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· And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people,' Exod. xxxii, 14. The Scriptures inform us, that God in His nature and attributes is unchangeable, Mal. iii, 9; Heb. i, 12. His purposes which relate to the plan of salvation are unchangeable, as I have already shown. And those principles by which He governs the world are unchangeable ; and yet the Scriptures declare, in about twenty different places, that God has repented, or that He will repent. When, therefore, it is said in a few other places that He will not repent, I conclude the meaning is, that God will not change, nor alter the principles by which He governs the world, Matt. xxiv, 35.
What, then, are we to understand by such facts as are asserted in the above text? No one supposes that repentance, when affirmed of God, signifies a sorrow, which the Deity feels for something which He has done wrong ; but all attentive readers of the Bible take it to mean a change in the Divine mind or conduct of some kind. But what kind of a change does it signify in this and the like texts? I answer, such facts, when affirmed of God, either prove that an eternal decree may be, and has been changed, or that there is no such thing as an eternal decree! For, if it was eternally a matter of absolute certainty to the Divine mind, that, by some means or other, the evil here spoken of would not come upon the Jews, then the text asserts what was not true, in saying that God thought, or had a disposition to bring it upon them ; and it also declares what was equally untrue, in saying that God repented or altered His purpose concerning this evil; for an eternal purpose, it must be remembered, can never be changed. Another remarkable instance of God repenting, or altering His conditional purpose, we have in the case of the Ninevites.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not,' Jonah iii, 10. Now admitting God had eternally decreed that the people of Nineveh should repent—which repentance is here assigned as the reason why they were not destroyed—I ask, how in truth it could be said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown? And this was said, too, by the infinite God Himself, when the overthrow of that people, in this case, was not within the bounds of a possibility! I see no way to get over this difficulty ;-say a thousand things about it, and about it, to hide it, or cover it from the sight of a passing observer,—the difficulty remains glaringly prominent, and impregnable as the eternal decree!
The facts in this case, of God's will and conduct, are exceedingly important, inasmuch as we learn from them that the predictions of the Bible, when they refer to the volitions of men, which involve virtue or vice, never imply ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. Here was an event predieted in the very same way in which the conduct of wicked men is predicted; such as that of Judas, for instance, or the falling away of some from the faith. I mention the conduct of Judas here, because it is thus understood by many Christians to have been foretold by David, from the fact that the apostle applies some things which David said concerning his adversaries to Judas. It is however more than doubtful, whether David had his mind upon Judas, or that the Holy Spirit designed to describe the conduct of Judas, expressly, in the language of David, which the apostle applies to him. For, admitting this, it would follow, that all which David said of Judas, may be, and was said of every sinner; and every thing which literally befell Judas will literally befall every impenitent sinner ; seeing the psalmist sums up the whole of his predictions in these words :— Let this be the reward of mine adversaries, from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul,' Psa. cix, 6–20.
But I proceed to notice another portion of Scripture under this head.
• And now, 0 inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ?' Isa. v, 3. This is the forcible language of God himself concerning His own conduct, which He most evidently designs to justify, and the unreasonable conduct of His people, which He as evidently designs to condemn. Let us now suppose, for one moment, the truth of an eternal decree. Let us suppose, also, that these Jews were moral agents, that they acted just as freely as though no eternal decree existed; for this is the view of many who teach the doctrine of eternal decrees. Now, I would beg leave to ask, 1. Was it within the bounds of an abstract possibility for those Jews to do any way differently from what they did do? Or, in other words, Is it any way possible for an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY to fail? 2. Did the Deity positively expect that those Jews would bring forth any different kind of fruit, from that kind which they did bring forth? 3. If the conduct of that people was eternally and absolutely certain to the Divine mind, in what sense could the Deity expect them to do differently from what they did do? And, 4. If there is no contradiction nor absurdity in saying, that because those Jews acted freely, in fulfilling God's eternal decree, that therefore they might have acted differently, and done what an eternal decree rendered ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN, they would not, or could not do; then in what does a contradiction or an absurdity consist ?
Hear the infinite God, again, in the following passage :- Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live : turn ye, turn ye from
your evil ways; for why will ye die ?' Ezek. xxxii, 11. Such as hold the doctrine of an eternal decree explain these words, by saying, that God has no pleasure in the death or misery of wicked men, in itself considered; that is, He does not punish them merely for the sake of rendering them miserable. And they say they understand God to mean this, when He says He has no pleasure in the sinner's death ; though, at the same time, God has decreed that some men shall sin, and as the consequence suffer an eternal death : (though, as it respects the consequences of sin, however, they are not agreed; some believing the punishment limited and confined to this world, others teaching that it extends to another world, and will be endless.) But all, both Universalists and Calvinists, are agreed, that God decreed sin, and the consequent misery of the sinner, not for the sake of sin or misery in themselves considered; but because it was best on the whole, every thing else considered.
But on this text, thus explained, I remark :-). Sin and misery are
caused by an eternal decree, just as certainly as holiness and happiness are; and if God has no pleasure in sin in itself considered, neither has He any pleasure in holiness in itself considered ; and from which it would follow, that the Deity has no pleasure in His own nature, which is holiness itself, and nothing beside. 2. God must take pleasure in His own eternal decree, and in whatever comes to pass in consequence of that decree. Sin is a constituent part of what comes to pass in consequence of this decree, and so is the misery and death of the sinner ; therefore God has a pleasure in whatever misery or death the sinner suffers ; and from which it would follow, shocking and blood-chilling as the thought is, God has perjured himself, in swearing that HE HAS NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE WICKED! So much to the credit of an eternal decree!
