Imágenes de páginas

more sincerity and steadiness and zeal, and of whom a happy final result might therefore naturally be looked for. Such the prophet thus describes, “ Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Does not this imply, that he that doth not overcome, his name should be blotted out; him the Son of God would not confess? And is this the language of the predestinarian scheme ?*

The church of Philadelphia appears to have excelled in piety and zeal all the other churches; and to her the promises of God are the most encouraging ; but still they evidently imply constant trial, and hazard, and the possibility of the best of men forfeiting that salvation, which their proficiency, as far as they had yet been tried, seemed so likely to secure. “ I know (says the Spirit) thy works; behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie; behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee, from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”+ Surely if any circumstance could mark out human beings as elect, in the Calvinistic sense, as predestined to indefectible perseverance and finished salvation, it would be this of being by the special promise of God, exempt from that temptation which should try all other men.

But not so pronounces the word of God. This declares even to such, the necessity of vigilance, and exertion, lest they should lose all the advantanges they had obtained. “ Behold (says the Spirit) I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."! It might therefore be taken, if they did not hold fast; and this is utterly irreconcilable with the idea of absolute predestination.

+ Rev. iii. 8-10.

• Rev. iii, 1–5; compared with Rev. xxii.; 19.

# Rev. iii. 11.

"* new name.

Again, we are led to observe, that not those predestined to salvation before they were born, but they who by persevering exertion, and by improving the ever present aid of the Holy Spirit should to the last hour adhere to the service of God, would be ultimately rewarded. “Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my

These are the glorious characters of the finally elect. But none are thus elected, who had not previously overcome, who had not held fast that which they had, that no man should take their crown.

To conclude; I adopt the close of the admonition of the Holy Spirit to the seven churches, as accurately describing, and clearly establishing that state of trial, in which every human being is placed, the result of which indispensably requires, that he improve it by zeal and repentance. In this admonition also we see displayed that prompt and abundant goodness of God, ever ready with its calls of grace and proffers of mercy, ever at hand to hear the suppliant, to pardon the penitent, to crown with eternal glory the faithful persevering Christian : but not those who will not pray or repent; or who after they have made some progress in the path to heaven, sink back again into impiety and vice, and therefore fail to persevere and overcome. Is not all this declared in the declaration of our Redeemer and Judge ; “ As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." How accurately does this glorious promise, and this awful warning correspond with the dictates of reason, and with our natural feelings of freedom and responsibility! How repugnant are they to the character of the predestinarian scheme !

. Rev. iii. 12.


In these discourses, the conditionality of the divine decrees is affirmed, “ that the divine measures are conditional and changeable, 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 and wrong conduct requires.”—p. 229.

On these topics I wish to note, that in these assertions I mean to go no further than the text doth, as it were lead me by the hand. I merely repeat the declarations of Scripture as quoted in Jeremiah, chap. 18, and Luke, chap. 13, forining the text of "discourses V. and VI. and also found in the additional Scriptures quoted or referred to in these Discourses.

Other passages of Scripture expressly affirm the foreknowledge and the immutability of God; these truths also I firmly believe. I see no real contradiction between these representations of God, because such representations are not to be taken in a literal sense, which might make them appear contradictory, but in that way of analogy and resemblance in which alone we can speak of the Divine nature and attributes. It has been well remarked by a recent and very able writer, “ There is nothing in nature which stands in the same relation to us, which a MORAL FREE AGENT bears to HIS CREATOR, and accordingly all language we employ to denote this relation, being borrowed from our own relation to the things around us, must be partial and imperfect expressions, never comprehending at once the whole of this complex idea, but exhibiting that portion of it which best accords with the occasion, or with the object principally intended; at one time using the comparison of the potter and his clay, to assert God's absolute creative power, and disposing providence; at another representing him as exhorting, arguing, expostulating, striving with his creatures, vexed at their perverseness, anxious for their restoration, affording them the means of return, grieved at their neglect of Him, and rejoicing at their recovery. To oppose these two passages in hostile array, one against the other, is equally inconsistent with the reason of the philosopher and the humility of the Christian.” These different characters applied to God, must be explained with such limitations as will admit the truth of all. We must admit the omniscience and immutability of God; yet not so as to infer that human actions, or the actions of any moral agent are necessary, or that it is in any instance impossible for him to choose between the opposite modes of conduct. For that would be to deny that God could create any moral agent, and therefore would deny his omnipotence, and deprive him of his most noble and essential character, that of a moral governor. When therefore, I say that the divine decrees are conditional or mutable, I mean merely to state, that they are such, and so executed, as to be consistent with the free will of man, and his consequent power of choosing between right and wrong when presented to his choice ; and with being treated by God as a moral governor according to the choice so made, all which Scripture clearly and decidedly teaches,

In another view of the relation in which God stands to his moral creatures, all his decrees are immutable. They are founded on the immutable principles of justice and mercy. They never are exercised so as to produce any result unforeseen by divine omniscience; they never disturb the order and consistency of the divine plans, or the perfection of the divine moral government; and in this sense, conditional decrees

I Dr, Coppleston on Predestination, page 95.

are still really immutable, as they attach the result invariably to the condition, and profess nothing more. It would however be perhaps more distinct, and less liable to misrepresentation and mistake to speak of the divine decrees, not as mutable or immutable, but rather as conditional or absolute. And it is the design of the preceding work to show from the general tenor of Scripture, that the decrees of God as they relate to his moral creatures, are conditional, not absolute. And I here therefore beg of the candid reader, whenever the epithets changeable, alterable, mutable, are applied to the divine decrees, to understand me only as meaning that these decrees are in their nature conditional, and in their execution productive of effects suitable to their original conditionality.

With Dr. Coppleston 1 remark, that “all terms respecting the moral attributes and character, since they must express that infinite and unfathomable object most inadequately, ought never to be used without a reverential sense of their imperfection; and the rule of interpreting them always as relative to ourselves, is an admirable preservation against many mistakes and perplexities, into which men are led by a merely critical analysis of scriptural terms. It is to teach us how to feel and act towards God, not to explain his nature that such words are chosen. If he is said to be angry, it is that we may feel it our interest to endeavour to please him. If he is described as unchangeable, it is that we may not indulge the weak imagination of eluding or surprising him, or of finding him capricious and careless; as men often are—forgetful of their purpose, and less peremptory one time than another. If he is said to pity or repent, it is that we may neglect nothing that we should do in a case of distress, to induce a just, merciful, superior amongst men, whose commands we had violated, to pity and repent.' Still nothing would be more absurd as well as impious, than because the name of a certain passion (or attribute) is employed in these cases, to pursue the investigation farther, analysing the elements, the motives, the objects of that passion as it is found in man, and drawing inferences from hence concerning the divine nature and dispensations.” So far Dr. Coppleston, who applies this observation with great force to different Calvinists, who have attempted to be wise above what is written; e. g. to Mr. Vaughan's opinion against the mercy of God; the same writer's opinion that to talk of permission is to call God imperfect; against his assertion that God ordained the fall to get glory out of it; against the doctrine of irrespective election and reprobation; against the reasoning, which from the accomplishment of prophecy, would infer the necessity of events.

Finally, with Dr. Coppleston, I adopt the sentiment of Luther on this subject in his later days. “Let no one," says that great reformer, “reason about the Divinity considered in abstract, (de divinitate nuda,) but let him avoid these speculations tanquam infernum, ipsissimas satanæ tentationes. Attend and consider, that you never should forget what I have often inculcated, that Christ, in declaring that no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son shall reveal him, inseparably joins the knowledge of himself and the Father; so that the Father can be known only through Christ, and in Christ.” And again, “ To know any thing of God, otherwise than as revealed in Scripture—what his nature is, what he does, or what he wills, belongs not to me; my business is to know what are his precepts, his promises, and his threatenings.Hec cum meditaris studiosé invenis Deum.

That the author and the readers of this work may thus find God, is my humble

ardent prayer.

This principle of scriptural interpretation, is 'Illustrated in Dr. Lloyd's 6th Discourse, in his volume of Discourses, partly doctrinal, lately published i a work in which are found many most convincing arguments against absolute predestination:




LUKE, XI. 13.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children ; how much more shall your

heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

I PURPOSE, in this Discourse, to direct your attention to this promise of our divine Lord, assuring every Christian, who shall sincerely pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, that it shall graciously be vouchsafed to him by our heavenly Father; a blessing which completes the all-merciful scheme of redemption,-re-invigorating those moral powers which had been impaired by the fall, and restoring the penitent sinner to a state of sanctification and acceptance.

It is the more needful, to call your attention to the certainty of the divine grace being thus necessary to and attainable by every humble suppliant, inasmuch as this sacred promise is neglected, and the precious gift never sought after by a great multitude of professing Christians; who, because the miraculous powers and the immediate inspiration employed for the first diffusion and establishment of the Gospel, were gradually withdrawn, as soon as those great objects were achieved, are ready to believe, that all divine aid to individuals has also totally ceased, and that every Christian's improvement has been left to depend on his own efforts, using as he chooses, the outward means of grace. This opinion has also gained ground even amongst the more rational and pious, from the wild extravagancies, and pernicious abuses which, in every period of the church, have originated in enthusiastic, or fraudulent pretences to divine inspiration; as well as from the extremes into which some advocates for the predestinarian scheme have pushed their

« AnteriorContinuar »