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work in them, will complete it; so that the man who is once in a state of salvation, must be always in it. When the case of David, the man of God's own heart, is stated to him; or the text quoted, where that chosen vessel, St. Paul, expresses an apprehension, lest after all his preaching to others, he himself should be a cast-away;* he has a reply suited to the occasion; that upon the supposition that the elect may commit grievous sins, his comfort is, that their salvation cannot be endangered, because no act of man can render void the Divine purpose in his favour.
Thus then, under the impression of the first of these imaginations, the man neglects the use of the means of grace, upon the idea that his heart has not been opened by God to receive benefit from them; and because he has no power of himself to help himself, he cannot be persuaded to make use of that power which God has given him. Under the impression of the second, the means of grace are oft times considered by him to be of no consequence, from the conviction that his salvation is effectually secured.
I do not say that this doctrine is carried to the same extent by every professor of it. God forbid it should. For there are degrees of folly, as there are degrees of wisdom; and no extraordinary case can constitute a proper standard for general application. But there is one instance to be produced, which authorises my placing it in the light in which it is here placed, with the view of guarding my reader against it. One of my parishioners, who took his
* 1 Cor. ix. 27.
divinity, as perhaps many others may do, from some
An additional anecdote, which furnishes a most
striking proof of the ill effects of this dangerous
Read, now, the story of the good Samaritan; and judge how far such a narrow-minded religion, which engrosses all God's favours to its own professors, and regards the rest of mankind as objects in a Condition beneath that of the beasts that perish, agrees with the enlarged and charitable spirit of the Gospel. When the disciples of our Saviour would have called down fire from n heaven to destroy their enemies, our Saviour rebuked them, by telling them, that they knew not what spirit they were of.* What Would this Saviour say to those professors of his religion, who could suffer a fellow-creature to starve at their doors, because he lived in error?
15 In a word, let this doctrine of election and absolate decrees, as it is often understood, and the effects produced by it upon the lives of some of its professors, be compared with the revealed purpose of Christ's coming into the world, and the spirit of his religion; and let this be done fairly, without prejudice, and with an eye only to the truth, and it is impossible that any Christian can longer be led captive by such a delusion.
The rule laid down, though not strictly followed, by St. Augustine," that the more obscure parts of scripture, should be interpreted by those that are plain is the only rule that will enable us to form oa rational and consistent judgment upon the doctrines of revelation. ago
loo That Christ came to redeem man in his general character from the consequences of the fall, and to purchase for him those means of renewed grace, which required only to be properly employed to & Wotend to bĺpov * Luke ix. 55.S
become effectual to his salvation, constituted the essence of that glad tidings, which the birth of a Saviour iour was intended to convey to a lost world This doctrine, so plainly and fully revealed, ought in reason to overbalance every argument drawn from a few obscure passages, which at first sight may seem to look a contrary way. But this is a consideration which seldom has its due weight with those who entertain some singular conceit or opis nion. Engrossed with their own notions, they are not to be prevailed upon to make the general tenor of scripture the standard for their doctrine; but are apt to bend and warp the expressions of it to their own particular purpose: and whilst they eagerly lay hold of every passage that seems to countenance it, will hardly give a hearing to other texts, how plain soever, that might serve to set the subject in its true light. To this prejudice in favour of a pre-conceived opinion, added perhaps to a certain respect for the authority of names, is that doctrine in a great degree to be attributed, which places the conduct of a merciful Creator towards his fellow-creature, in a light so very different from that in which the plainest texts of scripture authorise us to regard it. log b 1 306] nwe yar te¶ In fact, those parts of St. Paul's writings on which this partial doctrine is supposed to be founded, which has perplexed the minds of so many well-meaning people, were seen in a very different light by the primitive Christians, to whom they y conveyed the same idea that they now cone vey to all who pay attention to the generals tenor of the Apostle's argument. By them the Apostle
has been considered as laying open the mysterious
For my own