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ON CALVINISM AND CALVINISTS.
W E have hitherto trodden on ground, common to the orthodox professors of Christianity ; we now enter the disputed and debatable regions, where men celebrated for their piety, for their learning, and for their penetration, find themselves engaged in opposite systems, which too often have drawn them into acrimonious disputes, and into a state of mutual repulsion. It shall be our business, without entering into the controversy ourselves, to state the claims of both parties, and the objections with which they mutually assail each other. On no subject, perhaps, is accuracy more a desideratum, than on that before us. Such have been the mis-statements, on both sides of the question, that too many partisans of each, seem resolved not to know what the tenets are, that have been embraced by their opponents. The name of Calvin has, by one part of the Christian Church, been raised to a distinction and eminence, almost equal with those of the Apostles, and his decisions esteemed almost oracular. By another part, it has been associated with every thing that is opproVOL. II.
brious and vile, and his sentiments represented as a compound of blasphemy and madness. The remark, made by Mr. Pope, seems not to have been without foundation:
One thinks, on Calvin, Heaven's own spirit fell ;
If the panegyrics of his admirers have been somewhat extravagant, it must be allowed, that the unmeasured censures of some of the opposers of his system, have been pot only unjust, but rancorous; and often pronounced with little previous knowledge of the doctrines he embraced and taught. All who are competent and impartial judges will allow, that his natural powers were of a high order; that his learning was great and various; that his eloquence was strong and attractive; that his piety was fervent; that his virtue was disinterested and exemplary; and that his labours in the cause of religion were unwearied, and almost unexampled. On the other hand, his fondness for systematic divinity made him, sometimes, perhaps, adopt conclusions, without sufficiently examining the premises on which they were founded; and in filling up his Institutes of Christianity, some of the harsher parts may be supposed to have been introduced, to fill up, and to give a rotundity to the great outlines of the system, which are, unquestionably, the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel. The unrelenting spirit of persecution which Calvin had imbibed, and which he showed in · bringing the wretched Servetus to the flames, for denying the Divinity of Christ, is the only foul blot that stains his character. But, though the circumstance forms no apology for his intolerant principles and conduct, it is but just it should be remembered, that Queen Elizabeth, that her successor, James I, and that Cranmer, were chargeable with similar acts of atrocious cruelty and injustice.
* Essay on Man, Epistle iv.
The orthodox religious world is divided into two great bodies, the followers of Calvin, who are called Calvinists, from their embracing either the whole, or from their embracing a distinguishing part of the doctrines taught by that divine; and the followers of Arminius, a disciple of Beza, and a celebrated professor of divinity, at Leyden. The ground in dispute between these two parties, has often been gone over, and every inch of it keenly attacked and defended, and much unhallowed censure, invective, and recrimination, have been thrown by the parties upon each other: as if both parties, while they debated about the truths of Christianity, had agreed, in contending for their respective systems, to forget the meekness and gentleness of Christ. They have, likewise, in various instances, by their mis-statements of one another's sentiments, so entangled and perplexed the controversy, that it is no easy thing for the observers to ascertain, what is Calvinism, or what is Arminianism.
When the controversy first began to be agitated between the contending parties, it commonly obtained the name of the Quinquarticular Controversy, because the leading tenets of Calvinism comprehended these five things :— Particular Election, Particular Redemption, the Moral Inability and Condemnation of Man in his Fallen State ; Irresistible Grace; and the final Perseverance of the Saints. The first of these points, we find thus stated by Mr. Adams, and Mr. Evans. « That God has cho. sen a certain number in Christ, to everlasting glory, before the foundation of the world, according to his immutable purpose, and of his free grace and love, without the least foresight of faith, good works, or any conditions performed by the creatures, and that the rest of mankind he was pleased to pass by, and ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sins, to the praise of his vindictive justice.” Mr. Adams refers, in a note, to the third chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Now impartiality requires it should be stated, that according to this representation, Calvinists are made to deny God's foresight of faith and good works, whereas, it is a doctrine of all Calvinists, that God hath chosen his elect people to faith and good works, which necessarily supposes his foresight of both, and his certain provision for both. To the accurate statement of the doctrine of Calvinists, the words left out should have been inserted thus:-“ Without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto.” This is the statement of the Westminster Confession, and is very different from the garbled account given of it. The two last words of the sentence are not in the Confession. Instead of " vindictive justice,” the words are “ glorious justice.” All writers should, on controverted subjects, quote accurately, and from authentic and public documents. The words, vindictive justice, seem harsh, though they have been used by some Calvinists. Mr. Fuller observes, on this subject,_" I believe it is very common for people, when they speak of vindictive punishment, to mean that kind of punishment which is inflicted from a wrathful disposition, or a disposition to