Page images

vented the sins of one human being to the present time, or had he brought to repentance one sinner more than he has, who can prove that the requisite interposition for the purpose, would not result in a vust increase of sin in the system, including even the apostacy and augmented guilt of that individual?" p. 33.

If his language have any just meaning, and his argumentation any intelligible object, these passages are indisputably, in every essential particular, fully equivalent to each other. In place of there being a new and different “supposition" introduced in the latter, between the remark, “ be this as it may,” and the statement, “ but the question is, what could God have done to secure such a result;" the supposition on which he founds the last inquiry, is obviously identically the same as that on which he had before proceeded. The only difference is, that the object of his former question is to know how it can be proved from facts, that God could have prevented all sin, or the present degree of sin, without the influence derived from punishment; and that of the latter, how it can be proved that had he dispensed with that influence, in any degree or instance, by preventing any one, or number of the particular sins which he now suffers men to commit, it would not have resulted in an increase, in place of a diminution, of the general sum of sin. The ground then, and object of his inquiries, in each of these instances, his terms, his argument, and his meaning, are identically the same ; and in avowing and repeating the latter, as he bas, as presenting the real and whole question at issue between him and Dr. Woods, and affirming that neither Dr. W. nor any one else can refute the assumption on which he proceeds in it, he has given the most abundant evidence that in penning it originally in the note, in place of reasoning ex concessis, he was

as truly and exclusively employed in exhibiting his own views, and prompted in it by as perfect a confidence in their accuracy, as he was in the composition of the above passages in the Spectator, in which he repeats and unequivocally sanctions its language and reasoning, as expressing his own opinion!

From these considerations it is apparent, that all the facts and appearances in the case are wholly against his statement, that he offered the queries and assertions of the note in question, “ merely as an argument ex concessis,” as completely as they can be against a similar pretense in respect to any other passage in his discussions; and that accordingly, if we are guided in our judgment respecting it by the usual laws of evidence, we shall reject his statement, and regard him as having penned the passage for the sole purpose of expressing his own, in place of the opinions of his opponents. If, on the other hand, disregarding these facts, we assent to his statement, we shall then be forced to the conclusion, that no assurance can be felt that his genuine intentions in any of his language can ever with any certainty be known. His own asseverations themselves obviously can never add any confirmation either to our convictions or doubts respecting his meaning; as no certainty can be possessed that they may not also be disclaimed, invested with a new signification, or converted into a statement of bis opponents' opinions, whenever the “pressure of new objections” may require such a course in order to their effectual refutation!”

Such are the principal characteristics of this gentleman's theoretical and controversial “plan.” The essentials of his theoretical system, consist, it is seen, of three great articles : the denial on the one hand, of the possibility of God's go

verning his creatures, or constituting a certainty of the manner in which they will act ; and consequently a denial of all the doctrines of reason and revelation which assert or imply his supreme dominion over them, and the causes that influence their agency: the assertion on the other, ihat a cause is lodged in their physical nature, which, while they remain unregenerate, constitutes an invincible certainty that they will sin in all their agency: and finally the theory of an innumerable congeries of permanent volitions and perceptions in the mind, as causes of all transient and subordinate volitions.

His controversial "plan" consists of a single elementthe assumption and exercise of the right of ascribing to his own, and the language of others, precisely whatever meaning his wants and wishes at any stage of his progress in controversy, may happen to require.

From these characteristics, then, of the system, it is sufficiently apparent, that its disciples, if it have any, must sooner or later secede from their present connexions, and form a distinct sect. To imagine that the orthodox can ever confound this hideous mass of error and absurdity, with what they regard as the essential doctrines of the gospel, or persuade themselves that the process through which its disciples must pass, in order to become its admirers and propagators, can be best adapted to fit them to be ministers of Christ, were alike an affront to christianity and to them. Nothing more can be requisite to accomplish the exclusion of its adherents from the ranks of the orthodox, than a clear discernment of the import and tendency of its doctrines; nor any thing more to lead its disciples to an open secession from that body, and disavowal of the evangelical system, than a distinct perception of the conclusions to which

their principles are fitted to carry them, and courage and consistency to follow them to their legitimate results. How, if they comprehend the import of their dogmas, can they continue to believe or profess the doctrines of efficacious grace, while they openly deny the possibility of God's exerting an influence that shall possess any efficacy in determining the actions of men ? How can they continue to maintain a real or apparent faith in the doctrines of God's purposes, and fore-knowledge, election and perseverance, while they formally deny the possibility of his constituting a certainty of a future event in the agency of his creatures, and thence of his possessing any knowledge of their future charter and destiny. It is clearly impossible. They only need intellect and light enough to pass through the simplest and most unavoidable process of which the mind is capable the perception of the equality of equal or coincident propositions

to be carried inevitably by their system, if they adhere to it, to the rejection of every doctrine and declaration of the gospel that relates in any degree to the future character and condition of dependent intelligences.

It will carry them likewise with equal certainty to the disbelief of most of the natural and moral attributes of the Deity, It denies on the one hand the possibility of God's preventing sin in any instance in which it takes place ; and on the other, that the reason that he permits it, is, that it is better to permit it, than it would be to prevent it, were that practicable ; and thence exhibits its existence, as the ground of more evil immeasurably, than the good which is made to result from it. These positions therefore, united, represent the Most High as creating and upholding innumerable multitudes of beings, whose existence and agency, after all his efforts to counteract their evil influences, are infinitely

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

detrimental to his kingdom. If such however is the fact, it obviously detracts equally from the perfection of his natural attributes and moral character. How in any consistency with them, can it be accounted for, that he creates and sustains those beings, or any of them ? Does he perfectly foresee from the beginning all the events of their existence, their successful resistance of his efforts to govern them, and the immense and lasting injury which they inflict on his empire ? For what reason then is it that he gives them being ? Is it from some motive presented by the effects of their existence? If so, it must obviously be, either from some moral good that can be made to result from their agency, by the counteracting efforts of his wisdom, or else from delight in that agency itself, or its punishment. The former, however, the system expressly denies; and to assert the latter, is to deny alike the wisdom and benevolence of God. To escape then this detraction of his character, is it assumed as the scheme necessarily implies—that he does not and cannot foresee the events of their agency, and thence that he gives them existence and upholds them, in total uncertainty of all that is future in their history, but with the intention of making every effort in his power to secure them in holiness and happiness, and with the hope of success ? But this denial of his prescience involves an equally fatal impeachment of his character. For it not only divests all the promises, predictions and threatenings of his word, which have

any reference to the actions of his creatures, of every shade of veracity, but denies his knowledge of immeasurably the greatest portion of the future events which most intimately concern his happiness and glory, and thence sweeps from our grasp, every certainty of his wisdom and goodness. What but infinite presumption and folly could it be to create

« PreviousContinue »