which the will may arrogate to itself: which Paul also hath explicitly declared; for when he has said, it is God that worketh in us both to qvill and to do, he immediately subjoins, of his own good pleasure; hereby indicating that the whole is from his free benignity.

And now with respect to the second mentioned error which is wont to be entertained, that after we have given way to the first mo. tions of grace, our endeavours co-operate with what follows; I answer: That if they suppose, so soon as we are subdued by the power of God to the obedience of the truth, we of our own accord go on, and are submissive to the subsequent operations of grace; I have nothing to object. For it is most certain, that where the grace of God reigns, there is such a willing obedience. But I ask, whence is this, but that the spirit of God, always consistent with itself, cherishes and confirms unto constant perseverance, this desire to obey which it first produced ? But if they suppose that man may assume of himself to be a co-worker with the grace of God, they most pestilently err from the truth. Calv. JNST. B. II. CHAP. III.

The foregoing and former extracts from Calvin have been inserted, not because the Editor thinks they exhibit the doctrines of the Gospel on those points, but that the reader might see what were the real sentiments of a man so famous in his day, unadulterated by the glosses, additions or retrenchments of his more modern followers. From these extracts may be seen what are the distinguishing tenets of Calvinism, as aimed to be taught by Calvin himself; which manifestly are, that man is completely a machine in the hands of God : That he can do nothing, not even so much as to co-operate with the grace of God: That whatever is good in him, is the entire work of God. In one respect he appears to differ from, or rather to come short of his followers at the present day: He has not plunged into the abyss of metaphysical disquisition in support of his scheme, by attempting to explain the abstract nature of liberty and necessity; but manifestly takes for granted, that the will was originally free to choose either good or evil (what is now denied by most Calvinistic Divines); but that by the fall, man lost that liberty, and can will only evil; and that God interposes with one and another, according to his own good pleasure ; converts their wills, plants good desires, and after they are converted, actually works in them whatever good is wrought : So that not only the beginning, but the whole progress of the Christian life is to be entirely ascribed to him. If these positions are true, unconditional election and reprobation follow of course. As it is not proposed to enter the lists of controversy by attempting to confute these sentiments, suffice it only to observe, that they carry the consequences of the fall and the power of God's grace, to an extent which does not seem to be warranted by the tenor of scripture ; nor reconcileable with the nature of free-agency; without which man ceases to be an accountable creature. The truth appears to have been, that the Romish doctrine of supererogation, or that men can do more than enough to merit salvation, operating on such an ardent mind as Calvin's, drove him into the opposite extreme, leaving the truth in the midway ; and to be expressed in few words, as follows : That man, by the fall, lost the image of God, and consequently the power of doing any thing acceptable to his will. But the promise of the Mediator intervened, which in effect immediately removed this utter inability, and put it in the power of every one to co-operate with the grace and mercy of God, and by that assistance obtain sal. vation. The language of Christian doctrine thus stated is, use all diligence to make your calling and election sure, since God works in you, and for you, of his own good pleasure. Further than this it does not seem necessary or useful to enquire. On the whole, having thus shewn from the best authority, the author himself, what Calvinism was in its origin, the reader is left with these few remarks to settle his own opinion.

To the Editor of the CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.

THINKING that it would be advantageous and agreeable to the readers of the Churchman's Magazine, to have a short exposition of the Articles of the Church, I have sent you an abridgement of the Exposition Jately given by Dr. Prettyman, the present excellent and worthy Bishop of Lincoln.


[ocr errors]


« THERE is but one Living and True God; Everlasting, without Body, Parts, or Passions; of Infinite Power, Wisdom, and Goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible; and in the Unity of this Godhead there be Three Persons of one Substance, Power, and Eternity-The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

*This first article asserts the being and attributes of God, which are the foundation of all religion; and it further declares that the Godhead consists of three persons; which, though it appears to have made a part of the original revelation to mankind, was so far forgotten or obscured, that it may be considered as one of the characteristic doctrines of the Gospel.

The universal consent of mankind has ever been admitted as a strong argument in favour of the existence of a God. We learn from the history of former times, and from the observation of mod. ern travellers, that in every country, and at every period, some idea of a superior being, and some species of divine worship, have prevailed." But though all civilized nations have concurred in the belief of one or more Gods, there has been an infinite diversity in the modes of divine worship; and the errors and absurdities with which all religions, except only those of Moses and of Christ, have abounded, fully evince the weakness of the human intellect when unassisted by Revelation. Some few individuals in the different ages of the world, have indeed rejected all belief in the existence of a God; but we may generally trace the rejection of a Deity to the source of pride or of profligacy.


But a more direct proof of the being of a God may be derived from the universe itself. We are not only conscious of our own existence, but we also know that there exists a great variety of other things, both material and spiritual. It is equally inconceivable that these things should have existed from all eternity, in their present state, or that they should have fallen into this state by chance; and consequently as there was a time when they did not exist, and as it was impossible for them to produce themselves, it follows that there was some exterior agent or creator, to whom the world owed its beginning and form ; that agent or creator we call God. And since it is absurd to suppose that there are two Supreme Governors of the world, we are obliged to conclude that God is one. The Supreme Being, however, has not left this important truth to the deductions of human reason only, but has confirmed and established it by Revelation. The unity of God is expressly declared in many passages of scripture: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, Deut. vi. 4. Unto thee it was thewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. Deut. iv. 35. We therefore cannot but agree to the first assertion of this article, in opposition to the sinful presumption of Atheists, and the false belief of many deities of the heathen, that there is one, and but one, living and true God. He is the fountain and origin of life to all the animated parts of the creation; he is the true God, as distinguished from the vain Gods of the Gentiles. This is life eternal, that they might know thec the only true God. John, xvii. 3.

The article next states, that God is everlasting: that is, that he has existed from all past eternity, and will continue to exist to all future eternity. God is, in several passages of scripture, styled eternal and everlasting: The eternal God is thy refuge. Deut. xxxiji. 27. Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God fainteth not, neia ther is weary. Isaiah, xl. 28.

To suppose that God is circumscribed by body, consists of material parts, or is liable to passions, would be so utterly inconsistent with our ideas of infinite perfection, with our notion of a being who is equaly present every where, and who is free from every possible defect, that we must, without hesitation, pronounce that God is without body, parts, or passions. God is a spirit. John, iv. 24. And a spirit hath not flesh and bones. Luke, xxiv. 39. God is a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent. Numb. xxiii. 19. When, therefore, the scriptures speak of the face, eyes, ears, and hands of God, or of his grief, jealousy, anger and other emotions of the mind, we are to consider that such language is only accommodated to the understandings of men; and that those properties and qualities do in fact by no means belong to the Supreme Being. We can form no conception of the agency of a pure spiritual substance, and therefore, in speaking of God, we are under the necessity of using terms derived from ourselves, and which we cannot but know to be in reality inapplicable to him. God having created all things out of nothing, and given to them their various and res. pective powers, and being able to change, annihilate, and dispose of every thing in the universe, in any manner which he pleases; it fol. lows that the power of God is infinite. “ In thy hand, O God, is there not power, and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?" 2 Chron. xx. 6. “ The Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it : His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back ?” Isa. xiv. 27. But though with the holy patriarch we confess that “God can do everything," Job xlii. 2, we must remember that Omnipotence itself does not extend to contradictions or impossibilities; “God cannot lie,” Heb. vi. 18, inasmuch as that would be contrary to his perfect nature ; nor can he recal past events, which is manifestly impossible. When, therefore, we say that the power of God is infinite,

we mean that God is able to perform all things, which do not in themselves imply contradiction or impossibility.

The wisdom of God is inferred from the general construction and government of the world, in which an attentive observer cannot but see evident marks of design, and in which all things are admirably edapted to their respective ends and purposes. “ O Lord, how manifold are thy works ; in wisdom thou hast made them all!” We cannot form an idea of wisdom superior to that which is thus displayed ; nor can we conceive how the wisdom, or any other attribute of the Deity, should be circumscribed by any boundary or limit; and therefore we conclude with the royal psalmist, that “the wisdom of God is infinite,” Ps. cxlvii. 5. The infinite wisdom of God may also be considered as including the knowledge of all events, past, present, and future, and of the thoughts, motives, and intentions of all his creatures. This knowledge, without restriction or exception, seems necessarily to belong to the Creator of the universe, from whom every power, property and relation is derived. “ Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world”-Acts xv. -18. He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see ? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know?"-Ps. xciv. 9, 10. By infinite goodness is meant a disposition to communicate every possible degree of happiness to all created beings, of which their nature is capable. That this attribute belongs to God is evident from his general government of the world, and particularly from his dealings with mankind. It hath pleased God to place men in a state of probation, and to endue them with free agency, which is essential to responsibility ; he has furnished them with the means of attaining every degree of happiness, consistent with the character of free and accountable beings; he has given them laws as rules of their conduct; he has proposed the most powerful and animating motives to obedience; and he has promised his assistance to those who sincerely endeavour to perform his will. Since then every thing which God has made is good ; since he has provided for the preservation of all things, for their proper continuance and well being; since he has bestowed many noble endowments, and a great variety of comforts and blessings upon his rational creatures in this world; and since he has voluntarily, and upon easy conditions, offered them everlasting happiness in a future life, to which no húman merit could have the remotest claim, surely we may pro

[ocr errors]

nounce that the goodness of God is infinite, boundless as his univere sal works, and endless as the ages of eternity. The Lord is good to all ; and his tender mercies are over all his works. Ps. cxlv, 9." " O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good ; for his mercy endureth for ever.” Ps. cxxxvi. 1.

Upon these grounds we believe that God is of infinite power, wisa dom, and goodness.

As the world could not have existed from eternity, or have caused its own existence, it must have derived its being from God; and that God was the maker of all things, both visible and invisible, is repeatedly asserted in scripture : “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth,” Exodus, xxxi. 17.-" In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,” Exodus, xx. 11. God, have ing created all things, continues to preserve them in a state suitable to the purposes for which they were designed, and by his superintending Providence, he constantly governs the universe which he created. Nothing can happen without the direction or permission of that Being who is the source of all power; he appointed and supports the general course of nature ; and he interrupts it by his particular interposition, whenever it seems good to his infinite wisdom : God giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Acts, xvii. 25. Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host; the earth, and all things that are therein; the sea, and all that is therein; and thou preservest them all. Neh. ix. 6. Thus God is not only the maker, but also the preserver of all things, both visible and invisible.

We now come to the latter part of this article, in which the gospel doctrine of the Trinity, or of three persons in the Di. vine Essence, is asserted. The first passage which I shall adduce from the New Testament in proof of this important doctrine of the Trinity, is the charge and commission which our Saviour gave to his Apostles, to “ go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Mat. xxviii. 19. The gospel is every where in scripture represented as a covenant or conditional offer of eternal salvation from God to man, and baptism was the appointed ordinance by which men were to be admitted into that covenant, by which that offer was made and accepted. This covenant being to be made with God him self, the ordinance must of course be performed in his name; but Christ directed that it should be performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Since Baptism is to be performed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghosty they must all three be persons; and since no superiority or difference whatever is mentioned in this solemn form of baptism, we conclude that these three persons are all of one substance, power and eternity.

The second passage to be produced in support of the doctrine now. under consideration, is the doxology at the conclusion of St. Paul's second epistle to the Coris ians : “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghort, be with you.” The manner in which Christ and the Holy Ghost are

« VorigeDoorgaan »