Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

We feel bound to protest against such indecorous conduct, but we wonld not unnecessarily offend these mistaken persons. Were it in our power, we should be happy to convince them of their error, and to be instrumental in inducing them to cultivate greater watchfulness over their temper and greater caution in forming their conclusions.

Will these parties allow us to expostulate with them? They either believed themselves to be of God's elect, or as yet, they were themselves in doubt respecting their own acceptance. On the supposition that they concluded themselves to be amongst the undoubted people of God, why should they be offended, or not rather rejoice, that others were invited, and pressed to become “ partakers of the benefit?” Was this becoming? Was it christian-like?-like the conduct of those who had found mercy themselves and felt compassion for others? Not to desire that the good news should be announced to those who are “ ready to perish,” appears to us to be the true spirit of the ancient Jews, so solemnly denounced in the word of God. The fact of its existence is enough to make any one most seriously alarmed for his own state.-Suppose, on the other hand, that they had not formed a conclusion so favourable to themselves, could they then be offended at having it proved, or attempted to be proved, that they themselves need neither despair nor wait in anxious doubtfulness, but that they might take the consolation, sweet and much to be desired, that the Saviour had not excluded them, but would graciously have them also to be saved ? We fear, bowever, that there is a class of persons, who regard the belief of the doctrine of election, and the belief that they themselves are elected, as the belief of indentical facts; or, at least, that the former belief may be taken as the strongest ground for the latter, especially, if united with a ready acquiescence in the thought that a large proportion of their fellow sinners are positively, by a definite decree, cut off from any participation in the privilege. Such a class, we have reason to fear, from intercourse with certain parties, really does exist; bat how far the individuals referred to may be associated with it, we can judge only by the alarming presumption which the conduct described can scarcely fail to raise in the minds of impartial persons. We call upon them, therefore, to reflect, and re-consider the evidence on which they have built their conclusions.

If their reliance is firm on the doctrine of election, for what reason is it so, but that it is scriptural doctrine? And if this be the only ground, is not all scriptural doctrine equally worthy of confidence ? Now, as remarked by the author, the fact is unquestionable, that the doctrine affirmed in this sermon; viz. that God willeth all men to be saved, is as abundantly affirmed in scripture. It is even true, that it is much more abundantly implied, as well as ratified with greater solemnity. Like the priesthood of Christ, it is “ confirmed with an oath." There are, at its foundation, the “ immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie." Is it not, then, to be assuredly believed ? Is it not to be constantly affirmed ? Must it not be important, as well as true, equally so, with the doctrine of election ? Are we to select what we may choose from the sacred word for the only belief we will avow, and yet plead that such

partial belief is founded on the warrant of its authority ? Inconsistent, infatuated, fearful, pregnant with all possible dangers, as this practice is, yet how often, how coolly, how systematically, is it exemplified. What jeopardy will not the folly of man brave in religion ?

You believe in election, because, as you say, you find it asserted on the authority of inspiration; am I not then, on the same authority, to believe, that “God willeth not the death of a sinner, but had rather that he should come to repentance and live ?” Will you say that these doctrines cannot comport together, that they are mutually contradictory? I admit that we may form notions respecting one or both of them, which are incompatible. But such notions cannot be the doctrines laid down in scripture, and the very fact that as we conceive of them, they cannot consist together, should prove to us that we are in error, and make us open at all times to further instruction, and ready to be convinced. The shortest way, instead of further enquiry, may be to choose between them, as we fear is the practice of opposite characters; but the probability is, that by mistaking the meaning of the one we select, and renouncing the other, we, in fact, are receiving neither, as it is inculcated in scripture; and thus, while full of zeal for our own opinions, we may be really strangers to the faith of God's elect. Not unfrequently, on examination, we find that the ground of the discrepancy, in our notions on these subjects, lies in certain abstract reasonings on the divine nature. We argue as if that nature consisted but of will and power. The process of our thought is, God is a Being of almighty power. Whatever God may will, he has power to accomplish. If, therefore, he willeth that all men should be saved, all men certainly will be saved. But all men will not, in fact, be saved, for the finally impenitent perish, whence it follows that God cannot will that they should be saved, and that those parts of scripture which assert the contrary cannot be true.

What presumptuous folly is this! The proper conclusion is, that onr reasoning is founded on false notions of the divine nature. The Scriptures correct this fallacy, as they do also many other errors in our current notions on so profound a subject. From them we learn, that God, in fact, is a Being who does actually will events or results with respect to intelligent, accountable creatures, which he does not employ his almighty power to effect; and the Scriptures demand our confidence, while they thus teach that our assumption to the contrary is false. We know, indeed, that God can effect whatever he wills, but the Scriptures assure us that he does not, and for his not doing so, he must have reasons in accordance with his wisdom and dignity. It is obvious, indeed, that the word “ willeth," in these passages, is not to be taken absolutely, as if it were without regard to any other considerations, or whatever might be implicated; but it is plainly analogous to our benevolently wishing, desiring, even longing, that persons, in whom we feel an interest, would so act as to secure their own welfare, while yet, even had we the power, we might have adequate reasons for our obliging them not so to act. N.S. VOL. IV.

3 E

The God revealed in scripture is not a Being of mere power and will, but of counsel and wisdom; nor is he to be compared to an absolute despot, who knows no instrument but physical force to accomplish his purposes. He is a wise and gracious moral Governor, and that not of one class of creatures only, whom pity might incline to rescue from the results of their crimes by absolute might, but of all intelligent creatures throughout the universe. His acts maintain consistency, and having given intelligence and power of choice to a portion of created beings, he does not then treat them as if they had no such attributes, but with perpetual reference to them. Instead of effecting his will and pleasure by absolute power, he employs it only in harmony with the nature of calls, invitations, entreaties, promises, and threatenings; and so that they may always have their proper sphere of moral energy.

To this, it may be replied, is it not plainly asserted, that “ He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will ?" Undoubtedly. But “ the counsel of his will," and mere absolute determination, are far from being identical. Still it may be urged, “ Who hath resisted his will ;" Is he not " of one mind, so that none can hinder him;" anil doth he not do “ whatsoever he pleases among both the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth ?” Certainly; when he determines to employ his power for the accomplishment of his will, there are none who can resist him. He himself does all he pleases to do; but his creatures do not do all he pleases that they should do. He could, doubtless, oblige them; he could, by absolute power, at once remake them as perfect as the first man; but this he does not deem befitting his character. He does not will that they should so be saved, but still he willeth that they should be really saved. He willeth them to come to repentance, that they may be saved, and that all appropriate means should be employed for this purpose. 6. How often would I have gathered you, but ye would not." * Ye will not come to me that ye may have life.” “Your house is left unto you desolate.” These diverse cases have been technically distinguished by divines into sovereign and rectoral will. The times are unfavourable to technicalities, and the distinction has been ignorantly or nefariously misrepresented as if it involved the notion of two contrary conflicting wills a will revealed to impose upon mankind, another secret acting in opposition to it, and restraining them from obedience. The distinctions, however, are both true and important, since the most frightful errors arise from overlooking them. In some form, whatever the prejudices of the ignorant, they must be maintained and enforced.

As on this part of the complicated questions before us, a fatal reasoning, the reasoning of feeble but self-confident minds, has prevailed to induce many to disbelieve one part of the Scriptures, so the assumption that election implies reprobation, leads them to complete the mischief, by corrupting another part. In all this there is no religion, no humble submission to the authority of Scripture, but rather conceit and folly, ending, we fear, in thousands of instances, in “going down to the grave with a lie in their right hand,” and thus in

ruin. That God does elect certain persons to eternal life, seems a clear doctrine of Scripture; that he does not, by any act of his own, exclude any, is at least equally clear. When men are brought to receive the truth in the love of it, it is obvious that they are taught to acknowledge the debt they owe to the grace of God in bringing them to that happiness, and to disclaim all personal merit; but it is not less obvious that when, on the contrary, they do not receive it, but, against their own happiness, reject the counsel of God; then, they are not to ascribe this also to God, to the want of his grace, to de cree, to fatality of any sort, but solely to their own criminal folly. Whether we do, or do not see the rationale of these things, the assertion of them is not to be denied; and, therefore, to reject either the one truth or the other cannot be a light thing; but, as it appears to us, by the evident connection which such denial has with the state of mind which dictates it, is fraught with indescribable peril.

We close these remarks with an energetic appeal from the sermon before us.

“But I may be addressing some who, through fear of the Saviour's unwillingbess to receive them, have for years been kept in a state of bondage. You fear, either that you have committed some sin which the Saviour is unwilling to pardon, or that you are not of the elect. And why should you fear either of these? Has he not assured you, that if you confess your sin, whatever it may be, that he is faithful and just to forgive your sins? Is he not able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them? Did he ever cast out any who came to him in the days of his flesh ? And is he less willing to save now that he is before the throne? The very supposition is derogatory to his honour, and, could it be substantiated, would pluck the diadem from his brow-fill heaven with lamentation. Be assured that he wills your salvation more than you will it yourself. But then, if I am not elected! Here I doubt. Would that many who believe the doctrine would be ready to do the same. Yet, why should you doubt this? Are you not, by thinking of your election, beginning at the wrong end of religion? Should you not rather examine the streams which flow from election, than the source itself? Do you feel that you are lost? Are you convinced that there is salvation no where but in Christ? Are you desirous of embracing him as your Saviour? Do you hate sin, and long for holiness, as what can alone give you perfect satisfaction? If such be your experience, the name of Jesus is to you as ointment poured forth; he is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely; and your desire is to love him with a pure heart fervently. Are you not then one of the elect? Do you not love him because he first loved you? Hear what he says, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.'

“But supposing that you are not one of the elect," (rather, that there be no evidence that you are) " you have no reason to doubt his willingness to save; for he wills your salvation as sincerely as he did that of Peter or of Paul, For the proof of this we entreat you to put him to the test; and if you are not saved, let the blame rest with him, and not with yourselves. Should he reject you, you will be the first he has ever rejected ; and such a rejection would fill all heaven with dismay, and hell with the utmost exultation. It would cast a cloud over the mediatorial throne, while it illuminated the regions of darkness with joy and rejoicing. In their exultation they would exclaim, Here is a soul which the Saviour, though it came to him for salvation, would not receive;' and Satan, as the father of lies, would claim relationship with Immanuel. Were you thus to sink into hell, it would be deprived, in your case, of more than half its misery; for the loss of your soul would not be your own act, but his. And shall essen

tial truth ever become related to the father of lies, heaven lose its glory, and hell its misery? Be assured, my fellow-sinners, if you are not saved, the fault will be your own. "Escape then for your life. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.'' For he will have all men to be saved.'"-pp. 27, 28.*

THE EDITOR'S TABLE.

Maritime Discovery and Christian Missions considered in their mutual relations. By John Campbell, Author of “ Jethro." With engravings by Baxter. 8vo. London: Snow.

Baptism and the Bible Society. A Letter to the Rev. A. Brandram, M.A. on the Meaning of the Word Baptizo, and the Manner in which it has been rendered in Versions sanctioned by the Bible Society. By the Rev. Dr. E. Henderson, Theological Tutor of Highbury College. 8vo. pp. 20. Jackson and Walford.

The History of Nelly Vanner, who died April 26, 1839, aged Ten Years. Written for Children of the same age. By John Curwen. 18mo. T. Ward and Co.

Evangelical Synopsis. The New Testament of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, containing the Text according to the authorized Version, with marginal Readings and parallel Passages, and Notes explanatory and practical. By Ingram Cobbin, A.M. Royal 8vo. London: George Berger, Strand.

Essays on the Church. By a Layman. 12mo. London: R. B. Seeley.

Lectures on the Revival of Religion. By Ministers of the Church of Scotland, Glasgow: W. Collins. 12mo. London: Whittaker and Co.

The Universal Tendency on Association in Mankind, analyzed and illustrated, with Practical and Historical Notices of the Bonds of Society, as regards Individuals and Cominunities. By John Dunlop, Esq. 12mo. London: Houlston and Stoneman.

The School Girl in France. A Narrative addressed to Christian Parents. 12mo. London: R. B. Seeley.

Principles of Interpretation of the Old Testament, translated from the Institutio Interpretis Veteris Testamenti of John Henry Pareau. By Patrick Forbes, D.D. Vol. II. 12mo. Edinburgh : John Clark.

The History of Slavery, and its Abolition. By Esther Copley. Second edition, with an Appendix. 12mo. London: Houlston and Stoneman.

Be not Deceived ; 1 Cor. vi. 9. 8vo. London: Smallfield and Son.

The Illuminated Atlas of Scripture Geography; a Series of Maps, delineating the Physical and Historical Features in the Geography of Palestine and the adjacent Countries, accompanied with an Explanatory Notice of each Map, and a copious Index of the Names of Places. By W. Hughes, F.R.G.S. 8vo. London: Charles Knight and Co.

La Bruja. The Witch, or a Picture of the Court of Rome. Found among the Manuscripts of a respectable Theologian, a great Friend of that Court. Translated from the Spanish by Markophrates. 12mo. London : Hatchard and Son.

. Since this article was sent to press our venerable brother has been called from the fallible judgments of earth to the bar of his Lord and Master. He died on the 26th of May, full of years, and full of peace, and hope, and joy.

« VorigeDoorgaan »