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rianism has now to struggle for Jonathan Edwards, at Northampher existence in that very city ton, adopted a contrary opinion, where, twenty years ago, she sat “that unconverted persons, consienthroned without one to dispute dered as such, had a right in the her usurped power, or to contro. sight of God, or by his appointvert her lying oracles.
ment, to the sacrament of the Lord's It will now be necessary to in- Supper; that therefore it was their quire into the causes of the defec- duty to come to that ordinance, tion of so many Congregational though they know they had no churches from the faith of their true goodness or gospel holiness." forefathers, which may be divided This monstrous notion at first nainto two classes, the primary and turally excited much opposition, the secondary causes.
as contrary to the principles and The former consist of
practice of almost all the CongreTheir virtual abandonment of gational churches of both countries, some distinctive principles of Con- and Dr. Increase Mather, of Bog: gregational Church polity.
ton, publicly controverted the sub1.-Respecting the character of ject with him. Mr. Stoddard's inchurch members.
Auence was, however, sufficient to The declaration of the Savoy con- induce the church at Northampference, (1658), describes the mem ton to act upon it, and by their bers of Congregational churches, example it gradually spread “ To be saints by calling, visibly throughout New England. manifesting and evincing, (in and The tendency of this melancholy by their profession and walking) concession may be illustrated in the their obedience unto that calling history of the church at Northampof Christ, and known to each ton itself: Mr. Stoddard sowed the other by their confession of the seed, but
Jonathan Edwards faith wrought in them by the power reaped a bitter harvest, for he was of God, declared by themselves or involved by itin public controversy otherwise manifested."
and finally removed from that be. This British definition of Con- loved and distinguished sphere of gregational church members had bis usefulness. Dr. Hopkins inbeen anticipated by the trans-at- forms us, that Mr. Edwards found lantic brethren-for the Synod, of thatsome “young people, members Cambridge, New England, formed of the church, had books in their of the elders and messengers of possession which they employed the churches in 1648, declared in to promote lascivious and obscene its platform of discipline, that a discourse amongst them, and that Congregational church consists of they had been heard by many to a company of “ saints by calling, talk obscenely." This matter was that is, such as understand the brought before the church, but principles of religion, and together when it was found that it affected with their profession of repentance almost all the considerable famiand faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, lies in the town, there was not holy walk in blameless obedience to zeal enough in the community his commands."*
to exercise discipline on the offenThe Rev. Mr. Stoddard, the ders, and when Mr. Edwards was grandfather and predecessor of led to examine, and by the press
par* Vide Neale's New England, Vol. II. ties gave themselves no rest until page 645.
they had removed him from his
office amongst them. Now if the the parish carried the matter before latitudinarian views of Mr. Stod- the supreme court, and the judge dard had generally introduced un- determined, not only that the elecverted
persons into the fellow- tion of the parish should stand ship of the New England churches, against that of the church, but that
that they had not principle all the property of the church enough to administer discipline in should likewise be at the disposal cases like that just cited, it must of the parish, equally irrespective be obvious that there was little of the will of that body. Enormous chance that errors, which were in- injustice, truly, and Aagrant law! troduced with subtlety, and sanc- but a fit employment for Unitarian tioned by splendid names, would artifice, and a fit recompense for meet from individuals, who had no Congregational inconsistency !"* experimental knowledge of the Unitarianism is too well known truth in their own hearts, that to be opposed to all serious reliprompt detection and zealous resis- gion, not to secure the suffrages tance which their enormity de- of the worldly, the sceptical, and manded.
the indifferent, and thus the churches, 2. Respecting the election of Pas- by admitting the inhabitants to tors.
