« AnteriorContinuar »
much spoken of, preached in confoimity to them. But I was not under any scruples, or great uneasiness on this account. I had hitherto no doubts; or rather, I had never much thought of, or examined into the doctrine of the Trinity, but supposed all was right there.
Some years after, many doubts concerning that doctrine, which had sprung up in the mind at different times and from various causes, compelled me to a closer study of the Scriptures with regard to it; for the state of suspense I was in was very uneasy to me.
The more I searched, the more I saw the little foundation there was for the doctrine commonly received, and interwoven with all the public devotions of the church, and could not but be disturbed at a discovery so ill suiting my situation. For in the end I became fully persuaded, to use St. Paul's express words, 1 Cor. viii. 6, that there is but one God the Father, and he alone to be worshiped. This appeared to be the uniform, unvaried language and practice of the Bible throughout. And I found the sentiments and practice of Christians in the first and best ages * corresponding with it. In a course
* Athanasius, and others of the post-Nicene fathers, were much posed how to digest and reconcile to their new doctrine the language that had been used by such apostolic characters that had lived before them, as Dionysius of Alexandria, and Gregory of Neocæsarea, concerning Christ ; who hesitated not to call him a creature, made, and the like.
of time afterwards, in the progress and result of this inquiry, my scruples wrought so far as to put me upon actually taking some previous steps, with a design to relieve myself by quitting my preferment in the church. What prevented this resolution from taking place and being completed, I go on to relate.
1. Destined early, and educated for the ministry, and my heart engaged in the service, when the
They were reduced to say, that such expressions were used according to a certain oeconomy, as they styled it, but which was a thing entirely of their own imaginations: or, that they were ex;ressions uttered only in the way of dispute and to carry a point against an adversary, and not the real sentiments of those worthy persons; an imputation of disingenuity and artifice, which could only belong to those who invented it.
This way of getting over such expressions concerning Christ in the Scriptures, and other early writings, which are thought to lower him too much for some men's systems, has now given place to what is called the two natures in Christ; a circumstance of which our Saviour Christ himself appears wholly unconscious, and his apostles tell us nothing about it. Irenæus was certainly ignorant of it, where in one place, alluding to Mark xiii. 32, he says, “ Since Our Lord himself, the Son of God, owned that the Father alone knew the day and the hour of judgment, when he said expressly,
Of that day, and that hour, knoweth know one, not the Son, but the Father only:' let us not think much to reserve to God questions that are far more difficult in respect of our capacities. For we are not greater than our Master." Irenæus, Lib. ii. C. 48.
moment of determination came, I felt a reluctance at casting myself out of my profession and way of usefulness, that quite discouraged me. This was probably heightened by my being alone at the time, having no intimate friend to consult or converse with, and my imagination might be shocked by the strangeness and singularity of what I was going to do; for such subjects then, upwards of fifteen years ago, were not so much canvassed, or become so fainiliarized as they have been since. These apprehensions, I am convinced, had great sway at the time, and not any worldly retrospects or motives, by which I was never much influenced. And beside, I had then a prospect of not being left entirely destitute of support, if I had gone out of the church.
But I did not enough reflect, that when unlawful compliances of any sort are required, the first dictates of conscience, which are generally the rightest, are to be attended to, and that the plain road of duty and uprightness will always be found to lead to the truest good in the end, because it is that which is chalked out by God himself. *
* Says one of the ejected ministers, after the restoration in 1660, Mr. Oldfield, of Carsington, Derbyshire, in his private MS. soliloquy and deliberation with himself, which fell into Dr. Calamy's hands; “ When thon canst no longer continue in thy work, without dishonour to God, discredit to religion, foregoing thy integrity, wounding conscience,
-God doth not need
Milton, Sonnet xs.
2. Many worthy persons, and some of my own acquaintance, whose opinions varied little from mine, could nevertheless satisfy themselves so as to remain in the church and officiate in it. Why then, it often occurred to me, and others did not spare to remonstrate ; why must I alone
spoiling thy peace, and hazarding the loss of thy salvation; in a word, when the conditions upon which thou must continue (if thou wilt continue) in thy employments are sinful, and unwarranted by the word of God; thou mayest, yea, thou must believe, that God will turn thy very silence, suspension, deprivation, and laying aside, to his glory and the advancement of the gospel's interest. When God will not use thee in one kind, yet he will in another. A soul that desires to serve and honour him, shall never want opportunity to do it: nor must thou so limit the Holy One of Israel, as to think he hath but one way in which he can glorify himself by thee. He can do it by thy silence, as well as by thy preaching; thy laying aside, as well as thy continuance in thy work." And a little after, towards the conclusion; “ 'Tis not pretence of doing God the greatest service, or performing the weightiest duty, that will excuse the least sin, though that sin capacitated or gave us the opportunity for the doing that duty. Thou wilt have little
be so singularly nice and scrupulous, as not to comply with what wiser and better men could accommodate themselves to; but disturb others, and distress myself, by enthusiastic fancies, purely my own, bred in gloomy solitude, which by time, and the free communication and unfolding of them to others, might be dispersed and removed, and give way to a more cheerful and enlarged way of thinking? It was worth the while at least to try such a method, and not rashly to take a step of which I might long repent.
3. It was suggested, that I was not author or contriver of the things imposed and complained of. All I did was ministerial only, in submission to civil authority, which is, within certain limitations, the authority of God; and which had
thanks, O my soul, if when thou art charged with corrupting God's worship, falsifying thy vows, &c. thou pretendest a necessity for it, in order to a continuance in the ministry," &c.
Calamy's Account (Vol. II. p. 175), of Ministers who suffered themselves to be ejected and silenced, to the number of two thousand, rather than submit to the new impositions, and subscribe and conform to the liturgy and articles, against their consciences: a long list, that does honour to human nature, and to our own country in particular, which has hitherto taken the lead in the restoration of God's true religion : for Wickliffe held up the light to Luther that came after him; and may England still hold it up to the rest of the nations!