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to them, but seldom used by us,-expressions and phrases which may be very generally accounted for, by a careful consideration either of the prevailing errors of their day, which they laboured to subvert, or of the truths which they were solicitous to establish.
Quotations from the Fathers that are Unscriptural both
in Language and Sentiment.
1. Remarks on the Christian Fathers as Teachers. § 2. Quotations respecting Man as the cause and preserver of his own goodness, from IREN ÆUS. $3. From Origen. $ 4. From ATA4
s 5, 6. From CHRYSOSTOM. § 7. From CLEMENT of Alexandria. $8. On the cause of difference and variety in
creatures, from ORIGEN. $9. On Free-Will ceasing with this life, from HILARY. 10. On redemption, from Hilary. s 11. On the permission of good, from JEROME. § 12-14. Ou God being good not of necessity, from JEROME.
15. On Free-Will being weakened by grace, from JEROME. $ 16, 17. On no one being born without Christ, from JEROME. $ 18, 19. On a middle life and a middle sentence, from JEROME. $20--25. On the doctrine of Election, from JerOME. § 26–28.-On Baptism conferring grace, from CHRYSOSTOM.
29. On graces given having no crowns, from CHRYSOSTOM. $ 30-33. On grace not preventing our choice, from CHRYSOSTOM and
$1. The Christian Fathers did not propose themselves to the church of Christ as infallible teachers; in this respect, they occupied the same rank with Christian ministers in subsequent ages, those of the present day not excepted. They professed only to explain the sacred oracles, and their explanations have no claim of exemption from being brought to the test of liberal criticism and sound principles. There was a time, indeed, when the ipse dixit of a canonized
Father, in the church, went as far in deciding a point of controversy, as an appeal to any sentence of the Stagyrite went to set at rest a knotty point of debate in the Aristotelian school. But by consistent Protestants those days are viewed with an eye of pity, as days of darkness and superstition. What is truly scriptural, devotional, and rational, we should thankfully receive and improve; but what we may find in them of an opposite character, is by no means to be imposed upon us under the patronage of sainted or pompous titles, or by the argumentum ad verecundiam. Many of them were learned and pious, faithful and zealous; and these are our helpers, though not our masters. But many of them (and occasionally the very best) were fanciful rather than judicious interpreters of scripture; and in such instances therefore are not our guides to truth, but are rather beacons to warn us of our danger. To examine their defects is not a pleasant task; but the Bishop of Lincoln, by giving them so much publicity, has rendered some notice of them unavoidable; in a professed examination of his work.
§ 2. Some of these Fathers, after the most ample allowance made for their circumstances, speak of man as the cause of his own goodness and preservation; in an unjustifiable strain. Thus, for example, IRENÆUS: ““ Bụt man, being
and in confounding free-will with the proper
endowed with reason, and in this respect like 'to God, being made free in his will, and
having power over himself, is himself the cause • that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff"'*
It may be said, he contended against heretical fatalists, who ascribed to every one a fixed and unchangeable nature. Very true; but this is like opposing one heresy by adv. ncing another. Man indeed has free-will, and " is himself the cause” of the sinfulness of his actions, whereby he becomes “ chaff.” But it is not true, that, in like manner, he "is himself the cause” of the goodness of his actions, whereby he becomes “ wheat." The error consists in ascribing opposite effects to the same cause;
cause of moral good or evil. If he meant to convey this idea—that our good and bad actions may be traced to free-will---We grant it; but we cannot admit this as the ultimate “cause" of either, much less of good actions. We allow further, that the immediate cause of our actions, whether good or bad, is in ourselves, as either an efficient or a deficient principle; but then this is very different from saying that man" is himself the cause of his becoming wheat.” The great fallacy consists in making man as mich the cause of his good as of his evil: while the holy scrip
* Refut. p. 302.
tures very explicitly ascribe all our good to God, and all our evil to ourselves.* The same error is involved in the following sentence, by the same author : 6" But he has placed the power of choice in man, as also in angels, (for angels are endowed with reason,) that those who should obey might justly possess good, * given indeed by God, but preserved by them• selves.”'t We think with the scriptures of truth, that God is our preserver; and that we are “preserved” or “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” The Lord is our keeper, our shepherd, our strong tower. If it had been said, it is our duty to preserve ourselves from the defilements of sin, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and in the love of God, it might be received as a scriptural truth. This, however, is widely different from asserting that the good received by men is “preserved by themselves."
§ 3. It appears to me that the following sentence in Origen is not unexceptionable: ““ But because these vessels of which we speak, are to • be considered as rational, and endowed with 'free-will, every one is made a vessel of honour, or a vessel of dishonour, not by accident or
* See James i. 14-18. 2 Cor. iv, 6--and 1 Cor. iv. 7. + Refut. p. 304.