Page images

CHAP. 16.




Dutch. The provinces of Friesland, Zealand, Utrecht, Guelderland, and Groningen, rejected its decisions. England threw off the doctrines of Calvin, and embraced the doctrines of Arminus. The French Protestants, finding the decisions of the Synod extremely offensive to the Catholics, from whom they were suffering the greatest indignities, were afraid publicly to approve of them, lest they should bring upon themselves new sufferings, and gradually relaxed from the Gomarists.

The doctors of Saumur and Sedan advanced sentiments conformable to the Lutherans. John Cameron and Moses Amy. raut preached the doctrine of universal redemption, De La Place came forward with a denial of the imputation of Adam's sin. Claude, Pajon, and Papin exalted the powers of human nature, rendering unnecessary the operations of the Spirit of God. By these and other bold spirits, they were led in the course of this century to depart far from the sentiments of Cal. vin, and before the revocation of the edict of Nantez the body of French Protestants had become Arminians.

The Swiss churches were seriously affected by the relaxed doctrines of the French. The academy at Geneva retained its high character for near half a century, and was the resort of students from all parts of Europe ; and the churches long remained firm in the faith of the distinguished man who had so highly elevated them. But some of the pastors imbibed the principles of Amyraut and De La Place, and Geneva was numbered among the Arminians. Alarmed at the progress of the new opinions, an assembly of divines appointed John Henry Heidegger, professor of divinity at Zurich in 1675, to construct a system of doctrine, and to add to it the other confessions of the Helvetic church. the whole was called the FORM

But it occasioned great tumult, for in the next century it was imposed by the magistrates of Berne upon all professors and pastors as a rule of faith, and violently resisted, until it was abrogated. Since 1705, candidates for the ministry have been admitied upon a general declaration of faith in the Scriptures.

The Dutch Calvinists flattered themselves that they should bave much peace and prosperity after the expulsion of the Arminians, but they found themselves involved in new troubles, not only with them upon their restoration, but from intestine disputes upon various points of doctrine and practice, which for a whole century, continued to distract the United Provin

The most important factions were the Cocceians and the Voetians. John Cocceius, Professor of divinity in the univer



sity of Leyden, neglecting the natural and simple interpretation of Calvin, was disposed to understand the words and phrases of scripture in every sense of which they are susceptible, and viewed the whole of the Old Testament as a miror, in which may clearly be seen the New Testament dispensation; and every thing relating to Christ and his apostles as types or images of future events. He considered the ten commandments not as a rule of obedience, but as a representation of the covenant of grace.

With him united Des Cartes, the most famous philosopher of that period; whose leading principles were, that : the man who would be a philosopher must begin his inquiries

by doubting all things, even the existence of God; that the nature or essence of spirit, and even of God himself, consists in thought; that space has no real existance, is no more than the creature of fancy, and that consequently matter is without bounds. The Cocceians and Cartesians united for the purpose of delivering the theology of the day from the endless divisions and subdivisions of the peripatetical philosophy.

Their attempts met with opposition in 1639 from Voet, a theological instructer at Utrecht. He was supported by Rivet, Des Marets, Maestricht, and the greatest part of the Dutch clergy, who resolved in a public assembly to admit no one into the ministry who favored the Cartesian philosophy. The states of Holland also issued an edict, forbidding the professors to teach it in schools. But opposition rather aided than retarded the Coceiaus and Cartesians. The contest between the contending parties were very riolent for many years.

Other controversies arose out of attempts to simplify religion by the Cartesian philosophy, which for years agitated the United Provinces and Germany. At one time the churches were rent by a dispute on the authority of reason in matters of religion. At another on the proper generation of the Son of God, on divine decrees, original sin, and the satisfaction of Christ. Bewitched by the Cartesian philosophy, Balthazar Becher, minister of Amsterdam, got persuaded that mind could not act upon matter, unless united with it as was the soul to the body, and denied the scriptural account of the influence of the devil over mankind, and published in 1691 a work of immense labour, entitled The World Bewitched, which for a time encountered much opposition. There arose also about the same time the Verschorists and the Hattemists, who perverted the doctrine of divine decrees to fatal necessity. .

The Cartesian philosophy gave place to the Newtonian, and with it gradually died many of these contentions. Few

CHAP. 16.



new subjects of controversy engrossed the attention of the Dutch or Swiss churches in the eighteenth century. The Dutch enjoyed for some time after the revocation of the edict of Nantez the labours of many able French divines. But these churches gradually declined, became lukewarm, and suffered with the rest of continental Europe exceedingly, from French infidelity, and the horrid wars of revolutionary France. There is in them, however, now much of the life and power of religion.

Many of the Calvinistic churches in Germany have fallen a prey to Liberalism; though some few remain steadfast, and Storr and others have so nobly vindicated their faith that their prospects are brightening. In some of the Swiss cantons a precious seed has remained to serve the Lord, but long since the Genevan churches degenerated from Calvinism to Arminianism, and through the poisonous infection of Rousseau and Voltaire have now descended to the lowest degrees of Socinianism. Recent attempts to preach the doctrines of Calvin have met there with bitter persecution. The efforts of the British and Foreign Bible Society have been felt throughout Switzerland and Germany. In Prussia the prospect is great, that not a child will hereafter grow up in ignorance of the scriptures. The Catholics are active to regain their former possessions, and their activity has compelled the Reformed and Lutherans to union. The age of frivolity and arrogant philosophy seems fast passing away. The public mind is turning rapidly, in the middle and north of Europe, to serious subjects—to something which will satisfy conscience and bring peace and consolation to ruined man.

The Protestants who have remained in France, since the revocation of the edict of Nantez have lived in great seclusion. Their worship was interdicted by Lewis XIV; their marriages were declared illegal, and oppression in every form laid them in the dust. From his death to the revolution they met with milder treatment. Then every man was left to his own religion. They now number about a million and a half, For the last four years they bave been rapidly increasing, especially in the south of France. Near Lyons a number of villages have become Protestant, and some hundreds have professed to be the subjects of renewing grace. The constitution of the Reformed church is Presbyterian. It is divided into 89 consistories. The Lutherans are chiefly in the north of France.

[ocr errors]

Where there is a population of a thousand, the pastors are supported by government; 295 Calvinistic and 220 Lutheran pastors are now thus partially paid. Many others there are, who receive no pay from this source, because the population is insufficient. A handsome sum has recently been granted by government for their colleges and the repair of churches : 6000 members form a consistorial church.

A warm missionary spirit has lately been excited among them. The monthly concert is extensively observed, and Sabbath schools have been established. A Bible, Tract, and Missionary society, have been formeil at Paris, The Count Ver Huel, a peer of France, and Vice Admiral, is their patron.

A remnant of the Waldenses, is to be found in the valleys of Piedmont. They remain truly Protestant, but they are exceedingly oppressed by the Catholics, being excluded from the military and civil employments, and the learned professions, and compelled to observe the festivals of the Papists, and to abstain from work on the festival days. They number 13 parishes, comprising 13 pastors, and a population of 18,000 Among them are not more than 1480 Catholics.

It is remarkable and favourable, that, though the majority of the teachers and people in the reformed churches have departed far from their original standards of faith, yet those standards—the Helvetic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the decisions of the Synod of Dort, and the thirty-nine articles, remain unaltered as their professed creeds.

The Calvinists have held the first rank in sacred literature. The Genevan Academy, sent out a large number of able the. ologians. The greatness of Calvin has ever been felt and acknowledged by all his foes. Beza, as a scholar, was not much his inferior. Others who associated with them and succeeded them, shone with distinguished brightness-Oecolampadius, Bullinger, Farel, Viret, Hospinion, in the sixteenth; and the two Buxtorfs and Turretin, in Switzerland ; Gomer, Cocceius, Voet, Spanheim, De Maestricht, in Holland; Du Moullin, Daille, Claude, Basnage, Saurin, in France, in the seventeenth century; besides those in England, Scotland, and America, who will pass before us in the history of those churches.

In holiness, spirituality, purity of morals, zeal in the cause of Christ and salvation of men, the Calvinists have been surpassed by none


CHAP. 16.




The Arminians were distinguished by their peculiar views of the five points of Calvinism. In relation to these, they believed,

I. That God, from eternity, determined to bestow salvation on those who, he foresaw, would persevere unto the end, and to inflict everlasting punishment on those who should continue in their unbelief, and resist his divine succours; so that election and reprobation are conditional.

II. That Jesus Christ, by his sufferings and death, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind, and of every individual in particular; that, however, none but those who believe in him, can be partakers of his benefits.

III. That mankind are not totally depraved, and that depravity does not come upon them, by virtue of Adam's being their federal head.

IV. That the grace of God, which converts men, is not irresistible.

V. That those who are united to Christ by faith may fall from a state of grace, and finally perish.

Arminius was a pupil of Calvin, and for many years preached his sentiments. He did not avow this creed until he had attained to the professorship of divinity at Leyden. He died in 1609, before it had much engaged the attention of the Christian world ;-leaving a great reputation among his followers for penetration and piety.

After the decision of the synod of Dort the Arminians were treated, by Maurice, prince of Holland, with great severity. Barneveldt, their most distinguished civilian, was beheaded on a scaffold. Grotius, one of the most learned men in Europe, who advocated their system, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment; but he fled and found refuge in France. Many retired to Antwerp. A colony accepted an invitation of Frederic, duke of Holstein, and settled in his dominions, and built à town which they called Fredericstadt. Political artifice was at the basis of all this religious persecution.

After the death of prince Maurice, in 1625, the Arminians were recalled from exile, and treated with great lenity and kindness. They erected churches, and founded a College at Amsterdam. Episcopius, their chief advocate, was appointed their first theological professor. They soon numbered in the Unite.? Provinces, 34 congregations, and 84 pastors. The church of England embraced their sentiments, through the in

« PreviousContinue »