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Dr Fitch's Theory, as exhibited in his Review of Dr Fisk's
Discourse on Predestination and Election. Christian Spectator, Dec. 1831.
The theory exhibited in this Review is, one half of the way, pure Arminianism; and the other half, it assumes the high language of Calvinism, with an Arminian meaning two thirds of the way, and for the other third, a Calvinistic meaning wholly at variance with the rest of the system. I will first spread out the theory so plainly that every one can understand it, and secondly, show by copious extracts that it is indeed what I represent.
Dr Fitch says, (putting his thoughts into my own language,) that if God should attempt to make men holy by efficient power, they would not be holy after all, for they would not be moral agents; that all he can do is to throw truth upon their understanding and conscience by his illuminating Spirit, and leave the result to the self-determining power, which is capable of yielding to the motives and capable of resisting any influence which God can bring ; that God does the best he can by his Spirit for every individual, and therefore, (if I understand him,) as much for one as another; that he has taken the best measures he could to keep out sin, and could not succeed any further without destroying the freedom of creatures and rendering them incapable of sinning; that he has taken the best measures he could to recover men from the ruins of the fall, and has done all he could for each individual consistently with the general interest of holiness in our world, and could not succeed with a greater number; that God foresaw that if he gave being to creatures, and brought forward such a system of government and grace, Peter and John, by the self-determining power, would accept his offers, and that Judas would reject them; that this foreseen preponderance of good, (say, two to one,) was the motive which induced God to create and to bring forward such a system of government and grace; that his determination to do all this when he foresaw the result, was it. self the predestination of all things, even of sin, and particularly was the election of Peter and John and the rejection of Judas. Thus far the system, (except the language of the last proposition,) is pure Arminianism.
At this point he turns short about, and employs the highest Calvinistic language, but with a meaning entirely Arminian. He says that, by the word and Spirit, God ensures the regeneration of Peter and John, and, according to an eternal purpose, selects them from the ruins of the apostacy. He presses the doctrine of election in the strongest possible terms. But how does God ensure regeneration? and what is the election contended for? Why, he ensures the regeneration of Peter and John by urging upon them motives to which he foresaw that they, by the selfdetermining power, would yield. In this way alone he selects them from the ruins of the apostacy; and his mere determination to do this, was the eternal decree of election. This is no other regeneration or election than any Arminian would agree to if he would consent to use such language. Indeed Dr Fitch plainly tells Dr Fisk, (a consistent and highly respectable Arminian Methodist,) that he ought to believe in the same election if he holds to foreknowledge: and Dr Fisk in his answer tells him that he does, but reproves him for the illusory language in which he has wrapt it up.
Thus two thirds of the last half of the way, viz. through regeneration and election, he uses high Calvinistic language with an Arminian meaning. The other third of the last half of the way, viz. through perseverance, he holds Calvinistic language and supports the Calvinistie theory, but with entire inconsistence with the rest of the system. If God does nothing for Peter but offer motives which the self-determining power is to yield to or reject, there are a million of chances to one that Peter will fall away. Satan fell away from perfect holiness; Adam fell away from perfect holiness : a million to one that Peter will fall away from imperfect holiness, in a world full of temptations, with all his appetites and former habits set against him, unless he is “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” I beg to know what makes it certain that a single Christian will persevere. God's foreknowledge ? That foresees a thing already certain, but does not make it certain. How comes it then to pass that every regenerated man, from Adam to his youngest
son, perseveres to the end? How came it to pass that God, not as a mere prediction of what the self-determining power would do, but as a promise of what he himself would accomplish in reward of Christ, pledged himself to him that they all should remain steadfast? This doctrine of perseverance can consist with nothing but God's absolute dominion over the mind, either by efficiency or by motives. If this doctrine is true the rest of Dr Fitch's theory falls.
Now then for the proof of these assertions. Dr Fitch says, “We earnestly object to that Antinomian scheme which makes grace terminate solely on dispensing with free agency; by an act of mere omnipotence creating a new heart, and thus leaving none of the elements which constitute the moral certainty of a conversion in the agent himself."* "If Dr Fisk wishes to show that God does not create the volitions of moral agents, he has our hearty consent.”+ “Dr Fisk maintains, and, we think, truly, that any act of the creature brought into existence by the mere efficiency of God, cannot be an accountable act." I In that passage, “No man can come to me except the Father-draw him," for draw he reads induce ;$ confining the whole operation to the mere influence of motives. He says approvingly, Dr Fisk “maintains that God is not the sole agent in the universe; that there is an entire and complete cause of moral action lying out of him, in the existence of a free agent. Such an agent then, on Dr Fisk’s principles, has power to sin notwithstanding any amount of influence which his Maker can bring upon him
*633. + 599. 600. § 637.