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sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, the matter of fact to the contrary notwithstanding.” Now I appeal to Dr. Taylor, whether this is a fair and candid statement. How have I contradicted myself? I explained the sense in which I adopted the position, and is it contradicting myself to say, that I do not adopt it in a different sense ? I have no wish to vindicate this particular phraseology. I never considered it a happy form of expression. It is the language in which Dr. Taylor has chosen to exhibit the views of his brethren. What I maintain, is, that if it means, what he now says it means, it entirely misrepresents them, and Dr. Taylor is in duty bound to correct the misrepresentation.
Dr. Taylor says, “If Dr. Tyler will explicitly declare, that all he means when he asserts that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, is, not that it is the means of as great good as holiness would be in its stead, but simply that God counteracts its evil tendencies to such an extent, and causes so much good to follow it, that in this way he glorifies himself, though not more than he would be glorified, by the universal obedience of his subjects, his statement will have my hearty concurrence. Whatever objections I might have to the language of his theory," &c. And who, let me ask, is the author of this language? Does it become Dr. Taylor to find fault with the language of this theory, when that language is his own ? Dr. Taylor constantly assumes the fact that this is the common” language of those whose views he is opposing; whereas, so far as I know, it was never employed by any of the orthodox to express their views, till it was first introduced by Dr. Taylor. It certainly was not in “common” use. The state of the case is this. Dr. Taylor has given a representation of the views of his brethren in his own language. Some of them have adopted this language in a certain sense. In commenting on their views, he gives to the language a different sense, and insists that it must be understood in this sense, and in no other; and charges upon them the opinions which the language thus interpreted, conveys. They say to him we reject this meaning. We never adopted the language in this sense; and if it inust be thus interpreted, we disclaim it altogether. He then charges them with contradicting themselves, and using language very improperly!
The course which Dr. Taylor and the Christian Spectator have taken in relation to this subject, is truly astonishing. They seem determined to fasten upon their brethren the stigma of maintaining, that “sin is a good thing"—that “in every act of sin, we have done the very best thing we could do”
and consequently, that we ought “to praise God for all the sins which we and others have ever committed”—and “to take pleasure in other men's, and to do whatever we can to forward the commission of them." And why is this, when they must be conscious, that these views are rejected by their brethren with abhorrence ?
But let us return to the statement with which Dr. Taylor says he should be satisfied. And here permit me to ask, why is he so anxious to limit the good which God can effect by overruling sin and counteracting its evil tendencies? That God can “ bring good out of evil” to some extent, Dr. Taylor admits. And why not admit that he can do this to any extent he pleases? Is any thing too hard for the Lord ? Is there any thing revolting in the thought, that God sbould entirely defeat the designs of his enemies, and make their wrath to praise him, and so overrule all their wickedness as to make it subserve his benevolent designs ? This is the position which I maintain. I believe that the wrath of man shalt praise God, and that the remainder of wrath he will restrain ; that is, that God will overrule all the sin that ever has existed, or that ever will exist, in such a manner as to get glory to himself;—and that all the sin which he sees conld not be thus overruled, he will restrain, or prevent. I believe, that as in the case of Joseph's brethren, when they meant evil
, God meant it unto good ; so in every other case, when sinners mean evil, God means it unto good; and that he will so overrule all sin, and “bring good out of the evil, by counteracting its evil tendencies and other interpositions," as eventually to bring to pass a greater amount of good, than would have been realized if all had remained holy. Is this “ a revolting dogma ?” Is it a doctrine involving such blasphemy, and leading to such disastrous consequences, as is represented by Dr. Taylor and the Reviewer ?
Since sin does exist, and does tend to infinite evil; must it not be the desire of every benevolent being, that, if possible, it may be so overruled and counteracted, as not to be, on the whole, a detriment to the universe ? And is there any thing dishonorable to God in the supposition that he can, and that he will thus overrule it ?
The Reviewer in the Christian Spectator, says, “ This is the peculiarity of Dr. Taylor's system-He suggests as the possible alternative presented to the divine mind, the existence of sin on the one hand, and on the other, the non-existence of the best system.” p. 467. This, however, so far from being the peculiarity of Dr. Taylor's system, is the very system which be
opposes—the system of those whom he represents as holding that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good. They maintain that God chose the present system, because notwithstanding the evil which it contains, it is the best system--entirely, absolutely the best--the best practicable, and the best conceivable. Consequently, according to them, the actual alternative presented to the divine mind, was the existence of sin, on the one hand, and the non-existence of the best system on the other. But according to Dr. Taylor's theory, the present is not the best system ; for it supposes that the system would be better if sin and misery did not exist. According to him, the present system is very imperfect, and very different from what God, all things considered, prefers it should be. He would much prefer a different system if he could bring it to pass; but as that is impossible, he has adopted the present system.
The Reviewer proceeds, “ God, according to this hypothesis, adopted the best moral system, preferring that every subject should obey rather than disobey his law, and yet knowing that sin would exist under this system, he preferred its existence, rather than not adopt the system.” But how can Dr. Taylor or the Reviewer say, that God adopted the best moral system, when they strenuously maintain that a different moral system, (viz. one of perfect holiness,) would be infinitely better than the one which he has adopted!
But the Reviewer doubtless means that God has adopted the best practicable system--a system which will result in as much good as he is able to bring to pass; but infinitely less than he would be glad to bring to pass, if he could. The real point of difference, therefore, between Dr. Taylor and his opponents, is, whether the Almighty is able to do what he would be glad to do-which seems to me very much like the question, whether he is indeed the Almightly, and whether his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure-a poict which seens to be settled, is his own word may be taken in evidence. The Reviewer
6. The doctrine that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, is maintained by all Supralapsarian Calvinists and especially by those who in this country are called Hopkinsians--when, therefore, we speak of the theory of Dr. Tyler, we intend the theory or scheme which involves the theory that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, of which Dr. Tyler is the advocate.” p. 465. The design of this statement is sufficiently obvious. Dr. Taylor also says, “I have denied or questioned some of the
theories of Dr. Tyler and a few OTHER MEN, while in these very matters I accord more fully with the great majority of the orthodox clergy, than does Dr. Tyler bimself.” p. 83.
In what sense I am the advocate of the theory, that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, has been already explained. I maintain that God will overrule the existence of sin for good, and thus bring to pass a greater amount of good than if sin had not existed. But this sentiment is not peculiar to the high Hopkinsians, or Supralapsarian Calvinists; but has been maintained by all who believe that God could have prevented the existence of sin in a moral universe. It is indeed impossible to admit one of these sentiments and reject the other, without impeaching the benevolence of God. If God could have prevented all sin in the moral universe, and if he saw that a universe of perfect holiness would be, on the whole, better than one comprising sin and its miseries; why did he not prevent the existence of sin ? I ask in the language of Dr. Taylor, “must not infinite benevolence accomplish all the good it can ?" Since then, sin does exist, if we admit that God could have prevented it and secured universal holiness, we must conclude that he permitted it because he saw that it was best, on the whole, that it should exist; in other words, because he saw that he could overrule it for good.
Now, I ask, what Calvinistic divine, either Supralapsarian, or Sublapsarian, has ever maintained the theory that God could not have prevented the existence of sin in a moral uni verse; or who has undertaken to account for the existence of sin on this supposition ? That this is the theory adopted by those who deny the doctrine of foreordination, is well known to all who are acquainted with the controversies on this subject. But I ask what writer, claiming to be a Calvinist, (excepting Dr. Taylor and his associates) has ever taken this ground?
As I am represented as differing on this point from "the great majority of the orthodox clergy;" I beg leave to introduce in this place, a few extracts from some of the theological writers of New England.
President Edwards—“ Objectors may say, God cannot always prevent men's sins, unless he act contrary to the free nature of the subject, or without destroying men’s liberty. But will they deny that an omnipotent and infinitely wise God could possibly invent and set before men such strong motives to obedience, and have kept them before them in such a manner, as should have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty ?"
Decrees and Election, Sec. 19. “ Sin may be an evil thing, and yet that there should be such a disposal and permission that it should come to pass may be a good thing."
Treatise on the Will p. 339.
" God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of any thing evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that He permitting, sin will come to pass; for the sake of the GREAT GOOD THAT BY his dispoSAL, SHALL BE THE CONSEQUENCE.” Id. p. 343.
Dr. Bellamy. “We agree, that if God had pleased, he could have hindered the existence of sin, and caused misery to be forever unknown in his dominions, with as much ease as to have suffered things to take their pres. ent course. Works. Vol. II. p. 126.
“For the doctrine of the wisdom of God in the permission of sin, supposes sin in itself, and in all its natural tendencies,to be infinitely evil, infinitely contrary to the honor of God, and good of the system. For herein consists the wisdoin of God in the affair, not in bringing good out of good, but in bringing infinite good out of infinite evil, and never suffering one sin to happen in all his dominions, but which, notwithstanding its intinitely evil nature and tendency, infinite wisdom can and will overrule to greater good on the whole." Id. p. 145.
“ Now since it is a plain fact, that sin and misery do take place in the system; methinks that every one who is a friend to God and to the system, should rejoice with all his heart to hear, that the seed of the woman will bruise the serpent's head, bring glory to God, and good to the system, out of all the evil, that ever has taken place, or ever will ; (and the more good the better;) and so completely disappoint the devil.” Id. p. 171.
Dr. Hopkins—" Moral evil is, in itself considered, in its own nature and tendency, most odious, hurtful and undesirable ; but in the hands of Omnipotence, infinite wisdom and goodness, it may be introduced into the most perfect plan and system, and so disposed, and counteracted in its nature and tendency, as to be a necessary part of it, in order to render it most complete and desirable." System. Vol. I. p. 114.
Dr. Dwight—“ That God could not prevent the existence of sin, cannot be maintained. He has prevented it in the Angels who kept their first estate. He prevented it in the person of Christ; who in his human nature knew no sin." He has promised that he will prevent it, and he will therefore certain. ly prevent it in the spirits of just men made perfect in the heavens. Should it be said, that these things by their own voluntary agency, and without any interference, or influence on the part of God, continue in a state of holiness; I answer; this supposition affects not the point at all; for God plainly could have created every moral agent with exactly the same attributes, and placed them in exactly the same circumstances, with those several virtuous beings who persist in holiness. Whatever we suppose to be the means, by which they are preserved from sin, those very means he certainly could have used, to preserve in the same effectual manner ALL OTHERS
System of Thcol. Vol. I. pp. 244, 245. " It will not be denied, that God is both able and disposed to plan a
It follows, therefore, that he certainly has planned such a system. Whatever accords not with his pleasure apon the whole, accords not with this system; this being the thing, which is agreeaable to his pleasure ; but must be defective or superfluous; out of place, or out of time; aside from, or contrary to, the perfection of the system. Consequently, if the actions of voluntary beings be not, upon the whole, accordant with the pleasure of God, he was not only unassured of the accomplishment of the end, which he proposed in creating and governing the uni. verse; but he entered upon this great work without knowing that it would be accomplished; and was originally certain that the PERFECT GOOD, which he proposed, would never exist.” Id. p. 239.
Dr. Strong.– Human incapacity to bring the greatest possible good out much evil-much sin—and much misery, is no argument that an infinite God cannot do it.
Benevolence and Misery, p. 15. “We ought to have such confidence in the wisdom and goodness of God, VOL. VI.-NO. V.
PERFECT SYSTEM OF GOOD.