Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

a few efforts for its remedy, but the steady watchfulness and exertion of all who have sufficient reflection to comprehend the subject, and who care for their country, their children, or themselves. The strong indignaton now felt, and the energy and readiness to repress such violations of the law, which doubtless will now exist for a time, must not be mistaken for a permanently better state of things. There is but one end to be kept fixedly in view. The true patriot, the wise politician, the enlightened philanthropist, and he who has a mere selfish regard to his own interest and safety, must all feel that there is one thing to be done ; - it is, to strengthen lawful authority. Liberty, by which, in the widest sense of the term, is meant nothing more than the full enjoyment of all our rights, cannot exist unless there be power enough in the state effectually to protect those rights. Power in the government is necessary to the enjoyment of liberty by the individual. There are false notions maintained by some among us, respecting the nature and ends of government, and the relations of men to each other in civil society, the tendency of which is to license, disorder, and that worst forın of tyranny, that is controlled by no laws and no restraints of opinion. There are those who would confound that equality of civil rights, which our institutions are intended to secure, with an equality in all things, which God has made impossible. When they recognise any one superior in the gifts of nature, or in the advantages to be secured by good conduct and industry; or more fortunate in the lottery of life, which with us is equally open to all, they have a feeling as if their rights were invaded. Hence there is a struggle against the necessary order of society, that order which may be disturbed by violence, but as soon as the violence is removed must immediately restore itself. Sounder doctrines respecting the civil relations of men to each other must be popularly and forcibly taught ; and whoever, for any temporary purpose, in order to excite the passions or flatter the prejudices of some party in the community, countenances those principles which lead to the overthrow of all lawful authority, must be marked as a scoundrel, as a dangerous disturber of the public peace.

There is no want of power to preserve order and law among us; — by no means ; that is not the deficiency; but there is, we fear, want of civil and moral courage, of activity, and of a sense of individual responsibility. The times in which we live are not times for complaint and melancholy foreboding, and a selfish withdrawal of individuals from the concerns of the community, as if its interests were to be despaired of; they are times which require thought and energy in all who are capable of acting beneficially upon their fellow-men. But that they may so act, they must be unfettered by any selfish purpose.

Ambition for office is with us a low sort of ambition ; and when it possesses a man, it renders him unfit to be trusted ; reducing him to a watchful dependent upon the party and personal feelings of those whose favor he solicits. The men to be trusted are such as may indeed take office, if the public good require it, but who do not seek it ; men who, without any personal end, are ready to exert all the influence, which an honorable character and useful talents may enable them to exercise; men who, in addressing others, rely upon truth, and appeal to high motives. We debase those whom we would persuade, when we draw motives from their passions and prejudices, and false views, and selfish interests, even if some temporary good may be so effected. There are few who cannot be acted upon by better considerations; and there is no reason to fear that motives founded upon duty, honor, and truth, will not, among us, find their way to men's hearts, and rouse into action the real strength of the community.

There are other great topics which we can barely touch upon. All interested in the welfare of the country must look with concern upon the state of religion among us, our miserable division into sects, the bigotry about matters of indifference by which this has been produced, the consequent insufficient support of most of our clergy; and hence the discouraging prospect of poverty and sorrow, which is constantly diminishing the number of young men of talents disposed to become clergymen. Least of all governments can a republic exist in a prosperous state without religion ; and there is much to be done, by means on which we cannot now dwell, to strengthen the influences of religion among us. Our clergy especially should have a distinct apprehension of the new and peculiar character of the times in which they live, and of their new duties and relations arising out of it.

General education is certainly not neglected among us. But it may

be doubted whether our higher modes of education are the best adapted to form young men in this country for the stations and duties which actually await them. If there be any reason for this doubt, it concerns a matter of the most serious importance. The character of the well educated usually determines the character of the community.

But we must stop. Every topic we have touched upon requires a dissertation where we have written a sentence. Our purpose has been attained, if we have done any thing to awaken attention to the state of society around us, and to the means by which its evils may be corrected.

[ocr errors]

THE

CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.

No. LXV.

NEW SERIES - N. XXXV.

NOVEMBER, 1834.

ART. I. - The Christian Advocate for November, 1833,

and January, 1834. – Review of Letters to Presbyterians, by Samuel Miller, D. D. Philadelphia.

