Plutarch On The Delay Of Providence In Punishing The Wicked -- By: Horatio B. Hackett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:51 (Jul 1856)
Article: Plutarch On The Delay Of Providence In Punishing The Wicked
Author: Horatio B. Hackett

Plutarch On The Delay Of Providence In Punishing The

Horatio B. Hackett

The treatise, of which it is proposed to give an abstract in this Article, is entitled in Greek: Περὶ τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θείου βραδέως τιμωρουμένων. The common title in Latin is: De sera Numinis vindicta. An edition of the original work, with notes, was published by the writer a number of years ago (in 1844), and is now out of print. The analysis of the argument inserted in that edition has been revised and very considerably enlarged in the form in which it is here placed before the reader. Stillingfleet’s outline of the principal ideas, in his Origines Sacra? (B. III. c.iii. § 21), is the best, perhaps, that we have in English; but omits so many of the minor thoughts, and is so brief, even on the main topics, that one can obtain from it only an imperfect impression of the spirit and power of the original treatise.

Of the value of such a discussion, from a writer situated as Plutarch was, but one opinion surely can be entertained. It is not easy to think of a question that would be likely to appear so full of perplexity, to a thoughtful heathen, as the one considered in this treatise; namely, the question how the impunity and, not unfrequently, the signal prosperity, of the wicked can be reconciled with the doctrine of a just Providence; or, in other words, how the apparent disregard of men’s deserts, in what befalls them in this life, is consistent with the belief of a Deity who observes the right and wrong of human actions, and governs the world according to the principles of a righteous retribution. A subject like this, when viewed from the position of those destitute entirely of the light which the Scriptures shed upon it, cannot fail to present to the mind much that is mysterious, and, to all appearance, incapable of explanation. We see from the treatise under remark, what objections have been urged against the justice of Providence from this point of view, and also what replies can be offered to them, on grounds of mere reason or natural religion.

The work, in the first instance, was directed more particularly against the followers of Epicurus. As a sect, they denied the moral accountability of men; they acknowledged nothing as retributive in the sufferings or allotments of life; they referred everything to an inexorable fate, or mere chance; while, in common with other ancient skeptics, they alleged as one of the main arguments for their opinion, the self-evident absurdity of any other; since nothing, as they affirmed, could be more reproachful to the gods, than to attribute to them any concern, in the government of a world, which exhibits such a ...

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