The GOSPEL TRUTH
as it is
Randolph S. Foster
Origin and Design of the Work
STAY, READER, FOR A moment. The author would speak with you. Some explanations may be of service before you commence the perusal of the following pages. They shall be brief and few.
This book is the creature of circumstance. It had never existed, but for reasons over which the author himself had no control. He wrote because it seemed necessary to write--not because he had any ambition for authorship. He made a book, not with "intention of forethought," but almost before he was aware of it and without any pretense whatever. The church of which he is a humble and obscure minister had been long and grievously assailed by one of the principal organs of a sister denomination, her doctrines and usages held up to public odium as perverted by the pen of misrepresentation, her influence for piety questioned, and whatever was peculiar to her organization ridiculed and calumniated. And this ungenerous course was commenced and pursued by an accredited champion at a time when peace and Christian union had long existed, against remonstrances on our part, and published deprecations of the consequences which were certain to ensue.
We endured for a time. But this only seemed to whet the envenomed appetite of an adversary who seemed intent to devour us. The greater our reluctance, the greater his ferocity. It now seemed that to remain longer silent would not only be a reproach to ourselves--a matter which, alone considered, gave us little concern--but must also weaken the force, if not peril the interests, of truth itself. It was under such circumstances that the substance of what is contained in this volume was given to the public through one of the journals of our church in a series of letters addressed to the reverend gentleman who seemed so anxious to discuss our respective differences. This is our apology, if any is necessary, for sending to the public a volume which, it may be, some unacquainted with the facts might conclude was uncalled for. Truth and religion required it. The time had come when the real issues needed to be stated, and truth vindicated.
The object of the author has not been to discuss fully the doctrines peculiar to Calvinism, nor to present the counter views of Armenians--nothing of the kind. It was simply to present a statement of Calvinism and objections thereto--not to examine its defense, not to build up an opposite system, not to contrast it with other schemes--simply to state it and deduce its consequences, believing that these consequences are sufficient to overthrow and destroy it. Had it been our plan to examine the arguments by which Calvinists are wont to defend themselves, we could have desired no easier a task than their refutation. But this has been so ably and so often done, that we find no occasion to repeat it. The scheme falls under the weight of its consequences--it matters not what its defense is. Its consequences prove that it is utterly false, and no argument can, therefore, prove it true.
The statement herein made of Calvinism, you will find in the progress of your examination, is in no single instance the prejudiced and ex parte statement of the author himself, but always the statement of the Confession of Faith and the renowned and distinguished advocates of the system in their own language, fully and fairly quoted. No author has been at the pains to quote so largely and variously. Having derived our statements from their own standards, we deduce the consequences. You will judge whether the consequences are legitimate or not and whether, if legitimate, they are fatal to the system. This is all you have to do. If Calvinism is what its friends here represent it to be, and its consequences what I show them to be, you must decide in your own mind upon the merits of the system.
It may be that this volume will find its way into the hands of some who have long cherished, and still do cherish, respect for the system it is intended to expose. To such may I say a word. Read this book, if you shall be induced to read it at all, candidly and without feelings of resentment or prejudice. Be assured that, however plainly the author may have spoken, toward you he entertains none but sentiments of kindliness; his object is not to wound and afflict, but purely to defend the truth. Let not the charge of misrepresentation blind you. You are men--judge for yourselves. You will find that the author has made no representations at all--that these are all and wholly taken from your own standards. He is only responsible for the construction he has given to them and the consequences he has drawn. You will judge of these. I admit that you have been taught different views, and you have heard these consequences denied; but, will this satisfy you? Do you not see that, though disclaimed and denied, they still stand against you, unanswered--unanswerable? The premises are yours--the conclusions you cannot escape. Read as a Christian only desirous for the truth, and dare nobly to follow the truth wherever she points the way.
Toward the Presbyterian Church, I have cherished sentiments of the profoundest attachment from my early boyhood. These sentiments have grown up with me to manhood--they remain to this hour. In her communion are many personal friends and relatives, and among her ministers are some dear to me as my own brothers. Despite her errors, I here record my firm persuasion that she has many surpassing excellences--many which my own church may well and wisely emulate. But her creed is essentially erroneous, and that in important points I have always believed, and now believe more firmly than ever before, having examined the subject more thoroughly. My reasons for this belief are hereafter given. Because of this attachment, and lest it might wound some friend of the Savior, I have regretted constantly the necessity of discussing the subject; but, still believing that truth is better than error--more pleasing to God and more beneficial to the world, however painful the process of quarrying it--I have spoken plainly and, I trust, in the fear of God on its behalf.
If on examination you shall find Calvinism liable to the charges herein preferred against it, and if your reason and conscience and religion and nature itself revolt at it, then it becomes you to inquire whether, through the pretense of not believing it yourself, of its not being taught by your ministers generally, of its being greatly modified--whether, because of any or all of these reasons, you can safely continue with your influence to bolster the system and propagate its existence and influence among men. May the great Head of the Church bless you with right views and feelings and bring you to a wise and judicious conclusion!
The plan of this book, it is believed, is entirely new, at least so far as the writer is informed; and so supplies a desideratum on the controverted questions introduced. The subject is brought more directly before the reader by copious quotations, and the objections presented in a more condensed and direct form than in any other of the numerous and superior works written on it. The reader is thus enabled to see what Calvinism is--without being confused and distracted by prejudiced statements--as held and taught by its own expounders, and, at the same time, what are the difficulties alleged by its opposers as sufficient to discredit it, and, whether friendly or hostile to it, will be aided to come to a candid conclusion on the merits of the question.
It will be found that the difficulties brought against the system in these pages are mainly derived from the logical consequences resulting from it, and the undoubted antagonism of such consequences to the Word of God, the nature of man, and the universal persuasion and consciousness of mankind. This course was preferred by the author because it was less trodden and, upon the whole as he believes, more convincing and conclusive. It could have been shown, as it has been triumphantly many times--confining the argument to the Scripture limits--that Calvinism is not taught therein, and that an opposite system is; but this was made incidental to our main object which was to show that consequences so revolting inevitably result from it as to prove him guilty of blasphemy who charges it upon the Word of God; or, rather, as to make it impossible for any to believe or pretend anything so dreadful. It is assumed that what is logically false cannot be scripturally true; and, therefore, that by involving Calvinism in logical dilemmas, it is overthrown and proved to be unscriptural, as the Scripture cannot teach what is logically false and contradictory. Whatever may be the seeming, the text cannot teach what is logically untrue; or teaching it, it teaches what is false and cannot be the Word of God. Whoever, therefore, derives a system from the Bible which is false and demonstrably so to human reason by the processes of conclusive logic, either derives from the Bible what it does not authorize, or he proves it false: in other words, he is mistaken, or the Bible is not true. We attempt in the following pages to show that Calvinists do this; and if our reasoning is conclusive, it will not be difficult for our readers to decide which horn of the dilemma to choose.
It may be proper to state here that, to avoid repetition, we have been compelled to leave off many strong objections bearing against each of the several points discussed; and even after much care, there may seem to be some sameness. The reason of this is manifest. I have singled out eight distinct points of the Calvinistic creed as objectionable. Now, these points are related and, to a great extent, are susceptible of the same proof and liable to the same objections. Hence, in treating of them separately, I have necessarily in some measure used the same or similar objections against each. If the same objection disproves all the points separately, it is legitimate and proper to employ it against each: the interest of truth requires that it should be repeated whenever it bears against error. We have, however, varied the argument as much as possible and have not repeated the same point except where it was absolutely necessary.
To enable you to determine the force of our argument as a whole against the system we oppose, I make this additional suggestion: if one single point of the eight specified is disproved, Calvinism is irreparably injured. If one point is removed, the system is destroyed--it is proved false, not only in that particular point, but, also, in all correlative points; its dependencies fall with it. If, then, I have shown difficulties bearing upon any one point such as to convince you that it cannot be true, the system is irretrievably involved. But, I ask you, has not, not only one, but every point named, been successfully assailed? Is it not so? Can you see an escape, not for all, but for a single one? But, again: I have introduced a score of objections, or approximately this, upon each point. Now, one objection is sufficient. If nineteen out of twenty are worthless and a single one is good, the objection stands--the system falls. A proposition cannot be true against one valid objection any more than it can against fifty. If one resists successful assault, the proposition is ruined. But, I ask you in all candor, can a single one be assailed? I have no need of many of them; but can anyone take them from my support? You will readily perceive that I have introduced a great excess of proof. But this shows you how hopeless the system against which such weight of objection bears--how much it will have to do before it is saved. It must rescue every point against every separate objection. And I assert that it cannot rescue a single point from a single objection. Let my readers, as they proceed, attempt for themselves to find an escape from the consequences urged and abide the honest result, whatever it may be. If Calvinism is true, embrace it. If not, discard it. But, be not misled by the pretense that, notwithstanding its difficulties, it is found in the Word of God. This is a subterfuge to escape the necessity of examining logical consequences---a lesson which, you will perceive in the appendix, my friend of the defense has learned. Your own judgment convinces you that if the system is logically liable, it cannot be taught in the Word of God.
The references made to authors in quotations has, in every instance with few exceptions, been taken by the writer himself directly from them; and to those who cannot examine for themselves, he insures their correctness. Those charged to Piscator and Twisse are taken from Mr. Wesley; but their correctness is not questioned. I have sought in every instance to quote enough to give the full meaning of the author and have never put a construction, knowingly, not intended by him. The consequences deduced, I admit, have been disclaimed; but my readers must judge whether this can be done or not. I give you the premises--you must decide upon the correctness of the deductions.
It is not presumed by the author either that he has succeeded in finding all or the strongest objections bearing against the system he attempts to refute. Doubtless there are many other and stronger ones which a better mind could have discovered and which, with more time and leisure, the author himself might have found; but what is given will, we think, be sufficient; and we have no fear but what the candid reader will agree with us when he shall have thoroughly perused the work. The book was prepared amid the numerous and weighty labors of a large pastoral charge, and that when ordinary duties were greatly exceeded by a season of unparalleled affliction--during the prevalence of the cholera--at a time when, from day to day and week to week, the author was ministering to many of those who were dying with that most dreaded scourge, and when his own life, as the life of all, seemed uncertain from hour to hour. This, with the fact that it never was intended for publication in volume form, will serve to palliate its defects and extenuate its faults.
The reader is now prepared to set forward with us in the discussion of the following pages. If he shall be entertained for a few brief hours and profited in any degree in his noble pursuit of truth, we shall be more than compensated for all the toil we have bestowed in the preparation. And may God, the great Father of us all, bring both writer and reader to that world of happiness and glory where truth shall be no more invested with shade, but appear in its own brightness, and all shall see eye to eye and know even as we are known!
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