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I delight not in the use of such expressions; they appear to me, to say the least, as bordering on irreverence. But if such language must be used, and such consequences urged; let the reader judge to whose sentiments they belong, to those of P. or mine.
That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, is allowed by P. and I should think by every christian, to be a fundamental doctrine of christianity. (34, note.) The apostle, doubtless, considered this, and his resurrection from the dead in such a light, when he concluded that if the opposite were true, the faith of the Corinthians was vain, and they were yet in their sins.* But fundamental as these sentiments are,
if the scheme of P. be true, the first of them must of necessity be false. If his sentiments are true, Christ did not come into the world TO SAVE MEN FROM SIN, BUT RATHER TO PUT THEM INTO A CAPACITY OF SINNING; AS IT IS IN CONSEQUENCE OF HIS DEATH, AND THAT ALONE, THAT GUILT BECOMES CHARGEABLE UPON THEM. So far from being yet in their sins, if Christ had neither died for them, nor risen from the dead, they had then been incapable of sinning at all; and ought not to have been accountable to God, let their practices have been what they might!
It is possible the reader may be startled at the imputation of such consequences as the above; and tru
* 1 Cor. xv. 3-17.
ly they are of such a nature as ought to startle not the reader only. But are not things carried to an extreme? If they are, it is unknown to me; but let us go over the ground again, and see. P. supposes, 1. That Man was so reduced by the fall, as to be “ re ally and totally unable to do good.” (57) 2. That if he had been left in this condition, he would not have been to blame for not doing it, but that his inability would have been his excuse. (44, 57, 59.) Yea,“ let his practices have been as vile as they might, he would have been excusable.” (59) But, 3. That God has not left him in this condition. He hath sent his Son to die for all men universally; and by giving, or at least offering his Spirit to all men, he removes the inability which they derived from the fall; and from hence they become accountable beings, and are inexcusable if they do not comply with things spiritually good. (66) If words have any meaning, I should think these are the real sentiments of P. Now if these are true, it must follow, that Christ did not die for the sins of any man, except it were Adam, since none of the fallen race could have sinned if he had never died. The reasonings of P. suppose that men are not chargeable with sin, or blame-worthiness, independent of the death of Christ, and the grace of the gospel; and if so, it could not be to atone for sin that he laid down his life, for prior to the consideration of this, there was no sin for which he could have
If I have unhappily adopted an indefensible mode of reasoning, let it be fairly confuted. Till I see that
done, I shall continue to think the sentiments of P. on this subject eversive of one of the fundamental principles of christianity.
There is a thought on which P. repeatedly insists. It is this, that “supposing it to be just to punish men eternally for that depravity which they derive from their first parents;' (this however is more than he will in fact allow)" yet it is very hard that any addition should be made to the obligations they lie under, and that punishments should be annexed to these obligations which they have no power either to regard or avoid.” (45) He often speaks of the injustice of punishing those who enjoy gospel opportunities, and neglect them,“ more severely than if they had never enjoyed them, if they had not power sufficient to have embraced them.” (57) To all which I reply.
It seems if men had but power to comply, all this injustice would subside. Well, we affirm they have power. They have the same natural ability to embrace Christ as to reject him. They could comply with the gospel if they would. Is any thing more necessary to denominate them accountable beings? We believe not; and perhaps in fact P. believes the same. In some places however, he appears to think there is. Well, what is it? If any thing, it must be an inclination as well as an ability. Now would P. be willing to have his objection so stated, that it is hard that new obligations should be laid upon persons who have no inclination to what they already lie under? If so, it will afford a powerful plea to final
unbelievers at the last day. No, it will be said, they might have had an inclination if they would: but let it be considered, whether any thing like this is revealed in scripture, and whether it is not repugnanteven to common sense. If they hadbeen willing, they might, or would have been willing--that is the amount of it, which is saying just nothing at all. But passing this
Whoever be right, he or I, neither of us ought to take our own hypothesis for granted, and proceed to charge the consequences upon the other. And yet this is what P. has done. The whole force of his reasoning in p. 45. and divers other places; rests upon the supposition of that being true which is a matter of dispute; viz. that natural power is not power, and is not sufficient to denominate men accountable beings. His statement of the above objection takes this for granted; whereas this is what we positively deny, maintaining that natural power is power, properly so called, and is to all intents and purposes, sufficient to render men accountable beings—that the want of inclination in a sinner is of no account with the
governor of the world--that he proceeds in his requirements, and that it is right he should proceed, in the same way as if no such disinclination existed. If this can be solidly disproved, let it; it will be time enough then to exclaim of injustice and cruelty, and to compare the Divine Being to an Egyptian task-master, or to a “ wicked Rehoboam.” (92.)*
* I wish P. had spoken of the Divine Being here, and in some other places in language more becoming a worm of the
*The question appears to me to be this; Is it unrighteous in God to do right, because he knows men will be sure from thence to take occasion to do wrong, and aggravate their own destruction? God knew assuredly that all the messages sent to Pharoah would only harden his heart, and aggravate his ruin. “I am sure, said Jehovah to his servant, that the king of Egypt will not let you go; no, not by a mighty hand, (Exod. iii. 19.) And yet he did not in the least hold himself obliged, either to give him grace that should soften his heart, or to discontinue his messages, which, without such grace, were certain to issue in the aggravation of his ruin. But Pharoah could have complied if he would—We grant it, and so could they who reject Christ. They are under no other necessity in the one case than Pharaoh was in the other.
Whatever dissimilarity there may be between the condition of fallen angels, and that of sinners in the present life, who will finally perish; the case of the former sufficiently serves to refute the supposition of P. The redemption of man has certainly been an
dust. I have no objection to the consequences of a sentiment being fairly pointed out, and thoroughly urged; but suppose such a consequence as this had been just, it might have been urged in more sober language. Surely it is too much for a creature to talk of his Creator being wicked! But I have no conviction at the present of such a consequence being just, If it is, it must be upon this supposition, that ngt capacity and opportunity, but incli. nation to do good, is analogous to the straw with which the Israelities ought to have been furnished, for the making of brick.