Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Tho' now so much exerting to confirm
Its vast importance, and revive the term,
He was himself, he lets his Theron know,
Of diffrent sentiments not long ago;

And friends of yours, it has been thought, I find,
Have brought Aspasio to his present mind.
Now having read, but unconvinc'd, I own,
What various reason for it he has shown,
Or rather rhetoric-if it be true,
In any sense that has appear'd to you,
I rest secure of giving no offence,

By asking-how you understand the sense?
By urging, in a manner frank and free,
What reasons, as I read, occur to me,
Why righteousness, for man to rest upon,
Must be a real, not imputed, one.

To shun much novel sentiment, and nice,
I take the thing from its apparent rise:
It should seem then, as if imputed sin
Had made imputed righteousness begin;
The one suppos'd, the other to be sure,
Would follow after-like disease and cure:
Let us examine then imputed guilt,
And see on what foundation it is built.

As our first parents lost an heavenly state,
All their descendents share their hapless fate;
Forewarn'd of God, when tempted, not to eat
Of the forbidden tree's pernicious meat;
Because incorporating mortal leaven

Would kill, of course, in them, the life of Heav'n:
They disobey'd, did Adam, and his wife,
And died of course to their true heav'nly life:
That life, thus lost the day they disobey'd,
Could not by them be possibly convey'd;
No other life could children have from them,
But what could rise from the parental stem:
That love of God, alone, which we adore,
The life so lost, could possibly restore:
Their children could not, being born to Earth,
Be born to Heaven, but by an heavenly birth:
God found a way, explain it how we will,
To save the human race from endless ill;
To save the very disobeying pair;
Aud made their whole posterity his care.

Has this great goodness any thing akin
To God's imputing our first parents sin
To their unborn posterity?-What sense
In such a strange, and scriptureless pretence?
For the men feel-so far we are agreed,
The consequences of a sinful deed;
Yet where ascrib'd, by any sacred pen,
But to the doers, is the deed to men?
Where to be found, in all the scripture thro',
This imputation, thus advanc'd anew?

Adam and Eve, by Satan's wiles decoy'd,
Did what the kind commandment said-avoid-
To them, with justice therefore, you impute
The sin of eating the forbidden fruit;
And ev'ry imputation must in fact,
If just, be built on some preceding act;
Without the previous deed suppos'd, the word
Becomes unjust, unnatural, absurd.

If, as you seem'd to think the other day,
All Adam's race, in some mysterious way,
Sinn'd when he sinn'd; consented to his fall;
With justice then impute it to them all:
But still it follows, that they all contract
An imputation founded upon fact:

And righteousness of Christ, in Christian heirs,
Must be as deeply, and as truly theirs,

An heav'nly life in order to replace,
As was the sin that made a guilty race:
So that imputing either good, or ill,
Must presuppose a correspondent will;
Or else imputers certainly must make
Thro' ignorance, or other cause, mistake,

Old El thus, not knowing what to think,
Imputed Hannah's silent prayer to drink:
Little supposing that it would prepare
A successor to him, her silent pray'r.
There may be other meanings of the phrase,
To be accounted for in human ways;
But God's imputing to the future child
The sin, by which his parents were beguil❜d,
Seems to establish an unrighteous blame,
That brings no honour to its Maker's name.

God's honour, glory, majesty, and grace, I grant, is your intention in the case; But wish revolv'd in your impartial thought, How far the doctrine tends, when it is taught, To such an honest purpose; and how far Justice and truth may seem to be at war, If God impute to guiltless children crimes, Committed only in their parents times.

Pious Aspasio, I imagine, too, Had God's resistless sovereignty in view; The charge of Puritan, or other name, He scorn'd aright, and making truth his aim, Found it, he thought, in eminent divines; Of whose opinion these are the outlines: They think, at least they seem to represent, That God, in honour, upon sin's event, Could not forgive the sinners that had stray'd, Without a proper satisfaction made To his offended justice; and because, Upon their breach of the Almighty's laws, None else was adequate to what was done, The vengeance fell on his beloved Son; Who gave himself to suffer in our stead, And thus to life again restor'd the dead; Because, consistently with justice, then God could bestow his mercy upon men: Man had contracted, in that fatal day, Debt so immense, that man could never pay; He who was God as well as Man, he could; And made the satisfaction thro' his blood; Paid all the just demand-imputed thus Our sin to him, his righteousness to usThis sets the doctrine, if I take aright Their words and meaning, in the plainest light. Now since accounting for the truth amiss May give distaste, in such an age as this; And be a stumbling-block to them who might Receive an explanation, that was right; Not as a captious foe, but hearty friend, May one entreat such teachers to attend, And reconcile their system, if they can, To God's proceeding with his creature man; To that paternal, tender love and grace, Which at man's fall immediately took place; That inward, holy thing, inbreathed then, Which would re-kindle Heav'n in him again: Does wrath, or vengeance, or a want appear Of satisfaction, or of payment here, In man's creator? For mankind bad he A purchas'd grace, which contradicts a free? Is it not plain, that an unalter'd love Sent help to poor fall'n creatures from above. Unbargain'd, unsolicited, unmov'd, But by itself, as its exertion prov'd;

No foreign promise; no imputed ease; But remedy as real as disease;

That would, according to true nature's ground,
Bring on the cure, and make the patient sound.
That Christ, that God's becoming man was it,
Your friends, with highest gratitude, admit;
Whose utmost talents are employ'd to show
The obligations that to him we owe;
To press the object of our faith and trust,
Christ, all in all, the righteous, and the just;
The true, redeeming life-essential this
To ev'ry Christian who aspires to bliss;
Why not subjoin-I cite the hero Paul,
And make appeal to Christians—in you all?
Form'd in you, dwelling in you, and within
Regenerating life, dethroning sin;
Working, in more and more resigned wills,
The gradual conquest of all selfish ills;
Till the true Christian to true life revive,
Dead to the world, to God, thro' him alive.
What num'rous texts from Paul, from ev'ry
Might furnish out citations, did we want? [saint,
And could not see, that righteousness, or sin,
Arise not from without, but from within?
That imputation, where they are not found,
Can reach no farther than an empty sound;
No farther than imputed health can reach
The cure of sickness, tho' a man should preach
With all the eloquence of zeal, and tell
How health imputed makes a sick man well;
Indeed, if sickness be imputed too,
Imputed remedy, no doubt, may do;
Words may pour forth their entertaining store,
But things are just-as things were just before.
In so important a concern, as that
Which good Aspasio's care is pointed at,
A small mistake, which at the bottom lies,
May sap the building that shall thence arise:
Who would not wish that architect, so skill'd,
On great mistake might not persist to build;
But strictly search, and for sufficient while,
If the foundation could support the pile?

This imputation, which he builds upon,
Has been the source of more mistakes than one:
Hence rose, to pass the intermediate train
Of growing errours, and observe the main,
That worse than pagan principle of fate,
Predestination's partial love and hate;
By which, not ty'd, like fancy'd Jove, to look
In stronger Destiny's decreeing book,
The God of Christians is suppos'd to will
That some should come to good, and some to ill;
And for no reason, but to show, in fine,
Th' extent of goodness, and of wrath divine.

Whose doctrine this? I quote no less a man
Than the renowned Calvin for the plan;
Who having labour'd, with distinctions vain,
Mere imputation, only, to maintain,
Maintains, when speaking on another head,
This horrid thought, to which the former led:
"Predestination here 1 call," (says he
Defining) "God's eternal, fix'd decree;
Which, having settl'd in his will, he past,
What ev'ry man should come to at the last;"
And lest the terms should be conceiv'd to bear
A meaning less than he propos'd, severe,
"For all mankind” (he adds to definition)
"Are not created on the same condition:"
Pari-conditione-is the phrase;

If you can turn it any other ways;

"But life to some, eternal, is restrain'd,
To some, damnation endless pre-ordain'd."
Calvin has push'd the principle, I guess,
To what your friends would own to be excess;
And probably Aspasio, less inclin'd
To run directly into Calvin's mind,
Would give imputing a more mod'rate sense,
That no damnation might arise from thence:
But how will mollifying terms confute
The fam'd reformer's notion of impute?
If it confer such arbitrary good,
The dire reverse is quickly understood;
So understood, that open eyes may see
'Tis Calvin's fiction, and not God's decree:
Not his, whose forming love, and ruling aid,
Ceaseless extends to all that he hath made;
Who gave the gift which he was pleas'd to give
That none might perish, but that all might live,
His only Son, in whom the light, that guides
The born into the world to life, resides:
A real life, that by a real birth
Raises a life beyond the life of Earth,
In all his children-But no more to you,
Better than me, who know it to be true;
And if Aspasio's really humbled soul
Be by a touch of garment hem made whole,
He might, as I should apprehend, be sure
That imputation could not cause the cure:
When the poor woman, in the gospel, found
Touch of the Saviour's clothes to make her sound,
We know the virtue did from him proceed,
That, mix'd with faith, restor'd her, as we read:
Gone out of him obliges to infer,

That 'twas by faith attracted into her.

ON THE NATURE OF FREE GRACE,

AND THE CLAIM TO MERIT FOR THE PERFORM-
ANCE OF GOOD WORKS.

GRACE to be sure is, in the last degree,
The gift of God, divinely pure and free;
Not bought, or paid for, merited, or claim'd,
By any works of ours that can be nam'd.

What claim, or merit, or withall to pay,
Could creatures have before creating day?
Gift of existence is the gracious one,
Which all the rest must needs depend upon.

All boasting then of merit, all pretence
Of claim from God, in a deserving sense,
Is in one word excluded by St. Paul-
"Whate'er thou hast, thou hast receiv'd it all."

But sure the use of any gracious pow'rs,
Freely bestow'd, may properly be ours;
Right application being ours to choose,
Or, if we will be so absurd, refuse.

In this respect what need to controvert
The sober sense of merit, or desert?
Works, it is said, will have, and is it hard
To say deserve, or merit their reward?

Grace is the real saving gift; but then, Good works are profitable unto men; God wants them not; but, if our neighbours do, Flowing from grace, they prove it to be true.

THOUGHTS ON PREDESTINATION AND REPROBATION.

When human words ascribe to human spirit
Worthy, unworthy, merit, or demerit,
Why should disputes forbid the terms a place,
Which are not meant to derogate from grace?

All comes from God, who gave us first to live,
And all succeeding grace; 't is ours to give
To God alone the glory; and to man,
Empower'd by him, to do what good we can.

A SOLILOQUY,

ON READING A DISPUTE ABOUT FAITH AND
WORKS.

WHAT an excessive fondness for debate
Does this dividing faith from works create!
Some say, salvation is by faith alone-
Or else, the gospel will be overthrown:
Others, for that same reason, place the whole
In works, which bring salvation to a soul.

Gospel of Christ, consistently apply'd,
Unites together what they both divide:
It is itself, indeed, the very faith

That works by love, and saves a soul from wrath:
A new dispute should some third party pave,
Nor faith nor works, but love alone would save.

The Solifulian takes a test from Paul,
And works are good for nothing, faith is all;
Doctrine, which his antagonist disclaims,
And shows how works must justify, from James;
A third, in either, soon might find a place,
Where love is plainly the exalted grace.

There is no end of jarring system found,
In thus contending not for sense, but sound;
For sound, by which th' inseparable three
Are so distinguish'd, as to disagree;
Altho' salvation, in its real spring,

Faith, work, or love, be one and the same thing.

One pow'r of God, or life of Christ within,
Or Holy Spirit washing away sin;
Not by repentance only; or belief
Only, that slights a penitential grief,
And its meet fruits, and justifies alone
A full conceiv'd assurance of its own;

Nor by works only; nor, tho' Paul above
Both faith and works have lifted it, can love
Have, or desire to have, th' exclusive claim,
In mens salvation, to this only fame;
By all together souls are sav'd from ill,
Whene'er they yield an unresisting will.

God has a never-ceasing will to save,
And men, by grace, may savingly behave:
This would produce less fondness for a sect,
And more concern about the main effect;
Then faith alone might save them from the fall,
As one good word, in use, that stood for all.

