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and love to God. Yet even this could scarcely be free from some tincture of pride and selfishness. He who should thus believe himself chosen as the favourite of God, while his fellow servant is decidedly rejected of him, certainly runs a great hazard of being inflated with spiritual pride, and being led to contemplate himself with a self-satisfied complacency very opposite to Christian humility; and to regard the sinners reprobated of God, with feelings not very congenial to the spirit of charity and brotherly love.

And then, as to the multitudes who believed themselves shut out from the divine favour, and abandoned to perdition, with what horror and despair would they reflect upon their doom! With what sentiments must they regard the Author of an existence, which he had condemned to hopeless and eternal misery! Reason is shocked, and the heart sickens at the thought. Now, if such would be the effects of the system of irrespective election and reprobation, supposing the decrees of God as to the individuals thus elected and reprobated KNOWN: is not the conviction that such REALLY IS the conduct of God towards men, and that every individual is certainly thus elected or condemned, though he himself knows not which is not this conviction likely to prove a dangerous stumbling-block in the weak Christian's path ?

Will not the sanguine and self-conceited mind, which thinks highly of its own virtues and attainments, but indulgently of its own offences and defects, be likely to believe itself one of God's elect, and to yield to those feelings of self-satisfied security, spiritual pride, and perhaps uncharitable severity towards the reprobated sinner, which such a conviction appears to have so strong a tendency to produce ?

On the contrary, if we look to the timid and scrupulous Christian, who studies seriously the divine law, and feels strongly its strictness and its purity, while he is deeply conscious of his own offences against it; and who is taught, that he cannot of himself make the least attempt to conciliate his God, but that he must wait without murmur and without effort under this depression of guilt and terror, perhaps during the whole course of his pilgrimage, or certainly until God shall impress upon him an internal, undoubted assurance of his acceptance, by a distinct sensation of the Spirit of God dwelling in his inmost soul, and testifying ;*** who, as

that the redemption of Christ, specially and certainly secures his individual salvation—is there no danger, that the timid and scrupulous Christian, if impressed with these views of the Gospel, may be unable to bear this suspense, uncertainty, and alarm as to his soul's state-may at length judge himself abandoned and reprobate, and, overwhelmed with this terrific idea, sink into the horrors of despair ?

If, however, presumptuous self-confidence should not excessively elate, nor extreme terror overwhelm the Christian soul; if he submit with calm and patient acquiescence, under the awful uncertainty, whether he has been numbered amongst the chosen favourites of heaven, or is one of those who have been in the irreversible decree of God, from the foundation of the world, rejected, reprobated, and condemned to eternal misery-still, is it possible for him to discover in this system, the great God and Father of all, “who is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy;" “ the Lord,” who is "good to all," and whose “tender mercies are over all his works ;** one apostle testifies, “is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance ;"4 and who, as another apostle declares, “ will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man; the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

I shall conclude this appeal to Scripture, by intreating every Christian to reflect on the conduct of our divine Lord, who, when expiring on the cross, prayed for his murderers, “Father, forgive them ;” and added, as a palliation of their guilt, which reconciled such unheard-of mercy with the moral government of God, “for they know not what they do! !” Did he not thus, as it were, with his dying breath, condemn that system of opinions, which would attribute to God an eternal decree, according to which the reprobate are abandoned to blindness, as a preparation for condemning them to perdition? And in opposition to it, does not this prayer clearly exhibit the pardoning love of God, the unspeakable mercy of our divine Redeemer ?

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* Ps. cxlv. 8, 9.
* 1 Tim. ii. 4, 6.

+ 2 Peter, iii. 9.
§ Luke xxiii. 34.

Yes! These are the characters of the Deity—these the views of the Gospel dispensation, which attract universal gratitude, and hope, and affection, which prevent the contemplation of the divine justice and holiness from appalling the penitent sinner with the horrors of despair, by exhibiting these awful attributes combined with the inexhaustible mercies of redeeming love. But, if these views are obscured, if these feelings are chilled by the predestinarian system, then we may well ask, where is the foundation which that system supplies for the love of God, that leading principle of true religion, that source of every generous virtue ? Surely, a defect in this particular, indicates some radical mistake, some great delusion in the original principles of this severe and rigid scheme.

