Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

down the wall of separation between his church and the ungodly world.

If

The lax discipline and other internal disorders of most New England churches produce very hurtful effects upon the personal character of real believers. they had the advantage of being connected with a church, where faithful discipline was maintained, where eminent goodness was constantly exhibited before them in the example of fellow Christians, and where it was the constant endeavour of the whole body to promote the edification of every member, they would rise to higher attainments in knowledge and holiness; they would bear more abundant fruit, and enjoy more consolation. But now they are like trees set in an unfriendly soil. Though not wholly barren, their fruit is less abundant and less salutary, than it would otherwise be. Their spiritual health is impaired by the noxious atmosphere they breathe. The errors and vices, with which they are surrounded, have, though insensibly, a contagious influence upon them. They embrace wrong principles and are betrayed into wrong prac tice, without being aware of their danger. It is to be expected, that a general declension in the spirit of the churches will be attended with a correspondent declension in the piety of individ

ual believers.

The moral disorders found in our churches furnish infidels with their most successful weapons against revealed religion, and present the greatest hinderance to its general reception. The want of visible harmony between our religious state and the holy

laws of Christ is a stumbling
block to the unenlightened world.
It tends to keep sinners ignorant
of the glory of the gospel, to
confirm their prejudices, and bar
their minds more and more a-
gainst it. The enemies of relig-
ion make our irregularities the
topic of malignant declamation
and triumphant reproach, and
the foundation of those argu-
ments, which are most injurious
to the cause of truth. In addi-
tion to all this, the church has
little prospect of rearing a pious
race, who shall be the safe de-
positaries of our holy religion.
We have gone back from God,
and, according to the natural
course of things, Christianity is
in great danger of an increasing
declension. Return, we beseech
thee, O God of hosts, look down
from heaven, and behold, and visit
this vine, and the vineyard which
thy right hand hath planted, and
the branch that thou madest strong
for thyself.
PASTOR.

ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE
TRINITY.

AT a time, when the attention of this part of the Christian world is turned upon that important and fundamental article in our holy religion, the divinity of CHRIST, it is seasonable to bring into view the best lights on this subject, to aid investigation, and direct to a right result. Drs. Watts and Doddridge have deservedly obtained high reputation in the Christian world for their piety, candour, talents and learning; and though we would call no man Master, yet their opinions on controverted points are to be respected, as valuable

:

rendered, the Word was a god, that is, a kind of inferior deity, as governors are called gods. See John x. 34, and 1 Cor. viii, 5. But it is impossible he should here be so called, as merely a governor, because he is spok en of as existing before the production of any creatures, whom he could govern and it is to me most incredible, that when the Jews were so exceedingly averse to idolatry, and the Gentiles so unhappily prone to it, such a plain writer, as this apostle, should lay so dangerous a stumbling block on the very threshold of his work, and represent it as the Christian doctrine, that in the beginning of all things there were two Gods, one supreme and the other subordinate: a difficulty, which, if possible, would be yet farther increased by recollecting what so many ancient writers assert, that this gospel was written with a particular view of opposing the Cerinthi ans and Ebionites (see Iren. 50, 1. c. 26; 3. c. 11. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 50. 6. c. 14) on which account a greater accuracy of expression must have been necessary. There are so many in stances in the writings of this apostle, and even in this chapter, (see ver. 6, 12, 13, 18) where Os, without the article is used sense of the word, that it is someto signify God in the highest thing surprising such a stress should be laid on the want of that article, as a proof that it is used only in a subordinate sense. On the other hand, to conceive of Christ as a distinct and coordinate God, would be equally inconsistent with the most express declarations of Scripture, and far more irreconcileable with

human testimony, and in this view they are often quoted. In a former number of the Panoplist, was given Dr. Watts' opinion concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. I have taken the trouble to transcribe and transmit to you for publication in your next number, the sentiments of Dr. Doddridge on the same subject. The following may be found in the first volume of his Family Expositor, page 24.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

PARAPHRASE.

In the beginning, before the foundation of the world, or the first production of any created being, a glorious Person existed, who (on account of the perfections of his nature and his being in time the medium of divine manifestations to us) may properly be called the Word of God. And the Word was originally with

God the Father of all; so that to him the words of Solomon might justly be applied, Prov. viii. 30; "He was by him as one brought up with him, and was daily his delight." Nay, by a generation, which none can declare, and an. union, which none can fully conceive, the Word was himself God, that is, possessed of a nature truly and properly DIVINE.

His views are fully explained in the following Note:

The Word was God.] I know how eagerly many have contended, that the word GOD is used in an inferior sense; the necessary consequence of which is (as indeed some have expressly avowed it) that this clause should be

....

* See p. 354, vol. I.

reason. Nothing I have said above can by any means be justly interpreted in such a sense and I here solemnly disclaim the least intention of insinuating one thought of that kind by any thing I have ever written here or else where. The order of the words in the original (Otos ni o λoyos) is such, as that some have thought the clause might more exactly be translated, God was the Word. But there are almost every where so many instances of such a construction, as our version supposes, that I chose rather to follow it, than to vary from it, unnecessarily, in this important passage. I am deeply sensible of the sublime and mysterious nature of the doctrine of Christ's deity, as here declared: but it would be quite foreign to my purpose to enter into a large discussion of that great FOUNDATION of our faith; it has often been done by much abler hands. It was, however, matter of conscience with me, on the one hand, thus strongly to declare my belief of it: and on the other, to

leave it as far as I could in the simplicity of scripture expressions. I shall only add in the words, or at least in the sense of Bishop Burnet, "that had not St. John and the other apostles thought it a doctrine of great importance in the gospel scheme, they would have rather waved than asserted and insisted upon it, considering the critical cir cumstances in which they wrote." (See Burnet on the Articles, p. 40.)

This eminent divine, in his Paraphrase on Phil. ii. 5, 6, further declares his sentiments in unequivocal language on this sublime subject, this " great foundation of our faith," as he justly considers it, in which he. speaks of Christ, as an "adorable person," "possessed of divine perfections," as of right appearing as God, assuming the highest divine names, titles and attributes, by which the Supreme Being has made himself known, and receiving from his servants divine honours and adorations.”

66

T.

Selections.

[From Sennebier's Histoire Literaire de Geneve, t. 1. Genev. 1786, p. 204-227.]

ACCOUNT OF CALVIN'S TREAT- asserted, that the Geneva re

MENT OF SERVETUS.

former long harboured an implacable hatred of the unfortunate Spaniard, used every effort to gratify his malice, denounced him to the Magistrates of Vienne, and caused seize him in the morning after his arrival at Geneva. Men easily believe what is so positively asserted, and almost imagine it impossible that the tale can be false. Yet Bolzec, the cotemporary and

THE tragical history of Servetus happened 1553. It has often been related, to blacken Calvin's character, by his bitter enemies, and by those who had not seen the pieces in his justificaIt has been confidently

the mortal enemy of Calvin, who wrote his life only to tear his character in pieces, and Maimburg, so celebrated for partiality and misrepresentation, durst not allege those pretended facts, which modern historians have advanced. Bolzec says, that Servetus's haughtiness, insolence, and dangerous projects, making him hated and dreaded at Lyons, he left it for Charlieu; yet afterwards returned to Ly ons, and communicated his ideas to Calvin, who keenly opposed them; and, on Servetus' sending him his Restitutio Christian ismi, broke off all intercourse with him. Calvin however did not betray his secrets, or cause seize him at Vienne; for he wrote to Viretus and Farel, that if Servetus came to Geneva, the consequence would be, the loss of his life. Calvin naturally concluded this from the spirit of the laws and government at Geneva, and from the ideas of all sects at that time. Indeed, he bore with Servetus as long as there was any hope of his recovery; and it was the Spaniard who first introduced personal abuse into their controversy. Bucer, Oecolampadius, Farel, Beza, and even the gentle Melancthon, approved the sentence passed against him. As it would be unjust on that account to accuse these celebrated men, it is equally unjust to accuse Calvin of hatred to Servetus.

