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simplicity of religion, by loading it with foreign ornaments. Laws of a like tenor were afterward passed in the United Provinces, and in other countries. But, as there is in human nature a strange propensity to struggle against authority, and to pursue, with a peculiar degree of ardour, things that are forbidden, so it happened, that all these edicts proved insufficient to stop the progress of Cartesianism, which, at length, obtained a solid and permanent footing in the seminaries of learning, and was applied, both in the academies and pulpits, and sometimes indeed very preposterously, to explain the truths and precepts of Christianity. Hence it was, that the United Provinces were divided into the two great factions already mentioned; and that the whole remainder of this century was spent amidst their contentions and debates.
XXXI. John Cocceius, a native of Bremen, and professor of divinity in the university of Leyden, might certainly have passed for a great man, had his vast timthis or coerudition, his exuberant fancy, bis ardent piety, images and his uncommon application to the study of the Scriptures
. Scriptures, been under the direction of a sound and solid judgment. This singular man introduced into theology a multitude of new. tenets and strange notions, which had never before entered into the brain of any other mortal, or at least had never been heard of before his time ; for, in the first place, as has been already hinted, his manner of explaining the Holy Scriptures was totally different from that of Calvin and his followers. Departing entirely from the admirable simplicity that reigns in the commentaries of that great man, Cocceius represented the whole history of the Old Testament as a mirror, that held forth an accurate view of the transactions and events that were to happen in the church under the dispensation of the New Testament, and unto the end of the world. He even went so far as to maintain, that the miracles, actions, and sufferings of Christ and of his Apostles, during the course of their ministry, were types and images of future events. He affirmed, that by far the greatest part of the ancient prophecies foretold Christ's ministry and mediation, and the rise, progress, and revolutions of the church, not only under the
p Frid. Spanheim, De novissimis in Belgio dissidiis, tom. ii. opp. p. 959. The reader may also consult the historians of this century, such as Arnold, Weismann, Jager, Caroli, and also Walchius's Histor, Controvers. Germanic. tom. iii.
figure of persons and transactions, but in a literal manner, and by the very sense of the words used in these predictions. And he completed the extravagance of this chimerical system, by turning, with wonderful art and dexterity, into holy riddles and typical predictions, even those passages
of the Old Testament that seemed designed for no other purpose than to celebrate the praises of the Deity, or to convey some religious truth, or to inculcate some rule of practice. In order to give an air of solidity and plausi. bility to these odd notions, he first laid it down as a fundamental rule of interpretation, “That the words and phrases of Scripture are to be understood in every sense of which they are susceptible; or, in other words, that they signify, in effect, every thing that they can possibly signify;" a rule this, which, when followed by a man who had more imagination than judgment, could not fail to produce very extraordinary comments on the sacred writings. After having laid down this singular rule of interpretation, he divided the whole history of the church into seven periods, conformable to the seven trumpets and seals mentioned in the Revelation.
XXXII. One of the great designs formed by Cocceius, Concerning was that of separating theology from philosophy, the doctrine and of confining the Christian doctors, in their ex
plications of the former, to the words and phrases of the Holy Scriptures. Herce it was, that, finding in the language of the sacred writers, the gospel dispensation represented under the image of a covenant made between God and man, he looked upon the use of this image as admirably adapted to exhibit a complete and well-connected system of religious truth. But while he was labouring this point, and endeavouring to accommodate the circumstances and characters of human contracts to the dispensations of divine wisdom, which they represent in such an inaccurate and imperfect manner, he fell imprudently into some erroneous notions. Such was his opinion concerning the covenant made between God and the Jewish nation by the ministry and the mediation of Moses, 6 which he affirmed to be of the same nature with the new covenant obtained by the mediation of Jesus Christ.” In consequence of this general principle, he maintained, “That the Ten Commandments were proinulgated by Moses, not as a rule of obedience, but as a representation of the
covenant of grace; that when the Jews had provoked the Deity, by their various transgressions, particularly by the worship of the golden calf, the severe and servile yoke of the ceremonial law was added to the decalogue, as a punishment inflicted on them by the Supreme Being in his righteous displeasure ; that this yoke, which was painful in itself, became doubly so on account of its typical signification ; since it admonished the Israelites, from day to day, of the imperfection and uncertainty of their state, filled them with anxiety, and was a standing and perpetual proof that they had merited the displeasure of God, and could not expect, before the coming of the Messiah, the entire remission of their transgressions and iniquities ; that indeed good men, even under the Mosaic dispensation, were immediately after death made partakers of everlasting happiness and glory; but that they were nevertheless during the whole course of their lives, far removed from that firm hope and assurance of salvation, which rejoices the faithful under the dispensation of the gospel; and that their anxiety flowed naturally from this consideration, that their sins, though they remained unpunished, were not pardoned, because Christ had not, as yet, offered himself up a sacrifice to the Father to make an entire atonement for them.” These are the principal lines that distinguish the Cocceian from other systems of theology ; it is attended indeed with other peculiarities; but we shall over in silence, as of little moment, and unworthy of notice. These notions were warmly opposed by the same persons that declared war against the Cartesian philosophy; and the contest was carried on for many years with various success. But, in the issue, the doctrines of Cocceius, like those of Des Cartes, stood their ground; and neither the dexterity nor vehemence of his adversaries could exclude his disciples from the public seminaries of learning, or hinder them from propagating, with surprising success and rapidity, the tenets of their master in Germany and Switzerland.
xxxII. The other controversies, that divided the Belgic church during this century, all arose from the immoderate propensity that certain doctors disco
The controversy set on
9 See Baillet's Vie de M. Des Cartes, tom. ii. p. 33. Daniel's Voyage du Monde de Des Cartes. Val. Alberti Altay 41774, 'Cartesianismus et Cocceianismus descripti et refutati." Lips. 1678, in 4to.
use of reason
foot by Koell, vered toward an alliance between the Cartesian
the in religion.
philosophy and their theological system. This will appear, with the utmost
evidence, from the debates excited by Roell and Becker, which surpassed all the others, both by the importance of their subjects and by the noise they made in the world. About the year 1686, certain Cartesian doctors of divinity, headed by the ingenious Herman Alexander Roell, professor of theology in the univercity of Franeker, seemed to attribute to the dictates of reason a more extensive authority in religious matters, than they had hitherto been possessed of. The controversy, occasioned by this innovation, was reducible to the two following questions; “1. Whether the divine origin and authority of the holy Scriptures can be demonstrated by reason alone, or whether an inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians be necessary in order to the firm belief of this fundamental point. 2. Whether the sacred writings propose to us as an object of faith, any thing that is repugnant to the dictates of right reason.” These questions were answered, the former in the affirmative, and the latter in the negative, not only by Roell, but also by Vander Wayen, Wesselius, Duker, Ruardus ab Andala, and other doctors, who were opposed in this by Ulric Nuber, an eminent lawyer, Gerard de Vries, and others of inferior note. The fame excited by this controversy spread itself far and wide through the United Provinces; and its progress was increasing from day to day, when the states of Friesland prudently interposed to restore the peace of the church, by imposing silence on the contending parties. Those whose curiosity may engage them to examine with attention and accuracy the points debated in this controversy, will find, that a very considerable part of it was merely a dispute about words; and that the real difference of sentiment that there was between these learned disputants might have been easily accommodated, by proper explications on both sides.
Xxxiv. Not long after this controversy had been hushed, Sentiments of Roell alarmed the orthodoxy of his colleagues, Boethicopeens and more particularly of the learned Vitringa, by
some other new tenets, that rendered the soundness of his religious principles extremely doubtful,
ration of the Son of God.
r See Lc Clere, Biblioth. Univers, et Historique, tom. vi. p. 388.
not only in their opinion, but also in the judgment of many Dutch divines ;' for he maintained, “That the account we have of the generation of the Son in the sacred writings, is not to be understood in a literal sense, or as a real generation of a natural kind;" he also affirmed, “That the afflictions and death of the righteous are as truly the penal effects of original sin, as the afflictions and death of the wicked and impenitent;" and he entertained notions concerning the divine decrees, original sin, the satisfaction of Christ, and other points of less moment, which differed in reality, or by the manner of expressing them seemed to differ greatly, from the doctrines received and established in the Dutch church. The magistrates of Friesland used all the precautions that prudence could suggest, to prevent these controversies from being propagated in their province; and enacted several laws for this purpose, all tending toward peace and silence. This conduct however was not imitated by the other provinces, where Roell and his disciples were condemned, both in private and in public, as heretics and corrupters of divine truth. Nor did the death of this eminent man extinguish the animosity and resentment of his adversaries ; for his disciples are still treated with severity; and, notwithstanding the solemn protestations they have given of the soundness and purity of their religious sentiments, labour under the imputation of many concealed errors,
s For an account of Roell, see the Bibliotheca Bremens. Theologico Philolog. tom. ii. p. vi. p. 707. Casp. Burmanni Trajectum Eruditum, p. 306.
t Those who are desirous of the most accurate account of the errors of Roell, will find them enumerated in a public piece composed by the faculty of theology at Leyden, in order to confirin the sentence of condemnation that had been pronounced against them by the Dutch synods ; this piece is entitled 'Judicium Ecclesiasticum, quo opiniones quædem Cl. H. A. Roellii Synodice damnatæ sunt laudatum a Professoribus Theologiæ in Academia Lugduno Batavia.' Lugd. Batav. 1713, in 4to.
V tt This affirmation is somewhat exaggerated; at least we must not conclude from it, that Roell was either deposed or persecuted; for he exercised the functions of his professorship for several years after this at Franeker, and was afterward called to the chair of divinity at Utrecht, and that upon the most honourable and advantageous terms. The states of Friesland published an edict enjoining silence, and forbidding all professors, pastors, &c. in their province to teach the particular opinions of Roell; and this pacific divine sacrificed the propagation of his opinions to the love of peace and concord. His notion concerning the Trinity did not essentially differ from the doctrine generally "received upon that mysterious and unintelligible subject; and his design seemed to be no more than to prevent Christians from humanizing the relation between the Father and the Son. But this was wounding his brethren, the rigorous systematic divines, in a tender point; for if anthropomorphism, or the custom of attributing to the Deity the kind of procedure in acting and judging that is usual among men, who resemble him only as imperfection resembles persection, was banished from theology, orthodoxy would be deprived of some of its most precious phrases, and our confessions of faith and systems of doctrine would be reduced within much narrowcu bounds. VOL. IV.