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and invectives of infidels against them, and against the Bible as approving their conduct, would have been unanswerable. But they merely fulfilled the express and repeated command of Jehovah; and were the appointed executioners of his vengeance on that devoted race, which had filled up the measure of their sins. Did decrees, even when revealed, warrant the conduct of those who break God's commandments in fulfilling them, the accursed slave-trade might have found a better justification from prophecy, than it ever had in the British senate, from the most able, eloquent, and zealous of its advocates.
If any event ever was absolutely decreed, and most expressly predicted, the crucifixion of Christ was that event: yet that did not at all excuse any of the parties concerned in it from being guilty of the most atrocious wickedness.
The argument here used, carried to its consequences, would, if valid, prove far more than any Anticalvinist intends: for they who hold it must either disavow the belief of the divine prescience and of all prophecy; or excuse an immense proportion, if not the whole, of the wickedness which has ever been committed. If we do not firmly adhere to this fundamental tenet, that the law and command of God are the only rule by which our conduct must be regulated, and by which it will be judged: if we admit that divine purposes or predictions, when intentionally or unintentionally fufilled by men, alter the quality of their actions, and in any degree convert disobedience into obedience; we shall open the floodgates to iniquity; while each will profess, when actuated by his own
VOL. VIII. h
selfish passions, that he is executing the decrees of God, or fulfilling the prophecies.
God has not' made disobedience inevitable:' nor is it inevitable in any particular instance ; that is, no one commits a sin but by his own unconstrained choice; yet' the condition of man after 'the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn 'and prepare himself, by his own natural strength 'and good works, to faith and calling upon God: 'wherefore we have no power to do good works, 'pleasant and acceptable to God, without the 'grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we 'may have a good will, and working with us, when 'we have that good will.'' If in this sense disobedience is inevitable without preventing grace, the fall of Adam, and our fall in him, has made it so; not any act or decree of God.
The argument taken from what we ought to do, to prove what it becomes God to do, has been before answered. We ought to do all that we possibly can, consistently with other known and evident duties, to preserve the life and save the soul of every man on earth: but is God bound to exercise his omnipotence to the utmost, to preserve every man's life, and to save every man's soul r— It is further asked, ' Is such a decree reconcilable 'with the attributes of justice and mercy?' The answer to this question must be left to the day of judgment; but I must remind the reader of St. Paul's answer to an objection, not wholly dissimilar: "Why doth he yet find fault? for who "hath resisted his will r Nay but, O man, who "art thou that repliest against God ?" Is the conduct of Jehovah in casting the wicked into hell reconcilable with the attributes of 'justice and 'mercy?' If it is, then the decree, that he would do so, cannot be irreconcilable with them.
1 Art. x.
It is highly to be desired that they who engage in religious controversy would reverently avoid all language, which even seems to impeach the conduct of God, on the supposition that their own tenets are not true. The words here quoted are indeed inoffensive, compared with many things in writers on each side of this argument; yet even this question implies more than ought to be hinted, or even allowed in our thoughts. Are we so completely infallible as to be authorized to speak a word implying that, if we be mistaken, God is not just, or faithful, or merciful ? On this subject, no tongue can express the irreverence, nay, the blasphemy, which has been uttered, by eager disputers. I am concious that I have no need, nor inclination, to adopt any argument of this kind: but, should I drop one word implying, by fair construction, such a connexion between my sentiments and the honour of the divine perfections, that if the former are erroneous this is exposed to impeachment, or even doubt; I will promise before God, publicly, with shame, to retract it when pointed out to me. Whether Calvinism be true or false, God is infinitely wise, righteous, holy, faithful, good, merciful; worthy of all reverence, adoration, love, confidence, honour and obedience, from all rational creatures to all eternity.—It would indeed be a blessed effect of this publication, if it should render Calvinists, as well as their opponents, more reverently cautious what words they use in the warmth of controversy, when, on any account, the glory of God in his dispensations or decrees is even remotely concerned. "Let God be true, "and every man a liar." Angels adore the divine perfections, in those very events which erring presumptuous mortals arraign : and expressions often occur in the writings even of pious persons, which a dutiful son, or a loyal subject, would on no account or supposition whatever use concerning his father or his prince.
'The same observations will apply to the follow'ing passage in the Epistle to St. Jude: "There 'are certain men crept in unawares, who were 'before of old ordained to this condemnation; 'ungodly men, turning the grace of our God 'into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord 'God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." l We are not 'to infer from hence that God, by an ordinance, 'causes these men to be thus ungodly; but that 'he ordained that those, who he foresaw would be 'guilty of such practices, should suffer a severe 'condemnation.'2
God did not, 'by an ordinance, cause these men 'to be ungodly.' This he never does: for that would make God the author of sin: but he both ordained, that men 'guilty of such practices 'should suffer a severe condemnation ;' and, foreseeing that these men, if left to themselves, would be guilty of them, he determined so to leave them. Thus they were "of old ordained3 to this condemnation :" the appointment did not make them, or force them to be, ungodly; but it left them to the tendency of their own corrupt passions, and to the consequences of their atrocious crimes, without any special divine interposition to counteract or prevent them.
'Jude 4. * Ref. 243.
• Upoytypafi-^avot, " Written beforehand." See Rom. xv. 4.
'God's " own purpose, before the world began," 'means his eternal purpose, springing from his 'own essential goodness and mercy, to offer sal'vation to mankind through Christ. "Who hath 'saved us," that is, us Christians: by which and 'other similar expressions, as has been before ob'served, we are not to understand, that all who 'embrace the gospel are actually saved, or abso'lutely certain-of salvation; but that all Christians 'are supplied with the means of salvation, through 'that grace which is given them.'l
The apostle does not say, 'to offer salvation to 'mankind:' but "he has saved us," (even me Paul, and thee Timothy,) "and called us with "a holy calling, not according to our works, but "according to his own purpose and grace, "which was given us before the world began."3 There is nothing about offer nor about mankind in the passage; it relates wholly to the apostle and Timothy, or, on the largest construction, to their fellow Christians along with them. By such convenient alterations and additions it would be very easy to new model the whole Bible; and every man might make it speak the language of his own preconceived sentiments. The meaning of the passage may well be left to the reader's determination: but the custom of substituting other propositions, in the place of those made by
'Rcf. 244. '2 Tim. i. 9.