« EdellinenJatka »
and came back to the old opinion, in all its darkness, of the total incapacity of man to do good. This miserable fantasy he plainly avowed in his book "de servo arbitrio;" which he wrote in opposition to a work of Erasmus, entitled "de libero arbitrio." Melancthon also was at first an advocate for predestination; but he afterwards retracted his opinion. In the Augs burgh confession, which was composed by this mildest and best of the reformers, it is decided, that man's will is free, but not in spiritual things; that he is born full of bad inclinations, and has in himself no true faith, no true fear of God. In a subsequent edition, however, he added something of qualification, which produced no small outcry.-In the articles drawn up at Smalcald, the expressions concerning original sin were, as may easily be accounted for, still stronger: more errors were exploded, and their melancholy consequences more terrifically portrayed. In the very first of them we read: This heredita ry guilt is so deep and leprous a corruption of nature, as to be inconceivable by human reason, and understood only by reve lation, &c. &c. Luther always remained firm to the theory of Augustin. Melancthon in some respects dissented from it: and there arose a violent contest between their respective partizans. The doctrine of Luther naturally became more and more extravagant in the hands of those, who were determined to uphold it all; till at last Flacius declared that original sin was the very substance of man.
John Calvin of Geneva claims the next place in our review; who was as conspicuous for his adherence to the sternest form of Augustinism, as his own followers have since been, for their zeal in behalf of his more systematical tenets. His doctrine was, that the will necessarily willed evil; but was still a will, aye, and that a free-will: with this he connected the belief of an absolute predestination. His doctrine of imputation, was strenuously combated long afterward, by Dr. Whitby; who acknowledged no other effect from the fall than mortality, and the attendant dread of death. In Switzerland, Zuinglius, the celebrated reformer, inculcated much milder opinions on these subjects than those of Calvin and in the Catholic churches, the ideas of the effects of the fall were continually softening, and the diversity of sentiments respecting it created but little attention. Albert Pighi, a Catholic, attempted to revive the opi
*See Article 18.
Institutiones relig. Christ. Lib. II. cap. 2.
"Discourse concerning the five points. London 1710." "A Discourse concerning the imputation of Christ's perfect righteousness, or obedience to the law, to us, for righteousness or justification," appears as an appendix to the quarto edition of his Commentary.
nion, that original sin consisted in no moral defect or corruption; but only in blame and punishment, transmitted through all generations, from Adam, the representative and head of mankind. It found many advocates, protestants as well as papists; but was condemned at the council of Trent. That Synod, however, purposely avoided defining very accurately their doctrine, in order to leave room enough for the meritoriousness of good works.
The Socinians, it is evident from what has been said, were not the first who totally denied every thing under the name of original sin but they were the first, who attacked the whole hitherto received doctrine with every variety of arguments from reason and the scriptures. The Arminians, or Remonstrants, only assailed the theory of imputation; and reduced somewhat lower, that of man's native moral corruption. Having mentioned these, we need go no further. The opinions of the two succeeding centuries, so far as they are systematic, or claim to be founded on the sacred scriptures, belong to some of the classes just described. None have been able to surpass the Genevan father in extravagance; and none could outdo on the other side-we will not say the other extreme-the Polish fraternity. Let every man judge for himself.
We have thus laid before our readers what we intended, on a subject, the decision of which is very important-not to our faith, nor our virtue, nor our happiness-but to our speculative scheme of divinity; which is of infinitely less consequence. We have been led, perhaps, to swerve from our original purpose of remaining neutral; but trusting that we have been candid and honest, we will not regret this deviation; and for two obvious reasons: we were conscious of no motive to forbid, and we did not well know how to avoid it.
To the Editor of the Christian Disciple.
SIR, It is greatly to be regretted, that Expository Preaching has almost ceased among us. The number is very great of those, who are indebted for almost the whole of their knowledge of revealed religion, to the exercises of the pulpit; and it is an inquiry which demands the solemn attention of christian ministers, whether they have adopted the best method of dispensing religious instruction. The number is indeed great also of those who study their bibles, and other books which are designed to illustrate and to enforce the doctrines and duties of
the word of God. But very few, even of these, obtain much of that information, which is familiar to an inquisitive and a stu dious clergyman, and which he feels to be of the greatest importance in the illustration of the doctrines and duties of our religion. The method most common with clergymen is, to give in their sermons the results of their studies, without noticing the facts, or the processes, which have led them to these results. Nor would I, by any means, reject this mode of preaching. Let what are called sermons, still hold a conspicuous place in the public exercises of the sabbath. But if it be a great purpose of the christian ministry, to aid men in forming right conceptions of the religion of the bible; to aid them in understanding each of the dispensations of God in this sacred book; and particularly in understanding our Saviour and his apostles, as they were understood by those whom they immediately addressed; the duty of expository preaching becomes imperious. My object is, to direct the attention of christian ministers to this very important subject. And could the Christian Disciple, Sir, become the means of reviving this custom among us, it would produce, I think, the happiest revival of religion: not indeed a religious excitement of the passions, not an inflamed zeal without knowledge, but an increased interest in religious truth, arising from a stronger and clearer discernment of it, and an increased interest in christian duty, resulting from deeper convictions of its importance, and the engagement of all the faculties of the mind, as well as the affections, in its service.
