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By “controls" here I understand Mr. H, to mean the doctrine of decrees as the Calvinists hold them, i.e. that “God has for his own glory fore-ordained whatsoever cometh to pass.” Now is it not possible that he has mistaken the better judgments of sinners, for “the virulence of their natural hearts"? There are many people who make no pretentions to vital piety, who, nevertheless, are persons of good judgment, and can discover a palpable contradiction in terms, as soon as any body else. How prone we are to brand every one, who sees cause to differ from us in senti. ment, with being “blind and unreasonable," and as possessing a very large share of human depravity! that sinners are as blind and unreasonable, and possess all that virulence, against the system of our opponents, which Mr. H. thinks they do, did not God according to him, decree that such should be their disposition? If God decreed that they should possess such virulence, is it 6 unreasonable" for them to feel it? What ! unreasonable to fulfil the divine decrees !! Surely this eannot be. Finally, to close his arguments upon the fifth question, he directs his readers to look at several events of divine providence, two of which he mentions. 1. The overruling of the corrupt government of the Romans, in sending the apostle Paul to Rome, 2. The overruling of the conduct of Joseph's bretheren. Here I would ask, is it the sentiment of Mr. H. that God, to have an opportunity to overrule the corruption of the Roman government, and the hatred and wicked conduct of Joseph's bretheren, decreed the corruptions of the former, and the hatred &c, of the latter? If so, we are sorry the sentiment is alleged without proof. “Now,” says he, “If God could overrule the conduct of these men without the least injury to their agency, and if in these cases, his character can be vindicated, it certainly can be in every other." Not in every
other"; for, it is presumed, it cannot be vindicated on sup. position that the corruptions of the Roman Court, and the hatred and wicked conduct of Joseph's bretheren, were brought about by the providence of God. What a sweeping argument! If the character of God can be vindicated in his overraling the wicked conduct of men, in a way cunsistent with their agency, it can be on supposition that he is the author of sin ! Grand logic, indeed! He closes his remarks on this question by asking, “is it not pride and presumption, to assert that God has not knowledge and power sufficient to govern moral agents, without intruding upon the freedom of their actions, or staining the purity of his own character ?"
I answer, it would be both--but who asserts it ? Surely none that I ever heard. No-It is from the doctrine of the Calvinistic decrees that we draw those unhappy conclusions, which are so offensive to our opponents. That doctrine, we think, “intrudes upon the freedom of men, and stains the purity of the divine character; ” and it is on this account that we oppose it. We feel, however, no disposition to accuse the supporters of that system with “pride and presumption," and as wanting of " candour,” &c. for that charity which hopeth all things and is kind, &c. teaches us that our opponents may be as sincere in their views, as we are in
Upon the whole, though, our author has had a somewhat lengthy struggle with the objection contained in the fifth question—it is not, as we think, obviated. We conclude therefore, that the scheme of theology advocated by our opponents, does “represent the great Jehovah, as insincere, ard as inviting and commanding men to do one thing, when be is determined they shall do another,"
The sixth, and last, question, under this head, contains another serious objection to the system of Mr. H. It runs thus - Does not this doctrine discourage exertions in the use of means ? »
The first effort of Mr. H. to clear his way thrcugh this objection, is the same which he used with a former one. That if the doctrine of unalterable decrees, discourages exertions, in the use of means, the same difficulty will attend a belief in the foreknowledge of God. Thus we see that he is determined that his system shall not sink under the weight of so many objections alone ; but, if it must go down, that of his opponents must go with it.
But we have already seen in a former part of this examination, that the attempt is but a miserable shift, to hide the deformity of his own sys. tem, Should he, however, succeed in raising a difficulty in the way of our theory, from the foreknowledge of God, (of which, however, we entertain no very serious fears,) he would only add another to the catalogue of those which now lay against his own, for, it would seem, Mr. H. believes, in the knowledge of God, as strongly as any one else. Did we deem it necessary, more arguments could be advanced to show that the same difficulties do not attach themselves to the theory which we embrace, as do to that of our oppo. nents—but those already advanced, are believed to be suffi. cient:
Again-Mr. H. has got up an objection against the fore. knowledge of God, as the objction of his opponents, which few, if any of them, make. And what is still more surprising, he “cheerfully grants it !” His words are these :“Should it here be objected that there is, in truth, no such thing as foreknowledge with God, but that every event, present, past, and future, are equally present with him, it is cheerfully granted." p. 78. We perfectly agree with Mr,
H. in the idea, that all things are present with the Deity, but we do not agree with him at all, in his concession, that there is not, in truth, any such thing as foreknowledge with God. Foreknowledge is the knowledge of an event, before that event transpires. In this sense, there is foreknowledge with God. But can it be that there is foreknowledge with God, and, “in truth, no such thing,” at the same time But he says, “ If all our conduct in the present world, and our final destiny in the world to conie, are now present with the Deity, it is evident that a purpose can render them no more certain.” But, I ask, would not an unalterable purpose, or decree, render them more necessary ?
If you say it could not, then it contradicts the assertion, that the “knowledge of God has no possible influence on the actions of men.” But if it be acknowledged that an unal. terable purpose or decree, does render them more necessary than the knowledge of God, then it is evident that the same difficulty does not attach itself to the system of those who hold to the foreknowledge of God, as to that of those who hold to the doctrine of predestination. To apply his argument Mr. H. produces “the duty of prayer." says he, “the hope that God will hear and answer our prayers, our only encouragement to pray ? No Sir,—for another encouragement arises from the knowledge we have that if we do not pray, we shall neither be heard or answered. Wliat en. couragement has a man to pray who firmly believes that God fras unalterably decreed whatever comes to pass ? Why, if I should be so fortunate as to be one of the elect, my prayers will be availing-or, more properly, I need not pray at all. If I am one of the reprobates, prayer will certainly be unavailing.
Turn it which way you will therefore, there is no encouragement to pray. Again, he says, “But in hearing and
• Is not,
answering our prayers, have we the least expectation that he will do any thing that he has not intended to do?" I answer no--for he always knew, in the exercise of our free agency, we should pray. Therefore, his intention to hear and answer our prayers, is predicated upon his foreknowledge of those prayers, and not upon an unalterable decree that we should unavoidably pray. Here is the mistake and error of the Calvinists. For in the exercise of free-agency, we may or may not pray, as we choose and determine. But our author it seems bas cheerfully given up foreknowledge! The whole argument proceeds upon the supposition that because all events are present to the knowledge of God, therefore he has unalterably fixed by his decree the existence of every event.
But he does not see that if this were true, we are equally doing what God has decreed we shall, whether we pray or take his name in vain. And who does not see that this utterly destroys the freedom of men, and “ discourages exertions in the use of means ?” Again says he, “and if he have intended to hear and answer our prayer in any one instance, that intention, if he be unchangeable, must be coeternal with himself.”
Does Mr. H. mean any thing different from decree, by the term "intention” here? if not, let us have it without a covering. If he have decreed to hear and answer our prayer in any one instance, that decree, if he be unchangeable, must be co.eternal with himself. Now let us have the counterpart of this doctrine. If God has decreed to damn a part of the human race, that decree, if he be unchangeable, must be co. eternal with himself. Why, then, are sinners damned ? Why, because God eternally and unalterably decreed they should be.
The existence of sin was only decreed as means of getting them there. O, error! how hast thou im. posed upon the judgments of men!
But he goes on