Imágenes de página

believed to be completely ideal by the Anabaptist : the assistance of divine grace had in effect been deemed useless by the former ; it was now totally denied by the latter, who supported his reasoning, (if reasoning it could be called,) not like the Papist by a plausible and bewildering philosophy, but by the mere effrontery of unblushing assertion. Some of relaxed morals, without regard to sect or party, engrafted upon the doctrine of God's foreknowledge the most licentious principles, and most dissolute practice : others of stricter lives lost themselves in fruitless

speculations upon the attributes and will of the unrevealed Godhead, worshipping they knew not what, and deifying the dark production of their own

own imagination. In order therefore to check discordance and promote unanimity of sentiment, and above all things to guard against the errors of the Church of Rome, which it was impossible to approve without hypocrisy, or even contemplate with indifference, it seemed important to establish an authoritative standard of public opinion. Something of this kind it was probably hoped might prevent the wavering Papist from taking disgust at the incongruous theories, which on

every side presented themselves, and the half converted Protestant, wearied with expecting in vain the subsidence of that deluge of doctrines, which had inundated the Christian world, from returning to his wretched state of mental captivity. But upon the precise comprehension of the original plan at this remote period, and with such scanty materials of information, it is difficult to speak with certainty. Some circumstances however, which remain on record, seem to prove, that it was neither partial nor limited.

At the commencement of Edward's reign it appears that Melancthon was consulted upon this interesting subject 6). Melancthon was then alone at the head of the Lutherans, universally respected as the author of their much applauded Confession ; a Reformer, whose accomplishments, temper, and talents, were the admiration of all parties, and the peculiar pride of his own; a man precisely after Cranmer's own heart, indeed the only one in a turbulent age, who equalled if not exceeded that benevolent Prelate, in mildness of disposition, and in moderation of principle. Deeply impressed with the importance and necessity of the object in contemplation, he earnestly

exhorted the Archbishop (whom he directly addressed on the occasion) to attempt an extension of the benefit beyond the confines of the English Church, to form a Creed adapted to the Protestant world at large, by collecting the sentiments of pious and learned men, and thus sanctioning with high authority that, which might exist among all nations as an illustrious testimony of the wisdom of the Reformation, and become a rule of faith to posterity. The Confession, which he had himself formerly drawn up, would, he conceived, prove something of this description ; but he wished, that a few particular points had been more explicitly stated, in order to prevent the probability of future altercation. Perspicuity above all things he recommended, anxious to have every ambiguous expression avoided, that new dissensions might not arise, nor the apple of discord be thrown among the lovers of religious controversy. If his own assistance should be requested, he subjoined, with a modesty, which characterized his feelings, and with a candour, which tinctured all his opinions, that he was prepared both to hear the sentiments of other men, and to declare his own; willing, while he attempted to

persuade, to be himself persuaded. But always, he added in conclusion, may the cause of truth, the glory of God, and the welfare of the Church, prove victorious over every private affection and personal partiality.

The enlarged scheme of the liberal Melancthon was not, we may suppose, disregarded or even lightly esteemed in this country. A congress of the kind thus recommended Cranmer afterwards appears to have had in view. For although not immediately, (perhaps in consequence of the persecution, which the imperial measure, usually denominated the Interim, then began to threaten,) yet shortly after, he communicated the design to the Helvetian Reformers at Zurich and Geneva (?). Scarcely however was it imparted to them, before it was completely abandoned, and a resolution adopted of compiling a system of faith solely for the Church of England.

Relinquishing then the idea respecting a congress of foreign Divines, partly perhaps on account of the general perplexities of the times, and partly perhaps from the obvious difficulties of the undertaking itself, he contracted his views, and began to franie a Creed solely for domestic purposes. But

although a form of such a nature appears almost immediately to have been compiled, yet it was not until after a considerable lapse of time finally arranged and published by authority. Among other reasons, which may be assigned for this delay, is it not possible, that one might have been the hope of obtaining the valuable assistance of Melancthon, who was repeatedly invited, in Edward's as well as in Henry's reign, to fix his residence in this country ? From the commencement indeed to the conclusion of it, he seems to have been almost continually expected in England : and while our Articles were preparing, while first their completion, and afterwards their publication, was deferred from day to day, the Theological Professorship in Cambridge was kept open apparently for the chance of his acceptance (). If it be too much to conjecture, that the delay was solely imputable to the wish of submitting them to his personal inspection, and of improving them by his consummate wisdom, the coincidence nevertheless of the time, during which they were postponed, with that of his much hoped for arrival here, cannot altogether escape observation. And when we recollect, that he had been particularly

« AnteriorContinuar »