Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

lence, in perfection, and happiness. The is the Author of every action; all that is dono goodness therefore of such a being, great as it throughout the universe, if not the immediate may be, is nevertheless limited; for wanting act of the Deity, is the immediate act of creaself-sufficiency, he cannot be perfectly disin- tures animate, or inanimate, who compose the terested. Two different motives will, by universe. Now these creatures being the turns, overrule the determinations of his will; work of God, absolutely depend on the power his own advantage, or that of others; and of their Creator for their existence and action; whenever these shall be found in opposition, for in him they live, move, and have their it is natural that the balance of his will should being;" neither could they, as our Saviour preponderate in favour of his own interest. declared to Pilate, have any power, except it Nay, more; whenever such a being is called were given them from above. Thus every upon generously to forego his own immediate action of the creature is at the samo time an advantage, he needs the encouraging promise action of the Creator. Creatures are the seof a future glorious reward to animate him to cond causes, the Creator is the first cause of the noble sacrifice. So true is it, that created all. Second causes are instruments in the beings are, in some degree, indigent, and can hands of the first, by which he accomplishes never entirely divest themselves of a desire to his eternal purposes; therefore every thing promote their self-happiness.

ultimately proceeds from the first cause: for But it cannot be thus with God; a Being " who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, perfectly independent, immutable, infinite; when the Lord commanded it not? Out of can never, in any single instance, be deter- the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not mined by motives of self-advantage, because, evil and good? I form the light, and create it would imply a contradiction to his nature darkness; I make peace and create evil: I, the to suppose such a Being had any thing to ac- Lord, do all these things.". quire. The motive, the only motive, by which But among the actions of second causes are the divine will can be influenced, is the hap- found a multitude of sins and crimes, and can piness of his creatures: he alone possesses these be referred to the action of the first such supreme goodness; and therefore it was, cause, without making God the author of sin? that our Saviour declared, there is none good The difficulty arising from this objection will but one, that is God.

disappear if we attend to what has been said But in order to confirm the truth of our relative to the immediate actions of second third consequence, that every act of the Divine causes, that they are at the same time, the Being, is an act of his goodness; let us have actions of the creature, and of the Creator. recourse to the authority of scripture, where Those actions in the creature, which are evil, we are told that the Lord is good to all, and are no farther sinful than as they partake of his tender mercies are over all his works." a corrupt will, and are opposed to the law of That “he is righteous in all his ways, and God: " for sin is the transgression of the holy in all his works.” And when St. Paul law.” But in as much as these actions bee in his epistle to the Ronians, speaks of the long to the first cause, they must proceed from perfect will of God, we are undoubtedly to un- a will the most excellent, and dispensations derstand, that all bis acts are acts of good- the most salutary: . second causes become

It is also worthy of particular notice, culpable before God by the wicked intenthat the same apostle, writing to the Ephe- tions which instigate their actions; while at sians, concerning the salvation declared by the same time, they are the ignorant and Jesus Christ, calls it the good pleasure of the undesigning instruments, by which the first divine will; and in his epistle to the Thessa- cause executes the purposes of his eternal Jonians the same is expressed, as, the good counsels. pleasure of his goodness, substituting the word But we will have recourse to some examgoodness for will, because in effect, they are ples to shew the justice and truth of this disone and the same thing.

tinction. The death of the Son of God is And now, that I have established this truth allowed by all, who call themselves Chrisfrom reason and scripture, let us see the rich tians, to be the most atrocious crime, the most treasure it contains.

horrible act, that the malice and wickedness And let us first consider the proposition be- of second causes could ever invent; and yet fore us, i. e. every act of the Divine Being. If this action, as far as it belongs to the first we consider his acts with respect to time, the cause, is the greatest of blessings, the utmost proposition contains, actions past, present, display of benignity and love. When the and future; if with respect to place, it relates, kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were not only to this earth and its inhabitants, but gathered together, it was against the Lord and comprehends those innumerable worlds that against his Christ; but this opposition to the fill the immensity of space, and all the beings will of God, which was their sin, was in his that ever have, or ever will inhabit them: hand the means of effecting whatsoever his such is the extent of our third consequence, it counsel had determined before to be done. comprehends every act of the divine will, We have another striking example in the whether in time or in space.

