« PreviousContinue »
every well informed, discrimi. General Association, could them. nating divine, who can as clearly selves subscribe to the literal and distinguish the prime, constitu- obvious meaning of the Cateent, essential principles of each chism ; yet, as the avowed obreligious system from points of ject is to bring together in one minor consequence, as the phi- harmonious body, persons fundalosopher can distinguish the mentally right, though some of prime, essential principles of the them may be partially incorrect, Newtonian system, from those it would still be a matter of expoints, which may be determin- treme difficulty to determine ed either way without affecting how great a latitude might be the system.
allowable ; how different a perThe length of these remarks son's opinion might be from will need no apology, when the the literal import of the lanobject is duly attended to. We guage, and yet subscribe that lanare willing to seize this opportu- guage with a good conscience.” nity to show the propriety, the Would our correspondent call fairness, and the honesty of ex- in question the importance of pressing our 'assent to the Cate- general rules? Or would he chism in the manner above men- consider the difficulty, in certain tioned ; and thus to remove a cases, of applying those rules, as principal objection, in the mind overbalancing the immense good, of our corre ondent and some which they produce? The exothers, against the General Asso. treme difficulty above mentioned ciation. If this plan of subscrip- is found, in most cases, where tion be liable to abuse, and leave general rules are concerned. the door open for imposition ; Instances might easily be multithe fault may not be charged plied, were it necessary. The against the plan itself, but against caution and timidity of our corthe deceit and wickedness of the respondent might lead to consehuman heart. Although we quences of which he is not aware. would surround Zion with as ma- Here, again, we have proceeded ny safeguards as possible ; yet it upon the candid concession, that would be romantic to expect, J. has not overrated the difficulty that we can divest erroneous and under consideration. But it dishonest men of all power to might, with good reason, be arpractise imposition, and intro- gued, that the difficulty will, in duce disorder and mischief. It all probability, occur very rarely, is sufficient for our present pure and when it does occur, will be pose, if we can make it clearly so inconsiderable, as to deserve appear, that the scheme we are little serious regard. Take into defending is calculated to pro- view those ministers of the gosmote the union, the improve- pel in Massachusetts, who corment, and the influence of ortho- dially embrace and firmly supdox and pious ministers, and port the doctrines of the reforthrough them the welfare of the mation ; in other words, those churches.
who are thoroughly ortkodor, But J. has further objections. according to the usual meaning " If those gentlemen, who are of that term. How many of most engaged to promote the them would have any difficulty
in expressing their assent to the The first case is stated in doctrines of Christianity, as they these words : “ The Catechism are generally contained in the asserts, that the covenant being Assembly's Shorter Catechism ? made with Adam, &c. all mankind Who of them would ever find sinned in him and fell with him in occasion to make it a serious his first transgression. Now it question, “ how far their opinion is the belief of many persons may be from the literal import of engaged to promote the contemthe language, and yet they be able plated coalition, not that the to subscribe that language with a posterity of Adam either sinned good conscience ?” Does not the in him or fell with him, but are language of the Catechism in its answerable for their actual trans“ literal import unfold that great gressions and those only." system of gospel truth, in which It is but just to remind our all of the above description agree? readers, that the gentlemen here And what difficulty can they have designed, as well as Calvioists in about the latitude allowable general, believe that God, in his For however they may differ in sovereign wisdom, constituted a their modes of conception and moral connexion between Adam explanation on certain points; and his posterity, so that his disthey can have no difficulty in re- obedience was the sure occasion ceiving “the principles of Chris- of their sin and ruin, while his tianity, as they are generally persevering obedience would expressed in the Catechism.” have been followed by their holi. They may have other objections ness and felicity. They fully to joining the General Associa- admit the propriety of the extion; but they certainly can pression, that “all mankind sinhave none on account of the Ded in him and fell with him," faith required? The plan was in its plain, scriptural sense, never meant to be so liberal, as to which, in their opinion, is obviinclude those, to whom the rule of ously a figurative sense. It is admission is an offence.
similar to the apostle's expresBut our correspondent does sion,as in Adam all die ;" not stop at possible or suppose- which, according to their ideas, able cases. He pleads what he cannot be taken literally ; for considers a certain fact, as an men cannot die before they live ; objection to the proposed plan. but must be understood, as teach“ Nothing, (he says) can be more ing in 'strong, figurative lan-' certain, than that many gentle- guage, that their death takes men, who most warmly advocate place as a certain consequence of the measure, must subscribe to their relation to Adam, their repthe Catechism, if they subscribe resentative and head ; or, to exat all, in a sense 'very different press it differently, that they die from what the language im- in Adam, as, in him, a foundation ports." He has made the most was laid for their death, or as his of this objection. And yet what disobedience involved their death, is the amount ? Let us attend a sure effect.
The clergyto his three cases, two of which men, above referred to, think the relate to the same subject, and passage just cited from the Catmay properly be reduced to one. echism must be understood in
the same obvious and consist- many would have thought it ent sense. Our correspondent more correct. Ministers of the must, upon due reflection, per- gospel in this State would geneceive, that whatever difficulty rally find a difficulty in subscribthere may be in his mind on this ing a Catechism containing this subject, there can be none in one particular phrase, without theirs. And we cannot omit some such provision, as the rules this opportunity of declaring our of the General Association have warmest approbation of his own made. But with that provision, rule,“ not to magnify points of the most upright conscience can disagreement.” It is our decid- find no difficulty. ed opinion, that if all the Congre- The third case of supposed gational ministers in this State, embarrassment remains. who hold the doctrines of grace,
“ It is the opinion of many, would fully explain to each other who advocate the measure protheir own sentiments on this posed, that the divine efficiency point, they would find no disa- is as necessary to produce evil, greement sufficient to prevent as good ; that Adam no more theirsubscribing the same creed, sinned by his own strength, than or their acting together, as breth- the sinner repents and turns to ren, in the most harmonious God by his own strength; that manner.
it was as much a divine power, The next case, which our cor- which produced an evil heart in respondent introduces, relates to Adam, as it is a divine power, the following declaration of the which produces a good heart in Catechism ; viz. “ the sinful- the regenerate. Why should ness of that estate whereinto man these persons be required to fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's
subscribe such a sentence as first sin, the want of original this? Our first parents being left righteousness, &c.” On this J. to the freedom of their own will, observes ; “the corruption of fell from the estate wherein they man's nature is indeed acknow- were created, by sinning against ledged by the gentlemen, of God. Surely, they would not whom we are speaking ; but think it correct to say, that the they do not believe, that the sin- sinner, being left to the freedom fulness of man's fallen estate of his own will, lurns from the consists in the guilt of Adam's state in which he was created, by sin. Of course, when they sub- repentance towards God,” &c. scribe to this article, it must be How happy would it be for with very great latitude." the cause of religion, if Chris.
On this passage of the Cate- tians exercised more justice and chism, taking the words in their candour, than they commonly plain and literal import, we shall do, in representing each other's not contradict our correspon- sentiments on controverted subdent. If instead of saying, jects. The gentlemen designed, “the sinfulness of man's fallen in the paragraph above quoted, estate consists in the guilt of A- will doubtless say, that this is dam's first sin," it had been said, an incorrect statement of their that it Hows from it, as a conse- theory, calculated to make a quence, or was occasioned by it, wrong impression, and to excite
groundless prejudice. It would mental principles of the gospel, be easy for them to inform the freely declare that agreement to objector, that they are as much each other, and their mutual de concerned as he is, to secure the sire thus far to walk together; divine character and human when, in addition to this, they ágency ; that they admit no di- frequently meet in order to disvine efficiency, which does not cuss, in a friendly, candid manconsist with man's exercising the ner, those points on which their most perfect freedom, or acting views are somewhat various, to according to his own will ; and, consult for the general interest therefore, that they are not em- of religion, and to unite in fervent barrassed with the difficulties, prayer; we have the greatest which he supposes must embar- reason to indulge the hope, that rass them, not considering those a union more complete in itself, difficulties as belonging either to more happy to them, and more their system, or to the passage beneficial to religion, will ensue. of the Catechism above quoted.
“ It is well known, (says J.) It would be both needless and that subscription to the Bible does impertinent for the Editors to not produce union of sentiment.” discuss the controverted, meta- But, if men were fair and honest, physical question respecting the such subscription would presundivine efficiency. Our only ob- pose, or express union. Yet, as ject is to show, that the question things are, it neither presuphas no relation to the plan of the poses, nor expresses union ; beGeneral Association. It was al- cause men are so inconsistent, ways designed, that the plan as to profess their belief of the should be such, as to embrace Bible, while they do not believe those, who speculate differently its contents. When “ Trinitari. on that question. We regret ans, Calvinists, Arminians, and that our correspondent ever Unitarians subscribe the Bible," thought of deriving an objection there must be great error or from this topic.
dishonesty somewhere, or else But he proceeds, “ If one per- the Bible is, of all books, the son subscribe with such latitude, most unintelligible and contrawhy may not another? What dictory. J. says, “they ununion then will subscription pro- derstand the Bible differently." duce ?" We never supposed that This, though a well known fact, merely subscribing a creed had is not the root of the evil. But, any efficacy to produce union of contrary to his intention, this sentiment. Subscribing is not, fact clearly shows the importance properly speaking, designed to and necessity of explaining the produce union, where it does not Bible in confessions of faith, or exist, but to express it, where it in some other way, as the only does exist. Still we consider it satisfactory method of making a measure, which, in connexion known our own religious sentiwith other things, may lead on ments, and ascertaining those of to a greater and greater degree others, and thus of being able to of union. When pious ministers, act with propriety in various who agree in the doctrines of the cases, where the cause of truth reformation, or in the funda- is deeply concerned.
“Is it not clearly absurd, (says undoubtedly just. But the fact J.) to speak of an union to be stated proves the fault, not of the produced by subscription to a xxxix articles, nor of the practice confession, it it be understood, in of subscribing, but of human rethe outset, that we may subscribe ture. It shows how strangely in what sense we please.” If men may be influenced, even in this be understood, the absurdity religious concerns, by worldly is granted. There is no end to considerations, and how many, suppositions. When it is evident, who are invested with the sacred that they do not accord with the office, are defective in moral truth, they may properly be
But it ought to be ed without notice.
recollected that, in this respect, What J. says about " the the difference between England substance of the Catechism” and America is very great. does not pertain to the subject, as Here, no religion is established the expression is not used in the by law, and no civil advantage rule of General Association re- is connected with subscribing. ferred to. If “the substance of Here, such perfect liberty of the Catechism” mean any thing conscience is enjoyed, and so indifferent from “the doctrines of considerable is the influence of Christianity, as they are general- prescription, or of any system ly expressed in the Catechism,"
the Catechism," or opinion, that men can have we have nothing to do with the very little inducement to subphrase. If it mean the same, scribe, except real conviction, it has already been attended to. and serious regard to the interest Nor do we think it necessary to of religion. make many remarks on J's sup- The state of things in Scotposition, “ that some might sub- land might open the door for scribe, though Unitarians,” If similar observations. But it is men will entirely renounce that unnecessary to repeat. system of religion, wbich is “ Surely,” says J. “ those, who commonly called orthodox, and feel most interest in this coal. yet subscribe a Catechism con- ition, do not design, like king taining that system ; where is James 1. to prevent the discusconscience? Where is honesty?sion of those points in theology, But he says,
“other's would which are most often disputed." think they ought not to subscribe, What reason could our corresif, in their apprehension, it con- pondent have for this passage, tained the least error.”
containing such an uncandid imought all to think, if the intend- plication, when it has been exed subscription implied, that the pressly and often stated, as one subscribers profess to receive object of the coalition, freely 19 the Catechism, as an infallible discuss points of difference? and perfect standard, and to em- His hypothesis respecting two brace every particular idea which ministers, one of whom holds it contains. But this is not im- the sentiments of Dr. Hopkins, plied.
and the other, the sentiments of J's observations on the theo- Dr. Doddridge, and respecting logical character of many, who the difficulties, which would ai. subscribe the. xxxix articles, are tend their ministerial inter