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misery, God would have forever kept them both out of his world; but since they became the occasion and means of so much good, he suffers them both to take place.
If Gud had no good end to answer by the sin of man, he would have taken effectual care to keep him from sin; but as he intended to make this evil the occasion of so much good, he willingly suffered it to take place.*
2. This view of things affords matter of support and comfort in the darkest times, when sin prevails and abounds most in the world.
He who rules supreme in the heavens, and has all things, even the heart of kings and all men, in his hand; who is the Father of the creation, and has a heart full of benevolence to the universe, and is, therefore, steadily and wisely seeking its good by all he does and by all he permits, — He will bring good out of all this evil; and, therefore, permits it, because it is the best, the wisest way to accomplish his benevolent designs. What reason, then, has the benevolent heart to sink and despond, though sin abounds and threatens to bear all down before it, and every thing is to his view in the utmost disorder and confusion? Let such confide, in infinite wisdom and goodness, and rejoice at rest. Let them cast all their care on the Lord, and trust in him. Trust, I say, in the Lord, and he will bring it to pass. All things thus under God's direction and government are well ordered in the best manner, to answer the best ends; and God will bring more good out of those things which to us have the most dark and threatening aspect than our hearts can easily devise or wish, though how, and in what way, is to us perfectly inconceivable.
God doubtless sought a good in his determination to permit sin; and if this was not a good which he intended to make sin the occasion of, and which could not be so well answered any other way, and for the sake of which he permitted it, then he permitted it as being in itself a good, and so for its own sake. This doctrine, therefore, that God permits sin for the sake of the good he will make it the occasion of, is so far from representing God as taking pleasure in sin, and willing and choosing it should take place for its own sake, that it is the only truth that can prevent his being so represented. If, therefore, one should say, "the works of God are all very good," and another should object, “that if so, then God is an evil being," he would talk with as much reason and propriety as those who make the objection above.
“ There is no inconsistence in supposing that God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all circumstances. God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of any thing evil, though it be his pleasure so to order things that he permitting, sin will come to pass for the sake of great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he does not hate evil, as evil ; and if so, then it is no reason why he may not reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such." — President Edwards on Freedom of Will, p. 262, etc.
They who have a sincere regard for God's honor, and a tender concern for his church and interest in the world, need some special support in dark and evil times; when Satan and wicked men prevail, and the world lies, as it were, in ruins, and looks no more like God's world; and the interest which they have most at heart, and is in a sense their all, seems to be almost given up and lost. I say, when things are in such a situation, the hearts of God's people must sink and be disconsolate, if they had no special and sure support. But this they have in the truth before us. Though God is a God that hideth himself, and his way is in the sea, his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known; though in this respect they walk in darkness, and have no light; yet they may trust in the name of the Lord, and stay themselves upon their God; being assured that the wrath of man shall praise him ; and the remainder of wrath he will restrain. Yea, they may, even in such times, REJOICE; rejoice that the LORD reigneth, who looks on, and suffers things to take the course they do, because he intends to bring good out of all this evil. Let Israel then rejoice in him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Amen.
Sin's being the Occasion of great Good no Excuse for Sin, or
Encouragement to it.
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 iii. 5-8.
THOUGH SIN IS THE OCCASION OF GREAT GOOD, YET THIS AFFORDS
EXCUSE FOR SIN, OR THE LEAST ENCOURAGEMENT TO IT.
I. Sin may be, and actually is, the occasion of great good. II. This affords no excuse for sin, or encouragement to it.
In the preceding discourse, the first proposition was proved and illustrated. The second now comes under our consideration.
This proposition, I am sensible, is greatly opposed by many. We often hear it said by one and another, “ If sin is the occasion of so much good; if it is, on the whole, such an advantage to the universe; if God is hereby glorified, and the world is, all things considered, better than if sin had never entered into it; then sin is no crime, and men have all imaginable encouragement to sin.” It seems strange that such persons can be ignorant that they are the very successors of those who made the objection St. Paul is confronting in our text, and are risen up in their stead, to oppose Christ and his apostles. That they may be sensible of this, and that such language, which militates so directly against all God's ways to a sinful world, may be no more heard, and their mouths effectually stopped, is what I am now endeavoring.
I hope, therefore, I shall have the serious and close attention of all my hearers, while I endeavor to confirm and illustrate this truth, and set it in as clear and striking a light as I am able.
