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By John Fletcher


Remarks upon the manner in which Mr. T. attempts to support his Scheme of Necessity from Scripture-Twelve keys to open the scriptures on which he founds that scheme.
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WE have seen how Mr. T. has propped up his system by philosophical arguments; let us now see how he does it by Scriptural proofs. Page 54, he says, "No man can consistently acknowledge the Divine authority of the Scriptures, without being an absolute necessitarian."

To demonstrate this strange proportion, he produces, among many more, the passages which mention the case of Joseph and his brethren, the Lord and Pharaoh, Eli and his sons, Absalom and his father's wives, Shimei and David, Christ and his crucifiers, &c. As I have shown, in other publications, that these scriptures, when taken in connection with the context and the tenor of the Bible, perfectly agree with the doctrines of justice, which are inseparably connected with the doctrine of free will in man, and just-wrath in God; I shall not swell this tract by vain repetition, especially as Mr. T. does not support by argument the sense which he fixes on these passages. However, that the public may see what method he follows in trying to vindicate his error from Scripture, I shall present my readers with some keys, by which they will easily open the scriptures which he misapplies, and discover the rotten foundation of Calvinism.

FIRST KEY. Detaching a passage of Scripture from the context, that what God does for particular reasons may appear to be done absolutely, and from mere sovereignty, is a polemical stratagem, commonly used by the Calvinists. The first passage which Mr. T. produces draws all its apparent conclusiveness from this artful method:

Page 56. "I withheld thee from sinning against me," Gen. 20:6. By quoting this detached clause, Mr. T. would insinuate that while God absolutely ordains some men to sin, he absolutely withholds other men from sin. To see that his conclusion is unscriptural, we need only read the whole verse: "God said to him [Abimelech] in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the INTEGRITY OF THY HEART, for I also withheld thee from sinning against me, therefore I suffered thee not to touch her." Now, who that adverts to the words in capitals, does not see that God's keeping Abimelech from sinning, that is, from marrying Abraham's wife, was a REWARD of Abimelech's INTEGRITY, as well as of Abraham's piety? Therefore, this very text proves, that God rewards upright free will With restraining grace, as well as with glory; and not that man has no free will, and that he is made willing to work righteousness, or to commit sin, as necessarily as puppets are made to move to the right or to the left by the show man, who absolutely causes and manages their steps. Take another instance of the same stratagem, Page 66. "The Lord of hosts hath sworn," i.e., hath solemnly and immutably decreed, saying, "Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand." Here Mr. Toplady breaks off the quotation, and leaves out what follows, "that I will break the Assyrian," that is, the wicked in general, but particularly Sennacherib, the proud, blaspheming king of Assyria, whose immense army was cut off in one night by an angel; "and upon my mountains tread him under foot," &c. By this means Mr. T. makes his hasty readers believe that God speaks of a Calvinian, absolute decree, founded upon Antinomian grace and free wrath; and not of a judicial, retributive decree, founded upon the humility of the righteous, and the desert of the wicked; though, verse 13, &c, the decree, and its cause, are thus expressly mentioned: "Thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, &c, I will be like the Most High, &c. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell." When Mr. T. has hidden these keys to the doctrine of justice which we defend, it is easy for him to apply to his doctrine of free wrath the peremptoriness of God's decree, and accordingly he triumphs much in these words: "This is the purpose which is purposed upon all the earth, &c. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" Isa. 14:24, &c. "Who shall disannul God's purpose?" (adds Mr. T.) "Why, human free will to be sure! Who shall turn back God's hand? Human self determination can do it with as much ease as our breath can repel the down of a feather!" This argument is full fraught with absurdity. Did we ever assert that when free will has obstinately sinned, it can reverse an absolute decree of punishment? Do we not, on the contrary, maintain the proper exertion of justice in opposition to the Calvinian dreams of absolute election and reprobation, according to which the salvation of some notorious impenitent sinners is now actually finished, and the damnation of some unborn infants is now absolutely secured?

Page 67. By a similar method Mr. T. tries to prove the doctrine of necessitating free wrath, thus: "I have smitten you with blasting and mildew. I have sent you the pestilence. Your young men have I slain with the sword!" Amos 4:7-10. But he forgets to tell us that this severity is not Calvinistical and diabolical, but righteous and judicially retributive; for the persons thus punished are said, just before, to be wicked men, "who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their masters, Bring [strong drink] and let us drink," Amos 4:1. Therefore all that can be inferred from these, and a thousand such scriptures, is, that when free agents have obstinately sinned, punishment overtakes them whether they will or not. And when the Calvinists ground their Manichean notions of a wrathful, absolute sovereignty in God upon such conclusions, they expose their good sense as much as I should expose my reason, if I said, "I can demonstrate that all robbers are absolutely necessitated to go on the highway, because, when they are caught and condemned, they are absolutely necessitated to go to the gallows."

SECOND KEY. Because God can do a thing, and does it on particular occasions, Mr. T. and his adherents infer that he does it always. Thus, to prove that God necessarily turns the hearts of all men, at all times, and in all places, to sin or to righteousness, Mr. T. produces the following text:

Page 65. " Even the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: and he turneth it whithersoever he will, Prov. 21:1. Odd sort of self determination this!" We never denied the supreme power, which God has even over the hearts of proud kings, who generally are the most imperious of men. When he will absolutely turn their will for the accomplishment of some providential design, his wisdom and omnipotence can undoubtedly do it. Thus, by letting the Philistines loose upon Saul's dominions, God turned his heart, and made him change his design of immediately surrounding and destroying David. Thus he turned the heart of Ahasuerus from his purpose of destroying the Jews, by the providential reading of the records, which reminded the king of the obligation he was under to Mordecai. Thus he turned the heart of Pharaoh toward Joseph, by giving Joseph wisdom to explain his prophetic dream. Thus, again, he turned the heart of Nebuchadnezzar from his purpose of destroying Daniel and all the wise men in Babylon, by enabling Daniel to tell and open the king's mysterious vision. And when the king of Assyria was bent upon making war against the Israelites and the Ammonites, and cast lots to know which he should destroy first, Rabbah or Jerusalem, God providentially ordered the lot to fall upon guilty Jerusalem, Isa. 10:6, 7; Ezek. 21:21, &c. For, in such cases, "the lot is cast into the lap" without an eye to the Lord, "but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord," Prov. 16:33. But these peculiar interpositions of Providence no more prove that God absolutely turns the hearts of all kings, and of all men in all things, and on all occasions, as Mr. T.'s system supposes, than a farrier's drenching now and then a horse, in peculiar circumstances, proves that all horses throughout the world never drink but when they are drenched.

THIRD KEY. The necessitarians confound our inability to do some or all things, with an inability to do any thing. Thus Mr. T. attempts to prove that we can do nothing but what we are necessitated to do, and that "Christ himself was an absolute necessitarian," by the following argument:

Page 71. "Thou canst not make one hair white or black. Your Father, &c, makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. Surely, man can neither promote nor hinder the rising of the sun, nor the falling of the rain." But to conclude that all things are absolutely necessary, because we cannot alter the colour of our hair, command the clouds, and hasten sun rising, is as absurd as to conclude that a dyer cannot absolutely alter the colour of the silks which he dyes, because he cannot change the colour of his own hair, or eyes. It is as ridiculous as to infer that we cannot move a pebble, because we cannot stir a mountain; that we cannot turn our eyes like men, because we cannot turn our ears like horses; and that we have no immediate command of our thoughts and hands, because we have no immediate command of the clouds and the sun. When Mr. T. imposes such a philosophy upon us, is he not as grossly mis- taken as Mons. Voltaire, his companion in necessitarianism, who gives us to understand, that because pear trees can bear no fruit but pears, men can bear no moral fruit but such as they actually produce, and that fate fixes our thoughts in our brains, as necessarily as nature fixes our teeth in our jaw bones? How absurd is a system of philosophy, which a Voltaire and a Toplady are obliged to prop up by such weak arguments as these!

FOURTH KEY. The Calvinists suck Scriptural metaphors, till they imbibe the blood of error instead of the sincere milk of the word!" And, if I might compare Scripture comparisons to rational animals, I would say, that Mr. T. makes them go upon all four. Hence it is that he says, Page 58, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward , Job v, 7: and I am apt to think, sparks ascend by necessity." By this method of arguing, I can demonstrate that, Christ was clothed with feathers; for he says, I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood. "And I am apt to think" that a hen is covered with feathers. However, I grant to Mr. T. that there is a necessity of fallen nature: according to this necessity, man is born to die, and in the meantime he is exposed to the troubles which naturally accompany mortality. But there are a thousand troubles which flow from immorality, and which God puts it in man's power to avoid. To deny this, is to deny the following scriptures: "He that will love his life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil. Let him eschew evil, and do good;_ let him seek peace and ensue it, 1 Pet. 3:10, 11. "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles," Prov. 21:23. It is therefore absurd and unscriptural to suppose, that, because we cannot avoid every trouble in life, all canting gossips are absolutely bound to bring upon themselves all the troubles which their slanderous, lying tongues pull down upon their own heads.

FIFTH KEY. If there occur in the Bible a poetical expression, founded upon some common, though erroneous opinion, to which the sacred penmen accommodate their language in condescension to the vulgar, Calvinism fixes upon that expression, and produces it as a demonstration of what she calls ORTHODOXY. Thus Mr. T., p. 57, builds his scheme on the following texts: The stars in their courses fought against Sisera, Judges v, 20. It is as absurd to prove fatalism from these words, as it would be to prove that the earth is the fixed centre of our planetary system, by quoting the above-mentioned words of our blessed Lord, "Your Father makes his sun to rise on the just." The best philosophers, as well as Christ, to be understood by the common people, say, agreeably to a false philosophy, The sun rises, though they know that it is the earth which turns round on her axis toward the fixed sun. As we say the crown, when we mean "the reigning king;" and put heaven for "the King of heaven:" so Deborah poetically said in her song, The stars in their courses, for "the providential power which keeps the planets in their courses." Heroin she, probably adapted her language to some false notions of astrology, which the Israelites had received from the Egyptians. And all that she meant was that God had peculiarly assisted the Israelites in their battle with Sisera.

SIXTH KEY. As the necessitarians build their doctrine upon poetical expressions, so they do upon proverbial sayings. Thus, p. 88, Mr. Toplady endeavours to support the doctrine of absolute necessity, or of the Calvinian decrees, by these words of our Lord: "There shall not a hair of your head perish, Luke 21:18, i.e., before the appointed time." But this scripture does not prove that God from all eternity made particular decrees, to appoint that men should shave so many times every week, and that such and such a hair of our head or beard should be spared so long, or should be cut off after having grown just so many days. This text is only a proverbial phrase, like that which is sometimes used among us: "I will not give way to error a hair's breadth." As this expression means only, "I will fully resist error;" so the other only means, "You shall be fully protected." Therefore to build Calvinian necessity upon such a scripture, is to render the pillars of Calvinism as contemptible as the hairs which the barber wipes off his razor, when he shaves my mistaken opponent,

SEVENTH KEY. The word shall frequently implies a kind of necessity, and a forcible authority: thus a master says to his arguing servant, "You shall do such a thing: I will make you do it, whether you will or not." Mr. Toplady avails himself of this idea, to impose his scheme of necessity upon the ignorant. I say upon the ignorant, because he quotes again and again passages, where the word shall has absolutely no place in the original. For example:

Pages 84, 87, 92, he tries to prove that Christ was "an absolute necessitarian," by the following texts: I send unto you prophets, &c, and some of them ye SHALL kill, and some of them SHALL ye scourge. One of YOU, &c, SHALL betray me. Ye all SHALL be offended because of me. Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also [from a principle of superior kindness, or of remunerative favour] I MUST bring; and they SHALL hear my voice.

I MUST, and they SHALL: what is this but double necessity?" In these, and in many such scriptures, the word ye shall kill, &c, in the original is a BARE future tense. And for want of such a tense in English, we are obliged to render the words which are in that tense by means of the words shall or will. These auxiliary words are often used indiscriminately by bur translators, who might as well, in the preceding texts, have rendered the Greek verbs. WILL kill, WILL scourge, WILL betray, WILL be offended, WILL hear my voice. Therefore, to rest Calvinism upon such vague proofs is to rest it upon a defect in the English language, and upon the presumption that the reader is perfectly unacquainted with the original.

EIGHTH KEY. As Mr. T.'s scheme partly rests upon a supposition that his readers are unacquainted with the Greek grammar; so it supposes that they are perfect strangers to ancient geography. Hence it is that he says, p. 89, "Our Lord knew her [the woman of Samaria] to be one of his elect: and that she might be converted precisely at the very time appointed, he must needs go through the territory of Samaria, John iv, 4." Mr. Whitefield builds his peculiar orthodoxy on the same slender foundations, where he says, "Why must Christ needs go through Samaria? Because there was a woman to be converted there." (See his Works, vol. iv, p. 356.) Now the plain reason why our Lord went through Samaria was, that he went from Jerusalem to Galilee; and as Samaria lies exactly between Judea and Galilee, he must needs go through Samaria, or go a great many miles out of his way. Absurdity itself, therefore, could hardly have framed a more absurd argument.

NINTH KEY. one of the most common mistakes on which the Calvinists found their doctrine is, confounding a necessity of consequence with an absolute necessity. A necessity of consequence is the necessary connection which immediate causes have with their effects, immediate effects with their causes, and unavoidable consequences with their premises. Thus, if you run a man through the heart with a sword, by necessity of NATURAL consequence he must die: and if you are caught, and convicted of having done it like an assassin, by necessity of LEGAL consequence you must die.

Thus again: if I hold that God, from all eternity, absolutely fixed his everlasting wrath upon others, without any respect to their works; by necessity of LOGICAL consequence I must hold that the former were never children of wrath, and must continue God's pleasant children while they commit the most atrocious crimes; and that the latter were children of wrath while they seminally existed, together with the man Christ, in the loins of sinless Adam, before the fall.

Now these three strong necessities of consequence do not amount to one grain of Calvinian, absolute necessity; because, though the above-mentioned effects and consequences necessarily follow from their causes and premises, yet those causes and premises are not absolutely necessary. To be more plain: though a man, whom you run through the heart to rob him without opposition, must die; and though you must suffer as a murderer for your crime, yet this double necessity does not prove that you were absolutely necessitated to go on the highway, and to murder the man. Again: though you must (indirectly at least) propagate the most detestable errors of Manes, (i.e., the worship of a double-principled Deity,) if you preach a God made up of absolute, everlasting love to some, and of absolute everlasting wrath to others; yet you are not necessitated to do this black work; because you are by no means necessitated to embrace and propagate this black principle of Calvin. Once more: by necessity of consequence, a weak man who drinks to excess is drunk; yet his drunkenness is not Calvinistically necessary; because, though the man cannot help being drunk if he drinks to excess, yet he can help drinking to excess: or, to speak in general terms, though he cannot prevent the effect, when he has admitted the cause; yet he can prevent the effect by not admitting the cause. However, Mr. Toplady, without adverting to this obvious and important distinction, takes it for granted that his readers will subscribe to his doctrine of absolute necessity, because a variety of scriptures assert such necessity of consequence as I have just explained. Take the following instances:

