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Religious controversy should never, without pressing necessity, be entered into. However pure may be the motives, which, at first, influence the combatants on both sides, and however unexceptionable the manner in which the discussion may be conducted, it is next to impossible to confine it to the naked question at issue, and it seldom, if ever, fails to be unprofitable to those engaged in it. Stimulated by knowing that they are contending under the eye of their respective friends, whose cause is entrusted to their hands, and too proud to consent to appear inferior to their opponents, they are too often tempted to lose sight of the glory of God and to struggle merely for victory, which is seldom conceded, but which, if even by general consent achieved, is too often connected with alienation of feeling and the excitement of bitter animosities in the minds of partisans on both sides.
Men do not enter into controversy with the desire to ascertain the truth. Each steps into the arena with a conviction, not to be shaken, that he is the champion of the truth; and having taken his stand, he feels it incumbent upon him to sustain not only his opinions, but himself. True, those who, not being committed to either party, dispassionately witness the contest may be aided in the acquisition of truth; but with the combatants and their friends, the more ordinary result is that they are each more firmly established in their respective sentiments.
To a man of pacific temper, therefore, it is disagreeable to engage in controversy, and the earnest seeker after truth will more easily attain to it by any other process. But yet, religious controversy is sometimes necessary. The world abounds in errors, and we are commanded to contend and earnestly, too, for the faith once delivered to the saints. Assaults upon truth committed to our trust should be met, whatever may be the character of the assailant, and whatever the manner in which he conducts his assaults.
Has God chosen you to love? St. Augustine: On the Predestination of the Saints – Communio
In engaging in controversy with persons of this description, however, we should see to it that we are influenced solely by a regard for the truth, and that we be not provoked into the same unlovely spirit which they betray. It is always an evidence of an unsanctified temper, or of the weakness of our cause or of both, when we indulge in personalities and abuse.
Never until we feel that our arguments are exhausted are we tempted to stand by our arms. Not that we would be understood to say that a Christian should never use severity. It is often as necessary to answer the man as the argument; and in doing so, rebuke administered with a proper spirit and in a proper manner, exerts sometimes a wholesome influence. Thus much would we say, partly in deprecation of the necessity which seems to impel us to controvert the positions of the publication whose title we have given above, and partly as an assertion of the principles by which we shall be governed in the attempt.
This is a pamphlet of twenty-eight pages and contains the substance of two sermons delivered in various parts of Middle Georgia in They created quite a sensation at the time, and their author, having no further use for them for the pulpit, has slightly expurgated them, and the world is now blessed with them in a more permanent form. There is nothing original about them, excepting the spirit that is exhibited and some ingenious misapprehensions of the plain language of Calvinistic writers, which no one before has been so constituted as to fall into.
Leaving these out of view, the remaining is made up of arguments in a diluted state, borrowed, without acknowledgment, from standard Arminian writers; and if we were assured that our readers are in possession of the authors on the Calvinistic side of the question, we should consider ours excepting in so far as we may be performing a service to our author a work of supererogation. Let us live in hopes, therefore, that it may possibly survive even Mr.
Our author, however, has formally declared war against Calvinism and, in effect, announced that he has not only drawn his sword but thrown the scabbard away. The war under his direction, is to be of the most sanguinary character.
Nothing short of complete extermination will satisfy him. However this may be, we confess it shocks us to hear such a blood-thirsty determination announced. There are to be granted no terms of honorable capitulation — the forces of Calvinism are not to be cheered with the hope that, if it come to the worst, they can save their lives by surrendering at discretion. Entreat as piteously as they may for mercy it is in no case to be granted them. The lifeblood of one or both, it is sternly decided, must water the ground! Is not this the nineteenth century? Has not the savage ferocity of war been mitigated by the spirit of the Gospel and by the humanizing influences of advancing civilization?
We hope our author, for his own sake, will reconsider this determination. It may make Calvinism desperate. That he considers himself a warrior of no inferior stamp — destined to achieve victories which no polemical hero before him he tacitly acknowledges has been adequate to, is abundantly evident, not only from this, but from other passages of his production; but we see no reason why any else should labor under the same delusion — surely there is none to be found in the performance before us. Notwithstanding, however, he broadly intimates that he has much confidence in his success, his language would seem to imply that he has some apprehension that he may, after all, fail in his super-human enterprise.
He feels that a solemn responsibility rests upon him in the premises — that much has been given him and therefore much will be required of him. Will he come up to his responsibilities? If he fails it shall not be his fault! But suppose Calvinism should not be accommodating enough to die when he attacks it, how will he infallibly know that he has acquitted himself as in duty bound?
We fancy that we see him now harassed by the most painful uncertainty. Some months ago he made his first attack and discharged at his enemy seventy-two paragraphs all numbered off , and since then silence has reigned over the field of operations. If he fancies that this silence is caused by his complete success and that Calvinism lies among the slain, it becomes our painful office to inform him that it is not dead but sleepeth and that we are the only one of its friends that seem to have been awakened by the noise of the attack!
But then what becomes of his conscientious determination so to act as to avoid blame? Could he not have hurled one paragraph more? Did he have no other shot to fire? He answers the question which suggests itself concerning Adam--in what way he sinned by not persevering, since he did not receive perseverance. He shows that such assistance was at the first given to him, as that without it he could not continue if he would, not as that with it it must result that he would.
But that now through Christ is given us not only such help as that without it we cannot continue even if we will, but moreover such and so great as that by it we will. He proves that the number of the predestinated, to whom a gift of this kind is appropriated, is certain, and can neither be increased nor diminished.
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And since it is unknown who belongs to that number, and who does not, that medicinal rebuke must be applied to all who sin, lest they should either themselves perish, or be the ruin of others. Augustine's summation of his thoughts on Predestination. Few have read what this Doctor of the Catholic Church really thought. How can I use this format? Log in to rate this item. You must be logged in to post a review. Please log in. There are no reviews for the current version of this product Refreshing There are no reviews for previous versions of this product.
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