« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ites of heaven; it will certainly please the proud and ' selfish nature of men,' as well as any other instructions, which induce them to think themselves the favourites of heaven, without "repentance; and works meet for repentance;" without "faith working by love," and producing obedience; in short, without holiness of heart and life: and it is hard to say, which system of selfcomplacency, and self-preference, best suits our pride and selfish nature, But the doctrines of election and grace' rest on this foundation, that all men are so guilty and depraved, that they might most justly have been left without exception, to perish everlastingly, as "children of wrath," "enemies to God," and " vessels "of wrath fitted for destruction:" that all were, incurably, except by divine grace, propense not only to break the holy law; but also to reject the salvation, which in infinite, mercy, God had prepared in Christ, and through his atonement and intercession; that regenerating, new creating, grace alone, can produce a cordial willingness to be reconciled to God; and that, whatever secret reasons God had for conferring this infinitely valuable and unmerited blessing on some, and not on others; the deservings of the elect was not one of them. Nor can any man know, himself to be one of this chosen company; except as it is manifest to his conscience, that he repents of, hates, and is dead to, sin; that he believes in the Lord Jesus; that he loves him, and unreservedly endeavours to keep his commandments and copy his example; and that he loves all who bear his image, and every thing connected with him; and loves all men, with compassion and good will, after his example; so that all evidences, without being thus in Christ new "creatures," are delusion, enthusiasm, presumption. Nay, even at the highest attainments in devotedness to God and holiness of life, the christian has not the small
est ground of self-preference above the felon, or mur. derer; as all the difference between him, and the worst of the wicked, is owing to special unmerited grace, and nothing remains for him, but thankfulness, and shame that he makes no more suitable returns. These, I say, are not views congenial to the pride, selfishness, and love of sin, and the world, which are natural to fallen man. Men may be, (and will be, without special grace,) proud of any kind of distinction from others, in supposed knowledge, virtue, or endowments; and many have been, and are proud both, of Calvinistick, and of Anticalvinistick, opinions. But he, who judges and feels, respecting himself, according to the statement above given, will find little to feed his self-complacency; but much to stop his mouth, to silence his objections, reasonings, and attempts at self justification, to silence his murmurs, resentments, and censoriousness; and much to inspire gratitude, admiration, and love of God; and to encourage hope, in the exercise of good will to men. For there can be no sinner so vile and hardened, but the same grace, which has softened and humbled, and won his own heart, would not soften, humble, subdue, and win him over.-So. far, is the doctrine of the divine sovereignty, in "having mercy on whom he will have "mercy," from being popular; that when stated as above, (as I trust most, if not all, the evangelical clergy do state it, who at all introduce it into their publick instructions;) it is in all places, (except where the doctrine is well known, and over-rated; and perhaps rather incautiously inculcated,) the most unpopular part of our ministry. Many receive our instructions, in other respects, whose hearts revolt against this; and after all the zeal of Calvinists to make proselytes, the small number of avowed Calvinists, (in respect of personal clection to cternal life,) found in this nation, com
pared with the mass of the population, not one in ten, to speak much within compass; or even of the whole mul. titude of those, who seem in earnest about religion, is a full proof, that every man, who seeks popularity in a new station, where Calvinism is not much known, must be very careful how he introduces the subject; for the hearts of his hearers will be sure to revolt against it. So far is man's proud and selfish nature from being easily fascinated by the doctrine!-It should be remembered, that all the followers of Mr. J. Wesley, are in this respect Anti-calvinists, and several other companies, which appear earnest in religion, and a considerable proportion of evangelical clergymen and their congregations.
P. cclxxxiii. Note. In tracing, &c.'* I should not have previously supposed, that a protestant bishop would have deigned to quote the infidel Hume in such an argument; who, as it easily might be proved, showed as much ignorance, when he presumed to write about religion, as he did sound and accurate information on other subjects: and who never, throughout his whole history, meets with any thing like christianity, among papists or protestants, Calvinists or Arminians, churchmen or dissenters; but he shows most clearly his bitter enmity and sovereign contempt of it; and that always in proportion, as the enemy to be assailed approximates to the religion of the New Testament. I disdain to answer Hume's accusation of enthusiasm. I only deny its' truth: and I rejoice that his testimony is against us; it is the highest applause, which such a man was capable of bestowing on religious characters.
• In tracing the coherence among the systems of modern theology, we may observe that the doctrine of absolute decrees has ever been intimately 'connected with the enthusiastic spirit; as that doctrine affords the highest subject of joy, triumph, and security to the elect, and exalts them by in 'finite degrees above the rest of mankind Hume.
P. cclxxxiii. 1. 18. 'I do not, &c.'* The concessions, made in the former part of this quotation, make a sort of honourable amends to the Calvinists, who before were classed with avowed infidels and atheists, as not less dangerous to our church than they. St. Peter was fully aware, that these doctrines, as stated and enlarged on, by "his beloved brother Paul, according to the "wisdom given unto him," were peculiarly liable to abuse. We also are aware of the same; and bestow great pains to distinguish between the genuine use of the doctrines, in rendering the believer humble, thankful, patient, meek towards all men, and joyful in temptations, and afflictions; and the perversion of them, in feeding the pride of self-preference, in buoying up, in carnal minds, false confidence; in giving needless discouragement to the unestablished; and in fostering a hardness of spirit, in those who take them up, in a speculative and unscriptural manner, and not experimentally and practically.
P. cclxxxiv. 1. 13. 'The perversion, &c.' The perversion of these doctrines has been, and will be, the
• I do not however deny that these doctrines have been adopted and main⚫tained by some persons eminent for their learning and in high stations in ⚫ the church; but I think that the adoption of these opinions may in general be traced, in writers of an early period, to the abhorrence of the impious ⚫ doctrine of human merit, which it has been frequently observed, was one of the chief points of controversy with the church of Rome, rather than to their unbiassed judgment of the sense of Scripture. I am most ready to allow that many Calvinists have been pious and excellent men, and I am` • fully satisfied that there are in these days zealous christians of that persua ⚫sion, who would be among the first to deplore any evil, which might befal ' our Constitution in Church or State. But I contend, that Calvinism is a 'system peculiarly liable to abuse.'
† 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.
The perversion of its tenets has in former times been made, by wicked and designing men, the instrument of great mischief; and I fear that at the ⚫ present moment the interests of real christianity suffer not a little, and that the Established, Church is in no small danger, from the active hostility of "those who profess Calvinistick doctrines?
instruments of great mischief, by wicked and design'ing men;' and so will be every tenet of christianity, when perverted. But, I apprehend, that the established church is at present, as much in danger, from the active hostility of men, professing Anti-calvinistick doctrines, as from Calvinists. The Socinian and Arian dissenters are zealous for the dissenting interest, and comprehend a large number; the Wesleyan Methodists, that very numerous body, are Anti-calvinists; and the success of the Calvinistick dissenters is not owing to their principles on these subjects, but to their evangelical doctrines in other respects, and their zeal in promoting them; along with their peculiar opinions, concerning church-government, and against establishments. This is fully known, to those, who are well acquainted with facts: for they, who are the most systematical Calvinists are far from being the most zealous persons, either in promoting village preaching; or in the other means, by which numbers are drawn off from the established church. Indeed they, who are decidedly Calvinists in judgment, seldom adduce their principles very prominently, except among such as are already gained to their side: for if going into villages, and among those who are strangers to the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism, instead of showing men their need of repentance, faith, renewing grace, forgiveness, in short the salvation of Christ, and urgently pressing them to accept of it; they should begin with predestination, election, non-election, &c; they would not only act unscripturally, but would be left in empty rooms. Since those, whom they proselyte, by preaching familiarly and zealously the simpler parts of christianity, could not at present receive these doctrines, and would almost universally revolt against them. How far the general interests of real christianity suffer by this, I am not prepared to say; but the church of