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our felves the scripture asserts such a doctrine, the obscurity, difficulty, and harshpels, which seem to attend it, must pot stumble or offend us. For these are things which are to be receiv'd upon the credit of him that reveals them; and we don't yield chat obedience of faith which the gospel requires, unless our understandings submit to a revealed truth, as readily as our wills are to comply with a conimanded duty.
It is scripture and not reason, that is the rule of faith : For we are incompetent judges of revealed truths, not only on account of the narrowness of our capacities, but because of that blindness of mind which is the consequent of our fallen state.
Nor yet is the unsearchableness of a doctrine reveal'd in scripture, a sufficient reason why we should forbear all inquiry into it, or discourse about it. What we may not pretend to search out to perfe&ion, or co explain the modus of, we may yet know and speak so much of, as to subserve the great ends of religion. And if it is not the object of inquiry, nor a fic subject of discourse, to what end is it reveal'd at all? We are loon lost in the perfections of the divine nature, as well as in the doctrine of tbe decrees ; yet they must not be let alone,
if we would teach people what they are to believe concejning God.
Tho'there are bounds set about the holy mount,and to break thro' to gaze, is dangerous, and may be fatal; yer, keeping a proper distance, we may allowably take a view of what is presented before us; and without affecting to be wise above what is written, we may lafely venture to go into a mysterious subject as far as the scripture leads us, compareing spiritual things with spiritual : And by going inio the fandt wary of God, we may gain some satisfaction about what is otherwise tivo painful for us.
Having said this by way of premise, I come directly to what we propos'd, to vindicate the present truth from some of the misrepresentacions made of it, and to answer some objections made against it.
1. To vindicate it from some misrepreSentations. For a distinction is always co be made between the objections to which a truth may be liable, and the misrepresen. tations which are ignorantly or maliciously made of it. Some greatly misrepresent this doctrine, and state it in such a manner as we are far from allowing, but utterly disown and reject as well as themselves.
1. Some represent the doctrine of election as God's ordaining to save some particular perfons let them live how they will.
But no such election as this was ever allerted by us. The scripture knows no such election, and we are far from maintaining it. The same decree that designs any persons to salvation, ascertains the means for the obtaining that falvation: These are faith and holiness. God hath chosen us to salvation thro’ fan&tification of the spirit, and belief of the truth. And the elece of God are predestinated to be conformed to the image of his fun, which takes in the whole work of sanctification. And there. fore we never said, that if a person was elected he might be saved however he ordered his life ; for this wou'd be to separate what God has indisiolubly connected, and to destroy a part of the decree itself.
2. Another misrepresentation is, when any speak as if the decree of God was the Reason why men did continue in lin ou unbelief.
Give me leave to reply to this in the words of another. * « Indeed, the imme* Dr. Ridgley, by way of reply to Dr. Whitby. See his body of divinity, Vol. ist. p. 230.
“ diate reason why any repent and believe fr to eternal life, is becaule the exceeding
greatness of his power is exercis'd cowards them, whereby he works repent.
ance and faith in them; and the reason " of his exercing this power to work these “ saving graces in them, is because he has r determined to do it ; and so is the “ execution of his purpose. But it does not “ follow from hence, that the reason why " others do not repent & believe is, be
cause they were not ordain'd to eternal “ life. Tis true, their not being ordain'd us to eternal life, or God's not having pura “ posed to save them, is the reason why " he does not exert that power which is r neceslary to work repentance and faith " in chem; and impenitence and unbelief “ will certainly be the consequenr hereof; " but the immediate spring and cause of “ impenitence and unbelief, is che corrup« tion and perverseness of human nature, " which is chargable on none but man " himself. We must certainly diftinguish “ between impenitence and unbelief their “ being the consequent of God's not work
ing repentance and faith, and its being
the effect hereof. If God withholds bis " grace from some to whom he was not " oblig'd to give it, and they continue in “ sin, this is to be assign'd only to that
56 wicked propensity of nature, which in. “ clines us to sin, and not to the divine " efficiency ; ” for the decree enforces no man to fin, as we shall have occasion to shew hereafter.
3. Another such gross misrepresentation of this doctrine is, when any speak as if the aslerrors of it held, that men are damn'd by vertne of the decree, without any consideration of their fin and miscarriages.
But this was never said by the most zealous aslertors of election and reproba. tion. We do indeed affirm that God of his meer sovereignty chose fome to everlasting life, and pafled by others, without any consideration had to the good works of the former, or the evil deeds of the larter ; but then a distinction is made between bare non-ele&ting, and the decree of condemnation. This, being a thing more positive in the nature of it, must be with a view to fin committed, and from the forefight of it. The objects of the decree of condemnation must be some way or other, obnoxious to justice, that the righteousness of God may be intirely clear in the judg. ment of intelleual creatures. For, tho a favour may be placed on one to whom 'cis not due, while it is withheld from