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and was designed to have, such an efficacy that God can be just to himself and to the universe in promising salvation to all who will repent, while he can be just to himself and to the universe in giving repentance to those, and only to those, whom, in the exercise of sovereign love, he has purposed to save. The atonement is not the reason why he elects a definite number of the race, and no more and no less. His purpose of election is an exercise of that same benevolent sovereignty which always has in view as an ultimate end the good of the universe. The atonement enables him to execute that purpose without sacrificing that end. So that in providing an atonement for all, and applying it to the actual salvation of the elect, he acts simply as a sovereign, subject only to the law of love, having always one and the same great end in view, the highest welfare of the universe. It was by exalting the sovereignty of God in connection with the atonement, and by insisting that acts of sovereignty are acts of that love, which is the essence of all virtue, and by showing what was the ultimate end of God in creation, that Edwards, Bellamy, and Hopkins prepared the way for that theory of the atonement which now holds a recognized place in New England theology.


No theologians have given greater prominence to the sovereignty of God than those whose views we are endeavoring to set forth. One of the standing objections against them has been that they wrote and preached of nothing else; but the truth is, they gave this prominence to God's sovereignty because they held so firmly to those principles which secure man's freedom and responsibility. Their doctrine of the nature of sin and of natural ability made it safe for them to exalt sovereignty.

They accepted the ordinary statement of the doctrine of decrees found in the old Calvinistic symbols. Their only peculiarity in treating the doctrine lies in their method of meeting the objections brought against it. These ob

jections refer to the relation of decrees to the existence of sin.

1. It is objected that it is inconsistent with the character of God to decree the existence of sin. Being in its very nature an evil, and infinitely hateful, how can a holy and benevolent God make its existence the subject of his immutable decrees? To meet this objection, it was natural for these divines who resolve all virtue into benevolence, and so make the highest good of the universe the ultimate end of God in creation, to take the ground that God decrees sin because it is the necessary means of the greatest good. It is consistent with the whole spirit of his system for Dr. Hopkins to say: "It is abundantly evident and demonstrably certain from reason assisted by revelation, that all the sin and suffering which have taken place, or ever will, are necessary for the greatest good of the universe, and to answer the wisest and best ends, and therefore must be included in the best and most wise and perfect plan."1 Similar language is employed by most of the early fathers of New England theology. But they did not mean that sin is the direct and efficient means of the greatest good, but only that it is the occasion for God so to work as to secure the highest good. He does not decree the non-existence of sin, because the execution of such a decree would require action on his part inconsistent with the highest good. Hence he decrees the existence of sin rather than its prevention. It is better for the universe that sin should exist and be held in check and overruled, than that there should be such a change in the present system as would be necessary to prevent its existence. And as the benevolence of God moves him to decree what is for the highest good, he decrees to permit rather than prevent sin, so that its existence, viewed as decreed, proves rather than disproves his perfect benevolence. As Edwards says: "God does not will sin absolutely; but rather than alter the law of nature and the nature of free agents, he wills it. He wills

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what is contrary to excellency in some particulars, for the sake of a more general excellency and order."1

Most divines of this school at the present day are not satisfied with the formula that "sin is the necessary means of the greatest good," though holding substantially the doctrine which it was intended to express. They would not say that sin is literally "necessary," nor that it is, strictly speaking, the "means" of good. It is for the best that sin exist, only in the sense that the non-prevention of it by God is for the best. His decree that it exist, is better than would be a decree to do what would be necessary to prevent it. He does not decree it because he prefers it to holiness in its stead, but because he prefers it to such a change in the system as would secure holiness in its stead.

Some New England divines have preferred to meet this objection against decrees, by the hypothesis that it may be God could not prevent sin in a moral system. This view, however, has not been generally accepted. If the statement were, that God could not prevent sin in the best moral system, it would be substantially the same as that given above, since he has decreed the best system, and this includes the permission of sin; therefore a change in this system which should prevent sin would make it another and an inferior system.

2. It is objected to the doctrine of divine decrees, that it is inconsistent with man's free moral agency. To this objec tion it is replied: (a) That the freedom of every moral act is as much decreed as the act itself.2 God decrees that men shall act freely in whatever they do. (b) That there is nothing in the nature of decrees while unexecuted "to influence the actions of men, any more than if they did not exist." If in any way they interfere with human freedom, it must be in the mode of their execution; i. e. in the divine agency consequent on the divine decrees. But whatever influence God exerts upon men in fulfilling his

1 Works, Vol. II. p. 516.

* Dr. Emmons's Works, Vol. IV. pp. 294.

2 Hopkins's Works, Vol. II. p. 88.

decrees, whether directly by his Spirit, or indirectly by motives, our consciousness testifies to no interference with our freedom. We are conscious of no irresistible force necessitating our action. We have natural power to resist the influences to which we yield, and always feel that we act freely, whether we yield or resist. The divine agency, executing the divine decrees, may render moral actions certain without rendering them necessary. Certainty is consistent with freedom, else prophecy and foreknowledge were impossible. Men are not compelled to do what they certainly will do, and they can do what they certainly will not do. They act as freely as if there were no certainty in the case. If the divine decrees were supposed, either in themselves or in their execution, to deprive men of power to act otherwise than as they do act, the objection that they destroy freedom would seem valid; but the doctrine of natural ability as held by these divines enabled them to turn the force of this objection. They would not all care to say, with Dr. Emmons, that "men always have natural power to frustrate those divine decrees which they are appointed to fulfil." But the truth thus paradoxically stated they deem essential to a right conception of the doctrine of decrees, and to a successful vindication of it against the objections urged by Arminians and infidels.

There are several other Christian doctrines which have been treated in a peculiar manner by this school of New England divines; but as the peculiarities of views adopted in regard to them are less important than those already considered, and have less vital relations to the whole Calvinistic system, and as this Article is already unduly extended, no mention is here made of them.

Our aim has been historical rather than controversial, to exhibit rather than defend or combat a peculiar system of theology, or rather a peculiar type of Calvinistic theology. In conclusion, we can but express the conviction that no

1 Hopkins's Works, Vol. I. p. 76.

2 Dr. Emmons's Works, Vol. IV. p. 304.

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man can make himself familiar with this New England theology, its origin and history, without entertaining a profound respect for the piety and ability of many of those men whose names are intimately associated with it, however much and earnestly he may dissent from the peculiar views which they adopted.




NEWTON, an English painter of celebrity in the last generation, paid a professional visit to the United States, extending through several months. Much of this time was spent in Boston. On his return to England a London cockney undertook to condole with him on his long exile from good society. "Sir," was the indignant reply of the artist, "I met such people in Boston every day as I should be glad to meet here occasionally." The compliment was a generous one from an Englishman, but strictly just, as any one familiar with Boston society at the close of the last century can testify. The recent Memoirs of Choate and Prescott and Parker indicate that Boston has lost none of its celebrity in our generation. They moved in different social circles. They rarely met each other in private life, nor did they have mutual friends. But each of them had a large circle of friends of generous aims and high culture, in whose companionship they sought mental refreshment and stimulus. Three such men in a single city (in which Webster and Everett and Wendell Phillips were contemporaries) silence the sneers of foreign critics that American life is too young and

1 Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, Minister of the Twenty-eighth Congregational Society, Boston. By John Weiss. New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1864.

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