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I denied it, and exhorted all who had circulated such reports, that they commit to memory without delay, the ninth commandment, which is, · Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.'
The note, which once more must go into type, is as follows :“I am aware that Calvinists are represented as believing and teaching the monstrous doctrine that infants are damned, and that hell is doubtless paved with their bones. But having passed the age of fifty, and been conversant for thirty years with the most approved Calvinistic writers, and personally acquainted with many of the most distinguished Calvinistic divines in New England, and in the middle and southern and western states, I must say that I have never seen or heard of any book which contained such a sentiment, nor a man, minister or layman, who believed or taught it. And I feel authorised to say, that Calvinists as a body, are as far from teaching the doctrine of infant damnation, as any of those who falsely accuse them. And I would earnestly and affectionately recommend to all persons who have been accustomed to propagate this slander, that they commit to memory without delay, the ninth commandment, which is,“ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
This note contains the following particulars :
1. A recognition of the fact that Calvinists are represented as believing and teaching, that infants are damned.
2. Reasons for believing the charge to be slanderous, viz. that “ I have been conversant for thirty years with the most approved Calvinistic writers, and personally acquainted with many of the most approved Calvinistic divines in New England, and in the southern and western states, and I have never seen or heard of any book which contained such a sentiment, nor a man, minister or layman, who believed or taught it.”
3. The inference from these premises,—that Calvinists, as a body, do no more teach the doctrine of infant damnation than those who slander them.
4. The recommendation, that all who charge Calvinists with holding the doctrine, commit to memory the ninth commandment, which is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.'
In the note, no denomination or person in particular, is charged with having borne false witness, but it is asserted merely, that it has been done by somebody, and that whoever has done it, has been guilty of false witness against the great body of Calvinists.
The reviewer acknowledges himself to be implicated in the charge of bearing false witness against his neighbor, the serious charge of falsehood and slander, and in duty bound to come out in self-defence.
The defence consisted in quotations from Calvinistic authors ancient and modern, to prove,
1. That the doctrine is a vital and inseparable part of the Calvinistic system.
2. That approved Calvinistic writers, such as I ought to have seen, teach it.
Now as my note certainly does charge somebody with slandering living Calvinists, and as the reviewer admits himself implicated in the charge contained in the note, without any qualification, limitation or exception, I really understood him to admit, that he had charged the living Calvinistic party, with holding the doctrine, and that his reference to the system, and to writers, was intended as proof of the sentiments of the living party on that point. Whether it was my fault or the reviewer's, that I so understood him, may appear in the sequel. But thus, most assuredly, I did understand him; and, of course, knowing the charge to be false, and perceiving the proof to be irrelevant and vain, I did indeed, in my reply, speak in a tone of rebuke which no slight violation of religious rights and moral rectitude would demand.
In the course of my reply I attempted to show,
1. That the Calvinistic system does not teach nor imply that infants are damned.
2. That it has never been a doctrine received by the churches, denominated Calvinistic.
3. That the quotations from most approved writers, do not contain the doctrine. And,
4. That if they did contain it, this would be no evidence of the opinions on that point of the existing Calvinistic party : Because no author represents, in all respects, the party to which he belongs; and because, as the reviewer well knew, the Calvinists of New England, and extensively through the nation, do not hold to those views of imputation, from which he attempted to infer the doctrine.
In his reply to my letters, the reviewer charges me with wilsully evading and changing the point in debate, which was not, as he insists, Do the living Calvinistic party hold to the doctrine of infant damnation ? but, “ Has the doctrine that infants are damned, been held by approved Calvinistic writers ? Is it a part of the Calvinistic system ?" Christian Examiner, Vol. v. No. iii. p. 23).
Now if this be so ; if the reviewer, and others in whose defence he came out, had not, before the writing of the note, charged the living Calvinistic party with holding the doctrine ; if my note contains no charge against any for slandering the living, and only for slandering the Calvinistic system, and most approved writers; and if the reviewer had no intention to convict living Calvinists, by showing that the system contains, and approved writers teach, the doctrine of infant damnation, and meant only to repel the charge of slandering his neighbor, the Calvinistic system, and the most approved Calvinistic writers; then, however strange it may seem that he should understand me to call the Calvinistic system his neighbor, and ancient Calvinistic writers his neighbors; yet, if it be so, I must admit that I have been disquieted in vain, and that the shot, which have swept over the ground which I supposed the reviewer to occupy, have only given demonstration of what destruction he had met with, had he been there, and
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what a mercy it is that he was not there. If, also, I have knowingly attempted “to evade the question at issue, by a frequent and fretful shifting of positions,” and attempted “ to change the whole bearing of the controversy ;" then, no terms of reproach, which selfrespect might permit the reviewer to use, would be undeserved by me. For, Sir, I hold it to be wrong to contend for victory against the truth; and as dishonorable as it is immoral : and it is my desire that this sentiment may predominate on both sides of the controversy.
The points of dispute between myself and the reviewer are now manifest.
My claim is, that my note, since he has taken the charge it contains to himself, does charge him with having slandered the living Calvinistic party, in representing that they hold the doctrine of infant damnation; and that, in his reply to that note, he did design and attempt to prove this charge against the living party to be true, by his attempts to prove it to be a doctrine of the system and of approved writers.
The claim of the reviewer is, that he did not mean to admit, that he had accused the living party of holding that infants are damned, and did not attempt to prove that they do hold it: That he understood me in my note to charge him with slandering the Calvinistic system, and most approved Calvinistic writers, and attempted to defend himself against this charge only.
