The GOSPEL TRUTH
CONTRARY TO GOD'S WORD
MAN'S MORAL NATURE.
D. FISK HARRIS.
Copyrighted and Published by the Author
Electrotyped and Printed by
WOMAN'S TEMPERANCE PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION,
161 La Salle St., Chicago.
CALVINISM CONTRARY TO MAN'S MORAL NATURE.
"There are within us certain moral instincts that are as valuable as anything that the Bible can teach us; in fact, instincts of such a character that without them, no teachings of the Bible would be of any value. The Bible was made for man, not man for the Bible. These instincts are older than the Bible. These instincts are as divine as the Bible: as much God's own workmanship as the Bible, and the meaning of the Bible when there is any possible question of interpretation, is to be tested by them." ----Rev. C. H. Parkhurst D.D.
CALVINISM MAKES GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN
This is a serious charge to bring against any system of thought. But in this instance the seriousness of the indictment is greatly augmented because Calvinism claims to be the true Theology which is consistently taught in the Divine Revelation.
Throughout Part II. the reader has had ample opportunity to test this claim. he has seen that Calvinism not only denies its own assertions but also the clearly revealed and most emphatic declarations of God's Word. He has observed that even in the profound--and to many, inexplicable--subject of Divine Foreknowledge, the Calvinist has not the Scriptural verification so often and confidently claimed. In the remainder of this discussion I shall attempt to show that the Bible and man's moral nature speak the same language.
The following from Dr. Wm. Bates and quoted approvingly by Dr. Samuel Hopkins shows how God and sin are related. "Sin, in its own nature, hath no tendency to good, it is not an apt medium, hath no proper efficacy to promote the glory of God; so far is it from a direct contributing to it, that, on the contrary it is most real dishonour to him. But as a black ground in a picture, which in itself only defiles, when placed by art, sets off the brighter colors and brightens their beauty, so the evil of sin, which considered absolutely, obscures the glory of God. yet, by the overruling disposition of his providence, it serves to illustrate his name, and makes it more glorious in the esteem of creatures. Without the sin of man, there had been no place for the most perfect exercise of his goodness."
Following this Dr. Hopkins says: "There can nothing take place under the care and government of an infinitely powerful, wise and good Being that is not on the whole wisest and best; that is, for the general good; therefore. though there be things which are in themselves evil, even in their own nature and tendency, such as sin and misery; yet, considered in their connection with the whole and as they are necessary in the best system to accomplish the greatest good, the most important and best ends, they are in this view desirable good, and not evil. And in this view 'there is no absolute evil in the universe.' There are evils in themselves considered, but considered as connected with the whole, they are not evil but good."
This reminds us of Pope's couplet"All discord, harmony, not understood
All partial evil, universal good:"
and of Carlyle's famous words that we are "to look on sin and crime as not hindrances, but to honor and love them as furtherances of what is holy." Doubtless Dr. Hopkins would have indignantly denied the charge of pantheism, but beyond all controversy his thought is permeated with its spirit. As such it has its complete denial in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (v. 20).
God's the Efficient Cause of Sin.
Let us continue the testimony of Dr. Hopkins: he says, "God does superintend and direct with regard to every instance of sin. He orders how much sin there shall be, and effectually restrains and prevents all that which he would not have take place. Men are, with respect to this, absolutely under his direction and control." From this he proceeds to show that sin could not have originated in the creature, for why should the will put forth a volition contrary to the divinely constituted nature? Nor can it be in the sin itself, for upon that supposition the effect is its own cause, hence we must look to Him who is the First Cause of everything; speaking of the sinner he says, "Something must have taken place previous to his sin, and in which the sinner had no hand with which his sin was so connected as to render it certain that sin would take place just as it does;" his conclusion is, "Moral evil could not exist unless it were the will of God, and his choice that it should exist rather than not. And from this it is certain that it is wisest and best in his view that sin should exist. And in thus willing what was wisest and best, and foreordaining that it should come to pass, God exercised his wisdom and goodness; and in this view and sense is really the origin and cause of moral evil, as really as he is of the existence of anything that he wills, however inconceivable the mode and manner of the origin and existence of this event may be, and however different from that of any other."
Of Pharoah, Dr. Nathanael Emmons says God "determined, therefore, to operate on his heart itself and cause him to put forth certain evil exercises in the view of certain external motives"; again, "If saints can work out their salvation, under a positive influence of the Deity, then sinners can work out their own destruction under his positive influence." Of Adam he says, "His first sin was a free, voluntary exercise, produced by a divine operation in the view of motives."
Meeting an objection which was, and even now is popular with a certain class of Calvinists, Emmons says, "Many are disposed to make a distinction here, and to ascribe only the good actions of men to the divine agency, while they ascribe their bad ones to the divine permission. But there appears no ground for this distinction in Scripture or reason. Men are no more capable of acting independently of God in one instance than in another. If they need any kind or degree of divine agency in doing good, they need precisely the same kind and degree of divine agency in doing evil. This is the dictate of reason and the Scripture says the same."
Dr. H. B. Smith says of Emmons, "The absolute supreme, irresistible, all-embracing, all-producing, all-sustaining energy of the divine will, making every event and act march to the music of the divine glory is unquestionably the predominant idea of this most 'consistent' of Calvinists." Doubtless this is "simple" and comprehensive, yet "it is a very mechanical and arbitrary hypothesis."
Calvin says, "If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far this foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment."
In Melancthon's commentary on Romans of 1525, we are taught that "God wrought all things, evil as well as good; that he was the author of David's adultery, and the treason of Judas, as well as of Paul's conversion."
The Infra or Sublapsarians declare that the Views of the Supralapsarians legitimately make God the Author of Sin.
Noticing this charge, Dr. John Dick says, "I acknowledge that this horrible inference seems to be naturally deduced from the Supralapsarian scheme, which represents the introduction of sin as the appointed means of executing the purpose of the Almighty respecting the final doom of his creatures;" again, "There is something in this system repugnant to our ideas of the character of God, whom it represents rather as a despot than the Father of the universe."
Venema testifies as follows: "The Supralapsarian system has no foundation to rest upon ..... Their whole system is completely irreconcilable with the justice of God. Nay, it is in direct opposition to that justice which demands that when punishment is exacted, or when any one is destined to destruction, there be a reason founded in equity for adopting such a course ..... But how inconsistent is it with his justice thus arbitrarily to appoint men to such an end, and for the purpose of carrying it into effect to decree their fall."
Isaac Watts says, "The doctrine of reprobation, in the most severe and absolute sense of it, stands in a direct contradiction to all our notions of kindness and love to others, in which the blessed God is set forth as our example, that our reason can not tell how to receive it."
In previous pages the reader has been informed of Dr. Schaff's view: but for emphasis I will here reproduce a few words: he says, "Supralapsarianism....with fearful logical consistency, makes God the author of the fall of Adam, hence of sin."
Dr. Hodge opposes this scheme because "it is not consistent with the Scriptural exhibition of the character of God. He is declared to be a God of mercy and justice. But it is not compatible with these divine attributes that men should be foreordained to misery and eternal death as innocent, that is, before they had apostatized from God."
In concluding this section, the reader's serious consideration is invited to this clearly established fact, viz., that one class of Calvinists is charged by another class with holding views which legitimately make God the author of sin. As we continue our investigation, we shall be reminded of David's exclamation, "Behold. how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." Possibly we shall see that fulfillment of the Saviour's words, "Every kingdom divided against itself, is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself, shall not stand" (Matt. xii. 25).
How Some Calvinists Show that God is not the Author of Sin.
Dr. Griffin is more cautious than Emmons and Hopkins; while he earnestly advocates the doctrine of Divine Efficiency, he is quite guarded in his expressions concerning God's relation to sin. He thinks the Deity "has the absolute control of mind in all its common operations," but does not inform us of the method. "Whether he does this by the mere force of motives adapted to the existing temper, or sometimes by a lower sort of efficiency, not however productive of sin, I will not determine." So far Dr. Griffin can not be said to teach, directly or indirectly, that God is the author of sin. But in my opinion such is not the case when he is explaining how sinless creatures are induced to do wrong. This is worthy of careful attention. "If sinless creatures are not dependent on God for holiness, how will you account for the fall of any?" After quoting from Whitby to the effect that the greatest good proposed, or the greatest evil threatened, when equally believed and reflected on, will always move the will to accept or refuse, he says, "Thus while the heart is right and the mind free, proper motives, set clearly before the understanding, will certainly awaken right affections. And temptations to sin while the heart is right, will instantly be rejected ..... How then can a holy being apostatize? Not until the heart ceases to be inclined to fall in with the motive which moved it before. That cessation can not be produced by good motives, and before it takes place bad motives can not operate. It can not, therefore, be the effect of motives. It must result from some influence, or some withdrawment of influence, behind the scene. If it results from a positive influence, God must be the efficient cause of sin; if it results from the withdrawment of an influence, the influence withdrawn was that which before inclined the heart to holy action; and that is the very efficiency for which we plead. Without resorting to efficiency and its withdrawment, how can we account for the fall of holy beings?"
Here is undersigned testimony as to the legitimate tendency of Emmons' theology. Dr. Griffin concedes that God must be the efficient cause of sin if he exerts a positive influence. His own view is but a step removed from that of Emmons, for he maintains that the creature could not possibly sin were it not for the divine withdrawment.
This is a bold position. Dr. Griffin does not even pretend that this withdrawment is because of anything evil in the creature. Nay, he most emphatically declares that without this withdrawment the creature can not possibly sin. Why then, should God withdraw his influence? Clearly for no other reason than that he desires sin. This, it must be confessed, solves the mysterious problem of the existence of sin. But what a solution! God could have prevented every creature from sinning. Nay, there was not the least danger that any soul would have sinned had this divine influence been continued. Hence, that sin may come, that this earth may be made as much the home of Satan as is possible, this eminent theologian conceives God as withdrawing the plank on which his child is standing, so that he may fall into the clutches of the arch enemy. Why is this not blasphemy? Why does it not make God the author of sin? Because it is theology. Because the Calvinist claims--as I shall show in due time that God can do anything, and no man dare say, This is wrong. In the same circumstances a man would be arrested and tried for murder.
Let us now see how Toplady avoids the difficulty.
"It is a known and very just maxim of the schools, effectus sequitur causam proximam. 'An effect follows from and is to be ascribed to the last immediate cause that produced it.' Thus, for instance, if I hold a book, or a stone in my hand, my holding it is the immediate cause of its not failing; but if I let go, my letting go is not the immediate cause of its falling; it is carried downward by its own gravity, which is, therefore, the causa proxima effectus, the proper and immediate cause of its descent. It is true, if I had kept my hold of it, it would not have fallen; yet, still the immediate, direct cause of its fall is its own weight, not my quitting my hold. The application of this to the providence of God as concerned in sinful events is easy. Without God there could have been no creation; without creation, no creatures; without creatures, no sin. Yet is not sin chargeable on God, for effectus sequitur causam proximam."
A man enters your room at midnight: stealthily approaching your bedside he holds a keen blade directly over your heart. Carefully measuring the distance, calmly calculating on the law of gravity, without giving the knife the least momentum, he finally yields his grasp, and his purpose is accomplished. As he walks away in the darkness, a feeling of awe comes over him: his conscience is at work: it is saying, You are a murderer, you are a murderer. Startled by this bold accusation, he cries out, Who says that? It is a lie. I did not kill him; for effectus sequitur proximam." With this eminently truthful and consistent remark he retires to his virtuous couch, and is soon lost in the sleep of innocence.
Moreover, I fail to see the logical force of Toplady's assertion, "Without creation no creature, without creature no sin." It is true, Calvinists are very zealous for the Divine glory, and consequently have always maintained that sin enhances God's honor. Surely, he could have had creatures without sin, for according to this orthodox theology, God can do all things. Hence Toplady must mean that God, desiring to increase his glory through sin, made the creature the legitimate vehicle for its introduction.
Dr. Dick is disposed to be fair with his opponents: of this subject he says, "Here we come to a question which has engaged the attention, and exercised the ingenuity, and perplexed the wits of men in every age. If God has foreordained whatever comes to pass, the whole series of events is necessary and human liberty is taken away. Men are passive instruments in the hands of their Maker; they can do nothing but what they are secretly and irresistibly impelled to do; they are not, therefore, responsible for their actions; and God is the author of sin."
This is the Arminian objection, and our thanks are due to Dr. Dick for its admirable arrangement. How does he meet it? He notices several methods, but does not deem them very satisfactory: his solution is this. "It is a more intelligible method to explain the subject by the doctrine which makes liberty consist in the power of acting according to the prevailing inclination, or the motive which appears strongest to the mind. Those actions are free which are the effects of volition. In whatever manner the state of mind which gave rise to volition has been produced, the liberty of the agent is neither greater nor less. It is his will alone which is to be considered, and not the means by which it has been determined.
If God foreordained certain actions, and placed men in such circumstances that the actions would certainly take place agreeably to the laws of the mind, men are, nevertheless moral agents, because they act voluntarily and are responsible for the actions which consent has made their own. Liberty does not consist in the power of acting or not acting, but in acting from choice. The choice is determined by something in the mind itself, or by something external influencing the mind; but whatever is the cause, the choice makes the action free, and the agent accountable. If this definition of liberty be admitted, you will perceive that it is possible to reconcile the freedom of the will with absolute decrees."
A brief consideration will disclose the sophism of this argument: (1) Admitting that his definition of liberty be correct the solution does not solve the problem, our author being the criterion: after the above quotation he says, "But we have not got rid of every difficulty: by this theory human actions appear to be as necessary as the motions of matter according to the laws of gravitation and attraction; and man seems to be a machine, conscious of his movements, and consenting to them, but impelled by something different from himself."
Surely this is a frank confession and I see no reason why it should not be accepted and the so-called solution rejected. (2) I by no means accept Dr. Dick's definition of liberty: if liberty does not consist in the power to choose, or to refrain from choosing at any given time, then man is not free: then not only does he seem to be, but in fact he is "a machine, conscious of his movements, and consenting to them, but impelled by something different from himself." The doctrine of the self-determining power of the will, or the power of contrary choice, is no longer a mere Arminian postulate. It is now quite universally conceded, not only by independent thinkers, but also by eminent Calvinists. Cousin says, "I am conscious of this sovereign power of the will. I feel in myself, before its determination, the force that can determine itself in such a manner, or in such another. At the same time I will this or that. I am equally conscious of the power to will the opposite: I am conscious of being master of my resolution, of the ability to arrest it, continue it, repress it."
"By the liberty of a Moral agent," says Reid, "I understand a power over the determinations of his own will. If in any action he had power to will what he did, or not to will it, in that action he is free. But if, in every voluntary action, the determination of his will be the necessary consequence of something involuntary in the state of his mind, or of something in his external circumstance he is not free; he has not what I call the Liberty of a Moral agent, but is subject to necessity."
Although Dr. McCosh holds to a certain kind of mental causation, his testimony on this point is emphatic. "When it is said that the will is free, there is more declared than simply that we can do what we please. It is implied, farther, that the choice lies within, the voluntary power of the mind, and that we could have willed otherwise if we had pleased. The mind has not only the power of action, but the anterior, and far more important power of choice. The freedom of the mind does not consist in the effect following the volition, as for instance, in the movement of the arm following the will to move it, but the power of the mind to form the volition in the exercise of its voluntary functions ..... In making this choice we are no doubt swayed by considerations, these have their force given them by the will itself, which may set a high value upon them, but which may also, if it please, set them at defiance."
Dr. Dick's definition of liberty is decidedly fallacious, as also are his conclusions, for (3) even granting the correctness of his definition, the solution does not touch the real point at issue. For the sake of the argument let me grant that upon his supposition man is responsible for his volitions. Suppose I concede that so far as man is concerned, no temptation whatsoever, no matter how, or by whom presented, can in the least palliate the sin of yielding. What then? Why, clearly, this pertains to the individual's guilt, and to him alone. But the real question is this: What is God's relation to the tempted? Granting that the creature is guilty, does Dr. Dick's supposition free God from a foul imputation? I claim it does not, for it is reasonably and Scripturally true that he who tempts--in the sense now under consideration--to sin, he who induces a sinful volition is a party to the transaction, and hence, is so far criminally guilty. He who tempts to evil has previously determined to seek the harm of the tempted, and consequently must bear his share of the blame. Balaam seduced the Israelites into sin: they were guilty for yielding to his solicitations and were punished. Was the prophet innocent? The Scriptures convey the opposite opinion; his doctrine is condemned in Rev. ii. 14; he is said to have loved the wages of unrighteousness (II. Pet. ii. 15); was slain as an enemy of the people of God (Num. xxxi. 8).
All human volitions are to be referred to some source as their legitimate cause. So far forth as this source is predicated of God, to that extent does this affirmation make him the author of sin.
The following testimony given by the Princeton Essayists is an admirable rejoinder to the argument of Dr. Dick. "It is, moreover, alleged, that we are so constituted, that we judge of the morality of actions without any reference to their cause ..... This theory has many advocates in our country and is considered an improvement of the old Calvinistic theory. But it is repugnant to common sense, and the arguments employed in its defense are sophistical. Sin is Sin, by whomsoever produced."
Let us now examine the views of President Edwards. "If by the author of sin is meant the permitter, or a not-hinderer of sin, and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is meant, by being the author of sin, I do not deny that God is the author of sin--though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense." Again, "If God disposes all events, so that the infallible existence is decided by his Providence, then he, doubtless, thus orders and decides things knowingly and on design. God does not do what he does, nor order what he orders, accidentally or unawares: either without or beside his intention."["Works,," Ed. 1856, Vol II. pp. 157, 179.]" Here are four affirmations; viz., (1) God has wise, holy and most excellent ends to be secured by means of sin. (2) He orders or disposes events in such a way that sin will infallibly occur. (3) He does this designedly: and (4) He is not the author of sin.
[It is not necessary that the reader be detained by a consideration of the views of Edwards concerning liberty, and the will as swayed by the strongest motive, or the greatest apparent good, because (1) Dick's doctrine is identical with that of Edwards', from whom, it is more than probable, he obtained it. (2) The acceptance of the doctrine that the will is self-determining, has the power of contrary choice, necessarily overthrows the Edwardean theory. (3) It is now generally conceded that the celebrated dictum of Edwards, has not been, and is not capable of being, demonstrated. McCosh says, "In asserting that the will is swayed by motives as thus defined, we are affirming nothing to the point ..... We are making no progress: we are swinging upon a hinge in advancing and readvancing such maxims." "Divine Government," p 273, note. See also Article "The Problem of the Human Will," by Dr. Henry Calderwood, "Princeton Review," September, 1879, p. 343. Hodge's" Theology," Vol. II., p. 289.]
Now, in all seriousness and fairness, I ask the reader, Is this, can this be true? Your child is well, and free from all danger of sickness. Scarlet fever is in the neighborhood: you do not warn the child of the danger, nor do you exercise any power to keep him away from the contagious disease. Nay, you are using your knowledge so as to have that child led--freely to be sure--into the danger in order that he may imbibe the poison and die. You are successful, and are complacently enjoying your enhanced glory, when you are arrested by an indignant community on the charge of deliberate murder. This, however, you deny. You admit that he died under your government; that you purposely led him into danger; that you designed his death. But you are no murderer because having certain good and wise ends to secure by his death, your deed was right.
I think the examination would stop. Such a justification would outrage the sense of justice in the breast of a heathen. Public opinion would inexorably demand your speedy execution. Yet such is the pitiable excuse for the Divine procedure offered by this most celebrated American theologian. Listen: "I answer, that for God to dispose and permit evil in the manner that has been spoken of, is not to do evil that good may come; for it is not to do evil at all. In order to a thing's being morally evil, there must be one of these things belonging to it; either it must be a thing unfit and unsuitable in its own nature; or it must have a bad tendency; or it must proceed from an evil disposition and be done for an evil end. But neither of these things can be attributed to God's ordering and permitting such events as the immoral acts of creatures, for good ends."
I do not wonder that, as Chalmers has said, "Conspicuous infidels and semi-infidels .... have triumphed in the book of Edwards as that which set a conclusive seal on their principles," for if much of his writing is not logically blasphemous, I am ignorant of the meaning of the term. He justifies his position by three arguments or affirmations, viz., (1) That it is eminently fit and proper that God should order and permit the sinful acts of his creatures. (2) To do this is not of a bad, but rather of a most glorious tendency. (3) The motive is good and the actual result is good. Here are as many fallacies as points. Let us candidly consider them. He first maintains it is fit for God to order and permit sin because he is "the Being who has infinite wisdom and is the Maker, Owner and Supreme Governor of the world." This is based on the assumption that because God is infinitely wise and because he is the Governor of the world he may do that which in other circumstances would be wrong. This he substantially acknowledges when he says, "It may be unfit, and so immoral, for any other beings to go about to order this affair." Why? "Because they are not possessed of a wisdom that in any manner fits them for it; and, in other respects they are not fit to be trusted with this affair; nor does it belong to them, they not being the owners and lords of the universe."
Beyond all controversy this part of the argument assumes that infinite wisdom and power make right. This was doubtless considered a sound principle in the time of Edwards, but as we shall presently see, it has long since been rejected as philosophically and theologically pernicious. His second argument contradicts the first. If, as he here affirms, it is best that sin "should come to pass" then why should it be immoral for any other being "to go about to order this affair"? To be sure, such a person might be kindly reproved for meddling with matters outside his sphere, but if it be best that moral evil should come, certainly it is too strong language to call him immoral. Nay, according to Edwards himself, this intermeddler can not be immoral, for "what is aimed at is good, and good is the actual issue, in the final result of things." True, this last remark is applied to God by this great metaphysician, but I affirm if a thing is good because the aim is good and the issue good, the principle is valid for man as well as for God. Moreover one can not see why God should hate moral evil when it is working out such glorious results. Says Edwards, "There is no inconsistence in supposing that God may hate a thing as it is in itself and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his will it should come to pass considering all consequences." If this be true, God "designedly" wills the permission of that which he eternally hates, and, therefore, forbids. The reader has noticed this absurdity in the discussion of the Atonement. It is one of the fatal positions of Calvinism. It is an essential part of the system. All attempts to evade it have resulted in unequivocal contradictions or in arguments which can not endure the test of sober thought. To say God does not will sin as sin, is of no avail. To hate that which is willed, to forbid that which is designed, and which terminates in the most glorious results, confound all intellectual and moral distinctions. Sooner or later, the heart and conscience of the race will repudiate the theology which indorses such methods. His third position is identical with the maxims of the Jesuits. There is nothing but a verbal difference between them. Sin is made the means of good according to Edwards as deception is the means of accomplishing the holy (?) purposes of the Jesuits. Have they not said, We do not will, nor select evil things because they are evil, or even as evil, but we use them as the occasion or means of obtaining that which is for the best results, and which we could not otherwise obtain? Lastly. what a confession for a Calvinist to make! That the Infinite God, whose power is absolute, whose wisdom is past finding out, should be so weak and inefficient as to be obliged to resort to the aid of moral evil. Where is the much boasted divine attribute of Omnipotence?
God's Will Not the Criterion of Right.
The previous section involved the questions, Is a thing necessarily right because God does it? What is the ultimate standard of right? In the previous pages I tried to show that the arguments of the Calvinist by which he sought the Divine vindication were illegitimate because if the same things which are predicated of God were done by man he would be universally condemned by the instinctive sense of justice. Doubtless the Arminian agrees with the Calvinist in asserting that God's will is always right. I do not believe that God will ever do wrong. This, however, is one thing, and an entirely different remark which is often affirmed by the Calvinist, viz., that God does as is predicated and therefore we must not reply against God. This I emphatically deny. But how shall the question be settled? Clearly by no other way than that here proposed.
First find what is the ultimate criterion of right, and then discover, if possible, what are the spontaneous affirmations of man's moral nature. If they sustain the arguments of the Calvinist, then I must and do acknowledge my error. On the contrary, if they do not thus uphold him, he must be fundamentally wrong. Let us notice:
I. What is the question? It is not that God can not do things which would be wrong for man to do. No sane person will undertake to defend this position. Beyond all controversy it is right for God to do many things which would be very wrong for man to do. As Creator, Preserver and Judge of the universe, God has certain powers which necessarily can not be assumed by any creature. It is not necessary to enumerate these things. The mind instantly perceives the truth of the proposition. The real question is this: Has man any rights which his Maker is in duty bound to regard? If God says one thing and does the opposite, if he brings his children into sin while they are innocent, and then punishes them for that which he was the direct or indirect cause of their doing, and which he desired them to do, are the moral sentiments to be choked and condemned because they spontaneously array themselves against such proceedings?
II. What are some of the consequences deducible from the proposition, God's will is the criterion of right? (1) It robs the Deity of moral character. If his will makes right, then anything which he might choose would become morally obligatory. Instead of being guided by moral considerations his will would make those considerations, and hence he could not be said to be holy. For holiness is the result of a holy choice, which necessarily presupposes something holy to be chosen. (2) If God's will makes right, then we have only to suppose a change in that will, and our moral distinctions would instantly vanish. Or, God might will differently in different parts of the universe, and then would follow as a consequence the remark of John Stuart Mill that somewhere in the universe two and two might make five. True, there is no probability of the Divine Will thus changing, but philosophy and theology demand a broader and more secure foundation than such a supposition. (3) Again, if God's will makes right, we have only to imagine that he had refrained from willing, and as a consequence all actions would have been the same. Theft, impurity, murder, the same as honesty, chastity and love.
III. Rejecting as we must, this first supposition, that the divine will makes right, where shall we place the ultimate standard? In the nature of things, or the nature of God? In favor of the former there are many eminent metaphysicians and theologians. Such names as Cudworth, Price, Clark, Butler, Reid, Stewart, Wardlaw and Mackintosh are certainly not to be despised nor treated with little respect. With these philosophers agree many celebrated Calvinists. Emmons in a sermon on "The Essential and immutable Distinction Between Right and Wrong" says, "As virtue and vice, therefore, take their origin from the nature of things, so the difference between moral good and moral evil is as immutable as the nature of things, from which it results. The difference between virtue and vice does not depend upon the will of God, because his will can not make nor destroy this immutable difference. And it is no more to the dishonor of God to suppose that he can not, than that he can perform impossibilities."
Dr. Robt. J. Breckenridge says, "To us no doubt all that God wills is right; but in God himself there is a very wide difference between saying, he wills anything because it is right--that is, because it accords with all his Perfections--and saying anything is right, that is, accords with his Perfections, merely because he wills it. A distinction which draws after its remote and subtle as it may be supposed to be the whole nature of moral good and evil, and the whole economy of salvation. For the necessary and immutable distinction between good and evil; and the foundation of all religion both in God and human nature; and the rule of God's infinite justice; and the need of a Saviour; are all subverted and every logical foundation taken away from them as soon as the mere will of God is substituted for the perfection of all his attributes, and the Holiness of his adorable nature, as the ultimate ground of moral distinctions, and the fundamental basis of right actions. Good and evil depend on law, not on nature, was an apothegm of the ancient atheists--who only substituted nature for God in the proposition. The number is not small amongst Christian teachers, who, under the guise of evangelical contempt for human reason and extraordinary devotion to the honor of God's revealed will, still retain in a somewhat different logical form, and perhaps, in a somewhat mitigated degree, the essential poison of this detestable paradox."
Chalmers thus puts the question: "Wherein is it that the rightness of morality lies? or whence is it that this rightness is derived? Whether, more particularly it have an independent rightness of its own, or it be right only because God wills it? It might be proper to state that between the two terms of the alternative as last put, our clear preference--or rather, our absolute and entire conviction--is on the side of the former. We hold that morality has a stable, inherent, and essential rightness in itself, and that anterior to or apart from, whether the tacit or expressed will of any being in the universe--that it had a subsistence and a character before that any creatures were made who could be the subjects of a will or a government at all, and when no other existed besides God himself to exemplify its virtues and its graces." Again he says, "Now it is here that we join issue with our antagonists, and affirm that God is no more the Creator of virtue than he is of truth--that justice and benevolence were virtues previous to any forthputting of will or jurisprudence on his part, and that he no more ordained them to be virtues than he ordained that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two right angles."
