Obrazy na stronie

of a man should proceed from an overruling necessity or constraint, but be the result of an impartial enquiry and free choice. Therefore a constant and inevitable reward in this world would not sufficiently admit of a trial of the free will, faith, or free agency of man; it would bias and overrule all these so much, that a voluntary faith in the attributes of God's wisdom and power, arising and existing in the mind from a just contemplation of the glories of his creation, and of his wonderful conduct in his animal, vegetable, and solar systems, and particularly in his attribute of goodness arising and existing in it from a due investigation of his intellectual system in the creation, preservation, and redemption of man; in God's readiness to pardon the sins of men on their repentance; in the gracious revelation of his Scriptures ; in his suffering man at all times to come into his presence and worship him; in enjoining him as his duty a system of conduct, which is so far from being in any respect grievous, that its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths peace; leading immediately to the accomplishment of the noblest ends any human being can propose to himself, namely, the favour and approbation of his God, the

approbation of the worthy part of his species, cheerfulness, peace of mind, and the blessing of God in this life, and eternal happiness in the next. How delightful is a due investigation of this gracious system! In addition to what has been advanced, it allows man, under the deepest and heaviest affliction, to pour out the agony of his soul before his heavenly Father, and in that homage to have his heart relieved by the peace of God; and it allows him, when his heart is glad, to add a divine lustre to that gladness by praise and thanksgiving. In this charming system, the Lord God Jehovah offers himself to man, and allows himself to be considered by him as his portion, as his heavenly Father, as his exceeding great reward, as his sovereign good. God likewise freely offers him the assistance of his grace and holy Spirit, to accomplish a perfection of character, which otherwise can never by man be accomplished. Now all that voluntary faith in the goodness, and trust in the wisdom and power of God, which thus arises, and is established by contemplation, in the heart of a pious man, and is the criterion by which, as a free agent, the worth of his character is estimated in the judgment of

God; this faith, trust, and willing obedience would have had no sufficient election, if the providence of God towards man was in all and every case whatever as clear and evident, as the lustre of that noble image of it when shining in his meridian glory: and therefore it seems perfectly agreeable to reason, that, at the same time there should be instances enough in the conduct of God towards his intellectual creatures to induce a firm and rational faith in his just providence, there should likewise appear in his decrees external instances of unrewarded virtue and prosperous wickedness, equally for the reason before assigned, of trying the heart of man as to his faith and obedience, and, at the same time, to give it a preponderating bias in the belief and expectation of a future state of retribution; which, on this ground, is most rationally inferred and established in the mind of every man, who entertains just ideas respecting the justice and goodness of God. In fact, if the things of this world were constantly managed in one way only, and without variation, we should be apt to conclude, that the world was governed by the rigid laws of a fatal necessity; and, on the other side, if there were no rule observed, no

method in the dispensations of providence, we should be tempted to believe that chance entirely ruled the world. But when we observe, that in the management of the things of this world, though there is a general rule discernible, namely, that in the judgment of all unprejudiced and rational men, the natural tendency of virtue is to promote human happiness, and that of vice, misery; yet, as circumstances or the different situations of men may render necessary, there are occasional or even frequent deviations from this general rule likewise discernible: we have just reason therefore to conclude, upon the whole, that the world is under the direction of an almighty Agent, who governs it according to the determinations of his own unerring will. Providence in this manner frequently interweaving adversity with prosperity into the lot of the righteous, has doubtless in view the accomplishment both of their faith and obedience; for a continued train of prosperous events might be apt to inflate and improperly elevate their minds, as a continued series of adversity would be very likely in the same ratio to sink and depress them: whereas, that well known uncertainty and change in the events of human

life, which seems to proceed from and is often ascribed to chance, is thus equally favourable to induce in it faith and obedience, and to balance the mind and affections into an even, steady, and well poised temper and dependence on God. So that it is very clear and evident, that if there was an exact and uniform course of things in this our life of trial and probation, it would be a much stronger objection against the wisdom. of God, than such occurrences as may have the appearance of proceeding from chance are against his providence; and to object against the providence of God for making use of a mode of government which we ignorantly ascribe to chance, is in reality to object against wisdom for acting most suitably to its own designs.

In an Essay written on the Unreasonableness of Scepticism, by the Author of this Treatise, his ideas are at large expressed on the subject of a particular providence, to which the reader is referred, without a recapitulation of the arguments therein adduced; nor will any endeavour be made to answer all the frivolous and silly objections, with which the vanity and folly of some men have presumed to charge the providence of God: but the

« PoprzedniaDalej »