« PreviousContinue »
$7. In the first place, it takes for granted what can never be proved, that Non-Election implies a decree. Non-Election is a negative idea, not electing; but to decree a negation is as absurd as to decree nothing, or to decree notto-decree. The notion of decreeing to permit, involves the same absurdity; for to permit, in this connexion, is not to hinder: but to decree not-to-hinder, is the same as to decree to-donothing, or, as before, to decree not-to-decree. The fallacy consists in the supposition that NonElection is a positive idea, and therefore requires a positive determination, by way of decree. The truth of the case is, that on supposition of one million being elected to holiness as the means, and happiness as the end, the other million is not elected to holiness and happiness. These two things are as opposite as doing and not doing, but to suppose an infinitely perfect Being to decree what he does not do, is incompatible; for it supposes him to decree to do what he decrees not to do. It is indeed fectly scriptural and rational, to say, that whatever is done by an infinitely wise Being, is done according to design, an unvarying purpose, which is commonly termed a decree; but what meaning can there be in his designing to do the contrast to his doing?
$ 8. The same reasoning is applicable to
On Predestination and Election.'
preterition. The mind, without due attention to caution, is liable to be deceived by the fallacy which attaches a positive idea to the term, or the thing intended by it. We are disposed, by common associations, to conclude that as to pass by is an act of a person, so the object passed by requires a designed determination for that purpose. But this is a fallacious conclusion. When a sheplierd, for instance, passes by a number of sheep, and fixes upon one, a voluntary act of choosing that one does not imply another voluntary act to pass by the others. He knows all alike, and his wisdom suggests the object of his choice, and this object he actually chooses ; the others, he passes by; but what is thus expressed by a positive term, implies nothing positive with respect to the objects. They are no more affected by it, than they are by simple knowledge and wisdom. Thus we suppose the divine Shepherd of Israel knows all mankind with infinite precision. He sees them in a wandering and deplorable state; and as they are rational and accountable beings, he pities their condition, and makes adequate provision for their wants by a Mediator. He causes the appointed remedy to be proclaimed as glad tidings; and he orders this gospel of the kingdom to be preached to all these creatures, among all nations, for the obedience of faith. We also suppose, that not one is of himself so inclined
ee to o-decm
The and me perfor
incon etod red po
t what Es dome
to good, as to repent heartily and believe with unfeigned faith ; in short that no one is so well disposed, in himself considered, as to comply with the terms, or conditions proposed, though perfectly equitable and highly advantageous. Hence we suppose, that no other mode is left for securing a flock of true converts, who will devote themselves to God in order to serve him in righteousness and true holiness, but those whom he draws with the cords of love. His wisdom dictates whom to discriminate, though alike destitute of claim on his mercy; and, for a reason worthy of himself, though to us inscrutable, he effectually renews their hearts, by which they are rendered willing and able to comply with the terms required. They repent, believe, obey, persevere in a holy life, and enter into bliss; blessings which they would never have enjoyed if left to themselves, or without discriminating mercy.
This discriminating favour, including the means, as well as the end, is divine Election.
$ 9. Were we to maintain that any are denied, repulsed, or any way hindered from participating the same blessings, on their compliance with the terms proposed; there would be indeed a just ground of complaint, as it would imply a positive act of refusal, in opposition to just claim, a claim founded on fulfilling a condition
graciously proposed. But this is not the case; we
End, for 5 insert arts
§ 10. The term Reprobation is more equivocal, being used in different connexions to denote different ideas. Some have used it to signify the positive idea of rejection, as an arbitrary act of will. Others consider it as synonymous with Preterition and Non-Election,-still in the positive sense; and some, as denoting rejection by an act of justice: while others make it to signify a simple act of disapproval, irrespective of demerit, The use of words is an arbitrary and often a capricious thing; but not so ideas. The first idea
to just nditio
appears to me unworthy of the divine character, as before explained; the second has been shewn to be a fallacy; the third indentifies it with an exercise of justice; and the fourth makes it an act of the same quality with the first, but not to the same degree. In no other sense can I conceive the phrase "a decree of reprobation? admissible, than as it denotes a determination either to reject unjust claims, or to devote to misery persons as wicked, which is the third idea, — and to this our opponents can have no objection.
§ 11. Here I would propose, with becoming deference, an enquiry, how the celebrated reformer, Calvin, and many others who hold the doctrine of Election, so readily concluded, that a decree in favour of some, implied a decree of reprobation, in any sense but as an exercise of justice towards the wicked. And this I conceive to be, their assuming as an undoubted truth, that there is no other assignable adequate cause of any event, beside the divine will. But when pressed with the striking consequence of this maxim, that it made God the author of sin, they invented the distinction between a decree to effect and a decree to permit. This, however, was only a verbal subterfuge; for it still ascribed the cause of sin to