« ZurückWeiter »
of the Diocese of Lincoln at my last three triennial Visitations, with very considerable additions. The first of these Charges, upon Universal Redemption, I published in the year 1803, at the request of the Clergy; and having received a similar request respecting my Charges of 1806 and 1809, I deferred the publication of them, till I had completed the plan which I had formed to myself. It appeared to me, that the importance of the subjects, especially at the present moment, required that they should be discussed more at Jength than the time usually allowed to an Episcopal Charge will permit; and I thought that I might render some service to our Established Church, if I collected and published the sentiments of the Fathers of the first four or five centuries, upon these interesting points, and contrasted them with a sufficient number of passages from the Works of Calvin, to convey a clear idea of his system in his own words. I was scarcely aware of what I had undertaken, in this latter part of my plan. The duties of my very extensive Diocese, with other avocations of a private nature, did not soon afford me leisure for so laborious a work, as that of carefully examining nearly seventy folio volumes, and extracting from them what related to the subjects in question. I have, however, at length performed the task; and I deemed it incumbent upon me to make this statement,
as an apology to my Clergy, for what might otherwise have been considered a culpable tardiness in complying with their wishes, and in fulfilling my own promise.
I feel great satisfaction in being able to lay before my Readers a mass of such consistent and decisive evidence, extending from Ignatius and Clement of Rome, who were contemporaries with the Apostles, to Theodoret, who lived in the fifth century, and comprehending almost every Ecclesiastical Writer within that period. The little which remains of those writers, from whose works no extracts are given, contains nothing relative to the Calvinistic system. I desire it to be understood, that I have not selected what suits my own purpose, and suppressed what would have made against me. My inquiry bas not furnished a single passage in any of the works of the antient Fathers of the Christian Church, in which any one of the peculiar tenets of Calvin is maintained, with the exception of the later writings of Augustine, who did not live till the very end of the fourth century. If Calvinists pretend that absolute decrees, the unconditional election and reprobation of individuals, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the entire destruction of free-will in man in consequence of the Fall, were the doctrines of the Primitive Church of Christ,
let them cite their authority, let them refer to the works in which these doctrines are actually taught. If such opinions were really held, we could not fail to meet with some trace of them in the various and voluminous works of the numerous authors which are still extant. I assert, that no such trace is to be found; and I challenge the Calvinists of the present day to produce an author prior to Augustine, who maintained what are now called Calvinistic opinions. What weight is due to Augustine, I leave my Readers to decide, when they shall have seen my quotations from the greater part of his works in the Sixth Chapter, and also the observations respecting him in the concluding Chapter. But in any case he is but one, unsupported by any earlier writer (and even by himself, before his judgment was perverted by the warmth of the Pelagian controversy), against a cloud of witnesses, all of whom lived nearer to the Apostolical times, and concur in bearing an opposite testimony, in uninterrupted succession, through a period of four complete centuries. Ex ipso ordine manifestatur, id esse Dominicum et verum, quod sit prius traditum ; id autem extraneum et falsum, quod sit posterius immissum (a).
(a) Tert, de Præsc. Hær. p.213.
I have placed the Authors from whose works I have given extracts, in chronological order, and stated the
my Readers might have the means of judging of the correctness of the translations, which it has been my endeavour to make as literal as is consistent with perspicuity, I have mentioned the edition, volume, and page, from which I have quoted.
There is so close a connexion between the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism, that I have sometimes found occasion to quote the same texts of Scripture, and to use the same arguments, in different Chapters. My design was to make each Chapter a whole; and I trust that this repetition, in the few instances in which it occurs, will be excused. I must also request my Readers to remember, that what I have said concerning the Parochial Clergy, was a part of my Visitation Charges already mentioned.
At the end of my last Charge, in adverting to the general state of religious opinions in this Country, I noticed the attempts, then recently made, to procure the repeal of the Laws which exclude Roman Catholics from certain offices and situations of trust and power; and I expressed my decided opinion, that those restraints could not be removed without extreme hazard to our Constitution in Church and State. But as this is a subject totally-unconnected with the points here discussed, I have not thought it necessary to insert that part of my Charge in the present Work.