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Cocceius are agreed among themselves, and that these two general classes of expositors may be divided into many subordinate ones. A considerable number of English divines of the episcopal church refused to adopt the opinions, or to respect the authority, of these modern expositors; they appealed to the decisions of the primitive fathers; and maintained, that the sacred writings ought always to be understood in that sense only, which has been attributed to them by these ancient doctors of the rising church.
viir. The doctrines of Christianity, which had been so State of didac- sadly disfigured among the Lutherans by the ob
in scure jargon and the intricate tenets of the schochurch. lastic philosophy, met with the same fate in the reformed churches. The first successful effort, that prevented these churches from falling entirely under the Āristotelian yoke, was made by the Arminians, who were remarkable for expounding, with simplicity and perspicuity, the truths and precepts of religion, and who censured, with great plainness and severity, those ostentatious doctors, who affected to render them obscure and unintelligible, by expressing them in the terms, and reducing them under the classes and divisions, used in the schools. The Cartesians and Cocceians, contributed also to delivertheology from the chains of the peripatetics; though it must be allowed, that it had not, in some respects, a much better fate in the hands of these its deliverers. The Cartesians applied the principles and tenets of their philosophy in illustrating the doctrines of the gospel; the Cocceians imagined, that they could
tic theology in tbe reformed
y These have been eonfuted by the learned Dr. Whitby, in his important work, “ Concerning the Interpretation of Scripture after the Manner of the Fathers, which was · published at London in 8vo. in the year 1714, under the following title: “Dissertatio de Scripturarum Interpretatione secundum Patrum Commentarios," &c. In this dissertation, which was the forerunner of the many remarkable attempts that were afterward made to deliver the right of private judgment, in matters of religion, from the restraints of human authority, the judicious author has shown, first, that the Holy Scripture is the only rule of faith, and that by it alone we are to judge of the doctrines that are necessary to salvation ; secondly, that the fathers, both of the primitive times, and also of succeeding ages, are extremely deficient and unsuccessful in their explications of the sacred writings; and, thirdly, that it is impossible to terminate the debates that have been raised concerning the Holy Trinity, by the opinions of the fathers, the decisions of councils, or by any tradition that is really universal. The contradictions, absurdities, the romantic conceits and extravagant fancies, that are to be found in the commentaries of the fathers, were never represented in such a ridiculous point of view as they are in this performance. The worst part of the matter is, that such a production as Dr. Whitby's, in which all the mistakes of these ancient expositors are culled out and compiled with such care, is too much adapted to prejudice young students even against what may be good in their writings, and thus disgust them against a kind of study, which, when conducted with impartiality and prudence, has its uses. It is the infirmity of our frature to be fond of extremes.
not give a more sublime and engaging aspect to the Christian religion, than by representing it under the notion of a covenant entered into between God and man;' and both these manners of proceeding were disliked by the wisest and most learned divines of the reformed church. They complained, with reason, that the tenets and distinctions of the Cartesian philosophy had as evident a tendency to render the doctrines of Christianity obscure and intricate as the abstruse terms, and the endless divisions and subdivisions of the peripatetics. They observed also, that the metaphor of a covenant, applied to the Christian religion, must be attended with many inconveniences, by leading uninstructed minds to form a variety of ill-grounded notions, which is the ordinary consequence of straining metaphors; and that it must contribute to introduce into the colleges of divinity the captious terms, distinctions, and quibbles, that are employed in the ordinary courts of justice; and thus give rise to the most trifling and ill-judged discussions and debates about religious matters. Accordingly, the greatest part, both of the British and French doctors, refusing to admit the intricacies of Cartesianism, and the imagery of Cocceius, into their theological system, followed the free, easy, and unaffected method of the Arminian divines, in illustrating the truths, and enforcing the duties of Christianity.
IX. We have had formerly occasion to observe, that Dr. William Ames, a Scots divine, was one of the The state of first among the reformed who attempted to treat place cand ma morality as a separate science, to consider it ab- Fality. stractedly from its connexion with any particular system of doctrine, and to introduce new light, and a new degree
practical reli. gion and mo.
I z It is somewhat surprising, that Dr. Mosheim should mention this circumstance as an invention of Cocceius, or as a manner of speaking peculiar to him. The repre. sentation of the gospel dispensation under the idea of a covenant, whether this representation be literal or metaphorical, is to be found, almost every where, in the Epistles of St. Paul, and the other apostles, though very rarely, scarcely more than twice, in the gospels. This phraseology has also been adopted by Christians of almost alí denominations. It is indeed a manner of speaking that has been grossly abused by those divines, who, urging the metaphor too closely, exhibit the sublime transactions of the divine wisdom under the narrow and imperfect forins of human tribunals; and thus lead to false notions of the springs of action, as well as of the dispensations and attributes of the Supreme Being. We have remarkable instances of this abuse, in a book lately translated into English, I mean, the Economy of the Covenants, by Witsius, in which that learned and pious man, who has deservedly gained an eminent reputation by other valuable productions, has inconsiderately introduced the captious, formal, and trivial terms, employed in human courts, into his descriptions of the stupendous scheme of redemption.
of accuracy and precision, into this master science of life and manners. The attempt was laudable, had it been well executed; but the system of this learned writer was dry, theoretical, and subtile, and was thus much more adapted to the instruction of the studious than to the practical direction of the Christian. The Arminians, who are known to be much more zealous in enforcing the duties of Christianity than in illustrating its truths, and who generally employ more pains in directing the will than in enlightening the understaning, engaged several authors of note to exhibit the precepts and obligations of morality in a more useful, practical, and popular manner; but the English and French surpassed all the moral writers of the reformed church in penetration, solidity, and in the ease, freedom, and perspicuity of their method and compositions. Moses Amyraut, a man of a sound understanding and subtile genius, was the first of the French divines who distinguished themselves in this kind of writing. He composed an accurate and elaborate system of morality, in a style indeed that is now become obsolete; and those more moderate French writers, such as La Placette and Pictet, who acquired such a high and eminent reputation on account of their moral writings, owe to, the excellent work now mentioned a considerable part of their glory. While England groaned under the horrors and tumults of a civil war, it was chiefly the Presbyterians and Independents, that. employed their talents and their pens in promoting the cause of practical religion. During this unhappy period indeed these doctors were remarkable for the austere gravity of their manners, and for a melancholy complexion and turn of mind ; and these appeared abundantly in their compositions. Some of them were penned with such rigour and severity, as discovered either a total ignorance of the present imperfect state of humanity, or an entire want of all sort of indulgence for its unavoidable infirmities. Others were composed with a spirit of enthusiasm, that betrayed an evident propensity to the doctrine of the mystics. But when Hobbes appeared, the scene changed. A new set of illustrious and excellent writers arose to defend the truths of religion, and the obligations of morality, against this author, who aimed at the destruction of both, since he subjected the unchangeable nature of religion to the arbitrary will of the sovereign, and endeavoured to ef
face the eternal distinction that there is between moral good and evil. Cudworth, Cumberland, Sharrock, and others, alarmed at the view of a system so false in its principles, and so pernicious in its effects, rendered eminent service to the cause of religion and morals by their immortal labours, in which, arising to the first principles of things, and opening the primitive and eternal fountains of truth and good, they illustrated clearly the doctrines of the one with the fairest evidence, and established the obligations of the other on the firmest foundations.
X. About the commencement of this century, the academy of Geneva was in such high repute among the reformed churches, that it was resorted to from The controall quarters by such as were desirous of a learned cerning preeducation; and more especially by those students and grace. of theology, whose circumstances in life permitted them to frequent this famous seminary. Hence it very naturally happened, that the opinions of Calvin, concerning the decrees of God and divine grace, became daily more universal, and were gradually introduced every where into the schools of learning. There was not however any public law or confession of faith that obliged the pastors of the reformed churches, in any part of the world, to conform their sentiments to the theological doctrines that were adopted and taught at Geneva. And accordingly there were many, who either rejected entirely the doctrine of that academy on these intricate points, or received it with certain restrictions and modifications. Nay, even those who were in general attached to the theological system of Geneva, were not perfectly agreed about the manner of explaining the doctrine relating to the divine decrees. The greatest part were of opinion, that God had only permitted the first man to fall into transgression, without positively predetermining his fall. But others went much further, and, presumptuously forgetting their own ignorance on the one hand, and the wisdom and equity of the divine counsels on the other, maintained, that God, in order to exer
Doa See Leland's View of the Deistical Writers, vol. i. p. 48. b The lustre and authority of the academy of Geneva began gradually to decline, from the time that, the United Provinces being formed into a free and independent republic, universities were founded at Leyden, Franeker, and Utrecht.
c See, for a full demonstration of this assertion, Grotius's Apologeticus, &c. as also, several treatises, written in Dutch, by Theod. Volkh. Coornkert, of whom Arnoldt makes particular mention in his Historia Eccles. et Hæret. tom. ii.
cise and display his awful justice and his free mercy, had decreed from all eternity the transgression of Adam; and so ordered the course of events, that our first parents could not possibly avoid their unhappy fall. Those that held this latter sentiment were denominated Supralapsa. rians, to distinguish them from the Sublapsarian doctors, who maintained the doctrine of permission already mentioned.
XI. It is remarkable enough, that the Supralapsarian The Arminian and Sublapsarian divines forgot their debates and
· differences, as matters of little consequence; and united their force against those who thought it their duty to represent the Deity as extending his goodness and mercy to all mankind. This gave rise, soon after the commencement of this century, to a deplorable schism, which all the efforts of human wisdom have since been unable to heal. James Arminius, professor of divinity in the university of Leyden, rejected the doctrine of the church of Geneva, in relation to the deep and intricate points of predestination and grace; and maintained, with the Lutherans, that God has excluded none from salvation by an absolute and eternal decree. He was joined in these sentiments by several persons in Holland, that were eminently distinguished by the extent of their learning and the dignity of their stations ; but he met with the warmest opposition from Francis Gomar his colleague, and from the principal professors in the Dutch universities. The magistrates exhorted the contending parties to moderation and charity ; and observed, that, in a free state, their respective opinions might be treated with toleration, without any detriment to the essential interests of true religion. After long and tedious debates, which were frequently attended with popular tumults and civil broils, this intricate controversy was, by the councils and authorityd of Maurice, prince of Orange, referred to the decision of the church, assembled in a general synod at Dort, in the year 1618. The most eminent divines of the United Provinces, and not only so, but learned deputies from the churches of England, Scotland, Switzerland, Bremen, Hessia, and the Palatinate, were present at this numerous and solemn assembly. It was
ispod It was not by the authority of prince Maurice, but by that of the statesgeneral, that the national synod was assembled at Dort. The states were not indeed unanimous ; three of the seven provinces protested against the holding of this synod viz. Holland, Utrecht, and Overyssel,