« PreviousContinue »
THE following letters are entitled, “ The Errors of Hopkinsianism detected and refuted,” not because Mr. Williston has adopted every part of that system, nor because all its errors are here exposed : but because he apparently agrees with the Hopkinsian system in some of its most prominent features, and because those features especially are noticed. In regard to original sin, if I understand their meaning, he evidently differs from the Hopkinsians; for Dr. Emmons, who was a celebrated Hopkinsian writer, says, “ Adam conveyed neither sin, nor guilt, nor moral depravity to his descendants, by his first transgression."* But Mr. W. supposes total depravity to consist in the sinfulness of our natures,
* This quotation and others which I have made from Hopkinsian writers, are borrowed from a work called, “Con. trast between Calvinism and Hopkinsianism.” See page 71. I take it for granted, that the author has given a faithful representation of their sentiments, as he has made copious extracis, professedly in their own words. The few pas. sages I have transcribed, are as I find them in his book, not having, at present, access to the originals.
which we bring into the world with us, see. p. 30, 31, of his book. On the doctrine of Foreordination, Eternal decrees, Election and Reprobation, God's being the efficient cause of sin, Sin being for the greatest good of the universe, the Universality of the atonement, Disinterested Benevolence, Regeneration, and free-agency, there appears a perfect coincidence of sentiment between them.
In regard to the public debate which gave rise to the sermons, which are examined in these letters, perhaps it would be uninteresting and useless, to detail the particulars of it here.
The subjects handled in the five first letters were the points of debate at that time. Thus much I may be allowed
. to say, that I did not engage in the controversy, because it is my delight to dispute. I was led to it
I from a sense of duty-and from the same motive I have written.
Respecting the subjects of this investigation, ! consider them some of the most important doctrines of the Gospel; and therefore it is not a matter of indifference which system is embraced. Any system which eclipses the glory of the Divine attributes, and exculpates man from blame in his wicked conduct, must be unfriendly to the interests of religion. If man be not free, he is not responsible, not a subject of moral government, neither rewardable nor punishable, upon the principles of justice and goodness. Indeed all laws, human and divine, presuppose an ability in man to obey them. Why
does the judge pronounce sentence of condemnation upon a criminal? Is it not on the supposition that he might have done otherwise ? Whatever mysteries therefore, there may be in the science of human nature, and however difficult it may be to obviate the objections which may be urged from prescience, there is no fact more certain than this, that man is a free-agent, as it respects his moral conduct.Those gentlemen who urge the doctrine of total depravity against this truth, seem to forget one very important trait in the Gospel system, viz. the atonement of Christ, and the benefits which universally flow from it to mankind, by which they are graciously restored to the power of action.
To be an idle, indifferent spectator, therefore, while doctrines are propagated with avidity, which destroy this characteristic of man, and nullify so important a trait of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, cannot be justly considered a Christian virtue. It is not, it is true, congenial to the feelings of my mind, to enter the list of controversy, while conscious many things must be said offensive to some who are justly esteemed on many accounts. The all-important truths of God, however, are of vastly more importance than the feelings of any number of individuals, and they must be defended, although the others should be offended. However the piety and friendship of those persons who embrace the doctrines herein opposed, may be valued, the sacred truths of the Gospel are not to be tamely
sacrificed for the sake of purchasing their friendship. No candid Christian can require this.
I may have mistaken the meaning of scripture, but I cannot mistake the sincerity of my intentions, and the purity of my motives. And whatever aversion I might have to controversies of this description, I believe myself called in the present in stance, to take up my cross and follow Christ.Indeed it has been crossing to my leading inclination to consent to write and publish these letters. In doing it, however, I have satisfied my conscience, and hope to render some small service to the cause of truth and piety—and I sincerely pray, that the truth will not have suffered for having pås. sed through my hands, and that the spirit of charity and brotherly love will not be diminished by these strictures.
The reader must judge for himself respecting the sentiments and arguments in the following sheets, and make up his mind accordingly.
In regard to those passages of scripture which speak on the subject of election, the plain state of the case appears to be this, From the circumstance of God's choosing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his posterity, to whom was committed the lively oracles of truth, and through whom Jesus Christ
to come according to the flesh, they were denominated the elect, or chosen people of God. The peculiar care which God manifested towards that people, in the various privileges granted them,