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They did hold, that the infants of believers, dying in infancy, were saved; but in respect to others, as they professed not to know anything on the subject, the great body of most approved writers said nothing, but referred them to the unerring disposal of God.
Thus Dickinson, president of Princeton college, and one of the most illustrious divines of his day, states the objection to original sin. “It may be further urged against this proposition, "That it dooms multitudes of poor infants to hell, who never committed any actual sin; and is therefore a doctrine so cruel and unmerciful, as, to be unworthy of God.'
“To this I answer, that greatest modesty becomes us in drawing any conclusions on this subject. We have indeed the highest encouragement to dedicate our children to Christ, since he has told us, of such is the kingdom of heaven; and the strongest reason for hope as to the happiness of those deceased infants, who have been thus dedicated to him. But God has not been pleased to reveal to us, how far he will extend his uncovenanted mercy, to others that die in infancy.--As, on the one hand, I do not know that the Scripture anywhere assures us, that they shall all be saved : so, on the other hand, we have not (that I know of,) any evidence, from Scripture or the nature of things, that any of these will eternally perish.-All those that die in infancy, may (for aught we know,) belong to the election of grace; and be predestinated to the adoption of children. They may, in methods to us unknown, have the benefits of Christ's redemption applied to them ; and thereby be made heirs of eternal glory. They are (it is true,) naturally under the guilt and pollution of original sin : But they may, notwithstanding this, for anything that appears to the contrary, be renewed by the gracious influences of the Spirit of God; and thereby be made meet for eternal life. It therefore concerns us, without any bold and presumptuous conclusions, to leave them in the hands of that God, whose tender mercies are over all his works."*
In the same manner, according to Van Mastricht, the Reformers decided. Therefore he says “they (the reformers) thought certain infants might be exposed to reprobation, as they were exposed to (or the subjects of) original sin, Rom. v. 12, 14, as being unsanctified and impure, 1 Cor. vii. 14, and placed without the covenant of grace, Gen. xvii. 7,8. Acts. ii. 39. In the mean time, concerning the infants of the faithful, because they are called pure, 1 Cor. vii. 14, likewise in covenant, Acts. ii. 39. compared with Gen. xvii. 7, because also they are held as being parts of their parents, they judged more favorably. But the infants of unbelievers, because the Scriptures determine nothing clearly on the subject, they supposed were to be left to the divine discretion.”+ This, according to the reviewer's own
* Dickinson's Sermons, p. 205. . Lib. iï. Ch. 4. p. 308.
showing, is the opinion of a very large class of Calvinists; for he says those Calvinists called moderate, “ do not pronounce a decided opinion on the subject. They express a hope, but have no confidence. They earnestly wish, but do not with complete confidence expect, that the doom of infants for Adam's sin may be less dreadful than the fires of hell.” Ah! these moderate Calvinists then, do not believe and teach that infants are damned. But do they not believe in the doctrine of original sin ? If not, they are not Calvinists, the reviewer himself being judge; and if they do hold to, and teach the doctrine of original sin, then they do teach as expressly as Edwards and Bellamy teach, the doctrine of infant damnation. The reviewer admits, however, that they do not hold to the damnation of infants, and thus gives up his argument, that Calvinism teaches it, and vindicates those whom he had aspersed, and condemns himself as having knowingly slandered both the Calvinists and their system. I have only to add, that I have nowhere asserted that Calvinists, as a body, teach that all infants are certainly saved. I am aware, that many, with Dickinson, and the Reformers, and “moderate Calvinists” have hoped that they are saved, and referred the event to the unerring discretion of heaven.
But is there no difference between not teaching positively, that infants are saved, and teaching positively that they are damned? Did Socrates deny "expressly” the immortality of the soul, when he could not determine what became of it; and said we must wait until some one shall be sent from God to teach us? And yet the reviewer drives on to his conclusion, and celebrates his own triumphs as if not to teach that infants are saved, is to teach “expressly” that they are lost. Bellamy, he says, “ suggests no hope,” concerning the children of unbelievers; therefore, he teaches "expressly” that they are damned. And Dr. Emmons does not " tell us” that he has any more hope for heathen, Mahommedan, deistical, or Unitarian infants, than for their parents ; therefore he teaches that they are damned. Both, like the Reformers, do not profess to know what becomes of the infants of unbelievers, therefore, according to the reviewer, it is an article of their faith, that they are damned. We do hope the reviewer will go back to his horn book, before he attempts to reason again for the edification of readers who are blessed with common sense.
In closing my remarks on this head, I deny unequivocally, that the Calvinistic system teaches or implies the doctrine that infants are damned; and I challenge the reviewer to name a single doctrine of the system from which it follows logically. I call upon him to state a doctrine of Calvinism which implies that infants are damned, and to point out, coolly and clearly, the connexion between the premises and the conclusion; and if he cannot do it, then I call upon him to make such amends, openly, for misrepresenting the doctrinal opinions of a large denomination of Christians,
as public justice demands; as honor, magnanimity, and conscience cannot fail to make. In the mean time, since the reviewer seems to be offended, that I should recommend to him and his brethren the commitment to memory of the ninth commandment, I will take the liberty to recommend, as a substitute, the following verse in Sternhold and Hopkins, which, should it be observed, will be as great a safeguard to Calvinists against misrepresentation, as the ninth commandment.
O Lord, my heart not haughty is,
My eyes not lofty be;
LYMAN BEECHER. (To be continued.)
PROTESTANTISM IN FRANCE.
In the preceding pages may be found an account of the progress of evangelical religion in Germany. The increase of piety in France will be a subject of sincere congratulation to every intelligent Christian. Scarcely any people upon earth could do more for the extension of the Gospel and the renovation of the world, than the French people might accomplish, if they were generally to become the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. We are happy to state, that among the Protestants of France, there is much more inquiry as to the nature of religion, and the best means of promoting it, than formerly. The instances of conversion from the Romish church are multiplying. The publication and distribution of religious tracts would indicate a readiness to make efforts for the diffusion of correct sentiments; and the zeal and alacrity, with which books are received and read, seem to announce the approach of a new era.
We have been greatly pleased with the account, which a plain man, whose name is Peter Bayssiere, master sadler, of Montaigut, department of the Tarn and Garonne, has given of his conversion from the darkness of Popery; or rather from the infidelity, which Popery has very extensively occasioned. This account takes the form of a letter to his children, and is admirably adapted to be useful as a tract. In this way, we hope it will visit multitudes, who are too much enlightened to be pleased with the mummeries of superstition, and who may derive saving benefit, by having their minds powerfully directed to the Scriptures, as the great source of religious knowledge.
We propose to give, in this and following numbers, a translation of the tract in question.
Before we proceed, however, it may be well to make two general observations. The first is, that whenever a man becomes deeply and actively religious, the change appears very great to himself, and to all his acquaintance. He seems to have emerged from the region and shadow of death, and rejoices in the light that shines from heaven. This is almost equally the case, whether he has escaped from dark heathenism, cold infidelity, chilling
Unitarianism, dead formality;—or even from barren and heartless orthodoxy.
Letter to my Children on the subject of my conversion to the true
Christian religion, and of the motives which have induced me to pass from the communion of the Romish Church, in which I was born, into the Protestant Church, in which I desire and
hope to die. My dear Children,
The narrative, which I propose to give you in this letter, of my conversion to the true Christian religion,-such as our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles established, such as was professed during the two first ages of the church, and such as is again found faithfully followed by Protestants and reformed Christians: this narrative, although the courage which I feel to give it to you is unshaken, surpasses much my feeble means; and would demand from me a different education from that which I have received, and more talents for writing than I possess.
A plain mechanic, and my education in childhood having been much neglected, it is difficult for me to express as I would wish, the thoughts which crowd upon my mind and the feelings which fill and agitate my heart.
Nevertheless, great and numerous as may be the difficulties, which such an attempt presents, I am persuaded to undertake it by the tender affection which I bear you, and by the desire and hope of being useful to you; and I hope that God will be my help, to prevent me from being discouraged by any obstacle, and that he will give me grace to acquit myself of what I regard as a sacred duty.
Yes; it is a sacred duty for me to let you know the true motives, which have influenced the most important, most solemn, and most decisive step of my whole life.
It is a sacred duty for me to give glory to God for the inestimable favor which he has deigned to grant me, in bringing me out of darkness into his marvellous light ;-in opening to me the treasures of his infinite mercy ;-and in giving the hope of safety by faith in his holy Son, who alone has the words of eternal life, being, alone, the way, the truth, and the life.
It is a sacred duty for me to instruct you by the lessons of my experience ; to show you the way, by which it has pleased the Lord to lead me to the truth; and to the fountain of the living waters of his grace; and to attempt, imploring his assistance, to make you participate in the peace and joy, with which my soul is now overwhelmed under the celestial influence of his word.
It is a sacred duty for me to fortify you, by a simple and sincere declaration of my religious principles, against the effects of corruption, falsehood and calumny, which endeavor to asperse my intentions and impeach my integrity, in ascribing to my proceedings dishonorable motives, which never have had the least access to my heart.
May this writing, my dear children, being blessed from on high, contribute to the triumph of the Gospel, and to the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, in filling you with a love for truth, and placing you in the way of pure Christianity.
It is at the age of thirty three years, in the present year, 1826, that I have openly embraced and professed the Protestant religion, after having submitted it to a most serious and attentive examination, and after having recognised it as the true religion of Jesus Christ, and in every thing conformed to the revelation of the Gospel.
Like you, my dear children, I was born in the Romish church; but birth does nothing for religion. It may, indeed, be a source of prejudices with regard to it, and serve as a pretext to timid men, the slaves of a sordid interest, and those who are totally indifferent, to justify their external adherence to doctrines, and to a worship, which their heart disapproves. As Jesus Christ declared to his disciple Peter, it is not flesh, nor blood, which reveals to us the knowledge of the true God, the Creator, Preserver, and Saviour of men. Faith, which alone gives us the right to be called children of God, and true members of the church of Jesus Christ, is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and not a gift which we receive from our parents. This is what the Gospel teaches, when it says, in St. John, i. 12, 13. “ But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”.
We are neither Catholics nor Protestants by birth: and it is a great error to believe ourselves engaged to this or that communion, because we were born in it. Like all the sciences, religion ought to be studied and considered; and one is not truly a member of any communion, until he understands the principles of it, or adheres to it with a deep conviction and an entire persuasion. Until this takes place, one is only credulous, ignorant, superstitious, the slave of prejudice and habit.
Ås to myself, my children, although born in the Romish church, I never partook in the belief of it. It is foreign to the end which I propose to myself, to recall here the various circumstances of my infancy and youth, which prevented me from being introduced into the bosom of Catholicism by the customary practices and ceremonies. It is sufficient to tell you that God, by his Providence, so ordered it, that I made no vow, by which I might afterwards believe myself bound to the Romish communion.*
Unknown to me, that is, at an age when I knew not what was done, baptism was doubtless administered to me; but as this act was done without any participation on my part, I have never considered it an engagement to the Catholic church, not having myself contracted it.
That which they call the first communion, which is the ratification and confirmation of the baptismal vow, and which I hold to be a solemn and obligatory engagement, if there ever can be one, at least when contracted at a mature age, and with a knowledge of the subject; this first communion I never partook of in the Romish church; nor did I ever receive what they call the sacrament of confirmation,
When I was going to unite myself by the sacred bond of marriage with your virtuous and very dear mother, they imposed upon me the duty of confessing ; which I did with extreme repugnance, knowing nothing which is at the same time more absurd,tyrannical and humiliating to man, than this obligation to throw himself at the feet of a priest, a mortal, and sinner, a child of corruption like all men, to make to him avowals, which the offended Deity alone has a right to
*I might have thought, but I am far from believing that I ought to think, myself indissolubly bound to the Catholic church by any sacrament, which I might have received, or by any engagement, which I might have contracted with it. On the contrary, I lay it down, as an incontestable principle, that all rows and oaths are null, and neither can nor ought to retain us in a communion, from the moment when the error is discovered, or the essential doctrines or pracuces are evidently opposed to the word of God, and disavowed by the conscience. Truth alone, and a deep conviction that we follow truth, is the only bond, which ought to attach us inviolably to any church whatever. From the moment, that this conviction ceases, and we find ourselves in error, it is a sacred duty to abandon a profession, which does not accord with our true sentiments, and we become hypocrites, despisable in the eyes of good men, and condemned before God, if we persevere in it.