« הקודםהמשך »
as was king Saul against David. Hence proceeded that spirit of hostility against the doctrine and religion of Jesus, which was the criminal cause of those unhappy divisions among the people, and which introduced into families the bane of discord and deadly hate.
Here it is necessary to mark the difference between the innocent and the criminal cause. Dia vine wisdom saw that all this enmity and opposition to the gospel were necessary for the fulfilment of the declarations of the prophets concerning the Messiah, that all things might be fulfilled that were written concerning him. The same divine wisdom designed all this opposition and persecution, which were carried on with such vehemence, for the purpose of promoting the cause of truth, which in its final effects would overcome and subdue the false religion which caused the scribes and pharisees to oppose it. This foreknowledge of God and his benevolent design, in all this vast concern, show most clearly that he was the innocent cause of the whole. But on the part of the active agents, who opposed and persecuted the gospel and those who promulgated it, we find no benevolent, no gracious design or purpose; but the most heated jealousy and inflamed envy which ever burned in the breast of the wicked. This spirit, and design to oppose and overthrow the truth, prove, as clearly as any thing can be proved, that criminality was found in the enemies of Christ. If on due examination we were able to discover that the chief priests, the scribes and pharisees, together with all who opposed Christ and his doctrine, understood that their exertions were necessary for the promotion of this dootrine, and that they designed it for that purpose, it would prove that they were the friends of Christ and his religion, and would establish theirinnocency beyond all dispute. But their evil design proves that they were the criminal cause of the miseries which their opposition to the religion of Jesus produced ; but the gracious design of our heavenly Father, in
relation to all this enmity, and the acknowledged fact that he overruled the whole for the good of all concerned, prove that he was the innocent cause of all these events.
Another case, recorded in scripture, which sents our general subject in a light most convincing, is that of the envy and enmity of the brethren of Joseph towards him. A careful examination of the circumstances which produced their envy will quickly arrive at an understanding of their innocency. God, in his gracions wisdom inspired Joseph with dreams which he, in all the simplicity and innocency of childhood, related in the family circle. The dreams were easily and quickly understood by his brethren to indicate the future exaltation of Joseph, and the humble dependence of his brethren and their submission to his authority. For these dreams his brethren hated him; and the fire of their envy burned with such vehemence as to overpower the sweet sympathies of kindred affections, and to effect in their minds the murderous design of destroying their brother. If wickedness ever presented dyes of an appalling cast, we find those colours in the deception which those brethren practiced on their venerable father, when they presented him with the bloody coat of his son, of his beloved Joseph. How hard must have been their hearts not to relent when they saw the anguish of their father, and heard his exclamation, “ It is my son's coat; an evil heast hath devoured him ; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces, I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” Only go one step back of the envy which was kindled in the breasts of those unhappy brethren, and all is peaceful innocency.-God was the innocent cause of this envy by inspiring Joseph with such dreams. Joseph was an innocent cause of the same envy by relating his dreams to the family. This envy was the criminal cause of that conduct which effectually destroyed the felicity of the sacred family circle, drowned the holy patriarch in sorrow's
dark waters, and ingulphed the wicked perpetrators of this outrage in guilt and condemnation.
As the causes which produced the wickedness which was practiced, by the brethren of Joseph, against him, were innocent, and as the whole of this wickedness was overruled, by divine wisdom and goodness, unto a benevolent end, it seems to furnish incontestible proof of the principle for which we have contended in this discourse. But in order to see how this general argument fully and effectually does away this doctrine of endless punishment for sin, and thereby removes the great and weighty objection, which lies in the inind of the professed Arminian, against the doctrine of predestination, and against allowing that God is the cause of all events, it is necessary to show that sin is designed by our heavenly Father, not only for good, on some broad and general principle, but it is necessary to show that it is designed and overruled for the good of those who are its criminal agents. A most clear and convincing manifestation of this infinitely important fact we have in the case of Joseph's brethren, to which we have in part attended. It is seen that in consequence of their envy and hatred they sold their brother to merchants who again sold him for a slave in Egypt; and it is also very evident that in consequence of his becoming a servant in the house of Potiphar he became the subject of the persecution of his wicked mistress, who caused him to be cast into prison; and it is also evident that his being thus confined was the cause of his acquaintance with the chief baker and chief butler, whose dreams he interpreted, which was the cause of his being brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, which one of the wise men of Egypt could possibly solve. This astonishing in. stance of the wisdom of Joseph was the cause of his advancement to authority and power next to the throne, which proved an incalculable blessing to all Egypt and the whole surrounding country,
by seasonably laying up in store sufficient corn to sustain the inhabitants of the land during seven years of famine. Thus we see that the
and wickedness of Joseph's brethren, bitter as gaul and wormwood as they flowed, in a perturbed, deadly stream, at first, carried immense blessings into Egypt and the adjoining country. But were those envious, wicked brethren excluded from the favours which resulted to thousands of others ? No; we see them coming into Egypt to buy corn for their wanting families ; they bow to Joseph before they know him, and obtain a supply of the staff of life at his hands without knowing that it was he whom they hated and sold, who thus opened his hand to their relief. But when he made himself known to his brethren, with what tenderness and affection did he address them, saying; “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.” And moreover, even after the death of their father, when these brethren feared what Joseph might do to them for their trespass against him, and came and fell down before him and craved his forgiveness, he kindly replied; "Fear not-ye thought evil against me : but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive-fear not; I will nourish you and your little ones.” In this reply Joseph sets up the doctrine which we are endeavouring to exemplify. “ Ye thought evil against me ; but God meant it unto good.”. What did God mean unto good? Answer—the very evil which they thought against Joseph. What good did God intend by that evil which those brethren intended ? Answer--that of saving many thousands of lives, and the lives of those brethren with the rest. The whole family of promise was preserved from famine by the consequences resulting from that envy wnich moved those brethren to sell Joseph.
If our heavenly Father has given us to understand, and to know, that it is consistent with his moral perfections to design and overrule the evil of sin, in any instance, for general good, and even for the good of those who are criminal agents in it; it is by no means necessary that we should be able to discern the good which he designs by every instance of moral evil, in order to justify us in believing that he does design and overrule all sin in the same gracious manner. He, in compassion to us his weak and erring children, has given us abundant evidence of that blessed truth, that “ where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” In this doctrine we may find rest to our souls, and infinite reason to be thankful to God and humbly joyful in his presence.
We feel unwilling to leave this subject, until we notice a very popular objection which its opposers urge against it. They say, if this doctrine be allowed, we may do evil that good may come. After this same manner did the enemies of the apostles slander them, reporting that they said ; "Let us do evil, that good may come.”
In replying to this unwise objection we will ask the opposer to make the trial, that he may convince himself. What has he got to do? He is to do evil that good may come. Then his design in what he does must be that good may come.—But this very design constitutes his act morally good ; for the moral character of every act is determined by the design of the actor. If Joseph's brethren had seen into futurity, and with a clear understanding had comprehended the necessity of Joseph's going into Egypt, and had sold him for the purpose of bringing his dreams to pass, in compliance with the wisdom and design of God, there certainly would have been no enmity in their hearts towards their brother, nor moral evil in what they did. And there is another thing which the objector ought to know, and that is, that if Joseph's brethren had fully believed that God