Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

7. A few reflections, however, will be necessary on the character of King Henry, and on some circumstances connected with it. This is the more proper because some Protestants, and almost all Roman Catholics, have transferred to the English Church all the sins of this extraordinary man.

(1.) King Henry certainly possessed a considerable portion of knowledge and learning, especially in divinity; and excelled most princes of that, or any age, in intellectual endowments and attainments. Hence, he wrote a book against Luther; but it is doubtful whether this was his own production. This gave occasion to those excessive flatteries from the pope and his party, which, while it obtained for him the title of Defender of the Faith, in a great measure corrupted his temper and disfigured his whole government. When he threw off the pope's yoke, the Reformers, in their turn, offered him all the flatteries they could decently give. This, too, had an injurious effect on this monarch. (See Burnet, vol. iii, p. 206.)

(2.) King Henry was not a little pleased with his title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, which, by act of parliament, was joined to the other titles of his crown. He thought that infallibility was to accompany supremacy; and as this, in the popish system, belonged to the pope, he must also have infallibility attached to the crown. Those, therefore, who formerly yielded to the one, he thought ought now to submit to the other. He also turned against the Reformers when he saw their complaisance did not go so far as to acknowledge his infallibility, and for some time seemed fast going over to popery again, so that he was all the time fluctuating in both his opinions and practices; sometimes progressing in reformation, and at other times returning back to his old opinions. (Idem, vol. iii, pp. 126, 209.)

(3.) As it regards his divorce, whether he was sincere in pretending to have conscientious scruples with regard to his first marriage, is known to God alone; but whatever his secret motives were, he had the constant tradition of the Roman Church on his side, of which he was a member. This was carefully searched and proved; and no author older than Cajetan could be found in opposition to the current of tradition. And in the disputes of that age with those called heretics, the Romanists always made their appeals to tradition, as the only infallible expounder of Scripture. King Henry, therefore, had the acknowledged standard of the times on his side. (Idem, vol. iii, p. 438. Col., No. ii.)

(4.) Bishop Burnet holds the following language, in reference to Henry's breach with the pope :- "There appears to have been a signal train of providence in the whole progress of this matter, that thus ended in a total rupture. The court of Rome, being overawed by the emperor, engaged itself for it at first; but when the pope. and the king of France were so entirely united as they knew they were, it seems they were under an infatuation from God to carry their authority so far, at a time in which they saw the king of England had a parliament to support him in his breach with Rome. It was but too visible that the king would have given all up, if the pope would have done him common justice; but when the matter was brought so near a total union, an entire breach followed, in the very time in which it was thought all was made up. Those who favored

the reformation saw all their hopes, as it seemed, blasted; but of a sudden all was revived again. This was an amazing transaction; and how little honor soever this full discovery of all the steps made in it does to King Henry, who retained his inclinations to a great deal of popery to the end of his life, yet it is much to the glory of God's providence that made the persons most concerned to prevent and hinder the breach, to be the very persons that brought it on,. and, in a manner, forced it." (Idem, vol. iii, p. 112.)

(5.) The same excellent writer makes the following observations on the conduct of Henry, in the part he took in the Reformation :--"But whatever he was, and how great soever his pride, and vanity, and his other faults were, he was a great instrument in the hand of Providence for many good ends. He first opened the door to let light in upon the nation; he delivered it from the yoke of blind and implicit obedience; he put the Scriptures in the hands of the people, and took away the terror they were formerly under by the cruelty of the ecclesiastical courts; he declared this church to be an entire and perfect body within itself, with full authority to decree and regulate all things, without any dependance on any foreign power; and he did so unite the supreme headship over this church to the imperial crown of this realm, that it seemed a just consequence that was made by some in a popish reign, that he who would not aver that this supremacy was in him, did, by that, renounce the crown, of which that title was made so essential a part that they could no more be separated.

"By attacking popery in its strong holds-the monasteries-he destroyed them all, and thus he opened the way to all that came after, even down to our days; so that, while we see the folly and weakness of man in all his personal failings, which were very many and very enormous, we, at the same time, see both the justice and the goodness of God in making him, who was once the pride and glory of popery, become its scourge and destruction; and in directing his pride and passion so as to bring about, under the dread of his unrelenting temper, a change that a milder reign could not have compassed without great convulsions and much confusion. Above all the rest, we ought to adore the goodness of God in rescuing us, by his means, from idolatry and superstition; from the vain and pompous shows in which the worship of God was dressed up so as to vie with heathenism itself, into a simplicity of believing and a purity of worship, conformed to the nature and attributes of God, and the doctrine and example of the Son of God." (Idem, vol. iii, p. 210.) The foregoing sentiments are those of sobriety, and in them every sound Protestant will acquiesce, and Romanists cannot give them a confutation.

But it would be altogether improper to disparage the Reformation of the Church of England on account of King Henry's faults. As far as it is agreeable to the word of God it is right, whatever part this monarch may have taken in establishing it; and so far as it is not agreeable to Scripture, or is inconsistent with it, so far it is wrong, whoever may have been actors in it. The unsteady favor which the Church of England received from Henry can no more blemish it, than the vices of those princes that first promoted Christianity can blemish the Christian religion. If the crimes of Clovis, as related

by Gregory of Tours, be compared with the worst crimes of King Henry, we will find more falsehood, more cruelty, in the French than in the English monarch. Nor can we find any hints of Clovis's repentance, nor any restitution of his ill-gotten possessions. And this was the first Christian king of the Franks. While Henry is condemned to inevitable perdition by Romanists, they extol Clovis, .a worse man, as a good Catholic and a good Christian. It is true, we can find many things in Henry VIII. worthy of severe reprehension; but, on comparison, we shall find him nothing worse than Pope Paul III., the French king, or German emperor; all three of whom gave as many proofs of their insincerity and want of principle as he manifested. This is necessary to be said of King Henry, that however we may reprehend many parts of his conduct, we ought not to overlook the bad examples he had in the pope himself in intrigue and falsehood; as well as the wrong opinions he had, in early life, imbibed from the Roman doctrines.

(6.) Upon the whole, in the reformation from popery, we may see the watchful care of Providence. When the light seemed almost extinguished in one place, it broke out in another; and when aid and protection seemed shut up in one source, God afforded help from another. In the beginning of King Henry's reign, by the breaking up of the Smacaldic league, by the capture of the Landgrave of Hesse and the Elector of Saxony, and by the Interim, the Reformation appeared almost extinguished in Germany. At this time it was advancing in England, which proved a refuge for the persecuted in Germany. And in the year previous to the death of Edward VI., there was a lasting settlement provided for the Reformation in Germany; so that those who fled from England in the reign of Mary found an asylum among the German Protestants. Thus God has provided for his truth in a manner, and by such means, as the wisdom of man could never devise. (Idem, vol. iii, p. 264.)

For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.

ART. II.-HISTORICAL VIEW OF UNIVERSALISM IN THE
UNITED STATES.

BY THE REV. F. P. TRACY, OF THE NEW-ENGLAND CONFERENCE.

THE doctrine of the ultimate holiness and happiness of the whole human family has been held and taught at different times, and by various individuals, since the days of Origen. It has formed a component part of several systems, and has had some few able defenders, but no considerable portion of the nominal Christian Church has, at any time, avowed faith in it; and among those who have believed it, there has been more difference of opinion as to the means by which the event is to be brought about, the true principles on which the doctrine should be founded, and the time when all men shall partake of the benefit, than has existed on any other point of theology whatever.

But notwithstanding these differences, it has still, through a thousand metamorphoses, retained its being. Rising, like the phenix,

from the ashes of its former destruction, it has found for itself a new mode of existence and defence when the older has failed it.

In Europe, the doctrine has been received by some sects of the Anabaptists, and to a considerable extent by the English Unitarians; and has also received countenance from several minor parties of theologians in various communions.

The first person who publicly taught this sentiment in the United States was Dr. George De Benneville, who, after having suffered various evils in Europe on account of his tenets, came to America about 1741, and preached occasionally until his death, in 1793. His residence was in Berks county, Pennsylvania; and his field of ministerial labor in the western part of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

During the latter part of the labors of De Benneville, i. e., subsequent to 1754, it is supposed that Richard Clarke, rector of St. Philip's, Charleston, S. C., preached the doctrine of universal restoration. He was connected with this church until 1759, when he returned to England. He was considered a man of talents and industry, and published several works, which, however, do not seem to have secured for him a very lasting fame.

The only work in defence of the sentiment which had been published in America before 1770, was an edition of Seigvolk's Everlasting Gospel. This was issued from a press in Germantown, Pa., in 1753. Who the publisher was is not known; probably, however, one of the Mennonites, whose principal congregation was at Germantown, and who were, in a certain sense, Restorationists.

The treatise was probably written early in the 17th century, but the author, at this time, is utterly unknown; history not having deigned so much as to notice him.

This is about all that can be said of the existence of Universalism under any of its forms in this country prior to 1770. Perhaps other traces of it might be found, but it was a subject very little thought of among the people. There was too little of a disposition to change among the puritanic fathers of those days to admit of an apostacy which the easier morals of later days have rendered feasible, and have, in fact, produced.

In the year 1770 John Murray, who had for some time been a preacher of universal restoration in England, landed at a place called Cranberry Inlet, in New Jersey, and preached his first sermon in America in a chapel built by one Mr. Potter, an inhabitant of that place. Mr. Murray soon visited New-York and Philadelphia, and some other towns in the vicinity; and in 1772 made his first tour to New-England, and preached in Newport and Providence. He went south, however, to spend the winter, but returned again in the spring; and, preaching at various places on his way, arrived at Boston Oct. 26, 1773, where he proclaimed his new doctrine in what was called the Factory, in Tremont-street. He pushed forward in this journey as far as Portsmouth, New-Hampshire.

Having passed the ensuing winter in the south, he came back to New-England in the spring of 1774; and after spending the major part of the time, until autumn, in Boston, he, in November of the same year, visited the town of Gloucester, when, with considerable opposition, he publicly taught his sentiments until he was appointed

a chaplain in the army, then quartered at Cambridge. Ill health in a short time compelled him to leave the field, and he returned to Gloucester, and there remained afterward as a public teacher of universal restoration until his removal to Boston in 1793, where he died in the year 1815. Under his auspices the first Restorationist society in America was formed in Gloucester, on the 1st of January, 1779; and the first church belonging to this sect was erected in the same place in 1780.

While the changes named in this sketch were passing over Mr. Murray, others rose up to engage in defending the same doctrine of ultimate restoration. Nearly at the time of Mr. Murray's arrival in this country, Adam Streeter, a minister of the Baptist Church, apostatized from that faith, and commenced preaching Restorationism. Caleb Rich, also, about 1771, after being expelled from the Baptist church in Warwick, Mass., commenced publishing the same doctrine; and his preaching soon after, in the town of Jaffrey, N. H., resulted in proselyting to the faith Thomas Barnes, who soon became himself a preacher of the same gospel. Mr. Rich was ordained by Mr. Streeter about 1780. Of the ordination of Mr. Barnes we have no account. These men, though they came into the field after Mr. Murray, were not indebted to him for their doctrine, as the two former, at least, had not heard of him when they began their public labors.

Another principal pillar in the edifice was Elhanan Winchester. He was, at first, a free-will Baptist, and preached their doctrine in Brookline, Mass. In the autumn of 1774, he went to South Carolina, and did not visit New-England again until 1779. During his residence in South Carolina he procured and read Seigvolk's Everlasting Gospel, which so far undermined his orthodoxy as to lead him to a partial faith in the doctrine of the author. He does not appear to have been fully converted, however, until the latter part of January, 1781, when, after having read "Stonehouse on the Restitution of All Things," and spent a month in secret research, he declared himself to his friends a confirmed believer in the universal salvation of men.

It will be remarked that this avowal was made in Philadelphia, to which place he returned, after visiting the north, in the year 1780. There is one thing of which Mr. Winchester was guilty, which is inexcusable in any man; the designed conversion of others to a sentiment which the speculator dares not venture himself upon, either because he lacks confidence in its truth, or fears the loss of reputation or wealth by a full and frank avowal. The author of the Modern History of Universalism, in relation to this affair, thus significantly expresses himself:-"Thus converting others, and half a convert himself, he arrived at Philadelphia on the 7th of October," (p. 341.) For a man to convert others with design, when he himself is but half a convert, is not only a strong indication of an imbecile mind, but it proves too fully that the guilty man places but slight value on the truth, and cares but little whether men are deceived by his efforts or not. Indeed, there is good evidence, (Mod. Hist. Univer., p. 343,) that after Mr. Winchester was fully convinced of the truth of the tenet that all will be saved, he wished to keep it close, and not to have it mentioned to his disadvantage; and

« FöregåendeFortsätt »