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baptismal water itself really washing away sin, which had prevailed since the time of Constantine, had taken firm hold of the minds of Christians in general. But neither Austin nor others had paid attention to the consequences of this doctrine: these were not seen until afterwards, and probably would not have been thought of at all, but for the controversy which arose at this time. He had previously declared, that every man had a power to do the will of God, and to render himself acceptable to him ; a doctrine quite different from what he was afterwards drawn to avow. For having to maintain the literal meaning of baptism washing away sin, while children had no sin to be washed
away, he said, they had original sin ; a name and a thing utterly unknown until Austin brought it into the church; for the ideas of imputed guilt and imputed righteousness were yet unknown. On farther explanation-for the controversy was followed up sharply, and much more came of it than was expected-he said, that a natural
proneness to sin, which might be called defilement, was derived from Adam to all his posterity.
You perceive in how extremely faint a line the doctrine of original sin, as it is since maintained, is drawn in this description of it. He then found himself brought to declare, that until this sinful propensity is done away, men have no power to do the will of God, and that this power is the special grace or gift of God imparted at baptism ; that it is not, therefore, in after life by any power of man's own, but by the aid of this superadded and supernatural grace, that he can do what is pleasing to God.
Still a dreadful inference remained respecting the fate of all those that died upbaptized. This he disposed of by saying, that their sufferings would be light, and, therefore, that their condition would be still preferable to non-exist
Yet what could he do with those infants who died without this purifying rite of baptism? According to his doctrine, they couid not experience the benefit of the church ritual. He was driven then to confess, that in a future state infants will not be proper subjects either of reward or punishment, that it will be a state of neither happiness nor misery to them. He must, therefore, have supposed, that they would be sent back into the world in order to go through a condition of trial, or that they would suffer annihilation.
Thus having started on an assumption which is founded
neither in nature nor in scripture, he plunged himself, by endeavouring to justify it, into an impenetrable labyrinth, from which he could cut his way out only by the efforts of his imagination, and the peremptory dictates of his own will--and thus it must always be with those who forsake the language of reason and of scripture, and raise theories and enforce doctrines which they are pledged at all risks to support.
It would naturally occur to any one who examined this system carefully, that, of those who received the benefit of baptism, some would become wicked and unworthy of the Divine favour; therefore, Austin made a distinction between the regeneration of which all partake in common through baptism, and the capacity of final salvation, to which perseverance in virtue would alone entitle them. Yet in order to sapport this doctrine of original sin, faint as he had drawn it at the first, he had maintained, that by the fall of Adam all men had lost the power of doing the will of God, and rendering themselves acceptable to him, and that every good thought and word and work must be ascribed to supernatural grace, which was the gift of God; therefore he was reduced to the farther necessity of maintaining, that persevering grace, and consequently that final salvation which is the result of it, was the sovereign and arbitrary gift of God to those whom, before the foundation of the world, he thought proper to predestinate to eternal life, while all the rest of mankind were, without any fault of their own, left in a state of reprobation, and therefore doomed to everlasting punishment.
Shocking as these opinions are, and novel as they were in the days of Austin, his ingenuity was not at a loss for arguments to support them, and especially from the epistles of Paul, in which are many expressions of an ambiguous character which were capable of being directed into this channel.
I bave dwelt thus largely on the opinions of Austin, because in truth with him originated, it may well be said, those opinions which have been long distinguished in the church by the terms Orthodox and Calvinistic. He is the great authority whom all have copied, and it is by no means uninteresting to perceive with what measured steps these doctrines, so totally opposed to what we sincerely believe were the original doctrines of the church of Christ, took root among its professors. We well know the power
of a great name, and the feeble resistance the many are disposed to make to any sentiments wbich are broached by a man high in authority. Yet why should Austin have been compelled to take so much trouble to support and to explain these principles of his, if they had previously been received by the church and regarded as Christian principles? The whole system would have been already well known; the consequences flowing from them would have been seen and provided against long before. There would have been no necessity for bis delivering them out piece-meal, in the manner in which it appears that they were given out, and provision made against one and another fatal consequence which were discovered to result from doctrines of such a character. The very story, as we have it detailed in the publications of the day, shews, that the results followed the original position, just as the branches grow out of a tree: and that Austin stood exactly in the situation of a man who had said something unheard before, which baving said, he was driven to maintain it, let the consequences be what they might.
This history furnishes, indeed, a remarkable instance of the many important issues which sometimes follow from single and unguarded positions; and it should be a warning to mankind to give the most rigorous attention to first principles, as to seeds from which great and unknown things may spring up.
Who would have imagined, for instance, that through the superstitious notion of baptism wasbing away sin, Christianity would ever have been loaded and disgraced by such doctrines as original sin, absolute predestination, together with its necessary consequences, reprobation and the doctrine of the atoneinent in its highest sense that is to say, the suffering of an infinite being as necessary to expiate the sins of mankind, and of men being saved from a never-ending state of torment by the righteousness of a divine person, a branch of the Godhead, being imputed to them?
I shall only remark farther upon this part of the church history, that at the period to which I allude, controversy had risen to a great height, opinions were not suffered to spread without opposition, and when any thing new arose in the church, there was but one way of bringing it to a decision. Thus, in the time of Constantine, the whole church may be well said to have been in a state of uproar
about the person of Christ; whether he was simply a man, whether his human body was under the guidance of a superangelic spirit, whether that spirit had the entire possession of his body, or another, a human spirit, had an equal possession of it; or whether the Almighty Being, the God of the whole earth, had inhabited that feeble frame, and had expired together with it upon
In order to put an end to the cabals which these questions had generated in the churches, the emperor called a council of bishops at Nice, in Asia Minor, at which council it was decided, that Christ is God of God, very God of very God, begotten pot made, of the same substance as the Father. So in the great questions to which Austin had given rise, the only means of setting at rest the agitations which he had raised, was to lay them before a council of the church. But this was not done until a century after his death : 2 proof that it would have been hazardous to offer them at that time to the general acceptance of the clergy. They were, indeed, defended by many celebrated divines in the western division of the church, while they were firmly opposed by perhaps more ; while they were not at any period received in the east.' Many churches adopted them in a modified sense. They held, that notwithstanding the pecessity of supernatural grace to enable a man to live a virtuous life, the imparting of it depended upon himself; that the beginning of obedience depended upon the man, who could if he pleased take the path of truth, but that in his progress he needed divine help. This doctripe was known by the name of Semi-pelagianism, and is now found among some of the modern Calvinists.
To sum up all I have said in a few words, it is evident, that what is now called Calvinism was not known in the church until the end of the fourth century. By that time the influence of the priesthood had become great, and the rites of the church were made indispensable to all its members. Amongst others, the baptism of infants was fully established, under the idea that it purified the subjects of it and made them children of God. Upon the question being agitated, how baptism could purify that wbich had no pollution, it was suggested, that by the fall of Adam, children came into the world with a tendency to pollution, which tendency was removed by baptisın : but, children after this rite were liable to sin, therefore it was said that a restraining grace was needful to preserve them pure; and
afterwards that a direct divine impulse was received by the faithful, whereby they were kept from sin and in a state of salvation. In this way the doctrine of natural corruption arose, that of divine grace succeeded, the election of some to everlasting life and the reprobation of the many fol. lowed of course, and then came the doctrine of atonement and of imputed righteousness, for which the sacrifice of a divine person was required, an infinite sin to be atoned for by an infinite sacrifice. It is likely that doctrines like these would be received with many modifications, and so they were. While some persons admitted them in their highest tone, others received them in a milder form, and many gave a general assent to them without being aware of the alarming consequences which follow upon them, and without even thinking of those consequences.
[The 2nd Sermon in the next Number.]
DIALOGUE BETWEEN DR. JOHNSON AND MRS. KNOWLES.
[From “ The Universal Theological Magazine," Vol. II. N. S. p. 293. This report of the memorable dialogue was communicated to the Editor of the above work (the late Rev. W. Vidler) by Mrs. Knowles herself.]
Mrs. K. Thy friend, Jenny H-, desires ber kind respects to thee, Doctor.
Dr. J. To me !—Tell me not of her! I hate the odious wench for her apostacy: and it is you, madam, who have seduced her from the Christian religion.
Mrs. K. This is a heavy charge, indeed. I must beg leave to be heard in my own defence : and I entreat the attention of the present learned and candid company, desiring they will judge how far I am able to clear myself of so cruel an accusation.
Dr. J. (much disturbed at this unexpected challenge) said, Yoy are a woman, and I give you quarter.
Mrs. K. I will not take quarter. There is no sex in sools, and in the present cause I fear not eren Dr. Johnson himself.
(“ Bravo !” was repeated by the company, and si
lence ensued.) Dr. J. Well then, madam, I persist in my charge, that you have seduced Miss H-- from the Christian religion.
Mrs. K. If thou really knewest what were the princi,