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always called the First Cause—consequently his existence must be prior to that of any necessity, since necessity always presupposes a cause. To say that this necessity springs from his own nature, is to yield at once that the necessity presupposes the nature, and, consequently, can prove nothing as to the mode of existence. Indeed, Dr. C. seems § unintentionally, no doubt,) to yield the point in his very definition of a necessarilyexistent Being: “It is,” says he, “to exist by an absolute necessity originally in the nature of the thing itself:” p. 15Whence this necessity ? It arises, we are told, from “the nature of the thing itself:” yet, in the next sentence, we are surprised to learn, that this necessity is “antecedent in the natural order of our ideas to our supposition of its being.” What! results from its nature, and yet is antecedent to it? Antecedent and consequent? Cause and effect? Certainly such a multiform argument must put atheism to silence. All that I can understand by the necessary existence of God is this, that it is necessary to suppose him to have existed independently from eternity, otherwise he never could have existed, since he is the Author of all existence, in other words that he is a self-existent or independent Being. After establishing the being and attributes of God we must suppose him under a moral necessity of acting agreeably to his nature, and this seems to me to be the only kind of necessity at all applicable to the Supreme Being. Dr. Clark further asserts, (p. 45,) “that as this necessity does not depend on any outward cause, it is evident it must be every where as well as always unalterably the same,” i.e. because it is prior to all existence, it cannot be limited but must operate equally every where—hence, he deduces the unity and omnipresence of Deity. He seems to forget here that he had proved these attributes in the preceding part of his demonstration, where the notions of infinity and eternity, were supposed necessarily to attach themselves to an infinite and eternal Substance—of whom of course there could be but one. But aside from this, and admitting his notion of necessity, I do not see that his inference is a legitimate one—at most it is one of those enunciations, the truth of which I can neither affirm nor deny. These two principles, which lie at the foundation of Dr. C.'s demonstration, excite no high hopes of the benefit to be derived from wading through his performance. Indeed, he appears to demonstrate much less than is usually attributed to him. His work, however, exhibits a depth of mind seldom equalled, and to this, probably as well as to its unintelligibility, may be ascribed the reputation which it has so long, sustained. The exertions of a giant mind even when “labouring under a cause
too heavy to be borne by it,” attract our admiration—and we naturally transfer to the cause and arguments the power which resides only in the author or defender. J. K
roll. The PREs BYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
Some passages are produced from Acts xv. to support the practice of admitting all the adult members of the church to sit in judgment upon ecclesiastical cases. “It pleased the apostles and elders with the whole church.” v. 22. “The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send greeting.” v. 23. But a thorough examination will show that these passages do not answer the purpose for which they are produced. What did the church of Antioch do? They agreed to send some of their members with the apostles to Jerusalem, simply as companions, and perhaps to bear their expenses. It is common for our churches to send with their ministers, commissioners to different judicatories, for certain purposes, who do not there perform any act as officers of the church. And after the case was tried, what did the church of Jerusalem do? They joined with the apostles and elders, in sending “greeting unto the brethren in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia.” It was customary, in those days, for some of the members of the church to join in Christian salutations to absent brethren. Said Paul, in the conclusion of his epistle to the Romans, “Timotheus, Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, salute you.” But were these men joint authors with Paul of this epistle? They simply united with him in Christian salutation to the saints at Rome. “Paul and Timothy, with all the saints, who are in all Achaia, unto the church of God which is at Antioch.” Surely these saints were not joint authors with Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthian church. And all that the brethren in Jerusalem did, was to join with the apostles and elders in Christian salutation, and in sending suitable persons to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. There is no intimation, that I can discover, in the whole account, that the brethren, or church at large, ever sat in the council at Jerusalem, but the contrary seems clearly stated. The church at Antioch, which had been deeply agitated by the doctrines of false teachers from Judea, sent a question to Jerusalem, for investigation and decision. They sent not to the hrethren, or church, but to the apostles and elders, about the
$90 On Church Government. SEPT.
