« VorigeDoorgaan »
the Baptist says, “Ye generation of cealment in the dealings of God, must, vipers, who hath warned you to flee from to say the least, excite a suspicion that the wrath to come : bring forth fruits we are sometimes left without the means meet for repentance." Our Lord Jesus of solving difficulties. It “is the glory Christ, by whom " the Gospel began of God to conceal a thing;' and, first to be preached,” cried, Repent therefore, “clouds and darkness are ye, and believe the Gospel ;'* and he round about him.” “Verily, thou art
upbraided them that repented not.”+ a God that hidest ayself.” If two A great part of his preaching was ad- things be clearly revealed in Scripture, dressed to sinners, arguing, inviting, we must receive them both, though we warning. He delivered a parable to could not see their consistency. Conshow that his servants were sent forth to tradictions, indeed, cannot both be true, call those that were bidden to the Gospel though they may both be false. But feast; even those that would not come; many things may appear contradictory and that the same servants were sent that are perfectly harmonious; such as “into the highways and hedges to call that which embarrassed the Jews, that all they met, good and bad.” He ac- Christ should be a poor man and a great cordingly sent out the twelve apostles, king. In philosophy, we often admit and seventy evangelists, to preach the two facts which we cannot reconcile ; for glad tidings of the kingdom " to the lost if we could harmonise every known fact, sheep of the house of Israel.” At the our philosophy would thus far be absoday of Pentecost, Peter, under the spe- lutely perfect. cial influence of the Holy Spirit, said to It may be said, with some appearance the whole multitude, “ Repent.” And of reason, that the cases are not parallel ; again, Peter, in company with John, for those facts are things done by God said, “Repent, and be converted, that himself; and we may leave him to reyour sins may be blotted out.”
concile them; but in the call of the When the apostles went, at Christ's Gospel, something is to be done by us, command, into all the world, to preach which we ought to be able to reconcile the Gospel to every creature, how could with “ the things that are most surely they have accomplished this, if they believed among us."| But, in the revewere not to preach to sinners? The lation of the doctrines of predestination apostle Paul, preaching at Athens, where and election, and in the command to there were none but unbelievers, said, preach the Gospel to every creature, we “God now commandeth all men every have two things done by God himself; where to repent."! When Peter told and however contradictory they may apSimon Magus, that he was in the gall of pear, we should leave him to reconcile bitterness and the bond of iniquity, the them, while we obey the command. apostle exhorted him, saying, “ Repent, If a parent gave an order to his child, and pray God, if perhaps the thought and the latter should say, of thy heart may be forgiven thee." told me something, the other day, which The ministry of reconciliation is de- seems contrary to this ;" a wise father scribed thus: “Because God was in might reply, “Go, and do as you are Christ reconciling the world unto him- bidden." An ingenuous child would self, we pray, be reconciled to God.” obey, and say to himself,,"My father is
But we are asked, how we can recon- wiser than I, and perhaps he may, ancile these generalities with the speciali- other day, show me that his information ties of Calvinism ? How it can be and his command were not contradicrational to speak to the dead ? We
tory." might reply, that we are not called to Would not such conduct have special reconcile these things. Where does the charms in a parent's eyes ? Scripture.command us to solve difficul- not God have sufficient reasons for reties, and reconcile discrepancies, in the quiring from us such implicit obedience ? word or ways of God ? " There is no- If we have not this disposition, we shall thing approaching to such a command; be, not only perplexed, but rebellious. but many things that look the other way. The former may be a trial; the latter Whatever is said of mysteries and con
** But you
would be a sin. This whole world is a
mystery to us; and the only principle .Mark. i. 15. + Matt. xi. 20. * Acts xvii. 18, 30.
t Luke i. 1.
• Prov. xxv. 2.
And scan his work in vain :
that we can safely adopt is, that duty is called. It is then too late to guide us ours, and it belongs to God to do accord- in addressing the invitation to particular ing to his pleasure in the armies of hea- persons for their calling. ven, and among the inhabitants of earth; 2. There must, then, be some other so that none can stay his hand, or say to rule of duty; and what can this be but him, what doest thou ?
the command of God, expressed or
implied ? "Blind unbelief is sure to err,
revelation, or testimony, is God is his own interpreter,
an object of faith ; a command is a guide And he will make it plain."
to obedience. The law of the Lord is
perfect, and nothing that is our duty But true, and important, as is the an- is left uncommanded; so that a brand of swer that we might have given to the
reprobation is set upon “will worship." objection, we are not obliged to go no The example of Christ and his apostles, farther. We can show the consistency and our Lord's injunction to preach the of the universal call of the Gospel with Gospel to every creature, constitute a the doctrine of sovereign, special grace. clear command, and the only rule of our Calvin himself saw no difficulty here ; duty. for he was far enough from being op- 3. This command is perfectly reasonposed to the most unrestricted invitations. able. Ultra Calvinism only proves that over- Notwithstanding the speciality of the doing is undoing; for, with a profession decree of predestination to life, and the of extraordinary attachment to Calvin, destined eifect of the atonement, there is it opposes him, as well as Arminius.
in the dispensation of the Gospel a uniGod accomplishes his secret fixed pur- versality of some kind. poses, in a way that baffles all human
If any should say that the Gospel has research. He does what he pleases, by nothing to do with anty but the elect; he means of creatures who do not always would deny manifest facts. The Gospel know any thing, and never know every evidently does come into contact with thing that he is doing with them and by others, besides those that are called by it them.
to eternal life. The reason is, that God 1. God's decrees cannot be the rule of has included in his moral government our duty.
every intelligent creature, and has made He himself, indeed, “worketh all
the Gospel a part of that moral rule, so things according to the counsel of his
that he is pursuing, at once, a general own will, according to his good pleasure and a special object-to govern the which he purposed in himself :" but world in righteousness -- and to call a then he knows all his purposes and de- people to show forth his praise. crees, which we do not; and therefore In preaching the Gospel, we are at "secret things belong to the Lord our once acting as the subjects of his moral God; while things that are revealed government, who obey his command, and belong to us.”
are employed as his instruments to acIf it be said, “the decrees are reveal- complish purposes concerning individued, and therefore should be our guide ;" als of which we are not aware. To supwe reply, it would not follow that they pose that the universality of moral should be our guide, even if we did government, and the speciality of saving know them; for we might still make his grace are opposed to each other, and command, and not the decree, the rule cannot act simultaneously, is to imagine of our duty. But the decrees are not that a vast piece of machinery cannot revealed in that sense which can make contain wheels that are intended, not them our guide ; for nothing more is merely to promote the general object, known than that God has formed his but to accomplish also a specific end. purposes; but who will pretend that
4. Various parts of Scripture show we know whom God has decreed to
that it was designed to be an instrument save, so as to guide us in directing of universal moral rule, and of accomthe call of the Gospel to these alone ? plishing the decrees of saving grace. With regard to individuals, we know Of the atonement we read, that “ God the decree, only “when it bringeth so loved the world, that he gave his only forth ;” and then we learn whom he has begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in predestinated, by seeing whom he has him should not perish.” The world is
always distinguished from the elect, who say, that this is by accident; and that are “ chosen out of the world.” Christ is God never intended that his word should a propitiation, not for our sins only, but produce any effect upon others beside also for the sins of the whole world. the elect? The firmest believers in There is no evidence that this means God's decrees ought to be most forward merely Gentiles, as well as Jews.
to own, that God designed by that word On the other hand, “ Christ loved the which calls the elect, to produce some church, and gave himself for it,” evi. effect on the non-elect; for this very dently expressing something peculiar to reason, that it does produce some effect, the church, which is distinguished from and God says, “ It shall accomplish that the world. Christ says, “I lay down which I please." my life for the sheep," whom he dis- 6. But the opposition to the universal tinguishes, even before their call, from call of the Gospel, proceeds on a suppothe rest of the world, John X.
