Page images

that a wife and helpless family must sink and suffer with him?

[ocr errors]

The merciful forbearance, which the Parable inculcates, therefore, not only continues some protection and support to the innocent; but is calculated to furnish sinners with sufficient time for repentance, and amendment of life. Such is the practical application of the subject made by St. Paul; who exclaims to the daring and presumptuous offender-" Despisest thou the riches of the divine goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee," or ought to lead thee, "to repentance?" An illustrious instance of the beneficial effects of this mercy is furnished in the person of the holy apostle himself; who, misled in early life by the ardor of youthful passions, and that "zeal of God, which is not according to knowledge," was a blasphemer and cruel persecutor of the church of Christ; but who, in time, when converted to the faith, became, we know, one of its most eloquent, active, and efficient apostles. Feeling our ignorance of what a fellow-creature is still capable, and what, by God's blessing, he yet may be-not knowing either how to appreciate

motives and actions justly, we can only be safe ourselves, in ordinary cases, when we imitate our heavenly Father, and cherish the sentiments Christian love, and forbearance, towards our frail, offending brethren.


But the Parable is much more extensive in its import and application, than we have hitherto considered it. It familiarises to our minds the important doctrine of the origin of evil, as consistent, notwithstanding, with the wisdom and the goodness of God: for, in the account of the creation, we read that " He created man in his own image," that is, according to the interpretation of another inspired writer, "He made him upright;" and the same doctrine may be inferred from the vineyard, which, though carefully planted, brought forth only wild grapes, and from the question in the Parable, "Didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then hath it tares ?" In the case of Adam, it may be said, that, placing him in a state of trial, exposed to temptation, and liable to fall, was in itself an evil. Why was he not continued, or preserved, innocent, and happy? Why was he made subject to transgression, misery, and death?

These and similar questions appear to be not only idle and foolish; but presumptuous and

sinful. It is worse than the clay finding fault with the potter; for, if followed out in its consequences, it would amount to the folly, and temerity, of asking the Almighty, why the world was not created totally different from what it was, and why the dispensations of his providence were not entirely changed.

Truly, as the apostle observes, "the creature was made subject to vanity;" and one of its most lamentable effects is, that it will often tempt him, in pursuit of knowledge, to soar into those regions, where all his faculties and powers avail him nothing, instead of confining his attention to that middle state, where his acquirements are truly valuable, and where his duties are obvious, useful, and necessary. It is our province to observe, through the medium of reason, enlightened by revelation, the ordinances of infinite wisdom, and infinite power; and to learn such practical lessons from them, as the vast and complicated subject will always suggest. We find that the existence of evil formed a necessary part of the divine economy on earth. In addition to what has been already remarked, we may quote the prophet Isaiah, uttering the decrees of the Almighty himself on the subject;

[ocr errors]

"I form the light, and create darkness: I

make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." Or let us attend with reverence to the more express, and less equivocal declaration of our Holy Redeemer; who said to his disciples, "It is impossible, but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!" Here we find the same doctrine most clearly taught; and, what is of the utmost importance, taught in'immediate connection with man's responsibility, as a moral and accountable


Some persons have perplexed themselves, in order to understand how the prescience of the Deity, in connection with his other attributes, can, on this occasion, be compatible with the free-agency of man. But he must have made little progress in human knowledge, who is not sensible of the limited powers of his own mind, and who is not familiar with difficulties on almost every subject of inquiry: for they abound in the very elements of science, as well as in those advanced stages of it, in which all further progress is nearly hopeless. Attempt to lead the mathematician back one step beyond his postulates, and his axioms, and his science is at an end. The great philosopher, who assumed the phenomenon of gravity, as a principle, or


law, that would account for the motions of the planets, and the preservation of the solar system, makes no attempt to explain, or investigate its nature; because that being the legitimate boundary of his science, to go farther was impossible: and, as to that incalculable projectile force, which first ranged the heavenly bodies in their respective orbits, even his mighty mind knew no more of it than the untutored savage. He, therefore, always referred it, together with their creation, in pious humility, to the Will, and Power of God. It is the same with respect to the faculties of the human mind, and all the essential properties of matter. We know there are such intellectual powers as reason, memory, and imagination; and we observe in the variety of material substances around us, what we call elasticity, cohesion, opacity, transparency, and other properties; but as to the causes that constitute them, or the elements of which they are formed, we know nothing.-Farther, we look up with reverence and adoration to the Deity himself, as the first Great Cause of all things, and we acknowledge his wisdom, his mercy, and power, as manifested in the works of creation; " but," says the inspired author of the book of Job, " Behold, God is great, and

« PreviousContinue »