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wwqual, unjust, uncertain ; while his own ways
some great misunderstanding in our method of conceiving and stating the ways of God: bis counsels may be deep and mysterious, but they
nnot be cruel and unjust.
suppose a poor prisoner to be shut up within
massy Sce the absolution in the Church service.
massy walls ; and one were to look through the iron grate of his cell, and tell him, that the prison was about to be set on fire, that he must fly for his life, and lose no time; that the delay of one moment is an argument of his infatuation; would not this be to trifle with the misery of a poor wretch devoted to destruction? It has therefore been well said of those who believe that God can speak and act upon those principles, that they have given to him the nature of the destroyer; yea, that they have actually turned the Author of all good into the Author of all evil.
Predestination is also a very dangerous doctrine ; it brings a snare upon others; it intrusts every man with an office for which no man is fit, by making him an arbitrary judge of his own spiritual state. None but the Searcher of all hearts can fathom the depth of deceit to which the human heart is subject; therefore the scripture takes this judgment out of our own hands, and gives it, first to other men, but ultimately to God: “not he that commendeth " himself is approved, but whom the LORD « commendeth.” He that hath the judgment of himself in his own hands will naturally despise the judgment of other men, and set it at defiance; yet the scripture pronounces that
other men shall know by their fruit what we may ourselves be ignorant of; and that whatever our inward testimony may say, they shall clearly see by our works to what party we belong; whether to the Author of Peace, or the spirit of confusion. If we look back into the last century, we may find examples in plenty of great sinners, who thought themselves great saints, and some of them are reported as such to this day; to the great danger of some Christians, and the great grief of others. This was the lamentable and hopeless state of the Pharisees; “ They trusted in themselves that they “ were righteous, and despised others;” but God knew their hearts. He saw that their contempt of others was as vain as their opinion of themselves; and the doctrine which they had about their own election as Jews might be the foundation of all: for I believe the doctrine of election had never a worse effect and a worse issue than it had upon them. The like persuasion, instead of being a ground of safety and comfort to Christians, has been a delusion of Satan to draw souls into perdition: and if there be any amongst us who never yet observed this, we should pray to God to open their eyes, and give them grace to be alarmed at the prospect; for it is a dreadful one.
This doctrine is further dangerous, as it fa. vors the practise of schismatical division in the Church; it both promotes and covers the evil of separation : whether that was foreseen by those who brought it into fashion I will not say ; but it was seen in a short time after by every body else, and this use of it was very natural: for who shall convince those of sin in schism who have a rule above us all? If we will allow it, they have an inward testimony superior to all authority upon eerth, and who shall dare to speak against it? When Jesus Christ was upon earth, no man was so hated and despised as He: and by whom? By proud, conceited, quarrelsome people, who called themselves the elected of God in their Father Abraham. The contempt which then fell upon Jesus Christ, now falls upon his Church; and from the same sort of people, who call themselves the Elect.
When the superstition of the church of Rome was done away by the overthrow of order, and the presumption of envious or insidious piety prevailed among irregular protestants, then this doctrine came in and abounded; but it may soon be detected, for it is either with the means of
grace administered in the Christian Church, or it is without them: if it is with
them, then let them shew us how the privi-
in Christ Jesus there is neither rich nor poor, bond nor free ; but all are equal, If election be without the means of grace, then it explains itself; it must be an imposture ; it is to supply their place, and render them superfluous; and when the means of grace are gone, the appearance of Christianity will last but a short time.
If any person, through pride or envy, hath thrown himself out of the Church, or is not able to prove himself in it; I say, if any such person can yet boast of his election to salvation, and persuade others to believe him, to what purpose then did Jesus Christ found a Church in opposition to the gates of hell, and promise to be with it to the end of the world? Here is a persuasion to which it doth not appear that any Church is necessary: therefore all dissenters are fond of a Churchman, who believes it: it is a notion that rests in the conceit of a man's own mind; and if we admit its authority, what