Obrazy na stronie

appointment of its Almighty framer, as if they had individually flowed from his immediate direction ? But besides, what reason have we to suppose that God's treatment of us in a future state, will not be of the same nature as we find it in this; according to established rules, and in the way of natural consequence? Many circumstances might be urged, on the contrary, to evince the likelihood that it will. But this is not necessary to our present purpose,

It is sufficient, that the Deist cannot prove that it will not. Our experience of the present state of things evinces, that indemnity is not the consequence of repentance, here: can he adduce a counter-experience to shew, that, it will, hereafter? The justice and goodness of God are not then necessarily concerned, in virtue of the sinner's repentance, to remove all evil consequent upon

sin in the next life, or else the arrangement of events in this, has not been regulated by the dictates of justice and goodness. If the Deist admits the latter, what becomes of his Natural Religion ?

Now let us enquire, whether the conclusions of abstract reasoning, will coincide with the deductions of experience. If obedience be at all times our duty, in what way can present repentance release us from the punishment of former transgressions d? Can repentance annihilate what is past? Or, can we do more, by present obe

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dience, than acquit ourselves of present obligation? Or, does the contrition we experience, added to the positive duties we discharge, constitute a surplusage of merit, which may be transferred to the reduction of our former demerit? And is the justification of the Philosopher, who is too enlightened to be a Christian, to be built, after all, upon the absurdities of supererogation? “We may as well affirm,” says a learned Divine, “ that our former obedience atones for our present sins, as that our present obedience makes amends for antecedent transgressions.” And it is surely with a peculiar ill grace, that this sufficiency of repentance is urged by those, who deny the possible efficacy of Christ's mediation; since the ground, on which they deny the latter, equally serves for the rejection of the former : the necessary connexion, between the merits of one being, and the acquittal of another, not being less conceivable, than that which is conceived to subsist between obedience at one time, and the forgiveness of disobedience at another.

Since then, upon the whole, experience (as far as it extends) goes to prove the natural inefficacy of repentance to remove the effects of past transgressions; and the abstract reason of the thing, can furnish no link, whereby to connect present obedience, with forgiveness of former sins: it follows, that however the contemplation of God's infinite goodness and love, might excite

some faint hope, that mercy would be extended to the sincerely penitent; the animating certainty of this momentous truth, without which the religious sense can have no place, can be derived from the express communication of the Deity alone. e

But it is yet urged by those, who would measure the proceedings of divine wisdom by the standard of their own reason; that, admitting the necessity of a Revelation on this subject, it had been sufficient for the Deity, to have made known to man his benevolent intention : and that the circuitous apparatus of the scheme of redemption, must have been superfluous, for the purpose of rescuing the world from the terrors and dominion of sin; when this might have been effected, in a way infinitely more simple, and intelligible, and better calculated to excite our gratitude and love, merely by proclaiming to mankind a free pardon, and perfect indemnity, on condition of repentance, and amendment.

To the disputer, who would thus prescribe to God, the mode, by which he may best conduct his creatures to happiness, we might as before reply, by the application of his own argument, to the course of ordinary events: and we might demand of him to inform us, wherefore, the Deity should have left the sustenance of life, depending on the tedious process of human labour and contrivance, in rearing from a small seed, and con

• See No. v. í a

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ducting to the perfection fitting it for the use of man, the necessary article of nourishment; when the end might have been at once accomplished, by its instantaneous production. And will he contend, that bread has not been ordained for the support of man; because that, instead of the present circuitous mode of its production, it. might have been rained down from heaven, like the manna in the wilderness? On grounds such as these, the Philosopher (as he wishes to be called) may be safely allowed to object to the notion of forgiveness by a Mediator.

With respect to every such objection as this, it

may be well, once for all, to make this general observation. We find, from the whole course of nature, that God governs the world, not by independent acts, but by connected system. The instruments which he employs, in the ordinary works of his Providence, are not physically necessary to his operations. He might have acted without them, if he pleased. “ He might, for instance, have created all men, without the intervention of parents: but where then had been the beneficial connexion between parents and children; and the numerous advantages resulting to human society, from such connexion ?” The difficulty lies here: the uses, arising from the connexions of God's acts may be various ; and such are the pregnancies of his works, that a single act may answer a prodigious variety of purposes. Of these several purposes we are, for the most

part, ignorant: and from this ignorance are derive ed, most of our weak objections against the ways of his Providence; whilst we foolishly presume, that, like human agents, he has but one end in view. f This observation we shall find of material

use, in our examination of the remaining arguments, adduced by the Deist, on the present subject. And there is none to which it more forcibly applies than to that, by which he endeavours to prove the notion of a Mediator to be inconsistent with the divine immutability. It is either, he affirms, agreeable to the will of God, to grant salvation on repentance, and then he will grant it without a Mediator: or it is not agreeable to his will, and then a Mediator can be of no avail, unless we admit the mutability of the divine decrees.

But the objector is not perhaps aware, how far this reasoning will extend. Let us try it in the

All such things, as are agreeable to the will of God, must be accomplished, whether we pray or not, and therefore our prayers are useless, unless they be supposed to have a power of altering his will. And indeed, with equal conclusiveness it might be proved, that Repentance itself must be unnecessary. For if it be fit that our sins should be forgiven, God will forgive us without repentance: and if it be unfit, repentance can be of no avail.h


+ See No VI. 8 See No. VIII. h See No. VIII.


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