« PreviousContinue »
rant opinions, however, became somewhat reduced in Catholic amplitude when the same individuals were under the necessity of defending the Church, of whose UNITY in too restricted a sense they were profound admirers, against the incroachments of the Presbyterians and Brownists. Yet it is remarkable, that Richard Hooker, who wrote against both parties, (the Papists and the Disciplinarian brethren,) is far more liberal and tolerant in his views of Religious Liberty than Richard Baxter,* Bishop Overal than Dr. Lightfoot, ip. 467,) Dr. Hammond than Dr. John Owen, siuce he formerly defended PERKINS and his Reformed Catholic. How desirable, that we should discuss and determine Theological matters, and those questions which concern the Christian Faith, not according to party prepossessions and private opinions or feelings, but according to the sure Word of God, and the 'consent of the Ancient Church ! We might then entertain better hopes about Evangelical Truth and Concord." . * ' In BAXTER's Second Admonition to Bagshaw, he enumerates some of the faults committed by himself during the Civil Wars, of which he then saw cause to repent :
“I do repent, (again,) that I no more discouraged the spirit of peevish quarrelling with Superiors and Church-orders; and (though I ever disliked and opposed it, yet) that I sometimes did too much encourage such as were of this temper, by speaking too sharply against those things which I thought to be Church-corruptions; and was too loth to displease the contentious, for fear of being uncapable to do them good, (knowing the profane to be much worse than they,) and meeting with too few religious persons that were not too much pleased with such invectives. ***" I do repent also, that I had not more impartially and diligently consulted with the best Lawyers that were against the Parliameni's cause ; (for I know of no controversy in Divinity about it, but in Politics and Law ;) and that I did not use all possible means of full acquaintance with the case :-.And that, for a little while, the authority of such writers as Mr. RICHARD HOOKER, (Lib. i, Eccles. Polit.,) and Bishop Bilson, and other Episcopal Divines, did too much sway my judgment toward the principles of POPULAR POWER :-And, seeing the Parliament Episcopal and Erastian ; and not hearing, when the war began, of two Presbyterians among them all, nor among all their Lord Lieutenants, Generals, Major-Generals, or Colonels, till long after; I was the easilier drawn to think, that HOOKER'S Political Principles had been commonly received by all ; which I discovered soon after, upon stricter enquiry, to be unsound, and have myself written a confutation of them!”
This quotation is exceedingly important, for other reasons than that of shewing the more tolerant character of the writings of Hooker and Bilson: It corrobo rates the remarks which I have made (page 379) upon Baxter's casuistry, about the authority to which the allegiance of the people was due. It is likewise highly confirmatory of the correct view which I have given, (in pages 563 and 728,) of the true difference between Christian Subjection and Unchristian Rebellion. I have there shewn how “ the Puritans and the minor sects, in 1640, in the capacity of CHRISTIANS, enrolled themselves under the banners of sedition.” Baxter, though full of subterfuges on this point in several of his writings, here plainly owns, “ that the controversy about the Parliament's Cause • " was not in DIVINITY, but in Politics and Law.” If Richard, therefore, had again entered on his republican career, and had resumed his former fighting attitudes, he would have done so, not on principles of Divinity, (for by such rebellious acts he would have unchristianised himself, according to his own shewing,)but on principles of Law and Politics ; that is, merely as "a man of the world."
(pp. 413, 416, 654,) and even Archbishop Laud (pp. 575, 577,) than that lusty pleader for Presbyterian Toleration, Stephen Marshall ! 6.-Specimen of an Arminian Sermon before the Long Parliament.
Among the numerous anomalies perceptible in the fashionable Calvinism of the Civil Wars, was that of its being sud-: denly transformed into a system of powerful motives to activity. The stirring and astute preachers before the Republican Senators, with scarcely one exception, called them to the diligent performance of public duties; and, instead of encouraging them to rely on their personal irrespective election, (as they had formerly been accustomed to encourage others,) they saw it to be their province, as well as their interest, to give plain and broad intimations to their political superiors, that their acceptance with the Almighty, and consequently their future salvation, depended materially upon the conscientious and able manner in which they discharged their high functions. Several traces of this strange yet wily transformation of Calvinism may be seen in the preceding pages, and a still greater number might readily be produced. In some instances, the system seemed to be absolutely changed into the ancient legal one of “ Do this, and live ;" and the attempts to prevent its assuming such an appearance were exceedingly clumsy and awkward.* This strenuous inode of exciting men to the performance of their duties, had those duties been of a lawful kind, would have been strictly Arminian; and the men by whom
* To give one instance out of many...THOMAS VALENTINE, preaching before the House of Commons, Sept. 29, 1647, took for his text, Rev. iii, 18, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold, and white raiment," 8C., applied the doctrine in the following manner :
• To counsel us is a rational way, and fit to work upon a man; and God, that tries always to do us good, takes this course to counsel us. “I have, drawn thee with cords of a man and bands of love.' (Hos. xi, 4.) I have dealt with thee, more humano; for man is counselable, but so is not a beast. Coge pecus, you force a beast ; but man is to be persuaded. Speak reason and express love, and you cannot be despised or slighted ; reason cannot be gainsayed. Though the man will not confess he is conquered by your argument, yet the understanding secretly must assent, and love cannot be contemned; the party may, but love cannot. But when the wise God shall speak reason, and manifest his love, we should not despise his counsel. It is very fit and proper for the action of buying, you should not be compelled to buy the commodities here offered; but you shall use your reason, whether a poor man should not do all he can to get good gold, and a naked man clothing."
This is all very good, and strictly Arminian. But, to remove all misapprehension on the subject, Valentine adds, in the next sentence: " But here I must needs explain this point, lest we should think that a man were left to his own "liberty in the point of his conversion ; and this simile of counselling to buy must not be extended beyond the scope. And we say, that the will of man is over-ruled and overpowered by the Spirit of Christ, so as it cannot but come in upon the offer of grace; and the will is determined to one thing, not left to itself to take or refuse what is tendered to it. And it is no absurdity, (whatever Are minians think,) to say, In the conversion of a sinner, there is a violence offered
to the corruption of the will, and yet the will not wronged ; a suspending of • the liberty of the will, and no destroying of it!'”
they were inculcated, really, though undesignedly, assisted in the propagation of a religion of motives, conditions, and duties, and of corresponding rewards and punishments --which, when severally propounded according to the lively oracles of God, constitute pure and unsophisticated Arminianism.* On many subsequent :
* This remarkable circumstance is mentioned in the following eloquent and humourous manner, by John Goodwin, in his very able pamphlet entitled The Banner of Justification displayed, which was published in 1659 :
*66 Christian Reader, I well know with which of my hands these papers are offered unto thine : But I am somewhat doubtful with which of thine they will be received. For I am far from judging thee unworthy the salutation of Christian, because my thoughts may not be thine in matters of a more arduous and difficult contemplation. Only the evil genius of these times worketh so effectually, acteth so imperiously, yea, tyrannically in the minds and fancies of many, that it permits them not the use of their right hand in receiving any thing from another, which is not already an ingredient in the composition or body of their faith. But persons of this character seem, not so much to desire to be free from error, as to presume themselves so to bę. The cross of Arminius is grown so heavy amongst us, and the generality of professors so weak, that the greater part of them are not able to take it up, though TRUTH be tied fast to it, and the burden of it hereby made much more easy and light. Yet, if many of those who occupy the places of the learned, were not more contradictious than their opinions, or, at least, than many of their sayings, the crOSS we speak of would soon be abolished, and the offence of the innocent doctrine, disguised with the vizard of ARMINIANISM put upon the face of it, would presently cease. And the certain truth is, that the unhappy dividing character between those who, measuring themselves by themselves, call themselves orthodox,-and those whom, because they cannot and do not measure them. selves by their measure, they vote Arminian,- doth not stand in this, (as most men take for granted,) viz. • that the latter hold or teach things contrary unto or
inconsistent with the doctrines or opinions, delivered and taught by the former ;' but rather in this, that the latter, (the Arminians,] in their judgment and doce trine, are YEA and AMEN, the former [the Calvinists YEA and Nay. My meaning is, that the latter (the Arminians are more uniform, steady, and coherent with themselves in their notions and doctrines; whereas the former [the Calvinists are desultory, and themselves as it were possessed of a spirit of Amphibology, which sometimes taketh and casteth them into the fire of Calvinism, and otherwhile into the waters of Arminianism so called. And this declaring of themselves, toties quoties and from time to time, for the Contra-remonstrant tenets, is their expiatory sacrifice, to cleanse them from the guilt of being thought Arminian, notwithstanding their neyer so palpable and clear asserting the Remonstrant prin. ciples at other times. Yea, let the minister commit the foul crime of Arminianism never so openly in one part of his sermon, and but do penance in a fair contradiction in another part of it, hereby he stands rectus in curia : Orruodoxism and SOUNDNESS IN THE Faitu are imputed unto him. Yet it is no great matter of commendation for such men to be orthodox, who, if truth lieth in either part of the contradiction, (as it always doth, and of necessity must,) will be sure, I cannot say so properly to hold it, but to teach it. Whereas they who shall, in their doctrine, deliver the express matter and substance of what was taught by the other, yea, though they should deliver it in the self-same words and expres. sions, yet, unless they shall ever and anon be pulling down with their left hand what in this kind they build up with their right, they shall be debtors, and be compelled to bear the cross of CHRIST, under the name and notion of Arminius. That whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall be saved, is the frequent, constant, and most avouched doctrine of those men whose eye is so evil, against their brethren, for standing at the left hand, as they suppose, of the Truth in the
occasions, 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 advantagedus 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. Marga. rets. This was the famous Dr. Ralph CUDWORTH, whose Puri. tanic education and connections, with his former Predestinarian tenets, had prepared him for easily complying with the changes which occurred in 1643. But in prosecuting his metaphysical studies, he compared the two contending systems, and, in com- : mon with Dr. Thomas Jackson, of Oxford, preferred the beneficial 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 them• selves :' 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 Remonstrant 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, be might not himself be conscious of “contending for this or that opinion ; " but as Arminianism has been shewn to be practical Christianity, the reader, after a perusal of the following passages, will not so far mistake his "scope," as to suppose that he was then pleading in behalf of Calvinism : .." He that builds all his comfort upon an ungrounded persuasion, that God from all eternity hath 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 quicksand, 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 shalt 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, ! to make our calling and election sure. We have no warrant in 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 ourselves that we are certainly elected to everlasting happiness, before we see the image of God, in righteousness and true holia ness, shaped in our hearts. God's everlasting decree is too dazzling 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 look 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 scorching for us. The best assurance that any one can have of his interest in God, is doubtless the conformity of his soul to him. Those Divine purposes, whatsoever they be, are altogether unsearchable 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 dig as low as hell by humility and self-denial in our own hearts; And though this may seein 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 indeel 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,