By Aaron Hills
CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM COMPARED
We have seen that Calvinism and Arminianism on many subjects are in perpetual conflict. Perhaps we may as well here as anywhere make a careful comparison between them.
Theistic fatalism would be but another name for Calvinism. "Predestination" says Calvin, "we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say is predestinated either to life or to death. . . . "In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of Scripture (?), we assert that, by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined both whom He would admit to salvation and whom He would condemn to destruction" (Institutes, Book 3, chapter 21).
Predestination, in other words, consists in the predetermination of the Divine will, which determining alike the volitions of the human will and the succession of physical events reduces both to a like unfreedom. But those who hold predestination, very uniformly hold also to volitional necessity, or the subjection of the will in its action to the control of strongest motive force. And as the divine will is held subject to the same law, so necessity, as master of God, man, and the universe, becomes a universal and absolute fate. The doctrine, installed by Augustine, and developed more sternly by John Calvin, in Christian Theology, is called from them Augustinianism or Calvinism.
In opposition to this system of necessity or fatalism, is Arminianism. It is the theology that tends to freedom, and is resolutely opposed to absolutism. Cicero said: "Those who maintain an eternal series of causes despoil the mind of freewill and bind it in the necessity of fate. Arminians maintain that, in order to true responsibility, guilt, penalty, especially eternal penalty, there must be in the agent a free will; and in a true, responsibly free will, there must be the power, even in the same circumstances, and under the same motives, of choosing either way. No man can be justly, eternally damned, according to Arminianism, for a choice, which he cannot help. If fixed by Divine decree, or volitional necessity to the particular act, he cannot be responsible or justly punished. Eternal suffering, for which there is no compensation, inflicted as a judicial penalty on the basis of justice, can be justly inflicted, only for avoidable sin. If divine decree or volitional necessity, determine the act, it is irresponsible and judicial penalty is unjust.
Arminianism also holds that none but the person who commits a sin can be guilty of that sin. One person cannot be responsible for another person's sin. A tempter may be guilty of tempting another to sin, but then, one is guilty of the sin, and the other is guilty solely of the sin of temptation. There can be no vicarious guilt; and, as punishment, taken strictly, can be only infliction for guilt upon the guilty, there can literally and strictly be no vicarious punishment. If innocent Damon dies for Pythias, guilty of murder, Damon is not guilty because he takes Pythias' place in dying, and his death is not to him a punishment, but a voluntary suffering which is a substitute for another man's punishment. The doer of sin is solely the sinner, the guilty, or the punished.
1. Foreordination. The old Calvinistic Confession states as follows: "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." As Dr. Hodge puts it: "The occurrence of all events is determined with unalterable certainty. Foreknowledge foreknows them as certain. Foreordination determines them, secures their certainty. Providence effects it. God effectually controls the acts of free agents. They are fixed from all eternity!" (Vol. II, p. 300).
Now certain things are involved in such statements: (1) The decrees of God are eternal. (2) They are immutable. (3) They are unconditional. (4) They are absolute. (5) They are without contingency. (6) They are certainly efficacious. That is to say, God from all eternity predetermines not only all physical agents, but all the volitions of responsible agents. To this, Arminianism objects that the predetermination of the agent's volitions, destroys the freedom of His will; that it makes God the responsible predeterminer and wilier, and author of all the sin in the universe; and it enables every sinner to say that his sin is in perfect accord with the divine will, and, therefore, so far as himself is concerned, is right. It makes God first decree the sin, then create the sinner to commit it, then cause the sinner to commit it, then damn him because he has committed it. It logically makes the sinners only helpless instruments in God's hands, and God is the only real sinner in the universe! The Arminian theory is this: God does from all eternity, predetermine the laws of nature, and the succession of physical and necessary events; but as to free moral agents, God, knowing all possible futurities, does choose that plan of His own conduct, which, in view of what each agent will ultimately do in his freedom, will bring out the best results. His system is a system of His own actions, and God's predeterminations of His own acts are so far contingent, as they are based on His pre-recognition of what the agent will freely do; yet, as His omniscience knows the future with perfect accuracy, so He will never be deceived nor frustrated in His plans and providences. Arminians deny, as against the Calvinists, that foreknowledge has any influence upon the future of the act, as predetermination has. Predetermination fixes the act; foreknowledge is fixed by the act. In foreordination, God determines the act as He pleases; in foreknowledge, the agent fixes the prescience as he pleases. In the former case, God alone is responsible for the creature's acts; in the latter case, God holds the creature responsible.