By native union, all the blessed pow'rs
Of grace, that makes salvation to be ours,
One in another, spring up in the breast,
No soul is sav'd by one without the rest;
Since then they all subsist in any one,
Division ceases, and dispute is gone.

299

THOUGHTS ON PREDESTINATION AND

REPROBATION.

A FRAGMENT.

FLATTER me not with your predestination,
Nor sink my spirits with your reprobation:
From all your high disputes I stand aloof,
Your pre's and re's, your destin, and your proof,
And formal, Calvinistical pretence,
That contradicts all gospel, and good sense.
When God declares, so often, that he wills
All sort of blessings, and no sort of ills;
That his severest purpose never meant
A sinner's death, but that he should repent:
For the whole world, when his beloved Son
Is said to do whatever he has done,
To become man, to suffer and to die,
That all might live, as well as you and I;
Shall rigid Calvin, after tuis, or you,
Pretend to tell me that it is not true?
But that eternal, absolute decree
Has damn'd beforehand either you, or me,
Or any body else? That God design'd,
When he created, not to save mankind,
But only some? The rest, this man maintain'd,
Were to decreed damnation pre-ordain'd:
No, sir; not all your metaphysic skill
Can prove the doctrine, twist it as you will.

I cite the man for doctrine, so accurst,
In book the third, and chapter twenty-first,
Section the fifth-an horrid, impious lore,
That one would hope was never taught before;
How it came after to prevail away,
Let them, who mince the damning matter, say;
And others judge, if any Christian fruit
Be like to spring from such a pagan root.

Pagan-said I-I must retract the word,
For the poor pagans were not so absurd;
Their Jupiter, of gods and men the king,
Whenever he ordain'd an hurtful thing,
Did it because he was oblig'd to look,
And act, as Fate had bid him, in a book:
For gods and goddesses were subject, then,
To dire necessity, as well as men;
Compell'd to crush an hero, or a town,
As Destiny had set the matter down.

But in your scheme, 'tis God that orders ill
With sov'reign pow'r, and with resistless will;
He, in whose blessed name is understood
The one eternal will to ev'ry good,

Is represented, tho' unty'd by Fate,
With a decree of damning, to create
Such, as you term the vessels of his wrath,
To show his pow'r, according to your faith:
Just as if God, like some tyrannic man,
Would plague the world, to show them that he can:
While others, (they, for instance, of your sect)
Are mercy's vessels, precious and elect;
Who think, God help them! to secure their bliss
By such a partial, fond conceit as this.

Talk not to me of popery and Rome,
Nor yet foretel its Babylonish doom;
Nor canonize reforming saints of old,
Because they held the doctrine that you hold;
For if they did, altho' of saint-like stem,
In this plain point we must reform from them:
While freed from Rome, we are not tied, I hope,
To what is wrong in a Geneva pope;
Nor what is right should surname supersede
Of Luther, Calvin, Bellarmine, or Bede.

Rome has been guilty of excess, 'tis true,
And so have some of the reformers too;
If in their zeal against the Roman seat,
Plucking up tares they pluck'd up also wheat;
Must we to children, for what they have said,
Give this predestination stone for bread?

Sir, it is worse, is your predestination
Ten thousand times than transubstantiation:
Hard is the point, that papists have compil'd,
With sense and reason to be reconcil'd;
But yet it leaves to our conception, still,
Goodness in God, and holiness of will;
A just, impartial government of all;
A saving love; a correspondent call
To ev'ry man, and, in the fittest hour
For him to hear, all offer'd grace and pow'r;
Which he may want, and have, if he will crave
From him who willeth nothing but to save.

Whereas, this reprobation doctrine, here,
Not only sense and reason would cashier,
But take, by its pretext of sov'reign sway,
All goodness from the Deity away;

Both Heav'n and Hell confounding with its cant,
Virtue and vice, the sinner and the saint;
Leaving (by irresistible decree,
And purpose absolute, what man shall be,)
Nothing, in sinners, to detest so much,
As God's contrivance how to make them such.
That ever Christians, blest with revelation,
Should think of his decreeing men's damnation;
The God of love! the fountain of all good!
"Who made," says Paul," all nations of one blood
To dwell on Earth; appointing time and place."
And for what end this pre-ordaining grace?
That they might seek, and feel after, and find
The life in God, which God for man design'd.

