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Fourth difficulty.-Human accountability. Instead of calling this a difficulty, I ought to call it a cluster of difficulties; for unanswerable questions may be raised, without end, out of this subject.

Look at yonder gloomy procession. In the cart, there sits a man who has been convicted of piracy and murder upon the high seas, and he is condemned to die. Now, that man was taught from his youth to be a robber and a murderer: he was trained up to blood. Conscience did, doubtless, remonstrate. There was a law written on his heart, which condemned him; but he was urged on by his companions, and perhaps by his very father, to stifle its voice. Had he been born and brought up in a Christian land, with a kind Christian parent, and surrounded by the influences of the Bible, and the Church, and the Sabbath-school, he would probably never have committed the deed. Shall he, then, be executed for a crime, which, had he been in our circumstances, he would probably not have committed; and which his very judge, perhaps, would have been guilty of, had he been exposed to the temptations which overwhelmed the prisoner?

Another question, which has caused more disputes, destroyed more Christian peace of mind, given rise to more vain systems, formed by philosophical attempts to evade the difficulty, than almost any other question whatever, is this: How can man be accountable for his actions, when God has had such absolute controul in the formation of his character?

I know that some among my readers will think that I make the difficulty greater than it is. They will think they can see much to lighten it. Of such an one I would simply ask, were he before me, after having heard all he should have to say on the subject: Can you, sir, after all, honestly say that you understand, clearly understand, how man can be fully accountable, and yet his heart be

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as much under divine controul as you suppose it is?" Every honest man will acknowledge that he is often, in his thoughts on this subject, lost in perplexity; and is forced to admit the narrow limit of the human powers.

But again. No one denies that God foreknows perfectly every thing that happens. Now, suppose a father were to say to his child: “ My son, you are going to a scene of temptation to-day: you will be exposed to some injury, and will be in danger of using some harsh and resentful words. I wish you to be careful. Bear injury patiently, and do not use opprobrious language in return."


All this would be very well. But suppose that, in addition to this, the father were to say: My son, I have contrived to ascertain what you will say; here, upon this paper, every word you will utter to-day.”

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and I have written

Every word you think I shall speak, you mean," says the boy.



No," says the father, every word you will speak: to they are all written exactly. I have, by some mysterious means, ascertained them, and here they are. And it is absolutely certain, that you will speak every thing which is written here, and not a syllable besides."


Could any boy, after such a statement, go away bete lieving what his father had said, and yet feeling that he himself could be, notwithstanding, free to act and speak that day as he pleased ?*


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Now God knows, as all will acknowledge, every thing which will take place, just as certainly as if it were written.

* Let it be remembered, that I am writing for the young, and am enumerating difficulties insuperable to them. A mind long accustomed to the accuracy of metaphysical inquiries will see that the antecedent certainty of any act proves only the greatness of the intellect which can foresee it: it has nothing to do with the freedom of the moral agent by which it is performed. If any one supposes that there is no great difficulty for the young in this subject, let him try to convince an intelligent boy, that, under such circumstances as are above described, he could be free to speak gently or angrily, solely according to his own free will.

The mere fact of expressing it in language would make no difference. We may consider our future conduct to be as clearly known, and as certain, as if our histories were minutely written: and where is the man (with perhaps the exception of a few who have made metaphysical philosophy a study for years) who will not acknowledge that this truth, which nobody will deny, throws a little perplexity over his mind, when he looks at that boundless moral freedom and entire accountability which the Bible and human consciousness both attribute to man?

Fifth difficulty.-How can God really answer prayer, without miraculously interrupting the course of nature? That God does answer prayer by an exertion of his power, in cases to which human influence does not reach, seems evident, from the following passage: :-"The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are; and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." James, V.16, 17, 18. Notwithstanding the difficulty of reasoning with an infidel who is determined not to be convinced, the proofs from marks of design is conclusive to every unbiassed mind. Now, if the natural effect of prayer, as an exercise of the heart, were all, this illustration would be altogether inappropriate: it must teach, that the prayers of men will have an influence with Jehovah, so that he shall order, differently from what he otherwise would do, events beyond human controul. But how can this be done without a miracle? A miracle is nothing more than an interruption of the ordinary course of nature. Now, if the ordinary course of nature would, in any case, bring us what we ask, it is plain we do not owe it to God's

answering prayer. If the regular course of nature would not bring it, then it seems that God cannot grant the request without interrupting, more or less, that course : and this is a miracle. This reasoning appears simple enough; and it is difficult to see how the conclusion can be avoided.

But, to make the point plainer, let me suppose a case. A mother, whose son is sick in a foreign port, asks for prayers in a Seaman's Chapel, that he may be restored to health, and returned in safety. The young man is perhaps ten thousand miles from home. The prayer can have no power to put in operation any earthly cause which can reach him. If it reaches him at all, it must be through the interposition of God.

Now we are compelled to believe, if we believe the Bible, that the prayer will, in all ordinary cases, have an influence. The efficacy of prayer in such cases as this is so universally taught in the Bible, that we cannot doubt it, and yet retain that volume as our guide. But how can God answer this prayer, without in reality interfering miraculously with the laws of nature? If the young man would have recovered without it, then his restoration cannot very honestly be said to be in answer to prayer. If he recovers, when without the prayer he would have died, it seems very plain that God must interfere somewhere, to interrupt what would have been the ordinary course of nature. He must arrest supernaturally the progress of the disease; or give to medicines an efficacy, which, without his special interference, they would not have possessed; or suggested to his physician a course of treatment which the ordinary laws of thought would not have presented to his mind: either of which, according to any philosophical definition, is a miracle.

Now, undoubtedly, God, in some secret way that we cannot understand, can, without disturbing the laws of

nature, grant our requests. The difficulty is merely one to our limited powers; but to these powers it is insurmountable.

I might go on with such an enumeration, to an indefinite length; but I have, I hope, already brought up points enough. And let my reader remember, that it is not necessary for my purpose that he should admit that all these questions are beyond the grasp of his mind. It is enough for my present object that each one will admit that some of them are. One will say, that he can understand the subject of God's answering prayer; another will think there is no difficulty in regard to God's foreknowledge of human actions: and thus every reader will perhaps find some one of these which he thinks he understands. But will not all acknowledge, that there are some which he cannot understand? If so, he will cordially feel that there are subjects, connected with important religious truth, which are beyond the grasp of the human mind; and this conviction is what I have been endeavouring to establish.

The real difficulties which I have brought to view in the preceding pages are few. They are only brought up again and again in different forms, that they might be more clearly seen. Eternal duration-infinite space-the nature of moral agency-these are the fountains of perplexity, from which, in various ways, I have drawn, in this chapter: they are subjects which the human mind cannot grasp; and they involve in difficulty every proposition of which they form an element. You may remove the difficulty from one part of the ground to the other; you may conceal it by sophistry; you may obscure it by declamation; but, after all that you have done, it will remain a difficulty still; and the acute and candid mind will see its true character, through all the forms in which you may attempt to disguise it. The disputes and the

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