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infinite goodness prompts him to choose that those events should take place; and his infinite power enables him to bring them to pass. All events, therefore, which do take place, are for the best.
Several objections are made against this doctrine, all of which are easily answered, by a careful attention to what has been already said. It is objected, that if all things which take place are for the best, then sin must be a good thing, and the more of it the better. The answer is, it is not contended that every thing is good in its own nature, nor best in itself considered. Sin is evil in its own nature, and so is misery. But the sin and misery which exist, are made the means, in the providence of God, of so much good, that it is better on the whole that the evil should exist than that the good connected with it should fail. It was better that Judas should betray his Lord, than that there should be no redemption for a ruined world. And as to the other part of the objection, it should be observed, that the doctrine here advocated is, that the present system, just as it is, is the best possible system. And to say, that, because the sin which takes place is for the best, it would be better to have more, is the same as to say, that, because the present system is the best, a different system would be better, which is a contradiction.
It is objected, that, if every event is for the best, then some sin is for the best, and we ought not to oppose, but encourage it. The answer to this is, sin is wrong in itself, and we ought to oppose it because it is wrong in itself, and leave it to God, who governs the world, to overrule it for good. But, it is asked, if some sin is for the best, why does God forbid it in his law? why does he not rather command it? This objection answers itself. Obedience to the divine commands is not sin. Το say it is best there should be some sin, is the same as to say, it is best there should be some transgression of the divine law. And it does not follow, as the objection supposes, that because the present system is the best, a different system would be better.
It is objected, that, if whatever takes place is for the best, then the sin which is committed tends to advance the great end God has in view, and ought not to be punished, but rewarded. The answer to this is, that, utility
does not constitute virtue. Good and ill desert depend, not upon what men accomplish, but upon what they intend. Joseph's brethren intended evil, while they were the means of accomplishing good. They felt guilty, and were self-condemned, though they were assured by him that "God meant it unto good." It is so in all cases. The design of the wicked is always an improper design; and they deserve to be punished for their improper design. And when they receive that punishment, it will accord with the dictates of their own consciences, the good which God has intended and accomplished by them notwithstanding.
It is objected, that, if every event is for the best, there is no ground for the exercise of repentance. It is asked, "What benevolent being can ingenuously regret that by sin he has put it in the power of God to produce greater good than he could otherwise produce? Ought it not rather to be matter of grateful praise, that he has furnished the necessary means of the greatest possible amount of good?" The answer to this objection is, that, it is founded on an entire mistake of the nature of true repentance, and confounds it with the repentance of Judas, with the sorrow of the world which worketh death. Judas, doubtless, wished on the whole that he had not betrayed his Lord; and this repentance led him to destroy himself. So, doubtless, will every sinner feel, when he receives the due reward of his deeds. But true repentance is radically different. The vile nature of sin, is its proper object; and not its consequences, as the objection plainly supposes. The true penitent loathes and abhors himself for the wicked design with which he is conscious of having acted, while he feels bound to love and praise God for the good which He has brought to pass by that means. Those who participated in the death of Christ, might, some of them, have been brought to repentance. It was not necessary that they should wish Christ had not been put to death, and so that no door of mercy had been opened. Yet, they could repent of their sin in what they had done to accomplish it. They could loathe and abhor themselves for their bad design in what they had done, while they could love and praise God for his good design in thus providing a way of salvation.
It appears, then, that there is no valid objection to the doctrine which has been supported. Every event which takes place is for the best.
There is only room to make a remark or two. If every event which takes place is for the best, then God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass. The principal objections to the doctrine of decrees are, that the decrees are thought to be inconsistent with the free agency of creatures, and to teach that God wills the existence of what had better be kept out of existence. But, both these objections are unfounded. The true doctrine of decrees is, that God, for the wisest and best reasons, chooses that men should freely will and do, just that which they will and do. Every event which takes place is for the best; and God chooses that every event should take place, just as it does, because it is wisest and best. This doctrine, and this only, is consistent with the perfect blessedness of God, who could not be happy if his wise and benevolent designs were counteracted; and with the perfect blessedness of the saints in heaven, whose happiness would be equally destroyed if they should find that what was wisest and best had not been brought to pass. And in view of it, every benevolent being may rejoice now, under all the evils he sees, and all those which are in prospect; and may answer every desponding doubt, and every unbelieving fear, with the words of the Apostle, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN DOCTRINAL TRACT SOCIETY. PERKINS & MARVIN, AGENTS,
Depository, 114, Washington Street, Boston.
THE RENEWAL OF SINNERS
THE WORK OF
[BY REV. LEONARD WOODS, D. D.]
THE defective and erroneous views which are commonly entertained on the subject of regeneration, are to be traced to a variety of causes. The worldly employments in which men are engaged, so occupy their active powers, that they give but little attention to their spiritual concerns; and thus they fail of understanding the doctrine of the new birth, because they neglect it. The speculations which have been started by men of a philosophical taste, and the objections urged against the truth by the enemies of religion, have had a powerful tendency to fill the mind with doubts and misconceptions concerning the doctrine now to be considered. But the great source of error on this subject, is that blindness of mind and depravity of heart, which nothing but the regenerating influence of the Spirit will ever remove. Those men, and those only, have a right perception of the nature and importance of regeneration, who have experienced it in themselves. The eyes of their understanding are enlightened, so that they discern spiritual things. They know what is the hope of their calling, and what is the riches of the glory of their inheritance, and what is the exceeding greatness of God's power towards them, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. Ephesians i. 19, 20.
The design of this Tract is not to range over the whole subject of regeneration, but to call the attention of the reader to that particular view of it which is presented
by the passage just referred to, and to inquire what conceptions the scriptures teach us to form of the power of God in the renewal of sinners.
In the first place, the scriptures lead us to take the general position, that the renewal of sinners is effected by divine power.
By power is to be understood, that which produces, or is competent to produce effects,-whether the effects are of one kind or another. It would amount to the same thing, if we should define power to be, that which is or may be the cause of effects. This seems to be the precise idea conveyed by the word. Whether we speak of the power of a magnet, of wind, of the understanding, or of any thing else either material or mental, we speak of it in relation to certain things done, or to be done,—to certain effects produced, or which may be produced. You can test the truth of these remarks by a careful examination of your own thoughts. Just point out the effect produced, or to be produced, and refer it to some being or thing, as the cause, and you have the idea of the power which that being or thing possesses. So as to the power of God. If we consider the creation and preservation of the world, and all the other effects which have taken place and which may take place, and ascribe them to God as the cause; we arrive at the idea of his power.
And not only our general idea of God's power, but all our particular conceptions of it, and the epithets we use to mark those conceptions, relate to the nature and circumstances of the different effects produced. Divine power cannot be supposed to be made up of different parts, one of which operates to accomplish this work, and another, that. The power of God is one and the same forever; and to that all the effects which take place must be ultimately ascribed. Thus the scriptures represent God as creating, preserving, and governing the world; sending rain; making the sun to rise, and the earth to yield her increase; making sinners holy, and guiding and controlling all intelligent beings. From these divine operations, resulting in a great variety of effects, we derive our idea of divine power.
We come now to the position above laid down, that the renewal of sinners is effected by divine power.