The following article was published in “Bibliotheca Sacra,” April 1862.
It is our purpose in the present article to furnish a brief statement of the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church, especially those points in which there exists an issue with Calvinism. As a receiver of those doctrines, it will, of course, be expected, and probably desired, that the writer should present them favorably, and as they are viewed by their advocates. Occasional argumentative issues may be stated, in order that the points of collision may be more easily understood; but it forms no part of our province to prove the doctrines presented. It is believed that such a statement, at the present time, may tend to remove misunderstanding, and serve the cause of Christian unity.
In regard to the issue, it may be generally remarked that in those points which more immediately concern the divine government Calvinism affirms more than Arminianism, and that more the latter declines to accept. Both sides, for instance, affirm foreknowledge, free-will, and the necessity of divine grace to salvation; Calvinism superadds to these respectively, foreordination, necessity, and irresistibleness, to which Arminianism declines assent. On points less central, as final apostasy, entire sanctification, and witness of the Spirit, our Arminianism affirms, and Calvinism rejects.
FUNDAMENTAL MAXIM OF DIVINE GOVERNMENT.
The fundamental maxim upon which the issue above named is primarily grounded, and from which, if we mistake not, most of the other issues logically result, is the Edwardean maxim, that it is no matter how we come by our evil volitions, dispositions, or nature, in order to responsibility, provided we really possess them. Or we may state the maxim thus: God judges us as he finds us to be, good or evil, and holds us responsible without regard to the means by which we became so. We do not say that all who are considered Calvinists hold this maxim. But upon the acceptance or rejection of this proposition it logically depends, as it appears to us, whether the man should be a Calvinist or Arminian. From our rejection of this maxim it is that we differ from some or all the classes of Calvinists on the subject of free-will, divine sovereignty, predestination, election, primary responsibility for inborn depravity, partial atonement, and final perseverance. To this maxim, that it is no matter how we come by volitional state in order to its being responsible, we oppose the counter maxim that in order to responsibility for a given act or state, power in the agent for a contrary act or state is requisite. In other words: “no man is to blame for what he cannot help.” Power underlies responsibility. Non-existence of power is non-existence of responsibility. The only limitation of this principle is the maxim that self-superinduced inability does not exclude responsibility. The agent who abdicates his powers we hold to be responsible for his impotence, and for all the nonperformances which legitimately result. Our entire axiom, then, is: all inability to an act or state, not self-superinduced, excludes responsibility. The man who maintains, counter to this our position, the above-specified Edwardean maxim must, we think, if a logical reasoner, support all the Calvinistic views above enumerated. The man who adopts our maxim is as logically bound to reject them.
When a man transgresses a divine requirement by a wrong volition, the question arises: Could he have willed otherwise? He is held by the law penally responsible for the act. If, now, the maxim be true that God regards not the way in which he became possessed of the volition, then no power to the contrary is required. God may create him without power for other volition; may create him in fixed and necessitated possession of the volition, yet may still hold him responsible, and consign him to endless penalty. If, on the other hand, adequate power for a contrary volition must underlie obligation for a contrary volition, and so for responsibility for the actual volition, then there must have existed in the given agent power for a volition contrary to the volition actually put forth.
Methodism has, in accordance with this view, from the beginning maintained this doctrine of free-will. We have ever maintained that it imputes injustice to God to suppose that he holds us responsible for a necessitated act or condition; or that he ever requires an act or condition for which he does not furnish the adequate power. It is the apparent making of this imputation in the various doctrines of Calvinism with which Methodism has taken issue.
Our view of free-will is tolerably well expressed by the formula: “the power of contrary choice.” It would, perhaps, be more accurately expressed by the formula furnished and condemned by Edwards (p. 419, Andover Edition, 1840): “The power of choosing differently in given cases.” The question proposed by Fletcher to Toplady was : “Is the will at liberty to choose otherwise than it does, or is it not?” The man who affirms the first member of this question is bound to be an Arminian ; the affirmant of the latter member must, as we suppose, logically be a Calvinist. Hence we do not hold either of the four following positions:
1. The doctrine of volitional necessity (ordinarily called philosophical necessity), as it is ably maintained by Edwards. This doctrine, as we understand it, supposes that every choice is determined to be as it is by some one antecedent strongest motive. Pre-existent causes fix and limit the volition, excluding all adequate power for a different volition instead. Every transgression, therefore, as to us it appears, is volitionally committed without adequate power for a volitional avoidance. Sin is always a thing which cannot be helped by the sinner.
2. The distinction of moral and natural inability, as a solution of the problem of responsibility. This natural ability, as we understand it, is the power to do as we will, which has no relation to the question of volitional freedom; or it is the power to will as we will, that is, to will as we do will, and no other way. That is, the will is supposed to have the power to act solely and merely as it does act, and no otherwise; which is a power possessed by every machine and every physical cause. By our axiom above, this view appears to us to be necessity, and it excludes the possibility of responsibility.
3. The law of uniform action of the will. We understand some who affirm the doctrine of the power of contrary choice also to affirm that, nevertheless, there is in all instances a one certain highest or strongest motive, in accordance with which, though possessed of diverse power, the will does certainly act. This substitutes for the law of causation the law of uniformity. Both laws we should view as equally universal and equally apodictical. But it is the law of uniformity in causation which renders the causative limitation of will to a sole possible volition subversive of responsibility. It appears logically as impossible for an act to take place contradictorily to the law of uniformity as to the law of causation; and responsibility in both cases seems equally excluded.
4. The antecedent securement of the certainty of the sole volition. Some who deny necessity affirm the previously secured certainty of the volition. By the certainty of an event we mean its simple futurition. It is a simple will-be, perfectly pure from the must-be. Now there are those, as we understand, who affirm that antecedent causation does not secure the necessity, but does “secure the certainty “ of the future volition. They thus seek to evade the difficulties of necessity. But be it noted that to secure a thing has both a positive and a negative side. To secure a thing absolutely and perfectly is to exclude the possibility of a different thing instead. To secure the certainty of a given volition, therefore, is to exclude the possibility of a different certainty. To secure the futurition of a given volition is to exclude the possibility of the futurition of a different volition; which is necessity, and, therefore, appears exclusive of responsibility.
Our views of responsibility require us, therefore, to affirm fully and unequivocally the doctrine of the freedom of the will. With the limitation which we have already indicated in our axiom, every obligatory and every responsible volitional act is a free act; that is, put forth with the adequate power of putting forth a different act instead. Thus far we have rejected the limitations to this power arising from necessity, uniformity, or secured certainty.
We hold it to be a doctrine both of natural and revealed religion that God is an omnipotent being, possessed of power for all operations which involve not a contradiction. But any act the expression of which involves a contradiction we consider to be no act at all; so that this exception is not a limitation of divine power, but only a definition of the true idea of omnipotence. God is sovereign over the realm of nature and of free agents; yet in both cases he limits his uniform action by self-circumscribing laws. The laws of nature are the uniform rules of God’s action, imposed by himself upon himself. And these self-imposed laws are necessary to the very existence of the kingdom of nature; and they do, in fact, give God his position as sovereign of nature, and therein are necessary to his divine sovereignty. In the realm of free agency, also, God finds, as we think, his highest exaltation as sovereign, by so circumscribing his own modes of action as to leave unviolated the full exercise of the freedom of the agent, so far forth as he is a free and responsible agent. For God to secure absolutely and limitatively the one possible volition of the agent, and yet leave him a free agent, is, in our view, a contradiction; as genuine a contradiction as for God to cause a heavier body to ascend, and yet preserve the law of gravitation. The requirement that God’s sovereignty must jealously cause and secure, as well as limit, every act of the agent in our estimation reduces God from his position as a sovereign to the predicament of a mechanist. He is no longer king of free beings, but a mover of automatons. The highest glory of God as a divine sovereign consists, as we conceive, in his giving the fullest permission for the freest range of responsible agency, though it sweep the scope of half the universe; and yet so taking the wise in their own craftiness, and over-mastering the mighty in their might, as to accomplish all his own grand designs, and produce the best and most glorious possible of ultimate results.
DIVINE PRESCIENCE AND PREDETERMINATIONS.
God we hold to be not only omnipotent but omniscient; and of this omniscience foreknowledge is a particular phase. We hold that God knows or foreknows all contingencies, possibilities, and real events in the future. God’s predeterminations are acts; and inasmuch as God, with all his attributes, must precede his actions, just as all cause must precede its effect, so God’s foreknowledge must precede his predeterminations. Yet as both these — his foreknowledge and his predeterminations — are viewed as in some sense eternal, so the priority of knowledge to act must be, perhaps, viewed as a priority in nature, rather than in time. Sir William Hamilton’s doctrine of the unknowableness of the infinite must here, perhaps, be so far accepted as to incline us to acknowledge that we discern truth, not as it is in itself, but truth as it appears to us. Be it a contradiction or not, the eternal cause must, to our conception, in the order of nature precede the eternal effect; that is, God as foreknowing must be viewed as preceding God as predetermining. All the acts of God, even his predeterminations, we view as perfectly free; just as truly free as the freest actions of any agent in the universe. And, holding that the knowledge of free action does not impede their freedom, so we hold that God’s foreknowledge of his own free actions, including his own predeterminations, does not impede their freedom.
The proposition that “God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass,” taken in its natural and what we have supposed its historical meaning, and its full extent, we are compelled to reject, both from our antecedent views of human responsible freedom, and because, taken in that same proper sense and extent, it seems to us, in spite of every effort at avoidance, to amount to the proposition that God is the author of sin. To foreordain a thing or act seems to us to be a divine volition, causatively fixing and determining that thing or act, rendering it thereby fixed and necessary. To foreordain, also, has its positive and negative side. It seems to fix positively that the act shall be thus and so, and to exclude negatively the possibility of its being otherwise than thus or so; and thus, limiting the act to one sole result, excludes liberty, and so responsibility, from existence. Again, to foreordain an act seems to us to be the same as intentionally to will that act; and if the act be a sin, the most and the worst that we can say of the human sinner himself is, that he intentionally wills the sinful act; and thereby we appear obliged to affirm of God that he is as truly the author of sin as the sinner. The difference between the two appears to us to lie, not in the reality of the intentional volition, that is, the authorship, but in the number of the intermediate media through which the causation is transmitted, which is a difference no way affecting the chargeableness of the authorship.
Desirous to avoid these consequences, we would rather say that God’s foreordinations, or rather predeterminations, are to be limited to his own acts. Supposing that in the infinitely distant anterior period of ”timelessness” God is employed in selecting from all possible systems that which his wisdom best approves, the system which he is to be viewed as finally adopting is a system consisting properly and directly of his own future actions. Knowing, indeed, by the absolute perfection of his own attribute of omniscience all future possibilities, including all possible results from any supposed arrangements, God does, in full foreknowledge of all results in the case, so plan all his own actions and courses as seems to him wisest and best. So far forth as sequently upon any act or course of God any free being will sin, for that sin the free being, being fully able to avoid it, and bringing it unnecessarily into existence, is alone responsible. He alone has intruded it into existence. God neither predetermined, foreordained, willed, nor desired it. God’s predeterminations of his own future action, or courses of action, are to be considered as so far contingent as that their execution or coming into existence is conditioned upon the coming into existence of many presupposed free actions of finite agents, which are able not to be put forth. Yet, nevertheless, inasmuch as God’s omniscience does truly and fully foresee the free volition which will actually be put forth, there is no proper danger that God will be deceived in the perfect wisdom of his plans, or be frustrated in any of his actual purposes.
Whether there are not many theologians at the present time who use the terms predestination and foreordination, and hold themselves to believe in the doctrines properly designated by those terms, who yet do so define these terms as to make their views nearly or quite coincide with the above statements, is more than the writer of this article is able to say. We trust that such is the fact ; and our objections then would be mainly verbal, lying against the propriety and clearness of the terms and the phraseology used. Let us hope that mutual explanation will be productive of increased agreement.
It might at first appear fair to say that the reconciliation of foreknowledge with free agency is the difficulty of our theology. Yet there seems to be a great difference, of which a theology ought to avail itself, between the admission of simple foreknowledge and the additional admission of predestination. If the term predestination has any proper significance, it implies a strict causative relation between the long past predestinating act and the predestined event. If it becomes any thing less than this, it becomes simply prerecognition, with non-prevention in view of some collateral good; which is, properly speaking, foreknowledge. The true distinction, in fact, between foreknowledge and predestination is, that the former simply cognizes the act which another cause will put forth, while the latter causatively determines its putting forth, purposely excluding, by necessitative limitation, any other act instead. God may be supposed to foresee the act because the agent will put it forth; but God cannot properly be said to predestinate the action because the agent will put it forth; on the other hand, the agent must perform the act because it is predestinated. The act of the agent cannot properly be free, because it is antecedently limited and determined.
Our views of the reconcilement of foreknowledge with free-agency may, in brief, be represented in the following paragraphs:
1. The utmost doctrine of free-will does not require us to deny that there is some one way, and no other, in which all free volitions will be put forth. The infinite number of free volitions, singly and collectively, while put forth with full power otherwise, will be put forth in some one way, and no other. We have, then, only to affirm that, somehow or other, we know not how, this one infinite series of volitions, put forth with full power otherwise, is perfectly foreknown by God. That is, the volitions are perfectly free, yet completely foreknown.
2. From this it follows that it is perfectly just and true that an agent can do otherwise than the way that God knows he will do; and yet it is not true that God can be deceived. The first is true; for if the foreknown act be that one act put forth with full counter power, then, by the very supposition, there is full power to perform an act different from the one foreknown. The second is not true; for, by the very supposition, the act which will be put forth, whichever that is, is the one perfectly and truly foreknown. God’s foreknowledge, then, is sure of verification.
3. Foreknowledge does not cause the free act to be unfree. In conception, we first posit the free act; namely, the act as free as if there were no foreknowledge, or as if there were no God. This conception is, in itself, perfectly possible. Then, for that intrinsically free act to be foreknown, does not cause it to be unfree, nor in any way affect its intrinsic nature. Foreknowledge is not the cause of the free act; properly speaking, the particularity of the free act is the cause of the particularity of the anterior knowledge.
4. Nor does foreknowledge prove the act to be unfree. For, by the very supposition, the act put forth with diverse power is the act foreknown. How the Deity came in possession of that power we are, indeed, neither able nor bound to say; no more than we are bound to say how God came in possession of his self-existence.
To the Edwardean argument, that the fixedness of the eternally past effect, namely, foreknowledge, proves the necessitative character of the cause, namely, the act, we have our reply. That cause is, for instance, now transpiring— a free volition, put forth with free counter power. That act, as cause, reflects its effectuation into the anterior eternity, and into God’s eternal foreknowledge, there reproducing, in idea, just its own actual nature. The fixedness or immutability of that foreknowledge proves nothing; for the very supposition is that God’s knowledge has the right act in possession (namely, the act which will, in full possession of power for other act, be truly put forth), and no other. But if the right act be in the divine eternal anterior knowledge, what need of any change or mutability? If it has the right act, that foreknowledge is bound to be fixed and unchanging in its rightness. But, as before shown, this makes no difference in the intrinsic nature of the act.
DOCTRINE OF SIN AND GUILT.
Sin is, according to John, anomia, or disconformity to the law; and the term, therefore, though primarily applicable to actual transgression, is nevertheless used, both in theology and Scripture, to designate a moral state or condition of being. Should, however, a being be placed in such a state otherwise than by his own free act, with full power of acting otherwise, for such a state we hold that he could not be strictly responsible, or, with absolute justice, punishable. In such a being there would be evil, moral evil, sin, but not responsibility, or desert of penalty. Should such a state of being be brought about by the agent’s own free act, the responsibility would, we think, exist in full force; or, should the free being in such a state, possessed of full power to act otherwise, nevertheless sanction and appropriate to himself his depraved condition, making it the controlling power of his life, he thereby contracts the responsibility. Such a depraved state, in our view, has never been produced in any being by God, but always by free secondary agents. All responsible sin, therefore, whether of action or condition, arises from the action of free finite beings, in disconformity to the law, and in abuse of their free agency.
Sin, therefore, being produced, not by the infinite, but by the finite agent, can claim, in our view, no origination, ratification, or sanction from God. He neither willed it, ordained it, determined it, ordered it, located it, nor approvingly permitted it. He chose, indeed, that system of his own actions into which he knew that others would obtrude sin. The free agency by which it is produced is itself, as a quality created by him, sublimely excellent; and is so created on account of its superior excellency and vast superiority over a system of inanimate beings or necessitated agents. But as a system of free agents would be superior to a system of necessitated agents, so the system of free agents who would freely choose to be perfectly holy would, we hold, doubtless be superior to a system of sinful free agents. Sin, therefore, actual and real, can be considered as no benefit to the government of God. It is evil in nature and evil in effect. Nor does God need sin in order to the production of the highest and best results. Where the sin will, however, be freely committed, God does place sequences of particular good, which would not take place but for that antecedent sin; although without the sin he might secure some still higher good. He often makes a particular good the sequent of a particular sin, which, did not that sin exist, would be by him effectuated from some other antecedent. In the present system, also, a particular sin, as, for instance, the sin of Adam, may be the condition absolutely requisite to the possibility of a particular highest good in the now existing system; which highest good may be the most exalted theme of angelic anthems; yet all this does not preclude the fact that, were there no sin in the universe, a still more glorious, as well as a more happy, condition of things might exist.
The act of the will, put forth with full power otherwise, in intentional disconformity to the law, is actual or actional sin. The resultant ethical quality of condemnability, which our moral sense sees as inhering in the personality of the agent in consequence of the commission of such sin, we call guilt. And as the moral sense can see this guilt solely in the personality of the committing agent, it is impossible for this guilt to be transferred to another personality. Correlative to this guilt, the moral sense sees inhering in the person of the guilty a desert of just punishment. These correlations are fundamental and axiomatic. Punishment, therefore, is no more transferable, literally, than guilt. Neither is any more transferable than is a past act personally performed by one agent transferable to another agent. When, therefore, an innocent man is said to suffer in the stead of a guilty man, it is only in figurative conception that the guilt and punishment of the guilty are attributed or imputed to the innocent man; the literal fact is, that the innocent man is still innocent, and the endurance by the innocent is simply suffering, but not literally, to him, punishment.
THE FALL AND DEPRAVATION OF MAN.
In the primordial man, Adam, as in every primordial progenitor, a whole posterity is conceptually enfolded. As in the acorn is inclosed, not only the oak, but a whole descending lineage of oaks, so in our first parent was inclosed a whole system of diverging lineages embracing a race. As his primordial nature shall stand higher or lower, so shall the deduced nature of that race be higher or lower. Under this fundamental law, extended through the whole generative system of creation, and based upon reasons of the highest wisdom, man, with his fellow races, animal and vegetable, is placed on earth. That law, that self-limiting law, God cannot wisely change. Upon the first man he bestows a nature of transcendental excellence, yet with a free and plastic power of self-degradation by sin. As man stands or falls, he stands or falls in his typical character; and his whole race, under the universal lineal law, must bear the same physical, intellectual, and moral type. And with this natural law corresponds the theodicic arrangement. Under the same moral and judicial conditions in which man places himself, must, as we believe, his posterity, if born, be born.
Historically, man, by sin, places himself under conditions of depravation, including the threefold death —corporeal, moral, eternal.
The individual, Adam, is shut off from the tree of life; and is thus, perhaps, left to a natural mortality, through the decay and disintegration of his physical system. His sin has excluded the Holy Spirit; and thus the love of God can no longer be a motive of action, and the main source of spiritual light and knowledge is lost, and the vacillating will is so weakened that it no longer firmly holds to the right. This state of things is not caused by the act of the infinite will, but is the result produced by the lawless action of the finite will. By his own free act, Adam has excluded from himself those conditions by which the love of God could be his motive of action, and, therefore, has rendered holy action an impossibility to himself. He is, indeed, perhaps, still in every respect intrinsically and organically a free agent. Yet, inasmuch as holy action is placed beyond his reach, he is no longer objectively free to holiness and right, and is unable to do that which is pleasing in the sight of God. He is, therefore, under sentence of temporal, moral, and eternal death.
Under these conditions, shall he bring a posterity into existence? He can bring them into existence, by the laws of nature, only with his own character, and, apparently, to his own destiny. For conceptionally, as above stated, his whole race is seminally existent in him. The sentence of condemnation is addressed to him individually, indeed, yet to him, containing his whole race within himself. Shall the individuals of that race, by the prosecution of the natural generative law, be brought by him into personal existence? Man, then, by a second procedure, would consummate the terrible evil of his first procedure. He, under the fundamental laws, in the prosecution of second causes, would plunge a race in endless misery, naturally resulting from his unholy procedures. There are but two methods, that we can conceive, of arresting man in his full course of evil-doing. By the first method the full force of the sentence may be executed and exhausted upon himself by the infliction of temporal, spiritual, and eternal death immediately interposed, previous to the production of offspring. God’s veracity is thus sustained, and the evil of sin is manifested by the abortion of the race. By the second method, a redemptive system may be interposed, by which, on the continued basis of free agency and probation, man, the whole race, or that part of the race which attains the end of its probation, may be restored to even, perhaps, a higher glory than the Adamic race could have attained.
That the sentence would have received its full literal execution in the person of Adam, precluding actual posterity, we infer from a contemplation of the supposable condition of the race as brought by Adam into natural existence in his own moral position: 1. The moral death includes in its idea the exclusion of any possible fulfillment of the moral law from the agent’s reach. True, then, to our axiomatic foundation, we firmly deny that he could be justly responsible and liable to its penalties. Born under the law, the law has a right to measure his moral character, and affirm his anomia, that is, his disconformity to the law, both in action and in moral condition; but the moment the law attempts to inflict the penalty, the rightfulness of its own action is by itself condemned. Nor can this difficulty be removed, as we conceive, by any natural or moral ability supposable in the case. All natural ability is under control of the volitions; the volitions are under control of the inclinations; and those inclinations are controlled by necessitating causations. There is no imaginable ability, therefore, which relieves the agent from an adamantine necessity, inclosing him as tightly within his moral evil as a fossil reptile is imbedded in the solid rock. The agent, therefore, as tried by the law, is evil — morally evil; and as all anomia is sin, his nature and his actions are sinful; and yet he is not responsible or justly liable to penalty. 2. Corporeal death, if it does not preclude birth, includes the idea of disease, decay, and mortality during a temporary life. As a mere nature, this may be justifiable under a law of compensation; but, as a judicial penalty, we have before shown that the law has none it can inflict. 3. Eternal death would, of course, follow, from the very immortality of his nature, being an immortality of evil — moral death perpetuated. As a natural process, this cannot be justified; for the evil is too great for compensation; still less can it be justified judicially, for still less has the law a penalty it can inflict. It is this state of condemnation by the law of a race and nature born under the law which requires the legal fiction of imputation to render penalty a namable thing. Conceptually alone, not literally or truly, can man, in this condition, be said to be guilty, and liable to the judicial penalty of death, temporal or eternal. It may, at first sight, seem strange, that the divine, like the human law, should deal in legal fiction. But it is no more strange than true. Pardon itself involves a legal fiction. Justification, by a legal fiction, supposes its subject to be innocent and free from the penalty, and treats him as such who is guilty and justly liable to the penalty. Justification and imputation are antithetic fictions: the former of mercy, the latter of severity; the former, seeing innocence where there is guilt; the latter, if not seeing guilt where there is innocence, certainly seeing guilt where there is irresponsibility. That fiction, as a basis of penalty, if the race without the atonement were not merely hypothetical, would be a most serious matter, an irreparable injustice in the government of God. Its true use is not fully understood until, subsequently to the redemption, it is introduced to illustrate, by its antithesis of imputed guilt, the principle of imputed innocence under the Redeemer.
The introduction of the Redeemer, sequently upon the fall of man, was not a divine afterthought. By a divine predetermination, conditioned upon that foreseen apostasy, Christ was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. In view of the compensations by it afforded, expressions of deeper severity toward sin are made than otherwise would have taken place. A Redeemer is introduced who, by a death of infinitely more value than that of Adam and all his race, is entitled to take humanity into his guardianship, and measure out mercy and justice according to the laws of a wise probation: 1. In view of the future atonement, the natural continuity of the human race remains uninterrupted, and a basis is thus afforded for a new system. 2. In view of that same atonement, the Holy Spirit is restored, whereby motives in the direction of spiritual realities may become grounds of action, and their proper improvement may lead to justification and regeneration. Man does not thereby receive any new faculty. He is not even organically made to be a free agent; for he never ceased to be such; only spiritual things, and the possibility of pleasing God, are again brought within the reach of his free agency. Nor is the Holy Spirit, nor any other influence, normally so brought to bear upon his free agency as to be irresistible, or secured to be unresisted; since that would be to overwhelm his free agency on the other side. To afford him such aids as render him able to accept salvation without overcoming his ability to reject it, probationarily leaving the decision to his own free-will, is the precise law by which the dealings of God with him are now governed. 3. Though, both in the matter of temporal and eternal death, man still remains under liability, so that, by rejection of the Redeemer, he may come under full execution of the primal sentence, yet by the proper exercise of his free-will, aided by the Spirit graciously bestowed, in accepting and obeying the Redeemer, he may finally attain a glory through Christ, greater, perhaps, than he lost through Adam.
