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neither the will nor the act is controlled by the knowledge, and the action, though foreseen, is still free or contingent." Enough, I think, has now been said to show that the argument we have been considering is a sophistical one- e-founded upon fallacies--and that freedom and
prescience are consistent in logic.
Let us then emerge from the region of logomachy into the world of real existences, and see whether the two do not equally agree in reason and fact. And to begin at the beginning, we venture to assert that there is nothing in the nature of things to make this impossible. A foreknowledge of arbitrary acts, or acts of will, is not to be placed in the same category as absolute impossibilities, whether natural or moral. We think it no derogation to God to say that he cannot do such things. For instance, he cannot make a substance have at the same time two opposite properties, being at once hard and soft, smooth and rough, or square and oval. Nor can he at once know and not know an object. Nor can he lie. But no such inconsistency is involved in the prescience of free actions. God inhabits eternity, and to him all hearts are naked and “ His prescience can dart through all the workings of the human mind, all its comparison of things in judgment, all the influences of motives on the affections, all the hesitancies and haltings of the will to its final choice.” Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; but if it is within the range of possibility, if a limited capacity is the only obstacle to its pogsession, then surely it is the knowledge of Him who understandeth the thoughts of man afar off; for it would be absurd to assert that anything is impossible to a Being whose nature is infinitely above our comprehension, if the terms do not imply a contradiction. It has, therefore, been justly remarked, “We can never conclude that it is impossible for an infinitely perfect Being to know what a free agent will choose to do, till we can comprehend all the powers of such a Being, and that is till we ourselves are infinite and perfect. So far are we from being able to pronounce
show of reason, that it is impossible there should be such knowledge in God.” But let us change the negative aspect of these statements into a positive one. God's perfection necessarily infers that nothing can be hid from him. Now, if ignorance be an imperfection, the ignorance of future acts and events must be so; and then if all imperfections are to be denied of God, this must also.
Finally, to come to some plain matter of fact. Prescience and freedom both exist and both harmonize. Man's actions are foreknown to God even before the actor is in being, and yet the actions are not thereby necessitated, but are as free as if there were no such pre-apprehension of them. The first part of this proposition is demonstrated by prophecy, the latter by God's judicial administration, and by human consciousness. No one can deny that the Bible contains predictions of the rise and fall of various empires. Daniel, for instance, prophesied of the rise, the various fortune, and the fall of the celebrated monarchies of antiquity. Our Lord foretold most circumstantially the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; and Paul the rise of the man of sin, and a falling away in the church. Now all these prophecies were fulfilled the free actions of free agents. Of their freedom they were fully conscious; they were under no constraint, no compulsion, to do as they did; but on the contrary they felt that they were morally responsible for their deeds, and deserved by them praise or blame, reward or punishment. Facts are said to be stubborn things, though they are often treated as if they had not one grain of such a quality in them. An inquirer after truth, however, will not throw them into the transmuting crucible of sophistry, but take them in their real and complete character, and cordially embrace any doctrine they may involve. Prophecy is the embodiment of God's prescience, and gives to it the shape and certainty of a fact. His conduct towards men as their righteous moral Governor, and their own consciousness, do the same for human freedom. He that feels himself to be free in his actions is free. Now as both facts exist they ought to be admitted as compatible with each other. As in the real, actual world, we do not find God's prescience to destroy man's freedom, neither should it in any ideal world we may form in our own mind. Our creed should ever symbolize with the realities of being.
We close these remarks by citing a passage from an address which Milton ascribes to God, spoken to his Son, from his prospect high, " Wherein past, present, future, he beholds:"
" He had of me
Their will, disposed by absolute decree
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.”
REMINISCENCES OF MOSSLEY.
