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wbich he was enabled to endure for Christ; nor his kindness to his persecutors; nor bis improving their barbarities into profitable instruction; constituted any part of that righteousness, for the sake of which he was justified before God. He considered them as valuable fruits of the Spirit, and as proofs of grace received: but not as matter of merit; not as causes or conditions, either of his present or future acceptance with the Majesty of heaven. Yet this consideration did by no means render him negligent to obey, or reluctant to suffer. Warmed with the faith that works by love, his language was, Καλον εμοι αποθανειν δια Ιησεν Χρισον, η βασιλευειν την περαθον της γης: “ It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ, than to be monarch of the whole earth (u).”
IV. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, is, by many (among whom are Usher and Cave), supposed to have been the person meant by the angel of the church in Smyrna, mentioned Rev. ii. 8. That he was one of the apostle John's disciples, cannot be questioned, if ancient testimony be allowed to carry the least weight. He was burnt alive for the Christian faith, A. D. 167, or (as others) 169, in about the hundredth year of his age, and about the 74th of his episcopate.
We have one epistle of his, written to the believers at Philippi. From this venerable, but concise performance, two or three short extracts may suffice.
He terms the chains, with which many persecuted Christians were bound for their attachment to the gospel, “ The ornamental bracelets of them that have been really elected by God and our Lord (a).” For those who have been “really elected,” he believed that the blood of Christ was shed: for he
presently adds, “ Who submitted to go unto death itself, for our sins (y).” And, farther on : “ It was
(u) Ibid. p. 59.
for us, that he underwent all things; that we might live through him (2).” Nor was he less sound, in the article of gratuitous justification by the sovereign will of God: “ Into which joy,” says he, “many are exceedingly desirous to enter: knowing, that ye are saved by grace; not of works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ (a)."
Polycarp considered his own martyrdom for the faith, as an event which God had foreordained : for, in the prayer which he offered up, after he was bound to the stake with his hands behind him, was this expression: “Among whom,” i. e. among that company of foregoing martyrs, who had already set their lives as a seal to truth, “may I be received unto thee this day, for a goodly and acceptable sacrifice: even as thou, the faithful God, who canst not lie, hast foreappointed, and didst reveal to me beforehand, and hast accordingly brought to pass (6).” The same Christians of Smyrna, who recorded their bishop's dying prayer, appear to have agreed in judgment with him, as to perseverance, and the extent of our Lord's redemption : for, in their circular letter to the churches, occasioned by the martyrdom of their holy pastor, they observe, the Jews and heathens “ do not know that we shall never be able to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of them that are saved (c).” They conclude their epistle with this affectionate wish : “ We pray for your health and happiness, brethren; and that ye may, according to the gospel, walk in the doctrine of Jesus Christ : together with whom, be glory ascribed to God, even our Father, and to the holy Spirit, for saving the holy elect people (d).” A person, named Pionius, who afterwards took a copy of the above congregational epistle; adds this pious prayer for himself: (z) Ibid. sect. viii.
(a) Ibid. sect. i. (6) Epist. Eccles. Smyrna de Martyris Polycarpi. sect. xiv. (c) Ibid. sect. xvii.
(d) Ibid. sect. xxii.
“ That the Lord Jesus Christ would gather me also with his elect(e).”
By this time, it sufficiently appears, that Mr. Sellon must be extremely deficient either in knowledge, or in honesty (I am prone to think, in both ;) else, even he would never have ventured to assert, that predestination, and its concomitant doctrines, “ do not appear to have been held by any body, during the first four centuries from the Christian ara.” Calvinism is, by no means, that novel thing, which it is for the interest of Arminianism to wish. What Mr. Sellon sneeringly calls “ The good old cause,” is indeed an old cause, and a good one. The doctrines of
grace must needs be good old doctrines, was it only because they are so plentifully diffused through a good old book, called the Bible. We have also just seen, that they are likewise asserted by those good old divines, who lived nearest to the apostles, and who were actually conversant with them. I have, moreover, shown again and again, and hope to give still farther proof of it in the course of the present defence, that the said good old doctrines are the doctrines of the good old church of England, and were the avowed principles of her good old reformers. Whereas the tenets of Messieurs Wesley and Sellon are as bad as they are new. I mean new, comparatively speaking: else they are, (as I intend to demonstrate, before I have done with them) as old as Pelagius. But no scheme of errors, however grey, is of equal antiquity with the truths from which it deviates.
(e) Ibid. sect. xxiv.
The Judgment of some eminent Christians, who flou
rished before the Reformation, concerning the Doctrines in debate.
Even in the worst and darkest of times, God has never left himself entirely without witness, nor permitted the truths of his gospel to be totally exterminated. They have, sometimes, lain to all outward appearance, in very few hands : but they have constantly subsisted somewhere. The prophet Elijah once imagined, that himself was the only person who was kept faithful to God, amidst that torrent of idolatry, which then overwhelmed the land of Israel. But what said the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then, at this present time also, there is, and at every time there has been and shall be, a remnant, according to the election of grace (f). However discouraging appearances may be, in seasons either of persecution, idolatry, or general profaneness; there are many known instances of divine preservation; and many others, unknown by us, but noticed by him who knoweth them that are his (9).
Ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, and they will testify of his unfailing faithfulness, not only in enduing his people with faith, and love to the truth; but also in raising up some of them, to be witnesses for Christ. Even within the circle of my contracted reading, I have met with accounts of many. A select number of the most distinguished shall, without farther cere
(f) Rom. xi. 2-6.
(9) 2 Tim. ii. 19.
mony, be introduced to Mr. Sellon : and I heartily wish he may profit by their acquaintance.
I. Among those who may, with the strictest justice, be styled, the morning stars of the Reformation, were the ancient and famous churches of the Albigenses and Waldenses: so denominated from Alby, a city of Languedoc in France, where they abounded in great numbers: and afterwards, about the year 1170, from Peter Valdo (1), an opulent citizen of Lyons, by whom these excellent people were much countenanced and assisted. Though some suppose them to have acquired the name of Waldenses, quasi Vallenses, from their being extremely numerous in the valleys of Piedmont. Others, from the German (i) word waldt, which signifies a wood: woods being their frequent refuge from persecution.
Dr. Allix, in his remarks on the Ecclesiastical History of these Churches, is, in general, prodigiously careful not to drop the least hint concerning (what has been since called) the Calvinism of those Christians. But the present learned bishop of Bristol has been more just and candid. His lordship tells us, from Mezeray, that “they had almost the same opinions as those who are now called Calvinists (k)." It will, I apprehend, be easily made appear, that their opinions were not only almost, but altogether the same. Nor did they soon deviate
(1) “ Omnium verò maximè notari meretur Petrus Valdo, civis Lugdunensis ; qui cùm dives esset, bona sua omnia in pauperum usum impendit: expositisque, vernaculo sermone, sacris literis confluentem ad se multitudinem puriori fide imbuit.” Job. Alph. Turretini Hist. Eccl. Compend. p. 149. See a much larger account of this good man, in Usher de Eccl. Christian. Successione, c. 8.
() Vile Maestrichtii Opera, p. 1121.
(k) Dissertations on the Prophecies, vol. iii. p. 177. Loril Lyttelton has a similar remark: who observes, that the doctrine of the Albigenses, &c. “ Was much the same with the creed of the protestant churches in these days.” Life of Henry II. vol. iv. p. 395. octavo.