« AnteriorContinua »
God," and though by his power every Divine action, motion and impulse which was necessary for the execution of this “fore-determination,” were all fixed,) yet it was possible for this act (the crucifixion of Christ,) which had been “previously appointed” by God, not to be produced by those persons, and they might have remained free and indifferent to the performance of this action, up to the moment of time in which they perpetrated the deed. Let the narrative of the passion of our Lord be perused, and let it be observed how the whole matter was conducted, -by what arguments Herod, Pontius Pilate and the Jews were moved and induced,—and the kind of administration for management] that was employed in the use of those arguments,-and it will then be evident, that it is the truth which I here assert.
2. But if the word “ DETERMINED" be received according to the second acceptation, I confess, that I abominate and detest that axiom (as one that is FALSE, ABSURD, and preparing the way for MANY BLASPHEMIES,) which, declares that “God by his eternal decree has determined to the one part or to the other future contingent things:"—By this last phrase understand “ those things which are performed by the free will of the creature."
(1.) I execrate it as A FALSEHOOD : Because God in the administration of his Providence conducts all things in such a manner that when he is pleased to employ his creatures in the execution of his decrees, he does not take away from them their nature, natural properties or the use of them, but allows them to perform and complete their own proper motions. Were it otherwise, Divine Providence, which ought to be accommodated to the creation, would be in direct opposition.
(2.) I detest it as an ABSURDITY: Because it is contradictory in the adjunct, that “something is done contingently," that is, it is done in such a manner as makes it POSSIBLE not to be done;—and yet this same thing is determined to the one part or the other in such a manner, as makes it IMPOSSIBLE to leave undone that which has been determined to be done. What the patrons of such a doctrine advance about “ that liberty not being taken away which belongs to the nature of the creature,” is not sufficient to destroy this contradiction : Because it is not sufficient for the establishment of contingency and liberty, to have the presence of a power which can freely act according to nature; but it is requisite that the use and employment of that power and liberty should on no account be impeded. What
insanity therefore is it, [according to the scheme of these men, ] to confer at the creation a power on the creature of acting freely or of suspending its action,--and yet to take away the use of such a power when the liberty comes at length to be employed : That is, to grant it when there is no use for it, but, when it becomes both useful and necessary, then in the very act to prevent the exercise of its liberty. Let Tertullian against Marcion be examined, (lib. ii. c. 5, 6, 7,) where he discusses this matter in a most erudite and nervous manner: I yield my full assent to all that he advances. (3.) I abhor it as CONDUCING TO MULTIPLIED BLASPHE
For I consider it impossible for any art or sophistry to prevent this dogma concerning “such a previous determination” from producing the following consequences :—First. It makes God to be the author of sin, and man to be exempt from blame.-SECONDLY. It constitutes God as the real, proper and only sinner: Because when there is a fixed law which forbids this act, and when there is such a fore-determination" as makes it “ impossible for this act not to be committed,” it follows as a natural consequence, that it is God himself who transgresses the law, since he is the person who performs this deed against the law. For though this be immediately perpe trated by the creature, yet, with regard to it, the creature cannot have any consideration of sin ; because this act was unavoidable on the part of man, aftersuch“ fore-determination" had been fixed.--Thirdly. Because, according to this dogma, God needed sinful man and his sin, for the illustration of his Justice and Mercy.-FOURthly. And, from its terms, sin is no longer sin.
I never yet saw a refutation of those consequences which have been deduced from this dogma by some other persons. I wish such a refutation was prepared, at least that it would be seriously attempted : When it is completed, if I am not able to demonstrate, even then, that these objections of mine are not removed,-I will own myself to be vanquished, and will ask pardon for my offence. Although I am not accustomed to charge and oppress this sentiment [of theirs] with such consequences before other people, yet I usually confess this single circumstance, and this, only when urged by necessity,) that “ I cannot possibly free their opinion from those objections."
ARTICLE VIII. Sufficient grace of the Holy Spirit is bestored on those to whom the gospel is preached, whosoever they may be ; so that, if they will, they may believe: Otherwise, God would only be mocking mankind.
ANSWER At no time, either in public or in private, have I delivered this proposition in these words, or in any expressions that were of equivalent force, or that conveyed a similar meaning. This assertion I confidently make, even though a great number of persons might bear a contrary testimony: Because, unless this Article receive a modified explanation, I neither approve of it at present, nor has it at any time obtained any portion of my approval. Of this fact it is in my power to afford evidence, from written conferences which I have had with other people on the same subject.
In this Article there are three topics concerning which I am desirous of giving a suitable explanation.
First. Concerning the difference which subsists among the persons to whom the gospel is preached. Frequent mention of this difference is made in the scriptures, and particularly in the following passages.“ I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." (Matt. xi. 25.) The explanation of these words may be discovered in 1 Cor. i. and ii. _“Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when
ye come into a house, salute it: And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.” (Matt. x. 11–13.) The Jews of Berca 66
were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind,” &c. (Acts xvii. 11.) “ Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: For all men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful,” &c. (2 Thess. iii. 1, 2.)
SECONDLY. Concerning the bestowing of sufficient grace,what is to be understood by such a gift? It is well known, that there is habitual grace, and [the grace of] assistance. Now the phraseology of the Article might be understood according to this acceptation, as though some kind of habitual grace were infused into all those to whom the gospel is preached, which would render them apt (or inclined] to give it credence. (or believe the gospel.] But this interpretation of the phrase is one of which I do not approve. But this suFFICIENCY,* after all that is said about it, must, in my opinion, be ascribed to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, by which he assists the preaching of the gospel, as the organ (or instrument] by which He [the Holy Spirit] is accustomed to be eficacious in the hearts of the hearers. But it is possible to explain this operation of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in a manner so modified and appropriate, and such sufficiency may be ascribed to it, as to keep at the greatest possible distance from Pelagianism.
Tuindly. Concerning the expression, · By this sufficient 'grace they may believe, if they roill.' These words, when delivered in such a crude and undigested form, are capable of
Since in this sentence the two words “ sufficient" and “ eficacious" occur, it may be well for the reader to know the opinion of Arminius respecting them. In a letter, dated July 8th, 1606, he says: “St. Augustine invented the distinction of sufficient and efficacious grace, to establish at once both free-will and grace, as well as his own (scheme of] Predestination. But this distinction does not obtain the approbation of many of our divines, and it is entirely rejected by great numbers who assert that there is no sufficient grace! But I ain of opinion, that the distinction ought to be admitted; otherwise, the freedom of the will and the justice of God cannot be defended. But it requires the exertion of the most consummate skill to explain, how this SUFFICIENCY is to be distinguished from EFFICACY: This has long been a frequent subject of my meditations; and the very question which you raise, has often occurred to my mind- How can this be called SUFFICIENT GRACE which never effects that ' for wbich it is sufficient, and upon which even the EFFICACY of grace is • dependent ?'
“But I will not now attempt the resolution of this point, which would require too prolix a discussion. Of this, however, I am well persuaded, that suíñcient grace belongs not only to the external vocation, but likewise to the internal gift: otherwise, it does not deserve to bear the name of SUFFICIENT. But if regeneration be peculiar to the elect alone, it is certain that regeneration is distinguished from sufficient grace, which St. Augustine deservedly makes to be common even to the reprobates : And therefore, either the grace which is called “sufficient" is not suflicient to produce this effect; or, if it be sufficient, regeneration is not necessary to it. If then you conclude it to be impossible for any good to be effected without regeneration, and if at the same time you make regeneration to be peculiar to the elect, you must of necessity deny suficient grace. If you do not deny sufficient grace, you must necessarily own the one or the other of these consequences,-either that regeneration is not neces. sary to effect any good, or that it is not peculiar to the elect.
“ If you enquire what my sentiments are on this point, I reply, that I make the election of each individual to salvation to be subsequent to faith and regeneration : And, that this may not excite your wonder, I will only desire you to distinguish between election to salvation and election to faith and regeneration. For it is one decree, by which God resolves to save a BELIEVER; and it is another, by which he determines lo administer the means that are necessary and effurecious to faith. The former of these two decrees has the precedence, because there would be no necessity for the latter except the other were previously in existence."
being brought to bear a very bad interpretation, and a meaning not at all agreeable to the scriptures,-as though, after that power had been bestowed, the Holy Spirit and Divine Grace remain entirely quiescent,* waiting to see whether the man will properly use the power which he has received, and will bclieve the gospel: When, on the contrary, he who wishes to entertain and to utter correct sentiments on this subject, will account it necessary to ascribe to Grace its own province, which indeed is the principal one, in persuading the human will that it may be inclined to yield assent to those truths which are preached.
This exposition completely frees me from the slightest suspicion of heresy on the point here mentioned; and proves it to be a report not entitled to the least credit, that I have employed such expressions, as I am unwilling to admit, except with the addition of a sound and proper explanation.
In reference to the reason which is appended to this Proposition,-that, otherwise, God would only be mocking mankind, -I confess it to be a remark which several adversaries employ against the opinion entertained by many of our Divines, to convict it of absurdity: And it is not used without just cause, which might easily have been demonstrated,-had it pleased the inventors of these Articles, (instead of ascribing them to me,) to occupy themselves in openly declaring on this subject their own sentiments, which they keep carefully concealed within their own bosoms.t
* It happens in this case, as in several others, that the consequences with which the Calvinists endeavoured to charge the sentiments of Arminius, appertained exclusively to their own: For it is seen in a preceding page, (622,) that “the Holy Spirit and Divine Grace remain in a state of quiescence;' and allow sin, “their subtle and dethroned rival, to dwell in the heart of a believer and to oppose all the Divine operations.”
+ In the ample notes at the beginning of the Declaration, and particularly at page 532, I have shewn that Arminius frequently disclosed his views to his Calvinistic brethren, when they applied to him in the capacity of private ministers and evinced any portion of siucerity. He had interviews at different times with Plancius, Helmichius and Festus Hommius; and on every occasion tried in all meekness and simplicity to satisfy their scruples and to remove their unfounded surmises. But whenever he wished to obtain from them, in return, an account of their views on the same subjects, that by them he might correct his own, they were uniformly mute, and would never comply with his equitable wishes. Iu process of time, therefore, he became rather more circumspect in his communications; for, according to his narrative, (page 533,) he found that they had other motives than their own satisfaction for such private conferences with him, and that they were the kind of brethren of whom St. Paul speaks, (Gal. ii, 4,) they came in privily to spy out the liberty which he had in Christ Jesus, that they might bring him into bondage with some of