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ever, it appears that by " this decree,” the Doctor intended the decree of God that man should fall,
When the Doctor, therefore, asks the question,--Did this decree originate before, or after the fall? what does he mean ? He means—NOTHING. The question is absurd. The import of it is this : Did the decree, that man should fall, originate before or after he fell ?. On the absurdity of this question I need make no comment. Surely no Calvinist was ever so foolish as to maintain that the decree, that man should fall, originated after he had actually fallen!
But waiving this gross absurdity, I ask, was it ever a subject of controversy with Predestinarians, whether the decree of the fall, or any other decree,“ originated before, or after the fall ?" Never. Were Sublapsarians and Supralapsarians divided on this subject ? THEY WERE NOT. Calvinist ever maintain, that any decree of God originated after the fall ? No Calvinist ever maintained so gross an absurdity. Were the Deity to form any purpose in time, which he had not formed from éternity, he would be mutable, liable to change, and “shadow of turning !"
of course, it is exceedingly difficult to follow or refute him. Relatives, without antecedents, occur in almost every page. I shall here exbibit a few out of many.-Page 83. “ No portion of mankind has, at any " time, been wholly ignorant of this truth.” What truth?- Page 62. " These subjects must comprise an infmity of facts and speculations." What subjects ?- The knowledge of such truths is peculiar to the “ Supreme Being.” What truths ?-Page 69. " Yet the existence of “ these qualities in the divine nature, is of essential importance.” What qualities ?-« Those who cannot.” Those what?-Page - 79. “ What do all these pretensions avail?”. &c. What pretensions ?Page 108."" The word has nften this signification,” &c. What word? what signification ?-Page 113. “ From the poverty of language, in this respect,” &c. In what respect ?- Page 127. “ Now, if the word « create is necessarily understood in this sense.” What sense ? — But " this I do not conceive to be the apostle's meaning," &c. What is not his meaning ?-Page 152. “ This sympathy with human feelmgs,” &c. What sympathy ?- Page 169. “Now, if we can suppose it possible, " that any good end may be answered by such injunctions,” &c. What injunctions?—Page 179. " Who are little inclined to those foolish " questions, strifes of words, and perverse disputings.” What foolish questions? what strifes of words? what perverse disputings ?--Page 180. “ That body of people-whom he thus foreknew," &c. How foreknew?-"For the doctrine is founded on foreknowledge.” What doctrine ?- Page 195. “ The word is explained in the next clause,” &c. What word ?-" In Hebrew the simple word means to be a sinner." What simple word ?"In another form of the verb,” &c. What verb?- These instances, out of many, show that the Doctor thinks, and of course writes, incoherently. They show, that it is easy to mistake his meaning, but difficult, if not impossible, to refute all his detached, disjointed, and erroneous sentiments.
All Calvinists universally maintain, and have always maintained, that all the decrees of God are eternal. Their children, as soon as they are capable of lisping their catechism, know that the decrees of God are his “eternal purpose. The-eternity of the divine decrees was never controverted, either by Sublapsarians or Supralapsarians. The subject of their controversy was not the date, but the object of God's decree of predestination. The Supralapsarians maintained, that the object of this decree was men considered merely as creatures; but the Sublapsarians contended that the decree of predestination contemplated men, not merely as creatures, but as fallen creatures.
Would not Dr. B. have displayed more wisdom by studying the disputes between Sublapsarians and Supralapsarians, before he pretended to explain them? What! Explain what he did not understand! teach what he had never learned ! oppose opinions which he had never studied !
That our author, in attacking Calvinism, is opposing a sýstem which he has not studied, and which he does not understand, the following extracts from his “ Being and Attributes" farther evince. In page 52, speaking of the free agency of the Deity, he writes thus :
" This freedom must extend to what has been called the so liberty of indifference. It is thought by some, that no
being can act, except there be a motive for acting in one $ manner rather than another; and that when all modes of “ acting are indifferent, there can be no action. If this s were the case, the universe could never have been cre"ated : for it is impossible to imagine, that there could be
any reason for creating it in one part of vacant space, or " at one period in eternity, rather than another. A suffiiss cient motive for acting may therefore exist, though there " be none for preferring one particular mode to every - other. It is so far from being foolish, in this case, to act “ without a motive, that it would be unspeakable folly to suppose that the Deity would refrain from acting on such
notion. The two equal bundles of hay are a slander even on the stupidity of the ass. These, and many other o notions, originate in our confounding spirit with matter, " thought with motion, and motives with impulse."
After the Doctor has written about two pages more, he completely forgets all this, and writes as follows:
« If we imagine that the existence of two perfect beings “ is even conceivable, a little consideration will convince
that, in fact; we are only thinking twice of the same " thing. Their omnipotence is exercised in the same place, " at the same time, and is directed by infallible wisdom, " and consummate goodness. It must, therefore, be always
performing the same acts : for the perfection of wisdom “ will not admit of their thinking or acting differently; the “ wisest determination must be preferred by both. Even, “ two men, who are perfect in any demonstrative science, “ cannot possibly differ. Their conclusions on that subject * must infallibly correspond. This results from the perfec« tion of their knowledge in that science ; and, therefore, “ if two perfect beings existed, their knowledge and " thoughts on every subject must be the same. For the
same reason, their wills, intentions and actions will co6 incide."
