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HE design of the following Work, is, to
refute the peculiar Doctrines of the system of Theology which was maintained by Calvin. The first four Chapters contain a discussion of all the peculiar Doctrines of that system, with an attempt to prove that they are contrary to Scripture, and to the Public Formularies of our Established Church. My object has been to treat these abstruse subjects in an intelligible manner, without perplexing my Readers with metaphysical subtleties, or fatiguing them by tedious detail; and to give a plain interpretation of those texts of the Old and New Testaments, which have been brought forward both by the supporters and opponents of Calvinism, and which are generally considered to be among the most difficult passages of the Sacred Volume. The language of our own Church is in general so perspicuous and decided, that in appealing to its Authority very little explanation has been found nesessary,
except in referring to some of the Thirty-nine Articles. The Fifth and Sixth Chapters contain about three hundred and eighty Quotations from the Writings of the antient Fathers of the Christian Church; and the Seventh Chapter contains about sixty Quotations from the different Works of Calvin. A comparison of the Fifth and Seventh Chapters, in which the Fathers and Calvin are left to speak for themselves, with scarcely any comment from me, must, I think, convince every unprejudiced mind, that the Primitive Church of Christ held opinions in direct opposition to the peculiar tenets of Calvinism; and from a com parison of the Sixth and Seventh Chapters it will, if I mistake not, be equally manifest, that these peculiar tenets, or tenets nearly resembling them were maintained, at a very early period of the Christian Church, by persons, who were then, and have ever since been, considered as Heretics, or corrupters of the pure and genuine Doctrines of the Gospel. The Eighth and last Chapter contains a brief History of what are now called Calvinistic Doctrines, from the days of the Apostles to the æra of the Reformation, with a few remarks upon the Public Formularies of our own Church.
The First, Third, and Fourth Chapters, include the Charges which I delivered to the Clergy
of the Diocese of Lincoln at my last three triennial Visitations, with very considerable additions. The first of these Charges, upon Universal Redemption, I published in the year 1803, at the request of the Clergy; and having received a similar request respecting my Charges of 1806 and 1809, I deferred the publication of them, till I had completed the plan which I had formed to myself. It appeared to me, that the importance of the subjects, especially at the present moment, required that they should be discussed more at length than the time usually allowed to an Episcopal Charge will permit; and I thought that I might render some service to our Established Church, if I collected and published the sentiments of the Fathers of the first four or five centuries, upon these interesting points, and contrasted them with a sufficient number of passages from the Works of Calvin, to convey a clear idea of his system in his own words. I was scarcely aware of what I had undertaken, in this latter part of my plan. The duties of my very extensive Diocese, with other avocations of a private nature, did not soon afford me leisure for so laborious a work, as that of carefully examining nearly seventy folio volumes, and extracting from them what related to the subjects in question. I have, however, at length performed the task; and I deemed it incumbent upon me to make this statement,
as an apology to my Clergy, for what might otherwise have been considered a culpable tardiness in complying with their wishes, and in fulfilling my own promise.
I feel great satisfaction in being able to lay before my Readers a mass of such consistent and decisive evidence, extending from Ignatius and Clement of Rome, who were contemporaries with the Apostles, to Theodoret, who lived in the fifth century, and comprehending almost every Ecclesiastical Writer within that period. The little which remains of those writers, from whose works no extracts are given, contains nothing relative to the Calvinistic system. I desire it to be understood, that I have not selected what suits my own purpose, and suppressed what would have made against me. My inquiry bas not furnished a single passage in any of the works of the antient Fathers of the Christian Church, in which any one of the peculiar tenets of Calvin is maintained, with the exception of the later writings of Augustine, who did not live till the very end of the fourth century. If Calvinists pretend that absolute decrees, the unconditional election and reprobation of individuals, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the entire destruction of free-will in man in consequence of the Fall, were the doctrines of the Primitive Church of Christ,
let them cite their authority, let them refer to the works in which these doctrines are actually taught. If such opinions were really held, we could not fail to meet with some trace of them in the various and voluminous works of the numerous authors which are still extant. I assert, that no such trace is to be found; and I challenge the Calvinists of the present day to produce an author prior to Augustine, who maintained what are now called Calvinistic opinions. What weight is due to Augustine, I leave my Readers to decide, when they shall have seen my quotations from the greater part of his works in the Sixth Chapter, and also the observations respecting him in the concluding Chapter. But in any case he is but one, unsupported by any earlier writer (and even by himself, before his judgment was perverted by the warmth of the Pelagian controversy), against a cloud of witnesses, all of whom lived nearer to the Apostolical times, and concur in bearing an opposite testimony, in uninterrupted succession, through a period of four complete centuries. Ex ipso ordine manifestatur, id esse Dominicum et verum, quod sit prius traditum ; id autem extraneum et falsum, quod sit posterius immissum (a).
(a) Tert. de Præsc. Hær. p.213.