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settled part of his plan of government : "being witnessed by the law and the prophets, the rites and ceremonies of the one, and the preaching and predictions of the other.”
In this connexion, we claim the indulgence of the reader for å passing remark, lest some into whose hands this work may fall, should be misled by the terms “boundless condescension," and " gracious stoop,” just used. We do not mean, in the use of such terms, to detract from the moral glory of the Divine character and government, for the truth is, in coming down, they went up. For the exhibition of moral goodness in the doctrine of Christ crucified for the sins of the world, is the most luminous and attracting manifestation of the Divine benevolence, and surpassing glory of his moral government, ever made to an intelligent universe.
" Here the whole Deity is known,
Nor dare a creature guess
The justice or the grace.” But to return. The term “weakness of the flesh," is one of very extensive import, involving all those direct and remote consequences of sin found in the character and history of man, personally, socially, and civilly, and which mar the beauty, and impair the glory of God's moral system. Now it is to this state of things, and not merely to man as an individual, that the merciful provisions of this new feature of God's moral government apply, adapting themselves to the various conditions in which men, as individuals, or in their social and civil relations, are found. To deny this, is to reject the Divine testimony, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;" and
indeed the entire volume of revelation, which is an address, not only to man as an individual, but to men in their social and civil relations. To admit it, is to concede the principle in controversy ; for the patriarchal, Mosaical, and gospel dispensations, all found men in this relation, as the reader will have seen in the preceding pages; and of the truth of which he may fully satisfy himself, by a careful perusal of the Holy Scriptures. Now, such being the fact, what is to be done with those persons who, under a providence which “determined the bounds of their habitation," are born, educated, and enter upon the business of life in connexion with this relation, and who were as innocent of the circumstances which originally introduced it, as they were of the sin of Adam? Must they, indiscriminately, be sent to hell ? or might they not have been, with as great a show of justice, sent there for the sins of our first parents ? or where would be the difference, so far as principle is concerned, in their being born in hell at the first, as to come into the world under circumstances which, ultimately, must inevitably consign them to perdition? Who can split this hair?
Or will the Judge of all the earth, who knoweth our frailty, and the power of circumstances over that frailty, (evil communications corrupt good manners,) take these matters into the account in the final judgment? It seems to us that the following passage of Scripture settles this matter beyond all controversy. " It is required according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not."
And on this principle, what an amount of charity is due to persons who, throughout their whole lives, have been connected with a great evil; and that too, whatever we may think to the contrary, to them, under the real or apparent sanction of religion! If they were heathens, all else being right, we would, at least, suppose their final salvation possible, if not certain. And what sufficient reason have we for departing from the same conclusion, in reference to professed Christians ? Our mental and moral powers are given us by our Creator to aid us in the pursuit of truth. The Bible, as a revelation from God, is addressed to these powers. Now, if we sincerely bow to its authority, honestly following out that which our highest reason, aided by the best lights within our reach, determines to be the rule of duty, who will take it
upon them to say, that the final salvation of such a one is in jeopardy ?
But we are here reminded, that the objection is not to the circumstances of our birth and education, but to the relation as being palpably wrong-contrary to the laws of nature and of revelation. That it is contrary to the original law of nature, is readily admitted. Indeed, we have endeavoured to prove it such. But we are not now exclusively under that law. That it is contrary to the law of revelation, as a temporary regulation, adopted in the exigencies of the case, to meet the “weakness of the flesh,” or present disordered state of the world, is denied. For, as we have previously seen, the relation was found in existence,
an element of civil society, at the time when the various dispensations were given; and those dispensations, especially the gospel, recognize civil government in this matter as the supreme rule of duty, by enjoining the particular and reciprocal duties arising therefrom. That the Divine government, in the adoption of this measure, connives at, or lends
its sanction to sin, as the objection suppošes, is by no means clear and satisfactory. For as we have seen, it is not, and could not be conducted on principles of unbending law only in the destruction of the race," for all had sinned,” and therefore all must die. It proceeds therefore on terms of grace, and seeks, on this principle of accommodation to the “weakness of the flesh," to make the best of circumstances for accomplishing, as a whole, the greatest amount of good.
Now in view of the very extensive prevalence of slavery in the world-with the state of things it engendered-impatience of restraint and discontent on the one hand, and pride and ambition on the other, a question arises as to the policy of the Divine administration in managing it for the greatest good of all concerned. This is the rule. Moral goodness, as its ultimate object, is its Alpha and Omega-its beginning and its end.
And that by this measure of policy, or expediency, to secure, under the circumstances, the greatest amount of moral goodness, there is, in the Divine administration, no conflict with the principles of justice and holiness, is obvious. Otherwise, the Divine Being would have been so straitened in the circumstances of a fallen world, as to have prevented its redemption by the death of his Son. It is exactly the same principle in the one case as in the other-an expedient of Divine goodness to make the best of circumstances. And that such an administration is consistent with the character and perfections of the Deity, will appear from the following considerations :
1. That sheer justice, on principles of essential right, cannot demand perfect rectitude of those who, under circumstances over which they had no control, are so impaired or perverted in their mental and moral powers, as to be absolutely incapable of the rule. To contend otherwise, is to unsettle and confuse, if not entirely destroy, all our conceptions of right and wrong; and also to shut up the Divine administration, as the only alternative to the cutting off the race in our first parents. For it cannot be reconciled with the perfections of the character and government of God, to suffer through them, and by their fault, the existence of an intelligent and accountable race, under the influence of a moral taint that totally disqualifies them for perfect original obedience, and then damn them to all eternity for want of such perfect obedience.
2. If, then, through them, in their fallen condition, as the progenitors of mankind, it was just to continue the race in existence, the very same justice required that a benevolent regard should be had to the circumstances under which they were to exist, For instance, as before observed, for us, in the providence of God, to be brought into existence in connexion with this evil; and our education, from birth to manhood, be such as to impress us with the rightfulness, or at least the comparative innocence, of the system; and further, for the force of those educational impressions to be strengthened by the overawing tendency and paramount authority of Divine revelation, in the rules of moral duty therein laid down for the government of the relation, as an element of the social and civil state; and the frequent tolerant allusions found to such a relation ;-and connected with this, for it to be absolutely impossible for any man to give any plausible exposition of these passages as a whole, level to the common apprehension, that would exclude the relation from the Scriptures, as one of Divine toler