« VorigeDoorgaan »
depend upon the proper and diligent use of the "gracious gifts bestowed," they produce a most salutary influence upon the conduct of individuals, and give practical effect to the exhortations, promises, and threatenings, which the Holy Scriptures contain.
The First of these opinions therefore ascribes the appointment of man's eternal destiny to the mere arbitrary pleasure and to the absolute and unalterable decree of the Almighty: while the Second attributes it, quite as strongly, to the Divine pleasure in the first instance; but it is to that WILL SUPREME, as expressed in God's word, which gives countenance to no other election than that of faith and perseverance foreseen.
Those benevolent men who plead for the perfectly innocuous nature of mental error, would acknowledge the erroneousness of this principle, were they to peruse the strange and unscriptural assertions made by many of the early Calvinists, who were the cotemporaries of Arminius. The bare repetition of them has a desecrating effect; and I consequently abstain from producing any examples of them, since the reader will find a few, in the suc ceeding pages, and in Bishop WOMACK'S Calvinists' Cabinet Unlocked. From the year in which Calvin first published his refinements on St. Augustine's doctrine of grace, and sophistically changed some of the plain doctrines of the Gospel into the fate of Heathenism, the evil of this substitution gradually increased; and some of the finest metaphysical wits that the world ever saw, had still further refined upon Calvin's scheme, till the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as expounded by them, exhibited a tissue of such monstrous and absurd propositions as were never devised by any christian divines, or published to the world even by any philosophers,*-with the exception, perhaps, of the Mahommedan commen
• Certain of the greatest among the Heathen Philosophers tried to vindicate the character of their Supreme Deity, from the charge of impelling men to sin, and afterwards punishing them for their offences. The following account of some of their attempts is exceedingly instructive, and shews, contrary to certain modern assertions, that the Fatalism of the Heathens and that of the Calvinists are more nearly allied, and defended by arguments which bear a greater resemblance to each other, than many persons not extensively versed in their writings have supposed:
"The complaint of the Gods in Homer (Odyss. a,) will best shut up this: "O how unjustly mortal men accuse and charge the Gods, saying, that their evils are from them, when the truth is, that they by their own wretchless [reckless] courses bring mischiefs upon themselves, above what their fate or decree of the 'Gods can be deemed to have brought upon them.' And accordingly it is one of the excellent lessons of the Pythagoreans, in their Golden Verses, ‘This thou must know, the evils that men fall under, are brought upon them by their own ' choices.'—On which even Chrysippus, the Stoic and great assertor of Fate, hath thus commented: Evils or mischiefs come to every man from himself; it being certain, that by their own incitation they both sin and suffer, and that according to their own mind and purpose.' This being so far distant from the doctrine of Fatality, it may well be wondered how Chrysippus, (who asserted THAT under the name of the chain and the decree,) could believe himself, or reconcile this comment and that verse with his great principles. And indeed Cicero
tators on the Koran. Yet a doctrine of Election, contrary to that of Calvin, and consonant to the scriptures of truth, was maintained nearly from the commencement of the Reformation, by the immense body of the Lutheran Church, and by the Church of England. The resistance which several of the Protestant Martyrs in Queen Mary's days, Professor Baro, the judicious Hooker, and others of our
hath passed a right sentence of it, Chrysippus contending and labouring how to "reconcile these two propositions, that all things are done by Fate, and yet that something is in our own power, is entangled, and cannot extricate himself.'This master of the Stoics was pressed,' saith Gellius. 'with these inconvenient con6 sequences of his doctrine of Decrees, that then the sins of men were not to be charged on their wills, but to be imputed to a necessity and pressing which ' arose from Fate, and that it must be unjust to make laws for the punishing of 'offenders:' To which he had nothing to say but this, that though, if you 'look upon the First Cause, all is thus fatally decreed and chained, yet the dispo'sitions of each man's mind are only so far subject to Fate, as is agreeable to their own properties and qualities: As,' saith he, when a man tumbles a ' cylinder or roller down a hill, it is certain that the man is the violent enforcer of the first motion of it; but when it is once a tumbling, the quality and pro" priety of the thing itself continues and consummates it." "HAMMOND on Fundamentals.
This is exactly the shallow reasoning of Zanchius, and others of the early defenders of Calvin's system. See a note in page 18. The learned and amiable Doctor then makes several remarks on the cylinder of Chrysippus, and concludes them thus:
"Neither is the cylinder charged with sin, whether by God or men; nor any punitive law enacted, by either, against its rolling down the hill; nor, indeed, are such charges, or such laws, ever brought in or enacted against any actions of any other creature, plant, or beast, till you ascend to man, who is supposed to have a will, and not to be under such inevitable fatal laws, but to be, as that excellent man Pomponius Atticus was wont to say, the forger of his own fate, the framer of his own fortune;' which yet should be as improper to be applied to or affirmed of a man, as of any other creature, if all his actions were as irreversibly predetermined as the descent of heavy bodies, or the ascending of light, that is, if Chrysippus' cylinder and the motion thereof were a commodious instance or resemblance of this matter. But the truth is, the man was acute and dextrous, and could say as much for the reconciling of contradictions as another.
