Imágenes de páginas

neous, and confused opinions to the world, the mischief he does to society is incalculable. Hume, Priestley, Bolingbroke, Voltaire, and especially Calvin, (with respect to his doctrine of absolute decrees,) are melancholy instances of the truth of this observation: for Calvin in particular, by these execrable doctrines, plants in the human mind those very corrosive errors, which he himself, in the 23d chapter of his Christian Institution, acknowledges to be most fatal to its peace; observing, "that the mind of man can be "infected with no error more pestilent than "that which plucketh down and thrusteth "the conscience from her peace and quiet"ness towards God." Lord Bacon remarks, "that the human mind doth wonderfully en"deavour, and extremely covet, that it may "not be pensile, (wavering,) but that it may "light upon some quiescent point, upon "something fixed and immoveable: and "that men do earnestly seek to have some "axis of their cogitations within themselves, "which may moderate the fluctuations and "wheelings of the understanding." Now a literal interpretation or construction of the doctrines of the Bible, as they relate to faith and practice, is calculated more than all

other books or doctrines in the world to give that quiescent point, that something fixed and immoveable, which his Lordship considers it as so great a desideratum to possess; for this holy book declares, "Thou wilt keep "him, O God, in perfect peace, whose mind "is stayed on thee:" which idea is thus finely paraphrased by the late Mr. Cowper:

Thou art the source and centre of all minds,
Their only point of rest, eternal Word!
From thee departing they are lost, and rove
At random without honour, hope, or peace.
From thee is all that sooths the life of man,
His high endeavour, and his glad success,
His strength to suffer, and his will to serve.
But oh, thou bounteous Giver of all good,
Thou art of all thy gifts thyself the crown!
Give what thou canst, without thee we are poor;
And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away.

As a strong corroboration, that a literal construction of Scripture, with respect to what we are to believe and practise, is all that is necessary to salvation, it is credibly asserted, that the very learned Bishop Butler (author of the Analogy*) declared, a little

* Respecting this most excellent book, I heard the late Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Douglas) declare, that he was present when Mr. Hume affirmed it as his opinion, that its contents could not be confuted by either Deist or Atheist.

while prior to his decease, that though so large a portion of his time had been devoted to a critical examination of the Scriptures, he entirely grounded his hopes of salvation on those plain texts of Scripture which were intelligible to men of the meanest capacities. I hope, however, not to be so misunderstood, as to be supposed to discourage a careful and elaborate study of the Scriptures in genera], and of the ten first chapters of Genesis, the Prophecies, Epistles, and many other parts, in particular; for without such study, and a competent knowledge of the manners, local customs, and idolatries of the eastern nations, they cannot be understood. I only mean to confine the observation to the great danger there is, and always will be, in the finite and imperfect intellect of man presuming to entertain any other ideas respecting the attributes and decrees of God, or of his past, present, and future dealings with mankind, or any other ideas which respect our faith and practice, than those which appeal in a plain unforced manner to the common sense of the human species, whether learned or unlearned; for, as Lord Bacon observes, "men fall, when they pre"tend to unravel the secrets of God merely "by the force of their own finite understand"ing, by the waxen wings of the senses."

If any Calvinist imagines, from what I have written respecting the doctrines of Calvin, that I am or have been actuated by a spirit of animosity or uncharitableness, he is extremely mistaken. I admire Calvin as a man of genius, as a classical writer, and, above all, for the noble and resolute opposition he made against the tyranny and errors of the Church of Rome, as much as he can do: his writings, and especially his numerous letters to Melancthon, Farrel, and others, are in the highest degree elegant and interesting. His Preface to his Christian Institution, addressed to Francis the First, in favour of the principles and conduct of the first Reformers, has always obtained the admiration of men of taste and erudition: and, as far as I am any judge, his Preface, " Montrant comment "Christ est la fin de la Loi," prefixed by him to the Bible, printed at Geneva in French in the year 1693, is as fine a composition, though of a different kind, as the one before mentioned; likewise the greatest part of his Christian Institution is very excellent; and nothing can more prove its being so than the morality and piety which evidently distinguish those

of his followers, who reject his doctrines of election and predestination*, (as I believe by far the greatest part of them do): but every thing was against Calvin at the time he flourished. Wollaston, in his Religion of Nature delineated, observes, " that truth is "the offspring of silence, of unbroken medi"tations, and of thoughts often revised and "corrected." The turbulence of the times when Calvin lived admitted not of this silence, leisure, or composure; neither were the Scriptures by any means so well understood as they are at present; they had for ages been secluded from the perusal of men by the Roman Pontiffs, and the secession from that power by the Reformation was much too recent, to have allowed of a general and critical perusal of them. Since Calvin's time the Scriptures have been carefully examined, with every advantage that could be derived from a state of leisure and peace, by men possessed of as much learning, piety,

* This sanctity of character among the Calvinists I had an opportunity of witnessing when in Germany: and though I was never in Scotland, Mr. Pennant, in his Tour through it, speaks of the body of the Scotch clergy as men of the correctest characters, and who, in general, possess great learning and piety; and which indeed is evident from their writings. I have heard the same character of them from other persons.

« AnteriorContinuar »