The days of primitive Methodism I cannot describe; they were an age previous to the few years of my boyhood which were spent at Mossley. Yet various means, even then, were employed for the edification of the people, which have long since fallen into disuse. There was then a class of agents who tended much to keep alive the fervent zeal of the members, but who, as far as my memory serves me, never received any
distinctive appellation; they sustained an officiality for which there was no
These were a kind of occasional visitors who travelled from circuit to circuit, and from one society to another, seldom abiding more
than a few weeks in the same place, and frequently not more than a few days. Wherever they came the people were stirred up; the spirit of revival seemed to accompany them wherever they went. The utility of this department of Methodistical economy was unquestionable, and whatever might lead to its discontinuance, the fact itself is much to be deplored; for although it is readily admitted that a usage of this kind, Îike every other good thing, is very liable to abuse, the advantages resulting from this simple instrumentality were, to the people of Mossley, of no small amount. As at present, the people of God were in those days liable to become indifferent to the means of grace and remiss in other important duties. There was in each of them, as there is in every one of us—unless continually submissive to divine grace—an evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God. Services regularly conducted -the word however faithfully administered, and, in short, every part of the machinery of Methodism, as prescribed by rule, excellent as it is, may be fully employed, and yet there may be spiritual declension. To keep alive the flame of devotion, and to extend the cause of God in the earth, there must, at times, be extraordinary expedients called into requisition. If a body of Christians become so fastidiously attached to their prescribed usages and discipline as not to allow the least superaddition or change when it is apparent things are not going on well, either the cause of God must languish, or he will call other agencies into the field without the consent of the regular authorities, and however unpleasant to themselves, let them not be surprised if they find their work taken out of their hands and given over to others, which although, according to human estimate, may appear even contemptible, will be found more serviceable in the cause of vital religion than all their own best concerted expedients and abundant labours. At the same time, especial care must be taken, lest by the introduction of extraordinary means, the regular and scripturally authorized means be either neutralized or superseded. A man ought never to neglect his lawful employment to engage in speculations of doubtful issue; yet if he find that his means of subsistence are not adequate to the supply of his wants, he may and he ought to try others. And when it is found that Christianity languishes--that iniquity abounds without, and the love of many within waxes cold it is proper to make diligent search for some laudable means of reviving the work of God.
One of the agents alluded to, and who, during my abode at Mossley, travelled from place to place in this way, was James Silvey, of Red Hall, near Ashton-under-Lyne. Whenever this good old man came to Mossley, there was sure to be a move. Everybody expected it, and the people were not disappointed. The news of his arrival went round the neighbourhood. On the Sunday following, greater numbers than usual were seen flocking to the chapel
. There in a pew not far from the pulpit sat a rather coarse-looking old man, in far-worn garments, and covered with a woollen wig. This was old James Silvey, who, humble and rustic as he appeared, never failed to produce an effect. When the love-feast commenced he was almost sure to rise first. His religious experience was clear, and full, and scriptural, and was related with an energy and with a peculiarly thrilling emphasis that set the meeting on a blaze of ecstatic devotion. Careless professors were aroused-timid believers took courage, and mature Christians received a deeper baptism of the Holy Spirit. And if perchance a few stout-hearted sinners had gained admission, they were pricked to the heart and cried out amain. By these means a revival would break forth, and in a few months scores were added to the society.
None hailed more gladly, nor more heartily entered into the work in these seasons of refreshing, than Richard Oldham. It was an element in which his soul delighted to dwell. His gift in prayer was pre-eminent; and on these occasions he excelled. He would fall on his knees by the side of souls groaning under the burden of sin, and by the influence of a holy sympathy he so insinuated himself into their views and feelings, as to encourage them to pray for pardon; and, perceiving that in them the spirit of prayer and of supplication was awakened, he would unite with them, and pour out his soul to God for them with surprising pathos and energy, accompanied by intercession so powerful, and supported by arguments drawn from the word of God, which he selected with an accuracy and a judgment so appropriate-presenting the sacrifice of atonement to the eyes of the penitent on the one hand, and recommending the sinner to the mercy of God in Christ Jesus on the other, with an importunity at once so urgent and yet so submissive, that at times it would appear as though he were almost under the influence of plenary inspiration. And when the struggling soul found pardon, his whole frame would be convulsed with ecstasy, and while tears of gladness flowed profusely down his manly countenance, he would laugh and shout aloud for joy.
