Yale University. Class of 1842.

The Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 3 online

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But before we pursue this point, let us hear the remaining por-
tion of this difficulty. <« We admit,?' says the querist, " that God
was not bound by strict justice to prevent ttie sin and conse-

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1847.J in the Divine AdministraHon. 355

quent unhappiness of his rational creatures; but was be not
required by goodness and compassion, and a primary regard to the
welfare of those whom h6 created f The shallow sceptic, Bayle,
has, With a huge parade of learning and assumed profundity, pre-
sented this objection r and he attempts at great length to elucidate
it by the supposed case of a woman and her daughter. The
woman, from some point of observation, beholds her daughter
assailed by a profligate youth, and just on the point of yielding*
She cah save her by the utterance of a word, and vet suffers her
to be overcome. ** What,'' says he, *< should we think of such a
fjarent?'' And he concludes by attempting to apply the illustra-
tion to the case of Adam and Eve, and their heavenly parent.

Now, all this proceeds upon the assumption^ that God, in deal-
ing with intelligent and accountable beings, whom he foresaw
would fall into sin, was bound by 'a primary regard to their welfare
alone, to prevent it ; and this without reference to other orders of
intelligences then existing, or thereafter to b^ called into existence.
But the moment we open the Bible, "We find that Grod's proceed-
ings here are designed to influence other worlds no less than our
own. The afilictions of Job aire (hns accounted for ; in fact the
doctrine is distinctly avowed in Job, chaps. 1 and 2. The same
truth is clear from 1 Kings 22 : 19 — 23 ; and may be inferred from
2 Kings 6 : 17, and Psalms 34 : 7, and a host of other passages
in the Old Testament. It is also clearly asserted in the New Tes-
tament ; see Eph. 3 : 10, arid 2 : 7 (Greek), 1 Cor. 4 : 9, Col.
1 : 20. Luke 15 : 7, 10 ; 1 Pet. 1 : 12, &c.

But forther : Where would this objection of Mr. Bayle lead us I
Plainly into blank atheism. The woman referred to would have
hindered her, daughter from yielding : but God, who cotild have
done the like in the case of Adam, did not ; therefore the woman
was a kinder and bettqr parent than God f How absurd it is for
an atheist to offer such an objection !

But lo pursue the argument. It may be said that our reply, so
far, only shifts the diflSculty '; for in the same manner that God
may be supposed to be able to prevent the sin of Adanl, he could
have secured the obedience of all orders of beings throueh eternity.
We grant it, for the sake of the argument ; and now let us recur
to the foregoing admitted principles, and it. will be seen that this
objection is without any force.

Man, as we have seen, though endowed with a perfect freedom
of will, was yet subject to law. And to prevent cavil and need-
less objection, we shall restrict ourself in this illustration to those
laws, the existence of which all concedeT— the laws of our being.
These laws have penalties annexed to them ; for example, if a
man persists in abstaining from food he must die. The design of
these penalties (for laws without a design no man of sense can
dream of) is to prevent, or deter in general from transgression, and

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356 Oroundi of a Christim^t Confidence [April|

specifically, to deter the offender from a reiteration of his offence ;
and also to deter others by means of the sufferings which the trans-

Sressor is called to endure. It would be ctbsurd to say that the
esigu is only tp deter the offender from a repetition of the offence ;
for now could this be, in the case of one 'who had starved himself
to death ; or leaped over a mightjr precipice ; or severed the aorta^
U&e penalty of ei^e|r of which is loss of life? It is, therefore,
clearly ri^ht and proper that wilful transgressors should suffer^
and it is tight also that their sufferings should be a means to deter
others from transgression^ or themselves from a. reiteration of the
offence. And if this be ri^ht, in respect to what are terpied " the
laws of nature,^' it is also right in respect to just moral laws.

And now, as respects the query whether God could" not have
secured the obedience of all bis creatures, and so ha,ve saved them
from suffering — we answer, that undowbt;edly lie might have
done so in any supposed case whatever ; so far as his Almighty
power is concerned. He covld have stretched forth his hand, and
prevented, any act of transgression- whatever ; and so have pre^,
vented all incurring of penalty, ^f Therefore he ought to have
done it," says the objector. mX stay \ let us soe whither this
will lead.