"We are his offspring"-for, in that decree,
The pagan poet and St. Paul agree:
"We are his offspring"-Now, sir, put the case
Of some great man, and his descending race;
Conceive this common parent of them all,
As willing some to stand, and some to fall:
Master, suppose, of all their future lot,
Decreeing some to happiness, some not;
In some to bring his kindness into view;
To show in others what his wrath can do;
To lead the chosen children by the hand,
And leave the rest to fall-who cannot stand.
I might proceed, but that the smallest sketch
Shows an absurd and arbitrary wretch,
Treating his offspring so, as to forbid
To think, that ever God Almighty did;
To think that creatures, who are said to be
His offspring, should be hurt by his decree;
Which had they always minded, good alone,
And not a spark of evil, had been known:
For his decree, appointment, order, will,
Predestinating goodness, pow'r and skill,
Is, of itself, the unbeginuing good,
The pouring forth of an un-ending flood
Of everflowing bliss, which only rolls
To fill his vessels, his created souls.

Happy himself, the true divine desire,
The love that flames thro' that eternal fire,
Which generates in him th' eternal light,
Source of all blessing to created sight,
Longs with an holy earnestness to spread
The boundless glories of its fountain head;
To raise the possibilities of life,
Which rest, in him, into a joyful strife;

Into a feeling sense of him, from whom
The various gifts of various blessings come.
To bless is his immutable decree,
Such as could never have begun to be:
Decree (if you will use the word decreed)
Did from his love eternally proceed,
To manifest the hidden pow'rs, that reign
Through outward nature's universal scene;
To raise up creatures from its vast abyss,
Form'd to enjoy communicated bliss;
Form'd, in their several orders, to extend
Of God's great goodness wonders without end.
Who does not see that ill, of any kind,
Could never come from an all-perfect mind?
That its perception never could begin,
But from a creature's voluntary sin,
Made in its Maker's image, and imprest
With a free pow'r of being ever biest;
From ev'ry evil, in itself, so free,
That none could rise but by its own decree?
By a volition, opposite to all

That God could will, did evil first befall,
And still befalls; for all the source of ill
Is opposition to his blessed will;
And union with it plainly understood
To be the source of every real good.

To certain truths, which you can scarce deny,
You bring St. Paul's expressions in reply;
Some few obscurer sayings proue to choose,
Where he was talking to the Roman Jews;
You never heed the num’rous texts, and plain,
That will not suit with your decreeing strain,
Confirming God's una!ter'd will to bless,
In words as clear as language can express:
"Who willeth all men to be sav'd"—is one
Too plain for comment to be made upon:
So that, if some be not the same as all,
You must directly contradict St. Paul,
Whene'er you push to its dir ct extreme,
Your wild, absurd predestination scheme.

Paul's open, generous, enlighten'd soul,
Preach'd to mankind, a Saviour of the whole,
Not part of human race; the blinded Jew
Might boast himself in this conceited view;
Boast of his father Abraham, and vent
The carnal claims of family descent:
But the whole family of Heav'n and Earth,
Paul knew, if blest, must have another birth;
That Jew and Gentile was in ev'ry place,
Alike the object of a saving grace:
Paul never tied salvation to a sect;

All who love God, with him, are God's elect.
This plain, good maxim he himself premis'd
To those fam'd chapters, which were so disguis'd
By studied comments of a later day;
When words were prest to serve a partial fray;
And scripture turn'd into a magazine
Of arms, for sober, or for frantic spleen.

