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minate views which Mr. Wesley entertained on this subject, if the fact is admitted by the reader, may assist us in determining to which account it should be placed. Mr. A. remarks :
"Mr. Wesley confounded it (foreknowledge) with omniscience. In his sermon on predestination, he says, ' If we speak properly, there is no such thing as foreknowledge or after-knowledge in God;' and one of his modern disciples adds, doubtfully, · If we may apply the term foreknowledge to Deity.' We are disposed, however, to think, that Peter spoke quite as properly' as either, when he said, with the eleven,' • Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,'" &c. Page 80.
In this quotation, the aim and drift of the writer cannot well be mis. taken. His object manifestly is, first, to involve Mr. Wesley in a theological inaccuracy in confounding foreknowledge with omniscience. But will this shrewd detecter of Methodist difficulties undertake to show that foreknowledge is an attribute separate and distinct from omniscience? or will he prefer keeping on ground more tena. ble, and make it a certain exercise of that divine perfection ? But which he maintains he does not condescend to inform us-showing how much easier it is to find difficulties in the doctrinal views of others, than to lay down a system of our own which shall not be liable to the same objections.
The next thing implied is, that Mr. Wesley has committed a capital theological or doctrinal error, of which he stands convicted on the testimony of Peter “ with the eleven” apostles. But how does the case stand when we call in the united testimony of Scripture, collated with Scripture, applicable to this single point? “ All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." 6 God is a God of knowledge.” “ Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world.” “ His understanding is infinite.” In these passages foreknowledge is not once ascribed to God; nor is there the slightest shadow of contradiction between them and the declaration of Peter. By regarding this mode of expression as a mere anthropology, without contradicting Peter and others who speak of foreknowledge as predicable of God, all is rendered perfectly harmonious. On the con. trary, by rejecting the idea of anthropology in the use of the term foreknowledge as predicable of God, and taking it in a literal sense, will it not follow by natural consequence, that after-knowledge must be predicated of him as well as foreknowledge? And moreover, does not this form of expression, or its equivalent, in several instances, actually occur in Scripture ? Who can doubt, for a single moment, that in all such instances the language is employed simply by way of accommodation; that is, speaking after the manner common among men--a mere anthropology? By regarding all things past, present, future, and possible, as being actually ever present to the Divine mind, the whole matter is perfectly harmonized, consistent, and free from every difficulty, notwithstanding the facility with which Mr. A. multiplies them. But he has not yet done with Mr. Wesley. He says:-
“ Hence in writing to Dr. Robertson, in answer to the inquiry, • How is God's foreknowledge consistent with our freedom ?' he (Mr. Wesley) candidly replies, I cannot tell."" Now, as we cannot call upon Mr. Wesley for an explanation of his
VOL. X.-July, 1839. 42
meaning in this reply, allow us to suppose that he gave this answer, in the spirit of that modesty and reserve which became so great and pious a man; answering just as he would a question respecting the manner of the unity of the Godhead, and a thousand other questions on which revelation is silent, and human reason too feeble to penetrate the profound mystery--questions on which we must believe the fact when a matter of revelation, the manner of which we cannot presume to comprehend : Or, in the chaste and appropriate language of Mr. Watson, " That the subject is comprehensible as to the manner in which the Divine Being foreknows future events of this kind, even the greatest minds, which have applied themselves to such speculations, have felt and acknowledged. The fact, that such a property exists in the divine nature is, however, too clearly stated in Scripture to allow of any doubt in those who are disposed to submit to its autho. rity; and it is not left to the uncertainty of our speculations on the properties of spiritual natures, either to be confirmed or disproved." Institutes, first edition, vol. i., p. 420.
But, let it be still further observed, that it is one thing to reconcile foreknowledge with the future actions of free, moral agents, and quite another to be able to see how the same actions of the same beings can consist or be compatible with an eternal, irresistible, divine decree, which is as comprehensive and boundless as the divine foreknowledge itself--including " whatsoever comes to pass.” This fact, if a fact it is, constitutes to our understanding one insuperable difficulty in Calvinism—a difficulty which to many minds appears not only irrecon. cilable, but to involve an absolute contradiction; unless, indeed, we can conceive it possible for a man to be held and bound by an irresist. ible decree, and yet be perfectly free at the same time. We confess ourselves of the number who not only disbelieve the doctrine itself, but entertain an opinion that there are few minds so peculiarly constituted as actually to believe either the supposed decree, or its reconcilable. ness with man's free agency. This difficulty, however, has no exist. ence in Methodism. She makes a distinction between foreknowledge and decree ; and, as is obvious to us for the most evident reasons, a distinction which Mr. A., in his search for the difficulties of Method. ism, appears not to have discovered; or, if he did discover it, he saw fit to pass it over without the slightest notice. But how we can avoid making such distinction is perfectly marvellous, unless we absolutely close our eyes against the difference between certainty and necessity, and between knowledge and influence, while viewing foreknowledge in connection with the liberty of human actions. This matter is set in the clearest light by Mr. Watson, speaking on the subject in his Institutes, in the following note, (page 421 :)—· Certainty is, properly speaking, no quality of an action at all, unless in the sense of a fixed and necessitated action ; in this controversy it is the certainty which the mind that foresees has that an action will be done, and the certainty is therefore in the mind and not in the action."
