Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

usage, a precise and definite import. It always implies a choice of evils : and supposes that the prevention of the permitted evil would involve a greater evil, than would follow from its permission. This is the precise and only fact, described by such language, in analogous cases. Hence to talk of permitting an evil, or not hindering an evil, as a vindication of God's character, when that evil is admitted to be the necessary means of the greatest good,' i.e. a good in that place and not an evil, would be not only a strange expedient for the purpose of vindication, but a totally unauthorized use of language. For example, it will be acknowledged, that when sin has been committed, punishment, though a natural

evil is the necessary means of sustaining the authority of law, and thus of securing the greatest good. But who would speak of God's barely permitting punishment? The only proper mode of speaking in such a case is, to say he is the cause or author of the evil. Hence the adoption of this language by some writers, and its perfect propriety, in respect to sin, if their theory is true. This shows, that no one can, with the least propriety, speak of permitting an evil, while

he views the evil as the necessary means of the greatest good. The phrase is exclusively applied to cases in which the evil is wholly an evil; and in which the sole reason for not preventing it, is, that its prevention would involve something worse, than its permission. The inference we think is unavoidable, that at times certainly, and with good reason, Dr.B. regarded sin, not as 'the necessary means of the greatest good, but as a baleful evil, incident to the best system.

3. We refer to his statement of the question. He says, “The grand point of difference is precisely this; I believe that the infinitely holy and wise God, in every part of his conduct, relative to the intellectual system, does that which is really wisest and best for him to do; most for his glory and the good of the system, in the whole; and therefore, that God's present plan is, of all possible plans, the best; most for his glory and the good of the system.” Vol. II. p. 127. Now the reader will observe, that this is “ the grand point in controversy exactly stated.” And what is it? Why, it respects simply the perfection of God's plan, and this plan, according to Dr. B. does not include sin as an integral part of it, but consists only of what God does. Proceeding in the discussion, we find his opponent affirming, that “ supreme wisdom cannot err. So far as God has been concerned in the transactions of the system, they must be good, right, best. But sin is no part of God's scheme, but a device of the devil.” To this, Dr. B. replies, “Very well

, sir. And do I understand you now?

Do you really mean, that God in permitting the devil and other wicked beings to do as they do ; that God in this has done what was indeed good, right, best For if God's conduct is but approved, (you may condemn the devil as

much as you please,) my point is gained." p. 133. Now here Dr. Bellamy most explicitly concedes, that sin is no part of God's scheme or plan; and affirms that if God's conduct in permitting sin be approved of, even without regarding sin as any part of God's scheme or plan, his point is gained.

4. He teaches, that the existence of moral evil is not a necessary means to the highest glory of God. This he does by stating, that the highest glory of God might exist, without the introduction of sin into a moral system. “HowmuchSOEVER to the honor of God, and to the good of the system, and how desirable soever in these two respects it might appear in the sight of God, that the intelligent system should unanimously adhere and cleave forever to the Lord, yet in the nature of things there could be no certain security for this, unless,” etc. p. 58. What is this, but a full admission, that unanimous and eternal obedience would have been in the highest degree for God's glory? So in a sermon on Ps. ii. 4, he says, “Let God be esteemed, reverenced, honored and obeyed, let love and good-will prevail and be established among his subjects, let every thing of a contrary savor be eternally banished his dominions, and God will be well pleased.” Vol. III.

Vol. III. p. 503. In the same sermon, he says of sin, that “nothing is so cross to him, nothing can disoblige him so much, or displease him, or grieve his heart like this.” Ibid. Again, he represents it as being not only against the “nature and law of God, but against “ his Being, honor, and even blessedness.” passim. Without staying to comment on these weighty declarations, and thus to place them severally in the strongest point of light, we only ask, how, if they are true, can sin be essential as a means, to the highest glory of God? If it be against the honor and blessedness of God, how can it be indispensible as a means, to the greatest advancement of his happiness?

5. The tendency of sin, according to Dr. Bellamy, is only evil. “ It naturally tends to evil, and only to evil, to dishonor God and ruin the system.” p. 126. “In all its natural tendencies it is infinitely evil, infinitely contrary to the honor of God, and good of the system.” Vol. III. p. 145. But how can a thing be, in any case, a necessary means of God's glory, if it tends, in every case, to dethrone him, and to cast him into the deepest contempt? It may be over-ruled as an instrument of good, but how can it be the means of an end, towards which it has no tendency? Nothing can be plainer, than that in using such language as Dr. Bellamy has used on this subject, he failed through inadvertence, to perceive that a thing which in its very nature tends only to evil, cannot, according to the nature of things, be the necessary means of of the greatest good. For if it is really the necessary means of the greatest good, then it is of such a nature and tendency as are fitted to produce this result. Surely then, Dr. B. in asserting so

strongly as he has, the tendency of sin to evil and to evil only, contradicts the theory on which he elsewhere reasons, that sin has the strongest tendency, viz. that of a necessary means to the greatest good.

6. In answering some principal objections, Dr. Bellamy resorts to this theory. To the objection, that God does evil that good may come, he answers,

In some cases, even we ourselves have a right, in a sense, to permit sin, and may act wisely in doing so, as common sense teaches all mankind. Thus, a wise and good master, who has a very lazy, unfaithful, deceitful servant, whom he often catches at play when he ought to be at his work, and whose manner is to lie himself clear, if he possibly can, may, upon a time, if he pleases, unseen by his servant, stand an hour, and let him take his course, with a view more thoroughly to convict him, and reform him." p. 98. Now the question is, why does not the master interpose his presence, and prevent the act of disobedience? The reason, says Dr. B., is, that were he to do this, the reformation of the servant would not be accomplished. If the act of disobedience itself could be prevented, and the reformation of the servant be accomplished, by the supposed interposition, then benevolence would require the interposition. The only possible vindication of the master, in not preventing the act of disobedience, is, that the requisite interposition on his part, i. e. the requisite change in his plan of government, would in its results, be a greater evil

, than to permit the servant to take his course.' Dr. Bellamy's answer, then to this objection, rests not on the theory that “ sin, as a necessary means, is a part of that plan," but on the theory, that 'to prevent sin by changing the system, would be a greater evil, than to permit sin.'

He applies the same example to answer the objection, that “if God wills sin, then sin is agreeable to his will.” “Well,' says the idle, deceitful servant, who was catched at his play, and suffered to take his own course for an whole hour; 'well, master, now I see you love I should be lazy, and play; for otherwise you would have hindered me.'

That this language of the servant is, as Dr. Bellamy says, “contrary to common sense,” is readily admitted. But the question is, why is it contrary to common sense? If the servant could truly say to the master, you preferred my disobedience to my obedience as the best means of good, and this was the reason why you did not prevent it; could the master then say, that the disobedience, in that instance, was not agreeable to his will ? Could be vindicate himself against the full force of the servant's reply? To what principle then, must we resort, for his vindication? To the same as above, that to prevent the act of disobedience by the requisite interposition, would prove a greater evil

, than to permit it. If this be not the reason, then he had no vindication in not Vol. II.

68

[ocr errors]

p. 99.

preventing the act in question. On this principle, and on this alone, would the common sense and reason of men vindicate the master in the case supposed. On this principle, therefore, by thus appealing to the common sense of mankind, Dr. Bellamy rests his vindication of God in permitting sin.

To the objection, why are not all saved ;" or as it might be better stated, why does not God bring all to repentance and to life,' Dr. Bellamy founds his answer on this principle, viz. “ that God has a right to set bounds to his endeavors and patience; or i becomes him so to do." This is only saying in other words, that infinite wisdom and goodness, forbid that God should do more than he actually does for the purpose; or that he should change the existing system of influence, because this would be · for the worse instead of for the better.'

