« EdellinenJatka »
Now if men are converted by the truth, and Orthodox ministers preach the truth, and the Holy Spirit makes it effectual, this is just what we should expect; the effect does not extend beyond the influence of the cause. How can error produce a revival of religion? But by ascribing these facts to the influence of the minister alone, the author of course implies, that he is the author of the revival, and not God, which is merely begging the question as before.
On pp. 115, 116, he censures the lowest classes of society, in very indecorous language, for “ proudly pronouncing judgment on the purest and best men in the country,” and says,
“It is because these misguided people are taught to rely on supernatural impulses, because they are puffed up with the notion of special grace being imparted to them, and giving them a superiority over the natural understanding of other men, that they thus speak of those, to whom, in any other relation, they would not lift their eyes, but with respect and deference. People of humble capacity and acquisitions are not disposed, but as they are influenced by others, to depart so far from the modesty that most truly becomes them. They are not often found deciding so comtemptuously on the merits of a distinguished lawyer, or an eminent physician. But when it comes to religion, they are told that the case is altogether different.”
In plain English this would mean, that our author is offended because experimental Christians, even if they are not rich and learned, can easily perceive, in the enemies of revivals, in the higher classes of society, an entire absence of vital religion, even in those who are wise, and mighty, and noble, in their own eyes. It is not, indeed, to be wondered at, that the proud should be offended by the assertion, that those whom they deem inferior to themselves in rank and learning, are qualified to pronounce as it regards the evidences of experimental religion. Nor is it strange, that they should call them misguided people; and endeavor to frown upon them, by pronouncing them incompetent to judge upon such subjects; and by calling such conduct immodest and presumptuous. Still, however, all such remarks are merely begging the question. It may be true, after all, that not many wise, and mighty, and noble, are converted, and that the poor whom they, despise, are really converted; and a thousand assertions to the contrary will not avail to disprove the reality of their conversion. And if conversion is a reality, it does not require profound learning to discover an unconverted man. Philosophically speaking, it depends upon sympathy of heart; and the most learned man, nay, even the most learned minister, can be distinguished by any experimental Christian, if he manifests in his prayers, and other religious services, a cold heart, and little or no love to Christ, and little or no zeal. It does not require much learning to feel the difference between cold and heat, between ice and fire. Hence, real converts of every rank of life, always find an entire want of unction and spirituality in the preaching of unconverted ministers, and leave them for a church where there is real feeling in prayer and preaching. And this, in the Orthodox system, is rational, and philosophical, however unpleasant the implication may be, as it regards those whom they leave. More examples might be given, but they are needless. It is enough to remark, in general, that a correct analysis of this author, will at once show, that his censures, and ridicule, as a general fact, imply a begging of the question, that there is no such thing as a real conversion, produced by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit; and are powerless, if the reality of such a conversion is admitted. We think, then, that we have clearly shown, as we proposed, that the author ridicules the Orthodox who differ from him, and exposes them, as irrational or superstitious, merely for acting according to their own principles.
3. He colors, or distorts, or misrepresents their sentiments, so as to prejudice an unguarded mind against them.
Speaking of the causes of a revival, and the minister who promotes them, he says,
“We must add to this, that the doctrines he embraces, partaking of the same extravagance that characterizes his general views of religion, lead him to the same results. He believes that all men are naturally and utterly depraved and wicked, and deserving of unspeakable and endless misery,—that the character which they bring from their very birth, which they derive from their creation, dooms them to eternal and infinite sufferings.” pp. 14, 15.
“ There is a change,' says he,- for he is not thinking in this exigency, of the long course and habit of virtue and devotion, — there is a change,' he says, 'which will save them. They cannot produce it themselves, but it must be wrought in them by the special grace of God. In one moment, the power of God could make all these reprobate creatures the heirs of heaven. They are all unconscious of the horrible catastrophe that awaits them, and, of themselves, unable to escape it; they are as dry bones, as dead men in the valley of vision, and they are soon to awake to everlasting burnings !'” pp. 15, 16.
