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absolutely ALONE, in the whole protestant world, in asserting the divine institution of prelacy (if indeed, she, as a church, does assert it, which many of her own most respectable sons have denied); that every other protestant church on earth has formally disclaimed this doctrine, and pronounced the distinction between bishops and Presbyters to be a mere human invention ; and, consequently, that the doctrine of the jure divino prelatists, is so far from being the general doctrine of the reformed churches, that it never has been, and is not now, received, by more than a very small portiona mere handful of the Protestant world.
I repeat once more -the Bible is the statute book of the church of Christ; and by this book alone, must the question before us be -finally decided. But, so far as human opinion, fortified by all the considerations of talents, learning and piety, is of any value, the doctrine of Presbyterian parity stands on the most elevated and triumphant ground.
THE TESTIMONY OF CALVIN.
It has fallen to the lot of few individuals to be more mistaken and misrepresented than the venerable Calvin. His great talents, his profound learning, his fervent piety, his stupendous labours, his astonishing self-denial, and his sublime disinterestedness, have all been insufficient to protect him from the grossest abuse. His personal character, his theological opinions, and the form of ecclesiastical government which he preferred, have each, in turn, been the objects of accusation and slander. Had these unfair statements been either always the same, or consistent with themselves, it would not have been wonderful to find them making some impression on persons who had no access to sources of correct information. But when scarecly any two of these statements can be reconciled with each other; and when the most of them are expressly contradicted by authentic documents, it is truly a matter of wonder that they should be favourably received by any who have the least claim to the character of learning or impartiality. This wonder, however, exists. We can hardly open a controversial work froin the pen of any of our episcopal brethren, without finding more or less obloquy directed against the illustrious Reformer of Geneva.
Dr. Bowden and Mr. How have indulged themselves in this obloquy in a manner, and to an extent, which appears to me to demand animadversion. And as they lay so much stress on the supposed concessions of Calvin in favour of episcopacy; and, at
the same time, appear to enter with such hearty good will into every attempt, by whomsoever made, to load his character with reproach, I have resolved 10 devote the whole of the present letter to a view of the writings, the opinions, and the general character of that celebrated man.
Had these gentlemen been contented with exhibiting Calvin, as a man of a “ fierce," " turbulent,” and “ intolerant spirit;" had they spoken only of his characteristic violence," of his playing the tyrant," and of his malignant disposition to crush all who opposed him ; to such charges I should have thought it unnecessary to reply. To resute them, completely and triumphantly, as applicable in any peculiar or pre-eminent degree to that apostolic man, nothing more is requisite than a tolerable acquaintance with the history of his life and time. When so many of the greatest and best prelates that ever adorned the church of England; men really learned, and breathing in an extraordinary degree the spirit of the Gospel, have delighted to dwell on the praises of Calvin; when they have almost exhausted every epithet of respect in eulogizing his talents, his learning, his piety, his judgment, and the usefulness of his labours;—his memory surely needs no defence against the attacks of Dr. Bowden and Mr. How. But when these genilemen bring forward allegations and extracts which are calcu. lated to mislead even their intelligent readers, and to set the declarations and the practice of the pious reformer at variance; I deem it my duty to make a few remarks, and to state a few facts, in vindication of what I consider as the cause of primitive truth and order.
Dr. Bowden and Mr. How represent Presbyterianism as having originated with Calvin. Now it happens that Presbyterianism, (to say nothing of its apostolic origin,) was introduced into Geneva, before Calvin ever saw that city, when he was about nineteen years of age, and while he was yet in the communion of the church of Rome. The following quotation from Dr. Heylin, a high-toned Episcopalian, and a favourite authority of Dr. Bowilen, will be considered by him as decisive. “In this condition it (Geneva) " continued till the year 1528, when those of Berne, after a public 66 disputation held, had made an alteration in religion, defacing " images, and innovating all things in the church on the Zuinglian “ principles. Viretus and Farellus, two men exceeding studious
“ of the Reformation, had gained some footing in Geneva, about " that time, and laboured with the bishop to admit of such altera6 tions, as had been newly made in Berne. But when they saw no “ hopes of prevailing with him, they practised on the lower part 66 of the people, with whom they had gotten most esteem, and “ travelled so effectually with them in it, that the bishop and his
clergy, in a popular tumult, are expelled the town, never to be “ restored to their former power. After which they proceeded to “reform the church, defacing images, and following in all points “the example of Berne, as by Viretus and Farellus they had been “ instructed; whose doings in the same, were afterwards counte6 nanced and approved by Calvin, as himself confesseth.""*
The declaration of Calvin to which Heylin resers, is probably that which he makes in his famous letter to Cardinal Sadolet. In the beginning of that letter, he expressly informs the Cardinal, that “ the religious system of Geneva had been instituted, and its eccle" siastical government reformed, before he was called thither. But " that what had been done by Farel and Viret, he heartily ap“proved, and strove, by all the means in his power, to preserve " and establish.
Beza also informs us, and after him, Melchior Adam, and others, that in the year 1536, when Calvin stopped at Geneva, on his way to Basil, without having the remotest thought of settling at the former place, Farel and Viret, then pastors of Geneva, earnestly importuned him to remain in that city, and to become their associate in the ministry; that he still, however, declined; that it was not until Farel ventured in the name of the Omnipotent God, to to denounce a curse against him, if he should persist in refusing, that he consented to remain at Geneva ; and that he at length submitted himself to the will of the PRESBYTERY, and of the magistrates, by whose suffrages, the consent of the people being obtained, he was elected and set apart as a pastor, and also as a public teacher of divinity, in the month of August, 1536.4 From this statement one fact is indubitable, viz. that there was a presbytery in Geneva before Calvin went thither. Another fact is equally clear, viz. that the settlement of a minister was considered as a proper
Heylin's Hist. of Presbyter. p. 4–9. † See Beza's Life of Calvin; and Melchior Adam's do. p. 68.
act of the presbytery. Nor will it in the least degree serve the cause of my opponents to contend that the ecclesiastical system of Geneva was, afterwards, new modelled and improved by Calvin. Be it so. Still it is certain that the leading principles of Presbyterian polity, viz. the doctrine of ministerial parity, and the government of the church by presbyteries, were received and in use, before the public ministry of Calvin commenced, or any of his writings had appeared.
Dr. Henry More, in his Divine Dialogues, p. 82. speaking of the reformation of Geneva, says,—“As for Calvin, the charge of “ rebellion upon him is, that he expelled the bishop of Geneva, " who was the chief magistrate of that city, and changed the go
vernment, and so carried on the reformation. But this is a mere " calumny against Calvin, and without all ground; for not so much
as that is true, that Calvin was one of the first planters of the 6 reformation at Geneva ; and much less that he, or any other re“ formers expelled the bishop out of that city. It was Farel, Vii ret, and Froment, that, by their preaching, converted Geneva, " in the bishop's absence, who fled away eight months before, be“ing hated by the citizens for the rape of a virgin, and many 6 adulteries with their wives."
That Dr. Bowden and Mr. How should be unacquainted with all this, is truly surprising ! I know, indeed, that it is expecting too much to suppose that these gentlemen will take the trouble to investigate more than one side of this controversy. But when their own favourite writers might have informed them of all the facts above stated, it is rather singular that they should have yet to learn them.
Another allegation of these gentlemen is, that Calvin, in the early part of his public life, thought very favourably of diocesan episcopacy, and even believed and acknowledged its apostolic origin. That afterwards, when he had undertaken to erect a church on a different model, and especially when he had the prospect of attaining great distinction in the Presbyterian establishment of Geneva, he began to alter his views and his language ; but that, even after he had fairly embarked in support of Presbyterian principles, he rather defended himself by the plea of necessity than divine authority. Nay, Mr. How declares, that Calvin, in rearing the church of Geneva, acknowledged that he was departing from the