Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

himself treats them; for few of the Neologists have handled them with less ceremony or respect, than hie. So his Dictionary of the Bible abundantly testifies, not to mention many other of his works.

In respect to Kaisei and Ammon, who are mentioned (p. 106, same number,) as having clearly renounced Rationalism, the evidence is perhaps somewhat hopeful; but still, it is far from being clear. In regard to De Wette, however, it is a most singular fate, which this distinguished scholar and man of genius has experienced among us. Not long ago, a writer in the Christian Spectator at New Haven, produced De Wette as belonging to the orthodox. Now again, on the authority of M. Stapfer, we are assured of this fact. And yet I have, lying before me, a work of De Wette's, on the New Testament, published the very last summer, in which he has displayed so much skepticism, that even the Rationalists at Halle, and Dr. Wegscheider himself, who is the very Coryphæus of them, speaks in strong terms of disapprobation. De Wette among the orthodox! Why, he has contributed by his striking talents, and his learning, and his eloquent writings, more, perhaps, than any other individual, during the last thirty years, to support and to propagate Rationalism ; and is he among the orthodox ? I would it were so ; but I could much sooner believe that Saul was really among the prophets. De Wette, in his banishment from Berlin, and in the blasting of all his worldly expectations, has been brought, I wonld fain hope, to a serious view of the end of human life, and of the account of it which lies beyond the grave. He has even courted the society of the orthodox, at Basle, where he now is, in the old University to which the immortal Buxtorfs belonged, and where one of their descendants is still a Professor.

He has, of late, engaged in promoting the missionary efforts of that excellent seminary, under the care of Mr. Blumhardt, in the the city of Basle. And rumor now states, within a few days, that he has just published a work, which cxbibits a change of mind on the subject of religion. Would to God, this might prove to be true! But however this may be, M. Stapfer, and the writer in the Christian Spectator, were far enough from correctness, when they made their statements respecting hiin.

My principal object in making this communication, is, to prevent those who may not be acquainted with the authors in question, from being misled, in any purchases which they may make of their works. The Rationalists would not thank the Eclectic reviewer, nor M. Stapfør, for .putting them among the orthodox ; nor the orthodox, for being put among the Rationalists. Let each one stand where he chooses to stand; and then the persons concerned will have no ground of complaint, and the public will not be misled.

Yours, with much respect,

M. STUART. Andover, Theol. Seminary, March 26, 1828.

[blocks in formation]

THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS OF

CHRISTIANS.

THERE is a powerful partiality in man for his own way; so powersul, that he is not satisfied with his own liberty of doing as he pleases, but desires to bring others into a conformity to his opinions and conduct. This predilection is often so great, as to render his own way, in his own opinion, exclusively good; and all other ways, not only inferior, but worthless, and even pernicious. This is not, as some have pretended, a defect peculiar to religious persons or denominations, but one which is common to the race. The pbilosopher regards his own system of philosophy, as exclusively true, and all other systems as absurd. The physician not only regards his own theories and practice, as better than those of others; but, often, he regards all others as absolutely pernicious. The politician has his own plan for promoting the national prosperity, and frequently regards every other as absolute destruction. The friends of Religion have not escaped this malady. It appeared in the family of Christ. His disciples saw one casting out devils in the name of their Master. They immediately proposed that he should join himself to their company, and attend personally upon the ministry of Christ. But, on his declining to accept their proposal, they forbade him to cast out devils any more, in the name of Christ. They were of the opinion, that their own way was so preferable to all others, that it were better that good should not be done at all, than that it should be done in any other way except their own. Their Master was of a different opinion. When they stated the facts of the case, he said, “Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” He cannot be our enemy, for God would not enable an enemy to work a miracle to our injury. And APRIL, 1828,

22

if he is not our enemy, if he is doing a little good, in his own way, he is our friend; “for he that is not against us, is on our part.” And, though his usefulness, compared with yours, may be small, it is not to be despised, or prevented; “for whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink, in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”

By this reproof, he warned them against a vain self-complacency, and taught them to regard moral excellence and usefulness, wherever they might find it, and in however small degrees, or however associated with relative defects, which might in some degree balance its useful tendencies. This reproof implied that, in this sinful world, little good will be done, if none is attempted by man, or accepted by God, beside that which is done in the best possible manner; and that, although God is better pleased with high relative excellence, he finds nowhere such an exuberance of well conducted enterprize, as induces him to cast away the most imperfect efforts of usefulness, on the part of his sincere friends. If one shall give only a cup of cold water to a disciple, prompted by real benevolence, the reward shall not be lost. This lesson of instruction has, however, been nearly lost, unless in these last days, it should be received, and reduced to practice.

The feelings too common among religious denominations, have been those of exclusive self-estimation--trusting in God that they are righteous, and despising others. No doubt, some denominations of Christians embrace more truth than others. Still, there are none so perfect as to be without some defect; and no denomination of real Christians is so erroneous, as not to possess things which are true, and excellent, and lovely, and of good report. But these excellences each denomination has been disposed to overlook, in the other, while they amplified each other's defects. They have recognized, perhaps, each other's piety as individuals, and the obligations of brotherly love; while, in their collective capacity as churches, they have felt themselves at liberty to be as barbarians towards each other, and to disregard each other's feelings, rights, and interests, as no man would be authorized to disregard the feelings of a personal enemy. They have allowed themselves to speak evil of each other, and to create and perpetuate prejudices, and to conduct their controversies with invective and ridicule. Judging from facts, they have seemed to think it lawful to bite and devour one another; to undermine the foundation of each other's prosperity ; to drive away the shepherd, and scatter the sheep. And this, where the parties concerned profess to regard each other as real Christians, bought by the same blood, worshipping, in spirit and in truth, the same God, through a common Mediator, and on their pilgrimage to a common heaven.

The eyils of such conduct have been great. It has embittered

the peace of families, and separated friends. It has, in many places, undermined the support of the Gospel, and prevented its stated preaching in any form ; while religion, associated with poverty and weakness, has failed to command respect, or to exert upon the community her purifying power, and has been despised and trodden down by the wicked. A moral wilderness has thus been created, where the fellowship of the Gospel, notwithstanding minor differences, might have made the place as the garden of God.

The great decline of religious instruction in some places in New England, has been caused, not necessarily by the existence of different denominations, but by the exclusive and even rancorous spirit, with which they have treated each other.

Instances have existed, in which profligates and infidels have been treated with less aversion than the members of a rival denomination who afforded credible evidence of piety. The greatest impediment, now, to the extension of evangelical instruction to all the destitute millions of our land, is sound, not in the inability of Christian denominations to give a universal extension to the Gospel, but in the resistance they make to each other—in the impediments they throw in each other's way. If we could read the secrets of all hearts as God beholds them, and thus discover the causes of that infidelity which swept Europe as with a besom, and for a time threatened to poison the fountains of life in this country, and of other forms of opposition to the Gospel in different ages and countries, we should find, that the malignity of religious denominations towards each other, has unsettled, and turned against the Saviour, and the word of life, more hearts, than, perhaps, all other causes. The manner in which Christian denominations treat one another, is, in the mouths of infidels, a standing topic of reproach, and justification of unbelief

The mischief and wickedness of this conduct are beginning to be perceived and deplored, by some Christians of every name; and before the universal jubilee, no doubt it will pass away, and be looked back upon with wonder. Even now, men of ardor, ashamed of past discriminations and grounds of separation, would abandon all distinctions, and rush into a precipitate embrace. This, however, would be only to fill up another measure of folly, in the opposite extreme. Religious denominations are not yet prepared, if they ever will be prepared, to give up their distinctive traits; and all the movements of the various denominations to perpetuate individuality, show that anything is sooner to be expected than amalgamation. The ditch, which ages have drawn and deepened between them, is not to be leaped at a bound, or filled up with a few goodnatured feelings of a moment. Radical mistakes have lent their influence to this state of things, which need to be detected and abandoned.

The rights of separate denominations of Christians must be ascertained and settled, before aggression will cease, or cach be allowed to do what each has a right to do, without provocation. The division of land by settled bounds, is indispensable to prevent mutual encroachment and collision among contiguous landholders. If each, with no guide but interest, should draw the lines, there would be little beside “debatable ground” and “ border war.” Something of this kind is the more necessary in this Commonwealth, from the consideration that the largest denomination is the original denomination, which planted the churches, and drew around them, for cooperation in supporting the Gospel, parishes within local limits; to which all our early laws and usages have a reference; by whose influence the Gospel is still supported; and to which many look as to a birthright, and some as to a religious sinecure, into which none of another denomination may come, without the violation of Christian courtesy, and the charge of being wolves in sheep's clothing.

We have no doubt that these parishes gave to the Gospel a universality, and stability, and moral power, which, during the perils of the wilderness, and the expenses of Indian, French, and English warfare, could not otherwise have been acquired ; and that they have been the glory of New England. But we believe as fully, that changes have taken place in our circumstances, which render it impossible to achieve the same ends, by the same means; and that they have failed in their efficacy, just when they had ceased to be indispensable; and are, in fact, waxing old, and passing away.

Indeed, if in some parts of this Commonwealth, parislies within local limits are a blessing, the fact is notorious, that in many places they are engines of fraud and persecution ; their influence being perverted to destroy the very religion which they were established to maintain; and this, too, by a denomination of recent origin, crept in unawares, which have neither the magnanimity, nor the liberality, to support their own institutions but by invading the rights of others.

Evangelical denominations have also arisen within town and parish limits, composed of real Christians, and receiving, as they ought, by the law of 1811, all possible facilities for the formation of voluntary incorporations; and giving access, to every town and parish, to ministers of every denomination. The result is, that none remain to sustain the parochial institutions of our fathers but those who are attached to them, or those who are too regardless of religion to take the trouble of signing off to another denomination, or those who remain, that, by favor of circumstances, they may pervert them. The consequence is, that these lax members of our old societies, who seldom see the inside of the meeting-house, furnish a convenient corps for the Unitarian aristocracy to collect from the highways and hedges, when it may become necessary, to

« EdellinenJatka »