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gress, and infinite increase of nearness and union to God; in this view, the creature must be looked upon as united to God in an infinite strictness.
If God has respect to something in the creature, which he views as of everlasting duration, and as rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and that not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps an increasing) celerity; then he has respect to it, as, in the whole, of infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be be said already to have come to such a height.
Let the most perfect union with God be represented by something at an infinite height above us: and the eternally increasing union of the saints with God, by something that is ascending constantly towards that infinite height, moving upwards with a given velocity; and that is to continue thus to move to all eternity. God who views the whole of this eternally increasing height, views it as an infinite height. And if he has respect to it, and makes it his end, as in the whole of it, he has respect to it as an infinite height, though the time will never come when it can be said it has already arrived at this infinite height.
God aims at that which the motion or progression which he causes, aims at, or tends to. If there be many things supposed to be so made and appointed, that by a constant and eternal motion, they all tend to a certain centre; then it appears that he who made them, and is the cause of their motion, aimed at that centre; that term of their motion, to which they eternally tend, and are eternally, as it were, striving after. And if God be the centre, then God aimed at himself. And herein it appears, that as he is the first author of their being and motion, so he is the last end, the final term to which is their ultimate tendency and aim.
We may judge of the end that the Creator aimed at, in the being, nature, and tendency he gives the creature, by the mark or term which they constantly aim at in their tendency and eternal progress; though the time will never come, when it can be said it is attained to, in the most absolutely perfect
But if strictness of union to God be viewed as thus infinitely exalted; then the creature must be regarded as nearly and closely united to God. And viewed thus, their interest must be viewed as one with God's interest; and so is not regarded properly with a disjunct and separate, but an undivided respect. And as to any difficulty of reconciling God's not making the creature his ultimate end, with a respect properly distinct from a respect to himself; with his benevolence and free grace, and the creature's obligation to gratitude, the rea
der must be referred to chap. I. sect. 4. obj. 4. where this objection has been considered and answered at large.
If by reason of the strictness of the union of a man and his family, their interest may be looked upon as one, how much more so is the interest of Christ and his church,-whose first union in heaven is unspeakably more perfect and exalted, than that of an earthly father and his family--if they be considered with regard to their eternal and increasing union? Doubtless it may justly be esteemed so much one, that it may be sought, not with a distinct and separate, but an undivided respect. It is certain that what God aimed at in the creation of the world, was the good that would be the consequence of the creation, in the whole continuance of the thing created.
It is no solid objection against God aiming at an infinitely perfect union of the creature with himself, that the particular time will never come when it can be said, the union is now infinitely perfect. God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners: which will be satisfied by their damnation, considered no otherwise than with regard to its eternal duration. But yet there never will come that particular moment when it can be said, that now justice is satisfied. But if this does not satisfy our modern free-thinkers, who do not like the talk about satisfying justice with an infinite punishment; I suppose it will not be denied by any, that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good infinitely valuable, because eternal and yet there never will come the moment when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed.*
Our author has produced from the purest principles of reason, and the fountain of revealed truth, abundant evidence, that God's ultimate and chief end in the creation of the universe, in the operations of Providence, and in the mo thods of salvation, is his own glory. But we do not think it superfluous to add a few observations on this important subject.
1. A clear and comprehensive view of the universe, or what our author calls "the world," will lead us to observe two grand divisions, which may be termed physical and moral. And though in both the glory of God is the chief end, yet this end is not attained by the same means in the moral as in the physical department.
2. By the creation and disposal of the physical part of the universe, the glory of God's natural perfections, as of sovereign wisdom, power, and goodness, is chiefly displayed. But by the creation and government of the moral part, the glory of the moral perfections of Deity, that is, of infinite moral rectitude, or equity, and of sovereign benevolence and mercy, is made to appear.
3. God being an infinite sovereign, controlled by no consideration but infinite rectitude, or a regard to the consistency of his own character; and a created universe being capable of two forms, and it should seem, for aught that appears to the contrary, of two only, physical and moral; a full emanation and display ad extra of the moral perfections of Deity could not be made without a moral system in all its capabilities of relation.
4. The physical part of the universe, even including the physical operations of intelligent beings, may subsist, it is evident, without requiring any other dis
play of glory than what is included in sovereign wisdom, power, and goodness; and it is equally plain, that there would be no opportunity of manifesting strict equity, much less mercy, to existent beings, without a moral system. Therefore, 5. If strict or absolute equity, and sovereign mercy, be manifested, a moral system was necessary. To exercise strict, unmixed, or absolute equity, whereby is given to its object what is due to it a capacity for moral agency being supposed) and yet to preserve that object, that is, a moral agent, from being liable to sin, involves a contradiction. For it is the same as to say, a free agent is not free to sin, though fully permitted to follow his own tendencies And this is the same thing as to say, an accountable creature is not liable to fail; in other words, a moral agent is no moral agent, and a moral system is no moral system. Man would be impeccable and the very existence of sin impossible.
6. If it be asked, might not the whole of the moral part of the universe have been preserved from sin? We reply, undoubtedly it might; if sovereign benevolence had thought proper to interpose, in order to counteract the exercise of strict, unniixed, and absolute rectitude or equity; but then it must have been at the expence of eternally concealing the glory of this divine perfection, absolute rectitude.
7. To permit the creature to sin, and to exercise absolute equity, is the same thing; in other words, to exercise this glorious perfection, and not to permit the creature to sin, are incompatible ideas. If this perfection be exercised, there is, there can be, no principle belonging to a moral system, which preserves it from being liable to sin. Nor is there any principle belonging to it independent of sovereign benevolence, which is adequate to preserve that liability to sin from actual defection. But to appeal, in the way of objection to the alternative of sovereign benevolence, which alone can preserve from sin, is the same as to concede what the proposition asserts.