But Calvin abused his confidence, and sent to Vienne the let ters he had received from him,

and the Restitutio Christianismi with which he had presented him. -That accusation is absurd. Could Calvin, whose name was

tention to his complaints, or regard to his letters, from the Magistrates of Vienne? Suppose Calvin as cruel as you please, why was he silent for seven years, why did he not in an earlier period commence his perse cution of Servetus, and why did he not send to every place where the heretic resided, the letters he had received from him, and his Restitutio? It is evident, from a letter of Calvin, dated Februa ry, 1546, that Calvin, convinced of the punishment Servetus de served, would not encourage him to come to Geneva, but intimat ed to him what he had to fear, should he venture it. He wished, therefore, by keeping him at a distance from Geneva, that he might escape the punishment with which he threatened him, if he came there. So far was he from contriving to subject him to punishment in another place. Indeed, Calvin's writing the Magistrates of Vienne, and sending them the Restitutio, could answer no purpose. It would have been ridiculous for him to send them a copy of a book printed in France under their eyes, or to point out what was ex ceptionable in it, which the reading it would sufficiently do. Ac cordingly, the sentence passed at Vienne, gives no insinuation that Calvin had interposed in the process. It is true, that the Magis trates of Vienne, knowing that Servetus had corresponded with Calvin, applied to the council at Geneva for his letters. But it is equally true, that their sentence was founded on the errors in his book, and his own confessions; not on these letters.

But Calvin, informed of Serve

axecrated by Papists, expect at- tus's escape from the prison of

[ocr errors]

Vienne, caused seize him two or three days after his arrival at Geneva. Facts do not quadrate with this charge. Servetus escaped from Vienne before the execution of the sentence, which condemned him to be burned, 17th June. If he took fifteen days in his flight, he would have been at Geneva the beginning of July, and yet he was not seized there till 13th August. Think not that he was concealet till then somewhere else. A little prudence would prevent his tarrying where popery was estab lished, lest the clamours of Vienne should overtake him; and Geneva was the first place where he could expect shelter. Prob ably, therefore, he was seized, hot in two or three days, but near six weeks after his arrival. The accusations against him were, 1. His saying, in his commentary on Ptolemy, that the Bible vain-gloriously celebrated the fertility of Canaan, though indeed an uncultivated and bar ren country. 2. His calling one God in three persons a three headed Cerberus. 3. His asserting, that God was every thing, and that every thing was God. He did not deny the charges, but pled the necessity of toleration. The council of Vienne demanded that he should be sent back to them; but it being left to his choice, he preferred the chance of a more favourable sentence at Geneva, to the certainty of capital punishment at Vienne.

While we blame the principles of jurisprudence, which conducted this process, it should be acknowledged, that the council at Geneva neglected nothing for discovering the truth; ex Vol. II. No. 4. Z

erted every mean for persuading Servetus to retract; and, when all proved in vain, asked the advice of the Swiss Cantons, who unanimously exhorted them to punish the wicked person, and put him out of a condition of spreading heresy. The intolerance therefore of the age, not the cruelty of Calvin, dictated the sentence 27th October, that Servetus should be burnt alive. Castalio alone had the courage to write a dissertation against the punishment of heretics, which, though he was at Basil, he thought it necessary for his own safety to publish under the feigned name of Bellius. There have been both former and later instances at Geneva, of similar violent proceedings against heretics. In 1536, all were deprived of the right of citizenship, who did not admit the received doctrine. In 1558, Gentilis escaped death only by retracting. Calvin says, in a letter written at that time, that Servetus, if he had not been mad, would have escaped punishment, by renouncing his errors, or even by a more modest behaviour. But Servetus persisted to defend his opinions in blasphemous language: the laws of the times could not be violated: and, therefore, the endeavours of some to satisfy themselves with his banishment, and of Calvin to render his punishment less cruel, had no effect. It is certain, Calvin deplored Servetus's fate; and the disputes in prison were managed with much greater moderation on his side, than on that of the panel. In a period when the principles of toleration were not understood, zeal against opinions subversive both

« VorigeDoorgaan »