THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL
by Jonathan Edwards
Section IX. Concerning that objection against the doctrine which has been maintained, that it makes God the Author of Sin.
IT is urged by Arminians, that the doctrine of the Necessity of men's Volitions, or their necessary connexion with antecedent events and circumstances, makes the First Cause, and Supreme Orderer of all things, the Author of Sin; in that he has so constituted the state and course of things, that sinful Volitions become necessary, in consequence of his disposal. Dr. Whitby, in his Discourse on the Freedom of the Will,[p. 361] cites one of the ancients, as on his side, declaring that this opinion of the Necessity of the Will "absolves sinners, as doing nothing of their own accord which was evil, and would cast all the blame of all the wickedness committed in the world, upon God, and upon his providence, if that were admitted by the assertors of this fate ; whether he himself did necessitate them to do these things, or ordered matters so, that they should be constrained to do them by some other cause." And the Doctor says, in another place,[p. 486] "In the nature of the thing, and in the opinion of philosophers, causa deficiens, in rebus neccssariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est. In things necessary, the deficient cause must be reduced to the efficient. And in this case the reason is evident; because the not doing what is required, or not avoiding what is forbidden, being a defect, must follow from the position of the necessary cause of that deficiency." - Concerning this, I would observe the following things.
1. If there he any difficulty in this matter, it is nothing peculiar to this scheme; it is no difficulty or disadvantage wherein it is distinguished from the scheme of Arminians ; and, therefore, not reasonably objected by them.
Dr. Whitby supposes that if sin necessarily follows from God withholding assistance, or if that assistance be not given, which is absolutely necessary to the avoiding of evil; then, in the nature of the thing, God must be as properly the author of that evil, as if he were the efficient cause of it. From whence, according to what he himself says of the devils and damned spirits, God must be the proper author of their perfect unrestrained wickedness: he must be the efficient cause of the great pride of the devils, and of their perfect malignity against God, Christ, his saints, and all that is good, and of the insatiable cruelty of their disposition. For he allows, that God has so forsaken them, and does so withhold his assistance from them, that they are incapacitated from doing good, and determined only to evil." [pp. 302, 305] Our doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of men's sin in this world, no more, and in no other sense, than his doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of the hellish pride and malice of the devils. And doubtless the latter is as odious an effect as the former.
Again, if it will follow at all, that God is the Author of Sin, from what has been supposed of a sure and infallible connexion between antecedents and consequents, it will follow because of this, viz. that for God to be the author or orderer of those things which, he knows beforehand, will infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing, in effect, as for him to be the author of that consequence. But, if this be so, this is a difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of Arminians themselves ; at least, of those of them who allow God's certain foreknowledge of all events. For, on the supposition of such a foreknowledge, this is the case with respect to every sin that is committed: God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and such events, such sins would infallibly follow. As for it instance, God certainly foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there should be such a man born, at such a time, and at such a place, and that his life should be preserved, and that he should, in Divine Providence, be led into acquaintance with Jesus ; and that his heart should be so influenced by God's Spirit, or providence, as to be inclined to be a follower of Christ ; and that he should be one of those twelve, which should be chosen constantly to attend him as his family ; and that his health should be preserved, so that he should go up to Jerusalem, at the last passover in Christ's life ; and it should be so ordered, that Judas should see Christ's kind treatment of the woman which anointed him at Bethany, and have that reproof from Christ which be had at that time, and see and hear other things which excited his enmity against his Master, and other circumstances should be ordered, as they were ordered; it would most certainly and infallibly follow, that Judas would betray his Lord, and would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell, for his horrid wickedness.
Therefore, this supposed difficulty ought not to be brought as art objection against the scheme which has been maintained, as disagreeing with the Arminian scheme, seeing it is no difficulty owing to such a disagreement, but a difficulty wherein the Arminians share with us. That must be unreasonably made an objection against our differing from them, which we should not escape or avoid at all by agreeing with them. - And therefore I would observe,
II. They who object, that this doctrine makes God the Author of Sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, The Author of Sin. I know the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very ill. If by the Author of Sin, be meant the Sinner, the Agent, or Actor of Sin, oi the Doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the Author Sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the Author of Sin; rejecting such an imputation on the Most High, as what is infinitely to be abhorred ; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what I have laid down. But if, by the Author of Sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of Sin; and, at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that Sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is meant by being the Author of Sin, I do not deny that God is the Author of Sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense,) it is no reproach or the Most High to be thus the Author of Sin. This is not to he the Actor of Sin, but, on the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein, is holy and a glorious exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature. And, I do not deny, that God being thus the Author of Sin, follows from what I have laid down; and, I assert, that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the Arminian divines.
That it is most certainly so, that God is in such a manner the Disposer and Orderer of Sin, is evident, if any credit is to be given to the Scripture; as well as, because it is impossible, in the nature of things, to be otherwise. In such a manner God ordered the obstinacy of Pharaoh, in his refusing to obey Gods commands, to let the people go, (Exod. iv. 21.) "I will harden his heart, and he shall I not let the people go." (Chap. vii. 2-5.) "Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may lay mine hand upon Egypt, by great judgments," &c. (Chap. ix. 12.) "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses." (Chap. x. 1, 2.) "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him, and that thou mayest tell it in the ears of thy son, and thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done amongst them, that Ye may know that I am the Lord (Chap. xiv. 4.) "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them: and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh and upon all his host." (Ver. 8.) "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel." And it is certain, that in such a manner God, for wise and good ends, ordered that event, Joseph being sold into Egypt by his brethren. (Gen. xlv. 5.) "Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life." (Ver. 7, 8.) "God did send me before you to preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance: so that now it was not you that sent me hither, but God." (Psal. cvii. 17.) "He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant." It is certain, that thus God ordered the Sin and folly of Sihon king of the Amorites, in refusing to let the people of Israel pass by him peaceably. (Deut. ii. 30.) "But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thine hand." It is certain, that God thus ordered the Sin and folly of the kings of Canaan, that they attempted not to make peace with Israel, but, with a stupid boldness and obstinacy, set themselves violently to oppose them and their God. (Josh. xi. 20.) "For it was of the Lord, to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour; but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses." It is evident, that thus God ordered the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah against the king of Babylon. (Jer. lii. 3.) "For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem, and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon." (So 2 Kings xxiv. 20.) And it is exceeding manifest, that God thus ordered the rapine and unrighteous ravages of Nebuchadnezzar, in spoiling and ruining the nations round about. (Jer. xxv. 9.) "Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar in , my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against all the nations round about; and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations." (Chap. xliii. 10, 11.) "I will send and lake Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant: and I will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword." Thus God represents himself as sending for Nebuchadnezzar, and taking him and his armies, and bringing him against the nations, which were to be, destroyed by him, to that very end, that he might utterly destroy them, and make them desolate; and as appointing the work that he should do so particularly, that the very persons were designed that he should kill with the sword, and those that should be killed with famine and pestilence, and those that should be carried into captivity ; and that in doing all these things, he should act as his servant; by which, less cannot be intended, than that be should serve his purposes and designs. And in Jer. xxvii. 4--6. God declares, how he would cause him thus to serve his designs, viz. by bringing this to pass in his sovereign disposals, as the great Possessor and Governor of the universe, that disposes all things just as pleases him. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and my stretched out arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me; and now I have given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar MY SERVANT, and the beasts of the field have I given also to serve him." And Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of as doing these things, by having his arms strengthened by God, and having God's sword put into his hands, for this end. (Ezek. xxx. 24, 25, 26.) Yea, God speaks or his terribly ravaging and wasting the nations, and cruelly destroying all sorts, without distinction of sex or age, as the weapon in God's hand, and the instrument of his indignation, which God makes use of to fulfil his own purposes, and execute his own vengeance. (Jer. li. 20, &c.) "Thou art my battle-axe, and weapons of war. For with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee. I will destroy kingdoms, and with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and his rider; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee I will break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in piece, the young man and the maid " &c. It is represented, that the designs of Nebuchadnezzar and those that destroyed Jerusalem, never could have been accomplished, had not God determined them. (Lam. iii. 37.) "Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord commandeth it not?" And yet the king of Babylon thus destroying the nations, and especially the Jews, is spoken of as his great wickedness, for which God finally destroyed him. (Isa. xiv. 4-6, 12. Hab. ii. 5-12. and Jer. chap. l. and li.) It is most manifest, that God, to serve his own designs, providentially ordered Shimei's cursing of David. (2 Sam. xvi. 10, 11.) "The Lord hath said unto him, Curse David - Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him."
It is certain, that God thus, for excellent, holy, gracious ends, ordered the fact which they committed, who were concerned in Christ's death ; and that therein they did but fulfil God's designs. As, I trust, no Christian will deny it was the design of God, that Christ should be crucified, and that for this end be came into the world. It is very manifest by many scriptures, that the whole affair of Christ's crucifixion, with its circumstances, and the treachery of Judas, that made way for it, was ordered in God's providence, in pursuance of his purpose ; notwithstanding the violence that is used with those plain scriptures, to obscure and pervert the sense of them. (Acts ii. 23.) "Him being delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain." Luke xxii. 21, 22. "But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on the table: and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined." (Acts iv. 27, 28.) "For of a truth, against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." (Acts iii. 17, 18.) "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers; but these things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, be hath so fulfilled." So that what these murderers of Christ did, is spoken of as what God brought to pass or ordered, and that by which he fulfilled his own word.
In Rev. xvii. 17. "The agreeing of the kings of the earth to give their kingdom to the beast;" though it was a very wicked thing in them, is spoken of as "fulfilling God's will," and what "God had put into their hearts to do" It is manifest, that God sometimes permits sin to be committed, and at the same time orders things so, that if he permits the fact, it will come to pass, because on some accounts, he sees it needful and of importance, that it should come to pass. (Matt. xviii. 7.) "It must needs be, that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." With 1 Cor. xi. 19.) "For there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
Thus it is certain and demonstrable, from the holy Scriptures, as well as the nature of things, and the principles of Arminians, that God permits sin; and at the same time, so orders things, in his providence, that it certainly and infallibly will come t pass, in consequence of his permission. I proceed to observe in the next place,
III. That there is a great difference between God being concerned thus, by his permission, in an event and act, which, in the inherent subject and agent of it, is sin, (though the event will certainly follow on his permission,) and his being concerned in it by producing it and exerting the act of sin; or between his being the orderer of its certain existence, by not hindering it, under certain circumstances, and his being the proper actor or author of it, by a positive agency or efficiency. And this, notwithstanding what Dr. Whitby offers about a saying of philosophers, that causa deficiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est. As there is a vast difference between the sun being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and the brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence; and its being the occasion of darkness and frost, in the night, by its motion, whereby it descends below the horizon. The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter kind of events; but it is not the proper cause, efficient, or producer of them ; though they are necessarily consequent on that motion, under such circumstances: no more is any action of the Divine Being the cause of the evil of men's Wills. If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it Would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun; and it might be justly inferred, that the sun itself is dark and cold, and that his beams are black and frosty. But from its being the cause no other wise than by its departure, no such thing can be inferred, but the contrary; it may justly be argued, that the sun is a bright and hot body, if cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with and confined to its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of light and heat. So, inasmuch as sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the Most High, but, on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and, under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence; this is no argument that he is sinful, or his operation evil, or has any thing of the nature of evil ; but, on the contrary, that he, and his agency, are altogether good and holy, and that he is the fountain of all holiness. It would be strange arguing, indeed, because men never commit sin, but only when God leaves them to themselves, and necessarily sin when he dues so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God; and so, that God must be a sinful being: as strange as it would be to argue, because it is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when the sun is present, that therefore all darkness is from the sun, and that his disk and beams must needs be black.
IV. It properly belongs to the supreme and absolute Governor of the universe, to order all important events within his dominion, by his wisdom: but the events in the moral world are of the most important kind ; such as the moral actions of intelligent creatures, and their consequences.
These events will be ordered by something. They will either be disposed by wisdom, or they will be disposed by chance; that is, they will be disposed by blind and undesigning causes, if that were possible, and could be called a disposal. Is it not better, that the good and evil which happen in God's world, should be ordered, regulated, bounded, and determined by the good pleasure o an infinitely wise Being, who perfectly comprehends within his understanding and constant view, the universality of things, in all their extent and duration, and sees all the influence of every event, with respect to every individual thing and circumstance, throughout the grand system, and the whole of the eternal series of consequences; than to leave these things to fall out by chance, and to be determined by those causes which have no understanding or aim? Doubtless, in these important events, there is a better and a worse, as to the time, subject, place, manner, and circumstances of their coming to pass, with regard to their influence on the state and course of things. And if there be, it is certainly best that they should be determined to that time, place, &c. which is best. And therefore it is in its own nature fit, that wisdom, and not chance, should order these things. So that it belongs to the Being, who is the possessor of infinite wisdom, and is the creator and owner of the whole system of created existences, and has the care of all ; I say, it belongs to him, to take care of this matter; and he would not do what is proper for him, if he should neglect it. And it is so far from being unholy in him, to undertake this affair, that it would rather have been unholy to neglect it; as it would have been a neglecting what fitly appertains to him; and so it would have been a very unfit and unsuitable neglect.
Therefore the sovereignty of God doubtless extends to this matter: especially considering, that if God should leave men's volitions, and all moral events, to the determination and disposition of blind unmeaning causes, or they should be left to happen perfectly without a cause; this would be no more consistent with liberty, in any notion of it, and particularly not in the Arminian notion of it, than if these events were subject to the disposal of Divine Providence, and the Will of man were determined by circumstances which are ordered and disposed by Divine Wisdom; as appears by what has been already observed. But it is evident, that such a providential disposing, and determining of men's moral actions, though it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least infringe the real liberty of mankind ; the only liberty that common sense teaches to be necessary to moral agency, which, as has been demonstrated, is not inconsistent with such necessity.
On the whole, it is manifest, that God may be, in the manner which has been described, the Orderer and Disposer of that event, which, in the inherent subject and agent, is moral Evil; and yet his so doing may be no moral Evil. He may will the disposal of such an event, and its coming to pass for good ends, and his Will not be an immoral or sinful Will, but a perfect, holy Will. And he may actually, in his providence, so dispose and permit things, that the event may be certainly and infallibly connected with such disposal and permission, and his act therein not be an immoral or unholy, but a perfectly holy act. Sin may be an evil thing, and vet that there should be such a disposal and permission, as that it should come to pass, may : be a good thing. This is no contradiction, or inconsistence. Joseph's brethren selling him into Egypt, consider it only as it were acted by them, and with respect to their views and aims, which were evil, was a very bad thing; but it was a good thing, as it was an event of God's ordering, and considered with respect to his views and aims, which were good. (Gen. 1. 20.) "As for you, ye thought Evil against me; but God meant it unto Good." So the crucifixion of Christ, if we consider only those things which belong to the event as it proceeded from his murderers, and are comprehended within the compass of the affair considered as their act, their principles, dispositions, views, and aims; so it was one of the most heinous things that ever was done; in many respects the most horrid of all acts; but consider it as it was willed and ordered of God, in the extent of his designs and views, it was the most admirable and glorious of all events ; and God willing the event was the most holy volition of God, that ever was made known to men ; and God's act in ordering it, was a divine act, which, above all others, manifests the moral excellency of the Divine Being.
The consideration of these things may help us to a sufficient answer to the cavils of Arminians, concerning what has been supposed by many Calvinists, of a distinction between a secret and revealed Will of God, and their diversity one from the other; supposing that the Calvinists herein ascribe inconsistent Wills to the Most High: which is without any foundation. God's secret and revealed Will, or, in other words, his disposing and preceptive Will, may be diverse, and exercised in dissimilar acts, the one in disapproving and opposing, the other in willing and determining, without any inconsistence. Because, although these dissimilar exercises of the Divine Will may, in some respects, relate to the same things, yet, in strictness, they have different and contrary objects, the one evil and the other good. Thus, for instance, the crucifixion of Christ was a thing contrary to the revealed or preceptive Will of God; because, as it was viewed and done by his malignant murderers, it was a thing infinitely contrary to the holy nature of God, and so necessarily contrary to the holy inclination of his heart revealed in his law. Yet this does not at all hinder but that the crucifixion of Christ, considered with all those glorious consequences, which were within the view of the Divine Omniscience, might be indeed, and therefore might appear to God to be, a glorious event; and consequently be agreeable to his Will, though this Will may be secret, i.e. not revealed in God's law. And thus considered, the crucifixion of Christ was not evil, but good. If the secret exercises of God's Will were of a kind that is dissimilar, and contrary to his revealed Will, respecting the same, or like objects ; if the objects of both were good, or both evil ; then, indeed, to ascribe contrary kinds of volition or inclination to God, respecting these objects, would be to ascribe an inconsistent Will to God: but to ascribe to Him different and opposite exercises of heart, respecting different objects, and objects contrary one to another, is so far from supposing God's Will to be inconsistent with itself, that it cannot be supposed consistent with itself any other way. For any being to have a Will of choice respecting good, and, at the same time, a Will of rejection and refusal respecting evil, is to be very consistent: but the contrary, viz. to have the same Will towards these contrary objects, and to choose and love both good and evil, at the same time, is to be very inconsistent.
There is no inconsistence in supposing, that God ma 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 consequences. I believe, there is no person of good understanding, who will venture to say, he is certain that it is impossible it should be best, taking in the whole compass and extent of existence, and all consequences in the endless series of events, that there should be such a thing as moral evil in the world. And, if so, it will certainly follow, that an infinitely wise Being, who always chooses what is best, must choose that there should be such a thing. And, if so, then such a choice is not evil, but a wise and holy choice. And if so, then that Providence which is agreeable to such a choice, is a wise and holy Providence. Men do will sin as sin, and so are the authors and actors of it: they love it as sin, and for evil ends and purposes. God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of n thing evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that, he permitting, sin will come to pass, for the sake of the 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.
The Arminians themselves must be obliged, whether they will or no, to allow a distinction of God's Will, amounting to just the same thing that Calvinists intend by their distinction of a secret and revealed Will. They must allow a distinction of those things which God thinks best should be, considering all circumstances and consequences, and so are agreeable to his disposing Will, and those things which he loves, and are agreeable to his nature, in themselves considered. Who is there that will dare to say, that the hellish pride, malice, and cruelty of devils, are agreeable to God, and what he likes and approves? And yet, I trust, there is no Christian divine but will allow, that it is agreeable to God's Will so to order and dispose things concerning them, so to leave them to themselves, and give them up to their own wickedness, that this perfect wickedness should be a necessary consequence. Dr. Whitby's words plainly suppose and allow it. These following things may be laid down as maxims of plain truth, and indisputable evidence.
1. That God is a perfectly happy Being, in the most absolute and highest sense possible.
2. That it will follow from hence, that God is free from every thing that is contrary to happiness ; and so, that in strict propriety of speech, there is no such thing as any pain, grief, or trouble, in God.
3. When any intelligent being is really crossed and disappointed, and things are contrary to what he truly desires, he is the less pleased, or has less pleasure, his pleasure and happiness is diminished, and he suffers what is disagreeable to him, or is the subject of something that is of a nature contrary to joy and happiness, even pain and grief.
