« PreviousContinue »
By the things which have been proved, are obviated some of the main objections against the doctrine of the infallible and necessary perseverance of saints, and some of the main foundations of this doctrine are established. The main prejudices of Arminians against this doctrine seem to be these ; they suppose such a necessary infallible perseverance to be repugnant to the freedom of the will; that it must be owing to man's own self-determining power he first becomes virtuous and holy : and so, in like manner, it must be iett a thing contingent, to be determined by the same freedom of will, whether he will persevere in virtue and holiness; and that otherwise his continuing stedfast in faith and obedience would not be his virtue, or at all praiseworthy and rewardable ; nor could his perseverance be properly the matter of divine commands, counsels and promises, nor his apostacy be properly threatened, and men warned against it. Whereas, we find all these things in scripture: there we find stedfastness and perseverance in true Christianity, represented as the virtue of the saints, spoken of as praiseworthy in them, and glorious rewards promised to it; and also find, that God makes it the subject of his commands, counsels and promises; and the contrary, of threatenings and warnings. But the foundation of these objections has been removed, by shewing that moral necessity and infallible certainty of events is not inconsistent with these things; and that, as to freedom of will lying in the power of the will to determine itself, there neither is any such thing, nor is there any need of it, in order to virtue, reward, commands, counsels, &c.
And as the doctrines of efficacious grace and absolute election do certainly follow from the things proved in the preceding discourse ; so some of the main foundations of the doctrine of perseverance are thereby established. If the beginning of true faith and holiness, and a man becoming a true saint at first, does not depend on the self-determining power of the will, but on the determining efficacious grace of God; it may well be argued, that it is also with respect to men being continued saints, or persevering in faith and holiness. The conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man's self-determination, but to God's determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the
and conformity to law? Legislative design, therefore, is not accomplished in the commission of crimes, otherwise the legislator, as such, could not find fault for breach of law. Our Lord used endeavours with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, &c. beside his decree, yet with perfect propriety. If we keep in mind that the divine will subsists under two relations, according to the two-fold state of man, who is at once a subject of decree and a subject of government, we shall see the propriety of calling it decretive and rectoral.-W.
scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation : hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining will. From all which it follows, that it is absolutely fixed in God's decree, that all true saints shall persevere to actual eternal salvation.
But I must leave all these things to the consideration of the impartial reader; and when he has maturely weighed them, I would propose it to his consideration, whether many of the first reformers, and others that succeeded them, whom God in their day made the chief pillars of his church, and the greatest instruments of their deliverance from error and darkness, and of the support of the cause of piety among them, have not been injured, in the contempt with which they have been treated by many late writers, for their teaching and maintaining such doctrines as are commonly called Calvinistic. Indeed, some of these new writers at the same time that they have represented the doctrines of these ancient and eminent divines as in the highest degree ridiculous, and contrary to common sense, in an ostentation of a very generous charity, have allowed that they were honest well-meaning men; yea, it may be some of them, as though it were in great condescension and compassion to them, have allowed, that they did pretty well for the day in which they lived, and considering the great disadvantages they laboured under ; when, at the same time, their manner of speaking has naturally and plainly suggested to the minds of their readers, that they were persons, who--through the lowness of their genius, and the greatness of the bigotry with which their minds were shackled, and their thoughts confined, living in the gloomy caves of superstition-fondly embraced, and demurely and zealously taught the most absurd, silly, and monstrous opinions, worthy of the greatest contempt of gentlemen possessed of that noble and generous freedom of thought, which happily prevails in this age of light and enquiry. When, indeed, such is the case that we might, if so disposed, speak as big words as they, and on far better grounds. And really all the Arminians on earth might be challenged without arrogance or vanity, to make these principles of theirs, wherein they mainly differ from their fathers, whom they so much despise, consistent with common sense ; yea, and perhaps to produce any doctrine ever embraced by the blindest bigot of the church of Rome, or the most ignorant Mussulman, or extravagant enthusiast, that might be reduced to more demonstrable inconsistencies, and repugnancies to common sense, and to themselves; though their
inconsistencies indeed may not lie so deep, or be so artfully veiled by a deceitful ambiguity of words, and an indeterminate signification of phrases. I will not deny, that these gentlemen, many of them, are men of great abilities, and have been helped to higher attainments in philosophy, than those ancient divines, and have done great service to the Church of God in some respects : but I humbly conceive, that their differing from their fathers, with such magisterial assurance, in these points in divinity, must be owing to some other cause than superior wisdom.
It may also be worthy of consideration, whether the great alteration which has been made in the state of things in our nation, and some other parts of the Protestant world, in this and the past age, by exploding so generally Calvinistic doctrines—an alteration so often spoken of as worthy to be greatly rejoiced in by the friends of truth, learning, and virtue, as an instance of the great increase of light in the Christian Church - be indeed a happy change, owing to any such cause as an increase of true knowledge and understanding in the things of religion ; or whether there is not reason to fear, that it may be owing to some worse cause.
And I desire it may be considered, whether the boldness of some writers may not deserve to be reflected on, who have not scrupled to say, that if these and those things are true (which yet appear to be the demonstrable dictates of reason, as well as the certain dictates of the mouth of the Most High) then God is unjust, and cruel, and guilty of manifest deceit and double dealing, and the like. Yea, some have gone so far as confidently to assert, that if any book which pretends to be Scripture, teaches such doctrines, that alone is sufficient warrant for mankind to reject it, as what cannot be the word of God. Some, who have not gone so far, have said, that is the Scripture seems to teach any such doctrines, so contrary to reason, we are obliged to find out some other interpretation of those texts, where such doctrines seem to be exhibited. Others express themselves yet more modestly : they express a tenderness and religious fear, lest they should receive and teach any thing that should seem to reflect on God's moral character, or be a disparagement to his methods of administration, in his moral government; and therefore express themselve as not daring to embrace some doctrines, though they seem to be delivered in Scripture, according to the more obvious and natural construction of the words. But indeed it would shew a truer modesty and humility, if they would more entirely rely on God's wisdom and discernment, who knows infinitely better than we what is agreeable to his own perfections, and never intended to leave these matters to the decision of the wisdom and discernment of men ; but by his own unerr. ing instruction, to determine for us what the truth is; knowing how little our judgment is to be depended on, and how extremely prone vain and blind men are to err in such matters.
The truth of the case is, that if the Scripture plainly taught the opposite doctrines to those that are so much stumbled at, viz. the Arminian doctrine of free will, and others depending thereon, it would be the greatest of all difficulties that attend the Scriptures, incomparably greater than its containing any, even the most mysterious of those doctrines of the first reformers, which our late freethinkers have so superciliously exploded. Indeed, it is a glorious argument of the divinity of the holy Scriptures, that they teach such doctrines, which in one age and another, through the blindness of men's minds, and strong prejudices of their hearts are rejected, as most absurd and unreasonable, by the wise and great men of the world; which yet, when they are most carefully and strictly examined, appear to be exactly agreeable to the most demonstrable, certain, and natural dictates of reason. By such things it appears, that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1. Cor. i. 19, 20.) “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise! Where is the scribe! Where is the disputer of this world! Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? And as it was in time past, so probably it will be in time to come, as it is also written, (ver. 27-29.) “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise : and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty: and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen : yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are ; that no flesh should glory in his presence." Amen.
Containing Remarks on “ Essays on the Principles of Morali
ty and Natural Religion," in a letter to a Minister of the Church of Scotland.*
The intimations you have given me of the use which has by some been made of what I have written on the Freedom of the Will, &c. to vindicate what is said on the subject of lib. erty and necessity, by the Author of " Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion,” has occasioned my reading this Author's Essay on that subject with particular care and attention. And I think it must be evident to every one, that has read both his Essay and my Enquiry, that our schemes are exceedingly different from each other. The wide difference appears particularly in the following things.
This author supposes, that such a necessity takes place with respect to all men's actions as is inconsistent with liberty,t and plainly denies that men have any liberty in acting. Thus (p. 168.) after he had been speaking of the necessity of our determinations, as connected with motives, he concludes with saying, “In short, if motives are not under our power or direction, which is confessedly the fact, we can at bottom have no LIBERTY.” Whereas, I have abundantly expressed it as my mind, that man, in his moral actions, has true liberty; and that the moral necessity which universally takes place, is not in the least inconsistent with any thing that is properly called liberty, and with the utmost liberty that can be desired, or that can possibly exist or be conceived of.
I find that some are apt to think, that in that kind of moral necessity of men's volitions, which I suppose to be universal, at least some degree of liberty is denied; that though it be true I allow a sort of liberty, yet those who maintain a self-de. termining power in the will
, and a liberty of contingence and indifference, hold an higher sort of freedom than I do: but I think this is certainly a great mistake.
* The · Essays” to which this Appendix relates, were the production of Lord Kames.
† P. 160, 161, 164, 165, and many other places.