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vouring to diminish the glorious crop of intellectual harvests, by sowing seeds of wickedness in seminaries appointed for the cultivation of virtue ; and also that the Supreme Being may, by permitting him to follow the suggestions of his selfnurtured, malign dispositions, now administer those evils which serve to constitute probationary states—there not appearing any essential necessity that all moral agents should undergo their primeval state of existence, and enter the trial of their virtue, exactly under similar circumstan
The lamentable fall we have just been contemplating, and the daily experience of our own lives, prove the justness of this remark; for we find an infinite diversity of moral and intellectual endowments distributed among the human race: to some persons only one talent is delivered, though others are gifted with five, and ten. (Matt. xxv. 15.) And the absolute requisition for probationary states being indispensable, renders it perfectly indifferent through what channel those evils are dispensed which merely serve to constitute them; therefore, no intelligents can have the smallest ground for complaint as to the mode by which infinite goodness allows their virtue to be tested; neither could Omniscience, having foreseen all events that would even come to pass throughout the annals of eternal ages, have proved in the smallest degree influentiary on the wills or conduct of any order of probationaries. Milton, in his “ Paradise Lost,” finely supposes the Supreme Being vindicating his honour both on the fall of man and angels.
“ Whose fault?
Paradise Lost, p. 69.
That stupendous operation of the Supreme Being, by which he overthrew the power of darkness, is recorded by St. Paul to have been the eternal purpose of the infinite and eternal God, which He purposed in himself in Christ Jesus. It is, therefore, highly reasonable to suppose, that the magnitude of the purpose would correspond with the immensity of the Purposer, and consequently comprehend consequences, whereof our narrow understandings and short views may utterly incapacitate us to judge. But though we cannot by searching find out the Almighty and his dispensations unto perfection, (Job xi. 7,) we are in no part of the sacred volume restrained from searching at all; on the contrary, reason and Scripture evidently enjoin every rational creature to endeavour after attaining as just a knowledge of their mighty Former (the knowledge of God being the source from whence is derived the love of God; and as clear a comprehension of those important subjects He has been graciously pleased to reveal, that they may be enabled to give an answer to those that ask them, a reason of the hope that is in them—1 Pet. iii. 15,) as their capacities will admit. In the momentous subject now before us, though our feeble faculties may be utterly inadequate to the perfect understanding of its several parts, we still may manifestly trace the most consummate wisdom.
From the result of our former researches, we discovered an imperious necessity (supposing the power of darkness to have gained any one advantage) that the superiority of the wise and benignant Being, over that of the evil one, should be clearly evinced to the beholding universe, by the most express and public demonstration; and we also remarked how completely this conclusion was confirmed by gospel declaration, which invariably represents the death of Christ as effective of a threefold purpose; for in addition to the stupendous ones already stated, may be subjoined, that by the great celestial Champion having exemplified a complete obedience to those laws which we have broken, He gloriously fulfilled the prediction, that God would magnify his law, and make it honourable ; (Isa. xlii. 21;) and that He did thereby not only blot out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, by atoning for all the imperfections of our observances, that was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Col. ii. 14;) but that He likewise spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumpbing over them in it. (Col. ii. 15.) And we shall now attempt a few remarks which appear to us illustrative of the wisdom that pervades this great transaction, and how it could prove productive of a circumstance so fraught with wonder, as that announced by the scriptural declaration just stated; though the completion of our inferences on this subject must be postponed till we have endeavoured more fully to ascertain the rank of the illustrious personage who undertook and accomplished this vast exploit.
The first grand instance of unerring wisdom that demands our contemplation in this amazing plan, is its clearly demonstrating the excellency of counsel which purposed it; by every effect that it produces ultimately and evidently redounding to the honour and praise of God :
whereas, on the contrary, all the devices, machinations, and subtlety of the evil one, maliciously exercised against the human race, do appear as certainly and uniformly to terminate in his dishonour and ignominy. For by this great event, the most incontestable proof is exhibited of the impotence of him who has dared to oppose Omnipotence by his presumptuous and impious attack upon mankind.
Transfixed on the cross of Christ, we behold stretched out in agony, a frail, enfeebled nature, over whom this wily chieftain had obtained the most signal and deplorable successes; evincing a perfect purification from all moral taint, and in its humiliated, tortured, and degraded state, gloriously re-assuming its pristine majesty, wading triumphant through this sea of sorrows, and emerging thence arrayed in brightest glory of transcendent virtue ; each piercing trial serving but to irradiate the refulgent lustre; each pointed thorn enwreathing laurels round the victor's head; and all the artillery of the enraged foe employed to maintain his conquest, inverting its own aim, by effecting man's redemption and his ruin.
Well may the apostle exclaim, after contemplating this crucified but virtuous hero, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men; that God hath chosen weak things to confound the things that are mighty, and base things, and things despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are ; (1 Cor. i. 25, 27, 28;) when, by so common, and apparently, un