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By John Fletcher


An answer to the capital objections of the necessitarians against the doctrine of liberty.
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IF I have broken the unphilosophical and unscriptural pillars on which Mr. T. builds his temple of philosophical and Christian necessity, I have nothing to do now but to answer some plausible objections, by which the necessitarians puzzle those who embrace the doctrine of liberty.

OBJECTION FIRST. And first, they say, that "if God had not secured every link of the chain of events, it would fall to pieces; and the events which God wants absolutely to bring about, could not be brought about at all; while those which he designs absolutely to hinder, would take place in full opposition to his decrees."

ANSWER. But we deny these consequences: for,

  1. Nothing that God determines absolutely to hinder shall ever come to pass, Thus he has absolutely decreed that the gates of hell shall never totally prevail against or destroy his Church, that is, all true Christians; and therefore, there will always be some true Christians upon earth. It is his absolute will that all who "by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory," shall have eternal life ; and that all who finally neglect so great salvation shall feel his wrathful indignation; and therefore none shall pluck the former out of the hands of his remunerative mercy, and none shall pluck the latter out of the hands of his vindictive justice.
  2. God has ten thousand strings to his providential bow, and ten thousand bridles in his providential hand, to curb and manage free agents, which way soever they please to go: and therefore, to suppose that he has tightly bound all his creatures with cords of absolute necessity, for fear he should not be able to manage them if they had their liberty; to suppose this, I say, is to pour upon Divine Providence the same contempt which a timorous gentleman brings upon himself when he dares not ride a spirited horse any longer than a groom leads him by the bridle, that he may not run away with his unskillful rider.
  3. If things had not happened one way, they might have happened another way. Supposing, for example, God had absolutely ordered that Solomon should be David's son by Bathsheba; this event might have taken place without his necessitating David to commit adultery and murder. For Providence might have found out means for marrying Bathsheba to David before she was married to Uriah: or God might have taken Uriah to heaven by a fever, and David could legally have married his widow. Again: if neither Caiaphas nor Pilate had condemned our Lord, he could have made his life an offering for sin, by commanding the clouds to shoot a thousand lightnings upon his devoted head, and to consume him as Elijah's sacrifice was consumed on Mount Carmel.
  4. The pious author of Ecclesiasticus says, with great truth, that "God has no need of the sinful man." To suppose that the chain of God's providence would have been absolutely broken if Manasseh or Nero had committed one murder less than they did, is to ascribe to the old murderer and his servants an importance of which Manes himself might have been ashamed. Although God used Nebuchadnezzar Alexander, and Attila, to scourge guilty nations, and to exercise the patience of his righteous servants, he was by no means obliged to use them. For he might have obtained the same ends by the plague, the famine, or the dreadful ministry of the angel who cut off the first born of the Egyptians, and the numerous army of Sennacherib. I flatter myself that these four answers fully set aside the first objection of the necessitarians: pass we onto another.

OBJECTION SECOND. "If God had not necessitated the fall of Adam, and secured his sin, Adam might have continued innocent; and then there would have been no need of Christ and of Christianity. Had Adam stood, we should have been without Christ to all eternity: but believers had rather be born in sin, than be Christless: they had rather be sick, than have nothing to do with their heavenly Physician, and with the cordials of his sanctifying Spirit," [Mr. Toplady dares not produce this objection in all its force: he only hints at it. His own words are, p. 130, "Let me give our free willers a very momentous hint: viz. that the entrance of original sin was one of those essential links, on which the Messiah's incarnation and crucifixion were suspended." ]

ANSWER. It is absurd to insinuate that the Father necessitated Adam to sin, in order to make way for the indwelling of his Word and Spirit in the hearts of believers. For if Adam was made in the image of God; if God is that mysterious, adorable, Supreme Being, whom the Scriptures call Father, Word, and Holy Ghost; if the Father gave his Word and light to Adam in paradise, and shed abroad Divine love in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him; Adam was full of the Word and Spirit of God by creation. And although the eternal Word was not Adam's Redeemer, yet he was Adam's life and light; for Christ, considered as the Word of God, was the wisdom and power of sinless man, just as he is the wisdom and power of holy believers. The reason why man needed not the atoning blood of the Lamb in a state of innocence was because the holy Lamb of God lived in his heart, and, jointly with the Spirit of love, maintained there the mystical kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. To suppose, therefore, that if Adam had not sinned he would have had nothing to do with the Word and Spirit of the Father, is as absurd as to fancy that if people did not poison themselves, they would have had nothing to do with health and cheerfulness. And to intimate that God necessarily brought about the sin of Adam, in order to make way for the murder of his incarnate Son, is as impious as to insinuate that our Lord impelled the Jews to despise the day of their visitation, in order to secure the opportunity of weeping over the hardness of their hearts. If God necessitated the mischief, in order to remedy it, the gratitude of the redeemed is partly at an end; and the thanks they owe him are only of the same kind with such as Mr. Toplady would owe me, if I wantonly caused him to break his legs, and then procured him a good surgeon to set them.

But what shall we say of the non-redeemed? Those unfortunate creatures whom Mr. Toplady calls "the reprobate?" Are there not countless myriads of these, according to his unscriptural gospel? And what thanks do these owe the evil Manichean God, who absolutely necessitates them to sin, and absolutely debars them from any saving interest in a Redeemer, that he may send them without fail to everlasting burnings? How strangely perverted is the rational taste of Mr. T., who calls the doctrine of absolute necessity, which is big with absolute reprobation, absolute wickedness, and absolute damnation, a comfortable doctrine! a doctrine of grace! May we not expect next to hear him cry up midnight gloom as meridian brightness?

But to return: if it was necessary that Adam should sin in order to glorify the Father, by making way for the crucifixion of the Lamb of God; is it not also necessary that believers should sin in order to glorify God more abundantly by "crucifying Christ afresh, and putting him again to open shame?" Will they not, by this means, have greater need of their Physician, make a fuller trial of the virtue of his blood, and sing louder in heaven? O, how perilous is a doctrine, which, at every turn, transforms itself into a doctrine of light, to support the most subtle and pernicious tenet of the Antinomians, "Let us sin that grace may abound!"

Mr. Toplady, who has only hinted at the two preceding objections, triumphs much in that which follows: it shall therefore appear clothed in his own words. In the contents of his book he says, "Methodists, [he gives this name to all who oppose his Scheme of Necessity.] Methodists, more gross Manicheans than Manes himself." The proof occurs, page 144, in the followings words:

OBJECTION THIRD. "The old Manicheism was a gentle impiety, and a slender absurdity, when contrasted with the modern Arminian improvements on that system, For, which is worse? To assert the existence of two independent beings, and no more; or, to assert the existence of about one hundred and fifty millions of independent beings, all living at one time, and most of them waging successful war on the designs of him that made them? Even confining ourselves to our own world, it will follow that Arminian Manicheism exceeds the paltry oriental quality, at the immense rate of 150,000,000 to twowithout reckoning the adult self determiners of past generations."

ANSWER. This argument, cast into a logical mould, will yield the following syllogism: Every being, able to determine himself, is an independent being, and of consequence a god. According to the doctrine of free will, every accountable man is a being able to determine himself.

Therefore, according to the doctrine of free will, every accountable man is an independent being, and consequently a god. Hence it follows, that if Manes erred by believing there were two gods, those who espouse the doctrine of free will are more gross Manicheans than Manes himself; since they believe that every man is a god.

Observe Mr. Toplady's consistency! Indeed, when he attacks Mr. W. and Arminianism, no charges (be they ever so contradictory) come amiss to him. In his Historic Proof, Arminianism is Atheism; and in his Scheme of Necessity, Arminianism is a system which supposes countless myriads of gods! But, letting this pass, I observe that the preceding syllogism is a mere sophism; the first proposition, on which all the others depend, being absolutely false; witness the following appeals to common sense:

Is a horse independent on his master, because he can determine himself to range or lie down in his pasture? Is Mr. Toplady independent on his bishop, because he can determine himself to preach twice next Sunday, or only once, or not at all? Is a captain independent on his general, because he can determine himself to stand his ground, or to run away in an engagement? Are soldiers independent on their colonel, because they determined themselves to list in such a company? Is a negro slave independent on his master, or is he a little god, because, when he lies down, he can determine himself to do it on the left side, or on the right? Is a highwayman a god, because he can determine himself to rob a traveller, or to let him pass without molestation? In a word, are subjects independent on their sovereign, because they can determine themselves to break or to keep the laws of the land?

Every one of the preceding questions pours light upon the absurdity of Mr. Toplady's argument. But that absurdity will appear doubly glaring if you consider three things:

  1. All free agents have received their life and free agency from God, as precious talents, for the good or bad use of which they are accountable to his distributive justice.
  2. All free agents are every moment dependent upon God, for the preservation of their life and free agency, there being no instant in which God may not resume all his temporary talents, by requiring their souls of them.
  3. He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ: then shall he publicly convince all moral agents of their dependence on his goodness and justice, by graciously rewarding the righteous and justly punishing the wicked, according to their works.

In the meantime, he makes them sensible of their dependence, by keeping in his providential hand the "staff of their bread," and the thread of life; saying to the greatest of them, "Ye are gods, [in authority over others,] but ye shall die like men: and after death comes judgment." It is as ridiculous, therefore, to suppose that, upon the scheme of free will, men are independent beings, as to assert that prisoners, who are going to the bar to meet their lawgiver and judge, are independent upon his supreme authority, because those who are going to be condemned for robbery or murder, determined themselves to rob or murder, without any Antinomian, impulsive decree made by their judge; and because those who are going to be rewarded for their obedience, were not necessitated to obey as a wave is necessitated to roll along, when it is irresistibly impelled by another wave.

However, Mr. Toplady sings the song of victory, as if he had proved that, upon the Arminian scheme of free will, every man is an independent being, and a god. "Poor Manes!" says he, "with how excellent a grace do Arminians call thee a heretic! And, above all, such Arminians, (whereof Mr. J. Wesley is one,) as agree with thee in believing the attainability of sinless perfection here below: or, to use the good old Manichean phrase, who assert that the evil principle may be totally separated from man in this present life!"

The reader will permit me to make a concluding remark upon this triumphant exclamation of Mr. Toplady. I have observed, that Manes believed there are in the Godhead two co-eternal principles: (1.) The absolute sovereignty of free grace, which necessitates men to good. And, (2.) He absolute sovereignty of free wrath, which necessitates them to evil. Nevertheless, Manes was not so mistaken as to suppose that the good principle in his Deity was weaker than the bad principle; and that the latter could never be dislodged by the former from the breast of one single elect person. Manes had faith enough to believe that now is the day of salvation, and that Christ (and not death or a temporary hell) saves good Christians from their sins. Accordingly he asserted that nothing unholy or wicked can dwell with the good principled God; and that none shall inherit eternal life, but such as so concur with the heavenly light, as to have the works of darkness destroyed in their souls. And therefore he maintained, with St. Paul, that we must be "sanctified throughout," and that our souls must be found at death "blameless and without spot or wrinkle" of sin; and he held, with St. John, that he who is "fully born of God [the good principle] sinneth not, but keepeth himself, and the wicked principle toucheth him not," so as to lead him into iniquity. Now, if Mr. Toplady so firmly believes in the evil principle, as to assert, that though believers are ever so willing to have no other Lord but the good-principled God, yet this God can never destroy before death the works of the sinpredestinating God in their hearts; and if, on the other hand, the wicked principle completely destroys all good in all reprobates, even in this life; is it not evident that Mr. Toplady's charge may be justly retorted; [Page 154, Mr. Toplady produces the following objection:-"'Tis curious to behold Arminians themselves forced to take refuge in the harbour of necessity. It is necessary, say they, that man's will should be free: for without freedom, the will were no will at all," (i. e. no free will-no such will as constitutes a man a moral and accountable agent.) "Free agency, themselves being judges, is only a ramification of necessity." This is playing upon words, and shuffling logical cards in order to delude the simple. I have granted again and again that there is a necessity of nature, a necessity of consequence, a necessity of duty, a necessity of decency, a necessity of convenience, &c, &c, but all these sorts of necessity do no more amount to the Calvinian, absolute necessity of all events, than my granting that the king has a variety of officers about his person by necessity of decency, of office, of custom, &c, implies my granting that he has a certain officer, who absolutely necessitates him to move just as he does, insomuch that he cannot turn his eyes, or stir one finger, otherwise than this imaginary officer directs or impels him. This objection of Mr. Toplady is so excessively trifling, that I almost blame myself for taking notice of it, even in a note.] and that, as he ascribes so much more power to the evil principle than to the good, he carries the sovereignty of the evil principle farther than Manes himself did; and is (to use his own expression) a "more gross Manichean than Manes himself?"

OBJECTION FOURTH. "Your scheme of free will labours under a greater difficulty than that with which you clog the Scheme of Necessity; because if it did not represent the sinnecessitating principle as more powerful than the good principle, yet it represents created spirits as stronger than the God who made them: an impotent, disappointed God this, who says, I would, and ye would not."

ANSWER. 1. These words were actually spoken by incarnate Omnipotence: nor do they prove that man is stronger than God, but only that when God deals with free agents about those things concerning which he will call them to an account, he does not necessitate their will by an irresistible exertion of his power, (propter justum Dei judicium,) "that he may leave room for the display of his justice," as the fathers said: for his perfections, and our probationary circumstances require, that he should maintain the character of Lawgiver and Judge, as well as that of Creator and Sovereign. And, therefore, when we say that free agents are not necessarily determined by God to those actions, for which God is going to punish or reward them, we do not represent free agents as stronger or greater than God. We only place them (sub justo Dei judicio) "under God's righteous government," as said the fathers, equally subjected to the legislative wisdom, and executive power of their omnipotent Lawgiver.

2. Whether free agents are rewarded or punished, saved or damned, God our Saviour will never be disappointed: for,

Upon the whole, I humbly hope, that whether candid readers consider the inconclusiveness of Mr. T.'s philosophical arguments, the injudicious manner in which he has pressed the Scriptures into the service of absolute necessity, or the weakness of his objections, which he directly or indirectly makes against the doctrine of liberty; they will see that his scheme is as contrary to true philosophy and to well-applied Scripture, as the absolute necessity of adultery and murder is contrary to good morals, and the absolute reprobation of some of our unborn children, and perhaps of our own souls, is contrary to evangelical comfort.

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