Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

measures for promoting the niences and difficulties in the cause of Zion, receiving, as arti- way? What are the evils, cles of their faith, and as the ba, which have filled tlic apprehensis of their union, the principles sion of our correspondent ? Let of Christianity as they are gene- his reasoning be carefully examrally expressed in the Assem- ined. bly's Shorcer Catechism. Is pot His great difficulty respects such a plan perfectly consistent the creed, which is received as with our religious liberty, and the basis of union. “ It is not with all our rights and duties as supposed, (he says) that all, who *men, and as Christians? Is it subcribe to this Catechism, think not eminently adapted, particu- alike on all subjects of theology. larly at the present time, to Perfect union of sentiment is not yield extensive good to the the sine qua non of this coalition. churches? If so, what have we As this is not required in order to do with a few evils, which to subscription, so neither is it may possibly attend the execu- required of those, who have subtion of it, or be occasioned by it? scribed. It must then be clearly Especially when we consider understood, that though we subthat the evils feared cannot be 'scribe to the same Catechism, produced by any thing excep- we are not bound to explain this tionable in the plan, and, there. Catechism in the same manner, fore, cannot be pleaded as an ar- nor to understand it in the same gument against it, any more sense." But this is not correct than the fire, which Christ de- reasoning. For although it is clared he came to kindle on earth, not supposed, that all, who subwas to be charged to any thing scribe the Catechism, think alike malignant or hurtful in the na- on all subjects of theology;" it ture of Christianity. Suppose '

may be supposed, that they think the heterodoxy, the prejudice, or alike on those particular subjects, the needless scrupulosity of which are introduced into the some men exclude them from Catechism. Although “perfect the General Association. Is union of sentiment" is not ex. this a reason why others should pected of those who join the Asreject the scheme, and deprive sociation ; yet it may be expectthemselves and the churches ed that they will agree in underof important advantages within standing and explaining their their reach?

dreed, according to the plain, honThus far we have admitted, 'est language of subscription. that the inconveniences attend. The most that can be clearly ining the General Association may ferred from this language is, be as numerous and great, as J. that subscribers are not bound to imagines. Now even upon this understand and explain the Catesupposition, we consider the in- chism, in every particular article, conveniences so small, in com- or word, in precisely the same "parison with the probable advan

J's mistake is, that he tages, as to furnish no solid ar- has made this inference too exgument against the scheme un- tensive. der consideration.

But let us He thinks it difficult to define inquire what are the inconve- what is comprehended under the

sense.

term, generally, and that," while the great system of the Newtoni. that is undefined, the language an philosophy, and rejects every of subscription cannot be under thing inconsistent with it; or, in stood ; that is, it cannot be clear- other words, he receives the ly understood what a man's sen- Newtonian philosophy in its timents are, from the circum- grand, discriminating principles ; siance of his subscribing to the though as to the mode and result Catechism.” We allow that, of some experiment or observafrom a man's subscribing the tion, and in some instances, as to Catechism in the manner above- the particular method of proof, mentioned, it cannot be fully un- he may not perfectly agree with derstood what his sentiments are Newton. If a man say, “ I be. on all subjects, and in all respects. lieve the general principles of But if he duly understand the Berkley's system ;" we underprinciples of Christianity and the stand that he believes Berkley's proper use of words, and mean system in its grand peculiarities, to make a fair and honest decla- or distinguishing principles; airation of his sentiments, his though in some explanations and professing to receive the princi- minor points, which affect not ples of Christianity, as they are the general systéin, he may dif. generally expressed in the Cate- fer from Berkley. So 'if a dichism, clearly determines what vine say, “ I believe the princiis the general scheme of his sen- ples of religion as they are gentiments. The Catechism is de- erally exhibited in the writings of signed to exhibit the great out- Calvin, Witsius, Stapfer, Owen, lines, or the fundamental princi- and Edwards ;" if another say, ples of the Christian religion. “I believe the general system of These principles, in almost ev- Arminius and Whitby;" and ery instance, are expressed in another ; “ I believe the princi. unequivocal and perspicuous lan- ples of religion, as they are genguage, and in a connected, sys- erally contained in the writings tematic form. No man, there- of Socinus and Priestley ;” it is fore, of tolerable information, not difficult to understand them. can honestly declare, that he re- We conclude the honest meaning ceives the Catechism, generally, of each to be, that he embraces unless he believe the great evan- the peculiar principles, which gelical principles upon which it constitute the system of his fa. is constructed, and, indeed, of vourite authors, and which distinwhich it consists. And as this guish it from all other systems. is the case, such a declaration Accordingly, we may justly demay be easily understood. If a nominate him a Calvinist, an Ar. man, of whose knowledge and minian, or a Socinian ; although, veracity we have satisfactory in some minor, unessential proof, declare to us, that he re- points, he does not exactly agree ceives the principles of natural with Calvin, Arminius, or Socinphilosophy according to the gen- us. It is not proper, that we eral scheme of Newton, or as should here undertake to show, they are generally expressed in what are the fundamental and his writings ; we are at no less essential principles of each of about his meaning. He receives these systems. We refer it to 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 ex. points, which may be determin- treme difficulty 10 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 correspondent and some which they produce? The exothers, against the General Asso- treme difficulty abovementioned 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 procceded 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 refor. through them the welfare of the mation ; in other words, those churches.

who are thoroughly orthodor, 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

[ocr errors]

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 covenont 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 Calvinists 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 holiThey 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 ned 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 obvi. include 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 lancertain, 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 as a sure effect. to 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 clergy

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 is. 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, turns 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 flows from it, as a conse- theory, calculated to make a quence, or was occasioned by it, wrong impression, and to excite

« AnteriorContinua »