Page images





CHAP. I. Miscellaneous remarks on the Reformation-its rise and progress on the continent-introduction into this island, and effects upon this town.

The reformation formed a new era in the history of the world, and was one of those mighty revolutionary cvents which have a most extensive and lasting effect on the affairs and destinies of mankind. But men have been ever since greatly divided in their ideas and judgments concerning it. While some have hailed it as a most happy, admirable, and glorious event, fraught with beaven's choicest blessings, it has been deemed by others, and even by a large majority of the inhabitants of christendom, as an exceedingly unfortunate, pernicious, and execrable occurrence, which has produced all manner of mischief, and, like the opening of Pandora's box, filled the world with calamities and


miseries innumerable. The learned and the wise, as well as the illiterate and the foolish, have been found among each of these opposite and contending parties: their respective opinions and allegations must therefore be entitled to a serious and candid hearing. But it is not intended here to go deeply or largely into this disputed subject: nor would it well accord with the plan or design of this publication. · Some cursory hints, however, on a few of the most prominent facts will not, it is presumed, be either impertinent or unin. structive.

Section 1. Statement of different and opposite opinions respecting the reformation--with brief remarks.

Thé reformation, like the French revolution, seems to have been too much admired by its friends, and too much . vilified by its enemies. The former, for the most part, perceive nothing in it but what is praise worthy and divine, and the latter nothing but what is detestable and devilish. The truth, probably, lies somewhere about midway between these two extremes, as is usual in most of the disputes that divide and agitate the world. The reformation had certainly some good points in it, as well as some very bad ones, that can never be too much reprobated and detested. Had they been all bad, its friends would have defended them, for they have actually and unblushingly defended its

[ocr errors]

very worst points ; * and had they been all good, its enemies, on the other hand, would not fail to condemn them, for they have really done so with its very best parts, whose intrinsic or essential goodness and bene. ficial tendency are most obvious and demonstrable. +

The friends of the reformation consider the original and chief actors in that great revolutionary work as excellent men, actuated by a right apostolical and christian spirit, with a view to the restoration of primitive christianity, and the promotion of the best interests of mankind.. Their opponents, on the contrary, consider them in a very different light, and hold them up as persons of a disreputable character, who were actuated by very unworthy and base motives, from whose thoughts nothing could be further than the restoration of genuine christianity, or the promoting of real benevolence, philanthropy, or human happiness. It will not be safe to give implicit credit to either of these representations. There were, certainly, some good men concerned in the reformation, and there were also some very bad men concerned in it, whose misdeeds ought never to be palliated; and these were probably the most numerous and the most powerful, or the work, surely, would have been more worthy of our praise and admiration.

4 G 2 * Such as the lawfulness of suppressing reputed error by violence, or of contending for the faith and extirpating beresy by fire and sword.

+ Por instance, translating the scriptures into the vulgar tongue, and putting them into the hands of the ci muon people, that love y might examine and judge for themselves,

The reformation, in the judgment of its admirers, was eminently calculated to promote the cause of truth and virtue, and inculcate the practice of piety, morality, and all manner of good works. All this, however, is flatly contradicted by the champions of the opposite cause, who positively affirm that the doctrines of the reformers were, in the very nature of them, of an evil, immoral and impious tendency:-alluding to the grand Lutheran tenet of justification by faith without works, * and to the famous Calvinian notion of predestination, as extending to all the deeds of men, bad and good, or that all human actions, even the very worst, originate in the Divine decrees, or will of God. + This opinion of the evil tendency of the reformation, or of the reformed doctrine, they represent as further cor.

* Bucer owns, as will be seen further on, that their converts considered this doctrine as favourable to their licentious propensities.

+ “I say, (says Calvin,) that by the ordination and will of God Adam fell. God would have man fall. Man is blinded by the will and commandment of God. We refer the causes of hardening to God. The highest and remote cause of hardening is the will of God. It followeth that the hidden counsel of God is the cause of hardening.”[see Barclay's Apology, Edit. 1703, p-113, where reference is made to those places in Calviu's Works where these expressions are found. ] Those who are acquainted with this reformer's Institution, must know that many passages to the same purpose, and equally strong, occur there.- Others of the reformers come not a whit behind Calvin in the boldness of their language on this topic.-"God (says Beza) hath predestinated, not only unto damnation, but also unto the causes of it, whomsoever he saw meet. The decree of God cannot be excluded from the causes of corruption.”_"It is certain (says Zanchius) that God is the first cause of obduration. Reprobates are held so fast under God's alınighty decree, that they cannot but sin and perish."-"God(says Peter Martyr) doth incline and force the wills of wicked men into great sins.”_"God, (says Zuinglius) moreth the robber to kill. He Killeth, God forcing him thereuuto." [See Ban lay, as before ]

« PreviousContinue »