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OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD, CONSIDERED AS A OR CONSTITUTION, IMPERFECTLY COM
ARGUMENT.-Analogy, though being applicable only
to facts, and, therefore, affording no direct answer to objections against the Wisdom and Goodness of God's moral government, is yet serviceable, by suggesting that the whole is a regular System; and, therefore, like the vast and complicated scheme of the natural world, above our comprehension. As the latter contains many things inexplicable; and some, to our limited view, apparently contradictory; which, nevertheless; make up a harmonious whole: so may it be with the moral world. Both of them may be so connected, as to form One vast System, of which we are utterly incompetent judges, both of their several parts, and of the means made use of. Frequent interpositions are incompatible with general laws. The very things objected to, may be actual instances of wisdom and good
ness, could the whole be seen and comprehended. Our ignorance making us incompetent judges of the natural world, makes us, by Analogy, equally so of God's moral government, and, of itself, is an answer to all objections against the Wisdom and Goodness thereof.
THE credibility or truth of a fact does not necessarily prove any thing as to its goodness or wisdom; and, therefore, though the analogy of nature gives a strong credibility to religion, and the several particulars thereof, as matters of fact, it affords no direct answer to objections against the wisdom and goodness of the Divine government. But if it renders it credible that this government must be a regular system, (and not a number of unconnected acts;) and one so imperfectly comprehended, and, in other respects, such, as to afford an answer to all objections of this kind; then, analogy is remotely of great service, as will be now shown.
I. Suppose, God exercises a moral government over the world; the analogy of His natural government shows it to be a scheme beyond our comprehension; and is, therefore, an answer to all objections against the justice and goodness of it. In the great scheme of the natural world, individuals have special relations to individuals of their own species; and species to other species; and these relations may be indefinitely extended, so that no single natural event may be so
unconnected, as not to have some remote connection with others,―remote beyond the compass of this world; and all events throughout nature may thus have relation to each other. The most insignificant things seem sometimes to be necessary conditions to most important ones; and any one thing (for what we know) may be a necessary condition to any other.
The natural world and its government, then, being plainly a scheme incomprehensible to us, this shows the credibility that the moral world and its government may be so too. Indeed, both appear so connected, as to make up but one system: the former being arranged in subserviency to the latter, even as the vegetable world is for animal creation, and animal creation again, for man. Hence, every act of divine justice and goodness may look far beyond its immediate object, being connected with other parts of a general moral plan of God, each particular of which is adjusted with reference to the whole. For instance, the periods and methods for discipline of virtue, permission of vice, distribution of rewards and punishments, and all other particular acts of divine administration, may all have such a general connection and relation, as to form One great System, such as the natural world is. And if so, from our limited views of it, we are not competent judges respecting its several parts.
But, though allowed in other matters, this reasoning is often overlooked in religion. Now, suppose it to be asserted that repeated interpositions might prevent the existence of evils and disorders; or if interpositions were incompatible with a system, then that a series of single unconnected acts of justice and goodness, would be preferable to a system (and the objection cannot be carried farther); yet the allegation of our ignorance, as above stated, would be a sufficient answer, even were the assertions true. But they are mere arbitrary ones, without the slightest proof; and we know, even in common affairs, that there are many assertions absolutely impossible, which, at first sight, do not appear
Were any one matter entirely insulated and unconnected with a Providential system, then the plea of our ignorance would be totally inapplicable; but when there may be in it such a relation to other unknown parts, then the very thing objected to may, after all, be conducive to the highest practicable good.
II. Moreover, in the natural world, ends require means to accomplish them; and often undesirable and apparently contradictory means are employed to work desirable ends. The same, by analogy, may hold in the moral scheme of Providence; and things objected to in it, may be the means by which an over-balance of good may, ultimately, be produced; what seem irre
gularities, being perhaps, in fact, the only means for producing it.
And here it may be observed,-to prevent any perversely wicked conclusion of calling "evil, good,”that although the permission of evil may produce in one sense, benefit to society; yet both to the individual practising the evil, and even to society also, it might have been better if it had not been done at all. Many a man, for instance, might have died, had it not been for a fit of the gout, or a fever, to carry off the peccant humours; but yet no one is mad enough to say that such gout or fever is better than perfect health. And yet some have maintained an argument tantamount to this, with respect to the moral world.
Again: The natural world is governed by general laws,-this, perhaps, for the best reasons. For instance, the enjoyments we procure by our foresight, could not be obtained, without such laws. Now, to prevent all irregularities, where there are general laws, may be impossible, in the nature of things, except by interpositions; and, if these were constantly had recourse to, many bad effects might arise: the natural rules of life would thus be rendered doubtful, and idleness and negligence be encouraged; and further mischiefs also, as connected with the general scheme already mentioned.
Hence there may be the wisest reasons for the world being governed by general laws, and the best