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Where liberty takes place, necessity is excluded : and so, on the other hand, where necessity takes place, liberty is excluded. For these two, in the very nature of things, are contrary the one to the other, and mutually expel and destroy each other.”
In support of this position, the author proceeds to define moral liberty, and represents it as “something that is, in itself, active, free and voluntary ;' and he speaks of spontaniety and voluntary action,' as constituting the essence of moral liberty. Though our author has not defined necessity, nor shown, with any degree of perspicuity, what he understands by it; yet, as if aware that, consistently with any imaginable necessity, men might act voluntarily; he occasionally adds to his definition of moral liberty, and represents it as implying the contingency or previous uncertainty of human actions: He says, “there is something so uncertain and precarious in the choice and conduct ot free agents”-and speaks of "future contingent events," evidently with reference to the actions of men. He goes still further, and rep resents moral liberty as implying what has been called a self-determin ing power in men: He says, “ He who made us, has endowed us with liberty, AND LEFT THE USE OF IT TO OURSELVES, as the nature of the case supposes and requires.” Again, he speaks of " our freest actions originating from ourselves."
To this additional notion of moral liberty-implying that the actions of men are contingent and self-originated-at idea of moral necessity is, undoubtedly, opposed.
But, this notion of moral liberty, appears to be inconsistent with what is plainly taught in sacred scripture, respecting the foreknowledge, decrees and agency of God. Though men may act voluntarily, according to the foreknowledge and decrees of God, and under the influence of his agency; yet it has been thought difficult to see, how the actions of men should be contingent, uncertain, and self-caused, while foreknown, decreed, and produced by the Divine hand.
To obviate this difficulty, as it respects the foreknowledge of God, Mr. Mellen argues,
1st. That God may foreknow future contingencies. He admits, that'God foreknows all things in the moral, as well as the natural world ;' but contends, that He, whose understanding is infinite, who is “intelligence itself,” knows all things by “immediate intuition," and that it is “ derogatory to his wisdom and perfection" to suppose that he is unable to foresee the operations of the human heart, and all the choices it will make, without binding it by decrees, and forming connexions to render those choices necessary. And he maintains, that such a foreknoroledge of future contingent events, is none the less credible, “because the manner of it, is above our conception."
Now, I grant, that if the manner of foreknowing contingencies, were merely above our conception, it might still be credible; but it seems to me to be against our clearest conception of truth. It is a dictate of common sense, that what is uncertain, cannot be known and that what is not certainly future, cannot be foreknown. If then, the actions of men must be contingent, i. e. uncertain, in order to be free; it is a manifest absurdity, to say they may be foreknown. Though the knowledge of God, therefore, be essential and intuitive ;' yet it does not extend to future contingencies, if there were any such things; or, in other words, he cannot know that to be certain, which is entirely uncertain.
As if apprehensive, that such a reply would be made, Mr. Mellen changes his ground, and,
2dly. Denies the foreknowledge of God, in the strict and proper sense. His words are, “We use the word foreknowledge, as it respects the omniscient Deity, not in the strictly proper, but improper sense, and as accommodated to our manner of conceiving and investigating things, who by nature are subject to a constant saccession of time and ideas. But this is not the case with an eternal, omnipresent, and unchangeable being.--Let us only conceive of the great First Cause, as a universal Being, to whose infinite mind all things are forever present, and with whom is no succession, no past or future time; and this will remove the difficulty, so far forth, as it respects what is called the foreknowledge of God. For if there be no fore or after, with respect to the Deity, who changes not; then his knowledge, properly and philosophically speaking, is not conversant with futurities, but only with things present, that are all open and naked before him."
Now all this is only reviving the absurdity of the old Schoolmer, that God's existence is one eternal now; which is as repugnant to common sense, as to talk of the bounds of space, or the end of eternity. If there be no succession in the Divine mind, or in simple duration; then we are so made, as to be necessarily under a strong delusion respecting time and passing events; by taking advantage of which, the scriptures impose upon us the deceptive idea, that some events were predicted before they came to pass; whereas, strictly and properly speaking, there is no such thing as “fore or after,” but “all things are present.'
To remove the difficulty attending his notion of moral liberty, arising from the Decrees and Agency, or Providence of God, Mr. Mellen adopts a method, for which, so far as I know, he is entitled to the praise of originality : These are his words :—“He that made us free agents, has decreed and ordained that we should act freely, and whatever use therefore we make of our liberty, it is eventually what he decreed and ordained. And in this view of the thing, God said to decree sin and its consequences, as well as other things, that Beem more correspondent to his holy nature and benevolent charac
ter. And upon this same principle that our freest actions, originating from ourselves, are in the event, the same as the appointment and decree of God, (who gave us this liberty, and knew how we should use it,) those many passages in the holy scriptures, which, at first sight, appear to consider God as the author of moral evil, or effecting it by his interposition or decrees, are easy to be understood, and explained, consistent with human liberty and the divine character. The decrees of God may take place in the moral as well as in the natural world, but in as different ways as those worlds are different in their respective natures. The divine decree of giving liberty to man, decrees the effects of it in the voluntary way, as much as the decree of giving laws to matter, decrees the effects of those laws in the natural and passive way."
" When David sinned in numbering the people, Shimei in cursing of him, Pharaoh in hardening his heart, and Judas in betraying his Master, they acted freely, and their actions originated from themsolves; and yet it was at the same time according to the counsel and foreknowledge of God, who decreed they should act thus freely, and in so doing, virtually and eventually decreed these very actions." p. 29.
Mr. M's idea, in the above passage, appears to be simply this; that God, foreseeing (though " in the strictly proper sense” he foresees nothing) how men would act " of themselves,” or in the exercise of a self-determining power, whose actions are contingent or uncertain, decreed that they should thus act, and so may be said to have decreed their actions. If the bare statement of such an hypothesis, be not a sufficient refutation of it, I would observe,
1. That it involves the absurdity of God's foreseeing what is con. tingent. If the actions of men are contingent; then it is uncertain, before they act, what their actions will be. How, then, can God foreknow what they will be ? Can even Omniscience know that to be certain, which is altogether uncertain ? Admit that God may have ways of knowing, which are above our comprehension ; still, it may be asked, has He ways of knowing that, which is unknowable ?-of knowing that be, which is not? Can he know how men will act, in possession of a power or liberty, which renders it altogether uncertain how they will act ?
2. This hypothesis annuls the distinction between the foreknowledge and the decrees of God. According to this scheme, his decrees respecting human actions, are merely his previous knowledge of what they will do “of themselves," or in the exercise of a self-determining power.
3. This hypothesis entirely annuls God's government of the moral world. It resolves his decrees and agency into his foreknowledge of what moral agents will do “of themselves.” All the government, which, according
to this scheme, he exercises over the morad worlds consists in his decreeing that his intelligent creatures shall do, as they may determine themselves to do, independently of his purpose and agency. He has no control whatever, of their actions. This seems to be similar to what the government of the Commonwealth would be, if the Legislature should enact, that every citizen shall do what he pleases.
4. This hypothesis is contrary to the plainest declarations of sacred scripture. The sacred writers not only say, that God' sees the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done,' but assert, that he turns and fashions the hearts of menmoves them—works in them to will and to domand worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.' In order to reconcile passages of this kind, interspersed throughout the sacred pages, with Mr. Mel. len's theory of liberty and necessity; it is necessary to do more, thas to put upon them a figurative and unnatural sense; it is absolutely necessary to divest them of all sense and meaning whatever.
Mr. Mellen's scheme is subversive alike of the foreknowledge, decrees and Providence of God-a scheme absurd in itself, and in direct opposition to sacred scripture; and which, under the thin semblance of Orthodoxy, contains the first principles of Arminianism, and leads the way directly to heresy, infidelity and scepticism.
SELECTED FOR THE HOPKINSTAX MAGAZINE.
THE TRIALS OF MINISTERS. "Our blessed Lord, when he sent out his disciples to preach, let them know, that they went forth like sheep among wolves.-Mat. x. 16. Ezekiel's hearers were to him as briars and thorns; as uncomfortable and tormenting as thorns and briars are, that tear and wound the flesh; and so hedged up and armed, that he could have no access to their minds, or influence among them. Sinners are, sometimes, so prejudiced against the doctrines of the gospel and the servants of Christ, that it is dangerous to come near them.
“The servants of Christ inay expect to meet with trials wherever they go.-Paul suffered in his name or character. At one time he was accounted a fool.- 1 Cor. iv. 10. At another time,so cunning and crafty, that there was no dealing with him. Defaming him, by propagating falsehood and lies, was not uncommon. People had the impudence and boldness even to affirm,and slanderously report,that he and others said, Let us do evil that good may come. In Acts, xvii. 18. he is called a babbler. The babbler is observed, by the critics, to be a term of the utmost contempt, in allusion to a little, worthless, chattering bird, that used to pick up the seeds which were scattered in the market-place. They pretended he was a man, who had picked "p a few seraps of learning, in different places, of rhich he wanted to make a show ;and as one, who was fond of hearing himself speak, even among those, who had studied more than he had. Turtullus, who was appointed to caluinniate Paul, begins, says Beza, with a diabolical rhetoric and flattery, and ends with lies. Acts, xxiv. “We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world—who also hath gone about to prosane the temple.”
1. Cor. iv. 13, Paul writes,-" We are made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things unto this day.” On this passage, Dr. Macknight observes, “ We are become the purgation of the world. The learned observe, that the persons who were sacrificed to the gods for averting their anger and for procuring deliverance from any public calamity, were called purifiers, and were commonly very mean worthless persons, and at the time of their being sacrifice ed, were loaded with execrations, that all the misfortunes of the state might rest upon them. The word signifies erpiation. The Epostle compares himself to those devoted persons, who were sacri. ficed for the purpose above mentioned. The filth of all things. The word signifies is filth scoured off-to scour off'all around. It is used most commonly to denote the sweepings of the streets and stalls,which being nuisances, are moved out of sight as quick as possible.”
Paul's enemies thought him to be the cause of their calamities, and imagined, that could they only get rid of him, their troubles would cease. It was not the least of the trials of this holy apostle, that those who had professed friendship to him and the cause of religion, should turn traitors and become his enemies. How painful to him was the reflection, that many of the Gallatians who had recently expressed the greatest friendship for him, had so awfully departed from the truths of the gospel, and become inimical to him ?-When the proSessed friends of God forsake the ministers of Christ, it is attended with circumstances peculiarly aggravating.-David, the man after God's own heart, was tried in this particular. Psalm, LV.-For it was not an enemy that reproached me ; then I could have borne it—but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.
Above all, when the professors of religion take sides with the world against the servants of Christ; they strengthen the hands of he wicked, and the Saviour is wounded in the house of his friends.
To carry on their opposition against Paul, friendship to the gospel and to the doctrines which he preached, was pretended. They alleged, hat it was not religion, or his preaching, that excited their dissatisfaction ; but the character of the man-and, could they be rid of him, k cy would be advocates for the same sentiments. This feigned attach, ment to the cause of Christ, was the motire by which they pretended