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EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
BY JOHN CALVIN.
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,
HIS LIFE, BY THEODORE BEZA.
BY FRANCIS SIBSON, A.B.
TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.
There is perhaps no period since the days of the apostles, which has a greater claim on the careful inquiry of the philosopher and the Christian than that of the reformers. It teaches us one very important truth, as if written with a sun-beam, that the Bible, and the Bible alone, was the only certain engine by which the long-formed, powerful bulwarks of the Roman Catholic church were first shaken, and a way opened for the glorious truths of the gospel to heal and convert the nations. Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, and the whole glorious army of reformers used no other successful weapons for establishing the kingdom of Christ, which flourished more extensively and triumphantly in exact proportion to the confidence that was placed in the all-conquering power of the word of the King of glory. The love-destroying horrors of persecution, which so completely marred the beauty of the reformation, derived all its strength, nay, its very existence, from the power of the civil magistrate, to which the punishment of blasphemy was intrusted, as it had been committed, under the Roman hierarchy, to the relentless arm of the pope and his minions. The glorious, never-ending conquest of faith, hope, and love, were achieved by the all-searching records of eternal truth.
Every careful reader of the various catechisms and articles of faith, which were published in every part of Europe, where Protestantism commenced, must be struck with the uncommon harmony that pervades all these important and invaluable documents.
The doctrines of the Trinity, of original sin, of justification by faith, of regeneration, sanctification, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ's death, the assurance of faith, the perseverance of the saints, of a particular providence, predestination, and the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, were taught with the utmost assiduity, and the most unshaken confidence in their truth, by all the distinguished leaders in the reformation. I need not state the glorious results which followed the preaching of such a system of doctrines, since they must be well known to all my readers.
Have not the same doctrines produced the same effects ever since ? Has not the Rev. Mr. Romaine, who was debarred from preaching at Oxford, in consequence of his sermon on justification by faith, proved to all England that it is a doctrine of a standing or falling church, since the number of evangelical preachers in this part of the kingdom has been gradually increasing from that period ? Did not the Rev. Mr. Walker, when fellow of Trinity-college, Dublin-for whose ministerial labours and parental kindness I must ever cherish the warmest and most heart-felt gratitude-call forth the same spirit in Ireland, where he was expelled, for preaching on justification by faith, from every pulpit within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin. Where shall we now find, in the British empire, a more firm and unshaken phalanx of truly pious ministers of the gospel than in our sister kingdom ? They have borne up with Christian patience under many severe and heavy privations, and shown that the doctrines of the cross alone can give true heroism to all the followers of the Lamb, who know assuredly the truth of the motto, No cross, no crown, which has been so ably illustrated by Mr. Penn.
To what class of preachers in the church of Scot. land are we to look for all that is holy, all that is pure, all that is Christian ? To the bold and fearless proclaimers of the doctrine of justification by faith, and the strenuous advocates of the Westminster confession of faith, and the larger and shorter catechisms. What class of Dissenters is the most powerful in assisting to advance the cause of God and truth in every corner of the empire? The advocates of reformation principles. Have not all our missionary, our Bible, our tract societies sprung from ministers who entertained the same Protestant views?
Nor are the leaders in the reformation to be admired merely for what they taught and preached ; for they deserve our praise for what negatively they did not inculcate on their followers. The doctrine of the personal reign of Christ on earth is not introduced into any of their generally received confessions, and articles of faith. The gift of tongues, and of healing, &c., never seems once to have entered their minds ; nor did they think of harmonizing with the church of Rome in the working of pretended miracles. They were assured that prophecies had failed, that tongues and miracles had ceased; but faith, hope, and charity, with all their beauty, and all their soul-inspiring energy, when taught by the influences of the Spirit of holiness and comfort, were cherished by them as the only sure directors and guides of the sons and daughters of Adam, in their pilgrimage to the regions of everlasting rest, peace, and joy.
An earnest desire to assist in disclosing the views of one of the most influential reformers,* who has, I am sorry to say, been shamefully calumniated
*“Calvin justly enjoyed a distinguished reputation, and was a scholar of the first order. He wrote with as much elegance in Latin as a dead language admits; and the extraordinary purity of his French style is even now admired by our skilful critics, and gives his writings a decided superiority over the greatest part of his contemporaries." --D'Alembert.