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By John Fletcher


The doctrine of necessity is the capital error of the Calvinists,
and the foundation of the most wretched schemes of philosophy
and divinity. How nearly Mr. Toplady agrees with Mr. Hobbes,
the apostle of the materialists in England, with respect to the doctrine of necessityConclusion.
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WE have seen on what philosophical and Scriptural proofs Mr. Toplady founds the doctrine of necessity; and, if I am not mistaken, the inconclusiveness of his arguments has been fairly pointed out. I shall now subjoin some remarks, which I hope are not unworthy of the reader's attention.

1. It is not without reason that Mr. T. borrows from false philosophy and misapplied passages of Scripture, whatever seems to countenance his doctrine of necessity; for that doctrine is the very soul of Calvinism; and Calvinism is, in his account, the marrow of the Gospel. If the doctrine of absolute necessity be true, Calvinian election and reprobation are true also: if it be false, Calvinism, so far as we oppose it, is left without either prop or foundation. Take away necessity from the modern doctrines of grace, and you reduce them to the Scripture standard which we follow, and of which Arminius was too much afraid.

2. Those who would see at once the bar which separates us from the Calvinists, need only consider the following questions: Are all those who shall be damned absolutely necessitated to continue in sin and perish? And are all those who shall be saved absolutely necessitated to work righteousness and be eternally saved? Or, to unite both questions in one, Shall men be judged, that is, shall they be justified or condemned in the last day, as bound agents, according to the unavoidable consequences of Christ's work, or of Adam's work? Or, shall they be justified or condemned, according to THEIR OWN works, as the Scripture declares? I lay a peculiar stress upon the words their own, because works, which absolute decrees necessitate us to do, are no longer, properly speaking, our own works, but the works of Him who necessitates us to do them.

3. There is but one case in which we can Scripturally admit the Calvinian doctrine of necessity, and that is, the salvation of infants who die before they have committed actual sin. These, we grant, are necessarily or Calvinistically saved. But they will not be "judged according to THEIR works," seeing they died before they wrought either iniquity or righteousness. Their salvation will depend only on the irresistible work of Christ, and his Spirit. As they were never called personally to "work out their own salvation;" and as they never personally wrought out their own damnation, they will all be saved by the superabounding grace of God, through the meritorious infancy and death of the holy child Jesus. But it is an abomination to suppose that because God can justly force holiness and salvation upon some infants, he can justly force continued sin and eternal damnation upon myriads of people, by putting them in such circumstances as absolutely necessitate them to continue in sin and be damned. I repeat, God may bestow eternal favours upon persons whom, his decrees necessitate to be righteous. But he can never inflict eternal punishments upon persons whom his decrees, according to Mr. Toplady's doctrine, necessitate to be wicked from first to last.

4. The moderate Calvinists say, indeed, that Adam was endued with free will, and that God did not necessitate him to sin. But if necessity has nothing to do with the first man's obedience and first transgression, why should it be supposed that it has so much to do with us, as absolutely to beget all our good and bad works? And if it be not unreasonable to say "that God endued one man with a power to determine himself;" why should we be considered as enemies to the Gospel, because we assert that he has made all men in some degree capable of determining themselves; the Scriptures declaring that he treats all adult persons as free agents, or persons endued with the power of self determination?

5. Mr. Toplady and all the rigid Calvinists suppose, indeed that God's necessitation extended to the commission of Adam's sin; and yet they tell us that God is not the author, but only the permitter of sin. But they do not consider that their doctrine of absolute necessity leaves no more room for permission, than the absolute decree that a pound shall always exactly weigh sixteen ounces, leaves room for a permission of its weighing sometimes fifteen ounces and sometimes seventeen, Should Mr. Toplady reply that "such a decree, however, leaves room for the permission that a pound shall always exactly weigh sixteen ounces," I reply, that this is playing upon words, it being evident that the word permission, in such a case, is artfully putfor the plainer word necessity or absolute decree. It is evident, therefore, that although Mr. Toplady aims at being more consistent than the moderate Calvinists, he is in fact as inconsistent as they, if he denies that, upon the scheme of the absolute decrees preached by Calvin, and of the absolute necessity which he himself maintains, God is properly the contriver and author of all sin and wickedness.

6. It is dreadful to lay, directly or indirectly, all sin at the door of an omnipotent Being, who is "fearful in holiness, and glorious in praises." Nor is it less dangerous to make poor, deluded Christians swallow down, as Gospel, some of the most dangerous errors that were ever propagated by ancient or modern infidels. We have already seen that the capital error of Manes was the doctrine of necessity. This doctrine was also the grand engine with which Spinosa in Holland, and Hobbes in England, attempted to overthrow Christianity in the last century. Those two men, who may be called the apostles of modern materialists and Atheists, tried to destroy the Lord's vineyard, by letting loose upon it the very error which Mr. T. recommends to us as the capital doctrine of grace. "Spinosa," says a modern author, It will allow no governor of the universe but necessity." As for Mr. Hobbes, he built his materialism upon the ruins of free will, and the foundation of necessity: hear the above-quoted author giving us an account of the monstrous system of religion known by Hobbism: "

Freedom of will it was impossible that Mr. Hobbes should assert to be a property of matter; but he finds a very unexpected way to extricate himself out of the difficulty. The proposition against him stands thus: 'Freedom of will cannot be a property of matter; but there are beings which have freedom of will; therefore there are substances which are not material.' He answers this at once by saying the most strange thing, and the most contradictory to our knowledge of what passes within ourselves, that perhaps was ever advanced, namely, that there is no freedom of will. 'Every effect,' he says, [and this is exactly the doctrine of Mr. Toplady, as the quotations I have produced from his book abundantly prove,] 'Every effect must be owing to some cause, and that cause must produce the effect necessarily.

Thus, whatever body is moved, is moved by some other body, and that by a third, and so on without end.' In the same manner he [Mr. Hobbes] concludes, 'The will of a voluntary agent must be determined by some other external to it, and so on without end: therefore, that the will is not determined by any power of determining itself, inherent in itself; that is, it is not free, nor is there any such thing as freedom of will, but that all is the act of necessity.' This is part of the account which the author of the Answer to Lord Bolingbroke's Philosophy gives us of Mr. Hobbes' detestable scheme of necessity: and it behooves Mr. Toplady and the Calvinists to see if, while they contend for their absolute decrees, and for the doctrine of the absolute necessity and passiveness of all our willings and motions, they do not inadvertently confound matter and spirit, and make way for Hobbes' materialism, as well as for his scheme of necessity.

7. The moment the doctrine of necessity is overthrown, Manicheism, Spinosism, Hobbism, and the spreading religion of Mr. Voltaire, are left without foundation; as well as that part of Calvin's system which we object against. And we beseech Mr. Toplady, and the contenders for Calvinian decrees, to consider, that if we oppose their doctrine, it is not from any prejudice against their persons, much less against God's free grace; but from the same motive which would make us bear our testimony against Manes, Spinosa, Hobbes, and Voltaire, if they would impose their errors upon us as "doctrines of grace." Mr. Wesley and I are ready to testify upon oath that we humbly submit to God's sovereignty, and joyfully glory in the freeness of Gospel grace, which has mercifully distinguished us from countless myriads of our fellow creatures, by gratuitously bestowing upon us numberless favours, of a spiritual and temporal nature, which he has thought proper absolutely to withhold from our fellow creatures. To meet the Calvinists on their own ground, we go so far as to allow there is a partial, gratuitous election and reprobation.

By this election, Christians are admitted to the enjoyment of privileges far superior to those of the Jews: and, according to this reprobation, myriads of heathens are absolutely cut off from all the prerogatives which accompany God's covenants of peculiar grace. In a word, we grant to the Calvinists every thing they contend for, except the doctrine of absolute necessity: nay, we even grant the necessary, unavoidable salvation of all that die in their infancy. And our love to peace would make us go farther to meet Mr. Toplady, if we could do it without giving up the justice, mercy, truth, and wisdom of God, together with the truth of the Scriptures, the equity of God's paradisiacal and mediatorial laws, the propriety of the day of judgment, and the reasonableness of the sentences of absolution and condemnation which the righteous Judge will then pronounce. We hope, therefore, that the prejudices of our Calvinian brethren will subside, and that, instead of accounting us inveterate enemies to truth, they will do us the justice to say that we have done our best to hinder them from inadvertently betraying some of the greatest truths of Christianity into the hands of the Manichees, materialists, infidels, and Antinomians of the age. May the Lord hasten the happy day in which we shall no more waste our time in attacking or defending the truths of our holy religion; but bestow every moment in the sweetest exercises of Divine and brotherly love! In the meantime, if we must contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, let us do it with a plainness that may effectually detect error; and with a mildness that may soften our most violent opponents. Lest I should transgress against this rule, I beg leave once more to observe, that though I have made it appear that Mr. Toplady's Scheme of Necessity is inseparably connected with the most horrid errors of Manicheism, materialism, and Hobbism, yet I am far from accusing him of wilfully countenancing any of those errors. I am persuaded he does it undesignedly.

The badness of his cause obliges him to collect, from all quarters, every shadow of argument to support his favourite opinion. And I make no doubt but, when he shall candidly review our controversy, it will be his grief to find that, in his hurry, he has contended for a scheme which gives up Christianity into the hands of her greatest enemies, and has poured floods of undeserved contempt upon Mr. Wesley who is one of her best defenders.

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