Obrazy na stronie

deep; the Father of light, before whom we fit for the enjoyment of complete happiness. are darkness.

This is the only kind of evil, which a being But let us quit the path of doubt and un- perfectly good can ever admit into his plan; certainty, and give a decisive answer to the and the only satisfactory method of accountquestion: why the Divine Being did not ing for its existence. create us at first as perfect, and as holy, as Various, no doubt, have been the answers we shall be, when we arrive at the mansions to this thorny question; and one of the most of bliss.

plausible, in order to justify the goodness of The fact then is, as the question supposes, God in inflicting never-ending torments on that the Creator has not acted thus; that in the reprobate, is by supposing those eternal forming this world he has not excluded moral sufferings necessary, to procure the eternal hapand physical evil. This is sufficient for me, piness, not barely of the elect, but as one world it is all I require, to be perfectly assured that is connected with another, in the immense this exclusion was impossible; or in other system; of a multitude of olher creatures. This words, that moral and physical evil were the solution has been received with avidity by natural consequences of that freedom of will numbers who sincerely sought the truth; but ascessary to beings in a state of probation, whose minds were prepossessed by the supand improvement. We may therefore say, position of the endless duration of torments, that the total exclusion of evil, was not an so as never to entertain a doubt on the subject, object for the Divine Omnipotence to exercise A belief so opposed to the divine goodness, itself upon; because God cannot contradict throws the mind into a restless and uneasy himself. Every act of God is an act of infinite state, from whence it eagerly desires an esgoodness : it was perfect goodness created the cape, and hopes to have effected, in the above world, and permitted the entrance of all the solution; which makes the infinite misery of evils we deplore. Now Divine Goodness can some, conducive to the infinite happiness of only be called infinite or perfect, because it others. They would not certainly be de. makes the best choice, and produces the ceived by such an argument, did they not regreatest good. We may therefore be assured joice to find some valuable end answered by that this world, formed as it is, is best adapt- the sufferings of the reprobate; and in this ed to the end ; an end most perfect and ex. idea of felicity, imagine they see the traces cellent; and that it was not possible to create of the infinite goodness of their Creator. If us in the beginning as holy and perfect as we they cannot entirely divest themselves of the shall be hereafter. Had it been possible, or, feelings of pity and compassion, for the many which is the same thing with God, had it been victims thus devoted to eternal misery, they fit and right, infinite Wisdom and Goodness endeavour to lessen the uneasy sensation by would not have acted otherwise.

reflecting, that such have brought it on theme We may now admit as a truth, what we selves, by an obstinate resistance to the grace have just advanced on the footing of proba of God. Besides, it may be urged, is not the bility; that holiness from influx, is impossi- felicity and glory of an innumerable multible; because destructive of moral agency, tude of intelligences, resulting from this evil, which both supposes, and requires, a state of an ample compensation for the eternal perschooling, preparative to one of perfection and dition of these wilful sinners? And with felicity.

this wretched solution, do men content them. Let as therefore acknowledge that these selves. finite evils are not real evils; because by their To neglect nothing on a subject of such im. means mankind are raised to supreme and portance, I must briefly examine this pretenduniversal happiness; and therefore, that under ed solution; the strange method of felicity the government and providence of a being in- it presents, in making the infinite misery of finitely good, every thing will be ultimately some, a necessary mean of happiness to right, and that there neither is, or ever can others. Among a multitude of objections I exist any real evil in the universe.

could find to this horrid method of procuring In applying this our third consequence, to felicity, which presents on all sides the most the various evils we see in the world, I have evident contradictions; I shall confine my. given the only satisfactory answer to the cele- self to proving, that this method of proceedbrated question, respecting the origin of evil, ing would be with respect to the reprobate, which has always been considered as difficult unjust, and cruel; and with respect to the and embarrassing; and exercised at different blessed subversive of its end. times, the greatest geniuses, both ancient and To render a multitude of intelligent beings modern. In all I have ever read on this sub- eternally happy, is an object so sublime and ject, I have seen the infinite duration of evil excellent, that we may esteem it worthy of granted; whence it became impossible to the most exalted ideas we can form of infisolve the difficulty; for who can reconcile nite wisdom, and goodness; provided howinfinite evil with infinite goodness, infinite ever that the means necessary to their perfeccruelty with infinite love? But though these tion and felicity, are the gift of God, in concontradictions cannot be conciliated, we shall sequence of their having improved the faculfind no difficulty in conceiving the admission ties with which he has endowed them, and of finite evil, when it is a mean hy which the means of grace and salvation he has offercreatures may be raised to the perfection of ed them by his gospel. But to render creawhich their natures are susceptible, and madel tures happy, their numbers ever so great, by

the infliction of eternal misery on the repro-, of sinful mortals; insomach that there is joy bate, would be a method most anjust, and amongst them over one sinner that repenteth. cruel. Let us not assert by way of justifica- It would therefore be impossible that the tion, that the reprobate have deserved the nn- righteous in glory, fired with celestial chariremitting tormenís they endure; for if, as ty, should taste the joys of paradise while some say, the fault is their own, I ask they knew that a great number of fellow whether existence was their fault also? was beings, were the prey of never ending torit not the Lord that made them, and not they ments. They must necessarily and ardently themselves ? Is it not true, that they were wish for the deliverance, and saivation of not culpable prior to their existence, and these unhappy beings; and at the same time could not then deserve any suffering? And be convinced that this ardent and eternal de can we deny, that the divine mind was per- sire of their hearts would never be satisfied ; fectly acquainted with the use they would so that their charity would be the source of make of existence; that it would never be their misery; a never dying worm in their other than a state of suffering and misery? Is breast which would render them unhappy in it not true that existence bestowed on such the mansions of bliss. O divine charity! thou terms is to the creature, an infinite evil? And greatest, most sublime, most godlike of virthat the irresistible fiat which brought them tues; thou who art the glory and excellence into being, was the greatest evil that could of intelligent creatures, and alone can make possibly befall them; and this at a time when them parlakers of the divine nature, art thou they could have no demerit, but were perfect- destined to become the torment of the just in ly innocent? I leave every candid mind to heaven? determine how an irresistible act which pro- But how much more painful still would it duces infinite evil, to innocent beings, is to be to the righteous to know; that these eterbe qualified ; if it is not an act sovereignly nal sufferings, destitute of any valuable purunjust and barbarous? We may therefore pose to the culpable individual, were necesinfer with certainty, that a being perfectly sary means of procuring their happiness? good will never adopt such a method into Would not every possibility of enjoyment his plan.

vanish, at the idea of possessing it at the ex. Let us now consider this pretended means pense of these deplorable victims of distress ? of felicity to the blessed : and shew, that as The best characters here below are, alas! very far as it concerns their happiness, it is a mean far from having acquired that seraphic charily destructive of its end.

which will animate the spirits of the blessed; It is not an easy thing to conceive, how the for while here, we are in our best estate, as infinite misery of the reprobate can be a mean, our Saviour declares in the seventh chapter and a necessary mean, of happiness to the of St. Matthew, evil; and yet with the feeble blessed. Can we suppose that intelligent spark of charity I possess, and I doubt not but creatures capable by their nature of persection every one of my readers can join in the sentiand felicity, would be unable to attain to this ment, I had rather never have existed, than glorious destination, unless at the same time be assured that the eternal happiness designå number of intelligent beings existed in ed me, was the result of the eternal sufferings, eternal misery? Among creatures of the same not of a multitude, but of an individual creanature, thence capable of the same happiness; ture. Existence is not necessary; but if once must a part be made happy at the expense of I exist I must desire happiness. And what a considerable portion devoted to endless felicity, O God! must that be which is foundmisery and despair ? Cannot a being infinite- ed upon, or even increased by the misery of ly perfect and happy communicate beatitude others! Do we not perceive such a mean to its intelligent offspring on other and more destructive of its end? favourable terms? Can he not be to some the I add in the second place, that it would eninexhaustible source of happiness; unless he tirely destroy the happiness of the righteous. is to others, the never failing source of Charity consists in constantly placing our misery? But let us cease to heap contradic- selves in the situation of others; upon this tion on contradiction, horror upon horror, and principle, what must the feelings of the just end this disagreeable discussion, by shewing be? surely of a nature quite opposed to hapthat the eternal misery of the reprobate, in- piness. What would they discover in their stead of being a necessary mean of happiness Maker? Not infinite, disinterested, adorable to the blessed, would on the contrary poison goodness, but a partial and imperfect favour, and destroy their felicity, and prove subversive consequently a doubtful and uncertain beneof its end.

volence; if that title is any way applicable to In the first place, it would poison the feli- a disposition compatible with injustice and city of the blessed. The inhabitants of heaven cruelty. What a deplorable change does this could not be happy unless penetrated with supposition make in the happiness of heaven! the most ardent charity for their fellow crea- sin might indeed be for ever excluded, but tures; for St. Paul tells us that without sorrow would find an entrance; and that percharity we are nothing. In this respect there- fect admiration, that entire confidence; that fore as well as in many others, the blessed celestial love for the greatest and best of will resemble the angels of God in heaven; beings, which must unite the souls of the just those kind compassionate spirits, who interest to their sovereign good; would be poisoned themselves in the conversion and salvation in its source. No, fulness of joy must reside in his presence, and at his right hand plea- therefore observe by way of fourth consesares for evermore. Pardon, O my God! quence that the infinite goodness of God is the Thon most perfectly good and merciful being, only solid foundation of prevailing and conwho art the substance of all that excellence, tinual joy. of which we frail and sinful beings can dis- I know that he who made me, is a being cern but the shadow; forgive I beseech perfectly good, a Father whose love is infithee! if but for a moment, I am led to speak nite, and who by an effect of that love gave of thee, not as thou art, and as thou ever me existence, that I might obtain happiness; wilt shew thyself to all thy creatures; but to proclaim and accomplish which, he has such as the prejudices and passions of mer sent his Son from heaven and delivered him would make thee appear!

up to sufferings and death; and with this Thus we see that the eternal misery of the precious gift, does he not give me all things ? wieked, cannot contribute to the felicity of the His laws, his dispensations, his blessings, righteous; it would be both unjust and cruel, his chastisements, in a word every nvent and even destructive of its end; consequently that befalls me, tends to promote this great can never be adopted into the plan of a per- end; and to assure me, that this perfectly fectly good and wise being.

good being, will confer npon me to all eterniThus ata I come to the conclusion of my ty all possible good. What perfect joy may third consequence from the infinite goodness now take possession of my heart! may of God, that all his acts are acts of goodness. I "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of bare established its truth, I have demon- glory!" I may prize the precious gift of strated its extent, and have shewn that the life, since I exist by the good pleasure of my Sapreme Governor of the universe, presides faithful Creator; and for a blessed eternity! over and directs every event to ultimate good; during which I shall never cease to be the therefore that whatever may befall his crea- happy object of his care and love! and is not tores in time, or in eternity, proceeds from this a subject for prevailing and continual iafinite goodness in the First Cause, and is to joy? each of them the greatest possible good. I It is the subject of prevailing joy, as it fills have applied this to the present, and future and occupies my whole heart; sorrow and evil; and have demonstrated that under the affliction, under what form soever they may government and providence of an all perfect assault me, must fly before it; for what are Being, every thing is ultimately right, and they when compared with so sincere, so perthat in His universe, no real evil can exist; manent a joy?' The contemplation of the which has led me to examine the celebrated being perfectly good, shall put a gladness question of the origin of moral evil, to which into my heart, a balm of consolation and supI hope I have given a satisfactory reply. port, which all the evils of time shall in vain

By the aid of this solution, we may affirm, attempt to destroy: for in these evils, I bethat all the evils the Divine Being dispenses hold the chastening of parental kindness imto bis creatures, whether here, or hereafter, proving my moral nature; and consider them proceed from his infinite goodness; or in other iherefore as rcal benefits; since by their ineans words, that it is impossible he should ever I shall one day arrive at perfection and dispense any evil in this world, or in the world happiness. The farther effects of this preto come, which is not even to the individuals, vailing joy, are perfect contentment in every an actual exercise of perfect goodness. situation and condition of life; patience under

affliction, and a degree of courage and strength which makes me rise superior to every trial,

“and more than conqueror through Him that SECT. II.

has loved me."

I have also said in the second place, that Practical consequences to be derived from the in. the knowledge of the infinite extent of divine finite goodness of God.

goodness, gives rise to continual joy. If I

never lose sight of a being constantly employThe practical, or moral consequences arising ed in promoting my happiness; if I call to from the infinite goodness of God; are the mind his benefits “when sitting in my house various sentiments naturally produced in the and when walking by the way, when I lie heart by the knowledge of this supreme good- down and when I rise up," can sorrow ever ness ; where the understanding is thoroughly penetrate my heart, or affliction dispel the convinced of its truth. And though their transporting delight arising from an assurance enameration is in some measure foreign to a of the paternal love of my Creator? If I set work particularly dedicated to the theory of the Lord always before me, if t thus habituate religion, I nevertheless proposed admitting my mind to his presence which is fulness of them into my plan from a conviction of their joy; if his adorable goodness is the first obextreme importance and tendency to render us ject that employs my waking thoughts ; may wise, good, perfect and happy.

I not hope from such contemplation that These important and valuable effects, are serenity and peace, contentment and joy will reducible to three heads; as they relate to accompany me through the day? "O Lord onrselves, to the Divine Being, and to our satisfy me early with thy mercy; that I may fellow creatures ; such as internal joy, love rejoice and be glad all my days." of God, and charity to our neighbour. I shall Such is the prevailing, the constant joy

[ocr errors]

produced by the knowledge of the infinite to be controlled by our wills; whence is it;
goodness of God, which can never abandon let be ask, that the divine word abounds with
us in life, or in death; the source of present, precepts for their regulation; not only rela-
as well as future happiness; and the only per- tive to our love to God, but to our self-denial,
manent foundation on which to build our hope. our detachment from the world, our humility,
Eternity without this, affords a dreary and patience, charity; our love of our enemies, and
uncertain prospect, more calculated to raise forgiveness of injuries ? are not these senti-
anxiety, and apprehension, than to excitements of the heart, and do not the divine laws
satisfaction and joy. To escape from those extend to them?
horrors, which await so many of my fellow The discussion of this question, will lead
beings, would afford me little joy; for with a me to a short digression on the divine laws,
nature more charitable and perfect than what which as it is not foreign to my principal sub-
I now possess, what terror and amazement ject, will I trust be no ways unacceptable to
must the infinite sufferings of the wicked ex- my readers.
cite in my compassionate and benevolent Human laws, cannot penetrate beyond ex-
mind ? What an influence has this idea on my ternal actions; but the laws of God 'must go
best expectations ; how it damps the joys of farther, and regulate the sentiments of the

heart; so that we may affirm, that the divine But forever let we adore and bless the Fa- commands are directed to our internal actions ; ther of mercies, who has given me such un- since the sentiments which lead us to obediquestionable evidence of his almighty good- ence, can alone give it any value in the sight ness, by which I know that the immortality of God. Scripture commands us to give for which he has caused me to exist, is a alms; but tells us also “ that though we betruly precious and valuable gift of his infi- stow all our goods to feed the poor, and give nite love; "and that he is able to do for me, our bodies to be burned, and have not chariexceeding and abundantly above all that I can ty, it will profit us nothing:" accordingly our ask or think."

Lord has declared, “ that a good man out of Is there not then, let me ask, sufficient rea- the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth son for joy in the infinite goodness of God? good things: and an evil man, out of the evil To you, whose happiness it is to possess this treasure bringeth forth evil things: for out of knowledge I particularly address myself. the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, You I exhort "to rejoice in hope, to be pa- adulteries, fornications," and all those crimes tient in tribulation, to continue instant in that spread terror and desolation over the prayer; to rejoice in the Lord always, and earth. again I say to rejoice ;" for you possess in the Such are the divine laws; and their design infinite goodness of God, the only solid foun- to regulate our hearts, clearly points out the dation of prevailing, and continual joy. grandeur of the destination to which we are

Our fifth consequence is designed to shew, called. Our Supreme Law.giver requires us That the infinite goodness of God, is the only to resemble him in perfection and felicity: this foundation of our supreme love to him. is the glorious rank to which he will elevate

Love to God, is one of the most positive us, but which he knows we cannot attain, till precepts in the gospel; it is distinguished “as our hearts are replete with pious and charita.. the first, and great command;" insisted upon ble sentiments : it is therefore that the Lord in terms the most energetic, as a supreme af- looketh on the heart, and by his precepts directs fection that must fill every capacity of the and governs our inmost sentiments. soul : “thou shalt love the Lord thy God To try the heart and the reins, is a truly di. with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, vine prerogative, which can only belong to and with all thy thought, and with all thy the being who formed us. He knows how strength."

to purify our hearts, hy enlightening our unTo form a right judgment of this great derstandings. He gives us in his word both command, I must begin by distinguishing the instructions and promises; that by the obedience precepts of scripture, as they relate either to of faith our hearts may be sanctified ; enjoining the injunction of external actions, or to the upon us at the same time the cultivation of sentiments of the heart. The observance of such sentiments as the light he has given us, the former depends upon' my will. For how. is calculated to produce. Thus for instance, ever great my repugnance to an external ac- when he sets life and a blessed immortality tion may be, nevertheless it is in my power before ns, he bids us to rejoice evermore, to obey. But it is not thus with relation to Again, he displays himself to us under most those precepts which are designed for the gov- affecting characters of love and goodness ; ernment of my internal sentiments; these are and then commands us to love him with all our not equally at my disposal, nor do they de- hearts. Ah! let us then be persuaded, when pend on my will; I cannot therefore from we feel not the dispositions and sentiments obedience to any command, be joyful when I which the Divine Being has made both our am sad, or afflicted, when I have cause to re- duty and cur interest; let us be assured, that joice; I cannot love what I hate, or hate the fault is our own; that we have neglected what I love; and thence arises that proverbi- to nourish our souls with the bread of life ; al expression, that our sentiments are not at that we have not sufficiently attended to the our command.

sublime truths, to the magnificent objects his But if the sentiments of our hearts are not word sets before us; and which, were they



frequently presented to our minds, could not saith the Lord by the mouth of his prophet fail of raising them far above the world, pro- Isaiah," the word that goeth forth out of my ducing in us the most delightful sentiments mouth shall not return untome void, but it shall of peace, of joy, and of love.

