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the ministry, not in the Bible, but in the Westminster Confession. The five points are the text book ; and the Bible is only used as a reservoir, or armoury of sentences, from whence weapons may be drawn to defend them. Hence theology has declined, while a bastard Calvinism has been engendered, wbich is preached, and believed, and defended by thousands who never read a line of Calvin, except perhaps a part of his Institutes. Hence, too, the avowal, that meets us in every corner of the land, of the inutility of various parts of God's word: the measure of usefulness being, what bears, or what bears not, upon the five points.
It is in a region such as this, that a controversialist can thrive without being a theologian. Here it is that he can successfully make a man an offender for a word; get hold of half a dozen sentences out of three thick volumes, and pervert them into a meaning directly at variance with the whole purport of the remainder of the book; charge the writer with heresy, and be followed by a score of small critics in full cry. the blessing of a rapid printer, having written in a passion, he can publish before he has time to cool, and raise himself to notoriety as the opposer of what he wants the capacity to understand. Should he be of another cast of mind, and better fitted for the bar than the pulpit, he can get up his case from the
, points, as a lawyer does from his brief; and refer to the Bible for quotations and proofs, as the other would to Digests and Reports. But the skill in arguing, of either of such characters, by no means shews that he understands the question upon which he can most learnedly declaim. To follow out the example from forensic practice : let us suppose (and it is a very common occurrence) that there is a dispute between two landed proprietors, upon certain boundaries of manors and the customs of their separate baronial courts: an advocate of ordinary intelligence and practice can make himself as completely master of the
facts of the case, and its history from the remotest antiquity, as if he himself had lived in the time of Caractacus, and remained steward of one of the manors ever since. But he may, nevertheless, be entirely ignorant that there ever was a state of England such as that during the Heptarchy: he may nothing of the origin of feodal tenures, by socage, or in capite, or custom of gavel-kind: still less need he understand the general principle out of which any of those respective holdings emanated. Exactly in a similar manner can the editor of a religious magazine apply to a country bookworm for materials out of which to frame an article, on a subject of which he himself understands so little as to be sure of inculcating heresy if he trusted to his own stores of knowledge; and in these borrowed plumes strut as finely as the jay in the fable, and make the same ridiculous figure when restored to his proper plumage : or ,
he can defend justification by faith, or predestination, or final perseverance, most logically and most irrefragably, without having the most distant conception of the great purposes of God, in the unfolding of whose Name these items are of consequence, for that purpose, and no further.
While controversy is desirable, it must on this account be remembered, that it is controversy with a theologian, not with a mere controversialist : with a lover of truth, and with a lover of logic for the sake of getting at truth ; but not with a lover of logic, for the sake of the logic. Such a controversialist, at best, is but as a mercenary in an army: he fights, if he be a brave and honest man, for the honour of the banner under which he is enrolled, utterly reckless whether the cause be just or unjust: he finds his glory and his reward in the battle : his courage is the courage of a fiend, without one of the stirring and hallowing motives which animate the patriot, and the faithful subject of a king. Controversy without theology, without the abiding im
: pression of ignorance in ourselves, and of desire to learn, and of a wish to be refuted if in any thing we have spoken unadvisedly with our lips, is mere strife, contention, wrath, anger, bitterness, confusion, and every evil work. From all such things we pray that the Lord would deliver us !
Unless it had been for the influence of system, and if divines had read their Bibles as much as they did the systematic commentators, it seems as if it would not have been possible that they should have continued to propagate views which could never have been derived by many from the Scriptures themselves. The modern fancies of a spiritual Millennium, of a spiritual second advent of the human body of Christ, are clearly traceable to Socinian and Arminian writers. Corresponding with this absurdity is the ordinary notion of the two covenants : yet we will venture to say, that the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, as they are called—that is, a covenant of works made with Adam, and a covenant of grace made with Christ—is as pure a fiction as any of those numerous legal apparitions, which deface the proceedings of an English court of equity.
It is nearly fifteen years since the writer of this article was brought, by God's mercy, through the instrumentality of a revered friend, to know the Lord in Christ; and among the first works that were put into his hands were Witsius, and Boston on the Covenants. The fallacies which were seen to lie at the bottom of both these treatises were two-fold : 1st, That the word COVENANT, in the sense of bargain between two parties, as applicable to the relationship subsisting between Creator and creature, is absurd : 2dly, That there is no Scripture whatever to justify such an assertion. From that time, no clear views of the nature of these covenants, nor of the doctrines connected with them, could be obtained, until the subject of the future destination of the Jews, and God's promises to them, were examined. It was then perceived clearly, that the blessing of the new covenant is one of the many unfulfilled mercies in store for that people : so complete is the harmony of Divine truth, and so perfectly does denial or ignorance of one truth ensure confusion and error in the remainder. The question then naturally occurs, Whence could this error of the covenant of works arise? We answer, From another error, namely, supposing that we are now under the new covenant: and therefore, those who held such an opinion were bound to hunt for an old covenant somewhere ; and, hunting back in vain till they came to Adam, were obliged to fasten upon it there, or no where.
Any one, who examines the promise of the new covenant which is made to the Jews in Jer. xxxi., Ezek. xxxvi., xxxvii., will perceive that it is to be fulfilled after the restoration of the ten tribes, as well as of the two, to the favour of God, and after they have been united once more as one nation in Judea : that this is to take place under Messiah, who is to be their ruler; and who, in and by them, is to govern all the nations of the earth.
The essential difference between the covenant, under which the people of God are now, and the new covenant, under which the people of God then upon the earth shall be, is, that the former are under a covenant of imputed righteousness, whereas the latter shall be under a covenant of inherent righteousness, as Adam was. We are grafted into the covenant of Abraham : one form of it was taught to him by the old typical testament; another form of it is taught to us by the new real testament: to him, by shadows; to us, by the realities of those shadows, even by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The Fifth-monarchy-men, being more consequent in their logic than most of the modern assertors of the new covenant, said, “ If it be true that we Gentiles are the twelve tribes, and that we are now under the new covenant, then it also follows that we have a right to the sovereignty of the earth ;” and accordingly proceeded to take possession of it vi et armis. The Fifth-monarchymen were clearly wrong, because we are not under the new covenant : but if it be conceded that we are, it would be impossible to shew that any one of the promises annexed to that covenant have been kept.
From this false notion respecting the new covenant much of the confusion and contradiction which is found among the commentators on the Epistle to the Hebrews is to be attributed. Owen, who is by far the most learned, could also afford to be the most honest, and in many places acknowledges the difficulties under which the subject labours, in the view which he takes of it; but never seems to suspect that his error lay deeper than he had an idea of.-As we have already treated the subject of the
covenants at length in two former papers, under the signature of M*, we do not mean to enter upon it here. We cannot help regretting, however, that our valued correspondent does not take up the subject again, and more fully develop it; because the arguments are necessarily much compressed, in order to bring them within any space which our volumes could afford; and, in this light and superficial age, men will not give themselves the trouble to understand any thing that is not rendered obvious to the meanest capacity. We would suggest to him, also, to take up as his basis the Epistle to the Hebrews, the argument of which is but ill understood, as might be proved from the opposite opinions held by the systematic commentators upon
every verse. An error of equal magnitude, which has grown up out of systems, is that which limits the effect of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ to a portion of mankind ; and which is held by many sturdy five-point men as an essential of Calvinism. But here, again, Calvin is equally injured by friends and foes : for the position, in the terms in which they are pleased to state it, is not to be found in his writings, but is attacked by Bishop Tomline as a consequence of the doctrine of election. Calvin, indeed, erred in talking about a decree of reprobation; but, because this error is not sufficient, they charge him with the other, alleging that it necessarily follows from the former. This consequence, however, is not by any means legitimate. That there is a decree to election, is true : that there is one to reprobation, is false : but if it were true, non constat that the effect of the incarnation of Christ is limited to the elect. Here too, as in all other branches of Divine truth, real wisdom and genuine piety second the dicta of humility and common sense; and, instead of leading us to force all branches of revelation into agreement with the light we have, would induce us to wait, until increased information enable us to see harmony where at first there appears confusion. It is necessary, however, in order to attain true understanding of the mysteries of godliness, that there should be an appetite for receiving spiritual food ; that we should be desirous of growing in the knowledge of God ; that we should be sincere when we pray, Grant us in this world knowledge of thy truth;' that we should not rest content in indolent and selfsatisfied ignorance, saying, What is the use of knowing this, or of knowing that? Whoever has pursued any branch of science to some length is aware that the first few lessons are very easy : then arrives a season of confusion; and then a period of clearing up, and apparently rapid advance : then a season of confusion again : and thus these alternations continue up to the greatest heights. The way to obtain accurate, as well as enlarged, views of any one branch of Divine science, is to correct, but not to
See MORNING Watch, Nos. II. and III.
limit, one by another: not to follow it up exclusively, and force all others to coincide with it; but to let each tell out its full tale: and then all will be in due proportion and harmony, as they stand recorded in the Book of God. Most errors of theologians consist not so much in the things affirmed, as in the things denied. In the case before us, it is perfectly true that none but the elect attain to everlasting life : it is equally true that the nature which the Son of God assumed and reconciled was not the nature of the elect alone, but the nature of the whole human race: the specialty consists in the work of the Holy Ghost; but there is no limitation in the value of the atonement itself.
We must not here omit to notice one offspring of spurious Calvinism, commonly known under the name of Antinomianisma term which we believe was first employed by Luther against Agricola, who had been his disciple. It is not to be denied that the true declaration of the Gospel always has been, and always will be, arraigned as such by false brethren; and that when any preaching is not charged with being antinomian, that alone is sufficient proof that it is not the Gospel : for the Apostle Paul found it impossible to state the truth without incurring that risk; and it is not likely that the“ prudence” of modern Evangelicals has found out a better mode of managing this matter. Nevertheless, there is such a thing as true Antinomianism, and the five-point system is its parent. Many Antinomians, indeed, deny eo nomine that they are such ; but under no other system could men continue in the systematic and intentional commission of such crimes as railing, and every other proof of pride and ill-temper, and yet call themselves, and be called by others, followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Our readers will find no difficulty in remembering many persons, in the present day, who spend their time in such practices; nay, some who, to use the words of a correspondent now before us, are “ convicted, punished, but unrepentant slanderers,” and yet are leaders of a large sect of Calvinists !
The greatest evil which has arisen from the exclusive cultivation of the systematic divinity is, that men mistake altogether the end and use of creeds, doctrines, catechisms, and all the other machinery of religion. It is not too much to say, that, , for one person who has an orthodox belief founded on the word of God, there are one hundred who have an equally orthodox belief founded on a creed or on a confession of faith, and on nothing else. Not long ago a tract was put into the hands of a person, with a request that it might be read, and an opinion of its contents given. “No," was the reply: “ there hangs a print of good old Mr. Scott: I sit opposite to it every day, while
read his Bible; and I am determined to believe nothing but