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Full text of "Essays, theological and miscellaneous, reprinted from the Princeton Review : Second series, including the contributions of the late Rev. Albert B. Dod, D.D"

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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1847, by 


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York. 

112 Fl'LTOh" STRKET. 


This volume, like that which preceded it a year ago, though entirely 
composed of selections from the Princeton Review, is not made up by 
the Conductors of that valuable publication. 

It is with no common satisfaction that the collector of these tracts 
presents as many as seven from the pen of the late distinguished 
Professor Dod. They are the articles on Capital Punishment, Phreno- 
logy, the Vestiges of Creation, Analytical Geometry, and Oxford 
Architecture, together with the Reviews of Mr. Finney and Dr. 
Beecher. These Essays are the best extant testimonial to the genius 
and cultivation of their lamented author. 

The article on Hebrew Concordances is also a memorial of departed 
intellect ; being a production of the late Professor Nordheimer. 

Several of the remaining Essays in this volume awakened extraordi- 
nary interest at the time of their publication : among these may be 
named those on Slavery and Abolition, and that on the Baptist 
Translation of the Bible. 

The rapid sale of the former volume makes us secure in regard to 
that which is now offered. 

JVew York, April 15, 1S47. 



Essav I. The Bible, a Key to the Phenomena of the Natural World . 1 

II. God the End of all Things .... 


III. Systems of Theology . . ... 


IV. On the Atonement .... 


V. On Revivals of Religion . 


VI. Dr. Beech er's Theology . 


VII. The Doctrines of New England Churches 



VIII. Christian Union 


IX. The Division of the Presbyterian Church 


— - X. Slavery .... 


XI. Abolitionism .... 


XII. Capital Punishment 


XIII. Phrenology .... 


XIV. Vestiges of Creation 


XV. Analytical Geometry 


XVI. Baptist Translation of the Bible 


XVII. The English Bible 


XVIII. Oxford Architecture . 


XIX. A Treatise on Expository Preaching 


XX. Fiirst's Hebrew Concordance . 


XXI. The Historical Statements of the Koran 






The stupendous fabric of the universe, part of which we see, 
and part of which we ourselves are, cannot but become an object 
of earnest contemplation to the inquisitive mind. The great 
majority of men, it is true, pass through life without reflection. 
Their intellectual powers are so little cultivated, and they are so 
much occupied with objects of sense, and in making provision for 
their immediate and pressing wants, that they never attempt to 
raise their minds to the contemplation of the wonderful works by 
which they are surrounded : but these objects, constantly beheld 
from infancy, excite no surprise, and seldom call forth a single 
reflection. There have always been, however, among nations 
enjoying any degree of civilization, men of minds more cul- 
tivated than the rest, and more disposed to investigate the causes 
of those phenomena which they continually beheld. These sages, 
when they looked upon the heavens and the earth, upon themselves 
and other organized and living beings, have been led to inquire, 
Whence all these things ? Have they always existed, or have 
they been produced ? To those who have been conversant with 
the truth all their lives, it may seem that it would have been an 
easy thing for any rational mind to ascend at once from the crea- 
ture to the invisible Creator; but we cannot readily conceive of 
the perplexity and darkness which surround the intellect of men, 
whom no ray of divine revelation has visited. The reasonings of 
such men are also impeded and perverted by prejudices, and 
erroneous opinions imbibed from their forefathers ; and, not unfre- 
quently, pride and other evil passions influence speculative men to 
adopt extravagant opinions, for the sake of their paradoxical cha- 
racter, or because they are naturally grateful to the feelings of de- 
praved nature. It is, therefore, not an unaccountable fact, that 
men, unenlightened by divine revelation, should have fallen into so 



many egregious errors respecting the origin of the world and its 

A considerable number of those called philosophers entertained 
the opinion, that the universe always existed as we now behold it. 
They observed that, from age to age, the heavenly bodies move on 
in their orbits, undisturbed and unchanged ; and that, on earth, the 
same changes of day and night, of winter and summer, of seed- 
time and harvest, succeed each other in regular order : and no other 
power being manifest to the senses but that which operates through 
all nature, they concluded that the universe existed without any 
cause of itself; and that it ever had existed, and ever would exist, 
as it now appears. 

Some, however, observing in all things, as they imagined, a 
tendency to dissolution, and perceiving in our globe evidences of a 
former destruction, adopted the opinion, that the universe contained 
in itself the principles of its own dissolution and regeneration ; 
that, after running through a period of unknown and inconceivable 
duration, it falls into a chaotic state, in which catastrophe all 
organized bodies are destroyed, and return to their simplest ele- 
ments ; but, from this chaos, by degrees, springs up a new order 
of things, or a renewal of that which before existed ; and thus, 
while they conceived the universe to be eternal, they imagined 
that it is in a state of perpetual change, by a kind of circular pro- 
gression, which has neither beginning nor end. 

Others of those called philosophers, who seem to have paid a 
more minute attention to the curious structure of organized bodies, 
were of opinion that they must by some means have been formed 
or produced ; but, not being able to rise to the conception of a 
Creator — or what is more probable, not liking to retain the idea of 
God in their minds — they invented the hypothesis of the eternal 
existence of the elements of the universe, which they supposed to 
consist of atoms, or indivisible bodies of all manner of shapes, and 
in perpetual motion among each other. These atoms, possessing 
various affinities, came together in every conceivable form of 
organized bodies, until, by degrees, and in a long process of time, 
the universe assumed its present aspect, and vegetables and ani- 
mals of every species were produced by the fortuitous concourse 
of atoms. 

Such a hypothesis might seem too absurd to be seriously enter- 
tained by any rational mind, and yet we find among its abettors, 
men of high and cultivated intellect, among the ancients. It has, 
however, met with less favour among modern atheists than the 
fore-mentioned theories ; although, in point of absurdity, all sys- 
tems of atheism may be said to stand on a perfect level ; for no 
folly can be conceived greater than that which says, " there is no 

The idea of the necessity of a cause, wherever we observe what 
we must consider an effect, is so deeply seated in human nature, 
that most men have professed themsel ves dissatisfied with any system 


which assigned no cause, or no better cause than chance or neces- 
sity, for the existence of all things. Many have been led, there- 
fore, to adopt the opinion, that the universe was God, believing 
that whatever distinctness and variety there may seem to be in 
the world, there existed but one substance or being, of which the 
heavens and the earth, vegetables and animals, are only so many 
parts, or rather manifestations. This theory differs from the first 
mentioned in this important respect, that it recognises a great first 
cause, which is God ; but the difference, as to any useful end, is 
more in appearance than in reality ; for, according to this hypo- 
thesis, there is still nothing in existence besides the universe itself. 
There is no free, sovereign, independent being, whom we should 
worship or obey ; or in whom we can confide for help or safety. 
In fact it differs from blank atheism in nothing, except that it gives 
the name of God to the universe of creatures ; and thus we come 
to the horrible conclusion, that we and all other things are parts 
of God. 

Although this hypothesis had its advocates among the ancients, 
yet Benedict Spinoza has the credit of reducing it to a regular 
system, which he exhibited in the imposing form of mathematical 
demonstration. As this atheistical theory was published in an 
enlightened age, and in a Christian country, it might have been 
expected that it would attract but few admirers: and, indeed, the 
number of avowed disciples of Spinozism has been small ; yet the 
same system, new-modelled but not improved, has become a 
favourite with a large number of philosophers of the present day, 
on the continent of Europe, and especially in Germany, under the 
appropriate name of Pantheism. And so great is the infatuation 
of some calling themselves Christians, that they have thought that 
this disguised atheism might be reconciled with Christianity. 

A system less absurd than any of the former was, that the world 
has an all-pervading, active, and intelligent soul, which moves and 
directs all the operations of nature, as the human soul moves and 
governs the body. 

Near akin to this, was the opinion that the planets and stars 
were all animated "bodies, possessed of the power of moving them- 
selves, and of intelligence sufficient to guide and regulate their 
own motions. 

Many students of the physical sciences, in our times, seem to 
have adopted a theory similar to that which gives a soul to the 
world. They ascribe all effects to nature, and to the laws of 
nature. In all the remarkable contrivances and evidences of 
design, which abound in the animal and vegetable worlds, they 
see nothing but the plastic power of nature. The idea of a God, 
distinct from the world, and from whom nature derives all its 
powers, seems to have no place in their philosophy. 

But sometimes the doctrine of the soul of the world has been 
combined with that of one supreme God, as in the sublime but 
mystical theory of Plato. 


From what has been said it is evident that the human intellect 
is prone to wander from the truth ; and that reason is liable to be 
perverted, even in matters of the highest importance ; and in which 
the light of evidence seems to us to shine most clearly. 

A just and impartial consideration of the universe cannot fail to 
lead the sincere seeker of truth to the opinion, that there must 
exist a first great cause, powerful and intelligent, who has made 
the world for some particular end. As sound reason would con- 
strain us, if we should find a curiously contrived machine, evidentlv 
formed for a useful purpose, to ascribe it to an intelligent artificer, 
how can we refuse to ascribe the structure of the universe, in 
which the evidences of design are more numerous and more strik- 
ing, infinitely, than in any of the works of men, to a wise and 
powerful architect 1 If a watch or steam-engine could not be 
formed by the accidental aggregation of particles, brought together 
by the winds or waves, can we suppose that such a structure as an 
organized animal body could be formed by a fortuitous concourse 
of atoms 1 There is in a small part of the human body, more pro- 
found wisdom in designing the texture and organization of the 
parts for the attainment of a particular end, than in all the curious 
mechanism of man's contrivance. And if we should even suppose 
(absurd as it is) that such an organized system could come into 
existence without design, how could we account for the wonderful 
adaptation of other things, existing in an entirely separate state, to 
the necessities and conveniences of the animal body 1 Without 
light the eye would be useless, but when we examine the mecha- 
nism of this organ, and observe that it is constructed upon the most 
perfect principles of optics, can we for a moment hesitate to believe 
that the eye was formed by a designing agent, to receive, refract, 
and concentrate the rays of light, for the purposes of vision? The 
same adaptation is remarkable, between the air and the organ of 
hearing ; and between the air and the lungs : the same is also true, 
in regard to the stomach and the food which it so eagerly craves. 
In these, and a thousand other things, the evidences of design are 
as strong as they possibly can be. If we can resist these, no 
other proofs would answer any purpose in removing our incredu- 

Reason, then, clearly indicates, that this universe is not God, but 
is the work of God, and that he must be a being of transcendent 
perfection. But having arrived at this conclusion, who would not 
wish to have his faith confirmed by some clear manifestation of 
this august Being ? If he exists and formed our bodies, and gave 
us our rational powers, surely he can find out ways by which he 
can make himself known to us. He cannot, indeed, render himself 
visible to our bodily eyes, because he is a spirit ; but he who 
indued man with the faculty of communicating with his fellows, 
by the use of speech, can speak„to us in a language which we can 
understand. Now this very thing he has done, by divine revela- 
tion. By inspiring chosen individuals, and attesting their commu- 


nications, he has plainly informed us, not only that ho exists, but 
that he is the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe ; 
that he is above all, and independent of all ; and that all things 
were produced by his own pleasure, and for his own glory. 

That which reason often missed, or mistook, and at best spelled 
out with hesitation, the voice of revelation declares with decisive 


Reason may vaunt herself when the discovery is made, but she 
owes her clearest light and firmest convictions to the voice of 

The Bible furnishes the full and satisfactory commentary on the 
book of nature. With the Bible in our hands, the heavens shine 
with redoubled lustre. The universe, which to the atheist is full 
of darkness and confusion, to the Christian is resplendent with light 
and glory. The first sentence in the Bible contains more to sa- 
tisfy the inquisitive mind than all the volumes of human specula- 
tion. " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." 
Here, in a few words, is comprehended the most sublime of all 
truths — the production of a universe out of nothing, by the word 
of the Almighty. If God created the heavens and the earth, then 
he existed before they were brought forth, even from eternity ; for 
he who gives beginning to all other things, can have none himself. 
Before the world was, this august Being existed, independent 
and happy, in the plenitude of his own infinite perfections. This 
first word of written revelation teaches us, what reason in her 
boldest flights could never reach, namely, that the universe sprang 
from nothing : not from nothing as its cause, but from the incon- 
ceivable working of almighty power, where nothing existed, from 
which it could be made. None of the heathen sages ever believed 
such a creation possible. They universally received it as an 
axiom, that ex nikilo nihil fieri ; but here we learn, " That the 
worlds were framed by the word of God, and that the things 
which are seen, were not made of things which do appear." This 
stupendous work, of giving being to so great a multitude and 
variety of creatures, is often celebrated in the sublime strains of 
sacred poetry, and in the commanding eloquence of the inspired 
prophets. " Thus saith the Lord, that created the heavens and 
stretched them out, he that spread forth the earth and that which 
cometh out of it." " Which made heaven and earth, the sea, and 
all that therein is." " He hath made the earth by his power, he 
hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out 
the heavens by his discretion." 

" O Lord God, behold thou hast made the heavens and the earth, 
by thy great power." 

" The Lord which stretched forth the heavens, and layeth the 
foundations of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him." 

The apostles tread in the footsteps of the prophets, in ascribing 
the creation of the universe to God alone, " The living God, which 
made the heavens and the earth, and all things therein." 


" God that made the world and all things therein." " For the 
invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly 
seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eter- 
nal power and Godhead." 

" He that built all things is God." 

With such declarations as these, coming from the mouth of God 
himself, how is the mind enlarged and elevated, in contemplating 
the heavens and the earth ! How grand, how beauurui, now wise, 
how harmonious is the universe, when viewed through the medium 
of divine revelation. " The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and the firmament showeth his handy work ; day unto day utter- 
eth speech, and night unto night teacheth knowledge." 

" O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth ! 
who hast set thy glory above the heavens." " When I consider 
thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which 
thou hast ordained ; what is man that thou art mindful of him ! 
And the son of man that thou visitest him V 

Without the book of revelation, the book of nature would be as 
a volume sealed ; but with this key we can open its wonderful 
pages, and receive instruction from every creature of God. 

But let us descend from the contemplation of the universe, to 
the consideration of some of its parts. Here are the race of man- 
kind, and multitudes of living creatures, in the earth, the air, and 
the water ; whence have they proceeded ? What can reason and 
philosophy answer ? Had man and the other animals a beginning, 
or were they from eternity 1 If the former, from what cause, and 
by what steps did they arrive at their present condition 1 On no 
subject has philosophy betrayed her weakness more than in her 
speculations respecting the origin of the human race. It would 
be poorly worth our while to review the absurd theories of an- 
cient and modern philosophers, which more resemble the dreams 
of the sick than the sober deductions of reason. One will give to 
the earth we know not what prolific power to produce men and 
animals ; another chooses to place man, in his origin on a level 
with the speechless brutes, from which condition he is supposed to 
arise by long and assiduous exertion ; acquiring for himself the 
use of articulate and written language, and inventing, from time to 
time, all the arts which now minister to the comfort of civilized 
life. But such theories are too absurd for refutation. The idea 
of the production of animals or vegetables, by what was called 
equivocal generation, that is, without progenitors, or organized 
seeds and roots, has long since been exploded. Experiments the 
most decisive have demonstrated the falsehood of the notions en- 
tertained by the ancients, of the generation of animated beings 
from mere corruption. The men and animals, now on the earth, 
belong to a series reaching back to eternity ; or they were formed, 
and placed on our globe, by an almighty Being. Let us then, for 
a moment, look at the theory which assigns to man an existence 
without beginning. While the individuals die, the species is im- 


mortal. If such a hypothesis does not do violence to common 
sense, it would be difficult to say what does. Each individual is 
dependent, and yet the whole series of individuals independent. 
The absurdity and contradiction of such a theory are concealed 
only by the darkness of eternity. By running back until we are 
overwhelmed with a subject which our minds cannot grasp, we 
are apt to lose sight of the unreasonableness of a supposition, 
which on a limited scale every one can clearly see. As if one 
should say, here is a chain suspended, consisting of a thousand 
links, each one depending on the next above it ; could such a chain 
of a thousand links remain suspended, without anything to sup- 
port it ? To such a problem every child would give the correct 
answer. The thing is manifestly impossible. Well, suppose the 
number of links be increased to a hundred million, could the chain 
support itself any better than when it consisted of a thousand, or 
even ten links ? Certainly not, would be the answer of every per- 
son of common sense ; and such a person would be apt to say, the 
more links there are in the chain, the more support does it require, 
seeing its tendency to fall will be in proportion to its weight. But 
then, suppose the links so increased, that our minds can no longer 
conceive of the number, will such an increase, however great it 
may be, render a support less necessary ? The answer ought to 
be as decisively as before, in the negative. We have seen that 
the increase of the number, while within the limits of our concep- 
tion, did not lessen the necessity for a supporting power ; and why 
should such an increase as goes far beyond our power of imagina- 
tion be supposed to have this effect ? The idea of a series of men 
without beginning, without any Creator to give them being, is 
one of the greatest absurdities which can be conceived. 

Besides, when we consider the number of men ; when we trace 
their history ; when we reflect upon their small advancement in the 
arts and sciences ; and how recent the most useful inventions are ; 
how can we, unless we renounce our reason, believe that mankind 
have existed on this globe from eternity ? The thing is impos- 
sible. The only reasonable hypothesis therefore is, that the hu- 
man race, together with the various species of animals and vege- 
tables, had a beginning ; and that they were created by a wise and 
omnipotent Being, by whose care and sustaining power they are 
still preserved. 

But man feels too little satisfied with his own reasonings to rest 
contented with such conclusions as he can himself deduce. He 
wishes to see the face, or hear the voice, of his great Creator. He 
wants an explicit declaration from the mouth of his Father in hea- 
ven, assuring him of the truth of his own reasonings ; and author- 
izing him to claim the relation of a creature, formed by the power 
and goodness of God. 

Such a desire of divine instruction is neither sinful nor unrea- 
sonable in creatures situated as we are. Who would not wish to 
know his own earthly father? And who would like, on such a 


subject, to be left to reasonings founded on abstract principles ? 
But how much more interesting is it for us to know our heavenly 
Father, to whom we owe our very being, with all its faculties and 
capacities? Now, this reasonable desire the great Creator has 
condescended to gratify. He has, in the revelation which is con- 
tained in the holy Scriptures, informed us. not only that he is our 
Maker, but has given us most particular information of the time 
and circumstances of man's creation. After the heavens and the 
earth, and beasts, fishes, and birds, were formed ; in short, after all 
things on earth were created, God, speaking in the glorious council 
of his own being, said, " Come, let us make man in our own image, 
and after our own likeness ; and let them have dominion over the 
fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, 
and over all the earth." " So God created man in his own image ; 
in the image of God created he him." " And the Lord God formed 
man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the 
breath of life : and man became a living soul." " And the Lord 
God said, it is not good that the man should be alone, I will make 
an help meet for him." " And the Lord God caused a deep sleep 
to fall upon Adam ; and he slept, and he took one of his ribs, and 
closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib which the Lord 
God had taken from man made he a woman, and brought her unto 
the man ; and Adam said, this is now bone of my bone, and flesh 
of my flesh ; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out 
of man." 

We have somewhere met with an account of an infidel, more in- 
genious than wise, who proposed to put the Mosaic history to the 
test, by examining whether man was deficient of a rib in one of his 
sides. It would have been as reasonable to have examined whether 
every male descendant of Adam had the scar of the wound made 
in the side of the first man. If Adam had remained, all his life, 
destitute of the rib which was taken away, why should it be sup- 
posed that this defect should be transmitted to his posterity ? But 
he laboured under no such defect, for the opening made was 
closed up with flesh instead of that which was taken away. The 
rib was not taken on account of any difficulty to obtain materials, 
but to show that a man and his wife were one, and that a man 
should ever cherish his wife as his own flesh. The word here trans- 
lated rib, properly means, a side : for aught that appears, the whole 
side of the man might have been taken, to form the woman ; but 
this is a matter of no consequence. 

Infidels have been fond of turning this simple and beautiful his- 
tory of the formation of the first man and the first woman into 
ridicule ; but if man had a beginning, and was created by the Al- 
mighty, what account could be imagined more natural and reason- 
able than this ? Let the scoffer produce his own hypothesis, and 
subject it to the test of examination — but he has none. He laughs 
at the Bible history, and at the same time has nothing to furnish as 
a substitute. But to men of sober minds, who wish to be acquainted 


with their own origin, this narrative is most satisfactory and in- 
structive. We know that man must have had a beginning, and 
consequently a Creator ; but reason could not inform us how, or 
in what circumstances, he commenced his existence : that, there- 
fore, which we wish to know, and need to know, is distinctly re- 
vealed, and plainly recorded in the Bible. Man, instead of being 
from eternity, is of yesterday ; instead of springing, like a mush- 
room, from the putrid earth, ho came from the forming hand of the 
great Creator ; instead of being at first an ape or ourang outang, 
he was made in the likeness and after the similitude of God. The 
Bible, then, explains to us our own origin, and the origin of all 
creatures. It teaches that man was made out of the clay of the 
earth, but this clay was wrought into shape, and wonderfully and 
fearfully organized, by a divine hand. 

The physical history of man exhibits some very remarkable 
phenomena; among which none have attracted the attention of the 
inquisitive so much as the striking variety in the complexion, hair, 
size, and figure of the species in different countries. Of complexion 
we find every shade of colour from white to sooty black ; and of 
hair, from the silken or flaxen locks of the North of Europe, to the 
crisped and curled wool of the Guinea negro. In the formation 
and prominence of the nose, lips, and cheeks, there is also a re- 
markable difference in different nations. These striking and nu- 
merous varieties have led some philosophers to adopt the opinion, 
that mankind are not descended from one stock ; but that originally 
there must have been parents corresponding with the several classes 
of men. It is an obvious objection to this theory, that the several 
complexions of mankind are not distinctly marked, but run into 
each other by imperceptible shades ; so that if we suppose more 
species of men than one, we know not where to stop. If every 
considerable variety must be the foundation of a distinct species, 
we must adopt the hypothesis that, originally, God created a mul- 
titude of human beings of different complexions. 

It is also a fact unfavourable to this hypothesis, that there are 
striking varieties in complexion, hair, &c, among those known to 
have proceeded from one stock. In the same nation, some whole 
families or tribes are distinguished by fair hair and a ruddy com- 
plexion ; while others are equally remarkable for dark complexion, 
and black hair and eyes. These varieties in the same nation are 
known also to be transmitted from father to son, for many genera- 
tions. But we are unable to account for this variety : and if such 
a difference may take place when the external circumstances are 
nearly similar, why may not the greater varieties of the human 
species be owing to the great difference of climate and other cir- 
cumstances of the nations of the earth ? 

Since a more accurate knowledge has been obtained of the nu- 
merous tribes inhabiting the islands of the great South Sea, some 
very interesting facts have been brought to light, respecting the 
origin of these insulated savages. The information collected by 


Dr. Prichard, and published in his Physical History of Man, goes 
far to prove, that men who have at a remote period sprung from 
the same stock, may so diverge from each other, in features, com- 
plexion, hair, &c, that they form distinct classes, and seem to be as 
widely apart from each other as almost any of the differing tribes 
of men. The identity of the origin of some of these islanders, 
whose appearance is so dissimilar, is ascertained by the radical 
sameness of their language ; and it is a thing unknown in the his- 
tory of savages to change their vernacular tougue. It is manifest, 
therefore, that there are natural causes in operation, whether we 
understand what they are or not, sufficient to produce all the vari- 
eties observed in the human species. 

The diversity of features and complexion in the Jews, who have 
long resided in widely different climates, and who it is known do 
not intermix with other people, affords a strong confirmation of 
the same truth. 

It is also as remarkable as it is obvious, that, for the most part, 
men of a certain complexion are found in a particular latitude, 
unless they have been recently removed from their own country. 
We do not find the black skin and crisped hair in high latitudes ; 
nor the fair complexion and light-coloured hair under the equator. 
From the first glance, therefore, it would seem that there is some 
connexion between climate and the complexion. Whether a 
difference of climate is sufficient of itself to account for these 
varieties, need not be determined. There may be other causes 
combined with this, some of which may be unknown to us. Ani- 
mals carried from the temperate regions, far to the north, become 
white, and their fur becomes much thicker and warmer. The 
final cause of this change is manifest, and indicates the wisdom 
and goodness of the great Creator, but we know not how to ac- 
count for it. The fact is certain, but the process of nature by 
which it is brought about is concealed ; at least, it has not yet been 
discovered. Now, there may be, in the constitution of man, a 
principle which accommodates itself to different climates, for pur- 
poses equally important. Indeed it is a well known fact, that black 
people can endure a tropical sun much better than white men. 

The analogy derived from other animals and vegetables also 
forbids the multiplication of the human species. The changes 
produced in the different species of animals, which can live in 
climates widely different, are as great, and in some much greater, 
than in the human species. Take, for an example, the canine 
species. How great the difference between the large mastiff and 
the diminutive lap-dog ! These varieties in animals of the same 
species, extend not only to their size, colour, and shape, but in a 
very remarkable degree to their instincts. 

