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It is urged that the wisdom of God in respect to the existence of evil cannot be vindicated, except on the principle, that it is designed to be the previous cause of subsequent and overbalancing good. But why is it not as rational to believe that the evil is inherent in the system, and inseparable from it? That evil exists is certain. And there is a certain amount of it. And this amount bears a certain proportion to the sum total of good. And the amount of evil is to be subtracted from the sum total of good, in order to find the balance. The sum total of good must be greater than the balance of good. If the sum total of good could have been produced without any of the attendant evil, the system had been more perfect than it now is. In this case we should have all the good without any of the evil. And why did no the wisdom of God so ordain and establish? We
believe it was impossible. That the actual evil is inherent in the system and inseparable from it. It avails nothing to allege that the evils produce good. For the question immediately comes up ; why might not the good be without the evil? And if the answer be, that it is impossible, what different is that from the doctrine, that the evils are inherent in the system, and inseparable from it ?
It is very obvious that liability to evils is unavoidable in a general providence. But there are advantages attending such a providence, which could not have been secured by a particular. Under a general providence men can make calculations, employ means, and adapt them to the accomplishment of ends. For all such calculations proceed on the principle, that the tendencies and laws of nature are constant and invariable. And if they are so, then providence is so far general. And so far as it is particular, it is supernatural. Particular providence and sepernatural providence are, therefore, identical. Are, then, the tendencies of nature constant and immutable ? If this inquiry be correctly answered in the negative, then we may have a particular providence; but if in the affirmative, we have a general. And in a general providence, divine decrees must also be general. All particular ends of providence are connected with supernatural acts. Of this description we must believe there are some; and have been many.
But all our power, all our calculations, and our whole duty, have their foundation in a general providence. Such a providence illustrates our free agency
and accountableness. We are God's vineyard, for which He has done all that he could do, and from which He justly expects and commands that we be productive in the fruits of righteousness.
Co B. Call
THOUGHTS ON DOCTRINE AND DUTY.
Doctrine and Duty. Faith and Life.- What relation do they bear to each other? What is their positive, and what their comparative value, as determined by Christianity, or as they concern our salvation ? This, in some form, is one of the great questions of our times, and important at all times. It is a question of difficulty, from various causes ; and it may not be capable of receiving a direct answer. It cannot receive such an answer, as most inquirers are apt to demand ; one in few words, and of universal truth, without qualification. There are no qnestions in morals or religion, that can be answered in this way; from the single fact, to onit all others, of the
vagueness of common words, and the different ideas for which words stand in different minds, or to the same mind in different relations. This is seen in the question here proposed. And before we attempt to answer it, we must examine its terms, and have an understanding at least as to the meaning we attach to them. Not that we need spend time upon definitions, or that we would insist on the strict original
Only let it be understood in what sense we do use terms, and in what sense they are received, and it is of little consequence whether the popular acceptation be strictly accurate or not.
Of the leading terms of the inquiry on which we now enter, we suppose the popular acceptation to be this. Doctrine is that which is believed; Duty is that which is done. The one is simple Faith, the other actual Life. And the inquiry is, which is best? Which is of most worth, in the eye of God, in the judgment of Christ, as a principle of action, or a term of salvation? Can any one say, concisely and
VOL. XXXV. 3D S. VOL. XVII. NO. II. 27
positively? Is there a man any where, who could or would answer in a word, where his own or another's soul was depending? I am sure there is not. And it teaches us that which we may assume as the first position ; viz., that Doctrine and Duty can never be fairly and wholly separated.
This let us observe. Doctrine and Duty are not to be separated. Doctrine is belief. It must stand either for truth received, or for the act of the mind in receiving and holding truth. In either case, it pertains to duty. There is the duty first of seeking truth. There is the duty next of keeping the mind in a healthy state for the action of truth. There is the duty of giving truth full consideration, and giving some attention to all that claims to be truth ; or at least to suffer no prepossessions or passions, present interest or wilfulness, to prevent the approach, or pervert the influence of any truth. And there is the great fact, that all that is truly believed must have some influence, and may have absolute power, over all that is done. Belief, faith, truth or error, doctrine or precept, whatever you call it, and so far as you hold it, makes a part of the mind, a part of
It enters into that which he is, affects and often wholly determines that which he does. It forms and fashions the very idea of duty, it strengthens or weakens the sense of obligation, it often takes the name of religion, ascends the throne of conscience, arms itself with the sanction and authority of God, and stands to the individual believer, for that which is right, absolute, commendable and essential.
