On Calvinism Part 4

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[1] Dr. Griffin in his "Lectures on Important Doctrines," broadly charges the rejectors of Calvinism with embracing _another Gospel_, and with being on the high road to infidelity. "And when they have gone this length," he says, "in frittering away man's dependence on grace, they are just prepared to place him completely on his own works, to deny justification by faith, and of course, the proper influence of the atonement; short of this these systems never stop: and when they have gone thus far, there is but one step to a denial of the divinity of Christ and the infinite demerit of sin. The next step is _universalism_, and the next _infidelity_." Every intelligent reader will know how to appreciate this senseless dogmatism. The infidel might with equal propriety charge the professors of Scriptural Christianity with being on the high road to Calvinism, and prepared, by their faith in the corruption of human nature, and the atonement of Christ, for the most extreme views of the Divine decrees. Yet these bold and baseless a.s.sertions have their weight with those for whom they are intended, and many weak but good persons are held in pa.s.sive bondage to these teachers and their creed, through the holy fear of moving a step towards infidelity. On the other hand, we might retort the charge. Calvinism has made more infidels than any other corruption of Christianity, excepting Popery. But we suggest this only in the way of _fair retaliation_.

The rejectors of Calvinism do not reject "the doctrines of grace,"

but the corruptions by which they have been dishonoured. They maintain, that on the absolute predestinarian scheme, there is no room for grace, such as the Gospel exhibits to the sinful and the lost; and that their own views are not only more accordant with the justice, but with the unmerited and infinite mercy of G.o.d. They ascribe all true holiness to the Divine Spirit.

[2] Dr. Coplestone, now the Bishop of Llandaff, denies that the foreknowledge of an event proves the _event to be necessary_. "_We_ may be unable to conceive how a thing not necessary in its nature can be foreknown; for _our_ foreknowledge is in general limited by that circ.u.mstance, and is more or less perfect in proportion to the fixed or necessary nature of the things we contemplate, with which nature we become acquainted by experience, and are thus able to antic.i.p.ate a great variety of events: but to subject the knowledge of G.o.d to any such limitation is surely absurd and unphilosophical, as well as impious; and, therefore, to mix up the idea of G.o.d's foreknowledge with any quality in the nature of the things foreknown, is even less excusable than to be guilty of that confusion when speaking of ourselves."

But, with due deference to his lords.h.i.+p, this does not contradict the statement in the text, that we are ignorant of any principle on which _such prescience_ can be explained. a.s.suming, indeed, that any events are contingent, that human actions proceed from freedom, and not from necessity, we cannot deny that they come within the range of infinite knowledge.

But the philosophical necessarian does not grant this postulate. He a.s.sumes the existence of an infinite mind, to whose knowledge all events are open, and thence infers the _necessity_ of these events.

He pleads that omniscience and contingency are incongruous ideas, and, on the ground of pure metaphysics, it would be difficult to refute him. But we demolish his theory by an appeal to facts. We oppose the moral const.i.tution and history of man, to the plausible speculations of philosophy. In other words, the mere metaphysician is a fatalist; and his position, in the present state of our intellectual philosophy, can be successfully attacked only by an appeal to facts and consciousness, and by moral argument. That sound metaphysics and just moral reasoning cannot really be at variance is certain, since there cannot exist contradictory truths. Our metaphysics therefore are wrong, or there must be an unknown _third principle_, by which they are to be reconciled with our moral reasonings. But until we can detect the fallacies of the metaphysician, or supply the _connecting link_ which is now wanting, we must rest in the unsatisfactory conclusion that abstract philosophy is with the necessarian, and that liberty and its enn.o.bling consequences, moral agency, and moral responsibility, rest on the solitary basis of moral argument.

[3] On the "special _teaching_" claimed, in connexion with "special grace," by the most popular writers of the Calvinistic school, the reader may find some just and forcible remarks in Essays by W. and T. Ludlam. Their fearless exposure of the erroneous statements given by Milner, Robinson, Newton, Harvey, and others, more particularly on the subject of divine influence, awakened the indignation of a party whose pretensions, when tested by reason and revelation, were proved to be groundless. Without attempting an indiscriminate defence of their opinions or their arguments, we may recommend these essays as being eminently worthy of attention in the present day, when two distinct but zealous parties are aiming to establish exclusive doctrines, by discountenancing the legitimate use of human reason in religious inquiries--one resting on tradition, the other on individual inspiration; neither of them seeming to remember, that tradition may be pleaded for and against the same dogmata, and that the private persuasions of one good man may be opposite to those of another, who has, with equal earnestness and humility, prayed to be directed into the knowledge of saving truth. The man of independent mind will find in these essays, much to admire in their elucidation of truth and detection of error, but more in their dauntless defiance of those who represent the Bible as a "sealed book" to all who are not visited with a special faculty for discerning its mystic characters and hidden sense. In that case, the Scriptures are a revelation _only to the elect_, who, to satisfy themselves and the world, that _their interpretation_ is the only sound one, ought to produce miracles as proof of their own inspiration, not less unequivocal than those which vindicated the authority and infallibility of the Apostles. Such opinions, although held by religious men, are dishonourable to the Scriptures, and needlessly degrading to the human mind.

[4] "There can be no approaches towards regeneration in the antecedent temper of the heart. The moment before the change, the sinner is as far from sanctification, as darkness is from light, as death is from life, as sin is from holiness."

"Regeneration is an instantaneous change, from exclusive attachment to the creature, from supreme selfishness, from enmity against G.o.d, to universal love, which fixes the heart supremely on Him; and there is no previous abatement of the enmity, or approximation towards a right temper; the heart being at one moment in full possession of its native selfishness and opposition, at the next moment in possession of a principle of supreme love to G.o.d; acquiring thus, in an instant, a temper which it never possessed before."--_Lectures on Important Doctrines by Dr. Griffin_.

How extravagant in theory, how false in fact! The doctrine of the Anglican Church on this; and all similar points, never appears so wise, and sound, and scriptural, as when contrasted with the speculative systems of men, who, to give harmony and consistency to their notions, close their eyes to the real world of man, and create for themselves an ideal universe, peopled by another order of beings, and governed by a power unknown but to the dreamers themselves.

[5] The Presbyterian Church of Scotland is both Calvinistic and National. But this fact does not militate against the argument of this section; that Calvinism is opposed to the const.i.tution and purposes of a visible Church. Her creed and her discipline are at variance. Her ministers are required to believe in the Westminster Confession. And the great body of her people are said to be attached to that system of doctrine. But her more educated cla.s.ses reject it, and the Scottish Church is a divided house.

[6] The prominent part taken by the doctrinal Puritans, in the revolutionary movements which brought Charles I. to the block, is proved by the concurrent testimony of the writers of those times. It is amply ill.u.s.trated and confirmed by Mr. Nichols in his "Calvinism and Arminianism Compared."

The "Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson," by his widow Lucy, is not only a work of great general interest, beautifully composed, and combining with the life of an eminent person vivid sketches of the times; but it ill.u.s.trates the subject discussed in the text. Colonel Hutchinson was a doctrinal Puritan, and one of the regicides. In himself we behold all the elements of a great and n.o.ble character, devout, humane, scrupulously conscientious, and of heroic courage; every quality that might adorn the gentleman, the patriot, the Christian. But his extreme principles induced a mistaken sense of duty, which embittered his own days, and added to the calamities of his country; after having been spared at the restoration, his gloomy reserve and supposed readiness to act again the part of a rebel, if opportunity should occur, led to his imprisonment in Sandown Castle, where he died more ign.o.bly than if he had been brought to the block.

It would have been more to the honour of the king, if he had at first doomed him to a public execution, the proper death of a regicide, or had left him afterwards unmolested; but the second Charles was not less mean and malignant than his sire was unfortunate. Of the character of the humbler cla.s.s of the doctrinal Puritans, the following hints are incidentally given in this work.

The name of Roundhead "was very ill applied to Mr, Hutchinson, who, having naturally a very fine thick sett head of hair, kept it clean and handsome, so that it was a greate ornament to him, although _the G.o.dly of those dayes_, when he embrac'd their party, _would not allow him to be religious_, because his hayre was not in their cutte, nor his words in their phraze, nor such little formalities altogether fitted to their humour; who were, many of them, so weake as to esteeme rather for such insignificant circ.u.mstances, then for solid wisdom, piety, and courage, which brought reall ayd and honor to their party; but as Mr. Hutchinson chose, not them, but the G.o.d they serv'd, and the truth and righteousness they defended, so did not their weaknesses, censures, ingrat.i.tude, and discouraging behaviour, with which he was abundantly exercised all his life, make him forsake them in any thing wherein they adher'd to just and honourable principles and practizes; but when they apostatized from these, none cast them off with greater indignation, how s.h.i.+ning soever the profession were that gilt, not a temple of living grace, but a tomb which only held the carkase of religion." In other words, like other partisans, whose principles have degenerated into the spirit of faction, he overlooked the baseness of ingrat.i.tude, and worse immoralities, in his a.s.sociates, so long as they maintained the just and honourable character of traitors and rebels.

[7] The Manchester Synod, at which were present 620 ministers of various denominations, was held in the year 1841, for the purpose of discussing the _corn laws_, with a view to their abolition. The professed object was the relief of the poor by procuring cheap bread; the real object was the depression of the landed aristocracy, and, through them, of the Clergy of the National Church, whose t.i.thes are regulated by the average value of corn. Had those gentlemen been sincere in their lamentations for the manufacturing poor, they would have long ago agitated the country for the abolition of the Factory System, and the rescue of its miserable victims from oppression and famine. That system must be strengthened by the abolition of the corn laws, which would only aggrandize the _great manufacturers_, and plunge the working people into deeper misery, by throwing the agricultural poor out of employment, and driving them to the towns and cities for occupation, thus glutting the market with superfluous labour. Looking at some of those individuals who took a leading part in the Synod, men of reputed truth and probity in their customary habits, their disingenuousness on this occasion supplies a striking proof of the power of faction to impair the moral sense, especially when originating in hatred of the Church. The great body of this Synod were ministers of Calvinistic Churches. The "dissenting interest" has degraded itself by a.s.suming the character of a political faction.

On Calvinism Part 4

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