One advantage which will result from expository preaching, is, that it will enable the great body, both of preachers and of hearers, better to understand the true character and import of our Saviour's teaching.
Our Lord's teaching was very peculiar, not only in the character of his doctrines and precepts, but in the manner in which he presented or inculcated them. It is not less an excellence than a peculiarity of the New Testament, that all the instructions of our Lord and his apostles were suggested by the cha racters and wants of those to whom they were addressed; and by particular circumstances of the time, which must be known and considered, in order to understand their instructions. I would not imply, that our Lord and his apostles taught without method. But it was a method altogether distinct from that of system makers. It was a method designed for making, not Calvinists, nor Arminians, nor Methodists, nor Baptists; but simply Christians. The manner in which our Lord taught, has been too little regarded by the teachers of his religion. Certain texts, and certain subjects of prominent importance in their systems, have been made the burden of their preaching; and
very much that is most strikingly illustrative, not only of the person and offices of our Saviour, but of other doctrines and most important duties of his religion, is wholly, or almost utterly neglected. This is a great cause of the inadequate, and unjust conceptions of christianity, which so widely prevail, and with which men are so easily satisfied.
Many have appeared to think that they could make the word of God better than he has made it ; or at least, that they could put it in better order than he has assigned to it. But why have not the evangelists and apostles given a regular system of christian theology and duties? I answer, for the very important reason, that neither our Lord nor his apostles taught in this manner. Is it asked, why they did not so teach? I answer, because they better knew what was in man; and what man required, to be made wise unto salvation. Let any man of good, but common understanding, take for his guide in faith and conduct, either of the systems which sectarians have made, and let him study it as a good man should study his bible; and think you that he will obtain the clear, and strong, and just conceptions of christian truth and duty, which the bible alone could give him? Of all the books ever written by man, whatever has been the perfection of their order, the force of their reasoning, the felicity of their illustrations, the clearness and strength of their expressions, and the eloquence of their appeals to the heart and conscience, no one may for a moment be compared in effect, with the simple and artless narratives of the evangelists. Where is the man, even of very common powers of comprehension, who diligently and seriously reads the New Testament, who may not, without hesitation, and most satisfactorily, answer the inquiries, who is Jesus Christ? From whence did he derive his wisdom and power? How is man to be redeemed from iniquity? How should a christian feel and act in any given circumstances?—At least, he could answer these inquiries in the language of the New Testament. And should not this satisfy any one? No, says the system maker. Give me the meaning of these expressions, that I may ascertain whether you understand them aright. And what does he mean by understanding them aright? Is it any thing else than understanding them in accordance with the technics of a party? We read in systems, of a trinity of persons in the Godhead; of a vicarious sacrifice for sin; of our Lord's having been punished for the sins of men; of satisfaction made to the divine justice; and a belief of these is called a belief of christianity. If a man should say, I believe that there is one God, and that there is none other than He; I believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that he was sent by his Father into the world; that he spake the words, and did
the works of his Father; that he finished the work which was given him to do; that he died, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God; that he suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should walk in his steps; and that he died for us, that they which live, might not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again; he might be, and he would be by many, accounted very defective in his faith, on these great articles of the gospel. Or should a christian minister attempt to illustrate any of these great doctrines of the gospel, without employing any sectarian phraseologies; and in terminating his public prayers, should he use only scriptural doxologies; he would be heard by many with suspicion, and perhaps be condemned as heretical. These are evils which, I think, arise principally from studying christianity in the systems of men, and not in the bible; and from ignorance, or disregard of the circumstances, in which our Lord and his apostles delivered their instructions. Now expository preaching, if it were conducted as it should be, would be one of the most effectual means of correcting these abuses; and of enlarging the charity of men, by enlarging their knowedge of our religion.
Nor let it be thought that this mode of preaching will be easier to ministers, and require less of their time, than the preparation of sermons. It may indeed be so practised, as to require but little preparation. But little to be envied is that minister of Jesus Christ,-deeply indeed is he to be pitied,-who, with little thought, or care, or interest, engages in this important part of the service of his master. To expound the scriptures as they should be expounded, will require the most diligent and patient research; the most careful comparison; and the most cautious inferences. It will require not only a full and exact knowledge of the scriptures, but of contemporary history, and particularly of Jewish antiquities. In this exercise indeed, a christian minister may make all his knowledge conducive to the religious improvement of those to whom he ministers. Many clergymen, if they would adopt the practice of regular exposition, would be themselves greatly instructed by it. The desire of being able and useful expositors, would lead them to courses of study now too much neglected; and the enlarged knowledge of the circumstances connected with the instructions given by our Saviour and his apostles, which would be thus communicated to hearers, would prepare them to receive with far greater advantage, the impressions designed to be made by
Let it not be objected, that a large portion of hearers are not, by their education, prepared to receive this knowledge.