« EdellinenJatka »
the affections, the light shines, and is comprehended; the glad heart feels the evidence, which is poured in upon it, of God's being and perfections; his government becomes a reality; and all the operations of nature announce his presence and agency, insomuch that he who once complained that he could not find God-could believe intellectually, but could not realize, now cannot go from his presence. The world is now full of his presence, which, before, was so empty; and his government, with its blessed energies, once believed to exist coldly, and without effect, now becomes a present and a sublime reality.
In connexion with these clearer views, is the apprehended importance of divine things. It was not difficult, before, to compel the understanding to admit that eternity is more important than time, and the soul more important than the body, and that the favor of God is more important than the favor of man. And yet no change in actual estimation followed. The understanding carried the man by force to one conclusion, while the heart, by the power of feeling, carried him to a conclusion directly the opposite. But no sooner is the heart renewed by the power of truth and of the Holy Ghost, than this collision between the understanding and the heart ceases; and an actual estimate of eternal things in feeling commences, in unison, to some extent, with the decisions of the understanding. Now faith begins to be the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; and, by making eternal things real, obtains the victory. Now the world ceases to reign in the affections; for he looks not at the things which are seen exclusively, but at the things also which are not seen, which, brought alike near to the apprehension, do, by their magnitude, throw the world into insignificance, and by their weight in the scales, render it, in competition, light as air.
2. Another effect of a change of heart, is, that the moral excellence of divine things, their beauty, and glory, are now perceived as they never had been perceived before, and move the affections as before they never moved them.
It was easy to extort the confession before, that God is worthy to be loved, and that the Gospel is worthy of all acceptation. But no power of evidence could warm the heart, or awake any correspondence of actual love. To every demand of love, repentance, and faith, the monotonous reply would come, We cannot. We can see, but cannot feel.
But when the heart is renewed by the Holy Ghost, a blessed coincidence commences between the dictates of the understanding and the affections of the heart. Now, instead of the inquiry, Who will show me any good ?' the prayer is, 'Lord, lift thou up upon me the light of thy countenance. The law of God appears to be holy, just, and good; and Jesus Christ is no longer a wandering star, whose dimensions the mind cannot determine, and whose place it cannot fix; but the Sun himself, rising upon the soul in a morning without clouds. And the Gospel, once a cold speculation, becomes the power of God and the wisdom of God to salvation.
Religion, then, is indicated at its commencement in the soul, by new objects of supreme regard; by a new rule of moral obligation—the law of God; by new sources of enjoyment, found in love to God, and communion with him, in ever active obedience; by new motives to activity, a desire to please God, a benevolent delight in doing good, and a respect to the recompense of reward, made real and efficacious through faith.
This is but an epitome, a mere outline of what might be said in amplification of preceding topics; but we prefer to present them in their elementary nakedness, that their nature may be seen; and in an epitomized nearness, that their relations and proportions may be seen.
We have only to remark, that the view we have given of the positive evidence of regeneration is both rational and Scriptural.
The experience of all ages has evinced that man is not benevolent by nature, but selfish; that his earliest character is not that of holy love to God, but that he loves the creature more than God; that the affections towards God which are necessary to please him, and make man happy, and obedient, do no exist naturally, and that there is eminent need of a divine illumination which shall banish our darkness, and of a divine quickening which shall wake up holy affection, and put an end to our idolatry, and commence the obedience which shall fit us for heaven. The account we have given of regeneration meets all these admitted exigences of a lost world, and no other view of the doctrine of regeneration does meet them.
Nor is there anything in this account like enthusiasm and fanaticism. Enthusiasın is a love for an object surpassing its relative importance; and fanaticism is a practical expression of feeling in ways that bid defiance to the dictates of reason. But the love to God which we have described as constituting the new affection in which piety consists, does not surpass his excellence. It falls in its highest attainment far below the righteous requirements of his law. And the expression of this love in the language and action of ardent affection, is not fanaticism, but our commanded and reasonable service.
. To the Editor of the Christian Examiner. SIR,
A reviewer in your pages charges Calvinists of the present day with believing that infants, dying in infancy, are damned; and that the doctrine would now be insisted on, by ali real and consistent Calvinistic ministers, if they thought that their people would bear
" has be which follo support of som
it. The evidence in support of so serious a charge, is, that it is “a doctrine which follows necessarily from the Calvinistic system," and “has been taught expressly by the prolocutor of the Assembly of divines at Westminster, and by a thousand others.”
That it is not contained in the Calvinistic system, I have shown. Though, if it were, or did necessarily follow from that system, it would by no means follow that Calvinists themselves admit the inference; and we know no reason why Calvinists should not be indulged, if they please, in a happy inconsistency, as well as their neighbors, who sometimes find it convenient to contradict themselves. We have ample and reiterated Unitarian testimony to the utter unfairness of charging upon the sentiments of an opponent, as his belief, the inference which we may draw from them, however logically.
I have considered the quotations from several of the “thousand authors” who are said by the reviewer to teach unequivocally the doctrine of infant damnation, viz. Calvin, Turrettin, Edwards, and Belamy, and have shewn that their language neither teaches nor implies any such thing; and that the other two authors referred to as authority, are not, and for many generations past, have not been, regarded as standard writers, or “most approved authors,” and, in their extremes of Calvinism, have never been followed by the great body of the Calvinistic denomination; and that the sentiment ascribed to Calvinists, as a body, has never been avowed in a Calvinistic creed, as an article of faith, from the Reformation to this day, nor anything that implies it.
This argument, however, from ancient authors, is relied on with such unhesitating confidence by the reviewer, that I beg leave to call his attention, and that of the public, to the real weight, and logical bearing of such evidence, including the testimony of the prolocutor and Gill, and all which the reviewer can find when he has “ransacked libraries, importuned his friends, and taken whatever means.” What will the testimony of ten or twenty, or even his “thousand authors," amount to? Is there any possible mode of proving the sentiments of a denomination on all points, by a reference to authors ? Do Calvinists, as a body, hold to every thing which every author denominated Calvinistic has written? Does not the reviewer know, that, while all Calvinists hold to the points which separate between them and Arminians, they hold even these with great diversity of explanation, while, on a multitude of other doctrines, the shades of opinion are so various, and even opposite, as gives birth to names descriptive of these specific differences among them? Can, then, what one Calvinist has written, be quoted in evidence of what all Calvinists believe? Do Unitarians all believe so exactly alike on all points as that we may quote any sentiment from any Unitarian writer, however extravagant, in proof of the universal opinion of the entire sect? And yet the reviewer goes on in flippant style, with quotation upon quotation, from musty folios of Calvinistic writers of other ages; and the thought seems never to have fallen within the scope of his imagination, that he had anything more to do, to convict all the living “consistent Calvinistic ministers” in the world of believing in infant damnation. The reasoning, however, is utterly nugatory, except upon the supposition that all Calvinistic authors and ministers, of this and of all ages, do, on all points, believe exactly alike,-a supposition notoriously untrue, both in respect to the present, and to all past generations.
The reviewer, I am persuaded, is not aware of the potency of his argument, or with what dexterity, as with Ithuriel touch, it may bring out all those doctrines which all “consistent” Unitarians believe, and would now insist on, “if they thought their people would bear them.” He will permit me, therefore, to edify him with a few specimens of the - monstrous opinions," held by all “ consistent” Unitarians in Boston, and in this Commonwealth and nation, and which they would now insist on “if they thought their people would bear them,” proved by the express testimony of many of the most approved Unitarian writers.
1. All “consistent ” Unitarian ministers disbelieve the inspiration of the Bible, and are, secretly, Deists, and would say so “if they thought their people would bear it.”—Proof:
“ The writers of the books of Scripture were men, and therefore fallible.”—Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part 2. Preface.
“Like all other historians they were liable to mistakes with respect to things of small moment, because they did not give sufficient attention to them.”-Same work. Preface."
“I think I have shown that the apostle Paul often reasons inconclusively; and therefore that he wrote, as any other person of his turn of mind, and thinking, and in his situation, would have written without any particular inspiration.”—Priestley's Hist. Corrup. Christ. vol. ij. p. 370.
“ The Scriptures were written without any particular inspiration, by men who wrote according to the best of their knowledge, and who from circumstances could not be mistaken with respect to the greater facts of which they were proper witnesses; but, (like other men subject to prejudice,) might be liable to adopt a hasty and ill grounded opinion concerning things which did not fall within the compass of their own knowledge.”—Priestley's Hist, Early Opinions, vol. iv. pp. 4, 5.
“The Scriptures contain a very faithful and credible account of the Christian doctrine, which is the true word of God; BUT THEY ARE NOT THEMSELVES THE WORD of God, nor do they ever assume that title ; and it is highly improper to speak of them as such, as it leads inattentive readers to suppose they are written under a plenary inspiration, to which they make no pretensions.”—Belsham's Review of Wilberforce, foc. Letter 1.
“The evangelical histories contain gross and irreconcileable contradictions.”—Evanson's Dissonance, p. 1.
“The writings of Moses were inspired in so far as they instruct us concerning God, and lead us to God. He could know the age of the world no better than we do. The history of the fall is a fable; and though there is much truth in Moses' history, the dress is poetic. In Joshua, the circumstances of the conquest of Canaan are fictitious. The books of Samuel contain a multitude of falsehoods. There are no prophecies in the Psalms. Daniel is full of stories, contrived or exaggerated by superstition. With the other prophets, Christians have no concern.”—Extracted from the writings of Danem, a German Unitarian, as given in Erskine's Sketches of Church History, vol. i. p. 84.
“Peter speaks these (2 Pet. i. 21.) according to the conception of the Jews. The prophets may have delivered the offspring of their own brains, as divine revelation.”—Extract from Semler, Professor of Divinity at Halle, as given in Miller's Letters on Unitarianism, p. 205.
“The Godhead could not have required of Abraham so horrible a crime, [offering up his son,) and there can be no justification, palliation, or excuse for this pretended command of the Divinity. Abraham dreamed that he must offer up Isaac, and, according to the superstition of the times, regarded it as a divine admonition. He prepared to execute the mandate, which his dream had conveyed to him. A lucky accident (probably the rustling of a ram who was entangled in the bushes,) hindered it; and this, according to ancient idiom, was also the voice of the Divinity.”—Extract from Eichhorn, as quoted by Professor Stuart, in Letters to Channing, p. 144, third edition.
“ To walk on the sea, is not to stand on the waves, as on solid ground, as Jerome dreams, but to walk through the waves so far as the shoals reached, and then to swim.”—Extract from C. F. Ammon, Professor of Theology at Erlangen, as quoted by Stuart, p. 144.
“Annanias fell down terrified; (Acts v. 5;) but probably he was carried out and buried, while still alive.”—Extract from Theiss. Vide Stuart's Letters, p. 145.
“This Epistle (Hebrews] however, which contains many important observations and many wholesome truths, mingled, indeed, with some far-fetched analogies, and inaccurate reasonings, was probably written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple,” &c.-Improved Version of the New Testament, p. 531.*
“The account of the miraculous conception of Jesus, was probably the fiction of some early Gentile convert, who hoped by elevating the dignity of the Founder, to abate the popular prejudice against the sect.” — Improved Version, p. 2.
“The remaining verses of this, [the first chapter of Luke, from the 4th verse,) and the whole of the second chapter, are printed in italics, as an indication that they are of doubtful authority."-Ibid. p. 120.
* This work has been republished, with some slight alterations, and circulated, by Unitarians in this country; and all the extracts from this work, in this article, are from the American edition.