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Aston Sandford, Sept. 9, 1814.
The very candid and respectful manner, in which * Clericus Oxoniensis' (in your number for August, p. 483,) asks my deliberate judgment on a subject in which he supposes two parts of my exposition to be irreconcilable, requires a frank and ingenuous reply.
In writing on so great a variety of subjects as a comment on the scriptures necessarily involves, it would not be at all wonderful, if, in subordinate matters, real inconsistencies of one part with another should be discovered; for the mind cannot keep the whole in view at once. In many things of this kind I must crave the candour of the reader: but I shall, while I am here, be thankful to have such inaccuracies pointed out to me, that I may acknowledge and rectify them.
In the present instance, I do not perceive any thing, in either of the passages referred to, which is contrary to my present views. In the latter quotation, the actual state of things, among adults, in the visible church, at present, and in most of the preceding ages, is intended : and it appears to be a matter beyond doubt, that a vast majority live and die strangers to true repentence, conversion, and saving faith in the son of God: they must then perish, and God will assuredly be righteous in their condemnation. But, if the case be thus in respect of professed Christians, what is it in respect of Mohammedans and idolaters ? What, among the present race of Jews ? Nay among the Israelites before the coming of Christ? Of ancient Jews there was, and of Christians there is, “ a remnant according to the election of
Notes, Rom. v. 15-19, and Pract. Ob. Rom. ix. 22---33.
grace : ” but this is not said of the others. This, then, is my deliberate judgment, in respect of the latter quotation.
In respect to the former quotation, I did not mean to establish any decided opinion; but merely to give an intimation, that we may probably find our conjectures erroneous, as to the supposed vast majority of those who perish, through all ages and nations.
Perhaps possibly might have been more proper than probably : yet there appears to my mind a probability, that as to the vast majority of those who perish men's conjectures may be found erro
In the first place, God has not been pleased to inform us what is the condition of those who die before they can discern between their “ right hand and their left.” | It is generally admitted, that the infant offspring of true believers, who die before the commission of actual sin, are saved. Some would, however, make a distinction between such as are baptized and such as are not: but this is wholly without ground in scripture, unless baptism be regeneration, or so
Jonah iv. i).
connected with it that no unbaptized person is regenerated, or can be. It would exclude a large proportion of the children of believers, who die unbaptized; as of old many infants in Israel died uncircumcised. And the most unfeeling supralapsarian never ventured on so dire an opinion, as to consign all the unbaptized infants, in every age and nation, to eternal misery.
I do not propose it as an article of faith ; for it is not expressly revealed, (though it appears to be favoured in scripture), that as infants, without actual transgression, are involved in the ruin of our race by the first Adam, so infants, as such, dying before actual transgression, before they are capable of knowing right from wrong, are, without personal repentance and faith, but not without regeneration, made partakers of the salvation of the second Adam. This I had in view, as one supposition, when I wrote the passage in question. . I do not say,
" It is so;' but, ' Probably it may be so.
And, when we consider what a large proportion of the human race, in every age and nation, die in infancy, it appears to me a cheering thought; and vastly alters the result which would arise from the actual state of adults, even in Christian countries, in every generation hitherto.
But besides this, I look forward to a Millennium, very speedily approaching; when “ the “ earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the
glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' And, though I dare not, as some have done, venture on computations; yet, being fully convinced that, if wars, oppressions, licentiousness, and intemperance, with other vices, were universally shunned, and every restriction taken off from holy matrimony, the blessing pronounced, not only on Adam and Eve before the fall, but on the sons of Noah after the flood, “Be fruitful, and If not,
multiply, and replenish the earth,” would speedily follow. Being also decidedly of opinion that, when swords shall universally be exchanged for ploughshares, and the culture of the earth become man's grand employment, the best cultivated countries will be rendered far more productive; and forests, deserts, marshes, and nearly the whole of the dry ground on the globe, be rendered subservient to the maintenance of man, and vastly less of it wasted in luxuries, and needless indulgence; I can conceive of more inhabitants living on earth, during the thousand years of the general prevalence of true religion, than in two, or three, or more thousands of the preceding years ; especially when, both at the creation and after the flood, a long time inust have passed before the earth was replenished. Nor does it seem to me improbable, that God in those favoured days may render the earth vastly more fertile than it is at this day; as Canaan was vastly more fertile, when given to Israel, than at present. So that the numbers which may be saved during these glorious times. may counterbalance the numbers who have hitherto gone the broad road; and, with saved infants, prevent 'a
vast majority' in those who perish ; nay, possibly render the saved the majority. These are my views, and hopes, and anticipations, rather than my decided judgment; which must be re
strained to things expressly revealed. strictly speaking, scriptural, they are not antiscriptural ; as many suppositions on this subject are. “ GOD IS LOVE:” and he does all “ to the praise of the glory of his grace."
I am, yours, &c.
ON DR. WHITAKER'S MISSTATEMENT OF CALVIN's
Permit me, according to your avowed impartiality, to shew, in few words, that even Dr. Whitaker, to whom it seems the palm of treating Calvinists with candour and fairness is to be awarded, in some very important particulars misapprehends the sentiments of Calvin himself.
1. In stating it as Calvin's doctrine, that the ' will of man is wholly passive in the work ;' that is, in the faith, repentance, and obedience of the
elect. Calvin held, and all Calvinists hold, that the sinner is wholly passive, “ when quickened “ from the death of sin;” but that, being “ alive “unto God,” he is active in exercising faith, repentance, and obedience. Lazarus was passive in receiving life, but active in coming forth from the grave, and walking home.—'Whereas they are 'wont to say that, after we have once given place 'to the first grace, our own endeavours do now