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I proceeded to state my disclaimer, it had, as my complaint had, exclusive reference to the living. It is that Calvinists, as a body, are as far from teaching the doctrine of infant damnation, as any of those who falsely accuse them. And my closing exhortation that those who had circulated the slander, that Calvinists hold to the doctrine that infants are damned, should commit to memory without delay the ninth commandment, which is “ Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,”, was upon the supposition that the neighbors whom they slandered were living Calvinists, and, not the dead of other ages.
In this manner, I am happy to perceive that the reviewer understood me. For he says, “If Dr. Beecher had merely told us he thought the doctrine of infant damnation a false one, that he did not believe it, and that they who say he does believe it, bear false witness against their neighbor, our remarks and citations would have been spared. But to deny it in the name of a party, whose most accredited organ he would fain be considered ; to deny it in the name of the most approved writers, who expressly state it, and, in some instances seem almost to think it a slander to be said not to hold it; and for him impudently to accuse those who, with us, charge it upon those writers and their system, of a breach of the commands of their God; this, has rendered it our bounden duty to appear in self defence, &c.”
Now, though the reviewer, in summing up his charge against me, shrinks from the responsibility of charging the Calvinistic party directly, and in so many words, with holding the doctrine of infant damnation, and lets the charge slide off upon “those writers and their system,” yet we are not to be deceived by such finesse, for he does declare that the system, which living Calvinists avow does contain the doctrine that infants are damned ; and he does give as one reason for its being his bounden duty to appear in self-defence, that I have, in the name of the Calvinistic party, disclaimed the doctrine of infant damnation, and charged him and others, with bearing false witness against their neighbors; not surely their neighbors under ground, but against living Calvinistic men.
If I have misunderstood the reviewer, and he chooses to say, that he and his party have not, and do not charge the Calvinistic party who are alive, with holding to the damnation of infants, much of what we have said, and have yet to say, may be spared. But he is, I apprehend, cut off from saying this, because it would be both false in fact, and in opposition to the language which he has used in the review; for he does state two considerations which have made it his bounden duty to come out in self-defence; one of which is, that I have declared that Calvinists, as a body, do not hold to the doctrine of infant damnation, and the other, that I have made a similar denial in behalf of the most approved Calvinistic writers.
Now if the reviewer and his friends, had not charged the Calvinistic party with holding to that offensive doctrine, a denial on my part that they do hold it, could create surely no implication of the reviewer as bearing false witness against his neighbor, nor become one of two reasons which make it his bounden duty to come out in self-defence.
He has come out then to defend himself and his Unitarian friends, for having charged the Calvinistic party with holding to the doctrine that infants are damned.
And now I am thankful that the time has come, when a charge so injurious, and so long circulating in the dark, is made public, upon the responsibility of a work, which may be considered as the accredited organ of the Unitarian party.
The reviewer may be assured that I shall neither “palter” nor “evade," nor must he expect to be permitted to avail himself of any such liberty. The eye of an intelligent community is upon us both; a community which can understand an argument, and will not permit their confidence to be abused, or their neighbors to be falsely accused with impunity.
In opposition to the claims of the reviewer, I shall show: 1, That the Calvinistic system does not teach, nor imply, that infants are damned. 2, That it never has been the doctrine received by the churches denominated Calvinistic. 3, That it is neither believed nor taught by the Calvinists, as a body, at the present day.
It would be hoping against hope, to expect that a Unitarian writing against Calvinism will define anything, or prove anything except by the power of assertion; otherwise, in a formal setting out to prove that “the damnation of infants is connected with essential vital principles of the Calvinistic system,” we should have looked for a definition of Calvinism, or at least, a specification of those "vital principles with which the destruction of infants is so inseparably connected;" with some little attempt to show the connexion between the principles and the doctrine of infant destruction. But none of this. “Ipse dixit” must suffice.
The Calvinistic system contains but two points out of the five, that can have any possible relation to the question about the future state of infants. Those are, the doctrine of original sin, and the doctrine of predestination. But the doctrine of original sin, in its most exceptionable form, neither asserts nor implies that infants are lost. It teaches simply and only, that infants by the imputation of Adam's sin, are depraved and guilty ; and on this account, children of wrath, and exposed justly to future punishment. But that this deserved punishment is in fact inflicted, the doctrine does not say, and does not imply. And yet a belief in the depravity of infants and their just exposure to punishment, is the only argument the reviewer has adduced, which goes to prove that Calvinists, as a body, ever did, or do now, believe in the damnation of infants.
Calvin, as quoted by the reviewer, teaches only that infants are depraved, and under condemnation, which makes them justly liable to future punishment, but not that they are actually sent to hell. And Turrettin, that “the guilt of original sin” is “sufficient for the condemnation” of infants, but, not that the punishment deserved is inflicted. Edwards also, as quoted, reprobates a sentiment which would deny that infants are “not exposed to any proper punishment at all on account of Adam's sin.” Bellamy teaches also, that if they (infants) die and go into eternity with their native temper, they must necessarily be miserable, “ in being what they are, unlike to God, and incapable of the enjoyment of him, and contrary to him.” He holds that they are as really under law in eternity, and may as justly be punished if they sin in that state, as they might have been if they had lived and acted out their depravity in time. But that they do die and go into eternity with their native temper he does not say. He teaches that the condition to which man is reduced by the fall, as exposed to eternal punishment without the Gospel, is worse than non-existence. But he does not say, that the actual eternal state of all the race is worse than non-existence.
He teaches that there is hope of the children of believers who are trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but he does not say, that there is no hope for the children of believers who die in infancy. Nor does he say, that there is no hope for the children of unbelievers dying in infancy, or that they are sent to hell.
These authorities, which teach, simply and only, that infants are the subjects of such depravity as disqualifies for heaven, and, not removed, would render their exclusion certain and just, the reviewer deems quite conclusive. It is in such evidence that he exults, as showing that the ablest and most approved supporters of Calvinism • expressly stated and enforced” the doctrine that infants are damned. This, we say, and will show more fully in the proper place, is the only evidence the reviewer has adduced to prove that the Calvinistic party ever did, or do now, as a body, believe and teach the doctrine of infant damnation. But the reviewer need not have troubled himself to prove that the Reformers, and Edwards and Bellamy taught the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin, as entailing depravity and a real and just exposure to future punishment upon the entire race, commencing with the earliest infancy. But does he really think, that when this is proved or conceded, his work is done, and the Calvinistic belief in infant damnation established? Will he avow the maxim, that to teach the desert of punishment, is the same as to teach “expressly” its actual infliction? Does he imagine that he possesses power of logic sufficient to persuade his readers that all men in this life, are punished who deserve punishment ?
As the entire triumph of the reviewer turns on the new discovery, that to believe and teach the desert of punishment, is to teach “expressly” that it is inflicted; I shall take the liberty, for his edification, and that of his admiring readers, to reduce his argument to syllogistic form: To believe and teach that a subject of law is guilty and deserving of punishment, is the same as to believe and teach “expressly” that the punishment deserved is actually inflicted. But Calvinists, as we have abundantly shown, have believed and taught that infants are depraved and justly exposed to future punishment. Therefore, “the doctrine of infant damnation has been expressly maintained by leading Calvinists, and is connected with essential vital principles of the Calvinistic system." Review, p. 431. There is certainly no fault to be found with this reasoning, if the major be true, that to believe in guilt and desert of punishment is the same as to believe its actual infliction.
But if the position is just, it brings upon us all, whether infants or adults, Unitarians or Calvinists, fear as desolation, and destruction as a whirlwind. For then, what becomes of those “elect infants” which Calvinists supposed so safe, whose guilt and desert, however, they admitted ; and what hope remains for elect adults, whose guilt and just condemnation is admitted ? Nay, should we turn Arminians, we must hold to desert of punishment, and the necessity of repentance and faith. But how can repentance and faith avail, provided that to deserve and to suffer are inseparable ? And, alas ! for the reviewer and all his brethren, the Unitarians and Universalists, who hold that we are saved by grace through the tender mercy of God! for what sort of grace is that which forgives a debt which is not due, and what sort of tender mercy is that which remits a penalty which is not deserved? But if it is deserved, then who can be saved ?
These conclusions, to which the reviewer's logic is driving himself and us, far from heaven and hope, are the more terrific, as, if they are true, the Bible sanctions our doom, “ for he (God] hath concluded all under sin," all “ children of wrath, because children of disobedience.” Who then can be saved ?
I should hope, that by this time, the reviewer might be as well satisfied as he seems to think I must be; and that he will perceive, that his premises are “ a bed shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and a covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it," and that, between his premises and his conclusion, a a great gulf is fixed, which must forever preclude all sort of intercourse between them. Should the infatuation, however, which has produced such obliquity of reasoning harden him to defend his premises, that to teach guilt and desert of punishment is to teach “expressly” the infliction of the punishment deserved, we shall be somewhat comforted by perceiving into what honorable company we are fållen, and with what a cloud of witnesses we are surrounded.
The primitive Fathers, those rank anticalvinists, if they were not, as many insist, Unitarians even, did most assuredly believe, in some sense, in original sin, as is clearly indicated by the stress they laid on baptism, as taking it away. Platon, the metropolitan of the Greek church, gives as her doctrine, " that through the first transgression the door of sin was opened, which, by infecting the whole human race, at last brought them into the utmost misery.” “In this nature, formed after the image of God, not one feature of that image was to be observed.” “In such a state rational man fell under the severity of God's wrath.” “Out of this state of utter ruin, the human race could have no hope of saving themselves."*
The Greek church therefore, according to the logic of the reviewer, teaches "expressly” the damnation of infants, because it is admitted that they are all depraved and deserve to die. The good old church of England, and her daughter the American Episcopal church, come in to share with us in the blood of the little innocents; for they teach that “ Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk, but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is, of his own nature, inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit, and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation.” And even our brethren of the Methodist Episcopal church hold, that “ Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk, but is the corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far from original righteousness, and of his own nature, is inclined to evil, and that continually.”
The other doctrine of Calvinism, which may be supposed to have relation to the future condemnation of infants, is the doctrine of Predestination or Election. But this decides nothing. It teaches only, that God, in his infinite mercy, has determined to reclaim, and forgive, and save a portion of the human race. How many, and whom, it says not. Especially it does not determine, that infants may not be included in this merciful purpose. The phrase “elect infants” which, in his usual way, the reviewer takes for granted implies that there are infants who are not elect, implies no such thing. If the reviewer had understood the principles of Calvinism, and the sentiments of the most approved Calvinistic writers," he might have escaped the downfall into which he has so heedlessly plunged. He would have understood that while Calvinists believed that some infants were certainly elected and saved, they did not teach that any infants were certainly damned.
* Pink. Gr. Ch. p. 99-102. VOL. I.
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