Imatges de pÓgina

course, seems quite needless, and affords a very feeble argument against the proposed plan. We admit that there is some real difference of opinion between the two ministers supposed. But that difference will be managed with a much greater degree of Christian candour and mutual forbearance from the circumstance of their belonging to the same Association, their having agreed in the same common confession of faith, and their often meeting together for the advancement of religion. On this point we add one request. Let our correspondent, or any other man, with a mind unprejudiced by names, and seriously intent upon the great things of religion, peruse the volume of Dr. Hopkins' sermons lately published, and an equal number of Dr. Doddridge's sermons on evangelical subjects, and then judge, whether the difference between them were so great, as to prevent the most happy and useful ministerial intercourse. The feelings and the practice of many ministers, whose difference of opinion is the same with the difference between those two authors, abundantly prove the mistake of our correspondent's argument. We wish him to inquire, whether in this matter, he has not overlooked his own excellent rule, "not to magnify points of disagreement."

We pass by several things, which are open to just animadversion, and come to the last objection offered against the plan of the General Association; viz. "its being conducive to a wrong estimate of clerical character." Vol. III. No. 10.

К к к

But in what way? The answer is this; that while evangelical ministers in general subscribe to the Catechism, which will thus become the standard of orthodoxy, some others, as orthodox as they, will not judge it proper to subscribe. Of course, they will be reputed persons of corrupt sentiments, and their character and usefulness will be injured. To this objection there may be a double reply.

First. There is no probability, that the fact, here supposed, will occur so frequently, as to become any considerable inconvenience. In order that the Catechism may be raised to the dignity, and have the influence of a public standard of orthodoxy, in the way above mentioned, it must be approved and subscribed by the generality of those, who are deemed orthodox. Now, if the great body of learned, orthodox, and pious ministers, whose judgment, in this case, cannot be swayed by motives of worldly interest or honour, are seriously convinced of the safety, the propriety, and the advantage of subscribing "the doctrines of Christianity, as they are generally expressed in the Catechism," it must be candidly supposed, that there are good reasons for such a subscription, and that others, who embrace the same doctrines, are equally candid, and devoted, with equal zeal, to the great interest of Christianity, will be equally satisfied as to their duty. If there be a few exceptions, they will, in all probability, be of those, who indulge needless scruples, groundless fears and alienations, or some singularities of thinking

for which no remedy can be provided. In every class of men, there are some eccentric characters, who dislike all precise rules, however necessary to the common welfare. But shall a fear of leaving out, or a, wish to accommodate a small number of such characters, supersede a plan, which promises extensive utili-, ty to the public?

In the second method of reply, while we admit that, now and then, an orthodox and pious minister may not think it best to subscribe, we question the correctness of J's supposition, as to its effects upon his reputation and usefulness. If there were no other way of ascertaining his theological character, the objection would be more just. But this is not the case. Not only his own congregation, but the congregations in the vicinity, and his brethren extensively, are under advantages to judge of his sentiments and character, without any reference to his subscribing, or not subscribing. If, from his preaching, conversation, and life, they are led to doubt the soundness of his faith, they would certainly think none the better of him for his subscribing the Catechism. On the other hand, if, by the means abovementioned, they were satisfied, that he was sound in the faith, his not subscribing would make no alteration in their opinion. At first, possibly, they would be surprised, and would hardly be able to account for it. But they would soon learn the reasons of his conduct, and his character would stand in its just and proper light. We have as high a regard, as our correspondent manifests, for clerical character and

usefulness; and should be as reluctant, as he, to authorize a plan injurious to either. But we are willing that those, who best know what concerns the reputation and usefulness of ministers, should judge, whether the proposed plan of the General Association has an inauspicious, threatening aspect upon the clergy. If, in some rare instances, it may be abused to the disadvantage of an individual; this is nothing more, than we are to expect from every measure, which is calculated for the public advantage.

We shall now attend to the plan, which our correspondent proposes as a substitute for the General Association. Here let it be understood, that we object to none of the measures, which he proposes, in themselves considered. We only aim to expose them, considered as a substitute. One more remark will be made in this place, that readers may apply it to every par ticular, as they proceed. We introduce the remark, without any qualifications; that, contrary to what we should have expected, all the objections, which can be urged against the General Association, may be urged with equal, and, in some respects, with superior force, against the proposed substitute. The particulars of that substitute will now be considered.

"1. Let those ministers, who believe that inen are in a state, from which they need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, endeavour to cultivate a friendly intercourse."

Thus J. begins his plan by laying down a creed, which is to operate as a standard of clerical character, and to regulate min

isterial intercourse. When he speaks of "those who believe" the truth specified, he undoubt edly means, those who profess to believe it. To determine, with certainty, who really believe it, is not the work of man. Those ministers, therefore, who profess to believe this article of faith, that men are in a state, from which they need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit," are the ministers who are to cultivate a friendly intercourse. But, to fall into J's strain of objection; how "6 extremely vague" is the language here used! What could we know of a minister's sentiments, from his subscribing such a proposition? Men, whose religious opinions are as distant from each other, as the poles, may profess such a belief. We might as well have no creed, as this. For men may put their own construction upon the terms used; or they may profess "with mental reservation ;" or they may profess to believe "what they wish the article were." But this one proposition, be it more or less vague, is the proposed creed. Now if the plan of General Association be objectionable on account of its comprising a creed, the proposed substitute is objectionable on the same account. But one question remains; viz. whether the creed, which our Correspondent brings forward, be preferable to the Catechism, composed by the Westminster Assembly of Divines? The Christian community must judge.

But J. seems to carry his idea of articles of faith still further. Agreeing at first in the article above mentioned, ministers are

to go on to tem; according to his second article ; "Let them collect the most important points, on which they do agree, and unite for the defence of them." Such points of divinity, collected, written down, and subscribed, or in some other way agreed to, are to constitute their standing creed. For the defence of this they are to 66 unite," or to join themselves together in one body. Here is the essence of a general association. And if the creed, thus formed, should happen to contain" the doctrines of Christianity as they are generally expressed in the Assembly's Shorter Catechism," how would the plan differ from the plan of the General Association, already established? And what would be the advantage of changing the one already established for another, when no essential difference is contemplated? But if the creed to be formed upon the new plan should happen to contain a system of divinity different from the general system contained in the Catechism; then the new plan of Association would, indeed, be very different from the one lately established, and its adherents would be a different set of men.

more perfect sys

On the third article of the new scheme we make only this remark, that it is no improvement on the plan of the General Association, which has the same object in view.

"4. Though they should not pretend union of sentiment, where it does not exist, let them not magnify the points of disagreement."

If the sarcastic implication in the former part of this article

had any foundation, we would be the last to complain of it. As to the rest, we consider it a very important rule, a rule which has had no small influence in the plan of the General Association, "not to magnify points of disagreement;" and we shall be glad to find our Correspondent co-operating with others in carrying it into effect.

"5. Let them agree not to act in the ordination of a candidate, unless liberty be given to examine his qualifications." Here again the plan of our Correspondent falls in with the plan of the General Association. But we wish, as well as he, "to understand the measures contemplated, and the probable result." If it be a rule to examine the candidate, it must be upon the principle of some standard, with which his qualifications ought to correspond. And one of these two ways must be adopted. Either the members of the ordaining council must have different standards, that is, each one must have a standard according to his own opinion; which, in case of different opinions among the members of the council, would create endless difficulties, and would convert their meeting into a scene of unhappy contention; or there must be a common standard, in which all concerned in ordaining the candidate agree. Doubtless our Correspondent would prefer something like this. His idea of a common standard would extend as far, at least, as his first article; that is, he would have it considered by all, an essential qualification of every candidate, to believe, "that men are in a state, from which they need to be re

newed by the Holy Spirit." Perhaps he would go still further. When the ministers, who should coalesce according to his scheme, had finished their collection of "the most important points on which they agree," they might, perhaps, think it important, that some or all of them should be received by candidates. Their standard might finally contain a creed like the general system of doctrines contained in the Catechism. If so, it would agree with the plan of the General Association. If not, it would be entitled to a treatment, which we could better determine, when the proposed collection of important articles should be made.

J's last article is to be highly approved. It accords exactly with the design of the General Association.

Finally, the attentive reader will perceive, that the plan of the General Association contains every thing valuable in the plan proposed by our Correspondent, besides being guarded against those things which embarrass his plan, and render it impracticable.

We close with a suggestion. It is not to be supposed, that the pages of the Panoplist can be consistently filled with a continuation of this subject. Our Correspondent "only wished to propose such objections as occurred to his mind." He has had the opportunity. To his objections we have endeavoured to make a particular, a serious, and a fair reply; which we hope will be satisfactory. The whole is now before the Christian public, and is respectfully referred to their decision, by the



NAMES, considered in themselves, are of no importance; but they become influential, in consequence of their signification. Individuals and societies may have names given them, either by their friends, or enemies; and the application of these names may be very improper, from partiality on the one side, or hostility on the othThus we find Jesus Christ was called a Samaritan, and accused of having a devil; and we read also of some who called themselves Jews, and were not, but were of the synagogue of Satan; and of others, who said they were apostles, but were found liars.


The name Christian is almost universally given to the people living in this country; and from its indiscriminate application, the country has received the appellation, "a Christian land." Respectability and interest are associated with the title; and however unsuitable to the character of a Christian any man's life may be, his language is, let me be called by this name to take away my reproach from among men. To unchristianize a man in name, however infidel in practice, is to touch the apple of his eye; and to bring upon one's self the odium of bigotry and uncharitableness. It would be matter of great joy to every true disciple of Jesus Christ if all, who received the name Christian, sustained the Christian character; for charity thinketh no evil." But to be lieve any man to be a Christian, while he has only the name, is not charity, but cruelty; for

"charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." A banditti, in their depredations may compliment each other with the phrase, "honest fellows;" and a company of drunkards may call each other "sober men;" but who would not condemn such gross perversion of language; and who ought not to pity such persons sporting themselves with their own deceivings? The writer trusts that his charity is as broad as the Bible; for it is a maxim with him, charity more circumscribed than the Bible, is censoriousness; and more extended, is libertinism. His design is not to accuse and condemn; but, by stating what appears to him truth, to convince and correct, "commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." The end he proposes is gained, if any of his fellow men, trusting in a name to live while they are dead, are undeceived, and turned to the Lord; or if Christians are led to walk more worthy of the name by which they are called. With a view to this, let us inquire into the meaning and origin of the name Christian; the character of the persons, to whom it was originally applied; and the improper ap plication of it to many at the present day.

1. The meaning and origin of the name Christian. This name simply signifies a follower of Christ. In its proper appli cation to any person, it supposes that person to be a believer of the doctrines Christ delivered, ready to obey the precepts he enjoined, to observe the ordinances he instituted, and willing, at the risk of life, and all its comforts,

« AnteriorContinua »