« AnteriorContinuar »
'sistent with his attributes. Thus I do not at'tempt to explain, or pretend to understand, how 'the free agency of man is reconcilable with the 'prescience of God. I cannot comprehend how 'those future contingencies, which depend upon 'the determination of the human will, should be 'so certainly and infallibly foreseen, as to be the 'objects of the sure word of prophecy: still, how
* ever, I believe both in the prescience of God
* and free agency of man, for the reasons already 'stated; and I see in them no contradiction to
* each other, or to any acknowledged truth. Here 'is a just exercise of my faith, upon a subject 'which exceeds the limits of my understanding;
* it is above, but not contrary to, reason.'1
No man ' ascribes to the Deity a mode of aet'ing,' which he himself thinks to be ' inconsistent 'with the divine attributes.' Here indeed we all are liable to mistake. One man ascribes to God 'a mode of acting,' which another man supposes to be 'inconsistent with his attributes.' But, whatever we may think on any subject, reverence of the infinite Majesty of heaven best becomes us. —Contingencies seems here an ambiguous and improper term. Are contingent events uncertain P If so, they cannot be certainly and infallibly foreseen. An uncertain event certainly foreseen is a palpable contradiction, which cannot shelter itself behind the veil of human ignorance.—On the other hand, if contingencies, or contingent events, be foreseen as certain; how are the difficulties objected against God's predestination obviated or diminished? The contradiction between certain 'Ref. 249, 250.
forekturwledge and free agency, is as great as between a decree and free agency.—The rest of the passage is very just; but how it consists with what follows, the reader must determine.
'But that God should of his own good pleasure, 'without any respect to their conduct, irreversibly 'predestinate one part of mankind to eternal hap'piness, and the other part to everlasting misery, 'is a doctrine which I consider so inconsistent 'with the attributes of infinite justice and infinite 'mercy, that I cannot bring myself to believe it. 'It is not merely that I am unable to reconcile 'these two things, or to understand how they are 'consistent with each other; but it appears to me
* a palpable contradiction to say, that a just and 'merciful God created some men for the purpose
* of being eternally miserable, without giving
* them the capacity of avoiding that misery. And
* to add, as the Calvinists do, that God acted thus 'to promote his own glory, is so dreadful an as'sertion, that I should not have conceived it pos'sible to be made by persons calling themselves 'Christians.'1
After what has been argued and stated on the preceding part of this chapter, it is not needful to mark particularly the misapprehensions of the Calvinistic doctrine, which this passage contains. God indeed ' irreversibly predestinates one part of 'mankind to eternal happiness:' and, knowing that they would neither deserve it, nor be fit for it, but quite the contrary; nay that, if left to themselves, they would refuse the proffered blessing; he purposed, by "regeneration and re"newing of the Holy Spirit," to bring them to repentance, faith, love, holiness, and heaven; as stated in our seventeenth Article. But few modern Calvinists, if any, maintain that God irreversibly decreed another part of mankind to everlasting misery, 'without respect' to their foreseen deserving of it.—Again, we do not hold, that God created ' some men for the purpose of 'being eternally miserable, without giving them 'the capacity of avoiding that misery.' For, first, we consider man as being at present far different from what God created him; as being a fallen apostate rebel, a " child of wrath," and "a vessel "of wrath fitted for destruction ;" and " it is of "the Lord's mercies" that we are not all left finally to perish in our sins. Secondly, we consider even fallen man as wanting no capacity for embracing the gospel of free mercy, but a disposition, a willing mind: and 'it is acknowledged, 'that man has not the disposition, and conse'quently not the ability, to do what in the sight 'of God is good, till he is influenced by the Spirit 'of God.'l—f To add, as the Calvinists do, that 'God acted thus to promote his own glory, &c.' That 'God created man for the purpose of his 'being eternally miserable,' exclusive of his foreseen wickedness, and this 'to promote his own 'glory,' would indeed be ' a dreadful assertion,' which /' should not have conceived possible to be 'made by persons calling themselves Christians.' But quotations from our writings, and from several of them, expressly maintaining this doctrine, 1 Ref.61.
1 Ref. 250.
are indispensably necessary; when it is said, ' As 'the Calvinists do, &c.' It is true, some individuals calling themselves Calvinists, but called by us Antinomians, if not blasphemers, have maintained very dreadful sentiments: but the body of Calvinists are no more chargeable with their extravagancies, than the refuters of Calvinism are with the heresies and iniquities of the multitudes who oppose or ridicule our doctrines. Let us only be judged by our tenets, and not by the tenets of those whom we disclaim, and protest against to the utmost of our ability. Till quotations be adduced from the writings of modern Calvinists, and of the evangelical clergy, clearly proving that we avow the sentiments here ascribed to us, I must confidently pronounce this to be an unfounded and unsubstantiated charge against us, and a direct violation of the ninth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy "neighbour." 'Aliud est maledicere, aliud ac'ensure: accusatio crimen desiderat, rem ut de'finiat, hominem ut notet, argumento probet, teste 'confirmet, &c.' (Cicero.) 'It is one thing to - speak evil, another to accuse. Accusation re'quires a crime, that the thing be defined, that 'the man be marked out, that it be proved by 'argument, that it be confirmed by a witness, &c.' —I am not Calvin's disciple: yet I revere him as no common man, either as a scholar, a theologian, or a Christian; though he used exceptionable words, at least in my judgment, on this very point;. but by no means importing all which is here implied. It is, however, exclusively the cause of modern Calvinists, and especially those of the established church, which I have undertaken to plead. And let our opponents prove, if they can, that one in ten or twenty of those who have committed themselves, by publishing their sentiments, holds that God decreed to consign any portion of mankind to everlasting misery, without regard to their foreseen conduct as deserving it. This, at least, I avow, and a large majority of my brethren will join with me, that I wholly disclaim all such nominal Calvinists as deliberately maintain that sentiment. The Lambeth Articles, though very open to objection, say, 'Those who are not predestinated to salvation 'shall be necessarily damned for their sins? But supposing that even Calvin, and other eminent persons, clogged their doctrines with sentiments which we avowedly consider as unscriptural; are these same sentiments, overcharged and distorted, to be imputed to those very persons who disavow them; merely because, in the grand outline of their creed, they coincide with these eminent men? I must own I cannot see either 'justice * or mercy,' in this way of exposing us to public odium and contempt. In respect of the concluding part of this quotation—' So inconsistent 'with the attributes of infinite justice and infinite 'mercy, that I cannot bring myself to believe it' * —I have already shewn how essentially the doctrine intended differs from our sentiments: but we all have our difficulties, and some things meet us in the scriptures, which we cannot reconcile with our ideas of the divine perfections. Few have experienced this more than I have done. 1 See Remarks on Ref. 243.