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seems to rely upon his unquestionable and infallible knowledge of God, to give utterance to any sentiment which his intentions or his logical processes demand, without hesitation. He carries hiş anthropomorphism to extreme lengths. He has not the slightest regard for the feelings of others in these matters, but seems to glory in trampling upon them. It is almost impossible to avoid applying the scriptural affirmation : " Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”
Another principle of the author is, that perfect knowledge is attainable on all the great questions which enter into the system of the universe. He asserts and argues this repeatedly. He scouts the common idea, as pious ignorance, and other things that are worse. As he is plainly opposed to the general sentiment, on this point, he labors to overthrow the common impression. As Bishop Butler had said that " Christianity is a scheme imperfectly comprehended,” he devotes à chapter to the examination of Butler on this point. His whole fourth book is devoted to this subject ; and in it he discusses the
modes of interpreting the Bible, the sphere of faith and pious igno
The devil, quoting Scripture, piously suggests often that "secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” This infallibility of knowledge extends to all the system of truth : to God, to the origin of evil, to God's plans, to his mode of governing the universe, and the like. The doctrine that the origin of evil is a profound and inscrutable mystery, is patronized and assiduously inculcated by the devil. The author insists that the power of obtaining a full knowledge of God, is involved in the fact that we were made in his image, and are cognizant of our own powers. Indeed, in every form it is declared that the mind of man is capable of ranging over the whole circuit of truth, relating to God and the universe. And it is a somewhat remarkable fact, that in no instance, as far as we recollect, is any reference made to the developments of God's providence, in this connection. It is principles, not facts, which we are to seek first : it is the penetration of the human mind on which we are to rely.
Now is this so? Are we prepared to place ourselves in this position in regard to God, his character, his purposes, his government? Is this the spirit of faith and submission which the
Bible has been understood to inculcate? Or, have we always been in error in regard to the Bible? Are there no clouds and darkness round the throne of God? Are we to blow them all away, and have our faith changed to sight, before we can affirm, "justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne”? Or, are these pious acknowledgments to be confined to small, incidental, and individual affairs, while we are to claim that we understand fully the grand sweep and scope of God's comprehensive plans? We think it will appear to many that pious ignorance is still needed ; and that Dr. Beecher has ventured too far, and been guilty of strange presumption, when he has assumed that he can, and declares that he does, understand God
and his ways.
Another principle relates to the mode in which a universe must be organized and governed. This has been already stated. A sentence or two may be given, to bring it again distinctly before our minds. Assuming that created minds must go through a process of education before they are complete and perfect, it follows that this system of training was necessary for the first generation of minds. It was necessary for themselves; but it was especially so in their relations to those who were to come after them. They were to be, in connection with God, the founders of an infinite kingdom, the educators of the coming generations of the universe. All history would begin with them. The earliest examples and precedents would be derived from them. The spirit of the system would flow from them.”
Now it is implied here that this is the only way in which God can organize a universe. If he has a purpose to create intelligent minds who shall show forth his glory and power, he must wait after he has formed one generation, and try upon them the experiment of government. Until he has brought this race into a condition to assist him in the culture and education of others, it would be unsafe to proceed. At any rate, a universe can never be fully organized, until such a result has been attained in regard to some of its inhabitants. Is it not implied here that God can not control and perfect created minds by his own inherent power? To all this, we object. We prefer to cling to the old and scriptural doctrine, that God can create minds, in full and perfect development; with holy dispositions which shall work from the very first, in harmony with his own perfections and glory. We prefer to believe that God can control any mind which he has formed ; that he can shape its moral action ; and that by his omnipotent and invincible grace, he can even subdue a rebel mind, and bring it into perfect subjection to his will. We believe that by the gracious power of God, the redeemed and holy angels will be forever and invincibly established in holiness, without the assistance of any created minds. There will be a grand company of the holy : but they will all depend upon God, without the intervention of any other beings. It is singular, that the author who teaches that God has a self-revealing power by which he communicates himself to men, and who says many forcible and excellent things about our dependence upon God, should build upon a foundation which limits his power, and introduces creatures to assist in his government of the universe. We must add that it seems to us an assumption, to assert that there is but one way in which a universe can be organized, and that, this way.
Some questions arise here which we can not answer. On the supposition that all the first generation fell off from God, what is the holy universe, of which Dr. Beecher says, it could not be brought up to its proper elevation without the defeat of Satan, and the example of suffering? If there are no other beings in existence but Satan and his fellows, and spirits in these mortal bodies of ours, or destined to come into them, who are the holy? But if some kept their first estate, and were perfected by suffering, then why is it said that the universe was disorganized ? Why could not the rebels be put into Tartarus, at once, and the training of those to be created committed to those already established? There may be an easy answer to this objection, but we can not find it.
Another point of the theory before us, is the mode of trial for created minds; and especially as an explanation of the origin of 'evil. The facts have been sufficiently stated. The principle is, that in the establishment, perfecting and development of character, a discipline of suffering is indispensable ; because the highest form of moral virtue, in creatures as in God, is the ability to endure suffering patiently, without malignity or corruption. It is implied, that there is, in the necessity of the
case, an imperfection in created minds; only to be met by a system of training. It seems to be implied that there is an antecedent probability, if not a necessity, that they will fail in the trial, and lapse into sin. This is one form of the theory, that in the very nature of finite minds, there is a necessity of falling off into evil. It is to be expected that they will. Dr. Bushnell holds this view, at least as an hypothesis. He says :
Suppose there is some antecedent necessity, inherent in the conception of finite and begun existences, that in their training as powers, they should be passed through the double experience of evil and good, fall and redemption.” Dr. Beecher says, they must pass through a discipline of suffering and pain. In his first book, he considered those theories of the origin of evil which depreciate free agency, and seem to teach that God made the best minds he could, and that they must be trained to holiness through sin. Whether his own theory is not liable to the same objection, will depend perhaps upon the answer to the question whether all fell.
But in regard to this mode of trial through suffering and pain, questions will arise which it is difficult to answer. to be the nature of this suffering? How was it to reach these new-created minds? Were they to be put to the torture? Suffering of the mind is disappointment, grief, sorrow, endurance of contempt, and the like? Whence were these to come? What facts would give rise to them? Or were they to be infused, on some fictitious ground, into these upright, though imperfect, minds, by the direct power of God, if that be possible? Our feeble imaginutions are perfectly bewildered here : nor does Dr. B. afford the slightest clue to any explanation. He does not even allude to it. We will carry our questions one step further. On what ground of rectitude were these harmless beings to be subjected causelessly, to suffering and pain, and, consequently, to experience the divine displeasure? We may be profoundly ignorant on this subject; but, we must say, that the idea of subjecting such beings to a discipline of the most intense suffering, is as dark as any mystery 'we ever met, and is repulsive to our moral sense, and to all our ideas of God.
But further. This is put forth as an explanation of the origin of evil. When this suffering was proposed to these spirits, yet
babes in intelligence and in character, they revolted. Satan and his fellows refused to bear the yoke. In that refusal was the origin of sin : it was falling off from God, and setting up themselves. Now, to our mind, the idea that this solves the mystery of the lapse of a holy being into sin any better than other theories, seems a strange delusion. Why is it any better than the scriptural statement that Adam disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit, and so fell off from God. Is it even as good ? It is worse, by all the difference between a positive, though not injurious, prohibition, and a causeless demand for positive and severe suffering. The truth is, neither of these statements answers the great questions, but leaves them still in mystery. These questions are, How did the disobedient and revolting purpose enter a mind made in the image of God? and, why did God permit it? We hold, that both these are incapable of a satisfactory answer. When we can understand fully, as Dr. Beecher professes to do, God and man, sovereignty and wisdom infinite, and free agency in its' relations to God, we may find an
But we are persuaded that all answers hitherto given, as Dr. Beecher seems to admit, either dethrone God, or virtually annul free agency. We prefer to be silent; to bow to a mystery which we can not solve; to have faith in God; to take what we are gure are the statements of his word, and go so far, and no farther. Dr. Bushnell says evil was to be expected in the circumstances, but after all is not to be explained. We are not to account for it. His modesty here might be commended to the imitation of our author.
Dr. Beecher, on this, as on all other subjects of which he treats, insists upon the possibility of absolute certainty. There is a remarkable passage in which he carries this thought to its very extreme,
“On the supposition that the origin of evil is an inexplicable mystery, which no pious or discreet man will ever undertake to solve, it is utterly impossible to vindicate God, and to show, so that it can clearly be seen, that Satan was in the wrong in the great revolt which divided the universe. No doubt it would be a great comfort to Satan, if he could vindicate and establish this doctrine in all worlds and in all ages. He might then safely challenge God to a moral conflict. He might concede to Him the power to conquer or to annihilate him by force, but deny to Him the ability to expose him to deserved shame