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attempts to fathom, that in the creation and moral government of this world sin and misery should have gained admission. Why, it is often asked, did not Omnipotence utterly exclude moral and physical evil from the system? Why did he not preserve our race from its pollutions? Why did he suffer the powers of darkness to effect their fell purpose and spread such desolation through our world? Why have not the ravages of sin been long since arrested, and the race of man rescued from its accursed dominion ? These are questions which no mortal can answer; because they relate to secret counsels of God, which he has not been pleased to disclose. But it is as unreasonable, as it is wicked, to draw a conclusion from the fact that no reasons are assigned, that none exist. A child is very perverse and foolish who despises his father's proceedings because he cannot understand the reasons which govern them. Shall mortal man then be more just and wise than his Maker? Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God? It does indeed appear awfully mysterious, that such a direful invasion of the holiness and happiness of the universe should have been permitted that this fair world should have been suffered to become a theatre of rebellion-a moral aceldama—that so many lions of immortals should have been ruined forever by the great destroyer, and that the direful consequences of human guilt are to be perpetuated in the torments of eternal death. But may we not be assured that all our difficultieslarise from our dim, partial, and limited views of the subject? As we always find in those affairs where the reasons of the divine conduct are given, that it is characterized by perfect wisdom and goodness; would it not be a fair inference that the same attributes are really present in those cases where the reasons which govern the proceedings, are not given? When we perceive that the Creator of the world, with all possible events fully in his view, and in the exercise of perfect benevolence, did see fit to permit sin to be introduced, with all its fearful consequences; does it not become us to rest perfectly assured, that such reasons for the divine conduct must have existed as to render it perfectly consistent with infinite goodness, and a supreme desire to promote in the highest degree the holiness and happiness of the intelligent universe ?
Many volumes have been written and much mental labor wasted, in controversy whether the admission of sin was in accordance with, or in opposition to the divine will; whether such a system of mingled good and evil was chosen, az is on the whole promotive of the greatest good; or whether the principles of unholiness came into operation by their own uncontrollable force, the divine will and purposes to the contrary notwithstanding. But to what good purpose is the discussion ? Nothing has been decided. It is one of the secret things which belong to God. All that concerns us in the affair is fully revealed.
We are distinctly informed that man came from his Maker's hand pure and holy, capable of perfect and erdless blessedness. We are assured that the corruption and depravation of his nature was the result of wilful transgression, deliberate rebellion, and that in consequence of this wicked apostasy our whole race became polluted and guilty; inclined to evil and bent upon self-destruction. God's holy word declares that so far from being the author of sin, it is the abominable thing which his soul hateth. The gospel makes known to us the amazing sacrifice which divine love has offered, to satisfy the claims of law and purchase deliverance and pardon for guilty men, and proclaims the terms on which we may escape the direful evils in which we have involved ourselves by sin, and become heirs of everlasting life. With such plain directions as to the way of salvation, so full a disclosure of our condition as sinners and the provisions of divine mercy for our relief, what farther revelation is necessary? Our danger, our duty, and our way of escape are all made plain. And it were far wiser in sinful dying men to embrace immediately the terms of the gospel treaty by repentance and faith; to give all dili. gence to secure the blessings of the great salvation; and thus escape the wrath to come and lay hold on endless life, than to employ themselves in finding out doubts and objections about the origin of evil and its admission into our world. When they shall be required to create a world, it will be time enough for them to state their difficulties and urge the inquiry, how it can be made and kept perfectly holy. Our first great work is to get safe to heaven. If through rich grace we secure admission there, we shall have ample scope and opportunity to survey all the regions of light and knowledge which shall then be thrown open to our inspection. But at present we have more appropriate employment than fruitless speculations as to these secret things which belong unto God.
Another subject which is placed wholly out of the reach of our investigation, is the entire consistency of the divine purposes with the freedom of human agency. The question arises, How can it be that our uncontrolled and voluntary volitions and actions can be recon. cileable with that predetermination of all events, or that absolute fore. knowledge which renders them equally certain, which the Bible ascribes to the moral Governor of the world? In this case, predestination and fore-knowledge amount to the same thing. For if an event be infallibly foreknown, its occurrence is just as certain and inevitable as it could be made by any possible decree. The fixed certainty of future events, and this invariable plan of action which exists in the mind of God are abundantly revealed in Scripture. The whole system of prophecy rests upon this basis, that all the acts of created
agents in all future times, have a present existence, a fixed certainty of taking place, in the divine mind. And these statements of revelation are in unison with the dictates of enlightened reason. It is impossible to conceive of an infinite law-giver, the Maker and sovereign of all things, without ascribing to him an all-comprehending view of all events, a perfect control of all inferior agents, and a clear discernment of the end from the beginning. It is thus abundantly taught in the Bible, that all events which take place were certainly and unalter. ably fixed in the divine mind. The Bible also declares with equal plainness, that we are entirely and justly accountable, that we act freely in view of motives, and that the divine decrees put no restraint at all upon our choice and determinations. And every man knows this is absolutely true. In every mind there is a consciousness of complete freedom of purpose and action. And however objectors may argue upon this subject, the pangs of remorse which follow crime, clearly prove that the transgressor has an inward assurance he has acted freely, voluntarily and wickedly. Thus the predestination of all events and the perfect freedom of human agency are clearly and fully revealed. The secret which is hidden from man is, the consistency of these with each other. It seems difficult to conceive how men can act free in doing that which the divine purposes have already fixed unalterably: and yet we know it is even so. The hearts of Joseph's brethren were agonized at the recollection of their cruelty and wickedness in selling him into bondage, and yet God employed their guilty instrumentality in sending Joseph into Egypt to effect a great deliverance. The pangs of remorse and despair which rent the heart of Judas were not assuaged by knowing that his direful treason was certainly predetermined and foretold by the prophets of old-because he knew that his crime was voluntary and intentional. It was " by wicked hands" that our Lord was crucified and slain, although he was "delivered by the determinate counsel and fore knowledge of God." The question thus arises, How can we be free and accountable agents, and yet act in invariable accordance with the divine predetermination ? This is not revealed. It is a secret reserved to be disclosed by the light of eternity.
As the Bible reveals both these facts, and we cannot deny either with. out falling into the grossest absurdities, it is our wisdom to cherish an unshaken confidence in the divine declarations as to the truth of these seem. ingly conflicting propositions, and rest assured that in a manner very mysterious and above our present conceptions, the freedom of human agents is entirely harmonious with the foreordination of all their ac. tions. We are moreover to recollect that the secret counsels of God do not form our rule of conduct : as we cannot know what those coun. sels are, we are not to be governed by them in our conduct, but to act at
all times with reference to the revealed will of God, without any prac. tical reference to his secret decrees.
We find another of the secret things which belong to God, in those mysterious dealings of Providence, into which human wisdom and sagacity attempt in vain to penetrate. In these matters clouds and darkness are round about the Almighty, and man is manifestly shut out from the counsels of his hand. The seeming prosperity of wicked men and the afflictions of the righteous have perplexed the wise from the days of Job to the present time. Scripture history is replete with striking examples and affecting illustrations of this profound mystery. There is Potiphar in splendor, and Joseph in prison. Herod triumphs on a throne, while John the Baptist groans out his life in a dungeon. Nero exults in royal robes, while the apostle Paul is bound in chains. And often it has been asked with deep solicitude, How, under a government of infinite wisdom and rectitude, can these things be permitted? But the question is urged in vain. No response is heard from the throne above. Similar dispensations occur in our own age. We see the most useful, important members of society removed by death, and the lights of the world extinguished, while the profligate and worthless are spared to be a burden to the earth. What mul. titudes of our race just open their eyes in helpless infancy, and closing them forever, lie down in the grave. Innocent prattling childhood struggles in the tortures of disease and expires in agonizing convul. sions, while the vilest of mankind enjoy health and spend their days in mirth. The young mother is torn from the cradle of her helpless babe by the ruthless hand of death, while the outcasts of society live to hoary hairs.
These judgments of the Lord are a great deep which no man can fathom. We tremblingly inquire the reasons for such dispensations ; and the only answer from the lively oracles is, “What thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter." We must therefore “Wait the great teacher death, and God adore.” Though we have the fullest confidence that all these inexplicable events will be fully explained in a future state, yet the whole subject is now shrouded by an impenetrable veil. The design of this concealment seems to be, to bring our feelings to the test—to ascertain whether we can repose implicit confidence in the divine goodness and rectitude, even when his doing's appear most unequal, and no reasons are given to explain them. The great moral effect of the divine dispensations would often be wholly frustrated by the disclosure of the secret purposes of God. When Jacob's darling son was taken from him, the blessed effect of that chastening stroke would have been destroyed by the knowledge that Joseph was taken from him to be inade chief ruler in Egypt. And Joseph himself would not have derived so much spiritual benefit from his impris
onment, had he known it was preparatory to such high exaltation. It was needful for the trial of Abraham's faith, that he should suffer all the heart-breaking anguish which arose from his ignorance that ano. ther victim would be provided to be slain instead of Isaac. And the patience of Job would not have been so signally tested, if he had been apprised that his latter end would be greater than his beginning. We cite one more instance.
The Bible brings life and immortality to light, and makes known to us that we shall exist forever. But the nature of that future exist. ence and almost every thing relating to the world of spirits are among those secret things which belong to God. God has made known to us that we shall have a conscious existence when separate from the body—that our bodies will be raised incorruptible—that body and soul will be reunited and stand before God in judgment; and that after judgment we shall enter upon an everlasting state of blessedness or wo, according to the character we form in this life. But after all, what is our knowledge of the invisible world and of the realities of future being ? Literally we know nothing of the essence of the soul and of its separate existence. And we are equally in the dark as to the process of the resurrection and the nature of a spiritual body.
It seems to be the fixed purpose of God to limit our information to this state of being; and to say to human curiosity which would sur. pass these barriers, Hitherto shalt thou come but no farther. Some general, unexplained facts are declared, leaving all beside wrapped in a dark pall of mystery, never to be lifted but by that hand which opens to man the gate of eternity. It is indeed wonderful how entirely all increase of knowledge upon this subject is precluded. While information is increasing upon so many things, we have not advanced a jot in our inquiries as to the invisible world, beyond those of a former generation. While so many thousand millions of our race have gone through that dark mysterious passage which leads to the world of spirits, not a word of information has been returned ; and that gloomy pathway is just as new and untried to every traveler now, as it was to Abel who first explored the fearful labyrinth.
It is worse than useless to indulge speculations, or pretend to any discoveries as to those things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, and which have never entered into the heart of man. The whole subject is involved in solemn secrecy which defies human investigation, and casts utter contempt upon a proud philosophy which aspires to be wise above what is written. The humbling truth is, we have deathless spirits within us, but we are very ignorant of their nature and properties—we talk familiarly of the intercourse of departed souls—though such intercourse is completely beyond our comprehen.