SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Authentic Biblical Christianity.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter VI. The Existence Of Moral Evil, Or Sin, Reconciled With The Holiness Of God.

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

Chapter VI. The Existence Of Moral Evil, Or Sin, Reconciled With The Holiness Of God.

One doubt remains,
That wrings me sorely, if I solve it not.

The world, indeed, is even so forlorn
Of all good, as thou speakest it, and so swarms
With every evil. Yet, beseech thee, point
The cause out to me, that myself may see
And unto others show it: for in heaven
One places it, and one on earth below. -- DANTE.

Theology teaches that God is a being of infinite perfections. Hence, it is concluded, that if he had so chosen, he might have secured the world against the possibility of evil; and this naturally gives rise to the inquiry, why he did not thus secure it? Why he did not preserve the moral universe, as he had created it, free from the least impress or overshadowing of evil? Why he permitted the beauty of the world to become disfigured, as it has been, by the dark invasion and ravages of sin? This great question has, in all ages, agitated and disturbed the human mind, and been a prolific source of atheistic doubts and scepticism. It has been, indeed, a dark and perplexing enigma to the eye of faith itself.

To solve this great difficulty, or at least to mitigate the stupendous darkness in which it seems enveloped, various theories have been employed. The most celebrated of these are the following: 1. The hypothesis of the soul's preexistence; 2. The hypothesis of the Manicheans; and, 3. The hypothesis of optimism. It may not be improper to bestow a few brief remarks on these different schemes.

Section I.

The hypothesis of the soul's preexistence.

This was a favourite opinion with many of the ancient philosophers. In the Phaedon of Plato, Socrates is introduced as maintaining it; and he ascribes it to Orpheus as its original author. Leibnitz supposes that it was invented for the purpose of explaining the origin of evil;(140) but the truth seems to be, that it arose from the difficulty of conceiving how the soul could be created out of nothing, or out of a substance so different from itself as matter. The hypothesis in question was also maintained by many great philosophers, because they imagined that if the past eternity of the soul were denied, this would shake the philosophical proof of its future eternity.(141) There can be no doubt, however, that after the idea of the soul's preexistence had been conceived and entertained, it was very generally employed to account for the origin of evil.

But it must be conceded that this hypothesis merely draws a veil over the great difficulty it was designed to solve. The difficulty arises, not from the circumstance that evil exists in the present state of our being, but from the fact that it is found to exist anywhere, or in any state, under the moral administration of a perfect God. It is as difficult to conceive why such a being should have permitted the soul to sin in a former state of existence, even if such a state were an established reality, as it is to account for its rise in the present world. To remove the difficulty out of sight, by transferring the origin of evil beyond the sphere of visible things, is a poor substitute for a solid and satisfactory solution of it. The great problem of the moral world is not to be illuminated by any such fictions of the imagination; and we had better let it alone altogether, if we have nothing more rational and solid to advance.

Section II.

The hypothesis of the Manicheans.

Though this doctrine is ascribed to Manes, after whom it is called, it is of a far more early origin. It was taught, says Plutarch, by the Persian Magi, whose views are exhibited by him in his celebrated treatise of Isis and Osiris. |Zoroaster,| says he, |thought that there are two gods, contrary to each other in their operations -- a good and an evil principle. To the former he gave the name of Oromazes, and to the latter that of Arimanius. The one resembles light and truth, the other darkness and ignorance.| We do not allude to this theory for the purpose of combatting it; we suppose it would scarcely find a respectable advocate at the present day. This, like many other inventions of the great intellects of antiquity, has entirely disappeared before the simple but sublime doctrines of the religion of Jesus.

M. Bayle, it is true, has exhausted the resources of his genius, as well as the rich stores of his learning, in order to adorn the doctrine of Manes, and to render it more plausible, if possible, than any other which has been employed to explain the origin and existence of evil. But this was not because he sincerely believed it to be founded in truth. He merely wished to show its superiority to other schemes, in order that by demolishing it he might the more effectually inspire the minds of men with a dark feeling of universal scepticism. It was decorated by him, not as a system of truth, but as a sacrifice to be offered up on the altar of atheism. True to the instincts of his philosophy, he sought on this subject, as well as on all others, to extinguish the light of science, and manifest the wonders of his power, by hanging round the wretched habitation of man the gloom of eternal despair.

Though this doctrine is now obsolete in the civilized world, it was employed by a large portion of the ancient philosophers to account for the origin of evil. This theory does not, it is true, relieve the difficulty it was designed to solve; but it shows that there was a difficulty to be solved, which would not have been the case if evil could have been ascribed to the Supreme God as its author. If those philosophers could have regarded him as a Being of partial goodness, they would have found no difficulty in explaining the origin and existence of evil; they would simply have attributed the good and the evil in the world to the good and the evil supposed to pertain to his nature. But they could not do this, inasmuch as the human mind no sooner forms an idea of God, than it regards him as a being of unlimited and unmixed goodness. It has shown a disposition, in all ages, to adopt the most wild and untenable hypotheses, rather than entertain the imagination that evil could proceed from the Father of Lights. The doctrine of Manes, then, as well as the other hypotheses employed to explain the origin of evil, demonstrates how deep is the conviction of the human mind that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. In searching after the fountain of evil, it turns from the great source of life and light, and embraces the wildest extravagancies, rather than indulge a dark suspicion respecting the goodness of its Maker.

Section III.

The hypothesis of optimism.

|The fundamental principle of the optimist is,| says Dugald Stewart, |that all events are ordered for the best; and that evils which we suffer are parts of a great system conducted by almighty power under the direction of infinite wisdom and goodness.| Leibnitz, who is unquestionably one of the greatest philosophers the world has produced, has exerted all his powers to adorn and recommend the scheme of optimism. We have, in a former chapter, considered the system of Leibnitz; but we have not denied its fundamental principle, which is so well expressed in the above language of Mr. Stewart. If he had confined himself to that principle, without undertaking to explain how it is that God orders all things for the best, his doctrine would have been free from objections, except for a want of clearness and precision.

Dr. Chalmers has said that the scheme of optimism, as left by Leibnitz, is merely an hypothesis. He insists, however, that even as an hypothesis, it may be made to serve a highly important purpose in theology. |If it be not an offensive weapon,| says he, |with which we may beat down and demolish the strongholds of the sceptic, it is, at least, an armour of defence, with which we may cause all his shafts to fall harmless at our feet.| This remark of Dr. Chalmers seems to be well founded. The objection of the sceptic, as we have seen, proceeds on the supposition that if a Being of infinite perfections had so chosen, he might have made a better universe than that which actually exists. But we have as good reasons to make suppositions as the sceptic. Let us suppose, then, that notwithstanding the evil which reigns in the world, the universe is the best possible universe that even infinite wisdom, and power, and goodness, could have called into existence. Let us suppose that this would be clearly seen by us, if we only knew the whole of the case; if we could only view the present condition of man in all its connexions and relations to God's infinite plans for the universe and for eternity. In other words, let us suppose, that if we were only omniscient, our difficulty would vanish, and where we now see a cloud over the divine perfections, we should behold bright manifestations of them. This is a mere supposition, it is true, but it should be remembered that the objection in question is based on a mere supposition. When it is asked, why God permitted evil if he had both the power and the will to prevent it? it is assumed that the prevention of evil is better, on the whole, than the permission of it, and consequently more worthy of the infinite wisdom and goodness ascribed to God. But as this is a mere supposition, which has never been proved by the sceptic, we do not see why it may not be sufficiently answered by a mere supposition.

This is an important idea. In many a good old writer, it exists in the dark germ; in Dr. Chalmers it appears in the expanded blossom. Its value may be shown, and its beauty illustrated, by a reference to the affairs of human life; for many of the most important concerns of society are settled and determined by the application of this principle. If a man were on trial for his life, for example, and certain facts tending to establish his guilt were in evidence against him, no enlightened tribunal would pronounce him guilty, provided any hypothesis could be framed, or any supposition made, by which the facts in evidence could be reconciled with his innocence. |Evidence,| says a distinguished legal writer, |is always insufficient, where, assuming all to be proved which the evidence tends to prove, some other hypothesis may still be true; for it is the actual exclusion of any other hypothesis which invests mere circumstances with the force of proof.|(142) This is a settled principle of law. If any supposition can be made, then, which would reconcile the facts in evidence with a man's innocence, the law directs that he shall be acquitted. Any other rule of decision would be manifestly unjust, and inconsistent with the dictates of a sound policy.

This principle is applicable, whether the accused bear a good or a bad moral character. As, according to the hypothesis, he might be innocent; so no tribunal on earth could fairly determine that he was guilty. The hardship of such a conclusion would be still more apparent in regard to the conduct of a man whose general character is well known to be good. In such a case, especially, should the facts be of such a nature as to exclude every favourable hypothesis, before either truth or justice would listen to an unfavourable decision and judgment.

Such is the rule which human wisdom has established, in order to arrive at truth, or at least to avoid error, in relation to the acts and intentions of men. Hence, is it not reasonable, we ask, that we should keep within the same sacred bounds, when we come to form an estimate of the ways of God? No one can fairly doubt that the world is replete with the evidences of his goodness. If he had so chosen, he might have made every breath a sigh, every sensation a pang, and every utterance of man's spirit a groan; but how differently has he constituted the world within us, and the glorious world around us! Instead of swelling every sound with discord, and clothing every object with deformity, he has made all nature music to the ear and beauty to the eye. The full tide of his universal goodness flows within us, and around us on all sides. In its eternal rounds, it touches and blesses all things living with its power. We live, and move, and have our very being in the goodness of God. Surely, then, we should most joyfully cling to an hypothesis which is favourable to the character of such a Being. Hence, we infinitely prefer the warm and generous theory of the optimist, which regards the actual universe as the best possible, to the dark and cold hypothesis of the sceptic, which calls in question the boundless perfections of God.

In the foregoing remarks, we have concurred with Dr. Chalmers in viewing the doctrine of Bayle as a mere unsupported hypothesis; but have we any right to do so? It has not been proved, it is true; but there are some things which require no proof. Is not the doctrine of Bayle a thing of this kind? It certainly seems evident that if God hates sin above all things, and could easily prevent it, he would not permit it to appear in his dominions. This view of the subject recommends itself powerfully to the human mind, which has, in all ages, been worried and perplexed by it. It seems to carry its own evidence along with it; to shake the mind with doubt, and over-spread it with darkness. Hence, we should either expose its fallacy or else fairly acknowledge its power.

On the other hand, the theory of Leibnitz, or rather the great fundamental idea of his theory, is more than a mere hypothesis. It rests on the conviction of the human mind that God is infinitely perfect, and seems to flow from it as a necessary consequence. For how natural, how irresistible the conclusion, that if God be absolutely perfect, then the world made by him must be perfect also! But while these two hypotheses seem to be sound, it is clear that both cannot be so: there is a real conflict between them, and the one or the other must be made to give way before our knowledge can assume a clearly harmonious and satisfactory form.

The effects of the hypothesis of the sceptic may be neutralized by opposing to it the hypothesis of the theist. But we are not satisfied to stop at this point. We intend, not merely to neutralize, but to explode, the theory of the sceptic. We intend to wrest from it the element of its strength, and grind it to atoms. We intend to lay our finger precisely upon the fallacy which lies so deeply concealed in its bosom, and from which it derives all its apparent force and conclusiveness. We shall drag this false principle from its place of concealment into the open light of day, and thereby expose the utter futility, the inherent absurdity, of the whole atheistical hypothesis, to which it has so long imparted its deceptive power. If Leibnitz did not detect this false principle, and thereby overthrow the theory of Bayle, it was because he held this principle in common with him. We must eliminate this error, common to the scheme of the atheist and to that of the theist, if we would organize the truths which both contain, and present them together in one harmonious and symmetrical system; into a system which will enable us, not merely to stand upon the defensive, and parry off the attacks of the sceptic, but to enter upon his own territory, and demolish his strongholds; not merely to oppose his argument by a counter-argument, but to explode his sophism, and exhibit the cause of God in cloudless splendour.

This false principle, this concealed fallacy, of which the atheist has been so long allowed to avail himself, has been the source of many unsuspected errors, and many lamentable evils. It has not only given power and efficacy to the weapons of the sceptic, but to the eye of faith itself has it cast clouds and darkness over the transcendent glory of the moral government of God. It has prevented a Leibnitz from refuting the sophism of a Bayle, and induced a Kant to declare a theodicy impossible. It has, indeed, as we shall see, crept into and corrupted the whole mass of religious knowledge; converting the radiant and clearly-defined body of truth into a dark, heterogeneous compound of conflicting elements. Hence we shall utterly demolish it, that neither a fragment nor a shadow of it may remain to darken and delude the minds of men.

