Page images
PDF
EPUB

light to the sun, and a horribly glaring comet, which draws its fiery tail over the earth, to smite it with an eternal curse, and to drag with merciless necessity a majority of its frightened inhabitants into everlasting burnings.

2. Our gratuitous reprobation is not a reprobation from all saving grace, as that of the Calvinists: but only from the superior blessings of saving grace. It is therefore as contrary to Calvinian reprobation, as initial salvation is contrary to ensured damnation. It is perfectly consistent with the free-gift which is come [in various degrees] upon all men to justification. We steadily assert with Christ and St. Paul, that the saving grace of God hath appeared unto all men, and that all the reprobates of superior grace, that is, all who are refused three, four, or five talents of grace, receive two, or at least one talent of true and saving grace. There never was a spark of Calvinian free-wrath in God against them. They are all redeemed with a temporal redemption. They have all an accepted time and a day of initial salvation, with sufficient means and helps to work out their own [eternal] salvation according to their gospel-dispensation. We grant that God does not bestow upon them so many of his gratuitous favours, as he does upon his peculiar people. But if he gives them less, he requires the less of them; for he is too just to insist upon the improvement of five talents from those servants, on whom he has bestowed but one talent.

To understand this perfectly, distinguish between the two gospel-axioms, or, (if you please) between the doctrines of Grace and the doctrines of Justice. According to the former, God, with a partial hand, bestows upon us primary, and merely gratuitous favours. And, according to the latter, he with an impartial hand, imparts to us secondary and remunerative favours. God's primary and merely gratuitous favours depend entirely on his partial grace: So far all Christians should agree with Calvin, and hold with him the doctrine of grace. But God's secondary, remunerative favours, depending on his rewarding, grace, conditional promise and distributive justice, depend of consequence, in some degree, on our free-agency: for our free-will, by making a bad or a good use of God's primary favours, secures to us his righteous punishments or gracious rewards, that is, his secondary favours. And herein all Christians should agree with Arminius. By thus joining the peculiar excellencies of Calvinism and Arminianism, we embrace the whole gospel, and keep together the doctrines of grace and justice, which the partial ministers of the two modern gospels rashly tear asunder.

3. Many of the persons, who have been reprobated from superior favours by partial

grace, have been eternally saved by improv ing their one talent of inferior favour; whilst some of those, who had a large share in the election of distinguishing grace, are (it is to be feared) condemned for the non-improvement or abuse of the five talents, which that grace had richly bestowed upon them. Who for example, will dare say that Melchisedec, Esau, Jonathan, and Mephibosheth, are damned, because they were reprobated with respect to the peculiar favours, which God bestowed upon Abraham, Jacob, Daivid, and Solomon? Or that Judas, Ananias and Sapphira were saved, because they were all three chosen and called to the highest blessings, which distinguishing grace ever bestowed upon mortals,-the blessings of the new covenant, which is the best covenant of peculiarity; and, because Judas was even cho. sen and called to the high dignity of the Apostleship, in this excellent covenant?

4. We all know how fatal Calvinian re probation must prove to those who are its miserable subjects. A man may be seized by the plague and live. But if that fatal decree, as drawn by some mistaken theologists, seize on ten thousand souls, not one of them can escape: their hopes of salvation are sacrificed for ever. But the gratuitous election and reprobation, which the scripture maintains, are attended with as favourable circumstan. ces, as the elections and reprobations mentioned in the following illustrations.

While the sun is alone elected to gild the day, the moon, though reprobated from that honour, is nevertheless elected to silver the night, in conjunction with stars of different brightness.-The holy place of the temple was reprobated, with respect to the glory of the Holy of Holies: it contained neither the cherubim nor the mercy-seat, nor the ark of the covenant; but yet, it was elected to the ho nour of containing the golden alter, on which the incense was burned.-The court of the priests was reprobated from the honour of containing the golden alter, but yet it was freely elected to the honour of containing the brazen alter, on which the sacrifices were of fered. As for the court of the Gentiles, though it was reprobated from all these honourable peculiarities, yet it was elected to the advantage of leading to the brazen alter; and the Gentiles, who worshipped in this court, not only heard at a distance the music of the priests, and discovered the smoke which ascended from the burnt offerings; but when they looked through the open gates, they had a distant view of the brazen altar, of the fire which descended from heaven upon it, and of the lamb which was daily consumed in the fire. And therefore they were no more absolutely reprobated from all interest in the daily sacrifice, than Caiaphas was absolutely elected to an inadmissible interest in the daily oblation, in which his near attendance

at the alter, gave him the first right. Once more, the Tribe of Levi was elected to the honour of doing the service of the sanctuary; an honour, from which eleven tribes were reprobated. And, in that chosen tribe, the family of Aaron was elected to the priest. hood, and high-priest-hood: peculiar digni ties from which the sons of Moses himself were all reprobated. Now, if it would be absurd to deduce calvinian reprobation, and unavoidable damnation, from these elections; is it reasonable to deduce them (as the Calvinists do) from a gratuitous election to the distinguishing blessings of the Jewish and Christian Covenant?

5. The difference between the partial reprobation, which the Holy Ghost asserts, and that which Calvin maintains, is so important, that I beg leave to make the reader sensible of it by one more illustration: God's partial reprobation, which flows from his inferior favour, and not from free-wrath, may be compared: 1. To the king's refusing a regis ment of foot the advantage of riding on horseback. A free prerogative, which he grants to a regiment of dragoons: And, 2. To his denying to common soldiers the rank of cap tains; and to captains, the rank of colonels. But Calvin's partial reprobation, which flows from free-wrath, and has nothing to do with any degree of saving grace, may be compared with the king's placing a whole regiment of marines in such dreadful circumstances by sea and land, that all the soldiers, and officers, shall be sooner or later necessitated to desert, and to have their brains blown out for desertion: a distinguishing severity this, which will set off the distinguishing favour, which his majesty bears to a company of favourite grenadiers, on whom he has absolutely set his everlasting love, and who cannot be shot for desertion, because they are tied to their colours by necessity,-an adamantine chain, which either keeps them from running away, or irresistibly pulls them back to their colours as often as they desert. Thus all the marines wear the badge of absolute free-wrath; not one of them can possibly escape being shot: and all the grenadiers wear the badge of absolute free grace: not one of them can possibly be shot, let them behave in ever so treacherous a manner, forever so long a time. But alas! my illustration fails in the main point. When a soldier, who has been neces sitated to desert is shot, his punishment is over in a moment; but when a reprobate, who has been necessitated to sin on, is damn ed, he must go into a fire unquenchable, where the smoke of his torment shall ascend for ever and ever.

By these various answers candid Arminians will, I hope, be convinced, that [although Calvinian reprobation is unseriptural, irrational, and cruel,] the gratuitous election and reprobation maintained in the preceding pa

ges is truly evangelical, and, of consequence, perfectly consistent with the dictates of sound reason and pure morality.

END OF THE FIRST ESSAY.

THE RECONCILIATION, &c.
SECTON V.

Inferences from the two-fold Essay.

If the preceding Essays on Bible-Calvinism, and Bible-Arminianism, are agreeable to Scripture and Reason, I may sum up their contents in some inferences, the justness of which will, I humbly hope, recommend itself to the reader's good understanding and candour.

I. The doctrine of a grutuitous, partial, and personal election and reprobation, is truly scriptural. So far Calvinism is nothing but the gospel. On the other hand, the doc trine of a judicial, impartial, and conditional election and reprobation, is perfectly scriptural also: and so far Arminianism is nothing but the gospel. For, as light flows from the sun, so Bible Calvinism does from the first gospel-axiom, [Our salvation is of God :) And as a river flows from its source, so Bible-Arminianism does from the second gospel axiom, [Our destruction is of ourselves.] Confounding these two axioms and elections, or denying one of them, has greatly injured the doctrines of grace and justice, darkened all the gospel dispensations, and bred the misunderstandings, which formerly subsisted between the followers of Augustine and those of Pelagius, and now subsist between the Calvinists and the Arminians.

II. It is absurd to ridicule the doctrine of a two-fold election, under pretence that it fows from, what some people are pleased to call," the flights of my romantic pen;" since the full tide of Scripture evidently flows in two channels; an election of partial grace, according to which God grants or denies this primary favour, as a Sovereign Benefactor; and an election of impartial justice, according to which he bestows rewards, or inflicts punishments as a Supreme Judge.

III. Nor does this doctrine deserve to be called new, since it is so manifestly found in the oldest book in the world. An objection drawn from the seeming novelty of these observations, would be peculiarly unreasonable in the mouth of a member of the Church of England; because she indirectly points out the distinction which I contend for. That our Reformers had some insight into the doctrine of a partial election of grace in Christ, and of an impartial election of justice through Christ, appears, I think, from the standard writings of our church. The be

ginning of our 17th Article evidently countenances our unconditional election of grace in Christ, whilst the latter part secures the doctrine of our conditional election of justice through Christ. Few Calvinists will be so prejudiced as to deny, that our church guards the doctrines, [and consequently the election,] of justice, in this important paragraph: "Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they are generally set forth in Holy Scripture."-Now the promises being generally set forth in a conditional manner in God's Word, it is evident, that our church, in giving us this caution and charge, intends to secure the conditionality of the election of justice; the conditionality of this election heing inseparably connected with the conditionality of God's promises; just as the conditionality of the reprobation of justice, is inseparably connected with the conditionality of God's threatenings.

In conformity to this doctrine our Church

general parents of all mankind. The second of these covenants was made with Abraham, ratified to Isaac and Jacob, ordained in the hands of Moses, and ordered in all things and peculiarly ensured to David. This covenant takes in the first peculiar people of God, or the Jewish nation; and includes more particularly David and his family, of which the Messiah was to be born. The third of these covenants was made with Christ, as the Captain of our Salvation, and the High-Priest of our Profession, or dispensation; and takes in God's most peculiar People, or the Christian Church. The first of these three covenants is general: The other are two covenants of peculiarity; the former of which is frequently called 'in scripture the old Covenant, or the old Testament, whilst the latter is spoken of by the name of the new Covenant, or new Testament. The two first of these covenants were sealed with the blood of sacrificed beasts or but the last was sealed men,

assures us, in her homily on Good Works, circumclood of the Lamb of God. Hence

that "If he [the elected thief] had lived, and not regarded faith and the works thereof, he should have lost his salvation again:" Or, which comes to the same thing, he should have forfeited his election of partial grace, by losing the election of impartial justice. Our Liturgy speaks the same language, witness that prayer in the office of Baptism; “Grant that these children, [or persons] now baptized, &c. may ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children, through Jesus Christ our Lord." That is, Grant that these persons, who are now admitted into thy Christian church according to the election of grace in Christ, may so believe and obey, as never to forfeit the privileges of this election, and ever to share in the privileges of thy faithful children, who are elect in the full sense of the word; the obedient being the only persons who keep their part in the election of grace, and secure a share in the election of justice. Such complete elect are the sheep which hear Christ's voice and follow his steps: None shall pluck them out of his hands. The talent of their election of grace shall never be taken from them: They shall hear all these cheering words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: They shall all enter into the joy of their Lord, and eternally share in the double privileges of the election of grace and justice.

with the

our Lord termed it, The new Covenant in my Blood, Luke xxii. 20; calling his blood, My blood of the New Testament, Matt. xxvi. 28. Hence also the Apostle observes, that Jesus w was made a Surety of a better Testament, and that he is the Mediator of the New Testament, which is far superior to that which was ordained by angels in the hand of Moses, the Mediator of the Old Testament. See Heb, vii. 22. ix. 15. xii. 24. 2 Cor. iii. 6. Gal. iii. 19.

V. These three grand covenants give birth to Gentilism, Judaism, and Christianity ;— three divine religions or dispensations of grace; from the confounding of which, par tial divines have formed the schemes of religion, which I beg leave to call rigid Arminianism and rigid Calvinism.

VI. The error of rigid Arminians, with respect to those three grand covenants, consists in not sufficiently distinguishing them, and in not maintaining with sufficient plainness, that they are all covenants of redeeming grace; that Judaism is the old covenant of partial redeeming grace; and that Christianity is the new covenant of partial, redeeming grace.

VII. The error of rigid Calvinists consists in confounding the covenants of creating and redeeming grace, and in reducing them all to two; the one a covenant of non-redemption, which they call the law; and the other a covenant of particular redemption, which they call the gospel. To form the first of these unscriptural covenants, they jumble the Crea

IV. The gratuitous, partial election and reprobation which the Scriptures maintain, chiefly refer to three grand Covenants, which God has made with man, and to the greater or less blessings which belong to these cove-tor's law, given to innocent man in paradise, nants. The first of these covenants takes in all mankind; for it was made with spared Adam after the Fall, and confirmed to preserve Noah after the Flood; and every body knows that Adam and Noah are the two

with the Redeemer's law given to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Nor do they see, that these two laws, or covenants, are as different from each other, as a covenant made with sinless man, without a priest, a sacrifice, and

a mediator, is different from a covenant made with sinful man, and ordained in the hand of a Mediator, with an interceding priest and atoning sacrifices, Gal. iii. 19. Secondly, they suppose, that all men now born into the world are under the imaginary law, that is, under the unscriptural, confused mixture of the Adamic law of innocence, and of the Mosaic law of Sinai :-An error this, which is so much the more glaring, as no man [except Christ] was ever placed under the law or covenant of innocence, since the Lord entered into a mediatorial covenant with fallen Adam And no man has been put under the Law or Covenant of Moses, from the time that covenant has been abolished and done away in Christ, 2 Cor. iii. 7, 14. which happened when Christ said, It is finished, and when the vail of the temple, [a type of the Jewish dispensation] was rent from top to bottom.