And I shall attempt this by calling in the united help both of Scripture and reason.
I. Let it be observed, that the truth of this proposition is clearly and abundantly taught in Scripture.
The Holy Bible, the best of books, the best and only infallible guide to us fallen creatures, in this dark, sinful world, in these important matters, affords us sufficient light and help in the point before us; and therefore, in inquiring into it, I shall endeavor to keep your eyes on this book, and build all my arguments upon it. “ To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. viii. 20.)
The Scripture not only teaches us in general that sin is most unreasonable, and altogether inexcusable; most offen. sive to God, and of most dangerous consequence; pernicious and destructive to those who commit it, - I say, it not only teaches this, but also that those very instances of sin, wbich have been the occasion of the greatest good, were, at the same time, very offensive and provoking to God, and brought bis awful judgments upon those who were guilty of it, and in many instances proved the means of their destruction.
What says the Scripture of the sin of Joseph's brethren? Though God meant it unto good, and it was the occasion of so much good, their own conscience, which was the candle of the Lord, God's witness in their breasts, accused them of guilt, and charged it home upon them, when they were in distress. (Gen. xlii. 21, 22.) And even after they saw and shared in some of the great good that came of this evil, they do not excuse themselves for what they had done; neither did their father Jacob, to his dying day, excuse them. But the guilt of this sin still lies on their consciences; and they, by the direction of Jacob their father, (which is as though God had directed them,) go and confess their sin to Joseph, and ask his forgiveness. (Gen. 1. 15–17.) And though Joseph forgave them, so far as he had any concern with it, yet he plainly intimates that they were very guilty in God's sight, and must have pardon of him, or they would be undone. “ And Joseph said to his brethren, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (See verses 19–21.)
As if he had said, á Fear no evil from me; I shall not take vengeance on you, for your injurious treatment of me; I will not put myself in God's place : vengeance belongeth unto God, and therefore I will not avenge myself. But you had need to see to it that your peace is made with God, or you may expect to feel his vengeance."
We have another instance of this in Pharaoh. His sin, as we have heard, was the occasion of great good. Yet his conduct is represented as exceeding vile and criminal, most offensive and provoking to God, and that for which he was at last dreadfully destroyed.
And the Jews' putting our Lord Jesus Christ to death, which was the occasion of such infinite good, is represented as the most horrid crime, infinitely provoking to God, and of destructive consequence to them as a nation. Of Judas, who had a great hand in this by betraying him unto them, our Lord says, “ It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt. xxvi. 24.) His own conscience soon felt the weight of his crime; and in the utmost horror he confessed, he had sinned in betraying innocent blood; cast the money he had received as the reward of his iniquity down in the temple, and went away and hanged himself; and went straight to hell, which the Scripture speaks of as “his own place.” (Acts i. 25.) And there he now is, weltering in that burning lake, as a due reward for that horrid crime. It avails him nothing to plead," that thus it must be that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” It does not in the least extenuate his crime, nor is it any relief to him, that the innocent blood which he betrayed washes away the sin of the world, and has become the salvation of thousands. And the Jews as a nation, by the hand they had in this, brought upon themselves the high displeasure of Heaven, and most severe and awful judgments, which I have not room here particularly to mention.
Thus we see that the sins of men, which, according to Scripture, God overrules for the greatest good, are at the same time exceeding criminal, and very provoking to God, and greatly expose men to God's wrath, and often bring it upon them. From which it appears that, God being Judge, sin's becoming the occasion of the greatest good does not at all extenuate or lessen the crime, or render those that commit it the less guilty, or afford any excuse to them; and, therefore, that there is not from hence the least encouragement to sin. We here see how God looks upon the matter, and how he will treat men in such cases: and we are sure his judgment is according to truth; and, consequently, that the proposition we are upon is true. Therefore they who think that if good comes of sin, so far sin is excusable, and there is no harm or danger in committing it, are under a great and sad delusion.
But, if it be needful, yet further light may be offered in this matter from the Holy Scripture. This will appear, to all that will observe, that it is the vileness and inexcusable criminal. ness of sin, and the ill desert of the sinner, that is the very occasion, in many instances, of its answering the good end it does, according to the account the Bible gives of the matter; so that, if the sin was in any degree excusable, and did not render the person that is guilty of it infinitely ill deserving, and so justly expose him to the dreadful wrath of God, it could not answer the good end it does. This is plain, because ?, the good end that sin answers, in many instances, is the