By Richard Watson
ATTRIBUTES OF God.--Goodness.
GOODNESS, when considered as a distinct attribute of God, is not taken in the sense of universal rectitude, but signifies benevolence, or a disposition to communicate happiness. From an inward principle of good will, God exerts his omnipotence in diffusing happiness through the universe, in all fitting proportion, according to the different capacities with which he has endowed his creatures, and according to the direction of the most perfect wisdom. "Thou art good, and doest good.-The Father of light, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift.-O praise the Lord! for he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever."
This view of the Divine character in the Holy Scriptures has in it some important peculiarities, too often overlooked, but which give to the revelation they make of God, a singular glory.
Goodness in God is represented as goodness of nature; as one of his essential perfections, and not as an accidental or an occasional affection; and thus he is set infinitely above the gods of the heathen, those imaginary creations of the perverted imaginations of corrupt men, whose benevolence was occasional, limited, and apt to be disturbed by contrary passions.
Such were the best views of pagans; but to us a being of a far different character is manifested as our Creator and Lord. One of his appropriate and distinguishing names, as proclaimed by himself signifies "The gracious One," and imports goodness in the principle; and another," The all-sufficient and all bountiful pourer forth of all good ;" amid expresses goodness in action. Another interesting view of this attribute is, that time goodness of God is efficient and inexhaustible; it reaches every fit case, it supplies all possible want; and " endureth for ever." Hence the Talmudists explain ydc SHADDAI in Gen. xvii, 1, by "in aeternum sufficiens sum," I am the eternally all-sufficient. Like his emblem, the sun, which sheds his rays upon the surrounding worlds, and enlightens and cherishes the whole creation without being diminished in splendour, lie imparts without being exhausted, and, ever giving, has yet infinitely more to give.
A third and equally important representation is, that he takes pleasure in the exercise of benevolence; that "he delights in mercy." It is not wrung from him with reluctance; it is not stintedly measured out, it is not coldly imparted. God saw the works he had made, that "they were good," with an evident gratification and delight in what he had imparted to a world "full of his goodness," and into which sin and misery bad not entered. "He is rich to all that call upon him; -he giveth liberally and upbraideth not; -exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." It is under these views, that the Scriptures afford so much encouragement to prayer, and lay so strong a ground for that absolute trust in God, which they enjoin as one of our highest duties, as it is the source of our greatest comfort.
Another illustration of the Divine goodness, and which is also peculiar to the Scriptures, is, that nothing, if' capable of happiness, comes immediately from his forming hands without being placed in circumstances of positive felicity. By heathens, acquainted only with a state of timings in which much misery is suffered, this view of the Divine goodness could not be taken. They could not but suppose either many gods, some benevolent; and others, and the greater number, of an opposite character; or one, in whose nature no small proportion of malevolence was intermixed with milder sentiments. The Scriptures, on the contrary, represent misery as brought into the world by the fault of creatures; and that otherwise it had never entered. When God made the world, he made it good; when lie made man, he made him happy, with power to remain so. lie sows good seed in his field, and if tares spring up, "an enemy hath done this." This is the doctrine of inspiration. Finally, the Scriptures, upon this lapse of man, and the introduction of natural and moral evil, represent God as establishing an order of perfectly sufficient means to remedy both. One of his names is therefore law, GOEL, "the Redeemer," and another, Bonah, "the Restorer." The means by which he justifies these titles, display his goodness with such peculiar eminence, that they are called "the riches of his grace," and sometimes "the riches of his glory." By the incarnation and sacrificial death of the Son of God, he became the "Goel," the kinsman, and "Redeemer" of mankind; he bought back and "restored" the forfeited inheritance of happiness, present and eternal, into the human family, and placed it again within the reach of every human being. In anticipation of this propitiation, the first offender was forgiven and raised to eternal life, and the same mercy has been promised to all his descendants. No man perishes finally but by his own refusal of the mercy of his God. And though the restoration of individuals is not at once followed by the removal of the natural evils of pain, death, &c; for had the whole race of man accepted the offered grace, they would not, in this present state, have been removed; yet beyond a short life on earth these evils are not extended, and, even in this life, they are made the means of moral ends, tending to a higher moral perfection, and greater happiness in another.
Such are the views of the Divine goodness as unfolded in the Scriptures; views of the utmost importance in an inquiry into the proofs of this attribute of the Divine nature, which are afforded by the actual circumstances of the world. Independent of their aid, no proper estimate can be taken of the sum of evil, which actually exists; nor of its bearing upon the Divine character. On these subjects there have been conflicting opinions; and the principal reason has been, that many persons on both sides, those who have impugned time goodness of God, and those who have defended it against objections taken from the existence of evil, have too often made the question a subject of pure "natural theology," and have therefore necessarily formed their conclusions on a partial and most defective view of the case. This is not indeed a subject for natural theology. It is absurd to make it so; and the best writers have either been pressed with the insuperable difficulties which have arisen from excluding time light which revelation throws upon the state of man in this world, and his connection with another; or, like Paley, they have burst the self-inflicted restraints, and confessed "that when we let in religious considerations, we let in light upon the difficulties of nature."
With respect to the illustrations of the Divine goodness which are presented in the natural and moral world, there are extremes of opinion on both sides. The views of some are too gloomy, and shut out much of the evidences of the Divine benignity: others embrace a system of Optimism, and exclude, on the other hand, the manifestations of the Divine justice and the retributive character of the universal Governor. The Scriptures enable us to adjust these extremes, and to give to God the glory of an absolute goodness, without limiting its tenderness by severity, or diminishing its majesty by weakness.
The dark side of the actual state of the world and of man, its inhabitant, has often, for insidious purposes, been very deeply shadowed.- The facts alleged may indeed be generally admitted. The globe, as the residence of man, has its inconveniencies and positive evils; its variable, and often pernicious climates; its earthquakes, volcanoes, tempests, and inundations; its sterility in some places, which wears down man with labour; its exuberance of vegetable and animal life in others, which generates disease or gives birth to annoying and destructive animals. The diseases of the human race; their short life and painful dissolution; their general poverty; their universal sufferings and cares; the distractions of civil society; oppressions, frauds, and wrongs; must all be acknowledged. To these may be added the sufferings and death of animals, and the universal war carried on between different creatures throughout the earth. This enumeration of evils might, indeed, be greatly enlarged without exaggeration.
But this is not the only view to be taken. It must be combined with others equally obvious; there are lights as well as shadows in the scene, and time darkest masses which it presents are mingled with bright and joyous colours. For, as Paley has observed, "In a vast plurality of instances, in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial.
"When God created the human species, either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about either.
"If he had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment: or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter; every thing we saw, loathsome; every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord.
"If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune, (as all design by this supposition is excluded,) both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.
"But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view and for that purpose.
"The same argument may be proposed in different terms, thus: - Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil no doubt exists, but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it; or even, if you will, Jet it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it.- This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's hand, though, from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often follows But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints; this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the fee. Here pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body ever said, this is to irritate; this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout. If by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless: no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment." (Natural Theology.)
The chief exceptions to this are those of venomous animals, and of animals preying upon one another; on the first of which it has been remarked, not only that the number of venomous creatures is few, but that "the animal itself being regarded, the faculty complained of is good; being conducive, in all cases, to the defence of the animal; in some cases, to the subduing of its prey; and in some probably to the killing of it, when caught, by a mortal wound inflicted in the passage to the stomach, which may be no less merciful to the victim, than salutary to the devourer. In the viper, for instance, the poisonous fang may do that which, in other animals of prey, is done by the crush of the teeth. Frogs and mice might be swallowed alive without it.
"The second case, namely, that of animals devouring one another, furnishes a consideration of much larger extent. To judge whether, as a general provision, this can be deemed an evil, even so far as we understand its consequences, which probably is a partial understanding, the following reflections are fit to be attended to: - "1. Immortality upon this earth is out of the question. Without death there could be no generation, no parental relation, that is, as things are constituted, no animal happiness. The particular duration of life, assigned to different animals, can form no part of the objection; because whatever that duration be, while it remains finite and limited, it may always be asked, why is it no longer? The natural age of different animals varies from a single day to a century of years. No account can be given of this; nor could any be given, whatever other proportion of life had obtained among them.
"The term, then, of life in different animals, being the same as it is, he question is, what mode of taking it away is the best even for the animal itself.
"Now, according to the established order of nature, (which we must suppose to prevail, or we cannot reason at all upon the subject,) the three methods by which life is usually put an end to, are acute diseases, decay, and violence. The simple and natural life of brutes is not often visited by acute distempers; nor could it he deemed an improvement of their lot if they were. Let it be considered, therefore, in what a condition of suffering and misery a brute animal is placed, which is left to perish by decay. in human sickness or infirmity, there is the assistance of man's rational fellow creatures, if not to alleviate his pains, at least to minister to his necessities, and to supply the place of his own activity. A brute, in his wild and natural state, does every thing for himself. When his strength, therefore, or his speed, or his limbs, or his senses fail him, he is delivered over either to absolute famine, or to the protracted wretchedness of a life slowly wasted by scarcity of food. Is it then to see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half.starved, helpless, and unhelped animals, that you would alter the present system of pursuit and prey?
"2. This system is also to them the spring of motion and activity on both sides. The pursuit of its prey forms the employment, and appears to constitute the pleasure, of a considerable part of the animal crea. tion. The using of the means of defence or flight, or precaution, forms also the business of another part. And even of this latter tribe we have no reason to suppose that their happiness is much molested by their fears. Their danger exists continually; and in some cases they seem to be so far sensible of it as to provide in the best manner they can against it: but it is only when the attack is actually made upon them that they appear to suffer from it. To contemplate the insecurity of their condition with anxiety and dread, requires a degree of reflection, which (happily for themselves) they do not possess. A hare, notwithstanding the number of its dangers and its enemies, is as playful an animal as any other."
It is to be observed, that as to animals, there is still much happiness.
"The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view. 'The insect youth are on the wing.' Swarms of newborn flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity, their continual change of place without use or purpose, testify their joy and the exultation which they feel in their lately-discovered faculties. A bee among the flowers, in spring, is one of the cheerfullest objects that can be looked upon. Its life appears to be all enjoyment; so busy and so pleased; yet it is only a specimen of insect life, with which, by reason of the animal being half domesticated, we happen to be better acquainted than we are with that of others. The whole winged insect tribe it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper employments, and, under every variety of constitution, gratified, and perhaps equally gratified, by the offices which the author of their nature has assigned to them. But the atmosphere is not the only scene of enjoyment for the insect race. Plants are covered with aphides, greedily sucking their juices, and constantly, as it should seem, in the act of sucking. It cannot be doubted but that this is a state of gratification. What else should fix them so close to the operation, and so long? Other species are running about with an alacrity in their motions which carries with it every mark of pleasure. Large patches of ground are sometimes half covered with these brisk and sprightly natures. If we look to what the waters produce, shoals of the fry of fish frequent the margins of rivers, of lakes, and of the sea itself. These are so happy that they know not what to do with themselves. Their attitudes, their vivacity, their leaps out of the water, their frolics in it, (which I have noticed a thousand times with equal attention and amusement,) all conduce to show their excess of spirits, and are simply the effects of that excess.
"At this moment, in every given moment of time, how many myriads of animals are eating their food, gratifying their appetites, ruminating in their holes, accomplishing their wishes, pursuing their pleasures, taking their pastimes! In each individual how many things must go right for it to be at ease; yet how large a proportion out of every species are so in every assignable instant! Throughout the whole of life, as it is diffused in nature, and as far as we are acquainted with it, looking to the average of sensations, the plurality and the preponderancy is in favour of happiness by a vast excess. In our own species, in which perhaps the assertion may be more questionable than in any other, the prepotency of good over evil, of health for example, and ease, over pain and distress, is evinced by the very notice which calamities excite. What inquiries does the sickness of our friends produce! What conversation their misfortunes! This shows that the common course of things is in favour of happiness; that happiness is the rule, misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency instead of disease and want." (Paley's Natural Theology.)
Various alleviations of positive evils, and their being connected with beneficial ends, are also to be taken into consideration. Pain teaches vigilance and caution, and renders its remission in a state of health a source of higher enjoyment. For numerous diseases also, remedies are, by the providence of God, and his blessing upon the researches of man, established. The process of mortal diseases has the effect of mitigating the natural horror we have of death. Sorrows and separations are smoothed by time. The necessity of labour obliges us to occupy time usefully, which is both a source of enjoyment, and the means of preventing much mischief in a world of corrupt and ill-inclined men; and familiarity and habit render many circumstances and mconveniences tolerable, which, at first sight, we conceive to be necessarily the sources of wretchedness. In all this, there is surely an ample proof and an adorable display of the Divine benevolence.
In considering the actual existence of evils in the world, as it affects the question of the goodness of God, we must also make a distinction between those evils which are self inflicted, and those which are inevitable. The question of the reconcilableness of the permission of evil with the goodness of God, will be distinctly considered; but waiving this for the moment, nothing can be more obvious than that man himself is chargeable with by far the largest share of the miseries of the present life, and that they draw no cloud over the splendour of universal goodness. View men collectively. Sin, as a ruling habit, is not necessary. The means of repressing its inward motions, and restraining its outward acts, are or have been furnished to all mankind; and yet were all those miseries which are the effects of voluntary vice removed, how little comparatively would remain to be complained of in the world! Oppressive governments, private wrongs, wars, and all their consequent evils, would disappear. Peace, security, and industry, would cover the earth with fruits, in sufficient abundance for all; and for accidental wants, the helpless, sick, and aged, would find a prompt supply in the charity of others. Regulated passions, and an approving conscience would create benevolent tempers, and these would displace inward disquiet with inward peace. Disease would remain, accidents to life and limb occur, death would ensue; but diseases would in consequence of temperance be less frequent and formidable, men would ordinarily attain a peaceful age, and sink into the grave by silent decay. Beside the removal of so many evils, how greatly would the sum of positive happiness be increased! Intellectual improvement would yield the pleasures of knowledge; arts would multiply the comforts, and mitigate many of the most wasting toils of life; general benevolence would unite men in warm affections and friendships, productive of innumerable reciprocal offices of kindness; piety would crown all with the pleasures of devotion, the removal of the fear of death, and the hope of a still better state of being. All this is possible. If his not actual, it is the fault of the human race, not of their Maker and Redeemer; and his goodness is not, therefore, to be questioned, because they are perverse.
But let the world remain as it is, with all its self-inflicted evils, and let the case of an individual only be considered, with reference to the number of existing evils, from which, by the merciful provision of the grace of God he may entirely escape, and of those which it is put into his power to mitigate, and even to convert to his benefit. It cannot be doubted as to any individual around us, but that he may escape from the practice and the consequence of every kind of vice, and experience the renewing effects of Christianity-that he may be justified by faith, adopted into the family of God, receive the hallowing influences of the Holy Ghost, and henceforth walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Why do men who profess to believe in Christianity, when employed in writing systems of "Natural Theology," which oblige them to reason on the Divine goodness, and to meet objections to it, forget this, or transfer to some other branch of theology what is so vital to their own argument? Here the benevolence of God to man comes forth in all its brightness, and throws its illustrations upon his dealings with man. What, in this case, would be the quantum of evil left to be suffered by this individual, morally so restored and so regenerated? No evils, which are the consequences of personal vice, often a long and fearful train. No inward disquiet, the effect of guilty or foolish passions, another pregnant source of misery. No restless pining of spirit after an unknown good, creating a distaste to present innocent enjoyments-he has found that good in the favour and friendship of God. No discontent with the allotments of Providence-he has been taught a peaceful submission. No irritable restlessness under his sufferings and sorrows,-" in patience be possesses his soul." No fearful apprehension of the future-he knows that there is a guiding eye, and a supporting hand above, employed in all his concerns. No tormenting anxiety as to life or death-" he has a lively hope" of an inheritance in heaven. What then of evil remains to him but the common afflictions of life, all of which he feels, but does not sink under, and which, as they exercise, improve his virtues, and by rendering them more exemplary and influential to others, are converted into ultimate benefits. Into this state any individual may be raised; and what is thus made possible to us by Divine goodness is of that attribute an adorable manifestation.
These views, however, while they remove the weight of any objections which may be made to the benevolence of the Divine character, taken from the existence of actual evils in the world, are at as great a distance as possible from that theory on this subject which has been denominated Optimism. This opinion is, briefly, not that the present system of being is the best that might be conceived; but the best which the nature of things would admit of. That between not creating at all, and creating material, and sentient, and rational beings, as we find them now circumstanced, and with their present qualities, there was no choice. Accordingly, with respect to natural evils, the Optimists appear to have revived the opinion of the oriental and Grecian schools, that matter has in it an inherent defect and tendency to disorder, which baffled the skill of the great Artificer himself to form it into a perfect world; and that moral evil as necessarily follows from finite, and therefore imperfect, natures. No imputation, they infer, can be cast upon the Creator, whose goodness, they contend, is abundantly manifest in correcting many of these evils by skilful contrivances, and rendering them, in numerous instances, the occasion of good. Thus the storm, the earthquake, and the volcano, in the natural world, though necessary consequences of imperfection in the very nature of matter, are rendered by their effects beneficial, in the various ways which natural philosophy points out; and thus even moral evils are necessary to give birth, and to call into exercise the opposite qualities of virtue, which but for them could have no exercise; e. g. if no injuries were inflicted, there could be no place for the virtue of forgive. ness. To this also is added the doctrine of general laws; according to which, they argue, the universe must be conducted; but that, however well set and constituted general laws may be, they will often thwart and cross one another; and that from thence particular inconveniencies will arise. The constitution of things is, however, good on the whole, and that is all which can be required.
The apology for the Divine goodness afforded by such an hypothesis, will not be accepted by those most anxious to defend this attribute from Atheistic cavils; and though it has had its advocates among some who have professed respect for the Scriptures, yet it could never have been adopted by them, had they not been too regardless of the light which they cast upon these subjects, and been led astray by the vain project of constructing perfect systems of natural religion, and by attempting to unite the difficulties which arise out of them, by the aid of unassisted reason. The very principle of this hypothesis, that the nature of things did not admit of a better world, implies a very unworthy notion of' God. It was pardonable in the ancient advocates of the eternity of matter, to ascribe to it an essential imperfection, and inseparable evil qualities; but if the doctrine of creation in the proper sense be allowed, the omnipotence which could bring matter out of nothing, was just as able to invest it with good as with evil qualities; and he who arranged it to produce so much beauty, harmony, security, and benefit, as we actually find in the world, could be at no loss to render his work perfect in every respect, and needed not the balancings and counteractions of one evil against another to effect his benevolent purposes. Accordingly, in fact, we find, that when God had finished his work, he pronounced it not merely good comparatively; but " very good," or good absolutely. Nor is it true that, in the moral world, vice must necessarily exist in order to virtue; and that if we value the one, we must in the nature of things be content to take it with the other. We are told, indeed, that no forgiveness could be exercised by one human being, if injury were not inflicted by another; no meekness could be displayed, were there no anger; no long suffering were there no perverseness, &c. But the fallacy lies in separating the acts of virtue, from the principles of virtue. All the above instances may be reduced to one principle of benevolence, which may exist in as high a degree, when never called forth by such occasions; and express itself in acts quite as explicit, in a state of society from which sin is excluded. There are, for instance, according to Scripture, beings, called angels, who kept their first state, and have never sinned. In such a society as theirs, composed probably of different orders of intelligences, some more advanced in knowledge than others, some with higher, and others with lower degrees of perfection, "as one star different from another star in glory ;" how many exercises of humility and condescension; how much kind communication of knowledge by some, and meek and grateful reception of it by others; how many different ways in which a perfect purity, and a perfect love, and a perfect freedom from selfishness may display themselves! When, therefore, the principle of universal benevolence may be conceived to display itself so strikingly, in a sinless state of society, does it need injury to call it forth in the visible form of forgiveness; anger, in the form of meekness; obstinacy, in the form of forbearance? Certainly not; and it demands no effort of mind to infer, that did such occasions exist to call for it, it would be developed, not only in the particular modes just named, but in every other.
In opposition to the view taken by such theorists, we may deny, that "whatever is, is beat." We can not only conceive of a better state of things as possible; but can show that the evils which actually exist, whether natural or moral, do not exist necessarily. It is, indeed, a proof of time Divine goodness to bring good out of evil; to make storms and earthquakes, which are destructive to the few, beneficial to the many; to render the sins of men occasions to try, exercise, and perfect, various virtues in the good; but if man had been under an unmixed dispensation of mercy, all these ends might obviously have been accomplished, independent of the existence of evils, natural or moral, in any degree. The true key to the whole subject is furnished by Divine revelation. Sin has entered the world. Man is under the displeasure of his Maker. Hence we see natural evils, and punitive acts of the Divine administration, not because God is not good, but because he is just as well as good. But man is not left under condemnation; through the propitiation made for his sins by the sacrifice of Christ, he is a subject of mercy. He is under correction, not under unmingled wrath, and hence the dis. plays of the Divine benevolence, which the world and the acts of Providence every where, and throughout all ages, present; and in proportion as good predominates, kindness triumphs against severity, and the Divine character is emblazoned in our sight as one that "delighteth in mercy."
To this representation of the actual relations in which the human race stand to God, and to no other hypothesis, the state of the world exactly answers, and thus affords an obvious and powerful confirmation of the doctrine of revelation. This view has been drawn out at length by a late ingenious writer, (Gisborne's Testimony of Natural Philosophy to Christianity,) and in many instances, with great felicity of illustration. A few extracts will show the course of the argument. The first relates to the convulsions which have been undergone by the globe itself.
"Suppose a traveller, penetrating into regions placed beyond the sphere of his antecedent knowledge, suddenly to find himself on the confines of a city lying in ruins. Suppose the desolation, though bearing marks of ancient date, to manifest unequivocal proofs that it was not effected by the mouldering hand of time, but has been the result of design and of violence. Dislocated arches, pendant battlements, interrupted aqueducts, towers undermined and subverted, while they record the primeval strength and magnificence of the structures, proclaim the determined purpose, the persevering exertions, with which force had urged forward the work of destruction. Suppose farther, that in surveying the reliques which have survived through the silent lapse of ages, the stranger dig. covers a present race of inhabitants, who have reared their huts amidst the wreck. He inquires the history of the scene before him. He is informed, that the city, once distinguished by splendour, by beauty, by every arrangement and provision for the security, the accommodation, the happiness of its occupiers, was reduced to its existing situation by the deliberate resolve and act of its own lawful sovereign, the very sovereign by whom it had been erected, the emperor of that part of the world. 'Was he a ferocious tyrant ?'-' No,' is the universal reply. 'He was a monarch preeminent for consistency, forbearance, and benignity.'-' Was his judgment blinded, or misled, by erroneous intelligence as to the plans and proceedings of his subjects ?' He knew every thing but too well. He understood with undeviating accuracy; he decided with unimpeachable wisdom.'-' The case, then,' cries the traveller, 'is plain: the conclusion is inevitable. Your forefathers assuredly were ungrateful rebels; and thus plucked down devastation upon their city, themselves, and their posterity.'
"The actual appearance of the globe on which we dwell, is in strict analogy with the picture of our hypothetical city.
"The earth, whatever may be the configuration, whatever may have been the perturbation or the repose, of its deep and hidden recesses, is, in its superior strata, a mass of ruins. It is not of one land, or of one clime, that the assertion is made; but of all lands, but of all climes, but of the earth universally. Wherever the steep front of mountains discloses their interior construction; wherever native caverns and fissures reveal the disposition of the component materials; wherever the operations of the miner have pierced the successive layers, beneath which coal or metal is deposited: convulsion and disruption and disarrangement are visible. Though the smoothness and uniformity which time hand of cultivation expands over some portions of the globe, and the shaggy mantle of thickets and forests with which nature veils other portions hitherto unreplenished and unsubdued by mankind, combine to obscure the vestiges of the shocks which our planet has experienced; as a fair skin and ornamental attire conceal internal fractures and disorganizations in the human frame: to the eye of the contemplative enquirer exploring the surface of the earth, there is apparent many a scar testifying ancient concussion and collision, and laceration; and many a wound yet unhealed, and opening into unknown and unfathomable profundity.
"From this universal scene of confusion in the superior strata of the earth, let the student of natural theology turn his thoughts to the general works of God. What are the characteristics in which those works, however varied in their kinds, in their magnitudes, and in their purposes, obviously agree? What are the characteristics by which they are all, with manifest intention, imprinted ?-Order and harmony. In every mode of animal life, from the human frame down to the atomic and unsuspected existences in water, which have been rendered visible by the lenses of modern science; in the vegetable world, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop by the wall; from the hyssop by the wall to the minutest plant discernible under the microscope: in the crystalizations of the mineral kingdom, of its metals, of its salts, of its spars, of its gems: in the revolution of the heavenly bodies, and in the consequent reciprocations of day, and night, and seasons :-all is regularity. In the works of God, order and harmony are the rule; irregularity and confusion form the rare exception. Under the Divine government, an exception so portentous as that which we have been contemplating, a transformation from order and harmony to irregularity and confusion involving the integuments of a world, cannot be attributed to any circum. stance which, in common language, we term fortuitous. It proclaims itself to have been owing to a moral cause; to a moral cause demanding so vast and extraordinary' an effect; a moral cause which cannot but be deeply interesting to man, cannot but be closely connected with man, the sole being on the face of this globe who is invested with moral agency; the sole being, therefore, on this globe who is subjected to moral responsibility; the sole being on this globe whose moral conduct can have had a particle of even indirect influence on the general condition of the globe which he inhabits."
Another instance is supplied from the general deluge. After proving from a number of geological facts, that such a phenomenon must have occurred, the author observes
"Thus, while the exterior strata of the earth, by recording in characters unquestionable and indelible the fact of a primeval and penal deluge, attest from age to age the holiness and the justice of God; the form and aspect of its surface are, with equal clearness, testifying from generation to generation his inherent and not less glorious attribute of mercy. For they prove that the very deluge, in its irruption employed as the instrument in his dispensation of vengeance to destroy a guilty world, was, in its recess so regulated by him as to the varying rapidity of its subsidence, so directed by him throughout all its consecutive operations. as to prepare the desolated globe for the reception of a restored succession of inhabitants; and so to arrange the surface, as to adapt it in every climate for the sustenance of the animals, for the production of the trees and plants, and for the growth and commodious cultivation of the grain and the fruits, of which man, in that particular region, would chiefly stand in need.
"During the retirement of the waters, when a barrier of a rocky stratum, sufficiently strong for resistance, crossed the line of descent, a lake would be in consequence formed. These memorials of the dominion of that element which had recently been so destructive, remain also as memorials of the mercy of the Restorer of nature; and by their own living splendours, and by the beauty and the grandeur of their boundaries, are the most exquisite ornaments of the scenes in which we dwell.
