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ness 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 æternum Dei “ decretum, quo apud se constitutum habuit quid “ de unoquoque homine fieri vellet: non enim “ pari conditione creantur omnes, sed aliis vita “ æterna, aliis damnatio æterna præordinatur*.” Thus translated in the English edition : “ Pre“ destination we call the eternal decree of God, “ whereby he had it determined within himself “ what he willed to become of every man; for " all are not created to like estate, but to some " eternal life, and to some eternal 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. Mány men have presumed to murmur at, wrestle with, and to rebel against
* Fol. ed. Amsterdam, 1667.
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 thein 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 humble, pious, cheerful divine, whose duty it is to fix in his mind, from reflection and con: templation on the glories of God's creation, and especially from a candid and liberal perusal of his Scripture, an unalterable idea of the goodness of God, and then to honour and glorify that goodness, instead of vilifying and degrading it. This miserable doctrine is neither supported by the reason or common sense of mankind, nor by Scripture; and certainly any speculative opinion in religion which violates reason, common sense, and Scripture, may justly be denominated false and
spurious. That it is not supported by the reason of mankind, I may appeal to the natural suggestions of that reason; for is it possible, when any man considers what he was, what he is, and what the gracious goodness of God intends he shall be, (if he himself does not by his own folly frustrate that intention): when he considers that he was originally nothing but the earth on which he treads, and that he was taken from that unconscious state, and created in the image of God, and formed not merely with a corporal frame and a sensitive soul as a brute, but created only a little lower than the angels, with a mind endued with a capacity of worshipping God like them, though not in excellence and perfection, yet in kind, and in some degree: when he considers that he is a being permitted not only to see and survey the *glories of God's creation, shining in the sun, breathing in the air, and flowing in the ocean, but is endued with the angelic privilege and prerogative of comprehending and understanding to a very high degree the use, beauty, and perfection of these glorious works of God, and, from that knowledge and comprehension, to infer the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of his Creator: when he considers that he is at all times at his own option permitted to come into the presence of God, to pray to him, to praise him, and to “walk with him;" and further considers, that the duty enjoined man to perform in this life is not rigorous and severe, as it might have been from the disobedience of our first parents, but that its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths peace: when he considers God's goodness in the redemption of the human species, his readiness to pardon its sins on repentance, how freely his grace is offered to assist us in our worldly career, and that God promises his blessing and his peace to the man whose mind is stayed on him; and that, when this life is ended, to the man who has endeavoured in the course of it to love, honour, and obey him, and who believes in the divine mission of his Son, he promises, through his own gondness, and the : merits of our Saviour, a free admission into his kingdom, and a participation of those pleasures which are at his own right hand for evermore : when he thus considers what he may hereafter be, and associates in his mind these various and numerous instances of God's gracious and merciful conduct towards him, and adds to them the consideration of the various blessings of this life he is permitted to enjoy; and likewise considers, that he neither has nor can give God any equivalent for the least of these blessings; what man is there who can resist saying, with all his heart, with all his mind, and with all his soul, The Lord our God is. a God of goodness; he is gracious, and his mercy endureth for ever? And is it possible to