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The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11b. CONCLUSION

We have said that Calvinistic theology develops a liberty loving people. Where it flourishes despotism cannot abide. As might have been expected, it early gave rise to a revolutionary form of Church government, in which the people of the Church were to be governed and ministered to, not by the appointees of any one man or set of men placed over them, but by pastors and officers elected by themselves. Religion was then with the people, not over them. Testimony from a remarkable source as to the efficiency of this government is that of the distinguished Roman Catholic, Archbishop Hughes of New York: “Though it is my privilege to regard the authority exercised by the General Assembly as usurpation, still I must say, with every man acquainted with the mode in which it is organized, that for the purpose of popular and political government its structure is little inferior to that of Congress itself. It acts on the principle of a radiating center, and is without an equal or a rival among the other denominations of the country.”[70]

From freedom and responsibility in the Church it was only a step to freedom and responsibility in the State; and historically the cause of freedom has found no braver nor more resolute champions than the followers of Calvin.

Calvinism,” says Warburton, “is no dreamy, theoretical creed. It does not, — despite all the assertions of its adversaries, — encourage a man to fold his arms in a spirit of fatalistic indifference, and ignore the needs of those around him, together with the crying evils which lie, like putrifying sores, upon the open face of society.”[71] Wherever it has gone marvelous moral transformations have followed in its wake. For purity of life, for temperance, industry, and charity, the Calvinists have stood without superiors.

James Anthony Froude has been recognized as one of England’s most able historians and men of letters. For a number of years he was professor of History at Oxford, England’s greatest university. While he accepted another system for himself, and while his writings are such that he is often spoken of as an opponent of Calvinism, he was free from prejudice, and the ignorant attacks upon Calvinism which have been so common in recent years aroused in him the learned scholar’s just impatience.

I am going to ask you,” says Froude, “to consider how it came to pass that if Calvinism is indeed the hard and unreasonable creed which modern enlightenment declares it to be, it has possessed such singular attractions in past times for some of the greatest men that ever lived; and how — being as we are told, fatal to morality, because it denies free will — the first symptom of its operation, wherever it established itself, was to obliterate the distinction between sins and crimes, and to make the moral law the rule of life for States as well as persons. I shall ask you, again, why, if it be a creed of intellectual servitude, it was able to inspire and sustain the bravest efforts ever made by man to break the yoke of unjust authority. When all else has failed, — when patriotism has covered its face and human courage has broken down, — when intellect has yielded, as Gibbon says, ‘with a smile or a sigh,’ content to philosophize in the closet, and abroad worship with the vulgar, — when emotion, and sentiment, and tender imaginative piety have become the handmaids of superstition, and have dreamt themselves into forgetfulness that there is any difference between lies and truth, — the slavish form of belief called Calvinism, in one or other of its many forms, has borne ever an inflexible front to illusion and mendacity, and has preferred rather to be ground to powder like flint than to bend before violence or melt under enervating temptation.”

To illustrate this Froude mentions William the Silent, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Coligny, Cromwell, Milton, and Bunyan, and says of them: “These men are possessed of all the qualities which give nobility and grandeur to human nature, — men whose life was as upright as their intellect was commanding and their public aims untainted with selfishness; unalterably just where duty required them to be stern, but with the tenderness of a woman in their hearts; frank, true, cheerful, humorous, as unlike sour fanatics as it is possible to imagine anyone, and able in some way to sound the key-note to which every brave and faithful heart in Europe instinctively vibrated.”[72]

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

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