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PREFATORY ADDRESS

TO THE

DIVINITY STUDENTS OF TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.

GENTLEMEN, From the moment I was appointed to direct and assist your theological studies, as it was my duty, so I trust it has been my anxious wish, and my constant endeavour, to lay before you the truths of revelation, as they appeared to me to be expressly declared, or clearly deducible from the sacred Scriptures, without any attempt to change or to conceal them. This I can truly declare has been my object, in every effort I made to illustrate the evidence, or expound the doctrines of Holy Writ, whether from the press, the college pulpit, or the professor's chair. I am, however, aware, and I have been led to the declaration which I have now made, by my being aware that I cannot hope for the same universal concurrence in opinion with me, in all those sentiments and doctrines I may have laid before you in my public discourses, and in my expositions of Scripture as professor, as on those subjects which I have hitherto discussed in my printed works. In defending the truth of the Pentateuch, and the character of the apostles against the Deist, and the doctrine of the Trinity against the Socinian, I have no doubt every serious and well-informed student has concurred in the principles I inculcated, and the general course of argument which I employed. But I have also felt it my duty to deliver my opinion on other topics, as to which serious and pious Christians have been long divided, and which, at this hour, are perhaps as much as at any preceding period, the subjects of doubts and controversies. I allude to the doctrine of absolute predestination, and those other tenets necessarily included in, or connected with it --unconditional or personal election and reprobation, invincible grace, and indefectible perseverance in the elect.

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It is my purpose now to state to you my reasons for entering into this controversy, to mark the extent to which I could wish to pursue it, and the temper in which I am anxious to conduct it.

Averse both by disposition and habit from the contradiction and asperity too often excited by theological disputation, I have been led to engage in the discussion pursued in the following pages reluctantly, and I may almost say unintentionally.

I had attempted, in two or three sermons from the college pulpit, to bring forward, and illustrate, some passages of Scripture, which appeared to me to unite, and to establish the great practical truths insisted on by the opponents in this perplexing controversy, and to set aside, and discredit the mistaken and irreconcilable dogmas into which each appeared to me to be betrayed by the violence and heat of opposition. My first attempt of this nature (if I recollect right) was on the celebrated text, Phil. ii. 12, 13.—“ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you, to will and do of his good pleasure ;"* a direction which, while it inculcates active exertion, and vigilant self-government on our part, as necessary to our religious improvement—(a truth strenuously contended for by the opposers of unconditional election) —at the same time exposes the impiety and presumption of depending on our own unassisted strength, or hoping for success without the divine aid, and impresses the consequent duty of earnestly imploring, and humbly relying on the divine grace, as indispensable to our reception of the Gospel here, and to our final salvation hereafter—the most important practical truth which the advocates for predestination are anxious to enforce. But to this plan of selecting and combining the truths avowed by opposite sides, rather than dwelling on the errors of either, I found it impossible to adhere. I immediately received several anonymous letters, evidently from young men pursuing their theological studies in this seminary, accusing me of ignorance and error, of a perversion of scriptural truth, and a deviation from evangelical doctrine. I found also that the same censure † had

* Vide 8th Discourse.

+ The censure alluded to is contained in the following passage of Mr. Scott's Life, by his son, the Rev. John Scott, p. 419 of the 5th Edition : April 7th, 1808. “ I have got Graves's Lectures on the Pentateuch ; and, as far as I have read, am much pleased. I find original remarks, and this is what I want. But I

been pronounced against me, by the Rev. Mr. Scott, an authority which I knew would carry with it great weight, amongst some young men of pious and serious character; by whom to be thus misunderstood, would not only be most painful to myself as an individual, but most injurious to my usefulness as a public religious instructor. Thus circumstanced, it became indispensably necessary for me to proceed farther than I had originally intended, and to declare candidly what were the opinions I condemned, as well as to mark clearly the line of distinction between these errors, and the vital truths of the Gospel, which I was determined to defend, and to shew these truths had no necessary connexion with those errors that I condemned, but might be steadily and consistently maintained, though the predestinarian scheme was discredited and renounced. This necessarily led to an extensive view of the moral attributes and government of God, as they are developed in the Scriptures, not merely by isolated texts, or subtle deductions, but by express declarations, by a variety of facts and characters occurring in sacred history, which appear to display the divine attributes in such a light, and to exhibit the divine dispensations so conducted, as directly to affirm, or clearly pre-suppose and imply the free agency* of man, the contin

AM SORRY TO PERCEIVE HIM

80 UNACQUAINTED WITH EVANGELICAL TRUTH.”The kindness mixed with this censure I feel would give the latter more credibility and weight.

