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Charles Buck, Theological Dictionary

68 Prophet

10 Dec 2022, by

PROPHET

A person who foretells future events. It is particularly applied to such inspired persons among the Jews as were commissioned by God to declare his will and purposes to that people.

Some of the Prophets, an appellation given to young men who were educated in the schools or colleges under a proper master, who was commonly, if not always, an inspired prophet in the knowledge of religion, and in sacred music, and thus were qualified to be public preachers, 1 Sam 10, 11; 2 Sam 19: 2 Kings 2.

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67 Prophecy

8 Dec 2022, by

PROPHECY

A word in its original import signifies the prediction of future events. It is thus defined by Witsins: “A knowledge and manifestation of secret things, which a man knows not from his own sagacity, nor from the relation of others, but by an extraordinary revelation of God from heaven.” In the Old and New Testaments the word is not always confined to the foretelling of future events. In several instances it is of the same import with preaching, and denotes the faculty of illustrating and applying to present practical purposes the doctrines of prior revelation. Thus, in Nehemiah it is said, “Thou hast appointed prophets to preach,” ch. 6, ver 7; and whoever speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort, is by St. Paul called a prophet, 1 Cor 14:3. Hence it was that there were schools of prophets in Israel, where young men were instructed in the truths of religion, and fitted to exhort and comfort the people. It is prophecy, however, according to the first definition given above, we shall here consider.

Prophecy (with the power of working miracles) may be considered as the highest evidence that can be given of a supernatural communion with the Deity. Hence, among the professors of almost every religious system, there have been numberless pretenders to the gift of prophecy. Pagans had their oracles, augurs, and soothsayers; modern idolaters their necronancers and diviners; and the Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, their prophets. The pretensions of Pagans and impostors, have, however, been justly exposed; while the Jewish and Christian prophecies carry with them evident marks of their validity. Hence St. Peter observes,”We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Pet 2:19, 21. Scripture prophecy, therefore, hath God for its origin. It did not arise from the genius of the mind, the temperament of the body, the influence of the stars, &c. but from the sovereign will of God. The ways by which the Deity made known his mind were various; such as by dreams, visions, angels, symbolic representations, impulses on the mind, Num 12:6; Jer 31:26. Dan 8:16, 17.

As to the language of prophecy: “It is,” says Mr. Gray, “remarkable for its magnificence. Each prophetic writer is distinguished for peculiar beauties; but their style in general may be characterised as strong, animated, and impressive. Its ornaments are derived not from accumulation of epithet, or laboured harmony; but from the real grandeur of its images, and the majestic force of its expressions. It is varied with striking propriety, and enlivened with quick but easy transitions. Its sudden bursts of eloquence, its earnest warmth, its affecting exhortations and appeals, affords very interesting proofs of that lively impression, and of that inspired…

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66 Decalogue

7 Dec 2022, by

DECALOGUE

The ten commandments given by God to Moses. The ten commandments were engraved by God on two tables of stone. The Jews, by way of eminence, call these commandments the ten words, from whence they had afterwards the name of decalogue; but they joined the first and second into one, and divided the last into two. They understand that against stealing to relate to the stealing of men, or kidnapping; alleging, that the stealing one another’s goods of property is forbidden in the last commandment. The church of Rome has struck the second commandment quite out of the decalogue; and, to make their number complete, has split the tenth into two. The reason is obvious.

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65 New Testament

6 Dec 2022, by

NEW TESTAMENT

The religious institution of Jesus Christ, says Mr. Campbell, is frequently denominated and almost always rendered the New Testament: yet the word by itself, is generally translated covenant. It is the Greek word, whereby the Seventy have uniformly translated the Hebrew word Berith, which our translators have invariably translated covenant. That the Hebrew term corresponds much better to the English word covenant than to testament, there can be no question; yet the word in classical use is more frequently rendered Testament. The proper Greek word for covenant is not found in the New Testament, and occurs only thrice in the Septuagint, where it is never employed for rendering the word Berith.

The term New is added to distinguish it from the Old Covenant, that it, the dispensation of Moses. The two covenants are always in Scripture the two dispensations: that under Moses is the old, that under the Messiah is the new. In the latitude wherein the term is used in holy writ, the command under the sanction of death, which God gave to Adam, may, with sufficient propriety, be termed a Covenant; but it is never so called in Scripture; and when mention is made of the two covenants, the old and the new, or the first and the second, there appears to be no reference to any thing that related to Adam. In all such places, Moses and Jesus are contrasted.–the Jewish economy, and the Christian: mount Sinai, in Arabia, where the law was promulgated; and mount Sion in Jerusalem, where the Gospel was first published.

These terms, from signifying the two dispensations, came soon to denote the books wherein they were written, the sacred writings of the Jews being called the Old Testament; and the writings superadded by the apostles and evangelists, the New Testament. An example of the use of the former application we have in 2 Cor 3:14. “Until this day remaineth the veil untaken away, in the reading of the Old Testament.”

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64 Pentateuch

6 Dec 2022, by

PENTATEUCH

From five, and an instrument or volume, signifies the collection of the five instruments or books of Moses, which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Some modern writers, it seems, have asserted that Moses did not compose the Pentateuch, because the author always speaks in the third person; abridges his narration like a writer who collected from ancient memoirs; sometimes interrupts the thread of his discourse, for example, Gen 4:23; and because of the account of the death of Moses at the end, &c. It is observed, also, in the text of the Pentateuch, that there are some places that are defective: for example, in Ex 12:8. we see Moses speaking to Pharaoh, where the author omits the beginning of his discourse. The Samaritan inserts in the same place what is wanting in the Hebrew. In other places the same Samaritan copy adds what is deficient in the Hebrew; and what is contained more than the Hebrew seems so well connected with the rest of the discourse, that it would be difficult to separate them. Lastly, they think they observe certain strokes in the Pentateuch which can hardly agree with Moses, who was born and bred in Egypt; as what he says of the earthly paradise, of the rivers that watered it and ran through it; of the cities of Babylon, Erech, Resen, and Calmeh; of the gold of Pison; of the bdellium, of the stone of Sohem, or onyx stone, which was to be found in that country.– These particulars, observed with such curiosity, seem to prove that the author of the Pentateuch lived beyond the Euphrates. Add what he says concerning the ark of Noah, of its construction, of the place where it rested, of the wood wherewith it was built, of the bitumen of Babylon, &c. But in answer to all these objections it is justly observed, that these books are by the most ancient writers ascribed to Moses, and it is confirmed by the authority of heathen writers themselves, that they are his writings; besides this, we have the unanimous testimony of the whole Jewish nation ever since Moses’s time. Divers texts of the Pentateuch imply that it was written by him; and the book of Joshua and other parts of Scripture import as much; and though some passages have been thought to imply the contrary, yet this is but a late opinion, and has been sufficiently confuted by several learned men. It is probable, however, that Ezra published a new edition of the books of Moses, in which he might add those passages that many suppose Moses did not write. The Abbe Torne, in a sermon preached before the French king in Lent, 1764, makes the following remarks: “The legislator of the Jews was the author of the Pentateuch; an immortal work, wherein he paints the marvels of his reign with the majestic picture of the government and religion which he established! Who before our modern infidels ever ventured to obscure this incontestable fact? Who ever sprang a doubt about this among the Hebrews?–What greater reasons have there ever been to attribute to Mahomet his Alcoran, to Plato his Republic, or to Homer his sublime poems? Rather let us say, What work in any age ever appeared more truly to bear the name of its real author? It is not an ordinary book, which, like many others, may be easily hazarded under a fictitious name. It is a sacred book, which the Jews have always read with a veneration, that remains after seventeen hundred years exile, calamities, and reproach. In this book the Hebrews included all their science; it was their civil, political, and sacred code, their only treasure, their calendar, their annals, the only title of their sovereigns and pontiffs, the alone rule of polity and worship: by consequence it must be formed with their monarchy, and necessarily have the same epoch as their government and religion, &c.–Moses speaks only truth, though infidels charge him with imposture. But, great God! what an impostor must he be, who first spoke of the divinity in a manner so sublime, that no one since, during almost four thousand years, has been able to surpass him! What an impostor must he be whose writings breathe only virtue; whose style equally simple, affecting, and sublime, in spite of the rudeness of those first ages, openly displays an inspiration altogether divine!”

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63 Truth

4 Dec 2022, by

TRUTH

A term used in opposition to falsehood, and applied to propositions which answer or accord to the nature and reality of the thing whereof something is affirmed or denied. Natural or physical truth is said to be the agreement of our sentiments with the nature of things. Moral truth is the conformity of our words and actions to our sentiments. Evangelical or Gospel truth is taken for Christ; the doctrines of the Gospel; substance or reality, in opposition to the shadows and ceremonies of the law, John 1:17. For this truth we ought to be sincere in seeking, zealous in defending, and active in propagating; highly to prize it, constantly to rejoice in it, and uniformly to be obedient to it.

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INSPIRATION

The conveying of certain extraordinary and supernatural notions or motions into the soul; or it denotes any supernatural influence of God upon the mind of a rational creature, whereby he is formed to any degree of intellectual improvement, to which he could not, or would not, in fact, have attained in his present circumstances in a natural way. Thus the prophets are said to have spoken by divine inspiration. 1. An inspiration of superintendency, in which God does so influence and direct the mind of any person as to keep him more secure from error in some various and complex discourse, than he would have been merely by the use of his natural faculties.–2. Plenary superintendent inspiration, which excludes any mixture of error at all from the performance so superintended.–3. Inspiration of elevation, where the faculties act in a regular, and, as it seems, in a common manner, yet are raised to an extraordinary degree, so that the composure shall, upon the whole, have more of the true sublime or pathetic than natural genius could have given.–4. Inspiration of suggestion, where the use of the faculties is superseded, and God does, as it were, speak directly to the mind, making such discoveries are to be communicated, if they are designed as a message to others. It is generally allowed that the Scriptures were written by divine inspiration. The matter of them, the spirituality and elevation of their design, the majesty and simplicity of their style, the agreement of their various parts; their wonderful efficacy on mankind; the candour, disinterestedness, and uprightness of the penmen; their astonishing preservation; the multitude of miracles wrought in confirmation of the doctrines they contain, and the exact fulfillment of their predictions, prove this. It has been disputed, however, whether this inspiration is in the most absolute sense, plenary. As this is a subject of importance, and ought to be carefully studied by every Christian, in order that he may render a reason of the hope that is in him, I shall here subjoin the remarks of an able writer, who, though he may differ from some others as to the terms made use of above, yet I am persuaded his arguments will be found weighty and powerful. “There are many things in the Scriptures,” says, Mr. Dick, “which the writers might have known, and probably did know, by ordinary means. As persons possessed of memory, judgment, and other intellectual faculties, which are common to men, they were able to relate certain events in which they had been personally concerned, and to make such occasional reflections as were suggested by particular subjects and occurrences. In these cases no supernatural influence was necessary to invigorate their minds; it was only necessary that they should be infallibly preserved from error. It is with respect to such passages of Scripture alone, as did not exceed the natural ability of the writers to compose, that I would admit the notion of superintendence, if it should be admitted at all. Perhaps this word, though of established use and almost undisputed authority, should be entirely laid aside, as insufficient to express even the lowest degree of inspiration. In the passages of Scripture which we are now considering, I conceive the writers to have been not merely superintended, that they might commit no error, but likewise to have been moved or excited by the Holy Ghost to record particular events, and set down particular observations. The passages written in consequence of the direction and under the care of the Divine Spirit, may be said, in an inferior sense, to be inspired; whereas if the men had written them at the suggestion of their own spirit, they would not have possessed any more authority though they had been free from error, than those parts of profane writings which are agreeable to truth.

2. “There are other parts of the Scriptures in which the faculties of the writers were supernaturally invigorated and elevated. It is impossible for us, and perhaps it was not possible for the inspired person himself, to determine where nature ended and inspiration began. It is enough to know, that there are…

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CANONIZATION

A ceremony in the Romish church, by which persons deceased are ranked in the catalogue of the saints. It succeeds beatification. Before a beatified person is canonized, the qualifications of the candidate are strictly examined into, in some consistories held for that purpose; after which one of the consistorial advocates, in the presence of the pope and cardinals, makes the panegvric of the person who is to be proclaimed a saint, and gives a particular detail of his life and miracles; which being done, the holy father decrees his canonization, and appoints the day.

On the day of canonization, the pope officiates in white, and their eminences are dressed in the same colour. St. Peter’s church is hung with rich tapestry, upon which the arms of the pope, and of the prince or state requiring the canonization, are embroidered in gold and silver. A great number of lights blaze all round the church, which is crowded with pious souls, who wait with devout impatience till the new saint has made his public entry, as it were, into paradise, that they may offer up their petitions to him without danger of being rejected.

The following maxim with regard to canonization is now observed, though it has not been followed above a century, viz. not to enter into the inquiries prior to canonization till fifty years, at least, after the death of the person to be canonized. By the ceremony of canonization it appears that this rite of the modern Romans has something in it very like the apotheosis or deification of the ancient Romans, and in all probability takes it rise from it; at least, several ceremonies of the same nature are conspicuous in both.

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CANON

A word used to denote the authorised catalogue of the sacred writings. “The Greek word” says Dr. Owen, “which gives rise to the term canonical, seems to be derived from the Hebrew kaneh, which in general signifies any reed whatever, 1 Kings 14:15. Isa. 43:3. and particularly a reed made into an instrument, wherewith they measured their buildings, containing six cubits in length, Ezek. 40:7; 43:16. and hence indefinitely it is taken for a rule or measure. Besides, it signifies the beam and tongue of a balance. Isa. 436:6. ‘they weighed silver on the cane; that is, saith the Targum, ‘in the balance.’ This also is the primary and proper signification of the Greek word. Hence common, wherein it signifies a moral rule. Aristotle calls the law the rule of the administration; and hence it is that the written word of God being in itself absolutely right, and appointed to be the rule of faith and obedience, is eminently called ‘canonical.'”

The ancient canon of the books of the Old Testament, ordinarily attributed to Ezra, was divided into the law, the prophets, and the hagiographia, to which our Saviour refers, Luke 24:45. The same division is also mentioned by Josephus. This is the canon allowed to have been followed by the primitive church till the council of Carthage; and, according to Jerome, this consisted of no more than twenty-two books, answering to the number of the Hebrew alphabet, though at present they are classed into twenty-four divisions. That council enlarged the canon very considerably, taking into it the apocryphal books; which the council of Trent farther enforced, enjoining them to be received as books of holy Scripture, upon pain of anathema. The Romanists, in defence of this canon, say, that it is the same with that of the council of Hippo, held in 393; and with that of the third council of Carthage of 397, at which were present forty-six bishops, and among the rest St. Augustine. Their canon of the New Testament, however, perfectly agrees with ours. It consists of books that are well known, some of which have been universally acknowledged; such are the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, first of St. Peter, and first of St. John; and others, concerning which doubts were entertained, but which were afterwards received as genuine; such are the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of John, that of Jude, and the Revelation. These books were written at different times; and they are authenticated, not by the decrees of councils or infallible authority, but by such evidence as is thought sufficient in the case of any other ancient writings. They were extensively diffused, and read in every Christian society; they were valued and preserved with care by the first Christians; they were cited by Christian writers of the second, third, and fourth centuries, as Irenxus, Clement the Alexandrian, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, &c.; and their genuineness is proved by the testimony of those who were contemporary with the apostles themselves. The four Gospels, and most of the other books of the New Testament, were collected either by one of the apostles, or some of their disciples and successors, before the end of the first century. The catalogue of canonical books furnished by the more ancient Christian writers, as Origen, about A.D. 210, Eusebius and Athanasius in 315, Epiphanius in 370, Jerome in 382, austin in 394, and many others, agrees with that which is now received among Christians.

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SCRIPTURE

Is a word derived from the Latin scriptura, and in its original sense is of the same import with writing, signifying “any thing written.” It is, however, commonly used to denote the writings of the Old and New Testaments, which are called sometimes the Scriptures, sometimes the sacred or holy Scriptures, and sometimes canonical Scriptures. These books are called the Scriptures by way of eminence, as they are the most important of all writings.–They are said to be holy or sacred on account of the sacred doctrines which they teach; and they are termed canonical, because, when their number and authenticity were ascertained, their names were inserted in ecclesiastical canons, to distinguish them from other books, which, being of no authority, were kept out of sight, and therefore styled apocryphal.

Among other arguments for the divine authority of the Scriptures, the following may be considered as worthy of our attention:

“1. The sacred penmen, the prophets and apostles, were holy, excellent men, and would not–artless, illiterate men, and therefore could not, lay the horrible scheme of deluding mankind. The hope of gain did not influence them, for they were self-denying men, that left all to follow a Master who had not where to lay his head; and whose grand initiating maxim was, Except a man forsake all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.–They were so disinterested, that they secured nothing on earth but hunger and nakedness, stocks and prisons, racks and tortures; which, indeed, was all that they could or did expect, in consequence of Christ’s express declarations. Neither was a desire of honour the motive of their actions; for their Lord himself was treated with the utmost contempt, and had more than once assured them that they should certainly share the same fate: above working as mechanics for a coarse maintenance; and so little desirous of human regard, that they exposed to the world the meanness of their birth and occupations, their great ignorance and scandalous falls. Add to this that they were so many, and lived at such distance of time and place from each other, that, had they been impostors, it would have been impracticable for them to contrive and carry on a forgery without being detected. And, as they neither would nor could deceive the world, so they either could nor would be deceived themselves; for they were days, months, and years, eye and ear-witnesses of the things which they relate; and, when they had not the fullest evidence of important facts, they insisted upon new proofs, and even upon sensible demonstrations; as, for instance, Thomas, in the matter of our Lord’s resurrection, John xx. 25; and to leave us no room to question their sincerity, most of them joyfully sealed the truth of their doctrines with their own blood. Did so many and such marks of veracity ever meet in any other authors?

“2. But even while they lived, they confirmed their testimony by a variety of miracles wrought in divers places, and for a number of years, sometimes before thousands of their enemies, as the miracles of Christ and his disciples; sometimes before hundreds of thousands, as those of Moses.

“3. Reason itself dictates, that nothing but the plainest matter of fact could induce so many thousands of…

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BIBLE

The name applied by Christians by way of eminence, to the collection of sacred writings, or the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

I. Bible, ancient Divisions and Order of. After the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. Ezra collected as many copies as he could of the sacred writings, and out of them all prepared a correct edition, arranging the several books in their proper order. These books he divided into three parts. I. The law. II. The prophets. III. The Hagiographia, i.e. the holy writings. I. The law, contains–1,Genesis;-2, Exodus;—3, Leviticus; -4,Numbers; -5, Deuteronomy. II. The writings of the prophets are-1, Joshua;-2, Judges, with Ruth;-3, Samuel;-4, Kings;-5, Isaiah;-6, Jeremiah, with his Lamentations;-7, Ezekiel;-8, Daniel;-9, The twelve minor prophets;-10,Job;-11, Ezra;-12, Nehemiah;-13, Esther. III. The Hagiographia consists of -1, The Psalms;-2, The Proverbs;-3, Ecclesiastes;-4,The song of Solomon. This division was made for the sake of reducing the number of the sacred books to the number of the letters in their alphabet, which amount to twenty-two. Afterwards the Jews reckoned twenty-four books in their canon of scripture; in disposing of which the law stood as in the former division, and the prophets were distributed into former and latter: the former prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; the latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets. And the Hagiographia consists of the Psalms, the Proverbs, Job, the Song of Solomon, Ruth, the Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, the Chronicles. Under the name of Ezra they comprehend Nehemiah: this order hath not always been observed, but the variations from it are of no moment. The five books of the law are divided into forty-five sections. This division many of the Jews hold to have been appointed by Moses himself; but others, with more probability, ascribe it to Ezra. The design of this division was that one of these sections might be read in their synagogues every sabbath day: the number was fifty-four, because, in their intercalated years, a month being then added, there were fifty-four sabbaths: in other years they reduced them to fifty-two, by twice joining together two short sections. Till the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, they read only the law; but, the reading of it being then prohibited, they substituted in the room of it fifty-four sections out of the prophets; and when the reading of the law was restored by the Maccabees, the section which was read every sabbath out of the law served for their first lesson, and the section out of the prophets for their second. These sections were divided into verses; of which division, if Ezra was not the author, it was introduced not long after him, and seems to have been designed for the use of the Targumists, or Chaldee interpreters; for after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, when the Hebrew language ceased to be their mother tongue, and the Chaldee grew into use instead of it, the custom was, that the law should be first read in the original Hebrew, and then interpreted to the people in the Chaldee language; for which purpose these shorter sections were very convenient.

II. Bible, History of. It is thought that Ezra published the Scriptures in the Chaldee character, for, that language being generally used among the Jews, he thought proper to change the old Hebrew character for it, which hath since that time been retained only by the Samaritans, among whom it is preserved to this day. Prideaux is of opinion that Ezra made additions in several parts of the Bible, where any thing appeared necessary for illustrating, connecting, or completing the work; in which he appears to have been assisted by the same Spirit in which they were first written. Among such additions are to be reckoned the last chapter of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses seems to give an account of his own death and burial, and the succession of Joshua after him. To the same cause our learned author thinks are to be attributed many other interpolations in the Bible, which created difficulties and objections to the authenticity of the sacred text, no ways to be solved without allowing them. Ezra changed the names of several places which were grown obsolete, and, instead of them, put their new names by which they were then called in the text. Thus it is that Abraham is said to have pursued the kings who carried Lot away captive as far as Dan; whereas that place in Moses’ time was called Laish, the name Dan being unknown till the Danites, long after the death of Moses, possessed themselves of it. The Jewish canon of Scripture was then settled by Ezra, yet not so but that several variations have been made in it. Malaachi, for instance, could not be put in the Bible by him, since that prophet is allowed to have lived after Ezra; nor could Nehemiah be there, since that book mentions (chap. 13:22) Jaddua as high priest, and Darius Codomanus as king of Persia, who were at least a hundred years later than Ezra. It may be added, that, in the first book of Chronicles, the genealogy of the…

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LANGUAGE

In general, denotes those articulate sounds by which men express their thoughts. Much has been said respecting the invention of language. On the one side it is observed, that it is altogether a human invention, and that the progress of the mind, in the invention and improvement of language, is, by certain natural gradations, plainly discernible in the composition of words. But on the other side it is alleged, that we are indebted to divine revelation for the origin of it. Without supposing this, we see not how our first parents could so early hold converse with God, or the man with his wife. Admitting, however, that it is of divine original, we cannot suppose that a perfect system of it was all at once given to man. It is much more natural to think that God taught our first parents only such language as suited their present occasion, leaving them, as he did in other things, to enlarge and improve it, as their future necessities should require. Without attempting, however, to decide this controversy, we may consider language as one of the greatest blessings belonging to mankind. Destitute of this we should make but small advancements in science, be lost to all social enjoyments, and religion itself would feel the want of such a power. Our wise Creator, therefore, has conferred upon us this inestimable privilege: let us then be cautious that our tongues be not the vehicle of vain and useless matter, but used for the great end of glorifying him, and doing good to mankind. What was the first language taught man, is matter of dispute among the learned, but most, think it was the Hebrew. But as this subject, and the article in general, belongs more to philology than divinity, we refer the reader to Dr. Adam Smith’s Dissertation on the Formation of Languages; Harris’s Hermes; Warburton’s Divine Legation of Moses, vol. iii. Traite de la Formation Mechanique des Langues, par le President de Brosses; Blair’s Rhetoric, vol. i. lect. vi. Gregory’s Essays, ess. 6. Lord Monboddo on the Origin and Progress of Language.

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REVELATION

The act of revealing or making a thing public that was before unknown; it is also used for the discoveries made by God to his prophets, and by them to the world; and more particularly for the books of the Old and New Testament. A revelation is, in the first place, possible. God may, for any thing we can certainly tell, think proper to make some discovery to his creatures which they knew not before. As he is a being of infinite power, we may be assured he cannot be at a loss for means to communicate his will, and that in such a manner as will sufficiently mark it his own.–2. It is desirable. For, whatever the light of nature could do for man before reason was depraved, it is evident that it has done little for man since. Though reason be necessary to examine the authority of divine revelation, yet, in the present state, it is incapable of giving us proper discoveries of God, the way of salvation, or of bringing us into a state of communion with God. It therefore follows.–3. That it is necessary. Without it we can attain to no certain knowledge of God, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of pardon, of justification, of sanctification, of happiness, of a future state of rewards and punishments.–4. No revelation, as Mr. Brown observes, relative to the redemption of mankind, could answer its respective ends, unless it were sufficiently marked with internal and external evidences. That the Bible hath internal evidence, is evident from the ideas it gives us of God’s perfections, of the law of nature, of redemption, of the state of man, &c. As to its external evidence, it is easily seen by the characters of the men who composed it, the miracles wrought, its success, the fulfillment of its predictions, &c. 5. The contents of revelation are agreeable to reason. It is true there are some things above the reach of reason; but a revelation containing such things is no contradiction, as long as it is not against reason; for if every thing be rejected which cannot be exactly comprehended, we must become unbelievers at once of almost every thing around us. The doctrines, the institutions, the threatenings, the precepts, the promises, of the Bible, are every way reasonable. The matter, form, and exhibition of revelation are consonant with reason.–6. The revelation contained in our Bible is perfectly credible. It is an address to the reason, judgment, and affections of men. The Old Testament abounds with the finest specimens of history, sublimity, and interesting scenes of Providence. The facts of the New Testament are supported by undoubted evidence from enemies and friends. The attestations to the early existence of Christianity are numerous from Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenxus, Justin Martyr, and Tatian, who were Christians; and by Tactitus, Sueton, Serenus, Pliny, &c. who were Heathens.–7. The revelations contained in our Bible are divinely inspired. The matter, the manner, the scope, the predictions, miracles, preservation, &c. &c. all prove this. –8. Revelation is intended for universal benefit. It is a common objection to it, that hitherto it has been confined to few, and therefore could not come from God who is so benevolent; but this mode of arguing will equally hold good against the permission of sin, the inequalities of Providence, the dreadful evils and miseries of mankind which God could have prevented. It must be farther observed, that none deserve a revelation; that men have despised and abused the early revelations he gave to his people. This revelation, we have reason to believe, shall be made known to mankind. Already it is spreading its genuine influence. In the cold regions of the north, in the burning regions of the south, the Bible begins to be known; and, from the predictions it contains, we believe the glorious sun of revelation shall shine and illuminate the whole globe.–9. The effects of revelation which have already taken place in the world have been astonishing. In proportion as the Bible has been known, arts and sciences have been cultivated, peace and liberty have been diffused, civil and moral obligation have been attended to. Nations have emerged from ignorance and barbarity, whole communities have been morally reformed, unnatural practices abolished, and wise laws instituted. Its spiritual effects have been wonderful. Kings and peasants, conquerors and philosophers, the wise and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, have been brought to the foot of the cross; yea, millions have been enlightened, improved, reformed, and made happy by its influences. Let any one deny this, and he must be a hardened, ignorant infidel, indeed. Great is the truth, and must prevail.

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MOLINISTS

A sect in the Romish church who follow the doctrine and sentiments of the Jesuit Molina, relating to sufficient and efficacious grace. He taught that the operations of divine grace were entirely consistent with the freedom of the human will; and introduced a new kind of hypothesis to remove the difficulties attending the doctrines of predestination and liberty, and to reconcile the jarring opinions of Augustines, Thomists, Semi-Pelagians, and other contentious divines. He affirmed that the decree of predestination to eternal glory was founded upon a previous knowledge and consideration of the merits of the elect; that the grace, from whose operation these merits are derived, is not efficacious by its own intrinsic power only, but also by the consent of our own will, and because it is administered in those circumstances in which the Deity, by that branch of his knowledge which is called scientia media, foresees that it will be efficacious. The kind of prescience, denominated in the schools scientia media, is that foreknowledge of future contingents that arises from an acquaintance with the nature and faculties of rational beings, of the circumstances in which they shall be placed, of the objects that shall be presented to them, and of the influence which their circumstances and objects must have on their actions.

