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doctrine, and his manner of arguing in other parts of his writings, induce a belief in my mind, that
predestined murder with our Saviour's own declaration, (John X, 18.), • No one taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself ; I HAVE
POWER TO LAY IT DOWN, AND I HAVE POWER TO TAKE IT AGAIN. Nay, had not those who were gathered together, for to do whatsoever the Lord's • hand and his counsel determined before to be done,' been free and responsible agents, how can we account for the blessed Jesus' praying to his father in their behalf — Father, forgive them,' &c. Besides, it ought not to be overlooked, that scriptural predestination is far from meaning indefectibility of grace' (as many would have us believe) in the individual christian. Even the very texts which are brought forward in support of this meaning, (Ephes. i. 4. 5.) • According as he 'bath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we • should be boly, and without blame before him in love ; having predes. tinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.' &c. when compared with the same apostle's language in another of his epistles, do by no means justify such a meaning. For to the Israelites pertained
the adoption' (Doberce, the very privilege to which St Paul tells his Ephesians they were predestined) and the glory, and the covenants," &c. (Rom. ix. 4.) Yet so far were the Israelites from individually or collectively enjoying an absolute and unconditional election to eternal life, that the same apostle, St Paul, whose words are wrested by so many to their destruction, does explicitly affirm, that it was through the fall of this very people that salvation came unto us. Gentiles;' adding, in words sufficiently decisive of the point at issue-Behold therefore
the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity, but towards thee goodness, IF THOU CONTINUE IN THAT GOODNESS,' (a provision this worse than absurd, if Calvin's unconditional election be the truth), otherwise thou also sbalt be cut of:'-(Rom. xi. 22.) It will, I am aware, be said that St Paul himself has obviated this objection, by affirming, that there was a remnant' (of Israel) according to ibe • election of grace. In like manner will there be a remnant of the Gentile church, when the Son of man cometh ; since, although at this his second coming, it is a matter of doubt expressed by the Son of Man himself, whether he shall find faith upon the earth, (Luke xviii. 8.), it is a matter of certainty,' that the gates of hell shall not prevail, at
he used them, and of course the term ' predestinate,' in a general and unrestricted sense : So that on the apostle's principles, I think we have every ground to believe, that predestination, in the scriptural acceptation, has a reference to, or rather is the same with the elernal purpose,' 'promise,' . covenant of
mercy,' and redemption ;' and, by consequence, is as universally comprehensive as I believe the gracious scheme of redemption to be, that is, universal in the intention, however partial in the execution. Nay, I am ready, on the same apostolical authority to say, that the election' or choosing, so frequently mentioned in the sacred volume, does not necessarily imply an absolute and predetermined exclusion of others from the general blessing to which · election' gives us access; but may and does denote a particular, and even arbitrary preference (for particular reasons and with particular views) of some above others. The distribution of the talents, in our Saviour's parable', and the different degrees of glory to which St Paul refers, when treating of the resurrection of the dead“, are sufficient evidence of the correctness of this opinion;
any period, ' against the christian church-(St Matth. xvi. 18). But who dares say, that such and such individuals are predestinated to be. long to the Gentile remnant? The Scripture is totally silent; and unless it speaks so plain, that · he who runs may read,' our wisdom is to distrust the traditions of men, which have in many instances rendered God's word of none effect. Let him, who thinketh be standeth, take • heed lest he fall.'
! St Matt. xxv. 14-30.
? 1 Cor. xv. 41.
since to every servant was allowed some portion of talent, and to every star some ray of glory. It is be- . sides an opinion daily sanctioned by the common modes of- speech, which admit of our saying ' a choice person,' 'a choice servant,' 'a choice thing * of any kind,' without suggesting the exclusion of other persons,
of other servants, of other things of any kind.
Having thus far premised, I feel it incumbent upon me, though not without a due share of reluctance, to enter into a brief discussion of a doctrine which has been countenanced by so many eminent men, and which has employed the pens
of so many polemical writers, both ancient and modern, lest it should be said, that I had left the young and inexperienced reader to grope his way through this LABYRINTH of controversial divinity, with which the Egyptian, Cretan, Lemnian, and Italian LABYRINTHS of Pliny are, for their intricacy, unworthy of comparison.
I have already insinuated, that in the early ages of christianity, the more reputable modes of the heathen philosophy, especially the Platonic mode, had no small influence with many, in the opinions which they formed of most of the leading doctrines of christianity. In the present instance, it is my firm conviction that heathen philosophy will be found to have biassed the opinions of men; and, that another system, viz. the system of the Stoics, will be discovered to have intruded itself into the æconomy of our redemption, and to have afforded the ground-work of predestination; first, as received in the Latin church, and lastly, as wrought into its present form. Even its fondest modern abettors dare not deny, that there is, to say the least, a visible likeness between the principal tenets of the predestinarian and of the stoic. The stoics placed all events under an absolute decree; which the Latin branch of the sect termed FATE Or DESTINY. Predestinarians build their faith upon such a decree ; with this difference indeed, that in the stoic system, it is the decree which binds the gods, whereas in the predestinarian system, it is God who bindeth men by his decree. Still however it is fatality which ruleth, and to which mortal man is held to be subject; and, in both systems, the decree is equally beyond the reach of his discovery.
Among the writers of the first three centuries, whether Greeks or Latins, whether orthodox or heretical, the doctrine, as now received, holds but an inconsiderable place. The Fathers of these primitive ages were otherwise occupied. They found sufficient employment in combating the errors of blind idolatry, and in fortifying the disciples of Christ against heresy and persecution, to both of which they were daily exposed. To devote either their time or their talents to abstruse speculations, and to the unprofitable work of prying into the deep arcana of unrevealed decrees, was thus com
pletely foreign to their views of christian edification. Even Origen, the most inquisitive, and, in some respects, the most fanciful of his contemporaries, has said little on the subject of the divine decrees, in such remnants of his voluminous writings, as have reached our times; while the little that is to be found seems rather to lean to the
OPPO site side. The doctrine of predestination, therefore, attracted in no respect the particular attention of theologians, until the time of our countryman Pelagius, who flourished towards the end of the fourth century, and whose principles were so inimical to the doctrine of grace, as then received by the christian church, that it roused the attention of Jerom and Augustine, and incited these two great champions of the faith to search more narrowly into a matter which had, for the first time, assumed an important aspect. Thus it was in the management of the Pelagian controversy, that the word • PREDESTINATION seems to have been slipped in, to guard against the extravagant LIBERTY which the Pelagians impiously asserted; in corroboration of which opinion, we find a contemporary writer, Tiro Prosper, affirming in his Chronicon, that the new heresy of the predestinarians had arisen from misunderstanding Augustine's books. At the same time, the rigours which appeared in Jerom's and Augustine's system of argumentation having been discovered, were attempted to be moderated by the monk Cassian, a disciple of St Chrysostom ; who, in his book · Of Conferences,' and upon this very