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they have extended to all mankind, what was spoken merely and solely of Christians.
The only part of Scripture which seems to my mind to have any appearance of teaching predestination, or personal, arbitrary election, is the conversation of Christ with the Jews immediately after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, by which many worldly people were induced to follow him, not that they might be benefited by his doctrine, but that they might idly obtain a support. Whenever he attempted to say to them any thing of a spiritual and elevated nature, they began to cavil, and perversely to take that literally which he meant in a figurative sense. When he spoke of his being the bread that came down from heaven, meaning his doctrine, they disingenuously took him to mean his person. Just so with regard to his giving them his flesh. He soon grew weary
of them, and told them, “No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." And afterwards; “Therefore said I unto you, no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of
These two sentences have at first sight the appearance of teaching that the power to become a true disciple of Christ was arbitrarily bestowed. But this appearance vanishes when we compare it with other parts of the same conversation, and consider the occasion and purpose for which it was spoken. Some had come to him with wrong motives and with evil dispositions. He tells them that this was not coming to him truly and
acceptably. “It is written in the prophets,” referring as was supposed to the times of the Messiah, “And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.” How then was it that it was given to men to come to Christ? This verse explains it to be by his having taught them. But in order that he should teach them they must learn. So he says, Whosoever hath heard and learned of the Father cometh to me. Was not this hearing and learning a perfectly voluntary act? Then this giving to men to come to Christ was exercised by God not arbitrarily, or independently of their will and free agency, but through it. Those whom God had taught, but who had likewise been willing to learn, were they to whom God had given to come acceptably to Christ. Christ does not mean to say that God arbitrarily gave the power to some and withheld it from others, of coming acceptably to him. He means to say that God hath given it to them who are willing to receive it, that is, who had received and obeyed and profited by the instructions which he had before given them. So these assertions of Christ do not declare the doctrine of arbitrary personal election, when taken in the connection in which they stand, and explained by the context, although to a superficial observer they may have that appearance.
We now finish our argument from Scripture with the conclusion that the doctrine of personal, unconditional election is not taught there. This is
enough for those who take their religion from the Bible and from the Bible alone.
It now remains to discuss an argument for personal election drawn from a source merely and purely philosophical, the foreknowledge of God. Does not God foreknow every individual who will be saved? Is it not one of the Divine perfections to know, not only every thing that has been, but every thing that ever will be? Has not God foretold in the Scriptures the actions of men long before they happened? How could he do this, unless the . future actions, and the future condition of every human being were known to him. How could this be, unless every thing is unchangeably predetermined? Does it not therefore follow that all human actions, as well as human events, are arranged in a chain, or rather a web, no particle of which can ever be displaced?
We answer in the first place, that this subject is entirely beyond our comprehension. We have no fixed data from which we can certainly decide one way or the other. For my own part, so little do we know of the abstract nature of the Deity, that I am not inclined to assert or deny any thing very positively concerning the metaphysical perfections or attributes of the Divine Mind. There is much fallacy, I fear, in the language we use upon this subject. The word foreknowledge takes for granted the very point in question, that there is a kind of Fate above God himself, in which he reads what is to come. No future event can be fore
known, except by a Being who has the power, and has determined, to bring it to pass. His predetermination must be the foundation of his foreknowledge. That he has predetermined every act of his own to all eternity, so as no longer to be a free agent, is more than we can know, or have a right to assert. While this is the case, all positive assertions concerning God's foreknowledge must be rash, and all systems founded upon it can have no fixed or certain foundation.
Though I do not deny the universal foreknowledge of God, it is by no means clear to my mind, that in saying the Deity foresees and foreknows every thing in the sense of having foreordained it, we do not take as much from his perfections in one particular as we add to them in another. That foreknowledge and foreordination of God, which fixes all future events, the actions of voluntary agents among the rest, fixes likewise the future actions of the Deity. It fixes a kind of fate, which, like that of the ancient heathens, binds God and man. Such a doctrine, therefore, as much as it adds to God's omniscience, takes away from his omnipotence and freedom. It takes from his omnipotence in another way. It makes it impossible for him to create a contingency, or to create an agent positively free. It puts it out of his power to create a state of probation. It is no more honourable to the Deity, as far as I can conceive, to suppose him to govern the universe by a decree that he made from all eternity, than that he governs
it by a present agency, which he orders every moment according to existing circumstances. The nature of a free volition of the human mind, according to those ideas of freedom, which we derive from consciousness and observation is, that it has no necessary and unavoidable connection with any thing that went before, with any state of the mind, or of outward circumstances; otherwise it is mechanical, necessary, not free. It must be then absolutely uncertain how the mind will act. It is no impeachment of the Divine perfections to suppose that he does not foresee that as certain, which, for the sake of human liberty and trial, he has made uncertain. That he governs the material universe by certain, fixed, and invariable laws of succession and likewise the general course of human events is probable and uncontradicted; but that there is left open a certain space for the free will of man to act, so far as is necessary to form and display character, is to my mind equally probable.
At any rate, God has made consciousness to be to us the highest and most undoubted source of evidence and belief. We are conscious that we are free, and it is a natural impossibility to believe any thing else. Whatever speculations we enter into, we shall always act upon this supposition. To us it is an ultimate, fundamental principle, not to be done away, or modified by any other. The whole moral world is constructed upon the supposition that we are free. God treats us as if we