Seeing, then, that this is the common law of animal nature, why 
should we expect that the physical nature of man should be exempt 
from changes, induced by a diversity of climate ? And when we 
observe that the varieties of the human race have a manifest re- 


lation to the climate of the respective nations, the conclusion, upon 
all just principles of natural science, must be that the human spe- 
cies is one. 

In all cases where there is a difference of species, there is a marked 
difference in the internal structure of the body ; but among the 
dillbicnt ti iLv; a of mon, rvo su-^u j;.,,,,.^;^, u~<- K^^-v^ ^>Kce>rved as can 

be the foundation of a diversity of species. The most exact ana- 
tomical dissections have discovered no permanent parts or conniv- 
ances, in one nation, which are not found also in all others. They 
all have the same bones, the same joints, the same system of 
nerves, the same number, use and position of muscles, the same 
blood-vessels, glands, and digestive organs. Not only is the exter- 
nal appearance of the parts the same, but the interior texture and 
constituent particles composing the respective parts of the human 
body, are the same in the white man, as in the black, the olive, the 
red, or the yellow. 

It is scarcely necessary to observe, that all men have the same ex- 
ternal senses and the same bodily appetites, the same instincts, the 
same susceptibility of forming habits, and the same natural passions 
and desires. Those things in the constitution of man which have no 
resemblance in other species of animals, are found in all the nations 
of the earth. The risible faculty and the faculty of weeping, and 
especially the possession of articulate speech, all serve to prove the 
identity of the human species. And if from the body and its func- 
tions we ascend to the mind, here we find the same original faculties, 
in all the varieties of the human race. We observe in all, not only 
perception, consciousness, and memory, of which the inferior ani- 
mals seem to partake, but the power of reasoning ; the faculty of 
imagination ; the power of association and abstraction ; and what 
is more decisive still, the moral sense, of which there is no vestige 
in the brutes ; and the faculty of taste ; for all men perceive a dif- 
ference between right and wrong, and feel moral obligation ; and 
all men have some sense of beauty and deformity. Moreover, all 
men are capable of improvement, and those nations which are now 
the most learned and refined, were once among the most barba- 
rous of the human race. 

This perfect similarity in mind and body is sufficient to lead all 
impartial men to the conclusion, that the human race are all de- 
scended from one pair, and that the varieties are accidental ; — the 
effect of a variety of causes, all of which we are unable to explore. 

Some philosophers have, however, thought themselves justified 
in considering men of different species, not so much from the variety 
in their complexion and external appearance, as from the different 
degrees of flatness or rotundity in the skulls of different nations. 
On this ground, the learned Blumenbach has reduced the whole hu- 
man race to five classes or species. But in the first place, the exami- 
nation of human skulls has not been sufficiently extensive to furnish 
correct data for such a classification ; and in the next place, if the 
difference exists, it affords no philosophical reason for supposing an 


original diversity of species. The causes which have operated 
other changes, may as easily have produced a difference in the 
mere form of a skull : and those who give credit to the discoveries 
of the craniologists, will find no difficulty in accounting for any 
varieties which are found in the skulls of men of different tribes. 

Some time since, a radical differer ,, ° ..r mtoiioot ..« uioiaica 
on, as a criterion to determine a difference of species : but since 
c/ui acquaintance with the most degraded and stupid of the human 
race has become more accurate ; and especially, since we have 
witnessed the improvements of which these are capable, and the 
rapid advancement of some of them in knowledge and civilization, 
the whole ground of this opinion is taken away. 

There is another criterion of the identity of species, which by 
some naturalists has been considered decisive. It has been found, 
that although animals of different species may be made to propa- 
gate a mongrel breed, their offspring are for the most part barren, 
or are seldom known to propagate. But the various classes of 
men mingle as freely and propagate the species with as much 
facility as people of the same tribe. Of late, however, some 
doubt has been expressed respecting the correctness of the fact 
first stated, on which the whole argument rests. It is alleged that 
sufficient experiments have not been made on the subject of the 
natural want of fertility in mules and other hybrids ; and that, as far 
as experience goes, they are found to be fruitful in as many cases as 
they are barren. Leaving, therefore, the degree of barrenness in 
such animals in doubt, it is clear that no new species, capable of 
continuing itself by propagation, has been formed by the union of 
animals of different species, and that there exists a natural obstruc- 
tion, which does not exist in the case of men of the different 

But why might not a number of pairs of the same species, or 
exactly similar in parts and powers, have been produced as well 
as one 1 To which we answer, that although the thing is possible, 
yet sound philosophy never resorts to such a supposition. Natu- 
ralists always go on the principle that more causes of the phenomena 
of nature than are sufficient, are not to be admitted ; and where 
every effect can as well be accounted for by supposing one origi- 
nal pair as by many, the hypothesis of more than one ought, on 
general principles, to be rejected. 

Having seen that reason itself leads us to believe that all the va- 
rious nations of men are derived from one stock, and form but one 
species, it cannot but add strong confirmation to our belief, that 
the sacred Scriptures clearly inform us, that when God created 
man upon the earth, he created them male and female ; — one man 
and one woman — from whom proceeded all the nations of the 

The idea which some have entertained, that there were men be- 
fore Adam, is destitute of all shadow of proof. The apostle Paul, 
in his discourse before the Senate of Areopagus, explicitly declares, 


what reason and revelation unite in teaching to be the truth. " And 
hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the 
face of the earth." One word from the inspiration of God goes 
further to establish our minds in the belief of the truth, than 
volumes of arguments depending merely on the fallible reason of 

The Bible teaches us that every man of every tribe and of every 
colour, whether his skull be flat or prominent, is our brother, and 
has a claim upon us for all the kindness and beneficence which it is 
in our power to show him. The same God is the Father of us all ; 
and the same man is our common earthly father ; and we are 
all rapidly tending to the same judgment and to the same eter- 

But if any should, after all, be of opinion that the diversity 
among men cannot be accounted for by natural causes, yet it does 
not follow that the Mosaic history is false, or that there are several 
species of men entirely distinct from each other. At some period 
of the history of man, for some special reason, the Governor of the 
universe may have given a distinctive colour to one or more fami- 
lies of the earth. And some believers in the Bible are so fully im- 
pressed with this idea, that they have undertaken to affirm that 
we have an intimation of this very thing in the sacred history. 
While some, however, would refer the black colour of the skin to 
the mark set upon Cain (which is irreconcilable with the history 
of the deluge), others, with more probability, refer it to the curse 
upon Canaan, the son of Ham. As his posterity were doomed to 
be the servants of servants, it is thought that some peculiar mark 
was set upon them, which, it is presumed, was the dark colour of 
the skin and the crisped and woolly hair. And in confirmation of 
this opinion, they allege, that the black people are the descendants 
of Ham, and that they are the slaves of all the world, until this 

While we are willing to admit, that for reasons unknown to us, 
God might have miraculously changed the complexion and fea- 
tures of a part of the human race ; we must think that the notion 
that the black colour was inflicted as a disgrace and a curse is a 
mere prejudice. Why should not the white colour be considered 
as a mark of God's displeasure? for no negro from the burning 
sands of Africa can appear more shocking to the inhabitants of 
northern regions, than the white man does to the people of the inte- 
rior of that continent. 

It seems, moreover, to be a prejudice without foundation, that 
the colour of the whites was that of the first man. Much the 
larger part of the inhabitants of the earth are of a complexion 
nearly midway between the two extremes. Is it not, therefore, 
much more probable that our first parents were red men, or of an 
olive or copper colour? This opinion derives some support 
from the name of the first man, for the radical signification of 


Adam, is red ; and if this be assumed as a fact, then it will be much 
easier to account for the various complexions of men from natural 
causes, than if we suppose that either white or black was the 
original complexion. 

But from what has been said it will be seen that no valid argu- 
ment against the truth of the Bible can be derived from the variety 
in the human species ; whether that variety can be accounted for 
by natural causes or not. 




It is natural lo inquire, while surveying the extended works of 
God, What is the ultimate end of this great and complicated system ? 
Some parts of it we can easily see were formed for others ; objects 
that are small and insignificant, for those that are greater and 
more important ; and, again, these for others greater and more 
important still. The pebble and the drop were made to constitute 
the mountain and the river ; and the mountains and the rivers to 
adorn and embellish the face of nature, and in a thousand ways 
to minister to the wants of those who dwell on the earth. The 
solid earth, with all its immense quantities of matter, its diversified 
surface, its fertile soil, its rapid motions, its elastic atmosphere, was 
evidently intended to be the habitable abode of men. The extended 
ocean, with all its mighty expanse and unmeasured depth of waters, 
while it is the grand reservoir of nature and the source of evapora- 
tion, perpetually enriching the earth with fertility and verdure, 
everywhere distributes its watery treasures for the sustenance and 
benefit of the numerous tribes of animated and intelligent existence. 
If we extend our views to the solar system, or from the solar system 
to the starry heavens, in these trackless regions we behold an 
assemblage of resplendent orbs, spacious perhaps as the sun of our 
own system, and all subserving the interests of unnumbered worlds, 
not improbably invested, like our own, with intelligence and immor- 
tality. Matter, in all its variety and magnificence, we see, is made 
for mind, and one portion of this great and complicated system for 

What, then, is the ultimate end of all things ? The lights of 
unaided reason are far from fitting us to solve this high problem ; 
and yet, so far as we are enabled to follow them, they conduct us 
to the same conclusion to which we are conducted by a super- 
natural revelation, when it so happily and explicitly instructs us, 
that " The Lord hath made all things for himself" 

When we say that God acts for the purpose of displaying abroad 


the perfections of his nature before the intelligent creation — when 
we say that God made all things for himself, we mean, that his 
supreme end " is his own glory, or the most perfect gratification 
of his infinitely benevolent mind." The word glory, when applied 
to God, sometimes denotes the inherent and full perfection of the 
divine nature, and sometimes the manifestation of the divine nature 
in creation, providence, and grace. There is a difference between 
the intrinsic and the manifested excellence of the Godhead. By 
his intrinsic excellence, is meant his essential perfections ; by his 
manifested excellence is meant his essential perfections, exhibited 
to himself and the created universe. There is a richness, a fulness 
of perfection which constitutes his essential glory ; and there is a 
diffusion, a resplendency in his perfections which, if I may so speak, 
reflects the Deity to himself and the universe ; which casts its 
light through all worlds, and constitutes his manifested glory. The 
chief excellence of God consists in his goodness. Infinite amiableness 
and beauty are treasured up in his perfections, because the basis of 
them is the most pure, permanent, universal, and perfect goodness. 

This is the glory of his nature. But the intrinsic, or essential 
goodness of God does not admit of increase or diminution. God 
cannot possess more essential goodness than he does possess ; and, 
therefore, cannot be made essentially more glorious than he is. 
When, therefore, we speak of God's being glorified, or of the ad- 
vancement and promotion of his glory, we speak of the augmenta- 
tion of his manifested excellence — of the expression, or gratification 
of his infinite goodness, in some of its forms and modifications. It 
is not incompatible with his immutability, that the exhibition he 
makes of his nature should be capable of continual growth and 
enlargement, and that his manifested excellence should receive 
fresh accessions, and be continually growing more extended and 
more refulgent. For all that we know, the manifested glory of 
God is susceptible of augmentation that is perpetually progressive. 
In the same proportion in which the scene opens, will the true 
character of God be unfolded, and his perfect goodness made 
known. And as the drama draws to a close, and the catastrophe 
of the mighty plot begins to be developed, at every step of this pro- 
gressive disclosure will the heart of God be acted out, the name of 
God magnified, the glory of God displayed abroad, and the divine 
goodness infinitely and for ever exalted and gratified. This is 
what we mean when we say, that the glory of God is the ultimate 
end of all his conduct, and that he made all things for himself. It 
was that he might manifest the perfections of his nature, and thus 
exalt and gratify his infinite goodness. 

This is God's ultimate end. This is the end to which all other 
ends are subordinate and subservient. Jehovah, the king of Israel. 
is " the first and the last ;" he is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning 
and the ending ;" the first cause and the last, or supreme end of all 
things. "Of him, and to him, and through him, are all things." 
" All things that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and 


invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, principalities, and 
powers, all were created by him and for him. God himself often 
declares in his word, that he will do, or refrain from doing, " for 
his own sake," — for " his name's sake," — " for his praise," — " for 
his glory," — and, that " in all things he may be glorified." What 
means the sublime declaration in the Apocalypse ? " And the four 
beasts rest not day nor night, saying, holy, holy, holy, Lord God 
Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those 
beasts give glory, and honour, and thanks to him that sat on the 
throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders 
fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that 
liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, 
saying, thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and 
power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they 
are and were created /" 

Whom could God ultimately regard, in the creation of all things, 
except himself? Before the creation there was none other in ex- 
istence but God. The motives to create must, of necessity, be 
within himself. Is it said, that future existence itself may be an end 
in proposing and causing it to exist ? Is it said, that the excellence 
of his work was an inducement to create ? 

But for what purpose did God propose happiness 1 Did he act 
without a motive ? Or was it to express and gratify his own per- 
fect goodness ? Was it his love of happiness, his delight in happi- 
ness, that induced the purpose and the wish ? 

The divine glory deserves the most regard. Not only must the 
infinite and eternal Creator have had some end in view in the crea- 
tion, but one that justifies the expressions of his omnipotence, and 
that is worthy of the greatest and best Being in the universe. We 
can conceive of many ends that might have presented themselves 
to his mind, but we can conceive of no supreme end short of him- 
self, without derogating from his perfect excellence. Universal 
creation is but a point compared with God. Language, and figures, 
and comparisons, are lost in the contemplation of his being and 
nature. The material and intellectual universe is but a faint adum- 
bration of what God himself is, and presents a mere shadow, an 
emblem of his infinite perfections. All nations, all worlds, arc but 
a " drop of the bucket," compared with him, and no more than the 
small vapour to the immense ocean. Immeasurable glories and 
blessedness belong to Him who fills immensity. The glory of the 
infinite God, therefore, deserves the highest regard. And with 
reverence be it spoken, it became him to make this his design, as 
really it becomes him to give the preference to an archangel 
above an insect. 

The use which God actually makes of his creation, shows what 
end it was intended to answer. It subserves the end for which it 
was originally intended. And what do the Scriptures and facts 
declare this to be 1 Obviously, not the happiness of all God's 
creatures ; for they arc not all happy. Human misery stares us 



in the face wherever we turn our eyes. In eternity .there are, and 
will be greater and deeper miseries than are found in time. So 
that if the happiness of all God's creatures be the ultimate end of 
creation, most certainly the divine purpose is defeated. But facts 
and the Bible unite in declaring that the use God makes of his 
universe is the promotion and advancement of his own glory. 
When we survey the works of creation, to what do we see them 
so really and so much subservient, as the glory of the Creator ? 
" All thy works praise thee." " Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of 
hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory." If we 'survey the works 
of Providence, what do they illustrate so clearly, as the suprema- 
cy, wisdom, goodness, power, and presence of the Almighty and 
efficient Ruler ? What grand and deep impression do they pro- 
duce on the mind, if not this, that they are full of God ? — that by 
them his name is " declared throughout all the earth" — and that 
through them men " may know that he is the Lord ?" It will not 
be doubted that the glory of God is the great end of the work of 
redemption. Angels, when they announced it, sang " Glory to God 
in the highest !" The Redeemer, when he achieved it, prayed, 
" Father, glorify thy name !" All its promises are " yea and amen 
to the glory of God, by Jesus Christ." The graces, and hopes, and 
joys it imparts to the saints, are to " make known the riches of his 
glory." And the final and triumphant song it inspires in the 
heavenly world, is "unto him be glory !" Not only is the glory of 
God the ultimate end of all his goodness and mercy to the saints, 
but of all his justice and indignation to the ungodly. " The wrath 
of man shall praise the Lord." Allelujas to God and the Lamb 
shall ascend, when the smoke of the torments of the damned go up 
for ever and ever. And the close of this terrestrial scene shall de- 
clare and confirm the truth we are enforcing with a deep and 
memorable emphasis. A voice from heaven shall then be heard, 
saying, " It is done ; I am Alpha and Omega !" When the great 
design shall be consummated, and creation, providence, and re- 
demption shall have been brought to their final issue, and the 
Judge shall have pronounced the final sentence, then shall this 
redeeming God and King " deliver up the kingdom to God, even 
the Father, and God shall be all in all ; " and this surrender 
shall eternally proclaim to the universe, that "God made all things 
for himself." God shall be all in all. God shall be infinitely and 
for ever glorified. 

But it may not be amiss to occupy a few pages in vindicating 


is nothing which the Scriptures represent as more essential to en- 
larged and consistent vieAvs of truth, as well as to the great in- 
terests of vital piety, than some just conceptions of this part of our 
subject. There is nothing of which God himself is so jealous, 
nothing he regards so deeply as his own glory. This he is im- 
mutably resolved to secure and advance, and by all means, and at 
every step of its development, to make men see. He " will not 


give his glory to another." His glory is, with him, a consideration 
of paramount influence, in every condition and circumstance, and 
in all worlds. It is second to nothing which the Infinite Mind itself 
has ever conceived. Holy beings in heaven and on earth have no 
larger wish, no greater desire, than to behold greater and brighter 
exhibitions of the divine excellence. 

It is of the highest importance in itself, that God should appear 
in the perfect exercise and exhibition of his divine excellence. The 
importance of this exhibition depends on the intrinsic and manifold 
perfections of the divine nature. If there were no excellence in 
the Deity, we should be far from considering it desirable that his 
true character should appear ; much less should we desire that the 
full and complete exhibition and gratification of it should be the 
ultimate end of all that he does. In itself considered, no matter 
how long, or how impenetrably, intrinsic turpitude of character lies 
concealed ; it is deformed and disgusting to look at ; it makes no 
one the better or happier for being familiar with it; but the more 
fully, the more impressively intrinsic excellence is disclosed, the 
deeper is the conviction of its reality and loveliness, and the more 
sublime and beautiful the survey and inspection of its glories. Now, 
it is because God is infinitely great and good, that it is desirable to 
" sec him as he is." That immensity and majesty, that power and 
wisdom, that supremacy and immutability, that pure, perfect, and 
universal goodness, which diffuse their energy into all the divine 
plans, and spread such beauty and glory over all the divine works 
and conduct, are in him excellences of the highest kind, and im- 
measurable in degree. We do not appreciate the exhibition of the 
divine excellence, because we have such low and grovelling 
thoughts of God. Were this immensely great and infinitely glo- 
rious Being always viewed as he is, did we see him to be " the first 
fair and the first good," were we always possessed of just and com- 
prehensive conceptions of his glory, we should entertain no doubt, 
that the reflection of this excellence, the progressive diffusion of 
these concentrated rays, is the highest and best end which the 
Supreme Intelligence could propose to himself in all his works. 
The principle on which we affirm this, is inwoven with all our 
common sense and moral calculations. Every man regrets, and 
deems it an unhappiness, when a measure of mere human excel- 
lence is hid from the public eye. When virtue languishes in 
solitude, when genius withers in retirement, when the heavy hand 
of external discouragement or internal depression bears down the 
rising efforts of intellectual or moral greatness, what benevolent 
mind does not reflect upon such calamity with pain ? And if in 
proportion to the degree of excellence is the importance that it 
should be unfolded, beyond conception important is it that the 
matchless, manifuld. infinite, and eternal excellence of the Diety 
should appear, and be displayed abroad in all its glory. If the 
king, eternal, immortal, and invisible, possesses, not the resem- 
blance and image, but " the living features" of perfection, who 


feels it not to be important that the light of his fair countenance 
should be lifted upon the universe he has made, and that every 
subject of his empire should be constrained to see, that " none in 
heaven can be compared unto the Lord, and none among the sons 
of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord ?" Not only is there 
in this disclosure ineffable loveliness and beauty, but there is equity 
both to himself and liis creatures. If he is a holy God, and there 
is beauty in his holiness, then ought it to appear that he is holy and 
not sinful. If he is just, and there are beauties and amiableness in 
his justice, then is it desirable and important that his justice should 
appear, and be magnified ; and that he should for ever be acquitted 
of the imputation of cruelty, caprice, and injustice. If he is wise, and 
powerful, and good, then is it infinitely desirable that these perfec- 
tions of his nature should be acted out, and he exalted and gratified ; 
and that no order of beings should ever call in question the wis- 
dom, efficacy, or benevolence of his administrations. If he is gra- 
cious and merciful, then ought all men to see " what is the fellow- 
ship of the mystery which, from the beginning of the world, hath 
been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the 
intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places, 
might be known through the Church, his manifold glory." If he is 
supreme, then is it desirable that his supremacy should appear, and 
that all should know, that he " does his pleasure in the armies of 
heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.*' And if he is in 
every view a being of faultless, unequalled perfection, and that 
every intellectual and moral excellence adorns his nature, and are 
the habitation and glory of his throne, then is it of the highest im- 
portance that his unblemished glory should shine forth, and that 
nothing mar its unrivalled beauty. There was an emphasis in the 
inquiry of Moses, that sinks into the soul of every godly man and 
every bending seraph, " What will become of thy great name ?" 
We know that among fallen spirits, and in this world of ours that 
lieth in wickedness, the divine character has been subjected to the 
foulest stains, his government reproached, and his designs defamed ; 
and unless his excellence appear in cloudless glory, dissipating the 
obscurity in which it has been enveloped by the ignorance, mis- 
conception, and wickedness of creatures, the stain can never be 
wiped away. God must be glorified. Every supposed blemish 
must be removed by the exhibition of himself. Every murmur 
against him must die away. " Every mouth must be stopped." 
And nothing short of the actual development of the divine nature 
can attain this end. All that God is, and all that he does, must 
" come to the light," that it may be approved and applauded by 
ten thousand tongues, and ten thousand times ten thousand con- 
sciences, and that their approbation and their plaudits may be 

It is also through the bright exhibitions of his own glory, that 
the God of love designs to secure and perpetuate the perfect and 
progressive holiness of unnumbered multitudes of his creatures. 


Some of the creatures of God were created holy, and have main- 
tained their primeval integrity, and will maintain it for ever. Some 
were created holy, and fell from their primitive rectitude, and have 
given birth to a race of beings, fallen like themselves. Of these, a 
great multitude are recovered from their apostasy, and will continue 
steadfast in their obedience without end. And it is obvious to 
remark, that whether true holiness, or moral rectitude, is found 
among angels or men, it is advanced and perpetuated by the same 
means. Wherever it is found, it consists in holy love, and prima- 
rily, in love to the adorable and ever blessed God. " Love is the 
fulfilling of the law." " He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, 
and God in him." He that " lovelh not, knoweth not God, for God 
is love." Now it accords with the Scriptures, and all the experi- 
ence of good men that the love of God exists and is sustained 
through the knowledge of God. The Divine Spirit, is indeed, the 
immediate and only cause and author of this heavenly disposition ; 
but the knowledge of God is the great instrument of it. This is 
the aliment of all healthful moral existence. Wherever sinful 
beings are made holy, it is by becoming acquainted with God. 
When God renews the hearts of the sons of men, and sheds abroad 
his love in them, they are illumined from above, and enabled to 
discern the supreme excellence and glory of the divine character. 
" God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines 
in their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge o\ his glory, 
in the face of Jesus Christ." And wherever holy beings see and 
learn most of God they become most holy. Holy affections 
delight in nothing but a holy object, and the most holy affections 
delight in nothing so much as the most holy. The highest holiness 
in creatures can be found only where God is best known, and loved 
perfectly. Upon nothing does their holiness so much depend, as 
the knowledge of God. It is possible for us to conceive of a sinless 
being, who knows nothing except his obligations to his fellow crea- 
tures ; but it would be a rectitude without a name — an anomaly in 
the moral universe — a rectitude that falls far below the actual 
rectitude, the real moral elevation of all holy creatures. We do 
not see how it is possible there should be any more conformity to 
God, than there is knowledge of his true character. Other things 
being equal, the reason why one good man is more holy than 
another, is that he possesses more clear and comprehensive views 
of God. One reason why Moses, and David, and Paul, were so 
much more holy than the mass of good men, is that they possessed 
such high and extended views of God. It is necessary, therefore, 
to the existence of holiness in the world, and its advancement and 
perpetuity, and especially its strength and vividness, that there 
should be a clear development of the divine character, and that the 
great God should be exalted and glorified. It is worthy of God as 
the friend and patron of holiness, to select as the ultimate end of 
all he does, the most perfect exhibition of his own nature. This 
he must do, to be loved, admired, and adored to the extent and 


degree in which holy beings will admire and adore his entire excel- 
lence. It is when "with unveiled face, they behold as in a glass, 
the glory of the Lord, that they are changed into the same image, 
from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Take 
away from the bosom of the holy, on earth or in heaven, those 
strong affections which arise from their perception of the glory of 
the divine nature, and you abate the fervour and intenseness of 
their piety. You starve their graces, and well nigh transform their 
character. It is indispensable to the highest and best state of 
religious affection, that the glory of God, progressively and in all 
its full-orbed splendour, should shine upon the world. He made 
this lower world to unfold the greatness and goodness of his cha- 
racter, and because his greatness and goodness are and will be here 
so wonderfully unfolded, and the whole earth become full of his 
glory : it is the school of morals and piety, where the first and the 
last lesson is God himself, and where, by becoming acquainted with 
God, rational and immortal beings are trained up for perfect holi- 
ness and an eternal heaven. 

