« PreviousContinue »
most certain way of arriving at, the truth. This is the kind of appeal, which, with the good blessing of God, I propose to make in the following discourse: wherein if I fail of fatisfying our accusers of the goodness of our cause, I trust that I shall at least be able to convince any impartial observer, that in declining the doctrine of absolute predeftination we do not act under the influence of some rash and groundless prepoffeffion ; but that, if our opinions are erroneous, they appear to be fo well established on the declarations of Scripture, as that we may reasonably believe them to be fcriptural truth; and that we are therefore far from deserving that afperity of reprehension and those opprobrious appellations, wherewith we are branded for entertaining them.
I. My first object will be to show, that the Calvinistic doctrines are incompatible with the notions, which the Holy Spirit gives us in Scripture, of the attributes and moral
govern, ment of God.
But here, before I proceed, I wish to ob, viate an objection to our opinions, which our accusers attempt to establish on the same basis, on which we propose to establish our opinions themselves. We are told, that “ to imagine
► Hawker's Zion's Pilgrim, p. 158, 159.
our acceptance or refusal of
grace to be the result of our own pleafure, is to take from “ God his omnipotence:” “ to fancy that our “ improvement or milimprovement of grace 66 will render it effectual or the contrary, is to
take from God both his wisdom and his
glory ;” and “ to believe after what God “ the Father hath given, and God the Son “ hath accomplished, for the salvation of his “ people in a covenant way, that fouls, re“ newed by God the Holy Ghost and called " with an holy calling, may yet finally perish; “ this is bringing down redemption-work to 56 so precarious and uncertain an issue, as must .“ leave it altogether undetermined whether a
single believer shall be saved or not. And $ this throws to the ground the distinguishing “ character of God's immutability.” But how do we infringe God's omnipotence, by fuppofing, that it is of our own will either to reject or accept his grace, when we believe that the exercise of our will is folely, the consequence of his permission, and of his not choosing to overrule it, and to divest us of the responsibility of moral agents? How do we impeach his wifdom, abridge his glory, or fhake his immutability, by fuppofing, that our salvation, instead of being fixed by an absolute irrespective decree, is fufpended on our voluntary fulfilment of certain conditions; when at the same
time we humbly confess, that with that infallibility, wherewith he foresees events that are contingent to man, he certainly foreknew, that fome would, and who they were that would, observe the conditions: that with that immutability, wherewith he delights to reward virtue, he predestinated to life those of whom he foreknew that they would be faithful: and that the whole glory of the victory of those, who persevere, is to be ascribed to the free mercy of the Father, to the meritorious facrifice of the Son, and to the preventing and 'affisting grace of the Holy Spirit ?
In fact, the supposition of conditional and refpective election is, in this view of the fubject, as innocent of infringing these attributes of God, as is that of unconditional and irrespective election. When therefore it is demanded of us by the advocate of moderate Calvinism, “ Had not the glorious Being, who “ created the world, a right to create it for “ what purposes he pleased ? And has he not " the same right to govern his own world ac
cording to his pleasure ? And if his perfec“ tions are infinite, must he not act in confor
mity to these perfections; and must not his " purposes be affuredly accomplished ; and “ must not all his creatures, in one way or
another, be the means of their accomplish“ ment? Is not his the kingdom, the power, " and the glory? Has he not told us, that his “ kingdom ruleth over all; that he worketh « all things after the counsel of his own will; " that he doeth according to his will in the “ armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants “ of earth; and that none can stay his hand, " or say unto him, What doest thou?" When, I say, these questions are put to us in support of the assertion, “ that the fundamen" tal principles on which Calvinism refts are “ incontrovertible," I apprehend them to be either altogether irrelevant to the subject, or else intended to insinuate against us an invi. dious and an unwarrantable charge. Each fyftem is founded on the sovereign will of the Almighty. By the Calvinist it is supposed, that God chose to pass certain abfolute decrees, and formed and disposed his creatures for their accomplishment: our hypothesis represents him as no less “working after the 6 counsel of his own will;" as choosing, in his sovereign power and authority, to form his creatures with a freedom of will and action; foreknowing, in the plenitude of his wisdom, what would be their conduct; and immutably framing his decrees according to his foreknowledge. So that, notwithstanding the remark, which has been ascribed to a royal Cal
vinist in former times, that “if he did not be “ lieve absolute predestination, he could not “ believe a Providence ®;" we apprehend that it is to represent the Almighty acting upon a plan, as much when it proceeds upon a know, ledge of what use his creatures will make of his gifts, as when it is founded on his own abfolute and overruling decree.
As these attributes of the Deity then remain unaffected by the doctrines, which we are maintaining, I proceed to show, how grievously others are affailed by the doctrines, which we combat. It was said with keen, but not unmerited severity to a Calvinist in former times, “ While you are so careful to re“ serve to the Almighty a power to damn even
poor humbled and prepared finners, you “ seem to be more tender of his sovereignty, “ than of his goodness, mercy, or justice“.
1. “ Justice and judgment,” says the Psalmist, “ are the habitation of thy throne.” “ He “ is a God without iniquity,” says the Jewish lawgiver; “just and right is he 6." It is ac-. cordingly attributed to him as an essential property of justice, throughout the Scriptures ; in
• King William the Third. See Toplady on Predeftination, Pref. p. 11.
• Result of False Principles, by Dr. Womack, p. 72.