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turned to them by great Divines are not so satisfactory in every instance, as those imagine who do not think for themselves, and take too much upon trust. The subject is above our comprehension. There are two propositions, of the truth of which we are fully assured,—that God has pre-ordained all things which come to pass, and that he is not the author of sin. There can be no doubt about either of them, in the mind of the man who believes the Scriptures. He may not be able to reconcile them, but this ought not to weaken his conviction of their truth. Instead of suspecting the one or the other, it will be wise in him and in us to suspect our own reasonings from them. We are sure that they harmonize ; but, if our reasonings terminale in making them appear contradictory, we have ground to call their accuracy in question. By our reasonings, I mean our application of human ideas to the Divine decrees, and the inferences which we deduce from them.
Thirdly, it is objected against the doctrine of predestination, that it supersedes the use of means. If a man has been elected, he shall be saved, although he should give himself no concern, and even should live in sin: if he has not been elected, all his efforts to obtain eternal life will prove unavailing. But, of all objections, this is the silliest, although it is brought forward with great confidence, and by many is deemed very formidable. It is not an objection at all against the Scriptural doctrine of predestination, but against a spurious kind, hatched in the brains of ignorance, or concocted by malignity to bring odium upon the truth. The predestination to which this objection would be applicable, is an absolute pre-appointment of an end, without any regard to the means. But such predestination cannot without impiety be attributed to God, because it would be disgraceful to one of his intelligent creatures. Whoever reasons against this kind of predestination, is at perfect liberty to bring all the arguments which he can muster up to bear upon it, till he has fairly driven it off the stage. He must allow us, however, to tell him, that he has given himself a great deal of unnecessary labour; that he has been contending with a chimera, and has gained an empty triumph, as our doctrine remains untouched. The predestination which we maintain, is a purpose which embraces means and ends, fixes the means as surely as the ends, and so connects them, that without the former, the latter cannot take place. If God has elected some persons to eternal life, he has chosen them to it through faith and holiness as the means of salvation; if he has appointed other persons to wrath, his sentence is founded on their impenitence and unbelief. This is the doctrine of Scripture ; and if you will still assert that it renders all means unnecessary, you may with equal reason maintain, that a man who has been assured that, by the use of a certain medicine, his life will be prolonged, may justly take occasion from this assurance to neglect the medicine, and, at the same time, expect to live. Paul was assured, by a vision, of the lives of all that were in the ship with him, but still he said to the centurion, “ Except the sailors abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." And why did he say so, but because God had determined that the company should be saved by the skill and activity of the sailors ? The man who
says that the decrees of God superscde the use of means, does not know what he is saying. The means are an essential part of the decree, and are as necessary as the end. I mean, that it is not more necessary, that those who were chosen to life should be saved, than it is, that they should repent and believe. You would say, that the decree of God had failed, if any of the elect should perish; and I would say with equal truth, that it had failed, if any of them were saved in a state of carelessness and indolence. The uselessness of means, in consequence of the doctrine of absolute decrees, is a topic of vulgar declamation, which every man who wishes to maintain the credit of his understanding, should leave to sciolists and fools.
Lastly, It is objected, that the doctrine of predestination is inconsistent with the invitation of the gospel; for how could God offer salvation to men, if he had excluded them from it by an immutable decree ? and how could he earnestly entreat them to believe, although he had determined to withhold his effectual grace? There is a greater difficulty here than orthodox Divines sometimes seem willing to acknowledge, and the mode in which they meet it, is not always satisfactory. A distinction between the secret and revealed will of God must be admitted, and in many instances is perfectly intelligible ; but it is not easy to reconcile them, when, in revelation, he declares, that he is not willing that any should perish, but by his secret counsel, has left many to perish. He who sees no difficulty here, has not, as he probably imagines, more understanding than other men, but less. It may be remarked, however, that this objection does not press upon the system of absolute decrees alone, but meets every man, who simply admits the Divine prescience of future events ; for how, it may be asked, can God in sincerity invite, beseech, and expostulate with men, evidently with a design to effect a change of their sentiments, although he knows infallibly before-hand, that they will never change? I know what may be said in answer to the objection; but I confess my inability to give complete satisfaction to myself or to you. Let us suspect our own views of the subject, rather than suspect the sincerity of God. Of the latter we are certain; it is essential to his moral character, and is the foundation of our faith in his testimony, and our dependence upon his promises. We can never be certain that we understand the subject of predestination, so well as we understand that God is sincere. The latter truth, therefore, let us hold fast, whatever may become of our speculations respecting the former. Here we may err, because the subject is mysterious ; but on the other point, we cannot be deceived. The gospel is preached to every creature. All are commanded to believe, and encouraged by the promise of salvation. God would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."* If doubts respecting these comfortable declarations of Scripture should be suggested to us from any quarter, let us repel them as hostile to our own peace, and subversive of religion, and say with the Apostle, • Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.”+
In this and the two preceding lectures, I have considered the Divine decrees, first generally, and then more particularly, as they relate to men, and their eternal state. The doctrine which I have endeavoured to establish is, that God, before the beginning of the world, pre-ordained whatever comes to pass; or that, in the works of creation, providence, and redemption, he acts according to a plan previously settled in his own mind. To this general view of the subject there can be no objections, but as soon as we proceed to the application of it to human affairs, difficulties present themselves, which we are unable to solve. Two things are certain, that there are Divine decrees, which will be infallibly executed, and that man is responsible for his actions ; but how to reconcile them is a question which has perplexed thoughtful men in every age, and to which a satisfactory answer has not yet been discovered. In this case, our duty is, not to reject either of those points, but to call in the assistance of faith, when reason fails, and to believe, that by a mysterious link, God, as the poet expresses it,
" — binding nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will." It can serve no great purpose to muster up objections against the infallibility of the Divine decrees, or the responsibility of man; to listen to them when proposed by others; to revolve them in our minds ; to perplex ourselves with attempts to answer them, and to allow ourselves to be disquieted and to doubt • 1 Tim, ü. 4. † Rom. iii. 4.
