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sunk gradually into the abyss of ignorance anden superstition ;) and darkness covered the “ earth, and gross darkness the people.” Whatlı added to the horror of this darkness, the Bible!. itself, the fountain of Light, was taken away ; and, for some ages, the Revelation of God, which had been given by the hand of a Mediator, and by the ministry of Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, was hid from the world. Christianity hath two principal enemies to contend with, SUPERSTITION and INFIDELITY.
It was Superstition which first shut the Bible. The age of Infidelity had not yet come. ., ' fost loi
In that dark period of which we speak, even the chief Seats of learning became fountains of error to the world. From those very Seats. * it was maintained, That Christianity was little t more than a moral code, and that the Faith by which we should be saved, consisted princie pally in “a' mere historic belief." The doc! trine asserted, amounted in substance to this,' that a man might almost, if not entirely, qualify and entitle himself by certain good actions to receive the grace of God; and that thus he might purchase heaven by his own merit. So thick a mantle of darkness had covered then minds of men !
At length there appeared a dawn of light. BRADWARDINE of Oxford combated these errors of doctrine with great energy and eloquence. He was Archbishop of Canterbury, and the
most profound scholar of his age. And as he was first in the Church in learning and in station, so he was almost sole in his opinions. But he was “ full of faith ;” and singly attempted, as he expressed it, “ to defend so
GREAT A CAUSE."
*“ Behold," said Archbishop BRADWARDINE," I speak " it with grief; as formerly four hundred and fifty prophets
were united against one prophet of the Lord ; so at this “day how many, O God, contend for Free-Will (human
sufficiency and merit) against thy gratuitous Grace! How
many indeed in our times DESPISE thy saving Grace ; or " if they use the term Grace, how do they boast that they " DESERVE it by the strength of their Free-Will. Almost
the whole world is gone after PELAGIus into error. Arise, " O Lord, judge thine own cause; sustain him who under" takes to defend thy truth. Protect, strengthen, and com“ fort me: for thou knowest that, no where relying on my 14 own strength, I attempt to maintain so GREAT A CAUSE."
Bradwardini Opera, Prefat. The Theologians, whom Bradwardinę opposed, correspond nearly with the great PELAGIAN body of the present day This body assumes not the ancient name, but exists under different names, and is composed of different denominations. But they all agree in one distinguishing character, “ That " they despise the saving grace of God." They generally profess, what they call, RATIONAL Christianity; by which they mean that their religion is merely rational, and that it hath nothing spiritual in it. They acknowledge no influence from above, nor any operation of divine grace. In this sense, it is true that they profess a rational religion : but on the same principle, it might be easy to prove that the religions of the heathen world are ALL RATIONAL religions. It is surely bigh time for Christians to take leave of the Pela: gian philosophy
But WICKLIFFE of the same university was ordained to confirm more fully the evangelic testimony. He was properly the first great light in that dark age. He translated the Bible into our own tongue; and his own mind was illumined by it. He then assailed with an intrepid spirit the before-mentioned errors, and in particular, the position (which is the fundamental principle of a corrupt theology) “ That $ a man becomes acceptable to God, and is
finally saved, by his own works and merits.”
“ Human nature,” pronounced Wickliffe from the theological chair, “ is wholly at en
mity with God. Man is a sinner from the 56 womb. He cannot think a good thought; " he cannot perform a good work, except he “ receive GRACE.” And with respect to that Faith whereby we shall be saved, he speaks in these terms. « The merit of Christ is sufficient us of itself to redeem every man from Hell. « Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient “ for salvation. We are not to seek to be jus“ tified in any other way than by his justice. " We Become righteous through the participa“ tion of HIS righteousness.”..*
Wickliffe here speaks the sense of a Text, from which every Theologian should learn to preach; “ To him that worketh NOT, but believeth on
“ HIM that justifieth the ungodly, his faith ist " counted for righteousness.” This text. is found in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and at the fifth verse. But the unanswerable argument for the truth of this doctrine is derived from the history of CORNELIUS, the Centurion. “ His alms and prayers " came up as a memorial before God. Acts X. 4. ; but he became not THEREBY an heir, of salvation. He was directed to go to the Apose tle PETER, “who should tell him words WHERE " BY he should be saved.” Acts xi. 14. Until Cornelius heard the words of the Gospel front, Peter, and thereupon “ received the Holy :
Ghost,” he knew nothing of that Faith wherexa by alone he could be saved. ,
But Wickliffe was only the forerunner. Like John the Baptist, he prophesied of a Light that should come; and almost in his words he said, “ I am but a solitary evidence against a Host. “ I am but the voice of one crying in the wil“derness.” But his own light did pot dispel the gloom. Though it shone far into the vale of night, it reached not to the throne of darka ness at Rome.
II. The second Era of Light is the REFORMATION. In the midst of this spiritual darkness, while men were sitting a second time in “the region and shadow of death," the “ day.. “ spring from on high visited them.". This
has been accounted by some, an epoch'in the Church, not less remarkable than that of the first promulgation of the Gospel. And although it is now much out of view in the minds of many ; although Infidelity would obscure its glory, and “ the withered hand hath “ been lifted up against Him that healed it," the Reformation will ever be considered as a great event in the divine dispensation by all true members of the Church of Christ, to the end of time.
As, in the first age, the preaching of the Apostle Paul was chiefly instrumental in the conversion of men; so, at this second Era, the ministry of LUTHER was principally honoured of God, for that purpose. Luther was ordain. ed to be the great instrument of Light; and he, like WICKLIFFE, gave the Holy SCRIPTURES to his nation in their own tongue.
But, by what means was Light restored at the Reformation? The CAUSE is to be found in the third part of our Saviour's doctrine before mentioned, namely, the inspiration of the Holy Gnost, the spirit of Truth which should resist the spirit of Satan and of error,
reprove the « world of sin, and of righteousness, and of “ judgment; and guide men into all truth.”This was the efficient cause : but the means or instrument was the Bible. Light was restored to the world by the BIBLE.