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That God is the author of all good, will not be disputed by any, except an atheist : and that all evils also, are of his ordering, or are some way sent by him, we are plainly taught. It is asked, Amos iii. 6, “ Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" There are all sorts of evils in cities, moral as well as natural; and yet this question implies a strong assertion, that there can be no kind of evil in any city, but what is ordered of God. Or, should it be supposed that natural evil only is there meant; yet it is obvious to observé, that natural and moral evils are inseparably blended and connected, in many, if not all cases. A great part of the calamities in cities, and in all other places, are immediateiy occasioned by the iniquities committed in them : and undoubtedly it holds true, without any exception, that unholiness is the cause of all unhappiness. It is impossible, therefore, that God should bring upon us all the evils of suffering, in the manner they are brought upon us, without his providentially ordering the evils of sin.
Nor, indeed, can it be believed that God is the author of all good, unless we suppose him the de. signing cause of moral evil: for great good is occa: sioned by moral evil, in a multitude of instances. And it is observable that wicked agents, and the worst of actions, are often spoken of in scripture, as the instruments and means made use of in Provia dence, for accomplishing the most important and benevolent designs. Thus when Joseph's brethren, moved with envy, had sold him to be carried as a slave into Egypt, he tells them, “ Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” And God calls Nebuchadnezzar the rod of his anger ; and says, “I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, for to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart
think so.” Another instance, and the most astonishing one, of God's designing evil actions for good ends, we have in the crucifixion of our Saviour. Peter says to the Jews, “ Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
Thus it is evident, that by light and darkness, peace and evil, we are to understand, every thing that takes place, in the natural and moral world : and that this text, thus understood, asserts no more than the common doctrine of scripture.
Respecting the manner in which the divine agency is concerned, in all actions and events, there may be danger, nevertheless, of entertaining erroneous ideas. It was proposed, therefore, to inquire,
II. How we are to understand, that God forms, creates, makes, and does, all these things.
Certainly, it is not to be understood, in a literal or strict sense, that He does, all that is done. “Far be it from God,” says Elihu, “ that he should do wickedness : and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.” Doing wickedness, and committing iniquity, are synonymous phrases : but to impute to the Most High, any thing like what is commonly meant by either of these phrases, is evident blasphemy
Nor are we to imagine, certainly, that God makes his creatures do, whatever is done by them, in any such manner as is inconsistent with their own proper agency Rational creatures certainly act ; and act as freely, as if there were no being above them to direct their steps, or to govern their actions. When God works in men, to will and to do that which is good; they, nevertheless will and do it themselves ; and are really praiseworthy. And he does not, surely, so influence any to evil, as to render them unactive, involuntary, or undeserving of blame.
Nor do I believe it is meant in our text, or is true, literally and strictly speaking, that God creates, what. soever comes to pass : particularly darkness, and moral evil.
But this must not be taken for granted, nor hastily passed over : because, however indisputable, it is disputed. There are some among us, and some who are deservedly in reputation for wisdom, and general soundness in the faith ; who appear to be of opinion, that God is the direct Author-the immediate Cause -the proper Creator, of all evil, as well as of all good
-of all sin, as well as holiness, in heart and life-in thought, word, and deed.
This opinion, however, notwithstanding my high esteem and particular friendship for some of the holders of it, I am not yet ready to adopt, for several
1. To suppose that the actions of men, whether virtuous or vicious, are created, seems to confound all distinction between creation and Providence; or rather, wholly to exclude the latter.
The work of creation, we used to think, was God's making creatures and things, at first; or giving the beginning of existence to matter and minds, with their various properties, instincts and organizations. And that God's works of Providence, were his preserving things already made, and governing all their operations. But according to this new philosophy, creation is all ; Providence is nothing. For what preserving and governing of creatures or actions can there be, when every creature and every action, is every moment created anew ? An action, a thought, or volition, whether good or evil, is a new and strange kind of creature, or created thing. But, in a theological view, the question before us is of chief importance, as it respects moral evil. I add, therefore;
2. It appears to me, that to suppose God the Creator of sin, whether in principle or action, is hardly
reconcilable with his perfect holiness. fountain send forth, at the same place, sweet waters and bitter ?" Can darkness proceed from Him, as its proper source, in whom there is no darkness at all ?
It is true, God has created many things which are of a different nature from himself; as the bodies of men and beasts, and all parts of the world of matter: but nothing, I conceive, directly opposite to his own nature ; as is sin. The sun is the immediate cause of the growth of vegetables ; though these are essen. tially different from the sun itself: but it is not thus the cause of ice and darkness; which are no more of a contrary nature to it, than sin is to the nature of God. *
* There is a vast difference between the sun's being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and of the brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence ; and its being the occasion of darkness and frost in the night, by its motion whereby it descends below the horizon. The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter kind of events ; but not the proper cause, efficient, or producer of them.--No more is any action of the divine Being, the cause of the evil of men's wills. If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun ; and it might be justly infered that the sun itself is dark and cold : but from its being the cause of these, no otherwise than by its absence, no such thing can be infered, but the contrary. It may justly be argued that the sun is a br and hot body, if cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with and confined ta its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of light and heat. So, in as much as sin is not the fruit of any positive influence of the Most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withdrawment of his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence, this is no argument that he is sinful, or his operation evil ; but on the contrary, that he and his agency are altogether holy, and that he is the fountain of all holiness. It would be strange arguing indeed, because men never commit sin, but only when God leaves them to them
I am sensible it has been said, there is no more inconsistency with the holiness of God, in supposing him the efficient, immediate cause of sin, for necessary good purposes; than in supposing he only permits it, for wise ends, and so orders things that he knows it will be committed.
But these two ways of accounting for the exist. ence of moral evil, appear to me materially different. There are supposable cases in which it would be right for a man, not to hinder another from sinning, when he could hinder him ; and also to place him in circumstances of temptation, expecting that he would sin. For instance, a parent may leave money in the way of a child suspected of being given to theft; and may conceal himself and let the child steal it ; with a view to correct him, in order to reclaim him, or as a warning to his other children. All this might be perfectly right in the parent; however certainly he might know, that the child would be guilty of the expected crime. But I question whether any case can be supposed in which it would not be wrong, directly to influence another to do evil, that good might come. Exciting one to sin by power or persuasion ; and placing one in circumstances of trial, wherein he would be tempted to sin, without restraining him from it, are surely different things, although the certainty of his sinning may be the
3. I dare not think that God creates sin, and all kinds of evil, because this seems plainly contrary to the general current of the holy scriptures.
selves ; and necessarily sin when he does so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God : as strange as it would be to argue, because it is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when he is present, that therefore darkness is from the sun, and that his disk and beams just be black.”
Edwards on the W'ill. Page 259. Besion, Ed. 1754.