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justice; and our faculties are as adequate to the perception of the last as of the first. If they must not be trusted in deciding what would prove God unjust, they are unworthy of confidence when they gather evidences of his rectitude; and of course, the whole structure of religion must fall.
It is no slight objection to the mode of reasoning adopted by the Calvinist, that it renders the proof of the divine attributes impossible. When we object to his representations of the divine government, that they shock our clearest ideas of goodness and justice, he replies, that still they may be true, because we know very little of God, and what seems unjust to man may be in the creator the perfection of rectitude. Now this weapon has a double edge. If the strongest marks and expressions of injustice do not prove God unjust, then the strongest marks of the opposite character do not prove him righteous. If the first do not deserve confidence, because of our narrow views of God, neither do the last. If, when inore shall be known, the first may be found consistent with perfect rectitude, so, when more shall be known, the last may be found consistent with infinite malignity and oppression. This reasoning of our opponents casts us on an ocean of awful uncertainty. Admit it, and we have no proofs of God's goodness and equity to rely upon. What we call proofs, way be mere appearances, which a wider knowledge of God may reverse. The future may shew us, that the very laws and works of the creator, from which we now infer his kindness, are consistent with the most determined purpose to spread infinite misery and guilt, and were intended, by raising hope, to add the agony of disappointment to our other woes. Why may not these anticipations, horrible'as they are, be verified by the unfolding of God's system, if our reasonings about bis attributes are rendered so very uncertain, as Calvinisin teaches, by the infinity of his nature?
We have mentioned one fact to shew that it is not presumptuous to judge of God, and of what accords with and opposes his attributes, namely, the fact that his attributes are thought susceptible of proof. Another fact, very decisire on this point, is, that christians of all classes have concurred in resting the truth of christianity in a great degree on its internal evidence, that is, on its accordance with the perfections of God. How common is it to hear from religious teachers, ibat christianity is worthy of a good and righteous being, that it bears the marks of a divine original. Volumes have been written on its internal proofs, on the coincidence of its purposes and spirit with our highest conceptions of God.
How common too is it, to say of other religions, that they are at war with the divine nature, with God's rectitude and goodness, and that we want no other proofs of their falsehood. And what does all this reasoning imply? Clearly this, that we are capable of determining, in many cases, what is worthy and wbat is unworthy of God, what accords with and what opposes bis moral attributes. Deny us this capacity, and it would be po presumption against a professed revelation, that it ascribed to the Supreme being the most detestable practices. It might still be said in support of such a system, that it is arrogant in man to determine what kind of revelation suits the character of the Creator.
Christianity then leans, at least in part, and some think chiefly, on internal evidence, or on its agreeableness to God's moral attributes; and is it probable, that this religion, having this foundation, contains representations of God's government which shock our ideas of rectitude ? and that it silences our objections by telling us, that we are no judges of what suits or opposes bis infinite nature ?
We will name one more fact to shew, that it is not presumptu. ous to form these judgments of the Creator. All christians are accustomed to reason from God's attributes, and to use them as tests of doctrines. To their controversies with one another, they spare no pains to shew, that their particular views accord best with the divine perfections, and every sect labours to throw on its adversaries the odium of maintaining what is unworthy of God. Theological writings are filled with such arguments; and yet we, it seems, are guilty of awful presumption, when we deny of God principles of administration, against which every pure and good sentiment in our breasts rises in abhorrence.
We shall conclude this discussion with an important inquiry. If God's justice and goodness are consistent with those operations and modes of government, which Calvinism ascribes to him, of what use is our belief in these perfections? What expectations can we found upon them? If it consist with divine rectitude to consigo to everlasting misery, beings, who have come guilty and impotent from his hand, we beg to know what interest we have in this rectitude, what pledge of good it contains, or what evil can be imagined which may not be its natural result? If justice and goodness, when stretched to infinity, take such strange forms and appear in such unexpected and apparently inconsistent operations, how are we sure, that they will not give up the best men to ruin, and leave the unis verse to the powers of darkness? Such results indeed seem incompatible with these attributes, but not more so than the acts
attributed to God by Calvinism. Is it said, that the divine faithfulness is pledged in the scriptures to a happier issue of things? But why should not divine faithfulness transcend our poor understandings as much as divine goodness and justice, and why may not Goi, consistently with this attribuie, crush every hope which his word has raised ? Thus all the divine per. fections are lost to us as grounds of encouragement and consolation, if we maintain, that ibeir infinity places them beyond our ju:iginent, and that we must expect froin them measures and operations entirely opposed to what seems to us most accordant with their nature.
We have thus endeavoured to shew that the testimony of our rational and moral faculties against Calvinism, is worthy of trust. - We know that this reasoning will be met by The ques. tion, What then becomes of Christianity ? for this religion plainly leaches the doctrines you have condemned. Our an. swer is ready. Christianity contains no such doctrines. Christianity, reason, and conscience are perfectly harmonious on the subjeci under discussion. Our religion, fairly construed, gives no countenance in that system, which bas arrogated to itself the distinction of Evangelical. We cannot, however, enter this field at present. We hope 10 state on a future occasion the testimony of scripture on these points, lully and minulely. At present, we will only say that ihe generul spirit of christianity affords a very strong presumption, thithen its records teach no such doctrines as we have opposed. This spirit is love, charity, benevolence. Christianity, we all agree, is designed to manifest God as perfect benevolence, and to bring men to love and imitate him. Now is it probable, that a religion, baving this object, gives views of the spreine being, from which our moral convictions, and benevolent sentiments shrink with horror, and which if made our patiern, would convert Us into monsters! It is plain that were a human parent to form bimself on the universal Father, as described by Calvinism, that is, were he to bring his children into life loially di praved, and then to pursue thern with endless punishment, we should charge him with a profligacy.unequalled in the annals of Newgale ; or were a sovereign to incaparilale his subjects in any way what. ever for obeying his laws, and then to torture them in dungeons of perpetual woe, we should say, hal ihe blackest comes of history grow fair and while by the side of this. And is it probable, that a religion, which aims 10 altract and assimilate us to God, considered as love, should hold him up to us in these heart withering characters? We may coufidently expect to
find in such a system the brightest views of the divine nature ; and the same objections lie against interpretations of its records, which savour strongly of cruelty and injustice, as lie against the literal sense of passages which ascribe to God bodily wants and organs. Let the scriptures be read with a recollection of the spirit of christianity, and with that modification of particular texts by this general spirit, which a just criticism requires, and Calvinism would no more enter ihe mind of the reader, than popery, we had almost said, than heathenisin.
In the remarks now inade, it will be seen, we hope, ibat we have aimed to expose doctrines, not to condemn their professors. It is true, that men are apt to think themselves assailed, when their system only is called to account. But we have no foe but errour. In many Calvinists we see with pleasure a confirmation of the remark, that men may be better than their creeds. Their characters are formed much more on the broad and acknowledged principles of the gospel, 'han on the peculiarities of the sect. In fact, a large number, perhaps a majority of those, who surname themselves with the name of Calvin, have little more title to it than ourselves. They keep the naine, and drop the principles which it signifies. They adhere to the system as a whole, but shrink from all its parts and distinguishing points. This silent but real defection froin Calvinisin is spreading more and more widely. The grim features of this system are softening, and its stern spirit yielding 10 conciliation and chariiy. With These views, we have little disposition to reproach ihose who nominally espouse it, although we believe ibat its influence is yet so extensive and pernicious as to bind us to oppose it.
Calvinism, we are persuaded, is giving place to better views. It has passed its meridian, and is sinking, to rise no more. It has to contend with foes more formidable ihan theologians, with foes, from whom it cannot shield itself in mystery and metaphy. sical subtleties, we mean with the progress of the human mind, and with the progress of the spirit of the gospel. Society is going forward in intelligence and charity, and of course is leave ing ihe theology of the sixteenth century behind it. We hail this revolution of opinion as the most auspicious event to the christian cause. We hear much at present of efforts to spread the gospel. But christianity is gaining more by the remo. val of degrading errours, than it would by armies of missionaries who should carry with them a corrupted form of the religion. We think the decline of Calvinisin one of the most promising facts in our passing history; for this system, by New Series -- vol. II.
outraging conscience and reason, tends to array these high faculties againxt revelation. Jis errours are peculiarly mournful, because they relate to the character of God. II darkens, stains, pollutes his pure nature ; spoils bis character of its sacredness, loveliness, glory, beauty, and thus quenches the central light of the universe, makes existence a curse, and the extinction of it a consummation devoutly to be wished. We now speak of the peculiarities of this system, and of their natural influence, when not counteracted, as in some degree they always are, by better views, derived from the spirit and plain lessons of christianity.
We have had so much to do with our subject, that we have neglected to pay the usual coinpliment to the work we proposed to review, by giving extracts from it. This we could do to our own satisfaction and that of our readers. But our limits for. bid. We recommend it to pero-al, believing that it will give many just views of God and of religion, and will fortify tbe mind against pernicious errours. Like all human books, it must be read with discrimination. We earnestly wish, that a work, answering to the title of this, which should give us "a general view of christian doctrines” in their natural order and simplicity, might be undertaken by an able hand. , Next to a good commentary or the scriptures, it would be the best service which could be rendered to christian fruth.
Plan of Dr. Spencer's Institution in Bristol, for acquiring
and communicating an accurale and critical Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, withoul Expense. The principles on which this Institution is founded, are the following:
First. That which a person is competent to learn, if he be properly instructed, he will be able to teach.
Secondly. When a student has made a certain progress in learning any thing, it will be highly conducive to his improvement to begin to leach it.
Thirdly. Persons in a class of four, upon Dr. Spencer's plan of teaching, will learn more easily and expeditiously than individually: