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ESSAY ON MAN,
ACCORDING TO THE
CHAPTER I. Of Man under Sin.
No man can satisfy himself or others about the Origin of Evil: and to give an account of mian,
account of evil, is to do little. The question being far too deep for us, we must be contented with such a view of the subject, as the Gospel presents to us; and this should make us easy, till we have further lights, and stronger faculties.
The disciples of Jesus Christ, seeing a man who had been blind from his birth, proposed the case as a difficulty for which they were not able to account : “ Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind * ?" They expected that their Master would consider the question as they did ; but instead of this, he takes sucli a view of the case, and gives such a solution of it, as they had not been able to conceive. He goes at once to the final cause, for which this, and all other examples of evil, are permitted in the world; the ylory of God.---Strange, that God should be glorified in evil, by which he seems to be dishonoured ; but so it is.
If we ask ourselves by what causes such or such strange effects come to pass ; experience teaches us how hard it is to answer the question: but if we ask, for what end, the enquiry becomes more hopeful, as well as more useful. In the ways of God, the grounds and reasons, on which the Divine justice proceeds, are dut of our sight; while the ends, which the Divine goodness
has in view, are open to our sight, and level to our capacities. This we suppose to be the reason why our Saviour gave a turn to the question, so different from what his disciples expected. Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, said he, i. e. so as to account for his blindness; but he was born blind for this end, that the works of God miglt be made manifest in him.
To all questions of the same kind, the same answer will serve. Evil is permitted in the world, that God may be manifested to us as the author of good. The sun is never so glorious as at bis rising, when the shadows of the night fly before him. The Creator might have blessed us with perpetual day; but his wisdom and goodness are better understood in the victory which light obtains over darkness. And it is not clear, that good can be effectually distinguished, and received as what it is, till we have had the opportunity of comparing it with its contrary. The attributes of God were more fully displayed in the restoration of a man who was born blind, than if he had been born with his eye-sight. The physician derives his honour, not from the healthy, but from the sick; and the health which comes after sickness is doubly valuable.--The mind may be insensible of its preservation, and yet feel and understand the blessing of a recovery. Sensations of wonder and gratitude may be excited in the patient himself, and in the friends who are witnesses to his cure; of which they would have had no experience, but for the evil of his disease, and the unexpected blessing of its removal.
If, on such an occasion as this, any one were to dwell on the difficulties of the case, the symptoms of the distemper, the skill displayed in the cure; and all with a view to the honour of the physician : the patient would be a strange man, if he should be offended, and mistake all this for a reflectiou upon himself, and nis late infirmity: he would join with delight in recounting the wonders of his deliverance, and in magnifying the skill by which it had been brought to pass. Yet such is the absurdity of human wisdom, that the plzilosophy of the present day is offended with an Heathen, if he speaks truth like a Christian. Pliny, the natural historian, observes, that the weakness and misery of man's nature is such that it seems a sin to be born. A Christian editor takes it as an affront upon himself; and puts the following note upon
it--Hæc humana nutura concicia a verâ philosophia muita imè abhorrent.
Every Christian, whose eyes are really opened, may apply what I have said to himself. God is the PHYSICIAN; his power and goodness are magnified in healing the infirmities of our nature. If we feel ourselves offended with the consideration of this, that offence is one of the worst symptoms of our disease. The weak. ness of human reason, says the great Pascal, appears more in those who are insensible of it, than in such as know and confess it. We have no honour to maintain agaiņst our Creator; and his honour may well consist with our abasement. The apostle was convinced of this, when he said-Most gladly will I glory,
in. mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. But such doctrine as this never did, nor ever will, agree with human pride, which pleases itself with other sentiments; how wisely and justly it will soon appear from what follows. Yet, after all that can be said, the Pharisees will still ask with a sneer upon the goodness of God, are we blind? Blessed and happy is he who can reply against them-One thing I know, that whereas I wus blind, now I see