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deep; the Father of light, before whom we | fit for the enjoyment of complete happiness. are darkness.
This is the only kind of evil, which a being perfectly good can ever admit into his plan; and the only satisfactory method of accounting for its existence.
But let us quit the path of doubt and uncertainty, and give a decisive answer to the question: why the Divine Being did not create us at first as perfect, and as holy, as we shall be, when we arrive at the mansions of bliss.
The fact then is, as the question supposes, that the Creator has not acted thus; that in forming this world he has not excluded moral and physical evil. This is sufficient for me, it is all I require, to be perfectly assured that this exclusion was impossible; or in other words, that moral and physical evil were the natural consequences of that freedom of will necessary to beings in a state of probation, and improvement. We may therefore say, that the total exclusion of evil, was not an object for the Divine Omnipotence to exercise itself upon; because God cannot contradict himself. Every act of God is an act of infinite goodness: it was perfect goodness created the world, and permitted the entrance of all the evils we deplore. Now Divine Goodness can only be called infinite or perfect, because it makes the best choice, and produces the greatest good. We may therefore be assured that this world, formed as it is, is best adapted to the end; an end most perfect and excellent; and that it was not possible to create us in the beginning as holy and perfect as we shall be hereafter. Had it been possible, or, which is the same thing with God, had it been fit and right, infinite Wisdom and Goodness would not have acted otherwise.
We may now admit as a truth, what we have just advanced on the footing of probability; that holiness from influx, is impossible; because destructive of moral agency, which both supposes, and requires, a state of schooling, preparative to one of perfection and felicity.
Let us therefore acknowledge that these finite evils are not real evils; because by their means mankind are raised to supreme and universal happiness; and therefore, that under the government and providence of a being infinitely good, every thing will be ultimately right, and that there neither is, or ever can exist any real evil in the universe.
In applying this our third consequence, to the various evils we see in the world, I have given the only satisfactory answer to the celebrated question, respecting the origin of evil, which has always been considered as difficult and embarrassing; and exercised at different times, the greatest geniuses, both ancient and modern. In all I have ever read on this subject, I have seen the infinite duration of evil granted; whence it became impossible to solve the difficulty; for who can reconcile infinite evil with infinite goodness, infinite cruelty with infinite love? But though these contradictions cannot be conciliated, we shall find no difficulty in conceiving the admission of finite evil, when it is a mean by which creatures may be raised to the perfection of which their natures are susceptible, and made
Various, no doubt, have been the answers to this thorny question; and one of the most plausible, in order to justify the goodness of God in inflicting never-ending torments on the reprobate, is by supposing those eternal sufferings necessary, to procure the eternal hap piness, not barely of the elect, but as one world is connected with another, in the immense system; of a multitude of other creatures. This solution has been received with avidity by numbers who sincerely sought the truth; but whose minds were prepossessed by the supposition of the endless duration of torments, so as never to entertain a doubt on the subject, A belief so opposed to the divine goodness, throws the mind into a restless and uneasy state, from whence it eagerly desires an escape, and hopes to have effected, in the above solution; which makes the infinite misery of some, conducive to the infinite happiness of others. They would not certainly be de ceived by such an argument, did they not rejoice to find some valuable end answered by the sufferings of the reprobate; and in this idea of felicity, imagine they see the traces of the infinite goodness of their Creator. If they cannot entirely divest themselves of the feelings of pity and compassion, for the many victims thus devoted to eternal misery, they endeavour to lessen the uneasy sensation by reflecting, that such have brought it on themselves, by an obstinate resistance to the grace of God. Besides, it may be urged, is not the felicity and glory of an innumerable multitude of intelligences, resulting from this evil, an ample compensation for the eternal perdition of these wilful sinners? And with this wretched solution, do men content themselves.
To neglect nothing on a subject of such importance, I must briefly examine this pretended solution; the strange method of felicity it presents, in making the infinite misery of some, a necessary mean of happiness to others. Among a multitude of objections I could find to this horrid method of procuring felicity, which presents on all sides the most evident contradictions; I shall confine myself to proving, that this method of proceeding would be with respect to the reprobate, unjust, and cruel; and with respect to the blessed subversive of its end.
To render a multitude of intelligent beings eternally happy, is an object so sublime and excellent, that we may esteem it worthy of the most exalted ideas we can form of infinite wisdom, and goodness; provided however that the means necessary to their perfection and felicity, are the gift of God, in consequence of their having improved the faculties with which he has endowed them, and the means of grace and salvation he has offered them by his gospel. But to render creatures happy, their numbers ever so great, by
the infliction of eternal misery on the repro- of sinful mortals; insomuch that there is joy bate, would be a method most unjust, and amongst them over one sinner that repenteth. cruel. Let us not assert by way of justifica- It would therefore be impossible that the tion, that the reprobate have deserved the un-righteous in glory, fired with celestial chariremitting torments they endure; for if, as ty, should taste the joys of paradise while some say, the fault is their own, I ask they knew that a great number of fellow whether existence was their fault also? was beings, were the prey of never ending torit not the Lord that made them, and not they ments. They must necessarily and ardently themselves? Is it not true, that they were wish for the deliverance, and salvation of not culpable prior to their existence, and these unhappy beings; and at the same time could not then deserve any suffering? And be convinced that this ardent and eternal decan we deny, that the divine mind was per- sire of their hearts would never be satisfied; fectly acquainted with the use they would so that their charity would be the source of make of existence; that it would never be their misery; a never dying worm in their other than a state of suffering and misery? Is breast which would render them unhappy in it not true that existence bestowed on such the mansions of bliss. O divine charity! thou terms is to the creature, an infinite evil? And greatest, most sublime, most godlike of vir that the irresistible fiat which brought them tues; thou who art the glory and excellence into being, was the greatest evil that could of intelligent creatures, and alone can make possibly befall them; and this at a time when them partakers of the divine nature, art thou they could have no demerit, but were perfect destined to become the torment of the just in ly innocent? I leave every candid mind to heaven? determine how an irresistible act which produces infinite evil, to innocent beings, is to be qualified; if it is not an act sovereignly unjust and barbarous? We may therefore infer with certainty, that a being perfectly good will never adopt such a method into his plan.
But how much more painful still would it be to the righteous to know; that these eternal sufferings, destitute of any valuable purpose to the culpable individual, were necessary means of procuring their happiness? Would not every possibility of enjoyment vanish, at the idea of possessing it at the ex pense of these deplorable victims of distress? The best characters here below are, alas! very far from having acquired that seraphic charity which will animate the spirits of the blessed; for while here, we are in our best estate, as our Saviour declares in the seventh chapter of St. Matthew, evil; and yet with the feeble spark of charity I possess, and I doubt not but every one of my readers can join in the sentiment, I had rather never have existed, than be assured that the eternal happiness designed me, was the result of the eternal sufferings, not of a multitude, but of an individual creature. Existence is not necessary; but if once I exist I must desire happiness. And what felicity, O God! must that be which is found
It is not an easy thing to conceive, how the infinite misery of the reprobate can be a mean, and a necessary mean, of happiness to the blessed. Can we suppose that intelligent creatures capable by their nature of perfection and felicity, would be unable to attain to this glorious destination, unless at the same time a number of intelligent beings existed in eternal misery? Among creatures of the same nature, thence capable of the same happiness; must a part be made happy at the expense of a considerable portion devoted to endless misery and despair? Cannot a being infinite-ed upon, or even increased by the misery of ly perfect and happy communicate beatitude others! Do we not perceive such a mean to its intelligent offspring on other and more destructive of its end? favourable terms? Can he not be to some the inexhaustible source of happiness; unless he is to others, the never-failing source of misery? But let us cease to heap contradiction on contradiction, horror upon horror, and end this disagreeable discussion, by shewing be? surely of a nature quite opposed to hapthat the eternal misery of the reprobate, in-piness. What would they discover in their stead of being a necessary mean of happiness Maker? Not infinite, disinterested, adorable to the blessed, would on the contrary poison goodness, but a partial and imperfect favour, and destroy their felicity, and prove subversive consequently a doubtful and uncertain benevolence; if that title is any way applicable to In the first place, it would poison the feli- a disposition compatible with injustice and city of the blessed. The inhabitants of heaven cruelty. What a deplorable change does this could not be happy unless penetrated with supposition make in the happiness of heaven! the most ardent charity for their fellow crea- sin might indeed be for ever excluded, but tures; for St. Paul tells us that without sorrow would find an entrance; and that percharity we are nothing. In this respect there- fect admiration, that entire confidence; that fore as well as in many others, the blessed celestial love for the greatest and best of will resemble the angels of God in heaven; beings, which must unite the souls of the just those kind compassionate spirits, who interest to their sovereign good; would be poisoned themselves in the conversion and salvation in its source. No, fulness of joy must reside
I add in the second place, that it would entirely destroy the happiness of the righteous. Charity consists in constantly placing our selves in the situation of others; upon this principle, what must the feelings of the just
of its end.
