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Oetober the 27th, 1553, merely for his religious opinions, and with every imaginable circumstance of degradation and ignoniny! Amongst the several frivolous charges brought against him, the principal was, which no doubt sealed his ruin, that "in the person of * Mr. Calvin, minister of the word of God, in the church of Geneva, he had defamed the doctrine that is preached, uttering all imaginable, injurious and blasphemous words against it."
Such was the end of Servetus, and such the conduct of Calvin in this horrible affair. It is true, the principles of religious liberty were not then understood ; and this may be urged by way of extenuation. We allow this apology its full force, but must protest against that malignity with which the reformer pursued Servetus, even to the stake! The followers of Calvin have attempted to draw a veil over this part of his character. We must, however, confess, that after a full investigation of the subject, we pronounce it deserving of the severest reprobation. To use the words of the compiler of the General Dictionary, “The death of Servetus left a stain on the character of Calvin which nothing can wipe out, because every body has believed that he acted in this affair from motives merely personal : the craftiness of address, and the management in causing Servetus to be apprehended and brought to trial; his furious and brutal treatment of him at the time of his trial, and his dissimulation and malevolence towards him, after his condemnation, will not suffer it to be doubted."
While Calvin was thus rigorously insisting on the rights of his consistory, in accusing and punishing heretics, he took care of the churches both abroad and at home. His pen was always in his hand, and he was indefatigable in the accomplishment of all his purposes. He died, May 27, 1664,* but with the particulars of his death we are not unacquainted. He
* It seems the above date must be a mistake ; perhaps, it was intended for 1564.
left behind writinys on a vast variety of subjects. The edition of his works, published at Geneva, contains twelve volumes folio, which have been compressed into nine in the edition printed at Amsterdam, 1667. His Institutes appear to have excited the most attention, and indeed to have attracted the largest share of admiration.
Beza, who wrote his life, both in Latin and French, assures us, that Calvin knew men again after many years, whom he had seen but once, and that when he was interrupted for several hours, whilst he was dictating any thing, he would resume the thread of his discourse without being told where he broke off, and never forgot what he once committed to memory. He married about the age of thirty, and had died in infancy.
In private life Calvin appears to have been unexceptionable ; but his passions were inflamed by the least opposition to his religious opinions. Had the goodness of this celebrated reformer's temper equalled the energies of his intellect, his character would have been far better entitled to the admiration of posterity, The amiable Dr. Watts, .in his Lyric Poems, styles him the “awful Calvin !" Awful indeed, must be that mind, however vigorous, whence sprung a system of divinity, whose leading tenet consigns the majority of the human race, for a series of predestinated actions, to the horrors of ETERNAL MISERY.
CONVERSATION WITH A DOMESTIC MISSIONARY,
With some reflections on the same. When we see our fellow men embracing errors in opinions, or indulging themselves in hurtful passions, we conceive it to be our duty to let them know their faults, and if possible to set them in the right. And sometimes it may be necessary to expose their faults, that others may guard against them. This is my object in writing the present piece. But I would wish to have it remembered, that I do it in charity and brotherly love towards him, with whom I had the conversation.
I shall endeavor to state the simple facts relative to the case, as nearly as I can recollect them, and the substance of the discourse.
Last winter, while instructing a school in Langdon, N. H. I fortuitously met with one Mr. Rsent as a missionary, to preach the gospel to the heathen in Langdon. I was politely introduced to him by the good man of the house, under whose hospitable roof I was then residing; and whom I believe to be a real christian. After some common place observations the conversation turned on religion in general: afterwards, on agency, depravity, future punishment, &c. but no formal arguments were made use of. As I was sensible of my youth and inexperience, I sought to be instructed with candor, sincerity, and, I think, without partiality and without hypoerisy.
Concerning agency, my host asked Mr. R. what was the difference between moral agency and free agency. To which Mr. R. replied, that with men there was no difference ;-but that beasts were free agents without being moral agents ;-that free agency did not imply moral agency ;-but moral agency did free; therefore, man was a free, inoral agent.
Now, how does this agree with Mr. R.'s sentiment ? He is a strict Calvinist; and (as I was told by one of his friends who learnt it of him) believes every event was foreordained from all eternity by the Supreme. Therefore, according to these premises Mr. R. must believe that man is free to do or not to do that which his Maker eternally decreed he should do, and therefore free to frustrate and subyert the purposes and foreordination of God.
Respecting depravity, he said it was total and entire. He said, tho apparently with some sarcasm) that he once heard an Arminian preacher advance this argument against total depravity, viz. “If man was by nature totally depraved, he might live and sin an hundred years, and still he.. no worse than before.”' And I thought this argument very conclusive; for I cannot conceive how any man can be more than total. ly depraved, or any worse than altogether evil. I then replied to Mr. R. that I also disbelieved in total depravity. At this he seemed somewhat surprised, and wished to know my reasons for so believing. I told him that, in my opinion, it would be implicitly acelising our divine Savior of a great lack of wisdom and economy, to suppose that he would "purchase with his own blood;" by the grace of God, taste death for every man;" "give himself a ransom for all;" and buy, with so precious a price as his life, that which was, in itself, of no value, and altogether evil. He said he did not mean by total depravity, worthlessness, or no value. I replied that I could not conceive how a being totally depraved and altogether evil, could be vuluable in any sense of the word.
Kespecting future punishment and the magnitude of sin, he said, that every sin was infinite, because committed against an infinite God, and deserved future endless punishment! I replied that I believed all sins to be finite in their nature, because committed by finite agents ; and that there would be a punishment equivalent to the crimes committed; for on his hypothesis of the infinity of sin, all distinction between crimes was lost; and the smallest and fewest sins must be punished with infinite anıl eternal punishment; for, indeed, the largest and most numerous can be punished with no greater. For we cannot conceive of more than one eternity ; nor of more than one infinity of suffering: With a voice somewhat angrily tuned, he replied, that God alone, not we, must judge of the magnitude of crimes, and of their just punishment; that those who sinned little, were, perhaps, possessed of small capacities; those who sinned much, of larger capacities; consequently, were more responsible, and could suffer more punishment than those of smaller capacities. But what has the man been doing with the infinity of sin ? In fact, he has destroyed it with his own argument.
For should we even
admit that every person sins in the highest degree his capacity allows him to, (which I think no person will be willing to allow) still, it would follow, on his own ground that he who sins in a smaller degree, cannot sin infinitely. For that which is infinite or unlimited, cannot be surpassed or superceded. So I conclude that Mr. R. holds to great infinite sins and little infinite sins.
Not knowing what was Mr. R.'s belief about the future estate of infants, as he held to total depravity by nature, I asked him if he believed that any infants would ever have to suffer or be made miserable for any thing committed before they were old enough to have agency of their own ? I asked this question in a calm and composed manner, and expected a similar answer. But alas! what did I see and hear! Instead of a candid and christian answer to the question asked, Mr. R. arose from his seat, advanced towards me, and with hand extended, eyes darting ind gnation, countenance distorted with apparent indignation, and voice loud and trembling with rage, exclaimed, “I wish to be treated civilly! When have a question asked me, I want it should be a civil one!" I replied that I intended no incivility to hinu; but thought it a civil question.” “I don't think it so, he very angrily rejoined; "if I should ask you” (pointing to the fire) "if that fire would burn, should you not think that I was a fool myself, or meant to signify that you were one? Who do you suppose would be fool enough to think that infants will have to be punished for crimes committed before they are old enough to have agency of their own ?" I replied (tho neither intimidated by his indignant ire, nor offended at his ill treatment) that I was but a youth, a weak erring mortal ;-that, if I had, through human weakness or ignorance, treated him uncivilly, he ought to forgive and overlook it; and with forbearance to correct and set me in the right. I have not, as yet, been convinced of the incivility of my question. When I am, I will make a public confession of it. But as a testimony in my favor, our good