Abbildungen der Seite

although God had pronounced, by His inspired historian, all things to be good in their several kinds, He made no general application to that effect; but, when we suggest to ourselves that each was not made individually for itself, but generally for all, we recognize the fitness of the general term.

It is of no little moment that we have a right understanding of this part of our subject, because if we be induced to suppose, from any imagined defect of language or expression, that good, essentially, did not at this time operate through the world, we may, proceeding in error, come to believe, as some have unfortunately brought themselves to believe, that two principles were in action, the one good, and the other evil, and so cast unjust reflection upon the Almighty Creator, as if He had assigned to man an unequal contest to engage in. But such supposition is entirely at variance with the known attributes of God: He is all-powerful, all-wise, all-just, and all-good; and, to have created, or to have admitted, a principle of evil, had been to have acted in direct contradiction of himself in either capacity. As He is all-good, no evil could proceed from Him in concurrence with His own will; as He is all-just, he could not send evil into the world, and then condemn man for being overwhelmed by it; as He is all-wise, He could not throw man into a contest in which he must necessarily act against the divine honour; and, as He is all-powerful, evil could not gain an original place within His works, in defiance of Himself, as that would be to confess He was not the sole Creator of the world. The expression very pointedly tells us that he made all things good and for good, with the manifest intention of informing us likewise that the introduction of evil was not of His appointment or agency; that he made every thing, not with an impossibility to fall, but with an ability to stand ; with an ability to hold its place or station; that, as it proceeded in each instance from Himself, His command, or co-operation, it was good, was adapted to its purpose, and needed not to have been in any respect driven from it; that there was no incompleteness in either design or execution. It was thus, I say, in each individual case; and now that all was finished, the same expression, with the enlargement I have noticed, was, on a further and general survey, delivered upon it as a whole. This is, therefore, a vindication in the outset; and that evil did afterwards enter, is no disparagement of God's essential power ; though He made all things good, He did not make them incapable, through any subsequent default of their own, of becoming otherwise; it was part of His purpose to prove them ; and He gave a test, as we read in the second chapter, by which we may understand that He never did let His creatures know He had put them into a state by which they were independently good. He saw that they were good, and pronounced that they would continue so, if they should adhere to His direction; but that if, by reason of the degree of freedom with which he had endued them, they should deviate from their appointed course, they would then cease to be good, or would be deteriorated in quality, and imperfeet in purpose.

We have before us these facts, or truths--that God made all things good, and that He made the degree of goodness to be dependent on conduct; and we have, besides, the origin, so far as concerns ourselves, of good and of evil. The matter is of ready illustration. A man forms a machine, and sets it, under conduct, to its course: he sees that it is able to accomplish the purpose he has in it, and that it will accomplish it, if it keep to the track he has marked; but that, if it be suffered to diverge from that track, it will fail of its purpose, and produce an effect which is adverse to it. Is the former of it chargeable with that adverse effect? Assuredly not. He only is chargeable, who neglected or disobeyed the direction he had received. The world is such a machine. Man is he to whose guidance it was committed, and who, by his transgression, carried it from its purpose, and introduced evil; so that the question is at last resolved into that of the endowment of man with freedom of will; and we are obliged to confess that it was an abuse of his freedom which gave rise to the principle of evil. thing that He had made, and behold it was very good ; and, consequently, like to come from the fountain of all goodness, and fit always to be ascribed to the same. Whatsoever is evil, is not by the Creator's action, but by the creature's defection. In vain then did the heretics of old, to remove a seeming inconvenience, renounce a certain truth; and whilst they feared to make their own God evil, they made Him partial, or but half the Deity, and so a companion at least with

66 God saw every

an evil God.

For dividing all things in this world into natures substantially evil, and substantially good, and apprehending a necessity of an origination conformable to so different a condition, they imagined one God essentially good, as the first principle of the one, another God essentially evil, as the original of the other. And this strange heresie began upon the first spreading of the gospel; as if the greatest light could not appear without a shadow!.”.

There is nothing, there never has been any thing, proceeding from the hand, or by the ordinance, of God, which is not good. Perfect in himself, he cannot design imperfectness; nothing which he forms or devises is unadapted to its end; and that is the strict meaning in which the word “good” is to be taken in the several places in which it is used in the present chapter.

He communicated so much of his own perfectness as the creature was capable of receiving. It is obvious, that perfectness could not be received by the creature in the same degree in which it was essential to the Creator; it could be received by the creature only as its nature would contain it. God, being perfect in Himself, could not admit imperfectness; whereas the creature was not perfect in itself, its degree of perfectness being by endowment on an inferior nature, and dependent on observance of the conditions on which it was granted; and this constituted the difference between the two. If the creature had been perfect, to the

[blocks in formation]

full extent of the term, would it not have ceased to exist in its character of a creature, or of a dependent, creation implying dependence? Would it not have been absolute in itself, and thereby have disputed, in its own instance, omnipotence with God, his control over it being no more ? Our limitation must be allowed, or we shall run into an absurdity. The degree of goodness, or fitness, was the fulfilment of God's intention. It was thus with the light; that was sufficient to God's purpose in the creation of it. It was thus with the earth and the waters; with the produce of the earth ; with the particular lights which were made to give light upon the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars; with the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, with the cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth. They were suited to that purpose for which they were created. It was not, be it repeated, that they were, any of them, independent of God's power; that they were capable of themselves to support themselves; but that his purpose in them, whatever it might be, was complete; that they were enabled by Him to perform the service to which they were assigned. The expression is renewed, at the close of the sixth day, generally, as we have seen, over the whole. It had not been previously applied in particular reference to man, neither was it necessary it should have been. It had been applied once before on the same sixth day, after the creation of the cattle, the creeping thing, and the beast; and the reason of its application to them was, as in each other case, that


« ZurückWeiter »