Let us now consider this pretended means of felicity to the blessed and shew, that as far as it concerns their happiness, it is a mean destructive of its end.
in his presence, and at his right hand pleasures for evermore. Pardon, O my God! Thon most perfectly good and merciful being, who art the substance of all that excellence, of which we frail and sinful beings can discern but the shadow; forgive I beseech thee! if but for a moment, I am led to speak of thee, not as thou art, and as thou ever wilt shew thyself to all thy creatures; but such as the prejudices and passions of men would make thee appear!
Thus we see that the eternal misery of the wicked, cannot contribute to the felicity of the righteous; it would be both unjust and cruel, and even destructive of its end; consequently ean never be adopted into the plan of a perfectly good and wise being.
Thus ain I come to the conclusion of my third consequence from the infinite goodness of God, that all his acts are acts of goodness. I have established its truth, I have demonstrated its extent, and have shewn that the Supreme Governor of the universe, presides over and directs every event to ultimate good; therefore that whatever may befall his creatures in time, or in eternity, proceeds from infinite goodness in the First Cause, and is to each of them the greatest possible good. I have applied this to the present, and future evil; and have demonstrated that under the government and providence of an all perfect Being, every thing is ultimately right, and that in His universe, no real evil can exist; which has led me to examine the celebrated question of the origin of moral evil, to which I hope I have given a satisfactory reply.
By the aid of this solution, we may affirm, that all the evils the Divine Being dispenses to his creatures, whether here, or hereafter, proceed from his infinite goodness; or in other words, that it is impossible he should ever dispense any evil in this world, or in the world to come, which is not even to the individuals, an actual exercise of perfect goodness.
therefore observe by way of fourth consequence that the infinite goodness of God is the only solid foundation of prevailing and continual joy.
I know that he who made me, is a being perfectly good, a Father whose love is infinite, and who by an effect of that love gave me existence, that I might obtain happiness; to proclaim and accomplish which, he has sent his Son from heaven and delivered him up to sufferings and death; and with this precious gift, does he not give me all things? His laws, his dispensations, his blessings, his chastisements, in a word every event that befalls me, tends to promote this great end; and to assure me, that this perfectly good being, will confer upon me to all eternity all possible good. What perfect joy may now take possession of my heart! I may "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!" I may prize the precious gift of life, since I exist by the good pleasure of my faithful Creator; and for a blessed eternity! during which I shall never cease to be the happy object of his care and love! and is not this a subject for prevailing and continual joy?
THE practical, or moral consequences arising from the infinite goodness of God; are the various sentiments naturally produced in the heart by the knowledge of this supreme goodness; where the understanding is thoroughly convinced of its truth. And though their enumeration is in some measure foreign to a work particularly dedicated to the theory of religion, I nevertheless proposed admitting them into my plan from a conviction of their extreme importance and tendency to render us wise, good, perfect and happy.
These important and valuable effects, are reducible to three heads; as they relate to ourselves, to the Divine Being, and to our fellow creatures; such as internal joy, love of God, and charity to our neighbour. I shall
It is the subject of prevailing joy, as it fills and occupies my whole heart; sorrow and affliction, under what form soever they may assault me, must fly before it; for what are they when compared with so sincere, so permanent a joy? The contemplation of the being perfectly good, shall put a gladness into my heart, a balm of consolation and support, which all the evils of time shall in vain attempt to destroy: for in these evils, I behold the chastening of parental kindness improving my moral nature; and consider them therefore as real benefits; since by their means I shall one day arrive at perfection and happiness. The farther effects of this prevailing joy, are perfect contentment in every situation and condition of life; patience under affliction, and a degree of courage and strength which makes me rise superior to every trial, "and more than conqueror through Him that has loved me."
I have also said in the second place, that
Practical consequences to be derived from the in- the knowledge of the infinite extent of divine finite goodness of God. goodness, gives rise to continual joy. If I never lose sight of a being constantly employed in promoting my happiness; if I call to mind his benefits "when sitting in my house and when walking by the way, when I lie down and when I rise up," can sorrow ever penetrate my heart, or affliction dispel the transporting delight arising from an assurance of the paternal love of my Creator? If I set the Lord always before me, if I thus habituate my mind to his presence which is fulness of joy; if his adorable goodness is the first object that employs my waking thoughts; may I not hope from such contemplation that serenity and peace, contentment and joy will accompany me through the day? "O Lord satisfy me early with thy mercy; that I may rejoice and be glad all my days."
Such is the prevailing, the constant joy
extend to them?
produced by the knowledge of the infinite to be controlled by our wills; whence is it, goodness of God, which can never abandon let be ask, that the divine word abounds with us in life, or in death; the source of present, precepts for their regulation; not only relaas well as future happiness; and the only per- tive to our love to God, but to our self-denial, manent foundation on which to build our hope. our detachment from the world, our humility, Eternity without this, affords a dreary and patience, charity; our love of our enemies, and uncertain prospect, more calculated to raise forgiveness of injuries? are not these sentianxiety, and apprehension, than to excitements of the heart, and do not the divine laws satisfaction and joy. To escape from those horrors, which await so many of my fellow beings, would afford me little joy; for with a nature more charitable and perfect than what I now possess, what terror and amazement must the infinite sufferings of the wicked excite in my compassionate and benevolent mind? What an influence has this idea on my best expectations; how it damps the joys of immortality!
The discussion of this question, will lead me to a short digression on the divine laws, which as it is not foreign to my principal subject, will I trust be no ways unacceptable to my readers.
But forever let we adore and bless the Father of mercies, who has given me such unquestionable evidence of his almighty good-ence, can alone give it any value in the sight ness, by which I know that the immortality of God. Scripture commands us to give for which he has caused me to exist, is a alms; but tells us also "that though we betruly precious and valuable gift of his infi- stow all our goods to feed the poor, and give nite love; "and that he is able to do for me, our bodies to be burned, and have not chariexceeding and abundantly above all that I can ty, it will profit us nothing:" accordingly our ask or think." Lord has declared, "that a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man, out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things: for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications," and all those crimes that spread terror and desolation over the earth.
Is there not then, let me ask, sufficient reason for joy in the infinite goodness of God? To you, whose happiness it is to possess this knowledge I particularly address myself. You I exhort to rejoice in hope, to be patient in tribulation, to continue instant in prayer; to rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say to rejoice;" for you possess in the infinite goodness of God, the only solid foundation of prevailing, and continual joy.
Human laws, cannot penetrate beyond ex. ternal actions; but the laws of God must go farther, and regulate the sentiments of the heart; so that we may affirm, that the divine commands are directed to our internal actions; since the sentiments which lead us to obedi
Such are the divine laws; and their design to regulate our hearts, clearly points out the grandeur of the destination to which we are called. Our Supreme Law-giver requires us to resemble him in perfection and felicity: this is the glorious rank to which he will elevate us, but which he knows we cannot attain, till our hearts are replete with pious and charitable sentiments: it is therefore that the Lord looketh on the heart, and by his precepts directs and governs our inmost sentiments.
To try the heart and the reins, is a truly divine prerogative, which can only belong to the being who formed us. He knows how to purify our hearts, by enlightening our understandings. He gives us in his word both instructions and promises; that by the obedience of faith our hearts may be sanctified; enjoining upon us at the same time the cultivation of such sentiments as the light he has given us, is calculated to produce. Thus for instance, when he sets life and a blessed immortality before us, he bids us to rejoice evermore. Again, he displays himself to us under most
To form a right judgment of this great command, I must begin by distinguishing the precepts of scripture, as they relate either to the injunction of external actions, or to the sentiments of the heart. The observance of the former depends upon my will. For however great my repugnance to an external action may be, nevertheless it is in my power to obey. But it is not thus with relation to those precepts which are designed for the gov-affecting characters of love and goodness; ernment of my internal sentiments; these are and then commands us to love him with all our not equally at my disposal, nor do they de- hearts. Ah! let us then be persuaded, when pend on my will; I cannot therefore from we feel not the dispositions and sentiments obedience to any command, be joyful when I which the Divine Being has made both our am sad, or afflicted, when I have cause to re-duty and cur interest; let us be assured, that joice; I cannot love what I hate, or hate the fault is our own; that we have neglected what I love; and thence arises that proverbi- to nourish our souls with the bread of life; al expression, that our sentiments are not at that we have not sufficiently attended to the our command. sublime truths, to the magnificent objects his word sets before us; and which, were they
Our fifth consequence is designed to shew, That the infinite goodness of God, is the only foundation of our supreme love to him.
Love to God, is one of the most positive precepts in the gospel; it is distinguished "as the first, and great command;" insisted upon in terms the most energetic, as a supreme affection that must fill every capacity of the soul: "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy thought, and with all thy strength."
