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the one may be good and the other may be evil. The thing itself may be evil, and yet it may be a good thing that it should come to pass. It may be a good thing that an evil thing should come to pass; and oftcntimes it most certainly and undeniably is so, and proves so.
§ 61. Objectors to the doctrine of election may say, God cannot always preserve men from sinning, unless he destroy their liberty. But will they deny that an omnipotent, an infinitely wise God, could possibly invent and set before men such strong motives to obedience, and keep them before them in such a manner as should influence them to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty : God will order it so that the saints and angels in heaven never will sin, and does it therefore follow that their liberty is destroyed, and that they are not free, but forced in their actions 2 Does it follow that they are turned into machines and blocks, as the Arminians say the Calvinistic doctrines turn men 2
§ 62. To conclude this discourse; I wish the reader to consider the unreasonableness of rejecting plain revelations, because they are puzzling to our reason. There is no greatcr difficulty attending this doctrine than the contrary, nor so great. So that though the doctrine of the decrees be mysterious, and attended with difficulties, yet the opposite doctrine is in itself more mysterious, and attended with greater difficulties, and with contradictions to reason more evident, to one who thoroughly considers things; so that, even if the scripture had made no revelation of it, we should have had reason to believe it. But since the scripture is so abundant in declaring it, the unreasonableness of rejecting it appears the more glaring.
§ 1. IT is manifest that the scripture supposes, that if ever men are turned from sin, God must undertake it, and he must be the doer of it; that it is his doing that must determine the matter ; that all that others can do, will avail nothing, without his agency. This is manifest by such texts as these, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19. “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned ; Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented ; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh,” &c. Lam. v. 21. “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.”
§ 2. According to Dr. Whitby's notion of the assistance of the Spirit, the Spirit of God does nothing in the hearts or minds of men beyond the power of the devil; nothing but what the devil can do; and nothing shewing any greater power in any respect, than the devil shews and exercises in his temptations. For he supposes that all that the Spirit of God does, is to bring moral motives and inducements to mind, and set them before the understanding, &c. It is possible that God may infuse grace, in some instances, into the minds of such persons as are striving to obtain it in the other way, though they may not observe it, and may not know that it is not obtained by gradual acquisition. But if a man has indeed sought it only in that way, and with as much dependence on himself, and with as much neglect of God in his endeavors and prayers, as such a doctrine naturally leads to, it is not very likely that he should obtain saving grace by the efficacious, mighty power of God. It is most likely that God should bestow this gift in a way of earnest attention to divine truth, and the use of the means of grace, with reflection on one's own sinfulness, and in a way of being more and more convinced of sinfulness, and total corruption and need of the divine power to restore the heart, to infuse goodness, and of becoming more and more sensible of one’s own impotence, and helplessness and inability to obtain goodness by his own strength. And if a man has obtained no other virtue, than what seems to have been wholly in that gradual and insensible way that might be expected from use and custom, in the exercise of his own strength, he has reason to think, however bright his attainments may seem to be, that he has no saving virtue.
§ 3. Great part of the gospel is denied by those who deny pure efficacions grace. They deny that wherein actual salvation and the application of redemption mainly consists; and how unlikely are such to be successful in their endeavors after actual salvation 2
§ 4. Turnbull's explanation of Philip. ii. 12. 13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” is this, (Christian philosophy, p. 96, 97.) “ Give all diligence to work out your salvation; for it is God the Creator of all things, who, by giving you, of his good pleasure, the power of willing and doing, with a sense of right and wrong, and reason to guide and direct you, hath visibly made it your end so to do. Your frame shews, that to prepare yourselves for great moral happiness, arising from a well cultivated and improved mind, suitably placed, is your end appointed to you by your Creator. Consider, therefore, that by neglecting this your duty, this your interest, you contemn and oppose the good will of God towards you, and his design in creating •ront.”
§ 4. If we look through all the examples we have of conversion in scripture, the conversion of the Apostle Paul,
and of the Corinthians, (“Such were some of you, but ye are washed,” &c.) and all others that the apostles write to, how far were they from this gradual way of conversion, by contracted habits, and by such culture as Turnbull speaks of : Turnbull, in his Christian Philosofthy, p. 470, seems to think, that the sudden conversions that were in the apostles’ days, were instances of their miraculous power, as in these words, “They appealed to the works they wrought, to the samples they gave of their power to foretel future events; their power to cure instantaneously all diseases of the body; their power to cure, in the same extraordinary manner, all diseases of the mind, or to convert bad into good dispositions; their power to bestow gifts and blessings of all sorts, bodily and spiritual.” See again to the like purpose, p. 472. Now I would inquire, whether those who thus had the diseases of their minds cured, and their bad converted into good dispostions, had any virtue ; or whether those good dispositions of their's were virtues, or any thing praiseworthy; and whether, when they were thus converted, they became good men, and the heirs of salvation ? As Turnbull himself allows, all that are not good men, were called the children of the devil in scripture ; and he asserts that nothing is virtue, but what is obtained by our own culture ; that no habit is virtuous, but a contracted one, one that is owing to ourselves, our own diligence, &c. and also holds, that none are good men but the virtuous; none others are the heirs of future happiiness.
§ 5. What God wrought for the Apostle Paul and other primitive Christians, was intended for a pattern to all future ages, for their instruction and excitement; Eph. ii. 7. 1 Tim. i. 16. It is natural to expect, that the first fruits of the church specially recorded in history, and in that book which is the steady rule of the church in all things pertaining to salvation, should be a pattern to after ages in those things, those privileges, which equally concern all. Or if it be said, that as soon as men take up a strong resolution, they are accepted and looked upon by God as penitents and converts; it may be inquired, is there a good man without good habits, or principles of virtue and goodness in his heart 2 * § 6. Turnbull speaks of good men as born again; i.e.
changed by culture; Christian Philosohhy, p. 282. Is there a good man without such principles as love to God and men, or charity, humility, &c 2: How comes that resolution to be so good, if no principle of virtue be exercised in it?
If it be said, Paul was a good man before he was converted, it may be answered, he did not believe in Christ, and therefore was in a state of condemnation. Besides, he speaks of himself as being then a wicked man.
$7." Concerning the supposition advanced by Bishop Butler, and by Turnbull in his Christian Philosophy, that all that God does, even miracles themselves, are wrought according to general laws, such as are called the laws of nature, though unknown to us; and the supposition of Turnbull, that all may be done by angels acting by general laws, I observe, this seems to be unreasonable. If angels effect these works, acting only by general laws, then they must do them without any immediate; special interposition at all, even without the smallest intimation of the divine mind, what to do, or upon what occasion God would have any thing to be done. “And what will this doctrine bring inspiration to, which is one kind of miracle : According to this, all significations of the divine mind, even to the prophets and apostles, must be according to general laws, without any special interposition at all of the divine agency.
§ 8. Acts xii. 23. God was so angry with Herod for not giving him the glory of his eloquence, that the angel of the Lord smote him immediately, and he died a miserable death; he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But if it be very sinful for a man to take to himself the glory of such a qualification as eloquence, how much more a man's taking to himself the glory of divine grace, God's own image, and that