Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

merely taught in this catechism, but forms the burden of it. The divinity of the person who wrought out this righteousness, his distinct personality as well as that of the Father who sent him to accomplish it, and of the Holy Spirit who applies it, after its accomplishment, are prominent articles in this exhibit of the faith of the Lutheran church.

The natural, total and universal, depravity of man, and his utter inability to help himself, until the Holy Spirit sprinkles upon him, for the restoration of his spiritual health, the blood of the atonement, are exhibited in this manual with great perspicuity. Whether the atonement was made for the whole human family, or for those only who shall participate savingly in its blessings, it does not state with precision. The following extract contains what is said on this point.

2. What has Christ fulfilled in our stead? A. Christ has perfectly fulfilled the whole law in our stead.

“Q. What has Christ taken upon himself?

“ A. Christ has taken upon himself the guilt and punishmept of our sins.

"Q. Whom has Christ redeemed?
A. Christ has redeemed all men.
"Q. From what has Christ redeemed us?

A. Christ has redeemed us from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil.

"Q. Will all men be saved? 4 A. No. But few men will be saved. “ Q. Whose fault is it that so many men will be damned?

“ A. Men themselves are to be blamed, that they are damned; because they will continue in sin.

“Q. Who will be saved? “ A. Those who receive Christ by faith shall be saved. “Q: Canst thou of thine own power believe in Christ? « A. No.”

These questions and answers, the writer of this sketch has translated from the German of Luther's Catechism, used in all the Lutheran churches. It teaches with great perspicuity, the doctrine of substitution. Though the ex

pressions respecting the extent of the atonement are equivocal, yet it is impossible to make the answers which we have quoted consistent with each other, on any other plan, than that of a definite satisfaction. What is the nature of the atonement here exhibited by the Lutheran church? It consists of redemption from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. Again, who are saved by this atonement? But a few only. Now, if Christ redeems all men, from all sin, from death and the devil, then all men, every individual human being, must be actually saved. As they assert that only a few are saved, by “all men” in the answer, can only be meant all men who believe, of all nations, conditions, and ranks. That such were the views of its writer, is ascertained from his other writings, or at least that he had no view opposed to this interpretation.

Though Luther and many of his German co-adjutors in the reformation, limited the atonement to those who are saved, yet it is not to be doubted, that a great majority of his followers, do interpret the word in the Catechism, to mean an absolute universality, and maintain that Christ actually made a full, a perfect atonement for every individual of the human race, while they at the same time, believe that millions will never obtain a saving interest in its blessings. This defect in the system of doctrines formed by Luther, and that branch of the church which takes its name from him, was of such importance, that the whole fabric from the middle of the 16th century to the present time has been gradually sinking into ruins. Those who turned aside from the truths of christianity, and have wandered into the paths of error and heresy, have generally begun their divergency at the point of definite atonement. One error in any system of principles may be compared to an opening in a mound for confining waters. The enclosed fluid is not only escaping every instant, but the breach generally widens, until finally the structure is undermined, and sinks into the flood.

What the reformers north of the Rhine left incomplete was soon supplied by an instrument raised up in the south,

and admirably suited by nature, education and grace for the work which he was destined to perform.

John Calvin was born at Noyon, in Picardy, a province of France, on the 21st of May, 1509. He was eleven years of

age, when Luther burned the popish decretals, on a pile which he had erected for that purpose, before the college of Wittemburg. At a very early period he was initiated into the study of the Greek and Roman classics. He was destined for holy orders in the Roman Catholic church, to which his family adhered; and on the 21st of May, 1521, in the 12th year of his age, was presented with the living of de la Gesine. Believing him well calculated to shine at the bar, nis father resolved that he should study the civil law, and for that purpose sent him to Paris, and placed him under the care of Peter de l'Etoile. From Paris he was transferred to Bourges to prosecute the same study, under Andreas Alceatus. The native energies of his mind, improved by education-his habits of observation and investigation, and the opportunities which he engaged of indulging them, in the various situations were he was placed, gave an early and uncommon expansion to his intellectual powers. He read the writings of the reformers, and embraced the doctrines which they taught, when he was but a youth. The boldness and firmness of his character did not permit him to remain a silent spectator of the contest which then raged with extraordinary violence and shook the christian world to its centre. He neither could nor would conceal his religious opinions. The persecutions which the reformers in France suffered under Francis I. compelled Calvin to leave the kingdom. He fixed upon Basil as the place of his residence. At that place he became acquainted with the two distinguished reformers Grynæus and Capito, who aided him in his enqui. ries after truth. He devoted his time, when residing at Basil, to the writing of his Institutions of the Christian Religion. All the powers of his mind were brought to bear upon this work, and all the treasures of his learning laid under contribution to enrich its pages. When engaged in its composition, he did not contemplate its publication; but the situation of