So capital an error as that of the rigid Calvinists about the law, could not be productive of a similar error about the gospel, And therefore when they had formed the merciless covenant which they call the law, by confounding the precept and curse of the Jaw of innocence, with the precept and curse of the law of Moses abstracted from all mediatorial promises; when they had done this, it was natural enough for them to mistake and confound the promises of the three grand covenants, which I have just mention ed: I mean the one general covenant of grace, made with Adam and Noah and the two particular covenants of grace, the former of which was ordained in the hands of Moses the servant of God; and the latter in the hands of Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Hence it is that overlooking the promises of the general covenant of grace, and considering only the promises of Judaism and Christianity, which are the two grand covenants of peculiar grace, the rigid Calvinists fancy that there is but one covenant of grace ;-that this covenant is particular; -that it was made with Christ only ;-that it was a covenant of unchangeable favour on the part of the Father, of eternal redemption on the part of the Son, and of irresistible sanctification on the part of the Holy Ghost; that some men, called the elect, are absolutely and eternally interested in this covenant; that other men, called the reprobates, are absolutely and everlastingly excluded from it; that finished salvation through Christ, the unavoidable lot of the fortunate elect, who are supposed to be under the • Zelotes will possibly laugh at the insinuation, that there is more than one covenant of grace. If he does, I will ask him, if a covenant of grace is not the same thing as a covenant of promise; and if St. Paul does not expressly mention The covenants of Promise, Eph. ii, 12, and a better covenant, which was esta

blished upon better promises, than the first (particular)

covenant of promise? Heb. viii. 6, 7.

absolute blessings of a lawless gospel; and that finished damnation through Adam, is the unavoidable portion of the unfortunate reprobates, who are supposed to be from their mother's womb, under the absolute, irreversible, everlasting curse of a merciless law, and of an absolutely Christless covenant.

VII. We may say to rigid Calvinists, and rigid Arminians, what God said once to the Jewish priests, Ye have been partial in the law, Mal. ii. 9. Nor is it possible to reduce their two partial systems to the genuine and full standard of the gospel, otherwise than by consistently guarding the Calvinian doctrines of Grace, by the Arminian doctrines of Justice; and the Arminian doctrines of Justice by the Calvinian doctrines of Grace: When those two partial gospels are joined in a scriptural manner, they do not destroy, but balance and illustrate each other. Take away from them human additions, or supply their deficiencies, and you will restore them to their original importance. They will again form the spiritual weights of the sanctuary, which are kept for public use in the sacred Records, as I humbly hope I have made appear in my Scripture-Scales.

VIII. To guard the gospel against the errors of the rigid Calvinists and of the rigid Arminians, we need then only shew that God, as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, has a right to be, and actually is, partial in the distribution of grace; but that as Lawgiver, Governor, and Judge, he is and ever will be, impartial in the distribution of justice. Or, which comes to the same thing, we need only restore the doctrine of God's various laws, or covenants of Grace, to its scriptural lustre. Rigid Calvinism will be lost in Bible-Arminianism, and rigid Arminianism will be lost in Bible-Calvinism, as soon as Protestants will pay a due regard to the following truths. 1. God, for Christ's sake, dissolved [with respect to us] the cove nant of paradisaical innocence, when he turned man out of a forfeited Paradise into this cursed world, for having broken that covenant. Then it was that man's Creator first became his Redeemer: Then mankind was placed under the first mediatorial covenant of promise. Then our Maker gave to Adam, and to all the human species, which was in Adam's loins, a Saviour, who is called the Seed of the Woman,-the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who was to make the paradisaical covenant, honourable by his sinless obedience. Accordingly," Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man ;" purchasing for all men the privileges of the general covenant of grace, which God made with Adam, and ratified to Noah, the second general parent of mankind. 3. Christ according to the peculiar predestination and election of God,

2.

