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matter of abstract speculation! A theological system, the principles of which, if acted upon, would dissolve all society at once, and render it impossible for two human beings to live together, cannot possibly be true, but must of necessity be false.
The modern doctrine of personal and absolute predestination, is evidently deduced from the notion of a certain and eternal prescience of all moral actions : and it must be confessed, that if the premises be tenable the conclusion is inevitable, and that the legitimate separation of the one from the other may bid defiance to the ingenuity of man. But the modern predestinarians, like the ancient fatalists, are not able to carry their theological speculations into the economy of common life, nor even into the management of their ecclesiastical affairs; neither dare they plead an overruling necessity for their own faults, or the crimes of others. Their theological speculations, and their religious principles are at open and irreconcilable variance with each other. Like the ancient fatalist, they enact laws, and administer discipline, which if their speculations were correct, would be as idle and chimerical as legislating for the sun, or regulating by discipline the rotation of the
Their own practice, therefore, is a sufficient refutation of their doctrine.
Among the many miserable subterfuges to which the retreating advocates of an eternal prescience are driven, there is one which pretends, that what is certainly foreseen will certainly take place but will not necessarily transpire. Will the author of this meagre sophism only have the goodness to inform us, how a certain issue may be secured except by an infallible causation? If it be possible that an event may transpire otherwise than as it is foreseen and predicted, then it must of necessity follow, either that the prediction was conditional and the issue contingent, or that the prescience which foresaw it may prove to be short-sighted, and the prediction that foretold it may turn out to be false : but if it be not possible for the issue to transpire otherwise than as it has been predicted, then must the certainty of the issue be secured by an infallible causation. Will the advocates of this baseless theory have the kindness to define the precise difference between an event necessarily coming to pass, and only certainly taking place? Is not the differ
ence purely verbal ? And even if the thing were hypothetically conceived, wherein would the certainty be less inevitable than the necessity? If the world could only be informed how any event may certainly take place, and not necessarily transpire, and how a certain issue may be secured without an effectual causation, and how an absolute certainty may be compatible with any opposite possibility, the present important question would be set at rest for ever. A satisfactory solution of these difficulties are desideratum above all price. The discovery of the longitude,-the quadrature of the circle,—the perpetual motion,—the inexhaustible lamp,—and the ne plus ultra of Alchymy, alias, the philosopher's stone, would be only the productions of a driveller in the occult sciences, in comparison of an apocalypse like this. But to accredit such an hypothesis, we must obtain a new revelation from heaven, and a reversion of the laws of creation and providence, and a new modelling of the human intellect, and a re-edification of the human heart : we must witness a series of miraculous interpositions that would beggar the adventures of Don Quixotte, outstep the imaginary creations of the Arabian Nights, and leave all the mythological and poetical metamorphoses of Ovid, panting in the rear. We must have a revelation to assure us that cognate ideas may be essentially and eternally alien from each other,—that the effect may have no philosophical connexion with the cause, and the cause no connexion with the effect: we must have a miraculous separation of causation and issue, and the miraculous production of opposite possibilities.
Perfect and universal orthodoxy, in theological speculation, is a point of intellectual improvement, which perhaps no uninspired person has ever yet attained : and if Christianity were only able to extend its benefits to those persons whose religious creed should be found, in every iota, to be perfectly accurate, it is not likely that many descendants of fallen Adam would ever attain to salvation. But it is one of the brightest glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that in numerous instances its agency on the moral feelings triumphs over a thousand discrepancies and errors in speculation : and it is a fact, as pleasing, as it is conspicuous, to every benevolent observer, that in a goodly number of those persons who hold the doctrine of moral
necessity, the sovereign principle of piety in their hearts, serves as an effectual antidote to the demoralizing tendency of their creed; which in its legitimate, and unrestrained, and ultimate consequences, would of necessity exterminate all morality and religion from the face of the earth. Many antinomians in speculation, there is good reason to believe, are in spirit and in practice truly orthodox Christians.
There is, however, not a small number of Christians, who cleave to the doctrine of an eternal prescience, with a sturdy tenacity, while they reject the doctrine of a personal and eternal predestination, as being utterly subversive of moral freedom and responsibility. But how they will get rid of an infallible causation, while they believe in the absolute certainty of the issue, is extremely difficult to explain; the notion of an eternal prescience must always hang like a ponderous millstone around the neck of their creed, and every witling in argument, will be able to topple them over into a bottomless abyss of contradiction and absurdity. In vain will they contend for the doctrine of prescience, while they reject the doctrine of predestination; every argument which they can bring forward in support of the former, will apply with equal force in support of the latter; every weapon which they can employ against the predestinarian, will be turned back upon themselves with a keener edge, and with a redoubled force; every antagonist will oblige them to acknowledge, that certainty in the anticipation, must imply an equal certainty in the issue, and an equal infallibility in the means. Nothing but the rejection of an eternal prescience can provide a solid foundation for the doctrine of human liberty and moral responsibility; nothing but the rejection of prescience can redeem, in theory, the moral freedom of man, or the moral character of the governor of the world.
It has been very speciously, but sophistically argued, that our objection to the doctrine of an eternal prescience, and the infallible certainty of all moral actions, and the final issue of human life, is purely a matter of moral feeling and sympathetic aversion. That it is not matter of moral feeling only, the foregoing arguments will, I conceive, sufficiently demonstrate. But even moral feeling alone, is no very despicable standard of moral and religious
truth; for it is in many cases, far more worthy of our implicit dependance, than mere speculation, and hypothetical theory. Let me ask my reader, whether the enactment of laws, and the administration of justice, by the ancient heathens, were not purely matter of feeling, of moral feeling, and in direct opposition to their theological creed? And let me ask, if their sympathies were not correct, and their speculations erroneous ? And is not the conduct of modern predestinarians in rejecting the doctrine of reprobation, while they retain that of election, matter of moral feeling, and totally irreconcilable with their religious speculations? And is not the conduct of necessitarians in offering salvation to all men, in preaching on the duties of practical Christianity, and in administering Christian discipline to the elect, purely matter of feeling? And, above all, is not the conduct of those Christians, who reject the doctrine of necessity, in relation to all moral actions, and the final issue of human life, while they believe in a certain prescience of those actions, and the final issue of life, a matter of moral feeling and sympathetic aversion ? And are not all these sympathies correct, and all the speculations to which they are opposed erroneous ? The argument on both sides is precisely the same, it is feeling alone that makes the difference. It is a notorious fact, it is a conspicuous and glorious truth, that our hearts are more orthodox than our heads, and that what many persons have been pleased to dignify with the specious appellation of faith, is but mental sophistry, or vain credulity, because it outrages those moral sympathies, which have been planted in our hearts, by the great and benevolent Author of our being. And let me farther demand of my reader, whether our moral principles must not always be a surer guide to truth, than any hypothetical speculation, which has no support in the moral intuitions of the human mind? To what cause is it to be attributed ? Is it to the native and universal illumination of the human mind by the Spirit of God ?—or is it the property of the Christian religion, to do more for the heart, than even for the intellect of man? and to produce greater rectitude of moral feeling than precision of speculation ;-or is it, that moral principles are more intuitive and demonstrable, than any mental analysis, or theoritic speculation? To whatever cause it may with the greatest
propriety be attributed, whether to any, or to all of the foregoing suppositions, the fact is indisputable, that common sense, is more worthy of our dependance than theory and speculation, and that moral intuition is generally a surer and safer guide, than any mere abstract analyzation can possibly be.
This grave and momentous inquiry, is indeed a matter of moral feeling; the doctrine of an eternal prescience, is in truth an object of sympathetic aversion. For, however the question may be modelled, or disguised, it is the same thing, under every form, and in every attire: whether it be denominated fate by pagans, or necessity by supralapsarians, or certainty by modern predestinarians, or prescience by antipredestinarians; it is the same in its real meaning, the same in magnitude, and the same in its legitimate consequences; prescience imples certainty, certainty implies necessity, and necessity implies the grossest fatalism and the most atheistical renunciation of the agency of God in the government of the world. Against such revolting conclusions, what generous or righteous feeling of the human heart does not rise up with indignation and abhorrence ? All my moral sympathies and all my social affections, all my sense of justice, and all love of mercy, all my desire of happiness, and all my dread of misery, exclaim, “ Tell me not of being damned with an absolute certainty, and not by any absolute or fatal necessity! tell me not, that although the Deity foresees I shall certainly perish, it is nevertheless possible I may yet be saved! If my destiny, my eternal destiny be the object of a certain prescience, it must be the subject of a certain issue, and under the control of an infallible and fatal necessity! If it be known it must be certain, if it be certain it must be necessary, if it be necessary it must be inevitable; and every effort to escape it would be chimerical and vain. If the issue be certain, the causation must be secure! All casualty must be past; and fatality, eternal fatality, must reign alone! There is no ground for hope! there is no possibility of deliverance. I have no motive to exertion, nor any inducement to move forward or backward, to the right hand or to the left! my soul sinks down into a hopeless despondency! I have no other expectation than the blackness of darkness for ever.” If this be Christian orthodoxy,