Images de page

of self abasement, and of a sense of human demerit and unworthiness, than that which declares our nature to be originally pure, innocent, free from enmity to God, and from an inclination only to evil. But with how little justice this is claimed, I am persuaded you will be convinced, by a moment's reflection. Can that be thought a more humbling doctrine, which traces all ur wicked actions up to an original constitution, given us at first by our Maker, and a depravity of nature which he gave us when he gave us being; than that which attributes all our sins to our own neglect, and abuse, and perversion of the gifts of God? We have certainly no cause to feel ourselves humbled under a sense of any thing that we are by nature. We have occasion to be ashamed only of what we have become by practice. For the nature God has given us no sentiment but that of gratitude is due. Humility and self-condemnation should spring only from the consciousness of a course of life not answering to the powers, and faculties, and privileges of our nature. What God has made us, we should think of with unmingled satisfaction; what we have made ourselves, we cannot think of with too deep regret, and sorrow, and shame.


In the system of Orthodoxy defended by Dr. Woods, the doctrine of Election stands in immediate and close connexion with that of the total depravity of human nature, and is brought forward by him the next in order. He seems to enter upon the discussion of this subject with the impression, that he has strong prepossessions to encounter, and that these prepossessions are not without foundation. "I acknowledge," he says, (p. 52) "that orthodox writers and preachers of high repute, but deficient in judgment, have, in some instances, exhibited the doctrine in a manner, which has given too much occasion for these prepossessions; and too much occasion for this author (Mr. Channing) to think, that the doctrine is inconsistent with the moral perfection of God." Again, (p. 63) “Or

thodox writers have not unfrequently made use of expressions, which, at first view, may seein to furnish occasion for some of the heavy charges brought against us by our opposers. But for the rash, unqualified expressions of men, who have become hot and violent by controversy, we are not to be held responsible. We here enter our solemn protest against the language, which has sometimes been employed, and the conceptions which have sometimes been entertained on this subject by men, who have been denominated Calvinists." Again, (p. 79) "I am willing to concede, that those views of the doctrine of Election, against which Whitby and many other respectable writers direct their principal arguments, are justly liable to objection." From these passages one might be led to suppose, that those, whose opinions Dr. Woods professes to represent, maintain the doctrine of Election in some qualified sense, and not as it is to be found in the popular writers, and confessions. And in this he would be confirmed by the statement at the close of the discussion. (p. 81) " You now see what we mean by the doctrine of Election, and in what manner we believe it. As the result of his own unsearchable wisdom and grace, and for reasons which relate to the great ends of his administration, God eternally purposed to save a great number of our race, and purposed to save them precisely in the manner in which he actually does save them." From this form of the doctrine, I presume no Unitarian would dissent; and were there nothing in the Letters of Dr. Woods to show that the Orthodox faith is something more than is here expressed, one would have supposed he might have been spared the labour of any formal defence of it against objection, and all that solicitude which he seems to have felt "in disclosing to his readers with the utmost frankness his inmost thoughts upon the subject." (p. 82)

If this is a complete statement of the doctrine of Election, as it is understood by the Orthodox, and if Dr. Woods and those whom he represents, and for whom he professes to speak, do not maintain the opinions against which the Sermon of Mr. Channing is directed; there seems to have been no good reason why he should feel himself concerned at all in the charge. Calvinists only, who do maintain them, can fairly consider their opinions as attacked, and themselves called upon to defend them.

But Dr. Woods has no where informed us, who those "Orthodox writers of high repute" are, who have exposed the doctrine to objection by their injudicious exhibitions of it ; nor has he told us in what respects they have given a false representation of it. It is to be regretted that he did not think it necessary to do this, as he must perceive how much it is calculated to perplex, and how much it may mislead, his readers. For as a simple statement drawn from the several parts of his letters will show, it cannot have been his design to express his dissent from the doctrine of Election as expressed in the strongest language of orthodox writers; but only to guard against the impres sion, which he supposes the strong and naked statement of it may be likely to make.

The following is the statement of this doctrine by the Westminster Divines, as it stands in their Confession of Faith, and more briefly in the Assembly's Catechism.

"God did from all eternity freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.

"By the decree of God some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death."

"These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished."

"Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing, in the creature, as conditions or causes, moving him thereunto."

"As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will. foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, &c. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, &c. but the elect only."

"The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as he pleaseth, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their


I will now place before you, in the best manner I am able, such a view of Dr. Woods' opinions upon the subject, as is to be found in scattered passages through his seventh and eighth letters.

"The Father has given to Christ a part of the human race, and those, who have thus been given to Christ, are the persons, who shall have eternal life;" (p. 54) and this, he goes on to prove at large," denotes all who shall finally be saved." (p. 55.)

"In every case, a person's being given to Christ secures his coming to Christ; and, when Christ speaks of those who were given him of the Father, he includes the whole number that shall be saved." (p. 56.)

"God has a purpose, choice, will, and good pleasure, respecting those who are saved; a purpose or choice, which was in the mind of God before they existed; a purpose which does not rest upon any personal merit in those, who are its objects; of grace, excluding all works of righteousness from having any concern in this subject." (p. 57.)

"Nothing is effected by the efforts of man, but every thing depends on the mercy of God" (p. 59)

The sovereign purpose of God relates to man's eternal interests, to their religious character and salvation.".... "I could, as I think, make it appear, that the doctrine of God's sovereign Election is the only doctrine, which accounts satisfactorily for the actual difference, which exists between true believers, and the rest of the world." (pp. 61, 62)

"We hold it as a fact, universally, that impenitent, unrenewed sinners do no good work, which God regards as a condition of their being renewed, or on account of which he has promised them regeneration: that, in all cases, he calls and renews them according to his own purpose and grace." (pp. 67, 68.)

"We believe that those, who are chosen of God to salvation, are not chosen because they were, in them

selves, more worthy of this blessing than others, that God looked upon their moral feelings and conduct with the same disapprobation, and had the same view of their illdesert, and that he chose them, as we may say, for reasons of state; for general reasons in his government, which he has not revealed."...." The purpose and administration of God are, in this respect, different from what our wisdom would dictate, or our affections choose; they cannot be accounted for by any principles known to us, but result from the infinite perfection of God, and are conformed to reasons, which he has concealed in his own mind." (p. 74.)

If you will compare these passages with those before quoted from the Westminster Confession, you will find that they differ from each other only in the degree of clearness and explicitness, with which the same doctrine is expressed.

I shall now endeavour to show, that the "method of designating the heirs of salvation," which this doctrine implies, can neither be reconciled with our natural notions of the moral character of God, derived from the use of the faculties he has given us, and our observation of his conduct in the government of the world; nor with what he has made known to us of his character, and purposes, and government in the Christian revelation.

How repugnant this doctrine is to our natural reason, Dr. Woods himself seems to be fully sensible. "If it were put to my natural reason," he says, (p. 54) “to judge by its own light respecting what is called the doctrine of Election; my judgment might agree with the judgment of those, who reject the doctrine. If the question were, what difficulties attend the doctrine, I might perhaps bring forward as many as others."

Now, as God is the Author of our being, and as that portion of reason, which we have, was given us by him for our guide, it is certainly very remarkable, and what we should not expect, that instead of indicating to us truly his character, and dispositions, and purposes; so far as it gives us any information, it should universally mislead us respecting them. Following the light of our reason and the natural impulse of our feelings, we find it impossible to imagine, that the Author of our being, the common

« PrécédentContinuer »