Page 83. " How can ye escape the damnation of hell? " These words of Christ do not prove Calvinian reprobation and absolute necessity; but only that those who will obstinately go on in sin, shall (by necessity of consequence) infallibly meet with the damnation of hell. Page 91. "If the Son shall make you free, [and he shall make us free, if we will continue in his word,] ye shall [by necessity of consequence] be free indeed." Again, p. 92, "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because [while you hug your prejudices] ye cannot hear my word" [with the least degree of candour.] This passage does not prove Calvinian necessity; it declares only that while the Jews were biassed by the love of honour, rather than by the love of truth, by necessity of consequence, they could not candidly hear, and cordially receive Christ's humbling doctrine. Thus he said to them, "How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another?" (Ibid.) "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Here is no Calvinism, but only a plain declaration, that by necessity of consequence no man can serve two masters; no man can gladly receive the truths of God, who gladly receives the lies of Satan. (Ibid.) "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep:" that is, you eagerly follow the prince of darkness. "The works of your father, the devil, ye will do;" [Our Lord, when he spake these words, did not use a bare future, which Mr. T. would perhaps have triumphantly translated, ye SHALL do; putting the word SHALL in large capitals; but, a phrase this, which is peculiarly expressive of the obstinate choice of the free-willing Jews.] and therefore, by necessity of consequence, ye cannot do the works of God; ye cannot follow me; ye cannot rank among my sheep. Again: Page 93. "I give my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, John 10:28; i.e., their salvation is necessary, and cannot be hindered." True: it is necessary, but it is only so by necessity of consequence: for damnation follows unbelief and disobedience, as punishment does sin; and eternal salvation follows faith and obedience, as rewards, follow good works. But this no more proves that God necessitates men to sin or to obey, than hanging a deserter, and rewarding a courageous soldier, prove that the former was absolutely necessitated to desert, and the latter to play the hero. Once more:

Page 94. " I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, whom the world CANNOT receive" [as a comforter without a proper preparation.] Now this no more proves that the world can not absolutely receive the Comforter, than my asserting that Mr. Toplady could not take a degree at the university, before he had learned grammar, proves that he was for ever absolutely debarred from that literary honour. If the reader be pleased to advert to this distinction, between necessity of consequence and absolute necessity, he will be able to steer safe through a thousand Calvinian rocks.

TENTH KEY. The preceding remarks lead us to the detection, of another capital mistake of the orthodox, so called. They perpetually confound natural necessity with what may (improperly speaking) be called moral necessity. By natural necessity, infants are born naked, and colts are foaled with a coat on; men have two legs, horses four, and some insects sixteen. And by moral necessity, servants are bound to obey their masters, children their parents, and subjects their king. Now can any thing be more unreasonable than to infer that servants can no more help obeying their masters, than children can help being born with two hands? Is it not absurd thus to confound natural and moral necessity? This however Mr. T. frequently does; witness the following scriptures, which he produces in defence of absolute necessity:

Page 62, &c. "He [the Lord] made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder. By the breath of God frost is given, Job. He maketh grass to grow. He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes. Who can stand before his cold? He causes his wind to blow. Fire and hail, snow and vapour, &c, fulfil his word," Psalms. From these and the like circumstances, Mr. T. infers that all things happen "by a necessity resulting from the will and providence of the supreme First Cause."

That nothing happens independently on that cause, and on the providential laws which God has established, we grant. But this does not prove at all the Calvinian necessity of all our actions. Nor does it prove that man, who is made in God's image, cannot, within his narrow sphere, frequently exert his delegated power at his own option, by making and executing his own decrees.

If Mr. T. denies it, I appeal to his own experience and candour. Can he not, by a good fire, reverse in his apartment God's decree of frost in winter; and by a candle can he not in his room reverse God's decree of darkness at midnight? Can he not, by icy, cooling draughts, elude the decree of heat in summer? Nay, cannot a gardener, by skillfully distributing heat to vegetables in a hot house, force a pine apple to ripen to perfection in the midst of winter? And by means of a watering pot can he not command an artificial rain to water his drooping plants in the greatest drought of summer? Again: cannot a philosopher, acquainted with the secret laws of nature, imitate, as often as he pleases, most decrees of the God of nature? Can he not form and collect dews, by raising artificial vapours in an alembic? Can he not, when he has a mind, cause diminutive thunder and lightning by means of an electrical machine? Can he not create ice, snow, and hoar frost, by nitrous salts? Can he not produce little earthquakes, by burying in the ground iron filings and sulphur mixed with water? And while he raises a wind by managing a communication of rarified air with con- densed air, cannot a smith do it without half the trouble by working his bellows? Once more: cannot a physician do in the little world within you, what a philosopher does without you in the world of nature? By availing himself of some natural law, is it not in general as much in his power, I power, if you submit to his decrees, to raise an artificial blister on your back, as it is in your gardener's to raise a salad in your garden? By skillfully setting the powers of nature at work, can he not cleanse your intestines, as yonder farmer scours his ditches? Can he not, in general, assuage his pains by lenitives, or lull them asleep by opiates? Can he not, through his acquaintance with the means by which God preserves the animal world, often promote the secretion of your fluids, and supply the want of those which are exhausted? Nay, can you not do it yourself by using that cheap medicine, exercise, and by taking those agreeable boluses and pleasant draughts which you call meat and drink? To say that nature cannot be, in many respects, assisted, and even improved by art, is to say that there are neither houses nor cities in the world; neither shoes on our feet, nor clothes on our back. And to affirm that the works of art are as absolutely necessary as the works of nature, is to confound nature and art, and to advance one of the most monstrous paradoxes that ever disgraced human reason.

ELEVENTH KEY. Confusion reigns in every comer of Babel. Another capital mistake of the necessitarians consists in their confounding prophetic certainty with absolute necessity. An illustration will explain my meaning:

Mr. Toplady discovers a boy who is absolutely bent upon theft From his knowledge of the force of indulged habits, he foresees and foretells that the boy will one day come to the gallows; and his prediction is fulfilled. The question is, Did Mr. T.'s foresight, or his prophecy, necessitate the thievish boy to indulge his wicked habit; and might not that boy have done like many more? Might he not have reformed, and died in his bed? Calvinism answers in the negative; but reason and Scripture agree to declare that a clear foresight, and a bare prophecy, are not of an absolutely necessitating nature; and that, of consequence, it is as absurd to confound absolute necessity with certainty of prophecy, [if I may use this expression,] as it is to confound the free abode of the keepers in Newgate, with the necessary abode of the felons who are confined there under bars and locks: in a word, it is as absurd as to confound the necessity of an event with the certainty of it. Your awkward servant has, at various times, broken you a number of china plates: that the plates are broken is certain; but that they were Calvinistically broken, that is, that your servant could no ways avoid breaking them all, precisely in the manner, place, and instant in which they were broken, is a proposition as absurd as the proof which Mr. T., page 83, draws from the following sentences of the Scriptures, to demonstrate that our Lord was Calvinistically necessitated to lay down his life for us: "How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? Matt. 26:54. All this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled," verse 56. To do these passages justice, we should consider three things:

1. The necessity of fulfilling the Scriptures with respect to our Lord, could never amount to the least degree of absolute, Calvinian necessity; for our Lord was no more obliged to give us the Scriptures in order to fulfil them, than Mr. T., is bound to give me a thousand pounds in order to get my thanks.

2. When we meet with such sayings as these, "This that is written must yet be accomplished in me: the Scripture must be fulfilled," &c, if they relate to Christ, they only indicate a necessity of resolution, if I may use this expression. Now, a necessity of resolution is the very reverse of absolute necessity; because a resolution is the offspring of free will, and may be altered by free will; whereas Calvinian necessity never admits of a liberty or power to do a thing otherwise than it is done. I resolve to go out this evening, and I write my resolution; but this does not imply any absolute necessity: FIRST, because I am at perfect liberty not to make such a resolution; and, SECONDLY, because I am at perfect liberty to break it, and I shall certainly do it, if some sufficient reason detains me at home.

Take a nobler example: God resolved to give Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan "for an everlasting possession;" and the Divine resolution is written, Gen. 17:8, and 48:4. But this does not imply the least degree of Calvinian necessity: for, (1.) Reason dictates that God was no ways obliged to form such a resolution; and, (2.) Experience teaches us, that the obstinacy of the Jews has obliged him to make them "know the breach" of his written resolution, Num. 14:34. Accordingly, they are scattered over all the world, instead of enjoying the promised land "for an everlasting possession."

3. When prophetical sayings refer to the wicked, as in the following texts, This cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled, which is written in the law, They hated me without a cause: the son of perdition is lost; that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. They believe not on him, that, the saying of Esaias might be fulfilled, Lord, who has believed our report? These and the like passages denote only a prophetic necessity, founded upon God's bare foresight of what will be, but might as well (nay, better) have been otherwise. Thus I prophesy that through logical necessity I shall (in full opposition to orthographical necessity) put a colon, instead of a full point, at the end of the paragraph I am now writing: but this double necessity of prophecy and logic is so far from absolutely necessitating me, that I have almost a mind to follow the rules of punctuation, and to show, by this mean, that I am as much at liberty to reverse my prophetic, logical decree, as God was to reverse his prophetic, vindictive decree, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed."

However, my decree is accomplished. What was an hour ago a future contingency, is now matter of fact. The preceding period is concluded without a full point as certainly as God exists. Should Mr. T. object that I could foresee this contingent event, because I had a mind to bring it about: I reply, That this does not invalidate my proof: for, (1.) I foresaw this little event as contingent, and depending on my liberty, and of consequence I could not foresee it as absolutely necessary. (2.) I have a clear foresight of many things, in which I have no hand at all. Thus I foresee that a man, condemned to be hanged for murder, shall certainly be hanged, whether I do the executioner's office or not. Though the murderer might be reprieved; though he might make his escape, or poison himself before the day of execution; yet, from my knowledge of the law, of the king's aversion to murder, of the strength of the prison, and of the particular care taken of condemned criminals, my foreknowledge that the condemned murderer shall be hanged, amounts to a very high degree of certainty. Now, if I, whose foreknowledge, compared to the foreknowledge of God, is no more than a point to the infinity of space; if I, who am so short sighted, can, with such a degree of certainty, foresee an event which is not absolutely necessary; is it not absurd, I had almost said impious, to suppose that God's foreknowledge of events, which are not absolutely necessary, may amount to absolute necessity? Cannot God foresee future events without necessitating them, a thousand times more clearly than I can foresee what I am sure I shall not ordain, much less necessitate, namely, that Mr. T.'s prejudice will hinder him from treating Mr. W. with the respect due to an aged, laborious minister of Christ?

To deny that God's certain knowledge of future events is consistent with our liberty, because we cannot understand how God can certainly foresee the variations of our free will; to deny this, I say, is to deny the existence of all the things which we cannot fully comprehend. And at this rate, what is it that we shall not deny? What is it that we perfectly understand? Is there one man in ten thousand that understands how astronomers can certainly foretell the very instant in which an eclipse will begin? But does this ignorance of the vulgar render astronomical calculations less real or certain? And may not God (by the good leave of the necessitarians) surpass all men in his foreknowledge of the actions of free agents, as much as Sir Isaac Newton surpassed all the Hottentots in his foreknowledge of eclipses? [editorial note: Here Mr. Fletcher succumbs to the logical weakness inherent in supporting both certain foreknowledge of future contingencies and what is called "libertarian" free will (to differentiate it, philosophically, from the so-called "free will" postulated by Jonathan Edwards.) A better course seems to be that taken by another noble Methodist Theologian 150 or so years later, L. D. McCabe. The reader is encouraged to explore McCabe's "The Foreknowledge of God and Other Cognate Themes" as well other works in the Omniscience section of our Articles.]

From these remarks it appears, that all the difficulties which the Calvinists have raised, with respect to the consistency of Divine foreknowledge and human free will, arise from two mistakes: the FIRST of which consists in supposing that the simple, certain knowledge of an event, whether past, present, or future, is necessarily connected with a peculiar influence on that event; and the SECOND consists in measuring God's foreknowledge by our own, and supposing that because we can not prophesy with absolute certainty, what free-willing creatures will do to-morrow, therefore God cannot do it. A conclusion this, which is as absurd as the following argument We cannot create a grain of sand, nor comprehend how God could create it, and therefore God could neither create a grain of sand, nor comprehend how it was to be created." I have dwelt so long upon this head, because it is the strong hold of the Calvinists, from which Mr. T. seems to bid defiance to every argument; witness his assertion,

p. 80 "Foreknowledge, undarkened by the least shadow of ignorance, and superior to all possibility of mistake, is a link which draws invincible necessity after it." To the preceding arguments, which, I trust, fully prove the contrary, I shall add one more, which is founded on the plain words of Scripture. So sure as the Bible is true, Mr. T. is mistaken; and God's foreknowledge, far from being connected with "invincible necessity," may exist, not only with respect to an event which is not necessary, but also with respect to an event which is so contingent, that it never comes to pass. Take a proof of it: We read, 1 Sam. 23:10-12, that David, while he was in the city of Keilah, heard that Saul designed to come and surprise him there. "Then said David, O Lord God of Israel, &c, will Saul come down as thy servant has heard? And the Lord said, HE WILL COME DOWN. Then David said, Will the men of Keilah deliver me into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, THEY WILL DELIVER THEE UP." When David had received this double information he went out of Keilah, and when Saul heard it he did not come to Keilah, neither did the men of Keilah deliver him to Saul. From this remarkable occurrence we learn, (1.) That future, contingent events are clearly seen of God. (2.) That this foresight of God has not the least influence on such events. (3.) That God can foretell such events as contingent. And, (4.) That neither Scripture prophecy, nor Divine foreknowledge, has the least connection with Mr. T.'s scheme of absolute, invincible necessity; since God foreknew that, if David stayed in Keilah, Saul would come down, and the men of Keilah would deliver David into his hands. But so far were this clear foreknowledge and peremptory prophecy of God from "drawing invincible necessity after" them, that Saul did not come to Keilah; neither did the men of Keilah deliver David into his hands. I flatter myself, that if the reader attend to these arguments, he will see that Mr. T.'s doctrine of an absolute connection between the certain foreknowledge of events, and their invincible necessity, is contradicted by experience, reason, and Scripture.

TWELFTH KEY. Because no child can help being born, when the last pang of his mother forces him into the light; and because no man can possibly live when the last pang of death forces his soul into eternity the necessitarians conclude that our every intermediate action, from our birth to our death, is irresistibly brought about by the iron hand of necessity. But is not their conclusion as absurd as the following argument: "John the Baptist could not speak when he was newly born, nor could he do it when the executioner had cut off his head; absolute necessity hindered him from forming articulate sounds in the moment of his birth, and at the instant of his death; and therefore all the days of his life absolute necessity made him move his tongue when he spake?" Let us see how Mr. T. handles this wonderful argument.

Pages 102, 118. "Birth and death are the era and the period, whose interval constitutes the thread of man's visible existence on earth. Let us examine whether those important extremes be or be not unalterably fixed by the necessitating providence of God." And by and by we are asked, "if the initial point from whence we start, and the ultimate goal which terminates our race, be Divinely and unchangeably fixed; is it reasonable to suppose that any free will, but the free will of Deity alone, may fabricate the intermediate links of the chain?" That is, in plain English, "Does not God alone fabricate our every action, good or bad from our cradle to our grave?" Page 107, &c. Mr. T. produces such scriptures as these, to prove that the free will of Deity alone fabricates the link of our birth:"

He [Jacob] said, Am I in God's stead to give [a barren woman] children? They are my sons, whom Gad has given me. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me. Thou art he that took me out of the womb. Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord. Thou hast covered me, &c, in my mother's womb. In thy book all my members were written. God has fixed an exact point of time, for the accomplishment of all his decrees: among which fixed and exact points of time, are a time to be born, and a time to die." All these passages prove only, (1.) That when a woman is naturally barren, like Rachel or Sarah, an extraordinary interposition of God's providence is necessary to render her fruitful. (2.) That the fruitfulness of woman, as that of our fields, is a gift of God. (3.) That children grow in the womb, and come to the birth, according to the peculiar energy of those laws, which God, as the God of nature, has made for the propagation of animals in general, and of man in particular. And, (4.) That as there is a time to be born, namely, in general nine months after conception; so there is a time to die, which, in the present state of the world, is seventy or eighty years after our nativity, if no peculiar event or circumstance hastens or retards our birth and our death.