his brethren in France induced him to put it immediately to the press.

When Francis I. found the persecution of his protestant subjects gave great offence to the German princes who espoused the same opinions, and whose favour he courted, he published a proclamation, stating that those who suffered were only Anabaptists and other enthusiasts, who despised all government. Calvin determined upon the immediate publication of his Institutions, as a refutation to the royal calumny. He prefixed a dedication to Francis to the Institutions, in which with extraordinary eloquence he vindicates the cause of his persecuted brethren. The Institutions and deduction were written and published in both Latin and French. This work appeared in 1535, when Calvin was in his 26th year. The Institutions passed through many editions in a very short time. The demand for it, exceeded any thing in that way that had been known for many years. It was translated into Italian, German, Dutch and English, very soon after it made its appearance, and extensively circulated and read in all these languages. The dedication ran through an astonishing number of separate editions, which extended the fame of the author, and increased every where the demand for the Institutions.

The grand doctrine taught, illustrated and enforced in this book, is that of the atonement-the salvation of sinners through the righteousness of Christ Jesus, and “not by the deeds of the law.” The scriptural representation of this subject, as contrasted with the erroneous views given of it by the church of Rome, is explained at large, and confirmed with great force of argumentation and various erudition. The extent of the atonement as made in the room of a de. finite number of sinners, given of the Father from eternity to Messiah-the plan of the universe as laid in eternity by the divine mind, and comprehending the great chain of cause and effect, are displayed with an energy and a grandeur of conception, to which even the enemies of the writer, and the opposers of his doctrine, have been compelled to bear testimony. The whole of the sacred volume, and the philo

sophy of the universe, both of matter and mind, are laid under contribution to fortify his positions, and prostrate the errors and heresies of his adversaries. He has been charged with introducing novel opinions. The same doctrines, however, nut to mention the apostle Paul, were, as all know, taught by Augustine, archbishop of Hippo. The perspicuity and closeness with which Calvin reasons on these subjects the forcible manner in which he appeals “ to the law and the testimony”-the consolatory exhibition which he gave of the Christian system, and the affectionate manner in which all is brought home to the practice and consciences of men, formed such a remarkable contrast with the gloomy superstitions and unintelligible jargon of the popish writers, that thousands of all ranks, and in all the southern kingdoms of Europe, embraced them with an avidity that had never before been witnessed from the days of the apostles. It was this immortal work that opened for him a career of usefulness and glory rarely equalled.

Soon after his Institutions were published, Calvin having heard that the dutchess of Ferarra was favourably disposed towards the doctrines of the reformation, paid her a visit, as some say, at her request, and was instrumental in introducing correct views of the plan of salvation into the northern regions of Italy. From Ferarra he travelled into France, where his stay was short. On his return to Basil he took the road that led through Geneva. The celebrated Farel was then pastor of the reformed church in that city, and professor of divinity in a reformed theological seminary which had been established some time before. He invited Calvin to unite with him in his labours. After many pressing solicitations, both from Farel and the people, he was induced to fix upon this as the place of his residence, and consented to participate in the labours of the theological school. Through his influence and instruction chiefly, in 1536, the year after his arrival, the people of Geneva entered into a solemn covenant with God and one another, to abjure the errors of popery, and to adhere firmly to the doctrines contained in a confession of faith which contained

D

« AnteriorContinuar »