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countably taken for granted that it exhibited a pure and perfect text. This, therefore, became the standard of all succeeding editions, from which few editors till very lately have presumed to vary : and this constitutes the “Received Text."
Thus it appears, that the Received Text stands upon the authority of the unknown editor of the Elzevir edition, who copied the text of Robert Stephens, introducing a few variations from that of Beza. The edition of Beza was also taken from that of Robert Stephens, with a few trifling and sometimes even arbitrary alterations. But Robert Stephens's famous edition of A. D. 1550 is a close copy of the fifth edition of Erasmus with some alterations in the book of Revelation from the Complutensian Polyglot, and the addition of a few various readings, collected by a youth of eighteen, from fifteen manuscripts of litle value. And, finally, Erasmus's edition itself, which is the prototype of them all, was formed hastily and negligently from a few manuscripts of little authority, which accidentally came into his possession at Basle, where he was engaged by Froben in editing the works of Jerome, and where he had no further assistance, than what he could derive from the Vulgate Version, and from inaccurate editions of some of the early ecclesiastical writers.
From the few advantages which were possessed, and from the little care which was taken, by the early editors, it may justly be concluded, not only that the Received Text is not a perfect copy of the apostolic originals, but that it is still capable of very considerable improvement, by the same means, which are adopted by men of learning and sagacity, for correcting and restoring the text of other ancient writers*.
* See Griesbach's Prolegomena, sec. 1. ; Dr. Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ij. chap. xii. sec. 1.
QUESTION ON GOD'S WILL.
Was ever any thing transacted contrary to the will of him who created all things ? If this question be answered in the affirmative, in what manner did we become free agents ?
The above question was sent us by one of our subscribers. The solution of it, on some accounts, may be attended with some little difficulty. Men with respect to their sentiments of the divine government, are divided into two general classes. The one holds that the divine agency operates in all things, and in all actions, irresistibly and decisively, while the other accounts there is a degree of agency in man, which can be the only proper foundation of his moral character. There may be various ways of modifying and explaining these two general sentiments; but after all, it will be difficult to suppose a third.
If we suppose nothing can take place in opposition to the will of God, it seems to follow unavoidably, that all things are in due conformity to his will. None of us would have any objection to such an idea, did it not involve a difficulty in relation to those actions of men that are evil. To consider all the wickedness of mankind in conformity to the will of God, appears to be one of the greatest absurdities. God is infinitely good, and of course, can possess no will but a will of goodness. How then is it possible for us to reconcile the idea with the divine perfection of infinite goodness, that evil actions are in conformity to the will of God ? If we attempt to point out two senses to the will of God, and say that in one sense wickedness is agreeable to his will, and in another, it is in opposition, the difficulty will still remain, to show how two contradictory wills can exist in the same Being whose divine perfections all harmonize in perfect unity. This has been attempted by a number of writers; but their writings appear as incongruous as the two positions which they attempt to reconcile.
The doctrine that accounts all events, even every evil moral action, in conformity to God's will, because nothing can resist his will, presents an alarming aspect in point of moral tendency. What can be better calculated to soothe the troubled mind, and quiet the stinging remorses of conscience without emendation, than to believe one's actions are altogether unavoidable, and the appearance of an opportunity to have done better, was only a disguised and delusive flattery? If a man's faith teaches him that all his actions are agreeable to God's will, what can he wish for more ? Should conscience upbraid him for evil, his faith instructs him that this evil was not only necessary, but good. It would make him believe that when he thought he was doing ill, he was in reality doing good, because he was doing the will of God, and could not possibly do otherwise. We have reason to believe that a theory like this, is not only calculated to have a bad influence, but has, in many instances, actually had its use in leading to the cold apathy of indifference, or leaving to the fury of unrestrained passion. That some pious people have used the doctrine as a means of consolation in times of peril and distress, is not to be doubted. That it has not always been attended with detrimental consequences may likewise be admitted.
On the other hand, there may appear something wanting in the energy of the divine will, to say that any thing can ever successfully oppose it. If it can be opposed in one action, it can be opposed in many. And it is further said, that it remains uncertain whether the will of the Lord will ever be done. While the former sentiment presents an appalling aspect, in making God the efficient cause of all evil as well as good, the latter seems to suspend every thing upon doubt and uncertainty. What may appear still more difficult and surprizing, some endeavor to coalesce both these systems, so as neither to hold to the one nor the other exclusively. Such attempts are manifest in the greater part of Calvinistic writings and preaching. And it is from this consideration that so many of their sermons appear in themselves so disjointed and contradictory.
All these things the reader, no doubt, has often seen, and
many times has been embarrassed by them. Did we suppose that these were hidden from him, we should be more cautious in leading him to them ; for we would not bring any one into difficulty, unless we were persuaded we could shortly help him out.
When we look into the scriptures for information on these points, we see many things full and express; but with so much variety as leads to the conclusion that they should be rightly divided in order to form distinct and accurate ideas of each, and preserve in the mind a suitable consistency throughout the whole. We will now cite a few passages that treat of God's will. "And he doeth according to his will, in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say unto him,what doest thou?" Dan. iv. 35. “Remember the former things of old ; for I am God and there is none else ; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure.”—Isai. xlvi. 10. «Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."--Ephe. i. 11.
These passages represent the energy and effects of the divine will, as we could easily imagine, according to the perfections of the Deity. But when we read, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice," (Matt. ix. 13.) and yet we find the people were more strict to do sacrifice than to show mercys we see a representation of the will of God which was not done. Again, "The Lord is not willing that any should perish ;” (2 Pet. iii. 9.) but notwithstanding, we read of those, who "shall utterly perish in their own corruption."
tI is presumed that if these difficulties are capable
of solution, we shall progress, by first attempting to define the word will. It is evident that it is frequently used in scripture and elsewhere, as synonymous with the term choice. But its more legitimate and primitive meaning is, that power of the mind by which it determines what it will do, or what shall be done. In man we believe there may be a choice without a determination ; but as God chooses nothing but what is fit and proper, it does not appear that we should be justified in making this distinction in relation to him. When St. Paul speaks of doing or acting against his will, (1 Cor. ix. 17.) we may understand by will, a strong desire of the mind, but not a determination, unless a previous one that had been counteracted by some impelling force.
From the above definition of the term will, it will readily appear the will of God cannot be successfully opposed, short of more than infinite power. The declaration made of his will in the aforecited passages, and many others that might be added, is therefore to be understood according to the natural import of the language which expresses it. We
may further observe, that every maxim, or precept contained in any law, must be expressive of the will of the authority which sanctions that law. Hence the laws of God must be expressive of the will of God. But it is inconsistent with the nature of any law that imposes moral obligation to impel to obedience; it can only require it. If there could be a law, that should force to obedience, why could not life, through obedience, be given by the law ? “Had there been a law given,” says the Apostle, "that could have given life, then verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Gal. iii. 21. But such a law was not given, and no doubt because it could not be given without destroying the fundamental principles of moral actions. God would not, in his infinite wisdom, withhold the greater good to grant the less, without some just reason for so