Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

doctrine before us, it would not be so strange that it should be confronted by reason; but the passages are many, and some of them are exceedingly explicit. But I do not refuse to follow my antagonist into his castle, He says, "From the perfections of God's character it is impossible for him to foreordain whatsoever comes to pass." p. 18. He endeavors to show that this doctrine militates against the justice, wisdom, holiness, goodness, truth, and immutability of God.

There appear to be certain leading objections in the mind of the author of the Letters, running through this part of his subject, and indeed through his whole work, which if they could be removed, there is reason to hope the way would be prepared for a greater union in our religious sentiments. Let us not despair but that so desirable an object may yet be obtained. I shall not follow my antagonist from page to page; but shall en, deavor to remove his leading objections, and shall be as particular as my plan of conciseness will admit.

1. It is evident, that one of the most capital objections which Mr. B. and all the Arminians, urge against the Calvinistic scheme of doctrine, and against the doctrine of a fixed decree, in particular, is, that it destroys the free agency of creatures. In the preface of his book, Mr. B. says, 66 any system which eclipses the glory of the divine attributes, and exculpates man from blame in his wicked conduct, must be unfriendly to the interests of religion. If man be not free, he is not responsible, nor a subject of moral government, neither rewardable nor punishable, upon the principles of jus, tice and goodness." It is here supposed, that the Calvinistic system destroys free agency. p. 6. And in p. 16, it is asserted: "But according to your doctrine, they are no more the actions of men, than the moving of my pen are its actions; and in this case it would be as absurd to find fault with my pen for bad writing, as tọ find fault with men for their inconsistent conduct." Much to this effect runs through his whole book. This, it will be acknowledged, is a capital objection against the Calvinistic system, if it can be substantiated. But how do they attempt to do this? It will not be pretended that we say, inen are not free agents. We go further in asserting free agency than Arminians them

selves do. Mr. B. manifestly implies it in what he says. p. 7, that fallen creatures cease to be free agents, unless they be in some measure restored by grace. But Calvinists carry the doctrine of free agency much further. They hold that all rational beings are free agents, however great, and however confirmed their depravity. We believe that neither the entire depravity of wicked men, nor the entire depravity of devils, destroys their free agency. Our opposition to the free agency of man, is not then taken from our concessions, but is, by our opponents, supposed to be inferrable from the other doctrines which we hold. But what are the doctrines that we hold, which stand in opposition to free agency? The Arminian will say, You hold to the doctrine of man's entire dependence on God when considered as a moral agent; and you hold that God has determined all his actions before he does them. It is acknowledged, that we hold to these doctrines, and it is believed that we may continue to hold to them, and yet not renounce the doctrine of man's free agency.

What is a free agent? Is it not a rational being who has faculties to discern between good and evil, and who exercises choice, and who is accountable for his conduct? Here I will shew in a word by what arguments I would prove, that we are free agents; and then how I would prove, that we are perfectly dependent agents.

As to free agency, I would say, 1st. We are conscious of a different freedom from the pen with which we write. Consciousness belongs to the first kind of proof. I know that I choose to write, but I know that my pen has no choice about it. This makes as much as a small shade of difference between me and my pen. See P. 24. 2dly. My conscience either accuses, or else excuses my actions, and passes judgment even upon the thoughts of my heart. This is another proof that I am not a machine. 3dly. We treat one another as free agents. This appears by all the regulations of society; such as having laws, and judges, prisons, &c. 4thly. The Supreme Being treats us as free and accountable agents, by giving us a moral law, and by rewarding and punishing according to the character which we pos

sess.

Are not these as good and substantial proofs of our free agency, as we could desire?

Let us now see what proof there is of our entire dependence on God; I mean dependence on him when considered as free moral agents; i. e. that our will is dependent on his agency. The scripture asserts this dependence, and reason can discover no other consistent way. Paul tells the Philippians, that it was God who worked in them both to will and to do. In the close of the epistle to the Hebrews, he prayed that the God of peace would work in them that which was pleasing in his sight. This implied, that if they had any thing in them which was pleasing, that is, any good moral exercises, God himself must produce them in their hearts. The apostle James, speaking of the new birth, says: "Of his own will begat he us.' And Jesus Christ taught that men were born of the Spirit. And God says in the prophecy of Ezekiel, "A new heart will I give you." There might be innumerable quotations made from the scriptures, to prove that men are dependent on God for their moral exercises. And if the inspired volume had not taught this, reason could not teach us any other scheme, for we cannot conceive of any independence in created beings. To us it appears as absurd as to talk of eternal created beings.

