Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

subject. The answer was simply this: "In the general visitation of the whole country, let there ' be taken an accurate account of all the ancient revenues; and, if these be found insufficient for 'the purpose, then let the suitable payments to 'the officiating clergy be made from new imposts on the respective towns and parishes, which they may well bear, being now relieved from popish oppressions." Likewise, to a similar inquiry 'concerning the augmentation of the academical 'salaries, Luther replied: "There is an abundance ' of means for this purpose from the many vacant offices; for the number of the clergy in the 'collegiate church of All Saints is now reduced 'from eighty to eighteen. All the rest are dead, 'or have left their situations." The most expe'rienced financier could scarcely have returned a 'better answer to the question. This redundant 'wealth was become very considerable, from the 'abolition of private masses, and many other protestant innovations. But it is allowed by historians, that not one halfpenny of it was ever ' applied by Frederick (the father of John,) to his ' own specific emolument.'1

Luther and Melancthon, and the reformers in general, considered the academies, or universities, as properly seminaries of instruction in the sacred scriptures, and in that learning which was suited to qualify men for the sacred ministry, or for filling up other situations in the community, as the well-instructed servants of Christ. In this

'Dean Milner's Continuation of the Rev. J. Milner's. Eccl. Hist. vol. iv. p. 965–967.

view, these would be equally intitled to support, on religious principle, as the labouring clergy.

Neither Luther, nor the other pious reformers in general, seem to have thought that the tithes, and other emoluments of the clergy, however, at that time, enormous and perverted, ought to be wholly alienated from the sacred use to which they had at first been given. These formed no part of the estates out of which they had been paid time immemorial; and could not be due to the possessors of those estates. Kings and nobles had no right to seize on them for secular purposes. They were far too large for the support, in any due moderation, of the officiating clergy, under any form of church government: but the general education of youth, according to their station, and the endowing or supporting of schools of learning, especially sacred learning, in every country of Europe, adequate to the emergency of the times, might have profitably employed the whole of them; at least with a proper reserve for the support of the pious and destitute aged: and thepresent and future generations may lament, that the princes and nobles, in the different countries concerned, did not follow the counsel of the reformers in this important matter, or imitate the noble disinterested conduct of the wise Frederick, Elector of Saxony.

It remains to be inquired, whether these reformers were, or were not, in this particular, wiser than those who, in modern times, would have the whole expenses of all such matters, and of every thing connected with them, left to voluntary contribution; because, in the primitive times, when

there had not been, nor could be, any funds freely assigned, or divinely appointed, these expenses were thus defrayed. And let it be remembered, that they who argue for this have to contend, not only with human wisdom in moderns, not only with the wisdom of God in Hezekiah, Josiah, and Nehemiah, but with the express institution of the divine law, as soon as the professors of true religion were become a nation.

How far voluntary contributions, without an establishment, or any permanent fund or revenue, could support, through populous nations, all the expenses for providing for ministers and their families, for erecting and keeping in repair places for public worship, and for seminaries of education, at present generally allowed to be expedient, if not necessary; the straitened, not to say distressed, circumstances of too many pious dissenting ministers, and the contributions raised, from many others besides dissenters, for several of these purposes, may enable the impartial reader to judge.

I shall add but one more quotation, in order to introduce a few observations on the subject: 'John, the new Elector of Saxony, conducted the

religious concerns of his dominions in a manner ' quite different from that of his brother and pre'decessor, Frederick. The latter connived at and 'tolerated, rather than avowed and established, 'the alterations introduced by Luther and his ' associates. But the former no sooner found ' himself in possession of the sovereign authority, 'than he exercised it with resolution and activity, by forming new ecclesiastical constitutions,

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

'formed on the principles of the great reformer.' After several satisfactory reasons, for the caution of Frederick's conduct, it follows, Neither should ' it be forgotten, that even Frederick himself had ' determined, a little before he died, to afford a 'more open and substantial support to the evan'gelical preachers in his dominions: and this cir'cumstance, no doubt, was an additional motive to his brother, and his nephew,' (John Frederick,) 'to enter on the work of reformation with vigour ' and dispatch.'1

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Now, did Frederick, surnamed the wise, and John, surnamed the good, act scripturally, or unscripturally, or antiscripturally, in this part of their conduct? Would that God, who so highly approved of a similar conduct in Hezekiah and Josiah, and others under the ancient dispensation, (a conduct no where prescribed in the Mosaic ritual or judicial law, but exactly according to the first commandment of all, "Thou shalt love the "Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and

soul, and strength;") would he, I say, condemn the same conduct in Frederick the wise and John the good? Was it the proper duty and improvement of talent in the rulers of Israel and Judah, and a presumptuous intrusion in the Electors of Saxony? Were they not, as far as their authority was exercised according to the word of God, as it appeared to them, truly interpreted by some of the most eminent theologians among uninspired men, who ever lived, as entirely to be distinguished from that of Charles the fifth of Ger

'Dean Milner, ibid. p. 960-963.

many, or our king Henry the eighth; as that of the pious kings of Judah was to be distinguished from Jeroboam, from Ahaz, and Manasseh, or Antiochus Epiphanes ?

Indeed, all the princes who favoured the Reformation used their authority in support of the reformers, most of them with great decision, and not always in an unexceptionable manner; nay, sometimes by very reprehensible measures. All the reformers, likewise, in one degree or other, sought and welcomed their support and concurrence, with more or less discrimination or caution. Luther and others did not wait for it, but went on in their efforts, without or against all human authority; but, when attainable, they availed themselves of it.

Now, if indeed the experience and progress in learning and knowledge, of much more than two hundred years, have enabled moderns to discover the mistakes and wrong steps of these illustrious men, (as many confidently presume that they do, who seem quite blind to their transcendent excellencies ;) it is surely rather too much to say, "No " doubt we are the people, and wisdom shall die "with us," or at least it was born with us! Surely we ought to allow, that these persons, whom God honoured with a degree of usefulness almost rivalling that of the apostles, though they were not infallible, or right in every thing, were yet not mistaken in every thing, even of this nature; especially as no men in any age ever so diligently and carefully studied the whole of the oracles of God. And surely, instead of classing these Electors of Saxony, our Edward, and a few others, and all who

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »