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herein, the further he is from sinning, and the more impossible it is that he should be guilty of it.
Thus I have endeavored to lay before you, my hearers, the evidence of the proposition I undertook to prove; and now leave it with every one of you to judge for yourselves, whether there is not evidence enough from Scripture and reason abundantly to convince every honest, attentive mind, that sin's being the occasion of the greatest good affords no excuse for sin; and whether it has not been now even demonstrated that this can give no encouragement to sin.
I have dwelt the longer on this point, because I think it of importance that it should be well understood. May the great Head of the church grant that we all may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God; and so have a heart to understand and approve all God's ways. Amen.
The Holiness and Wisdom of God in the Permission of Sin, and his Will herein perfectly agreeable to his revealed Win.
But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.)
God forbid! For then how shall God judge the world?
For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
And not rather (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say, let us do evil that good may come? whose damnation is just.
Romans üi. 5-8.
That sin is the occasion of great good, even so much that there is more good in the universe than would have been had there been no sin; and that this being the case, affords no excuse for sin, or the least encouragement to it, are the truths which have been considered, illustrated, and confirmed in the foregoing discourses on these words. What now remains is the
The view we have had of this subject opens the way to the following remarks:
I. God's holiness is exercised even in the permission of sin. God's permitting sin was as high an exercise of holiness as any we can think of. This remark is grounded on what has been observed and proved, viz., that sin is the occasion of promoting the greatest good of the universe.
The holiness of God primarily consists in love, or benevolence to himself and to the creature, in the exercise of which, he seeks his own glory and the happiness of the creature; or, in one word, he seeks the good of the universe, as comprehending both Creator and creatures. And this God aimed at and sought in permitting sin, as much as in any act whatever, and therefore this was an exercise of holiness, even to permit sin ; for God permitted sin, because he saw that this was the best way to promote this end, and accomplish the highest good of the universe.
If this was not the case, if there is not, on the whole, more good in the universe than there would have been if God had not permitted sin to enter into the world, then it cannot be shown how it is consistent with God's holiness to permit sin. But if this is the case, as the Scripture represents it to be,
then the permission of sin is not only consistent with God's holiness, but God's not permitting it would be inconsistent with holiness; for, not to permit sin in this case, would be to neglect and slight the greatest good, and to prefer it to a less, which is inconsistent with true love to the universe. The permission of sin, therefore, is so far from being inconsistent with God's holiness, that his holiness influenced him to permit sin, and herein is eminently exercised and gloriously manifested.
OBJECTION. But God could not permit sin out of love to all; for sin certainly is not for the good of all, but proves the eternal ruin of multitudes.
ANSWER. The greatest good of the whole may be inconsistent with the good of every individual. God seeks the greatest good of the whole. This his holiness, his love to himself and the creation, leads him to. It does not follow that there is, on the whole, less good in the universe by means of sin because some, yea, a great number, are eternally miserable by it. Notwithstanding this, God may be more glorified, yea, there
may be more happiness among creatures than if sin had never taken place; for, though sin is the means of the eternal misery of many, yet it may be the means of increasing the happiness of others to so great a degree as that, upon the whole, there shall be more happiness than if there had been
Objection. But where is the justice of making a number miserable in order to promote the good of others, even though we grant there is, upon the whole, more good than if there had been no sin ?
Answer. They who are made miserable by sin, are justly miserable. Sin is their own fault, and for it they deserve eternal destruction; and, therefore, God does them no wrong in casting them into hell; they have but their desert. And the good that sin is the means of to others does not alter the case as to them, and make their misery unjust. We may apply to this case the words of St. Paul, Rom. xi. 22. Here we may behold the goodness and severity of God; on them which fall into destruction, severity; but on them which are saved, goodness. God exercises severity towards some, but it is a just severity. It is as just as if no good came to others by means of sin.
Let none, then, object against God's permitting sin, as if it was inconsistent with his holiness, as if it made him the author of sin, and represented him as delighting in sin, etc. For it is most evident to those who will impartially consider the matter, that God's holiness is as much exercised, and as really appears in his permitting sin, as in any of his conduct whatsoever.
* If this is a paradox to the reader, he may find this matter illustrated and set in a clear and rational view by the Rev. Mr. Bellamy, in his Sermons on the Wisdom of God in the Permission of Sin. — See Bellamy's Works, vol. ii. p. 7.
If any should here say that I mistake the matter, that these objections are not made against God's permitting sin; this is a fact that none can dispute, and all must grant God may permit sin and yet be holy. God had a right to permit sin, as he was by no means obliged to withhold all his creatures from sinning. I say, if any should talk in this form, I would ask, what it is then that they object against, as inconsistent with God's holiness?
Do they object against God's permitting sin for the sake of the good he saw he could make it the occasion of? Do they think this inconsistent with God's holiness, that he should aim at a good end in permitting sin? Surely none can think so; for God's holiness in permitting sin consists in his aiming at, and seeking good thereby. So that God's permitting sin for the sake of the good that should come thereby is so far from being inconsistent with his holiness, that it is the very thing in which his holiness is exercised in permitting sin; and if he could permit sin, and aim at and seek no good thereby, there would be no holiness in permitting sin; yea, it would be inconsistent with holiness.
To say that God's seeking good by the permission of sin is inconsistent with his holiness, is the same as to say, that God's exercising holiness is inconsistent with his holiness, and, therefore, in order to be holy, he must cease to exercise holiness; and if God's aiming at good in permitting sin is not the thing they object against, what is it then? Where is the difficulty? What is there in God's permitting sin that should make him the author of sin ?
Is God's determining to permit sin the thing that is inconsistent with holiness? Are there any who allow that God may permit sin, and be wise and holy in so doing, but at the same time imagine his determining to permit sin is inconsistent with his holiness, makes him the author of the sin he determines to permit?
One would think none could make a difficulty of this, and think and talk in this form, if this did not seem to be actually the case with some. They make great objections against something, and represent it as a horrible doctrine, inconsistent with God's holiness, making him the author of sin, and what not; and when the matter comes to be examined to the bottom,
the thing they object against is, God's determining to permit sin. They own God has actually permitted sin, but will not believe God ever determined to permit it, because this reflects on his moral character and makes him the author of sin.
To remove this difficulty, therefore, I would say a few words:
1. I would ask, whether any can possibly conceive of God's permitting sin without determining to permit it? Surely God determines to do all he does; therefore, to say God did not determine to permit sin, is the same as to say he did not permit sin. If, then, God has permitted sin, he certainly determined to permit it.
2. If God had a right to permit sin, and is wise and holy in so doing, then he had a right to determine to permit sin, and is wise and holy in determining to permit it. If any piece of conduct is, in itself, proper and wise, then determining to conduct so cannot be wrong. Therefore, to say that God's determining to permit sin is not wise and holy, is to say
that permitting sin is not wise and holy. For there can be no harm in determining to do that, in doing which there is no harm; but on the contrary, a determination to do that which is wise and holy is a wise and holy determination.
Some may, perhaps, think I have not touched the difficulty there is in this matter yet. They believe God has permitted sin for wise and good ends, and, therefore, that he determined to permit it. But they say, some hold that God decreed to permit sin; and it is God's decree in this case which they object against, as little better than blasphemy, as it seems to make God the author of sin.
To this I would say, I am willing to leave the word decree out of the question, and not to insist upon it, or so much as mention it, as it is a word that is become hateful and frightful to many. They have, by some means or other, affixed such horrible ideas to it, that it cannot be used without giving them great disgust. I, indeed, suppose that to decree to permit sin, and to determine to permit it, is precisely one and the same thing, they being only two different words to denote one and the same idea. However, I am willing to drop the word decree, and have no contention about it. They who are reconciled to God's permitting sin, and his doing it for wise and good ends, and so believe that this is not inconsistent with his holiness, but that the permission of sin is itself an exercise of infinite holiness, they consent to all I am endeavoring to make evident in this remark; and though they may be insensible of it, they indeed consent to all that is implied in the doctrine of God's decreeing to permit sin; and what then