share the franchise with them, are The pilgrim fathers were anxious often driven out from the places in to provide for the religious instruc- which their forefathers worshiption of the people, and therefore ped, and yield the building and its enacted, that there should be a revenues to a more liberal system ! minister in every town, that the Thus it is obvious that two great church should choose him as their principles of Congregational church pastor, and that if the majority of government have been virtually. inhabitants approved the choice, abandoned, the assured piety of he was to be maintained by the those admitted to fellowship, and town; but if they would not ac the exclusive right of the church cept the minister which the church to elect its own pastors, and this had chosen, the elders or messen. abandonment bas been the primary gers of five neighbouring churches cause of the success of the Unitawere to be called in, and if they rian heresy amongst them. approved of him, his election was Amongst the secondary causes of confirmed, and he
be this melancholy defection, we canmaintained as the town minister. * not but mark, This gave
the choice to the church, 1. The neglect of Examination with whom amongst consistent before Ordination. Nothing can congregationalists, the townsmen or surely be more reasonable in itself conregation concurring therein, it than that candidates for the sacred will always rest. Laws or usages office should be examined as to unfavourable to the elective power their fitness for the great work on of the churches, have, however, been which they propose to enter. The subsequently introduced, which fathers of New England were exhave become the subject of judicial ceedingly strict with respect to appeal and decision. “ At a town those whom they ordained, examincalled Dedham, the church having ing them not only in doctrinal elected an orthodox minister, the points of theology, with respect to parish elected a Unitarian, to cases of conscience, and their abiwhich the church not submitting, lity to defend Christianity and its
* Neale's Abridgement of the Laws of * Hinton's United States, Vol. II. page New England, page 698.
doctrines, but with respect to their will be very difficult to preach the own personal and heart religion. truth faithfully to the hearts and Zeal for what are called the rights consciences of men.* of conscience and religious free 3. Indifference to Religious Sentidom, caused these ancient exami- ment.—The favourite maxim of the nations, however, to be neglected latitudinarian party is, “no matter and denounced. Had they been what a man believes, sincerity is maintained, Unitarian candidates all we have a right to demaud.” would have been detected and re- Thus many professed to care little fused, but through this false libe or nothing about doctrines, being rality they crept in unawares.* persuaded that
2. Contempt for experimental Picty.—God was pleased to bless
“ He can't be wrong whose life is in the
right.” New England with a glorious revival of religion from 1734 to In 1809, a minister of Boston, ad1744, under the ministry of Messrs. dressing the people of his future J. Edwards, G. Whitfield, and G. charge on the day of his ordination, Tennant. This was greatly opposed, said, “ You will expect from me by some from honest but prejudiced no detail of my speculative opiviews, but by many from concealed nions. They are really of too little batred of the doctrines of the Cross, consequence to be brought forward The controversy this occasioned at a period so interesting as the was mischievous. Many of the
You know that I am a advocates of revival were driven to Christian. I have preached to you harsh and exceptionable measures, and shall continue to preach to and to the indulgence of an un- you, Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”+ christian temper and course of con- Strange indeed “ that the religious duct, while their opponents became sentiments of a minister should have more indifferent to essential doc- been deemed of too little consetrines, and settled down into cold quence to be even named at his and formal methods of preaching. ordination !" Such a state of opiThey dealt in general and ex. nion necessarily prepared the way ternal morality, rather than in the for any heresy that might obtain doctrines of human depravity and the patronage of the most influenthe necessity of regeneration by tial members of the community. the influence of the Spirit of God. 4. The effects of political Conflict.
Thus the superficial examina- –The war of the American revotions of candidates, and a dread lution, during eighteen years, formed of any thing that savoured of en- a period of high political excitement, thusiasm introduced into the pulo interest, and peril; all other con. pits, moral, amiable, pleasant, and cerns seemed to be merged in those in the main serious men, but such of the nation. No class of citizens as appeared to know little of heart- displayed greater interest in the religion. A way was therefore question than the clergy. By their openeded for the introduction of al
their sermons, most any error. It is very hard versation, their influence, and for an unconverted minister to example, they endeavoured to preach orthodox opinions with ac sustain the courage of their fellowceptance.
may in speculation citizens, and secure the deliverance or theory, but not in heart; and it of their bleeding country. This
Spirit of the Pilgrims, Vol. II. p 295.
* New York Observer, No. 462.
course of procedure was regarded cannot see them wandering in at the time as necessary, and in darkness and error, without an many points of view it was highly effort to reclaim them. The commendable; and yet it could apostle exemplified this charity, not but have withdrawn the minds when he affirmed, • Though we, of the ministers, and through them of or an angel from heaven, preach the people, from the great concerns any other Gospel unto you, than of religion and the soul. In such a that which we have preached unto state of things, the tone of religious you, let him be accursed;' and sentiment and feeling must neces the heart of the Saviour overflowed sarily be relaxed, and the cause of with it, when he said to the false Christ neglected."
