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Breviter, ita Primum hunc de morte et merito Christi Articulum tractâsti, ut planè habeas Scripturas, Patres, Scriptores quosque Orthodoxos, tibi pleno ore suffragantes: sed et Ecclesia nostra Anglicana ita hîc tota tua est, ac si ipsissima illius verba fuisses ubique mutuatus.
Secundum porrò Articulum, meo quidem judicio, dici vix potest solidiùsne an modestiùs exegeris. Si quis alius in totâ Theologiâ, ille profectò de Reprobatione locus lubricus est: in quo labi, et facile sit et periculosum. Tu, verò, ita cautè istic movisti pedem, ut neque blandiores decreti æstimatores quicquam, quod culpent, invenire possint; nec severiores, quod desiderent. Eò magis mihi mirandum videtur, quid illud sit, quod censuræ suæ prætendere possint scitissimi cavillorum artifices.
Dicam, certè, quod res est. Totus iste, uti à te explicatur, locus nihil aliud est, quam sententiarum Dordracenarum accurata quædam contractiuncula; in quâ non sensum modò illibatum, sed et plerunque verba ipsissima, satis curiosè retinuisti. Quì fit ergo, ut, quibus illa Synodus in pretio est, tam justa ac fidelis ejusdem displiceat epitome? Certè, ni tu digitum intendas, ego quid hæreat nullus inveniam.
Enimvero, esse quandam reprobationem, eamque ab æterno, quis dubitat? sed et hanc reprobationem, quà Omnipotentis Dei actum spectat, ejusdem esse quorundam hominum, quos decrevit Deus in communi miseriâ, in quam se suâ culpâ præcipitârunt, relinquere; tandémque, non tantùm propter infidelitatem, sed etiam cætera omnia peccata, ad declarationem justitiæ suæ damnare et æternùm punire. Sic illi. Culpa ergo et peccata ita hîc interveniunt, ut positiva reprobatio absque his non sine summâ injuriâ Deo attribuatur.
Hoc est, quod tu, ex Augustino, Fulgentio, Prospero, ex omnibus Ecclesiarum Confessionibus, ex orthodoxis quibusque authoribus, facili negotio eviceris. Meritissimò, ergò, inveheris in illorum explicationem, et rigidam et planè iniquam, qui electioni liberæ et gratuitæ reprobationem absolutam, ex mero odio profectam, opponendam censent. Ecquod enim odit Deus, præter peccatum? et propter peccatum, non in se, creaturam suam? Hoc sanè seposito, vidit Deus omnia quæ fecerat, et
In a word, you have so handled this First Article of the death and merit of Christ, that you have the Scriptures, the Fathers, and all Orthodox Writers, unequivocally supporting you with their testimony: while our own Church of England is as entirely on your side of the question, as if you had borrowed her very words throughout.
Of the Second Article, again, I scarcely know whether I should say, that, according to my judgment, you have shewn more soundness or more moderation in the treatment of it. If there be a difficult topic in the whole range of Theology, it is surely that of Reprobation: to stumble here, is as perilous as it is easy. But you have proceeded with such caution, that neither the milder interpreters of the decree, can discover an assertion to reprove; nor the harsher, any omission to regret. Wherefore I cannot help wondering, so much the more, what can be the pretence which the most ingenious adepts in cavillation have to offer for their cen
Just let me state the fact. The whole of that passage, as explained by you, is nothing else than an accurate abridgment of the sentiments exhibited at Dort; and you have there most carefully retained not only the sense unadulterated, but generally the very words. How comes it then to pass, that they who appreciate that Synod, are so displeased with a just and faithful abstract of it? Certainly, were you not to point your finger to the spot, I should never myself discover where the objection lies.
Now, then; that there is such a thing as reprobation, and that too from eternity, who doubts? and that this reprobation, so far as regards the act of Almighty God, is his rejection of certain men, whom God has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have plunged themselves by their own fault; and at length, not only for their unbelief, but for all their other sins, to damn and punish them eternally in declaration of his justice. So say they. Here then their fault and their sins so intervene, that positive reprobation, apart from these, is not assigned to God without the plainest violation of truth.
This is the point you have so satisfactorily established out of Augustine, Fulgentius, Prosper, and the whole body of Confessions of the Church. Most rightly, therefore, you inveigh against the harsh and partial explanation given by those, who consider that absolute reprobation, proceeding of mere hatred, should be set up in opposition to free and gratuitous election. For what is there that God hates, except sin? and his creatures, not of themselves, but for sin? Sin out of sight, God beheld all things which he had made, and pronounced them good.
bona pronuntiavit. Quomodo verò se piλávůρwπоv præstaret Deus, si hominem, quà hominem, odio haberet?
Præibis, ergo, et tu mihi verba illa, quibus ego lubentissimè assentior: ut summè pia et suavissima illa vox est, nos gratuitò, ex merâ misericordiâ et beneplacito Dei, fuisse electos in Christo ad salutem; ita nec satis pia nec tolerabilis altera, meritò perire alios, etiamsi in Adamo non essent perditi; quoniam Deus ita præfecit Christum Ecclesiæ suæ Caput, ut in eo servemur, non omnes, sed qui sumus electi.
Quod zelus hîc tuus, ut et boni cujusque, exardescat, non herclè miror. Quid, enim, hoc aliud est, nisi tyrannidem quandam affingere Misericordissimo Numini? Absoluta ipsius in creaturam potentia quoúsque se extendat, nemo est qui dubitet: illam, verò, ut in nos exerat exerceátque Deus, qui, cum ordinato jure cum hominibus agere decreverit, toties dilectionem suam desideriúmque humanæ salutis protestatus est, durius est quàm ut à quoquam Christiano cogitari debeat. Utinam verò odiosæ hujusmodi loquendi formulæ, aut nunquam pio alicui doctóque Reformatæ Religionis professori excidissent; aut, si aliquando temerè êрros ódóνтwv excesserint, æternæ oblivioni damnatæ illico fuissent.
Hujusce furfuris sunt incommodæ illæ ac incongruæ locutiones, quas Theologi Dordraceni non pauci rejici corrigíque voluerunt: quod et tunc temporis factum fuisset, nisi quorundam existimationi fortè plus nimio fuisset indultum.
Quâ de re largiùs aliquanto scripsi ad collegam tuum clarissimum, D. Crocium. Litéras ille meas tecum sine dubio communicabit. In eâdem vos navi estis uterque: ejusdem consilii sortes ut sitis, par est.
Interim, analysis hæc tua, ut in hâc resolvendi facultate præcellere te video, scopo loci illius optimè quadrare videtur; nec à quoquam meritò impugnari potest. Ut Scriptura tota, ita illa cum primis ad Romanos (quod Patrum doctissimus olim) plena est sensibus: vix dari potest ita certa loci alicujus resolutio, quin et alia satis commoda possit fortassis superadjici. Suis alii litent sententiis: ego tuam hanc loci contexturam et explicationem valdè probo. Si quis contrà mussitet, dic illi, meo, si vis, nomine, carpere multò facilius esse, quàm emendare,
But how could God exhibit himself the friend of man, if he hated man as man?
You, then, shall set me the example of those words, to which I most gladly assent: as it is an eminently devout and sweet assertion, that we were gratuitously elected, of the mere mercy and pleasure of God, in Christ unto salvation; so is the other neither devout nor tolerable, that the rest deserved to perish, even though they had not fallen in Adam; since God has so set Christ as Head over his Church, not that all, but that we alone, who have been elected to that end, should be saved in him.
That your zeal, and that of every good man, should kindle at the thought, I am not surprised. For what else is this, but to feign a sort of tyranny for the God of all Mercies? How far his absolute authority over the creature extends, none can doubt: but that God should exert and employ it over us, when, having resolved to deal with men on the principles of established law, he has so often testified his love and desire for the salvation of man; this is a harsher thought than a Christian ought to entertain. I only wish, either that hateful forms of speech like this had never fallen from any pious and learned professor of the Reformed Religion; or that, if at any time they accidentally escaped their lips, they had been doomed forthwith to perpetual oblivion.
Similar in worthlessness are those inconvenient and incongruous expressions, which not a few of the Divines of Dort wished to have rejected and amended; as would have been done at the very time, had not the opinions of certain persons received a larger share of deference than was perhaps their due.
On which subject I have written somewhat more at length to your illustrious colleague, Crocius. He will doubtless communicate to you the contents of my letter. You are both embarked in the same vessel; it is but right that you should both partake in the same counsels.
Meanwhile, this analysis of yours (as I see you excel in the art of resolving a discourse into its component parts) appears to harmonise very well with the scope of the passage now in hand; nor does it deserve to be impugned by any one. As all Scripture, so, above all, the Epistle to the Romans is (to use the language of the most learned of the Fathers) full of senses: and scarcely can any explanation of a passage be given, so sure and certain, but that another equally suitable may perhaps be afterwards suggested. Let others idolize their own opinions: for myself, I heartily approve this your method of connecting and interpreting the passage. Should any one murmur in opposition, tell him, in my name, if you like, that it is
Tu, verò, Vir Celeberrime, perge, quod facis, sanctis hisce piísque laboribus de Ecclesiâ Dei benè promereri; et, quod tibi ac tuis ex animo gratulor, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν: 1 Thess. iv. 11. precibúsque tuis adjuva
Devotissimum tibi, in Domino,
Fratrem ac Symmystam,
Dat. in palatio nostro Exon.