ment in the essentials of the doctrine might otherwise easily be preserved.

5. Some of the contentions which have arisen on the subjects of the Divine decrees, of grace, of free-will, and other topics connected with them, were glanced at in the preceding Discourse. And here, again, questions not only dark, obscure, and inexplicable by human faculties, have laid the foundation of disputes, but questions also of little or no importance. Doubtless it is of importance that we should admit no hypothesis which makes God the author of sin; none that makes him a “respecter of persons,” arbitrarily choosing some and rejecting others, without regard to their respective characters ; none also that makes man a mere passive machine, acted upon by a resistless energy, or abandoned to a blind fatality, so as to become in effect not morally responsible for his conduct. Against such errors we cannot too cautiously guard, because they are errors 'which strike at the very root of religion, and cannot consist with the scriptural representations of either God or man. But when losing sight of these main points we fasten our attention upon some minute ramifications of the subject; when we cannot rest without entering, if we may so say, into the whole detail of the Divine proceedings in the works of providence and of grace; what can we expect, but, as the prophet says, to “sow the “ wind, and reap the whirlwind "?" Yet how have these subjects divided whole Christian communities! The contentions of supralapsarians and sublapsarians among Calvinists; the disputes between Dominicans and Jesuits, Jansenists and Molinists, in the Romish Church; the metaphysical controversies at a later period in the Lutheran Church, between two of its greatest ornaments $, besides many others of greater or less notoriety ;all these have turned chiefly upon subtleties scarcely perceptible to human discernment; while the little conviction or satisfaction they appear to have afforded to the Christian world in general, is but too sure an indication how much talent, sagacity, and profusion of learning may be wasted in such inquiries. To explain, indeed, how the conduct of

every human being can be foreknown to God, and yet depend on the free agency of the human will; how the Divine grace can influence our minds without overpowering them, and even without any perception or consciousness on our part of its operation;

f Hosea viji. 7. 8 Wolfius and Buddeus.

are matters on which the ablest disputants may well forbear to hazard peremptory assertions. That God is the righteous Governor of the universe; that man is free to do either good or evil, and is responsible for the choice he makes; that the grace of God works sufficiently in all men to save them, if they neglect it not, but works effectually in them only who faithfully cooperate with it; in short, that they who are saved, are saved by grace, and that they who perish, perish through their own fault; if these great articles of Christian belief be stedfastly retained, far the greater number of the subordinate questions belonging to them may either be entirely dispensed with, or at least discussed with that mutual spirit of forbearance which should ever characterize those who profess to “walk together as friends in the house of God h.”

6. To these we may add another numerous catalogue of unnecessary and unprofitable inquiries, connected with the doctrines of a resurrection, an intermediate state, and a future state. The powerful hold which these subjects cannot but have upon the mind, may offer some apology for the too inquisitive spirit with which they are often investigated. Yet on no questions is it more


h Psalm lv. 14.

necessary that some restraint should be imposed. The doctrines themselves are written as with a sun-beam on the sacred


But each has its boundaries which we cannot pass; and which it is as needless as it is

presumptuous to attempt to remove. Among the Corinthians, St. Paul had to contend with some who asked, “ How are the dead raised up? " and with what body do they come ?” And what was the Apostle's answer ? Did he solve the problem ? Did he satisfy the curiosity of the inquirer ? On the contrary, he replies, 6 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not

quickened except it die. And that which “ thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that “shall be, but bare grain ; it may chance of “ wheat or some other grain : but God giveth “ it a body, as it hath pleased him, and to

every seed his own body.” Here the truth of one mystery is simply corroborated by reference to another. The mystery of vegetation is, to the human understanding, scarcely less inexplicable than that of a resurrection. The former, being established by the evidence of our senses, serves greatly to strengthen our faith in the latter ; but to our further knowledge of the subject it contributes nothing; and here the inquiry is dismissed. In like manner, when the Sadducees sought to embarrass our Lord by perplexing questions respecting conjugal relationships in a future state, he dismisses them with the reproof, “ Ye do err, “ not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power “ of Godk;" leaving them as uninformed as before as to the particular point they had proposed. Yet how many inquiries equally unprofitable and vain have not men since engrafted upon these doctrines; questions respecting the nature of the identity of the body to be raised, its consciousness of identity, its nature and functions in its spiritualized state, the habitation of departed spirits, the operations of the soul during its separation from the body, the mansions prepared hereafter for the righteous and the wicked, their joys and their miseries. On every one of these points conjectures may be formed and disputations raised, admitting of no confirmation whatever from holy writ, nor distinct evidence of any kind. Yet neither do these doubtful points affect in any degree the certainty of the great doctrines themselves with which they are connected; nor could the most explicit information concerning them (if such were attainable) alter in any respect either our duty or our interest in the result.

i 1 Cor. xv. 35-38.

k Matt. xxii. 29.

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