history of Joseph; inasmuch as the cruel But let us advance a step farther, and see treatment he experienced was the action of what those actions are of which God is the his unnatural brothers, animated by hatred soarce. And here I shall perhaps surprise and envy, it was a crime of a black and decertain of my readers by asserting, that God I testable nature; but view it as it relates to the

ness.

[ocr errors]

First Cause, and it will appear, not only as that has befallen me, from the first moment the road to his elevation and prosperity, but of my existence to the present, as well as as the salutary mean of preservation to a nu- whatever will befall me throughout all eternimerous and flourishing nation. This is the ty, is the greatest possible good that the infilanguage of Joseph himself, who reasoning nite bounty of my Creator can bestow. with his brethren, says, “as for you, ye Such is the assurance, such the consethought evil against me, but God meant it un- quence arising from the knowledge of the into good;" remarkable words these, by which finite goodness of God. How much more we are authorized to affirm, that whatever the truly valuable than any of those things which sioner intends as evil, the Divine Ruler of ignorance and folly seek with ardour, and of events means unto good.

which vanity and presumption make their The parable of the prodigal son offers us a boast ! For thus saith the Lord, by the third instance in confirmation of this troth. mouth of the prophet Jeremiah ; " let him that His demand of the portion that belonged to glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth him, was the action of a libertine desirous to and knoweth me; that I am the Lord which shake off the restraints of parental authority, exercise loving kindness, judgnient and and to give loose to every unruly passion; righteousness in the earth; for in these things but the grant of his request hy his father, was I delight, saith the Lord.” May we not, the excellent and salutary means of producing henceforth rejoice evermore, and in every indigence and misery, and in consequence thing give. thanks. Never let us be cast down of these afflictions, conversion and amend- by any events, even those which wear the ment. Now we should do well to consider, most discouraging aspect; never let us judge that in this parable our Saviour represents according to appearance ; but rather, by this the Supreme Being under the image of the great principle of which we are sure, that infather.

finite goodness, enlightened by infinite wisThus we see the Deity presiding over the dom, and seconded by infinite power, disuniverse, governing and directing every action penses every event; and say with Job, though in time and in space; so that there is not he slay me, yet will I trust in him." an individual among intelligent beings who is Let us not quit this interesting truth, till not authorised to say; all that has ever be we have attended to two consequences, which fallen me, from the first moment of my exist- are calculated to demonstrate its infinite imence to the present, is the work of God; nor portance. can any event that may concern me hereafter, And first, let us observe to how sublime in time or in eternity, ever take place, without and glorious a height this knowledge of God. the concurrence of ihe first cause. Ah! since raises human nature, by comparing the state it is our happiness to be in possession of so of a man destitute of this knowledge, with the delightful, so comforting a truth, let us never state of him who possesses it. I mean to remore confine onr views with servile stupidity present these opposite conditions in my own to second canses. In all that befalls us, person, which every one may apply to himwhether good or evil, let us elevate our self with equal truth and propriety. thoughts to the great First Cause; let us ac- Destitute of the knowledge of God, what quire this delightful habit, that whatever the am I, but ignorance and blindness, encomchanges of this passing scene may be, we passed on every side with thick darkness ? may be ever ready to say with the acquies. Not only incapable of foreseeing future events, cence of true devotion; I will be dumb, and unable to boast myself of the morrow, not open not my mouth, because thou, O Lord, knowing what a day may bring forth, but ig: doest it.

norant of the judgment I ought to form of If then, every event in time, and space, is events when they have actualy taken place. the act of the First Cause, either directly or in- I know not when to rejoice, or when to be directly, by the medium of the creature; we afflicted; because I cannot distinguish with know that infinite goodness produces and certainty the good, or the evil. I rejoice to overrules every event, and therefore, that day at what yesterday afflicted me; and what whatever befalls every creature in any period now transports me with delight, may on the of time, or in any part of that immense space morrow fill me with affliction and distress. A which compose the universe, is, with respect hundred times have I been guilty of these to each of them, the greatest possible good. mortifying mistakes; and were I not blessed And is not this the most delightful, the most with the knowledge of God, I should thus sablime, the most interesting truth that can continue the deplorable and wretched sport engage the attention, or animate the hopes of of fortuitous events. a creature? a truth as certain and necessary But no sooner am I instructed in the know as the infinite goodness of God. How it ledge of God; no sooner do I behold the first brightens the face of nature ! and decks the cause of all, as a being possessed of infinito splendours of the universe, in the smiles of goodness, but darkness and chance exist no benignity! This delightful truth, as it re- more for me; light surrounds my path, and lates not only to ourselves, but embraces tranquillity inhabits my breast. It is true that every created intelligence, must fill all who I do not perceive any more than before, how are so happy as to possess it, with the most every event is calculated to produce the lively sentiments of confidence and joy. How greatest good; because, such knowledge can happy am I to be assured, that every event i alone belong to the Being who distinctly views the immense chain of causes and ef- | vouchsafed me in pature and revelation? I will fects; but I am not less persuaded that every not be discouraged by the sublimity of the event is the greatest possible benefit, because subject, though I know that I must sink inoverruled by infinite goodness.

finitely below its majesty; for who can atMay I not say that in this treasure I pos- tain to the height of the divine counsels ? sess the pearl of great price; and ought I not Were I the most enlightened, the most elohenceforth to esteem it as my riches, my joy, quent among mortals; were I even to speak my consolation, and my happiness? I will the language of angels; or, could I boast the no more take thought for the morrow; for the nature of these celestial messengers, I should morrow did I say ; no, not for the events of be confounded, and absorbed in the immense eternity. None of these things shall move me, abyss. but I will cast all my care upon him who careth Having demonstrated the truth, and unfold

for me, and is the dispenser of every event. ed the meaning of our third consequence, it is And let what will befall me, I will raise my time that I should apply it to all those dreadthoughts to the great First Cause, and be ready ful evils which we see in the world; and to to say: O supreme and adorable Goodness, the more terrible calamities which divine jusThou didst it; it is thy choice, and can there- tice will inflict upon the wicked in a future fore be no other than my greatest good! state. What are we to think of these evils ? Thus, whatever may be the present appear. What judgment are we to form concerning ance of second causes, they will never be any their existence? Assisted by the light of our other, in my sight, than instruments in the proposition, I affirm with confidence, that unhand of Infinite Goodness; and I will coura- der the government, and providence of an ingeously defy all the powers of nature; every finitely good being, all is constantly right, creature in heaven and in earth, in time or in and that there does not, or ever will exist, any eternity, to be able to separate me from the real evil in the universe. divine love.

However, when I assert that there exists To me the glorious effects of the divine no real evil, I am sensible it requires an exknowledge are such, as entirely to overcome planation; which will be short and easy. my own ignorance and weakness, and extend Evil, considered in itself, is real, alas! but my knowledge and power far beyond their too real in this unconnected view. The vanatural bounds. I know not what is neces- rious and dreadful crimes which compose the sary to my happiness, but the infinite good- black catalogue of vice; the acuteness of ness of the First Cause knows it for me. Iam, pain, the horrors of indigence, the anguish 'It is true, incapable of procuring the means of dissolution, are, no doubt, real evils, heavy essential to my felicity; but I know, that the calamities; to maintain the contrary, would power of the first cause is able to effect be to the last degree absurd. But if we view every thing which he sees suitable to my each of these in their consequences and efmoral state, and conducive to my real happi- fects, we shall see that they are not real

