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make man free; that is, as free as he could be, for a being so utterly dependent. This the Divine Being could not help choosing. The paradox, in its highest sense, is consistent. Man must be free in order to the enjoyment of the greatest amount and highest kind of good. This good involves choice. He must choose it in order to enjoy it. It cannot be forced upon him. He must will it most freely, and love it, for all delight is in love. But this could not be without an ability to choose evil. The very choice of good involves the rejection of evil. A man might indeed choose between two goods — a greater and a lesser, without any ability to choose evil, but this was not so consistent with the high and noble nature which was to be bestowed upon man. He must be made to choose good, and to indicate his high and decided preference for it, by refusing the evil. This gives him a deeper and quicker sense of it. He must, in short, either find his life in God, or in himself. There was no other alternative. This is the necessity on the part of God, and although He foresees the evil — foresees how man will abuse this freedom by setting up his little conceited will into an authority against the Divine, yet this was no necessity with God. Man was made free enough to avoid it. He could have chosen the upright path of good from the very first. If we cannot say thus much, then we cannot say that man can now abstain from any sin or crime which he commits. God, too, saw all the lineal consequences of the first sin, - how it would go on, by a law of hereditary descent, from generation to generation, till the whole world should
groan in evil, and sigh in bitter bondage. But it would not do to meddle with this law of hereditary descent. I have heard men complain that they should suffer so much from hereditary entailments which they were not at all accountable for, and which have plagued them through a long life ;-perhaps been an insurmountable barrier to success or prosperity in any thing. But here is a divine simplicity again — an excellent necessity. It is only one law that passes down all the
evil and all the good. By my obedience to the laws of God and nature, I not only secure to myself good habits and results, but hand them down constitutionally to my children - and they to theirs -- and they to theirs. It is, then, by this law of hereditary descent, that all the good is secured, and treasured up, and passed on: and to cut off the law, or arrest its operation, in order to prevent the evil, would be to arrest it and prevent the good. Therefore it must remain ; and therefore, from the very first motion of evil in the Garden of Eden, which represents the unfallen, celestial state of man, has rolled on this flood of iniquity over all the world. It has gathered weight and momentum in its passage, each individual adding his own actual evils to the amount of his hereditary, and is only broken by the strong arm of the Lord Jehovah, in the descent and incarnation of Himself in our humanity.
Such, then, is the nature of evil. It is not by any means an undeveloped good, nor any kind of rudimental righteousness. Evil, in short, is no more a lower degree of good, than a lie, an utter falsity, is a lower degree of truth; or theft is a lower degree of honesty; or adultery is a low degree of chastity; or hatred and murder, low degrees of love and the works of love. But these things are all opposites, good and truth turned out of their proper position, and when fully consummated, “ turned up-side-down.” If it had been said that evil is rotten good, instead of “unripe" good, it would have been nearer the truth.
But it must be observed here, without which the subject would be very imperfect, that after evil is once introduced and has obtained such sway in the world, and after it has created also the hells in the spiritual world, it flows back from thence in almost resistless torrents upon the human race with whom it originated. Thus that the most grievous temptations exist from the hells with which we are surrounded, and man is led by them into all sorts of iniquity. It is all influx, first into man's own proprium, and afterwards from the spiritual world. Man to be
sure consents, as in the first place; but as in the origin, so here, his free-will is not absolute and entire, except practically, while he is involved in an everlasting chain of Divine necessities and human freedoms. Praise God who holds the balance equal! We are not tempted above that we are able, and God who suffereth the temptation, makes a way of escape that we may be able to bear it.
Notwithstanding, then, the malignant nature of evil, it is held in control by Him who permitted it, and made subservient to final good. It is not of course said that a still greater good would not have resulted had man not sinned. For unless we take this position, where is all our every-day morality? Where is the wisdom of obedience — the preference for virtue over vice? The mind is inadequate to conceive how much more glorious would have been the scene, had inan kept on in an orderly manner, and spiritualized and enlarged his whole natural mind without ever consenting to evil. Nor can we tell how much further in advance of all present attainments the human race would have this day been ;- what splendid virtues would have adorned mankind, what angel qualities, graces, and refinements, would have possessed and filled out the whole natural humanity, which the Fall has only retarded perhaps for millions of years, and now made possible only through the tremendous experience of a blasted and sin-smitten world! But it is an evil which cannot last: in the long run it must lessen its awful shadow forever and ever. To all eternity it is destined to defeat. God never would have permitted it — never could have permitted it, without this end. In his dominions no Devil can arise but who hath beforehand decreed for him the end of his rope, and all whose machinations are made to play into the hands of the Divine Providence. “As for you,” says Joseph to his brethren, “ ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Gen. 50: 20.) Or, God thought it for good, according to his own order from eternity. How beautiful is this truth! -- that
man has no absolute, unconnected, independent will for any thing
- not even for the production of evil; surely not to defeat the Divine purposes ; - but that it had its origin in a necessity which could not be prevented without the incurring of a still greater evil — the evil of no choice — and that it is continually overruled for good by the Divine Providence forever!
And if it is not finally and utterly destroyed, and the entire universe purified from all corruption, then it must be because of a defect in the Divine Being and economy which we cannot believe exists, and which is a still greater mystery than the origin of evil itself. It cannot be. Every thing is superficial and perishes but love and truth only, and these eventually must triumph over all.
It may indeed be admitted here, as a doubt, or as a possibility, that evil will continue to exist through all eternity, or all time, by breaking out on new planets, and among new races of men continually to be created: the very fact that it has once appeared, here upon our earth, may perhaps warrant the probability that it may in like manner appear somewhere again and again. It may be a possibility thus forever existing. But not with the same individuals. It is bound to come to an end, we believe, with all who experience it, else there is no satisfaction, no consistency, no God-given theology at all, that is full and fair and perfect.
ABSOLUTE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhahitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou ?" - Daniel 4: 35.
HAVING now seen the origin and nature of evil, as well as the nature of human free-will, we are prepared to recognize the Divine Providence more fully in all things — evil as well as good. God is Sovereign. Man's will in the case may be temporarily divergent, but there is a divine hand and curb upon it, in the worst of its irregularities. “ Calvinism, in its essential features,” says Mrs. Stowe, in her “Sunny Memories,” “ will never cease from the earth, because the great fundamental facts of nature are Calvinistic, and men with strong minds and wills always discover it. The predestination of a Sovereign will is written over all things. The old Greek tragedians read it and expressed it. So did Mahomet, Napoleon, Cromwell. Why? They found it so by their own experience; they tried the forces of nature enough to find their strength. The strong swimmer who breasts the Rhine is certain of its current. But Ranke well said, that in those days when the whole earth was in arms against those reformers, they had no refuge but in exalting God's sovereignty above all other causes. To him who strives in vain with the giant forces of evil, what calm in the thought of an overpowering will, so that will be crowned with goodness! However grim to the distrusting, looks this fortress of sovereignty in times of flowery ease, yet in times when the