Sivut kuvina

Now the author of these Letters may choose his own system; and if he is a Unitarian, he may, if he pleases, think the Orthodox irrational in their principles, and ridiculous in their practice. But he will please to remember, that his opinions are not arguments. And is he attacks Orthodoxy, or Orthodox revivals, he must not begin with assuming his own infallibility. The only rational way of attacking revivals, is to attack the principles whence they originate. Hence the author is bound to prove, by Scripture and an appeal to facts, that men are not entirely depraved. Then he can easily sweep away regeneration, and atonement, as needless; and deny the divinity of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, and revivals, which are the result of this system.

Has the author anywhere done this, or even attempted to do it, by fair reasoning ? Nowhere. Through the whole book, he takes it as a conceded point, that Unitarians are right of course, and the Orthodox wrong; and goes on to caricature and ridicule Orthodox revivals, as if nothing further could be said, aster he has solemnly assured us, that he thinks them irrational and pernicious.

Suppose, now, that some philosopher should assume, that the earth is a vast plane, and not a sphere, and then proceed to ridicule all who attempt to sail around it, or who calculate latitude and longitude as if it were a sphere? What would our philosopher say to him? Would he not tell him, that a true philosopher should never begin an argument by begging the very point in question? Would he not say, · Disprove our principles, and prove your own, before you ridicule our practice'? And thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?

We wish it, then, to be remembered, that this whole book derives all its power, merely from an assumpiton of infallibility in our author and his party. This is, we know, a grave and weighty charge to bring against those who declaim so fluently against the assumption of popish infallibility, and against a dogmatizing spirit. Nevertheless, we have weighed well the assertion, and stand pledged to prove it, against all controversy, that the author of this book, and all his admirers, have in practice publicly exhibited themselves as a sect of philosophers, whose fundamental maxim of philosophizing on the subject of revivals is this,-first, to beg the question in debate, and then ridicule all who differ from them, adhere to their own principles, and reduce them to práctice. We ask, fearlessly, can any one deny that this is the fact ? Do not Unitarians differ fundamentally from the Orthodox on the following points, viz. entire depravity, regeneration, atonement, the supreme divinity of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, and the future endless punishment of all who die unregenerate? Have we not proved that, if the Orthodox are correct on these points, revivals are rational and philosophical, and that conversion must be an instantaneous change, although sanctification is gradual? And have

VOL. 1.


we not shown that, on the supposition of the truth of the doctrines of the Orthodox, there are philosophical reasons for the sudden and simultaneous awakening, conviction and conversion of numbers of the community—that it is designed to suspend the power of adverse causes, and facilitate the progress of the truth? And have we not shown that these things are irrational and absurd, on Unitarian principles? But the author has not shown the falsehood of Orthodox principles; yet he ridicules their practices, and stigmatizes them as irrational, when they are, mosi manifestly, merely a rational and philosophical result of their system. Did noi our author know this? Did he not say,

“But this religion is as remarkable in its character as it is in its colloquial exhibition; and the most extraordinary thing in its character, undoubtedly, is the system of revivals of religion as they are called. For these are brought into a system and plan, as much as the religion itself-a system of operations, as much as its theology is into a system of speculations.” p. 2.

This witness is true. And out of his own mouth will we condemn such a writer. He knew, or he ought to have known, that the “ system of speculations” of which he speaks, when reduced tu practice, produces, rationally and philosophically, that very "system of operations” which he condemns. Why then did he neglect to expose the falsehood of the system of speculations, and ridicule the Orthodox merely for being consistent with their own principles? Did he know, that whenever his party have fairly made attempts to reason, they have uniformly been defeated; and did he think, that it was easier to address the bad passions of men, than to attempt, what no one ever yet has been able to do, to shake the rock on which the church is founded, and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail? We do not here complain of his bad theology, but of his bad philosophy, and of his illiberal conduct. We do not at present affirm or deny the truth of either of the two opposite systems. But we do aflirm,—and who can deny it—that it is absurd and unphilosophical uncandid and unchristian, in a member of a small denomination, of recent origin, to ridicule the great majority of all the clergy and people of New England, for adhering to the system of their pilgrim fathers, and reducing it to practice, without adducing one fair argument against it. The writings, the institutions, the lives of our fathers, rebuke such men. Their very spirits frown on them. With unhallowed hands they are laying waste their churches, and breaking the mainspring which moved the whole noble system of machinery which they organized. They cannot, and dare not, meet with fair arguments, those who defend the principles of the Pilgrims. Yet they can talk of charity, and philosophy, and liberality, and denounce Evangelical men as bigots, and then assume their own infallibility as a first principle, and beg the question as it regards every fundamental point in debate, and

then ridicule all who will not tamely acquiesce in their decisions. The leaders do this, and their partisans are blindly and tamely led on, and seem to think that they are the people, and wisdom shall die with them. Truly, in our author's own words, “ This is priestly power indeed, with a witness.”

Does any one say, the author of these Letters has, by fair reasoning, shown the absurdity of the Orthodox system? We ask, where? Point out the page, the passage, the argument, and state it in syllogistic form, or any other form which can satisfy a logical reasoner. We have read the book attentively and repeatedly, we have, as directed by the Rev. Mr. Ware, "read and pondered” it; but we find none. All that looks like it will not bear a moment's examination. Before the sun of truth, it vanishes, like the morning cloud, and like the early dew. Let us look at a few specimens. At pp. 14, 15, he gives a caricature of Orthodoxy, in stating the causes of revivals; and then proceeds to demolish, at one bold stroke, the whole system.

“ It is thus, that, receiving the figurative representations of Scripture as literal, and forgetting those qualifications of its language which the reasonable interpreter must make,-he conjures up his fearful system of faith--fearful enough indeed, if it were really and universally believed, not only to plunge the world into an unheard of excitement, but to drive the whole world to absolute madness.” p. 16.

Now for the argument. He asserts, first, that the Orthodox receive the figurative representations of Scripture as literal; secondly, that they forget those qualifications of its language which a reasonable interpreter must make; thirdly, that they conjure up their fearful system of faith; fourthly, that this system is fearful enough, if it was really and universally believed, not only to plunge the world into an unheard of excitement, but to drive the world to absolute madness. Not even Polyphemus, without an eye, burning with rage, and hurling huge rocks to terrify the sailors, and sink the ship, of Ulysses, was more valiant. It is done. We are prostrated at once.--But, having waited till we have recovered, in some degree, from the violence of the shock, we are happy to find that we have received no serious and permanent injury. The volley was indeed tremendous, but, most fortunately for us, it was a volley of mere assertions. Encouraged by this discovery, we are emboldened to arise from the dust, and to face this potent enemy. Nay more, we shall even venture to attack him in our turn, and that with his own weapons. We then assert, that the Orthodox do not receive the figurative representations of the Scripture as literal; they do not forget those qualifications of its language which a reasonable interpreter must make; nor do they conjure up a fearful system of any kind. Their system is rational and scriptural, and breathes peace on earth, and good will to men. Moreover, the Unitarian system is irrational, and absurd, and unscriptural, and will destroy for eternity every man who fully believes it. In fact, if it were really and universally believed, it would, not only prevent all excitement on the subject of religion, but destroy all real religion on earth, and consign the whole human race to endless sin, misery and despair. It is needless to prove our assertions, though we could do it without the least difficulty. Our object is not now to prove or disprove any system, but merely to encounter our philosopher with his own weapons. Let him attempt to prove his assertions, and then he may call upon us to prove ours, and we will endeavor to do it, by scriptural and philosophical arguments.

Let us consider another specimen of his reasoning. He insinuates, pp. 77, 78, that the idea of a sudden conversion is a modern notion, -just as all who inveigh against revivals, whether Unitarians, infidels, or atheists, talk of the operations of the Holy Spirit as new light; and endeavors to prove that such men as Baxter, Doddridge, and Calvin, did not teach it. Then, after scoffing about this new light,” and “modern improvements in spiritual machinery,” he endeavors to ridicule Matthias Flacius of Illyria, by introducing a quotation from Lardner. Then he pounces upon these “ modern lights of the new world," and rends them asunder as a lion rends his defenceless victim, and celebrates his victory in strains of triumph.

"I confess, I have wished some of these modern lights of the new world, would know something about languages, too, as well as the ancients, or else, that they would tell what they do know. I have heard these preachers again and again, address the people in this manner. 'My brethren, examine and judge for yourselves. Ponder the language which is used to describe the conversion of a sinner. He is ‘new created,' he is born again.' Is not this strong language? Must it not, I ask you, mean a great deal? Is there not a given moment, when a human being is born ? Must not the change, therefore, which is indicated by this language, be instantaneous ? And must it not be immense ? They seem never to have read so standard a theological writer as Lightfoot, who tells us that this language among the Jews, from whom it was derived, was always used to describe a proselyte ; that a Gentile who embraced the Jewish religion, was always called, ‘one born again,' 'a new born child,' so highly did they conceive of this distinction. And the Romans, too, of a contemporaneous period, as he tells us, used to say of a man freed from servitude, and introduced to the privileges of citizenship, that he was born again.'-If these teachers of the people would explain the matter thus, they would find themselves stript of their strong argument. Proselytism was a sudden event. Any change of a religious ritual or system, so far as it is publicly exhibited, must be sudden. So, doubtless, was this part of the Christian conversion. But the other part, the moral, the spiritual change, which, no question, was likewise required, instead of being sudden, was, and is, and forever must be, the slowest of all processes. The Roman slave could be freed on a given day—but so cannot the slave of sin.” pp. 79–81.

Now for the argument. First, he confesses that he wishes that these modern lights of the new world would know something about languages, too, as well as the ancients; or else, that they would tell what they do know. Secondly, he tells us how he has heard these preachers address the people again and again. Thirdly, he asserts that they seem never to have read so standard a writer as Lightfoot. Fourthly, he gives us an opinion upon the point in question, derived, as he would have us believe, from Lightfoot. Fifthly, he asserts that if these teachers would explain the matter thus, they would find themselves stript of their strong argument. Sixthly, he informs us that proselytism was a sudden event, and that any change of a religious system, so far as it is publicly exhibited, must be sudden, and asserts that this part of the Christian conversion was so. Lastly, he asserts that the other part, the moral, the spiritual change, which, no question, was likewise required, instead of being sudden, was, and is, and forever must be, the slowest of all processes; and thus begs the very point in debate.

Let us look at the point in question. Man is a free agent, and has a moral character, besides his intellect and social affections. Is this moral character originally, and before changed by the Holy Spirit, entirely depraved, or is it not? If it is, then, as we have already proved, conversion must be a sudden event, but sanctification gradual. Now, has our author touched this point? Not at all. He has attempted to tell what others think, and have said; but is the authority of names all his argument ? He has asserted, that if we would explain the matter, as he does, according to his views of the opinion of Lightsoot, we should find ourselves stript of our strong argument. No doubt; and if he and his party would explain the matter in our way, they would find theinselves stript of their strong argument. And still farther, if assertions are proof, then our author's final assertion has settled the matter forever. And, moreover, if it is charitable to insinuate that the advocates of revivals know nothing about languages, and modest to arrogate all such knowledge to his own party, then our author is peculiarly distinguished by charity and modesty, those stars of the first magnitude in the circle of Unitarian graces. · Also, if the chief object of ministers of Christ in speaking and writing, is not to reason, but “to tell what they do know," then no one can complain that our author has not, in a laudable degree, kept this object in view.

But, as our author seems exceedingly to regret that he cannot find out what the Orthodox “ do know," we will endeavor to state a few things on this point which we “ do know.” It is indeed a new charge against the Orthodox, that they will not " tell what they do

« EdellinenJatka »