9 I will praise thee, O Yahweh, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
...would it have been to the glory of God if he had made man a mere machine?
...The principle laid down in the Scripture is, that man honours God IN BELIEVING HIS WORD AND OBEYING HIS LAWS. There is no other way in which men can honour their Creator. This honour, however, consists not in a mechanical obedience, in mere action without intelligence and volition, such as matter yields to the natural laws, but in an enlightened, hearty, and voluntary obedience, while the individual possesses the power not to obey if he think best.
There is no honour, or glory, to God as a moral being, in the falling of a stone towards the earth's centre. The stone obeys the law of gravitation involuntarily. The obedience of man would have been similar had God created and placed him under a physical law, which should have necessitated his movements, as gravitation doth the stone.
Does a man feel Honored, or glorified, by the compulsory obedience of a slave? Certainly not; and for the simple reason, that it is involuntary, or forced.
But, let a man by his excellencies command the willing service of free men--of men who can do their own will and pleasure, yet voluntarily obey him, and, if he required it, are prepared to sacrifice their lives, fortunes, and estates, and all for the love they bear him--would not such a man esteem himself Honoured, and glorified, in the highest degree by such signal conformity to his will?
Unquestionably; and such is the honour and glory which God requires of men. Had He required a necessitated obedience, He would have secured His purpose effectually by at once filling the earth with a population of adults, so intellectually organized as to be incapable of a will adverse to His own--who should have obeyed Him as wheels do the piston rod and steam by which they are moved--the mere automata of a miraculous creature.
But, saith an objector, this principle of the enlightened voluntary obedience of a free agent is incompatible with benevolence; it would have prevented all the misery and suffering which have afflicted the world, if the globe had been filled at once with a sufficient number of inhabitants, who should all of them have been created perfect.
If the character of the All-wise were constituted of one attribute only, this might have been the case. But God is the Sovereign of the universe, as well as kind and merciful; and all His intelligent creatures are bound to be in harmony with His name.
He might have operated on the objector's principle had it pleased Him; but it did not, for He has pursued the directly opposite course. Instead of creating a human pair He could, indeed, have filled the earth with immortals, and left them blessed for ever. But then they would have been without character, neither virtuous nor vicious; and, like themselves, their world would have been without a history.
Elpis Israel 1.6.