Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

BOOK V.

ON THE REMAINING CHAPTERS OF THE REFUTATION.

CHAPTER I.

ON THE FIFTH CHAPTER OF THE REFUTATION, CONSISTING OF QUOTATIONS FROM THE FATHERS.

I Have already stated an opinion concerning the authority of the ancient fathers in general;' and shall here merely subjoin a few quotations from learned writers not Calvinists, respecting some individuals among them, with a few remarks on them severally.

Justin Martyr. 'Without detracting from 'the merits of this worthy man, we ought to 'acknowledge, what truth and plain matter of 'fact extort from us, that he, and the rest of the 'fathers, are poor and insufficient guides in things 'of judgment and criticism, and in the interpre'tation of the scriptures; and sometimes in points 'of morality also, and of doctrine, as Dall£, Whit'by, Barbeyrac, and others have fully shewed. 'The men themselves usually deserve much re'spect, and their writings are highly useful on 'several accounts: but it is better to defer too 'little than too much to their decision; and to 'the authority of Antiquity, that hand-maid to 'scripture, as she is called. She is like Briareus,

1 SeeB. II. c.iv. * 1.

'having a hundred hands, and these hands often 'clash, and beat one another.''—Dr. Cave, in the life of Justin Martyr, observes, ' that he is com'monly said to be guilty of some unorthodox 'sentiments and opinions, disagreeing with the 'received doctrines of the church.'—' Having been 'brought up under so many several institutions 'of philosophy; and coming, as most of the first 'fathers did, fresh out of the schools of Plato; it 'is the less to be wondered at, if the notions which 'he there imbibed stuck to him, and he endea'voured, as much as might be, to reconcile the 'Platonic principles with the dictates of Chris'tianity.' Dr. Cave's strong attachment to the ancient fathers is well known; and such a concession from him is of great moment. But, if Justin corrupted Christianity by philosophy, are we bound to bow to him as an oracle, or copy him as an example, merely because he lived in the second century? When such authorities are adduced, must we not say, " Beware lest any man "spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, "after the traditions of men, after the rudiments "of the world, and not after Christ; for in him "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; "and ye are complete in him;" "In whom are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge: "and this I say, lest any man should beguile you "with enticing words."2

Iren.sus. In the quotations from this father, making nearly ten pages of the Refutation, no one particular doctrine of Christianity is expressly mentioned, except as baptismal regeneration, and the form of baptism, " in the name of the Father, "and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," are introduced. The lost estate of fallen man; the person of the Redeemer; the doctrine of the atonement; salvation by grace; justification by faith; renewal to holiness by the divine Spirit; in general the office and operation of the Holy Spirit, however- understood; the love of Christ, and of the Spirit; repentance, conversion, and fruits meet for repentance; evangelical motives to obedience; the constraining love of Christ;- a desire to adorn his gospel; love to his people, and to all men for his sake; "the work of faith, the "labour of love, and the patience of hope;" in short, all that is peculiar to Christianity, except a form, a name, a notion, is as much left out of sight, as if nothing of the kind had ever been made known by the gospel to mankind. Either this ancient father of the Christian church was a very incompetent teacher of Christianity, or a very defective assortment of quotations has been made from his writings. But, however this may be, are we to learn Christianity from men, who almost approximate to heathen morals and philosophy; in opposition to the doctrine of scripture, and the truly scriptural doctrine of our liturgy, articles, and homilies? One we must oppose, or at least neglect; for they are perfectly incompatible: and we, the evangelical clergy, deliberately choose to abide by the Bible, the Prayer Book, and the book of Homilies; whatever Ifena?us, or the ancient fathers of the Christian church, have advanced inconsistent with what we there read.—' One cannot help wishing that they' (the Christians of those times) ' had been more 'circumspect and less credulous; but perhaps 'Providence would not preserve them from these 'errors and defects, that it might plainly appear 'that they were men in no manner comparable 'to the first disciples of Jesus Christ, and con'sequently altogether incapable of forging the 'books of the New Testament.''

'Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I. p. 352, 353; Col. ii. 2—4, 8, 9.

Clemens Alexandrinus. 'That thing is in 'our own power, of which we are equally masters 'as of its opposite; as, to philosophise or not; to 'believe or not.'2

Clement understood philosophising better than believing, (that is, as a doctrine,) or he would not in this manner have put the two on exactly the same ground. Indeed man has power to believe or not to believe, nearly as much as to philosophise or not to philosophise; provided the humbling, holy, and spiritual truths of the gospel are not concerned: but to these his unrenewed heart has so strong an aversion, that it excites his prejudices and passions, and renders the most conclusive evidence insufficient. "How can ye believe, "who receive honour one of another, and seek "not the honour which cometh from God only." "Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me "not." "Men love darkness rather than light, "because their deeds are evil."3 But the same aversion, pride, ungodliness, perverse prejudices, and corrupt passions, would not prevent their philosophising. Indeed, he is not deeply conversant even in the philosophy of the human mind, who is not aware that something beyond demonstration is needful, to convince a man of the truth of that which he exceedingly desires may not be true.

1 Le Clerc, as quoted by Jortin. "Clem. Al. Ref. 314.

'John iii. 18, 19. v. 44. viii. 45.

The only impression which the quotations from this ancient father have made on my mind is this; that he is far more heterodox than I had supposed him to be. There are in Clement many opinions, neither scriptural, nor agreeing with what we reverence next to scripture, the articles, liturgy, and homilies of our church: and likewise, as far as these quotations go, there is an almost total want of those peculiar principles of Christianity, which distinguish it from natural religion. Very few things are advanced, which, with a trivial variation, a moralizing heathen might not have said. There is nothing concerning man as a fallen creature, as lost, and in perishing need of a Saviour; scarcely any thing concerning the person and offices of Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King; his atonement, righteousness, and intercession; justification by faith, the work and influences of the Holy Spirit, or our renewal and sanctification by him. In short, the deficiencies render the whole more incompatible with the creed and experience of a pious Anticalvinist, than any positive statements contained in it render it opposite to the tenets of Calvinism.

Tertulman. 'Besides Tertullian's own vehe'ment and rigid disposition, the ill usage, which 'he received from the ecclesiastics of the church 'of Rome, contributed to make him a Montanist. 'Thus he lost the title of saint.'—' Charity bids

« AnteriorContinuar »