"Would you receive and cherish a strong impression of the extent of the mercy displayed in the renewal of the face of the earth? Would you endeavour to render justice to the subject? Contemplate the number of the diversified effects on the surface of the globe, which have been wrought, arranged, and harmonized by the Divine benignity through the agency of the retiring deluge: and combine in your survey of them the two connected characteristics, utility and beauty; utility to meet the necessities and multiply the comforts of man; beauty graciously superadded to cheer his eye and delight his heart, with which the general aspect of nature is impressed. Observe the mountains, of every form and of every elevation. See them now rising in bold acclivities; now accumulated in a succession of gracefully sweeping ascents; now towering in rugged precipices; now rearing above the clouds their spiny pinnacles glittering with perpetual snow. View their sides now darkened with unbounded forests ; now spreading to the sun their ample slopes covered with herbage, the summer resorts of the flocks and the herds of subjacent regions; now scooped into sheltered concavities; now enclosing within their ranges glens green as the emerald, and watered by streams pellucid and sparkling as crystal. Pursue these glens as they unite and enlarge themselves; mark their rivulets uniting and enlarging themselves also; until the glen becomes a valley, and the valley expands into a rich vale or a spacious plain, each varied and bounded by hills, and knolls, and gentle uplands, in some parts chiefly adapted for pasturage, in others for the plough; each intersected and refreshed by rivers flowing onward from country to country, and with streams continually augmented by collateral accessions, until they are finally lost in the ocean. There new modes of beauty are awaiting the beholder; winding shores, bold capes, rugged promontories, deeply indented bays, harbours penetrating far inland and protected from every blast. But in these vast and magnificent features of nature, the gracious Author of all things has not exhausted the attractions with which lie purposed to decorate inanimate objects. He pours forth beauties in detail, and with unsparing prodigality of munificence, and for whatever other reasons, for human gratification also, on the several portions, however inconsiderable, of which the larger component parts of the splendid whole consist: on the rock, on the fractured stone, on the thicket, on the single tree, on the bush, on the mossy bank, on the plant, on the flower, on the leaf. Of all these works of his wondrous hand, he is continually varying and enhancing the attractions by the diversified modes and accessions of beauty with which he invests them, by the alterations of seasons, by the countless and rapid changes of light and shade, by the characteristic effects of the rising, the meridian, the setting sun, by the subdued glow of twilight, by the soft radiance of the moon; and by the hues, the actions, and the music of the animal tribes with which they are peopled."
The human frame supplies another illustration :- "Consider the human frame, naked against the elements, instantly susceptible of every external impression; relatively weak, unarmed; during infancy totally helpless; helpless again in old age; occupying a long period in its progress of growth to its destined size and strength; ungifted with swiftness to escape the wild beast of the forest; incapable, when overtaken, of resisting him; requiring daily supplies of food, and of beverage, not merely that sense may not be ungratified, not merely that rigour may not decline, but that closely impending destruction may be delayed. For what state does such a frame appear characteristically fitted? For what state does it appear to have been originally designed? For a state of innocence and security; for a paradisiacal state; for a state in which all elements were genial, all external impressions in. noxious; a state in which relative strength was unimportant, arms were needless; in which to be helpless was not to be insecure; in which the wild beast of the forest did not exist, or existed without hostility to man; a state in which food and beverage were either not precarious, or not habitually and speedily indispensable. Represent to yourself man as innocent, and in consequent possession of the unclouded favour of his God; and then consider whether it be probable, that a frame thus adapted to a paradisiacal state, thus designated by characteristical indications as originally formed for a paradisiacal state, would have been selected for the world in which we live. Turn to the contrary representation; a representation the accuracy of which we have already seen the pupil of natural theology constrained, by other irresistible testimonies which she has produced, to allow: regard man as having forfeited, by transgression, the Divine favour, and as placed by his God, with a view to ultimate possibilities of mercy and restoration, in a situation which, amidst tokens and means of grace, is at present to partake of a penal character. For such a situation; for residence on the existing earth as the appointed scene of discipline at once merciful, moral, and penal; what frame could be more wisely calculated? What frame could be more happily adjusted to receive, and to convey, and to aid, and to continue the impressions, which if mercy and restoration are to be attained, must antecedently be wrought into the mind? Is not such a frame, in such a world, a living and a faithful witness, a constant and an energetic remembrancer, to natural reason, that man was created holy; that he fell from obedience; that his existence was continued for purposes of mercy and restoration; that he is placed in his earthly abode under a dispensation bearing the combined marks of attainable grace, and of penal discipline? Is not such a frame, in such a world, a preparation for the reception, and a collateral evidence to the truth, of Christianity?"
The occupations of man furnish other instances:--
"One of his most general and most prominent occupations will necessarily be the cultivation of the ground. As the products drawn from the soil form the basis, not only of human subsistence, but of the wealth which expands itself in the external comforts and ornaments of social life; we should expect that, under a dispensation comprehending means and purposes of mercy, the rewards of agriculture would be found among the least uncertain and the most liberal of the recompenses, which Providence holds forth to exertion. Experience confirms the expectation, and attests that man is not rejected of his Creator. Yet how great, how continual is the toil annexed to the effective culture of the earth! How constant the anxiety, lest redundant moisture should corrupt the seed under the clod; or grubs and worms gnaw the root of the rising plant; or reptiles and insects devour the blade; or mildew blast the stalk; or ungenial seasons destroy the harvest! How frequently, from these, and other causes, are the unceasing labours, and the promising hopes of the husbandman terminated in bitter disappointment! Agriculture wears not, in this our planet, the characteristics of an occupation arranged for an innocent and a fully favoured race. It displays to the eye of natural theology traces of the sentence pronounced on the first cultivator, the representative of all who were to succeed: 'Cursed is the ground for thy sake. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.' It bears, in its toils and in its solicitudes, plain indications that man is a sinner.
"Observations, in substance corresponding with those which have been stated respecting tillage, might be adduced concerning the care of flocks and herds. The return for labour in this branch of employment is, in the ordinary course of events, sufficient, as in agriculture, both to excite and sustain exertion, and to intimate the merciful benignity with which the Deity looks upon mankind. But the fatiguing superintendence, the watchful anxiety, the risks of loss by disease, by casualties, by malicious injury and depredation, and, in many countries, by the inroads of wild beasts, conspire in their amount to enforce the truth which has been inculcated. They inscribe the page of natural theology with the Scriptural denunciation: that the labour and the pain assigned to man are consequences of transgression.
"Another of the principal occupations of man consists in the extraction of the mineral contents of the earth, and in the reduction of the metals into the states and the forms requisite for use. On the toil, the irksomeness, and the dangers attendant on these modes of life, it is unnecessary to enlarge. They have been discussed; and have been shown to be deeply stamped with a penal character appropriate to a fallen and guilty race.
"Another and a very comprehensive range of employment consists in the fabrication of manufactures. These, in correspondence with the necessities, the reasonable desires, the self indulgence, the ingenuity, the caprices, and the luxury of individuals, are diversified beyond enumeration. But it may be affirmed generally concerning manufactures in extensive demand, that, in common with the occupations which have already been examined, they impose a pressure of labour, an amount of solicitude, and a risk of disappointment, such as we cannot represent to ourselves as probable in the case of beings holy in their nature, and thoroughly approved by their God. The tendency also of such manufactures is to draw together numerous operators within a small compass; to crowd them into close workshops and inadequate habitations; to injure their health by contaminated air, and their morals by contagious society.
"Another line of exertion is constituted by trade, subdivided into its two branches, domestic traffic and foreign commerce. Both, at the same time that they are permitted in common with the modes of occupation already named to anticipate, on the whole, by the appointment of Providence, such a recompense as proves adequate to the ordinary excitement of industry, and to the acquisition of the moderate comforts of life; are marked with the penal impress of toil, anxiety, and disappointment. Natural theology still reads the sentence, 'In the sweat of thy face, in sorrow, shalt thou eat bread.' Vigilance is frustrated by the carelessness of associates, or profit intercepted by their iniquity. Up. rightness in the dealer becomes the prey of fraud in the customer. The ship is wrecked on a distant shore, or sinks with the cargo, and with the merchant in the ocean." (Testimony of Nature, &c.)
