« AnteriorContinuar »
presuppose the being of the subject; because it gives being. But there is no decree of evil to such a subject, which can be convinced of as antecedent to a decree of punishment.
$ 41. The objection to the divine decrees will be, that according to this doctrine, God may do evil, that good may come of it. Ans. I do not argue, that God may commit evil, that good may come of it; but that he may permit that it may come to pass, that good may come of it. It is in itself absolutely evil, for any being to commit evil, that good may come of it; and the only reason why it would not be lawful for a creature to permit evil to come to pass, and that it would not be wise, or good and virtuous in him so to do, is, that he has not perfect wisdom and sufficiency, so as to render it fit that such an affair should be trusted with him. In so doing, he goes beyond his line; he goes out of his providence ; he meddles with things too high for him. It is every one's duty to do things fit for him in his sphere, and commensurate to his power. God never intrusted this providence in the hands of creatures of finite understandings; nor is it proper that he should.
If a prince were of perfect and all-comprehensive wisdom and foresight, and he should see that an act of treason would be for the great advancement of the welfare of his kingdom, it might be wise and virtuous in him to permit that such act of treason should come to pass ; yea, it would be foolish and wrong if he did not. It would be prudent and wise in him not to restrain the traitor, but to let him alone to go on in the way he chose. And yet he might hate the treason at the same time, and he might properly, also, give forth laws at the same time, forbidding it upon pain of death, and might hold these laws in force against this traitor.
842. The Arminians themselves allow, that God permits sin ; and that if he permits it, it will come to pass. But it is demonstrably true, that if God sees that good will come of it, and more good than otherwise, so that when the whole series of events is viewed by God, and all things are balanced—the sum of good with the evil being more than without it, all being subtracted that need be subtracted, and added that is to be added the sum total of good is greater than the sum in any other case, then it will follow, that God, if he be a wise and holy being, must permit it. For if this sum total be really the best, how can it be otherwise than that it should be chosen by an infinitely wise and good being whose holiness and goodness consists in always choosing what is best? Which does it argue most, wisdom or folly, a good disposition or an evil one, when two things are set before a being, the one better and the other worse, to choose the worse, and refuse the better?
§ 43. To conclude this discourse: I wish the reader to consider the unreasonableness of rejecting plain revelations, because they are puzzling to our reason. So that though the doctrine of the decrees be mysterious, and attended with difficulties, yet the opposite doctrine is in itself more mysterious, and attended with greater difficulties, and with contradictions to reason more evident, to one who thoroughly considers things ; so that, even if the scripture had made no revelation of it, we should have had reason to believe it. But since the scripture is so abundant in declaring it, the unreasonableness of rejecting it appears the more glaring.
CONCERNING EFFICACIOUS GRACE,
§ 1. It is manifest that the scripture supposes, that if ever men are turned from sin, God must undertake it, and he must be the doer of it; that it is his doing that must determine the matter ; that all that others can do, will avail nothing, without his agency. This is manifest by such texts as these, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19. “ Turn thou me, and I shall be turned ; Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented ; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh,” &c. Lam. v. 21, “ Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.” Psalm lxxx. 3. “ Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved." The same in verse 7 and 19: Jer. xvii. 14. “ Heal me, and I shall be healed : save me, and I shall be saved; for Thou art my
$ 2. According to Dr. Whitby's notion of the assistance of the Spirit, the Spirit of God does nothing in the hearts or minds of men beyond the power of the devil; nothing but what the devil can do: and nothing showing any greater power in any respect than the devil shows and exercises in his temptations. For he supposes, that all that the Spirit of God does, is to bring moral motives and inducements to mind, and set them before the understanding, &c. It is possible that God may infuse grace, in some instances, into the minds of such persons as are striving to obtain it in the other way, though they may not observe it, and may not know that it is not obtained by gradual acquisition. But if a man has indeed sought it only in that way, and with as much dependence on himself, and with as much neglect of God, in his endeavours and prayers as such a doctrine naturally leads to, it is not very likely that he should
cotain saving grace by the efficacious mighty power of God. It is most likely that God should bestow this gift, in a way of earnest attention to divine truth, and the use of the means of grace,
with reflection on one's own sinfulness, and in a way of being more and more convinced of sinfulness and total corruption, and need of the divine power to restore the heart, to infuse goodness, and of becoming more and more sensible of one's own impotence, and inability to obtain goodness by his own strength. And if a man has obtained no other virtue, than what seems to have been wholly in that gradual and insensible way that might be expected from use and custom, in the exercise of his own strength, he has reason to think, however bright his attainments may seem to be, that he has no saving virtue.-Great part of the gospel is denied by those who deny pure efficacious grace. They deny that wherein actual salvation and the application of redemption mainly consists; and how unlikely are such to be successful in their endeavours after actual salvation.
§ 3. Concerning the supposition advanced by Bishop Butler, and by Turnbull in his Christian Philosophy, that all that God does, éven miracles themselves, are wrought according to general laws, such as are called the laws of nature, though unknown to us; and the supposition of Turnbull, that all may be done by angels acting by general laws; I observe, this seems to be unreasonable. If angels effect these works, acting only by general laws, then they must do them without any immediate, special interposition at all, even without the smallest intima. tion of the divine mind, what to do, or upon what occasion God would have any thing to be done. And what will this doctrine bring inspiration to, which is one kind of miracle? According to this, all significations of the divine mind, even to the prophets and apostles, must be according to general laws, with out any special interposition at all of the divine agency.
