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submission. On what rational or scriptural principle can we found the difference of result? If we renounce the divine prerogative of shewing additional mercy to some, of taking away the heart of stone and giving a heart of flesh, of putting his fear in their hearts, and of opening them by his gracious influence to receive the truth,—are we not chargeable, at the same time, with an attempt to contract the exercise of his beneficence? What can be a greater affront to the supreme Majesty, than to fix the limits of his bounty by our own imperfect standard?
$ 8.' The question is not, Why does not God impart converting grace to all ? For our opponents do not think it right that he should impart it to any, until they shew of themselves first a willing mind. The proper question therefore is this: Why should we suppose that God does more, in the way of preventing internal grace, for some, than for others, while all, in themselves considered, are supposed to be equally undeserving? The true answer is, because his favours are his own, and he has a sovereign prerogative “ to do what he will with his own.” For this reason the fallen angels have no right to reclaim against God, that he has provided a Mediator, and a plan of mercy through him, for the recovery of myriads of the human
race, while no such provision is made for the restoration of any one of their number. And for the same reason the major part of the human race, immersed in idolatry and superstition, will have no ground to object, in the day of final judgment, against their Maker and Judge, that they were not favoured with the message of reconciliation, that they had not the same motives presented to them to induce them to repentance and conversion.
Ø 9. That God in the character of a Judge has “ no respect of persons,” but gives to every one his due, is fully acknowledged. In this view, he regards neither high nor low, rich nor poor, princes nor peasants, Jew nor Greek, Christian nor Mahometan, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free; but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him. If we assert, however, that no one is enabled to believe, repent, and obey, more than another, we deny to God the prerogative of a Benefactor. If we accuse him of unworthy partiality, on supposition that he communicates to some more than to others a principle of grace, whereby they are spiritually enabled to obey the heavenly call, we arraign his wisdom and goodness at the bar of our own ignorance and folly. Every such objection proceeds on this fundamental error, that all are alike worthy
of divine favours; whereas the truth is, that all are alike unworthy. In the former case, a partial distribution would be unjust, but not so in the latter. If all nations were equally worthy, all other nations might justly remonstrate against the partiality of Jehovah towards Israel; and if all persons were equally worthy, all other persons might justly object that they are less favoured than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David, or Solomon, John the Baptist, the virgin Mary, or the apostles John, Peter, or Paul, &c. Equality of worthiness establishes a just claim; but an equality of unworthiness leaves room for the full exercise of a sovereign Prerogative, ever administered in wisdom.
Ø 10. Some indeed have supposed, as we have seen from Chrysostom and THEODORET, whose opinions the Bishop of Lincoln seems to regard with complacency, that such partiality is subversive of rewards and punishments. But this proceeds on a false notion of the Rule of final Judgment, as if it were by the source of ability that the Judge will decide, rather than by the law of rectitude, which requires a good character and conduct. If these be approvable in the view of divine legislation, irrespectively of the source from whence they proceeded, it is all that an equitable Judge can demand. To suppose a demur to arise from the consideration of a wicked character not having had preventing grace, as a reason of his not being punished; or of a righteous character having lad preventing grace, by which he was enabled to become such, as a reason why he should not be rewarded; would be indeed most thoroughly subversive of all judicial proceedings.
$11. Will it be urged, that none of the human race have any need of inward preventing grace? Then, indeed, the bounty in question would be extremely superfluous. But I suspect some ambiguity in the terms, by which the objector is deceived. A thing may be needful for one end, which is not so for another; and to argue from the one to the other would be fallacious. It is granted that none of the human race hare need of this bounty, in order to render them obliged and accountable: and this is equally true of the worst and the best of characters. If the latter of these be asked, whether they had any need of special grace in order to render them what they are, I believe the general answer would be in the affirmative. However great the difference, they will acknowledge distinguishing grace, by the exercise of a divine sovereign Prerogative, to be the efficient cause of it. Nor is it supposable that any characters finally condemned by the righteous Judge, will imagine that they had no “need” of what they
formerly despised. What is not needful to clear the character of the Judge, or to vindicate his condemnation of the guilty, may be very needful to change their hearts, and to secure their happiness. But as all revealed blessings are proposed to men in a conditional form, and these conditions are perfectly equitable, they have no plea for transferring the blame from themselves. Though parents, or masters, or ministers, have neglected their duty towards them; though wicked men or wicked spirits tempted them to walk in evil ways; and though providential goodness furnished them with that plenty which proved the occasion of pride, luxury, haughtiness, and other evil passions; still they have no exculpating plea. The wicked man must die in his wickedness; and those who have voluntarily neglected their duty towards him, or enticed him to evil, shall bear their own portion of guilt,
§ 12. Nor can it with truth be asserted that this exercise of the divine Prerogative would be injurious to any. Not to the subject of grace; for the very design of it is to make him better and happier. It implies no force upon his freedom ; he is equally free to good and evil as he was before. The difference is, that after he has received the light and life of grace, he freely chooses the good which he before refused; and freely refuses the evil which he