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lie at stake: for if sin was permitted, the Son of God was to die. That if God ever thoroughly considered and weighed any affair whatever, no doubt he did this. And, if ever he was concerned to act according to his best judgment, (if I may be allowed to use such a phrase,) in any one case, no doubt he was in this. And if God is an absolutely perfect being, it was simply impossible, that he should conduct, in this infinitely important affair, contrary to the light of his own mind, and the joint declaration of all his perfections, infinitely to his own dishonour, and infinitely to the damage of the system, absolutely without any motive so to do; yea, against infinite motives to the contrary. Nay, to suppose, that God would deliberately and voluntarily, absolutely without any motive, suffer his own creatures to sin ; when he knew it would be, on the whole, infinitely better for him to hinder it; is, in the most bare-faced manner, to give up the moral rectitude of the divine nature.
Did the inhabitants of heaven view the divine conduct in the permission of sin, in this blasphemous light, and firmly believe God to be such a being, instead of crying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory, as they did when God gave up Israel of old to blindness of mind and hardness of heart, (Isai. 6.) they would rather sink down into amazing grief, and fill all heaven with loud lamentations.
And saints on earth, instead of singing their ancient melodious song, the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice ; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof; might rather, if these things were so, with the captive Jews, hang their harps on the willows, put on sackloth, sit down in sorrow, and refuse to be comforted.
A firm belief of the infinite wisdom and perfect rectitude of the divine nature and government, is essential to the very foundation of all true religion. For it is the very reason of our love to God, of our joy in him, rejoicing in his universal government, acquiescing in all his dispensations, even those which we cannot understand, and of our cheerful obedience to all his commands. If, therefore, we give up this belief, we VOL. II.
must give up all religion: and shall be in as bad or worse condition, than if we believed there were really no God.
And this doctrine of the wisdom and rectitude of the divine government, is also the very foundation of that doctrine plainly taught in scripture, and universally believed by all Christians, viz. That at the day of judgment the righteousness of all God's ways will be made manifest to all the world, and the wisdom of all his conduct cleared up before the intellectual system, to God's everlasting honour, to the joy of all holy beings, and to the eternal confusion of all God's eneinies. (Jude 15.) For then will the Lord come with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them ; of all their HARD speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. But if God's ways have not in fact been wise and good, they cannot, at the day of judgment, when all things will be brought to light, appear to be so. If God has done wrong, (heaven forbid the blasphemy!) all the world will know it then. And if God bad deliberately and voluntarily acted contrary to his better judgment, in this infinitely important affair of the permission of sin, absolutely for no good end at all, and absolutely without any motive, it will then appear before the eyes of angels, men, and devils, to God's eternal reproach, to the eternal grief of all bis friends, and to the eternal triumph of all his enemies, who will be glad to see the being, they most of all hate, fall under blame, as well as themselves.
If this were the case, it would be, (for aught I can see,) more for God's honour, that there never should be a day of judgment, and that the truth of things never should come to light. Yea, it had been better if God had never made the world.
And now does the author of the Attempt in very deed believe all this horrid blasphemy; that he should blame me so much, for being so confident, that all God's conduct is wise and good ; and his present plan, of all possible plans, the best! For, why should he blame me so much for my belief, unless he is strong in the belief of his own scheme !
Between A. the author of the ATTEMPT, and B. the author
of the SERMONS on the Wisdom of God in the permission
B. If by
A. No. I abhor this blasphemy with all my heart. I firmly believe that all the divine conduct is “ good, right, best.”
Right in matter, manner and aim ;” the result of “ supreme wisdom, which cannot err.” But, I affirm, that sin is “ 110 part of God's scheme; but a device of the devil.” “God's original scheme was to have all holy and happy.” The devil has disconcerted it by his rebellion, and God is heartily grieved. Did I believe “ the present scheme to be God's, I should think it extremely dangerous opposing it; and that it would argue the highest vanity, arrogance, and impiety." (p. 13, 14, 15, 16. 24, &c.)
“ sin not being God's scheme, but the device of the devil,” you mean, that God did not voluntarily permit sin; but that the devil brought it in, in spite of all that God could do to hinder him; why do you maintain, that God did not mean to do, in this affair, what he knew was most for his own glory ? For, according to this, God exerted himself to the utmost, to secure his own glory, and the good of the system too; and would have obtained his end, had not his almighty power been overmatched by the devil. This, therefore, cannot be your meaning; unless you would be inconsistent with yourself
If you only mean that the devil sinned, and not God; I grant it. But the question still remains unanswered. Pray, therefore, tell me, why did the infinitely wise and almighty God permit such a glorious angel as satan once was, ever to devise such mischief? ever to perpetrate so shocking a deed? a deed pregnant with infinite and eternal woes! Pray tell me plainly, did God act wisely in this affair, or did he pot? He had some end in view, or no end. Not no end : for that would reflect upon his wisdom. If some end, it was a good
end, or a bad one. Not a bad one : for he is a most perfect being. Therefore it must be a good one. That is, when God determined to permit sin, upon a full view of the whole affair, he knew it wisest and best, to permit it; i. e, he knew that plan in which so much sin and misery should take place, would be better, on the whole, th an a plan in which sin and misery should for ever be effectually prevented by his constant interposition. And if he knew this to be the best plan, it was doubtless his “ original” plan : for an infinitely wise and perfect being, who “ cannot err," would originally choose what, upon the whole, he knew to be the best*.
A. “ This is what, I conceive, I have a right, as a man and a Christian, to oppose.” (p. 4.) It is a mere“ fallacy” to pretend,“ that the present scheme is most for the glory of God; because he must necessarily always will and do that which is most for his own glory." I think you much to blame for being so “positive.” For my part, I do not believe, “that God does in fact, or that he is obliged to do, what is most for his declarative glory.” (p. 12, 13.) And I can prove by a variety of arguments, that it had been better, infinitely better, infinitely more for the honour of God, and the good of the system, if sin had never been. (p. 19. 24.)
B. What! plainly contradict yourself so soon, my friend! However, pray do give me an instance wherein infinite wisdom ever erred; and wherein God did not do what was on the whole most for his own glory.
A. It is plain God might, have made the world much bei ter than he did. And if, after he had made the world, he had hindered tbe existence of sin, it had been infinitely more to his honour, and to the good of the system. (p. 12, 13, compared with p. 20–24.)
B. Pray how, then, do you think the whole of the divine conduct will appear at the day of judgment? If not only his
This is not a point peculiar to calvinistic divines ; but as strongly asserted by men of learning in general. “ If the author and governor of the world be infinitely perfect, then, of all possible systems, he hath chosen the best.” " That is, the system in which the greatest quantity of happiness and perfection obtains, that can in the nature of things take place.” “ This is the joint doctrine of reason and revelation.” Dr. T'urnbull, Chris. Phil. p. 35. 47.
works of creation are defective; but if, in this infinitely important affair of the permission of sin, God has done what he knew was not for the best ; permitted sin, when it had been infinitely better, if he had hindered it.
A. I am of the opinion, that, at the day of judgment, all God's works and ways will appear to be good. “ Full day will be then poured on all the ways and works of God; to the unspeakable joy of those who now heartily acquiesce in the dispensations of supreme wisdom ; and humbly admire and adore, where they cannot fully comprehend." (p. 31.) For, I firmly believe, that all the divine conduct is the result of supreme wisdom which cannot err.” (p. 14.)
B. Dear Sir, what do you mean? All the divine conduct the result of“ supreme wisdom which cannot err ?” So that “ all his works and ways will bear the light of full day?” And when brought into the clearest view, will appear to be “ the dispensations of supremne wisdom,” worthy to be “heartily acquiesced in” by all wise and holy intelligences, with “unspeakable joy.” Although they will see in the clearest light, that God has made and governed the world in such a manner, as he himself knew was not for the best, not most for his glory, nor most for the good of the system ! What! will all holy beings at the day of judgment, think it best, that God has not done best; and wisest, that he has counteracted his wisdom! And most glorious, that he should do what he knew was not most for his glory, and for the good of the system ! And humbly admire and adore his acting contrary to his own infinite wisdom, holiness, and goodness, as firmly believing this was the result of“ supreme wisdom which cannot err !" Pray explain yourself on this point.
A. What I say is really true. “Supreme wisdom cannot err." “ So far as God has been concerned in the transactions of the system, they must be good, right, best.” But “ sip is no part of God's scheme, but a device of the devil.” (p. 14. 16.)
B. Very well, sir. And do I understand you now? Do you really mean, that God in permitting the devil and other wicked beings to do as they do ; that God in this has done what was indeed, " good, right, best?” For if God's conduct