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but in singleness of heart, fearing God. And (he proceeds,) 6 whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong that he hath done, and there is no respect of persons.”* Now if the fate of every individual is decided by an eternal decree, uninfluenced by the foreknowledge of his conduct, and unalterable by any thing in his power to perform, urging this principle, “ that God is no respecter of persons," appears a misrepresentation of the divine character and dispensations. Can it be believed, that this is required to support the interests of virtue, or that it can be admitted in the Scriptures of truth?
With equal distinctness, St. Peter urges upon Christians the same truth of the impartial judgment of God, as a motive to virtue. “As He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation ; because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy; and if ye call on the Father, who, without respect to persons, judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.”+ Now surely this motive would lose much of its weight, and the force of this holy fear would be greatly weakened, if the persons to whom this exhortation is addressed, were assured their immortal fate was decided by an eternal decree of absolute predestination, in which, if they were elect, they need fear no change_if reprobate, no exertions of theirs could save them from condemnation. We conclude then from the apostle, that the fate of every Christian will be decided, not according to any such decree, but according to their voluntary acceptance or rejection of the Gospel, and their obedience or disobedience to its holy laws. With the apostle we repeat the same exhortation and assurance which the inspired Psalmist had employed, and we warn every man : “he that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile ; let him eschew evil, and do good ; let him seek peace and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”I And on the whole review of the law, the prophets, and the evangelists, we conclude, that the Scriptures warrant us in affirming, that the principle of impartial discriminative justice, as human reason understands that attribute, regulates the judgment of God towards man, through the entire series of the divine dispensations from the creation of the world to the last great day of final retribution, and that the scheme of absolute predestination, if inconsistent with the exercise of this great attribute, (an inconsistence which some of its ablest patrons, though indirectly and reluctantly, yet appear compelled to admit,) must be rejected as repugnant to the character and the word of God.
. Coloss, iji. 25.
f 1 Peter i. 15–17.
f 1 Peter iii. 10_12.
Here I am anxious not to be misunderstood; I am aware that both the Scriptures and the church of England teach, that every human being who has lived to be a moral agent, has proved a sinner, that therefore, far from claiming salvation as due from the retributive justice of God, he can only hope for it from his mercy; and must join in the entreaty of the Psalmist, “enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified;"* in the prayer of the publican,“ God, be merciful to me a sinner;" and in the corresponding confession and supplication with which the church of England begins her truly scriptural liturgy ;—“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have offended against thy holy laws; we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us.” We must therefore humbly implore, “O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders ; spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults; restore thou them that are penitent, according to thy promises declared unto mankind, in Christ Jesu our Lord.” When, however, on this the Calvinist engrafts his opinion, that God has from eternity decreed to exclude from salvation the great majority of mankind, by denying them that grace without which they cannot confess, or become penitent; and at the same time has eternally decreed, that a select few shall certainly be saved, and for that purpose confers on them that so necessary grace; and when he thus supposes the pro
* Ps, cxliii. 2.
† Luke xviii. 13, 14.
mises by Christ limited to the elect few, while the reprobate are excluded; and when he maintains, that this difference is made, uninfluenced by the foresight of faith, good works, repentance, or any thing else in the person so elected or reprobated; here we contend he departs from the truth of Scripture and from the tenets of the church of England, which state that the promises of Christ are made (not to the elect alone, but generally to mankind, and that therefore all to whom they are addressed, may share in the gracious benefits they offer, if not excluded by their own fault. The limitation of these promises by the Calvinistic election and reprobation, we contend, is contrary to those principles of justice which, the Scriptures warrant us to conclude, regulate the dealings of God to men : contrary to the principle of God's being “no respecter of persons;" to the principle of “punishing him who knoweth not his master's will and doeth it not, with few stripes;" to the principle of “judging every man according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not;" to the principle which the Divinity adopted as it were from the mouth of the Patriarch, “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right;" and to the principle on which our divine Lord himself has declared his sentence will be decided when He shall come in power and great glory to judge the world, "and render to every man according to his works,” not according to such a decree of predestination as the Calvinist defends.
Thus it is the divine justice enters into the discussion of this question. At the same time I am persuaded, the serious and pious Calvinist may not be conscious his system is inconsistent with his upholding sincerely and reverently this divine attribute. I must however maintain his judgment is erroneous, though his heart may be right; and that his error should be combated with the more care, because his sincere piety may give to that error such authority, as must promote its spread, and thus render it the more seductive and dangerous.
We next proceed to compare the predestinarian scheme with the views Scripture affords us of the MERCY of God.
PSALM CVLX. 8, 9.-(COMMON PRAYER.)
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, long suffering, and of great goodness. The Lord is loving unto
every man, and his mercy is over all his works."
The translation of these verses in our Bible is perhaps more full and emphatic: “the Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and ofgreat mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” But either expresses forcibly and feelingly the divine attribute of mercy, which forms the only source of hope and consolation to wretched, because sinful man. It shall be my object in this discourse to examine whether the scriptural representations of this divine attribute are not inconsistent with the idea of the eternal decree of reprobation, which forms so essential a part of the predestinarian scheme.
Here we may observe, that in this beautiful hymn of praise and thanksgiving, the inspired Psalmist represents the mercy of God as unbounded and perfect as His power and greatness, as energetic and active, as his righteousness and holiness, as equally with these the objects of praise and adoration to every creature of God, endowed with a moral and reasonable nature, and extending its influence and protection to all generations of mankind. If he declares that “the Lord is marvellous, worthy to be praised, that there is no end to His greatness, that one generation shall praise His works unto another, and declare His power;" that His “worship, His glory, and wondrous works would be the theme of His public and constant praise;"* so that men should learn “ to celebrate the marvellous acts of God.” He adds, the memorial of thy abundant kindness shall also be shown, and men shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is
* Ps. cxlv. 1-9.
gracious and merciful, long suffering, and of great goodness. The Lord is loving unto every man, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”
Can any terms more strongly reject the idea that there is in the secret counsels of God an eternal decree, overpowering as it were the energy, and checking the operation of this long suffering and great goodness, of this gracious and tender mercy; so that far the greater portion of the human race never receive any benefit from its influence, but are abandoned before they are born, or have done any good or evil, to unavoidable guilt and condemnation, to eternal and irretrievable misery. The Psalmist declares, “ All thy works praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints give thanks unto thee; they show the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power.' But, is the contemplation of this power and glory to be confined to themselves ? No, they celebrate the power and glory and mightiness of the divine kingdom, “ that they may be known unto men” generally, without limitation or restriction. And the. Psalmist immediately adds such a statement of the gracious promptitude with which God hears and grants the prayers of all, who want and who implore His merciful aid, as plainly intimates, that there is no secret decree which necessarily excludes a single human being from all access to the throne of grace.
“ The Lord," says he, “upholdeth all such as fall, and lifteth up all those that are down. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, yea, all such as call upon Him faithfully. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him ; He also will hear their cry, and will help them.” And His readiness to hear and to grant mercy to those who pray for it, is as universal and unrestricted, as the divine readiness to grant to all the blessings of nature to all the children of men.
This is plainly declared when the Psalmist praises God saying ; “ the eyes of all wait upon thee, O God, and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness.” Is this reconcilable with the opinion, that to the great portion of mankind the ears of Divine mercy are by an eternal decree of the God of mercy, for ever closed; that the fallen He will never
* Ps. cxlv. 10-19.