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of that arch hypocrite, Oliver Cromwell, to adopt a fanatical and hypocritical conduct; and they did so: in the next reign a conduct directly opposite was observed by as many men, whose interest it suited to become libertines, in compliance with the manners of the reigning monarch. Now I believe predestination was not at all concerned in this arrangement of hypocrites and libertines; but these men might or might not have adopted the conduct they did at their own will and pleasure, and as they were respectively swayed by the different motives and propensities of their own minds; and over which motives and propensities reason possesses an absolute and decided power, if men will allow her that control and supremacy which God intended, and for that purpose has endued the mind of man with that free will and free agency, which it is the glory of man to possess. Does not God himself impute the sins of the Jews to their not making use of their reason and free agency as they ought to have done?" My people do "not consider/' But of what use would it have been to them to consider, if, whether they did or did not consider, they were predestined to act as they did? Our Saviour
enjoins man to strive to enter in at the straight gate; but if his destiny is unalterably fixed, his striving must be useless and in vain. Again, the Ten Commandments are worded clearly and unquestionably under the complete idea of free agency in the people to whom they are delivered, and who were to obey them. The whole history of Job infers, that God considered him as a free agent; for to what purpose did God Almighty permit the Devil to torment him for a trial of his patience and resignation, if God had predestined him to an inevitable course of conduct. However it may be reconcileable to Calvin's ideas of God's proceedings, it is not reconcileable to our ideas of his justice and goodness, to punish so just and righteous a man in such a manner, and this, as the Scripture expressly declares, for a trial of him, if God, by having predestined him to an inevitable course of conduct, knew the manner in which he must necessarily act, and had thus in fact precluded all free agency on his part, and of course all real trial of his integrity. And the relation given in Scripture, of God's commanding Abraham to offer up his son Isaac for a trial of his faith and obedience, is of the same nature, and cannot be rationally accounted for, if we suppose the conduct of Abraham to have been predestined, and not left entirely to his own free will: and the answer of the Angel after Abraham had lifted up his hand and knife to slay Isaac, " Now I know thou fear"est God," &c. excludes all just supposition of Abraham's conduct having been predestinated. To what purpose were all God's arguments, reasons, and persuasions offered to the Jews, and all his promises and threatenings with respect to them, if their conduct was predetermined, and therefore not to be influenced by any arguments, reasons, or persuasions? And how can we suppose it possible God should address himself to sinners, and say, " Let the wicked man turn "from the wickedness he hath committed, "and do that which is lawful and right, and *' he shall save his soul alive," when the poor wretch, according to the vile doctrine of Calvin, was predestined to sin, and incapable of turning from it? The same question may be asked as to the promises and threatenings made in the Gospel by our blessed Saviour; for what end could it answer either to promise or threaten, or to attempt to persuade persons to any particular course
of conduct, if their conduct was predestinated and predetermined, and therefore admitted of no alteration? To a predestined agent, of what use is the advice of Solomon, to get wisdom and understanding; or to fear God, and keep his commandments, as the whole duty of man? or to parents, to train up a child in the way he should go? And how can we suppose God would declare to old Eli, that he would punish him, and judge his house for ever, because he did not restrain his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, from their evil courses; which it would have been impossible for him to have done, on the absurd idea of their having been predestined to these evil courses before they were born?
The whole history of man in all ages and nations, whether civilized or not, proves that he is a being possessed of free agency, with a power to do right or wrong at his option: and even Lord Bolingbroke, with all his scepticism, was a firm believer in man's free agency;
And binding nature fast in fate,
If we admit any other idea, we make man a mere machine, an absolute automaton, a being merely acted upon; we destroy at once all rational ideas of vice and virtue, and of all reward and punishment at a future day of judgment. Indeed if we divest the human character of free agency, and consider man as a being predestined before his birth to accomplish an inevitable destiny, there cannot possibly be any use in a future judgment, since, according to this preposterous hypothesis of predestination, every man in reality is judged before he is born.
On other subjects Calvin is deservedly considered a learned and elegant writer; but his doctrines respecting election and predestination are so indefensible, that his strongest arguments in support of them appear to me to deserve no attention. However, it is but fair that I should give a short specimen of them, (which is all that can be done in a treatise of this kind,) that the reader may judge for himself: at the same time I can assure him, that this specimen is by no means selected as being either better or worse than any other which expresses Calvin's sentiments on these subjects; for whenever he writes on them, he is equally confused, weak, and inconclusive.