« ElőzőTovább »
THE REFUTATION, &c.
REMARKS ON CHAPTER IV.
ON UNIVERSAL RedemPTION, ELECTION, AND
REPROBATION. I Purpose to be something more general in my remarks on this chapter, than on the preceding: as only a part of that body, whose cause I advocate, coincide with me in judgment on the subject of it. Yet many remarks must be made, on the misapprehensions which are formed of our doctrines. Whether these be true or false, we have a right to fair and impartial treatment; and certainly ought not to be misrepresented : indeed, if our opinions be openly avowed, in clear and intelligible language, they ought not to be misunderstood. No one can, without violating the golden rule, (“Whatsover ye would that men should do unto
do even so unto them,") write against us, till he has carefully perused our works, and does indeed know what we do hold, and what we do not : but if this had been adhered to, much labour might have been spared on both sides. Though, for reasons, which will afterwards appear, I do not willingly assume, or even
receive, the name of Calvinist : yet I fully avow, that I believe and maintain the leading doctrines, which are generally, though inaccurately, called Calvinistical.
P. clxxxiv. • The doctrine, &c." I am not fully competent to say, exactly, what Calvin held or opposed : but were he now living, he would, I am confident, have some remarks to make on this statement of his sentiments. He would, for instance, object to the clause, without the possibility of attaining salvation :' because the language implies, that some, at least, of the non-elect, are truly desirous of the salvation revealed in the gospel, and disposed to use earnestness and diligence, in all means of attaining it; exerting themselves to the utmost, using all needful self-denial, and parting with whatever they are required to renounce: and yet, are excluded and perish everlastingly, through a natural impossibility, unconnected with their own, sin and depravity. Whereas Calvin held, as most modern Calvinists do, and as we think, the apostles, and the Lord himself did ; that there is no impossibility, except that which arises, from the unwillingness of men to accept of the humbling and holy salvation of Christ, through the pride, selfishness, and enmity to God, which is seated in the human heart : and that this unwillingness constitutes a moral inability, wbich nothing, except regeneration, a new creation unto holiness, can remove: that this act of omnia potence, in “ quickening the dead in sin," is no debt due to a rebel ; that “ as the wind bloweth " as it listeth-so is every one that is born of “God;" that “ he doeth all things according to the “ counsel of his own will:" and, for reasons infinitely wise, holy, just, and good, though not revealed to as, does work in one man, by his preventing grace, this great change; and does not work it in another. The one becomes willing; and the other remains unwilling, to be saved in the way, which God has appointed, for his own glory. “ If any man thirst," says the Redeemer, “ Let him come to me and "drink.” We give the same invitation, and so did Calvin, without in the least thinking it inconsistent, with “ the secret things, which belong to the LORD "oor God."
1 The doctrine of universal redemption, namely, that the • benefits of Christ's passion extend to the whole human race ;
or, that every man is enabled to attain salvation through the • merits of Christ, was directly opposed by Calvin, who main
tained, that God from all eternity decreed that certaio indivi• duals of the human race should be saved, and that the rest of
mankind should perish everlastingly, without the possibility of attaining salvation. These decrees of election and reprobation
Again, Calvin would have said, all men alike are " by nature children of wrath,” and “ vessels of « wrath fitted for destruction :" but he would not have said, all men are equally deserving of punish'ment from God:' for he would have allowed, that
suppose all men to be in the same condition in consequence of Adam's fall, equally deserving of punishment from God, and equally unable of thertiselves to avoid it; and that God, by his own arbitrary will, selects a small number of persons, without respect to foreseen Faith or good works, and infallibly ordains to bestow upon them eternal happiness through the merits of Christ, while the greater part of mankind are infallibly doomed to soffer eternal misery.'
some are vastly more criminal, than others; and that some will “ be beaten with few, and others with
many stripes :” though none beyond what they justly deserve.
It will appear, when we come to the quotations from Calvin,' that he did hold some opinions, which I, for one of the body now called Calvinists, cannot approve: but Calvin, if alive, would indignantly object to the expression, arbitrary will, as spoken by bim of the only wise God. Arbitrary will, in the common use of words, means the will of one, who is determined to have his own way, being possessed of power to enforce his decisions.
• Sic volo, sic jubeo; stet pro ratione voluntas. This, in general, is unreasonable, capricious, tyrannical ; often, in direct opposition to wisdom, justice, truth, goodness, or mercy. Such thoughts of God's sovereignty were far removed from Calvin's views of the subject ; and so they are from ours. God does not, indeed, inform us of the reasons and motives of his decrees, or dispensations: but he assures us, that he is "right“ eous in all his ways, and holy in all his works;" that “ all his works are done in wisdom;" that “ God is Love." We cannot indeed see the wisdom, justice, truth, and goodness, of many things, which undeniably he does : and it is not wonderful, that his decrees are a depth, which we cannot fathom: but faith takes it for granted, that " righteousness “and judgment are the basis of his throne,” even wlien - clouds and darkness are round about him."
In the mysterious and awful subject before us, we cannot see the reasons, which induce the only wise God, the God of holiness and love, to choose one, in preference to another, or to new create one, rather than another : but let it not be supposed, that there is no reason, or no adequate reason. Now, if it consist with infinite wisdom and perfection, to change the heart of one man, and not that of another: how does it alter the case, whether we suppose, that, being infinite in knowledge and foreknowledge, he determined to do this from all eternity; or whether he formed the determination, at the moment when he effected it. On the other hand, if, either in the present dispensations of God, or in the decisions of the great day, any thing be done, inconsistent with perfect wisdom, justice, truth, and love; will the circumstance, that it was not predestinated, make any difference, in the opinion to be formed of it? No doubt Calvin would have allowed, as some of us allow, that God selects' a number of persons, (how large we know not,) ! without
respect to foreseen faith or good works ;' (both faith and good works being the consequences, not the causes, of his choice;) and infallibly, &c.'—But whether a greater part of mankind shall perish; and the sense, in which these are infallibly doomed to suffer eternal misery, are subjects, which Calvin, if living, would explain more fully, and with many distinctions, before he would admit them to be a part of his creed. I feel, however, a consciousness of presumption, in venturing to speak of what so eminent and able a theologian, would, or would not, have admitted.