תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

. Those who embraced this doctrine were called Universalists, because they represented God as willing to show mercy to all mankind; and hypothetical Universalists, because the condition of faith in Christ was necessary to render them the objects of this mercy. It is the opinion of many, that this doctrine differs but little from that which was established by the synod of Dort; but such do not seem to have attentively considered either the principles from whence it is derived, or the consequences to which it leads. The more I examine this reconciling system, the more I am persuaded, that it is no more than Arminianism or Pelagianism artfully dressed up, and ingeniously covered with a half transparent veil of specious, but ambiguous expressions; and this judgment is confirmed by the language that is used in treating this subject by the modern followers of Amyraut, who express their sentiments with more courage, plainness, and perspicuity, than the spirit of the times permitted their master to do. A cry was raised, in several French synods, against the doctrine of Amyraut; but after it had been carefully examined by them, and defended by him, at their public meetings, with his usual eloquence and erudition, he was honourably acquitted." The opposition he met with from Holland was still more formidable, as it came from the learned and celebrated pensof Rivet, Spanheim, Des Marets, and other adversaries of note; he nevertheless answered them with great spirit and vigour, and his cause was powerfully supported afterward by Daille, Blondel, Mestrezat, and Claude." This controversy was carriedon,for a long time with great animosity and little fruit to those who opposed the opinions of the French

Supralapsarians were consistent with themselves, but their doctrine was harsh and terrible, and was founded on the most unworthy notions of the Supreme Being; and, on the other hand, the system of Amyraut was full of inconsistences; nay, even the Sublapsarian doctrine has its difficulties, and rather palliates, than removes the horrors of Supralapsarianism. What then is to be done ? from what quarter shall the candid and well-disposed Christian receive that solid satisfaction and wise direction, which neither of these systems is adapted to administer ? These he will receive by turning his dazzled and feeble eye from the secret degrees of God, which were neither designed to be rules of action nor sources of comfort to mortals here below; and by fixing his view upon the mercy of God, as it is manifested through Christ, the pure laws and sublime promises of his gospel, and the respectable equity of his present government and his future tribunal.

m See Aymon, Actes des Synodes Nationaux des Eglises Reformees en France,' tom. ii. p. 571, p. 604. Blondel, 'Actes Authentiques des Eglises Reformees touchant la paix et la charite fraternelle,' p. 19–82, odit. of Amsterdam, published in 4to. in the year 1655.

n Bayle's Dictionary, vol. i. at the articles Amyraut and Blondel; and vol. ii. at the article Daille. See Christ. Pfaffius, De formula consensus, cap. i. p. 4.

occasioned by le la Place

innovator. For the sentiments of Amyraut were not only received in all the universities of the Hugonots in France, and adopted by divines of the highest note in that nation, but also spread themselves as far as Geneva, and were afterward disseminated by the French protestants, who fled from the rage of persecution, through all the reformed churches of Europe. And they now are so generally received, that few have the courage to oppose or decry them.

xv. The desire of mitigating certain doctrines of the reformed church, that drew upon it the heaviest cen- The contests sures from both the Roman catholics and some oce protestant communions, was the true origin of the and Cappel. opinion propagated, in the year 1640, by De la Place, concerning the imputation of original sin. This divine, who was the intimate friend of Amyraut, and his colleague at Saumur, rejected the opinion generally received in the schools of the reformed, that the personal and actual transgression of the first man is imputed to his posterity. He maintained, on the contrary, that God imputes to every man his natural corruption, his personal guilt, and his propensity to sin ; or, to speak in the theological style, he affirmed, that original sin is indirectly and not directly imputed to mankind. This opinion was condemned as erroneous, in the year 1642, by the synod of Charenton, and many Dutch and Helvetic doctors of great name set themselves to refute it;" while the love of peace and union prevented its author from defending it in a public and open manner.” But neither the sentence of the synod, nor the silence of De la Place, could hinder this sentiment from making a deep impression on the minds of many, who looked upon it as conformable to the plainest dictates of justice and equity; nor could they prevent its being transmitted, with the French exiles, into other countries.

In the class of those who, to diminish or avoid the resentment of the papists, made concessions inconsistent with truth, and detrimental to the purity of the protestant religion, many place Lewis Cappel, professor at Saumur, who, in a voluminous and elaborate work, undertook to

o Aymon, Synodes des Eglises Reformees de France, tom. ii. p. 680. p Christ. Eberh. Weismanni Histor. Eccles. Sæc. xvii. p. 817.

q This work, which is entitled Arcanum Punctuationis Revelatum, is still extant, with its Vindiciæ, in the works of Cappel, printed at Amsterdam, in the year 1689, in folio: and in the Critica Sacra V. T. published in folio at Paris, 1650.

[ocr errors]

prove that the Hebrew points were not used by the sacred
writers, and were a modern invention added to the text by
the Masorethes. It is at least certain, that this hypothesis
was highly agreeable to the votaries of Rome, and seemed
manifestly adapted to diminish the authority of the Holy
Scriptures, and to put them upon a level with oral tradi-
tion, if not to render their decision still less respectable and
certain. On these accounts, the system of this famous
professor was opposed, with the most ardent efforts of eru-
dition and zeal, by several doctors both of the reformed
and Lutheran churches, who were eminent for their know-
ledge of the Hebrew language, and their acquaintance with
oriental learning in general.'
xvi. Though these great men gave offence to many, by

the freedom and novelty of their sentiments, yet Lewis le Blanc. they had the approbation and esteem of the greatest part of the reformed churches; and the equity of succeeding generations removed the aspersions that envy had thrown upon them during their lives, and made ample amends for the injuries they had received from several of their contemporaries. This was far from being the case of those doctors who either openly attempted to bring about a complete reconciliation and union between the reformed and Romish churches, or explained the doctrines of Christianity in such a manner as lessened the difference between the two communions, and thereby rendered the passage from the former to the latter less disgusting and painful. The attempts of these peacemakers were looked upon as odious, and in the issue they proved utterly unsuccessful. The most eminent of these reconciling doctors were Lewis le Blanc, professor at Sedan, and Claude Pajon, minister of Orleans," who were both remarkable for

Pr It was also Cappel, who affirmed, that the characters which compose the Hebrew text, were those that the Chaldeans used after the Babylonish captivity, the Jews having always made use of the Samaritan characters before that period.

