תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

not defined ; that is, Whether God's eternal purpose or decree was made according to what he foresaw his creatures would do ; or purely upon an absolute will in order to his own glory? It is very probable, that those who penned it meant that the decree was absolute, but yet since they have not said it, those who subscribe the Articles do not seem to be bound to any thing that is not expressed in them: and therefore since the remonstrants do not deny but that God having foreseen what all mankind would, according to all the different circumstances in which they should be put, do or not do, he upon that, did by a firm and eternal decree, lay that whole design in all its branches, which he executes in time; they may subscribe this Article without renouncing their opinion as to this matter. On the other hand, the Calvinists have less occasion for scruple, since the Article does seem more plainly to favour them."

Some Anti-Calvinists, by way of reprisal, perhaps, for the charge of having acted disingenuously, uncharitably brought by some intemperate Calvinists against them, for · their subscription to the seventeenth Article, have proceeded to recriminate by representing the Article as framed in opposition to irrespective decrees, and thus throwing back upon Calvinists in general, the censure which some of them had passd upon their opponents, on this question. It is worthy of our attention, to observe how different a tone many of the Anti-Calvinists have assumed on this subject, from Bishop Burnet, and many other Arminian writers of former times. It never occurred to the Bishop, that the Article was written against absolute decrees. He always is open and fair enough to declare, that the Article seems to be founded on St. Austin's doctrine ; and that it seems more plainly to favour the Calvinists.

He was

All he demanded for himself, and for those of his senti. ments, was a right to subscribe it because it did not expressly declare that the decree was absolute. well acquainted with the beginning, with the progress, and with the principles of the Reformation in England, and with the writings of the Fathers of the English Church; and though he did not, on this subject, adopt their sen. timents, he was a man of too stubborn integrity to represent them to be, what he knew they were not. But now, the most violent writers on the same side of the ques. tion, without ever studying the subject, and with very little knowledge of those writings from which alone they ean be qualified to decide on the prevailing, and almost unanimous sentiments of the Church of England Fathers, take it upon them to settle the controversy, with, out the trouble of inquiry. Whether these gentlemen, despairing of success by a regular attack, expect to carry their point by a coup de main, we do not know; but they can have no rational hope of succeeding but by the project proposed by one of Cromwell's fanatical parliaments, to burn, or destroy all the records of the kingdom. Without such an overwhelming cause, no such effect can be produced. The mass of evidence, with respect to the sentiments of the English Reformers, is too unwieldy to be removed. Can any man have the hardihood to attempt or the abilities to prove, that they who certainly believed in Absolute Election, framed an Article in opposition to their own convictions, to exclude themselves and all who should ever embrace their sentiments, from the Church of England ? Doctrines may be controverted : on the head of conditional, and on the subject of unconditional Election, much has been said, and much may yet be said; but he who advances an hypothesis 80 absurd, has no

right to expect a reply. We have entered into the question no further, than to reprobate a mode of procedure, which, if tolerated, would be fatal to the truth of all history. That Calvinist or that Arminian, who, on so mysterious a subject, has pever felt any difficulties, has either thought little, or very superficially on the subject. There certainly are many things in Scripture which have strongly the appearance of absolute decrees; and the Armini . an who thinks that moderate Calvinism has not a claim even to a serious examination, has studied the sacred vo. lume either with strong prejudices, or with little reflection. There is in the Scriptures a variety of subjects, which it seems difficult, if not impossible for us, to reconcile with the doctrine of absolute decrees; and the Calvinist who supposes that the peculiarities of his system must command the assent of every pious and bumble in. quirer, and that he who cannot receive them is destitute of spiritual discernment, needs to be more imbued with the spirit of charity than he is at present.

Of late years it has become the fashion, not only for heroes, whose prowess has been tried in the field, to enter the lists with Calvinists; but several doughty warriors, whose strength is hardly equal to trail, whose sinews refuse to poise, and whose skill is inadequate to aim a common dart, must veeds break a lance with the first Calvinists they can find. These men little think what mischief they are doing to the cause for which they contend. When, after a few vapourings, they are driven from the field, and leave the spectators of the combat to infer the strength of Calvinism, from their weakness and folly. Other writers, in whom many excellencies are combined, by confounding the doctrines of Original sin, Justification by Faith, and Regeneration, with the peculiarities of Cal

[ocr errors]

vinism, have given the latter a new root and vigour, by grafting it on the fundamental principles of Christianity. They have converted to Calvinism, even the Arminian Methodists. But there is too much piety among the followers of Mr. Wesley, to admit of their co-operation in rooting ont the doctrines of Grace, from the hope that Calvinism will die with them.

PARTIES IN THE CHURCH.

In a despotic government, the existence of parties would be absolutely incompatible with the authority of the Monarch, and with the quiet of society. In a free state, the existence of opposite parties is necessary to its liberty, and is the badge of its freedom. In the Legislative As. semblies of the Corsican, disputes were unknown. The members were only the puppets that moved, as the hand behind the curtain directed them. If any of them became restiff, and tried to emancipate themselves from his grasp, they quickly disappeared, and were either sent to drag a life of wretchedness in some of his bastiles, or were doomed to perish by the dagger of some assassin. Dia they secretly conspire to remonstrate as a body, they were driven by the tyrant's power, or scattered by his breath into exile. In the British Parliament, every measure of government is examined, its project criticised, and all its faults exposed. The Minister of the day is not more safely intrenched behind the prerogative of his Sovereign, than his opponents are sheltered by the sacred rampart of

the Constitution. When the power of the Pope over
Europe was absolute and uncontrollable, Princes were
condemned to kiss his toes, and if any one rebelled he was
hurled from bis throne by the thunder of the Vatican.
Whoever dared even to express a doubt of the Supreme
Pontiff's Infallibility was immediately concluded to be a
heretic; and, as the foe of God and man, committed to the
flames. In the Church of Rome, though the reins of
spiritual tyranny are considerably relaxed by the spirit of
liberty which the Reformation has scattered, the chains
of Ecclesiastical despotism are still severely felt, and either
bind the genius of liberty or strongly repress it. The
same Revolution that gave freedom to our Parliaments
conferred it on the Church, and the consequences have
been the same in both. Under the broad shade of British
liberty, men of very different political sentiments find
cover and protection, and even the discrepancy of their
ideas, like the different parts of music, furnish an agreeable
and salutary harmony. In the Church, those who serve,
and those who worship at her altars, though discrimina-
ted from each other by the peculiarities of party distinction,
suffer them for a while to be absorbed in the Liturgical
service, with which the mother supplies all her children.
Whatever the sentiments are which they feel, they join in
expressing the same language of adoration, humility, and
gratitude.
· Those who are called the High Church Party, and with
whom almost all the power and patronage of the Church
were lodged in the reigns of the First and Second Charles,
are now reduced to a small number. The two peculiari .
ties of this party were,–First. A constant disposition to
trench upon the liberties of the nation, by exalting the
Royal prerogative. The passive obedience and non-re-
VOL II.

2 N

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »