« EdellinenJatka »
telligently, but does he talk about intelligence? or is it necessary that he should discourse a great deal about good sense, or be perpetually saying what a fine thing knowledge is, in order to convince you that he is an intelligent man? Here is a circle of persons distinguished for the strength of their family and friendly affections. All their actions and words show that kindness and harmony dwell among them. But now, what would you think if they should often sit down, and talk in set terms, about the beauty of friendship and the charms of domestic love? Why, it would be so strange, so unnatural, that you would be inclined to suspect their sincerity. You might, indeed, fairly infer one of two things : either that their love and friendship were matters of mere and cold sentiment; or that these persons had utterly mistaken the proper and natural method of exhibiting their affections.
Let us turn, now, for a monent, to another part of the same general topic. Of all the modes of religious conversation, that which furnishes the clearest evidence of a man's piety is commonly thought to be, his conversing much with others upon religion, with a view to making them religious. Now, here we are to keep in view the same distinction, that has been applied to religicus conversation in general. A good, and pious man should converse with a view to the religious good of others. But to do this, he need not talk about religion in the abstract, nor expressly about the religious good of the persons he converses with. He had better not do this ; "Evrtainly not as a matter of course and of set form. He may impress men, in this way, I know. He may make them feel strangely and uncomfortably. He may create within them, a sort of preternatural feeling. He may awaken, terrify and distress them. He may impress them, then; but it will not be a good impression. It is planting in the mind the seeds of superstition, which a whole life is often not sufficient to eradicate. It is through this process that religion is, in many persons, a strange, uncongenial, terrifying, distressful, gloomy thing, to their dying day. Why, is it not apparent to every one, that this method of proceeding is unnatural, unwise, and inexpedient? It is not with religion, that men are impressed in this case, so much as with the manner in which it is presented, with its aspects and adjuncts. And there is reason to fear that with many, religion itself becomes a thing of aspects and circumstances, rather than of the spirit ; that it becomes in its possessor, a peculiarity, rather than a character; a posture, and often a distorted posture of mind and feeling, rather than a thing wrought into the mind and feeling itself. Men are not accustomed to talk about abstract subjects, or about the soul as an abstract subject. And if you approach them, awkwardly as you must do in such a case, and put such questions as, 'whether they have obtained religion ?! or, what is the state of their souls ?? they will hardly know what to do with such treatment : they will not know how to commune with you. They may, indeed, if they have a great respect for you, sit down, and listen to the awful communication, and be impressed and overcome by it. But is this the way to exert a favorable and useful influence upon them? Do but consider, if this is the way in which men are favorably and usefully impressed on other subjects. A man has
a quarrel with his neighbor. You wish to dispose him to peace and reconciliation. Do you begin with asking him what is the state of his soul ? Do you ask him whether he has obtained peace? Do you begin to talk with him about the abstract doctrines of peace and forgiveness? Do you, in short, deal thus formally and abstractly with him? Let a sensible man be seen communing with his neighbor in a case like this, and he will be found to adopt a far more easy, unembarrassed and natural method of communication. And, in any case, whether you propose to enlighten the ignorant, to quicken the indolent, or to restrain the passionate, every one must know, that a course would be pursued very different from that which is usually resorted to, for recommending religion.
I would have every good man strive to recommend religion. Let his conversation be pure. Let him exhort and reprove, even, but let him do so, as occasions arise. Let him, at proper times, talk upon religion itself; this is not forbidden. But let him not think that this is the only or the ordinary method of leading others into the ways of piety. Let him speak, as circumstances favor, and above all, let him never speak but from the fulness of his heart. Let him not attempt to be more religious in his conversation than he is in his character. If he does, his discourse will be artificial, formal, and therefore injurious. In fine, let him talk about religion just as he does about any thing else that interests him; as he does about the welfare of his family, about his business or occupation, about every pursuit and object that enlists his affections.
DISCORDANT OPINIONS OF MESSRS GREEN AND DUNCAN,
MILLER AND STUART, ON THE EFFICACY OF
CREEDS, AS SAFEGUARDS TO ORTHODOXY.
Messrs Editors—In looking over some pamphlets, written by the orthodox gentlemen, whose names are given above, I have been struck with the discordancy of their opinions as to the long and much vaunted efficacy of Creeds, as a means of preserving the purity and unity of the Church. Perhaps some of your readers may at least be amused by seeing a few extracts from the writings of these champions of Calvinism, arranged in the way of contrast with each other.
The first passage is from “ Advice and Exhortation,' &c. by Dr Green, formerly President of Princeton College. This is a production of more than thirty pages, and, it deserves notice, does not contain any counsel as to making the Scriptures the rule of faith and practice. The standards of the Presbyterian church are with him, it would seem, the one thing needful.
Nothing will more contribute to your being at peace among yourselves, both when vacant and at other times, than keeping strictly to the principles and forms of the Presbyterian church, as laid down in our public standards of doctrine and government. By these standards, try carefully all doctrines, and conduct scrupulously all your proceedings. Esteem it no hardship or oppression-esteem it as an unspeakable privilege and advantage, that these standards are given for your direction and control,
The next quotation is taken from a discourse, delivered by the Presbyterian Mr Duncan of Baltimore, before the Students in the Theological Seminary at Princeton. For one, I care little to rid a man of his orthodoxy,who can, with sincerity, so speak of the liber
ty wherewith Christ hath made us free.' Is it not strange that one who, in such a place, could thus express himself, should wear, an hour longer, the yoke of spiritual bondage, which his sect imposes?
• They who sit in Moses' seat have not yet lost their love of legis. lation. But whence this heresy against reason and truth, which covers individuality of existence under social law, and substitutes ecclesiastical statute for personal independence.' "The minister of the gospel should consider his Bible as the only document, which is, or can be commensurate with his commission. Much do I marvel that any man should celebrate the harmonions operations of this age; assert that our sectarian regulations are necessary to create that moral similitude by which all christians should be known, and prognosticate discord and confusion, as the legitimate and unavoidable conse. quence of mere Bible authority. It is necessary to remember, that we are not to confide in human expositions. Our systems transplant scriptural truths out from their own heavenly connections in the Bible, and classify them according to human conceptions. To me, it is a matter of the purest astonishment, to hear Christian ministers talk so untenderly about the Bible, and speak so affectionately and feel, ingly about their own standards ; standards, the meaning of which they have never yet settled, and about which there has been incessant controversy, both in public and private.' "Let me entreat them to reexamine this matter for themselves, as in the presence of that “ jealous God,” who “ will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images ;” and as living in an age, and in a land, where human authorities have long since lost all their charm, and where every man is growing independent enough to think for him
It was not to be expected that one who ventured to hold such language, in a Presbyterian college, should go unrebuked. Accordingly, a few months after Mr. Duncan delivered his discourse, the subject of Creeds and Confessions was discussed, before the same audience, by Dr. Miller, Professor of the Institution, in an elaborate Lecture of nearly a hundred pages, from which we cite the following paragraphs. By the way,