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So that, putting these things together, the infinitely holy God—who always used to be esteemed by God's people not only virtuous, but a Being in whom is all possible virtue, in the most absolute purity and perfection, brightness and amiableness; the most perfect pattern of virtue, and from whom all the virtue of others is but as beams from the sun ; and who has been supposed to be, (being thus every where represented in Scripture,) on the account of his virtue and holiness, infinitely more worthy to be esteemed, loved, honoured, admired, commended, extolled, and praised, than any creature-this Being, according to this notion of Dr. Whitby, and other Arminians, has no virtue at all; virtue, when ascribed to Him, is but an empty name; and he is deserving of no commendation or praise ; because he is under necessity. He cannot avoid being holy and good as he is ; therefore no thanks to him for it. It seems the holiness, justice, faithfulness, &c. of the Most High, must not be accounted to be of the nature of that which is virtuous and praiseworthy. They will not deny, that these things in God are good ; but then we must understand them, that they are no more virtuous, or of the nature of any thing commendable, than the good that is in any other being that is not a moral agent ; as the brightness of the sun, and the fertility of the earth, are good, but not virtuous, because these properties are necessary to these bodies, and not the fruit of self-determining power.
There needs no other confutation of this notion, to Christians acquainted with the Bible, but only stating and particularly representing it. To bring texts of Scripture, wherein God is represented as in every respect in the highest manner virtuous, and supremely praiseworthy, would be endless, and is altogether needless to such as have been brought up in the light of the Gospel.
It were to be wished, that Dr. WHITBY and other divines of the same sort had explained themselves, when they have asserted, that that which is necessary, is not deserving of praise ; at the same time that they have owned God's perfection to be necessary, and so in effect representing God as not deserving praise. Certainly, if their words have any meaning at all, by praise, they must mean the exercise or testimony of esteem, respect, or honourable regard. And will they then say, that men are worthy of that esteem, respect, and honour for their virtue, small and imperfect as it is, which yet God is not worthy of, for his infinite righteousness, holiness and goodness? If so, it must be because of some sort of peculiar Excellency in the virtuous man, which is his prerogative, wherein he really has the preference; some dignity, that is entirely distinguished from any Excellency or amiableness in God; not in dependence, but in pre-eminence; which, therefore, he does
not receive from God, nor is God the fountain or pattern of it; nor can God, in that respect, stand in competition with him, as the object of honour and regard ; but man may claim a peculiar esteem, commendation and glory, to which God can have no pretension. Yea, God has no right, by virtue of his necessary holiness, to intermeddle with that grateful respect and praise, due to the virtuous man, who chooses virtue in the exercise of a freedom ad utrumque; any more than a precious stone, which cannot avoid being hard and beautiful.
And if it be so, let it be explained what that peculiar respect is, that is due to the virtuous man, which differs in nature and kind, in some way of pre-eminence, from all that is due to God. What is the name or description of that pecu. liar affection? Is it esteem, love, admiration, honour, praise, or gratitude? The Scripture every where represents God as the highest object of all these: there we read of the soul magnifying the Lord, of " loving Him with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength ;" admiring him, and his righteous acts, or greatly regarding them, as marvellous and wonderful ; honouring, glorifying, exalting, extolling, blessing, thanking and praising him; giring unto him all the glory of the good which is done or received, rather than unto men; “that no flesh should glory in his presence; but that he should be regarded as the Being to whom all glory is due. What then is that respect? What passion, affection, or exercise is it, that Arminians call praise, diverse from all these things, which men are worthy of for their virtue, and which God is not worthy of in any degree?
If that necessity which attends God's moral perfections and actions, be as inconsistent with being worthy of praise, as a necessity of co-action; as is plainly implied in, or inferred from Dr. Whitby's discourse; then why should we thank God for his goodness, any more than if he were forced to be good, or any more than we should thank one of our fellowcreatures who did us good, not freely, and of good will, or from any kindness of heart, but from mere compulsion, or extrinsical necessity ? Arminians suppose that God is necessarily a good and gracious Being ; for this they make the ground of some of their main arguments against many doc. trines maintained by Calvinists; they say these are certainly false, and it is impossible they should be true, because they are not consistent with the goodness of God. This supposes, that it is impossible but that God should be good: for if it be possible that He should be otherwise, then that impossibility of the truth of these doctrines ceases, according to their own argument.
That virtue in God is not, in the most proper sense, l'ewardable, is not for want of merit in his moral perfections and
actions, sufficient to deserve rewards from his creatures ; but because He is infinitely above all capacity of receiving any reward. He is already infinitely and unchangeably happy, and we cannot be profitable unto him. But still he is worthy of our supreme benevoience for his virtue: and would be worthy of our beneficence, which is the fruit and expressioni of benevolence, if our goodness could extend to Him. If God deserves to be thanked and praised for his goodness, He would for the same reason, deserve that we should also requite his kindness if that were possible. " What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits ?” is the natural language of thankfulness : and so far as in us lies, it is our duty to render again according to benefits received. And that we might have opportunity for so natural an expression of our gratitude to God as beneficence, notwithstanding his being infinitely above our reach ; He has appointed others to be his receivers, and to stand in his stead as the objects of our beneficence: such are especially our indigent brethren,
The acts of the Will of the human soul of Jesus Christ, neces. sarily holy, yet truly virtuous, praise-worthy, rewardable, fc.
I have already considered how Dr. WHITBy insists upon it, that a freedom not only from co-action but necessity, is requisite either to virtue or vice, praise or dispraise, reward or punishment. He also insists on the same freedom as absolutely requisite to a person being the subject of a law, of precepts, or prohibitions ; in the book before-mentioned, (p. 301, 314, 328, 339, 340, 341, 342, 347, 361, 373, 410.) And of promises and threatenings, (p. 298, 301, 305, 311, 339, 340, 363.) And as requisite to a state of trial, p. 297, &c.
Now therefore, with an eye to these things, I would enquire into the moral conduct and practices of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he exhibited in his human nature, in his state of humiliation. And first, I would shew, that his holy behaviour was necessary; or that it was impossible it should be otherwise, than that He should behave himself holily, and that he should be perfectly holy in each individual act of his life. And secondly, that his holy behaviour was properly of the nature of virtue, and was worthy of praise; and that he was the subject of law, precepts or commands, promises and rewards ; and that he was in a state of trial.
I. It was impossible, that the Acts of the Will of Christ's human soul should, in any instance, degree or circumstance, be
otherwise than holy, and agreeable to God's nature and will. The following things make this evident.
1. God had promised so effectually to preserve and uphold Him by his Spirit, under all his temptations, that he could not fail of the end for which he came into the world ; but he would have failed, had he fallen into sin. We have such a promise, (Isai. xliii. 1, 2, 3, 4.) “ Behold my Servant, whom I uphold ; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth : I have put my Spirit upon him : He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles : He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.—He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait his law.” This promise of God's Spirit put upon Him, and his not crying and lifting up his voice, fc. relates to the time of Christ's appearance on earth ; as is manifest from the nature of the promise, and also the application of it in the New Testament, (Matt. xii. 18.) And the words imply a promise of his being so upheld by God's Spirit, that he should be preserved from sin; particularly from pride and vainglory ; and from being overcome by any temptations he should be under to affect the glory of this world, the pomp of an earthly prince, or the applause and praise of men: and that he should be so upheld, that he should by no means fail of obtaining the end of his coming into the world, of bringing forth judgment unto victory, and establishing his kingdom of grace in the earth. And in the following verses, this promise is confirmed, with the greatest imaginable solemnity. “ Thus saith the LORD, HE that created the heavens, and stretched them out ; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it ; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein : I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand ; and will keep thee, and give thee for a Covenant of the people, for a Light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I am JEHOVAH, that is my name, &c."
Very parallel with these promises is another (Isai. xlix. 7, 8,9.) which also has an apparent respect to the time of Christ's humiliation on earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers; kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship; because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard thee; in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, &c."
And in Isai. 1. 5-6. we have the Messiah expressing his assurance that God would help him, by so opening his ear, or inclining his heart to God's commandments that he should not be rebellious, but should persevere, and not apostatize, or turn his back: that through God's help he should be immoveable in obedience, under great trials of reproach and suffering ; setting his face like a flint: so that he knew he should not be ashamed, or frustrated in his design ; and finally should be approved and justified, as having done his work faithfully. - The Lord hath opened mine ear ; so that I was not rebellious, neither turned away my back : I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair ; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me ; therefore shall I not be confounded : therefore have I set my face as a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me : who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary ? Let him come near to me. Behold the Lord God will help me: who is he that shall condemn me ? Lo, they shall all wax old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up."
2. The same thing is evident from all the promises which God made to the Messiah, of his future glory, kingdom, and success, in his office and character of a Mediator: which glory could not have been obtained, if his holiness had failed, and he had been guilty of sin. God's absolute promise makes the things promised necessary and their failing to take place absolutely impossible : and, in like manner, it makes those things necessary, on which the thing promised depends, and without which it cannot take effect. Therefore it appears that it was utterly impossible that Christ's holiness should fail from such absolute promises as these, (Psal. cx. 4.) “ The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec. And from every other promise in that psalm, contained in each verse of it. (And Psal. ii. 6, 7.) “1 will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have 1 begotten thee: Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, &c.” (Psal. xlv. 3, 4, &c.) “Gird thy sword on thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty ; and in thy majesty ride prosperously And so every thing that is said from thence to the end of the psalm. (See Isai. ii. 13—15. and liï. 10–12.) And all those promises which God makes to the Messiah, of success, dominion and glory in the character of a Redeemer, (Isai. chap. xlix.)
3. It was often promised to the church of God of old, for their comfort, that God would give them a righteous, sinless Saviour. (Jer. xxiii. 5, 6.) “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous branch :