Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

piety.”* Mr. Parsons's Funeral Sermon, which is commonly bound with it, places in a still more prominent point of view the effect which Evangelical Religion had on the conversion of that Nobleman.

The cautious and correct pen of Dr. Doddridge has exhibited, from the most authentic sources of information, the influence of Evangelical doctrine in regenerating the heart, and in forming the future conduct of Colonel Gardiner, who, once addicted to the most abandoned profligacy, and the slave of every unhallowed appetite and passion, was, by Divine Grace, exalted into the Christian hero, and who proved the reality of his conversion by a life of the most fervent piety and dignified virtue, till be offered it a sacrifice to the religion and liberty of his country. Volumes might be filled with the biography of men, who, from the same pure fountain, have imbibed the principles of vital religion, and whose stellar virtues, shone with a blaze steady and increasing, till they sunk beneath our horizon, to mingle with the light of a purer day.

In the records of those who have fallen a sacrifice to the violated laws of their country, the number of such as, by the influence of Evangelical doctrine, have been brought to contrition for their crimes, and to a state of reconciliation with God, appears to have been very considerable. The evidence of their sincerity has, in many cases, been of the most convincing kind. Though before the great doctrine of the Atonement made by our Saviour on the cross, for the sins of a guilty world, had been impressed on their minds, their hearts had been hard and unfeeling, yet at the touch of this heavenly doctrine they

• Lives of the British Poets, Vol. 1.- Life of Rochester.

have melted, and the heart of stone has been softened into a heart of flesh. Various well authenticated instances of this kind, will be found in the pages of the Christian Observer.

The Evangelical body in the Church of England is composed of men whose religious sentiments, on some subjects, are susceptible of some small shades of difference. Some, and perhaps the greater part, because they admit the doctrine of absolute election, and its necessary consequence, final perseverance, are commonly called Calvinists; though these are the only two of the peculiarities of Calvin that they adopt. Reprobation and particular redemption are, in general, no parts of their creed. Of the same Evangelical body there are a considerable number, who consider election as conditional, and who, of course, do not hold the doctrine of final perseverance; but believe that men may be truly sanctified, and yet by the want of watchfulness and prayer may fall into sinful habits, and be finally lost. Some of these admit, that there is a state of confirmed piety and virtue, attainable in this life, from which there is no final fall. Besides those who, on the subjects of election and perseverance, are of opposite sentiments, there are a few who consider the doctrine of absolute, and the doctrine of conditional decrees, as encumbered with difficulties on both sides, which are altogether insuperable, so that they find themselves unable to arrive at a satisfactory solution on these topics. They therefore wish to stand on clear and undebatable ground, and to leave to those whose eye is more penetrating than their own, the task of exploring these mysterious regions. They acknowledge that there are many things in Scripture, which seem favourable to the Calvinistic hypothesis of absolute decrees; but they also think, that there are many others which can hardly be reconciled to that doctrine. Without adopting the one side or the other, on this controversy, they wish to stand as Deutrals themselves, and yet ače ready to rush between the protended spears of the angry combatants of both sides, and in the language of the Prophet to address them, “ Ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one to another ?” It is not, they say from timid. ity, or from any desire of conciliating the men of the world, that they have no arms for this war; they are not irresolute, but they want satisfactory information. Were their judgments convinced on which side the truth lay, their conduct would be decided. They think that the great doctrines on which all the evangelical are harmoniQUS, “ The depravity of human nature by the Fall; the liability of all men as sinners to the wrath of God; the necessity of Divine Grace to prevent us that we may have a good will, and to work with us when we have that good will; Justification by Faith, through the Redemption of Christ, and not by our own works,” are sufficient grounds of union and co-operation, without descending to those abstruse points on which Christians have differed, and to the end of the world are likely to differ. They are sorry to observe, that the disputants, on both sides, have suffered themselves to be too much heated in a controversy, to the decision of which, coolness is absolutely necessary; and have given as much scope to their worst passions, as to the arguments by which they have tried to establish their opposite systems. They embrace with equal affection those who are called Calvinists and Arminians, and they think that the excellencies of the partizans of those two systems, are to be determined rather by the preponderance of their humility, their love to God and to man, and their exemplary lives, than by the weight of their zeal for the doctrines either of Calvin or of Arminius. They acknowledge that, mingled with both parties, there are men of distinguished talents and warm piety, who, adorned with every virtue, reflect that light and glory back upon Christianity, which they have derived from it. They are also forced to observe, that there are connected with both, several individuals, whose zeal is expended more upon points of difference, than upon those in which they coalesce, whose arguments are more distinguished by smoke than by brightness, and who rather derive their honour from the body to which they are attached, than contribute to its eminence and distinction.

A variety of causes have contributed to render the doctrines of Calvinism extremely unpopular in England. The first is, its having been the religious system generally embraced by those who, in Charles the First's time, overturned the Constitution, and brought that Monarch to the block. The violence of the Calvinistic party in Holland, and their bitter persecution of those who, on political grounds, as well as on the subject of election, were in a state of counteraction with them, was another source of obloquy. The adoption of reprobation, as the counterpart of election, by those who took the highest ground on this awful subject, contributed greatly to render their system unpopular. The stiff and formal air, with which some divines have invested the doctrines of Calvinism, by reducing them to a dry metaphysical system, and the subtraction from it by others, of all exhortations to accept the invitations of the Gospel, by robbing Christianity of all that either rouses the fears, or interests the hopes of men, have operated greatly to its prejudice. The scrupulosity of Calvinists in avoiding the use of terms employed in the Scriptures to point out the extent of Redemption;

and the substitution of phrases more congenial with limited views of that doctrine, have been urged by different writers, as spots and blemishes attached to Calvinism. It has also been generally charged with promoting a starched and precise, instead of the popular style employed in the sacred volume. A great want of candour has certainly appeared in the writings of some Calvinists, who, not satisfied with bringing to the support of their peculiarities all the arguments they could muster, have had recourse to the illiberal arts of misrepresentation, and have classed Arminians with Roman Catholics, and even with Arians and Socinians. Calvinism, it must be added, though it has been embraced and defended by a numerous body of writers, and some of them men of great learning and acuteness, has pot, so often as the system that is opposed to it, found its advocates among the eloquent and elegant authors, on whom wait all the graces and charms of polished diction.

To those Clergymen of the Church of England who are called Calvinists, it is only doing justice to state, that their Calvinism in general is not only moderate, but conciliating. They do not, in general, bring into the services of religion discussions of this deeply mysterious subject. The doctrines to which, in their sermons, they give prominence are those of Evangelical Religion, without much calling the attention of men to the various shades that distinguish its friends from each other. Few expressions generally escape them, that would sound harsh in the ears of a pious disciple of Arminius. Their aims are to conciliate, not to exasperate the minds of those who cannot adopt all their views. Their views of predestination appear to be precisely the same with those of Cranmer, Hooper, Philpot, and almost all the Bishops, Dig

« AnteriorContinuar »