Page images
PDF
EPUB

his nature. His will of decree is his inclination to a thing, not as to that thing absolutely and simply, but with respect to the universality of things, that have been, are, or shall be. So God, though he has no inclination 10 a creature's misery, considered absolutely, yet he may will it for the greater promotion of happiness in this universality. God inclines to excellency, which is harmony, but yet he may suffer that which is inharmonious in tself, for the promotion of the harmony there is in the universality of his glorious works. And thus it must needs be, and no hypothesis whatever will relieve a man, but that he must own these two wills of God.

§ 9. It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and, for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete : that is, that all parts of bis glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent ; that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper, that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all, for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason, it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper, that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory; for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify bimself at all. Thus it is necessary, that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodníss, love, and holiness would be fint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great. We little consider, how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world : because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and a sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect: and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also: for as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil.

§ 10. I lay this down, which I suppose none will deny, that as to God's own actions, God decrees them, or purposes them beforehand. For none will be so absurd as to say, that God acts without intentions, or without designing to act, or that he forbears to act, without intending to forbear. And whatsoever God intends or purposes, he intends and purposes from all eternity; as there are no new purposes or intentions in God. For, if God sometimes begins to intend what he did not intend before, then two things will follow:

1. That God is not omniscient. If God sometimes begins to design what he did not design before, it must of necessity be for want of knowledge, or for want of knowing things before, as he knows them now; for want of having exactly the same views of things. If God begins to intend what he did not before intend, it must be because he now sees reasons to intend it, that he did not see before; or that he has something new objected to his understanding, to influence him.

2. If God begins to intend or purpose things that he did not intend before, then God is certainly mutable, and then he must in his own mind and will be liable to succession and change ; for, wherever there are new things, there is succession and change. Therefore, I shall take these two things for positions granted and supposed in this controversy.

§ 11. “ The wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." Psalm 1xxvi. 10. If God restrains sin when he pleases; and when he permits it, permits it for the sake of some good that it will be an occasion of, and does actually restrain it in all other cases ; it is evident that when he permits it, it is for the sake of the good of which it will be an occasion. If he permits it for the sake of that good, then he does not permit merely because he would infringe on the creature's liberty in restraining it; as is further evident, because he does restrain it when that good is not in view. If God wills to permit a thing that it may come to pass, then he wills that it should come to pass.

* This phrase, “to will to permit,” could never have obtained currency among either moral, theological, or metaphysical writers, had they duly considered the subject of negatira causality—its peculiar nature, its relation to what is positive, and its appropriate consequences By - causality,” is meant, an adequate reason for a certain (as opposed to a were probable) consequence; which causality, it is maintained, may be negative as well as positive, passive as well as active. A positive and active causation must be from the first cause, but not that which is negative and passive.

That the latter is connected with consequences, which are infallibly certain, will be shown in the course of this

$ 12. God foresaw who would comply with the terms of salvation, and who would not; and he could have forborn to give being to such as he foresaw would not comply. Objectors

note, which is intended to vindicate the divine character and government from undeserved imputations.

The word "permit,” must either include an act of the will, or not include it: if the former, to will to permit, must be " to will to will" something, or to will some act of the will. If it be said, that the phrase means, a will, in general, to exercise some other will, in particular; it is replied, that this does not constitute any difference of will, except as one thing is subservient to another in the series of decrees. But a little consideration will show the impropriety of applying the word in this manner. The divine decrees must necessarily be either direct, or indirect, as there is no medium; and the former must be of those ohjects which are excellent for their own sake, but the latter must be made respecting objects for the sake of something else which is excellent. Nothing can be the object of a direct decree but what terminates in God, as well as emanates from him, in a direct manner, as goodness, holiness, truth, &c.; and nothing can be an object of an indirect decree, (as the creation of a material world, the appointment of its laws, &c.) but what terminates in him in an indirect manner, as subservient to the other. For “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" decreed by him. Thus far most are agreed.

But the word “permit,” in reference to moral evil, cannot mean, in any consistency of language, or thought, even an indirect decree, or will; for it would involve a decree of opposile objects, and, thereby, contradictory causations. God decrees the holiness of his creatures in order to their happiness, and their happiness for his own glory. But, were we to say, that he decrees the creature's comparative defeut, for the sake of his moral failure, and the latter for the sake of showing his own justice, he must, on that supposition, decree oppo. site things, and thereby put the stamp of approbation upon the evil as well as upon the good. To say, that sin is willed for the sake of good, does not mend the matter; for still, on the supposition, it would be willed, and, consequently, decreed, as a contrary object. That an inferior good should be willed in subserviency to another superior, is very just ; and that the laws of nature, which are good, shouid be the occasion of harm to individuals, is not unworthy of the holy author of those laws; but moral evil stands directly opposed to his rectitude and infinitely holy nature.

According to the doctrine here controverted, God would be the fountain of good and evil alike; and he who commits a sin, may as justly ascribe it to God ultimately, as another may ascribe to him the goodness of his deeds. If the latter is called to exercise gratitude, the former is entitled to plead exculpation. Nor is it sufficient to say, that the sinner aims at an end, in transgressing, differ. ent from that which God aims at; for, on the hypothesis, his circumstances, without one exception, are decreed, from whence the sin arises, and, indeed, the very existence of sin must ultimately proceed from the divine will. But that the sipper should be blamed for doing what was decreed to be done, including his defects, (the ground of his fallibility.) whence proceed his wrong ends in sinning, is to sabvert all proper ideas of justice, right and wrong, good and evil.

Some will allow that the difficulties which their hypothesis involves, are in. explicable, at least by our contracted minds in the present state ; but yet bold, that we are forced to determine thus, in order to avoid still greater difficulties. For, say they, we must either adopt this plan, or deny God's foreknowledge. But this is a hasty and illegitimate inference ; and which is owing, as before intimated, to the want of properly ascertaining the doctrine of negatire causality. If this be overlooked, embarrasements will be sure to follow, nor can the most subtle penetration be of any avail to effect a disentanglement. This oversight is the cause why many anxious inquirers after truth have met with a mortifying disappointment, in endeavouring to reconcile what otherwise is demonstrably irreconcilable. And this is the reason why many have drawn back with disa gust from a scene, with which, the more they viewed it, the more they were

may say, God cannot always prevent men's sins, unless he acts contrary to the free nature of the subject, or without destroying men's liberty. But will they deny, that an omnipotent and

perplexed. They neglected, or did not sufficiently perceive, the only principle by which the greatest difficulties in moral science may be satisfactorily explained, and by the aid of which some of the most important truths of revealed religion, which appeared to clash, may assume a beautiful consistency, and may be shown to be founded in eternal truth. Faith indeed may live, and even triumph, without a scientific knowledge of his objects; but it may grow stronger, and triumph still more (cæteris paribus) in the front of daring opposition, or when insidiously attacked by the opposition of science, falsely so called," when possessed of demonstrative evidence of the harmony of divine perfections, and of truths which depend on that harmony. But, before we come to state and illustrate more particularly the principle in question, we must not lose sight of the other idea, included in the term “permit."

If the phrase " to will to permil” cannot mean " to will to will,or “to will to decree,” an act of the will is not included in the term ** permit.” And this exclusion of an act of will, undoubtedly, enters into its only justifiable acceptation in reference to the present subject. To permit, is not to hinder what has, or appears to have, a tendency to take place. To will to binder, lo prevent, to oppose, to counteract, or to efect any thing, is strictly proper, when a contrary effect or tendency of any kind is implied But to will to hinder a dead man from walking is nonsense. When a person has an inclination, or a tendency of any kind, and when it is in the power of another to hinder its operation, but does not hinder, it is proper to say that he permits it; that is, he does not will the contrary. An exercise of will is both useless and uomeaning, when only to permit is intended; for the event is supposed to take place if not prevented. For . one man to permit another to do a good or a bad action, when it is in his power to prevent it, is good sense; because it implies an inclination in the person permitted. But why is it improper to say, that God permits a man to do his duty ? It is because he neither would nor could do it by mere permission. If permission implied an act of will, there would be no impropriety in a language which yet all allow to be absurd, vis. that God permits a man to be good! But to permit evil is good sense, and approved language. Why? Because no exercise of will, on the part of the permitter, is required; or, because it is implied that it would take place if not prevented. To decree the continued existence of the world in its present form for a given time, expresses a clear and consistent idea ; but to say that God has decreed that he will not do the contrary during the same period, is unmeaning language. When a declaration is made, that God will not do a thing, as drowning the earth with another deluge, &c. the plain meaning is, that it expresses the non-existence of an imagined event. But the non-existence of an imagined event, no more implies a decree concerning it, than does the nonexistence of other imagined worlds, or another fancied first cause.

