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groundless prejudice. It would mental principles of the gospel, be easy for them to inform the freely declare that agreement to objector, that they are 'as much each other, and their mutual deconcerned as he is, to secure the sire thus far. to walk together; divine character and human when, in addition to this, they agency; that they admit no di- frequently meet in order to disvine efficiency, which does not cuss, in a friendly, candid manconsist with man's exercising the ner, those points on which their most perfect freedom, or acting views are somewhat various, to 'according to his own will ; and, consult for the general interest therefore, that they are not em- of religion, and to unite in fervent barrassed with the difficulties, prayer ; we have the greatest which he supposes must embar- reason to indulge the hope, that rass them, not considering those a union more complete in itself, difficulties as belonging either to more happy to them, and more their system, or to the passage beneficial to religion, will ensue. of the Catechism above quoted. “ It is well known, (says J.)
It would be both needless and that subscription to the Bible does impertinent for the Editors to not produce union of sentiment.” discuss the controverted, meta- But, if men were fair and honest, physical question respecting the. such subscription would presupdivine efficiency. Our only ob- pose, or express union. Yet, as ject is to show, that the question things are, it neither presuphas no relation to the plan of the poses, nor expresses union ; beGeneral Association. It was al- cause men are so inconsistent, ways designed, that the plan as to profess their belief of the should be such, as to embrace Bible, while they do not believe those, who speculate differently its contents. When “ Trinitarion that question. We regret ans, Calvinists, Arminians, and that our correspondent ever Unitarians subscribe the Bible," thought of deriving an objection there must be great error or from this topic.
dishonesty somewhere, or else But he proceeds," If one per- the Bible is, of all books, the son subscribe with such latitude, most unintelligible and contrawhy may not another? What dictory. J. says, they ununion then will subscription pro- derstand the Bible differently.” duce?” We never supposed that This, though a well known fact, merely subscribing a creed had is not the root of the evil. But, any efficacy to produce union of contrary to his intention, this sentiment. Subscribing is not, fact clearly shows the importance properly speaking, designed to and necessity of explaining the produce union, where it does not Bible in confessions of faith, or exist, but to express it, where it in some other way, as the only does exist. Still we consider it satisfactory method of making a measure, which, in connexion known our own religious sentiwith other things, may lead on ments, and ascertaining those of to a greater and greater degree others, and thus of being able to of union. When pious ministers, act with propriety in various who agree in the doctrines of the cases, where the cause of truth reformation, or in the funda- is deeply concerned.
“ Is it not clearly absurd, (says. undoubtedly just. But the fact J.) to speak of an union to be stated proves the fault, not of the produced by subscription to a xxxix articles, nor of the practice confession, if it be understood, in of subscribing, but of human nathe outset, that we may subscribe Cure. It shows how strangely in what sense we please.” If men may be influenced, even in this be understood, the absurdity religious concerns, by worldly is granted. There is no end to considerations, and how many, suppositions. When it is evident, who are invested with the sacred that they do not accord with the office, are defective in moral truth, they may properly be pass- character. But it ought to be ed without notice.
recollected that, in this respect, What J. says about “ the the difference between England substance of the Catechism" and America is very great. does not pertain to the subject, as Here, no religion is established the expression is not used in the by law, and no civil advantage rule of General Association re- is connected with subscribing. ferred to. If “the substance of Here, such perfect liberty of the Catechism” mean any thing conscience is enjoyed, and so indifferent from “the doctrines of considerable is the influence of Christianity, as they are general- prescription, or of any system ly expressed in the Catechism,” or opinion, that men can have we have nothing to do with the very little inducement to subphrase. If it mean the same, scribe, except real conviction, it has already been attended to. and serious regard to the interest Nor do we think it necessary to of religion. make many remarks on J's sup- The state of things in Scot. position, " that some might sub- land might open the door for scribe, though Unitarians.” If similar observations. But it is men will entirely renounce that unnecessary to repeat. system of religion, which is “ Surely,” says J. “ those, who commonly called orthodox, and feel most interest in this coalyet subscribe a Catechism con- ition, do not design, like king taining that system ; where is James I. to prevent the discusconscience? Where is honesty?sion of those points in theology, But he
“ others would which are most often disputed." think they ought not to subscribe, What reason could our corresis, in their apprehension, it con- pondent have for this passage, tained the least error." And so containing such an uncandid imought all to think, if the intend- plication, when it has been exed subscription implied, that the pressly and often stated, as one subscribers profess to receive object of the coalition, freely to the Catechism, as an infallible discuss points of difference? and perfect standard, and to em- His hypothesis respecting two brace every particular idea which ministers, one of whom holds it contains. But this is not im- the sentiments of Dr. Hopkins, plied.
and the other, the sentiments of J's observations on the theo. Dr. Doddridge, and respecting logical character of many, who the difficulties, which would atsubscribe the xxxix articles, are tend their ministerial inter
course, seems quite needless, But in what way? The answer and affords a very feeble argu- is this ; that while evangelical ment against the proposed plan. ministers in general subscribe to We admit that there is some the Catechism, which will thus real difference of opinion be- become the standard of orthotween the two ministers sup- doxy, some others, as orthodox posed. But that difference will as they, will not judge it proper be managed with a much greater to subscribe. Of course, they degree of Christian candour and will be reputed persons of cormutual forbearance from the rupt sentiments, and theircharaccircumstance of their belonging ter and usefulness will be injurto the same Association, their ed. To this objection there having agreed in the same com- may be a double reply. mon confession of faith, and First. There is no probabilitheir often meeting together for ty, that the fact, here supposed, the advancement of religion. On will occur so frequently, as to this point we add one request. become any considerable inconLet our correspondent, or any venience. In order that the other man, with a mind un- Catechism may be raised to the prejudiced by names, and seri- dignity, and have the influence ously intent upon the great of a public standard of orthothings of religion, peruse the doxy, in the way above mentionvolume of Dr. Hopkins' sermons ed, it must be approved and lately published, and an equal subscribed by the generality of number of Dr. Doddridge's ser- those, who are deemed orthodox. mons on evangelical subjects, Now, if the great body of learnand then judge, whether the ed, orthodox, and pious minisdifference between them were ters, whose judgment, in this so great, as to prevent the most case, cannot be swayed by mo. happy and useful ministerial tives of worldly interest or honintercourse. The feelings and our,are seriously convinced of the the practice of many ministeis, safety, the propriety, and the adwhose difference of opinion is vantage of subscribing “the docthe same with the difference be- rrines of Christianity, as they tween those two authors, abund- are generally expressed in the antly prove the mistake of our Catechism,” it must be candidcorrespondent's argument. We ly supposed, that there are good wish him to inquire, whether in reasons for such a subscription, this matter, he has not over- and that others, who embrace the looked his own excellent rule, same doetrines, are equally can" not to magnify points of dis- did, and devoted, with equal zeal, agreement."
to the great interest of ChrisWe pass by several things, tianity, will be equally satisfied which are open to just animad- as to their duty. If there be a version, and come to the last ob- few exceptions, they will, in all jection offered against the plan probability, be of those, who inof the General Association ; viz. dulge needless scruples, ground“ its being conducive to a wrong less fears and alienations, or estimate of clerical character.” some singularities of thinking Vol. III. No. 10.
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for which no remedy can be pro- usefulness; and should be as revided. In every class of men, luctant, as he, to authorize a plan there are some eccentric charac- injurious to either. But we are ters, who dislike all precise willing that those, who best know rules, however necessary to the what concerns the reputation and common welfare. But shall a usefulness of ministers, should fear of leaving out, or a wish to judge, whether the proposed plan accommodate a small number of of the General Association has such characters, supersede a plan, an inauspicious, threatening aswhich promises extensive utili. pect upon the clergy. If, in some ty to the public ?
rare instances, it may be abused In the second method of reply, to the disadvantage of an individwhile we admit that, now and ual; this is nothing more, than then, an orthodox and pious we are to expect from every minister may not think it best to measure, which is calculated for subscribe, we question the cor- the public advantage. rectness of J's supposition, as to We shall now attend to the its effects upon his reputation and plan, which our correspondent usefulness. If there were no proposes as a substitute for the other way of ascertaining his General Association. Here let theological character, the objec- it be understood, that we object tion would be more just. But to none of the measures, which this is not the case. Not only he proposes, in themselves conhis own congregation, but the sidered. We only aim to ex.congregations in the vicinity, pose them, considered as a suband his brethren extensively, are stitute. One more remark will under advantages to judge of his be made in this place, that reasentiments and character, with- ders may apply it to every par. out any reference to his subscrib- ticular, as they proceed. We ining, or not subscribing. If, troduce the remark, without any from his preaching, conversation, qualifications ; that, contrary to and life, they are led to doubt the what we should have expected, soundness of his faith, they all the objections, which can be would certainly think none the urged against the General Asbetter of him for his subscribing sociation, may be urged with the Catechism. On the other equal, and, in respects; hand, if, by the means abovemen- with superior force, against the tioned, they were satisfied, that proposed substitute. The parhe was sound in the faith, his ticulars of that substitute will not subscribing would make no now be considered. alteration in their opinion. At “ 1, Let those ministers, who first, possibly, they would be believe that men are in a state, surprised, and would hardly be from which they need to be reable to account for it. But they newed by the Holy Spirit, enwould soon learn the reasons of deavour to cultivate a friendly inhis conduct, and his character tercourse.” would stand in its just and proper
Thus J. begins his plan by light. We have as high a re- laying down a creed, which is to gard, as our correspondent man- operate as a standard of clerical ifests, for clerical character and character, and to regulate min
isterial intercourse. When he to go on to a more perfect sysspeaks of “ those who believe” tem ; according to his second the truth specified, he undoubt- article ; " Let them collect the edly means, those who profess to most important points, on which believe it. To determine, with they do agree, and unite for the certainty, who really believe it, defence of them.” Such points is not the work of man. Those of divinity, collected, written ministers, therefore, who pro- down, and subscribed, or in fess to believe this article of some other way agreed to, are faith, “that men are in a state, to constitute their standing creed. from which they need to be re- For the desence of this they are newed by the Holy Spirit,” are to “unite,” or to join themthe ministers who are to culti- selves together in one body. vate a friendly intercourse. But, Here is the essence of a general to fall into J's strain of objec- association. And if the creed, tion ; how “extremely vague” thus formed, should happen to is the language here used ! contain “ the doctrines of ChrisWhat could we know of a min- tianity as they are generally exister's sentiments, from his sub- pressed in the Assembly's Shortscribing such a proposition ? er Catechism,” how would the Men, whose religious opinions plan differ from the plan of the are as distant from each other, General Association, already as the poles, may profess such established ? And what would a belief. We might as well be the advantage of changing have no creed, as this. For the one already established for men may put their own con- another, when no essential difstruction upon the terms used; ference is contemplated ? But or they may profess“ with if the creed to be formed upon mental reservation ;” or they the new plan should happen to may profess to believe “ what contain a system of divinity difthey wish the article were.” ferent from the general system But this one proposition, be contained in the Catechism ; it more or less vague, is the then the new plan of Association proposed creed.
Now if the would, indeed, be very different plan of General Association be from the one lately establishobjectionable on account of its ed, and its adherents would be a comprising a creed, the propos- different set of men. ed substitute is objectionable on On the third article of the the same account. But one new scheme we make only this question remains; viz. whether remark, that it is no improvethe creed, which our Correspon- ment on the plan of the General dent brings forward, be presera- Association, which has the same ble to the Catechism, composed object in view. by the Westminster Assembly “ 4. Though they should not of Divines? The Christian pretend union of sentiment, community must judge.
where it does not exist, let them But J. seems to carry his idea not magnify the points of disof articles of faith still further. agreement. Agreeing at first in the article If the sarcastic implication in above mentioned, ministers are the former part of this article