« AnteriorContinuar »
[By ANDREW Wissowatius and JOACHIM STEGMAN the
TO THE PIOUS READER, Health and favour from God, the Father, and our
Lord Jesus Christ. We here publish a Catechism, or Institute of the Christian Religion, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, as it is professed by our Church. It must not be thought, because in many things it departs from the standard of all other Christians, that, in sending it forth to the public, differing in their perceptions upon all matters, we intend, as it were by a herald, to proclaim hostility, or sound the trumpet for the combat, and, as the poet sings,
Ære ciere viros, Murtemque accendere cantu: The warrior trumpet in the field to sound, With breathing brass to kindle fierce alarms. DRYDEN. It was not without reason that Hilary, bishop of Poictiers, heavily complained of old, that after the Council of Nice nothing was written but CREEDS, and these indeed annually and monthly; " by which,” he observes, one after another, we are bitten until we are alınost devoured.” The same writer elsewhere styles the bishops of Gaul, beati and felices, blessed and happy, because they had neither composed, nor received, nor acknowledged any other Confession besides that first and most simple one, which has been delivered to the Universal Church from the
very days of the apostles. It is not without just cause that many pious and learned men complain at present also, that the Confessions and Catechisms which are now put forth, and published by different Christian Churches, are hardly any thing else than apples of Eris, trumpets
of discord, ensigns of immortal enmities and factions among men,
The reason of this is, that those Confessions and Catechisms are proposed in such a manner that the conscience is bound by them, that a yoke is imposed upon Christians to swear to the words and opinions of men; and that they are established as a Rule of Faith, from which, every one who deviates in the least is immediately assailed by the thunderbolt of an anathema, is treated as a heretic, as a most vile and mischievous person, is excluded from heaven, consigned to hell, and doomed to be tormented with infernal fires.
Far be from us this disposition, or rather this madness. Whilst we compose a Catechism, we prescribe nothing to any man : whilst we declare our own opinions, we oppress no one. Let every person enjoy the freedom of his own judgment in religion; only let it be permitted to is also to exhibit our view of divine things, without injuring and calumniating others. For this is the golden Liberty of Prophesying which the sacred books of the New Testament so earnestly recommend to us, and wherein we are instructed by the example of the primitive apostolic church. “Quench not the spirit,” says the apostle (1 Thess. v. 19, 20);
Despise not prophesying ; prove all things, hold fast that which is good.
How deaf is the Christian world, split as it is into so many sects, become at this day to that most sacred admonition of the apostle !-And who are you, base mortals, who strive to smother and extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit in those in whom God has thought fit to kindle it? Is not this pertinaciously to strive against God? “Do ye provoke the Lord ? Are ye stronger than He?” (i Cor. x. 22.) Who are you that despise or envy in others the gift of Prophecy, which surpasses almost all other divine gifts?' Why do you not rather initate Moses, that
great Mediator of the Old Covenant, than whom no man was more meek ; and say with himn (Numb. xi. 29.) “Would God, that all the Lord's people were prophets ?” Who are you that perinit not men to prove either your own opinions or the opinions of others, that what is good might be retained, and what is bad rejected ;—but would have your sentiments adopted without examination or inquiry, and worshipped with servile submission, and the sentiments of others rejected and condemned without trial ? “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” (1 Cor. xiv. 36.) Do you alone carry the key of knowledge, so that from you nothing in the Sacred Scriptures is locked up, nothing sealed; and so that no one can open what you close, or close what
you open ? Why do you not reinenber that one alone is our master, to whom these prerogatives pertain,-even Christ: but that we all are brethren, to no one of whom is given authority and dominion over the conscience of another? For although some of the brethren may excel others in spiritual gifts, yet in respect to freedom, and the right of sonship, all are equal.
But whilst, with the apostle, we contend, that the spirit should not be quenched, nor prophesyings be despised, it must not be thought that we are advocating the cause of enthusiasts, and arrogating to ourselves divine miraculous inspirations, or prophetical authority. We acknowledge that now there exist no longer such miraculous gifts as the divine goodness, at the first rise of the Church, poured out by Christ, in a full and, so to speak, a threefold measure, in order that the novelty of the Christian religion might, as by a pillar, be supported by them. Nevertheless, no one, we apprehend, will assert that the arm of the Lord is shortened, or deny that the Holy Spirit is even yet given to believers in Christ. For although those
rivers of living water do not now flow from the belly of believers,-that is, though the Holy Spirit be not given in such abundance as before ; though it do not now display itself in so conspicuous a manner; though it have not, as formerly, such efficacy as to create and produce new properties in men;-it suffices, that such a divine influence may nevertheless be at this day hoped for by all who invoke Christ with a pure heart, as may improve the powers which they possess by nature, or have acquired by art and study; and, with due care and industry, render the mind acute and penetrating in seeking the sense of the Holy Scriptures. We adınit, also, that no prophets are now sent whose words are to be regarded as divine oracles which it is unlawful to reject. We do not, therefore, by any means assume such an authority for ourselves :-nay, this is the very thing which we reprobate in those persons who place their Confessions and Catechisms almost on an equality with the writings of prophets and apostles, so that it is not permitted to us even to open our lips against them. We believe, however, that there exists at present such a gift of prophecy, whereby the most hidden meanings of the sacred Scriptures may be penetrated, and the mind of the Holy Spirit, by whose authority they were written, be everywhere happily and correctly discerned :-which gift, although it be very important, is nevertheless far inferior in dignity and excellence to the gift of prophecy by which the times of the apostles were distinguished. For to the latter very little of human talent and exertion was added ;-but the former requires a great deal. They who are endowed with the one cannot mistake, in what they declare in the name of God, those who
possess the other are never exempt from the danger of erring. The reason is, that the persons who possess the latter are not themselves the principal
the things they utter, but the Holy Spirit,