The objection most frequently made is that this doctrine represents God as the author of sin. Most of those who make this objection will allow that God governs the world and that no event takes place but by His permission. Where is the difference between them and us? It appears to be something like this. We believe that God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, that He has a wise design in every event which He either permitteth or causeth to take place, that each event and all the transactions of men, even the vilest, are as so many links in the great chain of that providence by which the eternal purposes of God are connected together, and drawn on to their ultimate and glorious consummation; that from eternity God drew the wondrous plan of His government, saw through the operations and bearings of every event, and assigned to each its place and use in the dispensation of His providence, His justice, or His grace. They, if I can comprehend their views, believe that God has not beforehand determined the wicked actions of men, that merely as a spectator He suffers the wicked to go on according to their own wills. Of course, if God has had no previous determination relative to their acts, He can have no design in permitting them unless it be simply the general design of leaving those persons to aggravate their condemnation. Now it would seem to me that if either of these systems makes God the author of sin it is the latter, for it makes God to be, in a most wanton manner, accessory to the vices of men. But why is such a system preferred? Surely, only because it takes the government from God and gives it to the will of man.
But says one in the case of an assassin’s way-laying a man and murdering him, it would be horrid to suppose that God had predestinated this barbarous act. Where is the preacher who talks thus, if called to preach on this funeral occasion, that would tell the afflicted relatives that God had nothing to do with this affair, and therefore instead of exhorting them to eye the hand of God in it, and to be submissive to His will, would direct them to regard only the hand of the assassin? And yet he ought thus to tell them to be consistent.
The Master said to His disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Mt.10:29-31. Christ had been telling them not to fear them that kill the body, &c., in reference to persecutors, and then brings in the case of the sparrows. Would not the disciples naturally be led to think of the sparrows as exposed to the ravages of birds of prey? And when thus assured that the hawks could not seize their prey but by the will of God they would feel such confidence in the care of their heavenly Father, as to believe that their bloody persecutors could not take their lives until His gracious purpose was accomplished, and He for wise purposes saw fit to suffer them to be put to death.
If God thus taketh care for sparrows, can it be supposed that any human being will be left to fall by the hand of an assassin without our heavenly Father? If any can find comfort in believing that men’s lives are thus left to the sport of chance, I envy them not that comfort.
Let us take another view of this subject. I think it more consistent with what God has revealed of His universal government to suppose that the days of this murdered man were numbered, that the designs of God in His existence on earth were accomplished, and the period had arrived for his being taken from it; and that God had determined to leave him who was the assassin thus to manifest the enmity and depravity of his heart, to be a warning to others, and to receive that open punishment which his depraved principles merited. Also that such afflictions as attended this affair God had seen fit to appoint unto the relatives, if not to result in their good, yet for wise and good purposes.
I do not see that this view of the subject any more makes God the author of sin that any other system would short of that of the Magi which supposed the existence of two gods, the one good and the other evil. Not any more than the Lord’s having appointed to Peter the death by which he should glorify God made Him the author of the sin of his persecutors. See John 21:18-19.
But to give, if possible, a clearer illustration of this subject, I will offer a few remarks on the text, Luke 13:4-5, “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” I have said in a former number there is no movement either of matter or mind but what has been so fixed by the counsel of God to work for His glory. In the text above quoted I think there is an illustration of this fact. In the case of the eighteen being slain by the fall of the tower of Siloam, are the following circumstances to be noticed.
First, the passage gives no statement of the special cause which produced the fall of the tower; neither is there any intimation that it was occasioned by anything miraculous. The whole account appears clearly to imply that it was what would be termed at this day a mere casual event. Second, the Jews having been taught by their lively oracles, to acknowledge the hand of God in every event, considered this a special visitation of God upon those who were slain and accounted for it by supposing that they were sinners above others. This latter idea the Master evidently designed to correct and to impress upon the minds of His audience that they were sinners equally with those eighteen, and like them, exposed to the judgments of God, unless they repented with that repentance which their law required of them as national Israelites.
Whilst we are left ignorant of the direct cause of the tower’s falling, whether it was carelessness in building, negligence in repairing, the wear of time, or some other circumstances, the fact is evident that the materials of which it was built, having been undermined or in some other way removed from their proper balance one upon another, fell by the regular operation of the law of gravitation, and in their fall killed eighteen persons. Can any be so hardened in opposition to the sovereignty of God as to contend that He by whom alone the sparrow falls, had no hand in the death of these persons? Yea, is it not manifest from the improvement which the Saviour made of the event that it was designed as a warning to the inhabitants of Jerusalem of the impending judgments which hung over their heads? These impending judgments of which the Jews were thus warned were brought upon them, as the event shows, by the instrumentality of the Roman arms. That these impending judgments were limited and bound by the predestination of God is evident from Matt.24:15-28, and Luke 21:17,24. It is equally manifest that it was the ambition and pride of the Romans which impelled them forward to the destruction of this devoted people.
Now if in the one case God could accomplish His purpose of cutting off those eighteen persons by the instrumentality of the effect of the law of gravitation upon the materials of the tower in Siloam without diverting that law from its regular course of operation, why could He not in the other case bring His threatened and defined judgments upon the Jews by the instrumentality of the Romans thirst for conquest and blood without being the author of their sin or without infringing upon their free-agency in the act? Some may say that God was the author of the law of gravitation. True, God did establish it in the original creation of matter; and so did He originally permit sin to enter into the world and man to become so depraved as that it is as natural for him to sin as it is for a heavy body to fall to the earth. And there was no more necessity for God, in the one case, to produce a new principle of depravity in the hearts of the Romans than, in the other case, to produce a new principle of gravitation or give a new bias to that heart. In the one instance God had only to permit the interposition of certain occasions to bring the law of gravitation into effect upon the materials of the tower and to bring those eighteen persons within its reach to accomplish His purpose concerning them. So in the other case, He had only to permit the Jews, by their turbulency and rebellion, to provoke the resentment of the Romans to be the occasion of their acting out their bloody cruelty, so far as God had determined to permit them.
What I have said upon this subject is probably not sufficient to satisfy the minds of some who may think they are honest inquirers after truth. But it is not dependent on me to vindicate the revelation and ways of God from the charge of sin. Let those who charge that doctrine which God has revealed, with a sinful tendency, answer to Him for it.
I will offer a few remarks for the consideration of those who think that God has too great affairs to manage to concern Himself with the smaller particles of matter, such as are seen floating in the air; for such professors there are. I would ask them whether they believe in the resurrection of the body? If so, whether they believe that God will raise the bodies of all or only of such whose bodies He can find on the resurrection morn? We know that the bodies of many have been burned to ashes, and those ashes scattered towards the four winds of heaven; the bodies of others have been left to molder to dust on the surface of the earth; the graves of many have been opened and the dust that once composed the bodies mingled with other particles of earth, not to insist upon the continual process through which matter is passing of decomposition and new organizations, by which that which was once the component part of an animal body becomes incorporated in a vegetable substance, &c. How can any person with these facts in view believe that God will or can raise the bodies of all persons unless they believe that He exercises infinite knowledge and that universal disposal of all things, that every particle of matter is present to His notice, passing through what process it may, filling by His direction the very place and accomplishing the very object He designed? Is this knowledge too wonderful for your comprehension? So it is for mine. But is it too extensive for our God whose understanding is infinite? Other objections I leave for another number.
Elder Samuel Trott
Fairfax County, Virginia
SIGNS of the TIMES – 1833