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if he know the rage and fury with which his soldiers are animated, if he knew by experience that in such conjectures they have committed such crimes, if, in spite of this prescience, he send his madmen into this house, if he allow them their armour, if he lay them under no restraint, if he do not appoint any superior officer to bridle their fury, do you not think, my brethren, that to foresee and to resolve this case are in him one and the same thing?
Apply these reflections to our subject. Let us suppose that before the creation of this world God had subsisted alone, with one other spirit such as you please to imagine. Suppose, when God had formed the plan of the world, he had communicated it to this spirit that subsisted with him. Suppose, that God who formed the plan, and the intelligence to whom he had communicated it, had both foreseen that some men of this world would be saved and others lost; do you not perceive, that there would have been an essential difference between the prescience of God, and the prescience of the spirit we have imagined? The foreknowledge of this last would not have had any influence either over the salvation, or destruction of mankind, because this spirit would have foreknown, and that would have been all. but is not the foreknowledge of God of another kind? Is that a speculative, idle, and uninfluential knowledge? He not only foresaw, but he created. He not only foresaw that man being free would make a good or ill use of his liberty, but he gave him that liberty. To foresee and to foreappoint in God is only one and the same thing. If indeed you only mean to affirm, by saying, that these are two different acts, that God does no violence to his creatures, but that notwithstanding his prescience, the one hardens himself freely, and the other believes freely: if this be all you mean, give us the right hand of fellowship, for this is exactly our system, and we have no need to asperse one another, as both hold the same doc
There is a second inconvenience in the system of bare prescience, that is, that it does not square with Scripture, which clearly establishes the doctrine of predestination. We omit many passages usually quoted in this controversy; as that Jesus Christ said to his father, "I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight," Matt. xi. 25. And this of St. Paul, God hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, having predestinated us to the adoption of sons," Eph. i. 4. As this famous passage, "whom he did foreknow them he did predestinate, and whom he did predestinate them he also called," Rom. viii. 28, 29.
We omit all these passages because our opponents dispute the sense we give of them, and because it is but justice either to hear and answer their objections (which the limits of these exercises will not allow) or not to make use of them, for that would be taking for granted what is not allowed, that is, that these passages speak of predestination in our sense of the term. Let us content ourselves to oppose
against the doctrine of prescience without predestination these three chapters in Romans, of which the text is the close.
I am aware of what is objected. It is said that we make phantoms to combat, that the meaning of St. Paul is clear, that the end he had in view puts the matter out of doubt, and that his end has no relation to absolute decrees much less did he design to establish them. The apostle had laid down this position, that the gospel would hereafter be the only economy of salvation, and consequently that an adherence to the Levitical institution would be fatal. The Jews object to this, for they could not comprehend how an adherence to a divine institution could lead to perdition. St. Paul answers these complaints, by telling them that God had a right to annex his grace to what conditions he thought proper, and that the Jews, having rejected the Messiah who brought salvation to them, had no reason to complain, because God had deprived them of a covenant, the conditions of which they had not performed. According to these divines this is all the mystery of these chapters, in which say they, there is no trace of predestination.
But how can this be supposed to contain the whole design of the apostle? Suppose a Jew should appear in this auditory, and make these objections against us. You Christians form an inconsistent idea of God. God said, the Mosaical worship should be eternal: but you say God has abolished it. God said, "he that doth these things shall live by them;" but you say, that he who does these things shall go into endless perdition for doing them. God said, the Messiah should come to the children of Abraham; but you say, he has cast off the posterity of the patriarch, and made a covenant with Pagan nations. Suppose a Jew to start these difficulties, and suppose we would wish simply to remove them, independently of the decrees we imagine in God, what should we say to this Jew? We should tell him first, that he had mistaken the sense of the law; and that the eternity promised to the Levitical economy signified only a duration till the advent of the Messiah. Particularly we should inform him that his complaints against the Messiah were groundless. You complain, we should say, that God makes void his fidelity by abandoning you, but your complaint is unjust. God made a covenant with your fathers, he promised to bless their posterity, and engaged to send your Redeemer to bestow numberless benedictions and favours upon you. This Redeemer is come, he was born among you in your nation, of a family in one of your own tribes, he began to discharge his office among you, and set salvation before you; you rejected him, you turned his doctrine into ridicule, you called him Beelzebub, you solicited his death, at length you crucified him, and since that you have persecuted him in his ministers and disciples. On the contrary, the Gentiles display his virtues, and they are prodigal of their blood to advance his glory. Is it surprising, that God so dispenses his favours as to distinguish two nations so very different in the manner of their obedience to his authority? Instead of this, what does St. Paul? Hear his answers. "Before the children were born,
before they had done either good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, he saith, the elder shall serve the younger. Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. The Scripture saith to Pharaoh, for this purpose have I raised thee up that I might make my power known. He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Who art thou who repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? What if God willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared to destruction?" Rom. ix. 11, &c. In all these answers, St. Paul has recourse to the decrees of God. And one proof that this is the doctrine he intends to teach the converted Jew, to whom he addresses himself, is, that this Jew makes some objections, which have no ground in the system we attack, but which are precisely the same that have been always urged against the doctrine of predestination. "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will" Thus the system of prescience without predestination does not agree with Scripture.
We ask, thirdly, what is the system good for? Does it cast any light on the ways of Providence? Does it fill up any of the depths which absorb our imperfect reason? In a word, is it not subject to the very same difficulties as that of predestination? These difficulties are the following, how could a God supremely good create men, who he knew must be some day infinitely miserable? How could a God infinitely holy permit sin to enter the world? How is it, that a God of infinite love to justice, does not bestow on all mankind succour sufficient to render them perfectly holy? How it came to pass that a God, who declares he "would have all men to be saved," did not reveal his will for the space of four thousand years to any but the single nation of the Jews? How is it that at this present time he does not extend our conquests to the ends of the earth, that we might carry thither the light of Christianity, preach the gospel in idolatrous climes, and the mosques of Mohammed? How does he afford life, and health, and strength, and courage, and opportunity to a creature, while he prosecutes black and horrible crimes, which make nature tremble? These are great difficulties in Providence. Let any one inform us of a system without them, and we are ready to embrace it: but in this system now before us all these difficulties are contained, and should we grant its advocates all they require, they would be obliged however to exclaim with us on the borders of the ways of God, "O the depth!"
glory; that his design in creating the universe was to manifest his perfections, and particularly his justice and his goodness; that for this purpose he created men with design that they should sin, in order that in the end he might appear infinitely good in pardoning some, and perfectly just in condemning others; so that God resolved to punish such and such persons, not because he foresaw they would sin, but he resolved they should sin that he might damn them. This is their system in a few words. It is not that which is generally received in our churches, but there have been many members and divines among us who adopted and defended it: but whatever veneration we profess for their memory, we ingenuously own, we cannot digest such consequences as seem to us necessarily to follow these positions. We will just mention the few difficulties following.
First, we demand an explanation of what they mean by this principle, "God has made all things for his own glory." If they mean that justice requires a creature to devote himself to the worship and glorifying of his Creator, we freely grant it. If they mean that the attributes of God are displayed in all his works, we grant this too. But if this proposition be intended to affirm that God had no other view in creating men, so to speak, than his own interest, we deny the proposition, and affirm that God created men for their own happiness, and in order to have subjects upon whom he might bestow favours.
We desire to be informed in the next place, how it can be conceived, that a determination to damn millions of men can contribute to "the glory of God?" We easily conceive that it is for the glory of divine justice to punish guilty men: but to resolve to damn men without the consideration of sin, to create them that they might sin, to determine that they should sin in order to their destruction, is what seems to us more likely to tarnish the glory of God than to display it.
