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Explanation of 1 Cor. x. 13.--Also of 2Tim. ii. 18, 19,
CHAPTER I. On the Universal Government of God. WHOEVER carefully peruses the four first, and some other sections of the Christian's Instructer," lately published by the Rev. Josiah Hopkins, of New Haven, Vt. will find some of the most important doctrines of our holy religion; and although there is nothing materially new, either in sentiment or proof, yet it is matter of rejoicing that on some of the most essential doctrines different denominations are agreed.
In my remarks, therefore, I shall confine myself chiefly to what are deemed the exceptionable parts of that work.
A few reflections on the Divine character may serve as a further introduction to our remarks. God is infinite in all his divine attributes. By this is meant that he is unbounded by any but himself. Every view we take of the operations of the Supreme Being in his vast dominions, shows that each attribute holds a distinguished rank in the divine character; so that the most perfect harmony is manifest, and an eternal equilibrium preserved throughout the whole. To be a little more explicit: such is the truth of God, that it is impossible for him to lie, Heb. vi. 18.
God is Almighty, yet he does not do all that omnipotence is capable of doing ; and the reason is obvious, it is inconsistent with wisdom and goodness. So wisdom is capable of devising a way by which every child of fallen Adam should unavoidably be saved; but justice and the relation which man sustains to God as a free and accountable agents render it inconsistent except upon the conditions of the gospel. Thus also, we see not why divine justice might not have doomed all our fallen race to endless wo and misery; but goodness and mercy rendered such a step inconsistent, till a probation or state of trial should be granted to all who are capable of being the subjects of a moral government ; and, such is the divine benevolence, that the salvation of all others, (say infants and idiots,) is secured unconditionally.The same principle of reasoning will apply in every
y view we take of the divine character; nor is the conclusion just from hence, that Gud is at war with himself, while every attribute harmonizes with the rest in every step of the divine procedure, Nor yet again is it just to conclude from hence, that God acts from any other necessity than what is the result of the most consummate perfection.
Keeping these remarks in view, let us proceed to an exam. ination of the fifth section of the work before us. This section is entitled “Universal government of God;" in it we have two doctrines distinct in their natures, (and I think sources too,) so mixed and interwoven with each other, that they are rather calculated to bewilder than to instruct. On this account, and to make what I have to remark on this subject plain and distinct, I shall consider it in two parts.
First, in answer to the question, “What are we to underStand by the universal government of God?" it is stated to be, “That universal and infinitely wise arrangement, and effectual control of every event, by which he will secure his
own glory, and promote the greatest possible good of the universe."
As Mr, Hopkins professes to be a firm believer in the free agency
of man, it is presumed he would not be understood by the above statement, that God, by any “arrangement” or. "control," impairs in the least man's freedom, upon
'which his accountability rests; and if so, all he has said, (which adheres to this sentiment,) is no more than every believer in the Bible would cheerfully admit. That God does by a most wise, holy, and universal providence, govern the world, is at once a most important and comfortable truth of our holy religion. But what a pity that a doctrine so true in itself, and so important both to the character of God, and the happiness of man, should be united with, and made the channel of conveyance to one of the most pernicious errors that was ever proposed for the reception of the public. This error is the more dangerous, 1. because it is revived and propogased by a good man, and a public teacher of religion, 2. Because it is so blended with truth that is the more likely to take with the incautious reader. It may be proper here to state how far we consider that the overruling providence of God extends its influence in the government of the world of rationals.
Having created man a free and accountable agent, the Lord determined to treat him as such. This being granted, no one, it is presumed, will assert that it is possible for God to cross this line of administration, and exert any influence upon man which would in any measure destroy his accountability. This line of the divine conduct must remain unalterable, though the whole world should perish; for it is founded in the very nature and fitness of things, and the very existence of it shows that it originated in the most consummate wisdom. Considering this principle then as one of the immoveable
pillars of the divine administration, we suppose that God, by a most wise and holy providence, does so restrain and govern wicked men, and devils, in the affairs of nations, families, and individuals, as to secure his own glory, and promote the greatest possible good of the universe under existing circumstances. Since sin has been introduced by man, infinite goodness prompts the Deity to take every advantage that can be consistent with his moral government of the world, to secure his own glory, and promote the greatest possible good. But this, it is presumed, is by no means the greatest possible good that would have resulted from the contingal obedience of man to the first covenant. I should consider myself in a difficult spot indeed, were I reduced to the necessity of supposing that the All wise and great Jehovah was dependent on the introduction of the very thing which he had prohibited on pain of eternal damnation, for the security of his own glory, and the greatest possible good of the universe! From this view of the subject, we may safely conclude that God, without having any thing to do with producing the sin of Joseph's brethren, might, when that sin was produced, overrule their conduet for his own glory, and the greatest possible good. The same remark will be found just in every view we take of the divine administration. I conclude then from the whole, that Mr. Hopkins will not find such “violent hostilities," and "unreasonable prejudices" against this branch of doctrine as he was aware he should.
The second, and exceptionable point, and the one Mr. H. ** labours especially to prove, is what I shall take the liberty to calt decrees, or fore-ordination. I think myself warranted in the use of the former of these terms at least, as Mr. H. (page 163,) uses the same when speaking of the section under
* I take the liberty of using the letter H. for the name of Mr. Hopkins, as it will save both time and labour.