I recently read James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, a satirical jab at antinomian Calvinism, originally published anonymous in 1824. It was a disturbing read but beneficial.
The Confessions discloses a morbid story in three parts: an “Editor’s Narrative” bookends the protagonists’ “Memoirs” — together they provide objective and subjective accounts of the corruption unto evil-and-the-demonic of young Robert Wringhim, a boy born and raised as a strict-Calvinist in eighteenth-century Scotland. The Confessions is part gothic-novel and although it may be somewhat anachronistic to say so, it is replete with dark humor/black comedy. Here’s a zinger:
The dame [the mother of the protagonist] thanked him [Rev. Mr. Wringhim] most cordially, lauding his friendly zeal and powerful eloquence; and then the two again set keenly to the splitting of hairs, and making distinctions in religion where none existed (16).
The Confessions is insightful because of, not in spite of, its jab at Calvinism, performing the excellent service of illustrating the horrors of antinomian Calvinism, as well as providing a window into the psychology of the demonic — similar to C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.
Biblically speaking, the only sure marks of Divine Election are those provided by the inner-testimony of the Holy Spirit and the good works of Sanctification, which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the protagonist of the Confessions is a gloomy character who hangs his eternal assurance of Divine Election upon the mystical-illumination decreed by his adoptive father, the Rev. Mr. Wringhim, who is a crack-pot Calvinistic preacher. (You know the variety: the mildew-Calvinist, the “high-as-a-kite-and-jacked-up-on-presumption”-Calvinist.) Rather than cling to the Biblical marks of Divine Election, Young Wringhim clings to the “oracles” of his quasi-father (the book insinuates that Robert may be the illegitimate son of Rev. Wringhim), which only greases the rails for absolutely horrific acts executed by the protagonist, e.g., assault, evil plotting, usurpation, murder(s).
This book truly is a horror novel, portraying both the power and acts of evil. The book is as sobering as it is terrifying, and that is what makes it a good read.