Page images
PDF
EPUB

This is only a part of Mr. Mede's able reply, which had the effect of silencing at that time the scruples of Doctor Twisse, who thus expresses his satisfaction: “ I am somewhat of a more cheerful spirit than when I wrote my last. I have gotten more liberty of spirit to consider your large discourse, (the preceding letter,] savouring of great learning, no less judgment, and a distinctive apprehension of things of good importance, and that, not in my judgment only, but in the judgment of others; though all require serious and further consideration. And, for mine own particular, I cannot but reflect upon myself, how deeply I am beholden unto you for entrusting me in so liberal a manner with these your speculations. We can never offend in putting difference between the holy and profane ; neither can we offend in presenting ourselves too reverently at the Lord's table. Never was the Mercy-seat so well known in the days of the Old Testament, as in these days of the New. We now behold the glory of the Lord with open face; and accordingly our Saviour tells us, the Lord requires the true worshippers should worship him in Spirit und Truth, in distinction from worshipping him either at Jerusalem, or in the Mount the woman spake of: And in this kind of worship we cannot exceed. But as for outward gestures, I doubt I shall prove but a novice as long as I breathe; and we affect not to make ostentation of our devotion in the face of the world, the rather because thereby we draw upon ourselves the censure of hypocrisy; and sometimes if a man lifts up his eyes, he is censured for a Puritan: And, I confess, there is no outward gesture of devotion which may not be as handsomely performed by as carnal a heart as breathes. I am confident, you are far from studia partium. So should we be all, and be ambitious of nothing but of the love and favour of God, and of our conformity to him in truth and holiness.”

But this was far too liberal to proceed from Dr. Twisse : In many of his whims he was was influenced by the opinions of other divines of the Calvinistic brotherhood, which existed prior to that period, as a regular confederacy, and which was not broken till it had effected the ruin both of Church and State. * In the letter although, as I understood when I was in the Palatinate, none was more free from such sacrilegious courses than the Palatine, [then nominally king of Bohemia, not owly Bishoprics but even Monasteries continuing there of his ancestors' foundation; yet have they suffered as much as any, both first and last, if not much more."-The whole of this palliation rests upon what Dr.

Twisse "understood,” that is, upon mere report when he was at the Court of Heidelberg.

* The reader has bad opportunities of tracing this confederacy in other parts of the volume. Every thing was done according to counsel and mutual advice. Dr. Twisse gives intimations of this in several of his letters, beside the one quoted in the text. “ Not only myself,” says he on one occasion, “ but divers others, as Mr. W. of Dorchester and Mr. T. of Salisbury, and others,-all of us have been exceedingly taken with your chapel-exercises. In page 502, he also names “ Mr. Stephen Marshall, that worthy preacher,' among, “others who highly commended Mr. Mede's discourse as a choice piece.”—These, and the rest to whom allusion is made, were the greatest enemies of the Established Church, and mighty sticklers for Calvinism.

just quoted, after stating “the judgment of others” respecting Mr. Nede's defence of certain rites, he adds,“ all require serious and further consideration.” And this consideration, they soon obtained ; for, without waiting for Mr. M.'s reply, he wrote a long letter, containing many ensnaring questions, which are prefaced thus : “ Yet have I not done with your large letter concerning temples and altars. Since the writing of my last, whilst I was reading that large letter of yours to some divines, who were much taken with admiration at the learning contained therein, in an argument wherein we had been so little versed, * I say, in the reading of it, I observed one thing of which in all my former readings I took no notice; and that is, in these words: “This is a point of great moment and consequence,

worthy to be looked into by all the learned of the Reformed religion,' &c. (See the whole passage quoted in page 521.] In the close of that large letter of yours, you signify that you reserve one thing, lest it might undergo censure ; which, otherwise, you would communicate. Good sir, you have no cause to distrust my censure. I hear, by Mr. B., it is concerning Corne

* When he had consulted “ some divines,” he altered his friendly tone, and ingenuously confessed, as in other passages, his ignorance of the dispute concerning “ temples and altars.”' ' In the argument of that case, he and his friends had certainly, “been little versed;" for it turned much upon authorities from the Christian Fathers, and the usages of the Ancieut Church, in which, every one knows, the latter Puritans were not equal to the learned champions of Antiquity and Episcopacy. One of the chief reasons for this is given, in the note page 428—434 ; and Dr. Twisse had this defect, in common with the great majority of his predestinarian brethren. An extensive acquaintance with the writings of the Christian Fathers, did not constitute a part of his qualifications; his few quotations from them are of the most ordinary description, and discover none of that personal intimacy with “ those mighty dead” which we perceive at one glance in the original and recondite observations of such men as Archbishop Usher and Mr. Mede, to both of whom, in cases of difficulty about the topics which were then under discussion, Dr. Twisse was in the habit of applying--The following concluding remark, from Mr. Mede's answer to the Seventh Letter of Dr. Twisse, is exceedingly appropriate, especially in relation to the inadequate acquaintance of the Calvinistic divines with the usages of the Ancient Church :-“For I see so many things requisite yet for the understanding of this discourse, that it would require a volume to give satisfaction herein. But you desired but to know what I thought of Genuflexio versus altare, and I think I have told you. I kuow not how you will like it : I know how full of prejudice in these things most of our divines are. But I am verily persuaded, that the notions of Antiquity hereabout are so far from being followed, that they are quite forgotten and unknown.”

But Dr. Twisse could with truth employ the general excuse of his Predestinarian friends : When taxed with neglecting the productions of the early Christian Fathers, he could say, “ I am too much engaged in giving an air of plausibility to the rigid scheme of Calvin.” In his attention to this great concern, he had quite overlooked the important aid which his labours might receive from the mysteries of sacred prophecy, to the developement of which he vigorously devoted himself. For a season he thought Mr. Mede's elucidations suitable for his purpose, and to that learned and humble individual he thus expressed his gratitude: “ Alas! had it not been for your help, I had been to this day a stranger in the mystery of God; while all my thoughts are employed in making up the breach which these degenerate times have caused in the mystery of God's grace.”—The breach to which he adverts is, not merely the one which Arminius made, but that which his own friends, Pis, cator, Du Moulin, and others effected.

lius, whom you take to have been no Proselyte in any degree: The contrary whereunto, supposed in our Divinity schools, was one of the first things I was acquainted with upon my coming to Oxford, and since I find confessed by Schindler. Yet, I pray, let me see your discourse thereon, and let me know how you salve it; for I am confident you ARE NO ARMINIAN !* The sight of Cornelius, and your explicating the practice of the Ancient Churches in their continual celebrating of that' commemorative sacrifice,' in distinction from that which we do implicitly and obscurely, will be a great refreshing to my spirit, and

• Because Mr. Mede was a man who greatly resembled Arminius in the mildness of his disposition and in his unostentatious behaviour, and because his manners were exceedingly dissimilar to those of several young Arminian aspirants, Dr. Twisse was confident he was no Arminian? If the Doetor's conjecture be correct, how honourable to the impartiality of Archbishop Laud is the advancement of Mr. Mede as his Grace's chaplain! But, I am afraid, few high Calvinists will relish the extract in

page

487 concerning Absolute Reprobation : And Mr. Mede's intimacy and unison of feelings with Dr. Thomas Jacksốn will not assist him in rising into the esteem of strict Predestinarians.

