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A portion of the Christian community, feeling that the doctrine of Divine sovereignty, connected with predestination, as taught by Calvin and his coadjutors, was wholly irreconcilable with divine goodness, that it carried an imputation of infinite cruelty and injustice directly up to the throne of the Almighty, have rejected it, and substituted in its stead the doctrine of human agency, or the free will of man. These contend that moral evil was not foreordained of God, or introduced into the world by his agency, or in accordance with his will; but that it was introduced and perpetuated in opposition to that will, but by his permission; i. e., that he did not exert his sovereign power to prevent its introduction; nor does he exert that power to banish it from the world. These also have contended that the existence of evil and its consequences will be endless in duration; thus admitting that it will be an ultimate end under the divine government. How this theory, any more than the other, can be made to harmonize with the goodness of God, has never yet been shown, and is equally impossible to conceive. It admits that God infallibly knew all the consequences that would result, both in time and eternity, from the bestowment of this agency on his off-spring man; and yet, with this perfect knowledge, he voluntarily bestowed it; and though he sincerely desires, contrary to his absolute fore-knowledge, that all sin should cease, and all unrighteousness come to an end, yet he cannot so exert his power as to violate or restrain the perfect freedom of the human will. On neither of the foregoing theories, therefore, is it possible to reconcile the existence of moral evil with the divine goodness.
That God exercises a controlling power over the universe of mind, as well as of matter, is a proposition clearly expressed in the language of revelation, and one which very few are disposed to deny. How far this control extends, in what manner and degree it determines the actions or volitions of men, are questions which, so far as our present inquiry is concerned, are immaterial. The following are a few of the declarations of the Bible on this point: "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my council shall stand, and I will do all
my pleasure."1 "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?" "A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps." 3 "So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." 4
In perfect accordance with the foregoing, we read that God not only declared that he would harden the heart of Pharaoh, but repeatedly, that he had hardened it in such a manner that he refused to obey the divine command communicated to him through Moses; and in relation to this hardening of his heart, God expressly declared to him, And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."5 Of our Saviour, Peter says, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." And again, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." "From the language thus cited, it is obvious that the purposes of God, in the administration of his moral government, extend not only to the outward actions, but to the motives by which such actions are induced. But no advocate of the doctrine of the Divine Sovereignty contends that, in consequence of this control, man is not accountable to God for his conduct in life; or that he is not guilty in the sight of God when he intentionally violates the divine
Nor can it be denied that, in a certain sense, and to a certain extent, the actions and volitions of men are free; of this fact we are perfectly conscious. Were it otherwise we should cease to be accountable beings. But who is able clearly to define the nature of this freedom? or the exact
1 Isa. xlvi. 9, 10. 2 Dan. iv. 35. 3 Prov. xiv. 9. 4 Rom. ix. 16-18 5 Ex. ix. 16. Acts, ii. 23. 7 Acts, iv, 27, 28.
degree in which it exists in man? Edwards defines this freedom to be "the power, opportunity, or advantage, one has to do as he pleases," or, in other words, "as he wills." This definition, it will be perceived, has respect merely to outward action, and does not even touch upon the freedom of the will. Another writer says, "To act freely, is to do an act with the consciousness of being able not to do it." This, like the definition of Edwards, has reference to the mere act, without regard to the volition by which it is induced, and is, consequently, imperfect and unsatisfactory. After all that has been written on this intricate subject, it will, perhaps, be safe, if not perfectly satisfactory, to adopt the conclusion of Locke, that this freedom, or liberty, whatever it may be," belongs not to the will, but to the agent, or man.' We may, however, rest in this conclusion, that we are free to will, or to act, according to the influence of motives brought to bear upon our minds; and that our volitions and actions will be good or evil, according to the good or evil character of the motives to which we yield. Should it be said that we have power to resist an improper or evil motive, it may be replied that this very power of resistence is found in the stronger influence of some other and counteracting motive.
But, after all, the true question before us is not, how did evil originate? but, is its existence compatible with the infinite goodness of God? If we can arrive at a satisfactory solution of this question-if we can be brought to see that its introduction and prevalence in the earth are not incompatible with that goodness, it is of little consequence to us whether it was introduced directly by the Divine agency or permitted to exist by him "who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." In fact, it is difficult to conceive how it can be consistent with the Divine perfections voluntarily to permit the existence of that which it would not be right in him to ordain.
We are now prepared to consider some facts connected. with the origin of sin, and its first introduction into our world. Moses, after giving a history of the creation of "the heaven and the earth," and of man in the image of God, proceeds to inform us that "the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God
to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."8
Aside from the creation of man, when he was made but "little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honor," we are here presented with the first manifestation of the parental care and kindness of God towards his newlycreated offspring. He not only caused the earth to bring forth all that was necessary for his daily sustenance, and for supplying the natural waste and decay of his physical constitution, but, in the spontaneous productions of Eden, he gave him that which was "pleasant to the sight;" thus promoting and increasing his enjoyment in life. And we cannot, for a moment, admit the belief that "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" was planted "in the midst of the garden" for any other purpose than the promotion of man's good; but, like every other production of the earth, it was designed for his use. Surely, an all-beneficent Father would not have placed it there for the purpose of destroying the happiness of his children.
The sacred historian proceeds: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat ; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
Here several particulars wili claim our attention. And,— 1. God created man in his own image, with such mental functions, moral perceptions, and spiritual powers as he saw fit to bestow; also, with such appetites, passions, propensities and desires, as he voluntarily chose to implant in his nature; knowing infallibly, not only the strength and operation of all these desires and passions, but in what manner. they would operate, and all the consequences that would result to mankind from their improper use. Here we find cause of sin; for "every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed; then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." 10
8 Gen. ii. 8, 9.
9 Id. 15-17.
10 James i. 13, 14.
2. He planted a garden in which he caused to grow the various kinds of trees, which spontaneously brought forth such fruits as were necessary for the sustenance of man. Also, the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," in the midst of the garden, which was "pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise," with the certain knowledge that our first parents, impelled by their desires, would partake of its fruit; and in this garden he placed his newly-created offspring. And here, in the objects of desire, as well as of necessity, we find the occasion of sin; for without these objects in view, the desires would not have been aroused to action.
3. Had there been no command or prohibition, there would have been no sin in the act of partaking of that fruit by Adam and Eve; for "sin is the transgression of the law," and "where no law is, there is no transgression." But God, in infinite wisdom, and we doubt not, in infinite goodness, saw fit to introduce a positive prohibition, and to introduce a positive prohibition, and to inform our first parents of the inevitable consequences of disregarding that prohibition; thus rendering a foreseen act sinful, which would have been otherwise innocent.
4. At this period Adam and Eve had formed no moral character; their intellectual faculties were wholly undeveloped; their powers of moral perception had, as yet, lain dormant; their spiritual powers had never been called into exercise; they had no knowledge of either good or evil; and without such knowledge, and a development of their intellectual, moral and spiritual capacities, the formation of moral character was an absolute impossibility. They were simply innocent; but without any positive holiness, or those shining virtues which adorn humanity.
With the foregoing facts in view, we are prepared to follow the sacred historian in his account of subsequent events. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made; and he said unto the woman, yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall