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from this. It has seemed to me, that, on this subject, you and those agreeing with you, instead of being less presuming, less forward to assert and decide, than orthodox ministers and writers generally, have gone far beyond them. The orthodox generally regard the existence of sin under the Divine government as a profound mystery. They resolve it into the unsearchable wisdom of God; and pretend not to be able to obviate the difficulties which attend the subject, in any other way than by saying, that the incomprehensible God, for reasons which lie beyond human intelligence, taking a perfect view of His own attributes, and of the whole system of created beings, saw it to be best not to prevent the existence of moral evil ; that, in His inscrutable counsels, He chose to admit it into the universe ; that, in ways known only to Himself, and by a power which He only possesses, He will make it the means of glory to His name, and good to His kingdom ;that, when He converts some sinners, and leaves others in impenitence, He acts according to His own sovereign will;--implying that the reasons for this conduct, which He has in His own mind, and which are perfectly satisfactory to His infinite wisdom, He has not made known to us, nor made us, in our present state, capable of discovering ;-So that we can only bow down in humble submission and adoration, and say,--Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight. When we say, God saw the existence of moral evil to be on the whole for the best, we say it because we believe that all things depend ultimately on His will, and because we are confident that the system which He has seen fit to adopt, must be, in the highest degree, wise and benevolent. If we consider sin as the means of promoting the glory of God's character, and the good of His kingdom, it is because we learn from His word and providence, that He uses it as such. Thus we resolve it all into the infinite perfection and the holy government of that Being, “ of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things”; and the positions we maintain, result directly from our implicit confidence in His wisdom and goodness. We should naturally be inclined to think that God would prevent the existence of sin ; but He has not done it. Now we content ourselves with saying, He has not done it, because, in His unsearchable wisdom, He judged it best not to do it. This I consider to be the sober theory of the orthodox.—But you undertake to assign the specific reason why God has not prevented the existence of sin. You are not satisfied with saying-He did what He saw on the whole to be for the best :-He did not exclude moral evil, because He judged it best not to exclude it ;-. He chose and adopted the present system, which includes sin, because, all things considered, He regarded it as adapted in the highest degree to promote the glory of His perfections, and the sum of created happiness. You are not satisfied with this view. But you undertake to go to the bottom of the subject, and to shew particularly why God did not prevent the existence or the present degree of sin. You hold, that He did not do it, because He could not ;, that if He created a system of moral beings at all, it must be a system in which moral evil should exist. You undertake to affirm that there were only two things which a God of infinite wisdom and power could do ;- that there was no possibility of His taking any course, except one of these, --either not to create a may be loaded with all the blame of moral and natural evil, has manifestly seduced Dr. Taylor, as it has seduced many others, under different forms, to entertain an opinion which is full of inconsistencies. The same impulse was anciently parent of Ma nichæism; and it has re-appeared from time to time in the Church, under many names. Arminian Free-will has, in modern times, been exhibited as the dire mistress of the moral world, of which the Divine Power itself. stood in awe. The American Professor denominates the same lawless authority by a periphrasis which conceals from himself the true purport of his own doctrine. This
Nature of things ', which was at first the mother of sin, and is in each particular instance the reason of sin, can in no direction be brought out to view, so that we might know its form and qualities, or seat. It appears, however, sometimes to be the inevitable condition of the continued holiness of any moral agents, that the defection of others, and its fatal consequences, should be witnessed.-- How can it be shewn from facts, that God could • secure any of His moral creatures in holiness, without this in“fluence ? Or to what purpose is it to allege instances of the pre' vention of sin under this influence, to prove that God could
prevent it without this influence ?' This is, indeed, a bold as. sumption,—that there could be no such thing as virtue in the world, if there were no spectacle of punishment! Whatever may be thought of its soundness, its Author, assuredly, is not the person who should be heard to inculpate his brethren on the ground of their assuming to know much more than man can know.' Dr. W. alleges, in contradiction of such a presumption, the fact, implied or asserted in the Scriptures, that sin was an event subsequent to a primeval state of absolute purity and loyalty in the heavenly world. If this theory be worth any thing, it implies, that sin and its punishment must have been at hand, ready to meet the view of the first created intelligences, at the very first moment of their awaking to the consciousness of moral life ;-or, in other words, that sinners must have sprung into existence in the same moment that gave birth to those who were to be preserved in holiness!