Section IV.

The argument of the atheist -- The reply of Leibnitz and other theists -- The insufficiency of this reply.

Sin exists. This is the astounding fact of which the atheist avails himself. He has never ceased to contend, that as God has permitted sin to exist, he was either unable or unwilling to prevent it. God might easily have prevented sin, says he, if he had chosen to do so; but he has not chosen to do so, and therefore his love of virtue is not infinite, his holiness is not unlimited. Now, we deny this conclusion, and assert the infinite holiness of God.

This assertion may be true, says Voltaire, and hence God would have prevented all sin, if his power had not been limited. The only conceivable way, says he, to reconcile the existence of sin with the purity of God, is |to deny his omnipotence.| We insist, on the contrary, that the power of God is absolutely without bounds or limits. Though sin exists, we still maintain, in opposition to every form of atheism, that this fact implies no limitation of any of the perfections of God.

Before proceeding to establish this position, we shall consider the usual reply of the theist to the great argument of the atheist. |The greatest love which a ruler can show for virtue,| says Bayle, |is to cause it, if he can, to be always practised without any mixture of vice. If it is easy for him to procure this advantage to his subjects, and he nevertheless permits vice to raise its head in his dominions, intending to punish it after having tolerated it for a long time, his affection for virtue is not the greatest of which we can conceive; it is then not infinite.| This has been the great standing argument of atheism in all ages of the world. This argument, as held by the atheists of antiquity, is presented by Cudworth in the following words: |The supposed Deity and Maker of the world was either willing to abolish all evils, but not able; or he was able but not willing; or else, lastly, he was both able and willing. This latter is the only thing that answers fully to the notion of a God. Now that the supposed Creator of all things was not thus both able and willing to abolish all evils, is plain, because then there would have been no evils at all left. Wherefore, since there is such a deluge of evils overflowing all, it must needs be that either he was willing, and not able to remove them, and then he was impotent; or else he was able and not willing, and then he was envious; or, lastly, he was neither able nor willing, and then he was both impotent and envious.| This argument is, in substance, the same as that presented by Bayle, and relied upon by atheists in all subsequent times.

To the argument of Bayle, the following reply is given by Leibnitz: |When we detach things that are connected together, -- the parts from the whole, the human race from the universe, the attributes of God from each other, his power from his wisdom, -- we are permitted to say that God can cause virtue to be in the world without any mixture of vice, and even that he many easily cause it to be so.|(143) But he does not cause virtue to exist without any mixture of vice, says Leibnitz, because the good of the whole universe requires the permission of moral evil. How the good of the universe requires the permission of evil, he has not shown us; but he repeatedly asserts this to be the fact, and insists that if God were to prevent all evil, this would work a greater harm to the whole than the permission of some evil. Now, is this a sufficient and satisfactory reply to the argument of the atheist?

It certainly seems to possess weight, and is entitled to serious consideration. Bayle contends, that as evil exists, the Creator and Governor of the world cannot be absolutely perfect. He should have concluded with me, Leibnitz truly says, that as God is absolutely perfect, the existence of evil is necessary to the perfection of the universe, or is an unavoidable part of the best world that could have been created. It is thus that he neutralizes, without demolishing, the argument of the atheist, and each person is left to be more deeply affected by the argument of Leibnitz, or by that of Bayle, as his faith in the unlimited goodness of God is strong or weak. If the theist, by such means, should gain a complete victory, this would be due to the faith of the vanquished, rather than to the superiority of the logic by which he is subdued.

To this argument of Leibnitz we may then well apply his own remarks upon another celebrated philosopher. Descartes met the argument of the necessitarian, not by exposing its fallacy, but by repelling the conclusion of it on extraneous grounds. |This was to cut the Gordian knot,| says Leibnitz, who was himself a necessitarian, |and to reply to the conclusion of one argument, not by resolving it, but by opposing to it a contrary argument; which is not conformed to the laws of philosophical controversy.| The reply of Leibnitz to Bayle is clearly open to the same objection. It does not analyze the sophism of the sceptic, or resolve it into its elements, and point out its error; it merely opposes its conclusion by the presentation of a contrary argument. Hence it is not likely to produce very great effect; for, as Leibnitz himself says, in relation to this mode of attacking sceptics, |It may arrest them a little, but they will always return to their reasoning, presented in different forms, until we cause them to comprehend wherein the defect of their sophism consists.| Leibnitz has, then, according to his own canons of criticism, merely cut the Gordian knot of atheism, which he should have unravelled. He has merely arrested the champions of scepticism |a little,| whom he should have overthrown and demolished.

His reply is not only incomplete, in that it does not expose the sophistry of the atheist; it is also unsound. It carries in its bosom the elements of its own destruction. It is self-contradictory, and consequently untenable. It admits that it is easy for God to cause virtue to exist, and yet contends that, in certain cases, he fails to do so, because the highest good of the universe requires the existence of moral evil. But how is this possible? It will be conceded that the good of the individual would be promoted, if God should cause him to be perfectly holy and happy. This would be for the good of each and every individual moral agent in the universe. How, then, is it possible for such an exercise of the divine power to be for the good of all the parts, and yet not for the good of the whole? So far from being able to see how these things can hang together, it seems evident that they are utterly repugnant to each other.

The highest good of the universe, we are told, requires the permission of evil. What good? Is it the holiness of moral agents? This, it is said, can be produced by the agency of God, without the introduction of evil, and produced, too, in the greatest conceivable degree of perfection. Why should evil be permitted, then, in order to attain an end, which it is conceded can be perfectly attained without it? Is there any higher end than the perfect moral purity of the universe, which God seeks to accomplish by the permission of sin? It certainly is not the happiness of the moral universe; for this can also be secured, in the highest possible degree, by the agency of the Divine Being, without the permission of moral evil. What good is there, then, beside the perfect holiness and happiness of the universe, to the production of which the existence of moral evil is necessary? There seems to be no such good in reality. It appears to be a dream of the imagination, a splendid fiction, which has been recommended to the human mind by its horror of the cheerless gloom of scepticism.

Section V.

The sophism of the atheist exploded, and a perfect agreement shown to subsist between the existence of sin and the holiness of God.

Supposing God to possess perfect holiness, he would certainly prevent all moral evil, says the atheist, unless his power were limited. This inference is drawn from a false premiss; namely, that if God is omnipotent, he could easily prevent moral evil, and cause virtue to exist without any mixture of vice. This assumption has been incautiously conceded to the atheist by his opponent, and hence his argument has not been clearly and fully refuted. To refute this argument with perfect clearness, it is necessary to show two things: first, that it is no limitation of the divine omnipotence to say that it cannot work contradictions; and secondly, that if God should cause virtue to exist in the heart of a moral agent, he would work a contradiction. We shall endeavour to evince these two things, in order to refute the grand sophism of the sceptic, and lay a solid foundation for a genuine scheme of optimism, against which no valid objection can be urged.

In the first place, then, it is not a limitation of the divine omnipotence to say, that it cannot work contradictions. There will be little difficulty in establishing this point. Indeed, it will be readily conceded; and if we offer a few remarks upon it, it is only that we may leave nothing dark and obscure behind us, even to those whose minds are not accustomed to such speculations.

As contradictions are impossible in themselves, so to say that God could perform them, would not be to magnify his power, but to expose our own absurdity. When we affirm, that omnipotence cannot cause a thing to be and not to be at one and the same time, or cannot make two and two equal to five, we do not set limits to it; we simply declare that such things are not the objects of power. A circle cannot be made to possess the properties of a square, nor a square the properties of a circle. Infinite power cannot confer the properties of the one of these figures upon the other, not because it is less than infinite power, but because it is not within the nature, or province, or dominion of power, to perform such things, to embody such inherent and immutable absurdities in an actual existence. In regard to the doing of such things, or rather of such absurd and inconceivable nothings, omnipotence itself possesses no advantage over weakness. Power, from its very nature and essence, is confined to the accomplishment of such things as are possible, or imply no contradiction. Hence it is beyond the reach of almighty power itself to break up and confound the immutable foundations of reason and truth. God possesses no such miserable power, no such horribly distorted attribute, no such inconceivably monstrous imperfection and deformity of nature, as would enable him to embody absurdities and contradictions in actual existence. It is one of the chief excellencies and glories of the divine nature, that its infinite power works within a sphere of light and love, without the least tendency to break over the sacred bounds of eternal truth, into the outer darkness of chaotic night!

The truth of this remark, as a general proposition, will be readily admitted. In general terms, it is universally acknowledged; and its application is easy where the impossibility is plain, or the contradiction glaring. But there are things which really imply a contradiction, without being suspected to do so. We may well ask, in relation to such things, why God does not produce them, without being sensible of the absurdity of the inquiry. The production of virtue, or true holiness, in the breast of a moral agent, is a thing of this kind.(144)

This conducts us to our second position; namely, that if God should cause virtue to exist in the breast of a moral agent, he would work a contradiction. In other words, the production of virtue by any extraneous agency, is one of those impossible conceits, those inherent absurdities, which lie quite beyond the sphere of light in which the divine omnipotence moves, and has no existence except in the outer darkness of a lawless imagination, or in the dim regions of error, in which the true nature of moral goodness has never been seen. It is absurd, we say, to suppose that moral agents can be governed and controlled in any other way than by moral means. All physical power is here out of the question. By physical power, in connexion with wisdom and goodness, a moral agent may be created, and endowed with the noblest attributes. By physical power, a moral agent may be caused to glow with a feeling of love, and armed with an uncommon energy of will; but such effects, though produced by the power of God, are not the virtue of the moral agent in whom they are produced. This consists, not in the possession of moral powers, but in the proper and obedient exercise of those powers.(145) If infinite wisdom, and goodness, and power, should muster all the means and appliances in the universe, and cause them to bear with united energy on a single mind, the effect produced, however grand and beautiful, would not be the virtue of the agent in whom it is produced. Nothing can be his virtue which is produced by an extraneous agency. This is a dictate of the universal reason and consciousness of mankind. It needs no metaphysical refinement for its support, and no scholastic jargon for its illustration. On this broad principle, then, which is so clearly deduced, not from the confined darkness of the schools, but the open light of nature, we intend to take our stand in opposition to the embattled ranks of atheism.

The argument of the atheist assumes, as we have seen, that a Being of infinite power could easily prevent sin, and cause holiness to exist. It assumes that it is possible, that it implies no contradiction, to create an intelligent moral agent, and place it beyond all liability to sin. But this is a mistake. Almighty power itself, we may say with the most profound reverence, cannot create such a being, and place it beyond the possibility of sinning. If it could not sin, there would be no merit, no virtue, in its obedience. That is to say, it would not be a moral agent at all, but a machine merely. The power to do wrong, as well as to do right, is included in the very idea of a moral and accountable agent, and no such agent can possibly exist without being invested with such a power. To suppose such an agent to be created, and placed beyond all liability to sin, is to suppose it to be what it is, and not what it is, at one and the same time; it is to suppose a creature to be endowed with a power to do wrong, and yet destitute of such a power, which is a plain contradiction. Hence, Omnipotence cannot create such a being, and deny to it a power to do evil, or secure it against the possibility of sinning.

We may, with the atheist, conceive of a universe of such beings, if we please, and we may suppose them to be at all times prevented from sinning by the omnipotent and irresistible energy of the Divine Being; and having imagined all this, we may be infinitely better pleased with this ideal creation of our own than with that which God has called into actual existence around us. But then we should only prefer the absurd and contradictory model of a universe engendered in our own weak brains, to that which infinite wisdom, and power, and goodness have actually projected into being. Such a universe, if freed from contradictions, might be also free from evil, nay, from the very possibility of evil; but only on condition that it should at the same time be free from the very possibility of good. It admits into its dominions moral and accountable creatures, capable of knowing and serving God, and of drinking at the purest fountain of untreated bliss, only by being involved in irreconcilable contradiction. It may appear more delightful to the imagination, before it comes to be narrowly inspected, than the universe of God; and the latter, being compared with it, may seem less worthy of the infinite perfections of its Author; but, after all, it is but a weak and crazy thing, a contradictious and impossible conceit. We may admire it, and make it the standard by which to try the work of God; but, after all, it is but an |idol of the human mind,| and not |an idea of the Divine Mind.| It is a little, distorted image of human weakness, and not a harmonious manifestation of divine power. Among all the possible models of a universe, which lay open to the infinite mind and choice of God, a thing so deformed had no place; and when the sceptic concludes that the perfections of the Supreme Architect are limited, because he did work after such a model, he only displays the impotency of his own wisdom, and the blindness of his own presumption.

Hence, the error of the atheist is obvious. He does not consider that the only way to place all creatures beyond a liability to sin, is to place them below the rank of intelligent and accountable beings. He does not consider that the only way to prevent |sin from raising its head| is to prevent holiness from the possibility of appearing in the universe. He does not consider that among all the ideal worlds present to the Divine Mind, there was not one which, if called into existence, would have been capable of serving and glorifying its Maker, and yet incapable of throwing off his authority. Hence, he really finds fault with the work of the Almighty, because he has not framed the world according to a model which is involved in the most irreconcilable contradictions. In other words, he fancies that God is not perfect, because he has not embodied an absurdity in the creature. If God, he asks, is perfect, why did he not render virtue possible, and vice impossible? Why did he not create moral agents, and yet deny to them the attributes of moral agents? Why did he not give his creatures the power to do evil, and yet withhold this power from them? He might just as well have demanded, why he did not create matter without dimensions, and circles without the properties of a circle. Poor man! he cannot see the wisdom and power of God manifested in the world, because it is not filled with moral agents which are not moral agents, and with glorious realities that are mere empty shadows!

If the above remarks be just, then the great question, why has God permitted sin, which has exercised the ingenuity of man in all ages, is a most idle and insignificant inquiry. The only real question is, why he created such beings as men at all; and not why he created them, and then permitted them to sin. The first question is easily answered. The second, though often propounded, seems to be a most unmeaning question. It is unmeaning, because it seeks to ascertain the reason why God has permitted a thing, which, in reality, he has not permitted at all. Having created a world of moral agents, that is, a world endowed with a power to sin, it was impossible for him to prevent sin, so long as they retained this power, or, in other words, so long as they continued to exist as moral agents. A universe of such agents given, its liability to sin is not a matter for the will of God to permit; this is a necessary consequence from the nature of moral agents. He could no more deny peccability to such creatures than he could deny the properties of the circle to a circle; and if he could not prevent such a thing, it is surely very absurd to ask why he permitted it.

On the supposition of such a world, God did not permit sin at all; it could not have been prevented. It would be considered a very absurd inquiry, if we should ask, why God permitted two and two to be equal to four, or why he permitted the three angles of a triangle to be equal to two right angles. But all such questions, however idle and absurd, are not more so than the great inquiry respecting the permission of moral evil. If this does not so appear to our minds, it is because we have not sufficiently reflected on the great truth, that a necessary virtue is a contradiction in terms, an inherent and utter impossibility. The full possession of this truth will show us, that the cause of theism has been encumbered with great difficulties, because its advocates have endeavoured to explain the reason why God has permitted a thing, which, in point of fact, he has not permitted. Having attempted to explain a fact which has no existence, it is no wonder that they should have involved themselves in clouds and darkness. Let us cease then, to seek the reason of that which is not, in order that we may behold the glory of that which is.

We have seen that it is impossible for Omnipotence to create moral agents, and yet prevent them from possessing an ability to sin or transgress the law of God. In other words, that the Almighty cannot give agents a power to sin, and at the same time deny this power to them. To expect such things of him, is to expect him to work contradictions; to expect him to cause a thing to be what it is, and not what it is, at one and the same time. Thus, although sin exists, we vindicate the character of God, on the ground that it is an inherent impossibility to exclude all evil from a moral universe. This is the high, impregnable ground of the true Christian theist.

We have already said, that the only real question is, not why God permitted evil, but why he created beings capable of sinning. Such creatures are, beyond all question, the most noble specimens of his workmanship. St. Augustine has beautifully said, that the horse which has gone astray is a more noble creature than a stone which has no power to go astray. In like manner, we may say, a moral agent that is capable of knowing, and loving, and serving God, though its very nature implies an ability to do otherwise, is a more glorious creature than any being destitute of such a capacity. If God had created no such beings, his work might have represented him |as a house doth the builder,| but not |as a son doth his father.| If he had created no such beings, there would have been no eye in the universe, except his own, to admire and to love his works. Traces of his wisdom and goodness might have been seen here and there, scattered over his works, provided any eye had been lighted up with intelligence to see them; but nowhere would his living and immortal image have been seen in the magnificent temple of the world. It will be conceded, then, that there is no difficulty in conceiving why God should have preferred a universe of creatures, beaming with the glories of his own image, to one wholly destitute of the beauty of holiness and the light of intelligence. But having preferred the noblest order of beings, its inseparable incident, a liability to moral evil, could not have been excluded.

Hence God is the author of all good, and of good alone; and evil proceeds, not from him nor from his permission, but from an abuse of those exalted and unshackled powers, whose nature and whose freedom constitute the glory of the moral universe.

This, then, is the sublime purpose of God, to give and continue existence to free moral agents, and to govern them for their good as well as for his own glory. This is the decree of the Almighty, to call forth from nothing into actual existence, the universe which now shines around us, and spread over it the dominion of his perfect moral law. He does not cause sin. He does not permit sin. He sees that it will raise its hideous head, but he does not say -- so let it be. No! sin is the thing which God hates, and which he is determined, by all the means within the reach of his omnipotence, utterly to root out and destroy. The word has gone forth, |Offences must needs come, but woe unto the man by whom they come!| His omnipotence is pledged to wipe out the stain and efface the shadow of evil, in as far as possible, from the glory of his creation. But yet, so long as the light and glory of the moral universe is permitted to shine, may the dark shadow of evil, which moral agents cast upon its brightness and its beauty, continue to exist and partially obscure its divine perfections. And would it not be unworthy of the divine wisdom and goodness to remove this partial shadow, by an utter extinction of the universal light?

Section VI.

The true and only foundation of optimism.

Though few have been satisfied with the details of the system of optimism, yet has the great fundamental conception of that system been received by the wise and good in all ages. |The atheist takes it for granted,| says Cudworth, |that whosoever asserts a God, or a perfect mind, to be the original of all things, does therefore ipso facto suppose all things to be well made, and as they should be. And this, doubtless, was the sense of all the ancient theologers,| &c.(146) This distinguished philosopher himself maintains, as well as Leibnitz, that the intellectual world could not have been made better than it is, even by a being of infinite power and goodness. |To believe a God,| says he, |is to believe the existence of all possible good and perfection in the universe; it is to believe that things are as they should be, and that the world is so well framed and governed, as that the whole system thereof could not possibly have been better.|(147)

But while this fundamental principle has been held by philosophers, both ancient and modern, it has been, as we have seen, connected with other doctrines, by which it is contradicted, and its influence impaired. The concession which is universally made to the sceptic, that if God is omnipotent, he can easily cause virtue to exist without any mixture of vice, is fatal to the great principle that lies at the foundation of optimism. It resolves the whole scheme, which regards the world as the best that could possibly be made, into a loose, vague, and untenable hypothesis. It is true, the good man would infinitely prefer this hypothesis to the intolerable gloom of atheism; but yet our rational nature demands something more solid and clear on which to repose. Indeed, the warmest supporters of optimism have supplied us with the lofty sentiments of a pure faith, rather than with substantial and satisfactory views. The writings of Plato, Leibnitz, Cudworth, and Edwards, all furnish illustrations of the justness of this remark. But nowhere is its truth more clearly seen than in the following passage from Plotinus: |God made the whole most beautiful, entire, complete, and sufficient,| says he; |all agreeing friendly with itself and its parts; both the nobler and the meaner of them being alike congruous thereunto. Whosoever, therefore, from the parts thereof, will blame the whole, is an absurd and unjust censurer. For we ought to consider the parts not alone by themselves, but in reference to the whole, whether they be harmonious and agreeable to the same; otherwise we shall not blame the universe, but some of its parts taken by themselves.|(148)

The theist, however, who maintains this beautiful sentiment, is accustomed to make concessions by which its beauty is marred, and its foundation subverted. For if God could easily cause virtue to exist without any mixture of vice, it is demonstrable that the universe might be rendered more holy and happy than it is, in each and every one of its parts, and consequently in the whole. But if we assume the position, as in truth we may, that a necessary virtue is a contradiction in terms, then we can vindicate the infinite perfections of God, by showing that sin may enter into the best possible world. This great truth, then, that |a necessary holiness is a contradiction in terms,| which has been so often uttered and so seldom followed out to its consequences, is the precise point from which we should contemplate the world, if we would behold the power and goodness of God therein manifested. This is the secret of the world by which the dark enigma of evil is to be solved. This is the clew, by which we are to be conducted from the dark labyrinth of atheistical doubt and scepticism, into the clear and open light of divine providence. This is the great central light which has been wanting to the scheme of optimism, to convert it from a mere but magnificent hypothesis, into a clearly manifested and glorious reality.

God governs everything according to the nature which he has given it. Indeed, it would be as impossible to necessitate true and genuine obedience by the application of power, as it would be to convert a stone into a moral agent by the application of motives and persuasion. As sin is possible, then, though omnipotence be pledged to prevent its existence, it is clear that it cannot be regarded as a limitation of the divine power. This cuts off the objection of Voltaire, and explodes the grand sophism on which it is based. God hates sin above all things, and is more than willing to prevent it; and he actually does so, in so far as this is possible to infinite wisdom and power. This refutes the objection of Bayle, and leaves his argument without the shadow of a foundation. God does not choose sin, or permit it as a means of the highest good, as if there could be any higher good than absolute and universal holiness; but it comes to pass, because God has created a world of moral agents, and they have transgressed his law. This removes the high and holy God infinitely above the contamination of all evil, above all contact with the sin of the world, and shows an impassable gulf between the purity of the Creator and the pravity of the creature. By revealing the true connexion of sin with the moral universe, and its relation to God, it clearly shows that its existence should not raise the slightest cloud of suspicion respecting his infinite goodness and power, and thus reconciles the fact of sin's existence with the adorable perfections of the Governor of the world.

It may be said, that although God could not cause holiness to prevail universally, by the exercise of his power, yet he might employ means and influences sufficient to prevent the occurrence of sin. To this there are two satisfactory answers. First, it is a contradiction to admit that God cannot necessitate virtue, because such a thing is impossible; and yet suppose that he could, in all cases, secure the existence of it, without any chance of failure. It both asserts and denies at the same time, the idea of a necessary holiness. Secondly, the objection in question proceeds on the supposition, that there are resources in the stores of infinite wisdom and goodness, which might have been successfully employed for the good of the universe, and which God has failed to employ. But this is a mere gratuitous assumption. It never has been, and it never can be proved. It has not even the appearance of reason in its favour. Let the objector show wherein the Almighty could have done more than he has actually done to prevent sin, and secure holiness, without attempting violence to the nature of man, and then his objection may have some force, and be entitled to some consideration. But if he cannot do this, his objection rests upon a mere unsupported hypothesis. It is very easy to conceive that more light might have been imparted to men, and greater influences brought to bear on their feelings; but it will not follow that such additional inducements to virtue would have been good for them. For aught we know, it might only have added to their awful responsibilities, without at all conducing to their good. For aught we know, the means employed by God for the salvation of man from sin and misery have, both in kind and degree, been precisely such as to secure the maximum of good and the minimum of evil.

Let the sceptic frame a more perfect moral law for the government of the world than that which God has established; let him show where more tremendous sanctions might be found to enforce that law; let him show how the Almighty might have made a more efficacious display of his majesty, and power, and goodness, than he has actually exhibited to us; let him refer to more powerful influences, consistent with the free-agency and accountability of man, than those exerted by the Spirit of God; let him do all this, we say, and then he may have some right to object and find fault. In one word, let him meet the demand of the Most High, |what more could have been done to my vineyard, that I have not done in it,| and show it to be without foundation, and then there will be some appearance of reason in his objection.

Section VII.

The glory of God seen in the creation of a world, which he foresaw would fall under the dominion of sin.

It may be said that we have not yet gone to the bottom of the difficulty; that although omnipotence could not deny the capacity to commit sin to a moral agent, yet God could prevent moral evil, by refusing to create any being who he foreknew would transgress his law. As God might have prevented the rise of evil in our world, by refusing to create man, why, it may be asked, did he not do so? Why did he not, in this way, spare the universe that spectacle of crime and suffering which has been presented in the history of our fallen race? To this we answer, that God did not choose to prevent sin in this way, but to create the world exactly as he did, though he foresaw the fall and all its consequences; because the highest good of the universe required the creation of such a world. We are now prepared to see this great truth in its true light.

The highest good of the universe may, no doubt, be promoted in various ways by the redemption of our fallen race, of which we have no conception in our present state of darkness and ignorance. But we are furnished with some faint glimpses of the true source of that admiration and wonder with which the angels of God are inspired, as they contemplate the manifestation of his glory in reconciling the world to himself. The felicity of the angels, and no doubt of all created intelligences, must be found in the enjoyment of God. No other object is sufficiently vast to fill and satisfy the unlimited desires of the mind. And as the character of God must necessarily constitute the chief happiness of his creatures, so every new manifestation of the glory of that character must add to their supreme felicity.

Now, if there had been no such thing as sin, the compassion of God would have been forever concealed from the eyes of his intelligent creatures. They might have adored his purity; but of that tender compassion which calls up the deepest and most pleasurable emotions in the soul, they could have known absolutely nothing. They might have witnessed his love to sinless beings; but they could never have seen that love in its omnipotent yearnings over the ruined and the lost. The attribute of mercy or compassion would have been forever locked up and concealed in the deep recesses of the Divine Mind; and the blessing, and honour, and glory, and dominion, which shall be ascribed by the redeemed unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever, would not have been heard in the universe of God. The chord which now sends forth the sweetest music in the harmony of heaven, filling its inhabitants with deep and rapturous emotions of sympathy and delight, would never have been touched by the finger of God.

How far such a display of the divine character is necessary to the ends of the moral government of God can be known only to himself. We are informed in his word, that it is by the redemption of the world, through Christ, that the ends of his moral government are secured. It pleased the Father, saith St. Paul, that in Christ all fulness should dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. Thus we are told that all things in heaven are reconciled unto God, by the blood of the cross. But it may be asked, How was it possible to reconcile those beings unto God who had never sinned against him, nor been estranged from him? According to the original, God is not exactly said to reconcile, but to keep together, all things, by the mediation and work of Christ. The angels fell from heaven, and man sinned in paradise; but the creatures of God are secured from any further defection from him, by the all-controlling display of his character, and by the stupendous system of moral agencies and means which have been called forth in the great work of redemption.

In this view of the passage in question we are happy to find that we are confirmed by so enlightened a critic as Dr. Macknight. In relation to these words, |And by him to reconcile all things,| he says, |Though I have translated the {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ZETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}, to reconcile, which is its ordinary meaning, I am clearly of opinion that it signifies here to unite simply; because the good angels are said, in the latter part of the verse, to be reconciled with Christ, who never were at enmity with him. I therefore take the apostle's meaning to be this: 'It pleased the Father, by Christ, to unite all things to Christ, namely, as their Head and Governor.' | (Col. i, 20.) The same sublime truth is revealed in other portions of Scripture, as in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, where it is said, that it is the design of God to subject all things to Christ, and exception is made only of Him by whom this universal subjection and dominion is established.

The accomplishment of such an object, it will be admitted, is one of unspeakable importance. For no government, however perfect and beautiful in other respects, can be of much value unless it be so constructed as to secure its own permanency. This grand object, revelation informs us, has been attained by the redemption of the world through Christ. But for his work, those blessed spirits now bound together in everlasting society with God, by the sacred ties of confidence and love, might have fallen from him into the outer darkness, as angels and archangels had fallen before them. The ministers of light, though having drunk deeply of the goodness of God, and rejoiced in his smile, were not satisfied with their condition, and, striving to better it, plucked down ruin on their heads. So, man in paradise, not content with his happy lot, but vainly striving to raise himself to a god, forsook his allegiance to his Maker, and yielded himself a willing servant to the powers of darkness. But an apostle, though born in sin, having tasted the bitter fruits of evil, and the sweet mercies of redeeming love, felt such confidence in God, that in whatsoever state he was, he could therewith be content. Not only in heaven -- not only in paradise -- but in a dungeon, loaded with irons, and beaten with stripes, he could rejoice and give glory to God. This firm and unshaken allegiance in a weak and erring mortal to the throne of the Most High God, presents a spectacle of moral grandeur and sublimity to which the annals of eternity, but for the existence of sin, had presented no parallel.

It is by the scheme of Christianity alone that the confidence of the creature in his God has been rendered too strong for the gates of hell to prevail against him. But for this scheme, the moral government of God might have presented scenes of mutability and change, infinitely more appalling than the partial evil which we behold in our present state. Or if God had chosen to prevent this, to render it absolutely impossible, by the creation of no beings who he foreknew would rebel against him, this might have contracted his moral empire into the most insignificant limits. Thus, by the creation of the world, God has prepared the way to extend the boundaries of his empire, and to secure its foundations. Christ is the corner-stone of the spiritual universe, by which all things in heaven and earth are kept from falling away from God, its great centre of light and life. No wonder, then, that when this crowning event in the moral government of the universe was about to be accomplished, the heavenly host should have shouted, |Glory to God in the highest!|

This view of the subject of moral evil, derived from revelation, harmonizes all the phenomena of the moral world with the perfections of God, as well as warms and expands the noblest feelings of the human heart. St. Paul ascribes the stability of all things in heaven to the manifestation of the divine character in the redemption of our fallen race. If this be the case, then those who so confidently assert that God might have preserved the world in holiness, without impairing the free-agency of man, as easily as he keeps the angels from falling, are very much mistaken. This assertion is frequently made; but, as we conceive, without authority either from reason or revelation. It is said by a learned divine, |That God has actually preserved some of the angels from falling; and that he has promised to preserve, and will, therefore, certainly preserve the spirits of just men made perfect; and that this has been, and will be, done without infringing at all on their moral agency. Of course, he could just as easily have preserved Adam from falling, without infringing on his moral agency.|(149) This argument is pronounced by its author to be conclusive and |unanswerable.| But if God preserves one portion of his creatures from falling, by the manner in which he has dealt with those who have fallen, it does not follow that he could just as easily have kept each and every portion of them from a defection. If a ruler should prevent a part of his subjects from rebellion, by the way in which he has dealt with those who have rebelled, does it follow that he might just as easily have secured obedience in the rebels? It clearly does not; and hence there is a radical defect in the argument of these learned divines and the school to which they belong. Let them show that all things in heaven are not secured in their eternal allegiance to God by the work of Christ, and then they may safely conclude, that man might have been as certainly and infallibly secured against a defection as angels and just men made perfect. If God binds the spiritual universe to himself, by the display of his unbounded mercy to a fallen race, it does not follow that he could, by the same means, have preserved that race itself, and every other order of beings, from a defection. For, on this supposition, there would have been no fallen race to call forth his infinite compassion, and send its binding influences over angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.

According to the sublime idea of revelation, it is the transcendent glory of the cross that it exerts moral influences, which have bound the whole intelligent creation together in one harmonious society with God, its sovereign and all-glorious head. For aught we know, the stability of the spiritual universe could not possibly have been secured in any other way; and hence, if there had been no fall, and no redemption, the grand intellectual system which is now so full of confidence and joy, might have been without a secure foundation. We have seen that its foundation could not, from the very nature of things, have been established and fixed by mere power; for this could not have kept a single moral agent from the possibility of sinning much less a boundless universe of such beings.

The Christian believer, then, labours under no difficulty in regard to the existence of evil, which should in the least oppress his mind. If he should confine his attention too narrowly to the nature of evil as it is in itself, he may, indeed, perplex his brain almost to distraction; but he should take a freer and wider range, viewing it in all its relations, dependencies, and ultimate results. If he should consider the origin of evil exclusively, he may only meet with impenetrable obscurity and confusion, as he endeavours to pry into the dark enigma of the world; but all that is painful in it will soon vanish, if he will only view it in connexion with God's infinite plans for the good of the universe. He will then see, that this world, with all its wickedness and woe, is but a dim speck of vitality in a boundless dominion of light, that is necessary to the glory and perfection of the whole.

The believer should not, for one moment, entertain the low view, that the atonement confers its benefits on man alone. The plan of redemption was not an after-thought, designed to remedy an evil which the eye of omniscience had not foreseen; it was formed in the counsels of infinite wisdom long before the foundations of the world were laid. The atonement was made for man, it is true; but, in a still higher sense, man was made for the atonement. All things were made for Christ. God, whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil, will turn the short-lived triumph of the powers of darkness into a glorious victory, and cause it to be a universal song of rejoicing to his great name throughout the endless ages of eternity.

Who would complain, then, that he is subject to the evils of this life, since he has been subjected in hope? Everything around us is a type and symbol of our high destiny. All things shadow forth the glory to be revealed in us. The insignificant seed that rots in the earth does not die. It lives, it germinates, it grows, it springs up into the stately plant, and is crowned with beauty. The worm beneath our feet, though seemingly so dead, is, by the secret all-working power of God, undergoing changes to fit it for a higher life. In due time it puts off its form of death, and rises, |like a winged flower,| from the cold earth into a warm region of life and light. In like manner, the bodies we inhabit, wonderfully and fearfully as they are made, are destined to moulder in the grave, and become the food of worms, before they are raised like unto Christ's glorified body, clothed with power and immortality. Nature itself, with all its teeming forms of beauty, must decay, till |pale concluding winter comes at last, and shuts the scene.| But the scene is closed, and all its magnificence shut in, only that it may open out again, as it were, into all the wonders of a new creation. Even so the human soul, although it be subjected to the powers of darkness for a season, may emerge into the light and blessedness of eternity. Such is the destiny of man; and upon himself, under God, it depends whether this high destiny be fulfilled, or his bright hopes blasted. |I call heaven and earth this day to witness,| saith the Lord, |that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life.|

Section VIII.

The little, captious spirit of Voltaire, and other atheizing minute philosophers.

It will be objected, no doubt, that in the foregoing vindication of the divine holiness, we have taken for granted the Christian scheme of redemption; but it should be remembered, that we do not propose |to justify the ways of God to man| on deistical principles. We are fully persuaded, that if God had merely created the world, and remained satisfied to look down as an idle spectator upon the evils it had brought upon itself, his character and glory would not admit of vindication; and we should not have entered upon so chimerical an enterprise. We have attempted to reconcile the government of the world, as set forth in the system we maintain, and in no other, with the perfections of God; and whoever objects that this cannot be done, is bound, we insist, to take the system as it is in itself, and not as it is mangled and distorted by its adversaries. We freely admit, that if the Christian religion does not furnish the means of such a reconciliation, then we do not possess them, and are necessarily devoted to despair.

Here we must notice a very great inconsistency of atheists. They insist that if the world had been created by an infinitely perfect Being, he would not have permitted the least sin or disorder to arise in his dominions; yet, when they hear of any interposition on his part for the good of the world, they pour ridicule upon the idea of such intervention as wholly unworthy of the majesty of so august a Being. So weak and wavering are their notions, that it agrees equally well with their creed, that it becomes an infinitely perfect Being to do all things, and that it becomes him to do nothing! Can you believe that an omnipotent God reigns, says M. Voltaire, since he beholds the frightful evils of the world without putting forth his arm to redress them? Can you believe, asks the same philosopher, that so great a being, even if he existed, would trouble himself about the affairs of so insignificant a creature as man?

Such inconsistencies are hardly worthy of a philosopher, who possesses a wisdom so sublime, and a penetration so profound, as to authorize him to sit in judgment on the order and harmony of the universe. They are perfectly worthy, however, of the author of Candidus. The poison of this work consists, not in its argument, but in its ridicule. Indeed, it is not even an attempt at argument or rational criticism. The sole aim of the author seems to be to show the brilliancy of his wit, at the expense of |the best of all possible worlds;| and it must be confessed that he has shown it, though it be in the worst of all possible causes.

Instead of attempting to view the existence of evil in the light of any principle whatever, he merely accumulates evil upon evil; and when the mass has become sufficiently terrific, with the jeering mockery of a small fiend, he delights in the contemplation of the awful spectacle as a conclusive demonstration that the Ruler of the world is unequal to the government of his creatures. His book is merely an appeal to the ignorance and feelings of the reader, and can do no mischief, except when it may happen to find a weak head in union with a corrupt heart. For what does it signify that the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-trock was not the most perfect of all possible castles; does this disprove the skill of the great Architect of the universe? Or what does it signify that Dr. Pangloss lost an eye; does this extinguish a single ray of the divine omniscience, or depose either of the great lights which God ordained to rule the world? Lastly, what does it signify that M. Voltaire, by a horrible abuse of his powers, should have extinguished the light of reason in his soul; does this disprove the goodness of that Being by whom those powers were given for a higher and a nobler purpose? A fracture in the dome of St. Paul's would, no doubt, present as great difficulties to an insect lost in its depths, as the disorders of this little world presented to the captious and fault-finding spirit of M. Voltaire; and would as completely shut out the order and design of the whole structure from its field of vision, as the order and design of the magnificent temple of the world was excluded from the mind of this very minute philosopher.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy