Images de page
PDF
ePub

after all the Redeemer has done and suffered, the work of redemption cannot be completed, unless perishing mortals choose to lend their arm to its aid-If I could admit the idea, that God has done nothing more than decree, in general, to save all who may happen to believe ; without any determination, or, which is the same thing, without any certainty, whether few, or many, or none, would be thus blessed If I could suppose that God foresaw events as certainly future, which he had not unchangeably determined to accomplish, and which, therefore, might never happen--If I could suppose that the omniscient Saviour died with a distinct purpose and design to save all men alike, while it is certain that all will not be saved--If I could embrace the opinion that real Christians are no more indebted to grace than others, having received no more than they ; and that what makes them to differ from others is, not the sovereign goodness of God, but their own superior wisdom, strength, or merit; in other words, that they make themselves to differ -If I could admit the dreadful thought, that the Christian's continuance in his journey heavenward, depends, not on the immutable love and promise of his God ; but on the firmness of his own strength, and the stability of his own resolutions; and, of course,

that he who is the most eminent saint to day, may become a child of wrath, and an heir of perdition to-morrow-In short, if I could conceive of God as working without any providential design, and willing without any certain effect; desiring to save man, yet unable to save him, and often disappointed in his expectations ; doing as much, and designing as much, for those that perish, as for those that are saved; but after all baffled in his wishes concerning them; hoping and desiring great things, but certain of nothing, because he had determined on nothing-If I could believe these things, then, indeed, I should renounce Calvinism ; but it would not be to embrace the system of Arminius. Alas! it would be impossible to stop here. I must consider the character of God as dishonoured ; his counsels as degraded to a chaos of wishes and en. deavours; his promises as the fallible and uncer. tain declarations of circumscribed knowledge and endless doubt; the best hopes of the Christian as liable every hour to be blasted; and the whole plan of salvation as nothing better than a gloomy system of possibilities and peradventures ; a system on the whole, nearly, if not quite, as likely to land the believer in the abyss of the damned, as in the paradise of God.

But, while I verily believe all these shocking consequences to flow, únavoidably, from the rejection of Calvinism; while the Arminian doctrine appears to me inconsistent with itself; dishonourable to God; and comfortless to man; yet I dare not bring a railing accusation against those who embrace this doctrine ; I dare not impute to them the consequences which have been stated. They neither acknowledge nor perceive them; and if they did, would no doubt, be as ready to abhor them as ourselves. Nor can I cease to cherish the animating belief, as well as to offer the fervent prayer, that thousands who now reject, in words, the doctrines of Calvinism, and entertain invincible preju. dices against the system which is generally called by that name; may, notwithstanding, for ever rejoice in these doctrines, and bless God for them, in a more enlightened, and a more happy world.

LETTER VIII.

Testimony of the Successors of the Reformers.

CHRISTIAN BRETHREN,

By the Successors of the Reformers, I mean those great and good men who adorned the Protestant Churches, and took the lead in the direction of their affairs, for sixty or seventy years after the establishment of the Reformation. Some of these excellent men have been quoted by our Episcopal brethren as witnesses in their favour; especially some of the greatest ornaments of the Dutch and French Churches. Mr. How speaks with confidence of their testimony, as decisively favourable to his system ; and Dr. Bowden, by referring, with approbation, to what Dr. Hobart has advanced on this part of the controversy, virtually speaks the same language.

These gentlemen, in giving this representation, surely count largely on the ignorance of their readers. For although, if one might believe Durell, and other collectors and perverters of scraps from the writers in question, they sometimes speak like believers in the Apostolical institution of prelacy ; yet when we come to peruse their works, and especially to examine the passages in which they formally deliver their opinion on this subject, we shall find them, almost with one voice, speaking a language directly opposite to that which is ascribed to them

The truth is, when the Nonconformists in England, after the establishment of the Reformation, began to revolt from the Episcopal hierarchy, and to oppose its unscriptural pretensions, a number of the Bishops, and other divines of the established Church in that country, wrote to some of the most eminent Presbyterian divines of the foreign Reformed Churches, soliciting their influence, and the authority of their names, to quiet the minds of the discontented. In answer to solicitations of this kind, some of the foreign divines wrote letters, in which they spoke politely and respectfully of the Church of England; and plainly expressed an opinion that the Nonconformists ought not to make the point of Church government a cause of separation. Still, however, these men were Presbyterians in principle; they had solemnly subscribed Confessions of Faith, which declared ministerial parity to be the doctrine of Scripture, and the practice of the primitive Church; and when they came to discuss and decide the question concerning Prelacy, they spoke a language corresponding with their creed. And I venture to add, that for every concession in favour of Prelacy, which my opponents produce from the French, Dutch, Swiss,

« PrécédentContinuer »