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in his goodness, seeks the happiness of all his creatures, if his wisdom discerns the way in which they may be made happy, and if his power must execute the plan devised by his wisdom, then it must necessarily follow, that evil must immediately cease, or rather, never could have existed but this is contrary to matter of fact: we must therefore infer that there is no Providence. Mr. V., as a Christian minister, cannot admit this conclusion; he must therefore abandon the ground on which it is built.
But I need not try to cut this knot; I can untie it very readily with the aid of the doctrine of Moral Liberty. On this principle I can deny his inference without admitting any one of his implications. In all the Divine dispensations in relation to man, God has an eye to his Free Agency, and will not destroy it. Misery entered with the abuse of liberty; and the possibility of the abuse of it being continued, militates against the certainty of the restoration in question; for to say that a man endowed with liberty to sin, must necessarily be virtuous, is a contradiction in terms. I say then in reply both to Epicurus and Mr. V., that the introduction of misery and its endless continuance, are owing to an abuse of moral liberty in man, and not to any deficiency in the wisdom, or power, or goodness of God.
If Mr. V. should deny the doctrine of moral liberty, his difficulties will be increased rather than diminished. For if God has made men necessary agents, he is the author of evil. There can be no more propriety in charging it upon them, on this supposition, than there would be in charging my pen, rather than myself, with the errors contained in this book. Mr. V. would therefore have to inform us how Infinite Holiness could be the author of sin, and Infinite Happiness the author of misery.
Mr. Wright confidently asserts, that "what is said "about free-will by no means involves the restitution in "uncertainty; for. though God will ever treat his
"creatures as free, intelligent beings, yet they will never "become independent of him, or of his government; nor "will he suffer his counsel to be overturned, and his "designs to be defeated by the machinations of the "enemy."*
It is true that sinners will never become independent of the government of God; but it is as true that they are now dependent, and that they are now miserable; and if present dependence does not provide against present misery, then neither does eternal dependence against eternal misery. But " he will not suffer his counsel to "be overturned, nor his designs to be defeated." I wish to know whether God has any counsels or designs respecting the happiness of his intelligent creatures which are not connected with virtue ? Can they be made happy without being previously made holy? Mr. W. will say, No. It will follow then, that if God's counsels and designs respecting their happiness cannot be défeated, his counsels and designs respecting their holiness cannot be defeated. Now to come to matter of fact,-God designs that men should be virtuous in this life; but thousands defeat those designs by obstinate perseverance in iniquity. The inference is, that God's counsels and designs respecting their happiness are defeated: and if this may be the case for an age, it may for ever.
On the Justice of God.
DIVINE justice," says Mr. Weaver, "is that per "fection in God by which he endeavours continually "to make all intelligences just." If God endeavours continually to make all sinful creatures just, it is reason
* Examination of Dr. Ryland's Sermon, p. 46.
able to suppose that there must, by this time, be some notable change for the better, wrought in Satan and his angels; but the experience of the saints fully contradict it: perhaps those endeavours are very feeble.
Mr. Wright says, "With respect to Satan and his an"gels, they have never experienced their proper punish"ment; but are reserved under chains of darkness "unto the judgment of the great day of course we "ought not to be at all surprised that their punishment "has not had its effect before they are fully subjected to "it."*
It is granted, they do not experience that severity of punishment which is reserved for them; but it is certain their misery is great. According to the constitution of nature, there is no peace to the wicked; they are like the troubled sea; the disorder of their minds must render them wretched; and, in addition to this, they are represented as being confined in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. If Mr. W. were confined in a dark dungeon, laden with irons, oppressed with guilty 'fears, tormented with unholy passions and appetites, and looking forward to the assizes under the assurance of being then punished in the most severe and exemplary manner, I dare say he would feel himself to be extremely miserable. And if the fallen angels may be very wretched for thousands of years without being in the least reformed, I think we are warranted in saying that God does not endeavour continually to make them just by their sufferings; or else, that he endeavours to do it in vain: either of which is inconsistent with the doctrine of their restoration.†
* Examination of Ryland's Sermon, pp. 48, 49.
It is rather surprising that the Universalists have not adopted Dr. Priestley's sentiment to get rid of this difficulty. The Doctor roundly asserts, "That there is such a person as the Devil, is no part of my faith,
nor that of many other Christians; nor am I sure that it was the belief of "any of the Christian writers. Neither do I believe the doctrine of demoniacal possessions, whether it was believed by the sacred writers or
Mr. Wright, " offers some remarks upon the nature of "divine justice. I do not," says he, "conceive the "justice of God to consist in inexorable severity of con"duct, in his taking all possible advantages of the errors "and follies of mortals."* And pray, Sir, who have such conceptions? What necessity was there for this remark? But wherein does it consist? "In the undeviating rectitude of his nature and conduct, in his ren"dering to every creature that which is most consistent "with his own perfections, in his doing, in every case, "that which is most right to be done by infinite wisdom, "power, and goodness, for the preservation of eternal "order throughout the universe."† I shall show presently that this definition and endless punishment are perfectly reconcileable; in the mean time I will proceed to another of Mr. W.'s remarks. "I remark that "Dr. Ryland's conclusion, If the restitution take place "on the foundation of grace, and through the mediation of "Christ, then the justice of eternal punishment is admitted, "evidently implies that grace cannot operate without arresting the arm of justice, and that what Christ "effects, through his mediation, stops the course of "justice." The doctor's conclusion implies that there may be justice without grace, but not that there cannot be grace without injustice; the proof, therefore, "that "God, in dispensing his favours, acts with the strictest 'justice," was unnecessary.
Mr. W. goes on, "I think Dr. R.'s mistake arises from "his supposing that the justice of God consists in his giving to every one of those who die in their sins, "according to the strict demerit of their conduct; this "is not to be concluded from the declaration, who will
"not; and yet my unbelief in these articles does not affect my faith in "the great facts of which the Evangelists were eye and ear witnesses. They might not be competent judges in the one case, though perfectly sowith respect to the other." Moses and the Hindoos compared, p. 341.. * Examination of Ryland's Sermon, p. 34, +Examination, p. 34. +Ibid. p. 35..
"render to every one according to their deeds."* If it cannot be concluded from this text, it may from the following: Matt. v. 26. xviii. 23, 35. Luke xii. 10, 58, 59. Heb. x. 26-29. James ii. 13. If sinners may be cast into the prison of hell, in the Almighty's debt, to remain there till they pay all that is due unto him, to the uttermost farthing, and the very last mite, although they have not to pay with; if they may so blaspheme the Holy Ghost, that they shall not be forgiven; if they may commit sin of such magnitude that the sacrifice of Christ remains no more for them, and that their certain portion will be fiery indignation; and if they will have judgment without mercy; then I think it is sufficiently evident, that they will receive according to the strict demerit of their crimes, and that the demerit thereof is eternal damnation.
But "if Divine justice required that sinners should "receive according to their demerits, it could not be an "act of justice to pardon the guilty. It cannot well be "denied, either, that Divine justice does not require the "endless punishment of sinners, or that God will, in "divers instances, fail to do what his justice requires."† This is such childish quibbling, that one would wonder a man of sense should have recourse to it. Mr. W. knows that believers only are pardoned; he ought therefore to have stated it thus: "If Divine justice required that those who die in unbelief should receive according to their demerits, it could not be an act of justice to pardon those who are obedient to the faith." Now who does not perceive the futility of this reasoning? According to Mr. W.'s logic, it is easy to see that he himself is under a mistake, if he suppose that Divine justice requires any future punishment. For, "if Divine justice required that sinners should receive any future punishment, it could not be an act of justice to pardon the guilty in this life. It cannot well be denied, either, that Divine justice
*Examination, p. 37.
+ Ibid. p. 37, 38.