« PreviousContinue »
every particular effect. But I have not been pleading for this, but only, that however far mechanism may be carried and the chain of causes extend in the material universe, to the Divine power exerted continually in all places, every law and every effect and motion in it must be at last resolved. This is a conclusion which the modern improvements in natural phi. losophy have abundantly confirmed, and which some of the first and best philosophers have received ; nor can that philosophy be otherwise than little and contemptible which hides the Deity from our views, which excludes him from the world, or does not terminate in the acknowledgment and adoration of him as the maker, preserver and ruler of all things."*
*“The philosopher who overlooks the traces of an all-governing Deity in nature, contenting himself with the appearances of the material universe only, and the mechanical laws of motion, neglects what is most excellent; and prefers what is imperfect to what is supremely perfect, finitude to infinity, what is narrow and weak to what is unlimited and almighty, and what is perishing to what endures for ever.” Mr. Maclaurin's Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Discoveries, Book IV. Chap. ix. Sect. 1.
“Sir Isaac Newton thought it most unaccountable to exclude the Deity only out of the universe. It appeared to him much more just and reasonable to suppose that the whole chain of causes, or the several series of them, should centre in him as their source, and the whole system appear depending on him the only independent cause.” Ibid. Sect. 5.
OF THE DESIGN OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT.
Sunce, then, there is a perfect superintendence of all events, they must be directed to some end. The Deity must have some wise and benevolent object to accomplish, as the result of his administration, and that object can be nothing but the final and perfect happiness of his intelligent creatures.
With this view, every thing must be planned, and to this end both the natural and the moral disorders which prevail must necessarily conduce. No one can believe that the Deity has chosen evil for its own sake. Were this the case, he would not be good : were he to cause the least degree of suffering, merely for the sake of producing pain, it would be utterly incompatible with benevolence. Evil in his hands, therefore, can only be the instrument of good. Nothing can have induced him to permit its existence, but the perception that under his administration it will terminate in the production of greater good than could have been enjoyed without it. When he created the world, and first set in motion that train of events which have induced the actual state of things, he foresaw that the partial evil which would arise, would terminate in the production of a larger sum of happiness, than could have been occasioned by its prevention. This being the case, that which would have militated against the perfection of his benevolence, would have been, not his permitting this evil, but his preventing it. That infinite wisdom and almighty power, may secure this result from the partial prevalence of evil, is at least possible, and it is probable, because the supposition is perfectly reasonable in itself, and accounts for, and reconciles every appearance.
It has been distinctly admitted that these reasonings are conclusive, and that the doctrine founded upon them must be allowed to be established, if the principle be granted that evil under the superintendence of infinite wisdom and benignity is the means of producing ultimate good.* It is impossible to desire any other concession than this.
* “ As to Dr. Smith's reasoning, it may
appear perfectly conclusive to those who are willing to admit certain leading positions on which the wbole is made to rest as unquestionable truths.” Eclectic Review, October, 1818, Art. III. p. 338. “ It may be admitted that there is a plausibleness in the hypothesis to which we have already alluded, and which includes the whole of the argument adduced in support of the doctrine of Final Restitution; namely, that evil moral, as well as natural, is but a means in the great machinery of the universe,
That no formal proof of this principle was attempted in the preceding editions of this work, arose from the author's impression that in assuming it as true, he only look for granted that which all Christians not only believe, but glory in believing. That a Theist, that a Christian, writing in the nineteenth century, in a country in which the doctrines of theology are so freely discussed, and the Scriptures so generally read, should not only expressly deny the beneficial tendency of evil in the Divine administration, but positively affirm that it is essentially and ultimately evil, and even that there is no proportion more indispensable to the existence of true religion, as a habit of the mind,* could scarcely
essential to the higher good of the creature." Eclectic Review, p. 346. “The argument à priori, in favour of the doctrine of Universal Restoration, is not only specious, but satisfactory, if the one thing which requires to be proved is taken for granted --if it be allowed that Evil is a branch of the Divine contrivance for the production of a higher ultimate good to the creature; that it is but the temporary name of a particular class of the dispensations of Sovereign Beneficence; if in a word the foremost and favourite dogma of infidelity be conceded, that all things are as God makes them." Ibid. Dec. 1818, Art. IV. p. 539. * “We question if there is a proposition more indispensable
have been expected. However, the position that evil is not itself an end, but the means to some further end, and that that end is good, is not, it must be confessed, self-evident, and therefore it may be proper to state the proof of it. The believer in the doctrine of Final Restora. 'tion, can have no other wish than that it should be considered as just or fallacious as this po" sition is established or refuted. Without doubt this is the point on which the controversy chiefly depends. The following considerations which may perhaps tend to determine this previous question, are submitted to the calm and serious attention of the reader.
In the first place, the constitution of the phy. sical and moral world is utterly inconsistent with benevolence, unless evil under the Divine admi. nistration be the means of producing ultimate good. If good be the issue of the temporary prevalence of evil, there is no appearance in nature, and no event and no series of events in human life which may not be consistent with perfect benevolence: if evil be essentially and ultimately evil, the Author and Governor of the world is malevolent.
to the existence of true Religion, considered as a habit of the mind, than this, that evil is essentially and ultimately evil.” Eclectic Review, October, 1818, p. 346.