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produces on entering and enlightening and purifying the heart of a sinner.
Instruction should be given constantly on this point in the progress of a revival, until all the happy subjects of grace are made acquainted with the experimental phenomena of sanctification. From the first dawn of hope, till its happy establishment, line upon line is needed, to enable the young Christian to appreciate as his best evidence a state of feeling so contrary to all his anticipations.
This exposition of the humbling effect of sanctification is needful also to remove a provoking prejudice from the minds of worldly men, who, invariably almost, apprehend that their friends and neighbors, on becoming Christians, feel as if they were now very good, and set themselves up as much better than others, and are disposed, with pharisaical pride, to say, Stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou. It cannot be denied that hypocrites, who think that they are something when they are nothing, are always puffed up with spiritual pride; and that real Christians sometimes, and young converts often, if they are prematurely and injudiciously thrust forward, to relate their experience, and pray, and exhort in public meetings, are, in this manner, lifted up of pride, to fall into the condemnation of the devil. But, it is denied most strenuously, that it is the religion of the Christian which produces his spiritual pride. It is the occasion, the innocent occasion ; while that pride which is called spiritual, is the same principle which, before the reign of grace commenced, held undivided sway over the soul. It is a sin which grace has not eradicated, usurping over holiness a temporary power. But the real estimate which a renewed man forms of himself, instead of being raised by a change in his views and affections, is greatly reduced. Uniformly, in our natural state, we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think ; and begin to think soberly and truly, only when religion has furnished us with the correct standard of comparison, and inspired us with some correct moral sensibilities. Always, we take the upper room first; and never, until Jesus comes, do we begin, with true humility, to go down to our proper place. So far is the real Christian from saying to his neighbor, I am holier than thou, that he ascribes to himself less excellence, and more moral evil, than unrenewed men in general are ready to admit as being true in their own case.
6. Religion does not produce intuitive knowledge of what is morally right in all cases, or supersede the ordinary modes of obtaining a knowledge of duty by the study of the Bible, and by observation, reflection and prayer.
It does not qualify a man to preach by inspiration, without the preliminaries of knowledge and mental discipline; and, although a right state of the affections is an excellent preservative against error and preparation to perceive the truth, it does not belong
to the heart, and does belong to the understanding by reason of use, to discriminate between truth and error. The confidence which by some is reposed in strong feeling, as the guarantee of infallibility, is unauthorised, and has been the source of all the dishonor which has come upon religion by the fanaticism of good men. Mere feeling is blind; and he who consents to dismiss his reason and give up the helm to feeling, will not long escape shipwreck. The maxim that strong feeling is indispensable to qualify a man to judge of fitness and propriety in religious matters, would seem to be as wide from the dictates of common sense and experience as any absurd proposition that can be conceived; and yet multitudes are disposed to regard the weaknesses and indiscretions which attend Christians as evidence decisive that their faith and hope are vain.
7. Nor does religion prevent the actual doing of that which is sinful.
Habitual sin it does prevent. No immorality can be persisted in without extinguishing wholly all evidence of Christian character. And therefore no immoral man can be admitted to the church, or be suffered to retain his membership if he has been admitted. And yel, the history of Abraham, and David, and Peter, admonish us that men of eminent piety may be overcome by temptation. If angels, and Adam our great ancestor, might fall from a state of perfect rectitude, what is the poor, imperfect Christian, that he should be thought incapable of being overcome? And yet, how often do we hear the argument against experimental religion derived from the failings and sins of professors, urged upon principles which imply that if a man is a Christian he must be sinless? Is not such a thing wrong? Yes. Well then, how can he who has done it be a Christian? Because Christianity is heaven's most merciful plan for raising men who are spiritually dead to life. Because the first beatings of life in the renewed heart are feeble, and are powerfully counteracted by all the antecedent tendencies of spiritual death. The church is not heaven, where the spirits of the just are made perfect; but a spiritual hospital, in which the first movements of holiness are cherished and strengthened, and raised up to confirmed and perfect health, in heaven.
The great Physician began the good work on earth, and carries it on unto perfection in glory. But shall his skill be questioned, and the efficacy of his prescriptions and the progress of his patients be denied, because, all the way to heaven, the symptoms of disease hang upon them? Is the man not convalescent, who has been sick unto death, until his health is made perfect? Is not the subject of suspended respiration rescued from death by indefatigable effort, unul all the debility and every injurious effect of drowning have disappeared? Would any who had stood over him as a dead man, and watched the process of resuscitating life, maintain their incorrigible infidelity that no change had taken place, and no good been
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done until the last effect of suspended respiration had disappeared? Is the slight trembling about the heart, nothing? The low and languid vital heat driven to the last citadel of life, and lingering there to announce that life has not yet retired? Is the returning spasm, the sigh, the groan, the open eye, and at length, articulation, nothing, because, as yet, the patient is weak as an infant ? If the doctrine of regeneration were, that men, on becoming Christians, became perfect, the world might well indulge the most inveterate incredulity. But to insist upon it that no new affections have begun to operate in the heart so long as the evidence of relative imperfection remains, is as unphilosophical as it is uncandid, and unscriptural, and contrary to fact.
The subject is, I perceive, extending itself beyond my anticipations. There are several other things which religion does not do, of equal importance with those which have been named, which, with the entire account of what religion does do, may, if providence shall permit, appear in the next, or in some future number.
To the Editor of the Christian Examiner.
