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been decreed by God before the creation. He also de-
creed that Adam's sin and guilt should be imputed
to his entire posterity. All men were bom under the
divine condemnation, not merely because they had in-
herited the effects of Adam's transgression, but be-
cause God willed that Adam's guilt should be also
theirs. He elects a few of the human race to salvar
tion, and the vast majority He leaves to the condem-
nation which by their sins they deserve.^ He does not
make them sin in order to merit the condemnation
which He has decreed, but He simply withholds His
grace so that they cannot but sin. Those who are
elect are not so in virtue of any goodness of disposi-
tion which God foresees, but simply by the act of His
sovereign, arbitrary will. Upon the elect He confers
greater benefits than upon Adam before his fall, for
He endows them with the gift of perseverance which
insures the fulfillment of their destiny; even their
transgressions and failures minister to their humility,
and thus secure the perfecting of their character.

With reference to the doctrines of the trinity, the
incarnation, and the two natures in Christ, Calvin does
not differ from the statements of Latin or mediaeval

^ Calvin admits that all this may seem horrible, but it is just,
because it is God that has decreed it. InsHtuteSj iii. c. 23 (7). It
is a common mistake to represent Calvin as attributing the decree
of reprobation to the divine anger. Calvin does not think that
God is ever angry ; he speaks like a modern rationalist of the
accommodation of Scripture, in this respect, to our weakness:
^'Though God declares that He is angry with the wicked, we
ought not to imagine that there is any emotion in Him, but ought
lather to consider this mode of speech accommodated to our sense,
GU>d appearing to us like one inflamed and irritated whenever He
exercises judgment." — ImtUutes, L o. 22.



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CALVIN'S THEORY OF THE ATONEMENT. 301

theologians, except in relying on the authority of Scrip-
ture for their confirmation in place of tradition or the
authority of the church. He was unacquainted with
the history of their dogmatic development in the
ancient church, nor had he attempted its study would
he have found it a congenial one. He accepts, like
the other reformers, the mediaeval idea of an atone-
ment, as Anselm had given it expression ; he sees in
the offering of Christ a provision for escape from the
consequences of sin, but he modifies the view of An-
selm in one important respect, — he looks upon the
sufferings and death of Christ as a veritable punish-
ment in which the Saviour bore vicariously the wrath
and condemnation of God. To this end he is inclined
to magnify the intensity and horror of Christ's an-
guish upon the cross, and His descent into hell was
viewed as necessary for the completeness of his vicar
rious punishment. The doctrine of the atonement be-
came in the following period a subject of discussion
and controversy as it had not been in the age of the
Reformation, and it then received a more exact state-
ment ; but in all its later modifications the doctrine
still bore the stamp of Calvin's mind rather than of
Anselm's, and as such has come down to our own
day.i

* InstU,f ii. c. 16. Upon this view of the atonement it has been
correctly remarked : " For three centuries it has been the popular
view in England, though not without protest. Grotius's early
work against Socinus (de Satisfactiane Christi) helped to fix it in
our theology, even Hammond, Outram, and Bishop Pearson em-
bracing it ; and so largely has it been adopted, that it has come
to be viewed as the orthodox view of the English church, although
it has no place in our prayeivbook, and although even those who
adopt it (as Dr. Shedd, in his History of Doctrine) are fain to ac-
knowledge that it has never received the stamp of Cattiolio
truth." — Norris, RudimerUa of Theology ^ p. 267.



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302 THEOLOGY OF THE REFORMATION.

The vista of future ages in the world to come, as Cal-
vin saw and described it, is clear and definite. The
earthly life of Christ he regarded as the period of
His humiliation, when His divine glory was concealed
behind a veiL When He rose from the dead He de-
parted to distant realms to sit down at the right hand
of God. His mediatorial kingdom then commenced,
and will continue until the elect are gathered in.
For these He died and rose again ; His merits are im-
puted to them by divine decree ; they are sheltered by
His intercessions at the throne of God ; they partake
of His life, and are progressively sanctified till they
are called away into His presence. He is to come
again to judge the world, and then will be made
manifest the divine glory ; His mediatorial kingdom
will then come to an end ; He will return back again
into the bosom of the Father, as He existed before
the foundation of the world ; the period of humilia-
tion will be over, and the veil which now covers the
face of His glory will be done away.

In some respects the system of Calvin not merely
repeats but exaggerates the leading ideas of Latin
Christianity. In no Latin writer is found such a
determined purpose to reject the immanence of Deity
and assert His transcendence and His isolation from
the world. In his conception of God, as absolute
arbitrary will, he surpasses Duns Scotus; he rivals
Mohammedanism by a doctrine of decrees that sub-
dues the creature into fatalistic submission to neces-
sity. The separation between God and humanity is
emphasized as it has never been before, for Calvin
insists, dogmatically and formally, upon that which
had been, to a large extent, hitherto, an unconscious
though controlling sentiment. And yet there were



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MERITS OF CALVIN'S THEOLOGY. 803

features also about this theology which show some
advance over Latin Christianity, — \l contained ele-
ments which prepared the way for future develop-
ments. Although Calvin aimed by his doctrine of
the church to restore the ascendency of the clergy
over the conscience of the people, yet the action of
this principle was modified by the force of his doc-
trine of an individual election, which obliged men to
contemplate themselves as forever standing face to
face with the sovereign majesty of God. The effect
of this conviction was necessarily to destroy every
tyranny, whether in church or state ; to break down
all human mediators which professed to control human
destiny, and thus to minister in reality to human free-
dom. The importance which Calvin attached to the
sanctification of the elect made the cultivation of
righteousness and the obedience of the moral law
stand forth more clearly as the end of all true living.
He has also the merit of drawing attention to the life
of Christ, and not solely His birth. His death and
resurrection, and of bringing into greater prominence
the perfect righteousness which made an element in
His offering to God. In his treatment of the life of
Christ he was the pioneer of modem efforts to recon-
struct, in more complete and scientific form, the con-
tents of the gospel narratives. He was the first theo-
logian, since the days of Greek theology, to bring out
the spirit that was in Christ. While he admits the
miraculous birth of the son of Mary, yet it was not
to the virgin mother that Christ owed anything of the
purity or sanctity of His nature, but to this, that
God directly endowed Him with all the fullness of
spiritual wealth.^ Hence he struck intelligently at
that lower conception of the incarnation so prominent
^ Institutes^ ii. cc. 13, 14.



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804 THEOLOGY OF THE REFORMATION.

in the Latin church, whose tendency was to deify the
mother of Chnst as the source whence the Saviour
drew His human purity or excellence. His sharp
distinction between the elect and the non-elect con-
tributed to destroy that almost Egyptian cultus of the
dead, which in the later Middle Ages had absorbed
so much of the prayers, the wealth, the energies of
the living. The assertion of the absolute supremacy
of the divine will destroyed all lingering fondness for
images of every kind ; it concentrated the worship of
man exclusively upon God.

Such was the system which carried with it the im-
mediate future in the history of Protestantism. It
professed in every part and smallest detail to reflect
faithfully the teaching of Scripture; in reality it only
rested for its confirmation upon a misreading of St.
Paul's Epistle to the Bomans, and was then applied
to all Scripture as a measuring-rod. But when such a
system had once taken possession of the mind it was
not difficult to read the Bible in the light of it, and
indeed it was impossible not to do so, especially when
ingenious treatment of special passages was capable
of bringing them into harmony with the preconceived
assimiptions of the reader. And the system of Calvin
had, strange as it may now seem, a wondrous fascina-
tion for the generations that followed him. It was
voluntarily adopted to a large extent, even in the
Lutheran and Anglican churches. It was, so to speak,
the spirit in the air. It had a genuine mission to ac-
complish for humanity, and not until its mission was
over would its real weakness be apparent. Then it
would be seen that it rested upon assumptions which
Calvin had been unwilling to analyze, and that at its
basis lurked the spirit of what is called modem
skepticism.



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CONFLICT OF THE TEADITIONAL
THEOLOGY WITH REASON.



Hoc primum intelligentes quod omnia prophetia ScripttirsB propria inter-
pretatione non fit.

Non enim volantate humana allata est aliquando prophetia ; sed Spirita
sancto inspirati locuti sunt sancti Dei homines. —2 Pet. i. 90, 21.

90



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CHEONOLOGICAL TABLE.



A. D.

1486. Raymnnd of Sabunde taught at Toulouse.

1558-1600. Richard Hooker.

1555-1621. Arndt, a German Mystic.

1558-1603. Reign of Queen Elizabeth.

1559. Beginning of Puritan dissent

1571. Robert Browne, the first Independent

1576-1624. Jacob Bohme

1598-1682. George Herbert.

1599-1658. Oliver Cromwell.

1604-1610. Bancroft, Archbishop of Ganterboxy.

1608-1675. John Milton.

1617-1688. Cudworth, the philosopher.

1618-1648. Thirty Years' War.

1620. Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers.

1623-1662. Blaise Pascal.

1627-1696. Michael Molinos.

1628-1688. John Bunyan.

1630-1694. Archbishop Tillotflon.

1632-1704. Locke, the philosopher.

1633. First Congregation of Baptists.

1635-1705. Spener, Father of German Pietisin.

1642-1717. Madam Gnion.

1642-1727. Sir Isaac Newton.

1646. George Fox begins to preach.

1649-1660. Age of the Commonwealth*

1660. Restoration of Charles IL

1688. The English Revolution.

1689. Act of Toleration passed.
1692-1752. Bishop Butler.
1694-1778. Voltaire.
1703-1791. John Wesley.
1711-1776. Hume, the philosopher.
1729-1781. Lessing.

1745. Swedenborg in his religious career.



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CONFLICT OF THE TRADITIONAL
THEOLOGY WITH REASON.



There were elements of hope and of progress in
the attitude of the reformers of the sixteenth century
which were not fulfilled in the age that followed. In
the prevailing theology of the seventeenth century
there was no divergence in principle from the scholas-
tic theology of the Middle Ages. Indeed, it seems as
though the aim of the leaders of thought was to re-
turn as near to the spirit of Latin Christianity as was
possible without actually passing the line that divided
the hostile communions.

The thought about God which always underlies and
controls all other thought, remained unchanged. De-
ity continued to human vision as a sovereign will en-
throned at an immeasurable dii^tance from man. God
and man were regarded as alien to each other, in their
inmost being; the characteristic of fallen humanity
was not only incapacity for the divine, but even an
active hatred and enmity for God. The incarnation
resolved itself into a scheme or plan of salvation, by
which the schism in the divine nature between justice
and love might be overcome, and God be free to par-
don man and to receive the chosen few into His favor.
The nature of this scheme was revealed in the Bible.
Man had no inward power in the reason to appreciate
its fitness ; the glory of revelation lay in its confound-
ing the mind and humiliating it in abject submission to



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808 TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY AND REASON.

that which had been arbitrarily revealed. Revelation
was a matter of the past ; God had once spoken finally
and for all in the book — the oracle that had been
miraculously communicated and preserved. The Bible
took as it were the place of the living Christ ; its very
letter was deified ; in it alone was thought to lie the
power of imparting life and salvation. The kingdom
of God that was to be was viewed as rising in another
world than this. Here all was darkness and misery,
saving the revelation that Gt>d vouchsafed to make to
those whom in His inscrutable purpose it might be
His will to save. The outer world still lay under
the curse of the divine displeasure, serving to conceal
rather than make known its divine Creator; it had
been called into existence out of nothing and was des-
tined to relapse again into its original nothingness.
Despite Luther's teaching of justification by faith and
the inward assurance that it implied, or Calvin's doc-
trine of predestination, which was also an effort to
overcome the uncertainty about salvation, the conjeo-
tura moralis of the Middle Ages came back again in
more distressing form. It took the shape of the doc-
trine of probation, according to which each individual
man, in his loneliness and isolation, is awaiting the
final day of judgment, when the outcome of his career
shall be disclosed. On the issue of this probation it
depended whether man should be ultimately admitted
in the distant future to the presence of God, or be for-
ever banished from the society of the redeemed. The
motives to obedience were f oimd in external sanctions
—the endless bliss which awaited the saved, the end-
less woe which awaited the lost. Salvation was not
construed ethically but physically, as an escape from
the horrors attending the divine condemnation. Be-



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THEOLOGY OF THE 17TH CENTURY. 809

cause salvation was not primarily an ethical process,
it followed that other considerations than righteous-
ness and conduct modified the issue of human proba-
tion. To think rightly became of the highest impor-
tance; orthodoxy in belief was capable of covering
a multitude of sins ; to give one's assent to the scheme
of salvation was the first step toward acceptance with
God. It will always remain one of the curiosities of
theological literature, that Lutheran divines should
not only have maintained that right belief might
exist in those who are wholly unregenerate, but that
carelessness of life did not necessarily diminish the
preacher's power to convey to others the salvation of
God. •