The intelligent creature, as we have seen, must, in the neces-
sity of the case, be subj^t to laws 9 and in t|ie case of mankind
this is admitted by all. Aocording to the objection, therefore, God
is bound, after he enacts laws, to prevent any and every violation
of them. Man has the power to violate the laws under which he
is placed, but God is bound to see that bd does not thus Employ
that i)Ower. If the Creator requires him to render obedience to.
any "given statute, he must, out of a regard to his wel&re, impel
him^ to obey. No law of his being can be violated, for Grod is
determined to prevent it, lest the creature should suffer* Now it
would be sheer nonsehse to attempt to reconcile such an idea with
the admitted fact of man's freedom of will ; for otoe or the other is
necessarily subverted. Either the laws referred to are rendered
wholly useless, ot liberty exists only in name, and naan is but a

Common sense teaches, that a test of obedience should be
cx;acted of all intelligent creatures, before they can be approved, or
pass into a state of confirmation ; as the holy angels and the spirits
of the redeemed have done. Such a test was exacted of our first
parents. God could have secured their obedience ; biit other
ix^orlds were to be influenced by what was here done ; other orders
ofintelligent beings were tobe called into existence through th^
ages of eternity, and whose obedience was also to be tested. This,
test, of cou^^ allows full choice to disobey or obey. For the
purpose,, therefore, of furnishing an illustration o^ the conse-
quences of disobedience, God suffers a part of the angelic host to

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1847.} in the Divine Administration. 357

sill, and our Ktde world also. And this illustration^ derived from
two orders of hein^ of different natures, evinces to all worlds and
all orders of intelligences throughbut eternity, the awful results of
the least deviation from the hdy requirements of G6d. The illus-
tration is furnished, too, at the very, best time. Had it been Ibnger
delayed, who can say that millions of worlds together, while on
trials mi^ht not have ventured on the fearful experiment? But bv
this exhibition of the f<^arful consequences^of sin, the obedience ot
all worlds is now secured for ever. ^< Of the increase and peace of
his dominion there now shall be no end.'' ' ,

Further : If, in disregard of the laws of n^ure and of my being,
I thrust my h^d into the fire, it is proper that I suffer the penalty
of bein^ burnt. If I wantonly sever an arterv^ it is right that I
should l>e in like manner left to suffer •the pen^tv of death. And
it is perfectly consistent with equity, and benevolence, and all the
Divine perfections, that I sliould be left to endure this penalty, in
order to deter others from a similar course. No one will deny this.
And why, then, is it not equally consistent with the Divine benevo-
lence^ that a rational creature, who, upon being subjected to the
test of obedience, prefers to transgress, and so to put nimself from
tmder the favor and gracious protection of God, should be suffered
to endure the ponsequences, in order to deter others frdm a similar
course t It is as proper in one case as in the other, and such has
been the course pursued in relation to the fallen angels, and to
mankind. Where, then, is there any ground for impeaching the
Divine, attributes in this whole procedure? There is not the
shadow of such ground.

(2.) But we proceed to the consideration of some of the other
difficulties adverted to.

The fact that wicked men ^re permitted to live long on earth,
and every day to add to the catalogue of their iniquities, while the
virtuous few are not unfrequently trampled in the dust, is, easily
and satisfactorily explained by a reference to the Bible, without
impeaching either the power, justice, or goodness of God. For,
first, it is not his intention to cfistribute exact justice in this world,
of in our present stiate of being ; for he has appointed a day in
which he will render to every one according to their deeds ; and
frirther, pur Savior informs ns that the destruction of all sinners
now would be prejudicial to the best interests of his kingdom on
earth ; and that hence they are spared. This is distinctly made
known and elucidated in Matt. 13 : 24-30, and 37-43 ; and then
again, God is determined to punish transgression to the utmost;
and therefore intends to justify himself in the estimation of all
intelligent beings, from the imputation of undue severity, by grant-
ing the transgressor ftill time and opportunity for repentance.
And finally, another principle of the Divine government, which is
clearly ^ade known in the Bible, is, that God allots to every one

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358 Grounds of a Christianas Cor^idence {April,

a certain portion of time, in which to prepare for eternity : and
hence, until the expiration of that time, he permits the sinner to
take his cqurse. These considerations alone (and many others
could be easily suggested) abundantly obviate the supposed diffi-
culty ; and evince Siat this arrangement, so far from leading us to
question his goodnoes and wisdom, i^ but calculated to lead us to
admire them the more. .

