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conduct of Abraham to have been predestined, and not left entirely to his own free will: and the answer of the Angel after Abraham had lifted up his hand and knife to slay Isaac, “ Now I know “ thou fearest God,” &c. excludes all just supposition of Abraham's conduct having been predestinated. To what purpose were all God's arguments, reasons, and persuasions offered to the Jews, and all his promises and threatenings with respect to them, if their conduct was predetermined, and therefore not to be influenced by any arguments, reasons, or persuasions? And how can we suppose it possible God should address himself to sinners, and say, “Let the wicked man “ turn from the wickedness he hath committed, « and do that which is lawful and right, and he « shall save his soul alive,” when the poor wretch, according to the vile doctrine of Calvin, was predestined to sin, and incapable of turning from it? The same question may be asked as to the promises and threatenings made in the Gospel by our blessed Saviour; for what end could it answer either to promise or threaten, or to attempt to persuade persons to any particular course of conduct, if their conduct was predestinated and predetermined, and therefore admitted of no alteration? To a predestined agent, of what use is the advice of Solomon, to get wisdom and understanding; or to fear God, and keep his command. ments, as the whole duty of man? or to parents, to train up a child in the way he should go ? And how can we suppose God would declare to old Eli, that he would punish him, and judge his house for ever, because he did not restrain his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, from their evil courses; which it would have been impossible for him to have done, on the absurd idea of their having been predestined to these evil courses before they were born? .
The whole history of man in all ages and nations, whether civilized or not, proves that he is a being possessed of free agency, with a power to do right or wrong at his option: and even Lord Bolingbroke, with all his scepticism, was a firm believer in man's free agency;
And binding nature fast in fate,
If we admit any other idea, we make man a mere machine, an absolute automaton, a being merely acted upon ; we destroy at once all rational ideas of vice and virtue, and of all reward and punishment at a future day of judgment. Indeed if we divest the human character of free agency, and consider man as a being predestined before his birth to accomplish an inevitable destiny, there cannot possibly be any use in a future judgment, since, according to this preposterous hypothesis
On the Conduct of God of predestination, every man in reality is judged before he is born.
On other subjects Calvin is deservedly considered a learned and elegant writer; but his doctrines respecting election and predestination are so indefensible, that his strongest arguments in support of them appear to me to deserve no attention. However, it is but fair that I should give a short specimen of them, (which is all that can be done in a treatise of this kind,) that the reader may judge for himself: at the same time I can assure him, that this specimen is by no means selected as being either better or worse than any other which expresses Calvin's sentiments on these subjects; for whenever he writes on them, he is equally confused, weak, and inconclusive.
From Calvin's Institution of the Christian Religion,
in four Books, Quarto, Geneva, Aug. 1, 1559.
Extract from the 1st Section of the 22d Chapter of the 3d Book.
“ All these things which we have set are not “ without controversy among many, especially “ the free election of the faithful, which yet can“ not be weakened; for the common sort do think “ that God, as he foreseeth what every man's de“ servings shall be, so maketh difference between
men, that therefore whom he foreknoweth that “ they shall be not unworthy of his grace, them
" he adopteth into place of children ; and whose “ natures he espieth that they will be bent to “ wickedness and ungodliness, them he appointeth
to the damnation of death : so by cloking it “ with the veil of foreknowledge, they do not " only darken election, but feign that it hath be
ginning elsewhere. And this opinion received “ of the common sort is not the opinion of the
common sort alone, for in all ages it hath had
great maintainers; which I do plainly confess, “ to the intent that no man should trust that " it shall much hurt our cause if their names be
objected against us; for the truth of God herein “ is more certain than that it may be shaken,
more clear than that it may be darkened with “ the authority of men. But some other, neither “ exercised in the Scripture, nor worthy of any
voice, do rail at this doctrine with greater ma“ liciousness than that their forward pride ought “ to be suffered; because God, choosing some af“ ter his own will, leaveth other some, they pick
a quarrel against him: but if the thing itself be “ known for true, what shall they prevail with “ brawling against God? We teach nothing but “ that which is approved by experience, that it
was alway at liberty for God to bestow his grace to whom he will. I will not enquire
whereby the posterity of Abraham' excelled “ other, but by that vouchsafing whereof there is
“ found no cause elsewhere than in God. Let 66 them answer why they be men rather than oxen 6 or asses. When it was in the hand of God to
make them dogs, he fashioned them after his “ own image : will they give leave to brute beasts " to quarrel with God for their estate, as though " the difference were unrighteous ?”
Chapter 23. Sections 1. and 2.
“ It is not meet to assign the preparing unto “ destruction to any other thing than to the se“ cret counsel of God. These sayings indeed " should be sufficient for the godly and sober, and " them which remember themselves to be men; “ but forasmuch as these venemous dogs do cast şs up not only one sort of venom against God, we “ will as the matter shall serve answer to every “ one particularly. Foolish men do divers ways “ quarrel with God, as though they had him sub“ ject to their accusations : first, therefore, they “ ask, by what right the Lord is angry with his “ creatures, of whom he hath not been first pro“ voked by any offence? for to condemn to de“ struction whom he will, agreeth rather with " the wilfulness of a tyrant, than the lawful sen66 tence of a judge; therefore they say, that there “ is cause why men should charge God, if by his “ bare will, without their own deserving, they be “ predestinate to eternal death. If such thoughts “ do at any time come into the minds of the godly