Imágenes de páginas

appeared as a champion for the privileges of the University. While engaged in this controversy he dared to utter some censures against the Roman pontiff, which provoked the vengeance of the catholic monks and bishops. In 1367 he was degraded from his office in the University. He appealed to Urban V. who confirmed the sentence that had been pronounced against him. He now threw off all restraint, attacked the monks, and exposed, with great boldness, the profligacy of their lives. He did not stop here, for though his views were rather obscure, yet he taught that men must rely upon the atonement of Christ Jesus alone for salvation, and that every other ground of hope must prove fallacious. He was persecuted, but his opinions spread extensively, and he had many followers, who were called Wickliffites. He died in 1387. All he did was but like the shedding of a few rays upon the darkness of the night, rendering the darkness visible.

What he effected, however, paved the way for the introduction of a more correct knowledge of the system


grace into the British empire, at the time of the reformation. The chief instrument in the hand of Providence for effecting this glorious work was John Knox, who, next to Luther, and Calvin, has been the most distinguished inark for the shafts of ridicule and calumny, by infidels, heretics, and other ungodly men. This illustrious reformer was born in 1505, five years after Charles V., emperor of Germany, at Haddington, in Scotland. He was descended of respectable parentage, and commenced his liberal education at the grammar school in Haddington. From this school he was transferred to the university of St. Andrews, where he commenced, at nineteen years of age, his collegiate course in the college of St. Silvador, at the same time with George Buchanan. He made great progress in his studies, and manifested peculiar facility in the study of languages, especially the Greek, in which he made uncommon proficiency. Both he and Buchanan were disgusted with the scholastic jargon, which occupied so conspicuous a place in the seminaries at that time, and betook themselves to other sources of improve

ment. Knox, read with great interest, the writings of Je. - rome and Augustine, especially the former. He soon per

ceived that the doctrines of religion had been entirely corrupted, by the catholic clergy; that in Scotland, little more of Christianity than the name had been retained, and to this corruption, as its genuine source, he attributed the shameful profligacy of the clergy, which exceeded perhaps that of every other country in Europe. Before this time indeed a gleam of light had shone upon Scotland, through the preaching of Mr. Patrick Hamilton, a noble youth who had gone to Germany, induced by the fame of Luther, and had returned to Scotland to expose the corruptions of the church. He was persecuted, and received the crown of martyrdom in the year 1528. While Knox was employed in search of truth with a noble independence, he met with Mr. George Wishart, who was of a most amiable character, a very devout man, had embraced the protestant religion, and was of great use in giving Knox correct views of the system of grace. About the year 1549, he went to Geneva and heard the lectures of Calvin, whose views of the doctrine of the atonement, of the divine decrees, of faith, and of church government, he fully embraced. Upon his return to his native country, he proclaimed the doctrines of grace, as taught in the Geneva school, with a boldness, which excites a high degree of admiration in the mind of every enlightened Christian. His great theme was the excellency of the atonement, on which he descanted with a most commanding eloquence, and with astonishing effect. Thousands of all orders embraced his doctrines, became advocates for his plan of church government, and renounced the Roman catholic religion. The sword of persecution awoke, but nothing could check the progress of truth. The prospects of salvation through the atonement of Messiah, were like the cheering beams of the morning sun after a dark and tempestuous night, and as well might the enemies of the atonement have attempted to impede the progress of the car of day, as to check the march of the reformation. The result of the popish opposition to the truth, were civil wars which agitated the whole nation, and the effect of the gospel was, in this case, what Christ predicted it should be, to set a man against his father, the daughter-in-law against the motherin-law, &c. But all hastened the progress of the light: Hundreds died upon the scaffold, exulting in the hope of a blessed immortality obtained through the mediation, obedience, death and intercession of Christ Jesus. Indeed all the martyrs, who laid down their lives for the truths of Christianity, from the proto-martyr Stephen, to the earl of Argyle, in Scotland, give testimony to the truth and value of the atonement; which supported them amidst all their cruel tortures, and enabled thousands to sing in triumph over death even in the midst of the flames.

