« AnteriorContinua »
saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose
and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.'
How invincible a proof of the Calvinistical doctrine of election is that place in Rom. xi. 5.! “Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace.' Doddridge observes upon it, that some explain this of having chosen grace, i. e. the gospel. But that turn is very unnatural, and neither suits the phrase, nor the connexion with the former clause, or with the next verse, where the apostle comments on his own words.
$ 50. If God does not some way in his providence, and so in his predeterminations, order what the volitions of men shall be, he would be as dependent in governing the world, as a skilful mariner is in governing his ship, in passing over a turbulent, tempestuous ocean, where he meets constantly, and through the whole voyage, with things that agitate the ship, have great influence on the motions of it, and are so cross and grievous to him, that he is obliged to accommodate himself in the best manner that he can. He meets with cross winds, violent tempests, strong currents, and great opposition from enemies; none of which things he has the disposal of, but is forced to suffer. He only guides the ship, and, by his skill, turns that hither and thither, and steers it in such a manner as to avoid dangers, as well as the case will allow.
$51. As that objection against the election which the apostle speaks of in his epistles, as an election by which such should be distinguished as should certainly be saved at last, viz. that many of those whom the apostle calls elect, chosen in Christ, &c. actually turned apostates : What Dr. Doddridge observes in his note on Eph. i. 4, may be a sufficient answer. “ The apostle speaks of whole societies in general as consisting of saints and believers, because this was the predominant character; and he had reason, in the judgment of charity, to believe the greater part were such; (compare Phil. i. 7.) Nor did he always judge it necessary to make exceptions in refererence to a few hypocrites who had crept in among them, any more than Christ judged it so to speak of Judas as excluded, when he mentions the twelve thrones of judgment on which the apostles should sit.” (Matt. xix. 28.)
$ 52. Many have a notion concerning some things in religion, and, in particular, coucerning predestination, that if they be the truth, yet it is not best that they should be known. But many reasons may be offered against this notion.
$ 53. What the devil did to afflict Job, was the exercise and fruit of his devilish disposition, and his acts therein were devilish. And yet it is most apparent, that those acts and effects of the devil towards Job, were appointed by infinite wisdom for holy ends; but not accomplished by God any otherwise than by permission.
$ 54. There were many absolute promises of old, that salvation should actually be accomplished, and that it should be of great extent, or extending to great multitudes of mankind; as, that " the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head.” “In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Psalm xxii. 30. “ A seed shall serve him, and it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” Isa. liii. 10. “ He shall see his seed." Psalm ï. 6. “ Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,” &c. Psalm cx. thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power ;' and innumerable others. And if there were absolute promises of this, then there were absolute purposes of it; for that which is sincerely, absolutely promised, is with an absolute purpose of fulfilling the promise. But how can it be devised, that there should be an absolute, determinate, infallible, unchangeable purpose, that Christ should actually save vast multitudes of mankind; and yet it be not absolutely purposed that he should save any one single person, but that with regard to every individual soul, this was left undetermined by God, to be determined by man's contingent will, which might determine for salvation, or against it, there being nothing to render it impossible concerning any one, that his will would not finally determine against it? Observe, these prophecies are not merely predictions, but are of the nature of promises, and are often so called “Which he hath promised by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began," &c. God takes care to fulfil his own promises; but, according to this scheme, it is not God that fulfils these promises; but men, left to themselves, to their contingent wills, fulfil them. Man's will, which God does not determine, determines itself in exclusion of God.
All the promises of God are yea and amen, and God himself makes them so to be; he takes care of that matter.
$ 55. Concerning that grand objection, that this doctrine supposes partiality in God, and is very dishonourable to him, being quite contrary to God's extensive and universal benevolence to his creatures ;
be shown that the Arminian notions and principles in this matter, lead directly to deism; and that on these principles, it is utterly impossible to answer Tindal's objections against revealed religion, especially in his 14th chapter. Besides, unjustifiable partiality is not imputable to a sovereign distributing his favours, though ever so unequally, unless it be done unwisely, and so as to infringe the common good.
$ 56. God has regard to conditions in bis decrees, as he has regard to a wise order and connexion of things. Such is bis wisdom in his decrees, and all his acts and operations, that if it were not for wise connexion that is regarded, many things would not be decreed. One part of the wise system of events would
not have been decreed, unless the other parts had been decreed, &c.
§ 57. God in the decree of election is justly to be considered as decreeing the creature's eternal happiness, antecedently to any foresight of good works, in a sense wherein he does not in reprobation decree the creature's eternal misery, antecedently to any foresight of sin; because the being of sin is supposed in the first place in order to the decree of reprobation, which is, that God will glorify his vindictive justice; and the very notion of revenging justice, simply considered, supposes a fault to be revenged. But faith and good works are not supposed in the first place in order to the decree of election. The first things in order in this decree are, that God will communicate his happiness, and glorify his grace; (for these two seem to be co-ordinate.) But in neither of these are faith and good works supposed. For when God decrees, and seeks to communicate his own happiness in the creature's happiness, the notion of this, simply considered, supposes or implies nothing of faith or good works; nor does the notion of grace, in itself, suppose any such thing. It does not necessarily follow from the very nature of grace, or God's communicativeness of his own happiness, that there must be faith and good works. This is only a certain way of the appointment of God's wisdom, wherein he will bring men to partake of his grace. But yet God is far from having
decreed damnation from a foresight of evil works, in the sense of the Arminians, as if God in this decree did properly depend on the creature's sinful act, as an event, the coming to pass of which primarily depends on the creature's determination ; so that the creature's determination in this decree may properly be looked upon as antecedent to God's determination, and on which his determination is consequent and dependent.
