Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dependencies of Guelderland and Zutphen, South Holland, North Holland, Zeland, Utrecht, Friezland, Overyssel, Groningen, the Ommelands, and Drent, and by the Walloon Churches. The expla, natory and often opposite significations, given by each of these par. ties, occupy a far larger space in the Acts than the Canons themselves, and contain curious apologies for every contradictory grade of Calvinism.* The failure of their grand scheme of Pre

true Calvinist makes not above a third of the people !,) and our fashions, into France, and would to God, their numbers increased there !,) we speak much of Switzerland and the Lower Palatinate: But we forget to take notice of the large countries that are entirely of the other profession; as Denmark, Sweden, the dominions of the Elector of Saxony and Brandenburgh, of the great House of Lanenburg, and the many Imperial Cities. So, that the design, mentioned before, of coming nearer to the Reformation abroad,' was nothing else but this ;—to persuade us to go farther from the universal church primitive, from the major part of the moderns Reformed, from our innocent agreement with general Christianity, and from those of ourselves who are much edified by our present constitution; to come nearer to those abroad, who, to speak in the fairest lan. guage, are not better constituted than ourselves; and to comply with those at home who are, certainly, neither the greater nor the best part of us; to give way to the falsest and most destructive prejudice, opposite to all catholic agreement; and to countenance and encourage a most causeless and seditious separation."

• I have briefly described “the discord which arose among these great ene. mies to the diffusive benevolence of Heaven ;" and the following quotation, from the able reply which Grotius made to River's Apology, will further illustrate this Calvinistic disagreement, and the spirit which animated the Dutch members of the Synod of Dort and their immediate successors. At the commencement he alludes to the collection of blasphemous and indiscreet expressions which the Remonstrants produced from the writings of some of the most eminent Calvinists, both Dutchmen and foreigners.

" Those noxious dogmas,” says Grotius, “ which the Romonstrants objected against the men who called themselves THE REFORMED, these nominal Reformed have not yet been able to remove from themselves, and never will be able. For they were not mere inferences, but the very expressions, not only of one or two individuals, but of many persons of great eminence, who pointed out to the (members of the Synod of Dort the way into which they entered,—who constituted no inconsiderable portion of that Synod, and who gave such interpretations of the decisions of] that Synod as accorded exactly with the meaning of Bogerman's spirit. I will not use the authority of the men (the Remonstrants] who made those collections (of injudicious expressions): For they are poor, destitute, and were, not long ago, driven into banishment by these very Synodists. Let the passages which they quoted be inspected, and it will appear that they are exact-nothing is added, nothing subtracted. But Richelieu has adduced a smaller number of passages (from the writings of the Calvinists) of the same import: When he first wrote them, he was only a Bishop; when he caused them to be republished, he had been invested with a Cardinal's purple, and was at the helm of the government. The well-known prudence of the Cardinal does not allow us to suppose, that he would utter any thing without consideration; and the great benefits, which he has bestowed on the pastors of Charenton and their associates, will not permit us to view him as under the influence of hatred.

" But these are not the only persons who urge such objections against Rivet and his colleagues : The same objections are made by the greater portion of the Roman Catholics, the Greek Church, and of the Protestants, not only by those of the latter denomination who adhere to the Augsburgh Confession in Sweden, Denmark, and the largest regions of Germany, but by those likewise who occupy

destinarian concord was rendered still more apparent, after the termination of the Synod, when hot disputes arose among the Calvinists in several countries about the kind of Predestination sanctioned by the Synod,some of them asserting it to have been SUPRA and others SUB-LAPSARIANISM.

By the perúsal of the following extract, relative only to a single subject of their disagreement, the reader will form some tolerable judgment concerning the dreadful schism which Armi. nius made in the Calvinistic phalanx :

“ That the decrees of Election and Reprobation levied by our brethren, are shadows of mountains not men, human and not divine conceptions, those endless digladiations and irreconcilable divisions amongst themselves, about assigning or stating the object of these decrees, are an abundant confirmation unto us.—Some of them hold, that men, simply and indefinitely considered, are the * object of these decrees.'--Others contend, that men, considered • as yet to be created or made, are this object.'--A third sort the chief stations in the Church of England, or who, I ought rather to say, have occupied those stations. But the men, who, by such a general concurrence of Christians, are accused of these great evils, act a most iniquitous part: For they neither condemn those sentiments which are produced from the writings of the chief men of their party, through a fear of deserting their leaders ; nor do they venture to defend those sentiments, lest their ulcers should become apparent to all persons. They wish to have no perception of their diseases, and yet they do not try to lay aside the use of those soothing medicines which physicians call ANODYNES.

“ Docs any one wish to know, to which of the parties in this controversy the charge of NOVELTY attaches ? Let him set aside St. Augustine, and the few writers who imitate his sayings ; let him separate them on this account, because their words admit of an ambiguous interpretation. Let him consult Augustine's Christian predecessors in Asia, Africa, Greece, and throughout the whole of Western Christendom, writers, who have been most conspicuous for exemplary living and sound judgment, who have perused and examined the Holy Scriptures with diligence, have expressed the doctrines in their manners, and some of whom have sealed their testimony with their blood. What peril is there in (the Arminiansfollowing such numer Jus and great guides as these? It is the belief of those who co-incide in opinio) with Rivet, and this belief they constantly inculcate, that every believer ought to be assured of his final salvation or of his present predestination. This doctrine is their principal consolation, both in life and in death ; it is likewise the foundation of the whole of their instruction. These are not crude declarations of ours, but they are crude articles of their belief. • Predestination,' in the sense in which St. Augustine understood it, remains a * secret in the bosom of the Almighty: There are no certain marks of it in this • world, unless God be pleased to reveal it to some person, which He is not accus• tomed to do. Those indications of it which have been fabricated, are the dreams of those who wish to have it so. The Spirit of adoption is a seal only to present experience, and not necessarily (as the Calvinists maintain,) of that which is future: For it is possible to quench the Spirit. "But,' says Rivet, - we do

not assert that sins are forgiven before they are committed.' What then does he assert? Does be not say, that the pardon of sins was absolutely and from all * eternity decreed by God?' And what real difference is there between these two assertions, especially when it is the wish of the Calvinists to inculcate, on all those who have believed in Christ, the necessity of being personally assured of this decree !"_Then follows the paragraph about Moses Amyraut, which I have quoted in a subsequcnt page, 750.

stands up against both the former with this notion, that men,

considered as already created and made, are this object.'-A fourth disparageth the conjectures of the three former, with this conceit, ' that men, considered as fallen, are the said object.' Another findeth a defect in the singleness or simplicity of all the former opinions, and compoundeth this in opposition to them,

that men, considered both as to be created and as being created, ' and as fallen, together, are the proper object of those trouble* some decrees.'-A sixth sort formeth us yet another object, and this is, ‘men considered as salvable, or capable of being saved.'-A seventh, not liking the faint complexions of all the former opi. nions, delivereth us this, as strong and healthful; viz, that men,

considered as damnable or capable of damnation, are this object.' -Others yet again, super-fancying all the former, conceit' men, * considered as creable, or possible to be created, to be the object * so highly contested about.'--A ninth party gives the pre-eminence to their sense, who disciple the world with this doctrine, • that men considered as labiles, or capable of falling, are the ob"ject of those men-confounding and God-abasing decrees.'-A tenth squadron, coming up in the rear of all the former, supposeth that they all left the Truth behind them, and that themselves have gathered it up, in this notion, viz. that men, considered as

repairable or capable of restauration, are the object of that Pre* destination which men have laboured to build up, and yet could • never agree about the materials.'-And whether all the scattered and conflicting opinions about the object of our Brethren's decrees of Election and Reprobation, be bound up in this bundle, or no, we cannot say; we are rather negatively inclined. However, by those uncouth distractions and interferings in opinion amongst them, where, or how, to bottom their said pretended decrees, we are jealous with a very great jealousy, that neither they, nor any others, are able to find so much as an inch of firm ground whereon to build them.”—Goodwin's Agreement and Distance of Brethren.

Such were the manifold disputes among the Calvinists, concerning one of the most simple matters in their heterogeneous scheme, and one about which they ought to have been at agreement before they attempted to raise upon it their fatal superstructure. The contrast, in this respect, between them and the Arminians, is very remarkable : For, how much soever the latter differ among themselves in the more or less gracious quality of the materials of which their SUPERSTRUCTURE is formed, and the difference is to this day great both among the Dutch and English Arminians,) all of them agree in laying the FOUNDATION of the Divine Decrees, concerning man's salvation, in Fairh and PERSEVERANCE FORESEEN. In reference to this topic, the celebrated Limborch observes, in his Historical Relation of the Origin and Progress of the Controversies about Predestination in the United Prorinces : “ But, that the Calvinists [after the Synod], might be

able to deck out in fair colours the charge of SocINIANISM, and that they might defend their own schism and the persecution which they instituted against the Remonstrants, under the specious pretext of the latent Socinianism among them which would insensibly

betray itself,' they contrived to frame a distinction between the early Remonstrants who dissented from them solely in the Five Points, and the latler whom they stigmatized as Socinians. Others of their writers, (Spanheim, &c.) not content with this two-fold distinction, have invented FouŘ classes of Remonstrants, that merge at length into the two already described. But in vain do the Calvinists endeavour to find some refuge for themselves under this distinction : For it is a circumstance well known to every one, that the Remonstrants were condemned at the Synod of Dort solely on account of the Five Articles about Predestination. The Acts and Canons of that assembly proclaim the same fact. On account of those Five Points alone, the Remonstrant pastors were discharged from the ministry and banished, and their churches were harassed with a most grievous persecution of ten years' continuance. By the judgment of the Provincial Synods, fraternal communion was refused to those who professed that benevolent sentiment. If therefore the latter Remonstrants had adopted Socinianism, that can neither be an argument in excuse for the schism, which had some time previously been introduced only through the dissension about Predestination, nor of the atrocious persecution with which that schism was connected.” · But though Arminius dissented from his Calvinistic brethren in the manner of stating the order and subject of God's decrees, he was too good a divine to reject the rest of the scriptural doctrines which they maintained. In all his labours bis paramount desire was, according to his own words, “to perceive his coun trymen employing a nicer accuracy of distinction.” (P. 478.) He knew that, in a revelation from Heaven-how great soever may be the condescension of the Deity in humbling Himself to creatures of the earth, and in accommodating his expressions to the finite capacities of mankind,-some matters must appear mysterious : Secret things belong unto the LORD OUR GOD; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children," &c. Among those grand verities which have been REVEALED, these two hold a disa tinguished place: (1.) “It is God WHO WORKETH IN YOU both to wilt and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philip. ii. 13.)-(2.) In the same passage, the believers at Philippi are thus exhorted, on the ground of their constant obedience, « Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."* St. Peter also exhorts those who had

• " The concurrence of God and man,” says Archbishop Bramhall, “ in producing the act of our believing or conversion to God, is so evident in Holy Scripture, that it is vanity and lost labour to oppose it. If God did not concur, the Scripture would not say, It is God that workelh in us both the will and the deed.' If man did not concur, the Scripture would not say, "Work out your own

obtained like precious faith with himself, through the righteousness of God and their Saviour Jesus Christ,“ Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: For, if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Arminius has been accused, by those who knew little either about him or his doctrines, “ of having arfogantly tried to reconcile these two apparently opposite propositions, and, when he was not able to effect a satisfactory reconciliation,” it is said, “ he then attempted to elevate the doctrine contained in the second proposition at the expence of the other.” All this is pure fiction : for Arminius acknowledged both of them to be REVEALED scriptural truths; but THE MODE in which the irresistible power of God can exert itself in the work of human salvation with fear and trembling.' If our repentance were God's work alone, God would not say to man, Turn ye unto me with all your heart;' and if repentance were man's work alone, we had no need to pray, 'Turn us, O Lord, and toe shall be turned.' We are commanded to repent and to believe : In vain are commandments given to them who cannot at all concur to the acting of that which is commanded. Faith and repentance are proposed unto us, as conditions to obtain blessedness and avoid destruction. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, and believe with thy heart, thou shalt be saved.' And · Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' To propose impossible conditions, which they, to whom they are proposed, have no power either to accept or refuse, is a mere mockery. Our unbelief and impenitence is imputed to us as our own fault, Because of unbelief thou wert broken off' ;' and After thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath.' Their unbelief and impeni. tence were not their own faults, if they neither had power to concur with the grace of God to the production of faith and repentance; nor yet to refuse the grace of God. The Holy Scripture doth teach us, that God doth help us in doing works of piety: "The Lord is my Helper,' and 'The Spirit helpeth our infirmities." If we did not co-operate at all, God could not be said to help us. There is, there. fore, there must be, co-operation. Neither doth this concurrence or co-operation of man, at all, entrench upon the power or honour of God, because this very liberty to co-operate is his gift, and this manner of acting his own institution.”

This extract from the Irish Prelate is given by the Bishop of Winchester, in his Lordship's able - REFUTATION OF CALVINISM.” In the late Rev. Tho. MAS SCOTT's Remarks, it is said, “ This quotation is not materially different from the sentiments of modern Calvinists. None of us [Calvinists) imagine, that our repentance is God's work alone,' and he admits, that if it were our

work alone, we need not pray, Turn thou us, O Lord, and we shall be turned.' None of us suppose, that God has, proposed impossible conditions, which they, * to whom they are proposed, have no power to accept or refuse.' We have, by nature, both power and inclination to refuse; and nothing is wanting but a willing mind, in order to accept of them : But Bishop Bramhall would admit, that whatever power we have, we have not that willing mind, except by the grace of God. T'he liberty to co-operate is His gift ;' but the inclination to comply with his proposal, is His also. How far the word co-operate is proper, may be questioned : But, as the matter is here stated, I feel no great repugnancy to it; especially as explained in the concluding part of the quotation.”

The man, who could make these large admissions in sincerity, must have been at that time an Arminian, how pertinaciously soever he might on other occasions contend for some of the peculiarities of Calvin's scheme, of which nevertheless he does not seem to have had a clear conception.

« PreviousContinue »