When I consider the glorious, the evils; because, the infinite goodness of God, delightful consequences which attend this who can derive good from evil, knows how to knowledge of God, I feel the force of the make them conspire to eternal happiness, to eulogy contained in the ninth chapter of the infinite good; so that the evils through prophesy of Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord, which we must inevitably pass, being the nelet not the wise man glory in his wisdom, cessary means of happiness, .cannot be esneither let the mighty man glory in his might, teemed other than real good. Do we know let not the rich man glory in his riches; but that we are the creatures of God, whose desti. let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he nation is for immortality and happiness; and understandeth and knoweth me; that I am that in order to fit us for their enjoyment, he the Lord, which exercise loving kindness, has placed us on this earth for a very little judgment, and righteousness in the earth : time, where "our days are as an hand's for in these things do I delight, saith the breadth, and our age as nothing" before that Lord."

eternity which awaits us? We know this, and I am now come to the second consideration nevertheless derogating from the grandeur of resulting from the third consequence; and our hopes, and confining our views to the this is, that the scheme which divine wisdom present world; we consider the evils which has conceived for the government of moral assault us on every side, as they are in themagents, is the plan of infinite goodness. This selves, without extending our views farther. goodness has assigned to man his final desti- Should they by this means appear bitter and nation, and from the creation of the world to terrible calamities; should they leave us the present moment, is continually employed without consolation, destitute of courage, or in the execution of this perfect plan; which strength to support them; how can we comit will never neglect, never abandon, in time plain when we have given them their sting? or in eternity; but fully accomplish, to the in order to form a proper judgment of the praise and glory of the divine name. And evils of life, let us consider them as connected could I ever have employed to better purpose, with their effects, and we shall agree to the the time and talents thou hast bestowed upon proposition already laid down, as to a certain me, O my God! than in attempting to de- truth; that under the government and provivelope this adorable plan of thine infinite dence of a being infinitely good, every thing goodness, according to the light thou hast I will be ultimately right, and that there neither

ness.

is, or ever can be, any real evil in the universe. | detains us in chains of darkness, and closes Bat let us analyze this truth by applying it to every avenue by which the light could moral and physical evil; the former of which find access to our hearts. It causes us to necomprehends every species of sin, and the glect and despise the means of instruction latter every kind of suffering.

with which we are encompassed, and creates Let us begin by an inquiry into moral evil. in us the most insurmountable obduracy of Moral evil, or sin, considered in its own na- heart. Such is the dreadful nature of sin tnre, is a great and terrible evil, because ab- considered in itself. solutely opposed to our happiness. Sin, is, If such then is its nature, may I not expect in its nature, that will of the creature, which to be asked, why is it not an evil, an evil is contrary to the will of his Creator. Now greater than can be expressed ? and how I every act of the divine will, being an act of can maintain, that under the conduct of God infinite goodness, designed to conduct us to all is right; and that there exists no real evil happiness; every will in man which is op- in the universe ? How then! shall not sin be posed to the will of God, must necessarily called a real evil? Is not that an evil which conduct to evil and misery; nor can the om- causes us to reject supreme happiness; which nipotence of God himself, render a creature corrupts us till we become monsters of dehappy till this perverse and evil will is sub- pravily and wickedness ; which makes us so dued. Such is the odious and horrible nature totally blind to our true interest, that we preof sin, it places man in a state contrary to his fer darkness to light; and thus leads us to nature, inasmuch as the desire of happiness the most hardened obduracy? Ah! take is, as it were, a natural instinct, and the at- heed, will such say, lest in treating this diffitainment of misery the inevitable consequence cult and thorny question, you draw down of sin. This seducer of our souls, leads us on your own head, the woe denounced upon to reject the felicity offered us by our Creator; those who call evil good. · and to seek it where it is impossible ever to In answer to this objection I agree, that be found. And is not this a war, a cruel war sin, considered in its own nature, is a greater to our souls? Nay, more: sin, as long as he evil than can ever be expressed. I acknowmaintains his dominion, is an implacable ene- ledge that it is impossible to exaggerate its my; increasing, and continually aggravating turpitude; nor have I, in enumerating its the evil he does; fortifying our inordinate malignant effects, in the least palliated its desires, and rendering their tyranny more and unhappy tendency, to produce the greatest more imperious, by the force of habit. He pain and distress to whoever is infected inures us to his yoke till he makes us drink with it. But nevertheless, a confidence arising iniquity like water. Ah! might I ever hope from the most perfect certainty, enables me thai my expostulations would reach any of to repeat, that sin, considered in its consethose unhappy votaries whom he leads cap- quences and effects, is not a real evil; and I tive at his will; I should tell them, from the hope not to quit this subject till I have made love I bear to their immortal souls, that the this clearly appear. acensations I have brought against sin, are If sin, or moral evil, was to reign forever not ended here, but that there yet remains a in the heart of man, I should be the last to fatal truth to be told them, the inevitable con- affirm that it was not a real evil. On the consequence of their subjection to this monster : trary, I should never have engaged in my prea truth which I consider as the most solemn, seni design; nor have attempted to unfold a the most alarming that can ever strike the un- scheme, of which the bare idea would make derstanding of an intelligent being. And this me tremble. For, if we grant the eternal is, the fatal tendency of sin to stifle in us all duration of sin, we must determine it to be an taste for virtue, and to lead us on to such a infinite evil, whether considered in its nature, state of depravity and wickedness, that to do or in its effects. Upon this supposition, what good is hateful to us; and when once we are is its nature but the eternal revolt of sinners arrived at this terrible degree of corruption, against God, and their eternal progress in the conquest of sin over us is secure, for we wickedness ? Considered in its consequences are incapable of discerning “ the things that and effects, it would be the eternal source of belong io our peace; they are foolishness the greatest misery. Let us not dwell on a unto us, neither can we know them.” And supposition equally opposed to the nature of a lastly, to complete the evil, sin deprives us of being perfectly good, and to that of creatures the only resource that conld yet remain to ex- made after his image; but consider moral evil tricate us from the gulph of misery in which in its true light; view it as finite in duration; we are plunged, by creating in us an aversion as an enemy, which will sooner or later be to truth. Truth, did we not fly from it, might vanquished in every heart. When the Sudiscover to us our miserable condition, fill us preme Being created man for happiness, he with a lively and salutary horror, with a sin- certainly knew how far sin would prove the cere and ardent desire of escaping it; and by obstacle of this felicity: he knew that our its celestial ray “transform us by the renew whole race would become its slaves, in a ing of our minds,” till it had caused us to ex- greater or less degree, and incapable of extriperience that the will of God, which by our cating themselves from its unhappy influence: sins we had dared to oppose, was indeed a but the things which are impossible with good, an acceptable, and a perfect will. But men, are possible with God; and therefore a sin, by the hatred which it inspires for truth, Being perfectly good, knew by what means 6

D2

113

he could accomplish the destruction of sin in if you will, but existing on.y in our imaginaevery heart: this is the object of all the divine tion, and absolutely contradicted by facts. dispensations, in nature and revelation; the Moral, and physical evil actually do exist; great end which the wisdom of God proposes and frail mortals are sinful and unhappy. in his providential government: this was the Such is the fact. This earth, peopled by a work which the Redeemer of the world was succession of beings in the infancy of their sent to accomplish, when he came to save us existence, is peopled also by ignorant and sinfrom our sins.

ful mortals; it is filled with their disorders The means by which this change is to be and miseries; with their crimes and soffereffected, will no doubt, be painful, though ings: such is the fact; evil exists, and yet it absolutely necessary, and finally efficacious; appears to us, that it were far better it had for moral evil must be subdued by physical never been. How are we then to escape from evil, by the miseries and sufferings inflicted such a labyrinth ? on the sinner here ; and by the far more terri- Before we enter on the solution of this difble, and more durable agonies of an unhappy ficulty, let us reflect for a moment who, and hereafter; so that physical evil can never be what we are, who thus arraign the works of terminated till it has accomplished the entire the Almighty. Alas! are we not weak, iga extinction of moral evil. This I have proved norant, short-sighted mortals; creatures of already in treating of the infinite justice of yesterday, inhabiting a small speck in the imthe Supreme Being, where I considered all mense universe? Let us therefore take heed suffering, present, and future, as chastise when we ask of God, why he has made us ments inflicted for our profit, that we might thus ? lest the question should proceed from be made partakers of the divine holiness." a criticising and rebellious spirit. But should When these shall have produced their effect, it on the contrary arise from a desire of inand the enemy of happiness is subdued in formation, and a thirst after truth, it will not every heart; when infinite goodness shall then be reprehensible, or offensive to the thus have made mankind wise and virtuous, fountain of all truth; for this is gond and acand reduced their wills to a perfect conformity ceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who to his; then, and not till then, will the cur- will have all men to come at the knowledge of rent of his mercy flow in an uninterrupted the truth. With these laudable sentiments, let course; then will the Creator and Redeemer us therefore inquire, why the Divine Being did of mankind open to them the inexhaustible not create us at first, as perfect, and as holy as treasures of felicity and glory; then will every we shall be, when we are arrived at the mandifficulty disappear, and the adorable good- sions of bliss ? ness of the Lord shine in full splendour, I might in the first place answer, that were every heart will exult with joy and gratitude: we perfectly acquainted with human nature, and every tongue will be tuned to praise, we should perhaps discern that holiness, from thankful for those very sufferings which have influx, is an impossible and chimerical idea; worked “a far more exceeding and eternal because, perfect holiness, being the moral weight of glory." This is the period, the perfection of our wills, necessarily supposes glorious and certain period, to which we must the perfection of our understanding, and condirect our thoughts, if we would form just sequently the development of our faculties; ideas of the nature of evil; which however the accumulation of light and knowledge, great, is not absolute, since it leads to real acquired by their exercise: that while we are and infinite good.

thus acquiring knowledge by experience, the I know of but one cloud that may shade freedom of our wills, which constitute us ac the lustre of this truth, to some of my countable beings, will leave us liable to wanreaders: but as to them it may appear im- der from the right way; and that during such penetrable, I must state the difficulty, and deviations, we may become corrupted and deendeavour to obviate it. It is this: If we praved by the force of habit. In a word, had allow the Creator to be as infinitely powerful, we a perfect knowledge of human nature, it as he is perfectly good; why did he not is probable we should perceive that though make all his creatures wise and good, vir- man is by his nature, capable of attaining to tuous and holy, from the commencement of a holiness, comparatively perfect, it must be their existence? Why did he not appoint come his own by the exercise of his facultheir perfection and felicity, to be coeval ties, which renders him liable to moral evil; with their being, and exclude every kind of and to physical evil, which is its necessary evil, by forming them in that state of perfec. remedy. tion which their natures are capable of at- But though we possess presumptive evitaining?

dence of all this, yet I decline grounding my I admit that this ideal system is pleasing answer upon probability: I have therefore to the imagination; that it represents a world only glanced at these reflections to shew, far different from that which we inhabit; a that to be able to form a right judgment, and world where sin and disorder, suffering and ascertain the possibility, or impossibility of affliction, would find no entrance; and where the question before us; we ought to be enthe torments prefigured under the wrath to dowed with a perfect knowledge of human come, would never alarm; because, those also nature. Let these reflections produce in our would be absolutely useless.

hearts sentiments of diffidence and respect, But this, alas! is only a dream, delightful when we speak of Him, whose ways are in the

« PoprzedniaDalej »