« AnteriorContinuar »
others; and that some will " be beaten with few, "and others with many stripes," though none beyond what they justly deserve.
Again, Calvin, if alive, would indignanlly object to the expression 'arbitrary will,' as spoken by him concerning the only wise God. Arbitrary will, in the common use of words, means the will of one who is determined, with or without reason, to have his own way, being possessed of power to enforce his decisions. 'Sic volo, sic jubeo; stet 'pro ratione voluntas.' This, generally in men, is unreasonable, capricious, tyrannical; often it stands in direct opposition to wisdom, justice, truth, goodness, or mercy. Such thoughts of God's sovereignty were far removed from Calvin's views of the subject; and so they are from ours. God does not, indeed, inform us of the reasons and motives of his decrees or dispensations: but he assures us that he is " righteous in all his "ways, and holy in all his works ;" that " all his "works are done in wisdom;" that " God Is "Love." We cannot indeed see the wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness, of many things, which undeniably he does; and it is not wonderful that his decrees should be a depth which we cannot fathom : but faith takes it for granted that " righ- *"" "teousness and judgment are the basis of his "throne," even when "clouds and darkness are "round about him." In the mysterious and awful subject on which we are about to enter, we cannot see the reasons which induce the only wise God, the God of holiness and love, to choose one in preference to another, or to new create one rather than another: but let it not be supposed that there
is no reason, or no adequate reason. Now, if it consist with infinite wisdom and perfection, actually to change the heart of one man, and not that of 'another; how does it alter the case, whether we suppose that, being infinite in knowledge and foreknowledge, he determined to do this from all eternity; or whether he formed the determination only at the moment when he effected it? On the other hand, if, either in the present dispensations of God, or in the decisions of the great day, any thing should be done inconsistent with perfect wisdom, justice, truth, and love; would the circumstance, that it was not predestinated, make any difference, in the opinion to be formed of it ?—No doubt Calvin would have allowed, as some of us allow, that' God selects a number of 'persons,' (how large we know not,) 'without re'spect to foreseen faith or good works,' (both faith and good works being the consequences, not the causes, of his choice ;) ' and infallibly ordains their 'salvation.' But, in speaking of their being ' in'fallibly ordained to happiness' as the end, he would have been careful to note that they were, in the way to that happiness, infallibly predestinated to holiness and obedience as the means. And, whether a greater part of mankind shall perishj and the sense in which these are ' infallibly 'doomed' to suffer eternal misery; are subjects which Calvin would explain more fully, and with many important distinctions, before he would admit them to be a part of his creed. I feel, however, a consciousness of presumption, in venturing to speak of what so eminent and able a theologian would, or would not have admitted.
VOL. VIII. c
'When some of the Jews asked Jesus, " What 'shall we do, that we might work the works of 'God?" he answered, " This is the work of God, 'that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." If 'God had decreed that the Jews should not be'lieve, it could not have been said, that it was his 'work, that they should believe on him whom he 'hath sent. Upon another occasion Christ de'clared to them, " These things I say that ye 'might be saved :" How could Christ endeavour 'to promote the salvation of men, in opposition to 'the decree of his Father, whose will he came 'down from heaven to fulfil ?1'
Whether decreed or not, in what sense could it be " the work of God" that those Jews should believe in Jesus, who eventuallv did not believe in him? Commentators indeed generally agree, that "the work of God," in the text referred to (being an answer to the question of the Jews, " What "shall we do, that we might work the works of "God ?") signifies that work, or act of obedience, which God required of them, and would accept; and without which all other works would be rejected.2 "This is my beloved Son—hear ye "him:" "This is the work" most acceptable in the sight of God, " that ye believe on him whom "he hath sent."3 There is, however, nothing said about these Jews, or of any divine decree respecting them. It was their duty to believe: and had they truly believed they would have been saved. These are " revealed things, which belong "to us:" but who are, or who are not decreed to salvation, is " a secret thing which belongs to "God," and of which we can know nothing except by the event. Did ministers, who believe the doctrine of the divine decrees, really know what these decrees were, they could not consistently preach to those, 'concerning whom they
1 Ref. 191. • John vi. 27—29. 'Whitby.
* knew it was decreed that they should not believe,
* in order that they might be saved:' but, as they know nothing concerning this, they must adhere to the revealed truth and will of God: and, really loving all men with cordial good will, and praying for the salvation of all, they must address them as sinners, and invite them to partake of salvation: and God will give what success to their labours he sees good. It may however be said, that, if such decrees do really exist, our Lord knew what they were, though we do not. But, as Man and as a Preacher, he acted not from his divine knowledge of unrevealed things, but as we ought to act in like circumstances; and he hath left us an example for our imitation. It may indeed be supposed he knew that some whom he addressed were "chosen unto salvation ;" for probably Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were present when he spake the words referred to.' In general, he used proper means for the salvation of those who heard him.—But, supposing no such decree to exist, how does this alter the case? Did not our Lord foreknow who would, and who would not believe? who would, and who would not be saved? In 'endeavouring to promote the salvation of those' who he foreknew would not be saved, he would have acted as much in opposition to his own foreknowledge, as supposing a decree to have existed, he would have acted in opposition to that decree. But, doubtless, in what he said and did, he did not act in opposition to either the one or the other. As for us, we take it for granted that God has 'some people' in our congregations, in the same sense in which he had " much people " at Corinth.1 We are charged by the bishop, when ordained priests, ' to seek for Christ's sheep that are scat'tered abroad, and for his children who are in the 'midst of this naughty world, that they may be * saved through Christ for ever.'2 And we have no fear of being condemned for opposition to a secret decree, while diligently obeying a revealed and express command.
1 John T. 34. 'AcU xviii. 10. • Ordination Office. 'Ref. 192.
Our Lord's ' questions imply that the Jews had f a power of understanding and believing, and 'cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of a divine 'decree rendering their conversion impossible.'3
Had the Jews possessed a disposition to believe, their conversion would have been certain. But 'it is acknowledged, that man has not the dispo'sition, and consequently not the ability, to do'what in the sight of God is good, till he is influ'enced by the Spirit of God.'4 Now this is the only thing which renders any man's conversion impossible, except he be influenced by the Spirit of God: and why might not the divine decree respect this very point, namely, the producing, or the not producing of this disposition in one who had it not, and could not have it, ' till influenced 'by the Spirit of God?'