8. Equity, in one view of it, is indeed compatible with the exercise of sovereign benevolence towards the same object, and at the same time. To question this, would be to question God's proper sovereignty, and therefore his right of creating and preserving the universe, and of beatifying any creatures he hath made. For neither of these effects could take place but by sovereign benevolence as a cause. But if sovereign benevolence were not compatible with justice, or equity, in one view of it, God could not be benevolent without being unjust, which is absurd.
9. Yet equity, in another view, stands as a contrast to benevolence. Strict or absolute equity, is that which excludes all sovereign, benevolent influence; and when moral agents are its object, (their being and natural capacities, or their moral capabilities, being supposed) the exercise of absolute equity must necessarily exclude benevolent, sovereign influence. Thus among men we find some resemblance of this abstract but momentous truth. In one view, justice and generosity are compatible; while one deals justly with another, he may also be additionally generous. But in another view, these are incompatible; for strict, absolute justice, is the same as justice and nothing more, and therefore must exclude generosity.
10. Therefore, equity, in the one view, implies the exclusion of injustice; and in the other, the exclusion of undeserved favour, or sovereign benevolent influence. The exercise of rectitude in the former sense, might have been without the permission of sin; but not so in the latter sense. If perfect absolute rectitude towards a moral systemu be made to emanate ad extra, to the full developement of the capabilities of such a system, the permission of sin is not only equitable, but even metaphysically necessary. That is, it involves a contradiction to say, that such a divine perfection may be so displayed, or its glory made to appear ad extra, and yet not to permit the existence of moral defect, or in other words, to actually hinder its existence.
11. The very idea of a moral system, in which the permission of defect is excluded by equity, is one of the most absurd that can be conceived. For it is the same as to say that God was bound in equity not to permit sin, while at the same time he constituted the agent free, and accountable for the exercise of his freedom; and as he has in fact permitted the introduction of sin into the world, such an idea would be the same as to charge infinite perfection with want of equity.
12. We may therefore safely conclude, that the glory of the divine rectitude, towards the intelligent and moral part of the universe, considered as accountable, and to the full extent of its moral capabilities, could not be manifested without
the permission of sin. The full exercise of equity must necessarily leave the moral system to its own tendencies and operations.
13. To permit the event of sin, or not to hinder it, implies, that the cause of defection is not in the permitter, but in the permitted; not in the governor, but the governed. There is in the moral part of the universe a cause why an event which ought not to take place, will take place, if not hindered. If there be no such cause in the system, how could the event take place on permission? If it be said, There is a chance it may not take place, and there is a chance of the contrary-it is but fair to ask, is this chance something which has a cause, or has it no cause? If the latter; the concession itself reduces chance to a mere nothingi For a contingent event, as the operation of chance is supposed to be, without any cause, is a metaphysical impossibility. If the former; what is the cause of what the objector calls chance? Is it something external, or internal? What is its nature and character? To say that liberty of indifference, or a self-determining power, is the chance which requires no preceding cause to produce the event, is to contradict absolute demonstration, if ever there was a metaphysical demonstration of any subject; as our author has abundantly shewn in his "Essay on the Freedom of the Will."
14. It is therefore inaccurate and unintelligible language to say, that either chance, liberty of indifference, or a self-determining power, independent of any antecedent cause, is adequate to account for the event of sin, or a deterioration of a moral system. God, therefore, permitting, there is an inherent adequate cause of failure, distinct from divine causation. What this cause is, and what is its nature, has been shewn and proved in a former note.
15. Permission is an act of equity; or, it is the exercise of rectitude, to the exclusion of benevolent influence; whether we regard that influence as preventing the event of sin, or as delivering from its power. Sovereign benevolence prevents the fall of angels; and it delivers, restores, and eternally saves a goodly number of the human fallen race. Without the permission of sin, restoring benevolence, or the exercise of mercy, would have been impossible; and consequently the glory of that perfection, which can be fully displayed only by its exercise towards the miserable, would have been eternally concealed.
16. If, therefore, equity be a glorious attribute of God, its emanation and exercise must be glorious. But the exercise of equity, in the strict sense, includes the permission of sin, as before proved.-And, here we may add, if not to hinder be an exercise of strict rectitude, the continued existence of sin is not inconsistent with it.
17. It will be allowed by every one, that, as mercy itself is a glorious attribute, so is the exercise of it a glorious thing. But this would have been impossible, if sin had no existence; nor could sin have had existence, if not permitted to exist; and sin could not have been permitted, if strict equity had not been exercised; nor could strict equity have been exercised, if the exercise of preventing sovereign benevolence had not been excluded, in those instances wherein moral defect actually took place.
18. The ultimate and chief end of God in the creation and government of the moral part of the universe, is the glory of his moral perfections; which are virtually included in strict rectitude and sovereign benevolence.
19. If strict rectitude be exercised towards the degenerate part of the system, the restoration of those who are the objects of it is not possible; that is, to suppose it possible involves a contradiction. Therefore,
20. If any degenerate moral agent be restored, it must necessarily be by the exercise of that sovereign benevolence which we call mercy.
21. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God! on them who fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Goodness and severity are but other words for sovereign benevolence and strict equity, the glory of which is abundantly conspicuous in the various divine dispensations towards the children of men, even in this life; but will appear still more transcendent in the day when God shall judge the world in righteousness, and in the day of eternity.-W.