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Upon collecting through my parish, some time fince, for the relief of the emigrant French priests, I found an almost general disinclination among the difsenters from the church to contribute. At length one, more open than the rest, furnished the following reason for it; by telling me, that “ CHRIST never died for those priests; and therefore he had no feel. ing for them, or concern about them.” Another, who had learnt his Christianity in the fame fchool, upon my application to him on the same occasion, immediately exclaimed, What, Sir, to a Roman? give to a Roman! one that lives in such errors: if I had ten thousand guineas, I would not bestow a single mite
upon him!” Read, now, the story of the good Samaritan; and judge how far such a narrow-minded religion, which engroffes all. God's favours to its own professors, and regards the rest of mankind as objects in a condition beneath that of the beasts that perish, agrees with the enlarged and charitable spirit of the Gospel. When the disciples of our Saviour would have called down fire from Heaven to destroy their enemies, our Saviour rebuked them, by telling them, that they knew not what spirit they were of,” What would this Saviour say to those pro
feffors of his religion, who could fuffer a fellow creature to starve at their doors, because he lived in error?
In a word, let this doctrine of election and absolute decrees, as it is often understood, and the effects produced by it upon the lives of some of its professors, be compared with the revealed purpose of Christ's coming into the world, and the spirit of his religion; and let this be done fairly, without prejudice, and with an eye only to the truth, and it is impoffible that any Christian can longer be led captive by such a delusion.
The rule laid down, though not strictly followed, by St. AUGUSTINE, “ that the more obscure parts of scripture should be interpreted by those that are plain," is the only rule that will enable us to form a rational and consistent judgment upon the doctrines of revelation.
That Christ came to redeem man in his general character from the consequences of the fall, and to purchase for him those means of renewed grace, which required only to be properly employed to become effectual to his falvation, constituted the essence of that glad tidings, which the birth of a Saviour was intended to convey to a loft world.
This doctrine, so plainly and fully revealed, ought in reason to overbalance every argument drawn from a few obscure passages, which at first fight may feem to look a contrary way. But this is a consideration which seldom has its due weight with those who entertain some fingular conceit or opinion. Engrossed with their own notions, they are not to be prevailed upon to make the general tenour of fcripture the standard for their doctrine; but are apt to bend and warp the expressions of it to their own particular purpose: and whilst they eagerly lay hold of every paffage that seems to countenance it, will hardly give a hearing to other texts, how plain foever, that might serve to set the subject in its true light. To this prejudice in favour of a pre-conceived opinion, added perhaps to a certain respect for the authority of names, is that doctrine in a great degree to be attributed, which places the conduct of a merciful CREATOR towards his fellow-creature in a light so very different from that in which the plainest texts of scripture authorise us to regard it.
In fact, those parts of St. Paul's writings on which this partial doctrine' is supposed to be founded, which has perplexed the minds of so many wellmeaning people, were seen in a very different light by the primitive Christians; to whom they conveyed the same idea that they now convey to all who pay attention to the general tenour of the Apostle's argument. By them the Apostle has been considered as laying open the mysterious plan of Providence ať that time taking place in the world, which respected the rejection of the Jews from their boasted peculiarity as a nation, and the election of the Gentiles to a common participation with them in the privileges of the Christian church; “ that through CHRIST both Jew and Gentile, being reconciled unto God in one body by the cross, might have an access by one spirit unto the Father.” Ephes. ii. 18.
A want of attention to this leading circumstance, relative to the Jewish nation being the chosen people of God, distinguished by particular laws and privileges from all other nations, has given rise to numberless errors, which have disturbed the peace
of the Christian church, from the days of the Apostles, to the present time. But in no instance has this want of discrimination led to more unchristian con. clusions, than in the case now before us; in which the general declarations of Divine favour and vengeance, expressed by the election and rejection of -nations, as such, have, through a mistaken interpret
ation, become the subjects of particular and personal application.
For my own part, I do not take my faith from the writings of LUTHER, Calvin, or the more ancient professor of this doctrine, St. Augustine; at the same time that I profess the highest respect for each of them; but from that fountain from whence alone it ought to be taken, the word of God. If some zealous men, from a laudable opposition to one ' dangerous doctrine, have been heated into a determined support of another; I lament in them the infirmity of the human understanding, which is too apt, in avoiding one extreme, to be carried into its opposite. The unbalanced mind of man rarely sustains itself in that due mean which reason and religion mark out. This has been the case in the subject under consideration.
With the view of cutting up by the root the doctrine of merit, which had constituted one of the grosseft corruptions of the church of Rome, some of the first foreign reformers brought forward that of absolute unconditional election, and irresistible grace.
This was, indeed, to do the business at a stroke; but it was a stroke which severely wounded the cause it was meant to serve. By taking away man's