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This subject, by the very language of it, properly belongs to another division of the work.--* The incorrigible pollution and inevitable wicked' ness' of all men, except as corrected and purified by the grace of God in Christ Jesus have been already considered, and in no inconsiderable degree supported by his Lordship's own concessions : and the reprobate, however the word be understood, are supposed to live and die without that correcting and purifying grace. But the former half of the sentence may, properly, be noticed, rather more particularly in this place.
Many circumstances give plausibility to the charge against Calvinists, however unfounded, of holding lax principles respecting personal obedience and holiness : but charges of their holding notions of sinless obedience and unspotted purity
in the elect' may seem to be new and inconsistent. Indeed the whole sentence seems to be an arrangement of terms which can scarcely be found together in the writings of any modern author; except perhaps of those who seek the reputation of wit and genius by burlesquing things most serious and sacred. That body of Christians who still are known by the title of Mr. John Wesley's people, or the Wesleyan Methodists, do indeed hold the doctrine of sinless perfection, as attainable, and as sometimes actually attained, by believers ; but they seldom connect it with the term elect : and, I apprehend, never contrast it with the incorrigible pollution and inevitable : wickedness of the reprobate ; being as decided in opposing Calvinism, in those respects, as even his Lordship himself.
But the charge appears to originate from another source ; and probably the opinion of the Wesleyan Methodists was not at all intended, or alluded to. Some few individuals, calling themselves Calvinists, and being willingly considered as such by our opponents, have maintained that the same actions, which are most atrocious crimes in other men, are not sins in believers, or in the elect ; that so, whatever they do, God sees no sin in them ; but spotless holiness, as one with Christ. But it may be confidently asserted that, by the verdict of a very large majority of Calvinists, the mildest verdict, which would be returned againot these deluded men, would be that of lunacy; and that, as not able to give satisfactory security for their peaceable behaviour in society, they might be justly sentenced to a mild confinement, to prevent them from doing mischief. If not lunatics, they are deserving of still severer treatment, as maintaining that adultery, robbery, or even murder, would in them be no sin.
Some of the quotations from the fathers, respecting those ancient heretics whom his Lordship has endeavoured to shew that the Calvinists resemble, (with what success, I shall here leave others to judge,) shew that this was principally intended in this cursory charge against us. They say, that
they themselves, whatever material actions they ‘do, are not at all hurt, nor do they lose the spiritual substance; therefore those of them who are 'most perfect do without fear all things which are 'forbidden.'— Doing many other abominable ' and ungodly things, they inveigh against us,
(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 Calvin-' ists; 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,