The following considerations convince me, that I understood the point in debate correctly, and that the reviewer did set out to vindicate himself from the charge of slandering living Calvinists, by proving from their system and writers, that they hold the doctrine.
1. I had no temptation when my note was written, to charge any one, with bearing false witness against the Calvinistic system, or Calvinistic writers. With the accusation in that form, I did not feel myself particularly concerned.
2. I had just occasion to charge somebody with bearing false witness against living Calvinists; because to my certain knowledge, they were slandered as holding to the damnation of infants, and the slander was extensively believed, and was producing, as might have been expected, great prejudice and aversion.
3. It was my deliberate intention, in that note, to charge living men, with slandering living men.
4. The language of the note contains such a charge.
The phrases • Calvinists are accused, and Calvinists are as far from teaching as those who accuse them,' include living Calvinists primarily, and unless there be something to exclude the living, and to extend the words to Calvinists of past ages, they refer to the living exclusively, and only.
5. There is nothing in the note, to turn the charge of false wit
ness from living Calvinists, to the Calvinistic system, or to Calvinistic writers. The Calvinistic system is not named nor alluded to in the note, nor is there in it any charge, that Calvinistic writers have been slandered. The charge is that “ Calvinists are represented," and that “ Calvinists, as a body, are as far from teaching" &c. The allusion to writers is not in the form of a charge, but is in the form of evidence, that Calvinists, and Calvinists as a body, have been falsely accused. There is no charge in the note, of slandering the Calvinistic system, or Calvinistic writers. If this then was, in the opinion of the reviewer, the point in debate, it is a point of his own setting up, not mine.
6. No authorized use of terms can justify the reviewer in understanding me to mean the Calvinistic system, and Calvinistic writers, as the neighbors whom I accuse him of slandering. In what possible sense is the Calvinistic system his neighbor? And where is the “usus loquendi,"which would lead the reviewer to call Calvinistic writers his neighbors ? It would be a stretch of imagination, to call persons of far distant ages our neighbors; and next to a miracle, I should think, that the terms of my note should exclude living Calvinists from the mind of the reviewer, as those whom he is charged with slandering, and thrust in, the Calvinistic system and Calvinistic writers.
7. These difficulties are increased, when we consider that the reviewer certainly did understand my note as charging him with slandering the living Calvinistic party. His own words are, “ If Dr. B. had merely told us that he did not believe it,” (the doctrine of infant damnation,) &c. “ But to deny it in the name of a party whose accredited organ he would fain be considered, &c. Ah! the reviewer then understood me to deny that the Calvinistic party, whom I affect to represent, hold to the doctrine of infant damnation; and, of course, he did understand me to charge him with bearing false witness against living Calvinistic men ; for he says, that I venture to “ speak in behalf of the whole Calvinistic party of past and present times;" of course, then, he understood me to charge him with slandering the whole Calvinistic party of the present as well as past times. And once more, he says, I was
equally explicit in my disclaimer both in respect to the living and the dead.' He understood me, therefore, to charge him as explicitly with slandering the living as the dead.
The facts in the case, then, by the reviewer's own showing, are as follows:
1. He understood me to charge him with slandering the whole Calvinistic party of present times, as well as the system and writers.
2. He felt in duty bound to deny, and defend himself against
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one part of the charge, that which respected the system and approved writers, but has not denied, nor attempted to defend himself against the charge of falsehood and slander, in respect to the whole Calvinistic party of present times, and has even given his reasons for not doing it : "Because it would decoy him on to a more unpromising part of the field;' because the question respecting the opinions of living Calvinists is a “more doubtful one;" because he was not “ bound to go from house to house and catechise the Orthodox of Boston and vicinity touching their soundness in the faith of their master;" because, in the present controversy, “we have not yet undertaken, nor do we feel it to be our duty, to prove what we knew from the beginning it was impracticable to ascertain," a point which we never touched, “ a question which we left untouched, as we found it."
We honor his prudence, but we cannot but think his knowing himself unable to prove it should have been a reason for not making the charge.
But why did the reviewer leave the question untouched? Was he not as really charged with slandering the living as the dead ? Is it not as criminal to slander the whole Calvinistic party of the present age, as to slander the Calvinistic system and Calvinistic writers? If the reviewer had never made such a charge against the whole Calvinistic party of the present age, did he not owe it as much to himself to say so, as to defend himself against what he considered a false imputation of slandering the system and writers ? If he had made this charge against the whole present party, was he not as much in duty bound to prove it, if he could, as in the other case ? and by every principle of honor and religion bound to retract the charge, if he could not prove it? Why, then, has the reviewer passed over in silence the charge of slandering the whole Calvinistic party of the present age? à charge which, it seems, he understood and passed over by design.
3. The question presses the harder, if we consider that the Christian Disciple, several years before my note was written, did publicly and expressly charge the whole Calvinistic party of the present age with holding the doctrine of infant damnation. The words are, that insant damnation “is a doctrine which follows necessarily from the Calvinistic system, and which would now be insisted on by all real and consistent Calvinists, if they thought their people would bear it ;" and that this charge is extracted and repeated in the review of my note, without retraction, and in a way which implies a repetition of the charge.
The facts in the case then stand thus :
The Christian Disciple had publicly charged all real consistent Calvinists with holding the doctrine of infant damnation.
In my note, I deny the truth of such a charge and call it a slander.