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chance presides over the lot of men, since the good fall into misfortunes, which overwhelm them; and persons of an opposite character enjoy in their families a brilliant prosperity, contrary to all expectation.” On the same ground, arguments and insinuations have been thrown out in modern times, to obscure the evidence, and subvert the authority of religion. With regard to the righteous, I may say that they are imperfect beings, chargeable with many failings and transgressions, which render them worthy of correction. Pure virtue, if it existed upon earth, might expect to have a portion of pure felicity assigned to it; but mixed virtue has no reason to complain, although it should be presented with a cup containing bitter as well as sweet ingredients. I believe that no good man will, in an hour of calm and solemn reflection, make his own condition, however hard it may be, an argument against Providence, because he will readily acknowledge that he is less than the least of God's mercies, and deserves all the evil which has befallen him. I may say further, that happiness is not to be judged of solely or principally by external circumstances; for that although these, if disagreeable, will necessarily cause a deduction, yet it may be compensated by internal satisfaction, flowing from a sense of the divine favour, and the hope of future rest and joy. While the world is pitying an individual, and pronouncing that he is hardly dealt with, he may be elevated above a sense of sorrow, by the strong consolations of religion. Lastly, I may say, that the afflictions of the righteous are so far from disproving the care and goodness of Providence, that they are the surest evidences of its love ; because their express design is to purify them from the stain of sin; to prepare them for the reception of blessings to be afterwards bestowed in the present life, and to train them up, by salutary discipline, for a state of perfection. When you see the virtuous," says Seneca, o groaning with pain, toiling with the sweat of their brows, and struggling with adversity, consider, that God acts from the same principle as we do, when we wish that our children should be modest and discreet, while we leave vile slaves to themselves. The interest which he takes in a good man does not permit that he should live in delights; he tries him, and hardens him for labour, and thus prepares him for himself.”
The prosperity of the wicked may be accounted for in various ways. In some instances, God may have a merciful design; for although they often “despise the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads to repentance,"'* yet his grace, concurring with his external dispensations, may excite them to consider and glorify their Divine Benefactor, and to consecrate themselves and their possessions to his service. At other times, he may give them prosperity, not on their own account, but for the sake of those who are connected with them, making use of them as channels by which his bounty is communicated to their families, their dependants, their neighbourhood, and their country. Once more, under the specious appearance of prosperity, the displeasure of God against them may be concealed. While all things are succeeding according to their wish, means and opportunities are afforded of indulging their unholy desires; and, becoming secure and careless, they are prepared for the destruction which will finally overtake them. The tendency of prosperity is to estrange the human heart more and more from God, and to induce an insensibility to the concerns of eternity; and in this view it is not a blessing, but a curse. Asaph was perplexed with the difficulty which the external condition of the wicked presents, but he was relieved by ihis consideration :—“Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world ; they increase in riches. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them on slippery places; thou
• Rom. ii. 4,
castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image."
An equal dispensation appears necessary to the objectors, to establish the doctrine of an over-ruling Providence. Let us consider what is meant by an equal dispensation. It is an exact distribution of rewards and punishments in the present state, an allotment of temporal good and evil to men, according to their desert; but, although such a dispensation is plausible in theory, and it may be imagined that it could be easily realized, when we enter into detail we shall find, that it is attended with insuperable difficulties. According to this plan, it would be necessary that good men should enjoy uninterrupted prosperity, and consequently, that all the troubles and uneasinesses which arise from a thousand causes, should be warded off; that no disease should overtake them; that no trial should befal them, in their persons, or their families, or their friends ; that their lawful schemes should always succeed, or that they should be prevented from thinking of schemes with which Providence would not concur; in short, that all nature should minister to them, and no part of it should ever interfere with their designs, or give them any disturbance. It would be necessary, on the other hand, that a process exactly the reverse should take place with respect to the wicked ; that all precautions for the preservation of their health should be unavailing; that all the exertions of their industry should prove abortive; that every thing which they touched should be a sting, and every thing which they tasted should be bitter. I need not say that this plan would require a complete change of the laws of nature, or such frequent alterations of them, that they would no longer serve as a guide to human conduct.
An equal dispensation, which some men demand, could not take place but under a totally different system, and if now introduced, would involve all things in inextricable confusion. It will appear possible only to the most thoughtless of mankind. If the head of a family were an irreligious man, this scheme would require that he should be immediately punished; but observe, that he could not be punished alone. Whether his substance was wasted by a series of calamities, or he was cut off from the land of the living, his children would suffer by the loss of their natural guardian, or of the means of their subsistence; and the equality of the dispensation would be instantly destroyed. The same thing would happen if the children were wicked and the parent were pious ; for every stroke which lighted upon them would fall upon him, and the innocent would be involved in the same condemnation with the guilty. Such is the intermixture of mankind, by a variety of relations, that the separate treatment of each individual according to his desert, is at present impossible. This is assigned by our Lord as the reason why bad men are permitted to mingle with the good, and to hold their place in society, contrary to what it might seem to us perfect justice demands :—“ Wilt thou,” said the servants to their master, when they had discovered tares among the wheat, “ wilt thou, that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.”+
Let it not be supposed, that, when we speak of Divine Providence, we mean by it a perfect moral adıninistration. We see only its commencement, and must wait for its full development at the proper season. Its subjects are at present in a state of trial : by which I mean, that they are placed in circum stances which present them with opportunities of doing good or evil, and although they may be treated in part according to their conduct, yet the full retribution will not take place till their course is finished. We have seen that there • Ps. lxxiii. 12, 16–20.
† Matt. xii. 28–30.
are wise and necessary reasons why it is delayed. Hence the appearances of injustice, which have distressed good men, and furnished the bad with an argument against Providence, ought to give us no disturbance. Amidst the darkness which surrounds us, we see enough to convince us that there is a Supreme Governor, and that he loves righteousness and hates iniquity; and we are assured, that ere long his judgment will be openly revealed. There is sufficient evidence that Heaven is on the side of virtue, notwithstanding its trials, and against vice, notwithstanding its occasional success; and we are authorized to believe that virtue will ultimately triumph, and that vice will be expelled from the kingdom of God. “He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge the world in righteousness, and the people with his truth."
ON THE FALL OF MAN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
Fallibility of Adam in his State of Innocence-His subjection to the Law of God-Command
respecting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil-Penalty attached to it-Adam's Temptation, and Breach of the Command—Immediate consequences to our First Parents.
We have seen that, having finished all his other works upon earth, God niade man to be the lord of the inferior creatures. His body was formed of the dust of the ground, and was animated by an intelligent and immortal spirit. It has appeared that, besides the gift of reason, by which he was distinguished from the other inhabitants of the earth, he was endowed with original righteousness, which properly constituted the image of God with which he was adorned, and fitted him for fulfilling the end of his creation, by glorifying the Author of his being. The happiness which he enjoyed was suitable to his compound nature, which derived pure pleasure from the external objects with which he was surrounded, and still higher satisfaction from conscious rectitude, and a sense of the Divine favour. Placed in the fairest-spot of the earth, where his eye, his ear, and all his senses were delighted, he held high communion with his Maker, and while he poured out his soul in adoration and thanksgiving, rejoiced in the communications of his love.
But this happy state was not of long continuance. We have no reason to think, that man sinned on the day of his creation; but we have as little reason to believe, that he retained his innocence for years. . “The gold soon became dim: the fine gold was speedily changed.” There was only a short interval, when the favourite of heaven incurred its displeasure, and the beauty of holiness in which he was arrayed, was succeeded by the most revolting deformity. Into this melancholy and disastrous event we are now to inquire; and while we are speaking of the sin of the first man and its lamentable consequences, let us remember, how deeply interesting the subject is to ourselves, who are his descendants, and derive from him not only our nature, but all the guilt and pollution which are now associated with it.
Although man was perfectly holy, yet he was fallible, as every creature necessarily is. I do not say that every creature must actually fall; but that the nature of a created being is such, that a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, and coậsequently, from happiness to misery, is by no means impossible. This does not imply any imperfection in the work of God. * Ps. xcvi. 13.
| Lecture XL.
bility is an attribute of his own nature, which cannot be communicated. He could indeed afford such assistance to his intelligent creatures that no temptation should overcome them, and give perpetual stability to their habits of holiness; but still it would be true, that considered in themselves they were subject to change. Mutability is inseparable from the idea of a created free agent. Freedom of will implies the power of choice; that is, it implies, that of two objects presented to him, a person may choose the one or the other. If he can choose the one, but cannot choose the other; if he is restrained by the law of his nature from acting, except in one particular way; he is not free, in the sense in which the term is commonly used. He is a creature iotally different from men and angels, because he does not possess that liberty with which they are endowed. We have no reason to think, that this liberty will cease even in a state of perfection, with which it is not more inconsistent than it was with the innocence of paradise ; for, although the will of the saints will be invariably determined to good, the determination will not be the effect of physical force, by which choice is taken away; but of the clear convictions of their minds, and the purity of their whole nature. They will still be as free as ever, because they will be what they are with their own full consent. If they cannot sin, the reason is, that they will not. From these observations, it appears, that although the fall of man did not necessarily result from his original constitution, yet it was the consequence of it. His will being free, he might refuse good and choose evil.
If it should be asked, Why did God bestow upon man a power, by the abuse of which his own authority might be insulted, and the happiness of the universe might be impaired? it may be remarked, that this is the amount of the question, Why did God make a creature capable of being the subject of law, and of obtaining a reward ? Had man not possessed liberty of choice, he could not have yielded moral obedience. He might have been so constructed, as to go through the forms of duty, as the index of a clock points out successively the hours on the dial-plate ; but there would have been no virtue in his movements; and he would have glorified God only as he is glorified by fire and hail, snow and vapour, and stormy winds, which fulfil his word. As the heavens and the earth exhibited innumerable examples of this kind of obedience, this conformity to his will in which intelligence had no share, it was necessary to the persection of his work, that a creature should be raised up, who, knowing his Maker, and approving of his will, might execute his commands from design, and under the influence of gratitude and love. necessary to complete the scene, that a being should be introduced, to exemplify the moral as well as the physical dependence of the creature upon its Maker, and to honour him not only as the First Cause, but as the righteous Governor of his works. It is evident that this design could be accomplished only by means of a creature endowed with intelligenee and choice.
But why, it may be asked again, did not God guard against the fatal consequences of liberty, by fortifying the mind of man against temptation, in the same manner as the saints, according to the doctrine of Calvinists, are preserved by his secret power from total and final apostasy? What is this but to ask, why he has permitted sin? a question which may be proposed with a view to perplex, but not in the hope of a satisfactory answer, as it has baffled the ingenuity of the wise and learned, in all ages of the world. If any person should think, that it was inconsistent with the goodness of God not to afford such assistance to man as should secure him against danger, he must proceed a step farther, and maintain that it was inconsistent with his goodness, to invest man with a power, the abuse of which might involve him in misery. It would follow, that it was unworthy of God to make such a creature as man; and that he, whom we have been accustomed to consider as the head
and crown of this lower world, was the only part of it which impeached the wisdom and benevolence of its Author. To inquiries of this nature we are not competent; and as an attempt to explore the counsels of the Almighty, which he has not revealed, is manifestly impious, so, it is calculated to have an unhappy influence on our minds, and to lead us on from presumption to infidelity and atheism, It is certain, that God endowed man with freedom of will; it is certain that in the exercise of this freedom, man lost his innocence and happiness; it is certain that God was holy and righteous in this, as in all his other dispensations. Here let us rest, and patiently wait, till in another state our doubts shall be solved.
Man having been created a free agent, was the proper subject of command, and accordingly was placed under the law of his Creator, the knowledge of which was immediately infused into his mind. This law was virtually the same with that which was afterwards engraven upon two tables of stone, and is in every age the standard of duty. To all the precepts of the law, he was bound to yield obedience; and as we have already seen, he was furnished with sufficient powers for complying with the will of his Maker. It pleased God, however, to sum up his obedience in one point; without loosening the obligation of the other precepts, to fix his attention upon one positive injunction, that the strength and steadiness of his moral principles might be tried, and it might be ascertained, whether he was influenced by pure regard to his naked authority. The fact is thus related by Moses : * And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."*
It has been said, that it was unworthy of God to interpose his authority in a matter so trifling, and that it is incredible that he would have exposed our first parent to the hazard of ruining himself and his posterity by eating an apple. Whether, according to the celebrated maxim, ridicule' be the test of truth or not, the state of mind which it implies, is not the most favourable for the calm investigation of it; and it is certain that, by a little artifice, the gravest subject may be exhibited in a ludicrous light. It will not be denied, that God had a right to prohibit the use of the tree of knowledge, as he was the sole proprietor of all the trees in the garden. It is manifest, that the prohibition did not proceed from malevolence, or an intention to impair the happiness of man; because, with this single reservation, he was at liberty to appropriate the rich variety of fruit with which paradise was stored. It is certain that, situated as he was, no command could be easier, as it properly implied no sacrifice, no painful privation, but simple abstinence from one out of many things; for who would deem it a hardship, while he was sitting at a table covered with all kinds of delicate and substantial food, to be told, that there was "ne and only one which he was forbidden to taste? It is farther evident, that no reason could be assigned, why Adam should not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but the divine prohibition. The fruit was as good for food as that of any other tree, and as pleasant to the eye; and there was nothing sacred in it, which would have been profaned by human touch. Hence you will perceive that, if God had an intention to make trial of the dispositions of his newly formed subject, be could not have chosen a more proper method; as it indicated nothing like a harsh or tyrannical exercise of authority, and was admirably fitted to ascertain whether his simple command would be to him instead of all other reasons for obedience. It is not a proper trial of reverence for a superior, when the action which he prescribes is recommended by other considerations. It is when it stands upon the sole foundation of his authority; when, having no intrinsic goodness, it becomes good only by his
Gen. ii. 16, 17.