And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come?…
I. This will appear from THE NATURE OF MORAL GOOD AND EVIL.
1. To denominate an action morally good there must be a concurrence of all conditions requisite thereunto. If the object be lawful, the manner of the performance regular, and it be fitly circumstantiated, yet if it be done for a wicked end, this mars the action and renders it sinful; and for the same reason let the intention be never so good, the end never so excellent, yet, if the thing we do is forbidden by God's laws, it is a vicious action.
2. Nay, further, such is the contrariety between the good and evil, that what is really evil cannot be chosen as a fit means to produce good, any more than darkness can beget light, or false premises infer a true conclusion, or an evil tree bring forth good fruit. To do evil to obtain good is as if a man should put his hand into the flame to cool it.
II. To do evil that good may come is A GREAT AFFRONT TO AND DISTRUST OF THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. So saith Job, "Will ye speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for Him?" (Job 13:7).
1. Doth He stand in need of our sins to help Him out at a dead lift to bring His designs to pass? Cannot He preserve His religion without our venturing on a special occasion to strain a point, and transgress our duty for the sake of it?
2. This is seen in those who, fondly imagining that our Saviour and His apostles had not wrought miracles enough for confirmation of their doctrine, have coined other miracles; which pious frauds are most highly dishonourable to our Saviour, intimating as if His gospel had been imperfect, unless men had interposed their own wit and knavery to complete it.
3. Let us but suppose God to have done wisely and considerately in all that He hath commanded or forbidden, and it must then necessarily follow that we must never go against His will, though it may seem to tend to never so great or good an end.
III. Add to this THE EXAMPLES IN SCRIPTURE OF GOD'S CONDEMNING WHAT HATH BEEN DONE AGAINST HIS COMMAND, THOUGH WITH A GOOD INTENTION AND FOR A WORTHY END. In the Old Testament, not to insist on the case of Uzzah, you find King Saul (1 Samuel 15) receiving commandment from God to destroy all Amalekites. He very zealously sets about the work, but saves the best and fattest of the cattle to offer them for a sacrifice. This one act of disobedience, notwithstanding the piety of his intention, cost him his kingdom. "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice," etc. In the New Testament we read of Peter, who, out of great love to his Master when apprehended, "drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear." It was done in defence of Christ; it was against unjust violence. Yet mark our Saviour's rebuke (Matthew 26:52).
IV. THE ILL CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH A CONCESSION AS THIS, that evil may be done for a good end. This one principle sets us free from all authority either Divine or human, and everyone may do whatever he thinks fit, so his intention and end be but good.
1. What we are to do, or to avoid, if this doctrine be admitted for true, we are not to learn from God's law. Things are either good or evil according as they seem to us, and our own judgment is the measure of lawful and unlawful, and thus we are wholly our own masters and lawgivers.
2. Nay, this principle plainly overthrows all justice and faith amongst men, all peace and security in societies, and makes all government precarious, since everyone is an arbitrary subject, and may obey or resist the laws as they appear to himself to be for or against the common good; and every man's life and fortune is at my disposal, if once I think it most for the glory of God and the safety of religion that they should be taken away. You know our Saviour tells His disciples of some that should arise, who would think they did God good service in killing them. According to this doctrine St. Paul was innocent when he was so mad against the Church.
(B. Calamy, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.