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Such are Dr. Woods' concessions; and such are the hypothetical statements which he has made, in persect conformity with those of Dr. Taylor and ourselves. And now we feel constrained to asknot, we hope, in a spirit of unkindness, but to place the subject in its true light-what would Dr. Woods think of the treatment which he received from one, who should publish to the world, that these questions of his were all assertions, because interrogation is a common figure of rhetoric, used " to give greater force to arguments !" How would he feel to have these hypothetical statements denounced from the chair of authority and instruction, as positive, unqualified affirmations; on the ground, that a man of his character must have some opinion on the subject! What would he say to the man, who, on such grounds, should charge him with making assertions without proof; who should accuse him of claiming with presumptive boldness to be “ wise above what is written;" who should hold him forth to the public as suspected or condemned by the ablest men of our country as given to rash and dangerous speculations; and who should conclude by telling him to be cautious, how he complained of any treatment he might receive from those who should choose to attack him!
We remark, in the third place, that Dr. Woods' scheme is encumbered with great and palpable inconsistencies. He maintains
that the existence of sin is on the whole for the best,” p. 38; or that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and that as such, God chooses it should exist.” p. 28. But he also maintains, “ that God looks upon sin in its nature, as a wrong and hateful thing”—“really disapproves and hates it;" that “God's law respects sin as it is in itself or in its own nature and tendency.” pp. 80, 81. Now by these statements we suppose Dr. W.to mean, what is often expressed thus; “God prefers holiness to sin in itself considered, and at the same time prefers sin to holiness, all things considered. The meaning of this language is, that in view of some of the reasons for preference, God prefers holiness to sin, and that at the same time, in view of other reasons for preference, he prefers sin to holiness. Now we maintain, that this is a palpable contradiction : and as this is one of the main points in the present inquiry, we request the reader's particular attention to it.
Woods has laid down the very same. But suppose Dr. Taylor had affirmed this. What power has he attributed to creatures, which he has denied to the Creator. To each creature he has attributed the power of restraining himself from sinning, i. e. of abstaining from sin. And has he denied to God the power of abstaining from sin ? And suppose he had affirmed that God could not exclude sin from the system, has he affirmed that any creature could have excluded sin from the system? We cannot divine how Dr. Woods was led into this strange accusation, unless it was by conceiving of all creatures as united into one moral person, who possessed the power of excluding every sin from the system. Vol. II.
In deciding this point, we must reason from our knowledge of ourselves; since, as President Edwards justly remarks, “We never could have any notion what understanding or volition, love, or hatred are, either in created spirits, or in God, if we had never experienced what understanding and volition, love and hatred are, in our own minds.' We say then, on the ground of human consciousness, and in view of the known nature of volition, love and hatred, that it is an absolute impossibility, for any being who has before him all the reasons for a choice between two opposing objects, to CHOOSE BOTH at the same indivisible moment. No being can have more than one actually existing choice or preference in respect to two such objects. Let no one turn away from this statement, as metaphysical or unintelligible. There is no more of metaphysics in saying that a being cannot do this, than in saying that he can. And as to its being unintelligible, it amounts only to this, that no being can choose, and yet not choose, the same object at the same time. “ The will always decides, as Edwards says, according to what in the present view of the mind, taken in the whole of it, is most agreeable.” “The choice of the mind NEVER departs from that which at the time—appears most agreeable and pleasing, ALL things considered.” “ The soul always wills or chooses that which in the present view of the mind, considered in the WHOLE of that view, and all that belongs to it appears most agreeable.”+ Let any one test the truth of these remarks in his own consciousness. Let him be offered, in a burning fever, a pleasant fruit, and a disgusting medicine. Let him be told, that the one, if received into his system, will occasion immediate death, and that the other is "the necessary means” of restoring him to health. He chooses the medicine. Can he at the same identical moment, also choose the fruit? No: but he would choose it under other circumstances. Trưe: and here is the source of the error. That choice which he would make under other circumstances, is supposed to co-erist with the choice which he now makes. But this is impossible in the nature of things. His present choice, as Edwards justly remarks, must be made under his present circumstances. He may recollect past acts of choice, under other circumstances, or imagine future ones when his present condition shall be changed; but these are never to be confounded with what he chooses now. There may be also an involuntary state of mind, a natural appetite or desire for the fruit, and a corresponding disgust for the medicine; but these are totally different from an act of choice or preference. That choice too, is decided by the existing state of things. The medicine is now seen to be a good, if introduced into the system. Here,—at this precise point, --if no where else, it is good in its ten
* Works, Vol. II. p. 240.
+ Works, Vol. V. pp. 16, 21, 93.
dency, for it is the direct means of restoring him to health. Here, if no where else, it is good in its nature, for it is the nature of a thing which decides its tendency, Here, therefore, even if it were possible, he has no motive for a double choice.
Reasoning then from the nature of volition, we are authorized to say, that so it is with God likewise. He is of one mind. With him there is neither recollection, nor anticipation. His holy preference as to every moral act of his creatures, is formed in the light of omniscience. If, in any case he prefers sin to holiness, all things considered, then this is his only preference as to that act of sin. He cannot prefer, that the sin should exist rather than holiness, and at the same time preser that holiness should exist rather than the sin. If so, which would he cause to exist ?
In what cases then, it may be asked, can God be said to purpose or decree that sin shall exist. Never, we answer, when sin and holiness are directly compared together as objects of choice. But God may purpose to let sin exist, rather than give up a particular system, to which sin is a baleful incident. In this case, the volition or choice is not between sin and holiness, but between the existence of sin and the non-existence of the best possible system. Thus his purpose as to the system, would involve the purpose to permit sin: but to speak of barely permitting that which is chosen as a necessary means of the greatest gond, is a contradiction in terms.
Dr. Woods then maintains, that God prefers sin to holiness, all things considered—and that he also prefers holiness to sin in itself considered. This, we say, involves a contradiction, and is an utter impossibility, according to the known nature of things. For “ the choice of the mind never departs from that which at the time, appears most agreeable, all things considered."
It is to no purpose, to plead the authority of theologians or metaphysicians, against this decision of President Edwards.* Besides it is too late in the day, to ask men to believe contradictions on the ground of authority, in defiance of the testimony of their own consciousness. This is the true mode of testing the question. We hold Dr. Woods to this.
Another inconsistency in the scheme of Dr. Woods, relates to the facts in reference to which God's purposes respecting sin are supposed to be formed. “Sin,” says Dr. Woods, “ in its own nature, is evil.” And yet in the next sentence he
6. Its being
* Edwards, we know, has elsewhere yielded to the notion of a double will. He obviously did it under the pressure of supposed difficulties ; exactly as he made out a scheme on the subject of imputation, which, we believe, is now rejected by all parties. But when his mind was turned distinctly to the subject of moral agency, he made the above statements, which forever set aside the notion of a double will.
prohibited by law, and punished according to law, is all that gives it a salutary influence.” Now, we understand Dr. Woods to concede that sin, as prohibited and punished, still remains the same thing in its own nature. Here then we have a thing, which in its own nature, is wholly evil, and which also possesses a salutary influence of the highest kind. This, certainly, would be a new thing under
Dr. Woods proceeds, “Now God's law respects sin, as it is in itself, or in its own nature and tendency. He forbids it because it is a wrong and hurtful thing in a moral agent. As sin is in truth totally wrong, hateful and pernicious, God,” etc. p. 80. Now we have shown, in our remarks on Dr. Bellamy, that to say a thing is totally evil, and yet that it is a direct and necessary means of good, is a palpable contradiction. And we ask again, is it not one of the
grossest of inconsistencies to say, that the best means of the best end,—that by which alone the highest good of the universe can be secured, is totally pernicious ? that the very best thing in the universe as the means of good, is the worst thing in the universe ?
It is to no purpose to say, that the phraseology in question has been adopted by respectable writers on this subject. The repetition of a contradiction or an absurdity, cannot become its vindication: and to resort to such usage, is taking for granted the very point in debate. Such language is directly contradicted by all usage on every other subject of a similar nature.
But Dr. Woods has put the question at rest in another way. He says, “ It is God's righteous government respecting sin, which counteracts its natural tendency, and prevents the pernicious effects which it would of itself produce.” p. 80. Again. " It cannot be, that the law should forbid the good, which the divine government will cause to result from the existence of sin. This is entirely another matter.” p. 81. Here, in the most explicit language, the good is traced exclusively to the divine government. But if the divine government is the exclusive and sole means of the good, how is sin the means, even the necessary means of it? What is there in sin or about it, that gives it this most important of all possible relations? If nothing, then something else in its stead would do as well. If any thing, then the result depends in part upon that quality or attribute, and not exclusively on the divine government. Which side of this alternative will Ďr. Woods take?
But how does the divine government produce the good results ? Why, Í by counteracting the entire tendency of sin and preventing the pernicious effects of sin ; i. e. by counteracting all the tendencies, and preventing all the effects of this necessary means of the greatest good, it renders it the necessary means of the greatest good! We confess that sin must be a very peculiar cause or means of good; a means of good which produces no good, but is totally pernicious,—the necessary means of a good, which has no dependence upon it, but which depends exclusively on the divine government-of course the necessary means of good, which the divine government might produce as well without it as with it-the necessary means of good which is produced by another cause or agent, counteracting the entire tendency and preventing all the pernicious effects of sin—of course the necessary means of good which might be better produced without it than with it! Can there be a more direct contradiction?
Dr. Woods may be “surprised and grieved,” that we should regard that which is the necessary means of the greatest good, as
excellent in its nature and relations. We cannot help it. We ask if the relation of a thing, which consists in its being the best means of the best end, is not an excellent relation? We ask, what is--what can be an excellent relation, if this is not? And once more we ask, on what can this relation of the thing depend, if not on its nature? Why is sin chosen as the means rather than holiness?
We remark in the fourth place, that Dr. Woods constantly confounds things tohich are essentially different. He confounds doctrine with theory. In repeated instances, he represents it to be the orthodox theory that God has not prevented sin, because it seemed good in his sight not to prevent it, or because he judged it best not to do it. Now we should say, that this instead of a theory is a doctrine-a revealed truth--and one in which Dr. Taylor and ourselves do most sincerely believe. If this is orthodoxy, why is Dr. Taylor charged by insinuations, with departing from it? But, as we have intimated in our remarks on Dr. Bellamy, our standard orthodox writers, agreeing as they do in this doctrine, seem to have adopted exclusively, no one theory to account for the origin of evil. Be this however as it may, the theory adopted by Dr. Woods, viz. that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, or is for the best, is a very different thing from the doctrine, that God judged it best not to prevent sin. The things which are said to be .for the best,' are very different things. In one case, sin itself is said to be for the best; in the other, God's act of permission is said to be for the best. It may be for the best, that a parent should permit the ordinary misconduct of his children, rather than resort to perpetual imprisonment to prevent it. But this is a very different thing from saying, that the misconduct itself is for the best. Palpable as the difference is between the two cases, Dr. Woods almost constantly confounds them. To give one instance out of many. After saying that God permitted moral evil, because he saw it best not to prevent it,' he says, as equivalent phraseology, " When we say, God saw the existence of moral evil to be