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Dark indeed, was the state of divinity, when at the commencement of the Reformation, the faculty of theology at Paris declared that · Religion was undone, if the study of Greek and Hebrew was permitted,' and one of the Monks uttered these words, " They have invented a new language which they call Greek, you must be carefully on your guard against it, it is the mother of all heresy. I observe in the hands of many persons a book written in that language, and which they call the New Testament. It is a book full of daggers and poison. As to the Hebrew, dear brethren, it is certain, that all who learn it become instantaneously Jews. Yet through Divine mercy, even those dark ages were not left wholly without scriptural writers. Bradwardine, Wickliffe, Huss, and Jerome, diffused some rays of evangelical light through the darkness.
Bradwardine and Wickliffe were British Divines. Bradwardine speaks with much grief of the general departure from the doctrine of free grace, and compares it to that of the 450 false prophets united against
How many indeed in our times despise thy saying grace, and contend that free-will is sufficient for salvation, or if they use the term grace, either use it perfunctorily as a pretence, or boast that they deserve it by the strength of their free-will.' He speaks afterwards of almost the whole world as having thus gone into the error of Pelagius. See the Preface to his - Causa Dei,'
Of Bradwardine's great work, Milner gives a full account. It is a surprising work for the
in which it appeared.
Wickliffe's life and sentiments have been recently fully investigated by the researches of Mr. Vaughan,
who has placed his character in a yet higher light than he had been generally held. He distinctly held justification by faith only. He speaks thus, · The merit of Christ is sufficient of itself to redeem every man from hell. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation. We are not to seek to be justified in any other way than by his justice. We become righteous through the participation of his righteous
Wickliffe's Translation of the Bible, with prefaces and arguments to each book; and the hundred and above volumes that he wrote against Antichrist and the Church of Rome were, doubtless, important preparatory steps to the Reformation. In his book, entitled "The Pathway to perfect knowledge, he tells us what pains he had taken in translating the Bible into English-how he had got many old Latin Bibles, · for the late books,' said he, are very corrupt.' He employed many learned men to assist him in the fourth translation. He taught that the truths of the gospel suffice to salvation, without observing the legal ceremonies. He urged all classes to study the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, which, he said, is full of authority, and gives instructions to the simple, especially on all points needful to salvation. 2
The writings of Wesselus of Groningen, who died in 1489, were published in one volume, 4to. in 1614. They appear, from Luther and Milner's account, to be eminently evangelical. In our own country also, Dean
1 See Birckbeck's Protestant Evidence and Dr. James's Apology for Wickliffe.
2 See Clarke's Lives, p. 109, and Milner, Vol. iv. pp. 153, 154. and Appendix.
Colet went many preparatory steps towards reformation, in Henry the Seventh and Henry the Eighth's reign, not only by promoting literature, but also by throwing a just slight on the School Divines, and bringing the Scriptures freely before the people in his ministry, as the only fountain of Christian wisdom. He could not go far in error, one of whose precepts was, • Call often for the grace of the Holy Ghost.' In the statutes of St. Paul's School he directs, that Christian authors, such as Lactantius, Prudentius, Jerome, Ambrose, and Austin should be read along with the best classics.
Indeed, on the revival of literature, before the reformation, Augustine's · City of God' was expounded in the University of Oxford to a large audi. tory." Several of the works published in the reign of Henry the Eighth, before the Reformation was fairly established, mark the struggles between light and darkness. The Primer of Henry the Eighth, in English, contains many admirable prayers; and the alterations in its numerous editions attest the gradual growth of a purer doctrine. The Articles of Religion in 1536, and the Institutions of a Christian Man in 1537, though mixed with much Popish doctrine, mark the same growth; though the influence of Gardiner, in the preparation of the Necessary Erudition, published in 1543, rendered that less pure than the former works; 1 and on Edward's accession it was no longer circulated by authority: all these works 'attest that light was winning its way through the darkness, and the dawn of a better time was already apparent.
1 Would not that fine monument of human genius and piety be still a happy corrective to the injurious tendency of Heathen Classics ? Is not our system of education now far too exclusively classical ? and may not some of the national sins of our country, our pride and love of earthly glory and national agrandizement be attributable to this cause ?
The sixteenth century introduces us to the wonderful display of divine grace in the GLORIOUS REFORMATION.
a real Reformationa return to God on the purifying principles of His
word. It was one of the mercies of that era, that it was the revival of literature, particularly in the knowledge of the original language of Scripture. The discovery of printing amazingly facilitated the diffusion of divine truth, and in consequence, the revival of religion. Men of learning were very generally men of God, and gave in the reformed churches the tone of religion to the course of study in universities and seminaries. Learning was more exclusively religious then than at any future time; and many writers on general subjects, who incidentally mention religion, were manifestly right in doctrine. Would that this could be said now !
It is an æra that calls for close attention and diligent
1 Bishop Tanner in his Bibliotheca, p. 309, ascribes the Erudition to Gardiner as the principal composer.-Cranmer's objections to, and Annotations on the Necessary Erudition are given in the Fathers of the Church, Vol. III. p. 71-112.-Bishop Lloyd has edited the Formularies of Faith, set forth in the reign of Henry the Eighth.
study. The original writers and the historians of that age will amply repay all our researches. They will both edify the heart, and fortify us against almost every modern, as well as ancient error. The poet Cowper writes to a relation respecting his studies, Let your divinity, if I may advise you, be the divinity of the glorious Reformation. I mean in contradistinction to Arminianism, and all the isms that were ever broached in this world of error and ignorance. The divinity of the Reformation is called Calvinism, but injuriously; it has been that of the Church of Christ in all ages; it is the divinity of St. Paul, and of St. Paul's Master, who met him in his way to Damascus.' In this view the Author fully concurs, and he feels it the more important to press the subject, as the Reformers have been either disparaged or neglected by modern writers.
To show that the Reformers have been neglected, we need only look at the list of books recommended in the lists of Dr. Wotton, Bishops Cleaver, Watson, and Tomline, Drs. Williams, and Doddridge. Bishops Cleaver and Tomline almost wholly leave them out. Dr. Williams, in his Christian Preacher, has very little noticed them. Even Doddridge, who enters at some length into different schools of divinity, entirely forgets this school. To say nothing of foreign Reformers, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Zuinglius, Martyr, and Bucer, he mentions not our own Jewell, Latimer, Cranmer, Nowell, Foxe, Willett, Hooker, Perkins, &c. Though he gives generally just and discriminating characters of subsequent writers, the more scriptural
| Bishop Watson, after mentioning the works of Episcopius, Curcellæus, and Limborch, says, After the works of these three Foreigners I would have added, but for fear of swelling the Catalogue, those of Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, and Zuinglius,' &c. It is painful thus to see our best Reformers put after such inferior men.