pretenders to religion by whom The clergy must have been he was surrounded, 'Ye serpents, brought, by political sympathies, ye generation of vipers, how can into frequent and close intercourse ye escape the damnation of hell ?? with such men as Paine, Jefferson, The charity now so much extolled Franklin, and their sceptical would never have led to a declaFrench allies; and “ as the per- ration like this, as the very essence sonal influence of Voltaire, Rous- of it consists in believing, with or seau, and Gibbon mainly contri- without evidence, or even against buted to produce that secret de- evidence, as the case may be, fection from the faith avowed in that people are as good as they the public symbols of the church at pretend, and that the Christian Geneva, which at length proclaimed name and privileges are to be itself from the pulpits of the city extended to all alike, who think of Calvin,”+ so ihese doubtful and they deserve them. The praises dangerous associations tended to of this spurious charity bave been further that spirit of religious sounded among us, for the last apathy and positive worldliness fifty years, on every note of the which is the best preparation for octave, and the strain has contrithe reception of the Unitarian buted not a little to usher in that system.
lamented defection, over which This article cannot better close our churches have been called to than in the language of a writer
We ought not to be in the Spirit of the Pilgrims, to again deluded by the same idle whom we have been much in song We ought to look beyond debted for many of the preceding the mere sound of words, and remarks.
wbile we cultivate the charity re• In the first place, let the commended in the Gospel, should Churches not be deluded by that renounce all fellowship with this sweet word charity--which, as com
false pretender. monly used, imports no charity at “ Let not the churches be cheat. all. The charity (ayann) spoken of ed or frightened out of their conby the Apostle (1 Cor. xiii.) is in- fessions of faith. It was a stale deed the first and the greatest of the artifice of those who prepared the Christian virtues.
way for another Gospel among love to God, which cannot bear us, to deny and denounce conto see him dishonoured ; and a fessions of faith. Creeds have strong impartial love to men, which long been a subject of popular
declamation, as being useless, and * Spirit of the Pilgrims, vol. II. p. 178.
of bad influence; as inconsistent + Conder's Modern Traveller.
with the first principles of Pro
It is a supreme
testantism--the sufficiency of Scrip. subject all experience has shown ture. But all who understand the to be true: the first is, that the subject know, that this is mere wider you open the door of the declamation. Our creeds are not church, the fewer will be disposed regarded as the foundation of our to enter. The more you attempt faith, but only the expression of it. to lower the claims of religion Our churches have never substi. to meet the views and wishes of tuted their creeds in place of the the ungodly, the more you expose Scriptures, but have used them it to their contempt. And the to set forth what they considered second is, that the admission the sense of Scripture. The suf- of unregenerate persons to the ficiency of Scripture, in distinction churches (and we would exclude from the decretals of an alleged no others) is not only an injury infallible church, is indeed a first to themselves, and to the
parprinciple of Protestantism, and ticular churches with which they
so understood by the early are connected, but exposes the Protestants; but did not these cause of religion generally to alsame Protestants have their con most inevitable contamination. fessions of faith? The famous “ Let those who have the charge confession of Augsburg, prepared of introducing young men into the by the joint labours of Luther and holy ministry, be strict and faithMelancthon, was drawn up the ful in the examination of persons very same year (1529) in which who are looking forward to this the memorable protest was
en responsible work.
No greater tered, which gave to the united evil can light upon any church, dissenters from Rome the appella- than the curse of an unconverted, tion of Protestants. What absur- unfaithful ministry. Ministers of dity to pretend, that Christians this description may be moral may not study the Scriptures for men, and they may retain a nothemselves, gather their opinions minal orthodoxy, so long as orfrom them, express them one to thodoxy is popular and prevails. another, reduce them to writing, They may be men of study, of and thus form a creed, and asso- science, of learning, of enterprise, ciate on the basis of it, without and may be useful in a variety of incurring the charge of under. ways. But it is certain they will valuing and superseding the use have no heart for their appropriate of Scripture.
work. Their prayers cannot be “Our churches should feel the fervent and prevalent. They will importance of a faithful examina- not know how to enlighten those tion of those who are to be re who sit in darkness, or to awaken ceived as members. It was a de- the stupid, or direct inquiring parture from the rule of Scripture, souls, or edify and comfort the and from the original usage of people of God. And their hearts the New England churches in not being established by grace, regard to this point, which led the they will be easily blown about way to most of the evils we have by every wind of doctrine. They suffered. We hear much, in these will be ready to listen to every days, of the sin of hedging up lying : spirit, every seducing the door of the church, and pre- error, which is calculated to flatter venting worthy persons from ap- the pride of man, and represent proaching the sacramental table. the way of salvation easy. They But two things relating to this will be forward to abandon those