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128 THE CONCERN OF PROVIDENCE WITH EVIL ACTIONS.
preserved to them by his power and goodness; yet who ever thinks of regarding God as the author of sin, because it is too frequently spent in the gratification of unholy desires ?
And may we not apply the same principles to volition itself? Was not that given originally, and is it not perpetually sustained, by God? Every consistent theist will acknowledge this. When motives are presented to the mind, and operate upon the mind, must not their influence upon it be ascribed to the fact, that the mind is possessed of a power, or faculty, which we denominate will, or volition, and which is sustained by the conserving hand of Divine Providence? Were volition to become extinct, in the case of any man, motives would be addressed to him in vain; and he would cease to be a subject of moral government. It is, accordingly, a law of Divine Providence that, when the performance of a certain action, for instance, appears desirable to an individual, the power to determine upon its performance should be continued to that individual. The abstract power to will, and to act, is in all cases from God; the obliquity of the volition and of the action, whenever they are sinful, results from the depravity of the heart; but that depravity had not its source in Divine appointment and influence.
Still it will be objected that, since the motive produces the volition, no man can be responsible for his volitions. Now, without pretending that it is a full and sufficient answer to the objection, might it not be replied, that, since the conceived excellence of an object produces the love we feel towards it, we are not, if this objection be valid, responsible for the love? And, if it should be said, that, in all cases in which we love improperly, immorally, we might have avoided experiencing the feeling by gaining that juster view of the object which Divine revelation has furnished us with the means of obtaining, -it would be easy to retort that we might have come to a different determination, where volition has been sinful, if we had duly considered the motives which are adapted to originate a right and holy volition. It is difficult to see what difference there is in these two cases. But how can it be just to punish a man who determines improperly, if the volition were not a
WHY PUNISHMENT FOLLOWS A WRONG VOLITION.
voluntary one, (the reader must remember, here, the absurdity which is involved in the supposition of a voluntary volition, vide p. 112, or he cannot do justice, either to the objection or the reply,) if the motive caused the volition? The only, and, as I venture to think, the obvious philosophical reply to this objection is, that he must be punished to secure a right volition in future; since this is the only way of securing that object. I would warn my readers, who, not accepting this solution, may be disposed yet further to press the difficulty, to beware how they proceed; for the objection goes deeper than perhaps they imagine. It lies not merely against the propriety of punishment under moral government, but against moral government itself. I feel some surprise that this should have been overlooked by most, if not by all, preceding writers. Moral government is, as we have seen, the government of motives. And what are motives? What can they be but happiness and misery? happiness as the result of obedient and holy conduct; misery as the consequence of rebellion? Rewards and punishments are the only means which moral government either does or can employ, to secure compliance with the will of the governor. What then is it to affirm, that, where sin has been committed, the punishment must not be inflicted because the motive produced the volition? Is it not manifestly to say that Jehovah must throw away the very means of government? Yea, that he must discontinue this mode of government altogether? For the non-execution of threatenings is the destruction of moral government.
A plain Christian man, not disposed to indulge in philosophical reasonings—perhaps not prepared for them—will probably satisfy himself with such reflections as the following: God has given to men a law which is holy, just, and goodwhich they feel and acknowledge to be so; he has bestowed upon them sufficient power to obey that law, for all the law is fulfilled in one word,-love; and he has formed them capable of experiencing the emotion of love, while his own character is most powerfully adapted to awaken it, and would awaken it were it duly considered; he sets life and death before them as the consequences of obedience and rebellion; he urges them
130 IS PREDESTINATION INCOMPATIBLE WITH EXHORTATIONS?
by the strongest motives to embrace the one, and to refuse the other; but he leaves them free to act as they choose. If they choose death, that is their fault. They do it with their eyes open; God expostulating, and warning, and entreating, and commanding them, to flee from the wrath to come. How then can they expect him—what right have they to require him—to deprive them of that fruit, though it be everlasting destruction, which they have deliberately chosen ?
OBJECTION 4th.—Predestination is incompatible with those exhortations to perseverance, and those declarations of the necessity of perseverance, which are contained in the Scriptures.
I believe the following statement will be found to comprehend the substance and force of the objection. If a man be elected to eternal life, he is as certain of its ultimate enjoyment as though he had it in possession. Does it not, then, tend to delude and deceive him, to intimate the possibility of his falling short of it? Or, to take the other side of the objection : cautions against apostasy are actually addressed, by the sacred writers, to societies of Christians, and more especially to individual Christians; does not this fact prove that their perseverance and final salvation were not secured by a Divine decree? “Give diligence,” says Peter, “ to make your calling and election sure." “ The salvation of these elect, of this chosen generation, was, therefore," says the Bishop of Lincoln, “so far from being certain, that it depended upon their diligence; their not falling was so far from being infallibly decreed, that it depended upon their doing those things that the apostle commanded."
Now, before we attempt to point out the #WTOV Toevdog of this reasoning, it may be expedient to test its validity by a case, in which we know that the preservation of certain individuals was decreed, and promised; but in which they were commanded to do certain things which are stated to be necessary to secure it. And precisely such a case, if I mistake not, is recorded in the 27th chapter of Acts. It is the account of Paul's voyage to Rome. The heavens, we are informed, during their course, gathered blackness. The light of day, and even the feeble lights of night, were entirely obscured; for
THE OBJECTION TESTED.
neither sun nòr stars for many days appeared. The tempestuous Euroclydon continued beating upon the vessel; and, in regard to their preservation, the last gleam of hope had disappeared. In these appalling circumstances, the apostle stood up
in the midst of them, and said, “ Sirs, be of good cheer, for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.” Here, then, is a case in which the preservation of certain men was secured by an infallible decree ; for Paul had derived the assurance which he conveyed to them from an angel of the Lord. And yet he immediately after declared, that, unless the sailors, who were about to abandon the ship, and leave the passengers to their fate, tarried in it, they could not be saved. Their skill and exertions were necessary to the management of the vessel ; deprived of them, all must consequently perish. According, then, to the Bishop of Lincoln's mode of reasoning, the preservation of these men could not have been determined upon by God. The very words he employs may be used here: “ Their deliverance was so far from being certain, that it depended upon their own diligence. Their not sinking was so far from being infallibly decreed, that it depended upon their doing those things which the apostle commanded.” We know, however, from apostolic testimony, on the one hand, that their deliverance was absolutely certain; and on the other, that it depended upon means -upon their own exertions. There is no inconsistency, then, between the certainty of a temporal salvation, and a necessity for the use of means. Now, if exhortations to exertions, to secure a temporal deliverance, fail to prove that that deliverance is not rendered certain by an infallible decree, it most manifestly follows that the admonitions of Peter, to which we have referred, must also fail to prove, that the “ not falling" of the strangers of the dispersion was not rendered certain by a Divine decree.
The preceding statements clearly prove that the argument of the Bishop of Lincoln is fallacious, but they do not show wherein its fallacy consists. I pass on, therefore, to observe that its radical defect is here. It assumes that, where the end is decreed, there are no means also decreed by which the end
THE FALLACY OF THE
is to be secured. The argument of the Bishop is in reality as follows. If means are necessary, the end must be uncertain : or, conversely, if the end is certain, then means are unnecessary. But if it be the case, that God invariably works by means, or effects his purposes through their influence, it follows, necessarily, that where the end is decreed, the means also are decreed ; and, conversely, that where the means for securing a certain end are not employed, the end will not be attained ;-not because the purposes of God can be frustrated, but because we may be sure that, in this case, it was not his purpose that that end should be attained. The correctness of these statements is so very apparent, and capable of such varied illustration, that one feels it to be a tax upon one's time, and patience too, to be called even to notice objections so utterly and manifestly fallacious. Let us take a very familiar illustration :-“God has determined how long the child before us shall live, for the number of his months is with him. He will live to the appointed period, and not live a moment beyond it. Suppose that period be threescore years and ten.” This, then, is the end decreed. But, to secure this end, the individual must take food, when in health, and medicine when deprived of it; and, I may add, they will be taken ; for the decree of God renders the means as certain as the end. If, in the case of another individual, these means of health and of life were steadily rejected, we should feel confident that he must die ; and equally confident that it had not been decreed that he should live. I cannot refrain from laying before the reader the following beautiful illustration of this point, by an eloquent living writer :-"God might carry every one purpose of his into immediate accomplishment by the direct energy of his own hands. But, in point of fact, this is not his general way of proceeding. He chooses rather to arrive at the accomplishment of many of his objects by a succession of steps, and by the concurrence of one or more visible instruments, which require time for their operation. This is a truth to which all nature and all experience lend their testimony. It was his purpose that, at the moment I am now addressing you, there should be light over the face of the country, and