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who from the fear of God are cautious not to sin 'even in thought or word, as ideots and fools ; but they extol themselves, calling themselves perfect and the elect seed.'1_The followers of Basilides ' lead incorrect lives, as persons who are authori• zed to sin because of their perfection ; or, who ' will certainly be saved by nature, even though they sin now, because of an election founded on nature.'2—(Not “the election of grace ;” not “ chosen that they should be holy.")-Mani'chæus says, that his elect are free from all sin, ' and that they could not sin if they would.' "They who are most perfect among them do, without fear, whatever is forbidden by the divine laws.'3
Some allusion seems intended in these quotations to the Antinomian perversion of the scriptural phrase, “Ye are not under the law, but “ under grace ;" which 'surely is not exclusively Calvinistic : and, as to the perversion made by some of the doctrine of the believer's final perseverance, they who most pervert it never speak of the elect, when living in sin, as ' performing sin• less obedience,' or possessing unspotted purity ;' but merely maintain that they will notwithstanding be finally restored and saved.
As to all these charges and quotations against Calvinists, either as resembling ancient heretics, or as holding Antinomian tenets; it need only be said, let passages be adduced from the publications, or sermons, or conversation, of those who are guilty; and let them bear the infamy or the
' Irenæus against the Valentinians, Ref. 513, 514.
punishment which they deserve. For the bulk of us plead, Not guilty, and put ourselves on the justice of our country. His Lordship has quoted from the fathers the obnoxious tenets which those heretics maintained: but, to make the accusation to bear on them, it is indispensably necessary, that he should quote from the writings of modern Calvinists passages containing the same obnoxious tenets. This, however, was not attempted, because it was known to be impracticable.
The body of men, comprehended by our opponents under the general name of Calvinists, are as heterogeneous, or nearly so, as the whole population of Britain who are not called Calvinists; and therefore, if called Christians, are, in modern language, Arminians. It can then hardly be said, what strange sentiments some of this motley assemblage may have avowed: but, to make the whole body answerable for the madness, the folly, or the impiety, of the individual, is exactly as just, as it would be in Calvinists to charge all the heresies, and blasphemies, and scandalous vices, of such as are not Calvinists, on those who oppose and refute' us.
Calvin, and all his coadjutors and successors on the continent and in Britain, with some exceptions neither very numerous, nor much respected in their day by other Calvinists; and a large proportion of modern Calvinists; (indeed all in behalf of whom this publication would plead,) consider the same action, as more sinful in the sight of God, in proportion to the knowledge, and profession, and obligations, against which it is committed. They regard David's adultery and
murder as immensely more aggravated, than the adulteries and murders committed by heathen princes; or even by the kings of Judah and Israel, who did not possess so clear knowledge of the divine law, and had not received so many and distinguishing mercies and favours from God. If then by “the elect' be meant those, who conclude themselves “the elect of God,” because they have been taught to believe, and love, and obey him ; they consider every sin, in thought, word, and deed, which they commit, as more criminal, more inconsistent, and ungrateful in them, than the very same thing would have been before their conversion. The falls of any persons of this description into open sin, they regard as peculiarly aggravated in the sight of God, and as needing peculiarly deep repentance and humiliation in the offender: and, if these be not witnessed, they hold that he cannot be considered as a true believer. For they ground their confidence, not on their sins being few or small, but on the mercies of God in Christ Jesus being large, yea infinite; and on his unfailing promises.—If, by the elect,' persons be meant who presume themselves to be elect, because they believe election; or in any way, except as having been “ taught by the sav“ing grace of God to deny ungodliness and
worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, “and godly in this present world;" Calvin and modern Calvinists would agree in considering them as presumptuous and deluded. Nothing, however, can be more contrary to the creed and experience of Calvinists in general, than the idea, that the elect on earth have sinless obedience, or unspotted purity.' They indeed hope for it, and, if elect, will obtain it, at the same time when “the reprobate,' the rejected, shall be finally given up to incorrigible pollution and inevitable wicked'ness ;' even when it shall be said, “He that is
unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which “is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is “righteous, let him be righteous still; and he “ that is holy, let him be holy still.” |
The Calvinists have indeed been charged with establishing rules of conduct, too lax as to things essentially good and excellent, but too precise and strict as to things which many plead for as harmless; and as in this respect becoming unsocial and morose : but this, even though considered as claiming something above others, cannot be considered as maintaining “sinless obedience and unspotted purity in the elect.' Where, indeed, an evident want of conscientiousness and holy obedience, in things undeniably excellent, is manifested, along with this strictness and austerity, and often censoriousness, in matters of a more doubtful nature ; it has the semblance of spiritual pride, and a sort of evangelical Pharisaism, saying, “ Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou; and it cannot be justified or excused. But the strictness of many is connected with, at least, equal exactness in all holy obedience; is free from moroseness, self preference, and censoriousness; nay, connected with an habitual disposition to think “ others better than themselves :" and even to incur censures, as if over severe in judging their
' Rev, xxii. 11.
own conduct, or even as affecting the language of humility: while yet they speak far less against themselves before men, than they humbly confess before God. The moroseness, and unsociableness of such persons is nothing more, than the incapacity of associating cheerfully and conscientiously with those who live in another element, who have no relish for those things in which they delight, and who delight in those things which are irksome and wearisome to them. Accordingly it disappears, when they join their own company.
If any reference to the doctrine of imputed righteousness, in the grand concern of justification, were intended; that will be considered in the remarks on the third chapter. Some Calvinists (and among them there have been humble, benevolent, and holy men,) have held the doctrine of imputed sanctification ; which doubtless is unscriptural: yet these form a very small proportion of modern Calvinists. But no one of these, in respect of his own personal character and attainment, ever thought himself possessed of sinless * obedience and unspotted purity. Indeed it is often the deep sense of their own remaining sinfulness, and the imperfection of sanctification in their own case, which renders them favourable to the idea. Something more perfect must be requisite to render them meet for heaven; and, instead of waiting on God to perfect their personal sanctification, they imagine an imputed sanctification would answer that purpose: but, however imputed righteousness may give a title to the inheritance, imputed holiness, which is the health of the soul, cannot enable us to enjoy it.