CALVINISM AN ESSAY READ BEFORE THE
READ BEFORE THE
Georgia Baptist Ministers’ Institute,
AT MARIETTA, GA., AUGUST 13, 1868
BY P. H. MELL
PUBLISHED BY VOTE OF THE INSTITUTE
GEO. C. CONNOR.
„Calvinism” has been assigned to me as the theme for an essay. Though the subject is embraced in a single word, the topics it contains are too numerous to admit of thorough discussion within the limits assigned me. My essay, therefore, will rise only to the dignity of notes on Calvinism.
What is Calvinism? It is a system of doctrine believed to be contained in the Bible, developed first more elaborately and consistently by John Calvin, and therefore called by his name. This term, though, is used merely for convenience as a designation, and not to imply, either that these doctrines owed their origin to the Genevan Reformer, or that Calvinists are responsible for all the sentiments advanced by him.
The distinctive characteristic of Calvinism is that it maintains God’s sovereignty over all things, sin not excepted; and that His will is shown either efficiently or permissively in all existences and all events on earth. He is not only a creator and preserver, but a sovereign and efficient ruler. His providence and His grace, therefore control all things and events, great and small, good and bad, material and mental. From intelligent choice, he permits everything in men that is morally wrong, and by his grace, efficiently works in them everything that is morally right. As creator, an upholder, and a governor, he has intelligence enough to know what objects he would accomplish; and his wisdom and power are adequate to all the demands of the undertaking in its incipiency, its process, and its consummation. The world, therefore, in all its physical and moral details, is just as he designed it to be; and in all the terms of its history—in its special as well as its general results, he will accomplish that which he designed in its creation, in its preservation, and in its government. He did not err in his plan; therefore nothing operates in his system unexpectedly to him. He is not deficient in power, therefore nothing operates there in spite of him. „God disposes of and directs to some particular end, every person and thing to which he has given, or is yet to give, being; and makes the whole creation subservient to and declarative of his own glory.” „The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 14:4). „Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Ps. 135:6). „The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed so shall it stand. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back!” (Isa. 14:24, 26, 27). „For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Descending to particulars, and limiting our view to the scheme of salvation, Calvinism teaches,
First, in regard to men in a state of nature.
1st. That they are totally depraved, utterly destitute of any remaining natural good, or any communicated spark of grace. This total depravity is not to be confounded with corruption, nor to mean that men are as depraved as they can be; for it is consistent with the admission that they have amiable feelings and upright deportment among themselves; but to be understood to mean a total destitution of any principle of conformity to God’s law, which requires supreme love to God, and deportment towards men regulated by a design to please and glorify Him. In a state of nature, God is not in all their thoughts. „I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 5:18).
2nd. As to the origin of this depravity, Calvinism teaches that it was in consequence of Adam’s sin. The progenitor of the race was the federal head of his descendants, submitting to the test for all. His sin, therefore, was imputed to his posterity; and in his fall, they fell. „By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:16).
3rd. As to the means of recovery, Calvinism teaches man’s utter helplessness. Being sinners in character and conduct, none are able to renew their hearts, nor make atonement for their sins. Even after the atonement of Christ is offered in the gospel to their acceptance, none, without divine influence, are willing to accept Christ as Saviour, nor are able to understand experimentally the truth as it is in Jesus. „The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” In this condition, and without divine influence—while they will never attempt to glorify God—nothing that they can do can please him; for „they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
4th. As to justification, it teaches that men are just with God, through the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. Nothing that they can do will be accepted as the ground of justification; for „by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” „To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). „By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). „Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9). „He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). „David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputed righteousness” (Rom. 4:6). „Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4.3). „For us also, to whom it shall he imputed, if we believe” (4:24).
Second, As it respects Divine agency in the scheme of redemption, Calvinism teaches,
1st. That God is the efficient author of everything morally good in the creature. Whatever he does in man’s behalf, is done in accordance with a purpose entertained from eternity. This purpose found its development in the covenant of redemption entered into by the persons of the Trinity, and its execution in the work thus assigned to them severally. The Father, as the representative of the godhead, devised the plan and sent his Son to execute it; the Son, as the substitute for the sinner, makes atonement and works out complete righteousness; and the Spirit applies the work of Christ in the regeneration, justification, sanctification, and salvation of the sinner.
Calvinism teaches, again,
2nd. That God proceeds in the salvation of sinners on a definite plan which descends to all the details. In the covenant of redemption he gave to his Son a definite number of the human race to be his people, whom he would redeem from the curse of the law, bring into newness of life by regeneration, justify freely by his grace, keep by his power through faith unto salvation, guide by his counsel, and afterward receive into glory. „Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Those thus chosen and saved, are designated not because of faith and good works foreseen in them; but, in part, that they might have faith and might perform good works. Those not chosen are not reprobated in the sense that, they are prohibited from seeking the benefits of salvation; nor in the sense that any influence is imparted to them inducing them to reject the gospel; but they are simply passed by and permitted to follow their own inclinations, without any invincible influence adequate to make them willing in the day of his power. In this election and rejection, God is influenced by no difference of natural character in the parties perceived, nor in any conduct foreseen; but only by his will, sovereign and infinitely wise; and this, too, for the manifestation of his glorious perfections. „For he saith to Moses, I will mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). „What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, with much longsuffering, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?” (9:22, 23).
II. Though this system, as a whole, is sustained by the general tenor of the Scriptures, and in all its parts by definite passages, men sometimes hesitate to receive it because serious objections seem to lie against it. All such objections may be resolved into the three following:
1. The system seems to make God the author of sin:
2. It seems to exhibit God as a partial being:
3. It seems to represent that he makes men merely to damn them.
Before taking them up in order, it is proper to remark that these objections do not lie exclusively against the Calvinistic system.. It can he shown that they press just as heavily against the Arminian, with others just as grave superadded. [This the present writer has shown in a published work on predestination; the part answering these objections can be read in this connection if the Institute desire it.] The only way to escape the objections is to deny, with the Pelagians and Socinians, God’s foreknowledge; and if this be denied, then there comes in a flood of other objections more pressing and more weighty still.
The great difficulty in the Calvinistic system, is the sovereignty which it ascribes to God over sin; and the occasion it offers, therefore, for the plausible objection that if sin exists by his will of purpose, he is then, if not the author, at least in some sense the favorer of it. It is easy and safe to admit that his will is all-powerful in everything that is morally good; and that his agency can he efficient in securing such good without doing violence to human freedom; for we can easily see how he can legitimately and philosophically work in men to will and to do of his good pleasure. But how can we, consistently with correct views of his character, say that in any manner wicked men perform wicked actions in accordance with his will? It may help us to elucidate this question if we consider it in connection with the two most prominent instances of sin recorded in the Bible:
1st. Take the first instance given—Adam’s sin. Did God have no volition concerning it before it occurred? Was he taken by surprise? Having failed in his first intention, viz.: to have nothing but good in his system, did he reluctantly submit to the existence of evil, and doing the best he could in the circumstances, set up against it an antagonistic influence which should wage war against it a precarious warfare that, after a struggle of six thousand years, leaves sin, if not triumphant, at least unsubdued and unexpelled? Did God not know before he created Adam, that if he made and placed him in the Garden of Eden, he would sin and fall? We are bound to answer in the affirmative, not only because we admit God’s Infinite foreknowledge, but because we are told (2 Tim. 1:9) that a provision was made in eternity in anticipation of that event; for there was a purpose and a grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. Did he not, then, permit Adam to sin? We must reply in the affirmative; for, foreseeing the event, he could have declined to create him; or he could have kept the tempter away from him; or he could have strengthened him against his wiles. Having permitted him to sin, did he not will to do so? And having willed to permit him to sin, did he so will from necessity; i.e., as a choice of evils which he could not entirely escape, or did he have some infinitely glorious end to attain, of which Adam’s sin was to be the occasion?
We do not escape this difficulty by saying Adam was a free agent, whose nature it was not God’s purpose to violate; that he was placed in the Garden of Eden, endowed with reason and a moral constitution, possessing all the light necessary to discriminate between right and wrong, and having impressed upon him all the motives to impel him to choose the right and reject the wrong; that Adam, then, in the exercise of his native freedom, on very natural principles, by his own voluntary choice, in spite of God’s will of precept, wickedly transgressed and fell. All this we also grant and maintain; but it does not remove the difficulty. Did not God know, before he had created him, that this voluntary agent whom he would make, subjected to this test which he would impose, would, acting upon these natural principles, transgress and fall? Admitting God’s foreknowledge, we must admit that before he created Adam, he knew that he would fall and willed to permit it. Can any reason be suggested why God by His will of purpose should ordain that an event so heinous and, in some respects, so disastrous as the sin of Adam should occur? We can at least, see this, that if sin had not entered into the world neither would there have been a Savior. God would not have been manifested in the flesh. Christ would not have been preached as the Savior of sinners. The attributes of God would not have been exhibited and harmonized before the intelligent universe by the cross of Christ at which mercy and truth meet together and righteousness and peace kiss each other. We know that the intelligent universe has gained infinitely more by the acquisition of Christ than it lost by the sin of Adam. Now if God knew from eternity the infinite value of the mission of Christ, and saw that the sin of man was necessary as the occasion for that mission, does He necessarily become either the author or the favorer of that sin because He resolved to permit Adam to commit it? For Calvinism, while it asserts God’s sovereignty over sin, abhorrently rejects the supposition that He tempts men, or works within them to influence them to sin. In what respect, then, is it unphilosophical or unscriptural to say that God, looking at Adam’s transaction in its character as a sin, by His will of precept, forbid it, and, by his judicial dispensation, punishes it; but regarding it as the indispensable occasion for the bestowal of his glorious grace, by His will of purpose, ordained it, and in His providence furnished the occasion for it? And is not Calvinism philosophically and scripturally sustained, then, when it discriminates between God’s will of precept and His will of purpose, and asserts that the former is the rule prescribed for the government of his creatures, which, when violated, justly brings condemnation and punishment upon its infractors: while the latter is a rule to govern himself, which will he infallibly secured whether men obey him or sin against him ? If the mere fact that God willed to permit Adam to sin, makes him the author or the favorer of that sin, then no system of doctrine would relieve him from such embarrassment excepting one which would ascribe to him profound ignorance of that transaction, both before and at the time of its performance, and would banish him, like the God of the Epicureans, to some remote part of his universe, away from all cognizance of human affairs.
2nd. Again: passing over the many other instances recorded in the Bible which illustrate the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over sin, take the case of the crucifixion of Christ. In regard to this, without hesitation, we must admit two things: 1st that the crucifixion of Christ was the most atrocious and heaven-daring crime recorded in earth’s annals; and 2nd, that, wicked as it was, God ordained that it should occur just as it did. Had the Jews not despised and rejected Christ he could not have been crucified; and if he had not died in the place, at the time, and in the way in which he did, multitudes of prophecies would have failed of fulfillment; God’s plan of recovering mercy would have been thwarted; and all men would have perished in their sins. Should we hesitate therefore to say that God ordained the crucifixion of Christ, wicked as it was? And, should we say so, would we in effect be charging God, with being the author or the favorer of that horrid crime? Did the company of disciples misrepresent the holy God, or admit that he was the author or favorer of the atrocious sin, when he said, „For of a truth, against thy holy child, Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done?”—(Acts 4: 27, 28) Did Peter speak unadvisedly, and does his language admit of the dreadful interpretation that God was the author or the favorer of this great sin, when he asserted, „Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain?”
Peter’s assertion, when analyzed, contains three propositions. 1st, That the Jews acted with perfect freedom when they crucified Christ. 2nd, That God exercised complete sovereignty over their sin. And 3rd, that their wickedness suffered no abatement because it was in harmony with God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge. And this, in a nut-shell, is the doctrine of Calvinism. But how can God’s sovereignty over sin and man’s free-agency in it be both true, and yet God be free from all complicity with it? Pelaganism and Socinianism escape the difficulty by severing the Supreme Being, in some sort, from connection with his creatures, and banishing him to some remote region of his universe, where he is kept in profound ignorance of sins at least until after they have been committed. Arminianism, while it admits God’s foreknowledge, and grants that he permits the commission of sin, thinks it relieves itself from embarrassment by denying his sovereignty over it. According to this system, God makes man a free-agent, gives to him a constitution that enables him to make moral distinctions, sets before him the right as distinguished from the wrong, and plies him with motives in the shape of arguments, persuasions, warnings, threatenings and promises of reward; but he has in advance no purpose to subserve by men’s sins. All that he does, acting contemporaneously with the sin, is to restrain it; overrule it for good; in the best way possible counteract it; and, in the last resort, punish it. But the system strangely shuts its eyes to the fact, that, in admitting God’s foreknowledge and his permission of sin, it logically grants his sovereignty over it. Before the world was, he foreknew that Adam would sin, and that the Jews would crucify Christ; and, in eternity, he resolved to permit these sinful deeds. Now, whether he thus resolved for ulterior objects, as Calvinism asserts, or for no reason beyond the mere resolution itself, in the view of the objector to Arminianism he is seriously complicated with those sins. If he resolved to permit sin for ulterior purpose, then the objector to Arminianism may charge that it exhibits God as favoring sin because of the good of which it is made the occasion. If he resolved to permit it for no reason beyond the mere resolution itself, then the objector may denounce Arminianism for intimating the horrid proposition that God resolved to permit sin for the mere pleasure that he found in it.
1st. Calvinism holds that man’s free-agency in the commission of sin and God’s sovereignty over it are both true, though to harmonize them may be above human faculties. Consciousness and the word of God both assure us, that, when we sin against God, we do so, not by compulsion, but freely and willingly; and reason and scripture both teach that God is sovereign ruler of the universe, accomplishing his ends in great things and in small, by bad things as well as by good, making the wrath of man praise him, and where, in its excess, it would fail of this, restraining it. Did God, who by his determinate counsel and foreknowledge delivered Christ, authorize the Jews to crucify him, or put it in their hearts to do so? Calvinism, abhorrently and with emphasis, answers no! How, then, can God secure his determinate counsel in the wicked actions of free agents without influencing them in those actions? Calvinism has no answer to give. This is one of the deep things the human mind cannot fathom; one of the high things it cannot reach. But our want of capacity does not vitiate the truth. What human mind can form of the Triune God a conception which could be transferred to the canvas? But what renewed heart has not demonstrated in its experience the subsistence of the Godhead in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? So, knowing from consciousness and the word of God that we are free agents; believing from reason and from scripture that God is a sovereign and almighty ruler, who accomplishes all his pleasure; and seeing, as well from what God says as from his treatment of sin, that he is neither the author nor the favorer of it; we may well refuse to give up any or all of these truths, so clearly revealed and so easily understood, because there springs out of their combination another question pertaining to the working of the Infinite Mind, and the operations of the Infinite Agent, which our ignorant and finite minds cannot solve.
2nd. The second objection, viz.: That Calvinism represents God as a partial Being, springs from a confusion of ideas, or from a misapprehension of terms. Partiality results from some quality in the object, or connected with it, to attract favor. Now, Calvinism teaches, that all men are equally destitute of such quality; and all are equally the subjects of God’s condemnation and disfavor. He feels, therefore, no partiality to any; for all are, by nature, children of wrath. He chooses some to salvation and eternal life; not because he feels any peculiar complacency towards them, but influenced solely by the good pleasure of his will, to the praise and glory of his grace. He has a reason, infinitely wise, for choosing one and rejecting another; but that reason is not to be found in the character of the chosen. The very statement of the Calvinistic doctrine, therefore, is a sufficient answer to the objection. If this is not satisfactory, let the fallacy of the objection be exposed in another way. God has, towards some, a love of benevolence, which is exhibited in choosing them to eternal life. Is that, properly, called partiality? Very well call it so, if you please. Then, it becomes a proposition to be disproved, if denied, and not a series of words to be shaped into the form of an objection to itself.
3rd. The objection, that God seems, by this system, to make men merely to damn them, does not lie against Calvinism, because of any essential difference between it and Arminianism. Indeed, no system, acknowledging future punishments, can entirely escape it, excepting by a denial of God’s foreknowledge. If to decree, from eternity, to permit men to follow their own inclinations, and to punish them for their sins, is equivalent to resolving to make men merely to damn them, then, to foreknow from eternity, that if they were created, they would thus perish, and to resolve to create them notwithstanding, though there was no invincible necessity to do so, is equivalent to the same thing. We would not, then, escape this difficulty, by abandoning our ground and going over to Arminianism. The only sure way to escape it, is to believe with the Universalists—that there are no future punishments; or, with the Pelagians—that there is no divine foreknowledge. But, neither of these opinions can we receive, so long as the Bible teaches—that they that believe not shall be damned; and, that known unto God are all his works, from the beginning.
III. While the scriptural support to the Calvinistic system is ample and entire, and reason can furnish the most irrefragable arguments, from admitted premises, to sustain it, the system finds not a mean corroboration from the character of its influence and effects.
It will, no doubt, be admitted, that in their lives, Calvinists, as a class, do not fall below the standard of morality and piety, attained by the advocates of other systems; and, that in good works, and in the enterprises of benevolence, they are not outstripped by those who differ from them. We waive, therefore, all argument on this point. For, no doubt, it will be readily admitted by all intelligent and candid persons, that Antinomians and Fatalists are as essentially different from Calvinists, as they are from Arminians or Pelagians.
1st. What is the influence of Calvinism upon the unconverted? Its tendency is to produce in them that conviction, without which they cannot be induced to take the first step towards attaining the salvation wrought out by Christ. The great difficulty in the way of their prompt movement, is the lurking hope, if not belief, that their case is not a desperate one; that their sins are not so heinous but that they can be obviated, very easily. In their delusion, they suppose it is only necessary for them to will, which they can easily do at any time; and put into execution their resolution, which is also, completely in their power; and their salvation is at once secured. They, consequently, act upon the principle, that it is running no great risk to postpone salvation to a more convenient season. Give me, say they, but a day’s notice, while on my dying bed, and I will make my peace with God. Now, let the doctrine that Calvinism teaches be received by the sinner, and his self-complacency is gone, and his sense of security is gone. Seeing that he is totally destitute of any good—that he is inexcusably complicated with sins of the darkest dye—and that he is utterly helpless—he abhors himself repents in dust and ashes, and cries to God for help. It is no offset to this to say that sinners, who hear the Calvinistic doctrines, plead that if such things are true, there is no need for any action on their part, at all; since, if they are to be saved, they will be, any how. This is not the language of a candid man, who believes the doctrine of his own sinfulness, and helplessness, but a disbeliever, who thinks that by this pretended reductia ad absurdum, he can best parry the thrusts of truth, and best maintain himself in the determination to postpone salvation, and to continue in sin. The one beyond his depth, away from shore, will feel but little, if any, concern, so long as he is convinced that the water is not deep, or that by a few muscular strokes, directed by his own will, he can reach firm footing. But, let him feel that he is in unfathomable depths, and that his skill and strength are less than nothing; and he will make the welkin ring with his cries for help. So Calvinism teaches the sinner that he is utterly lost, and that in God alone is his help; and urges him to look to God, and to call upon him.
2nd. The awakened sinner is in danger of taking up with a refuge of lies. The most common is the temptation to make himself the object of his trust. He is in danger of making, what he does, or what he feels, or both, a substitute for his Savior. He has done certain things, he has experienced certain feelings, and he is in a certain state; he has felt, first, very badly, and then, by a sudden transition, very good, therefore, he has been accepted. Calvinism tells him, that not deeds, and feelings, and frames, but Christ, is his Savior; that, at this point, there is nothing for him to do, but to believe in Jesus. Just as he is, must he accept Christ as his Savior; for, „he that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith shall be counted to him for righteousness.” Never until, if not in theory, at least, experimentally, he can. receive the Calvinistic doctrines of his utter sinfulness and helplessness; of God’s sovereign grace; and of a righteousness wrought out for him by Christ, and imputed to him on his believing, can he obtain scriptural comfort, and eternal life.
3rd. The system finds confirmation in the experience of the Christian. Only while he admits, in all its force, the total depravity of his heart by nature, does he experience humility and self abasement. So long as he has no doubt, that God, by his own sovereign grace, without any merit perceived or foreseen in him, regenerated him by his Spirit, and adopted him into his family, does he experience the depths of gratitude, and ascribe praise to him for that salvation. So far from being paralyzed by a sense of dependence upon God, it is only when he admits, in all its force, that it is God who works in him, to will and to do, that he works out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He knows, and demonstrates, in his own experience, Paul’s paradox: „When I am weak, then am I strong.” Placed upon his knees, he never uses the language of the Pharisee: „God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are;” but rather the sentiment of the poet
Why was I made to hear his voice,
And enter while there’s room;
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast,
Which sweetly forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.
In his confessions, he admits his ignorance, his native depravity, and his helplessness, and looks to God, not only for forgiveness, but for help, in his petitions he recognizes God’s sovereignty. Does he ask for blessings for himself? He bases his plea upon no merit in himself, even the least, but upon Christ’s merits, and upon God’s free, undeserved favor. Does he beseech blessings for others? He appeals to God on the supposition, that he rules in all things. Without reserve, he asks him to renew the hearts of unconverted friends; to bestow upon them conviction, and repentance, and faith; and to draw them by the cords of love. Whatever may be the Christian’s theoretic belief, in his prayers he acts upon the assumption, that salvation, in himself and in others, is all of God.
4th. The doctrines of Calvinism, if believed, are a sovereign remedy against the two great heresies in the so-called Christian world, viz.: ritualism, or sacramental salvation, on the one hand, and rationalism, on the other; the one the offspring of superstition, the other, the product of infidelity. The former, a mere bodily exercise, substitutes ceremony and the manipulations of the priest, for the work of the Spirit and the experience of the heart: the latter makes religion a mere intellectual exercise, and exalts reason above the authority of God’s word. Rejecting everything in the Bible above human comprehension, it selects, of the comprehensible, only that which the understanding ratifies as reasonable and proper. An infallible safeguard against each of these, is Calvinism, if its doctrines are cordially embraced. No one accepting, in its fulness, the doctrines of human depravity, and the necessity of a change wrought by a supernatural agency—who believes in regeneration effected by the mysterious operations of God’s Spirit, and justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ—in short, no one who believes in a spiritual religion and that grace reigns, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord, can ever be foolish enough to risk his soul’s salvation upon forms and ceremonies; or presumptuous enough to prescribe what God ought to teach or to reject anything that He reveals, because it does not meet the demands of his finite reason. Rather would such a man say, „Let God be true, but every man a liar.” True, some of the „Reformed churches,” who hold the Calvinistic system, have, in their formularies, expressions which would seem to indicate that baptism, administered to unconscious infants, will, somehow, work the regeneration of their souls. But this results because they inconsistently brought out with them, from Rome, this relic of Popery. Under the influence, though, of the Calvinism they preach these utterances have become a dead letter; for their intelligent advocates explain them away, and indignantly deny, that in their practice they are influenced by any such unscriptural and inconsistent dogma.
5th. It is no inconsiderable argument in favor of the Calvinistic system that, as one of its effects, it presents God in a dignified and honorable aspect. It is surely a worthy view of God, to represent him as a sovereign and efficient ruler, who accomplishes all his pleasure and is never thwarted; who is the author of everything good in his system and who is especially entitled to all the praise of our salvation. What a contrast is there between this system, and that which would represent him as anxious and impotent—as waiting with solicitude for men to give him a pretext to interpose; now, passing a decree in their favor, upon the supposition that they have furnished justifiable occasion, and then, reconsidering and reversing, when he has discovered that he acted on insufficient grounds; and all the while, surrounded by inextricable confusion, which, an invincible necessity prevents him from abating, and which he must reluctantly content himself with overruling, and directing to results that are attainable, since he cannot secure the highest and the best. Such a God, impotent, and subordinate, and changeable, dependent on contingencies that he does not ordain, and distracted by confusion that he cannot control, is not the God of Calvinism. Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he pleased. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To whom be glory forever. Amen.
In conclusion, it becomes a serious and practical question—whether we should not make these doctrines the basis of all our pulpit ministrations. If this be, indeed, the gospel system, sustained by such arguments, and attested by such effects, every minister should be imbued with its spirit, and furnished with its panoply. It is not necessary, indeed, that we should present its truths, always in the form of dogmatic or polemic theology—though, even these should not he entirely neglected, if our people are not, as yet, thoroughly indoctrinated—but our hearers should never be left in doubt as to the fundamental truths, that sinners are totally depraved, and utterly helpless that men must he regenerated by God’s Spirit, and justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, before they can obtain God’s favor; that God’s people are created by him, in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which he had before ordained that they should walk in them, and that they are kept by God’s power, through faith, unto salvation that God is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and the author of every thing, morally good, in the creature. In short, that the sinner has destroyed himself, but in God is his help. And, surely, it will not impair the efficiency of the minister himself, for him ever to remember that his sufficiency is of God.
J. H. ESTILL, Public Printer.