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nexed to them, respectively, positive rewards and punishments, which greatly add to the encouragements of the former, and to the intimidations of the latter. But even these cannot be administered according to principles merely arbitrary and capricious, but must rest, not only on solid grounds, but on the strongest possible grounds of wisdom and justice, though these may be concealed from our view. In spite of theological dogmas, we feel ourselves compelled to adopt such principles in all our reasonings concerning deity, as long as any just conceptions of deity are entertained by our minds. God has given to man rational faculties, and consequently both desires and requires that he should exercise them; and, although he has graciously afforded him instructions and informations greatly surpassing all that his natural powers could have acquired, and has invigorated those powers by the aids of his Spirit, still those informations must be received by means of those powers thus invigorated and renewed ; and not by means of faculties of a different order bestowed on him, which would, as has been stated, destroy the identity of the individual, through all the periods of his existence, and thus subyert a fundamental doctrine of our religion,—“that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things
done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”a
Even the positive felicity, or positive infliction, superadded to the natural consequences of gospel obedience or of obstinate transgression, can be admitted only by those organs
perception belonging to human nature, in a future state, though rendered more acute in consequence of the change which will then take place. In a word, while man is the object of the divine determinations, these will always be conformable to that frame and constitution which God has bestowed on man; and this is only to assert that God always acts consistently with himself.
He governs not his intelligent and moral creatures as he governs the brute and inanimate creation ; nor this last as he governs the former ; but shows his infinite wisdom in adapting his administration to all the orders of existence. With great propriety has the Confession of Faith of the church of Scotland thus, in a page formerly, quoted, introduced the chapter entitled, “ Of God's eternal Decree :” “ God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably. ordain whatsoever comes to pass ; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” How can it be established, but by the uniform consistency of the divine government, and by the execution of the divine decrees in a manner inexplicable to our understandings, by which the freedom of the human will is preserved, while God's sovereignty is undiminished? This, indeed, completely maintains that order which he has prescribed to every class of his creatures, and preserves to each the regular use of those faculties with which he has endued them. Freedom of choice and action is left to rational and moral beings, and whatever happens is directed by the supreme disposer of all to the general and ultimate good of the whole system of creation. Things, perfectly distinct in themselves, are not confounded, nor are the notions of truth and falsehood, of virtue and vice, of reward and punishment, obliterated from the mind by dogmatical and presumptuous theological theories, which reject reasoning, and endeavour to reconcile contradictions. This is the right conception of predestination, which ultimately refers all that happens to the decree and appointment of the Deity, yet preserves to man the freedom of his will, and subjects him to the responsibility which is its necessary consequence, while it is acknowledged that the link connecting these apparently incon
a 2. Cor. v. 10.
b See vol. i. p. 286.
sistent facts, and reconciling them to each other, is concealed from human penetration.
The imputations of pride, impiety, and even blasphemy, which theological disputants, espe- . cially on questions of this nature, have been so prone to fix on their opponents, and of which Calvin has been so profuse," afford only striking and lamentable proofs of the character of the odium theologicum, and evince the arrogance of bigotry, and the virulence of the controversial spirit.
We have the assurance of the word of God, that no sincere follower of Christ, who is ani, mated by his spirit, relies on his merits, and, as far as human infirmity will admit, obeys his prer cepts and imitates his example, can be excluded from heaven ; that “ God will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who, by a patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, eternal life ; but un, to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gen
a Joh. Calvini Instit. lib. iji. cap. xxi. xxii. xxiii. b Rom. ii. 6–10.
These, and a hundred similar passages, both constitute, to every sincere Christian, the charter of the heavenly inheritance, and pronounce the sentence of condemnation on all of a contrary character. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." Meanwhile we know, by conscience, by experience, by daily observation, and the uniform voice of history, that our real present happiness consists in the exercise of our noblest faculties, and best affections, and in the cultivation of virtue and holiness, and that misery is the constant attendant of the contrary conduct.
From all the considerations illustrated in this chapter, it is clear that the great end of the gospel is the moral renovation, or sanctification
a Deut. xxix. 29.