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“To all whom God has preordained unto everlasting life; but those whom he has from all eternity reprobated to everlasting death, for the praise of his vindictive justice, he leaves to their reprobate sense, to their own blindness, and even sends them strong delusions, that they may believe a lie and be damned."

“ And these never had it in their power to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved ?

“If they had willed.”
“Were they ever able to have willed ?”
“Naturally, yes; morally, no."
“But actually ?”

" No. Those whom God ordains to everlasting death he ordains to sin, that they may be damned justly.

“That is a hard doctrine, Brother Wilson. It was taught indeed by the great Calvin, whom God so highly favored, but it is not now generally taught by Presbyterians. The doctrine of God's decrees is, indeed, full of sweet comfort to the elect, but it needs to be handled with great prudence, and is to be meditated in our closets rather than made the basis of our instructions to others. Sinners do not and cannot understand it. They only make a mock of it, and it proves to them the savor of death unto death."

“There it is! The time has come when the people will no longer hear sound doctrine, when it is imprudent to declare the whole counsel of God. Hence the race of weak and puny saints, who must be fed on milk, and that diluted. Very well, I must leave you to manage the discussion in your own way; but be on your guard. The time is not far distant, if things proceed as they have done for a few years back, when you will have no Protestantism to define or defend, but each man will have a gospel of his own. Good morning, gentlemen.”


The conversation was not resumed for several days. James found it a less easy task to define Protestantisin than he had imagined. He had been accustomed to take the word in a very loose and indefinite sense. As chief of the Protestant League, he had meant by it little else than the denial of Catholicity; in his warfare against Socinians, rationalists, and transcendentalists, he had made it stand for doctrines and principles which logically imply the Catholic Church; in his own pulpit, addressing the people of his charge, he had understood by it simply Presbyterianism, with a slight leaning, perhaps, towards Arminianism. But he had never given the term a clear, distinct, and uniform meaning, which he was willing to stand by in all places and on all occasions. He saw that to define it in a negative sense, and make Protestantism merely a protest against Rome, was not necessarily to distinguish it from paganism, Mahometanism, Judaism, deism, or even atheism; and to restrict it to simple Presbyterianism, if not against his conscience, was in the present state of the world, bad policy. It would be tantamount to saying that Protestantism is an empty name, that there are indeed Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, &c., but no Protestants; that there is a multitude of sects, indeed, sometimes arranged under one common name, but without any common faith or principles, except that of hostility to the church. It would, moreover, too openly expose his weakness to the enemy, and confess that the great and mighty Protestant party, which had begun by assuming such lofty airs, and threatening to become commensurate with Christendom, had dwindled down to the little handful of Presbyterians in Great Britain and the United States,—those on the Continent having pretty generally lapsed into Socinianism, rationalism, and transcendentalism, -divided into four or five separate, if not hostile, communions, and their numbers every day relatively diminishing, which would create mirth rather than dread at Romne, against whom he wished to carry on a war of extermination. On the other hand, to extend its meaning so as to embrace all the so-called Protestant sects, from Dr. Pusey down to Theodore Parker, from Oxford to the Melodeon, was hardly less inconvenient. He would never march through Coventry at the head of such a motley company. Rome would declare that all motleydom and all devildom had broken loose. He should never hear the last of it. But to find a definition which should extend beyond the narrow boundaries of Presbyteriandom without including all sectariandom was the difficulty. Hoc opus, hic labor est.

James spent several days in meditating on this problem, and without hitting upon a solution quite to his mind ; but having obtained a few hints from some of the earlier Protestant controversialists, and trusting to the chapter of accidonts, he took occasion, finding himself in his library alone with John, to renew the discussion.

“I think," said he, addressing his brother, “that, if you review our former conversation, you will own, my last answer to the question, What is Protestantism ? is all that you have any right to demand.”

“I have no wish to make any unreasonable demands," John replied. “What I want is to find out precisely what, in its distinctive features, this thing or this no-thing which you call Protestantism really is. If your answer tells me what it is, and distinguishes it, or enables me to distinguish it, from what it is not, it is unquestionably sufficient.”

“Protestantism is the essentials, and the essentials are all the truths clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”

“ If to believe the essentials be all that is necessary to constitute one a Protestant, then all who believe all the truths clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures must be Protestants.”

Certainly.” “If Catholics, as is very supposable, to say the least, believe all that is clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures, then Catholics are Protestants.

“But Catholics do not believe all that is clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures."

“They profess to do so, and they say with you, all that is clearly and manifestly revealed is essential to be believed, and no point of it can be disbelieved without essential error.

“But they hold that other things than those clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures are also essential to be believed.”

“That is, they believe all that you define to be the essentials are essentials, but do not believe that these are all the essentials. But this does not hinder them from being good orthodox Protestants; for your detinition excludes only those who believe less, not those who believe more, than the essentials."

“Say, then, Protestantism is to believe all the essentials, and that what, and only what, is clearly and manifestly revealed in the Scriptures is essential, or, without essential error, can be believed to be essential. That excludes Catholics, by asserting the sufficiency of the Scriptures, which they do not admit."

“But besides the essentials, are the non-essentials, which may without essential error be either believed or disbelieved, to be the word of God ?”

“That is what I contend."

But they who believe them to be the word of God must believe them to be essential.”

Why so ?” “Remember Toby and his dog. He who believes a thing to be the word of God must either believe it essential to be believed, or else believe that it is no essential error to disbelieve God. Can I, without essential error, believe it is no essential error to disbelieve God?”

“No, for that is tantamount to making him a liar, since there is no essential difference between believing that it is no essential error to disbelieve God, and actually disbelieving him."

“ Then they who believe the non-essentials to be the word of God must believe them to be essential, or else virtually make God a liar ?"

“ That follows."

“But it is essential error to believe any thing to be essential which is not essential ?"

“So I have implied.”

“Then it follows, does it not, that he who believes any of the non-essentials to be the word of God errs essentially?”

“So it would seem."

“All who differ from Presbyterians differ from them either by believing some things to be the word of God which Presbyterians deny to be his word, or vice versa ?

“ True.”

“If the latter, they err essentially, assuming Presbyterians to be right, by not believing all the essentials." “

Agreed." “If the former, they err essentially by believing some things to be essential which are not.”

" That also follows."

“ Then all who differ from Presbyterians in matters of faith err essentially. Therefore, none who differ from the as to matters of faith can be essentially orthodox. If, then, you say none can be essentially orthodox who believe any of the non-essentials to be essential, you exclude all who differ from Presbyterians, make Presbyterianism and Protestantism equivalent and convertible terms, and declare none but Presbyterians are Protestants, which I understand you to

“I do deny it; for Presbyterians are not the only essentially orthodox Protestants.


“How, then, can you say that Protestantism is to believe the essentials, and that only the essentials can, without essential error, be believed to be essential ? Do you insist on saying this still ?"

“I do." “Is infant baptism an essential or a non-essential ?” “A non-essential, as I have told you more than once." "But Presbyterians believe it to be a revealed command ?” “They do." " Therefore believe it to be the word of God." “Certainly."

“ Then they believe it essential, and therefore err essentially by believing a non-essential to be essential. Hence, if you insist on saying that they who believe any thing but the essentials to be essential err essentially, you will exclude Presbyterians themselves from the number of essentially orthodox Protestants."

“ But I have just told you Presbyterians hold infant baptism to be a non-essential.”

“Then they hold it is no essential error to disbelieve God, which is itself a most essential error, for it virtually makes God a liar, as you have conceded. In either case, then, Presbyterians are excluded; in the one case, by believing a non-essential to be essential; and in the other, by believing it no essential error to make God a liar.


you still insist that it is essential error to believe any thing in addition to the essentials to be essential ?" “I do." Then you abandon

your distinction between the essentials and non-essentials "

“Not at all.” “You still say, there are portions of the revealed word which may be either believed or disbelieved to be the word of God without essential error ?"

“I do. To deny this would be to place myself in opposition to the whole Protestant world, from the time of the reformation down to the present moment. It is by means of this distinction that we have met and repelled the charge which Papists bring against us, that there is no unity of faith amongst us. In non-essentials we have always admitted we do not agree; but in essentials we have always contended we do agree; and, therefore, that there is among us substantial unity as to faith.”

“ These non-essentials, as to which Protestants have dif

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