« PreviousContinue »
quiry on all religious subjects, even al a time of special eramina
That some questions in religion and moral philosophy, are unimportant, and the discussion of them, especially at ordaining councils, of an "unhallowed tendency-and even that the radical question in moral phliosophy, respecting "taste and exercise, should not be made a “topic of reasoning before popular assemblies"-tint "a warfare in Magazines and Pamphlets,” or “theological discussion” on any points generally set down as "doubtful, or unimportant, singular speculations," and not absolutely "essentinl to the christinn system," is "evil and only evil." and has a tendency "pot to remove, but to confirm errors, not to subdue, but to augment prejudice, not to unite christians, but to multiply jealousies among them,”—that "contention" about some religious questions, is necessarily an "unholy spirit"-and especially, that it is "both ungentlemanly and unchristian,” to examine the graduates of the “Establishiment,” very minutely on speculative and deep points of philosophy and religion. And to cap the climax, these principles were very cautiously, and ingeniously, though rather indefinitely sent abroad under the profession of no kind of intention "to preclude free inquiry or debate on any subjects, WIETHER MORE OR LESS IMPORTANT.” *
And I further saw in my dream, that a few of the churches now began to be somewhat alarmed. If free inquiry, and free discussion on some religious questions must be probibited at ordaining counsels, and ihe examination of candidates, and excluded religious periodicals, and branded as an "uholy spirit," of “unhallowed tendency;" if the world and the "handmaid" must be connived at, and flattered in order to keep the peace, and hasten on the Millenium; if the gentle and pure influence of truth and sincerity, must give place to popular moral influence ; if Arminianism must be fellowshiped as pure orthodoxy ; if christians must sign a truce with men of the world, on the subject of theological controversy, to secure their influence; if the Bible must be received without controversy, as explained .by the Establishment; if congregations of men must be taken as they are, and left much more ignorant of pbilosoplıy, and divinity; and if ignorance of metaphysics and moral philosophy must be considered as the "mother of devotion;" they began to fear there was not a little truth in the following maxims ;"Almost all the variance, contention, and party zeal, which have existed in the christian world, have originated in the feelings and conduct of the ministers of the gospel.”—“Whatever evils come upon the churches, will no doubt be owing chiefly to something amiss, in those who siistain the sacred office.”*They began seriously to inquire, whether the human heart had grown so much better, that it had ceased to be necessary to “watch in all things,” to “beware of men," and to keep a watchfuil eye upon “Religious Establishments," ecclesiastical combinations, clerical unions, and dominations, and “Satan transformed into an angel of light, and whether it be any "greai thing, if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” They asked themselves whether the following sentiments had lost all their truth and pertinence since perhaps 1824? “The opinion that controversy is of no use, because disputants never convince each other, is derived from a very limited view of the subject. It is nearer the truth to say, that no great advance has been made in science, religion or politics, without controversy. And certain it is, that no era of powerful theological discussion, has ever passed away, without an abiding effect in favor of truth. The discussions of Augustine, of Luther, and of Calvin, are felt to this day; and the controversial writings of Edwards have been to error, what the mounds and dykes of Holland have been to the sea.”* Their minds dwelt for a moment upon the following thoughts from one Mr. NetTLETON : “All those ministers who do not discriminate between true and false zeal, and true and false affections, in their preaching and conversation, and make that difference, and hold it up to the world, if possible, as clear as the sun, heartily approving of the one, and as heartily and publicly condemning the other, will turn out to be the greatest traitors to the cause of revivals. They become responsible for the corruptions which prevail in consequence of this neglect.” And they also called to mind the following sentences of Whelpley: "It is with clergymen, as with all other classes of men, some of them are very good men, and some are quite the other way. None have done more to obstruct the progress of truth, and the interest of religion than clergymen.” And they began seriously to inquire whether some of these late principles from the Establishment, might not possibly be an entering wedge, not to Unitarianism, but to the intolerant maxims and system of "his Holiness."
* See Spirit of Pilgrims for August, p. 436. Sce same, p. 463.
And moreover I saw in my dream, that at a time when the christian public were generally and justly alarmed at a certain very plausible ism, that claimed to be Calvinism, but was in fact Arminianism ; the Chairman of the oldest “Christian Establishment,” sent out a book to make war upon the alarming ism that had created such a panic in the public mind. But not baring counted the cost, or seen the consequence of an exterminating warfare, he made but one attack, and then left the field, under a heavy charge of grape. And no sooner had the panic abated, and the alarm in a graet measure ceased, than this liberal-minded, and peace-making Chairman spread out his wing over this same ism, and seemed to bid it "God speed" in the “Great West,” praying that the Lord would succeed one of its principal and hearty promoters, and render his labors to diffuse his sentiments and spirit, “successful above all that you may ask or think.' Here I conjectured in my dream, whether the next somerset he turns, might not make him one of the advocates of this ism, since I had heard it rumored that he had been rather inclined, of late, to abandon 'Exercise' for "Taste.'
* See Dr. Beecher's Sermon, on the “ Faith onee delivered to the Saints.”
I had just begun to dream something about the consequences of this opposition to liberty of conscience, and freedoin of discussion; but most unfortunately I was here suddenly awoke by a call to supper.
I hope, Mr. Editor, you will give my extraordinary dream an insertion, that it may go down to the impartial historians of 1980, that posterity may see which eccesiastical dreamer has been favored with the clearest insight into both passing and future events.
Many in this age of the world are extremely alarmed, if they hear any thing said, or see any thing writen, which is called metaphysical. And an erroneous impression seems to have gained ihe assent of a few literary men, that almost all discussions upon the essential doctrines of the Bible are metaphysical, and metaphysical discussions are not only useless, but detrimental, and ought not to be introduced into religious newspapers nor the pulpit. But we think no alarm need be taken on this account. We do not see how a writer or preacher can discuss any of the most important subjects on religion in a clear and convincing manner, without treating them in some degree, metaphysically. We most assuredly have the example of the Apostle Paul; he was in the most strict sense of the term, a metaphysical writer and preacher. To settle this question, we will take a view of the Apostle's manner of preaching. His preaching was argumentative, he inferred just consequences from true premises. His reasoning and argumentation upon the great doctrines and duties of religion were fair and conclusive. They tended to carry conviction to the conscience and affect the heart. Fair reasoning upon any decp, difficult, profound moral subject, is metaphysical reasoning. Argumentative preaching on moral subjects, is always more or less metaphysical. •Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.' And when preaching before Felix, 'he reasoned of righteousness temperance and judgement to come, and Felix trembled.'— There is much more said about Paul's reasoning upon the doctrines and duties of the gospel, than about his declaiming on those doctrines. And this course he supposed was a judicious one for him to adopt as a preacher.
At any rate sinners trembled under conviction of the truth and force of his reasoning. It was not a singular, but a common thing for him to employ his metaphysical reasoning in preaching. He usually preached upon subjects strictly metaphysical, wbich called forth the exercise of the highest reasoning powers of the human mind. He preached upon the being of God—the attributes of God—the decrees of Goi-le sovereignty of God the agency of God, or his efficiency in the moral exercises of the human beart—the free moral agency of man under a divine agency-the divinity of Christ-the extent of the atonementthe nature of true benevolence-the nature and extent of man's depravity-the nature and necessity of regeneratiou—the ininortality of the soul-a universal resurrection and general judyment, all which are the most profound and important subjects that ever any natural philosopher, moral philosopher, metaphysician, or divine ever attempted' to discuss and enforce by reasoning, or in any other way.
We will now offer some reasons why Paul selected these subjects and enforced them in this manner. He meant to preach the gospel in a plain, intelligible, pungent manner, to persons of all characters and capacities. Ile žays, 'I am, a debtor, both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians, both to the rise and the uneoise. Christ set me to preach the gospel, not with the wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. I come not to you in excellency of speech, with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power.' He not only reasoned upon the doctrines he taught, but he proved them to be true. He assigns this reason for preaching doctrinally and argumentatively, that his labors might be prof. itable to his hearers. “I kept nothing back that was profitable unto you'-he declares to the Corinthians that he 'sought the profit of many, that they might be sared.'
if Paul, under a divine influence, preached upon such subjects, and in such a manner, to a promiscuous assembly in that ignorant age of the world, to exhibit truth in the most profitabie manner, then none in this enlightened age of the world have reason to reproach metaphysical preaching, or fear to follow the apostle's example. We must believe Paul was a sincere, honest, judicious christian; and perfectly competent under the influence of the spirit of God, to select the best method of preaching, in the inost profitable manner. No preacher ever exhibited more truth and in a more convincing profitable manner than Paul. Why then should the voice of any be heard against metaphysical preaching, the apostle's preaching, the best of preaching, both in matter and manner? 'Can there he any other reason assigned than a hearty dislike to the humbling, but precious doctrines of the gospel, which this mode of preaching presents in the most clear and convincing light ?-To say Paul was not a learned man, is not true-that he was not a pious man, is not true—that he was not a judicious man, is not true—that he was not a metaphysical preacher,is not true --that he was not an inspired man, is not true. Why are these objections against this and similar preaching, if the reason above suggested is not the true one!
If the apostle preached metaphysically and plainly,in order to preach profitably, then bis example may be followed with perfect safety.
But some are disposed to call this “the philosophy of religion,'
and not the Ossential fundamental doctrines of the Bible. A modern way to evade the truth, upon which we shall say notlıing at present.
If the apostle's preaching was judicious and correct, then we say it is the duty of all to receive it with grateful bearis. And we put this question seriously to our readers, do you approve, or disapprove, of plain, apostolic profitable preaching ?
N. H. Observer.
Should there be controversy on religious subjects ? Certainly,' ssys one. • By no ineans' says another; and so there is a controversy in the outset; and we confess we see no way to get along in this imperfect state of the world without controversy.
But it is replied controversy is universally conducted in a wrong spirit; therfore let there be no controversy until it can be conducted in a right spirit. We object to this, believing that with all its evils, more good than hurt results. But we do not think the case so hopeless ; controversy is not always conducted in a wrong spirit, there are many excellent examples, and their number is increasing. We think that generally, in the periodical press, there has been a great improvement in the respect in question within a few years. And we do believe notwithstanding the fears of many good men, that there will be a progress to the right standard by means of the controversy in ihe periodical press, that would not be attained were controversy to be dropped. The press is a schoolmaster over itself. We learn Christian courtesy by witnessing the failings of others and hy being made conscious of our own failings. Whoever is made familiar with the controversial writings of the Reformation, and of the age of Milton, knows there has been an immense amelioration in the harshness of controversy since those periods. And we think it no less obvious, that there has been within our memory a visible improvement.
While we acknowledge with the venerable Archbishop Leighton that "there is not one tbing that doth on all hands choke the seed of religion so much, as thorny debates and differences about itself; causing profane men not only to stumble, but fall and break their vecks upon these divisions ;' we say on the other hand, there is no one thing that doth so much cherish and guard religion as debates about it-not thorny debates, truly, but debates kind, candid, fair. They elicit the truth ; and it is the truth which sanctifies, and produces in religion whatsoever is lovely, pure and of good report. We say to all, therefore, contend earnestly, for
what you think on prayerful examipation is the faith once delivered to the saints. Contend earnestly but not invidously; labor to convince but not to oflenda course we would desire to pursue, however we have failed or may fail in the attempt.-VI. Chronicle.