Page images
PDF
EPUB

Nature's head, and to place the creature in the throne of God and grace. The learned Vossius, in his Historia Pelagiana, a book full fraught with sacred antiquity, gives us this brief representation of him, that he was a trimmer of nature, and an affronter of grace.'? His body was the very type of his soul, for he wanted an eye ;"3 to be sure he wanted a spiritual eye to discern the things of God. He was a Scot by nation,4 a monk by profession, a man exemplary in morals, and not contemptible for learning; for though Jerome vilify him in respect of both, yet Chrysostom gives him a sufficient commendamus, and Augustine himself will set his hand to it, that learned adversary of his, full of grace and truth, and the very hammer that broke his flinty and rebellious error in pieces. If you would see the rise, and progress, and variations of this error, how it began to blush and put on more modesty in semi-Pelagianism ; how afterwards it covered its nakedness with some Popish fig-leaves; how at length it refined itself, and dressed itself more handsomely in Arminianism, you may consult with the fore-mentioned author, who kept a relic of his Pelagian history in his own breast, whilst it left upon him an Arminian tincture. This spreading error leavened the great lump and generality of the world; as the profound Bradwardine sighs and complains, 'Almost the whole world went into error after Pelagius ;'6 for all men are born Pelagians. Nature is predominate in them, it has taken possession of them, and will not easily subor

1. Historiæ de Controversiis ; quas Pelagius, ejusque reliquiæ moverunt, Libri septem.' 4to, Lug. Bat. 1628.

? Humani arbitrii decomptor, et divinæ gratiæ contemptor. 3 Movópalvos.

* Pelagius was a native of Wales, not of Scotland. His vernacular name was Morgan, signifying sea-born, which he Græcised into Pelagius.-Cave, Hist. Lit. vol. i. cent. iv.

6 Malleus Pelagianismi. 6 Totus pæne mundus post Pelagium abiit in errorem.

dinate itself to a superior principle. Yet Nature has not such a fountain of perfection in itself, but that it may very well draw from another. This heathenish principle, after all its advancements and improvements, after all its whitenings and purifyings, must stand but afar off 'in the court of the Gentiles ;'1 it cannot enter into the temple of God, much less into the holy of holies ;"? it cannot pierce within the veil.

The ennoblement of intellectuals, the spotless integrity of morals, the sweetness of dispositions, and the candour of Nature, are all deservedly amiable in the eye of the world. The candle of Socrates, the candle of Plato, and the lamp of Epictetus, did all shine before men, and shine more than some that would fain be called Christians. Nature makes a very fine show, and a goodly glittering in the eye of the world ; but this candle cannot appear in the presence of a sun. All the paintings and varnishings of Nature please and enamour the eyes of men, but they melt away at the presence of God. The lamp of a moralist may waste itself in doing good to others, and yet at length may go out in a snuff, and be cast into utter darkness. The harmonious composing of natural faculties, the tuning of those spheres, will never make up a heaven fit for a soul to dwell in. Yet, notwithstanding, whatsoever is lovely in Nature is acceptable even to God himself, for it is a print of Himself, and He does proportion some temporal rewards unto it. The justice of an Aristides, the good laws of a Solon or a Lycurgus, the formal devotion of a Numa Pompilius, the prudence of a Cato, the eourage of a Scipio, the moderation of a Fabius, the public spirit of a Cicero, had all some rewards scattered among them. Nor is there any doubt but that some of the heathens pleased God better than others. Surely Socrates was more lovely in His eyes than 1 In atrio Gentium.

2 Sanctum Sanctorum.

Aristophanes ; Augustus pleased him better than Tiberius ; Cicero was more acceptable to him than Catiline, for there were more remainders of his image in the one than in the other—the one was of purer and nobler influence than the other. The less wicked is, compared with the more wicked, good ;' the one shall have more mitigations of punishment than the other. Socrates shall taste a milder cup of wrath, whereas Aristopbanes shall drink up the dregs of fury; if divine justice whip Cicero with rods, it 1 Kings xii. 11. will whip Catiline with scorpions. An easier and more gentle worm shall feed upon Augustus, a more fierce and cruel one shall prey upon Tiberius; if justice put Cato into a prison, it will put Cethegus into a dungeon.

Nor is this a small advantage that comes by the excellencies and improvements of Nature, that if God shall please to beautify and adorn such a one with supernatural principles, and if He think good to drop grace into such a soul, it will be more serviceable and instrumental to God than others. Religion cannot desire to shine with a greater gloss and lustre, it cannot desire to ride among men in greater pomp and solemnity, in a more triumphant chariot, than in a soul of vast intellectuals, of virgin and undeflowered morals, of calm and composed affections, of pleasant and ingenuous dispositions. When the strength of Nature, and the power of godliness, unite and concentricate their forces, they make up the finest and purest complexion, the soundest and bravest constitution, like a sparkling and vigorous soul quickening and informing a beautiful body.

Yet this must be thought upon, that the different im-| provement, even of naturals, springs only from grace. For essentials and specificals, which are mere nature, they are equal in all ; but whatsoever singular or additional perfec

Minus malus respectu pejoris est bonus.

tion is annexed to such a one, flows only from the distinguishing goodness of a higher cause. That Socrates was any better than Aristophanes, was not nature, but a kind of common gift and grace of the Spirit of God; for there are the same seminal principles in all. Augustus and Tiberius were hewn out of the same rock: there are in Cicero the seeds of a Catiline; and when the one brings forth more kindly and generous, the other more wild and corrupted, fruit, it is accordingly as the countenance and favourable aspect of Heaven is pleased to give the increase ; for, as the philosopher tells us, the motion of the mover precedes the motion of the object to be moved.'? Was there any propension or inclination to goodness in the heart of a Cicero more than of a Catiline, it was only from the first mover, from the finger of God himself, that tuned the one more harmoniously than the other. As take two several lutes, let them be made both alike for essentials, for matter and form, if now the one be strung better than the other, the thanks is not due to the lute, but to the arbitrary pleasure of him that strung it; let them both be made alike and strung alike, yet if the one be quickened with a more delicate and graceful touch, the prevailing excellency of the music was not to be ascribed to the nature of the lute, but to the skill and dexterity of him that did move it, and prompted it into such elegant sounds. The several degrees of worth in men that are above radicals and fundamentals of nature, are all the skill and workmanship, the fruits and productions of common grace ; for every particular action has its origin from a universal agent,'? Now if the universal agent did only dispense an equal concourse in an equal subject, all the operations and effects that flow from thence must needs be equal also ; if, then, there be any

1 Motio moventis præcedit motum mobilis.
2 Omnis actio particularis habet originem ab agente universali.

eminency in the workings of the one more than of the other, it can have no other original than from that noble influence which a free and supreme agent is free to communicate in various measures, so that naked nature of itself is a most invalid and inefficacious principle, that does crumble away its own strength, and does wear and waste by its motions, and for every act of improvement depends only upon the kindness of the First Being. They that tell you Nature may merit grace and glory, may as well tell you, if they please, that a candle by its shining may merit to be a star, to be a sun.

Nor yet is Nature always constant to its own light; it does not deal faithfully with its intimate and essential principles. Some darlings of Nature have abundantly witnessed this, while they have run into some unnatural practices that were the very blushes of Nature. If, then, Nature cannot tell how to live upon earth, will it ever be able to climb up to heaven? 'If it knows not how to serve, it knows not how to rule ;'1 if it be not faithful in a little, do you think it shall be made ruler over much ? No, certainly; moral endowments, when they are at the proudest top and apex, can do no more than what that great Antipelagian Prospero tells us, 'They can make our mortal life distinguished, but cannot confer immortality.'3 God has ordained men to a choicer end than these natural faculties can either deserve, or obtain, or enjoy. Nature's hand cannot earn it; Nature's hand cannot reach it; Nature's eye cannot see it.

That glorious and ultimate end which must fill and satiate the being of man, is the beatifical vision of God himself. Now there is no natural power nor operation proportioned to such a transcendent object as the face of "Si nesciat servire, nescit imperare.

Note T. 3 Mortalem vitam honestare possunt, æternam conferre non possunt.

Matt. xxv. 23.

!

« EelmineJätka »