Page images

energy to his temptations, may be said to harden them,) we go off from the scriptural ground, and can hardly avoid making the conduct of God in hardening sinners positive, as if he actually communicated obstinacy and rebellion to their hearts. But "God is not tempted of evil, neither tempteth "he any man:" and he can be the cause, or author, of hardness, in no other way than as the sun is the cause of darkness, cold, and frost; viz. by withdrawing, and leaving things to their natural tendency, without imparting any light or warmth to the earth.-The sacred writers seldom stop to mark this distinction, in the places where they state their doctrine; (other scriptures give us the clue:) but they never deny it, or argue against it. The great Creator may be authorized to speak concerning himself, and his dealings with his rebellious creatures, in language which we may reverently quote, but must not attempt to imitate, in what we may think similar expressions of our own. Men, making no claim to inspiration, should, as it appears to me, keep in view, as far as may be, the whole of divine revelation, when speaking of any particular part: and (except when using the very words of scripture, with great caution against misapplying them,) should employ no language which is not easily reconcilable to other parts of the sacred oracles. But, in stating these my own sentiments, I am afraid, lest I should censure these eminent servants of God, where in his sight they did not offend.]

[ocr errors]











I SHALL only add to what has been adduced before respecting it, that the whole accusation of this chapter is entirely unsubstantiated; and that every impartial person, (nay, many who are in some respects far from impartial,) on carefully examining the evidence, will without hesitation bring in the verdict, Not guilty.

[This is all that the Author thought it worth while to retain of what he had written on the subject of this chapter. The following paragraphs, however, may deserve to be restored from the first edition. The passage commented upon in the last of them may serve as a specimen of the materials with which he here had to deal. Other specimens have been furnished in what is quoted concerning Simon Magus and his Helena,' Book III. c. ii.-J. S.]

[ocr errors]

It is well known by those, who have any acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, that many ' other doctrines of the gospel were corrupted in 'the apostolic age, and in the age immediately 'succeeding.'1

1 Ref. 5!1.

This is so well known, even to those who have comparatively but a slight acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, that authors, almost with one consent, consider it as futile in any man to attempt disproving their sentiments by quotations from ancient writers; though many of them, when it can serve their purpose of running down an opponent, or an opposite party, speak as if a quotation from the fathers were as conclusive as a text of scripture: nay, more so; for the text of scripture, even contrary to its literal and grammatical meaning, must bear the sense which some one of the ancient fathers was pleased to put upon it. It is not yet decided, so as to be put beyond all reasonable doubt, whether the doctrines of the gospel were more corrupted by those, subsequent to the apostolic age, whom the church in after ages canonized as saints, or those whom it anathematized as heretics. Origen three hundred years after his death was excommunicated, and Chrysostom, who was condemned, and, I acknowledge, used most scandalously, in his life-time, was received to communion and canonized thirty-five years after his death: yet it is not easy to determine which of the two deviated the furthest from the simplicity of apostolic doctrine: only Origen opened the way, by corrupting Christianity with vain philosophy.-I am not attempting to prepare the reader for a vindication of the doctrines of Calvinism, should it be proved that they greatly resemble, or fully coincide with, the opinions of the ancient heretics mentioned in this chapter; but merely to shew (by his Lordship's own con

[blocks in formation]

cession,) that, as Christianity began to be 'corrupted even in the apostolic age,' subsequent testimonies are of no authority; and that the appeal must be exclusively made to "the oracles of "God." Men speak of antiquity and novelty in respect of doctrines; but we appeal to the scriptures, as most ancient, and protest against the novelty of all subsequent authors.

[ocr errors]

'I find that some of the first heretics maintained opinions in a high degree resembling, what are ' now called Calvinistic doctrines.' '

No doubt any one may find this: and I also find in the quotations of the former chapter, and even in my own remarks on them, opinions which resemble many doctrines maintained by the papists; and some of these in a great degree resembling 'them.' No heretic or papist renounces all truth, by running into error in some particulars; nor does any heretic or papist spoil the truth which he retains with his errors: else we must renounce the doctrine of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the atonement, and many other essential principles of Christianity, as in a high degree resembling the doc'trines held by the papists.' On the other hand, that man approaches far nearer, in his self-confidence, to infallibility than any one ought to do, who thinks that he himself is quite clear of mixing error with the scriptural truths which he zealously maintains. But if heretics retained one single truth, and if Calvinists maintain one single error; two distinct cases arise in which the tenets of both, however opposite in other things, may coincide. As we

3 Ref. 511.

ought not to renounce the great doctrines of Christianity, retained in the church of Rome, and almost buried under the mass of her corruptions; so we must not renounce the doctrines of original sin, regeneration, justification by faith alone, no, not even personal election to eternal life, and the final preservation of every true believer, even if it should appear that certain heretics, and those of the vilest sort, held the same tenets in some particulars. No one will say, that any man ever was so heretical as not to hold one true doctrine. Must then that one true doctrine be given up by all Christians, because such and such detestable heretics maintained it? This is a species of argumentation, which ought never to be adopted by any person who would impartially debate controverted questions. It ought not to be inquired, who did, or who did not, maintain the doctrine; but whether it be, or be not, according to "the oracles of God." He who goes off from this ground shrinks from the inquiry, What hath God said! and endeavours to support himself, either against "the oracles of


[ocr errors]

God," or independently of them, by claiming credit from human authority; or by loading his opponent with odium, from coincidence, real or supposed, with reprobated characters.-If a protestant, so called, avow those doctrines in which popery essentially consists, he may justly be classed with papists: and, if Calvinists maintain those tenets in which the heresy of the proscribed heretics consisted, let them be proscribed along with them but not so, if either the one or the other agree in those things in which the essence of popery or of heresy does not consist. No one, in the least degree conversant with ecclesiastical history even

« PreviousContinue »