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tive predestination, though all the members of the church of Rome do not fall in with it, because they are not compelled to it, as all the members of the church of Geneva do, because they are compelled to it; yet, if the testimony of Dr. Potter, some time dean of Windsor, be to be depended upon, there are ten catholics that hold this point of Genevan doctrine, for one that is so much an Arminian as to deny it.” Such a cluster of glaring untruths deserves no answer. By way, however, of showing, what an honest and accurate opponent I have to deal with, I will give the paragraph a thorough sifting.
1. “ All the members of the church of Geneva are compelled to fall in with” the doctrine of
predestination. So far is this from being true, that the doctrine itself, of predestination, has been expelled from Geneva, for very considerably more than half a century back. Geneva, which was once dreaded by papists, as one of the head quarters of Calvinism, and termed by them, for that reason, “ The Protestant Rome,” is now, in that happy respect, Geneva no longer. The once faithful city is become an harlot. The unworthy son of one of the greatest divines that ever lived (I mean Benedict, son, if I mistake not, of the immortal Francis Turretin) was a principal instrument of this doctrinal revolution. And, to the everlasting dishonour of bishop Burnet, he, during his exile, contributed not a little to the inroads of Arminianism at Geneva, by prevailing with the leading persons there to abolish the test of ministerial subscriptions, about the year 1686(s). After his return to England, and his ad
(s) “ He was much caressed and esteemed by the principal men of Geneva. He saw they insisted strongly on their consent of doctrine (a formulary commonly known by the name of the Consensus), which they required all those to subscribe, who were admitted into orders. He therefore employed all the eloquence he was master of,
vancement to the episcopal bench, there is great reason to believe, that he would very willingly have played the same game here; and lain the church of England under a similar obligation to “his warmth and the weight of his character,” by releasing (to continue the language of his filial biographer) our clergy too from * the folly and ill consequence of such subscriptions." But, through the goodness of providence, the people of England were not such implicit trucklers to his lordship's “ eloquence and credit,” as were the citizens of Geneva. No “ alteration, in this practice,” crowned his wish (t). The time for the destruction of our establishment was not yet come: and, I trust in God, it is still very far off. To the unspeakable mortification of such as Mr. Sellon, the fence is, hitherto, undemolished. Should our governors in church and state ever suffer the fence to be plucked down, farewel to the vineyard. But, till the barrier of subscription (that stumbling-block to Arminians, who, nevertheless, for divers good causes them thereunto moving, make shift to jump over it) actually be taken out of the way, let no man of common knowledge or of common modesty, call our Calvinistic doctrines the tenets of Geneva. If it be any real honour or dishonour, to drink of the Lemain lake, the Arminians, as matters stand, have it all to themselves.
and all the credit he had acquired among them, to obtain an alteration in this practice. He represented to them the folly and ill consequence of such subscriptions. The warmth, with which he expressed himself on this head, was such, and such was the weight of his character, that the clergy of Geneva were afterwards released from these subscriptions.” Life of Burnet, annexed to his Hist. of his Own Time, page 692, 693. Fol. 1734.
(t) Bishop Burnet, failing in his desire of abolishing our ecclesiastical subscriptions, was forced to content himself with singing, to the, tune of He would if he could, in these plaintive and remarkable words: “ The requiring subscriptions to the XXXIX articles is a great imposition.” [Hist. 0. T. 2. 634.] An imposition, however, in which his lordship prudently acquiesced, and to which he was the means of making others submit, rather than he would forego (to use an expression of his own) the “ plentiful bishopric” of Sarum.
How much more disinterested and heroic was the conduct of that honest Arminian and learned Arian, Mr. William Whiston! The account is curious : so take it in his own words. “ Soon after the accession of the House of Hanover to the throne, sir Joseph Jekyl, that most excellent and upright master of the rolls, and sincere Christian; Dr. Clark's and my very good friend, had such an opinion of us two, that we might be proper persons to be made bishops, in order to our endeavouring to amend what was amiss in the church; and had a mind to feel my pulse, how I would relish such a proposal, if ever it should be made me. My answer was direct and sudden, that I would not sign the Thirty-nine articles, to be archbishop of Canterbury. To which sir Joseph replied, that bishops are not obliged to sign those articles. I said, I never knew so much before. But still, I added, if I were a bishop, I must oblige others to sign them, which would go sorely against the grain with me. However, I added further, that supposing I should get over that scruple, and esteem the act only as ministerial, which
2. Our author pompously appeals to the authority of “ Dr. Potter, dean of Windsor.” He should have said, dean of Worcester. Potter was, indeed, promised a canonry of Windsor ; but never obtained it (u). This Christopher Potter, in the noviciate
would by no means imply my own approbation; yet, when I were a bishop, I should certainly endeavour to govern my diocese by the Christian rules in the apostolical constitutions, and in St. Paul's epistles to Timothy and Titus: which, as [namely, in this gentleman's opinion] they would frequently contradict the laws of the land, would certainly expose me to a præmunire, to the forfeiture of all my goods to the crown, and to imprisonment as long as the king pleased. And this, concluded I, would be the end of bishop. Whis
So I thought no more of it.” Whiston's Memoirs of his own Life and Writings, vol. i. p. 169.
(u) His letter to Laud, in which he supplicated the continuance of that prelate's interest, for his appointment to a stall in St. George's chapel, is worth transcribing.
My most honoured Lord, “ I humbly thank your Grace for, very many demonstrations of your love to me; and particularly for your last favourable mediation to his Majesty in my behalf, for a prebend in Windsor. The conveniency of that preferment (if my sovereign master please to confer it upon me) I shall value more than the profit. But, however, I resolve not to prescribe to your Grace, much less to his Majesty ; or, with immodesty, or importunity, to press you. The obligations, which I have to you, are such as I can never satisfy, but with my prayers: which shall be constant, that your Grace may long live, with honour and comfort, to serve God, his Majesty, and this church, which daily feels the benefit of your wisdom and goodness. Your Grace's, in all humility. See Cant. Doome. p. 356.
of his ministry, had been lecturer of Abingdon, where he was extremely popular, and regarded as a zealous Calvinist. But, as Wood observes, “ when Dr. Laud became a rising favourite in the royal court, he [Potter] after a great deal of seeking, was made his [Laud's] creature (a).” The editor or editors of the Cambridge Tracts, published in 1719, affect to think (y), that Laud paid his court to Potter, instead of Potter's being a suitor to Laud. To me, Mr. Wood's account more than seems to prove the contrary. Besides, the archbishop was eminently stiff and supercilious: but the lecturer was as remarkably supple and obsequious. The prelate could have very little advantage to hope for from the acquisition of the lecturer: but the latter had much to hope for from the good graces of the prelate I conclude therefore, that Potter was a cringer at Laud's levee, and," after a great deal of seeking," i. e. in modern style, after long attendance and much servility, being found very (2) ductile and obsequious, he was entered on the list of the archbishop's dependents.
CHR. Porter." Potter, bowever, was distanced in adulation, by the bishop of Cork, in Ireland; who thus wrote to Laud: “ What I had, or have, is of your Grace's goodness, under him who gives life, and breath, and all things; and under our gracious Sorereigne, who is the breath of our nostrils.” Ibid. p. 355.
(x) Athen. II. 44.
(2) The ductility of our young divine will be put beyond all reasonable doubt, by the letter that follows. He had, in his better days, unwarily written an answer to a popish treatise, published by one Knott, a noisy Jesuit of that age. A second edition of Potter's answer was, it seems, called for, about, or soon after the æra of his connections with Laud. This furnished the author with a fair opportunity of complimenting that prelate, by requesting his Grace to garble the book, and weed it of what offensive passages he pleased, prior to the new impression. On this occasion, he thus addressed
his patron :
Laud's plan of civil and religious tyranny is well known: and the only way for Potter to preserve the favour he had taken so great pains to acquire, was, by a round recantation of the Calvinistic doctrines; which were, at all events, to be discountenanced and smothered, as a necessary prerequisite to our union with Rome : an union which Heylin himself, once and again, frankly acknowledges to have been one of the grand objects in view (a).
To promote this design, and still further to ingratiate himself with his patron, Potter writes a Treatise, entitled, A Survey of the New Platform of Predestination: the manuscript copy of which fell into the hands of the learned Dr. Twisse, who gave him- . self the needless trouble of refuting it.
My most honoured Lord,
October 6, 1634. “ The copies of my Answer to The Mistaker are most sold, and a new impression intended. I am now reviewing it. I shall be glad to receive from your Grace, by your servant, master Dell, any
direction to alter, or correct, if any thing therein be offensive to you. I humbly commend your Grace to the blessed protection of the Lord Almighty; and will be ever
Your Grace's, in all humility, Cant. Doome, p. 251.
CHR. POTTER." His Grace did, accordingly, with his own hand, purge the book of several passages which, in his judgment, bore too hard on the
pope and church of Rome; and the very next year, this Potter (for not being made of too stiff clay) was appointed dean of Worcester.
(a) But why was the revival of popery one of the grand objects at that time? The cause is easily traced. King Charles indisputably aimed at arbitrary power. To this end, popery must be revived, not for its own sake, but as the most convenient prop to despotism. And no method either so effectually, or so expeditiously, conducive to the firm erection of this prop, as the introduction of Arminianism. These were the three constituary segments of that political circle, into which the court and court bishops, that then were, wished to conjure the protestants of England. Or, if you please, such was the plan of that goodly pillar, which was to be erected, as a trophy, on the grave of departed liberty. Arminianism was to have been the base; popery the shaft; and tyranny the capital that should termivate the whole.