HISTORIC PROOF OF THE DOCTRINAL CALVINISM OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
FOR prevention of mistake, I request leave to apprize the reader,
1. That in the following Essay I use the words CALVINISM and CALVINIST merely in compliance with custom. The doctrinal system, established in England, which LUTHER and CALVIN were the honoured instruments of retrieving, subsisted, from the beginning, in the faith of God’s elect people, and in the sacred Scriptures. But, “Dandum aliqud consuetudini.”
2. I use the terms PELAGIANISM and ARMINIANISM in their literal and proper signification, as denoting the system originally fabricated by PELAGIUS, and afterwards rebuilt by ARMINIUS. Though, in strictness of speech, that system should rather be denominated, MORGANISM and VAN HARMINISM; the real name of Pelagius having been MORGAN, as that of Arminius was VAN HARMIN.
3. By the word METHODISTS, which likewise frequently occurs, I mean the approvers, followers, and abettors of Mr. JOHN WESLEY’S principles and practices, and them only. If some folks, either through want of knowledge, or want of candour, apply the name of METHODIST to such as agree in all points with the Church of England, it cannot be helped; nor have I the least objection to being involved under that title, in this sense of it: but I myself never use the term, except in the meaning above defined.
4. Mention is often made of the ANABAPTISTS, and of their theological enormities. Be it, therefore, observed, that the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century were a very different sort of people from the Baptists of the last century, and of the current; consequently, what is observed of the former, does by no means affect the latter.
5. I foresee one objection, in particular, to which the ensuing work is liable: viz. that the two PELAGIAN METHODISTS, namely, Mr. JOHN WESLEY and Mr. WALTER SELLON, whose fraudulent perversions of truth, facts, and common sense, gave the first occasion to the present undertaking, “are not persons of sufficient consequence to merit so large and explicit a refutation.” I acknowledge the propriety and the force of this remark. It cannot be denied, that the Church of England has seldom, if ever (at least since the Civil Wars), been arraigned, tried, and condemned, by a pair of such insignificant adversaries. Yet, though the men themselves are of no importance, the Church and her doctrine are of much. Which consideration has we get enough with me, not only to warrant the design and extent of the following vindication, but also to justify any future attempts of the same kind, which the continued perverseness of the said discomfited METHODISTS may render needful. I mean, in case the united labours of that unto should be able to squeeze forth anything which may carry a face of argument. For, otherwise, I have some thoughts of consigning them to the peaceable enjoyment of that contempt and neglect due to their malice and incapacity. Lord Bolingbroke somewhere observes, that “To have the last word is the privilege of had writers:” a privilege which I shall never envy them.
Mr. WESLEY and his subalterns are, in general, so excessively scurrilous and abusive, that contending with them resembles fighting with chimney-sweepers, or bathing in a mud-pool. So they can but raise a temporary mist before the eyes of their deluded adherents, they care not what they invent, nor whereof they affirm.
6. Let it not, however, be supposed, hat I bear them the least degree of personal hatred; God forbid; I have not so learned Christ. The very men, who have my opposition, have m y prayers also. I dare address the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls in those lines of the late Dr. Doddridge:
Hast thou a lamb, in all thy flock,
I would disdain to feed?
But I likewise wish ever to add,
Hast thou a foe, before whose face
I fear thy cause to plead?
Grace, mercy, and peace, be to all who love, and who desire to love, our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
BEFORE I enter on the principal design of the present undertaking, it may be proper to throw together some preliminary observations, by way of Preface, that the main thread of our historic enquiry may, afterwards, proceed the more evenly and uninterruptedly.
In February 1769, I published a pamphlet, entitled, “The Church of England vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism, and the Case of Arminian Subscription particularly considered:” which I addressed to a learned and respectable Oxonian, who had lately presented us with an apology for the Arminian principles; and whose arguments against the real doctrines of our Established Church my counter vindication was designed to obviate.
That Omniscient Being, to whom “all hearts are open,” knows, that a feeling regard to his glory, and a tender solicitude for the honour of truth, were my sole determining motives to that [[@Page:47]] humble attempt. I could sincerely adopt the appeal of archbishop Bradwardin, who wrote on a similar occasion, and in defence of the same doctrines: Scis, quòd nusquam virtute meii, sed tuâ confisus, tantillus aggredior tantam causam. Far, exceeding far, from presuming on any imaginary abilities of my own, and equally remote from wishing to distinguish myself on the stage of public observation, I resolved to conceal my name; though I could not resolve, by continuing entirely silent, to forego my allegiance to God, and my duty to the church.
His controversy had, indeed, been recently in the hands of a person whose zeal for the principles of the Reformation adds dignity to his rank and lustre to his talents; I mean the able and learned author of Pietas Oænienisis: and I freely confess, that I was under some doubt, whether it might not carry an implication of self-confidence, should I glean up, and lay before the public, a few of those authentic facts and testimonies, the mention of which had, for the most part, been omitted by that masterly writer. Considering, however, that, of old, even those persons who had but a mite to throw into the treasury, were not therefore wholly exempted from the duty of contribution; I fluctuated no longer; hut hastily threw together such observations as then occurred, and in a few weeks transmitted them to the printer. I have much reason to bless God for their publication. That tract, hurried and unfinished as it was, met with a reception, which, in such an age as the present, I could neither expect nor imagine.
Upwards of two years after, i. e. in the summer of 1771, a Mr. Walter Sellon (who stands in the same relation to Mr. John Wesley, that Celestius did to Pelagius, and Bertius to Arminius; viz. of retainer-general and white-washer in ordinary) hands a production into the world, designed to prove that Arminianism and the Church of England are as closely connected as the said Messieurs Walter and John are with each each other. The piece itself is the joint offspring of the two associated heroes. As, therefore, in its fabrication, those gentlemen were united, even so, in its confutation, they shall not be parted.
Arminianism is their mutual Dulcinea del Toboso. And, contrary to what is usually observed among co-enamoratos, their attention to the same favourite object creates no jealousy, no uneasiness of rivalship, between themselves. High mounted on Pine’s Kosinante, forth sallies Mr. John from Wine-street, Bristol, brandishing his reed, and vowing vengeance against all who will not fall down and worship the Dutch image which he has set up. With almost an equal plenitude of zeal and prowess, forth trots Mr Walter from Ave-maria-lane, low mounted on Cabe’s halting dapple. The knight and the squire having met at the rendezvous appointed, the former prances foremost, and, with as much haste as his limping steed will permit, doth trusty Walter amble after his master.
How successful these combatants are, in their attack on my first defence of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England, I cheerfully leave to the decision of the Public. This, however, I may venture to say, that, after a tedious incubation of six-and-twenty months, they ought to have hatched an answer that might carry some show, at least, of plausible argument. But even craft itself seems, in the main, to have discharged them from her service. Here is neither subtlety, nor solidity. I am, in fact, going to encounter a phantom. No laurels, therefore, will crown the conquest; and the poor phantom should, for me, have stalked unmolested, had not the importance of the subject retrieved, in some measure, the insignificancy of the performance.
