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our chief earnestness is about the high points of Calvinism, to be present, incog, in the company of a select number of the evangelical clergy, who are aware that, on this doctrine of personal election and final perseverance they differ from each other; to observe that, in a conversation wholly on some select religious subject, intimately connected, as they suppose, with their ministerial usefulness, and continued during two or three hours; these subjects are never once mentioned, and often not hinted at. Nay, I verily believe that, in the earnestness of the inquiry, how they may best make progress in personal religion, and in doing good to their congregations, these points scarcely occur to the thought of any present. If, however, any thing be brought forward respecting them; it generally passes off by some one saying, * We know each other's sentiments on that point; and agree to differ amicably: dismiss the subject.' —Thus we often meet, and converse, and pray together; and part more cordially united than before, even though we must think each other mistaken on this point. But we are agreed in so many other matters of prime and essential importance, that, unless we are called on to deliver our sentiments on these doctrines, we seldom mention them. This, I apprehend, is very different from what is generally supposed: but I can confidently affirm that it is commonly the case with the evangelical clergy, when they meet together.
In general, I should consider a modern
writer as being as much a Calvinist as I desire any one to be, who should write in the usual language pf Augustine.]
Chrysostom. The copious extracts from Chrysostom, occupying fifty-three pages, imply that his Lordship lays great weight on his testimony; and I am willing to allow that, as far as these quotations go, he is almost uniformly hostile to the tenets of Calvinism; and in many of them equally opposed to the grand doctrines of Christianity, as held by numbers who are not Calvinists, in the most general acceptation of that term.— Augustine says of Chrysostom, that before Pelagius appeared he was incautious in speaking about grace and free will. Securius loquebatur Johannes. It would have been well if, like Augustine, he had afterwards published his retractations. I have not, however, learned that he did any thing of the kind: yet it is probable that, as Chrysostom, (even as it appears from these quotations,) like most popular orators, was prone to forget at one time what he had maintained at another; a Calvinist, if he had leisure and thought it worth while, might produce passages from him bearing far more of an evangelical stamp, more like Christianity, and less like pagan philosophy and ethics.
While remarking on his Lordship's own words, I always found something on which to make observations, either on one side or the other: but I must say that there is something so vague, and unmeaning, and destitute of all appearance either of scriptural proof, or logical argument, in the quotations, that I feel no inducement to dwell upon them. I can only state, that they give all the glory to the free will of man of every thing good in him, and none of it to the special grace of God. Nor would an ordinary reader so much as suspect from them, that there were in scripture the glad tidings of full and everlasting salvation, from guilt, and sin, and misery, for the vilest rebel and apostate, who came, by faith in the divine Redeemer, to seek this unspeakable blessing.
p Having first given proof of his own inherent 'virtue in all things, he (Abraham) was on that 'account thought worthy of the assistance of 'God.'l Whither are these quotations meant to conduct us ?—Wnen Dr. Buchanan came within fifty or sixty miles of Juggernaut, he was aware of his approach to that centre of idolatrous cruelty and abomination, by the multitude of human bones which lay unburied by the road side.2 And really, though we may seem at a great distance from the more scandalous abominations of popery, yet these passages remind me, and I think will remind many of my readers, that we are in the vicinity of popery, and in the direct road to it. The subsequent events, recorded in ecclesiastical history, after Christian divines began openly to maintain such sentiments as these, sufficiently prove that this is no imaginary alarm. Let us only join with the Papists in the ' impious doc'trine of human merit,'3 and the great enemy of human souls will not be greatly concerned, if, by avoiding the scandalous corruptions of that system, we turn away from the gospel in a more decent and reputable manner. But most certainly we are " turning again to the weak and beggarly "elements, whereunto many desire to be in bon"dage," as much as ever the Galatians were.— One testimony of scripture, on this point, may be added. "Your fathers dwelt on the other side of "the flood in old time, even Terah the father of "Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they" (Abraham is not excepted,) "served other gods. "And I took your father Abraham from the other "side of the flood, &c."—This is the only proof I can meet with of Abraham's inherent virtue, and 'merit of condignity.']
1 Chrysost. lief. 465. * Christian Researches in Asia.
[Let the reader, if he can, make out some perspicuous and precise meaning in this passage in pages 469, 470. All that I can learn from it is, that Chrysostom supposed man, previously to the call of the gospel, to be under no obligation to fear or love God, or to yield him any obedience: that, if he had no claim on God, for good things, he was at least not deserving of condemnation: that man's rejection of the gospel was the effect of natural not of moral, inability: that, if God did not remove both the moral and natural inability, the sinner was wholly excusable: and in fact that, however clearly the scripture spake of the Lord's Opening the hearts of some, and not of others, and of his Spirit's enlightening, drawing, and conducting them ; either this must not be believed in the literal sense, or that all who are not thus drawn, conducted and enlightened, do not sin.— I have sometimes heard Calvinists, as they called themselves, but Antinomians as I should call them, from opposite tenets to those of Chrysostom, speak similar language; and excuse their impenitence, unbelief, enmity to God, and wickedness of all kinds, in the same manner. But these principles, carried to their legitimate conse
quences, would excuse the devil also, who is morally as incapable of every thing good; and as entirely, at least, left destitute of teaching, drawing, and conducting, as any man can be.]
'That he may alarm the hearers, he says, "he 'hardened."'l—Does then God speak what is not true to alarm mankind? this is often intimated in respect of the threatenings of everlasting punishment; but a more dishonourable suggestion respecting God, or one more pernicious to mankind, can hardly be conceived. Giving such alarms concerning evils which it is known will never come, may suit the narrow policy of man ; but it at least borders on blasphemy to ascribe it to God. I take this opportunity to say, that scarcely any modern Calvinist ventures to use the energetic and unqualified language of scripture, on this awful subject, without pausing to give explanation, or to affix some limitation to its meaning. So far from going beyond the "oracles of God" in our language, we hesitate at using the express words of scripture, when we speak of God's hardening the hearts of men. This is a consideration not unworthy the notice of those who labour to put a favourable construction on the language of the sacred writers, but affix the worst which they can devise to our words, though in themselves much less energetic. Only let our language be interpreted by the same rules, which would be applied to that of Moses and St. Paul respecting Pharaoh; and the objections against us, at least on this 'Chrys. Ref. 495, 496.