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of opinion that man was created with what may be called a selt determining power, and, though fallen into a state of sin, this power is still retained; without which I cannot see how he can be accountable for his conduct. I do not pretend to say or think I am endowed with a capacity to enter minutely into the subject, yet I am fully satisfied that like causes will ever produce like ettects; for instance, suppose a man to suffer ever so much for saying or doing any thring; let him be put again into the same state, he will act the same part, if all the previous circumstances are the same ;-yea, Adaun himself would, under the like circumstances, have done the same thing again. . .
One thing more before I dismiss your first question-Wherein is the difference between saying, with the strict Calvinist, that God, for his own glory, decreed whatever should come to pass, and his arranging, connecting, fixing, and combining all things, with all the circumstances, causes, and effects say, in what doth the difference consist between these two? Only that the former, provides for and secures the endless happiness of part of the creatures, while it leaves the other part to sink into endless perdition, for doing those things which himself made necessary and unavoidable by his own absolute deeree; the latter brings all finally to that degree of glory and happiness He at first intended them to partake of,
I expect, by this time, after reading so much of what I have written concerning other persons' opinions and views of things, you will be wishing to learn my own of the first sin of Adam and its effects; to which I have no objection.
I conceive, then, that our first parents were, as God' pronounced tl'éin, very good'; 'consequently enjoyed complete happiness, so far as their nature and present state would admit, being favoured with the smiles of their gracious Creator and bountiful Benefactor, being also quite free from those turbulent passions which frequently harrass and torinent their depraved offspring. No envy, wrath, hatred, or inalice, pervaded theit hearts: and as they perfectly knew the will of their Creator, agreeable to the state in which they were placed, their happiness must therefore greatly consist in obeying it Yet notwithstanding all this, they were not impeccable, but were liable to receive iinpressions to their hurt; and the event fully shews us that was the case: for they had no sooner violated the command of their Maker, but guilt, fear, shaine, &c. took place in their minds.
The sacred history informs us, that they sought to hide themselves from the presence of God; which suggests very strongly, if it does not necessarily imply, that they had contracted, conceived, ot received, '1 principle or spirit of enmity against God; the language of which was,
Depart from 'us," &c. and indeed the account given in Gen. iii. appears to represent them as having no desire of any more communion with their Maker, which I think could arise from no other cause than from a spirit of enmity, &c.
Now please to observe; it strikes me, that, as the blessing of procreation had not taken effect before the defection of the first pair therefore their children, being all begotten after their defedtion, must
necessarily be brought into the world in the very sime image themselves had contracted, personal guilt only excepted.
It is probable you are really to ask how my views of the fall of Adam and its effe&is are more consistent with the righteousness and equity of the Most Iligh than those I oppose?
I answer; as to our first parents, we cannot think they came out of the hands of their Maker any otherwise than perfectly pure, free from the least degree of moral defeat, as mentioned before. But as that state of purity and happiness could not be constantly and perpetually preserved, without the concurrence of their own free will, it may therefore be reasonably concluded, that they should be created liable to be teinpted, and to receive impressions much to their hart, nor from the mere arbitrary will of God, but it appears necessary, as' without it they .could not be in a state of trial or probation. They however abused their liberty and freedom of will,' whereby they fell into a state of sin, guilt, and depravity, and lost all they could, both for themselves and their posterity; and every impression they received appears to me to falf equally on their offspring as on themselves, (at least they are liable thereto) their own personal guilt excepted. Yet, in the fulness of the times, it will fully appear, that none of their children will have the least cause of complaint against them; for whatever Adam might receive of suffir, as the natural effect of his first sin, or whatever his descendants may receive in consequence thereof, it will all be put away by the Lord Jesus Christ, (who is the second Adam) as though it had never existed : and through the seed of the woman, both our first parents, and all their posterity, are brought under such a dispensation of grace, as puts it in their power to arise to a state of happiness, far exceeding any thing which the Scripture gives us concerning Adam in the Garden of Eden.
It was not the first sin of Adam, nor any thing which he might do, as the natural consequence of any depravity received thereby, that could tender hinn liable to the second death; and as it could not subject him thereto, sò neither could it any of his offspring; for that punishment will arise from a very different cause.
You know, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is called the gospel of the grace of God,--the gospel of salvation; that Christ gave the commission to the apostles to go into all the world, to preach it to every creature, saying, “ He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Christ said unto the Jews, “ Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." He also said unto them, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Without multiplying passages of this kind, I will only add the words of the apostle, who, speaking of such as “ obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," says, “ they shall be punished with everlasting (aionion) destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Hence I conclude, and think very justly, that it is not the first sin of Adam, nor for any depravity received from him, or any thing naturally arising from such depravily, that will immediately or remotely, directly or indirectly, subject or render liable any of the human race to suffer the second death; no, that will arise from their unbelief of the gospel, hatred and opposition to the person, character, office, and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the above statement be a just one, then it will follow, that po sinner of mankind will be cast into what is called hell, merely for sins committed against the moral law, they being all laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and for which he was made a sin-offering and bore the curse.
But as men have, by their sins and transgressions, so deeply polluted the conscience and all the powers and faculties of the soul, they must therefore endure the awful effects thereof until they are reduced to such a state of mind as to be willing to receive deliverance therefrom by him they so much and long despised, and whose gospel they treated with disregard and contempt.
I will now attend a little to your other question, namely“.
Have men, as sinners, sufficient power so to attend unto the gospel as to be saved by it? Or have they, through sin, rendered themselves incapable thereof without supernatural assistance from God over and above the gospel word ?
