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like the Modern Arminian, while confessing his sin, and trusting in the blood of Christ, could sincerely urge what he believed to be a strong argument against the doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace,1 and that particular statement of the doctrine of sin out of which the doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace issue as necessary corollaries. And his opponent showed his respect for that belief, by entering into the debate, and defending what he believed to be the more exact, and self-consistent, and allcomprehending statement of that same evangelical system. Not with reference, then, to the tenets of Pelagius and Socinus, but to those of Chrysostom and Arminius, as distinguished from those of Augustine and Calvin, do the Congregational churches need a strong symbolical feeling that will identify them yet more thoroughly with the stricter of those twro great systems of theology, whose fraternal (and may it ever be fraternal) conflict and debate constitutes the sum and substance of evangelical doctrinal history.
For Congregationalism, it is agreed upon all sides, does not adopt the Arminian system as its doctrinal basis. The early history of the denomination has shown that the fathers and founders were strictly Calvinistic, in reference to the points at issue between Geneva and Leyden. Says the respected secretary of this Library Association, at the close of a most instructive historical sketch of the Congregational churches in Massachusetts: "Calvinism as a system of religious faith, and Puritanism as a code of morals (the two toughest things that ever entered into the composition of human character) were the original soul and body of these Congregational churches." And this Calvinism, he adds, was " that unadulterated Calvinism which had been filtered of every Arminian particle by the Synod of Dort, whose ablest defender was John Robinson." 2 And no one
1 "Irresistible," it is needless to remark, not in the sense of ndver being resisted by the enmity of the carnal mind (Horn. 8: 7), but in the sense of being able to over/ome, and actually overcoming, the utmost energy and intensity of that resistance.
3 Congregationalism Feb. 12, 1858 These valuable sketches have recently Vol. XV. No. 59. 58
can follow the tremendous cogency of that logic by which the great head of New England theology crushes to its minutest fibre the Arminian theory of indetermination, and the Arminian statement of the doctrine of Original Sin, without perceiving that there was a most profound harmony and agreement between the mind at Northampton, and the minds at Dort and Westminster. The successors of Edwards, New England divines of all varieties, alike repel the charge of Arminianizing proclivities; and, though there may be a difference of opinion respecting the success with which the several schools that have arisen among us have untied the knots, and unravelled the intricacies of the Calvinistic system, there can be no doubt that all of our leading thinkers have intended, and done their utmost, to be true to the historical faith of their denomination.
The influence of the symbol is required to strengthen and perpetuate in Congregationalism this same primitive energy and decision in favor of the stricter of the two systems of evangelical theology. For the creed-statement evinces that there is no logical middle position between Calvinism and Arminianism, and that the choice of an individual or a denomination, consequently, lies between the one or the other. Semi-Pelagianism was a real mid-point between the tenets of Augustine and those of Pelagius; but there is no true intermediate between the system of Arminius and that of Calvin. In the history of doctrine there are sometimes semi-quavers, but demi-semi-quavers never. In marking off the true scientific difference in this way, — in making up the exact issue, — between the two great theological systems of Christendom, that are kindred but not equivalents, the historical creed is an educating force of the highest value to a denomination. It imparts frankness and clearness to all minds within it, and frankness and clearness are twin sisters to generosity and catholicity.
4. Fourthly, a stronger symbolical feeling, operating in Congregationalism, would tend to harmonize its own tht o
been collected, and published with additions, by the Congregational Board of Publication.
logians among themselves. It is the genius and tendency of our highly republican system to call out vigorous and independent thinking. As a consequence, our denomination more than others, has from the beginning been stimulated, and sometimes startled, by the uprising of those salient minds who become the nuclei of parties, and the heads of schools. Minor and somewhat local systems, each in its own time and place, have thus radiated their influence through the denomination, have come more or less into collision with each other,, and have thereby imparted to Congregationalism that varied and somewhat parti-colored aspect which it wears when compared with ecclesiastical bodies in which there is less boldness of speculation. This is the genius of Congregationalism, and we would not transform it if we could. This desire to evince the reasonableness of Christianity, this inquisitive and enterprising temper, this scholasticism of the nineteenth century, is the vitality by which theological science in every age has been built up. But vital force must always have materials to work upon, and ideas to work by. And these we would find, for the theologian, in the denominational symbol. For it is not enough to refer him to the Bible without note or comment. Were he a convicted sinner only, and were it his object to seek his own personal salvation, this direction would be sufficient. But he is a theologian, and as such it is his purpose to construct a great comprehensive system that shall do justice to the entire word of God, — that shall not omit a single truth, and shall place every doctrine in its right relations and proportions,— and therefore he, in the capacity, and exercising the function, of a theologian, must be assisted in this collection and combination of the contents of Revelation by the labor of all his predecessors. To shut up a single individual with the mere text of the Scriptures, and demand that, by his own unassisted studies and meditations upon it, he should during his own life-time build up a statement of the doctrine of the Trinity like that of Nice, of the doctrine of the Person of Christ like that of Chalcedon, of the doctrine of the Atonement like that of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions, of the doctrines of Sin and Predestination like that of Dort and Westminster, would be to require an impossibility. It would be like demanding that a theologian of the year 150 should construct, in his single day and generation, the entire systematic theology of the year 1850; that a Justin Martyr, e. g., should anticipate and perform the entire thinking of a thousand minds and of seventeen hundred years! And yet the substance and staple of all this vast and comprehensive system of divinity was in that Bible which Justin Martyr possessed without note or comment.
The theorizing spirit of the individual divine needs, therefore, to be both aided and guided by symbolism. In proportion as individual thinkers can bear in mind that the church which they honor and love has already earned a definite theological character, and has given expression to its theological preferences in its own' self-chosen symbol, they will come under a unifying influence. Their differences and idiosyncracies, instead of being exaggerated by themselves or their adherents, will be modified, and harmonized, by the central system under which all stand, and to which the whole body has given assent. There will be no loss of mental vigor upon this method, nor of true mental originality, any more than there is when the mathematician's genius is guided, and stimulated, by the axioms and theorems of a science that was wrought out before he was born. He does not copy, but he reproduces, the mathematical processes of the past, within his own intellect, and in and by this reproduction is conducted to fresh and original products that are also in the true scientific line. In what other way will the active and ingenious minds of a denomination be likely to see eye to eye, and the sum-total of their speculations constitute a homogeneous theology, except as they revere the symbolism of their ancestors? It is when differing, and perhaps diverging, minds are called upon to defend the peculiarities of a common denominational faith, that their differences are dissolved. So long as it is an open question what the common faith is, and the thinkers of a denomination are at leisure to cultivate their peculiarities,
so long there must be collision and debate. But the very instant it appears that there is a recognized denominational creed, and it becomes necessary to maintain this creed as vital to the very existence and growth of the denomination, all sincere members of it rally to the defence; and the tendency of defences, as the whole history of Apologies proves, is to harmonize and unite.1
5. Fifthly, and finally, Congregationalism needs a stronger symbolical feeling, in order to success in its present endeavor to extend its denominational limits.
The two forms of evangelical Christianity which are to spread over the United States are the Calvinistic .and the Arminian. The history of the church upon this Western continent will be substantially the same with its history in the Eastern. One portion of American Christendom will demand the more exact and self-consistent statement of Biblical doctrine, while the other portion will be content with that less precise, and comprehensive, enunciation of it, which emphasizes, indeed, with evangelical energy the doctrine of forgiveness through the blood of Christ, but rejects the predestination and irresistible grace that secures the vital acceptance of the Gospel provision. Throughout the land, there will be those, on the one hand, who, in the phrase of Edward Irving, " will rest content with the infant state of Christ, and see no more in the rich treasures of God's word than a free gift to all men, shrinking back with a feeling of dismay from such parts of the sacred volume as favor a system of doctrine suited to the manly state of Christian life;" and those on the other, who " will not be content evermore to dwell in the outer court of the holy temple, but who resolve for their soul's better peace and higher joy to enter into the holy and most holy place, which is no longer veiled
1 When the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction was attacked by Duns Scot us, Thomas Aquinas rushed to its defence, and in so doing substantially retracted positions which he himself had previously taken; because he now saw, as he did not before, that it was impossible to defend the faith of the church if he retained then. And the whole history of Calvinism proves that it has been enunciated with most unanimity, and defended with greatest power, when the Calvinistic divines were hardest pressed by their Arminian opponents.