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these Christian graces actually exists first in the soul? the answer must be, That on which the mind's eye is fixed, when the sacred principle of holy love commences its operation in the soul, and which, of course, will correspond in some degree with the kind of instruction which is given, and the particular points of the divine character and government, which have engaged the attention, and interested the feelings. If a man born blind, should be suddenly restored to sight, what external object would he see first? Undoubtedly, that which happened to be in the line of vision, when his eyes were first opened. In the same manner, when the eye of the understanding is first opened, that specific affection awakes first, which is first called for, by that divine object which is first presented to the mind. It may be repentance, or submission, or faith, or love to enemies, or brotherly love, or a spirit of prayer, as the object in the mind's eye shall call forth specific holy affection.
This account corresponds with the phenomena of conversion. Scarcely any two persons commence a spiritual existence with precisely the same views and affections. Nor is there anything more hopeless, than the attempt to reduce to method or order, the first movements of divine life in the soul; nor any fear of young Christians more unfounded, or more common, than that their experience may be deceptive, because, in the first religious exercises of other persons, they do not find the exact image and superscription of their own. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit. There is, amidst indefinite circumstantial variety, a universal, general likeness: as the constituent parts of the human countenance are the same, though combined with all that difference of color and proportions, which constitutes the evidence of individuality.
9. The existence of religion does not imply the perceived existence at once, of all the Christian graces. The nature of the mind does not admit of it. The affections can exist only in the view of the proper objects of affection, presented to the heart, through the medium of the understanding. But the understanding can no more simultaneously, look at as many objects, 'as there are Christian graces, with such distinct contemplation as is indispensable to emotion, than the eye can pour its concentrated inspection many objects at the same time. The Christian graces must, therefore, be successive in their order, as the mind can only present and inspect in succession, their several objects. Besides, the coexistence of some religious affections, is, in their nature, incompatible. How can mourning for sin, and deep prostration of spirit, consist with the elevation and vivacity of joy, and gratitude, and praise. Some of the Christian graces, such as unconditional submission, and repentance for sin, may exist without any appre
To the Editor of the Christian Examiner.
This second letter I write, to apprize you and the reviewer of what you ought to have known long since, viz. that the doctrine, that infants are damned, has never been the received doctrine of the churches denominated Calvinistic.
I might content myself, simply, with an analysis of the quotations which the reviewer has produced in evidence against us; for, however ignorant of Calvinism, and negligent of inquiry, I may be, he, doubtless, has “ ransacked public libraries, importuned his friends, and taken whatever means,” to obtain from Calvinistic authors, evidence of the doctrine of infant damnation. He has, also, from his most ample materials, made his own selections, and given from Calvin, he thinks, the “strongest quotations.” It might suffice, therefore, in order to repel the charge, to show that his proofs are nugatory. But, as Calvinism has so long been misrepresented on this point, and the memory of the illustrious dead blackened with calumny, I choose to take a wider range, and show, that in every age, the most authentic documents stamp falsehood upon the charge so long repeated, that Calvinists believe and teach the damnation of infants ;—that it is made and propagated, not only without evidence, but against evidence; and is, probably, an instance unparalleled, of a slander so long sustained in the face of indubitable evidence to the contrary.
I have another motive for this course. As evangelical light returns to the nations, and the malignity of papal and heretical opposition subsides, the Reformers, those suns of other days, to whom the world owes its emancipation from civil and religious despotism, are destined, I doubt not, to rise again, and to receive from grateful millions, that undivided homage which their intellectual greatness, their illustrious piety, and sublime moral daring in the cause of God and man, so eminently deserve. The Sun of righteousness, as he rises, will dry up the marshes and miry places, and drive away the dark vapors, and put to silence the croaking which for ages had been without intermission.
The proper evidence of the sentiments of a denomination of Christians is to be sought in their public formularies of doctrine, and in their most approved writers; and if, in neither the one nor the other, an odious sentiment ascribed to them can be found, the allegation, of course, is false.
That the Calvinistic creeds from the Reformation to this day teach no such doctrine as that infants are damned, is a matter of perfect notoriety. I do not believe the reviewer can find a Calvinistic creed, the work of any age, which teaches the doctrine of
infant damnation, or any doctrine which either directly or remotely implies it. I have before me, A HARMONY OF THE CONFESSIONS OF THE FAITH OF THE CHRISTIAN AND REFORMED CHURCHES, WHICH PURELY PROFESS THE HOLY DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL, IN ALL THE CHIEF KINGDOMS, NATIONS, AND PROVINCES OF EUROPE ; and though it does not belong to me to prove a negative, I volunteer to do so, that the Christian public may see the documents for themselves, and know that they teach no such thing as the doctrine of infant damnation. They all teach the imputation of Adarn's sin to the whole human race, infants not excepted ; and that, in consequence, they are depraved, and children of wrath, and justly exposed to eternal death ; but they do not teach, as Van Mastricht testifies, that they are actually damned, but refer them to the divine discretion.*
The CONFESSION OF AUGSBURG, is Lutheran, and, though stronger than any Calvinistic confession, does not teach that infants are damned; for the Lutheran church, though their symbol remains, hold to the doctrine that infants are saved, with more decision probably, than any other.
The article on orignal sin is, “ All that come into the world are, through Adam's fall, subject to God's wrath, and eternal death.” (By “subject” is to be understood, liable to, exposed to; otherwise, they would be made to teach the damnation of all men.) “ This original blot is sin indeed, condemning and bringing eternal death even now also upon them which are not born again by baptism, and the Holy Ghost.”+ This respects adults as well as infants, and asserts the necessity of regeneration, in consequence of original sin, in respect to both adults and infants ; but no more decides that infants, dying in infancy, are damned, than it decides that all the adult subjects of original sin are damned. Mosheim, a Lutheran, who has written a treatise to prove that infants are saved, says, “ This depravity of our nature, although it is voluntary, and is underived from our first parents, is, nevertheless, imputed to us as sin, in the chancery of heaven; wherefore, if no other sin were added, we should be exposed to divine punishment on account of this depravity itself.”I Did Mosheim teach, therefore, expressly, the doctrine that infants are damned ?
The Helvetian Confession.—“Such an one as he (Adam) became by his fall, such are all his offspring, ever subject to sin, death, and divers calamities.” And by the death to which man is exposed, they say, “ we understand, not only bodily death, but everlasting punishment, due to our corruption and to our sins.”||
* The question at issue pow, is not whether the doctrine of original sin by imputation of sin is true, or is expressed in language which is most intelligible or suitable at the pres. ent time, but simply and only, Did they teach in any form, the damnation of infants ? + Harmony, p. 71.
Elementa Theologia Dogmata, vol. i. p. 510. | Harmony, p. 58.
CONFESSION OF Basil.—“He (man) fell into sin, of his own accord; by the which fall, whole mankind is made corrupt and subject (liable) to damnation. Hence it is, that our nature is defiled, and become so prone unto sin, that, except it be removed by the Holy Ghost, man, of himself, can neither do, nor will, any
CONFESSION OF Bohemia, or the Waldenses.—“Whereby he (Adam) stripped and bereaved himself and his posterity of the state of perfection, and goodness of nature, and the grace of God, and those good gifts of the justice and the image of God which were engraffed in him; he partly lost them, and partly corrupted and defiled them, as if with horrible poison one should corrupt pure wine; and by this means he cast, headlong, both himself and all his offspring into sin, death, and all kind of miseries in this life, and into punishment eternal after this life :" i. e. exposed himself and all his posterity to eternal punishment; for they did not hold that all men are damned.
FRENCH CONFESSION." We believe that all the offspring of Adam is infected with this contagion which we call original sin; that is, a stain spreading itself by propagation, and not by imitation only.-We believe that this stain is indeed a sin, because that it maketh all and every man (not so much as those little ones excepted which as yet lie hid in their mothers' womb) guilty ; i. e. deserving of eternal death.”+ This philosophy, which supposed that guilt and depravity might be transferred by a divine appointment, and that moral qualities might be transmitted, like physical properties, without knowledge or volition, obliged the Reformers to make the existence of depravity coeval with the existence of the body. This philosophy, however, Unitarians know full well, has been long since exploded in New England, and throughout a great portion of the Calvinistic churches of our land, as we shall have occasion to show.
Confession of Belgia.—“We believe that through the disobedience of Adam, the sin that is called original, hath been spread and poured into all mankind, wherewith the very infants in their mothers' womb are polluted, and is alone sufficient to the condemnation of all mankind.” |
Confession of Saxony.“ We say, that all men, since the fall of our first parents, do, together with their birth, bring with them original sin. Therefore, original sin is, both for the fall of our first parents, and for the corruption which followed that fall, even in our birth, to be subject to the wrath of God; to be worthy of eternal damnation, except we obtain remission for the Mediator's sake.”'||
* Harmony, p. 63.
+ Ibid. p. 65.
Ibid. p. 70.
I Dhid. p. 75, 76.
CONFESSION OF WIRTEMBERG.–“For his disobedience he (Adam) was deprived of the Holy Ghost, and made the bondman of Satan, and subject (liable) both to temporal and eternal damnation; and that evil did not stay in one only, Adam, but was derived unto all the posterity."*
The ENGLISH CONFESSION.—“ We say also, that every man is born in sin, and leadeth his life in sin.” The 39 articles say, • In every person born into the world it (original sin) deserveth God's wrath and damnation.”
THE SYNOD OF Dort was a most ample representation of the opinions of the whole Calvinistic world. They were convened to adjust the first public opposition which had ever been made to the doctrines of the Reformation. They discussed with the Remonstrants the distinguishing doctrines of Calvinism. But their views are in exact accordance with the Reformers; and no indication is given of the doctrine of infant damnation, either in their doctrine of predestination, or of original sin. Upon the latter subject they say “ Such as man was after the fall, such children also did he beget. From a corrupt parent proceeded corrupt children, corruption being derived, by the just judgment of God, from Adarn to all his posterity, Christ alone excepted; not by imitation, (as the Pelagians formerly taught,) but by the propagation of a depraved nature. Wherefore all men are conceived in sin, and born children of wrath."*
THE SYNOD at Cambridge, 1648, which represented, not Massachusetts only, but New England, adopted, unanimously, “the Confession of faith published of late by the reverend Assembly in England,” judging it “ to be holy and orthodox, and judicious in all matters of faith.” The same Confession was, in 1608, adopted by the churches in Connecticut represented at Saybrook, as the symbol of their faith; and the same is now the Confession of faith of the Presbyterian church in the United States. But this Confession, which represented the Calvinism of Old England and New, and which expresses, also, the doctrinal opinions of the church of Scotland and of the Presbyterian church in the United States, teaches neither directly, nor by implication, that infants are damned. The language of this Confession is, “ By this sin they (our first parents) and we, in them, fell from original righteousness, and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. The guilt of this sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity. Every sin, both original and actual, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal."
+ Acta Dordtrechtana, p. 256.
* Harmony, p. 77. VOL. I.