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"Repent, and be baptized, every one of "you." And in the 17th chapter he thus expresses himself: "God commandeth all "men every where to repent." And that the greatest and most flagrant sinners are capable of repentance is decided beyond all dispute; because to Simon Magus the sorcerer, who is reproached by St. Peter as a man, whose heart was not right in the sight of God, and as being in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity; to this man even St. Peter says, on his wanting to purchase the power of the Holy Ghost, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou "hast thought that the gift of God may be *" purchased with money. Repent therefore "of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if "perhaps the thought of thy heart may be "forgiven thee."
But there is a passage in the 3d chapter of Ezekiel still more in point, if possible: it is. as follows: "Son of man, I have made thee "a watchman unto the house of Israel: "therefore hear the word at my mouth, and "give them warning from me. When I say "unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; "and thou givest him not warning, nor "speakest to warn the wicked from his
"wicked way, to save his life; the same "wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but "his blood will I require at thine hand." Now this supposes so clearly and unequivocally a power in every wicked man to repent, that under any other supposition the whole passage would be perfect nonsense. Does not our great and merciful Creator thus proclaim his goodness to his frail and fallible creatures ?" When the wicked man "turneth away from his wickedness that he "hath committed, and doeth that which is "lawful and right, he shall save his soul "alive. Because he considereth, and turneth "away from all his transgressions that he *' hath committed, he shall surely live, he "shall not die." Can any man, after this declaration, imagine that God would withhold the spirit of repentance from any human being, who properly employs his reason, " who "considereth," and is desirous of turning from his sins to God? No man can entertain this opinion who believes that man is a free agent, and a rational being, and that the God we worship is a God longsuffering, abundant in goodness and mercy, who pardons iniquity and sin, and who, instead of withholding the spirit of repentance, not
only freely offers it to every human being, but earnestly commands his adoption of it.
All these errors of Calvin are, I apprehend, to be imputed to that grand source of spiritual error, a mystical interpretation of those doctrines of Scripture which relate to our faith and practice, and to the attributes of the Deity, and which should be always understood and received in the plain, literal, unambiguous manner, in which they are expressed. To what else, but to a deviation from this rule, are we to ascribe those various sects, schisms, and heresies, which, under the names of Arians, Pelagians, Donatists, Gnostics, Socinians, Montanists, &c. &c. &c. have at different periods disgraced and infested the Christian Church?
In his Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul informs us the Scriptures were written for our information, and with the gracious intention, of making us wise unto salvation; their meaning with reference to this heavenly end is accordingly expressed in terms adapted to the common sense of mankind: they tell u» in the plainest and most intelligible manner what we are to believe, and what we are to practise. Though the opinions of the heathens on man's creation are ridiculous and absurd in the highest degree, what can be plainer, or more satisfactory, than the Scripture relation of it; likewise of the fall of man, and of the origin of that evil we find to exist in the world? what clearer than the relation of the glorious scheme of man's redemption? With respect to the duty God requires from man, can words more clearly express that will, than as it is expressed in the Old Testament, in the Ten Commandments, and in this comprehensive sentence of the prophet Micah, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is "good; and what doth the Lord require of "thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, "and to walk humbly with thy God?" And in the New Testament, than by our Saviour's sermon on the mount, and his summing up the whole duty of man, in loving the Lord our God with all r pur heart, and doing by our neighbour as we would be done unto? Can any words describe the amiable character of God in plainer terms than he himself makes use of in the delineation of that character to Moses; "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and "gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in "goodness and truth, keeping mercy for "thousands, forgiving iniquity and trans"gression and sin, and that will by no means "clear the guilty?" Or can words more plainly express the manner in which God is pleased to rule and govern the world and human affairs than these; "I am the Lord, which "exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and *' righteousness in the earth: for in these "things I delight, saith the Lord?" Is it not mentioned in the clearest and most unambiguous terms, in various parts of Scripture, that to those who will love, honour, and obey him, God will give his peace, blessing, and favour in this life, and, through his goodness, and for the merits of his Son, everlasting happiness in the next? And are not in the same holy pages the severest inflictions denounced against obstinate men, who, in spite of reason, conscience, and the word of God, will persist in disobedience to his commands?
With respect to what we are required to believe, God declares in the most intelligible manner, that " the seed of the woman should "bruise the serpent's head: that ultimately sin "and satan should be vanquished, and death ** swallowed up in victory: that he so loved "the world, as to send his only-begotten Son ** into it, that mankind should not perish, but