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The Anti-trinitarians themselves, I might further contend, cannot consistently allege, that the doctrine of the Trinity, considered as a general proposition, is a mystery, and incapable of being understood. It is their own maxim, that we ought not to be called upon to believe what is unintelligible; from which it evidently follows, that neither can we be justified in a positive disbelief of it. As we cannot believe an unintelligible proposition to be true, so neither can we believe it to be false. For both assent and dissent imply, that we understand the proposition, to which we assent, or from which we dissent.--" Where (to use the words of Dr. Waterland, vind. of Christ's Divin. Qu. 21.) the terms of a proposition are not at all understood by the person, to whom it is given, he can neither admit nor reject the proposition; because to him it is no proposition, but merely sounds or syllables." This observation has since been confirmed and extended by the additional one of Dr. Balguy, that, " in settling the sense of a proposition offered to our belief, there is no medium between understanding it perfectly, and not understanding it at all.” So far, therefore, as the doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery, and unintelligible, it cannot be matter either of belief or disbelief. It should seem, however, that the Anti-trinitarians make no scruple of asserting their positive disbelief of the doctrine of the Trinity; otherwise, what is the meaning of the opprobrious epithets of blasphemous and idolatrous, which they are so ready to apply to it? In making use of these epithets, they virtually admit, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not altogether unintelligible, and therefore not mysterious. For how, in any propriety of speech, can that be blasphemous and idolatrous, which is altogether unintelligible? In order to preserve consistency with themselves, therefore, they must give up this reason for rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. They must not reject it on the ground of its being unintelligible, and yet oppose it in a manner, which implies it to be intelligible. But the truth is, the observation, which Dr. Balguy has so properly applied to another general proposition, may, with equal propriety be applied to this :-"All
, that was designed to be conveyed by it, is understood perfectly."
What has been said on the doctrine of the Trinity, may be applied, and perhaps with still greater force, to the doctrine of the Atonement. To avoid being diffuse, however, I shall, after premising one observation respecting it, leave the application to be made by the reader. The observation is, that Calvinistic writers, being not only Protestants, but members of the Church of England, have often entered into such explanations of the mode, in which Atonement for sin is effected, as are not warranted by scripture. They have sometimes proceeded so far, as to represent such explanations as necessary articles of faith, and of equal authority with the doctrine itself. Such writers, in order to obtain a reception for their opinions, are generally solicitous to have it believed, that they are the opinions of the Church of England. It would, how
plain, or attempt to explain, the mystery (not to mention the contradiction in the terms) is to give, or attempt to give, a parțicular account of the divine wa ture, and to show how it is, that three persons subsist in one Godhead; than which nothing would be more presumptuous, though I will noi say more biasphenous.
ever, be extremely hard upon the Church of England, if she were to be considered as accountable for the sentiments and proceedings of all her members, or even of all her well-disposed members. Her real opinions on this, as on other subjects, are to be sought for, not in the writings of individuals, but in the publicly received formularies of her faith, the articles, liturgy, and homilies, and in the interpretation of these, as given by due authority, i. e. by the great body of her clergy, or by the legal répresentation of these and of the Church of England in general assem, bled in convocation.
If it be admitted as a rational objection to the belief of the Trinity and the Atonement, that the møde of them cannot be explained, let the principle on which the objection is made, be carried to its due extent, and applied to other subjects. If we are to reject the doctrine of the Trinity, because we cannot explain how three Persons subsist in one Godhead, or the doctrine of Atonement, because we cannot explain the particular way, in which the merits of Christ are effectual to the pardon of sịn, let us, if we would be consistent with ourselves, reject the belief of the creation, because we cannot explain how it was conducted : or accomplished, and the belief of God's Omnipresence, because we can neither explain nor conceive how the same Being is present in all ima, ginable places at the same time. This, however, it is evident, would be a very irrational method of proceeding. In our present state of imperfection, we must be content with such kind and such degrees of know. ledge, as the means, with which we are furnished, enable us to obtain ; nor ought we to reject what we have, or to neglect what we might have, because we cannot attain to more. If the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement be neither inconsistent with reason, nor unintelligible, they may properly be proposed as the objects of belief; and the
proper me, thod of determining whether they have a claim to our belief, is a candid and careful examination into the sense of those passages of scripture, in which they are assetted to be delivered, “ If any one thinks," says a sensible writer, “ that these doctrines are not really taught in scripture, but coined by interpreters, let him censure them as human and unscrip tural, not as unintelligible and inipossible to be believed; and then we may bring the cause to a short issue, by inquiring, whether they are scriptural or not.” Weekly Miscellany, No. 57: In the mean time, it is sufsiciently evident, that, if these doctrines be indeed revealed, the revelation of them was intended to answer some important purpose, though we may not be able to discern it, and that, consequently, in the case of their being revealed, they cannot be rejected without blame,
It might have been as well, if the primary and proper use of the word mystery, here mentioned, had been invariably kept to. No great objection, however, seems to arise, from what has been said, to the use of it, on some occasions, in a somewhat different sense. Thus, though it clearly enough appears, as observed by Limborch and others, that, in the New Testament, the sites of the Christian Church are never called mysteries, yet there is no reason why they should not be so called, provided it be understood, that the word is then used in a figurative
In the early ages of the Church, the word mystery was applied to the sacrament of the Lord's supper ; in consequence of which, as we may reasonably suppose, the institution of the Lord's supper continues to be styled by our Church, "the institution of holy mysteries.?? It seems probable, that the original application of the word in this sense was in allusion to the religious rites of the heathens; not so much, pera, haps, with a reference to the secrets, which those rites were supposed to.. comprehend, as to their being the most solemn evidences of belief in the several deities acknowledged, and the most solemn act of devotion, which their votaries could pay to them; and it is in this sense only, that such an application of the word can be defended.. Hempstone, July 8, 1803.
CURSORY REMARKS ON THE WORDS CALLED AND
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
GENTLEMEN, IT appears, by the remarks of Academicus on Dr. Kipling's treatise
against Calvinism, reviewed in your number for February last, that the proverbial expression, “ Many are called, but few chosen,” which is used by our Saviour, at the close of two of his parables, is one of the passages of Scripture, by which the cause of Calvinism is attempted' to be supported. The consideration of this has led me to exainine into the meaning of the words called and chosen, as they occur in dife. férent places of the New Testament; and the result of my examination is, that the Calvinistic notion of election, so far from being sup. ported by the true meaning of those words, is completely overturned. by it.
The word called is a translation of xarikas, and the word chosen, in cases where we are now concerned with it, i. e. when used with any reference to the worid called, is a translation of Exsulo4. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the words chosen and elect, as used in Scripture, and as here referred to, being both translations of the sanie word suhelos, have both the same meaning, and may be used indifferently one for the other
When the words called and chosen are opposed to each other, as in the proverbial expression above recited, they mean, respectively, nominal and real Christians : i.e. the called are all those, who are admitted into the Christian covenant by bap:ism; and the chosen or clect are these true and faithful Christians, who, observing the conditions of the Christian, covenant, are entitled to its rewards. The called, then, as distinguished from those, who are not so, are Christians as distinguished from heathens, being favoured above them with the light and privileges of the Gospel. This calling may be considered as of an arbitrary nature; for it does not always depend upon the person himself, whether he shall. have an opportunity of being a Christian or not. God dealetly.out the knowledge and light of the Gospel among the different nations of the world at different times, according to the counsels of his own wisdom. Now, it is to be observed, that the called in this sense are sometimes
(i. e. when no occasion occurs of distinguishing between nominal and real Christians) confounded with the chosen or elect, and that either term is indifferently applied to the same persons. This happens more particularly in the Apostolic Epistles*; and the reason evidently is, that, at the first preaching of the Gospel, when there were no worldly inducements to the profession of Christianity, but when,
on the contrary, those, who bore the name of Christ, were likely to suffer persecution, it was natural to suppose, that profession implied sincerity, and that nominal and reul Christians were ihe same. This, therefore, is taken for granted with respect to those, to whom the Epistles are immediately addressed : and thus it came to pass, because persons were called to be Christians by an arbitrary decree of God, that they were supposed to be also chosen or elected by a similar decree; even when the term chosen or elected was used in a different sense, i. e. in opposition to called, and when, comprehending the certainty of attaining to eternal life, it implied, not only being a Christian, but a Christian, who lived up to the terms of his profession. Election in this sense, however, as appears from the whole tenor of the Gospel, does not depend upon any arbitrary decree of God, but upon the persons themselves. If those, whom it has pleased God to call to be Christians, fail of attaining to salvation, that salvation, which Christ came to make attainable, the cause is to be attributed, not to any decree, which hinders them from being saved, but to their own obstinacy or negligence; for I will venture to affirm, in opposition to the sentiment of Calvin, that all, who are called to be Christians, may be chosen or elected to salvation, if they will.
With respect to the proverbial expression already mentioned, though it is certain, that a distinction is intended to be made by it between nominal and real Christians, yet exactness of application, as to the terms many and few, is not to be insisted on. The reason of this is obvious; for, though it is said, that “ but few are chosen," yet we find, by referring to the parable of the marriage of the king's son, one of those, to which the expression is applied, that, in fact, all the called were chosen, except
That one was rejected, not on account of any decree, which hindered his being accepted, but “ because he had not on a wedding garment;? because he was not provided with those qualifications, which the nature of his situation required, and which he had the ability of obtaining
It is probable, that what has been said will help us to understand more clearly the celebrated passage about predestination, in the 8th chap. of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the corner-stone, as well as the stumbling-block, of Calvinists. In that passage, the same persons, who are denominated called, are also denominated elect; by which, as also by the whole tenor of the passage, it is evident, that the Apostle is speaking of Christians in general, as elected or chosen from among the Jews and Gentiles, without meaning to distinguish between the particular sorts of Christians. Moreover, the called are there said to be so xcela Todeow, according to purpose; nay, the term predestination is expressly applied to them " Whom he did predestinate, them he also
* Thus, St. Peter exhorts those, to whom his 2d. Epistle is addressed, to • make their calling and election surc.” 2 Peter i. 10.
but from among
called.” The same may be said with respect to the opening of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians ; for there also predestination is applied to the “ saints (i.e. the professed Christians) which are at Ephesus," without distinguishing between nominal and real ones. All, therefore, that is said about predestination in these passages of Scripture, or in our 17th Article, which is built on them (for in that also the terms called and chosen are applied to the same persons, and they are said to be called or chosen out of mankind; not from among Christ men at large) is to be understood as said of Christians in general, as distinguished from persons of all other religious professions, and not of some Christians as distinguished from others. In short, these passages are nothing more than eloquent statements of the several steps of the divine procedure in the scheme of man's redemption, the Apostle, taking for granted, that those, who are admitted to the participation of such high privileges, as the developement of that scheme displays, will perform the part required from them. In describing the nature of Christianity, and vshowing our obligations to God for the blessings of it, there is seldom any need of adverting to the distinction between nominal and real Christians. On other 'occasions, the case may be very different. When the purpose is to exhort men to discharge their part of the Christian covenant, it is absolutely necessary to advert to this distinction; it is then necessary to show, that, though they are oabled to the knowledge of the Gospel, and admitted into the profession of it by baptism, yet, if they do not submit to its conditions, and observe its laws, they have no claim to its benefits, and will not be elected partakers of its rewards. Accordingly, the same St. Paul, on other occasions, exhorts the called so to walk, as to become elect ; so to run, as to obtain. See Ephes. iv. 1.-1 Thes. ii. 12.Col. i. 10, and indeed all the preceptive parts of his Epistles; for these are all addressed to the called, i. e. io professed Christians, directing them to observe the conditions of the Christian covenant. It is an undoubted truth, that all, who are saved, are saved by the free mercy of God through Christ; for “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The benefits of Christ's intercession may, indeed, extend to those, who have had no opportunity of being admitted into the Christian fold; but of this, since nothing respecting it is expressly revealed, it becomes us not to speak in positive terins. We must leave such persons to the uncovenanted mercies of God. But, with respect to all those, who are admitted, the only reason given in Scripture, why some of them shall be saved, and others condemned, is, that some of them will observe the terms of the Gospel, and others will not. This is the only reason, why all the calleil will not be chosen ; and I challenge any Calvinist to show, that this reason is represented in Scripture as dependent on any arbitrary decree of God, or any irresistible impulse of his Spirit, and not upon the voluntary actions of mankind.
With respect to the sense of the word chosen or elect, as understood by the Church of England, there does not appear to be much difficulty in ascertaining it, though it has lately been made a subject of controversy. It is very evident, that all her services proceed on the supposition, that professed Christians are also real ones. The perusal of the burial service in particular is sufficient to convince any one of this. Consequently,