“Examination of Maurice’s Theological Essays”
Extract from "Reason and Revelation"

On this subject it is relevant to quote, as summing up the argument, the closing paragraph of the “Examination of Maurice’s Theological Essays” (p. 480), in which the controversy at issue between him and his examiner is reduced to a single question: - “That question, as it seems to me, concerns the nature of the government of God. Is it a government of law? Does God rule intelligent beings by a law? Certainly, I may be told. Who doubts it? The government of God is a government of law, - of the law of love. But I must be allowed again to ask, In what sense is it a government of law? For the familiar use of the expression, ‘laws of nature,’ has introduced an ambiguity into this phrase. What is a government of law, a government by law? If I am absolutely dependent upon a being possessed of certain tastes, under the influence, let it be supposed, of a particular ruling passion, - if he and I are inseparably bound together, so that I must make up my mind to receive all my good from him, and find all my good in him, such as he is; then, in his tastes, in his ruling passion, I have a law, conformity to which is th condition of my wellbeing. Obviously, however, ruling passion in him is a law to me, in precisely the same sense in which any quality in matter is a law to me; in that sense and in no other. My intimate connection with the material world makes conformity to the unchanging principles, according to which its movementa. proceed, a condition of my wellbeing as a creature endowed with a physical nature. My intimate connection with the being or person with whom I am living, and am always to live, makes conformity to the unchanging principles, or habit, or ruling passion according to which being uniformly feels and acts, the condition of my wellbeing as a being endowed with the capacity of feeling and acting as he does. Let his ruling passion be pure charity or love. Then, in one sense, there is a law of’ love is brought into contact with my will. The law of love is unbending, and it has in it an element of wrath against the unlovely. My will is perverse, apt to incline towards subjection to a usurping tyrant or an intruding tempter, capable of almost infinite resistance. But the law of love works steadily on. It unfolds and reveals itself, it embodies itself in action, it is manifested wonderfully in redeeming and regenerating economy, and ultimately one cannot see how it can fail to bring my will, and every reasonable will, into accordance with itself. For any.thing I can perceive, government by law in any other sense than this, is not recognized at all in the theology of these Essays.

It is needless to add, that the whole theology of those who are commonly considered orthodox and evangelical divines, is based upon an entirely different conception both of government and of law. According to them it is an administrative government that God exercises, - a government embracing in it legislation, judicial procedure, calling to account, awarding sentences. It is an authoritative law, with distinct sanctions annexed to it, that God promulgates and enforces. This is what they understand when they speak of God being a moral Ruler as well as a holy and loving Father. They cannot rid themselves of the impression that both Scripture and conscience attest the reality of such a government and such a law. It is under that impression that they draw out from Scripture, to meet the anguish of conscience, those views of the guilt of sin and its complete expiation, the corruption of nature and its thorough renovation, - those views of pardon, peace, reconciliation, reward, which they delight to urge upon all men in the name of Him who “hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn unto him and live.”

And it is under the same impression that they think they find, in the essential freedom of the will of man as a responsible agent, an explanation, on the one hand, of the possibility of evil entering into the universe under the rule of a good and holy God; and on the other hand also, a probable explanation of the impossibility of there being any provision of mercy brought Within the reach of men, which does not imply a provision also for the case of that mercy being neglected or refused.”

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