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It is indeed a sentiment clearly taught in scripture, that God's gracious choice of his people did not proceed on the ground of any moral good, by which they were, in themselves, distinguished from others. But we think it an impeachment of God's infinite perfection to say, that any part of his scheme was adopted without sufficient reasons. What those reasons were, in the case before us, we pretend not to know. These are the secret things which belong unto God. But that he had sufficient reasons is clearly deducible from his attributes, and from those passages of scripture, in which his sovereignty is most highly exalted. When Jesus expressed his acquiesence in discriminating mercy, he evidently hinted at the reasonableness or wisdom of the divine conduct. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." If it seemed good to divine wisdom, there were sufficient reasons for it. So the apostle: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." It was a matter of choice, being ascribed to his will; and the choice made was founded on reasons perfectly satisfactory to his wisdom, so that it was proper, suitable, or as the original word signifies, well pleasing in his sight. The choice, though to us inscrutable, was in his view perfectly reasonable; though sovereign, it was not arbitrary.
is absolutely precluded from it. But this, by no means, belongs to the doctrine, as revealed in scripture, or as stated by its most respectable advocates. It is evident from scripture, that the number of good men at particular times, and indeed through all past ages, is small, in compar ison with those of the opposite character. But according to the opinion of many of the ablest Calvinistic writers, the Bible clearly countenances the idea, that a large majority of the whole family of man will be the subjects of future happiness; and few respectable authors can be found, who advance any thing to the contrary.
Now take away from the doctrine under consideration the frightful notion of Adam's transgression being transferred to his posterity, and their being doomed to perdition for what he did; take away the notion of any person's being put involuntarily under the dire necessity of perishing forever; separate also every idea of any thing arbitrary in the divine purpose, or contracted in divine goodness; divest the doctrine of all these heterogeneous appendages, so adverse to the tenor of the Bible and to the best views of Christians, and present it in the pure light of revelation; and what heaven taught soul will not see its certainty and its beauty? God, in his infinite benevolence, determined to bestow everlasting life on a part of the human family, through the 4. According to the above-mediation of Christ. Their salvamentioned statement, the doc. tion was eternally included in the trine of election implies, that all comprehensive scheme of dionly a small part of the human vine wisdom, Who can object family is destined to salvation, to such a sentiment? In what and that by far the greater part respect is it more incompatible
with the perfection of God, than any of his eternal purposes? If the actual salvation of the saints manifests the infinite excellence of God; how can it be viewed as inconsistent with infinite excel lence, to consider their salvation as divinely predetermined? Among men a fixed design to perform a work of extensive utility is always accounted an honour. The longer such a design is entertained, the greater, it is commonly thought, is the proof of benevolence. How, then, does the grace, which saves sinners, become less honorary to God, by being previously designed? Why is it less valuable, because it was made certain by an immutable divine purpose? Why is it not rather a matter of pious joy, that a good so unspeakably precious, as the salvation of all Christ's people, rests not on fallible causes, but on the unchangeable counsel of God?
But an objection occurs. Such an unchangeable divine purpose is inconsistent with the moralagency, freedom, and accountability of
In the minds of many this objection has great weight, and is indeed the main difficulty. It is the same objection, which was urged by the opposers of Paul, Rom. ix. 19. To enter fully into the consideration of this objection would not be consistent with the design of this number. It is deemed sufficient to offer the following brief remarks. We utterly disclaim the idea, that the purpose of God respecting the salvation of his people is in any degree incompatible with the freedom and moral agency of mankind. That they enjoy as much liberty, and exercise as
much moral agency, as they could upon any other supposition, yea, as much as is really desirable, or even possible, is what we believe and defend. It is abundantly evident, that the scripture always addresses itself to men, as being perfectly free from constraint; as suffering no diminution of their moral agency from the predetermination of God, or from any other cause. Indeed, what is there in the nature of God's purpose, which can be thought to interfere with man's intellectual and moral freedom? Suppose God has chosen men to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. How can this choice be considered, as at variance with the highest degree of moral liberty in those who are chosen? Cannot God execute his purpose, without precluding the voluntary exertion of his creatures? Because God, according to his eternal purpose, sanctifies men, and disposes them to believe the truth, does it necessarily follow, that in the exercise of faith and holiness, they are not free and voluntary? It has, we are sensible, been often asserted with confidence and triumph, that the hypothesis of a divine immutable decree, and of a divine, efficacious influence is not reconcileable with free agency. But, except reiterated, confident assertion, what proof of this has ever been produced? Who has clearly pointed out an unavoidable inconsistency between the most fixed, unalterable purpose of God, and the consummate moral agency of man? Who has given a full and exact description of man's free agency, and of God's
eternal purpose, and then showed in what particular respect, or on what account they cannot consist together? In other words, who has made it clearly appear, that God's having and executing an unchangeable purpose necessarily destroys that, in which man's free agency consists? Till this is fairly and unanswerably done, we shall have a right to treat every statement which implies it, as misrepresentation.
Perhaps the most popular objection of all, against the scripture doctrine of election is, that it would have an unkind and injurious influence upon those who are not elected. This objection has been referred to in previous remarks. But it may be proper to consider it more particularly.
In order to support such a charge of unkindness and injury, it must be proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that God's purpose of election either deprives those who are not elected of advanta; ges to which they are entitled, or exposes them to evils from which they might otherwise be free; or in some way renders their state less favourable, or more dangerous, than it would be, if there were no such divine purpose.— Let us attend briefly to these particulars.
1. Does God's gracious election of some to eternal life deprive others of any advantages, to which they are entitled? To say that transgressors of God's law are entitled to any advantages whatever, is a virtual impeachment of that law. What astonishing ingratitude, then, would it be for sinners under the dispensation of God's mercy, to overlook the undeserved blessings, which his goodness has bestow
ed, and presume to claim others, which his justice has withheld. Let it not be forgotten, that God's determination to save his people, instead of depriving others of privileges to which they are entitled, is the occasion of their enjoying ten thousand privileges, to which they have no title, and which they would not otherwise enjoy. The work of God's saving grace brings numberless blessings upon mankind at large. It has occasioned a suspension of their merited punishment, and introduced a dispensation of di vine forbearance, compassion, and proffered forgiveness.
2. Does God's purpose of mercy toward his people expose others to any evils, from which they would otherwise be free? If any one affirms this, let him show what those evils are, and how God's gracious purpose introduces them? To set aside the purpose of God, respecting the salvation of his people, would be, in effect, to set aside the work of redemption. For it is prepos terous to suppose that God would give his Son to redeem the world, unless it were his unalterable purpose to bestow salvation on
Now without the work of redemption, what would be the condition of sinners? From what evils would they be free, to which they are rendered obnoxious by the election of a part to salvation? How does the purpose of election render their state in any view less favourable or more perilous, than it would be, if there were no such purpose? What providential benefit, what overture of grace does it prevent? What alteration will it make in the proceedings of the judgment day? In the
retributions of eternity, the question will not be, what was the divine purpose concerning others, or concerning them; but what was their character and conduct? If God treats them according to the perfect rule of righteousness, what reason will they have for complaint? The truth is, God's electing love is not, in the least imaginable de. gree, unfriendly or injurious to them, while it is the source of everlasting advantage to others. It must, therefore, be a great good, except in the eye of envy and malignity.
