« PreviousContinue »
intelligible ; and is as inconsistent with sound reason, as it is
READER. Well, Mr. Author, I have read your wonderful production, and I am heartily glad I have met with you ; for I was determined to acquit my conscience of you, the very first time you fell in my way.
AUTHOR. Well, Sir, and I am as heartily glad to meet with a person who has been at the pains of perusing my production; and shall now be happy to hear your candid and deliberate opinion of my work.
R. Your work, indeed, Sir! Why I will tell you plainly, that I never read such a revolting production in all my days. For such a book as your's, to be written by any Christian minister, is out of all character, and past all bearing! If it had been the production of a Socinian, or a downright infidel, no person would have wondered at it; but in a Christian, and especially in a Christian minister, it is nothing less than an abominable shame.
A. My good Sir, if you have only read over my treatise, under as much unfavourable excitement, as you are pleased to manifest while you are speaking of the book, it cannot be expected that you should entertain any favourable opinion of my performance. It is hardly likely that you have understood my argumentation, or that you have bestowed on the subject any patient investigation.
But pray, Sir, what have you discovered in my book, that appears to you, to savour so highly of Socinianism, or infidelity ? R. Why, Sir, your book would overturn all law and gospel at
It is absolutely not fit to be read by any Christian people. A. Perhaps, my dear Sir, you have mistaken the design of my arguments. The object of my book is to disprove the doctrine of an unoriginated, infinite, and eternal prescience; and I am sure that I could never discover that doctrine in any part of either the law or the gospel. It is, I think, pretty certain that not any one of the ten commandments, contains the doctrine of eternal prescience; and I think it is equally certain that it is not contained in any of the laws of Moses. The design of the gospel, as you are well aware, is that of dispensing the blessings of mercy and salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ, and under the wise and righteous dictates of the law of obedience to God. Pray Sir, on what principles will you identify the doctrine of eternal prescience, with either the law or the gospel ?—But I perceive that you smile. Do tell me the cause of your amusement.
R. I would gladly do that, if I were sure would not greatly
A. 0, never mind that ! tell me what it is. Perhaps it will gratify me as much as it has done yourself.
R. Why, Sir, a friend of mine the other day, very humorously observed, that you should have taken a comfortable seat among Milton's speculating deyils; who,
A part, sat on a hill, retired,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.” A. My good Sir, I am of course under some obligation to your friend for his innocent pleasantries: but I will thank you to say to him, at your next meeting, that the reason why Milton's devils got set fast in their speculations on the subject of absolute foreknowledge, was evidently because they had adopted the poet's own theory, and were labouring to reconcile an absolute and eternal prescience, with the freedom of moral actions. In such a case, if the whole pandemonium with Satan at their head, had entered into a dis cussion of that subject ; provided they had been determined, as
the defenders of prescience usually are, to stick to their premises without regarding their conclusions, the discussion must have ended exactly in the place where it began. But on the contrary, if a man would have the boldness to dispute the premises, and demand some legitimate and satisfactory evidence of their truth, he would soon be convinced that it would not require the intellect of an angel, to excogitate himself clearly through the labyrinth of the doctrine of prescience. Milton would in vain invoke the assistance of his fallen angels to bind the fetters of absolute foreknowledge on the human mind; any ordinary intellect would be able to snap them asunder, with far more ease, than ever did the mighty Samson the cords of deceitful Delilah.
R. Well, Sir, then what do you think of those other words of Milton ?
“ As if predestination over-ruled
Their will, disposed by absolute decree
Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.” A. Why my good Sir, those harmonious lines are composed entirely of assertions without proof; and of assertions which are às contradictory and irreconcilable as light and darkness. No one of Milton's numerous admirers would be able to shew how eternal prescience and moral freedom, may possibly comport with each other. The poet's ' moral sympathies, abhorred, the doctrine of absolute predestination ; but he lived in an age of the Christian church, that did not possess a sufficiency of courage to dispute the doctrine of eternal prescience. If his noble mind had only doubted the truth of that doctrine, and if he had investigated, in consequence, its claims on a rational belief, he would soon have been convinced of its fallacy, and would have cast that doctrine away, with the relics of papal idolatry, to the moles and the bats.
R. Sir, I am sorry to tell you, that every orthodox Christian, who will take the trouble to read your book with attention, must be fully convinced that if you had only your own way, you would quickly overturn the faith of God's elect, and would destroy what thousands upon thousands of pious and sensible people, from generation to generation, have regarded as being sound Christian
theology, and an integral and vital part of Christianity. Sir, give me leave to tell you, that the doctrine of foreknowledge was firmly believed, ages before you were born.
A. And so, my dear Sir, were the doctrines of polytheism, and those of the Coran, and that of Metempsychosis: and so were the doctrines of Socinus, and Pelagius, and that of transubstantiation; and indeed a thousand other doctrines of equal standing and equal notoriety; all of which have been fully and repeatedly disproved. And if the doctrine of eternal prescience also be false, why should not that doctrine be openly disproved, and exposed, and rejected ? --You speak, Sir, of the antiquity of this doctrine?
R. Yes, Sir, I do. And what have you to say against its antiquity ?
A. Why, my good friend, I have only to say that the advocates of the doctrine of eternal prescience, have made but little use of the many centuries in which it has been in vogue, to search for, and produce any legitimate and satisfactory evidence of its truth. “ But what reason did not dictate, reason cannot explain !” The doctrine of eternal prescience, however, is on the eve of its extinction in the Christian world.
R. Are you then, so insufferably vain, and so confident in the plenitude and infallibility of your own powers, as to imagine, that you will be able to disprove, and undermine, the authority of a Christian doctrine, that has been believed, and defended, by some of the best, and wisest, and most learned men in all the Christian world? And do you fancy that all the world are going to abandon a long and well-tried Christian doctrine, to follow the ipse dixit of your conceited speculations ?
A. Let me ask you, my friend, whether most of those speculations, which in different ages and countries, have corrupted the Christian faith, have not been the productions of men, esteemed both wise and learned ? and in many instances, the productions of men, esteemed for their personal piety? Have not religious errors
been usually built upon the foundations of the Apostles and Pro!phets; even when they have consisted of no better materials than
« wood, hay and stubble?" But the fire of a subsequent and rigid investigation, has quickly consumed the fragile and combustible architecture, and burnt it down to the original foundations : and if the doctrine of prescience be not supported by the testimony