Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

might be preserved ; which could not but be weakened, where so much wickedness prevailed. In handling the latter topic he made use, among others, of the following observation: “ No Government,” says he, “ without the preservation of virtue, can · maintain its constitution, though it be the very best that can be made. And however some particular men may prosper, who are wicked, and some private good men may miscarry in the things of this world, in which sense things may be said to happen alike to all, to the righteous as to the wicked, yet I dare boldly affirm and challenge any man to the truth thereof, that in the many volumes of the history of all the ages and kingdoms of the world, there is not one instance to be found, where the hand of God was against a righteous nation, or where it was not ' against an unrighteous nation first or last; nor where a just Government perished, or an unjust Government long prospered. Kingdoms are rarely as short-lived as men, yet they also have a time to die; but as temperance giveth health to men, so virtue gives time to kingdoms; and as vice brings men betimes to the grave, so nations to their

ruin.” Having made this assertion, he supported it by a vast chain of historical evidence, drawn from the first kingdom of antiquity under Nimrod, and continued through many others to the last, which was Rome itself. From ancient he then proceeded to modern history, that is, he completed his facts relative to the same assertion, by continuing the chain through those nations which sprung up after the fall of Rome, down to his own times.

The third object of his address was, that posterity might be benefited. He observed here, among other things, that “there were few parents so vicious as not to dislike to see their children so ; and yet nothing appeared plainer to him, than that as the former left the Government at their death, so the latter would find it. It were far better that the world ended with the parents, than that these should transmit their vices, or should sow those seeds which would ripen to the ruin of their children, and fill their country with miseries, when they themselves were gone."

Having finished his address, as it related to the great and prominent immoralities,

he

he proceeded to the great and promirene errors of the day. The first great and prominent error was that of making opinions Articles of faith, and of making them at the same time the bord of Christian communion. By opinions he meant propositions formed by men from their own interpretation of the Scriptures, but which were neither expressly laid down in Scripture, nor yet often well deducible from it ; that is, not so evidently deducible from it, as not to be doubtful to many who were yet sincere believers of the text. These propositions, he said, were expressed, not in the language of Scripture, but often in the sophistical terms of the schools, so that they were frequently unintelligible, and became therefore a bone of contention to many, and unhappily according as men received or denied them they were honoured or disgraced. Here he noticed, among other things, the great noise which had been made about the Greek word Episcopos. He who maintained that it signified a higher office than the Greek word Presbuteros, was to have no fellowship with one party; and he who maintained the contrary, was considered as a degrader of epi

scopal

scopal dignity, and was to be punished by the other. From hence he passed to the divisions, heats, and animosities, which the debates about free will, election, and reprobation had produced in the kingdom. Under Archbishop Abbot one set of ideas had prevailed upon these subjects, and under Archbishop Laud another, so that men had been reputed Heretics in turn, and fit only for excommunication as they received the one or the other. He proceeded then to the Synod of Dort; then to the flame kindled in Holland between Arminius and Episcopius for the Remonstrants, and Gomarus, Sibrandus, and others, for the Predestinarians; then to disputes about Easter Day, as if men's eternal happiness had been involved in this question; then to the tragical story of Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and Arius his priest; and then to the anathemas, banishments, wars, and bloodshed, which followed upon the question, whether the Greek word Homousia or Homoiousia should be received for faith. Among the observations made upon some of the foregoing points, I shall notice the following: “We must do violence to our under

standings, standing3, if we can think that the men who hated their brethren and shed one another's blood, could be true followers of that Jesus who iloved his enemies, and gave his blood for the world.”- “But how easily might all these confusions have been prevented, if men's faith about Christ had been delivered in the words of Scripture, since all sides pretend to believe the text ? And why should any man presume to be. 'wiser or plainer in matters of faith than the holy Spirit?"“ Are not things come to a sad pass, that to refuse any other terms of expression than those which the holy Spirit hath given us, and which are confessed to be the rule or form of sound words, is to expose a man to the censure of being unsound in the faith, and unfit for the Christian communion? Will nothing do but man's comment instead of God's text ? or man's consequences and conclusions in the room of sacred revelation?"__"All this while (says he) the head is set at work, not the heart ; and that which Christ most insisted upon is least concerned in this sort of faith and Christianity, and that is keeping bis commandments ; for it is opinion, not obedience, it is notion, not regenera

« ZurückWeiter »