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Grace and Provideuce, in order to exalt absolute Free Will, that we assert, Not one good work would ever be begun, continued, or ended, if Divine Grace within us, and Divine Providence without us, did not animate our souls, support our bodies, help our infirmities, and (to use the language of our church) “ prevent, accompauy, and follow us" through the whole. And yet, in all moral, and in many natural actions, we are as free from the laws of Calvinian Necessity, as from those of the Great Mogul.
6. With regard to the families and kingdoms of this world, we assert, that God's Providence either baffles, controls, or sets bounds to the bad designs of the wicked; while it has the principal hand in succeeding the good designs of the righteous as often as they have any success: "For, except the Lord keep the city,' as well as the watchman, the watchman waketh but in vain.' And with respect to the course of nature, we believe that it is ordered by his unerring counsel. With a view to maintain order in the uaiverse, his providential Wisdom made admirable laws of attraction, repulsion, generation, fermentation, vegetation, and dissolution. And his providential Power and Watchfulness are, though without either labour or anxiety, continually engaged in conducting all things according to those laws; except, when, on proper occasions, he suspends the influence of his own natural decrees; and then fire may cease to buru ;-iron to sink in water ;-and hungry lions to devour their helpless prey. Nay, at the beck of Omnipotence, a widow's cruse of oil, and barrel of meal, shall be filled without the help of the olive-tree, and the formality of a growing harvest;-a dry rod shall suddenly blossom, and a green fig-tree shall instantly be dried up ;garments in daily use shall not wear out in forty years; -a prophet shall live forty days without food ;-the liquid waves shall afford a solid walk to a believing apostle ;---a fish shall bring back the piece of money which it had swallowed and water shall be turned into wine without the gradual process of vegetation.
If Mr. T. do us the justice to weigh these six observations upon the prodigious work, which God's providence carries on in the moral, spiritual, and natural world, according to our doctrine ; we hope he will no more intimate, that we atheistically deny, or heretically defame that divine attribute.
To conclude : We exactly steer our course between rigid Free Willers, who suppose they are independent on God's Providence; and rigid Bound Willers, who fancy they do nothing but what Fate or God's Providence absolutely binds them to do. We equally detest the error of Epicurus, and that of Mr. Toplady. The former taught, that God took no notice of sin; the latter says, that God, by efficacious permissions and irresistible decrees, absolutely necessitates men to commit it. But we maintain, that, although God never absolutely necessitated his creatures to sin ; yet his Providence is remarkably employed about sin, in all the above-described ways. And if Mr. Toplady will call us defumers of Divine Providence, and Athe. ists, because we dare not represent God, directly or indirectly, as the author of sin; we rejoice in so honourable a reproach, and humbly trust that this, as well as all manner of similar evil, is rashly said of us for righteousness sake.
Some Encouragements for those, who, from a Principle
of Conscience, bear their T'estimony against the Antinomian Doctrine of Calviniun Election, and the barbarous Doctrine of Calvinian Reprobation.
I HUMBLY hope, that I have, in the preceding pages, contended for the Truth of the Gospel, and the Honour of God's Perfections. My conscience bears me witness, that I have endeavoured to do it with the sincerity of a candid inquirer after truth; and I have not, knowingly,
leaped over one material difficulty, which Mr. T. has thrown in the way of the laborious Divine, whose evangelical principles / vindicate. And now, judicious reader, as I have done my part as a detecter of the fallacies by which the modern doctrines of grace are
kept upon their legs,” let me prevail upon thee to do thy part as a judge, and to say if the right leg of Calvinism (i. e., the lawless election of an unscriptural grace) so draws thy admiration as to make thee overlook the deformity of the left leg, i, e., the absurd, unholy, sin-ensuring, hell-procuring, merciless, and unjust reprobation, which Mr. T. has attempted to vindicate. Shall thy Reason, thy Conscience, thy Bible - and (what is more than this) shall all the perfectious of thy God, aud the Veracity of thy Saviour, be sacrificed on the altar of a Reprobation, which none of the Prophets, Apostles, and early Fathers, ever heard of ?-A barbarous Reprobation, which heated Augustine drew from the horrible error of Manichean Necessity, and clothed with some Scripture-expressions detached from the context, and wrested from their original meaning ? -A Pharisaic Reprobation which the Church of Rome took from him, and which some of our Reformers unhappily brought from that corrupted society into the Protestaut churches ?-In a word, a reprobation which disgraces Christianity, when that holy religion is considered as a system of evangelical doctrine, as much as our most enormous crimes disgrace it, when it is considered as a system of pure morality ?--Shall such a system of Reprobation, I say, find a place in thy creed ?-yea, among thy doctrines of Grace!' God forbid!
