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FROM GOD TO THE CREATURE.
sue for mercy ;-that this influence, it was resolved, by the decree of election, to put forth ;—that it proceeds from God, not as a moral Governor, but as a Sovereign-in which character he is not bound to render an account of his conduct, and may do what he will with his own ;-and finally, that, on these accounts, the objections of our opponents against the justice of the predestinating decree are null and void.
That there are difficulties connected with this subject, it would be worse than foolish to deny; but that both the philosophical and scriptural difficulties which embarrass the system of Arminianism are greater than those which attach to Calvinism, I have not the slightest doubt.
OBJECTION 3.-Predestination is incompatible with the free agency and accountability of man.
The argument of our opponents is as follows. If Jehovah has determined what shall be the everlasting condition of all men,—and if, in addition to this, he has decreed every event which takes place, every event must be a necessary event, and it is impossible that man can be a free agent.
Now the reader will not forget, and it is important to remember it here, that the preceding pages do not represent the eternal condition even of the elect as being directly determined by Divine decree. We have formed our statements upon this subject under the guiding influence of the moral axiom, "God does what he decrees, and decrees only what he does." All that is done by him, accordingly, in effecting the salvation of the elect-the exertion of that regenerating, and preserving, and confirming influence of the Holy Spirit, &c., by which they are certainly brought ultimately (though in a manner adapted to their intellectual and moral nature) to the glory of heaven-is decreed by God. But as the ungodly destroy themselves, -as God does nothing to effect their destruction, there is no occasion, and, indeed, no room for any decree in reference to it. We have, accordingly, defined election to be a decree to save, and not a decree to destroy. In what respect it may be said that every event is the subject of a Divine decree, will probably be more fully unfolded in the subsequent discussion.
Before we proceed to examine the force of the objection, it may be well to remember, that, if it really present any difficulty, we shall not rescue ourselves from its pressure by
ARMINIANISM DOES NOT ESCAPE THE DIFFICULTY.
deserting from the Calvinistic standard ; unless, indeed, we proceed to deny the foreknowledge of God; and, in that case, difficulties of yet more appalling magnitude would rise up into view. It is manifest that, with a mere change of words, the same objection may be urged against the system of those Arminians who believe in the Divine prescience. “ If God foresees all future events, those events must be necessary or certain,-and man is not a free agent.” A free action, in the Arminian sense of the term, is one which may or may not take place, one which depends altogether on the arbitrary decision of the will of the actor,-a decision unaffected by, or at any rate certainly not caused by, motives, for it may be at direct variance with motives. Now such an action must be an essentially contingent action. It cannot be certainly future. Contingency and certain futurition are incompatible notions. But, if an action be foreseen, it must be as certainly future as if it were decreed. Predestination does not, then, more necessarily interfere with free agency than foreknowledge.
Before we can estimate the force of this objection against the doctrine of predestination, it will be necessary to ascertain in what free agency consists, and to show when any being may be said to possess it. With the meaning of the term agent, all are familiarly acquainted. An agent (limiting the application of the word to intelligent beings) is the doer or performer of an action. A free agent is one who is at liberty, i.e., free to act as he chooses. “Freedom," says Dr. Williams,
as applied to an agent, in my conception, is properly and consistently expressive of a negative idea—not a power or a faculty, but exemption related to the will. It is, properly speaking, the property, not of the will of a moral agent, but of the moral agent himself.” Every being who is not restrained by physical force from doing what he chooses, and who is not compelled by the same force to do what he does not choose, is a free agent. It is, therefore, manifest that all the moral agents of whose existence we have any knowledge, are possessed of freedom. God is a free agent; “He doeth whatsoever he pleases among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth.” Holy angels are free agents ; fallen spirits are free
ALL TREATED ALIKE BY THE MORAL GOVERNOR,
body, though the nicest casuistical balances may be unable to detect the slightest difference in the degree of the criminality of the whole ; but some must suffer for the sake of example: and the great end of punishment having been sufficiently secured by their death, the rest, though equally guilty with their less fortunate companions, may be permitted, and are permitted, to escape.
Now the reader is especially requested to take notice, that the whole force of the Arminian objection we are now considering, rests upon the assumption, that the difference in the conduct of God towards a lost and condemned race, implied in the doctrine of election-visiting some of the race with that special influence of the Holy Spirit which leads them to seek salvation, and not visiting the rest with that influence-is a difference in his conduct as the moral Governor of the race. If we can show, then, that there is really no difference in his conduct towards the subjects of his government, in that relation,-that, sustaining, as he does, this most important office, he acts in it with all the impartiality which our opponents, or, indeed, any one else can possibly desire, we shall obviously break the force of the objection, if not entirely annihilate it. What, then, they will be disposed to reply, is it not true that, on your principles, God decreed to deliver some from the ruins of the fall, and did not, even on the most moderate statement
* I once thought, and I believe many think, that the end of punishment in the Divine government, and in the case of human governments, is not the same ;that, under the latter, bonds, fines, imprisonment, and death, are not punishment properly so called, but mere suffering inflicted by law for the prevention of crime ; whereas the future misery of the finally impenitent will be strictly and literally punishment :--and that, on this account, it has come to be considered, in reference to human proceedings, hard and unjust, that while of two criminals, equally guilty, one is spared, the other should be sacrificed merely for the sake of example, and to promote the general good; but that, in reference to the Divine proceedings, there is no basis for this feeling, since punishment with God is, properly speaking, punishment. I now doubt, however, whether the end of punishment in the Divine government differs from that of human government. Surely punishment is not an ultimate end. An infinitely benevolent Being can have no abstract delight in inflicting it. He must have some object in view. And what can that object be but the promotion of his own glory by thus placing a barrier against the inroads of rebellion ?
BUT NOT BY GOD AS A SOVEREIGN.
of your views, decree to save others ? And is it not further true, that, on the Calvinistic system, he exerts an influence upon the former to secure their salvation, which he does not exert upon the latter? No, I reply, it is not true that he does either the one or the other as the moral Governor of the world. On the contrary, though, in his character as Sovereign, great disparity may be observed in his conduct towards men, yet, as a moral Governor, he acts with the most exact equality and uniformity.
Nor let this distinction between what some have ventured to call the private and the public character of Jehovah, i.e., between the relation sustained by him to mankind as Sovereign and as moral Governor, be stigmatized as a fiction got up
for the occasion, for it is frequently recognized amongst men ; and we admit, without the slightest hesitation, that an individual
do many things, as a man, which he cannot and ought not to do, as a ruler or a judge. If two persons should present themselves in a court of justice, suing for the recovery of what they considered just debts, the judge, sitting on the bench, must only grant what the law awards to them. Should they fail to make good in law their claim to what they demand, no upright judge could award them any thing as a judge, not even a penny. But if, compassionating their situation, he, as an individual, were to present them with a sum equal to what the hard decision of the law had just placed beyond the reach of their hopes, who could consider this conduct a just subject of complaint? Or if, as an individual, he chose to befriend one, and not the other, would the latter be entitled to represent himself as unjustly dealt with? Surely not. The justice which, as moral Governor, he dispenses, is the property of the community ; every one has a claim to an equal measure of it. But the wealth which enables him to administer to the necessities of the rejected suitor is his own; and every one feels that he has a right to do what he will with his own.
Now, it is not in his public, but in his private character that any difference is to be traced in the conduct of God towards the beings whom he has formed. It is not in the relation of a ruler or a judge, but of a Sovereign, the original source of