Imatges de pÓgina

mitres, he found one that accurately fitted his head. Nothing can be clearer than that this oscitancy of conduct looks,' to say the least, very much like infirmity of principle. It is extremely easy to assign, as Mr. Chalmers does, all this to • mildness and moderation of temper,' aiding him, in conjunction with other cireumstances, to float easily down the revo

lutionary stream. But when this plea has been admitted to its fullest extent of apology and extenuation, it will have done very little in the way either of explanation or of defence. Without intending to engage in the various discussions requisite to a complete investigation of this matter, we are unwilling to pass it by altogether; and a brief review of the events of his life will be requisite, to put our readers in possession of the precise circumstances of the case.

Edward Reynolds was born at Southampton, in November, 1599, and received his education at the free-grammar-school of his native town. At the proper age, he was removed to. Merton College, Oxon, then under the wardenship of the learned Sir Henry Savile. He soon distinguished himself as a scholar of high promise, and after obtaining a full share of academic honours, was chosen fellow. He took orders, and, in 1622, was appointed preacher in the chapel of Lincoln's Inn. In 1631, he accepted the living of Braunston in Northamptonshire, resigning his London engagement as incompatible with the duties of his country cure. He was quietly discharg. ing the offices of his retired station, when the great rebellion' involved him so far in its consequences as to call him into more conspicuous action, and place him in circumstances of higher and more trying responsibility. How he stood the probation, is matter of history. He presbyterianised; he sat in the Assembly of Divines; he assented to the solemn League • and Covenant;' he was one of the Visitors' appointed to put the university of Oxford to its purgation; he accepted the deanery of Christ-church on the ejection of Dr. Fell; and he ultimately became Vice Chancellor on the nomination of Lord Pembroke. Let it be added to this series of unequivocal steps, that, when Cromwell imposed his Engagement,' Dr. Reynolds, after refusing the oath, proposed, when too late, to take it, and we shall have a picture to which our respect for the sincere, though infirm piety of the man, forbids us to give its characteristic epithet. For his transition to presbyterianism, it is perhaps not difficult to account; and we believe his conduct to have been the result of a real preference. He was a decided Calvinist, and this doctrine occupied a far more leading station in the creeds of the Presbytery, than in the articles of the Episcopacy. The Arminianism of Laud had diffused itself largely throughout the hierarchy of which he was the head; and the tendency of this was, to detach and insulate the conscientious holders of the opposite sentiment. Here was quite enough to originate a strong predisposition to embrace an advantageous opportunity of passing over to 2 party with which he symbolized more cordially than with his old associates. In the Church,' he had detected error and lukewarmness; in the Kirk,' he found truth and zeal,-to say nothing of wealth and honour; and we can make much allowance for the operation of such a conviction as this on the mind of a man like Reynolds. We have, besides all this, the authority of Baxter for ascribing to him the opinion, that no precise and invariable form of church-government is enjoined in Scripture. Now it appears to us that, when we have taken into account the mild, deferential, and somewhat timid character of this excellent man, these two circumstances, his Calvinism and his latitudinarian sentiments respecting matters of discipline, we have enough to explain the inconsistencies of bis conduct up to this point; although we fear that the most charitable extension of these motives and principles can hardly be taken in justification of his ultimate reversion to Episcopacy, especially when coupled with his acceptance of high office in the hierarchy. At the same time, it is but fair to keep in view the peculiar circumstances of the times, and to remember that Baxter himself, though he refused to conform, so far conceded as to negotiate, and that he gave

his sanction to the redintegratio amoris of Reynolds and Episcopacy. · Be this question disposed of as it may, the piety of Reynolds is unassailable, and the theological value of his works, will in no respect be deteriorated. We feel not a little indebted to the proprietor of the present edition for affording us the means of becoming acquainted with the entire works of an able writer and sound divine, known to us before chiefly by repute, and by a partial inspection of his minor compositions. It would be an interesting exercise, and it might, possibly, throw some light on the character and variations of the Author, were we to enter into a minute and chronological examination of his writings, with a special view to that object. Our available materials, however, fail us here. The memoir is very defective in critical analysis, and would afford us little or no aid. We have felt strangely tempted to take it up con amore, and to institute a search among collateral authorities; but we are deterred from so formidable a task, by more urgent demands on our present leisure, and we must take the series of publications as we find it in the volumes before us. The Three Treatises,' on the Vanity of the Creature,' the Sinfulness of Sin,' the Life of Christ,' come first. They are made up from materials anomacuatia quædam'-sup: plied by the sermons preached by Dr. Reynolds when he held the preachership of Lincoln's Inn. Although their actual arrangement is that of consecutive and systematic composition, they still retain enough of their original cast, to shew that they were framed with a view to popular impression. They exhibit much excellence of sentiment and beauty of expression ; they bring forward conspicuously the great peculiarities of the Gospel ; and the discussion of doctrinal and casuistical points is managed, not only with ability, but in a very interesting way. Nor should it be forgotten, that these treatises are the productions of youth, since they were composed between the ages of twenty-three and thirty-two; a season at which, though the mind has usually attained its full vigour, we are not accustomed to expect the evidences of close and accurate thinking, in combination with profound and various learning. In these respects, the compositions in question are altogether remarkable, since, although Reynolds, in this instance, allowed his imagination a freedom of exercise which we do not recollect to have

met with in his other works, he has not only maintained throughout, forcible statement and acute discrimination, but has displayed a mastery of learned reading that enabled him to range at will through all the varieties of ancient literature, sacred and profane. His references and citations, judiciously exhibited for the most part in the margin, attest his familiar acquaintance with the historians, the philosophers, and the poets of antiquity, with the fathers of the Church, and with the theologians of later times. Since, however, general criticism, without specific illustration, can but imperfectly body forth the intellectual form and lineaments of such a man as Dr. Reynolds, as exhibited in the entire productions of his literary life, we shall adopt the method of analysis; and, although his three treatises' are somewhat discursive, we shall select them for is purpose, as, on the whole, fair and favourable specimens of his talents as a divine, and his powers as a writer." In our abstract, we shall, as far as practicable, preserve the language of the original.

