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blinked. You must allow that in saving man, God either acts according to a plan and determination, or he has planned and determined what is wrong.
I wish to offer one suggestion more, before I dismiss this momentous subject. I feel persectly assured that God's determination to exercise his prerogative to prevent the utter failure of the atonement, was consistent with his justice, mercy, and wisdom; but I wish to suggest, whether the stupendous dignity and worth of the atonement, do not supply honorable grounds for determining that such a glorious measure should not entirely fail of its great ends. The various dispensations of probation are various experiments in moral government, in which God submits his own plans and ways to the acceptance and for the use of free agents. If any object to the word "experiment” I beg to refer them for the meaning of it to the parable of the barren fig-tree, and to that of the husbandman sending his servants, and afterwards his son to the vineyard. These dispensations or experiments are capable of failure. The Eden experiment failed and the Sinai experiment failed. Such susceptibility of failure has been shewn to be incidental to a moral government and a state of trial. As an infallible remedy will fail to cure a person who refuses to take it, so may the atonement fail to profit a man that seeks justification by works. But there is in the atonement a dignity, a worth, and a merit to deserve in the estimation of God that it shall not entirely fail, but have a glorious accomplishment. Its worth is sufficient to justify a determination in the counsels of God, that he will sovereignly interfere to dispose many of the revolters to return to their allegiance; and also sufficient to exculpate such a determination from the charge of partiality or capriciousness.
Fourthly. The atonement of Christ is a vindication of the divine purposes from the suspicion of having been the cause, or the occasion, of the perdition of the rejecters of the gospel.
Every one will allow, that the advocates of sovereign predestination have used very incautious language upon this subject, partly to exalt the freedom of divine grace, and partly to impress the unbeliever with the certainty of his condemnation. Of this incautious language, the opponents have made a most abundant use, and, it is to be observed, that generally the doctrine of predestination is attacked, as it has been represented by the most incautious writers. Many writers have written against the divine decrees as represented by Toplady, Hawker, Vaughan of Leicester, &c., but none against President Edwards, Dr. Edward Williams, Andrew Fuller, &c. Indeed, I might say that there is scarcely one author who has written against predestination to life: all the attacks have been directed against a decree of reprobation, which, as a human and unscriptural doctrine, has been found more easily assailable.
The divine purposes have been sometimes represented as the cause of a sinner's perdition. Such representations may have been made to demonstrate to the sinner the infallible certainty of his condemnation, under the impression that making his destruction to be a subject of inexorable decree, he would see the impossibility of avoiding it.
As it is a general impression that an event to be certain must be decreed, I crave the indulgence of a few lines, even at the charge of metaphysical prolixity, to shew that an event may be certain without being decreed. The difference between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, is certain, without being decreed; for no decree can possibly make it otherwise. Things are not right merely because God does them, but He does them because they are right, and right irrespective of any decree to make them so.
The whole is greater than its part: two straight lines cannot inclose a space: one and two will not make four: if two mountains are created, there must be a valley between them. No decree can make these things otherwise. If God produce a creature, that creature must be inferior to the Creator.
This cannot be the result of a decree, for no decree can alter it; and none will say that God can decree to create a being equal to himself. The dependence of the creature, then, on the Creator, is an event certain, and yet not decreed. If such a created dependent being be separated, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, from its supporter, the result will be ruin. This ruin, whether physical or moral, cannot be the result of a decree, for no decree can make a creature to be independent of its creator.
Let us now apply these clear principles. By sin man falls voluntarily from his dependence on the Creator, consequently moral ruin is perfectly certain without being ascribed to the divine decrees. This moral ruin is another word for all the miseries of sin. The evils of sin are not contrivances of God, for they would have been the same had we never heard of the divine decrees. Let us suppose a case. A man, by lies and falsehoods, brings himself into trammels and difficulties exceedingly detrimental and injurious to his personal interests. He is not to blame divine providence and the divine decrees that such are the natural consequences of falsehood, for no decree can make them otherwise. Divine decrees may interfere to prevent the consequences from taking place, but they never can make it that such consequences will not arise from lying. And surely such a sovereign prevention in any given case, is not the cause or the occasion why the natural consequences of lying, actually take place in other instances. The liar himself is alone to be blamed. This reasoning is applicable to every other sin as well as to lying. If there be one doctrine in the scripture more clear than another, it is that the destruction of the well being of man is entirely of himself, irrespective of any decree. After all, the friends and the opponents of predestination agree, that nothing worse shall befal any sinner, than justice.
These metaphysical principles are fully borne out by tangible facts which take place now in the present administration of moral government. Within our own
observation, there have been persons on whom the wisest and the best means of improvement have been used in vain. These persons fully know their duty and their master's will, yet habitually live in sin. They have been on the bed of sickness, and nigh unto death; their remorse was excruciating, they earnestly prayed for respite, and vowed that on the restoration of health they would lead very different lives: they have recovered, and have been more hardened and reckless in sin than
These things have occurred to them again and again: and now all say that they seem as if given up of God to the hardness of their own bearts. This is, alas! a very common case. But when such language is used concerning such a sinner, is there any impression that such a giving up is unrighteous? Does any one think that such a hardened character is the result of any divine decree? No: every candid and holy mind may indeed view such a character as a case for his pity, but also for blame and reprehension. This ease is not solitary. It is the case of every sinner that bas: ever perished. It is the case of every instance of reprobation, a reprobation not the result of divine decrees, but the natural result of a character hardened in wrong, “to love darkness rather than light, because his deeds were evil."
As a vindication of this character of the divine purposes, the atonement is “set forth.” There is no reprobation in the atonement. The atonement in its design and in its aspect, in its testimony and in its influence, has no reprobation in it. It is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world; it is a testimony of love to the world," and consists in a “death for every man.” The blood that speaketh better things, never speaks reprobation. It speaks salvation in every syllable. It speaks and pleads for pardon in every case, and on every application. There are indeed some cases which are not pleaded by the blood of Christ, but there is not a single case reprobated by it. The cases not pleaded by him are those which sinners refuse to entrust bim with; the Intercessor himself rejects noņe. Every drop of the
blood of atonement says, “Reprobation is not in me." An atonement exhibited to vindicate absolute reprobation, would convulse the universe.
The Extent of the Atonement explained by the
character of the Divine Purposes.
The advocates of a limited atonement have always appealed to the divine purposes as the impregnable defences of particular salvation. The real state of the question, I deem to be this–Did the Father will, and did the Son design, that the atonement should be a medium of salvation to all men, or to a select chosen number only?
The question is not to be decided by the event, but by the nature of a "design" in a moral government. Thus were we to inquire whether Jehovah designed that the moral law published on Sinai should preserve all the Jews, in his service and worship-no one would answer and decide the question by the event, without reflecting unfavorably on the sincerity of the divine character. We may justly say that a thing is designed to produce and secure any end, when it is fitted and adapted to it, though eventually it may fail of it. The arrangement with Adam' in the garden of Eden was adapted, and consequently designed, to keep him from falling. The event indeed was otherwise, but the purpose was sincere and real. So the atonement of Christ is adapted, and therefore designed, to save man from sin, though the event in numerous instances may be otherwise. Some will not come unto him that they might have life, they will not have him to rule over them, they neglect their great salvation, and tread under foot the blood wherewith they were atoned, and deny and reject the Lord that bought them.
Commercial views of the atonement of Christ engender sentiments about the divine decrees unfavorable to