תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

brious and vile, and his sentiments represented as a compound of blasphemy and madness. The remark, made by Mr. Pope, seems not to have been without foundation :

" One thinks, on Calvin, Heaven's own spirit fell ;
Another deems him instrument of hell.
If Calvin feels Heaver's blessing, or its rod,
This cries there is, and that, there is no God."*

If the panegyrics of his admirers have been somewhat extravagant, it must be allowed, that the unmeasured censures of some of the opposers of his system, have been not only unjust, but rancorous; and often pronounced with little previous knowledge of the doctrines he embraced and taught. All who are competent and impartial judges will allow, that his natural powers were of a high order; that his learning was great and various; that his eloquence was strong and attractive; that his piety was fervent; that his virtue was disinterested and exemplary; and that his labours in the cause of religion were unwearied, and almost unexampled. On the other hand, his fondness for systematic divinity made him, sometimes, perhaps, adopt conclusions, without sufficiently examining the premises on which they were founded; and in filling up his Institutes of Christianity, some of the harsher parts may be supposed to have been introduced, to fill up, and to give a rotundity to the great outlines of the system, which are, unquestionably, the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel. The unrelenting spirit of persecution which Calvin had imbibed, and which he showed in bringing the wretched Servetus to the flames, for deny.

* Essay on Man, Epistle 14.

ing the Divinity of Christ, is the only foul blot that stains his character. But, though the circumstance forms no apology for his intolerant principles and conduct, it is but just it should be remembered, that Queen Elizabeth, that her successor, James I, and that Cranmer, were chargeable with similar acts of atrocious cruelty and injustice.

The orthodox religious world is divided into two great bodies, the followers of Calvin, who are called Calvinists, from their embracing either the whole, or from their embracing a distinguishing part of the doctrines taught by that divine; and the followers of Arminius, a disciple of Beza, and a celebrated professor of divinity, at Leyden. The ground in dispute between these two parties, has often been gone over, and every inch of it keenly attacked and defended, and much unhallowed censure, invective, and recrimination, have been thrown by the parties upon each other: as if both parties, while they debated about the truths of Christianity, had agreed, in contending for their respective systems, to forget the meekness and gentleness of Christ. They have, likewise, in various instances, by their mis-statements of one another's sentiments, so entangled and perplexed the controversy, that it is no easy thing for the observers to ascertain, what is Calvinism, or what is Arminianism.

When the controversy first began to be agitated between the contending parties, it commonly obtained the name of the Quinquarticular Controversy, because the leading tenets of Calvinism comprehended these five things:- Particular Election, Particular Redemption, the Moral Inability and Condemnation of Man in his Fallen State ; Irresistible Grace; and the final Perseverance of the Saints. The first of these points, we find thus stated

by Mr. Adams, and Mr. Evans. " That God has chosen a certain number in Christ, to everlasting glory, before the foundation of the world, according to his immutable purpose, and of his free grace and love, without the least foresight of faith, good works, or any conditions performed by the creatures, and that the rest of mankind he was pleased to pass by, and ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sins, to the praise of his vindictive justice.” Mr. Adams refers, in a note, to the third chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Now impartiality requires it should be stated, that according to this representation, Calvinists are made to deny God's foresight of faith and good works, whereas, it is a doctrine of all Calvinists, that God hath chosen his elect people to faith and good works, which necessarily supposes his foresight of both, and his certain provision for both. To the accurate statement of the doctrine of Calvinists, the words left out should have been inserted thus :“ Without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto.This is the statement of the Westminster Confession, and is very different from the garbled account given of it. The two last words of the sentence are not in the Confession Instead of “vindictive justice," the words are “ glorious justice.” All writers should, on controverted subjects, quote accurately, and from authentic and public documents. The words, vindictive justice, seem harsh, though they have been used by some Calvinists. Mr. Fuller observes, on this subject -- I believe it is very common for people, when they speak of vindictive punishment, to mean that kind of punishment which is inflicted from a wrathful disposition, or a disposition to

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

punish, for the pleasure of punishing, Now if this be
the meaning of our opponents, we have no dispute with
them. We do not suppose the Almighty to punish sin-
ners, for the sake of putting them to pain. Neither the
language of Scripture, nor the system of Calvinists con-
veys any such idea. Vindictive punishment, as it is here
defended, stands opposed to that punishment which is
merely corrective; the one is exercised for the good of
the party, the other not so, but for the good of the com-
munity."*

The Westminster Confession certainly contains the doc-
trine of Reprobation, though it does not use the word,
and with the exception of the two words we have men-
tioned, the quotation is fair enough. It is also certain
that Calvin, in his Institutes, teaches the same doctrine
(Liber. 3). Of modern Calvinists, some seem to think that
this, or something like it, is a legitimate inference from the
doctrine of Particular Election. They think that the
chusing of some, necessarily supposes the passing by of
others. It has been stated that the word reprobation
is not found in Scripture, por any original word an.
swering to it; and that reprobate, and reprobates are
never used with relation to this subject. The opposite to
elect, and election, ought not, therefore, to be called re-
probation ; but some other word should be employed to
convey the idea. Some have used the term preterition,
which is more exactly expressive of our meaning; but
neither is this scriptural. The truth is, the Scriptures
say a great deal about the elect and election, and predes-
tination to life, but are nearly silent as to those who are
not chosen unto salvation.” “ If Calvinists had been as

Calvinistical and Socinian Systems Compared, Lcttcr vII.

reserved in speaking on the awful subject, as the sacred writers are, only dropping a few occasional intimations in respect of it; probably it would have abated the odium which, by some means or other, has been attached to these sentiments.”*

Other modern Calvinists, who believe in the doctrine of Particular Election, entirely separate it from any decree of reprobation, or of preterition. To the argument, that Particular Election includes any decree of this kind, a respectable writer replies, “ That it takes for granted, what can never be proved, that non-election implies a decree. Non-election is a negative idea, not electing; but to decree a negative is as absurd as to decree nothing; or to decree not to decree. The notion of decreeing to permit, involves the same absurdity; for to permit in this connexion, is not to hinder; but to decree not to hinder, is the same as to decree to do nothing; or as before, to decree not to decree. The fallacy consists in the supposition that non-election is a positive idea, and therefore requires a positive determination, by way of decree. The truth of the case is, that on the supposition" (he argues upon the supposition, that the number of mankind were two millions, and of these one million only elected) “of one million being elected to holiness, as the means, and happiness as the end, the other million is not elected to holiness and happiness. These two things are as opposite, as doing, and not doing; but to suppose an infinitely perfect being to decree what he does not do, is incompatible; for it supposes him to decree to do what he decrees not to do. It is indeed, perfectly scriptural

[ocr errors]

• Mr. Scott's Remarks on Bisliop Tomline's Refutation of Calvinism, p. p. 151, 155, 156, Vol. 2,

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »