« VorigeDoorgaan »
return home, they were attacked by a certain writer, and charged with having given countenance to error, and also with having departed from the public standards of their own church. Against this attack they thought proper to defend themselves, and accordingly wrote a joint attestation, which contains the following pas"Whatsoever there was assented unto, and subscribed by us, concerning the five articles, either in the joint synodical "judgment, or in our particular collegiate suffrage, is not only "warrantable by the Holy Scriptures, but also conformable to the "received doctrine of our said venerable mother; which we are "ready to maintain and justify against all gainsayers.”*
Again, Bishop Hall, in a work of his own, addressing some who had charged him and other bishops of his day, with entertaining Arminian sentiments as to the doctrine of election, thus indignantly replies to the charge-" You add election upon faith foreseen.' "What! nothing but gross untruths? Is this the doctrine of the bi"shops of England? Have they not strongly confuted it in pa"pists and Arminians? Have they not CRIED IT DOWN TO THE LOWEST PIT OF HELL?"
The same pious prelate himself tells us, that, after his return from the synod of Dort, where he had been an advocate of Calvinistic doctrine, and a warm opponent of Arminianism, he was distressed to find that heresy gaining ground in England. "Not "many years," says he, "after settling at home, it grieved my "soul to see our own church begin to sicken of the same disease, "which we had endeavoured to cure in our neighbours."
If all this be not conclusive testimony, that the thirty-nine articles, which Mr. How has recently subscribed are Calvinistic; that the reformers were Calvinistic; and that the great body of the English bishops and other clergy, were Calvinistic until the time of Archbishop Laud, then I know not what evidence can be called
See their Joint Attestation.
It seems, then, that Bishop Hall was not only a Calvinist himself; but that he considered the body of English bishops, until his time, as having been Calvinists also. But perhaps Dr. Bowden and Mr. How understand this matter better than the good bishop!
Defence of the Humble Remonstrance. Works.
Vol. III. 246.
§ Some Specialities of the Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich, written by himself.-Prefixed to the 3d vol. of his Works.
conclusive. And yet, Mr. How, with the highest praises of those articles, and reformers, and prelates, and clergy, in his mouth, does not scruple to speak of Calvinism in language which could scarcely be more contemptuous, or more abhorrent, if it were acknowledged to be a system of the most undisguised blasphemy! I am happy that it is not incumbent on me, either to account for this fact, or to frame an apology for it.
But you will, perhaps, ask are there no difficulties to be encountered in embracing that system of evangelical truth, which is usually styled Calvinism? It ought not to be disguised that there are in this system real difficulties, which, probably, no human wisdom will ever be able to solve. But are the difficulties which belong to the system of Arminianism, either fewer in number, or less in magnitude? Instead of this, they are more numerous, and more serious; more contradictory to reason, more inconsistent with the character of God, and more directly opposed both to the letter and the spirit of his word. I rest in the Calvinistic system, with a confidence daily increasing, not only because the more I examine it, the more clearly it appears to me to be taught in the Holy Scriptures; but also because, the more frequently and the more carefully I compare the amount of the difficulties, on both sides, the more heavily they seem to me to press against the Arminian doctrine.
It is easy and popular to object, that Calvinism has a tendency to cut the nerves of all spiritual exertion; that, if we are elected there is no need of exertion, and if not elected, it will be in vain. But this objection lies with quite as much force against the Arminian hypothesis. Dr. Bowden, and Mr. How, and all Arminians, though they reject the doctrine of election, explicitly grant that, while some will, in fact, be saved, others will, in fact, as certainly perish. Now it is perfectly plain that this position is just as liable to the abuse above stated, as the Calvinistic doctrine. For a man may say, "I shall either be saved, or I shall not. If I am to be "saved, no anxiety about it is necessary; and if I am to perish, all "anxiety about it will be useless." Would these gentlemen consider this objection as a valid one against their creed? I presume not. But it has no more validily against ours. Another objection is equally common and popular. It is said, if none but the elect will be saved, how can God be considered as sincere in making the
offers of mercy to all? The Arminian is just as much bound to answer this question as the Calvinist. He grants that all men will not, in fact, be saved; he grants, moreover, that God foreknew this from eternity; and that he not only foreknew the general fact; but also the particular persons who will, and who will not, partake of salvation. How, then, we may ask the Arminian, is God sincere, on his plan, in urging and entreating all to accept of mercy? Again, it has been frequently asked, "If none but the elect will be saved, is not God a partial master, and a respecter of persons ?" But it may be quite as plausibly and confidently asked, "How can we reconcile it with the impartiality and the benevolence of God, to save only a part of mankind ?" If salvation be his work, then, why does he not save all? Why does he make a distinction? And if it be not his work, then men save themselves. Will even Mr. How, with all his inveteracy against Calvinism, go this length?
But while all the objections which our Arminian brethren urge against Calvinism, lie with full as much force against their own system; there are others, of a still more serious nature, to which that system is liable, and which, if I were compelled to admit, would plunge me into darkness and despair.
Yes, my brethren, if I could bring myself to believe, that the infinite and eternal God has laid no plan in the kingdom of his grace, but has left all to be decided by chance, or accident, not knowing the end from the beginning-If I could believe that the purposes of Jehovah, instead of being eternal, are all formed in time; and instead of being immutable, are all liable to be altered by the chang ing will of his creatures-If I could suppose that, after all the Redeemer has done and suffered, the work of redemption cannot be completed, unless perishing mortals choose to lend their arm to its aid-If I could admit the idea, that God has done nothing more than decree, in general, to save all who may happen to believe; without any determination, or, which is the same thing, without any certainty, whether few, or many, or none, would be thus blessed-If I could suppose that God foresaw events as certainly future, which he had not unchangeably determined to accomplish, and which, therefore, might never happen-If I could suppose that the omniscient Saviour died with a distinct purpose and design to
save all men alike, while it is certain that all will not be saved -If I could embrace the opinion that real Christians are no more indebted to grace than others, having received no more than they; and that what makes them to differ from others is, not the sovereign goodness of God, but their own superior wisdom, strength, or merit ; in other words, that they make themselves to differ-If I could admit the dreadful thought, that the Christian's continuance in his journey heavenward, depends, not on the immutable love and promise of his God; but on the firmness of his own strength, and the stability of his own resolutions; and, of course, that he who is the most eminent saint to-day, may become a child of wrath, and an heir of perdition to-morrow-In short, if I could conceive of God as working without any providential design, and willing without any certain effect; desiring to save man, yet unable to save him, and often disappointed in his expectations; doing as much, and designing as much, for those that perish, as for those that are saved; but after all baffled in his wishes concerning them; hoping and desiring great things, but certain of nothing, because he had determined on nothing-If I could believe these things, then, indeed, I should renounce Calvinism; but it would not be to embrace the system of Arminius. Alas! it would be impossible to stop here. I must consider the character of God as dishonoured; his counsels as degraded to a chaos of wishes and endeavours; his promises as the fallible and uncertain declarations of circumscribed knowledge and endless doubt; the best hopes of the Christian as liable every hour to be blasted; and the whole plan of salvation as nothing better than a gloomy system of possibilities and peradventures; a system on the whole, nearly, if not quite, as likely to land the believer in the abyss of the damned, as in the paradise of God.
But, while I verily believe all these shocking consequences to flow, unavoidably, from the rejection of Calvinism; while the Arminian doctrine appears to me inconsistent with itself; dishonourable to God; and comfortless to man; yet I dare not bring a railing accusation against those who embrace this doctrine; I dare not impute to them the consequences which have been stated. They neither acknowledge nor perceive them; and if
they did, would, no doubt, be as ready to abhor them as ourselves. Nor can I cease to cherish the animating belief, as well as to offer the fervent prayer, that thousands who now reject, in words, the doctrines of Calvinism, and entertain invincible prejudices against the system which is generally called by that name; may, notwithstanding, for ever rejoice in these doctrines, and bless God for them in a more enlightened, and a more happy world.