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A philosophical opponent might account for the intensity of this struggle on other principles than the special enmity of the Devil. He might perceive in Calvinism, as we have tried to delineate it, a system starting with a principle at variance with the consciousness of all men. He might trace it in its subsequent development, elaborating position after position more and more one-sided, till at length it culminates in the doctrine of Conversion. And then he might shrewdly suspect that the intensity of the struggle was owing, not so much to the Devil, as to our innate reason and common-sense striving to assert its mastery. Be this, however, as it may, it is evident that, hitherto, Calvinism has adhered to strict logic. Nothing can exceed the compactness and unity with which it thus far proceeds. But we now approach a question on which it has the choice either to forsake its logic or reduce itself to absurdity. We allude to the allimportant question of Justification.
Justification is another name for the state of Salvation—that condition to which we are elevated in Christ, and being found in which at the time of death we obtain eternal life. The Old Theology, holding that Christ came 'ex injustis justos facere, believes that it is a state of Inherent Righteousness. It believes that not only is Christ's righteousness, through our union with Him, imputed to us and reckoned as ours, but Justifying Grace is actually infused by the Spirit. Faith, hope, and love are awakened in the soul, and it is made really just and well-pleasing to God for Christ's sake. In a word, Justifying Grace is a gratia gratum faciens. On the other hand, since our Salvation is not, as in the Calvinistic system, the result of a Divine decree, but is dependent on the co-operation of our wills, it is possible for a man to fall from that Grace, He falls from it by deadly sin or inward apostasy, just as he may hinder and mar the Divine work by lesser or venial sin. In like manner, the Grace of God may be recovered after a fall by a true repentance.
Now, in the first place, let us see to what doctrine of Justification the Calvinistic system would naturally be determined, by the force of its premisses, and thus we shall be able the better to estimate its actual doctrine. The doctrine of Inherent Righteousness must be abandoned on many grounds. In the first place, it is inconsistent with the doctrine of the Fall. The entire corruption of human nature, and the total incapacity of the human will
, make the supposition of anything good residing in man quite inadmissible. It is conceivable, indeed, that by elevating Baptism to a higher position, or by supposing in Conversion à special work of the Spirit undoing the effects of Original Sin and in a measure reforming our nature, Calvinism might arrive at Inherent Righteousness. But such a principle, once admitted,
would overthrow its entire theology, and speedily bring it back to Catholicism. It would also afford a ground for human merit, a doctrine which had been grossly abused in pre-Reformation times, and against which Calvinism especially took a decided stand. In fact, the Calvinistic system is necessitated to teach the permanence of entire corruption in the Regenerate, and hence the impossibility of Inherent Righteousness. In the second place, the idea of Christ's mission as that of Vicarious Satisfaction is decisive as to the non-necessity of Inherent Righteousness. It is injurious to Him to suppose that aught can be added to the perfection of His Atonement. It is faithlessness to Him to be careful or anxious about ourselves. In so far as we are concerned about our own estate, we distrust the efficacy of His Atonement, and disbelieve in the Covenant.
From these considerations two propositions would emerge: First, that Good Works in man are impossible; and, secondly, that the so-called Good Works are not of necessity to salvation, but rather injurious. Hence the doctrine of Justification, which Calvinism would logically teach, would be this: Justification is a bare pardon of our sins j and acceptance for Christ's sake; the justified man is in no respect morally or spiritually better than another, for he is as to his nature totally corrupt and opposite to all good; he differs from him only in that he is a pardoned sinner. Or, in other words, the logical issue of Calvinism is pure Antinomianism.
But it is manifest that this is nothing else than a reductio ad absurdum. Philosophers tell us that the highest knowledge is to know nothing, and here we have a religious system which ends in the doctrine that, practically, there is and can be no religion. For religion is the relation that subsists between God and man, and the intercourse consequent upon that relation. But the logical effect of this teaching is that, in man's present state, there is and can be no such relation. For what communion is there between light and darkness? Or what concord hath Christ with Belial?' How can the All-holy God subsist in relation with entire pollution ? He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity ; and, therefore, all communion between God and man must cease in our present state. The voice of prayer and the song of praise must alike be hushed to silence; and the convert can only hope that after this life there will be a recreation of his nature, when he may be admitted to the communion of love.
The human mind, however, could not subsist under such an idea. The heart craves for communion with God; and hence Antinomianism, deprived by its tenets of a natural relation towards God, has built for itself, on the doctrine of Election, one
which is unnatural. The convert is privileged on the score of his election : as the elect of God, he can draw near to Him; and this he does in such familiar way as to make suber minds shudder.
Such is the difficulty before Calvinism as respects the doctrine of Justification; and it is well worth observing in what way it surmounts it. The dilemma in which it is involved is simply this: If it shall carry out its system logically, it ends in Antinomianism and reduces itself to absurdity; if it modifies it by a recurrence to the old doctrine of Justification, and thus saves religion, it overthrows its theology and falls back into Catholicism. The device adopted in order to get out of this difficulty is exceedingly clever, though it has introduced into Calvinism a weak point, which has been a source of never-ending controversy. It is to divide the idea of Justification into two. The Old Theology, as we have seen, teaches that Justification is the infusion of righteousness; but then, as no man can perfectly answer to the grace of God, his inherent righteousness must be more or less deficient; consequently, it needs to be made up by the righteousness of Christ; and this righteousness is imputed to him, and is really his, by reason of his union with Christ. It was exceedingly adroit in Calvinism to seize upon this double idea as a mode of escaping its difficulty. It held that Justification consists simply in the latter process—the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The infusion of righteousness was a separate process altogether, which Calvinism designated by the name of Sanctification. The advantage gained by this distinction was immense. On the one hand, it was enabled to teach, in logical sequence of its preceding tenets, that Justification is a bare pardon of our sins and acceptance for Christ's sake,--thus removing our salvation from all dependence on our own inherent holiness, and resting it exclusively on the Divine decree and Christ's satisfaction. On the other hand, by introducing the idea of Sanctification, subsequent to and independent of Justification, it was enabled to maintain an Inherent Righteousness, and thus save religion from absolute destruction.
But it is evident the whole idea of Sanctification is incongruous, if not inconsistent, with Calvinism. It is altogether unlike its other doctrines. They find their place in exact and logical order: but Sanctification has all the appearance of a clumsy addition, adopted for a purpose, and not growing naturally out of its theology. It gives rise also to the difficult question - What relation does it hold to Justification and Salvation? In the Old Theology, where Justification and Sanctification are one and the same thing, of course it is indispensable: we cannot be in a state of Salvation unless the heart is purified by Justifying Grace. But Calvinism must clearly establish the independence
of Salvation on Inherent Righteousness, in order to rest it on the Divine Decree and the Atonement. Hence it is exceedingly difficult to answer the question-In what order does Sanctification stand to Salvation? or, in other words, Are Good Works necessary or unnecessary ? In effect, we have here opened up a source of never-ending controversy. We have amongst Calvinists every degree of appreciation and depreciation, from the tenet that they are absolutely necessary and indispensable, to the contrary one that they are positively injurious. The • Confession of Faith'contents itself with the general statement, that God is pleased to accept them in Christ—that they are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith, and that by them, believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, stop the inouths of adversaries, and glorify God.
Before coming to the ground of Apology, where the interest of modern controversy principally centres, we have just time to glance at the Calvinistic doctrine of the Sacraments. Our idea of Sacramental Grace will rise or fall according to our appreciation of the doctrine of Inherent Righteousness. In the Old Theology, where Inherent Righteousness is a necessary condition of Salvation, Sacramental Grace must hold a most important place. It is to the Sacraments that man must look, both for the beginning and the continuance of Divine Grace. In Baptism Grace is first infused ; in Confirmation it is perfected ; in the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood it is renewed and increased. By the Divine help vouchsafed in these lifegiving ordinances, Justifying Grace is begun and continued in the soul, and man is thereby maintained in a state of Salvation. In Calvinism, however, where Inherent Righteousness has no connexion with our salvation, the Sacraments must be deposed from this high place. Whatever efficacy may be attributed to them, we see clearly they cannot be held as necessary to Salvation. Yet still, so long as Inherent Righteousness is held at all, there is room for the idea of Sacramental Grace; and it is obvious the idea will rise or fall, according as Good Works are believed to be necessary or unnecessary. Among the moderate Calvinists, where Good Works are highly estimated, Sacramental Grace will be more highly appreciated; while, on the other hand, in those who tend to Antinomianism the idea will become alınost extinct.
These remarks are applicable to the Sacraments in general ; but when we come to examine them by themselves, a difference immediately emerges. While the statement holds good with regard to the Lord's Supper, there are particular reasons which render it void in respect of Baptism. Regeneration, as we have
seen identical with Conversion, takes place only when the soul is awakened to saving faith. It must be obvious, therefore, that in the case of infants, the Regeneration cannot take place in Baptism, they being incapable of Saving Faith. So in the case of adults
, as Faith is a necessary condition of Baptism, it must be supposed to have already taken place. From these causes, the idea of Grace given in Baptism is all but eliminated, and the Sacrament is reduced to a 'sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace.' We may thus perceive the cause of the extreme sensitiveness of Calvinists with respect to the soul-destroying doctrine.' It is obvious, that to attach the idea of Regeneration to Baptism, is by implication to reject the tenets of Effectual Calling, Saving Faith, the Covenant, and, indeed, the whole Calvinistic Theology; and perhaps it would be more proper, under these circumstances, to call it the dogma-destroying doctrine.'
With regard to the Lord's Supper, there are not the same reasons to militate against it; and hence we find among the original Calvinists a very high idea of its efficacy. The notion of Christ's work as a Vicarious Satisfaction, an act past and done, must indeed disconnect it from His present Mediation, and so deprive it of its Sacrificial aspect. But as a Sacrament, it was highly appreciated;—it being believed that, through it, we really and truly feed upon Christ's Body and Blood. It must be obvious, however, that Calvinism supplies no ground for permitting the Christian life to centre around the Sacraments. Inherent Righteousness having no necessary connexion with Salvation, which is dependent on the Divine decree and Saving Faith, it is evident that to dwell much upon Sacramental Grace, is to take off the mind from the one thing needful.' Hence, even those Calvinists who lay stress on righteousness, can hardly dwell much upon the Sacraments-much less those who tend to Antinomianism. We consequently find that the onward tendency of Calvinistic Theology has been to depreciate the Sacraments. At the present day, very few would allow a real partaking of Christ's Body and Blood: and the idea of Grace, so far as admitted, is limited to the strengthening of Saving Faith.
Those who have followed us thus far, will have perceived that, to all intents and purposes, Calvinism is the theology, as far as they may be said to have a theology, of the people. However little some of its deductions may be generally accepted, yet it is certain that Christianity, as a whole, is viewed from the Calvinistic point of view. The Calvinistic doctrines of the Fall, the Incarnation, and Justification are the ruling ideas of Christianity which naturally come up in the mind of an ordinary Englishman. And had we time, we might
speculate on how far the intellectual narrowness of these ideas has to do with the