This is faith, opinion, doctrine. Is it unimportant ? Can it be severed from duty or life? Is there any view of duty or any work in life, which it may not, and ordinarily must not affect ? What law of our intellectual or moral nature is better established or more universally in action, than that which connects the inner with the outer life, and makes the mind both the indicator and the ruler of the man ? man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Thought and heart, the earnest opinion, the cherished sentiment - it is this that defines the will, that mighty agent in all. It is this that determines the choice, that fixes the affections, finds affinities below or above, gives even to the visible world its own complexion and power, and much more to the invisible, spiritual, eternal These are all of faith necessarily. They must depend on that which is thought. They exist in that
and by that which is believed. And they make our religion. Our religion is doctrine, and our religion is duty. It it neither alone, it is both united and corresponding. Its essence is Faith, its manifestation is Life. These always have borne, they always will bear, some relation and resemblance each to the other. It will vary in expression and degree, so that the relation may seem at times to be suspended, and the resemblance may be modified by all other circumstances. But it exists, and ever will. Before Christianity and since, under all systems and with all people, the national and the individual faith is an index of the national and individual character. That, which stands for God in the soul, rules in the life. “ All people will walk every one in the name of his God."
We admit there are seeming if not real exceptions to this rule, singular separations, and sometimes direct opposition, between faith and life. These we would study. They may teach us discrimination and charity, if nothing more.
First, there is the general fact of inoperative faith, a faith dead, without works of any kind. This is of common observation, and not difficult to be understood. Either it is not faith, in any proper sense of the word, or it is faith in that which is so wholly opposed to nature and experience, that it cannot or will not operate.
It is not faith. How much that is so called exists only in name, need not be shown. We should give it rather the name of doctrine, where it is anything. And this is one case in which doctrine may lead to no duty. It is hereditary and heartless. It is the creature of education, or a thing of sys
It stands upon no conviction, upon no examination. It may wear a definite form; they who hold it, or to whom it attaches, may be able to define it in words, though many cannot do even that. But some there are who give it expression, and the form of sound words. They proclaim it aloud, and become vehement of you assail or question it, and condemn all who hold another doctrine. Yet it is in them utterly barren and worthless. You see no fruit, or none but an uncharitable temper. Indeed there may be nothing there, literally nothing, that you can trace to that doctrine. Whatever its name, it has no manner of power. There is emptiness of mind with it, and vanity of life. The life may not be bad, or openly wicked. It is not that
which we are now considering. It is the utter nothingness of so much that is called sound doctrine, whether strict or liberal. And it deserves mention, because, empty as it is, it is often self-complacent, and often denunciatory. It sits in judgment upon that which it has neither the capacity to comprehend, nor the charity to allow, nor the piety to love. There is a deal of fashionable orthodoxy in the church and the world, which deserves mention and reprobation. I use the word orthodoxy' in no restricted or sectarian sense, but only as expressing that which is supposed to be sound doctrine,' in whatever connection. It may be seen in all connections, and not least among those who have the majority of believers, and claim antiquity for their system. But whether there or among us, let not claims or names deceive us. It is not negative, but of positive injury to the individual and to religion, when those who call themselves, or think themselves, sound in doctrine, are empty in life ; when those, who view with suspicion or abhorrence Christians of a different communion, are yet living in frivolity and vanity ; seeing heaven open to them because of a nominal creed, but doing nothing for earth, or nothing for their own improvement. It is disheartening and sad, to see men and women, walking on the Sabbath as saints, and living every other day as creatures of the most worldly drudgery, or fashionable folly ; slaves to sense, appearance, dress, family pride, and despotic custom, selfish hoarding, and indulged appetite ; and at the same time withholding even the Christian name from thousands, who are seeking the truth, subduing the temper, enjoying prayer, encouraging benevolence by word and act, and striving to lead the life of Christ. In such comparison, there can be no question which is better ; the barren doctrine, ever so sound, if you can suppose it so, or the active and useful life, striving to do good, though error may belong to its creed.
There is another kind of inoperative faith. It is a belief in that which opposes nature, or is contradicted by all experience. And by opposing nature, I do not mean condemining that which is selfish or sensual in our nature, but the
All truth, all pure religion, condemns the selfish and the sensual. This is one mark of truth, it is the great work of religion, and there is enough in every nature that calls for it. We are all selfish and sensual by nature ; and