« PreviousContinue »
duct of JEHOVAH in casting the wicked into hell reconcilable with the attributes of justice and mercy?' If it is, then the decree, that he would do so, cannot be irreconcilable with them.
It is highly to be desired that they who engage in religious controversy would reverently avoid all language, which even seems to impeach the conduct of God, on the supposition that their own tenets are not true. The words here quoted are indeed inoffensive, compared with many things in writers on each side of this argument; yet even this question implies more than ought to be hinted, or even allowed in our thoughts. Are we so completely infallible as to be authorized to speak a word implying that, if we be mistaken, God is not just, or faithful, or merciful? On this subject, no tongue can express the irreverence, nay, the blasphemy, which has been uttered, by eager disputers. I am concious that I have no need, nor inclination, to adopt any argument of this kind: but, should I drop one word implying, by fair construction, such a connexion between my sentiments and the honour of the divine perfections, that if the former are erroneous this is exposed to impeachment, or even doubt; I will promise before God, publicly, with shame, to retract it when pointed out to me. Whether Calvinism be true or false, God is infinitely wise, righteous, holy, faithful, good, merciful; worthy of all reverence, adoration, love, confidence, honour and obedience, from all rational creatures to all eternity.—It would indeed be a blessed effect of this publication, if it should render Calvinists, as well as their opponents, more reverently cautious what words they use in the
warmth of controversy, when, on any account, the glory of God in his dispensations or decrees is even remotely concerned. "Let God be true, "and every man a liar." Angels adore the divine perfections, in those very events which erring presumptuous mortals arraign and expressions often occur in the writings even of pious persons, which a dutiful son, or a loyal subject, would on no account or supposition whatever use concerning his father or his prince.
The same observations will apply to the follow'ing passage in the Epistle to St. Jude: "There ' are certain men crept in unawares, who were 'before of old ordained to this condemnation ; ungodly men, turning the grace of our God ' into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord 'God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." We are not 'to infer from hence that God, by an ordinance, causes these men to be thus ungodly; but that 'he ordained that those, who he foresaw would be 'guilty of such practices, should suffer a severe 'condemnation.' 2
God did not, by an ordinance, cause these men 'to be ungodly.' This he never does: for that would make God the author of sin: but he both ordained, that men guilty of such practices 'should suffer a severe condemnation ;' and, foreseeing that these men, if left to themselves, would be guilty of them, he determined so to leave them. Thus they were "of old ordained 3 to this con"demnation :" the appointment did not make
1 Jude 4.
* Προγεγραμμένοι, "Written beforehand." See Rom. xv. 4.
them, or force them to be, ungodly; but it left them to the tendency of their own corrupt passions, and to the consequences of their atrocious crimes, without any special divine interposition to counteract or prevent them.
"God's "own purpose, before the world began," 'means his eternal purpose, springing from his ' own essential goodness and mercy, to offer sal'vation to mankind through Christ. "Who hath 'saved us," that is, us Christians: by which and ' other similar expressions, as has been before observed, we are not to understand, that all who embrace the gospel are actually saved, or absolutely certain of salvation; but that all Christians "are supplied with the means of salvation, through ' that grace which is given them.'1
The apostle does not say, 'to offer salvation to 'mankind:' but "he has saved us," (even me Paul, and thee Timothy,) " and called us with "a holy calling, not according to our works, but
according to his own purpose and grace, "which was given us before the world began.' 2 There is nothing about offer nor about mankind in the passage; it relates wholly to the apostle and Timothy, or, on the largest construction, to their fellow Christians along with them. By such convenient alterations and additions it would be very easy to new model the whole Bible; and every man might make it speak the language of his own preconceived sentiments. The meaning of the passage may well be left to the reader's determination: but the custom of substituting other propositions, in the place of those made by
2 2 Tim. i. 9.
the sacred writers, must not pass unnoticed Truth does not require such management. The Jews, and the unbelieving gentiles to whom the apostles preached, were supplied with the 'means of salvation,' and so are all nominal Christians. In what then does the difference between true believers and others consist, as to their obligation to divine mercy, if they have nothing except in common with unbelievers who are favoured with the means of grace?-I confess that I do not understand the concluding words, 'through 'that grace which is given to them.' Are outward advantages exclusively meant, or is some internal influence intended? Outward advantages are indeed grace given to us,' because an unmerited favour; and they are means of salvation : but internal influence, however distinguished, is, I believe, never called means of grace, or means of salvation, either in the scripture or by approved theologians.
'It appears, that elect and reprobate persons, in 'the Calvinistic sense, are not even known in the Old or New Testament.'1
That nothing is said of reprobation or reprobate, (as far as the words are concerned,) in the sense put on them by some Calvinists, has been allowed: and the reader must judge for himself, how far the assertion concerning the elect and election is well grounded. If any one be disposed to think that nothing even plausible can be adduced from scripture, in support of the system commonly called Calvinistic; I only intreat him to read again, without comment, but with atten1 1 Ref. 244.
tion and prayer, and at one time, as in connexion, the latter part of the eighth chapter of Romans and the ninth; at another time, the eleventh chapter of the same epistle; and at another, the first two chapters of the epistle to the Ephesians : and then, if he do not deduce an opposite conclusion, let him, if he can, retire from the investigation, affirming without hesitation, that there is nothing in scripture, which can give pious persons any ground to maintain the reprobated doctrine of personal election. The passages referred to, and many others, seem to me, of themselves most decidedly to speak our language. We can express our meaning in the apostle's words, without addition or alteration: and frequent quotations from them in a sermon, without some attempt to explain away their obvious meaning, would suffice in most congregations to subject the preacher to the charge of being a Calvinist. This experiment any minister may make if he chooses; and there is no room to doubt the event of it. On the contrary, when our conclusions are rejected and opposed, the whole effort of learning, and argument, and management, is requisite to put another meaning on these scriptures: and, in respect of preaching, they are generally kept out of sight; or, if adduced, much ingenuity and pains must be taken to ward off the unfavourable impression.Were I disposed to engage in a controversial discussion of the subject, very many texts might be adduced in support of our doctrines, besides those which have been here particularly considered. But enough has been said for my purpose. would desire to be considered rather as an apolo