Изображения страниц

ment of that sin. Man's happiness being the consideration of his deepest concern, had naturally led him to reflect on what affected him in this respect here, and had operated on his belief of what was to become of him hereafter.”

Perhaps the most striking form of the sceptical argument concerning the existence of evil had been put thus : that God either could not prevent evil, and therefore was not all-powerful ; or that He could prevent it, and had not done so, in which case He was not infinitely good.

To this Mr. Gregory replied : “ the mind rejected the idea of such a conclusion from the following premises. In contemplating the works of the Deity—the creation of the universe—we infer, primarily, that such a power is without limit ; secondly, that the wisdom and intelligence, which direct it, must also be infinite.

“Now, from such conditions, infinite goodness follows as a necessary result. For, admitting (as we must) evil to be the consequence of error or weakness—admitting the first part of the argument to be true but admitting at the same time that the Being who created all things must be so intimately acquainted with their relations as to be incapable of error with respect to them, we must also admit that a Being free from error and weakness, is a Being of infinite power and wisdom ; and must therefore possess infinite goodness as a consequent attribute.

“If this argument failed to convince; the objection might be answered in other ways. By simply considering the operation of evil itself, he might learn how erroneous it was to question the wisdom of God's decrees, because we were unable to comprehend them.

“Let it be supposed that His own glory might be the object of God's works. The supposition was a natural one-because a being self-existent cannot glorify itself except by his works. Now the greatest conceivable glory would be that voluntarily rendered to a Supreme Being by a being most nearly approximating his own nature. On earth, that being was Man; and, although the material creation was a

was a manifestation of God's power, it offered an inferior tribute to His glory, as compared to man; because its tribute was involuntary, since all matter acted in obedience to fixed and irresistible laws.

“Here we might perceive the design of free agency. God might have created man free from sin, and in all his acts necessarily to have glorified his Creator ; but was not God's glory greater in having created a being who, though beset with every temptation to sin, was so influenced and affected by the contemplation and love of his Maker, as to resist that temptation, and of his free will to pay the highest tribute he was capable of paying, in spite

of all the attractions to sin which beset him?

“There was no respect wherein man bore a greater resemblance to his Maker than in his condition as a free agent. With this power, conjoined to that whereby he discriminated good from evil, he might act either sinfully or virtuously.

Now consider the signification of the terms Good and Evil. They were used to define opposite qualities ; hence the nonexistence of one of these qualities would, in a measure, alter the conditions of the other. Without evil, the goodness of a human being would no longer constitute that idea we now attach to the word virtue.

“The derivation of Virtue' was from a word implying strength; its literal meaning was, the result of that effort by which something contradicting man's notion of good is over

Virtue, then, is essentially the attribute of a being exposed to evil ; and the exercise of it depended on the condition of


free agency.

“ In order, therefore, to enjoy this resemblance to our Maker, and for the still greater purpose of God's glory in the voluntary nature of our obedience, more than one direction of action was necessary; this was afforded in the existence of Evil as well as Good. Now, although permitted, evil came not of God, that were impossible ; but just as perfect goodness came of the free agency

of perfect power, so imperfection—or evilcame of the free agency of weakness, which is imperfect power. Why imperfect, is again to question the wisdom of the Allwise.

Finally, by observing the wonderful love of our Heavenly Father, in converting this evil of our own invention to our own eternal advantage, and hence to His glory, we ceased to repine at our condition, we recognized His infinite goodness, and at last were taught by the gift of His grace, to kiss

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »