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Church there was a general tendency to Calvin's opini ons, and confesses that he could find no evidence that any one had publicly opposed these sentiments in the University of Oxford, till after the beginuing of King James's reign. He even admits that during Charles the First's reign, the maintainers of the Anti-Calvinistic doc. trines were but few in number, and in the History of the Church make but a very thin appearance,
"Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto,"
Mr. Overton quotes to the same purpose, the testimony of Bishop Cleaver, and of Mr. Gray.
Of the chain of evidence that the private sentiments of the English reformers were generally, what are now called Calvinistic, the Lambeth Articles, though of no public authority, constitute a strong link. In the year 1595, Lady Margaret's Professor, and William Barratt, fellow of Gonvill and Caius' College, in the University of Cambridge, openly preached and inveighed against the doctrines of Calvin. Articles were drawn up at Lambeth, under the eye and direction of Archbishop Whitgift, with the concurrence of some other dignitaries of the Church, and were sent down to Cambridge to be the standard of doctrine in that University. Those Articles, which are Calvinistic in a very high degree, did not advance a claim to any new imposition on the minds of those to whom they were directed. They claimed only
to be a genuine exposition of the doctrines of the Church. Now, though the comment went far beyond the text, it is self-evident, that no men in their right senses would ever have attempted to force the reception of them upon an individual, much less upon a whole University, had it not
been generally allowed that the seventeenth Article of the Church was, to a certain degree, Calvinistic. There are various parts, however, of the system of Calvin which are not admitted into the Article, as Mr. Archdeacon Welshman, and almost all others who have commented on it, observe. It makes no mention whatever of Repro-bation, or of Preterition, which in Calvin's system, as Mr. Scott confesses, occupies as prominent a place, and employs as much discussion, as Election. It does not represent the fall of man as the consequence of a Divine deIt does not confine the Redemption by the death of Christ to the Elect, but extends it to all mankind.
But if the compilers of the Articles believed in the doctrine of Absolute Election, and if they meant to express that doctrine by the seventeenth Article, as it seems highly reasonable from their well known sentiments to suppose they did, how can those who reject that doctrine, consistently with integrity sign the Article? The Articles, it must be observed, must be signed in their literal meaning, and if the compilers of this Article have left it ambiguous whether the election they adopt, be absolute or conditional, Anti-Calvinists think that they may fairly avail themselves of the latitude which that ambiguity gives "It is not to be denied," says Bishop Burnet in his Exposition of the Article, "but that the Article seems to be framed according to St. Austin's doctrine. It supposes
men to be under a curse and damnation, antecedently to Predestination, from which they are delivered by it: so it is directly against the Supralapsarian doctrine. Nor does the Article make any mention of Reprobation, no, not in a hint: no definition is made concerning it. The Article does also seem to assert the efficacy of grace. That in which the whole knot of the difficulty lies, is
not defined; that is, Whether God's eternal purpose or decree was made according to what he foresaw his creatures would do; or purely upon an absolute will in order to his own glory? It is very probable, that those who penned it meant that the decree was absolute, but yet since they have not said it, those who subscribe the Articles do not seem to be bound to any thing that is not expressed in them: and therefore since the remonstrants do not deny but that God having foreseen what all mankind would, according to all the different circumstances in which they should be put, do or not do, he upon that, did by a firm and eternal decree, lay that whole design in all its branches, which he executes in time; they may subscribe this Article without renouncing their opinion as to this matter. On the other hand, the Calvinists have less occasion for scruple, since the Article does seem more plainly to favour them.”
Some Anti-Calvinists, by way of reprisal, perhaps, for the charge of having acted disingenuously, uncharitably brought by some intemperate Calvinists against them, for their subscription to the seventeenth Article, have proceeded to recriminate by representing the Article as framed in opposition to irrespective decrees, and thus throwing back upon Calvinists in general, the censure which some of them had passd upon their opponents, on this question. It is worthy of our attention, to observe how different a tone many of the Anti-Calvinists have assumed on this subject, from Bishop Burnet, and many other Arminian writers of former times. It never occurred to the Bishop, that the Article was written against absolute decrees. He always is open and fair enough to declare, that the Article seems to be founded on St. Austin's doctrine; and that it seems more plainly to favour the Calvinists.
All he demanded for himself, and for those of his sentiments, was a right to subscribe it because it did not expressly declare that the decree was absolute. He was well acquainted with the beginning, with the progress, and with the principles of the Reformation in England, and with the writings of the Fathers of the English Church; and though he did not, on this subject, adopt their sentiments, he was a man of too stubborn integrity to represent them to be, what he knew they were not. But now, the most violent writers on the same side of the question, without ever studying the subject, and with very little knowledge of those writings from which alone they can be qualified to decide on the prevailing, and almost unanimous sentiments of the Church of England Fathers, take it upon them to settle the controversy, without the trouble of inquiry. Whether these gentlemen, despairing of success by a regular attack, expect to carry their point by a coup de main, we do not know; but they can have no rational hope of succeeding but by the project proposed by one of Cromwell's fanatical parliaments, to burn, or destroy all the records of the kingdom. Without such an overwhelming cause, no such effect can be produced. The mass of evidence, with respect to the sentiments of the English Reformers, is too unwieldy to be removed. Can any man have the hardihood to attempt, or the abilities to prove, that they who certainly believed in Absolute Election, framed an Article in opposition to their own convictions, to exclude themselves and all who should ever embrace their sentiments, from the Church of England? Doctrines may be controverted, on the head of conditional, and on the subject of unconditional Election, much has been said, and much may yet be said; but he who advances an hypothesis so absurd, has no
right to expect a reply. We have entered into the question no further, than to reprobate a mode of procedure, which, if tolerated, would be fatal to the truth of all history.That Calvinist or that Arminian, who, on so mysterious a subject, has never felt any difficulties, bas either thought little, or very superficially on the subject. There certainly are many things in Scripture which have strongly the appearance of absolute decrees; and the Arminian who thinks that moderate Calvinism has not a claim even to a serious examination, has studied the sacred volume either with strong prejudices, or with little reflection. There is in the Scriptures a variety of subjects, which it seems difficult, if not impossible for us, to reconcile with the doctrine of absolute decrees; and the Calvinist who supposes that the peculiarities of his system must command the assent of every pious and humble inquirer, and that he who cannot receive them is destitute of spiritual discernment, needs to be more imbued with the spirit of charity than he is at present.
Of late years it has become the fashion, not only for heroes, whose prowess has been tried in the field, to enter the lists with Calvinists; but several doughty warriors, whose strength is hardly equal to trail, whose sinews refuse to poise, and whose skill is inadequate to aim a common dart, must needs break a lance with the first Calvinists they can find. These men little think what mischief they are doing to the cause for which they contend. When, after a few vapourings, they are driven from the field, and leave the spectators of the combat to infer the strength of Calvinism, from their weakness and folly. Other writers, in whom many excellencies are combined, by confounding the doctrines of Original sin, Justification by Faith, and Regeneration, with the peculiarities of Cal