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- because from a consciousness of their own
obedience, &c, their faith is greatly established ' and confirmed'--saith its representative or substitute !— Such,' it is affirmed, are the predes* tination and election which our church maintains, ' and recommends to all its members as replete * with comfort.' Here, by the way, it should be observed, what energy there is in unqualified confident assertion, especially when supported by reputation, learning, and authority; and used in favour of those sentiments, which are most popular, and most agreeable to the human heart; especially if it tends to expose to odium those who are generally disliked. This figure of speech is equally powerful among churchmen and dissenters, Calvinists or Anticalvinists; men of any party, in church or state; in politics, nay, in philosophy. If a superior man, without hesitation, boldly. assert any thing ; multitudes give him credit, that he could prove it, if he chose, though he has not done it. Thus men follow their different leaders, implicitly, from the members of a methodist society, through all gradations, to the immense multitudes who profoundly reverence the ipse dixit of the Pope, or of the conclave of Cardinals. In the mean while, argument, however conclusive, produces no effect, nay, can gain no attention, except among a despised and very small minority. All must allow that hypocrites and enthusiasts have, in this way, amazingly succeeded: therefore men of enlarged mind, liberal education, and superior endowments, should disdain to sanction it by their example.
' But in the same Article it tells us, that' for ‘curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's predestination, is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the devil doth thrust 'them either into desperation, or into recklessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation. What is this sentence of God's predestination ? It cannot be the sentence of predestination we have been considering, by ' which God purposed and decreed to save all who 'shall believe and obey the gospel : this merciful
and consolatory doctrine cannot be the sugges' tion of the great enemy of mankind; it cannot ' drive men to desperation, because it says to every one, Repent, and you shall be saved ; it cannot lead men to recklessness of most unclean living,' because it says, that without good works nó man can be saved; and a real ' ever• lasting purpose of God' cannot be a ' dangerous * downfal’ to any part of his rational creatures. · Where then are we to find this supposed 'sen'tence of God's predestination,' which is attended with so much mischief and danger? In the
works of Calvin. We there read, ' Predestina'tion we call the eternal decree of God, by which • he has determined with himself what he willed * to be done concerning every man.
For all men are not created in an equal condition, but eternal ' life is pre-ordained to some, eternal damnation 'to others..... That therefore which the scripture
clearly shews, we affirm, that God, by an eternal ' and immutable counsel, once appointed those whom he should hereafter will to take into sal
vation, those moreover whom he should will to · devote to destruction. We assert, that this coun‘sel with respect to the elect was founded in his
gratuitous mercy, without any respect to human ‘worth ; but that the approach to life is precluded ' to those whom he assigns to damnation by his ‘just indeed and irreprehensible, but incompre• hensible judgment' (Translation by the author of the Refutation.) Here it is maintained, that * God has eternally fixed the future destiny of
every individual of the human race; that he has * irrevocably decreed to bestow everlasting hap'piness upon some, and to consign others to eter'nal misery, without any regard to their merit or
demerit. Those who believe this doctrine, who ' have this sentence continually before their eyes, • will either be in danger of falling into despair, ' from a conviction that it is impossible for them 'to be saved, that they must inevitably suffer
everlasting torment; or they will be apt to prac'tise every vice to which they feel any temptation,
from a persuasion that they belong to the chosen ' few, who must necessarily be saved, whatever may be their conduct. It appears, then, that the Calvinistic doctrines of election and reprobation are not only not maintained in this Article, ' but that they are disclaimed and condemned in 'the strongest ternis.'!
I must here again intreat the reader to peruse carefully the Article itself, and then to decide, whether two distinct doctrines are stated, one in the Article, and another to be fetched from Calvin's works. No intimation, not even the most
1 Ref. 267-269.
distant, is given of this. Calvin is no more considered in the Article, than if he had never existed ; much less is there any reference made to his works. The same doctrine is indisputably spoken of from the beginning to the end of the article.
What is this sentence of God's predestination? • It cannot be the sentence of predestination, 'which we have been considering, by which God ' purposed and decreed to save all, who shall * believe and obey the gospel.' Certainly it cannot be the doctrine of his Lordship's comment: but it can be, and undoubtedly is the doctrine stated in the preceding part of the Article. His Lordship having, in fact, substituted another Article in the place of the seventeenth, by his comments on it, reasons from his own Article, as if it were that of the church ; and, as far as his comment is concerned, he reasons plausibly, if not conclusively.—This merciful and consolatory • doctrine cannot be the suggestion of the great
enemy of mankind.' Does the article then affirm, that the doctrine of predestination, that any doctrine of which it speaks, or to which it alludes, is
the suggestion of the great enemy of mankind ?' It only affirms that for curious and carnal persons, ' lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually
before their eyes the sentence of God's predes'tination, is a most dangerous downfal, by which
the Devil doth thrust them, &c. :' and this is in the same sentence in which “the godly con
sideration of predestination’ is declared to be 'full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort ' to godly persons, such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, &c. No inti
mation is given of a different doctrine being intended than in the former part of the sentence : the different uses made of the same doctrine by differently disposed minds, ‘ the godly' and the * carnal,' are alone declared. It is true, the great enemy
of mankind knows well how to suggest false, but plausible inferences from the doctrines of revelation in general, and from this in particular, but the doctrines themselves are not his suggestions. “Even as our beloved brother Paul “ also, according to the wisdom given unto him, “ hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles,
speaking in them of these things, in which are “ some things hard to be understood, which they “ that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they “ do the other scriptures, to their own destruc« tion.”] The doctrine
The doctrine may be scriptural, wholesome, nutrimental, nay, essential : yet an unstable and uninstructed mind, either with, or even without the devil's suggestions, “may wrest it” to the man's own destruction. The mischief arises not from the doctrine, but from the state of men's hearts, as the Article has most clearly stated. There is no doctrine, however consolatory or. practical, that the proud, carnal, ungodly heart will not thus pervert: so that nothing can possibly be admitted, on this ground, against the indisputable certainty, that this latter part of the Article speaks of the same predestination as the former part does.--How far the compilers of our Articles would have objected to the quotation from Calvin, (of which I have given his Lordship's translation,) is another question ; and cer
! 2 Pet iii. 15, 16.