Page images
PDF
EPUB

Spirit. All this, we conceive, we must necessarily believe is presupposed. But into its truth and correctness it is not our present object to inquire.

Fourthly: As the sinner's coming to Christ is predicated of the “persuading influences” of the Spirit, we regard it as an inference which does no injustice to the recondite author of this tract, that “ moral suasion” lies back of the view of the atonement which he has advocated; and that this notion, with others of a kindred nature, gave birth to the doctrine we have been canvassing in this article. This, we say, is our inference. Of its correctness let the reader determine for himself. He may possibly find additional reasons for our inference in the next paragraph.

11. The tract closes with five “ remarks," as follows :

“1. This explanation of the doctrine of the atonement divests it of much of the difficulty and obscurity in which it has been involved by mistaken views, and renders it simple and easy to be understood.

“ 2. It shows the perfect harmony between those scriptures, which, by some, are regarded as containing proof of a definite, limited atonement; and others, which, by many, are considered as teaching the doctrine of a general provision."

The third remark makes it illustrative of the consistency between the atonement and the freedom of the human will. The fourth shows its opposition to Antinomianism and Universalism; and in the fifth is seen the “ folly and falsehood” of the Catholic notion of superero. gation and indulgences. From the first two remarks, which we have given in full

, the grand design, we conceive, of the tract, must be perfectly obvious. It is intimated in terms unequivocal. And what is it but an effort to reconcile the common sense of discriminating minds to partial atonement, without repudiating the doctrine ;—to divest it of its repulsive and contradictory features, and still retain it in the system ;-to admit a “ general provision," without admitting a general atonement? While such is the increasing ascendency of the prevalent doctrine of general atonement, that the nearly obsolete doctrine which limits the designed advantages of Christ's death to the elect, is with difficulty kept in countenance, in some manner to dispose of the difficulties which encumber it has long been an important desideratum.

Several ex. pedients have been resorted to, but it would seem not with complete

These incumbrances have still remained after all the new and nice distinctions made in the use of the terms employed in defining these new modifications of the old system, leaving it open still to some capital objection, and far from being proof against sound cri. ticism or Scriptural argument. How much better will be the fate of the scheme reviewed in this paper remains to be determined. But if we may be allowed to opine, the

old system will still be regarded as being “ the worse for mending.” This doctrinal invention aims at removing difficulties which had their birth in error, and which have been cherished and perpetuated by prejudice and predilection in favor of a system which has little else to recommend this feature of its doctrine than the suffrage of a branch of the church whose antiquity does not reach beyond the Reformation--this peculiar doctrine itself, we be. lieve, having no higher date, and the countenance of some intelligent

success.

and pious men; while, on the contrary, men as intelligent and as pious have considered the doctrine unscriptural. And, moreover, any doctrine, or system of doctrine, which requires props at every point, the advocates of which are compelled frequently to change their ground in its defense, and to throw over it the guise of speciousness to conceal its most revolting features, and to bring it forward with great reserve and caution, and by implication rather than direct assertion,-bears upon its very front marks of strong suspicion. Take away any one of its main pillars, prejudice, predilection, and credulity, and it will at once “topple to its fall.” And if we believe in destiny at all, this result ultimately awaits this doctrine.

12. In conclusion, we see, 1. The importance to all the various branches of the great family of Christ of holding fast the cardinal doctrines of revelation ; of guarding them against the inroads of a bold, reckless spirit of innovation; of watching over them with “ eternal vigilance;" with a godly, ever-wakeful jealousy, ready to defend these “ ancient landmarks” of our gifted inheritance.

2. We see the deleterious influence of all new glosses, all novel views of cardinal and essential Scriptural doctrine; every thing which goes to shake the public confidence, to diminish the solidity and permanence of the foundation of the sacred edifice, by which the smallest stone is removed from its foundation, upon the general faith and morals of the community, already too much inclined to be skeptical with regard to the former, and corrupt in reference to the latter. These are important considerations ;~the present is an eventful age :—nothing can be more hazardous than to call in question, or to do any thing to unsettle first principles. By these the moral as well as the natural world is governed ; and by these man must be saved, if he is ever saved. Their very names should not be altered, when those names have become sacred. Every pious hand, and every prayerful heart, should be united to hold them fast, and give them permanence. By some they are denied; by others obscured, and by others cor. rupted. The cause of truth must be sustained against a powerful opposing phalanx. And while Christians are spending that time, some in breaking up and pulling down, others in binding fast and holding together the great elementary principles and truths of the gospel, which all should employ in combined and untiring effort in rearing up the noble superstructure, the loss of time is the least of the resulting evils. But this alone is to be deplored: there is no time to lose. We believe the sentiment very generally prevails, that the world has reached an important, perhaps the most important period in its history-a juncture-A CRISIS, in the interests of Christ's kingdom on earth; when every available, every possible instrumentality should and must be put in requisition for the advancement of the world's renova. tion. And this must be done on pain of the punishment due to recreant delinquency, in duty enjoined by the divine mandate. But while the church is wasting both her time and her energies in repairing the defects in her own arms, by which she is to fight and conquer, and perhaps in mending the breaches in her own fortress, from which she is to defend herself against the assaults of her enemies, as well as sustain and prosecute an offensive war;-breaches and defects made by the unskilfulness of some—the bold, ambitious, injudicious, and unstable movements of others ;-they are marshaling their forces, combining their strength, rallying to the charge, and inspiring each other with stronger hopes of success in the conflict, and rendering more distant, if not more dubious, the day of ultimate triumph. All these, and a thousand other considerations, prompt the united hosts of God's elect, with calm, but unwavering and invincible firmness, to “ hold fast the form of sound words,” while they “ earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints."

St. Charles, Mo., June 14, 1840.

The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. New York.:

Published by T. Mason & G. Lane, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, at the Conference Office, 200 Mulberry-street. J. Collord, Printer. 1840.

The new edition of the Discipline is now out, and before this arti. cle is published will have been extensively circulated among the people. And perhaps under the circumstances it will not be deemed a waste of time for us to go into a somewhat extended notice of the several alterations and amendments made by the late General Con. ference, with some others which were proposed, but failed to obtain the sanction of that body.

There is little doubt but some will be disappointed in not finding changes made which were proposed, discussed, amended, and finally not concurred in, or laid on the table,-—but whose fate, amid the interest excited by the discussion, the various transitions they passed through, and phases they presented, was not observed. This we should naturally suppose might be the case, and the inquiries which we have heard since, as to what the General Conference finally did in such and such cases, puts the fact beyond doubt. The present revised Discipline will show what alterations were actually made. As to proposed changes which failed to pass, time perhaps will show that in some instances the failure is not to be deplored, though in others, we at least have, at present, and expect to have in future, some regrets. The danger was by no means all on one side. Excessive legislation is often more injurious than no legislation at all. This fact was fully appreciated by the most experienced and talented mem. bers of the late General Conference. And while it was with them an important object to effect necessary and salutary changes in existing rules and regulations, they were no less desirous to stop at the proper point, and not go too far in the work of mending. And it will be well indeed, after all, if some things were not done which, to say the least, might as well have been left with the mass of unfinished business under which the table is left to groan at least for the four succeeding years.

The great system of polity adopted by the Methodists has come into being in parts and parcels, at the suggestion of some new emergency; and it would be marvelous indeed if these parts as they come in contact are always found perfectly homogeneous. The passing or rescinding of a rule often requires changes or modifications in many parts of the book. And it sometimes happens that some of the bearings of a change are overlooked, and so different parts of the Disci. pline are found to clash; others are associated which have no legitimate connection, and several rules are wholly neutralized by others. All this is nothing more than what might reasonably be expected under the circumstances. When an amendment is proposed it is perhaps new to a majority of the house, and though by rule it must lie on the table for consideration at least one day, this detention, or one much longer, is not always sufficient to put the conference in possession of all its bearings; for few, excepting its projector, ever think of it again until it is called up, and perhaps none go into an investigation of its relations to existing regulations. Indeed this would, in some instances, be a troublesome, not to say an impracticable work. We have in hand no copy of the proposed rule, and it is necessary that its precise language should be before us, that we may examine all the terms employed, and make up a deliberate judgment upon them separately and taken together, before we can determine what influence they will have upon other parts of the system. And it sometimes happens that we too readily leave all this labor to the learned mover of the amendment, too often taking for granted that he has thoroughly investigated his ground, and accurately adjusted his patch to the rent; when perhaps he has been so enamored with his favorite project as not to be able to see any thing besides. And upon mature examination his “ amendment" is found to be too wide at some points, and too narrow at others, and makes the garment absolutely worse for mending !

This state of the facts in the case may account for many of the discrepancies, real and apparent, which a careful reader will not fail to discover in our book of Discipline. Many of these might be remedied by simply changing the arrangement of some of the parts, which seem strangely to have lost their place, leaving a chasm where they naturally belong, and marring the harmony of the parts with which they are made to hold an arbitrary and an unnatural connection. For illustration we will now adduce a few instances :-) special provision relating to supernumerary preachers, and another relating to superannuated preachers, are thrown into a mere statement of the order of business in an annual conference. In pp. 45–47, answer 10, prescribing the method of proceeding in cases of disputes between two members as to the payment of debts, &c., and in cases of insolvency, no more belongs under the head of "duties of those who VOL. XI.-Oct., 1840.

39

In page

24 a

have the charge of circuits,” than the whole of sect. 7, p. 92, does. As we have a section upon “ bringing to trial, finding guilty," &c., delinquent members, the passage above alluded to undoubtedly ought to be connected with that section. This change was indeed proposed by the committee on revisals, but, like the great mass of their proposed amendments, was left on the table. In p. 158 we have, “Quest. 2, How are districts to be formed ?" Now the query which naturally arises is, Where is Quest. 1? There being no such question in the section, and the section being headed, “Of the Boundaries of the Annual Conferences," this Quest. 2 seems quite out of place. And at the bottom of this same page, a part of the section headed as above, we have the following :“ Each annual conference shall pay its proportionate part toward the allowance of each one of the bishops, their widows, and orphans." This we would transfer to the 178th page, where it would be naturally associated with kindred matters. In p. 193, the commencement of the 27th division of the section is still suited to the old commission system of circulating our books, when in the preceding section it is said that “no books shall hereafter be issued on commission, either from New York, Cincinnati, or any other depository or establishment under our direction.” In p. 194, the 31st and concluding division of this section is no longer necessary, as the object which it contemplated when it passed the General Conference has been accomplished.

On p. 72, we find still remaining in the Discipline the following :“No elder, deacon, or preacher among us, shall distil or vend spirituous liquors, without forfeiting his official standing." This rule we suppose now entirely unnecessary. The rule which tolerated the traffic in a private member is now rescinded, and it seems not necessary to have a special rule prohibiting our ministers and preachers from engaging in a business in which the church will not allow a private member to be employed.

We give these as specimens of the discrepancies which appear upon the face of our excellent book of Discipline. And it is presumed that the number of them, instead of being diminished, has been increased by each successive General Conference. Now can any one examine this subject impartially, and yet wonder at the solicitude manifested by our excellent friend and brother, Dr. Bangs, at the late General Conference, upon the subject of providing for a thorough revision of the arrangement and language of the Discipline. As to the best and safest method of accomplishing this object, it would scarcely become us in this place to give an opinion, though we are now more fully than ever persuaded of its real importance.

But we must not be understood as marking radical defects in our Discipline. All we have noticed, and all that can be found of the kind, are like the spots which are sometimes seen upon the disc of the

« PreviousContinue »