« ZurückWeiter »
Christians speak of three orders of ministers in the Church, and de clare that none but Bishops have a right to ordain, that it appears almost impossible forany one who candidly examines their writings, any longer to doubt that Episcopacy was the original form of Church government. These writers have even given us the succession of Bishops in a number ofChurches, from the Apostles downward, for three centuries,to the time of Constantine the Great; and from that time, for eleven centuries more the Church throughout the world was Episcopal; and, even at the present moment, more than nine tenths, and it is believed more than nineteen twentieths of the professing Christians in the world, acknowledge the authority of Bishops, and adhere to the Episcopal mode of Church discipline. So that the people of this persuasion in America need not suspect themselves to be in the wrong, because they appear to be of the weaker sect; for they find "a vast majority on their side ; and though they are here called, as Moses called the Israelites, the fewest of all people, yet this Church shall never be forsaken; for Christ has promised to be with it, with that commission which he gave to the Apostles, and they to their successors, always, even unto the end of the world. Thus, however this Church may at any time be depressed by factions and divisions and unworthy members, it shall never be wholly abandoned: God will not wholly take away his loving kindness from it, nor suffer his truth or promise to fail, Psalm 39.33. And, however that apostolical commission, which is given and perpetuated to the Bishops, may be despised, yet Christ himself will not forsake it: He will be with it always, and whatever affronts, neglects or indignities may be offered to those successors of the Apostles, he will always comfort them as he did his immediate disciples. He that despiseth you, des piseth me; and he that despiseth me, desfriseth him that sent me.
CASTELLIOS TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.
IT is the opinion of some, that the scriptures of the Old Testament give no intimations of a future state, and that the Jews looked for nothing beyond the grave. However erroneous may be this opinion, it is undoubtedly true that the doctrine of the resurrection and a future life, is less clearly unfolded in the Old, than in the New Testament ; for we read that Jesus Christ hath brought life and immortality to light in the gospel. That is, by his own triumph over death, he hath purchased for men, and assured to them a resurrection to eternal life. At the same time it cannot reasonably be doubted but that the patriarcks and Jews, who understood the promises of a Saviour to come, believed in a future existence. Very clear intimations of which are to be found in many places of the Old Testament, as might be made to appear. While there are places in which it might seem natural to expect such intimations, and yet they are not to be found. Of we have an instance in the 38th chap. of Isaiah ; where is recorded king Hezekiah's prayer after he had been sick, and was assured, by the miracle of the shadow on the dial going backward, that he should have fifteen years added to his days. Here
we should naturally be led to expect some declaration of his faith, on that important point; and yet according to our common transla tion we find no single hint of any such faith. But according to Castellio's rendering of the 16th verse of this chapter, it is very clearly intimated; which in the English Bible runs thus : O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit ; 80 wilt thou rer cover me, and make me to live. Here is nothing of a future state, And besides there is a great want of perspicuity and connexion with what precedes and follows. Hezekiah has been speaking of his sorrows and the gloomy state of his mind in his sickness: and the same subject continues in the following verse. By these things men do not live, but rather die. It is also worthy of note that the word things, being in italies, has nothing equivalent in the original, which may lead us the more to suspect that the translators mistook the sense. But Castellio has thus rendered the verse ; O Lord, though my life be prolonged, shall the existence of my spirit be terminated with these few years? If thou causest me to sleep in death, wilt thou restore me to life? This to be sure is no direct declaration of his faith in a future existence: It is only an intimation of his humble hope in the mercy of God, that after those few years, to which his life had been lengthened, should expire, his soul might continue to exist, and he be raised to a new life. In his then situation, humbled under a sense of his own weakness, blindness and ignorance, in comparison with the power and wisdom of God, it was natural for him to express his faith in this uncertain and doubting manner, as a thing he so little deserved, that it was rather to be wished for, than certainly be lieved ; though at the same time he might have no doubt of its truth and certainty. Just of the same nature is a passage in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple ; but will God indeed dwell on the earth, whom the heaven of heaven's cannot contain? Yet he had an express promise, that God would call that house the place of his residence. On the whole, Castellio's sense being most conformable to the occasion, and more intelligible in itself, we have reason to think it the better translation.
ST. CYPRIAN TO DONATUS, ON THE GRACE OF GOD.
WHEN I lay covered and overwhelmed with a midnight darkness, and floating uncertainly upon the waves of an unsanctified and secular life, knowing not where to fix my feet, nor how to order my steps, and utterly a stranger to the light and truth ; under those dispositions of heart and mind, which then prevailed with me, I thought (I remember) very hardly of the gospel promises, and that the method of salvation propounded by it was utterly impracticable, since a man must be born again in order to obtain it, and must derive from the sacred laver of regeneration the principle of a new life; must put off the old man, and without any change of his bodily. constitution, must be entirely renewed in the spirit of his mind. For how (thought I with anyself) is so great an alteration possible or practicable? How shall I do to leave off on the sudden, and as it were upon the instant, radicated and habitual customs; which time and. continuance have made natural to me, and which are closely riveted to the very frame of my being ? These things now have taken deep root, are settled and established in me. When is it ever known, that a man becomes a learner of frugality, who hath been much and long accustomed to sumptuous fare, and to live in luxury and riot. How rarely is it observed, that any man becomes contented with plain apparel and unornamented dress, who hath been used to sparkle in gold and jewels, and embroidered garments ? The man of ambitious views, who pleases himself, and glories in the ensigns of authority and power, can never well submit to the inglorious case of a private life ; he who hath been used to the officious attendances of a crowd of dependents, must think himself much a sufferer, when he is left alone. in like manner there is almost a necessity, that wine should engage; that pride should swell; that anger should inflame; that greediness of gain should make uneasy ; that cruelty should provoke and prompt; that ambition should amuse and please, and that lust should hurry the man into rash and destructive measures, who hath long indulged any one of these several inclinations.
These, and such as these, were frequently my soliloquies ; for as I was deeply entangled and ensnared in the errors of my former life, which I judged it impossible for me ever to disengage from ; so I really seconded the evil propensities of my nature by my choice, added strength to them by indulgence, and despairing of any possible cure, I began to look upon them as parts of myself, and to favour them as my own proper attainments. But when the saving waters of baptism had purged away the filth of my former conversation, when the light of heavenly truth shone in upon me, and found my soul purified, and prepared thereby to receive and entertain it; when the spirit of God had descended upon me, and I was thence become a new creature, begotten again unto a lively hope ; presently all my doubts were settled ; all obscurities became plain to me; the light shone in after a wonderful manner upon my former darkness; things appeared easy to me, which before seemed hard : I was now convinced they were very possible to be done. I distinguished thenceforward that heavenly principle, which I had derived from the spirit of God; it had now entirely devoted and attached me to his service.
You are my witness, and will recollect with me from what fatal mischiefs that death unto sin hath delivered us, as well as what blessings that living unto righteousness hath conferred upon us. You, I say, know all this without my recital of it; nor need I therefore make any invidious excursions into my own praises ; although it should rather indeed be interpreted as a mark of gratitude than of boasting, to mention those virtues, which are the gifts of God, and expressly ascribed to the glories of his grace; so that now if we cease from sin, it is agreed to be owing entirely to his favour, and to the faith which is in him ; as before our faults were justly chargeable upon human depravity. From God alone, I say, we derive our powers; in him we live, by him we are enabled to will and to do, and even in our present state are encouraged to look beyond it, and to forebode to ourselves a further and future good. Only let a religious fear and caution preserve us blameless; that so the merciful Lord, who hath
thus favourably visited us with his holy illuminations, may take up his abode in our hearts, and delight to dwell with us as lovers of righteousness. For negligence and sloth will follow presumption and security; and then our old enemy will be sure to take his advantage when we are off our guard.
