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Calvin's opinions on all the principal subjects of evangelical truth, and the leading controversies of that period, were the same with those which were entertained by Luther, and the most distinguished leaders in the reformation. Even Melancthon writes, in a letter to Calvin, speaking of predestination ; “I know that these remarks agree with your opinions; but mine, since they are less refined, are better adapted to common use." In another part of the same letter Melancthon says,
" In beautifying the great and essential doctrines of the Son of God, I wish you to exercise your eloquence, since it is able to confirm your friends, to terrify your enemies, and assist such as may be saved. For whose eloquence in reasoning is more nervous and splendid?” Were not Bucer and Peter Martyr employed in carrying on the reformation in England ? Are not their opinions the same, on all contested points, with Calvin's ? Why then should the Arminians of Holland and Great Britain labour to cast the whole blame upon
Calvin ? Did not Archbishop Usher, Bishop Hall, the judicious Hooker, entertain the same theological creed ? It is surely high time that these able champions of the same opinions should bear some part of the blame, if they deserve censure, with our weak and emaciated reformer. Theological hatred, the most virulent and deadly of all, has been long dealt out without measure, or justice, or truth, against the Genevese reformer in England, a nation justly distinguished for generosity ; but the time, it may be hoped, is not far distant, when new Horsleys will be raised up to break in pieces the arrows of calumny, and to make all the followers of the Prince of peace and truth ashamed to join the ranks of the infidels, in using the poisoned weapons of shameless detraction for the purpose of vilifying the character of one of the most holy—the
most undaunted-the most laborious, and the most disinterested followers of a crucified Redeemer.
Calvin's great excellence as a commentator consists in his giving, first, a concise, clear, full, and minute view of the scope, drift, and connexion of the whole passage he is explaining, with the accuracy and precision of uncommon logical sagacity and acuteness. He then, in the second place, generally analyzes the sense of each word, and points out its appropriate meaning in the sentence where it occurs. He uses, without any display, his immense stores of learning, for the purpose of illustrating what is dark, enlightening what is obscure, and confirming what is doubtful. His great object is to get to the pith of the subject under his consideration, and to break the shell, that he may give his readers the kernel. He approaches the only record in which Infinite Truth addresses lost mankind with all the feelings of sacred awe, but without superstitious dread; and his sole aim is to discover, by every possible means in his power, what was the mind of the Spirit, without labouring to make the Scriptures bend to his own prejudices, or to support his preconceived opinions. His Harmonies of the Law and Writings of Moses, and of the Gospel, display the accuracy and extent of his research, which is only surpassed by the correctness of his judgment. His views of Christian morality, in his various commentaries, are distinguished by a holy simplicity, which scorns to fritter away the principles of eternal wisdom, or to accommodate the unerring maxims of the gospel to the manners, customs, or practices of the world. The great aim of Calvin, in his numerous expositions, was to dispel the clouds of popish darkness by the glorious light and splendour of the word of the Most High.
None of the reformers understood the advantages of education more clearly than Calvin ; and the establishment of an excellent seminary in Geneva, both for human and divine learning, was one of the last actions of his life. Even now, when Geneva has generally deserted the standards of the original reformers, and joined those of Arius or Socinus, her sons rejoice in the great triumph achieved by the wisdom of Calvin over the power of Napoleon, who, on conquering Geneva, wanted courage to make any change in the system of education, which had been planned more than 200 years before Buonaparte was born by this distinguished friend of genuine Christianity, and of a truly scriptural education.*
Beza has left nothing to be added to his account of Calvin's death. Our reformer's unshaken confidence in his Redeemer, care for the prosperity of the state of Geneva, and the interests of religion in that city, afford a noble and unanswerable testimony to the piety and integrity of his life. May it be the constant prayer and labour of every Christian so to live that he may die the death of Calvin, and reposing with unshaken confidence in the promises of his Immanuel, triumph with unutterable joy in the prospects of that happiness which is prepared in the mansions of eternal peace and harmony for all that love the appearing of the King of glory.
* The Life of Calvin, by the Rev. Mr. Scott, is written with much judgment and impartiality.
Calvin wrote this Commentary in 1539, the same year when he published the second edition of his Institutes, with a view to make each illustrate the other. Nor did he cease during twenty-five years to follow up the same plan, that his Commentaries might form a mirror to his Institutes.
The following extract from Arminius, whom all must regard as an impartial judge, proves the high opinion which he entertained of Calvin's Commentaries :-" I exhort students to read, after the holy Scriptures, Calvin's Commentaries, who is incomparable in the interpretation of the sacred volume ; and his expositions ought to be more highly valued than all the writings of the ancient Christian Fathers ; so that, in a certain eminent spirit of prophecy, I give him the pre-eminence beyond mostnay, all others.”
The epistle of Paul to the Romans exhibits one of the finest specimens of close reasoning, and the most beautiful chain of argumentation, that is to be met with in any writer. He establishes in the most incontrovertible manner, both by facts and testimonies, the utter depravity, and the lost and ruined state of man, whether living under the beams of the splendour of revelation, or in the darkness and ignorance of polytheism. The writings of Cicero, particularly his Epistles, of Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Suetonius, and Tacitus, afford the most satisfactory evidence of the awful depravity of the heathen world. Josephus leaves us no doubt of the corrup
tion of the Jewish nation, which is fully confirmed by the testimony of heathen authors. * Principal Edwards, one of the ablest metaphysicians of any age, in his unanswered work on Original Sin, has left us the best and fullest exposition of the fifth chapter of this epistle ; and it ought to be carefully read by every student of theology, who is desirous to acquire habits of correct thinking, and to extend his acquaintance with the nature and character of
The salvation of infants is ably discussed by the Rev. Mr. Russel, Dundee, and the Rev. Mr. Bruce, of the Necropolis, Liverpool. Any reader desirous to enter more fully into the various opinions of the ancients concerning this subject, may consult Dr. Wall on Infant Baptism, where he will find sufficient to gratify his curiosity. The doctrine maintained by Fulgentius, that children, “ who die before birth, or without baptism, are consigned to the eternal punishment of everlasting fire,” will at present meet, we hope, with no advocates among the disciples of the gospel of the Son of God.
Bishop Hopkins, the judicious Hooker, Dr. Owen, Edwards, Witherspoon, Hervey, have illustrated the doctrine of justification by faith with a luminous
* Mere classical studies have rarely improved the morals of the scholar. What good can arise from a knowledge of all the crimes and vices of the gods and goddesses of antiquity? Should all our teachers illustrate the Scriptures by the writers of Greece and Rome, these depositaries of ancient wisdom and polite literature would contribute to give us 'a more extended and enlarged acquaintance with our own hearts and human nature, and thus confirm our faith in the grace and truth of the gospel. The study of the Greek writers, of the Septuagint, and Josephus, in conjunction with the Greek of the New Testament, would be the means of making better biblical critics, and sounder Christians. When will the time come that the word of God will be felt and appreciated by all as the best gift to ruined sinners ?