Page images
PDF
EPUB

may still be thought less scriptural and less logical than Calvinism, * yet it does not deserve to be reprobated as wholly inimical to the grace and glory of the gospel.

« Having made these preliminary remarks, we shall now endeavour to give a short and correct view of Arminianism in the proper sense of that term. Arminianism is to be considered as a separation from Calvinism, with regard to the doctrines of unconditional election, particular redemption, and other points necessarily resulting from these.t The Calvinists held, that God had elected a certain portion of the human race to eternal lise, passe ing by the rest, or rather dooming them to everlasting destruction; that God's election proceeded upon no prescience of the moral principles and character of those whom he had thus predestinated, but originated solely in the motions of his free and sove. reign mercy; that Christ died for the elect only, and therefore, that the merits of his death can avail for the salvation of none but them; and that they are constrained by the irresistible power of

• « Less scriptural” than Calvinism it cannot be, even according to this writer's own showing in the preceding paragraphs. As to Arminianism being “ less logical,” I wish the test of this fact might be made by a comparison between Dr. COPLESTONE's account of the agency of Divine Providence, which I have just quoted, and that lately given by Dr. CHALMERS in his sermon on Predes. tination, from which I have already given an extract, (pages 16 and 17,) and in which he advances sentiments as unscriptural and illogical as those which I have produced from Archer, page 438. Till I saw that sermon, the shocking and incautious expressions in which filled me with horror, I had always supposed that the active and benevolent Dr. Chalmers was the author of the very able article ARMINIANISM, in Dr. BREWSTER's Edinburgh Encyclopædia.

But if by “ Logical" the author means “ Metaphysical,” (a very common mistake in these days,) the point will be readily conceded ; and of that field of speculative divinity, the Calvinists will be left in undisturbed possession, provided they will receive, in the spirit of meekness, the observations made by Bishop Womack in a succeeding page. (196.)

+ The difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, even on the Five Points, is far less than many persons imagine. In no work have I seen this trifing difference so clearly and ably stated, as in Goodwin's Agreement and Distance of Brethren, which I have quoted in other parts of this Introduction, and which it is my intention soon to republish for the benefit of the present generation.

I In the year 1623, the famous James CAPELLUS, at that time Professor of Divinity at Sedan, published two Theological Theses, the first of which was On the Controversies that agitate the United Provinces, and in which, among other charges against the Arminians, he adduces the following: “ But the “ Arminians detract greatly from the Power of God, since they represent the “ numerous attempts and the mighty struggles of Divine Omnipotence as capable “ of being always overcome by man, and assert, that they are, in fact, every day “ successfully resisted.”

The reply which the eloquent Episcopius returned to this false representation, is worthy of attentive consideration : " These expressions are unappropriate; because nothing can be detracted from Divine Power, where that Divine Power is not exerted. In the conversion of man, Capellus supposes God to employ his • ordinary power, which at all times, and by its own force, produces its effect.' Those persons against whom he disputes, deny this assertion by the subjoined argument: Wherever that power is employed, which, at all times, and by its divinegrace to accept of him as their Saviour.-To this doctrine, that of Arminius and his legitimate followers stands opposed: They do not deny an election; but they deny that it is absolute and uncon. ditional. They argue, that an election of this kind is inconsistent with the character of God, that it destroys the liberty of the human will, that it contradicts the language of scripture, and that it tends to encourage a careless and licentious practice in those by whom it is believed. They maintain, that God has elected those only who, according not to his decree, but to his foreknowledge and in the exercise of their natural powers of self-determination, acting under the influence of his grace, would possess that faith and holiness to which salvation is annexed in the gospel scheme. And those who are not elected are allowed to perish, not because they were not elected, but merely and solely in consequence of their infidelity and disobedience; on account, indeed, of which infidelity and disobedience being foreseen by God, their election did not take place. They hold, that Christ died for all men, in the literal and unrestricted sense of that phrase; that his atonement is able, both from its own merit, and from the intention of him who appointed it, to expiate the guilt of every individual; that every individual is invited to partake of the benefits which it has procured ;* that the grace of God is offered to make the will

own force, produces its effect, there is no place left either for precepts, promises,

or threatenings, and therefore none either for obedience or disobedience, for * reward or punishment. It is the will of Him who commands any thing, that

his commands should be performed by him to whom he issues those commands: • But when he performs that thing himself, it is not his will that it should be performed by another ; otherwise, he would, at the same time, be both willing and unwilling for it to be performed by another. But wherever no place is left to precepts, there is none left to obedience or disobedience, and consequently none to promises or threatenings, to rewards or punishments.'--Now, when Arminius says, (in the words of Capellus,] that it is in the power of man successfully to resist or overcome the numerous attempts and the mighty struggles

of Divine Power,' he does not represent man as capable of placing a still greater power in opposition to Divine Omnipotence : For what man, except an atheist, would make such an affirmation ? But he only wishes to convey the idea, that it is possible for man to place his disobedience and contumacy in opposition to the Divine influences, commands, exhortations, supplications, protestations, insti. gations, and inspirations, all of which undoubtedly are numerous attempts and mighty struggles : So that, when God wills and demands obedience from man, it is possible for man to be unwilling to obey, and thus to render himself guilty and liable to punishment. In this act (of opposition to God's will] no power, properly so called, is posited, that can, in the least degree, derogate from the power of God. For simple disobedience is only a free willingness or unwillingness, by which man is said metaphorically to overcome God, because to the Divine Will he opposes a contrary will, and thus withdraws himself from obedience to God." &c.

• One of the most forcible of the numerous passages of Scripture, which cloerly express the intentional freeness and universality of God's invitation to his lost and offending creatures, is that solemn ministerial commission which Christ gave to his eleven Apostles, and through them to his chosen messengers in all succeeding ages : “ Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He * that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved ; but he that believeth not, shall comply with this invitation, but that this grace may be resisted and rendered ineffectual by the sinner's perversity. Whether true believers necessarily persevered, or whether they might fall from “ be damned.” Christian ministers are commanded to propose the Gospel in its glorious plenitude, and with the meekness and perseverance of Christ himself,“ to every creature," as an appointed merciful test of that creature's obedience or dis. obedience to the Heavenly Calling : And that this test is not a mockery with respect even to those who finally neglect or despise the Divine Invitation, is clearly proved, both by the tender expostulations of Christ with those who rejected his proffered benefits, and by many equally striking passages in the Old and New Testaments. (See pages 127, 128.) To this use of the Gospel, as a DIVINELY. APPOINTED TEst to all moral agents, to whom “ its sound is gone forth,” St. Paul adverts, when he informs the Romans, (xvi, 26,) that the Gospel is now, "according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” He speaks in a similar strain at the com. mencement of the same epistle, (i, 5,) “ By the Son of God we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations,” &c. He immediately subjoins the purpose for which this grace and faith are bestowed : “ Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ,-beloved of God, called to be saints.” When attention is paid to this calling, God “ giveth more grace;' His promise is, “ To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly." After this manner - his Divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue : Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature," &c. (2 Pet. i, 4.)

But on this subject, the following remarks, from John Goodwin's Agree. ment and Distance of Brethren, are exceedingly appropriate : “ We are not able to conceive how the Gospel can with simplicity, truth, and clearness of sense and notion, be preached unto every creature under heaven, in this or any like tenor of words, If thou believest, thou shalt be saved, unless it be granted and supposed, that Christ died for all and every man, or in case it should be said to any man for whom Christ did not die, If thou believest, thou shalt be saved : Such a saying cannot be justified, nor avouched for truth ; because where a commodity is not, it cannot be had upon any condition or terms whatsoever. Now certain it is, that there is no salvation in Christ for any man, but only for those for whom he died. Therefore, to encourage such a man to believe, for whom Christ died not, by saying unto him, that, in case he believes, he shall be saved,-is but to feed him with ashes, or to make him glad with lies. For how should such a man be saved, yea, though he should believe, for whom there was no salvation purchased by Christ; especially considering that his believing in Christ would not invest Christ with any more salvation, than was in him before, and, consequently, whether he believed or no ? The Synod of Dort itself, in some of its members, saw and acknowledged the con. vincing force of this argument; though their heart, it seemeth, served them not to displease their company for the truth's sake..We judge, that our brethren's doctrine, asserting that Christ died only for those few who will, in conclusion,

be actually saved,' will not abide the touch of that golden touch-stone of doc. trines, the description of the Gospel, delivered by the Apostle, 1 Tim. vi, 3, I' the doctrine which is according to godliness.') If a minister of the Gospel should go and preach this doctrine to a numerous auditory of souls, that God

hath given his Son Jesus Christ to die for the salvation only of a small handful of men and women in the world (comparatively,) and that none of them who were now before him had any certainty, that they or any of them were of this number ; yea, and that the best amongst men had very little ground to hope or think, that he should be one of these few, and that the rest of mankind, let them

do the best that they are able, shall, notwithstanding, be certainly damned;' (for all this is nothing but the evident and express import of our brethren's doctrine :)

their faith, and forfeit their state of grace, was a question which Arminius left unresolved,* but which was soon determined by his followers in this additional proposition, that saints may fall from the state of grace in which they are placed by the operation of the Holy Spirit. This, indeed, seems to follow as a corollary, from what Arminius maintained respecting the natural freedom and corruption of the will, and the resistibility of divine grace.

“ In this way, the Arminians suppose that they get free of all the absurdities and dangerous consequences which they allege to be involved in the Calvinistic scheme; and, at the same time, detract nothing from the freeness and sovereignty of divine grace that can be reasonably considered as essential to them. Whether

must not such a message as this, being believed, directly cause a fearful despon. dency of heart and soul, a general hanging down of hands amongst them, a quenching of all desires, and consequently of all endeavours, either to apply them. selves to the means of believing, or to the exercising of themselves unto godliness in one kind or other ? Or doth such a doctrine as this any ways agree with that declaration which the Angel made concerning the Gospel unto the shepherds;

Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all people.'-We judge that Christ died for all those who stand bound to believe, or to depend on him for salvation. Because God is never found to encourage, exhort, or call men unto, but constantly to dissuade and take men off from, vain dependencies, and from trusting in those, whether persons or things, which are not able or like to help them. Instances hereof, we are able, if need were, to produce very many. Now that all men without exception, considered as men, stand bound to believe, or to depend on Christ for salvation, is to us out of question. There. fore, we cannot but judge that he died for all men.—That doctrine which directly tends to separate and divide between the creature and the Creator, blessed for ever, or to create and raise jealousies and hard thoughts in the former against the latter, cannot be evangelical, nor consonant to the Truth, which is according to godliness : But such we judge our brethren's doctrine clearly to be, which denieth Christ's dying for all men without exception."

• That Arminius did not leave this question " unresolved," will be seen in a succeeding page, (156,) and is further confirmed by a note in his Works, vol. I, p. 6oi. The reason why he did not express his thoughts so fully on this Point, as on the other Four in the Calvinistic controversy, will be found in his reluctance to deliver any decisive opinion on subjects which he had not fully inves. tigated. There are difficulties in it, which are not apparent at first sight to a cursory observer; and if Arminius had entirely co-incided with the moderate Cal, vinists on this point, he would only have imitated some of the staunchest of the early English Arminians, who believed in the Final Perseverauce of the Saints in the sense which the Calvinists attach to this phrase. In this, however, as well as in other articles of his creed, he gave sufficient proof of the venerable guides whom he followed, on all topics about which he felt the least hesitation: These were the Ancient Fathers of the Church, whose “ concurrent testimony” or “ general consent," in the purest ages of Christianity, was, to him and to all our great Protestant Reformers, a safe but not an infallible rule for the interpretation of the doctrines of Scripture. Had he not been cut off at an immature age, he would have favoured the world with his chaste and scriptural views of this interest. ing subject.

+ The admission in this paragraph, which truth has extorted, is exceedingly important. The Arminians undoubtedly “succeed in their views to all the extent" which they desire, when 6 they get free of all the absurdities and dangerous con

they succeed in these views to all 'the extent they imagine, may be justly disputed. But they certainly take away something of that harsh and forbidding aspect, with which Calvinism, in its broad undisguised form, seems to cloud the religion of mercy and benevolence.

“ It may now be proper to mention some tenets with regard to which Arminianism has been much misrepresented. If a man hold that good works are necessary to justification ;* if he main

sequences which they allege to be involved in the Calvinistic scheme,"—the sole object contemplated by Arminius when he opposed the desecrating dogmas of the Genevan Reformer and of his more incautious successors. That some who call themselves ARMINIANS are Arminiores Arminio, is as true, in fact, as that there are some among their opponents who are more Calvinistic than Calvin himself : Men of this class may perhaps be too sanguine in “ imagining," that Arminian. ism solves all the difficulties of Divine Revelation or Providence, a result to which, it has already been shewn, (page xi,) it makes no pretensions.

It has been granted in a preceding paragraph, (page xx,) “ that Arminianism does not deserve to be reprobated as wholly inimical to the grace and glory of the Gospel.” In the notes to the Works of Arminius, (vol. I, pp. 593_636,) I have adduced copious proofs of the fact, that Arminianism ascribes far greater efficiency and strength to Divine Grace, from its commencement to its consummation, than Calvinism does; and that the latter scheme, though in general very scriptural in its description of the immediate visible effects of Grace in Conversion, “allows this holy principle to be afterwards so inoperative in the elect, as to suffer them to serve the law of God only with one part, with that which is regenerate,' and to serve the law of sin with the other part, with that which remaineth of corruption. This doctrine beats down the legitimate aspirings of Divine Grace after a holy conformity to God, and to controvert and explain away the positive commands of God our Saviour concerning personal sanctity."

“ The Arminians suppose," therefore, with great justice, in the words of this liberal Encyclopædist," that they detract nothing from the freeness and sove. reignty of Divine Grace that can be reasonably considered as essential to them :" And it is no slight additional praise, if, in the words of the same author, “ they take away something of that harsh and forbidding aspect with which Calvinism seems to cloud the religion of mercy and benevolence."

• The following quotation from Dr. COPLESTONE's Enquiry into the Doc. trines of Necessity and Predestination, exhibits in a favourable view the tenets of the early Arminians on this point:

“ Man cannot bear to be told that his nature is a corrupt, a fallen, and a sinful nature: That the carnal, or in other words, the natural mind is at emnity with God : That if he seeks to be reconciled with God, he must seek it alone through the merits of a Redeemer. To Him, not to his own doings, however diligently he may labour in the regulation of his own mind, or in the service of his fellow. creatures, to his Saviour he must refer the whole merit and the whole efficacy of his salvation. That Saviour hath said, that he came to seek and save them that were lost.' And every man who would be his disciple, let him be the wisest and most virtuous of men, must believe that he himself was one of those lost creatures whom Christ came to save. He must not only acknowledge with his lips, but in his heart he must feel, that in the sight of God his best deeds are nothing worth that however they may tend, as they certainly will tend, to make him happter upon earth, they have no power whatever to raise him to heaven.

“ Nay, more than this, if he trust to himself, if he indulge himself in setting a value before God upon any thing that he does, these very deeds will be the instrumental cause of his ruin : They will lead him from that gate through which

« PreviousContinue »