Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

on the whole for the best, we say it,” etc. p. 38. Thus in one case, the act of God in permitting sin, is the thing which is for the best. In the other, the act of man in sinning is the thing which is for the best. The former position, Dr. Taylor admits, but not the latter. It is obvious, therefore, that Dr. Woods confounds two things which are wholly diverse in their nature. And presenting, as he commonly does, the former as the point in controversy, he is only arguing for that, which Dr. Taylor as fully admits, and as firmly believes as Dr. Woods himself.

Again, Dr. Woods confounds a thing which is simply over-ruled for good, with a necessary means of the greatest good.' This mistake runs through his whole discussion, and has led him into a large part of the errors and inconsistencies, which so much abound in these letters. Thus he speaks, as we have seen, of sin as totally pernicious," as “ counteracted” by God in all its tendencies, etc.; and yet considers it as the necessary means of the greatest good!' The sin of Joseph's brethren and that of the crucifiers of the Savior—sins which were simply over-ruled for good,-he regards as the necessary means of the greatest good. Now this is not merely a confounding of things which are totally dissimilar, but of things which are absolutely opposites of each other. To say, that the necessary means of a given result, must still be overruled and counteracted, in order to produce that result, is a contradiction in terms.

In like manner, Dr. Woods confounds that which may be necessary on God's part in operating upon his moral kingdom, with that which is necessary to the subjects of that kingdom, as a means of their attaining the highest possible degree of holiness and consequent enjoyment. But these things are totally different. Thus, the punishment of existing sin, may be necessary on the part of God, to his securing his obedient subjects in a state of perpetual allegiance. And yet these subjects may be fully able in themselves to attain and preserve the highest degree of holiness and enjoyment, without any influence derived from the existence either of punishment or sin. What may on God's part, be “a necessary means” of his preventing more sin, may not therefore on the part of his subjects, be in the least degree, "a necessary means of the greatest good.' But Dr. Woods totally confounds these two things, and insists upon it that his opponent shall, and does, 'confound them likewise. And on this ground alone, he charges Dr. Taylor (p. 10,) with granting that sin, is the necessary means of the greatest good,' because he inquired, “ Can it be proved from facts, that God could secure any of his moral creatures in holiness without this influence?" But suppose God could not secure the holiness of the elect angels without the influence derived from the

punishment of some of their associates. Could not those angels -- could not even the fallen spirits too,-have continued in allegiance to God without this influence? How then was the sin of some, necessary in the absolute sense, to the continued allegiance of others? And especially, how was the sin of some 'a necessary means of the greatest good,' when all as free moral agents, might have continued holy forever, and when this would have been a still greater good? Thus the obvious difference, between what may be supposed necessary that God might secure holiness, and what is necessary that free moral agents themselves should do their duty, is wholly overlooked by Dr. Woods. And by this very obvious and strange mistake, he has given to the discussion in his sixth letter, all its plausibility; and has advanced a charge of contradiction against Dr. Taylor, which resulted solely from his own confounding of things entirely different.

But we have one thing more to add respecting Dr. Taylor's inquiry, “ Can it be proved from facts, that God could secure any of his moral creatures in holiness, without this influence, (i. e. of the punishment of sin.) Dr. Wood's supposes Dr. Taylor in this question, to affirm that it could not be done. But the contrary is obvious from the whole tenor of his remarks. He was simply reasoning with his opponents on their own principles; the argument was ex concessis. “You maintain, (what I do not,) that God prefers sin to holiness in its stead. On your principles, then, I ask may not God have chosen to admit the existing sin into the system, as the best means of securing his obedient kingdom in perpetual allegiance ? May not this be the good, in view of which he chose not to prevent sin ? If so then the reason of the choice is a different one, from that which you assign. And until you prove that this was not the reason, you cannot affirm, that that sin entered the system as “the necessary means of the greatest good.” Dr. Woods, then, has confounded an argument, ex concessis, with a statement of Dr. Taylor's opinion on this subject; and has triumphed greatly in the complete overthrow of his opponent, by that which has no existence, except in the inaccuracy of his own conceptions.

