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Thoughts on the Calvinistic and Arminian Controversy. By - Geó. STANLEY FABER, B. D.-Rivington's, 8vo. pp. · 46. . . . T'he author of this pamphlet, wishes to restrain the ar
T dour of the combatants on either side of the question now agitated, concerning Predestination, Free-will, and the operation of Divine Grace; and he shews, that all excess is bad in itself, that to view the Scriptures partially, and to make them subservient to the interests of a party, is highly dangerous, and that no good can accrue to the cause of the Church, or religion in general, by charging on the maintainers of either Calvinism, or Arminianism, such extremes of doctrine as neither of them hold. Undoubtedly it is a Christian duty, “ earnestly to contend for the Faith once delivered to the Saints," and to “ keep that form of sound words which we have received ;" but then we must not break the great standing rule of CHARITY; nor so contend as to inflame existing animosity. True doctrine must be held in faith, and defended and explained, and asserted in love : (2 Tim. i. 13.) and “ the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth.” These directions to those who embark in controversy, are too frequently forgotten by polemical writers; and the consequence is, that the breaches in the Church are but the more widened, and the rents made in the vesture of Christ are but the more irreparable. We regard Mr. Faber's pamphlet as an Irenicum, a persuasive to peace, or at least to more temperate discussion. He goes, in our opinion, a far safer way to work, than two eminent Di. vines of our church, when they formerly endeavoured to abate. the keenness of religious contention, we mean Bishop Taylor, and Bishop Stillingfieet. The former of these great men, in his “Liberty of prophesying”-gives up a great deal of most tenable ground; and the latter in his “ weapon-salve for the Church's wounds," busies himself in confusing landmarks, and rendering territory doubtful. Now Mr. Faber does not meddle with principles; he sheivs the mischief which comes of carrying consequences to extremes, and how wrong it is for the antagonist parties mutually to lay the maintenance of those consequences so forced, followed up, and drawn out, at each other's
door; all the while shewing that the CHURCH, acting on the model of SCRIPTURE, avoids such extremes; and whilst it retains all the great doctrines of Christianity, retains them “ as they are generally set forth in holy writ," and gives a check to all who would indiscreetly urge them beyond due bounds.
" That venerable branch (says he) of protestant episcopacy, the established Church of England, pursues the noiseless tenor of her way," unmoved by the din of theological hatred, and unbiassed by the confident appeals of her restless children. “ Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces!" Thou hast chosen the word of God for thy Guide; and may that God be thy protection in the midst of all thy troubles! To the Calvinist the Church declares the doctrine of universal redemption, and good will towards all men*. To the Pelagian she as= serts the existence of original sin; and pronounces that we are weak, miserable, wretched creatures, very far gone from primitive righteousness, and naturally inclined to evil † To the Antimonian she plainly declares, that good works are a sine qua non of salvation, although they are not the meritorious cause of it; and informs him, that notwithstanding Christ died for all, yet none will be saved but the pious only). To the Latitudinarian, who fancies it the height of philosophical liberality to con sider all modes of worship as equally pleasing unto God, she scruples not to avow, that " they are to be had accursed, that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law, and the light of natures.” And the Romanist she teaches, that “ we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ- by faith; and neither for our own works works or deservingsll," nor yet for the supererogatory works of the Saints. In fine, (to adopt the judicious remark of the present Bishop of Lincoln,)“ Our reformers followed no human authority ; they had recourse to the Scriptures themselves as their sole guide. And the consequence has been, what might have have been expected, that our articles, and liturgy, do not exactly correspond with the sentiments of any of the eminent reformers upon the continent, or with the creeds of any of the protestant churches, which are there esta
* Art. 15. † Art 9. . Athan. Creed towards the end. Hooker decides this point with his usual prudence and accuracy: “We acknowledge a dutiful necessity of doing well, but the meritorious dignity of doing well we utterly renounce." Discourse on Justification, Art. 18. 1 Art. 11. Art, 14.
blished.' Our Church is not Lutheran---it is not Calvinistic---it is not Arminian. It is scriptural*."
This is the conduct of the Church of England. Now look at that of certain partizans in the field of intellectual war.
“ With regard to the present controversy, a sober inquirer may possibly be disposed to think, that the fault of the violent, (be it observed, I am speaking only of the violent) on each side of the question, is this : they are alike unwilling to take the Bible, as they find it; and alike anxious to deduce a chain of conclusions of their own from premises, which themseldes are undoubt, cdly scriptural. These two different sets of conclusions, when worked up into two opposite systems, are respectively adopted as the creeds of the two parties ; and each is resolutely defended by its favourers, as the unadulterated Gospel of Christ, and as the most infallible test of true churchmanship. The consequence is, that the violent of one party run away with one half of the Bible, and the violent of the other party with the other half; both equally either bending or breaking those texts, which do not agree with their preconceived opinions. Thus the systematic Calvinist will very logically prove, or at least he will seem to prove, that man is entirely passive in the work of salvation; in other words, that he is a mere machine in the hands of that God, who imparts his grace only to those whom he hath purposed to savet: while the systematic Arminian, if he push his principles to their utmost extent, after he has, toʻall appearance, no less logically demonstrated from Scripture that man is perfectly a free agent, will not easily avoid demonstrating also that he is able, by his own unassisted strength, to perform the commandments of God. Both these positions may easily be maintained, with a great shew of fairness and impartiality, by arguments drawn from insulated texts; and it may perhaps be a difficult matter to point out the precise link in the chain of reasoning, where the fallacy lies: nevertheless, if Scripture be attended to, as a whole, we shall find something true, and something false, in each of them. “Work
* Charge 1803, p. 23. + Calvinists have sometimes been charged with believing, that, provided a man be only one of the elect, he will undoubtedly be saved, no matter what life he leads: and that, if he be one of the reprobate, the most exemplary piety cannot save him from destruction. But it is scarcely fair to put into the mouth of an adversary, assertions which he never made; and afterwards solemnly to confute, as his, positions, which he never held. Every Calvinist, with whom I at least have conversed, bea lieves, that the elect will certainly in the main lead holy lives, though they inay occasionally fall into sin; and that the reprobate will as certainly lead wicked lives, though they may occasionally feel some qualms of conscience.
out," says an inspired teacher, “ your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure*.” Here a part is evidently as. signed to man, and a part to God. When our Lord commanded the person with a withered arm to stretch it forth, he might have refused on the plea of physical inability: but he made the effort with faith; and, in making it, received that strength, which he did not possess beforet. Thus the command of God is absolute to all men: “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." If'we obey the command, as the cripple did the injunction of Christ, God assuredly will not be deficient, on his part, in“ working in us both to will and to do;" but, if we disobey it, in the same manner as our Lord on one occasion was uot able (that is consistently with the plan laid down by divine wisdom) to work many miracles because of men's unbelieft; so neither can God (consistently with his scheme of moral government) reduce us to a state of mere mnchines. Though “ we cannot turn and prepare ourselves, by our own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon Gods;" and though God alone 'can restore to us the free-will and the strength which Adam lost at the fall; yet we may abuse that free-will when recovered, just as much as Adam did when possessed of it ab origine ; and we may neglect to use that subsequently imparted strength, just as Adam did the strength which he received at his creation.'!
The author shews, to what terrible conclusions either the high Calvinistic or the high Arminian hypothesis leads, when carried to the utmost pitch; by giving two “ chains of reasoning,” in which, proposition follows proposition, setting out with one affirmation, reciprocally Calvinistic or Arminian, till the reader is conducted to all the extravagancies which disgrace the violent of either party. The Calvinistic chain is deduced from 2 Ephes. 1. ir You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins:"—the Arminian from 18 Ezek. 30—1.“ Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed ; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ve die, O house of Israel?" We refer to the Tract itself for the masterly way in which the argument is framed; and we do most heartily wish that both parties, viewing themselves in the mirror here held up to them, may
* Philip. ï. 12. 13. + See a Preservative against Socinianism, by the Rev. William Jones, Chap. v.
See Mærk vi. 5, 6, $ Art. 10.
change, change, and speedily, their whole deportment. “O pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.”
We beg to remark upon two passages; doubting whether the first we shall point out, be perfectly admissible; and corroborating the second by a sentence or two from one of Mr. Locke's letters to Mr. Molineux.-Mr. Faber says, (.p 19.) “ admit no conclusion in any system, unless the Conclusion stself, as well as the Thesis from which it is deduced, be explicitly set forth, in holy Scripture.” We would offer this passage, which, we think, lays down too severe a rule, to the learned au. thor's re-consideration. He cannot shew us, where, in holy Scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity is set forth explicitly. Though that be a catholic doctrine, deducible from a variety of Theses; the Conclusion from the Theses no where occurs in holy Scripture ; yet is the doctrine most true in itself.
The other passage is this, “ Nor let any one maintain, that the Word of God is contradictory, merely because our limited faculties are unable to coinprehend, at one view, all its different bearings. There are difficulties in the natural and in the moral world, as Bishop Butler hath admirably shewn, no less than in the world of grace; and we frequently find ourselves obliged to admit two positions as equally true, although it exceeds our utmost powers completely to reconcile them with each other.”Mr. Locke, with admirable humility, and a complete submission of his understanding to the revealed Word of God, writes thus to his Irish friend :-(Jan. 20, 1692—3.) 65 I own freely to you the weakness of my understanding, that though it be unquestionable that there is omnipotence and omniscience in God our maker, and I cannot have a clearer perception of any thing than that I am free; yet I cannot make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence and omniscience in God; though I am as fully persuaded of both, as of any truths I most firmly assent io. And, therefore, I have long since given off the consideration of that question; resolving all into this short conclusion, that if it be possible for God to make a free agent, then man is free, though I see not the way of it." Now many Controversialists, as violent as shallow, think they see most clearly what Mr. Locke could not discern, and what Bishop Butler deemed a difficulty not to be fathomed by our limited faculties.