$ 58. What divines intend by prior and posterior in the affair of God's decrees, is not that one is before another in the order of time, for all are from eternity; but that we must conceive the view or consideration of one decree to be before another, inasmuch as God decrees one thing out of respect to another decree that he has made ; so that one decree must be conceived of as in some sort to be the ground of another, or that God decrees one because of another; or that he would not have decreed one, had he decreed that other. Now there are two ways in which divine decrees may be said to be in this sense prior one to another. 1. When one thing decreed is the end of another, this must in some respect be conceived of as prior to that other. The good to be obtained is in some respect prior, in the consideration of him who decrees and disposes, to the means of obtaining it. 2. When one thing decreed is the ground on which the disposer goes, in seeking such an end by another thing decreed, as being the foundation of the capableness or fitness that there is in that
other thing decreed, to obtain such an end. Thus the sinfulness of the reprobate is the ground on which God goes in determining to glorify his justice in the punishment of his sinfulness; because his sinfulness is the foundation of the possibility of obtaining that end by such means. His having sin is the foundation of both the fitness and possibility of justice being glorified in the punishment of his sin, and therefore the consideration of the being of sin in the subject, must in some respect be prior in the mind of the disposer, to the determination to glorify his justice in the punishment of sin. For the disposer must first consider the capableness and aptness of such means for such an end, before he determines them to such an end.
Thus God must be conceived of, as first considering Adonibezek's cruelty in cutting off the thumbs and great toes of threescore and ten kings, as that which was to be before he decreed to glorify his justice in punishing that cruelty by the cutting off his thumbs and great toes. For God, in this last decree, has respect to the fitness and aptness of his thumbs and great toes being cut off to glorify his justice. But this aptness depends on the nature of that sin that was punished. Therefore the disposer, in fixing on those means for this end, must be conceived of as having that sin in view. Not only must God be conceived of as having some end in consideration, before he determines the means in order to that end, but he must also be conceived of as having a consideration of the capableness or aptness of the means to obtain the end before he fixes on the means. Both these, in different respects, may be said to be prior to the means decreed to such an end in the mind of the disposer. Both, in different respects, are the ground or reason of the appointment of the means. The end is the ground or reason of the appointment of the means; and also the capacity and fitness of means to the end, is the ground or reason of this appointment to such an end. So both the sin of the reprobate, and also the glory of divine justice, may properly be said to be before the decree of damning the reprobate. The decree of damnation may properly be said, in different respects, to be because of both these ; and that God would not have decreed the damnation of the sinner, had it not been for the respect he had both to the one and the other. Both may properly be considered as the ground of the decree of damnation. The view of the sinfulness of the reprobate must be in some respect prior in the decree, to God's decree to glorify his justice in punishing their sinfulness. Because sinfulness is necessarily supposed as already existing in the decree of punishing sinfulness, and the decree of damnation being posterior to the consideration of the sin of men in this latter respect, clears God of any injustice in such a decree. That which stands in the place of the ultimate end in a decree, i. e. that which is a mere end, and not a means to any thing further or higher, viz. the
shiving forth of God's glory, and the communication of his goodness, must indeed be considered as prior, in the consideration of the Supreme Disposer, to every thing excepting the mere possibility of it. But this must in some respects be conceived of as prior to that, because possibility is necessarily supposed in his decree. But if we descend lower than the highest end; if we come down to other events decreed, that be not mere ends, but means to obtain that end, then we must necessarily bring in more things, as in some respect prior, in the same manner as mere possibility is in this highest decree. Because more things must necessarily be supposed or considered as existing in the decree, in order that those things which are decreed may reach the end for which they are decreed. More things must be supposed in order to a possibility of these things taking place as subordinate to their end; and therefore they stand in the same place, in these lower decrees, as absolute possibility does in the decree of the highest end. The vindictive justice of God is not to be considered as a mere or ultimate end, but as a means to that end. Indeed, God's glorifying his justice, or rather his glorifying his holiness and greatness, has the place of a mere and ultimate end. But his glorifying his justice in punishing sin, (or in exercising vindictive justice, which is the same,) is not to be considered as a mere end, but a certain way or means of obtaining an end. Vindictive justice is not to be considered as a certain, distinct attribute to be glorified, but as a certain way and means for the glorifying an attribute. Every distinct way of God's glorifying or exercising an attribute, might as well be called a distinct attribute as this. It is but giving a distinct name to it, and so we might multiply attributes without end. The considering of the glorifying of vindictive justice as a mere end, has led to great misrepresentations, and undue and unhappy expressions about the decree of reprobation. Hence the glorifying of God's vindictive justice on such particular persons, has been considered as altogether prior in the decree to their sinfulness, yea to their very beings. Whereas it being only a means to an end, those things that are necessarily presupposed, in order to the fitness and possibility of this means of obtaining the end, must be conceived of as prior to it.
Hence God's decree of the eternal damnation of the reprobate is not to be conceived of as prior to the fall, yea, and to the very being of the persons, as the decree of the eternal glory of the elect is. For God's glorifying his love, and communicating his goodness, stands in the place of a mere or ultimate end, and therefore is prior in the mind of the eternal Disposer to the very being of the subject, and to every thing but mere possibility. The goodness of God gives the being as well as the happiness of the creature, and does not presuppose it. Indeed, the glorifying of God's mercy, as it presupposes the subject to be misera