« AnteriorContinuar »
birth, he will continue to exercise upon us forever his unrelenting and omnipotent hatred. Whatever may be the worth of true religion, it surely does not follow, that this system of blasphemy must be also of great value, and very beneficial in its effects. Yet he must be a very ignorant, or a very bold man, who will affirm, that the doctrines last stated, have not been taught, and very extensively too, as fundamental doctrines of Christianity."-p. 7.
That no one of his readers may be in doubt for whom this distorted caricature was intended, the author has been careful to place the name of the object at the bottom of the picture. On the next page he writes:
"When you are satisfied in regard to its faith, you may then examine the scheme of doctrines developed in the Institutes of Calvin, or rather the same scheme, as it appears perfected in the works of the Westminster Assembly. If any one wholly unacquainted with our religion were told that this was Christianity; and that the system taught in these books, was to be found in another collection of books, called the New Testament, I believe his surprise would be uncontrollable and unimaginable, when he came to read the New Testament itself, and to understand what is actually taught there."—p. 8. Our readers, we are sensible, must be shocked at the spirit which is manifested in these extracts;-especially as it is so diverse from the calm, holy, heavenly spirit which breathes in the passages before quoted from the Remarks on the Internal Evidence for the Truth of Revealed Religion.' The author of that treatise, seems to have imbibed the spirit of his Divine Master. His soul is purified and elevated by his views of revealed truth, and he gives his readers a sympathetic and delightful sense of the same serenity and elevation of soul. We seem to ascend to an elevated region, where we enjoy delightful and glorious prospects, and breathe a pure and refreshing air,-far removed from the earth-born feelings and party spirit of angry controversy. From this elevation, it is painful to descend to the level of an author, who can give such a representation as we have just quoted of the sentiments of those whom he opposes, and then brand what he declares to be their opinions, as a "system of blasphemy." Even common candour and civility should have restrain
ed him, from first distorting, and then stigmatizing as blasphemy,— doctrines which have been received by a very large proportion of those, who, in every age, have been considered the most intelligent and devout christians, and by not a few who are acknowl edged to have been at once the ornaments, and the benefactors of their species, and which were prized by our own learned and pious ancestors, as an inestimable treasure, for which--that they cheerfully sacrificed all earthly comforts in the settlement of this might enjoy it in peace, and deliver it to their posterity-they
country,-doctrines which were not lightly adopted, nor received on the strength of abstract reasonings, but as the result of patient, anxious, and prayerful examination of God's word,—doctrines finally, whose benign and holy influence has been evinced, not merely in a few individuals of distinguished intelligence and piety, but in whole communities, who have received them as the truth of God. So harsh an attack on such a system of doctrines, must have been the result of violent hostility. If any Calvinist,if even an anonymous pamphleteer, in defending Calvinism, should thus violently attack Unitarianism, as "a system of blasphemy," would not the mouths of the whole party be opened with accusations of 'bigotry,' intolerance,' want of 'candour,' of liberality,' of charity? And is such conduct, we ask, less reprehensible, because it is one of themselves who is guilty of it? Surely, the severity of reproof, which would be deserved by any religious controversialist, who should attempt in this manner to excite a prejudice against the doctrines which he attacks, might be expected to fall with double weight upon one, the inconsistency of whose conduct with his boasted professions, doubly provokes rebuke.
But the spirit of the preceding extracts, and of other passages in this pamphlet, is less painful than the representation contained in them, of doctrines, which the author says, have been "very extensively taught as fundamental doctrines of Christianity." Did not the author know, when he penned this passage, that "this system of blasphemy" never was taught, or professed 'extensively, as fundamental doctrines of Christianity?'-that there never was a sect, or body of men, denominated Christian, who would not reject it as false and injurious, if presented to them as their creed?-that there never was an individual author, of any celebrity or influence, who ever taught, or undertook to defend such doctrines? This, at least, he must have known, that neither the Institutes of Calvin,' nor the works of the Westminster Assembly,' nor any of the protestant Confessions of Faith, and, least of all, the confessions of those to whom he intended it should be applied, contain doctrines which are fairly represented by any clause of the foregoing extract. How are we then astonished, when to this injurious representation, the author has the effrontery to add-' he must be a very ignorant, or a very bold man, who will affirm that the doctrines last stated, have not been taught, and very extensively too, as fundamental doctrines of Christianity.' The boldness, or the ignorance plainly belongs to the man, who could bring such a charge against an extensive class of the Christian community-a charge which cannot be substantiated by fair quotations from any standard author, or any pub
lic confession of faith. Even Toplady, who cannot be considered as the organ or representative of any body of Christians, and whose work seems recently to have disturbed the mind of Mr. Norton,-though he expresses himself, often with carelessness and inaccuracy, and almost always with too much warmth,-would still have rejected such a representation of his sentiments, with an indignation, similar to that with which he repelled a like representation of his antagonist Wesley. We are often compelled to complain, that the opponents of Calvinism, never fairly attack its doctrines, as they are stated by Calvin himself, or exhibited in the creeds of the churches, or the writings of the authors which bear his name. We are sometimes disposed to wonder,-if this system of doctrines be really so absurd, and dangerous, and 'blasphemous' too, as is represented,-why it cannot be shown to be so, without resorting to misrepresentation,-and why those who undertake to expose its enormities, are not content sometimes to hold it up, just as it is actually professed and believed. But in the present instance, there is no room for such wonder. The representation is but too evidently made with deliberation and care, and is skilfully adapted to produce the effect intended. It is in no degree the result of mistake. The spirit which dictated the passage, we are pained to say, is the obvious and sufficient cause of the representation it contains.'
Such is the attack which has been made upon me in the Spectator. I now proceed to give an exact copy of the letter which I addressed to the editor. A few notes have been added, con. taining additional authorities and illustrations, which are included in brackets.
Cambridge, July 8th, 1822.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR.
A few days since, I took up in the Boston Athenæum, a number of the Christian Spectator, containing the continuation of a review of a tract written by me, entitled Thoughts on True and False Religion. In turning over the leaves of this review, my eye was caught by a charge against me, made in very coarse language, of having wilfully and knowingly misstated the doctrines of Calvinism. I have not at present the number of the Spectator by me, nor if I had, should I think it necessary to quote the passage, of which I have fairly stated the purport and character. It stands according to a note which I have made on pages 301
A charge of this sort, you may perhaps know, is not esteemed a light matter by men of correct feelings; nor is it ever made by such, in the most guarded terms, upon light or insufficient grounds. That in this particular instance, it is one not likely to affect my character or my peace, and that I am not absolutely required by justice to myself to take notice of it, are circumThey
stances which do not lessen the offence of the reviewer. show only that his ability to injure is not so strong as his inclination. I have, however, thought proper to take notice of it; and it being directed against my moral character, I have a claim of right and justice to be heard in reply to it in the publication in which it was made. I therefore request you to insert this communication in the next number of the Spectator. That I may not be misunderstood, I will state explicitly, that I expect the whole of this letter to be inserted without alteration or omission. The passage referred to by the reviewer, as a gross misstatement of the doctrines of Calvinism, is the following:
"True religion is an inestimable blessing, because it teaches, that God is the everlasting Friend and Father of his creatures; a God of infinite goodness. But what shall we say of a religion which teaches, that he has formed men, so that they are by nature wholly inclined to all moral evil; that he has determined in consequence to inflict upon the greater part of our race the most terrible punishments; and that unless he has seen fit to place us among the small number of those chosen out of the common ruin, he will be our eternal enemy and infinite tormentor, that having hated us from our birth, he will continue to exercise upon us forever his unrelenting and omnipotent hatred. Whatever may be the worth of true religion, it surely does not follow, that this system of blasphemy must be also of great value, and very beneficial in its effects. Yet he must be a very igno rant or a very bold man, who will affirm, that the doctrines last stated, have not been taught, and very extensively too, as fundamental doctrines of Christianity."
The reviewer, it may be observed in the first place, does not attempt to show in what respects the doctrines of Calvinism are here misstated. He specifies no error. It shall be my business to shew that there is none. I have not in the passage quoted asserted that the doctrines in question are doctrines of Calvinism. I do now assert it; and in proving the truth of this assertion, shall prove the truth of what I have said, concerning the extent to which these doctrines have prevailed. In order to prevent all quibbling about the word, I wish it to be understood, that when I say these are doctrines of Calvinism, I mean that they either make a part of the system, or are obviously and inti
mately connected with it, and have been avowed and defended as such, by Calvinistic writers of the highest authority with their own body.
The propositions contained in the passage which has been quoted, are the following.
1. God has formed men.
2. They are so formed, or in other words, God has so formed them, that they are by nature wholly inclined to all moral
3. That in consequence of this nature, God inflicts, upon those who remain as they were thus formed to be, the most terrible punishments; that he will be their eternal enemy and infinite tormentor; that having hated them from their birth, he will continue to exercise upon them forever his unrelenting and omnipotent hatred.
4. That he has chosen some to be saved out of the common ruin.
5. That the number of these is comparatively small.
If I had not been in some degree acquainted with theological controversy, and especially with theological controversy, as it has been of late carried on by some writers in our own country, I might have felt surprise, that any one should have confidence to deny that these are doctrines of Calvinism. If any reply should be attempted to this communication, I expect it to be stated explicitly, which of them it is pretended is not. In the mean time, I shall show that they are all doctrines of Calvinism. In doing this, I shall use but few authorities. Those however will be of the highest character. I might, if the case required it, produce an indefinite number of others.
With regard to the first proposition, that God has formed men, or that God is our Creator; that whatever we are when we come into existence, he forms us such as we are, I trust there will be no dispute. I suppose no one will deny it to be a doctrine of Calvinism, that God is the Creator of men.
The second proposition is; that when formed or created by God, men are so formed, that they are wholly inclined to all moral evil.
So says the Westminster Assembly's Larger Catechism.
The Fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery' ***** · The sinfulness of that estate whereinto men fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness, wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, .disabled, and made opposite to all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that New Series--vol. IV.