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JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
Messrs Editors : Have not writers, both of the Unitarian* and Calvinistic schools, given too stern a character to the Jewish religion. Have they made a sufficient distinction between the Jewish Revelation itself and the highly figurative language, empassioned sentiments, and personal feelings of the writers of the Old Testament, especially of the poets and prophets ? The Jewish Revelation is not mere stern law, nor the Christian Revelation mere gospel. As Christ has given laws as well as promises, so Moses gave promises as well as laws. Christ has spoken of woes, and Moses of mercy. It was to Moses that God revealed himself as the Lord, the Lord God merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin; as showing mercy to the thousandth generation of those that love him. The Psalms of David are full of celebrations on the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
It appears to me, that the wide difference, or rather the striking contrast, which some draw between the Jewish and Christian systems, tends to sap the foundation of one, or the other, or both. For how could two such different systems proceed from the same omnicient mind, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning?
True, the Jewish system was adapted to a semi-barbarous age. But is there difference enongh between the character of the Jews in the age of Moses and that of those people to whom Christianity is given, to account for the contrast which some draw betwen the two systems ? For my part, I cannot see why a due proportion of mercy is not as useful among savages as amongst the civilized; nor why a due proportion of terror is not as necessary in London as in Jerusalem ; in Washington, as amongst the Cherokees.
* See Christian Examiner, for Sept. 1830. p. 62,
RECOLLECTIONS AND REMARKS OF AN AGED CLERGY
MAN, NOW LIVING, RESPECTING THE CHANGES THAT
FOR THE LAST FIFTY YEARS.
To form just ideas on these subjects, it seems to me requisite to look back more than half a century. Changes have been gradual ; and the way for them was in preparation years before they were visible.
Previous to the Revolutionary war, the clergy and laity in New England, with a few exceptions, were Calvinists in speculation and creed. Their creeds, however, were not as long, particular, and guarded, as are the creeds of Calvinists at the present day. There was indeed a number of distinguished divines and laymen, who avowed Arminian principles. Among them were Mayhew, Chauncy, Howard, and J. Adams, in Boston ; and in the country, Hedge of Warwick, Foster of Stafford, Dana of Wallingford, Dean of
Portland, and others. But as far forth as any were accounted Arminian, they were unpopular, and looked upon by the bulk of the people as heretical and dangerous teachers. Reading on subjects of divinity was very limited. Henry's Commentary, Willard's Body of Divinity, Boston's Four Fold State, the Assembly's Catechism, and authors of this character, gave tone, for the most part, to ministers and people. But general harmony and tranquility existed, and very little inquiry was made respecting religious opinions and creeds, until Dr Edwards published his celebrated treatise on the will. That work, with Dickinson's on the five points of Calvin, excited much attention, and interested deeply the feelings of the clergy and laity, and brought forward with great warmth the Arminian controversy, so called. The effects of the writings of Dr Edwards were striking and somewhat various. Some persons were more confirmed in the Calvinistic faith; some were more convinced of its fallacy ; others became sceptical, and many were perplexed and distressed. But a spirit of inquiry was awakened which has not been quenched, and, it is believed, never will be. Clergymen expressed their minds more freely ihan had been usual, and the difference between Calvinists and Arminians became more distinct and visible. The greater number, especially in Connecticut and the westerly sections of Massachusetts, adhered to Calvin and Edwards; in this section and the easterly parts of the state, Arminian principles prevailed. Calvinism, however, became sostened; a disposition to examine religious sentiments increased; and there existed a singular mixture of Calvinism and Armininianism. It was difficult to determine, whether the clergy and the considerate laity couldbe ranked most properly under Calvin or Arminius. Orthodoxy, at that time, was so undefined, that it was not easy to say, whether the real creed of one agreed with that of another. Clergymen whose preaching and conversation were clearly Arminian, not only habitually read, but recommended Calvinistic authors. I well remember to have heard a minister of the more liberal class, who was yet accounted Calvinistic, preach zealously against Calvinism, particularly the doctrine of election and reprobation. He said, “If you will use the means of religion, as I have stated and directed, I will pawn my soul you will obtain salvation. This expression was thought by some to be very rash, and not warranted by the Bible.
As freedom of thinking and speaking increased, disputes and contentions arose in churches, and ecclesiastical Councils were multiplied. Several ministers were accused of holding Arminian sentiments, and were tried and dismissed by Councils. At length the tables were somewhat turned, and the more severe Calvinists fell under censures. Those contentions about articles of faith, however unpleasant, elicited some light on the subjects of controversy ; and Arminianism acquired more strength and confidence. The opposing parties became more distinct, and the difference between them more defined and intelligible.
But all this time, there was no controversy about the doctrine of the Trinity. It is now well known, that there were, at that period, some Unitarians among us; but they had their faith to themselves before God, and were not publicly known as Unitarians. The rise
and progress of Unitarianism in this country is generally known. I do not recollect any controversy on the subject, until the writings of Priestley and some others, were circulated in this country. The subject had been but very little examined or understood. When I was ordained, in 1778, the whole Council were, as it was supposed, Trinitarians. I did not myself, at that time, understand the doctrine to my own satisfaction; and being unwilling to be particular on a doctrine which seemed to me involved in much obscurity, I expressed myself, on that article, in the language of the Bible, in my creed exhibited to the ordaining Council. No questions were asked, and no objections were made. At that period, the Bible was thought to be a sufficient rule of faith and practice, without any human additions.
The state of religious opinions continued very much as above stated, though the leaven that had been cast into the public mind was secretly working, until Dr Hopkins, in his publications, carried out president Edwards' system of Calvinism in its plainer meaning and obvious consequences. The idea I would convey, has been very concisely expressed by a distinguished divine, now living, who said, that Hopkinsianism was Calvinism gone to seed.'
The stricter Calvinists generally adopted the system of Dr Hopkins. And, probably, they are the only consistent Calvinists. This systein marked still clearer the line between the adherents to Calvin, and those to Arminius.
In opposition to Hopkinisianism, there were many, even the great body of the clergy and laity. Among