Слике страница

the fires of its rage against its God. Not so with man. He can pursue his own chosen ways of sin, and feel but occasionally and imperfectly that opposing will of God crossing his path. That the soul of his subject might not be incensed by this galling opposition to an indomitable fury, God has partially withdrawn the manifestations of his own will, and the evil principles of man's rebellious heart are not now forever lashed up to a more stormy bitterness and hate, by being made to strike continually against the will of God. This peculiarity of his condition, so important, so necessary to keep him from a desperate state of malignity towards God his maker, may be attributed to his fleshly constitution, which not only breaks and softens the promptings of his own rebellious spirit against the authority of God, and, like oil, mollifies the chafings and collision in him of their opposing wills, but also forms the inlet of ten thousand enjoyments to the soul, from which he almost forgets, that the anger of God burns against him.

This complex constitution of man, once more, makes him susceptible of mingled good and evil. We have no reason to believe, that a pure spirit can, from its nature, otherwise than enjoy unalloyed bliss, or suffer unmingled woe. As all good and evil are, except in a world of grace, the manifestations of the supreme approbation or displeasure of God,—all being bestowed or inflicted by him as the moral Governor of the universe, so when his will shines ever forth to view, and his approbation is manifest to every spirit, we must believe, that no souls not obedient to his will can enjoy any good, or any obedient spirit undergo any evil. Indeed, even in this world, the full consciousness, that all blessings are the gift of God and the expressions of his will, often turns the same blessings into curses to the guilt-stricken soul. But through his flesh, man can receive enjoyment, without necessarily concluding, that it is an expression of God's approving heart, speaking to it his soft voice of peace and complacent love. Hence it can consistently be bestowed, and without defeating that main purpose of God in bestowing it, to lead the heart to him who has made it to overflow with gladness.

Now such a mingling of good and evil in the cup of human experience, is absolutely essential to bring the soul to repentance and to obedience. Good is necessary, to convince of God's willingness to receive and bless the penitent. Evil is necessary, to convince of God's displeasure at sin, and to warn of the final evil consequences of continuing in it. Unmingled good would lead to presumptuous confidence; unmingled evil, to hopeless des

pair. The fleshly nature of man admits the combination of the two, and therefore renders man's recovery a possible, yea a hopeful event. We see, then, that the subjection of the spirit to a union with flesh and blood, however unnatural such a connection at first might seem, is yet, if not absolutely essential,-as there is reason to believe,-is still highly conducive to the end of recovering fallen spirits and confirming them in holiness; and that this animal constitution of man is admirably adapted to this great end. Since, too, no other equally probable end can be perceived, we infer, that it was for this end God in his infinite wisdom originally ordained and established it. We urge, in farther support of this view, the consideration, that it fully vindicates the character of God in certain respects, which otherwise would, in those same respects, appear sullied with partiality or injustice.

One of the first inquiries, that agitates thinking minds after the clear discovery of a God of perfect holiness and inviolate justice, sitting upon the throne of the universe, and wielding his scepter of righteousness over his vast kingdom, is, Why are good and evil so unequally distributed among men? Why are the comparatively virtuous forced to undergo the most distressing trials and misfortunes, while the vicious and abandoned often seem to go on through life with but few of its evils fastening upon them. Why should a God of strict impartiality, who regards no man's person, thus distribute his blessings and his evils? To the murmuring rebel against the severity of God it may be a sufficient reply, that with all his sufferings man receives far less of evil than is due to his sins, and all the good he enjoys flows unmerited from the free grace of God; and to vindicate the final justice of God, it may be sufficient to urge, that this world is not the place where the ultimate allotments of God's justice are made, and that in a future world all shall receive according to their respective merits. Still, the mind of the anxious inquirer rests unsatisfied, till it sees, that a fit and substantial reason may be discovered for thus disturbing the equable flow of good and evil in this life. Through the light furnished us by this view of our constitution, we can perceive a satisfactory reason why God should distribute good and evil in unequal shares to man while on earth. As his great design in his measures here is the recovery of men to holiness, and as the dispositions of men vary, and as consequently they require various means and methods to be used with them in order to influence their conduct,-some yielding to a less, others needing a greater degree of influence,-some demanding more of the VOL. X. 16

influence flowing from good, others more of that which proceeds from inflicted evil,-we should expect, that God would treat them in various ways; drawing such as may be so drawn by the manifestations of his love through the attractive power of goodness; and breaking and subduing the stout hearts of others by the softening force of suffering; mingling the two in such proportions as best to accomplish his great design; employing now more of this, now more of that, according as their ever varying circumstances may require.

