תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

XXIII. Among the various religious factions that sprung up in England,

during this period of confusion The Englista and anarchy, we may reckon a certain sect of Antinomians Presbyterians, who were called by their adversaries Antinomians, or enemies of the law, and still subsist even in our times. The Antinomians are a more rigid kind of Calvinists, who pervert Calvin's doctrine of absolute decrees to the worst purposes, by drawing from it conclusions highly detrimental to the interests of true religion and virtue. Such is the judgment that the other Presbyterian communities form of this perverse and extravagant sect." Several of the Antinomians, for they are not all precisely of the same mind, look upon it as unnecessary for Christian ministers to exhort their flock to a virtuous practice and a pious obedience to the divine law,“ since they whom God has elected to salvation by an eternal and immutable decree, will, by the irresistible impulse of divine grace, be led to the practice of piety and virtue ; while those who are doomed by a divine decree to eternal punishments, will never be engaged, by any exhortations or admonitions, how affecting soever they may be, to a virtuous course ; nor have they it in their power to obey the divine law, when the succours of divine grace are withheld from them.” From these principles they concluded, that the ministers of the gospel discharged sufficiently their pastoral functions, when they inculcated the necessity of faith in Christ, and proclaimed the blessings of the new covenant to their people. Another, and a still more hideous form of antinomianism, is that which is exhibited in the opinions of other doctors of that sect,a who maintain, “That as the elect cannot fall from grace, nor forfeit the divine favour, so it follows, that the wicked actions they commit, and the violations of the divine law with which they are chargeable, are not really sinful, nor are to be considered as instances of their departing from the law of God; and that, consequently, they have no occasion either to confess their sins, or to break them off by repentance. Thus adultery, for example, in one of the elect, though it appear sinful in the

z See Toland's Letter to Le Clerc, in the periodical work of the latter, entitled Bibliotheque Universelle et Historique, tom. xxjii. p. 505. As also Hornbeck, Summa Controversiarum, p. 800, 812.

a This second antinomian hypothesis has certainly a still more odious aspect than the first; and it is therefore surprising that our author should use, in the original, these terms : " Hi tantum statuunt, Electos,” &c.

[ocr errors]

sight of men, and be considered universally as an enormous violation of the divine law, yet is not a sin in the sight of God, because it is one of the essential and distinctive characters of the elect, that they cannot do any thing which is either displeasing to God, or prohibited by the law." xxiv. The public calamities, that flowed from these ve

hement and uncharitable disputes about religion, Latitudinariaus. afflicted all wise and good men, and engaged several, who were not less eminent for their piety than for their moderation and wisdom, to seek after some method of uniting such of the contending parties as were capable of listening to the dictates of charity and reason, or at least of calming their animosities, and persuading them to mutual forbearance. These pacific doctors offered themselves as mediators between the more violent Episcopalians on the one hand, and the more rigid Presbyterians and Independents on the other; and hoped that, when their differences were accommodated, the lesser factions would fall of themselves. The contests that reigned between the former turned partly on the forms of church government and public worship, and partly on certain religious tenets, more especially those that were debated between the Arminians and Calvinists. To lessen the breach that kept these two great communities at such a distance from each other, the arbitrators, already mentioned, endeavoured to draw them out of their narrow enclosures, to render their charity more extensive, and widen the paths of salvation, which bigotry and party rage had been labouring to render inaccessible to many good Christians. This noble and truly evangelical method of proceeding, procured to its authors the denomination of Latitudinarians. Their views indeed were generous and extensive. They were zealously attached to the forms of ecclesiastical government and worship that were established in the church of England, and they recommended episcopacy with all the strength and power

b There is an account of the other tenets of the antinomians, and of the modern disputes that were occasioned by the publication of the Posthumous Works of Crisp, a flaming doctor of that extravagant and pernicious sect, given by Pierre Francois Le Courayer, in his “ Examen des defauts Theologiques,” tom. ii. p. 198. Baxter and