That this is the genuine meaning of the scriptures produced by Mr. T., I prove by the following arguments:

1. God could never Calvinistically appoint the birth of all children, without Calvinistically appointing their conception, and every mean conducive thereto: whence, it undeniably follows, that (if Calvinism is true) he absolutely appointed, yea, necessitated all the adulteries and whoredoms, with all the criminal intrigues and sinful lusts of the flesh, which are inseparably connected with the birth of base-born children. Now this doctrine makes God the grand author of all those crimes, and represents him as the most inconsistent of all lawgivers; since, by his moral decrees he forbids, and by his Calvinian decrees he enjoins, whoredom and adultery, in order to fabricate the link of the birth of every bastard child.

2. The experience of thousands of virgins shows, that, by keeping themselves single, they may prevent the birth of a multitude of children; and their parents may do it too, for St. Paul says, "He that standeth, steadfast in his heart, having no [moral] necessity, [from his daughter's constitution, or his own low circumstances] but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart, that he will keep his virgin, doth well."

3. If women have conceived, by their carelessness or cruelty they frequently may so oppose one law of nature to another, as to reverse the decree of nature concerning the maturity of the fruit of the womb: nor can Mr. T. avoid the force of this conclusion otherwise than by saying that God necessitates such cruel mothers to destroy their unborn children, to fulfil the absolute decree which condemns their unhappy embryos never to come to birth.

When Mr. T. has tried to prove that God has Calvinistically appointed the birth of all children, he tries to demonstate that the manner, moment, and circumstances of every body's death are so absolutely fixed, that no man can possibly live longer or shorter than he does. These are some of his arguments:

Page 110. "The time drew near that Israel MUST die, Gen. 47:20." Yes, he must die by necessity of consequence: for he was quite worn out; his age, which is mentioned in the preceding verse, being one hundred and forty-seven years. We never dream that old decrepit men are immortal. Again:

Pages 111, 113. "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing? Man's days are determined; the number of his months is with thee: thou hast appointed his bounds, which he cannot pass. All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come, Job 7:1; 14:5-14. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his term of life? Matt. 6:27." None of these scriptures proves that the free will of Deity alone has absolutely fabricated the link of every man's death. They only indicate, (1.) That God has fixed general bounds to the life of vegetables and animals; for as the aloe vegetates a hundred years, so wheat vegetates scarce twelve months: and as men in general lived seven or eight hundred years before the flood; so now "the days of our life are three score years and ten; and if, by reason of strength, they are four score years, yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow, so soon passeth it away, and we are gone," Psa. 90:10. (2.) That as no man lived a thousand years before the flood; so no man lives two hundred years now. And, (3.) That when we are about to die by necessity of consequence, &c, we cannot, without an extraordinary interposition of Providence, suspend the effect of this general decree, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." But to infer from such passages that we cannot in general shorten our days by not taking a proper care of ourselves, or by running headlong into danger, is acting over again the part of the old deceiver, who Said, "Cast thyself down, [from the pinnacle of the temple,] for it is written;" &c. From such Turkish philosophy, and murderous conclusions, God deliver weak, unwary readers!

Two arguments will, I hope, abundantly prove the falsity of this doctrine: the FIRST is, God does not so fabricate the link of our death, but we may, in general, prolong our days by choosing wisdom, and shorten them by choosing folly. Is not the truth of this, proposition immovably founded upon such scriptures as these?

"If thou seekest her [wisdom] as silver, then shalt thou understand every good path: length of days is in her hand," while untimely death is in the hand of fool hardiness, Prov. 2:4, 9; 3:16. "Keep my commandments, for length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add unto thee, Prov. 3:1, 2. Honour thy father and mother, that thou mayest live long on the earth, Eph. 6:3. If thou wilt walk in my ways, then will I lengthen thy days, 1 Kings 3:14. Their feet run to evil: they lay wait for their own blood, and lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof, Prov. 1:16, &c. A sound heart is [in many cases] the life of the flesh; but envy, the rottenness of the bones," Prov. 14:30.

Hence so many persons shorten their days by obstinate grief; for "the sorrow of the world worketh death." What numbers of men put an untimely end to their lives by intemperance, murder, and robbery, and make good that awful saying of David, "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days," Psalm 55:23. What multitudes verify this doctrine of the wise man, "The fear of the Lord prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened," Prov. 10:27. Does not the psalmist pray, "O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days?" Psalm 102:24. Does he not say, "As a snail which melteth, so let the wicked pass away like the untimely fruit of a woman?" And was not this the case of the disobedient Israelites in the wilderness, who committed "the sin unto bodily death?" Is not this evident from 1 Cor. 10. "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them also committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand?" &c. Nay, was not this the case of many of the Corinthians themselves? "For this cause [because he that receiveth the Lord's Supper unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself,] many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep," [i.e., die,] 1 Cor. 11:30.

My SECOND argument is taken from reason. If God has absolutely appointed the untimely death of all, who shorten their own days, or the days of others, by intemperance, filthy diseases, adultery, murder, robbery, treason, &c, &c, he has also absolutely appointed all the crimes by which their days are shortened; and has contrived all the wars and massacres, by which this earth is become a field of blood. I have heard of some Indians who worship a horned grinning idol, with a huge mouth split from ear to ear. But the preaching a God, who has planned and necessitated all the crimes that ever turned the world into an Aceldama, and a common sewer of debauchery, is an honour that the Manichees and the orthodox, so called, may claim to themselves.

Should Mr. T. answer, that although "the free will of the Deity alone may fabricate" adultery, murder, and every intermediate link of the chain of necessity; and that although the generation and death of a child conceived in adultery, and cut off by murder, is "Divinely and unchangeably fixed;" yet God is not at all the author of the adultery and murder; I desire to know how we can cut the Gordian knot, and divide between adultery and the generation or conception of a child born in adultery; and between the murder of such a child, and its untimely death caused by the cruelty of its unnatural mother. From the whole, if I am not mistaken, we may safely conclude, (1.) That the birth and death of all mankind take place according to some providential laws. (2.) That God, in a peculiar manner, interposes in the execution or suspension of these laws, with respect to the birth of some men: witness the birth of Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, &c. (3.) That he does the same with respect to the untimely death of some, and the wonderful preservation of others, as appears by the awful destruction of Ananias, Sapphira, Herod, and by the miraculous preservation of Moses in the Nile, of Daniel in the den of lions, of Jonah in the whale's belly, and of Peter in the prison. (4.) That if neither the first nor the last link of the chain of human life is, in general, fabricated by the absolute will of God, it is unreasonable to suppose that "the free will of Deity alone fabricates the intermediate links." (5.) That to carry the doctrine of providence so far as to make God absolutely appoint the birth and death of all mankind, with all their circumstances, is to exculpate adulterers and murderers, and to charge God with being the principal contriver, and grand abettor of all the atrocious crimes, and of all the filthy, bloody circumstances which have accompanied the birth and death of countless myriads of men: and therefore, (6.) That the doctrine of the absolute necessity of all events, which is commonly called absolute predestination, is to be exploded as unscriptural, irrational, immoral, and big with the most impious consequences. However, Mr. T. seems ready to conclude that the death of every man is absolutely predestinated, because the "fall of a sparrow" is not beneath the notice of our heavenly Father: and that he thinks so, appears from his producing the following texts in defence of absolute necessity:

Pages 81-87. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father, Matt. 10:29. Not one of them, &c, is forgotten before God, Luke 12:6." These, and the like scriptures, do not prove that God made particular decrees from all eternity, concerning the number of times that a sparrow should chirp, the number of seeds that it should eat, and the peculiar time and manner of its death. They prove only that God's providence extends to their preservation; and that they rise into existence or fall according to some law of God's making, the effect of which he can suspend, whenever he pleases. If you shoot a sparrow, it falls indeed according to this natural law of our Father, "that an animal mortally wounded shall fall;" but it by no means follows that you were necessitated thus to wound it. When the Emperor Domitian spent his time in catching and killing flies, those insects fell a sacrifice to his childish and cruel sport, according to this general decree of Providence, "In such circumstances a man shall have power to kill a feebler animal." But to suppose that from all eternity God made absolute decrees that Domitian should lock himself up in his apartment, and kill twenty-three flies on such a day, and forty-six the next daythat he should wring off the head of one which was six weeks old, and with a pin impale another which was three months, six hours, and fifteen minutes old; or to imagine that before the foundation of the world, the Almighty decreed that three idle boys should play the truant such an afternoon, in order to seek birds' nests; that they should find a sparrow's nest with five young ones; that they should torment one to death, that they should let another fly away, that they should starve the third, feed the fourth, and give the fifth to a cat, after having put its eyes out, and plucked so many feathers out of its tender wings; to suppose this, I say, is to undo all by overdoing. It is absurd to ascribe to God the cruelty of Nero, and the childishness of Domitian, for fear he should not have all the glory of St. John's love, and Solomon's wisdom. In a word, it is to make "the Father of lights" exactly like the prince of darkness the evil principle of the Manichees, who is the first cause of all iniquity and woe. Who can sufficiently wonder that any good man should be so dreadfully mistaken as to call such a scheme a Christian scheme! a doctrine according to godliness! a Gospel I and the genuine Gospel, too! And when Mr. T. charges us with Atheism, because we cannot bow to the first cause of all evil, does he not betray as much prejudice as the heathens did, when they called the primitive Christians, Atheists, merely because the disciples of Christ bore their testimony against idol gods?

Mr. T. produces many passages of Scripture beside those which I have animadverted upon in this section; but as they are equally misapplied, one or another of the twelve keys with which I have presented the public, will easily rescue all of them from Calvinian bondage.


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