All who love God-how certain is the key!
Whate'er disputed passages convey;
In Paul's epistles if some things are read,
"Hard to be understood," as Peter said,
Must this be urg'd to prove in mens condition
Their pre-election, and their preterition,
Or predamnation for that monstrous word,
Of all absurd decree the most absurd,
Is into formal definition wrought
By your divines-unstartl'd at the thought
Of sov'reign pow'r decreeing to become
The author of salvation but to some;

To some, resembling others, they admit,
Who are rejected-why?" He so thought fit:
Hath not the potter pow'r to make his clay
Just what he pleases?"-well, and tell me pray,
What kind of potter must we think a man,
Who does not make the best of it he can?
Who, making some fine vessels of his clay,
To show his pow'r, throws all the rest away,
Which, in itself, was equally as fine?
What an idea this of pow'r divine!
Happy for us, if under God's commands
We were as clay is in the potter's hands;
Pliant, and yielding readily to take

The proper form, which he is pleas'd to make!
Happy for us that he has pow'r! because
An equal goodness executes its laws;
Rejecting none, but such as will behave
So, as that no omnipotence can save.

Who can conceive the infinitely Good
To show less kindness than he really cou'd?
To pre-concert damnation, and confine,
Himself, his own beneficence divine?
An impotency this, in evil hour,
Ascrib'd to God's beatifying pow'r,

By bitter logic, and the sour mistake,
Which overweening zeal is apt to make;
Describing sov'reignty as incomplete,
That does not show itself less good than great:
Tho' true in earthly monarchs it may be,
That majesty and love can scarce agree,
In his almighty will, who rules above,
The pow'r is grace, the majesty is love:
What best describes the giver of all bliss,
Glorious in all his attributes, is this;
The sov'reign Lord all creatures bow before,
But they, who love him most, the most adore.
From this one worship if a creature's heart,
Fixt on aught else, determines to depart,
There needs no pre-determining the case;
Idolatry ensues, and fall from grace;
Without, and contrary to God's intent,
Its own self-ruin is the sure event:

The love forsaken, which alone could bless,
It needs must feel wrath, anger, and distress;
The sensibilities that must arise,

If nature wants what sacred love supplies. (Cætera desunt.)

THE POTTER AND HIS CLAY,

AN HYMN, ASCRIBED TO DR. WATTS.

BEHOLD the potter and the clay, He forms his vessels as he please;

Such is our God, and such are we, The subjects of his high decrees.

Does not the workman's pow'r extend O'er all the mass-which part to choose, And mould it for a nobler end, And which to leave for viler use?

May not the sov'reign Lord on high Dispense his favours as he will?

Choose some to life, while others die, And yet be just and gracious still?

What if, to make his terrour known, He lets his patience long endure,

Suffering vile rebels to go on,
And seal their own destruction sure?

What if he means to show his grace, And his electing love employs,

To mark out some of inortal race, And form them fit for heav'nly joys.

Shall man reply against the Lord? And call his Maker's ways unjust,

The thunder of whose dreadful word Can crush a thousand worlds to dust?

But, O my soul! if truth so bright
Should dazzle and confound thy sight,
Yet still his written will obey,
And wait the great decisive day.

Then shall he make his justice known,
And the whole world before his throne,
With joy, or terrour, shall confess
The glory of his righteousness,

THE CONTRAST.

BEHOLD the potter and the clay,

He forms his vessels to his mind;
So did creating Love display
Itself in forming human kind.

Th' Almighty Workman's pow'r and skill Could have no vile, but noble ends;

His one immutable good will
To all, that he hath made, extends.

This gracious sov'reign Lord on high, By his eternal word and voice,

Chose all to live, and none to die, Nor will he ever change his choice.

Not by his will, but by their own, Vile rebels break his righteous laws; And make the terrour to be known, Of which they are themselves the cause.

His all-electing love employs All means the human race to bless, That mortals may his heav'nly joys, By re-electing him, possess.

Shall man reply that God decreed Fall'n Adam's race not to be blest?

That for a few his Son should bleed, And Satan should have all the rest?

Do thou poor sinful soul of mine, By faith and penitence, embrace

Of doubtless, boundless love divine, The free, the universal grace.

Let God, within thy pliant soul, Renew the image of his Son,

The likeness marr'd will then be whole, And show what he, in Christ, has done.

« PoprzedniaDalej »