« PreviousContinue »
man's free agency, responsibility, or criminality; and that they did not at all excuse the conduct of Judas, Caiaphas, or Herod: nor can they avoid this concession, except by a very near approach to avowed infidelity.
But, what is a prophecy? Surely the event predicted is most certainly foreknown, if not decreed, by God. I must own, also, that a distinction between certain foreknowledge and an absolute decree, in respect of the great God, would be far beyond my conception; even were nothing spoken of "the eternal purpose, which "he purposed in himself;" of what was "deter"mined before to be done;" and many other things to the same effect.
Now, at first glance, one would suppose that a divine decree, when published, would be far more likely to interfere with free agency, responsibility,. or. criminality, than a divine decree which was concealed by inviolable secrecy: because the former might, in some instances, influence men's conduct; which the latter cannot possibly do. Yet a vast majority of ministers and writers on theological subjects, seem to decide in direct opposition to this. Revealed decrees do not; secret decrees do thus interfere.
Had the purposes of God respecting Joseph, and the family of Jacob, the nation of Israel, the church, and the world, through all subsequent generations, as inseparably connected with his being sold into Egypt, been clearly and expressly foretold; his brethren might have had some plausible pretence for saying, that "they meant it for "good," when they sold him to the Midianites:
but, as the divine purposes were wholly concealed from them, they had not so much as this feeble plea.
The same might be shewn, still more emphatically, in the case of Judas, Caiaphas, and others concerned in our Lord's crucifixion; except that there were clear predictions of this event, and of all its circumstances: but, what arose from this? They who had the most opportunity of knowing these prophecies had the greater sin!
Yet, while divines in general agree, that prophecy does not at all interfere with man's free agency or responsibility; vast numbers, not only without reason, but directly contrary to reason, as it appears to me, take it for granted as undeniable, that the doctrine of predestination, or of God's secret decrees, does thus interfere; and, if true, would almost, if not entirely, destroy man's free agency and responsibility, and excuse his crimes. But why secret decrees should have this effect, and revealed decrees, or certain foreknowledge of special events, should not have it; is what I cannot in the smallest degree account for, nor can I conceive that the opinion has the least support, either in revelation or sound philosophy.
I by no means would adduce this argument as proving the truth of the doctrines in question: the sure testimony of God must here be appealed to, and ought to be decisive: yet I think these hints sufficient to demonstrate, that the most plausible and popular grounds, whether of argument or declamation, from the pulpit or the press, against them, are wholly and absolutely inconclusive and irrational, however triumphantly and
repeatedly brought forward, with ingenuity of reasoning or the charms of eloquence; and, though fallacious even in that case, they would be more plausibly by far urged against the whole system of prophecy. Perhaps I may send you some further thoughts on subjects connected with this, should you deem these worthy a place in your publication.
Ar a time when so many things respecting popery and papists (who, by a palpable misnomer, call themselves, and are called, catholics,) attract the public attention; and so many persons seem disposed to palliate the exceedingly pernicious evils of that system-without doubt the most pernicious, and permanent, and wide spread corruption and rival of true Christianity, which ever did or ever will exist: it may not be improper to bring to the notice of the public, at least of those to whom religion is indeed a grand concern, some things which our predecessors have thought and written on the subject; especially as to the question, how far popery contains all the essentials of true religion. I therefore here transcribe, at present, a few thoughts from a treatise by Dr. John Edwards, sometime fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, intitled, A Confutation of
two false and dangerous positions,' printed 1731, Should you think them worthy of insertion, I may perhaps send you more. I am, Sir,
Your humble servant,
"The church of Rome not only upholds and maintains false doctrine, but even denies the fundamentals of Christianity, and renounces the very substance of the Christian faith. I know this is not granted by the generality of our divines: yea they peremptorily assert the contrary; and tell us that all the essential articles of faith are owned by the church of Rome; and that the church of Rome believes all that we believe; because they own the three creeds as we do: they own all that is necessary to man's salvation; and that makes a true church; and, as for their hay and stubble, that does not unchurch them.
"But this is not the right way of dealing with the church of Rome. If we will be faithful to the protestant cause, we must go higher than this we must charge papists with holding those doctrines that are contrary to the fundamental, essential, and necessary articles of réligion; which I prove thus: It is a necessary and essential article of religion, that God only is to be worshipped; but the church of Rome asserts, and maintains, that image worship, and worshipping of saints and angels, and of the bread and wine in the sacrament, is lawful; and therefore she renounces that fundamental article, that we are to worship the true God, and him only; for any one may see, that we cannot worship the true God
only, and yet pay adoration to creatures, as saints and angels, and the eucharist before mentioned. Who then can say, that all the necessary and essential articles of faith are owned by the church of Rome?
"To be saved by Christ's merits only, is another fundamental article: but papists contend for their own merits, and the merit of the saints. Now, if we are able to merit, Christ's merits are to no purpose; for he merited for us, because we cannot. So that this popish doctrine destroys the whole system of the gospel, and the work of our redemption, which entirely depends on the meritorious undertakings of our Saviour, as our church has taught us in our eleventh article: 'We are accounted (saith she,) righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings.'
"That none can make satisfaction for our sins but Christ is another essential truth: but the Romanists require our own satisfaction as necessary, and thereby annul the satisfaction of Christ: for, if we can by our own works satisfy for ourselves, than the satisfaction of Christ is needless and superfluous. So, that the popish tenet of satisfaction destroys one of the chiefest fundamentals of Christianity.
"It is an essential article, that Christ is our only Advocate and Mediator; but the church of Rome adds other mediators and advocates; and thereby takes away the all-sufficient mediatorship of Christ.
"Who then can say, that the papists and pro