But if you keep close to the paths of innocence and virtue ; if you do not suffer your footsteps to be shaken in them; if you rely upon God with all your heart, and all your might; let then your proceedings correspond with your happy beginnings, and you will find your powers of action will be always equal to the progress of your faith. For it is not in heavenly as in earthly benefactions; you are stinted to no measure nor boundary in receiving the gifts of God; the fountain of divine grace is ever flowing, is confined to no precise limitations, hath no determinate channel to restrain the waters of life : let us but in earnest thirst for them; and as much will flow in upon us as we are capable of holding, or as our faith enables us to receive. From thence, when we have qualified ourselves for the reception of it, by proper preparations of prayer, and all holy dispositions, we derive the power of expelling the deadly poison of sin, and of cleansing the stains contracted through the pollutions of it; of composing dissentions, and of making the violentand untractable tame and civilized.
Thus inasmuch as we have commenced Christians, and have received the spirit of God into our hearts, he exerts himself in us as he pleases : he
worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Yet inasmuch as we still drag along with us these mortal bodies, somewhat there still will cleave to us of the secular life, and of its several imperfec:ions. What accessions however are those of might and power, which are hence derived upon the inner man ! Not only to be cleared from the pollutions which are in the world through lust ; and to be secure against all the incursions of our ghostly enemy; but even to increase in strength ; to be upon the offensive with him, to have at mercy, and under our subjection, the whole host and power of our grand adversary.
[To be continued.]
JOHN CALVIN, ON GRACE AND PERSEVERANCE.
ON the other hand let us now enquire what is the remedy of divine grace, by which the corruption of nature is corrected and healed. For when it shall appear what is the work of God upon the heart, in affording us aid, and supplying what is wanting; it will at once also be seen, how great are our defects. When the Apostle to the Philipians says, he trust that he who hath begun in them a good work, will perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ, no doubt by the beginning of the good work; he means the very first conversion of the will. God therefore begins the good work in us by exciting in our hearts a love, desire, and zeal for righteousness; or to speak more properly, by bending, forming, and directing our hearts to the truth : And this work he perfects by confirming us in perseverance.
*** * By manifest and certain reaS
son it is clear, that the begining of holiness can come no where else, but from God; neither can there be in any a will, inclining them to holiness, but in the Elect: And the cause of election is to be sought for in something exterior to man; whence it follows that a right will flows not from man himself, but from the same good pleasure, by which we were elected before the creation of the world. To this we may add another like reason: For since the begining, both to will and to do what is good, is of faith, we must look and see whence faith is. Now the whole scriptures proclaim that it is the free gift of God; it therefore follows that when we, who by nature are in our whole dispositions prone to evil, begin to will what is good, it must be by mere grace. *****
* * With regard to perseverance, it is equally undoubted that it should be ascribed to the free gift of God, unless that worst of errors prevail, that it is dispensed to the merits of men, as each one shall be found greatful for what he first receives. But forasmuch as this error arises from its being supposed that we have power to reject, or receive the offered grace of God, this opinion being exploded, the other falls of course. There is however in this a double error; for it is, held not only, that our grateful and proper use of the grace first dispensed is rewarded with what is afterwards given ; but that grace is not the sole operator in us, being only a co-operator with ourselves.
With regard to the first of these points, we are thus to conceive of it, that God, while he daily enriches and endows his servants with new gifts of his grace, finds in them what should be followed by greater measures of his spirit, because the work which he hath begun in them is well-pleasing and acceptable to himself. To this effect are these words ; To him that hath shall be given. Likewise; Well done good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. But here two cautions are necessary; that neither subsequent grace be considered as a reward for the right use of what was first given, as though man by his own power, could render the grace of God effectual; nor that in any sense it be reckoned a remuneration, so that the grace of God may cease to be grace. It must be admitted indeed, that by the faithful, this favour is to be expected from God; that the better they use the first motions of grace, the more they will afterwards be increased : But still I maintain that this use is from God; and this remuneration the effect of his good pleasure; and therefore that common distinction between operating and co-operating grace, hath been unhappily introduced and used to evil purposes. Augustine has, to be sure, used it; but he has used it qualified with a suitable definition, that God by co-operation perfects what he begins by operation; and that it is the same grace, though by its different mouw of operation, it has obtained a different name.
Hence it follows that he does not suppose the work to be divided between God and us, as though each had his mutually concurrent part to perform; but that the whole is the effect of multiplied grace. To the same effect is what he elsewhere says, that many gifts of God precede the good will of man; among which is this of which we treat. Whence it is clear he leaves nothing