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thou art, indeed, a noisome dwelling-place, and what mind of man would prefer inhabiting thy narrow walls, even to his much checquered life, and the darkness, and solitude reigning in thee, to his own restless existence !

How, then, it is asked, can the existence of so many evils, and of death the most grievous of all, be reconciled with the doctrine, that God is a being of infinite benevolence, and that "infinite benevolence is the infinite God." The solution of the difficulty, we presume, cannot be given by mere natural It has no data from which it can draw its conclusions. The foundation on which it builds is deceitful; and when assailed by proper engines, the superstructure will tumble down.


But lest we should be accused of doing injustice to the light of science, or of needlessly aspersing the conclusions of philo sophic men, in order that we may raise still higher in the estimation of mankind the glories of the grace of Christ, let us notice one or two answers to the above-mentioned objection, usually employed by lecturers on natural religion, as it is termed, that we may find if we are carried out in our assertion, that what is called moral science emits no light, but rather "darkness visible," on some of the most important questions.

And is it any solution to the difficulty, to be told, that much of suffering, and even death itself, is, in consequence of the violation of a law of nature, on the part of men? That, therefore, the more we pry into those regulations, the more will we know of their character, be better able to avoid the penalty consequent upon an infringement of them, and so spend our lives in the enjoyment of more happiness--perhaps, defer the stroke of death itself. All this may be true; certainly not, however, if taken as is generally done by those who employ the language. The bare mention of laws must, in the mind of the unprejudiced, prompt to the inquiry, Who is the Lawgiver? what is the nature of his government? or, what is the principle that pervades his code? Indeed, we are too apt to forget, when we talk so fluently of laws of nature, that there must exist some legislator who has published them; for no one will pretend that their existence is an elementary truth. Laws are but a rule of action; they must, therefore, take their tone from the views of him who makes use of them; and if we wish not to exclude the Almighty from his own vast empire, and are desirous of exploding, the nonsensical dogma of the laws of nature being eternal, then must we settle down in the grand conclusion, that there exists an Eternal Mind, who must have

acted from some noble design, in his most minute arrangements. It is not to the law, but to the lawgiver, we are to look for the solution of the difficulty; for, conceding, that the world is governed by general arrangements, there must have been some reason in the mind of the Eternal, why the transgression of one, is followed by so many sad consequences. Can we not suppose, without much stretch of imagination, that the world could have been so framed by Him, who "telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names as to have contained nothing but happiness, and that while his laws were but a transcript, of his own holy nature, the minds of men, could have been so finely modelled, as to have perfectly reflected his own glorious image, and reciprocated kindness and good will, from heart to heart. None who believes that God" can do every thing;" and who that looks to the heavens above, or confines his attention to an examination of himself, will deny that, God is infinite, will refuse assent to this, and he must be led to confess, from the character of him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, that nothing has been done in the universe without consummate wisdom.


It would be easy for us to prove, that many other absurdities flow from this doctrine-one more we may mention. For if suffering be in consequence of transgressing a law of nature, how does it happen that the supposed delinquent is in many cases ignorant of its existence ? Or if it be said, that from observation and experience he should have been better informed, the inquiry still presses upon us, why the infant that from the state of its mind is debarred from all such knowledge is also beset with sorrows, notwithstanding all the kind offices of its mother? The Apostle tells us, that where there is no law, there is no transgression; and our human judicatories make a distinction between an offender who has erred through ignorance, and one who has deliberately and knowingly transgressed; and where we see the profligate and the epicure basking in the sunshine of this world's prosperity, while the upright are so frequently in total destitution, or when we stand round the dying couch, and behold the wicked departing without "bands in his death;" while the light of the righteous is put out in perplexity and distress, are we to suppose that the God of heaven is less just than they? No, God forbid! If we are not able to explain the constitution of the world of natural reason, without injuring in the estimation of mankind the purity of His character, let us

either give over such investigations altogether, or else have recourse to a better guide for direction.

We presume it is almost unnecessary to notice another answer sometimes given to the question we have mentionedthat while to the young, in innumerable cases, death is in consequence of a breach of law, to the old man, whom age and infirmity have almost deprived of enjoyment, and whose peevishness proves often so wearisome to the most attentive relatives, it rather confers a boon. Surely this is cutting the knot without endeavouring to loose it, and can be regarded in no other light than as a hypothesis, got up for the purpose of rounding a peculiar system. It requires little exertion of intellect to acknowledge that death is a very bitter thing,the most unpalatable ingredient in our whole cup of misery. In the history of Job, we are presented with one weighed down to the earth by a pressure of calamities, which seldom at the same time fall to the lot of many. By the impiety of his wife, the destruction of his family, the disease of his body, and the cold metaphysical reasoning of friends, he was at once assailed, nor had he any one to whom he could embosom himself, for his very servants shunned him. It is matter of no surprise if he often seemed shut up in despair, and anxious to enter the grave, that he might lie still, and be at peace. In one sense, indeed, it is true, that death is no evil; for when we stand round the bed of the dying, and witness the cold sweat upon his forehead, and the poisoned dart entering into his vitals, while the kind office of weeping relatives can molify none of its virulence, we are sometimes tempted to employ the common but dangerous language-"It were well if he were entered into his rest." This, however, gives us only a vivid idea of the impression made upon the bystanders, by witnessing the heavy stroke. It leaves entirely out of the question the consideration, that some portion of happiness is an attendant on the lot of all. It forgets, that to the inhabitants of the grave the sun shines in vain, and in vain calls forth the exhilerating season of flowers and blossoms; and balancing the two cases where the evil is positive, and where it is negative, determines that it would be better to submit to the latter, and lie quietly in the tomb, than yield to the former, and continue a citizen of this world. Yet may we not venture to affirm, that the patient himself, agonized as he is by suffering, would prefer enduring it all with the light of life to the becoming a prey to corruption and the worm. For such is the nature of man, that amid all the


difficulties with which he may be surrounded, from which, too, in the view of the spectator, there seems no escape, hope, that comes to all," does not forsake him; and trusting to her voice, so often found to be deceitful, he looks forward with eagerness to a brighter day. There is a pleasure too in the luxury of thought, perhaps, not denied to the meanest mind, which the hand of death takes away. Our great poet puts a similar sentiment in the mouth of one of his heroes, who, when consultation was held respecting their deliverance from their prison, gives it as his opinion, that it would be vain to expect that they could succeed in their attempts to dethrone "Heaven's matchless King ;" and that their last remedy was to endeavour to exasperate the Almighty to spend all his rage upon them

"And that must end us; that must be our cure,
To be no more. Sad cure! for who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,-
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night,
Devoid of sense and motion?"

These sentiments may, perhaps, appear so horrible to us from the difference in the nature of humanity, and that of the being who is supposed to utter them. One thing we think is certain, that to none but the believer in Jesus is death desirable; and that no one can say with Paul, I desire to depart and be with Christ," but "by the Holy Ghost.' We think then it is clear that the existence of death in this lower world, is not accounted for by the principles we have been noticing.


The doctrine entertained by some professing Christians, at which we hinted before, and which we consider erroneous, is, that death is one of the original regulations of Providence; and that as Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; and as the believer and unbeliever have equally to submit to the "last enemy," it follows, that death is not one of the miseries from which Christ was to set us free. To this it has been well replied, that in a world where sin has brought such disorder as in ours, beings like us can never determine the best mode of bringing up a soul for eternity. If we glance at the history of mere natural knowledge, the truth of this will be acknowledged at once. In its higher departments, the energies of

mind were fettered for ages-the authority of Aristotle was supreme-his writings were considered the standard of truth-the limit of discovery; and bold must that spirit have been which questioned any of his conclusions. This state of things continued for many a dark century; and every doubt was silenced by the authoritative mandate," The master hath said it." In the progress of time, however, men began to doubt many of the absurdities so long regarded as truth, under the sanction of the Stagirite; by degrees, his throne crumbled into dust; his empire over the human mind came to an end, and scarcely a modern philosopher could be found to advocate those doctrines that had been current for ages.

The same is partly the case even in our day, and not in Sabbath-school instruction alone, but in almost every branch of polite literature, system after system is published to render the acquisition of knowledge more easy. When we then are so much in the dark respecting the most effectual plan of acquiring the elements of this world's science, are we to suppose that the God of the armies of Israel, who giveth not an account to any of his creatures, has not made choice of the best mode of conducting us to eternity? No; the thought that he has not, would be monstrous; and while we confess that death is in consequence of sins, and that Christ hath indeed redeemed us from the curse of the law, and acknowledge that both the righteous and the wicked have to die, we need not be prying into the reason of this, nor weary ourselves with vain conjecture. It should be enough for us to know, that those who fall asleep in Jesus, it conducts to the possession of an immortal crown ;-when we know that death is inevitable by us, it will keep us in remembrance of sin, and of Him who hath taken away all sin; and surely the redeemed shall strike louder their golden harps, when they remember the great tribulation from which they have been brought to the enjoyment of such felicity.

Perhaps the problems we have been noticing, and many others of a similar character, arise from our ignorance of the most profound of all difficulties-the origin of evil; a subject of which, whether we consider its high nature, and the fruitless attempts of the greatest of minds to explain it, even to their own satisfaction, we will not be accused of libelling human reason, if we say, that it must remain covered with thick darkness until that day when we shall know even as we are known.

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