Page images
PDF
EPUB

his justice, and mercy, and grace, his power, and truth, and faithfulness, must all be exercised in perfect harmony. The highest good of creatures consists in the highest degree of holiness and happiness of which they are capable. The highest good of the universe does not consist in either of these objects, taken separately, but in both combined. It is the highest amount of holiness and happiness which can be brought into existence, among intelligent beings, including both the creator and his creatures. This is the great object which all benevolent beings desire. This constitutes their chief good. And this is the objeet which all things conspire to promote.

It is the design of this tract to show that every event which takes place is for the best.

Before proceeding to the proof of this proposition, it may be well to explain its meaning, that no misunderstanding may occur. It is not meant that every event is good in itself, and desirable for its own sake. A thing may be considered, at one time, by itself alone, without reference to its connections and consequences. It is then considered as.it is in ilself. At another time, the same thing may be considered in connection with all its consequences and results.Then it is considered as it is on the whole. Holiness is good in itself, and desired for its own sake. So is happiness. But sin is evil in itself, and for it its own sake undesirable. And so is misery.-Among the events which take place are very many which in themselves are evils, and for their own sake are undesirable. And when sich are said to be for the best, nothing is meant inconsistent with their being regarded as evils in themselves. But, an event which is evil in itself may have some good consequences. And it is possible for the good of those consequences to be greater in the amount than the evil of the event; so that, when the good and the evil are taken together, there may be a balance of good; and it may be better on the whole, that both should exist, than that both should fail. If the evil of the event and the good of the consequences should be equal in amount, the event would be, on the whole a matter of indifferenee. If the evil should orerbalance the good, it would be on the whole undesirable. But if the good should overbalance the eril, it would be on the whole desirable, and for the best. When, therefore, any event which is evil in itself is said to be on the whole for the best, this is what is meant,—that the good of the consequences will overbalance the evil, so that there will be a clear gain of good, on the whole, from the existence of that event.

The distinction which is bere made is not a mere distinction in theory. It is a distinction which every one makes in his daily practice. Men submit to labor and toil and fatigue, not because they consider them desirable in themselves, but as the means of acquiring wealth. They choose them, not for their own sake, but for the sake of their good consequences. The sick man considers the nauseous drug prescribed as very undesirable in itsell, and one which he would never choose for its own sake; but when he regards it as the means of regaining his health, he thinks the good will overbalance the evil, and chooses to take it as on the whole for the best.

It is to be observed also, that all events are connected together, and go to form one great whole. If any event took place ditlerently from what it now does,'the whole system would be different.-And when erery event which now takes place is said to be for the best, it is meant that it is a necessary part of the best possible system. The best system is that which includes the greatest amount of good, on the whole, after deducting as much as will balance the evil. We can suppose a variety of systems, for the sake of illustration. One might include God alone, without any creatures.One might include God and holy angels. One might include God and holy angels, and wicked angels. One might include God, and boly and wicked angels, and men in a state of innocence. One might include God, and holy and wicked angels, and wicked men who should all be lost. One might include God, and angels, and med, without any evil in it, natural or moral. These supposed systems are very different from each other, and from that which is in actual operation. And an endless variety may be supposed with different degrees of good and evil in them. Now, it is perfectly obvious, that a system which has some evil in it may be much better on the whole than another which has none. Suppose one system which has no evil in it, but contains ten degrees of good. Suppose another which has twenty degrees of evil, and one hundred and twenty degrees of good, what is their comparative value? To ascertain this, we must deduct from the second as much good as will balarce the evil, and compare the remainder with the whole of the good in the first. The balance of good in the second system is one bundred degrees; wbile ten degrees is all the good in the first. Consequently, the second system, which has some evil in it, is ten times better on the whole than the other which contains no evil. This is stated merely for the sake of illustration. And it is certainly conceivable that God might have created angels and men, and by his almighty power have kept them from sinning, and forever have prevented the existence of natural and moral evil. Or, if any say he could not do this without destroying their moral agency, and so puting it out of their power to sin. Such a system would be very different from the present. It would contain some good, but no evil

. But the system which is now in operation contains much evil, both natural and moral. And when it is said, that the present system is better than any other possible system, it is meant, that, aftei deducting from the good as much as will balance all the evil, there is a greater sum of good remaining than there would have been in any other possible system. When it is said, then, that every event which takes place is for the best, it is meant that it is a necessary part of the best possible system of events; and that if any alteration were made, in any respect, there would be less good on the whole, than there will be now; and the system, as a whole, would be less perfect, and less desirable.

It is now to be proved, that, erery crent which takes place is for the best.

As to those events which are good in themselves there is no dispute. The only question is, whether those events which are in themselves evil, are, on the whole, for the best. That it has been mercy and

so in a great many cases, is easily seen. Events which were evil in themselves have been made the occasion of good,--good which could not otherwise bave been secured, and great enough to overbalance the evil.

The fall of man was in itself an evil of great magnitude. But it afforded an. opportunity for God to exercise and display his wonderful

grace in saving sinners. All admit that without a discovery of the mercy and grace of God, his character cannot be seen in its greatest glory. But there is no way in which mercy and grace can be seen, other than in their actual exercise towards sinners. You may tell a blind man of the beauty of colors; but he can form no adequate conception of them till his eyes are opened, and he sees them actually displayed before him. So creatures might be told of the mercy and grace of God; but they must have been forever unable to know any thing of these glorious traits of the divine character, if there had been no sinners to save. The fall of man, gh a gi evil, is more than balanced by the good of which it is the occasion, the good which is accomplished in the gift of a Saviour, and the work of redemption.

The batred of Joseph's brethren was in itself an evil, but it was the means of his going down into Egypt. The wicked conduct of Joseph's mistress was in itself an evil; but it was the means of his being cast into prison. And these trials were the means of preparang Joseph for the important part he was afterwards to act. The imprisonment of the servants of Pharaoh was in itself an evil; but it was the means of their acquaintance with Joseph. The forgetfulness of the chief butler was in itself an evil; but it was the means of Joseph's enlargement at the most favorable time, and under the most favorable circumstances. And these things together were the means of Joseph's advancement, and the preservation of the chosen seed during the seven years of famine. Hence Joseph says to his brethren, “ As for you, ye thought evil against me, but God ineant it unto good.”

The bardness of heart and wicked obstinacy of Pharaoh was in itself an evil; but it was the means of making known the power and the justice of God in his destruction. Hence God says to him, “And in every deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."

The pride of Vashti and the wickedness of Haman were in themselves evils; but they were the means of the advancement of Esther and Mordecai, which was the means of great good to the church of God at that time. The opposition of the enemies of the Jews, in the days of Ezra, to the rebuilding of the temple, and their application to Darius to stop the work, was in itself an evil; but it was the means of procuring from him a decree that the work should go on, and that those very men should give their assistance in promoting it.

The manner in which our Lord was treated, his being despised and rejected of men, bis being abused in every form which malice could invent, was in itself an evil; but it was the means of exbibiting his true character to the study and imitation of his followers.His patience, his ineekness, his forbearance and resignation, could not have been seen, if he had not had these opportunities of exbibiting them. The death of Christ was in itself an evil; but it was the means of accomplishing great good.

Without it no atonement had been made, and all mankind must have been lost forever. The good of which this great evil was the means, is so much greater than the evil, that it has always been considered matter of thanksgiving and praise that the Father sent the Son, and that the Son freely gave up himself to be a propitiation for the sins of the world. The persecutions and sufferings of the early Christians were in themselves great evils; but they always resulted in the enlargement of the church. And so uniformly has this result followed the persecution of Christ's disciples, that it is an established maxim, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Many examples of this kind might be cited. They show that good has been brought out of evil, and so much good as greatly to overbalance the evil, and render it on the whole for the best that those events have taken place. And this is sufficient to render it highly probable that it is so in all cases."

[To be concluded.)

From the R. Island Journal. NEW MORAL CATECHISM. Q. Why is the happiness of most people like Hebrew verbs?

A. Because it is never found in the present tense; but always in the past or future. “We do not, but we mean to live.”

Q. Why is the course of the christian like an arrow shot upwards?

A. Because the moment it ceases to ascend, it begins to fall.

Q. Wherein is the course of the truly good man like the river Rhine in passing through the lake Constance?

A. Because it rolls on with its own stream without intermingling with the surrounding waters.

Q. Why is the most splendid self-righteousness like the bundle of the beggar?

A. Becaus: it is not worth the carrying ?

Q. Why should the faithful christiar, resemble a river rather than the sea?

A. The one ebbs and flows, while the other rolls on with a ceaseless and unbroken course. ·

Q. Wherein is the character of beasts defamed?

A. By being compared to the grossly intemperate; for this is a vice to which they are not addicted. And if at any time they are drawn into it once, they will take care for the future. A tame goat was once intoxicated by the artifice of its intemperate owner. But when he was offered the second time the intoxicating draught, he shook his head, and would not drink it.

Q. Wherein does the doctrine of heathens reprove us?
A. In the ardor of their zeal for their false religion.

“O for in christians' hearts a pagan zeal

As much our ardor less, as greater is our light.”- Young. Q. What may be considered white lies, and pious frauds in religious pursuits?

A. 1. For ministers to preach and talk against salaries and hirelings, when they know, as one not 100 miles from this State, said, he could get more in this way, than to take a stand in their favor.

2. For ministers to be always preaching against the use of notes, &c. when the very declamations with which they mean to gain an advantage have been either committed to memory, or else are used in a covert manner.

3. When preachers try to make their people believe that all they say is handed down directly from on high, when the subjects they discuss are entirely familiar to their minds, and have been previously fully digested and often used elsewhere.

4. In those proselyting arts and devices which are too numerous to go over in detail.

AN INFIDELS ADVICE TO THE CHRISTIAN MIN

ISTERS OF THE UNITED STATES."

"Fas est ab hoste doceri." The following piece of advice, extracted from a Communication in the N. Y. Free Enquirer, may be useful to Ministers, by showing some, what they hare done, and others, what they should not do.

“ I will tell you what you have to do; and you never had honester, though you may have had more palatable advice. Swim with the tide. Square into the fashion of improvement. Give up the most glaringly antiquated of your doctrines. Indeed, indeed, they're not fit for our modern market; and if you try to force a sale of them, you'll have to retail them for an old song before long.

Some of you have scientific knowledge. You are cultivated men. You have mental resources. Make a virtue of necessity, and employ these talents in bringing round your congrogations gradually to

Give them light, littl. by little, and you will secure their respect and your own salary: it is no question whether the people shall go onward. They are going already, and you can't stop them.

Consider whether you will go along with them, or whether you choose to be left behind."

common sense.

« PreviousContinue »