Page images

before. After supper each of the the church with zeal, he manage family gave an account of the ed his dissent with great candour sermon, and he concluded the and moderation. His great piety, day with singing a psalm, and integrity, and charity recomwith solemn prayer and praise. mended him to the respect of He went through all this labour many, who differed from him. with surprising vigour, cheerful. He was a great scholar, and conness, and fervour of spirit. He tinued a hard student to the last. was a great lover of peace ; civ- So far was he from entangling il, courteous, and obliging, but a himself in the affairs of this stranger to ceremoniousness. He life, that he knew not what he was very free in reproving his re bad, save the bread which he lations and all his acquaintance, ate ; nor was be very conversible as occasion required; and was about worldly concerns; but in much concerned, when he heard discourse on the things of God of the prosperity of any of them, none were more free and affable. that they might be provided a He lived and died an eminent gainst the temptations of their example of close walking with condition ; and he was an earn God, and of a heavenly conversaest intercessor for the aillicted. tion. When he lay on his death His abstinence and self denial, bed, an aged friend of his asking his strict watch over himself, him, if he had not comfort in reand regard to divine Providence, flection on his labours in the in all instances, were very un cause of God, he replied, "I common ; as also was his humil- have nothing to boast of." He ity. He fortified himself to an finished his course with joy, in uncommon degree against every 1684, aged 72, Though for thing, he could suspect of having some time before he died, such a lendency to tempt him even to was the heat of persecution, that a moderate conceit of himself. he durst not show his face in

Though he was not free to the city ; many persons of conjoin in the common prayer, sequence were forward to do him and bore his testimony against honour at his dicath. prelacy and the ceremonies of

Religious Communications.


Continued from page 23. As we have undertaken to dis- hensible; we beg leave, before close some of the dangers of the proceeding, to present the folchurches with respect to the lowing observations. Christian faith; and as that faith It is not unfrequently alleged, includes several doctrines emi- asan argument against preaching Rently profound and incompre- or otherwise exhibiting some of

the peculiar doctrines of revela- with perplexing difficulties, and tion, that they are mysterious in liable to be misunderstood, it is brir nulure, attended with many safest to let them rest in silence. perplexing difficulties, and exceed- But the truth evidently is, that inçly liable to be misunderstood. their being attended with perBut this argument must be plexing difficulties, and being liweighed. Suppose certain Chris able to be misunderstood are reatian doctrines are mysterious. Is sons for the most luminous and this a reason why they should be thorough explanation that is pospassed over in silence? Because sible. An important subject, on they are mysterious, are they which people are greatly exposed therefore incapable of being fairly to mistake, should be guarded stated? And are the proposi. against false constructions by the tions, which contain them, nec- whole strength of improved rea: essarily unintelligible? Accordo son, and surrounded with all the ing to this reasoning, we ought light, which divine revelation to maintain perpetual silence on affords. The mysterious doctrines the divine character. For what of the gospel are most misundere subject is so incomprehensible, stood, where they are most nego as the self existent, the eternal, lecied. Where they are free the infinite God? And yet this quently and ably exhibited, serisubject, which is attended with ous, attentive minds obtain more higher mystery than any other, clear and satisfactory concepis the very subject, in which we tions, are perplexed with fewer are most deeply concerned, and difficulties, and are able to imon which it is our duty, with the prove their knowledge to more warmest emotions, to meditate important purposes. and converse. In the proposi Many persons have been led tions, which relate to this most astray by the misconstruction of incomprehensible subject, are in- the following scripture. Deut. volved our everlasting interests. xxix. 29. “ The secret things To understand these proposi- belong unto the Lord our God; tions, though imperfectly, con- but those things, which are restitutes our most valuable attain- vealed, belong to us and to our ment in knowledge. The pe- children forever.”

This passage, culiar doctrines of the gospel de- it is said, should keep us at the rive their mysteriousness from greatest distance from the doctheir relation to those boundless trines of the Trinity, the divine objects, which finite minds can- decrees, Esc. These are the senot comprehend. But that same cret things which belong unto God, relation renders them exceed- but not to us. However unacingly interesting, and capable of countable it may seem, this reathe most extensive utility to soning is adopted by many, who mankind. Shall such doctrines will not deny that these very docbe suppressed? Does a religious trines are contained in the Bible. truth, which is mysterious, ad- But if contained in the Bible, they mit no homage, but that of si- are certainly among those things lence and neglect ?

which are revealed, and which, acIt is argued, that because the cording to the very words cited, doctrines referred to are attended belong to us and to ourchildren for

ever. The connexion of the pas- election of some persons to etersage shows, that it was designed nal life, is written on the page to check the fruitlegs curiosity of of inspiration in the most legible the Israelites respecting those characters. But who are the pargreat and awful events, which ticular objects of God's discrimiMoses had just predicted. One nating love will not be certainly or two brief observations may set known, before the all-revealing this matter in its proper light. day. 1. As far as any thing is revealed, I shall only observe further, it ceases to be a secret. That that our views and practice should there are intelligent creatures accord precisely with the state, superior to man is revealed, and in which every subject is left by therefore their existence is not a revelation. That the sublime secret, but a well known fact. and inscrutable subjects of religThat the awful events predicted ion are 80 far illuminated, is by Moses would take place, was matter of pious gratitude to the no secret, but a certain truth. Father of lights. That in cer. But 2. Things may be revealed, tain attitudes they are still envel. in some respects, which are not oped in obscurity, should exrevealed in others. This was cite the humblest submission. the case with the things referred Where God's word communicates to in the words above cited. distinct knowledge, the want of That such distressful events faith is rebellion. Beyond the would take place was abundantly bounds of that knowledge, anxdeclared. But the time, and ious curiosity springs from pride, other circumstances of those and ends in profanation. events, were concealed. As to

this number some notice the number, and many particular will be taken of the most injurious qualities of the angels, we have representations of the doctrine of Do knowledge, though their ex- election, and the most popular istence is put beyond doubt by objections against it. This docthe word of God. The same is trine, which is contained in the ime of the doctrine of the Trin- faith of the reformed churches ity. That a Trinity exists in the in general, and, as many of its One God is revealed. But in enemies acknowledge, in the howhal manner God is triune, or ly scriptures, implies that God, how divine Trinity exists in unity, in the eternal purpose of his wisis not revealed. The same ob- dom and grace, determined, that servation applies to the decree a certain number of human ofof God respecting the salvation fenders should be the subjects of of his people. That their future holiness and final salvation. In felicity is in faHibly included in the larger catechism it is thus the eternal purpose of the divine expressed ; " that God, by an emind, is clearly revealed. But ternal and immutable decree, out what particular persons the pur- of his mere love, &c. hath in pose of salvation embraces, and Christ chosen some men to eterwhy it embraces them, and not nal life, and the means thereof." others, is not revealed. That The statement of this doctrine there is such a thing, as a divine frequently given by its enemies Vol. III. No. 3.


is in substance this: It repre To the summary statement sents that God beheld all mankind of the doctrine above mentioned, through Adam's fall imputed to there are several weighty objecthem as their sin, rendered obnox. tions. 1. The statement sig: ious to his eternal wrath, and ut- nifies that the reason why God terly unable to escape it ; that al- did not include, in his gracious though he saw no reason to extend purpose, the salvation of those favour to any of them, rather than who are to be finally excluded to all, yet he arbitrarily and abso. from heaven, is the offence of lutely determined to have mercy Adam. But although the conon a few only, leaving the far fused manner, in which some greater part under the dire neces. Calvinistic writers have expresssity of perishing, for the offence of ed themselves, has given occatheir forefather Adam, committed sion for such a statement, we long before they had a being. This utterly reject it. The supposiis the light in which the doctrine tion, that the guilt of Adam's is exhibited by Whitby, its ablest sin is transferred to his posteropposer.

ity, is deemed an absurdity too To all who are in any meas- palpable to need refutation. The ure acquainted with controver- connexion between the first man sy, it must bave frequently oc and his descendants, though excurred, that men of subtle minds ceedingly important in its nature can, by the assistance of per- and consequences, implied nothverse misstatement, very easily ing inconsistent with the nature distort and entangle a moral or of things, or with the unchangetheological subject; and that able rule of righteousness. But much care and labour are often on this particular subject, which necessary to unravel the per- has been so ably and satisfactoplexity, and present the subject rily treated by Edwards and othin a fair and unexceptionable ers, I shall not enlarge. light. The misstatements fre 2. The statement given of quently made of the doctrine of the doctrine intimates, that the election are involved in difficul. moral condition of mankind is ties peculiarly hard to be remov rather unfortunate, than crimed, and very hurtful to unwary inal ; that future punishment minds, because they contain an will be the effect of sad necessiimposing compound. Part of ty, rather than of voluntary the ideas really contained in the transgression ; an unavoidable doctrine are united with others, evil, rather than a just recomwhich are foreign and heteroge- pense. Here our complaint of Deous. So many ideas of the misrepresentation might be urgformer kind are introduced, as ed very strongly. may lead one to suppose that the 3. In such a statement, as that statement exbibits the real doc now under consideration, it is trine in its own form ; and yet signified, that God's decree of so many of the latter are inter- election was arbitrary, or that he woven, as to give the whole the had no proper reason for it, aside appearance of absurdity and from mere will. Here we reerror.

peat the charge of misstatement.

before us,

It is indeed a sentiment clearly is absolutely precluded from it.

laught in scripture, that God's But this, by no means, belongs tek gracious choice of his people did to the doctrine, as revealed in

not proceed on the ground of scripture, or as stated by its GA any moral good, by which they most respectable advocates. It

were, in themselves, distinguish- is evident from scripture, that be

ed from others. But we think the number of good men at parit an impeachment of God's in. ticular times, and indeed through finite perfection to say, that any all past ages, is small, in comparpart of his scheme was adopted ison with those of the opposite without sufficient reasons, What character. But according to the those reasons were, in the case opinion of many of the ablest

we pretend not to Calvinistic writers, the Bible know. These are the secret clearly countenances the idea, things which belong unto God. that a large majority of the whole But that he had sufficient rea- family of man will be the subsons is clearly deducible from jects of future happiness; and his attributes, and from those few respectable authors can be passages of scripture, in which found, who advance any thing to bis sovereignty is most highly the contrary. exalted. When Jesus expressed Now take away from the doc. kis acquiesence in discriminating trine under consideration the mercy, be evidently hinted at the frightful notion of Adam's transreasonableness or wisdom of the gression being transferred to his divine conduct. “ Even so, Fa- posterity, and their being doomther, for so it seemed good in thyed to perdition for what he did ; sight." If it seemed good to di- take away the notion of any pervine wisdom, there were suffi- son's being put involuntarily uncient reasons for it. So the der the dire necessity of perishapostle : “ Having predestinated ing forever ; separate also every us unto the adoption of children idea of any thing arbitrary in by Jesus Christ to himself, accorde the divine purpose, or contracted ing to the good pleasure of his will." in divine goodness ; divest the It was a matter of choice, being doctrine of all these heteroger ascribed to his will; and the choice neous appendages, so adverse to made was founded on reasons the tenor of the Bible and to the perfectly satisfactory to his wis- best views of Christians, and dom, so that it was proper, suit- present it in the pure light of able, or as the original word sig, revelation ; and what heaven nifies, well pleasing in his sight. taught soul will not see its cerThe choice, though to us in- tainty and its beauty ? God, in scrutable, was in his view per his infinite benevolence, determined fectly reasonable ; though sove to bestow everlasting life on a part reign, it was not arbitrary, of the human family, through the

4. According to the above mediation of Christ. Their salva, mentioned statement, the doc- tion was eternally included in the trine of election implies, that all comprehensive scheme of di. only a small part of the human vine wisdom. Who can object family is destined to salvation, to such a sentiment? In what and that by far the greater part respect is it more incompatible

« PreviousContinue »