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A Theodicy Or Vindication Of The Divine Glory by Albert Taylor Bledsoe

Section VI. The spirit in which the following work has been prosecuted, and the relation of the author to other systems.

In conclusion, we offer a few remarks in relation to the manner and spirit in which the following work has been undertaken and prosecuted. In the first place, the writer may truly say, that he did not enter on the apparently dark problem of the moral world with the least hope that he should be able to throw any light upon it, nor with any other set purpose and design. He simply revolved the subject in mind, because he was by nature prone to such meditations. So far from having aimed at things usually esteemed so high and difficult with a feeling of presumptuous confidence, he has, indeed, suffered most from that spirit of despondency, that despair of scepticism, against which, in the foregoing pages, he has appeared so anxious to caution others. It has been patient reflection, and the reading of excellent authors, together with an earnest desire to know the truth, which has delivered him from the power of that spirit, and conducted him to what now so clearly seems |the bright and shining light of truth.|

It was, in fact, while engaged in meditation on the powers and susceptibilities of the human mind, as well as on the relations they sustain to each and to other things, and not in any direct attempt to elucidate the origin of evil, that the first clear light appeared to dawn on this great difficulty: and in no other way, he humbly conceives, can the true philosophy of the spiritual world ever be comprehended. For, as the laws of matter had first to be studied and traced out in relation to bodies on the earth, before they could be extended to the heavens, and made to explain its wonderful mechanism; so must the laws and phenomena of the human mind be correctly analyzed and clearly defined, in order to obtain an insight into the intellectual system of the universe. And just in proportion as the clouds and darkness hanging over the phenomena of our own minds are made to disappear, will the intellectual system of the world which God |has set in our hearts,| become more distinct and beautiful in its proportions. For it is the mass of real contradictions and obscurities, existing in the little world within, which distorts to our view the great world without, and causes the work and ways of God to appear so full of disorders. Hence, in proportion as these real contradictions and obscurities are removed, will the mind become a truer microcosm, or more faithful mirror, in which the image of the universe will unfold itself, free from the apparent disorders and confusion which seem to render it unworthy of its great Author and Ruler.

Secondly, the relation which the writer sustains to other systems, has been, it appears to himself, most favourable to a successful prosecution of the following speculations. Whether at the outset of his inquiries, he was the more of an Arminian or of a Calvinist, he is unable to say; but if his crude and imperfectly developed sentiments had then been made known, it is probable he would have been ranked with the Arminians. Be this as it may, it is certain that he was never so much of an Arminian, or of anything else, as to imagine that Calvinism admitted of nothing great and good. On the contrary, he has ever believed that the Calvinists were at least equal to any other body of men in piety, which is certainly the highest and noblest of all qualities. And besides, it was a constant delight to him to read the great master-pieces of reasoning which Calvinism had furnished for the instruction and admiration of mankind. By this means he came to believe that the scheme of the Arminians could not be maintained, and his faith in it was gradually undermined.

But although he thus submitted his mind to the dominion of Calvinism, as advocated by Edwards, and earnestly espoused it with some exceptions; he never felt that profound, internal satisfaction of the truth of the system, after which his rational nature continually longed, and which it struggled to realize. He certainly expected to find this satisfaction in Calvinism, if anywhere. Long, therefore, did he pass over every portion of Calvinism, in order to discover, if possible, how its foundations might be rendered more clear and convincing, and all its parts harmonized among themselves as well as with the great undeniable facts of man's nature and destiny. While engaged in these inquiries, he has been more than once led to see what appeared to be a flaw in Calvinism itself; but without at first perceiving all its consequences. By reflection on these apparent defects; nay, by protracted and earnest meditation on them, his suspicions have been confirmed and his opinions changed. If what now so clearly appears to be the truth is so or not, it is certain that it has not been embraced out of a spirit of opposition to Calvinism, or to any other system of religious faith whatever. Its light, whether real or imaginary, has dawned upon his mind while seeking after truth amid the foundations of Calvinism itself; and this light has been augmented more by reading the works of Calvinists themselves, than those of their opponents.

These things are here set down, not because the writer thinks they should have any weight or influence to bias the judgment of the reader, but because he wishes it to be understood that he entertains the most profound veneration for the great and good men whose works seem to stand in the way of the following design to vindicate the glory of God, and which, therefore, he will not scruple to assail in so far as this may be necessary to his purpose. It is, indeed, a matter of deep and inexpressible regret, that in our conflicts with the powers of darkness, we should, however undesignedly, be weakened and opposed by Christian divines and philosophers. But so it seems to be, and we dare not cease to resist them. And if, in the following attempt to vindicate the glory of God, it shall become necessary to call in question the infallibility of the great founders of human systems, this, it is to be hoped, will not be deemed an unpardonable offence.

Thus has the writer endeavoured to work his way through the mingled lights and obscurity of human systems into a bright and beautiful vision of the great harmonious system of the world itself. It is certainly either a sublime truth, or else a glorious illusion, which thus enables him to rise above the apparent disorders and perturbations of the world, as constituted and governed by the Almighty, and behold the real order and harmony therein established. The ideal creations of the poet and the philosopher sink into perfect insignificance beside the actual creation of God. Where clouds and darkness once appeared the most impenetrable, there scenes of indescribable magnificence and beauty are now beheld with inexpressible delight; the stupendous cloud of evil no longer hangs overhead, but rolls beneath us, while the eternal Reason from above permeates its gloom, and irradiates its depths. We now behold the reason, and absolutely rejoice in the contemplation, of that which once seemed like a dark blot on the world's design.

In using this language, we do not wish to be understood as laying claim to the discovery of any great truth, or any new principle. Yet we do trust, that we have attained to a clear and precise statement of old truths. And these truths, thus clearly defined, we trust that we have seized with a firm grasp, and carried as lights through the dark places of theology, so as to expel thence the errors and delusions by which its glory has been obscured. Moreover, if we have not succeeded, nor even attempted to succeed, in solving any mysteries, properly so called, yet may we have removed certain apparent contradictions, which have been usually deemed insuperable to the human mind.

But even if the reader should be satisfied beforehand, that no additional light will herein be thrown on the problem of the moral world, yet would we remind him, that it does not necessarily follow that the ensuing discourse is wholly unworthy of his attention: for the materials, though old, may be presented in new combinations, and much may be omitted which has disfigured and obscured the beauty of most other systems. Although no new fountains of light may be opened, yet may the vision of the soul be so purged of certain films of error as to enable it to reflect the glory of the spiritual universe, just as a single dew-drop is seen to mirror forth the magnificent cope of heaven with all its multitude of stars.

We have sought the truth, and how far we have found it, no one should proceed to determine without having first read and examined. We have sought it, not in Calvinism alone, nor in Arminianism alone, nor in any other creed or system of man's devising. In every direction have we diligently sought it, as our feeble abilities would permit; and yet, we hope, it will be found that the body of truth which we now have to offer is not a mere hasty patchwork of superficial eclecticism, but a living and organic whole. By this test we could wish to be tried; for, as Bacon hath well said, |It is the harmony of any philosophy in itself that giveth it light and credence.| And in the application of this test, we could also wish, that the reader would so far forget his sectarian predilections, if he have any, as to permit his mind to be inspired by the immortal words of Milton, which we shall here adopt as a fitting conclusion of these our present remarks: --

|Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon, with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin, Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second coming; he shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity, forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint. We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude, that rise and set with the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a place in the firmament, where they may be seen morning or evening? The light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It is not the unfrocking of a priest, the unmitring of a bishop, and the removing him from off the Presbyterian shoulders, that will make us a happy nation; no, if other things as great in the Church, and in the rule of life, both economical and political, be not looked into and reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and Calvin have beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind. There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. It is their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meekness, nor can convince, yet all must be suppressed which is not found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered pieces which are yet wanting to the body of truth. To be still searching what we know not, by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we find it, (for all her body is homogeneal and proportional,) this is the golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the best harmony in a Church; not the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral, and inwardly-divided minds.|

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