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LETTERS TO A BROTHER.
you think, would ertend to all
other points. But here your mind LETTER V.
is unsettled. Though you have ON THE CHARACTER OF GOD. heard and read much concerning Beloved Brother,
God, you are yet 80 unhappy, as to The task, which you assign be without any clear and determin. me, though arduous, is inviting ate ideas of his character. In parI approach it with trembling. ticular, you tell me, that the char. Yet, as I approach, I feel a three- aeter, which Calviniste ascribe to fold pleasure ; arising, first, from the Supreme Being, is clothed with the disposition you show, in re- terror. Scarcely any feature of it questing me to write on such a appears amiable.
Still you are subject; secondly, from the hope, not able to rest in any other de. that a divine blessing will attend scription of God; and you wish me my humble efforts ; and thirdly, to write on the subject with that from the prospect of fixing my freedom, which I have ever used, thoughts on a theme, which I and which you kindly receive, as a hope ever to contemplate with proof of brotherly affection. pew delight.
I comply with your request. With all the friendly anxieties My object is not to treat at large occasioned by your last letter, I this astonishing subject, but on, had the pleasure to observe, what ly to suggest a few leading hints, a serious desire you manifest to to aid your own meditations, examine the fundamental points The perfection of God can of Christianity. In view of what never be grasped by a limited un. I have written, you are so candid derstanding. Only a little poras to allow, that the Bible contains tion of him is known; and that intelligible and full instruction re- we know, because he has unveiled specting the great things of reli, it. The great question is, What gion, and that we must be suppos, instruction hath God given us rey ed capable of discovering the truth. specting himself? What is the You have selected the subject, moral character, which we are which, of all subjects, is the most taught to ascribe to the Supreme essential. Your great difficulty, you Being? The heaven-taught John say, respects the character of God. furnishes this brief answer; Gon Complete satisfaction on this point, IS LOVE. These three words
In this and the subsequent letter of Constans, readers will perceive, that he has carefully investigated his subject, and that he is not backward frankly and candidly to disclose his sentiments. The Editors, without hold, ing themselves responsible for the correctness of every sentiment, which may be advanced by different writers in this publication, are willing to communi, cate the views of a professed, discriminating, able Calvinist on the subject of these letters; a subject most interesting to man, As this writer appears to have advanced nothing contrary to the faith of the Reformed Churches in Eua rope and America, and has treated his subject sensibly and reverently, we have no doubt he will be read with attention, seriousness and candour. If in his manner of illustration, he does not confine himself to the most beaten track, and if others, who entertain the same sentiments, might think it inexpcdient to express them with the same freedom and energy, yet all, we think, must commend his piety, frankness and ingenuity.
See Smith's Letters to Belsham.
contain more information con- whole, as extending to unlimited cerning God, than all the books duration. It was in this view, of heathen philosophy. Love the only wise God chose it. In constitutes the moral essence this view, we pronounce it absoand glory of Deity. Without lutely the best. love or goodness, his natural per- You must consider also, that fections would never render him when we pronounce the system, amiable. Infinite knowledge and which God has adopted, the best, power, under the control of we do it from unreserved confi. malevolence, would constitute an dence in his infinite wisdom and inconceivably hateful and infa- goodness. As we are totally unmous character. Under such in- able to comprehend all the parts
, fluence, knowledge would plot, which compose the system, and and power would perpetrate un. still more unable to extend our bounded mischief. But God is views to the unlimited duras Jove. All his natural perfections tion of the whole ; it would be are under the influence of the the greatest arrogance in us most enlightened and extensive to pronounce any sentence upbenevolence. His character is, on it, except that, which is therefore, both venerable and dictated by full confidence in lovely.
