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stantly keep in mind the present character, condition, and fallen state of man, before he suffers the goodness of God to be depreciated in his opinion : and this point settled between us, I now proceed to the elucidation of my first proposition.
PROPOSITION I. In this proposition I shall endeavour to refute those plausible objections which the rashness and inconsiderateness rather than the reason of man has presumed to advance against the goodness of God.
All the essential objections made against the goodness and providence of God are, I believe, included in the five which follow.
First, It is alleged by John Calvin, that God has predestinated a large portion of the human race to everlasting' misery and perdition, even before their birth, and of course before there was a possibility of their having ever offended him.
Secondly, It is alleged, that there is a promiscuous and indiscriminate distribution made of the things of this life indifferently and equally to bad and good men ; a distribution unbecoming not only the goodness of God, but likewise the justice of a superintending providence.
Thirdly, it has been remarked, that the goodness of God is not reconcileable with the manifold evils which we see in the world, and with the wretched state and condition to which we behold a very large part of mankind apparently abandoned.
Fourthly, Events in human life are perpetually occurring of a nature entirely repugnant to what our reason would lead us to suppose could happen, if the world was governed by the providence of a wise and just God; and therefore the occurrence of these events justifies the adoption of the opinion, that human concerns are left to the guidance or decision of chance.
- Fifthly, Some men have asserted it to be beneath the majesty of God, and inconsistent either with his dignity or happiness, to interest himself in the concerns of mankind.
These objections have always been considered as the most formidable ones that have ever been made against the goodness or providence of God.
OBJECTION I. In direct opposition to the goodness of God, it is asserted in the writings of a learned and celebrated divine of the reformed Church, that God has predestinated from all eternity one part of mankind to everlasting happiness, and another to endless damnation. This assertion is made by John Calvin, in the 21st chap. of the 3d book of his Christian Institution, in these words: “ Prædestinationem vocamus æter
nüm Dei decretum, quo apud se consti“ tutum habuit quid de unoquoque homine “ fieri vellet: non eniin pari conditione cre“antur omnes, sed aliis vita æterna, aliis “ damnatio æterna præordinatur*.”
Thus translated in the English edition: “ Predesti“ nation we call the eternal decree of God, " whereby he had it determined within him“self what he willed to become of every “man; for all are not created to like estate, “but to some eternal life, and to some eter“ nal damnation is foreappointed.”
Of all the impious opinions that have ever been promulgated to mankind, this is the most calculated not only to impair but to destroy faith, hope, and charity in the heart of man; and is infinitely more derogatory to the honour of God's holy name, than all the idolatries that ever prevailed in the world. Many men have presumed to murmur at, wres
* Fol. ed. Amsterdam, 1667.
tle with, and to rebel against the goodness of God: but Calvin absolutely murders it, and by this execrable doctrine so entirely prevents man from fulfilling his first and chief duty of loving God with all his heart, with all his mind, and with all his soul, that he is precluded from all possibility of loving him at all. Calvin changes our natural ideas of the Deity as the most amiable of all beings, into the most unamiable, and presents him to the human mind as exercising his omnipotent power with an arbitrary, relentless, and cruel tyranny; as creating men, not with a design to bless and make them happy, but as creating them with a fixed and determinate purpose to curse, punish, and persecute them to all eternity; and intending this even before they were born, of course before they could have offended him. If this doctrine were true, lamentable indeed would be the condition of the human race, infinitely worse than that of the beasts, which perish; for though whilst we consider God under the charming and delightful character of our Heavenly Father, as pitying us as a father doth his children, as long-suffering, as not being extreme to mark what is amiss, as remembering we are but dust, and as ever ready to
pardon our sins on repentance; though, under this delightful impression of the character of God, every man, whose soul is unfeignedly desirous of loving, honouring, and obeying him, may entertain hopes through his Saviour's merits of enjoying the peace of God in this life, and everlasting happiness in the next; no modest unassuming man, conscious of the frailty and imperfection of his nature, and considering God under the stern and arbitrary character assigned him by Calvin, could have sufficient certainty or confidence in his election, to set his mind at rest as to his future destiny, and therefore must ever drag on a hopeless life of miserable fear and despondency. But, thanks be to our gracious and merciful God, there is not a word of truth in this doctrine, for the Scripture no where mentions any such decree on the part, of God as absolute predestination: this doctrine is only a hideous phantom, issuing from the heated imagination of a gloomy enthusiast, and is more like the opinion of a melancholy madman, than that of an hum ble, pious, cheerful divine, whose duty it is to fix in his mind, from reflection and contemplation on the glories of God's creation, and especially from a candid and liberad