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ject) the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. In this dilemma, some are for steering one way and some the other. The late Dr. Bretschneider preferred the former course, and discarded the doctrine of native depravity; while Schleiermacher adopted the latter alternative, and frankly acknowledges that, as a Lutheran, he can no longer sympathize with most of his cotemporaries, in condemning the doctrine of predestination as irrational and unscriptural.
Among those who, in the 16th century, separated from the church of Rome, all the communities not Lutheran were commonly classed together under the appellation of the Reformed. These constituted, not one church, but a great many churches, scattered over the north and west of Europe, having almost no bond of union, except their opposition to the religion of Rome. In these reformed churches, the man who, of all others, exerted the widest and most enduring influence, was the celebrated Calvin.
Calvin was a Frenchman by birth, and was educated as a Romish priest; but becoming disgusted with the superstitions of his church, he early abandoned it, and devoted himself to the study of law. In this profession he made rapid progress, and published several works of distinguished excellence. He could not be satisfied, however, to spend his life as a civilian, and when about thirty-six years of age, he began to preach openly the Protestant doctrines. The providence of God soon directed him to Geneva, where, with slight interruptions, he spent the remainder of his days. He greatly distinguished himself, not only as a pastor, a scholar, and a preacher of the gospel, but as an author, and theological teacher. His school of theology was the most celebrated at that time in the world, and was the resort of students from almost every country in Europe. ! hardly need
that Calvin was a strenuous advocate of what are commonly called the doctrines of grace, including that of predestination. By means of his school, and of other channels of influence which were opened around him, he was the means of disseminating these doctrines through all the reformed churches. The doctrine of predestination was incorporated in the standards, not only of the Swiss churches, but of those of England, Scotland, France, Holland, and of several of the Protestant states of Germany.
For the first half century after the death of Calvin, his peculiar sentiments continued to be taught with little contradiction
in most of the reformed churches. But in the early part of the next century (the 17th), a powerful antagonist arose in Holland. This was James Arminius, Professor of Divinity at Leyden. In his published writings he expressed himself cautiously; but in his more private instructions, he was understood to depart widely from the teachings of Calvin, and from the standards of his own church. His pupils carried out his principles farther than he did, and a lamentable schism was occasioned in the churches of the Low Countries.
After various fruitless attempts to adjust the difficulty, it was concluded to convene a Synod, to be composed of delegates from all the reformed churches. This Synod, which was called by the authority of the States General of Holland, assembled at Dort, A. D. 1618. Delegates were present, not only from the United Provinces, but from England, Scotland, Hesse, Bremen, and the churches of the Palatinate. The Synod held, in all, one hundred and eighty sessions; near the close of which the Arminians were condemned, and deprived of their ministerial and academical functions, until they should renounce their errors and return to the faith of the church.
The civil authorities proceeded much farther than this. They banished the leading Arminians, and suppressed the assemblies; and when found assembled in disobedience to the laws, they were dispersed, in some instances by force of arms, and punished with fines and imprisonments.
These violent proceedings brought great reproach upon the Synod of Dort, and destroyed all the good effects which might otherwise have resulted from it. Very soon there was a reaction in favor of the Arminians. They were recalled from banishment, restored to favor, and were in a situation to spread their peculiarities even more rapidly than before.
As a distinct sect, however, the Arminians have never been numerous. They have sought to prevail, not so much by set
for themselves, as hy silently mingling with other sects, corrupting their churches, and (without changing their name or form) bringing them over to their views.
In this way, the originally Calvinistic church of England became substantially Arminian, under Archbishop Laud. The articles remained as before-essentially Calvinistic—while a majority of those who subscribed them, and promised to defend them, were Arminians. The infection was slower and later in its operations in the kick of Scotland, but we fear it has not
been less pervading or sure. The Protestant churches of France became first Arminian, and then Socinian; and the same has been the melancholy issue, even in Geneva. There has been a reviving, indeed, in most of these countries, since the commencement of the present century; but the revival, for the most part, has not been carried forward through the instrumentality of the old Protestant churches. On the contrary, it has sprung up without these churches, while its advocates have been opposed and persecuted by them.
The first settlers of New England were strict Calvinists. They held the doctrines of predestination and grace, much as these were taught in the original school at Geneva. And for more than a hundred years after the settlement of this country, there were no important changes of religious opinion. The Arminian errors began to appear here, and to be the occasion of alarm to serious Christians, about one hundred years ago. These errors received a check by the great revivals which were enjoyed in New England, near the middle of the last century; but at the close of these revivals they sprang up afresh, and assumed a more alarming aspect than ever. During all the latter part of the century, not a few of the churches of the Pilgrims, or more properly the ministers of the churches, especially those in the eastern part of Massachusetts, were Arminian. They have since become, in most instances, Unitarian.
The forms of Arminianism of which I have spoken were generally cold, barren, and lifeless. The abettors of the doctrine were decided opposers of evangelical truth, and of every thing, which had the appearance of warmth and eagerness in religion. They discountenanced special religious meetings, and of all things were most afraid of what was called by the bad name of enthusiasm.
There is a form of Arminianism, now prevailing in this country and in England, which is of quite a different character. It is embodied chiefly among the General or Arminian Baptists, and the followers of Mr. Wesley. These are proper Arminians, so far as opposition to predestination and soine other connected doctrines is concerned; while they retain in their system enough of truth to give it life, warmth and vigor, and to entitle them to be classed with evangelical Christians. They have been, in general, much engaged in religion, and have undoubtedly carried the salvation of the gospel to many souls.
A history of the doctrine under consideration would be im
perfect, did it not include some account of the more common abuses or perversions of it.
This doctrine is continually perverted by its opposers. They seldom, if ever, represent it fairly. They draw conclusions from it which its friends would reject with as much abhorrence as themselves, and then reason from these conclusions as though they constituted an essential part of the doctrine. In short, they state the doctrine as no one believes it, and thus contend, not against the real doctrine, but only a fiction of their own imagining
But there are other perversions of the doctrine of Divine decrees, besides those which proceed from its avowed enemies. It has been often misstated and abused by erring and inconsistent friends. In some instances, it is so held and taught, as to be of a decidedly Antinomian character. “There were those in England, in the time of the Commonwealth, who denied that it was necessary for ministers to exhort their hearers to obey the law; because those whom God, from all eternity, had elected to salvation, would of themselves obey the law; while those who were destined to eternal punishment, though admonished and entreated ever so much, could not obey it. Others, at the same period, insisted that the elect, because they cannot lose the Divine favor, do not truly commit sin, or break the law, even when they go contrary to its precepts ;--that adultery, for instance, in one of the elect, though to us it appears a sin, is in reality no sin in the sight of God.” I quo:e here from the history of the times, to show to what lengths of perversion and abuse erratic minds have sometimes wandered, in their reasonings on the doctrine of election.
By a portion of its advocates, the doctrine of Divine purposes has been perverted in another way. They not only admit but insist, that this doctrine is opposed to human freedom, and that there is no such thing as free agency or moral accountability in the universe. “One man,” they say, “ does the will of God
as truly as another; and the distinction between right and · wrong, holiness and sin, is merely nominal or conventional."
Of this stamp are the Necessarians and Fatalists of modern times -the abettors of a philosophical mania, which is hardly less to be dreaded than downright atheism.
Those abuse the doctrine of Divine purposes who make it a means of inducing sloth and discouraging effort on the part of Christians. Abuses of this sort, there is reason to fear, not
unfrequent. Christians believe that God has purposes respecting the salvation of individuals; that those purposes will certainly be accomplished; that all his elect will be gathered in ; and in these views they find a pillow for their consciences, and an excuse for their sloth. While they are engaged and active for the securing of other objects, which they believe equally settled in the purpose of God, they quietly resign a world lying in wickedness to be disposed of according to his pleasure.
Of a similar perversion of the doctrine in question, impenitent sinners are perpetually guilty. How many are there, and among these not a few who
ought to know better, who, when pressed on the subject of religion, are ever ready to reply, Why should we give ourselves any trouble about it? If it is God's
purpose to save us, we shall be saved, and if not, we cannot be, let us do what we may."
The moral tendency of the doctrine of God's purposes, when held in its just connections, and stated with proper qualifications, has been uniformly happy. And this has frequently been acknowledged, even by its opposers.- A learned infidel, while expressing a decided preference of the Arminian to the Calvinistic system, admits that “the modern Calvinists have, in no small degree excelled their antagonists in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues. They have been the highest honor to their own age, and the best models for imitation to every succeeding age.”
A writer some years ago in the Edinburgh Review, who was probably an infidel, asks, " What are we to think of the morality of Calvinistic nations, especially the most numerous of them, who seem, beyond all other men, to be most zealously attached to their religion, and most deeply penetrated with its spirit ? Here, if anywhere, we have a practical and decisive test of the moral influence of predestinarian opinions. In Protestant Switzerland, in Holland, in Scotland, among the English Nonconformists, and the Protestants of the North of Ireland, and in the New England States, Calvinism was long the prevalent faith, and is probably still the faith of a considerable majority. Their moral education was at least completed, and their collective character formed, during the prevalence of Calvinistic opinions, yet where are communities to be found of a more pure and active virtue?"
I add one more testimony to the good moral tendencies of Calvinistic predestination. It is that of Tholuck, a Lutheran,