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THE PREDESTINATING DECREE EMANATES
being and of blessedness, who owes nothing to any of his creatures, as creatures, and has a most unquestionable right to do what he will with his own. The superior favour, which, according to the Calvinistic scheme, he manifests towards some of his creatures, is not displayed to them as subjects of his moral government, but as the creatures of his power; upon whom he has a most unquestionable right, as we have already proved, to bestow whatever measure of good he pleases. It is difficult to see how our opponents can refuse to accede to the propriety of this distinction; for if it be true, as they affirm it is, that there can be no inequality or difference in the conduct of God as a moral Governor towards his subjects,and if it be further true, as it unquestionably is, that there exists a great disparity as to the actual amount of good which different orders of intelligent beings receive from him, how can they account for the bestowment of the superior measures of good, without supposing that Jehovah sustains a double relation to mankind, in one of which relations it may be competent for him to do what in the other would either be inexpedient or improper ?
The point we are now considering deserves, and perhaps demands, a little more elucidation.
The predestinating decree then, let it be observed, was not passed by God in his rectoral character, or as the moral Governor of men. It emanated from him as a Sovereign, retaining the right, as we have seen, (vide p. 21,) even after the establishment of a system of moral government, (the establishment of which merely binds him to render unto all their due,-and to refrain from doing what might tend to frustrate the great object sought to be attained by that government,) to bestow what measure of good upon his creatures may seem right in his sight. Precisely similar remarks may be made in reference to the execution or accomplishment of this decree in the actual salvation of its subjects. Indeed, election, and effectual calling, are so necessarily the subjects of the same moral character, that they may be considered as one act: at all events, the remarks which apply to the one are clearly applicable to the other. The views, then, which
FROM GOD AS A SOVEREIGN.
we entertain upon this important subject may be thus farther developed. *
Contemplating, as Jehovah did, the whole race of man as lying in a state of condemnation and depravity, in consequence of their apostasy, and as being utterly unable to rescue themselves, he graciously determined, as a Sovereign, to provide an adequate basis for their salvation. He resolved, on the ground of an atonement of infinite value to be made in the fulness of time by his Son, that pardon should be offered to the human race generally,—that commissioned messengers should carry the proclamation of mercy to every creature under heaven,—that they should testify of the value and efficacy of the Saviour's blood, --invite all, without exception, to come and wash in it, that they might experience actual deliverance from guilt and pollution,—and declare that whosoever believed their testimony should be saved, while all who rejected it should be condemned.
The execution of this astonishing plan led to the establishment of a grand system of moral government in the world, the basis of which is sovereign mercy. Its laws, designed to show men their awful state,-its invitations to return back unto God,-its promises of acceptance with him if they comply with these invitations, and its threatenings of future punishment if they reject them, constitute the instruments of this government. Now, as the gospel which contains these precepts, and invitations, and promises, and threatenings, is commanded to be preached to every creature, and as it would have been enjoyed by all men, had the church been obedient to the heavenly command, and had men in general been as zealous in the pursuit of spiritual, as they are of worldly blessings, it is manifest that the conduct of God, as the moral Governor of
* I cannot but apprehend that a part of the objection which is felt by many against the doctrine of election results from the following misconception. They seem to imagine that God's choice of the elect immediately rescues them from condemnation ; not taking into their account the avowed and recorded sentiments of most Calvinists at least, that the fall of Adam was succeeded by a dispensation of mercy which set open the door of hope to all men ; and that election only secures the deliverance of the elect from condemnation, by disposing them to accept that mercy which is freely offered to all.
THE PREDESTINATING DECREE EMANATES
men, is marked by perfect uniformity and impartiality. There is not the slightest difference in his proceedings towards the, whole of the human family, in this character or relation. In reference to those who possess the gospel, (and we need not for the present carry our observations beyond them,) it is manifest that he does not prescribe one law for this man, and another for that; that he does not promise mercy to some transgressors, and not to others; but that, on the contrary, he requires the same conduct from all; addresses the same invitations to all ; offers the same inducements to all ; issues the same threatenings and promises to all ; and, finally, that he will deal with all that accept the offered mercy, and with all who reject it, precisely alike at the great day of account. “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” If, in addition to this, he touches the hearts of some by his grace, and so secures the origination of a disposition to sue for mercy, which Calvinism allows and teaches ; ; or if he decrees to do this, which is the same thing as far as the difficulties of the subject are considered, he does this, not in his public, but in his private character, i. e., not as a moral Governor, but as a Sovereign. He does it as JEHOVAH, the exclusive source of being and of blessedness, who did not and could not deprive himself, by establishing a system of moral government, of his inherent right to impart to his creatures any species or any degree of good which is not incompatible with the great ends of that government. Suppose a number of individuals had thrown off the yoke of subjection to a temporal monarch; suppose they were tried on the charge of having been found in arms against the government-were found guilty and condemned. “ They must be dealt with," say our opponents, “ alike. If a proffer of pardon be made to one, on condition of his sending to the sovereign an humble petition for mercy,
it must be made to all. If one be executed, all,” they affirm, “must be executed; since, on the supposition of there being no shade of difference in their guilt, it would be unjust to pardon one, and execute the rest.” Now suppose we were obliged to acknowledge the truth of these assertions, might we not address to the objector the following inquiry?
FROM GOD AS A SOVEREIGN.
The judge who tried these unhappy individuals is obliged, you say, as a judge, to deal with all alike; but is he not a man, as well as a judge? And if in his private capacity he choose to use his influence with some of their number (in whom various circumstances had led him to take especial interest) to induce them to humble themselves before the sovereign--to confess their crime, and to sue for mercy, (supposing them to be averse to do this, which is true of all sinners ;) or, if he could go beyond the power of moral suasion—could touch and subdue their rebellious spirits by an energy above that which is granted to man, and thus induce them to implore that pardon without which he cannot, as a judge, dispense it,--what objection could be reasonably urged against his doing either the one or the other? What injustice would be done to those on whom, as a man, he exerted no such influence? What obligation towards them would he violate? All that could be said would be, that, while he left the latter to the operation of strict equity, as he had a clear right to do, he manifested undeserved kindness to the former. And what is this but the doctrine of election, or of effectual calling, which is the accomplishment of its merciful decree?
Should it be said that it is not enough for the moral Governor merely to open the door of mercy, and thus to offer salvation to all,—that, in addition to this, he must impart the disposition to accept of it, I answer, that this cannot be the case, because, in point of fact, he has not imparted this disposition to all, (to deny that he could have produced the disposition is to sink into Atheism,) and, therefore, cannot be under an obligation to impart it. I answer, further, that all that God is bound to impart are, physical capacities of understanding, believing, loving, choosing, obeying, &c.,--and those moral means and inducements which are in themselves adapted to originate the state of mind which he requires--NOT THE STATE OF MIND ITSELF.
Should our opponents further reply, that they only mean to affirm that the moral Governor is bound, on the Calvinistic doctrine of the entire impotence of man to every thing that is spiritually good, to impart the disposition, I answer, first,
A DISPOSITION TO OBEY IS NOT DUE
that this entire impotence of man, without the aid of grace, is claimed by Mr. Watson, as an Arminian as well as a Calvinistic doctrine; and that the common grace, of which they speak, does not impart the disposition; the difficulty is, then, as great with them as with us. I answer, secondly, that the objection is founded on the principle, that Jehovah cannot with any propriety invite, entreat, or command a man to do any thing which he is morally unable to do, or, in other words, indisposed to do; for moral inability to do that which is good, is nothing more than indisposition to do that which is good.
And, maintaining this principle, they must either deny, on the one hand, that the word of God addresses invitations, entreaties, and commands to sinners; or deny, on the other hand, that sinners are morally unable to comply with them. If they choose the former part of the dilemma, they run into Antinomianism ; if they choose the latter, they virtually deny the total depravity of man, previous to his conversion to God; for if there be in the case of any man power, in the sense of disposition, to do what is spiritually good, that man is a holy
Thus, the notion of common grace does not extricate them from the objection which they urge against Calvinism; for either it gives the disposition to accept the salvation which God offers to all men, or it does not. If it give the disposition, then a sinner is holy before he is regenerated, which Arminians do not allow. If it do not give the disposition, then common grace leaves an individual as much destitute of power to do what God commands, and to work out his own salvation, as they are in the habit of contending he is left by the scheme of Calvinism.
From the whole, it appears that physical capacities—moral means and inducements, constitute the ground of accountability ; that these the moral Governor bestows upon all men ;
-so that his conduct in that relation is distinguished by absolute impartiality-obligation being in all cases proportioned to privilege.
It further appears, that, without some other influence besides that of moral means, sinners will not, in point of fact,