§ 4. Acts xii. 23. God was so angry with Herod for not giving him the glory of his eloquence, that the angel of the Lord sinote him immediately, and he died a miserable death; he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But if it be very sinful for man to take to himself the glory of such a qualification as eloquence, how much more a man's taking to himself the glory of divine grace, God's own image, and that which is infinitely God's most excellent, precious and glorious gift, and man's highest honour, excellency and happiness, whereby he is partaker of the divine nature, and becomes a godlike crea. ture? If God was so jealous for the glory of so small a gift, how much more for so high an endowment, this being that alone, of all other things, by which man becomes like God? If not giving God the glory of that which is least honourable, provokes God's jealousy; much more must not giving God the glory of VOL. VII.
that which is infinitely the most honourable? It is allowed, the apostle insists upon it, that the primitive Christians should be sensible that the glory of their gifts belonged to God, and that they made not themselves to differ. But how small a matter is this, if they make themselves to differ in that, which the apostle says is so much more excellent than all gifts? How much more careful has God shown himself, that men should not be more proud of their virtue, than of any other gift? see Deut. ix. 4. Luke xviii. 9. and innumerable other places. And the apostle plainly teaches us to ascribe to God the glory, not only of our redemption, but of our wisdom, righteousness and sanctification; 1 Cor. i. 29, 30, 31. Again, the apostle plainly directs, that all that glory in their virtue, should glory in the Lord, 2 Cor. x. 17. It is glorying in virtue and virtuous deeds he is there speaking of; and it is plain, that the apostle uses the expression of glorying in the Lord, in such a sense, as to imply ascribing the glory of our virtue to God. The doctrine of men's being the determining causes of their own virtue, teaches them not to do so much as even the proud Pharisee did, who thanked God for making him to differ from other men in virtue, Luke xvii. See Gen. xli. 15, 16; Job xi. 12; Dan. ii. 25.
§ 5. The Arminian doctrine, and the doctrine of our new philosophers, concerning the habits of virtue being only by custom, discipline, and gradual culture, joined with the other doctrine, that the obtaining of these habits in those that have time for it is in every man's power, according to their doctrine of the freedom of will, tends exceedingly to cherish presumption in sinners, while in health and vigour, and tends to their utter despair, in sensible approaches of death by sickness or
§ 6. The questions relating to efficacious grace, controverted between us and the Arminians, are two: 1. Whether the grace of God, in giving us saving virtue, be determining and decisive. 2. Whether saving virtue be decisively given by a supernatural and sovereign operation of the spirit of God: or, whether it be only by such a divine influence or assistance, as is imparted in the course of common providence, either according to established laws of nature, or established laws of God's universal providence towards mankind : i. e. either, 1. Assistance which is given in all natural actions, wherein men do merely exercise and improve the principles and laws of nature, and come to such attainments as are connected with such exerci. ses by the mere laws of nature. For there is an assistance in all such natural actions; because it is by a divine influence that the laws of nature are upheld ; and a constant concurrence of divine power is necessary in order to our living, moving, or having a being. This we may call a natural assistance. Or,
2. That assistance which, though it be something besides the upholding of the laws of nature, (which take place in all affairs of life,) is yet, by a divine universal constitution in this parti. cular affair of religion, so connected with those voluntary exercises which result from this mere natural assistance, that by this constitution it indiscriminately extends to all mankind, and is certainly connected with such exercises and improve. ments as those just mentioned, by a certain established known rule, as much as any of the laws of nature. This kind of assistance, though many Arminians call it a supernatural assistance, differs little or nothing from that natural assistance that is established by a law of nature. The law so established, is only a particular law of nature; as some of the laws of nature are more general others more particular: But this establishment, which they suppose to be by divine promise, differs nothing at all from many other particular laws of nature, except only in this circumstance of the established constitutions being revealed in the word of God, while others are left to be discovered only by experience.
The Calvinists suppose otherwise ; they suppose that divine influence and operation, by which saving virtue is obtained, is entirely different from, and above common assistance, or that which is given in a course of ordinary providence, according to universally established laws of nature. They suppose a principle of saving virtue is immediately imparted and implanted by that operation, which is sovereign and efficacious in this respect, that its effect proceeds not from any established laws of nature. I mention this as an entirely different question from the other, viz. Whether the grace of God, by which we obtain saving virtue, is determining or decisive. For that it may be, if it be given wholly in a course of nature, or by such an operation as is limited and regulated perfectly according to established invariable laws. For none will dispute that many things are brought to pass by God in this manner, that are decisively ordered by him, and are brought to pass by his determining providence.
$ 7. The controversy, as it relates to efficacious grace in this sense, includes in it these four questions.
1. Whether saving virtue differs from common virtue, or such virtue as those have that are not in a state of salvation, in nature and kind, or only in degree and circumstances ?
2. Whether a holy disposition of heart, as an internal governing principle of life and practice, be immediately implanted or infused in the soul, or only be contracted by repeated acts, and obtained by human culture and improvement?
3. Whether conversion, or the change of a person from being a vicious or wicked man, to a truly virtuous character, be instantaneous or gradual ?