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Parent of all, can regard and treat his offspring in the manner, which the doctrine in question attributes to him. That, without any foreseen difference of character and desert in men, before he had brought them into being, he should regard some with complacency and love, and the rest with disapprobation, and hatred, and wrath; and without any reference to the future use or abuse of their nature, should appoint some to everlasting happiness, and the rest to everlasting misery; and that this appointment, entirely arbitrary, for which no reason is to be assigned, but his sovereign will, should be the cause, and not the consequence, of the holiness of the one, and of the defect of holiness of the other. A man, who should do what this doctrine attributes to God, I will not say toward his own offspring, but toward any beings that were dependent on him, and whose destiny was at his disposal, would be regarded as a monster of malevolence, and cruelty, and caprice. It is incredible that the Author of our being should thus have formed us with an understanding and moral feelings to lead us without fail to condemn the measures and the principles of the government of him, who so made us.
Will it be said that this repugnance which we feel to the doctrine in question is one of the proofs of the corruption of our nature? Yet whatever that nature may be, it is such as he gave us. And however imperfect our reason, it is what he gave to be our guide. It is the only immediate guide he has given us; and it is that, which must be the ultimate judge of the evidence, and of the nature and value, of any notices which he may give of his will and purposes, by his providence or his word. Can it have been the design of the Apostle to put down our reason, our moral feelings, and natural conscience, as seems to be intimated in the pamphlet, "by the appalling rebuke, Who art thou that repliest against God But who is the man, that in the truest sense is chargeable with replying against God? Is it not he, who would set aside, as false and dangerous, the guide he has given to all for the direction of life? Is it not he, who refuses to listen to the voice, by which he speaks to all? Who calls in question the notices he gives of himself and of the principles of his government, in the only universal revelation that he has
made of himself? He, it seems to me, replies against God, who rejects or undervalues the notices, which he has in any way given us, of himself or of the principles of his government. Not less he, who refuses to follow reason and natural conscience, than he, who will not submit to the demands of a written revelation. Not less he, who turns his back upon the works of God, than he, who closes his eyes against his written word.
But my objection to the orthodox doctrine of Election is grounded not solely on its being irreconcileable with our reason and moral feelings; I find it not more easy to reconcile it with the instructions of the holy scriptures.. I look to the general scope of the sacred writings, as regards the disposition of the Author of nature toward his creatures, and the principles of his government; and I find nothing to support this doctrine, but much with which it seems to be wholly incompatible. I ask how this sovereign appointment of the everlasting condition of men, "excluding all works of righteousness, as having any concern in it," and with reference to which "nothing is effected by the efforts of men," can be shown to consist with all that we find in the scriptures so clearly implying, that something is depending on the exertions men will make, and the part they will act; for, according to this doctrine, what they are to be and how they are to act is determined beforehand, without any reference to such exertions; with all that implies the influence of motives, since it is no such influence of motive, but " God's sovereign election, that is to account for the actual difference between true believers, and the rest of the world ;" with all that implies guilt, ill desert, blame-worthiness in the unholy, disobedient, and impenitent; for how can men be guilty of being what they were made to be? how are they deserving of blame for remaining in that moral state, in which it was determined by the sovereign appointment of God, that they should remain ? With all those promises, threatenings, warnings, admonitions, exhortations, and entreaties; which imply in those, to whom they are addressed, a power of being influenced; with all that implies, that men are capable of duty and obligation, and are the proper subjects of praise and blame, and of reward and punishment?
This charge of inconsistency with the general scope of the scriptures, and the doctrine every where taught or implied in the sacred writings, has never been removed; . nor can it be, I am persuaded, but by violating the plainest principles in the interpretation of language.
