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Dr. Henry More, in his Divine Dialogues, p. 82. speaking of the Reformation of Geneva, says,“ As for Calvin, the charge of rebellion upon him “ is, that he expelled the Bishop of Geneva, who “ was the chief magistrate of that city, and chang“ed the government, and so carried on the Refor“ mation. But this is a mere calumny against Cal “ vin, and without all ground; for not so much as " that is true, that Calvin was one of the first plan
ters of the Reformation at Geneva ; and much “ less that he, or any other Reformers expelled the " Bishop out of that city. It was Farel, Viret, and “ Froment, that, by their preaching, converted Ge
neva, in the Bishop's absence, who fled away
eight months before, being hated by the citizens “ for the rape of a virgin, and many adulteries with " their wives."
That Dr. Bowden and Mr. How should be unacquainted with all this, is truly surprising! I know, indeed, that it is expecting too much to suppose that these gentlemen will take the trouble to investigate more than one side of this controversy. But when their own favourite writers might have informed them of all the facts above stated, it is rather singular that they should have yet to learn them.
Another allegation of these Gentlemen is, that Calvin, in the early part of his public life, thought very favourably of diocesan Episcopacy, and even believed and acknowledged its Apostolic origin. That afterwards, when he had undertaken to erect
a church on a different model, and especially when he had the prospect of attaining great distinction in the Presbyterian establishment of Geneva, he began to alter his views and his language; but that, even after he had fairly embarked in support of Presbyterian principles, he rather defended him. self by the plea of necessity than divine authority. Nay, Mr. How declares, that Calvin, in rearing the church of Geneva, acknowledged that he was depart. ing from the primitive discipline; that he considered prelacy as an apostolic institution; and that he expressed a decided preference in favour of this form of government: But adds, “I deny not that “ Calvin and Beza held, afterwards, a language “ more Presbyterial. At length, indeed, schism, " and the pride of sect, either changed their senti
ments, or perverted their principles. In fact, - the conduct of these men, in relation to the minis. try
of the Christian church, presents one of the « most melancholy examples of the prevalence of “ pride over virtue, and of the unhappy influence “ of schism, in blinding and infatuating the mind, " that the history of human frailty has ever record“ ed.” Letters, p. 62-75. Dr. Bowden, is equally positive in asserting, that Calvin believed and acknowledged the Apostolic origin of Episcopacy; and that he justified himself in departing from it only on the ground of necessity. In fact, by subscribing and referring to Dr. Hobart's statement of the case, in his Apology for Apostolic Order, p. 91
117, the reverend Professor has gone the whole length of Mr. How.
When I read assertions of this kind, I cannot help recollecting, in a well-known and popular fictitious history, a certain chapter which bears the following title“ An humble attempt to prove " that an author will write the better for having
some knowledge of the subject on which he 6 writes.” If I had the least apprehension that these gentlemen had ever perused the works of Calvin, or really knew what he has left on record upon this subject, such a representation, so frequently and confidently made, would excite feelings more unfavourable than those of astonishinent. But as I have no such apprehension, and feel perfectly persuaded that the perusal of a few detached passages, forms the sum total of their acquaintance with Calm vin's writings, I cannot find in my heart to apply a severe epithet to a misrepresentation so total cons cerning the history of his language and opinions.
The truth is, that the earliest of Calvin's wri. tings contain some of the strongest declarations in favour of Presbyterian principles that are to be found in all his works. His Institutions, his first theological work, were published in 1536, before he had ever seen Geneva; before he ever thought of settling there ; and when he was so far from aspiring to pre-eminence in any Presbyterian establishment, that he does not appear to have had in view the pastoral office in any Church. Now it is certain that this work is as decisive on the subject
of Presbytery as any that ever came from his pen. At that period, when his mind appears to have been ás dispassionate and impartial as ever that of a Reformer was; when he had no visible temptation to deviate from the Apostolic model; and when both habit and prejudice were leagued against Presbytery, and in favour of Episcopacy; at that period, and in that work, he decidedly declared himself an advocate of Presbyterian government, as the truly Apostolic and primitive plan. But the following quotations from it will place this fact in a stronger light, than any reasonings or statements of mine.
Book iv. Chap. iii. In this chapter he expressly declares it to be his intention to exhibit o that order by which it was the Lord's will to have his Church governed.”-In doing this, he unequivocally delivers it as his opinion, that the Apostolic model of Church government was Presbyterian ;-that both the office and ordination of Bishop and Presbyter were the same; that the scriptural Bishop was the Pastor of a single Church ; that there were sometimes more Bishops than one in the primitive Churches, and all on a perfect equali. ty; and that there were Ruling Elders and Deacons in those Churches, exactly on the Presbyterian plan.
The following extracts, out of many that might be made, are decisive. " Whereas I have indiss criminately called those who govern the Church
es, Bishops, Presbyters, and Pastors, I have done so according to the usage of Scripture, " which indifferently employs these terms to de
signate the same officer; for whoever executes " the office of ministers of the Gospel, to them the
Scriptures give the title of Bishops. So by Paul, 6 where Titus is commanded to ordain Elders in is
every city, it is immediately added, for a Bi" shop must be blameless, &c. Tit. I. 5. So, in “ another place, (Philip. i. 1.) he salutes many
Bishops in one Church. And in the Acts it is “ related that he called together the Elders of " Ephesus, whom he himself, in his discourse to “ them, styles Bishops. Acts xx. 17. But here it “ is to be observed, that hitherto we have only ta. " ken notice of those offices which pertain to the “ ministry of the word; neither doth Paul make “ mention of any other in the fourth chapter of " the Epistle to the Ephesians, which we before “cited. But in the Epistle to the Romans (xii.
7.) and in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, “ (xii. 28) he reckons up other offices, as powers, " the gift of healing, interpretation, government,
taking care of the poor. Of these, I omit such as
were merely temporary, because it is not worth “ the trouble to dwell upon them. But there are
two that are permanent, government, and the “ care of the poor. Those who governed were, " in my opinion, Elders chosen out of the laymen “ of each congregation, who, together with the Bi. "shops, bore rule in the correction of morals, and " in the exercise of discipline. For no one can 16 otherwise expound that which the Apostle saith,