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heresies suddenly sprung up in almost every corner of the church. Pelagius, a British monk, in the beginning of the 5th century, appeared on the stage to plead the cause of error and decry the doctrines of grace. The Scripture doctrine of absolute and unconditional Predestination he boldly denied-asserting that God was directed in determining the final state of sinful men by his foreknowledge of human actions—Original Sin, both imputed and inherent, he counted a mere figment-He main ained the modern Arminian tenet of Free Will in its utmost extent; affirming that a man retains full power to chuse what is good, and to do what is well-pleasing tó God, without any supernatural aid—That men in the present state may attain sinless perfection, if they only suitably improve their natural powers and the common means of grace_That Justification before God is by works, and not by faith in the righteousness of Christ.
This many-headed monster was hatched long before the days of Pelagius, but never till then did it assume an aspect so alarming and formidable. Its venom soon overspread the whole continent of Europe, and reached the British Isle. As every poison has its antidote, so the cause of truth did not then want many noble champions, who stood up in its defence. Among others the Lord raised up the justly celebrated Austin, who, with a bold and well directed stroke, cut off this Hydra's head. But the deadly infection had al
ready spread too wide to be easily cured. It lurked in the bowels of a corrupt and apostatizing church, until it made its way to the papal chair gained the consent of general councils, and became the avowed creed of the antichristian church.
At the commencement of the protestant reformation, the standard was again lifted up in defence of the doctrines of grace. The scriptures, which for many ages had lain concealed in the musty cabinet of dead languages, were now translated into the vulgar tongue of every country where the reformation got footing. The invention of printing greatly accelerated the diffusion of knowledge ; and the writings of the ancient fathers, particularly of Austin, were eagerly sought after, carefully read, and publicly taught by the most illustrious reformers, such as, Calvin, Luther, Zulinglius, Bucer, Melancthon, Zanchius, and others. Men were filled with astonishment of their former ignorance and infatuation. Satan fell, as lightning from heaven, before the preaching of the everlasting gospel. His kingdom was full of darkness ; but his heart burned with rage, and he set every engine to work to prevent the total ruin of his interest and empire. He moved earth and hell against the witnesses of Christ, and the earth w&s soaked with the blood of the saints. But truth prevailed over all the fury of persecution.
The old and more successful method of opposing the cause of God was then tried. Floods of error broke in upon the church. Socinus, a man of great cunning and considerable learning, sent abroad a new edition of the old Arian heresy, with additional strokes of bold blasphemy. After him arose Arminius, in Holland, who revived in a new dress the old Pelagian heresy. It caused great convulsions in the seven United Provinces ; and occasioned the meeting of the famous Synod of Dort, at which the errors of Arminius and his party were solemnly tried, and condemned. But the old leaven continued still to ferment in the bowels of the church. It stole into Britain about the beginning of the last century; but dared not openly to shew its blotched face, until Archbishop Laud introduced it to court, and made it the Shibboleth of his party. The execution of that haughty and arbitrary prelate, with the dispersion of his powerful faction, had nearly cleared the island of the Arminian plague : when lo, a second inundation broke in upon the land, at the restoration of king Charles II. By his debauched court, every thing serious was treated with buffoonery and scorn; but, because the Arminian clergy were found more pliant tools for the ruling party; divines of this stamp were generally preferred to the more considerable ecclesiastical benefices. Eng. land was soon overrun with Arminianism, and the old-fashioned doctrines of grace were every where run down as gross fanaticism, and their abettors stigmatized with the name of enthusiasts.
The noxious weed was openly transplanted into our Scotch soil after the restoration ; when our Presbyterian pulpits were invaded and forcibly seized by an army of curates of the corrupt communion of the Church of England. The prelatical form of church government was indeed pulled down in North Britain, at the revolution : but not a few of the episcopal incumbents were continued in their charges, and embodied into our national church, upon very general and equivocal terms. From this impure source has sprung much of that corruption of doctrine which now overspreads the whole land.
Deism, or absolute Scepticism seem, in the present day, to be the prevailing and fashionable creed among many who move in the higher spheres of life.
Socinianism has of late years made very rapid progress among professors of different descriptions. But Arminianism of all others, is the most prevalent; and may be styled the vulgar error. It comes soliciting our acceptance with all the false charms of a harlot, decked out in such captivating colours, as too well suit the vitiated and depraved taste of corrupt nature.
It finds an advocate in every man's bosom. Its cause is pleaded by all the strength and subtlety of carnal reason.
As a seasonable antidote against this growing evil, the following short treatise and sermon are sent abroad, warmly recommended to the attention of the public. Many volumes have been
wrote, on the Arminian controversy : but I have met with nothing that more completely, and in so concise a manner, cuts it up by the roots. This valuable translation of Zanchy on predestination, came into my hands about two years ago, with some other pieces of Mr. Toplady's own works. The manly boldness of the learned translator and author, his fervent zeal for purity of gospel doctrine, and his masterly way of dissecting and exposing error very much struck and pleased me.* I felt much regret that his writings should be so little known in Scotland, where they are so much needed. To have republished all his works would have required several volumes, and, consequently put it out of the reach of the poor to become acquainted with them. Besides, they are not all equally adapted to general edification. Some of them are professedly composed for the meridian of England; and directly pointed against the reigning errors of the English clergy. The two pieces selected are no less suited to the state of matters on this, than on the other side of the Tweed. This edition is chiefly intended for the accommodation of such as are in narrow worldly circumstances,
* The greatest men have their peculiarities, their favour. ite modes of expression, and are liable to be mistaken in some things. The admirable Augustus Toplady, with all his excellencies, is not an unexceptionable author, either as
But where shall we find such among uninspired men ? Humanum est errare.
to matter or manner.