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considered, an immoral tendency. Their authors were enlightened, philanthropic and public-spirited men, far above the vile ambition of corrupting the morals of their countrymen. The moral sentiments, the views of a retributive providence, which they have wrought into their dramas, are often surprisingly high and pure, and betoken an early period, before the minds of men were so extensively pervaded by the multiplying errors and deepening darkness of paganism. It was not in themselves that these works were considered dangerous by the ancient moralists. It was when acted, when surrounded by the fascinations and excitements of scenic exhibition. The same moralists have made ample use of these works in the philosophy of the human mind. And the great apostle of the Gentiles has repeatedly pointed his own moral reflections by apt quotations from the dramatists of Greece. In connection with an instance of this kind, Calvin thus observes: "We learn from hence that they are superstitious who are scrupulous of obtaining knowledge from profane authors. For since all truth is from God, if anything has been well and forcibly expressed, even by bad men, it ought not to be rejected, because it originally proceeded from God. And since all things are his, why is it not right to apply to his glory, whatever, from any source, is capable of such an application?"
But it is not enough to say that this study is not unfavorable to morality-it may and ought to be made subservient to it ;-and it cannot fail to be thus subservient, if these works are examined in connection with such inquiries as these :-"What evidence do I here discern of moral perceptions of distinctions of right and wrong?-What traces of that law which is written on the human heart?-What coincidences, either of truth or morality, with the inspired volume ?-What intimations of a belief in the immortality of the soul?-What views of retributions, present or future?" Studied on such principles as these, the ancient drama will be found invested with a high moral interest and richly fraught with moral instruction and impression.
To all, then, who wish to become Greek scholars,-who
Antiquitas-quae, quo propius aberat ab ortu et divina progenie, hoc melius ea fortasse, quae erant vera, cernebat.-Cic. Tusc. Disp. I. 12.
The laws of Athens provided that the tragedies of Eschylus, Sophocles and Euripides should be read in public every year.-Greek Theatre, p. 108. Cambridge, 1830.
wish to imbue their minds with the spirit of the antique, and to penetrate the intellectual and moral system of that extraordinary people, the ancient Greeks; we would say,-study profoundly the noble remains of their great tragedians ;-but do it in the spirit of an enlightened and firm eclecticism, knowing how to "refuse the evil and to choose the good." And, into what department of literature, ancient or modern, can we safely venture without the exercise of this discrimination?
THE PRESBYTERIAN CONTROVERSY :-ITS OCCASIONS AND PRESENT STATE.*
By Erastus C. Benedict, Counsellor at Law, New-York.
THE Controversy in the Presbyterian church, in the United States, is one of the most remarkable series of events which the history of religion in our times will present. Its effect upon that church, aside from its general disorganizing and schismatic
* [As the readers of the Repository are of different denominations, and, to some extent perhaps, of different views in regard to the subject of this Article, it has occurred to us that some may regret to see it introduced upon our pages. But the principles involved in the controversy now pending in the Presbyterian church are too important, and its consequences are already too widely and painfully felt, in their bearings upon other denominations and upon the great religious enterprises of the day, to be regarded with indifference by any. Nor can it be desirable to confine the history of a controversy, so widely extended, to publications which circulate only among the parties primarily interested in its results. In its probable and permanent effects upon the cause of religious liberty and of christian benevolence in our country, generally, it is a topic of universal interest. To meet the expressed wishes of many, therefore, we have thought it proper to solicit the present Article from an able writer, whose opportunities of a thorough acquaintance with the subject, as well as his freedom from any personal interest in the results of the controversy, are such as to inspire confidence in the fairness and candor of his views. The Article presents a compendious and consecutive his
tendency, is to be deeply deplored by its friends. Its members, in some instances, are looking to other communions as a refuge from that injustice, which they attribute to the operation of the Presbyterian system, but which in truth could not exist, except in the widest departure from the plain principles of that system, and in open violations of the constitution of that church, as organized in this country. Independency and Congregationalism are beginning to be regarded by some, as promising, at least for a time, in their feebler power to oppress, that security which the more cautiously devised and stronger built safeguards of the Presbyterian system have failed to afford. Thus a controversy, professedly kept up to save Presbyterianism from the inroads of Congregationalism, has probably done more to bring the former into disrepute and to extend the latter, within the usual bounds of the Presbyterian church, than all the arguments of all the writers on the subject could ever have done, if the judicatories of the church had been true to the principles of their American constitution. The controversy has apparently passed its crisis and, although many readers are but too painfully familiar with its details, still it cannot be amiss to devote a few pages to a sketch of both the ostensible and the concealed causes of the difficulty, the strange history of their action, and the present position of the parties. In thus taking a view, however brief, of the whole subject, it will be necessary to go back to the first organization of the church in this country, and glance at its elementary principles, at the hazard of being trite and uninteresting. The necessity will be a sufficient apology.
As in politics, so in ecclesiastical matters, our character was forming from the time of the first settlements. All along, tory of the controversy, which, as to facts and their relations, may be relied on, and will be of permanent value to such as may wish to trace to their consequences the principles which have been urged on either side. It is, at the same time, an able defence of the constitutional principles and privileges of the Presbyterian church, as they are understood by the writer, and by those, generally, who have opposed the late divisive acts of a party claiming to be the General Assembly of that church. However much, therefore, some may dissent from these principles, we trust that all will regard it, in spirit, and in general interest and importance, as altogether worthy of the space which it here occupies, in a work whose pages are pledged to be open, on all suitable occasions, “to the free discussion of questions of morals;" it being understood that these discussions shall be conducted with courtesy and candor.-ED.]
through one hundred and fifty years, the seeds were sown, which shot up into strength and beauty sixty years ago, when was adopted the now obvious principle of universal toleration -equal rights and equal protection to all,-which laid the foundation of a system of institutions, unlike anything which had before existed. The great experiment, then entered upon, of separating entirely the church from the state, and, with a noble confidence, trusting religion to those proper supports which her Almighty Protector will never fail to provide, has well justified the prophetic hopes of the men of those days.
To the prevalence of popular and republican systems of church government is to be attributed much of the success of that experiment, in the church and in the state. The Congregational and the Presbyterian forms had included, from the beginning, almost all the sects that existed in this country, and they have always been the fast friends and steady supporters of religious and civil liberty. Indeed the principles of liberty and equality are the very principles of these organizations. Both are alike opposed to the despotism of popery and the aristocracy of prelacy. It was this, their republican nature, that led king James to say that "a Scottish presbytery as well agrees with monarchy as God and the devil;"* and that, in the freest monarchy the world has ever seen, condemns them to a sickly and constrained existence. Congregationalism is, in its nature, democratic, trying, judging, governing, by actual assemblies of the people. In the modified form, however, in which it is generally administered in this country, it acknowledges the right of appeal to counsels mutually chosen, and, in some cases, ex-parte-counsels are allowed. Presbyterianism is a republican system, a representative government, relying upon the wisdom and goodness of men chosen by the people for judges and councillors, and, by its carefully provided checks, and its liberal right of appeals, acknowledges, while it guards against, the passions, the prejudices the imperfections-of the best men. These two systems of government, alike purely ecclesiastical and not sacerdotal, and alike founded upon the principle of perfect equality of right in the members of the church, were widely in
"The lords and the rest stood amazed at his majesty's wise discourse; archbishop Whitgift said, undoubtedly his majesty spake by the special assistance of God's spirit. Dr. Bancroft, bishop of London, upon his knee, protested his heart melted with joy."-Barlow.
operation in this country. The Congregationalists of various sects occupied almost the whole of New England, and were sparsely scattered through the other States, at the time of the revolution. The Presbyterians-English, Scotch, French, Swiss, Dutch and German, abounded more in the Southern and Middle States. The Presbyterian church proper consisted of four hundred and nineteen churches, scattered through the land. It is worthy of remark that so little did the difference between the Presbyterian and Congregational forms show itself, and so free was the fellowship between the two sects, that, in common parlance, both were called Presbyterians, and they are still called so to a great extent.
From the peace to 1789 the universal mind, in this country, .was busy with modelling and organizing our various governments, to adapt them to the new state of things, and it was to be expected that the same spirit would reach the churches. Accordingly the government of the Presbyterian church was reconstructed, and a system of polity adopted better fitted to the change in the institutions of the country. In 1784-5 the subject was agitated. In 1786, the larger presbyteries were divided, and in 1788 the only synod was divided into four.
In that age of written constitutions-the practical application of the idea of a social compact-that church first digested, arranged and codified the rights of its people, the principles of its government, and the forms of its ministrations. Its constitution was formed with a solemnity, and clothed with an authority, superior to the fluctuating changes of opinion, giving to all, in an acceptable form, the creative patent of " the powers that be." It may be observed, that in a new country, of mixed population, without precedents,-looking to no common source of opinion, a written constitution would present advantages not attainable in any other mode. And it is not the least striking evidence of the wisdom of those days, that there was not adopted any old system of government on any known form of social compact, in church or state. A mixed population might be strongly united in favor of a new system of their own making, while any old one would not fail to arouse old prejudices and kindle anew heart-burnings and strifes. Therefore, as in the state, they examined all forms of free government and compiled a system all their own; so in the Presbyterian church, they examined all protestant forms of polity, and compiled a system, presbyterian in its principles, but unlike the constitution of any other church.