« EdellinenJatka »
spoken of; and that they would render the Synodical constitutions immoveable and perpetual, by the concurrence of their authority.
REMARKS OF THE TRANSLATOR.
On this conclusion a few remarks may be useful. Conceding, that there were things unjustifiable in the decisions made, and the measures adopted by the Synod, I would inquire whether all the blame in the whole of that lamentable contest was on one side? Whether the conduct of the Remonstrants was not at least as remote from a conciliatory spirit, as that of the members of the Synod? And whether, in case the Remonstrants had been victorious, they would have made a more Christian use of their victory and authority than the Synod did? I never yet knew or read of an eager and pertinacious contest, in which both parties were not greatly culpable; and in many instances it is not easy for an impartial observer to determine on which side the greatest degree of criminality rests: only, where other motives or prejudices do not counteract, the suffering party is generally favoured and excused; and still more, when the motives, sentiments, or prejudices of the persons concerned are on his side. The Remonstrants, and all who ever since have favoured them, throw the whole blame of the contest, both of the management, result, and consequences of it on the Synod; and, as the Remonstrants were, in the first instance at least, the chief sufferers, and as their tenets are generally more favoured than those of the Synod, the public mind
has greatly favoured the cause of the suffering party. Yet the Synod and its supporters seem very confident that the Remonstrants exclusively were in fault, and consider their conduct as intolerably haughty and pertinacious. But will not an impartial judge, would not one who had no sympathy with either party, no partiality or prejudice, on either side, as to the five points of doctrine, (if such a man can be found on earth,) would he not equally divide the criminality? At least would he not allot nearly one half of it to the one, and one half to the other? Nay, might he not allot the greater part to the Remonstrants? Thus, in all other contests, which have terminated in incurable separations, the charge of schism has been brought with the utmost confidence (if not bitterness) by each party against its opponent; and, except in one solitary instance, nearly with equal justice. I say one instance excepted: for beyond all doubt, on the broad ground of scripture, in the separation of protestants from the Romish church, all the guilt of schism rested with that corrupt body, which excluded from its communion all those who would not worship creatures, or conform to antichristian observances; and, in many ways, made it the duty, the absolute duty, of all the true worshippers of God, through Christ Jesus, to come forth and be separate. But perhaps this is the only exception.
I would by no means exclude schism from the vocabulary of sins, of great and grievous sins, as many seem disposed to do. Pride, ambition, obstinacy, and self-will, and other very corrupt passions, powerfully influence both those who, by spiritual tyranny, would lord it over other men's consciences, and impose things not scriptural, if
not directly antiscriptural, as terms of communion or even of exemption from pains and penalties; and also on those who on slight grounds refuse compliance, where the requirement is not evidently wrong; and then magnify by a perverse ingenuity, into a most grievous evil, some harmless posture, or garb, or ceremony. If the one party would humbly and meekly, without desiring to arrogate a power not belonging to man, desist from peremptorily requiring such things as are doubtful, and liable to be misunderstood, and so scrupled by upright, peaceable, and conscientious persons; and if the other party would determine to comply as far as, on much previous examination of the scripture, with prayer, and teachableness, they conscientiously could do it; the schism might be prevented, and all the very bad effects of the church of Christ being thus rent and split into parties avoided. For these several parties are generally more eager in disputing with each other, than in "contending for the faith once delivered "to the saints;" in making proselytes, than in seeking the conversion of sinners; and in rendering their opponents odious and ridiculous, than in exhibiting our holy religion as lovely and attractive to all around them. In these things their zeal spends itself to no good purpose.
As to the existing divisions, it appears to me, on long and patient investigation, that they originated from very great criminality on both sides; nor am I prepared to say on which side it is the greater: and that there is criminality on both sides in the continuance of them, and still more in the increase of them; in which the heaviest lies, on those who hastily, and on very doubtful or inadequate
grounds, make new separations. Yet, as to the general division of the Christians in England into churchmen and dissenters, it appears to me that, in present circumstances, neither individuals, nor public bodies, can do any thing to terminate it; nor till some unforeseen event make way for a termination, by means, and in a manner, of which little conception can previously be formed. In the mean while, it seems very desirable to abate acrimony and severity, and to differ, where we must differ, in a loving spirit; and to unite with each other in every good work, as far as we can conscientiously. It is, in my view, in this case precisely the same as it was with the Synod of Dort and the Remonstrants; each party throws the whole blame on the other: but impartiality would, I think, nearly allot half to the one and half to the other. True Christians of every description, live surrounded with ungodly men, nay, with such as are profane and immoral, and contentious, yet they generally are enabled to live peaceably with them all. How is it then, that they cannot, on the same principles, bear with each other, when differences in merely the circumstances of religion are the only ground of disputations, bickerings, and contests?
"Whence come fightings among
2. A large proportion of that which at present would be disapproved, if not reprobated, in the concluding decision of the Synod of Dort, and in its effect, must be considered, by every impartial and well informed person, as pertaining to that age, and those which had preceded it. The authority of such conventions to determine points of theology, to enforce their decisions by ecclesias
tical censures, interdicts, and mandates, such as this conclusion contains, had not been called in question, at least in any great degree, by any of the reformers or reformed churches. It was the general opinion, that princes and states ought to convene councils or assemblies, when needed; and, as far as hope was given of such councils being convened, all parties commonly acted on this principle. They considered the ruling powers as invested with the right of authorising these conventions to cite before them the persons, whose tenets and conduct gave occasion of convening them; and of animadverting on them as contumacious, if they refused to appear, or to submit to the decisions of the majority; and they regarded it as a great advantage, when the secular power would concur in carrying into effect their censures, exclusions, or requirements. These points had been almost unanimously assumed as indisputable, from the dawn of the reformation, to the time of this Synod, both on the continent and in Britain; and little had been advanced in direct opposition to the justice of proceeding still further to punish the refractory with pains and penalties. The vanquished party indeed generally complained, and remonstrated with sufficient acrimony; yet, when the tables were turned, and they acquired a victory, they used their superiority in the same manner, and sometimes even with still greater severity, How far all this was criminal, unscriptural, unreasonable, or not, is by no means the present question; but how far the Synod of Dort went beyond the precedents of former times, and of other
3. Thus far, as it seems to me at least, the case