But if the sentiments of our hearts are not
frequently presented to our minds, could not fail of raising them far above the world, producing in us the most delightful sentiments of peace, of joy, and of love.
It does not certainly depend upon ourselves to adopt these sentiments by an instantaneous | act of the will, in the manner we perform any external act of obedience: and in this sense alone it is true, that our sentiments are not under our command. But it is in our power to acquire the dispositions God requires of us; to excite them in our hearts; and to cherish and strengthen them more and more, by reading and meditating on his word, with assiduous and constant attention. Let us daily have recourse to the divine instruction contained in the gospel; where the Son of God himself points out the "things which belong to our peace." This sacred volume is to sincere Christians, "the bread of God which came down from heaven to give life to the soul;" a new and spiritual life, an "eternal life abiding in us." It presents to our contemplation two interesting objects. GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, AND A CELESTIAL IMMORTALITY. And if it is certain that our minds are formed for knowledge, and our souls for love; how are these sacred pages which contain the knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ our Lord, adapted to these ends; according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
Mankind when they disregard the word of God, do not surely attend to the extreme folly and criminality of their neglect. Has the Being of Beings condescended to send his Son upon earth, to enlighten our darkness, to instruct us in his will, to publish life, and immortality, and shew us the road to happiness: has this precious and wonderful light been transmitted to us in his gospel; has he desained us" to be born again of uncorruptible seed by his word which liveth and abideth forever;" and shall we suffer our lives to wear away without making any use of it: and while every other book is familiar to us, remain strangers to this sacred volume and immersed in worldly concerns, as though our residence here, were to last forever? How many professing Christians are guilty of this shameful, this foolish neglect! Were it possible that we could desire to be our own enemies, could we take a surer method of success, than with wanton levity to disregard those powerful succours of grace, under which we live? Nay more, were it possible for us to desire to set the Almighty at defiance, could we pursue a more efficacious method, than in thus abusing, perhaps throughout the course of our lives, the precious gifts he has vouchsafed us, neglecting and despising his offered assistance; and treating alike with the disdain of contemptuous forgetfulness, his commands, his promises, and his threatenings? But God is not mocked, nor can we elude the execution of his immutable designs. If we refuse to be enlightened by his word, he will have recourse to the severities of his wrath, to overcome our obstinate resistance; for this
saith the Lord by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah, "the word that goeth forth out of my mouth shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it." How heavy will be the accusation of such hereafter, who have been guilty of this contemptuous and criminal neglect of the divine word!
I rejoice that the digression on which I entered, furnished me with an opportunity of exhorting my fellow Christians to avoid this common, this alarming, and fatal evil.
Let us return to our subject. Since the being who made us, commands us to love him with all the powers he has given us; his nature must be such as naturally to produce this supreme love; St. John founds it upon his goodness, when he says, "we love him, because he first loved us." That infinite goodness, is therefore the only solid foundation of supreme love; I shall now proceed to explain.
In this perfect goodness, I discover three reasons productive of my entire love. The first consists in the benefits I have hitherto experienced, which excite my grateful love. The second arises from the promised blessings of eternity; which produce a love founded on interest. The third, results from that infinite goodness which resides in the Deity, and which constitute him the object of my utmost admiration, and most perfect filial attachment.
The first reason on which I found my love for the Supreme Being, is that of gratitude for benefits received. What are these benefits? Alas! when they are more in number than sand on the sea shore, how can I attempt to enumerate them! Ten thousand have escaped my recollection from my weakness, and alas! ten thousand times ten thousand from my stupidity or inattention. But this I know, that from the first moment of my existence to the present; the goodness of God has not ceased to accompany me, and to bestow upon me every suitable benefit. Let me seek to place them under different classes, that thus I may taste that the Lord is good, or in other words, that I may love him for the multitude of his mercies. Creation is the first of his benefits. Selfexistent, necessary, and infinite, in every perfection, the Divine Being could have no need of me, nor would his power have produced me, had he not designed to manifest his love towards me. The life I have received, comprehends the wonderful and admirable structure of my body, and its various organs, or inlets to the mind. Also, that living soul, with all its admirable faculties, whose excellence as far exceeds that of the body, as life is superior to death; the inhabitant to the habitation: it comprehends the senses I possess, by which I am enabled to behold, and to enjoy the works of nature: imagination, which enlarges the boundaries of those senses and extends my existence to various periods and different parts of the world: memory, by whose assistance I call back a numerous