Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and in scriptural language; I would abstain from the use of it.—If, however there be in no sense a necessity of sinning in us fallen creatures, situated as we are in this ensnaring world, and exposed to the temptations of the devil, in addition to the depravity of our own hearts; let those, who maintain the sentiment, give a practical proof of it, by living perfectly without sin all the rest of their lives. For why should they continue in sin, if they be under no kind of necessity of sinning? Alas, not only are unconverted sinners under this necessity of sinning, and doing nothing except what is sinful in the sight of God; but the most eminent saints, who are most willing and desirous of serving God, and perfecting holiness, feel and groan under the necessity of being still in some degree and in some respects, sinners. None but Jesus Christ could say, "I always do the things "which please the Father:" all others confess, or ought to confess, that "in many things they "offend." The name does not change the nature of the case. Call it necessity, or call it what you will, they " find a law, that when they would do "good evil is present with them:" and with groans, and tears and prayers, and too often a mixture of impatience, they long for deliverance. Yet this is not compulsion, nor does it all interfere with their free agency and responsibility. And if they should be tempted to excuse themselves on that ground, their consciences would testify against them, that they act voluntarily in all their sins, and therefore need deep repentance and abundant forgiveness.

But the use of the words necessity and neceti

sarily, in respect of that grace by which our fallen nature is recovered to holiness, is less proper than in those things which have been spoken of; and can hardly be employed without conveying erroneous ideas of the subject. Indeed, in the writings of those who dwell the most on necessity, in the sense above stated, it is little introduced on this subject: and in those of our opponents, it is commonly connected with some term implying force or compulsion, which we wholly disclaim. As then the import of it, when thus used, will be found to coincide with that of other terms about to be considered, I shall here no further insist on it. For the same reasons, I shall not adduce quotations which answer to them, as in other instances, because this is not requisite. I shall merely notice one passage, and make a closing remark on it.

'A thing does not happen because it was fore'known, but it was foreknown because it would 'happen, This distinction is necessary. For if 'any one so interprets what was to happen, as to 'make what was foreknown necessary, we do not 'agree with him: for we do not say that it was 'necessary for Judas to be a traitor, although it was 'foreknown that Judas would be a traitor. For in 'the prophecies concerning Judas there are com'plaints and accusations against him, publicly pro'claiming the circumstances of his blame; but he 'would be free from blame, if he had been a traitor 'through necessity, and if it had been impossible 'for him to be like the other apostles.'l

'A thing was foreknown because it would hap

'Qrigen, Ret'. 38.

'pen.' But we ask, Why 'would it happen?' By divine pre-determination, or by heathen fate? However that may be, it could not have been foreknown, unless it had been absolutely certain that it would happen; all short of this certainty is not divine prescience, but conjecture. Now that which is certainly foreknown cannot but take place: and that which cannot but take place is necessary, in the Calvinistic, and the philosophical, sense of the word. For others besides Calvinists hold the doctrine of necessity, though not on the same grounds. —Was it possible that the plan formed in the counsel and " foreknowledge of God," and revealed in part, immediately after the fall of man, and enlarged on by all the prophets, and spoken of in most express terms by our Lord himself, concerning his crucifixion, could be frustrated? If not, it must necessarily take place: and, {fnecessity imply compulsion, prophecies especially can never be fulfilled without compulsion: for "the scripture can"not be broken :"' "Heaven and earth shall pass "away, but the word of God shall not pass away." 2 Necessity then does not imply compulsion. It was certain that Judas would be a traitor; it could not be otherwise : the purposes and predictions of God rendered it unavoidable, whether you call it necessary or use some other word. But Judas was most justly " given up to his own heart's lusts;" and following these and urged forward by the devil, whom he had before served as a covetous thieving hypocrite; he voluntarily betrayed Christ, and deserved his righteous but dreadful doom.

1 John x. 35. 3 Matt. xxiv. 35.

SECTION V.

On Impossibility.

'Sin proves the existence of a law; and a law 'given by a righteous and merciful God proves 'the possibility of obedience.'1

If this argument be conclusive, what did the apostle mean when he spake of "the impossibility of "the law," (ro dSvyahy rS vofia;)" because it was weak "through the flesh ?" 2 He could not speak of a law, which it was in every sense possible for fallen man to obey. It would be a vain speculation to inquire whether a perfect willingness through life being supposed, perfect obedience could be rendered by man: because this perfect willingness never existed in human nature, since the fall of Adam, except in him who was not born in sin even the holy Jesus.—The whole scripture implies, that" the law worketh wrath;" and this in the case of all men: so that " as many as are under "the law are under the curse." Nay "the law "entered that sin might abound." And, "if "there had been a law given, which could have "given life, verily righteousness had been by the "law: but the scripture hath shut up all un"der sin."3 According to this, an impossibility of some kind must exist, either natural or moral, or both conjoined. To speak of the possibility of man's doing what no mere man, out of the unnum

'Ref. fi. -' Rom. viii. 2.

1 Roin. iv. 15. v. 20. Gal. iii. 10, 21, 22.

bered millions of Adam's fallen race, ever yet did, would answer little purpose; even if it could be proved as an abstract notion, like the infinite divisibility of matter. "All have sinned and "come short of the glory of God;" all do sin; and it will remain true to the end of time, that if a man "say he hath no sin, he deceiveth himself, "and the truth is not in him."

'Because we have said that the observance of 'the law is impossible, this must be explained and 'confirmed at the same time in few words; for it 'commonly uses to appear a most absurd opinion; 'so that Jerome does not hesitate to denounce an 'anathema against it. I do not stay to inquire 'how it seemed to Jerome: let us search out 'what is true. I shall not here frame long and 'intricate speculations (haud texam longas am'bages) concerning the various kinds of possibili'ties. I call that impossible which hath never 'existed, and which by the appointment and will 'of God, is hindered from hereafter existing.'l

Every text of scripture, which declares that by "the works of the law no flesh shall be justified in "the sight of God," proclaims at the same time "the impossibility of the law:" so that the only way, in which they who deny this impossibility are able to support the argument with the least plausibility, is by lowering the demands of the law to the abilility or inclination of fallen man, by what they call a 'new law,' or a 'remedial law.' This law may indeed be found in some modern books of religion; but neither in the scriptures,

1 Calv. Inst. B. III. c. vii. sect. 5.'

« IndietroContinua »