One of them (for it is not always easy to distinguish the immediate speaker) charges me with “crying up the abilities of some against whom I have written, only that I myself may appear to have greater abilities of my own, in vanquishing such able antagonists.” Malice has here forged an accusation too ignoble even for malice to believe. The brace of brothers are, indeed, either too blind-to see, or too disingenuous to acknowledge, the excellencies of any from whom they dissent; else they would never have termed those great reformers, Luther and Calvin, a pair of “weather-cocks;” nor have contemptuously styled St. Austin the “giddy apostle of the Calvinist.” For my own part, I acknowledge, with pleasure, the eminent talents of very many worthy persons, from whom I differ extremely in opinion. Mr. Sellon, however, may make himself easy as to this particular. Unless he should improve miraculously, I shall never cry up his abilities. I must want common sense, to suppose him a man of parts; and I must want common modesty, to represent him as such. I can distinguish a barber’s basin from a helmet; of course, all the fruit to be reaped from the contest now depending, is, not an ovation for myself, but the acquisition of a tributary pepper-corn to the doctrines of the Church.
Mr. Wesley should have laid the burden of his alliance on other shoulders than those of Mr. Sellon. The lot could not possibly have fallen on a more incompetent man. He is much too unknowing, and too hot, to come off with any degree of credit, in an engagement which has foiled so many of the wise and prudent. He should have remembered the example of Dr. Waterland and others.
As the Church is now internally constituted, her Calvinism is impregnable; while she lives, this is immortal. The legislature have it, indeed, in their power (God forbid they should ever have the inclination!) to melt down her Liturgy, Homilies, and Articles; and, when her component particles are severed by state chemistry, to cast her into the Arminian mould: but, until this is really done, all the artifice of man will never be able to fix the banner of Arminius in the citadel, how daringly soever some of his disciples may display it on the walls. Our pulpits may declare for freewill; but the desk, our prayers, and the whole of our standard writings as a Church, breathe only the doctrines of grace.
[[@Page:48]] Several respectable men have reduced themselves to a state of pitiable embarrassment, in attempting to disprove this, during, and since, what has been properly enough denominated, the ecclesiastical reign of archbishop Laud. Had that prelate been a Calvinist, and had the Calvinists of that age joined hands with the enemies to civil and religious liberty, the Calvinism of the Church of England would, probably, have passed uncontested to the present hour: but that prelate attached himself to the new system (and it was then very new indeed) of Arminius; and, which weighed still more against them in the Court balance, the Calvinists were friends to the civil rights of mankind; they (observe, I speak only of the doctrinal, not of the disciplinarian Calvinists) were steady to the true religious and political constitution of their country. They opposed, with equal firmness, Laud’s innovations in the Church, and Charles’s invasions of civil freedom. Unhappily both for the nation and the Church, and no less fatally for himself, Charles, nurtured in despotism, deemed it his interest to support the Armenians, for purposes of state. I shall have occasion, in the progress of the ensuing Essay, to trace this evil to its source. In the meanwhile, I return to Mr. Wesley and his under-strapper; whom though I shall not constantly persist to mention together, bat hold them up to view, sometimes singly, sometimes conjointly, as just occasion may require; the intelligent reader will not fail to notice, that every exhibition of Mr. John involves his man Walter; and that Walter cannot be exhibited without involving Mr. John.
Monsieur Bayle has an observation, perfectly applicable to the two furiosos above-mentioned; had the cap been made for them, it could not have fitted them more exactly. “In hot constitutions,” says that able critic, “Zeal is a sort of drunkenness, which so disorders the mind, that a man sees everything double and the wrong way. The Priestess of Bacchus, who fell upon her own son, whom she mistook for a wild boar, is an image of that giddiness which seizes the zealots.” I am very far from peremptorily affirming, that Mr. Sellon is as intimately connected with Bacchus, as was the above Priestess; but his conduct certainly bears a strong resemblance of hers. He pretends, that the Church of England is his mother; now, his supposed mother is an avowed, thorough-paced Calvinist; but Mr. Sellon abominates Calvinism, and yet wishes to be thought a churchman. What can he do in so distressful a dilemma? Necessity dictates an expedient. Amidst some qualifying professions of filial respect, this petty Nimrod bends his twelve-penny bow against her he calls his mother; and pretends, all the while, that he is only combating a wild beast, which has chanced to find its way from Geneva to England.
But the Church, and the truths of God, have nothing to fear from the efforts of this ejaculator. Parthians might aim their arrows at the sun; wolves may exhaust their strength by howling at the moon; yet, neither the weapons of those could wound the one, nor can the clamour of these so much as alarm the other. The sun persists to shine, and the moon to roll, unextinguished and unimpeded by the impotence of rage, and the emptiness of menace from below.
I have heard, or read, of a picture, which exhibited a view of the apostate angels, just fallen from their state of blessedness. Every attitude and feature were expressive of the extremest horror, indignation, and despair. An artist, into whose possession it came, by only a few touches with his pencil, transformed the shocking representation into a master-piece of loveliness and beauty; so that seraphs seemed to smile and sing, where tormented fiends appeared before to blaspheme for rage and to gnaw their tongues for pain. Mr. Sellon has pursued a plan directly contrary to that of the amiable artist. The Methodist’s grand business (in which, however, he utterly fails) is, to deform the gospel picture, and to disfigure the beauty of the Church. He labours to metamorphose, if it were possible, the wisdom and glory of God into a caricature equally frightful and ridicules: but all his cavils are infra jugular; they come not up to the point. Mr. Wesley and his auxiliaries resemble the army of Mithridates, who lost the day, by mistakenly aiming their arrows, not at the persons, but at the shadows, of the Roman soldiers.
Supposing the principles of the Church of England to be ever so exceptionable in themselves, the mode of assault, adopted by the mock vindicators, is by no means calculated to gain its end. The far greater part of mankind can readily distinguish fury from zeal, and abuse from argument. A writer, like Mr. Sellon, who dips his pen in the common-sewer, injures and disgraces the cause he seeks to advance. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” It is so far from being a part, that it is the very reverse, of that righteousness which the example of God prescribes, and his written will enjoins.
I am charged with violating the meekness I recommend, and with being no less than “a persecutor” of the Arminians. Aggressors are often the first to complain. When Mr Wesley thinks proper to scatter his firebrands, “zeal for the Lord of hosts,” and “earnest contention for the faith delivered to the saints,” are the varnish which his abusive rage assumes: but if no more than a finger be lifted up in self-defence, the cry is, “Oh, you are without gospel love; you are a persecutor of Mr. John; you will not let the good old man descend quietly to his grave.”
As to intolerancy and persecution, I have already declared this to be my steadfast opinion, that “the rights of conscience are inviolably sacred, and that liberty of private judgment is every man’s birthright:” yet Mr. Wesley cannot fully avail himself of this concession; for, by having solemnly set his hand to the Articles, Homilies, and Liturgy of the Established Church, he comes within the exception immediately added, and which I here repeat: “If, however, any like Esau have sold their birthright, by subscribing to Articles they do not believe, merely for the sake of temporal profit or aggrandisement, they have only themselves to thank, for the little ceremony they are entitled to.”
It is not necessary to he timid in order to be meek. There is a false meekness, as well as a [[@Page:49]] raise charity. Genuine charity, according to the Apostle’s description of it, rejoiceth in the truth. The conduct of our Lord himself, and of the first disciples, on various occasions, demonstrated, that it is no part of Christian candour, to hew millstones with a feather. Rebuke them sharply (ἀποτόμως, cuttingly,) says the Apostle, concerning the depravers of doctrinal Christianity; wish well to their persons, hut give no quarter to their errors. The world have long seen, that unmixed politeness, condescending generosity, and the most conciliating benevolence, can no more soften Mr. Wesley’s rugged rudeness, than the melody of David’s harp could lay the North wind, or still the raging of the sea. Mr. Hervey in his famous Eleven Letters, has handled Mr. Wesley with all the delicacy and tenderness that a virtuoso would shew in catching a butterfly, whose plumage he wishes to preserve uninjured; or a lady, in wiping a piece of china, which she dreads to break. Did Mr. Wesley profit by the engaging meekness of his amiable and elegant refuter? nay, but he waxed worse and worse: like Saul, he strove to stab the name of that inestimable friend, whose gospel music was calculated to dispossess him of his evil spirit. Like the animal, stigmatised in the [[lviiith Psalm>>Ps. 58]], he stopped his ears, and refused to hear the voice of the charmer, though the strains were no less sweet than wise. Every artifice that could be invented has been thrown out, to blacken the memory of the most exemplary man this age has produced. Mr. Wesley insulted him, when living, and continues to trample on him, though dead. He digs him, as it were, out of his grave, passes sentence on him as an heretic, ties him to the stake, burns him to ashes, and scatters those ashes to the four winds. Rather than fail, the wretched Mr. Walter Sellon is stilted to oppose the excellent Mr. Hervey; and most egregiously hath the living sinner acquitted himself against the long-departed saint! In much the same spirit, and with just the same success, as the enemy of mankind contended with Michael the arch-angel, about the body of Moses.
Every Reader may not, perhaps, know the true cause (at least, one of the principal causes) of Mr. Wesley’s unrelenting enmity to Mr. Hervey; an enmity, which even the death of the latter has not yet extinguished. When that valuable man was writing his Theron and Aspasio, his humility and self-diffidence were so great, that he condescended to solicit many of his friends to revise and correct that admirable work, antecedently to its publication. He occasionally requested this favour even of some who were enemies to several of the doctrines asserted in the Dialogues; among whom was Mr. John Wesley. The author imagined, that the unsparing criticism of an adversary might observe defects, and suggest some useful hints, which the tenderness and partiality of friendship might overlook, or scruple to communicate. Several sheets having been transmitted to Mr. John (an honour of which he soon shewed himself quite unworthy,) he altered, added, and retrenched, with such insolence and wantonness of dictatorial authority, as disgusted even the modest and candid Mr. Hervey. The consequence was, Mr. Wesley lost his supervisorship, and in return, sat himself to depreciate the performance he was not allowed to spoil, By what spirit this gentleman and his deputies are guided, in their discussion of controverted subjects, shall appear, from a specimen of the horrible aspersions which, in “The Church vindicated from Predestination,” they venture to heap on the Almighty himself. The recital makes me tremble; the perusal must shock every Reader, who is not steeled to all reverence for the Supreme Being. May the review cause the daring and unhappy writers to fall down, as in the dust, at the footstool of insulted Deity! Wesley and Sellon are not afraid to declare, that, on the hypothesis of divine decrees, the justice of God is “no better than the tyranny of Tiberius.” That God himself is “little better than Moloch.” — “A cruel, unwise, unjust, arbitrary, and self-willed tyrant.” — “A being void of wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness, and truth.” — “A devil, yea, worse than a devil.” Did the exorbitances of the ancient ranters, or the impieties of any modern blasphemers, ever come up to this? Surely, if such Methodists should finally be converted and saved, we can need no stronger proof that grace is infinitely free, and its operation absolutely invincible! Observe, Reader, that these are also the very men who are so abandoned to all sense of shame, as to charge me with blasphemy, for asserting, with Scripture, that God worketh all things according to the council of his own will; and that whatever God wills is right.
We have seen their portrait of the great and blessed God: let us, next, hear Mr. Sellon’s account of his own self; this he has tacked to the fag-end of his work. Be it my humble office, to rescue so brilliant a passage from the ignominy of its present situation, and place it (where it deserves to stand) in the front.
“As to myself,” says the Arminian, “I make no scruple to tell you, I am what some call an exotic; one destitute of the honour of an academical education. The highest degree I lay claim to, is that of a poor fellow of Jesus College, in the University of Christianity.”
Never, surely, till now, did such low, whining can’t ooze from the pen of meanness!
And is the pretended vindicator of a national Church dwindled, by his own confession, into an exotic? That his doctrines are exotic, or foreign and far-fetched, I always knew; but I was, hitherto, not botanist enough to ascertain the exoticism of the man. I hope, in his next vindication, he will inform us, to what class of exotic plants he belongs, and whether himself be not as Dutch as his principles.
He adds, that he never had an “academical education;” I believe him; nor is he in any danger of being mistaken for a man of learning. He will never frighten his brother enthusiasts with [[@Page:50]] that horrible bugbear (so alarming to most fanatics) called human literature. He does not so much as know the difference between a degree and a fellowship: “The highest degree I lay claim to,” says this pigmy on stilts, “is that of a poor fellow, &c.” You should have said, of the Foundry College, in Moorfields, whereof Mr. John Wesley is president, and wherein Thomas Olivers the preaching shoe-mender hath taken his degree in ignorance: that, Mr. Sellon, is the college to which you belong: for into what you cantingly style the “University of Christianity,” it does not appear that you are so much as entered. In proof of this, I appeal to your preceptor, Mr. Wesley himself; and to your fellow pupils, his followers. Your own Arminian friends, for whom you falsify through thick and thin, will not acknowledge you for a believer. However, as you seem to insist on passing, for “a poor fellow,” I shall in the following sheets, attentively consider what the poor fellow has to say against the doctrines of the Church of England.
One who has drawn so blasphemous a character of God, and who has, moreover, given the public so contemptible a sketch of himself, can hardly he thought likely to draw a very favourable account of his opponents. His representation of me, in particular, is so very curious, and composed of such contradictory ingredients, that I must, for the Reader’s amusement, submit it to his view. I had before been delineated, by an Arminian helpmeet of Mr. Wesley’s, as “sitting in my easy chair, and enjoying all the comforts of life.” One would think, that the see of Durham had been transferred to Broad Hembury, and that the Devonshire Vicar was warmly enrobed in lawn and black satin. So much for my attitude and enjoyments; next for my titles; these Mr. Sellon emmerates. I am, it seems,
“A Flaming Calvinist.
“A Venomous Slanderer.
“A Persecutor, possessing the same butcherly spirit that was in bishop Gardiner; yea, ten times more.
“A malapert Boy, severely scratching and clawing with venomous nails.
‘‘ A Papist.
“The greatest Bigot that ever existed, without one grain of candour, benevolence, forbearance, moderation, good-will, or charity.
“A wild Beast of impatience and lion-like fury.
- . “A Materialist that is, an Atheist.
- . A goodly string of appellations! and not a little extraordinary, that they should all centre in one and the same man! Being so uncommon a person myself, my writings too must be something singular. Take a description of them in the words of the said Sellon: “I find sophistry, fallacy, false insinuations, raillery, perversion of Scripture and the Church Articles, self-contradiction, self-sufficiency, haughtiness, pride and vanity, glaring in almost every page.”
Thus, enthroned in my easy chair, dignified with titles, and accurately developed as a writer, I only want a suitable address, to render my magnificence complete; and who so well qualified to prepare it, as the eloquent Mr. Sellon? Lo, he attends; and, respectfully advancing, pays me the following compliments: “Unhappily daring, and unpardonably bold, thy tongue imagineth wickedness, and with lies thou cuttest like a sharp razor. Thou hast loved unrighteousness more than goodness; and to talk of lies more than righteousness. Thou hast loved to speak all words that may do hurt, O, thou false tongue!” Such are the candour and politeness of these Methodists; and such are the arguments, by which they would persuade us, that Arminianism is the religion of the Church of England.
These are the men that set up for “universal love;” who call one another by the cant names of “precious believers,” “most excellent souls,” “charming children of God,” “sweet Christians,” and “the clean-hearted.” If their hearts are no cleaner than their mouths, they have little reason to value themselves on their “sinless perfection.”
These are they who seek to bottom election on faith and goodness foreseen; of which foreseen goodness, humility and benevolence, meekness and forbearance, are, I suppose, some of the ingredients. Woe be to those “sweet Christians,” if their election has no better foundation than their “sweet” tempers, words, and works.
And why all this torrent of abuse? The plain truth is this: I detected Mr. Wesley’s forgeries, and chastised the forger. Hinc ille lacrymee. Hence the outcries of John himself, together with those of Thomas Olivers and Walter Sellon. The camp of the Philistines gave a scream, when they saw the levelled stone penetrate the brass of their Goliath’s forehead: but of all the tribe, none screamed so loud as the frighted Walter; of whose talent at screaming, a specimen has been exhibited to the reader. Let me whisper a friendly hint to this notable screamer. If you wish your scurrilities to obtain belief, restrain them within the banks of probability; malice, when too highly wrought, resembles a cannon too highly charged, which recoils on the engineer himself, instead of reaching its intended object of direction.
I might, with the most justifiable propriety, have declined joining issue, in controversy, with a person of Mr. Sellon’s cast, who is, by those that know him, deemed ignorant and unpolished, even to a proverb; he is, indeed, to borrow the language of another, “a small body of Pelagian divinity, bound in calf, neither gilt nor lettered.” I once hoped, that his friends were too severe, in branding him with such a character; but he has been so weak as to publish; he has gibbetted himself in print. I am fully convinced, that his friends were in the right, and my charitable hope mistaken.
Let none, however, suppose, that I harbour any degree of malevolence against either him or his master. Whatever I have already written, or may hereafter have occasion to write, in opposition [[@Page:51]] to them, or to any others, on whom the toil of defending them may devolve, has been, and, I trust, ever will be, designed, not to throw odium on their persons, nor to wound their cause unfairly, but, simply, to strip error of its varnish; to open the eyes of delusion; to pluck the visor from the face of hypocrisy; to bring Arminian Methodism to the test of fact and argument; to wipe off the aspersions thrown, by the despairing hand of defeated heterodoxy, on the purest Church under heaven; and to confirm such as have believed through grace.
Indeed, the purity of my intention speaks for itself. At a time of such general defection from the doctrines of the Church Established, I cannot possibly have any sinister ends to answer, by asserting those doctrines. It cannot be to gain applause; for, were that my motive, I should studiously swim with the current, and adopt the fashionable system; neither can it be to acquire preferment, for the doctrines of grace are not the principles to rise by. In the reigns of Edward VI., Elizabeth, and the former part of James I., the Calvinistic points were necessary steps to advancement, and led directly to the top of the Church: but the stairs have been long turned another way: what was, once, the causâ sine qua nan of ascending, is now a causâ propter quam turn, or, considered as a reason for keeping unfashionable divines as low on the ecclesiastical ladder as possible.
I bless God, for enabling me to esteem the reproach of Christ greater treasure than all the applause of men, and all the preferments of the Church. When I received orders, I obtained mercy to be faithful; and, from that moment, gave up what is called the world, so far as I conceived it to interfere with faith and a good conscience. The opposition which I have met with, in the course of say ten years ministry, has been nothing, compared with what I expected would ensue, on an open, steady attachment to the truths of God: and what insults have been thrown in my way came, for the most part, from a quarter equally abusive and contemptible; I mean, from Mr. John Wesley, and a few of his unfledged disciples; whose efforts give me no greater apprehension than would a fly that was to settle on my hat.
Some readers may suppose, possibly, that, in the course of the annexed Treatise, I have handled my assailants too severely: I request, that such will suspend their judgment, until they have perused the performance which gave rise to the present. Their opinion, I am persuaded, will then be reversed; and they will wonder, either at my deigning to take any notice at all, of an invective so exceedingly low and frivolous; or, at my not chastising the authors of it with a severity proportioned to their demerits: but, for abstaining from the latter, I had, among others, two reasons: (1). I should have sinned against meekness; and, (2). The poverty of Mr. Sellon’s talents, in particular, is so extreme, as to render him an object rather of pity than of resentment. As the man cannot reason, nor even write grammatically, I often allow him to rail with impunity. If a malicious ignoramus comes against me with a straw, self-defence does not oblige me, and Christian charity forbids me, to knock him down with a bludgeon.
Moreover, the period may arrive, when this very person, as also his commander-in-chief, may see the justness, and experience the energy, of those heavenly truths which they now unite to blaspheme: they may even preach the faith to which they have subscribed, and which they impotently labour to destroy. If having once been an Arminian, were incompatible with future conversion and salvation, we might indeed ask, who then can be saved? For every man is born an Arminian. Unrenewed nature spurns the idea of inheriting eternal life as the mere gift of Divine Sovereignty, and on the footing of absolute grace. I will not affirm, that all, who heartily embrace the Scripture system of Calvinism, are savingly renewed by the holy Spirit of God; for St. Stephen teaches us to distinguish between the circumcision of the ears, and the circumcision of the heart. Thus much, however, I assert, without hesitation that I know, comparatively very few Calvinists, of whose saving renewal I have reason to doubt. I will even go a step farther: sincerely to admit and relish a system so diametrically opposite to the natural pride of the human heart, is, with me, an incontestable proof, that a man’s judgment, at least, is brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ: and, to every such person, those words may be accommodated, “flesh and blood have not revealed this to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.”
I cannot give the two Pelagian gentlemen stronger evidence of my concern for their welfare, than by wishing them to renounce those unhappy principles, which, under pretence of extending the grace of God, by representing it as a glove accommodated to every hand, and which lies at the option of free-will either to make use of, or to fling behind the fire, do, in fact, annihilate all grace whatever, by ultimately resolving its efficacy into the power, merits, and caprice of man. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Sellon may find, in Strype’s Collections, a form of recantation, ready drawn to their hands. The historian introduces it thus:
“Another letter there was, writ (A. D. 1555) by one in prison (for the Protestant faith, during the Marian persecution), who had lately been one of these Free-willers, but now changed in his judgment, to certain of that persuasion, in prison also for the gospel.” The persecution of Protestants was so indiscriminate, that not only the bishops, clergy, and members of the Church of England, felt its iron hand, but even some of the Free-will Men (as they were then called), who dissented from the Church, and had formed a separate conventicle of their own, came in for a taste of the common trouble; but, though a few of the few Free-willers (for their whole number was then exceedingly small) were imprisoned for a while, I cannot find that so much as one of them [[@Page:52]] either died in confinement, or was brought to the stake. If Mr. Wesley and his friend can give authentic evidence, that so much as a single Free-willer was burned by the Papists, let them point him out by name; and, at the same time, remember to adduce their proofs. Such an instance, or instances, if producible, will reflect some honour on the Pelagians of that æra, though unable to turn the scale in favour of Pelagianism itself. I now return to the letter of the converted Free-will man. In it, says the historian, he lamented “the loss of the gospel (i. e. the revival of Popery by queen Mary); showing the reasons of it: whereof one he made to be, that they (viz. himself and his Pelagian brethren) had professed the gospel (i. e. Protestantism) with their tongues, and denied it in their deeds: another, that they were not sound in the doctrine of predestination. In this letter he mentioned what a grief it was to him, that he had endeavoured so much to persuade others into his error of Free-will; and that divers of that congregation of Free-will men began to be better informed; as namely, Ladley and Cole, and others unnamed: the report of whom gave him and his prison-fellows much rejoicing, (adding) that he was convinced (i. e., converted from being a Free-will man) by certain preachers in prison with him, who reconciled St. Paul and St. James together, to his great satisfaction.”
A great part of this choice letter is published by Mr. Strype, at the close of the volume referred to below. For Mr. Wesley’s sake, and for the sake of those who are led captive by him at his will, I here transcribe the following passages, which may serve him as a model of retractation, in case it should please God to grant him repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.
“What high lauds, thanks and praise, am I bound to give always to God, who hath certified my conscience, by his spirit, that he will not impute my sins unto me, for his son Jesus Christ’s sake, in whom be hath chosen his elect before the foundations of the world were laid; and preserveth us all, so that there shall never any of us finally perish, or be damned.
“I, for my part, repent, that ever I was so bitter unto them that were the teachers of this undoubted truth: verily, I am not able to express the sorrows that I have in my heart: most especially, in that I went about, by all means, to persuade others, whereby they might be one with me in that error of Free-will. With joy unspeakable I rejoice, giving thanks to God night and day, in that it hath pleased him to vouch me worthy his fatherly correction at this present showing me what I am by nature; that is to say full of impiety and all evil: therefore, the great grief which I daily feel, is, because I see the horribleness and the great dishonour, that the filthy Free-will of man doth render unto God. I sigh and am grieved, because I spake evil of that good I knew not.
“Wherefore, my beloved, I am provoked by the Holy Ghost, to visit you with my letter; hoping, and believing, that God will give it good success: whereby God’s glory may be the more set forth. For I have a good opinion of you, my dear brethren; trusting in God, that he will reveal unto you the knowledge of himself: far I believe verily, that you will be vessels of God’s mercy; therefore I am assured, that you shall lack no necessary article of your salvation. I have good cause so to judge of you; not only because God hath opened his truth to me alone, but I also see how mercifully be hath dealt with many of our brethren, whom you do know well enough, as well as though I did recite them by name. God forbid that I should doubt you, seeing it hath pleased God to reveal himself, in these days, to them that heretofore were deceived with that error of the Pelagians, yea, and suffered imprisonment in defence of that which now they detest and abhor. God be thanked for them. This is the Lord’s doing: and it is marvellous in our eyes.
“Like as you have the truth, as concerning the Papists’ sacrament, in despising and hating that, as I do, it is well worthy: so likewise is Free-will a great untruth, undoubtedly.
“I think that God will receive me home unto himself shortly; therefore, I am moved to signify unto you in what state I stand, concerning the controversy between the opinions of the truth of God’s predestination and election in Christ. I do not hold predestination to the end to, maintain evil, as there be some have full ungodly affirmed that we do; God forgive them, if it be his will. We are sure that none, who have the full feeling of their election in Christ, can love or allow those things which God hateth.
[[@Page:53]] “I would wish, that men should not allow the fruit of faith to be the cause of faith. Faith bringeth forth good works, and not good works faith; for then of necessity we must attribute our salvation to our good works; which is great blasphemy against God and Christ so to do.
“But, I thank God, I do allow good works in their (proper) place. For I was created in Christ unto good works: wherefore I am bound to allow them, according to the Scriptures; and not to the end to merit by them anything at all; for then I were utterly deceived; for Esay saith, all our righteousnesses are as a filthy cloth, and are not as the law of God requireth them: wherefore, I acknowledge, that all salvation, justification, redemption, and remission of sins, Cometh to us wholly and solely by the mere mercy and free grace of God in Jesus Christ, and not for any of our own works, merits, or deservings. I myself could not understand St. Paul and St. James, to make them agree together, till our good preachers, who were my prison-fellows, did open them unto me. I praise God for them, most humbly; and yet I cannot be so thankful for them as I ought to be.
“Paul saith, faith only justifieth, and not the deeds of the law: and St. James saith, faith, without deeds, is dead. Here are contraries to the carnal man. When I saw these two Scriptures plainly opened, I could not stand against the truth therein: and thus were they opened unto me; that faith only doth justify before God; and the good deeds which St. James speaketh of, justify before the world.
“I thank God that they, who I thought would have been my enemies, are become my friends in the truth: as in sample, by our brethren Ladley and Cole, and such like: if it had lain in their own wills, they would have been enemies to that excellent truth which they do now allow: praised be God for them; for it is he who worketh both the will and deed. If he had not been merciful unto them and tome, and prevented our wills, we had been still wallowing in the mire. The prophet Jeremy saith, “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; heal thou me, and I shall be healed.” And David saith, “The Lord hath prepared the hearts of the poor, and his ear hearkeneth unto them:” so that it is the Lord who doth all that good is. And again, David saith, “Ascribe all honour and glory to God, who alone is worthy: for no man Cometh unto me, saith Christ, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.” And again he saith, “All that the Father hath given me, shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me, I cast not away.”
“Therefore, I believe that we shall, every one, be preserved and kept, in him and for him, according to his own word. I dare boldly say, with our everlasting Saviour Jesus Christ, that all the elect shall be preserved and kept for ever and ever: so then, none of them shall be damned it any time. They who say that any of them may be lost for ever, do as much as in them lieth to make (i. e. to represent) Christ unable to preserve and keep them: denying the power of Christ, in so saying: for he saith, he loveth his unto the end: which love remaineth, and shall never be extinguished, or put out; and is not as the love of man, which is sometimes angry, and sometimes pleased. God, at no time, is so displeased with any of his elect, to the end that he will deprive them of the purchased possession, which he hath laid up in store for them in Christ before, and were elect according to the fore-knowledge of God the father, through sanctifying of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; which Lamb was killed from the beginning, according to God’s divine will and providence. Christ was ordained to die in the flesh; and all was for our sins, Christ was ordained in this respect; that the Father, seeing the fall of Adam, for that purpose only he ordained Christ, to the end that he would preserve a remnant of the posterity of Adam, even as it pleased his godly wisdom.
“What, will some say a remnant, and not all? St. Paul saith, Like as all died in Adam, &c. And St. John saith, Not for our sins only, &c. Ah! will these Free-will men say, Where is your remnant now become? To whom I answer by the Scriptures, whereas Christ shall say, in the last day, Depart from me, ye cursed; I know you not: I pray you, tell me, did not God know them, as concerning their creation, and also their wickedness? Yes, verily: but he knew them not for his elect children.
“The true Church of Christ doth understand these all (viz. the all, and the whole redeemed plainly world, mentioned by St. Paul and St. John), and all other such like Scriptures, to include all the elect children of God. None otherwise I am sure, that these all can he understood except we should make the Scripture repugnant to itself; which were too much ignorance, and too great an absurdity, to grant.
“I affirm, that all they be blasphemers to God, that do slander the truth in predestination; that say, If I be once in, I cannot be out, do what evil I will or can: all such do declare themselves to be reprobates, and children of God’s ire and wrath, rather than any of his. For whosoever delighteth in those things which God hateth and abhorreth, doth declare himself to he none of God’s: but, if he be any of his, he will give him repentance, for to know the truth, by his Spirit. For the Spirit maketh intercession for the saints, according to the pleasure of God. For we know that all things work for the best, unto them that love God, who are called of purpose. For those which he knew before, he also ordained before, that they should be like fashioned unto the shape (i. e. here, to the gracious, hereafter, to the glorious, resemblance) of his Son.
“And seeing God hath made all his elect like to the shape (the spiritual and moral similitude) of Jesus Christ, how is it possible, that any of them can fall away? Whosoever he be, that doth so hold, is against God and Christ; and may as well say, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may perish as any of them; for Christ said unto the Father, Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me: although Christ spake these words to the comfort of his disciples at the present, so likewise is it to the comfort of all us, his chosen. Those that St. Paul speaketh of that God knew before, he meant by it, all his elect; and immediately he addeth, saying, Whom he appointed before, them also he called; and whom he called, them also be justified; and [[@Page:54]] whom he justified, them also lie glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be on our side, who can be against us? That is to say, if God have appointed to glorify us and to save us, who can then deny (deprive) him of any of us, or take us out of his hands?
“My sheep, saith Christ, hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. O, most worthy Scriptures! which ought to compel us to have a faithful remembrance, and to note the tenor thereof; which is, the sheep of Christ shall never perish.
“Doth Christ mean part of his elect, or all, think you? I do bold, and affirm, and also faithfully believe, that he meant all his elect, and not part, as some do full ungodly affirm. I confess of them perish: for I have good authority so to say; because Christ is my author, and saith, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Ergo, it is not possible that they can be so deceived, that they shall ever finally perish, or be damned: wherefore, whosoever doth affirm that there may be any (i. e. any of the elect) lost, doth affirm that Christ hath a torn body.”
The above valuable letter of recantation is thus inscribed: “A Letter to the Congregation of Free-willers, by One that bad been of that Persuasion, but come off, and now a Prisoner for Religion:” which superscription will hereafter, in its due place, supply us with a remark of more than slight importance.
To occupy the place of argument, it has been alleged that “Mr. Wesley is an old man;” and the Church of Rome is still older than he. Is that any reason why the enormities, either of the mother or the son, should pass unchastised?
It has also been suggested, that “Mr. Wesley is a very laborious man:” not more laborious, I presume, than a certain active being, who is said to go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it: nor yet more laborious, I should imagine, than certain ancient Sectarians, concerning whom it was long ago said, “Woe unto you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte:” nor, by any means, so usefully laborious, as a certain diligent member of the community, respecting whose variety of occupations the public have lately received the following intelligence: “The truth of the following instance of industry may be depended on; a poor man, with a large family, now cries milk, every morning, in Lothbury, and the neighbourhood of the Royal Exchange; at eleven, he wheels about a barrow of potatoes; at one, he cleans shoes at the Change; after dinner, cries milk again; in the evening, sells sprats, and at night, finishes the measure of his labour as a watchman.”
Mr. Sellon, moreover, reminds me (p. 128.) that, “while the shepherds are quarrelling, the wolf gets into the sheep fold;” not impossible: but it so happens, that the present quarrel is not among “the shepherds,” but with the “wolf” himself; which “quarrel” is warranted by every maxim of pastoral meekness and fidelity. I am farther told, that, while I am “berating the Arminians, Rome and the devil laugh in their sleeves.” Admitting that Mr. Sellor; might derive this anecdote from the fountainhead, the parties themselves, yet, as neither they nor he are very conspicuous for veracity, I construe the intelligence by the rule of reverse, though authenticated by the deposition of their right trusty and well-beloved cousin and counsellor.
Once more: I am charged with “excessive superciliousness, and majesty of pride:” and why not charged with having seven heads and ten horns, and a tail as long as a hell-rope? After all, what has my pride, or my humility, to do with the argument in hand? Whether I am haughty, or meek, is of no more consequence either to that, or to the public, than whether I am tall or short: however, I am, at this very time, giving one proof, that my “majesty of pride” can stoop; stoop even to ventilate the impertinences of Mr. Sellon.
But, however frivolous his cavils, the principles for which he contends are of the most pernicious nature and tendency. I must repeat, what already seems to have given him so much offence, that Arminianism “came from Rome, and leads thither again.” Julian, bishop of Eclana a contemporary and disciple of Pelagius, was one of those who endeavoured, with much art, to gild the doctrines of that beresiarch, in order to render them more slightly and palatable. The Pelagian system, thus varnished and palliated, soon began to acquire the softer name of Semi-Pelagianism Let us take a view of it, as drawn to our hands by the celebrated Mr. Bower, who was himself, in the main, a professed Pelagian, and therefore less likely to present us with an unfavourable portrait of the system he generally approved.
Among the principles of that sect, this learned writer enumerates the following:
“The notion of election and reprobation, independent on our merits or demerits, is maintaining a fatal necessity, is the bane of all virtue, and serves only to render good men remiss in working out their salvation, and to drive sinners to despair.
“The decrees of election and reprobation are posterior to, and in consequence of, our good or evil works, as foreseen by God from all eternity.”
Is not this too the very language of modern Arminianism? Do not the partisans of that scheme argue on the same principles, and express their objectious against Calvinism even in the same identical terms? Should it he said, “True, this proves that Arminianism is Pelagianism revived; but it does not prove, that the doctrines of Arminianism are originally Popish:” a moment’s cool attention will make it plain that they are. Let us again hear Mr. Bower, who, after the passage just quoted, immediately adds, “on these two last propositions, the Jesuits found their whole system of grace and free-will; agreeing whole system of grace and free-will; agreeing therein with the Semi-Pelagians, against the Jansenists and St. Austin.” The Jesuits were [[@Page:55]] moulded into a regular body, towards the middle of the sixteenth century: toward the close of the same century, Arminius began to infest the Protestant churches. It needs therefore no great penetration, to discern from what source lie drew his poison. His journey to Rome (though Monsieur Bayle affects to make light of the inferences which were at that very time deduced from it) was not for nothing. If, however, any are disposed to believe, that Arminius imbibed his doctrines from the Socinians in Poland, with whom, it is certain, he was on terms of intimate friendship, I have no objection to splitting the difference: he might import some of his tenets from the Racovian brethren, and yet be indebted, for others, to the disciples of Loyola.
Certain it is, that Arminius himself was sensible, how greatly the doctrine of predestination widens the distance between Protestantism and Popery. “There is no point of doctrines (says he) which the Papists, the Anabaptists, and the (new) Lutherans more fiercely oppose, nor by means of which they heap more discredit on the reformed Churches, and bring the reformed system itself into more odium; for they (i. e. the Papists, &c.) assert, that no fouler blasphemy against God can be thought or expressed, than is contained in the doctrine of predestination.” For which reason, he advise i the reformed world to discard predestination from their creed, in order that they may live on more brotherly terms with the Papists, the Anabaptists, and such like.
