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Thus far our opponents will go with us; but they will not admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is, in reality, inconsistent with this. Of this hereafter. They will hardly deny, however, that there is - at first view, at least — an apparent inconsistency between them. Now, just so far as this appearance goes, it brings the doctrine within the scope of our remarks, and constitutes a presumption against it. Anything like this doctrine under any modification which has ever been given to it, would not and ought not to be expected in divine revelation, by the student of nature. It could not but strike him as a difficulty, an incumbrance, an obstacle in his way altogether unlooked for ; an inconsistency which would shock and embarrass him. We say not that it is such an inconsistency as cannot be reconciled — such a difficulty as cannot be explained away. But we do say that any dogma concerning the divine nature even apparently incompatible with the idea of his simple and absolute unity, is such a one as we ought not to expect to find in the gospel ; and, therefore, if it be really found there, requires to be proved by testimony of the clearest and most decisive character. It must not be left to be made out by remote and laborious inferences, however ingenious ; for the inherent and previous probabilities against it are too strong to be set aside by evidence of this nature. There must be nothing equivocal or obscure in the propositions which declare it ; nothing ambiguous in the medium through which it is conveyed. It must bear cn its front the legible impress, “Thus saith the Lord,' or a reasonable man cannot be expected to believe it. Do we require too much ? We certainly think we do not. We certainly think we do
not overstate the presumption, which reason and nature afford against the truth of this doctrine. We think our opponents must be compelled to meet us on the ground we have marked out.
Another presumption in favor of Unitarianism is, that its representations of the moral character of God accord with the dictates of nature and reason. To an attentive and impartial observer of the works of God, the proofs of his goodness are clear and convincing. The evidence of intelligence and design, is not more manifest than that this design is benevolent. On a superficial view, indeed, we meet with facts that may seem inconsistent with this position, and with principles of an apparently opposite tendency. But as we proceed in our inquiries, new light breaks in upon us at every step. Our difficulties are found to have been the difficulties of ignorance alone. The obscure, and as we thought it, adverse fact, is seen to be an important link in the bright chain of order and beauty that binds the universe. Indeed, the more thoroughly we examine the laws of the material creation, and trace the operations of providence, the deeper and surer must our conviction be, that the whole plan and purpose of the Divinity is essentially benignant — that he has not given existence to the minutest particle of organized matter, but in order to render it conducive to the happiness of something that is capable of enjoyment.
To the same conclusion our abstract reasoning in regard to the divine nature would conduct us. If there be a first cause of all things, he must be infinite, independ ent, uncontrollable. No other being can possibly interfere with his purposes, or affect his felicity. And in
such a being we cannot even conceive of any other motive or action, than the desire of communicating happiness. So far as the deductions of our own reason are to be trusted — we are safe in averring, that a being of infinite power must likewise be infinitely good. Malignity of purpose, injustice, cruelty, and revenge, necessarily imply a consciousness of weakness. He who can do everything, can have no inducement to do wrong ; can be under no necessity, as dependent beings often are, of passing by the best, in order to fix on the practicable. Reason, then, assures us that God must be good ; and everything we see in the heavens, and on the earth, proclaims that he is so.
Let it be remembered, too, that when we speak of the goodness of God, we do not mean some ill defined, mutable quality, to be explained according to the exigencies of the argument, and capable of being moulded to suit the demands of a theory, which teaches the very opposite. We mean precisely the same quality in kind, though not in degree, as when we speak of human goodness. Doubtless our Creator intended we should form some idea of his moral perfections. But this were impossible, unless the terms which express them are to be understood in the same sense as when applied to the moral qualities of man.
We say, then, that reason and nature teach us, that God is good, in the obvious and popular sense of the term ; good in such a sense that he cannot perform an action, the final purpose of which is the infliction of suffering ; good in such a sense that he cannot do that which, on a full view of the case, would, in a human agent, be denominated cruel or unjust ; good in such a sense, that he will not punish an innocent being for the crimes which another has committed ; good, in fine, in such a sense, that he cannot punish a frail creature, for not performing what the very law of his being had disqualified him to perform. Suppose we admit, that these views may be, in some measure, incorrect ; that a stronger and a brighter light shed from heaven on the mental eye may enable us to see further into the deep mysteries of the Divine character; and that these dictates of reason inay be set aside by the decisions of superior authority. Let is suppose that such evidence may be presented in the gospel as shall constrain us to admit, that the goodness of God is something diverse, in kind as well as degree, from the same quality in man; and that he may, without impeachment of his character, perform what to us seems palpable cruelty and injustice. But is this probable ? Is there not a strong presumption beforehand that no doctrines inconsistent with this view of the divine goodness will be found there ? Ought we to anticipate a revelation from heaven, which should unteach us all we had learned in the school of nature ; unsettle the fixed principles of the intellect ; falsify all the conclusions of reason, our primary guide amid the dark and intricate windings of our earthly course, and thus extinguish the light which God himself had enkindled in our minds ? Yet such, if the views of our opponents be correct, is the character and tendency of the revelation God has sent us by his Son. We cannot, possibly, regard it in any other light. It teaches, according to them, that the goodness of God is partial, limited to a small number, who have been selected by an arbitrary decree, to be the depositaries of his favor, while the
rest have been left to inevitable ruin, under the withering curse of his almighty wrath. It teaches that the mass of mankind have been brought into being for no other purpose than to be the victims of remediless ruin, the objects of vindictive and everlasting punishment. It teaches, consistently with this purpose, that men come from their Creator's hands with characters totally depraved ; without the power to form one good desire, or cherish one virtuous sentiment ; as wholly unable to obey the commands of God — (call this imbecility physical or moral, or by whatever name we may, it alters not the fact) — as to pluck the sun from his sphere ; and yet liable for every the smallest transgression to an infinite punishment. And above all it teaches, that such as escape this fearful condemnation are indebted, not to the native goodness - the spontaneous compassion of their Maker, and Judge, but to a full and entire satisfaction made to his justice, all stern and inflexible as they represent it, by another, on whom the penalty of their sins has been rigorously inflicted. Now, it does appear to us, that, if this system of doctrines be true, all our notions of the goodness and paternal kindness of God, gathered from nature, reason, and the spontaneous dictates of our own feelings, must be false. We see not how they can be reconciled. If this system be true, it seems to us little better than mockery, to expatiate to the sinner on the compassion of the divine mind; or to endeavor to excite him to penitence by the hope of forgiveness. We see not that there is any place for forgiveness in the whole scheme of God's dispensations. It appears to us, that not a single sin ever has been, or ever can be par
VOL. VII. — NO. LXXIX.