After leveling some passing strictures at Dr. Clarke's peculiar views of divine foreknowledge, Mr. A. conceives he has found a point in Dr. Fisk's sermon on predestination and election which is quite open to criticism; a point on which the doctor has fallen into the common difficulties of Methodism on the subject of foreknowledge. As Dr. F. says:
the reader would have but a very partial view of the doctor's state. ment from the quotation of Mr. A., who has given us a part of two sentences, and italicised certain words according to his own taste, we will first give the author's language, and then Mr. A.'s comment.
“ Whatever God foreknows or purposes will undoubtedly come to pass. But the simple question is, Does the event take place because it is foreknown, or is it foreknown because it will take place ? Or, in other words, Does God know an event to be certain because it is cer. tain; or does his knowing it to be certain make it certain ?"
On this Mr. A. offers the following comment :
“ But suppose we admit that foreknowledge rather proves than causes future certainty; and suppose we agree with Dr. F. that God knows an event because it is certain--we should be glad to be in. formed, how it will help the doctor out of his difficulties to say, that the actions of men, good and bad, are fixed in infallible certainty, and are therefore foreknown! Besides, as the divine foreknowledge is eternal as the being of God, if he foreknew the conduct of men,'be. cause it is certain,' then must all the evil actions of men have been fixed from eternity, in infallible certainty. Will Dr. Fisk inform us, by whom, or by what, they were thus eternally and infallibly fixed ? Not by the creatures, unless they too were eternal.” p. 87.
The intelligent reader who is at all versed in the controversy on which Dr. Fisk was writing—a controversy which has continued be. tween Arminians and Calvinists from the earliest date of the two systems to the present time, and which is not likely soon to terminate if this depend on their agreement—will see with one glance that Mr. A., in his comment on Dr. F., has committed the not uncommon nor unpardonable blunder which logicians call petitio principii, or begging the question; assuming in argument the very thing in question : viz. “ the fixed infallible certainty of man's moral conduct.” This is pre. cisely the ground which Calvinistic predestination occupies. And what is the more remarkable in this matter is, that Mr. A. should lose sight of the main point in the controversy with Dr. F.'s sermon lying before him; and then call upon the doctor to explain a doctrine which he expressly and positively discards and denies in the premises ! Because the doctor has nowhere said that either the “good or the evil actions of men have been fixed from eternity, in infallible certainty." This is a mere construction which Mr. A. has put upon his language; and yet, paradoxical as it may seem, he gravely calls upon the doctor to explain the “ difficulty !”
The fact in the case seems to be this: That the omniscient God, to whom all the acts of all moral beings are ever present through all the periods and circumstances of their probation, and also of their retribution, should look through the vast labyrinth of the motives, contingencies, and ultimate preponderances involved in the free volitions, and unnecessitated actions of free, moral agents, where the most vigorous created intellect would be overwhelmed, confounded, and lost ; and that he should see, without an intercepting cloud or the shadow of uncertainty," the end from the beginning;" while, at the same time, those acts have not been "fixed from eternity:" this seems to fur. nish a grand, insurmountable difficulty” in Methodism to sage Cal. vinist divines. Whereas the truth manifestly is, according to the note from Watson quoted above, that certainty is no quality of an action at all, unless taken in the sense of a fixed or necessitated action—the very sense which Dr. Fisk discards, and in which Mr. A. applies the term to men's actions, as appears from his own words—that precogni. tion which the mind which foresees has that an action will be done, certainty therefore being in the mind and not in the action. And if the Divine "understanding is infinite,” why hold it necessary for human actions to be eternally fixed in order that they may be foreknown? If God foresee or foreknow them at all, he sees them just as they are : contingent actions, which may or may not be, in opposition to necessary actions, as such ; seeing, at the same time, what class of motives or principles of action will preponderate, through all the variety of condition and circumstance which marks the history of man's probationary conduct. While this view of the divine foreknowledge appears to be Scriptural, it is so far from involving any thing derogatory to the at. tributes of God, that it manifestly reflects infinitely more glory on the divine character than any system which confounds things so essentially different as foreknowledge and decree; or which makes the former depend on absolute predestination.
