Page images
PDF
EPUB

CH. I.

6
MODERN CALVINISM DETENDED.

CALVINIS And the article assures us, that “ man (and there appears no ground of exception) is very far gone from original righteousness.” Every man, therefore, has entirely lost the perfection of his nature,—which the term “ original righteousness” very naturally, and most properly expresses.

§ 7. But even supposing, for argument' sake, that the term “ righteousness,” is intended to express ' good qualities and principles' indefinitely, still there is an important sense in which every man has lost it entirely. The same human qualities and principles which are good in one respect, may be bad in another, even in the most important acceptation. There may be in one man, compared with another, a stronger attachment to temperance, chastity, veracity, or honesty: but it would be fallacious to infer, on this account, that he is the subject of these virtues in a primary sense.

He has less actual vice than many others, while, at the same time, his qualities and principles, operating another way, may be radically vicious. His virtues are merely negative ;—he is less disposed to intemperance, unchastity, falsehood, or dishonesty. Such partial and comparative virtues may be found in an Atheist; but will any one say, that in such a character “ original righteousness” is not entirely lost? Persous possessed

of such comparative good qualities and principles may be utterly destitute of a cordial submission to the will of God, -a genuine approbation of his holy law, or of his blessed gospel; and if these good qualities be absent, is not the being, the very essence of original righteousness, absolutely destroyed, — entirely lost?

$ 8. When the Assembly of Divines, in the reign of CHARLES the First, proposed to omit the words,“ man is very far gone from original righteousness," and to substitute for them,“man is wholly deprived of original righteousness," how does it appear that their doctrinal view of the subject was materially different from that of the first compilers? It would be more accurate to say, with due deference to his Lordship, that the two sentences might convey ideas extremely different, than that they were intended to do so. The phrase "wholly deprived” might be objected to, lest any should infer, that the cause of it was an arbitrary act of God, as contradistinguished from a voluntary act of man. It is natural to suppose a predilection in favour of an established formulary, where no important advantage could be proposed by adopting the alteration. The one mode of expression, more strongly represents man as the author of his loss, while the other simply states the extent

of that loss, in a mode which might be perverted to a bad use. Considering man as a moral agent, he is “ very far gone" from his original state, and as a sufferer he is “ wholly deprived” of it. To have gone far, very far, from a given state of mind, must signify, if plain language have any definite meaning, that the state intended was

“ entirely lost;" and that, regarded as a privilege, man was wholly deprived of it.

$ 9. Upon the whole, therefore, it does not appear that the rejection of the Assembly's proposal implied any disagreement of sentiment, but rather turned upon the most unexceptionable mode of expressing it. The article, however, is sufficiently explicit in shewing that man has lost his pristine perfection, no less than if it were said, that he is “ wholly deprived” of it. Nor man who is unchanged by gracious influence, has even the nature of true wisdom, much less its perfection. He is essentially defective as to the end he aims at, and consequently the means he adopts cannot have the nature of righteousness, whatever sagacity, or comparative wisdom, he may discover in the use of them.

§ 10. To insist much on this doctrine has the most salutary effect on the minds and conduct of men, as being very frequently attended

with a divine blessing and gracious influence; while a neglect of stating it in a close and searching manner, in a course of Christian instruction, is in fact found to be highly injurious to vital religion. Until men are thoroughly convinced of their deplorable defects, and their mental maladies, there is no probability that they will mourn for their sins, become poor in spirit, or hunger and thirst after righteousness. That unguarded and crude representations have been made of the doctrine is but tov true; yet even this has not been so fatal to the interests of real Christianity as the contrary extreme. Because in the one case, however disgusting or frightful the representation may be, an appropriate remedy is held forth; whereas a picture encouraging self-flattery, tends to eclipse the grace of Christ, or to diminish, in the sinner's view, the gospel remedy. Among converts of the latter class, I should expect but little gratitude to God, or love to Christ, or zeal in propagating his gospel. How far this remark accords with matter of fact, is left with the candid enquirer to determine from observation.

§ 11. His Lordship farther asserts that every good affection was not eradicated. All idea

of distinction between right and wrong was 'not obliterated from the human mind, or every good affection eradicated from the human

• heart.'*_ The heart was in a high degree depraved, but every good affection towards God and towards man was not totally extinguished.' - Let us next consider the parable of the

sower, and particularly the explanation of that - seed which fell on good ground, and sprang up,

and bare fruit; “ that on the good ground," says Christ,“ are they which in an honest and 'good heart, having heard the word, keep it, * and bring forth fruit with patience :” here we • have again our Saviour's authority for saying,

that there is some honesty, some goodness of heart ' in the human race; and that different men possess these virtuous qualities in different degrees, since of the seed which fell upon good * ground, some brought forth “ an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.”'

[ocr errors]

ý 12. “Every good affection was not eradi'cated—was not totally extinguished-there is 'some goodness of heart in the human race.' These positions appear to be advanced against the supposed tenets of Calvinists. But in one sense of the terms employed, they are not at all opposed to Calvinism ; for what Calvinist would maintain that affections, - conjugal, parental, filial, paternal, friendly, patriotic, or loyal,--are not good? The question is, in what sense are

* Refut. p. 3.

+ Ibid, p. 10.

1 Ibid, p. 14.

« PreviousContinue »