(3.) In relation to the frequent triumph of vice, ajud depressioli of
viKue, much the same considerations may be ^urged.

And further : When real virtue and piety are oppvessed by the
hand of violence and tyranny^ we should remembier that this earth,
in its present fallen state, is not the appropriate abode of thesegraees.
They are natives of the skies« In this, our present state of beings
they are necessarily connected with imperfection and sin : and, as
the great Captain of our Salvation was made perfect through suffer-
ings, so God has seen, proper to school virtue here in adversity, in
Older to Wear off the contamination of vice, and the appetite for
sinful indulgence; that we may be led diily to appreciate the
purity and bliss of the happy abodes reserved for us in heaven.
And in, such a state of. mixed society as is found on earth, the
necessary discipline can be better administered than in any other.
. Nor is it to be forgotten, that God alone is acquainted with the
real characters of men ; and that these characters not unfrequentjiy
depend upon thoughts and actiops to which none but he is wit-
ness. If it be true that in the estimate which we form of ourselves
we are often partial, it is also true that in judging of others we
also err. We are liable to prejudice, and are perpetually receiv-
ing distorted representations concerning them.

(4,) With respect to the singular phenomenon of yoiith,dyihg iust
as they are beginiiing to be useful ; and of genius of Uie highest
order, languishing and perishing before it has unfolded ^ thou-
sanddi part of its riches ; if it be ^outh and genius at enmity with
God, the solution is easy. Why should 8uch> in all instances, be
permitted to spend a long life only in rebelling aeainsi heaven, and
m perverting the ways pf truth ? What incalcujable evil had been
spared the human r^ce (humanly speaking), had Napoleon, or
Vohaire, or Bolingbroke, pr Paine, or Byron,, died in infancy or
childhocii'— or if their genius had languished in obscurity? And
yet even they have not existed in vain. They serve as beacons to
the rest of mankind here, and thus perhaps will serve also to other
worlds to all eternity. Our world needed senate such illustrations
of perverted intellect ; but why should every such instance be suf-
fered fully to, develop itself?

But if the (}ueFy be made respecting the removal of youth, and
the languishing of genius consecrated to the service of God, the
solution is, on scriptural principles, equally easy. The difficulty
arises from supposmg the. present state to be the only one in which

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1847.] tn the Divine Administratian. 359

talent and genius will have the opportunity to develop, and te be
called into useful exetcisc. But why forget that we now exist
only in the lower walk of creation — and in a world which has
arrayed itself in hostility to its Creator 1 CJenius consecrated to
Grod, is designed and adapted to move in a more enlarged and
exalted sphere ; where, without any intermixture of imperfection,
it can fully display its transcendent loveliness.

When, therefore, we witness the impressive phenomenon of the
removal by death, of a Martyn, a Spencer, or Summerfield, let us
bear this in mind. And thea, they, though young, have performed
what myriads who have lived Ihrice their years, have fisdled to-
acoomft)lish. They have, as ftiithful servants, finished their work
on earth ; ^nd now they go to mingle with kindred spirits in the
skies ; and with them to enter upon the active duties, and more
enrapturin'jg employments of a higher state of being: for which
they have become speedily qualined by their seraphic zeal and
diligence on earth. So, too, when an Edwards, a Cornelius, or an
Armstrong depart, with their ripened knowledge ana experience,
and in the prime of life and usenilness, their work is likewise done.
Their heavenly father has employment for these ripened saints in
other worlds.

Further : Such a mysterious providence is likewise calculated,
and doubtless designed by him who is Head over all things, to
lead his followers to a closer and more intimate dependence upon
himself. , When "a mighty man in Israel has fallen,'* we are led
the more earnestly to turn our eyes towards Isr^Ps Qod ; and to
the hills, whence alone our help can come. It is also designed to
teach the church of Grod, that the great Head of it can, when he
thinks proper, dispense with the assistance or instrumentality of
any of his creatures. He thus manifests, to the conviction of all,
that though he uses instruments in the accomplishment of his pur-
poses, he does, not really need them. He can prepare, and ele-
gantly polish them, so as to be capable of the most important
service, -and after all dispense with their use. He needs them not,
even after they are prepared : and often removes them, to humble
the pride arid self-complacency of man. And hence we,, who
survive, are also taught to "i^ork diligently while it is day, so as to
be ready to give account of our stewardship : for, as all such cases
impressively declare, this account may be demanded even while
we are engaged in forming and accomplishitig the noblest designs
to promote the glory of God, and the salvation of our fellow men.