Numerous other examples are furnished by the author, and might be easily enlarged, so abundant is the evidence; and the whole directly connects itself with the subject under consideration. The voluntary goodness of God is not impugned by the various evils which exist in the world, for we see them accounted for by the actual corrupt state of man, and by a righteous administration, by which goodness must be controlled to be an attribute worthy of God. It would otherwise be weakness, a blind passion, and not a wisely-regulated affection. On the other hand, there is clearly no reason for resorting to notions of necessity, and defects in the essential nature of created things, to prove that God is good; or, in other words, according to the hypothesis above stated, as good as the stubbornness of matter, and the necessity that vice and misery should exist, would allow. His goodness is limited by moral, not by physical reasons, but still, considering the globe as the residence of a fallen and perverse race, that glorious attribute is heightened in its lustre by this very circumstance; it arrays itself before us in all its affecting attributes of mercy, pity, long suffering, mitigation, and remission. It is goodness poured forth in the richest liberality, where moral order permits its unrestrained flow; and it is never withheld but where the general benefit demands it. Penal acts never go beyond the rigid necessity of the case; acts of mercy rise infinitely above all desert.
The above observations all suppose moral evil actually in the world, and infecting the whole human race; but the origin of evil requires distinct consideration. How did moral evil arise, and how is this circumstance compatible with the Divine goodness? However these questions may be answered, it is to be remembered that though the answer should leave some difficulties in full force, they do not press exclusively upon the Scriptures. Independent of the Bible, the fact is, that evil exists; and the Theist who admits the existence of a God of infinite goodness, has as large a share of the difficulty of reconciling facts and principles on this subject as the Christian, but with no advantage from that history of the introduction of sin into the world which is contained in the writings of Moses, and none from those alleviating views which are afforded by the doctrine of the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.
As to the source of evil, the following are the leading opinions which have been held. Necessity, arising out of the nature of things; the Manichaean principle of duality, or the existence of a good and an evil Deity; the doctrine that God is the efficient cause or author of sin; and finally, that evil is the result of the abuse of the moral freedom with which rational and accountable creatures are endowed. With respect to the first, as the necessity meant is independent of God, it refutes itself. For if all creatures are under the influence of this necessity, and they must be under it if it arise out of the nature of things itself, no virtue could now exist: from the moment of creation the deteriorating principle must begin its operation, and go on until all good is extinguished. Nor could there be any return from vice to virtue, since the nature of things would on that supposition be counteracted, which is impossible.
The second is scarcely worth notice, since no one now advocates it. This heresy, which prevailed in several parts of the Christian world from the third to the sixteenth century, seems to have been a modification of the ancient Magian doctrine superadded to some of the tenets of Christianity. Its leading principle was, that our souls were made by the good principle, and our bodies by the evil one; these two principles being, according to Mani, the founder of the sect, co-eternal and independent of each other. These notions were supposed to afford an easy explanation of the origin of evil, and on that account were zealously propagated. It was, however, overlookod by the advocates of this scheme, that it left the difficulty without any alleviation at all; for "it is just as repugnant to infinite goodness to create what it foresaw would be spoiled by another, as to create what would be spoiled by the constitution of its nature." (King's Origin of Evil.)
The dogma which makes God himself the efficient cause, or author of sin, is direct blasphemy, and it is one of those culpable extravagances into which men are sometimes betrayed by a blind attachment to some favourite theory. This notion is found in the writings of some of the most unguarded advocates of the Calvinistic hypothesis, though now generally abandoned by the writers of that school. A modern defender of Calvinism thus puts in his disclaimer, "God is not the author of sin. A Calvinist who says so I regard as Judas, and will have no communion with him." The general abandonment of this notion, so offensive and blamable, renders it unnecessary to enter into its refutation. If refutation were required it would be found in this, that the first pair who sinned were subjected to punishment for, and on account of sin; which they could not in justice have been, had not their crime been chargeable upon themselves.
The last opinion, and that which has been generally received by theologians, is, that moral evil is the result of a voluntary abuse of the freedom of the will in rational and moral agents; and that, as to the human race, the first pair sinned by choice, when the power to have remained innocent remained with them. "Why is there sin in the world? Because man was created in the image of God; because be is not mere matter, a clod of earth, a lump of clay, without sense or understanding, but a spirit like his Creator; a being endued not only with sense and understanding, but also with a will exerting itself in various affections. To crown all the rest, he was endued with liberty, a power of directing his own affections and actions, a capacity of determining himself, or of choosing good and evil. Indeed, had not man been endued with this, all the rest would have been of no use. Had be not been a free, as well as an intelligent being, his understanding would have been as incapable of holiness, or any kind of virtue, as a tree or a block of marble. And having this power, a power of choosing good and evil, he chose the latter, he chose evil. Thus 'sin entered into the world." (Wesley's Sermons.)
This account unquestionably agrees with the history of the fact of the fall and corruption of man. Like every thing else in its kind, he was pronounced "very good ;" he was placed under a law of obedience, which, if he had not had the power to observe it, would have been absurd; and that he had also the power to violate it, is equally clear from the prohibition under which lie was laid, and its accompanying penalty. The conclusion therefore is, that "God made man upright," with power to remain so, and, on the contrary, to sin and fall.
Nor was this liberty to sin inconsistent with that perfect purity and moral perfection with which he was endowed at his creation. Many extravagant descriptions have been indulged in by some divines as to the intellectual and moral endowments of the nature of the first man, which if admitted to the full extent, would render it difficult to conceive how he could possibly have fallen by any temptations which his circumstances allowed, or indeed how, in his case, temptation could at all exist. His state was high and glorious, but it was still a state not of reward but of trial, and his endowments and perfections were therefore suited to it. It is, indeed, perhaps going much too far to state, that all created rational beings, being finite, and endowed also with liberty of choice, must, under all circumstances, be liable to sin. It is argued by Archbishop King, that "God, though he be omnipotent, cannot make any created being absolutely perfect; for whatever is absolutely perfect, must necessarily be self-existent: but it is included in the very notion of a creature, as such, not to exist of itself, but of God. An absolutely perfect creature, therefore, implies a contradiction; for it would be of itself, and not of itself, at the same time. Absolute perfection, therefore, is peculiar to God; and should he communicate his own peculiar perfection to another, that other would be God. Imperfection must therefore be tolerated in creatures, notwithstanding the Divine omnipotence and goodness ;-for contradictions are no objects of power. God indeed might have refrained from acting, and continued alone self-sufficient, and perfect to all eternity; but infinite goodness would by no means allow of this; and therefore since it obliged him to produce external things, which things could not possibly be perfect, it preferred these imperfect things to none at all; from whence it follows, that imperfection arose from the infinity of Divine goodness." (Origin of Evil.)
