« הקודםהמשך »
It was, however, a most deplorable mistake in Semler to urge on the reform, (as he would fain have it,) in the manner, and to the extent, which he did. What was the offence of the old theologians ? Was it any real departure from the doctrines of the Reformation? This is not pretended. What then was it? Why, it was mixing a great deal of chaff along with the grain which they presented, and bidding you regard the whole as grain. We might well say, as standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and as professing to receive “the Scriptures as the SUFFICIENT and only rule of faith and practice,” We will not receive the chaff for the wheat. But is it wise, is it becoming, to throw away the whole ? Because those great and good men, who wrote in the manner that has been described, participated in the general faults of their day, as to style, and as to the mode of treating the subjects which they discussed, it is surely not the part of candor, and of just regard to real and distinguished merit and piety, to treat them with indifference, and even with contumely. Such, however, has been the injustice which they have suffered from the present age. No language scarcely is sufficient, to express the contempt which many feel for them.
feel for them. For ourselves, we cherish a state of mind totally diverse from this. All the cumbrous dress, with which they have unwittingly loaded theology, we would throw off, without any scruple. Simple, biblical theology is all we want, and all we ever can have which will be stable. All that rests upon the philosophy and metaphysics of the day, must forever be as fluctuating and inconstant as men are. But in the old theology, with all its faults of manner and its forbidding exterior, many a radical investigation of topics in divinity is to be found; many an overthrow of error is triumphantly achieved ; and much, very much, of a glowing and ardent spirit of piety is also to be found. The reader who does not feel, that the faults of manner are not in a great measure redeemed by such sterling virtues as these, is not prepared to harmonize at all in opinion with us. We must say, that with all their faults, we should be among the last to abandon the use of the works of such Lutheran divines, as have been named above; or of the works of Calvin, Pictet, Turrettin, Van Maestricht, Vitringa, and others, in the Reformed church.*
We are fully alive to their faults. But we are not blind, as to their virtues; and the latter are vastly predominant.
Yet we do rejoice, after all, that God is bringing his church to more simple credence in his word. It cannot be denied, that there is much, in all these old systems, which stands on the simple basis of human philosophy. But they have now gone through the fire, and a great part of the dross is melted away. Most perfectly visible is this, in such a plain, simple, consistent, and * We use the phrase Reformed church as it is used by Mosheim, to designate the Calvinistic churches of Europe, as distinguished from those of the Lutheran persuasion. VOL. I.
scriptural plan of theological truth, as is presented in the Lectures of the most excellent and venerable Dr. Knapp, late of Halle. How different from Gerhard; and yet exhibiting and defending the same great truths! Both loved the same Gospel ; but the one loved philosophy too, and the other shunned it, whenever he undertook to represent the simple system of truth which the Scriptures contain.
Every weak spot, in the whole building of the Reformation, has now been spied out, and assaulted, by the keen-sighted, active, energetic, and powerful enemies of evangelical truth in Germany. It has been, indeed, tried as by fire. The wood, hay, and stubble in it, have, we trust, been burned up; but the solid materials all remain. The God of truth has made these of elements, which resist all assault or decay. He has taught the friends of his Gospel, by the awful castigation which they have received, how dangerous it is for them to mix their philosophy with his word. He will have men whom he has made, and sanctified, and redeemed, to exhibit simple confidence in his declarations, and not to rest on the wandering speculations of imaginary reason, and boasted human philosophy. Sooner or later, in every country, he will chastise those who set up human authority above his word, and who attach principles and nice distinctions to his Gospel, with which he never meant it should be cumbered.
We trust our readers will see where we stand, in regard to old and-new theology. In a strict sense, theology, as true doctrine, is, and ever has been, one and the same. But the modes in which men have developed it, have been very different, at different times. Some of these are much less entitled to approbation than others. For ourselves, the simplest and most scriptural method, as remote as may be from all the reigning metaphysics of the day, (which are perpetually changing,) will ever be the subject of highest approbation. But we should be among the very last to cast away, to despise, or to load with contumely, the older writers of theological systems, because the costume, which they have put on, differs from that of the present age.
We trust, after so ample a declaration on this subject, that we shall not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood. We have only to add, that the awful experience of Germany makes us devoutly wish that the teachers of religion in our country may none of them expose us to a like revolution, by insisting upon mingling wheat and chaff together, and making the whole pass for bona fide wheat. The experiment is too fearful a one. The consequences should be well weighed. The enemies of evangelical truth are active, vigilant, eagle-eyed, all-intent on its overthrow, and some of them are able and learned. We must not expect, that any breach in our walls will remain unespied or unattacked. The closer, then, we keep to the Bible, the more simply we keep there, the better for the cause and the better for us. The whole dispute, then, will soon turn upon one single pivot, as it now does in Germany. And then our ground of contest will be clear, and we shall no longer combat with such as assail us from behind the trees, the bushes, the fences, and from cavities in the earth, so that we scarcely know which way to turn, in order to make the most effectual defence.