No difficulty whatever was experienced in finding this precious old man, Silvey, a place of abode during his short sojourn among the friends. He was welcome at every house, and content with any accommodation which could be afforded him. In the domestic circle he was always acceptable, and possessed so much habitual cheerfulness and simplicity of spirit as to attract the little children around him wherever he moved. So soft, and sweet, and soothing, was the old man's lullaby, that he could have quieted the most factious infant. One day entering a house where he was abiding, I found him rocking the little child to rest on his lap, and singing the following lines from Oliver's unrivalled hymn, to that beautiful tune called Leominster:
“ Though nature's strength decay,
And earth and hell withstand,
At his command.
The watery deep I pass,
With Jesus in my view,
My way pursue.
Much did I wonder what was signified by “howling wilderness;" but since that time the phrase has become more intelligible, and full well have I comprehended it; and I understand it yet, for even while writing I have brushed past one of the brambles, which has left a smart. It would afford me pleasure to be informed whether any memoir of our old friend Silvey has been written, and where it is to be found. Many names less worthy than his are enrolled in the annals of fame.
DEPRAVITY AWFULLY DISPLAYED.
THERE is not, perhaps, a more fatal error, or one more general, than the supposition that there is no danger in deferring the vast concerns of religion to a sick bed and dying hour. God is infinite in mercy, and he has sometimes been graciously pleased to give repentance and remission of sins to sinners who have been on the verge of eternity, but this is not commonly the case: it is not so common even as some appear to imagine. Very few of those who first discovered apparent signs of contrition for sin in the time of affliction and in the prospect of death, have on recovery evinced a change of heart by the power of divine grace. Death-bed repentances are not to be trusted to: they are generally nothing more than the first gnawings of the worm that never dies.
That beautiful and correct writer, Jay, observes, We have never known one of those who, on recovery, lived so as to prove the reality of his conversion; we have often asked ministers concerning the same case, and they have been compelled to make the same awful declaration."
In the west of England, Dissenters generally bury their dead in their places of Worship, or in ground contiguous. In cases where the persons deceased have been in the habit of attending and worshipping with the congregation, it is naturally looked for; but in other cases it is optional. A small farmer in that part of the country, whose parents had been pious, and were interred in the Dissenting place there, had been engaged in thatching a rick; the ladder upon which he stood was placed on the top of a well; and while so employed, the lid suddenly gave way, and he was precipitated into the well. In his descent he came in contact with the ladder, and, falling heavily upon it, one part penetrated his clothes, and passed through his body. He was taken up in great agony, and conveyed to his house, and after awhile, a reverend gentleman in the neighbourhood was sent for. He obeyed the summons promptly, and immediately endeavoured to direct his mind to the concerns of religion and his soul. He was, however, abruptly broken off by the hardened dying sinner stating that he did not want that, he had sent for him to ask him a favour respecting his being buried. The minister felt grieved at his hardness, and still endeavoured to lead his mind to serious thoughts; but he replied, “I know all this. If I had taken the advice of my parents, and followed their example, I should not have been the subject of the agony which I feel. I was brought up beneath the sound of the gospel, and taught while young to fear and love God, but I regarded not, and I am now going to hell.” The minister spoke to him of the mercy of God, and exhorted him to look to it. “No, no,” he replied, “there is no mercy for me, I'll tell you why, -I am not a penitent! I would repent, but I cannot: my sorrow is like his who, being justly condemned by the laws which he has broken, is on his way to execution; only deliver him from being hanged, and his sorrow will cease. If you could only assure me I should not die, I should have neither fear nor sorrow.” He then gnashed his teeth in his wrath, which his countenance and gestures awfully proved; and blasphemed in language which cannot be men