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ences of opinion about smaller matters, unclean meats, holy day and holy places, and their different opinions and practices ré specting civil intercourse and communication with their heallie neighbors. And how much did vain jangling, disputing, and cor fusion prevail, through undue heat of spirit, under the name of a re ligious zeal.* And what a task had the apostles to keep the within bounds, and maintain good order in the churches? Hus often do they mention their irregularities. The prevailing of suc like disorders seems to have been the special occasion of writir. many of their epistles. The church, in that great effusion of th Spirit, had the care of infallible guides, who watched over the day and night, but yet so prone were they, through the weaknes and corruption of human nature, to get out of the way, that ir regularity and confusion arose in some churches where there was an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit, to a very great height even in the apostles' life-time, and under their eye. And though some of the apostles lived long to setile the state of things, yet presently after their death, the christian church ran into many superstitions and childish notions and practices, and in some respects, into a great severity in their zeal."
Revivals in times less remote, have been attended with similar evils; and thus from the beginning, while antecedent outpourings of the Spirit have in some respects, favored, they have also in other respects, tended to hinder those which followed. From the intermixture of bad with good in revivals of religion, many have been induced, most unreasonably and culpably, to stand in doubt of them, and many more to come forth in open and active hostility against them. Making no allowance for human frailty, they seem to have concluded, that a work of the Holy Spirit, though the subsects of it are wholly depraved creatures, must be perfectly disconnected from all accidental perversion; as if there were no inedium between a state of unmingled sin and a state of absolute perfection, and as if no one could be a saint who is not already immaculate. But it would not be proper here to dwell on the weakness and perverseness of the opposition made to revivals on this ground; it is only for us now to bear in mind, that such opposition, however unreasonable, is real, is extensive, is hurtful, and will be continued doubtless, while the cccasion of it remains. Let the friends of revivals then, as much as lieth in them, labor, if possible, to take away altogether the occasion of it; or if that cannot be, if we can have no hope that revivals will ever become entirely saultless, let us diligently and constantly aim at the highest practica
* 1 Tim. VI. 4, 5. 2 Tim. II. 16. Tit. III. 9.
ble degree of improvement in the character of these, the chiefest of our hopes, for a perishing world.
The great increase of revivals of religion within the last few years, has given good opportunity for discovering, both how perversion may arise, and how it may be avoided ; and if we do not misjudge, there never have been revivals, greater either in power or purity, than those which are now prevailing. They have had influence, to an unparalleled extent, over the higher classes; and while they have resembled apostolic revivals in the strength with which they have seized, and the rapidity and almost instantaneousness with which they have humbled and renewed the proudest human minds, they have been, on the whole, remarkably free from the ordinary extravagances of enthusiasm. Hence the enemies of revivals, though by no means quiet, have never perhaps been at so great a loss to find occasions of reproach ; their main objections manifestly lying against nothing so much, as what ought to be matter of praise and thanksgiving to God, the urgency with which the gospel is enforced. Still no one can be ignorant of defects and blemishes in the best and least exceptionable of our present revivals. Mistakes, perceived and unperceived, remain to be corrected ; too much wood, hay, and stubble, to be removed. Let us not stop in the course of improvement, but lament over, and endeavor to reform whatever is amiss; that if possible, our good may altogether cease to be evil spoken of, and revivals of religion become as pure as it is practicable to render them by human wisdom and watchfulness.
The means employed in recent revivals, have not, as far as we know, been materially different from those ordinarily used heretofore; except that 'greater pains has been taken, both in preaching and in after operations, to bring impressions of truth to a direct and quick result, and the presentations of the gospel have been simplified, and embracing the gospel has been urged as an affair, in which the mind is to act a plain and straight-onward part, as in any other matter submitted for its determination, and the needlessness and folly of procrastination on any ground whatever, has been better explained, and the doctrine of dependence on grace been more judiciously and skilfully enforced, as the highest of all encouragements to the immediate performance of duty, and efficient measures have been promptly used to hinder, if possible, the awakened, but yet wavering mind, from passing back to unconcern, by leading it to an open cornmitinent of itself on the side of religion, and so making a retreat as difficult as possible. In all these respects, we discern the good hand of God, employed to improve the instrumentality, and consequently, the excellency of revivals. We see wisdom and advancement in each of these particulars, and especially, in Vol. IV.
, of that evident "all contronds ar
the last. The efficacy too, of that course, has, so far as can be ascertained, been as great as its evident reasonableness might have led us to anticipate. It has, beyond all controversy, been most signally owned by the Spirit of God. Thousands are now rejoicing, that a measure was proposed to them, in their wavering and unstable state of feeling, which led them to take a firm stand, where the Spirit of grace descended on them; a stand, which they fear they never would have taken, had not some such appropriate means been employed for inducing them to take it. But while we cannot but commend this course as judicious, and divinely sanctioned, and wonder that it should not have always formed a prominent part of the agency used by ministers in winning souls, it may not be unseasonable to subjoin, that like all other good things, proportional to its excellence is its liability to be misused and perverted. For however desirable it is, to bring all men to an instantaneous decision in favor of the gospel, it is obvious that pressing men to such a decision, who have no just perceptions of any thing pertaining to the gospel or their own spiritual state, may lead them into delusion, and result in mischief to the church, by introducing corruption, and thus raising up obstacles to future revivals. Scripture, reason, benevolence decide, that the sooner men can be brought to open self-commitment in the business of their salvation the better, provided their minds are well instructed and well awakened as to that needful step. But great discretion is needed, first, to determine when this is the case, and next, to adopt the wisest means of accomplishing the object; and they who would not err, either by acting or refraining from acting, in this delicate matter should be full of the Holy Ghost and the meekness of hearenly wisdom. May a fresh unction from on high be richly given ic the ministers of the word, that they may perceive and shun the dangers to which they are peculiarly exposed in this day of extraordinary excitement.
The revivals of the present day will affect the character of those of subsequent years. We anticipate, as near at hand, greater and more glorious revivals than the world has seen since the apostles left it. We sometimes wish that our life may be prolonged on the earth twenty years more, that we may see the wonders which God will work in those years. But whether that may be or not, may grace be given to us and our readers, to do with our might, whatsoever our hand findeth to do, in advancing the revivals with which the church is now blessed !
Art. VII.-ON The Early History Of Theology.
Handbuch der Christlichien Doymengeschchle. Von Wilhelm Münscher. 4 vols.
evo. Joannis Horn Commentatio de Sententiis eorum Patrum quorum auctoritas ante
Jugustinum plurimum ouluit de peccato originali. 1 vol. 4to.
ing to most of now so entirely passhat the history of them
Of the works whose titles we have placed at the head of this article, the first is a learned and impartial history of theological opinions for the first six centuries, and is considered as a standard work of its kind in Germany; the other is a bries, but able dissertation on the opinions of the principal Fathers before Augustine, respecting our share in the sin of Adam. Our object in introducing them here, however, is not to subject either of them to a critical examination. A general history of early christian doctrine, like Münscher's, must of course contain much that would be uninteresting to most of our readers. Many things which were once firmly believed, have now so entirely passed away both from systems of theology and from common belief, that the history of them is important, only as it instructs us in human nature. This latter purpose, indeed, it may be well calculated to answer. If it were desirable, for example, in soine chapter of a history of the human mind, to show how many and how glaring absurdities may consist with the belief of much truth, instances might be brought from the early Fathers, which could not be paralleled elsewhere in the annals of mankind. Nor have we far to seek for a rational explanation of this phenomenon. Most of those Fathers had but just emerged from the darkness of Judaism or pagan philosophy, not into the full splendor, but rather into the twilight of divine truth. Their sight was still dimmed by the films of past error; they could not at once, nor indeed did they ever, entirely disabuse themselves of all the false conceptions which they had been accustomed to regard as correct. It was natural that they should look at the truth which they had newly learned, through the medium of their old philosophy, and endeavor to explain the former in consistency with the latter. They would shape their theology to suit their philosophy; and as their philosophy was at a great remove froin common sense and right reason, so also would be a part, at least, of their theology. Thus inost of the Greek Fathers were of the Platonic school, in some one or other of its forms; and the influence of that school modified the whole aspect of theology, from the middle of the second century to the close of the early ages. There is scarcely a doctrine which did not receive its shape, or its mode of explanation, from this source. And yet, along with all this, much real truth was believed. In their general statements of christian doctrine, the Fathers were correct and scriptural; but as soon as they came to explain, and to account for the facts stated, their philosophy made its appearance, and swayed their opinions with an absolute control. False philosophy and true theology were blended together in their conceptions, and became one system. And though there may bave been philosophical systems more widely remote from the reality of things than that of Plato, which was adopted by most of the Fathers, yet their votaries have either never been converted to christianity, or upon their conversion, have cast aside their philosophy, and never once thought that a combination between the two could be effected.
But instructive as a general and thorough review of the early history of theology might be, both in this and other respects, yet it is not our object in the present article, to attempt a survey of the whole ground. The opinions of men, in those as in other ages, were like the sands upon the sea-shore, innumerable ; and to trace the rise, progress, and issue of them all, would be an endless task. We shall confine ourselves rather to those doctrines wbich were involved in the Pelagian controversy; but as these are fundamental in the christian system, a review of their early history, is essentially a review of the early history of theology, in its most important aspects.
We would premise, however, that we do not enter upon this investigation with the wish or hope of establishing any particular doctrine as the result. We are not in the habit of considering it the same thing to inquire, What is truth? and, What were the opinions of the Fathers ? Truth is ever the same, and is independent of all opinion; though the knowledge of it may be progressive. Silently, yet surely and mightily, the word of God is having free course, and accomplishing its great object, to enlighten a dark, and to purify a polluted world. Many centuries have measured its onward progress, since those writers lived, of whom we have just spoken; and in all knowledge, human and divine, vast treasures have been accumulated. Why should we then, go back to the opinions of an age long past, as any standard, or even evidence of truth, unless those opinions coincide with the decisions of unperverted common sense over the whole world, and in all time? Truth, we repeat, is ever the same, and independent of the ever-shifting opinions of men, Creeds, confessions, symbols, platforms, decrees of councils, acts of synods, decisions of popes, all combined, do not make it, and very commonly have little or nothing to do with it. They may determine the professed faith of men; but the reality of things, the constitution and course of nature, the great laws of God's moral government, the elements, or requisites, of intelligent and accountable agency—these man can no more change, than he can put forth his hand, and turn back the sun in his orbit. It is not, therefore, with