Shedd on Coleridge

From the preface of Shedd’s Calvinism: Pure & Mixed:

“The distinction between doctrines and persons, projects and their advocates, is a valid one. One may have no confidence in a doctrine or project, and yet may have confidence in a particular advocate of it, because a person may be different in his spirit and intention from the nature and tendency of his doctrine or project, while this is a fixed quantity. Coleridge, in a conversation with a Unitarian friend, said:

‘I make the greatest difference between ans and isms. I should deal insincerely with you, if I said that I thought Unitarianism is Christianity; but God forbid that I should doubt that you and many other Unitarians are in a practical sense very good Christians.’ (‘Table Talk,’ April 4, 1832).

When the opponent of revision asserts that revision is anti-Calvinistic in its logic and tendency, he does not assert that all of its advocates are anti-Calvinists. The writer believes that the natural effect of the proposed changes in the Confession, especially those of the radical wing, will be to weaken and break down the Calvinistic system contained in it, and endeavors to prove it; but he does not believe or say that this is the desire and intention of all who urge them” (W.G.T. Shedd, ix-x).

I hadn’t heard of (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge but Shedd was the editor of his writings. I am a lot more familiar with the various sayings that come out of the tolerant Calvinist handbook, but perhaps other professing Christians make similar (or the same) “tolerant Calvinist distinctions.” Reading Shedd’s quotation of Coleridge calls to mind the similar sentiments of J.Gresham Machen and John Robbins. If you take a look at the links for Robbins and Machen, you will see that they exude the spirit of Coleridge (cf. 1 John 2:22-23).

When you read a statement like Coleridge’s you realize he makes complete nonsense out of a passage like 1 John 4:1-3. I think the reason the “tolerant handbook” is quoted or paraphrased from so much and receives such a good hearing is because it is of the world. The mouths favorably citing it and the tickled ears very much liking it “speak of the world, and the world hears them” (1 John 4:5). But we are of God and we know the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:6). We have overcome many wicked tolerant ones such as Coleridge because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

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