صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

whole heart, that God is not the cause of sin, nor does he will its existence, but its true causes are the will of Satan and that of man.' 1

On James i. 27. Queen Elizabeth's Bishops say, Seeing all good things come of God we ought not to make Him the author of evil.'

But the doctrine, the revival of which chiefly characterized the Reformation, was that of JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. This runs through all the writings of the Reformers, like a rich vein of gold, and their works are in this doctrine particularly, a mine of invaluable wealth to church. (A Christian may glory,' says Luther, that in Christ he has all things; that all the righteousness and merits of Christ are his own by virtue of that spiritual union which he has with Him by faith, On the other hand, that all his sins are no longer his, but that Christ through the same union, bears the burden of them. And this is the confidence of Christians, this is the refreshment of their consciences, that by faith our sins cease to be ours judicially, because they are laid on Him, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." ;

Luther considered this the great doctrine of Chris. tianity, and the test of orthodoxy or heresy, as it was

1 His words in the last Edition of his Common Places (See Opera Tom.

p. 162.) are so forcible and sententious, that I quote them. “Estque hæc væra et pia sententia, utra que manů, et verius toto pectore teneda, Deum non esse causam peccati, nec velle peccatum, nec impellere voluntates ad peccandum, nec approbare peccatum. Sed vere et horribiliter irasci peccato, ut toties suo verbo assiduis pænis et calamitatibus mundi comminatione æternæ viæ declarat : Imo iram adversus peccatum maxime osten: dit filius Dei, qui apparuit, ut victima fieret pro peccato et ostenderet Diabolum esse autorem peccati et sua morte iram ingentem Patres placaret.'

held soundly or corruptly; that all other points were subordinate to or centred in this; and that every objection to it which could possibly be devised, was done away by this single consideration, namely, that a right faith was necessarily productive of good work s.1.

The English Reformation was happily conducted under the authority of government, and with a constant reference to antiquity. The Reformation in Geneva and in Scotland unhappily had to contend with authorities. Though Calvin's memory has been amply redeemed from the charge of opposition and insubordination to constituted authorities,” yet he was in principle a Republican. Knox and others imbibed much of this spirit at Geneva, which the circumstances of the Reformation in Scotland tended to call forth. Few of the meek and lowly followers of Christ will now justify some of the discourses of Knox, notwithstanding the able defence in M-Crie's Life of that Reformer.

The Author would here have willingly entered into a review of the writings of the Reformers, but he feels too incompetent, and too uninformed, and he has too little leisure to attempt to do so. He gives merely the remarks which his very limited information suggests.

Our own Reformers, like the Primitive Christians, were rather called to believe and suffer than to write; yet they have left a mantle behind which succeeding teachers will find of inestimable value.

Tindal was one of the earliest, and has been called the Apostle of England. He will amply repay perusal. He is clear in his doctrinal statements, taking the same views as Calvin, though he wrote before him ; he is comforting, practical, and devotional.

1 See Milner, Vol. iv. p. 421. ? See Horsley's Sermon on Rom. xiii. 1. and Appendix.

Latimer, by his naiveté and simplicity, his wit, honesty, and piety, has more than the other Reformers retained his popularity. He will furnish many hints for useful addresses to the people.

Cranmer's writings manifest sound learning, deep piety, and holy wisdom. His Catechism and his Book on the Sacrament, and the Homilies prepared by him, are full of the very spirit of the Reformation. Bishop Ridley and Philpot were esteemed

among the most learned of our Reformers. They had sound and clear views of that gospel which they sealed with their blood.

Bradford's Letters are among the most edifying and instructive remains of this period; the sweet spirit of adoption breathes throughout.

Jewell is eminent for his extensive learning, his sound views, and his Christian eloquence. All his works are valuable.

Fox is a voluminous writer, having written several works besides his Acts and Monuments; he is serious, honest, and open in his avowal of the doctrine of Christ.

Knox, was more especially called to action than to writing, and his life is a vivid book, illustrating by its own brightness the energy of divine grace; his History of the Reformation, which is his principal work, was not finished by himself. 1

We need not speak farther of Barnes, Becon, Frith,

i See M‘Crie's Life, p. 352-368.

Gilby, Hamilton, Hooper, Lever, L. Ridley, and other noble Confessors of the faith in this

age. The English Reformers are now becoming more accessible. Mr. Richmond rendered an invaluable service by his selections in eight volumes. The intended reprint of Jewell at the Clarendon Press, and of Fox by Dibdin, and of their works in general, as recently advertised, would greatly facilitate the reading of these works. Jewell's Apology and the Defence of it, Bradford's Letters, Philpot's Examinations, Cranmer's Notes on the King's Book, Fox's Martyrs, will especially reward the labour of study.

Through eternity, a countless number of British Christians, will have to bless God for raising up our Reformers. They erected here a standard of truth which has since been carried to remote regions, and is now planted in almost every corner of the earth. All glory to God our Saviour !

The character of the writings of FOREIGN DIVINES was diversified.

Luther is powerful, lively, and decisive; a keen, distinct, and strong evangelical statement distinguishes his writings. He is ever insisting on the main doctrine of justification by faith, and boldly maintaining the whole range of truth.

Melancthon is polished and cautious, decisive in the same main doctrine, but hesitating on many points, and backward to state his views on Calvinistic topics, having much natural aversion to controversy.

Calvin has an uncommonly fine genius, and is full of beautiful and original illustrations of God's word; he is more consistent, and accurate, and systematic than the other Reformers. His danger is pushing his statements beyond the Scriptures.

Zuinglius is acute, penetrating, and adventurous, he holds justification by faith, but has some peculiar opinions.

We need not proceed farther. The writings of Ecolampadius, Martyr, Bucer, Bullinger, Beza, and a vast number of others, whose Commentaries on the Scriptures occupy many large folio volumes, may often now be purchased at a reasonable price.

Those who can read Latin, will find their works and those of Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Chemnicius, &c. full of sound and invaluable divinity: at least this is the Author's conviction, as far as he has had opportunity to look into them.

The respective characters of the principal Reformers admirably qualified them for their work; the honest courage of Luther, the mild and holy spirit of Melancthon, the acuteness of Zuinglius, the clear mind and fine genius of Calvin, the holy wisdom of Cranmer, the determined boldness of Knox, all under the influence of divine grace, made them the worthy and suitable champions of the Reformation ; and, with all their faults, to this day their writings remain invaluable documents of sound theology.

It is delightful in Calvin's last will, made only a month before his death, to see him (while expressing his continuance in the same faith which he preached, but without introducing any of those views which distinguished his system) offering up his desire to God, in terms that every Christian would concur in, • beseeching him so to wash and cleanse me in the blood of the greet Redeemer, which was shed for all poor sinners, that in his image I may appear before his face.'

The writings of the Foreign Divines were extensively translated about the time of our own Reformation ; but

« السابقةمتابعة »