John Calvin wrote: "For since God foresees future events only in consequence of His decree that they shall happen, it is useless to contend about foreknowledge, while it is evident that all things come to pass rather by ordination and decree. ... It is a horrible decree. I confess; but no one can deny that God foreknew the future fate of man before He created; and that He did foreknow it because it was appointed by His own decree." This lurid quotation involves three fundamental errors of Calvinism, and they are all false. (1) That God by decree causes everything, and so is responsible for everything.
(2) That God cannot foreknow anything unless He causes it! This is a baseless assumption. (3) That God unchangeably decreed a universe necessarily so full of wickedness, and involving the unavoidable, eternal, helpless, hopeless doom of so many immortals, that the very thought of it fills any right-thinking soul with horror! The whole idea is a wicked calumny on God. He never made any such "horrible decree" How that great and good man failed to perceive the unreasonableness and monstrosity of such theory we cannot understand.
2. Divine Sovereignty. Calvinism affirms that if man is free, God is not a sovereign. Just so far as man is free to will either way, God's power is limited. Arminians reply that if man is not free, God is not sovereign but sinks to a mere mechanist. If man's will is as fixed as the physical machinery of the universe, then all is machinery, and not a government, and God is only a machinist and not a moral ruler. The higher man's freedom of will is exalted above mechanism so much higher is God exalted as a sovereign. Here, according to Arminianism, Calvinism degrades and destroys God's sovereignty, and Arminianism exalts it. The freedom of man no more limits God's power than the laws of nature which He has established; that in both cases there is a self-limitation by God, of the exercise of His power. Arminianism holds to the absoluteness of God's omnipotence just as truly as Calvinism and to the grandeur of His sovereignty even more exaltedly.
The Calvinists urge against the Arminian system, that it represents that it is the will of God that all men should be saved; and, inasmuch as all are not saved, the will of God is defeated, and this is irreconcilable with the divine sovereignty. Ralston replies as follows: "The primary will of God is that all men should be saved. This He has most solemnly declared, and the benevolence of His holy nature requires it. But He does not thus will absolutely and unconditionally. He only wills it according to certain conditions, and in consistency with the plan of His own devising. He wills their salvation, not as stocks or stones, but as moral agents. He wills their salvation through the use of the prescribed means; but if, in the abuse of their agency, they reject the Gospel, His ultimate will is that they perish for their sins. This is essential to His moral government over His creatures.
Thus we may clearly see how the Almighty can, according to the system of Arminianism, primarily will the salvation of all men, and through the atonement of Christ render it attainable, and yet maintain His absolute sovereignty over the moral universe. But it is not the sovereignty of an arbitrary tyrant, nor yet such a sovereignty, as that by which He rules the physical universe, according to the principles of absolute and fatal necessity. It is the sovereignty of a righteous and benevolent Governor of moral and intelligent agents, according to holy and gracious principles. A sovereignty variant from this would be repugnant to Scripture and derogatory to the divine character" (Theology, pp. 321, 322).
3. Imputation of Adam's Sin. Calvinism holds that Adam's posterity is truly guilty of Adam's sin, so as to be justly and eternally punishable therefore, without a remedy. As guilty of this sin, God might have had the whole race born into existence under a curse without the power of the means of deliverance, and consigned to eternal punishment. Arminians look upon this as a dogma violative of the fundamental principles of eternal justice. They deny that guilt and literal punishment can, in the nature of things, be thus transferred. Their theory is that upon Adam's sin, a Savior was forthwith interposed for the race as a previous condition to the allowance of the propagation of the race by Adam, and a provision for inherited disadvantages. Had not a Redeemer been thus provided, mankind, after Adam, would not have been born. The race inherits the nature of fallen Adam, not by being held guilty of his sin, but by the law of natural descent, just as all posterity inherits the species-quality, physical, mental and moral, of the progenitor. Before his fall, the presence of the Holy Spirit, with Adam in fullness, supernaturally empowered him to holiness,-the tree of life imparted to him a supernatural immortality. Separated from both of these, he sank into a mere nature, subject to appetite and Satan. The race in Adam, without redemption, is totally incapable of salvation; yet under Christ it is placed under a new redemptive probation, is empowered by the quickening Spirit, given to all, and through Christ, by the exercise of free-agency, may obtain eternal life.
4. Reprobation. Calvinism affirms that, of the whole mass of mankind thus involved in guilt and punishment for sin they never actually committed, God has left a large share "passed by," that is without adequate means of recovery, and with no intention to recover them. And this is done from the "good pleasure of His will," and for a display of "His glorious justice." The other portion of mankind God does, "from mere good pleasure" without any superior preferability in them, elect, or choose and confer regeneration upon them, and eternal life, "all to the praise of His glorious grace."
This horrible charge against God they state as follows: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto, and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice."
Arminians pronounce such a proceeding arbitrary, and fail to see in it either "glorious justice" or "glorious grace" The reprobation seems to them to be injustice, and the "grace" with such an accompaniment, unworthy of the acceptance of free-agents. And to say that the blessed Savior, who wept over sinners and died praying for them, created an infinite number of men and angels, on purpose to damn them, and was "pleased" to do it, just to display His irresistible "power" to the universe, is an inexcusable, wanton, blasphemous slander against the loving Christ!
"Election and reprobation, as Arminians hold them, are conditioned upon the conduct and voluntary character of the subjects. All submitting to God and righteousness, by repentance of sin and true, self-consecrating faith, do meet the conditions of that election. All who persist in sin present the qualities on which reprobation depends. And as this preference for the obedient and holy, and rejection of the disobedient and unholy, lies in the very nature of God, so this election and reprobation, are from before the foundation of the world."
The notion of an eternal election is contrary to reason and Scripture. There is nothing eternal but God. Election is an act of God done in time. The "calling" goes before the "election," and men are elected or chosen through the "belief of the truth," the "sanctification of the Spirit," and the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." We may easily believe that before "the world was," God decided to choose men out of the world and sanctify them in time, on proper conditions.
To affirm that in purpose men were elected from eternity "without foresight of faith or good works" is to say, that from eternity God purposed to constitute His church of persons to whose faith and obedience He had no respect. He eternally purposed to make Peter, James, and John members of His church, without respect to their faith or obedience, or anything else in them. His church is, therefore, constituted on the sole principle of this arbitrary purpose, not on the basis of faith and obedience. How contrary to Scripture such a notion is! Peter, James and John did not become disciples of Christ in unbelief and disobedience. They were chosen, not as men, but as believing men. Men are chosen out of the world, and into the church with respect to their faith. If actual election in time has respect to faith, God's eternal purpose in regard to election must have had respect to faith also. "We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet. 1:2).
Then God foreknew something as a reason why He "elected." God "chose the Thessalonians from the beginning unto salvation in or through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2: 13). Sanctification and faith were the means of the election. In other words, there was a choice of obedient believers into the family of God (see Wakefield's Theology, pp. 394-397).
John Wesley, in a letter to Whitefield, paid his respects to unconditional election and reprobation as follows: "Though you use softer words than others, you mean the self-same thing. God's decree concerning the election of grace amounts to what others call his decree of reprobation. Call it by what other name you please, election, preterition, predestination, or reprobation; it comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this: By virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, one part of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned, it being impossible that any of the former should be damned, or any of the latter saved.
1. It renders all preaching vain and needless to both classes.
2. It tends to destroy holiness by removing motives of hope and fear.
3. It tends to destroy zeal for good works, for they avail nothing.
4. It makes a Christian revelation unnecessary.
5. It makes the Christian revelation contradict itself.
6. It is full of blasphemy; for it represents our blessed Lord as a hypocrite and a dissembler, pretending a love, which he had not. It also represents the blessed God as more false, more cruel, and more unjust than the devil; for, in point of fact, it says that God has condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire for continuing in sin, which, for lack of grace, that He purposely withholds, they are unable to avoid. This is the blasphemy contained in the horrible decree of election. The devil only tempts, but God forces men to sin. You make Him more false, and more wicked than the devil."
Fairchild well says: "The Gospel invitations are such that we feel warranted in offering salvation to every man; nor is there any suggestion of any obstacle in the decree and purpose of God, or in His election. We know, from the terms of the Gospel, that every sinner determines for himself, whether or not he will be saved, and thus determines his own election. The doctrine of sovereign, absolute, unconditional election has grown out of a false application of passages, which set forth the salvation of the sinner as springing from the divine purpose. Passages which represent that salvation as turning on his own acceptance or nonacceptance of the Gospel are explicit and authoritative; and the two classes of passages must be combined to give us a symmetrical and truthful doctrine of election" (Theology, pp. 296, 297).
5. Philosophical and Volitional Necessity. Calvinism maintains the doctrine that all volitions are determined and fixed by the force of the strongest motive, just as the strokes of a clock-hammer are fixed and determined by the strongest force. The will can no more choose otherwise in a given case, than the clock-hammer can strike otherwise. Calvinism often speaks, indeed, of "free agents" "free will" "self-determining power" and "will's choosing by its own power "-the language of freedom. But bring their theory to analysis, and it will always be found, that it is the freedom of a falling body, or of water running down hill, or of a clock-hammer to strike as it does, and as it must, and not otherwise.
Arminianism answers, that if the agent has no power to will otherwise than motive force determines, any more than a clock can strike otherwise, then there is no justice in requiring a different volition any more than a different clock stroke. It would be requiring an impossibility, and to punish an agent for not performing an impossibility is injustice, and to punish him eternally is infinite injustice.
Our father used to tell us of an intemperate neighbor of his, in his boyhood, who, when drunk, would order his clock to stop ticking, and because it did not obey, would take a club and smash it. Calvinists would have us believe that the infinite God acts as unreasonably as that drunken fool. They tell us that we are all paralyzed with moral inability. God commands us all to believe on Christ and be saved. By irresistible grace He creates the ability to do it in the elect; but He purposely withholds it from the non-elect, and determines secretly that they never shall have the ability to believe and be saved; then He damns them because they do not do the impossible!! Stripped of all useless verbiage, and set forth in its naked enormity, it is a beautiful (?) theology!! Arminians hold that the Calvinistic theory, by destroying freedom, destroys all just punishment, and all divine government.
6. Infant damnation. Holding that the race is truly guilty and judicially condemnable to endless torment for Adam's sin, Calvinism necessarily maintains, that it is just for God to condemn all infants to eternal punishment, even those who have never performed any moral act of their own. This was held by Augustine, and wherever Calvinism has spread, this has been a part of the doctrine more or less explicitly taught, Earlier Calvinists maintained that there is actual reprobation-that is, a real sending to hell, as well as particular election of elect infants,
Arminianism, denying that the race is judicially guilty or justly damnable for Adam's sin, affirms the salvation of all infants. As Whedon puts it, "The individual man, as born, does irresponsibly possess within his constitution that nature which will, amid the temptations of life, commence to sin when it obtains its full grown strength. He is not, like the unborn Christ, "that holy thing." There is therefore a repugnance, which God and all holy beings have towards him by contrariety of nature, and an irresponsible unfitness for heaven and holy association. If born immortal, with such a nature unchangeable, he must forever be unholy, and forever naturally unhappy, under the divine repugnance.
Under such conditions divine justice would not permit the race after the fall, to be born. But at once the future incarnate Redeemer, interposes, restores the divine complacency, and places the race upon a new probation. Man is, therefore, born in a state of "initial salvation," as Fletcher of Madely called it, and the means of final salvation are amply placed within the reach of his free choice."
7. Pagan Damnation. On its own principle that power to perform is not necessary to obligation to perform, Calvinism easily maintains that Pagans, who never heard of Christ, are rightly damned for want of faith in Christ. They may be damned for original sin, and for their own sin, and for unbelief in Christ, without having heard of him!
"Arminianism, on the contrary, maintains that there are doubtless many in Pagan lands saved by the unknown Redeemer."They not having a law are a law unto themselves." Nay, they may have the Spirit of faith so that', were Christ truly presented, He would be truly accepted. They may have faith in that of which Christ is the embodiment. Like the ancient worthies enumerated in Hebrews 11. There may not be as great differences in the chances of salvation in different lands as Calvinism assumes. Where little is given, much is not required. Arminianism holds that no one of the race is damned who-has not had a full chance for salvation. Missions are none the less important, in order to hasten the day when the mass of men shall be converted. If that millennial age shall come and be of long duration Arminianism hopes that the great majority of the entire race of all ages may finally be saved" (Whedon). .
8. Doctrines of Grace. Calvinism maintains that the death of Christ is an expiation for man's sins; first for the guilt of Adam's sin, so that it is possible for God to forgive and save; and, second, for actual sin, that thereby the influence of the Spirit restores the lapsed moral powers regenerates and saves the man. But these saving benefits are reserved for "the elect only"!
Arminianism, claiming a far richer doctrine of grace, extends it to the very foundations of the existence of Adam's posterity. Grace underlies our very nature and life. We are born and live because Christ became incarnate and died for us. All the institutes of salvation, -the chance of probation, the Spirit, the Word, the pardon, the regeneration, the resurrection, and the life eternal are through Him. And Arminianism, against Calvinism, proclaims that these are for all, Christ died for all, alike; for no one more than for any other man; and sufficient grace and opportunity for salvation is given to every man.
Calvinism also maintains the irresistibility of grace; or, more strongly still, that grace is absolute, like the act of Creation, which is called irresistible with a sort of impropriety, from the fact that resistance in that connection is truly unthinkable.
Against this, Arminians reply that will, aided by prevenient grace; is free, even in accepting pardoning grace; that though this acceptance is no more meritorious than a beggar's acceptance of an offered fortune, yet it is accepted freely, and with full power of rejection, and is none the less grace for that.
9. Justifying and Saving Faith. Faith according to Calvinism, is an acceptance of Christ, wrought absolutely, as an act of creation in the man, whereby it is as impossible for him not savingly to believe as it is for a world to be not created, or an infant to be not born. And so this faith is resistlessly fastened in the man, so it is resistlessly kept there, and the man necessarily perseveres to the end.
Now if this were true, all the commands of God to believe are perfectly superfluous, and quite as needless. The irresistible grace would create the faith in the elect, as well without a command as with it; and the non-elect could not believe anyway, try as much as they please.
To this absurd notion, the Arminians reply, that faith, as a power to believe, is indeed the gift of God; but faith as an exercise is the free, avoidable, yet really performed act of the intellect, heart and: will, by which the man surrenders himself to Christ and all holiness for time and eternity. In consequence of this act, and not for its meritorious value, or in any way compensating for earning salvation, it is accepted for righteousness and the man himself is accepted, pardoned and saved.
And as this faith is free and rejectable in its beginning so through life it continues. The Christian is as obliged, through the grace of God assisting, to freely retain it, as at first to freely exercise it. It is of the very essence of his probationary freedom, that he is as able to renounce his faith and apostatize, as he was able to refuse to believe at first.
10. Extent of Atonement and Offers of Salvation. Earlier Calvinism maintained that Christ died for the elect alone. It was more consistent and logical than the later Calvinism which affirms that He died for one and all, and so offers salvation to one and all on condition of faith.
But Arminianism asks: With what consistency can the atonement be said to be made for all men, when by the eternal decree of God, it is foreordained that a large part of mankind shall be excluded from its benefits? How also can it be for all when none can accept it but by efficacious grace, and that grace is arbitrarily withheld from a large part of mankind? How can it be for all when God has so fastened the will of a large part of mankind, by counter motive force, that they are unable to accept it?
The same arguments show the impossibility of a sincere offer of salvation to all, either by God or the Calvinistic pulpit! How can salvation be rationally offered to those whom God, by an eternal decree, has excluded from salvation? What right has a preacher to exhort the very men to repent whom God determines, by volitional necessity, not to repent? What right have we to exhort men to do otherwise than God has willed, decreed and foreordained they shall do? If God has decreed a thing, is not that thing right? What an awful sinner a preacher is who stands up to oppose and defeat God's decree! If a man is to be damned for fulfilling God's decrees, ought not that imaginary God to be, a fortiori, damned for making such a decree? If a man does as God decrees, ought he not to be by God approved and saved? And, since all men do as God decrees, wills and determines they for "God unchangeably foreordains whatever comes to pass," ought not all men to be saved? The true theory therefore should be Universalism.
How can grace be offered to the man whom God decreed never to have grace? How can faith be preached to those to whom God has made faith impossible? How can conditions of salvation be proposed to those from whom God withholds the power of performing the conditions? The offers of salvation might as well be made lo tombstones, or hitching-posts, or the beasts of the field! Hence the Arminian affirms that in all public offers of a free or conditional .salvation to all, the Calvinistic preacher contradicts his own creed.
11. Basis of Morality. Calvinism claims that the very severity of its system, its deep view of human guilt, and necessary damnability by birth and nature, its entire subjection to divine absolutism, irrespective of human ideas of justice, tends to produce a profound piety!
Arminianism responds, this is basing Christian morality on fundamental immorality. For God to will and predetermine the sin, and then damn the sinner for it, -for Him to impute sin to the innocent, and so eternally damn the innocent as guilty-are procedures that appear fundamentally unrighteous, so far as the deepest intuitions of our nature can decide. Thus, first to make God in the facts intrinsically and absolutely bad, and then require us to ascribe holiness and goodness to His character and conduct, perverts the moral sense. It is to make God in our theology, what we are in duty bound to hate, and then require us to love and adore Him. Such adoration, secured by the abdication, not only of the reason, but of the moral sense, and the prostration of the soul to pure naked absolutism, naturally results in the somber piety of fear; just as children are frightened into factitious goodness and obedience, by images of terror.
Arminianism, on the other hand, holds up to the admiring gaze of men, a God of infinite love, impartial in the offer of His blood-bought mercies, and just to all His children. In order to a true and rational piety, it exalts the ideal of rectitude in the divine character and conduct, not by mere ascriptions contradicted by facts, but both in the facts and the ascriptions. A harmony of facts in God's conduct and our intuitive reason is produced. Love to the Divine Being becomes a rational sentiment, and a cheerful, hopeful and merciful piety, and glad obedience to God becomes realized."
In this comparison of the two system's of theology, we have made free use of an article in Johnson's Cyclopaedia on "Arminianism" by Dr. D. D. Whedon, which the reader can there find more at length. It was too keen, and just and valuable not to be used.
Such is Calvinism, the most unreasonable, incongruous, self-contradictory, man-belittling and God-dishonoring scheme of theology that ever appeared in Christian thought. No one can accept its contradictory, mutually exclusive propositions without intellectual self-debasement. For a theologian to flounder about in the morass of its opposing doctrines and assumptions, in a vain attempt to make them harmonize, and then admit that "these are only feeble attempts to extricate ourselves from the profundities of theology," is nothing but self-stultification. It holds up a self-centered, selfish, heartless, remorseless tyrant for God, and bids us worship Him, King Theebau of Burmah, some years ago, ordered seven hundred young men and women to be buried alive that his majesty might have better health! But such a pitiless human autocrat is as gentle as a ray of early morning sunshine compared with the God of Calvinism, -who is represented as creating countless billions of men and angels on purpose to send them to a hell of eternal torment, "as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures!" He sits on His throne and, "according to the good-pleasure of His will" causes them to pour like a niagara tide of life, into the yawning abyss of hell, with as little compunction as we would kill a few flies, which we have not even created!
We do not wonder that this wicked caricature of God was called by Henry Ward Beecher "a horrid nightmare of. human reason!" The sentiment of the missionary, Bishop Wm. Taylor, of holy memory, was infinitely more Scriptural when he wrote: "At the funeral of every lost soul the procession of mourners will be headed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
It is a historic fact that Calvinism has been a fruitful mother of infidelity. In its womb were born Universalism and Unitarianism, the twin sisters of unbelief. By the natural reaction of the mind they arose, as a mental protest against the monstrosities of the reigning theology. One extreme follows another. Nothing is needed but Calvinism and Carnality as parents, with evolution for a wet nurse to produce the modern drivel of New Theology.
Its doctrines are an impediment to revivals. The churches of America were paralyzed by the doctrine of "moral inability" and sinners were either plunging into universalism and infidelity, or sleeping on the brink of hell, supinely waiting for the "irresistible grace" to force salvation into them, when Finney, with his mighty eloquence, like the hammer of Thor, smashed their Calvinism, and aroused the multitudes to use their powers and seek salvation. He spent nearly a year in the Presbyterian churches of Philadelphia alone, and from that center, and other places where he labored, the revival spread, and spread, over the English speaking world. Nobody knows how many hundreds of thousands of souls were saved. But Finney records that the ministers and churches that clung to their old Calvinistic doctrines were smitten with the barrenness of death. And working right along with Finney were the Methodist ministers, preaching a similar Gospel, and winning multitudes to God. " Calvinism stands in the way of the spread of holiness. In Scotland we saw it producing its natural fruit. A friend of ours somehow got an opportunity to preach holiness in some week-night meetings of a Presbyterian Church. The Sabbath school superintendent and eleven Sabbath school teachers and the chorister and thirty-three members of the choir got sanctified. Meantime twelve of the sixteen members of the official board of the church were known to be addicted to the use of intoxicants. A meeting of these highly religious officials was called. The very night of the called meeting, one of the elders was distributing communion cards for the next communion service. But he went into a saloon, got drunk, got into a fight, and was put in jail. While this was going on, the brother elders were discussing what should be done to the members who were rejoicing in sanctification. The meeting adjourned without decision. But at the next meeting, nothing whatever was done to the elder who got drunk; but those who were sanctified were censured so severely, and such a ban was put upon them, that they left the church, and formed a holiness church which in three months, had eighty members! Much of this transpired while we were holding meetings in the city. We found that one Calvinistic church, at least, preferred drunkenness to sanctification, and we could give similar illustrations of many more.
A friend of ours, a female evangelist of great power in preaching and prayer, was holding meetings in a Methodist church in a certain city, and had, night after night, in her audience a tall, queenly young woman of unusual ability and culture. One night she listened as for life with fixed eyes and strained attention. At the close she went forward, put her arms about the evangelist's neck and sobbed convulsively, and asked for an interview the next day. Her story was as follows: She had been converted at eighteen in a Methodist revival, held by my friend, but her proud, aristocratic mother forced her to join a cold, formal church. She was training for a professional career in music, when she had a nervous collapse. She was engaged to a noble young man, and just before the wedding day he died. Blow followed blow, till, absorbed in her sorrow, she waked up to the fact that she had lost her Christ. "I have wanted to seek your counsel," she said, "but I was a stranger, and you were always so busy, that I did not dare. But yesterday morning, I felt that I could stand it no longer, and so I went to my own pastor, and told him of my conversion, my hopes, my disappointments, my sorrows, and how I had lost my hold on God. I laid my quivering heart all bare before him and begged him to help me back to God. And what do you think he said? He leaned back in his chair and looked at me intently for what seemed to me an age, and finally said slowly, 'My dear Miss --, if all that you tell me is true, I very much fear that you were deceived about your so-called conversion, and that you are not among the elect of God at all!' 'Shocking,' I exclaimed. I rushed from his presence like one demented. For hours I walked the streets unconscious alike of weariness and time. The word 'doomed' seemed to ring in my ears at every step. I at last resolved to end it all. A few years more or less in hell would not make any great difference. I felt an almost insane desire to get there quickly. And so, before returning home, I availed myself of the means of taking my own life. But something impelled me to go once more to hear the old Gospel. 'Yes,' I said, 'I will hear once more the voice of prayer that can never be answered for me. Once more I'll hear the preached Word which holds no message for my soul, and then I'll go home and send it to the place where it belongs quickly! So I went to church last night in that frame of mind, and you told us that Christ died for all; and that he willeth not the death of any. You assured us that 'whosoever will may come.' My heart cried out, 'It must be true! It must be true!' I listened for eternity, catching at every word. But when you called for prayer, I had not strength to go to the altar, but I dropped my head on the back of the pew, and in my despair I cried out to God once more, and, oh, Mrs. W--, He heard my cry, he came to my relief, he took me back and rested my tired heart so sweetly, and I am not doomed, hell is not to be my portion, I am His-His forever." This woman soon was sanctified, and became an effective leader in the church of God.
Now, we have nothing but abhorrence for a system of theology that can make a minister so brutally callous in the presence of a soul quivering with anguish and crying out for God. A system of thought that will make an "ambassador of Christ" so little like the gentle Jesus, "who would not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoking flax," is not the truth, is not from heaven, and was never inspired by the Spirit of God!
Calvinism is being killed by the Christian consciousness of the age. They have revised the catechism: let them revise it out of existence. When we were teaching theology in an English city of a million people, we wanted the Westminster Catechism to use in the class room, and went to seventeen bookstores and could not find a Confession of Faith. One merchant, with twenty thousand volumes within fifty feet of him, looked us in the face and asked if it was a Roman Catholic publication!! It took our breath away. We said in ourselves, thank God it is dying! May its death be hastened the sooner it breathes its last, the better it will be for the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.