« AnteriorContinuar »
against those who differ from them in their views on the topics in question, have themselves advanced positions, as essential to Calvinism, which it has appeared to the writer were never maintained by Calvin, or the reformers of his time: and have also censured others as heretical for maintaining positions which are precisely those which Calvin and his associates defended as the doctrines of the reformation.*
* To illustrate these positions fully, before we proceed to establish them, we beg leave to refer to oue of the cases which has been for years agitating the Presbyterian church in America. It may be compendiously stated as follows: The Rev. George Junkin, D. D., president of the Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., tabled a series of charges against the Rev. Albert Barnes of Philadelphia ; the tenth of which series is the following: “Mr. Barnes teaches in opposilion to the standards, that justification is simply pardun.” Dr. Junkin endeavors to establish this charge by a number of quotations from a work of Mr. Barnes entitled " Noles on Romans :" after wbich he sums up the evidence as follows: “Now that Mr. Barnes makes the whole of justification consist in pardon, forgiveness, remission of sins, is just as true as the assertion I made in the ninth charge. For if he rejects, as I suppose is proved, the active obedience of Christ, of course there is nothing left but pardon. But let us attend to the other proofs in order. 1. He makes acquitting them from punishment and admitting them to favor, as equivalent to justification. He makes the word to justify, to mean to treat as if innocent, to regard as innocent, to pardon, to forgive. This is the charge in terms. 2. He denies that the righteousness becomes ours, but that it is God's plan for pardoning
3. Again, 'pardon or justification' are synonyines. 'Righteous, justified, free from condemnation,' equally explicit, etc.” See “ Vindication” by Dr. Juokin, p. 132, 133. The principles advanced in this work of Dr. Juokin bave received the decided approbation of many others in the church of which he is a minister.
. To the foregoing allegations Mr. Barnes thus replies: “I have not taught what is here charged upon me, but the very reverse.
So far from teaching that justification is merely pardon, I have, in the very passages under consideration taught that God regards and treats the sinner who believes in Christ as if he was righteous, and that solely on account of the merits of Christ, irrespective of any good deeds or desert of the sinner, whatsoever.-It is true that pardon, in the divine arrangement implies justification as certainly to exist. But it is because God has so arranged it; and not because pardon is the same thing as justification.” See “ Defence,” p. 261–262.
This case which we have thus presented, will serve to show the necessity that exists for a thorough investigation of this subject; especially, if there be a probability of its being attended with but the partial restoration and promotion of confidence among brethren.
Having long believed that the present state of the church of Christ imperiously calls for an investigation of this subject, the writer of this Article has been for a number of years bestowing upon it what attention he was able. He has sought to acquaint himself thoroughly with the system of Calvinism as it came from the hands of the reformers who flourished during the first century of the reformation ; that is, before the period arrived, when protestants, beginning to attend more to the points on which they differed, than to those on which they agreed, eventually proceeded in introducing into the church the agitating and withering storms of interminable controversy. So early as A. D. 1625, we find the venerable Abraham Scultetus bewailing such a state of things as follows: At nostra juventus, etc., “Even our young men have at length got to paying more attention to human writings, than to those which are divine. They adopt in relation to them the Horatian precept : Read them by day, and study them by night. They are more learned in the definitions of men than in those of the word of life. Not like Apollos, powerful in the Scriptures; but they excel in that knowledge which is the greatest curse to the church. For the sake of disputation they neglect sermonizing, disregard the study of language, and never seriously think of investigating the genuine sense of the Scriptures. They do not bring forth the sense of the text, nor expound it to their hearers, nor show them how, it may be applied for consolation and instruction. They make themselves ridiculous with the learned, while before the poor and ignorant they dispute in the jargon of the schools; or announce that for the word of God, which is not in the word of God.” The existence of such a state of things at so early a date will sufficiently justify our selection of the first century of the Reformation as the purest ; and as the period best calculated to make known the doctrines of the reformers unencumbered with useless scholastic distinctions. To Calvinism as it came from the hands of the reformers of that period, the writer is prepared to subscribe, with but little modification ;*
• The modification referred to, relates principally to the extent to which they carried out their views of the purposes of God. It can. not be denied that in the general, (nor do I now recollect one instance of distinct disavowal,) they asserted the reprobation of infants dying in infancy. Vide e. g. Calvin, Instit. Lib. II. c. 1. § 6, and Lib. III. c. 23. § 7, and Lib. IV. c. 15. § 10, and Piscator, Append. ad Tract. de Grat. Dei, Joh. Scharpius, De Reprobatione, Par. Il. Arg. XI., Tám and he has undertaken the laborious course of study referred to because it appeared to be the only satisfactory method left of ascertaining what are the essential doctrines of the system. He has satisfied himself; and having coinpared the system with the word of God, he is prepared to meet with cheerfulness whatever consequences may result from adopting for his text-book, the “ Institutes" of the illustrious Calvin.
The doctrine of justification by faith, as we have already intimated, has ever been regarded by protestants as the great and distinctive doctrine of the Reformation. And if there be a doctrine on which the followers of Calvin and Luther in the present day, will unhesitatingly, concede that the views of the primitive reformers were sound—this is the doctrine. It was at the peril of their lives that they rescued this pillar in the temple of God's eternal truth from the rubbish which impious hands had been heaping upon it for ages. And while it is true that persons who have to a limited extent departed from their views of this doctrine, may still be regarded as sound, in the general, it must yet be admitted that those who entertain on this subject the views which they entertained cannot be regarded by Calvinists as unsound. To this last canon all their professed followers will readily subscribe.
The topics which will form the subject of the present investigation it is our intention to take up and consider in the order of their announcement in the question at the head of this article. We shall therefore commence with the doctrine of justification.
Zenus, Syntag. De Predestinatione, Dr. Francis Gomar, Opp. Tom. II. p. 279, Dr. Amandus Polanus, Syvlag. Lib. IV. c. 10. Thes. II, and IV., Dr. Twisse of England, etc. Their method of treating the subject shows that the principle was extensively, if not universally acknowledged amongst them. We extract an instance from one of the last named divines, for the classical reader. Dr. Polanus is treating upon the efficient cause of reprobation ; and he thus speaks : “Si decreti reprobationis causa efficiens est peccatum tum aut originale erit aut actuale. At originale peccatum decreti reprobationis causa non est, quia sic omnes homines naturaliter nascentes reprobati fuissent, quum omnes peccato originali sint infecti. Neque enim actuale peccatum est ejus causa, quia sic nulli infantes, etiam blasphemorum Judaeorum, Turcarum, et aliorum Gentilium, vel in utero materno vel paulo post nativitatem mortui essent a Deo reprobati. Ergo, etc." This, however, was only an excrescence, and not an essential feature of the system.
$ I. Views entertained by the Reformers on the doctrine of
Justification. It has been with unaccountable singularity maintained in our own time that the term justification is of recent coinage.* All the reformers, however, employ the term justificatio. Hence it must be at least upwards of three hundred years old. Not only this, but the schoolmen use it: e. g. Thomas Aquinas, who was born A. D. 1254. Nor is this all: for we find it of very frequent occurrence in an author who stands deservedly high in the estimation of all true Calvinists: We refer to Augustine, who was born fifteen hundred years ago. The term is likewise employed by Ambrose, Oecumenius, etc. etc.
But, as we have already remarked, it is foreign from our intention to mingle in the agitating controversies now pending in the American churches on this subject. Yet we hope to be pardoned, if, in treating this subject historically, we find it necessary to refer to some facts of recent occurrence in relation to these controversies. If in so doing we should give offence, it will be altogether unintentional, as our sole object by such reference is to place before our readers the views on this subject, which have been pronounced erroneous, as well as those which have been approved, and thus to enable them at once to compare such views with those entertained on the like points by the reformers themselves; whose views it is our intention to present as fully as the limits which are allowed us will permit.
The disputes referred to in a note on a preceding page, have excited the deepest interest in a large denomination of American Christians. The whole denomination appears to be nearly equally divided in relation to it. Learning and talent of the first order are found on either side. Those who are charged with maintaining that justification is synonymous with pardon, have been pronounced on that account sufficiently unsound in the faith to warrant their coerced separation from those who assume the opposite ground; and it is affirmed that their speculations and views seriously endanger, if they do not entirely subvert the doctrine of justification by faith alone; the great leading doctrine, and very pillar of the Reformation.f
" Justification is a modern Latin word, coined to express a particular thought.” “ Dr. Junkin's Vindication," p. 134.
See “Trial of the Rev. Albert Barnes before the Synod of Philadelphia in Session at York, Pa.. Oct. 1835.” pp. 154 - 235.
On the contrary they who have been thus charged and their brethren who agree with them, maintain that they do not hold that justification, and pardon, or remission of sin, are one and the same thing. And further; that even if they had avowed this belief, they would not thereby have materially departed from the doctrine of the Reformation, and that therefore they cannot consistently be pronounced heretical on this subject, unless the noble army who achieved the Reformation share a similar fate. As we are about to enter upon an investigation of the subject in controversy, may the Great Head of the church vouchsafe his blessing upon our feeble efforts, that, to some extent they may heal the dissensions of his blood-bought Zion, and tend to the restoration of confidence and peace within her borders.
The position which we expect to establish is that the reformers employed the terms pardon, or forgiveness, and justification interchangeably, and really as synonymes. Our quotations will be brief, and such as, we doubt not, will prove satisfactory to all who candidly regard them. By way of introduction to this part of the subject we shall furnish the reader with a specimen or two of the language employed with respect to this doctrine in the time of the great Augustine and later; from which we shall pass on to the first centuries of the Reformation.
Our translations are designed to be strictly accurate and as much condensed as practicable, while, for the satisfaction of the classical reader, we shall throw the originals of our excerpts into notes at the bottom of the page.
I. Let us then hear Augustine, the great defender of the doctrines of grace against Pelagius. He says, “Our sanctuary is the forgiveness of sins, which is to be justified by his blood. When God the Father is displeased with us, he considers the death of his Son in our behalf, and becomes reconciled. My entire hope is in the death of my Lord. His death is my merit, my refuge, my salvation, my life, and my resurrection.”* If it should be objected that this writer appears sometimes to
Assylum nostrum remissio peccatorum : quid est justificari sanguine ipsius. Cum nobis irasceretur, Deus Pater videt mortem filii sui pro nobis, et placatus est nobis.—Tota spes mea in morte Domini est. Mors ejus meritum meum est, refugium meum, salus mea, vita et resurrectio mea. De Civitate Dei, Lib. II. cap. 2, and De Trinitate, Lib. XIII.