* I would not be understood to use this expression, the “ free agency of man,” in the sense of those who mean to deny the necessity of spiritual influences in spiritual things. I do not use it of the natural or carnal man, for I cannot help feeling with the apostle, “ that the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be.” Rom. viii. 7.--" and that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." Rom. vii. 18.-I use it of man assisted by divine grace, and in agreement with the 10th article, that “ without it we have no power to do good works.” But it seems to me, that to prove GoD VOUCHSAFES DIVINE GRACE TO ALL TO WHOM IS PROMULGATED HIS REVEALED WILL, IT IS SUFFICIENT to show, THAT IN SUCH REVELATION HE COMMANDS AN OBEDIENCE REQUIRING SUCH DIVINE ASSISTANCES. For it is inconsistent with all he teaches us of his attributes, to suppose that he would command what could not be performed, or rather withhold the means of performing what he commands. Nor can I agree to the doctrine that would impute to that Deity who punished Pharaoh for demanding “ the same tale of bricks while he withheld the straw,” a system of moral government which would be equally inconsistent with bis mercy and justice, Whenever this revealed will is then promulgated, I would assert, that this power is communicated, in different degrees indeed, as God sees fit to deal out the measure of his grace ; BUT TO ALL, WHAT IF USED WOULD LEAD TO FURTHER GRACE AND ULTIMATE SALVATION, AND IF NEGLECTED, SHALL RISE UP IN WITNESS, AND CONDEMN THE DESPISERS OF GOD's HOJ.Y WILL. This opinion seems to me plainly set forth in many passages of Scripture, such as, “ Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. x. 17.--for « How then shall they call on him in

*

gency of human actions, and the conditionality of the divine decrees, and thus discredit the scheme of absolute predestination.

It also became requisite to illustrate the indispensable necessity of divine grace, as well at the commencement, as at every subsequent step of our religious progress; and the certain attainableness of that heavenly aid, by every Christian who sincerely implores, and is anxious carefully to improve it.

It became also necessary to discuss the doctrine of election, # as described in the Scripture-to examine the scheme of the fall and redemption of man, $ as traced in the sacred records and to vindicate the opinions I maintain from an objection, || which I know has much weight with many serious and pious minds--that they are hostile to the cultivation of Christian humility in the soul.

It seemed to me, that the nature of these topics, as well as my object in discussing them, demanded a direct exposition of scriptural truths, and of the facts and the arguments by which they are confirmed and illustrated, rather than a mere controversial statement of conflicting opinions, and a minute discussion of objections with their distinct refutations. It would

66

: Woe

whom they have not believed ; and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a preacher ;" therefore“ it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” Again“ Receive with meekness the ingrasted word, which is able to save your souls.” (i. 21.) “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim. iii. 16.) Therefore it is compared to seed, in the parable of the sower, which may meet with different kinds of hearers; but in those that “ keep it, and bring forth fruits with patience," " it is not to return void, but will accomplish the end for which it was sent forth, even like the dew from heaven, watering and refreshing their souls." Therefore, all those that have heard the Gospel, are represented as incurring such awful responsibility. “ Take heed how ye hear;" “ be doers of the word, not hearers only.” (James, i. 22.) “ And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man,” &c. (Matt. vii. 27.) unto thee Chorazin, and woe unto thee Bethsaida.” (Matt. xi. 21.) All these passages imply, that on the mere hearing of the word power is received, and therefore a responsibility incurred, according to which men will be judged. Nur, in admitting the free agency of man, thus enlightened by the word, and assisted by the grace of God, do I seem to myself either to deny the moral inability of the natural man, or to derogate from the glory of divine grace, which alone infuses into us this new power. Before God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he was only senseless clay. Yet to assert, that afterwards he acted, and spoke, and heard, by powers inherent in himself, would not be to deny that to God belonged the glory of baring made him a living soul. Much less can this be said in spiritual matters, when divine aid is not given once for all, but continually imparted or withheld, as God sees fit to reward or punish us, for the use or the neglect of the powers already granted. • Vide the six first Discourses.

+ Vide Discourses, vii. and viii. Discourses, ix. x. xi. § Discourses, xii. xiii. xiv, | Discourse, xv.

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