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To Richard Hill, Esquire.
HON, AND DEAR SIR,
HAVING so fully considered in my last the state of our controversy with respect to imputed righteousness, I proceed to the doctrine of Free Will, which I have not discussed in this Check, because you seem satisfied with what we grant you, and we are entirely so with what you grant us concerning it. however, just cast three looks, one upon our concessions, another upon yours, and a third upon the difference still remaining between us, with regard to that capital article of our controversy.
1. We never supposed, that the natural will of fallen man is free to good, before it is more or less touched or rectified by grace. All we assert is, that whether a man chooses good or evil, his will is free, or it does pot deserve the name of will. It is as far from us to think, that man, unassisted by divine grace, is sufficient to will spiritual good; as to suppose, that when he wills it by grace, he does not will it freely. And therefore, agreeable to our tenth article, which you quote against us without the least reason, we steadily assert, that " we have no power to do good without the grace of God preventing us," not that we may have a free will, for this we always had in the above-mens, tioned sense,
but that we may have a good will : Believing that, as confirmed saints and angels have a free
will, though they have no evil will; so abandoned reprobates and devils have a free will, though they have no good will.
Again : We always maintained, that the liberty of our will is highly consistent with the operations of divine grace, by which it is put in a capacity of choosing life. We are therefore surprised to see you quote in triumph, (Review, p. 33,) the following paragraph out of the Second Check, “ Nor is this freedom derogatory to free grace ; for as it was free grace that gave an upright free will to Adam at his creation; so, whenever his fallen children think or act aright, it is because their free will is mercifully prevented, touched, and rectified by free grace.”
At the sight of these concessions, you cry out,
Amazing! Here is all that the most rigid Calvinist ever contended for, granted in a moment. Your words, Sir, are purely evangelical.” Are they indeed? Well, then, honoured Sir, I have the pleasure to inform yon, that, if this “is all you ever contended for," you need not contend any more with us; since Mr. Wesley, Mr. Sellon, J. Goodwin, and Arminius himself, never advanced any other doctrine concerning free will. For they all agree to ascribe to the free grace of God, through the Redeemer, all the freedom of mau's will to good. Therefore, you yourself being jndge, their sentiments, as well as my “ words, are purely evangelical."
II. You cannot be more satisfied with our concessions than we are with your's : For you grant us as much freedom of will as constitutes us free willers, or moral agents; and in so doing, you expose the ignorance and injustice of those, who think, that when they have called us free willers, they have put upon us one of the most odious badges of heresy.
We are particularly pleased with the following concessions, (Review, p. 38, “ Grace may not violate the liberty of the will—God forceth not a man's will to do good or ill.--He useth no violence. The freedom of the regenerate is such, that they may draw back to perdition if they will."
We are yet better satisfied with what you say, p. 35 : “ Still it is your own opinion, that, to the end of the world, this plain peremptory assertion of our Lord, 'I would, and ye would not,' will throw down and silence all the objections which can be raised against free will—it proves, that those to whom it was addressed, might have come if they would. Granted." And, (p. 43,) you add, “ I have granted Mr. Fletcher his own interpretation of that text, “I would, and ye would not.'” Now, Sir, if you stand to your concession, you have granted me, That Christ had eternal life for the Jews, who rejected it: That he had a strong desire to bestow it upon them: That he had made them so far willing and able to come to him for it, as to leave them inexcusable if they did not : And that his saving grace, which they resisted, is by no means irresistible. Four propositions that sap the foundation of your system, and add new solidity to ours.
However, you try to make your readers believe, that “ Still we are but just where we were. The fault yet remains in the corruption of the will ;" Giving us to understand, that, because the Jews would not be gathered by Christ, he had never touched and rectified their will. Thus you suppose, that their choosing death is a demonstration, that they could not have chosen life : That is, you suppose just what you should have proved.
You imagine, that a wrong choice always demonstrates the previous perverseness of the will that makes it; but we show the contrary by matter of fact. Satan and his legions, as well as our first parents, were created perfectly upright. Their will was once as free from corruption as the will of God himself. Nevertheless, with a will perfectly capable of making a right choice ; with a will that a few moments before had choseu life; they all chose the ways of death. Hence appears the absurdity of concluding, that a wrong choice always proves the will was so corrupted, previously to that choice, that a better choice was
morally impossible. Take us right, however. We do not suppose that the will of the obstinate Jews had not been totally corrupted in Adam. We only maintain, that they made as free and fatal a choice, with their free will, which free grace had rectified; as Adam, Eve, and all the fallen angels once made with the upright free will, with which free grace had created them.
But I return to your concessions. That which pleases us most of all, I find, (Review, p. 39,) For my own part, (say you,) I have not the least objection to the expression free will, and find it used in a very sound sense by St. Augustin, Luther, and Calvin, the great pations for the doctrine of man's natural inability to do that which is good since the fall. God does not force any man to will either good or evil; but man, through the corruption of his understanding, naturally and freely wills that which is evil; but by being wrought upon and enlightened by converting grace, he as freely wills that which is good, as before he freely willed the evil.-In this sense the Assembly of Divines speak of the natural liberty of the will, and affirm, that it is not forced.”
These, honoured Sir, are our very sentiments concerning free will. How strange is it, then, when you have so fully granted us the natural, and necessary freedom of the will, to see you as flushed with an imaginary victory, as if you had just driven us out of the field! How astonishing to hear you cry out: (p. 34 :) " Jesus Christ on the side of free will! What The gospel on the side of free will! What!"Yes, honoured Sir, Jesus Christ and the gospel on the side of free will! And if that is not enough, appeal to the 34th page of your Review, to shew, that the Assembly of Divines and yourself, are on the side of free will also.
III. Consider we now, the difference still remaining between us. From our mutual concessions, it is evident we agree, (1.) That the will is always free :(2.) That the will of man, considered as fallen in Adam, and unassisted by the grace of God, is only free to evil ;-free to live in the element of sin, as a sea fish is only free to live in salt water. And (3.) That when he is frec to good, free to choose life, he has this freedom from redeeming grace. But although we agree
these material points, the difference between us is still very considerable ; for we assert, that, through the Mediator promised to all mankind in Adam, God, by his free grace, restores to all mankind a talent of free will to do good, by which they are put in a capacity of choosing life or death,' that is, of acquitting themselves well or ill, at their option, in their present state of trial.
This you utterly deny, maintaining that man is not in a state of probation; and that, as Christ died for none but the elect, none but they can ever have any degree of saving grace, i. e., any will free to good. Hence you conclude, that all the elect are in a state of finished salvation ; and necessarily, infallibly, and irresistibly choose life : While all the reprobates are shut up in a state of finished damnation ; and necessarily, infallibly, and irresistibly choose death. For, say your divines, God has not decreed the infallible end, either of the elect or the reprobates, without decreeing also the infallible means conducing to that end. Therefore, in the day of his irresistible power, the fortunate elect are absolutely made willing to believe and be saved; and the poor reprobates to disbeliere, and be damned.
I shall conclude this article by just observing, that we are obliged to oppose this doctrine, because it appears to us a doctrine of wrath, rather than a doctrine of grace. If we are not mistaken, it is opposite to the general tenor of the scriptures, injurious to all the divine perfections, and subversive of this fundamental truth of natural and revealed religion,
God shall judge the world in righteousness.' It is calculated to strengthen the carnal security of Laodicean professors, raise horrid anxieties in the minds of doubting Christians, and give damned spirits just ground to blaspheme to all eternity. Again : It withdraws from thinking sinners, and judicious saints, the