NOTE. Here I would entreat my reader not to conceive, that I affirm, or even suspect, that Calvinists in general, deliberately undervalue or depreciate the justice and mercy of God. They ought not to be charged with knowingly holding consequences which they positively disclaim ; nor have I the least suspicion that they would designedly encourage an Antinomian spirit. I am fully persuaded of their sincere desire to uphold the glory of God, and the practice of piety and virtue. But I accuse their system of opinions, as being inconsistent and unscriptural, and sometimes leading them to maintain sentiments unworthy of the divine attributes, discouraging to the penitent sinner, and thus injurious to the interests of virtue. It is indeed melancholy to observe, what terrific and revolting ideas of God, some otherwise rational and pious writers have advanced in their zeal to maintain, that all the benefits of the interposition of Christ, are intended for, and limited to the elect alone, utterly excluding all the rest of mankind. One of the most distinguished of these writers, thus speaks of the Universal Father, the God of mercy and love. “ No affection or natural propensity to good is to be ascribed to God, but what Scripture doth assign to him, and is contrary to what the Scripture doth assign to him ; now the Scripture doth not assign unto God any natural affection, whereby he should be naturally inclined to the good of the creature; the place to prove it clearly, is yet to be produced.”! ! !*

Still more deplorable is the manner in which some writers wrest Scripture from its true and natural meaning, to support the same terrific system; as when they declare : "we deny that all mankind is the object of that love of God, which moved him to send his Son to die, God having made some for the day of evil,"t hated them before they were born,"{ "before of old, ordained them to condemnation,"S “ being fitted to destruction," il “made to be taken and destroyed,” I “appointed to wrath,”** “ to go to their own place.”tt

How melancholy is it to behold the word of God thus interpreted, so as totally to misrepresent his character, strip him of his nuercy, and attribute the punishment of Judas, and of those, who like Judas “bring upon themselves swist destruction,”#1 to the positive direction and free choice of that God, “who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works,"S$ who hath “no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” but “calleth upon men every where to turn thermselves and live.”ll The error of understanding these texts in such a sense, will, it is hoped, be shown in this work.

* Owen's Death of Deaths, in the Death of Christ, p. 266. + Prov. xvi. 4.
Jude, 4.
|| Rom. ix. 22.

2 Pet. ii. 12.
tt Acts, i, 25,
11 2 Pet. ii. 1.

$ Ps, cxlv, 9.

Rom. ix, 11, 13. ** 1 Thes. v, 9. !!! Ezek, xviii. 32,

DISCOURSE V.

THE CONDITIONALITY OF THE DIVINE DECREES-OLD

TESTAMENT,

JEREMIAH, XVIII. 7-10.

“ At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to

pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then will I repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them."

SCARCELY any passage of Scripture shows the importance of attending to the entire context of the divine word, and the real object of the inspired writers, when we attempt to explain the meaning of any of their figurative expressions, more strongly than the passage which I have now selected, compared with those which immediately precede and follow it.

This declaration of God, by the mouth of his prophet, explains most clearly the nature of that government which he exercises over mankindnot merely over one chosen people, but over every nation

earth. It declares that this is strictly a moral government, regulated in all its meagures by the plain rules of retributive justice ; that it treats men as rational, free, and accountable agents, having it in their power to choose whether they will obey or disobey the will of their divine Sovereign, enjoying his protection and favour on condition of their obedience, and forfeiting them when they disobey. Far from representing the divine administration, as conducted in an unalterable course, determined by a decree antecedent to their existence, and independent of the conduct of its subjects; this represents the divine measures as conditional and changeable-changing, not from arbitrary choice in the Supreme Sovereign, but from just regard to the conduct of his free subjects ; varying its retributions as their right or wrong conduct requires ; displaying a justice tempered by mercy, in the exercise of which, as transgression induces punishment, so repentance conciliates pardon.

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Another principle of great importance in regulating our opinions as to the divine attributes and government, is also illustrated by this declaration ; even that the divine prescience has no such connexion with, or influence on human conduct, as to divest this conduct of dependence on the free choice of the agent, or of its consequently contingent character ; that men therefore may obey or disobey, repent or not repent, as they choose themselves; and that neither divine prescience nor prophecy renders their conduct necessary and unalterable, or their situation, their enjoyments, or sufferings under the divine government, unavoidable and unchangeable ; but as their conduct may vary according to their own choice, so the divine dispensations towards them, vary according to the variation of their conduct. All this is the clear meaning of this important declaration from God himself by his inspired prophet ; who was authorised to declare the character of the divine government, in order to direct the expectations, and influence the conduct of mankind.

Yet clear as this passage is, it is immediately preceded by another, which has been conceived to bear a contrary meaning, and has been employed to support an opposite conclusion. The prophecy closing with the declaration I have quoted, commences thus; “ The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold he wrought a work on the wheels, and the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter, so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it; then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter, saith the Lord; behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."*

Every inquirer into scriptural truth, at all acquainted with the controversy concerning the nature of the divine decrees, and the doctrine of absolute unconditional predestination, knows how constantly and decidedly this similitude-(employed by the prophet, and afterwards borrowed from him by the great apostle of the Gentiles, and comparing the power of God over man,

Jeremiah, xviii. 1-6.

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