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Power above them takes in the same process and that in calmer and more leisurely hours, the impression of that Supreme Influ: ence returns upon the mind with increased force, as some sound which in the stillness of the night fills the air, yet is lost or unperceived amidst the several discords and noises of a busy day. But the position can never be conceded, that the belief of this controlling power is contradictory to the belief of the freedom of human actions. For in the first place it does not follow, that because we believe this power to be exercised, therefore it is exercised to the exclusion of all other influence. And again, it may be, (to speak in a manner adapted to human conception and human experience,) it may be kept in reserve to act upon occasions ; it may form the plan and the outline, and delegate the subordinate parts to minor agents; it may, for the purpose of exercising the fidelity and zeal of those agents, one while keep itself out of sight; or at another, to animate their exertions, let them perceive its presence; or, to check their folly and presumption, make them feel their dependence, and frustrate their endeavours-it may, supposing these agents to have a will of their own, incline that will to act conformably to their duty, by making that duty appear easy and agreeable, by removing obstacles and terrors, and placing attractive objects in their way; or if the will be stubborn, it may make it feel the ill consequences of that stubborn, ness, and it may contrive that its perverseness shall defeat its own purpose, and forward some other purpose which is kind and beneficial: it may make the misconduct of one, instrumental to his own correction, or to the improvement and fidelity of the the rest, by shewing, in ordinary cases of disobedience, the evil he brings upon himself-or, in cases of extreme depravity, the utter abandonment and ruin to which the delinquent is left.
“ Does any part of such a scheme either detract from the notion of a Supreme Intelligence planning, governing, guiding, and accomplishing the whole? or can such a conception, in the mind of man, of the scheme of Divine Providence tend to relax his energy, to discourage his industry, to impair the distinctions of right and wrong, or weaken the principle of duty and obedience?
“ The only argument brought against it is borrowed from the difficulty of accounting for evil as mixed with God's creation, and of conceiving free-will in His creatures. But difficulties can never be listened to against the evidence of facts. The fact of the exista ence of evil no one denies—and the existence of free-will is by the concurrent unreflecting testimony of all mankind admitted to be a fact, opposed only by the metaphysical objections of a few. That all mankind act, speak, and think, as if the will were free, is admitted by these few themselves. And I trust it may be regarded as proved, that to think otherwise would deprive us of all motives to action, and all sense of right and wrong. It is only because they cannot conceive how these two things can co-exist,
that they call upon us to surrender our consciousness, our activity, and our moral principles.
« Precisely analogous to God's dealings in dispensing the good things of life, and to that method by which a sense of our dependence on him for the enjoyment of these blessings is kept alive in us, is the communication also of that unseen influence upon the mind which good and pious men desire, and the belief of which even under the guidance of the light of nature was very general. • That every good and every perfect gift is from above, is a sentiment not introduced but adopted by an Apostle of Christ. It occasionally breaks through the gloom of the philosophy and the religion of the heathen world: and the sublimer strains of their poetry speak the same language. "That God favours those (who yield to his influence-but that he rejects and abandons or
drives on headlong to their ruin men who resist his will’-are frequent exclamations of those who contemplate with an awful wonder his moral government of the universe. That these wicked
and rebellious men, when they fancy they are pursuing their own • schemes, are baffled and foiled, and made subservient to those ( very purposes which they endeavour to defeat*_that they are • raised aloft in order to render their fall more exemplary-that • they are flattered for a time with the apparent success of their • iniquity, in order that the punishment when it comes may be • more heavy and more instructive'—these are reflections which cannot be new to any who are conversant with the ancient heathen writers; and they accord also with those occasional impressions which the passing events of life or the records of history make upon all serious minds.
" It is not till they involve themselves in metaphysical perplexities, that men regard these things as incompatible with the acknowledged attributes of God, or with the free-will of man. But when once they begin to enquire, whether the world might
not have been constructed otherwise, whether evil might not have • been dispensed with, whether what God foreknew can be said to
proceed from the free-will of man, and whether He must not be "understood as having pre-ordained every occurrence however • minuie or however iniquitous which takes place in the world,'t it is no wonder that their enquiries should be lost in endless mazes, or in a denial of something which it is as necessary to admit as any other proposition which they think proper to retain.
• See the arguments of Arminius, p. 827. t Of the unguarded assertions respecting the agency of Divine Providence, which are sometimes made even by wise and good men, the following brief extracts from Dr. Chalmers's sermon on Predestination, will afford a fair example : “ God is as much · master of the human heart, as he is of the elements. Every step of every individual character receives as determinate a character from the hand of God as every mile of a planet's orbit, or every gust of wind, or every wave of the sea, or every particle of flying dust, or every rivulet of flowing water.
“ If, however, these difficulties are traced up to some fundamental positions, that are not contradictory, but whose existence is only inconceivable to our faculties,—if each of these positions must be separately admitted, although their union is mysterious and unaccountable, it is not adding to the difficulty, it is a natural and probable conclusion, that many consequences from each of 'those fundamental positions separately taken should be deducible, 'which are no more reconcilable with each other in our appre
hensions, than the original truths are from which they are derived.' To dwell upon these subordinate truths, these consequences of the original positions, to set them in array against each other, to represent him who holds the one side as necessarily contradicting the other, and to demand an explicit disavowal of every tenet connected with the one, before we will acknowledge that a man really believes the other, is the sure way to perpetuate strife, and to defeat the practical good which may be derived from both opi. nions. If that God made every thing, knowing beforehand all that would come to pass and all that men would do, be an undeniable truth if nevertheless He deals with man as if he were free to act, and rewards and punishes him according to this trialand we cannot comprehend hon both these things should be true together,—we yet can believe them both to be true, and so believing, we may well conclude that many of our occasional reason. ings concerning these things must be infected with the same ap. parent incongruity that strikes us in the enunciation of those first principles. We ought not to wonder at these difficulties; we ought rather to expect them. Strife must be endless, if we - are not to rest till they are all explained and harmonized : and
error, not truth, will prevail, if either position be so established as to exclude the other. Let us however carefully bear in mind that these are not contradictions but apparent incongruities and the same answer which we give to those who press us with the main difficulty, must in all reason be allowed to cover these also.
« The book of God's word speaks a plainer language, but not a contradictory language to the book of God's works. He has bountifully bestowed upon us in this life, chequered as it is, gifts and blessings to animate our hopes and to reward our obedience: but He bids us receive them as flowing from his free grace-as no
“ This power of God knows no exceptions ; it is absolute and unlimited : And while it embraces the vast, it carries its resistless influence to all the minute and unnoticed diversities of existence: It reigns and operates through all the secrecies of the inner man: It gives birth to every purpose: It gives impulse to every desire: It gives shape and colour to every conception : It wields an entire ascendancy over every attribute of the mind; and the will, and the fancy, and the understanding, with all the countless variety of their hidden and fugitive operations, are submitted to it: It gives movement and direction through every one point in the line of our pilgrimage. At no one moment of time does it abandon us : It follows us to the hour of death, and it carries us to our place and our everlasting destiny in the region beyond it.”. Such assertions as these require no comment !
man's right, though they be every man's hopeças objects of prayer to Him, no less than of exertion in themselves and He' would have us still awfully regard Him as knowing from all eter. nity whatever has been, is, or will be.
« In the dispensation, therefore, of those greater gifts and better promises which his written word has made known to mankind, we cannot but expect, that the same assertion of universal sovereignty, of absolute knowledge, and unbounded power, extending to all that we now do or shall do hereafter, would frequently be made. It is the seal of revelation set to one of the earliest conclusions of human reason. But we must also expect, that as in the natural world the trial of our virtue is apparently the main object, and the dispensations of providence seem to be especially designed to make us feel how much depends upon ourselves in this state of earthly discipline, so the trial of our faith should be set forth in Scripture as one grand purpose of our present being—that the more God has done for us, the more we should be called upon to do for ourselves that if to secure His temporal blessings, virtue and prudence and industry are demanded on our part, still more to render ourselves capable of this glorious reward, we should be exhorted to lay aside every sin, and to labour in every branch of duty with redoubled diligence--that if, in the course of human affairs, men are wont to be disheartened by adversity and by the success of wicked men, insomuch that their belief in an over-ruling Providence is apt to be shaken or impaired, so in those severer trials which assail a Christian, still stronger and more distinct assurances of support should be given, still plainer declarations that God's purpose cannot ultimately be foiled by any powers of darkness—that He will not forsake his elect--but that He will comfort and cheer them through all the perils and hardships of their earthly pilgrimage. Lastly, if the general laws of the creation be not so propounded to us here, as to encourage negligence or presumption, but to awaken a lively sense of our dependence upon God, and of the necessity of prayer to Him for the continuance of his blessings--So we might well expect that the course of a Christian would in his written word be represented as anxious though full of hope-as liable to be stopped or turned aside or even frustrated by temptation as needing a perpetual renewal of God's assisting grace, and a careful improvement of all those means of grace, which, if they shall appear to have been bestowed upon us in vain, will certainly be regarded as aggravating the guilt of sin, and will increase our condemnation."
In this Introduction it is unnecessary to exhibit even the out. lines of Arminianism, since they form a great part of the subject of this volume, and may be studied to better advantage in the admirable Works of Arminius which have been lately translated into English. But as these highly benevolent principles have
been frequently (and I may add purposely) misrepresented, I sub. join a brief exposition of them from the pen of a Calvinist, who, notwithstanding the prejudices of his party, has produced one of the most impartial, correct, moderate, and comprehensive accounts of the scriptural system of Arminius, that have been pubhished in the English language, and one that contains a manly refutation of the errors with which that system has been falsely charged:
“ Arminianism, strictly speaking, is that system of religious doctrine which was taught by Arminius, professor of divinity in the university of Leyden. If therefore we would learn precisely what Arminianism is, we must have recourse to those writings in which that divine himself has stated and expounded his peculiar tenets. This, however, will by no means give us an accurate idea of that which, since his time, has been usually denominated Arminianism. On examination, it will be found, that in many important particulars, those who have called themselves Armi. nians, or have been accounted such by others, differ as widely from the nominal head and founder of their sect, as he hiinself did from Calvin and other doctors of Geneva. There are, indeed, certain points, with regard to which he has been strictly and uniformly followed by almost all his pretended adherents ;* but there are others of equal or of greater importance, dogmatically insisted on by them, to which he unquestionably never gave his sanction, and even appears to have been decidedly hostile. Such a distinction, obvious as it must be to every attentive reader, has yet been generally so far overlooked, that the memory of Arminius, is frequently loaded with imputations the most unreasonable and unjust. He is accused by the ignorant and the prejudiced, of introducing corruptions into the Christian church, which he probably never thought of, and which certainly have no place in his works. And all the odium which his fola lowers have from time to time incurred by their varied and increasing heterodoxy, has been absurdly reflected upon him, as if he could be responsible for every error that may be sent abroad under the sanction of his name. Whatever be the number or the species of these errors, and in whatever way they may be associated with his principles, it is fair to the character of Arminius, and useful to the interests of religious truth, to revert to his own writings as the only source from which we ought to derive information concerning the Arminian scheme. And by doing so it may be discovered, that genuine unadulterated Arminianism is not that great and dangerous heresy which among a certain class of Christians it is too often represented to be ; and that though it
"That in which Arminius has been “uniformly followed" by his adherents, is the foundation of his system--the Divine Foresight of Faith and Perseverance in those who are finally saved.