But, independent of other corroborating circumstances, his opinion respecting Cornelius, from which Dr. Twisse draws the inference in the text, will place him at once in the ranks of Arminianism. To reason away the kind and merciful purposes of Heaven as manifested in the care of God for that heathen Centurion, (Acts x,) aud toinvalidate the arguments thence to be deduced in favour of the call and the bringing-back, to the good Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, of those Gentiles who" had not liked to retain God in their knowledge,” the Calvinists tried many expedients, to one of which Dr. Twisse bere adverts : To bring Cornelius within what they called “ the covenanted mercies of God,” they boldly asserted that he was a Proselyte of the Covenant.” But if this had been the făct, what necessity would have existed for Peter's trance? And if Cornelius were already even “ a Proselyte of the Gate," would he have been any longer reckoned a complete “ alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenants of promise ?” Yet St. Peter said to the “ many that were come together" into the house of Cornelius, “ Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or to come unto one of another nation : But God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The doctrine of this verse, (28,) is decisive against the alleged Proselytism of Corpelius: But that of a succeeding verse, (35,) is still more instructive, and has created much trouble to the Calvinists : « Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons : But, in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."—What the commentof the Armidians was upon this passage, may be easily deduced from the Doctor's charge : Addressing Mr. Mede, he virtually says, “ If you take Cornelius to have been no Proselyte in any degree, I am confident, you are an Arminian !" But Dr. Twisse was mistaken in his supposition : Por Mr. Mede accounted Cornelius a Proselyte of the Gate, and says:

" Howsoever these proselytes were reputed Gentiles, and such as with whom the Jews might not converse, as being no free denizens of Israel; yet did the Jewish Doctors yield them a part in the life to come.'

Joseph Mede was a pious Arminian of the good old practical school : bis humble aud unobtrusive conduct on this occasion is a fine trait in his character, and affords a fair specimen of the gentleness and long-suffering of the private ministers of the Arminian persuasion during that period, of whom there were great numbers whose duty did not call them iuto the ranks of public defenders of the benigo doctrines of General Redemption, but who were as usefully employed in teaching their several congregations the necessity of conformiog to the primitive practice of the churches of Christ “in walking worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowlerlge of God.” (Col. i, 10.)

consequently may prove some ease to my bodily infirmity also.” At the conclusion of his letter he informs Mr. Mede, “ And now truly, Sir, there is no book that I desire to study more than yourself."

Mr. Mede returned an appropriate answer in his customary undisguised and artless manner; about a month after which, it seems, Dr. Twisse visited Cambridge, according to the intimation at the close of his letter, where his violent prejudices against ceremonies were further excited by some high Nonconforming spirits in that University. On his return to Newbury, he addressed a letter to Mr. Mede, which is a curious medley of praise, blame, and bigotry, and from which I now proceed to give copious extracts, and subjoin, as notes, Mr. Mede's replies to some of the complaints and accusations. “ Had I staid longer in Cambridge," says Dr. Twisse, “ you had enjoyed my company longer, or, to speak more properly, I should have desired to enjoy your company longer; and it would be very long ere I should be weary of your discourse. O Mr. Mede, I could willingly spend my days in hanging upon your

you

discourse of Antichrist and the accommodation of his legend to the Pope of Rome, and the whore of Babylon to Rome itself:* though my studies have lain far more in their writings than in our own divines, and I was never found to dislike any opinion of a Papist for the Papist's sake who maintains it, as having profited in Divinity more by their writingsthan by our own, always excepting interpretation of scripture !t How much more to hear you discourse of the glorious kingdom of Christ here on earth to begin with the ruin of Antichrist ! It may be, you do not find many disciples more docile this way

than

ears, while

* This is very true: The Doctor was delighted as long as Mr. Mede prophesied about the downfall of Popery, in which, by Dr. Twisse's own explanation, (page 511,) was included the ruin of the ecclesiastical establishment of his country. But as soon as he begun to discourse about the crying sins of the Puritans, and their open contempt of decency and order in the public worship of God, the old man immediately became testy and would endure no allusion to that topic.

+ This is a remarkable expression. But how can it be reconciled with others, in which, Dr. Twisse has sedulously attempted to fasten on the Arminians of Holland the charge of an attachment to the doctrines of Popery, and on those of England a love both for the doctrines and the rites of 'the Romish Church ? This however is uot the sole instance in which the duplicity of the man's character is displayed. The Christianity, which his adversaries professed had not one half as many points of co-incidence with Popery, as that professed by the Calvinists had ; yet to render those Protestant adversaries odious in the eyes of the world, he employed the usual artifice of his party and designated them Papists, at the very time when in his private correspondence he could utter such a sentiment as this, which caunot be deduced, even by implication, from any of the Arminian writers of that age, though they were among the most ingenuous and liberal divines that ever breathed. Correctly, therefore was it said by Dr. Twisse," that he had himself profited in Divinity more by the writings of Papists than by those of Protestants;" and the traces of the doctrines of the Dominican's and Franciscans are so numerous in the Doctor's most famous performance, as to require no intimation of the kind contained in this letter, that "his studies had lain far more in their writings than in our own divines !"

myself.—But I would intreat you to spare me in the point of ceremonies ; in some particulars whereof, you told me once in a letter, you were no practitioner : But now, I fear by that which I find, you are a promoter of them.* In Easter term last, I heard * * *

* *, your good friend, while he lived, complain not a little of a sermon of yours, which you had then lately preached : and he delivered it with much grief. After, Mr. B. wrote unto you of the battle of Armageddon, enquiring whether the time thereof were 'not already extant: The next letter I received from him, had this passage, ' I am verily of Mr. • Mede's opinion in this that the times wherein we live, are the * times for the slaughtering of the witnesses.'+ Whereupon I com

*“ Yea, but (you say] I am a great practiser and prosecutor of such ways ! Yet, for all this, I bowed not to the altar when I came out of St. Mary's pulpit, as others commonly use to do. I have urged no man at any time to use any of these ceremonies, nor conformed myself to any of them, till I saw them prevail so generally as I should have been accounted singular. Our own chapel is very regular; yet was not any thing introduced by me but by others. I confess, I had no scruple to follow

them; besides I took occasion, by my chapel-exercises, to inform them of the nature and grounds of what they practised, lest, for want thereof, they might cherish some unsafe conceit. And, notwithstanding I preached for bowing, as you say, to altars, yet I have not hitherto used it myself in our own chapel, though I see some others do it. If I come into other chapels where it is generally practised, I love not to be singular where I have no scruple." Mede's Reply.

+ Mr. Mede's real opinion concerning the slaughter of the witnesses is thus diffidently expressed in the translation of a Latin letter to a friend : “ You desire to know what my sentiments are respecting that most griev

ous calamity which Brightman predicted as impending over all churches,
while all things were theu in a peaceful and flourishing condition.' I wish
that the reasons which I deduce from the Apocalyptic mysteries did not com-
pel me, as far as I can understand them, to approach more nearly to Brigbt-
man's opinion than I desire, but on other grounds than those on which bis is
founded,-whether that opinion was pronounced in a prophetic spirit or
from other influence. Either I am deceived, or the Revelation suggests
very plainly, that, a short time previous to the destruction of the Beast, the
whole of the Reformed world will be oppressed, though only for a short time,
and (the relation fills me with horror,) will be entirely subverted. *
• After three days and half, the spirit of life from God shall enter into the
slain witnesses of his truth, and they shall stand upon their feet,' &c. Bright-
man supposes this prediction to have received its fulfilment long ago, in
the Smalcald contest, but I thiuk it has yet to be fulfilled. For, as long
as the Beast shall reign, those mournful times of the apostacy have not
completed their period, nor therefore is the time at an end for the witnesses
to mourn in sack-cloth and ashes. But I scarcely dare say whether this
deplorable destruction and ruin of the Reformed Churches, which we have
now for a few years bebeld, be preparing the way to this catastrophe: This
is a thing known to God alone, in whose hand are the times and seasons.
But this assertion I shall not be afraid of venturing to make, If any man
• has deeply contemplated the present aspect of affairs, the result of his con-
sideration will suggest causes of fear that will be sufficiently weighty.'
For what man does not perceive matters to be now brought to such a crisis,
that, unless the Father of Mercies speedily look upon us with the eyes of his
paternal mercy, we must expect the miserable destruction of the entire
Reformation as it were, and the appearance of all things being once more
brought under the tyranny of the Romish false prophet! To this must be
added, the amazing disorder and confusion of counsels, as if they proceeded
from persons that were judicially stricken by God; and, suppressing all
notice of other sins, that manifest hardness of heart among the Reformed

*

#

« PreviousContinue »