This view helps us also to vindicate the character of God in his determination of the mode in which the moral character and condition of Adam are connected with that of his posterity. We say the mode of connection-for as to the general propriety of connecting moral beings together so that the character and conduct of one shall influence and affect that of others, none can doubt. Why then has God so ordered it, that "by the offense of one many should become sinners," through the relation of parent and offspring; in other words, through a propagated animal constitution? How are the wisdom and benevolence of this condition to be demonstrated? Here we look at the design of God. We see, that by causing the developments and workings of sin to take place through a body of flesh, he opens facilities for meeting and overthrowing it. There is a good and worthy purpose to be subserved by making sin thus work and exercise its influence on other moral beings through the flesh. And so long as no compulsive necessity is imposed on man of yielding to the power of temptation, which comes on him through his animal constitution corrupted by Adam, so long as his will is left free, no room is left for complaint against the appointment of God. This, then, is a satisfactory reply to those who murmuringly inquire why God has thus occasioned their character as sinners to depend on that of Adam. Moral beings must, from their nature, be influenced by the example and character of other moral beings; this influence of Adam on his descendants is made to come through the flesh,-through a propagated animal constitution, since such a connection of our race with their first parents was incidental to the great design of God in framing a system of redemption.

In support of the view we have presented, we urge, once more, the consideration, that it accords with and explains the facts in the case.

There are many things growing out of the present condition of existence which appear strange, mysterious, unaccountable, and contradictory. We deem it no small recommendation of the

correctness of our view, that it falls in with these perplexing facts, harmonizing and shedding light upon them all. We can scarcely enter into the broad field which is now opened before us. All that we can do will be merely to select a few of the most perplexing facts as they occur, and just show how they will appear when viewed in the light of this explanation; leaving it for our readers to judge of the correctness of the application, and, if they see fit, extend the illustrations to other phe


The first that we shall notice, is the existence of so much and various error in the world. How is it, has been probably the anxious inquiry of every thinking mind, how is it, that the creature of a God of truth, surrounded by a universe of truth, endowed with an intellect fitted to discern and enjoy truth, should yet imbibe so much error?-that beings invested with similar capacities for perceiving and apprehending truth, with the same storehouse of truth before them, should yet differ so much in their notions and opinions?

We may find an answer to this in the constitution of man. There the contradiction is perceived of the union of spirit and matter in the same being. In a being made up of such contradictory materials, we might expect a life of perpetual contradictions. So we find it to be.

The spirit, forced to derive its knowledge of external things, and, to a great extent, of its interior operations, through the flesh, which is but a broken and uneven mirror of truth, distorting and misrepresenting continually whatever it reflects, must occasionally err in its judgment. The appointed medium, too, of its investigations and reasonings, language, is derived from the same source,-from a material world; and hence arises a fruitful occasion of error. Its entire intercourse with its fellow beings, also, conducted through the body of flesh, exposes him constantly to false conceptions and apprehensions. Thus is error incidental to man's mortal nature. Still the view presented enables us to see its uses and its suitableness to the present condition of things. Though wholly an evil in itself, though as such men are bound to guard against it and strive for its diminution and extirpation, yet, like pain, it is overruled by God for good. It in fact sustains the same relation to the grand design of God in originating and establishing men's constitution, as suffering and misery. Its uses may be pointed out. Man learns to prize truth, and thus to prepare his mind to admit and feel its proper influence. He is put on his guard, and thus is inculcated the virtue of watchfulness, so important to him

against the temptations and wiles of the adversary. He is invited to the diligent investigation of truth, and this creates a relish for it. How many in this very way, by the grace of God, while investigating truth for the sake of exploding error, have been brought to welcome the truths of the gospel, and yield submission to their power? Thus a long train of virtues are taught and inculcated, which forms part of that wonderful process of grace adopted by God for the recovery of sinning souls.

This view explains further, why it is, that God and the world, or God and mammon, are set forth as the two great rivals in the hearts of men. Why, it is often anxiously asked, Why are the world and its Creator at such variance? Why is it, that the one must have my affections to the exclusion of the other? It is because the rebellion of the human heart against God is made by him to take this form of manifesting itself through the love of the world. In the first temptation and sin of Eden, it was sensual good, that assailed and drew away the hearts of our first parents. It is the flesh, that now holds away the affections of man from his sovereign. God has caused the alienation of the will from him to develop itself in this particular mode; and not in direct defiance of his authority, and for the reason already intimated, because here it is tamed, and checked, and brought more effectually under his reclaiming influence.

It explains, moreover, the consistency of the fact of total depravity with the possession of a tolerably sound morality. The will may be in decided, open rebellion against Jehovah, and at the same time a passably sound external morality may be manifested. This is a fact that has often caused great perplexity. How can so much apparent virture co-exist with a heart so wholly depraved? Can it be, that so much honesty and probity, so much filial piety and parental fondness, so much propriety and consistency of conduct, so much kindness and benevolence can dwell with a heart wholly perverted and corrupt? Such is the fact that scripture declares, and reason attests. But how-why does this take place under the government of God?

To these questions the view we have taken enables us to give a satisfactory answer. For these seeming, and, in a certain sense, these real virtues, that so deservedly draw forth our esteem and approbation are the mere exhibitions of selfishness, by means of the habitudes of mind produced by an animal constitution. Does a parent feel for his offspring-watch and toil and suffer willingly and cheerfully for its good? So does the irrational brute. But is not the natural affection of a man different from that of a brute? Certainly, of a vastly higher

« ПретходнаНастави »