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And the divine stability of heaven,
To cherish virtuous hope, but at our need
Is sin, in like manner, generated and brought forth? Is moral government, as distinguished from physical, a fable? Is God an infinite tyrant, absolutely wielding all our faculties, and determining all their issues, and yet imposing requisitions and interdictions directly to the contrary, and holding us responsible, and the subjects of interminable and immitigable torments, for not complying with them? And does all this "leave all the motives and all the influences of human activity precisely where it found them?" Does the Bible any where inculcate or assume even a link or a shred of this concatenation of hideous and horrid mockeries of reason and common sense?
"Can such things be,
And overcome us, like a summer's cloud,
Does any one say we speak too strongly? Pause, friend, if predestination will let you; remember, we cannot but speak as we do; our present utterances "have the same certain and precise dependence on something preceding themselves, which the posterior has on the prior term of any sequence," and "as surely result from the previous constitution which has been given to our mental nature, as any of the varied phenomena in the material department of creation result from its constitution!" Beautiful basis of sublime ethics! Surely it is meet, had it but been so ordained, that we should all be charitable!
Sturdy and stalwort, indeed, must the predestinarian be, who can maintain his hold of this shocking delusion, heedless of all which we have indicated against it! But his is the sturdiness of all those, who having assumed a false position, are deaf, blind, and impervious to all evidence to the contrary.
Our author maintains that "it does give a semblance of great consistency and truth to his whole speculation" in favor of the position that "the doings of conscious and intelligent man" are "all in as strict subordination to the will of God" as the operations of the material universe are, "that just as matter acts in virtue of certain powers and properties wherewith the Creator hath endowed it, so mind also hath also powers and properties to which all its movements can be referred-and, more
especially, that the part which man takes in the husbandry
For ourselves we utterly deny that the moral actions of
subordinate to the will of God. Hence, they are legitimately objects of requirement or prohibition-the grounds of praise or blame, of reward or punishment.
But this view of the subject is frightful to our author. He exclaims—“We vainly try to reconcile with this imagination, either the foreknowledge or the supremacy of God-impossible as it is that the eye even of His prophecy can look any way through the descending steps of a series liable at every turn to the intervention of what is purely self-originated and spontaneous, or that the hand of His power can have the entire guidance and government thereof."
But the easy answer to this ostentatious flourish of objection and assumption, is that we do not pretend to know the mode of the Divine foreknowledge, nor have we any faith in such pretension on the part of others, especially when it involves an overthrow of the whole structure of moral government and the whole character of God. We think it going quite too far-presuming quite too much, to assume that God can acquire knowledge, only as finite beings do, by infering from cause to effect, step by step, along the chain of a compelling causality—thus, at once, annihilating the fundamental truth of human freedom, and marring the doctrine of the divine omniscience! Our faith is, that God's omniscience foresees all the actions of free agents, not because they must be, but because they will be; foresees them independently of any tissue of necessitating causes, which cannot but bring them to pass; foresees them among myriad contingencies, as what will actually occur. But how he thus foresees-that is, how omniscience comes to be omniscience-we are not vain enough to suppose we can comprehend. We would as soon think of comprehending the mode of the Divine existence. We leave it to Unitarians and Necessitarians to achieve, or to fancy they achieve, such mental exploits! Let candid minds judge which is the sublimer conception of the Divine Prescience, that of the Necessitarian, or that which we have presented; and who is the more humble in his pretensions, he who assumes that he comprehends how God comes to foreknow all things, or he who admits that, like all other matters of an infinite nature, the mode of God's foreknowing is "too wonderful for him-it is high he cannot attain unto it."
As it respects the Sovereignty of God, our answer to his objection is also very easy. We have no faith in his view of the subject. It sets God before us in the light of an arbitrary, omnipotent despot, and man in that of a mere intelligent and
sentient machine-the victim of an irresistible and all-controlling fatality. We cannot but regard any representation which places either God or man in any such light, as essentially at war with virtue and truth-like the red-hot breath of the desert which touches to blight and destroy.
"It comes and goes, like the simoom,
It is only fit, both in its intrinsic hideousness, and in the poisonous influence which it flings abroad, to accompany "the owlet atheism," which, as it goes forth
"Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,
The Sovereignty of God, in our view, consists, not in arbitrarily and necessarily determining the conduct, character and destiny of men, but in enacting and executing all that is demanded by the great law of Benevolence, independently of the consent or opposition of any of his creatures. It is not acting in violation of, but in accordance with, the nature and relations of moral beings-out of all possible modes of governmental administration, independently adopting and pursuing that, which, as moral beings are constituted, will contribute to their greatest possible good. It is doing just what he must do, in order to be benevolent and holy himself. How different is this from the heathenish idea that, because God has created us, therefore he has a right to treat us in any conceivable way; and that the divine government is founded only in mere arbitrary will. Persons entertaining such ideas are far enough from supposing that God is subject to any restraint-in other words, that he conforms his whole administration to any grand constitution demanded by the nature of things. Laws are, in their estimation, just what he pleases to make them, not only in form but in principle, and have no existence independently of the will that creates them. It is all one with them whether God be supposed to act according to the nature of things, or against it. They deem it little less than blasphemy to say that God is under obligation to administer the government of the universe according to the law of Benevolence, and must thus administer it in order to be right. If He pleases to create one to damn him, and another to bless him, making the destiny of each turn solely on His own absolute decree, it matters not
with them; God is a sovereign! If he should will that wrong should be right, and right wrong that virtue should be punished, and sin rewarded-that the whole present system of His moral government should be subverted, and another directly the reverse in all respects introduced, it would with them, nevertheless, be all right, and their reverence would not dare call it in question! He has a right to decide immortal fates on what principle he pleases! Now, reader, which of these is the correct view of Divine Sovereignty?
Our author tries to evade and forestall the natural and inevitable inferences which flow from the doctrine of predestination as he presents it. He tells us, "it leaves all the motives and all the influences of human activity precisely where it found them;" "that the high predestinations of Heaven affect not the business of practical Christianity on earth;" that, "let the past decrees, or the coming destinies, which begin, and which end the mighty cycle of Heaven's administration, be what they may, it is our part, if we but knew the place which belongs to us-it is our part to work, and to watch, and to strive, and to pray, and to go through the whole walk and warfare of practical Christianity, just as before.”
We deny every statement. It would not be more absurd to say that the ruffian blasts of winter do not interrupt nor change the sensations produced by summer's sunny hours; nor that prison walls and fetters of steel do not supplant the happy emotions of liberty and joyous companionship; nor that the doctrine of necessity is identical with that of freedom, than to make any of the above affirmations. How can it be overlooked that the present is as irreversibly fixed in the chain of destiny as the past or the future—that all the thoughts, and feelings, and purposes, and objections, and impenitence, which constitute the activity of the present moment, in any case, are absolutely necessary and inevitable-that we have no part whatever to perform, either good or evil, being "as certainly the instruments of the Divine pleasure, as are the fire and the air and the water that are said to be the ministers of God"-that we cannot work, nor watch, nor strive, nor pray, nor walk, nor war, unless it has been eternally and irrefragably pre-ordained that we should; and that, if any one does not do them, it is because it has been absolutely pre-destined that he should not? The arrest which Hyperborean frost lays on the streams, when it congeals them to the bottom, is not more absolute than that which this view necessarily brings upon all moral activity wherever it is really believ