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in Catholic countries. Their very oaths and curses, he says, are .
, cast in a Catholic mould. Whether this phenomenon may not admit of a less ingenious solution, we do not at present intend to inquire ;* but Dr. Newman's argument illustrates our meaning with respect to Mr. Spurgeon. His thorough grasp of the subjectmatter of his sermons would be obvious enough if he were the most staid of preachers, and the predominating characteristic of his mind is so clearly a certain grotesqueness and whim rather than profanity or even vulgarity, that we are strongly inclined to consider his jocular manifestations as the not unnatural result of the quality which, of all others, gives hearers the greatest confidence in a teacher—thorough and evident familiarity with his topic.
If it be true, as we are inclined to think, that the influence which Mr. Spurgeon exercises arises principally from the fact that he preaches with vigour and liveliness, and in the most uncompromising manner the very sternest form of Calvinism, the inquiry into the reasons of his popularity becomes ope of the very deepest interest; an interest in which all personal criticism is entirely merged. To one kind of praise Mr. Spurgeon is most incontestibly entitled : he may be right or he may be wrong, but no human being can doubt his meaning. A more perfectly
A plain-spoken and intelligible writer we have seldom met with. He does not shrink in the least degree, as a more educated man would be almost sure to do, from sectarian names. Fifty times over he avows that he is a Calvinist in so many words. The following strange rhapsody is perhaps as good an instance of this as could be found. After speaking of the numerical proportion of the Baptists to other sects, and the insignificance of all sects in comparison to Christ, he goes on: “Britain, thou shalt never perish; for the flag of Old England is nailed to the mast by the prayers of Christians, by the efforts of Sundayschools, and her pious men. But, I say, let even England's name perish—let nations and national distinctions perish, but let Christ's name last for ever. Perhaps there is only one thing on earth I love better than the last I have mentioned; and that is, the doctrine of pure, unadulterated Calvinism; but if that be wrong, I for one say let that perish too, and let Christ's name last for ever.
Jesus ! Jesus ! Jesus ! Jesus! ‘Crown him Lord of all.' You will not hear me say any thing else. These are my
* It is bardly a parody of his argument to apply to it the opening stanza of General Calhoun's speech in favour of slavery, preserved in that wonderful piece of humour " The Biglow Papers:"
“Here we stand on the Constitution, by thunder!
It's a fact of which there's bushels of proof;
Says John C. Calhoun, says he.”
last words in Exeter Hall for this time, Jesus ! Jesus ! Jesus ! Crown him Lord of all !” What Mr. Spurgeon understands by Calvinism is equally plain. In the strange passage to which we have already referred, in which he speaks of the three R’s,” Mr. Spurgeon says, that a better “epitome of the Gospel” is to be found in “the five points of Calvinism : election, according to the foreknowledge of God; the natural depravity and sinfulness of man; particular redemption by the blood of Christ; effectual calling by the power of the Spirit ; and ultimate perseverance by the power of God's might.” We need not dilate on a system, the general features of which are sufficiently well known to every one. How any human being can believe such a doctrine, having regard to the existing condition of the world, and retain his reason, seems to many persons matter of astonishment. That God, being the source of all justice and goodness, should have created a large proportion of the world on purpose that it might be damned, is a proposition which no quantity of evidence or argument would persuade most men to entertain for a moment; for they would contend that it was almost, if not altogether, a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless the fact unquestionably is, that few preachers have ever been more popular or more influential than those who have maintained, in the most uncompromising manner, the doctrine which to many minds presents itself under this form. In Switzerland, Scotland, England, Wales, and North America, this doctrine has been repeatedly preached; and has almost always been received by a considerable class of persons not only with assent but with enthusiasm. The explanation is, we think, to be found in the nature of the doctrines themselves, which have an attractive as well as a repulsive aspect. One great source of their influence is, that they form a system. The fascination which even the appearance of logical consistency exercises over mankind can hardly be overrated. The power of really acquiescing in ignorance is one of the latest accomplishments of a high education. Nothing is more difficult than to recognise, not only in words but in practice, the imperfections of human thought and language. It is a very rare and difficult acquirement, to be content to believe in what is actually known and felt without generalising upon it, and then making the generalisation the ground of the belief, of which in fact it is almost always the effect. It is to the absence of this moral and intellectual modesty that we are inclined to attribute the fascination of systematic theology. Few men have sufficient strength of mind to acquiesce in doctrines imperfectly understood. They are never satisfied until they have woven what they believe into what appears to them a coherent whole ; which almost always contains much which they maintain only because they consider its belief essential to the continuance of their faith in the rest. Rather than give up a set of opinions to which he clearly sees his way, a man will constantly adopt a whole series of opinions from which he would recoil with horror if he did not look upon them as the price of those which he is determined to maintain. On resolving such systems into their component parts by separating the doctrines which form the inducement from those which form the price, the causes of their power become apparent. We believe that this process is peculiarly applicable to the system which is preached by Mr. Spurgeon. Hardly any system can be mentioned which presents greater attractions; and tremendous as the price which is paid for them appears to be, and really is, it is nevertheless capable of being represented in a manner very much less repulsive than would perhaps appear at first sight.
There is probably not one of the five points which Mr. Spurgeon considers as making up in the aggregate an "epitome of the Gospel” which does not represent very strong and natural convictions; some of which are almost inseparable from any kind of belief in a God who interests himself in the affairs of men, whilst others are in the opinion of the vast majority of Christians essential parts of Christianity. To trace out this through the whole of the subject would be an undertaking no doubt of vast interest, but also infinitely too wide and deep for the present occasion. We will, however, attempt to illustrate our meaning by showing that there are strong inducements to the belief of some of the most prominent features of Mr. Spurgeon's system.
Suppose a man really to believe, not merely to admit, that the world and all its contents were created and are sustained by an almighty ever-present God, the source of all that is good and the enemy of all that is bad. Let him also suppose that God really controls the affairs of his creatures, and that in a manner which has more analogy to the way in which one man acts upon the will and character of another than to that in which he acts upon finite matter. Such an opinion almost necessarily involves the notion that whatever relations exist between God and man exist hy God's will and not by man's,—that God comes to man, and that man does not go to God. The inferiority of the creature to the Creator, the weakness, the inconsistency, the intermittent character of all human efforts, is such, that it seems almost too wild a supposition to be stated to suppose that man discovered God's existence, attracted his attention, and ultimately earned his favour by his own unassisted efforts. Almost all relations between rational beings are regulated by the superior and accepted by the inferior. It is so in the case of parent and child, of master and servant, of husband and wife, and under almost every form of government in the case of governments and sub
jects. Those who believe at all in the existence of any other God than the gods of Epicurus, must believe that whatever relations subsist between God and man are referable to the divine and not to the human will. There is but one step from this proposition to one form of the doctrine of election. It is founded on the belief that God is not the author of evil. We have assumed that the inquirer whose case we are considering starts with the notion, however obtained, of a perfectly good and holy being, and applies it to what he sees before him. How can such a being regard evil? That, at any rate, cannot be derived from him. It cannot constitute a part of his relation to mankind, that he stirs them up to sin. It may, and probably does, form a part of his relation to them, that in one way or another he stirs them up to holiness. In the conduct of some men a settled preference for what is good, a settled repugnance to evil, may be traced; in others there would seem to be an indiffcrence to the whole subject; in others, again, the character is enveloped in an impenetrable reserve. Starting with the fundamental belief which we have attributed to the inquirer, the language employed in asserting the doctrine of election is the mere description of a matter of fact. Every man is surrounded, from his cradle to his grave, with a thousand influences; some of which arise from external circumstances, some from bodily constitution, some from thoughts and feelings which present themselves to the mind quite involuntarily. Suppose such influences tend in a good direction and issue in a good result, it is hard to see how a person who habitually refers all good things to the providence of God can speak in any other way of such a person than by saying that God has chosen or elected him. It may, of course, be said that the fundamental belief on which such assertions rest is groundless or uncertain. That is quite another question, and introduces a very different set of considerations. Our present purpose is only to point out that it is almost impossible to separate such a belief in God as we have described from a belief, in one form at least, of the doctrine of election. Indeed, the two beliefs are so closely connected, that many minds would feel that to lose the one would be equivalent to losing the other; and, rather than be forced to do so, they would be ready to accept any consequences with which the belief in question would appear to be legitimately connected.
The second great doctrine of Calvinism, the natural sinfulness and depravity of man, stands upon a footing at least equally broad and intelligible. Whatever theory of morals is adopted, it is undeniably true that the conduct of every man, and the inclinations which prompt his conduct, deviate from it to a very considerable extent. Bentham's morality has generally been supposed to be that which is most antagonistic to the Christian doctrine. We do not at present intend to consider the justice of this criticism, but even upon Bentham's showing human nature is far from virtuous. If actions are good or bad according to their tendency to produce the greatest happiness of the greatest number, a considerable number of human actions are very bad indeed, and an immense proportion of them can hardly be called good. The fact that people do habitually prefer a small immediate gratification to a great one at some distance,—the fact that they do not habitually strike the balance between the pleasures and pains which will result from a given course of conduct, and act accordingly,--are surely facts which cannot be disputed : but, if we still continue to look at the subject from the point of view which we have already indicated, the significance of moral evil becomes infinitely greater. A man who sets out in his inquiries from the belief in a holy God cannot overlook the existence of evil. With his view of the divine character, he can hardly consider wilful wrong-doing as any thing short of downright rebellion against God's will. It is hardly possible for such a man to doubt that there are in the world two influences irreconcilably hostile and diametrically opposed to each other ; nor that, to say the very least, human nature is in great measure on the side of the evil, and opposed to the good. It is far from improbable that he would consider that in such a case neutrality is itself a crime, and that those who are not with God are against him. He is almost certain, in direct proportion to the power of his conception of the divine holiness, to feel that any true theology must in some way or other recognise and embody this antagonism.
The doctrine of particular redemption is, perhaps, of all the Calvinistic doctrines, the one which gives most offence; but if it is regarded from its positive and not from its negative side, if we take its assertions and leave out its exclusions, it is any thing but gloomy. It is indeed a fearful thing to believe that the benefits of the atonement only apply, and were only meant to apply, to a certain number of persons, and that the rest of the world are excluded from them, being either reprobate-created to be damned, -or preterite-passed over, which comes to the same thing; but if the first part of the statement be looked upon as the inducement, and the latter part as the price, the horror of the belief is capable—not, we think, of being removed, but of being very greatly diminished. The belief that Christ is in some way or other the Saviour of the world, and that the benefits which he confers upon mankind are sacrificial, is common to almost all Christians ; though of course the nature of the atonement, the meaning of sacrifice, and the exact point at which the mystery,