Sin, the existent occasion for an atonement, we say, can find no solution of the difficulty it presents to the human mind apart from divine sovereignty. Philosophers have speculated very foolishly on this subject, fanatics have very madly raved about it, and the friends of God have very impertinently apologized for the conduct of the Lord of all about it; but after all, the fact remains just where the philosopher, the fanatic, and the friend found it, and just what that fact was, a judgment of divine sovereignty that is unsearchable, and a way that is past finding out.

Reasoning on the ways of God as the great moral Governor, it has been thought no temerity to conclude that, given the creation of beings capable of moral agency, of being determined in their actions by external inducements as well as by internal taste, of being influenced by contemplated good and evil, of suffering and enjoyment, it would not comport with wisdom wholly to prevent this capability from an actual working; that is, wholly to prevent such creatures from sinning by the effectual exertion of a preserving power. But on the knowledge men at present have of this matter, we unhesitatingly denounce this conclusion. It is more than temerity—it is a desperate daring. This notion is not self-evident truth, it is not a logical conclusion drawn from undoubted premises, it is not a revelation, and there are existing facts which are out of harmony with it. Has not God preserved the unfallen angels? Does not their preservation comport with his wisdom? Will it not comport with the wisdom of God to preserve his ransomed ones in unsinning obedience for ever? Is there danger and doubt about another fall occurring in heaven? No doubt the opportunity, as it is said, “to declare his righteousness,” and the moral virtues of the creature, which arises out of the existent occasion for the atonement of Christ, results from the wisdom of God; but it would be a boldness more than impudent to say, God needed this opportunity for himself, or for his creatures. Granting that the Divine Being should not only be, but should also show himself to be, holy, just, and good, would it overmatch the wisdom of God to show all this without the existence of an odious, a damnable, and a miserable contrast? What! Are the odiousness, and crime, and misery of earth, and the damnation of hell, means originally taken in the wisdom of God to illustrate by contrast his holiness, and justice, and goodness? If this is philosophic divinity, it may be questioned whether the philosophic divine, or the blaspheming infidel, presents the more striking exemplification of the forbearance of God.

It may appear becoming to the philosophic divine to say, that the divine glory and the greatest good on the whole to the creatures are inseparable ideas. But is there a man who is able to present examples of this inseparability of ideas in connection with certain associated facts, and make them intelligible to the human mind? He is a pragmatic prater, though he may dress and sit as a philosopher, who, on the knowledge man now has, talks about the good of evil. In truth, all existence of evil shocks the moral sense of man, and confounds his reason. Who knows the good of, or feels the better for, the least evil or the greatest? Who feels that the existence of hell and of devils is good on the whole to God’s creatures, or who on the whole understands that he is the better for their existence?

Granting that man being created with such moral principles as charity and sympathy, it is congruous that these principles should have some fitting occasion afforded for their manifestation; would it overmatch the devising power of infinite Wisdom to find suitable occasions for their display without the existence of evil? Must it necessarily be taken to be a display of infinite Wisdom to devise human wretchedness, in order that kindly human virtues might find an occasion for their manifestation? If charity, draped, so to speak, with beneficence, sits an acknowledged queen among the beautiful forms of grace which adorn human minds and manners, might she not appear with equally queenly beauty in some other drapery? If a hospital for incurables and an asylum for idiots present fine occasions for beautiful charity in her appropriate garb to display her lovely form, what man is there who has a brother, or what father is there who has a child, ever so well cared for in either of these valuable institutions, who does not feel that it would be better for his brother, or for his child, for himself, for all, and, therefore, better on the whole, if no occasion had ever presented itself for the exhibition of this loveliness of charity? Sympathy in tears is one of the potent touches of nature that link the world in kinship. David, mourning for Absalom, is a painfully pleasing example of this sympathy. No man can fail to feel with that afflicted father who reads of his affliction; nor can fail to feel a luxury in his own sympathetic grief. But few, too, can read that afflicted father’s peerlessly charming exclamation of his sorrow without admiration. But is there a man who can feel that on the whole, it is better for the community of God’s intelligent creatures that Absalom was driven away in his wickedness, because an occasion was afforded for the manifestation of the loveliness of sympathy in tears? Might it not have been a sufficient opportunity for the display of sympathy if there had been only a joyous object?

Jesus Christ could, indeed, thank his Father, the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, for evil—for the evil of human privation, and that privation one of the most serious which can afflict man, the hiding of the truth of the gospel. But Jesus Christ is, and possesses the knowledge of, the God-man. If a mere man should venture to imitate him herein, he would be guilty of gross inhumanity, and of foul presumption.

Men, if they will, may amuse themselves and others by attempting to penetrate the impenetrable secrets of God, and by making guesses at the reason and fitness of things; but the attempts must be abortive, and the guesses vain. It must be found that nowhere below a simple acknowledgment of a divine sovereignty which is searchless in its ways, is there any ground on which, with his present knowledge, man can set his foot. Knowing only in part, and unable to find out the Almighty to perfection, it will be “the meekness of wisdom” to guess nothing, and to “judge nothing before the time.” He will be the most philosophic here who is content to walk in an opened way, and there is no other way yet opened to man but to behold, admire, confide, and devoutly say, “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

Revelation, it is true, and the truth is precious, teaches us that all things work together for good to them that love God; but this is an altogether different matter. And even this truth we know for the most part, just as we know a great deal beside that is, simply by faith, as taught in the Word of God. Those that have the privilege to stand on the vantage-ground held by them that love God may often be found holding their peace, like Aaron, with the submission of faith, rather than rejoicing with acquiescence from a well understood knowledge of the good unto which all things affecting them are working together. What godly man is there that has had occasion to acknowledge the righteousness of God’s judgments to him, who has not felt his acquiescence to be halting of both feet, and who has not yearned, as Jeremiah did, to talk with God at the same time about his judgments? We are far from saying that infinite wisdom is not displayed in human wickedness and human woe; but we do say that the wisdom of God in the existence of evil, is not a subject for philosophy to explain, but for faith to believe.


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