תמונות בעמוד

From the view we have taken of the arguments which are advanced for these three different, and even opposite, systems, a few remarks seem to present themselves to our mind. First-It is very desirable that every man should have his judgment satisfied with respect to the doctrine of Scripture on this, as well as on any other subject; and that can only be expected by a patient and candid examination of the evidence, in all its points, and in all its different bearings, and by weighing the different arguments against each other.

Secondly, Though it is very necessary that men of learning and penetration should make themselves well acquainted with what has been written by the principal advocates, for each of the three forms of Ecclesiastical Government, yet it is sufficient for men of common education, whose knowledge must be extremely limited, baving acquired just as much information as is requi. site to put them in possession of the great points on which the systems differ, without embarrassing themselves with arguments, many of which they are not likely to understand, and entangling themselves in thickets and mazes in which they may be perplexed and lost, to search the New Testament for themselves, carefully marking that form to which it seems to point.

If they study the arguments employed by the advocates of any one form, impartiality requires that they give equal attention to those of the other two, and it is very improbable that they will bring minds equal to the decision. Perplexity and doubt will more likely be the result, than rational satisfaction. The special pleader, instead of throwing light upon questions that are difficult, generally scatters darkness on those which, without his comments, would admit of an easy solution. Men of weak understanding, and who can form few accurate ideas on any subject, will employ their time to much better advantage, by studying the great truths of Christianity, which make even babes wise to salvation, and leaving such controversies to those who have an arm that can wield, and an eye that can direct their weapons. But alas ! it is seldom indeed that a weak man knows his own character, and every fool will be meddling. In all parties those who are the least qualified, are generally the most ready to decide.

Thirdly-When we reflect that among those who have embraced, and who have defended the three opposite systems, are to be found many writers, eminent for their abilities and for their piety, who had laboriously examined the claims of all ; and who with respect to the vital doctrines of Christianity were in perfect harmony; whose light adorned the Gospel, and reflected the beauties of its holiness ; we may perhaps wonder, that professing to take their information from the same infallible oracles, they should have arrived at conclusions so directly opposite, and yet each so apparently confident that he had embraced the right, and those who differed from him, the wrong form. This circumstance ought surely to impose something more of modesty and selfdiffidence upon every one; and though he be fixed in his judgment to one system, it should make him more moderate to the rest.

Fourthly-As there is much reason to fear, that, in all the three parties, there are many whose whole religion consists in their attachment to the peculiarities of their party, and the whole of whose zeal is expended in contention for these distinctions, it would be well if the Ministers of the different parties would seek rather to give

[ocr errors]

their zeal a new direction, than to inflame it in its present course. How many have deceived themselves by supposing the effervescence of their passions on such subjects to be the overflow of their love to religion, when they were utter strangers to the love of God and of man!

The advocates of Episcopacy have, very many of them, been no less celebrated for their piety than for their erudition, and for their profound and unwearied investigations on this subject. Nor can there be any reason to suspect in such men as Usher, Leighton, Jewel, Beveridge, Hall, Beddel, Hooker, &c. &c. &c. that ambition tinctured their sentiments on this subject. The same thing may be charitably affirmed of many of the firmest friends of Episcopacy, such as Gisborne, Faber, &c. &c. in our own times.

The claims of the Presbyterians have been enforced by men of piety no less ardent, and of distinguished talents; and whose researches have been patient and laborious. Besides writers on the Continent, such as Beza, Martyr, Zanchius, Blondel, Salmasius, &c. &c. &c. this island has produced many, Calderwood, Rutherford, Henry, Baxter, Witherspoon, Anderson, and in our times, Hill, Brown, Dick, &c. It is proper to observe that the general body of those who in England are called Presbyterians, have been unjustly called so, as they adopt no part of that system ; and as the form of their government is independent. They indeed differ from the general sentiments of the Independents, in rejecting (many of them at least) the doctrines of Evangelical religion, and in adopting Arianism.

The cause of Independency has been defended by men of the most exalted piety, and of the most respectable abilities, and who formed their judgment on this subject,

not upon a superficial view, but upon a persevering investigation of the three forms of government. To prove this, it is sufficient to mention the names of Owen, Watts, Doddridge, Cotton, and Bradbury. The late Dr. Campbell, though a Minister of the Church of Scotland, threw the weight of his labours into the same scale, and Mr. Ewing, and Mr. Carson have supported the cause with considerable address and eloquence. In England the Independents are a highly respectable body of Protestant Dissenters.

The discordancy which appears in the sentiments of those great and good men, though it ought not to abate the eagerness of our researches for truth, ought surely to impress our minds with candour to such as differ from us, and to impose modesty and caution, when we review the steps by which we proceeded in our investigation of these subjects. When names of the first respectability stand opposed to us, arrogance in asserting our own opinions, acrimony, virulence, and invective against others, are highly indecorous. The most excellent persons, who adopted opposite systems, have lived in unity of affection, and in the cordiality of Christian friendship, mutually confessing when their sentiments differed, that they saw but in part, and that difficulties were to be encountered in every stage of the controversy. Thus several of the most exalted characters of the Episcopal Divines of the Church of England, loved and respected Calvin, and were in their turn loved and respected by him. Thus Usher, Leighton, and many other venerable men, made great concessions to conciliate the Presbyterians, and to form an union with them. Thus Baxter, Henry, and other Presbyterians of the same sentiments, showed a disposition to coalesce with the Church of England, by

every sacrifice which they thought they could make, consistently with their duty. Thus Rutherford, though a Presbyterian, admitted to his pulpit Archbishop Usher ; and thus too, Dr. Owen, when Chancellor of the University of Oxford, gave most of the livings he had at his disposal to Presbyterians, and declared that he could readily join with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; though he himself had adopted the doctrines of the Independents. Thus Bishop Secker, and Bishop Gibson, cultivated the friendship of Dr. Watts, and well knew how to appreciate the excellent talents and dispositions of that eminent divine. And thus, even Warburton, as well as the two dignitaries just mentioned, paid the willing tribute of respect to the piety and virtues of Dr. Doddridge.



By whom, or at what time, Christianity was first planted in Britain, is a point far from being settled by the investigations of those, who, with the greatest learning and labour have endeavoured to explore the truth of history. The only certain lights by which we can be conducted in tracing the progress of the Gospel, in its first dissemination, are indeed those with which the inspired writers supply us. When these leave us, we enter the regions of uncertainty and conjecture, and as on the present questions they cannot be brought to bear, we must despair of obtaining satisfactory information. Our Savi .



« הקודםהמשך »