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Rer. W.m. Parry's “ Slrictures, &c.”
THE author of this Essay, when studying a particular
subject, above twenty years ago, was naturally led to contemplate, through the medium of the sacred writings, God's COVENANT of redemption and grace, and its various dispensations. In the
course of his inquiries, he perceived an evident difference between what may be denominated the internal form and the erternal administration of that covenant, as clearly implied in the whole tenor of divine revelation. He found in the same records, that the INTERNAL FORM is nothing else than a decretive design of benefiting the favoured objects of the covenant, together with the actual execution of that design, by an infinitely wise order and process, known to God alone; but that the EXTERNAL ADMINISTRATION is only an exhibition of the good we need, whether by proclamation, by testimony, or by positive institutions, under a conditional form, addressed to the will of a free agent.
This induced him, unavoidably, to view man as at once a PASSIVE RECIPIENT of decreed benefits, and a FREE AGENT ; an agent possessed of exemption from restraint or interference in the morality, or manner of his accountable actions. The more he thought of this distinction, as fairly implied in the scriptural account of GOD's covenant and its dispensations, the more clearly he perceived its great importance in reference to the blessings we actually receive, and the account we must
finally give of our conduct.
The holy scriptures, throughout, represent man, in the first instance, as a passive recipient of benefits ; as to his very being, his righteousness, his holiness; his renovation, preservation, and spiritual ability for acceptable obedience : but in the second instance, they abound in representations of man as possessed of will, and exemption from constraint in the morality of his actions; as the subject of moral government, before whom are laid good and evil, promises and threats, the approbation and disapprobation of the legislator, governor, and judge, for time and for eternity
Comparing these important representations of man, according to scripture, with the just principles of science, he found that the latter might be successfully employed in the service of the sacred records. And particularly, as the doctrines of LIBERTY and NECESSITY stand so intimately connected with the preceding views, he was led, from the importance of the subject, to a close re-examination of those doctrines. In this pursuit, he saw reason to conclude, that the internal form of the covenant was in fact a glorious branch of decretive necessity; and that its external administra. tion was an important part of the doctrine of liberty. Since, however, liberty and necessity, as commonly understood, had been considered incompatible with each other, this occasioned a new object of enquiry ; whether, the scripture doctrine of man being at once, but in different respects, physically necessitated and yet free, be not philosophically accurate? The result has been, to the author's full conviction, in the affirmative.
Büt, reflecting that the uniform tenor of scripture (with which a few expressions of a different aspect are easily reconciled) regards man, whenever sovereignly necessitated, as the recipient of some benefit, he saw just cause for inferring, that such necessity is connected with good, in a manner erclusive of evil. And this appears perfectly consistent with reason. As God is not a being containing in himself the source of Good, and the source of Evil alike, resembling an union of the OROMASDES and ARIMANIUS of the Persians, he can be the author or cause of good only. But if so, his necessitating decree can have only good for its object. Nor is it sufficient to say that good and evil are only relative considerations; that what is good in one respect, may be evil in another. For this remark applies only to physical good and evil, and therefore both are worthy of divine necessitation. The mechanism of the uni. verse, and the laws of matter and motion, are good, though individuals are sufferers by their influence. The same may be said of the world of minds. The constitution of intelligent natures, and the general laws to the influence of which they are necessitated, are all good, and worthy of infinite benevolence.
Now a great difficulty presented itself. Since good alone appears worthy of God's necessitation; while common sense, reason, conscience, and every part of the sacred scriptures testify that there are evils which God blames, hates, and condemns; how can the Fu. TURITION of those evils be pronounced certain, while a necessitating decree of them is rejected ? The author plainly saw, that the advocates of philosophical necessity are not a little embarrassed on this head ; and many of them, in order to preserre self-consistency, are b 2
obliged obliged to do it at the expense of a moral system, and even the possibility of moral evil. According to them, every thing is of decretive, and consequently of physical necessity; and to call it philosophical, hypothetical, or metaphysical necessity, does not alter the case, while the idea intended is not different. Though man is the subject of innumerable associations, all the creatures of circumstances; yet, to be consistent, while maintaining that the evil manner of a physical act is included in the divine causation, they must hold that man is as much impelled to the murderous villany of his free act, as a dog is impelled, by his instinctive propensity and the will of his master, to worry a sheep, or to kill a hare. He was also aware, that authors of great and deserved celebrity, in the orthodox persuasion, went little farther than to ascribe to God the causațion of good only, with a bare denial of his being the author of sin. When pressed with the enquiry, How can the certain futurition of sin, and the divine causation, be separated in a fair and satisfactory manner? they have said little more than, “ Beware of going too far-we shall know it well in a future state.” But if it be a good thing to be well informed concerning it in another world, I can see no sufficient reason why further information in the present, should not likewise be considered as good and useful.
This investigation, the true cause of the certain futurition of moral evil, the author could not regard as a speculative nicety, but as a subject of MOST RADICAL IMPORTANCE, intimately connected with almost EVERY BRANCH OF ETHICS AND THEOLOGY. Here also he had recourse to the dictates of the sacred oracles; which, though they do not expressly state the case, as in a thousand other points of confessed importance, clearly