While things were thus advancing toward the abolition of popery in Scotland, the head of the church was by the dispensations of his Providence, preparing the way in England for the promotion of truth. King Henry VIII. was upon the throne of that kingdom at the same time that Charles V. reigned in Germany, and Francis I. in France. He had married Catharine of Arragon, the sister of Charles V. Catharine, before her marriage to Henry had been contracted to his brother, which afforded him a pretext, 'when he formed an attachment to Ann Bolyn, to seek a divorce from her, which according to the notions of those times among catholics, could only be obtained from the Roman Pontiff. To the pope Henry made application, but he was unwilling to offend so powerful a monarch as Charles V., and refused to grant the dispensation. The king was resolved that he would not be thwarted in his project, but at the advice of Cranmer, whom he elevated about the same time to the rank of archbishop, to promote his views applied to the colleges and universities of Britain and of other kingdoms of Europe for advice. They were unanimously of opinion, that a man could not legally marry his brother's wife. Henry proclaimed the British empire independent of the see of Rome, and divided between himself and his archbishop, that power over all ecclesiastical af


fairs, which had been claimed and granted before to the pope.

We mention these events to shew the provision which the great Head of the church had made, to prepare the way for introducing into England a knowledge of the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ. Light from the continent of Europe, and from Scotland, began to shed its beams upon England. Archbishop Cranmer, though in some things defective, was a very learned and pious divine. He taught the doctrine of atonement in the most explicit terms, it runs through every thing he wrote. He also invited learned men from the continent to the university of Oxford, and patronised the cause of letters generally throughout the kingdom. He made a translation of the scriptures into the English language, and had editions of it printed so cheap as to place it in the reach of the poor. The effect of the diffusion of the oracles of truth among the common people was a means of leading them to a belief in the doctrine of the atonement. However heretics

may wrest the scriptures, and by subtilty of argument bewilder them. selves, and those who are fond of their curious and sophistical speculations, the common people always derive from them the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ, not only as a prophet instructing them, and as a king governing them,

a priest making atonement for the sins of his people. The circulation of the scriptures, among the English peasantry, was one of the noblest works effected by Cranmer. He also applied himself to the formation of a confession of faith for the English church. This celebrated system has since been known by the name of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. It asserts in the strongest terms the doctrine of the trinity, the equality of the Son and Holy Ghost with God the Father, the substitution of Christ Jesus in the room of the sinner, and his perfect satisfaction made to the law of God, to the divine justice; and that by the imputation of his righteousness to the sinner, who by faith accepts of it as offered in the gospel, justification, consisting of pardon of sin and acceptance

but as

with God as righteous, is procured, and that all this sal. vation is applied and rendered effectual for salvation by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

These articles were never fully adopted, nor generally received in the church of England during the reign of Henry VIII. who manifested no regard for the interests of true religion, either in his own person, or among his subjects. The clergy when he ascended the throne were not only shamefully ignorant of every thing which resembled Christianity in theory, but were in a high degree profligate in their lives. In every kingdom of Europe, and no where more than in England, the monks were the opprobrium of religion, and the scorn of all sensible men. The king suppressed monasteries, and a part of their revenues was divided between the crown and the nobility, and the remainder given to the monks for their support, but no provision was made in any effectual manner for the supply of able and learned spiritual instructors. Hence, nearly all that was done, for the propagation of correct principles, among the people, was through the medium of the word of life, without the aid of living instructors, and so few could read, that the effects produced by the scriptures were not so great, as we might at first view imagine. Such was the caprice and tyranny of Henry, that no steady measures, which the archbishop suggested, and wished to carry into operation, could be pursued. The people, however, began to be generally convinced that the priests could not save them.

In 1547, Cranmer was freed from the tyranny and caprice of the master who had elevated him to his high rank, by the death of Henry VIII., and he now exerted himself with

very great vigour in promoting the cause of reformation. We have said that Cranmer encouraged learning, and learned men. With the concurrence of the regent,


governed the kingdom during the minority of Edward VI., son of Henry VIII., those learned protestants, Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer, Paul Fagius, and Emanuel Tree mellius were placed in Oxford college. These distinguished

« AnteriorContinuar »