Imatges de pÓgina

blameable lives. If then sanctity I shall rather suffer myself to be

of life is the very end of election, this doctrine ought rather to awaken and urge us to the attainment of holiness, than serve as a plea for indolence."* Bolsec was imprisoned by authority of the Senate, and afterwards with the approbation of the Swiss churches, banished from Geneva for sedition and pelagianism.

The contentions about predestination were renewed after Bolsec's exile. Calvin had opponents among the Roman Catholics, and among the Protestants. Even Melancthon was one. Many of them invidiously repeated the suggestion, that Calvin made God the author of sin, and introduced a stoic faith. Berthelier, a man of consummate impudence, and a principal leader of the faction against Calvin, being removed from the eldership for misconduct, raised a hue and cry in his complaints to the Senate, which were soon followed by the clamours of many others. They pretended that the presbytery assumed the authority of the magistrates. Upon which the council of two hundred decreed, that the final act of excommunication properly belonged to the Senate. This act incensed Calvin to such a degree, that after inveighing against those who partook of the Lord's supper unworthily, he broke forth, with uplifted hand and voice, in these words; "but

* In hunc finem electos esse nos

Paulos admonet, ut sanctam ac inculpatam vitam traducamus. Si electionis scopus est vitæ sanctimonia, magis ad cam alacriter meditandam expergefascere et stimulare nos debet, quam ad desidiæ prætextum valere. Intitut. lib. iii. cap. 23. objec. 4.

slain, than that this hand shall administer the holy bread of our Lord to condemned contemners of God." Berthelier, with his associates, absented themselves from the Lord's supper; but Calvin urged this point with such vehemence, threatening to leave Geneva, yea, taking his farewell from his congregation, that he obtained from the council of two hundred the suspension of this obnoxious decree, till the opinion of the four Helvetic cantons upon this subject was obtained. When after the violent death of Michael Servetus, the question arose, in 1554, how heretics were to be punished, some being of opinion, that the cause of heresy ought to be left exclusively to God; Calvin published his refutation of the doctrine of Servetus, with his reasons why and how far heretics ought to be punished by the magistrate. He was answered under the fictitious name of Martin Bell, by either Castalio or Lælius Socinus, to which a reply was written by Beza.


It must be acknowledged, candour being our guide, that both erred with sincerity, and that Beza, in particular, was induced by his warm attachment to Calvin, to patronize his cause. such misteps were not so many warnings to us, we might wish that Beza had remained silent, and that this fact might be blotted out of Calvin's history. But notwithstanding his accomplishments, gigantic learning, and solid piety, Calvin was a man. He could not brook opposition, and many of his antagonists were haughty and violent : while to his favourers the purity of his life

seemed nearly a justification of his severity. It ought besides never to be forgotten, that at Geneva there was a continued struggle between the aristocratic and democratic factions, and that many of their ecclesiastical contentions were so blended with political, that it is often difficult to discriminate between them. Moreover Calvin's temper was constitutionally irascible, and became more so by his continued struggles and undeserved reproaches. There is abundant reason to believe that ardent zeal for the reformation and love to his divine Master constituted his principal motive, although that motive might receive fresh vigour from his natural temper


however, passed upon him, "that naked, in his shirt, barefooted, his head uncovered, with a burning torch in his hand, he should, on his knees, implore the mercy of his judges, acknowledge and detest his heretical opinions, burn his writings with his own hands, and lastly, that he, with a trumpet before him, should be carried through the principal streets of Geneva, forbidden to leave that city :" all which being punctually performed, he was enlarged from prison by the Senate of Geneva, Sept. 2, 1558. All this shows, that the inquisition had not been divested of its terrors in reformed Geneva. But if we look at the reverse of the medal, we shall see Calvin often abused, slandered and vilified, not only by his political, but by his religious antagonists. His faith was ridiculed, libels were posted up every where, and even his personal safety was often in danger. Who of us would dare to affirm that, if placed in his situation, with that authority with which he was encircled, he would have acted with more moderation? While his faults remain to us as a hand on the wall, let us admire his uncommon talents and his indefatigable industry. Let us revere his disinterestedness, his piety, and his exemplary life, and pay to his memory the just tribute of our gratitude and eswas, teem.

The case of Valentinus Gentilis cannot be passed by, as it shows us more fully the spirit of those times which ought to be kept in view in a discussion of Calvin's character. Gentilis was an antitrinitarian. Through fear of the fate of Servetus he made a recantation. Though his penitence was feigned, he implored mercy, detested his errors, and eulogized Calvin. The ministers of Geneva, says Calvin, though they did not expect any thing of his sincerity and constancy, would not interrupt an act of mercy, and while they remained silent, his sentence was so far mitigated, that he obtained his life. This sentence

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Religious Communications.


Ir is a characteristic of the divine government, that every event, which takes place under it, however melancholy in itself considered, is made to issue in some important good. The Most High will, in the end, make it appear to all intelligent beings, that he has, at no time, given up the reins of government, and that he has never been unwise in any of his purposes. "The wrath of man shall praise" him," and the remainder of wrath" he will "restrain."

No event which has taken place in the church has made a more bright and glorious display of God's character, as Governor of the world, than the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. Like all other great and interesting events, relating to the Redeemer's kingdom, it was a subject of prophecy; and, when it took place, the astonishment of the world was excited. As many as had faith, saw in it the unsearchable judgments of God. The apostle Paul viewed the matter of so great impor tance, that he improved a considerable part of his epistle to the Romans in stating and explaining it. While he appeared to venerate the nation of the Jews, as being his own kindred according to the flesh, and as having long stood in a covenant relation to God; he signified that God had given them" the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear." They


stumbled at the stumbling stone, and rock of offence, which was laid in Zion. Therefore the apostle spake of them as having "fallen," as being "broken off," and as being for a season away" by God. Having given a fair statement of this event, which in itself was melancholy, the apostle laboured to show that the obstinacy and rejection of the Jews were overruled by the great Head of the church, to subserve most important and glorious purposes; that their rejection was not final; but that the time would come, when, to the unspeakable joy of the whole Christian world, the Jews should again be grafted into their own olive tree, and partake, with the Gentiles, of its root and fatness. On this subject he addressed the church at Rome, who were Gentiles, in the following, impressive language: "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; on them, which fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For, if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mys

tery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but, as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." It is here expressly intimated, that the unbelief and rejection of the Jews stood connected, in the divine counsels, with an important good to the Gentiles. The former are represented, as being enemies to the gospel for the sake of the latter. But we are not to suppose the calling of the Gentiles prejudiced the Jews against the gospel, and was the ground of their opposition; because they generally rejected it, before the Gentiles were called. Neither are we to suppose that the Jews became enemies to the cross of Christ, with an intention of having favour shown to the Gentiles; for the supposition would be absurd. The obvious, and the only rational idea then is this; that God, who is wonderful in counsel, overruled the rejection of the Jews, so that this great event turned in favour of the Gentiles.

While the Jews remained God's covenant people, they stood in the way of the descent of any peculiar and distinguishing blessings on any other nation. God was pleased to single out the family of Abraham from all the families of the earth, as one in which he designed to place

his name, and preserve his church. With this faithful servant he entered into covenant, pledging his word, that on certain conditions he would be a God to him, and to his seed after him. In this covenant provision was evidently made for the church to be continued and perpetuated in the posterity of Abraham. If the posterity of this faithful man had persisted in obedience, God would never have failed to have had respect unto this covenant. If this had been the case, the children of Israel, with respect to privileges, would have been distinguished from aĦ other nations to this day. They would not have experienced the seventy years captivity in Babylon, which they did in the days of the kings, when they hung their harps upon the willows ; they would not have fallen into the hands of the Romans, as was their case before the advent of Christ; nor would they have been dispersed among the nations of the earth, as they now are, and as they have been almost eighteen hundred years. Their present unhappy condition is no evidence of breach of covenant on the part of God; for he never suffers his faithfulness to fail. They are now experiencing the peculiar displeasure of God, because they rejected, nat only his prophets, but his Son.

While the posterity of Abraham visibly walked with God, they were distinguished, with respect to their privileges and blessings, from all other nations. To them solely pertained "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." the promises." Individuals of

other nations, it is true, enjoyed these privileges; but they did not enjoy them, without becoming incorporated with the Jews, the seed of Abraham. Of course they enjoyed these privileges on the ground of adoption.


who so often declared himself to be the God of Abraham, was bound by his own covenant to distinguish the seed of this faithful servant, and to own them for his peculiar people as long as they walked in his commandments. Obedience to his laws would have prevented their rejection; and then they would have stood in the way of the great and distinguishing privileges, which have come upon the Gentile world. But the holy Sove reign of the universe had important purposes to answer, by suffering the Jews to fall into great obstinacy and unbelief, and by casting them off from being his people. That he gave them a fair opportunity to secure his favour and to perpetuate their privileges must be acknowledged; yet it was according to his eternal counsel, that they should be given up to blindness of mind and hardness of heart. He designed that their history, which is a part of the sacred oracles, should be to all succeeding ages a faithful record of the nature and depth of human depravity. That people were left to break covenant with God, that he, by cutting them off, might display, in this world, his hatred of iniquity. On account of their obstinate rejection of the gospel, God, in righteous judgment, hath rejected them; and he hath done it in favour of the Gentiles. He caused their fall to be "the riches of the world, and the diVol. III. No. 9.

minishing of them the riches of the Gentiles."

The great and interesting event of the rejection of the Jews did not take place, until the patience and long suffering of God towards them were fully and unquestionably manifested. While they retained their standing in his vineyard, and experienced his cultivation, they received a treatment from God, which perfect ly corresponded with the promise to Abraham. The Gentiles were left uninstructed. Being joined to idols, God let them alone. Accordingly, when the Saviour sent out his twelve disciples to preach his gospel," he commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." From this charge to his disciples it appears, that the divine Saviour had not, at the time of delivering it, visibly rejected the Jews, because proof was not fully exhibited, that they were determined, at all hazards, to reject him. On this ground he confined his own ministry to them, as appears from what he said, when the woman of Canaan cried unto him in behalf of her afflicted daughter; "I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." The woman, willing to acknowledge herself a Gentile, an outcast, and fitly represented by a dog, said, "Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat 1 of the crumbs, which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered, and said unto her,

woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee, even as thou wilt. BB b

« AnteriorContinua »