« AnteriorContinuar »
company, he should feel dejected and sullen, and should be ready to resolve that he would never enter a company again with his fatber, because, though he could speak freely to him there, yet he was always reserved when alone, would this be lovely? Let him rather reflect, and ask, Is there not a cause ? Let himn resolve on this wise, I will arise and go to my Father in secret, and will say, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Let him give no rest to his eyes, nor slumber to his eyelids, till all is reconciled : otherwise, whether he pray in public or desist, his soul will be exposed to the most imminent danger.
AN ANSWER TO THE FOLLOWING QUERY:
Was the fall of Adam fore-determined, or only foreseen by God?
The concern which the decrees of God have with the fall of man, has often been the subject of inquiry. I do not see the reason, however, why this particular fact should be singled out from others. There is nothing revealed, that I know of, concerning the fall of man being the object either of the divine foreknowl. edge or decree. The scriptures declare, in general, that God knoweth the end from the beginning, from which we may conclude with certainty, that he knew all the events of time, all the causes and effects of things, through all their multiplied and diversified channels. The scriptures also ask, Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? which intimates that the providence and purpose of God are concerned in whatever cometh to pass. The volitions of free agents, the evil as well as the good, are constantly represented as falling under the counsels and conduct of heaven. Never did men act more freely, por more wickedly, than the Jews, in the crucifixion of Christ; yet in that whole business they did no other than what God's hand and counsel determined before to be done. The delivery of Christ into their hands to be crucified, as performed by Judas, was a wicked act; yet was he delivered according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The proof that the fall of man, was an object of divine foreknowledge is merely inferential ; and from the same kind of proof we may conclude, that it was, all things considered, an object of pre-determination.
That this subject is deep and difficult, in the present state, is admitted ; and wicked men may abuse it to their own destruction : but the thing itself is no less true and useful, if considered in the fear of God. There is a link, as some have expressed it, that unites the purposes of God, and the free actions of men, wbich is above our comprehension ; but to deny the fact, is to disown an all-pervading Providence; which is little less than to disown a God. It is observable, in one of the foregoing passages, that Peter unites the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God together, and seems to have had no idea of admitting the one without the other. It is also worthy of notice, that in bis manner of introducing the subject, it appears to have no tendency whatever to excuse them from guilt, by throwing the blame on the Almighty : on the contrary, it is brought in for the purpose of conviction, and actually answered the end; those to whom it was addressed, being pricked in their hearts, and crying out, Men and brethren, what shall we do? . .
The decrees of God seem to be distinguishable into efficient and permissive. With respect to moral goodl, God is the proper and efficient cause of it. This James teaches, Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, particularly the blessing of regeneration, which contains all moral goodness in embryo; as it follows, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.
With respect to moral evil, God permits it, and it was his eternal purpose to do so. If it be right for God to permit sin, it could not
be' wrong for him to determine to do so ; unless it be wrong to determine to do what is right. The decree of God to permit sin, does not in the least excuse the sinner, or warrant him to ascribe it to God, instead of himself.
The same inspired writer who teaches, with respect to good, that it cometh from above, teaches also in the same passage, with respect to the evil, that it proceedeth from ourselves ; Let no one say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil ; neither tempteth he any one. But every one is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. And as if he considered the danger of mistaking on this profound subject, he adds by way of caution, Do not err, my beloved brethren.
ANSWER TO THE FOLLOWING QUERY :
How may a man ascertain his election of God to the ministry of the gospel ? And what are sufficient qualifications for that important office ?
I CONCEIVE an answer to the latter part of the question will enable a person to decide upon the former ; it being a principle which may be taken for granted, that whoever possesses the essential qualifications for the Christian ministry, is called of God to exercise them. Every man that hath received the gift is commanded of God to minister the same, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God. Only let him take heed, that if he speak, it be according to the oracles of God.
Now the scriptures are not silent on the qualifications of a bishop. See 1 Tim. jii. 1–7. By a bishop, I must be allowed to understand, not a lord in lawn, but a Christian pastor. And besides those requisites which belong to his moral and religious char
acter, there are two things which appear to be absolutely necessary to the discharge of this sacred office ; one is, that be have a true desire after it, and the other, an ability for it. The first of these qualifications is included in the terms, if a man DESIRE the office of a bishop. It is supposed that this desire shall spring from a pure motive, and not from the love of ease, affluence, or applause ; but from a concern to glorify God, and promote the salvation of men. It is necessary, in my judgment, that there should be a special desire of this sort ; a kind of fire kindled in the bosom, that it would be painful to extinguish. The second qualification is contained in those expressive terms, APT TO TEACH. He must possess not only an inventive mind, but a kind of natural readiness in communicating his ideas.
Neither of these qualifications is sufficient in itself. A man may have a desire after the Christian ministry, and that desire may arise from the purest motives ; and yet, baving no competent ability for the work, he is certainly not called of God to be employed in it. I doubt not but the Lord will take it well that it was in the heart of such persons to build him a house, though their desire may never be accomplished. On the other hand, a person may not only be a good man and judicious, but possess a readiness in communicating bis ideas : and yet, having no special thirst after the work of the ministry, or of thus promoting the salvation of souls, he is unfit to engage in it. · Of the first qualification, every man must be his own judge ; for wbo else can be acquainted with his desires and motives? Of the last, those with whom we stand connected. Whether we be apt to teach, is a question on which we ought not to decide ourselves : those are the best judges who have heard us, and been taught by us. When a congregation of Christians invite a person to serve them in the gospel, it is a sufficient proof that they consider him as equal to the undertaking. If a person so invited be but clear as to the former qualification, I conceive he may leave the latter to the judgment of others ; and conclude, that so long as a door is opened for bim to preach the gospel, he is called of God to do so.
AN ANSWER TO THE FOLLOWING QUERIES :
1. Did not the law of God require of Christ, considered as a man, a perfect obedience on his own account ? If it did, how can that obedience be imputed to sinners for their justification ?
2. How does it appear to be necessary that Christ should both obey the law in his people's stead, and yet suffer punishment on the account of their transgressions ; seeing obedience is all the law requires ?
To the first, I should answer, The objection proceeds upon the supposition, that a public head, or representative, whose obedience should be imputable to others, must possess it in a degree over and above what is required of him. But was it thus with the first public head of mankind ? Had Adam kept the covenant of his God, his righteousness, it is supposed, would have been imputed to his posterity, in the same sense as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers ; that is, God to express bis approbation of his conduct, would have rewarded it, by confirming him and his posterity in the enjoyment of everlasting life: yet he would have wrought no work of supererogation, nor have done any more than he was required to do on his own account.
But though, for argument's sake, I have allowed that the human nature of Christ was under obligation to keep the law on his own account: yet I question the propriety of that mode of stating things. In the person of Christ, the divinity and humanity were so intimately united, that perhaps we ought not to conceive of the jatter as having any such distinct subsistence as to be an agent by itself, or as being obliged to obey, or do any thing of itself, or on its own account : Christ, as man, possessed no being on his own account. He was always in' union with the Son of God ; a public person, whose very existence was sor the sake of others. Hence his coming under the law is represented, not only as a part of his humiliation, to which he was naturally unobliged, but as a thing