question in debate, v. 2. The persons sent from Antioch
to execute the apostle's sentence, in casting him out of the church. When the church met, the minister, or some other proper officer, was to pronounce the sentence of excommunication, in the presence of the whole church. What we read in 2 Cor. ii. 6, “Sufficient to such a man is the punishment inflicted of many,” respects the same man, and the same judgment, and the execution of the same sentence. And there is not any evidence, that I can perceive, in this account, that the whole church ever tried and passed sentence upon this man; all they seem to have done was to carry into execution the sentence pronounced by apostolic authority. The conclusion, from the whole investigation of the subject, is, that all matters of controversy in the church, and of discipline, are to be determined, not by all the adult members, but by ministers and select rulers, which are denominated elders. The minister and elders of every individual church, constitute the court which is to try, and pass sentence in all cases of discipline; to examine the qualifications of applicants for admission to the ordinances; in short to do every thing that belongs to the government of the church. I shall add but one argument more on this head, which has been partly anticipated; it is this: all the names which are used to designate the rulers of the church, import authority and power; and all the names given to the church, denote subordination and obedience. Thus the names elders, pastors, bishops, shepherds, imply authority and power to rule in the church; on the other hand, the titles of the church, such as house, household, flock, bride, wife, all import subjection. Thus I have proved that the church is to be governed by ministers and elders; I have argued the cause from the scriptures only; and all who are intimately acquainted with ecclesiastical history, know that this was the sentiment of the largest portion of the church, in the reformation from popery. Evidences from this source I shall reserve to another opportunity.
The first objection which we notice, and one on which great stress has been laid, is inferred from the benevolence of the Divine nature. It has been said that God, as creator of the universe, could not have formed his creatures with a view to render them eternally miserable;” that, as Lawgiver, he could not have enjoined mutual forgiveness on mankind, and commanded his children to pray for all men, without designing to forgive and restore to his favour all the enemies of his government. “Have you,” says the Universalist,” “more compassion toward your fellow creatures than the God that made them : Would you bring all to submit to God and be happy if you could And will not He, to whom nothing that he pleases is impossible, bring all his creatures to be reconciled to himself at last : We are commanded to forgive all men their trespasses. Has he promised us the greatest blessings if we will forgive all men; and will he never forgive them?” This objection contains two parts: the 1st, drawn from the character of God; the 2d, from the law of love enjoined upon the creature. 1. The character of the Great Supreme is to be learned from his own word. Much has been said of the boundless compassion, inexhaustible goodness, and paternal mercy of God; and these perfections occupy a large place in the precious word of life. They occupy a glorious station in the theatre of his providence; they will form a sweet and elevated strain in the eternal harmony of heaven. But God is more frequently represented as a king than as a father; and there is at least as much of majesty as of mercy in the exhibitions of his word and providence. But this part of the objection is stated in terms too loose and unfair to deserve a direct refutation. We do not say that as creatures, apart from the consideration of sin, wicked men and angels were created for eternal misery; God did not create them in sin. The objection takes for granted the point in dispute, that it is not possible for a God of infinite benevolence to inflict eternal misery. If there were any force in the argument from the Divine benevolence, it would equally conclude against the existence of any evil in the universe. For if infinite goodness necessarily precluded the possibility of a sinful creature's eternal punishment, no satisfactory reason can be shown why it ought not equally to preclude all punishment and all suffering. The objection, therefore, is an indirect impeachment of the providence of God. 2. The second part of this objection is loaded with the same consequence, and with it another still more insulting to the majesty of God; stated formally, it would run thus: Whatever the Great Supreme requires of the creature, is equally incumbent on him the Creator. But God requires his sinful creatures to forgive their enemies; therefore, he is bound by his own law to pardon and restore to his favour all his enemies! The ground taken in this argument for universal salvation is so presump