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them in the same piece of workmanship, must argue gross stupidity and folly. But would it be fair to arraign the skill of an accomplished artist before such a tribunal to be judged? No workman, who valued his art, or his reputation, would submit to such an outrage. And if most men are incompetent judges of symmetry and order in many works of human genius, is it to be supposed, that they are capable of determining what is and what is not a perfect, consistent scheme of moral government, in the hands of the infinite God? Are they not liable, depending on their own understanding and discretion, to conclude many things needless, and even inconsistent with each other, which are ab solutely essential to the harmony and glory of the system? If the scheme of sentiments we advocate contains express contradictions, or imputes opposite things to the Deity, things which are clearly and indisputably opposite, certainly it must be acknowledged defective. But if two or more things, which are very fully asserted in revelation, should seem to us, on some accounts, to exhibit contrary aspects; rather than impute absolute inconsistency to them, let us presume that the appearance arises from our ignor ance of the whole vast and incomprehensible plan of divine government, and that if our speculative faculties were capacious enough to grasp the whole, as God does, every symp tom of inconsistency would disappear. But before we dismiss the objection, we will give it a more particular consideration.
1. It is said, God is inconsistent with, and acts against, himself, if our doctrine be true, in requiring men to do one thing, and moving them to do another, directly contrary to it. Of all the objections, which are urged against the doctrine we contend for, this I consider as much the most plausible. brings to view a real difficulty, such as will, perhaps, eternally remain interwoven with the present subject. But if every difficulty went to disprove and overthrow the proposition, to which it is attached, we should have no God, nor any moral government over the universe. We meet with great difficulty in forming proper conceptions of the divine being; but should we not subject ourselves to much greater difficulties by denying his existence? The mind brings itself into a kind of perplexity and puzzle, when it admits, on the one hand, that God has bound every intelligent creature under a law, which he ought to obey, and, on the other, that no creature has power to act, except what is immediately derived from the hand of his maker. And should we find no difficulties attending a theory in opposition to this? Up' on so mysterious a theme, how much do we need the light of revelation! Having obtained it, how closely and diligently should we follow the track it marks out for us? But to return to the objector. He says, I cannot conceive, how God can support the character of a consistent and upright being, while he causes men to act in diametrical opposition
to his own requirements; or that he should punish men for those very actions which are begotten in them by his own power. To this I reply by saying, I cannot conceive how God can foreknow any thing, of which he himself is not the cause; or that he should predict any thing, as certain, which is in its own nature uncertain, as all those actions must be, that do not depend on his power; or that he can consistently ascribe those events to himself, as the fruit of his own power, which are brought to pass in the way of human agency, and this he has done in many passages of scripture, which have been heretofore adduced, unless human actions are dependant on him. Here, then, non-conception stands against non-conception, and, as arguments, they must leave the subject where they found it, and the final decision be referred to the voice of scripture. And has it not been already demonstrated, as far as express scrip ture has the force of demonstration, that God does, in fact, raise up wicked men to be the means of that ultimate good, which is the motive of his government; and use all their wickedness in subserviency to this noble end? If God has any use for sin, and, on this account, wills its existence, he must will the existence of that which is contrary to the requirements of his own most holy law, for sin is a transgression of the law. Without a breach of the divine law, there can be no ́such thing as sin, nor, consequently, any such thing as grace. If God desires any such
praise, as he obtains by the wrath of man, for this very reason he must will the existence of man, and not only so, but that he exercise the wrath, which is to be the instrument of such praise. If it be essential to Deity to desire the fullest display of himself, and his character is not fully displayed without an exhibition of his mercy, (all which is perfectly agreeable to scripture,) it is essen-tial to him to chuse that sin should be in the world; for what room for mercy can there be, where there is no sin, nor desert of wrath? And if it be his will that there should be sin, that he may make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, it is his will that his own law should be broken, for this is implied in his willing the existence of sin; and I may add further, that his willing the exist ence of sin is also implied in his determining to glorify himself as a God of grace. There is no grace without sin, and no sin without a violation of law, and no law without requirements. The case comes exactly to this ; if, in every point of view, it is contrary to the will of God, that his law should be brok. en, it is also contrary to his will to have any occasion for glorifying his mercy, or for showing forth the greatest excellencies of his nature. But, says the objector, how ridiculous must that being appear, who, with solemn formality, lays his injunctions upon subjects, and, at the same moment, secretly desires that they may be disregarded, and this
for the purpose of giving him occasion to punish? In reply, I would ask, whether it is ridiculous for God to chuse the best possible end for the motive of his government, or, when chosen, to pursue it in the wisest possible method; or whether it is ridiculous for him to consider the expression of his compassionate and gracious nature as the best end of government. If there be nothing ridiculous, or improper, in such a supposition,, then it is not ridiculous, nor any how objec-tionable, that he should institute a law, and, for the reason assigned, chuse that it should not be uniformly kept; for this is one of the necessary steps towards the manifestation of the divine attribute of mercy. I know, that for any man, parent or ruler, to act as stated in the objection, would be absurd and unjustifiable; but this would not be on account of any injustice in it towards the person commanded, or over whom the authority was exercised; but because no good end could be aimed at, as an incentive to such conduct.. But I trust I need not here: repeat the observation, which has already/ been made, in substance, that we have no right to place men in God's stead, and infer from the rights and prerogatives of the one what is proper for the other. There is no sort of parallel between a man's relation to other men, and his relation to God. Why did the Deity make man in his own image, and make a law for him to be the measure of his rectitude or guilt? Was it not to pre--