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may not be turned against us; whether the ob.
jections we have made against others do not seem 6 to conclude against ourselves; and whether the
system we have proposed to you appear to our« felves free from difficulty ; to this we reply by
putting our finger upon our mouth : we acknow“ ledge ouer ignorance : we cannot rend the vail under " which God hath concealed his mysteries: we " declare, that our end in choosing this subject “ was less to remove difficulties than to press them “ home, and by these means to make you feel the 66 toleration which christians mutually owe to one “ another on this article. It was with this view " that we led you to the brink of this abyss of God, " and endeavoured to engage you to exclaim here, “s as well as on the borders of other abysses, O the
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and know. “ ledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, “ and his ways paft finding out !
“ The decree is impenetrable. The book of « life is sealed. - A little less speculation and more
practice. Let us become less curious, and try “ to be more holy. Let us leave God to arrange u his own decrees, and for our parts let us arrange “ our actions, and regulate our lives. Do not say, “ If I be predestinated to falvation, I shall be saved “ without endeavouring. You would be wicked " to make this objection ; for although you are “ persuaded that your days are numbered, yet you “ do not omit to eat and drink, and take care of
your health. In this manner you should act in regard to your salvation.
“ And we, ministers of Jesus Christ, what is « our duty ? Why are we sent to this people? Is “ it to fathom the decrees of predestination and re« probation ?- Must this be the principal subject « of our sermons ? God forbid we should so ill “ understand the end of our ministry! - Let us “ think of the account we must give to the master < who sent us. Let us take care that he doth not “ fay to us in the great day of judgment, Get ye “ behind me, ye refractory servants ! I sent you to “ make the church holy, and not render it disputa« tious; to confirm my elect, and not to engage “ them in attempts to penetrate the mysteries of “ election; to announce my laws, and not to fathom my
decrees. “ This subject addresseth itself to you, rash “ divine, you who perplex your mind by trying to “ comprehend incomprehensible truths, to you « whose audacious disposition obliges you to run " into one of these two extremes, either to embrace “ error, or to render truth doubtful by the manner « of explaining it. For understand, my brethren, " the man who rejects a truth because he cannot “ comprehend it, and he who would fully compre“ hend before he receives it, both sin from the “ fame principle, neither understands the limits of « the human mind. These two extremes are alike “ dangerous. Certainly, on the one hand, we “ must be very rash, we must entertain very « diminutive ideas of an infinite God, we must be
very little versed in science, to admit only prin“ ciples which have no difficulty, and to regard “ the depth of a subject as a character of falsehood. " What! a miserable creature, an ignorant crea“ ture, a creature that doth not know itself, would
know the decrees of God, and reject them if " they be unfathomable! But, on the other hand,
we must have very narrow views, we must have “ a very weak mind, we must know very little of “ the designs of God, not to feel any difficulty, to “ find every thing clear, not to suspend our judg. “ ment upon any thing, to pretend not only to “ perceive the truth of a mystery but to go to the “ bottom of it. Insignificant man ! Feel thy di“ minutiveness. Cover thyself with dust, and learn “ of the greatest of divines to stop where you
ought to stop, and to cry on the brink of the “ ocean, O the depth !” I
I was induced to transcribe these excellent passages as peculiarly well calculated to answer two valuable purposes ; to serve, first, as a proper check upon myself and others; and, secondly, as a seasonable admonition to the reader, that if he do not find all his doubts and scruples removed in the following pages, respecting fome of these adorable depths, he may be prepared to make due allowances. And happy will it be for author and reader when a sense of ignorance, and of the limits of human understanding, leads to devout adoration. This is true wisdom. From the very ruins of our nature, we are enabled, by adopting such a method, to form an ascending step in the divine life.
§ 6. In
§ 6. In the pages of this Volume it is my design, - after (chap. i.) explaining the principal terms relating to our subject, with suitable remarks,-to give (chap. ii.) a view of the equitable moral government of God, with respect to mankind ;-and then (chap. iii.) a view of sovereign grace ;-after which the way will be prepared to examine (chap. iv.) the fundamental principles of the Arminian system, and particularly those of Dr. Whitóy on the Five Points, and Mr. Fletcher's controversial writings. In the CONCLUSION will be shewn, at some length, how these leading principles are calculated to expose a number of other erroneous opinions, and their consequent advantage in reference to morals and religion. This is the general plan : but before I launch my small bark into this great sea of difficulties, where dangerous rocks lie, on which greater and stronger vefsels than mine have been split ;-let me make a folemn pause, and for a few moments indulge that disposition to which all theological and moral investigations ought to be subservient.
$ 7. Contemplating the blessed God, I behold an ocean unfathomable and without shore ! But what am I?-Let me ask myself a few questions. Canst thou, worm of the earth, by searching find out God? canft thou, fluttering moth, find out the Almighty unto perfe&tion ? a perfection high as heaven : what canst thou do ? deeper than hell : what canst thou know ?* There is no searching of his understanding.t
Job xi. 7, 8.
* Isaiah xi. 28.
It is no wonder that my conceptions of an infinite Spirit, and his transcendent perfections, should be inadequate ; for it is but a small part of his ways I can understand. And if his ways are past finding out, if his expressed judgments are unsearchable, what must be his secret counsels? Who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been his counfellor ? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things. To whom be glory for ever !*
Yet, that my soul be without knowledge is not good. This is life eternal, experimentally to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. Thy children have an unction from the Holy One to know the indications of thy will. Those who fear thee are favoured with a secret unknown to others, and thou wilt show them thy covenant.+ What was my intellect given me for, but eminently for the purpose of contemplating, with reverence and attention, thy glorious nature and perfections, the sublime movements of thy providence, and the sublimer operations and effects of thy grace? How shall I intelligently adore and love that God, of whose equity as a Governor, and of whose rights as a Sovereign, I have no settled conceptions ?
This, O my Creator, I understand, that thou art All, and I am noTHING.
On this condition I exist, that I consider myself as nothing and vanity. The moment I begin to think myself fomething without thee, I stand condemned. O nothing, be Mill for a few moments of that vain life which thou
spendest Rom, si 34, 36.
+ Ps.'m xxv. 14.