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'tible grace lies in a very narrow compass. It 'has pleased God to make us responsible beings; 'responsibility cannot exist without free agency; 'free agency is incompatible with an irresistible 'force; consequently God does not act with irre'sistible force upon our minds.'1
Ifforce mean compulsion, and not merely power or energy, I should say, that all force, or compulsion, is incompatible with free agency, whether it be irresistible or not. Against whom then is this argument brought r As a detached statement, I should not feel the least repugnancy to subscribe it.
It would be indeed contrary both to Christianity and to common sense, to speak of repentance, and faith, and obedience, as produced by compulsion. A clock, which had stopped, or which went irregularly, but by a clock-maker was made to go right again, might as reasonably be said to " re"pent, and do works meet for repentance:" nay more reasonably; for the compelled man is still unwilling, the clock is neither willing nor unwilling, but merely passive. Indeed the improved outward movement is the effect of an internal amendment in the clock; which is not the case in the compelled man.
It is really surprising that men of learning and talent can persuade themselves and each other into the belief, that large companies of their fellow creatures, some of whom they must and do allow to possess good sense, learning, and talent, as to other things, do really avow such egregious absurdities! And this, without deigning to produce one single quotation from their writings in proof of it! In this way they refute merely their own misapprehensions, not our doctrines. 'traducing the church thus speaking: Draw me 'in a manner unwilling, that thou mayest make 'me willing; draw me when torpid, that thou 'mayest bring me to run.''
We maintain, that a power and influence from God, and by his Holy Spirit, beyond nature at its best estate, and contrary to the dispositions of fallen nature, produce and preserve, in all who become true Christians, a willing mind to repent, believe, and obey: that this influence may be resisted, and continually is resisted: that it, however, prevails eventually against this resistance: that, when this change has been effected, we begin to work out " our own salvation with fear and trem"bling;" depending on God, who has worked in "us to will, to work also in us to do:" or in the words of our Article, ' The grace of God by Christ 'preventing us, that we may have a good will, '(ut velimus,) and working with us, when we 'have that good will' (dum volumus). This is the substance of what we maintain: the rest is either merely gratuitous accusation; or is grounded on a few unguarded words of some, among the heterogenous multitude who are now indiscriminately branded as Calvinists. In fact, the statement of our sentiments just given, eontains nearly, if not all, which Calvin himself maintained, on this particular, and also Augustine. 'The good will of man precedeth many of the gifts 'of God, but not all.' 'His mercy hath prevented 'me, and his mercy will follow with me. It pre'vents a man when unwilling that he may will; 'it followeth with him when willing, lest he should 'will in vain.—To which Bernard consents, in
Some hints have before been dropped on this subject; and I shall introduce what may be further needful, by a quotation from Calvin.—' Sim'ply to will, belongs to man, to will in an evil 'manner, is the part of corrupt nature; to will 'well, is of grace. Indeed because I say that the 'will, being deprived of liberty, is either drawn or 'led of necessity is evil, it is wonderful that this 'saying should appear harsh to any one, which 'hath nothing unsuitable in itself, nor foreign to 'the use of holy men: but it offends those, who 'do not know how to distinguish between neces*sity and compulsion. Yet if any one should ask 'them, Is not God necessarily good? and is not 'the devil necessarily wicked ? what would they 'answer r for the goodness of God is so connected 'with divinity, that it is not more necessary for 'God to exist, than to be good. And the devil by 'the fall has become so alienated from the parti'cipation of good, that he cannot do otherwise 'than act wickedly. But if any impious person '(sacrilegus) should bark against this, (obgan'niat,) that little praise is due to God for his 'goodness, which he is compelled to preserve; 'will not this be a ready answer to him—that it 'comes to pass by his immense goodness that he
1 Calv. Inst. B. II. c. iii. sect. 12.
*cannot do ill, and not by any forcible impulse?
*If then its being necessary for him to do well 'doth not hinder the free will of God in doing 'good: if the devil, because he cannot but do 'evil yet sins with his will: (or willingly:) who * will say that man sins the less with his will on 'this account, because he is subject to the neces'sity of sinning ?'}
This quotation from Calvin, which is followed up by citations from Augustine, and others, to the same effect, clearly shows that necessity, as used on this subject, does not imply compulsion, or any thing inconsistent with voluntary agency, either in doing good or evil. God is necessarily good, by the perfection of his nature; the devil is necessarily evil, through total depravity. It is impossible to do well voluntarily, without willing to do well; and continuing unchanged, he cannot be willing to do well. He wills and acts; yet his volitions and actions are evil by necessity.—The holy necessity of doing well is, we suppose, con1 Calv. Inst. B. II. c. iii. sect. 5. Bishop Burnet has made nearly the same observation on the subject:—' God certainly 'acts in the perfectest liberty, yet he cannot sin. Christ 'had the most exalted liberty in his human nature, of which 'a creature was capable; and his merit was the highest; yet 'he could not sin. Angels and glorified saints, though no more 'capable of rewards, are perfect moral agents; and yet they 'cannot sin : and the devils, with the damned, though not capa'ble of further punishment, are still moral agents and cannot 'but sin. So that this indifferency to do or not to do, cannot 'be the true notion of liberty.'—On Art. x. 160. Oxf. 1805.
firmed to holy angels by the Creator's goodness; and restored and confirmed in " the spirits of just ,e men made perfect." They cannot but love God and one another, and do good, and good only. This is the height of created excellency. May we not suppose, that all the fallen angels and damned spirits are under a similar necessity as the devil is, of sinning yet willingly. The higher attainment any saint on earth makes in holiness, the nearer he approximates to the holy necessity of heaven. "His seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin;" from an imparted measure of the same excellency, through which " it is impossible for God to lie," to do injustice or to "deny himself." And the greater proficiency in wickedness any man on earth arrives at, the more nearly does he approach the awful necessity of devils and damned spirits. —" How can ye believe, who receive honour one "of another, and seek not the honour which "cometh from God only."1 "O generation of "vipers, how can ye, being evil speak good "things? For out of the abundance of the heart "the mouth speaketh." 2 How can that come out of the heart which is not in it r How can that but come out of the heart which abounds in it ?3
If man by nature be totally destitute of spiritual good, and prone to evil entirely and continually, as far as he is left wholly to himself; I do not see the impropriety of the word necessity, as above stated, to his case. Yet, as it is so much misunderstood; and every idea concerning fallen man's incapacity to do good, may be expressed without it,
1 John v. 44. 'Matt. *ii. 34. 'Matt. xv. 18 19.