Page images

'rians, and that these assertions and arguments 'occur in the dialogue with Trypho the Jew. 'Justin Martyr, therefore, in endeavouring to convert Trypho the Jew to the belief of the 'gospel, argues against the Jewish doctrine of ' predestination, and maintains and enforces the 'gospel doctrines of the prescience of God, the 'free will of man, and his absolute power over his ' opinions, thoughts, and faith.'1

If the Jews were rigid predestinarians, in our sense of the word, then the doctrine of predestination was much more ancient than Augustine or Calvin. I have no doubt, that numbers learned the scriptural doctrine of the divine sovereignty and decrces from the Old Testament; and probably many of the Jews, and of those who embraced Christianity, were of the number. But the bulk of the nation, who held any opinions of this kind, in the days of Christ and his apostles, seem to have been fatalists; having learned the doctrine of heathen fate, from their intercourse with the Gentiles.

[ocr errors]

'Pelagius was warmly opposed by Augustine, 'bishop of Hippo in Africa, a man of lively parts, 'but of unsteady principles; of active zeal, but 'so deficient in learning that it is doubted whether ' he could read the scriptures of the New Testa'ment in their original language, or was ac' quainted with the writings of the primitive 'fathers.' 2

The doctrine of Pelagius in respect of original sin, the freedom of the will, and special grace,

1 Ref. 296.

2 Ref. 573, 574.

can scarcely be distinguished from that of the quotations, in the Refutation, from Origen, Chrysostom, and others, even by a shade of difference; except as Pelagius more directly denied what they kept out of sight, explained away, or only denied by consequence.-A man of unsteady principles.' That is, Augustine, as he grew older thought that he had become wiser: and, after a more thorough investigation of the scriptures, he was convinced that he had too hastily sanctioned opinions, in eager controversy with one description of heretics, which were themselves heretical: and he was not too proud openly to confess this, and to publish his retractations. He had not sworn (as some have been required to do,) never to change his opinion; and, having changed his sentiments, he counted it his duty, publicly to acknowledge it; and to contend for those doctrines which he had formerly opposed. - So deficient in learning.' 'St. Augustine, the 'best learned of all ancient doctors.'2 I own myself incompetent to decide the question of Augustine's learning, between his Lordship and the compilers of the Homilies: but probably the latter meant, the most learned theologian, the greatest proficient in the school of Christ;' which Augustine might be, though he were not well versed in the Greek language, or in the writings of the primitive fathers.- To enlarge upon his eru'dition of every kind, would be the same thing as to pour light into the sun. He must be a stranger as well in his writings, as in those of other men, who does not know, that Augustine was eminent in the whole circle of the best Homily on Idolatry, Part 2.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'learning; but that he held the first place in theological questions.' What an excessive com'pliment,' says Jortin, 'is here paid to a man who, ' in reality, had not a sufficient quantity of erudition ' and of judgment, to entitle him to this character, 'or to any thing like it!'2 Jortin does not deny that Augustine had learning, though not equal to what Cave had stated: and, as to Augustine's 'judgment,' it could not be supposed that Jortin would concede it, for Augustine and Jortin were of opposite opinions on these subjects:

'Grant me discernment, I allow it you.'3

The reputation and authority of Augustine, during all succeeding ages till the reformation, and the peculiar attention paid to his writings by the reformers in every country, have so established his character as a theologian, that he needs neither vindication nor panegyric from any modern; nor will the contrary to panegyric greatly alter the opinion of such pious persons as have attentively studied any part of his works. Yet the doctrines now called Calvinistic are not derived from Augustine, but from the scriptures of truth; and the public verdict concerning him will be of no great consequence, if it does not draw men aside from the sure testimony of God.

4 The note referred to contains a quotation from Augustine, which I shall attempt to translate."Therefore I now write books, in which I have ' undertaken to retract my own little works that I may shew that I have not followed even myself ' in all things.'-On this most ingenuous and honest confession his Lordship observes, I know 2 Jortin. › Cowper. Note, Ref. 574, 575.

I Cave.



' of no author, ancient or modern, in whose works 'there are so many contradictions and inconsistencies, as in those of Augustine.' Of this, however, no proof is brought, except that Augustine's earlier writings do not support the tenets now called Calvinistic. But has he not publicly retracted his earlier writings? I pray God to illuminate all who now oppose the truth with the true know'ledge and understanding of his holy word; and 'that he would be pleased to bring into the way ' of truth all such as have erred and are deceived,' and to give them honesty and humility to imitate the example of Augustine.-The charge of inconsistency, though in a less degree, may be urged against Calvin also. And indeed there is 'no class of writers, in whom we find so many 'inconsistencies, as in those who maintain Cal'vinistic opinions.'-Calvinists are apt to assert exactly the same concerning Anticalvinists: but assertion is not proof.

'The controversy soon subsided, and the sub'ject was scarcely discussed in the next four hun'dred years.' 2

It does not appear that much controversy was excited by Augustine's works, except from the followers of Pelagius: in general, even they who had not previously appeared favourable to his sentiments either in part at least acceded to them, or were silent. But, during the four centuries which succeeded the death of Augustine, and for more than four centuries, was a term of most awful darkness; the progress was, in the opinion of

'Ref. 576.

2 Ref. 576, 577.

competent judges, from bad to worse; and the writers of history were so incompetent, that it is scarcely possible to know what opinions were maintained.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

'About the middle of the ninth century, Goteschale brought the opinions of Augustine again into public notice, and by his vehement sup'port of them, gave so much offence that he ' was degraded from the priesthood, publicly whipped in the presence of Charles the Bald, king of France, and committed to prison, where he remained the rest of his life. His doctrines ⚫ were condemned in two councils, the one sum'moned by Raban, Archbishop of Mentz, the ' other by Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims. The proceedings against him were by no means jus'tifiable; but they prove what were the senti'ments of the church at this period."

[ocr errors]

Was the public whipping and the cruel persecution of Goteschale any proof that his doctrines were false? "Beware of men; for they will deli"ver you up to the councils, and they will scourge

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

you in their synagogues; and ye shall be

brought before governors and kings for my "name's sake." 2 It seems that the third Council of Valence made some decrees against his opinions. It was a provincial council, and its decrees were, probably, little noticed: but this shews, that Goteschalc's opinions made such progress, that they became formidable to the opponents of those days..

[Soon after the great business of the Refor2 Matt. x. 17, 18.

'Ref. 577.

« PreviousContinue »