because our endeavours are not successful. Although we should prove to our satisfaction, as many have done to theirs, that the decrees of God are not absolute, or that man is not free, all that we have gained is, to confirm our minds in the belief of a falsehood; for both doctrines must be true, as they are expressly declared in the Scriptures. To their authority let us bow; and by their decision let us regulate our thoughts and our conduct. If we still oppose our reasonings to their dictates, we must take our course; but let us beware lest we dispute ourselves into infidelity or atheism, and seek a refuge from our doubts in the rejection of revelation, because it inculcates truths which to us appear contradictory, or in the cheerless conclusion, that we live in a fatherless world, where chance bears sway, that man is the phantom of an hour, the sport of accident and passion, and that, as he knows not whence he came, so he cannot tell whither he is going, In opposition to this comfortless and impious conclusion, let us hold fast the creed which is consonant to reason as well as to revelation, that the Supreme Being manages the affairs of the universe which he created; that all creatures are dependent upon him, and all events are subject to his control ; that while good men obey him from choice, the wrath and wayward passions of the bad are subservient to his design ; that, while his almighty power bends them to his purpose, he is a moral Governor and Judge, whose righteousness will be displayed in punishing transgressors, even for those actions which were the means of executing his own decrees.
Idea of Creation-Evidences that the Universe was Created Illustration and Defence of the
Mosaic Account-God's Design in creating the Universe.
God works all things according to the counsel of his will, or, in other words, his external operations are conformable to the plan which was arranged by his wisdom from eternity. We are therefore naturally led, after having considered his decrees, to speak of their execution in his works. Our attention shall be directed, in the first place, to Creation, in which the execution of his purposes commenced.
In entering upon this subject, it is necessary to ascertain what is the precise idea of creation, or in what sense the term is used, when it is employed to denote the agency of God in the production of the universe. In this inquiry, we can receive no assistance from the consideration of the terms ny and <TIŚCE, by which it is expressed in the Scriptures. Conipound words are significant in themselves, because they are made up of terms to which a meaning has been previously affixed; but simple words are arbitrary sounds, which convey no idea to the hearer till he has been informed of what notion they are appointed to be the signs. Now, we find that the words under consideration have several acceptations in the Scriptures; and in particular, that the former signifies to make something out of nothing, to make something out of materials already existing or to give them a new form and arrangement, to revive and re-invigorate, and, lastly, to effect a change in the moral qualities of the soul, as when a new heart is said to be created within us. It is evident that the term is used in the first of these senses in the first chapter of Genesis, when God is said to have “ created” the heavens and the earth. The subsequent verses of that
chapter give an account of the order in which matter already existing was disposed, while, in our world the sea was separated from the land, and the earth was clothed with herbs, and filled with inhabitants; and in the higher regions, the luminaries had their stations and revolutions assigned to them. The manifest design is, to inform us by what steps God brought the mass of rude matter into that beautiful assemblage of parts which excites the admiration of every beholder. The first verse, therefore, must be understood to refer to the original production of matter by his almighty power. “In the beginning," or at the commencement of time, he made out of nothing the matter of which the heavens and the earth were composed, and upon which their present form was afterwards superinduced. This, I think, is the natural way of explaining the words; and, according to this view of them, the Bible opens with an ascription of the act of creation to God, in the highest, or rather, the only proper sense of the term.
There is another passage which will assist us in ascertaining the sense in which God is said to have created the world. “ Through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear, μη εκ φαινομένων, τα βλεπομενα 7770ver. Now, remark, that the Apostle would have suggested a different idea, had he used the phrase, ex uen passouerwv; for he would have intimated, that visible things were made of things invisible, which might have been supposed to signify the dark original chaos of the Heathens. But the expression, un ex quvopestcon, imports something very different, a denial that the universe was formed out of pre-existing matter. In other words, the worlds, according to the Apostle, were made out of nothing. Even the chaos of the ancients was invisible only because no sun, as Ovid says, gave light to the world, and the evening moon did not then repair her new horns;t it would have been seen, if there had been a medium through which it might be perceived. things that appear” are natier, which light has rendered visible, or matter which may be seen; and of this matter, Paul assures us the worlds were not framed.
Different arguments have been employed to prove that the universe had a beginning, and, consequently, that it was created by the power of God. To suppose the universe to be eternal, is to suppose it to be self-existent. But, besides that there is nothing in matter, which is inert, passive, divisible, and subject to perpetual change, to suggest the idea of its self-existence, it should be remembered, that whatever is self-existent, is necessarily existent. But as this necessity is the same every where, it follows, upon the supposition, that matter must have existed every where, or must have filled every portion of space, and have been infinitely extended. But this is absurd, and contrary to fact. There is another consequence which is equally false, that, if matter exists necessarily, it must exist either in a state of motion or in a state of rest, as necessity will determine every part of it to be in the same state. It would be impossible that, as is actually the case, one part of it should be in motion and another at rest. The necessity of its existence would extend to all its modifications; and, indeed, if we closely consider the subject, we shall find that it could have no modifications, but that, under the influence of necessity acting uniformly every where, it must have presented every where one uniform mass. How contrary this is to the actual state in which matter appears, we all know by observation.
Another argument against the eternity of the universe, is founded in the nature of time, which is a succession of moments. We can conceive time to commence at any given period, and to run on ad infinitum, or never to come to an end ; but we cannot conceive it to be actually infinite. An infinite duration can • Heb. xi. 3,
† Ovid. Metamorph. lib. i. v. 10. Vol. I.-48
never be made up of finite parts; because as each of those parts has an end, the sum which they compose must also have an end. As it is impossible that an infinite succession of moments can be past, it is impossible, that the universe can have existed from eternity. Further, if matter has existed from eternity, it must have existed, as we have seen, in the same form which it at present sustains, for this is the consequence of its necessary existence. The earth on which we dwell, and the heavens above us, are eternal; and the same motions have been incessantly going on in the immense regions of space. The earth has been revolving on its own axis, and, as well as the other planets, has been performing its circuit around the sun. Its revolutions upon its axis have been infinite ; and so have been its revolutions in its orbit; and so have been the revolutions of Saturn. Mark the consequence. We have here three infinites, which are made up of unequal parts; an infinite made up of the revolutions of Saturn, the time of which is twenty-nine times less than the infinite made up of the annual revolutions of the earth, and many thousand times less than the infinite made up of the diurnal revolutions of the latter. Thus we are landed in a palpable absurdity, from which we can only escape by renouncing the untenable hypothesis of the eternity of the universe, and admitting the Scriptural doctrine of its creation.
Another argument against the eternity of the world is founded on the recent date of authentic history. If, indeed, the accounts of some nations were to be credited, we should believe, that our earth has existed for many millions of years; but these are the dreams of poets, or of men of wild and undisciplined imaginations, and have been satisfactorily proved to be false. : No credible history reaches farther back than the period which Moses has assigned for the creation ; and profane history has nothing to relate but fables and rumours till the age of Herodotus, who flourished about five hundred years before the christian era. The silence of history with respect to any event prior to the time when we suppose the world to have been created, is unaccountable, if it had existed for eternity, or even for millions of years. How does it happen that not a hint has come down to us of innumerable former generations ? Surely, the human race must have possessed letters and science long before the date which we assign to them. How have all their monuments perished ? How is it that to us thousands and thousands of generations are as if they had never been? And how is it that civilization and learning can be traced back only to a period which is but as yesterday, if the earth and its inhabitants had no beginning? The want of all records of a higher date, the recent origin of nations, and the late invention of arts, all concur to shew, that only a few thousand years have elapsed, since our earth and its inhabitants came into existence. This argument was employed long ago by Lucretius, a follower of Epicurus, who, although an atheist, maintained, according to the doctrine of his master, that the present system had a beginning, in respect at least of arrangement and form. If the heavens and the earth are eternal, why have the actions of illustrious men so often sunk into oblivion? Why does no record remain to perpetuate their fame? Why does history begin with some facts of comparatively modern date?
Cur supra bellum Thebanum et funera Trojæ,
Non alias alii quoque res cecinere poetæ ?* Notwithstanding these arguments, none of the ancient philosophers, not even Lucretius or his master, had any proper idea of the creation of the universe. They all believed the eternity of matter. Ocèllus Lucanus, in his treatise [løpe TOU TRYTOS, maintains the eternity of the universe by this argument, that what will have no end had no beginning; drawing a confident conclusion
• Lucret. de Rerum Nat. Lib. v. 327.