Though I have not the honor to say that I held a correspondence with you some time since; yet, possibly it may not have escaped your recollection, that I addressed a series of letters to you explanatory of some mistakes and evasions upon which a reviewer in your pages seemed to have fallen. I have received no answer to those letters. But, as in matters of importance I am not disposed to stand about trifles, I take the liberty of addressing you once more concerning some other mistakes of an equally serious nature, contained in the Christian Examiner, No. V. p. 431, in the Review of a note contained in a late edition of my sermon on the Government of God.
In the article to which I replied sometime since, I am charged with giving for Calvinism a system decidedly anticalvinistic, amounting to misrepresentation if I did it knowingly; and my ignorance on such a subject, if I did it ignorantly, being such as to make it a sin for me to write upon it in so confident a manner. To which was added the charge of artifice and unfairness in quotation. All this, I had some reason to hope, my reputation had survived, both among Calvinists and Unitarians. But in the article before me, I seem to the writer to have made statements which place me out of the pale of reputable controversy, and which if not done ignorantly, must leave a deep stain upon my character.
Whether my reputation will survive this last attack, it is not for me to predict. I shall submit cheerfully to the public decision, when I shall have done my duty in giving them the means of forming a correct judgment. It may not, however, be amiss to admonish the reviewer of the inspired caution, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off;" and to remind him, that we live in a community where the public sentiment will not permit a reputation, earned by the effort of more than half a life to do good, to be undermined without cause, or fail to visit unmerited attempts to do it with a retribution more severe than any good man could desire.
From early life I had heard that somebody had, sometime and somewhere, said, that infants not a span long were in hell, and that hell was doubtless paved with their bones. And I must admit that for once, traditionary fiction retained a verbal accuracy of statement not surpassed by written documents. Until, however, I became acquainted with the state of things in Boston and its vicinity, I had supposed this rumor was a falsehood, which, upon the principle of moral affinities, had found its element, and had flowed down, in its own proper channel, among the irreligious and vicious, and was a part of the imagery which adorned the drunkard's song. But, as my acquaintance with this city and the region around increased, I perceived that honest and respectable people in the community were led to believe, not only that some Calvinists of other ages had uttered such a sentiment, or that some Calvinistic writers of the present age had taught it; but that it was a sentiment inseparable from the system of Calvinism, and believed and taught by Calvinists generally of the present day. Nay, as evangelical religion increased in this city and the country around, I became satisfied that the people who were under Unitarian influence, and had not the means of knowing otherwise, were led to believe that the Orthodox around them, did hold to the doctrine that infants are lost, as a part of their system; and that, instead of relying on truth and argument, attempts were made to prejudice an honest and well meaning community against their brethren, the children of the Pilgrims, by the circulation of such unfounded reports.
In these circumstances, being requested to republish a sermon which had some reference to the number of the saved, I supposed it a duty indicated by the prevailing misapprehensions around me, to disclaim, in behalf of myself and of the Orthodox generally, in this city and vicinity, and in New England, and in behalf of the great body of the Congregational and Presbyterian ministers in the United States, the believing or teaching any such doctrine.
In the execution of this purpose, I wrote and published the following note.
I am aware that Calvinists are represented as believing and teaching the monstrous doctrine that infants are danned, and that hell is doubtless paved with their bones. But, having passed the age of fifty, and been conversant for thirty years with the most approved Calvinistic writers, and personally acquainted with many of the most distinguished Calvinistic divines in New England, and in the middle and southern and western states, I must say that I have never seen or heard of any book which contained such a sentiment, nor a man, minister or layman, who believed or taught it. And I feel authorised to say, that Calvinists as a body, are as far from teaching the doctrine of infant damnation, as any of those who falsely accuse them. And I would earnestly and affectionately recommend to all persons who have been accustomed to propagate this slander, that they commit to memory, without delay, the ninth coinmandinent, which is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
This note, as the reviewer supposes, was not written in ignorance or without examination. It was intended to say to the community distinctly, that the report so industriously propagated, that the Orthodox in Boston and its vicinity, believe or teach that infants are damned, is false; and equally false in respect to the great body of Calvinists in New England, and in the United States. In doing this, it was my purpose to compel those who had been accustomed to circulate such reports, to cease from their slanders, or to assume, in some tangible form, the responsibility of uttering them. The note has produced its intended, though, I must admit, not its anticipated effect; for I did not believe that there was a man living, who would have the hardihood to charge the Calvinists of Boston, of New England, or of the United States, with holding the doctrine that infants are damned. A writer in your pages has made the charge. And yet I am so fearful that he may be tempted to deny that he has made it, that I deem it proper, first to cut off his retreat, by an exhibition of the evidence that he has done so. For though the charge is not libellous, it is as odious and injurious to the character of a Christian denomination as if it were so.
The following considerations show that the Calvinists of New England and the United States, are charged with holding the doctrine that infants are damned.
The whole stress of my disclaimer in the note, respects not the dead, but the living. The offence stated is, that I have never seen a man, neither minister nor layman, who believed or taught the doctrine. And the reference to the “most approved Calvinistic writers,” was not primarily for the purpose of vindicating the dead from unjust aspersion, though this would have been a duty, but to vindicate the living; to disencumber myself and my brethren, and the whole Calvinistic body in New England, and the United States, of the odium attached to us by the circulation of such a falsehood. The not having met with the sentiment in the most approved Calvinistic writers is alledged in proof that it is not a sentiment adopted by Calvinists of the present day, upon the principle, that if the most approved writers do not teach it, and a living man had not been found by me who believed or taught it, the imputation must be a slander. And when, upon these grounds,