A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Calvinists

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CALVINISTS. They derive their name from John Calvin, who was born at Nogen, in Picardy, in 1509. He first studied the civil law, and was afterwards made professor of divinity at Geneva, in the year 1536. His genius, learning, eloquence, and piety rendered him respectable even in the eyes of his enemies.

The name of Calvinists was first given to those who embraced not merely the doctrine, but the church-establishment and discipline established at Geneva, and to distinguish them from the Lutherans. But since the meeting of the Synod of Dort, the name had been chiefly applied to those who embrace Calvin's leading views of the gospel, to distinguish them from the Arminians.


The leading principles by which Calvinists are distinguished from Arminians, are reduced to five articles, and which from their being the principal points discussed at the Synod of Dort, have since been denominated the five points.

There are predestination, particular redemption, total depravity, effectual calling, and the certain perseverance of the saints.

The following statement comprises the principal tenets of the Calvinists, to which are added a few of the arguments they allege in defence of their sentiments.

I. That 'God has chosen a certain number of the fallen race of Adam in Christ, before the foundation of the world, unto eternal glory, according to bis immutable purpose, and of his free grace and love, without the foresight of faith, good works, or any conditions performed by the creature, as the cause of his election; and that the rest of mankind he was pleased to pass by, and ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice.[1]

For, as the Deity is infinitely perfect and independent in all his acts, the manifestation of his essential perfections must be the supreme end of the divine counsels and designs. Prov.xvi. 4. The Lord has made all things for himself, &c. Since God is omniscient, it is evident that he foresaw from eternity whatever should come to pass ; but there can be no prescience of future contingents; for what is certainly foreseen, must infallibly come to pass; consequently the prescience of the Deity must be antecedent to his decrees.

The sacred scriptures assert the divine sovereignty in the clearest terms. Rom. ix. 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour? See from verse eleventh to the end of the chapter, and also Rom. viii. ?0; xi. 5, 7. Eph. i. 4. Acts xiii. 48, &c.


II. That Jesus Christ, by his death and sufferings, made an atonement for the sins of the elect only.

The advocates for particular redemption admit that the death of Christ is sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world; yet, say they, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, should efficaciously redeem those only who were from eternity elected to salvation, and given to him by the father.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Atonement[2], and justification by faith alone, or by the imputed righteousness of Christ.[3]

For a more copious elucidation of these sentiments see the articles Hopkinsians, Predestinarians, and Necessarians.


Original footnotes[edit]

  1. The most prominent feature of this system is, the election of some and reprobation of others, from all eternity.
  2. This is observed by Mr. Evans, in his Sketch of Denominations, &c. who states the Calvinistic doctrine of atonement to be, that "Christ by his death, made satisfaction to divine justice for the elect, appeasing the anger of the Divine Being, and effecting, on his part, a reconciliation."This doctrine however, he says, is reprobated by some of their divines; and the instances in the writing of Dr. Magee on the Atonement and Mr. Fuller the latter of whom observes, "If we say, a way was opened by the death of Christ, for the free and consistent exercise of mercy in all the methods which sovereign wisdom saw fit to adopt, perhaps we shall include every material idea, which the scripture gives us of that important event.: See Fuller on Deism. Se also Fuller's Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Compared
  3. Mosheim's Eccles. His. vol. iii. p. 852; vol. iv. p. 70. Calvin's Institutes, p. 127. Assembly's Confession of Faith. p. 35, 36, &c. Charnock's Works, vol. ii. p. 1352. Twisse's Works, p. 225. Dr Edward's Veritas Reduc. p. 56, 89, &c. Edwards on Orginal Sin, p. 18-40, &c. Toplady's Works.