« AnteriorContinuar »
irregular and uncertain, in forming new subjects for the spiritual kingdom; than in producing new creatures in the natural kingdom ; hence the frequent allusions to the operations of nature, in describing the agency of grace.
Any operation, that is properly called miraculous, or supernatural, does not receive that designation, merely because the divine agency was employed in producing the subject; but because the production, is either contrary to the established laws of nature, or far above their limited efficacy, or, lastly, because the effect was produced, without the use of ordinary means. The same divine power, which, by the ordinary operations of nature, brings into existence human beings, endued with an immortal and rational soul; could also create them out of the dust, or restore to life the dead in the tombs.
Though the same power be necessarily exerted in all these cases, yet the formation of human beings, in the ordinary course of nature, is never called miraculous ; because it is performed, by the use of ordinary means, acting according to the established laws of nature. For the same reason, the conversion of sinners, by the instrumentality of means, equally regular and efficacious, cannot be called miraculous. The same divine power, which gives efficacy to the established means of a natural production, also gives efficacy to the appointed means of regeneration; and natural causes are not more regular, or uniform in their operations, in the material world, than the means of conversion in the kingdom of grace. Supernatural agency may be employed in both natural and moral productions. The birth of Isaac, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, was the effect of supernatural power; so also was the conversion of Paul : but this subject respects the ordinary and regular operations of appointed means. Now, it is evident, that the divine power is no less necessary, for bringing into existence human creatures, than for converting obstinate sinners, and that this power operates, in both cases, in a regular manner, by the instrumentality of established means. We have therefore no more reason to expect a supernatural agency, in the production of faith, or of the new creature, than in the ordinary birth of a child, or in its progress to manhood.
The Scriptures uniformly assert, that the efficacy of both natural and spiritual means, depends on the divine agency. “ So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase.” i Cor. iii. 7. “ God causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth. Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen watcheth but in vain." In conformity to these established principles, our Saviour taught his disciples; that their heavenly Father feeds the fowls of the air, and clothes the grass of the field with beauty. Matt. vi. 26, 30. And in his reasoning with the unbelieving Jews, he said: 66 that no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." John vi. 44. To come to him, evidently means, believing in him, as the promised Messias. The text refers to verse 30. 6. They said unto him, what sign shewest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? what dost thou work ?” Their prejudices prevented them from understanding the Saviour's reply, and they murmured at what he said. This occasioned him to observe; that if they were not convinced by the testimony of his Father, concerning him, and by the miracles with which the Father sealed his mission, ver. 27, they must remain in their unbelief, and perish. “For no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, by these means, draw him.” In Hosea xi. 3, 4: God said, “ I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; and I drew them with cords of a man, and with bonds of love." In Henry's exposition of the passage, it is observed ; " that, in the wilderness, God led them by the pillar of cloud and fire, and shewed them the way in which they should go. He taught them to go in the way of his commandments, by the institu
tions' of the ceremonial law, which were as teachers and governors to that people under age. He brought them into his service, by mild and gentle methods; he drew them with the cords of a man, and the bonds of love. He dealt with them as men, in an equitable and rational way. He did not draw them with force into his service, nor rule them with rigour, or detain them by violence. Thus God deals with us, and we must deal, in like manner, with those that are under our instruction and government ; deal rationally, and deal mildly with them.”
Conformable to this sense of the term to draw, the Saviour explains his own words in the next verse, John vi. 45. “ It is written in the prophets ; and they shall be all taught of God; every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.'
It is said, “ By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves ; it is the gift of God.” But by observing the construction of the original, it is evident, that “the gift of God” does not refer to faith, but to our salvation by grace. Besides, faith is the gift of God, in the same sense that every faculty, every mercy, every mean of grace, and every attainment, may be called his gift.
When the Saviour complained of the Jews; saying ye will not come to me, that ye might have life;" he shews, that dislike to his character and doctrine, and not want of capacity, was the cause of their unbelief. Their prejudices shut up their mind, from seeing the truth ; and they avoided the means of conviction. The apostles were commissioned, “ to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.” Mark xvi. 15, 16. Now, to suppose, that no man can believe, more than he can create the world, and that God withholds the necessary power from reprobates; but gives this commission, in order to render them inexcusable, and to increase their condemnation ; is an opinion incompatible with the divine perfections, and even approaching to blasphemy.
The benevolent Saviour, in his address to the unbelieving inhabitants of Capernaum, observed : “ if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” This evidently implies, that the means which were employed for the conversion of these people, would have saved other nations, who were less hardened and corrupted. Did the compassionate Redeemer earnestly preach the gospel to these sinners, and withhold the power to believe, in order to aggravate their guilt, and render their condemnation more dreadful ? Why did he condemn the Pharisees for not believing, and commend the faith of publicans, if, by an exertion of irresistible power, he converted the one, and withheld the necessary aid from the other ?
It will be replied to this question; "that the power was lost in Adam; and God has the same right to demand, what we are not now able to perform, that a creditor has to require payment from a bankrupt.” Had this supposed loss of power been the reprobate's personal deed, he might have been punished for that fault; but after it was gone, he could not justly be condemned for not performing impossibilities,
Suppose that an unfortunate subject had lost his hand, by a deed of his father, prior to his birth, and granting, that his sovereign had a legal right to service, from this maimed son; would any king, worthy of a throne, condemn him to death, for not employing, in his service, a member which he never possessed? Is it safe to ascribe a conduct to our heavenly Father, which would stain, with indelible ignominy, an earthly sovereign ?
The devils in hell were once possessed of spiritual life, and endued with personal ability, to perform whatever was necessary to secure their eternal
salvation. If God has rendered it impossible for reprobates to be saved, by withholding all personal ability to believe ; then their case is unspeakably worse, than that of the angels who fell. Had those, who are predestinated to eternal misery, like the infernal spirits, been allowed to remain under the guilt of their original apostasy, their condition would not be so very intolerable ; but, according to this opinion, they are tantalized with an offer of mercy, which was never intended to be given, and punished for not coming to the Saviour, while destitute of all power of motion.
These principles are not more shocking to common sense, than contrary to the general tenor of the Scriptures. In the parable of the talents, we are taught, that unbelievers are condemned, for hiding their talents, in a napkin : that is, for not improving the powers, and means of grace, which they possess. The apostles vindicated the justice of God, in the condemnation of unbelievers, that every mouth may be stopped, because they are without excuse. God himself condescends to appeal to his rational creation, and asks, What more could be done in his vineyard, than he had done in it ? " And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard, what could have been done more in my vineyard that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes.” Isa. v. 3, 4.
Is it possible to reconcile this plain declaration, with the Calvinistic system ? On some important articles, the native deformity of Calvin's opinions, is veiled under technical terms, and verbose circumlocutions : hence many pious Christians are his fond admirers. I shall select a few of Calvin's notions respecting faith, which are retailed in various forms, by many teachers of Christianity. In his Institutions, it is said ; " that Christ is the only pledge of God's love, without whom, on every side, appear the tokens of hatred and wrath. Now, we shall have a perfect definition of faith, if we say, that it is a stedfast and assured knowledge of God's kindness towards us, which being grounded upon the truth of the free promise in Christ, is both revealed to our minds, and sealed in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost.” This remarkable definition of faith, is illustrated by observations still more extraordinary. “When, in defining faith, we call it a knowledge, we mean not thereby a comprehending, such as men use to have of those things, that are subject to man's understanding. For, it is so far above it, that man's wit must go beyond, and surmount itself, to come into it; yea, and when it is come into it, yet doth it not attain that which it feeleth ; but while it is persuaded of that which it conceiveth not, it understandeth more by the very assurance of persuasion, than if he did with man's own capacity, thoroughly perceive any thing familiar to him."
The sentiments which follow, render it certain, that this curious passage means, that faith consists in a supernatural knowledge; for, it is added ; “ Paul's meaning, (Eph. iii. 18.) was to signify, that the thing, which our mind conceived by faith, is every way infinite, and that this kind of knowledge is far higher, than all understanding. But yet the Lord discloseth to his saints, the secret of his will,” &c. The manner in which this knowledge is acquired, is figuratively expressed. “Let this be the sum of all. So soon as any drop of faith, but ever so small, is poured into our hearts, we, by and by, begin to behold the face of God, mild and pleasant, and loving towards us." It is therefore said, that this supernatural knowledge consists, in absolute certainty, that we are the sons of God.
The foundation of evangelical faith lies in the heart, and consists in such a sincere desire to know, and to do the will of God; as induceth us, conscientiously, to use the powers, which are within our reach, for that purpose. This desire arises from a knowledge of God's perfections, as revealed to us through Christ Jesus, and a proper sense of our dependence on, and obligations to him, as our heavenly Father. This knowledge of God determines
the mind, implicitly to believe all that he is pleased to reveal ; and con-, fidently to trust his word, for whatever he condescends to promise.
God hath implanted in every living creature, a strong propensity to propagate its species, and to employ the most proper means, for the preservation of its offspring. In the human race, every family, tribe, and nation, have a desire to increase, and become eminent. In the moral world, this principle operates most powerfully; for every religious sect is zealous, to propagate its principles, and to multiply its members. It was not the operation of this principle, that our Saviour condemned; but the hypocrisy of the Jews, and their criminality, in corrupting those whom they converted to Judaism, when he said : “ Wo unto you, scribes, and pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, you make him, twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” To this strong natural propensity, the religion of Jesus adds the most powerful motives, to excite great activity, in propagating the Christian faith. The means,
which we are directed to employ, are very efficacious. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds ; casting down the imagination of every high thing, that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” As the persevering incubation of a fowl is the natural mean of converting dead matter into a living animal; so the diligent instructions, and persuasions of a Christian, are the spiritual means of converting a dead sinner, into a living saint. " And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." By means of instruction, and persuasive motives, brought from the word of God, the disciples of Jesus are made the means of communicating this life to the ungodly.
