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taught in Scripture, and universally believed by all Christians, namely : that at the day of judgment, the righteousness of all God's ways will be made manifest to all the world, and the wisdom of all his conduct cleared up before the intellectual system, to God's everlasting honor, to the joy of all holy beings, and to the eternal confusion of all God's enemies. For then will the Lord come “with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." But if God's ways have not in fact been wise and good, they cannot, at the day of judgment, when all things will be brought to light, appear to be so. If God has done wrong, - heaven forbid the blasphemy! — all the world will know it then. And if God had deliberately and voluntarily acted contrary to his better judgment, in this infinitely important affair of the permission of sin, absolutely for no good end at all, and absolutely without any motive, it will then appear before the eyes of angels, men, and devils, to God's eternal reproach, to the eternal grief of all his friends, and to the eternal triumph of all his enemies, who will be glad to see the being they most of all hate fall under blame, as well as themselves.
If this were the case, it would be, for aught I can see, more for God's honor that there never should be a day of judgment, and that the truth of things never should come to light; yea, it had been better if God had never made the world.
And now does the author of the “Attempt," in very deed, believe all this horrid blasphemy; that he should blame me so much, for being so confident that all God's conduct is wise and good; and his present plan, of all possible plans, the best ? For why should he blame me so much for my belief, unless he is strong in the belief of his own scheme?
BETWEEN A., THE AUTHOR OF THE "ATTEMPT," AND B., THE
AUTHOR OF THE SERMONS ON THE WISDOM OF GOD IN THE PERMISSION OF SIN."
A. No. I abhor this blasphemy with all my heart. I firmly believe that all the divine conduct is "good, right, best." “Right in matter, manner, and aim ;” the result of "supreme wisdom, which cannot err.” But I affirm that sin is “no part of God's scheme; but a device of the devil.” “God's original scheme was to have all holy and happy.” The devil has dis
concerted it by his rebellion, and God is heartily grieved. Did I believe “the present scheme to be God's, I should think it extremely dangerous opposing it; and that it would argue the highest vanity, arrogance, and impiety." *
B. If by "sin not being God's scheme, but the device of the devil,” you mean, that God did not voluntarily permit sin; but that the devil brought it in, in spite of all that God could do to hinder him; why do you maintain, that God did not mean to do, in this affair, what he knew was most for his own glory? For, according to this, God exerted himself to the utmost, to secure his own glory, and the good of the system too; and would have obtained his end, had not his Almighty power been overmatched by the devil. This, therefore, cannot be your meaning, unless you would be inconsistent with yourself.
If you only mean that the devil sinned, and not God, I grant it. But the question still remains unanswered. Pray, therefore, tell me, why did the infinitely wise and almighty God permit such a glorious angel as Satan once was, ever to devise such mischief; ever to perpetrate so shocking a deed, a deed pregnant with infinite and eternal woes — pray tell me plainly, did God act wisely in this affair, or did he not? He had some end in view, or no end. Not no end; for that would reflect upon his wisdom.
If some end, it was a good end or a bad Not a bad one; for he is a most perfect being ; therefore it must be a good one. When God determined to permit sin, upon a full view of the whole affair, he knew it wisest and best to permit it; that is, he knew that plan in which so much sin and misery should take place would be better, on the whole, than a plan in which sin and misery should forever be effectually prevented by his constant interposition. And if he knew this to be the best plan, it was doubtless his original plan; for an infinitely wise and perfect being, who cannot err, would originally choose what, upon the whole, he knew to be the best.t
* The quotations in this part of the Dialogue are chiefly, if not altogether, from the pamphlet entitled “ An Attempt," etc. In the first edition, references are made to the pages on which they may be found, and are very numerous. As the pamphlet cannot now be obtained, and as it would not probably be thought important to verify the quotations, if it could, they have in this edition been omitted.
† This is not a point peculiar to Calvinistic divines, but as strongly asserted by men of learning in general. * If the Author and Governor of the world be infinitely perfect, then, of all possible systems, he hath chosen the best;" “ that is, the system in which the greatest quantity of happiness and perfection obtains, that can in the nature of things take place." “This is the joint doctrine of reason and revelation.” Dr. Turnbull, Chris. Phil., p. 36, 47.
A. “This is what I conceive, I have a right, as a man and a Christian, to oppose.” It is a mere “fallacy” to pretend " that the present scheme is most for the glory of God; because he must necessarily always will and do that which is most for his own glory." I think you much to blame for being so "positive.” For my part, I do not believe that God does in fact, or that he is obliged to do, what is most for his declarative glory.” And I can prove by a variety of arguments, that it had been better, infinitely better, infinitely more for the honor of God, and the good of the system, if sin had never been.
B. What! plainly contradict yourself so soon, my friend! However, pray do give me an instance wherein infinite wisdom ever erred ; and wherein God did not do what was on the whole most for his own glory.
A. It is plain God might have made the world much better than he did. And if, after he had made the world, he had hindered the existence of sin, it had been infinitely more to his honor, and to the good of the system.
B. Pray how, then, do you think the whole of the divine conduct will appear at the day of judgment, if not only his works of creation are defective, but if, in this infinitely important affair of the permission of sin, God has done what he knew was not for the best ; permitted sin, when it had been infinitely better if he had hindered it.
A. I am of the opinion, that, at the day of judgment, all God's works and ways will appear to be good. "Full day will be then poured on all the ways and works of God; to the unspeakable joy of those who now heartily acquiesce in the dispensations of supreme wisdom; and humbly admire and adore, where they cannot fully comprehend." For I firmly believe, that all the divine conduct is the result of "supreme wisdom, which cannot err."
B. Dear sir, what do you mean? All the divine conduct the result of " supreme wisdom which cannot err?” so that “all his works and ways will bear the light of full day?” And when brought into the clearest view, will appear to be “the dispensations of supreme wisdom,” worthy to be “heartily acquiesced in” by all wise and holy intelligences, with “unspeakable joy.” Although they will see in the clearest light, that God has made and governed the world in such a manner as he himself knew was not for the best, not most for his glory, nor most for the good of the system! What! will all holy beings, at the day of judgment, think it best that God has not done best and wisest, that he has counteracted his wisdom! and most glorious, that he should do what he knew was VOL. II.
not most for his glory, and for the good of the system! and humbly admire and adore his acting contrary to his own infinite wisdom, holiness, and goodness, as firinly believing this was the result of “supreme wisdom which cannot err”? Pray explain yourself on this point. A. What I say is really true. “Supreme wisdom cannot
“So far as God has been concerned in the transactions of the system, they must be good, right, best.” But “sin is no part of God's scheme, but a device of the devil.”
B. Very well, sir. And do I understand you now? Do you really mean, that God, in permitting the devil and other wicked beings to do as they do, that God in this has done what was indeed “good, right, best ?” For if God's conduct is but approved of, you may condemn the devil as much as you please; my point is gained; the wisdom of God in the permission of sin is acknowledged. Pray speak plainly.
A. Indeed, sir, “I do doubt, whether God does in fact, and therefore whether he is obliged to do, what is most for his declarative glory." And I do believe, it had been infinitely better if sin had never been.
B. Why, then, do you profess firmly to believe, that the whole of the divine conduct “is good, right, best ;” and that “ supreme wisdom cannot err?" And that all the divine dispensations are to be heartily acquiesced in, as being supremely wise?” How can these things be consistent ?
Had you, sir, justified your Maker, fully acknowledged the wisdom of God in the permission of sin; and wherein my solutions of difficulties appeared to you not sufficient, had you given better ; still endeavoring to justify the ways of God to men, and to assist the people of God in their belief of the wisdom of all the divine conduct; and so to animate their love, and quicken their obedience ; you had merited the thanks of the public, and the love of all pious people, and might have been approved of, even in heaven. But do you think Almighty God will be pleased to have his conduct in the permission of sin disputed against, and set in the "most horrible, deformed light possible," by one of his own subjects, who ought to love him, approve of all his ways, and plead his cause in this revolted world? Or do you expect, that the friends of God in heaven or earth will be suited with your “Attempt," who are all united in believing concerning God, as it is written in Deut. xxxii. 4, “He is the rock, his work is perfect. For all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he"?
A. Whether what I have published is consistent or no, I should be extremely glad of a reply to my objections.
B. A full reply to almost all your objections has been already given : partly in Mr. Edwards on Liberty, partly in my Sermons on the Wisdom of God in the permission of Sin, and still more fully in Mr. Hopkins's Sermons on Rom. iii. 5, 8, to which you may be referred.
A. But there is one argument on which I lay great weight; yea, on which I build my whole scheme: namely, that as “God does not in fact, so he is not obliged to do, what is most for his declarative glory;” an argument you have none of you answered. I have expressed it in these words, namely:
“ It is allowed by all, that God is infinite in power, and that space is infinite. Now here is evidently room for endl displays of divine glories. In no definite period of time, in no given quantity of space, can there be a full discovery of God's glories; because they are absolutely infinite; and therefore may we not, with the utmost safety, affirm there is not now such a display? We know there is now a greater display of God's various natural and moral perfections, than seven thousand years ago; for there are now multitudes of rational beings, which then were not; and an infinity of other objects, in which are surprising manifestations of wisdom, power, and goodness, etc. Had God been obliged to make as great displays as he could of his perfections, he must from eternity have produced into existence all possible beings — the contrary of which is evident. And may we not be naturally led from this to doubt, whether God has so much glory from the things which now exist, as he might have had; especially when we consider the obvious defects and blemishes there are, and can easily imagine how these might be corrected by infinite wisdom?"
B. True, sir, we have none of us answered this argument. Nor did we expect it would be used by any in this country, as I believe it never was before. It has often been used by professed atheists, in other countries; who, from the pretended defects of the natural world, have argued that it could not be the work of an absolutely perfect being; and so that we have no evidence that there is such a being. And it has been abundantly answered by some of the most learned writers in our nation, in their attempts to establish the belief of a God, that is, of an absolutely perfect being.
Suffer me, sir, to give you two or three short extracts out of Dr. Cudworth's Intellectual System, where, writing in confutation of atheism, he says, “ Their first objection is against providence, as to the fabric of the world, from the faultiness of the mundane system, intellectually considered, and in order to ends; quia tanta stat prædita culpa; that, because it is so ill