I s This absurd notion of the tendency of Cappel's hypothesis is now hissed almost entirely out of the learned world. Be that as it may, the hypothesis in question is by no means peculiar to Cappel; it was adopted by Luther, Zuingle, Calvin, the three great pillars of the Reformation ; as also by Munster, Olivetan, Masius, Scaliger, Casaubon, Drusius, De Dieu, Walton, and Bochart, those eminent men, who have cast such light on sacred philology, so that Cappel bad only the merit of supporting it by new arguments, and placing it in a striking and luminous point of view.

t See B. Jo. Christ. Wolfii Biblioth. Hebraica, p. ii. p. 27.

Fu It is difficult to conceive, what could engage Dr. Mosheim to place Pajon in the class of those who explained the doctrines of Christianity in such a manner, as to diminish the difference between the doctrine of the Reformed and Romish Churches. Pajon was indeed a moderate divine, and leaned somewhat toward the Arminian sys

the persuasive power of their eloquence, and discovered an uncommon degree of penetration and sagacity in their writings and negotiations. The former passed in review many of the controversies which divide the two churches, and seemed to prove, with the utmost perspicuity, that some of them were merely disputes about words, and that the others were of much less consequence than was genes rally imagined." This manner of stating the differences between the two churches drew upon Le Blanc the indig. nation of those, who looked upon all attempts to soften and modify controverted doctrines as dangerous and detrimental to the cause of truth. On the other hand, the acuteness and dexterity with which he treated this nice matter, made a considerable impression upon several persons, and procured him disciples, who still entertain his re. conciling sentiments, but either conceal them entirely, or discover them with caution, as they are known to be displeasing to the greatest part of the members of both communions.

XVII. The modifications under which Pajon exhibited some of the doctrines of the reformed church, Claude Pawere also extremely offensive and unpopular. This jus. ecclesiastic applied the principles and tenets of the Cartesian philosophy, of which he was a warm and able defender, in explaining the opinions of that church relating to the corruption of human nature, the state of its moral faculties and powers, the grace of God, and the conversion of sinners; and, in the judgment of many, he gave an erroneous interpretation of these opinions. It is indeed very difficult to determine what were the real sentiments of this man; nor is it easy to say, whether this difficulty be most owing to the affected obscurity and ambiguity under which he disguised them, or to the inaccuracy with which his adversaries, through negligence or malignity, have represented them. If we may give credit to the latter, his doctrine amounts to the following propositions : “ That the corruption of man is less, and his natural power to. amend his ways greater, than is generally imagined ; that original sin lies in the understanding alone, and consists principally in the obscurity and imperfection of our ideas of divine things; that this imperfection of the human understanding has a pernicious influence upon the will, excites in it vicious propensities, and thus leads it to sinful actions that this internal disorder is healed, not by the mere efforts of our natural faculties and powers, but by the assistance and energy of the Holy Spirit, operating upon the mind by the divine word as its mean or instrument; that however this word is not endowed with any divine intrinsic energy, either natural or supernatural, but only with a moral influence, i. e. that it corrects and improves the understanding, in the same manner as human truth does, even by imparting clear and distinct notions of spiritual and divine things, and furnishing solid arguments for the truth and divinity of the Christian religion, and its perfect conformity with the dictates of right reason; and that, of consequence, every man, if no internal or external impediments destroy or suspend the exertion of his natural powers and faculties, may, by the use of his own reason, and a careful and assiduous study of the revealed will of God, be enabled to correct what is amiss in his sentiments, affections, and actions, without any extraordinary assistance from the Holy Ghost.?"

tem; and this propensity was not uncommon among the French Protestants. But few doctors of this time wrote with more learning, zeal, and judgment, against popery, than Claude Pajon, as appears from his excellent treatise against Nicole, entitled Examen du Livre, qui porte pour titre prejugees legitimes contre les Calvinistes.

w In his Thesis Theologice, which have passed through several editions, and are highly worthy of an attentive perusal. They were twice printed at London.

See Bayle's Dictionary, at the article Beaulieu.

Such is the account of the opinions of Pajon that is given by his adversaries. On the other hand, if we take our ideas of his doctrine from himself, we shall find this account disingenuous and erroneous. Pajon intimates plainly his assent to the doctrines that were confirmed by the synod of Dort, and that are contained in the catechisms and confessions of faith of the reformed churches; he complains that his doctrine has been ill understood or wilfully perverted; and he observes, that he did not deny entirely an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit on the minds of those that are really converted to God, but only such an immediate operation as was not accompanied with the ministry and efficacy of the divine word; or, to express the matter in other terms, he declared that he could not adopt the sentiments of those who represent that word as

y Fred. Spanheim, Append. ad Elenchum Controversiar. tom. iii. opp. p. 882. Jurieu, Traite de la Nature et de la Grace, p. 35. Val. Ern. Loscheri Exercit. de Claud. Pajonii ejusque sectator. doctrina et fatis. Lips. 1692.

« הקודםהמשך »