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This subject, however, strictly speaking, forms no part of a system of theology; and it is possible that the author was less anxious to complete his design, from feeling that it was more proper for the lecture-room than for the pulpit, as being of a less practical nature. He might also think, that the internal evidences of revealed religion are those which it is most safe and most beneficial to bring forward; and these he takes frequent occasion, in these volumes, to insist upon. He well knew, that a man may acknowledge the authority of the scriptures and the credibility of the gospel history, and yet remain, as to the substance of revelation, an infidel, In all these lectures, he takes the truth of Christianity for granted, and argues from the declarations of Scripture as from first principles, never neglecting, at the same time, to show the reasonableness of its dictates, and the harmony of revealed truth with the soundest deductions of logic. We cannot but consider this as the most rational, the most philosophical, as well as the most salutary mode of investigation. Theology pre-supposes a revelation, and that revelation is not merely the primary source of our knowledge as to a large class of the most important truths, but it suppli's the only medium of proof. This holds good with regard to the doctrines of what is termed natural religion, not less than with respect to the discoveries of the New Testament. Not only were they not discoverable, as the history of the most civi. lized nations of heathenism shows, by the light of reason; but the divine testimony is the only basis of certainty upon which, as principles of theological science, they can rest, and faith in that testimony is the only means of our knowing them. The practice, therefore, of exhibiting those doctrines apart from Revelation, we cannot but consider as wholly unadvisable, since it is to separate them from their true and proper evidence. Even the infidel who rejects the authority of the Scriptures, derives from the very Revelation he impugns, the knowledge of those primary theological truths which he attempts to turn against the believer. The existence and authority of Revelation must, then, be assumed as a first principle, in laying the foundation of theological science, and the legitimate purpose of a priori reasoning is, not to prove the truth of what, being revealed, is certain, but to answer the objections brought against the matter of Revelation. It is an unwarrantable and dangerous concession to the Humes, the Gibbons, and the Paines, to seem to admit, by the style of our reasonings, that there is any reasonableness in their scepticism as to the genuineness and credibility of the sacred records, or that Christianity, at this time of day, stands in need of being proved to be true. Yet, in many of the apologies of its advocates, and many lectures on the external evidences of Revelation, there is, we think, something too much of the tone of concession; and there is in some theologians a hesitating or timid way of referring to the Scriptural proof of religious doctrines, as if the inspiration of Scripture were really questionable; as if « Thus saith the Lord” were a less philosophical
beason for believing, than, Such is the testimony of Tacitus, or, such the reasoning of Mr. Hume.
The theological lectures of Dr. Dwight are characterised by a manner and spirit the very opposite of this. There is no dogmatism, neither is there any compromise of the claims of Revelation.
He treads firmly, with the air of a man who knows the ground he has taken, and feels his position to be impregnable. There is, at the same time, a calm earnestness of manner, which bespeaks his conviction of the intrinsic value and practical efficacy of the truths he advocates. There is none of that professional sang-froid with which sometimes theological subjects have been discussed and lectured upon. The connection between his intellectual powers and his moral sensibilities, seem never to be suspended, but a wholesome circulation is going forward, which communicates warmth to his most abstract speculations. The consequent effect is, that these lectures are admirably adapted to make the reader not merely a rational believer, but a devout Christian.
In proceeding to substantiate these remarks, we feel no small difficulty in making from so large a mass of materials, our selection of extracts. The eighth and ninth sermons treat of the benevolence of God. In the first of these, the scriptural proposition, that “God is love,” or benevolence (Ayarn), is proved from the works of creation and providence.
