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proposes to treat, is to take them all for granted. In the Introduction he proposes "to analyze the component parts of the Christian scheme of doctrine:" but no analysis is to be found, nor does he produce any new internal evidence of the truth of revealed religion, except assertions without num ber of the excellence of his evidence, and some mysterious allusions to the character of God, as exhibited in the atonement. But there is perceptible in his work an enthusiastic, yet a cautious and abstruse apology for that faith, which is professed by the members of the New Jerusalem Church, founded by Baron Swedenborg. Indeed, it is difficult to learn his full meaning, for he labours with some extraordinary idea, which he is fearful to let out; and much of his writing may be twisted in such a manner, that all sects of Christians may find in it something to favour their particular_notions. In some places he leans to Sandeman's opinions, who was a decided Antinomian, and who maintained the
not always secure their possessor from a wide aberration from truth; since they enable a man to render plausible to himself and others any unreasonable prejudice which he may imbibe. There is a richness and force and depth of meaning in Mr. Erskine's language, which predispose us to judge favourably of his cause. He writes also with enthusiasm, as if he were fully impressed with the importance of his subject; yet when we find that he is reserved and obscure, in those places where we are very anxious to know his full meaning, we suspect that his professional habits have had some influence on his writing, and that he practises the art of an expert advocate, who withholds or conceals in a mist, the weak parts of his cause. When he is inclined to make himself clearly understood, he has a pleasing manner of illustrating his subject by a variety of figures and allegories. Notwithstanding his zeal and talents, his work does not appear likely to make much impression, except upon weak minds, which are apt to be led away by strong appeals to the passions, and generally mistake confident assertions for truth and sound argument. His general mode of discussing the interesting subjects upon which he
reprobation. Mr. Erskine does not maintain the latter of these doctrines expressly, though, perhaps, it may be implied from his scheme of atonement; but it appears a necessary consequence of unconditional election, which he has no scruple to avow, not, indeed, in these words, but in words which bear the same meaning. The atonement, says he, (p. 125, fourth edition,) "is the exclusive ground of hope before God,—and on this ground every one is invited to rest-without any fruitless and presumptuous attempts to attain a previous worthiness." Sandeman has nearly the same words.
Until Mr. Erskine has written about a third part of his work, there is no denomination of Christians which might not adopt his introductory sentiments, as the ground of an apology for their religion; but it must appear from the sequel of his book, that he had a secret reserve and a double meaning in all that he admits respecting natural religion, the tests of a true religion, a state of trial and discipline, moral duties, true happiness, and the testimony of conscience. His concern with these subjects is no farther than to give such a view of them as may afterwards be accom
modated to his theory, which is calculated to supersede them all. From his favourable mention of them, simple readers go along with him, confiding in his intelligence and zeal, and ignorant of his occult meaning, until they arrive unexpectedly at his singular orthodoxy, in the 66th page, when they start, as if they beheld something monstrous. On this occasion, his admirers set up a cry of triumph, concluding that the reader had suddenly denied the fair inference from acknowledged principles, which to that moment he had admitted; whereas, the inference which Mr. Erskine draws can follow only from his own secret view of the principles. Instead, therefore, of triumphing, they should be ashamed of the sophistry of their partisan. But to what an extreme have some of his admirers arrived before they are aware! In yielding to the fascination of his impassioned language, they probably imagined that they still kept within the precincts of Calvinism, which they supposed was placed by him in some new and favourable point of view. But now, unless they can make good their retreat, they find themselves unexpectedly opposed to their former friends, and ranged among the disciples of Swedenborg, or Sandeman, or perhaps of a compound from both, under the title of Glassites.
