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such a probation would exhibit nothing in the character and conduct of the Deity, but a capricious malignity of spirit towards the wicked, and it would exhibit nothing towards the righteous themselves, but a prodigality of kindness that would be equally capricious. It would be a wanton experiment on the accuracy of the Divine foresight, a mythological gamble, as puerile as it would be useless ; since it would display no contrivance, and would answer no salutary purpose whatever; and would be played without risk, and without even an abstract possibility of failure.
It would defy the ingenuity of man fairly to deduce from the doctrine of eternal prescience any single motive whatever to the practice of piety and virtue. The doctrine stands upon precisely the same ground as that of unconditional and eternal reprobation ; and the one is just as barren of rational inducement to practical godliness as the other. And it is somewhat remarkable, that the pious predestinarians are about as shy of the doctrine of reprobation as antipredestinarians usually are of the doctrine of eternal prescience; and that they generally adopt the same line of policy towards their respective doctrines: viz. that of retaining them tenaciously in their creed, and passing over them in their public instructions. The retention, on either side, cannot, perhaps, be fairly attributed to any other cause than the force of education, and the authority of a pious and implicit credulity; the rejection, in some cases, is to be imputed to ecclesiastical policy, and a deference to public opinion and public feeling; and in other cases it is to be attributed to an intuitive and involuntary conviction of the total inutility of the doctrines in question.
I once knew an eminent and worthy dissenting minister, who, on a certain occasion, was lamenting, in the hearing of a pious female, that his ministry had not been more successful in the conversion of sinners to God. The lady, with great frankness and good nature replied, “ Pray, Mr. MM, has it not been quite certain, from all eternity, what number of sinners would be converted under your ministry? And if so, is it possible for any diligence or zeal of yours to augment that number? Or is it possible for any want of diligence or fidelity in you to diminish the sum?” The minister in question was a person of too much discernment not to perceive the conclusiveness of the good lady's rea
soning: but, I am sorry to add, his orthodoxy got the better of his reason; or to express the same sentiment under another form, his piety was stronger on the side of his education and his implicit faith, than it was on that of his moral feeling and rational conviction ; for he did most unequivocally acknowledge his firm belief, that the number of
persons who would be converted under his ministry was foreseen and certain, and was consequently alike incapable of addition and of diminution.
The lady might have easily pushed forward the argument to the following consequence.
“ If the number of sinners who will be eventually converted to God under your ministry be already certain, infallibly certain, and alike incapable of addition and diminution; then is it possible for God himself either to diminish that number, or to augment that sum ? And if it be not within the reach of Om. nipotence himself to effect any alteration in that anticipated arrangement, to what purpose do you preach, and to what purpose do you pray?"
But such glaring inconsistencies are by no means peculiar to persons of supralapsarian principles. Every minister who believes the doctrine of eternal prescience, however hostile his feelings may be towards the doctrine of eternal predestination, would, under similar circumstances, be entangled in equal perplexities. A minister who believes in the doctrine of prescience, must also believe that the number of persons who will ever be eventually converted der his ministry, must be the object of an absolute certainty; that the person and name of every individual, as well as the sum of the whole, must be as certain and immutable as the throne of God; and that it would not be in the
power of any being, human or divine, either to diminish or to augment the sum. The advocates of prescience, apart from predestination, are far more inconsistent than their predestinarian brethren. They believe in the anticipated certainty of the issue of human life, and maintain it with as great tenacity as any fatalist on earth can possibly do; and therefore, they have not only got the formidable task of reconciling the certainty of the issue with the righteous government of God, but they have a task which is equally formidable, that of reconciling the certain issue of life with the freedom of man. And thus we see the advocate of
prescience is brought within as perplexing a dilemma as the abettor of predestination, and upon either the nne nr the other of its horns he must be eventually tried I call upon him, as an ingenuous and honest reject the doctrine of prescience, or to reno". trine of human liberty.
Many of those worthy persons who retain ts' jl.Co an eternal prescience, while they reject the wine eternal predestination, would be shocked by ! faithful discourse on their own favourite doctrine of them would be quite chilled with horrorui the notion of an eternal prescience clearly stated, and warmly enforced, and vividly described; and pursued into all its dark and mazy labyrinths, and pushed forward, by fair conclusions, into all its revolting and tremendous consequences. Never did "ghost or goblin damned," present half so hideous a spectre to the eye of superstitious credulity, as this horrible doctrine would do to the pious feelings of the religious world. I pretend not to be able to amplify so awful a subject into all its fearful and appalling ramifications; so chivalrous an undertaking would require a fertility of fancy, beyond the fecundity of my imaginative powers, and a graphic ability far beyond the execution of my pen. If, however, I were to stand up in a congregation of pious antipredestinarians and address them in the following manner, advancing no premises and deducing no conclusions but such as would be obvious to every mind, and accessible to the meanest capacity; what kind of impression is it likely would be made upon the feelings of my auditory thereby?
If I were to say, “ My Christian friends ; let me beg your serious and devout attention, while I address you on the solemn and momentous subject of your eternal salvation. And in doing this, I shall begin by stating to you that most salutary and most edifying doctrine, the eternal foreknowledge of all things by the great Author of our being. The object of our worship, my dear people, most assuredly knows, what persons in every country and in every age of the world, will be eventually and eternally saved ; and he knows what persons will be eternally lost. He knows the sum of the number on each side of this tremendous alternative; and he knows, with certainty, both
the person and name of every individual that will be lost, and of every one that will be saved, in every country, and in every age, from the beginning to the end of the world. Moreover, my beloved brethren, this knowledge in the Deity, is not a modern discovery of yesterday, but is as unoriginated and eternal his own existence. The
Deity foreknows, with infallible certainty, which of you, my dear hearers, will finally perish, and which of you will be eternally saved. The final issue of life may, indeed, appear to be doubtful to short-sighted creatures like you and me; but with God, the final issue of the life of every human being, is the object of a certain and infallible and eternal anticipation. Moreover, my beloved people, in relation to my feeble ministry, He knows to how many, and to what particular persons, at different times, my ministry will be the savour of life unto life, and to how many it will be the savour of death unto death. He also knows to which of you, my dear hearers, my present ministrations will communicate any real and permanent good, and which of you will sit under my present edifying discourse, without receiving any lasting edification. And, moreover, in relation to those of you, who are at this time the subjects of genuine repentance, and are seeking redemption in the blood of Christ, the Deity most assuredly knows the year, the day, the hour, the precise moment, in which you will obtain the blessing of Divine mercy. He also knows how many useless and unsuccessful efforts, in the mean time, you will make to obtain mercy through Jesus Christ. And, he knows precisely, under what particular circumstances you will ultimately obtain that blessing, whether alone or in company, whether under a sermon, or in the exercise of prayer; and he knows in the mean while, how many sermons you will hear, and how many prayers you will offer to God before you will be ultimately successful. The Deity does most assuredly know, when you shall have obtained the blessing of pardon, whether you will afterwards retain the possession of it faithfully to the end ; or whether you will afterwards be guilty of backsliding from God, and of measuring your wayward steps back again to the world. And, moreover, if he knows you will become a backslider, he also knows whether you will become a final apostate, and whether you will afterwards be restored to
his favour. In your anticipated departure from God, he assuredly knows what crimes you will commit, and to what lengths of iniquity you will proceed, and the exact amount of guilt that you will accumulate, and how many days and months and years, you will continue in your backsliding state. He knows how many times your conscience will reproach you during the time of your apostacy, and how many times you will be admonished by the persons
your souls. He knows but I will pursue the sinuous and deceitful labyrinths of this contemptible doctrine no farther. I will however ask my readers, whether such a mode of public preaching would be any thing like feeding the people with the bread of life? whether it would contain any single particle of religious edification ? and whether it is likely that my congregation would even recognise the features of their own creed? and whether, in spite of their education, and their prejudices, and in defiance of their orthodoxy and their implicit faith, their pious feelings would not rise up with indignation and horror? and whether such an amplification of the doctrine of eternal prescience, would not sound in their ears, like the percussions of impiety, and the loud explosions of the foulest blasphemy?
I demand of the advocates of eternal prescience, what are the motives which this doctrine supplies to the practice of piety and moral virtue? That my eternal destiny is the object of a certain prescience, can be no rational inducement to gratitude ;-it contains nothing that would inspire any filial complacency towards the Divine Being ;-it contains no consolation for the poor and afflicted ;-no hope for the penitent, nor any encouragement for the returning prodigal. It contains no inducement to strive against sin; —nor any to cleave unto that which is good ;-it contains nothing to animate our hopes, and nothing to allay our fears. It offers no motive to sympathy, nor any to the exercise of an active charity. It contains no excitement to emulation; nor any to congratulation and praise. It is like a polar and perpetual winter, where there is neither vegetation or animal life. Every thing you touch is ice, every thing you see is either ice or snow; and nothing but the howlings of an eternal storm salutes your ears.
If ever the world be blest with a perennial spring of