Although,' says Dr. Dwight, I can by no means admit with many of my fellow-men respectable for their understanding and worth, thať the Benevolence of God is not capable of being completely proved, or that it is not in fact completely proved, by the Scriptures, yet, I cannot help believing, that, if the proof furnished by reason be satisfactory also, and can be fairly exhibited as satisfactory, the minds of many men, at least, will rest on this subject with a conviction more unmingled, a confidence less exposed to danger and disturbance. The question concerning the amount of the evidence which Reason gives concerning this doctrine, has long been, and is still disputed. The proofs of the Divine benevolence from Reason, are regarded by many persons of reputation as insufficient. I have myself entertained, heretofore, opinions on this subject different from those I now entertain. As I have not seen it discussed in such a manner as satisfied my own wishes, I shall now consider it with more particularity than might otherwise be necessary.'
Having, in the previous lectures, proved from the self-existence and necessary attributes of Deity, that God is absolutely independent,—that is to say, that he needs, and can need, nothing to render his ability either to do or to enjoy whatever he pleases, greater or more perfect,'-he proceeds to argue in proof of the necessary benevolence of God, first,“ that God can have no possible motive to be inalevolent. The nature of things can furnish no
such motive, since it is impossible to suppose, that to be malevolent is a more desirable state of being, than to be benevolent And no such motive can be presented to God from without him. self, since all other beings, together with all that pertains to them, being what he, antecedently to their existence, chose either to produce or to permit, it is certain that he could gain nothing to himself by the exercise of malevolence. Therefore, if malevolent, he must sustain that character without a motive.
The second argument is, that, inasmuch as an Omniscient Being cannot but see, that to sustain and exhibit a benevolent character is more glorious to himself and more beneficial to his creatures, than the contrary, and as the glory of the Creator and the good of his creatures involve every thing that is desirable,-an infinite motive is constantly presented to the Creator, to the exercise of benevolence; that the exercise of malevolence would, therefore, be not only without a motive, but against the influence of the strongest possible motive to the contrary, and could arise only from an original inherent propensity in the Infinite Nature,
- a propensity uninfluenced by truth, and immoveable by motives.
Thirdly. The only conduct which a Creator can receive with pleasure from his creatures, must plainly be, attachment, reverence, and the voluntary obedience which they produce;' and it is impossible that God should not choose to be loved, reverenced, and obeyed.' But the Creator has so formed his works, and so constituted his providence, that the minds of men irresistibly, and of absolute necessity, esteem a benevolent being, and hate and despise malevolence, To suppose the Creator to be a malevolent being, therefore, would be, to believe, that he has necessitated, beyond a possibility of its being otherwise, his intelligent creatures to hate and despise that which he supremely loves and approves, viz. his own moral character,' and to esteem and love the opposite.
Fourthly. - The Creator has placed mankind either in a state of trial, or a state of reward: but our present state is, on neither of these suppositions, compatible with the doctrine that he is malevolent.' Rational creatures can exist in no possible situation except one of these two. "If, then, we are placed in a state of reward, we are beyond measure more happy, and less miserable, than is consistent with the character of malevolence in the Creator. If in a state of trial, our circumstances are equally at variance with the supposition, all our opposition to such a character being necessarily approved by our own consciences. And "God has so constituted the world, as to make misery the only legitimate and natural consequence of malevolence, and happiness the only natural consequence of benevolence.'
Lastly. “The goodness of God displayed in the present world, is a strong argument that he is a benevolent Being. This is ilIustrated by the following considerations pursued into detail. The last is urged in a very forcible manner as a proof of the forbearance of God.
•1. God makes mankind the subjects of extensive enjoyment in the present world. 2. God has furnished mankind with many alleviations and many remedies for the evils which they suffer in the present world. 3. The original and main design of each
particular thing, appears plainly (as insisted upon by Dr. Paley) to be benevolent. 4. All the blessings experienced by mankind are bestowed on sinful beings.'