accomplish that which I please, and it shall It does not certainly depend upon ourselves prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.” How to adopt these sentiments by an instantaneous heavy will be the accusation of such hereafter, act of the will, in the manner we perform any i who have been guilty of this contemptuous external act of obedience: and in this sense and criminal neglect of the divine word! alone it is true, that our sentiments are not un- I rejoice that the digression on which I ender our command. But it is in our power to tered, furnished me with an opportunity of exacquire the dispositions God requires of us; horting my fellow Christians to avoid this to excite them in our hearts; and to cherish common, this alarming, and fatal evil. and strengthen them more and more, by read- Let us return to our subject. Since the ing and meditating on his word, with assidu- being who made us, commands us to love ous and constant attention. Let us daily him with all the powers he has given us; his bave recourse to the divine instruction con- nature must be such as naturally to produce tained in the gospel ; where the Son of God this supreme love ; St. John founds it upon himself points out the "things which belong his goodness, when he says, “ we love him, to our peace.” This sacred volume is to sin- because he first loved us.” That infinite eere Christians, “the bread of God which goodness, is therefore the only solid foundacame down from heaven to give life to the tion of supreme love; I shall now proceed to soul;" a new and spiritual life, an “eternal explain. lise abiding in us." It presents to our contem- In this perfect goodness, I discover three plation two interesting objects. God our reasons productive of my entire love. The HEAVENLY FATHER, AND A CELESTIAL IMMOR. first consists in the benefits I have hitherto exTALITY. And if it is certain that our minds perienced, which excite my grateful love. The are formed for knowledge, and our souls for second arises from the promised blessings of lore; how are these sacred pages which con- eternity: which produce a love founded on intain the knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ terest. The third, results from that infinite our Lord, adapted to these ends; according goodness which resides in the Deity, and as his divine power hath given unto us all which constitute him the object of my utthings that periain to life and godliness. most admiration, and most perfect filial attach

Mankind when they disregard the word of ment. God, do not surely attend to the extreme folly The first reason on which I found my love and criminality of their neglect. Has the for the Supreme Being, is that of gratitude Being of Beings condescended to send his Son for benefits received. What are these benefits ? upon earth, to enlighten our darkness, to in- Alas! when they are more in number than struet os in his will, to publish life, and im- sand on the sea shore, how can I attempt to mortality, and shew us the road to happiness: enumerate them! Ten thousand have eshas this precious and wonderful light been caped my recollection from my weakness, and transmitted to us in his gospel; has he des- alas ! ten thousand times ten thousand from Goed os “ to be born again of uncorruptible my stupidity or inattention. But this I know, seed by his word which liveth and abideth that from the first moment of my existence to forerer ;" and shall we suffer our lives to the present; the goodness of God has not wear away without making any use of it: ceased to accompany me, and to bestow upon and while every other book is familiar to us, me every suitable benefit. Let me seek to remain strangers to this sacred volume and place them under different classes, that thus immersed in worldly concerns, as though our 1 may taste that the Lord is good, or in other residence here, were to last forever? How words, that I may love him for the multitude many professing Christians are guilty of this of his mercies. shameful, this foolish neglect! Were it possi- Creation is the first of his benefits. Selfble that we could desire to be our own ene-existent, necessary, and infinite, in every mies, could we take a surer method of suc- perfection, the Divine Being could have no eess, than with wanton levity to disregard need of me, nor would his power have prothose powerful succours of grace, under which duced me, had he not designed to manifest We live ? Nay more, were it possible for us to his love towards me. The life I have redesire to set the Almighty ai defiance, could ceived, comprehends the wonderful and adWe pursue a more efficacious method, than in mirable structure of my body, and its various thus abusing, perhaps throughout the course organs, or inlets to the mind. Also, that living of our lives, the precious gifts he has vouch- soul, with all its admirable faculties, whose safed us, neglecting and despising his offered excellence as far exceeds that of the body, as assistance ; and treating alike with the dis- life is superior to death ; the inhabitant to the dain of contemptuous forgetfulness, his com- habitation : it comprehends the senses I posmands, his promises, and his threatenings? sess, hy which I am enabled to behold, and But God is not mocked, nor can we elude the to enjoy the works of nature: imagination, execution of his immutable designs. If we which enlarges the boundaries of those senses refuse to be enlightened by his word, he will and extends my existence to various periods have recourse to the severities of his wrath, and different parts of the world: memory, by to overcome our obstinate resistance; for this whose assistance I call back a numerous

« PoprzedniaDalej »