Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

sin now universally discovered in the race, points to a higher and more remote source: then we may avail ourselves of the scriptures as a history of man, and from the fact ascertained of Adam, the progenitor of the whole race, that he sinned, ascribe some remote cause of the success of temptation in the world, to the effect, that the inletting of sin has had, through the general law of derivation from parentage, on the original nature of all, to render it more susceptible to the power of temptation. But it is clear, that the sin originates not in the direct tendency of the original laws of nature themselves. Chalmers observes : "It is from the native and proper tendency of aught which is made, that we conclude as to the mind and disposition of the maker; and not from the actual effect, when that tendency has been rendered abortive, by the extrinsic operation of some disturbing force on an else goodly and well-going mechanism." We are, therefore, still warranted to hold to the indications of goodness and righteousness in the Creator's ordinations for man, notwithstanding the actual perversions of them by man. But if it is objected, that the perversion may amount to an evil so great, and to such a defeat of all good on the part of mankind, as, for aught that appears from the light of nature to the contrary, to render the whole plan of God abortive in its issues, and irreconcilable with goodness and perfection, then we remark:

Thirdly, The indications which exist in the system, that the original ordinations are made still to subserve the purpose of man's welfare, give ground of hope, that there are still some good issues in reserve for man. Man is spared, though he sins. He is treated with patient forbearance. Conscience lists up still its remonstrances against continuance in sin, and has not fallen to the one and sole office of inflicting the scorpion stings of remorse. Compassion too has waked up to her office in the breast of man, and has its exercise in alleviating the evils come on the world by sin. These are indications of mercy. They are such as have excited earnest expectation among the heathen in every age, and have placed them in the posture, as Paul has represented them, of watching these harbingers, and waiting earnestly for the arrival, of that very revelation of adopting mercy which is made in the word of God. There seems an attestation in nature, even among the heathen, that there is forgiveness with God. Nor has any one in his darkness been warranted at any age to say of the world, that there are not, in some part of it, known ordinations of recovering grace, and a method of pardon published from heaven to the guilty. But if it is said, that notwithstanding the indications of recovering grace, there is still the progress of ruin going forward and the issue remains uncertain, then we remark:

Fourthly, That all the presumptions arising from righteousness, benevolence and mercy in the ordinations of God, still give ground for the faith, that he is aiming, in the wide plan of his moral kingdom, at the highest good attainable. We cannot indeed take any post of observation whence we can descry the issues of the moral kingdom of God, for it may embrace a universe of beings beyond this world, and extend to eternity. Even in this world the generations to come may yet be visited with such abundant grace, in such countless myriads, through such periods of time, as to make the ages of preparation for it sink and fade away. But our ignorance is not to shake our confidence in the principles we know, or to hinder the conclusions we derive from them for the character of God as aiming, in the methods of bounty, righteousness, and love, at the highest good attainable.

We conclude, therefore, that, of the two hypotheses which have been started, as possible, for vindicating the goodness of God in the permission of sin-one, that it is the necessary means of the greatest good ; the other, that it is the incidental result of means adopted to secure the highest good_all the facts in the case go against the former, and favor the probability of the latter, as being the truth ; and that, notwithstanding the storm and tempest which is beating here upon this part of the universal kingdom of God, the result in the great harvest will show, that the Being who is enthroned in the might and riches of the universe is garnering up into his kingdom the precious and everlasting products of a wisdom, power, and love, which are boundless, and which were originally combined in counsel, to devise and execute a plan for the highest good.

We had intended, in conclusion, to show the importance of a thorough study of Natural Theology to the ministers of the gospel ; but shall content ourselves with presenting a single extract from the concluding chapter of the work before us on the defects and uses of Natural Theology: only remarking first, in conclusion of our notice of the author, that his peculiar power and impassioned eloquence are pre-eminent throughout the work:

'It is surely of importance to know that the process of Christianization has a clear outset in the moral and rational principles of our nature—and that there is a natural theology among the people which may serve as a harbinger for the higher lessons of the gospel. It is by this natural theology of theirs that the first steps of the process are made good—that a hearing is gained, and attention is drawn to the verisimili

tudes of the Christian Revelation. It is by the evidence of the gospel itself that these verisimilitudes brighten into verities. It is natural theology which accomplishes the first-it is the proper evidence of Christianity which accomplishes the second part of the process. But mainly it is the internal evidence. The great majority of our people have no access to the other. They are strangers to all that scholarship and criticism and historical investigation, which serve to illustrate the outward credentials of the book. But they need be no strangers to the contents of the book—and we will not anticipate how it is that they discern the signatures of a divinity there-or how from the simple apparatus of a bible and a conscience, that light is struck out which guides the peasant safely to Heaven. It is saying much for the importance of natural theology that it does contribute to a result so glorious—nor let us longer speak of nature's light as if it had gone into utter extinctionwhen in fact the two great instrumental causes for the Christianity of all our cottages, are the light of nature and the self-evidencing power of the bible. Vol. II. pp. 386, 387.

ART. IX.-The TROUBLES IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

The Catastrophe of the Presbyterian Church, in 1837, in

cluding a full View of the recent Theological Controversies in New England; by ZEBULON CROCKER, Delegate from the General Association of Connecticut to the General Assembly of 1837. pp. 300. 12mo. New Haven: B. & W. Noyes. 1838.

At the late hour at which this book has come into our hands, it is impossible for us to give so full an account of it as we might otherwise attempt. The author, having been an eye and ear witness of the strange proceedings in the General As. sembly of the Presbyterian church, last May,--proceedings which particularly affected the relations of the General Assembly with the body which he represented, -felt himself bound to give some attention to the history of the plan of union," in its origin, in its operation, and in its abrogation, and in some authentic way to communicate the leading facts of this history to the public. As he pursued the last branch of the subject, he found himself necessarily drawn into the history of those recent theological discussions in New England, which have resulted in bringing a small junto of Congregational ministers into a VOL. X.

43

close alliance with those men in the Presbyterian church, who taking advantage of an accidental majority in the General Assembly, have violently, and in contempt not only of the spirit, but of all the forms of justice, expelled from the communion of that body about six hundred churches, whose only crime, in truth, was their New England origin, and their New England sympathies. The outline of the work may be sketched as follows :

—The author, having described the plan of union, its design, the nature of the compact, and the benefits which it has conferred upon a large portion of the United States, examines the ostensible reasons for its abrogation as set forth in the abrogating resolution, and comes to the conclusion that the true reasons for the abrogation must be found, not upon the face of the resolution, but in the various causes which have lately operated to change the views and party connections of certain portions of the Presbyterian church. He goes back to the origin of the Presbyterian organization in this country, and shows that from the first the organization has included discordant elements, and that the principle of the plan of union, the principle of meeting Congregationalists half-way, has been the characteristic spirit of the American Presbyterian church from the beginning, resisted however with various success by the “old side" party of a hundred years ago, and the "old school" party of the present time. The Presbyterian church has ever drawn its best growth and prosperity from New England, and yet it has ever included a party opposed to New England. Within a few years past, various causes have conspired to increase the strength of that party, and to give new violence to its prejudices. These causes are, first, the recent agitations in different parts of the country against slavery, which have the two-fold effect of awakening strong jealousy in the South against New England, the old home of freedom, and of recommending to the confidence of the South those who in their conservative zeal for whatsoever things are old, are not so scrupulous as they might be about whatsoever things are just, pure, lovely, and of good report ;-secondly, the fear of encroachment upon the supposed prerogatives of the church in her distinctive character," which inspires not a few with stronger dislike of New England, because New England men befriend the Home Missionary Society;thirdly, the judicial proceedings in various quarters, which, originating in a real difference of theological views, have had the effect of reviving the rancor of old prejudices ;-and, fourthly, the late theological controversies of New England, which have been

used as a means of spreading panic wherever diligent misrepresentation had any chance of success.

Mr. Crocker occupies only a few pages with the consideration of the first and second of these causes. The third is considered more at length; and upon the fourth, as might reasonably be expected, the history goes into details. It is this part of the work which will probably be found most interesting to the majority of readers, and most useful. The history of the “New Haven controversy," from Professor Fitch's "Two Discourses on the nature of Sin," in the year 1826, down to President Tyler's Letters to Dr. Witherspoon in 1837,—is given with as much minuteness as is consistent with a due regard for the patience of the reader. No man of ordinary candor and intelligence, who has been imposed upon by the misrepresentations so studiously propagated, respecting the “New Haven Theology,” can read this volume, and not be, in some measure at least, disabused.

We have read the work, hastily indeed, but not without care ; and we do not hesitate to speak confidently of its accuracy, not only because we know the author to be an accurate man, but also because we have some familiarity with the matters in question. The author has defined very carefully the propositions which have been successively debated during the progress of the controversy, and he has shown as minutely

as was consistent with the historical nature of the work, the line of argument by which the propositions have been assaulted or defended.

Not only is it important for ministers and theologians to understand something of the history and merits of "the New Haven controversy," but in many places it is becoming necessary for the whole body of the church to have the means of knowing what has been said, and what has not been said, at New Haven, on the one hand, and by Doctors Tyler and Woods, and their associates, on the other hand. For this reason the book before us is particularly suited to the times. Any man who chooses may now see the truth, in relation to the New Haven controversy, clearly and fairly stated, without traveling through a long series of dusty pamphlets, and year after year of monthly and quarterly periodicals.

For a specimen of the work, we will give a few passages from some of the last pages:

'The letters [Dr. Tyler's] are also calculated to give a false impression, in respect to the whole system of the New Haven divines. Ministers five hundred or a thousand miles distant, on reading them, would very naturally conclude, that Dr. Taylor and his friends are Arminians,

6

« AnteriorContinuar »