« AnteriorContinuar »
kind, faith, good works, declining from God,
the nativity, the passion, the resurrection, the + descent of the Holy Ghost, the grace of God, and repentance.''
Here his Lordship, in a remarkable and very important manner, narrows his ground concerning the peculiar doctrines of Calvin.' Throughout the whole publication the reader is left, if not led, to consider the doctrine of original sin ; that of the will so enslaved by sin as to need special preventing grace to render it capable of choosing what in the sight of God is good; with our views of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and justification by faith alone, except modified in a manner, very different from the general way of explaining the doctrine; as 'tenets of Calvinism.' Nay, that 'men are saved according to his grace,' (the grace of God in Christ I suppose,) and not according 'to just works,' is said to contain in it the essence
of Calvinism :' and it forms that resemblance to the blasphemous Simon Magus, which involves not only us inferior persons, but the eminent Calvin himself, in all the guilt of Simon's heresies. 2 But here, in respect to this negative argument, (viz. that what contains nothing of Calvinism is not Calvinistic,) there is no intimation of any thing but what relates to predestination, election, absolute decrees, irrespective partial redemption, perseverance, reprobation, or irresistible grace; that is, to the subject of the fourth chapter of the Refutation exclusively. The quotations from the Homilies, on original sin, (especially that expression,' without any spark of goodness in him,' which Ref. 587, 588.
? Ref. 571,580.
was supposed by his Lordship to be the language of some modern Calvinistic writer,') are sufficiently decisive: as are those on special preventing grace, and on justificaion by faith alone. From these, very decided quotations have been adduced to prove that the Homilies are expressly Calvinistic on those points. The subject of regeneration has been fully discussed, in the remarks on the second chapter: so that this negative argument is wholly confined to the tenets refuted, or attempted to be refuted, in the fourth chapter.-Now I would unreservedly acknowledge, that little decidedly Calvinistic, as to these tenets, is to be found in the book of Homilies; except as, according to an illustration before used, they contain an infusion : and the taste of this particular ingredient will be perceived in every part, by those “ who, “ by reason of use, have their senses exercised to “ discern good and evil.” When the Homilies were compiled, preachers were very scarce ; so that one of our reformers says, there were not more than two or three in a county; and it is evident that the Homilies were specially intended to supply this great deficiency. “And considering how that • all they which are appointed ministers have not the gift of preaching sufficiently to instruet the
people which is committed to them, whereof • great inconveniences might arise, and ignorance "might still be maintained, if some honest remedy • be not found out and provided :'? This being the case, when homilies were compiled to supply the place of sermons, among an ignorant people just emerging from popery, and scarcely capable of reRef. 54.
? Preface to Homilies, 1562.
ceiving “ the first principles of the oracles of God," who especially “needed milk, and not strong “ meat;” can it be wondered at, that the deep points of predestination, election, reprobation, &c. were not expressly entered into, in these elementary instructions ? Indeed so many Calvinists seem to have mistaken this distinction, between milk and strong meat for grown men, that the wisdom of our reformers is, on this account, entitled to our admiration, and worthy of our imitation.
[To shew that this is not an opinion taken up by the author for the special occasion of answering this ' negative argument,' he must again trespass on the readers patience by stating, that, in a
Discourse on Repentance,' published first in 1785, ' a Treatise on Growth in Grace,' published in the form of a sermon, 1786; in a volume of Essays
on the most important subjects in religion,' 1794; and in a discourse on · The Warrant and Nature
of Faith, published afterwards; but all subsequently to his having openly avowed the tenets called Calvinistic on these special points; there is as little on the subject of his Lordship's fourth chapter as in the book of Homilies. I suppose these opuscula contain (to recur to an allusion before made,) an infusion of these doctrines, but you cannot find them in the lump.-And I am confident that, if the more experienced and Calvinistic of the evangelical clergy were called on to supply a set of lectures, homilies, or sermons, for the instruction of persons little acquainted with religion, they would observe the same caution : not because they do not believe these doctrines, but because
they do not think them proper instruction for careless or ignorant sinners, or for babes in Christ. And now, should any man come forward, and confidently aver that the author of the tracts above mentioned did not hold Calvinistical opinions, because they are not explicitly dwelt on in these books ; the author would only have to refer them to · The Force of Truth,' and to his ‘Sermon
on Election,' to confute this negative argument: and we have only to refer the reader to the passages in the Appendix, from Tindal, Cranmer, Ridley, Bradford, Hooper, and others, to set aside the force of it, as urged against the Calvinism of these reformers.-- When Paul had preached a
long sermon at Antioch, there" believed, as ' many as were ordained to everlasting life.” With which saying a great number of people have been offended, and have said ; We perceive, that only
those shall come to believe and to everlasting • life, which are chosen of God unto it: therefore it is no matter whatsoever we do ; for, if we be chosen of God to everlasting life, we shall have it. * And so they have opened a door unto themselves of all wickedness and carnal liberty, against the true meaning of the Scripture. Hence we may learn, to keep from all envious and dangerous
questions. When we hear that some be chosen, (and some be damned, let us have a good hope that 'we shall be among the chosen ; and live after this • hope, that is, uprightly and godly, and then we
shall not be deceived. Think that God hath chosen " those that believe in Christ, and that Christ is the book of life. If thou believest in him, then thou art written in the book of life, and shalt be
' saved.'' Latimer goes on to shew how men might know that their names are written in the book of life. This is the general way of treating the subject. He never opposes the strongest tenets of his more systematical brethren ; he never attempts to explain in a different way any text of scripture which his brethren considered as containing this doctrine. Even after stating the perversion of the doctrine in the strongest terms, he says nothing against the doctrine itself. He ever seems to concede the truth of the tenet; and only to be desirous of guarding against perversions of it, and of improving it to practical purposes. And were not controversy in some cases needful, the manner of this most excellent martyr might be the best, in all respects. But his indecision, as to a systematical statement of his sentiments, rendered it less needful to adduce quotations from him ; except as they are here called for.
We are free agents; yet we have by nature no will to what is good in the sight of God: they who boast that they have a will should shew it in their lives. They are, compared with others, like men who have got wings : let them shew this by soaring above earthly things, and aspiring “ at “ those things which are above, where Christ sit“ teth at the right hand of God;" and not lie grovelling on the earth, and cleaving to the dust, as others do. Let them not think it enough to equal the exertions and attainments of those who form a far different estimate of the moral powers of our fallen nature, yet can say, “ By the grace “ of God, I am what I am ;” but let them prove
'Latimer, Fathers of the English Church, vol. ii. p. 689. VOL. VIII.,