Taking as his motto, Eccles. i. 14, and having laid it down as a general rule, that self-sufficiency and insubordination are at variance with the condition of a creature, and especially so with that of man as a sinner, he adopts the Wise Man's two main conclusions—Ist, the Creature's insufficiency; “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 2. Man's duty to God, and God's all-sufficiency to man; “Let us hear the conclusion of the “ whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments; for * this is totum hominis," the whole duty, the whole end, the ' whole happiness of man.' The first of these treatises, on " the Vanity of the Creature,' discusses the former of these points ; i. e. the insufficiency of the creature to satiate the des sires, and quiet the motions of the soul of man. No good can be adequate to the satisfaction of the soul, unless it possess the qualities or relations of Proportion and Propriety. Man has not only a sensitive appetite, but a spiritual soul, to which it is subordinate ; and hence, even the inferior quality can never be fully satisfied with its object, unless that likewise be subordinate and linked to the object of the superior faculty, which is God. The creature, then, in its relation to the soul of man, is destitute of proportion, until it be sanctified by a higher presence : so long as it is empty of God, it is full of vanity and vexation. But, with proportion, there must also be propriety; and sin hath unlinked that golden chain whereby the creature was joined unto God, and God with the creature came along into the mind of man. This union, therefore, must be recovered, this breach made up ; and this reconciliation between God and the creature can only be in and through Christ. So then, the mind of a man is fully and only satisfied with the creature, when it-finds God and Christ together in it; God making the creature suitable to our inferior desires, and Chrisť making both God and the creature ours; God giving proportion, and Christ giving propriety.

• Let us now consider the insufficiency of the creature to confer, and the unsatisfiableness of the flesh to receive, any solid or real satisfaction from any of the works which are done under the sun. Man is naturally a proud creature, of high projects, of unbounded desires, ever framing to himself I know not what imaginary and fantastical felicities, which have no more proportion unto real and true contentment, than a king on a stage to a king on a throne, than the houses which children make of cards unto a prince's palace. Ever since the fall of Adam, he hath an itch in him to be a God within himself

, the fountain of his own goodness, the contriver of his own sufficiency; loth he is to go beyond himself, or what he thinks properly his own, for that in which he resolveth to place his rest. But, alas! after he had toiled out his heart, and wasted his spirits, in the most exact inventions that the creature could minister unto him ; Solomon here, the most experienced for inquiry, the most wise for contrivance, the most wealthy for compassing such earthly delights, hath, after many years' sifting out the finest flour, and torturing nature to extract the most exquisite spirits and purest quintessence which the varieties of the creatures could afford, -at last

pronounced of them all, that they are “vanity and vexation of spirit:" like thorns in their gathering, they prick; that is their vexation : and in their burning, they suddenly blaze and -waste away; that is their vanity, Vanity in their duration, frail and perishable things : and vexation in their enjoyment, they nothing but molest and disquiet the heart. “ The eye,” saith Solomon, " is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.” Notwithstanding they be the widest of all the senses, can take in more abundance with less satiety, and serve more immediately for the supplies of the reasonable soul, yet a man's eyestrings may even crack with vehemency of poring-his ears may be filled with all the variety of the most exquisite sounds and harmonies and lectures in the world, and yet still his soul within him be as greedy to see and hear more, as it was at first. Who would have thought that the favour of a prince, the adoration of the people, the most conspicuous honours of the court, the liberty of utterly destroying his most bitter adversaries, the sway of the stern and uni. versal negotiations of state, the concurrency of all the happiness that wealth, or honour, or intimateness with the prince, or deity with the people, or extremity of luxury, could afford, --would possibly have left any room or nook in the heart of Haman for discontent? And

yet do but observe, how the want of one Jew's knee (who dares not give divine worship to any but his Lord) blasts all his other glories, brings a damp upon all his other delights, makes his head bang down and his mirth wither : so little leaven was able to sour all the Queen's banquet and the King's favour. Ahab was a king, in whom therefore we may justly expect a confiuence of all the happiness which his dominions could afford; a man that built whole cities, and dwelt in ivory palaces ; and yet the want of one poor vineyard of Naboth brings such a heaviness of leart, such a deadness of coun. tenance on so great a person, as seemed, in the judgement of Jezebel, far unbeseeming the honour and distance of a prince. Nay, Solomon, a man every way more a king, both in the mind and in the state of a king, than Ahab; a man that did not use the creature with a sensual, but with a critical fruition, “ To find out that good which God had given men under the sun,” and that in such abundance of all things, learning, honour, pleasure, peace, plenty, magnificence, foreign supplies, royal visits, noble confederacies, as that in him was the pattern of a complete prince, beyond all the platforms and ideas of Plato and Xenophon ; even he was never able to repose his heart upon any, or all these things together, till he brings in the fear of the Lord for the close of all.'

Thus, when there is to be made up an adequate and suitable happiness for the soul of man, the infinite disproportion and insufficiency of the creature become manifest in its vanity. And this is threefold: 1. In respect of its nature and worth. 2. From its deadness, unprofitableness, inefficacy, only then to be removed when it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer. 3. In regard of duration and continuance.

• Man is by nature a provident creature, apt to lay up for the time to come. And that disposition should reach beyond the forecast of the fool in the gospel · for many years,' even for immortality itself.

« AnteriorContinua »