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once understood, the meaning of particular passages in it will be less liable to doubtful interpretation.' And though this method does not give an answer to every cavil and objection, which enthusiasm and error have brought forward; yet it furnishes the considérate Christian with that standard of judgment, by which every doctrine belonging to the religious system may be so measured, as to enable him to build his conclufion upon it on the most rational foundation,

The grace of God to man in the Gospel revelation, teaches him to “ deny ungodliness and wordly lufts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” Whatever man, therefore, has received the Gospel in the truth and spirit of it, must manifest its effects in his life and conversation; from whence the following axiom is deducible, that no sound member of the church can be a bad member of society. A doctrine, then, which tends to weaken the obligation to repentance and newness of life; which supports the finner with a false hope, or lulls him into a fatal security; which proves destructive of one great end of Christ's death unto fin, namely, the reformation of the finner; thereby counteracting one great object of the Gospel revelation ;-cannot be a do&rine that cometh from God.

That the doctrine of absolute decrees produces this effect is certain, from the conclusion too generally drawn from it; the professors of it for the most part depending for falvation through CHRIST upon the strength of a positive and irrevocable decree in their favour, antecedent to their birth, and not dependent on their actions; the too general consequence of which has been, that instead of adorning the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things, which Christians are called upon to do, many have been led to disgrace it

The remark of ERASMUS, the strenuous and unanfwerable opposer of this doctrine, was this: “ Of old (faid he) the Gospel made men better; but the newa pretended gospel made them much worse." And in another epistle upon the fame subject he wrote ftill more strongly. “This new gospel (says he) founded upon the doctrine of absolute decrees, has produced a new generation of obstinate, impudent, hypocritical people, who are revilers, liars, deceivers; and who do hot agree among themselves, and are very uneasy to others; who are seditious, furious, given to cavilling; and with whom I am fo much diffatisfied, that if I knew any town whërë none of them were, I would go thither, and choose to live in it.”

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This decisive judgment of ERASMUS upon the effects produced by the do&trine here alluded to: brings to my mind the answer made by an eminent preacher of it to some brethren who were enquiring into the success of his ministry. “ I have made (replied he) maný profelytės, and have a very full congtegation; but (continued the preacher) all the effect I have found is, that I have preached a congregation of Christians into a congregation of devils.”

I would not be understood as adopting all the harsh expresfiotis that have been at different times made use of upon this subject; because, at any rate, the application of them does not belotig to the wellmeaning among these mistaken people; but my object is to point düt the general ill effect of the doctrine itself. And so long as it tends to cherish an idea, that falvation through CHRIST is a thing independent of the personal condition of the party, the foregoing language made use of by ERAŚmus, and the preacher, is not; fo far as those persons are concerned, in whose mind such an idea prevails, too strong for it. So long as it fhall be maintained to be found doctrine, that the true faints of God, as they are called; may commit horrible and crying sins, die without repentance, and yet be sure of salvation; we ministers are

called upon by our office to say, that such a doctrine is not of God; because it teareth up

the
very

foundation of religion, induceth all manner of profaneness in the world, and is expressly contrary to the whole current of scripture.

One of the old independents of the last century said expressly,“ Let any true saint of God be taken away in the very act of any known sin, before it is possible for him to repent, I make no doubt or fcruple of it, but he shall as surely be saved, as if he had lived to have repented of it;" and he instances in David, in case he had been taken away, before he had · repented of his adultery, and murder. That some modern teachers of this doctrine are not behind hand with the old independent just mentioned, there is but too much reason to fear,

The remark made, therefore, upon this subject by an eminent bishop* of our church, is not so strictly confined to the wild schismatics of former days, as, for the credit of the present age, we could wish it was. * The fanatical sects (said he) that sprang up in abundance, amid the confusions of the last century, had so corrupted the word of God by their impure glofses on

* Bishop Hu

rmons at Lincoln's-Inn.

age became

the Gospel doctrine of grace, that the immoral on principle, and under the name of Saints, engendered a hateful brood of profligate Antinomians, i. e. a sort of Christians, if they may be so called, who turned the grace of God into licentiousness; and to magnify his goodness, very conscientiously transgressed his laws.' In a word, they taught that the elect were above ordinances, and might be saved without, nay in defiance of, the moral law.”

Upon examining this doctrine closely, the defor. mity of which is so striking, that it is a matter of astonishment how it has ever gained credit in the world, we shall find it to be less built upon the word of scripture, than upon the vain conceit of man; which renders him a mere passive being in the work of falvation, and means of grace in a great measure useless institutions. · The first imagination that possesses the mind of an ignorant man upon the subject of the Divine decrees is, that in every thing relating to his falvation God must work in him both to will and to do, and therefore he must wait God's time. This idea, though true in its proper sense, is carried by him to that extreme, that if he be called upon to attend his church, and put himself under the word; he will tell

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