[ocr errors]

Most of our readers are acquainted, we presume, with the nature and organization of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. They are aware that it professes to unite the whole sect in one homogeneous mass, by the adoption of a common creed, and a distribution of the whole body into local Presbyteries, the combination of these into Synods, and the subjection of all to the General Assembly ; which is composed of representatives from these inferior bodies, and thus constitutes a kind of appellate court or supreme judicature over the whole. The meetings of this latter are annual, and holden at Philadelphia ; where all causes from the inferior bodies are heard on appeal, and all affairs relating to the general welfare are discussed. This organized body has now been in existence nearly a hundred and thirty years ; and like all things hum in it has seen its vicissitudes of prosperity and trouble. It has had its periods of great activity and zeal, as for instance about the time of the regular establishment of Episcopacy in America ; and then again it has relapsed into a comparative quiet and inaction. One thing amid all mutations they have preserved the same their creed. That was settled for them by the Divines at Westminster. To this, all who are admitted into their body must subscribe, and agree to interpret the Scriptures as they were interpreted by the great lights of the Reformation. How far subscription to a creed has had the effect of producing

18

VOL. XVII.

- N. S. VOL. XII. NO. II.

1

a

uniformity of belief, we shall be beiter able to judge by the developements of this review.

That the Presbyterian Church should have been unaffected by the religious mouvement of the last fifteen years, was not to be expected. Rumors have been abroad, indeed it has been a matter of general notoriety, that the Church has been disturbed by what sorne are pleased to style a new Theology. New doctrines, it is said, have been introduced into it, in the opinion of many, entirely subversive of their ancient faith. The matter has been going on from bad to worse till it has alarmed the watchful, and aroused them to make a stand against such profane innovations. Not only has there been a great declension in doctrine, but likewise a sad falling off in discipline. The decrees of Presbyteries

. and Synods have become a mere brutum fulmen, alarming only to the weakest nerves. In saying this, however, we only anticipate the disclosures of the review before us.

It has been supposed that the onward progress of religious opinions was confined in a great measure to New England. This we believe was the general impression. It was ours ; and it was not until we took up by chance the review under consideration, that we became aware that it had pervaded the whole extent of the Union. We could not still have believed it, had it come from any other source. But Dr. Green we consider the very best authority. He is one of the eldest members of the church to which he belongs. Near a half-century ago he was settled over a church in Philadelphia, to which he ministered for some years. Afterwards he was chosen President of Princeton College. This situation he likewise retained many years, but finally retiring from office, he is passing the evening of his days in Philadelphia as the editor of the Christian Advocaie. No man has had a better opportunity to know, or knois, more of the affairs of his denomination than Dr. Green. He can look back to the time when the Assembly's Catechism swayed an undisputed sceptre over the realms of Presbyterianisin. So supremely dear and precious were the doctrinal standards of his church to him, that, on resigning the pastoral care of the church to which he had ministered, he exhorts his former hearers in the following terms. Nothing will contribute more to your being at peace among yourselves, both whep vacant and at other times, than keeping strictly to the principles

[ocr errors]

es

power are fled.

and forms of the Presbyterian Church. By these standards try carefully all doctrines, and conduct scrupulously all your proceedings. Esteem it no hardship or oppression, teem it as an unspeakable privilege and advantage that these standards are given you for your direction and control.” In a note it is added, I would recommend that every family make it a point of Christian duty to keep a copy of our Confession of Faith.” Little did he think when he wrote this, that he should so soon be called to sing the requiem of the creed he so unceremoniously puts in the place of the Bible.

But times have strangely changed between the youth and age

of one man. Not only have men's opinions changed, but the very forms of the Church are fading away. Presbyterianism, to use his own language, has been Congregationalized. Its organization is retained, but its spirit and

The occasion, on which this great declension became manifest, was this. Mr. Albert Barnes, of their connexion and lately settled in Philadelphia, had indulged himself in some speculations on human depravity and freedom, which were thought by some to have an awful leaning towards liberality. Complaint was entered against him, and carried before the General Assembly. Greatly to the astonishment of the Old School party, it was found that it was very doubtful whether a majority of the Assembly could be brought to convict the accused of heresy; thus making it evident that the leprosy had spread much farther than was supposed. The venerable champions of Orthodoxy were taken wholly by surprise. They could neither advance with success, nor retreat with honor. Dr. Miller, who seems to have been endowed with one Apostolic gift at least, — the wisdom of the serpent, proposed that the case should be discussed in thesi, that is, abstractly, or supposing such a caše might have happened. The two parties seem to have agreed to consider it a drawn battle, and the matter was hushed up by being referred to a committee judiciously chosen, and thus the evil day was for a while put off.

This event opened the eyes of the sagacious to the perilous condition of the whole church. Dr. Miller, whose patriarchal care of his own denomination is well known, followed up his attempt in the Assembly to keep the peace, by puba

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »