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Art. IV. The Fathers of the English Church, -or a Selection from the - Writings of the Reformers. : Vol. I. containing Tindal, Frith, Ha
milton, Joy, and Barnes. (Concluded from p. 439.) FRITH was educated at Cambridge, and led to devote bis
time and attention to the study of the scriptures by his acquaintance with Tindal. On account of his learning, he was invited by Cardinal Wolsey to his new college (Christ, Church) at Oxford, and was afterwards confined there for his religious opinions. After a residence of two years abroad, he returned to England; he was taken by the vigilance of Sir Thomas More, and imprisoned in the Tower, where he replied to an attack of More's in his book respecting the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Two letters from Tindal to Frith, during the confinement of the latter, appear in this collection. After being lorg detained, he was at last examined before some of the bishops, and condemned to be burnt at Smithfield. He is equally clear and satisfactory 'with Tindal, but wants something of his rich copiousness. The same spirit, however, animates both, and the same general coincidence with the faith of the established church. Frith's most prominent afiack opon the papal doctrines appears to have been), respectng the extravagant efficacy attributed to the mere outward reception of the sa-, craments. He shows them to be, according to the church catechism, only outward and visible signs of an inward and spi. ritual grace. We shall quote a passage in which he notices several errors on the subject of baptism, and gives an explanation of the superstition in regard to spilling salt, wbich may be new to some of our readers.. ...
• One error is this: they put so great confidence in the outward sign, that without discretion they condemn the infants, which die ere they are baptized, unto everlasting pain. Another is this : they cleare so strong. ly into the weak ceremonies, that they think, if a drunken priest leave out a word, as “ volo, say ye;" or, “ credo, say ye;" or forget to put. spittle or salt in the child's mouth, that the child is not christened : yea, so much give they unto the beggarly salt, that they will say, "Spill not the salt, for it is our christendom;" and use also to swear by it; saying, • By this salt, that is my christendom.” Alas, what blindness is this!
These two errors are the principal, that I do intend at this time to confute. For when they are fallen, the others, that are grounded on these, must needs decay. First, we must mark three things in every sacrament to be considered; the sign, the signification, and the faith, which is given unto the words of God. The sign in baptism is the plunging down in the material water and lifting p again, by the which, as by an outward badge, we are known to be of the number of them, which profess Christ to be their Redeemer and Saviour.
This outward sign doth neither give us the Spirit of God, neither yet grace, that is, the favour of God. For if through the washing in the
water, the spirit of grace were given, then should it follow, that whoso. ever were baptized in water should receive this precious gift ; but that is not so, wherefore I must needs conclude, that this outward sign, by any power or influence that it hath, bringeth not the Spirit or favour of God. That every man receiveth not this treasure in baptism, it is evident: for put the case, that a Jew or an infidel should say that he did believe, and believe oot in deed, and upon his words were baptized in deed (for no man can judge what his heart is, but we must receive him unto baptism, if he confess our faith with his mouth, albeit, his heart be far from thence), this miscreant, now thus baptized, hath received this outward sign and sacrament, as well as the most faithful man believing. Howbeit, he neither receiveth the Spirit of God, neither yet any grace, but rather condem. nation.' pp. 383, 384.
We cannot guess how many of our readers, both clerical and lay, may except against the following doctrine of the reformer.
• If God have opened the eyes of thy mind, and have given thee spiritual wisdom through the knowledge of his word, boast not thyself of it, but rather fear and tremble, for a chargeable office is committed unto thee, which (if thou fulfil it) is like to cost thee thy life at one tinie or other, with much trouble and persecution. But if thou fulfil it not, then shall that office be thy damnation. For St. Paul saith ; “ Woe is to me, if I preach not.” And by the prophet Ezekiel, God saith ; “ If say unto the wicked that he shall die the death, and thou shew him not of it, the wicked shall die in his iniquity, but I shall require his blood of thy hand.”
• But peradventure, our' divines would expound these texts only upon them that are sent and have care of souls. Whereunto I answer, that every man which hath the light of God's word revealed unto him, is sent whensoever he seeth necessity, and hath care of his neighbour's soul. As by example; if God have given' me my sight, and I perceive a blind man going in the way, which is ready, for lack of sight, to fall into a pit, wherein he were like to perish, then am I bound by God's commandinent to guide him till he were past that jeopardy, or else if he perish therein (where I might have delivered him), his blood shall be required of my hand. And likewise, if I perceive my neighbour like to perish for lack of Christ's doctrine, then am I bound to instruct him with the knowledge that God hath given me, or else his blood shall be required of my hand.
Peradventure, they will say, there is already one appointed to watch the pit, and therefore if any man fall into it, he shall make it good, and that therefore I am discharged, and need to take no thought, Whereunto I answer, I would be glad that it 80 were. Notwithstanding, if I perceive that the watchman be asleep, or run to the alehouse to make good cheer, or gone out of the country a whore-hunting, and through his negligence espy my neighbour in danger of the pit, then am I nevertheless bound to lead him from it, I think that God hath sent me at that time to save that soul from perishing. And the law of God and nature bindeth me thereto, which chargeth me to love my neighbour as myself, and to do unto him, as I would be done to.' pp. 371, 372.
- Next to the selections from Frith follows an entire treatise called “ Pátriek's Places," by Patrick Hamilton, the first Scotch 'reformer and protestant martyr. It was written in Latin, and translated by Frith; it contains the fundamental doctrincs of Christianity reduced into the form of short propositions, and supported by reference to scripture, and by arguments of various forms adapted to several occasions, The writer is particularly careful in distinguishing between the offices of the law and of the gospel.
• The Nature and Office of the Law and of the Gospel dine The law sheweth us our sin. (Rom. iii. 20.) The Gospel sheweth us a remedy for it. (John, i. 29.)
suae The Gospel is the word of comfort. (Luke, ii. 14.)
190 $ The law is the word of unrest (disquietude). (Rom. vii. 13. Meer
The Gospel is the word of peace. (Eph. ii. 17.) S i A Disputation between the Law and the Gospel, where is shewed the Differ
ence or Contrariety between them bothe The law saith, Pay thy debt. ..: Lietud i ne 51.15 The Gospel saith, Christ hath paid it. The law, saith, Thou art a sinner, despair, and thou shalt be damned
The Gospel saith, Thy sins are forgiven thee, be of good comfort, thon shalt be saved. The law saith, Make amends for thy sins.:
232920 The Gospel saith, Christ hath made it for thee...! The law saith, The father of heaven is angry with thee. et The Gospel saith, Christ hath pacified him with his blood. The law saith, Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction?
The Gospel saith, Christ is thy righteousness, thy goodness, and satisfaction.
That The law saith, Thou art bound and obliged to me, to the devil, and to hell.
The Gospel saith, Christ hath delivered thee from them all.' pp. 483, 484.
The following extract from a note by his translator, is of a corresponding nature; .
Commonly it is seen that these worldly epicures and secure mammonists, to whom the doctrine of the law doth properly appertain, do receive and apply to themselves, most principally, the sweet promises of the Gos. pel : and contrariwise, the other contrite and bruised hearts, to whom be. long only the joyful tidings of the Gospel, and not the law, for the most part, receive and retain to themselves the terrible voice and sentence of the law, Whereby it.cometh to pass, that many do rejoice, where they should
mourn: and on the other side, many do fear and moura, where they need not. Wherefore to conclude, in private use of life, let every person discreetly discern 'between the law and the Gospel, and aptly apply to him-' self that which he seeth convenient. !
And again in public order of doctrine, let every discreet preacher put a difference between the broken heart of the niourning sinner, and the unre. penting worldling, and so conjoin both the law with the Gospel and the Gospel with the law, that in throwing down the wicked, ever he may spare the weak-hearted : and again, so spare the weak, that he do not encourage the ungodly.' p. 505.
Hainilton also, in common with the rest, attacks another error of the papists, " that works were good and did justify c.x. opere operato, whether done in faith and with a desire to please God, or not.”. To this they all reply, that it is the disposition of the heart that decides the character of all our actions in the sight of Him who seeth not as man seeth, and that a man is good or evil with reference to this disposition in which all his actions originate.
• Good works make not a good man, nor evil works an evil man ; but a good man bringeth forth good works, and an evil man evil works. '..
Good fruit maketh not the tree good, nor evil fruit the tree evil; but a good tree beareth good fruit, and an evil tree evil fruit. .
A good man cannot do evil works, nor an evil man good works; for a good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor an evil tree good fruit
A man is good, ere he do good works, and evil ere he do evil works; for the tree is good ere it bear good fruit, and evil, ere it bear evil fruit.' pp. 493. :
Barnes was prior of a convent of Augustines at Cambridge. Having studied at Lovain, and proceeded to a doctor's degree, he returned home, and promoted learning in his own convent. By introducing a taste for classical learning, then much nege lccted, he prepared the way for the study of the scriptures, ! and the writings of the foreign reformers. After long persecution and various escapes he was burned in 1540. The fol- ' Jowing passage is part of his confession at the stake, just be. fore he suffered. .'" I believe that Christ's death and passion, was the sufficient ransom for the sin of all the world. And I believe that through his death he Overcame sin, death, and hell, and that there is none other satisfaction unto the Father, but this, his death and passion only, and that no work of man did deserve any thing of God, but only his passion, as touching our justification. For I know the best work that ever I did is impure and im.
perfect.” And with this he cast abroad his hands, and desired God to : forgive him his trespasses. “For although perchance," said he, “ you
know nothing by me, yet do I confess, that my thoughts and cogitations bę innumerable; wherefore I beseech thee, O Lord, not to enter into judgment with me, according to the saying of the prophet David, Enter got into judgment with thy servant, O Lord! And in another place, Lords
if thou straitly mark our iniquities, who is able to abide thy judgment? Wherefore, I trust in no good work that ever I did, but only in the death of Christ. I do not doubt but through him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Take me not here, that I speak against good works, for they are to be done, and verily they that do them not shall never come into the kingdom of God. We must do them, because they are commanded us of God, to shew and set forth our profession, not to deserve or merit, for that is only the death of Christ.' pp. 527, 528.
• There was one that asked him his opinion of praying to saints. Then said he ; “ Now of saints you shall hear my opinion : I have said before. somewhat I think of them, how that I believe they are in heaven with God, and that they are worthy of all the honour, that Scripture willeth them to have. But, I say, throughout all Scripture we are not commanded to pray to any saints. Therefore I neither can nor will preach to you, that saints ought to be prayed unto; for then should I preach unto you a doc. trine of mine own head. Notwithstanding, whether they pray for us or no, that I refer to God. And if saints do pray for us, then I trust to pray for you within this half hour, Master Sheriff, and for every Christian man liv. ing in the faith of Christ, and dying in the same, as a saint. Wherefore, if the dead may pray for the quick, I will surely pray for you." ' pp. 528, 529.
Two of his tracts are now republished. The first, on justification, gives a good account of that subject, and exhibits with considerable length and clearness the arguments and authorities most in point. The other, on free-will, enters rather minutely into some abstract questions, but is neither perplexed nor obscure.
In the extracts we have made from the work before us, doctrines occur which will be readily received by the partizans of very different systems: some will please one and some another, but all will find in them the essentials of their common Christianity. It deserves notice, that the authors are particularly full and express, on the scriptural views of obedience to the civil power. · The effect of these writings, ou their first appearance, in purifying the minds of the people at large, and exciting the genuine spirit of religion, was beyond expectation. The authors of our freedom from papal superstition and corruption, are once more brought out of obscurity, and are fully intitled, by their merit, to that patronage which alone can make them extensively beneficial. They particularly deserve the atten. tion of the clergy and students in divinity, whether church. men or dissenters. Notwithstanding what may be deemed the vagueness of some statements to be found in their perforinances, the inaccuracy of others, the occasional inconclusive reasonings and questionable criticisms, they are valuable as ? depository of the genuine doctrine of Christ, and will amply serie to confound that ignorance and arrogance which pretends