« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
lousness is small, I shall require more evidence to satisfy me of the truth of christianity than will another of greater credulity; if that additional evidence is withheld, should I (as I could not help it) be eternally damned therefor? God created some to the clearly foreseen end that they should suffer an eternity of pains: did he love these as well as those whom he created to a different end? Say nay, and you pronounce him partial; say yea, and it follows, as he is unchangeable, that the wicked inhabitants of hell shall to eternity be as much the subjects of his love as the pure inhabitants of heaven! Once more— -But what boots it to chase Arminianism through its various corkscrew windings! Ihave already shown it to be one with Calvinism in fact, and only differing from it in verba! modification; its abettors are constantly letting out this truth in their prayers, and sermons, and related experiences. John Wesley, in his tract on the efficacy of prayer, for example, relates that a certain woman implored the Lord to dedicate to himself her infant from its birth, and to make it the subject of his special protection; consequently, saith the good but credulous divine, the earliest lispings of that child were prayers and expressions of piety; and when he grew up, he became an eminent christian. Now, to say nothing of the weakness of supposing, that the unchangeable Jehovah could be induced by the mother's prayers to love the poor child better than he otherwise would have done, and to take the case as it stands, what does it prove? It proves that because the mother implored him to be so, he was partial to that child; he did more for it than for others: independently of its own agency he stamped upon it a religious character, by virtue of which, it is to be presumed, it got to heaven at last; it might otherwise have got to an endless hell!
"Great God! on what a slender thread
So exclaims an Arminian poet, and well may he so exclaim.
Believe me, reader, it is not possible to avoid the conclusion, that all events take place agreeably to the unalterable decrees of Jehovah; whether we look at facts, as recorded in history or in our own experience, or as they transpire around us, or whether we examine the subject in the light of the scriptures or of common sense, we are irresistibly brought to this conclusion: most gladly would I have avoided it if it had been possible, for my
prepossessions were strong, and of long standing against it; and even though at length convinced of its truth, yet had I a struggle with the remnant of prejudice within me ere I could consent to discuss it in this work. I feared two things; 1st, that the doctrine of necessity (as it is called) might prove practically injurious; and, God knows, I would not consent to acquire wealth or fame (allowing my poor production could procure me either) by means which might prove injurious to mankind. After duly weighing this consideration, I came to the following conclusion: Truth is from God, it therefore cannot be injurious, but the contrary; moreover, the brightest lights of the christian church, of all past ages, have believed in, and maintained this truth; many even who have suffered martyrdom for the cause of Christ—a great majority of the Scotch nation (not notorious for impiety, certainly) have always maintained it since they became protestant: our pilgrim fathers, too, were unanimous in its belief. Indeed, if we but reflect seriously upon it we must see, that this truth not only exalts the divine character, but it furnishes inducements to man to trust in God, and cheerfully to acquiesce in the allotments of his providence, inasmuch as all are to be brought to a good issue at the last; whereas the persuasion that all things, even interests of endless and inconceivable magnitude, are left contingent on the vagaries of human will, must necessarily tend to affect the mind with despair-to induce distrusts of God's wisdom and goodness-to beget suspicions that in omitting to provide against our final undoing, he betrayed a recklessness in regard to us, quite incompatible with his professions of love, and of desire for our salvation. Thus my first objection to a discussion of this point was removed. My 2nd was, that it would render my book more vulnerable to-to what? Not to valid objections, reader, but to misrepresentation; to the vapid common-place of party decrial, &c. for religious controversy is conducted frequently with great dishonesty; however, this weighs little with me, for I must not suppress truth from a fear of what the consequences of its publication may be to myself. I have published it, therefore, and if any should undertake its refutation, I beg them to be assured, that their success will not be hailed with greater pleasure by their own party, than by the author.
ELECTION AND REPROBATION
This article, reader, is designed as a sequel to the one foregoing, and in this many important points will be cleared up, which in that were left out of view, for I wish to avoid fatiguing your mind by over-long articles; and I hope, moreover, to gain your attention the better by varying the style of the whole as much as possible for this purpose we shall prosecute the residue of this branch of our discussion in a conversational forin; the parties in the conversation are supposed to be a Calvinist, an Arminian, and the author.
Calvinist. I most fully concur in your conclusion, that absolute foreknowledge necessarily implies absolute foreordination; and therefore that all things exist agreeably to the divine will and appointment: I often tell my Arminian brethren that their notion of a God who leaves the most momentous affairs to be determined by contingencies, is but little, if any, better than atheism; because, like it, it makes it a matter of mere chance whether existing things shall issue in a desirable order and harmony, or whether they shall progress from bad to worse to eternity: even in heaven we may not be secure against the bad effects of free agency; another rebellion may take place there, another battle, and another expulsion of a part of its blissful inhabitants to the dwelling place of the damned.
Arminian. But you forget, sir, that we have the positive word of Jehovah, that the state of the redeemed in heaven shall be one of changeless felicity.
Calvinist. Yes, he has so promised, I grant, and he may mean that such shall be the case; but it is none the more certain for that, if your doctrine be true, for he is constantly breaking through his purposes, and doing acts which he meant not to do! He meant that sin should never enter the world, yet it entered; he meant that man should live eternally in Eden, yet he drove him out; he meant that man should be immortal, yet he dies; he meant too that his Son should save the world, yet by much the larger part of it is to be damned! In like manner, he may very sincerely
mean that our future bliss shall be changeless, yet it may prove quite otherwise; and the time in future ages may come, when all the purity and the bliss in existence may be confined to his own essence, and all the universe besides may be a chaos of sin and desolation.
Author. And besides that, my friend Arminian, God, you say, does not interfere with the freedom of the will, and therefore, he cannot keep you in heaven if he would, provided you should make up your mind not to stay there. If you can point out a way in which, consistently with free agency, he can prevent you from sinning in heaven, you will show a way by which he could have prevented our sinning on earth, and drawing down infinite ruin upon our heads: if you say that he did not choose to employ that way, you in effect assert that he did not choose to save us, by the only mode practicable, from sin and eternal woe! And what is this but taking Calvinistic ground outright?
Calvinist. Well, to continue the subject with which I begun, I am heartily glad to find that we can travel the same road with regard to the divine decrees, and the utter exclusion of human works and human will from the business of salvation; but our road forks at length, I perceive; you assume that God has decreed to save all men, and that in due time he will effectually call and bring them in, if not in time, at some period beyond; here, then, we must part, for our road branches into two, between which there is a wide separation. You admit the doctrine of election to be scriptural; why not then the doctrine of reprobation also, for the one presupposes the other?
Author. Not always. Do our elections at the polls presuppose the reprobation of the public? On the contrary, the good of the mass, who are not elected, is consulted, and designed to be subserved by the instrumentality of those who are. When an individual is proposed for an office among us, we inquire whether he will be likely to prove a faithful public servant-whether he will be true to the interests of his constituents-and being satisfied on this head, we give him our suffrages; thus it is seen, that in electing some to distinguished places, instead of reprobating the residue, we propose the general good. God elects on the same principle. Why were the Jews elected to be God's peculiar people? Evidently that the true worship of God might be pre
served in the world, until the time should be ripe for its more general diffusion. In electing Pharaoh (in the order of his providence) to be king of Egypt, Jehovah had views to the good of the world at large; not only that he might show his power in him, but also that his name might be declared throughout all the earth. (Rom. ix. 17.) The Savior himself was elected to ends of universal benevolence. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. (Isaiah xlii. 1, 3. 4, 6, 7.) Christ elected his apostles also, not for their own exclusive good, but as his instruments in diffusing the blessings of the gospel to mankind at large. And those who through faith in the gospel are brought to a present knowledge and enjoyment of God, are far from being to be considered the whole harvest of grace in the world; they are but "a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." (James i. 18.) Now to all acquainted with Jewish usages, it is known that the first-fruits, when presented as an offering to the Lord, were (if accepted) considered as an earnest of the successful ingathering of the entire harvest; to this fact Paul alludes, when he says, "for if the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy." (Rom. xi. 16.) And this remark from him is particularly worthy of notice, when we consider its application; for reprobated as were at that time the bulk of the Jewish people, yet they are all to be brought in at last (as the apostle argues) for the first-fruits of the nation (the patriarchal fathers) were holy : "And as is the root, so are the branches." The apostle introduces the same figure also when maintaining that the whole creation shall be redeemed, and that the bliss of any portion thereof must necessarily be incomplete until that important event is consummated; there is (he represents) an earnest looking and longing for it on the part of all creatures. "And not only they, but our