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being printed in black letter, and now almost unprocurable—the English reader can derive but little advantage from these translations.
Of Erasmus it may be well to speak more particularly. Many of his devotional Treatises are valuable, and have been reprinted in this country. It has been supposed, that the use made of his Testament (which the clergy were directed to possess, and which was to be fixed in the Churches), is an evidence that our Reformers held the doctrines which Erasmus maintained against Luther. This by no means follows. In the prefatory Address of John Old it is asserted, that Erasmus, like Jerome, might both be deceived and deceive. It must be remembered, that at the time that the book was published in 1548) few works of the Foreign Reformers had been translated into English, and few of our own Reformers had written much. Erasmus's work on the New Testament, taking into consideration his learning and reputation, was a valuable preparatory work, and was followed by others of a higher standard, 1
? In this very work he clearly states the doctrine of salvation by grace. On Ephes. ii. 8, 9, he observes 'The thing is often to be rehearsed, and ought to be fixed deeply in your heart, it cometh of free grace. I say that you have obtained salvation from the destruction wherein ye were entangled ; lest he should follow the error of some of the Jews, which think to be saved for observing the precepts of Moses's Law. You are indebted for your salvation to the faith whereby ye believe the gospel, and yet you may not brag of faith as though it come of yourself. Christ loved you first, and having drawn you to himself, he has given you power that you should love him again. And he it is that has freely poured into you the gift of faith, by which you should set darkness apart, and see the light of God's verity. It is wholly, therefore, to be ascribed unto God's free gift, so that no man has thereof to boast, as though it were of his own.'
Erasmus improved the plan of interpretation of Scripture, by condemning the fondness of the Fathers for allegorising, and in his own Paraphrase on the New Testament very much abstains from allegorical interpretation. Mr. Conybeare, after showing that he contended for its limited and prudent use, remarks, * The use and value of such a spiritual understanding of the Scriptures beyond that which is to be derived from a mere acquiescence in the outward letter, he affirms to be, that wheresoever it arises out of fair and reasonable grounds of analogy, it contributes to strengthen the impressions made by religious truth, to interest the affections more deeply and constantly in its behalf, to stimulate us to higher exertions, and to console us under the doubts and difficulties of the Christian warfare. That these are the results and privileges of a spiritual view of the Christian scheme, and of the frame of mind which such a view accepted and entertained in singleness and sincerity of heart must produce, it cannot be questioned; that such benefits, however, are to be secured or enhanced by any thing approaching to the misinterpretation or misapplication of the sacred text, is a position both untrue in itself, and on many accounts highly unsafe.'
Erasmus himself, however, was far from rising to the evangelical spirit of the Reformers ; and his course furnishes a most instructive lesson of the evil and danger of wanting a simple and upright, a decided
In the prologue to the Romans it is said, “ Moses's sophisters are but deceivers, which teach that a man may and must prepare himself to grace and to the favour of God, with good works, before he have the spirit and true faith of Christ.' Nothing can be more evangelical and spiritual than the whole Prologue.
1 Conybeare's Lectures, p. 225.
and devoted confession of Christ, and a readiness to suffer for his sake. The highest wisdom is to be simple, open and bold in our confession of Christ. Christian Reader ! may
grace ever be given to us from above !
The Reformers urged strongly the importance of the literal interpretation of scripture. Luther says, • The literal sense of scripture alone is the whole foundation of faith and Christian theology.
Allegories prove nothing, and are empty speculations ;' in this, Melancthon, Calvin, Peter Martyr, and the great body of the Reformers concurred : Calvin indeed more entirely pressed the literal interpretation, and his whole Commentary is on this plan.
We need not here attempt to draw the line farther as to the theological sentiments of the Foreign divines. As Melancthon grew in experience he became more cautious in his sentiments, as the different editions of his common-place-book prove. Yet his correspondence with Calvin, shows that he by no means held Calvin's view in that obnoxious light which many
do. 1 Nor can we in this rapid sketch, enter with minuteness into the views of distinct churches. Authors in the Lutheran churches generally followed Melancthon; and in the Reformed, Calvin ; and in the Belgic churches before Arminius, an ultra Calvinism prevailed among many ?
1 As to Melancthon's sentiments on these views, see his Works, Vol. iv. p. 23. and Calvin's Epistles, pp. 82, 175. and Davenant against Hoard, p. 72.
The sources of information respecting the Reformers are (1.) Their publicly acknowledged catechisms, confessions, creeds,
SUCCESSORS OF THE REFORMERS.
The Reformation was maintained by succESSORS of a similar spirit. The chief writers for a great part of a century after that blessed event, preserve a uniformity of doctrinal statement which we do not subsequently find. Bishop Carleton says, “The uniformity of doctrine was held in our church without disturbance, as long as those worthy Bishops lived by who were employed in the Reformation.'—See his Examination of Montague's Appeal, p. 7. The Holy Scriptures reigned with just and beneficent sway over human authors, and were the ultimate referees on
defences, and replies. (2.) Their more private writings. (3.) Original Historians, such as Seckendorff, Scultetus, Sleidan, and Thuanus, for the continent; and Fox, Fuller, Burnet and Strype, for our own country. Modern historians, as Hume, Robertson, and many others can by no means be relied on for a just view of the principles of the Reformers. Of more ancient historians also it may be observed, that some like Fox, write in the true spirit of the Reformation. Take for instance his account of the origin of printing, he attributes it to the ordination of God, and enters into a religious view of its value. Robertson (a Christian divine) giving an account of the same thing, calls it in a serious historical work, 'a fortunate discovery.' Fuller is pious, quaint, and witty. Others, like Strype, Burnet, and Brandt, attain not in their own views the spirit of the Reformers, but are very valuable in their collections of original information and authentic documents. It is gratifying to see that the works of the Reformers are much more in demand than they were, and that they are now both on the continent and in our own country, reprinting on a fuller scale than hitherto. May God grant that their writings may thus accomplish a second revival of religion, similar in its effects, and more extended in its operation, and with all the advantage of the experience which we have since had of the danger of departing from their scriptural principles !
all questionable topics. Many able and pious men succeeded the Reformers, and that in places of authority and influence, and thus carried on and maintained the work which had been so happily commenced.
Confining now our views to our own country, and to the Church of England, the men of whom we speak were attached to its doctrines and discipline ; many of them were in the highest situations; all ministered in her sanctuary, and they were very nearly united in their views of the doctrines of the gospel. This class includes Archbishops Grindal, Whitgift, and Sandys, Fulke, Willett, Bilson, Whitaker, Perkins, Bishop Babington, Preston, Reynolds, Sibbs, Hildersham, Ward of Ipswich, Archbishop Usher, Bolton, Ward of Cambridge, and coming still lower, will include Bishops Bedell, Carleton, Davenant, Hall, Morton, with many others of similar character who agreed with them.
The moderation of the times allowed Hildersham, and men of his views, attached to the doctrines, but averse to the rites and ceremonies of the church, to retain livings and minister in them.
The writings of this age are full of gospel truths, clearly displayed and applied. They are very instructive and edifying, and with few exceptions, a remarkable uniformity of doctrine prevailed, 1 With great powers of mind and extensive learning, they enforced the peculiarities of the Christian faith.
Yet the character of some of these writings
* Till Arminius arose there were no contests of any moment but with the Papists, or those who disliked the church ceremonies.