Tillotson distinguished themselves by their zeal against the antinomians; and they were also completely reluted by Dr. Williams, in bis famous book, entitled “ Gospel Truth stated and vindicated," 8vo. Do I have been informed, since the first edition of this history was published, that the book, entitled “ Examen des defauts Theologiques,". which our author supposes to have been written by Dr. Courayer, is the production of another pen.

e See Burnet's “ History of his own Times," vol. i. book ii. p. 188.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of their eloquence; but they did not go so far as to look upon

it as of divine institution, or as absolutely and indispensably necessary to the constitution of a Christian church; and hence they maintained, that those who followed other forms of government and worship, were not, on that account, to be excluded from their communion, or to forfeit the title of brethren. As to the doctrinal part of religion, they took the system of the famous Episcopius for their model; and, like him, reduced the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, i. e. those doctrines, the belief of which is necessary to salvation, to a few points. By this manner of proceeding they showed, that neither the Episcopalians, who, generally speaking, embraced the sentiments of the Arminians, nor the Presbyterians and Independents, who as generally adopted the doctrine of Calvin, had any reason to oppose each other with such animosity and bitterness, since the subjects of their debates were matters of an indifferent nature, with respect to salvation, and might be variously explained and understood without any prejudice to their eternal interests. The chief leaders of these latitudinarians were Hales and Chillingworth, whose names are still pronounced in England with that veneration that is due to distinguished wisdom and rational piety. The respectable names of More, Cudworth, Gale, Whichcot, and Tillotson, add a high degree of lustre to this eminent list. The undertaking of these great men was indeed bold and perilous; and it drew upon them much opposition and many bitter reproaches. They received, as the first fruits of their charitable zeal, the odious appellations of atheists, deists, and Socinians, both from the Roman catholics, and the more rigid of the contending protestant parties; but, upon the restoration of king Charles II. they were raised to the first dignities of the

d The life of the ingenious and worthy Mr. Hales was composed in English by M. Des Maizeaux, and published in 8vo. at Loudon, in the year 1719; it was considerably augmented in the Latin translation of it, which I prefixed to the account of the synod of Dort, drawn from the letters of that great nan, and published at Hamburgh in 1724. A life of Mr. Hales, written in French, is to be found in the first volume of the French translation of Chillingworth's "Religion of Protestants,” &c. The life of Chillingworth also was drawn up by Des Maizeaux in English ; and a French translation of it appeared, in the year 1730, at the head of the excelient book now mentioned, which was translated into that language, and published at Amsterdam, in three volumes, 8vo. in the year 1730. Those who are desirous of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the doctrines, government, laws, and present state of the church of England, will do well to read the history of these two men ; and more especially to peruse Chillingworth's admirable book already mentioned, I'mean, “The Religion of Protestants a safe Way to Salvation."

The state

1

der Charles II. and bis successors.

church, and were deservedly held in universal esteem. It is also well known, that, even at this present time, the church of England is chiefly governed by latitudinarians of this kind, though there be among both bishops and clergy, from time to time, ecclesiastics who breathe the narrow and despotic spirit of Laud, and who, in the language of faction, are called high churchmen, or church tories. xxv. No sooner was Charles II. re-established on the

throne of his ancestors, than the ancient forms of the church. ecclesiastical government and public worship were

restored with him; and the bishops reinstated in

their dignities and honours. , The nonconformists hoped that they should be allowed to share some part of the honours and revenues of the church; but their expectations were totally disappointed, and the face of affairs changed very suddenly with respect to them. For Charles subjected to the government of bishops the churches of Scotland and Ireland, the former of which was peculiarly attached to the ecclesiastical discipline and polity of Geneva; and, in the year 1662, a public law was enacted, by which all who refused to observe the rites, and subscribe the doctrines, of the church of England, were entirely excluded from its communion.' From this period, until the reign of king William III. the nonconformists were in a precarious and changing situation, sometimes involved in calamity and trouble, at others enjoying some intervals of tranquillity and certain gleams of hope, according to the varying spirit of the court and ministry, but never entirely free from perplexities and fears. But, in the year 1689, their affairs took a favourable turn, when a bill for the toleration of all protestant dissenters from the church of England, except the Socinians, passed in parliament almost

e See Rapin's “Dissertation on the Whigs and Tories." DP See an admirable defence of the latitudinarian divines, in a book, entitled “ The Principles and Practices of certain moderate Divines of the church of England, greatly misunderstood, truly represented and defended." London, 1670, in 8vo. This book was written by Dr. Fowler, afterward bishop of Gloucester. N.

OPf This was the famous Act of Uniformily, in consequence of which the validity of presbyterian ordination was renounced; the ministrations of the foreign churches disowned; the terms of conformity rendered more difficult and raised higher than before the civil wars ; and by which, contrary to the manner of proceeding in the times of Elizabeth and Cromwell, who both reserved for the subsistence of each ejected clergy man a fifth part of his benefice, no provision was made for those who should be deprived of their livings. See Wilkins's Concilia Magnæ Britanniæ et Hibernie, tom. iv. p. 573. Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. ii. p. 190, &c. Neal's History of the Puritans, tom. iv. p. 358.

g See the whole fourth volume of Neal's History of the Puritans.

without opposition, and delivered them from the penal laws to which they had been subjected by the act of uniformity, and other acts passed under the house of Stuart." Nor did the protestant dissenters in England enjoy alone the benefits of this act; for it extended also to the Scots church, which was permitted thereby to follow the eccle- , siastical discipline of Geneva, and was delivered from the jurisdiction of bishops, and from the forms of worship that were annexed to episcopacy. It is from this period that the Nonconformists date the liberty and tranquillity they have long been blessed with, and still enjoy ; but it is also observable, that it is to the transactions that were carried on during this period, in favour of religious liberty, that we must chiefly impute the multitude of religious sects and factions, that start up from time to time in that free and happy island, and involve its inhabitants in the perplexities of religious division and controversy.

xxvi. In the reign of king. William, and in the year 1680, the divisions among the friends of episcopacy ran high, and terminated in that famous schism „The high in the church of England, which has never hither- Nonjurors. to been entirely healed. Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, and seven of the other bishops, all of whom were eminently distinguished both by their learning and their virtue, looked upon it as unlawful to take the oath of allegiance to the new king, from a mistaken notion that James II. though banished from his dominions, remained nevertheless their rightful sovereign. As these scruples were deeply rooted, and no arguments nor exhortations could engage these prelates to acknowledge the title of William III. to the crown of Great Britain, they were deprived of their ecclesiastical dignities, and their sees were filled by other men of eminent merit. in The deposed bishops and clergy

b This was called the toleration act, and it may be seen at length in the Appendix, subjoined to the fourth volume of Neal's History of the Puritans. It is entitled, “ An Act for exempting their Majesties' Protestant Subjects, dissenting from the Church of England, from the Penalties of certain Laws.” In this bill the corporation and test acts are omitted, and consequently still remain in force. The Sociniants are also excepted ; but provision is made für Quakers, upon their making a solemn declaration, instead of taking the oaths to the government. This act excuses protestant dissenters from the penalties of the laws therein mentioned, provided they take the oaths to the government, and subscribe the doctrinal articles of the church of England.

i Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. ji. p. 23.

ISP ii The other nonjuring bishops were, Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Norwich ; Dr. Turner, of Ely; Dr. Kenn, of Bath and Wells ; Dr. Frampton, of Gloucester ; Dr. Thomas, of Worcester; Dr. Lake, of Chichester ; Dr. White, bishop of Peterborough.

Pii These were Tillotson, Moore, Patrick, Kidder, Fowler, and Cumberland, names

« הקודםהמשך »