Such were the leading features of the formal theol-
ogy of the seventeenth century. Its development was
attended by bitter controversies and angry recrimina-
tions, which hurt the spiritual life of the newly organ-
ized churches. When orthodoxy of opinion assumed
such indispensable importance, it was inevitable that
any deviation from the traditional system of Scripture
interpretation should be opposed with a corresponding
hatred. And yet the system had a side which com-
mended it to many of the noblest men of the age. It
did assert in an age of great political confusion and
low moral ideals the absolute supremacy of God, the
fact that He did rule this world, however mysterious
and incomprehensible might be His will. For those
who could believe themselves within the charmed cir-
cle where operated the divine grace there was comfort
and peace. Like the Mohammedan mosque which
outwardly bristles with a threatening aspect, there was
within a beautiful inclosure which was like the garden
of God. As a system of theology, it possessed a charm



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810 TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY AND REASON.

for the imagination, as may be seen in the great epio
poem of " Paradise Lost." Milton did for the theol-
ogy of his age what Dante had done for the theology
of Thomas Aquinas. He translated it into poetry, he
remoulded it into a beautiful theosophy, which long
held men in thralldom to that against which their
hearts revolted. More than the Bible itself, more
than all the theologians combined, has Milton's imagi-
nation identified the thought of the seventeenth cen-
tury with divine revelation ; it created a picture which
the world having once seen could never forget.

In the immortal work of Bunyan, " The Pilgrim's
Progress," the same theology was reproduced in at-
tractive guise for the needs of the humblest Christian.
Despite the fact that Christ is only to be reached
when the pilgrim's journey is over — when the dark
river which separates man from God has been safely
crossed ; or that only angelic or other intermediaries
aid the traveler on his way ; or that there is no rec-
ognition of the dearest and closest relationships of life
compared with the celestial selfishness that inspires
the desire for salvation ; despite the fact that the Chris-
tian life is not regarded as preeminently one of chari-
ties and of doing good to others in the name of Christ,
the work of Bunyan will always be regarded with
pride and tenderness not only as one of the master-
pieces of Christian literature, but as a rare and beau-
tiful picture of Christian experience whose fidelity to
human nature will prevent it from ever becoming an-
tiquated.

The theology of the seventeenth century on its
practical side is exemplified, better, perhaps, than
anywhere else, in the career of Oliver Cromwell. In
him may be seen its genuine fruits, — the hardness



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ITS PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION. 311

and severity, even the cruelty which he systematically
manifested for the accomplishment of his ends, the
narrow range of the intellect, the confusion of his own
ambition with the divine will, and yet withal the in-
spired hero, who wrought in the consciousness of a
God-appointed mission, who humiliated himself only
before God and never before man, and to whom the
English people are largely indebted for that liberty
which has made them foremost among the peoples of
the world. The same religious characteristics that are
found in Cromwell, and the leaders of the civil war,
are seen also in those who led resistance in the Nether-
lands against the tyranny of Spain, and above all in
the Pilgrim fathers who consecrated to God the new
world in the West. These were the practical results
which attested the power of a living belief in God,
— that He was calling men to the execution of His
will, to the making of that will dominant in human
society.

So long as external events called out the heroic side
of human nature, so long as the reformed churches
were engaged in a struggle to maintain their existence
against the machinations of Rome, the Calvinistic the-
ology preserved an inward life, notwithstanding its
grave defects. The human heart to some extent im-
consciously supplemented its deficiencies, while the
wants, the necessities which it failed to recognize, were
such as required another age with other conditions of
life in order to their full appreciation. Then the sys-
tem would appear in its emptiness and hollow for-
mality, and men would realize that, if they were to
retain their belief in God, they must find some deeper,
more organic relationship, as the basis of the divine
communion with humanity.



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812 TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY AND REASON.

Even in the age when it was at its best, one can read
the painful skepticism which it engendered in the writ-
ings of Pascal. As a Jansenist, devoted to the spirit
and letter of the Augustinian theology in opposition
to the Jesuits, he may also be taken as the most illus-
trious representative of Calvinism on its intellectual
side. The " Thoughts " of Pascal reveal the tortures
of a soul, which, in its search for God, can find no
ground which satisfies the reason, and falls back in
a spirit akin to despair upon a supposed revelation
which defies the reason. To such a mind, the princi-
ple of Tertullian affords the only rationale of belief,
— to accept the impossible because it is impossible;
to find the evidence of truth in its absurdity. The
attitude of Pascal is a thorough -going agnosticism^
which sees no evidence of the being or goodness of
God in the nature of things, or the constitution of
the soul ; his faith rests upon a precarious foundation
which the intellect refuses to examine. How could a
man have any well-founded confidence in the reality of
a divine life in the soul who could write : ^' All nature,

1 " n serait difficile aujourd'hui, aprds la demonstration victo-
rieose de M. Cousin, de nier que dans Pascal se rencontrent k
cliaqae page des traits qui trahissent un absolu scepticisme. H
attaque la philosophie dans ses sources psychologiques en niant la
l^gitimite de tons nos moyens de connattre ; il ^branle la morale
et la religion naturelle en niant la justice et en n'admettant que
la force ; il ^branle la th^ologie elle-mdme en justifiant I'ath^
isme comme une marque de force d'esprit, en substituant aux
demonstrations philosophiques de Pezistence de Dieu la fameuse
^ preuve tir^e du calcul des probabilit^s qu'il yenait d'inyenter,

jouant Dieu k oroiz ou pile. H n'est pas moins sceptique sur les
affections que sur les iddes, et il a ^crit cette phrase odieuse, que
Hobbes ne ddsavouerait pas ; * Les hommes se haissent naturelle-
ment les uns les autres." ' — Janet, Le8 Mailres de la Pensee
Modeme, p. 249.



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SKEPTICISM OF PASCAL. 818

both within and without us most manifestly declares a
God withdrawn from us ; " or again : " The appearance
of things indicates neither the total abandonment, nor
the manifest presence, of the Divinity, but the presence
of a God that hideth Himself." ^ " The strange se-
crecy impenetrable to the view of man, into which God
has retired, is an impressive lesson to teach us to with-
draw into solitude far from human observation. He
remained concealed imder the veil of natm*e which
hides Him from us until the incarnation, and when it
was necessary that He should appear, He was more
fully concealed imder the garb of humanity." ^ How
could one long continue to believe in a divine revela-
tion who could assert that out of all the world God
revealed Himself only to the Jews, and that all other
religions, except the Christian, are notoriously f alse.^
The interest attaching to Pascal lies in the fact that
he endeavored to square his religious experience with
a formal theology which he accepted as revealed truth.
Other men, not organized like him, might hold their
theology somewhat loosely, living by convictions which
were larger than their thought. Pascal was bent on
subduing his nature, his heart, and conscience within

^ Pensees, ed. par Lonandre, o. xzi. 2.

^ Lettres h MademoueUe de Roarmez ; PenseeSf ed. Looandre, p.
427.

® Pensees, p. 266. Also the following passages : *^ L'homme
n'est done que d^gnisement, que mensonge et hjpocrisie, et en
8oi-mdme et k Tegard des autres." p. 141. " Dieu dtant ainsi
cache toute religion qui ne dit pas que Dieu est cach^ n'est pas
veritable ; et toute religion qui n'en rend pas la raison, n'est pas
instruisante. La ndtre fait tout cela : Vere tu es Deus absconditus,^^
(A favorite text with Pascal.) p. 240. ** L'abandon de Dieu parait
dans les Paiens ; la proteotion de Dieu paratt dans les Juifs."
p. 321.



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814 TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY AND REASON.

the liard and narrow limits of a revived Augustinian-
ism.^ A distant Deity, an absent Saviour ; humanity
utterly depraved and worthless, life full of vanity and
misery ; a dim revelation of a hidden God arbitrarily
communicated from without, and full of difficulty, to
which no inward voice of the soul responds in divine
confirmation, — a revelation to be received, if at all, on
the authority of the book ; the heavy burden of an. in-
dividual probation or responsibility before God, not
lightened by the sense of solidarity or of the fellowship
within the church, as the old mediaeval theology pre-
sented it, — such are the thoughts of Pascal, full of
the deepest sadness, of an unutterable melancholy.



Online LibraryAlexander Viets Griswold AllenThe continuity of Christian thought: a study of modern theology in the light ... → online text (page 24 of 35)