Page images

those of any one who has attempted to fasten these conclusions to his premises. He inculcated, in every variety of form, the ability of the sinner to do all that God requires of him, and thus make it certain that he is not one of the reprobate, but one of the elect. Yes; he taught explicitly that man has a natural power to frustrate the decrees of God.' Surely, then, he could not have intended to imply, in any form of speech which he has employed, that Pharaoh was a subject of such compulsory agency on the part of God, that either his freedom of will or his power to do right was destroyed or impaired. To no one would he have thought the command, Repent and do works meet for repentance,' more applicable, than to this same rebellious monarch of Egypt.

[ocr errors]

What, then, did he mean by the strong language above quoted? The answer is very obvious, if we recur to his definition of divine agency. It is not physical force. It is not compulsion. It is not the decree of fate, by which human actions are absolutely necessitated. No, no; it is something more consonant with the spirituality of the Divine Mind and the claims of a sound philosophy. God's will, or choice, is his agency. Not his knowledge, or his wisdom, or his power; but his volition. His purpose from eternity and his choice at the time, contemplated Pharaoh as acting freely in view of all the motives concentrated in his solemn position. By causing him thus to act, is meant his will that, on the whole, he should act for himself, or on his own responsibility, under the pressure of all the facts in his case. Thus, the creature acted freely under the influence of the Creator, and his actions were his own. Our author's views of this point are fairly stated by the editor of his Works. "According to the definition of divine agency given by Dr. Emmons, all that God did to harden the heart of Pharaoh, or to move him to let the people go, was to will or choose, all things considered, that he should voluntarily or freely refuse to let them go. But was the exertion of such an agency as this upon him, in the least degree inconsistent with his own free moral agency? Could not Pharaoh himself refuse to let the people go when God chose he should do it, as well as though God had made no such choice? Could not Pharaoh act as freely in refusing to let the people go, under the influence of the divine will that he should do so, as he could have done, if God had formed no choice respecting it? Or, in other words, did the will of God that Pharaoh should do this thing freely of his own accord, and in a manner perfectly consistent with his accountability, have any tendency to prevent his doing it?"3 The writer of this article from oft-repeated conversations with Dr. Emmons, knows that

1 Works, Vol. IV. p. 304.

2 Ib. p. 350.

* Memoir, pp. 79, 80.


Election and Reprobation.


these were the views which he entertained respecting the agency of God in hardening Pharaoh's heart and in forming all the vessels of wrath for destruction.' From eternity the Infinite Mind saw that the plan of creation which he adopted would be the best possible, all things considered. Therefore, he adopted it. He works all things after the counsel of his own will respecting the salvation of the elect, and they 'work out their salvation with fear and trembling.' They are chosen, called, justified, glorified. He works all things after the counsel of his own will respecting the destruction of the wicked, and they abuse their privileges, neglect the great salvation, and perish in their sins. God wills that they should freely and responsibly pursue their own chosen way. It is not consistent with his plans, all things taken into view, to put forth an agency that shall turn them from sin to holiness. They will persist in sin and go away into everlasting destruction from his presence, and become monuments of his justice to all eternity.

Such, in brief, were the views of Dr. Emmons respecting the doctrines of Election and Reprobation. And whatever deductions the ingenuity of criticism may make from them, and with whatever forms of terror an opposite theory may array them, they lay in the mind of their author side by side, perfectly harmonizing with those attributes of God which constitute his highest glory, and with those inherent elements of freedom and responsibility in man which show that he was originally created in the divine image. That plausible objections would be urged against his views, he was well aware; nor was he the man to shrink from meeting them. He was deeply convinced that his reasonings from the Scriptures and from the nature of things had conducted him to the essential truth on these points, and he was ready to follow wherever these should lead the way. If any objected that he was conflicting with man's freedom, or with God's impartiality, he boldly joined issue with them, asking no favor, and giving no indulgence. By the truth, he would be condemned or justified. If he was accused of ascribing tyranny to God or involving Him in the authorship or guilt of sin; if the objector averred that he left no place for the use of means or the intervention of second causes; he made it manifest with admirable promptness that he had studied his subjects in these several bearings and had made preparation to show the fallacy of all such objections.1 Taking with him the truths, that God has for his own glory foreordained whatsoever comes to pass,' and 'that men act freely and responsibly while acted upon,' he felt himself armed for any and every encounter with opponents. Though he loved not controversy for its own sake, yet he was glad to find a 'foeman worthy of 1 Works, Vol. IV. pp. 331–334. VOL. VII. No. 26. 24


his steel,' and even his antagonists acknowledged that he wielded his weapons with adroitness and effect.

The following specimen will show his manner of treatment when pressed with objections. He had just been disposing of the assumption, that his view of reprobation was inconsistent with free and responsible action on the part of the sinner. He is now met with the objection that he leaves no room for the use of means. The 'decree that any shall be lost, renders absurd the employment of means for their salvation.'1

"This objection is founded upon the preceding, and if there is no foundation for that, there is none for this. If the decree of reprobation does not destroy free agency, then it does not destroy the use of means. If reprobates remain free agents, then there is a great propriety in treating them as such, and in exhibiting before them all the motives of the Gospel, to lead them to repentance. But it is sufficient to say, that God used means with Pharaoh, to bring him to good, though he had determined to destroy him. He admonished him of his duty and of his danger; he visited him with mercies and judgments; he employed Moses and Aaron, and even his own subjects, to persuade him to submission; and he delayed to cut him off from the earth, until it clearly appeared that all means and motives served to harden his heart and increase his obstinacy. This instance of the divine conduct towards a reprobate, demonstrates the propriety of using all the means of grace with reprobates. God addressed the understanding, the conscience, and the heart of Pharaoh, and used every method proper to be used, to bring any obstinate sinner to repentance. Reprobates are as capable of feeling the force of moral motives as any other men in the world; and therefore it is as proper to use the means of grace with the non-elect, as with the elect. So God teaches, by his word and by his conduct."

Whatever some of the language employed by Dr. Emmons may seem to imply, or whatever inferences others may deduce from his premises, it is perfectly obvious that he entertained no view of divine efficiency, of election or reprobation, which appeared to him to curtail in the least the moral freedom of man, or absolutely necessitate the destruction of a sinner. Certainly it is but common justice, that he should be judged in the light of his own definitions and explanations.

The statements already submitted, indicate with sufficient clearness what were our author's views of the

§ 8. Sovereignty of God.

He who exists by a necessity in his own nature, uncaused and eter1 Works, Vol. IV. · p. 333.


Sovereignty of God.


nal; who 'foreordained whatsoever comes to pass;' who has made all things for himself,' and for 'whose pleasure they are and were created,' must be 'King of kings, and Lord of lords.' Possessed of every conceivable perfection, the Maker and Preserver of all, it is his right to challenge the homage of every heart, and the supreme devotion of every created intelligence. Our author was in no wise reluctant to ascribe to Jehovah the power, dominion and rights of an absolute and universal Sovereign. God giveth not account of any of his matters.' He openeth, and no man shutteth; shutteth, and no man openeth.' 'Clothed with majesty and girded with strength, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.' God over all, he borrows no leave to be,' or to plan, or to act. Whatsoever seems good unto him, that he doeth in heaven, and earth, and through all parts of his grand empire. In the exercise of his adorable sovereignty, he had a perfect right to form his own designs respecting angels and men, and he has the same right to exercise his agency in fixing the bounds of their habitation and determining their destiny for all eternity. Our author saw the amiable and awful sovereignty of God in the fall and punishment of the angels who kept not their first estate, and in the confirmation of those who resisted the tempter, in everlasting holiness and bliss. He saw it in the creation of man with powers to obey or disobey his Maker, in the test of loyalty which God prescribed, in the fall, in the provisions of mercy, in the ordaining of multitudes to eternal life and leaving others to their choice of destruction, in the diverse operations of God's Spirit, and in all the discriminations of providence and of grace. It seemed to him that this truth is admirably fitted to prostrate the soul in reverence and fill the heart with a sublime joy. Sad is the moral condition of that man on whom it produces no such effect. And what made God's sovereignty so amiable and so transcendently glorious in his sight was, that it is the sovereignty of wisdom, truth and righteousness, no less than the sovereignty of power.2 No creature in the universe will have just cause to complain of God, during any portion of his existence, because the Judge of all the earth will do right.' Though God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardeneth whom he will,' he is to be adored for this diverse agency because every part of it is in harmony with combined wisdom and benevolence, and intended to exhibit his glory to an intelligent universe.


"It is just matter of rejoicing to the whole intelligent creation, that God always acts as a Sovereign, without the least control from any other being in the universe. His own blessedness, and the highest felicity of

1 Works, Vol. III. pp. 247, 248.

2 Ib. p. 247.

[ocr errors]

all his holy creatures, entirely depends upon his being and acting as a Sovereign. For by acting in a sovereign and irresistible manner, he will infallibly overrule all things for his own glory; which will necessarily secure the highest good of all his benevolent and dutiful servants." 1

From the view now taken, it will be seen that Dr. Emmons was accustomed to cherish exalted conceptions of the character of God. As was once suggested respecting Dr. Bellamy, he made God very great.' The sentiment of reverence was largely developed in him. If he dwelt frequently on the divine perfections and government, it was b ecause of their intrinsic grandeur and importance, and of his conviction that a correct knowledge of these is essential to true religion. In his light, he was ever looking for light. The eye on him, all was clear; off, and all was dark. He knew that to be strong, one must rest in God; to be happy, one must be blest in God. Therefore he studied God with intense affection and profound veneration; and the sublime conclusions which he matured in his own mind, he was ever ready to communicate for the illumination of other minds. He knew, indeed, that none by searching can find out the Almighty unto perfection;' yet he was assured that there are parts of his ways' which may be investigated and comprehended. Though the great ocean 'cannot be sounded by plummet and line,' nevertheless the fathoms which that line does measure may be accurately numbered. Though a humorous hearer might now and then have asked, half in earnest and half in irony, When does Dr. Emmons expect to be able to tell us all about God?' yet his people were never more solemn or more benefitted than when he carried them up to that spiritual Shechinah, where the presence and majesty of Jehovah were shadowed forth.

Unwilling to protract this survey to the point of tediousness, we omit a synopsis of our author's belief respecting angels 2 and evil spirits. We do this the more readily because he taught nothing concerning these peculiarly new or important, and because it will afford us larger opportunity to consider his teachings in regard to man, his duties and his destiny. It animated him to feel that saints are always attended by good angels, and, in a sense, are under their guardianship. If, in a moment of deep perplexity, some thought was suddenly suggested to him which scattered light in his path, he was very ready to receive it as from his guardian angels. Believing also, that man is ever subject to temptations from spirits of evil, he warned both saints and sinners to 'resist the devil and draw nigh to God.'

[To be concluded.]


Works, Vol. VI. pp. 490, 491. See also Vol. IV. pp. 2 Works, Vol. IV. pp. 415–429.


3 Ib. pp. 432-435.

« PreviousContinue »