sition that is manifestly false, in factredeemed us to God by his blood, out of that if there be something specific in the every kindred and tribe.” Who shall
design of our preaching, there can be lay any thing to the charge of God's nothing general. elect? It is Christ that died for them; The calling of the elect is not effected which shows that he died for the elect by sending a secret message to them in a way that secures them from con- alone. A vision might have been sent to demnation. Now the words of the the man of Macedonia, and when it Lord are right words, and all are to be sent to Paul, to call him to received according to their fair import; Macedonia, it was not to the elect, by and we may be sure that we have dis- name, but to a whole region; where the torted a doctrine or text, when our view Pythoness said, “ These are the serof it obliges us to distort some other. vants of the most high God, who show
But these two classes of texts have to us the way of salvation." This was respect to the two offices which Christ not by accident; but all that was effected sustains, as mediator and as surety. was decreed, not only the calling of the The former is more general, and pro- elect, but the effect produced on the nonvides means ; the latter is more special, elect, to change their position in the and secures the end. A mediator is a moral government of God. mere negotiator, to conduct a treaty, 7. All this is in accordance with the and may have done his part, though providence of God, which is at once no peace be concluded; the surety is universal and special; for while the pledged for a good result; he makes “ tender mercies of God are over all things sure. The more comprehensive his works,” all things work together texts speak of the atonement, as a means for good to them that are called accordof negotiating a treaty of recognition, ing to his purpose. Christ has “power to be proclaimed through the world ; over all flesh, to give eternal life to as the more special texts speak of Christ many as are given him.” If we apply as the surety of a covenant, to secure to Providence the text that asserts, the the salvation of the elect, so that “as living God “is the Saviour of all men, many as were ordained to eternal life especially of them that believe ;" still believed.”
it shows a salvation of some sort, general 5. The Gospel and the atonement to all, and specific to them that believe. actually do produce some effects on the To Cyrus God said, “For Jacob, my world at large; and they who preach servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I it, are a savour of Christ to them that have raised thee up." Now, the Gospel perish, as well as to them that are saved. and the providence of God, coming from
Who will deny that the whole world the same author, co-operate, and have is in a different state from what it would a mutual relation. have been in if the Gospel had never 8. The opposition to the general call entered it? Wherever the cross is of the Gospel arises from ignorance of erected, idols fall before it, and men the great vital distinction between natucease to perish as idolaters; so that the ral and moral inability. whole mass of society is altered. This We are asked, Of what use is it to is, then, the condemnation, “ that light preach to the dead? But we ask, in our is come into the world, and men loved turn, Is there only one kind of death ? darkness rather than light.” Who will Does not the very objection suppose the
contrary ? For they do not charge us collect, to our humiliation and edification, with preaching to the literally dead in to condemn ourselves and give glory to the burying-grounds. They ought, grace. But if the elect are influenced therefore, to remember that if the un- by the Gospel, before their conversion, believer is dead and unable to obey the when they are as dead in sins as the Gospel, in one sense, he is not therefore non-elect; why may not the non-elect so, in every sense. In fact, they do re- also experience important effects ? And member and act upon it, when they be- if good effects, though not saving ef. come earnest. The great champion of fects, were produced on the elect, while ultra-Calvinism was once preaching on dead in sins, why not on the non-elect the Christian race, and describing Christ too ?