Now we know that Unitarians deny the doctrine of the endless punishment of all who die impenitent, of the entire depravity of man, and of the need of conversion ; and that the Orthodox believe them. But they do not believe them as here represented. And the actual effect of this representation, the effect which no doubt it was intended to produce, is to exhibit the Orthodox as holding to doctrines shocking alike to reason and humanity. Our author asserts, that the Orthodox believe, that the character which men derive from their creation dooms them to eternal and infinite sufferings; that there is a change which will save them, but that they cannot produce it themselves. He then descants at large upon their horrid views of eternal torments, and speaks of living happy multitudes, as unconscious of the horrible catastrophe which awaits them, and utterly unable to save themselves. Is there here no coloring, no distortion, no misrepresentation? Do the Orthodox believe thus, and teach thus? Do they teach that God creates men wicked, and then damns them for not being good, when they cannot become good; and that they are all unconscious of their danger, and cannot escape it? Let it now be distinctly noticed, that what seems to be a small misrepresentation, because it can be expressed in a few words, relates to a question which lies at the foundation of the whole system of Orthodoxy. We have seen, that with Orthodox views of human depravity, all the rest of the system is rational and necessary ; but if this essential doctrine can be assailed and misrepresented, it clouds the whole system at once. If a man throws his child into the fire needlessly, and then takes him out to show his skill and kindness in curing his burns, such kindness is outrageous cruelty ; it is merely inflicting an evil, for the sake of removing it. In like manner, if any can be made to believe that the Orthodox teach that God creates men wicked, merely for the sake of showing mercy in saving some, and displaying justice in damning others, all the system of the Gospel will seem to be a mere insult on human misery. And the enemies of Orthodoxy know, that if an impression can be made that the Orthodox thus believe and teach, every feeling of humanity will revolt from their system, and that it will seem cruel, and bloody, and gloomy. Now, how much easier it is to circulate misrepresentations of the Orthodox, than fairly to answer their system when correctly stated. How much easier to charge them with teaching the damnation of infants, and the created wickedness of human nature, and the damnation of men for not doing what they cannot do, than to meet them fairly in the field of argument. Indeed, from the frequency with which Unitarians take this course, it might be inferred that it was their dernier resort, and that when this fails, their cause is ruined ; and such we believe to be the fact. We shall not here attempt to explain our sentiments. It is needless. All honest men can find them fully explained in our writings, and dishonest men would not cease to misrepresent us, even if we were to explain; for it is not knowledge which they lack, but common honesty. Suffice it to say, we do not teach that God is the author of sin, in such a sense as to cast the blame on God, and make the Gospel a mere farce, and the punishment of the wicked an act of brutal cruelty in God. We indeed teach that men are entirely depraved ; but we insist upon it, that they are, in a sense, the authors of their own depravity. We indeed teach that all who will not repent and believe on Christ will be forever lost; and yet we insist that they might
have been saved, if it had not been for their own unwillingness. And we also insist upon it, that when God causes some to be willing, and leaves others to do as they please, he acts wisely and benevolently, and with reference to the general good, and not as a capricious and partial being. Other cases of misrepresentation, no less gross and unjustifiable, might be stated, but this must suffice.
Under the head of misrepresentations, we may notice our author's remarks on Lightfoot, Calvin, Doddridge, and Baxter. He has misrepresented them all, for the sake of using their authority against revivals, and the idea of instantaneous conversion. If they were alive, we might leave them to plead their own cause; but being dead, we wish to vindicate their fair fame from the dishonor of being seen united as allies with the Unitarians of this country in opposing revivals, an alliance which they, when living, would have rejected with horror. Speaking of instantaneous conversion,
“The fathers of our church, certainly know nothing about it. And according to my recollection of the Dissenters, of Baxter, Doddridge, &c., they are not responsible for it. And as to Calvin, he says expressly, speaking of repentance, or regeneration, which he states to have, in his use of the words, the same meaning-regeneration,' he says, 'is not accomplished in a single moment, or day, or year; but by continual, and sometimes even tardy advances, the Lord destroys the carnal corruptions of his chosen, purifies them from all pollution, and consecrates them as temples to himself; renewing all their senses to real purity, that they may employ their whole life in the exercise of repentance, and know, that this warfare will be terminated only by death.' If, in the abundance of your candor, you should question the fairness of this, and observe that Calvin seems to be speaking of the whole process of sanctification, I can only reply, that he says he is speaking of regeneration or repentance. And he adds, that ‘God assigns to believers the race of repentance to run, during their whole life. All this, is a way of speaking about regeneration of which, I assure you, you would not hear much, among the metaphysical doctors, to whom of late I have been listening.” pp. 76, 77.
His censure of all the clergy, who advocate revivals, for not having read Lightfoot, we have already considered. Hence it is interesting to inquire, what did Lightfoot, and Doddridge, Calvin, and Baxter teach ? The remarks of Lightfoot on John iï. 3. are arranged under three heads. He teaches,
1. That the main purpose of the discourse of Jesus is to explain what is necessary in order to enter the kingdom of God; and that from it we may deduce the doctrine of the new birth.
2. That Christ was exposing the erroneous idea of the Jews, that they could enter the kingdom of God, merely because born Jews; "they must claim it,” he says, " by a heavenly, not by an earthly birth.”
3. He then refutes an error of the Jews as it regards regeneration. He remarks, “ The Jews acknowledged, in order to proselytism, some kind of regeneration, or new birth, as absolutely necessary; but then this was very slightly and easily obtained.” He illustrates the Jewish idea by quotations, and says, “ Christ teacheth another kind of new birth, for those that partake of the kingdom of the Messiah, beyond what they have, either as Israelites, or proselytes, viz. that they should be born from above, or by a celestial generation, which only makes them capable of the kingdom of heaven.” vol. i. pp. 532, 533. London, 1684.
Doddridge says in his Lectures on Pneumatology, Ethics, and Divinity, 4th edition, London, 1799, vol. ii. p. 259, “ The question, whether the work of regeneration and conversion be accomplished in an instant, is nearly akin to the former. It must be acknowledged, that there is some one moment, in which there is the first preponderancy of religious impressions and resolutions in the soul.” The only sense in which he adınits that it is proper to speak of conversion or regeneration as gradual, is when the words are used with some latitude of expression, and include all that the Spirit does to bring a man to real religion. But using the words in the proper and accurate sense, Doddridge does most plainly teach that conversion is instantaneous. *
As it regards Calvin, we know that he taught entire depravity, and of course instantaneous conversion is a fair inference from his system ; but we rest not here. We assert, that he has clearly taught it, notwithstanding the passage quoted by our author. He clearly teaches that conversion, regeneration, and repentance, when used in their largest sense, mean the whole work of the Holy Spirit, in restoring sinful man to perfect holiness. And in this sense he uses the words repentance or regeneration in the passage quoted by our author; as no one can deny, who will read the whole of sec. 9. chap. 3. b. 3, from which it is taken. Calvin surely may be permitted to define his own use of language. It is needless to adduce passages in proof. He must be either a careless, or a dishonest, or an ignorant reader of Calvin, who does not see that such is the fact. But in b. 3. chap. 3. sec. 1, he gives the substance of the Gospel, as being repentance and remission of sins, and asserts, that we obtain both by faith, and adds, “ Now it ought not to be doubted, that repentance not only immediately follows faith, but it is produced by it.” But, according to his own account, the beginning of faith is instantaneous; for he speaks of it as commencing “ as soon as the smallest particle of divine grace is infused into our mind.” At this moment, he asserts, “we begin to contemplate the divine countenance as now placid, serene, and * The reader will find much to this effect in Doddridge's tcu Sermons on Regeneration