IF the principles discussed in the following pages were merely theoretical, the translator would deem the time which he has bestowed on preparing them for the press, little better than thrown away. This, however, in his judgment, is not the case. On the contrary, he is persuaded, that the subject is eminently practical, and that the glory of God, no less than the good of man, is essentially involved, in maintaining the doctrine that ďall things are of God.Ē
The form in which the subject is presented, will, it is hoped, not be uninteresting, as it seems to combine the spirit, and point of actual debate, the calmness of solitary determination, and the clearness and force of consecutive reasoning. The desire to unite these seemingly incompatible advantages, has given to speculative discussions the shape of dialogues.
But there is much force in the objection urged by Hume against the practice, that the author has some opinions of his own to maintain, and that the arguments which he puts into the mouth of his antagonist are not always the best that might be found, nor presented in the language most fitted to give them their full weight. Here, however, the reader does not listen to Hervey musing under the feigned names of Theron and Aspasio; nor to the amiable and ingenious Berkeley idealizing as Hylas and Philonous: but he hears the greatest of the Reformers vindicating his principles, point by point, against every cavil, that an objector both subtle and fluent could devise. It is not believed that the enemies of Calvinism, will, in general, disclaim their champion, though his vizor is down; while those who are opposed to them will be satisfied with the defense.
There has been recently, and still is, some difference in opinion as to what doctrines were really maintained by Calvin; and opposing controversialists have respectively appealed to his authority in defense of their own sentiments.
A distinguished writer (Dr. Channing) has amused himself in imagining how the stern Reformer would look, were he to return to earth, on some calling themselves Calvinists, and how quickly he would tell them to begone to the camp of Arminius. The fine fancy of that gentleman will not be wanting to enable him to imagine how Calvin would deal with himself in the case supposed. Though dead, he yet speaks in this little volume, and commands him no longer to assume the uniform of the Christian host, but to betake himself forthwith to the camp of Infidel.
It is probable that many, besides the writer referred to, may be offended with the plain language of the Reformer. The translator, however, did not feel at liberty to consult the taste of such, by softening epithets which modern courtesy has discarded. So far as this had been done, the fidelity of the translation must have suffered; and besides, he is not disposed to concur in the indiscriminate condemnation, which it is but too common to pronounce on every thing like severity and indignation in theological debate. He more than suspects that the call for mildness, proceeds fully as often from indifference to all doctrinal distinctions, as from Christian meekness. He cannot shut his eyes to the fact, that the loudest censors of such asperities, are often the very men who go the greatest lengths in political invective. The reason is, they are interested in their politics. Let them remember that we Christians are interested in our creed; and that if they feel justified in their warmth, because they believe their property and even liberty are involved; we are not ashamed of our zeal when convinced that riches inexhaustible and liberty everlasting, are at stake.
The names which Calvin frequently applies to his assailant, and which perhaps will be most apt to shock a merely modern ear, are dog and swine .
It must not, however, be forgotten that Christ himself uses the same expressions, and that in this He is followed by an Apostle. The question for consideration is whether Calvin applies the terms as Christ and Peter did. This is a point for Christian wisdom to determine; and the translator knows not the authority living on the earth, whose judgment in this matter is entitled to outweigh, or even balance the Reformerís.
It was at first intended that notes should be appended to the text, for the purpose of explaining what might seem obscure, and enforcing what the necessary limits of his reply prevented the author from insisting on. The purpose, however, has been abandoned. Second thoughts suggested it as more respectful to the celebrity of the author, as well as becoming the obscurity of the translator, to send forth the work in its naked majesty.
Should the attempt help, in any measure, the present age to appreciate more adequately than it does, him, whom when but 22 years old, Scaliger honored as the most learned man in Europe, whom Melancthon distinguished among the mighty as pre-eminently ďthe divine:Ē ( O j qeologov ) and who almost persuaded Bolingbroke to be a Christian; above all, if it shall be blessed by Almighty God to advance his own honor in the maintenance of his truth, and the salvation of men in the reception of it; the labor of the translator will not have been in vain.
Rhinebeck, 15 May, 1840.