Imágenes de páginas

dices and partiality would be as likely to colour the account given to the world, and transmitted to posterity by the opposite party; while the very circumstances, in which they were placed, would render it impracticable for them to substantiate the authenticity of their narrative in the same manner. Yet, contrary to all rules of a sober and unbiassed judgment, the unauthenticated histories given by the Remonstrantsl of the Synod of Dort have, almost exclusively, been noticed and credited by posterity, especially in this country, to the neglect of the authentic, records.2 In giving the translation of this history I would merely say, Audi alteram partem. 'Do riot read the authenticated narration with greater suspicions of unfairness, than you do those which are not so fully authenticated. Let not your approbation of what you suppose to have been the doctrine of the Remonstrants, or your aversion to that of the ContraRemonstrants, bias your mind in this respect; but judge impartially.' One of these histories was drawn up by a man, Peter Heylin, who has been fully convicted of misrepresenting the very articles of the Synod in the grossest manner; and has thus misled great numbers to mistake entirely the real import and nature of the decisions made by it. I appeal to the Abbreviation, as it is called, of the Articles of the Synod of Dort, as compared with the real Articles themselves, in another part of this publication- So scandalous a misrepresentation, which has lately been implicitly adopted by many others, should render the impartial reader cautious in giving implicit credit to other statements made by the same party, however celebrated the names of some of them may be.,

1 So called from a Remonstrance presented by them to the States of Holland and West Friesland, against the doctrines of their opponents, or those of the Federated churches of Belgium.

'Neither Mosheim, nor his translator Maclaine, mentions this history; while they refer to a variety of authorities on both sides of the question, in their narrative of these transactions. So that it is even probable that they had never seen it. Whether the severe measures by which the decisions of this Synod were followed up; and especially the strict prohibition of printing or vending any other account, in Latin, Dutch, or French, in the Federated provinces, during seven years, without a special licence for that purpose; did not eventually conduce to this, may be a question. The measure, however, was impolitic, if not unjustifiable.

When I first entered on this part of my undertaking, I purposed merely to give a short abstract of the history, just enough to render the subsequent part of the work intelligible to the less learned or studious reader: but, whether it were the result of partiality, or of unbiassed judgment, I found myself so deeply interested in the events recorded, (which were almost entirely new to me,) that my reluctancy to translating and transcribing the whole was overcome: and I determined to give it entire, with a few remarks on different parts, to the English reader. As far as I am competent to judge, it possesses every internal evidence of authenticity and fairness; and of impartiality, as far as even pious men, exactly circumstanced as the writers were, in the present imperfect state of human nature, can be expected to be impartial. It is, I think, also drawn up with a degree of calmness and moderation, far different from that fierce and fiery zeal which is generally supposed to belong to all who profess, or are sus


pected of, what many in a very vague and inappropriate manner call Calvinism. And, though according to the fashion of those times, epithets are in some instances applied both to men and opinions, which modern courtesy, nay, perhaps Christian meekness, would have suppressed; yet, if I mistake not, they are more sparingly employed in this than in any contemporary controversial publication. Indeed the higher points of what is called Calvinism are far less insisted on, and the opponents of those points far more moderately censured, than might have been expected; while the doctrines commonly called orthodox, as opposed by Pelagians, Arians, and Socinians, are strongly maintained, and the opposers of them strenuously, nay, severely, condemned. Even Mosheim allows, that the triumph of the Synod was that of the Sublapsarians, not only over the Arminians, but over the Supralapsarians also.l

In order to the impartial reading of this history, it should be previously recollected, and well considered, that all the Belgic churches were, from the first, Presbyterian in government and discipline; and constituted according to that plan, with presbyteries, classes, provincial synods, and general synods of all the federated provinces ; and with all those rules and methods for admission into the ministry, and to the pastoral charge in distinct congregations, and to situations in universities and schools of learning, which form a constituent part of it; as well as of that strict discipline connected with it, implying not only excommunication of lay-members, but the suspension or silencing of pastors; and excluding from their office academical teachers and professors on account of heresy in doctrine, and gross inconsistency of conduct, proved against them in their classes or synods. Through the whole history it appears, that no other form of government was proposed even by the Remonstrants; nor any thing mentioned about toleration in that respect; though their measures evidently tended to subvert the whole system. All the funds likewise, reserved for religious purposes, were appropriated entirely in consistency with the Presbyterian model; and all academical honours and distinctions were conferred in that line.

1 Ecclesiastical History, vol. v. p. 368.

This, beyond doubt, having been the case; and the principal persons concerned in the controversy against the Remonstrants, having been zealously, and most of them at least conscientiously, attached to this system; so that it appeared to them as if the very interests of vital religion were intimately, if not inseparably, connected with it; he must be a most unreasonable and partial Antipresbyterian, who can expect from men of this stamp, that they would permit their whole system, and all its operations, to be retarded, disturbed, nay, totally deranged and subverted, and the whole state of their churches thrown into confusion and anarchy, without vigorous struggles to prevent a catastrophe, in their view so deplorable and ruinous. Even in this age and land few persons, of supposed candour and liberality of mind, among either zealous episcopalians or independents, seem inclined tamely to witness the subversion of their favourite system, without employing the most effactual means of preventing it which are fairly within their reach. Indeed it is not in human nature, and cannot reasonably be expected. Nor, till men are convinced that it is not the cause of God, nor essential to that of true religion, would it be right thus to yield it up to their opponents. But, when measures of this nature are adopted, at first simply in self-defence, against aggressors, in order to preserve advantages already possessed by law and custom ; it must also be expected that, in the eagerness of a violent and protracted contest, even conscientious men will, through remaining prejudices and evil passions, excited and irritated by what they judge injurious usage, be betrayed into some unjustifiable measures; of which their opponents will make great advantage, and which even impartial spectators cannot justify or excuse. If then this should appear to have been the case in the Belgic contest, with the opposers of the Remonstrants, as well as with the Remonstrants themselves; it ought neither to excite our surprise, nor prejudice us so deeply against the whole company, as to involve them, on account of it, in one sweeping sentence of condemnation.

Again, it is well known, at least it is capable of the most complete proof, in respect of the doctrines controverted during this period in Belgium; that the Confession and Catechism of the Belgic churches were entirely on the side of the ContraRemonstrants. Their appeal is constantly made to those articles; not under the disadvantage, in which some of us in England appeal to the articles of our established church, while our opponents,

« AnteriorContinuar »