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النشر الإلكتروني




APRIL, 1824.



The best definition of the doctrine of God's decrees, that ever has been given, and perhaps the best, that can be given, is found in the Westminster catechism. In answer to the question, What are the decrees of God,' it is said, 'The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his own will, whereby for his own glory he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.In eternity it depended entirely upon the determination of God, whether any other being should ever exist; because no other being could exist without his power and agency. His determination, therefore, must infallibly fore-ordain whatever should come to pass, Of all events, which were possible, the decrees of God rendered the existence of whatever comes to pass absolutely certain. God did not decree things because he saw that they would exist; but because he saw that they would not exist, without

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his decrees. His decrees respected all future events, and precisely in the same manner-to make their existence certain. He decreed the existence, the character, the conduct and the state of all moral beings, both in time and eternity. He decreed that some should be the monuments of his goodness, some the monuments of his justice, and some the monuments of his mercy. And he decreed all the means, by which his rational creatures should be brought to their final and eternal condition. In his decrees, which respect all his creatures and all events, God had a supreme regard to his own glory, which is the greatest and best object, that ever can exist. Nothing more and nothing less, than what is now stated, is to be understood by the doctrine of divine decrees.

It is now proposed to show that this doctrine is true. To prove this doctrine I might draw my first argument from the foreknowledge of God. James declares, that "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." And it is generally al

future events. From this divine foreknowledge, it might be easily demonstrated, that God has decreed all things, that ever have, or ever will come to pass.-I might draw a second argument in favor of the doctrine of divine decrees, from explicit declarations of scripture concerning the purpose of God and the eternal counsel of his own will respecting all his creatures and all their actions. But I will wave the consideration of these arguments and insist only on a third argument, which may be drawn from the infinite wisdom of God.

lowed, that God foreknows all left any one thing undetermined, it might have frustrated his whole design. There are but two reasons, why the works of men are imperfect. One is, that they are too ignorant to form a perfect plan. And the other is, that they are too weak to accomplish the plan they may form. But God can do any thing. He can accomplish any plan he forms, and he can form the best plan, that is possible. Hence, knowing his own power and wisdom, he must have formed the most perfect plan, before he began to operate. His infinite wisdom would not permit him to begin the work of creation, until he had decreed the nature, the number, the use and end of all created objects. The decrees of God must be the foundation of all his works. This is as certain, as it is that he is the only wise God.

It is universally granted, that God is a being of infinite wisdom. But no wise being can begin to act, until he has determined what to do. To act without design and without a good design is the very essence of folly. But to act with design and with a good design is the very essence of wisdom.Hence it follows, that God must have decreed all things, as the foundation of his beginning to act. He must have laid the foundation, before he began to erect the superstructure. And he must have laid the foundation exactly according to the length and breadth and height of the edifice. Or, to speak without a figure, God must have determined in his own mind his whole system of conduct before he began to act. Without such a determination, it was impossible, that his works should be absolutely perfect. If he had

But I proceed to my main object, which is to show, that the doctrine of the divine decrees is the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The other essential doctrines of the gospel are founded upon the doctrine of divine decrees, and are supported by it. To deny or disprove this doctrine would be to deny or disprove the whole gospel. Every system of sentiments has some fundamental principle, without which it cannot exist. The fundamental principle in the Newtonian philosophy is, that no material body has a tendency to move of itself, without an external cause of motion. For



There can be no goodness

good purposes and deAnd if God has never formed any good purposes, he has never exercised any real holiness, or goodness. Hence, Bolingbroke and other deists, who deny the decrees of God, equally deny his moral perfections. And in this

respect they are consistent with themselves. For if God has never formed any purposes, he has never formed a good moral character. The doctrine of divine decrees is, therefore, fundamental to the doctrine of the moral perfcction of God.

remove this principle and the ness.
Newtonian philosophy can be en-
tirely overthrown. The first prin-
ciple in civil government is, that
all men have natural rights, which
they ought to enjoy, so far as it
is consistent with the general good
of society. For remove this prin-
ciple, and there will remain no
foundation of civil government.—
The first principle in the scheme
of salvation according to the gos-
pel is, that God has decreed all
things from eternity. For remove
this doctrine, and no doctrine of
the gospel can be maintained; for
there remains no foundation to
support the gospel. The doc-
trine of divine decrees, therefore,
lies at the foundation of the gos-
pel, and supports all its essential
doctrines. But I will enter more
particularly into this subject and
mention a number of the most es-
sential doctrines of the gospel,
which wholly depend upon the
doctrine of divine decrees.

1. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that God has a moral character, which is perfectly holy and amiable. We read that God is love; that he is good to all; that he is just and gracious. These are moral qualities, which form the most amiable moral character. But we cannot conceive, that these moral perfections should belong to God, unless he has some purposes and designs. Take from God his decrees or intentions, and we cannot conceive, that he should sustain any moral character; and much less a moral character of perfect good

2. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that the scriptures were written under divine inspiration. But how could God inspire the sacred writers to record those predictions, which are contained in the Bible, if he had not fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass? The Bible abounds in predictions of great, distant, and important events.We find the prediction, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; that the old world should be destroyed in a hundred and twenty years; that the seed of Abraham should be strangers in a strange land four hundred years; that the Jews should go into captivity in Babylon for seventy years; that after three score and two weeks Messiah should be cut off, but not for himself; that the Persians should destroy the Babylonians, the Greeks the Persians, and the Romans the Greeks; that Jerusalem 562841


should be totally destroyed, and Christ's mission, and the value of his death, depend upon the doctrine of the divine decrees. the denial of this doctrine is virtually and necessarily the denial of the atonement of Christ and the whole glory of the gospel.

the Jews scattered among all nations; and that Christ shall reign on earth a thousand years. These and many other great events have been foretold by the prophets, Jesus Christ and the apostles. But God could not inspire them to foretell these events, unless he had decreed, that they should certainly take place. To deny the decrees of God, is, therefore, to deny that the Bible is his word. If God has not decreed all things, it can be demonstrated that the scriptures are a cunningly devised fable.

3. It is an essential doctrine of the gospel, that Christ died on the cross to make an atonement for sin. But there is no truth in this doctrine, unless God decreed to save sinners. For Christ professed to come in the name of his Father, to obey his Father, and to die at the express command of his Father. But if his Father never decreed the salvation of sinners, it is certain that his Father never sent him, and never commanded him to die in the room of sinners; so that Christ is found a false witness. And then, though he died on the cross, his death could make no atonement, and be of no avail to the salvation of sinners. But if he died according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; if he was obedient to his Father, even unto the death of the cross; then his dying, the just for the unjust, may avail to bring sinners unto God. The truth of

4. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that multitudes, in future time, shall cordially embrace it. Our Lord spake many parables to illustrate the future prevalence of the gospel, and its happy influence upon the hearts of men.But there cannot be the smallest evidence, that any sinner ever will embrace the gospel without the special grace of God. For all mankind naturally oppose the gospel and reject it, as long as they can. And they can reject it, as long as their carnal mind remains. But there is no evidence, that God will exercise his special grace for the salvation of sinners, if he has not decreed to save any of mankind. But it may be demonstrated, that no impenitent sinner will ever be brought to repentance, if God has not decreed to sanctify any of the human race. The doctrine of regeneration depends upon the doctrine of election, or the divine decrees. To deny this doctrine, amounts to the denial that God ever has renewed, and that he ever will renew one of the depraved children of men. If God has not decreed to renew any person, it can be demonstrated, that no person ever has been, or ever will be renewed. But if God has decreed to save some of the hu

man race, then it may be demonstrated, that he will renew those, whom he has determined to save. Accordingly the apostle says, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." The doctrine of regeneration is therefore founded upon the doctrine of election.

5. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that they, who are renewed, shall certainly persevere in holiness and be conducted to heaven. Unto the saints at Philippi, the apostle says, "He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." They, who are once renewed, shall, according to the gospel, be kept by the mighty power of God unto salvation. But this doctrine of the gospel depends upon the eternal purpose of God to save a certain number of mankind. For if this purpose be denied, it amounts to a denial, that any saint will finally persevere. Without the doctrine of election, it cannot be proved, that God will conduct a single saint to heaven. But it can be demonstrated, that he will not do it. For certainly he will never conduct a saint to heaven, without determining to do it. And it is now too late for a being of infinite wisdom to form any new purpose. But if God has decreed to save a certain number of mankind, through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth, then those, whom he has renewed and caused to believe the truth, he will conduct to the kingdom of heaven. The doctrine of divine

decrees is the only and the complete foundation for the doctrine of the final perseverence of the saints.

6. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that they, who persevere in holiness, shall be completely and forever happy. But the complete and eternal happiness of saints in a future state depends upon the doctrine of divine decrees. If God has not decreed what their state shall be in eternity, it cannot be proved, that the happiness of heaven will not come to a final period. God does not know, nor can any creature know, that saints shall be happy in heaven forever, unless God has decreed it. But if he has decreed that all things in heaven and earth and all worlds, shall work together for good to them that love him and are called according to his purpose, then it can be known, that the joys of heaven will never cease. Hence the certainty of the future and eternal happiness of holy creatures depends entirely upon the doctrine of divine decrees.

7. It is a plain doctrine of the gospel, that they, who die in their sins, shall be finally and eternally lost. But this doctrine depends upon their being ordained to eternal destruction. For if God has not decreed, that the finally impenitent shall be eternally miserable, it cannot be proved, that their punishment shall never cease. Nor does even God himself know but he shall release them from the pains of hell and raise them to the

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