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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
a See Leland's View of the Deistical Writers, vol. i. p. 48. b The lustre and autbority 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 Supralapsarians, 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 com'mencement 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 authority' 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
Dpd It was not by the authority of prince Maurice, but by that of the states. general, that the national synod was assembled at Dort. The states were not indeed unanimous ; three of the seven provinces protested agajast the holding of this synod Fiz. Holland, Utrecht, and Overyssel.
by the sentence of these judges that the Arminians lost their cause, and were declared corrupters of the true religion. It must be observed, at the same time, that the doctors of Geneva who embraced the sublapsarian system, triumphed over their adversaries in this synod. For though the patrons of the sublapsarian cause were far from being contemptible either in point of number or of abilities, yet the moderation and equity of the British divines prevented the synod from giving its sanction to the opinions of that presumptuous sect. Nor indeed would even the sublapsarians have gained their point, or obtained to the full the accomplishment of their desires, had the doctors of Bremen, who for weighty reasons were attached to the Lutherans, been able to execute their purposes.
XII. It is greatly to be doubted, whether this victory, gained over the Arminians, was, upon the whole, The effects of advantageous or detrimental to the church of Ge- this schism. neva, in particular, and to the reformed church in general. It is at least certain that, after the synod of Dort, the doctrine of absolute decrees lost ground from day to day; and its patrons were put to the hard necessity of holding fraternal communion with those whose doctrine was either professedly Arminian, or at least nearly resembled it. The leaders of the vanquished Arminians were eminently distinguished for their eloquence, sagacity, and learning; and being highly exasperated by the injurious and oppressive treatment they met with, in consequence of their condemnation, they defended themselves and attacked their adversaries with such spirit and vigour, and also with such dexterity and eloquence, that multitudes were persuaded of the justice of their cause. It is particularly to be observed, that the authority of the synod of Dort was far from being universally acknowledged among the Dutch; the provinces of Friesland, Zealand, Utrecht, Guelderland, and Groningen, could not be persuaded to adopt its decisions; and though, in the year 1651, they were at length gained over so far as to intimate, that they would see with pleasure the reformed religion maintained upon the footing on which it had been placed and confirmed by the synod of Dort, yet the most eminent adepts in Belgic ju
e We shall give, in the History of the Arminians, a list of the writers that appeared in this controversy ; as also a more particular account of the transactions of the synod of Dort.
risprudence deny that this intimation has the force or character of a law.
In England, the face of religion changed considerably, in a very little time after the famous synod now mentioned; and this change, which was entirely in favour of Arminianism, was principally effected by the counsels and influence of William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury. This revolution gave new courage to the Arminians; and, from that period to the present time, they have had the pleasure of seeing the decisions and doctrines of the synod of Dort, relating to the points in debate between them and the Calvinists, treated, in England, with something more than mere indifference, beheld by some with aversion, and by others with contempt. And, indeed, if we consider the genius and spirit of the church of England during this period, we shall plainly see, that the doctrine of the Gomarists, concerning predestination and grace, could not meet there with a favourable reception, since the leading doctors of that church were zealous in modelling its doctrine and discipline after the sentiments and institutions that were received in the primitive times, and since those early fathers, whom they followed with a profound submission, had never presumed, before Augustine, to set limits to the extent of the divine grace and mercy.
The reformed churches in France seemed, at first, disposed to give a favourable reception to the decisions of this famous synod; but, as these decisions were highly displeasing to the votaries of Rome among whom they lived, and kindled anew their rage against the protestants, the latter thought it their duty to be circumspect in this matter; and, in process of time, their real sentiments, and the doctrines they taught, began to differ extremely from those of the Gomarists. The churches of Brandenberg and Bremen, which made a considerable figure among the reformed in Germany, would never suffer their doctors to be tied down to the opinions and tenets of the Dutch divines. And thus it happened, that the liberty of private judgment, with respect to the doctrines of predestination and grace, which the spirit that prevailed among the di
f See the very learned and illustrious president Bynkershoek's Quæstiones Juris publici, lib. ii. cap. xvii.
g Sev. Lintrupii Dissertatio de Contemptu Concilii Dordrac in Anglio, in Dissert. Theologieis Hect. Godofr. Masi, tom. i. n. ix.
vines of Dort, seemed so much adapted to suppress or discourage, acquired rather new vigour, in consequence of the arbitrary proceedings of that assembly; and the reformed church was immediately divided into Universalists, Semiuniversalists, Supralapsarians, and Sublapsarians, who indeed, notwithstanding their dissensions, which sometimes become violent and tumultuous, live generally in the exercise of mutual tolerațion, and are reciprocally restrained by many reasons from indulging a spirit of hostility and persecution. What is still more remarkable, and therefore ought not to be passed over in silence, we see the city of Geneva, which was the parent, the nurse, and the guardian of the doctrine of absolute predestination and particular grace, not only put on sentiments of charity, forbearance, and esteem for the Arminians, but become itself almost so far Arminian, as to deserve a place among the churches of that communion.
xu. While the reformed churches in France yet subsisted, its doctors departed, in several points, from the common rule of faith that was received in the The particuother churches of their communion. This, as ap- churches in pears from several circumstances, was, in a great measure, owing to their desire of diminishing the prejudices of the Roman Catholics against them, and of getting rid of a part of the odious conclusions which were drawn by their adversaries from the doctrines of Dort, and laid to their charge with that malignity which popish bigotry so naturally inspires. » Hence we find in the books that were composed by the doctors of Saumur and Sedan, after the synod of Dört, many things which seem conformable, not only to the sentiments of the Lutherans, concerning grace, predestination, the person of Christ, and the efficacy of the sacraments, but also to certain peculiar opinions of the Romish church. This moderation may be dated from the year 1615, when the opinion of John Piscator, pastor at Herborn, concerning the obedience of Christ, was tacitly adopted, or at least pronounced free from error, by the synod' of the isle of France ;" though it had been formerly condemned and rejected in several preceding assemblies, of the same nature. Piscator maintained, that it was not
à Aymon, 'Actes de tous les Synodes Nationaux des Eglises Reformecs de France,' tom. ii. p. 275, 276.
i See Aymon, loc. cit. tom. i. p. 400, 401, 457, tom, ii. p. 13. Bossuet, ` Histoire des Variations des Eglises Protestantes,' livr. xii. tom, ii. p. 268, where this prelate, VOL. IV,