Page images
PDF
EPUB

vidence; so we may likewise take it as a signal testimony. of the commanding worth the doctor had, which extorted a reverence to his person from that worst of men, and rendered him a sanctuary, perhaps the only one this architect of mischief stood in awe of, and even his sacrilege preserved inviolate. Nor did this danger being over, (as with others in all likelihood it would have done,) persuade to caution for the future ; but with the wonted diligence that formerly he used, he immediately proceeded, and cheerfully went on in the pursuit of his heroic charity.”

Doctor Heylin afterwards gives the following relation of the further labours of the Assembly of Divines :

“ Such being the issue of the war, let us next look upon the Presbyterians in the acts of peace ; in which they threatened more destruction to the church, than the war itself. As soon as they had settled the strict keeping of the Lord's-day sabbath, suppressed the public Liturgy, and imposed the Directory, they gave command to their Divines of the Assembly, to set themselves upon the making a new Confession.* The nine and thirty articles of the Church of England, were either thought to have too much of the Ancient Fathers,or too little of

*

[ocr errors]

* This was not the first time that this plan had been pursued by the Presbyterians. Accordiug to Reid's Memoirs, “ At the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which met at Edinburgh, Aug. 12, 1639, a motion was made by Mr. Henderson, concerning the expediency of drawing up a Confes, siou, positively condemning the errors and immoralities charged on and defended or practised by any, ministers, and clearing the doctrine of the Church of Scotland in opposition to them, that none might afterward pretend ignorance. The Synod of Dort adopted this method with the Arminians : Mr. Henderson's motion, in imitation of that Synod, was unanimously approved and a Committee named for the purpose.'

From this description of the practice of the Scotch Assembly, and the previous enlightening example of the Dutch Synod, it will not be difficult to discover the description of " ministers” whose " errors and immoralities were to be condenined.”

of Archbishop Wake, in his Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church of England, (in answer to the Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine by M. Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux,) has very satisfactorily shewn, that the deference paid by our church to the Christian Fathers of the three first ages, is neither of such an idolatrous description as our adversaries generally represent, nor is their authority ever extolled to an equality with that of the holy scriptures. The Archbishop's words are, "Though we have appealed to the churcbes of the first ages for new proofs of the truth of our doctrine, it is not that we think that the doctors of those times had more right to judge of our faith than those had that followed them ; but it is because after a serious examination we have found, that, as for what concerns the common belief that is among us, they have believed and practised the same things without adding other opinions or superstitions that destroy them,- wherein they have acted couformably to their and our rule, THE WORD OF GOD: Notwithstanding, it cannot be denied, but that they effectually fell into some wrong opinions, as that of the Millenaries and infant communion,” &c.

This is the becoming reverence which our church has always entertained for the authority of the christian Fathers. Very different were the sentiments of Calvin on this subject: As all the Fathers who preceded St. Augustine knew of no predestination except that of FAITH AND PERSEVER ANCE FORESEEN,Calwin, as was his manner, spoke much to their disparagement, and had among

Calvin, and therefore fit to be reviewed, or else laid aside. And, at the first, their journey-men began with a review, and fitted

on

his disciples many who foolishly imitated himn in this and other blemishes. Baxter tells us : " The truth is, MOST (if not ALL) THE FATHERS of the first Twoor Three Hundred years do speak in a language seeming to leau strongly that way, and therefore Calvin, and Scultetus in Medulla Patrum, charge them with no less than Pelagius his error. Yet perhaps their laying the blame of evil actions on man's will, and persuading 'men's wills, may occasion men to charge them too far, as if therefore they supposed natural sufficiency: or they speak of free-will as opposed to fate, nature and co-action, as you may find very many of them favourably interpreted by Chamier. But the plain truth is, TILL PELAGIUS' DAYS, ALL SPOKE Like PelaCIANS."-Saints' Everlasting Rest.--In reference to this point, the judicious Melancthon says: “ All the ancient [christian] writers, with the sole exception of St. Augustine, have supposed, that there is some cause of election in ourselves."

Baxter's expressions remind me of the difficulty which Grotius found in obtaining citations from the early Christian Fathers, that might not terrify the Calvinistic party, by their too legal aspect. He makes the following mention of it in a letter to his friend Vossius, at the period (1614) when he was engaged in completing the famous edict of the States of Holland respecting Religious Toleration, which obtained the highest commendation from King James. (See the Works of Arminius, vol. I, p. 412.). After alluding to several passages in their writiugs he thus proceeds : “We must not omit to notice, that Calvin confesses in his INSTITUTES this [conditional predestination] to have been the opinion of the Ancients : Bat Beza in his comment on Rom. xi, 2, [God hath not cast away his people whom he forek

new,] declares, that this subject we must not listen to the Fathers.' Prosper also of old, when writiug to St. Augustine, confesses, that, after a fresh examination into the

opinions of the preceding Fathers, he found the sentiments of all of them to • be one and the same concerning the predestination of God which proceeded

from foreknowledge.'-In reference to the question about PREVENTING GRACE the sentiments which you have quoted from St. Chrysostom and Jerome are indeed far too favourable to Semi-Pelagianism. I have likewise noted other similar passages, such as the subjoined from St. Jerome against the Pelagians : From which we understand, that it is our part to will and to run, but • that it belongs to the mercy of God to complete our willing and our running" ; • and that this is so done as to preserve freedom of will in our willing and running, and to leave all things to power in the consummation of God's will,' &c.- I would certainly give a great price, could I possibly clear those Fathers from the suspicion of this error; especially when it is not difficult to believe, that the Church Universal was at no period ignoraut how much was due to grace, which is far from being the least part of piety.. St. Jeroine indeed we might probably assist, by means of an accommodated interpretation ; but the expressions of St. Chrysostom are of a more unbending character, and will not suffer themselves to be in the least inclined or adjusted. And yet I recollect, that I have observed some passage or other in Chrysostom's writings in which he also refers the beginnings of good to God.” In a preceding letter he thus alluded to the unwillingness of the Calvinists to admit the competency of the early Fathers : “ I could wish, even at the dearest rate, to have mention made of the primitive church in this edict : But, you know, that is refused by the members for Dort [who were Calviurists], because they are unwilling to be brought back to the times which preceded the age of St. Augustine. With much greater justice you do not allow those things to be obtruded on you which were introduced after St. Augustine. But, in the mean time, these things which were never called in doubt either before or after St. Augustine, and which have always been held both by the Eastern and Western churches, may possibly receive some additional degree of authority from the conseut of such a number of ages and nations: Of this description are the contents of the Edict."

The following quotations from Calvin will shew, that he accounted his sentiments concerning predestination to be NOVELTIES and unsupported by the testimony of the ancient Fathers : “ God inoves the will, not, as it has

ALI MY ADVERSARIES.

fourteen of the articles to their own conceptions ; but, in the end, despairing of the like success in all the rest, they gave been taught and believed for many ag'es, that it may be a matter of option with us either to obey or to resist the motion, but by efficaciously affecting it. That expression therefore so often repeated by St. Chrysostom must be rejected, God draws him who is willing to be drawn; by which he intimates, that the Lord, after stretching forth his hand, only waits to see whether or not we be pleased to accept of his assistance.. (Instit. I. ii, c. 3, s. 10.) “ Among ecclesiastical authors, although there is no one who would deny, that the sounduess of human reason has received a grievous wound through sin, and that the will of man is deeply entangled by depraved appetites, yet many of them approach much nearer than is becoming to the philosophers.' (Ibid. 1. ii, c.2, s. 4.) St. Chrysostom, Jerome, and others then receive a due portion of blame, and he adds : “ Those therefore who vaunted themselves on being the disciples of Christ, have spoken in too philosophical a manner on this subject. For the term Free-will has always been employed by the Latin Fathers, as though man yet stood in his primitive integrity. But the Greek Fathers have not been ashamed to use a word of still greater arrogance; for they have called it αυτεξοσιον, if the power over bimself were within the capacity of mau.” He afterwards says: “ All inen, even the very populace, have been imbued with this principle, that man is endowed with a freewill."-" If the authority of the Fathers have any influence upon us, they without doubt have the word [free-will] continually in their mouths.” (Ibid. 1. ii, c. 2, s.8.) “ I may probably appear to create a great prejudice against myself by my confession, that all the ecclesiastical writers, with the exception of St. Augustine, have spoken ou this subject with such ambiguiry or variety that nothing certain can be gathered from their productions. For some persons will interpret such conduct into a wish on my part to exclude these 'Fathers from the right of giving their suffrages, because THEY ARE

But I had no other purpose in view than a wish in all simplicity and good faith to manifest a regard to (men of] pious dispositions ; who, if they wait for the sentiments of the Faihers on this point, will always Auctuate through uncertainty : For at one time they teach, man, robbed of tbe freedom of his will, to take refuge in grace alone ; at another time they equip and adorn him with his own arms (or power], or appear so to do.(Ibid. I. ii, c.2, s. 9.) After reading these extracts from the Father of the modern Predestinarian system, (who was an eloquent, wise and learned man,) every scholar will be amused at the awkward attempts of some modern Calvinists, who have exhibited irrefragable proofs that they were ignorant of the very construction of the language which they quoted, and yet have pretended to enlist the most famous among the early Christian Fathers in favour of their novel doctrines.

The judicious Hooker, in the preface to his Ecclesiastical Polity, has properly stated, “ that of what account the Master of the Sentences was in the Church of Rome, the same and more amongst the preachers of the Reformed Churches Calvin had purchased, so that the perfectest divines were judged they who were skilfullest in Calvin's writings. His books almost the very canon, by which to judge of doctrine and discipline. The French churches, both under others abroad or at home in their own country, all cast according to that mould, which Calvin had made.” When this great mau had attained to such celebrity as is here related, it ought not to appear wonderful when we meet with such statements as the following :

“I have heard it credibly reported that in a certaine College in Cambridge,” [St. John's is the College alluded to,] “ when it happeneth that, in their disputations, the authoritye either of St. Augustine, or of St. Ambrose, or of St. Jerome, or of any other of the ancient Fathers, nay, the whole consent of them all altogether is alleged ; it is rejected with very great disdaine; as, : What tell you me of St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, or of * the rest ? I regard them not a rush. Were they not men?' Whereas at other time, when it happeneth, that a man of another humour doth aunswere, if it fall out that he beinge pressed with the authority either of Calvin or Beza shall chance to deny it ; you shall see some beginne to smile, in cominiseration of such the poore man's simplicity; some grow to be angry in regard of such presumption; and some will depart away, accounting such

over that impertinent labour, and found it a more easy task to conceive a new, than to accommodate the old Confession to their a kinde of fellowe not worthy the bearing.”—BANCROFT's Survey of the pretended Holy Discipline.

“ As in affection they challenge the virtues of zeal and the rest; so in knowledge they attribuie unto themselves light and perfection. They say, the Church of England in King Edward's time, and in the beginning of her Majesty's reign, was but in the cradle; and the Bishops in those times did somewhat grope for day. break; but that maturity and fulness of light proceedeth from themselves.”—Sir F. Bacon, of Church Controversies.

Bishop Womack has also furnished a description, at once appropriate and humorous, of this Calvinistic propensity to depreciate the fathers, in the preceding dialogue, page 70, when' be draws these expressions from the lips of Mr. Fatality, one of the Triers and Ejectors : “ But you may see he hath studied the ANCIENT FATHERS,-more than our modern divines, such as Mr. Calvin and Mr. Perkins. And, alas ! they (the Ancient Fathers] threw away their enjoyments, (and their lives too, some of them,) for they knew not what. They understood little or nothing of the Divine decrees, or the power of grace and godliness : This great light was reserved for the honour of after ages.'

In 1610, the famous Isaac Casaubon addressed the subjoined letter to Daniel Heinsius, who had not at that period addicted himself to the Calvinistic party in Holland, as he afterwards did, to his great temporal advantage: * I smiled when I read in your letter, that I had gone over to the ranks of the Jesuits : Only wait a little, and you shall see what GOOD AGREEMENT I hold with those pests. My letter to Fronto Ducæus [F. Bonald,) which, after being submitted to the judgment of the King [James the First], the Archbishop of Canterbury (Abbot], and of several other very learned individuals, has elicited from them wonderful expressions of approbation, will teach my false accusers this lesson,-that it is one thing, to admire the piety of the ancient church, to detest novelties, and to manifest a desire for concord in the Church of Christ,-and that it is quite another thing, to unite one's self to an abandoned and profligate faction.-But, my Heinsius, how can I sufficiently evince my gratitude to you, for defending my reputation in that quarter with such assiduity? But know, that those who hold forth the Fathers of the ancient church as objects of ridicule and scoffing, are the very men that act the part of detractors against me, nay,

that mauifest towards me a greater portion of hatred than towards a dog or a serpent! For they (the Calvinists] are a generation of men who suppose, that they alone engross all the wisdom in the world, that only themselves have a correct understanding of the meaning of the sacred scriptures, and that they are the sole church of God and the peculiar people. Relying on the authority and reputation of one individual [Calvin,] who was truly a very great man, though not free from liability to error,-these persons cannot endure the bare mention of the names of those most holy Fathers, whose most felicitous services the immurtal God was pleased formerly to employ. One of them is Du Moulin, a [Reformed] minister at Paris, who has not been ashamed in one of his productions to style the blessed Cyprian AN ANABAPTIST,' in order to pollate and disgrace the memory of a Christian Martyr with the infamyof a modern heresy! Why should I recount the audacious attempts of other writers, which are filled with epithets equal in rashness ? For they wish to represent the Fathers as having been half heathens, unskilled in the scriptures, silly, foolish, stupid and impious persons. It is on this account that they attack the errors of the Papists in such a manner, as very frequently to inflict through their sides a mortal wound on the ancient church. I am much displeased with this licentious, or rather, detestable impiety : because I perceive, while these men attack superstition, they open a wide door to the profanation of sacred things and of the whole christian religion. This is the reason why they exclaim that I am a Papist, when I am prepared to refute the errors of Popery with far greater keenness and severity than they can display. But this is my opinion since

the true church will hereafter be one, and since this UNITY is possible, we must not rashly recede from those doctrines of faith which have obtained 'the approbation and unanimous consent of the Church Universal; and since I acknowledge no foundation for true religion except that of the divinely-inspired scriptures, with Melancthon and the Church of England

private fancies. And in this new Confession, they establish the morality of their Lord's-day sabbath, declare the Pope to be I desire the doctrines of faith, which have their origin in the fountain of

scripture, to be brought dowu to us along the ebannel of antiquity.'- If we adopt a contrary method, where will innovation terminate, or what restraint will it be possible to impose on the minds of those who are fond of novelties? -I wish you to believe this concerning me,-though my whole and ,sole delight consists in the perusal of the scriptures, yet I have not derived from them a single private opinion, (as opposed to those approved by antiguity,] I hold no such peculiar sentiment, and, speaking in the fear of God, I never will hold one. This was formerly the determination of that great man, John Calvin, when he composed the preface to his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,— In those puints which are of principal importance we ought

not to recede from the concurring agreement of the Church.' I follow this guide, wbile s detest and abominate those vew teachers who deny God's Infinity, Eternity and Omnipotence.”

The celebrated Edict of the States of Holland for restraining within prescribed hounds the discussions of divines on the subject of Predestination has been briefly alluded to in a former part of this note. In that document it is stated, “ Some ministers are conceived either directly or indirectly to bave taught, that God has created certain men to damnation, and has imposed on such men a necessity of sinning ; and that God likewise invites some men to salvation whom he has decreed entirely to debar from salvation.--Other ministers are conceived to have taught, that it is possible for the natural powers or deeds of men to effect their salvation."

The States, therefore, exhorted both these classes of divines, (though of the latter there was none then in the Dutch ministry,). “ not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” They also commanded them, “ in their various explanations of passages of Scripture, to attend diligently to the doctrine generally inculcated in the sacred writings, That our salvation is from God alone, and that we are ourselves the sole cause of our ou'n destruction. (Hos. xiii, 9; Isa. xliii, 11, 25; John iii, 19; Rom. v, 15; vi, 23.) Wherefore in explaining the Holy Scriptures, the pastors must, as often as they have an opportunity, inculcate on their people, that the COMMENCEMENT, PROGRESS and END of man's salvation, as well as faith itself, ought not to be attributed to the native powers or the deeds of men, but should be stated as received through the sole and unmerited grace of God in Jesus Christ our Saviour ; that the Omnipotent Jehovah has created no men for dumnation; that He has not imposed on any man a necessity of sinning ; and that no man is invited by God to salvation, when He has decreed not to bestow salvation upon that individual.In a subsequent part of the same edict, their Lordships declare: “It is our pleasure, that those pastors suffer no kind of molestation, who, in their explanations of the preceding passages and sayings, hold no other sentiments and teach nothing more than, that Almighty God, according to the benevolent affection of his own will founded on Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Saviour, has from all eternity elected to everlasting salvation those men who, through grace unmerited and the operation of the Holy Spirit, believe on Jesus Christ our Lord, and who, through the like unmerited grace, persevere to the end in the faith ; and, on the contrary, that those are rejected to damnation who do not believe on Jesus Christ, and who persevere to the end in unbelief.—At the time when this decree passed, it was approved even by the Calvinists, who did not immediately perceive, that it encouraged ARMINIANISM, (another term for GENUINE CHRISTIANITY, whose doctrines, as contained in the words of Scripture, stand at an equal distance from Manicheism on the one hand, and Pelagianism on the other; and that it discountenanced the foul dogmas and blasphemous consectaries of Supralapsarian Calvinisin, which was at that period the fashionable creed of the majority of the Dutch Predestinarians.-Tbis Edict was the production of the learned Grotius, wb after its publication, illustrated the whole of it, with consummate ability by notes from the Holy Scriptures, from the ANCIENT Fathers, (some of whom, it is seen, were rather unmanageable,) from the Acts of Councils, from the Confessions of the Reformed Churches, from the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »