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TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S
S the controversy on the subject of Election has, of late, been rea
vived with more than ordinary industry, it has become an object of my considerate attention ; and, after the best exertion of my faculties, I can truly say, I am convinced, that the notion, which the Sectaries entertain respecting this doctrine, is unsçriptural: I am also equally well satisfied, that it is repugnant to the opinion of our Church upon the same subject. This latter point has been ably argued by the learned Dean of Peterborough, who has proved to demonstration, from the concessions of his adversaries, that, whatever be the meaning of Election in our 17th Article, it in no wise agrees with the definition which is commonly given of it-in short, that the 17th Article of our Church does not, as is pretended, inculcate the doctrine of absolute and arbitrary, Election, as it is generally professed by Calvinists. But ably as Dr. Kipling has shewn what the meaning of the Article is not, he has been less successful, I think, in pointing out what it is. If the Article does not inculcate the Calvinistic notion of Election, what notion does it inculcate? The Dr. seems to think that Elect means no more than Baptized, and he instances in the Catechism, where the Catechumen says,
Who hath sanctified me and all the Elect people of God :" but it does not follow, I think, that Elect here has precisely the same meaning with Predestinate or Chosen in the Article. In articles of Religion, which are to lay down doctrines with discrimination and nicety, the language of precision is necessary; in devotional forms, something of precision may be conceded to charity. Perhaps my meaning may be better seen by this illustration ; suppose the question put to the compilers of the Articles and Liturgy, whether Elect in both places had precisely the same signification, what would be their answer? for my part, I think they would reply in the negative: they would say, that they addressed all who were baptized as Elect, because charity required them to take for granted that they acted up to their profession. The Burial Service affords a similar instance of the charitable tenderness of our Church towards her professed members : we there read, “ shortly accomplish the number of thine Elect;" by which it is intimated, that the person, whom we are in the act of interring, belonged to that number; the fact, however, might be, as it frequently must, where general forms are applied particularly, altogether the reverse ; whence it might be inferred that Elect here again signified, in the judgment of our Church, only Baptized or Christian: but this, I think, would be an unauthorized conclusion for the reasons abovementioned. Thus far, however, I have only shewn, that, to make the Article and the Liturgy agree, there is no necessity of restricting the meaning of the word Elect to the signification of Baptized : I will now endeavour to shew, from the Article itself, that, in strictness, such a signification of the word Elect is not only unnecessary, but impossible. The Article says, "they which be endued with so excellent a gift of God, (i. e. be predestinated or elected) be called by God's Spirit worka Vol. v. Churchm. Mag. Oct. 1803.
ing in due season ; they, through grace, obey the calling; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting happiness." Now these particulars cannot be predicated of all the baptized, whence I infer that Elect or Predestined is not here used in the sense of Baptized ; of, in other words, that the former terms are intended to convey an idea of some distinction over and above that of being professed Christians. If it be replied, that the Article speaks of Christians, rather as what they are intended to be, than as what they actually are, I answer, that I cannot conceive this to be the meaning of the Article, because it expressly asserts, that God decreed to deliver the Elect from curse and damnation. I may be mistaken, but I think so strong an expression would not have been used, if the Compilers had considered the Salvation of the Elect in any degree contingent. What God decrees cannot, strictly speaking, be frustrated: God might purpose, and man, by God's permission, might, humanly speaking, frustrate his purpose; but if he decreed, the decree must stand. I have no wish to quibble about words, but yet I cannot help thinking, that there is, in ordinary use, this distinction between decreed and purposed, and that the Compilers had it in view, and, by using the former word, meant thereby to express an infallible purpose. If any body thinks otherwise, it is of no consequence to my main argument. I think too, what follows strengthens my conclusions, “Wherefore they which be endued, &c. i. e. they which be Elect or predestined, be called according to God's purpose; they, through grace, obey the calling ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity: here the actual fulfilment of the decree is represented as always taking place, and by the connective particle “wherefore” is ascribed to the effect of God's decree : from all this I infer, and I think, justly, that the description (in the Art.) of the Elect, is not merely a description of what they might, or ought, or were intended to be, but a description of what, in consequence of the irrevocable purpose they actually are.
Another argument to prove, that Elect and Baptized are not considered as precisely synonymous terms by our Church, is deducible from that part of our Article, which speaks of the danger of the doctrine to curious and carnal persons lacking the Spirit of Christians, which clause, by such an interpretation of Election, is rendered altogether useless.
I come next to consider Dr. Hey's opinion upon the subject. He seems to think, that Elect meansnothing more than “true Christians,”(Book 4th, Art. 17, Sect. 43,) by which, I suppose he means real and practical Christians, in contradistinction to those who are only nominal and professed Christians. It is with trembling diffidence I venture to liazard an opinion contrary to that of so judicious and dispassionate a Theologian, to whom also I am bound in gratitude for the little professional knowledge which I possess ; but in the preseet instance I cannot coincide with him. In the first place, his sense of the word does violence to the argument in. tended to be conveyed in the Article. The Dr. seems to overlook the particular emphatic force of the particle “ wherefore," or rather slightly passes it over with confessing that he sees nothing more in it than connexion, (Book 4, Art. 17, Sect. 43), but to me it appears to have a very legitimate and prominent signification, and to be employed in drawing a strong inference from the premises. Let us substitute“ true
Christians” for their synonyma in the Article, and see how the argument stands : “ Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby he hath decreed to deliver from curse and damnation those who are true Christians : wherefore they which be true Christinns be called according to God's purpose, they obey the calling, &c,--one would rather have expected, 'I think " wherefore they which be true Christians are delivered from curse and damnation.” To say, that true Christians be called of God, obey through grace, &c. seems to be no more than saying, that true Christians are true Christians, or developing the character of a class of people in terms more enlarged, whom he had just comprized in two words. I beg pardon of the Dr. for my freedom, towards whom I am actuated by no other sentiments than those of esteem and veneration.
Another reason for my dissenting from the same Gentleman's sense of the word Elect, is this, that, as before, it totally supersedes the use of that part of the Article, which guards against the misapplication of its doctrine by "curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ:” how can it be a “dangerous downfal” to such persons, to believe, that God pre-ordained the happiness of the true disciples of Jesus ? if it has any effect
upon them, it will rather incite their endeavours to be them. selves of that number; from whence I would infer, that Dr. Hey's notion of the Elect above-mentioned is not that which is maintained in the Article.
Bishop Pretyman, I think, (for I have not his book by me at this time) says, that God elected such persons to everlasting happiness, as he foresaw would quality themselves for the acceptance of it. This definition, on examination, will be found to labour under the same objections with the forementioned: It destroys the force of the connective particle " wherefore," and the inference to which it is introductory; and utterly makes void the necessity of guarding against the misapplication of the doctrine by the "curious and carnal.”
We have seen, then, I think, that the Elect of the 17th Article, are neither merely nominal Christians, according to Dr. Kipling; nor true Christians, "according to Dr. Fley; nor Christians elected for their foreseen qualifications, according to Bishop Pretyman; but that something further is intended by the expression : what that is we now come to consider ; and I cannot help thinking, upon the most mature consideration, that by the term Elect (or chosen) the Article intends a certain determinate number of individual Christians, segregated from the mass, and preordained to everlasting happiness. This has always appeared to me the most obvious interpretation, and such as the mind, if suffered to exert itself freely, would naturally suggest
Dr. Hey supposes (Book 4, Art. 17, Sect. 43,) that the expression, “wherefore they which be endued, &c.” was designed to express contingency or uncertainty as to individuals;
no reason for not considering the word "be," here, of the same import, as the same word in the very next clause, and indeed throughout the Article, where unquestionably its import is determinate.--But to return, the interpretation, which I have given of the Article, has this additional recommendation, that it obviates all the forementioned objections. It is the only one that I can find, that secures consistency to the Article, and continuity to the argument ; and this it does effectually: Gg 2
the force of the conjunction wherefore" is natural and strikingly prominent; the conclusion, which it introduces, follows naturally and necessarily from the premises, and the apprehension of a pernicious application of the doctrine by the vicious is perfectly consistent and well. founded.
As a corroborating circumstance of inferior consideration may be mentioned the adjunct secret to us,” which in every other mode of interpretation that I have met with is redundant. Dr. Hey, if I remember right, confesses as much : but in this interpretation it has a peculiar significancy, and gives us to understand, that though there are certain individuals chosen to everlasting happiness, yet it is uncertain who they are, and therefore we ought none of us to slacken our exertions: this also agrees with the advice in the clause, “ furthermore, &c,” for which no imaginable reason can be assigned, unless the predestination inculcated in the Articles be such, as to induce people to rely upon it without using their own exertionsa
There remains, however, a difficulty still behind. How does such an interpretation of the Article agree with the forms of our Liturgy? If I might hazard a conjecture, I would say, that the intention of the Article was, while it asserted the Election of some, impliedly to leave the rest capable, by God's grace, of working out their own salvation. I do not remember to have met with the idea before, notwithstanding which it may not be novel : however, it is, I think, a plausible one. Nor is it any objection to it, that this distinction is not clearly expressed in the Article. The doctrine of three persons and one God was certainly believed in two distinct propositions from the earliest times, and it was not till some ages had elapsed, that these two propositions were formally drawn into one, asserting the doctrine now known by the name of the Trinity. Something of this sort I conceive to have taken place with regard to the doctrine of Election. The Compilers saw texts of scrip. ture which leaned towards this doctrine-they also saw other texts, without number, which made a man's condition in the future world depend upon his own exertions in this-what was to be done? Why, they believed both doctrines as two distinct propositions, and left future times to reconcile them expressly in one. By this hypothesis the Article harmonizes with the Liturgy, at the same time that it is rendered consistent with itself. I confess, however, for myself, I do not believe the doctrine even in this qualified sense, because, after the best attention ! can give the subject, I am convinced Scripture affords no ground for it. If this confession excites a desire in the minds of any of my Calvinistic brethren to inquire, how I can conscientiously, with my sentiments, subscribe the 17th Article, I would only ask them, how they can conscientiously subscribe the 3d Article, which speaks of Christ's actual descent into Hell, and bey them conscientiously to use the same arguments in apologizing for me that they would for themselves. Wilby Parsonage, Sept. 7, 1803.
ON THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
I Beg leave to make my acknowledgements to your correspondent,
who signs himself Observator, for his polite notice of me last month. I am glad to find he agrees with me that the subject of the intermediate state, under discussion, is “ of great importunce," and I am willing to think after what has come from the pens of J. W. and my friend the London Curate, in answer to the soul sleeper, that he will also admit the truth of my assertion, “that it was capable of being placed in the clearest light." The arrows they have drawn from their quivers have hit the white. I conceive the question of the soul's consciousness after this, will hardly be raised again.How far
short dissertations upon the words Keber and Sheol, may throw still greater weight into their scale, it does not become me to offer an opinion. But with submission Observator seems to have misapprehended my meaning, and the nature of the question under investigation. It was a very different one from that which is started by the soul sleeper. On the soul's consciousness during the intermediate state, I confess I did not suspect there could have been two opinions. This has been hitherto taken for granted by the London Curate and reasoned upon as an admitted fact. The real question I apprehend is this, and is what I alluded to ; viz. the doctrine of an intermediate state, and the nature and description of it. Whether there be one or two places of safe keeping, the one for those who are destined to receive a happythe other a miserable sentence. Whether the soul is separated from the body during that interval. Whether our Lord visited both places, and what was probably the subject of his mission to these spirits in prison.These are the questions which the subject naturally suggests, as well as some others, perhaps equally important. If I have thrown a gleam of light upon the subject, it will be very gratifying ; but I think it proper to remark, that Observator has in this instance mistaken the purport of my words, in making them to convey any thing like a pledge on my part, " to place the subject in the clearest light;" all that I meant was that it appeared to me a subject not only of great interest, but also such as the help of scripture and legitimate inductions, brought forward by your learned correspondents, would enable us to ascertain with comfort and satisfaction to our minds. I have said thus much to rescue myself from the imputation of reprehensible vanity and presumption, which, were it founded, would make me truly uneasy. October 7, 1803.