This in part may be allowed. Imperfection must, in comparison of God, and of the creature's own capacity of improvement, remain the character of a finite being; but it is not so clear that this imperfection must, at all times, and throughout the whole course of existence, imply liability to sin. God is free, and yet cannot "be tempted of evil." "It is impossible for God to lie ;" not for want of natural freedom, but because of an absolute moral perfection. Liberty, and impeccability imply, therefore, no contradiction; and it cannot, even on rational grounds, be concluded, that a free finite moral agent may not, by the special favour of God, be placed in circumstances in which sinning is morally impossible. Revelation undoubtedly gives this promise to the faithful, in another state; a consummation to be effected, not by destroying their natural liberty, but by improving their moral condition. This was not however the case with man at his first creation, and during his abode in paradise. His state was not that of the glorified, for it was probationary, and it was yet inconceivably advanced above the present state of man; since, with a nature unstained and uncorrupted, it was easy for him to have maintained his moral rectitude, and to have improved and confirmed it. Obedience with him had not those clogs, and internal oppositions, and outward counteractions, as with us. It was, however, a state which required watchfulness, and effort, and prayer, and denial of the appetites and passions, since Eve fell by her appetite, and Adam by his passion: and slight as, in the first instance, every external influence which tended to depress the energy of the spiritual life, and lead man from God, might be, and easy to be resisted; it might become a step to a farther defection, and the nucleus of a fatal habit. Thus says Bishop Butler, with his accustomed acuteness: "Mankind, and perhaps all finite creatures, from the very constitution of their nature, before habits of virtue, are deficient, and in danger of deviating from what is right: and therefore stand in need of virtuous habits, for a security against this danger. For, together with the general principle of moral understanding, we have in our inward frame various affections toward particular external objects. These affections are naturally, and of right, subject to the government of the moral principle, as to the occasions upon which they may be gratified: as to the times, degrees and manner, in which the objects of them may be pursued: but then the principle of virtue can neither excite them, nor prevent their being excited On the contrary, the are naturally felt, when the objects of them are present to the mind, not only before all consideration, whether they can be obtained by lawful means, but after it is found they cannot. For the natural objects of affection continue so: the necessaries, conveniences, and pleasures of life, remain naturally desirable; though they cannot be obtained innocently; nay, though they cannot possibly be obtained at all. And when the objects of any affection whatever cannot be obtained without unlawful means, but may be obtained by them; such affection, through its being excited, and its continuance some time in the mind, be it as innocent as it is natural and necessary; yet cannot but be conceived to have a tendency to incline persons to venture upon such unlawful means: and, therefore, must be conceived as putting them in some danger of it. Now, what is the general security against this danger, against their actually deviating from right? As the danger is, so also must the security be, from within; from the practical principle of virtue. And the strengthening or improving this principle, considered as practical, or as a principle of action, will lessen the danger, or increase the security against it. And this moral principle is capable of improvement, by proper discipline and exercise: by recollecting the practical impressions which example and experience have made upon us: and, instead of following humour and mere inclination, by continually attending to the equity and right of the case, in whatever we are engaged, be it in greater or less matters, and accustoming ourselves always to act upon it; as being itself the just and natural motive of action, and as this moral course of behaviour must necessarily, under Divine government, be our final interest. Thus the principle of virtue, improved into habit, of which improvement we are thus capable, will plainly be, in proportion to the strength of it, a security against the danger which finite creatures are in, from the very nature of propension, or particular affections.
"From these things we may observe, and it will farther show this our natural and original need of being improved by discipline, how it comes to pass, that creatures made upright fall; and that those who preserve their uprightness, by so doing, raise themselves to a more secure state of virtue. To say that the former is accounted for by the nature of liberty, is to say no more than that an event's actually happening is accounted for by a mere possibility of its happening. But it seems distinctly conceivable from the very nature of particular affections or propensions. For, suppose creatures intended for such a particular state of life for which such propensions were necessary: suppose them endued with such propensions, together with moral understanding, as well including a practical sense of virtue, as a speculative perception of it; and that all these several principles, both natural and moral, forming an inward constitution of mind, were in the most exact proportion possible; i.e. in a proportion the most exactly adapted to their intended state of life; such creatures would be made upright, or finitely perfect. Now, particular propensions, from their very nature, must be felt, the objects of them being present; though they cannot be gratified at all, or not with the allowance of the moral principle. But if they can be gratified without its allowance, or by contradicting it; then they must be conceived to have some tendency, in how low a degree soever, yet some tendency, to induce persons to such forbidden gratification. This tendency, in some one particular propension, may be increased, by the greater frequency of occasions naturally exciting it, than of occasions exciting others. The least voluntary indulgence in forbidden circumstances, though but in thought, will increase this wrong tendency; and may increase it farther, till, peculiar conjunctures perhaps conspiring, it becomes effect; and danger of deviating from right, ends in actual deviation from it: a danger necessarily arising from the very nature of propension; and which, therefore, could not have been prevented, though it might have been escaped, or got innocently through. The case would be, as if we were to suppose a straight path marked out for a person, in which such a degree of attention would keep him steady: but if he would not attend in this degree, any one of a thousand objects, catching his eye, might lead him out of it. Now, it is impossible to say, how much even the first full overt act of irregularity might disorder the inward constitution, unsettle lie adjustments, and alter the proportions which formed it, and in which the uprightness of its make consisted: but repetition of irregularities would produce habits. And thus the constitution would be spoiled; and creatures made upright become corrupt and depraved in their settled character, proportionably to their repeated irregularities in occasional acts. But, on the contrary, these creatures might have improved and raised themselves to a higher and more secure state of virtue by the contrary behaviour: by steadily following the moral principle, supposed to be one part of their nature: and thus withstanding that unavoidable danger of defection, which necessarily arose from propension, the other part of it. For by thus preserving their integrity for some time, their danger would lessen; since propensions, by being inured to submit, would do it more easily and of course: and their security against this lessening danger would increase, since the moral principle would gain additional strength by exercise; both which things are implied in the notion of virtuous habits. Thus, then, vicious indulgence is not only criminal in itself, but also depraves the inward constitution and character. And virtuous self government is not only right in itself, but also improves the inward constitution or character: and may improve it to such a degree, that though we should suppose it impossible for particular affections to he absolutely coincident with the moral principle; and consequently should allow, that such creatures as have been above supposed, would for ever remain defectible: yet their danger of actually deviating from right may be almost infinitely lessened, and they fully fortified against what remains of it: if that may be called danger against which there is an adequate effectual security. But still, this their higher perfection may continue to consist in habits of virtue formed in a state of discipline, and this their more complete security remain to proceed from them. And thus it is plainly conceivable, that creatures without blemish, as they came out of the hands of God, may be in danger of going wrong; and so may stand in need of the security of virtuous habits, additional to the moral principle wrought into their natures by him. That which is the ground of their danger, or their want of security, may be considered as a deficiency in them, to which virtuous habits are the natural supply. And as they are naturally capable of being raised and improved by discipline, it may be a thing fit and requisite, that they should be placed in circumstances with an eye to it: in circumstances peculiarly fitted to be, to them, a state of discipline for their improvement in virtue." (Analogy.)
It is easy therefore to conceive, without supposing that moral liberty in all cases necessarily supposes liability to commit sin, how a perfectly pure and upright being might be capable of disobedience, though continued submission to God and to his law was not only possible, but practicable without painful and difficult effort. To be in a state of trial, the moral, as well as the natural freedom to choose evil was essential, and as far as this fact bears upon the question of the Divine goodness, it resolves itself into this, "whether it was inconsistent with that attribute of the Divine nature, to endow man with this liberty, or in other words to place him in a state of trial on earth, before his admission into that state from which the possibility of evil is for ever excluded." To this, unassisted reason could frame no answer. By the aid of revelation we are assured, that benevolence is so absolutely the motive and the end of the Divine providence, that thus to dispose of man, and consequently to permit his voluntary fall, is consistent with it; but in what manner it is so, is involved in obscurity: and the fact being established, we may well be content to wait for the developement of that great process which shall "justify the ways of God to man," without indulging in speculations which, for want of all the facts of the case before us, must always be to a great extent without foundation, and may even seriously mislead. This we know, that the entrance of sin into the world has given occasion for the tenderest displays of the Divine goodness in the gift of the great Restorer; and opened, to all who will avail themselves of the blessing, the gate to "glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life." The observations of Doddridge on this subject, have a commendable modesty.
"It will still be demanded, why was moral evil permitted? To this it is generally answered, that it was the result of natural liberty; and it was fit that among all the other classes and orders of beings, some should be formed possessed of this, as it conduces to the harmony of the universe, and to the beautiful variety of beings in it. Yet still it is replied, Why did not God prevent this abuse of liberty? One would not willingly say, that he is not able to do it, without violating the nature of his creatures; nor is it possible that any should prove this. It is commonly said, that he permitted it, in order to extract from thence greater good. But it may be farther queried, Could he not have produced that greater good without such a means? Could he not have secured among all his creatures universal good, and universal happiness, in full consistency with the liberty he had given them? I acknowledge I see no way of answering this question but by saying, he had indeed a natural power of doing it, but that he saw it better not to do it, though the reasons upon which it appeared preferable to him are entirely unknown to us." (Doddridge's Lectures.)
The MERCY of God is not a distinct attribute of his nature, but a mode of his goodness. It is the disposition whereby he is inclined to succour those who are in misery, and to pardon those who have offended. "In Scripture language," says Archbishop Tillotson, "it is usually set forth to us by the expressions of pity and compassion; which is an affection that causes a sensible commotion and disturbance in us, upon the apprehension of some great evil, either threatening or oppressing another; pursuant to which, God is said to be grieved and afflicted for the miseries of men. But though God be pleased in this manner to convey an idea of his mercy and tenderness to us, yet we must take heed how we clothe the Divine nature with the infirmities of human passions: we must not measure the perfections of God by the expressions of his condescension; and because he stoops to our weakness, level him to our infirmities. When therefore God is said to pity us, or to be grieved at our afflictions, we must be careful to remove the imperfection of the passion, the commotion and disturbance that it occasions, and then we may conceive as strongly of the Divine mercy and compassion as we please; and that it exerts itself in a very tender and affectionate manner.
"And therefore the Holy Scriptures not only tell us, that 'the Lord our God is a merciful God,' but that 'he is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;' that he 'delights in mercy,-waits to be gracious,-_-rejoices over us to do good,-and crowneth us with his loving kindness:' to denote the greatness and continuance of this affection, they not only tell us that 'his mercy is above the heavens;' that it extends itself 'over all his works,-is laid up in store for a thousand generations, and is to endure for ever and ever:' to express the intenseness of it, they not only tell us of the 'multitude of his tender mercies, -the sounding of his bowels,' the relentings of his heart, and 'the kindlings of his repentance;' but to give us as sensible an idea as possible of the compassions of God, they compare them to the tenderest affections among men; to that of a father toward his children: 'As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him;' nay, to the compassion of a mother toward her infant: 'can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb! yea, she may forget,' it is possible, though very unlikely; but though a mother may become unnatural, yet God cannot prove un merciful.
"In short, the Scriptures every where magnify the mercy of God, and speak of it with all possible advantage, as if the Divine nature, which does in all perfections excel every other thing, did in this perfection excel itself: and of this we have a farther conviction, if we lift but up our eyes to God, and then turning them upon ourselves, begin to consider how many evils and miseries, that every day we are exposed to, by his preventing mercy are hindered, or, when they were coming upon us, stopped or turned another way: how oft our punishment has he deferred by his forbearing mercy, or, when it was necessary for our chastisement, mitigated and made light: how oft we have been supported in our afflictions by his comforting mercy, and visited with the light of his countenance, in the exigencies of our soul, and the gloominess of despair: how oft we have been supplied by his relieving mercy in our wants, and, when there was no hand to succour, and no soul to pity us, his arm has been stretched out to lift us from the mire and clay, and by a providential train of events, brought about our sustenance and support: and above all, how daily, how hourly, how minutely we offend against him, and yet, by the power of his pardoning mercy, we are still alive: for, considering the multitude and heinousness of our provocations, 'it is of his mercy alone that we are not consumed, and because his compassions fail not. Whoso is wise will ponder these things, and he will understand the loving kindness of the Lord." (Sermons.)
 Scott's Remarks on the Refutation of Calvinism.-Few have been so daring, except the grosser Antinomians of ancient and modern times. The elder Calvinists, though they often made fearful approaches in their writings to this blasphemy, yet did not, openly and directly, charge God with being the author of sin. This Arminius, with great candour, acknowledges; but gives them a friendly admonition, to renounce a doctrine from which this aspersion upon the Divine character may, by a good consequence, be deduced: a caution not uncalled for in the present day. "Inter omnes blasphemias quae Deo impingi possunt, omnium est gravissima qua author peccati statuitur fleas: quae ipsa non parum exaggeratur, si addatur Deum idcirco authorem ease peccati a creatura commissi, at creaturam in aeternum exitiurn, quod ilk jam ante citra respectum peccati destinaverat, damnaret et deduceret: sic enim fuerit causa injustitiz homini, at ipsi aeternam miseriam adferre posset. Hanc blasphemiam nemo Deo, quem bonum concipit, impinget: quare ctiam Manichaei, pessimi haereticorum, quuth causam mali bono Deo adscribere vererentur, alium fleurn et aliud principium statuerunt, cui mali causarn deputarent. Qua de causa, nec ullis Doctoribus reformaturum Ecclesiarum jure impingi potest, quod Deum authorem peccati etatuant exprofesso; imo verissimum eat illos expresse id negare, et 111am calumniam contra alios egregiè confutasse. Attamen fieri potest, ut quis ex ignorantia aliquod doceat, ex quo bona consequentia deducatur, Deum per iUam doctrinam statui authorem peccati. Hoc si fiat, turn quidem istius doctrinae professoribus, non e8t impingendum quad Deum authorem peccati faciant, sed tantum monendi ut doctrinam istam, unde Id bona consequentia deducitur, deserant et abjiciant."