This leads us to remark, that the propriety of God's making 
himself his ultimate end, appears more clearly from the fact, that 
by the manifestation of his glory, the greatest aggregate of happi- 
ness is secured to intelligent beings. The import of this remark 
will not, we think, be misunderstood. God is the first cause. AH 
existence, all happiness, flows from him ; and flows only by the 
exhibition of his own glory. Without some expression of the 
divine perfections, neither created happiness nor creatures would 
have had a being. There would have been nothing in existence 
besides God, and nothing besides himself to be happy. There would 
have been no effort of his power; no results of his wisdom ; no 
effects from his benevolence ; but his inert perfections would have 
been buried in the retirement of eternity, and have slept for ever 
in the recesses of his own infinite mind. Literally, therefore, does 
all created happiness depend upon the manifested excellence of the 
Deity. Nor is it less certain that the amount of created good is 
advanced by the continued and increased exhibition of the divine 
excellence. Had the natural and moral perfections of the Deity 
ceased to act, and to be illustrated immediately after the creation, 
or immediately after the deluge, or immediately after the death of 
Jesus Christ, who does not see that the aggregate of created 
happiness would have suffered a lamented diminution? Since no 
created happiness could originally have existed without some 
manifestation of the divine nature, so none would have continued 
to exist. The exhibition of the divine glory is not less essential to 
the increase and perpetuity, than to the original existence of created 
good. But it is not necessary to suppose an actual cessation in the 
diversified exhibitions of the Deity. Had there been a partial 
intermission, suspension, or limitation in the exhibition of the divine 
excellence, the effect, though less serious, would have been no less 
perceptible. In proportion to the limit imposed on the illustration, 


would have been the diminution in created happiness. Had there 
been fewer and less impressive exhibitions of the divine power, 
there had been fewer and less magnificent and less exalted beings 
and objects created and upheld and governed by the divine hand. 
Had there been fewer and less impressive exhibitions of the divine 
wisdom, there had been, in the vast and complicated system of 
God's operations, an end less benevolent than that which has been 
selected, and means less admirably adapted to accomplish it. Had 
there been fewer and less impressive exhibitions of the divine 
mercy, it had been purchased at a cheaper rate, bestowed on fewer 
sinners, and those less ill-deserving, and that less freely. Had 
there been fewer and less impressive exhibitions of the divine 
justice, there had been fewer monuments of his holy displeasure 
against sin, and those less awful and glorious ; and, consequently, a 
diminished confidence in God, as the moral governor of the holy 
and unholy. Had there been fewer and less impressive exhibitions 
of the divine supremacy, there had been less visible superiority and 
inferiority among all God's creatures, and less diversity of moral 
character and final allotment throughout the universe. But if the 
numerous and magnificent objects of creative power and directive 
superintendence — if the glorious end of the divine administrations, 
together with the wonderful adaptation of means to accomplish it 
— if the stupendous sacrifice made for the redemption of fallen man, 
the multitudes which no man can number, and those the chief of 
sinners, ransomed by grace unutterably rich and free — if the eternal 
monuments of Jehovah's displeasure against his incorrigible enemies, 
and the security of his government over a world of rational and 
accountable agents — if the wide and permanent diversity of cha- 
racter and condition in the present world and the world to come — 
if these, however fraught with evil in some of their private relations, 
are, on the whole, a good, and in their combination and contrast, 
in their wide connexions and eternal consequences, subserve the 
general welfare, then the conclusion is inevitable, that the manifes- 
tation of the divine glory is indispensable to the highest aggregate 
of created happiness. And that they are a good, will not be ques- 
tioned by any who confide in the absolute perfection of the Deity. 
He cannot be a perfect being if the exhibition of his true character 
results in anything short of the highest good. We have no other 
idea of imperfection than that it is in its own nature bad, and that 
its tendency is on the whole to produce evil. But we do not thus 
charge God foolishly. If "God only wise" cannot err, if the attri- 
butes of his nature are in no way imperfect, then whatever evils 
may be incidental to their development, it cannot be otherwise than 
that in the final issue they should secure the greatest good. 

In perfect accordance with these remarks, the experience of good 
men attests the fact, that the source and fulness of created good is 
the knowledge and enjoyment of God. There is something in the 
divine nature, not merely for the employment of our intellectual 
powers, but for the gratification of our most exalted and spiritual 


affections. Whatever brings God to the view of a holy mind never 
fails to increase its joy. The happiest moment of the Christian's 
existence is when he enjoys the most enlarged and most impressive 
views of God, and dwells with adoring wonder on his boundless 
and unsearchable perfections. To enjoy this felicity was the desire 
of Moses when he said, " I beseech thee show me thy glory ;" this 
was the desire of Job when he said, " Oh that I knew where I 
might find him :" of David when he prayed, " Lord, lift thou up the 
light of thy countenance upon me ;" and when he says, " One thing 
have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell 
in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and behold the 
beauty of the Lord :" and again, when he declares, " My soul 
thirsteth for thee, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen 
thee in the sanctuary." When you read the lives of such men as 
Flavel and Owen, Baxter and Edwards, Tennent and Brainerd, 
you cannot fail to discover that the source of their highest bles- 
sedness, their most enduring comforts, their most enraptured joys, 
was enlarged views of the divine character and glory. Let God 
be brought into view, and a holy mind will be happy ; let God be 
withdrawn, and it will be miserable. His ineffable glory was 
once withdrawn from the holiest created mind in the universe, and 
the man Christ Jesus exclaimed in agony inexpressible, " My God, 
my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" Some of our readers can 
accord with the spirit of these remarks, and have no doubt sensi- 
bly felt that nothing could make them miserable while the glory 
of the divine character beamed around them. 

But who, in this dark world, is fitted to appreciate the blessed- 
ness resulting from the more illustrious and transforming manifes- 
tations of the divine beauty? Eye hath not seen them, nor have 
they entered into the heart of man. " It may not be easy for us," 
says the eloquent Chalmers, " with all our imperfection, to sympa- 
thize with the rapture, the ecstasy of holy beings in their survey 
of the divine perfections ; but it is this that is the constant and 
essential principle of all their enjoyment, the never-failing source 
of their delighted admiration." Had God withheld the manifesta- 
tions of his entire excellence from angels, we do not say they would 
have been miserable, but we do say, they would not have been gra- 
tified. We do not say their bosoms would not have heaved with 
joy, but never would they have swelled with the "joy that is un- 
speakable and full of glory," and never would they have known 
that " exceeding and eternal weight of glory" which now they 
know. Had it pleased the Eternal to shed on them only a few 
broken and refracted rays of his divinity, their joys might indeed 
have beamed with bright effulgence, but they would have enkindled 
only the glimmerings of that flame, which now glows in their 
bosoms with unutterable fervour, and which emanates from the 
fulness of the Creator's glory. It is a thought very dear to us, 
that the glory of God and the good of the universe cannot be se- 
parated. When the glorious Being, whose name is love, acts for 


his own glory he acts for the good of his creatures. His goodness 
cannot be gratified without promoting the highest good of the uni- 
verse. Though he cannot make all his creatures happy consistently 
with the highest good, his own glory requires him to make them as 
happy as he can consistently make them. The only source of 
blessedness, therefore, that is commensurate with the ever-varying 
desires and utmost grasp of the immortal mind is found in God, 
and found in him from the exhibition of his excellent glory. Here 
are rich and endless disclosures ; here is never-ceasing variety ; 
here are glories which may be contemplated with new and ever- 
fresh delight, the longer and the brighter they are spread before 
the eye. 

There is another thought which we deem of some consequence 
in this illustration. We may not think the Infinite One " altogether 
such an one as ourselves," nor would we speak of him with uncir- 
cumcised lips. " Who, by searching, can find out God ? Who can 
find out the Almighty to perfection f" The thought we wish to be 
considered is this : The perfect exhibition of the divine glory is es- 
sential to the happiness of God himself. The Scriptures represent 
God as perfectly happy. They speak of him, as " God over all, 
blessed for ever," and as the " blessed and only Potentate." But in 
what does the blessedness of God consist? Does it not result from 
the pure and perfect benevolence of his character, which he him- 
self sees and appreciates, and which gives infinite pleasure to his 
own holy mind ? Would God be happy, and could he contemplate 
his nature with self-approbation and complacency, if he possessed 
a selfish and malevolent spirit? Does not his blessedness also re- 
sult from the expression of his perfect benevolence in the works of 
creation, providence, and grace, by which he diffuses so much hap- 
piness among his creatures ? Is it not thus that his benevolence is 
gratified, and that he makes himself happy ? And does not his 
blessedness also result from beholding the consequences and effects 
of his communicative goodness, wherever they are diffused and 
enjoyed? With infinite delight does he behold all the fruits of his 
pure and perfect goodness. " The Lord shall rejoice in his works." 
He "rejoices over them with joy ;" he "joys over them with sing- 
ing;" he "rests in his love." Is it too much to say, that although 
God is a pure and perfect Spirit, eternal, unchangeable, infinite in 
his being, power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, 
that his blessedness results from the same sources which commu- 
nicate happiness to the minds of all holy creatures, and differs from 
theirs — this is indeed a mighty difference — only as it is an independ- 
ent blessedness ; as it is without alloy, without interruption, with- 
out limits, and without end ; or in other words, only as he differs 
from them. Created minds are happy in the perfect gratification 
of all their holy desires ; and God is happy in the perfect grati- 
fication of all his desires. And since he has no desires that are 
unholy, all are perfectly gratified ; and in this consists his perfect 
and immutable blessedness. 



It is sometimes objected to this view of the divine blessedness, 
that God could not have been eternally happy. But the objection 
is more specious than valid. We have no doubt God was origi- 
nally and eternally happy, and that his happiness always has been 
unmixed and uninterrupted. But why is he thus blessed ? Most 
certainly, not independently of himself; not independently of his 
own desires, and of his purposes to gratify them. He was from 
eternity happy in the view of himself; in the view of all his pur- 
poses and creation, and all the happiness he knew would result 
from them, and which were present to his eternal mind, who "de- 
clares the end from the beginning, saying, My counsel shall stand, 
and I will do all my pleasure." If God has desires to gratify, and 
designs to accomplish, it is no impeachment of his independence 
to .say, he cannot be happy without gratifying them. It would 
be an impeachment of his independence if, in conformity with 
some modern notions, he were not able to gratify them. And 
this objection to their theory, the advocates of this new the- 
ology have not, so far as we know, attempted to obviate. If, 
as they affirm, he has desires for the salvation of men which 
he is not able to gratify, will they tell us why he is not mise- 
rable ? Ungratified desire, disappointed purposes, whether in 
the mind of creatures, or the Creator, must be the source of pain ; 
and the more in the Creator, because his desires are perfectly holy, 
and infinitely ardent and strong. Could we, without irreverence — 
we regret there are those who not only make the hypothesis, but 
insist on the fact — could we suppose the Deity to have one desire 
which he is unable to gratify : one purpose he cannot accomplish ; 
to us it seems, that one ungratified desire or purpose would make 
him wretched. Most certainly his blessedness could not be un- 
mixed and uninterrupted. 

If there be then any force in these suggestions, who does not 
see that it is essential to the eternal, undisturbed gratification of all 
God's desires, and to the accomplishment of all his purposes, that 
he be infinitely and for ever glorified 1 It is impossible his desires 
should be gratified, and his purposes accomplished, without mani- 
festing his character ; without a full and combined manifestation 
of his essential excellence ; just as impossible, as that the effect can 
exist without the cause. Thus to glorify himself is the consum- 
mation of his every desire and purpose. The perfect goodness of 
his pure and holy mind must be gratified ; the exuberant fulness of 
his amiable and awful perfections must flow out ; and if there were 
anything effectually to obstruct its course and oppose its progress 
he could not be happy. 

Let us look for a moment at the consequences of a possible de- 
feat and disappointment of some of the benevolent desires and 
purposes of the Deity. What if it were beyond his power to carry 
into effect the designs of his benevolent mind ; what if some grand 
design, in the dispensations of providence, should fail of its ac- 
complishment ; what if some endeared purpose in the method of 


redeeming mercy should suffer defeat ; what if the gates of hell, 
in an evil hour, should prevail against the Church ; what if many 
whom the Father has given to the Son should not come to him ; 
what, as some affirm, if the hard and stony heart should prove 
superior to his efficient grace, and multitudes should be lost, whom 
God, in every view, sincerely and ardently desires to sanctify and 
save ; what if the day of millennial mercy should never arrive, 
and the earth never be filled with the knowledge of the glory of 
the Lord, as the waters fill the sea ; what if the voice of the arch- 
angel and the trump of God should fail to raise the dead, and sum- 
mon the universe to his bar ; what if the righteous were shut out, 
and the wicked received into the kingdom of Heaven ; not only 
would every holy mind in the universe lament and wail, but God 
himself, no longer beholding and enjoying the joy and felicity of 
his people, and disappointed in the purest and sweetest desires and 
designs of his wisdom and love, would no longer be " God blessed 
for ever." Nor does it at all relieve the horror of this result, to 
suppose that the divine mind is indifferent to it. For, if his bene- 
volence were so torpid as to be unmoved by such disappointment, 
if his desires and designs of kindness could be all erased from his 
mind, and he still remain unmoved and happy, if his perfections 
were so inactive and retired as never to be seen, and so dormant 
as never to be acted out, or be sensible of injury, then he would not 
be God. 

But we have little need of hypotheses of this sort. God is infi- 
nitely happy, because he is, and will be infinitely glorified. Com- 
pared with the beauty and glory discoverable in the manifestation 
of his character, created excellence is lost sight of and forgotten ; 
and in such beauty and glory, it is impossible but that the infinite 
mind should take supreme delight. He is happy because he is 
glorified, and he must be glorified to be happy. We venture no 
rash expression, we say nothing dishonourable, but what is most 
honourable to God, when we affirm, he would be the most wretched 
being in the universe, were he not glorified. 

Thus would he vindicate the conduct of God in making himself 
his ultimate end. And let us ask, in view of this exposition, what 
ultimate end can be compared with this 1 What higher considera- 
tion, what weightier inducement, what more benevolent impulse 
could move the eternal mind than this? We sny, benevolent im- 
pulse ; because there is no selfishness here. Selfishness regards 
its own, simply because it is its own, and not because it is su- 
premely worthy of regard. It were a novel kind of selfishness 
that is gratified only in doing good ; and this is all the selfishness 
discoverable in the ultimate end of Deity. It is true, that in all his 
vast operations, he makes himself first, himself midst, himself every- 
thing; and the reason he does it is, that it is so unspeakably im- 
portant, as we have seen, that he should be all in all. There is no 
end he could propose so benevolent as this. It is an end, which, 
from its very nature, cannot be accomplished without comprising 


a greater amount of good, than could be secured in any other way. 
There is no supreme end worthy of God but this. It has been a 
needless indifference to the best interests of his great empire, to 
have aimed ultimately at anything below himself. Never does 
the eternal God appear so excellent, so worthy of supreme love, 
confidence, and homage, as when the grand object of his pursuit is 
seen to rise far above all the minor interests of his creation, and 
he himself is beheld " decked with light, as with a garment," and 
creating, upholding, and governing all things for his own glory. 

There are several practical thoughts which we are loath to 
forego, though we have already greatly trespassed on the patience 
of our readers. 

To us it appears, that the prominent truth contained in the pre- 
ceding remarks, is one which ought to be frequently and faithfully 
exhibited. There is no principle of greater importance, either in a 
theoretical or practical view, than that God himself is the ultimate 
end of everything he does. There is no truth with which we 
ought to be more familiar than this, and none which is capable of 
being more usefully employed, either in the confirmation and illus- 
tration of truth, the confutation of error, or the presentation of the 
most constraining inducements to elevated and consistent piety. 
No man can understand the doctrines of the Gospel, or discover 
their beauty and consistency, who does not see them in their rela- 
tion to this important and fundamental truth ; and no man can be 
led away by the subtilties of error who does. Establish this prin- 
ciple, and you give a mortal wound to every heresy that has dis- 
tracted the Church and the world ; relinquish this, and it is of little 
moment to which of all the variety of errors you give the prefer- 
ence. Once consent to come down from the lofty elevation that 
God is above all creatures, and that all things were made by him 
and for him, and no matter how low you fall. This truth is like a 
" moral perspective glass," it brings distant objects near, and pre- 
sents, in their true and real position, objects that are inverted. It 
presents also a telescopic vision of the works and ways of God, by 
which everything that he does is magnified, and in which he is 
seen forming his purposes and laying out his plans upon a scale of 
magnitude and grandeur, that overwhelms the human understand- 
ing. If he made all things for himself, then it became him to pro- 
ject and achieve a multitude of designs, the rectitude and magnifi- 
cence of which, without this ultimate end, would not, and could 
not have been seen by mortal eyes. It became him to form all 
his purposes from eternity, and with the sublime view of demon- 
strating his own excellence and glory. It became him to give ex- 
istence to a world of moral agents, and to extend his government 
over them through interminable ages. " It became him by whom 
are all things and for whom are all things," to make the captain of 
our salvation perfect through sufferings, and to devise a method of 
mercy, which, though to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the 
Greek foolishness, is the wisdom and power of God to salvation. 


It became him to reveal the operations of a mighty and invisible 
agent in the moral renovation of his people, and thus to produce 
impressions of the Deity upon their minds, which shall prostrate 
them in everlasting humiliation before his throne. And it becomes 
him, in his progressive administrations, to give no account of any 
of his matters ; but to magnify his own august dominion, and make 
all intelligences understand, that he legislates, not for a province, 
but for the universe ; and that he plans and governs, not for a day, 
but for an infinite lapse of ages. Nothing so allures a holy mind 
to adoring and humble piety, as the thought that God made all 
things for himself, and is governing all according to the counsel of 
his own will. " I know," saith the inspired preacher, "that what- 
soever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, 
nor anything taken from it ; and God doeth it that men should fear 
before him." In a word, establish this principle, and you shed 
lustre over all the works of God ; you have a clue to every laby- 
rinth in providence, and a solution of every mystery in grace; you 
have the keystone of the arch, sprung by unseen hands, when they 
laid the beams of his chambers in the mighty waters, and stretched 
out the line upon the foundations of the earth. 

Again : If the suggestions we have made are true, supreme 
selfishness constitutes neither the religion of the Gospel, nor 
the religion of heaven. It is very possible, that in all our 
religious affections, and in all our religious conduct, in all we 
do for God and our fellow men, we may have a supreme 
regard to ourselves. Not a few moral philosophers and grave 
divines have advocated the sentiment, that all religion consists in a 
well directed selfishness. But if God himself is the ultimate end 
of all things, this is not the religion of the Gospel, nor of heaven. 
It matters not how wisely, nor with how much discretion a man 
undertakes to exalt himself, so long as his supreme object is not to 
please and glorify God. It is impossible for him, from a supreme 
regard to himself, to love and honour God more than himself. 
Everything he does may be in itself lawful, it may be religious and 
devout, it may be very discreet and wise policy ; but if self be his 
grand, his ruling object, his spirit will be found to differ essentially 
from the spirit of angels, and of the just made perfect. The mind 
illumined by the Spirit of God. sees things as they are, and appre- 
ciates them according to their intrinsic worth. It ceases, in some 
good degree, to regard those that are of no comparative moment, 
and has learned to estimate those that are of real and permanent 
importance. And since there is nothing of so much importance as 
that God should be glorified, the real Christian desires nothing so 
much as this. God has the first and highest place in his heart. 
And since he loves every attribute of the divine character, so he 
desires to behold it in its native beauty. Every new manifestation 
of the Deity raises the Creator in his esteem, sheds lustre around 
all that God is, and all that he does, and often fills his heart with 
joy unspeakable and full of glory. The people of God may be 


frequently under the cloud ; but let God appear, and the cloud 
vanishes away ; let God be exalted, and they are happy. This is 
not selfishness. This is the religion of heaven. The religion 
which springs from selfishness never truly terminates on God. 
The religion of the Gospel and of heaven neither springs from 
self, nor terminates in self, but springs from God, and terminates 
in God. And the man who has the most of this spirit is the most 
godly man. There are those who see and rejoice that God will 
be glorified ; and there are those that see he will be glorified, and 
rebel and mourn. And wide, very wide, is the difference between 
them ! No sinful affections will amalgamate with the glory of 
God. No love, no faith, no submission, no hope, no joy, that has 
not a slronger affinity to the divine glory, than to any other and 
all other objects, will stand the test of that day that is to " try 
every man's work of what sort it is." 

Again : If the leading sentiment defended in these pages be true, 
most certain is it that all holy beings will be happy for ever. There 
is no need of separating the glory of God and the eternal happi- 
ness of his people. We will not say that they are identified ; for 
one is the effect, and the other the cause. The eternal, unchange- 
able Jehovah has indissolubly bound the highest and eternal bles- 
sedness of all holy beings to the manifestation of his own glory. 
He cannot be glorified without making those who love him happy ; 
and those who love him cannot be happy, unless he is glorified. 
If you would make a good man miserable; if you would torture 
the spirits of the just made perfect with agony, go, tell it in heaven, 
that God will not be glorified. But if God is glorified, they are 
safe, they are happy. Nothing can disturb their serenity, nothing 
diminish their rapture. So long as their highest love terminates 
on God, and their largest desires on his glory, they shall be grati- 
fied to the full. They shall behold his glory, even the glory which 
the Son had with the Father, before the world was. They shall 
be filled with all the fulness of God. 

And be it also remarked, that with equal certainty will the full 
manifestation of the divine glory be for ever inseparable from the 
perdition of all the ungodly. If God is exalted, the wicked must 
die. It is a most fearful truth, that God cannot be glorified with- 
out the perdition of the ungodly ; and it is a truth which may well 
carry death to the hopes of every incorrigible sinner. If there are 
those who will sin, and sin incorrigibly, let them know that God is 
able to glorify himself by it all. Their rebellion shall never dis- 
turb God. It shall not disturb one peaceful emotion throughout 
his holy and happy kingdom. Though they " mean not so, neither 
in their hearts do they think so ;" their incorrigible wrath " shall 
praise the Lord, and the remainder thereof he will restrain." The 
"expectation of the wicked shall perish," and their " triumphing shall 
be short." They shall sink for ever under their disappointment and 
shame. They will eternally rebel and mourn, because they can- 
not maintain a successful controversy with God. And it will 


shame them, and it will fill them with despair and rage, that there 
is One above them who will turn all their iniquity into the means 
of his own and his people's advancement. This is the Hell to 
which the haters of God and the despiscrs of his Son are destined. 
And nothing can deliver them from it but the divine dishonour. 
No, nothing can exalt them, but what would humble God ; nothing 
lift them up but what would cast him down ; nothing save them, 
but what would ruin him. Oh ! "it is a fearful thing to fall into the 
hands of the living God !" It will be a direful allotment to stand 
in the place of that man, on whom the great God undertakes to 
glorify his justice. 

But we turn from this painful subject. Have we not, in view 
of the preceding illustration, the fullest assurance of the fact, that 
God will be abundantly and for ever exalted 1 " He is of one mind, 
and none can turn him ; and what his soul desireth, that he doeth." 
The Infinite One must cease to be wise, good, and omnipotent, ere 
he abandons the paramount purpose to glorify himself. His own 
great mind alone is capable of appreciating the worth and impor- 
tance of this mighty object. None but himself is capable of fully 
conceiving it. But his discerning eye has been fixed upon it from 
the beginning, and will be fixed upon it to the consummation of all 
things. Here all his ardent and powerful affections concentrate. 
The strength, the fervour, the zeal of his combined attributes are 
engaged, and publicly pledged to propel the magnificent and glo- 
rious design. 

" God hath made all things for himself." And when we say 
this we utter a grand and awful truth. Whatever of majesty there- 
is in the divine power ; whatever of extent and resource in the 
divine wisdom ; whatever of munificence in the divine goodness ; 
whatever of liberality and tenderness in the divine mercy ; what- 
ever of terror and dismay in the divine justice ; whatever of royalty 
and splendour in the divine supremacy, shall all be progressively 
disclosed. Every dark dispensation shall, by and by, be covered 
with light, and every intricate providence have a satisfactory solu- 
tion. Everything shall be laid open. Every valley shall be ex- 
alted, and every mountain made low. The wonderful revolutions 
in the material, animal, and intellectual kingdoms, the various and 
unexpected developments of the human character, the successive 
periods of time, and the revolving ages of eternity, shall all be 
fraught with deep and impressive illustrations of the Deity. 

" God hath made all things for himself." Creation shall yet 
more and more unfold its wonders, disclosing the hand of Deity. 
Providence shall yet more and more bring to light his universal 
agency and care, while under his omnipotent influence its mighty 
machinery, like the wheel of Ezekiel, shall move still more high 
and dreadful to the last. And the great redemption shall yet more 
and more spread far and wide its glories. The Father shall be 
exalted. Every knee shall bow before the Son, and every tongue 
confess to him. And the Eternal Spirit, so long retired from this 


apostate world, shall be seen and honoured, and by his own mighty 
influence on the soul, make impressions of the Deity hitherto un- 
known. Ages so long pregnant with preparations for the Son of 
Man, shall bring forth their unexpected blessings. The benevo- 
lent exertions now making in the earth, shall be succeeded by those 
greater and more extended, and these by greater, till "a little one shall 
become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation — till the Spirit 
be poured from on high, and the wilderness become a fruitful field" 
— till these clouds of mercy, the glory of the age in which we dwell 
and the hope of ages to come, shall issue in one extended and long 
continued effusion of the Holy Spirit — till the earth shall become a 
temple, and time a Sabbath, and these humble notes, so indistinctly 
heard from here and there, a voice scattered over this wide crea- 
tion, shall receive the accession of ten thousand tongues, and burst 
forth in one harmonious Alleluja to Him who is seated on the 
throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. 




A system of theology is a methodical disposition of scriptural 
doctrines, with due connexion and arrangement, so far as they are 
susceptible of a scientific form. Such a work may contain either 
a simple enunciation of truths under appropriate topics, or the body 
of proof by which these are sustained. But within the latitude of 
our definition are comprised, not only the volumes of professed 
theologians, but even confessions, catechisms, and other symbolical 
books of churches. 

The origin of systems is to be sought in the laws of the human 
mind. The Scriptures present us with divine truth, not in logical 
or scientific order, but dispersed irregularly under the various forms 
of history, precepts, promises, threatening?, exhortations, and pro- 
phecies. It is scarcely left to the option of the reader whether he 
will classify these truths in his own mind ; for this classification 
begins and is pursued, spontaneously, with regard to all depart- 
ments of human knowledge. Every man, whose reasoning faculty 
rises above that of the idiot, is conscious of an attempt to refer 
each successive acquisition of knowledge to its proper place in the 
general fund of his recollections, and to connect it with its like 
among that which is already known. 

It is very evident that the order of truths as they are presented 
in the Scripture, is not intended to be the only order in which they 
shall be entertained in the mind. If this were the case, all medi- 
tation would be useless, since this exercise does not reveal new 
doctrines, but, by giving rise to comparison of those already 
known, in various connexions, discovers the relations and depen- 
dencies of all. The illustration of Lord Bacon is well known : 
the water of life as contained in the fountain of the Scriptures is 
thence drawn and set before us, very much in the same manner as 
natural water is taken from wells. For when the latter is drawn, 
it is either first received into a reservoir, whence, by divers pipes 



it may conveniently be conducted abroad for general use ; or it is 
at once poured into vessels for immediate service. The former 
methodical way, adds this philosopher, gives origin to systems of 
theology, by which scriptural doctrine is collected in scientific 
form, and thence distributed, by the conduits of axioms and propo- 
sitions, to every part.* 

No primitive Christian could have answered the question, What 
is Christianity ? without proceeding to systematize its truths in a 
greater or less degree ; and every reader of the holy Scriptures 
undesignedly pursues the same method. For instance, the various 
attributes of God are revealed in Scripture, not in theological 
order, nor consecutively, but in various places, by means of scat- 
tered examples, sometimes figuratively, sometimes by implication, 
and never all at once. Now it is manifestly desirable that every 
man should have a connected idea of the perfections of Jehovah ; 
and the reader of the Bible will necessarily lay together the vari- 
ous representations, and thus conclude that God is spiritual, eter- 
nal, infinite, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, most 
true, most holy, most wise, and most good. This aggregation of 
truths is, in fact, a system, and it is precisely thus that systematic 
theology has its origin. No man can converse with a Scottish 
mechanic, who happens to be a good textuary, without discerning 
that he has his heads and topics to which he refers all his scriptu- 
ral knowledge, and that the doctrines which he believes are re- 
duced to a classification more or less exact. Indeed, each of us 
may bring the matter to a speedy test by looking within and 
inquiring whether such an arrangement of our religious tenets is 
not constantly going forward, with the gradual increase of our 
settled opinions. This will be clear or obscure, logical or con- 
fused, according to the correctness and extent of our knowledge, 
and the sagacity and vigour of our intellect. It may be vitiated 
by the addition of that which is extraneous, or by false expositions 
of Scripture ; but such a syllabus of divine truth is possessed, in 
memory if not in writing, by every Christian, whether wise or 

The association of ideas affords a natural ground for classifica- 
tion ; though by no means the sole ground. Mere similarity of 
particulars may serve as a basis for technical arrangement, as in 
the Linnsean system of botany, but this is scarcely a philosophical 
method. The more any department of knowledge partakes of the 
character of a pure science, the greater is its susceptibility of being 
systematized ; and this is eminently the character of divine truth. 
There was a time, indeed, when the question was mooted, whether 
theology is a science, but that time has gone by, and with it should 
have vanished the occasion of the present argument. 

There is danger, however, that we shall be charged with disre- 
spect to the understanding of our readers, in offering serious proof 

* De Augm. Scient., lib. lx., c. i., § 3. 


of a position so tenable, and which, but for party zeal, would never 
have been controverted. For what are all theological discussions 
but so many systems 1 Every didactic sermon is a systematized 
chapter of the great book of revelation. Every essay or discourse 
upon any scriptural truth is an attempt to arrange, under certain 
topics and with conclusive arguments, the scattered testimony of 
inspiration in favour of that truth. The only effect of banishing 
professed systems would therefore be, to repress all endeavours to 
present the subject as a harmonious whole, and to leave us in pos- 
session of schemes characterized by undigested crudity. 

The logical and systematic arrangement of a science has vari- 
ous important uses. It affords aid to the memory ; since a thou- 
sand insulated and disjointed truths can scarcely be kept in remem- 
brance, while, in their regular connexion and mutual dependency, 
they may be tenaciously retained, and clearly communicated. The 
knowledge of a subject may be said to be adequate, only when it 
is thus known. The heterogeneous mass is clarified and reduced 
to order, by being ranged under topics according to the inherent 
differences of the several species, and set off into departments, 
with reference to the distinction of elementary, secondary, and 
inferential positions. Thus in the study of natural history, 
although the classification of the received systems is in a measure 
arbitrary (that is, independent of the philosophical connexion of 
cause and effect), those things which are homogeneous are placed 
together, and the mind is enabled to comprehend what would 
otherwise be " a mighty maze, and all without a plan." In the 
progress of study, as knowledge is augmented, it is highly advan- 
tageous to have a predisposed scheme, to some niche of which 
every new acquisition may immediately be referred, as to its pro- 
per place in the system. This is true, even when the scheme is 
framed in a merely technical and arbitrary manner. Such was 
the classification of minerals, as practised before the late discove- 
ries in crystallography ; and such the science of chemistry con- 
tinues to be in many of its departments. But the advantage is 
immensely greater, when, as is true of theology, the subject admits 
of a natural, exact, and philosophical disposition. It is only under 
such a form of arrangement that we can be in the highest degree 
made sensible of the admirable and divine harmony of all reli- 
gious truth, which necessarily escapes us in the examination of 
detached and dissociated fragments. The system, however brief 
or imperfect, affords a convenient test of propositions which might 
otherwise pass unsuspected, and a guide in applying the analogy 
of faith to interpretation. 

But it is as affording a special facility for communicating instruc- 
tion to others, that we wish to be considered as recommending the 
systematic arrangement of theology. The history of catechetical 
instruction, in every age, furnishes a commentary upon this re- 
mark. In applying ourselves to the study of any science, we have 
our choice between two discrepant methods. By the one, we 


make a commencement, indifferently, with any separate fact or 
proposition, without reference to its place in the general scheme ; 
and travelling onward from this point, through the whole, we 
attempt to acquire the knowledge of all the parts ; traversing in 
succession departments the most remote and unconnected. As if, 
for example, one should attempt to acquire the science of astro- 
nomy by commencing with observations on the ring of Saturn, 
thence passing to the milky way? or the moon's libration, and then 
assailing the obliquity of the ecliptic. By the other method, we 
commence with simple, acknowledged, and fundamental principles, 
proceed to the demonstration of elementary propositions, and 
thence by regular deduction to the ramifications of the subject. 
The latter is the systematic method, and cause is yet to be shown 
why it should not hold good in theology, as well as in other sci- 
ences. The history of the Church shows us that from the earliest 
ages it has been deemed advisable to abstract the truths of reve- 
lation in a systematic form, for the convenience of instructers and 
pupils, for the aid of memory, and for the purpose of displaying 
the completeness and coherence of the entire plan of scriptural 
knowledge. In certain periods, it is true, flagrant abuses have 
been connected with these methods, especially during the reign 
of the Peripatetic philosophy : yet there has been an entire unity 
of opinion as to the general expediency of the plan. It may not 
be inappropriate here to advert to some of the predominant schools 
of systematic theology. 

Omitting any particular notice of the patristical systems, we 
shall name a few of those writers who contributed to the mass of 
doctrinal theology before the Reformation. There are those who 
trace the origin of the scholastic divinity to as high an epoch as 
the monophysitic controversy in the fifth and sixth centuries ; yet 
it is more usual to consider John Scotus Erigena, a theologian of 
the ninth century, as the founder of this method. It was, how- 
ever, the Platonic philosophy by which he endeavoured to eluci- 
date divine truth. He signalized himself as an antagonist of the 
Predestinarians, in the court of Charles the Bold. The School- 
men, or Scholastics, are supposed to have been so called from 
their training in the theological schools of Charlemagne. This 
training was little else than regular instruction in the Latin version 
of Aristotle, the writings of Boethius and Porphyry, and the Peri- 
papetic dialectics. Three periods are noted by Buhle : the first 
ends with Roscellinus (a. d. 1089), or the contest between the 
Realists and Nominalists ; the second with Albertus Magnus 
(ob. 1280), at which time the metaphysics of Aristotle were gene- 
rally known and expounded ; the third extends to the revival of 
letters in the fifteenth century.* The renowned Englishman, 
Alexander de Hales, holds an eminent rank among the ancient 

* Brockhaus Real-Worterb., vol. ix., p. 835. Buddei Isagoge, p. 326. Hornii 
Hist. Phil., 1. vi. cii. p. 297. 


scholastics, as is commonly cited as Doctor IrrefragabUis : until 
the time of Aquinas, his commentary on Lombard was a univer- 
sal text-book. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Angelicus, and a saint of 
the calendar, was the pupil of Albertus Magnus, and so close an 
adherent of Aristotle, that he left fifty-two commentaries upon the 
works of the latter. It is unnecessary to advert to the estimation 
in which he has ever been held by the Romanists ; although it has 
been satisfactorily shown by Protestants that this truly great man 
diverged in a multitude of instances from the doctrines of the 
Catholic faith as they are now defined.* Next in eminence was 
his great competitor, John Duns Scotus, whose dialectic acumen 
was proverbial, and who is denominated Doctor Subtilis. From 
this rivalry of sects arose the familiar distinctions of Tbomists and 
Scotists. During the third period flourished the celebrated 
Durand, called on account of his independent bok^ness, Doctor 
Resolutissimus. This remarkable man was bishop of Meaux, and 
died about the year 1333. He went out from the ranks of the 
Thomists, and without going over to the opposite sect became 
the founder of a new school. He is supposed by Staeudlin to 
have contributed greatly to the downfall of the scholastic system. 
To these may be added Occam, an English Franciscan, who 
opposed the papacy and encouraged a more liberal method in 
theology ; and Bradwardin, who openly attacked the scholastic 
system, and maintained that the genuine or Augustinian doctrines 
had been exchanged for mere Pelagianism. His work, de Causa 
Dei contra Pelagium, contains much that savours of a purer 

This was the dawn of a brighter day for religious investigation. 
In looking back from this point upon all the dialectic school, we 
are struck with the darkness which overspread the field of 
theology in consequence of the multitude of sects, the introduc- 
tion of foreign principles and speculations, the contempt thrown 
upon sound exegesis, the almost divine honours paid to philoso- 
phers and doctors, and the barbarous roughness with which every 
subject was handled. The bounds of human reason were over- 
leaped, and a recondite sophistry usurped the place of candid argu- 
ment. It is not, therefore, in this period that we are to seek for 
anything like purity in theological systems. 

The Reformation gave birth to a new school of dogmatic theo- 
logy. Luther, indeed, though celebrated as a logician, left no 
work strictly pertaining to this class ; but in the Loci Communes 
of Melancthon, we have a model which might do honour to the 
brightest age of scriptural investigation. It is pleasing to observe 
with what deference this good man was regarded by his bolder 
coadjutors. The first edition of this earliest system reformed theo- 
logy appeared at Wittcmberg, a. d. 1521.f Luther characterized 
the work, as " invictum libellum, et non solum immortalitatc, sed 

* Dorschacus. Aquinas Confessor Veritatis. f Buddeus, p. 346. 


quoque canone dignum."* In the Reformed Church, we need not 
remind the reader of the compendious works of Zwingle and the 
Institutes of Calvin. The latter work has passed through innu- 
merable editions, and has appeared in the Latin, French, Spanish, 
English, German, Dutch, Hungarian and Greek languages. In the 
Lutheran Church might be mentioned the leading names of Calix- 
tus, Chemnitz, Striegel, Gerhard, Horneius, Henichius, Hulsemann, 
Calvius, and Koenig ; in the Reformed Church, Beza, Bullinger, 
Musculus, Aretius, Heidegger, Turretine and Pictet. It would be 
unjust to the memory of the divines of Holland, who more than all 
others cultivated this field, to omit the names of Rivet, Maresius, 
Hoornbeeck, and the Spanheims, all of whom followed the phi- 
losophical^ school of Voet ; and Burmann, Heidan, Wittichius, 
Braunius, Witsius, Leydecker and Hulsius, who pursued the system 
of the covenants, as marked out by Cocceius. 

But time would fail us in following down the stream of systema- 
tic writers. This was the age of systens, and a lifetime would 
scarcely suffice to study those which it produced. Most of these 
last mentioned were free, to a remarkable degree, from the techni- 
cal distinctions of the schools, and may be used with profit. It is 
at least desirable that every theologian should be acquainted with 
the history of religious opinion. We have fallen upon days in 
which works of this nature are little prized, and in which essays, 
pamphlets, and periodicals, are almost the only vehicles of theo- 
logical discussion. Of this it is needless to complain, yet it is mor- 
tifying that so much unmerited contempt should be cast upon the 
learned labours of other days. There are few eminent scholars, 
it is true, who join in this cant ; yet scarcely a week passes in 
which our attention is not drawn to some ignorant and captious 
disparagement of all productions of this kind. There are persons 
who never deign to mention systematic theology without a sneer, 
and whose purposes seem to demand that they should represent all 
books in this department as assuming a rivalship with the sacred 
Scriptures. We disavow the wish to attribute these sentiments 
and objections to any particular school, or to connect them with 
any doctrinal opinions held by our brethren ; except so far as this, 
that they are usually avowed by those who contend for greater 
latitude in speculation, and who protest against any interference 
with their innovating projects. No very distinguished writer has 
presented himself as their advocate, and they are usually heard to 
proceed from youthful and hasty declaimers, yet the arguments 
even of these demand a refutation when they spread their contagion 
among the inexperienced ; and we would gladly contribute 
towards a disentanglement of the question. 

It would be an unwarrantable hardihood to deny that, among the 
volumes of past ages, there are systems which lie open to valid 
objections ; but the faults of some are not to be attributed to the 

* Luth. Op., ii., 241, Wittemb. 


whole class. Thus, for instance, it is common to charge the whole 
of the continental theologians with the scholastic subtleties of the 
middle age. The systems of the schoolmen are, indeed, noto- 
riously chargeable with dialectic refinements, and it is not strange 
that some of the same leaven should betray itself in the writings 
of the early reformers, just emerging as they were from the 
dreary night of barbarism. The objection lies against most of the 
Romish systems. Revelation is here confounded with philosophy ; 
the Scriptures are perverted into accordance with traditions and 
the schools ; and the questions which perpetually arise are, in a 
majority of instances, frivolous and ridiculous, or knotty and osten- 
tatious. Such, however, are not the faults of our received works, 
and the only trait which they have in common with the former, is 
that they profess to communicate the doctrines of the faith, in 
regular connexion, with scientific order and method, and some- 
times with the technical language of the then predominant phi- 
losophy. The terminology of the reformers and their immediate 
successors is a dialect of which no literary antiquary will consent 
to remain ignorant ; it is a source of alarm to students who consult 
their ease, and even grave divines among us have been sadly dis- 
concerted with the mater ialiter, formaliter, &c, of the seven- 
teenth century. Yet the history of theological opinion can never 
be learned, in its sources, without some knowledge of this peculiar 

The plan or schedule according to which a system is arranged 
may be artificial, unnatural, arbitrary, or otherwise inconvenient. 
It is not every mind which can be satisfied with the method pur- 
sued by so many eminent divines, especially in Holland, in arrang- 
ing the whole circle of truth with reference to the covenants. 
Others are as much displeased with a historical or chronological 
plan which has been attempted. Or the whole work may labour 
under a fault of an opposite character, namely, the want of 
method, and under the title of a system may be an unsystematized 
farrago. Yet in all such cases, though the objection is granted to 
be valid, yet the excellence of systems, as such, is no whit dis- 
paraged by the failure of special attempts ; and indeed it is not 
upon these grounds that the exception is usually taken. 

Again, the system may be objectionable, as being incautiously 
and hastily framed, upon insufficient testimony of the Scriptures. 
Every methodized body of theological doctrine may be considered 
as a general theory of the whole sphere of divine truth. As such, 
it should be deduced directly from the Scriptures, after a most 
careful survey and impartial comparison of all its doctrines. The 
work of the theologian here resembles that of the philosopher who 
reasons from natural phenomena. There is, indeed, this important 
difference, that the philosopher is mainly employed in observing 
the sequence of cause and effect, and in assigning all the changes 
in natural objects to their true causes, and to as few causes as 
^possible ; thus by induction arriving at general laws — whereas 


the theologian is called to arrange isolated truths, already revealed 
in the form of propositions, and by reducing these to order, to dis- 
cover the plan and harmony of religious science. In both cases, 
however, there is the same process to be observed ; facts or pro- 
positions must be ascertained, generalized, placed in the some 
category with analogous truths, and reserved until new light 
enables us to refer them to more comprehensive laws or prin- 
ciples. Now, if in physical science it is so highly important that 
caution should be used in this process, so as to avoid leaping to a 
conclusion without a sufficient induction, how great should be the 
patience, self-distrust, and hesitancy of one who undertakes to pro- 
nounce upon the great mysteries of revelation. " The liberty of 
speculation which we possess in the domains of theory is not like 
that of the slave broke loose from his fetters, but rather like that of 
the freeman who has learned the lessons of self-restraint in the 
school of just subordination."* This is the dictate of sound phi- 
losophy in every investigation ; it teaches us not to reject system, 
but to systematize wisely. It is the neglect of this rule which has 
given occasion to the scores of heresies with which the Church has 
been rent. Doctrines taken up from the superficial and apparent 
meaning of a few texts, have been made the foundation of theories 
which have possessed scarcely a trait of genuine Christianity. Yet 
even when a system is absolutely false, the objection prostrates 
only that particular scheme which is proved to be erroneous. And 
the question still remains open, how tar systematic arrangement is 
conducive to the progress of sound theology. 

The favourite argument of many is this : The Scriptures do not 
admit of being systematized. This cannot be more impressively 
stated than in the words of Cecil : " The Bible scorns to be treated 
scientifically. After all your accurate statements, it will leave you 
aground. The Bible does not come round and ask your opinion 
of its contents. It proposes to us a Constitution of Grace, which 
we are to receive, though we do not wholly comprehend it."f In 
this argument the premises are stated with sufficient clearness, but 
we confess ourselves unable to make the necessary deduction of 
the conclusion. This was the position of the Anabaptists and the 
Quakers.^ It may mean either that divine truth is in its own na- 
ture insusceptible of a regular scientific arrangement, or that it is 
impracticable for human minds so to arrange it. We contend that 
so long as it is granted that the propositions contained in Scripture 
are so many truths, that these are harmonious and accordant, and 
that some flow by necessary inference from others, it follows that 
the doctrines of revelation may be topically arranged, exhibited, 
and discussed. Some religious truths do, indeed, surpass our rea- 
son, but it is a mere sophism to argue that they are therefore thrown 
beyond the limits of any conceivable system ; for this very cha- 

* Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, § 201. f Remains, p. IIS, 

J Barclay's Apology, Orig. Thes. x., § 21. Van Mastricht., lib. 1, c. i., § 6. 


racteristic may designate their place among ultimate propositions. 
If it is asserted that the imbecility of human minds is such that 
they cannot arrange and classify the whole of divine truths, inas- 
much as these are absolutely intractable, and refuse to arrange 
themselves under any of our general topics, — we reply that this 
would put an end to physical philosophy itself, for the same re- 
mark holds good in nature. There are exempt cases, extreme phe- 
nomena, which are as yet explicable by no laws of science, and 
which must remain beyond the range of all systems as elementary 
facts. Such are the attraction of gravitation and the principle of 
animated life. Still, there are a thousand truths which continue to 
be free from these difficulties, and which may be methodized with 

If it should be urged that the simple method in which God has 
been pleased to arrange truth in the Bible is the only proper method, 
and that this beautiful simplicity is vitiated by the artifice of sys- 
tems, we reverently acknowledge that the order of divine revela- 
tion in the Scripture is the best conceivable for the immediate end 
proposed. Yet the nature of truth is not altered by a change in 
the arrangement of propositions ; nor is its simplicity taken away 
by scientific disposition. Moreover, the argument destroys itself 
by proving too much. For, by parity of reason, all discourses and 
essays on theology, all sermons and exhortations of a religious kind, 
must equally violate this divinely prescribed order, since they cull 
and dispose the passages of Scripture, not in the method observed 
in the sacred volume, but with reference to some truth or truths 
attempted to be established. No one can fail to perceive the 
frivolity of an argument which would restrict all theology to the 
regular consecution of chapters and verses in the Bible. 

It has been alleged, that the use of systems has had a tendency 
to restrict the belief of the theologian wilhin certain prescribed 
limits, and thus to arm the mind against conviction from passages 
which, to an unsophisticated reader, would be clear and decisive ; 
and that what is called the Analogy of Faith is a barrier against 
independent investigation. The application of any such analogy 
to the exposition of Scripture has been strenuously opposed in 
modern times. That the principle may be abused, is too evident 
to admit of denial. Yet, unless the interpreter pursues the course 
of neological commentators, utterly careless whether the sacred 
penmen contradicted themselves or not, — this rule, or something 
tantamount, must be applied. It is the dictate of reason that — a 
revelation from God being admitted — all real contradictions are 
impossible. Hence, when a class of truths is satisfactorily deduced, 
all those which do not quadrate with these, in their obvious mean- 
ing, must be interpreted with such latitude as may bring them into 
unison with the whole. In all interpretation of works, sacred and 
profane, single passages must be understood in accordance with 
the general tenor of the discourse. Indeed, so plainly is this a prin- 
ciple of hcrmencutics, that we should never have heard the objec- 


tion, if certain unwelcome doctrinal positions had not been in- 
volved. There are truths which lie upon the very surface of the 
Scriptures, and are repeated in almost every page : these taken 
together give origin to the analogy or canon of faith. The force 
of reasoning from such an analogy must vary with the extent of 
the reader's scriptural knowledge, and the strength of his convic- 
tions. Every man, however, whether imbued or not with human 
systems, reasons in this manner. It is by the analogy of faith 
that we pronounce the literal interpretation untenable in all those 
cases which represent God as the author of moral evil, or which 
attribute to him human members and passions. So long, there- 
fore, as God " cannot deny himself," we must resort to this very 

The simple inquiry appears then to be, whether the use of a ju- 
dicious system opens the door for the abuse of the analogy of faith. 
It is contended that it necessarily does so by expanding this ana- 
logy so far as to make the whole of a certain theological system a 
canon of faith, which nothing is suffered to contravene. There 
are slavish minds in which this effect will doubtless be produced ; 
but the result in such cases would be the same if, instead of a writ- 
ten system, the learner availed himself of the oral effusions of some 
idolized errorist. And in this whole controversy, let it be observed, 
the choice is at last between the dead and the living, between the 
tried systems of the ancients and the ill-compacted schemes of 
contemporaries. We forget the place which has been assigned to 
the theological system when we hold it responsible for excesses of 
this kind. It is by no means a rule of faith, else were it needless 
to refer to the Bible. It may be compared to the map of a country 
over which a geographer travels, and which affords convenient 
direction, while at the same time the traveller does not hold it to 
be perfect, but proceeds to amend it by actual survey. Without 
it he might lose his way, yet he is unwilling to give implicit faith 
to its representations. 

There are many problems in analytic mathematics in which the 
unknown quantity is to be sought by successive approximations. 
In these cases it is necessary to assume some result as true, and to 
correct it by comparison with the data. Not unlike this is the 
process by which we arrive at certain conclusions in the other 
sciences, and in theology among the rest. If in the course of our 
investigation we are met by scriptural statements which positively 
contradict any position of the system which is assumed as approx- 
imating to the truth, the consequence will be a doubt, or an aban- 
donment of the system itself. Precisely in this way every inde- 
pendent thinker knows that he has been affected by the difficulties 
of Scripture. The case would not be rendered more favourable 
if he had in his hand no system. As it is manifestly impossible 
for any one to come to the study of the Word of God without 
entertaining some general scheme of divine truth as substantially 
correct, we can see no reason why the student should not avail him- 


self of that which he esteems true in its great outline. It will be 
no bar to just inquiry that he is hereby prevented from hastily 
catching at specious error, by perceiving that it varies from his 
guide. Life is too short for every man to be left to the hazard of 
running through the whole cycle of errors and heresies before he 
arrives at the truth ; and this is prevented only by presenting to the 
learner some beacon against seductive falsehoods. He may, as 
many have done, conclude, upon due inquiry, that his own impres- 
sions are right, and his system wrong. 

We have compared the theological system to the hypothesis by 
which the natural philosopher directs his inquiries. The compari- 
son is good for the present instance. The system, like the hypo- 
thesis, is not unalterable. It is to be studiously scrutinized, and 
even suspected ; adopted if verified, and rejected if proved to be 
false. There is a well-known process by which natural philoso- 
phers arrive at the primary physical laws, viz. " by assuming in- 
deed the laws we would discover, but so generally expressed, that 
they shall include an unlimited variety of particular laws ; follow- 
ing out the consequences of this assumption, by the application of 
such general principles as the case admits ; comparing them in 
succession with all the particular cases within our knowledge ; and 
lastly, on this comparison, so modifying and restricting the general 
enunciation of our laws as to make the results agree."* Analogous 
to this is the process according to which, by the hypothetical as- 
sumption of a given system, we proceed to determine upon its 

But we are here arrested by an objection urged against this 
whole method of proceeding, which comes in a specious shape, 
and with the air of sincerity, and therefore demands a serious ex- 
amination. We are addressed in some such terms as these : "The 
whole method of investigating theological truth by the advocates of 
systems is erroneous, because it is diametrically opposed to the 
principles of the inductive philosophy. Instead of framing a system 
d priori, and making it a bed of Procrustes, to which every decla- 
ration of the Bible is to be forcibly adapted, the only safe method 
is to reject all the hypotheses of divines, lo come to the examina- 
tion divested of all preconceived opinions, to consider the scattered 
revelations of Scripture as so many phenomena, and to classify, 
generalize, and deduce from these phenomena ; just as the astrono- 
mer or the botanist uses physical data in framing a sound hypothe- 
sis. The study of theology should be exegetical, and the obsolete 
classifications of past ages should be entirely laid aside." We 
have endeavoured to state the objection fairly and strongly, and 
we shall now inquire how far it operates against the positions 
which we have taken. The objection assumes an analogy between 
theological investigation of revealed truth and physical inquiry 
into the system of the universe. This analogy we have already 

* Herschell's Discourse, § 210. 


noticed, and in reply to so much of the objection as concerns the 
original investigation of divine truth, we grant that nothing can be 
more unphilosophical or untheological than to receive any system 
as true, previously to examination, however it may have been sup- 
ported by consent of antiquity or wideness of diffusion. This 
were to forsake the great principles of the Reformation, and revert 
to the implicit faith of the apostate Church. We ask no conces- 
sion of private judgment on the part of the learner ; we acknow- 
ledge that the final appeal is, in every instance, to the Scriptures 
themselves. We go further in meeting those who differ from us, 
and accept their illustration. Let the Scriptures be considered as 
analogous to the visible universe ; and its several propositions as 
holding the same place with regard to the interpreter, which the 
phenomena of the heavens do with regard to the astronomer. Let 
it be agreed that the method of arriving at truth is in both instances 
the same, that is, by careful examination of these data, from which 
result generalization, cautious induction, and the position of ultimate 
principles. Let it be further conceded that exegesis answers to 
experiment or observation in the natural world, and consequently 
that the theologian is to consider exegetical results as the basis of 
all his reasonings. In all this there is not so wide a separation 
between us as might at first appear. We avow our belief that 
the theologian should proceed in his investigation precisely as the 
chemist or the botanist proceeds. " The botanist does not shape 
his facts," says a late ingenious writer. Granted, provided that 
you mean that the botanist does not wrest his facts to a forced cor- 
respondence with a hypothesis. Neither does the genuine theolo- 
gian " shape his texts " nor constrain them to an agreement with 
his system. But both the botanist and the theologian do in this 
sense " shape their facts," that they classify and arrange the fruits 
of their observation, and gather from them new proofs of that 
general system which has previously commended itself to their 

There is an entire agreement between the contending parties, as 
to the independent principles upon which original investigation for 
the discovery of truth is to be conducted in every science. It is 
the method which bears the name of Bacon, though practised 
to a limited extent, by the wise of every age. It is the method of 
Newton, which in his case resulted in the most splendid series of 
demonstration which the world has ever known. Up to this point 
we agree, yet we have left the main question still untouched — 
whether in pursuing this method it is absolutely necessary to reject 
all the results of precedent labours. It is not merely concerning 
the way in which original investigation should be pursued, but also 
the way in which the results of such investigation are to be com- 
municated. The former would be the inquiry how to make a 
system — how to deduce it from its original disjected elements ; the 
latter is the inquiry how the general truths thus deduced may 
be made available to the benefit of the learner. Systems of theo- 


logy are in their nature synthetical. They are the results of the 
toilsome analysis of great minds, and they are to be put to the test 
by a comparison of all the separate truths, of which they purport 
to be a scientific arrangement. That they are convenient helps, 
in the transmission of such results as have been attained by the 
wisdom and diligence of our predecessors — results which else 
would have perished with their discoverers — is made evident by 
reference to the very analogy above stated. In every science, it is by 
such synthetical arrangements that the observations and inductions 
of philosophers are embodied, in order to facilitate the advance of 
those who follow. Thus, for instance, when the Abbe Hauy, by a 
tedious and laborious induction of particulars, had traced up the 
apparently amorphous crystals of the mineral kingdom to certain 
clear and primitive figures, he reduced the whole of his discoveries 
to the form of a system, so that future crystallographers might with 
less toil follow out his inquiries, and with immense advantage take 
up the subject where he left it. 

But lest we should be suspected of the slightest misrepresentation 
or evasion of the argument, let it be supposed that the gist of the 
objection is, not that systems are useless, but that they should not 
be put into the hands of learners, lest they fill their minds with 
doctrines unproved and unexamined, and close the door against 
manly and independent inquiry. Far be it from us to lay one 
shackle upon the chartered freedom of the theologian ! We 
would that there were a thousandfold more independence in the 
search of truth — and that so many hundreds were not enslaved by 
the prejudice of novelty, whilst they clamour against the prejudice 
of authority and antiquity. To the objection, under this new phase, 
we reply : the only possible method of making the labours of past 
theologians available and profitable to the tyro, is by presenting to 
him the fruits of these labours in some compendious form. In every 
other case, the learner is despoiled of all the aids afforded by su- 
perior wisdom and learning, and reduced to the condition of one 
who has to build the whole structure for himself from the very 
foundation. But it is rejoined, " The Bible is the text-book : 
Theology is to be pursued exegetically ; let the student, with his 
hermeneutical apparatus, come to the investigation of the Bible 
itself, to the neglect of all systems of human composition." Again 
we reply, that in correspondence with the analogy above suggest- 
ed, exegesis is the true instrument of discovery, and the test of all 
pretended results. It may be compared to the glasses and qua- 
drant of the astronomer. But is this all that is afforded to the 
inchoate astronomer ? Let the analogy be pursued. We suppose 
a professor in this new school of physics to say to his pupil, " Here 
are your telescopes and other instruments, your logarithmic tables 
and epheineris — yonder is the observatory. Proceed to make your 
observations. Be independent and original in your inquiries, and 
cautious in your inductions. You are not to be informed whether the 
sun moves around the earth, or the earth around the sun. This 


would be to prepossess you in favour of a system. Ptolemy and 
Copernicus are alike to be forgotten !" What is our estimate of 
such a method of philosophizing? The unfortunate youth is not 
permitted to take a glance at Newton's Principia, lest his mind 
should librate from its exact poise, towards some preconceived 
opinion. He is reduced to the very condition of the thousands 
who grope in disastrous twilight for want of direction. He is 
called upon to be a Galileo without his powers, or a Kepler without 
his previous training. 

To an unprejudiced mind it must commend itself as reason- 
able, that the beginner in any science should be furnished at 
least with some syllabus of its details, which may serve as a clew 
in the labyrinth of his doubts. In order to discover truth, it is not 
the safest nor the wisest plan to reduce the mind to the unenviable 
condition of a tabula rasa ; although such is the assumption of 
certain modern writers. It is highly useful to be informed as well 
of what has been held to be true, as of what has been proved to 
be false. For lack of the latter knowledge — the knowledge of pre- 
ceding errors — our improved theologians are daily venting, with 
all the grave self-consequence of discovery, the stale and exploded 
blunders of the dark ages ; which the perusal of any single work 
of systematic divinity would have taught them to despise. The 
impartiality of the mind is in no degree secured by the banishment 
of all previous hypothesis. There is a partiality of ignorance, a 
partiality of self-will and intellectual pride, a partiality of innova- 
tion, no less dangerous than the predilections of system. Or. to 
bring the whole matter to a speedier issue, the condition of mind 
in equilibrio, which it is proposed to secure, is utterly impossible — 
the merest ens rationis — which was never realized, and never can 
be realized by any one in a Christian country. It is like the chi- 
merical scepticism of the Cartesians, the creature of an overheated 
imagination. For when you have carefully withheld all orthodox 
systems of theology from your pupil, he comes to the study of the 
Scriptures, emptied indeed of all coherent hypotheses, but teeming 
with the crude and erroneous views which spring up like weeds in 
the unregulated mind. 

The true light in which a system of theology should be viewed 
by one who uses it as an aid in scriptural study, is as a simple 
hypothesis, an approximation to the truth, and a directory for 
future inquiries. Every position is to become the subject of a 
sifting examination, and comparison with what is revealed. With- 
out some such assistance, in the mind or in writing, the student 
might spend a life-time in arriving at some of those principles, 
which, if once proposed to him, would commend themselves in- 
stantly to his approbation. 

But it is queried : " What if your system should be false ?" Let 
us then go so far as to suppose that it is false. It would be no 
very difficult task to prove that, for this purpose, even a false sys- 
tem', if scientifically arranged, might not be without its uses. Every 


one who commences the study of the Scriptures, does so with some 
system, true or false, symmetrical or crude, written or conceived. 
If he is influenced by no living idols in the world of theologians, 
and bows to no Calvin or Arminius, he has within him those 
causes of error which spring from his own character and educa- 
tion ; or, to use Bacon's expressive terms, idola specus et fori, if 
not idola theatri.* When Kepler began his observations, he no 
doubt held the old erroneous doctrine of the sphere ; but in the 
progress of inquiry he discovered such irregularity in the orbit of 
Mars, as was altogether incompatible with a circular motion. 
Hence he arrived at the truth that all the planetary orbits are ellip- 
tical. In this we have an example of a fact impinging upon a sys- 
tem, and causing it to be abandoned. The same thing may be in- 
stanced in the case of Martin Luther. It may not be too much to 
say, that if they had been ignorant of the opinions of their fathers, 
and had practised upon the rule above-mentioned, their names 
would never have come down to us. But all this is gratuitous. 
We are not bound to prove that an erroneous system may have 
its uses. We put into the hand of the pupil the nearest approxi- 
mation to truth which we can procure, even that which we cordi- 
ally believe ourselves ; and then, to add new guards to the mind, 
we exhort him to use it simply as a history of what the Church 
has held ; leaving it to his judgment whether it is consistent with 
the Scriptures. It is the method in which the study of all sciences 
must be begun ; and as all lectures in theology are systems — in- 
deed no other systems are enjoined to be studied in our seminaries 
— it is in accordance with this very method that candidates for the 
ministry are everywhere instructed. There may be a time, at 
some later period, when a method purely analytic may be at- 
tempted ; but no man is competent to institute such an analysis, 
until he has mastered the leading hypotheses of those who have 
gone before him : aijd about one theologian in a thousand has the 
taste for investigations of this kind. 

It is not a little surprising that the very persons whose delicate 
susceptibilities lead them to shrink from the contact of an orthodox 
system or exposition, lest they should receive some undue bias, are 
at the same time under no apprehensions from the contagion of 
German neology. There are, for instance, ministers of our ac- 
quaintance who avowedly banish from their shelves the works of 
Turretine, Scott, and Henry, but who daily refer to the innocuous 
commentaries of Rosenmueller, Kuinol, Koppe, and Gescnius. Is 
it so then, that the only partialities against which we need a cau- 
tion, are towards what is called orthodoxy — the system of doc- 
trines to which we have subscribed ; Are there no vicious leanings 
of the mind in favour of plausible heresies, lofty rationalism, or 
imposing novelty ? Let him answer who has learned the deceit- 
fulness of the human heart. 

* Nov. Org., lib i., aph. 41. 


If systems of theology are assailed upon the ground that they 
have usurped the place and authority of the sacred canon, we 
leave our opponents to try the issue with those who are guilty of 
the offence. We are conscious of no such wish. The formularies 
of our Church have borne many violent assaults ; and in their 
turn all doctrinal works which coincide with them have been de- 
nounced. We have no hesitation in " postponing the Confession 
of Faith to the Holy Scriptures."* If systems of divinity have 
been raised to a co-ordinate rank with the Word of God, let those 
answer for it who are guilty of the impiety. The books them- 
selves are chargeable with no part of it, since they unanimously 
declare that the Bible only is the standard of faith. Yet shall we 
deny to any the liberty of making any scheme of doctrine his own 
confession of faith ? No constraint has been used to bring any 
man to such a declaration ; nor have we heard of any man who 
has been required to conform himself to such a system, unless he 
had previously, of his own free will, confessed it to be a statement 
of his faith. We may, therefore, dismiss the cavil, as scarcely 
pertaining to this inquiry. 

In view of the absolute impracticability of the visionary scheme 
now controverted, and the absence of any attempted exemplifica- 
tion of it, we are constrained to look somewhat further for the se- 
cret cause of the clamour against systematic theology. And 
when we regard the quarter from which it issues, we are con- 
vinced that the real objection is, not that systems are exceptionable 
qua tales, but that doctrine is systematized on the wrong side. 
Systematized heterodoxy is attacked upon its own merits ; syste- 
matized orthodoxy is opposed because of its form and arrange- 
ments. The great standard works in this department are the re- 
sults of labour, the monuments of tried doctrine ; while the ephe- 
meral fabrics of innovators do not live long enough to assume a 
regular shape. Hinc illce lachrymce ! Wheyi the late Robert 
Hall was arraigned by a certain loyalist, as having written in fa- 
vour of parliamentary reform, he replied, in terms not inapplicable 
to this subject : " The plain state of the case is, not that the writer 
is offended at my meddling with politics, but that I have meddled 
on the wrong side. Had the same mediocrity of talent been ex- 
erted in eulogizing the measures of ministry, his greetings would 
have been as loud as his invective is bitter." If the system is 
false, let this be made to appear, let its errors be exposed, but, 
until this is done, let no arrangement of divine truth be decried as 
injurious. In conclusion, we apprehend no evils to our rising the- 
ologians from scholastic systems, for the best of all reasons — they 
know nothing of them. The literature of the day has extended 
its influence to the domain of theology, and the weekly, monthly, 
and quarterly receptacles of religious discussion consume too much 
of our attention to leave opportunity for poring over the works of 
our ancestors. 

* See Rev. E. Irvine's late Letter in Frazer's Magazine. 



We are pleased with this volume on the Atonement, because 
such a work on this cardinal subject was needed ; and because 
we are of opinion that the author has exhibited the true Calvinistic 
view of the atonement, as to its necessity, nature, and extent. 
This work is more comprehensive than any work on this subject 
with which we are acquainted ; it embraces every point which it 
is proper to have discussed in a popular treatise. We consider it 
also a high recommendation that it is not written in a controversial 
spirit. The author attacks no one, but goes straight forward to 
his object. The style is characterized by vivacity and perspicuity. 
It would be difficult to find an involved or obscure sentence in the 
whole book. On every point the discussion is as concise as most 
readers will desire, and in our opinion is conducted with admirable 
judgment and good temper. Where the reader may differ from 
the sentiments of the author, he will never have occasion to cen- 
sure him as deficient in Christian candour. 

Mr. Symington's plan is also very judicious. He begins by an 
explication of the principal terms which relate to this subject. He 
then undertakes to answer the most common and popular objections 
to the doctrine. This part of his work is executed with great 
clearness and force. Nothing seems to be omitted which is proper 
to be said, and yet these objections are answered within a very 
moderate space. The necessity of an atonement comes next in 
order; and this he argues logically and conclusively, from the per- 
fections of God — from the nature of moral government — 
from the inefficacy of other means to obtain pardon' — and 


reality of the atonement is next exhibited. Under this head he 
avails himself of the ancient sacrifices, and particularly of those 
which were appointed in the Levitical law. On this interesting 
subject he furnishes the reader with a condensed view of all that 
is most important in the popular works of Magee and John Pye 

* Originally published in 1836, in review of the following work : " On the Atone- 
ment and Intercession of Jesus Christ." By the Rev. William Symington. 



Smith. He then considers the atonement as exhibited in prophecy : 
especially in the remarkable predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, con- 
cerning the vicarious sufferings and death of the Messiah. 

The author now comes to the consideration of the sufferings of 
Christ, as the facts are recorded by the Evangelists ; and considers 
the several conceivable ends of these extraordinary sufferings, and 
shows that none of these could have been the principal end, but that 
of making an atonement. The principal passages of scripture 
which speak of atonement, reconciliation, redemption, &c, are taken 
up and considered. 

The matter of the atonement is now more particularly brought 
into view, where the expiatory sufferings of Christ are described. 
The value of the atonement is evinced from a consideration of the 
dignity of Christ's person — from his relationship to man — 
from his freedom from all personal obligation to the law 
from his right to dispose of himself from the volunta- 
riness of his offering and from its being made according 

to the appointment of God. The vexed subject of the extent 
of the atonement is not omitted by our author. On this point he 
takes middle ground between the schemes of those who represent 
the atonement as indefinite and universal, and those who make it 
so limited as to be sufficient only for the salvation of the elect. He 
admits and maintains that the atonement, as to its intrinsic merit, 
is infinite ; while, in its application, it is limited to the elect. The 
true point of dispute is not the intrinsic value of the atonement, but 
the design with which it was offered : and where the parties 
agree in relation to the doctrine of election, we do not see much 
room for dissension in regard to the extent of the atonement. 
Both parties consider it as a sufficient ground of a universal offer 
of Christ to all who are willing to receive him. The author main- 
tains the definite character of the atonement, and its limitation to 
the elect in its design, with great force of argument, from the 






testimonies of scripture. He then considers and answers the 
objections to this opinion, derived from its being derogatory to the 
honour of the Saviour — from its supposing a redundancy of merit 
— from the universal offer of the gospel — from universal terms 
used in scripture — and from the possibility of some perishing for 
whom Christ died. 

Whether on this much disputed point the arguments in favour of 
a definite or general atonement preponderate, will be differently 
decided by readers according to their respective prepossessions. 
But for ourselves, we are of opinion that the author has placed the 
subject on the old Calvinistic ground, as particular redemption is 


known to have been one of the doctrines in which almost all old 
Calvinists were agreed, and was one of the five points disputed 
between the Calvinists and Arminians, and decided in the Synod of 
Dort. It may, however, be admitted, that where there is an 
agreement respecting the vicarious nature of the atonement, and 
in the belief of the doctrine of election, the controversy must be 
rather verbal than real ; for both sides hold the intrinsic sufficiency 
of the atonement, and both maintain that it was the design of the 
Father in giving his Son, and the design of the Son in dying, to 
save only those chosen in him before the world was. Wherein 
then is the difference, except in the proper mode of expressing our 
views? But we can see no advantage from representing the 
atonement to be universal ; and when it is said to have been made 
as much for one man as another, the language is certainly incon- 
sistent with the other parts of the Calvinistic system, and furnishes 
strong ground on which both Arminians and Universalists can 
erect their batteries to subvert it. 

After discussing the extent of the atonement pretty fully, Mr. 
Symington devotes one section to the consideration of its results, 
which he makes to be the following : it illustrates the charac- 
ter of God — vindicates his moral government — demonstrates 
the evil of sin secures for its objects perfect and eter- 
nal salvation opens a way for the exercise of divine 

mercy, and encourages sinners to rely on the mercy of god, 

and awakens grateful emotions in the pious affects the 

divine dispensations to our world and furnishes an eternal 

theme of contemplation to the whole universe of moral 

This concludes what strictly belongs to the atonement, but the 
author has very judiciously annexed a Second Part, containing the 
fullest and ablest view of the Intercession of Christ which we have 
seen. Indeed the subject of Christ's intercession cannot be sepa- 
rated from his atonement ; for while the latter may be represented 
by the slaying of the sacrifice and laying it on the altar, the former 
is strikingly typified by the presentation and sprinkling of the blood 
of the sin-offering in the most Holy Place, accompanied with 
clouds of precious incense. The offering of Christ's body on the 
cross would have accomplished nothing, unless he had entered with 
his precious merit into the highest heavens, there to plead the cause 
of his people. We would particularly recommend this part of the 
work to the attentive perusal of the pious ; it cannot be read, 
we think, without pleasure and profit by any sincere Chris- 
tian. The topics which arc introduced under this head are such 
as these ; the Intercession of Christ displays the love of God, and 
proves the Divinity of Christ — shows the efficacy of his death — 
affords security to the people of God. The discourse is concluded 
by considering the sin of dishonouring Christ's intercession, and 
the duty of daily seeking an interest in it. 

It is gratifying to learn that the first edition of this work was all 


sold in a few days, and a second edition called for before the 
author had the opportunity of revising the work, or availing him- 
self of the remarks of the reviewers. He promises, however, "if 
a third edition be required, to supply this deficiency." The Chris- 
tian Instructor of Edinburgh, which has always been ably con- 
ducted, and uniformly appears on the side of orthodoxy and evan- 
gelical piety, speaks of this work in the following terms : " Mr. S. 
has accomplished his work in the happiest possible manner. We 
have not often read a work which does more credit to its author, 
or is better fitted to edify the Church of God. The divine and the 
private Christian will alike find their account in giving it a careful 
perusal, and we are mistaken if there be many of its readers who 
will be satisfied with perusing it only once." The work is also 
highly commended in the Presbyterian Review, published in 

To account for the avidity with which this volume was bought 
up in Scotland, it will be necessary to advert to the circumstance, 
that the Christian public there has been considerably agitated with 
the publication of new and dangerous doctrines on the subject of 
the atonement. It will be recollected that Thomas Erskine, Esq., 
who had acquired considerable reputation as a theological writer, 
by his work on the Internal Evidences of Christianity, pub- 
lished a little work on the atonement, in which he maintained 
not only the universality of the atonement, but its universal 
efficacy in bringing the whole human race into a justified state. 
In connexion with this he taught that the glad tidings of the gospel 
was the annunciation of this fact, and that saving faith consisted in 
a full persuasion that we are already in a justified state ; and that 
the condemnation of any would be for refusing to believe this 
merciful testimony of God. This antinomian work of Erskine was 
mixed up with much that was good and pious ; and the author and 
his followers insisted that nothing so much promoted personal 
holiness as the persuasion above mentioned ; and this they declared 
to be the effect of the doctrine on their own minds. Several able 
answers were returned to this publication. Dr. Wardlaw, so 
favourably and extensively known as a theological writer, took up 
his pen to counteract the influence of this pernicious publication. 
His little work hns been republished in this country. Dr. Dewar, 
principal of Mareschall college, Aberdeen, also published a work 
on the atonement about this time. This subject was also involved 
in the prosecution carried on in the ecclesiastical courts of the 
Church of Scotland against Irving, M'Clean, Campbell, &c, which 
resulted in their deposition from the sacred ministry. The atten- 
tion, of theologians in that country was therefore turned to the 
subject of atonement ; and as these errorists made the universality 
of the atonement the foundation of their whole system, this will 
show why the point has received so large a share of attention in 
the treatise now under review. 

In this country discussions on the atonement have taken a dif- 


ferent turn ; for while we have too many who reject the whole 
doctrine with scorn, we have also a large number who have adopt- 
ed a new theory of the atonement, which they persuade them- 
selves avoids the most prominent difficulties of the old doctrine. 
We propose, therefore, to occupy some space in giving our own 
views of the atonement in relation to the existing state of opinion 
in this country. And we are induced to undertake this, not only 
because the subject is of momentous importance, but because we 
have never given our views at large on this subject in the pages 
of the Biblical Repertory. 