It is said by many, that the doctrine of the decrees, even supposing it to be true, cannot be of any imaginable importance; because, according to the views of its ablest advocates, it has no in fluence upon the conduct or condition of men. It is granted, that men act without any kind of constraint or influence from the divine purpose, and that the doctrine, which affirms that purpose to be of no consequence, as being the rule of human conduct is correct. The chief importance of the doctrine is its inseparable connexion with the divine character. It must, we apprehend, be implied in every rational and scriptural view of infinite perfection. Nor should we think the denial of it worthy of so much notice, did we not think such denial a dishonoura ble reflection upon the eternal glory of Jehovah. It must, how ever, be added, that although the doctrine of election is not the rule of human action, it is capa ble of being used to the most important purposes. The view, which this doctrine gives of God, is of peculiar efficacy to promote
humility, and reverence, and eve», ry thing which belongs to rational devotion. It is calculated to unveil and mortify the pride of sinners, and to expose the delu sion of hypocrites. It gives animation and hope to the saints in times of great defection and impiety, and excites them to all diligence in the work of religion.
Having attended to some mis representations of this doctrine, I shall add a few remarks on the manner, in which men frequently attempt to invalidate the arguments commonly deduced from scripture in its favour.
When passages are quoted, in which it is expressly asserted, that God has given a people to Christ and that all, who are thu given to him, shall come to him and be saved; that God chose them in Christ before the world was; chose them to salvation through sanctifi, cation of the Spirit and belief of the truth; that he predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son, 'c,; the common method which men employ to suppress the plain, obvious mean ing of such passages is this; they cannot mean that any particular persons are chosen to salvation by an absolute, unchangeable decree; because if that were the case, others could not reasonably be accused of not coming to Christ; for, upon such a suppo sition, only they, whom God had chosen, could believe, and it could not be imputed to others, as their crime, that they do not or will not believe. Thus the invitations of the gospel to sinners, it is said, would be nullified, and the future punishment of unbelievers would appear unjust. It is added that, upon supposition
of an absolute decree, the scriptures, which warn those, who are chosen of God, and represent their salvation, as depending on their repentance and persevering holiness, would have no force or propriety.
The substance of this reason, ing has already been attended to. The following remarks are here thought sufficient.
In the first place, in such reasoning it is taken for granted, that the divine purpose in fayour of a part infringes the moral freedom, and diminishes the advantages of others, and renders the inviting language of the gospel unmeaning and absurd. But of this, we repeat it, there is no proof, but positive assertion. To those, who most strenuously support the gracious doctrine of election, it is a principle obviously just and important, that the divine election of some operates as no injury or unkindness to others, no diminution of their freedom, no abridgment of their advantages, and no hindrance to the sincerest offers and most gracious invitations of the gospel. Again; such reasoning takes it for granted, that on supposition of a divine decree, it would not be necessary that persons, designated for heaven, should possess the requisite qualifica tions, or make any exertions in order to obtain salvation, that it would be safe for them to neglect the means of final blessedness, and that it would be unsuitable to treat them, as rational, voluntary agents. I shall only say that the advocates of the decree of election maintain, that those, who are the objects of that decree, must possess the requisite qualificar tions for heaven; that they can
no more obtain salvation with out a compliance with the conditions divinely prescribed, than upon supposition there is no decree; and that they are in every respect and to the highest degree the subjects of free or voluntary agency. To adduce the evidence of all this is not my present design. The candid and
devout inquirer will easily find that evidence in the scriptures, and in authors, who reason correctly on scripture principles; at the same time he will find that those, who assert the contrary, are content to assert without -proof.
I close with a remark on the infelicity of those, who suffer their minds to dwell continually on the difficulties which attend gospel doctrines, to the neglect of the arguments in their favour. There is no Christian truth, which is not attended with difficulties sufficient to preclude the exercise of faith, and occasion great perplexity in those, who are inattentive to direct evidence. This is true even with respect to the existence of an infinitely perfect God. The habit of musing disproportionably on the difficulties, which attend that primary truth, has been the source of uncomfortable doubt, of daring impiety, and the most obstinate atheism. But while the Christian believer candidly admits that there are objections against the doctrine of a God, which he is not able completely to answer, he finds the evidence of the doctrine perfectly satisfactory, and believes and knows it to be certainly true. It is so with respect
* John xvii. 3, and many similar passages.