Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

6

in a way which would lead us to place him among ultra-Calvinists; but he extricates himself from the difficulties of the inquiry rather by violence than by skill. He censures those who, in order to free and deliver the will of God from all imputa

tion and aspersion of evil,' affirm that all those human ac• tions which partake of sin, depend, substantively and origi

nally, and without any sequel or subordination of causes, upon the will. These,' he asserts, make and set down and appoint • larger limits of the knowledge of God than of his power, or ‘rather of that part of God's power (for knowledge itself is a

power) whereby he knoweth, than of that by which he moveth • and worketh, making him foreknow some things, idle and as

a looker on, which he doth not predestinate nor ordain : ... . but whatsoever depends not of God as author and principle by inferior links and degrees, that must needs be in place of God, and a new principle, and a certain usurping God; wherefore, worthily is that opinion refused as an indignity and dero'gation to the majesty and power of God, and yet, it is most 'truly affirmed, that God is not the author of evil, not because he is not author, but because not as of evil. *

We do not think that Mr. Davison combats this opinion with his usual acuteness. He takes a distinction between

causation' and 'moral government, which may be very good as a position from which to argue, but is, most assuredly, itself no argument. He goes on to make comments in a decided tone, and talks of a' delegated power,' which is, in his own phrase, altogether · beside the question.' He comes more to the point, when he affirms that the distinction between the knowledge and the pre-ordination of God, is asserted in the

whole scheme of the prophetic volume;' but he takes the matter very much for granted, and his illustrations of New Testament doctrine are singularly tranchant and infelicitous.

• This distinction, so intelligible and so important, is in perfect conformity with that great text of the New Testament which has cost Christianity so many painful disputes. “ Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate ;" a separation here expressed in the exercise of the Divine attributes, which, if candidly considered, and strictly kept in view, might have prevented many rash decisions, which now remain upon record, to admonish and instruct by their inconsistency with, and opposition to, Scripture. The same distinction stands in equal conformity with that other memorable text : « Of a truth against thy Holy Child Jesus—both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel appointed to be done.". The deed, we see, is imputed to the human agents. The effect of it, and the effect alone, to the hand and counsel of God. He, ordaining an * Lord Bacon's Works, edited by Basil Montague, Vol. I. pp. 219-20.

[ocr errors]

effect from an evil act foreseen, appoints the suffering by his predestination, and permits the act foreknown to the doer's will."')

This is strange mystification, and compels us also to take a distinction between the ingenuity and the ingenuousness of Mr. Davison. These agents of evil were gathered together, to do what the hand and counsel of God had appointed to be done ;" and these awful and emphatic words,' affirms Mr. D., 'ascribe

the deed to the criminals, and its effects to the Divine predestination. To our eye, and ear, and understanding, they speak only of the deed, and do not advert to the effects : they state, that Herod, Pilate, and the Jews were assembled to carry into execution the appointment of God's hand and counsel." Mr. Davison tells us, in a note, that it is not said, whatsoever thy counsel appointed them to do. This is miserable trifling. We are as averse as Mr. D. can be, from the opinion which ascribes the origination, or the predetermination, of evil to Infinite Holiness and Beneficence; but we had rather turn, in the humility of conscious ignorance, from a Scripture difficulty, than encounter it either in a presumptuous or a prejudiced spirit. We dare not dictate to Divine wisdom the terms in which it is to speak, nor fence with its recorded language in compliment to our own shrewdness.

The gloss on Rom. viii. 29, pleases us no better. It amounts to nothing more than is assumed by the old theological quibble, as unphilosophical as it is unscriptural, predestination on works foreseen. It would, we apprehend, go further towards the illustration of this great text,' to consider both the prescience and the preordination there spoken of, as having reference to the Divine benignity towards the objects of his election.

The remainder of the volume is occupied with an able though somewhat compressed discussion of the question of Inspiration, in reference to which Mr. Davison lays down three conditions, as forming, in their combination, a sufficient criterion by which the claims of prophecy may be tried.

• First, the known promulgation of the prophecy prior to the event. Secondly, the clear and palpable fulfilment of it. "Lastly, the nature of the event itself, if, when the prediction of it was given, it lay remote from human view, and was such as could not be foreseen by any supposeable effort of reason, or be deduced upon principles of calculation derived from probability or experience.

The Scripture prophecies are brought to the test of the criterion thus established :~l. In their application to the Establishment of the Christian religion. 2. In their reference to the degraded and exiled state of the Jewish people.-3. In their prediction of the great Apostacy.--4. In their announcement of the vicissitudes of Pagan kingdoms. In all these particulars, the examination is fairly and closely urged, and satisfactory proof is given of the coincidence between the prediction and the event.

Such is the general outline of the contents of a volume which will be received as a valuable contribution to our theological literature. Mr. Davison is an acute and fearless investigator, an able and, when he pleases, a clear reasoner, a powerful, and sometimes an eloquent writer. He is a man with whom even to differ, is to ensure instruction; and we hope that, although he has served his time' as Warburtonian Lecturer, he may yet be induced to complete his subject by giving a 'view of the Prophecies of the New Testament.'

Art. IV. A Short History of the Church of Christ, from the close of

the Sacred Narrative to our own Times. By the Rev. John Fry.

8vo. pp. 614. Price 12s. London. 1825. THE

HE Author of the work before us is already known to our

readers as a Biblical Translator and Expositor, by his Version of the Psalms, and his Expository Lectures on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. He now presents himself to our attention as an Ecclesiastical Historian, in which character he has taken for his model the work of the late Mr. Milner, who professedly deviates from the course generally pursued by the writers of Church History, for the purpose of investigating and detailing the progress of the genuine religion of Christ. The voluminous extent of Mr. Milner's work, as partly executed by himself, and afterwards continued by his brother, the late Dean of Carlisle, and the imperfect state in which it is left, appear to have suggested to Mr. Fry the publication of this. Short History, which, in addition to its value as a comprehensive register of facts, is entitled to notice for the original observations which it occasionally comprises.

Mr. Fry has correctly remarked in his preface, in reference to his primary purpose in this sketch of Ecclesiastical History, that our object should be; to learn what have been the progress and effects of the Truth as contained in the oracles of God; a standard which, in the spirit of consistent Protestantism, he maintains, we must not bend to the tradition of churches, or to the religious sentiments of the fathers and uninspired teachers. This caution, it will be found most necessary for inexperienced readers to carry with them in their

progress through many pages of ecclesiastical history, from which they will become acquainted with the controversies of religious opponents, the tenets which some have maintained and others have rejected and denounced, the dogmas asserted as verities, or proscribed as errors, the creeds established by prevailing parties, the decrees published by Councils, and the varied forms of religious doctrines which have been authoritatively enjoined and enforced by the powers of this world in their unhallowed interference with the obligations of intelligent creatures.

The difficulties attendant on the application of the tests which the Scriptures have provided for the trial of the spirits, are, however, neither few nor small; and a writer who would employ his skill in tracing out the boundary line by which the religion of Christ, in its correct form and spirit, is separated from the numerous errors and the spurious and futile profes-, sions which have so extensively usurped its Divine claims, will very frequently be in danger of being misled by the guides of whose assistance he must avail himself. The accounts of ecclesiastical historians are not always trustworthy, and the means are too seldom accessible, by which their truth

may

be established, or their misrepresentations detected. A correct estimate of the opinions and practice of proscribed parties is not to be expected from writers who notice them only as opponents. Nor does even the condemnation of error supply the pledge of sound doctrine in every adversary who has engaged in the exposure of heretical doctrine ; much less does it furnish the evidence of a scriptural faith. It would be easy to refer to works now in circulation, which, if they should go down to future times as the only means of information respecting the religious character of some communities in our own age, would cause them to be considered in a very different light from that in which they ought to be exhibited. Ignorance, prejudice, and interest have each furnished its quota of aid in the attempt to depreciate and extinguish obnoxious parties; and those parties have not always been rendered obnoxious by a departure from the faith, or by deviations from the purity of Christian practice.

To the reader of ecclesiastical history, no subject will be more interesting than the rise and progress of that monstrous power which, originating in the early ambition of the pastors of the Church, and strengthening itself by every secular alliance from which it could receive assistance, proceeded by gradual. advancements to that proud elevation from which, in the person of the Romish pontiffs, it looked down on prostrate kingdoms and humbled sovereigns. As the pretensions of that surprising tyranny, when in the zenith of its power, are brought to the knowledge of the reader, and he becomes familiar with the facts which have perpetuated its cruelties and its crimes, he will be unable to suppress his astonishment that such a tyranny should arrogate to itself the titleof the Church of Christ. And while he discerns the entire incompatibility of this character with the abominations and atrocities of papal dominion, he will perceive the disagreement to be equally apparent in the gross ignorance and subversion of Christian truth which distinguished it. If, as Mr. Milner has remarked, the Romish Church produced, during the thirteenth century, no single person who could have given a satisfactory answer to the question, “ What must I do to be saved ?" it

may

be asked, What purpose, which should come within the designs of the Divine Founder of the Church, could be answered by a community like this? It was in the early part of this century that the apocalyptic Babylon, perfecting her policy, and consummating her atrocities, became the patron of infernal devices, and sent abroad her fierce and bloody Dominic. The period of her grossest ignorance was the era of her most remorseless cruelties. Could imagination, by taxing all her resources, present a more striking and appalling contrast than was actually exhibited by this community, with the meek and lowly Saviour in company with the apostles ? An enlightened writer has a duty to perform in respect to this hateful tyranny, which cannot be too fearlessly discharged ; and we are glad to be able to report that Mr. Fry has aided the cause of religious truth with much of the necessary vigour and effect.

In the review which Mr. Fry has taken of the History of the Church during the Apostolic age, which is the subject of his first chapter, he has very judiciously limited his details to the events and circumstances which followed the ascension of Christ. Writing for the use of persons who possess the authentic records of those transactions in the New Testament, he has not deemed it requisite to fill his pages with transcripts from the sacred narrative, but has selected the most striking and important occurrences, and explained their bearings on the cause of evangelical religion. The intrusion of the Judaizing zealots into the primitive churches, and the error which they patronised in insisting on the circumcision of the Gentile con verts, is the topic which is most largely considered in this chapter. In this discussion, Mr. Fry has fallen into an error which is of some moment, as the case which he has admitted, would in fact invalidate the whole of his representations. To conciliate the Hebrew Christians, says Mr. Fry, ' as being in • a harmless error at the most, he (the Apostle Paul) complies ' with the same customs and ceremonies, and causes Timothy, though- a Gentile, to be circumcised.' Now if the Apostle

« PoprzedniaDalej »