And who can deny the fact, that as the starting-post, he saw some stran- such effects are produced? and that by gers smiling; and said to them, sternly, the influence of the Gospel on many “Don't laugh ; for you must start from that are never converted, not only is this post, or be damned.” Here was society benefited, but the church of preaching to sinners, which they who God also; and even the calling of the most condemn it, frequently slide into, elect is provided for, by the children of in spite of their creed.
such persons being brought under the Every sane person knows, that there Gospel; and educated in a way that prois an essential difference between the motes their usefulness after conversion. inability of a man to pluck down a star, As all this is not by accident, but is the and that of a liar to speak the truth; the accomplishment of God's purposes, it is former being a natural inability, arising plain that he has other designs in the from want of physical power, excuses a administration of the Gospel, beside the man; the latter, arising from want of a calling of the elect; and therefore it right disposition, is moral inability, and is false to affirm, that the Gospel has makes him guilty. To call the naturally only to do with the elect, for their blind, or dead, to see or live, is absurd; calling and salvation. but not to call a liar to speak truth; or 10. They who oppose the general call of a sinner to believe the Gospel. If some the Gospel admit that it is wise and good “ have eyes full of adultery, that they to address believers; but say it is foolish cannot cease to sin;" it is still rational and pernicious to address a word to unto say to them, “ Thou shalt not commit believers. adultery.” Moral inability, arising from But why? Is it because unbelievers strong disinclination, is the sinner's in- cannot obey, and believers can ? There ability, and that is the very thing that is more Arminianism in this than our demands exhortation and warning. But hyper-Calvinists suspect, or would be they who oppose all preaching to sinners, willing to confess. Do they mean, that though usually harsh enough, often believers can obey, without Divine grace? speak as if they thought that unbelievers If they do, we are too Calvinistic to adwere, because unable, quite excusable in mit this. Believers have no independent not believing. But, if moral inability spiritual life, but need the influence of renders any one excusable, and releases the Spirit, each moment, to support, as him from all obligation to obey the they at first needed it to impart, their Gospel, then the devil is the most inno- spiritual life.
Unless our opponents cent creature in the universe ; for his consent to this, they show how extremes moral inability to obey God is the meet, and what Arminians many prestrongest.
tenders to extraordinary Calvinism really 9. The opposition to the general call But if they admit it, then they of the Gospel, supposes that there is but must mean to say, that believers will one thing designed by it—the calling of obey our exhortations, if the grace of the elect.
the Holy Spirit accompany and crown But the Gospel produces many effects them. Well, and will not unbelievers even on the elect themselves, before the do so too? But it may be said, God time of their calling, when they will no will carry on his work where he has more believe than the non-elect. The begun it, and therefore we have a racalls addressed to us, before conversion, tional ground for addressing those in instruct, restrain, and to a certain ex- whom it is begun. We might reply, tent convince. This we afterwards re- We have shown that the rational ground
for the performance of the preacher's the Gospel should be preached, not
our work which applies to the unconSome would mince the matter, saying, verted, as to encroach upon the time “ We should preach before unbelievers,
and attention due to the doctrinal edifibut not to them." But is it more ra- cation of the church of God. I fear tional to place an object before the eyes that some who are really Calvinistic of a dead man,
than to address a voice to preachers, here expose themselves to his ears?
suspicion of unsoundness in the faith. If we appeal to facts; we shall find But as preaching to sinners, when well that the preaching of the Gospel which conducted, is edifying to real Christians; is addressed to all, is that which is so the preaching of those doctrines blessed to the conversion of the chosen ; which are called Calvinism, addressed while they who act on the contrary plan, to believers, is calculated to convince are left to barrenness so complete, that and correct sinners, even when it galls their congregations are made up of pro- and frets them. selytes; and either they are false pro- Finally, Let us seek to trace and fessors, or proofs of the usefulness of follow the whole path of duty; and by that ministry which addresses sinners. the prayer of faith call down that life
But the practical conclusion to be giving Spirit, who will crown our efforts drawn from these considerations, is, that
STATE OF RELIGION IN PRUSSIA.
To the Editor of the Evangelical Magazine.
July 7, 1838. Rev. SIR,-PERHAPS you may think the following account of the state of evangelical religion in Prussia, at the present moment, worthy of a place in your valuable periodical, as it will afford
information to some, and gratification, it is thought, to many, who are aware of the general prevalence of irreligion on the European continent, and mere formality of the mass of those who pay any attention to religion. A few warmhearted Christians, I was favoured to