Page images
PDF
EPUB

CALVIN.

since he who is our head, hath ascended to Heaven, we ought to divest ourselves of every terrestrial affection, and aspire thither with all our soul; that since the Holy Spirit hath dedicated us as temples to God, we should use our utmost exertions, that the glory of God may be displayed by us ; that we ought not to commit any thing which may profane us with the pollution of sin; that since both our soul and our body are destined to heavenly incorruption and a never fading crown, we ought to exert our most strenuous efforts to preserve them pure and incorrupt, until the day of the Lord*. These principles, I say, forin the surest foundations for a well regulated life; but nothing resembling them can be found in the writings of the philosophers, who, in the recommendation of virtue, never rise above the natural dignity of man.

And this is a proper place to address those who have nothing but the name and symbol of Christ, and yet would be denominated Christians. But with what face do they glory in his sacred name? For none have any acquaintance with Christ, but those who have obtained the true knowledge of him from the word of the gospel. Now the apostle denies that any have rightly “ learned Christ,” who have not been taught that they must 66 put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on Christ t." Their knowledge of Christ then is proved to be a false and injurious pretence, with whatever eloquence and volubility they may talk concerning the gospel. For it is a doctrine, not of the tongue, but of the life; and is not apprehended merely with the understanding and memory, like other sciences, but is then only received when

* Rom. vi. 4, &c. viii. 29. Mal. i. 6. Eph. v. 1. 1 John jii. 1. Eph. v 26.

Heb. x. 10. 1 Cor, vi. 11. 1 Pet. i. 15, 19. 1 Cor. vi. 15. John xv. 3. Epb. v. 23. Col. iii. 1, 2. 1 Cor, ii, 16. vi, 19. 2 Cor. vi. 16. 1 Thess. v. 23.

† Epa. iv. 20, 22.

.

CALVIN.

possesses the whole soul, and finds a seat and residence in the inmost affection of the heart. Let them therefore either cease to insult God by boasting themselves to be what they are not, or show themselves disciples not unworthy of Christ their master. We have allotted the first place to the doctrine which contains our religion ; because it is the origin of our salvation; but that it may not be unprofitable to us, it must be transfused into our breast, pervade our manners, and thus transform us into itself. If the philosophers are justly incensed against and banish with disgrace from their society those, who, while they profess an art which ought to be a rule of life, convert it into a sophistical loquacity; with how much better reason may we detest those sophists who are contented to have the gospel on their lips, whilst its efficacy ought to penetrate the inmost affection of the heart, to dwell in the soul, and to affect the whole man with a hundred times more energy than the frigid exhortations of the philosophers !

But I do not require that the manners of a Christian should breathe nothing but the perfect gospel; which nevertheless ought to be the object both of desire and of pursuit. But I do not so rigorously require evangelical perfection as not to acknowledge as a Christian one who has not yet attained to it: for thus all would be excluded from the church: since no man can be found who is not still at a great distance from it; and many have hitherto made but a very small progress, whom it would nevertheless be unjust to reject. What then? Let us set before our eyes that mark, to which alone our pursuit must be directed. Let that be prescribed as the goal, towards which we must ear. nestly tend. For it is not lawful for you to make such a compromise with God, as to undertake part of the duties prescribed to you in bis word, and to omit part of them at your pleasure, For in the first place, he every where

CALVIN.

recommends integrity as a principal branch of his worship, by which he intends a sincere siinplicity of heart, free from all guile and falsehond, the opposite of which is a double heart, as though it had been said, that the beginning of a life of uprightness is spiritual, when the internal affection of the mind is unfeignedly devoted to God in the cultivation of holiness and righteousness. But since no man, in this terrestrial and corporeal prison, has strength sufficient to press forward in his course with a due degree of alacrity, and the majority are oppressed with such-great debility, that they stagger, and halt, and even creep on the ground, and so make very inconsiderable advances ; let us every one proceed according to our small ability, and prosecute the journey we have begun. No man will be so unhappy, but that he may every day make some progress however small. Therefore; let us not cease to do this, that we may be incessantly advancing in the way of the Lord ; nor let us despair on account of the smallness of our success : for however our success may not correspond to our wishes, yet our Jabour is not lost, when this day surpasses the preceding oge: provided that with sincere simplicity we keep our end in view and press forward to the goal, not practising self-adulation, nor indulging our evil propensities, but perpetually exerting our endeavours after increasing degrees of amelioration, till we shall have arrived at a perfectiðn of goodness; which indeed we seek and pursue as long as we live, and shall then attain, when, divested of all corporeal infirmity, we shall be admitted by God into complete communion with him.--Institut. l. 3. C. 6. S. 2-5.

The Forinularies of the Church of England would furnish passages in perfect unison with this extract from Calvin on the nature and obligations of the piety and virtue essential to the character of a real Christian. But it would be superfluous to adduce them, as the tendency of the system of the Church to produce a virtuous and holy life, is not disputed by any of the parties in this controversy. This long extract from the Institutes is given in order to exhibit the moral and holy tendency, the practical efficacy, of Calvinistic doctrines, as stated by that eminently good as well as great man.

In contrast to this quotation I cannot forbear introducing in this place a few passages from the sixth chapter of Dr. Tomline's work. That chapter bears the following title :-“QUOTATIONS FROM THE ANCIENT FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVING THAT THE EARLIEST HERETICS MAINTAINED OPINIONS GREATLY RESEMBLING THE PECULIAR TENETS OF CALVINISM.” Of the propriety of this title every reader will form his own judgement. His lordship first quotes from Irenæus.

“ There being, therefore, three substances, they, the Valentinians, assert, that the material (which they also call left-handed) necessarily perishes, as being incapable of receiving any breath of incorruption ; that the animal (which they also call right-handed) as being in the middle between the spiritual and the material, goes the way to which it inclines ; that the spiritual is sent forth, that it may be formed here in conjunction with the animal, being instructed together with it. And this, they say, is the salt and light of the world. For the animal substance has need of sensible instructions. For which reason they say, that the world was formed, and that the Saviour came to this animal substance, since it is endowed with free-will, that he might save it. . (They further assert) that matter is incapable of salvation."

They say, that they themselves, whatever material actions they do, are not at all hurt, nor do they lose the spiritual substance. Wherefore, those of them who are the most perfect, do without fear all things which are forbidden, of which the Scriptures : affirm, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”—After enumerating a great variety of dreadful crimes, of which these men were guilty, he adds, “And doing many other abominable and ungodly things, they inveigh against us, who, from the fear of God, are cautious not to sin even in thought or word, as idiots and fools, but they extol themselves; calling themselves perfect, and the elect seed.” pp. 512, 513, 514. In a note at the foot of this

page, some of these practices are specified in a Latin quotation. I shall translate part of it.

" Without the least fear or shame, they (the Valentinians) abandoned themselves to fornications, incests, adulteries, and all the foulest lusts; in consequence of a belief that licentiousness and a life of the vile sensuality which they practised, would not deprive them of the divine grace

and salvation.” p. 514. “ Subdividing souls themselves, they say that some are by nature good, and some bad.” p. 514.

“He (Irenæus) says, that one of the doctrines of Simon Magus was, “that those who trust in him and His HELENA should have no further care, and that they are free to do what they like; for that men are saved according to his grace, but not according to just works.” p. 515.

“ This man was glorified by multitudes as God, and taught that he was the same person who appeared among the Jews as the Son, in Samaria descended as

[ocr errors]

1

« PreviousContinue »