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We may here pertinently take Notice that the Doctrine of Redemption by Jesus Christ, as it is stated to us in the Holy Writings, is sufficient to silence the Cavils that have been made (as it has been already remarked) against the Posteriority of the Date of the Christian Religion, or the Want of it's Universality. For the Merits of the Sacrifice of Christ's Death, whether decreed or accomplished, must be virtual/y and universally efficacious in all Ages and Places, from the Beginning to the End of Time. They are by Divine Mercy imputable, where they are entirely unknown: and though, for Reasons hid from the Wife and Prudent, as welL as the Ignorant and Foolijh, the Divine Providence has permitted, from the Beginning, Error and Superstition to engross the far greater Part of the known World, yet we may, in Reason and Charity, suppose that all Men (for all Men, as such, are equally capable of Mercy) will be saved by virtue of Christ's Satisfaction, who act agreeably to the real Judgment of their Con sciences, and the best Information they can procure. For though the best human Actions have, upon the whole, such an Alloy of Imperfection, that, as to their own Right and Title to Acceptance with God, they "have in them," as our Article expresses it, " the "Nature of Sin," yet every Work mail sorely have it's just Reward, that can either derive any Merit from Faith in Christ, or from the unknown Virtue tue of his Sacrifice. The Scriptures encourage us to hope that finally all Mankind shall be one Fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ, till which happy Period of Time no Man's invincible Error, or involuntary Ignorance, shall rise in Judgment against him. c He that believeth and is baptized, our Blessed Saviour tells us, jhall be saved, but he that believeth not jhall be damned: that is, as the Word dnisfj<TX; mould rather be rendered, he that disbelieves the Gospel, viz. after sufficient Means, and proper Opportunities of embracing it, have been offered him: of which Sufficiency God is, no doubt, the sole Judge.
If what has been here advanced be sufficiently supported by Reason and Scripture, (as, I trust, it is) it will overthrow the Doctrine of absolute Predestination to Life or Death eternal, by an absolute irreversible Decree of God. For if all Men, as such, have a real, though unknown, Right in the Merits of Jesus Christ, and that Right be only forfeitable by their own wilful Folly and Neglect, it will follow, that all Chrijlians likewise, as such, are upon equal Terms of Covenant with God, and that the Benefits and Advantages of the same are derived on all, who do not, by their own Act and Deed, disqualify themselves for it.—But to this the Decretalist will be ready to object perhaps, that
c Markxvi. 16.
M 4 Christians
Chrijtians are undoubtedly distinguished from the rest of Mankind by certain Aids and Assistances of Divine Grace peculiar to them as such; that this is a Matter of real Favour; and that therefore Chrijlians may, in the Nature of Things, be likewise distinguished from one another by larger or smaller Measures and Proportions of this Grace, in consequence of God's Predestination of some to Life and others to, Death, according to the Purpose of his own Will.—Now in the first Place, how far these Aids and Assistances of Divine Grace are abfolutely peculiar to Chrijtians, may be drawn into question. It is not unreasonable to .suppose, that all holy Desires, all good Counsels, and all jujl Works do proceed from the imperceptible Inspirations of the Spirit, in all sincerely good Men of whatever Faith or Denomination; and it has been already hinted, that in certain Exigencies of well-meaning Men, a supernatural Assistance has probably been at all Times dispensed 3 and indeed there seems to be no good Reason to be given why uncovenanted Grace should not be bestowed, where there is a proper Disposition of Mind to receive it.—1—But be that as it will;—if no Grace is communicable out of the Christian Dispensation, we can only infer from thence, that as no Man is accountable for the Use of what he never had, so Chrijtians are.upder stronger and more particular Obligations from these gracious Assistances, and Motions of the
Spirit, to the Practice of Virtue and Holiness. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him jhall be much required; and to whom Men have committed much, of him they will ask the more; (Luke xii. 48.) But it will not by any means follow, even from the Concession, that Grace is peculiar to Chris ians, as such, that it is peculiar to some Men more than others, by Tenor of a divine Decree for that Purpose.—Indeed if we consider the Attributes of God according to our rational Apprehensions and Ideas of Things , (and we cannot consider them otherwise) or if we consider the Nature of Man, the general Scope of the ChristHan Covenant, the Virtue of the Christian Sacrifice, the Use and Advantage of the Christian Sacraments, the Promises and Threats, the Encouragements and Exhortations, and the repeated Calls and Invitations to Repentance both in the Law, and the Gospel; I fay, if we consider all these Things, and represent the. full Force of them to our Minds, they will, I think, evidently ascribe the meritorious Cause of Salvation to the Death of Christ, and the conditional Cause os the same, to the Application of Men's natural Faculties, and rational Powers or to the Improvement of those spiritual Advantages and Assistances with which Christians are particularly indulged; but all this while, both in the Case of Nature and of Grace, the Application or Neglect, the Improvement or Abuse, is respectively free and voluntary,
and and by no means the Effect of any necessary Influence and Direction, or of an irresistible Decree.— It is not indeed to be denied, that certain Passages and Expressions of Scripture, seemingly of a contrary Import, and indeed some supposed Arguments of Reason itself, have been often opposed to the Doctrine we have here advanced: and it will accordingly be expected that we make some Inquiry into the Force and Validity of these.
Now the frequent Use in Scripture of the Terms predestinated, eleBed, and many others, whose Sound favours the predejlinarian Hypothesis, has no doubt countenanced a correspondent Interpretation. —But let it in general be remarked, ist. that even granting the seeming Force of certain Passages, according to the Sense put upon them by Decretalists, these Passages are to be answered by others at least equally clear, that demand a contrary Construction. In this Case then must we not be determined by the visible, general Tenor of the whole Gospel? And ought not every particular Interpretation to be regulated thereby? Or, even supposing it to be a Matter of some reasonable Doubt which Way the Tenor of the Gospel inclines; in such Case, are we not to call in the Assistances of human Reason, and may we not safely abide by her Decisions ?—If we examine the Doctrine under present Consideration by these Rules, it must fall to