Dii meliora piis ! erroremque hostibus illum! I hope better things of thy candour, good sense, and piety. If prejudice, human authority, and voluntary humility seduce many good men into a profound reverence for that stupendous dogma, be not carried away by their number, or biassed by their shouts. Remember that all Israel, and good Aaron at their head, danced once'round the golden calf ;-that deluded Solomon was
seen bowing at the shrine of Ashtaroth, the abomination of the Sidonians ;-that all our godly fore-fathers worshipped a consecrated wafer 400 years ago ;-that
all the world wandered after the beast; -and that God's chosen people went whoring after their own inventions, and once sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils' upon the altar of Moloch. Consider this, I say, and take courage: Be not afraid to “ be pilloried in a Preface, flogged at a Pamphlet's tail,” and treated as a kvave, a felon, or a blasphemer, through the whole of the next Vindication of the deified Decrees, which are commonly called Calvinism. This may be thy lot, if thou shouldst dare to bear thy plain testimony against the Antinomian idol of the day.
Nor say, that thou art not in Italy or Portugal; but in a Protestant land, a land of liberty-in England : For thou mightest meet with more mercy from reprobating priests in Popish Naples than in orthodox Geneva. Being some years ago in the former of those cities, among the fine buildings which I viewed, one peculiarly drew my attention. It was a towering monument several stories high, erected by the Jesuits in honour of the Virgin Mary, whose image stood on the top of the elegant structure. But what surprised me most was an Italian inscription, (engraven upon a stone of the monument to this purpose : Pope Benedict the XIVth grants a plenary indulgence to all those who shall honour this holy image; with privilege to deliver one soul out of purgatory, every time they shall pay their respects to this immaculate mother.” While I copied this inscription in my pocket-book, and dropped to my fellow-traveller an innocent irony about the absurdity of this Popish Decree, two or three priests passed by; they smelt out our heresy, looked displeased, but did not insult us. Mr. Wesley took, some years ago, a similar liberty with a literary monument erected in mystic Geneva, to the honour of
* Mr. T. calls them The Decrees of God, and it is an axiom among the Calvinists, that “God's Decrees are God himself."
Absolute Reprobation. He smiled at the severity of Calvinian bigotry; and not without reason, sivce Popish bigotry kindly sends a soul out of purgatory, if you reverence the black image which is pompously called the immaculate Mother of God: Whereas, Calvinian bigotry indirectly sends to Hell all those who shall not bow to the doctrinal image which she calls Divine Sovereignty, upon as good grounds as some ancient devotees called the appetite of Bel (Baal) and the Dragon Divine Voracity. He [Mr. Wesley] added to his smile the publication of an ironical reproof. A gentleman, who serves at the altar of Absolute Repro.. bation, caught him in the fact, and said something about “ transmitting the criminal to Virginia or Maryland,* if not to Tyburn.” But Free Wrath yielded to Free Grace. Calvinian mercy rejoiced over Orthodox judgment. Mr. Wesley is spared. The Vindicator “ of the doctrines of grace," after “rapping his knuckles"_" pillorying him in a Preface"--and “flogging" him again and again in two Pamphlets, and in a huge book, with a tenderness peculiar to the House of Mercy, where Popish Reprobation checks Protestant Heresy ;-the Vindicator of Protestant Reprobation, I say, has let the grey-headed heretic go with this gentle and civil reprimand (p. 10):-“Had I publicly distorted and defamed the decrees of God; [should it not be ?, Had I fairly held out to public view the absurdity of the imaginary decrees preached by Calvin ;]—had I, moreover, advanced so many miles beyond boldness, as to lay those distortions and defamations at the door of another ; [should it not be ?, Had 1, moreover, ironically asserted, that monstrous consequences necessarily flow from monstrous premises ;] bold as I am affirmed to be, I could never have looked up afterwards. I should have thought every miscreant I met an honester man than myself. But Mr. John seems a perfect stranger to these feelings. His Murus aheneus [his brassy hardness] has been too long transferred from his conscience to his forehead. On the whole,
See Mr. Toplady's Letter to Mr. Wesley, p. 6.