In support of his hypothesis, Dr. Taylor is driven upon the old sophism,--that the effective influence of conservatory grace upon the mind, impairs or destroys moral agency. On this point, the conclusive reasonings of Edwards might, one would think, have sufficed to prevent the recurrence of so slender an illusion. A distorted notion, altogether, of spiritual influence,-a notion that is parent of enthusiasm, lies at the bottom of this error. That Divine Influence which is the cause of virtue, wherever virtue exists, may as well be deemed incompatible with moral agency, as the constant efflux of creative energy, in the physical world, is incompatible with the exercise of the voluntary principle in man and animals. In and by the Creator, all things • live, and move, and have their being. But are they therefore not free? Or is moral life shackled by its subjection to an influence equally efficacious and indispensable ? Dr. W. follows his Opponent very closely, in his endeavour to establish the strange belief, that the prevention of any sin that has not been prevented, or the conversion of any sinner who has not been converted, must be supposed to have involved certain “fatal or highly dan
gerous consequences' to the entire moral system. Nothing can be more gratuitous than such an assumption ; nor does it seem to necd other refutation than a simple rejection of it. But our Author meets it with contracliction, both abstract and Scriptural. On this latter ground, the single text referred to beneath might be enough.
I shall refer you to one passage more. (Mark x, 27.) Jesus had represented the salvation of the rich as exceedingly difficult. His digciples, greatly astonished at the representation, said, “Who then can be saved ?" But Jesus, looking upon them, said, “ With men it is impossible ; but not with God, for with God all things are possible.” He said this, it will be observed, in reference to the salvation of sinners,—of those whose salvation was most difficult,—of those too who generally were not saved. Jesus declared, as you will observe, that it was possible for God to save, or that he could save, even rich sinners, (though but few of them were actually saved,) and that he could save them, because he was omnipotent ; or, as Christ expressed it, “because all things were possible with him." Being omnipotent, he was able to save those referred to, whether they were saved or not.'—p. 62.
The injunction to pray for the conversion of men, as Dr. W. insists, fülly carries with it the supposition, that the Divine Power might effect it; as also does the style of Scripture, which represents the conversion of sinners' as depending upon the will,
counsel, or pleasure of God, but never on the condition of his . having sufficient power to convert them. But if God possesses and claims for himself the power to change the hearts of men, and yet exercises that power only to a limited extent, or according to his own good pleasure, then it can no longer be affirmed, that some abstract necessity, or impediment, foreign to the Divine purposes, sets a bound to the circle of efficacious grace. The imaginary power which is to bear the blame of all the sin and impenitence of mankind, has no place in reason.
Dr. Taylor had affirmed, as mentioned above, that the existence and punishment of sin appear to be the necessary means of preserving the loyalty of other moral agents. That is to say, the welfare of the intelligent universe, as a whole, demands the presence of those motives which arise from the spectacle of defection and retribution. Who then would expect to find him, VOL. VII.-N.S.
and in the same page with this affirmation, rejecting with vehemence what he terms the common orthodox assumption,
that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good ; '- for this very assumption (whether in itself true or false) is the ground of his own statement ! Palpable inconsistencies belong, of necessity, to a course of reasoning such as this Professor pursues. He cannot allow sin to have been permitted for the sake of a higher good ; because his hypothesis declares, that it arose inevitably from the nature of things, and that the necessity which is its only cause, is altogether independent of the Divine conduct and purposes. But then, when he approaches the same object from another side, and sees that the spectacle of sin and punishment is actually employed in the moral system as a conservative means of virtue, he cannot neglect to avail himself of this reason for its existence; and in hastily taking advantage of it, quite forgets his recent denial of the assumption, that sin is the necessary means of the highest good! One might wonder at such an oversight, if similar instances did not abound in the field of theological speculation.
. Thus,' says Dr. W., ' your reasoning in the one instance, is really a confutation of your reasoning in the other; and if it were only from another writer, I should say, a direct and studied confutation of it. You first maintain that sin is not the necessary means of the greatest good ; and then you maintain that the holiness of intelligent beings, which you certainly regard as involved in the greatest good, could not, in any instance, no, not even by the power of God, be preserved without the existence and punishment of sin. There, sin is not the necessary means of the greatest good; here, sin, by its existence and punishment, is the necessary, indispensable means of that holiness of God's creatures in which the greatest good essentially consists.'--p.71.
Few men stop short on a perilous course, until they have reached some actual mischief. After himself, as we have seen, taking up this assumption, that sin was the necessary means of preserving the virtue of the virtuous, Dr. Taylor turns round upon his brethren, and in a strain, as we should think from the specimens before us, of very crude and ill-considered argument from consequences, endeavours to shew that, on any hypothesis but his own, there can be no sincerity in the Divine prohibitions, and no equity in the punishment of sin. This is an old sophism, so often exposed, that a respectable and well informed writer might have known better than to take it up anew.
It is obviously your opinion,' says Dr. Wood to his Opponent, • and one in which all orthodox Christians will readily unite with you, that the prohibition and punishment of sin is (are) necessary to give it a salutary influence in the moral world. Sin, in its own nature, is evil, and as such, must be prohibited by the Divine law; and, if committed, must be punished. Its being prohibited by law, and punished according to
law, is all that gives it a salutary influence, or makes it the occasion of good. Unlike holiness, which, in its own proper nature, is good and of salutary tendency, sin in itself is evil, and directly tends to evil, and becomes the means or occasion of good only indirectly, from the manner in which it is treated; that is, its being forbidden and punished. To this view, I have no doubt, you will fully assent. 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 would not treat it according to truth, he would not treat it according to his own feelings respecting it, he would not treat it sincerely, if he did not forbid it by his law, or if he did not punish it when committed. It must be evident then, that whenever we represent sin as on the whole for the best, or, according to your manner of speaking, as having an influence by which moral beings are preserved in a state of holiness, we represent it not as it is taken by itself, but as treated in the Divine government, as forbidden, frowned upon, punished. When let alone, or left to itself, its whole influence and tendency is directly and violently opposed to the good of the universe, or to the holiness and happiness of moral beings; and it is only when condemned by God's holy law, and controlled and punished by his Almighty Providence, that any good can come out of this essential and destructive evil. It is God's righteous government respecting sin, which counteracts its natural tendency, and prevents the pernicious effects which it would of itself produce.'-pp. 79, 80.
Nothing can be much more crude, inconsequential, we might say childish, than the inference, that if sin in any way produces good, it ought to be enjoined, and, when perpetrated, rewarded. Yet, thus reasons Dr. Taylor ! and he scruples not to pursue the futile objections of the most shallow or the most profane minds, as if they were conclusive against the principle he opposes. And yet, this very same principle he himself builds upon, when it serves his turn.
Speaking of the doctrine he opposes, Dr. Taylor says, that, according to it, the transgressor knows that all sin will prove to
be the necessary means of the greatest good : how then does it • appear that, with this knowledge, he is not benevolent in performing the deed ??
• To so strange a question as this,' replies Dr. Woods, I hardly know how to frame a serious answer. The deed in question is, by supposition, a sinful one; performed, as you concede, with a selfish and sinful intention; and yet you ask, “ How it appears that the subject is not truly benevolent in performing it?" Which is equivalent to asking, how it appears that a man is not benevolent in performing a deed of malevolence. And this is nowise different from asking, how it appears that love is not hatred, that holiness is not sin; or that any one thing is not its opposite.—The action, I repeat it, is by supposition selfish and sinful, receiving its name from the intention with which it is performed. Now what is the reason which leads you to change the