For a created inclination, necessitated in its character, bad though it be — morally bad, disconformed to the law — we are, as before intimated, utterly irresponsible. It may rightfully be called sin, for all anomia is sin; and the man is a sinner, but not a responsible sinner, since for any other than sin there is no power. This arises from our rejection of the maxim that the law takes no cognizance of the way in which we became possessed of our evil, and our affirmation of the axiom that power for the contrary must underlie all responsible action. On the other hand, inclinations conformed to the law, created necessitatedly within us, without any power of modification in our will, are truly excellent, morally excellent, innocent, and in all these senses, perhaps, properly called holy; yet they afford no moral desert. They are lovable, but not strictly rewardable. It is not, then, until there is redemptively conferred upon man what we call a gracious ability for the right, that man can strictly be responsible for the wrong. With this inauguration, therefore, upon the redemptive basis, responsibility and a true and just divine government become possible. Under the redemptive system, the man is born into the world, from Adam, a depraved being. It is as a depraved being that he becomes an Ego. But instantly after, in the order of nature, he is met by the provisions of the atonement. If he is not thereby immediately, unconditionally justified and regenerated, his death before the commission of actual sin would place him out of the category of condemnation. He is held guiltless until the moment of his responsible agency arrives and personal sin has subjected him to the personal penalty of the law; and then the forfeiture of the justifying and regenerating influences of the atonement, so far forth as they may be admitted to exist, has brought him into complete responsibility for his Adamic depravity, which is now fully sanctioned, and appropriated into his own voluntary course of action.
So far as we can see, these statements present the antithesis between our loss through Adam and our gain through Christ, in full accordance with its presentation by Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans. By the sin of the former, we incur death and judgment unto condemnation, and are made sinners. By the righteousness of the latter, we receive life and justification, are made righteous, attaining a grace much more abundant than the previous sin. And inasmuch as we are made sinners antecedently to the atonement, without the power of being other than sinners, we can be held in that case as responsible sinners only by a conceptual imputation of sin. Under the atonement, that conceptual imputation is continued only as the logical antithesis to the conceptual imputation of righteousness to the guilty through the atoning righteousness of Christ.
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GRACE IN THE REDEMPTION.
In regard to parts, if not the whole, of the provisions of the redemption, as thus stated, it will be said that they are but provisions of justice and not of grace. If powers were necessary in order to the fulfillment of requirements, God was bound, in righteousness, to grant them; and, in justice, could not withhold them; and they are therefore not gracious. Nevertheless, we hold that such provisions are none the less by grace because by righteousness. Benevolence is the goodness of God exhibited in nature; grace is the goodness of God exhibited in redemption. And as God could not be justified in the works of nature without appealing to the proofs of benevolence, it might be said that “God is bound to furnish that benevolence; and it is therefore no benevolence, but mere righteousness.” Nevertheless, it is none the less benevolence because necessary to justify God’s righteousness. The righteousness and the grace are but different views of the same thing.
Thus it may be said that, if God required the exercise of a moral ability, he was bound to grant such ability; it is, therefore, properly not called a gracious ability. It might as truly be argued, that if God require us to obey the Mediator, he is obligated to furnish the Mediator. If he require faith in the atonement, he is bound to furnish the atonement ; if he require us to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he is bound to furnish the Holy Spirit; so that none of these gifts are gracious, and grace is excluded from the redemption. With equal truth it might be said that because God requires us to serve him with all our natural endowments, existence, life, faculties, and advantages, therefore none of these are by benevolence, but by debt. Hereby grace is banished from redemption, and benevolence from nature. Every endowment that man receives, by nature or redemption, even though it be the basis of a duty and a requirement, is none the less a gratuity. God gives the grace, and imposes the requirement, because it is a grace; nor does the requirement abolish the grace.
NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT.
Christ as truly died as a substitute for the sinner as Damon could have died as a substitute for Pythias. Yet, to make the parallel complete, Damon should so die for Pythias as that, unless Pythias should accept the substitution of Damon in all its conditions, he should not receive its benefits, and Damon’s death should be for him in vain; Pythias may be as rightfully executed as if Damon had not died. If the sinner accept not the atonement, but deny the Lord that bought him, Christ has died for him in vain; he perishes for whom Christ died. If the whole human race were to reject the atonement, the atonement would be a demonstration of the righteousness and goodness of God, but would be productive of aggravation of human guilt, rather than of salvation from it. The imputation of the sin of man, or his punishment, to Christ, is but a popular conception, justifiable, if understood as only conceptual; just as we might say that the crime of Pythias was imputed to Damon in order that we also might be able to say that Damon was punished instead of Pythias. In strictness of language and thought, neither crime, guilt, nor punishment is personally transferable.
Christ died for all men, and for every man, and for no one man more than for another. The personal, voluntary reception of the atonement, in its full conditions, by the sinner himself, constitutes the difference between one man and another in the obtainment of its benefits. A fountain stands for the entire inhabitants of a town, for one man no more than for another; and the personal drawing and drinking of the water may constitute the only difference in the enjoyment of its benefits. The atonement itself is universal and irrespective; the personal appropriation, by which the individual sinner secures his share of its benefits, is in each case particular.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
The method by which the sinner appropriates a share of the benefits of the atonement personally to himself is comprehensively said to be by faith. By the works of the law, that is, by a Christless morality, can no flesh be justified. The law finds us in sin and in depravity, made responsible by volitional action, and reveals our sin unto us. When its perfectness is comprehended, all hopes of meeting its full demands must die within us. We can, therefore, only hope for salvation by the acceptance of the offered atonement for past sins and future short-comings.
The faith which justifies implies the belief of the intellect, the accord of the affections, and the submissive acceptance by the will. By this entire act of the whole soul the sinner surrenders himself to Christ for salvation. The sincerity of this faith implies the full renunciation of sin by repentance, and the full self-commitment to obedience to Christ. This act of the sinner is accepted of God, and is imputed to him for righteousness. By the law of the redemptive kingdom, he stands justified before God for all his sins past; the record of condemnation is blotted out, and his name is enrolled in the Lamb’s book of life. In accordance with the conditions of the atonement, the Holy Spirit is now imparted unto him, not merely in its convicting, but in its witnessing, enlightening, strengthening, and sanctifying power.
This faith, by the ordinary laws of mind, is preceded by normal preparatories, namely, by the ordinary gracious ability bestowed through the atonement, by perception and reception of truth, by conscientious feeling, by exercise of reason, by prayer to God, by realization of sin, by successive stages of preparatory faith in the revelations of the law and the Gospel. Repentance toward God precedes the act of justifying faith in Jesus Christ. The immediate performance of this whole work is in one sense requirable of the sinner, since the law demands his punishment for past sins, and the wrath of God abides upon him, until the moment of his justification. His inability instantaneously to perform the whole work required is self-superinduced by his past sinful life, and is, therefore, not excusatory. Yet it is not in accordance with the laws of mind to expect, or to teach, that the whole process actually can be instantaneously accomplished.
The gracious influences of the Spirit ever precede our action, working within us both to will and to do, and are ever graciously given more abundantly upon our action; so that in attaining justifying grace God and man previously co-operate.
Though the convicting influences of the Spirit are often, for a time, to a degree irresistible, measurably awakening the conscience and convincing the reason, in spite of our resistance, yet neither is the influence that results in saving faith, nor the saving grace which follows, properly irresistible by the will. Justifying faith is voluntary and free. The soul is normally able to withhold it; nor is the operation of the Spirit such as necessitatively to secure it.
We are not saved by the merit of faith. Faith may indeed be considered in one sense as a work, a good work, a right work, the rightest work which, in the case, the sinner can perform. It has in itself the same sort of good desert, or ethical merit, as we ascribe to every act which in its given place is morally right. The contrary act would be morally wrong. And it is because of the meetness and ethical fitness and moral rightness in the case, that faith is selected as the proper medium of reconciliation and acceptance. Yet the value of this faith is not such as that it merits the salvation sequently bestowed upon it. Abstractly, God might rightfully drop the being into non-existence at the instant of its accomplished faith. The sinner has presented no equivalent for the salvation he receives, and he is truly saved by the free and abounding grace of God.
We do not hold that it is necessary, in order to the graciousness of our justification, that the faith should be resistlessly secured by the previous operation of God. Nor is it necessary for the graciousness of this salvation, that the act of faith should, by the natural laws of mind, be secured by the antecedent operation necessitatively, as the assent of the intellect is secured by a mathematical demonstration. For even those who hold to this necessitative securement believe that all right acts of the will are secured in the same way, so that by their own view there is as much moral merit in the act of accepting faith as in any other right, free-volitional act. The difference between us here lies, not in the meritoriousness we are bound to ascribe to the accepting act of the will, but in our views of the nature of the freedom of the will itself. By our views of the freedom of the will, it is necessary to the responsibility or moral good desert of an act, and of this as of all other acts, that it should be performed with full power of other action instead. And when this act is performed in the possession of such power, we are no more obliged to ascribe the great salvation, of which it is the condition, to the merit of the act than our brethren opposed are obliged to ascribe the salvation to the merit of the necessitated act.
POSSIBILITY OF APOSTASY.
In full consistency with that doctrine of human freedom and responsibility which pervades our theology, we maintain that, inasmuch as we were free in first performing the conditions of salvation, so we are free in the continuance or cessation of their performance. The volition by which we accepted the terms, we could have withheld; neither our probation nor our freedom on that test-point has ceased at our conversion. Amid the temptations, the unbeliefs, and the backslidings of life, the test-question may again and again recur, whether we shall hold fast our first faith; and there still exists the same freedom for decision for either alternative. The different views of our two theologies on this point are truly logical corollaries from their antecedent views of free agency and responsibility. If it be consistent with free probation that God not only require the consent of our will for justification, but also causatively secure it, that same causative securement must also necessitate our persevering volition. But it seems to us a perfect contradiction of probation and of the freedom for the act to be absolutely secured.
We affirm, indeed, that God grants full enabling grace to persevere. He protects us so that none can snatch us from our Father’s hand, nor separate us from the love of God; he keeps, supports, and guards; he confirms us when we are strong, and raises us when we are fallen; but he performs all this for us, not as things, but as agents from whom the consenting accordance and co-operation are conditionally presumed, both in the promise and performance of all these preserving acts of grace. After all these gracious aids on the part of God, there still remains, by the very nature of free agency, an ultimate element of selfhood, which alternately decides whether or not that grace shall be in vain. That free selfhood intrinsically remains, however it may sometimes objectively be circumscribed, through the entire existence of the self.
Promises, no doubt there are, in abundance, in the word of God, which are verbally in unconditioned form. Yet the law of conditionality, belonging, as it does, to the gospel terms of salvation, is ever to be held as implied. Were that all-pervading law of conditionality but once clearly expressed for all, it would be unreasonable to expect that it should be slavishly inserted, and never implied or assumed in any verbal form of the promise. Much more, when that conditionality is abundantly and explicitly declared, are we bound to hold it as implied in those passages where God engages faithfully to perform the divine side of the gracious covenant.
We have said that, consequent upon our justification, the Holy Spirit is imparted unto us no longer in its mere convicting power, but in its enlightening, quickening energy; giving us not, indeed, a new organic faculty, but the power and disposition, with our existing faculties, freely to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is regeneration. Though always concomitant with justification, it is in the order of nature consequent. So truly new is this gift by the Holy Spirit, so new and powerful are the views, feeling, purposes of the man, that it is said he is a new creature; that all things with him are made new; that he is born anew, born of God, regenerated. He is now a child of God — a member of the justified family of God.
We thus hold that regeneration succeeds justification. It is the unregenerate who is first convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit, who considers upon his wicked ways and seeks repentance, who examines the law of God and the Gospel of Christ in order to learn the method of escaping the wrath to come, who bows in penitent prayer for the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to the accomplishment of the work, and who does at successive points receive, in consequence of these his preparatory doings, the gracious aid of God. To the question, can these actions of the unregenerate man be holy, and so acceptable to God, we seem to ourselves to have abundant answer. They are not holy in the absolute sense of the word; and yet in their place they are acceptable and accepted by God, as by him prescribed to the man in his case. As the first step of the prodigal son, though performed in the land of his profligacy, at a moment when he should be in his father’s house, was the lightest he could in the case perform, was the necessary condition to his return, so that act of the prodigal was accepted, even before the prodigal himself was accepted. It is not necessary that an act be absolutely holy in order to God’s bestowing upon it a relative approbation. God can confer an imputative holiness, even upon the utensils of the temple. In the substance and in the organism of man God recognizes, because there exists notwithstanding its pravity, a sublime excellence, both of substance and structure. Man’s immortality and high moral being, intellect, affections, conscience, and will, with his power of realizing eternity, retain him, fallen as he is, at the head of God’s lower creation. Though the gold be totally dim, God cognizes the preciousness of its substance. Even while dead in trespasses and sins, his holiness permits him to love us, and he still knows how to accept us. And when, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, man before repentance performs works meet for repentance, and before justifying faith exercises faith preparatory to justification, God conventionally accepts those works and faith, so far as they go, before he fully accepts the man; and when, by the enabling aid of the Holy Spirit, he performs before acceptance the faith conditional to acceptance, God justifies him — “justifies the ungodly.” Unless the sinner can perform preparatory and conducive acts to regeneration, if all actions are wicked, and equally wicked, and equally unacceptable to God, then we see not how a sinner can take any course toward regeneration and salvation. The whole work appears arbitrary and unconditioned, and the bewildered sinner has only to sit and wait the sovereign grace.
Regeneration is the act of God. It presupposes conditions previously performed by the man; but in the work itself God is the doer, and man the submissive recipient. It presupposes anterior justification, and the performance, by the free-will of the sinner, of all the conditions requisite to the work. The Holy Spirit aids in those conditioned acts, but, except, perhaps, at particular points, never necessitates. The sinner acts as a free, responsible agent, and his free agency, so far forth as it exists and extends, excludes necessitation or predestination as its contradictory. Upon the decision and choice of the man as a free agent it ultimately depends whether the condition be performed and salvation attained, or rejected and eternal death incurred. This is the great alternative point of man’s free probation. From his own essential and central self is the decision most freely made; upon his own central and essential self must the eternal responsibility rest. And, hereby, though man be condemned, God shall be justified.
WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
Where God performs directly the work of justification and of regeneration, is it not to be expected that he will as directly give notice of so wonderful a mercy? And this thought suggests the reasonableness of the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, directly testifying to us that we are born of God.
The witness of our own spirit is that self-judgment which we are rationally able to pronounce, in the light of consciousness and Scripture, that we are the children of God. This is a logical inference, drawn from the fruits we find, by self-examination, in our minds and external conduct.
But besides this, is there not felt in every deep religious experience, a simple, firm assurance, like an intuition, by which we are made to feel calmly certain that all is blessedly right between God and our own soul? Does not this assurance seem to come into the heart as from some outer source? Does it not come as in answer to prayer, and in direction, as if from him to whom we pray? Scripture surely makes the assuring and witnessing act of the Spirit to be as immediate and direct as the justifying or regenerating acts. Hereby, then, we have the witness of God’s Spirit, concurrent with the witness of our own spirit, testifying to the work of our justification and adoption. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Rom. viii, 16.
ELECTION AND REPROBATION.
All God’s choices are elections. Some of these elections are unconditional; namely, all his predeterminations in regard to material, non-volitional objects, the absolute disposing of which violates no free agency in the exercise of responsible volition. But there is also a class of conditional elections or predeterminations by God, which are so far contingent as that they are conditioned upon the actual performance of certain free acts by the finite agent as foreseen. Those free acts, required by God as conditions to this election, are by divine grace placed in the power of every responsible agent, so that the primary reason why any are not elected is, that they do not exercise their power of meeting those conditions. And since every responsible agent has the power to make his own calling and election sure, and every elect person has full power to reject the conditions, so it is not true that the number of the elect can be neither increased nor diminished. Every man has gracious power to be elected according to the eternal purpose of God. All men may be saved. Every individual, by grace divine, may place himself in the number of those who are chosen from before the foundation of the world. The reprobates are those who, abusing the conferred grace of God, resisting the Holy Spirit, reject the conditions of salvation, and so fail to present the necessary tests to their election. The elect are chosen unto good works, to holy faith, to persevering love, to a full manifestation of the power of the Gospel during their probationary life, and upon their full performance of this their work and mission they attain, through grace divine, to a rich, unmerited salvation.
IMMUTABILITY OF THE LAW.
The law, as given to Adam, requiring pure and perfect holiness, has never been withdrawn from the race, and can never be changed. It is its perfectness and immutability which necessitate the atonement and the redemption. Through our whole human history, its pure ideal stands to reveal to us, by our distance beneath its level, the depth of our fall. Whether our sin be responsible or not, it is by the law that we measure its amount. By it, too, we measure the elevation through which we must pass by the redemption to our final restorement in the glorification. Yet inasmuch as we have, by our own voluntary sinfulness, ratified our original sin, and taken upon ourselves the control and the guilt of our sinful nature, so the law furnishes us the measure of our voluntary ruin. And for the finally impenitent, inasmuch as they had the means to the full restorement in the glorification, the law furnishes the just amount of their final condemnation. The law is, indeed, holy, just, and good; yet for the finally guilty, by the law is the knowledge of sin and the experience of hell. By the deeds of that law can no flesh hope to be justified. In the presence of that law can no human merit stand. Under the Christless infliction of its penalty must all flesh die. For one and for all the only hope of salvation is by the way of faith alone, in the abounding atonement of the dying son of God.
ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION, OR CHRISTIAN PERFECTION.
At our justification we are held by God as absolved from all past sin, and treated as if perfectly pure from the guilt of sin. The law, though not abolished, and though it still remains the standard of our condemnation, apart from Christ, is not the standard of our acceptance through Christ. If, then, we are accepted by the law of faith, do we also receive from Christ the power to retain that undiminished acceptance without our complete fulfillment of the pure Adamic law?
Experience shows, at any rate, that few, if any, do, from the moment of their justification, retain the fullness of that first acceptance. Though regenerate, and breathing holy aspirations after holiness empowered within them by the blessed Spirit, such is still the inexperience and ignorance of the ways of Satan, such is the natural bent of former habit, and such the unsteadiness of the will, that most, if not all, do grieve the Holy Spirit, and come under condemnation; not, indeed, the condemnation of the entire unbeliever, but the condemnation of an offending child. Such a condemnation, the result of spiritual weakness, endangers apostasy; and the warning of God then is: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die, for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” Rev. iii, 2. If, now, through the Holy Spirit granted under the atonement, the soul of the earnest Christian be so spiritually enlightened and strengthened that it may return by repentance to the gracious guiltlessness of its first justification, and be enabled to retain the fullness of the divine acceptance, his “works ” may be found “perfect before God” — perfect, not according to the Adamic Law, but perfect by the standard of his ever justifying acceptance, the law of faith. Our views may, perhaps, appear, then, in the following formula:
Through a maturity of Christian experience and the fullness of the Spirit imparted, the spiritual powers of the faithful Christian may be so strengthened that he may, and often does, maintain, through grace, for a longer or shorter period, a permanent state of the undiminished fullness of his acceptance with God, and under no more actual condemnation than at the moment of his justification.
Every thing which has attained the normal completeness of its own class or kind is rightly called perfect. Not after an ideal, but a normal standard, we speak of a perfect egg, a perfect chicken, a perfect full-grown fowl. There may be a perfect child or a perfect man. And every thing which is wanting in none of the normal complement of qualities, in normal degree, is perfect in its class. Now the Christian who has attained to the description of our formula, is at the normal standard of a perfect man in Christ. We use an abundantly scriptural term in calling this a state of Christian perfection. It is a state in which all the normal qualities of the Christian are permanently, or with more or less continuity, possessed in the proper completeness. And as this spiritual strength and power over and against sin, derived from the Holy Spirit, is sanctification, so in the completeness which we have described, it is not improperly, perhaps, by us called entire sanctification.
Of this state of sanctification, the actual divine acceptance, in its uncondemning fullness, is, according to our present statement, the actual standard. With how much short-coming from the perfect law this is in any case possible, the Spirit is itself in every case judge. It may, therefore, not be possible to answer this question by antecedent words, especially to a metaphysician, demanding absolute exactness; and in this fact, perhaps, consists the basis of the complaint often made by theologians, that they cannot understand the thing we attempt to describe.
The evangelic law requires love with all our present feeble powers to God, and to our neighbor as ourselves. As we are unable to love God with full Adamic powers, the perfect law even then condemns us. Moral weaknesses contracted by past sinful habits, moral ignorances resulting from our own past fault, prejudices of which we are more or less unconscious, nervous irritabilities and physical idiosyncrasies, may produce condemnation from censorious man, where there is still acceptance from him who “knoweth our frame.” So far as the will is concerned, Mr. Wesley excluded from the sanctified state all “voluntary transgressions;” but it is questionable whether under the term “involuntary” he did not really include countless numbers of minuter volitions, inevitably escaping from our moral weakness, in spite of our most vigorous tone of spiritual purpose and spiritual activity. With how much of all these “infirmities” the uninterrupted fullness of the divine approbation can consist, it is, as we before remarked, impossible in human words exactly to define, even if we could exactly conceive. Thus much, at any rate, is fully certain, that Leighton correctly describes it as an “imperfect perfection.” Ample work, doubtless, is found from these short-comings for a permanent exercise of the most perfect repentance, as well as the most perfect faith in the blood of Christ. Ample reasons will be found for praying, “Forgive us our trespasses.” Ample verge there is for all those texts of Scripture which affirm that there is none that “sinneth not;” that is, in the wider sense of the word “sin.” Nor is there any difficulty in understanding how the most exalted of our Christian saints, in the light of the pure and perfect law, looking at themselves with the eye of a sanctified conscience, can scarce find words sufficient to express their deep humiliation, not only for the depths of the fall of their own nature, but for their own short-comings and for their sins against infinite purity.
But the law is our school-master to drive us to Christ. And yet when in Christ it is not our duty to keep our shuddering eyes perpetually fixed upon the school-master. Greater spiritual power, as well as higher spiritual joy, can be derived from dwelling in Christ, and holding up before ourselves the measure of Christian holiness we can attain through him. A goal is thus set up for our holy ambition; a positive standard for which we may labor. Thence a more cheerful piety arises in him who contemplates what he may gain through Christ than in him who is ever trembling under the lash of the law, and who is ever exclaiming, “I am all sin, and nothing but sin.” Hence, as the doctrine of apostasy constitutes a real warning against backsliding and sin, so the doctrine of Christian perfection is a living incitement to progressive holiness.
PERPETUITY OF MAN’S FREE AGENCY.
By substance and by conformation of his spiritual nature, man is intrinsically a free agent, and such he doubtless is through all the stages of his existence. That free agency may be externally restricted by the absence of alternatives of choice, or by external circumscription from given courses, or to some one particular course. By the depravation of the fall, without changing his intrinsic nature as a free agent, the way of righteousness and the possibility of pleasing God were placed beyond his reach. Neither the motive nor the object were to him a possibility. So the sinner who, by perseverance in sin, destroys his moral sensibilities, diminishes, and ultimately destroys, the avenues to a course of righteousness. The damned, inclosed in hell are surrounded by objective, insuperable obstacles to even choosing true repentance and return to holiness. The freedom of the will is, in all these cases, objectively obstructed, not intrinsically destroyed. Nevertheless, as in these last two cases the suppression of the action of the will is self-superinduced it furnishes no excuse. The free agency still continues, and no bar to penal responsibility can arise from these self-imposed restrictions.
So, also, the holy being in heaven is still intrinsically a free agent. The radical nature of his being, in this respect, is not changed. But the conditions of the possible choice of sin are removed from around his will. His glorified body can be neither stimulant nor instrument of sin; the sphere of heaven is no possible place of sin; the holy atmosphere of heaven, the inbreathed Spirit of God, exclude all possible motive for sin. Sin is, therefore, objectively impossible. Yet, inasmuch as by achieving his probationary mission the glorified soul has, through grace, attained to glory, God does recognize in his holy service of praise all the rewardable merit of his most free performance during the period of his probation.
Upon the whole, the writer of this article has doubtless failed in his task if he has not made it conceivable to a candid examiner from the other side that our Arminianism is a well-defined, symmetrical system, which a mind possessed of the broadest logical consistency may reasonably be imagined to accept as the best approximation to a satisfactory solution of the facts of the divine government. It is an attempt to show the reconcilability of the divine sovereignty in the plenitude of its holiness with the freedom and responsibility of man, by a method securing the divine honor, and affording the most powerful motives for human piety. It may further appear, that as both systems evidently aim at these great objects, though by methods subordinately different, a respectful consideration of each other’s method may be beneficial to both sides. If this article shall exert any favorable influence toward that result, it will be greatly due, as we take pleasure here and elsewhere in recording, to the truly Christian courtesy, both in matter and manner, with which the present writer has repeatedly been editorially invited to furnish it for these pages. We are happy to acknowledge the eminent style of piety often attained under the teachings of Calvinism. We place very high in the calendar of true Christian saintship the names of a Calvin, a Baxter, an Edwards, and a Payson. Candid Calvinists will place in the same rank the names of Arminius, Henry More, Fletcher of Madeley, and Francis Asbury.