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE REV. GAD SMITH. In searching for some papers in our office, a manuscript was discovered containing a few short sketches of the experience and Gospel labors of Gad Smith. The hand writing of the man himself was recognized, and with it many pleasing recollections of his devoted life. On turning to the Minutes of the Conferences for the year
1818, we find it recorded of him that he was born in Goshen, Litchfield county, in the state of Connecticut, in the year 1788, and that he died September 24, 1817; so that he lived an inhabitant of this world for the short space of twenty-nine years, only ten of which he spent serring God in His Church, having been made a partaker of the grace of life' in the nineteenth year of his age.
In a few prefatory remarks to the sketches of his life, he says, “I do not know when or where I may close my life'— but I have known several of our preachers, who, by their zeal, have been eminently useful in the first part of their lives, and by their excessive labors have broken their constitutions, and thereby brought on themselves many infirmities : these have often lamented that they did not record some incidents of their lives, on which they might ruminate in their moments of decline. I have weighed this subject, and concluded, that should I live to retire from the field of active labor, it would be some satisfaction to review the scenes of my past life through the medium of these sketches; or, if I should be hastily called away, Providence has favored me with friends who might not think it uninteresting to review those circumstances, however trivial in themselves, through which I may have passed.'
Now the writer of this article is one of those surviving friends, who was favored with a short acquaintance with Gad Smith—who knew him intimately for about four years-whose acquaintance in that period ripened into friendship-who admired him much on account of the uniformity of his deportment as a Christian, and much more as a zealous, discreet, prudent, and useful minister of Jesus Christ-and who, indeed, takes a delight in calling to mind those scenes which marked his short but eventful life. It cannot indeed be said of Gad Smith that he shone with that brilliancy which has distinguished the career of some eminent ministers of the sanctuary; but he was characterized by that steady light which warms and enlightens all who come within the range of its influence, and by that deep and uniform piety which suffers no eclipse, and that prudent conduct which commended him to the approbation of all who knew him, as well as that soundness of mind and of doctrine which made him an able minister of the New Testament.
After detailing some of the incidents of his youth, which might not be interesting to the reader, he thus introduces us to a knowledge of his experience of Divine grace :- In this condition I passed the first eighteen years of my life ; but the Lord, whose mercy is over all His works, was not unmindful of me, but used various means to bring me to Himself; the most striking of which was, the sight of a dying man. After viewing him for a few minutes, I left him ; and in my hasty reflections, I thought, that, if there was any truth in that thing called religion, a dying hour was an improper time to prepare for so great a work.' This happy thought led him into a train of reasoning which proved a means of his conversion to God. Speaking of his deliverance from the bondage of corruption, he says, “The law I found to be a school master to bring me to Christ; and by an application of it to my heart, I found myself cut off from spiritual life; so that that which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. Here how sweet was the language of faith! How pleasant did it now seem to break off from my sins, and believe in the Lord for the salvation of my soul. While before I could realize nothing but condemnation, I now by faith viewed the Mediator, as standing between the Father and me; and I feel that I have peace with God, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The promises of God now comfort and support me; and supplies af joy fill my heart, while my pen records these sentences. Thus my soul was liberated from the bondage of sin, and enjoyed a heaven-born
We have frequently thought, that those whom God calls to preach His Gospel, generally receive the impression of their duty in this respect either at the time of their conversion, or very soon thereafter. Hence we never had much faith in those who never think of entering upon this work until years after they first embraced religion. Though there may be exceptions to this general rule, yet we believe most of those who have been eminently useful as ministers of Jesus Christ have been distinguished by their early piety, and their early devotion you
to this holy work. So it was with our brother Smith. He says, “I had some thoughts, even while my soul was under distress on account of sin, that if ever I obtained deliverance, it would be my duty to tell sinners the way to flee the wrath to come. After prayer meeting one evening, a young man, who was himself a candidate for the ministry, put his hand upon me, and said, “ I have been hoping that God will make
a flaming minister.” This induced some of those reflections respecting that work in which I am now engaged; and more especially since the work of justification has, as I humbly trust, been accomplished in my soul, have I been led to reflect on the condition of mankind, and on the Holy Scriptures, not knowing but that one day I may be called to the public labors of the Gospel ministry.'
He could hardly, however, reconcile his mind to the thought of ever being able to instruct others in the important truths of the Gospel, more especially when he reflected on the small literary advantages he had enjoyed. Until his eighteenth year he had been brought up on a farm, only receiving that amount of English education which the sons of Connecticut were accustomed to obtain in the common schools of the country, and the little which he had acquired by the dint of his own application. This, however, was sufficient to qualify him, at the above age, to take charge of a school himself; and in this employment he continued, he tells us, for six years after, teaching a school in the winter, and working on his father's farm in the summer, until he finally gave himself wholly to the work of the ministry. The following is his own account of the painful conflicts through which he passed previously to his entering upon this holy work :
• After I joined the Methodist Church, I felt it still more clearly to be my duty to exhort sinners to return unto God. Under this impression I resolved to be more than ever faithful to God; but I was surrounded with temptations, and the enemy of my peace often succeeded in persuading me that it was not my duty to preach. I have accordingly frequently returned home from meetings, and taken severe stripes for a neglect of duty; and would lie and groan the hours away while thinking of the worth of poor sinners, and mourn that I had not sufficient confidence and gratitude, to warn them of their danger, and to invite them to come to my Lord and Master. These thoughts made me tremble under a sense of my responsibility to God, often fearing that their blood would be required at my hands.
After passing through many exercises of this character, he at length resolved, in the strength of God his Savior, to devote himself exclusively to the work of the ministry. Accordingly at the quarterly meeting held at Washington, Connecticut, Litchfield circuit, Sept. 29, 1811, he received license to preach. On this occasion, he says, • The consideration is awful ; for such is my present relation to the Church, that, if I am faithful to God, and steadily persevere in my