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ON THE SEVENTH CHAPTER OF THE REFUTATION,
CONTAINING QUOTATIONS FROM CALVIN, THE
Had his Lordship avowed the purpose of refuting Calvin, or such doctrines contained in Calvin's works, as he deemed erroneous, and of bad tendency; quotations from this author, either as here adduced in the mass, at the beginning of the work, or as prefixed to each chapter, containing the obnoxious tenets which were about to be refuted, would have been highly proper; and would have given a lucid introduction to the whole design, or to each part of it. But, as it is most certain that his Lordship did not intend to refute Calvin, or his immediate disciples, exclusively; but modern Calvinists, and the evangelical clergy in particular; it may be doubted how far it is fair, thus to adduce the most objectionable passages from this writer, as uniformly maintained by us.—But, not to insist on this, it is probably the first instance in the annals of literature or of polemical divinity, for an author to reserve the tenets which he undertook to refute, till he had almost closed his refutation of them! Hitherto we have been in a degree of doubt and perplexity what opinions the writer intended to refute; but when the whole argument seems closed, then, and not before, come in the crimes alleged against the culprits : and concerning which witnesses have been produced, and counsellors have pleaded, and the court and attendant company have listened, without clearly knowing what was alleged, or of what crime the accused persons were supposed to be guilty. This is I must think, an uncommon method of procedure: but, though it seemed worthy of notice, I am by no means disposed to complain of it, since it certainly affords the prosecutor little advantage.
We were elected from eternity, before the 'formation of the world, from no merit of our ‘own, but according to the purpose of the divine pleasure.''
I suppose that scarcely any man, who has heard of Calvin, does not know that this was his sentiment; and in this he surely coincided with St, Paul. “ According as he has chosen us in him, “ before the foundation of the world, that we “ should be holy, and without blame before him “ in love.” “ There is a remnant, according to “ the election of grace : and, if by grace, then it “ is no more of works.” “Who hath saved us, “and called us with a holy calling ; not accord“ing to our works, but according to his purpose “ and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus “ before the world began.”? “Predestination unto
life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby • (before the foundations of the world were laid,)
he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret 'to us, to deliver from curse and damnation, those 'whom he had chosen in Christ out of mankind,
Calv. Ref. 538. Rom. xi. 5, 6. Eph. i. 4. 2 Tim. i. 9.
and to bring them by Christ to everlasting sal'vation, as vessels made to honour. (Ut vasa in 'honorem efficta.)'? “ Vessels of mercy, which “ God had afore prepared unto glory." The same kind of criticism, which explains these words of any thing, except eternal gratuitous election to everlasting life, might also with equal success be employed on those of Calvin. Let both be interpreted by the same rules, and they must both mean the same thing. Either Calvin's words do not express the obnoxious doctrines, or the words of the apostle and of our church do express it.
Is it not wonderful, that any one should ascribe to the God of all mercy a decree which he • himself confesses to be “ horrible?” And yet it must be acknowledged, that Calvin was a man of
piety, and of considerable talent and attainment. "To what absurdities and inconsistencies will not
the human mind be carried by a blind attach'ment to system.'3
Horrible decree. HORRIBLE — Dreadful, terrible, shocking, hideous, enormous. (Johnson.) HORRIBILIS. 1. Rough, rugged; 2. Horrible, terrible, dreadful, frightful. Horribile visu, portenta sequuntur. , 3. Weighty, severe. 4. Also, awful, reverend. (Ainsworth.) · The English word commonly suggests the idea of moral evil, as horrible wickedness : but the Latin word has no such meaning associated with it; and merely signifies tremendous, awful, reverend, to be viewed with terror, or with reverence, or both combined. “ Horror hath taken hold of me, because of the
· Art. xvii. Rom. ix. 23. • Ref. 541.
“ wicked which forsake thy law.”] “On the “ wicked he shall rain a horrible tempest."2 “ It “ is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the “ living God."3 This might with equal propriety have been rendered, “ It is a horrible thing, &c.;" if precisely the same idea be annexed to the word horrible, as to horribilis. Both the Vulgate and Beza translate it horrendum. The same word is translated by Beza horrendum, and by the Vulgate terribile, in another place, 4. “ Reverend is his “ name:" potepov, Sept. There can, therefore, be no doubt that Calvin, or any other learned man, not used to that association of ideas which the frequent use of the English word horrible has occasioned, would without hesitation call the sentence to be denounced against the wicked at the day of judgment, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, “ into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and “ his angels,” horribile judicium or decretum : a sentence to be contemplated with solemn awe, with holy reverence, yea, with horror of mind; and not to be thought of, as involving the eternal doom of unnumbered millions, without the soul shrinking back from the tremendous idea which it is suited to excite. This, it is presumed, most learned readers will allow, was Calvin's meaning in using the words horribile decretum. Is it not
wonderful,' (would he who denies the doctrine of everlasting punishment, exclaim,) that any 'one should ascribe to the God of all mercy,' and Ps. cxix. 53.
? Ps. xi. 6. * Heb. x. 31. pobepòs, terrificus, terribilis, horribilis, formidolosus. (Hederic.) Horrendus.
• Heb. xij. 21. terribilis. (Leigh.)
to the most loving Saviour, a sentence to be pronounced at the day of judgment, 'which he him'self confesses to be horrible ? Yet’ many persons
of piety, and of considerable talent and attainment' have done this. To what absurdities and inconsistencies will not the human mind be
carried by a blind attachment to system.'-It is, · however, gratifying to hear his Lordship allow
Calvin to have been a man of piety :' but “ a ‘man of piety' could never intend to ascribe to the glorious God a decree which he considered as horrible in a moral view, and implying any thing contrary to perfect justice and goodness. And it is much easier to say that Calvin's attachment to his system was blind, than to refute that system. Probably Calvin spent more years in studying the scriptures, with constant prayer for the promised teaching of the Holy Spirit, than many who exclaim against him and his doctrine have done months, nay, weeks. To select passages, in a measure exceptionable, from such copious works as those of Calvin, may not be very difficult : but to follow him in his train of argument, from one end to the other, even of one of his books, and satisfactorily to answer him, Hoc opus, hic labor est!
I shall here very briefly state in what particulars, as it appears to me, Calvin varied in his doctrine from that of our articles and liturgy; I mean, as to election and reprobation : for in other particulars I discern no variation. .
1. He frequently uses the terms reprobate and reprobation, which are carefully avoided in our articles and liturgy.