"3

Here then are two things proved from the Bible; so fully proved, that there can be no mistake: why then should we deny either of them? What right have we to say, that if we are dependent on God for our exercies, then we are not free? We well know that the things which we make, and which are dependent on us for their motions, (as a clock or a watch,) are not free agents. But does it follow that the Almighty cannot make a free agent, so that he shall begin to exist in the exercise of freedom, and continue to exist, both free and independent? Does God operate at all on the heart, at any time; so that the good exercises of the heart. are in the least degree the effect of such operation? But few will deny this. But if complete dependence on his operation, destroy freedom, then a small degree of dependence, must at least impair it.*

Although Mr. B. says very much against our dependence on God for our volitions, representing such volitions as having

Now my antagonist manifestly takes this ground, that if the Lord directly operate on the heart of a christian, to produce the most fervent love, such love is not of the nature of holiness, any more than the shining of the sun, or the flowing of the water: Or in other words, if it be God who makes me holy, then I am not holy-If it be God who creates in me a clean heart, then I have not a clean heart-If he uphold me by his free spirit, then I do not stand. Why might we not as well say, If God cause the sun to shine, then the sun

nothing in them of a moral quality, any more than the motion of the pen in his hand, or of the ship before the wind; yet there is a place in his book, where he speaks of the grace of God as influencing the will. The place to which I refer is p. 83. "We freely grant," says Mr. B. "that the sinner does not take one step towards salvation, until divine grace moves him thereto, by enlightening his understanding, and by irfluencing his will." What can be meant by God's influencing the will, in addition to his enlightening the understanding? It is obvious that my opponent has here made a distinction between the understanding, and the will; and between enlightening, and influencing. But what did he mean by influencing the will? Did he mean no direct operation of the spirit of God, giving the heart a right disposition? If he did not mean as much as this, he could mean no more by influencing the will, than by enlightening the understanding. There are only these two ways in which we can conceive of rational creatures being moved and drawn to their duty -the one, by light (i. e. knowledge of truth and duty,) communicated to the understanding; the other, by direct influence upon the will, giving it an inclination to comply with duty. Now, if Mr. B. meant, "by influ encing the will," any thing more than "enlightening the understanding," he must have meant that for which we contend, viz. a direct divine influence on the heart. But we do not see how he can consistently plead against us, that we entirely destroy the free agency of man, by representing him as altogether dependent on God for his exercises of heart, while he acknowledges some of this dependence, and yet believes in man's entire freedom. If divine influence upon the will of man had any tendency to destroy his free agency, then a little of this influ ence would partly destroy it. It is so with external force applied to the body. If I am, in this sense, resisted in a small degree, my natural liberty is, to just as great a degree, impaired. If therefore divine influence on the will operated in the same way, to abridge moral liberty, or free agency, the least influence would impair it. And we do not see but there would be the same kind of inconsistence in impairing, as, in destroying the free agency of the creature.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

does not shine. If God make the light, then light is not light. But it will be said, the light has no moral qualities, and is no more worthy of praise than darkness. It is acknowledged that light and darkness have no moral qualities, but it is not because they are made, that they are destitute of them. Things have just such qualities as the Creator has given them. He has not given light and darkness moral qualities, but he has given them different properties, and by these different properties they are distinguished. He has made men free agents, and therefore they are free agents. He has made his angels holy spirits, and therefore they are holy. It is as certain that angels and saints are what the Creator has made them, as that the sun and moon are what the Creator has made them. Is not this a singular mode of reasoning, to say, If God made things so, then they are not so. In the account which Moses gives us of the work of the Creator in the first chapter in the Bible, we are taught, that from day to day he formed one and another part of the creation, and it was so ; i. e. as he willed it to be, and as he made it, so it was. This was as true of the sixth day's work, as of the work of any other day. On that day he made man after his own image; he made a moral agent, and he made him with a character, even a holy character; else how could it be said, that he made him after his own image? And who will say, that if God made him holy, then he was not holy; or that his holiness did nothing towards rendering him worthy of the complacency of his Maker? Who will dare to say, on sup position, that the Creator formed Adam's holy charac ter, as much as he formed the sun, that then there was nothing more of a moral nature in the light of holiness in Adam's heart, than there was in the light of the natural sun? And if Adam could come into existence with a character for which he was entirely dependent on his Creator, there is no absurdity in supposing such dependence should be continued, and he continue to possess a character. The idea is this; that it would be no more inconsistent for God, after he had created him, to continue to work in him both to will and to do, than to bring him into existence with a will, and with choice in favor of holiness,

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »