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who might be under the sentence of death.mi he should say in his letter, “I cànnot save the man's life,” you would understand this phrase according to the political standing of the writer in that nation. If he was a man of no authority, you would understand him to mean, that it was not in his power to save the life of your friend, even if he had ever such a desire to do it; but on the contrary, if he was a king clothed with absolute power, you would understand him to mean by the expression, that he could not save his life, consistent with justice and the general good of the commonwealth. Yet the expression would be a common one, and be perfectly proper, because it would be entirely incapable of being misunderstood by any man who knew his standing in the nation. Without the observance of these rules, the Bible can be made to suit the sentiments of a Jew, Mahometan, or Pagan, as well as a Christian ; but, when they are observed, it presents to the reader one straight and narrow path, which shows the wisdom of its author.
Having given these two general rules for understanding scripture, we will now proceed to notice those texts which are brought to prove that every man has a measure of light and saving grace. As to the other two doctrines with which it is connected, viz. that the will has a self-determining power, and that God commands nothing but what man has power to perform ; the reader has seen already that the Bi
ble presents no shadow of proof for them, but expressly declares to the contrary. However, the General Conference have produced four scripture texts, which they think is in favour of this doctrine, “ that every man has a measure of light and saving grace." If they have onderstood these scriptures correctly, the reader must perceive that when they are compared with those we have now quoted, the Bible plainly contradicts itself; consequently, cannot be the word of God. But seeing neither of us are willing to admit this, therefore we will examine each of these scripture texts, and see if we cannot find a true, natural meaning to them, that will not contradict the rest of the word.
The first text is found in John, chap. i. “ He (Christ) is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” It may be easily seen that the inspired writer was here asserting the divinity of Christ : that all things were made by him, &c.; and then says, “ in him was life, and the life was the light of men :” that 'is, in Christ, as God, there was life, as water is in a fountain, or as light is in the sun, from whence it issues forth to animate all orders of living creatures ; " and the life was the light of men :" from this fountain of light proceeds every thing that can be called light, whether it be natural, spiritual, or intellectual. But observe, the Holy Ghost appears to have foreseen that the man of sin (of
whom he afterward tells,) would construe this to be the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, or to be saving light and grace given to every man. Therefore the spirit guided the inspired writer to cut short this erroneous idea, and adds, “ the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;" as the same writer says in another place," he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth.' Then it
be asked, if the wicked do not comprehend or discover this light, how does Christ light every man that cometh into the world ? We answer; as God, who is the author of all light, whether it be moral, natural, or intellectual, he gives to every man that cometh into the world the light of a natural understanding, and a natural conscience; both which are necessary in order to teach man that there is a God, and that he ought to obey him ; and thereby constitute him an accountable creature to his God, liable to be punished for having broken his law.
But this light is very different from that light which God gives unto his people. So the General Conference have said themselves : in page 98, they say, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ." Tbis, say they,
" is the light which no unbelievers have ; they are utter strangers to such enlightening In this we agree with them ; this is the doctrine which protestants term effectual calling, and which God could give to any, or to every person living, if he pleased; and it would produce in them saving repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Besides, this light of a natural understanding, with which Christ enlightens every man, and the light of a natural conscience, which proceeds from it, may both be darkened. So says Christ, “ If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness !!* Again ; "For judgment I am come into this world, that they that see not, might see, and they that see, might be made blind.'t Some of those who see not the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, should be made to see it; and some others, who had much light of a natural understanding, should have their hearts hardened, and their
blindeu. Our Lord teaches the same doctrine after the conclusion of the parable of the talents. He says, one that hath shall be given, -[observe, that hath any, to him shall be given,]—and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even what he hath :” his conscience shall be seared, and his understanding darkened, or all his privileges taken from him. Wesley would have it read, “ He that hath, and improves what he hath ;" but the Lord knows how to make a Bible as well as any can direct him, and if he had meant so, he would have said so,
6. Unto every
† John is. 39.
* Matt. vi. 23.
Matt. xxv. 39.
This parable is the second argument which they bring to prove that every man has the same kind of light and saving grace.
But the parable itself does not say so ; but, on the contrary, after the parable is concluded, Christ teaches us otherwise by an express declaration.
Besides ; parables will never hold good in every particular ; they were never intended to do so; they appear to be only designed for general instruction. Doctrines and precepts are taught in plain words; and parables show how they stand connected the one with the other, so as to illustrate facts. If we were to criticise on them, and (as a Scotch divine ob. served,) try to make them go on all fours, we could make them prove almost any thing we wished. For example ; we can prove, by the parable of the prodigal son, that the Jews never sinned; for so says the parable, “ Lo, these many years
serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment.”
It is evident that one general design of this parable was, to show how hypocrites and ca
Mers would be silenced in the day of judgment, provided they should say that God was unjust, or complain of his dealings towards them. They might say, "Why did you not give me