There is another view, in which this doctrine is at variance with what the scriptures every where present to us. I mean the righteous and benevolent character of the Author of our being. It represents him to us as a cruel and unjust being, exacting endless punishment for sins committed in following the nature he had given, and acting in pursuance of his decree. It represents him, as arbitrary and partial in his distributions; making a distinction the most momentous that can be imagined in his treatment of those, between whom there was no difference of character or of desert as the ground of the distinction; from his mere sovereign will and good pleasure, ordaining these to eternal blessedness and glory, and appointing those to endless and hopeless misery. That it is the righteous only, who will thus be raised to glory, and the wicked only, who will be the subjects of condemnation, will make no difference in the case; since, according to the doctrine we are considering, it is not merely an absolute appointment to salvation on the one hand, and to condemnation on the other; but also to the different dispositions, character, and course of life, which are to have these opposite results. Those, and those only, who are ordained to eternal life, are also ordained to be effectually called, to be regenerated by irresistible grace, and thus to be brought, not by any thing they do, or can do themselves, but solely by the immediate power of God, out of that state of sin, in which they are by nature, to that holiness, which is to qualify them for salvation. The rest of mankind, "passed by, and ordained to dishonour and wrath for their sins," have that effectual and irresistible grace withheld from them, which was necessary to their regeneration, and without which it was impossible for them to attain to holiness and salvation.
To say, that those who are appointed to salvation, are chosen from among mankind "for reasons of state,” (p. 74) is to say nothing that is intelligible. But to say, that they are chosen (ib.) "for reasons, which God has not
revealed ;-reasons, which he has concealed in his own mind; such as cannot be accounted for by any principle known to us," is something more.
It is a position, I think, unsupported by proof, and confuted distinctly by what we constantly meet with in the New Testament. In the appointment to privileges, means, and external condition, God has indeed given no account of his motives; nor assigned his reasons for the infinite
variety that appears. He has exercised an absolute sovereignty, of which no account is given, and the reasons of which we are not competent to understand. But it is clearly otherwise as to the final condition of men. So far is that from being determined by reasons of state, which he has not revealed; that the reasons, upon which the final salvation or condemnation of every man is to take place, are distinctly assigned by our Saviour and his Apostles; not once only, but as often as they have occasion to speak of the final distinctions that are to be made between men. Those distinctions we are again and again told, are to be wholly according to the difference of moral character. It is that these are righteous, and those wicked; these have done well, and those have done ill; these have been faithful, and those unfaithful. So far are the reasons of the final distinction to be made between those who are saved, and those who perish, from being concealed in the divine mind, that nothing is more distinctly made known. The New Testament is full of it.
Nor is it with any better reason said, that, " in this respect, the purpose and administration of God are different from what our wisdom would dictate, or our affections choose." They are precisely what the wisdom and the affections of every man in their uncorrupted, unperverted state, would approve and concur in. And they are accounted for by principles well known to us; principles of eternal and immutable justice. Not reasons which he has concealed in his own mind, but such as he has made us perfectly capable of understanding; and such as he has clearly revealed to us in his word.
But though the general tenor of scripture seems so foreign from the doctrine we are considering, and not easily reconciled with it; there are particular texts in which it is thought to be expressly taught, or so clearly implied, that their force cannot be evaded.
The first text alleged by Professor Woods, in the pamphlet before me, is (John xvii. 2) "That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him," and, (John vi. 37, 39) "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. And this is the Father's will, who sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day."
With respect to the first of these, it cannot have been our Saviour's intention to declare, that a certain definite number of mankind were appointed by the Father to receive the benefit of his mediation and sacrifice, and obtain salvation, exclusive of all others; and without any thing in them, as the ground of this preference and choice, for the reasons that follow.
In the discourse with his disciples, (ch. xv.) which stands in immediate connexion with the prayer, of which this text is a part, he addresses the same persons, of whom he here speaks as "given him of the Father," in language implying, that they might "abide in him, and bring forth much fruit," or failing to abide in him, might be taken away, cast forth, cast into the fire and burned." As those who, though chosen and ordained, might or might not keep the commands, and abide in the love of him, who had thus chosen and ordained them. But according to the doctrine in question, there could be no such contingency in the case. All who are thus given, chosen, ordained, and those only, are to bring forth fruit, to keep his commands, to abide in his love, to have eternal life.
In this same discourse, again, (ch. xvi. 27) we meet with the following sentence. "For the Father himself loveth you because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." Here the love of God is represented, not as the cause, but the consequence, of the faith and love of the disciples, and the plain and obvious meaning of the texts in question, in their connexion with this is, that they were given to Christ, not by an arbitrary selection of them from the mass of Jews, without any thing in their character and disposition leading to the choice; but, because they were seen to be fit subjects for the kingdom of God, ready to receive the faith of the Gospel when offered to them, having already something of