To prevent implies will, in counteracting the intended effect, but to permit is not to will the counteraction. Therefore, " to will to permitis the same thing as "to will not to will,” which, both in meaning and in language is alike indefensible. And when we say, that God permits moral evil, if we have any consistent meaning, it must intend, that he does not will to hinder it-except in a legislative sense and if so, what possible room is there left for any exercise of will in permission ? Infinite perfection forbids it. Man, indeed, may determine not to do a thing; but this must refer either to a former intention of doing that thing, which now is altered, or to some expectation of the contrary. But nothing of this kind can belong to God, who " is one mind."

Can any sin then take place without God's will and concurrence? It is replied; if by “ sin” be meant the act of the sinner in its concrete form, the divine will and concurrence are implied. But we should remember that in every act, however morally evil, there is, and necessarily must be, a na'ural good included. The natural powers and energy of the mind are of that quality, proceeding from the livine will, and without which there could be no moral act either good or bad.

infinitely wise God could not possibly have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty ?

God will order it so,

But the sinfulness of the act (which is often expressed by the shorter word sin) cannot possibly proceed except from some defect, which therefore must be a new gatwe cause, and which no more needs the divine will for its production, than does mere nihility need it. The idea of perfection and of will, is positive; but that of imperfection aud of permission is negative. And as perfection admits of degrees, considered as existing in creatures, so does the want of perfection. The former is the effect of divine will, but the latter needs no will, nor can admit any. Nay, for a creature to exist without any want of perfection, is the same as a se!f-sufficient creature, (for then alono could ho bo without imperfection) which is infinitely absurd.

We may further observe, that if there were nothing good in an act concretive. ly sinful, no evil could attach to such act ; for what is moral evil, if not the perversion of that which is naturally good? If the natural powers and their acts, abstractedly considered, were not in themselves good, moral evil would be im. possible. And were there no negative cause, or some kind of defect in the agent, all his acts would be morally as well as physically good, and that infallibly, as those of the absolutely perfect Being. In the Deity there is no defect of ang kind, nor any negative cause of any effects or consequences; and therefore no liability to moral evil.

But how can we conceine of a negative cause, affording a demonstration of an ineffable consequence? Is there any thing analogous to it in the nature of things? And if there be, what imporlance can be attached to it? Let us coolly en leavour to furnish a reply to these questions. We can easily conceive of a mathematical point, and it is universally allowed that it has no dimension-it has neither length, breadth, nor thickness--and therefore is a negative idea. It implies a negation of every thing that has positive existence It is therefore pure nihility under a relatwe consideration. But though in itself it is nothing positive, yet that nothing, when it stands related to a line which has positive length, becomes a source of innumerable demoustrations. For, if we take into the account, together with a point, a circumference of equal radii, we have the positive idea of a circle, composed of a centre and cir. cumference. And without this relation subsisting between a relative nothing and a positive something, the idea of a circle is not possible ; and consequently the ideas of the properties of a circle (which are innumerable) are absolute impossibilities So nearly allied and so perfectly similar, are the very first principles of geometrical and metaphysical science. For, as without the negative idea of a mathematical point, (for points are the boundaries of lines.) constituting an adequate reason of an infallible consequence, not a single demonstration in geometry can be effected ; so without the negative idea of passive power, as the opposite to that power which is active and positive, not one demonstration properly so called, can be effected in metaphysical and moral science. This may appear to some a bold assertion ; but it is not more bold than true. He who would dispute the fact, may just as well dispute the truth of the very first definition in geometrical science, viz. that of a point. He may indeed raise objections, and plead that we can see a point, therefore it must have some dimensiops ; or, if it be nothing, it can be no cause, no atlequate reason of any thing as a consequence, &c. but if he attempts seriously to vindicate his objection by argument, he cannot avoid showing himself perfectly ridiculous to those who understand the subject. And equally ridiculous must he appear who would attempt to disprove the fact of negative causation in moral science.

But how can we admit that there may be two co-existent causes in the same subject, one positive and the other negative? We are obliged to admit it from a due consideration of stubborn facts. For what fact can be more plain, than that from the same agent may, and actually do proceed, effects, virtue and vice, which are diametrically opposite to each other? And surely such effects must proceed from opposite causes. If therefore virtue proceeds from a positive

« PreviousContinue »