The third system is that of such divines as are called Supralapsarians. The word supralapsarian signifies above the fall, and these divines are so called because they so arrange the decrees of God as to go above the fall of as we are going to explain. Their grand principle is, that God made all things for his own VOL. II.-14
Thirdly, we demand, how according to this hypothesis it can be conceived that God is not the author of sin? In the general scheme of our churches, God only permits men to sin, and it is the abuse of liberty that plunges man into misery. Even this principle, moderate as it seems, is yet subject to a great number of difficulties: but in this of our opponents, God wills sin to produce the end he proposed in creating the world, and it was necessary that men should sin; God created them for that. If this be not to constitute God the author of sin, we must renounce the most distinct and clear ideas.
Fourthly, we require them to reconcile this system with many express declarations of Scripture, which inform us, that "God would have all men saved." How does it agree with such pressing entreaties, such cutting reproofs, such tender expostulations as God discovers in regard to the unconverted; "O that my people had hearkened unto me! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?" Matt. xxiii. 37.
Lastly, we desire to know how it is possible to conceive a God, who being in the actual
enjoyment of perfect happiness, incomprehensible and supreme, could determine to add this degree though useless to his felicity, to create men without number for the purpose of confining them for ever in chains of darkness, and burning them for ever in unquenchable flames. Such are the gulfs opened to us by these divines! As they conceive of the ways of God in a manner so much beyond comprehension, no people in the world have so much reason as they to exclaim, "O the depth! How unsearchable are the ways of God!" For my part, I own I cannot enough wonder at men, who tell us in cool blood, that God created this universe on purpose to save one man, and to damn a hundred thousand; that neither sighs, nor prayers, nor tears, nor groans, can revoke this decree; that we must submit to the sentence of God, whose glory requires the creation of all these people for destruction! I say I cannot sufficiently express my astonishment at seeing people maintain these propositions with inflexibility and insensibility, without attempting to mitigate or limit the subject, yea, who tells us that all this is extremely plain and free from every difficulty, and that none of our objections deserve an answer.
that "the potter hath power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour." If you still demand, what then is the use of our ministry, and what right has God to complain that so many sinners persist in impenitence, since he has resolved to leave them in it? To this we answer, "who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?" After all these questions should you appeal to our consciences to know whether our own answers fully satisfy ourselves; whether our arguments may not be turned against us; whether the objections we have made against others do not seem to conclude against ourselves; and whether the system we have proposed to you appears to ourselves free from difficulty; to this we reply by putting our finger upon our mouth: we acknowledge our ignorance, we cannot rend the veil under which God has concealed his mysteries: we declare, that our end in choosing this subject was less to remove difficulties than to press them home, and by these means to make you feel the toleration which Christians mutually owe to one another on this article. It was with this view that we led you to Such being the difficulties of the several the brink of this abyss of God, and endeavoursystems of the decrees of God, it should seemed to engage you to exclaim here, as well as there is but one part to take, and that is to on the borders of other abysses, "O the depth embrace the plan of our churches; for although of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge it is evident by the reflections we have made, of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, that the subject is obscure, yet it is that of all and his ways past finding out!" which is most conformable to the light of reason, and to the Holy Scriptures. We believe that God from a principle of goodness, created mankind—that it was agreeable to his wisdom to form man free-that the root of mankind, Adam, our unhappy father, abused this liberty -that his descendants have added their natural depravity, and to the sins of their ancestors, many crimes of their own-that a conduct so monstrous rendered parents and children worthy of eternal misery, so that without violating the laws of justice God might for ever punish both-that having foreseen from all eternity these misfortunes, he resolved from all eternity to take from this unworthy mass of condemned creatures a certain number of men to be saved -that for them he sent his Son into the world -that he grants them his Spirit to apply the benefits of the death of his Son-and that this Spirit conducts them by the hearing of the word to sanctification, and from sanctification to eternal felicity. This in a few words is the system of our churches.
Hereupon, if you ask how it happens that two men to whom Christ is preached, the one receives and the other rejects him? We answer with St. Paul, this difference is, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand." If you ask again whence comes this choice, how is it that God chooses to give his Spirit, and to display his mercy to one, and that he chooses to make the other a victim to his justice? We answer, "God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth," that is, leaves him to his own insensibility. If you inquire farther how God can without injuring his holiness, leave a man to his own hardness? We reply, that God is master of his creature, and
So much for the deep things of God considered as objects astonishing and transporting the mind. Now let us consider them as objects productive of virtue and holiness. As the doctrine we have been establishing is most sublime in speculation, so is it most effectual in practice. Recall what we said on the darkness in which God conceals himself. Remember this obscurity is every where mixed with light, a sort of twilight. There is obscurity in our natural ideas, obscurity in the works of nature, obscurity in the conduct of Providence, obscurity in many doctrines of revelation. Amidst all this darkness, I discover one certain principle, one particle of pure light emitting brightness without obscurity, one truth which natural ideas, the whole creation, the ways of Providence, and the language of revelation, concur to teach us, that is, that a holy life is necessary.
We do not make this reflection by way of introducing skepticism, and to diminish the certainty of the doctrines, which it has pleased God to reveal. Wo be to us, if while we lahour with one hand to establish the foundations of religion, we endeavour to subvert them with the other! Far from us be those modern Vaninis, who, under pretence of making us consider the Deity as covered with holy darkness, would persuade us that he is an inconsistent being, and that the religion he addresses to us shocks reason, and is incompatible with itself. But whence is it, pray, that amidst all the obscurities that surround us, God has placed practical duties in a light so remarkably clear? Whence is it that doctrines most clearly revealed are however so expressed as to furnish difficulties, if not substantial and real, yet likely and apparent: and that the practical part is so clearly revealed that it is not liable to any
objections which have any show or colour of argument? My brethren, either we must deny the wisdom of the Creator, or we must infer this consequence, that what is most necessary to be known, what will be most fatal to man to neglect, what we ought most inviolably to preserve, is practical religion. Let us apply this general reflection to the deep decrees of God. If the "foundation of God stands sure," you can have no true joy or solid content, till you have each of you decided this great question; am I one of the "vessels of mercy decreed unto glory?" Or am I one of the "vessels of wrath fitting to destruction?" But how can I satisfy myself on this question at the same time so obscure and so important? The decree is impenetrable. The book of life is sealed. We have told you a thousand times, that there is no other way than by examining whether you bear the marks of election, and your whole vocation is to endeavour to acquire them. These characters, you know, are patience, gentleness, charity, humility, detachment from the world, and all other Christian virtues. It belongs to you to exercise them. A little less speculation and more practice. Let us become less curious, and try to be more holy. Let us leave God to arrange his own decrees, and for our parts let us arrange our actions, and regulate our lives. Do not say, if I be predestinated to salvation I shall be saved without endeavouring. You would be wicked to make this objection, for although you are persuaded that your days are numbered, yet you do not omit to eat, and drink, and take care of your health. In this manner you should act in regard to your salvation.
And we, ministers of Jesus Christ, what is our duty? Why are we sent to this people? Is it to fathom the decrees of predestination and reprobation? As the Spirit of God has revealed these mysteries, it is right to treat of them in the course of our ministry, and we should "think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think," were we to suppress this part of religion. But after all, must we stop here? Must this be the principal subject of our sermons? God forbid we should so ill understand the end of our ministry! I would as willingly see a physician, when he is consulted in a dangerous illness, employ himself in discoursing on the term of human life, haranguing his patient, telling him that his days are numbered, and that a hair of his head could not fall without the will of God. Unseasonable orator, leave talking, and go to work, consult the symptoms of my illness, call art and nature to my assistance, leave God to execute his own decrees, prescribe the remedies I must take, and the regimen I must follow, endeavour to strengthen this tottering body, and to retain my breath just ready to evaporate. Let us apply this image. Let us think of the account we must give to the master who sent us. Let us take care that he does not say to us in the great day of judgment, Get ye behind me ye refractory servants! I sent you to make the church holy, and not render it disputatious: to confirm my elect, and not to engage them in attempts to penetrate the mysteries of election, to announce my laws, and not to fathom my decrees.