I answer : you know it is fully admitted with us, that Jesus Christ suffered and died to make atonement for all mankind; that he gave himself a ransom for all; that the gospel is an universal address to all where it comes; that it is calculated for and hath a natural tendency to save all who hear it; that it is perfectly eligible to them in the very state they have reduced themselves to by their sips; that they are earnestly called upon, and in the most sympathizing language invited, to incline their ear to hear, that they might be saved ; they are also told the dreadful consequences of not hearkening thereto: yet, notwithstanding all this, there are some of my friends, whom I much esteem, who uniformly state things in such a manner as to convey the idea that the state of the sinner's mind is such as renders it iinpracticable for him to attend unto the gospel, or to enjoy the blessing of the forgiveness of his sins, except the Lord, by some unknown or secret influence, effectually tend and attract his will thereto. Now if this is not to make the word yea and nay, I know not what is so. For can any thing be more evidently contradictory and absurd, than to say that the gospel of the grace of God is quite eligible to the state of the sinner, and at the same time to maintain, that, on account of the depravity of his mind, it is impossible for him to attend unto it, so as to be saved, unless the Most High, by some secret infuence, attract his mind in such a manner as shall most assuredly and effectually incline his will to attend thereto honestly and sincerely? I should therefore be very glad if some one of those persons who speak in the above manner, would inform us what they mean when they say, that the gospel is calculated to the wretched state of the sinner's mind, and that it is perfectly eligible to him in that state; yet that he cannot enjoy the blessing without the special influence of the spirit, over and above what the gospel word contains ?
I have heard this thing stated differently, but cannot perceive which way it mends the matter. It is as follows The cause why some persons enjoy deliverance froin guilt in the conscience, and partake of the salvation revealed in the gospel, is not in consequence of a more
seadiness of mind to search the Scriptures, or of a more tractability of will to obey the gospel than others, but because the Lord, in the course of his providence, places them in such and such stations in life, and bringing them into such and such circumstances, which make such impressions on the mind, as brings them to a serious pause, and thereby are brought honestly to attend unto and search the Scriptures and to obey the gospel. But how does this mend the matter?-For, according to this statement, it would seem, that all who are not favoured with those providential circumstances will as certainly miss of the salvation spoken of, as though none such had been provided for them; for no effe&t can take place without a cause; so that if the cause be wanting, no effect can follow.
To conclude_I have endeavoured to answer your questions in as few words as I could : and now will ask you what you think of it? Has the above way and manner of stating the doctrine a tendency to represent either the gospel or its author in an amiable light? On the contrary, if, on account of any depravity, whether hereditary or self-contracted, the sinner cannot attend to the gospel in the manner and spirit he is called upon and commanded to do, and is to receive condemnation for not doing it, is not such a representation little better than making the whole a mere farce? And hath it not also a natural tendency to cause men to become Atheists or Deists? Iam verily of the opinion that it would not reflect so much dishonour on the Deity, to say there is no God, as it is to represent him in such a light as some do.
I am, however, very far from denying all divine communications and special influences on the human mind; for the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament shew that the Most High hath, in a peculiar and special manner, called some unto himself to answer the designs of his universal providence and grace to mankind at large: what' I mean is, that it is not his usual and ordinary way, for reasons already mentioned.
To add no more, if yourself, or any other who may read the above, shall conceive that I have not represented persons and things in a just light, and will be kind enough to endeavour to point, out my errors and mistakes, they shall have the thanks of,
Your very sincere friend, &c. WISEECH.
SEE 'PAGE 232.
SIR, READING over No. XLII. p. 232, of your Miscellany, I found a
piece intiiled, “ Thoughts on a Plurality of Elders," by Mr. T., on which I beg leave to make a few observations.
I am fully persuaded in my own mind, that Christian assemblies, os churches, are perfectly distinct from each other, and independant, as it relates either to doctrine or practice. Mr. T. says certain doubts have risen in his mind npon a closer view of the subject. But what has the dependance or independance of churches on each other to do with a plurality of elders ? Surely a plurality of elders may or may not exist among them, whether they are dependant or independant on each other.
It is true, the New Testameni says not a word about the churches of Jerusalem, of Corinth, or of any other great city; and I think the reason is as plain as the observation is easy. That expression, " the church which was at Jerusalem," Acts, viii. 1. is empliatic, and clearly proves that there was but one church there.
It is granted, that the members of this church were very numerous, and that sometimes they met privately; but that this was their stated conduct is denied. Sometimes they met publiciy in the Temple; and it was at a public meeting that three thousand were converted. I think, from the general history of the church at Jerusalem, their meetings mostly were public, except when they were under a state of persecution; and then it does not appear that tliey had any stated or regular mcetings, for the historian expressly says, “ they were all scattered "
Now surely a church scattered through persecution is nota fit model to forin others by. But Ms. T. says, “ They met in retired hlacesthe upper rooms of houses." It is astonishing to me how Mr. T. - upon a close view of the subjeci," should so mistake nouns singular for the plural number. The word church, it seems, according to him, ought to be understood churches; and the phrase “ an upper room," must mean “retired places-upper rooms of houses."
But Mr. T. males another assertion which I must take some notice of
" They had not any place large enough to hold the whole body of Christians together." Does Mr. T. possess a perfect knowledge of all the buildings (at least as ii respects dimensions) standing in Jerusalem in the days of the apostles? If he does not, how came he to make such an assertion. But it seems as though Mr. T. could supply what the New Testament says not a word about: if this is his general mode of argument, no wonder he has “ doubts rising in his mind.”