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with the perfection of God, than much moral agency, as they any of his eternal purposes? If could upon any other supposithe actual salvation of the saints tion, yea, as much as is really manifests the infinite excellence desirable, or even possible, 'is of God; how can it be viewed as what we believe and defend. It inconsistent with infinite excel- is abundantly evident, that the lence, to consider their salvation scripture always addresses itself as divinely predetermined ? A. to men, as being perfectly free mong men a fixed design to per from constraint ; as suffering no form a work of extensive utility diminution of their moral agenis always accounted an honour. cy from the predetermination The longer such a design is en- of God, or from any other cause. tertained, the greater, it is com- Indeed, what is there in the namonly thought, is the proof of ture of God's purpose, which benevolence. How, then, does can be thought to interfere with the grace, which saves sinners, man's intellectual and moral freebecome less honorary to God, dom? Suppose God has chosen by being previously designed ? men to salvation through sanctifiWhy is it less valuable, because cation of the Spirit and belief of it was made certain by an immu- the truth. How can this choice table divine purpose ? Why is it be considered, as at variance with not rather a matter of pious joy, the highest degree of moral libthat a good so unspeakably pre- erty in those who are chosen ? cious, as the salvation of all Cannot God execute his purpose, Christ's people, rests not on fal without precluding the voluntary lible causes, but on the un- exertion of his creatures ? Be. changeable counsel of God? cause God, according to his e
But an objection occurs. Such ternal purpose, sanctifies men, an unchangeable divine purpose and disposes them to believe the is inconsistent with the moralagen- truth, does it necessarily follow, cy, freedom, and accountability of that in the exercise of faith and man. In the minds of many this holiness, they are not free and objection has great weight, and is voluntary? It has, we are sensi. indeed the main difficulty. It is ble, been often asserted with conthe same objection, which was fidence and triumph, that the urged by the opposers of Paul, hypothesis of a divine immutaRom. ix. 19. To enter fully in- ble decree, and of a divine, efficato the consideration of this ob- cious influence is not reconcileajection would not be consistent ble with free agency. But, ex with the design of this number. cept reiterated, confident assers It is deemed sufficient to offer tion, what proof of this has ever the following brief remarks. We been produced? Who has clearutterly disclaim the idea, that the ly pointed out an unavoidable inpurpose of God respecting the consistency between the most salvation of his people is in any fixed, unalterable purpose of degree incompatible with the God, and the consummate moral freedom and moral agency of agency of man ? Who has givmankind. That they enjoy as en a full and exact description of much liberty, and exercise as man's free agency, and of God's
eternal purpose, and then showed cd, and presume to claim others, in what particular respect, or on which his justice has withheld. what account they cannot consist Let it not be forgotten, that God's together? In other words, who determination to save his people, has made it clearly appear, that instead of depriving others of God's having and executing an privileges to which they are enunchangeable purpose necessa- titled, is the occasion of their enrily destroys that, in which man's joying ten thousand privileges, to free agency consists? Till this which they have no title, and is fairly and unanswerably done, which they would not otherwise we shall have a right to treat eve- enjoy. The work of God's sav. ry statement which implies it, as ing grace brings numberless bles. misrepresentation.
sings upon mankind at large. It Perhaps the most popular ob- has occasioned a suspension of jection of all, against the scrip- their merited punishment, and ture doctrine of election is, that introduced a dispensation of diit would have an unkind and inju- vine forbearance, compassion, rious influence upon those who are and proffered forgiveness. not elected. This objection has
2. Does God's purpose of been referred to in previous re- mercy toward his people exmarks. But it may be proper to pose others to any evils, from consider it more particularly. which they would otherwise be
In order to support such a free ? If any one affirms this, let charge of unkindness and injury, him show what those evils are, it must be proved, beyond reas- and how God's gracious purpose onable doubt, that God's purpose introduces them? To set aside of election either deprives those the purpose of God, respecting who are not elected of advanta- the salvation of his people, would ges to which they are entitled, or be, in effect, to set aside the work exposes themto evils from which of redemption. For it is prepos they might otherwise be free ; terous to suppose that God would or in some way renders their state give his Son to redeem the world, less favourable, or more danger- unless it were his unalterable ous, than it would be, if there purpose to bestow salvation on were no such divine purpose. some. Now without the work Let us attend briefly to these par, of redemption, what would be ticulars.
the condition of sinners ? From 1. Does God's gracious elec- what evils would they be free, to tion of some to eternal life de- which they are rendered obnoxprive others of any advantages, to ious by the election of a part to which they are entitled ? To say salvation ? How does the purthat transgressors of God's law pose of election render their -are entitled to any advantages state in any view less favourable whatever, is a virtual impeach- or more perilous, than it would ment of that law. What aston- be, if there were no such purishing ingratitude, then, would it pose? What providential benefit, be for sinners under the dispen- what overture of grace does it sation of God's mercy, to over- prevent? What alteration will look the undeserved blessings, it make in the proceedings of which his goodness has bestow. the judgment day? In the retributions of eternity, the ques. humility, and reverence, and eve, tion will not be, what was the ry thing which belongs to rationdivine purpose concerning oth- al devotion. It is calculated to ers, or concerning them; but unveil and mortify the pride of what was their character and sinners, and to expose the delu, conduct? If God treats them sion of hypocrites. It gives an. according to the perfect rule of imation and hope to the saints in righteousness, what reason will times of great defection and imthey have for complaint ? The piety, and excites them to all truth is, God's electing love is diligence in the work of religion, not, in the least imaginable de- Having attended to some mis. gree, unfriendly or injurious to representations of this doctrine, them, while it is the source of I shall add a few remarks on the everlasting advantage to others. manner, in which men frequentIt must, therefore, be a great ly attempt to invalidate the argu, good, except in the eye of envy ments commonly deduced from and malignity.
scripture in its favour. It is said by many, that the When passages are quoted, in doctrine of the decrees, even sup- which it is expressly asserted, posing it to be true, cannot be of that God has given a people to any imaginable importance; be, Christ; and that all, who are thus cause, according to the views of given to him, shall come to him and its ablest advocates, it has no in, be saved ; that God chose them in fluence upon the conduct or con- Christ before the world was ; choso dition of men. It is granted, that them to salvation through sanctifi. men act without any kind of con- cation of the Spirit and belief of straintorinfluence from the divine the truth ; that he predestinated purpose, and that the doctrine, them to be conformed to the image which affirms that purpose to be of of his Son, &c.; the common no consequence, as being the rule method which men employ to of human conduct is correct. The suppress the plain, obvious meanchief importance of the doctrine ing of such passages is this; they is its inseparable connerion with cannot mean that any particular the divine character. It must, persons are chosen to salvation we apprehend, be implied in ev. by an absolute, unchangeable de: ery rational and scriptural view creę ; because if that were the of infinite perfection. Nor should case, others could not reasonably we think the denial of it worthy be accused of not coming to of so much notice, did we not Christ ; for, upon such a suppothink such denial a dishonoura; sition, only they, whom God had ble reflection upon the eternal chosen, could believe, and it glory of Jehovah, It must, how; could not be imputed to others, ever, be added, that although the as their crime, that they do not doctrine of election is not the or will not belieye. Thus the rule of human action, it is capa: invitations of the gospel to sin, ble of being used to the most im- ners, it is said, would be nullified, portant purposes. The view, and the future punishment of un, which this doctrine gives of God, believers would appear unjust. is of peculiar efficacy to promote It is added that, upon supposition of an absolute decree, the scrip- no more obtain salvation withe tures, which warn those, who are out a compliance with the conchosen of God, and represent ditions divinely prescribed, than their salvation, as depending on upon supposition there is no detheir repentance and persevering cree ; and that they are in every holiness, would have no force or respect and to the highest de. propriety.
gree the subjects of free or volThe substance of this reason. untary agency. To adduce the ing has already been attended to. evidence of all this is not my The following remarks are here present design. The candid and thought suficient.
devout inquirer will easily find In the first place, in such rea- that evidence in the scriptures, soning it is taken for granted, and in authors, who reason corthat the divine purpose in fa- rectly on scripture principles ; at vour of a part infringes the more the same time he will find that al freedom, and diminishes the chose, who assert the contrary, advantages of others, and renders are content to assert without the inviting language of the gos- proof. pel unmeaning and absurd. But I close with a remark on the of this, we repeat it, there is no infelicity of those, who suffer proof, but positive assertion. To their minds to dwell continually those, who most strenuously sup- on the difficulties which attend port the gracious doctrine of gospel doctrines, to the neglect election, it is a principle obvious of the arguments in their favour. ly just and important, that the There is no Christian truth, divine election of some operates which is not attended with diffias no injury or unkindness to culties sufficient to preclude the others, no diminution of their exercise of faith, and occasion freedom, no abridgment of their great perplexity in those, who advantages, and no hindrance to are inattentive to direct evidence. the sincerest offers and most This is true even with respect to gracious invitations of the gospel. the existence of an infinitely per
Again ; such reasoning takes fect God. The habit of musing it for granted, that on supposi- disproportionably on the difficul. tion of a divine decree, it would ties, which attend that primary not be necessary that persons, truth, has been the source of undesignated for heaven, should comfortable doubt, of daring impossess the requisite qualifica- piety, and the most obstinate tions, or make any exertions in atheism. But while the Chrisorder to obtain salvation, that it tian believer candidly admits that would be safe for them to neglect there are objections against the the means of final blessedness, doctrine of a God, which he is and that it would be unsuitable to not able completely to answer, treat them, as rational, voluntary he finds the evidence of the docagents. I shall only say that the trine perfectly satisfactory, and advocates of the decree of elec- believes and knows* it to be cerlion maintain, that those, who are gainly true. It is so with respect the objects of that decree, must possess the requisite qualifica
John xvii. 3, and many similar rions for heaven ; that they can passages.
TO HIS SON.
to all the profound and mysteri- God is the height of abominaous doctrines of the Bible. Were tion ; the extreme of impiety. the difficulties in his way ten “ T'rust in the Lord and do times as many as they are, they good.” Do that which is right, could not prevent bis unwavering and leave the issue to his dispogfaith in those truths, which are al. In matters of prudence, to supported by the word of Jeho- judge what is expedient, you val, and illumined with the light must look to the probable conseof heaven.
But in matters of PASTOR. moral obligation, repair directly
to the word of God, prove what
is acceptable in his sight, follow LETTERS FROM A CLERGYMAN
this invariably, and commit the consequences to him. There
are many cases, in which you LETTER I.
may be in doubt what to do." Dear Frank,
Here the tendency and issue of All the letters, which I re- things must be taken into conceive from you, I read with plea- sideration, before you form your sure ; especially as they give me resolution. But cases of this reason to think, that you still re- kind are not the most important. tain those religious sentiments, They are such only as concern "which appeared to direct your the present life. They are pruconduct, while you dwelt under dential rather than moral. In my roof. The question propose cases, which essentially relate to ed in your last is important, and your duty and salvation, God has duserves an answer ; viz. “ How given you explicit instructions ; shall a young man pursue the and by these you must be govbusiness of his secular calling erned. When you know what with success, and without in- God requires, you are not to hesterference with religious du- itate and debate, but to apply ties?” The general answer is, yourself to it immediately ; for Let your secular business become whatever may be, or seem to be a part of religion. Or, in the its first consequences, you may words of the wise man, “ Com- trust the divine goodness and mit your works to the Lord, and faithfulness, that its result will your thoughts shall be establish- be happy. When Abraham was ed." “ In all your ways acknowl- called to go forth from his natite edge God, and he will direct your land, “ he obeyed, not knowing paths.” If you commit your whither he went.” He knew works to God, they must be such the call was from God, and he as he approves and requires ; put himself under God's“ direcnot such as he has warned you tion, and confided in his care. · to avoid. The man, who engages When Christ called men to folin an evil design, or adopts un- low him, he made them no proma lawsul means to effect an inno- ises of worldly accommodations ; cent design, shows that there is but directed them to trust themno fear of God in his heart ; and selves without anxiety in the for him to commit his works to hands of Providence.