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mal, enjoyed by any created being, or freedom of agency must have been given. And what freedom is conceivable without a possibility of error and irregularity, and consequently of misery? But is not the happiness of one virtuous mind of more consequence than the voluntary ruin of a thousand degenerate beings? And is not a state, in which we have the opportunity of attaining an inconceiv able felicity, if we be not inexcusably wanting to ourselves, is not this a state to be wished for by mankind, if they had their choice either to come into it or not? As for those unhappy beings of our species, who, proceeding from one degree of vice and folly to another, shall at last come to be hardened against all good, what is the value of thousands of such beings in the estimation of infinite wisdom and rectitude, that their destruction should be thought a hardship? For what else are such degenerate beings fit? Besides we know that Divine Wisdom has so planned out his universal economy, that an inferior good shall, in the end, proceed from what was by wicked beings intended for ruin and mischief. The whole human species were originally formed capable of happiness, and every individual has happiness in his power. But as the Divine Wisdom, which perfectly knew the future characters of all his creatures, with all the circumstances they should be effected by, foresaw that numbers would come to deviate from the eternal rule of rectitude, it was proper that a secondary scheme should be provided, by means of which those free agents, who should not thus voluntarily yield the due obedience and concurrence with the general design, should, by superior direction, be forced to contribute to the greater perfection and beauty of the whole. Of this secondary part of the divine economy, we can trace out some very considerable parts, as the following, viz. We know that wicked and cruel men, in endeavouring to root out truth, and sweep virtue from the earth, have ever been made, in spite of themselves, the instruments of their more general establishment. The whole race of persecutors of christianity, from Herod down to Lewis XIV. have so egregiously overshot themselves, as to be the very causes of the greater prevalency of true religion, which has given occasion to the well-known saying, That the blood of the
martyrs has been the seed of the church. In more private life, it is notorious that a very considerable part of the trials of the virtue of good men arises from the wicked part of the species: and every trial, where the good man comes off with honour, serves naturally to establish his virtue, and to increase his reward hereafter. The mere contrast between the character of the pious, the temperate, and benevolent man, and that of the blasphemer, the voluptuary, and the hard-hearted, sets off the former to the utmost advantage, and presents, it to the general observation in the fairest point of view; by which votaries to virtue are gained, and a horror at vice is raised in every considerate mind: and in the future state, what powerful effects may be produced by the fearful and exemplary punishments inflicted on those of our species, or others, who have degenerated from the dignity of their nature, and, as much as they could, defeated the end of their creation, may be imagined by those who consider what extensive connexions between the various orders of being may hereafter come to be opened to our view; and that, as all moral and free agents of all orders are now allied, they may hereafter come to be united, and make one immense and universal society; and whatever has been originally intended for usefulness to one order of moral agents, may at last come to be useful to all. Something analogous to this we have in the case of the fallen angels, whose ruin is mentioned in scripture as a warning to us.
It has been said, since the Supreme Being foresaw, without a possibility of error, what would be the exact character of every one of his creatures, was it not to have been expected, that such of them as he knew would turn out wicked, and come to ruin, should never have been brought into existence, or cut off in the beginning of life? Our Saviour says of Judas, for example, that it had been better for him never to have been born. How then, say they, came he to be born? Or why was he not removed out of life before he came to the age of perpetrating the most atrocious crime that ever was or can be committed? Though I would not be the proposer of such presumptuous questions, I think it innocent enough to endeavour to answer them. And first, if we consider, that to infinite
purity and rectitude, wickedness is so odious as to render the guilty person altogether contemptible in his sight, we shall not wonder that he does not (so to speak) judge it worth while to put him out of existence, but lets him go on to fill up the measure of his iniquity, and reap the fruit of his doings. Again, it is to be considered that Infinite Wisdom, intending to work out great and valuable ends by what is designed by his wicked creatures for ruin and mischief, may therefore think proper to suffer them to go on to heap damnation on themselves, and determine to make use of their self-sought destruction for the advantage of the more valuable part of his creatures. How the character of one who does not yet exist, is fore-knowable, we have no conception, though we find from scripture that it is so, in the case of Judas particularly.
On the seeming difficulty of reconciling with the Divine Goodness, our being placed in a state perhaps more disadvantageous for virtue and happiness than that in which other orders of beings are created; a state exposed to such a variety of temptations, as renders it hard for beings, furnished with such moderate degrees of strength as we are, to get the better of the important conflict, on the event of which our eternal happiness depends; on this difficulty the following thoughts may serve to vindicate the Divine Goodness, and to show our condition to be extremely desirable, instead of our being hardly dealt with, as some have insinuated.
If our condition were such, that one single deviation from our duty would at once irrecoverably determine our fate, or that what may properly be called human infirmity should doom us to irreversible destruction, there might be some pretence for complaint. But if, so far from that, a faithful, constant, and prevailing endeavour to gain the Divine approbation, with watchfulness against temptations, and repentance for our faults, followed by amendment of life, be the means for attaining happiness; where lies the mighty hardship? Nay, I would ask any impartial person whether it were more desirable to be put in a state of trial, in which there should be, upon the whole, fewer chances of miscarrying, but less allowances to be made in the final judgment for deviation, or to be in a state exposed to
greater hazards, but with greater allowances to failures? Is it not the same thing in the event, how various the temptations in the state of trial may be, if the merciful allowances made by the judge, be proportioned to them. And who can doubt that Infinite Goodness will make all possible allowances hereafter for those failures of weak and frail beings, which shall be found to have been owing to the mere infirmity of their nature, and the precariousness of the present state, not to daring impiety and presumptuous wickedness. And it will accordingly be hereafter found, that a competent number of our species have actually been able, under the greatest disadvantages, to attain such a measure of conformity to the Divine Will, as shall, with the heavenly assistance, and allowances to be made for human frailty, be found proper for rendering them, upon the Christain plan, objects of the mercy of the Judge of the world, and capable of being raised to a state of happiness; which will show, that the miscarriage of the rest was wholly owing to their own perverseness, and that they themselves were the whole cause of that destruction which the others escaped.
Every one knows that, with respect to the present state, exclusive of futurity, there is great difficulty in getting through life without some fatal misconduct, which may embitter and render it unhappy. And very doubtful it must be confessed to be, whether a new born infant shall get over the precarious time of youth, without being drawn, through rashness and thoughtlessness, and the temptations of bad company, into such a course of folly, as may effectually prevent his proving a useful and valuable member of society. Yet we always look upon the birth of a child into the world as a subject of joy, not of grief or complaint, and upon the untimely death of a young person as a calamity because we take into view the consideration of its being in the power of every person, through Divine Assistance, which is never wanting to the honest mind, to behave well in life, if he pleases, and we hope he will do so. The warrior is sufficiently apprized of the danger of engaging; a danger, which it is out of his power to ward off. Yet he longs to mix in the martial tumult; and engages with joy in the glorious strife. Why should man
think himself hardly used in being placed in a post attended with occasional danger; but in which he must be egregiously wanting to himself if he miscarries finally? But if I should not choose a happiness attainable only through peril and trouble, but would rather, through sordid stupidity and inactivity, desire to decline existing upon such terms; does it therefore follow, that the infinite Author of existence may not oblige me, in spite of my obstinacy or stupidity, to go through what he may judge proper for me, and necessary for his great ends? Has not the potter power over the clay? Suppose I should not in this life be convinced of my obligations to the Divine Goodness upon the whole, does it follow that I never shall?
It has been asked, why the beneficent Author of being did not pursue such an effectual scheme in the moral world as he has done in the natural? It was, for example, the Divine intention, that the human and other species should absolutely be preserved as long as the world lasted. The two sexes are therefore engaged to one another, and to their common offspring, by such powerful instinctive attractions as are found fully sufficient to answer this important end. Why did not our Maker plant in our minds such a strong and irresistible propensity to virtue, as would have effectually secured the universal happiness of the species? The answer is easy, viz. There is reason to believe, that, upon the whole, a great number of the human species will, through Divine Goodness, come to happiness; such a number at least, as it shall in the end appear to have been, to speak after the manner of men, worth while to have created the human species for. But, to propose by mere instinctive attractions alone, mechanically to draw free agents to the love and practice of virtue, is contradictory to the nature of the design. Because what is wanted is not so much that mankind, and other free agents, be brought to go, like machines, in a certain track, as that the rational faculties be formed in a rational manner to the entire love and habitual pursuit of goodness.. This shows mechanical means to be improper alone for that purpose, though they may prove, as we find, useful helps; and that rational means are absolutely necessary for acting upon rational natures: and it is ever to be re