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the fallacy of some inferences drawn from the doctrines of sovereign Grace by its friends, and triumphantly echoed by its foes. Had the Fathers and the Schoolmen been better acquainted with moral obligation, and the true principles of moral science, they would never have given us so many fanciful interpretations of scripture, nor have been so frequently inconsistent with themselves.
Erroneous views respecting the DIVINE PREROGATIFE.
§ 1. That God is absolutely supreme, and his will in some respects
arbitrary, is universally acknowledged. $ 2. But not arbitrary in judgments and punishments. $ 3. What implied in the Prero, gative of Sovereignty. 4. Evidence of its exercise toward mankind, from the revealed fact of Salvation provided. $ 5. From the proclamation of mercy: $ 6. From awful sanctions proving ineffectual; and § 7. From the joint considerations of human imbecility and the effects produced on some minds, $ 8. Others have no ground of complaint. $ 9, 10. God, in the exercise of Sovereign Prerogative, is no respecter of persons, Ø 11. Man has great need of its exercise. § 12. Its exereise is inju. rious to none.
§ 1. That God is absolutely supreme, is an acknowledged fact; and that in some respects and instances he is sovereign, that is, arbitrary, must be also allowed by every reflecting person. To what else can be ascribed the existence of the created universe, and the differences of material beings of which it is composed? What a sovereign variety is discoverable in the mineral, the vegetable, and the 'animal world! How various their natures, their properties, and their designed ends! These things are generally confessed, as they do not immediately affect the principles of morality and religion. But no sooner do we extend the sovereign prerogative to the human mind, than the trumpet of alarm is loudly sounded, as if some great injury to man were the necessary consequence. These
fears, however, are utterly groundless; we need only understand the subject, in order to restore our tranquillity, provided our tempers and dispositions are not depraved. We shall then not only acquiesce with submission, but also adore with gratitude.
§ 2. It is inconsistent with the divine perfections to suppose that God acts arbitrarily towards his creatures, except in the communication of good. The very notion of judgments or punishments, implies that they are deserved by those on whom they are inflicted: and even the manner of the infliction is not, properly speaking, arbitrary, except when there is a favourable deviation from the rigid claims of justice. Though mankind are sometimes afflicted with the sword, pestilence, or famine, still they might say with truth, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed ” to a greater degree, and in a more dreadful manner. Justice in every manifestation of it is indeed supreme, as is every attribute of the Deity, but never arbitrary. Had Calvin duly reflected on this fundamental principle, he would not have disfigured his admirable pages with a reprobating decrce; nor would many other valuable writers have attempted to soften the sentiment by the self-contradictory notion of a decree to permit moral evil.
$ 3. The divine prerogative of sovereignty which is here asserted, is that of communicating good of any kind, in any degree, and in whatever manner God pleases. Hence we find, that different persons have not only a greater portion of corporeal beauty and strength, but also a greater degree of mental capacity than others. And in this respect the words of the Apostle are apposite; “ Who maketh thee to differ from another; and what hast thou that thou didst not receive ? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received
Whatever mental quality differs from another for the better, is from the sovereign pleasure of God, who worketh all such things according to the infinitely wise counsel of his will. It was this sovereign pleasure that formed all the laws of the universe, and has given to to all intelligent creatures an accountable existence.
4. It enters into the essential nature of accountability, that the subject of it is, in his own nature, liable to transgress. And we all are constrained to acknowlege it, as an awful and alarming fact, that all mankind are trans-V gressors, whereby they are adverse to the holiness and justice of the supreme Governor, and
* 1 Cor. iv, 7.
whereby, as a necessary consequence, the same glorious attributes are adverse to them, in the same degree. From the divine prescience no future state of man, or any individual event was concealed. Hence the exercise of the divine sovereignty in a plan of mercy. All mankind, if left to feel the just demerit of sin, must have continued in guilt and misery. But now, in virtue of an atoning substitute in our nature, provided by sovereign mercy, a ministry of reconciliation is established. A proclamation is gone forth, “ Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.” The gospel of the kingdom was ordered to be published among all nations, and to be proposed to every human creature capable of attending to it.
§ 5. Now let us enquire, Who believes the report? The natural man understandeth not the things that are spiritual, nor can he know them, because, in order that they may savingly profit, they must be spiritually discerned. Millions turn a deaf ear to the call of wisdom, though they cannot object to the plan, without at the same time displaying their folly.
Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of con course, in the openings of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the