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SUBLAPSARIANS

Those who hold that God permitted the first man to fall into transgression without absolutely predetermining his fall; or that the decree of predestination regards man as fallen, by an abuse of that freedom which Adam had, into a state in which all were to be left to necessary and unavoidable ruin, who were not exempted from it by predestination.

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SUPRALAPSARIANS

Persons who hold that God, without any regard to the good or evil works of men, has resolved, by an eternal decree, supra lapsum, antecedently to any knowledge of the fall of Adam, and independently of it, to save some and reject others: or, in other words, that God intended to glorify his justice in the condemnation of some, as well as his mercy in the salvation of others; and, for that purpose, decreed that Adam, should necessarily fall.

Dr. Gill gives us the following account of Supralapsarianism.–The question which he proposes to discuss, is, “Whether men were considered in the mind of God in the decree of election as fallen or unfallen, as in the corrupt mass through the fall, or in the pure mass of creatureship, previous to it, and as to be created?” There are some who think that the latter, so considered, were the objects of election in the divine mind. These are called Supralapsarians, though of these, some are of opinion that man was considered as to be created or creatable, and others as created but not fallen. the former seems best, that, of the vast number of individuals which came up in the divine mind whom his power could create, those whom he meant to bring into being he designed to glorify himself by them in some way or other. The decree of election respecting any part of them, may be distinguished into the decree of the end and the decree of the means. The decree of the end respecting some is either subordinate to their eternal happiness, or ultimate, which is more properly the end, the glory of God; and if both are put together, it is a state of everlasting communion with God, for the glorifying of the riches of his grace. The decree of the means includes the decree to create men to permit them to fall, to recover them out of it through redemption by Christ, to sanctify them by the grace of the Spirit, and completely save them; and which are not to be reckoned as materially many decrees, but as making one formed decree; or they are not to be considered as subordinate, but as co-ordinate means, and as making up one entire complete medium; for it is not to be supposed that God decreed to create man, that he might permit him to fall, in order to redeem, sanctify, and save him; but he decreed all this that he might glorify his grace, mercy, and justice. And in this way of considering the decrees of God, they think that they sufficiently obviate and remove the slanderous calumny cast upon them with respect to the other branch of predestination, which leaves men in the same state when others are chosen, and that for the glory of God. Which calumny is, that, according to them, God made man to damn him; whereas, according to their real sentiments, God decreed to make man, and made man neither to damn him nor save him, but for his own glory, which end is answered in them some way or other.–Again; they argue that the end is first in view before the means, and the decree of the end is, in order of nature, before the decree of the means; and what is first in intention, is last in execution. Now, as the glory of God is last in execution, it must be first in intention, wherefore men must be considered in the decree of the end as not yet created and fallen; since the creation and permission of sin belong to the decree of the means, which in order of nature is after the decree of the end. And they add to this, that if God first decreed to create man, and suffered him to fall, and then out of the fall chose some to grace and glory, he must decree to create man without an end, which is to make God to do what no wise man would; for when a man is about to do any thing, he proposes an end, and then contrives and fixes on ways and means to bring about that end. They think also that this way on conceiving and speaking of these things, best expresses the sovereignty of God in them, as declared in the 9th of Romans, where he is said to will such and such things, for no other reason but because he wills them.

The opponents of this doctrine consider, however, that it is attended with insuperable difficulties. We demand, say they, an explanation of what they mean by this principle. “God hath made all things for his own glory.” If they mean that justice requires a creature to devote himself to the worship and glorifying of his Creator, we grant it; if they mean that the attributes of God are displayed in all his works, we grant this too: but if the proposition be intended to affirm that God had no other view in creating men, so to speak, than his own interest, we deny the proposition, and affirm that God created men for their own happiness, and in order to have subjects upon whom he might bestow favours.

We desire to be informed, in the next place, say they, how it can be conceived that a determination to damn millions of men can contribute to the glory of God? We easily conceive, that it is for the glory of divine justice to punish guilty men: but to resolve to damn men without the consideration of sin, to create them that they might sin, to determine that they should sin in order to their destruction, is what seems to us more likely to tarnish the glory of God than to display it.


Again; we demand how, according to this hypothesis, it can be conceived that God is not the author of sin? In the general scheme of our churches, God only permits men to sin, and it is the abuse of liberty that plunges man into misery: even this principle, all lenified as it seems, is yet subject to a great number of difficulties; but in this scheme, God wills sin to produce the end he proposed in creating the world, and it was necessary that men should sin: God created them for that. If this be not to make God tha author of sin, we must renounce the most distinct and clear ideas.

Again; we require them to reconcile this system with many express declarations of Scripture, which inform us that God would have al men to be saved. How doth it agree with such pressing entreaties, such cutting reproofs, such tender expostulations, as God discovers in regard to the unconverted? Matt. 23:37.

Lastly, we desire to know, how is it possible to conceive a God, who, being in the actual enjoyment of perfect happiness, incomprehensible, and supreme, could determine to add this decree, though useless, to his felicity, to create men without number for the purpose of confining them for ever in the chains of darkness, and burning them for ever in unquenchable flames.

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REPROBATION

The act of abandoning, or state of being abandoned, to eternal destruction, and is applied to that decree or resolve which God has taken from all eternity to punish sinners who shall die in impenitence; in which sense it is opposed to election.

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ELECTION

This word has different meanings. 1. It signifies God’s taking a whole nation, community, or body of men, into external covenant with himself, by giving them the advantage of revelation as the rule of their belief and practice, when other nations are without it, Deut. 7:6.—2. A temporary designation of some person or station in the visible church, or office in civil life, John 6:70. 1 Sam.10:24.–3. That gracious and almighty act of the Divine Spirit, whereby God actually and visibly separates his people from the world by effectual calling, John 15:19.–4. That eternal, sovereign, unconditional, particular, and immutable act of God, whereby he selected some from among all mankind, and of every nation under heaven, to be redeemed and everlastingly saved by Christ, Eph. 1:4. 2 Thess. 2:13.

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PROVIDENCE

The superintendence and care which God exercises over creation. The arguments for the providence of God are generally drawn from the light of nature; the being of a God; the creation of the world; the wonderfully disposing and controlling the affairs and actions of men; from the absolute necessity of it; from the various blessings enjoyed by his creatures; the awful judgments that have been inflicted; and from the astonishing preservation of the Bible and the church through every age, notwithstanding the attempts of earth and hell against them. Providence has been divided into immediate and mediate, ordinary and extraordinary, common and special, universal and particular. Immediate providence is what is exercised by God himself, without the use of any instrument or second cause; mediate providence is what is exercised in the use of means; ordinary providence is what is exercised in the common course of means, and by the chain of second causes; extraordinary is what is out of the common way, as miraculous operations; common providence is what belongs to the whole world; special, what relates to the church; universal relates to the general upholding and preserving all things; particular relates to individuals in every action and circumstance. This last, however, is denied by some. But, as a good writer observes, “The opinion entertained by some that the providence of God extends no farther than to a general superintendence of the laws of nature, without interposing in the particular concerns of individuals, is contrary both to reason and to Scripture. It renders the government of the Almighty altogether loose and contingent, and would leave no ground for reposing any trust under its protection; for the majority of human affairs would then be allowed to fluctuate in a fortuitous course, without moving in any regular direction, and without tending to any one scope. The uniform doctrine of the sacred writings is, that throughout the universe nothing happens without God; that his hand is ever active, and his decree or permission intervenes in all; that nothing is too great or unwieldy for his management, and nothing so minute and inconsiderable as to be below his inspection and care. While he is guiding the sun and moon in their course through the heavens; while in this inferior world he is ruling among empires, stilling the ragings of the waters, and the tumults of the people, he is at the same time watching over the humble good man, who, in the obscurity of his cottage, is serving and worshipping him.”

“In what manner, indeed, Providence interposes in human affairs; by what means it influences the thoughts and counsels of men, and, notwithstanding the influence it exerts, leaves to them the freedom of choice, are subjects of dark and mysterious nature, and which have given occasion to many an intricate controversy. Let us remember, that the manner in which God influences the motion of all the heavenly bodies, the nature of that secret power by which he is ever directing the sun and the moon, the planets, stars, and comets, in their course through the heavens, while they appear to move themselves in a free course, are matters no less inexplicable to us than the manner in which he influences the councils of men. But though the mode of divine operation remains unknown, the fact of an over-ruling influence is equally certain in the moral as it is in the natural world. In cases where the fact is clearly authenticated, we are not at liberty to call its truth in question, merely because we understand not the manner in which it is brought about. Nothing can be more clear, from the testimony of Scripture, than that God takes part in all that happens among mankind; directing and over-ruling the whole course of events so as to make every one of them answer the designs of his wise and righteous government. We cannot, indeed, conceive God acting as the governor of the world at all, unless his government were to extend to all the events that happen. It is upon the supposition of a particular providence that our worship and prayers to him are founded. All his perfections would be utterly insignificant to us, if they were not exercised, on every occasion, according as the circumstances of his creatures required. The Almighty would then be no more than an unconcerned spectator of the behaviour of his subjects, regarding the obedient and the rebellious with an equal eye.

“The experience of every one also, must, more or less, bear testimony to it. We need not for this purpose have recourse to those sudden and unexpected vicissitudes which have sometimes astonished whole nations, and drawn their attention to the conspicuous hand of heaven. We need not appeal to the history of the statesman and the warrior; of the ambitious and the enterprising. We confine our observation to those whose lives have been most plain and simple, and who had no desire to depart from the ordinary train of conduct. In how many instances have we found, that we are held in subjection to a higher Power, on whom depends the accomplishment of our wishes and designs? Fondly we had projected some favourite plan: we thought that we had forecast and provided for all that might happen; we had taken our measures with such vigilant prudence, that on every side we seemed to ourselves perfectly guarded and secure; but, lo! some little event hath come about, unforeseen by us, and in its consequences at the first seemingly inconsiderable, which yet hath turned the whole course of things into a new direction, and blasted all our hopes. At other times our counsels and plans have been permitted to succeed: we then applauded our own wisdom, and sat down to feast on the happiness we had attained. To our surprise we found that happiness was not there, and that God’s decree had appointed it to be only vanity. We labour for prosperity, and obtain it not. Unexpected, it is sometimes made to drop upon us as of its own accord. The happiness of man depends on secret springs too nice and delicate to be adjusted by human art: it required a favourable combination of external circumstances with the state of his own mind. To accomplish on every occasion such a combination, is far beyond his power: but it is what God can at all times effect; as the whole series of external causes are arranged according to his pleasure, and the hearts of all men are in his hands, to turn them wheresoever he will, as rivers of water. From the imperfection of our knowledge to ascertain what is good for us, and from the defect of our power to bring about that good when known, arise all those disappointments which continually testify that the way of man is not in himself; that he is not the master of his own lot; that, though he may devise, it is God who directs; God, who can make the smallest incident an effectual instrument of his providence for overturning the most laboured plans of men.

“Accident, and chance, and fortune, are words which we often hear mentioned, and much is ascribed to them in the life of man. But they are words without meaning; or, as far as they have any signification, they are no other than names for the unknown operations of Providence; for it is certain that in God’s universe nothing comes to pass causelessly, or in vain. Every event has its own determined direction. That chaos of human affairs and intrigues where we can see no light, that mass of disorder and confusion which they often present to our view, is all clearness and order in the sight of Him who is governing and directing all, and bringing forward every event in its due time and place. The Lord sitteth on the flood. The Lord maketh the wrath of man to praise him, as he maketh the hail and the rain obey his word. He hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.”

“To follow the leadings of providence, means no other than to act agreeably to the law of duty, prudence, and safety, or any particular circumstance, according to the direction or determination of the word or law of God. He follows the dictates of Providence, who takes a due survey of the situation he is placed in, compares it with the rules of the word which reaches his case, and acts accordingly. To know the will of God as it respects providence, there must be, 1. Deliberation.–2. Consultation.–3. Supplication. The tokens of the divine will and pleasure in any particular case are not to be gathered from our inclinations, particular frames, the form of Scripture phrases, impulses, nor even the event, as that cannot always be a rule of judgment; but whatever appears to be proper duty, true prudence, or real necessity, that we should esteem to be his will.”

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GOVERNMENT OF GOD

Is the disposal of his creatures, and all events relative to them, according to his infinite justice, power, and wisdom. His moral government is his rendering to every man according to his actions, considered as good or evil.

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DOMINION OF GOD

Is his absolute right to, and authority over, all his creatures, to do with them as he pleases. It is distinguished from his power thus: his dominion is a right of making what he pleases, and possessing what he makes, and of his disposing what he doth possess; whereas his power is an ability to make what he hath a right to create, to hold what he doth possess, and to execute what he hath purposed or resolved.

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CHANCE

A term we apply to events to denote that they happen without any necessary or foreknown cause. When we say a thing happens by chance, we mean no more than that its cause is unknown to us, and not, as some vainly imagine, that chance itself can be the cause of any thing. “The case of the painter,” says Chambers, “who, unable to express the foam at the mouth of the horse he had painted, threw his sponge in despair at the piece, and by chance did that which he could not do before by design, is an eminent instance of what is called chance. Yet it is obvious all we here mean by chance, is, that the painter was not aware of the effect, or that he did not throw the sponge with such a view: not but that he actually did every thing necessary to produce the effect; insomuch that, considering the direction wherein he threw the sponge, together with its form and specific gravity, the colours wherewith it was smeared, and the distance of the hand from the piece, it was impossible, on the present system of things, that the effect should not follow.”–The word, as it is often used by the unthinking, is vague and indeterminate–a mere name for nothing.

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FATE

Denotes an inevitable necessity depending upon a superior cause. The word is formed a fando, “from speaking,” and primarily implies the same with effatum, vis. a word or decree pronounced by God, or a fixed sentence whereby the Deity has prescribed the order of things, and allotted to every person what shall befal him. The Greeks called it as it were a chain or necessary series of things indissolubly linked together. It is also used to express a certain unavoidable designation of things, by which all agents, both necessary and voluntary, are swayed and directed to their ends. Fate is divided into physical and divine. 1. Physical fate is an order and series of natural causes, appropriated to their effects; as, that fire warms; bodies communicate motion to each other, &c.” and the effects of it are all the events and phenomena of nature.–2. Divine fate is what is more usually called providence.

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FOREKNOWLEDGE

Is his foresight or knowledge of every thing that is to come to pass, Acts 2:23. This foreknowledge, says Charnock, was from eternity. Seeing he knows things possible in his power, and things future in his will, if his power and resolves were from eternity, his knowledge must be so too; or else we must make him ignorant of his own power, and ignorant of his own will from eternity, and consequently not from eternity blessed and perfect. His knowledge of possible things must run parallel with his will. If he willed from eternity, he knew from eternity what he willed; but that he did will from eternity we must grant, unless we would render his changeable, and conceive him to be made in time of not willing, willing. The knowledge God hath in time was always one and the same, because his understanding is his proper essence, as perfect as his essence, and of an immutable nature.

“To deny this is, (says Saurin,) to degrade the Almighty; for what, pray, is a God who created beings, and who could not foresee what would result from their existence? A God, who formed spirits united to bodies by certain laws, and who did not know how to combine these laws so as to foresee the effects they would produce? A God forced to suspend his judgment? A God who every day learns something new, and who doth not know to-day what will happen to-morrow? A God who cannot tell whether peace will be concluded or war continue to ravage the world; whether peace will be received in a certain kingdom, or whether it will be banished; whether the right heir will succeed to the crown, or whether the crown will be set on the head of an usurper? For according to the different determinations of the wills of men, of king, or people, the prince will make peace, or declare war; religion will be banished or admitted; the tyrant or the lawful king will occupy the throne: for if God cannot foresee how the volitions of men will be determined, he cannot foresee any of these events. What is this but to degrade God from his Deity, and to make the most perfect of all intelligences a being involved in darkness and uncertainty like ourselves?”

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PRESCIENCE OF GOD

Is his foreknowledge, or that knowledge which God has of things to come. The doctrine of predestination is founded on the prescience of God, and on the supposition of all futurity being present to him. Properly speaking, indeed, prescience follows that of predestination; for if we allow that God from all eternity foresaw all things, he must thus have foreseen them in consequence of his permitting or fore-appointing them. Hence events are not certain merely because foreknown; but foreknown because antecedently certain on account of pre-determining reasons.

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NECESSITY

Whatever is done by a cause or power that is irresistible, in which sense it is opposed to freedom. Man is a necessary agent, if all his actions be so determined by the causes preceding each action, that not one past action could possibly not have come to pass, or have been otherwise than it hath been, nor one future action can possibly not come to pass, or be otherwise than it shall be. On the other hand, it is asserted, that he is a free agent, if he be able at any time, under the causes and circumstances he then is, to do different things; or, in other words, if he be not unavoidably determined in every point of time by the circumstances he is in, and the causes he is under, to do any one thing he does, and not possibly to do any other thing. Whether man is a necessary or a free agent, is a question which has been debated by writers of the first eminence, Hobbes, Collins, Hume, Leibuitz, Kaims, Hartley, Priestley, Edwards, Crombie, Toplady, and Belsham, have written on the side of necessity; while Clarke, King, Law, Reid, Butler, Price, Bryant, Wollaston, Horsley, Beattie, Gregory, and Butterworth, have written against it. To state all their arguments in this place, would take up too much room; suffice it to say, that the Anti- necessarians suppose that the doctrine of necessity charges God as the author of sin; that it takes away the freedom of the will, renders man unaccountable, makes sin to be no evil, or morality or virtue to be no good; precludes the use of means, and is of the most gloomy tendency. The Necessarians deny these to be legitimate consequences, and observe that the Deity acts no more immorally in decreeing vicious actions, than in permitting all those irregularities which he could so easily have prevented. The difficulty is the same on each hypothesis. All necessity, say they, doth not take away freedom. The actions of a man may be at one and the same time free and necessary too. It was infallibly certain that Judas would betray Christ, yet he did it voluntarily. Jesus Christ necessarily became man, and died, yet he acted freely. A good man doth naturally and necessarily love his children, yet voluntarily. It is part of the happiness of the blessed to love God unchangeably, yet freely, for it would not be their happiness if done by compulsion. Nor does it, says the Necessarian, render man unaccountable, since the Divine Being does no injuries to his rational faculties; and man, as his creature, is answerable to him; besides he has a right to do what he will with his own. That necessity doth not render actions less morally good, is evident; for if necessary virtue be neither moral nor praise-worthy, it will follow that God himself is not a moral being, because he is a necessary one; and the obedience of Christ cannot be good because it was necessary. Farther, say they, necessity does not preclude the use of means; for means are no less appointed than the end. It was ordained that Christ should be delivered up to death; but he could not have been betrayed without a betrayer, nor crucified without crucifiers. That it is not a gloomy doctrine, they allege, because nothing can be more consolatory than to believe that all things are under the direction of an all-wise Being; that his kingdom ruleth over all, and that he doth all things well. So far from its being inimical to happiness, they suppose there can be no solid true happiness without the belief of it; that happiness without the belief of it; that it inspires gratitude, excites confidence, teaches resignation, produces humility, and draws the soul to God. It is also observed, that to deny necessity is to deny the foreknowledge of God, and to wrest the sceptre from the hand of the Creator, and to place that capricious and undefinable principle.–The self-determining power of man, upon the throne of the universe. Beside, say they, the Scripture places the doctrine beyond all doubt, Job 23:13, 14. Job 34:29. Prov. 16:4. Is. 45:7. Acts 13:48. Eph. 1:11. 1 Thess. 3:3. Matt. 10:29, 30. Matt. 18:7. Luke 24:26. John 6:37.

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DECREES OF GOD

Are his settled purposes, whereby he foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, Dan. 4:24. Acts 15:18. Eph. 1:11. This doctrine is the subject of one of the most perplexing controversies that has occurred among mankind; it is not, however, as some think, a novel doctrine. The opinion, that whatever occurs in the world at large, or in the lot of private individuals, is the result of a previous and unalterable arrangement by that Supreme Power which presides over Nature, has always been held by many of the vulgar, and has been believed by speculative men. The ancient stoics, Zeno and Chrysippus, whom the Jewish Essenes seem to have followed, asserted the existence of a Deity, that, acting wisely but necessarily, contrived the general system of the world; from which, by a series of causes, whatever is now done in it unavoidable results. Mahomet introduced into his Kiran the doctrine of absolute predestination of the course of human affairs. He represented life and death, prosperity and adversity, and every event that befalls a man in this world, as the result of a previous determination of the one God who rules over all. Augustine and the whole of the earliest reformers, but especially Calvin, favoured this doctrine. It was generally asserted, and publicly owned, in most of the confessions of faith of the reformed churches, and particularly in the church of England; and to this, we may add, that it was maintained by a great number of divines in the last two centuries.

As to the nature of these decrees, it must be observed that they are not the result of deliberation, or the Almighty’s debating matters within himself, reasoning in his own mind about the expediency or inexpediency of things, as creatures do; nor are they merely ideas of things future, but settled determinations founded on his sovereign will and pleasure, Isa. 40:14. They are to be considered as eternal: this is evident; for if God be eternal, consequently his purposes must be of equal duration with himself: to suppose otherwise, would be to suppose that there was a time when he was undetermined and mutable; whereas no new determinations or after thoughts can arise in his mind, Job 23:13,14.—2. They are free, without any compulsion, and not excited by any motive out of himself, Rom 9:15.—3. They are infinitely wise, displaying his glory, and promoting the general good, Rom. 11:33.—4. They are immutable, for this is the result of his being infinitely perfect; for if there were the least change in God’s understanding, it would be an instance of imperfection, Mal. 3:6.—5. They are extensive or universal, relating to all creatures and things in heaven, earth, and hell, Eph. 1:11. Prov. 16:4.—6. They are secret, or at least cannot be known till he be pleased to discover them. It is therefore presumption for any to attempt to enter into or judge of what he has not revealed, Deut. 29:29. Nor is an unknown or supposed decree at any time to be the rule of our conduct. His revealed will alone, must be considered as the rule by which we are to judge of the event of things, as well as of our conduct at large, Rom. 11:34.—7. Lastly, they are effectual; for as he is infinitely wise to plan, so he is infinitely powerful to perform: his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure, Isa. 46:10.

This doctrine should teach us, 1. Admiration. “He is the rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he,” Deut. 32:4.—2. Reverence. “Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain,” Jer. 10:7.—3. Humility. “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. 11:33.—4. Submission. “For he doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Dan. 4:35.—5. Desire for heaven. “What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter,” John 13:7.

Decrees of Councils are the laws made by them to regulate the doctrine and policy of the Church. Thus the acts of the Christian council at Jerusalem are called, Acts. 16:4.

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WILL OF GOD

Is taken, 1. For that which he has from all eternity determined, which is unchangeable, and must certainly come to pass; this is called his secret will.–2. It is taken for what he has prescribed to us in his word as a rule of duty: this is called his revealed will. A question of very great importance respecting our duty deserves here to be considered. The question is this: “How may a person who is desirous of following the dictates of Providence in every respect, know the mind and will of God in any particular circumstance, whether temporal or spiritual?

Now, in order to come at the knowledge of that which is proper and needful for us to be acquainted with, we are taught by prudence and conscience to make use of, 1. Deliberation.–2. Consultation.–3. Supplication; but, 1. We should not make our inclinations the rule of our conduct.–2. We should not make our particular frames the rule of our judgment and determination.–3. We are not to be guided by any unaccountable impulses and impressions.–4. We must not make the event our rule of judgment.

1. Unless something different from our present situation offer itself to our serious consideration, we are not to be desirous of changing our state, except it is unprofitable or unlawful.–2. When an alteration of circumstance is proposed to us, or Providence lays two or more things before our eyes, we should endeavour to take a distinct view of each case, compare them with one another, and then determine by such maxims as these:–Of two natural evils choose the least; of two moral evils choose neither; of two moral or spiritual good things choose the greatest.–3. When upon due consideration, nothing appears in the necessity of the case or the leadings of Providence to make the way clear, we must not hurry Providence, but remain in a state of suspense; or abide where we are, waiting upon the Lord in the way of his providence. In all cases, it should be our perpetual concern to keep as much as possible out of the way of temptation to omit any duty, or commit any sin. We should endeavour to keep up a reverence for the word and providence of God upon our hearts, and to have a steady eye to his glory, and to behold God in covenant, as managing every providential circumstance in subserviency to his gracious purposes in Christ Jesus.”

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PREDESTINATION

Is the decree of God, whereby he hath for his own glory fore-ordained whatever comes to pass. The verb predestinate is of Latin original (praedestino,) and signifies in that tongue to deliberate before-hand with one’s self how one shall act, and, in consequence of such deliberation, to constitute, fore-ordain, and predetermine, where, when, how, and by whom any thing shall be done, and to what end it shall be done. So the Greek word whish exactly answers to the English word predestinate, and is rendered by it, signifies to resolve before-hand with one’s self what shall be done, and before the thing resolved on is actually effected; to appoint it to some certain use, and direct it to some determinate end. This doctrine has been the occasion of considerable disputes and controversies among divines. On the one side it has be observed, that it is impossible to reconcile it with our ideas of the justice and goodness of God, that it makes God to be the author of sin, destroys moral distinction, and renders all our efforts useless. Predestinarians deny these consequences, and endeavour to prove this doctrine from the consideration of the perfections of the divine nature, and from Scripture testimony. If his knowledge, say they, be infinite and unchangeable, he must have known every thing from eternity. If we allow the attribute of prescience, the idea of a decree must certainly be believed also, for how can an action that is really to come to pass be foreseen, if it be not determined? God knew every thing from the beginning; but this he could not have known if he had not so determined it. If, also, God be infinitely wise, it cannot be conceived that he would leave things at random, and have no plan. He is a God of order, and this order he observes as strictly in the moral as in the natural world, however conceived otherwise of God, is to degrade him, and is an insult to his perfections. If he, then, be wise and unchangeable, no new idea or purpose can arise in his mind; no alteration of his plan can take place, upon condition of his creatures acting in this or that way. To say that this doctrine makes him the author of sin, is not justifiable. We all allow omnipotence to be an attribute of Deity, and that by this attribute he could have prevented sin from entering into the world, had he chosen it; yet we see he did not. Now he is no more the author of sin in one case than the other. May we not ask, Why does he suffer those inequalities of Providence? Why permit whole nations to lie in idolatry or ages? Why leave men to the most cruel barbarities? Why punish the sins of the fathers in the children? In a word, Why permit the world at large to be subject to pains, crosses, losses, evils of every kind, and that for so many thousands of years? And, yet, will any dare call the Deity unjust? The fact is, our finite minds know but little of the nature of divine justice, or any other of his attributes. But, supposing there are difficulties in this subject (and what subject is without it?) the Scripture abounds with passages which at once prove the doctrine, Matt. 25:34. Rom. 8:29, 30. Eph. 1:3, 6, 11. 2 Tim. 1:9. 2 Thess. 2:13. 1 Pet. 1:1, 2. John 6:37. John 17:2 to 24. Rev. 13:8. Rev. 17:8. Dan. 4:35. 1 Thess. 5:19. Matt. 11:26. Exod. 4:21. Prov. 16:4. Acts 13:48. the moral uses of this doctrine are these. 1. It hides pride from man.–2. Excludes the idea of chance.–3. Exalts the grace of God.–4. Renders salvation certain.–5. Affords believers great consolation.

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SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

Is his power and right of dominion over his creatures, to dispose and determine them as seemeth him good. This attribute is evidently demonstrated in the systems of creation, providence, and grace; and may be considered as absolute, universal, and everlasting, Dan. 4:35. Eph. 1:11.

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