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Agency of God.



tensive an application of it as Dr. Emmons. Yet the principles that some of them have adopted and the statements they have made necessarily involve the very ideas which have sometimes subjected him to severe animadversion. Passing by Calvin, the Westminster divines, Edwards, Smalley, Bellamy, and Hopkins, consider the following passages from Dr. Dwight's Theology. From the text, "What his soul desireth, even that he doeth," he deduces the doctrine, 'That all things, both beings and events, exist in exact accordance with the purpose, pleasure, or what is commonly called the Decrees, of God. Amongst other proofs of this, he adduces these two: 'That God cannot but have chosen the existence of all those things, whose existence was on the whole desirable, and of no others;' and 'This choice of God, that things should exist, is the only divine energy, and the only cause of existence.' In illustrating the last proposition, he declares that the energy of mind is its will; and this is synonymous with its choice, generally understood; each act of the will, being no other than an act of choice. What is thus true of every finite mind, is eminently true of the Infinite Mind.' He adds, that it is metaphysically proper to say, that God wills all things into existence; or that they are produced by his choice; in the full sense, in which any effect is said to be produced by its efficient cause.'2 This would seem to be as decisive as anything which Dr. Emmons has said. Both as to the nature and the extent of divine agency, it is definite and positive. One sees not how it can .be construed to mean anything less than the boldest assertions of our author on this subject. It includes not only events,' but 'particularly those, which are called the actions of moral or voluntary creatures.' 3 This author, too, meets the objection that God's universal agency excludes the idea of man's freedom, very much in the same manner with Dr. Emmons. An elaborate train of thought conducts him to the conclusion, 'That God can create a free agent, whose actions shall all be foreknown by him, and shall exactly accomplish what is, upon the whole, his pleasure.' 4


It were no difficult task to quote from other standard authors similar opinions. But let it now suffice to state, that Dr. Emmons advocated no views of divine agency which interfere in the least degree, as he believed, with man's free moral agency. He believed that God exercises a real, a universal and a constant agency over all his intelligent creatures, and that at the same time they enjoy the most perfect freedom conceivable. He never made the agency of God limit the freedom of the creature, nor the freedom of the creature counteract the 3 Ib.

Dwight's Theology, Harper's edition, Vol. I. p. 238. • Ib. p. 259.



p. 244.

will of God. In all his addresses to God, and descriptions of his character, he speaks to and of him, as doing all his pleasure in heaven above, and on earth beneath. In all his addresses to man, he speaks to and of him, as a free moral agent, capable of doing or not doing the whole will of God, and as accountable for the manner in which he improves the powers which God has given him.'1

We have dwelt more at length on this point, because we believe that in regard to it Dr. Emmons has not always been fairly dealt with. Inferences have been charged upon him, which he viewed with as earnest an abhorrence as any other man. It has been affirmed that he was guilty of blasphemy in charging God with being the author of sin. He has been represented as making man a machine, freeing him from all responsibility and even destroying his personality. A number of such inferences have been drawn by others from what he has taught, and then paraded before the religious community, if not as sentiments actually inculcated by himself, yet as legitimate conclusions from his premises. Those who knew him require not to be assured that he was among the first to deny the truth of all such deductions. Divine agency, in his mind, involved no such consequences was attended by no such terrible incumbrances. No writer was more prompt than he to assert and maintain the unimpaired moral freedom of man, while he delighted to view the wise and holy God as working all things after the counsel of his own will.' It was no paradox to him, any more than it seemed to be to the Apostle Paul, that man can work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, while it is God that worketh in him both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.' In other words, he believed that 'men can act freely under a divine agency.'2 Taking this principle with him, he was prepared, on the one hand, to assert the absolute supremacy of God, and, on the other, to predicate of man entire freedom of moral action. Reason and Scripture unite in placing the former truth on an immovable basis; consciousness and the first principles of intuition assure us of the latter. Both demonstrably true, they cannot clash.3


In connection with our author's opinions of God's decrees and agency, we may examine his belief respecting

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§ 7. Election and Reprobation.

These are both included in the more comprehensive doctrine of the divine purposes; but, on account of their practical relation to the happiness of the saved and the misery of the lost, they require particular I Works, Vol. I. p. 79. (Memoir.) 2 Ib. p. 77. 3 Ib. Vol. IV. p. 384.


Election and Reprobation.

consideration. In the system of theology elaborated by Dr. Emmons,
the election of grace' occupied no obscure or inferior position. It
mattered not to him, that it was a truth very much spoken against.'
We would not be too sure that it was not even more interesting to
him, on that very account. At any rate, he was the man to give its
claims a fair hearing, and to express his opinions of it without disguise.
He believed, then, that God chose his people in Christ, before the
foundation of the world, that they should be holy, and without blame
before him in love.' That Christ should see of the travail of his soul
and be satisfied, was, in his estimation, more than a mere figure of
rhetoric. The elect were given to Christ in the covenant of redemp-
tion, as a reward for his mediatorial services and sufferings.' They
were so given to Christ that there is no uncertainty about their con-
version and salvation. The decree of election was such, that Christ
could say with the fullest assurance, "All that the Father giveth me,
shall come to me." The election was from eternity-a purpose of
mercy in Christ Jesus, before the world began, to save sinners. It
was not simply a decree to save sinners, provided they should repent
and believe; though it is certain that all who do believe shall be saved.
But it was a purpose, fixed as the eternal hills, that multitudes of the
human family ruined by sin, should have their attention directed to
the "Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world," be renewed
in the spirit and temper of their minds, and rendered "meet for the
inheritance of the saints in light." In that glorious purpose, the
'foreknown were predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ,
the predestinated were called by the Spirit, the called were justified,
and the justified were glorified.' There was more than a poetical
beauty, according to our author, in Paul's rapturous exclamation: “We
are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of
the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salva-
tion, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." 'All
Christ's people are elected to eternal life, and to regeneration and sanc-
tification, as the necessary means to qualify them for it.' 3

From this statement of Dr. Emmons's views of Election, it will be
seen that he gave no countenance whatever to the slander, that 'if a
man is to be saved he will be, do what he may, and if not, he will not
be, do what he can.' He regarded a sentiment like that with mingled
contempt and abhorrence. Nor did his opinions of this doctrine render
means unnecessary. He made much of means. In God's decree that
such and such results should take place, he saw that second causes
were as important as the ends were necessary. It is just as certain
1 Works, Vol. IV. p. 310.
2 Ib. p. 311.

3 Ib.

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that the elect will repent and believe the Gospel, as it is that they will be justified and glorified. He had no views of Election which hindered him from calling upon all men with earnest sincerity to accept the offers of mercy through a crucified Redeemer. He knew that the provisions of God's grace are abundant for all, and that whosoever will, may come and take the water of life freely. With solemn appeals to the conscience and heart, he was wont to call upon both hearers and readers to make their calling and election sure.' Clearly he taught that every sinner can do this by exercising repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.' Grace is the only certain evidence of grace; and, therefore, the Apostle exhorts Christians to live in the exercise of grace in order to gain assurance that they are chosen to salvation. Let them grow in grace, and they will grow in assurance of their calling and election to eternal life.' 2



Still he knew well that no sinner would come to Christ, unless drawn by the Father. Such were his views of man's depravity by nature, that he had no hope of the salvation of a single soul aside from the electing love of God. The fact that God has given to Christ a seed to serve him—that He has chosen from eternity a great multitude that no man can number to be holy before him in love- - that He has determined of his own good pleasure to form a people for his praise; this glorious doctrine of the election of grace,' illuminated to his eye the whole horizon of truth, and gave him hope and courage while he entreated sinners to become reconciled to God. The inveterate depravity of the human heart and the terrible influence of the god of this world over the great mass of mind, did not intimidate or dishearten him. For he believed the promise without the shadow of a doubt, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Beyond the clouds that obscure our heaven with gloom, he saw a God of matchless wisdom and infinite resources, pledged to his Son and to the universe, to prepare unnumbered millions of the human family for the bliss of his heavenly kingdom.

"The few friends Christ now has in the world, may look forward by an eye of faith, and joyfully anticipate the day when multitudes which no man can number, shall rise from spiritual death to spiritual life, and reign in righteousness from the rising to the setting sun, and there shall be none to hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain. This is a most animating motive to pray to the Father, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'" 3


Thus he made the 'electing love of God' beautiful to contemplate, 'Works, Vol. IV. p. 317. 2 Ib. p. 322.

3 Ib.




and gave it the energy of a mighty moral force to urge ministers and Christians to fidelity in the use of means.


Singular as it may appear, he also held such opinions respecting the doctrine of Reprobation, as, on the whole, encouraged him to effort, by inspiring him with the most animating hope. He firmly believed that God has a purpose, fixed from eternity, concerning all who will finally be lost. To suppose that the existence, actions, characters, and destiny of such are not all contemplated in the divine purpose and are not a part of that comprehensive agency which worketh all in all, would, in his view, be to suppose not only what is untrue, but also what is absurd. His opinions of this doctrine are developed in his discourse on the conduct and doom of Pharaoh. He there fearlessly carries out his conceptions of the decrees and agency of God, to their practical bearings on the characters and final condition of men. Many have objected to some of his statements in this discourse, as derogatory to the benevolence and justice of God. They have said that he makes God directly the author of sin; that, if this doctrine be true, Pharaoh was irresponsible, and, of course, deserved no punishment for his acts; and that God is infinitely cruel, because he makes men sinners, and then inflicts upon them the penalty of eternal damnation for what they could not help.' Now all who knew Dr. Emmons, need not be assured that his whole soul would have revolted in earnest detestation at such statements as these. He may have used language in some instances, which would seem to imply force or compulsion, and of course inconsistent with the moral freedom of man. For example, when he declares that 'when Moses called upon him to let the people go, God stood by him and moved him to refuse,' the words are those which literally express outward action and physical impulse. But he is well known to have employed the language for embodying his idea of a totally different kind of agency. He believed that God had a fixed purpose in regard to Pharaoh, and all the events and circumstances concerned in the formation of his character. He believed also that God's purpose, in no case, infringed, or was inconsistent with the moral freedom of Pharaoh. The result of Pharaoh's hardness of heart and final overthrow was certain; but certain only as the impenitence and destruction of every unregenerate sinner are certain; certain, but yet in perfect consistency with the full exercise of reason and liberty of the will. The idea that God exercised any agency upon Pharaoh which absolutely necessitated his sinning, or hardened his heart in any such sense as to destroy his responsibility for hardening his own heart, would have been as repugnant to the sentiments of our author as to

2 Ib. p. 327.


1 Works, Vol. IV. p. 323.

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