Page images

they attain to everlasting felicity!" Are there not millions to whom the gospel is made known, and to whom is made a conditional offer of salvation, who are utter strangers to these effects? How then could the compilers say that these effects are found in those who are “ endued with so excellent a benefit of God” as “ predestination to life," without pointedly contradicting an obvious matter of acknowledged fact?

[ocr errors]

§ 28. The question is not whether God * decreed to make known the gospel of Christ, or, ' graciously purposed to make a conditional 'offer of salvation to men through the merits of

Christ,'or, whether any 'on their part conform • to the conditions of the gospel covenant by obeying the calling, and walking religiously in good

works;' for these things are confessed on both sides. The question is, what is the real cause of these effects? or, what God does on his part? Men“ obey the calling;

lling;" but from what cause ? Is it an inexplicable self-determining power in the will, or is it grace in the heart, -the power of man, or the Spirit of God “working in due season ?" They are “justified;" but do they obtain this great privilege “ as a reward," or

freely?". They are “ made the Sons of God by adoption ;” but where does this privilege originate? in the will and purpose of man, or in the wise choice of God? The question is

not, whether the privilege belongs to the willing and obedient; but, who made them willing and obedient? Was it free will in the adopted, or, the grace of God? That the elect are “made like the image of Christ,” is not disputed; but does man effect it by the potent energy of self, self-will, self-determination,-or, does God effect it by his grace and spirit, whereby they are “ transformed into the same image from glory to glory?” The electwalk religiously in good works. No Calvinist denies this; but we “affirm constantly, that they who believe in God should be careful to main, tain good works,” and that the disciples of Christ ought “to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded them.” We 5 those who are rich in this world, to be rich in good works;" and that all Christians should be found “ diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” according to their situations, Now the question is, when Christians have - walked religiously in good works,' to what are we taught to ascribe this effect? How should we give unto man the things that are his, and unto God the things that are God's? If man was the willing agent, was it his own will made him willing; or was it “ God that worked in him both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure?"


$.99. True Christians ' at length attain to

[ocr errors]


everlasting felicity;' and I have no objection to add, that they are rewarded, -not of merit, however, but " by God's mercy.” But how passed the inhabitants of heaven successfully through this wonderful process, the whole series of events, from the first moment of their lives to their enjoyment of ' everlasting feli

city? Not to mention their first existence as rational beings, their preservation in life, and that in the wise providence of God they were placed in favourable situations as to religious privileges; we will suppose that God has de

creed to make known to them the gospel of Christ,' and 'to make a conditional offer of • salvation to them.' Now, God having done all this on his part, let us see what more is to be done, in order to attain eternal felicity.' Jehovah proclaims by his servants, “ Incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel." “ Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.” But man by nature is. “ inclined to evil:” and as he cannot incline contrary ways at the same time, there must be some cause of a change of inclination from evil to good. This is the first difficulty. The thing is not impossible, else no one could be saved. “ The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such,” observes the Article upon Free-Will, “that he cannot (which is the same as will not] turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good

works, to faith and calling upon God." But what is impossible with men is possible with God: and when he has been pleased to effect this change of inclination, the true converts are constrained to acknowledge, “ Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth.” “ He hath made us willing in the day of his power.” One of the best passages in the Book I am examining is the following: A man cannot, by his

own natural faculties and unassisted exertions, * so counteract and correct the imperfection and

corruption derived from the fall of Adam, as to be able of himself to acquire that true and • lively faith which would secure his salvation, 'or to call upon God with that sincerity, fervour, and devotion, which can alone give efficacy to our prayers. The human mind is so weakened and vitiated by the sin of our first parents, that we cannot by our own natural strength prepare it, or put it into a proper state, for the reception of a saving faith, or for * the performance of the spiritual worship required in the gospel : this mental purification cannot be effected without divine assistance,'*

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

§ Sa. Without divine assistance.' The term 'assistance' which the Bishop not infrequently uses in reference to God, or the Holy

* Refut.



Spirit, is extremely equivocal, as applicable to very different and almost opposite ideas. The effectual assistance' which a vigorous parent gives to a helpless child, differs much from the occasional and feeble 'assistance' which an aged parent affords to a son who is qualified to take the lead in every important undertaking. A fisherman, after having hoisted the sail of his boat, is assisted' by the wind; and he again assists the wind by the skilful plying of his oars. In short, the phrase "divine assistance' may

be used in a lax way by persons of contrary sentiments, as to the nature and degree of that assistance. It is true, there is a co-operation between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man, and this is fully admitted by his Lordship, though he professes that he cannot account for it. "In ' what manner, or in what proportion, if I may * so say, God and man co-operate, I am utterly 'unable to explain or discover.'* I will venture an opinion, however, that the subject itself is neither undiscoverable, nor inexplicable;and that the obscurity is not in his Lordship's intellect, but in some false principle that hangs over the subject as an impenetrable veil. As long as any one clings to a principle so useless, so unmeaning, so self-contradictory and demonstrably absurd, as that of free-will being a self,

* Refut. p. 35,

« PreviousContinue »