The Arminian writers make no scruple to seize and retail each other’s arguments, as common property. Hence, Samuel Hoord copies from Van Harmin the self-same observation which I have now cited. “Predestination (says Samuel) is an opinion odious to the Papists, opening their foul months, against our Church and religion:” consequently, our adopting the opposite doctrines of universal grace and free-will, would, by bringing so many degrees nearer to the Papists, conduce to shut their mouths, and make them regard us, so far at least, as their own orthodox and dearly beloved brethren: whence it follows, that, as Arminianism came from Rome, so “it leads thither again.”
If the joint verdict of Arminius himself, and of his English proselyte Hoord, will not turn the scale, let us add the testimony of a professed Jesuit, by way of making up full weight. When archbishop Laud’s papers were examined, a letter was found among them, thus endorsed with that prelate’s own hand: “March, 1628. A Jesuit’s Letter, sent to the Rector at Bruxels, about the ensuing Parliament.” The design of this letter was to give the Superior of the Jesuits, then resident at Brussels, an account of the posture of civil and ecclesiastical affairs in England; an extract from it I shall here subjoin: “Father Rector, let not the damp of astonishment seize upon your ardent and zealous soul, in apprehending the sodaine and unexpected calling of a Parliament. We have now many strings to our bow. We have planted that soveraigne drugge Arminianisme, which we hope will purge the Protestants from their heresie; and it flourisheth and beares fruit in due season. For the better prevention of the Puritanes, the Arminians have already locked up the Duke’s (of Buckingham) cares; and we have those of our owne religion, which stand continually at the Duke’s chamber, to see who goes in and out: we cannot be too circumspect and careful in this regard. I am, at this time, transported with joy, to see how happily all instruments and means, as well great as lesser, co-operate unto our purposes. But, to return unto the maine fabrieke:—Our foundation is Arminianisme. The Arminians and projectors, as it appears in the premises, affect mutation. This we second and enforce by probable arguments.”
The “sovereign drug, Arminianism,” which, said the Jesuit, “we (i. e. we Papists) have planted” in England, did indeed bid fair “to purge” our Protestant Church effectually. How merrily Popery and Arminianism, at that lime, danced hand in hand, may be learned from Tindal: “The churches were adorned with paintings, images, altar-pieces, &c. and, instead of communion tables, altars were set up, and bowings to them and the sacramental elements enjoined. The predestinarian doctrines were forbid, not only to be preached, but to be printed; and the Arminian sense of the Articles was encouraged and propagated.” The Jesuit, therefore, did not exult without cause. The “sovereign drug,” so lately “planted,” did indeed take deep root downward, and bring forth fruit upward, under the cherishing auspices of Charles and Laud.
Heylyn, too, acknowledges, that the state of things was truly described by another Jesuit of that age, who wrote thus: “Protestantism waxeth weary of itself. The doctrine (by the Arminians, who then sat at the helm) is altered in many things, for which their progenitors forsook the Church of Rome: as timhus patrum; prayer for the dead, and possibility of keeping God’s commandments; and the accounting of Calvinism to be heresy at least, if not treason.”
The maintaining of these positions, by the Court divines, was an “alteration” indeed; which the abandoned Heylyn ascribes to “the ingenuity and moderation found in some professors of our religion.” If we sum up the evidence that has been given, we shall find its amount to be, that Arminianism came from the Church of Rome, and leads back again to the pit whence it was digged.
The mention of Rome naturally enough paves the way for saying something about John Goodwin: and the rather, as Mr. Sellon seriously supposes that I paid his friend Wesley a very great compliment, when I styled him, which I still do, the John Goodwin of the present age. The greatness of this compliment will appear, from the following short particulars, which some historians have transmitted to posterity, concerning the said Goodwin.
[[@Page:56]] About the year 1652, when Cromwell’s design of usurping the sovereign power became more and more apparent, a set of visionaries, known by the name of Fifth-Monarchy MeD, grew very turbulent and conspicuous. Their grand ring-leader was John Goodwin, the Arminian; who had also rendered himself remarkable, by aspersing the Calvinistic doctrines of the Church of England, and by publishing a folio Vindication of King Charles’s Beheaders: yet, behold the art of this crafty Arminian! though the Fifth-Monarchy Men were not a little odious and formidable to Oliver Cromwell, and though John Goodwin was actually at the bead of those odious and formidable fanatics, Goodwin, notwithstanding plyed Cromwell so assiduously with flattery and obsequiousness, as to gain no small measure of that Usurper’s confidence: even the dissembling Oliver was, in part, over-reached by the still more exquisite dissimulation of master Goodwin.
Let not the candid reader imagine, that my colouring is too strong, or laid on too thickly: to cut off the very possibility of such a surmise, I shall express what I farther have to observe concerning the sly Fifth-Monarchy Man, in the words of others: not forgetting, at the same time, to subjoin, from bishop Burnet, as much as may suffice to authenticate what has been already placed to John Goodwin’s account.
“The Fifth Monarchy Men seemed (inc. A. D. 1652 and 1653,) to be really in expectation, every day, when Christ should appear. John Goodwin headed these; who first brought in Arminianism among the sectaries. None of the preachers were so thorough-paced for him (i. e. for Cromwell) as to temporal matters, as Goodwin was; for he (Goodwin) not only justified the putting the King to death, but magnified it as the gloriousest action men were capable of He (Goodwin) filled all people with such expectation of a glorious thousand years speedily to begin, that it looked like a madness possessing them.” Such being the principles of John Goodwin, what a master-piece of political cunning must his conduct have been which could fix him so tightly in the saddle of Cromwell’s esteem! On the one hand, Cromwell was taking large strides toward the throne; and, soon, actually acquired kingly power, though (by spinning his thread of affected moderation too finely) he missed the name of King. On the other hand, Goodwin, who had long represented kingship as the great Antichrist which hindered [[@Page:57]] Christ’s being set on his throne,” carried himself fairly with the Protector, who was, every day, visibly approximating nearer and nearer to that very “kingship” which Goodwin abhorred as “the great Antichrist” that excluded the Messiah from possessing his right. A little to save appearances, Cromwell canted, occasionally, to Goodwin, and the rest of the Fifth-Monarchy Men; and in return, Goodwin as cantingly pretended to be convinced of Cromwell’s holy and upright intentions!
It surprised everybody, says Burnet, that John Goodwin, who had been so furious and active against Charles I., should come off with impunity, after the restoration of Charles II. “But (adds the right reverend historian), Goodwin had been so zealous an Arminian, and had sown such division among all the sectaries, on these heads, that, it was said, this procured him friends.” It has long been universally known and acknowledged that Charles II. himself had been, for some time before the commencement of his reign, a concealed Papist; and that be continued such, to the last moment of his life. No wonder, therefore, that Goodwin’s Arminianism atoned for the rancour and frenzy of his political principles and behaviour. “Goodwin had, so often, not only justified, hut magnified, the putting the king to death, both in his sermons and books, that few thought he could have been either forgot or excused; for (Hugh) Peters and he were the only preachers who spoke of it in that strain.” to balance a straw? During the civil commotions, the ranter kept himself secure, by his abhorrence of monarchy. After the nation was resettled, he preserved his neck, and his treasons were overlooked, on account of his zeal for Arminianism. He had been already serviceable to the Popish cause, by “sowing divisions” among Protestants; and he was suffered to live, by a Popish prince who aimed at arbitrary power, in order to his being farther useful in the same laudable department.
So much for Goodwin, as a politician: a word or two now, concerning him as a divine, and an individual; for it is, chiefly, in these latter respects, that I have honoured Mr. John Wesley with, what Mr. Sellon calls, “the great commendation” of being the John Goodwin of the pre- sent age.
Dr. Calamy informs, us, that, on the Restoration, Goodwin, “not being satisfied with the terms of the Uniformity-act, lived and died a Non-conformist. He was a man by himself, was against every man, and had every man almost against him. He was very warm and eager (in) whatsoever he engaged in. “The same writer observes, that Goodwin” wrote such a number of controversial pieces, that it would be no easy thing to reckon them up with any exactness.” If instead of the word “wrote,” we. only substitute the word “pilfered,” the whole of these two passages Will fit both the Mr. Johns as neatly as their skins.
A very humorous circumstance, respecting Goodwin, is related by Antony Wood: an ingenious writer of that age published a book against Goodwin, with this facetious title: “Colenian-street Conclave visited; and that grand impostor, the Schismatic’s Cheater in Chief (who hath long slyly lurked therein) truly and duly discovered, containing a most palpable and plain Display of Mr John Goodwin’s Self-conviction, and of the notorious Heresies, Errors, Malice, Pride, and Hypocrisy, of this most huge Garagantua. London, 1648.” The title is curious; but the frontispiece, prefixed, was exquisitely laughable, and most justly descriptive of the original. “Before the title (continues Wood) is John Goodwin’s picture, with a windmill over his head, and a weathercock upon it, with other hieroglyphics, or emblems, about him, to show the instability of the man.” The writer of the above piece was Mr John Vicars, the famous author of “The Schismatic sifted;” who, if he sifted all schismatics as searchingly as he appears to have sifted John Goodwin, the schismatics of that age bad no great reason to be much in love either with the sifter, or the sieve. What a masterly sifting would such a man have given to John Wesley and Walter Sellon! But they must now content themselves with Goodwin’s legacy of the windmill surmounted by a weathercock.
Goodwin had an excellent talent at scurrility and abuse; whereof take the following concise example: Mr. Nedham had written two treatises against him; the one entitled, “Trial of Mr. John Goodwin at the Bar of Religion and right Reason:” the other, “The great Accuser cast down;” on which the inflammable Arminian immediately took fire, and gave vent to his rage in explosions not the most gentle. He characterised Nedham as having “a foul mouth, which Satan had opened against the truth and mind of God,” as being “a person of infamous and unclean character for the service of the triers;” as “a man that curseth whatsoever he blesseth, and blesseth whatsoever he curseth.” And yet John Goodwin is represented as having been, like Mr. John Wesley, “a meek, loving-hearted” Arminian! Let me add, concerning the first of these Johns, that (among a multitude of other refuters) he was taken to task, in 1653, by the learned Mr. Obadiah Howe, in a performance entitled, “the Pagan Preacher silenced.” I question, if any of Goodwin’s Pagan preachments are still extant: but such of his Pagan treatises as have reached the present times, are, I find, the very Bible and Common Prayer-book of Mr. Walter Sellon. I shall close these remarks on Goodwin with some of the encomiums heaped on him by his said admirer. John Goodwin, saith this sagacious critic, was a man “whom envy itself cannot but praise; a glorious champion for the truth of [[@Page:58]] the gospel, and for the genuine doctrines of the Church of England.” Thus chants the godly and loyal Mr. Sellon: the veracity, the modesty, and the propriety of whose panegyric, may be amply collected from the foregoing testimonies, which I have produced, concerning the ranting-Fifth Monarchy Man, J. Goodwin.
Mr. Sellon is no happier in deducing conclusions, than in the drawing of characters: witness his judicious commentary on a passage of mine, whence he labours to distil no less than the doctrine of universal salvation. In my remarks on Dr. Nowel, I testified my firm belief, that the souls of all departed infants are with God in glory: that, in the decree of predestination to life, God hath included all whom he decreed to take away in infancy; and that the decree of reprobation hath nothing to do with them. From these premises says Sellon, it follows that “Mr. Toplady himself maintains general redemption, and even the universal salvation of mankind.” Logica Sclloniana. As if all mankind died in infancy. “Oh, but you quoted Matthew xviii. 14, to prove the salvation of infants;” true: I did so. Let us review the text itself. “It is not the will of your Father which is in Heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Supposing this to be spoken of infants, literally so called, it certainly proves, that all who die in that state are saved.” Oh, but our Lord says nothing about their dying in that state; he speaks of little ones in general, whether they live long, or die soon.” Does he indeed? Consult [[verse 10>>Matt 17:14]], “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that their angels (i. e. as I understand it, the souls of such of them as die in infancy) do always behold the face of my Father who is in Heaven.” Now, I should imagine it impossible for the angels, or souls, of little children, always to behold the face of God in Heaven, unless their souls were previously dislodged from their bodies by death: consequently according to my view of the passage, our Lord, in the 14th verse, speaks of such little ones, and of such only, as actually die in infancy. “Oh, hut the word angels means guardian angels, appointed to take care of children.” Before I can subscribe to this, I must see a grain or two of that necessary thing called proof. That children, no less than adults, are objects of angelic attention, in the course of Providence, I am far from denying: but, in my present conceptions of the passage under consideration, I cannot believe that exposition to convey the true sense of this particular text. Among other reasons, the following is one: how can those superior spirits, who are (upon very probable grounds) supposed, very frequently, if not constantly, to attend on infants, be yet said to behold always the face of our Father, in heaven? In order, therefore, to prove, that the word angels, in this declaration of our Lord, means angels, properly so termed, it must be first proved, that angels, properly so termed, can be present in more places than one, at one and the same time. “Oh, but angels may sometimes attend children on earth, and at other times be present in Heaven:” likely enough: but the angels, here spoken of, are said always to behold the face or glory of God, and that in Heaven: an affirmation which can never be reconciled to propriety, or even to truth, if they are supposed to be absent from Heaven at any period, or on any occasion. “Oh, but if angels are long-sighted, they may see into Heaven while they are on earth.” I never met with a treatise on the optics of angels, and therefore cannot say much to this hypothetical objection. On the whole, if “little ones in general,” whether they die young, or live to maturity, be (as Mr. Sellon contends) entitled to salvation, his own title to happiness is in contestable. If little reasoning, less knowledge, and no regard to truth or decency, be a passport to the skies, this exotic star will glitter there, like a diamond of the first water. In the meanwhile, I should be obliged to the said star, if he would, with the help of Mr. Wesley’s irradiation, show me what becomes of departed infants, upon the Arminian plan of conditional salvation, and election on good works foreseen.
From two Arminians, let me, for a moment, pass to a third. It will be found, in the following Historical Disquisition, that I have made some use of Dr. Peter Heylyn’s testimonies in favour of the grand argument: and I admit his depositions, on the same principle by which men of the most exceptionable cast are sometimes allowed to turn king’s evidence.