Sayfadaki görseller

holiness, the intellectual enlargement, the moral power, the courage, and the burning zeal, that are demanded for this great work? There is no room for pride. We need rather to be emptied of self, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God.

What, then, is the condition in which we find ourselves when called on to take up and carry forward this great work, and what are the circumstances by which we are surrounded ?

We are but a few years removed from certain great religious conflicts, which were undertaken and sustained in defence of the doctrinal principles of our fathers.

These conflicts began about thirty years ago, and conspicuous in them we find such names as Morse, Worcester, Evarts, Codman, Stuart, Woods, Beecher, Wisner, Pond, and Cheever. Their ends were, first, to compel the false system which had privily stolen in to reveal itself; and then, when it was revealed, to confute it, and to expose its unprincipled spoliations, and legalized oppressions of those churches which still revered the faith of their fathers.

As each successive conflict came on, it was, at least in this land, invested with entire novelty; and this fact, together with the vast importance of the questions involved, excited a peculiar and absorbing interest.

But these conflicts were not the result of mere human intellect and emotions. They sprung from, and were attended by, glorious and joyful effusions of the Spirit of God. These were the life of those arduous conflicts, and imparted to them a sanctity, a depth, and a power, which could have proceeded from no other source.

But those scenes have passed by, and, in certain respects, none like them will return. Controversy then put forth its full strength on the leading points at issue, when all was fresh and new; it came to its results, and its novelty is over. What has been well done, needs not to be done again, and the mind of the community cannot be aroused to the same effort. Other revivals, of equal or greater power, may come ; but the original interest of past controversies can never be revived. We do not, however, mean to assert that all discussion on the points then at issue is at an end. The signs of the times do not favor such an opinion. It is not at all unlikely that a new vindication of the doctrines of the Trinity and Atonement, with their related truths, may be soon demanded. All that we mean is, that the first and all-absorbing interest of such discussions is over ; and that if our feelings are to be as much aroused as once they were, the excitement must be derived from other sources. In certain respects this is an advantage. If any points of the past controversy should come up anew, we can then with greater discrimination avail ourselves of the results of previous discussions, aided by the mature thought and study of intervening years.

The system of error was defeated, we have said. It was, so far as argument was concerned. But defeated as it was in argument, it yet survives, though with greatly diminished power.

But evil influences, of great present and future power, have flowed from that system, which its first promulgators did not anticipate, but which nevertheless must in justice be laid to its charge. The effects of that system are not at an end. It contained from the first, principles which, if logically developed, would result in infidelity. This was openly declared by some farseeing minds. What it has ever tended to in principle, it has now become in form, as held by many; and the greatest momentum, fervor, and mental power are manifested, in the matured and open infidel developments of the system. The authors of these proclaim them as the logical issue of those principles and that progress, for which all have been pleading, and rebuke the timidity of those who dare not maintain a logical consistency with themselves.

And indeed, after all the outcry made in regard to the latest form of infidelity, the earlier leaders of the party were not, in principle, one whit more sound in their views of the inspiration of the Word of God, than the later. They sacrificed the Old Testa

, ment to save the New, and practically left nothing in the New but the gospels, and then denied the plenary inspiration of these. In their malignant pantheism, the leaders of the new infidelity have in reality outstripped those of the old ; but in other respects the advanced infidel party are in fact, what they claim to be, consistent expositors of the logical results of the system against which we have for years contended.

The dangers which, in these circumstances, call upon us to be on our guard, will readily suggest themselves to a thoughtful mind. There is often a collapse, when a community has passed out of a period of conflict and of high excitement which cannot be revived. To those who remember this excitement, the regular course of spiritual į rogress may seem tame; and the mind may

revert with regret to the enthusiasm of those days of stern contention for the truth, and disrelishing any thing less exciting, may fall into a state of dangerous lethargy. Against such tendencies there is a sure defence, to which all should earnestly resort; we mean a degree of the interior and spiritual life so high, that it shall invest with surpassing interest that regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of God, which is common to all ages, and upon which,

, at all times, the progress of the church entirely depends.

There is also a hidden danger, of which we should be fully aware, in the powerful influence for evil of the works wherein systems of error which have been defeated in controversy are still set forth, and sustained with all the charms of refined style, and piausible sophistry. Some of these works indeed, especially the more elevatea attacks on the Word of God, are above the range of the popular mind. But they are not for that reason devoid of influence on that mind. They are elevated reservoirs of the bitter and poisoned waters of error; and even if few besides educated minds ascend so high as to reach them, yet these minds become conductors of those waters to the lower grades of society; and thus all classes are poisoned and die together. But because the storm of controversy is over, and such works do not proclaim their results openly in the pulpit, or through the periodicals of the day, but circulate silently in the form of books, they excite little apprehension. Yet in this form they are mingling with the circulation of the life's blood of the community, and sending their poison to its very heart.

The existence too of such masses of error and infidelity, like the mountains of ice that float from the polar sea, chills the moral atmosphere on all sides, and diminishes the fervor of faith even in the hearts of those who truly believe. Moreover, as the gospel has been attacked on rational grounds, the habit of defending it on such grounds, which is naturally formed, is not without its dangers. The Gospel is shorn of its power, if the tone of its advocates becomes merely apologetic or defensive. It is a message of God to lost man. It depends for its efficacy on his authority, and the influences of his Spirit. To proclaim it aright, there is needed a holy boldness and an inward power and fervor, which no rationalizing process can produce, and which can be derived only from copious effusions of the supernatural influences of the Spirit of God. VOL. III.


The work, then, to which God summons us as a denomination, is plain. First of all, that both ministers and churches, with the utmost vigilance, guard against that spiritual lethargy into which they are in danger of falling; and that we do all in our power to arouse one another to earnest efforts for the highest degrees of spiritual life. There is also needed a skilful and earnest defence of the Word of God as the basis of all our hopes. To this end it is important that suitable persons be induced and encouraged to prepare treatises adapted to meet the most recent phases of infidelity. Here a very great work yet remains to be done. There are no works now in existence prepared in view of the most recent developments of infidelity, and adapted in all respects to meet the wants of the age.

The last results of the infidelity of Europe, are flowing in upon us.

Our own latest form of infidelity, is of European origin. But it has been transfused and naturalized among us, and its seeds have been sown broad-cast in the minds of our young men. There has not been time to witness its mature developments. Yet many, even now, are alarmed at the increasing immorality of the metropolis, and at the tendency of many young men to return to those old habits of intemperance, which we fondly hoped had ceased forever. All such would do well to inquire, what hope there is of maintaining the high-toned morals of Puritanism, after that Book on which the Puritans based their whole system, has lost its hold on large masses of the community, and especially upon our young men ? The Bible is the basis of New England society, more emphatically than of that of any other country on the globe. How deeply then does it affect us, that in New England, the most violent, concentrated, and systematic attacks have been made on the Word of God, that the history of this nation records. Hence, the great, the vital problem for New England is, how most effectually to vindicate the Word of God, and thus preserve and increase its power.

To aid in effecting so indispensable an end, will continue to be, as it ever has been, one great object of this work. In addition to a defence of the Bible, we shall endeavor to carry the war into the enemy's camp, and to show what utter ruin our whole system, social, civil, and religious must expect, if their principles prevail.

In exhibiting and defending the doctrines of the Word of God, we shall stand upon the broad common ground of New England theology; and seek to unite in fraternal confidence and coöperation all who sincerely hold the great fundamental truths of the Gospel, upon which the whole system of our fathers was based.

We shall also deem it our duty to pay increasing attention to the principles of Church order, which we have received from our fathers. They are 'at this time exciting unwonted interest in various parts of our land ; and in our opinion they are destined to exert an increasing influence on the destinies of the world. The great battle of the Son of God is not merely with civil despotisms; ecclesiastical despotisms are also to be destroyed. No system can carry out so consistently and thoroughly as ours, an argument that shall destroy the essential principles from which the strength of existing corrupt hierarchies is derived. It is of great moment then, that the principles of our system be truly apprehended, clearly set forth, and vigorously defended.

The principles of Christian reform will also claim our attention. The progress of Christianity has been such, that its principles have enabled men to see as they never saw before, all the existing evils of society. Hence the world is full of theories and plans of social reform. To such an extent is this the spirit of the age, that even infidelity now marches under the banner of reform. Availing itself of the progress of the human mind, of which the Bible is the cause, and of those principles of truth which, originally radiating from it, have become like the diffused light of the sun, they are now seeking to outrun the inspired Word of God in the race of reform, and to reject it as altogether behind the spirit of

the age.

The great doctrines of depravity, atonement, and regeneration, are not the basis of their reforms. This is especially true of the leaders of the Fourierite movement. They believe that the evils of society can be cured by a mere change of external organizations. Yet, though their theories are false, the subjects discussed by them, are of vast moment, and it is not enough merely to reject infidel solutions of great practical questions in government, and political economy; we are bound to investigate such subjects on Christian principles, and to give a Christian solution of the problems proposed. The example of the great Dr. Chalmers may well be held up for our imitation in this respect. The distribution of property had been long discussed without any reference to its relations to the principles of Chris

« ÖncekiDevam »