Abbildungen der Seite

$ 33. And if the damned are not answerable for the wickedness they commit during their state of punishment, then we must suppose that, during the whole of their long, and, as it were, eternal state of punishment, they are given up of God to the most unrestrained wickedness, having this to consider, that how far soever they go in the allowed exercises and manifestations of their malice and rage against God and Christ, saints and angels, and their fellow damned spirits, they have nothing to fear from it, it will be never the worse; and surely, continuing in such unrestrained wick. edness, for such duration, must most desperately confirm the habit of sin, must increase the root and fountain of it in the heart. Now, how unreasonable is it to suppose, that God would thus deal with such as were objects of his infinite kindness, and the appointed subjects of the unspeakable and endless fruits of bis love, in a state of perfect holiness and purity, and conformity to and union with himself; thus to give them up beforehand to unrestrained malignity against himself, and every kind of hellish wickedness, as it were infinitely to increase the fountain of sin in the heart, and the strength of the principle and habit? Now, how incongruous is it to suppose, with regard to those for whom God has great benevolence, and designs eternal favour, that he would lay them under a necessity of extreme, unbounded hatred of him, blasphemy and rage against bim, for so many ages; such nccessity as should exclude all liberty of their own in the case? If God intends not only punishment, but purification by these torments; on this supposition, instead of their being purified, they must be set at an infinitely greater distance from purification. And if God intends them for a second time of probation, in order to their being brought to repentance and the love of God after their punishment is finished; then how can it be certain beforehand, that they shall finally be happy, as is supposed? How can it be certain they will not fail, in their second trial, or in their third, if there be a third ? Yea, how much more likely, that they will fail of truly turning in heart from sin to the love of God, in their second trial, if there be any proper trial in the case, after their hearts have been so much more brought under the power of a strong habit of 'sin and enmity to God? If the babit proved so strong in this life, that the most powerful means and mighty inducements of the gospel would not prevail, so that God was, as it were, under a necessity of cutting them down and dealing thus severely with them; how much less likely will it be, that they will be prevailed upon to love God and ihe ways of virtue, after their bearts are set at so much greater distance from those things? Yea, unless we suppose

a divine interposition of almighty, efficacious power, to change the heart in the time of this second trial, we may be sure that, under these circumstances, the beart will not turn to love God.

§ 34. And besides, if they are laid under such a necessity of hating and blaspheming God, for so many ages, in the manner that has been spoken of, how extremely incongruous is such an imagination, that God would lay those he intended for the eternal bounty and blessedness of dear children, under such circumstances, that they must necessarily hate him, and with devilish fury curse and blaspheme him for innumerable ages, and yet never have cause, even when they are delivered and made happy, in God's love, to condemn themselves for it, though they see the infinite hatefulness and unreasonableness of it, because God laid them under such a necessity, that they could use no liberty of their own in the case? I leave it for all to judge, whether God's thus ordering things, with regard to such as, from great benevolence, he intended for eternal happiness in a most blessed union with bimself, be credible.

$ 35. The same disposition and habit of mind, and manner of viewing things, is indeed the main ground of the cavils of many of the modern free-thinkers; and 'modish writers, against the extremity and eternity of hell torments, if relied upon, would cause them to be dissatisfied with almost any thing that is very uncomfortable in a future punishment, so much as the enduring of the pain that is occasioned by the thrusting of a thorn under the nail of the finger, for a whole year together, day and night, without any rest, or the least intermission or abatement. There are innumerable calamities that come to pass in this world, through the permission and ordination of divine providence, against which (were it not that they are what we see with our eyes, and are universally known and incontestable facts) this cavilling, unbelieving spirit, would strongly object; and, if they were only proposed in theory, as matters of faith, would be opposed as exceedingly inconsistent with the moral perfections of God; and the opinions of such as asserted them would be cried out against, as in numberless ways contrary to God's wisdom, his justice, goodness, mercy, &c.; such as, the innumerable calamities that have happened to poor innocent children, through the merciless cruelty of barbarous enemies; their being gradually roasted to death, shrieking and crying for their fathers and mothers; the extreme pains they sometimes are tormented with, by terrible diseases which they suffer; the calamities

that have many times been brought on whole cities, while besieged, and when taken by merciless soldiers, destroying all, men, women, and children, without any pity; the extreme miseries wbich have been suffered by millions of innocent persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, in times of persecution, when there bas been no refuge to be found on earth ; yea, those things that come to pass universally, of which all mankind are the subjects, in temporal death, which is so dreadful to nature.

[ocr errors]




$ 1. Whether God has decreed all things that ever came to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that he knows all things beforehand. Now, it is selfevident, that if he knows all things beforehand, he either doth approve of them, or he doth not approve of them; that is, he either is willing they should be, or he is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be, is to decree them.*

* Were the true origin of moral evil, that is, the adequate reason of its taking place as a consequence, more generally known, there would be less unprofitable disputing about the divine decrees in general, and about predestination and election in particular. It is to the want of this knowledge that we must ascribe many things advanced by ancient as well as modern writers, who, in other important respects, are truly valuable and judicious. Our excellent author appears never less at home, than when he touches upon those points which are immediately connected with that knowledge ; and his reasoning in the short section to which this note refers, is a striking specimen. The conclusion he draws is true in one sense, but not in another. It is applicable only to real entities, while it does not affect negative causations, and consequences flowing from them. That God “knows beforehand" all things (whether of a positive or negative kind) is an important truth; but things coming to pass, or not coming to pass, is no proper criterion of his “ approsing" or "pot approving them.” He may approve of what does not come to pass, and he may not approve of what does. He approves of all possible excellencies, and he disapproves of all possible moral evil. But who will say that there are as many excellencies among creatures, or as much moral evil, as it is possible there might be ?

When it is said, " he either is willing they should be, or he is not willing they should be," the terms require a distinction, and the sentiment an explacation. If by " they” or “things” be meant real entities, it is very proper to say, that“ God is either willing they should be, or not willing they should be;" and if the former, they must exist from his will, and therefore are decreed; but if the latter, they must not exist, for there is no other adequate cause of their existence. But this reasoning is not valid when applied to pegations and defects. For there are multitudes of things, (as all failings, wants, and negative considerations,) concerning which there is no decretive will exercised for their existence, (if existence it may be called,) nor yet any contrary will to prevent their existence. What intelligent person can suppose, for instance, that a inathematical point, a relative nothing, was decreed either to be or not to be ? and yet, wben it stands related to real

$ 2. The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and law of God; because

entities which are decreed, what innumerable demonstrative consequences follow from it?

By whomsoever sanctioned, it is an erroneous notion, that a decretive will is iinplied in, or is at all requisite for the production of a negative cause. It is not less erroneous, than to suppose, that negative causes may produce real entities. That the latter is an erroneous notion, may be easily made to appear. Millions of inhabited systems are among possible effects, but who would say that there must be a decretive will, or any will, to prevent their existepce ? Would they start into being of themselves, if not prevented by an act of will? To suppose that an exercise of divide will is requisite for confirming the negative consideration of their non-existence, is an absurd idea, except these ideal possibles had an inherent tendency towards actual existence of themselves. And as there is no will requisite to prevent their existence, so neither is there any required to continue their non-existence. But though a negative cause, like a mathematical point, be a relative nothing, yet on the supposition of existing free agents, in given circumstances, millions of sins would come to pass, more than do in fact, were they not prevented by a counteracting will. This counteraction is very properly termed "restraining, or preventing grace;" for the object of a decree which counteracts evil, is the positive existence of an opposite good. And if woral evil be the object of prevention, it must be prevented by divine gracious will and influence, which counteracts the operation of that negative principle in the agent, from which the moral evil takes its origin. Therefore, our author's conclusion, “to will that they should be, is to decree them,” applies only to one sort of “ things," vi:. real entities; but negative considerations, defects, and moral evils, no more imply a decree concerning their cansation, and their appropriate consequences, than does absolute non-existence imply it.

The true notion of moral evil, or the sinfulness of a free act, is the absence or the count of conformity to rectitude. And if God were the decretive cause of moral evil, by“ willing it should be,” tbe will of the agent would be only the instrument of the first will in producing an intended or decreed event. But if such event be decreed, and if there be no cause of failure in the agent but what is decreed, it is impossible to avoid the consequence that God is the primary author of sin. And how could he hate aod blame the effect of his own cassa. tion, any more than he hates natural evils, or blames volcanoes and storms, diseases and death? He is never said, or even supposed, to hate or blame these, because he is the primary source of them, according to established laws and instruments of his own appointment. If moral evil were decreed by him, he must be the efficient of it: for whatever he docrees, he effects; and potwithstanding any kind whatever of instrumentality in its produetion-the human will or any thing else—he could no more disapprove of it, than he does of lightniog and earthquakes.

But if" willing they should be” denote, not exercising a will to prevent moral evils, the expression is inappropriate, and implies a contradiction. For a decree implies the exercise of will; but not exercising a preventing will (by which alone the event can be arrested) is an idea directly contrary; and the two ideas are absolutely incompatible. The same intelligent cause indeed may produce eti'ects different from itself; and this must be the case, as cause and effect cannot be identified, (for identity is that which excludes difference,) but the same intelligent cause cannot produce effects contrary to itself. All the decrees of God are holy, like himself; but to suppose a decree of moral evil, is to suppose an effect contrary to its cause, which is to suppose incompatible ideas to be a truth. The intervention of a secondary will make no real difference, if there be not another cause of failure in the act, totally different from decretive will.

But is there any adequate cause, or sufficient reason of the consequence, why moral evil takes place, if we exclude a divine decree of it. Most assuredly there is; as sure as all the decrees God, and the exercise of those

« ZurückWeiter »