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in these beart-withering characters? We may confidently expect to find in such a system the brightest views of the divine nature; and the same objections lie against interpretations of its records, which savour of cruelty and injustice, as lie against the literal sense of passages which ascribe to God bodily wants and organs. Let the Scriptures be read with a recollection of the spirit of Christianity, and with that modification of particular texts by this general spirit, which a just criticism requires, and Calvinism would no more enter the mind of the reader, than Popery, we had almost said, than Heathenism.
In the remarks now made, it will be seen, we hope, that we have aimed to expose doctrines, not to condemn their professors. It is true, that men are apt to think themselves assailed, when their system only is called to account. But we have no foe but error. We are less and less disposed to measure the piety of others by peculiarities of faith. Men's characters are determined, not by the opinions which they profess, but by those on which their thoughts habitually fasten, which recur to them most forcibly, and which colour their ordinary views of God and duty. The creed of habit, imitation, or fear, may
be defended stoutly, and yet have little practical influence. The mind, when compelled by education or other circumstances to receive irrational doctrines, bas yet a power of keeping them, as it were, on its surface, of excluding them from its depths, of refusing to incorporate them with its own being; and when burdened with a mixed, incongruous system, it often discovers a sagacity, which reminds us of the instinct of inferior animals, in selecting the healthful and nutritious portions, and in making them its daily food. Accordingly, the real faith often corresponds little with that which is professed. It often happens, that through the progress of the mind in light and virtue, opinions, once central, are gradually thrown outward, lose their vitality, and cease to be principles of action, whilst through babit they are defended as articles of faith. The words of the creed survive, but its advocates sympathize with it little more than its foes. These remarks are particularly applicable to the present subject. A large number, perhaps a majority of those, who surname themselves with the name of Calvin, have little more title to it than ourselves. They keep the name, and drop the principles which it signifies. They adhere to the system as a whole,
but shrink from all its parts and distinguishing points. This silent but real defection from Calvinism is spreading more and more widely. The grim features of this system are softening, and its stern spirit yielding to conciliation and charity. We beg our readers to consult, for themselves, the two Catechisms and the Confession of the Westminister Assembly, and to compare these standards of Calvinism, with what now bears its name. They will rejoice, we doubt not, in the triumphs of truth. With these views, we have no disposition to disparage the professors of the system which we condemn, although we believe that its influence is yet so extensive and pernicious as to bind us to oppose it.
Calvinism, we are persuaded, is giving place to better views. It has passed its meridian, and is sinking, to rise
It has to contend with foes more formidable than theologians—with foes, from whom it cannot shield itself in mystery and metaphysical subtleties, we mean with the progress of the human mind, and with the progress of the spirit of the gospel. Society is going forward in intelligence and charity, and of course is leaving the theology of the sixteenth century behind it. We hail this revolution of opinion as a most auspicious event to the Christian cause. We hear much at present of efforts to spread the gospel. But Christianity is gaining more by the removal of degrading errors, than it would by armies of missionaries who should carry with them a corrupted form of the religion. We think the decline of Calvinism one of the most encouraging facts in our passing history; for this system, by outraging conscience and reason, tends
these high faculties against revelation. Its errors are peculiarly mournful, because they relate to the character of God. "It darkens and stains his pure nature; spoils his character of its sacredness, loveliness, glory; and thus quenches the central light of the universe, makes existence a curse, and the extinction of it a consummation devoutly to be wished. We now speak of the peculiarities of this system, and of their natural influence, when not counteracted, as they always are in a greater or less degree, by better views, derived from the spirit and plain lessons of Christianity.
We have had so much to do with our subject, that we have neglected to make the usual extracts from the book which we proposed to review. We earnestly wish, that a
work, answering to the title of this, which should give us “a general view of Christian doctrines,” might be undertaken by a powerful hand. Next to a good commentary on the Scriptures, it would be the best service which could be rendered to Christian truth.
The Detector.No. 9.
“ If there's a hole in a' your coats,
I rede you tent it,
amang you takin' notes,
And, mind, he'll prent it.”-Burns. “Oh, an' you talk of conscience, I must have mine eye upon you.”
Shakspeare. “The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his church, bath therein appointed a government in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.”
