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by the force of their own finite understanding, by the waxen wings of the senses. If
any Calvinist imagines, from what I have written respecting the doctrines of Calvin, that I am or have been actuated by a spirit of animosity or uncharitableness, he is extremely mistaken. I admire Calvin as a man of genius, as a classical writer, and, above all, for the noble and resolute opposition he made against the tyranny and errors of the Church of Rome, as much as he can do: his writings, and especially his numerous letters to Melancthon, Farrel, and others, are in the highest degree elegant and interesting. His Preface to his Christian Institution, addressed to Francis the First, in favour of the principles and conduct of the first Reformers, has always obtained the admiration of men of taste and erudition : and, as far as I am any judge, his Preface, “ Montrant comment “ Christ est la fin de la Loi," prefixed by him to the Bible, printed at Geneva in French in the year 1693, is as fine a composition, though of a different kind, as the one before mentioned; likewise the greatest part of his Christian Institution is very excellent; and nothing can more prove its being so than the morality and piety which evidently distinguish those
of his followers, who reject his doctrines of eléction and predestination *, (as I believe by far the greatest part of them do): but every thing was against Calvin at the time he flourished. Wollaston, in his Religion of Nature delineated, observes, “ that truth is “ the offspring of silence, of unbroken medi“ tations, and of thoughts often revised and e corrected.” The turbulence of the times when Calvin lived admitted not of this silence, leisure, or composure; neither were the Scriptures by any means so well understood as they are at present; they had for ages been secluded from the perusal of men by the Roman Pontiffs, and the secession from that power by the Reformation was much too recent, to have allowed of a general and critical perusal of them. Since Calvin's time the Scriptures have been carefully examined, with every advantage that could be derived from a state of leisure and peace, by men possessed of as much learning, piety,
* This sanctity of character among the Calvinists I had an opportunity of witnessing when in Germany: and though I was never in Scotland, Mr. Pennant, in his Tour through it, speaks of the body of the Scotch clergy as men of the correctest characters, and who, in general, possess great learning and piety; and which indeed is evident from their writings. I have heard the same character of them from other persons.
and zeal, and more humility, and a less saturnine temper, than Calvin : their plain, literal, unsophisticated, and therefore genuine meaning, has been restored; and that mystical interpretation, with respect to election and predestination, so erroneously adopted between two and three hundred years ago, has been justly exploded by '
most: or all men of erudition, though unhappily retained by the lower order of Calvinists. At the period of the Reformation, the minds of all men on the continent, both in politics and religion, were in a raging fever: the Pope was in the most violent agitation, from the increasing progress of the Reformation : Charles the Fifth and Francis the First were contending not only in general for dominion, but particularly who should be King of the Romans; and as it suited their secular purposes, they alternately threatened and favoured the German Princes, the Pope, and the Reformers: the Calvinists and Lutherans opposed each other, as both these did the Pope; and, in this theological ferment, the opinions of Melancthon and Arminius, the only two men whose minds seem to have been actuated with true charity, and the unpersecuting spirit of the Gospel, were not
heard or attended to. At the Synod of Dort, the English Doctors opposed the doctrine of unconditional decrees : and though the Calvinists, by the favour of secular power, triumphed at this famous Synod, Mosheim remarks, that immediately after it the doctrine of absolute decrees lost ground from day to day; and that from the period of the assembling of this celebrated Synod to the present time, the Arminians have had the pleasure of seeing the decisions and doctrines of the Synod of Dort, relative to the points in debate between them and the Calvinists, treated with something more than mere indifference; beheld by some with aversion, and by others with contempt. He further adds, what is still more remarkable, and therefore ought not to be passed over in silence, “ We see the city of Geneva, which “ was the parent, the nurse, and the guardian “ of the doctrine of absolute predestination “ and particular grace, not only put on “ sentiments of charity, forbearance, and “ esteem for the Arminians, but become it“ self so far Arminian, as to deserve a place
among the Churches of that communion.” Thus it would be doing great injustice to many Calvinists of learning, piety, and vir
tue, to imagine, because they adopt Calvin's creed in most points, that they do so universally; especially with respect to his doctrine of absolute decrees.' In reality, the difficulties which attend this doctrine are entirely insuperable; they so offend reason, common sense, and Scripture, so evidently call in question that wisdom, justice, and goodness of God, that equity and lovingkindness towards the human race, which, in his holy word, God declares he delights in exercising towards it, that no man of sense or reflection can for a moment believe in it, can possibly imagine it proceeds from God, or have any other source than in the heated imagination of enthusiasts; who, as Montesquieu observes in his Persian Letters, consult and expound Scripture not so much with a design to explain its true meaning, as to establish and support their own superstitious systems: and however Calvin may be exempted from this charge in other respects, no man is more justly liable to it than himself, in his absurd and impious doctrines of absolute and unconditional election and predestination; and by his horrid assertion, that before their birth even some men are destined and foreappointed to eternal damna