If it be objected, that there is no proportion of the power employed, to the effect produced; it may be answered, that the objection is also applicable to the connexion, between the cause and the effect, in nature. The heat of a fowl is not adequate to transform an egg into a living creature. It is, how. ever, the appointed means : and, are the means of grace less adequate, in the spiritual world, than the means of life, in the natural! Both are mighty, through God, to accomplish their appointed ends.
POPERY AND PROTESTANTISM CONTRASTED.
The Papist beli I. That the Pope is the head of the church; the supreme monarch on earth. The doctrine of every Papist is this, “ That the pope, as successor of St. Peter, and heir of the promises made to him, is absolute sovereign over all the churches and kingdoms on earth, their kings, their bishops, their people. And this by a divine right; that he is supreme, unlimited, and unaccountable to all persons on earth."*
The Protestant believes, I. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole head of his church, the supreme monarch on earth and in heaven ; that he alone is the absolute sovereign over all the churches and kingdoms on earth, their kings and people; and this by a divine and indefeasable right; and that he is supreme, unlimitable, and unaccountable to any creature in heaven or on earth. The Protestant likewise believes, that the claim of the pope, or bishop of Rome, to supreme authority, is a proud, impudent, and wicked invasion of the rights, prerogatives, and dignity of the eternal Son of God; and that
* See the Trent Catechism--the Creed of Pope Pius IV. article xxiii.-- Dr. Barrow on the Pope's Supremacy.
Jesus will call the pope, and all his aiders and abettors, to a severe and awful account for such an unjust and wicked usurpation of his crown and dignity." Yet have I set my King on my holy hill in Zion," Psa. ii. 6.
• Head over all things to the Church,” Eph. i. 22. “ The Prince of the kings of the earth," Rev. i. 5. “ He hath put all things under his feet,” Cor.
The Papist believes, II. That the pope is infallible, when he proposes and determines articles of faith, decides controversies, and adjudges what is to be believed and practised by the whole church as necessary to salvation.-See Bellarmine on the Roman Pontiff, book iv. chap. 3, 4, 5, 6. See the Trent Catechism. The supremacy and infallibility of the pope are the two grand pillars of popery: if you demolish these, you undermine the whole system of that corrupt religion.
The Protestant believes, II. That Christ is the only infallible head and prophet of his church, and that the pretensions of the Pope to infallibility, is a most impudent insult on the common sense and understanding of all mankind.
The Papists do not agree where to fix infallibility, whether in the pope alone in the chair, or in a general council, or in both; or in the body of Papists at large. Most Papists, except the French church, seem to place it in the
pope. Who can convince any wise and rational man of this monstrous doctrine of the pope's infallibility! It is strange the Papists know not where to fix it, if they have so much evidence for it as they pretend; and as it is so essential a point of their faith. If Popes are infallible, why have they not exerted themselves, and let the church have the benefit of so great a gift ?
The Papist believes, III. That his pope and church have power and sovereignty over the holy Scriptures.
1. He makes the scriptures entirely dependent on his pope and church—2. The Papists assume to themselves the power of fixing and declaring the canon of scripture-3. They take upon them the right to determine what copy of the holy scriptures is authentic-3. The pope and his doctors, and priests, make themselves the only interpreters of scripture, and that no Protestant has any right to explain the sense of scripture at all-5. The pope, and his clergy, have tried to keep the scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, from the millions of the common people. This is most daring wickedness !-6. After all the injuries they have done to the scriptures in other respect, they add this cruel insult to their dignity, fulness and perfection. They dare proudly to accuse the Scriptures of insufficiency; and impudently pretend to supply their defects by a monstrous load of their own traditions, which they set upon a level with the inspired Scriptures of God. This is a most unpardonable erime; it is an infinite affront to the wisdom, goodness, and majesty of God.
The Protestant believes, III. That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, and the only rule of faith, worship, and obedience, to the whole church of Christ, to the end of the world; and that no man, or any sect of men, have the least right to add, or take away one jot or tittle in points of faith, or rules of worship and practice: and that such is the fulness, perspicuity, and perfection of Scripturc, that it needs no apocryphal books, no written or unwritten traditions, to help it out. The Protestant also believes, that the insolent assertion concerning the insufficiency of the Scriptures, and the necessity of traditions, is an horrid doctrine, destructive of all religion, infinitely injurious to the Scriptures, and most dangerous and ruinous to immortal souls. He believes and knows that the Scripture declares and witnesses to its own sufficiency; and that we are awfully forbidden to add to it any of our own fancies and inventions. “ We must neither add to it or take from it,” Deut. iv. 2. Prox. xxx. 6. “If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues and curses written in the whole Bible," Rev. xxii. 18, 19.