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It was the misfortune of Davenant, to outlive the attachment of the bulk of the clergy of the Church of England to its early Calvinism; the Calvinism of its founders, and which still survives in the Articles of that church. The venerable Prelate even fell under the displeasure of the King for venturing to preach on the forbidden subject of predestination. Charles, by the advice of Laud, had enjoined that all ' curious search' on that subject should be abandoned. By the bye, we are truly glad to find that, on all occasions, Mr. Allport speaks of the conduct of that tyrannical and narrow-minded bigot in terms of the strongest reprobation.
The works of Davenant make about two volumes folio. Compared with some of his contemporaries, he was far from a voluminous writer ; nay, he might be almost considered as a mere pamphleteer; albeit in our degenerate times, folio volumes appear formidable things. His compositions were for the most part in Latin; and in the revision and publication of them, he employed almost all the leisure which the arduous duties of his episcopate afforded him. They are all theological, and most of them controversial. The most important is the Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, which occupies the principal part of the present volumes. None can look into them without being convinced, that the author was a man of very acute powers of reasoning, and of various and profound erudition. He was, in fact, one of that race of men-a race, by the bye, which a little more than a century extinguished-who combined the curious and profound learning of the schoolmen, and a perfect mastery of all the subtilties of the scholastic logic, with much of that spirit of free inquiry which the Reformation necessarily originated and fostered; and who therefore escaped the timid and narrow spirit which had previously spell-bound the faculties of men. On the other hand, he did not live so long after that great event, as not to have received the full impress of the ancient system of education and intellectual discipline. All his mental habits were formed under the influence of the school-logic and school-metaphysics. Thus, nothing is more common than to see the Protestants of that age defeating Rome with her own weapons; calling into question all her doctrines, but retaining all those ingenious modes of assault and battery which had been devised and perfected in the cloister. Nor is the scholastic logic and metaphysics, merely considered as a system of intellectual discipline, by any means to be despised. The mischief was, that, instead of being used solely, or principally, as an exercise of the reasoning powers, or used as a test to examine the validity of any train of reasoning, it was substituted for every other mode of mental discipline;—nay, and as the great, the only instrument for the discovery of truth. We need not wonder that, thus abused, it was a source of far greater
evils than advantages. In its appropriate sphere, however, it tended more than any other system, to improve the powers of the mind upon which it was particularly adapted to operate. It is true, that it often disguised what was obvious, and mystified what was simple ; that it often engendered a love of eternal and universal disputation ; that it delighted in making subtile distinctions, when there were no real differences ; that it often wasted scores of pages in the most idle logomachy. It is true also, that its incessant iteration of the phraseology and the forms of logic, gave to the books of its votaries an unutterably repulsive appearance ; generally sufficient to overcome the most valiant resolutions of the doughtiest student of modern times. This last defect, indeed, --this needless, pertinacious obtrusion of all the barbarous technicalities of the scholastic logic and metaphysics, when, in many cases, not only is there no necessity for explication, but nothing except such explication needs to be explained,-is frequently perfectly gratuitous, and therefore the more vexatious. Still, in spite of all this, the perpetual conversance with these logical and metaphysical subtilties engendered a power of patient abstraction, and an acuteness of reasoning, seldom witnessed in modern times. Many of the schoolmen were no children. · In the “life” of his author, Mr. Allport gives from Bishop Hacket's life of Williams, an amusing description of those chivalrous disputations in which the heroic divines of England exercised their faculties and their logical weapons for the battlefields of mightiest controversies. Not Froissart himself could describe some valiant passage of arms, or the achievement of some splendid tournament, with greater enthusiasm than that with which the worthy Bishop records the mighty shock of syllogisms. Nay, these disputations were often got up for the express amusementnot to say edification—of some learned Queen Bess or some theological King Jamie, just as tournaments and games of chivalry had been the royal pastimes of a preceding age, and in some measure even of that of which we speak. The reader, therefore, needs not wonder that, when beauty or power rained down its influences on the doughty champions, and added the fire of emulation to that of valour, the combatant often “fell to it", as Bishop Hacket says, " with all quickness and pertinency.” The whole passage is so entertaining that we must gratify our readers by transcribing it.
• It is amusing to hear the con amore animation with which the excellent, but pedantic Bishop Hacket, in his Life of Archbishop Williams, p. 26, records these academical feats. Speaking of one super-eminent disputant, Dr. Collins, he thus proceeds:—“ He was a firm bank of earth, able to receive the shot of the greatest artillery, His works in print, against Eudæmon and Fitzherbert, sons of Anak ainong the Jesuits, do noise him far and wide. But they that heard
him speak would most admire him. No flood can be compared to the spring-tide of his language and eloquence, but the milky river of Nilus, with his seven mouths all at once disemboguing into the sea. O how voluble ! how quick! how facetious he was! What a Vertumnus, when he pleased to argue on the right side, and on the contrary. Those things will be living to the memory of the longest survivor that ever heard him. In this trial, wherein he stood now to be judged by so many attic and exquisite wits, he strived to exceed himself, and shewed his cunning marvellously that he could invalidate every argument brought against him with variety of answers. It was well for all sides, that the best divine, in my judgement, that ever was in that place, Dr. Davenant, held the reins of the disputation. He kept him within the even boundals of the cause; he charmed him with the Caducæan wand of dialectical prudence; he ordered him to give just weight, and no more. Horat. 1. 1. Od. 3. Quo non arbiter Adriæ major, tollere seu ponere vult freta. Such an arbiter as he was now, such he was and no less, year by year, in all comitial disputations ; wherein whosoever did well, yet constantly he bad the greatest acclamation. To the close of all this Exercise, I come. The grave elder opponents having had their course, Mr. Williams, a new admitted Bachelor of Divinity, came to his turn, last of all. Presently, there was a smile in the face of every one that knew them both, and a prejudging that between these two there would be a fray indeed. Both jealous of their credit, both great masters of wit; and as much was expected from the one as from the other. So they fell to it with all quickness and pertinency; yet, thank the Moderator, with all candour: like Fabius and Marcellus, the one was the buckler, the other the sword of that learned exercise. No greyhound did ever give a hare more turns upon Newmarket heath, than the replier with his subtleties gave to the respondent. A subject fit for the verse of Mr. Abraham Hartwell, in his Regina Literata, as he extols Dr. Pern's arguments made before Queen Elizabeth : Quis fulmine tanto tela
jacet? tanto fulmine nemo jacel. But when they had both done their best with equal prowess, the Marshal of the Field, Dr. Davenant, cast down his warder between them, and parted them." Vol. I.
By this long process, by this severe logical discipline, was Davenant prepared for the services which he afterwards rendered to the cause of religion. His 'Exposition', as well as all his works, bears marks of the character thus impressed upon his mind.
There is a letter of Davenant's to Bishop Hall, so curiously illustrative of the character of his mind, as well as of the spirit of the age, that we cannot refrain from referring to it. Bishop Hall, in his treatise entitled, “ The Old Religion”, had ventured to designate the Church of Rome, though so sadly corrupt, as yet a
true visible church.” For this he was most severely censured: whereupon he writes to Davenant, requesting him to give his most logical consideration upon this perplexing matter, and to purgate ' him from all taint of heresy. One might think that this matter might have been very easily disposed of; that the
whole difficulty admitted of a very concise and easy solution, by shewing that the word 'true' was ambiguous;-that if Bishop Hall meant what he did mean, viz., that, notwithstanding the corruptions of the Church of Rome, the great principles of Christianity were still so far recognized that a man may be—as many have been-saved within its pale, he meant what was very reasonable ; but that if he meant that it was a “ true” church, as fairly exemplifying the character and adequately fulfilling the purposes
of the Christian Church, he asserted what was notoriously false. Bishop Davenant comes to all this in time; but it is of course by a long process, and by a due observance of all the formalities of definition and syllogism. The first paragraph from this letter, we will give our readers by way of a treat.
« « To the Right Reverend Father in God, Joseph, Lord
Bishop of Exon, these. ""My Lord : «« You desire my opinion concerning an assertion of yours, whereat some have taken offence. The proposition was this, that the Roman Church remains yet a True Visible Church.'
«« The occasion, which makes this an ill-sounding proposition in the ears of Protestants, especially such as are not thoroughly acquainted with School Distinctions, is the usual acceptation of the word 'true' in our English Tongue : for, though men skilled in metaphysics hold it for a maxim, Ens, Verum, Bonum convertuntur; yet, with us, he which shall affirm such a one is a true Christian, a true Gentleman, a true Scholar, or the like, he is conceived not only to ascribe trueness of being unto all these, but those due qualities or requisite actions whereby they are made commendable or praise-worthy in their several
"“ I therefore can say no more respecting your mistaken proposition, than this: If, in that Treatise wherein it was delivered, the antecedents or consequents were such as served fitly to lead the Reader into that sense, which, under the word True, comprehendeth only Truth of Being or Existence, and not the due Qualities of the thing or subject, you have been causelessly traduced. But, on the other side, if that proposition comes in ex abrupto, or stands solitary in your Discourse, you cannot marvel though, by taking the word True according to the more ordinary acceptation, your true meaning was mistaken.”
Vol. I. pp. xxxv—xxxvi. The two volumes which the Translator has here presented to the English public, contain, besides the Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, a short essay on the diversity of degrees in
the ministers of the gospel; (in other words, a defence of Episcopacy, and forming the xlvith of his ‘ Determinationes ?;) and a valuable dissertation on the Death of Christ. This dissertation occupies about half the second volume.
The 'Exposition 'exhibits all the peculiar excellencies of Davenant's mind, and all the peculiar defects of his age. It displays
learning, most various and deep; a thorough and facile acquaintance with the whole race of Fathers and school divines; no ordinary powers of argument; together with that great pre-requisite for a successful interpretation of Scripture, -à sound and impartial judgement; and the whole is pervaded by a spirit of piety at once sober and ardent, the doctrinal being well illustrated by the practical.
As almost every commentary has its peculiar excellence, arising from the constitution of the writer's mind, or the character of his attainments, we should say that the principal value of this Exposition consists in the large and comprehensive excursus in which the good Bishop indulges on the papistical and Calvinistic controversies, whenever a single text, or even an incidental allusion affords him an opportunity. Indeed, in this way, almost the whole of those vast questions is brought under review, and treated in a very able manner. And if, instead of having been thrown in with the 'rudis indigestaque moles? of a general exposition, they had been arranged and published in a methodical form, they would have constituted an admirable treatise on the great questions with which they are occupied. It is an annoying circumstance, that much of our most valuable theological literature has been published in the form of loose commentary. Controversial matter thus distributed, labours under this two-fold disadvantage ; 1st, it is often buried altogether under a mass of very diversified and by no means mutually connected observations; and 2ndly, it is furnished in such scraps and fragments as to repel, rather than invite the reader. Bishop Davenant was thoroughly master of the Romish, as well as the Calvinistic controversy. On these he is always able.
We have said that the defects of the Commentary are the defects of the age; while its excellencies are those of Davenant. Among the principal of these defects, we have specified the large infusion of scholastic logic, theology, and metaphysics which characterize it; and the unmethodical and scattered way in which the most valuable disquisitions are thrown together. The latter defect may, perhaps, be disputed, inasmuch as it may be alleged, that such a mode of writing is inseparable from commentary: our reply, is, why attempt, then, enlarged discussion, profound disquisition, in the shape of a general commentary ? A few brief remarks, critical and explanatory, and a practical improvement, are all that a general commentary can admit. Lengthened and elaborate reasoning on any one subject, had better be prosecuted separately; not incidentally, still less simultaneously with a thousand other matters, each differing from every other in nature and importance. Besides these more serious defects, there are other minor ones, which obscure and depreciate most of the theological works of that age. One is, the endless subdivision, which is often