« PreviousContinue »
' fects of divine grace: this is the error of the • Calvinists.'1
This indiscriminate accusation of the Calvinists should have been supported by clear quotations from their approved writers; especially from the works of modern Calvinists belonging to the establishment. It is, however, impossible thus to support it in any degree: and it is a sufficient answer to this, and to many similar charges by his Lordship and other opponents to say, “ Neither “ can they prove the things of which they now
accuse us.” 2
The change in the minds, and hearts, and conduct of those, who received the gospel as "the power of God unto salvation,” was so great, that, ‘in the strong figurative language of scripture, true believers, who, having been brought up in the vices and follies of heathenism, had embraced Christianity at a mature age, were said to “walk in newness of life,” to “become new creatures ;" ' to “put off the old man with his deeds, and to
put on the new man after the image of him that * created him ;" to“ put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to put on the 'new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."'3
Is there then any proof, that the apostles meant to restrict this language to those converted from the vices and follies of heathenism? If men called
* Ref. 47, 48.
? Acts. xxiv, 13.
Christians, and baptized in infancy, live as heathens, in ungodliness and unrighteousness, yet at length repent, believe, and obey the gospel : if “ the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, “ teach them, that, denying ungodliness and
worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righ
teously, and godly in this present world :" is not the strong language of scripture equally applicable to them also ? Those who call themselves Chris‘tians, merely because they happen to be born in ' a Christian country, but attend neither to the
doctrines, nor to the duties, of the gospel, seem 'to differ but little, with respect to the point now ' under consideration, from those to whom the ‘gospel was first preached. The process in both 'must be nearly the same.'-_And surely the Jews, who before had “ with wicked hands crucified the “ Lord of glory;" and Saul the blasphemer and persecutor ; when they became humble, zealous, loving, holy believers, were as much“ new crea“ tures," as any gentile convert could be. Indeed, “ if any man be in Christ he is a new “ creature.
• In no instance, in our public formularies, is · the exertion of irresistible grace declared or supposed.'?_Neither is it in any instance allowed or supposed in any of our writings. Let our opponents disprove this assertion, if they can, by clear quotations from our works.
· The argument against the doctrine of irresis'tible grace lies in a very narrow compass. It has pleased God to make us responsible beings; responsibility cannot exist without free agency; 'free agency is incompatible with an irresistible "force; consequently God does not act with irre'sistible force upon our minds.''
2 Ref. 71.
If force mean compulsion, and not merely power or energy, I should say, that all force, or compulsion, is incompatible with free agency, whether it be irresistible or not. Against whom then is this argument brought ? As a detached statement, I should not feel the least, repugnancy to subscribe it.
It would be indeed contrary both to Christianity and to common sense, to speak of repentance, and faith, and obedience, as produced by compulsion. A clock, which had stopped, or which went irregularly, but by a clock-maker was made to go right again, might as reasonably be said to “repent, and do works meet for repentance :”
nay more reasonably; for the compelled man is still unwilling, the clock is neither willing nor unwilling, but merely passive. Indeed the improved outward movement is the effect of an internal amendment in the clock; which is not the case in the compelled man.
It is really surprising that men of learning and talent can persuade themselves and each other into the belief, that large companies of their fellow creatures, some of whom they must and do allow to possess good sense, learning, and talent, as to other things, do really avow such egregious
absurdities ! And this, without deigning to produce one single quotation from their writings in proof of it! In this way they refute merely their own misapprehensions, not our doctrines.
We maintain, that a power and influence from God, and by his Holy Spirit, beyond nature at its best estate, and contrary to the dispositions of fallen nature, produce and preserve, in all who become true Christians, a willing mind to repent, believe, and obey: that this influence may be resisted, and continually is resisted: that it, however, prevails eventually against this resistance: that, when this change has been effected, we begin to work out " our own salvation with fear and trem“bling;” depending on God, who has worked in
us to will, to work also in us to do :” or in the words of our Article, “ The grace of God by Christ
preventing us, that we may have a good will, ' (ut velimus,) and working with us, when we ' have that good will’ (dum volumus). This is the substance of what we maintain: the rest is either merely gratuitous accusation; or is grounded on a few unguarded words of some, among the heterogenous multitude who are now indiscriminately branded as Calvinists. : In fact, the statement of our sentiments just given, contains nearly, if not all, which Calvin himself maintained, on this particular, and also Augustine. ' The good will of man precedeth many of the gifts of God, but not all.' . His mercy hath prevented me, and his mercy will follow with me. vents a man when unwilling that he may will ; it followeth with him when willing, lest he should will in vain.-To which Bernard consents, in
'troducing the church thus speaking: Draw me 'in a manner unwilling, that thou mayest make me willing ; draw me when torpid, that thou mayest bring me to run.'i
Some hints have before been dropped on this subject ; and I shall introduce what may be further needful, by a quotation from Calvin.-Sim‘ply to will, belongs to man, to will in an evil
manner, is the part of corrupt nature ; to will 'well, is of grace. Indeed because I say that the
will, being deprived of liberty, is either drawn or ' led of necessity is evil, it is wonderful that this ' saying should appear harsh to any one, which hath nothing unsuitable in itself, nor foreign to ' the use of holy men : but it offends those, who do not know how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion. Yet if any one should ask them, Is not God necessarily good ? and is not 'the devil necessarily wicked ? what would they
answer for the goodness of God is so connected ' with divinity, that it is not more necessary
for 'God to exist, than to be good. And the devil by
the fall has become so alienated from the parti'cipation of good, that he cannot do otherwise * than act wickedly. But if any impious person
(sacrilegus) should bark against this, (obgan' niat,) that little praise is due to God for his
· Calv. Inst. B. II. c. iii. sect. 12.