We have dwelt on this part of the subjeet, to show, that the objections to the perfection of God's government are unanswerable on the theory that 'sin is the necessary means of the greatest good; and that accordingly Dr. B. was obliged to answer them, if at all on the theory, that "sin (in respect to divine prevention,) is ineidental to the best possible system. The fact, at least, that he did resort to this theory, as the basis of his answers to these objections, is undeniable.

7. All that Dr. Bellamy says respecting holy beings as moral agents, highly endowed and most advantageously situated to persevere in holiness, is full in proof of the point before us.

After expatiating largely upon the intellectual and moral qualities, as well as external advantages, of man in his primeval state, he says, "God did well by his creature man,” and asks, “what more could God have done, as his moral governor, to have prevented his apostasy and ruin.” p. 55. He further remarks, “God took it for granted that he had now done enough, and said enough,” etc. p. 56. Now, what is all this, but saying, that sin, so far from being introduced as a necessary means, was a consequence to whicla the moral system was intrinscally liable, and that God as moral governor, could not prevent it? "God knew that it belonged to the nature of all finite beings to be mutable and peccable; and that the best might degenerate so far as to become the worst: no being in the system being by nature, immutable, but God alone.” p. 57. How could Dr. B. have said any thing from which it must more inevitably follow, that sin (as to God's prevention of it) is merely incidental to the best possible plan?

8. Dr. Bellamy states that the eternal well-being of the whole and all the parts of the system, did not require the existence of nioral evil. In other words, sin is not the necessary means of the greatest good. “It would, no doubt, be better for their own interest, if the rebels in any earthly kingdom would all come

in and submit; and they would in such a conduct show more respect to their lawful sovereign." p. 100. Now this is altogether beside the purpose, if it does not import, that the moral empire of God would be improved, if sinners would all submit, and thus “show more respect” to the great sovereign himself. “ Pharaoh had shown more respect to God, and it had been more for his interest, had he repented of his oppressions, and without delay yielded obedience to the divine command, and let Israel go. But no man has reason to think it had been better if God had said or done more to make him obedient." p. 101. But if God would have been more honored, and the interest of Pharaoh more promoted by his repentance and obedience, then the same happy consequences must follow, if

every

sinner were to do his duty; so that nothing is wanting to secure the highest glory of God and welfare of the whole intellectual system, but the entire exclusion of disobedience from God's dominions.

Again : It is manifest from the manner in which Dr. Bellamy generally speaks of the results of the system, that he did not regard 'sin as the necessary means of the greatest good : but merely as over-ruled, like friction, in the case already supposed, for the production of much good. He asserts nothing so often, as that the existing plan is the best; but he ordinarily speaks of its ultimate consequences in very guarded terms. He

says

that “ we have the greatest reason to believe it will issue well; p. 113,—that we have “a sure prospect of a happy issue ;” p. 11, --that “it is suited to exalt the Deity," p. 115;—and that "perhaps the system will be more happy, than if sin had never been permitted.” Vol. III. p. 511. In the last of these clauses, we see a leaning towards the stronger assertions which he has occasionaly advanced. But the preceding ones, together with a great number of others, which might be produced, go to show only that the present may be better than any other possible system, notwithstanding the attendant evil of sin, which is thus beneficially overruled. To this we yield our unqualified assent. But it differs toto cælo from the revolting dogma that sin is necessary in the universe, as the means of more good than could result from holiness in its place.

We take leave of this treatise with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret ;—pleasure to find Dr. Bellamy meeting the enemies of divine sovereignty on that vantage ground, which we think ought never to be relinquished; regret that in any instance, he should yield it to his opponents

, and be thns driven to adopt a theory, which made him inconsistent with himself. But the circumstances under which he wrote, fully explain the fact. The men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, are in our view the only exceptions in regard to inadvertences of this kind. The

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »