« PreviousContinue »
work together with the grace that follows: to 'this I answer, If they mean that we, after we have once been brought by the power of the * Lord to the obedience of righteousness, do of our own accord go forward, and are inclined to follow the working of grace; I speak nothing against it. For it is most certain, that there is such a readiness of obeying, where the grace of * God reigneth. But whence cometh that, but · from this, that the Spirit of God, always agreeing ' with itself, doth cherish and confirm to stedfastness of continuing, the same affection of obeying, which itself gendered at the beginning. But if they mean, that man taketh, of himself, that whereby to labour with the grace of God, they ‘are pestilently deceived.'1
We must hold in mind the admonition of Paul, whereby he biddeth the faithful to work ' out their own salvation with fear and trembling,
because it is God that worketh in them, both the ' willing and the performing. Indeed, he assign'eth them offices, to be doing, that they should ‘not give themselves to the sluggishness of the
flesh: but in that he commandeth them to have ' fear and carefulness, he so humbleth them, that they may remember, that the same thing which they are commanded to do, is the proper work of God: wherein plainly he expresseth, that the * faithful work passively, as I may so call it, in as
much as power is ministered to them from Heaven, that they should claim nothing to themselves.'2
i Calv. Inst. B. III. c. ill. $ 12.
. Ib. II. v. 11.
He says, that they should claim nothing, not that they should do nothing. “I laboured more
abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the
grace of God that was with me.” 1 “ Now the “ God of peace make you perfect in every good “ work, to do his will, working in you that which “ is well-pleasing in his sight through Jesus " Christ." 2
I select this passage, because it, more than any other which I can find, seems to favour the idea of Calvin's holding, that we are wholly passive in the work. Indeed working passively is a clumsy way of expressing the sentiment: but the sentiment itself is more happily conveyed in our Article : “We have no power to do good works, ' pleasant and acceptable to God, without the
grace of God preventing us, that we may have a good will, ut velimus, and working with us
when we have that good will, dum volumus.' In fact, Calvin is every where almost a practical divine; far more so than many Calvinists. He never means, that we are not under obligations to active obedience in all things; but he is so overzealous against the pride of claiming any thing to ourselves, that he sometimes cramps and enfeebles his own exhortations.
2. Calvin never intended to deny that man is a free, voluntary, and responsible agent. This appears every where. Indeed, I cannot conceive that any numerous company, comprising men of reflection, and talent, and learning, and piety, as the body of the Calvinists is allowed to do, ever
11 Cor. xv. 10.
? Heb. xiii. 19, 20.
held so absurd a doctrine: and they who charge it upon the Calvinists, never bring proof that they hold it. Calvin held, and we hold, that man is perfectly voluntary in evil, and even in things
good before men, independent of the special grace of God: but they think that, as fallen creatures, the will is enslaved to corrupt passions, and so corrupted in itself, that it is not free to choose what is good before God, till set free by his special grace; and then that we choose and voluntarily do what is good before Him; though not perfectly, ' because the infection of nature doth
remain, yea even in them that are regenerate.' 1 Indeed the words of Bishop Tomline convey, as far as I can judge, the meaning of Calvin as well as my own : 'It is acknowledged, that man • has not the disposition, and consequently not 'the ability, to do what in the sight of God is · good, till he is influenced by the Spirit of God.'? For what is the disposition, but the inclination, the will, which, enslaved by sin, is not free to choose what is good before God, till set free by the Holy Spirit
3. 'Supposing the everlasting destinies of in'ferior moral agents were placed at the disposal • of a man,' &c.—Does this give us any thing like a parallel to Calvin's sentiments, or those of Calvinists? With
With man, fallen man, I must connect the ideas of error, ignorance, selfishness, and other corrupt passions; and therefore absolute dominion in man is almost intolerable. In creatures, however exalted, knowledge, and power, and every excellency is finite : but in God they are infinite. His predeterminations are the result of infinite knowledge, wisdom, justice, goodness, mercy, truth, and every perfection ; and his determinations, at the day of judgment, will most exactly accord to them. If the latter be consistent with justice and mercy, the former cannot be otherwise. “ The Lord reigneth, let the earth “ rejoice.” Here absolute power cannot be misused.
? Ref, of Calv. p.
It will easily be supposed, that I think far differently, than the reviewer of Dr. Whitaker, on 'the gospel being entirely independent on these 'controverted topics.' Our views of original sin, of the love of God our Saviour, of regeneration, of every doctrine, must in some degree be influenced by our opinions on these subjects. The exclusion of boasting, our gratitude, hope, and comfort in conflicts and temptations, nay our meetness for the worship of heaven, are by no means, in our view, unconnected with them: but I do not wish to enlarge; yet I trust your impartiality will give publicity to this short, apology for our sentiments, which are now so generally decried.
EXTRACTS FROM CALVIN.
Sir, The doctrine of the following extracts from Calvin bears so exactly against the perversions of some modern Calvinists, as well as the objections of some partially informed opponents, that I trust the name will not deter you from inserting them. In that case, I may perhaps translate a few other passages, and send them to you.
Your constant reader and servant,
“ Augustine thus writes to Hilary; “The law commands, that attempting to perform its commands, and being weary of our infirmity under the law, we may learn to ask the aid of grace.' Thus also to Asellius : " The usefulness of the law is to convince man of his own infirmity, (or sickness, infirmitate,) and compel him to implore the medicine of grace, which is in Christ. Again, to Innocent of Rome: "The law commands; grace communicates the power of performing.' The same to Valentinus: God commands what we are not able to do, that we may know what we ought to ask of him. The law is given for this purpose, that it may make you guilty, (reos,) that being made guilty you may fear ; fearing, that