where and in every thing, we may see reflected the sparkling glories of His wisdom and goodness and might. And as it regards the law which He has given to regulate our hearts and lives, it is wondrously adapted to the nature and circumstances of man, in all his varied interests and relations. The observance of its precepts is conducive to felicity. The violation of them is productive.
, of misery. “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just and good,”! "The law of the Lord is perfect, con
« verting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the cominandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey comb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward."
These things are not mere speculations, but matters of fact, continually proved and illustrated before our eyes. “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." "Evil pursueth sinners.
1. Rom. vii. 12.
3. Isai. lvii. 30–31.
No one can have lived long in the world, or looked carefully on the conduct of divine providence, without having found, that just as men depart from the commandments of God, do they involve themselves in misery. “Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him ; for the reward of his hands shall be given him." Here, then, is an ample array of inotive to induce obedience. But all this has been exceeded-infinitely exceeded, by the displays of mercy and grace, of righteousness and truth, through Jesus Christ.
It would seem that to innocent beings, a much more limited development of the excellencies of the divine character has been made, than is through the plan of redemption, as devised by infinite wisdom, and executed through Jesus Christ. The angels of heaven are represented as desiring to look into it.2
We have, therefore, ample ground, on which to vindicate God from the infidel objection against the benevolence of Jlis character, drawn from the fact of His having permitted sin. It is not that the Lofty Sovereign of heaven and earth is capricious and tyrannical, and delights to sport with the misery of his creatures. It has afforded occasion for the richest, fullest, and most amazing and affecting exhibitions of the glories of His character; for thus increasing and giving intensity and energy to those motives, by which He operates on the rational mind, and binds it in willing subjection to his sway. Suppose that sin had never existed; we should not have known that there is mercy with God, nor any thing of that benignity and grace which prompt to forgiveness. Some of the most amiable features of the divine character, would have been forever concealed from the view of his creatures.
On the supposition that God could not have prevented sin-j.c. thatits ACTUAL ESISTENCE, is necessarily inciden
1. Isa. ii. 11.
2. Pet. j. 12.
tal in a moral system, the plan of redemption seems to be nothing more than a present expedient of His divine wise dom, to perfect His moral government. God appears in it r to be rather labouring to remedy the defects of His previous plan, than as overwhelming His rebellious creatures within new and surprising demonstrations of His excellence. Nor can we have any confidence that His system of moral gowernment is yet perfect. For if sin is necessarily incidental to a moral system, and God's first plan proved so defective as that rebellion quickly arose among his creatures, what security have we, that his second plan will prove much bettter? It may, indeed, be the result of experience, and the somewhat improved; but whether that experience is suficient to enable God to guard against all future contingencics, is a question that might excite some painful solicitude among his creatures. And if, according to the view some take of thai improved plan of God's moral government, we are to learn that He has relaxed from the rigour of His laws, He certainly will stand convicted of rashness and cruelty, in having, in the first instance, given such a law; so that the motives to rebellion would rather be increased than ditminished. All confidence in His character, as a moral gorernor, would be effectually destroyed, and this would not fail to introduce endless revolt, and the utmost liceutious. ness among His subjects.
But as it is—by simply permitting sin, without doing any violence whatever to the creature-i. e. by allowing him, in his rebellion, to act according to the determinations of his own mind, having given him full power to susperdi his decisions, and weigh the tendency and value of every motive, as it presented itself to his attention-the Lord has becn pleased to make sin an occasion for increasing the motives to obedience, without the least implication of His wisdom or goodness, or the character of IIis moral constitution,
Unnumbered worlds of holy creatures, may be eternally established in their allegiance to God, by means of the demonstrations which He has been pleased to make, in tivo orders of intelligent creatures, among which He has allowed sin to enter, viz: of the sovereignty and immutability of His purpose and justice on the one hand in the condemnation of apostate angels; and of the depth of His benevolence and compassions on the other hand, in pardoning through Jesus Christ, rebellious men, and of the inexorableness and severity of Ilis truth and righteousness, in punishing guilty sinners of mankind, who dared to sport with the procedures of Heaven, and to reject the only counsels of peace. As the chant of the redeemed, and of the mingled choir of saints and angels round the throne, ascends to God, all holy intelligences, who hear or know it, cannot fail to extol, and exult in, the infinite grace and mercy of the Sovereign of the skies, and feel that it is well and best for them to obey. And as the smoke of their torment who, with apostate angels, have been hurled down to the bottomless abyss, ascends for ever and ever, an obedient universe, will see inscribed on all its thickening curls, the WAGES OF REBELLION, and feel themselves more firmly determined in their allegiance. As the highest conceivable exhibition of the bliss of allegiance, and of the misery of rebellion, will thus be presented, there will be the greatest security, that the government of God shall remain unassailed by the proud schemes of daring rebels to become independent. ... We have represented the actual existence of sin as the occasion which God, in His infinite wisdom and benevolence, has seized for multiplying the motives to obedience. And this, after all, let our philosophical discussions be what they may, is the sober matter of fact. Whether He could have adopted any other expedient of equal or greater efficiency, it were presumptuous for us to inquire. It is