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Providence is impossible. If the actions of free agents may not be predetermined, it is impossible to govern and dispose the events of the universe in wisdom, or bring them to a happy issue; for by far the most frequent and momentous of these events are the acts of free agents, and their consequences. • To be unable to control them is to be unable to control the universe. We do not, as we may yet have occasion inore fully to show, admit free-agency to be such, or to involve any such, power of self-determination or contrary choice, as to be inconsistent with the previous certainty of actions. Whatever of these powers is not inconsistent with this, we do concede. It is hardly necessary to add, that in fore-ordaining acts, God, of course, foreordains all and singular the conditions and consequences thereof.
It results from the universality of God's decrees, as now set forth, that they who accept it must also accept the distinction between the decretive and preceptive will of God; i.e. inasmuch as many things occur contrary to his commands, while yet he fore-ordains all things, it must be that in these cases he purposes one thing and commands another. This cannot be evaded by any who admit the universality of his decrees or purposes. That it presents difficulties, and rises into the region of mystery, none can deny; but they are no more incumbent on us to solve, than on all others who do not reject the universality of God's decrees and providence. It is only necessary to say that the decretive will respects what, all things considered, God determines shall come to pass.
But this does not imply that he produces it, if it be sin, by his own efficiency, or that in itself he is pleased with it, or does not abhor it; but that he permits the wickedness of men to execute it," and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding and otherwise ordering and governing them in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, that the sinsulness thereof proceedeth from the creature and not from God, who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the approver of sin.” “ But
as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 1. 20).
His preceptive will simply respects what he approves and will reward in his creatures, the want or opposite of which he condemns and punishes. That in many instances he permits the opposite of what he commands, to occur, or does not prevent it, proves not insincerity.
All comparisons between the procedures proper to God and man, are of course inadequate. They can only be pressed a little way, and the parallelism must soon close, on account of the infinite distance between God and the creature. But still they may have a negative value in invalidating objections. Now, because the government of the United States takes measures to induce the rebels to give battle at a particular time and place, it does not follow that it is not sincere in forbidding all rebellion and insurrection. However, this difficulty is not of our making, and no special responsibility rests on us for its solution. All must admit that the conduct of Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and their confederates, was contrary to the command or preceptive will of God. Will any one, with whom we are here concerned, claim that it was contrary to God's decretive will ? or that herein, “they did not do whatever God's hand and counsel determined before to be done?" Or that this deed, in itself most nefarious, as in its results it was the most resplendent manifestation of God's glory in the universe, was not a part of God's eternal plan, or that its execution was left to the mere caprice and contingency of the uncertain choice of human wills ? Or, did this pre-ordination in the least impair the freedom, or lessen the guilt of these crucifiers of the Lord of glory?
Is it not declared in regard to them: “ Him (Christ] being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands, have crucified and slain (Acts ii. 23) ?"
After the foregoing statements and explanations, the
Reformed doctrines of personal and eternal election, and reprobation or preterition follow. It is only necessary to present the language of our Confession, and point to its scriptural proofs on these subjects. Chap. III. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
“ 3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death.
“ 4. 'These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
" 5. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to bis eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of bis will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
6 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, fore-ordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season ; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
“7. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
“ 8. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be landled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in bris word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel."
PsychoLOGICAL, ETHICAL, AND METAPHYSICAL PRINCIPLES
RELATED TO Theology. Before proceeding to the contested points in anthropology and soterology, it will facilitate our progress to define certain
controverted terms, as also our attitude in regard to certain psychological and metaphysical principles inseparable from such discussions. We begin with the latter:
1. As to the will. All are agreed that it is free, and that its acts or choices involve moral quality or accountability. The only question agitated is : What does this freedoin imply or involve? It involves the power of self-determination, in the sense of choosing any object or its opposite, in accordance with our preponderating desires. But we deny any power of self-determination or contrary choice beyond this, i. e. any power of determining or choosing at any given moment of choice, not only as we do choose, or as we please, but the contrary of what we desire or are pleased to choose. So far from being requisite to freedom, moral agency, and responsibility, such a power would subvert them. It would destroy the very nature of freedom, which has its being in acting as we please, or not at all. It would make it a thing of indifference, of blind haphazard, irresponsible contingency. It would leave the universe under the dominion of almighty chance, and subvert the sovereignty and universality of divine Providence. Our most intimate consciousness denies any other liberty than that already set forth, or that we can be accountable for any .fortuitous acts that spring up in defiance of our own pleasure or inclination.
The other chief psychological and metaphysical questions respect the morality of desires, feelings, and dispositions. Many contend that these are all void of moral quality in their own nature, or, at all events, beyond the point at which the will has had part in producing them. In regard to this, we hold : 1. That the acts and traits of the human soul having moral quality, have it in virtue of their own nature ; not in virtue of any originating cause back of then selves. Love to God and man is right, malice and envy are wrong, in themselves, irrespective of 'their origin. 2. The moral character of volitions depends on the feelings, desires, or intentions which prompt them, but not vice versa. If a man
determines to pull the trigger of a gun, the moral character of the volition depends entirely on the feeling and purpose with which it is done. Desires, then, do not receive from, they give to, volitions their moral character. 3. The ancient scholastic division of the mental faculties, which appears in such authors as Reid and Edwards, was into understanding and will, including under will all the non-cognitive powers. · In this sense of the word “will,” it is of course true that no desires or feelings which are not the effect of will, have moral character. But this is by no means admitting that no desires or feelings are moral which are not the fruits of will as a mere faculty of choice. It rather implies the
opposite doctrine, maintained by us, denied by our opponents.
The question whether the spontaneous feelings and desires have moral quality is to be determined, not by any a priori judgments or theories, but by the simple testimony of the unperverted consciousness of mankind, and of the sacred oracles. Now the feelings, and the desires, wbich are all dependent and consequent on the feelings, since we desire what, and only what, awakens agreeable or complacent feelings, are divisible into two great classes - the animal and rational. The animal are those which arise blindly, without any intervention of reason or intelligence, as hunger and thirst. These have no moral character in themselves. The undue inflamation or indulgence of them, voluntarily and knowingly, is culpable. In contrast to the animal are the rational feelings and desires, which are those evoked by objects apprehended by the intelligence — as pleasure in and desire for knowledge, heaven, righteousness, the service and glory of God. Now these are divisible into three classes, according as they respect objects morally good, bad, or indifferent. Feelings and desires relative to things indifferent are themselves indifferent, as in regard to colors and shapes. Feelings and desires in regard to things morally good or evil are themselves morally good or evil. This is clearly settled: 1. By the consciences of men, which condemn feelings of envy, malice, of delight in wickedness, and