As it would contravene both the limits and design of this brief review to extend our remarks further on this point, we pass over the remaining part of this article, by simply remarking that a postscript is added on the burning of Servetus, to which Calvin was, at least, accessory, if indeed it were not done at his own instance. But, be this as it may, Mr. A. labors hard to wipe away the stain from his character and memory. This he attempts by collecting the testimony of various authors in favor of his distinguished talents and piety. But, leaving this transaction, with all kindred questions growing out of it, to others to be decided, we hasten to examine the third class of the difficulties of Methodism contained in letter No. IV., which is thus introduced :
“ The subject which next demands our attention introduces to our notice some of the worst features of the Arminian system.”
These “worst features of the Arminian system" grow out of the “ difficulties of Methodism in connection with the doctrine of the atonement,” as contained in the twentieth article of religion in the Discipline. In order to bring this subject fairly before the reader, we beg leave to present it in Mr. A.'s own language, in the following quotation :
“ Upon the importance of correct views in reference to this great central truth of the gospel, we need not enlarge. Error here, like disease of the heart, will circulate its morbid influence through every member to every extremity of the system. It may therefore be regarded as one of the most exceptionable traits of Methodism, that in her twentieth article, she is fairly chargeable with espousing the cause of universal salvation. The offering of Christ, it is said, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual.' But if the whole world' was embraced in the atonement, so that there was a “perfect satisfaction' made for all the sins of all mankind, then must the Saviour have died for all the sins of the wicked, who had perished from earth, and were in the prison of despair, at the period of the crucifixion ; which, be. sides the palpable absurdity of the idea, at once suggests the inquiry, • Why then are they compelled to suffer, since a perfect redemption and satisfaction' have been obtained for them? Again: If all of every description of character have a perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, completed for them, how can any be lost ? Wesley has answered, · Because they believe not on the only begotten Son of God.' Here, then, is the dilemma : If unbelief be not a sin, it cannot be a cause of future misery; it can do the sinner no harm. If unbelief be a sin, a perfect satisfaction' is made for it, as for all sin, and still it can do the sinner no harm; unless a sin for which a perfect satisfaction is made, and the whole debt paid, can be again called up for satisfaction, and the debt again exacted. In the former case, no one can be lost; in the latter, no one can be saved. The doctrine of a .perfect satisfaction' for all the sins of the whole world must land us either in universal salvation, or universal perdition.” pp. 133–136.
Allowing the author of these supposed difficulties of Methodism to have written the above in the spirit of Christian candor and meekness, and from a full conviction that these difficulties exist in fact and ve. rity, which is the least that even charity herself can award any man sustaining the sacred profession of a gospel minister; and not to have written in the spirit of captiousness and prejudice; we remark that the doctrine of the article in question is Scripturally true, or it is not. This must be the case irrespective of the results to which it is supposed to lead, or the inferences which may be drawn from it. Whether it involve of necessity and by fair construction either “universal salvation or universal perdition," will be the natural inquiry after the orthodoxy of the main proposition is duly canvassed. The article maintains general redemption; or, in other words, the doctrine being the same, the universality of the atonement. This has long been a mooted point between Calvinists and Arminians. And whatever may have been the improvements, refinements, and modifications of the doc. trine of the former by the ingenuity of modern schools of divinity, on this point Calvinism and Arminianism, i. e., Methodism, are still at issue. Mr. A. does not distinctly aver that he is the advocate of the old doctrine of a partial or limited atonement; but, from the scope his strictures, this may safely be regarded as not a doubtful inference. But were the doctrine made to rest on the proof positive that Christ died only for the elect, the doctrine of a partial atonement must fall to the ground; because, it is believed, such Scripture testimony cannot be produced. The doctrine is found in that system of which it forms a prominent feature, but not in the Bible. On the contrary, when no favorite theory or system is to be sustained, on pain of destroying the harmony of the parts and the symmetry of the proportions of such system ; and plain, common sense is left free to follow out its own native dictates and deductions, from its devout contemplation of the fallen and lost condition of the world, and the divine provision for its recovery through the vicarious death of Christ; to us it is not conceivable that the thought that this remedial economy is designed to benefit only a small minority of the human race, to the exclusion of the great majority, would ever have been conceived by the human mind, judging from its known and acknowledged constitutional prin.