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But if no judgment or no deity,
Yet where are fools so great as swearers be?
This proves their folly; none on wisdom's list,
Think ye, Oh fools! the insulted Majesty
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ISAIAH, XLV, 7.—I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things.
1. If it has been made to appear, that God claims, in the text, to be the primary, efficient cause of all things, whether good or evil, in the natural or moral world; then no other passage of scripture, rightly understood, is inconsistent with this doctrine. If the different parts of sacred scripture, in their true intent and meaning, were inconsistent with each other, there would be no evidence that any part of them was written by divine inspiration. The sentiment, that opposite doctrines may be supported by scriptural evidence, is akin to infidelity. Those passages, which have been thought to militate against the divine declaration in our text, may, by proper explanation, be shown to harmonize with it. Permit me here to mention a few of those passages, and show their consistency with the universal providence and agency of God.
In the first chapter, of Genesis, it is said that "God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good." This passage merely teaches, that there was neither natural nor moral evil in the world, at its first creation; but it does not deny the existence of either, at a subsequent period, or assert that they came into existence without a cause.
It is repeatedly said in Exodus, that "Pharaoh hardened his heart." But it is more frequently said, that God hardened it: and here is no inconsistency. Pharaoh's hardening his own heart, was his refusing to let the people go, and was the effect of God's hardening his heart.
It is said, I Chr. xxi. 1. "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." Does provoke mean any thing more than to tempt, or excite by the exhibition of motives? If not, then Satan's provoking David, was consistent with God's moving him to give orders for numbering the people. To present motives is one thing; to incline the heart to act in view of motives, is another. This observation applies to those passages, in which it is said, that Satan entered into Judas, filled the heart of Annanias, works in the children of disobedience, and blinds the minds of them that believe not.' These passages only prove that the adversary does his
nating and poreunde
and not that he has the hearts of men in his hand, and can work in them to will and do his pleasure.
The apostle writes, I Cor. xiv. 33. that "God is not the author of confusion." Here it might be said, that confussion is not moral evil, though it may be the effect of it; and author may mean the doer, instead of the causer. But the proper remark upon this passage, is, the word author here, is not in the original, and was inserted by the translators, to give their sense of the passage. If they had said commander, or approver, instead of author, they would have made the apostle's meaning both clear in itself, and consistent with other parts of scripture.
James writes, (Epist. 1, 13,) "God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man." The word tempt sometimes means to try; as when it is said, "God did tempt Abraham:" sometimes it means to seduce; as when Satan is said to tempt men, and men to tempt one another. James seems to use the word to express compliance with enticement to sin; "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed." By saying, therefore, that "God tempteth no man," he may only be supposed to mean, that God does nothing inconsistent with every man's sinning freely and voluntarily, whenever he yields to enticement.
I add but one passage more: it is in the same epistle; (3. 14, 17.) in which mention is made of two opposite kinds of wisdom; and James says, with reference to the bad kind, "this wisdom descendeth not from above." "2 The only question here is, whether the apostle is speaking of the nature, or of the cause of this sinful wisdom? And it seems plain, from what he immediately adds, that he is speaking. of its nature only. "This wisdom is not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish;" i. e. it is not of a heavenly, but earthly and infernal nature:
2. If our text teaches the universal agency of God; then all the objections, which have been or can be brought against this doctrine, may be answered. It is easy for ingenious men to invent plausible and perplexing objections against any doctrine either of natural or revealed religion. Indeed, there is no doctrine, however important and demonstrable, against which specious objections have not been alleged. But as truth is always consistent with itself, and capable of demonstration; no unanswerable objection can be made to any doctrine which is true. Nothing but sufficient knowledge is necessary to enable one to give a satisfactory answer to every objection which can be made to a true doctrine.
The objections against the doctrine of divine agency, except those from scripture which have been mentioned, are almost all of a metaphysical nature; to answer which, some acquaintance with intellectual philosophy is necessary. But no one is obliged to wait till he can refute metaphysical objections, before he embraces a doctrine of the Bible. When clear and full proof of any doctrine is perceived, it should be embraced, without any apprehension, that a valid objec tion may lie against it. This observation is made, bacause there is
not room here, to consider the various objections which have been made to the doctrine contained in our text.*
There is one objection, however, which has been revived of late and urged with great confidence, which seems to require some notice. It is this: "That if created beings move and act, only as God moves and acts upon them; then there is really but one Agent in the uniterse.' In reply, it may be said, that as it would be absurd to allege, that because God moves the planets in their orbits, therefore be only moves, and they are at rest; so it is equally absurd to allege, that because God actuates free agents, therefore they do not act. If men will, they act; for willing is action: and if they act, they are agents. There are, therefore, just so many agents in the universe, as there are beings who choose and refuse.
3. If God does the things, which he says he does, in our text;then to deny his agency in any thing, is virtually to deny it in every thing. Reason teaches the dependence of all things upon God, as much as the dependence of any thing. If one thing may exist without being created by God; why not another? If one creature can move without the agency of the First cause; why not all creatures? If we open the Bible, we there see it declared as plainly, that the Lord creates darkness and evil, as that he forms light and makes peace. If, then, we attribute natural good or evil to chance, or moral good or evil to a self-determining power; do we not sap the foundation of all evidence of the being of God, derived either from his works or from his word?
4. What has been said may serve to expose the error of representing the Devil as the efficient cause of moral evil. "In the divine scheme," says a late writer, there is much said respecting a moral influence or agency. The object of this is not to create, or uphold creatures in being, but purely to operate upon their moral and active powers, and impel them to think, feel and act agreeably to the will of the agent who exerts this kind of influence. But of this influenee, there are two grand sources mentioned in the Bible, the agency of the holy Spirit in the production of holy affections, volitions and actions.-The second is the agency of Satan. Is it not a plain fact, that when sinners are spoken of as about to do, or as having committed any flagrant act of sin, they are said to be moved to it by Salanic influence?"-Speaking of David's numbering the people, this writer says, "Did he (God) incline him to this sin? No: the Devil did this."-Nothing can be plainer, than that Satan is here represented as the efficient cause of moral evil. But, if this were correct, then Satan would have the same power over sinners, that God has over saints: He would both know and turn their hearts, and have power to carry them to destruction with unfailing and fatal certainty. This is to make the Devil just such a being as the evil God of the ancient Magi and more recent Mani
For a clear and complete answer to every objection we have seen or heard Against this doctrine, the reader is referred to Nine Sermons on the Decrees and Agency of God, by Rev. WILLIAM R. WEEKS.
chees, who held to two equally independent and powerful Deities, and against whose doctrine our text was particularly aimed.-What a monstrous kind of idolatry this is!-not only to rob God of his supremacy, but to deify the Devil! 5. Those who presume to deny the universal agency of the Supreme Being, are very bold. They not only have the metaphysical intrepidity to encounter the plainest deductions of reason, and to leap over all the absurdities of an independent creature, of uncaused motion, and of a self-determining power; but they have the theological hardihood to set aside the plainest and most positive declarations of God himself, in his holy word.
"And indeed, were it so," says a writer of note, "that our weak minds were unable to comprehend how God can work all things after the counsel of his own will, or how natural and moral evil could ever have been, without believing that God is as much, and as immediately, the cause of evil as of good; yet it might be more modest, and more wise, to leave these among other incompresibles, than to have recource to so bold an hypothesis for the solution of them." This might be very well said, if the doctrine of divine agency were an hypothesis merely; but it is a plain matter of fact, and the hypotheses are invented to get rid of it, and show how natural and moral evil could get into the world and prevail, without of the first cause. It the agency may be modest and wise, in the view of men, to wink out of sight a truth so offensive to the men of this world; but it must be presumptuous boldness in the sight of God, to deny his agency, when he so plainly and expressly declares, "I, form the light, and create darkness: I, make peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things."
6. This subject shows us, that the universe is safe in the hands of God. As "He who made all things is God;" so it is the same infinitely wise, powereful and good Being, who upholds, governs and disposes of all creatures and things. He is continually executing the scheme which his first thoughts designed.' He has never had occasion to change his plan, or amend his works. Neither natural nor moral evil has entered the created system, because he could not prevent it; nor will he suffer either to prevail, beyond what he sees best on the whole. Under his government, every thing must be so arranged and effected, as to make the universe the best possible in the nature of things. "As for God, his work is perfect; nothing can be added to it, nor any thing taken from it," without rendering it less worthy of its Author, and less adapted to its end. "The Lord reigns; therefore let the earth rejoice.'
7. This subject teaches us, who are the friends of God. It may be taken for granted, that the real friends of God are pleased with his character, designs and works. It is not conceivable, that one should be a friend of God, who feels unreconciled to what he actually does. But God forms the light and creates darkness; makes peace and creates evil'-governs, equally, the natural and moral world-and "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Of this, therefore, all his friends approve. They choose that the