We shall notice in the fifth place, some of Dr. Woods' evasions of Dr. Taylor's reasoning. We mean nothing invidious in using this term.

We mean simply to say, that Dr. Woods has the appearance of meeting an argument, when he actually turns aside to something else. Such, in our view, is the fact on every main point in the controversy. We shall briefly examine a few instances of this kind, in order to justify our opinion.

Evasion 1. Dr. Taylor adduced the case of a father and his sons, to show that God might regard holiness as preferable to sin in its stead, and on this ground forbid sin; and also might decree the existence of sin as incidental to the best system. Now Dr. Woods represents Dr. Taylor as adducing this example, to prove that God has no more power over the minds of men, than a father has over the minds of his children! How candor could thus mistake a mere illustration of one thing, for an argument to prove another, we cannot easily imagine.

Evasion 2. He represents Dr. Taylor, as denying that God has power to direct and control the human mind as he pleases. pp. 33 and 47.

Nothing can be more remote from the fact. Dr. Taylor simply says, that it may be true, that in any moral system, beings who, as free agents can sin, in defiance of all preventing influences, will in some instances actually sin. Now if there are such cases, then the divine Being, never pleased, willed, or purposed in those cases to prevent the sin; and this Dr. Woods concedes, on page 29. To suppose then, that some would sin, whose sin God did not purpose to prevent, is not inconsistent with God's doing all, that he has purposed to do, i. e. doing as he pleases.

Evasion 3. Dr. Woods represents Dr. Taylor as holding, that " the very nature of moral agency is such, that God cannot prevent its perversion, i. e. cannot prevent the commission of sin. Hence Dr. Woods infers, that God cannot prevent sin in any instance in which moral agency exists. p. 42. What Dr. Taylor holds is, that the nature of moral agency is such, that it may be true, that God cannot prevent sin in all instances, under a moral system. Can Dr. Woods show, that it follows from this supposition, that God cannot prevent sin in any instance, in which moral

Evasion 4. Dr. Woods says, “If then, as your system is said by the Reviewers to imply, God could have prevented each individual sin, or “ each sin individually considered;" then I should suppose he could have prevented all sins. For if each sin was prevented, what sin could there be which was not prevented ?" p. 42. Here Dr. W. perverts our language. Power to prevent each individual sin, (i. e. every sin) and power to prevent each sin individually considered, are very different things. In the former case, all sin is prevented. In the latter, i. e. in preventing each sin individually considered, others might incessantly break out; and produce a vast increase of sin on the whole. This evasion of Dr. Woods is the more inexcusable, because our meaning was most unambiguously explained by the context.

Evasion 5. Dr. Woods represents Dr. Taylor as using the phrase, the nature of moral agency, to denote its nature viewed abstractly from all circumstanccs. We shall only say, that to suppose this, is grossly to pervert the ordinary use of language.

Evasion 6. Dr. Woods with great frequency evades the point at issue, by changing the real question. This, as we have seen

agency exists?

6. Who can

already, he has done on the broad scale of changing the fundamental statement of Dr. Taylor. He does it likewise in numerous instances on minor points. Thus, after admitting that God has determined to convert sinners more frequently where the best means are enjoyed, he says, “ But can we infer from this, that God was not able to proceed in a different way, and convert as many sinners where there were but few advantages, as where there were many? Not at all.” p. 46. Now how obvious is it, that this is not the question? The true question is, can Dr. Woods prove the contrary. He says, “the question before us is, whether the entire prevention of sin in moral beings, or the prevention of the present degree of it, is possible to God, in the nature of things.p. 49. We say, this is not the question. It is, whether Dr. Woods can prove that the entire prevention, etc.

In reply to Dr. Taylor's question, who can prove, that the requisite interposition of God to prevent any past sin, would not result in å vast increase of sin in the universe, Dr. Woods says, prove that it would result in this?

66 What shadow of reason is there to suppose

that it would?We answer, perhaps no one can prove that it would; perhaps there is not the shadow of a reason, to suppose that it would. Still the real question remains, what shadow of a reason is there to suppose, that it would not? This is the question for Dr. Woods to answer. Why does he thus evade it?

Speaking of the abundance of the means and motives under the gospel, Dr. Woods says, “ Now if you say that, although God can convert some, (namely, those that he does convert,) he cannot convert others; I ask, what hinders? What renders it impossible? Is it the nature of moral agency? But that is the same in all. Is it the want of means and motives? There is no such want here. Is it the want of “moral power ?” We have seen that in such circumstances, this cannot be. What then is the hindrance?" p. 46. Dr. Taylor has not asserted, that there is any hindrance. He has said simply that in some cases there may be, and that no one can prove, that there is not. Thus, as we have seen, by misrepresenting Dr. Taylor's positions at the outset, Dr. Woods evades the real question, at almost every turn of the argument. Now, we shall hold Dr. Woods to a correct statement of the question. It does not belong to Dr. Taylor to prove what he has not asserted, but it does belong to Dr. Woods to prove what he has asserted.

Evasion 7. Dr. Woods, evades the argument from the nature of moral agency, by mere assertion. Dr. Taylor asked, " who can prove a priori, or from the nature of the subject, that a being who cản sin, will not sin?” Dr. Woods replies, that “it results with absolute certainty from the nature of God, that he will not sin, though in your sense of the word he has power to sin.”

p.

50. VOL. II.

70

Now we say, that this is a mere assertion, and not proof. Let us have the a priori argument, which proves this assertion. Besides, we need not say how entirely diverse this case is from that of created beings, of whom so many of every order bave fallen into sin.

Dr. Woods says again, speaking of Satan,“ may it not certainly

proved from his very nature, I mean his moral nature as it now is, that he will not love God?" If this can be proved simply and solely from the nature of Satan as a free agent, let it be done. But no : Dr. Woods proposes both in the case of God and of Satan, to prove the point a posteriori from their moral character, not a priori from their free-agency! And this is meeting an argument !

Dr. Woods says, “ We are taught both by reason and scripture, that God has a perfect, unlimited power over all the springs and occasions of action in human beings,-over every thing which has the nature of a motive or excitement to action; and especially over the disposition of the heart.” This again is mere assertion. Besides; by unlimited power, Dr. W. must mean, power which man cannot resist; for if man as a free agent can resist it, then it is not, in this respect, unlimited. Here again we ask Dr. Woods, for his proof; for his proof too, in view of the acknowledged fact, that divine influence on the human mind is often and fatally resisted.

Dr. Taylor asked, “op the supposition, that God had prevented any past sin, who can prove, that the requisite interposition for the purpose,

would not result in a vast increase of sin in the universe? Now this is a main question—a question on the face of it, fitted to show. how absolutely naked are the assumptions of Dr. Woods, and of others. For how do they know-how can they prove-what can authorize them to assert, that the least iota of change in God's appointed system of moral influence, would not have resulted in a vast increase of sin? We say man is too ignorant, to make assertions to the contrary. Dr. W. in some instances, as we have shown, agrees with us in this. And yet he meets this main question, by merely asserting the contrary. We know not why Dr. W. should charge assertions on Dr. Taylor which he has never made, and yet be so reluctant to prove the truth of his own.

Evasion 8. Dr. Taylor inquired, whether those who maintain, that God COULD NOT secure the greatest good, without sin as the means of this happy result, do not limit the power of God? To this question, (which ought to have sealed Dr. Woods' lips in regard to the objection of limiting the divine power,) he has, so far as we can discover, given no answer. Why is he unwilling to meet it? Why has he devoted so many pages to the defense, of what he calls God's unlimited power, while his own scheme maintains, that God cannot,—yes, God cannot secure the greatest good without sin? Were the subjects of God to render perfect and endless obedience to his perfect lawv, God could not secure the highest hap

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »