Page images
PDF
EPUB

an absolute decree to give assistance whereby the condition may be infallibly performed, is not inconsistent with the idea of a Covenant." “ Thus-saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles."*_“The spirit of the Lord God is

upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn: to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”+

§ 15. On the passages above cited I would offer a few remarks which appear to me to have

* Isa, xlii. 5, 6.

+ Isa. Isi. 1, 2.

a strong bearing on the point under discussion. First, that they relate to the Messiah in his federal capacity: secondly, that they express a purpose irreversibly determined by the arbi

trary will of God, to give assistance for performing the conditions of a Covenant, and not merely as a reward

upon the performance: thirdly, that the Messiah, thus divinely assisted to perform his condition of a stipulated Covenant, should also assist others to obtain that holiness which is to them the federal condition of happiness: fourthly, that these prophetic declarations (to which more might have been added) are abundantly confirmed and illustrated by parallel declarations in the New Testament; for there we are assured that he received not the Spirit by measure," and the very existence of his humanity was from the Holy Spirit by a decretive determination,--and yet his assumption of humanity was a part of the federal condition.

§ 16. From these considerations we may safely infer, that Bishop Tomline had not sufficiently considered the subject, nor the sentiments of Calvinists, when he asserted, that 'the very idea of a Covenant is inconsistent with

the Calvinistic system'-and that absolute de'crees reject all conditions or even any

respect. to conduct. We have seen that the

decree of an ultimate event may be absolutely certain, though a condition precede it; and that the same remark is applicable to each event in the series. We therefore contend, on the firmest ground, first, that a 'decree' of absolute Election to glory, does not reject but include conditional events preceding the ultimatę ones: secondly, that divine, effectual assistance, absolutely securing a performance of the conditions by the federates, is perfectly consistent with the idea of a covenant; and, finally, that though pardon, justification, and eternal salvation, be suspended on the conditions of repentance, faith, and obedience to be performed by us, yet the reward may be consistently bestowed, notwithstanding it be ' irreversibly determined by the merciful and wise Jehovah, that his gracious and powerful assistance shall secure the performance of the condition and the ultimate event.

§ 17. His Lordship would fain persuade his readers, that an exhortation to walk worthily, is incompatible with certainty of salvation, St. ' Peter says, “ Give diligence to make your

call‘ing and election sure; for if ye do these things 'ye shall never fall :" therefore the salvation of

these elect, of this chosen generation, was so · far from being certain that it depended on

their own diligence; their “not falling" was so far from being infallibly decreed that it

depended upon their doing those things which * the apostle commanded.'* Of St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, it is observed, instead of • representing their salvation as certain, he * earnestly exhorts them to walk worthy of the * vocation wherewith they were called; guards "them against those deceits which bring down 'the wrath of God upon the children of disobe

dience, &c.'+ ' The Thessalonians by embrac*ing Christianity, were now enabled to obtain • salvation; but that this salvation was not ..certain and infallible, is evident from the

numerous exhortations and precepts contained * in these epistles.' The preceding discussions are virtually a reply to this objection. An exhortation, it is evident, is intended to furnish the person exhorted with a suitable motive of action: and as rational beings are not expected to act without a motive, so the obedience exhorted to, which is a prerequisite to attain the end, requires the exhortation as an essential part of a suitable motive.

§. 18. But so apt are we, when discussing moral and religious subjects, to use terms in a a lax and undefined manner, that the following question may be thought by many readers quite superfluous, What is Motive?-However, I do

* Refut. p. 205.

+ Ib. p. 207

Ib. p. 210.

not think it superfluous to explain my own meaning when I use', the term in an argument that requires precision of ideas. By MOTIVE I understand, that which actually moves and determines the free will of an agent to one choice rather than another. Is any thing beside the exhortation and the will required to effect' this? Yes: for the will, however free, must in its elections either move itself, or be moved by something else, in order to comply with, or to reject the exhortation. If it move itself, it is both the mover and thing moved; that is, it is at once both cause and effect. It has been often imagined by those who oppose Calvinism in this point, that the human Will is a self-moving power resembling the self-moving power of the divine Will, which, as they suppose, has no other cause of its activity and choice than itself : but it appears to me demonstrable, that the divine will is not of that character. For what is divine will, in accurate .conception, but the medium of power? Power therefore moves the divine will. Even power however is never exerted, nor can consistently be conceived to be exerted, without a moving

And what can there be in God anterior, as to the order of our conception, to will and power, but his nature as infinitely good and wise?

cause.

§ 19. Now, if the divine will be not a selfmoving principle, much less is the human. The

« PreviousContinue »