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A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE DECREES; BEING A REPLY TO OBJECTIONS RAISED AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE IN MR. BANGS' FIRST LETTER.
MR. BANGS' First Letter is designed to detect what be deemed to be the errors of my first sermon. It was the object of this sermon to establish the doctrine of Divine Decrees. The text which was taken to lay a foundation for this doctrine, was Ephesians i. Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. If I did not misinterpret my text, it must support the doctrine of Decrees. We have now an opportunity of comparing the explanation there given, with one which has since been given in the Letters. Indeed it is difficult to find out how my antagonist understands this text. He does not pretend to dispute but that the relative, " Who," in the beginning of the text, refers to God; so that we must both be agreed in this, that it is God who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. But the author of the Letters declares, "The text says nothing about bringing every thing to pass which is brought to pass.' It simply states that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. The question to be determined is, What is the counsel of his will?" Page 15. We expected to see this question immediately determined, but do not find it again
taken up until we arrive at page 48, where he says, "As we know of no other counsel than that revealed in the bible, we think ourselves justifiable in believing it contrary to God's will for man to sin, because such is the revelation which he has given of his will throughout the whole scriptures. As then the counsel of his will is always according to justice, holiness, &c." Here then it is evident, that Mr. B. means to say, that the counsel of God's will, in the text, is the same as his revealed will; or that will of God which forbids us to sin; or in other words, his holy commandments. The will of God, is no doubt frequently used in such a sense as to be synonymous with his commands. When we are said to do the will of God, it is the same as to obey his commands. Thus Christ distinguishes the real christian from the mere professor, by his doing the will of his Father. Mat. vii. 21. Whenever we are required to do the will of God, it must mean obedience to the divine commands. But the text does not speak of the obedience of men, but of God's own operations. It is God who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. This certainly cannot mean, that all men do the will of God, i. e. that they all obey him; for this is contrary to fact: Nor does it mean that God worketh the spirit of obedience in all men, for then all men would have an obedient spirit. What then can it mean? Does it mean that God obeys all his own commandments? We have no doubt but that he ever possesses the same holiness which he requires of his creatures. His will is always holy. He has not two characters, the one a benevolent, and the other a malicious character: But is this the specific idea contained in the text, viz. That God al ways acts in the spirit of his own requirements? Suppose we were to confine the text to the creation of the world, and say, The Creator wrought all things after the counsel of his own will; would not every reader understand the words according to the explanation given in the sermon under consideration? Would he not understand such a declaration to mean, that God brought the whole world, and every part of it, into existence ac cording to his own mind, or, according to the wise and perfect plan of a world, which existed in his own mind antecedently to its being produced into actual existence?
Is it not evident that a different interpretation of the passage is resorted to, because the "all things," cannot be limited to the work of creation?
I shall now proceed to suggest several reasons which induce me still to believe, that I did not give a wrong explanation of the text; and that it does mean, That God brings to pass every thing which is brought to pass, according to a plan, or scheme, devised by his own mind.
I. The context favors this, rather than the explana tion given by Mr. B. The text is the last part of the verse; "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." After the apostle had spoken of their predestination to such a blessed inheritance, as being according to the purpose of God, it was natural to protract the idea, and show, that God was doing every thing else according to his purpose, or the counsel of his own will. In the verse but one before the text, the apostle speaks of that which God purposed in himself. This is what we mean by the decrees of God, namely, The thing which he hath purposed in himself. The commands he has revealed, and these are the only rule to regulate our conduct but the purpose which he hath purposed in himself, is the rule by which he regulates his own conduct. His conduct is all holy, and of course, in the spirit of his commands, his purposes relate to the particular ways which he sees it will be fit and proper for him, to display his glory.
II. Another reason why I am inclined still to adhere to the doctrine which was raised from the text is this that I cannot think my antagonist has done away the force of those passages which were called in to confirm that doctrine. One of these texts, and the first which he notices,is Luke xxii. 22. And truly the son of man goeth as it was determined; but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed. This passage was introduced to show, that the manner of Christ's falling into the hands of his enemies by the treachery of Judas, was according to the determination of God. Mr. B. supposes that this determination refers either to Judas or the Jewish Sanhedrim. See page 32, 33. In a note he has a criticism op the Greek word which is translated, determined.
He says, it is a participle of the present or imperfect tense, or paulo post futurum, and may be rendered, determining, or about to determine. This is quite a mistake, though I would by no means conclude an intenThe Greek participle, Orismenon, is in the passive voice, and can be found neither in the present, nor imperfect, nor in the paulo post futurum. It can be found no where but in the perfect and pluperfect tense. So that all the force of the criticism is lost, and the mere English reader obtains a correct idea of the passage. At least he will be convinced, that it does not refer to what Judas and the Sanhedrim were determining, or about to determine, by only comparing this with its parallel passages in the other Evangelists. See Mat. xxvi. 24 Mark xiv. 21: John xiii. 18. Matthew and Mark say, The Son of man goeth as it is written of him. It is not natural to suppose that this means, As it was writing, or about to be written by Judas. The quotation in John makes it evident, that one place where this had been written was Psal. xli. 9. By comparing all the Evangelists, we learn this important truth, That whatever thing was written in the word of God, as certainly future, was also determined. I shall suggest one more thing which is calculated to establish the interpretation which I before gave of this passage ;-the other part of the verse requires such an interpretation. The idea which lies upon the face of the text,seems plainly to be this; That though it is true,that Christ is coming to his end, just as God saw it would be best, and just as he determined; yet no thanks to Judas; his treachery is infinitely vile, and will prove his utter ruin. Is it not manifest, that the treachery of Judas was divinely determined? And if this was divinely determined, then there can be no weight in what is urged against the doctrine of a divine purpose in every thing. The reason why the author of the Letters would wish this determination to apply to Judas, rather than to God, is this that if it be referred to God,it will in his view impeach His character by transferring to Him the guilt of all the treacherous conduct of Judas. So he views it: but that he ought not so to view it, I shall hereafter attempt to show. At present I would only observe, if this determination be referred to Judas, so as to preclude any
divine determination in the matter, it will take from God all the glory of the whole work of saving sinners by the death of his Son; for according to the sentiments we oppose, he never determined that his Son should be betrayed and crucified. Did God merely foresee that Judas and the wicked Jews would determine to crucify his Son? Does this comport with the language of the prophet? "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin." Does it comport with the language of the apostle Peter, Acts ii, 23. Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God?
This is the next scripture proof which our author seeks to take from us. But has he actually taken it from us? Does it not remain an unanswerable proof of the fixed purpose of God, that Jesus should be put to death just as he was? How expressive the language: "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel." Apply this language to his illustration of it, by supposing that Gen. Washington foretold that faction would arise in the United States. Would it be proper to say, that these factions took place by the determinate counsel of Gen. Washington? Mr. B. says, "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge do not refer to his being crucified and slain." page 36. I answer, this is evidently the very thing referred to. Peter meant to take the same method in reasoning with the Jews, which Christ took with the disciples going to Emmaus. He designed to show that it was necessary, that Christ should suffer these things which he had suffered. And as Joseph told his brethren, that what God meant for good, they meant for evil, so Peter told them, they had done it with wicked hands.
That striking passage Act iv. 27, 28. Mr. B. seeks to force out of our hands, by the power of criticism. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. This passage he wishes to transpose in such a manner as to make it say, that Jesus was ansinted to do whatsoever the hand and counsel of God