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are represented as doing all those things, by virtue of a divine influence upon their minds.
their minds. God is
represented as beginning the good work in them; as carrying it on until the day of Jesus Christ; and as keeping them by his mighty power through faith unto salvation. All this is fully comprised in the text. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Finally, the doctrine under consideration is confirmed, by all the commands in the Bible, and by the prayers of all good men. Every command, which God has given to men, plainly supposes, that they are moral agents, who are capable of acting freely in the view of motives; because a command could have no more influence, or lay no more obligation upon men, than upon stocks or stones, were men incapable of seeing the nature, and of acting under the power, of motives. · As all the commands in the Bible, therefore, require men to put forth some motion, some ex-' ercise, some exertion either of body, or of mind, or of both; so they necessarily suppose, that men are, in the strictest sense of the word, moral agents, and capable of yielding active, voluntary, rational obedience to the will of God. But yet the prayers of all good men equally suppose, that they must be acted upon by a divine operation, in all their virtuous exercises and actions. For when they pray for themselves, that God would give them joy, peace, love, faith, submission, or strengthen and increase these and all other christian graces;
prayers presuppose the necessity of a divine operation upon their hearts, in all their gracious exercises and exertions. And when they pray for the world in general, that God would suppress vice and irreligion every where, convince and convert sinners,
comfort and' edify saints, and spread the Redeemer's kingdom through the earth; their prayers are founded in the belief, that God must work in men both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Such clear and abundant evidence the Bible gives us, that saints both 'act and are acted upon by a divine operation, in all their holy and virtuous exercises.
But still we find many, who consider this scripture doctrine as a gross absurdity, or at least, as the Gordian knot in divinity, which, instead of untying, they violently cut asunder; and' so make a sacrifice either of activity, or of dependence. Some give up activity for the sake of dependence; some give up dependence for the sake of activity; and some first give up one and then the other, for the sake of maintaining both. The Fatalists give up activity for the sake of dependence. They suppose men are totally dependent and constantly acted upon as mere machines; and of consequence are not free agents. The Arminians, on the other hand, give up dependence for the sake of activity. They suppose' men have a self-determining power, or a power to originate their own volitions, and are capable of acting independently of any divine operation upon their hearts. But many of the Calvinists endeavor to steer a middle course between these two extremes, and first give up activity and then dependence, in order to maintain both. They hold, that men are active both before and after regeneration, but passive in regeneration itself. These three classes of men, however they may differ in other respects, seem to agree in this, that no man can act freely and virtuously, while he is acted upon by a divine operation; and accordingly unite in pronouncing the doctrine, which we have been laboring to establish, inconsistent and absurd. This naturally leads us to inquire,
In the second place, why activity and dependence are so generally supposed to be inconsistent with eacla other.
If saints do indeed work out their own salvation with fear and trembling under a divine operation, as has been perhaps sufficiently proved; then this doctrine cannot be supposed to be inconsistent and ab: surd, because it is so in its own nature. If it be true, it must be consistent, whether we can discover its con. sistency or not.
Nor, in the next place, can any suppose this doc trine is inconsistent and absurd, because it is more difficult to apprehend and explain, than many other doctrines of natural and revealed religion. Who can conceive or explain how the Supreme Being exists of himself? or how he supports the universe? or how he fills all places, and surveys all objects, at one and the same time? But who, except Atheists and skeptics, will presume to deny these truths, or venture to call them inconsistent and absurd? Why, then, should any suppose there is the least absurdity in men's working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, while God, at the same time, works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure? It is as easy to conceive of this, as to conceive of the divine existence, omnipresence, or universal providence. In all cases of this nature, the facts are plain and intelligible, but the manner of their existence or production is truly mysterious. Our own existence is self-evident; but how we were formed is to us a profound mystery. Our constant dependence on the Deity for the continuation of existence, is capable of strict demonstration; but how God upholds us every moment, we are utterly unable to explain. So our dependence on the Deity to work in us both to will and to do, is equal
ly demonstrable; but how God operates on our minds in our free and voluntary exercises, we are equally Unable to comprehend. There is, therefore, no more mystery in this doctrine; than in every object we see, or every sound we hear, or every breath we draw. The subject before us, may be involved in more difficulties than some other subjects, which have been less examined and controverted; but there is a wide differbetween difficulties and mysteries. Though we can never remove mysteries, yet we can sometimes remove difficulties. And when the difficulties are removed from a difficult subject, it then becomes plain and intelligible. Many points in Physic and Philosophy, which were once attended with great difficulties, are now become easy and familiar to the masters of those sciences. And nothing further is necessary to render the subject of man's dependence and activity level to every one's apprehension, than to remove the difficulties, with which it has been embarrassed, by the tongue and pen of controversy.
It may be proper to observe, once more, that none can suppose this doctrine to be inconsistent, because they have found it to be so, by their own experience. To believers we make the appeal. Did you ever feel the least inconsistency between activity and dependence? Did you ever perceive the divine agency to obstruct your own? Did you ever find your moral powers suspended in regeneration, in love to God, in repentance, in faith, or in any other holy affection? Were you ever conscious of being less able to grow in grace, and to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because . God wrought in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure? Should you all speak the language of your own experience upon this subject, we presume you would with one voice declare,
that the spirit of the Lord never destroyed, nor even obstructed, your liberty.
The question now returns, why is it so generally supposed, that man's activity and dependence are totally irreconcilable? I answer, this may be chiefly or wholly owing to the following reasons.
1. Some may suppose, that human dependence and activity cannot be reconciled, because they are unwilling to see the consistency of a doctrine, which throws them absolutely into the hands of God. The Apostle evidently suggests this idea, when he introduces a man disputing his dependence with his Maker. “Thou wilt then say unto me, why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, О man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?” Many choose to deny, that they are moral agents, rather than to own, that they are dependent agents, who are obliged to act under the controlling influence of the Supreme Being. They wish either to enjoy dependence without freedom, or freedom without dependence; and, therefore, they will not, if they can possibly help it, see that harmony between both, which places them in a situation so extremely interesting and hazardous.
2. Some may suppose, that dependence cannot be reconciled with activity, because they are conscious of being active, but not of being dependent. This is a strong hold, in which many intrench themselves, and feel entirely out of the reach of all arguments, in favor of a divine operation upon the hearts of moral agents. They appeal to common sense as an infallible proof, that men act freely and voluntarily, without feeling the least compulsion, or influence from the hand of God. It is undoubtedly true, that we are all conscious