In the former of these extracts, our learned author strongly asserts the doctrine of free will; in the latter, he as firmly maintains the doctrine of necessity. In the former, a liberty of indifference is taught; in the latter, the doctrine of moral necessity is asserted. In the former, Ar: minianism is taught; in the latter, the highest Calvinism. If the two Supreme Beings, supposed by the Doctor, are both possessed of a liberty of indifference-why must their omnipotence be exercised in the same place, and at the same time? Might not the one exert his omnipotence in one part of space, and at one period in eternity, and the other in a different department, and at a different period ? If they be possessed of a liberty of indifference, why must they always think alike, and act alike? Why may they not think differently, and act differently? If they cannot think differently, will differently, and act differently, they cannot be possessed of a liberty of indifference they must be Necessarians. If their wills, intentions and actions must coincide, then they are no longer Libertarians; they must be the subjects of moral necessity. Excellent divinity !-Sound doctrine !—not only. Calvinism, but the highest Calvinism !*
* From the heights of Calvinism the Doctor descends to the depths of Socinianism. Page 24, he writes thus:,,“ While others waste their “ time in disputing about the nature, person, and office of Christ, it is of enough for the huinble disciple to be assured that he was invested " with divine authority, and that he made known the nature and the
-So high, that some very judicious Calvinists have opposed it... It is one of those points on which the celebrated Witherspoon opposed his illustrious predecessor, President Edwards. . I am happy, however, in this instance, to find Jonathan Edwards, the Calvinist, and Dr. B., the Arian, going hand in hand in the support of truth. Dr. B. has proved clearly, that the Deity himself is not possessed of a liberty of indifference. But if the Deity be not possessed of such a liberty, how can man be possessed of it ? To say that God is not possessed of a liberty of indifference, but that man is possessed of it, would be blasphemy; it would be to say that man has more liberty than his Maker !-the creature than the Creator! Such is the blasphemous con: clusion, to which every man must be reduced, who maintains the doctrine of a liberty of indifference. Should any continue to defend that doctrine, I would refer them to the preceding reasoning of Dr. B., which, in my opinion, is altogether unanswerable. I would say to them, read Dr. B., and become Calvinists.
Not only the reasoning, but even the testimony of Dr. B. in favour of Calvinism, ought to have great weight and in fluence. It is the testimony of an enemy. It is the testimony of common sense, bursting the barriers of an hereditàny creed, and forcing its way through the deep-rooted prejudices of an early education. That both God and man are possessed of a liberty of indifference, is a tenet, which the Doctor had received by tradition from his fathers. It cost stitutes an important part of that hereditary creed, handed down by his boasted predecessors, “ Halliday and his grand" father, Drennan and Brown, Mackay and Crombie." But that the Deity possesses no such liberty, and, of course, that man possesses no such hberty, is the dictates of the Doctor's own common sense it is the dictate of truth; and a corner-stone of the Calvinistic system.
be will of God; that he pointed
out the way to life eternal, and evinced 66 ascension into heaven, where he ever liveth to make intercession for 45 us, and whence he shall come to judge both the living and the dead." This is a Socinian creed, and Dr. B. pronounces it quite sufficient ! At one time a professed Arian-now a high Calvinistagain a Socivian--and all this in that same volume of sernions, which he modestly pronounces " consistent with itself and the
- nil fuit unquam Sic impar sibi !
The extract given above proves two things : first, it proves the truth of Calvinism; and secondly, it proves, that Dr. B. does not understand the system he has undertaken to oppose. If he really understood it, there is reason to believe, that he would not oppose it. As his opposition arises from ignorance, I would fervently pray for him and all such, “ Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they do.”
OBJECTION VI. Anti-trinitarians, in their attempts to subvert what I regard as the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, first waged war with creeds and confessions, and loudly vociferated Chillingworth's maxim, “The Bible, the Bible is the
religion of Protestants." But now, finding that their principles cannot be defended on the broad basis of divine revelation, they retreat to the citadel of the four gospels, Nor are they willing to appeal to these as the standard of doctrine, but only to a few verses, which are found written in them all. The testimony of three evangelists, according to Dr. Bruce, is not sufficient to establish any important truth !* -Could any thing but conscious weakness account for such timidity and tergiversation ?
Our learned author betrays the same weakness and timidity, by deprecating argument and verbal criticism. He criticises, and then condemns an appeal to criticism. He argues, and then condemns an appeal to argument. Is not this to sound a retreat ? Is it not to abandon that field, to which he had rashly challenged his opponents? The honest Quaker, when pressed with an argument which he could not answer, very piously exclaimed, « The Lord rebuke thee, O Argument! the Lord rebuke thee!”
OBJECTION VII. Finally : I object to Dr. Bruce's sermons on the study of the Bible, because they have a chilling and benumbing tendency. By sinking the greater part of the sacred volume into comparative insignificance, they have a tendency to lessen men's attachment to it, and, of course, to draw them off from the reading and perusal of it. By sinking divine truth in our esteem, they are calculated to repress a spirit
* The truth of those charges will appear in the subsequent chapter.