(5.) The only other specific case that I shall here pause to notice;
is that of the alarming prevalence of corruption in the heart after

In relation to this, however, we aire to bear in mind, that while
regeneration is a moral change, aseribableto the efficient operation
of the Spirit of God, we possess a nature which is, in consequence

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360 Gromds of a CkriiHa0i!s Confidence [Afoni^

of the fall, constitutionally biased to eyil. Sinful indulgence is
our native element. Hence, while regeneration infers at present
only a subju^tion of the will to Heaven, and not a destruction of
our constitutional propensities, there must be of necessity, a per-
petual conflict between nature and grace, so. lon^ as things on
earth remain as they have been since the iieilL This life, as already
remarked, is to the good man a state of discipline for heaven ; and
one method by which God disciplines and prepares bis people, is
by a trial of their faith. : nor can this in any manner be more efiec-
tually triiid, so as at once to teacd us our utter helplessness and
consequent heed of divine assistances than by thus permitting our
corruptions, to a limited extent, to accompany us through life«
Thus we become heartily sick of sin^ and long for the hour of our
happy deliverance*

^ The same result is also, accomplished by another branch of the
discipline which the believer is her^ called to undergo ; and which
will of itself^ alsoy^explaiii why he is firequentljr annoyed by the pre-
sentation to liis n^d, of impure and defiling images^ and tempta-
tions to sensual indulgence* We are necessitated to ^^ wrestle
against wicked spirits;'' tA nPBvfiajtx^ %%g novij^g^ Satan, the
"Prince'' and " God of this world'' is our grand enem^ ; whose
master-piece of deception fuid cuhnine is, that impression which
he has wrought iq)on the nund of the church and the world, in the
present a^e, that he has little or nothing to do in the affairs of men*
He exercises a far more powerful influence over our nature than
we are always willing to. believe. He stirs up our corruptions;
especially when we are endeavoring to ^^ press forw^ard," to **fig^t
the good fight of faLithr t^ lay hola of eternal life." God permits
it, in order that we may discover our own weakness ; and to make
us more earnest in our endeavora to grow in grace. And th«s is
it that ^' we must through much tribulation enter the kii^om of

Such trials, therefore, are necessary for Grod^s people ib this dis-
ciplinary state. That moral eormplion which attaches to them
must be subdued ; and not by physical bvt b^ moral menus. Pride
OQfust be abased ; passion humUeu ; and evil habits, formed in the
days of our impenitence^ and now constituting our besetting sins^
must be entirely overcome. The unhallowed love of the w^rld—
its pleasures, honors, emoluments, &c., must be removed from the
soul, before we can enjoy the happiness of heaven. This explains
the reason lor. many of the losses of God's people ; and for many
of their sore afflictions. This is why their property i? oftentimes
taken away : and why beloved companions, or cmldreh, are by
death torn relentlessl}r from their arms ; for if we permit our heart-
strings to entwine around earthly objects, onr Father, who is the
HusbanduMn, must cut. the tendril, or we should remain creeping
along the ground, and never aspire heavenward. Nothing is so

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1847J «i the DMme JUmimstraHtm. 361

well calcalaled to promote our ultimate kappinesff, as these ttaiM
of life* The happiest and most salutary attainments of God's peo-
ple have been acquired in the scbod of adversitj. Thence theit
souls have often derived their richest blessings. When all othei
means have fjuled to wean them from an un^lue attachment tr
earth, this discipline has succeeded in arousing them to the con
viction that true uid permanent happiness is vainly sought on thit
side of the river of death ;, and to lead them, as a consequence, t(
prepare ifor a mansion in the skies. Here the believer is taugh
velle au6d vuU DeuSy the great secret of being always satisfied witi
the',alIotments of Heaven* In this sdiool he is likewise practically
taught compassion for his fellow men, while he is trained to forti-
tude ; and forms habits of devotional intercourse with his Father.
bis Redeemer,' and Sanctifier. He is moving on towards a holy ana
happy state ; and must learn to endure the conflict with fortitude,
if he would be crowned as conqueror. Here he learns thus to ^i-
dure it ; and being thus taught, he patiently passes through the
furnace of affliction, until his soul, being purined and brightened,
is at length fitted for the society of heaven.^

UL It were -easjr to take up in the same manner each of the
remaining specifications Of alleged difficulty ; but'we shall, in the
next place, proceed to show that these and other phenomena which
may be regarded as unaccountable on the principles just stated^
ean yet anord no reason for lessening our confidence in the inefia-
Ue goodness of the Divine administration.

1. And first, we should never permit ourselves to lose sight of
tiie feet, that all the proceedings of God in regard to this world
are regulated by the consideration diat we are fallen beings;
having lost the image in which he created us ; and being now per^
milted by a ffood Ctod to furnish to other worlds an illustration of
the evil results of wilful disobedience.

Every attempt to account for the evils and miseries, and all the
apparent disorders of this world^ while the depravity of man is
denied, must prove worse than futile and abortive* Ittnust pro^
duce scepticism; and, eventually, the denial of a Ood. The fcdl
of man alone furnishes the key to the mysterious proceedings of
God in relation to the chtldren of nfen. Our race has lost its
primal position in the scale of those orders of holy intelligence
which God created to adore and serve hitn. Hence, in the very
necessity of the case, when human nature thus was lowered from
its position, in the persons of our first parents, all subsequeiit par-

1 The following sw^eet passage is ihnaanold writer: ^'Sdicda cnids est schola
jQstitiae. Discipmi Dei sumus, qui ezercet nos, et informat ad amorem JQsdtiae.
Jbbores Dei sumns, quas ille porgat amputatis stolcmibos lasdvientibtis, nt froctum
jastitiae feranras, et sic atboies putitiae fiamus. Gastigatio qai Dens vtitor in nobiB
conieendis est gymnasium in quo noo Dens erudit et instituit ad jastitiamu Omx
ei^it in nobis contemptum et lastldium praesentis yitae." See Polanus De Conso*

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86S Gromds of^ OiHstiam's Confidence [April,

takers of that nature are lowered also. God did not repeal his
command to replenish the earthy because our first parents sinned ;
and hence their descendants are necessarily involved in the conse-
quences of their guilt; and become inheritors also, of their inordi-
nate and unholy dispositions and desires. Hence sinners live long,
oftentimes, lest their posterity, whom. God designs perhaps to bless
and save, should be cut off. Hence, too, when a holy disposition
is kindled within the soul by the Spirit of God, and the man thus,
fftvored labors to serve God, he finds the entire current of the world
against him* His., course is unpopular wiih a race of selfish and
depraved creatures ; and hence virtue and piety are depressed, and
vice maintains its aiscendency. Hence when. God permiu>(or in
the course of his providence raises up) a Tamerlane or -a Napoleon
to scourge the nations for their sins, there is no need of any Divine
influence to quicken him in the work of destruction ; the gratifica-
tion of his own depraved desires and selfishness is all the stimulus
he requires.

Hence, too, we can see the necessity and proprietor of those chas«
tisements which our Heavenly Father finds it requisite to adminis-
ter to his people in order to wean them from an undue attachment
to thb world, and to break the power of their corruptions ; of
setting before them examples of severity ; and of every other spe-
cies of dealing with them that is calculated to operate as a motive
to lead them to prepare for a higher and holier state. For we are
on trial here ; and beyond this life there is a hell and a heaven —
the one to be shunned and the other to be obtained while we are
in this state of probation. No chastisement, therefore, can be too
severe, which is necessary to arouse us from a dangerous security,
and lead us to a timely attention to our best and eternal interests.

2. This leads us to another principle closely associated with the
foregoing, which reflects additional light on the whole subject^ to
wit: the miseries and afflictions of mankind are the natural ' or
penal effects of sin or moral evil.

There seems to be implanted io human nature a consciousness
of this truth ; and hence arise the terrors of conscience, of which
no form of scepticism has any power wholly to relieve the mind.*
How strikingly is this exemplified in the case of Voltaire, and of
Hume, in their last moments ; and of .almost all infidels and uni-
versalists! And what are war, murder, robbery, and ajl other
crimes, but the natural fruits of the depraved passions of the heart-—
the results of that bias towards evil which human nature received
in the fall? Our allotted space is sufficient barely for mere hints ;

Online LibraryYale University. Class of 1842The Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 3 → online text (page 44 of 94)