MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD.
NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR, D. D.,
APPENDIX -- No. III:
ESSAY ON THE QUESTION -- IN WHAT DIFFERENT RESPECTS MAY GOD BE SUPPOSED TO PURPOSE DIFFERENT AND EVEN OPPOSITE EVENTS?
PART III. -- ADDITIONAL OBJECTIONS.
5. According to this theory God cannot be as happy or blessed as If there were no sin. -- 6. That sin to the necessary means of the greatest good is proved decisively on two grounds. -- Otherwise God could not purpose its existence. -- By mercy he can produce greater happiness than had there been no sin -- 7. A high degree of temptation necessary to the highest degree of holiness, and of course to the highest happiness; and this is the reason why God has permitted sin.
Obj. 5. It may be said that according to the present theory, God cannot be as happy as he would be were there no sin.
Ans. This depends on what according to the present theory would be, were there no sin, or on what the non-existence of sin necessarily involves. And here it is obvious, that according to the present theory the non-existence of sin involves either the non-existence of the present system or the prevalence of universal holiness. If the objection contemplates the non-existence of the present system, then it has not the shadow of plausibility. For, according to our theory, the very reason why God prefers that sin should be rather than not be, is that its prevention by him involves the non-existence of the present system. And surely God cannot be rendered unhappy by the being of that which, all things considered, he prefers should be rather than not be. If God prefers that sin should be and purposes that it shall be rather than not create that system from which it will unavoidably to himself result, he cannot be unhappy that he did not prevent the sin, by not creating the system.
But I ask the objector on what scheme be can show that God is as happy as he would be were there no sin? His answer is, that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and is therefore, all things considered, really desirable, and of course cannot lessen the happiness of God. But the theory now maintained assigns as good and sufficient a reason why the existence of sin does not lessen the happiness of God compared with its non-existence. According to the objector's theory, God purposes the existence of sin, rather than its non-existence because it is the necessary means of the greatest good. But if God can purpose the existence of sin rather than its nonexistence on any other account or for any other reason than as being the necessary means of the greatest good, then its existence will be equally remote from impairing his happiness. But as we have shown, an event which is neither good in itself nor good as the necessary means of good, may be truly purposed of God on another account, viz., that it is to him unavoidably incidental to that which is the necessary means of the greatest good. Sin then, viewed as thus incidental to the best system, would be as truly purposed of God, all things considered, as were it the necessary means of good. There is therefore as good a reason assigned why the happiness of God is not impaired according to the theory now maintained, as according to that which is opposed to it. Indeed the general reason is the same according to both theories, viz., that the existence of sin, the non-existence of which would impair his happiness, is truly desirable, all things considered. This must, it would seem, settle the question. For it is conceded that the happiness of God depends on the fact that all things are as he purposes they shall be, all things considered. The specific things given as the supposed reason for willing the existence of sin are indeed different: the thing considered in the one case being the relation of sin to good as the necessary means of it, and the thing considered in the other being the existence Of the best system.
But it may be said that according to the present theory, if the non-existence of sin be supposed to involve the existence of perfect and universal holiness under the present system, then God would be more happy than he now is. I answer, that so far as God's happiness depends on or results from, or is any way affected by the moral conduct of creatures, he would unquestionably derive more happiness from their holiness than from their sin; and would therefore, as the present theory maintains, greatly prefer their holiness under the present system to their sin. It is further admitted that there is no sense whatever in which God can be properly said to derive happiness from the existence of sin, any more than a benevolent physician derives happiness from the disease which he cures; although it be true that he can bring good out of the evil, and that the only proper and legitimate consequence of it to him is an actual and great diminution of his happiness. Nor can this conclusion be avoided according to the scheme of our opponents; for they maintain that sin is truly contrary to the divine will; that God is exceedingly displeased with it; that he abhors it as the worst of evils, &c., &c. But how can this be and yet God be as well pleased with sin as with holiness? Say what they will of it as the necessary means of the greatest good, if they also say as they do, that it is contrary to his law or his revealed will, then it is contrary to a real preference or choice of God; and it belongs to them as well as to us to show how the will of God can be violated and he be perfectly happy. If they say he can be, then they have answered their own objection to our theory. If they say his law is not an expression of a real preference of holiness to sin, it is asserting that God has given no law. If they say that this will or preference of God cannot be violated without impairing his happiness, then they admit our conclusion; viz., that so far as the happiness of God depends on the moral conduct of creatures, his happiness is greatly impaired by their sin compared with what it would be were they holy.
This objection may be presented in another form. It may be said that according to the present theory, God must be defeated or crossed in some of his purposes, and thus his happiness must be impaired; for that a being should be really crossed in his purposes without suffering that which is disagreeable to him, or that which is contrary to joy and happiness-even pain and grief -- is impossible. In proof of this it may be further said, that as God, according to the present theory, prefers holiness to sin in man, and also purposes the existence of sin, it must follow that if holiness does not and sin does take place, his preference of holiness to sin is crossed, and that if holiness does and sin does not take place, his purpose that sin shall take place is crossed; and that as either sin or holiness must take place, God must be crossed in some of his purposes and thus be made unhappy.
This objection thus stated, is presented with so much plausibility derived from the form in which it is put, that I choose to examine it as thus presented. I answer then in the first place, that God is not and cannot be painfully crossed in his purpose that sin shall be, by the non-existence of sin and the existence of holiness. God's purpose that sin shall be, and his preference that it should be, are in view of its inseparable connection with the best system; i.e., he prefers the existence of sin to its non-existence, as i the latter involves the non-existence of the best system. The real object of desire and preference then-that is, the good thing on which the happiness of God depends and in view of which he forms the purpose that sin shall be, is the existence of this system. If therefore the system exists, God is not painfully crossed, whether the consequence be holiness or sin in creatures. It is true, if sin did not follow he would be in one sense disappointed; that which he know would follow as the consequence of the system, would not in fact follow. Still, in such disappointment there would be nothing painful, since all that is necessary to the full gratification of his purpose respecting sin is, that the given system exist.
But, says the objector, if sin does not take place, God is not only disappointed in the unimportant respect now admitted, but his purpose that sin shall take place is certainly defeated and crossed; and how can this be and he not be unhappy on this account? I admit that if sin does not take place, his purpose that it shall, is in one respect defeated and crossed; i.e., the thing purposed does not take place. But the question is whether, if this were to be so, it would mar the happiness of God at all? Whether it would or not depends wholly on another question, viz.: whether in regard to the real reason or object of the purpose he is or is not gratified; for if the object of the purpose is secured, there can be no unhappiness resulting from the defeat of the purpose in any other respect. Here then is the turning-point. Now I readily concede that if God purposes that sin shall take place, either because he esteems it good in itself or as the necessary means of good, then if it does not take place, he must be painfully crossed and defeated in his purpose. But on the other hand, if he does not purpose that sin shall take place in either of these respects, i.e., if he does not purpose it either because it is good in itself, or because it is the necessary means of good, but purposes it in view of good which does not depend on the existence of sin, then he is not painfully crossed if sin does not fake place. How can he be? There is in sin nothing that is good or desirable in any respect or sense whatever. It is neither good in itself nor good as the necessary means of good; he does not so esteem it. And I ask in what other respect any thing was ever esteemed or called good? But according to the present theory, God has not purposed sin as good in either of these respects now specified, and of course has not purposed it as good in any respect whatever. How then can he be painfully crossed, if in the present system sin does not take place? The reason then why God is not and cannot be painfully crossed by the non-existence of sin in the present system is obvious, and is this, viz.: he does not purpose sin in view of any good dependent on its existence. He purposes sin only for the sake of the present system, of which it is to him an unavoidable consequence. If then this system exists, all that exists which he regards as desirable in forming the purpose respecting sin. But the system does exist, and whether sin or holiness follow, God cannot be painfully crossed in any purpose respecting the existence of sin. In the amputation of a limb, would the patient be painfully crossed by the disappointment of suffering no pain?
I now proceed to examine the other part of this objection. It is said, that if holiness does not exist, God according to the present theory is painfully crossed in his purpose or preference that it should exist. Here then I admit (nor can I well suppress the pleasure I feel in uttering what I regard as truth so honorable to God and so important to man) that God, so far as his happiness is or can be effected by the moral conduct of his creatures, is painfully crossed in his purpose respecting holiness by the existence of sin in the present system. According to the theory which I advocate, God purposes that sin shall be and prefers that it should be rather than not create and Perpetuate the present system; and this is the only reason of his purpose respecting sin. Since therefore the system does exist, there cannot be a reason why he prefers sin to holiness in the present system. On the contrary he must, so far as his happiness is or can be affected by the moral conduct of creatures, prefer holiness to sin in the present system. Nor is it necessary, speaking in the manner in which usage in analogous cases would authorize us to speak, to qualify this position as I do. For it is always assumed in common parlance, that when a lawgiver expresses his preference of moral action, it is in view of the manner in which such action will affect his happiness in the circumstances in which his law is given. Assuming these things then to be fairly implied, it may be said with exact truth, not that God does not purpose sin, rather than the nonexistence of the present system, but that he prefers holiness to sin -- that he has no purpose or pleasure at all that men should sin rather than be holy -- that he would that all should be holy rather than sin -- and that he regards every transgressor with anger, with indignation, with grief; or that when holiness does not and sin does exist, God in the language of the objection is painfully crossed in his purpose.
But let not the objector triumph in this concession, as if the perfect blessedness of God were marred by the existence of sin. True it is, according to the present theory, that a source of real unhappiness to God is created by sin; of unhappiness as great as a perfectly benevolent mind can feel in view of the worst of evils. The feelings of God toward every object are such as accord with the nature of the object, and that he should have any other feelings toward sin than those now ascribed to him, would be alike inconsistent with his holiness, his benevolence, and his immutability. When sin actually exists, God would, so to speak, rather cherish these emotions than any other, in view of its nature. He would be more unhappy in any other than in these, for these are the only emotions toward sin which he can regard in himself with self-complacency.
These remarks may appear to some strange and paradoxical. The subject which they respect is one which appears to me to have claimed too little consideration from those who have attempted to develop the nature of our pleasurable and painful emotions. I cannot here digress to a discussion of this topic. I would ask however, whether it be possible that a holy, benevolent mind should feel complacency toward sin or be merely indifferent? And if not, what must the feelings of such a mind be on any scheme toward an object so hateful, except those which are opposite to joy and happiness, and which are truly spoken of as painful and unhappy? Doubtless the fitness of all such emotions to the nature of their objects and a consequent approbation of this fitness in such a mind, alleviates their painfulness; and while every such mind would prefer to be the subject of these emotions rather than their opposites in view of the object of them, still who can suppose that here is not a choice of evils or that the emotions awakened by witnessing the beauties of holiness were not immeasurably more delightful? But while I maintain that the happiness of God is affected by the moral conduct of creatures and painfully impaired by the existence of sin; while I might say that no language can too strongly describe his painful emotions toward it when compared with holiness, even that which represents him as abhorring iniquity and shuddering at the sight of it, still it will not follow that God is not perfectly blessed according to the true import of this language.
I say according to the true import of the language. For it must be granted by my opponents, that by the perfect blessedness of God cannot be meant that which excludes every thing of the nature of regret and sorrow in every sense of the terms. It is even admitted on the scheme which I oppose, that God wills or prefers holiness to sin in themselves considered. The error is not in this statement, but in saying that also which amounts to the position that he prefers sin to holiness, by, saying that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good. Of course this will of God is crossed and painfully crossed by the existence of sin. Of course God's Perfect blessedness, if the phrase denote that which excludes every thing of the nature of regret or of painful feeling, is unavoidably impaired. In other words, God is not and cannot be perfectly blessed in this sense of the phrase. There is no avoiding this while the principle in the present objection is assumed, viz., that no being can be crossed in his purposes without painful emotion. Nor is this all. It must be admitted that sin is an evil in some respect and in some degree. But so far as it is an evil it must be regarded and felt to be an evil by that Being who views things and feels toward them as they are. And further, if the objector should insist that God is perfectly blessed to the exclusion of all painful emotion in view of sin, then again he denies the principle of his objection; and if God is in no respect made unhappy in view of evil, then this principle relieves from his objection my theory as well as his own. It will not then be pretended that God is perfectly blessed, in the sense which excludes every thing of the nature of regret or unhappiness. So far from it, that on every possible scheme it must be confessed that the perfect blessedness of God cannot be what it might be conceived to be, were there no impossibilities in the nature of things. Else why did not God create a universe of beings, each of whom should be in nature, character, and blessedness, the nearest possible image of himself? All therefore that can be meant by the perfect blessedness of God, is that degree of blessedness which is possible in view of the impossibilities in the nature of things, or the highest degree of happiness which in the nature of things it is possible to God to secure to himself.
In this sense, and it is the only proper sense of the phrase, it is maintained that while the purpose of God in respect to holiness and sin is painfully crossed, God is perfectly blessed. For in the first place, according to this theory, sin which is a source of real unhappiness to God, is to him an unavoidable consequence of the best system. The gratification of having given existence to the best system, the best even with sin as the certain consequence, is that of having adopted the best means for the best end in his power to accomplish. God therefore must be happier in the adoption of this system than by not adopting this or any other. Though holiness does not exist, or rather though God cannot secure the existence of holiness to that degree which he prefers, still having adopted the best system that which will result in the most holiness and happiness which he can secure-God has accomplished all the good he can, and must of course be as happy as a benevolent God can be; in other words, perfectly blessed according to the true import of this language.
The principle will be seen by illustration to be one of the most familiar and universally admitted.
There is such a thing as happiness from one source, which, though it does not annihilate the attendant pain which results from another, may be such in degree, that the happiness of the subject on the whole may be far greater than if the pain were to be prevented by the necessary means of prevention; such that a percipient being would prefer that the two sources of pleasure and of pain should both exist, on account of the superior degree of pleasure from the former, which would not exist if the latter did not; i.e., in a change of circumstances. Thus the martyr who, with the earnest of heaven in his soul, rings amid the fires of persecution, though the anguish of the burning is felt, may be happier than at any previous hour of his life. Thus too the benevolent physician who feels the pain he inflicts in amputating the limb of a patient, may also feel a pleasure in performing the operation as the known means of life and happiness to one whom he loves, which shall render it the happiest act of his life. The happiness of a benevolent being depends not merely on the happiness which exists, but greatly on the fact that he has produced it; and still more if he has produced it by direct instead of indirect agency.
So too the Divine Being in establishing the present system of things, with sin as its known consequence, may contemplate his works with higher joy than he could have known had he adopted any other system. or not adopted this, though by not adopting any system of creation he had been freed from the positive unhappiness which sin occasions him. And though he had been happier in the present system of things had holiness existed instead of sin, yet it is easy to see that in its establishment he has a source of higher happiness on the whole, than had sin been prevented by not adopting the system. At any rate God is as happy as he can be, so far as his power to render himself happy is concerned, and the deficiency of his happiness resulting from the existence of sin or nonexistence of holiness is one which he could not prevent. And I ask on what theory it may not have been so; i.e., on what theory may not the happiness of creatures be less, and of course the happiness of God less, than we can imagine he might have secured were there no impossibilities to him in the nature of things? Suppose that God had created a universe of moral beings each of whom should have been in his constitution the nearest possible image to God himself; and suppose now that each should fulfill the benevolent design of his creation, had not this been a happier universe than the present? But to have given existence to such beings might have been to produce a system the worst possible, since in the nature of things there might have been an absolute impossibility that God should prevent the fearful perversion of powers so nearly like his own. Now I ask would not God have been more happy in a universe of such exalted beings, were each to direct his powers to the production of good, than in any other? And is he therefore, on the supposition that he could not prevent the perversion of their powers, not completely blessed because he did not create such a universe? But if God, though he did not create it, may be completely blessed although such holiness and happiness as we suppose, do not exist, why may he not be completely happy in the present system, although all the good does not result from it which might, had creatures done their duty? It may be, for nothing surely appears to show that the evil which is incidental to the present system, is not immeasurably less than would in fact have pertained to any system, and the amount of good greater than would in fact have pertained to any other which God could have established. All therefore that we can say is, that real imperfection or evil may in the nature of things, so far as his power is concerned, pertain to the creation of God. If then God has given the highest perfection to the present system which he could give, and thus secured to himself the highest happiness which he could secure, and yet there is not as much happiness in the system as there might be, and God not as happy as he might be had creatures been holy, then we are obliged to conclude, either that God cannot in the nature of things secure to himself perfect and complete happiness, or that he is perfectly and completely happy by securing to himself the highest happiness which he can secure. If it be said that according to the present theory the former is true, viz., that God cannot secure to himself perfect and complete happiness, so it is according to every other. For though we suppose sin to be the necessary means of the greatest good, yet if holiness be good in itself, God is not perfectly happy, since on this supposition there is an impossibility in the nature of things, viz., that that which is good in itself should also be the necessary means of the greatest good. Both cannot be. There is therefore real evil in the system. If the latter be true, the present objection is groundless. Here then the question turns wholly on what is meant by perfect happiness in God. If that and that only is perfect happiness in God which is the greatest that we can conceive of on the supposition that there were no impossibilities in the nature of things to hinder or prevent happiness in any degree, then God is not completely happy, for there are such impossibilities, and of course it is not within the power of God to render himself thus happy. But if the highest degree of happiness which God can secure to himself, without effecting impossibilities in the nature of things, is perfect happiness, then is God perfectly happy according to the theory now maintained. The only ground of what can be called imperfection in the happiness of God on this scheme, are the impossibilities in the nature of things; and such imperfection in his happiness is no more inconsistent with his godhead, than not to effect any other like impossibility. We might as well ask, why is not every creature as great and perfect as God himself? Not then to argue about words, we come to this conclusion, that the happiness of God, so far as it depends on the conduct of creatures, is impaired by the existence of sin, and though not in a manner dishonorable to himself, yet really and truly impaired, while the dread responsibility which such a fact involves rests on them.
Another theory has been proposed, viz., that God can fully supply from his own resources the loss or deficiency in his happiness which is occasioned by the existence of sin, e. g., by acts of mercy in redeeming the guilty and the lost; and that therefore there is no necessity for supposing that the happiness of God is on the whole impaired by the existence of sin. To this supposition I reply, that while it would relieve the present theory from the present objection, it is obviously inconsistent with the theory in other respects, as well as with the nature of moral government. Particularly it is inconsistent with the principle, that the perfect and universal holiness of creatures is necessary to the highest conceivable good, and that God, all things considered, should prefer holiness to sin. For if God can render himself as happy by saving those whom he will save, i.e., a part of mankind, as he would have been had there been universal holiness on the part of his creatures, then since it is possible that those who will not repent should repent and be saved, and since God would be more happy than he now is should they repent, it is also possible that God should be more happy in consequence of the existence of sin, than he could be were universal holiness to exist. Hence it would follow that it is possible that sin should be the necessary means of the highest possible happiness to God, and of course that he should prefer it to holiness in its stead.
Besides, it cannot be shown that God can supply in the manner supposed the loss of his own happiness occasioned by sin; for the happiness lost to him by the existence of sin and its miseries, together with that which was sacrificed in making the requisite atonement, may overbalance that which is supposed to result from his acts of mercy, though all should be saved. It is utterly impossible so to measure and compare the happiness lost in one way with that gained in the other, as to decide that the latter can be an equivalent for the former. Indeed the contrary is capable of complete demonstration. For evidently there cannot be as much happiness on the part of creatures, if sin exists, as there would be in case of the perfect holiness of all. Perfect holiness involves the perfect or highest happiness of its subject. Sin therefore involves a real loss to every subject. But while it is admitted that there is a peculiar happiness in acts of mercy, the amount of that happiness depends entirely on the happiness or good which acts of mercy impart, or which at least they are designed to accomplish. But it is impossible that God by acts of mercy should actually impart or design to impart more happiness to creatures than the highest, or even happiness which is equal to the highest. Of course it is impossible that God should be as happy by his acts of mercy and grace, as he would be, were all his creatures to be perfectly holy. Nor is this all. The supposition subverts the law of God as a sincere expression of his will. It implies that the perfect holiness of creatures is not necessary to the highest conceivable happiness of God, since according to the supposition it is possible for God to secure to himself an equal degree of happiness by means of sin.
What then men have done to impair God's blessedness, though their efforts have not failed to diminish it when compared with what it would have been had they done their duty, has not after all resulted in its full and appropriate consequences. God has opened to himself a new source of happiness. He has made that very conduct which is so odious in his sight, the occasion of a joy and blessedness to himself, which in this specific form he had otherwise never known. He has opened the treasures of his grace, and rejoices with new and peculiar joy in the work of delivering from sin and woe the very objects of his abhorrence -- has secured to himself and to the universe, though not the highest amount of happiness conceivable, yet the greatest possible to him to effect, and has thus, according to the only true import of the language, secured his own perfect blessedness. I need not say how remote this view of the subject is, from that which exhibits God as purposing the sin and ruin of a world as a source of higher joy to himself, than had such an occasion been prevented by perfect obedience to his perfect law. According to one scheme, God purposed and by providential arrangements secured the existence of sin, and thus plunged his creatures into ruin, that he might have the happiness and the glory of bringing them deliverance; nor could the perfect holiness and consequent perfect happiness of his creatures satisfy his infinite benevolence. According to the other, God though he purposed sin as incidental to the best system in respect to his power of prevention, still preferred the existence of holiness to sin as the necessary means of the highest conceivable good, both to himself and to the universe; and when men had done what they could to impair his joy over the work of his hands; when they had in very deed forever shut off one source of immeasurable delight to their Maker, by revolting from his government, then he devised and adopted the grand expedient of showing mercy to them as in some degree a reparation of the loss -- the best redress of the injury of which they are the guilty authors.
But it may be further said, that in the preceding remarks it is admitted that sin is the necessary means of good, as it is the means of that happiness which God derives from his acts of mercy. I answer, that it is admitted that sin is the necessary means of that peculiar happiness which results from forgiving sin. But this does not prove that sin is the necessary means of good or happiness to God, since it may still be true that God would be happier had there been no sin. His happiness from the gratification of his benevolence might be far greater had there been universal holiness than that which now results from his acts of mercy to the guilty.
Obj. 6. It is claimed that the position that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good is capable of complete demonstration, and that therefore the theory which is now advocated must be wholly groundless.
This has been claimed on two grounds: one is, that sin actually exists, and that a perfect God could not have purposed its existence unless he had regarded it as the necessary means of the greatest good. This reasoning we have sufficiently answered by showing that God could and may have purposed sin for a very different reason. For to say that he must have purposed sin because it is the necessary means of the greatest good until it be shown that he could not purpose it for any other reason, is simply begging the question.
Another ground on which the above position has been maintained is, that God by acts of grace and mercy toward the guilty and the lost, can produce more happiness than by acts of mere benevolence toward the perfectly holy. I have already sufficiently refuted this assertion by showing that perfect holiness secures the highest happiness of the subject. But even this is denied by our opponents. It is therefore necessary to examine the present assertion more minutely. I remark in the first place, that it cannot be proved that more happiness can be produced by acts of redeeming mercy than could or would exist were all perfectly holy. The truth of this position has been assumed on the supposed authority of Revelation, and argued also from the nature of things.
The passage of Scripture relied on is Luke, xv. 7: "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance" There is no word for "more" in the Greek. The passage is supposed to imply, that the evil escaped and the happiness obtained by the penitent sinner is a good of greater value than the happiness enjoyed by a much greater number of perfectly holy beings. By comparing this passage with Matt. xviii. 13, we see that the true rendering is, "that there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth rather than (______ _) over ninety and nine," &c. The text is thus a recognition and application of the familiar truth, that a lost blessing when found, occupies the mind with joy rather than other blessings of equal or even greater value which have not been lost. This view of the passage shows that the design was not to compare and estimate the real value of the blessing found with that which had not been lost, but to show that inasmuch as to retrieve a loss is a real good, so it is a good fitted to awaken a peculiar and high degree of joy. That this is the whole import of the language is evident from the consideration that the truth taught by our Lord is illustrated by appealing to our own common experience in cases which directly contradict the supposed import of the passage. Is the owner of the lost sheep happier on the whole by finding it, than. if it had not been lost, or glad on the whole that it was lost? Is the father of the reclaimed prodigal glad on the whole that the son was lost because he is found that he was dead because he is alive again? These questions every one can answer without mistake; and the answer shows that the supposed comparison and supposed estimate are not even alluded to in the passage. It is impossible that we should be happier in the one case than in the other, since it is a matter of consciousness, that the happiness of continued possession, had it not been interrupted, and the unhappiness occasioned by the loss, more than outweigh the happiness of finding that which was lost. I need not say how much stronger the case is when the blessings not lost are many instead of one.
But I will concede the construction put on the passage so far as to admit that it is a case of comparison in respect to the relative value of two objects. What then are the precise objects compared? Is the recovery then of the lost blessing compared with the entire non-existence of the blessing not lost, or is it compared with it merely as a present safe possession? This is a material question; for it is obvious that this blessing contemplated merely as a present safe possession, is far less fitted to awaken joy, than to think of it at the same time as having no existence. For an example, take the case of the hundred sheep. To contemplate the blessing of the ninety and nine as never possessed, and to think what it would be to be wholly destitute of it, would greatly increase its value in our estimation compared with contemplating it merely as a present safe possession. This may be seen by asking whether we should prefer the recovery of that which was lost to the past, present, and future possession of the ninety and nine? This question is easily answered by every one that knows that ninety-nine sheep are of more value than one, though the latter had been lost and found again. This shows at once, if we suppose a comparison in the case, what is and what is not the object of the comparison. It is simply on the one hand the ninety and nine contemplated as a present safe possession without taking into consideration the loss involved in their nonexistence, compared on the other with the simple recovery of that which was lost; and this too without taking into account the deduction to be made by the loss itself. So it may be safely conceded, that in a like comparison of a penitent sinner and of ninety and nine just persons, there is more joy over the former than over the latter. But if the question be, whether the existence of one penitent sinner with the evil and the good which it involves, be preferable to the existence of ninety and nine perfectly holy and happy beings, no benevolent mind can thus judge.
This brings us to the second ground of argument.
Secondly: The doctrine now questioned is argued from the nature of things. Here the estimate is commonly made in the form and even with the supposed certainty of an arithmetical computation. We have such a computation by Dr. Bellamy in his Sermons on the Wisdom of God in the permission of sin. Unfortunately however for this computation, it depends on the gratuitous and false assumption that the happiness of each sinner saved is "a hundred times greater" than it would have been had he never sinned. Nor is this all. The doctor supposes the damned to lose one degree of happiness and to suffer an increase of misery in proportion to the supposed increase of the happiness of the righteous, viz., a hundred degrees. Now here is one main item left entirely out of account, viz., the misery of the lost, which is supposed to be increased a hundred degrees. The question is, how much is this aside from the supposed increase? It is something more than the loss of one degree of happiness -- it is a great amount of positive misery -- so great that it were good for the unhappy subject not to have existed. Now the supposed loss of one degree of happiness is a balance for one degree enjoyed, and what scales has Dr. B. or any other man by which to decide how much positive misery is a balance for a given amount of happiness? Who can decide that if in one case the happiness is increased to a hundred degrees, the misery of a lost soul aside from the supposed increase is not so great an evil as not to outweigh both together.
Obj. 7. It may be said that the present system is the best, as it will result in the highest degrees of holiness on the part of the holy, inasmuch as it includes that high degree of temptation which is necessary to the highest degrees of holiness, and of course of happiness, and that therefore the reason that sin is not prevented, is not that God cannot prevent moral agents from sinning. To this I reply, first -- That if it may be so, it is also true that it may not be so, and that on this supposition there is no reason for saying that it is so, or that it may not be true that God cannot prevent sin under a moral system. Secondly: There is no proof that in all cases the degree of holiness of a moral being will be as great as the degree of temptation overcome. This may be true in some cases, particularly on the part of those who are imperfectly holy; but how does it appear that a being who loves God with all his strength can love him more, in consequence of increased temptation and of surmounting such increased temptation? On the contrary, it is plain that in the case of a perfectly holy being, to increase temptation must lessen the degree of his holiness. Perfect holiness in a moral creature consists in loving God as much as he can love him, while he is under a necessity of loving an inferior good in some degree. At the same time, he has but a limited power or capacity of loving all objects of affection. Suppose this capacity of loving in a perfectly holy being to be the capacity of loving fifty degrees, and that being under a necessity of loving the inferior good ten degrees, he loves God with forty degrees or with perfect love. Let us now suppose the temptation to be increased, in other words, the value of the inferior good increased, so that it becomes necessary to love the inferior object fifteen degrees. The consequence is that he must love God so much the less as he loves the inferior object more, and is necessarily less holy as the consequence of increasing the temptation; that is, if the degree of his holiness is determined by the degree in which he loves God more than he loves every other and all other objects. Thirdly: Supposing the system, with the degree of temptation necessary to secure the highest degree of holiness on the part of the holy, actually to exist, and that God, by the direct exertion of his omnipotence, without any other change in the system of influence, can secure the perfect holiness and of course the perfect happiness of all, the question is, why does he not thus secure this result? Having given that perfection to the system which is requisite to secure the greatest degree of holiness on the part of those who are holy under it, can a reason be conceived or imagined why, if by the mere exertion of his power he can make all who sin perfectly holy and happy, he should not do it? Which is the most reasonable to suppose, that he cannot by his mere power prevent the sin of those who do sin without destroying their moral agency, or that he can do this and refuses to do it without any conceivable reason? If it be said that the sin of those who sin under the supposed best system is the necessary, means of the greatest good, this as we have seen is impossible. If it be said that by the supposed interposition of power the system would be changed, and changed for the worse, then I ask, how changed for the worse? Every influence supposed to be necessary to the highest degree of the holiness of those who are holy is preserved, and what the supposed interposition of power would effect, is the perfect holiness and happiness of those who sin. And would such a change in the system be for the worse or for the better? If for the better, then why is it not adopted by perfect benevolence? If for the worse, how can this be conceived; or rather do we not know that if this view of the case is all that is to be considered, it would be for the better and not for the worse, that all were perfectly holy and happy forever? If it should now be said that the supposed interposition of power to make all holy might be for the worse, because it might result in more sin at some future period than it would prevent; but how so, if God can keep all sin out of his moral kingdom, by securing the perfect holiness of all, through the mere exertion of his omnipotence?
The present theory then not only admits that God cannot prevent all sin under the best moral system, but it does not furnish even a plausible vindication of God in not preventing by his power the existence of all sin under a moral system, forever. And further, it is plane that no theory can furnish such a vindication; for when we have supposed the most perfect system of influences conceivable, except omnipotence should secure universal and perfect holiness and happiness, the question still returns, why not so exert his Omnipotence as to secure this result? Can human ingenuity devise an answer, or even be authorized to say there can be any other reason, except that a perfect God cannot prevent all sin, even under the best conceivable system, or in other words, cannot prevent all sin forever without destroying moral agency?
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