"Though this last age hath considered the question very diligently, and had the advantages of the writings of the former ages to assist them, yet he that shall impartially make the comparison will find, that the ancient philosophers have written more subtilely in this matter, and are more worth our reading, than any of our modern schools: And when the master of them, Chrysippus, was so unable to speak intelligible sense, or extricate himself in this business, it will be less matter of wonder to us, that they who have espoused this prolepsis should endeavour, as unprosperously as Chrysippus is judged by Cicero to have done, to extricate themselves out of a labyrinth not of fewer but of more difficulties; God having most clearly revealed to Christians, that as He rewardeth every man according to his works, so He requireth of him according to what he hath in his power to do, and not according to what he hath not. He that shall survey HIEROCLES on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, AMMONIUS on Aristotle's Пep Epunveias in shewing the nature of contingent and necessary propositions, the Christian Philosopher BOETIUS (lib. 2) De Consolatione Philosophia, and APHRODISÆUS Concerning the Chain and Decree, where he confutes, as absurd, this comparison of the Cylinder, will, I believe, be convinced of the truth of what I say."
English Worthies, offered to the progress of Calvin's doctrines and platform prior to the appearance of Arminius, is matter of history.
It must ever be regretted as an unfortunate circumstance, that there was not then another great denomination of Protestants on the Continent beside that of Calvin, with which those persons might coalesce who could not digest the Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence, and other niceties in the Augsburgh Confession. The doctrines connected with GENERAL REDEMPTION suffered greatly, from being recommended solely by this respectable body of christians, some of whose tenets were exceedingly obnoxious to such moderate men as wished to be at the greatest possible distance from Popery. This fact, if examined in its different bearings, will account satisfactorily for the rapid spread of Calvin's doctrines and the Presbyterian discipline, in various countries of Europe, between the years 1540 and 1600.
Happily, however, for the honour of Protestantism, God Almighty raised up for the defence of the Truth among the Dutch Presbyterians, a man of consummate talents, deep piety, and eminent modesty. On beholding the devastations committed on the purity of the Gospel by the Supralapsarians, whose opinions at that period were exceedingly prevalent in Holland, in christian meekness he enquired of the leaders of Calvinism, with whom he had been a mighty favourite: " Since you perceive the pernicious purposes to which your high Predestinarian opinions are applied, and the baneful effects which they produce on the practice of professing christians, why do you not adopt that hallowing view of Predestination which has the Christian Fathers of the three First Centuries for its patrons, and which is still professed by nearly three-fourths of the Protestants in Europe? If you will make such a mystery as PREDESTINATION the chief part of your discourses, why do you not imitate the Ancients, and the majority of the Moderns, in deriving it from the DIVINE FORESIGHT of Faith and Perseverance? The Gospel says, God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life: But your novel doctrine declares, 'God so loved those whom He had absolutely elected to eternal
This is acknowledged by ScULTETUS in his Marrow of the Fathers, by Vossius in his History of Pelagianism, and in particular by PETER DU MOULIN in his Novelty of the Papacy, which he wrote against Cardinal Perron, and in which he says: "All the Fathers before St. Augustine, and Augustine himself at first, believed, that God predestinated men to salvation according to his own Prescience, that this and that person would perform good works and exercise faith." "And," say the Remonstrant Synod of Utrecht, "though St. Augustine, and certain others after him somewhat changed their sentiments in the matter of Predestination, yet they always acknowledged, that Christ died for all men, that the free-will of man [was concerned] in his conversion, and that it was possible for men to decline from the faith."-But this higher kind of Predestination, the last which St. Augustine espoused, was not sufficiently high for Calvin and other modern Fatalists. On this topic, see two subsequent r^tes, pp. viii, and 428.
life, as to give his Son to them alone, and by an irresistible force to produce within them faith on him,'" &c.
Though this was no more than what had been frequently said by others who maintained General Redemption, yet no one can imagine the uproar and confusion that the repetition of it excited amongst the querulous race of high Predestinarians in Holland and in the different states and kingdoms in which Calvinism flourished, as soon as it was delivered by an eminent man of their own profession. The calmness and moderation of Arminius communicated an importance to all the arguments which he produced; and the fine character of him which Bishop Womack has drawn in a succeeding page (91), will be acknowledged by all competent judges to be exceedingly appropriate. When the more prudent and judicious in the enemy's camp saw their idol, Unconditional Predestination, fall down before the ark of God's truth, they severally gathered a few of the scattered fragments together, and with them each attempted to form another less objectionable image according to his own fancy. Before that event the Calvinists were divided only into two great parties, SUPRA and SUB-LAPSARIANS, who were very loving and agreeable towards each other. But as soon as their favourite system was overturned, scarcely one Predestinarian divine of eminence could be found throughout Europe who adhered strictly to the old doctrines; each of them attempted to amend that which he deemed the most reprehensible, and to communicate, to its more uncomely parts," a plausible if not a consistent appearance. Thus, among these great enemies to the diffusive Benevolence of Heaven, a discord arose, which has not subsided to this day, and which has been the means of bringing many of them within the hallowing precincts of scriptural Arminianism, before they were aware of being near its abhorred approaches.
Those who are acquainted with the secret history of the Synod of Dort, know, that palpable and obvious as were the political designs of the Princes and Potentates who appeared by their proxies on that occasion, there were certain purposes which had long been in the contemplation of the chief divines of Calvin's party, and which they hoped to effect in that convention. While many of the hot and short-sighted members of the Assembly indulged in the charming idea, that the condemnation and banishment of the Arminians would be the best method of restoring peace to the great body of Calvinists, the aim of their chiefs, whose views, if not more liberal, were undoubtedly more extensive, was, the devising of a grand formulary of Calvinism, so comprehensive in its nature as to compose within itself their various differences. But in the latter intention they completely failed. Certain Canons or Articles were indeed signed by all the members of the Synod; but their signatures to that document could be obtained, only on the condition, that to those Canons
should be appended the large exposition of the sense in which they severally subscribed those Formularies of Calvinistic concord. Thus "the Acts of the Synod" contain the widely different meanings given to those Articles by the foreign Divines of Great Britain, the Palatinate, Hesse, Switzerland, Wedderau, Geneva, Bremen, and Embden,*—and by the Dutch Divines from the Provinces and
From this exact enumeration of the several petty principalities and small towns, that deputed Calvinistic representatives to the Dutch Synod, the reader will perceive the narrow constitution of that notorious Assembly. The only Protestant kingdom in Europe that sent deputies to it, was Great Britain: The rest of the members of the Synod, with the exception of the Dutch Divines and those from Geneva and Switzerland, were the delegates of a few inconsiderable States in Germany; in which extensive empire, the Lutherans constituted above threefourths of the Protestant population, but deputed no Divines to Dort. It was therefore a good specimen of the bold and towering spirit of Calvinistic self-election, when this small number of Divines issued their Canons, which they hoped to employ as fetters for binding the opinions of all the Reformed in Europe, and which some of their admirers tell us, have never been equalled since the days of the Apostles," except,' say the English Calvinists," by the decisions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines !”
The same vain-glorious practices, which are, indeed, natural results of those Predestinarian principles that foster human pride, were displayed in England at the commencement of our Civil Wars, in 1640, when the "Solemn League and Covenant" was invented, by which all men were required to swear that they would "endeavour a reformation of religion, in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, according to the word of God, and the examples of the best Reformed Churches." Dr. Hooper has given us a just description of what the Calvinists meant by this phrase:
"Good men, who know the grounds and reasons of our reformation, were at a loss, what the late design might mean of bringing our Church nearer to the PROTESTANTS ABROAD,' to those of our brethren of Calvin's way, we suppose, they intended. We hope the intention was not to insinuate an unjust reproach, as if we had not the amity or affection for them which we ought, did not rejoice in their edification, or compassionate their affliction; but only this, to alter our constitution into a nearer resemblance with theirs. But if any of ours desired this for amendment, as a farther reformation and greater perfection, it was because they were not pleased to consider their own frame well: Nor could any honest man of our Church, and who understood her right, have ever consented. And if the design was only political, (though the policy appears not,) yet why might it not be as fit for those Protestants to come nearer to us? But, not to stand on such terms, how could we have gone nigher to the Calvinists, without departing from the Lutheran ? Our Church is already in the middle, and reaching out her hands on either side; settled there long ago, by weighty reason, and upon mature deliberation: For, although the word PROTESTANT has been here at home appropriated to a party, and the REFORMED CHURCH abroad has been still understood only for those of one way [the Calvinists]; yet every one knows, that the Lutheran is the first Reformed, and that the term PROTESTANT is only proper to them, and particularly to those only of the German nation. This then is the first fallacy endeavoured to be put upon the people, "that those to whom some of our Dissenters pretend a nearer approach, are the only Reformed and Protestants in the world:' As if the Lutheran were not to be understood by his own name. The other is this, that the Calvinist is so great, that the other deserves not to be mentioned: Whereas the other [the Lutherans] have still been the far greater number, and the much more considerable. Our trade, indeed, makes us look into Holland, (where, though, the