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SERIES THE THIRD.
Art. I.-Sylloge Confessionum sub tempus reformandæ Ecele
siæ editarum, videlicet, Professio Fidei Tridentina, Confessio Helvetica, Augustana, Saxonica, Belgica ; subjiciuntur Catechismus Heidelbergensis et Canones Synodi Dordrechtane. Oxonii, e Typographeo Clarendoniano. 810. pp. 424. 6s. in sheets. Payne and Mackinlay. 1904.
The title-page, which we have transcribed, will convey to persons who are not altogether strangers to the subject, a competent notion of the general contents of this volume. It will be understood by such readers to bear a close resemiblance to a work intitled Corpus & Syntagma Confessionum fidei, printed at Geneva in the year 1712, and a second time, at the same place, in 1654 ; which itself was little more than a republication of another volume denominated, Harmonia Confessionum fidei orthodoxarum et reformatarum ecclesiurum, (Genevæ, 158],) in a different form. The contents of the volume which is now before us, are all contained in the Corpus of which we speak, excepting two articles, the Professio Fidei Tridentina, and the Catechismus Heidelbergensis, and excepting further that the Oxford editors have given us a different edition of the Belgic Confession: though, according to a practice not easily excuseable, they have botla omitted to mention this fact, and have left us to make out for ourselves their reasons for so doing. In addition to those parts which are common to both voluines, the Corpus further contains Confessiones Anglicanam, Scoticanam, Polonicam, Argentinensem, Wirtembergicam, Friderici gede comitis Palatini, Bohemicam, Basilienscm. We are referred to the preface by the Clarendon editors, for the reasons by which they have been directed in the selection which they have made: but whatever reasons may be given in behalf of those Confessions which they have admitted, we find none assigned for their many rejections, nor any account tendered to us why the selection did not extend further.
Crit. Rev. Vol. 7. February, 1806.
But sa thankful are we for this publication, thal we gladly accept of it from the learned editors without any further demur, and upon their own conditions.
The Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent, we are told in the preface, (which, we argue solely from the internal evidence, betrays, if we inistake not greatly, the hand of a very learned prelate, and head of a house in the University of Oxford.) was selected as containing a brief and undisguised declaration of those principles, in which the Romish church, after much investigation and long controversy with the reformers, was willing to intrench herself. The Llelvetian, Augustan, and Belgic Confessions are each of them the authorized books of doctrine of three divisions among the ' most eminent of the reformed churches. The Saxon is, as it were, a repetition and revision of the Augsburgh Confession. And the Canons of the Synod of Dort may be of use to shew with how little reverence man will dare to agitate the most abstruse religious doctrines, and to intrude himself into the councils of the Deily, when inflamed and instigated by party and controversy. In addition to these particulars, it might not perhaps have been amiss to inform us, that, notwithstanding its great intrinsic excellence, and its value and authority in other respects, the Saxou Confession has never been regarded as one of the symbolical books of the Lutheran church; and that the Heidelberg Catechism, concerning which, although an insertion of their own, the editors are almost intirely silent, has always been considered as of high authority among the reformed, in contradistinction to the Lutheran churches, and was expressly received, authorized, and approved by the Synod of Dort, as one of the symbolical books of the Belgic churches. It might have been mentioned also, that the Professio l'idei Tridentina may be found in the Catechismus ad Parochos, (p. 518-22, Edit. 1671,,) that the historical particulars bere given respecting it, are taken from that volume (p. 518,) and that its date is 1561.
But in spite of these, and some other deficiencies of whick we might justly complain, the Sylloge Confessionum is un doubtedly a valuable and well-timed publication. From the authoritative documents which it contains, we may learn, as froin the life, the gross corruptions and errors with which the Romish church deformed and defiled the fair face of christianity; we may learn to emulate and copy the truly evangelical principles of those great and holy men, who al the jiyminent peril, or with the loss of their fortunes, and of litc itself, preached, taught, and detended those weightier matters of the gospel, which must ever be the life and ornament of the christian church; and we may learn to avoid those rocks and shallows, those precipices and thickets, into which the pride of hunan reason, an ill-regulated passion for change, an affectation of extraordinary purity, and a fanatical claim to peculiar intercourses with the Deity, die, in but too many cases, hurry, to the great disgrace and scandal of their cause, large portions of the most zealous reformers.
