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$ 3. When God convened the thousands of Ifrael to the foot of mount Sinai, and with the majesty of Godhead pronounced the ten commands, forbidding idolatry and other fins, was it not his legislative and rectoral intention that the people to whom they were addressed, without exception, fhould be obedient to those laws, and, by a collateral use of the preceding promises, be happy in the compliance ? He who can deliberately deny this, is beyond the reach of argument. But yet, what was the event ? Did this benevolent design of the Law. giver preserve them, in fact, from idolatry, irreverence, sabbath breaking, disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, thieving, false witness, and covet. ousness ? Historical evidence decides to the contrary. The consequence then is irrefragable, that the reEtoral intention of making them obedient and happy failed of the end; it was counteracted and frustrated by abused free agency. But was God's decretive design therein counteracted and rendered void ? This is the same as to ask, Was the event, which is ever the infallible index of the decretive purpose, counteracted by any thing! From the very definition of a decree, the event can never clash with it. But the legislative and rectoral de. sign accord with the event, or not, as liberty is rightly used or else misimproved.
$ 4. Then only do the decretive and rectoral intentions coincide in the subject, when he is actually conformed to the rule of government. When he uses and improves his natural, powers, abilities and opportunities to the divine glory; when he conforms to the rule of right announced to him; when he is suitably grateful and thankful in the enjoyment of blessings bestowed on him ; when he receives and improves exhibited favours; then he may be faid to be confornied to the rectoral intention. And when this is the real event, the subject's happiness and tủe decretive design concerning him coincide.
$ 5. For the further explication of this subject it
proper to remark : 1. The divine rectoral and decretive intentions, though different, are not opposite. When God gives to man a law with the design that it should be obeyed, and the event is, that it is not obeyed; it by no means follows, that disobedience, or the finfulness of the event, was the object of a decretive intention. The finfulness of a disposition or action, having no efficient cause, cannot proceed from any positive act of God; and consequently cannot be the object of any divine decree. It is, in fact, a negative idea, consisting in a want of moral good in a moral agent; which as really affects his happiness as if it were of the most positive nature. The rectoral design is full of benevolence, which appears from the variety, suitableness, and wonderfully engaging nature of the means employed to promote the subject's happiness; if the event, therefore, prove disastrous to any, it is not from want of benevolence in the Governor, but finfulness in the creature, whereby his benevolent intention is counteracted. Nor can the disastrous event be owing to
the decretive intention, seeing the obliquity or finfulness of the event cannot poslibly be any object of a decree, from what has been already faid; and unhappiness, or positive suffering as a penal evil, is never attached to any thing short of moral evil. It therefore necessarily follows, that these two intentions, the one aiming at the happiness of all moral subjects, the other aiming at the happiness of those only who are eventually happy, though so different are not opposite.
2. Whenever the rectoral design is counteracted or frustrated, it is owing to the finful defeat of the creature; and whenever the event is obedience and happiness, it is owing to the sovereign influence of God. This arises from a position too little known or confidered, viz. “ That the creature has power, “ of itself, to fall short of rectitude, but its power “ of acting well is wholly of God," and which will claim particular notice in the sequel of this Essay.
$ 6. Coroll. From the fundamental and necessary difference between the decretive and rectoral intention of God, while at the same time not opposite to each other, we infer the perfect consistency of many passages of scripture with the divine decrees, though often urged as incompatible,
Of the OBLIGATIONS of men to receive the Gos
PEL, and all the blessings it exhibits.
$ 1. The gospel finds men finners. § 2. Yet is peculiarly
adapted to certain characters. § 3, 4. Whence result obligations. § 5—7. Coroll. That God's rectoral intention was, that Chrift be a Mediator to every finner whom the gospel addresses, or may address, with offers of pardon.
ss. THE gospel of Christ finds all men finners,
condemned and perishing, helpless and hopeless; if therefore it addresses them at all, it must address them as such. To fuppose the reverse, is to suppose that there is some “ other way given
among men whereby they may be saved” beside the gospel; and, that the rectoral design of God may be opposed with impunity. There is no previous condition required in us to qualify us for a fhare in the promise of mercy; since the evangelical promise is an absolute grant to the unworthy, the needy, and the ruined.* It denotes “good
• The following words of the amiable Mr. Hervey fo fully expressing my ideas of the subject under consideration, I shall make no further apology for their insertion in this place. “ Nothing " is required in order to our participation of Christ and his bene
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ;” not to all good people exclusively. The gospel is a falutary stream that issues from under the throne of God's high sovereignty, diffusing itself wider and
“ fits, but only that we receive them. Receive them, as the freeft “ of gifts, or as matter of mere grace, vouchsafed to the most “ unworthy. Is it not necessary that we have, at least, a convic« tion of our need of these benefits, and a sense of their unspeak« able worth ? Not as the condition of our enjoying them. The
proper business of such convictions is only to act as ftimulatives; “ exciting us earnestly to covet, gladly to receive, the unspeakably « needful gifts.” Theron and Aspasio. vol. III. p. 310. Lond. 1789.
“ In this parable, (Matt. xxii. 11.) Christ is both the bride“ groom, the feast, and the wedding-garment. And who are in“ vited to an union with this Bridegroom? To be guests at this « feaft? To be arrrayed with this wedding-garment ? - The “ messengers are sent, not to the mansion-houses of the rich, or " the palaces of the mighty ; but to the highways and hedges. 16 To whom is their message addressed ? Not to the amiable or “ accomplished. But to the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind. (Luke xiv. 21.) Perfons, who have no recommending endow
ments, but even lothesome and disgustful property. Yet these « (mark the passage, my Friend ; mark well the encouraging cir. u cumstance) these are not only allowed, but intreated -- impor« tuned - and, by all the arts of persuasion, by every weighty or “ winning motive, compelled to come in. — After all this, surely, it “ cannot be an act of presumption to accept, but must be a breach 66 of duty to refuse the invitation.” Ibid. p. 311.
I have prepared my dinner, says the King eternal. All things are ready. (Matt. xxii. 4.) Whatever is necessary for the justi“ fication, the holiness, the complete falvation of finners, is pro66 vided in the merit and the grace of my Son. Let them come “ therefore, as to a nuptial banquet ; and freely enjoy my muni* ficence ; and feast their souls with the royal provision. - Let
us imitate the returning prodigal. He came, with no recom