« PreviousContinue »
MAN'S ACTIVITY AND DEPENDENCE ILLUSTRA,
TED AND RECONCILED.
PHILIPPIANS ii, 12, 13.
bling. For it is God which worketh in you, both
to will and to do of his good pleasure. HAVING endeavored to reconcile man's activity and dependence in the preceding discourse, I proceed to draw a number of inferences from the subject, which may serve to throw light upon some of the most difficult things, which are to be found either in the word, or in the works of God.
INFERENCE 1. If it be true that men act, while they are acted upon by a divine operation; then their actions are their own, and not the actions of God. The divine agency is not human agency, nor human agency the divine agency. Though God does work in men to repent,to believe and to obey; yet God does not repent, nor believe, nor obey, but the persons themselves on whom he operates. When God works in men, to will and to do, he does not act in their stead, but they act for themselves; and therefore what they do is entirely distinct from what he does. Whether they act virtuously or viciously, their actions are their own, and the praise or the blame is their own, as much as if they acted independently. Some suppose, that if God produces our moral exercises, then they must be his, or at least, exactly resemble his, in their moral quality. But there is no foundation to draw this conclusion, since our moral exercises are the productions of the divine power, and not emanations of the divine
nature. It is true, all emanations of the divine nature must necessarily partake of the qualities of the divine nature, as much as all streams must necessarily partake of the qualities of the fountain, from which they flow. But the works of God are not emanations of his nature, but only the fruits of his power. No created object, therefore, bears the least resemblance of the Deity, simply because he made it. We know. God has created a multitude of serpents, vipers, and other noxious animals, which, though they prove him to be possessed of infinite power, yet afford no evidence of his being possessed of any malignity, which resembles the sting of scorpions; or the poison of asps. If God must necessarily stamp his own natural and moral image upon every production of his hand; then a flower, a dove, or a monster, must bear the natural and moral image of their Maker, as much as a saint, or an angel. Saints and angels do, indeed, bear both the natural and moral image of God; but they bear this image not simply because he gave them existence, but because he was pleased to give them such an intelligent and holy existence, as resembles his natural and moral perfections. It is, therefore, as consistent with the moral rectitude of the Deity, to produce sinful, as holy exercises in the minds of men. His operations and their voluntary exercises are totally distinct. And if we only make, and keep up, this distinction between divine and human agency, we shall clearly perceive that no imputation can be fastened upon the moral character of God, while he works in all mankind both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
INFERENCE 2.-If men always act under a divine operation, then they always act of necessity, though not of compulsion. The Deity, by working in them to will and to do, lays them under an absolute neces sity of acting freely; but this is directly opposed to compulsion. God may cause men to move, without making them willing to move; but he cannot cause them to act, without making them willing to act. ACtion always implies choice; and choice always implies motive. It is out of the power of the Deity, therefore, to oblige men to act, without making them willing to act in the view of motives. Accordingly, when he works in us both to will and to do, he first exhibits motives before our minds, and then excites us to act voluntarily in the view of the motives exhibited. And in thus acting voluntarily in the view of the motives presented to us, we exercise the most perfect. liberty or moral freedom. For, we can frame no higher idea of moral freedom, than acting voluntarily, or just as we please, in the view of motives. This, however, is per. fectly consistent with moral necessity. Suppose a man at leisure desires to read; and some person presents him a Bible and a Novel. 'Though he knows the contents of each of these books, yet it depends upon a divine operation on his mind, which of them he shall choose to read; for the bare perception of motive is incapable of producing volition. If, in this case, God works in him to will to read the Bible, it is his own choice in the view of the object chosen. He is not compelled to read the Bible, though he is necessarily obliged to read it. He acts under a moral necessity, but not under a natural compulsion. Take another illustration from Scripture. God said to Samuel on a certain day, To-morrow I will send thee a man whom thou shalt anoint king over Israel. The man proved to be Saul. The story is this. Saul's father lost his asses, and sent Saul with a servant to search for them. They went and searched, until they despaired of success. But just as they were determining to return, the servant sinners can work out their own destruction, as that saints can work out their own salvation, under the operation of the Deity. And this is agreeable to the whole tenor of Scripture. Pharaoh is represented, as acting under the positive influence of the divine Being who led him on in the path to ruin. It is repeatedly said, that God hardened his heart; and repeatedly said, that he hardened his own heart. According to the account given of his conduct towards God, and of God's conduct towards him, he was as really acted upon, in working out his own destruction, as saints are, in working out their own salvation. The unbe'lieving Jews, in our Savior's day, were judicially hardened; and yet they were severely reproved for hardening themselves. The same passage, in the sixth of Isaiah, is applied to them in both these senses. The passage stands thus in the Prophet. “And he said, Gó, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” This appears to be a judicial hardening; but yet Christ applies it to those, who hardened themselves. “Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing, see not; and hearing, hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith. By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive. For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” The apostle John considers the Jews as
proposed to go to the man of God. The proposal being agreeable to Saul, he cheerfully complied with it; and they both repaired to the house of Samuel, who treated them with peculiar respect. The next day Saul was anointed king over Israel, and the purpose of God, in sending him to Samuel, was completely fulfilled. Now, in every step of his journey, Saul acted freely in the view of motives. He left his father's house, from the motive of his father's authority; and he went to the house of Samuel, from the motive suggested by his servant. But, we are to remember, that God sent him to Samuel, and directed every step he took, to reach his house. Hence there was a necessary and infallible connexion between Saul's actions and the motives from which he acted. And this certain connexion could be owing to no other cause, than a secret divine influence on his will, which gave energy and success to the motives, which induced him to execute the designs of providence. God made him willing to go to Samuel, but did not compel him to go. He led him thither by a moral necessity, without the least compulsion or constraint. And thus men always act both necessarily and freely, while God works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
INFERENCE 3.-If saints can work out their own salvation under a positive influence of the Deity; then sinners can work out their own destruction, under his positive influence. As saints can act, while they are acted upon; so sinners can act, while they are acted upon. As saints can act freely, under a divine influence; so sinners can act freely, under a divine influ
And as saints can act virtuously, under a divine agency; so sinners can act criminally, under a divine agency. Hence it is just as easy to see, tha: