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Of this I was never informed ; nor was I told that these people held to both sides of the truth, whereas Arminians held to but one side. That notwithstanding it is true that men are free moral agents ; that the atonement is general, and opens a door of salvation through which all men may come to Christ and heaven, if they will, and that all are invited in the gospel declaration to come, yet they did not tell me that all men are so desperately wicked, and their hearts 80 fully set in them to do evil, that when Christ crucified is preached to them, and salvation most freely offered to them, and they invited to come to his arms, they all universally, if left to themselves, without a single exception, with one consent, will make an excuse, and willingly and wilfully refuse this offered grace. And that not one single individual of the whole family of man ever will consent to submit to Christ, and receive his salvation, if God, does no more towards it than what the Arminian system tells about. That is, if he does not by his all-conquering and almighty grace change their hearts, and thus cause them to be willing to do what they before were utterly opposed to doing with all their hearts, although they might have done it if they would, viz:-come to Christ. This was never told me -and here I was deceived ; and although I do not excuse myself for embracing this error, yet when I think how plausibly the Arminian system was held up to me, and at the same time how the truth was misrepresented and clad with the dreadful word Calvinism ; and Arminianism, also, being so pleasing to the natural heart, and of course to the remains of sin in me, it is not much to be wondered at that I did. I now began to dispute on doctrinal points, with vehemence. I had learned the Arminian song-whosoever will come may come, (by which I always meant that nobody but the Arminians did believe so,) I talked about the horrible decrees, the iron chains of fatality, God's partiality, &c. which some people held to, as I said, and of the dreadful dangerous doctrine of the saint's perseverance, although I
tad got completely settled down into a backslidden state from God, in heart. What strange inconsistency was here?
Advocating a system of doctrines which lays the stress of the creature's salvation on his own faithfulness, abstract or independently of the grace of God, (for the Arminians teach that our salvation depends on our faithfulness in improving grace, instead of its depending on God's grace, causing us to improve our talents,) and yet living in a state of abominable lukewarmness and almost total neglect of all religious duties! I soon arrived to that state that I spent the Sabbath in visiting and recreations, when there was no meeting in the neighbourhood; and for a considerable time made a point of attending meeting only about once a month. I attended no church meetings, nor covenant meetings, nor prayed but very little in secret, or indeed at all. I became again much taken up with politics, and almost every day engaged in warın arguments on that subject. Í assisted in raising liberty poles, rallying around them, and firing salutes, and was excessively fond of military parades, being myself a member of an independent company. In this manner I passed along for more than two years.
To be sure, I felt, notwithstanding all my backslidings, at times, much troubled in mind, and filled with horror in view of danger-and also felt an attachment to, and regard for the cause of religion, which I did not feel before my conversion, and thought I would not for the world wound the cause ; and if temporal assistance was wanted, I was ready to contribute, as far as I was able ; yet, I was so blinded by sin that I was not aware that I was really wounding the cause every day, and lived more like a Heathen than I did like a Christian. During all this time I never had a word of reproof from the church to which I belonged, nor from one of the individual members ; but on the contrary, I have reason to believe I was held in high estimation by them, as a wholesome member and faithful Christian. And this was the faithfulness, according to the doctrine which they
taught me, and inculcated, on which my eternal salvation depended !!! O my God, what strange infatuation! What blindness to the requirements of God's holy law! What horrible blasphemy (I was about to say) to substitute such obedience and faithfulness in the place of Jesus Christ! What can be more abominable in the sight of God?
During this time I was awakened one night out of my sleep by my wife, who was walking the room in great distress of mind, on account of seeing her lost and undone state, and begged of me to pray for her. For such a scene as this I was not prepared, and therefore put her off with the exhortation to pray for herself, &c. I prayed not at all in my family, nor gave my wife nor children any religious instruction. The reflection pains me this moment, and I have had much sorrow of heart and bitter repentance on account of this state of declension and departure from God, which I so long most wickedly and ungratefullly indulged in; and I am now convinced that it was owing to the mere mercy and grace of God alone, yes, to the truth of that doctrine which I was then despising, that I was not finally left to myself, and to perish everlastingly in my backslidings and sins.
But the covenant was ordered in all things and sure; and although I was suffered thus far to fall as a just chastisement for my self-conceit and the pride of my heart, in trusting in myself; yet he did not suffer bis faithfulness to fail, but, as he did in Peter's case, so in mine, ere long looked me again into repentance--healed my backslidings, and manifested himself to me as he does not unto the world. O the long-suffering, goodness, grace, and mercy of God! "How great is his goodness and how great is his beauty.'
In reflecting on the foregoing chapter, the state of mind described, which I was in for more than two years, how plainly do I see the entire falsity of that ar
gument frequently used by Arminians,that the doctrine which they inculcate of falling from grace, if received by young converts, has a salutary influence on their minds to preserve them from backsliding; and that the contrary doctrine of the saint's perseverance, has a very bad effect by producing a spirit of lukewarmness, degeneracy, &c. This statement may appear plausible to many, but with me it is vague, unfounded, and futile.
The old proverb, that experience is the best schoolmaster, will hold good here, in respect to myself. I have tried for myself and am satisfied. Perhaps no person ever more fully believed the doctrine of falling from grace
than I did at this time, and some time after. I did not indeed, believe it, as I now believe the saint's perseverance, and I must be permitted to say that no person under heaven thus believes it. One reason why I believed it was because I did not understand it in all its consequences. That is, I did not fully see that it placed the turning point of salvation, (if I may so speak) in the creature's hands, instead of founding it in the promise of God. Another reason why I believed it was because I at the time, knew but little about the native deceitfulness of my heart. If I had known then what I know now respecting this, I should have said at once, if the doctrine of falling from grace is true, there is not only a possibility of my falling finally away, but I am sure that I shall be (after all that God has done for me) lost in hell. Another and powerful reason why I believed this doctrine was because the contrary doctrine of the saint's perseverance, was completely misrepresented to me. Instead of being instructed that by it the people of God, on first believing in Christ, were represented as being interested in a covenant of grace, which, by the immutable promise of God, secured their final perseverance in holiness to the end ; I was told that the ideas of those who held this doctrine were; that those, who were once converted, would be saved, whether they endured to the end or not. That although they continued
in sin all their days after conversion, it made no difference, they would die and go directly to heaven This I knew was not the doctrine of scripture or reason, and it was this misrepresentation of truth which was one reason, as I have before observed, which occasioned my reception of error and continuance in it. Are there not thousands in the same condition ? Now, as I have just remarked, I do not thus believe the doctrine of the saint's perseverance. I do not believe it because I do not understand it in its consequencesFor I trust God has given me so to see the native depravity and exceeding sinfulness of the human heart, as it is represented in the sacred word, as it is acted out by mankind in general, but more especially as I have seen my own, that I am sure if God has not made an immutable promise to cause his people to prove finally faithful--not one soul will ever reach heaven. But the doctrine I understand to amount to this very thing, “I will put my fear in their hearts and they shall not depart from me.” “ My sheep shall never perish,” &c. So that I believe this doctrine is true ; not only from the abundant, yes, abundant testimony of scripture declarations, but because I am sure as I can be of any fact whatever, that its opposite doctrine of falling from grace cannot be true in the nature of things. Yet so far as any person could be persuaded in believing a system which is not founded in truth, I believe I so embraced the doctrine of falling from grace.
And now where were those good effects resulting from it, in keeping me faithful, and preserving me from lukewarmness and backsliding? I am certain that I never lived so cold, and with so little religious engagedness, since I was brought to the knowledge of the truth, as I did during the time which I have just alluded to; and immediately, too, did I go into this state after imbibing the Arminian doctrine. There is no foundation for the statement at all, that the doctrine of falling from grace has a good practical effect. Those who harbour it in speculation (who are humble, faithful Christians) al