When Mr. Erskine ventures to introduce his orthodoxy, he shews great address in appealing suddenly to the passions of his readers. He figures away like a conjuror, who baffles observation by the flutter he excites. He bursts upon us in this manner : "What more prevailing appeal can be made? Must the Almighty Warner demonstrate the evil of sin, by undergoing its effects? Must he prove the danger of sin, by exhibiting himself as a sufferer under its consequences? Must he who knew no sin suffer as a sinner, that he might persuade men that sin is indeed an evil? It was even so. God became man, and dwelt amongst us. He himself encountered the terrors of guilt and bore its punishment; and called on his careless creatures to consider and understand the evil of sin, by contemplating even its undeserved effects on a being of perfect purity, who is over all, God blessed for ever." We may easily
conceive how some Calvinists are lulled by this language. Here the evil of sin is inferred from the considerations, that the Almighty was a sufferer, that he suffered as a sinner, that his sufferings were undeserved!!! All this he takes for granted, without any attempt at proof, and he immediately addresses the passions: "Could they hope to sustain that weight which had crushed the Son of God?" If he were consistent, he would have said, which had crushed the Almighty; but to be explicit is not his object. "Could they rush into that guiltcould they refuse their hearts," &c. Then he continues the subject in the form of an allegory, which affords him a covered way to advance his batteries. Is it not plain from this management, that he was fearful his Calvinistic readers would discover too soon the nature of his orthodoxy?
But impressive as he is on the unjust sufferings and humiliation of the Almighty, Jesuits can address their hearers with more affecting eloquence; and, therefore, according to his tests of excellence in a revelation, their orthodoxy must be superior to his own. They will adopt all his questions, and his appeals to the passions, but in a sense which refers, as they teach, to a second person, who is a third and coequal part of God, and they can then remonstrate farther"Ye hardened wretches, is it not enough to make you hate sin, and submit implicitly to our jurisdiction and doctrine, that the Almighty be came man, and encountered the terrors of guilt and bore its punishment'? Must he also, before he can melt your stubborn hearts, submit to be reproduced in our hands, and must he then go down your throats?" If we judge of such an appeal by its influence, which is the grand test of a true revelation, in the opinion of Mr. Erskine, we may see him distanced in the race of orthodoxy; for, let it be considered, how those persons must be affected with this mystery, who receive it with an implicit faith, as exhibiting an additional "moral feature of the Divine mind," (p. 91,) and with what devout prostration of mind they view the unutterable condescension of their God, when they eat him! Mr. Erskine, no doubt, holds this mystery in contempt; yet all his tests
of a true revelation are as completely accommodated to this mystery, as to his own atonement. His presumptive proofs would justify the grossest superstitions of Christians, provided they can be received with implicit faith, and can produce a due portion of fanaticism; and his tests would prove that the victims under the wheels of Jaggernaut possessed a purer religion than any Christians, because it was more "influential."
Let us now revert to his allegory. "Ancient history tells us of a certain king who made a law against adultery, in which it was enacted, that the of fender should be punished by the loss of both his eyes. The very first offender was his own son. The king was an affectionate father, as well as a just magistrate. After much deliberation and inward struggle, he finally commanded one of his own eyes to be pulled out, and one of his son's." Much stress is laid on this allegory, which is put forward in place of argument; but it illustrates merely that notion of atonement which is held by the Swedenborgians, who believe that Christ and his Father are only one person. Allegories may, in some points, be unmanageable, particularly if they are taken from some known history, whether authentic or fabulous; but, in his reflections on this history, Mr. Erskine has not remarked any points of discrepancy between it and his own scheme of doctrine. On the contrary, his remarks are in unison with the allegory, and they convey the same doctrine which was held in ancient times by men who were called Patripassians, because they believed that God was only one person-that he became man-that the manhood was called Christ, and suffered on the cross. No other meaning can be put upon the following observations. Suffering for the guilty person justified the king in the exercise of clemency;" and with respect to the guilty person," it identified the object of his esteem with the object of his gratitude." "There is a singular resemblance between this moral exhibition and the communication which God has been pleased to make of himself in the gospel." "Shall we refuse our love and admiration to the King and Father of the human race; who, with a kindness and condescension
unutterable, has presented to us a like aspect?" "In the gospel, God is represented in the combined character of a gracious Parent and a just Judge. The Judge himself bore the punishment of transgression." All this is the language of a Patripassian, and it is entirely discordant from the notion of atonement held by Calvinists. To object here to the doctrine of both one and the other, as opposed to reason and a rational interpretation of Scripture, would be to appeal to rules and tests which no advocate for any atonement will submit to; and, on this ground, no Calvinist can ever convict a Swedenborgian of error, nor can a Swedenborgian ever confute a Calvinist. On the same principle, disputes can never be decided between them and Romanists, or amongst any of the orthodox, who pride themselves on their faith in spite of reason. But whoever listens to reason or common sense, will soon perceive how grossly they all pervert the Scriptures. How violently must the sense of Scripture be wrested, before it can be made to teach that the one God and Father of all has suffered unjustly for the sins of men! But, is it not a worse perversion of it to suppose, on the Calvinistic scheme of atonement, that He has infinite wrath, and is capricious, cruel and unjust? To illustrate this latter view of the subject, and place it in contrast with Mr. Erskine's opinions, let us now mould the allegory into such a form as may suit the Calvinistic scheme.
The king should on no account submit to any punishment on himself; but he should have the satisfaction of pulling out the two eyes of his beloved wife, or of his favourite son, who must be his heir apparent, before he would allow the remotest possibility of sparing the eyes of the son who transgressed. The wife or favourite son, on knowing the demands of the king and his immense wrath, should attempt to appease him, by offering voluntarily to undergo all the punishment due to the transgressor; and one of them should accordingly submit to it; and the king should be so delighted with the unjust suffering of his beloved wife, or favourite son, that he should consent to give the transgressor one chance in one thousand, to have not one, but both his eyes
spared, and even to be highly rewarded, independent of any conditions. But if it should not be the lot of the guilty son to see and own the moral beauty of this transaction, the chance of which lot is as one to one thousand, he must be doomed to suffer all the torment which the king can inflict, notwithstanding the mutilation of his wife or
Under this statement of the allegory, in what light should we view the king's character? Certainly we should consider him as insane, or as a wicked and furious tyrant. Mr. Erskine may well be shocked at such a picture; but so strong are his prejudices, that an atonement of some sort he must have.. No substitute will answer his purpose. The king himself must be the victim, and must manifest "a self-sacrificing benevolence?" (p. 143). What effect now would a belief in the despotic character of the king have upon the guilty son? Would he attempt to mollify a personage of his fierce wrath, and violent justice, and capricious humours by repentance and good works? No, but he would soon find out that the true way to ingratiate himself with a capricious tyrant is by flattery. By the same art only could he hope to gain over his mother or brother, especially if he had been so fortunate as to learn, that the remote chance of their favour is not clogged by any troublesome conditions, being neither promoted nor prevented by his good or evil works. If by his flatteries he could persuade himself that he had become a favourite with any of them, would he not riot in selfish joy? And would he have any great objection to repeat his transgression, when he made sure of his pre-election by the king, and the powerful interest of his mother or brother?
In this form of the allegory, it illustrates and exposes many of the Calvinistic ideas of the atonement; but in the first sketch it could not easily be moulded in such a form as to expose them all. For instance, the king should have at least a thousand children, in order that nine hundred and ninety-nine might undergo the severest sentence of the law, while one of the thousand, who should be equally guilty, must not only be spared, but
invested with the highest privilege. The allegory should farther suppose that the wife or son, who manifested such astonishing pity in one case, should feel none at all in near a thousand similar cases. Want of power should not be assigned as the cause why they refuse their aid, but want of inclination; for the allegory could not be perfect, unless the wife or eldest son, though distinct persons, be of one substance with the king. Being thus of one substance, the king should himself, in one sense, be obliged to suffer, like the deity of the Patripassians; and for the same reason, the transgression should be as much against their dignity and authority, as against those of the king, yet neither of them should have the satisfaction of seeing any innocent person's eyes pulled out to sooth their sense of wrath or justice. The sacrifice of one of them, at the same time that it should relieve the king from the misery of a portion of his immense wrath, yet, as being the suffering of part of his own substance, should be more costly to him, and give him more pain than the sins of all his subjects, and, after all, the effect of this costly sacrifice should be scarcely perceptible. It should farther be supposed, that the king, with his wife and council, had decreed the wickedness of all his sons before they were born, and their› certain punishment, with a trifling exception. Another feature of the allegory should be, that when the king should charge his sons with this original sin, he must, by the same act, expose his own injustice and tyranny. To insert here half the particulars which might be added, would render it a more complicated and embarrassing allegory, than ever entered into the head of an Indian Bramin.
art. He stigmatizes the Calvinistic atonement in this manner. "In fact, this doctrine undermines the divinity of Christ, as much as Socinianism, inasmuch as it makes a separation between the views and character of the Father and those of the Son."-P. 120.
On the Patripassian system of atonement, Mr. Erskine is enabled to eulogize it without measure, as implying, in one sense, the unutterable love of the Deity, and not the unutterable malignity which sticks closely and inevitably to his character, ac cording to every Calvinistic scheme. This love he describes thus, (p. 104,) "What a wonderful and awful and enlivening subject of contemplation is this! God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son"-that part of himself which assumed the manhood." And the same God sent forth this Son" this manhood. "This is the God with whom we have to do. This is his character, the just God, and yet the Saviour. There is an augustness and a tenderness about this act, a depth and height, and breadth and length of moral worth and sanctity, which defies equally the full grasp of thought and language." Might not the Jesuit, whom I before introduced, adopt this pathetic language with as much propriety and effect, when he dwells on the continued and excessive humiliation of third part of his God? A very small additional portion of faith would ena ble Mr. Erskine to join, in ecstatic delight, with those who worship the Deity in the form of a beast.
As he has taken good care not "to analyze the component parts of the Christian scheme of doctrine,” which he says is the object of his Dissertation, we cannot, therefore, certainly decide, that he makes his atonement to operate so partially, as to imply the doctrines of unconditional election and reprobation. But, though we should acquit him from representing the Deity as capricious, unjust and malignant, still there is an extravagance of folly in his notion of atonement, which no sane mind can endure for a moment. What man in his senses can believe that the infinite and sole God of the universe has degraded himself upon this earth, and punished
himself, in order to atone to hiinself for the sins of men? How are we to account for the fact, that a man of talent and learning should maintain, in a civilized society, that the Omnipotent, Omniscient Creator of all worlds, and of all beings, should be reduced to the necessity of becoming a man, and dying upon a cross, before he could forgive any one individual man, and before he could induce any rational creature to hate sin? There is in these notions a depth and height, and breadth and length of absurdity, which defies the power of language.
The remainder of his book contains not much clearer elucidation of his atonement; but the whole is contrived with great ability, and a studied obscurity to sooth the prejudices of Calvinists, to enlist them on his side, and even to persuade them that he coincides with their ideas, when he discourses in rhapsodies on the cha racter of God, and the wonderful effeet which his unutterable love must produce on the hearts and lives of men. We cannot but regret that a man of his talents and acquirements, with so much devout feeling, should be driven blindly from one frightful extreme, respecting the character of God, to an opposite extreme no less monstrous, and to advocate a cause which would tend to bring revealed religion into contempt.
Yeovil, March 12, 1823. seen the statement of
HMr. Adam in "The Unitarian Fund Register, No. I.," attached to your last Number, I cannot fail (in common with every lover of truth) to rejoice in the prospect of the spread of Unitarianism in India. Connecting with it the accounts which have reached this country before, there seems little doubt of the ultimate success of a well-digested plan, since our brethren at Calcutta have succeeded in effecting so much. The impression already made on the Jaggernaut establishment, by that mighty engine which is sapping the foundations of the Holy Alliance in Europe, and the very citadel of religious tyranny in India, shews what might be done by men who can offer a system of faith,