Where does this language occur? By whom is this power assumed? Is it by the Church of Rome? Is this the phraseology of her ritual? Power, indeed, tyrannical and antichristian, she has not merely claimed but exercised, to the destruction of Christian liberty, the perversion of the truth of Christ, the slavery of man, and the dishonour of Almighty God. But those are not the words in which her claims were put forth. They savour strongly of them truly, they embody precisely the same despotic spirit, but still they are not her's.
Where does this language occur? By whom is this power assumed? Is it by Rome's eldest daughter, she who describes her mother as an “idolatrous,” “foul, filthy, old withered harlot," and yet acknowledges that her sons derive the Holy Ghost, the authority of “ absolution,” the forgiving and retaining sins, through that channel of impurity and idolatry? No; that Church which has realized in relation to the inhabitants, and especially the poor of England and Ireland, the figure of speech in which Reboboam answered the petitions of the peopleheavily as that Chureh bas taxed the land for the support
of her thirty-nine articles—many as are the millions she annually wrings from the bard earnings of honest industry-grievous as are the exactions which fill her treasury, particularly on those who believe not her doctrines, and belong not to ber communion, yet are not these the terms in which she asserts her lordship over the pockets or the opinions of the nation. The Church of England is an Act of Parliament Church, Kings are her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers. A creature of the State, she is upheld by its power. Often bas she been used in the promotion of passive obedience and nonresistance;—the time is coming when she may be more profitably employed, to the alleviation of public burdens, and in furtherance of the prosperity of the countries she has impoverished. And in relation to her ecclesiastical polity, the assertion which introduces the twentieth article, “ The Church bath power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith,” is it not a forgery? Good grounds are there for believing it to be as surreptitious, as the passage by which the church establishments of the earth bolster up their leading doctrine that of the Trinity-1 John v. 7, 8, for as that text occurs not in any Latin manuscript of the Scriptures, earlier than the ninth century, nor in any Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth century, so, likewise, that Church of England claim of authority and power, has no existence in the manuscript copy of the articles preserved in the University of Cambridge. Great, however, as is the power she exercises, and pernicious as is the influence she wields, not in her Rubric are to be found the words. Striking is the resemblance, congenial are they in spirit, but still they are not her’s.
Where, then, does this language occur? By whom is this power assumed? Even by the protesting Protestant Kirk of Scotland! The pure, immaculate Kirk of Scotland, whose advocates describe the Church of England as “ black Prelacy,” and characterize the Church of Rome as the predicted Antichrist—she puts forth this monstrous claim, exbibits in the thirtieth chapter of her Confession of Faith, the intolerance, the infallibility, which disgraces those other establishments, and manifests to considerate minds, the truth of the saying of that lover of liberty and of man, John Milton, “ New Presbyter is but Old Priest writ large." Nor are the proofs adduced in support of that
claim less extraordinary, than is the claim itself unchristian. To take the saying of the Saviour to his Apostles, John xx. 22, 23, Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained,” and to apply that saying to uninspired ordinary mortals of these our days, and to found on that application an assumption of authority as irrational as any that marked the Church of Rome, is surely as flagrant a perversion of the Scripture as can well be conceived. If to the “church officers” of the Kirk of Scotland “the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed”—if indeed “they bave power respectively to retain and remit siņs"—if they really can “shut that kingdom,” and “open it,” at their pleasure, then are the people of the land their bond-slaves, then is freedom of conscience a mere phrase, and the boast of Christian liberty an idle fiction. If these pretensions be indeed valid, wherein does the Kirk of Scotland differ from the Churches of Rome and of England, as it respects their claims to absolution and infallibility? All such pretensions are opposed alike to Christ and Christianity. From another and a different school were they borrowed than from that of Jesus. Instead of the universal freedom, the perfect equality, the brotherhood of charity and affection which constitute the essential features of the gospel of the Saviour, do not these claims more strikingly resemble the conduct which that Saviour thus denounced, “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." On how slight, how baseless a foundation, these assumptions of being the keepers of heaven's gate are built, is also evident from the first passage which is brought in the Confession of Faith, to prove that “the Lord Jesus, as king and head of his church, hath therein appointed a government in the hands of church-officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.” What passage does the reader imagine it to be? Any one unacquainted with the strange devices of creed-framers, would not mention it were he to guess till Doomsday. It is no other than Isaiah ix. 6. “ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon bis shoulder,” &c. What a mockery of the human understanding is it to cite that passage for such a purpose. When will the people see