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light; it is the idea of all which is, in the literal sense, necessary for the obedient choice.— The meaning which our author attaches to the disputed phrase may become still more obvious, perhaps, from the following Sections.
§ 17. Relations of the General Atonement and of Free Moral Agency to the Divine Foreknowledge and Decrees.
It is easy to misunderstand the remarks quoted in the present Section. It is easier still to misrepresent them. They are not exactly what we would desire them to be. The intent of them, however, is easily seen by a candid reader. They were designed to be complements of the truths often presented by Dr. Griffin, that God has fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass, and that consequently all the actions of men are certain and foreknown. The style, the thoughts, and even the subjects of Dr. Griffin's discourses prove him to have been, through life, eminently Calvinistic in his views. The spirit of eloquence which glowed within him, however, impelled him to declare the whole counsel of God, in order to reach the moral sensibilities of men. He was not a man of one idea. He held up the truths which are on the side of the Sovereign, and also the truths which are on the side of the creature. Like many other Calvinists, he made a broad distinction between the Providential and the Moral Government, the Purposes and the Commands, the Secret and the Revealed Will of Jehovah. He was punctiliously careful to guard his readers against the belief, that the divine decree is their rule of duty, that the purpose of election lessens the freeness of divine grace, and that any providential plan with regard to the application of the atonement affects the nature of it, as a provision for moral agents. He was firm in resisting those writers who believe that, as the atonement was not intended for the nonelect, and as the non-elect have not any kind of power to repent, therefore the non-elect are not in a state of probation. "Is election," he writes, " brought against it [probation]? But God treats agents, as we have seen, just as though there was no election. Is foreknowledge brought against it? But God treats agents, it will appear hereafter, just as though there was no foreknowledge" (p. 233). We are not to busy ourselves with the question, whether we are elected, but we are to regard the Most High as our Moral Governor, and with him, as such, " our business lies through the whole course of our active virtue. In every part we proceed as though nothing was settled from eternity, and except a submission to the eternal purpose of God, set ourselves to raise others to happiness as though we never heard of an absolute decree. We transact with the Moral Governor in almost all our worship. Prayer has no other object. Its concern lies not with election, but with the present will of him who ' is a Rcwarder of them that diligently seek him.' Its sole encouragement is drawn from the promise of the Moral Governor; and a long pondering on election, by turning the eye from him, is apt to damp the spirit and discourage the effort. When we pray for the regeneration of others, we do not ask the Elector to change his eternal decrees: we address ourselves to the Moral Governor alone, and hope to be rewarded by an act which to them will not be a recompense" (p. 248). Believing that the atonement is designed for men only as moral agents, he boldly affirms that God, as a Moral Governor, " knows not a non-elect person on earth" (p. 285), and that " a moral government, in dealing with pure agents, is so regardless of the decrees, and promises, and influences which respect the passive, that it goes around them, and wanders over them, without appearing to see them" (p. 255). Far from believing that God first elects the heirs of salvation, and then makes an atonement for them as elect, Dr. Griffin says: "The Moral Governor had nothing to do with men as elect and non-elect, but merely as moral agents, and in reference to his final treatment of them, as believers and unbelievers. And his decree to punish any for rejecting a Saviour, must be founded on his foreknowledge that they would thus reject. This was all the decree that the Moral Governor could pass respecting the misery of those who were to hear the Gospel" (p. 304). Is an atonement planned and provide' for the non-elect? If not, they are not under obligation tu accept it, and are not qualified to reject it. Our author reasons thus:
"The only part of a moral government which discovers prescience, is prophecy. All the other parts are framed together with the same consistency of relation as if there was no foreknowledge. Break up this principle, and plant the eye of prescience visibly in every part of a moral government, and you turn the whole into confusion: the entreaties of God to the non-elect would appear like mockery, and many of his declarations false. God proceeds in his treatment of moral agents as though it was perfectly uncertain how they will act till they are tried. The reason is that the capacity and obligations on which the treatment is founded, are in no degree affected by foreknowledge. This neither weakens an obligation, nor helps to create one which would not otherwise exist. It does not weaken an obligation, and therefore does not prevent the issuing of commands and invitations; for these only express the obligations of men with precision, without any thing prophetic as to their conduct or destiny. Nor yet does it help to create an obligation which would not otherwise exist. To this maxim I wish to draw particular attention. Were there no foreknowledge, neither the nature of things nor any command could impose on men an obligation to accept a privilege which in relation to them had no existence, (for that would be a natural impossibility,) nor, unless deceived, to believe the privilege to be for them in such a sense that they could enjoy it by doing their duty; for that would be an obligation to believe a lie. This would be common sense if there was no foreknowledge. Now what I assert is, that th • foreknowledge of God that they would not accept the privilege if provided for them, did not render it proper for him, without providing it, to comman i them to receive it and to believe that it was provided for them. The. could not be under obligation, nor could any command lay them under obligation, to accept a privilege which in relation to them had no existence, nor, unless deceived, to believe a lie. The inconsistency of attempting to impose such an obligation, will appear by making the supposition, (and of moral agents we have a right to make the supposition,) that they should exert or try to exert their agency in this way. The moment they should make the attempt, they would find one part a natural impossibility, and in performing the other, unless deceived, they would actually do wrong. Xo power therefore could lay upon them an obligation to accept a privilege which, from the foreknowledge that they would reject it, had not been so provided for them that they could enjoy it by doing their duty. Accordingly the Moral Governor no more attempts to impose the obligation without providing the privilege, than would any fair and honorable man. He does not command impossibilities, secure in the foreknowledge that creatures will not obey, and then punish them forever for not doing what no power with the best dispositions could have done. He dot's not thus take advantage of his superior knowledge to oppress. He does not thus practise upon the ignorance of creatures, sure at last to detect the imposition." (pp. 24 9 — 201.)
If it be physically possible for the non-elect to accept the atonement,then,even if God has not pre-determined to induce them to accept it, still may we not make a supposition that they will accept it? And if they should do so, how would their act of faith stand related to the divine decree? Dr. Griffin replies:
"Who will pretend to say that if Judas had believed, (and I hope enough has been said to justify the supposition,) he would have been rejected V But if he had believed, you say, it would have been foreknown, and the atonement would have been made for him. And are you sure it would have been foreknown? We have no other idea of God's foreknowledge than that it is founded on his own purpose to produce or permit. He therefore foreknew whether lie should give faith to Judas. But this possible action of which I am speaking, would not have been caused by God, nor have grown out of any purpose of his. How then should it have been foreknown? No event is in fact unforeknown; because, beyond what is produced by the direct influence of God, 1he universe is governed by motives, the tendency of which he perfectly understands. But the possibility of the action under consideration, did not depend on the motives which God had actually spread, but on the faculties of a rational soul. Had Judas done as he ought, an event would have taken place which was never foreseen. And had ho done as he ought without the influence and motives which God controlled, (and his obligations were independent of both,) an event would have taken place, which, so far as we can judge, could not have been foreseen. No such event ever did or will occur: I only make these remarks to show how independent of divine foreknowledge the natural possibility of action is. Unnumbered actions which God never foreknew, are still naturally possible, or prescience reduces everything to fate.
It is on this ground that God, in all his treatment of moral agents, (except in the single instance of prophecy,) proceeds just as though he had no foreknowledge. The capacity of creatures to act, and of course the natural possibility of their action, and their obligations, are independent of prescience; and the Moral Governor, founding his course on that capacity and possibility, and on those obligations, holds his way as though nothing was foreseen." (pp. 333, 334.)
§ 18. Relations of the General Atonement and of free Moral Agency to the Arminian and the Calvinistic systems.
If a theologian advocate the doctrine of divine decrees, he will be regarded as a fatalist by some. If he advocate the doctrine of human freedom, he will be regarded as an Arminian by others. But Dr. Griffin advocated both doctrines. We regret that he did not more analytically discriminate between his own theory of human power, and that which is characteristic of Arminianism. He might have shown them to be radically unlike each other. Contenting himself with the more general distinctions, he says:
"The3e principles of a moral government [pp. 158—171 of this Article exhibit these principles], which are everywhere conspicuous on the sacred page, are what Anniiiians have discovered, and set themselves to defend, in opposition to doctrines which they thought irreconcilable with these. As advocates for the fundamental laws of a moral government, they deserve real praise: but their error has lain in not perceiving that all the attributes of moral agency are perfectly consistent with absolute dependence. If ever this unhappy division in the church is healed, it must be on the ground here taken, by showing that respectable class of men that all the prerogatives of a moral government can be maintained in perfect consistency with absolute election and special grace." (pp. 244, 24.r;.)
"So far as the dispute [in regard to the extent of the atonement] is verbal, a phraseology ought not to be adhered to which does not express the truth. And how far it is verbal, is a question of some importance. Now our brethren in detail admit all that we ask. This they do as often as they say that Christ died ' that whosoever believelh in him should not perish ;' and as often as they allow that all may enjoy the benefit by believing, and are bound to make it their own. And yet when they come to general propositions, they contradict the one which we support, and distinctly say that the atonement was not for all. This is because they do not attach to the general proposition the same meaning that we do. And the reason of this is, they are not agreed with us as to the character in which men arc to be spoken of in this matter. We contend that they ought to be spoken of as moral agents; they speak of them continually as passive receivers. In general they do not mean to deny what really is meant by the atonement's being for all as moral agents, but they so annihilate agents as to make no account of this. When therefore we say that it was for Simon Magus, (meaning that it was for him as a capable agent,) they, though they allow what we mean, refuse to use our language, and say decidedly that it was not for him, because they overlook his agency, and speak of him as merely