Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

could he not, and would he not, have forborne to put in train, what he knew would infallibly produce them? So that it comes precisely to the same thing at last. But the doctrine of divine foreordination, as seems to us,

more fair than the Arminian system, in statement-more conclusive in reasoning-more agreeable to Scripture, and more calculated to honour God. It was a just and striking reply which King William the Third of England, made to one, who asked him, if he could believe in this doctrine of foreordination. The reply was to this effect-“I cannot help believing it-for I cannot degrade my Maker below the character of a wise man, by thinking that he acted without a plan, and without regarding the consequences of what he did.”

The Scripture proof of this doctrine is abundant, and as we believe, palpable. We know indeed, that many learned and ingenious criticisms and arguments have been used, to show that the passages we allege will admit of another construction. But with all the erudition and talent which have been employed for this purpose, we do not think that, in regard to many passages, even a plausible interpretation has been given to them, so as to set aside the doctrine in question: And we do maintain, that it is a very strong presumption against any exposition of a passage of Scripture, of which the language is plain and the subject evident, if the expositor labours hard to make out a sense different from that which would otherwise occur, and be received as the most obvious and natural. The sacred writers are certainly to be understood, in the sense in which they would most naturally be understood, by those to whom they wrote and spoke. A portion of Scripture, already referred to, the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians, may be taken as an example of what I have here in view. After all the learned and elaborate efforts which have been used, to show that this chapter may consist with a different construction, its obvious and natural import must, we think, have been understood by the Ephesians, and must now strike every unprejudiced reader, as decisively in favour of the doctrine of foreordination or predestination, and of particular election: and so it seems to me it must for ever stand, in opposition to all human ingenuity that may be employed to give it another bearing. The very same might be said of several other extended passages in Paul's epistles, especially in his epistle to the Romans. But such passages are not confined to the writings of Paul, or to any one part of the sacred writings. They are scattered throughout the whole Bible: so that I might spend the greater part of the time assigned to this lecture in repeating texts or portions of Scripture, which either plainly and distinctly, or by fair implication, teach this doctrine. The passages need no comment, and therefore I will not repeat them. I will only refer you, in a Bible with marginal references, to the 9th and 11th chapters of the epistle to the Romans; or to that first chapter only of the epistle to the Ephesians, which I have repeatedly mentioned.*

I am now

III. Not only to admit, but to assert and vindicate, other truths with which the doctrine of the divine decrees may seem to be in conflict; to repel the false allegations which have been made, in relation to those who believe in the absolute sovereignty of God; and to show in what manner the apparently militating truths in regard to this subject ought to be received and held.

I cannot better introduce what I have in view in this part of our discussion, than by a quotation from our Confession of Faith, chap. iii. sec. 1-Let it be well observed, that this section was manifestly intended to contain both an exhibition and an explanation of the creed of our Church, relative to the subject be

* In committing his lecture to the press, the author thinks proper to specify some of the portions of Scripture which he thinks establish the doctrine of divine foreordination and particular election.—Rom. viii. 28–39; ix. 6–33; xi. throughout. Ephes. i. 4–12. 2 Tim. i. 9. Acts ii. 23; iv. 27, 28; xv. 18. 2 Thess. ii. 13. 1 Pet. i. 5; ii. 8. 2 Pet. i. 10. Mat. xi. 25, 26. John vi. 37. 64, 65; viii. 47; x. 26; xvii. 9. Jude 4. Rev. xiii. 8; xvii. 8. Gen. 1. 20. Isa. x. 6, 7.12; xii. 7. Prov. xvi. 4. Ex. iv. 21. Job xiii. 13, 14; xxxiv. 29.

[ocr errors]

fore us; that it may distinctly appear that what I have to offer is in perfect accordance with that creed. The section referred to, stands as follows—“ God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

The first important guard or restriction of the truth here exhibited is, that we are never to consider the decrees of God in any such light as to make Him the author of sin. Judge then, with what propriety the members of our communion have sometimes been charged with holding this horrible tenet. It cannot possibly be renounced in more unequivocal language than is here used, in the standards of our Church. And if any who call themselves Calvinists hold this tenet, we reject them, with as much promptitude as we reject the impious principle which they embrace. Calvin himself never held it.—On the contrary, no man could more earnestly express his abhorrence of it, or more cautiously guard his followers against it. But, say our opposers, your doctrine of the decrees must draw this consequence after it—The consequence must necessarily follow from that doctrine. No—we replyThat is your consequence, not ours.

We utterly deny the consequence. And you have no right to draw it for us, and to charge us with it; for that is to take for granted the whole matter in dispute.

And here, by the way, I would remark, that however frequently it may be done-and it is done very frequently-nothing can be more unfair or illiberal, in controversy of any kind, and especially in religious controversy, than to make our own inferences from opinions which we dislike, and then to charge those inferences on the holders of the hated opinions—when the holders themselves utterly disclaim the inferences, and give sufficient evidence that they are not influenced by them. We may not only think that certain inferences follow from a given position, but admitting that they actually and legitimately follow, yet if those with whom we litigate deny them, and are manifestly not influenced by them, to charge them with the guilt or criminality of such inferences, is most uncandid and unjust. Now, in the present instance, I affirm without fear of contradiction, that there is no sect or denomination of Christians whatever, that would more generally or more deeply shudder at the thought of making God the author of sin, than those who hold that he hath “foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” They are sensible that to make such a charge would be to deny the moral character of the Deity, and would be something worse, if worse be possible, than atheism itself-It must ever be considered and maintained as a first and invari. able principle of true religion, that “God is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.”

The second thing which the Confession of Faith teaches us that we are not to infer from the doctrine of the decrees, is, “ that no violence is offered to the will of the creatures." Here again, you may see with what palpable injustice the accusation is brought against the Calvinists—for it is the common clamour -that they deny man's free will, and make him a mere machine. But this is only another inference made by an adverse party, and charged on sentiments, if not on individuals, with a view to render them odious. No, truly. We believe that man is as free as he would be if no decree existed. Our freedom of choice is a matter of consciousness. We want no arguments to convince us of it, for we feel it-We feel that we choose and refuse with perfect freedom: and we are not of the number of those who suspect that we are deceived, by the very constitution of that nature which our Creator has given us. All the arrangements of civil society, all notions of moral obligation, all the punishments inflicted by law for crimes, and all the rewards promised to virtue or bestowed upon it-all these proceed on the principle, taken for granted, that man acts freely, and is therefore the proper subject of praise and blamie, reward

and punishment. But in addition to this, all the commands and threatenings, all the persuasions and invitations, all the reasonings and motives, which are addressed to us in Holy Scripture-all these, rest on the assumption, that those to whom they are addressed are accountable for choosing the good, and refusing the evil—This is not the place for considering, at length, the influence of inherent depravity. I shall at present only say, that we think no rational man can, or does believe, that depravity frees any human being from a full responsibility for all that he designs or does; and for every known omission of duty, or refusal of obedience to the commands of God, with which he is chargeable.

The third disclaimer, which is made in the Confession of Faith, of a dangerous inference from the doctrine of the decrees of God, is thus expressed –“the liberty or contingency of second causes is not taken away, but rather established.” Here you see once more, the falsehood of those who charge our Catechism, or those who receive it, with destroying human liberty and the efficacy of means, or of favouring a system of fatalism-no indeed we leave the doctrine of fatalism to the ancient Stoics, to the modern Mussulmen, and to atheists and infidels of every description. We know of no sect of Christians that holds or favours the doctrine. The Calvinists, or predestinarians, are, if possible, more free from it than any other. For you perceive, by the quotation just recited, that “the liberty or contingency of second causes is rather established," than taken away, by this doctrine-that is, the doctrine teaches that human liberty, and the contingency and proper influence of second causes, were as much decreed as any thing else. Whoever therefore believes this doctrine, must believe in human liberty; must believe in the contingency and influence of second causes; must believe that every end is to be brought about by its proper means; must believe that these means are as much in our power, as any thing can be in our power; and must believe that without the use of the proper means,

« ForrigeFortsæt »