תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors]

he the criminal cause ?: Here there can be but one answer. David was the innocent cause of this outrageous piece of wickedness. But the question will be asked ; was there a criminal cause of the same wicked outrage ? Here again there can be no doubt. If there had been no criminal design the act could not have been morally wrong. The act of taking life, as well as all other acts, is innocent, or criminal, according to the design of the principal agent, who performs the act. But Saul and Doeg were unquestionably criminal, in relation to this affair ; and it is very evident that they were important agents in it.

The discerning hearer will now grow apprehensive that the nice point, that pivot on which this general subject must turn, is going to be either overlooked, or kept out of the argument. It is very clear, that in order for our reasoning to result in showing that God is the innocent cause of all things : it must be shown that he is the innocent cause even of criminality itself. We have no fears on this subject, no wish to hide behind some insolvable mystery. Let us then examine the case of Saul and David. Saul was determined to take the life of David ; and such was the strength of this determination and the fury which accompanied it, that whatever seemed to stand in the way to restrain the course of his vengeance, became subject to it. This in Saul was criminal ; it was the dictate of envy. David had done nothing at which Saul was offended' ; but his loyalty to the king, his love of his country's freedom, and above all his sacred regard to the character of the God of Israel, had acquired him a fame, which eclipsed the glory of Saul and kindled the fire of jealousy in his heart.

In the movements of David there appears nothing that was reprehensible. Goliath had for forty days shown himself from the front of the Philistine army, prondly vaunting, and defying the host of Israel. He proposed to decide the fate of a pend.

ing battle by single combat, if the army of Israel could furnish a champion to meet him. But Saul and his men were afraid ; nor did any one possess the courage to accept the challenge. David was then a ruddy youth, whom his father sent to the camp to bear his favour to his sons, who were in the army. When he saw. Goliath vapouring in his vanity, and heard him defying the army of Israel ; and when, to his mortification, he saw his own brethren and the whole host of his people shrinking with fear at the profane boasting of the uncircumcised champion, he felt emotions which we can more readily conceive than describe. He was not a moment in deciding, in his mind, that Goliath's challenge ought to be accepted. This was no sooner known by Saul than he made inquiry, and found the youth ready to meet in single combat, this champion who was the terror of Saul and all his men of war. Saul feared for the safety of David, and expostulated with him. He reminded him of his youth, and that he was going to meet a foe who had been a man of war from his youth. But David informed Saul that he had slain a lion and a bear, which attempted to rob his father's flock of a lamb, and that he was confident that God would make that uncircumcised Philistine as one of them. Such was Saul's concern for David that he put his own armour on him, and furnished him with all the defence possible. But David refused all these, and taking his staff and sling, chose five smooth stones out of the brook, with which he fearlessly met and overcame this fearful champion. This David was a Benjamite, and well skilled in the use of the sling ; and with this weapon he prevailed. Now what we desire to have considered here is the perfect innocence of David, in this interesting combat. Saul, the king, was concerned for nothing, as it appears, but for the safety of this beautiful youth. He felt no apprehensions that any prejudice to himself could result from David's success in this case. No doubt.

the sincere desire of his heart was gratified when he saw the champion fall. But when Saul and his victorious army returned in triumph, and the women came out of the cities to meet the king, singing and dancing, and exclaiming, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands, those elements which compose the demon of envy, were immediately called together, and kindled into a fury of horrid mien.

Let us now look at this whole affair; and let candor judge and decide whether David, by the help of God, in whom he trusted, was not the innocent cause of Saul's deadly envy.-It really seems that the subject is too plain to either need argument, or admit of doubt. But says the hearer; though this must be allowed, the question arises, wherein does the criminality of Saul's envy consist, if it were the effect of that which was innocent and good ? The answer is ready-Saul's criminality consisted in his designing evil; and it was this evil design which led him to all the acts of injustice and cruelty which he committed against David and others, on his account. But another question here presents its demands; and it is one too of high consideration in relation to the general subject. Why does not this argument suppose the same criminality in the divine Being, who is allowed to be the cause of this criminal envy, as it attributes to Saul, in whose breast it burned ? To this weighty question the answer is also ready. It is because the argument contends that the design which the divine Being had in causing this envy in Saul was a good design. The whole was designed and overruled by our heavenly Father for good, and was wholly dictated by that heavenly wisdom which is full of mercy and good fruits, and which is without partiality. We will here allow the objector to urge what to him may seem to be of weght, that as the argument allows that the divine Being intended and caused all the evil which actually took place, by the agency of Saul, if we

argue that the divine Being is innocent in this case, we should also allow the innocency of Saul. But to this we reply : there is a very plain difference in the moral character which the argument attributes to the Creator and to the creature. All the evil which actually took place was designed by the Creator for the good of all concerned; but in the design of the creature there was not the smallest particle of divine benevolence or good will ; and it is the difference in the moral nature of those opposite designs, which constitutes the moral difference in the characters of the Creator and the creature. If it could be seen that Saul, in all his conduct which we have noticed, was actuated by a purely benevolent disposition, designing the whole for the ultimate good of all whom his acts concerned, and seeing at the same time how this good would be brought about by such means, we should see no cause why his entire innocence should not be allowed. But not being able to find this good design in Saul, nor the least shadow of evidence of its existence, we are compelled to ascribe to him the character of cruel, relentless envy.

The hearer is now, unquestionably, prepared to see that it is absolutely necessary to leave out of our creed the doctrine of infinite evil, or unlimited suffering, as it is impossible for such evil or suffering to be overruled for the good of those who endure it. As our argument contends that God is the innocent cause of the sin which men commit, and maintains this hypothesis on the ground that he designs all this sin and its consequent guilt, condemnation and suffering, for the ultiinate good of all, we see that the admission of endless suffering would destroy every vestige of this system of reasoning, as it is not possible to conceive how suffering, which will never end, can result in the benefit of the sufferer. Sound reasoning, on this subject, will moreover show, that as the designing of evil, without intending it for good, constitutes the sinful or criminal cause, by allowing that the divine Be

ing ever was the cause of that which he did not design for ultimate good, we charge him with criminality!

The instructions of the blessed Saviour will assist us in illustrating the principle that the cause of moral evil may be innocent. The following are his words : “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth ? I tell you, nay ; but rather division ; for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father ; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law; and a man's foes shall be those of his own household.” In this passage the Saviour acknowledges that he came to effect divisions in families ; to make fathers and sons foes to each other, and to set at variance mothers and daughters. But we cannot suppose that he meant to accuse himself of being the criminal cause of those deadly feuds and family quarrels ; nor can it be allowed, by any who know his spirit and doctrine, and who love the same, that he was the criminal cause of such unhappy divisions. We find the criminal cause of all such wickedness in the superstition and bigotry of the religious people of those times, in which the gospel was planted in our world. The doctrine of Jesus was as pure as the light of heaven ; its favour was as free as the descending rain ; it fell on the multitude like gentle dew on the grass of the field; the common people heard him gladly, and wondered at the gracious words which he uttered ; but the bigoted priests, scribes and pharisees, who had made the law of God void by their traditions, found that the doctrine of Jesus, with all its precepts, would sweep away the whole system of their religion, if it should prevail. They were stung with jealousy, and fired with deadly, envy against the blessed Son of God,

« הקודםהמשך »