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impeded by many obstructions. It is here that we begin to perceive the insufficiency of the light of nature. It is when we begin to look around amid the works of God for the proofs of his goodness and his justice, that we feel ourselves bewildered and confounded. Yet some proofs of these there must exist independent of that revelation which God has made known to some of his creatures, or we cannot see how those who have never heard of this revelation are at all accountable for their actions. For aught that we have yet proved, He who formed with such exquisite skill, and such infinite power, these heavens and this earth, may after all care nothing for the beings he has made. He may sit in cold abstraction upon the throne of his majesty, regardless of the intelligent creatures he hath formed. He may have required nothing at their hand, and in consequence it may not be their duty to render aught unto him. Or, He who reigns over the monarchy of the universe, may, notwithstanding his greatness, and his power, and his wisdom, be a demon of malignant influence; and however fearful our situation under such a conjecture, it may be our duty to resist his every commandment. In order that all men may be accountable before God, even natural religion must furnish some clue to the ascertaining of these uncertainties. And we conceive that it does so, though not in the way that has usually been represented.
It has been usual with the expounders of natural atheism to sum up all the misery that is to be found in the world, and having placed in counterpoise, with the happiness which we also find there, to pronounce the Deity benevolent or malignant as the one scale or the other preponderates.
They have represented to us the many hours of health we enjoy for one hour of sickness; and the many different circumstances that must meet ere we can enjoy one hour of ease. And they have told of the happiness of the inferior animals, and have instanced the countless shoals of happy ephemerae which dance with joy in the meridian sun-beam. Now we can see that this is an argu-ment for comparative benevolence, but we not see it to be an argument for perfect goodness. It proves that our Creator is not a devil, but it does not prove him to be a God. It may be true that we enjoy hundreds of hours of health for one hour of sickness;-but why this one hour of sickness? Our natural theists should remember too, that health is not all that is necessary to constitute happiness. Why is it that not a day passes over our head, but brings with it something to ma enjoyment,-some painful affront, some boding fear, some disappointed hope? And when they point to the happiness of the inferior creation, they would do well to remember the ravages of death. Do they forget, that for those numberless myriads of insects which sport so blythsomely in the noon-tide sun; myriads as numberless have, since he made the circuit of the heavens, struggled in the throes of dissolution? Why this mixture of misery with happiness, if God be altogether benevolent?
These objections did not fail to present themselves to the minds of our academic theists, and accordingly they have made an attempt to meet them. They have feigned for themselves some delightful region beyond the grave, where there will be happiness without alloy, and where the miseries of life will be merged and forgotten
amid the joys of a blissful eternity. We say, "have feigned for themselves;" for, on coming to examine their grounds of belief in the existence of a future state; we find that the opinion has no foundation but in the assumed goodness of the Deity, the very point they have employed it to prove. But passing for the present this defect in their reasoning: we cannot see how a futurity of happiness though established on the surest evidence, can at all make out their case. The question still recurs, Why a state of mixed enjoyment at all? Why a single moment of imperfect felicity under the government of a benevolent God? Would it be deemed a sufficient excuse for the cruelty of an earthly parent to his infant son, that when that son had grown to manhood, the father had done all in his power to promote his happiness? And can it be thought a sufficient vindication of the character of him who is called the Father of our spirits that although he hath made us miserable upon earth, he will not make us miserable in heaven?
Notwithstanding this anomaly in the moral government of God, and notwithstanding the weakness of the reasoning on which the argument for his goodness has been founded, there is yet a strong intuitive belief in the minds of his intelligent creatures, that God is good, and that the Judge of all the earth will do rightly. So strong is this inherent faith in the divine goodness, and so abhorrent to the mind of man is the thought of a malignant God; that rather than accede to the monstrous proposition that the Divinity is wicked, men have chosen to struggle against the most palpable demonstrations of their senses, and have acceded to the equally monstrous proposition that there is no Divinity at all.
Whence springs this deep-rooted and almost universal belief in divine benevolence and justice? We conceive it to be the result of that constitution of our nature by which conscience has the supremacy in the kingdom that is within us. It seems a just conclusion, that had he been a spirit of demoniac malignity, or of ought but perfect righteousness, who built our frame, he never would have placed within us a monitor to reproach us for our vice, and to whisper approbation to our deeds of virtue.
This seems the only satisfactory evidence, independant of revelation, for the moral perfections of the Deity. It does not resolve the anomaly of his moral government, but it may lead to the resolution of it. It does not satisfy, but it may stimulate to inquiry. And who can fix the limit which must bound the discoveries of the pious inquirer on this subject, who has nought but the glimmering of nature's light to guide his footsteps? Even he may come to perceive that there is an indissoluble union between vice and wretchedness, and that the misery which exists in our world is casually connected with the moral evil which is also found there.
But this same constitution of our nature, which proves the moral attributes of God, tells us also of our connexion with him, by revealing to us what he hath required of us. And thus it is that all men become, to a certain degree, acquainted with the law of God, and are consequently the fit subjects of a moral reckoning. It is thus that "the Gentiles not having the (revealed) law, are a law unto themselves: who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while
accusing, or excusing one another?" If a man thus perceive the moral perfections of God, and if he compare his own doings with the requirements of his conscience, he must find that he has come short of the law of God; and he will wistfully look for a way of reconciliation.
This is the state in which natural religion leaves its votaries; but, unfortunately, it is not the state in which academic theists have usually left their disciples. They have been desirous of solving those difficulties in which their science places them, and they have done so by making a most degrading compromise between the goodness and the justice of the Deity, by representing God to be such a one as ourselves.
There are two grand desiderata in which natural religion lands its disciples. The one, is to effect a reconciliation between the benevolence of the Deity, and the misery that exists among his creatures. The other, is to effect a reconciliation between the mercy and the justice of God, in the pardon of those who have transgressed his law. The solution of these two desiderata, constitutes the grand design of that revelation which God hath given us. And it is thus that the humble disciple of natural religion is in the best state of preparation for the faith of the gospel. He is there told, that the misery which exists in our world, is the fruit of moral evil:-that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." There, too, he is told of a Mediator, who hath suffered in the room of the guilty, and he can thus perceive how God is just, yet not at the expense of his goodness; merciful, yet not by a degrading compromise of his justice.