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of any ideas we have but what we received in the same way: even those which relate to God and religion are the effect of what we have seen, heard, or felt upon these subjects. We know no subject operates upon us as a motive otherwise than according to the views we have of it. · For instance, the character of God is calculated to operate upon every creature as a constant motive to love, confidence, and obedience: but is does not so operate upon men in general. What is the reason? Because they do not know his true character; for they who know his name will put their trust in him. (Psalm ix. 10.) they who perceive his love will love him, (1 John, iv. 19.) and love is the principle of all obedience. (Rom. xiii. 10. Tim. i. 5) Men, having unjust views of God, instead of loving, hate him; instead of confiding in, flyf:om him; not viewing his commands as proceeding froin love, and designed for their benefit, they rebel against him. Thus the same subject operates in different ways upon different persons, according as they have just or unjust ideas thereof. The gospel was sent into the world to effect the most important change in the hearts and lives of men; but how was this to be done? By its being preached to them. They were capable of hearing, they were called to hear; through hearing, one of the senses, it was to make impressions upon them; unless they heard it, no impression could be made upon them thereby. It was intended, through the impressions which it made when they heard it, to open the eyes of their understanding, and bring them from darkness to light, i. e. to new ideas of things. The gospel's leading men to new motives, dispositions, and actions, depends upon its furnishing them with new ideas of things; for they are estranged froin the life of God through the ignornace that is in them. (Eph. iv. 18.) The Gentiles became vain in their imaginations, their foolish hearts were darkened, and their abominable deeds followed as the consequence: (Rom. i.) had they loved to retain God in their knowledge, such abominations would have been prevented.
I have made the above observations to shew that if we would bring men to fear, trust in, love, and obey God, we must do all we can to lead them to just views of his character and designs; and that if we would be instrumental in preserving the rising generation from infidelity, vice, and misery, it must be by the same means.
I fear many persons have been disaffected to God and his governinent by the shocking representations which have too frequently been given of the divine character : something of this kind I experienced in my childhood, of which I will add a short account.
My mind was seriously and religiously affected from the earliest period of my recollection; but the ideas conveyed to me respecting God and his governgrent, instead of producing love and confidence in him, excited horror and dread in my mind.
It was either in the seventh or eighth year of any age, that I was one day left for some time by myself; the thoughts of God, death, and an endless hell rushed upon me. From what I had heard upon those subjects, the following reflections arose in my mind i
“ God is a being extremeiy difficult to please, and unbounded in his severity towards those who displease him, there is no probability of my avoiding his displeasure; and if I displease him, he will give me into the hands of the devil, who, like a jailor, must keep me in hoid, and torment me to all eternity. What a good thing it would be if there was no God, or if the devil was God for what he does is by the appointment of God, who delivers offending mortals over to him to be tormented.” And I uttered words expressive of those dreadful thoughts. My infant mind was in the greatest anguish, and for years after I was at times in the greatest horror at the remembrance of having conceived and given vent to such blasphemous thoughts : but my having been told that if I displeased God he would cease to love me, and cast ine into hell fire, there to be tormented by the devil to all eternity, produced them. - Had I been led to understand that God can never cease to love or seek the good of any part of his works--that whatever he had prohibited my doing was from love, because he knew the doing of it would be injurious, not to him, but to me--that whatever he had commanded me to do was not from any personal advantage which he could derive from my doing it, but from a regard to my happiness--that he loved me with the tenderest affection, and would never suffer me to be subjected to any pain, but with a view to my advantage-certainly should have felt very differently, and the thought that his existence and government were inimical to the happiness of any of his creatures, could never have obtruded itself upon my mind.
I recommend the advocates for divine implacability, vindictive justice, eternal wrath, and endless misery, seriously to enquire whether they be not the unintentional instruments of exciting atheistical and blasphemous thoughts in the minds of their fellow creatures,
. . . I remain, '
DEAR SIR,.. VOURS I received, and should be glad if I could answer your
questions on original sin, &c. to any good purpose.'. In this, ás in all points, we ought, as far as we are able, "justify the ways of God to men,” to be exceedingly careful we do not err.on the right hand or on the left, never to say any thing which may suggest an idea of unrighteousness in the character of the most high God, as though he had placed the creature in such a state and under such circumstances as *to make sin unavoidable, and ihereby extenuate the crime; nor, on the
other hand, to represent the creature as entirely independant of the Creator in all his volitions and actions.
I will now, without farther preface, iminediately attend to your questions. You must not, however, for reasons which are needless to mention, expect a regular and correct chain of argument; but that my observations and remarks will be loose, and some what vague and desultory.
To begin. Many and various have beer, the conjectures and opinions of men concerning the introduction of sin, and much disputation about the first sin of Adam and its effects on himself and his posterity:
. ist. Many assert, and endeavour to maintain, that God fixed the human constitution such, that if the first man sinned, it would subject or involve the whole human race in the condemnation of the same; that is, our first parents, by transgressing the cominand of God, in eating the forbidden fruit, did not only bring personal guilt upon themselves, but thereby subjected themselves and all their posterity to death here, and endless damnation hereafter. They go further, and positively assert that all mankind were, by Adain's first sin, not only subject or liable to endless torments in hell, but that all of them will certainly undergo it, except a comparatively few, called the ele&t, who were chosen in Christ before the world began, and who in time are effectually called, by what they term the unfrustrable and irresistible power of the Holy Spirit upon their minds.
It is really astonishing how such horrid sentiments ever entered into the mind of any rational being-sentiments so abhorrent in themselves, so foreign, so contrary and repugnant to the glorious perfections of the Deity manifested by the light of nature, but more abundantly by divine revelation; and we can find nothing of this kind in the threatening before, nor in the sentence pronounced after, the fall of our first parents, See Gen. iii.
2. There are others'who do not chuse to say that mankind are liable to endless punishment merely for the sin of Adam, yet they maintain that all his posterity bring into the world with them such depravity and contamination of inind, as naturally tends to, and will unavoidably produce, those actions of sin and transgression against God which will terininate in the everlasting damnation of hell. If so, then, how does this mend the maiter? What difference could it make to Cain whether he was damned merely for the sin of his father, or for his own, made unavoidable by that of his father?
3. There is also a third sort: they tell us that none of the children of Adam suffer any thing in consequence of his eating of the forbidden fruit, either inmediately or remotely, only mortality and death. There are some of this third sort, whom I sincerely regard, who say it is their fixed opinion that mankind are brought into the world as entirely free from the least degree of moral fracture as they would have been if Adam had never transgressed. If so, why suffer at all-as hath ever since been, and still is, the case with thousands and millions of the human face, who could not discern between the right hand and the left? If those children never had the least degree (in :
sense whatever) of sin, moral taint, or moral fracture, how then is the divine proceeding her in vindicated any more or better than in his condemning any of the children of Adam to hell for ever on account of his sin? If it be not right to put an innocent inan to death, then neither can it be right to cause him to suffer stripes.
Some of my friends of this third sort insist upon it that children come into the world as free from any moral fracture, any evil disposition or principle, as a piece of white paper; and that it is as easy to instil into them the principles of virtue, and to influence them to the practice thereof as it is to do the contrary. If by saying so they do not mean that it is practicable to bring up children so virtuously as to keep the whole of the moral law as completely and perfectly as Adam could before he partook of the forbidden fruit, it is, I think, little better than saying nothing: but if they think it is possible so to do, then I must beg leave to differ from them until proof shall be given thereof.
It is allowed that the blessing of procreation was given before the fall; but as the effect thereof did not take place until the defection of our first parents, their children must, I should think, be begotten and born in that very image they had contracted, in consequence of their violating the command of their Creator, (be that image whatever it might) personal guilt only excepted- What that image was may be considered hereafter.
Now forasmuch as there never were any of the sons or daughters of Adam brought up so virtuous and pure, as is by some contended they might be, it is, in my opinion, a very strong argument that the thing is in the highest degree morally impossible, if not physically so.
There is another argument of considerable weight, and which I think ought to be attended to by all such as profess to be concerned for the honour of God, and wish to speak of his character in such a manner as to justify his ways to men: it is this; if mankind are born into the world so free from sin or moral fracture in any sense or point of view whatever, how then is the righteousness and goodness of God to be vindicated in causing such perfectly pure and innocent creatures to be brought into this world, where they are surrounded and beset with such (I had almost said infinite) numbers of devils and devilish snares and temptations, which render it in the highest degree impossible for them uniformly and constantly 10 refrain doing those things which will subject them or cause them to be liable to wrath, tribulation, and anguish, both here and hereafter?
There is one way which it is thought will elude the force of the argument in the above paragraph: but whether or not it be sufficient for the purpose the reader inust judge.
It is maintained by some that the Most High did not only foreknow, with infallible certainty, but also, from all absolute eternity all the free volitions of the creatures with the actions which might arise therefrom; and that the ideas of them, with all the sin, guilt, impurity, and defilement, were, from all absolute eternity, present with him, being coeval with his very nature and existence: they do not only affirm all this, but also that, in the eternal counsel of his own will, he arranged
fixed, connected, and combined all causes, effects, and circumstances, so as they shall ultimately terminate in the endless happiness of all his creatures, sys
The above, so far as it provides for the final recovery and happiness of all the rational creation, I much approve of; yet I have one or two objections to some part thereof...
In the first place, I cannot recollect any part of scripture which inforins me that God did, from all absolute eternity, certainly and necessarily foresee all the free deterıninations of intellectual agents, but as contingent and possible. rio . . . .
I suppose it will be allowed that God was at perfect liberty, whether he would or) would not create; also that he was free even to think of it: to deny this, is, in my judgment, to limit the Most High. I am fully persuaded that when the Almighty formed the creature, he could, if he chose it, not only foresee and foretel all the actions of the creature, but also all volitions in the mind, and motives which influence the will, to stir up the members to do the actions ; likewise that, if it pleased him, he could foresee and perfectly foreknow all the ineanders, windings, and turnings the creature could make in its departure from the rule of eternal order. i . .
. To maintain that the absolutely Infinite is not possessed of power to prevent certain ideas from entering into his inind, and to banish things out of his inind, so as never more to remember them, is not only to limit the power of God, but is also little better than giving the lie to his own positive declaration in the Scripture *.
Secondly. Such an arranging, fixing, connecting, and combining all circumstances, causes, and events, appears to me to destroy the very nature of vice and virtue. To, this it hath been said, “ No; for as every effect arises from some cause, so every action is done from some motive, and becomes praise or blame worthy from the motive which influences the person to act." Now, admitting this, yet if all things are arranged, connected, fixed, and combined to bring about an effect, then he who fixed the effect, fixed also the causę; he who fixed the action, fixed the motive from which the action sprang. This, therefore, doth not remove my objection : it however puts me in mind of a Calvinistic argument in defence of God's.decreeing sin, viz. that God's end and design in decreeing it was one thing, the creature's end in committing it was quite another. To which one answered, that the creature had the end in view, which the decree made necessary. i , Much hath been said about philosophical necessity; I never oppose it, except when I think it stated in such a manner as sets aside the nature of virtue and, vice; which I have sometimes thought to be the case Whatever may be said about it, I cannot be otherwise minded than to be
* See this subject more fully, explained in Ramsay's Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion, Vol. I. pis$25&c. VOL.JV.-, .
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