« ZurückWeiter »
intended to apply; but watch the changes which took place in the minds of the reformers themselves at different stages of the reformation. It is here proved beyond contradiction that both Luther and Melancthon, who had in the earlier period of the reformation held the harsh doctrine of philosophical necessity, had rejected it with abhorrence before the time when the public standards of faith were authoritatively established, so that to understand these latter, we must bear this fact in mind; and yet the historian of the Church of Christ, the unsound and prejudiced Milner, appeals to the treatise of Luther “ De Servo Arbitrio," and his earlier controversial writings, to uphold his favourite doctrine of Calvinistic predestination ; just as too many who reject the celebrated rule of the primitive Church, “Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus traditum est," affect to imagine that we are alike bound to abide by every opinion, however singular and absurd, or even subsequently retracted, which, at any time and under any circumstances, can be shown to have been held by any of the Fathers.
When, showing how by the very nature of the controversy the great reformer was compelled occasionally to use those strong, and apparently harsh expressions, which have since been distorted from their original design, as for instance, that "he who exerts himself to the utmost of his ability still continues to sin,” the author remarks, that all which was intended was to “christianize the speculations of the schools :"
Far was it from their intention to break down the sacred barriers of morality, and call evil good, or good evil; to destroy wbat God has established in the human breast as the rule of reason, and the law of rectitude; to depreciate that, which constitutes the firmest bond of social duty, and the true dignity of our nature in its connexion with this sublunary world: but, anxious to rescuie christian theology from the grasp of those, who embraced only to betray, they merely laboured to restore that importance to the doctrine of redemption, with which the Scriptures invest it, but of which, by a subtle perversity, it had long been deprived. The principal object therefore in their view evidently was, to christianize the speculations of the Schools; and the principal drift of their argument, to prove, that human virtue, how extravagantly soever extolled by a vain philosophy, is wholly insufficient (because imperfect) to merit the favour of Heaven. Allowing no medium between righteousness and unrighteousness, the approbation and disapprobation of the Almighty, characterizing that as sinful, which is confessedly not holy, and thus annihilating every ground of self-presumption, they inculcated the necessity of contemplating with the eye of faith those means of reconciliation, which Christianity alone affords.
But obvious as seems the scope of their controversy, it has nevertheless been sometimes misconceived, and a tendency imputed to their principles, abhorrent from their feelings. It has been insinuated, that their doctrine went to prove man's total inability of extricating himself from crime, until the arrival of some uncertain moment, which brings with it, without his own endeavours, a regeneration from on high, the sudden transfusion of a new light and new virtues. But those who thus conceive of it, are not probably aware that the author of the Augsburg Confession warmly reprobates this precise idea, which he denominates a Manichæan conceit and a horrible falsehood. Upon the abstract question of Free Will it is indeed true, that Melancthon, no less than Luther, at first held opinions, which he was afterwards happy to retract: but when this is acknowledged, it should be added, that he made ample amends for his indiscretion
by not only expunging the offensive passages from the single work, which contained them, but by introducing others of a nature diametrically opposite.Pp. 91–93.
We had marked several parts of the Lectures on Original Sin and Justification, for quotation, but space forbids us; and indeed they are so closely reasoned that mere extracts would hardly give our readers a notion of their excellency. These two lectures, moreover, will amply repay perusal at the present time, from the close connexion which they have to the controversy about Justification, occasioned by the publication of the works of Knox and Faber; a controversy on which we cannot but express a feeling of some uneasiness, fearing as we do a tendency in some of the disputants to revive those very scholastic subtleties and disquisitions, against which the whole might of Luther and his fellowlabourers, and our own Articles in particular, were expressly levelled.
We cannot withhold the following recapitulation of the subjects treated of, from the conclusion of the last lecture. With that we must conclude, earnestly recommending an attentive study of the work, with its copious notes and illustrations.
The leading object of our Reformers in every instance was to christianize the speculations of the Schools; to point out, as I have had frequent occasion to observe, the necessity and efficacy of redemption. According to the perverted theology of their opponents, by whom the oracles of divine truth were little studied, and less regarded, the corruption of our nature, as far at least as it relates to the mental faculties, was deemed wholly ideal ; by congruous merit we were thought competent to obtain God's favour here, and by condign the fruition of his glorious Godhead hereafter; while it was conceived, that on account of both we were predestined to salvation. Fascinated therefore by the potent magic of the Schools, when the soul of man surveyed her powers and her prospects, instead of viewing herself as a sinful and fallen creature, contaminated by original, and ruined, beyond all hope of human remedy, by actual depravity, she beheld herself transformed into an angel of light. Contemplating the approbation of Heaven, not as a boon to be supplicated, but as a reward to be deserved, she disdained to accept it gratuitously, but claimed it as the recompense of her virtues, and challenged it as her due. To her own merits she imputed her justification in this life, and her proud title to bliss in the life to come, unmindful of those, which the christian ought alone to plead at the throne of mercy, and which by repentance and faith he makes his own. Nor did her complacency in her own good qualities and superior endowments rest even here. Arrayed in all the dignity of moral excellence, and the graces of genuine piety, she beheld herself eternally present to the eye of God, elected before others for her intrinsic worth, and predestinated to everlasting felicity, because deserving of it. Where, in such a system, is to be found a place for the full, perfect, and sufficient oblation and satisfaction of Him, who came to seek and to save that which was lost?
On the other hand, when contrasted with the scholastical doctrine, in how advantageous a point of view, how much more consistent with gospel truth, and declarative of gospel beneficence, appears that of the Church of England! The ever-memorable divines, who compiled her Offices, and reformed her Creed, instead of exercising their talents in abstruse theory and vain speculation, directed their attention wholly to the word of God. Upon this grounding every position which they established, they taught, with no less simplicity than sincerity, that we possess by nature a tendency to evil, which in itself is no innocuous quality, but one offensive to a just and holy God, when abstractedly considered; that we cannot ourselves in any way atone for sin ; but that an atonement has been
once made for all by the common Saviour of mankind; and that consequently, instead of attempting to expiate it by our own merits, whether congruous or condign, we ought rather, with a lively faith, united to a truly penitent and contrite heart, to trust in the expiation of Christ alone, because something more is requisite than we can perform, to appease the displeasure and satisfy the justice of Heaven. Thus while their adversaries laboured to promote pharisaical pride, and render the cross of Christ of no effect, they solely endeavoured to inculcate christian humility, and to demonstrate the inestimable value of christian redemption; not indeed in a Calvinistical sense, as if faith were appropriated to the elect only, for that would have been to exchange one species of personal conceit for another; but in a sense, wbich both Scripture and Reason approve, which makes the light of the evangelical as general in its influences, as that of the natural day. For upon the subject of Predestination, as well as upon every other, which has been alluded to, their prudence was not less conspicuous than their piety. Approaching it with reverence, and treating it with circumspection, they indulged not, like many in the Church of Rome, and like some who were enumerated among the friends of reformation, in abstruse disquisitions upon the nature of the divine will; they boasted not of a philosophy, which affected to soar above vulgar view, and fix its sublime abode in the bosom of God himself. That be, whom the wonders of created being perplex, who knows not half the wisdom displayed in the structure of the meanest insect, should presume to investigate the arcana of the omniscient mind, appeared to them the height of extravagance and crime. Their feelings recoiled at the idea of passing the boundary, which the Scriptures have prescribed, and of exploring without an infallible guide the abyss of the unrevealed Godhead; what no human intellect can comprehend, they were contented in silence to adore. Every attempt therefore to explain the will of the unknown God, as he exists in his native majesty, amid clouds of impenetrable darkness, they utterly disclaimed, and spoke only of that consolatory effect of it, which the sacred volumes disclose to us, and represent as certain, the predestination of Christians to eternal life. With this express object in view they intimately blended the doctrine of election with the holy ordinance of baptism, including all in the universal promise, and regulating the decrees of God by our assumption or rejection of the christian character ; persuaded that the contrary tenet of a predestination by individual destiny is attended with the worst of consequences; that while it furnishes the profligate sinner with a pretext for his vices, it increases the agony of the desponding, whose petitions for mercy and forgiveness seem never to reach the throne of grace, but return to his afflicted soul disregarded, if not despised; adding tenfold horror to his despair.
To conclude, we perceive with much concern, and feel perhaps with some resentment, that upon the subjects, which have been considered in these Lectures, the creed of our Church has been often ignorantly misconceived, or maliciously misrepresented. Contemplated as the inflexible advocate of fatalism, by some she has been extravagantly applauded, and by others unreasonably traduced. The Socinian in particular has been often gratified in imputing to her obnoxious opinions, has sometimes added insult to injury, and where her liberality should have been commended, has insidiously held up her supposed bigotry to public scorn and detestation. Let us not, however, on this account, abandon her cause, or cease to vindicate her real sentiments; but rather persevere in our efforts with the firmness of men, and the temper of Christians, supported by the consoling assurance, that truth will not hang for ever suspended between calumny and falsehood, but will at length assert its genuine character; “Non semper pendebit inter latrones Christus; resurget aliquando crucifixa Veritas."Pp. 188—193.
in the semificial and Medif the New Com
Art. II. — The Mediator of the New Covenant ; a Series of Sermons on
the Sacrificial and Mediatorial Character of the Saviour, as revealed in the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews. By the Rev. James SPENCER Knox, M.A. Rector of Maghera, and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Derry. Dublin : Curry & Co. London : Simpkin and Marshall.
1835. 8vo. Pp. 326. This volume consists of thirteen sermons, upon some of the principal passages in this very remarkable and highly interesting Epistle; an Epistle for sublimity of style, and importance of material, scarcely surpassed by that to the Romans.
The greatest recommendation of the volume before us, is, that its standard of practical piety is truly Christian ; but the rhetorical dress in which the preacher clothes his ideas, and the diffusive character of the work itself, appear calculated rather to detract from the impressiveness of the whole. We cannot imagine, moreover, the preacher to attempt the production of a serious and lasting impression, whilst bis speech, instead of simple, is exuberantly ornate, and that exuberance artificial. Of two extremes, we would prefer quaintness to floridity; it is better to be too plain than unintelligible. It is better, indeed, as much as possible, to avoid all extremes; and that is the truest eloquence, which is at once noble in sentiment, and simple in expression.
To introduce into the pulpit poetical phraseology, as (in the present volume), “ the spear-girt cross,” “the orb of day,” “the long oblivious draught," “ trumpet tone,” is to lower the dignity of divine truth, and tends to foster a bad taste in the hearers, some of whom will often be struck with language next to unintelligible, and will regard rather the tinsel of the words, than the pure gold of the doctrines. It is indeed an irreverent attempt to gild the rays of the Sun of Righteousness; nor will the adoption of such terms as blood-drops and the like, by the most popular of preachers, reconcile such daubing to a well-regulated judgment. It may appear a harsh opinion, but we can never peruse an affected or unbecoming style, without imagining that we perceive a corresponding defect as well in the mind, as in the taste of him who adopts it. This is the unavoidable impression which a sermon, delivered or composed in a theatrical manner, must produce in at least one class of minds, and it should therefore be the conscientious endeavour of the christian preacher, to declare his message with a simplicity and earnestness, incapable of the inflation of blank-verse prose.
And the defects which are here condemned rarely come singly. False and inconsistent metaphors, unmeaning verbiage, and occasionally a neglectful dreaminess of style, are the natural concomitants of poetical, or rather of pseudo-poetic prose. So the writer before us speaks of "sin's
own finished work," i.e. death; tells us that "the gorgeous apparel of the high-priest waxed old as doth a garment ;" that “ wicked men erected the altar of the cross;" that the blood of beasts is “ tainted by sin," although “ we know nothing of the nature of any iinpress made upon their minds.” (P. 74.) Again, in pp. 109, 110, we have the following very singular paragraph, which we firmly believe fails, and more than fails, to convey whatever idea was actually in the mind of Mr. Knox, when he penned it : “ The innocency requisite in the believer, ere he may hope to avail himself of the Saviour's sacrifice, is distinctly announced in the written word.” Again, in allusion to our blessed Saviour's holy body (which his divine nature consecrated), as having, by undergoing death, saved the world, Mr. K. adds,—“ Brethren, the reflections which such truths awaken within us, are no less proud and cheering, than in all verity they are profoundly awful.”—P. 177.
The author makes use of equally unguarded language in his third sermon, and language equally remote from his own meaning. “I conclude then,” he remarks, "that further is not designed in Scripture, by the announcement that Christ took our nature upon him, than that, in assuming it, he adopted the external guise of humanity, together with its sinless accidents.”—P. 81.
It is possible that to the same vagueness of style, rather than to a design to promulgate an erroneous speculation, the following passage is to be attributed. “But was Christ in his divine nature a gainer by the glory to which he arrived ? Assuredly not; he asked for no higher glory than he had enjoyed before he left the bosom of the Father. Then the honour of Christ, as Son of God, was not advanced by it," &c. (P. 59.) The author's meaning appears indeed to be, that Christ's human nature was exalted on account of his voluntary humiliation in that nature, but that by the work of redemption, his divine nature acquired no additional honour or glory. But if we bear in mind that the glory of the blessed God is not confined to his own eternal perfections in the abstract, but extends to his counsels and workings as the Ruler of all worlds, and as the Father of the whole family of his chosen on earth and in heaven, we shall see that it is unscriptural to affirm, that no addition was made to his glory by the work of redemption, (by glory understanding the revelation of his glory to angels and men in that, the most glorious work of the Godhead). For Christ saved us by his divine, and not only by his human nature; and whereas his name of Jesus was exalted above every other name, that very name arose out of his divine nature, by which he was fitted for his work of redemption. He was called Jesus, that it might be fulfilled which was prophesied by Isaiah, that he should be God with us. As the Son of God, therefore, our blessed Saviour was manifested the more gloriously, by his becoming the sacrifice for our sins.