From this last axiom it follows, that if no distinction is to be admitted between God's hatred of sin, and his Will with respect to the event and the existence of sin, as the all-wise Determiner of all events, under the view of all consequences through the whole compass and series of things; I say, then it certainly follows, that the coming to pass of every individual act of sin is truly, all things considered, contrary to his Will, and that his Will is really crossed in it; and this in proportion as he hates it. And as God's hatred of sin is infinite, by reason of the infinite contrariety of his Holy Nature to sin ; so his Will is infinitely crossed, in every act of sin that happens. Which is as much as to say, be endures that which is infinitely disagreeable to him, by means of every act of sin that he sees committed. And, therefore, as appears by the preceding positions, he endures truly and really, infinite grief or pain from every sin. And so he must be infinitely crossed, and suffer infinite pain, every day, in millions of millions of instances: he must continually be the subject of an immense number of real, and truly infinitely great crosses and vexations. Which would be to make him infinitely the most miserable of all Beings.
If any objector should say; all that these things amount to, is, that God may do evil that good may come; which is justly esteemed immoral and sinful in men ; and therefore may be justly esteemed inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. I answer, that for God to dispose and permit evil, in the manner that has been spoken of, is not to do evil that good may come; for it is not to do evil at all. - In order to a thing being morally evil, there must be one of these things belonging to it, either it must be a thing unfit and unsuitable in its own nature; or it must have a bad tendency ; or it must proceed from an evil disposition, and be done for an evil end. But neither of these things can be attributed to God's ordering and permitting such events, as the immoral acts of creatures, for good ends. (1.) It is not unfit in its own nature, that he should do so. For it is in its own nature fit, that infinite wisdom, and not blind chance, should dispose moral good and evil in the world. And it is fit, that the Being who has infinite wisdom, and is the Maker, Owner, and Supreme Governor of the world, should take care of that matter. And, therefore, there is no unfitness or unsuitableness in his doing it. It may be unfit, and so immoral, for any other beings to go about to order this affair; because they are not possessed of a wisdom that in any manner fits them for it ; and, in other respects, they are not fit to be trusted with this affair ; nor does it belong to them, they not being the owners and lords of the universe.
We need not be afraid to affirm, that if a wise and good man knew with absolute certainty it would be best, all things considered, that there should be such a thing as moral evil in the world, it would not be contrary to his wisdom and goodness, for him to choose that it should be so. It is no evil desire, to desire good, and to desire that which, all things considered, is best. And it is no unwise choice, to choose that that should be, which it is best should be ; and to choose the existence of that thing concerning which this is known, viz. that it is best it should be , and so is known in the whole to be most worthy to be chosen. On the contrary, it would be a plain defect in wisdom and goodness, for him not to choose it. And the reason why he might not order it, if he were able, would not be because he might not desire it, but only the ordering of that matter does not belong to him. But it is no harm for him who is, by right, and in the greatest propriety, the Supreme Orderer of all things, to order every thing in such a manner, as it would be a point of wisdom in him to choose that they should be ordered. If it would be a plain defect of wisdom and goodness in a being, not to choose that that should be, which he certainly knows it would, all things considered, be best should tie, (as was but now observed,) then it must be impossible for a Being who has no defect of wisdom and goodness, to do otherwise than choose it should be; and that, for this very reason, because he is perfectly wise and good. And if it be agreeable to perfect wisdom and goodness for him to choose that it should be, and the ordering of all things supremely and perfectly belongs to him, it must be agreeable to infinite wisdom and goodness, to order that it should be. If the choice is good, the ordering and disposing things according to that choice must also be good. It can be no harm in one to whom it belongs "to do his Will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth," to execute a good volition. If this Will be good, and the object of his Will be, all things considered, good and best, then the choosing or willing it is not willing evil that good may come. And if so, then his ordering, according to that Will, is not doing evil that good may come.
2. It is not of a bad tendency, for the Supreme Being thus to order and permit that moral evil to be, which it is best should come to pass. For that it is of good tendency, is the very thing supposed in the point now in question. Christ's crucifixion, though a most horrid fact in them that perpetrated it, was of a most glorious tendency as permitted and ordered of God.
3. Nor is there any need of supposing, it proceeds from any evil disposition or aim; for by the supposition, what is aimed at is good, and good is the actual issue, in the final result of things.