Dr. Dwight then notices the objections usually made against this doctrine as a dictate of reason, which are reducible to two: the existence of moral evil, and the existence of natural (or, more properly, physical,) evil. Here he frankly avows himself to be unable, and expresses his complete conviction that all other men are unable, to explain this subject so as to give an inquirer clear and satisfactory views, by the light of reason, of the propriety of permitting the introduction of moral evil into the Intelligent System.' He contents himself with insisting on the following positions: 1. God cannot be proved to be the efficient cause of sin; and till this is done, man is unquestionably to be acknowledged as the cause of his own sin. 2. •It cannot be proved, that God was obliged, either by justice or benevolence, to prevent sin from existing;' inasmuch as a state of trial supposes a liability to sin, and it cannot be proved, that it is inconsistent with justice or benevolence, for God to place his rational creatures in a state of trial. 3. • It cannot be proved, that the existence of sin will, in the end, be a detriment to the Universe. The objection drawn from the existence of physical evil might seem scarcely deserving of separate discussion, physical evil being but the consequence of moral evil. The considerations urged by Dr. Dwight,-that, of a large proportion of such evils, men are themselves the authors, that the evils inflicted by God are always less than the subjects of them merit, and that afflictions have often a beneficial influence,-do not appear to us to be urged with his usual acuteness, since they leave the previous difficulty undiminished. The case of infants, he evades, rather than fairly disposes ot. In fact the existence of physical evil, viewed apart from that of moral evil, is wholly inexplicable. An infidel can give no answer to the question—how death originated; the only solution is that of the Apostle" By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Rejecting this, or attempting to go beyond this, we are lost in interminable conjectures. Although afflictions have unquestionably a beneficial effect on the minds of many individuals, it is equally certain, that their effect on others is of a prejudicial kind. That they are overruled as means of good, may be admitted to supply a striking proof of the benevolence of the Supreme Moral Governor in his providential dispensations; but, unless the necessary tendency of pain and suffering were beneficial, which assuredly it is
not, the existence of physical evil is by no means accounted for. The only conclusion on which we can repose as a dictate of reason, is that at which Leibnitz arrives in his Essay on the Good. ness of God. Infinite Goodness united to Supreme Wisdom, could not but choose, out of all possible things, that which is best. An objector may reply, that the world might have existed without sin and without suffering; but I deny that it would therefore have been better.' Every thing,' he adds, having been foreseen by God, has contributed as it were ideally (idealment), before its actual existence, to the determination formed in the Divine mind respecting the existence of all things. If, therefore, the smallest evil which arises in the world, were not to take place, it would no longer be that world which, all things being taken into the account, has been deemed the best by the Creator who has made choice of it.' 'I may not be able to show you in detail how any other conceivable worlds would be inferior to that in which we exist; for can I comprehend, or can I represent to others, infinite things, and compare them one with another? But you ought to conclude with me that it must be so, ab effectu, since God has chosen the world such as it is.'*
Dr. Dwight admits, in concluding the discourse, that the arguments he has adduced, scarcely amount to a demonstration in the strict logical sense, but they furnish the most solid foundation for rational and immoveable confidence. He adds very forcibly:
• Intuitive or demonstrative certainty concerning the moral character of God, might exist in every supposable case, without any useful influence on the heart or on the life. Nor would he who, in the possession of high probable evidence that God is a benevolent being, have demanded a demonstration of this truth before he would yield his heart to his Maker, be at all more inclined to yield it, when he arrived at the demonstration. Confidence, on the contrary, is always a virtuous state of mind, being invariably a cordial assent to that truth which is its object. Confidence in the moral character of God is a virtuous emotion, capable of reaching to any degree of excellence predicable of rational creatures, and being founded on evidence which, like a converging series, will rise higher and higher for ever, it will increase eternally in strength and excellency; and will more and more intimately, in an unceasing progress, unite the hearts of all moral beings to their glorious and perfect Creator.'
The proof of the doctrine from Revelation is very strikingly enlarged upon in the subsequent discourse. Among other arguments, what amounts almost to demonstrative evidence, presents itself in the considerations, that, in the law which God has given to man. "kind for the regulation of all their moral conduct, He has required no other obedience than their love to himself and to each
*“ Theodicée." 12mo. Tom. i. pp. 84.-6..