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sions of the haughty and tyrannical see of Rome. But, una fortunately, at his death there was no Joshua to lead the people, who rallied under the banners of the Bible, out of the wilderness in which Luther died. His tenets were soon converted into a new state of religion, and the spirit of reformation which he excited and inspired, was soon quenched by the broils and feuds of the Protestant princes, and the collisions of rival political interests, both on the continent and in the islands of Europe.
While Protestant hatred to the Roman Pontiff and the Papacy continued to increase, a secret lust in the bosoms of Protestants for ecclesiastical power and patronage worked in the members of the Protestant popes, who gradually assimiJated the new church to the old. Creeds and manuals, synods and councils, soon shackled the minds of men, and the spirit of reformation gradually forsook the Protestant church, or was supplanted by the spirit of the world.
Calvin renewed the speculative theology of Saint Augustine, and Geneva in a few years became the Alexandria of modern Europe. The power of religion was soon merged in debates about forms and ceremonies, in speculative strifes of opinion, and in fierce debates about the political and religious right of burning heretics. Still, however, in all these collisions much light was elicited; and had it not been for these extremes, it is problematical whether the wound inflicted upon the Man of Sin would have been as incurable as it has sin
proved itself to be. Reformation, however, became the order of the day; and this, assuredly, was a great matter, however it may have been managed. It was a revolution, and revolutions seldom move backward. The example that Luther set was of more value than all the achievements of Charles V, or the literary and moral labours of his distinguished contemporary, the erudite Erasmus.
It is curious to observe how extremes begot extremes in every step of the reformation cause, to the dawn of the present century. The penances, works of faith, and of superoragation of the Roman church drove Luther and Calvin to the ultraism of “ faith alone.”
After the Protestants had debated their own principles with one another till they lost all brotherly affection, and would as soon have “ communed in the sacrament" with the Catholics as with one another, speculative abstracts of Christian Platonism, the sublime mysteries of Egyptian theology, became alternately the bond of union and the apple of discord, among
the fathers and friends of the reformation. The five great dogmas of the Geneva reformer were carried to Amsterdam, and generated in the mind of James Arminius, in 1591, five opposite opinions; and these at the synod of Dort, in 1618, formed a new party of Remonstrants.
Into Britain, with whose history we are more immediately concerned, Lutherism, Calvinism, and Arminianism were soon imported ; and, like all raw materials there introduced, were immediately manufactured anew. They were all exotics, but easily acclimated, and soon flourished in Britain more luxuriantly than in their native soil. But the beggarly elements of opinions, forms, and ceremonies to which they gave rise, caused the “Spirit alone” to germinate in the mind of George Fox, in little more than half a century after the introduction of the Leyden theology.
In Lord Chatham's days, the Episcopal church, as his Lordship declares, was a singular compound—"A Popish liturgy, Calvinistic articles, and an Arminian clergy." But every few years caused a new dissension and reformation, until the kirk of Scotland and the church of England have been compelled to respect in some good degree the rights of conscience, even in dissenters themselves.
Abroad it was no better. The Saxon reformer had his friends; John, of Picardy, lived in the grateful remembrance of the Geneva family; and James, of Amsterdam, speculated in a very liberal style amongst all the Reinonstrants at home and abroad. In Sweden, Holland, Germany, England, Scotland, the debate varied not essentially: the Pope against the Protestants—the Lutherans against the Calvinists--the Calvinists against the Arminians—the Bishops against the Presbyters-and the Presbyterians among themselves ; until, by the potency of metaphysics and politics, they are now frittered down to various parties.
While philosophy, mysticism, and politics drove the parties to every question into antipodal extremes; while justification by metaphysical faith alone; while the forms and ceremonies of all sects begat the “Spirit alone" in the mind of George Fox; while the Calvinian five points generated the Arminian five points; and while the Westminster Creed, though unsubscribed by its makers, begot a hundred others, not until within the present generation did any sect or party in christendom unite and build upon the Bible alone.
Since that time, the first effort known to us to abandon the whole controversy about creeds and reformations, and to restore primitive Christianity, or to build alone upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself the chief corner, has been made.
Tired of new creeds and new parties in religion, and of the numerous abortive efforts to reform the reformation; convinced from the Holy Scriptures, from observation and experience, that the union of the disciples of Christ is essential to the conversion of the world, and that the correction and improvement of no creed, or partizan establishment in christendom, could ever become the basis of such a union, communion, and co-operation, as would restore peace to a church militant against itself, or triumph to the common salvation, a few individuals, about the commencement of the present century, began to reflect upon
and means to restore primitive Christianity.
This led to a careful, most conscientious, and prayerful examination of the grounds and reasons of the present state of things in all the Protestant sects. On examination of the history of all the platforms and constitutions of all these sects, it appeared evident as mathematical demonstration itself, that neither the Augsburg articles of faith and opinion, nor the Westminster, nor the Wesleyan, nor those of any state creed or dissenting establishment could ever improve the condition of things, restore union to the church, peace to the world, or success to the gospel of Christ.
As the Bible was said and constantly affirmed to be the religion of Protestants, it was for some time a mysterious problem why the Bible alone, confessed and acknowledged, should work no happier results than the strifes, divisions, and retaliatory excommunications of rival Protestant sects. It appeared, however in this case, after a more intimate acquaintance with the details of the inner temple of sectarian Christianity, as in many similar cases, that it is not the acknowledgment of a good rule, but the walking by it, that secures the happiness of society. The Bible in the lips, and the creed in the head and in the heart, will not save the church from strife, emulation, and schism There is no moral, ecclesiastical, or political good, by simply acknowledging it in word. It must be obeyed.
In our ecclesiastical pilgrimage we have occasionally met with some vehement declaimers against human written creeds, and pleaders for the Bible alone, who were all the while preaching up the opinions of saint Arius or saint Athanasius. Their sentiments, language, style, and general views of the gospel were as human as auricular confession, extreme unction, or purgatorial purification.
The Bible alone is the Bible only, in word and deed, in profession and practice; and this alone can reform the world and save the church. Judging others as we once judged ourselves, there are not a few who are advocating the Bible alone, and preaching their own opinions. Before we applied the Bible alone to our views, or brought our views and religious practices to the Bible, we pleaded the old theme,_" The Bible alone is the religion of Protestants.” But we found it an arduous task, and one of twenty years' labour, to correct our diction, and purify our speech according to the Bible alone; and even yet we have not wholly practically repudiated the language of Ashdod. We only profess to work and walk by the rules which will inevitably issue in a pure speech, and in right conceptions of that pure, and holy, and celestial thing called Christianity-in faith, in sentiment, and in practice. A deep and an abiding impression that the power,
the consolations, and joys--the holiness and happiness of Christ's religion were lost in the forms and ceremonies, in the speculations and conjectures, in the feuds and bickerings of sects and schisms, originated a project many years ago for uniting the sects, or rather the christians in all the sects, upon a clear and scriptural bond of union-upon having a “thus saith the Lord,” either in express terms, or in approved precedent, for every
article of faith and item of religious practice.” This was offered in the year 1809, in the “ Declaration and Address" of the Washington Association, Pennsylvania. It was first tendered the parties that confessed the Westminster creed; but equally submitted to the Protestants of every name, making faith in Christ, and obedience to him, the only test of Christian character, and the only bond of church union, communion, and co-operation. It was indeed approved by all; but adopted and practised by none, except the few, or part of the few, who made the future.
None of us who either got up or sustained that project was then aware of what havoc that said principle, if faithfully applied, would have made of our views and practices on various favourite points. When we take a close retrospective view of the last thirty years, (for we have a pretty distinct recollection of our travel's history for that period,) and of the workings of that principle in heart and life, with which we cominenced our public career in the work of the Lord, we know not how to express our astonishment better than in the following parable:
A citizen of the West had a very promising young vineyard on a fruitful hill. He had no practical knowledge in the cultivation of the grape; but had read much and largely upon the dressing, pruning, and managing of the vine. He built himself a wine-vat, and prepared all the implements for the vintage. But he lacked practical skill in using the pruning knife. His vines flourished exceedingly, and stretched forth their tendrils on every side; but he had no vintage.
A vinedresser from Oporto one day presented himself as he was musing upon his disappointments. He was celebrated in his profession, and the most skilful in all the affairs of the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard having employed him to dress and keep his vineyard, set out on a long journey for a few weeks. On his return and visit to his farm, he walked out one day to his vineyard; when, to his amazement, he saw the ground literally covered with the prunings of his vines. The vinedresser had very skilfully and freely used the pruning-hook, and had left little more than the roots and naked stems of the vines standing by the frames.
“My vineyard is ruined! My hopes are blighted! I am undone! I am ruined !” exclaimed the unhappy husbandUnhappy wretch!
have deceived me; you have robbed me of the labours of five years, and blasted in one single moon, all iny bright hopes for years to come!” The vine-dresser stood appalled; but soon as the tempest subsided, ventured to say, Master, I will serve you
five for nothing, if we gather not more grapes, and have not a better vintage this year, than you have gathered in all the years since you planted these vines.” The proprietor of the vineyard withdrew, saying,—“It is impossible! It is impossible !" and visited it not again till invited by his vinedresser about the middle of autumn; when, to his still greater astonishment, and much more to his gratification, he found incomparably more grapes than he had hitherto gathered from his vines, and of a much more delicious quality.