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Leaving therefore all difficulties of a metaphysical nature to be cleared up in that world of light
might probably be found at variance with our happiness: and I apprehend, should any man be fully persuaded that God had decreed his eternal happiness; however groundless that persuasion might be, he would find his aversion to the doctrine of election exceedingly abated by it. I have often observed, that some persons, who declaim most vehemently against the Calvinistical doctrine of the divine decrees, seem perfectly reconciled to predestination, when persuaded that God hath eternally decreed the salvation of all men! On the other hand, no consciously impenitent sinner is cordially reconciled to the general declarations of Scripture, concerning the everlasting misery of all impenitent sinners, whatever he may think about personal election.
In fact the grand difficulty in the whole of the divine conduct equally embarrasses every system of Christianity; and every scheme of Deism, except men deny that God is the Creator and Governor of the world. For wickedness and misery actually exist and abound: the fact is undeniable: the almighty God could have prevented this; and we should have thought that infinite love would have preserved the creation from all evils of every description. Yet infinite Wisdom saw good to permit them to enter, and amazingly to prevail! Till this difficulty be completely solved, let none object to truths, plainly revealed in Scripture, on account of similar difficulties. But let us remember, that our narrow capacities and scanty information do not qualify us to judge, concerning what it becomes the infinite God to determine and to do: and let us adopt the language of the apostle on this subject; "O the depth of the "riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how "unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding "out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who "hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him,
and knowledge, I began to consider the abuses of this doctrine, which I had always looked upon as a very formidable objection against it. But I soon discovered, that though ungodly men, who make profession of religion, will turn the grace of God into licentiousness; yet we might so explain and guard these doctrines, that none could thus abuse them, without being conscious of it, and so detecting their own hypocrisy. It still indeed appeared probable to me, that the preaching of them might at first occasion some trouble of mind to a few well-disposed persons: but I considered, that by a cautious declaration, and contrasting them with the general promises of the gospel to all who believe, this might in great measure be prevented; at the worst, a little personal conversation with such persons, would seldom, if ever, fail to satisfy them, and enable them in general to derive encouragement from them: while the unsettling of the minds of such persons, as are carelessly living in an unconverted state, is the great end of all our preaching to them; and
" and through him, and to him are all things: to whom be glory "for ever. Amen!" (Rom. xi. 33-36.)
As for the objections made to these deines, as inconsistent with free agency, accountableness, commands, invitations, calls to repentance, faith and holiness, and diligence in the use of being means; they universally and altogether arise from misrepresentation and misapprehension of the subject. (See the Author's Sermon on Election and Final Perseverance, &c.) 5th Ed.
therefore we need not fear any bad effect of this doctrine in that respect. The great question therefore was, Are these doctrines in the Bible or not? Hitherto I had wilfully passed over and neglected, or endeavoured to put some other construction upon, all those parts of Scripture which directly speak of them: but now I began to consider, meditate, and pray over, them; and I soon found that I could not support my former interpretations. They would teach predestination, election, and final perseverance, in spite of all my twisting and expounding. It also occurred to me, that these doctrines, though now in disgrace, were universally believed and maintained by our venerable reformers; that they were admitted, at the beginning of the reformation, into the creeds, catechisms, or articles of every one of the Protestant churches; that our articles and homilies expressly maintained them: and consequently, that a vast number of wise and sober-minded men, who in their days were burning and shining lights, had, upon mature deliberation, agreed, not only that they were true, but that they ought to be admitted as useful, or even as necessary articles of faith, by every one who deemed himself called to take upon him the office of a christian minister.
In the course of this enquiry I perceived that my system was incomplete without them. I believed, that men, by nature born in sin, the children of wrath, and by wicked works the enemies
of God, being in themselves ungodly and without strength; were saved of free mercy and grace, without having done any thing, more or less, to deserve it, through the Redeemer's righteousness and atonement, received by faith, the gift and operation of God; as born again, born of God, or new created unto good works and to the divine image, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It now, therefore, occurred to me to enquire, from what source these precious blessings, thus freely flowing through the channel of redemption, to poor worthless sinners, could originally spring? and thus my mind, was carried back from the consideration of the effects, to that of the cause; and from the promises made to fallen man, to the counsels and purposes of God which induced him to give those promises. I was engaged in frequent meditations on the divine omniscience, unchangeableness, and eternity; and the end which the all-sufficient God had in view in all his works, even the manifestation of the glory of his own perfections; and I perceived, that redemption, itself, as planned by God, to whom were "known "all his works from the beginning of the world,” must be the result of his eternal purpose of displaying the glory of his mercy and grace, in harmonious consistency with his most awful justice and holiness; and thus manifesting the inexhaustible resources of his manifold wisdom, in glorifying at once all these attributes, which,
considered as perfect, seem to created understanding irreconcilable to each other. I considered, that, until the fall of man and his redemption had manifested the attribute of mercy to sinners, it had, as far as we can learn, been unexercised and undisplayed, and consequently unknown to any but God himself, from all eternity; nor could he have the glory of it, but must have been considered as so perfect in justice and holiness as to be incapable of mercy, had he not chosen some objects on whom to exercise it, and devised some method of displaying it in consistency with his other perfections. Thus I perceived redemption to be the effect of a settled design, formed in God's eternal counsels, of manifesting himself to his reasonable creatures, complete and full orbed in all conceivable perfections. But as all have transgressed the divine law, and as none are disposed of themselves to embrace his humbling and holy salvation, or even to enquire after it: so I was convinced that the merciful and gracious nature of God, the Fountain of goodness, alone moved him to choose any of them as objects of his favourable regard: that his unconstrained will and pleasure are the only assignable causes of his choosing one rather than another: and that in fact the whole work was his own; his wisdom having devised the means; his love and all-sufficiency having in the person, offices, and work of Christ made all things ready; his providence directing