Page images
PDF
EPUB

ARTICLE XVIII. * Concerning free-will they teach, that the human will has a ' certain liberty to perform civil justice, and to choose things sub • jected to reason. But it has not the power without the Holy

Spirit, of performing spiritual righteousness. Because St. Paul

says, The animal man does not perceive the things, which are “ of the Spirit of God.” · And Christ says, “Without me ye are “ not able to do any thing." But spiritual righteousness is • wrought in us, when we are assisted by the Holy Spirit. Indeed

we receive the Holy Spirit, when we assent to the word of God, • that we may be comforted by faith in our terrors, as Paul teaches when he says,

" That

ye may receive the promise of the Spirit “ by faith.” These things Augustine teaches in so many words ' in the third book of Hypugnosticon.-We confess, that there is

free-will to all men, having indeed the judgment of reason, not • that which is sufficient (idoneum,) in those things which belong

to God, without God, either to begin, or certainly to accom

plish; but only in the works of this present life, as well good as • evil. In good things I say, which arise from the good of nature; " that is, to be willing to labour in the field; to be willing to eat • and drink; to be willing to have a friend ; to be willing to have • clothing; to be willing to marry a wife; to feed the flocks, to • learn the arts of diverse good things ; to will whatever good

belongs to this present life; all which do not subsist, except by • divine government; yea, from God, and by him they are, and • began to be. But I say, for evil things; that is, io will to

worship an idol, to will the commission of murder, &c. As to • these things the opinion of Augustine excellently teacheth, what' • is to be attributed to free-will, and clearly (diserte) distinguishes • civil discipline or the exercise of human reason, from spiritual • motions; from true fear, patience, constancy, faith, prayer, in " the severest temptations, amidst the stratagems of the devil, in • the terrors of sin. In these certainly there is need for us to • be governed and assisted by the Holy Spirit ; as St. Paul says, “ The Spirit helpeth our infirmities." —We condemn the Pela

gians, and the like, who teach, that, without the Holy Spirit, • by the sole powers of nature, we may be able to love God above • all things, to perform the law of God, as to the substance of our - actings. These dreams we ingenuously and necessarily repre• hend: for they obscure the benefits of Christ. For Christ the - Mediator is therefore proposed to us in the gospel, and mercy is

promised, because human nature cannot satisty the law. As • Paul testifies, when he says, " The feeling of the flesh (sensus carnis) is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the laws of God, nor indeed can be subjected."' 'For, though human • nature is able in some way to perform outward works of itself;

· Rom, viii. 7, 8.

1

• for it can refrain the bands from theft, from murder; yet it

cannot effect interior motions, as true fear, confidence, chas"tity; unless the Spirit of God rule and assist our hearts,

And yet, even in this place we teach this also, that it is the

commandment of God, that even carnal men should be rese • trained by the diligence of reason, and by that civil discipline,

which Paul teaches--" The law is a schoolmaster unto Christ :* Again, “ The law is placed against the unrighteous.”

[ocr errors]

FROM THE SAXON CONFESSION. • Here now let also the doctrine concerning free-will be known. Learned men have always rightly distinguished, in the churchdiscipline, the newness of the Spirit, which is the beginning

of eternal life; and have taught, that in man, the liberty of 'the will is such, to the governing the external motions of the • limbs, that even ihose who are not born again, may howerer • be able to perform the discipline, which is external obedience ' according to the law. But that man cau by no means free

himself from sin, and from eternal death, by his own natural

powers: but this liberation and conversion of man to God, ' and this spiritual newness, comes to us, by the Son of God ' making us alive by bis Holy Spirit. As it is said, “If any

man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." And the ' will, when the Spirit of God is received, is not idle. But we

give thanks to God for this immense benefit; because that

unto us, on account of his Son, and through him, he gives 'the Holy Spirit, and rules us by his own Spirit. And we con" demn the Pelagians and Manichæes, as we have in its proper

place more copiously explained.'

In all the Lutheran, or Saxon confessions ;-the doctrine con. cerning original sin ; the will of fallen man as enslaved 10 sin, so as to be incapable of spiritual good, without special grace; justification by faith, and good works the fruits of living faith; in short, every thing except election and final perseverance, (which are not denied, but omitted, but yet implied, or deducible by undeniable consequence from their other doctrines,) are evidently the same, as in the Helvetian, Gallick, Scotch, and Belgick cooe fessions : and all agree in strongly condemning Pelagianism.Numbers in these kingdoms, classed in general among the Calvinists, almost exactly in these respects, answer the description above given of the Lutherans, &c. The foundation of their religion is laid, in humiliation as fallen sinners: this prepares them for receiving the gospel : they agree with their more Calvinistick brethren, in almost every thing, except election and

[ocr errors]

final perseverance; concerning which, many of them are rather negative, than positir'e, opponents: and we feel no repugnance to associate with them as our beloved fellow christians; which we car not do with those, who approximate to Pelagianism; and who favou 1

opinion of salvation, in any way, except by living faith in Christ, and by the regeneration and sanctitication of the Holy Spirit.

- All these confessions of the true faith, however they may • differ in word, yet in deed excellently agree together. As • therefore “ with the heart we believe unto righteousness, and “ with the mouth confession is made unto salvation :” 'certainly • nothing can be more sweet, nothing more beautiful in this

life, than the agreement of these contessions in one truth, faith,

righteousnes and salvation. For as many as there are of such • harmonious confessions of the churches, so many in number are there of the most weighty and united testimonies for the

truth, and against error and a lie.—As many, as by publick • confession, testify mutual consent, mutually confirm each other,

and exhort each other to constancy in the same confession : and

they invite and excite others to embrace the same truth : and • this kind of consent of the saints in the truth here on earth, (exbibits a certain type, and supplies an argument, not to be

slighted, of the consent and harmony, with which the saints in the heavens, before the throne of God, shall celebrate to eternity, the Author of all truth. Therefore the collection, and • disposing into harmony, of the confessions of the orthodox

<

churches, is to be commended, and the purpose approved, as

entered on, as it were, by a certain divine instigation. (instinctu.) • For thus it is shewn, that difference and distance of places

nothing hinders the conjunction and unity of the Spirit in the faithful, who is every where always like unto himself. Finally they, who are placed in the light of such a consent, (consensus,)

and surrounded as it were by such a cloud of witnesses, " have reason to blush, when they dire to recal from beneath, (ab inferis,) and having first drunk themselves, to reach forth to • be received by others, the errors, which have been condemned and

exploded, as well by the orthodox fathers of preceding ages, as by the consent of the churches of our own time.' *

CORPUS ET SYNTAGMA CONFESSIONUM FIDEI, &c. Geneva, 1612. p. 6.–From this baok, all these translations have been made; and it is well worth the study of all, who desire fully to understand these subjects, and the arguments adduced concerning them. I believe more modern editions of this collection, or a part of it, have been published: but a good iranslation of the whole would give our countrymen in general, a

most important opportunity of judging, what preachers and writers have deviated form the grand doctrines of the reformation, in all the churches throughout Europe; and who have constantly adhered to them.

In what has here been attempted, the translation is as literal as the idiom of our language would admit, if not more so. Fidelity in giving the English reader the exact meaning of the original, has alone been studied It is however possible, that the author may have in some clauses mistaken the meaning, but he is conscious that he has never wilfully mis-stated it.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »