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that God cannot have made it their duty, or have invited them to attend the means of salvation, seeing he is determined not to bestow salvation upon them. And thus we must not only be driven to explain the general invitation to many who never came to the gospel supper, of a mere invitation to attend the means of grace, but must absolutely give it up, and the bible with it, on account of its inconsistency.
: Farther, This mode of reasoning would prove that the use of means in order to obtain a temporal subsistence, and to preserve life, is altogether vain and inconsistent. If we believe that the future states of men are determined of God, we must also believe the same of their present states. The scriptures teach the one, no less than the other. God hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation. Our cup is measured, and our lot assigned us. There is also an appointed time for man upon earth: his days are as the days of an hireling. His days are determined, and the number of his months are with God: He has appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.* Yet those who reason as above, with regard to things of another life, are as attentive to the affairs of this life as other people. They are no less concerned than their neighbours for their present accommodation; nor less employed in devising means for the lengthening out of their lives, and of their tran
* Acts xvii. 26. ́Psalm xvi. 5. Job vii. 1. xiv. 5.
quillity. But if the purpose of God may consist with the agency of man in present concerns, it may in those which are future, whether we can perceive the link that unites them or not: and if our duty in the one case be the same as if no such purpose existed, it is so in the other. Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever.
It was the duty of Pharaoh to have followed the counsel of Moses, and to have let the people go; and his sin to pursue them into the sea: yet it was the purpose of God by this means to destroy him.* Moses sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, Let me pass through thy land; and it was doubtless the duty of Sihon to have complied with the request: yet it appears by the issue, that the Lord had determined to give his country to Israel for a possession, and therefore gave him up to hardness of heart, by which it was accomplished.t
If the days of man are determined, and his bounds appointed that he cannot pass them, it must have been determined that that generation of the Israelites who went out of Egypt should die in the wilderness: yet it was their duty to have believed God, and to have gone up to possess the land; and their sin to disbelieve him, and turn back in their hearts to Egypt. And it deserves particular notice,
* Exod. vii. 1-4. † Deut. ii. 26-30.
that this their sin is held up, both by David and Paul, as an example for others to shun, and that in spiritual concerns.* It was the determination of God that Ahab should fall in his expedition against Ramoth Gilead, as was plainly intimated to him by Micaiah: yet it was his duty to have hearkened to the counsel that was given him, and to have desisted from his purpose. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans was determined of God, and frequently foretold by the prophets: yet the inhabitants were as frequently counselled to return from their evil ways that they might avoid it. Jeremiah particularly intreated Zedekiah to follow his counsel, that he might save the city and himself from ruin. +
However such things may grate upon the minds of some, yet there are cases in which we ourselves are in the habit of using similar language, and that without any idea of attributing to God any thing inconsistent with the greatest perfection of moral character. If a wicked man be set on mischievous pursuits, and all the advices and warnings of his friends be lost upon him, we do not scruple to say, 'It seems as if God had determined to destroy him, and therefore has given him up to infatuation.' In the use of such language we have no idea of the determination of God being unjust, or capricious. On the contrary, we suppose he may have wise and just reasons for doing as he does; and as such,
* 1 Cor. x. 6—12. †1 Kings xxii. 15-22. Jer. xxxviii. 20.
notwithstanding our compassion towards the party, we acquiesce in it. Whenever we speak of God as having determined to destroy a person, or a people, we feel the subject too profound for our comprehension; and well indeed we may. Even an inspired apostle, when discoursing of God's rejection of the Jewish nation, though he glances at the merciful aspect which this awful event wore towards the gentiles, and traces some great and wise designs that should be answered by it; yet feels himself lost in his subject. Standing as on the brink of an unfathomable abyss, he exclaims, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!* He believed the doctrine of divine decrees, or that God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: but he had no idea of making these things any part of the rule of duty; either so as to excuse his countrymen from the sin of unbelief, or himself from using every possible mean that might accomplish their salvation. On the one hand, he quoted the words of David as applicable to them, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a recompense unto them. On the other, he declares, I speak to you gentiles-if by ANY MEANS I may provoke to emulation them that are my flesh, and might save some of them!†
* Rom. xi. 33. † Rom. ix. 9. x. 1. xi. 13, 14.
There were those in that day, as well as in this, who objected, that if things be as God hath purposed, Why doth he yet find fault; for who hath resisted his will? This was no other than suggesting that the doctrine of decrees must needs operate to the setting aside of the fault of sinners; and this is the substance of what has been alleged from that day to this. Some, because they cannot conceive of the doctrine but as drawing after it the consequence assigned to it by this replier against God, reject it; others appear to have no objection to the consequence itself, stamped as it is with infamy by the manner in which the apostle repelled it, and therefore admit the doctrine as connected with it! But so did not Paul. He held fast the doctrine of decrees, and held it as comporting with the fault of sinners. After all that he had written upon God's electing some, and rejecting others--he in the same chapter assigns the failure of those that failed, to their not seeking justification by faith in Christ; but as it were by the works of the law, stumbling at the stumbling-stone.*
"God's word," says Mr. Brine, "and not his se(C cret purpose, is the rule of our conduct." "We "must exactly distinguish," says Dr. Owen, "be"tween man's duty, and God's purpose; there be❝ing no connexion between them. The purpose "and decree of God is not the rule of our duty; "neither is the performance of our duty, in do
Rom. ix. 32. † Certain Efficacy, &c. p. 151.