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In the first chapter of Genesis, it is said, "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." Of his making two great lights, we are told; and that he made the stars also: but no account is there given of his creating darkness. Respecting our own species, the inspired historian particularly informs us, that "God created man in his own image in the image of God created he him male and female created he them." Nor do we find in that book, or in all the Bible, that he hath since ever created them otherwise. Solomon three thousand years after the fall, having made diligent search among men and women, to find out their true character, and the cause of their so universal depravity, says; "Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Wicked practices, and deceitful inventions to conceal their criminality, are ever ascribed in scripture to mankind themselves, or to other fallen creatures, and never to God, as their efficient cause.
In the New-Testament, christians are said to be "created unto good works:" and we read of "the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." But no where do we read of any one that was created unto evil works; or after Satan in unrighteousness and sin. It is written, 1 Cor. xiv. 33, "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." And James i. 13-17, "Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is led away of his own lust and enticed.-Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." Can any thing be more express to teach us, that a distinction ought carefully to be made between the origin of good and evil; and that we should not conceive them both alike to come from God?
For scripture proof that God is not the efficient author of sin, I will only add, that the fruits of the Spirit, and works of the flesh, are set in contrast and spoken of as diametrical opposites: whereas, did God create sinful propensities in men, or directly influence them to evil actions, the works of the flesh would be as real and immediate fruits of the divine Spirit, as the holiest exercises of the best saints.
4. I see no occasion for the supposition of God's being thus the author of all evil: nor any good ends that it can answer.
Could it be seen how evils might be accounted for, without supposing them any part of the creation of God; and how God might have an absolute dominion over all events, without being the immediate cause of bad things; no good man, I conclude would wish to conceive of Him as being thus the proper source of darkness and evil. And indeed, were it so, that our weak minds were unable to comprehend how God can work all things after the counsel of his own will, or how natural and moral evil could ever have been, without believing that God is as much, and as immediately, the cause of evil as of good; yet it might be more modest, and more wise, to leave these among other incomprehensibles, than to have recourse to so bold an hypothesis for the solution of them. But, I apprehend, there is no need of this hypothesis in order to account for the existence of evil, or in order to an understanding belief of the universal government of the Most High.
Evils, of most if not all kinds, are such negative things-such mere defects, in their origin at least, as do not need creation, or require a positive omnipotent cause. This is the case, evidently, with respect to natural darkness: it is only the want of light. This is the case, also, with respect to natural death: it is only the cessation, the loss, the want of life. And this may be the case, with respect to spiritual
darkness, and spiritual death. It has heretofore been the orthodox opinion, that all moral evil consists radically in privation; or, that unholiness, at bottom, is the mere want of holiness. And, notwithstanding all the floods of light, from various quarters, which have come into the world in this age of new discoveries, possibly this one old opinion may yet be true. "God made man upright." That is, He formed him with a disposition impartially just and good: He created in him a principle of universal righteousness. When man fell, by eating the forbidden fruit, this principle had not been preserved in perfect strength and exercise. In consequence of that disobedience, the divine internal influence: was so withdrawn, that this principle was entirely lost. But we are not told, nor need it be supposed, that any opposite principle was then created in him. Our first parents had, I believe, in their original formation, all the radical instincts of nature which they had after the fall; or which any of their posterity now have. Such as a principle of self-preservation, a desire of self-promotion, and a propensity to increase and multiply; together with all the more particular appetites and passions, subservient to these purposes. All these are innocent in themselves, though not in themselves virtuous. But these private instincts, when left to operate alone, without the governing influence of a public spirit, or a just regard for other beings, will naturally lead to all manner of iniquity, in heart and life. To avarice and ambition; to envy and malice; to intemperance and lewdness; to frauds and oppressions; to wars and fightings.
There is no need of supposing any other divine agency, than only to uphold in existence creatures that have lost their virtue, amidst surrounding temptations, in order to account for all the evil affections which we ever feel, and for all the external wickedness that is ever committed. Nor, in order to the holiest creatures losing their virtue, nced any thing
more be supposed on God's part, than only his leaving them to themselves; or not upholding in them, and constantly invigorating, a virtuous disposition.
And as, in this way, we can account for the existence of all manner of evil; so we can thus understand how it is possible for God to bring about whatsoever comes to pass, without his being the actor, or maker, or instigator, of any thing that is not perfectly good. When He does not cause light, there will be darkness. When He does not make peace, there will be evil. The darkness takes place according to his appointment, with the same exactness and certainty, as if He actually crea ted it; and so does evil of every kind. What He determines to permit, knowing perfectly the circumstances and dispositions of every agent concerned, will as infallibly come to pass, as what he determines to do himself, or to effect by his own positive influence. The king's heart, and the rivers of water; the waves of the sea, and the tumults of the people, are in the hand of the Lord, to all important intents and purposes, if it be only true that He restrains them, or lets them run; stilleth them, or suffereth them to rage, just as he sees fit.
In this sense, I conceive, it is to be understood, that God forms the light, and creates darkness; makes peace, and creates evil. He has the absolute government the perfect control-the entire superintendency, of all these things.
We have now only to consider, what is the proper improvement of this doctrine. And,
1. According to the foregoing statement of it, we ought not to improve it for the excusing of any iniquity or imprudence, in ourselves or others.
When any folly has been committed or any mischief has been done, some are ready to say, It was so ordered; as if therefore nobody was to be blamed.
But this is a false inference, from just premises. True, it was so ordered of God; and ordered righteously and wisely but it was so ordered by the doer of the mischief also; and ordered carelessly, perhaps, or wickedly. You will say, It must have been so, and the actor could not have done otherwise : but, I say, he might have done otherwise, if he would. It is true, there is a kind of necessity in the actions of men. They necessarily act according to their own choice; and they necessarily choose to act according to their own disposition. Under this kind of necessity God himself acts. It is impossible for him to do, because it is impossible for him to will, that which is contrary to his own nature. He necessarily wills and does, what is agreeable to his moral perfections. But such a necessity as this, is so far from being inconsistent with freedom, that it is essential to all free agency. Actions which can and do take place, contrary to the inclination of the agent, are not his actions. He has no command over them; and therefore can deserve no praise or blame for them.
The necssity of acting according to our own minds, is all the necessity which need be supposed, when we suppose that all our actions were decreed, and are ordered of God. A creature that acts according to any laws of nature, and not at perfect random, without any self-government, acts in such a manner that He who knows what is in him, may fore-know all his actions; and in such a manner that He in whose hand his times are, may govern all his volitions. Men follow their several courses, as freely as the rivers of water, and with a higher kind of freedom; yet, since they run agreeably to their own inclination, and cannot do otherwise, a Being omniscient and omnipotent, can calculate before hand all their motions; can keep them in the channels decreed for them, and can turn them whithersoever he will. If any, do not comprehend this, yet let them