Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

In the celebrated “ Address to the Christian Reader," which Professor Poelenburgh prefixed to the second volume of the Theological Works of Episcopius, the following judicious and discriminating observations occur: “ Besides, I am accustomed to admire the consummate equity and moderation of our men (the Arminians], in forming their sentiments about those matters which are at this day subjects of controversy among Christians. For, while some parties seem generally to diverge to certain extremes, or are hurried down precipices, our people, with prudent moderation, have held the way in which nothing might be found that savoured of asperity, that conveyed an unusual sound to Christian ears, or that might seem offensively to oppose the general taste either of divines or of other believers, whether they lived in former ages, or are our cotemporaries.

(1.) Disputes are maintained concerning THE FOREKNOWLEDGE Of God, and it has been asked, Does Divine Prescience comprehend, among other things, fulure contingencies ? On this point many persons have proceeded so far as daringly to decide even on the mode of God's foreknowledge, and have said, “God • foreknows things contingent, because He has already pre-deter‘mined all things from all eternity by an immutable decree :' According to this mode, then, it follows as a necessary consequence, that God has before determined that even sins should be committed.-Others, in their desire to avoid this rock, have fallen upon one equally erroneous, and, that God may not be represented by them as the author of sin, have entirely divested Him of this foreknowledge of things contingent: In this manner, there fore, in the estimation of almost all Christians, these persons detract greatly from the Divine Perfections.-What then is the opinion of our Remonstrants on this point? They neither deny the Divine Foreknowledge, nor yet do they derive it from an: eternal decree, lest they should deprive God of that which is his, or lest they should ascribe to Him any thing incongruous: But occupying a middle way, and that a very safe one, they acknowledge foreknowledge in God; and yet they account the mode, by which God comprehends those future things, to be altogether incomprehensible and beyond human investigation.

(2.) Discussions have likewise arisen concerning Christ's.

parliament, when he said, that it makes the grace of God lackey after the will

of man ; that it was no better than the Trojan horse ; that an Arminian is the spawn of a Papist; and that he is ready to turn into one of those frogs that rose

out of the bottomless pit.' It must be acknowledged, however, and we state it from personal observation, that this sort of bigotry, for which our native land has been long remarkable, is gradually yielding its place to more liberal senti. ments; and that the time seems to be fast approaching, when a man may be, without incurring any reproach, either a Calvinist or an Arminian, if he be only sincere in his belief, and conscientious in his regard to the ordinances and duties of Christianity.”-Edinburgh Encyclopedia.

SATISFACTION FOR OUR SINS; on which point some persons have asserted, that Christ has so satisfied, as to render our repentance unnecessary for obtaining pardon, although the Scriptures eloquently admonish us in the following words : · Repent, therefore,

and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, &c.—On the contrary, other persons, when they perceive this doctrine to be destructive of the very sinews of repentance, have entirely discarded all satisfaction, nay they have banished from Theology the very term, as the hiding-place of a most grievous error.—What is the course which the Remonstrants pursue? They neither reject the word 'SATISFACTION,' because it is capable of being employed in a correct sense ; nor do they urge the use of it as necessary, because it is not to be found in any part of Scripture. But the matter itself they explain thus : Christ abundantly satisfied that love which God bore towards justice, so as not only to render it POSSIBLE for Him, without any obstacle, to remit to us the punishment due to us for our sins, but likewise to render Him in the fullest sense WILLING, but yet on this condition, that we cannot • obtain this remission of sins which has been obtained for us and • proposed to us, unless we betake ourselves by repentance and • Faith to an observance of the Divine commands.'

“ (3.) While some persons affirm GRACE to be irresistible, and others that there is none, the Remonstrants, placing themselves on safer ground, neither deny grace, lest they should be injurious towards God,-nor describe it as irresistible, lest they should destroy every command to obedience : But they acknowledge it as a gift conferred most freely upon us by God, * which yet may

• The late Rev. Thomas Scott, having presented to the readers of his Remarks on the Refutation of Çalvinism, a lame translation of a passage from Grotius, which the Bishop of Winchester had quoted, appends to it the following animadversion : “ In respeet of GROTIUS, I would, once for all, say, that I consider 66 him as one of the most able and plausible, yet most decided, enemies of genuine “ Christianity, that modern times have produced.” _In Mr. Scott's vocabulary, 16 genuine Christianity” and “ Calvinism” are terms synonimous, though with the latter system, which he warmly defended, it will afterwards be shewn, he had a very confused and imperfect acquaintance, especially with that modification of it which the Synod of Dort promulged. That he should account the learned and pious Grotius “a most able and decided enemy” to CALVINISM, will not appear wonderful when the reader is told, that the passage, upon which Mr. Scott animad. verts, commences thus: “ Incautious expressions produce dangerous consequences. After hearing or reading such words as these, We are justified by faith alone without any works, many persons continue in a course of sinning, and do not amend their lives, yet they promise themselves salvation,' &c.

For the very same reason, the celebrated Bucer and MELANCTHON might, with equal injustice, be traduced, as two of the most plausible, yet decided, enemies of “genuine Christianity,” if the followers of Calvin be allowed with their characteristic arrogance to apply exclusively to their own system this sacred title. For those two great men, who, by their piety, prudence, and talents, contributed more than any of their cotemporaries to the success of the Reformation,-made dreadful havoc of some of Calvin's dogmas, as is apparent by the following extract from GROTII Votum pro Pace Ecclesiastica : “ The honour and glory of all the

be used by man either in a good or in an evil manner, and, on account of this use or abuse of it, he may either be rewarded or punished according to his deserts.

righteousness which is found in Christians, return to God and Christ: For faith is the gift of God, through Christ; not of works, but of Him that calleth. And this is the seed of righteousness ; but, in all seeds, their fruix are likewise reckoned. The facility with which this reconciliation is effected (between faith and its fruits), when metaphysical trifling and a mind averse to peace are discarded, is shewn by BUCER on the Second Psalm, not in the edition of Stephens, (which, like most of the books published at Geneva, is evidently corrupt and vitiated, but in that printed at Strasburgh: 'I cannot do otherwise than wish that certain persons were • possessed of a sounder judgment, who have created much confusion among many

people in these days by this paradox, We are saved by faith alone ; when, at • the same time, they have perceived this expression is wrested, as if they defined • righteousness solely by a mental estimation, and excluded good works. What • charity is that which would disdain to apply a remedy to this evil ? This might , be done by declaring, We are justified by a faith which is actually formed • (within us); or, Through faith, we obtain a will for the performance of good ' works, and also righteousness itself ; or, Faith is the foundation and root of a just life, as St. Augustine has expressed himself. These truths ought to give no

offence to any person.'—The Preface, which the same BUCER prefixed to his Commentaries on the Four Evangelists, is worthy of a perusal, although it is purposely omitted in the Genevan edition by Stephens. Melancthon likewise often complains, in his letters to Joachim Camerarius, that no objections were made • against him, except that he [Melancthon was a little too diffuse in his praise

of GOOD WORKS; and yet, that he uttered nothing which equalled the horrid • sayings of others, but, on the contrary, such as were both true and useful.'

“ To come to a man's assurance of his future condition,_St. Augustine, and others of the Fathers, deliver this doctrine, we may be assured of the REWARD ' which awaits us if we persevere; and this is a faith which is infallible. But we are not assured of our PERSEVERANCE itself: Yet the greater degree of proficiency which any man makes in piety, excites within him stronger hopes, though not to the entire exclusion of fears.' But St. Augustine's words will not admit of such a reconciliation, as Rivet desires to produce; and that Father's meaning is rendered very manifest in several parts of his writings. In his 107th letter, addressed to Vitalis, he says: “No man is certain (assured) of his predestination, . unless a Divine Revelation on this point be made to a particular person. Rege• neration, and faith united with charity, ale not sure marks of predestination ; because many of those who have possessed this faith and charity, and have been regenerated, not only fall away, but perish eternally. Some persons who have received the grace of Faith and Holiness, are delivered up to live here till they • fall.'- In his treatise on the Benefit of Perseverance, St. Augustine says, : Some

regenerate persons persevere till their departure out of this life; others are detained “in the present world till they fall. To certain persons, whom God has regenerated • in Christ, and on whom he has bestowed faith, hope, and love, He does give per. severance. Therefore, no man can be in a state of security, except when he has

finished his course in the present life, which is a state of earthly trial.'— But; as Melancthon writes to Joachim Camerarius, it is no subject of wonder, that certain • paradoxes have been fabricated in the Pórtico of ZENO, [the name by which he . generally designated Calvin,) of which St. AUGUSTINE is not properly the author."

These extracts from the Fourth Article in the Wishes for the Peace of the Church, (which was one of the last works written by Grotius,) when connected with the fine commencement of that Article, descriptive of the peace and joy enjoyed by those whose sins are forgiven, will exhibit the evangelical views which that great man entertained, and which are partially elucidated in other parts of

(4.) Besides, while some persons wish unduly to extol the MERITS of Good Works, as if of themselves such worthiness belonged to them, as renders it impossible for eternal life to be justly denied to those who perform them; and while, on the contrary, others depress them so much as to suppose, that they have nothing in them to obtain from God a life of eternal blessedness : The Remonstrants do not deny it to be impossible for good works to obtain life eternal, but they affirm that this is the act of the grace of God, or rather, that life eternal is a consequence of good works through the gracious promise of God. For this reason, the scriptures declare, in more passages than one, (Heb. vi, 10; 2 Thess. i, 4-11.) that immortality is bestowed upon us through justice.

(5.) When a similar discussion arose respecting the PerSEVERANCE OF Faith, some men affirmed,' that we have no assurance of it in this life,' and others described it as an absolute certainty bestowed on every man who is a believer. But the Remonstrants, assenting neither to the former nor to the latter, prudently judged it possible for every believer to determine with

this volume. It would not be difficult to produce passages, from other parts of his Works, as highly evangelical as any of those which his accusers have composed in their happiest moments. But the real grievance lies in this_Grotius refers every doctrine to practical purposes. In this extract, he does not discard the doctrine of ASSURANCE, but adapts it to a believer's PRESENT EXPE. RIENCE, and his actual condition at every moment of his Christian career. This Apostolieal mode of applying the gracious attestations of the Holy Spirit has always been a high offence to the Calvinists, who complain, that, instead of remaining perpetually alike, spiritual consolations are thus rendered variable and dependent upon a Christian's humble and faithful walk with God. See page 139.

I adduce Grotius in this note, because he has been industriously, yet most unjustly, maligned by some of my countrymen, who were not Arminians, as " a man inimical to the grace of God.” This reproach was first taken up against him, and has since been repeated, chiefly on account of some opinions contained

in his Annotations on the Epistles, which were published in a very imperfect state - about five years after his decease. After all the quibbling exceptions which the

principal republican Calvinists (in 1654) made against the following account by Dr. Hammond, it remains historically true, and is, on every point, unimpeach. able: “ For the passages in his Posthuma, those especially on the Epistles, it is

evident that they had never been formed by him or fitted for the public, but were · put together by somebody else, after his death. Finding many things in his - Adversaria thrown into paper books as he had at any time occasion, either from

his reading of Scripture or others' writings, (it being ordinary for every man to note, not only what he approves, but what he dislikes, and what he thinks matter of farther consideration,) somebody else hath, as he thought fit, made a body of Annotations, and published them under his name.”

From those posthumous passages alone, has each succeeding calumniator gleaned the frail proofs of the heterodoxy of Grotius, many of which receive the most

satisfactory refutation in the two last of his accredited publications, which are : ; peculiarly interesting to Britons, because they were written chiefly for the noble

and disinterested purpose of inspiring pacific and loyal principles into the minds of the belligerent Calvinists in England and Scotland, See the succeeding pages 270_293, and 630.

certainty about himself,* that he is in a state of salvation, and also that he will remain in that state, since the grace of God will

• The evangelical sentiments on this subject, which Arminius entertained, are briefly recorded in a succeeding page, (143,) and the Tenets of his immediate followers may be seen in pages 138–150. They accommodated the strong testimony of the Spirit of God, which is implied in the assurance of salvation, to holy and practical purposes. “We acknowledge,” say the Remonstrants, “ that true believers, as such, are certain and fully persuaded concerning their “salvation ; and that this certainty is unchangeable and invariable, as long as * true believers have a diligent regard to their duty.”

The following extract from a letter which Episcoplus addressed to Taurinus in 1642, contains the opinions of that great man, on other points connected with Assurance :

“1. No one doubts the possibility of a man being certain (assured] in this life of the remission of his sins, which had been committed prior to his conver. sion, although they may have been of the most grievous description. • “ 2. It is usual to dispute the possibility of a man, in this life, being assured, at least with the same degree of certainty, of the remission of those sins, even of the most grievous of them, which have been committed since his conversion : And perhaps it is better for this question to remain a matter of controversy, than to be confidently decided; though I have never yet been able to perceive any reason sufficiently weighty, to induce me to deny the possibility of this certainty. But, however this may be decided, a Christian cannot lawfully doubt that it is possible for him to be assured of the remission of his lighter offences, of those which Tertullian calls sins of daily occurrence.'

“ 3. It is possible for a man to obtain this assurance, (1.) from the certain knowledge of the Divine rule, or of that will according to which God declares himself to be willing to pardon sins; (2.) and from the consciousness of his own spirit well-approved before God, and of his actions which are regulated according to this rule. For if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep his command. ments and do those things that are pleasing to his sight.(1 John iii, 22.)

“ 4. But the man who is assured with this certainty, is bound, notwithstand. ing, to pray all the days of his life, Forgive me my trespasses !' by havi1.3 respect to the trespasses which he committed before he became a believer and was converted; because God will not forgive them, unless the pardon of them be asked of Him to the very close of life. With regard to trespasses which are called offences' and slighter lapses of daily occurrence,' a believer is bound to pray every day for the pardon of them, if he have committed them, or if he perceive that they have been committed; though they are so frequent, various, and secret, that the man himself frequently either does not observe that he commits such trespasses, or does not remember that he has committed them, or neglects them after being committed: So that it is much the safer course to pray, with David: "Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.' (Psalm xix, 12.) Or to declare, with St. Paul: • For I am conscious to myself of no one thing ; yet am I not hereby justified: But He that judgeth me, is the Lord.(1 Cor. iv, 4.)

5. No ABSOLUTE certainty (such as the Calvinists assert) concerning the remission of sins has place in this life, but only a condITIONAL certainty which is two-fold. First. If I am such a character as, according to the Divine Command, I ought to be.-THEN. If I continue to be such a character, and therefore if I likewise daily pray to God for the forgiveness of all my trespasses, both those of a grievous kind perpetrated before my conversion, and those which are lighter offences and imprudently committed in my daily life or conversation. For the perpetration of grievous sins, which may daily occur in my life, cannot

« AnteriorContinuar »