Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On Predestination

The following poem appeared in The Continental Journal on March 11, 1779. It was entitled “On Predestination.”

If all things succeed as already agreed,

And immutable impulses rule us;

To preach and to pray, is but time thrown away,

And our teachers do nothing but fool us.

If we’re driven by fate, either this way or that,

As the carman whips up his horses,

Then no man can stray --- all go the right way,

As the stars that are fix’d in their courses.

But if by free will, we can go or stand still,

As best suits the present occasion;

Then fill up the glass, and confirm him an ass

That depends upon Predestination.

Two weeks the same newspaper published an answer by another writer:

If an all perfect mind rules over mankind,

With infinite wisdom and power;

Sure he may decree, and yet the will be free,

The deeds and events of each hour.

If scripture affirms in the plainest of terms,

The doctrine of Predestination;

We ought to believe it, and humbly receive it,

As a truth of divine revelation.

If all things advance with the force of mere chance,

Or by human free will are directed;

To preach and to pray, will be time thrown away,

Our teachers may be well rejected.

If men are deprav’d, and to vice so enslav’d,

That the heart chuses nothing but evil;

Then who goes on still by his own corrupt will,

Is driving post haste to the devil.

Then let human pride and vain cavil subside,

It is plain to a full demonstration,

That he’s a wild ass, who over his glass,

Dares ridicule Predestination.

[Cited by Charles W. Akers, “Calvinism and the American Revolution,” in The Heritage of John Calvin: Lectures, ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 170-171. Thanks to this lecture by Sam Storms for the reference.]