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Divine attributes; and should it appear that God has pronounced punishment to be eternal, I think I have already proved, beyond a doubt, that his attributes do not contradict it. To the law, then, and to the testimony.
On the Wisdom, Power, and Goodness of God.
As God is the first cause of all,” says Mr. Vidler, s it is consistent with reason that he should seek the • happiness of all his creatures :—and that whatever the “goodness of God hath willed, and his wisdom planned, " that his power will execute.”
Mr. Fisher in reply, observed, “If God, as you '« affirm, should seek the happiness of all his creatures, " and his power will accomplish what his wisdom planned, " and his goodness willed ; we ask how it came to pass " that there should be so much evil and misery in the " world as there confessedly is ? And if it have not yet “ been the case, that the power of God hath co-operated
with his will effectually to prevent the entrance of sin " and its consequent evils into the world, how doth it
appear, from a consideration of the Divine attributes "only, as they have been already exercised in the "government of the world, that his power will finally
accomplish what his goodness wills respecting the “ happiness of all his creatures? Why not then prevent " them from being miserable at all ? As God is infinitely “good, and infinitely powerful, he must be too good to “ will the existence of sin, and too powerful not to be " able to prevent it.”
This was a blow at the root, and Mr. V. felt its force. " If I understand this paragraph aright,” says he,“ it "implies either,
“1. That my premises are wrong, and God is not infinitely wise, powerful, and good, but that be is either “ weak, foolish or wicked, or all of it; or,
“ 2. Though he be infinitely wise, powerful, and “good, that he has willed bad things, planned foolish things, and executed them ; or, “ 3. That he has willed good things, planned wise things, but is disappointed in the execution of them; or,
" 4. Though the Divine character be infinitely wise, “powerful, and good, and that whatever his goodness “ willed, and his wisdom planned, his power will execute ; “ yet that we know nothing about it, but are left in “total ignorance of it. “ But if neither of these can be granted, then my
inference from the Divine perfections remains in full force."*
What pitiful shuffling is this ! Mr. V. does not deny that his argument is as conclusive against the introduction of sin and misery, as against their endless continuance ; and yet he will not give it up!
There is such a striking resemblance between this argument, and that urged by Epicurus against Divine Providence, that a person may be almost tempted to think the one was borrowed from the other. “Either God is willing," says this philosopher, “ to remove evils, and not able, or able " and not willing, or neither able nor willing. If he be willing "and not able, he is impotent, which cannot be applied to “the Deity: If he be able and not willing, he is envious, “ which is equally inconsistent with the nature of God. " If he be neither willing nor able, he is both envious " and impotent, and consequently no God. If he be both
willing and able, which is the only thiog that answers to “the notion of a God, from whence come evils ? or why - does he not remove them.”[
If Mr. V's reasoning be just, it is easy to see that Epicurus's inference is the most natural. For if God in his goodness, seeks the happiness of all his creatures, if his wisdom discerns the way in which they may be made happy, and if his power must execute the plan devised by his wisdom, then it must necessarily follow, that evil must immediately cease, or rather, never could have existed : but this is contrary to matter of fact : we must therefore infer that there is no Providence. Mr. V., ag a Christian minister, cannot admit this conclusion; he must therefore abandon the ground on which it is built.
* God's Love to his Creatures, p. 12–15.
† King's Origin of Evil, p. 486.
But I need not try to cut this knot; I can untie it very readily with the aid of the doctrine of Moral Liberty. On this principle I can deny his inference without admitting any one of bis implications. In all the Divine dispensations in relation to man, God has an eye to his Free Agency, and will not destroy it. Misery entered with the abuse of liberty; and the possibility of the abuse of it being continued, militates against the certainty of the restoration in question ; for to say that a man endowed with liberty to sin, must necessarily be virtuous, is a contradiction in terms. I say then in reply both to Epicurus and Mr. V., that the introduction of misery and its endless continuance, are owing to an abuse of moral liberty in man, and not to any defi. ciency in the wisdom, or power, or goodness of God.
If Mr. V. should deny the doctrine of moral liberty, his difficulties will be increased rather than diminished. For if God has made men necessary agents, he is the author of evil. There can be no more propriety in charging it upon them, on this supposition, than there would be in charging my pen, rather than myself, with the errors contained in this book. Mr. V. would therefore have to inform us how Infinite Holiness could be the author of sin, and Infinite Happiness the author of misery.
Mr. Wright confidently asserts, that " what is said " about free-will by no means involves the restitution in “ uncertainty ; for though God will ever treat his
“ creatures as free, intelligent beings, yet they will never " become independent of bim, or of his government; nor “ will be suffer bis counsel to be overturned, and his
designs to be defeated by the machinations of the
It is true that sinners will never become independent of the government of God; but it is as true that they are now dependent, and that they are now miserable : ; and if present dependence does not provide against present misery, then neither does eternal dependence against eternal misery. But “ he will not suffer his counsel to “ be overturned, nor his designs to be defeated.” I wish to know whether God has any counsels or designs respecting the happiness of his intelligent creatures which are not connected with virtue ? Can they be made happy without being previously made holy? Mr. W. will say, No. It will follow then, that if God's counsels and designs respecting their happiness cannot be defeated, his counsels and designs respecting their holiness cannot be defeated. Now to come to matter of fact,-God designs that men should be virtuous in this life ; but thousands defeat those designs by obstinate perseverance in iniquity. The inference is, that God's coupsels and designs respecting their happiness are defeated: and if this may be the case for an age, it
On the Justice of God.
DIVINE justice,” says Mr. Weaver, “is that per“ fection in God by which he endeavours continually “to make all intelligences just.”If God endeavours continually to make all sivful creatures just, it is reasona. able to suppose that there must, by this time, be some notable change for the better, wrought in Satan and his angels ; but the experience of the saints fully contradict it : perhaps those endeavours are very feeble.
* Examination of Dr. Ryland's Sermon, p. 46.
4. Endless Misery Overthrown, p. 9.
Mr. Wright says, “With respect to Satan and his an"gels, they have never experienced their proper punish“ ment; but are reserved under chains of darkness
unto the judgment of the great day: of course we “ought not to be at all surprised that their punishment “has not had its effect before they are fully subjected to 66 it."*
It is granted, they do not experience that severity of punishment wbich is reserved for them ; but it is certain their misery is great. According to the constitution of nature, there is no peace to the wicked ; they are like the troubled sea ; the disorder of their minds must render them wretched ; and, in addition to this, they are represented as being confined in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. If Mr. W. were confined in a dark dungeon, laden with irons, oppressed with guilty fears, tormented with unholy passions and appetites, and looking forward to the assizes under the assurance of being then punished in the most severe and exemplary manner, I dare say he would feel bimself to be extremely miserable. And if the fallen angels may be very wretched for thousands of years without being in the least reformed, I think we are warranted in saying that God does not endeavour continually to make them just by their sufferings ; or else, that he endeavours to do it in vain : either of which is inconsistent with the doctrine of their restoration.t.
* Examination of Ryland's Sermon, pp. 48, 49. * It is rather surprising that the Universalists have not adopted Dr. Priestley's sentiment to get rid of this difficulty. The Doctor roundly asserts, “ That there is such a person as the Devil, is no part of my faith, Sh.por that of many other Christians; nor am I sure that it was the belief of
any of the Christian writers. Neither do I believe the doctrine of sa demoniacal possessions, whether it was believed by the sacred writers or