« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
to have any effect upon them, with respect to their own souls. I would not presume to pass sentence upon all such characters; but neither would I be in their situation for the whole world!
The chief difficulties which attend the account of the unpardonable sin, affect ministers in their praying for and preaching to sinners and dejected souls, who are apt to draw dark conclusions against themselves. With respect to prayer, we have directions given us on this head, 1 John v. 16. We are not to pray that God would forgive men this sin, because this would be contradicting the revealed will of God; but, as we cannot tell with certainty who are the subjects of it, we may pray for sinners, without distinction, that God would give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; always submitting our petitions to the sovereign directions of unerring Wisdom. But it may be asked, with respect to preaching; how can a minister proclaim the mercy of God to his auditory in an indefinite way? How can he invite them to a participation of the blessings of the gospel? How can he declare that if any one of them, even the greatest sinner amongst them, return to God. by Jesus Christ, he will be accepted, when, for aught he knows, there may be persons in his presence who may be in the situation above described, and for whom no mercy is designed? To this I answer, the same objection might be made against the doctrine of election; and is made by the adversaries of that doctrine. Let a minister pursue his work, and leave the effect to God.. What he declares of the willingness of Christ to pardon and receive all who return to him, is true; and it might be said of any man, in truth, that if he returned to God
by Jesus Christ, he would be forgiven. The impossibility with respect to those who have committed the unpardonable sin, respects their repentance as well as their forgiveness; and even that is not a natural but a moral impossibility.
With respect to dejected minds, let it be observed, that no person, let his crimes have been what they may, if he be grieved at heart for having committed them, and sincerely asks forgiveness in the name of Christ, needs to fear that he shall be rejected. Such grief is itself a proof that he has not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, because it is a mark of that sin to be accompanied with a hard and impenitent heart. Such characters may feel the remorse of a Cain, a Saul, or a Judas, but a tear of godly sorrow never dropped from their eyes. GAIUS.
ON THE FALL OF MAN.
Was the fall of Adam foredetermined, or only foreseen by God?
THE Concern which the decrees of God have with the fall of man, has often been the subject of inquiry. I do not see the reason, however, why this particular fact should he singled out from others. There is nothing revealed, that I know of, concerning the fall of man being an object either of the Divine foreknowledge or decree. The Scriptures declare, in general, that God knoweth the end from the beginning; from which we may conclude, with certainty, that he knew all the events of time, all the causes and effects of things,
through all their multiplied and diversified channels. The Scriptures also ask, Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? which intimates that the providence and purpose of God are concerned in whatever cometh to pass. The volitions of free agents, the evil as well as the good, are constantly represented as falling under the counsels and conduct. of Heaven. Never did men act more freely, nor more wickedly, than the Jews, in the crucifixion of Christ; yet in that whole business they did no other than what God's hand and counsel determined before to be done. The delivery of Christ into their hands to be crucified, as performed by Judas, was a wicked act, yet was he delivered according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The proof of the fall of man being an object of Divine foreknowledge, is merely inferential; and from the same kind of proof we may conclude, that it was, all things considered, an object of predetermi nation.
That this subject is deep and difficult, in the present state, is admitted; and wicked men may abuse it to their own destruction; but the thing itself is no less true and useful, if considered in the fear of God. There is a link, as some have expressed it, that unites the purposes of God, and the free actions of men, which is above our comprehension; but to deny the fact, is to disown an all-prevailing Providence, which is little less than to disown a God. It is observable in one of the foregoing. passages, that Peter unites the determinate co sel and foreknowledge of God together, and seems to have had no idea of admitting the one without the other. It is also worthy of notice, that in his manner of introducing. VOL. III.
the subject, it appears to have no tendency whatever to excuse men from guilt, by throwing the blame on the Almighty: on the contrary, it is brought in for the purpose of conviction, and actually answered the end; those to whom it was addressed, being pricked in their hearts, and crying out, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
The decrees of God seem to be distinguishable into efficient and permissive. With respect to moral good, God is the proper efficient cause of it. This James teaches, Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights; particularly the blessing of regeneration, which contains all moral good in embryo, as it follows, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. With respect to moral evil, God permits it, and it was his eternal purpose so to do. If it be right for God to permit sin, it could not be wrong for him to determine to do so, unless it be wrong to determine to do what is right. The decree of God to permit sin, dues not in the least excuse the sinner, or warrant him to ascribe it to God, instead of himself. The same inspired writer who teaches, with respect to good, that it cometh from above, teacheth also in the same pas sage, with respect to evil, that it proceedeth from ourselves: Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. And as if he considered the danger of mistaking on this profound subject, he adds, by way of caution, Do not err, my beloved children! James i. 13—18.
QUERIES AND ANSWERS.
1. "Is the will dependent on the understanding, or the understanding on the will? or do they reciprocally influence each other?"
Answer. They doubtless, in a great measure, reciprocally influence each other. The will is influenced by the understanding, and follows its dictates, in the choice of any thing which is not agreeable per se, or immediately gratifying to the taste or appetite. V. g. A man may choose labor, from the dictate of his understanding, that it is the proper mean of procuring the necessaries and conveniences of life. But the drunkard may choose and wish for his cups, and the ambitious man may wish for promotion, not from any dictate of his understanding, but from appetite or bias only. Thus the distinction between things agreeable for their own sakes, and those which are agreeable on account of something else, or because they are useful, is very important and necessary. A man may always, without and even contrary to the dictate of his understanding, choose an object which is agreeable per se. He may also choose the same object from the dictate of his understanding, if it be, or if he apprehend that it is, useful to answer some other purpose than the immediate gratification of his appetite. V. g. A man, however ambitious, may wish for promotion, not merely because it gratifies his ambition, but because it puts him into a capacity to do good. On the other hand, the understanding is influenced by the will in a thousand cases. We easily believe what we wish to believe, and can hardly be brought to believe what is contrary to our wishes.