« AnteriorContinuar »
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.'l
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."2 '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. «. 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."2 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 as'cribe 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 proprietyhave 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:" y&tpm, 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. a Ps. xi. 6.
'Heb. x. 31. <po€fpO(, terrificus, terribilis, horribilis, fortnidolosus. (Hederic.) Horrendus.
4 Heb. xii. 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 attain'ment' 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, hie 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.
2. He dwells much more frequently and copiously on the subject of reprobation, and on the reprobate, than any of oiir authorized books do, and also far more than the holy scriptures do.
3. He sometimes speaks, or seems to speak, of reprobation, as being the absolute decree of God, independent of man's foreseen wickedness, and gratuitous even as the decree of election.1 ,
4. In resolving this into the absolute sovereignty of God, he does not, with any thing like sufficient explicitness, shew this sovereignty to be that of infinite wisdom, justice, truth, and love : and he often reasons as if whatever he supposes God decreed or did was right, because he decreed it, or did it: instead of maintaining that God can decree, or do nothing, on account of his absolutely perfect unchangeable holiness, which is not, in itself, perfectly just and holy. Of these sentiments, I see no trace in our authorized books.
1 The distinction ' between gratuitous mercy, without regard 'to human worth,' in respect of the elect; and the 'just and * irreprehensible, but incomprehensible judgment' of God, in respect of the non-elect'; marks a decided difference, in the writer's (Calvin's) mind, between the source of election and that of pretention. Yet I cannot but lament that it was not more directly said, because 'he foreknew, that they would justly deserve it.' This would have given a clear view of the subject, and also have precluded objections. Mercy, and the decree of mercy, are gratuitous: repentance, faith, and all things pertaining to salvation, being the effects of special grace, which God purposed to give to " the vessels of mercy, whom he afore "prepareth unto glory." But condemnation, whether as decreed ur denounced, is not gratuitous, but the just punishment of wickedness, either as foreseen, or as actually committed. [Remark, in the first edition, on a passage of Calvin quoted Ret', p. 538. J.S.]