We congratulate our readers, and the church of God in this country who are contending for evangelical truth, on the prospect that the question is here soon to be, Whether the Bible is indeed an inspired book, and its decisions final and authoritative in the Christian church? The time has been, when a suggestion of this nature would have brought down a storm of obloquy upon the man, who dared to venture on making it. The time now is, when some of the younger, bolder, more thorough-going, more openhearted young men, and a few of the older ones, do not hesitate, when among the initiated, to answer the question above in the negative; nor do some of them hesitate even to preach what implies a negative, although they are somewhat guarded in their assertions, on account of the yet remaining prejudices, (as they style them,) of their hearers, or at least of a portion of their hearers. These open-hearted men, (whose sincerity we do not feel at all disposed to question, and whom we, on every account, respect far more than we can those who are not bold and honest enough to make an open profession of their belief,) only need a little more of a common centre around which they may rally, some able, and learned, and fearless defender of their cause, to come out with an entirely open face, and avow substantially the Naturalism, which Dr. Wegscheider now teaches at Halle-Wittenberg. Some of the opponents of evangelical truth may strenuously deny this ; they may even raise a hue and cry against us, as slanderers of great and good men. But we have measured our ground here. We know where we stand, what we speak, and whereof we affirm. The journals and periodicals of the day, devoted to pulling down the edifice of evangelical belief, may make an outcry, as they have learned abundantly to do, of late. But we give them a word of caution on this subject; which is, that it is not expedient for them, at least for some of theirs, that we should be obliged to verify what we have said above, by appeal to individual facts. This, they well know, we can do; and we assure them, we shall not fail to do it, in due time.
As to ourselves, we thank God for the hope, that the church in our country is not to go through with the dreadful struggle which she has had in Germany. There are in this region, where error substantially the same with that of the German Neologists has so long prevailed, many redeeming and encouraging circumstances. The existence of a work like the present, called forth not by disputants among the clergy, but by the spontaneous voice of the laity—imperiously called forth, is not the least encouraging circumstance which may lead us to hope, that the flood tide of opposition to the doctrines of the Reformation has reached its height among us, and that it is beginning to ebb. Some few years since, there was only one Congregational church in Boston, that retained the sentiments of the Pilgrims. Now we number eight. Our orthodox brethren, too, of the Episcopal, the Baptist, and the Methodist denominations, have been increased and strengthened. We have other signs of the times, also, which are hopeful. The opponents of evangelical sentiment, in their periodicals, their journals, and their private soirees, are beginning to pour forth, in torrents, the language of contumely and indignation. Nothing exhibits so well the apprehensions which they entertain, as this. We do hope and trust, that these apprehensions are well founded. As immortal beings, and accountable to Him who redeemed us by his blood, we cannot look on with indifference, when the question is pending, Whether his Gospel is to be received or rejected.
Such a question we do, from our inmost hearts, believe to be pending. The opponents of the doctrines which we, who profess to be the strenuous advocates of liberty of conscience, feel bound to defend, will surely not blame us, in the moments of cooler reflection, for standing forth, in defence of all that we hold dear, before God and the world. For them, we cherish no disrespect, no feelings of enmity. As men, as citizens, as men of learning, as ornaments of our country in a civil and social respect, we pay them all that regard which they could wish from us. But when the question is one which concerns our immortal well being, one which essentially respects it; then, we cannot hesitate how to act. We take our stand, fearless of consequences, and commit the issue to Him, by whose blood we have been redeemed.
Our friends, we trust, will all rejoice, that powerful coadjutors are raised
in the native land of the Reformation, to the great cause which we have espoused. Sympathy with them we cannot help cherishing. We are embarked in the same cause. in very many respects, placed in the like circumstances. We have the spirit of unbelief to contend with, although it is, as yet, less open. We feel encouraged by their example; and we doubt not we shall have their sympathies. Let us strive to keep pace with them, in the arduous contest. And if, after all, neither we nor they live to see all the fruits of our toils, and struggles, and sufferings, we shall at least indulge the hope, that our successors, of whose triumph we entertain no doubt, will say of us, when they visit our graves, and call to mind our history, & magnis exciderunt ausis.
THOUGHTS ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION.
To the Editor of the Spirit of the Pilgrims :-Sir,
Lest it should be supposed that your work is intended to be exclusively controversial, which, to some extent, it certainly ought to be, I shall, with your permission, communicate, from time to time, through the medium of your pages, a few reflections under the general title of “ Thoughts on Revivals of Religion.” I do not propose to write in numbers, nor with any reference to system. But, having been favored with some opportunity for observation, I am disposed to employ such intervals of leisure as I may be able to command, in placing upon record such reflections and results of experience as might otherwise be lost.
It is a matter of no small importance that young Christians should understand early the nature and evidences of true religion. Like children, they receive deep and abiding impressions early, which give a complexion to their character and conduct through life. Habitual cheerfulness, without levity, is a source of great personal enjoyment, and an efficient auxiliary to truth in the conversion of men; as a melancholy temperament is one of the greatest calamities, and a fruitful occasion of prejudice and unbelief. Often the abiding temperament of the Christian, as cheerful or otherwise, is determined early, and by the force of circumstances, over which deliberate attention and judicious instruction exerted but little control. A vast amount of suffering may be avoided, and an equal amount of enjoyment and vigorous action may be secured, by just views of Christian character, and of its attendant evidences, in the early stages of the divine life.
On no subject, however, are erroneous opinions more common. There is, from some cause, a general expectation, that religion, at its first commencement in the soul, will be indicated by a degree and distinctness of feeling altogether above what will ordinarily be experienced. It is expected that some things will pass away, which never will pass away; and that some new things will appear, which will never be realized.
it is important, therefore, that young Christians should understand correctly what religion does not do, and what it does accomplish, on finding a place in the soul.
1. Religion accomplishes no change in respect to natural faculties or personal identity.
Something almost like this is often expected. And, when a change is experienced, which cometh not with observation, and whose reality and greatness is evinced by silent tranquility, and