Another valuable purpose of this volume, and which perhaps was more inmediately in the conteinplation of its present editors, as highly necessary and profitable for these times, is, that we should know, understand, and imitate that diffidence, that inoderation, that forbearance, that tolerant and catholic spirit, which was maintained, in different de. grees indeed by soine, but in a very laudable and exemplary degree in all the public confessions of all the reforned churches at the period of the reformation, respecting those arduous apd mysterious doctrines, which are connected with the divine predestination, with the will and powers of the natural man, and the operations and offices of the Holy Ghost. Whosoever shall compare these Confessions with the nine Lambeth articles, with the deterininations of the Synod of Dort, and with those of the assembly of divines at Westininster, will be competent to determine, whether those teachers, who would lead their followers through all the windings of these intricate doctrives, and claim the propagation of thein according to the Calvinistical system, as the indispensable duty of every minisier who professes to reverence and to teach the doctrines of the reformation, do indeed approximate so nearly to the views of those times which they claim as peculiarly their own, or do not rather hear a much greater affinity to the degenerate, because pelemical, dogmatical, and scholastical decisions of Lambeth, Dort, and Westinister. It is well observed in the preface, that a distinction is to be made between the private sent ments and writings of Luther, Melancthon, or Calvin, and those works which they were induced to compile for public use and acceptation ; " for the avoiding of diversities of opinions, and for the stablishing of consent touching true religion." In the former the inind exults in a wider and more liberal range: it delights to wander at large, to pene. trate deeply, to distinguish vicely; to display its strength in the vau quisbing of great difficulties, and its subtilty in de. tecting and displaying the little, But when the consent of multitudes and of ages is to be courted, when all are to
learn to speak the same thing,' he who has sense and integrity enough to look for cominon sense and common honesty in other inen, will content himself with narrower bounds, will take truth in its masses, will be satisfied to inculcate what is generally important and salutary, and to pro$:ribe extensive or acknowledged evil; and, while he sets his hand to no error, and patronizes no corruption, will be far from complaining, though he cannot find a place for the introduction and approbation of all truth, as truth is according to his judginent, nor a willing acceplance of some favourite notion or dogma. He, therefore, who has learned to consider that all public forms of doctrine are and must be coinpiled (when compiled as they ought to be) upon catholic aud enlarged principles, will be directed himself, in the application of those forins, to adopt in some degree a similar spirit of tolerance and forbearance. Let himn entertain his own opinions, let him have advanced further, and have prosecuted truth into deeper recesses than has been done by other men; yet let him be contented with that praise, or at least let him beware that on no account, in his zeal for the re; ception of those opinions, be shall have recourse to unlawful practices; that he do not find them inculcated where they are not, that he do not avail himself unduly of some plausible but inadequate terins and phrases, to attach his own opinions to the established creed, and seek a way for their admission under the shelter of that sanction; and endeavour to silence all opposition by loud outeries of apostacy and degeneracy from the old paths and line of sacred duty, in his adversaries, whose opposition perhaps is both as conscientious as his own efforts, and founded moreover, not in pride, but in constancy and in truth.
Proponit simplicibus' (says the writer of the preface,) religio Christiana quod omnes et intelligere et facere possint; de difficule tatibus quze suboriuntur, quarum nonnullæ captum humanum omnino exsuperare videntur, illud Christi usurpanduni est, ou FLYTUS 7047 xwgcuein. Haud nefas esse credimus, sapientibus et doctis in his se exercere, modo id quod certum est firmiter teneant; qui autem occasionem exinde arripiunt ecclesiam in partes scindendi, qui hæc necessaria esse ad salutem, et omnibus primo in loco propinanda volunt, viderint, ne in errorem inciderint, qui præ omnibus ejusdem generis maximus est et nocentissimus.' (p. v.)
But he who is interested in the investigation of the genuine principles of the church of England, may derive get more satisfaction and instruction from this volume than other men. Besides the important advantages which itwill
afford, for the general illustration and exposition of our public and authorized books of doctrine, by putting us into fuller possession of the opinions and the phraseology of those days; by shewing us the exact errors which were combated. and renounced, and by familiarizing us with the very mien, babit,and language in which truth displayed herself by degrees to the earnest search and solicitations of hgr enamoured and illustrious votaries of those days; we shall feel a peculiar gratification in perceiving, that in the high and lofty arguments in which the piety and reverential awe, the prudence, moderation, and charity of all were laudable and admirable, these virtues were pre-eminently and peculiarly conspicuous in the heaven-blest and favoured reformation of the English church. But this subject having been very well enlarged upon by the Bishop of Bangor, in a discourse before the University of Oxford, (Feb. 14, 1802,) we shall be contented with remarking, that the conclusions to which it tenils, de. serve to be holden in continual remembrance during the agitation of the Calvinistical controversy.
We shall only further observe at present, in immediate reference to the Sylloge Confessionum, that it is neatly, and for any thing we have yet perceived, correctly printed.
But there are other relations in which we wish to introdace and recommend it to our readers. It is valuable for its connections and dependencies. It does not stand alone, but forms one link of a chain and series, on the merits of which we gladiy avail ourselves of this opportunity a little to enlarge.
In the year 1792, a work intitled Enchiridion Theologicum, or a Manual for the use of Students in Divinity,' was published at Oxford, under the care of, and with a preface by, Dr. Randolph, then and now King's Professor of Divinily in that university, and now Bishop of Oxford. The tracts comprised in the five duodecimo volumes of which that work consists, are King Edward the Sixth's Catechisny (in English); Bishop Ridley's Protestation in the Divinity schools at Oxford, (A.D. 1555); his Treatise against Transubstantiation, otherwise called ' a briete Treatise upon the Lordes Supper; Jewell's Apology and Nowell's Catechism, both in Latió; Bishop Taylor's Advice to his Clergy; Bishop Pearson's Annales Paulini; some Discourses of Bishops Stillingfleet, Gastrell, and Coneybeare ; Bishop Gibson's first, se. cond, third, and part of the fourth Pastoral Letters; Leslie's short and easy Method with the Deists; and Dr. Bentley's Remarks on Free-thinking: making all together an exceedingly interesting and valuable collection.