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so strong a feeling of the need of instant repentance, as the one of an opposite stamp. The wicked will listen to the reasonings of the one with perfect equanimity of temperament, while the exhibitions of the other vibrate upon all the chords of emotion within them, causing them to send forth the jarring notes of hatred, alarm, remorse, or other signs of a soul ill at ease with itself and its God. And, in the case of many, this tumult of the passions issues in a repentance not to be repented of.
Were ever sinners pricked in the heart like the three thousand under Peter's sermon, by that preaching whose design is to prove that men are not totally morally depraved? Do those who enter our towns and villages to expatiate on the glories of heaven as the certain lot of all men, whether righteous or wicked, ever produce any strong impulse among the vicious towards a reformation of life? Does the extortioner leave the place of such harangues to restore his ill-gotten wealth, and the thief to return his embezzled goods? Do those, who have hated and injured each other, retire to make reparation of their mutual wrongs? Or, do the pious feel themselves stirred up to a more rigid censorship upon their own conduct, or the virtuous to make more exalted attainments in goodness? Are those classes, also, who are fond of dwelling on the perfectibility of man, on the virtues which adorn human nature, and on our inherent competency to meet every claim of law and justice, so that God could ask no other condition of his everlasting favor than we are able to furnish in ourselves, at all distinguished for their success in reforming the vicious, and in bringing them into communion with holiness and heaven? Is it common for the wicked to cry out under their preaching, "Men and brethren, what must we do?" We leave the answer of these inquiries to those who have looked with a candid and dispassionate eye to the various phases, true and false, which Christianity has presented, or is now presenting to the world.
And besides, how is the convert affected by drinking in these latitudinarian views? Does he not begin to feel that there is no cause for all the alarm which had afflicted him while he was under serious awakenings; that his guilt is not so great as he had supposed, and that so much praying, so much care in keeping his own heart, and in avoiding the common amusements of the world, is being righteous over
much, and submitting to unreasonable austerities? And when this is the case with him, does he not become dead to the church and to the cause of Christ, if not an open infidel and a confirmed profligate? If we should present before our view sober facts and evidence on this point, we should be cured of the delusion of supposing, that our doctrines do nothing towards moulding our characters for good or for bad.
We ask again, did piety ever flourish among that people, where the prerogatives of man were urged to the extreme of trenching upon those of the Almighty? Set before your view those religionists who have even gone too far in advocating the divine sovereignty and decrees, together with those who have gone too far the other way, in guarding the free-will of man, and then strike the balance between the two, to see which has the most real piety and Christian worth. Take the Scotch Christians, who have been distinguished for their advocacy of personal, particular, and unconditional election, and where do you find a purer morality, or a higher order of general excellence? Then go to the hardy pilgrims of New England, who were equally tenacious of the same views, and say, whether, in these latter ages, a more apostolic race, so far as morals are concerned, can be found. Their noble souls could bow neither to impiety nor oppression. The storms of an unknown ocean, the war-whoop of savage clans thirsting for their blood, and all the horrors of a boundless wilderness, three thousand miles from the graves of their ancestors, had no terrors for them, compared with the sacrifices of conscience, of duty, and of piety to God. The blandishments of vice and the seductions of pleasure were hunted as vipers from their infant polity; and virtue, and piety, and immortal hope, and unquenchable love of freedom, were the stars that glittered in their banner, inviting them to the greatest of all achievements, the conquest of self and sin.
Where can equal specimens of moral worth be found among those who are always more jealous of man's prerogatives than of God's? Is it among the Neologists of Germany? Alas! in that land, if journalists may be credited, the morals of Luther have expired with his orthodoxy. Is it among the formal Arminians of England? No: for who is ignorant of the fact, that the free-will of Archbishop Laud tended to corrupt that church which the Calvinism of Archbishop Cranmer had served to purify? Who will not accord to the
Huguenots of France, those exemplary converts to the rigid creed of the apostle of Geneva, a purer morality and a more elevated piety, than to those who hated their doctrines, and drenched the soil with their sainted blood? Oh, then it was that the lights of France were wantonly extinguished in obscure darkness, and the nation given up to the disastrous pursuit of an ignis fatuus, in the form of papal superstition, or the more disorganizing spirit of modern infidelity. Then it was that the mine was sprung, and the train laid, and the match affixed, which terminated in the greatest political convulsion that the world ever saw, a convulsion in which six millions of lives were sacrificed by an avenging Providence, in fulfilment of the decree, that those who shed the blood of the saints shall have blood to drink, because they are worthy. Every where, a falling off from the faith once delivered to the saints is followed by a corresponding decline of those graces and virtues which are elementary to Christian morality.
We must not be understood to say, that the extremes of election and decrees are necessary to the preservation of a pure Christian morality. No: but we do say, that where a disposition to lower down the prerogatives of God, in order to build up some scheme about the freedom of the human will, predominates, there the right arm of practical religion will, sooner or later, be paralyzed. Let God be true, and every man a liar. We must tenaciously adhere to those views which exalt God as the absolute sovereign of the universe, or we shall extinguish the motives to reverence, trust, submit to, and adore him, as God; and the extinguishment of those motives will prove the grave of all that is lovely and of good report. Paul's answer to the caviller about free-will is sufficient; "Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?"
Thus, we trust, it has sufficiently appeared, that there is no foundation on which to build up a character adorned by the distinguished features of Christian morals, after we have lost our hold upon its cardinal doctrines. They may, indeed, appear to flourish for a time after the individual or community has become essentially corrupt in doctrine, just as a man from a healthy region will, for a time, retain his freshness and vigor in a land of pestilence and death. But so soon as the malaria of error has done its fell work, the basis of a healthful piety will give way, and moral disease and putrefaction will
Christian Union; or an Argument for the Abolition of Sects. By ABRAHAM VAN DYCK, Counsellor at Law. New York. 1835.
Thoughts on Evangelizing the World. By THOMAS H. SKINNER. New York. 1836.
Fraternal Appeal to the American Churches, together with a Plan for Catholic Union on Apostolic Principles. By S. S. SCHMUCKER, D. D., Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in the Theological Seminary of the General Synod of the Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Penn. New York and Andover. 1838.
Union; or the Divided Church made One. By the Rev. JOHN HARRIS, Author of " Mammon," "The Great Teacher," &c. Boston. 1838.
Religious Dissensions; their Cause and Cure; a Prize Essay. By PHARCELLUS CHURCH, Author of "Philosophy of Benevolence." New York. 1838.
The Principle of Christian Union. By WILLIAM HAGUE. Boston. 1841.
Ir might be generalizing somewhat too far, to liken these works on Christian union to the figs of Jeremiah. The good are not so very good, but they have their faults; and none. are so very bad, but they have some redeeming traits. They are not selected for the purpose of a separate and particular review, but only as rather favorable specimens of the multitude of similar and worse productions, which, in the form of books, sermons, reviews, pamphlets, and newspaper articles, are swarming like locusts upon us; professedly for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. So great is the variety of principles, doctrines, and sentiments with which they abound, that he who should collect them all, would find that his net, like that in the parable, had caught
things of every kind, the good to be gathered into vessels, but the bad to be cast away. Those which have for their object to affect the heart, rather than the understanding, to promote and cultivate fraternal love, rather than to prescribe plans for a general union of religious sects, are more unexceptionable in their principles than the others; and, in the present state of the church, quite as feasible in the ends they propose to accomplish.
The unhappy consequences of sectarian jealousy and strife on the prosperity of the Redeemer's kingdom, sufficiently explain why the subject attracts so much attention among Christians. It requires no great wisdom to understand, that the division of the mystical body of Christ into so many segments, is a real and positive injury to the progress of true religion. Neither the increased zeal consequent upon division, nor the greater vigilance in matters of faith and practice which it begets, will compensate for its attendant evils. All spiritual divisions and contentions, as well as those which are carnal, have their origin in man's evil and wayward disposition; in his ignorance, his pride, or something else on his part; and so man, not God, is answerable for the disastrous effects which ensue. It is a vicious and a dangerous doctrine which many advocate, that some men are wisely designed by their Creator for one church, and some for another; that all sects are only so many different regiments, each occupying its appropriate station in contending against the common enemy; that some were born to be Calvinists, and others Arminians or Arians, some high Churchmen, and others Independents, and cannot honestly be any thing else than what they now are. There is little philosophy in such a doctrine; it is foolish logic, and very wretched theology. They might as well reason that some were wisely designed to be demagogues, traitors, or tyrants. They might argue with even more speciousness, because they would themselves furnish living illustrations of the theory, that some men are born to be lax theologians and latitudinarian divines. And since neither reason nor revelation account for the schisms, heresies, and sects in the church, by referring them to the divine purposes, those who teach such a doctrine should always be careful to give their authority, and preface their burden with, Thus saith Beelzebub