peculiarly tasted death for the Jews, his first chosen nation and peculiar people; purchasing for them all the privileges of the pecuculiar covenant of grace, which the Scriptures call the old covenant of peculiarity. 4. That Christ according to the most peculiar predestination and election of God, most peculiarly tasted death for the Christians, his second chosen nation and most peculiar people; procuring for them the invaluable privileges of his own most precious gospel, by which he has brought life and immortality to [meridian] light; and has richly supplied the defects of the Noahic and Mosaic dispensations; the first of which is noted for its darkness, and the second for its vail and shadow. And lastly, that with respect to these peculiar privileges. Christ is said to have peculiarly given himself for the [Christian] church, that he might cleanse it with the [baptismal] washing of water by the word, Ep. v. 26; peculiarly purchasing it by his own blood, Acts xx. 28; and delivering it from heathenish darkness, and Jewish shadows, that it might be redeemed from all iniquity, and that his Christian people might be a peculiar people unto himself, zealous of good works, even above the Jews who fear God, and the Gentiles who work righteous ness," Tit. ii. 14.

IX. As soon as we understand the nature of the covenants of promise and the doctrine of the dispensations of divine grace, we have a key to open the mystery of God's gratuitous election and reprobation. We can easily understand, that when a man is elected only to the general blessings of Gentilism, he is reprobated from the blessings peculiar to Judaism and Christianity. And that when he is elected to the blessings of Christianity, he is elected to inherit the substance of all the covenanted blessings of God; because the highest dispensation takes in the inferior ones, as the authority of a Colonel includes that of a Lieutenant and a captain; or as meridian light takes in the dawn of day, and the morning-light.

X. Our election from Gentilism and Judaism to the blessings of Christianity, is an election of peculiar grace. It is to be hoped, that few Arminians are so unreasonable as to think, that God might not have deprived us of New Testament blessings, as he did Moses and of Old Testament blessings as he did Noah; leaving us under the general covenant of Gentilism, as he did that patriarch.

;

XI. When God gratuitously elected and called the Jews to be his peculiar people, and chosen nation, he reprobated all the other nations, that is, all the Gentiles, from that honour-An unspeakable honour this, which the Jews thought God had appropriated to them for ever. But when Christ formed his Church, he elected to its privileges the Gen

tiles as well as the Jews: insomuch that to enter into actual possession of all the blessings of christianity, when a Jew or Gentile is called by the preaching of the gospel of Christ, nothing more is required of him, than to make his free calling and election sure by the obedience of faith. That God has a right to extend his election of peculiar grace to the believing Gentiles, and to reprobate the unbelieving Jews, is the point for which St. Paul chiefly labours in Rom. ix. And that the privileges of this election, which God has extended to the Gentiles, are immensely great, is what the Apostle informs us of, in the first three chapters of his Epistle to the Ephesians.

XII. Our election to Christianity and its peculiar blessings, being entirely gratuitous, and preceding every work of christian obedience; nothing can be more absurd and unevangelical, than to rest it upon works of any sort. Hence it is, that when St. Paul maintains the partial election of richest grace, he says, speaking of the Jews, "There is [among them] a remnant according to the election of grace: i. e. "There is a considerble number of Jews, who, like myself, make their gratuitous calling and election to the blessings of christianity sure through faith." For whenever there were Jews and Gentiles, the Jews had the honour of the first call: So far was God from absolutely reprobating them from his Christian covenant of promise. If you ask, why the Apostle calls this election to the blessings of christianity the election of gruce, I answer, that it peculiarly deserves this name, because it is both peculiarly gracious and amazingly gratuitous. And therefore, adds the Apostle, "If this election is by [mere] grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more [mere] grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more of [mere] grace: otherwise work is no more work," Rom. xi. 5, 6.*

XIII. If the rigid Arminians are culpable for being ashamed of God's evangelical partiality for overlooking his disting uishing love, and for casting a veil over his election of grace; the rigid Calvinists are no less blameable for turning that holy election into an unscriptural and absolute election, which

My light and theological Accuracy have, (I hope,) increased since I wrote the Equal Check. I did not then clearly see, that the election of grace, of which the Apostle speaks in this verse, is our gratuitous election to the blessings of Christianity, as it is opposed to Judaism, and not merely as it is opposed to the considered these words of St. John: Adamic covenant of works. I had not then sufficiently "The law [i. e. the Jewish dispensation] came by Moses, but grace and truth, [i. e. a more gracious and brighter dispensation] came by Jesus Christ." Hence it follows, that this expression, the election of grace, [when a sacred writer speaks of the Jewish and of the Christian dispensations, which St. Paul does throughout this part of his Epistle to the Romans,] means our gratuitous election to Christianity, or to the peculiar blessings of the gospel of Christ.

« PreviousContinue »