« PreviousContinue »
deficient in just principles: on which account it is that he and many of the Fathers, are so often confused, erroneous, and self-contradictory. The permission of evil, conveys an idea very conceivable, but the permission of good, from the fountain and author of all good, is an idea which has no archetype in the nature of things.
$ 12. The same author informs us that God is good, but not of necessity. 6" For if God be 'good voluntarily, and not of necessity, he ought in making man, to make him after his own image and likeness, that is, so that he too might be good voluntarily, and not of necessity. "If he had been made such as to do good not
by will, but by necessity, he would not have 'been like God, who is therefore good because he
wills it, not because he is forced.—But when * they say that he ought to be made such, that - he could not admit of wickedness, while they 'impose upon him the necessity of good, they • desire that he should not be like God." '* The reader might very justly be surprised that a Christian Bishop in the nineteenth century, surrounded with so many improvements in science, should admit into a controversial publication such trash as this, under the specious title of “ Quotations from the Fathers, opposed to the
* Refut. p. 408.
tenets of Calvinism.” It is no wonder that heresies sprang up so plentifully amidst attempts like these to vindicate the catholic doctrine: attempts which could have no other effect than to infuse additional strength into the arm of the assailant, and to render his heart impenetrable to the truth.
13. In the first place, JEROME takes it for granted, in defiance of the strongest evidence, that'voluntary' and 'necessary' cannot co-exist in God. But is it not a first principle of truth, · that the existence of God is of eternal and absolute necessity; and is it not equally true, that his will or voluntariness to exist, is inseparable from his existence? Again, is not goodness an essential perfection of Deity, and therefore
necessary;' yet is it clearly impossible for the divine goodness not to be voluntary. In the second place, to suppose that God is “ good because he wills it,” is to make an essential perfection the effect of will; which is not less absurd, than to suppose that his existence is the effect of his will! If it be said that JEROME intended that the communication of good ad extra was voluntary and not necessary; I reply, that in that case his account involves two improprieties. The first of these is a most inexcusable confounding of terms, the confounding of being good and doing good. When the Psalmist says,
• Thou art good, and doest good,”* he expresses very different ideas. And when he
“ Good and upright is the Lord,” † he conveys a very different sentiment from another expressed in these words, “ Truly God is good to Israel.” | The other part of the impropriety affects his argument; which is founded on a similarity of “good” in God and in man. Whereas what God claims for man as the ground of likeness is “ doing good,” or virtuous conduct, and not the communication of his goodness to others, And if the author meant by “ being good” the same thing as “ doing good” voluntarily, and not of necessity, is not such language adapted to perplex rather than convince, to betray a cause rather than defend it?
$ 14, In the next place, JEROME supposes, most preposterously, that man would " not be like God,” if he were so made that “ he could not admit of wickedness,” that is, of doing evil! But is not this one essential thing wherein it is absolutely impossible for God to be like man? Man goeth astray speaking lies; but “it is impossible for God to lie.” It is God's glory that “ he cannot deny himself. It is as impossible for God to do wrong, or any thing but what is good, as it is for him to change his infinitely
* Psa. cxix. 68.
+ Ib. xxv. 8.
| Ib lxxiij. 1.
perfect holy nature. If it be objected that God could, if he pleased, do what is morally evil, but he will not; we are intitled to ask, what evidence there is for saying that “ he will not?' It will certainly never satisfy any one capable of a moment's reflection to be told that he never has done wrong, or that he declares in his word that he never will do so. On the other hand, , in God's indefectible nature, or his absolutely invariable perfections of rectitude and holiness, we have a solid basis of trust and confidence, of faith, hope and love. But what then becomes of JEROME's argument against the Heretics ? that man must needs be free to wickedness, other wise he would not be like God?
15. This Father advances another unfounded notion, that free-will is weakened by grace. • “ But where there is mercy and grace, free-will ' in part ceases; which extends only so far, that
we will and desire, and assent to what we think ' right. Here the province of free-will is professedly and not improperly drawn; it “ex: tends only so far, that we will and desire, and assent to what we think right.” But what conceivable tendency is there in “ mercy and grace" to make free-will ” cease in part?" Had JEROME properly understood, or duly considered, the nature of the will and its freedom, on the
* Refut. p. 411,
one hand, and of grace in its operations, on the other, he never could have imagined that mercy and grace can have any influence to diminish, to weaken, or any way to counteract our“ assent to what we think right.” If a degree of grace in man makes his free-will cease in part, one might naturally conclude that the perfection of mercy and grace in God would make his free-will to cease entirely! But grace in man is of an enlightening as well as of a holy rature; how then can it interfere with our willing what we think right? He who properly considers the subject may perceive, that a graceless person is free to choose what he thinks right, at the moment of choosing; and that a gracious person, in proportion as his gracious principle is operative, chooses not only what he thinks right (which is essential to freedom,) but also what really is right; so that his thinking and the reality coincide. JEROME's doctrine is no less absurd than the supposition, where there is light, our freedom of movement in part ceases !
$ 16. We are again told by this grave authority that no one is born without Christ. Thus he states; “It is clear that all men have a natural
knowledge of God, and that no one is born ' without Christ, and without having in himself • the seeds of wisdom, and of justice, and of the