ETERNAL WISDOM. By expressIt results from the absolute ing our unwavering belief, yea, perfection of God, that he from our happy certainty, that the eternity adopted the most excellent scheme, which God has chosen, plan of operation. All possible is the best possible, we do not schemes were viewed by the infi- profess to be wise above what is nite mind of Jehovah, before he written, nor undertake to judge began to create. Perfect good- of that, which is above our reach. ness chose the best. To say, that Such belief is founded wholly on God could have chosen a better the absolute perfection of HIM, system, is to charge him with im- of whom, and through whom, and perfection. If there could have to whom are all things, and on been a better system, than that, that infallible word, which aswhich God eternally chosc, there sures us, his work is perfect. If must have been either a defect in I rest upon the wisdom, or upon his understanding, in not discern- the truth of God, I must con. ing it, or a fault in his heart, include, that the great scheme of not adopting it.
the universe is stamped with When the system, eternally perfection ; that nothing can be chosen, is declared to be absolutely added to it, and nothing taken the best, you must well consider, from it ; and that its all-wise Au, with what an extensive view it is thor has never found, and will declared. It is not meant, that never find any occasion for the every part of the created system, least amendment. considered separately, or the This sentiment, which is intiwhole, considered for any limited mately connected with a considduration, is the best that Divine eration of the divine character, Perfection could have produced. harmonizes with reason and with All parts of the system must be revelation. It favours the most considered in connexion, and the exalted piety, by inculcating an
implicit belief, that God has acted prayers of his people, and the wisely in a case, where we are to- praises of angels. He wishes tally incapable of comprehending well to the universe. But holy what he has done. This senti- beings are the objects not only ment is also most comforting to of his benevolence, but of his us. It tends to dissipate all the complacency and delight. The gloom, with which the mind is Lord loveth the righteous, and overspread by viewing the disor- taketh pleasure in them that fear ders in the natural and moral him. He not only desires their worlds. What can be more ani- "welfare, but approves their charmating and delightful, than the acter. His goodness necessarily cordial belief, that perfect good- inclines him to love goodness in ness and wisdom inhabit the his creatures. eternal throne? Such a belief The love of God operates in is a broad basis for the most pro- the way of grace to sinners. found and cheerful submission, When he promised to display for inward peace which nothing his glorious goodness to Moses, can interrupt, and for the purest, this was represented, as a capital sublimest joy.
part of that display; I will be But I cannot yet leave this gracious tò whom I will be graa great subject, the foundation of cious, and will show mercy to all divine truth, and of all moral · whom I will show mercy. Scripharmony and beauty. Although, ture considers the salvation of in many respects, clouds and sinners, as the work of divine darkness are round about the love. I might add, that the puncharacter of God, the light of ishment of sinners arises from the knowledge of his glory the same principle. But on this shines in the gospel of Christ ; topic, I only request you, for the yea, illuminated by that gospel, present, to peruse the 136th we see that it shines in the dis- Psalm, which professedly, and pensations of Providence. Prove in the most affecting manner, celidence, as well as revelation, pro- ebrates the goodness and mercy claims this precious truth, with of God; and see, how large a which we began, that GOD IS portion of it is occupied in reLOVE.
hearsing his judgments upon the The Calvinistic scheme, which, wicked. in your view, clothes God with
All the operations of God are the most unamiable character, calculated to promote his glory, embraces this truth. It teaches, and the great interests of the unithat all God's moral attributes verse.
His glory, though for a are comprised in love, and that
time concealed from the eyes of his administration is a diversified mortals, will finally shine forth ; and endless display of it. His 'and its lustre will be the brighter goodness is over all his works.
for its temporary obscurity. The He looks with a benevolent eye highest felicity of the intelligent upon all sensitive beings, from creation is likewise included in the highest archangel to the the divine scheme. It is an obsmallest insect. He regards the ject so dear to the heart of God, falling of a sparrow, and the cry that he has unalterably associated of young ravens, as well as the it with his own glory.
Such I take to be the leading toward his own infinite perfecsentiment of Calvinism respecto . tion, be measured by the regard, ing God. The objections against which a worm ought to have toit, which have been urged with ward himself? Candidly exam. singular zeal, and which you own ine this subject. Why do we have made a deep impression on blame a man for thinking highly your mind, shall now be consid- of himself? Because he has not ered. They are subtle and spe. personal merit to render such cious, but not solid. I discuss thoughts suitable. We cannot them the more readily, because blame a person for esteeming I apprehend, that the very things, himself according to his real which are objected against God, worth. It is when his estimawill, on candid inquiry, appear tion of himself rises above the greatly to his honour.
measure of his own excellence, Your first objection against the that we stigmatize it. But when Calvinistic doctrine of God is, God loves himself supremely, that it represents him as making does he love himself above the his own glory and blessedness, measure of his own worthiness? rather than the happiness of his Is not his excellence infinitely creatures, his chief, ultimate end. superior to all created excel. This representation, it is said, de- lence? And must he cease to regrades the character of God, by as- gard it accordingly, because it is cribing to him those selfish feelings, . his ? Say, my brother ; does not which are always accounted a the infinite excellence of the meanness in mankind, and robs CREATOR render it suitable, him of the honour of that benevo- that he should love himself above lence, which primarily seeks the the creation, and supremely regood of others.
gard his own glory and blessedI need not inform you, my
ness? If he should not, he would brother, that the sentiment, a- be partial and unjust. He gainst which this objection is would deny himself. . urged, is explicitly asserted in it is a fault in God to make himthe scriptures. “The Lord made self the object of supreme regard, all things for himself. Of him, , and his own glory, the end of all and through him, and to him are his works, is implicitly to say, all things. For his pleasure they that divine perfection does not are, and were created.” I ac- deserve supreme regard, and knowledge, that a man's having that divine glory is less worthy to a supreme regard to his own in- be sought than some other end. terest or honour, is the greatest Were this true, God could not blemish. But must the Lord of with propriety command us to all be placed upon a level with love him with all the heart, and man in point of personal worthi- make his glory our chief end. ness? Because it is criminal pre- But even among the framers of sumption in man to set himself the objection, who ever dared to on the throne, is it therefore pre- make this command a topic of sumption in God? Is it arro- complaint? Yet this command, gance for JEHOVAH to say, I am as they must see, is sure evi(God, and there is none else? Must dence, that God is the object of the regard, which he entertains his own supreme love, and his
own glory the end of all his to be God; and would thus deworks.
stroy the only basis of union and There is one more considera- felicity among rational creatures. tion, which deserves particular And let me ask, dear brother, notice. God's making his own why should Calvinism be thought glory and happiness his chief to cool the ardor, or banish the end is so far from being to the delights of piety, by assigning to disadvantage of his creatures, God the highest place in the uni. that the good of the universe is verse ; by declaring that all creacomprised in it. The glory of tures, in comparison with him, God, my brother, is the display are as a drop of the bucket, and of his benevolence. His happithe small dust of the balance ; ness consists in the efficacious op- and by insisting that he regards eration of his love. It is the han himself, and that we ought to finess of an infinite Benefactor. regard him, according to the By promoting his own glory and place he holds in the great sysblessedness, he secures the high- tem of being? est felicity of the intelligent sys- These thoughts I submit to tem. He created angels, and your serious consideration ; inmen, and all other objects, for tending soon to examine your the purpose of promoting the other objections, and craving for general good. As far as they you, dear brother, and for myeventually do this, they display self, the teaching of the Holy the glory of God's love, and Spirit. afford pleasure to his heart. Thus
CONSTANS. his glory and blessedness include the general welfare. On the contrary, if God should make his own glory a secondary object,
UNIVERSAL. and for any consideration should
No. 1. violate his own purity, wisdom, CERTAIN religious truths seem veracity, or righteousness ; in engraven as with a diamond on short, if he should dishonour his the human mind. In their reown character, as Supreme Gov. motest emigrations, in the lowernor of the universe, he would est and most refined state of somanifestly do the greatest inju- ciety, mankind have generally ry to his creatures. Now why believed certain doctrines of reshould that, which at once dis- ligion. The being of a God, a plays the amiableness of God and Providence, the immortality of secures the highest interests of the soul, future rewards and pun. the universe, be to mortals an oc- ishments, the necessity of sacricasion of murmuring? Whyfice for sin, have been almost should we object against our Ma- universally acknowledged. ker for entertaining and express- The doctrine of the Trinity ing that supreme regard for him- may also be found in most of the self, to surrender which would be religions known in the orld. most flagrantly to violate the first The Unitarians of late, repreprinciple of impartial justice, to sent the doctrine of the Trinity descend from his throne, to cease as an invention of modern ignoVol. I. No.9.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY