Page images
PDF
EPUB

occasione, Calvinism has been compelled to abandon for a season her theory of personal Quietism and of desecrating Unconditionality, and to employ as powerful exhortations as ever her rival did; and the fruits of such scriptural labours have generally been still more advantageous to the cause of God and Truth, than even in the particular instance now adduced.

But though the crafty Predestinarian Divines perceived the propriety of inciting their hearers to energetic endeavours, yet they never lost sight of the secular interests of Calvinism : All the pathetic Discourses, delivered before the Long Parliament, were therefore addressed to them as Calvinists. One Sermon, however, was preached to them, “the scope of which,” its learned author said, “ was not to contend for this or that opinion, but only to persuade men to the life of Christ, as the pith and kernel of all religion." But the preacher, as might very naturally be inferred, was never more invited to fill the pulpit of St. Margaret's. This was the famous Dr. Ralph CUDWORTH, whose Puritanic education and connections, with his former Predestinarian tenets, had prepared him for easily complying with the chang es which occurred in 1643. But in prosecuting his metaphysical studies, he compared the two contending systems, and, in common with Dr. Thomas Jackson, of Oxford, preferred the bene

ficial and enlightening turn which Arminianism gave to those speculations,-though in such studies he may be said to have been “ brought up at the feet of Gamaliel;" for his honoured father was editor of Perkins's Works, and added some elucidations to them in an Appendix. His son Ralph ultimately became an Arminian, and consequently, at the Restoration, a Conformist, and a noble champion not only for Revealed but also for Experimental Religion. Quinquarticular Controversies: I do not insist upon the doctrine specified, as the only ground or proof upon which I conclude, that those who profess and teach the clear and direct sense of those whom they expose to the hatred and reproach of poor ignorant souls, under the aspersive character of ARMINIANS. The truth is, that very many sermons are preached by them, wherein, though the face of the doctrine they teach be set against one or other of those opinions, yet, in their use and application, they reconcile themselves unto them. And, as the Roman Orator observed, that the force of Justice is such and so great, that even ' thieves and robbers, both by sea and land, who live upon injustice and rapine, yet

cannot live upon their trade without some practice of it [Justice) among themselves :' In like manner, the necessity and power of those tenets or doctrines, nick-named Arminian, is so great for the accommodating and promoting the affairs of Christianity, that even those persons themselves who get a good part of their subsistence in the world by decrying them, and declaiming against them, yet cannot make earnings of their profession, are not able to carry on their work of preaching, with any tolerable satisfaction to those that hear them, without employing and asserting them very frequently. Yea, the truth is, that the grounds and principles of the Remongtrant Faith, (for so we have been and are unhappily constrained to distinguish them,) are, as it were, some of the choicest and most useful implements or tools, with which they work upon their art whereby they get their living."

When Cudworth preached that Sermon before the House of Commons, March 31, 1647, he might not himself be conscious of " contending for this or that opinion;” but as Arminianism has been shewn to be praclical Christianity, the reader, after a . perusal of the following passages, will not so far mistake bis 03 * scope,” as to suppose that he was then płeading in behalf of ..., Calvinism:

“ He that builds all his comfort upon an ungrounded persuasion, that God from all eternity bath loved him, and absolutely

decreed him to life and happiness, and seeketh not for God

really dwelling in his soul; he builds his house upon a quick* sand, and it shall suddenly sink and be swallowed up: His hope

shall be cut off, and his trust shall be a spider's web; he shall lean
upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it
shall not endure. We are no where commanded to pry into these

secrets; but the wholesome counsel and advice given us, is this, E, to make our calling and election sure. We have no warrant in Et Scripture to peep into these hidden rolls and volumes of eternity,

and to make it our first thing that we do, when we come to
Christ, to spell out our names in the stars, and to persuade our.
selves that we are certainly elected to everlasting happiness,
before we see the image of God, in righteousness and true holi.
ness, shaped in our hearts. God's everlasting decree is too daz.
zling and bright an object for us at first to set our eye upon. It is
far easier and safer for us to look upon the rays of his goodness
and holiness as they are reflected in our own hearts; and there
to read the mild and gentle characters of God's love to us, in our
. love to him, and our hearty compliance with his heavenly will:

As it is safer for us, if we would see the sun, to luok upon it
here below in a pail of water, than to cast up our daring eyes
upon the body of the sun itself, which is too radiant and scorch-
ing for us. The best assurance that any one can have of his
interest in God, is doubtless the conformily of his soul to him.
Those Divine purposes, whatsoever they be, are altogether un.
searchable and unknowable by us ; they lie wrapt up in everlasting
darkness, and covered in a deep abyss : Who is able to fathom
the bottom of them? The way to obtain a good assurance,
indeed, of our title to heaven, is, not to clamber up to it by a
ladder of our own ungrounded persuasions, but to thig as low
as hell by humility and self-denial in our own hearts: And
though this may seem to be the furthest way about, yet it is
indeed the nearest and safest way to it. We must, as the Greek
epigram speaks, ascend downward and descend upward, if we would
indeed come to heaven, or get any true persuasion of our title to
it. The most gallant and triumphant confidence of a Christian
riseth safely and surely upon this low foundation, that lies deep
under ground; and there stands firmly and stedfastly. When
our heart is once tuned into a conformity with the word of God,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

when we feel our will perfectly to concur with his will, we shall then presently perceive • a Spirit of adoption' within ourselves,

teaching ủs to cry · Abba, Father !' (Rom. viii, 15.). . :: “Bat:I: wish it were not the distemper of our times, to scare

is and fright men only with opinions, and make them only solici :::;-. tours-about the entertaining of this and that speculation, which :::::l not render threm any thing the better in their lives, or the

liker unto God; whilst, in the mean time, there is no such care taken about keeping of Christ's commandments, and being renewed in our minds according to the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. We say, 'Lo, here is Christ !' and 'Lo, there is Christ !,' in these and these opinions; whereas, in truth, Christ is neither here, nor there, nor any where but where the Spirit of Christ, where the life of Christ is. Do we not now-a-days open and lock up heaven, with the private key of this and that opinion of our own, according to our several fancies as we please? And if any one observe Christ's commandments never so sincerely, and serve God with faith and a pure conscience, that yet haply skills not of some contended-for opinions, some darling notions; he hath not the right Shibboleth, he hath not the true watch-word, he must not pass the guards into heaven. Do we not make this and that opinion, this and that outward form, to be the weddinggarment, and boldly sentence those to outer darkness that are not invested therewith? Whereas, every true Christian finds the least dram of hearty affection towards God to be more cordial and sovereign to his soul, than all the speculative notions and opinions in the world: And though he study also to inform his understanding aright, and free his mind from all error and misapprehensions, yet it is nothing but the life of Christ deeply rooted in his heart, which is the chemical elixir that he feeds upon. He feeleth himself safely anchored in God: and will not be dissuaded from it, though perhaps he skill not many of those subtleties which others make the Alpha and Omega of their religion. Neither is he scared with those childish affrightments, with which some would force their private conceits upon him : He is above the superstitious dreading of mere speculative opinions, as well as the superstitious reverence of outward ceremonies: He cares not so much for subtlety, as for soundness and health of mind.

's I wish it may not prove some of our cases, at that last day, to use such pleas as these unto Christ in our behalf: · Lord, I have prophesied in thy name ; I have preached many a zealous sermon. . for Thee; I have kept many a long fast; I have been very s'active for Thy cause in Church, in State ; nay, I never made 'any question but that my name was written in thy Book of • Life: When yet, alas ! we shall receive no other return from Christ, but this, I know you not ; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.'

ht .“What is it that thus cheats us, and gulls us of our religion;

that makes us thus constantly to tread the same ring and circle

of duties, where we make no progress at all forwards, and, the 1: further we go, are still never the nearer to our journey's end ?

What is it that thus starves our religion, and makes it look like those kine in Pharaoh's dream, ill-favoured and lean-fleshed; that it hath no colour in its face, no blood in its veins, no life nor heat at all in its members ? What is it that doth thus be-dwarf us in our Christianity? What low, sordid, and unworthy principles do we act by, that thus hinder our growth, and make us stand at a stay, and keep us always in the very porch and entrance, where we first began? Is it a sleepy, sluggish conceit, : That it is enough for us if we be but once in a state of grace ; if we • have but once stepped over the threshold, we need not take so • great pains to travel any further ?" Or is it another damping, choaking, stilling opinion, · Thac Christ hath done all for us • already without us, and nothing need more to be done within us? • No matter how wicked we be in ourselves, for we have holiness • without us; no matter how sickly and diseased our souls be * within, for they have health without them! Why may we not as well be satisfied and contented, to have happiness without us too to all eternity, and so ourselves for ever continue miserable?

Little children, let no man deceive you : He that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as He is righteous; but he that committeth sin, is of the devil.' I shall therefore exhort you in the wholesome words of St. Peter: “Give all diligence to add to your faith, virtue ; and to virtue, knowledge;' fic.”

I linger with much complacency over this single specimen of Arminian preaching before the Long Parliament; because it. exhibits, in such a conspicuous manner, the practical and hallowing tendency of the principles of General Redemption. This Discourse presents the first-fruits of that glorious harvest which sprung up from the seed sown by the Dutch Remonstrants during the Inter-regnum, (p. 785,) and not from the school of Laud, who “ did not permit this scriptural system freely to develope itself." (Page 691.) I prize it the more highly, because it contains a distinct recognition of that spirituality and holiness which I have pointed out, (pp. xxvi, 803,) as distinguishing charactere istics of the doctrines which genuine Arminianism derives from the Scriptures, and which it uniformly inculcates. Of the spiritual religion, here described, Dr. Čudworth was not ashamed after the Restoration, when all the wit of man was employed in exposing it to ridicule, on account of the abuse of it by the Puric tans : (Page 296:) For he reprinted this Sermon in the first edition (1878) of his immortal work, “ THE TRUE INTELLECTUAL SYSTEM OF THE UNIVERSE,” without any omission except that of the Dedication to the House of Commons. Every man of piety

will be charmed by such manly and scriptural eloquence au breathes in the following passages :

The Gospel is a true Bethesda,-a pool of grace, where such poor, lame, and infirm creatures as we are, upon the moving of God's Spirit in it, may descend down, not only to wash our skin and outside, but also to be cured of our diseases within. And whatever the world thinks, there is a powerful Spirit that moves upon these waters, the waters of the Gospel, for this new creation, the regeneration of souls: The very same Spirit, that once moved upon the waters of the universe at the first creation, and, spreading its mighty wings over them, did hatch the new-born world into this perfection; I say, the same Almighty Spirit of Christ still worketh in the Gospel, spreading its gentle, healing, quickening wings over our souls. The Gospel is not like Abana and Pharphar, those common rivers of Damascus, that could only cleanse the outside; but it is a true Jordan, in which such leprous Naamans, as we all are, may wash and be clean. 'Blessed, indeed, are they, whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered! Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin!' But yet, rather blessed are they, whose sins are removed like a morning-cloud, and quite taken away from them! Blessed,' thrice blessed, are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'

“Now, therefore, I beseech you, let us consider, whether or no we know Christ indeed ; not by our acquaintance with systems and models of Divinity; not by our skill in books and papers; but by our keeping of Christ's commandments. All the books and writings which we converse with, they can but represent spiritual objects to our understandings; which yet we can never see in their own true figure, colour, and proportion, until we have a Divine light within, to irradiate and shine upon them. Though there be never such excellent truths concerning Christ and his Gospel, set down in words and letters, yet they will be but unknown characters to us until we have a living Spirit within us, that can decipher them; until the same Spirit, by secret whispers in our hearts, do comment upon them, which did at first indite them. There be many that understand the Greek and Hebrew of the Scripture, the original languages in which the text was written, that never understood the language of the Spirit. There is a caro and a spiritus, a flesh and a spirit, a body and a soul, in all the writings of the Scriptures. It is but the flesh and body of Divine truths, that is printed upon paper; which many moths of books and libraries do only feed upon ; many walking skeletons of knowledge, that bury and entomb truths in the living sepulchres of their souls, do only converse with: Such as never did any thing else but pick at the mere

« PreviousContinue »