Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

trievable by any means that can be used, and so has a tendency to lead them to despair. But to this it may be replied,

1st, That it must be owned, that they, for whom Christ did not die, cannot be saved; and therefore, had God described any persons by name, or given some visible character, by which it might be certainly concluded that they were not redeemed, it would follow from thence, that their state would be desperate. But this is not his usual method of dealing with mankind : he might, indeed, have done it, and then such would have been thereby excluded from, and not encouraged to attend on the means of grace; but he has, in wisdom and sovereignty, concealed the event of things, with respect hereunto, from the world; and therefore there is a vast difference between men's concluding that a part of the world are excluded from this privilege; and that they themselves are included in that number: the latter of which we have no warrant to say, concerning ourselves, or any others, especially so long as we are under the means of grace. There is, indeed, one character of persons in the gospel, which gives ground to conclude that Christ did not dic for them, and that is what respects those who had committed the unpardonable sin. I shall not, at present, enter into the dispute, whether that sin can now be committed or no, since we may be occasionally led to insist on that subject under another head; but there seems to be sufficient ground to determine, either that this cannot be certainly known, since the extraordinary gift of discerning of spirits is now ceased; or, at least, that this cannot be applied to any who attend on the means of grace with a desire of receiving spiritual advantage thereby.

2dly, If Christ's not dying for the whole world be a means to lead men to despair, as salvation is hereby rendered impossible, this consequence may, with equal evidence, be deduced from the supposition, that all mankind shall not be saved, which they, who defend universal redemption, pretend not to deny: but will any one say, that this supposition leads men to despair? or ought it to be reckoned a reflection on the divine goodness, that so many are left to perish in their fallen state, by the judicial hand of God, which might have applied salvation unto all, as well as purchased it for all mankind?

2. The doctrine of particular redemption is farther supposed to be inconsistent with the preaching the gospel, which is generally styled a door of hope; and then the dispensation we are under cannot be called a day of grace ; which renders all the overtures of salvation made to sinners illusory, and contains in it a reflection, not only on the grace of God, but his holiness.

In order to our replying to this, something inust be premised to explain what we mean by a day of grace, and the hope of the gospel, which gecompanies it. And here let it be considered, (1.) That we hereby intend such a dispensation in which sinners are called to repent and believe, and so obtain salvation; not that we are to suppose that it is to be attained by their own power, without the special influences of the Holy Ghost, for this would be to ascribe that to man, which is peculiar to God; nor that God would give his special grace to all that sit under the sound of the gospel; for this is contrary to common observation and experience, since many make a profession of religion who are destitute of saving grace.

As for the hope of the gospel, or that door of hope that is opened therein to sinners, we cannot understand any thing else thereby, but that all, without distinction, are commanded and encouraged to wait on God in his instituted means of grace, and the event hereof must be left to him who gives and withholds success to them, as he pleases. All have this encouragement, that, peradventure they may obtain grace, under the means of grace; and this is not inconsistent with their being styled a door of hope, and God is not obliged to grant sinners a greater degree of hope than this, to encourage them to wait on him in his ordinances, notwithstanding there is a farther motive inducing us hereunto, namely, that this is his ordinary way, in which he works grace; or, if God is pleased to give us desires after the efficacy of his grace, or any degree of conviction of sin and misery; this is still a farther ground of hope, though it fall short of that grace of hope that accompanies salvation.

(2.) As to what concerns the preaching of the gospel, and the overtures of salvation to all therein, which, upon the supposition of Christ's not dying for all men, they conclude to be illusory, and repugnant to the holiness of God. To this it may be replied, that we do not deny that in preaching the gospel, Christ is offered to the chief of sinners, or that the proclamation of grace is made public to all, without distinction : but this will not overthrow the doctrine of particular redemption, if we rightly consider what is done, in offering Christ to sinners; which, that it may be understood, let it be observed,

1st, That God has given us no warrant to enter into his secret determinations, respecting the event of things, so as to give any persons ground to conclude that they are redeemed, and have a warrant to apply to themselves the promise of salvation, or any blessings that accompany it, while in an unconverted state. Ministers are not to address their discourses to a mixed multitude of professing Christians, in such a way, as though they knew that they were all effectually called, and chosen of God. Our Saviour compares them to the faithful and wise steward, whose business it is to give every one their portion of meat in due season, Luke xii. 42. and therefore they are, consistently with what is contained in scripture, to tell them, that

salvation is purchased for a part of mankind, and they know not but that they may be of that number, which will be an evidence to them that they are so.

2dly, When Christ is said to be offered to sinners, in the preaching of the gospel, that, which is intended thereby, is his being set forth therein as a most desirable object, altogether lovely, worthy to be embraced, and submitted to; and not only so, but that he will certainly save all whom he effectually calls, inasmuch as he has purchased salvation for them.

3dly, It includes in it an informing sinners, that it is their indispensible duty and interest to believe in Christ, and in order thereto, that they are commanded and encouraged to wait on him for that grace, which can enable them thereunto: and, as a farther encouragement, to let them know that there is a certain connexion between grace and salvation ; so that none, who are enabled, by faith, to come to Christ, shall be cast out, or rejected by him. This is the preaching and hope of the gospel ; and, in this sense, the overtures of salvation are made therein ; which is not in the least inconsistent with the doctrine of particular redemption.*

Object. Though this be such a method of preaching the gospel, as is consistent with the doctrine of special redemption ; yet there is another way of preaching it, which is more agreeable to the express words of scripture, and founded on the doctrine of universal redemption; and accordingly sinners ought to be told, that the great God, in the most affectionate manner, expostulates with them, to persuade them to accept of life and salvation, when he represents himself, as having no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and, with an earnestness of expression says, Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Therefore the design of the gospel is, to let the world know that God's dealing with mankind, in general, are full of goodness; he would not have any petish, and therefore has sent his Son to redeem them all, and, as the consequence hereof, pleads with them to turn to him, that they may reap the benefits purchased thereby.

Answ. Whatever be the sense of these expostulatory expressions, which we frequently meet with in scripture, we must not suppose that they infer, that the saving grace of repentance is in our own power; for that is not only contrary to the sense of many other scriptures, but to the experience of every true penitent, whose language is like that of Ephraim, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, Jer. xxxi. 18. nor must we conclude, that God designs to save those that shall not be saved; for then he could not say, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all

See this insisted on, and farther explained, in answer to an objection to the same purpose, against the doctrine of particular election, in Vol. I. page 508, 509. VOL. II.

Uu

my pleasure, Isa. xlvi. 10. If these ideas, as unworthy of God, be abstracted from the sense of such-like scriptures, we may understand them, not only in a way that is consistent with the divine perfections, but with the doctrine of particular redemption; which, that it may appear, let it be considered, that it is a very common thing, in scripture, for God to condescend to use human modes of speaking, and those, in particular, by which various passions are set forth ; notwithstanding, we must not conclude that these passions are in God as they are in men. Such expostulations as these, when used by us, signify, that we earnestly desire the good of others, and are often warning them of their danger : but all is to no purpose, for they are obstinately set on their own ruin, which we can by no means prevent; it being either out of our power to help them, or, if we could, it would not redound to our honour to do it. This draws forth such-like expostulations from men; but the weakness contained in them, is by no means to be applied to God: it cannot be said to be out of his power to give grace to impenitent sinners; nor, in case he has so determined, will it tend to his dishonour to bestow it. Now, that we may understand the sense of these scriptures, let it be considered,

1. That life and death, in scripture, are oftentimes used to signify the external dispensations of providence, as to what concerns that good or evil, which God would bring on his people: thus it is said, See, I have set before thee this day, life and good, death and evil, Deut. xxx. 15, 19, 20. where life is explained in the following words, as signifying their being multiplied and blessed in the land, whither they were to go to possess it; and when God advises them in a following verse, to choose life, the consequence of this is, that both they and their seed should live, that they might dwell in the land, which the Lord sware to their fathers to give them; and elsewhere, when God says, by the prophet Jeremiah, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death, Jer. xxi. 8. he explains it in the following words, as containing an expedient for their escaping temporal judgments, when he says, He that abideth in the city, shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans, shall live. And I cannot see any reason to conclude, but that many other expressions, of the like nature, in which God promises life, or threatens death to the house of Israel, by the prophets, who often warned them of their being carried into captivity, and dying in their enemies' land, have a more immediate respect thereunto; and that proverbial expression, which the Israelites are represented as making use of, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the childrens' teeth are set on edge, Ezek. xviii. 2. seems to intimate' no more than this ; q. d. that our fathers have sinned, and

thereby deserved that the nation should be ruined by being carried captive, and we must suffer for their sins; in answer to which, God tells them, that this proverb should not be used by them, but this evil should be brought on them for their own iniquities, or prevented by their reformation, namely, by forsaking their idolatry, whoredom, violence, oppression, and other abominations. And then he adds, ver. 12, 13, 17, 18. the soul that sinneth, it shall die, that is, if you continue to commit these vile enormities, you shall be followed with all those judgments which shall tend to your utter ruin; but if the wicked will turn from all his sins which he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die, ver. 21. If this be the sense of these and suchlike texts, then it was not wholly out of their own power thus to turn to God, how much soever that special grace, which accompanies salvation, be out of our power. It is one thing to şay, that man cannot work a principle of grace in himself, or to do that by his own power, which is the special gift and work of the Spirit of God, and, as the consequence thereof, have ground to expect eternal salvation; and another thing to say, that he cannot abstain from some gross enormities, as an expedient to prevent desolating judgments. But if it will not be allowed that this is the sense of all those scriptures, that promise or threaten life or death, which I do not pretend peremptorily to assert, let it be farther added,

2. That if spiritual and eternal blessings be included in the word life, and the contrary in death, in the scriptures but now referred to, we may account for the sense of them, without

supposing that God designs what shall never come to pass, to wit, the universal salvation of mankind, though a part of them shall not be saved, by considering desire, in him, as signifying the effects of desire in men.* Thus God's not desiring a thing, denotes it not to be the object of desire; accordingly when he desires not the death of sinners, it implies, that they ought to endeavour to avoid it, as the most formidable evil; and, on the other hand, his taking pleasure in a thing, as he does in the salvation of his people, signifies not only his intending to save them, but the inexpressible happiness which they shall attain thereby; and, when he exhorts them, as an expedient to attain this privilege, to turn, this signifies the inseparable connexion between salvation and repentance, or turning to God, which, though it be God's gift, it is, notwithstanding, our act. and indispensible duty. Therefore, if we take this, and such-like scriptures, in either of these two senses, they are far from give ing countenance to the doctrine of universal redemption,

3. There is another absurd consequence charged upon the doctrine of special redemption, namely, that it is inconsistent

Passiones tribuuntur Deo gitad effectuni.

« PredošláPokračovať »