To the same effect speaks Dr. McCosh, who says, "Divines often put it in the wrong place psychologically and logically; and represent the Divine Will and the Divine Command as the ground of virtue. Doubtless, they intend thereby to benefit the cause of religion, but they are in reality doing it serious injury. The proper statement is that a deed is good, not because God wills it, but that he wills it because it is good. To reverse this order, is to unsettle, as it appears to us, the foundations of morality." Substantially, the same view was held by Charnock, Edwards, Bellamy, Dwight, and Robert Hall.
It is, however, regarded by some eminent scholars as liable to one serious objection; namely, it makes the right or the good outside, and therefore independent of God. Hence, they conceive the ultimate standard of ethics to be in the Nature of God, which they think escapes the difficulty just now named, and also the dangerous position of making the Divine Will the criterion of morality. Such was the real view of Chalmers and, if I mistake not, is taught in the works of Dr. Mark Hopkins--with one modification--the substituting of "character" for "nature" of Deity. On this supposition the will of God would choose in accordance with his nature, thus making his will ethically right. If God's will does not make right, but if on the contrary it is guided by the law of right, it is fair to suppose the free creatures of God are similarly constituted. Such is the fact as demonstrated by experience. The moral nature of man is the basis of all communication between heaven and earth: A fallen race demands divine interposition. The written revelation supplements, but does not contradict that which is declared in the very constitution of man. Should it do this, that would at once suffice to show its spuriousness. Hence, as a fact the Bible always assumes that man has some knowledge of right and wrong. It appeals to this instinctive sense of right. It urges the claims of God because they are inherently right. It represents God as being not merely willing, but anxious to meet his wayward children, and by calm reason convince them of their need and of his love.
[Dorner holds "that God is a moral being first, by necessity of nature; secondly, by his own free act, and thirdly, that on the ground of both together, he is eternally self-conscious, free and holy love." Martensen's position is quite singular. God "wills the good, because it is good in itself; not, however, as something extant outside of him, but because the good is in his own eternal essence."
While it is not denied that the Scriptures--and especially the Holy Spirit quicken, enlighten and guide the moral judgments, it is emphatically true that in their fundamental utterances, they are as independent of the written revelation as God's nature is independent of his will. Consequently, it is not irreverent for man to expect that God will always do right. It is not blasphemous to subject the arguments of those who seek his vindication to a rigid test, and to examine them in the light of the spontaneous affirmations of the moral faculty.
The principle for which I am here contending is clearly seen and forcibly expressed by Edwards; who says," We never could have any notion what understanding or volition, love or hatred are, either in created spirits or in God, if we had never experienced what understanding and volition, love and hatred are in our own minds. Knowing what they are by consciousness, we can add degrees, and deny limits, and remove changeableness and other imperfections, and ascribe them to God, which is the only way we come to be capable of conceiving of anything in the Deity."
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God" ( I. John iii. I9-21).
If my reasoning be correct we have now reached the position where we can fairly decide to what extent the Calvinistic arguments vindicate the Divine Government. In the previous section the reader had the opportunity of examining the views of Griffin, Toplady, Dick and Edwards. The first of this celebrated company maintains that God withdrew his influence from Adam in order that sin might occur. Mark, not for sin, because on his theory sin was impossible prior to that withdrawment. The second adopts the scholastic maxim that "an effect follows from, and is to be ascribed to, the last immediate cause that produced it." If God had kept hold of the soul there would have been no fall, and if no fall, no sin; "Yet is not sin chargeable on God: for effectus sequitur causam proximam."
The third view not only adopts a fallacious definition of liberty, but claims that a tempter to a sinful act is not to be held as a particeps criminis to the transaction: while Edwards maintains that God can designedly order sin without being in the least contaminated thereby; although the very same thing in man would "be unfit and so immoral."
Now I claim that these positions do not vindicate the character of God, as predicated by the Calvinists. I claim that they are everlastingly at war with man's moral convictions: that in the same circumstances the spontaneous affirmations of human justice would unqualifiedly condemn any man guilty of such acts: that God is not, can not be such a Father, of whom it is said, "He can not be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
The Infralapsarian Scheme. Does it Solve the Problem?
Dr. Robert Aikman has said that all Presbyterians are "either Supralapsarians or Sublapsarians--or, as Dr. Hodge prefers to say of the latter, Infralapsarians." These terms refer to the supposed order of the decrees. The Supralapsarians maintain that "God in order to manifest his grace and justice selected from creatable men (i.e., from men to be created) a certain number to be vessels of wrath. In the order of thought, election and reprobation precede the purpose to create and to permit the fall. God creates some to be saved, and others to be lost. This scheme is called supralapsarian because it supposes that men as unfallen, or before the fall, are the objects of election to eternal life, and foreordination to eternal death. According to the infralapsarian doctrine, God, with the design to reveal his own glory, that is, the perfections of his own nature, determined to create the world; secondly, to permit the fall of man; thirdly, to elect from the mass of fallen men a multitude whom no man could number as 'vessels of mercy'; fourthly, to send his Son for their redemption: and fifthly, to leave the residue of mankind, as he left the fallen angels, to suffer the just punishment of their sins."
According to Hagenbach," . . . . the name Supralapsarians, . . . . does not occur prior to the Synod of Dort." This must be understood as referring to the same per se, for from its first introduction the doctrine has had many advocates. It was certainly taught by Calvin and Beza. The remark of Dr. Charles Hodge that in the works of Calvin there are passages favoring both sides of the question, aptly illustrates that which is true of nearly all Calvinists."
Of the intimate friend of Calvin Professor S. M. Hopkins says, "Supralapsarian Calvinism, and an elaborate argument to prove that the civil magistrate is bound to punish heresy with death were the gift Beza presented to the churches of the Netherlands."
The generic distinction between the supralapsarian and infralapsarian doctrine is, that the former asserts and the latter denies that the decree of reprobation is irrespective of man's condition. It is upon this supposed "order of the decrees" that the entire discussion turns. I now propose to show that one of two things must inevitably follow; namely (1) The infralapsarian scheme is really no solution, and is only a metaphysical subterfuge to escape the "horrible" conclusion of supralapsarianism; or (2) If it is accepted, it logically necessitates the fundamental position of Arminianism. The following points should be care fully considered. (a.) The extreme modesty of the infralapsarians. They tell us of the exact order of the divine decrees. They even number them as "first," "second," and "third." Job's question, "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" is no longer unanswerable. All honor to the infralapsarians who remind us of the poet's words,"Herein I recognize the high-learned man.
What you have never handled--no man can."
But pause, I am mistaken. I do them great injustice: for (b.) There is no order of the decrees. To be sure, Dr. Hodge thinks it is convenient, very convenient to talk as though the divine purposes were successively formed, but he has the frankness to say that such is not the fact. It is simply a human, in fact, an infralapsarian way of speaking without any divine reality; he says, "The decrees of God, therefore, are not many, but one purpose;" again, the decrees are eternal, for this "necessarily follows from the perfection of the divine Being. He can not be supposed to have at one time plans or purposes which he had not at another." If this be true, what is the use of talking of the order of the decrees? None whatever, except to hide the defects of the system. (c) Is it true that God barely permits the fall of man? Well, let us see what Dr. Hodge will answer. In treating of this subject, our author is in the company of Calvin; that is, his writings contain passages favoring both sides. On one page he will talk as though he held the doctrine of bare permission, while on another page much stronger language will be used: thus he says,
"Some things he purposes to do, others he decrees to permit to be done." "It may be, and doubtless is, infinitely wise and just in God to permit the occurrence of sin, and to adopt a plan of which sin is a certain consequence or element." Vol. I., pp. 54-7. "The Scriptures teach that sinful acts, as well as such as are holy, are foreordained." "As the Scriptures teach that the providential control of God extends to all events, even the most minute, they do thereby teach that his decrees are equally comprehensive." Vol. I., p. 543.
But, granting that Dr. Hodge is to be interpreted according to the term "permit," what is the result? If the fall of man was permitted, yet it took place according to his will: if it occurred according to his will, he certainly designed it: if he designed it, he certainly decreed it. This is substantially confessed by Dr. Hodge. "Whatever he does, he certainly purposed to do. Whatever he permits to occur, he certainly purposed to permit." Now what is the difference between the supralapsarian and the infralapsarian? Simply this: one is fearless enough to state his doctrine just as it is; the other hides behind a sophism. Does the reader imagine that my reasoning on this point is fallacious? Take the other horn of the dilemma. Maintain, for one moment that there is an essential difference between the effecting and permitting decrees, and you have denied their unity; hence Calvinism is in ruins. The decrees are but one purpose; whatever is affirmed of one, must be true of all, and consequently the infralapsarian terminology is a distinction without a difference.
That the Arminian doctrine of foreknowledge is logically necessitated by the position of the infralapsarians is easily demonstrated. If God decreed to permit sin, he certainly foreknew it; otherwise there is no permission: sin occurred without his knowledge. Hence, so far forth, the decrees are subsequent to, and conditioned on foreknowledge, but if one or more decrees are conditional, others may be so, nay, must be so, for are not the decrees one? Thus we reach the ground of the Arminian, who is doubtless thankful to the infralapsarians for their undesigned endorsement.
My Position Confirmed by Eminent Calvinists.
In a previous section the reader has seen the testimony of the infralapsarians concerning the legitimate conclusion of supralapsarianism. He will now have an opportunity to hear the other side, and thus he able to judge for himself as to the merits of both schemes. Before doing so, however, it may be interesting to notice the testimony of some Calvinists who are not pronounced Supralapsarians. We have already heard the testimony of Dr. Dabney. With his permission we will recall him: he thinks "both parties are wrong in their method, and the issue is one which should never have been raised." There is "neither supra nor infralapsarian, and no room for their debate."
Dr. Dick is so candid and withal so consistent that the reader will greatly appreciate the following. He is considering the charge of God being the author of sin:
"I acknowledge that this horrible inference seems to be naturally deduced from the supralapsarian scheme." "There is something in this system repugnant to our ideas of the character of God, whom it represents rather as a despot than the Father of the universe." pp. 373, 369. " But it does not follow from our scheme which supposes sin as the groundwork of predestination." "The term predestination includes the decrees of election and reprobation. Some indeed, confine it to election: but there seems to be no sufficient reason for not extending it to the one as well as the other; as in both, the final condition of man is pre-appointed, or predestinated. . . The sublapsarian scheme removes no difficulty, but merely speaks in terms less offensive. It is virtually the same thing to say that God decreed that Adam should fall, and then decreed to save some of his posterity and leave others to perish; as to say that God first decreed to save some and condemn others and then in order to accomplish this design decreed the fall of Adam and the whole human race in him." pp. 373, 360, 361.
Here we have not only diamond cutting diamond, but self arrayed against self. One is led to inquire if Dr. Dick is not attempting a third solution, which shall keep clear of both schemes; the one which represents God "as a despot," and that which "removes no difficulty but merely speaks in terms less offensive." But no, it can not be. It is logically impossible. All Calvinists are supra or infralapsarians, says Dr. Aikman. Moreover, Dr. Dick uses the infralapsarian, or sublapsarian language, which makes sin the groundwork of the reprobating decree. After such a convincing argument I am prepared for anything, and hence the following confession from our eminently consistent author is in order. "I confess that the statement may be objected to as not complete: that there are still difficulties which press upon us: that perplexing questions may be proposed, and that the answers which have been returned to them by great divines are not so satisfactory in every instance as those imagine who do not think for themselves, and take too much upon trust."
Calvin says, "Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge, admit the doctrine of election but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election, without its opposite reprobation." Waxing warmer and warmer, the great Reformer says of those who are infralapsarians, "Here they recur to the distinction between will and permission, the object being to prove that the wicked perish only by the permission, but not by the will of God. But why do we say that he permits, but just because he wills? Nor, indeed, is there any probability in the thing itself, viz., that man brought death upon himself, merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God! As if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the chief of his creatures to be." Of the doctrine that says God merely permitted Pharaoh to be hardened, he calls it a "silly cavil" and maintains, "If to harden means only bare permission, the contumacy will not properly belong to Pharoah. Now, could anything be more feeble and insipid than to interpret as if Pharaoh had only allowed himself to be hardened?"
The following from Dr. S. S. Smith is quite important as coming from an honorable president of the College of New Jersey. Of moral evils, he says, "To say that they have been merely permitted, without any interference, or concern of Almighty God in the actions of men, is only attempting, by the illusion of a word, to throw the difficulty out of sight, not to solve it ..... The greater part of those writers who are friendly to the system of divine decrees, afraid, at the same time, of seeming to detract from the holiness of God, have, in order to avoid this impious consequence, thought it useful to conceive of the Divine purposes in a certain order, which has, therefore, been styled the order of the decrees. Every scheme, however, for arranging them, labors under the same essential defect; that of seeming to represent a succession in the Divine Mind similar to what must necessarily take place in the designs and plans of men. In the purposes of God there can be no succession;" of the sublapsarians he says, "The cautious timidity with which these writers approach this subject betrays their secret apprehension that the decrees of God, to which, on other occasions, they freely appeal, have, in the production of sin, some sinister influence on the moral liberty of man. If these apprehensions are well founded, they ought to abandon their system altogether."
According to Hopkins modern Calvinists are less consistent than Arminians, and should give up their position. "It has been observed that Calvin and the assembly of divines at Westminster assert that the divine decree and agency respecting the existence of sin imply more than a bare permission, viz., something positive and efficacious. They, therefore, who hold to only a bare permission, do depart from those who have been properly called Calvinists, and do not agree with the Confession of Faith composed by said assembly of divines, or with those numerous churches and divines who do assent or have assented, to that Confession of Faith, in England, Scotland and America."
Rev. Daniel T. Fiske says, "The decrees of God are not merely his purposes to permit events to take place as they do. Some hold that, with regard to the existence of sin, we can only affirm that the divine decrees extend to it in the sense that God determines to permit it, that is, not to prevent it. But this language does not seem to express the whole truth. God might, indeed, be said to decree the existence of whatever he could have prevented, but determined not to prevent. But the decrees of God are not mere negatives. They are purposes to do something and to do that which renders certain the existence of all events, sin included."
Bishop Burnett has so admirably stated the question that I am sure the reader will be pleased at its presentation: he is speaking of the supralapsarians. "Nor can they think with the sublapsarians, that reprobation is only God's passing by those whom he does not elect. This is an act unworthy of God, as if he forgot them, which does clearly imply imperfection. And as for that which is said concerning their being fallen in Adam, they argue, that either Adam's sin and the connection of all mankind to him as their head and representative, was absolutely decreed, or it was not; if it was then all is absolute. Adam's sin and the fall of mankind were decreed, and by consequence, all from the beginning to the end are under a continued chain of absolute decrees: and then the supralapsarian and the sublapsarian hypothesis will be one and the same, only variously expressed.
"But if Adam's sin was only foreseen and permitted, then a conditionate decree founded upon prescience, is once admitted, so that all that follows turns upon it: and then all the arguments either against the perfection of such acts, or the certainty of such prescience, turns against this; for if they are admitted in any one instance, then these may be admitted in others as well as in that." The following is the Bishop's personal opinion: "The sublapsarians do always avoid to answer this; and it seems that they do rather incline to think that Adam was under an absolute decree; and if so, then, though their doctrine may seem to those who do not examine things nicely, to look more plausible; yet really it amounts to the same thing with the other."
This is the legitimate conclusion. Beyond all question, the whole discussion is mere logomachy, is a distinction without any essential difference: or if the difference is radical, Arminianism is the inevitable conclusion. It is similar to the language employed to mystify the mind on the Atonement. When the advocates of a limited Atonement were hard pressed by reason and Bible, they invented the subterfuge "Christ died sufficiently or meritoriously for all, but efficaciously only for the elect." So when the doctrine of Reprobation is closely examined and followed to its logical and necessary conclusion, the modern Calvinist retorts, 'God does not decree the perdition of the nonelect. He has merely decreed to permit them to sin and perish." When asked to explain the method of this wonderful negative decree, our friend says. "It is because God views them as fallen," thus making the vision of God as narrow as their own; for if God can view men as fallen before they are created, why can not he view them as repentant under the influences of the Spirit? Verily, the question is asked in vain. The Calvinist is silent except when he breaks out with that wonderfully convincing argument, "who art thou that repliest against God?"
God Not Guiltless if He Permits When He Could Prevent Sin.
The doctrine that God permits sin has been variously understood. As the reader has seen, all consistent Calvinists accept and affirms the bold theory that all sin could have been prevented had it so pleased God. That even now all souls might be converted, all sin immediately stopped. and every trace of wretchedness instantly obliterated. If asked, why are these things permitted? They invariably reply, God has not revealed all the reasons, but we are sure that it must be on account of his honor and glory. Moreover, they affirm that if this be denied, the omnipotence of God is seriously impaired, and Atheism is the logical conclusion.
The theory of Leibnitz has been variously interpreted. Without doubt, his Théodicée is the ablest theological work which the seventeenth century produced. If it did not satisfactorily solve the problem, it certainly started the mind in the right direction; his theory of the "privative nature of evil" is now quite generally regarded as inadequate. Sin is more than a negation. Our consciousness can not thus be denied. From his assertions of the limitations of the creature, some have deduced the doctrine that evil is necessary. Others deny this and assert that he simply meant "that the possibility of evil adheres in the very nature of things." McCosh thinks that "it can not be so stated as not to involve this mystery, that God should select a system in which evil is allowed that good may come."
I am inclined to think that this is a just criticism upon Leibnitz, for unless he uses the word permit ambiguously he certainly fails to show why sin is not the means of good: the preface to his work contains the following: "We show that evil has another source than the will of God; and that we have reason to say of moral evil, that God only permits it, and that he does not will it. But what is more important, we show that God can not only permit sin, but even concur therein, and contribute to it, without prejudice to his holiness, although absolutely speaking, he might have prevented it."
It is to be regretted that so great a thinker as Leibnitz did not see that if God,--"absolutely speaking"--permitted that which he might have prevented, he must have preferred its existence to its non-existence, and consequently did really will its existence. It seems to me there are but two suppositions to be considered. Either God could have prevented sin, but did not, or he wished to, but could not. The first affirmation is accepted by all consistent Calvinists. The second is adopted and more or less clearly defended by Arminians.
The reader has already seen some of the consequences which legitimately follow the Calvinistic doctrine that God can, but does not prevent sin.
the present section I am to show that if this dictum be true, God can not be guiltless. Sin is pronounced to be wrong both by God and man. So far as any wrong is permitted by any person having full power and authority to prevent, so far is that person morally guilty. This is true of man, and I reverently affirm it to be of universal application. The highest legal opinion of all nations asserts the principle as true in private and public life, in peace as well as war. The conscience and intellectual conviction of every man will instantly accept it. Men act upon it in every-day life and consequently to deny its force in theology is mere assumption.
At this point, however. it is necessary to consider the meaning of the term "permit." In popular language Arminians sometimes speak of the permission of sin, as though they held the Calvinistic doctrine. The term is unfortunate and should never be used outside of the Calvinistic system. To permit a thing to occur necessarily implies power to prevent; if the event can not be prevented, because of something connected with it, then it can not be permitted. The something which is beyond prevention is, or is not indissolubly connected with the event: if it is so connected, then the power to prevent must embrace, not merely the event by itself, but the event as associated with that which is not preventable: this would be equivalent to saying that the event is not permitted because not preventable. On the other hand, if the non-preventable something is not indissolubly connected with the event, the event, in and of itself, is preventable, and hence is really permitted. Moreover, to permit denotes something "positive, a decided assent, either directly or by implication."
Consequently all questions relating to the permission of sin arising from the creation of man are decidedly out of place. Calvinists have asserted, and at times Arminians have rather implied the same, Why, surely God permitted sin because he created man; or God permits sin because he could deprive the race of life, or in any case of individual sinning he could force the soul by a flash of lightning, or by some other means equally effective.
These questions I repeat, have no place in this discussion. They confound all proper distinctions and cover the hideous features of Calvinism. Beyond all doubt God is free in all his actions. He was under no necessity in the work of creation. He could have made a different world, and different beings to inhabit it. But preferring a race of free agents with the possibility and to him the actuality--of sin, rather than a lower order of creatures, he created man. In this sense, it is true, sin is permitted because man was created. But this is not the problem before us: for if God could have prevented sin only by refraining from creating man in his present freedom, then as I have previously said, it is irrelevant to say that God could, but did not prevent sin. With that understanding of the subject the question would be, Why did God create man a free moral agent? It is evident, therefore, that when the question of the prevention or the non-prevention of sin is considered, it has reference to man as he was created, the Calvinist asserting and the Arminian denying that God could have prevented all sin in the present moral system without violating the creature' s freedom.
Notice (1) That Calvinists concede this is the question at issue. The following is from the "Auburn Declaration." "God permitted the introduction of sin, not because he was unable to prevent it consistently with the moral freedom of his creatures, but for wise and benevolent reasons which he has not revealed."
Dr. Geo. Duffield says, "The Old School have charged the New with believing that God could have prevented the existence of sin in the world, but not without destroying the freedom of the human will; and that sin is incidental to any moral system. To this the latter reply, that God permitted the entrance of sin, but not because he was unable to prevent it; but for wise and benevolent reasons which he hath not revealed." (2) Calvinists ridicule the idea that God could have prevented sin only by creating man less free. President Jeremiah Day says, "Will it be said that God merely permitted their hearts to be hardened; or permitted them to harden their own hearts? If this be conceded, it must still be understood, that he had power to prevent this result. What sort of permission is a mere inability to prevent that which is permitted?"
Dr. Griffin thus speaks against the supposition of Dr. N. W. Taylor. "Permit sin! And how could he prevent it? In no way but by refusing to create moral agents. As well might you talk of my permitting the cholera, because I do not kill off everybody that could have it. Why dress up palpable Arminianism in such Calvinistic drapery?" Dr. E. A. Lawrence is equally explicit: he says, "God is possessed of adequate power to have prevented sin, if he had chosen to do so. The idea of permission implies the power of prevention. It would be preposterous to speak of God's permitting what he was not able to prevent; and we hold it to be equally peculiar to speak of God's permitting sin in a moral system; if he had no other way of preventing it, than by preventing the moral system; as the watchmaker can prevent friction in the wear of a watch, only by not making the watch."
[Strange that President Edwards could not see this distinction. The following extract from his defense of Decrees and Election clearly shows how he confounded the Arminian with the Calvinistic position. "But you will say, God wills to permit sin, as he wills the creature should be left to his freedom; and if he should hinder it, he would offer violence to the nature of his own creature. I answer, this comes nevertheless to the very thing that I say. You say, God does not will sin absolutely; but rather than alter the law of nature and the nature of free agents, he wills it. He wills what is contrary to excellency in some particulars, for the sake of a more general excellency and order. So that this scheme of the Arminians does not help the matter." "Works." Vol. II., p. 516. As we have seen. this confounds all proper distinctions. The Arminian says, God desires, and works for the utter extinction of sin. The Calvinist says, God desires and secures the actual amount of Sin. Yet Edwards sees no difference.]
(3) My position more or less clearly conceded and affirmed by Calvinists. Dr. Albert Barnes is generally regarded as having been a good Presbyterian Calvinist; here are his words concerning God's disapprobation of sin. "It would not be right for him not to show it, for that would be the same thing as to be indifferent to it, or to approve it;" speaking of "the wrath of God" (Rom. i. 28) he says: "We admire the character of a ruler who is opposed to all crime in the community, and who expresses those feelings in the laws. And the more he is opposed to vice and crime, the more we admire his character and his laws; and why shall we be not equally pleased with God who is opposed to all crime in all parts of the universe." Dr. G. F. Wright has said Finney was "distinctively Calvinistic." Here are his words, "Certainly if he was able wisely to prevent sin in any case where it actually occurs, then not to do so nullifies all our conceptions of his goodness and wisdom. He would be the greatest sinner in the universe if, with power and wisdom adequate to the prevention of sin, he had failed to prevent it." Dr. L. P. Hickok was not given to idle speculations, nor did he speak without due consideration. His testimony, therefore, is especially important. "Theologically, no body of divinity can be sound which has running through it the doctrine that God wishes his creatures to sin, and works in or upon them to induce it ..... Somehow, sin has come into God's system of government against his authority; and its continuance, as well as its origin, leaves the sin to be abominable in his sight: and it can not consist with this that he wishes for it and works to secure it. All theorizing or teaching subversive of this truth, or obscuring its clearness, should be rejected without ceremony or apology, no matter how ingenious the speculation or earnest the teaching may be."
Thus do I show the logical result of the doctrine that God can, but does not prevent sin. Permission implies not only power to prevent, but also assent. He who permits evil is so far a particeps criminis to the transaction.
Some Objections Considered.
I. It may be objected that my position degrades God. If his omnipotence is limited, he can not be perfect. This is true only of the Calvinist's conception of God. If he is determined to define omnipotence as the power of God which can do anything, he has that privilege: but in that case it is the God of Calvinism, and not of the Bible, who is degraded. True, the Saviour, said "With God all things are possible"; but the literal interpretation is confined to Calvinism and Universalism. Even Charnock has said "The object of his absolute power is all things possible: such things that imply not a contradiction, such that are not repugnant in their own nature to be done, and such as are not contrary to the nature and perfections of God to be done." Accepting this definition of the divine omnipotence I merely disagree with the Calvinist concerning what things do imply a contradiction, what things are "repugnant in their own nature," and also what things are "contrary to the nature and perfection of God." I respectfully submit the question if sin is not repugnant in its own nature, and as such, is it "not contrary to the nature and perfection of God"? Moreover, the objection is hilarious. Whatever limitation there is was self-imposed. God could have refrained from creating. He might have created a race with a much lower degree of freedom, and so far, his power would have remained unlimited, Hence, whatever force the objection has, directly applies to the plan which God adopted. If the Deity chooses "for wise and benevolent reasons" to place himself under such limitations, I do not know as the Calvinist has any reason to object. In the light of this thought the following quotation from Professor Henry Cowles will prove interesting: Having considered the limitations under which the Holy Spirit works, he says, "Plus it appears that we must essentially modify the very common assumption that God has permitted sin in his moral universe, having infinite power to prevent it. This assumption--'infinite power to prevent'--has begotten the main difficulties of the sin problem. The sensitiveness of many good men touching this whole question hinges around this point. It seems to them derogatory to the infinite God to admit any sort of limitation to his power as against sin and as towards its prevention, or the recovery of sinners from its dominion. To all such sensitive thinking and feeling, let it be suggested that it is in no sense derogatory to God's power to say that he can not save sinners of our race without an atonement, can not save then without their personal faith in the atoning Redeemer, can not save them without their repentance. Such a 'can not' should startle no one; should never be thought of as involving any dishonorable limitations of God's power. Indeed, such limitations in God's plans and principles as to human salvation are to his infinite glory. Nor is it any impeachment of God's power, or of his moral character in any respect, that he should recognize the nature of intelligent, free, and morally acting minds, and adapt his agencies upon them accordingly .....With profoundest reverence, it behooves us to assume that God's wisdom in managing this whole moral system is simply perfect. Never let us derogate from his wisdom or from his love. The Scriptures represent the Most High as being keenly sensitive to the least imputation against his justice, his wisdom or his love. (See Ezek. xviii. 2, 3, 23, 32; xxxiii. 10, 11, 17, 20). No similar sensitiveness appears in his word on the point of limitations in the line of actually saving sinners. There seems to be never a thought of its being derogatory to God's power to say, 'It is impossible to renew them again to repentance,' or to say that sinners whom he labors and longs to save, yet will resist his Spirit and forever die."
Throughout this discussion I have tried to present the plain teachings of the Word. Beyond all successful contradiction the Scriptures contain many declarations concerning the limitations of God's grace. Let the Calvinist talk as he will, God declares that his grace was limited by the perverseness of his ancient people. "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you. betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" (Isa. v. 3, 4.)
If the reader will compare this statement with the record of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, or with the words of the Master, "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life," he will see that the Calvinist is over zealous. Lastly, the objection comes with poor grace from the Calvinist. Of all men, he should be the last to find fault with the Arminian doctrine of omnipotence. Degrade the Divine Omnipotence? And pray tell me what does he do? One would think that the Power of God was of more consequence than the Divine Veracity or Justice. When the Calvinist shall have vindicated his theory against the charge of making God the author of sin, the punisher of men against whom there is no breath of evil, and the proclaimer of one thing and the doer of another, then he may say with some degree of fairness that this position degrades the divine omnipotence.
II. It may be objected that inasmuch as God knew that sin would invade his moral government, he must have preferred sin to the non creation of man with his actual freedom. If this be true, the objector may urge, then on your own confession, God is the author of sin, for he created man with the full knowledge that sin would occur, which might have been prevented by the non-creation of the race. This is the same idea which I noticed at the commencement of this section. It changes the entire argument. Instead of solving the problem of the prevention or non-prevention of sin, in and of itself, it seeks to know why God created man whom he could not prevent from sinning. It is an entire abandonment of the Calvinistic doctrine that God could, but did not wish to prevent sin in the present moral system. With this understanding of the subject, I have no objection against answering the question.
We do not know all the reasons why the Deity preferred to create a race of free creatures with the (pure) certainty that sin would result, rather than to refrain from creating, or to create a lower order of free creatures. That he has done so, is to me a fact beyond all successful questioning: hence it must have been for the best. But if reasons are sought, the following suppositions are, to me, more than probable.
(1) The moral government of God does not demand perfection. That of course, should be its aim, but if it can not be secured, it does not follow that the attempt should be abandoned. If, on the whole, more good can be secured by such a government than by no government, even human reason justifies the attempt. This is the case with the present moral system. The Divine Mind sees the end from the beginning. He knows that notwithstanding the sin which can not be prevented, the ultimate amount of good will far exceed the ultimate amount of evil, and hence it is better to have created, than to have refrained from creating.
(2) In the light of this remark it is easy to see the probable reason why God created the race with so large a degree of freedom. A low degree of creatural freedom necessarily means a low degree of creatural righteousness. Rightness or holiness can not be created. It is a matter of choice. He who has been created perfectly symmetrical, every faculty in proper relation, or adjustment with every other faculty, every passion, every inclination directed toward that which is true, beautiful and good, is not righteous in the proper acceptation of the term. That which he is reflects the goodness and wisdom of his Maker: he may be admired for what he is, but he can not be virtuous until he deliberately chooses his Creator's will as his own: consequently if the creature has little responsibility he can not acquire much virtue. The larger the freedom, therefore, the greater are the heights of nobility to which the soul may aspire: hence the Divine Love is more highly honored by the worship of creatures of exalted intelligence than by those whose freedom is only a little above the brute creation. The following from Dr. Dorner is admirable: "We must judge, therefore, that the divine omnipotence by the mightiness of its working brings into existence free beings capable of resisting its will; because, unless they are able freely to resist, they will not be able freely to surrender themselves, and unless they freely surrender themselves, they can not be regarded by God as a new and valuable good. If we acknowledge this to be the nature of the freedom conferred on man, and assume that God designs to establish a free, ethical cosmos, a cosmos of love, a divine family; we must also concede the necessity of his entering into a relation of reciprocity to man, for love without reciprocity does not deserve the name."
Again, he says, "By creating man a free, that he might be a moral, being, God has brought into existence a being, in a certain sense of like nature with himself, which as such is capable of resisting him. Such resistance can never be overcome by mere force.
Indeed, God would contradict himself were he to attempt a compulsory vanquishment of human opposition. Having made man free, he must suffer him to use his freedom. even when the use is abuse. He may annihilate him; but he can not will his existence as free whilst annihilating his freedom. This is the secret of our immense responsibility for the use of freedom. Here is the root of the sense of guilt." Dr. Samuel D. Cochran says, "God's design in constituting them was not that they should sin, and suffer either the natural or the retributory consequence of so doing, but that they should obey his law and experience the blessed consequences, both natural and remuneratory, of so doing."
In this connection it is proper to notice the statement of Dr. McCabe that "No consideration whatever could justify infinite goodness in creating a soul that God foreknew would be wretched and suffer forever." Unless Dr. McCabe adopts the doctrine of Creationism he needs to be reminded that souls are created through the complex workings of natural laws. If God should adopt and consistently follow Dr. McCabe's postulate, human freedom would be seriously impaired. If, as he grants, God "could not consistently have created a race of free moral beings such as man" without providing a Saviour, sin as a contingent fact must have been foreseen. Such a divine foresight justifies us in believing that God has not fundamentally erred in his estimate of the abuse of freedom which leads to eternal ruin.
III. It is more than merely supposable that the present moral system is the first of a series. If this be so, it is reasonable to infer that the history of our race, its fall, the Incarnation and Atonement, will be used as great moral motives to maintain the purity of future systems? Viewed in this light the difficulties pertaining to the subject are considerably decreased. The attempt of God which now looks like a failure may terminate in triumph. If the Calvinist seeks to vindicate his position by indefinitely postponing the solution, he certainly can not complain if his opponent adopts the same method. The radical difference between the two solutions is at once apparent. Nor is this position at all novel. Dr. Bellamy asks, "How know we if God thinks it best to have a larger number of intelligences to behold his glory and to be happy with him, but that he judges it best not to bring them into existence till the present grand drama shall be finished at the day of judgment? That they may, without sharing the hazard of the present confused state of things, reap the benefit of the whole through eternal ages; whilst angels and saints may be appointed their instructors to lead into the knowledge of God's ways to his creatures, and of all their ways to him from the time of Satan's revolt in heaven to the final consummation of all things. And as the Jewish dispensation was introductory and preparatory to the Christian, so this present universe may be introductory and preparatory to one after the day of judgment, almost infinitely larger."
CALVINISM CONTRADICTS CONSCIENCE.
"Foreordination of some men to everlasting life, and of others to everlasting death, and preterition o| all the non-elect (including the whole heathen world), are equally inconsistent with a proper conception of divine justice, and pervert it into an arbitrary partiality for a small circle of the elect, and an arbitrary neglect of the great mass of men."--Rev. Philip Schaff, D. D.
Sin exists. This is as God desires, for, being omnipotent, he doeth all things according to his will. Such is the logic of Calvinism. Its language is equally explicit. Sin seems to be one of the corner-stones of the system. If this assertion is considered too strong by the average reader, he will please recall a few of the many Calvinistic gems which have been polished by the master workmen.
Bates says, sin was permitted by God "as a fit occasion for the more glorious discovery of his attributes." The learned Charnock affirms that "God willed sin, that is, he willed to permit it, that he might communicate himself to the creature in the most excellent manner." Toplady says God permitted the fall of "our first parents ..... having purposed to order it to his own glory." Hopkins declares that "sin and misery ..... are necessary in the best system to accomplish the greatest good, the most important and best ends." Dr. Alexander says sin was permitted in order "that God might have an opportunity of manifesting his own glory to all intelligent creatures more conspicuously." Edwards has the following, "We little consider how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. As it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world."
Dr. Hodge declares that sin is permitted because "higher ends will be accomplished by its admission than by its exclusion."
It is not necessary to adduce further proof. It is incontestably certain that Calvinists have always made much of sin: have always regarded it as the means by which God reveals his glory to the world. Is that glory worthy of the adoration of the universe? In that same proportion is the importance of sin: for as Toplady says, "Without creation no creatures, without creatures, no sin."
I shall now attempt to show that these affirmations are unequivocally condemned by the fundamental utterances of conscience.
Calvinism Denies the Truthfulness of Remorse.
Wishing to confront Calvinism with the real utterances of man's moral nature I shall submit the following incident--similar ones are constantly occurring--which took place at the Illinois State Prison, Joliet, August 7, 1883. A convict named George Kellogg "was employed on the Ashley & Company wire contract, and ran one of the machines for drawing wire into smaller sizes. The machine revolves at a high rate of speed, and draws the wire with great force. Kellogg picked up one of the loops from the coil of wire that he was feeding and tossing it over his neck was drawn down to the block instantly with terrible force. The convict who was at the machine next to him, and to whom he had said good-by, stopped the machine as quickly as possible, but the wire was imbedded far into the flesh around the suicide's neck and had to be filed off. .... Just before committing the act, he went to his keeper and told him that he wanted to see the warden, and being told that he was absent, replied, 'Well, I wanted to make a confession to him. I am the man that committed the double murder at Atlanta, Ill.,' and turning, he walked back to his machine and threw the fatal coil about his neck. .... In his cell he left an ante-mortem statement addressed to Chaplain Rutledge, saying, 'I have been treated well in the prison. I have no malice toward any one. I am innocent of the robbery that I am sent here for, but it is something else that worries me. I was raised a Methodist, but what am I now? I am nothing. My God, forgive me, and be merciful to me. It is more than I have been to myself.'"
Doubtless, this man's sin constantly troubled him: he became less composed and easily frightened. More than ever he saw the enormity of the sin, and hence the sense of his guilt was constantly increasing. Ah! wretched man; "thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." Remorse is at work. Thou art now before the judgment seat of the Almighty forever condemned for doing that which is an eternal wrong. a
But what is remorse, and what does it say? Remorse is the lash of conscience. It is the sting of conscious guilt. It is self-loathing. It makes what Byron calls "a hell in man." Its language is too plain to be misunderstood. It says to the soul, "Thou art guilty." The man may deny it before his fellows, but to himself, he says, "True, true, for I did it." While remorse can never touch the innocent, it is a constant companion of the guilty. This has been vividly portrayed by Shakespeare in Richard III.:
"O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue.--It is now dead midnight.
Cold, fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself? There's none else by!
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason; why?
Lest I revenge. What! myself upon myself?
I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no: alas! I rather hate myself?
For hateful deeds committed by myself."
But remorse is not simply the pronouncement of guilt. By no means. Guilt necessarily presupposes that the deed done, against which the conscience pronounces its judgment, was intrinsically sinful. Hence remorse says, This evil deed ought not to have been committed. On this point there can not be a shadow of doubt. Remorse is meaningless, nay, it is a psychological delusion, if it does not signify that the deed for which the soul is tortured, should never have been committed. Rev. Joseph Cook in speaking of the bliss or the pain which inevitably results from doing right or wrong, and which is "capable of being at its height, the acutest known to the soul," says that the former arises "when what ought to be has been done, and the latter when what ought not."
But this brings us face to face with Calvinism. Of a given sin, the soul under the remorse of conscience says, I ought not to have done it. Calvinism answers, Nay, you ought. That which you have done, was decreed, was permitted by God for his glory. He permits nothing without design. Sin is the necessary means of displaying the Divine glory: hence your sin was included, and is as God desired, for having all power he will certainly secure his desires.
Now if the reader is disposed to be indignant, I respectfully request him to direct his indignation against, not the writer, but the system under examination. In previous pages I have carefully quoted the exact language of eminent Calvinists. I have not interpreted them according to my ideas, but have allowed them to speak for themselves. I kindly insist that the reader shall do the same. No excuse of the reader, no evasion of the Calvinist will be permitted. The issue has been clearly and fairly made, and the verdict must be according to the principles of fairness. Unless Calvinists write according to the teachings of Machiavel, they must mean what they say. Such being the actual fact, they must here suffer a crushing defeat. Can there be a palliative excuse? None whatever. The decrees relate to all events: these decrees are one purpose: all things are thus decreed, and take place as God wills. This is the logic of Calvinism. Now for a few more quotations. Dr. Timothy Dwight says, "All things, both beings and events, exist in exact accordance with the purposes, pleasure, or what is commonly called, The Decrees of God." Hopkins says, "There can nothing take place under the care and government of an infinitely powerful, wise and good Being that is not on the whole wisest and best." Dr. Charles Hodge says, "If, therefore, sin occurs, it was God's design that it should occur." The following was taught the author in a certain orthodox Congregational Theological Seminary. For clearness and consistency these points equal those of Calvin. They are entitled "God's connection with Sin. (1) He forbids it. (2) He hates it. (3) Punishes those guilty of it. (4) Earnestly desires that men shall not be guilty of it. (5) He decrees sin. (6) he so constitutes and circumstances men that they certainly will sin. (7) He makes sin the means by which he exhibits his own perfections in their most glorious display. (8) God displays his glory through the pardon of sin and the salvation of the sinner. (9) For aught we know this moral system in which we live answers the end of manifesting God's declarative glory through the free agency of his creatures, as completely as any system that could be devised."
Certainly, these, together with the previous quotations, are sufficient to convince even the most incredulous that as a theological system Calvinism demands the existence of sin. Remorse, on the contrary, affirms that sin ought not to be.
Calvinism Contradicts the Ought of Conscience
Remorse is the last stage in the analysis of conscience. I examined it first because of its clear and unimpeachable testimony. It speaks in no uncertain sound, and its language is the same the world over. "No king can look it out of countenance, or warrior conquer it. How accurately and impartially it judges! It masters completely the man of guilt, holding him down, grinding him down, overawing and overwhelming him."
Had I merely said that conscience condemns Calvinism, the friends of the system might have replied, That is a matter of individual experience. It is the fault of your conscience, not of the system. This however can not be maintained. Remorse is of universal application. That which it always condemns is fundamentally wrong. It unequivocally and forever affirms that sin ought not to be. We will now turn our attention to the second step in this moral analysis.
Calvinism affirms that the glory of God demands the existence of sin. Says Hodge, "Sin, therefore, according to the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun."
Dr. Griffin says, "Had there been no sin the universe would have lost all the glorious results of redemption, which, as we have seen, was the great end for which God built the universe;" again he says, "Without sin and the work of redemption, all the displays of God which belong to the present universe would have been lost."
But what says conscience? This is the crucial question, and I, for one, am perfectly willing to abide by its decision. Beyond all controversy, conscience has to do with the rightness or wrongness of motives. Of the acts of two persons conscience affirms that those of the first were right, and those of the second wrong, because the motives or intentions were right or wrong. Again, it is equally clear that of these given motives, conscience affirms that the first class ought to have been executed, while of the second class it no less emphatically declares the contrary.
The ought of conscience is imperative. It commands every person to do the right. Of a certain act it says with no faltering tone, This is your duty: you must do it. As Kant has eloquently said, "Duty! thou great, sublime name! thou dost not insinuate thyself by offering the pleasing and the popular, but thou requirest obedience." The ought of conscience outweighs all other considerations. If men would only allow its mandates an impartial hearing, and then act accordingly the desert would indeed blossom as the rose. The dreams of the ages would be more than realized under the universal reign of the Prince of Peace.
The ought of conscience imperatively demands the performance of the right: hence the universal obligation to do right: consequently. if all men were to meet this obligation, if all men were to fulfill this righteous requirement, there could be no sin. But the nonexistence of sin necessarily means the abridgment of the Divine glory according to the Calvinistic idea of glory. Therefore, conscience is directly at war with its Maker. Calvinism affirms that God's glory and honor are greatly enhanced by the existence of sin. Conscience, on the contrary, would rob God of this glory and honor by imperatively commanding all men to do that which would make sin an impossibility. What is the matter? Are we to understand that God says one thing on the fleshly tables of the heart, which he fundamentally contradicts in his written revelation? Are we to believe that God cares more for display than or a meek and holy heart, a pure and a contrite spirit? Let Calvinists say this if they so think, but I am of the opinion that all such reasoning which necessitates these questions dishonors him, "the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy," and who has said "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." No: the trouble is not with the Bible, nor with man's moral nature, for when rightly interpreted they substantially agree. The difficulty is with the system of theology which we are examining. Calvinists have sought to vindicate the ways of God. Forgetting that the Divine Being is infinite in wisdom, and therefore will provide legitimate ways of manifesting his glory, they have postulated the absurd doctrine that he permitted, decreed, and therefore really desired the existence of sin, to its non-existence. Against this, I cheerfully put the ought of conscience, firmly believing that it will outweigh by ten thousand times all of the Calvinistic literature of the ages.
At this point it may be profitable to consider a few of the passages of Scripture which it is claimed, teach the general doctrine that God does permit, and therefore decree the existence of sin for the manifestation of his glory. The following texts are adduced to support the theory, viz.: Gen xlv. 7, 8; Prov. xvi. 4, Isa. x. 5-19; Luke xxii. 22;. John x. 18; Acts ii. 23, iv. 27, 28; Col. i. I6, with John i. 3.
The principle involved in most of these passages has been fitly discussed in previous pages. As a wise Sovereign, God sees the end from the beginning. This is so, not only because he knows his own plans, but also because he foresees the free actions of men. he therefore restrains the wickedness of men so far as it is possible, and guides, or overrules the rest unto the furtherance of his holy purposes. This is the Arminian's position, and consequently he is a firm believer in Divine Sovereignty, provided the doctrine is properly understood and carefully guarded against Calvinistic encroachments
There are three passages in the above list which seem to demand an additional examination, viz., Prov. xvi. 4; Col. i. 16 and John i. 3. John and Paul agree in asserting that all things were made by the eternal Word, while the latter asserts that all things were created for him. But what have these passages to do with the subject under discussion? Nothing whatever. The thought of sin, or of wicked creatures as such, did not enter into the scope of the apostles, and consequently the interpreter must not put it there. This is evident at a glance, for, reverse the process; take the words "all things" in the widest meaning, in the most literal sense, and you can not escape the conclusion that the Logos is the author of sin. That Dr. Griffin should have appealed to these texts for support clearly illustrates the way in which not a few of our eminent fathers interpreted the Bible. The other passage (Prov. xvi. 4) reads, "The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." Shall this be literally interpreted? Manifestly not; the conclusion is too dreadful even for the infralapsarian Calvinists. If God hath made the wicked for the day of evil in the sense now understood, then the supralapsarians are right, and therefore men are condemned as innocent. But says Dr. A A. Hodge, "This appears to be inconsistent with the divine righteousness, as well as with the teaching of Scripture." Very well, then, let us agree that the words were not intended to teach that which would necessarily follow if they were interpreted according to our Occidental ideas. What then do they teach? As this is one of the proof-texts of the Calvinists, I propose to step aside and allow those to speak whose testimony is especially important. The following is from Professor Cowles, who says, "It is doubly important to understand this proverb. (1) Because it does teach a great truth; (2) Because it does not teach a certain great error which has been sometimes imputed to it. The word 'made' can not be restricted to creative work, but legitimately includes all the doings of God--works of providence more specifically than works of creation. The Lord works all things in the sense of shaping events and determining issues with special reference to retribution for moral good or evil done by his moral subjects. The original word rendered 'for himself' admits of another construction with this sense: The Lord works everything for its own purpose, i.e., he makes results and issues correspond to the human agencies involved in them. He makes the final result of every earthly life correspond to what that life has been ..... The sense of the proverb therefore is that simply in accordance with the great eternal law of fitness. God brings upon the wicked the destiny of suffering. There is a just and righteous correspondence between the moral activities of his creatures and the reward which a just God will bestow therefor ..... Unfortunately this proverb has sometimes been tortured to say that God has created the wicked for the sake of punishing them, i.e., in order to secure the good results of it in his moral universe. This doctrine has been made specially objectionable by associating it with a practical denial of free moral agency, by assuming that, to accomplish his ends in creating sinners for perdition, God holds them to a life of sinning by a law of necessity which they can not break.
"Nothing can be wider from the truth than this, or more repugnant to every sentiment of benevolence or even of justice ..... We need to distinguish broadly between God's supposed creating of sinners in order that they may sin, that so he may damn them for the good to come from it: and on the other hand, his actually creating them that they might be obedient and so be blest, and then publishing them only because they will not obey him, but will perversely scorn their Maker, disown his authority, abuse his love, and set at naught all his efforts to reclaim and save them. Our proverb affirms that in this sense God shapes the destiny of the wicked to their just doom of suffering. When they absolutely will consecrate themselves to sinning and to rebellion, the only use God can make of them is to give them their just doom of woe, and make them an example to his moral universe."
In Lange's Commentary the passage is translated as follows:
"Jehovah hath made everything for its end, even the wicked for the day of evil."
This is much clearer than the common rendering, and substantially agrees with Cowles. From the Exegetical Notes I quote the following. "Vs. 4--9, God's wise and righteous administration in respect to the rewarding of good and the punishment of evil .....
Even the wicked for the day of evil, i.e., to experience the day of evil, and then to receive his well-merited punishment. It is not specifically the day of final judgment that is directly intended (as though the doctrine here were that of a predestination of the ungodly to eternal damnation, as many of the older Reformed interpreters held), but any day of calamity whatsoever, which God has fixed for the ungodly, whether it may overtake him in this or in the future life."
Dr. Chas. A. Aiken, the American Editor says, "An absolute divine purpose and control in the creation and administration of the world is clearly announced, and also the strength of the bond that joins us and misery."
Doubtless the reader perceives that the claim of the Calvinist is not sustained by any of these supposed proof-texts, and therefore there is no ground for the supposition that the ought of conscience is contradicted by the Scriptures. On the contrary they substantially agree in affirming that sin ought not to be, and consequently it can not be true that God desires it for the manifestation of his glory.
In Denying the Ought of Conscience, Calvinism Contradicts the Divine Law.
This section involves a discussion of the important question, What is the source, or, What is the authority of conscience? It is quite universally admitted that conscience is that power of the mind which recognizes moral judgments. As the will is the soul choosing, so conscience is the soul affirming the rightness or wrongness in motives.
It is also generally conceded that conscience is susceptible of development. To a certain extent the affirmations of conscience depend upon the individual's temperament, moral susceptibility, early education and present environments; hence, the different judgments concerning the same act which are often expressed by those of the same community. As a rule, however, may be said that these diversities belong to the less important duties, although at times they may relate to the fundamental obligations. Says Haven, "As to the great essential principles of morals, men, after all, do judge much alike in different ages and different countries. In details they differ; in general principles they agree."
Again: Conscience is not an infallible guide. It is not above error, and consequently it is possible for men to do wrong conscientiously. In such circumstances, however, they are not guiltless, for the simple reason they ought to have known better. That is, while they are right in following their conscience--for to disobey is sin--yet they are wrong in not having a more enlightened conscience. On the other hand, it may, perhaps, be granted that conscience is infallible according to its opportunities. That it impartially judges according to the data furnished: that according to its light, its decision is truth.
These modifying thoughts clearly understood, we are prepared to answer the question, What is the authority of conscience? Beyond all legitimate doubt conscience is the law of God by which he seeks to govern his moral creatures, The mandate of conscience is, therefore, the authority of the Creator. What conscience says is what God affirms. On no other supposition can the majesty of conscience be explained. We instinctively feel that the voice within us agrees with our Father's voice; that the ought which outweighs all human considerations must have the hearty sanction of him who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil."
This is so evident that it is almost, if not quite universally conceded. A few quotations from eminent scholars will suffice to show the reader that I have not spoken at random. McCosh says, "The conscience declares that there is an indelible distinction between good and evil, and conducts by an easy process to the conviction, that God approves the good and hates the evil. The moral power points to a law, holy, just and good, a law which all men have broken, and which no nation shut out from supernatural light, and no pagan philosophy, have ever exhibited in its purity."
Christlieb says, "Now conscience is confessedly that consciousness which testifies to the law of God implanted in us; that moral faculty whereby man discerns with inward certainty what is right and what is wrong in the sight of God (Rom i. 32), and is conscious that the eye of God is turned upon him."
The following is from Delitzsch: "Conscience, therefore, is not an echo or abode of an immediate divine self-attestation, but an active consciousness of a divine law established in man's heart; for all self-consciousness of created natures capable of self-consciousness is naturally at once a consciousness of their dependence on God, and a consciousness of their duty to allow themselves to be determined by the will of God, and consciousness of the general purport of that will."
Wuttke says, "As the conscience is a revelation of the moral law as the divine will, hence it never exists without a God-consciousness,--it is itself, in fact, one of the phases of this consciousness, and is, per se of a religious character, and is inexplicable from the mere world-consciousness."
President Killen, of Belfast, says, "The feeling of accountability--to be found in every human being--implies the oversight of a God to whom we are responsible. When conscience tells us that there are certain things which we ought to do, and that there are certain other things which we ought not to do, it plainly suggests that there is a divine law to which we should conform, and that we are under the rule of a holy Being who rewards obedience and punishes transgression."
The following is from the same Review and by Dr. Lyman H. Atwater: "Rightly understood, laws inscribed on external nature, written on the heart of man, and revealed in the Word of God, must harmonize. They are all from the same infallible author. However they may differ, so far as they relate to diverse objects, they are at one, and utter one voice when they relate to the same things. Any seeming contrariety must arise from misconceptions of, or false inferences from one or more of them. There can, therefore, be no real antagonism between the normal conscience or law graven on the heart and that written in the Revealed Word, however greatly the latter may outreach and surpass the former." In speaking of the scope of the judicium contradictionis, Dr. Atwater says, "Nothing is to be accepted as the Word of God which contradicts any other unquestionable truth of sense, reason, or conscience ..... So what clearly contradicts our indubitable moral intuitions, as that we should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, can not be recognized as from him."
Prebendary C. A. Row, of London, has admirably said, "The Being who has formed man's moral nature must possess in himself all the elements of that nature; otherwise the principle of self-determination must have originated in something destitute of it, freedom in necessity, personality in impersonality, and the power of moral choice in necessary sequence. Hence, God must be a Being who is capable of self-determination, must be a Person: in a word, must possess all those attributes which distinguish a moral from a necessary agent. Consequently, in all these respects our moral nature is a revelation of God."
Doubtless these extracts are sufficient to show the trend of modern Christian thought on this subject. Consequently the affirmations of Calvinism concerning the existence of sin are emphatically contradicted by the postulates of man's moral nature. Of any given sin, remorse says, this ought not to have been committed. The ought of conscience imperatively demands the performance of the right, and thus cuts off the possibility of sin. The moral nature is the voice of God, and hence he can not desire the existence of sin to its non-existence for the sake of manifesting his glory.
CALVINISM AN ALLY OF UNIVERSALISM.
"Some men would make sin a very light thing, and so count all teaching of everlasting punishment a monstrous error, wholly incongruous with our ideas of a just God. Others would make God the author of everything, sin included, and therefore responsible for all sin's enormity, and hence the everlasting punishment of man an outrage on justice. God's revealed word strikes away the foundations of both these philosophic theories. It declares sin to be rebellion against the Holy Ruler of the Universe ..... It further teaches that God in no sense whatever is the author of sin, that he never decreed it or encouraged it or connived at it ..... This world of mankind is not a machine made to go as it does by God's decrees. It is a world of independent wills, made independent in the likeness of God at the creation ..... To say that all this was pre-arranged and effected by God himself is to say that his word is all a sham, and that his expostulations with the wicked are all gross hypocrisy. God declares that he wishes all men to come to repentance. What does this mean, if it does not mean that God both has no hand whatever in their sin, and also has offered his grace to all as far as he consistently could?"---Rev. Howard Crosby, D. D.
CALVINISM AN ALLY OF UNIVERSALISM.
In making this affirmation I do not mean that Calvinism and Universalism have been, or now are bosom friends. By no means. The advocates of these respective systems of theology have not dwelt together in unity, nor have they loved one another as did David and Jonathan. In not a few instances the affirmations of Calvinism have constituted the negations of Universalism. The literature of the last hundred years is permeated with the protracted and intensely bitter controversies of these rival systems.
My meaning is this. In constructing a Theodicy, Universalism has adopted some of the fundamental postulates of Calvinism. To a certain extent the premises of both theologies are the same, while they fundamentally disagree in their conclusions. Universalism has flourished, partly because of the utterances of Calvinism. If the Calvinistic doctrine of omnipotence be true, Universalism is the legitimate conclusion.
But it is my profound conviction that both systems are wrong: that the truth is to be found not by denying the sincere and atoning love of God for all his children, as does Calvinism; nor by limiting the divine penalties and psychological tendencies of sin, as does Universalism; but by combining these momentous truths maintain, as does the Bible, that the lost are those who will not be saved.
Calvinism and Universalism agree Concerning God's Power.
At this stage of the discussion it is not necessary to repeat the assertions of Calvinism relating to the Divine Omnipotence. The reader is now in possession of such facts as will enable him to form an independent judgment concerning the teachings of Calvinism. If, however, he should fail in any given case to see the close similarity between Universalism and the Theology of the Reformation, a brief reference to previous pages will doubtless be sufficient.
(1) "God, Almighty in his power over mind as well as matter." This is the language of Rev. Thomas Baldwin Thayer, whose work on the "Theology of Universalism" is generally regarded as among the best which the denomination has produced. Concerning this subject the author says, "It is important to observe the language of this statement--that God is omnipotent, not only in the natural world, but also in the moral and spiritual world. It is as easy for him to create and govern a soul, as to create and govern a sun or a planet. And it requires no more effort on his part to discipline and save a moral being, according to the laws of his moral nature, than it requires to control the solar systems, according to the material laws impressed upon them at the time of their creation.
[In this connection I would say to the Universalist reader that in writing the above I am not unmindful of the latest and ablest biblical and psychological arguments by which his doctrine is supported. As my purpose is to demonstrate the fallacies of Calvinism, I can not fully discuss the merits of Universalism. That has been done by several recent works: e.g., Haley's "The Hereafter of Sin," and Wright's "The Relation of Death to Probation."]
Dr. I. D. Williamson says, "As to the attributes of God, there is a like unity of opinion. All agree that God is a being of infinite power, wisdom and goodness. No error can enter into his arrangements, no lack of goodness can mar his purposes, no failure can defeat him. Take these simple ideas of God, about which there neither is nor can be any dispute among Christians, and see what they teach in reason, in regard to the subject of destiny."
Mr. Skinner, in "Universalism Illustrated and Defined," says, "The will of God is absolute. The will of kings is absolute; and God is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He does all things after the counsel of his own will." Hosea Ballou taught that "It is not casting any disagreeable reflections on the Almighty to say he determined all things for good; and to believe that he superintends all the affairs of the universe, not excepting sin, is a million times more to the honor of God than to believe he can not, or he does not when he can." Mr. Whittenmore says, "Man can not do what his Maker wills he shall not do, and he can not leave undone what his Maker wills he shall do."
(2) The following quotations from eminent Calvinists are used by Dr. Thayer as supports to his doctrine: he says, "Dr. Woods has a good thing on this point, which deserves a place here;" this is the doctrine as explained by Dr. Woods. "No one can have any power except what God gives, and there can be no greater absurdity than to suppose that God will give to any of his creatures a power which he can not control, and which shall in any possible circumstances, so come in the way of his administration as actually to prevent him from doing what he wills to do. If he is really omnipotent, and if all power in creation depends on him, it must be that he will do all his pleasure; that whatever he sees on the whole to be the best he will certainly accomplish."
Dr. Thayer takes the following from Prof. Moses Stuart, who is speaking of those who limit the power of God: "They overlook the omnipotence of that Spirit, whose office it is to bow the stubborn will, and soften the hearts of the unbelieving. What? are not all things possible with God? Can he not 'make the people willing in the day of his power?'* Can not he who works in men, 'according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead,' can he not make the deaf to hear, and the blind to see? Can he not raise the dead to life? Has he not promised to do all this? Has he not often repeated the assurance that he will do it? Has he not done it in numberless instances? Are not 'all hearts in his hand,' and so in it that he can turn them whithersoever he will, even as the rivers of water are turned? Can any resist God's will?"
[*This text--Ps. cx. 3--has been pressed into the Calvinistic service quite long enough. It does not teach the doctrine. Dr. T. W. Chambers, a pronounced Calvinist, says the sentiment is true and pleasing, but is not the meaning of the words. "They refer not to the matter or agency of conversion, but the cheerful obedience which the subjects of the priest-king renders to his commands." "Homiletic Monthly." Vol. VI., p. 648. See also Cowles on "Psalms." "Methodist Quarterly Review." 1873, p. 341.]
The following from Dr. Enoch Pond is regarded by Dr. Thayer as "conclusive on the point." "The question, therefore, comes to this, Is it impossible for God to convert and save all men? But in what sense can this be considered as impossible? Is it inconsistent with the nature of the human mind, and with the freedom and accountability of man? Such a supposition is a priori incredible; because God made the minds of men as well as their bodies--made them free, accountable agents--and it is not likely that he would give existence to a being which it was impossible for him to control. Besides is it not a fact that God does control the minds of men, of all men, in perfect consistency with their freedom and accountability? I speak not now of the manner in which this is done, whether by a direct efficiency in view of motives, or by the mere influence of motives; the fact it is done will not be denied, except by those who deny that God executes his purposes and governs the world. The Scriptures, too, by necessary implication, by direct assertion, and in almost every form of representation and expression exhibit the free minds of men as subject to the control of him who ruleth all. God's control over the free, responsible mind is also exhibited in every instance of conversion. Every conversion which takes place is the work of God's Spirit, accomplished in perfect consistency with the nature of the mind, and without any infringement of human freedom or accountability. But are not all minds constituted essentially alike? And if it is possible for God to convert one sinner in the manner above described, why not two? why not as many as he pleases? why not all?"
Calvinism and Universalism Substantially Agree Concerning the Good Uses of Sin and the Denial of Freedom.
Dr. Thayer says, "If there had been no error or sin in the world, we should have known nothing of Jesus the Christ, that loftiest exhibition of perfected humanity, that single bright star in the mingled firmament of earth and heaven, whose light was never dimmed.
.... And of God, also, if there were no sin, we should lose sight of half the glory of his character, and of the beautiful and tender relations which he sustains to us." Our author also quotes from President Edwards to the effect that, all things considered, it is best that sin should exist.
Ballou taught that "What in a limited sense we may justly call sin or evil, in an unlimited sense is justly called good." Concerning human freedom he says, "It is evident that will or choice has no possible liberty." According to Mr. Rogers "The notion of freewill is a chimera." In speaking of God's will, Mr. Skinner says, "He does all things after the counsel of his own will. Of course when he made man and gave him the power which he possesses, he did everything according to his own will. It will avail nothing to say man is a moral agent; for why should God give him an agency which would defeat his own will? This would be planning against himself. Nothing is more evident than that an expected result of a voluntary act proves that it was desired."
Speaking of sorrow and affliction which are in the world, Dr. Williamson says, "But these have their mission, and become, in their turn, the occasions and the sources of our highest and most refined enjoyments. Such a thing as evil for its own sake, evil not counterbalanced with corresponding good, there is not in this world, nor is there the remotest probability that there will be in the future."
These extracts will suffice to show the exact position of Universalism concerning the omnipotence of God, the remains of sin for the manifestation of his glory, and the doctrine of necessity in human actions. "Thus the sinful actions of men, being only the legitimate effect of causes which proceed from the author of all good, are not, as has so often been supposed, an evil of incalculable malignity; they are only a seeming evil; they are evil only to our limited and darkened understandings: they are evil only to those who can not trace out all the tendencies of things, or foresee their final issue."
To a Large Extent Universalism is a Reaction Against Calvinism.
By this I do not mean that all Universalists were once Calvinists, nor that all Calvinists are in great danger of becoming believers in the salvation of all men. Nothing of the kind. Doubtless there have been, and now are Universalists who always opposed Calvinism. It is also quite probable that some of the advocates of universal salvation, have been more or less friendly to Arminianism. It is possible that some Arminians have accepted Universalism. Such facts I desire to recognize. I have no desire to exaggerate the defects of Calvinism, nor hide those of Arminianism? My meaning is this--Universalism is the natural reaction against the doctrines of Calvinism. Nearly every important error has some truth which gives it vitality. The truth of Universalism is the Infinite Love of God for all his children. This grand, Bible doctrine has no place in Calvinism. As there taught it is not even the shadow of the truth. The divine love is limited to the "elect," while the "non-elect' --who are equally deserving--are left in misery and eternally condemned for the rejection of that which God never meant they should accept.
Some men may regard this as Scripturally true, but the vast majority of mankind never have and never will believe the Bible teaches such a conception of him whose nature is declared to be Love. In not a few instances the reaction has been intense. Misgivings have often been keenly felt. Doubts have crowded the mind. The faith of years has gradually disappeared, and, as a historic fact, he who was a strong Calvinist--not thinking to re-examine his premises--accepts Universalism. This will now be elucidated. But before showing whence many of the leaders of Universalism have come I wish to speak of the evil effects of Calvinism upon New England Congregationalism. Says the late Dr. W. W. Patton, of Howard University, "The early ministers were strong Calvinists of the type now known as Old School. They held ideas of the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, of human inability to all good, of sovereign personal election and reprobation, of atonement for the elect alone, of the nature of the influence of the Holy Spirit, and of the entire passivity of the sinner in the new birth, which now are seldom preached among us, and are held by few if any of our theologians, even such as style themselves Calvinists. There was little in the preaching of such doctrines to promote revivals of religion, or to secure individual conversions though the grace of God did secure these results from the accompanying gospel truth. There was much in them to provoke controversy and to secure reaction toward some antagonistic system, which, in the swing to the opposite extreme, was likely to be unevangelical. And such was the result. Rigid Calvinism caused a revulsion, which first took form as a cold unevangelical Arminianism, very different from the Arminianism of the Wesleys; then introduced the half-way covenant, and then developed into Unitarianism."
John Murray is generally considered the father of American Universalism. His "Life" informs us of much concerning his parents and early training. They were Calvinists, and young Murray was taught by his father "that for any individual, not the elect of God, to say of God or to God, 'our Father' was nothing better than blasphemy." The Sabbath is described as "a day much to be dreaded in our family. ....the most laborious day in the week." At the age of twenty-one or two he was engaged in preaching as a Whitefieldian Methodist. Speaking of his views at this time he says, "I had connected this doctrine of election with the doctrine of final reprobation, not considering that, although the first was indubitably a Scripture doctrine, the last was not found in, nor could be supported by, revelation." Subsequently he was converted to Universalism by Rev. James Relley, of London. As an advocate of this doctrine he believed that a part of mankind were elected to be saved through Jesus Christ and to enjoy the Christian life while on earth. The rest, while they would suffer some degree of condemnation, would also finally be saved. "He retained high views of Divine sovereignty through life."
About the time that Mr. Murray arrived in this country (1770) Rev's Adam Streeter and Caleb Rich, originally of the Baptist denomination, became pronounced Universalists and preached in various parts of New England.
Elhanan Winchester was originally a Calvinistic Baptist. Describing his earlier views, he says he was "one of the most consistent Calvinists on the continent, much upon the plan of Dr. Gill, whom he esteemed almost as an oracle." In preaching he was very careful not to invite all men to come to Jesus, for "if provision was made only for a part, he had no warrant to call or invite the whole to come and partake." This duty he urged only on the "hungry, weary, thirsty, heavy laden, such as were without money, sensible sinners."
Hosea Ballou at an early age joined a Baptist church of which his father was pastor. Walter Balfour was educated in the Scotch Church. Coming to America he became a Baptist about 1806, and in 1823 was a pronounced Universalist.
Sylvanus Cobb was early educated under the orthodox influence of New England, but he soon became an ardent advocate of the doctrine of Universalism. Dr. Joseph Huntington graduated at Yale College in 1762, and was ordained pastor of the First Congregational Church, Coventry, Conn., 1763; his work "Calvinism Improved," which was not published until after his death, advocates Universalism.
As Universalism becomes more Biblical, the Fundamental Doctrine of Calvinism is Denied.
The Universalists are improving. Of late years their peculiar doctrines have not been so dogmatically taught nor their philosophical principles so strenuously maintained. As the harsh features of Calvinism are disappearing, there is a gradual abandonment of the coarse statements of Universalism. Hence, I shall try to show that Universalism abandons its distinctive tenet--thereby becoming more Scriptural--in the proportion as it renounces the fundamental principle of Calvinism, the Divine Omnipotence as the prime factor in the world's salvation. For the following extracts I am indebted to "The Latest Word of Universalism" which contains thirteen sermons by as many representative Universalist clergymen. I have been much pleased with its spirit of candor toward opponents and its reverent treatment of the Scriptures. Dr. A. G. Gaines writes of "The Divine Nature and Procedure." Speaking of God's relation to sin, he says, "Again, we infer from what we know of God's holiness, and of his moral government, and of the law written in the consciences of men, that he hates sin and can have no concord with it, or with the works it prompts ..... God never planned it, nor did he ever purpose aught that required sin as a means for its accomplishment, or that depended on sin as a means to its end. Sin is of God in no proper sense. His whole relation to it, and action towards it, is, and ever has been antagonism, resistance ..... God is hostile to sin; he has no purposes to serve by it; never gave his consent to it; forbade it at the first, and has steadfastly resisted it ever since; and he has assured us that he can never accept it, nor become reconciled to it."
Speaking of "Sin and its Sequences" Dr. G. H. Emerson says," .... remorse recognizes a responsibility that can not attach to man: it is the proclamation of the will of a Higher Being, and it seems the literalness of truth to say it is the expression of God's censure."
The following is from "Jesus and the Gospel" by Rev. J. Smith Dodge, Jr.: "But sin is man's specialty; and it is so because man alone has self-determining power .... Man alone can choose, and therefore he alone can resist. But when we examine why man, having the power to choose, sets his will against the will of God (which is the essence of sin), the inquiry takes us into unsound depths."
Elucidating the nature of "Repentance, Forgiveness, Salvation," Rev. E. C.. Sweetser says, "We must work with God, in order that God may work with us. As to his part of the process, there is no room for uncertainty. His grace is unfailing. Where sin abounds, his infinite love much more abounds; and whenever we choose to avail ourselves of it, we shall find it sufficient for our needs. He yearns over us with an infinite longing for our salvation, and will not be satisfied till the whole human family is perfected and glorified .... So, although his power to save us is contingent upon our voluntary obedience to the conditions of salvation, yet in view of all the facts in the case, we can not reasonably doubt that his purpose concerning us will at last be fulfilled."
The following from "This Life and the Next," by Rev. J. C. Adams, is an admirable presentation of the question under consideration. "If the resistance of the will to the eternal moral law alienates the heart from God up to and beyond the gates of Death, the eternal laws of moral compensation will inflict suffering as long as this alienation lasts. Until the will consents to the divine order, there is no deliverance from the thralldom of retribution. So that if any soul goes into the future unrepentant, we must believe that the progress of penalty and discipline goes on, at the same time that grace persuades and love invites, until the evil heart is overcome."
The Philosophy of Universalism is expounded by president E. H. Capen, who declares that man "is God's child, and that he has broken God's law. If he sins repeatedly, he will be punished repeatedly. No amount of penalty can destroy his freedom. He may choose to sin as long as he is willing to take sin and penalty together. But, whenever he shall be moved to a different choice, the way will be open .... We hold that the sovereignty of God will be completely vindicated in the ultimate harmony of the moral universe .... It will not do to say that man's freedom may defeat the beneficent intentions of the Almighty; for that would be a poor sort of freedom which practically dooms men to endless sin... Of moral evil, he says, "We not only believe in the 'exceeding sinfulness of sin,' but our nature revolts at it; we loathe it; we feel bound to make war upon it, to wrestle with it, and to seek its extermination in ourselves and others. We hate it, however, not merely because it is inherently hateful, but because God hates it, because it is opposed alike by his law and his nature, of which his law is the expression."
Rev. George Hill says, "All things are possible to God within the limits of possibility. Man as such must have the attributes of his own nature, else he is not man, and no question of moral evil could arise. Within his sphere he is free and the arbiter of his joys and sorrows. All the evil in the moral universe had its birth in the heart of man. We can not say that God permits or fosters it for a good purpose for there is no good in it. We can only say that God hates it, and opposes it, and would prevent it if he could without destroying the moral freedom of man."
Dr. A. J. Patterson says of man's present condition, "God does not take pleasure in his falls and bruises, physical or moral. These are incidental to his undeveloped and imperfect state .... To have made a race of beings that could not sin, would have peopled the earth with beings entirely unlike ourselves .... He might have created beings that could not sin, but they would not be men."
Dr. Miner says, "It is said, 'God can not save man against his will.' It is equally true that God can not damn man against his will. Salvation is a condition in which human powers co-operate with divine grace. The saving of man, therefore, is the bringing of his powers into such co-operation. The only thing that makes salvation necessary is perversity of will. To remove this perversity is to save."
["Bib. Sacra," 1883, p. 498. The distinction is radical. Calvinisin says Man has no power to resist God. This phase of Universalists affirms the power--carries it far into eternity--but postulates the final triumph of Divine Love. But I can not so interpret the teachings of Reason and Revelation.]
Possibly the reader is conservative. Notwithstanding the many facts adduced to show that Calvinism has greatly aided Universalism, he may object to my reasoning and affirm that I am forcing an issue. It is, therefore, eminently proper to adduce a few additional facts illustrating how the subject is considered by those whose ability and candor can not be questioned. The following is from Dr. Fitch of New Haven fame, forming a part of his celebrated "Review of Fisk on Predestination and Election." Although somewhat long, it is too good to be abridged. ".... The Universalist does not (if we rightly judge) derive his doctrine in the first place from the oracles of God, but rather from the attributes of God. The argument on which he relies as the real basis of his faith is the following: God, as infinitely benevolent, must be disposed to prevent sin with all its evils. God as omnipotent, can prevent sin in all his moral creatures: God therefore will hereafter prevent all sin; and thus render all his creatures happy forever.
"The infidel reasons exactly in the same manner, and comes to the same conclusion. But, then, he has discernment enough to see that the Scriptures contain the doctrine of future endless punishment. He, therefore, discards the divine origin of the book, as inculcating a doctrine so obviously false, and inconsistent with the perfections of God.
"As a specimen of atheistical reasoning on this subject, a friend has put into our hands a card engraved in an attractive style, and said to have been printed in New York, and extensively circulated by a club of atheists in that city. It contains the following words, 'God either wills that evil should exist, or he does not. If he wills the existence of evil, where is his Goodness? If evil exists against his will, how can he be All-Powerful? And if God is both good and omnipotent, where is evil? Who can answer this?'
"Now it is manifest, that these several conclusions of the universalist, the infidel and the atheist, are all derived from substantially the same premises. If the premises are admitted to be true, the conclusion follows with all the force of absolute demonstration. The premises are briefly, that the permanent existence of evil is inconsistent with the goodness and the power of God. Hence the atheist infers, in view of existing evil and the want of evidence that it will ever end, that there is no omnipotent, benevolent being--there is no God. The universalist and the infidel maintain the eternal existence of evil to be inconsistent with the perfections of God, and hence infer that ultimately all evil will be excluded from the system; the one explaining away the plainest declarations of the Bible, and the other denying the divine origin of the book.
"Here, then, the advocate of truth is bound to show that there is a fallacy in these premises. Where then does the fallacy lie? The premises rest on two attributes of God, his power and his benevolence. As to his power, the argument assumes that God can, by his omnipotence, exclude sin, and its consequent suffering, from a moral system. Those who admit this assumption have therefore no plea left for the divine benevolence, except to assert that 'sin is the necessary means of the greatest good,' and that for this reason, it is introduced into our system, and will always be continued there, by a Being of infinite benevolence. But can this be proved? Is this supposition consistent with the sincerity of God as a lawgiver, the excellence of his law, the known nature and tendency of sin and holiness, and the unqualified declarations of the divine word, that 'sin is the abominable thing which his soul hateth,' that he 'would have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.' etc. Can this be consistent with his actually preferring the existence of all the sin in the system to holiness in its stead? For ourselves, we must say, that we regard the success of any attempt to make men believe this, as utterly and forever hopeless. Our confident anticipation is, that univeralism, infidelity and atheism in this land and through the world, will only go on to new triumphs, so long as their overthrow is left to depend on the truth of the position, that God prefers sin to holiness, in any of his moral creatures.
"We are thrown back then to consider the other branch of this argument, viz., the assumption that God as omnipotent can prevent all moral evil in a moral system. Is not here the fallacy? We know that a moral system necessarily implies the existence of free agents, with the power, to sin in despite of all opposing power. This fact sets human reason at defiance in every attempt to prove that some of these agents will not use that power and actually sin. There is, at least, a possible contradiction involved in the denial of this: and it is no part of the prerogative of omnipotence to be able to accomplish contradictions. But if it be not inconsistent with the true idea of omnipotence, to suppose that God can not prevent all sin in a moral system, then neither is it inconsistent with his goodness that he does not prevent it; since sin in respect to his power of prevention, may be incidental to the existence of that system which infinite goodness demands. It is, then, in view of this groundless assumption, concerning omnipotence, that we see the reasoning of the universalist, the infidel and the atheist, to be the merest paralogism, or begging of the question. The utter impossibility of proving their main principle, is so obvious that they can be made to see it, and we hope, to acknowledge it. At any rate, until this mode of refutation be adopted, we despair of the subversion of their cause by reasoning. By that mode of argument, which assumes that God prefers sin to holiness, the main pillar of their conclusion, viz., that God can prevent all moral evil in a moral system, is conceded to them, and thus they are only confirmed in their delusions.
"When shall the defenders of the truth learn the difference between scriptural doctrines and groundless theories? When will they see, that a zeal for the one, leads them to attach truth to the other, and thus inadvertently to prepare the way for the worst of errors?"
Speaking of the popular doubts concerning the doctrine of future endless punishment, Dr. John P. Gulliver, of Andover Seminary says, "What then is the practical lesson which such facts as these teach us? It is plainly that if we expect men, especially unconverted men, if even we expect a large class of the best minds among Christian men, to accept the clear teachings of the Bible on this subject, 'without defalcation or fraud,' as the lawyers say, we must go back of their faith in the words of the Bible, and plant our doctrine in the deep soil of their original moral convictions--in their sense of justice, in their love of law, in their intuitions of right; in their perceptions of the absolute and unchangeable necessities of moral government, in their knowledge of the nature of free, moral agency, in their comprehensive views of God's plans in permitting and removing sin and suffering. Till this is done, the utmost which all appeals to the strong language of the Bible can accomplish, will be to produce a kind of distressing bewilderment, and the highest expression of faith will be--'I do not understand it. It is a dark and horrible mystery.' . . .
"But the influence of this confusion of thought is, of course, much more positive upon minds which have never experienced the grace of God. They have no counteracting testimony coming from the daily communion of the heart with a loving Father. They take the epicurean dilemma. 'God either would have prevented evil and could not--then where is his power? or he could have prevented evil and would not--then where is his benevolence?' And they conclude from it that there is no God, or that there is no evil but the necessary means of good, and that final good is to be educed from all evil. In other words, they either become Atheists, denying the infinity of God, or Universalists, denying the eternity of evil. Of the two, it is easy to see that the Atheist occupies the only tenable ground. For he who affirms that God can not secure the highest final good without using evil as its temporary means, limits his power just as truly as he who affirms that he can not secure the highest good without permitting evil as its necessary concomitant The fact that the means are temporary, while the concomitant is eternal, does not change the fact that, in both cases, God has been proved unable to secure good without any admixture of evil: hence, according to the epicurean premise, he is not omnipotent; hence, there is no God.
"With these facts before us, we can not wonder if a large class of minds refuse to accept the Christian's faith, if it must be accompanied with the theologian's doubts; and have sought most eagerly for some position in thought which should not array the moral nature which God has given them in hostility against God himself.
"All these attempts must, as a matter of course, have, as a common element, the placing of some limitation of some kind upon God's power to prevent sin. There is no possible escape from the epicurean dilemma unless we assume that the absolute prevention of sin by an act of power in a being free to sin, is a contradiction in terms--is an impossibility; that such prevention is outside the range and domain of power, as much so as the requirement to construct a circle from right angles would be. The whole strength of skepticism, in all its forms and degrees, consists in slipping in somewhere, in its reasoning, the absurd assumption that God can necessitate the choice of a being endowed with freedom to choose uncontrolled by necessity.
"On the other hand, the whole force of any argument of Christian philosophy, in vindication of the present moral order of the universe, will be ultimately found in the axiom that omnipotence consists simply in the power to do whatever is in its nature possible, not what is impossible. In other words, there is in the whole argument the assumption that God is only bound to prevent all the evil he can, and yet create a system which, on the whole, will produce more good than any other. If a system containing evil, is seen to be better in its total results of holiness and happiness, than any system of a lower grade which excludes evil, then God is vindicated. But on no other hypothesis can such a vindication be made ..... The fault must be in our human philosophy, not in the Divine theology. When we have learned to give a proper definition to power, and do not demand of Omnipotence the performance of impossibilities; when we have learned otherwise, to discriminate between things that differ, when we have learned to discard prejudice, and to subject all our early theological notions, and our habitual definitions of words, and our stereotyped modes of thought to the test of reason and conscience, and the teaching of God, the church will, for the first time in her history, look forth upon an unbelieving, unconvicted, rebellious world, 'fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.'"
The following by Dr. George P. Fisher is an admirable presentation of the historic fact that Calvinism has prepared the way for Universalism:
"Strict Calvinism was a symmetrical and coherent system. It was constructed from the theological point of view. The starting point was God and his eternal purpose. The end was made to be the manifestation of his love and his justice, conceived of as co-ordinate. The salvation of some, and the condemnation of others, are the means to this end. The motive of redemption is love to the elect, for whom all the arrangements of Providence and grace are ordered. The capstone was placed upon the system by the Supralapsarians, who followed Calvin's strong language in the 'Institutes' (but not elsewhere, especially not in his Commentaries), and made the fall and sin of mankind--like creation itself, the object of an efficient decree--means to the one supreme End; for if mercy and righteousness are to be exerted in the salvation and condemnation of sinners, a world of sinners must first exist.
"There was rebellion against this system. Not to speak of the different theology of the Lutherans--in the French Calvinistic school of Saumur, wherever Arminianism prevailed, in the modified Calvinism of the New England churches, it was asserted that in the 'intention of love,' Christ died for all, that God's love extends over all, in the sense that he desires them to be saved, yearns toward them, and offers them help.
"This mode of thought has more affinity to the Greek anthropology than has rigid Calvinism, or its Augustinian prototype. The teleological point of view is less prominent; it stands in the background. The universal love and pity of God, the broad design of the atonement, are the central points.
"The more rigid Calvinism often protested against this modification of the system: it considered the whole theodicy imperiled by it; it saw in it a drift and tendency towards other innovations subversive of the system. For if this universal, yearning love is at the basis of redemption, will it not be suggested that this love will not fail of its end? Will the heart of God be disappointed of its object? Will the Almighty be baffled by the creaturely will? If Christ died for all, will he be 'satisfied' with anything short of the recovery of all?
"As a matter of historical fact, belief in Restoration and kindred doctrines are seen to spring, in different quarters, in the wake of the mitigated form of theology to which we have referred. Not that such beliefs are logically required. All a priori reasoning must be subject to the correction of experience. There is a terrible reign of sin, though all sin is contrary to the will of God; there is a development of sinful character, a hardening of the heart, a persistent resistance--'how often would I .... but ye would not'; 'woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida:' there is a stern, tragic side to nature and to human life. We stand within a sphere where results are not worked out by dint of power, but where freedom, under moral law, with all the peril, as well as possibility of good, which freedom involves, is an essential attribute of our being." The "Andover Controversy" is another link in this historic chain. Dr. E. A. Park has demonstrated that according to the intent of the founders of Andover Theological Seminary its funds must be used to promulgate Calvinistic doctrine. The tendency of the "New Departure" is certainly toward Universalism.
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