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It is true, we all agree that the scriptures are the standard. So that we can unite in sending the bible among pagan idolators and deluded Mahometans. Butjf the Pagan, or the Mahometan, should be asked, as ttie E^hiopean eunuch, was, " Understandest thou what thou readest ?" he might very probably answer, " How can I, except some man should guide me i" Living teachers have always been used in propagating the gospel; and we have no reason to expect that the chief Shepherd will now dispense with the use of there. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard i and how shall they hear without a preacher?" But will it not be calculated to hinder the progress of the gospel among the heathen, when the living teachers materially differ in their manner of explaining the written word?
Here are three books now before me ; one is the bible, the.other two were written, the one by myself, the other by Mr. Nathan Bungs. We both call ourselves ministers of the gosfiel We both professedly say, the bible is divine tiuth, every syllable of it ; and that it is an infallible standard, because it is the word of the living God. We both profess to agree in saying, that this is the source from which we are to learn what to believe, and what to do; what is truth, and what is duly. After having repeatedly and attentively read through the holy scriptures, I expressed in my sermons, what appeared to me, a scriptural view of some of the leading doctrines of the gospel. Mr. Bangs has read my book, and says, " I think myself bound to enter a public protest against what are deemed the dangerous errors advanced in your setmons." page 14. Further on, he says; "If any man had set himself to work on purpose to blacken the character of God by the most vile misrepresentations, he could not have done it more effectually than you have done, I hope undesignedly, in your sermons, especially the first and third." page 3Q. From these quotations, and what is urged all the way through the Letters, it is evident, that our views of the bible are very different; even so different, that the character which 1 took to be the most glorious and amiable in the universe, even the character of the Holy One of Israel; my oppor.ent, vho is also a teKcher qf religion, says he thinks, is the most vile character which can be invented. Now, if I still believe that the character which I ascribed to God was his true character and the one in which he glories, ought 1 not to show that I have still to speak in God's behalf, and ascribe righteousness to my Maker?
If my own heart deceive me not, it is not a contentious spirit which leads me to keep up this controveri sy. Nor do 1 think it is for the sake of vindicating myself that I now write. Mr. B's letters have neither made me angry, nor excited a spirit ol revenge. If I have not mistaken my feelings, a contrary effect has been produced, even the enlarging of my desires for his eternal happiness. I pray God, that I may not lose sight of this, in the strictures which I am now about to write on his book. I desire to have no controversy with my.antagonist as a man, but only as an author; and even here, only where 1 view him as deviating, not from my sermons, but from a more infalluble standard. Mr. Bangs agrees with me in this, that the points concerning which we differ, are of great consequence. . He says, " Respecting the subjects of this investigation, I consider them some of the most important doctrines tif the gospel ; and therefore it is not a matter of indifference which system is embraced," pige 6, Preface. To this statement I perfectly agree. Theee doctrines may be considered as the shibboleth, to determine orthodoxy. He who has a right conception of these doctrines concerning which our controversy exists, cannot be very heterodox; and he, who. has wrong views of these doctrines, can hardly be considered as believing; truth enough to denominate him orthodox.
Believing as 1 do concerning these doctrines, I cannot view Mr. B's. sentiments as harmless. The scripture teaches us, that the unrenewed mind is in such a state, as not to be pleased with God. The character of God is expressed in the doctrines of his word. These doctrines must therefore be unpalatable to the unrenewed heart. Now, let these doctrines be essentially altered, and.it tends to reconcile the sinner, considered as a sinner, to God. Let the divine character be changed, and the sinner's heart will not need a change. If therefore 1 have represented the divine character as es scntially different from what it is, the tendency has prebably been, to make wicked men feel as if they approved of this character. If on the other hand, it is my antagonist who has essentially changed the divine character, it is his doctrine which will prevent the wicked from discovering their enmity against God.
I wish to impress the mind of the reader with the great importance of his coming to the knowledge of the truth, and of his receiving the truth in the love of it. I do not wish him to receive a single sentiment upon the authority of the writer. The bible lies before Jiim as well as before me. By this holy book we are both to be tried in the great day. But I would entreat my reader, not to make his feelings the test of truth; for what if they should be the feelings of the carnal mind which is enmity against God? Having made these prefatory remarks, I shall now proceed to vindicate the doctrines held forth in the Sermons ; in doing which I shall attempt to reply to the most material objections, raised against these doctrines, by Mr. Bangs in his Six Letters addressed to me, with a design to deject and refute the errors of Hopkinsianism.*
* Mr. Bangs has stiled his book, "The Errors of ffopiimianiim, detected and refuted." I believe there is very little to be found in my Sermons but what will agree with the writings of many who have been called Calvinists, ever since the time of Calvin. As for Dr. HopHns, I am willing to say, that I have a great esteem for his character and writings ; but I think I have not made him, or Calvin, or any other man, or number of men, my standard, though Mr. B. thinks I was afraid that my readers would suspSct that I did not implicitly follow Dr. Hopkins and others. Page 53. I am not disposed unnecessarily to multiply names, which have a tendency to separate very friends; I shall therefore at present rank myself with those who have been long known in the christian world by the name of Calvinittit
OF SOME OF THE
Most Essential Doctrines, £jc.
A VIKDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF BIVINB DECREES ; BEING A REPLY TO OBJECTIONS RAISED AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE IN MR. BANGS* FIRST LETTER.
MR. B ANGS' First Letter is designed to detect what he deemed to be the errors of my first sermon. It was the object of this sermon to establish the doctrine of Divine Decrees. The text which was taken to lay a foundation for this doctrine, was Ephesians i. 11— IV/io worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. If I did not misinterpret my text, it must support the doctrine of Decrees. We have now an opportunity of comparing the explanation there given, ■with one which has since been given in the Letters. Indeed it is difficult 10 find out how my antagonist understands this text. He does not pretend to dispute but that the relative, " Who," in the beginning of the text, refers to God ; so that we must both be agreed in this, that it is God who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. But the author of the Letters declares, "The text says nothing about' bringing every thing to pass which is brought to pass.' It simply states that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. The question to be determined is, What is the counsel of his will ?" Page 15. We expected to see this question immediately determined, but do not find it again
taken up until we arrive at page 48, where he saysi "As we know of no other counsel than that revealed in the bible,■we think ourselves justifiable in believing it contrary to God's will for man to sin, because such is the revelation which he has given of his will throughout the whole scriptures. As then the counsel of his will is always according to justice, holiness, &c." Here then it J3 evident, that Mr. B. means to say, that the counsel of God's will, in the text, is the same as his revealed will; or that will of God which forbids us to sin ; or in other words, his holy commandments. The will of God, is no doubt frequently used in such a sense as to be synonymous with his commands. When we are said to do the will of God, it is the same as to obey his commands. Thus Christ distinguishes the real christian from the mere professor, by his doing the will of his Father. Mat. vii. 21. Whenever we are required to do the will of God, it must mean obedience to the divine commands. Hut the text does not speak of the obedience of men, but of God's own operations. It is God who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. This certainly cannot mean, that all men do the will of God, i. e. that they all obey him ; for this is contrary to fact: Nor does it mean that God worketh the spirit of obedience in all men, for then all men would have an obedient spirit. What then can it mean? Does it mean that God obeys all his own commandments? We have no doubt but that he ever possesses the same holiness which he requires of his creatures. His will is always holy. He has not two characters, the one a benevolent, and the other a malicious character: But is this the specific idea contained in the text, vii. That God always acts in the spirit of his own requirements? Suppose we were to confine the text to the creation of the world, and say, The Creator wrought all things after the counsel of hit own will; would not every reader understand the words according to the explanation given in the sermon under consideration? Would he not understand such a declaration to mean, that God brought the whole world, and every part of it, into existence according to his own mind, or. according to the wise and perfect plan of a world, which existed in his own mind antecedently to its being produced into actual existence?