But not to confine ourselves to these general
remarks, let us observe, that obscurity in regard to God affords powerful arguments against the rash divine, the indiscreet zealot, the timorous Christian, and the worldly man attached to sensible objects.
This subject addresses itself to you rash divines, you who perplex your mind by trying to comprehend incomprehensible truths, to you whose audacious disposition obliges you to run into one of these two extremes, either to embrace error or to render truth doubtful by the manner of explaining it. For understand, my brethren, the man who rejects a truth because he cannot comprehend it, and he who would fully comprehend it before he receives it, both sin from the same principles, neither understands the limits of the human mind. These two extremes are alike dangerous. Certainly on the one hand we must be very rash, we must entertain very diminutive ideas of an infinite God, we must be very little versed in science to admit only principles which have no difficulty, and to regard the depth of a subject as a character of falsehood. What! A miserable creature, an ignorant creature, a creature that does not know itself, would know the decrees of God, and reject them if they be unfathomable! But on the other hand, we must have very narrow views, we must have a very weak mind, we must know very little of the designs of God, not to feel any difficulty, to find every thing clear, not to suspend our judgment upon any thing, to pretend not only to perceive the truth of a mystery, but to go to the bottom of it. Insignificant man, feel thy diminutiveness. Cover thyself with dust, and learn of the greatest of divines to stop where you ought to stop, and to cry on the brink of the ocean, "O the depth!"
The deep things of God ought to confound the indiscreet zealot, who decries and reviles all opinions different from his own, though in matters in themselves dark and obscure. Here we pour our tears into the bosoms of our brethren of Augsburgh, some of whose teachers describe us in the most odious colours, dip their pen in gall when they write against us, tax us with making of the Deity a God cruel and barbarous, a God who is the author of sin, and who by his decrees, countenances the depravity and immorality of mankind. You see, whether this be our doctrine. You see, we join our voices with those of seraphims, and make our assemblies resound with "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." You see, we exhort our people to "enter in at the strait gate," and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling." But, say you, do not the consequences we impute to you follow from your principles? To grant for a moment that they do follow, is it not sufficient that we disown and condemn them? Does not such an answer from you concerning another doctrine satisfy us? Accuse us of being bad reasoners: but do not accuse us of being wicked men. Accuse us of reasoning inconclusively; but do not accuse us of exercising a faithless ministry. But, say you, you have divines among you who poison controversy, who refute with bitterness, who excommunicate such as are not of their sentiments on predestination, and who, had they power equal to their will, would establish
every opinion with fire and blood. Have we | than a hundred thousand enemies are either such divines? Ah! may God deliver us from buried in the waves, or killed by our troops, them! They follow their own spirit, and not or trodden to death by our horse, or taken the spirit of our churches. Our churches never prisoners. Behold! whole provinces yield to separated any person from their communion our arms. Behold! our noble army covered for not believing predestination. You know with more laurels than we had ever seen bethis by experience. Do we not open our arms fore. Behold the fatal power that was just to you? Do we not receive you into our com- now exalted to heaven, shaking, falling, and munion? Have we not a sincere and ardent about to be cast down to hell. My brethren, desire to be in union with you? O that God let these events make us wise. Let us not would hear our prayers! Spouse of Jesus judge of the conduct of God by our own ideas, Christ! O that God would put an end to the but let us learn to respect the depths of his intestine wars that tear thee asunder! Chil- Providence. dren of the Reformation! O that you had but the wisdom to unite all your efforts against the real enemy of the Reformation, and of the reformed! This is our wish, and these shall incessantly be our prayers.
The depths of the ways of God may serve to reprove the timid and revolting Christian; a character too common among us. Our faith forsakes us in our necessities; we lose the sure anchor of hope in a storm; we usually dash against rocks of adversity; we are confounded when we see those projects vanish, on the success of which we rested our happiness, and the prosperity of the church. My brethren, let us be more firm in our principles. Christian prudence indeed will oblige us to put our hand to every good work. We must be vigilant, assiduous, exact in our own affairs. In like manner in public dangers, we must assemble wise men, raise armies, and every one must endeavour to do what is in his power, and carry a stone towards the building of the temple: but when our designs fail, let us be steady, immoveable, unchangeable. Let us remember that we are only little children in comparison with the Intelligence at the helm of the world; that God often allows us to use just and rational means, and at length frustrates all our designs in order to deliver us by unexpected methods, and to save us with more conspicuous power and glory.
When I am to penetrate this truth, I fix my eyes on the great enemy of religion. I see him at first equalling, yea surpassing the most superb potentates, risen to a point of elevation astonishing to the whole world. His family numerous, his armies victorious, his territories extended far and wide, at home and abroad.
But what! shall we always live in shades and darkness! Will there always be a veil between the porch and the sanctuary? Will God always lead us among chasms and gulfs? Ah! my brethren, these are precisely the ejaculations, these are the desires with which we would inspire you; and this we affirm, that the deep things of God expose the folly of a worldly man, who immoderately loves the present life. Presently this night, this dark night, shall be at an end; presently we shall enter into that temple, "where there is no need of the sun, because the Lamb is the light thereof," Rev. xxi. 23. Presently we shall arrive at that blessed period, when that which is in part shall be done away. In heaven we shall know all things. In heaven we shall understand nature, providence, grace, and glory. In heaven, Jesus Christ will solve all our difficulties and objections. In heaven we shall see God face to face. O how will this knowledge fill us with joy! O how delightful will it be to derive knowledge and truth from their source! My soul, quit thy dust! Anticipate these periods of felicity, and say with Moses, "Lord, show me thy glory!" O Lord, dissipate the clouds and darkness that are around thy throne! O Lord shorten the time that separates us! . . . "No man can see my face and live." Well! Let us die then. Let us die to become immortal. Let us die to know God. Let us die to be made partakers of the divine nature. Happy to form such elevated wishes! Happier still to see them accomplished! Amen.
BY JESUS CHRIST.
I see places conquered, battles won, and every THE SENTENCE PASSED UPON JUDAS blow aimed at his throne, serving only to establish it. I see a servile idolatrous court elevating him above men, above heroes, and likening him to God himself. I see all parts of the world overwhelmed with his troops, your frontiers threatened, religion trembling, and the Protestant world at the brink of ruin. At the sight of this tempest, I expect every moment to see the church expire, and I exclaim, O thou little boat, driven with the wind, and battered in the storm! Are the waves going to swallow thee up? O church of Jesus Christ! against which the gates of hell were never to prevail, are all my hopes come to this!-Behold Almighty God makes bare his holy arm, discovers himself amidst all this chaos, and overwhelms us with miracles of love, after having humbled us by the darkness of his Providence. Behold! In two campaigns, more
* Of Hochstet and Ramillies.
MATTHEW XXvi. 24.
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but wo unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed: it had been good for that man, if he had not been born.
THIS verse is part of a period beginning at the seventeenth, and ending with the twentyfifth verse, in which the evangelist narrates two events, the last passover of Jesus Christ, and the treason of Judas. One of my colleagues will explain the other parts of this passage of sacred history, and I shall confine myself to this sentence of our Saviour against Judas, "It had been good for that man, if he had not been born."
This oracle is unequivocal. It conveys a