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Reference: Calvinism


CALVINISM, that scheme of doctrine on predestination and grace, which was taught by Calvin, the celebrated reformer, in the early part of the sixteenth century. His opinions are largely opened in the third book of his "Institutes:" "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God; by which he hath determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated, either to life, or to death." After having spoken of the election of the race of Abraham, and then of particular branches of that race, he proceeds: "Though it is sufficiently clear, that God, in his secret counsel, freely chooses whom he will, and rejects others, his gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particular individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner that the certainty of the effect is liable to no suspense or doubt." He sums up the chapter, in which he thus generally states the doctrine, in these words: "In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election; and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name, and sanctification of his Spirit, he affords another indication of the judgment that awaits them," chap. 21, book 3.

2. In the commencement of the following chapter he thus rejects the notion that predestination is to be understood as resulting from God's foreknowledge of what would be the conduct of either the elect or the reprobate: "It is a notion commonly entertained, that God, foreseeing what would be the respective merits of every individual, makes a correspondent distinction between different persons; that he adopts as his children such as he fore-knows will be deserving of his grace; and devotes to the damnation of death others, whose dispositions he sees will be inclined to wickedness and impiety. Thus they not only obscure election by covering it with the veil of foreknowledge, but pretend that it originates in another cause," book iii, chap. 22. Consistently with this, he a little farther on asserts, that election does not flow from holiness, but holiness from election: "For when it is said, that the faithful are elected that they should be holy, it is fully implied, that the holiness they were in future to possess had its origin in election." He proceeds to quote the example of Jacob and Esau, as loved and hated before they had done good or evil, to show that the only reason of election and reprobation is to be placed in God's "secret counsel." He will not allow the future wickedness of the reprobate to have been considered in the decree of their rejection, any more than the righteousness of the elect, as influencing their better fate: "'God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.' You see how he (the Apostle) attributes both to the mere will of God. If, therefore, we can assign no reason why he grants mercy to his people but because such is his pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but his will for the reprobation of others. For when God is said to harden, or show mercy to whom he pleases, men are taught, by this declaration, to seek no cause beside his will. (Ibid.) "Many, indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated. But this is puerile and absurd; because election itself could not exist, without being opposed to reprobation;

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