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support, are reduced to beggary and want: and will any man say this is no aggravation of the crime?
3. "Infinite actions, or actions of infinite magnitude, "requirė infinite power to perform them."* Mr. Winchester allows that God will reward the righteous actions of his people with glory infinite in duration. Their righteous actions then are infinite in its effects, though not performed by infinite power.
4. "All sins are offences against God, and if every "offence against God is of infinite magnitude, how can "any be greater? And thus all distinction between "lesser and greater sins is entirely destroyed, and all sins "will be esteemed equal, contrary to the whole tenor of "the Scriptures." Mr. W. talks in this random way, by supposing that sin takes its denomination from the actors only, and not from the objects: but I have shown this to be a mistake. Suppose sin against God to merit endless punishment, yet the degree of that punishment may be in proportion to the depravity of the actor; so that the distinction between lesser and greater sins is as fully preserved upon our scheme, as upon that of our opponents.‡
* Dialogues, p. 185.
+ Ibid. p. 187.
It is rather singular that Mr. W. should be so zealous for the distinction between lesser and greater sins; when, in the very next page, he has destroyed all just proportion between sin and punishment. For he observes upon Jer. xvi. 18. and Isa. xl. 1, 2. "Here a fact is said to be accomplished, which, upon your scheme, can never be done to all eternity; for "if every offence against God is of infinite magnitude, and deserves "infinite punishment, none can ever have received single for one of their "sins, far less DOUBLE for ALL." Mr. W. here supposes they received double the punishment which their sins deserved. But if God may give sinners as much more punishment as they deserve, he may give them a thousand times more than they deserve:-here is an end of divine justice. And what have sinners to fear from hell, suppose they only receive single for their sins, if the 70 years captivity of the Jews was double the punishment which their sins merited? I believe the words mean, 'God had 'given them double the punishment, on that occasion, that he had given for
any former apostacy.'
It is a fundamental principle of the doctrine of the Restoration, that punishment is corrective in its nature; but this cannot be inferred from the perfections of God. According to the regular operation of the laws of nature, some sins deprive men of the use of reason; the punishment in cases of this sort cannot be corrective, because the subjects of it are utterly incapable of moral improvement. Other sins prove destructive to the animal economy; and reason cannot perceive how the punishment of death is a correction. And if God have not connected correction with punishment in this world, how can we be certain he will do it in the next? Must he alter his laws to our advantage as often as we choose to break them? Would not our reasonings on his attributes have led us to the conclusion, that present sufferings, as well as future, must be corrective, had not sense been on the other side of the question? It appears probable from reason, and certain from Revelation, that God, in connecting misery with sin, designed misery to operate as a warning; thereby to prevent the commission of sin: but there is a vast difference between punishment being a warning to others, and corrective to individual sufferers. The ends of punishment must be ascertained, before we can conclude any thing positively about its duration. I have shown that correction is not immediately connected with punishment in the present constitution of nature, and therefore that connexion is not necessary to the display of the Divine perfections. No other end of punishment leads to any favourable conclusion respecting the doctrine of restoration. It cannot be denied that God intended misery to operate as a warning, unless we will oppose reason to revelation and since warnings may be useful for ever, to some or other of God's creatures, we cannot be sure that punishment will not be eternal.
The strength of sinful habits is a question of considerable importance in this controversy. It cannot be prov
ed, from the perfections of God, that sinful habits may not become unconquerable. If it be said, that by an omnipotent act, God may recover the very worst; the answer is, that if it were proper for God to operate in an irresistible manner against sin, he would have either prevented its existence, or crushed it at its birth. This conclusion may be denied by those who hold that the grace of God works irresistibly in some, and not at all in others; but it cannot be denied by the Universalists, because they do not believe in the partiality of the Divine goodness in relation to his creatures. We see then that the constitution of the Divine government is against this omnipotent act, and we cannot pretend to prove from the Divine attributes, that God must alter his laws in favour of the most undeserving of his creatures. On the other hand, facts testify that some effectually defeat his gracious designs concerning them in this world; they die hardened in sin; and if God does not new-model his government in their favour in the other world, there can be no hope of their conversion and restoration.
In reasoning on the Divine perfections, we are liable to contradict acknowledged facts. Thus Mess. Vidler and Wright argue from the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as though man did not possess moral liberty, and as though sin did not, and could not exist, as will be seen at large in the following sections. And if the reader will only be at the trouble to apply all the arguments which they draw from the perfections of God to these two facts, he will find, in general, that they are as conclusive against one, or both of them, as against the endless duration of future punishment.
The Universalists, in common with their opponents, appeal to revelation; they profess to respect its authority; they ought therefore to be satisfied with its decision. We may be mistaken in our reasonings and conjectures, but what God has said must be true. If the divine word be in their favour, I will not pretend to oppose to it the
Divine attributes; and should it appear that God has pronounced punishment to be eternal, I think I have already proved, beyond a doubt, that his attributes do not contradict it. To the law, then, and to the testimony.
On the Wisdom, Power, and Goodness of God.
"As God is the first cause of all," says Mr. Vidler, "it is consistent with reason that he should seek the "happiness of all his creatures :—and that whatever the goodness of God hath willed, and his wisdom planned, "that his power will execute.
Mr. Fisher in reply, observed, "If God, as you "affirm, should seek the happiness of all his creatures, "and his power will accomplish what his wisdom planned, "and his goodness willed; we ask how it came to pass "that there should be so much evil and misery in the "world as there confessedly is? And if it have not yet "been the case, that the power of God hath co-operated "with his will effectually to prevent the entrance of sin "and its consequent evils into the world, how doth it 66 appear, from a consideration of the Divine attributes "only, as they have been already exercised in the "government of the world, that his power will finally "accomplish what his goodness wills respecting the "happiness of all his creatures? Why not then prevent "them from being miserable at all? As God is infinitely "good, and infinitely powerful, he must be too good to "will the existence of sin, and too powerful not to be "able to prevent it."
This was a blow at the root, and Mr. V. felt its force. "If I understand this paragraph aright," says he, "it "implies either,
"1. That my premises are wrong, and God is not infinitely wise, powerful, and good, but that he is either "weak, foolish or wicked, or all of it; or,
"2. Though he be infinitely, wise, powerful, and "good, that he has willed bad things, planned foolish "things, and executed them; or,
"3. That he has willed good things, planned wise things, but is disappointed in the execution of them; or, "4. Though the Divine character be infinitely wise, "powerful, and good, and that whatever his goodness "willed, and his wisdom planned, his power will execute; yet that we know nothing about it, but are left in "total ignorance of it.
"But if neither of these can be granted, then my inference from the Divine perfections remains in full force."* What pitiful shuffling is this! Mr. V. does not deny that his argument is as conclusive against the introduction of sin and misery, as against their endless continuance ; and yet he will not give it up!
There is such a striking resemblance between this argument, and that urged by Epicurus against Divine Providence, that a person may be almost tempted to think the one was borrowed from the other. "Either God is willing," says this philosopher, "to remove evils, and not able, or able "and not willing, or neither able nor willing. If he be willing "and not able, he is impotent, which cannot be applied to "the Deity: If he be able and not willing, he is envious, "which is equally inconsistent with the nature of God. "If he be neither willing nor able, he is both envious. "and impotent, and consequently no God. If he be both "willing and able, which is the only thing that answers to "the notion of a God, from whence come evils? or why "does he not remove them."†
If Mr. V.'s reasoning be just, it is easy to see that Epicurus's inference is the most natural. For if God
* God's Love to his Creatures, p. 12-15.