Imatges de pÓgina

thousand of the clergy attached to presbyterian discipline relinquished their cures in one day. In Scotland also, where Charles I., instigated by Laud, had attempted, with equal impropriety and ill success, to establish episcopacy by force, the church was now placed under the government of bishops. Charles II., whose profligacy would have disgraced any religion, was secretly a favourer or a convert of the Catholics. His successor was an avowed papist; and by the most flagrant attacks on the religious and civil liberties of Great Britain, laboured to accomplish the re-establishment of popery. The revolution, A.D. 1688, delivered the nation from the dread of arbitrary power and idolatrous superstition, and settled political and ecclesiastical freedom on so firm a base, that under the blessing of God they have remained stedfast unto this day. May this blessing long preserve them! The national church of Scotland was again restored to presbyterian government, so acceptable to that part of the island. The episcopalian congregations there still continue to be governed by their own succession of bishops.

The Catholic and the Protestant churches were alike agitated in this century with internal controversies and dissensions. In the Romish communion the Domini. cans and the Jesuits were engaged in furious disputes concerning the necessity and the nature of divine grace; and besieged the papal chair for a decision. But death or policy repeatedly prevented the pontiffs from committing themselves. Each party was thus at liberty to boast with equal loudness of possessing the secret approbation of popes. Soon afterwards the Hame was rekindled by the popularity of a posthumous work of Jansenius, Bishop of Ypres, favourable to the tenets of the Dominicans. Sophistry and invectives were arms common to both parties. To papal bulls,

royal edicts, and troops of soldiers, which arranged themselves on the side of the Jesuits; the Jansenists opposed subtle distinctions, popular applause, and the fraudulent aid of pretended miracles. Among the Protestants the new sect of Quakers arose in England. But the principal contests which troubled the peace of the reformed churches were those which broke out between the Calvinists and the followers of Arminius of Leyden. After several conferences between the contending parties in Holland, the Arminians saw their tenets condemned, A.D. 1618, in a synod held at Dort, their civil rights suppressed, their ministers silenced, and the disobedient congregations punished by fine, imprisonment, and exile. Some years afterwards they were recalled. But it is to be observed, that their theological system soon underwent a considerable change; and embraced many persons whose opinions respecting the original nature of Christ, the necessity of the aid of Divine grace, and other fundamental doctrines of Christianity, appear to have fallen far below the standard of the Gospel. It is the more necessary to attend to this circumstance, because the term Arminian is very commonly applied as descriptive of the doctrines of the Church of England. So far as it indicates the rejection of the Calvinistic hypothesis of predestination and reprobation by the generality of the members of that church, it is applied with justice. But it is injuriously applied, if it is used for the purpose of imputing to the Church of England any approach towards the fundamental errors, by which many eminent Arminians have been distinguished on the Continent.

Early in the eighteenth century, the Russian church, which is of the Greek communion, underwent a material alteration as to external form, by the sup


pression of the office of Patriarch, under Peter the Great, who thus became, like the English monarch, head of the national church. He also abolished penal laws against Christians of other persuasions; and exerted himself to check superstition, and to repress the gross vices, and to enlighten the inconceivable ignorance, of the clergy. But the radical depravation of Christianity by the grossest idolatry towards saints, and pictures of saints, still overspreads, amidst other inferior corruptions, the Russian empire. The Roman pontiffs in this age have been on the whole considerably superior in piety and learning to most of their predecessors. The intestine divisions in that church have continued. The breach between the Dominicans and the Jesuits remained unclosed ; and the latter party obtained a signal triumph over the Jansenists, in procuring the papal condemnation, A.D. 1713, by the bull denominated Unigenitus from the word with which it commences, of an hundred and one propositions extracted from the annotations of Quenel, a celebrated Jansenist, on the New Testament. Cardinal de Noailles, however, Archbishop of Paris, supported by numbers of his clergy, zealous for the liberties of the Gallican church, steadily refused, in defiance of the indignation of the pontiff and of Louis XIV., to recognise the authority of the bull. The kingdom was divided into two parties. By the aid of penal inflictions, and the violence of Louis, the Jesuits at length prevailed. But the downfall of the victors was at hand. A conspiracy for the assassination of the King of Portugal, A.D. 1758, under the guidance of some principal Jesuits, occasioned the expulsion of the whole order from that kingdom. The odium pursued them throughout Europe. In 1761 some fradulent, mercantile transactions, in which the Jesuits had been engaged, drew the attention in France of the civil power. In the following year the pernicious tendency of their writings furnished new charges. These discussions at length dragged to light the hitherto concealed institute or rules of their order, replete with maxims subversive of social peace and of morality. Their colleges were seized; their effects were confiscated; the order was extinguished in France, and all its members were banished. In the Spanish empire, within which they had established, in Paraguay, an independent empire of their own, a similar fate overwhelmed them. And, finally, the suppression of the whole order was ob. tained, A.D. 1773, from the pontiff Clement XIV.

A storm was, in the mean time, gathering against Christianity itself. In England there had arisen a succession of sceptical or deistical writers, who had in various ways carried on, with little apparent concert, their attacks against the religion of Christ. Some assailed the outworks, some the strong holds ; some proceeded openly; more, covertly and in disguise. If, on the one hand, they had in many

instances weakened or subjected the faith of the ignorant, the unsuspecting, or the vicious; they had called forth, on the other, such exertions of piety and learning in the friends and for the vindication of Christianity, as in effect to have benefited the cause which they were solicitous to injure. Their publications speedily crossed the Channel; and found on the Continent, particularly in France, hands ready to sharpen and to brandish every weapon with which they should be furnished. It now appears from an accumulation of unquestionable documents, and more especially from the acknowledged works and correspondence of Frederic King of Prussia ; of that Frederic, to whom the title of Great will henceforth be only a deeper brand of infamy; that the foreign enemies of the Gospel, far from limiting their efforts to desultory and unconnected attacks, have during many years been united in one firm, widely extended, and regularly methodized confederation, for the express purpose of exterminating by fraud and by force the name of Christianity from the earth. In the doctrinal corruption and the degrading superstition, by which the religion of Christ was disfigured and polluted in the countries where their principal machinations were pursued ; and in the political circumstances of that kingdom, where the meditated explosion took place ; they found advantages almost beyond the power of computation. Of the events which have recently passed, and are still passing, before our eyes, the termination and the consequences are yet in the bosom of Providence. Reasoning from the present appearances of worldly affairs, and, I think we may humbly add, from deductions sanctioned by the word of prophecy, there seem grounds for believing that the corrupt form of Christianity, on which the blow has fallen, will prove to have received a wound which, if permitted to be capable of some temporary alleviation, is never to be healed: a wound to be succeeded not slowly by a series of judgements ordained to accomplish the total destruction of “the Man of Sin,” even though for a season he may still be suffered to try the faith of the true followers of our Lord. But with respect to genuine Christianity, that religion against which the gates of hell shall not prevail !,” we know that every effort of human guile and human malice is but an additional link in that chain of events, by which the enemies of God are unconsciously forwarding his purposes: an additional step in that determined pro

1 Matt. xvi. 18.

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