It is a fact worthy of notice, that in the lapse of time a remark- 
able change takes place in the language of theology, without an 
apparent design entertained by any to bring it about. Words 
once in current use are laid aside, and new terms adopted without 
any important reason for the change ; and without anything being 
gained or lost by the substitution. Of this a more striking example 
cannot be given than in the word atonement, to express the expia- 
tion made by the sufferings and death of Christ. This word was 
much used by the translators of the English Bible to signify the 
efficacy of the sacrifices and other rites of the Levitical service 
intended to purify from sin and ceremonial defilement : but in the 
New Testament, where the whole work of Christ is fully exhibited, 
the word is but once read (Rom. v., 11), and seems to be there 
used to avoid the too frequent use of the word reconciliation, 
which would certainly have been the appropriate term by which 
to render the Greek word KaraWayii. But as these two words were 
then used, it was perfectly indifferent which was employed, for 
they were considered synonymous, as might be shown by a refer- 
ence to the writers of that period ; and as appears, indeed, from 
the derivation of the word atonement, which has a purely English 
original, and signifies to be at one, as all the old English lexico- 
graphers inform us. For those who have been at variance to be at 
one, is evidently the same thing as to be reconciled. But as in the 
Old Testament the Hebrew word "ibS is almost uniformly rendered 
by the LXX., by the Greek word t^Xo^o/zat, iXaaKo^ai or i\donai } and 
the noun by iAaa^j, which words are in English constantly trans- 
lated, to make atonement, to atone, atonement, this analogy should 
have been followed in the New Testament ; and then we should 
have had the word atonement in our version, not where the word 
is used (Rom. v., 11), but in 1 John ii., 2, where we have naiavrds 
i\acfi6 S Ian ircp\ ruv o/iopnui/ hpwv ; and he is the atonement for our sins. 
And in 1 John iv., 10, where we read, ko.\ dTriareiXe to* itov airoo iXao/idv 
ircpi ruv apapTitsv ft/tan ; and he sent his son an atonement for our sins. 
We find the Greek verb which signifies to make atonement, in the 
New Testament, Heb. ii., 17, Us t& iXaaiccoOai tAs apapTias toS \aov; to 
make atonement for the sins of the people. The version of this text 
furnishes another proof that atonement and reconciliation were 
considered synonymes by our translators ; for as in the former pas- 
sage they used atonement instead of reconciliation, here, they use 


reconciliation where atonement was the proper word. The word 
i\a<TT>iptov is also twice read in the New Testament, and in one of 
these (Rom. iii., 25) should be translated atonement, Sv npotdeTo bQcds 
WaaHpiov, whom God hath set forth to be an atonement. In the other 
passage (Heb. ix., 5) this word retains the sense in which it is uni- 
formly used by the LXX., for the mercy-seat or cover of the ark 
of the covenant, and would be well rendered by the word "propiti- 
atory, or place of atonement. 

As the phrase to make atonement, as the translation of the He- 
brew and Greek words before mentioned, occurs nearly eighty 
times in the Old Testament, it may aid our investigation to endea- 
vour to ascertain its precise meaning ; and there is no passage 
which furnishes us with a better opportunity of accomplishing this 
object, than the account of the transactions of the day of atonement 
which is recorded in the 16th of Leviticus. It has frequently been 
asserted that the literal radical sense of the Hebrew verb is to cover; 
but as the word is seldom used in a literal sense, probably but once, 
where Noah is commanded to pitch the ark without and within 
with pitch, we think there is but slight ground for this opinion. In 
the figurative use of the word, though often thus employed, there 
is no clear allusion to this idea of covering. If we might infer the 
literal from the uniform figurative use, we should say, that the 
radical meaning was to cleanse or to purify. It appears from the 
passage referred to, and from other texts, that an atonement, 
though usually made with blood, consisted sometimes of other 
things. Thus in Exodus xxx., 15, the half shekel paid by every 
Israelite, is called an offering unto the Lord to make atonement for 
your souls. And in Lev. xvi., 10, the scape-goat is called an atone- 
ment. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scape-goat shall 
be presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement with him, 
and to let him go for a scape-goat into the wilderness. But com- 
monly atonements were made with bloody sacrifices ; so on the 
day when the scape-goat was made an atonement by symbolically 
carrying off the sins of the people which had been confessed over 
his head, another goat and a bullock were sacrificed as sin-ofFerings, 
the one for the whole congregation, the other for the priest and his 
family. " And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin-offering 
which is for himself and his house, and shall make atonement for 
himself and for his house. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-of- 
fering that is for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and 
do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprin- 
kle it upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat, and he shall 
make an atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness 
of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all 
their sins. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congre- 
gation, when he goeth in to make atonement in the Holy Place, 
until he come out and have made an atonement for himself and 
his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. And he 
shall go in before the altar of the Lord, and make an atonement 


for it (or on it) and shall take of the blood of the bullock and of 
the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar round 
about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger 
seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleanness of 
the children of Israel." Here we have as distinct a view as could 
be desired of the nature of atonement under the Mosaic dispensa- 
tion ; and as these solemn transactions on the day of atonement 
are in a very eminent degree typical of the great sacrifice of 
Christ, the atonements of this day will aid us in understanding the 
true nature of the Christian atonement. That the solemn rites of 
this day were typical of Christ, we are not only informed, but the 
apostle expounds at large these significant ceremonies. In the 9th 
chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, Paul applies the type to the 
antitype. " The priests went always into the first tabernacle ac- 
complishing the service of God. But into the second went the 
high priest alone, every year, not without blood which he offered 
for himself and for the errors of the people. The Holy Ghost this 
signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made 
manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was 
a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts 
and sacrifices which could not make him that did the service per- 
fect as pertaining to the conscience. Which stood in meats and 
drinks and divers washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on them 
until the time of the reformation. But Christ being come a high 
priest of good things, by a more perfect tabernacle not made with 
hands, that is to say, not of this building. Neither by the blood 
of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into 
the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if 
the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling 
the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much 
more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit 
offered himself without spot to God, purge your souls from dead 
works to serve the living God." 

From this inspired exposition of the sacrifices and ceremonies of 
the day of atonement, we learn several things, as — 

1. That the offerings and transactions of that solemn day were 
indeed typical of Christ and his atoning sacrifice for the sins of 
his people. They are called a figure for the time then present. 

2. That the sacrifices so solemnly offered under the law had in 
themselves no efficacy to take away the guilt of sin. These gifts 
and offerings could not make him that did the service perfect as per- 
taining to the conscience. The sprinkling of this blood of bulls and 
calves could only sanctify to the purifying of the flesh ; but had no 
power to purge the conscience from dead works. For it is not 
possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. 

3. That these ceremonies, called here carnal ordinances, were 
not intended to be perpetual but temporary, imposed until the time 
of reformation ; that is, until the introduction of the gospel dispen- 


4. That the tabernacle, erected by Moses according to the pattern 
showed him in the holy mount, is a type or figure of that heaven 
into which Christ had entered. 

5. That the entrance of the high priest once in the year into the 
holy of holies, with the blood of atonement, was a lively prefigu- 
ration of the entrance of Christ into heaven with his own blood, 
to obtain eternal redemption for us. 

6. That Christ's blood and offering of himself through the 
eternal spirit is a real and efficacious atonement, by which the 
conscience is purged from dead works ; that is from sin. And by 
this one offering, he perfects for ever those who are sanctified. He 
who appeared in the end of the world has put away sin by the 
sacrifice of himself. 

In this part of holy scripture we have a clear exhibition of the 
Christian atonement. It is a sin-offering, or a sacrifice for sin. It 
is a vicarious sacrifice ; for as the sins of the people were laid both 
upon the scape-goat who bore them away, and upon the goat which 
was sacrificed and his blood carried within the veil, and sprinkled 
on the mercy-seat ; so Christ bore our sins in his own body. He 
was wounded for our transgressions, and was made sin for us. The 
atonement of Christ was an offering made through the Eternal 
Spirit without spot unto God to render him propitious ; to purge 
the conscience, and to obtain eternal redemption for us. This 
offering and sacrifice was made by Jesus Christ in the character of 
high priest. But he infinitely excelled those high priests who 
ministered in the tabernacle below. These were obliged to offer 
their atoning sacrifices year by year, because they could not really 
put away sin, but significantly pointed to the one true and effica- 
cious atonement. They were not permitted to continue by reason 
of death. " But Jesus Christ because he continueth for ever hath 
an unchangeable priesthood, wherefore he is able to save to the 
uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to 
make intercession for them." It seems to have been on this ac- 
count that he was declared to be a priest for ever after the order 
of Melchisedec, because the sacred scriptures make no mention of 
his death, or that there were any others in the succession either 
before or after him. But again, " other priests were encompassed 
with infirmity, and had to offer first for their own sins and then for 
those of the people ; but Jesus Christ is holy, harmless, undefiled, 
and separate from sinners." He had, therefore, no need to offer 
any sacrifice for himself, but only to make the one offering which 
has, in itself, merit enough to make atonement for the sins of the 
whole world. It is also mentioned, as a remarkable point of dis- 
tinction, that Christ was made high priest by a solemn oath. He 
is also styled the surety of a better covenant, and the mediator of 
the New Testament. And the end of all his sacerdotal acts and 
offerings was that by his death, they who are called may receive the 
promise of eternal inheritance. 

The legal sacrifices had in themselves no intrinsic value ; and 


when the people made a merit and a righteousness of them, so far 
from being pleasing to a holy God, they were exceedingly offen- 
sive. When Christ came, therefore, he said, " Sacrifice and offer- 
ing thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me ;" intimating 
that these typical rites were now to be abolished to make way for 
the only efficacious offering which was his own pure and sacred 
body which had been miraculously prepared for him in the womb 
of the virgin. The substance being come, the shadows were now 
ready to vanish away. " He taketh away the first that he may 
establish the second." And the Son being come as a priest, and 
furnished with a spotless sacrifice, cries, " Lo, I come to do thy 
will, O God. By the which will we are sanctified through the 
offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." As was before 
said, this priest had no need to offer more than once, once for all. 
" Other priests stood daily ministering, and offering oftentimes the 
same sacrifices which can never take away sin, but Jesus Christ, 
after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down at the 
right hand of God." 

No doctrine of the Bible is more clearly and fully expounded 
than that of atonement, by the apostle Paul in this epistle to the 
Hebrews. And having now exhibited the leading points in his ex- 
position, nothing more would be necessary, were it not for the 
pride and perverseness of men, who refuse to receive the simple 
truth of God's word, and turn themselves every way to evade the 
force of the divine testimony. It is truly wonderful, after what we 
have seen, that any should deny that the doctrine of a vicarious 
atonement is taught in the sacred scriptures. We may ask such 
persons to tell us what more could have been said, had the apostle 
intended to inculcate this doctrine ? But let us consider some of 
the arguments by which they attempt to defend their cause. And, 
in the first place, they object to the doctrine as unreasonable, and 
derogatory to the character of God. They allege that there can 
exist no necessity for such a costly sacrifice ; that if the creatures 
of God sin against him, he is a merciful sovereign who can forgive 
them without requiring any atonement ; and they assert that 
reason teaches us that if they repent and reform, God will receive 
them into favour, and remit all the punishment which was threat- 

Such reasonings might appear plausible enough, if man were a 
competent judge of what plans it becomes the Ruler of the universe 
to adopt in the government of the world ; or if human reason 
could decide what terms of reconciliation a holy God ought to 
adopt for his rebellious creatures. It is a sufficient answer to all 
such objections, that the same mode of reasoning, applied to the 
state of things as they actually exist in the physical and moral 
world, would lead us directly to atheism. We should not find it 
difficult to frame plausible objections to the structure of the uni- 
verse, to the constitution of man, to the providence of God, and to 
every principle of moral government. Why should a God of in- 



finite benevolence bind his creatures by a law ; and especially, why 
should he annex to it a penalty so tremendous as death ? The 
acts of creatures cannot affect the infinite, Almighty Ruler of the 

The doctrines of divine revelation can never be brought with 
propriety to the bar of human reason : they are as far above rea- 
son as the heaven is above the earth. When a revelation is suffi- 
ciently attested, it is reasonable to receive every thing which it con- 
tains, however repugnant to our preconceived opinions. To act 
on any other principle is the height of arrogance and impiety. 
Why do we want a revelation but to teach us what reason does 
not know 1 But it is pretended that this doctrine of atonement is 
not taught in the scriptures. Then, as we said before, it cannot be 
taught in words. If this is not a doctrine of scripture nothing is 
taught in scripture. It would be almost as reasonable to assert 
that there are neither words nor letters in the Bible. As we have 
exhibited sufficient scriptural evidence of the doctrine, we might 
decline any further discussion of the subject. But lest these pre- 
tended Rationalists boast that reason is altogether on this side, we 
will descend into the arena, and contend with them on their own 
ground, and with their own weapons. The question which we 
propose first to discuss is, whether a holy God can consistently for- 
give sin without any satisfaction or atonement. It is agreed that 
God exercises a moral government over the world, and has given 
to man a just and good law, which all men have transgressed. 
That sin exists is not disputed, and it is not to be denied that all 
sin deserves to be punished, for otherwise it would not be sin — it 
would have no demerit. And if it did not deserve to be punished, 
it would not need forgiveness, for forgiveness is the remission of 
deserved punishment. If, then, sin deserves to be punished, it can- 
not be an evil thing, or inconsistent with the divine attributes, to 
inflict deserved punishment. To assert this would be to say that 
it was wrong for the Ruler of the universe to do right — unjust to 
act justly, by giving to every one his due. But this is held by no 
one. Even Socinians admit, that it is right for God to punish sin, 
and if right to punish in one instance, it must be right to punish sin 
in every instance, according to its demerit. Indeed, as the punish- 
ment of sin is the act of God as a righteous Governor or just 
Judge, we do not see how he can do otherwise than impartially 
punish all sin according to its demerit. How can the Judge of all 
the earth, who must do right, punish one sinner, and permit another 
equally guilty to go unpunished. Certainly reason can never teach 
us that he will do so. Reason cannot teach opposite things, and 
we have seen that it is the dictate of reason that sin should be 
punished according to its demerit ; the same reason never can teach 
that in some instances it should not be punished at all. Whatever 
argument will prove that sin ought not to be punished in one 
instance, may be applied to any other case ; and would go to 
prove that no sin could be punished in the divine government. 



But we know that some sins have been and are punished ; reason, 
therefore, cannot assure us, or even render it probable, that in a 
perfectly righteous, moral government, any sin will escape deserved 
punishment. We know that it is alleged that in those cases, in 
which the punishment of sin is remitted, there is a special reason for 
this dispensation — namely, the repentance and reformation of the 
sinner. Unitarians themselves maintain, that if no repentance in- 
tervene to turn aside the stroke of justice, transgressors must bear 
their iniquity. It. follows, therefore, upon their own principles, 
that if none should ever repent, there could be no remission. And 
it would not be very difficult to show that sinners left to them- 
selves will never repent. But we shall now proceed upon the sup- 
position that a sinner can repent and reform his life at any time. 
We ask how can it be ascertained that sin will be pardoned upon 
repentance without any atonement ? It cannot be learned from 
experience, for the natural consequences of intemperance, debauch- 
ery, fraud, &c, are not removed by repentance; and yet these 
consequences of sin are a part of God's moral administration. In 
civil governments the criminal who has been convicted of murder, 
treason, perjury, or any other crime, is never released and the 
punishment remitted as a matter of course, because he repents. 
However sincerely penitent, he pays the penalty of the law, and a 
contrary course would be subversive of all law and government. 
Suppose that God should create two moral agents of similar pow- 
ers, and place them under the same law, and in the same circum- 
stances ; and suppose that one of them should continue perfectly to 
obey his maker, and that the other should wickedly rebel against 
his sovereign ; can any man persuade himself that he could treat 
these creatures exactly in the same manner? God cannot look 
upon sin but with disapprobation proportioned to its malignity ; 
and he cannot but be pleased with obedience. Unless, therefore, 
he should act contrary to his own views and feelings, he cannot 
but make a difference between the man who loves and serves him 
with all his heart, and him who ungratefully cherishes enmity 
against his Maker. This case is so plain that no man who has 
any perception of moral fitness can doubt respecting it. The So- 
cinian, as well as others, feels the necessity of such a course in a 
moral Governor ; and he does not plead for pardon to such as con- 
tinue obstinate in their rebellion. He only maintains that God 
may remit the penalty of his law to him who repents and reforms. 
Let us suppose then that these two creatures had a probation of a 
hundred years ; and that while the first fulfilled his duty to the 
end of his course, the other, having rebelled soon after his creation, 
persists obstinately in iniquity until near the close of the last year 
of the period of probation, and that he then repents and returns 
to his duty ; how ought an infinitely righteous, moral Governor 
to treat these persons ? Would it be right merely on the ground 
of repentance to admit this penitent to as rich a reward as if he 


had never offended ? And what effect would this have on other 
free agents when put on their probation 1 

If any should still be of opinion, that upon repentance, the 
Governor of the world may and ought to treat the returning sinner 
just as if he had never offended, and that this is the dictate of sound 
reason ; it must always be known to creatures put on probation 
under a moral law. The consequence will be, that God gives an 
option to every creature whether he will obey perfectly and con- 
stantly, or sin and rebel the greater part of the time, and at last re- 
pent, for the results will be precisely the same in each case. Such 
a provision annexed to the divine law would completely annul it. 
It would in fact be an invitation to creatures to rebel, as they would 
be assured that they have it in their power to prevent all punish- 
ment, and to secure the same reward as if they never transgressed. 
If it should be said that their punishment might be remitted, and 
yet they not put on an equality with those who never disobeyed, 
we answer that this concedes the principle for which we contend, 
as in this case a part of the punishment would be inflicted ; for 
whatever a man loses in consequence of sin, or whatever mark of 
disapprobation is set on him by God, makes a part of the punish- 
ment of his sin. How is it then an amiable virtue in men, it will 
be asked, to forgive those who offend them, so that such forgive- 
ness is made a condition of asking for forgiveness ? To answer 
this objection fully would require more space than we can afford 
in this review. We will therefore merely indicate the principle on 
which a reply may be made. Creatures have nothing to do in the 
punishment of sin as a moral evil ; God is the only administrator of 
his own law. Vengeance belongeth unto him, he will repay. No 
creature, therefore, can be compared with God in relation to this 
matter. Again, when men receive injury or offence from their 
fellow creatures, it is reasonable that they should not undertake to 
avenge themselves, because this is going beyond their proper 
sphere, and encroaching on the prerogative of God, who takes cog- 
nisance of all offences, and knows their exact demerit. Besides, 
as we are all offenders against God, and can be saved from wrath 
only by his mercy, it is reasonable that we should not be rigid in 
executing punishment on those who trespass against us. 

But it may be objected that, according to this view of the divine 
character and government, he has the attribute of justice but not 
of mercy ; whereas all men who entertain correct opinions of the 
divine attributes believe that mercy is the most amiable perfection 
of his character. To which we reply, that it is even so, that reason 
knows nothing of the attribute of mercy. Reason clearly indicates 
that God is good to the obedient, but it cannot inform us that he 
will remit the punishment of any sin. Indeed it is by reason that 
we conclude that God will render to every man according to his 
deeds, and it never can teach, therefore, that in some instances 
he will not render to every one his due. The idea of divine mercy 
so prevalent among men is derived from revelation, and is intimate- 


ly connected with the atonement. The very design of the atone- 
ment is to enable the righteous Governor of the universe to exer- 
cise mercy, not at the expense of justice, which is impossible, but 
by a complete satisfaction to justice, " that God might be just and 
the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." It is a radical mistake 
in theology to think that mercy is exercised irrespectively of the 
demands of justice. God cannot divest himself of his justice any 
more than of his being ; and if his retributive justice have claims on 
any one on account of sin, these claims can never be set aside. 
Erroneous ideas on this point have been the source of many errors ; 
the ramifications from this root are very extensive, but we cannot 
trace them now through all their windings. 

It may be again objected, that on these principles mercy is not 
an essential attribute of God. If by essential be meant that which 
belongs to his nature, mercy is essential ; all divine attributes are 
essential. But we admit that there was no necessity for the exer- 
cise of mercy. To suppose that there was, is to destroy its very 
nature. Mercy must depend on mere will. It is grace, but grace 
might be withheld, or it ceases to be grace, and becomes justice. 
As God showed no mercy to apostate angels, he might have pro- 
ceeded on the same principles of rectitude towards fallen men. 
The very idea of mercy is derived from the doctrine of atonement, 
and yet an argument is derived from mercy to overthrow the 
atonement. Take away the atonement, and mercy and grace are 
blotted out with it. 

We have hitherto been arguing the necessity of atonement from 
the holiness and justice of God ; the truth and faithfulness of God 
furnish an argument corroborative of the same thing. 

When the Ruler of the universe promulgates a law, it is not only 
a rule to guide the obedience of the creature, but a solemn decla- 
ration of the principles on which he means to administer his go- 
vernment. And when he annexes a certain penalty to his law, his 
veracity is pledged to execute it; for a penalty is nothing else than a 
public intimation to the creature what the consequence of transgres- 
sion will be. Some theologians, however, to answer a particular 
purpose, have maintained, that although God is bound by his faithful- 
ness to fulfd his promises, he is not in the same manner obliged to 
execute his threatenings. And they assign this reason of the differ- 
ence, that as the interests of creatures are involved in the fulfilment 
of a promise, this gives them a kind of right which cannot be 
violated, whereas no one is injured by an omission to execute 
threatenings ; but the contrary. The doctrine is, that God may 
act contrary to his own public and solemn declaration, provided 
no one is injured by his doing so. But if the penalty of the law 
was annexed to prevent evil to the public, from its neglect will not 
the public interest suffer ? And if it does not, will such a course be 
for the honour of God ? Shall we attribute to the God of truth a 
disregard to his word, which all must acknowledge would be a 
great moral defect in man ? Certainly this ought not to be receiv- 


ed as a settled principle in the divine administration without the 
most manifest proof. We believe, that at the first hearing of such 
a proposition every unsophisticated mind would revolt. The 
great and glorious God has claimed for himself truth and faithful- 
ness as attributes essential to his character ; and he has manifested 
his detestation of all falsehood in creatures by the strongest expres- 
sions. We ought therefore to be cautious of ascribing to him what 
would have the most distant tendency to derogate from his vera- 
city. " Hath he spoken, and will he not do it ?" It ought to be 
considered also, that this principle would go far to render all divine 
threatenings nugatory. The certainty of punishment is found to 
have more effect than its severity. But this doctrine renders it 
altogether uncertain, when a penalty is denounced, whether it will 
ever be executed. It spreads uncertainty over the future punish- 
ment of the guilty. Who knows but. that the Judge of all the earth 
will at the day of judgment remit the penalty incurred by all sin- 
ners, men and angels 1 This principle is eminently calculated to 
subserve the cause of the Universalists, but we do not know that 
they have had the boldness to avail themselves of it. And it does 
away at once all necessity of atonement ; for if the penalty of the 
law may be remitted, and is often remitted, there can be no abso- 
lute need that any one, much less a' divine person, should suffer a 
cruel and ignominious death, to open a way for pardon. 

As one consequence of this doctrine, referred to above, is, that 
God may, for aught we know, omit to inflict the penalty now 
threatened upon any transgressor, and as this is a very grave 
objection, we have understood that the advocates of the tenet en- 
deavour to evade it by making a distinction between a threatening 
and a prediction, that while the former may be changed for good 
reason, the latter must be verified, for the prophecies must be ful- 
filled. To us there appears no difference, except that threatenings 
are not absolute, but conditional. In a prophecy an event is 
usually foretold as certain ; in a threatening it is made to depend 
on the disobedience of the creature. A penalty is only incurred 
where there is transgression ; but on the supposition that the law 
is broken, it is a prediction of what will be done with the sinner. 
If it is not, it has no force, and cannot be even a terror to evil 
doers. Besides, the reason assigned why God may omit to exe- 
cute a threatening when incurred, will equally apply to a predic- 
tion. If the thing predicted be an evil, no one will be injured by 
omitting to bring it about. 

The cases from Scripture which have been adduced to support 
this hypothesis, will not sustain it. The threatenings against Nine- 
veh were obviously conditional. Within forty days this great 
city would have been destroyed, had not the inhabitants repented. 
That it should be thus understood is evident from commissioning 
a prophet to go and preach to them. If the prediction had been 
absolute, there would have been no object to be answered by 
preaching. And thus the king of Nineveh and his people under- 



stood it : for in the hope of averting the heavy judgment which 
impended, they humbled themselves with fasting and sackcloth, and 
God was pleased to spare the city. In all this there is nothing to 
favour the opinion that God will not certainly execute his threat- 
enings. If the Ninevites had not repented, and God had omitted 
to destroy the city, then the case would have been in point. But 
as it is, it furnishes no example of God's failing to execute his 

But another case of much greater importance, and to suit which 
it is probable the doctrine in question was invented, is that of 
Adam in Paradise. It is alleged and confidently asserted, that the 
penalty was not executed on him in conformity to the threatening, 
" In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam ate 
the forbidden fruit, but did not die on that very day, nor for cen- 
turies afterwards. If God could not consistently with his truth 
deviate from a threatened penalty, Adam must have died on that 
very day, as is evident. If it be so that God said one thing and 
did another, it is a serious case, not as it relates to this or that 
theory of Christianity, but to divine revelation. We do not know 
any objection which a deist could more plausibly and forcibly urge 
against the Bible ; for it would be difficult to persuade a sensible 
deist that there was nothing derogatory to the truth of God in 

l l T) 

failing to do what he solemnly declared should be done. But may 
not the abettors of this opinion be mistaken when they assert that 
the threatening was in no sense executed on the very day on which 
Adam sinned ? The word death has other significations besides 
the extinction of animal life. Our first parents were equally stran- 
gers to every species of death. As death is the opposite of life, 
they would expect the loss of life ; but the noblest and most pre- 
cious life which they enjoyed consisted in the image of God, and 
in communion with him. The mere separation of the soul and 
body is a trifle compared with a separation from God as the source 
of life. Undoubtedly by death in the threatening we should un- 
derstand all penal evils of every kind and degree ; for no punish- 
ment is ever inflicted on creatures which is not a part of the 
penalty of the law. Every bodily pain and mental pang help to 
make up this death. And as temporal death comes on gradually, 
man may be said to be dying from the moment when he became 
mortal. He was now also dead in law ; the eternal life which 
God promised as the reward of obedience was forfeited, and the 
law, instead of a blessing, denounced death. The whole of that 
threatened death could not be endured in one day ; it extends 
through eternity. It is sufficient to save the divine veracity if the 
commencement of death was experienced on that day. The exe- 
cution of the penalty is supposed to have been suspended by the 
interposition of a scheme of mercy. This might have modified 
the circumstances of our first parents, and no doubt did, but could 
not prevent the execution of the sentence threatened. The Sa- 
viour finds those whom he came to save, lost, dead in trespasses 


and sin, children of wrath, under the curse. From this he under- 
takes to redeem them, by dying for them. The sentence of the 
law was therefore executed upon our first parents on the very day 
of their sinning, and virtually on all their posterity, for we are all 
born under the sentence of that death which fell on them. We are 
therefore under no necessity of having recourse to this opinion so 
derogatory to the divine attributes, in order to explain the facts in 
the case of Adam. 

Let us next proceed to inquire, since the penalty of the law can- 
not be set aside, whether the punishment of sin can be transferred 
from the actual transgressor to a surety or substitute. This is a 
vital question in Christian theology. The whole gospel system of 
salvation turns upon this point : all our hopes and dearest interests 
are suspended on it. 

This doctrine of substitution and satisfaction by the obedience 
and sufferings of another is one of pure revelation. Reason never 
could have discovered that such a relaxation of the law as admits 
one to die in the place of another was possible consistently with 
the moral government of God. Indeed, if the principle of substi- 
tution could have been reasoned out by some mighty intellect, it 
would have answered no purpose, as certainly no created wisdom 
could have found a person so qualified as to accomplish the work. 
We need not be surprised, therefore, that the pride of human rea- 
son is offended with this doctrine, and sets itself in opposition to 
the plan of infinite wisdom — a plan which may be called the great 
mystery of the Gospel, which was hidden from eternity in the deep 
counsels of God, until after the fall of man it began to be deve- 
loped, and still by the incarnation and death of the Son of God for 
us sinners, the divine economy was revealed in a blaze of light. As 
the whole Bible is a revelation of this method of salvation by the 
merit of another, who has been pleased to stand in our place and 
make atonement for us, to produce all the proofs of the doctrine 
would be to expound the whole Bible. That the punishment due 
to the guilty can consistently with justice be inflicted on an inno- 
cent substitute capable of enduring it, and who voluntarily takes 
the place of the transgressor, is the grand characteristic of the gos- 
pel system. It is a device of infinite wisdom to open a way for 
divine mercy, while justice receives a perfect satisfaction. Such 
a principle could scarcely find a place among men. It would not 
be proper to permit a virtuous citizen to sacrifice himself for the 
guilty, for by this course the public would receive a double detri- 
ment ; first from the loss of a good citizen, and secondly from hav- 
ing the guilty person retained in the bosom of society. If a case 
could be found in which no evil of any kind could arise from such 
a substitution, all objections would cease. The case of Zaleucus, 
king of the Locrians, has often been mentioned with great applause. 
The story is related by Diodorus Siculus and vElian ; and by Plu- 
tarch and Valerius Maximus is considered a most remarkable dis- 
play of justice. This king having made a law that whoever should 


be convicted of the crime of adultery should have both his eyes 
put out ; when his own son was found guilty, the whole state be- 
sought him to remit the threatened punishment. This he refused. 
But that the law might substantially have its demand, and justice 
be done, and a salutary example given, he consented to participate 
in the punishment himself, and while one of his son's eyes was put 
out, he substituted one of his own for the other. This case, so 
much celebrated by the ancients, Socinus speaks of contemptu- 
ously, and says that this prince ought to be classed with those rulers 
who deserve to be denominated weak and rash. While the rigour 
of the law and the inflexibility of justice were maintained, still the 
case is liable to some strong objections. But none of these apply 
to the substitution of Christ. For while the law is maintained and 
honoured, no injury is sustained by the public, nor eventually by 
the substitute. The sinner is not only pardoned but purified, and 
made a good citizen. The divine Mediator, though he dies, lives 
again, and receives an ample compensation for his humiliation and 
sufferings. Here, then, is a transaction which gloriously displays 
the divine justice and mercy ; which maintains the honour of the 
divine law, and at the same time rescues a great multitude of lost 
souls from eternal misery. Why should we complain of injustice 
when no one is injured ? The case stands thus : the justice of God 
leads him necessarily to punish sin, the law denounces a penalty 
according to justice, the sinner is found guilty and deserves to suf- 
fer. But God feels love and compassion towards him, and enters into 
covenant with his own Son to redeem a great multitude of fallen 
men. The plan is, that the son become incarnate, place himself 
under the law, bear its curse by dying for us, and thus render a 
complete satisfaction to divine justice. By such an atonement a 
way is opened for the exercise of mercy to the guilty ; and provi- 
sion is made for their regeneration and sanctification. 

But the objection to an innocent person's suffering for the guilty 
is as strong against the Socinian scheme as against the orthodox ; 
for they admit that Christ, an innocent person, did suffer for the 
benefit of men. It matters not whether you call it punishment or 
not. It is suffering inflicted on the innocent. Its being considered 
the punishment of our sins cannot add to the injustice of the tran- 
saction. If an innocent person may consistently with justice suffer 
for our benefit, he may endure the same sufferings as the penalty 
due to sin. That guilt or liableness to a penalty may be transferred 
from the actual transgressor to others connected with him, may be 
shown from the case of Canaan and Ham, of David and the peo- 
ple of Israel, seventy thousand of whom died for his sin ; of Jero- 
boam and his descendants ; of Achan and his children. But we 
will confine our attention to the remarkable case of Saul and the 
Gibeonites, where we have, with the approbation of God, seven of 
the descendants of Saul executed on account of a sin committed 
by him. When David inquired of the Lord respecting the cause 
of a three years' famine, by which Israel was afflicted, he received 


for answer, that it was for Saul and his bloody house, because he 
slew the Gibeonites. " Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, 
what shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atone- 
ment, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord ?" And they 
said : " Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we 
will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul." " And he 
delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged 
them in the hill before the Lord." Now there is no evidence that 
these men died for their own sin ; the judgments of God had fallen 
upon all Israel on account of Saul's breach of covenant and cruelty. 
But even supposing that some of them had participated in his 
crime ; these seven were not the whole of his descendants, and 
yet they suffered for the whole house. Here an atonement was 
made to the Gibeonites by the death of seven- men. These men 
bore the punishment of the sin of their ancestor, and the offended 
party was satisfied, and the divine judgments were withdrawn. 
Here, then, is a clear case of guilt being transferred from the father 
to his offspring, and of an atonement being made which reconciled 
the offended party, and turned away the wrath of God from the 
people. And this was in exact accordance with what is said in 
the second commandment, " visiting the iniquities of the fathers 
upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that 
hate me." 

As then sin cannot go unpunished, as law and justice require the 
execution of the deserved penalty, there can be no salvation for 
any sinner, unless vicarious sufferings are admitted. There was 
no obligation on the Ruler of the universe to relax the strict de- 
mands of the law upon the individual transgressor ; he might have 
held him to endure the penalty in his own person. But when a 
divine substitute appears, and offers his body to be wounded and 
bruised for our iniquities, and his soul to be poured out unto death 
to make an atonement for our sins — when the Lamb of God pre- 
sents himself to the stroke of divine justice, and offers to bear our 
iniquities in his own body on the tree — to die the just for the unjust 
— to give his life a ransom for our redemption, and God is well 
pleased with his sacrifice, and accepts it as sweet smelling savour, 
a full satisfaction and complete atonement — who has any right to 
object to the gracious transaction 1 Surely there is no injury sus- 
tained, and consequently there is no injustice. 

But on this subject we have to contend not only with those who 
deny the atonement altogether, but with brethren who have in- 
vented a new scheme of atonement, which if it does not subvert 
the doctrine, greatly obscures and endangers it. As this the- 
ory is much more current in this country than in Great Britain, Mr. 
Symington has not particularly considered it ; although, indeed, 
the principles which he has established do virtually overthrow it. 
But as this new theory is in our opinion exceedingly dangerous, 
and is defended and zealously propagated by many among our- 
selves, we shall be pardoned for spending some time in examining 


its principles. And we here make the avowal that we charge the 
opinions which we endeavour to refute only on those who acknow- 
ledge them. Some have thought that between the old and new 
theology respecting the nature of the atonement there was a mere 
verbal difference, and that the controversy was a logomachy of no 
manner of use. It is not so, as we shall sufficiently make appear 
before we conclude. It is a difference so great and radical, that 
we candidly believe that the new theory of atonement approaches 
much nearer to the Socinian than to the old Calvinistic view of the 
nature and end of Christ's death. We do not say this invidiously to 
prejudice the reader, but simply with the view of calling his serious 
attention to the subject. We know there are many who have acquired 
a sickly sensibility in regard to all controversies between those who 
belong to the same communion ; but whatever such may say or 
think, we must, as far as we are able, defend the truth of God, and 
give faithful warning of such errors as appear to us to be danger- 
ous in their consequences ; or we should be traitors to our divine 
Master. And as to the disturbance and contention which arise 
from the discussion of theological subjects, they should be attributed 
to those who bring in new opinions. If all who are ministers in 
our church did sincerely receive the doctrines laid down in our 
standards, in the obvious sense in which they have from the be- 
ginning been understood, there would be no contention, except 
with those without. But certainly it is important that all new 
opinions on a subject so vital as the atonement, should be thoroughly 
canvassed before they are received. It is scarcely credible that 
all theologians, until very lately, should have mistaken the true 
nature of the atonement. 

Until very recently, as far as we know, all who believed that 
Christ made an atonement by his death, were agreed that he en- 
dured substantially the penalty of the law which we had broken ; 
and that his sufferings and death were a complete satisfaction to 
the retributive or vindicatory justice of God; so that the word 
satisfaction was in universal use to express what is now signified 
by the word atonement. But of late a new theory has been in- 
vented, and is believed by many to be a real improvement in 
theology. They ask, why should not the science of theology be pro- 
gressive as well as other sciences ? According to the new theory, 
Christ our Mediator neither suffered the penalty of the law nor 
made any satisfaction to distributive justice. His death was de- 
signed to be merely an exhibition of God's displeasure at sin, and 
to convince the universe that he would not suffer it to go un- 
punished. When we first noticed this opinion, we were inclined 
to hope that the objection was not to the substance of the old 
doctrine of atonement, but to some supposed inaccuracy of the 
language commonly employed to represent, it. We were disposed 
in charity to put this construction upon their doctrine, because they 
were accustomed to say, that Christ did not literally bear the 
penalty of the law, which they alleged to be an impossible thing, 


because that penalty included remorse and despair, and required 
the sinner to suffer eternal death. That Christ thus suffered the 
penalty of the law, not one of the orthodox ever held. If, there- 
fore, it was only meant to deny this, there was no difference of 
opinion but what was verbal. And when they denied that Christ 
offered a satisfaction to retributive justice, they were careful to add, 
that his death was a satisfaction to general justice ; because, ac- 
cording to their account of distributive justice, none could satisfy 
it but the sinner who had broken the law. We were also for a 
while misled by their still using the terms vicarious, substitution, fyc. 
But since we have become better acquainted with the new divinity 
we are convinced that these technical phrases are used by its ad- 
vocates in an entirely different sense from what they bear in the 
theology of the old school. By vicarious, they do not mean 
obedience or suffering in our stead as strictly answering the de- 
mands of a violated law, but something done or suffered which is 
intended to answer the same end as the fulfilment of the law. And 
substitution is that which is admitted in the place of the execution 
of the penalty of the law. Whether this use of these theological 
phrases is consistent with perfect candour, we shall not stop 
to inquire. It is sufficient for our purpose that we know in 
what sense they are now employed by the teachers of the new 

We do not apprehend that we shall be charged with misrepre- 
senting the new theory of the atonement by any who are familiarly 
acquainted with it. We have charged upon the system nothing 
but what its abettors avow and strenuously plead for. But for the 
sake of others we will exhibit some of its leading features in the 
very words of popular writers, who have appeared in print as its 
defenders. It is no part of our business to reconcile these theolo- 
gians with one another, or even with themselves ; nor do we at- 
tribute every sentiment of each to all who belong to that school. 
Let every man in this case bear his own burden, and be only 
answerable for his own words. A late English writer* says : 
" The execution of the penalty, on the principles of distributive 
justice, is inconsistent with the present administration of moral 
government, as it is a state of probation and trial. The exercise 
of what is called vindictive justice in the administration of the law 
ill accords with the present connexion between God and man." 
Again, " The providential government which God exercises over 
the world shows that threatenings can be honourably suspended, 
when the ends of good government can be secured by it." And, 
as a proof that the penalty of the law of God may be set aside, he 
alleges the fact that the penalty threatened to our first parents was 
not inflicted : " for," says the writer. " had it been literally ex- 
ecuted there would have been no human race now existing. The 
penalty was, ' in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' 

* Jenkyn on the Atonement. 


Adam did eat of the forbidden fruit and was spared. He did not 
die. The penalty was suspended and his punishment was re- 
mitted." It would be difficult to crowd a greater number of errors 
into the same space than are contained in the preceding citations. 
If God no longer governs the world on the principles of distribu- 
tive justice, what sort of moral government do we live under 1 
If vindicatory justice is entirely excluded from the administration 
of the law, how can God judge and punish the wicked ? If God. 
can at pleasure suspend his most positive and solemn threatenings, 
and that without limit, what truth was there in uttering these 
threatenings ? If the penalty of the law was in no sense executed 
on Adam after he fell, then he suffered no injury by the fall, and 
we his posterity suffer no inconvenience from our connexion with 
him. If Adam would have been annihilated, had the penalty been 
inflicted, then eternal misery was not the penalty of the original 
law, and that so many are exposed to this dreadful punishment is 
entirely owing to the interposition of a Saviour. If men were not 
liable under the law to the sentence of eternal death, then Christ 
has not redeemed any from that curse. Upon these principles is 
it clear that the world has been essentially benefited by the coming 
of a Saviour 1 lis 

A popular writer of our own country* has explicitly informed 
us what they mean by satisfying the demands of public justice. 
"In this acceptation," says he, "it has no direct reference to law, 
but embraces those principles of virtue or benevolence by which 
we are bound to govern our conduct, and by which God governs 
the universe." " This atonement was required that God might be 
just or righteous ; that he might do the thing which was fit and 
proper, and best and most expedient to be done, and at the same 
time be at perfect liberty to justify him who believeth in Jesus." 
" The legal obstacle to man's salvation," he informs us, " was re- 
moved by the sacrifice of Christ." But how could a legal obstacle 
be removed by a transaction which left the penalty of the law 
in full force, and which had no direct relation to law ? That 
the death of Christ, had no effect in removing the penalty of 
the law, or in satisfying distributive justice, this writer teaches 
expressly. It was therefore incumbent on him to show how 
such an atonement as he pleads for could remove any legal ob- 
stacle to the sinner's salvation. But lest we should be suspected 
of misunderstanding or misrepresenting him, we will cite his own 
words. Speaking of the design of Christ's death he says : " The 
penalty of the law, strictly speaking, was not inflicted at all, for 
this penalty, in which was embodied the principles of distributive 
justice, required the death of the sinner, and did not require the 
death of Christ." " The relation of the sinner to the curse 


* Dr. Beman, Sermons on the Atonement. 


again, could such an atonement remove the legal obstacles to the 
sinner's salvation ? But he goes on to make the sentiment ex- 
pressed above still stronger by saying, " He is the same guilty crea- 
ture he was before satisfaction was made. The law has the same 
demand upon him. The law and justice, that is distributive jus- 
tice as expressed in the law, have received no satisfaction at all." 
" The whole legal system has been suspended, at least for the 
present, to make way for one of a different character." If a doc- 
trine which subverts or suspends the law of God is antinomian, 
we have antinomianism here in perfection. There is no law now 
in force ; the xchole legal system is suspended, at least for the pre- 
sent. How long this lawless state is to continue we are not in- 
formed. In another part of the same work this writer asks : " How 
did the atonement made by Jesus Christ, prepare the way for 
the exercise of mercy to sinners V After telling us what pur- 
poses it did not answer, in stating which he sets aside all the usual 
ends which have been assigned by the orthodox, he concludes by 
declaring, " that, it is a sovereign act of God as moral Governor." 
" Should it be asked," says he, "if the arm of distributive justice 
can be arrested, and if the law that threatened is not in this instance 
to inflict the curse, why was not this special, sovereign interposition 
so arranged, as not to involve the sufferings and death of Christ ?" 
The very question which we wish to have answered ; and until it 
is answered, we shall consider the new theory as essentially 
defective. Here was the point which called for all the ingenuity 
and reasoning powers of the author ; but instead of meeting the 
difficulty, or attempting a full answer, he merely says, " We must 
recur to the doctrine before advanced and defended." Where 
that defence is made we know not. We believe, however, that 
the advocate of this new doctrine could not have better served his 
cause here than by observing a profound silence. The fact is that 
the question which he suggests is not susceptible of a satisfactory 
answer, on his principles. But what he adds in the next sentence 
is so strangely inconsistent with his own principles, that we were 
at fust inclined to think that there must be an error of the press. 
The words are, " that the penalty of the law is essential to the 
existence and happiness of a moral government." It would, we 
believe, be impossible in a single sentence to express a sentiment 
more repugnant to> the principles laid down by this writer in 
other parts of his work, which we have already cited. If the 
penalty of the law is essential to the existence and happiness of a 
moral government, then it must be maintained — it must be in- 
flicted — it cannot be set aside. But in the passages quoted before 
he declares, that the penalty of the law is not inflicted, that the 
whole legal system is suspended, and that the law has the same 
demand upon the pardoned sinner as though no atonement had been 
made. But we are furnished with the following explanation. " The 
only method in which the execution of this penalty can be sus- 
pended is to furnish an adequate, and practical, and public substi- 


tute in its place. For the end of distributive justice must be secured, 
and the substitute by which these are effectually accomplished is to 
be found in that atonement which is made in the gospel." This 
sounds so much like the orthodox opinion, that we are sorry to be 
obliged to think that the sense is very remote from that which we 
would give them, if the author had not opened to our view so fully 
his whole theory. The meaning is, that while the law receives no 
fulfilment, and its penalty is not inflicted, something else of a differ- 
ent character is done, which serves as a substitute for the execu- 
tion of the penalty of the law. This use of the term substitution 
we before noticed. But the supposition of a substitute for law and 
justice is absurd. There can be no substitute for doing what is 
right, as there is no substitute for truth or honesty. If the death of 
Christ has no relation to the penalty of the law it can never be a 
substitute for the infliction of that penalty; and if the penalty re- 
mains in full force, and yet is suspended, the law is dishonoured. 
That opinion which derogates from the honour of the law, re- 
flects dishonour upon the Lawgiver ; for the law is the clearest ex- 
pression of the holiness and righteousness of his nature. Thus to set 
aside the law would be to deny himself. Christ came not to de- 
stroy the law, but to magnify it and make it honourable. The 
exercise of mercy, which is alleged to be provided for by this 
scheme, is mercy at the expense of justice. By the whole theory 
these two attributes are exhibited as at variance, and the result 
is that mercy triumphs over law and justice. 

Another American author,* who, perhaps, has brought out the 
features of the new theory more distinctly than any other, seems to 
find some difficulty in reconciling the atonement with the justice of 
God; but he relieves himself by adopting explicitly the idea that 
the atonement is nothing more than a public exhibition, or symboli- 
cal representation of the evil of sin, intended to produce a moral 
effect upon the universe. His words are, " the only difficulty is to 
understand how this exhibition was a display of the righteousness 
of God. To solve it some have resorted to the supposition that 
the Son of God became our sponsor, and satisfied the demands of 
the law on us, by suffering in our stead. But to this hypothesis 
there are strong objections" — "This hypothesis, like all others 
which suppose the Son of God to have entered into a close legal 
connexion with sinful men, and afterwards to have redeemed them, 
would make the atonement a legal satisfaction for sin ; and then 
the acquittal would be no pardon at all, but would follow in the 
regular course of law." What else, we would ask, can an atonement 
for sin be than a legal satisfaction to the law which has been broken 1 
and as to the absurd consequence supposed to follow on this sup- 
position, it is merely imaginary. Remission and redemption by a 
full price are nowise incompatible. If a mediator delivers a crimi- 
nal by satisfying the law, what is justice to him, is mercy to the 

* Dr. Murdock. 


offender. The greater the price paid, or the sufferings endured to 
obtain forgiveness, the more indebted is the condemned person to 
his deliverer : but the pardon to him is perfectly free. And whether 
liberation shall be conditional or unconditional, immediate or defer- 
red, will depend upon the agreement between the judge who holds 
the prisoner in confinement, and the mediator. But this author, 
having without much ceremony rejected all idea of a Sponsor, a 
legal satisfaction, and a legal connexion between Christ and his 
people, brings out his own scheme of the atonement. " We must, 
therefore," says he, " resort to some other hypothesis. And what 
is more simple, and at the same time more satisfactory, than that the 
atonement was an exhibition or display — that is, it was a symboli- 
cal transaction." " The impression to be made was that God is a 
holy and righteous God ; that while inclined to mercy he cannot 
forget the demands of justice." 

Now this theory has no colour of proof from Holy Scripture. 
According to this view every idea of anything like an atonement 
is excluded : an exhibition or display may teach something or 
make an impression, but it is an abuse of language to call it an 
atonement. And as to this scheme illustrating the justice or right- 
eousness of God, nothing could be further from the truth. Accord- 
ing to this theory the demands of both law and justice are entirely 
disregarded. To remove this difficulty he says, " The justification 
of believers is not a justification founded on the principles of law 
and distributive justice." Did any one before ever bear of a sen- 
tence of justification which had no relation to the law ? The very 
notion of justification is the sentence of a judge pronouncing a 
person who has been arraigned, acquitted according to law. Such 
a sentence may by an unjust judge be contrary to the law, but that it 
should have no respect to the principles of law is a solecism. " For," 
says he, " the operation of Christ's sacrifice was not, it appears, 
in the regular course of distributive justice in regard to individual 
transgressors. Neither did it satisfy the demands of the violated 
law upon him. It did not cancel any of the claims of the law 
on us. The atonement was not a legal or forensic transaction. It 
was altogether extrajudicial. It was in its nature simply an exhi- 
bition, intended to impress on all creatures a deep sense of the 
righteousness of God as a moral Governor." How a transaction 
which proceeds upon the principle of setting aside the demands of 
the law and distributive justice, can serve as an impressive exhibi- 
tion of the righteousness of God as moral Governor, is a thing 
utterly beyond our conception. Certainly the difference between 
the old and new theory is radical. The one holds that vindicatory 
justice is essential to God, and that sin can be pardoned only by 
an adequate satisfaction being made ; the other, that God may, by a 
sovereign act, pardon sin without any satisfaction to distributive jus- 
tice. The one maintains that the threatenings of God against sin 
must be executed substantially ; that to omit to execute the penalty 
of the law would be a departure from truth and faithfulness which 


cannot without impiety be charged on the infinite God. They be- 
lieve that Christ did actually suffer, in substance, and as literally as 
was possible, the penalty which we had incurred ; that there existed 
no other reason why he should suffer at all than because law and jus- 
tice demanded that the sinner should be punished. They believe that 
he suffered death, because death is the wages of sin ; that he endured 
such sufferings, as, considering the dignity of his person, fully exhaust- 
ed the penalty of the law, and fully satisfied divine justice for all the 
sins of those whom he had undertaken to redeem. They do not 
think that in bearing the penalty of the law. it was necessary for 
such a substitute to suffer the very same sort of pains, or for as 
long a duration, as would have been experienced by the sinner, if 
the penalty had been inflicted on himself. It was essential that 
the Mediator should die, and that his death should be accursed, 
and that he should endure inconceivable agonies of soul, arising 
from the pressure of divine wrath, and from the hiding of his 
Father's face, as well as from the cruelty and reproaches of those 
who by wicked hands crucified and slew him. The new theory 
maintains, that the death and sufferings of Christ were merely 
a ^display or exhibition of God's disapprobation of sin, but by 
no means a satisfaction to the law and justice of God : that this 
law remains unsatisfied, its claims being suspended by the intro- 
duction of another system of measures. The atonement, there- 
fore, if it may be so called, is a device adopted to supply the place of 
the execution of the law : and even justification is not a justifica- 
tion according to the law, but an extrajudicial act, not founded upon 
the view of a righteousness commensurate to the demands of the 
law, but a sovereign act in which no regard is paid to the demands of 
the law. These demands remain and will remain unsatisfied in 
the case of believers to all eternity. The law pronounces him 
guilty, but the atonement, as thus understood, receives the guilty 
sinner out of the hands of the law, and obtains his pardon, while 
the justice of God condemns him to death. If these two theories 
are not radically different, we confess that we have no judgment 
in such matters. The one insists upon a real efficacious atonement 
or expiation ; the other retains the name of atonement, but rejects 
the thing. We ask the abettors of this new scheme, if neither God's 
justice nor law required to be satisfied, where was the necessity of 
a Mediator ? On these principles we are persuaded, such a neces- 
sity can never be shown. We ask again, how God can be just and 
holy, and suffer sin to go unpunished ; for according to this theory, 
it is not punished in the sinner, nor in the surety. We ask what 
conceivable purpose Christ's sufferings and death could have an- 
swered ? They tell us, indeed, that they were intended to be an 
impressive exhibition of the righteousness of God and of the evil of 
sin, and God's determination not to suffer it to pass with impunity. 
But it is impossible, upon their principles, that it can answer any of 
these ends. Instead of illustrating the justice of God, it violates it 
in several respects. First, it is the punishment of an innocent 


person to whom no guilt is imputed. Secondly, the sinner is 
rescued from the demands of justice without satisfaction. And 
thirdly, the culprit justly condemned by the law is justified in de- 
spite of the sentence of the law. When we see a person suffering 
a cruel death by the appointment of some government, we learn no- 
thing from the event until we know why he suffers. If for crimes 
which have merited such a punishment, we are impressed with a 
sense of the just severity of the government ; or if we are informed 
that with the consent of the government he voluntarily suffers in 
the place of others who had rebelled against the laws, whatever 
we may think of the policy of the measure, we are still impressed 
with the inflexibility of the demands of justice, which refuses to let 
the guilty go free, unless some responsible person undergoes the 
penalty in his stead. But if we were assured that the person 
who suffered was neither punished for his own crime, nor as a 
substitute for the guilty, we should instantly pronounce the pro- 
ceeding to be unjust. But what if we should be told that the 
government meant to make an exhibition of the righteousness of 
its laws, rind the evil of rebellion by such an infliction ? Every 
one would pronounce it to be perfectly absurd. The king of 
Moab, when he saw that his city was likely to be taken, took his 
own son and hung him on a gibbet from the wall in the sight of the 
enemy. But what did it effect ? It might indeed teach his own 
desperation and folly, but nothing more. Such a transaction can- 
not prove that the wicked will be certainly punished. As far as 
actions speak it will make the impression, that under this govern- 
ment the innocent may suffer. And in the case of our Saviour, 
while the innocent suffers the guilty are exempt. Though deserv- 
ing to die they are pardoned : and instead of their being punished, 
an innocent person suffers a cruel death. Surely this can never 
make the impression that the guilty will in time to come be punish- 
ed. The suspension of a just penalty never can have the effect of 
convincing the universe that God is determined to execute it. 
The infliction of undeserved punishment upon an innocent person 
can never make the impression that God is righteous, or that the 
innocent are safe. If it be alleged, that an innocent person did 
suffer, and the guilty escape, as all acknowledge ; we reply that 
according to our theory the innocent suffered the penalty due to 
the guilty ; the just for the unjust. In this transaction the law, 
instead of being disregarded and its penalty set aside, was glorious- 
ly honoured. It received a perfect obedience from one such as 
never in any other case was subject to its authority. Christ was 
made under the law to redeem them that were under the law. 
He fully bore its tremendous penalty. The cup of wrath due 
for sin could not pass away from him. He therefore submitted to 
drink it, bitter as it was. " The cup which my Father hath given 
me, shall I not drink it ?" Truly he did magnify the law and 
make it honourable. " Christ," says Paul, " hath redeemed us from 
the curse of the law being: made a curse for us." Was there no 


enduring of the penalty here ? What is a curse but the awful 
penalty which the law denounces ? It is a remarkable fact that 
the defenders of this scheme scarcely ever appeal to scripture in 
support of their views. They depend on their own reason to prove 
that the death of Christ was no satisfaction to law and justice, and 
in examining the objections we were struck with the fact that the 
advocates of the new theory make use of the same arguments and 
resort to the same evasions which were employed by Faustus 
Socinus and his coadjutors, in opposing the doctrine of atonement, 
in the sixteenth century. Indeed, we see not why he might not 
have called the death of Christ an atonement, for similar reasons 
with those which are alleged by the abettors of this scheme. Ac- 
cordingly, John Taylor of Norwich has written a book against the 
orthodox doctrine, and yet retains the word, and says, " Our 
Lord's death took its value not from pain or suffering, imputation or 
punishment, but from obedience and goodness, or the most complete 
character of all virtue and righteousness, the noblest of all princi- 
ples and the highest perfection of intellectual nature." On account 
of this exhibition of moral excellence, he thinks that God is pleased 
to pardon the sinner upon his repentance. And Dr. Sykes, who 
rejects all the orthodox views on this subject, still maintains what 
he calls the doctrine of atonement, which is simply, that Christ died 
to convince men that God was not angry with them, but really 
loved them. If the new theory may properly be called an atone- 
ment, why may not the schemes of Taylor and Sykes ? 

All that we plead for is that what is plainly expressed or clearly 
implied in hundreds of texts of scripture, be admitted to be a doc- 
trine of divine revelation. As this is the grand peculiarity of the 
Christian system, we are bound to guard it from perversion, and to 
maintain this cardinal truth in unadulterated purity. This is our 
apology for occupying so many pages with our own views of the 
necessity and nature of the atonement. 



We congratulate the friends of truth and order on the appear- 
ance of these publications. We have never had any doubt what 
would be the decision of the public mind respecting the new divi- 
nity and new-measure system of our day, if its distinctive features 
could be brought out to the light and exposed to general observa- 
tion. History warrants us in cherishing this our confidence. The 
truth is, that this system contains but little that is new. It is 
mainly, if not entirely, composed of exploded errors and con- 
demned heresies. The church has already once and again pro- 
nounced judgment upon it ; and we have no doubt therefore, that 
the same sentence of condemnation will be repeated by the Pres- 
byterian church of the present day, whenever the case is fairly 
presented for decision. The chief reason why the condemnation 
of this system has at all lingered, is, that its true character has not 
been generally known. Its advocates, when charged with teach- 
ing certain obnoxious doctrines, and, in their religious meetings, 
violating the sobrieties of good sense as well as of Christian order, 
have evaded or denied the charge, and complained piteously of 
misrepresentation. Much has been done -to blind the minds of 
those who were not able to bear the things they had to say, to the 
undisguised character of the doctrines they have taught in the 
lecture room and the chapel. We rejoice, therefore, in the publi- 
cation of Mr. Finney's sermons and lectures. The public can now 
learn what the new system is, from the exposition of one of its 
chief promoters. He has stated his own case, and out of his own 
mouth may he now be justified or condemned. 

The lectures on revivals were delivered by Mr. Finney to his 
congregation in Chatham- street chapel, during the last winter. 
They were first published from week to week, in the columns of 
the New York Evangelist, from reports furnished by the editor of 
that paper. They were subsequently collected, and after having 

* Originally published in 1835, in review of the following works :—" Lectures on 
Revivals of Religion." By Charles G. Finney.—" Sermons on Various Subjects." 
By Rev. C. G. Finney. 


been submitted to the author for correction, published in a volume. 
The work, we perceive, has already reached a fifth edition. Much 
diligence is employed in efforts to give it an extended circulation. 
It is recommended as a suitable book for Sabbath-school libraries ; 
and no pains are spared to spread it abroad through the length and 
breadth of the land. Its friends evidently have a strong persuasion 
of its extraordinary merits. Their zeal for its circulation proves 
that they consider it a fair and able exposition of the new system. 

The sermons appear to be a monthly publication. We have 
obtained seven of them, which are all, we presume, that have yet 
been published. They discuss the several topics, " Sinners bound 
to change their own hearts," " How to change your heart," " Tra- 
ditions of the Elders," " Total Depravity," " "Why Sinners hate 
God," and, " God cannot please Sinners." These sermons, with 
the lectures on revivals, give a pretty full exhibition of Mr. Finney's 
peculiar views. If we may judge from the tiresome degree of 
repetition in these productions, the perpetual recurrence of the 
same ideas, phrases, and illustrations, we should suppose that he 
can have nothing new to say ; nothing, at all events, that would 
materially add to, or modify, what he has already said. We may 
consider ourselves fairly in possession of his system. To the 
interpretation of that system we shall now proceed, having it less 
for our object to refute, than merely to exhibit its peculiarities. 
We shall endeavour to gather up the plain, obvious meaning of 
Mr. Finney's statements, taking it for granted, that there is no hid- 
den, esoteric sense attached to them. 

Of the literary merit of these productions we have but little to 
say. The reporter deprecates, or rather defies all criticism upon 
their style, affirming that the critic " will undoubtedly lose his 
labour." No doubt he will, so far as the amendment of the author 
is concerned. But the reformation of an offending author is not 
the sole object of criticism. The reporter himself (the Rev. Mr. 
Leavitt) says of Mr. Finney's language, that it is " colloquial and 
Saxon." Words are but relative in their meaning. What kind of 
" colloquies" the Rev. Mr. Leavitt may have been used to, we do 
not pretend to know ; but for ourselves we must say, that we desire 
never to have a part, either as speakers or hearers, in any colloquy 
where such language is current, as Mr. Finney often permits him- 
self to employ. If his other epithet, Saxon, means simply, not 
English, we have no objection to it. For, surely, it has not often 
fallen to our lot to read a book, in which the proprieties of gram- 
mar as well as the decencies of taste were so often and so need- 
lessly violated ; and in which so much that may not inappropriately 
be termed slang was introduced. But we have higher objects 
before us than detailed criticism upon Mr. Finney's style. We 
should not have made any allusion to it, but that we deemed it 
worth a passing notice, as forming part and parcel of the coarse, 
radical spirit of the whole system. 

We proceed to examine, in the first place, the doctrines of this 


new system. Mr. Finney does not pretend to teach a slightly 
modified form of old doctrine. He is far from claiming substantial 
agreement with the wise and good among the orthodox of the past 
and present generation. On the contrary, there is a very peculiar 
self-isolation about him. Through all his writings there is found 
an ill concealed claim to be considered as one called and anointed 
of God, to do a singular and great work. There is scarcely a re- 
cognition of any fellow-labourers in the same field with him. One 
might suppose indeed, that he considered himself the residuary 
legatee of all the prophetic and apostolical authority that has ever 
been in the world, so arrogantly does he assume all knowledge to 
himself, so loftily does he arraign and rebuke all other ministers 
of the gospel. He stands alone in the midst of abounding degene- 
racy, the only one who has not bowed the knee to Baal. The 
whole world is wrong, and he proposes to set them right. Minis- 
ters and professors of religion have hitherto been ignorant what 
truths should be taught to promote revivals of religion, and he 
offers to impart to them infallible information. 

It is true, in his preface, he disclaims all pretensions to infalli- 
bility, but in his lectures, he more than once substantially assumes 
it. He tells his hearers, in relation to promoting revivals, "If you 
will go on to do as I say, the results will bo just as certain as they 
are when the farmer breaks up a fallow field, and mellows it, and 
sows his grain." He speaks repeatedly of the " endless train of 
fooleries,"" the " absurdities," the " nonsense" which, up to his time, 
have been taught both in private and from the pulpit. He declares, 
" there is only here and there a minister who knows how to probe 
the church," &c. " This is a point where almost all ministers fail." 
" When i" entered the ministry so much had been said about the 
doctrine of election and sovereignty, that I found it was the univer- 
sal hiding place, both of sinners and the church, that they could 
not do anything, or could not obey the gospel. And ivherever I 
went, I found it necessary to demolish these refuges of lies." " There 
is and has been for ages, a striking defect in exhibiting this most 
important subject." " For many centuries but little of the real 
gospel has been preached." " The truth is, that very little of the 
gospel has come out upon the world, for these hundreds of years, 
without being clogged and obscured by false theology." What 
can be more evident than that Mr. Finney considers himself a great 
reformer ? He. comes forth with the avowed purpose of clearing 
away the errors by which the true gospel has been so overlaid as 
to destroy its efficiency. He comes to declare new truths, as well 
as to unfold new methods of presenting them to the mind. 

The first of these new doctrines to which we call the attention 
of our readers, has relation to the government of God. It will be 
remembered that a few years since, Dr. Taylor, with some other 
divines, publicly announced and defended the proposition, that God 
could not prevent the introduction of sin in a moral system. At 
least he was very generally, if not universally, understood to teach 


this proposition. And it is strange, if not actually unprecedented, 
that a writer of an honest and sound mind, understanding the 
language he employs, and having it for his serious purpose to 
convey to his readers certain important information, should be 
misunderstood as to the main purport of his message by those best 
qualified, from education and otherwise, to comprehend it. 

But Dr. Taylor did complain that he was misunderstood. He 
insists that he did not intend to teach that God could not prevent 
the existence of moral evil, but only that it is impossible to 
prove that He could prevent it. His object was to unsettle 
belief in all existing theories upon this subject, and then to substi- 
tute this negative one in their place ; in other words, to inculcate 
absolute scepticism upon this point. This is the ground now 
occupied by the New Haven divines. We fear, therefore, that 
they will be alarmed by the position which Mr. Finney has taken. 
He has evidently neglected, since his return from his foreign tour, 
to post up his knowledge. He has not acquainted himself with 
the improvements made during his absence. He teaches, without 
any qualification, the docti-fne which the New Haven school was at 
first understood to teach. He complains that sinners " take it for 
granted that the two governments which God exercises over the 
universe, moral and providential, might have been so administered 
as to have produced universal holiness throughout the universe." 
This, he says, is a "gratuitous and wicked assumption." It is 
wicked, then, to believe that God could have produced universal 
holiness. Mr. Finney further adds, " There is no reason to doubt 
that God so administers his providential government, as to produce 
upon the whole, the highest and most salutary -practicable influence 
in favour of holiness." This sentiment, it is true, is susceptible of 
a correct interpretation through the ambiguity of the word practi- 
cable. But another quotation will make it evident that he means 
this word to include nothing more than the resisting power of the 
human will. " The sanctions of His law are absolutely infinite : 
in them he has embodied and held forth the highest possible 
motives 1o obedience." "It is vain to talk of His omnipotence 
preventing sin : if infinite motives will not prevent it, it cannot 
be prevented under a moral government ; and to maintain the 
contrary is absurd and a contradiction." A more explicit and 
confident statement of this doctrine could hardly be given. It 
is absurd and contradictory to maintain that God could have 
prevented the introduction of sin into our world. The only 
semblance of an argument which Mr. Finney urges in support of 
this opinion is, " that mind must be governed by moral power, 
while matter is governed by physical power." " If to govern 
mind were the same as to govern matter — if to sway the intellec- 
tual world were accomplished by the same power that sways the 
physical universe, then indeed it would be just from the physical 
omnipotence of God, and from the existence of sin, to infer that God 
prefers its existence to holiness in its stead." Again he says, M To 


maintain that the physical omnipotence of God can prevent sin is to 
talk nonsense." We see not the least ground for this distinction 
between the moral and physical power of God ; nor do we believe 
that Mr. Finney himself can attach any definite meaning to his 
favourite phrase, " physical omnipotence." By the omnipotence of. 
God we understand a power to do anything without those hindrances 
and restrictions by which we and all created beings are beset. It 
must be the same power which sways the intellectual and physical 
universe, unless we are to make as many different species of power 
as there are objects upon which it may be exerted. This distinction, 
however, were it well founded, would avail Mr. Finney nothing in 
defence of his position. The power of God, by whatever name 
called, can be limited in its exercise only by the laws which He 
has himself immutably fixed. The power of the Creator was with- 
out any limit ; — the power of the Governor labours under no other 
restrictions than the ordinances of the Creator have imposed upon 
it. It is often said that God cannot achieve impossibilities, such as 
to make a body exist in several places at the same time. All such 
limitations of the divine power are found in those relations and pro- 
perties of things which He has himself established. A body cannot 
be made to exist in several places at once, for if it could it would 
no longer be a body. So in the nature of man we may trace cer- 
tain properties and laws, which lay a similar restriction, if so it 
may be called, upon the exercise of the divine power. God cannot 
make a sinner happy, while he continues a sinner, for He has 
already so made man that his happiness must come to him as the 
consequence of the right action of his powers, and he would cease 
to be man if this law of his nature were altered. Now is there 
any similar restriction in the nature of moral agency ? Does it 
enter into our notion of a moral agent, and go to make up the defi- 
nition of one, that he cannot be subjected to any other influence than 
that of motive ? Suppose that God should, in some inscrutable way, 
so act upon his will as to dispose it to yield to the influence of 
motive, would such action make him cease to be a moral agent ? 
If not, we have no right to deny the power of God to effect 
it It is impossible to conceive that His power can be re- 
strained by anything exterior to himself. The only bounds be- 
yond which it cannot pass must be those that have been established 
by His own nature, or His previous acts. Unless he has so made 
moral agents that it is a contradiction in terms to assert that they 
can be influenced in any other way than by motive, it is in the 
highest degree unwarrantable and presumptuous to deny that God 
can act upon them by other means. But a moral agent, while 
possessed of the necessary faculties, and not forced to act contrary 
to his will, or to will contrary to his prevailing inclinations and 
desires, remains a moral agent still. Would, then, the operation of 
any other influence than that of motive upon him, destroy his liberty 
of action or his freedom of will ? Certainly not. And as certainly 
no man can deny that God can influence men as he pleases without 


thereby denying His omnipotence. A more groundless, gratuitous 
assumption could not well be found, than Mr. Finney has made in 
asserting that it is impossible for God to affect his moral subjects 
in any other way than by motive. 

Let it be observed that we use the word motive, as Mr. Finney 
himself has evidently used it, to denote simply the objective consi- 
derations presented to the mind as they are in themselves, without 
taking into account the state of the mind in relation to those con- 
siderations. This is the only sense of the word in which it can be 
at all maintained that " infinite motives " have been urged upon 
man for the prevention of sin and the promotion of holy obedience. 
If the state of the mind, which always determines the apparent 
qualities of the object, be included, as it generally is, in the term 
motive, then it is not true that the mind could resist " infinite mo- 
tives." In this sense of the word it is self-evident that the 
will must always be determined by the strongest motive. An 
" infinite motive," by which can be meant only a motive infinitely 
strong, or stronger than any other we can conceive of, would of 
course prevail and carry the will with it. Then it would be just 
to infer, from infinite motives having been presented to bear man 
onward in the paths of holy obedience, that God had done all that 
he could to prevent sin. And then too it would be impossible that 
any sin could exist, or that sin could ever have entered our world. 

But granting, what we have shown to be the gratuitous assump- 
tion, that God cannot influence men in any other way than by the 
objective presentation of truth to the mind, Mr. Finney has 
given us no reasons for adopting the opinion that, " He has done all 
that the nature of the case admitted to prevent the existence of sin," 
while we can see many reasons which forbid us to receive it. 
The state of the question, as we are now about to put it, in con- 
formity with Mr. Finney's representations, does indeed involve 
the three gratuitous assumptions, that God could not have 
made man a moral agent and yet give him a greater degree 
of susceptibility of impression from the truth than he now pos- 
sesses ; that man being as he is, God could not have devised any 
external considerations to affect him, in addition to those which 
arc actually placed before his mind ; and lastly, that man and the 
truth both being as they are, God cannot reach and move the mind of 
man in any other way than by the truth. These are by no means 
axioms, and Mr. Finney would be sadly perplexed in the attempt 
to prove any one of them. But, for the sake of showing that even 
with these bold and barefaced assumptions he cannot maintain his 
position, we will admit them all. Man could not have been a mo- 
ral agent had he been more yielding to the truth than he now is. 
" Infinite motives" to obedience have been provided ; by which, as 
we have already shown, can be meant only that all the truth which 
could possibly affect the human mind has been revealed to it. And 
thirdly, man cannot be moved but by the truth. The " nature of 
the case" being supposed to demand all these admissions, does it 



still follow that God has done all that he could to prevent the exist- 
ence of sin ? Mr. Finney himself shall answer this question. His 
theory of the nature of divine influence is, that the Spirit " gets 
and keeps the attention of the mind" — " He pours the expostula- 
tion (of the preacher) home" — He keeps the truth, which would 
else have been suffered to slip away, " in warm contact with the 
mind." Here is of course the admission, and we are glad he is 
willing to concede so much power to his Maker, that God can gain 
the attention of the mind, and keep before it and in contact with 
it, any or all of the " infinite motives" which he has provided to 
deter from sin. Connect this admission with another class of 
passages, in which Mr. Finney teaches that, " When an object is 
before the mind, the corresponding emotion will rise," and who 
does not see in the resulting consequence a glaring inconsistency 
with the doctrine that God has done all that he can to prevent the 
existence of sin ? To make this more plain, we will take the case 
of Adam's transgression, of which Mr. Finney has, out of its con- 
nexion with the subject we are now discussing, given us the ration- 
ale. " Adam," he says, " was perfectly holy, but not infinitely so. 
As his preference for God was not infinitely strong, it was possible 
that it might be changed, and we have the melancholy fact writ- 
ten in characters that cannot be misunderstood, on every side of 
us, that an occasion occurred on which he actually changed it. 
Satan, in the person of the serpent, presented a temptation of a 
very peculiar character. It was addressed to the constitutional 
appetites of both soul and body ; to the appetite for food in the 
body, and for knowledge in the mind. These appetites were con- 
stitutional ; they were not in themselves sinful, but their unlawful 
indulgence was sin." The temptation in this case was the motive 
addressed to Adam's constitutional appetites. The reason why 
this motive prevailed was, that it was kept before the mind to the 
exclusion of adverse considerations. The emotions of desire 
towards the forbidden fruit were not unlawful until they had be- 
come sufficiently strong to lead Adam to violate the command of 
his Maker. If, then, just at the point of unlawfulness, the atten- 
tion of Adam's mind had been diverted from the forbidden fruit to 
the consideration of God's excellency and His command, " the 
corresponding emotion" would have arisen, and he would not have 
sinned. But the Spirit has power to " get and keep the attention 
of the mind." Certainly then He could have directed the atten- 
tion of Adam's mind to those known truths, though at the moment 
unthought of, which would have excited the " corresponding emo- 
tions" of reverence for God, and preserved him thus in holy obe- 

But though Mr. Finney holds forth the views here given of the 
Spirit's agency in presenting truth to the mind, it would evidently 
be a great relief to his theological scheme if he were fairly rid of 
the doctrine of divine influence. The influence of the Holy Spirit 
comes in only by the way, if we may so speak, in his account of 


the sinner's regeneration and conversion. We will cast away this 
doctrine, therefore — we will grant him even more than he dares to 
ask — and still his position is untenable, that God has done all that 
he can to prevent the existence of sin. Before he can demand our 
assent to this proposition, he must prove, in the case already pre- 
sented, that God could not have prevented the entrance of Satan 
into the garden. Admitting that the volitions of Satan were be- 
yond the control of his Maker, he must investigate the relation of 
spirit to space, and prove that it was impossible for God to have 
erected physical barriers over which this mighty fiend could not 
have passed. He must show that it was impossible for God so to 
have arranged merely providential circumstances, that our first 
parents should have been kept out of the way of the tempter, or 
that the force of the temptation should have been at all diminished. 
Until he has proved all this, and then proved that his three as- 
sumptions which we have pointed out are true, we must prefer the 
" absurdity" and " nonsense" of rejecting his doctrine, to the wis- 
dom of receiving it. 

The argument thus far has been a direct one, and we should not 
fear to leave it as it now stands. But we cannot refrain from ad- 
verting to some of the consequences of the doctrine we have been 
examining. If God has done all that he can to prevent the exist- 
ence of sin, and has not succeeded in his efforts, then must he have 
been disappointed. If he cannot control at pleasure the subjects 
of his moral kingdom, then must he be continually and unavoidably 
subject to grief from the failure of his plans. Instead of working 
all things according to his good pleasure, he can do only what the 
nature of the case will permit, — that is, what his creatures will 
allow him to do. He in whose hands are the hearts of all men, 
and who turns them as the rivers of waters are turned, is thus 
made a petitioner at the hands of his subjects for permission to 
execute his plans and purposes. Accordingly we find Mr. Finney 
using such language as this : " God has found it necessary to take 
advantage of the excitability there is in mankind, to produce pow- 
erful excitements among them before he can lead them to obey." 
He speaks of a " state of things, in which it is impossible for God 
or man to promote religion but by powerful excitements." And 
of course there may be states of things in which neither by excite- 
ments nor by any other means will God be able to effect the results 
he desires. Then may we rightly teach, as some at least of our 
modern reformers have taught, that God, thwarted in his wishes 
and plans by the obstinacy of the human will, is literally grieved 
by the perverse conduct of men ; and sinners may properly be 
exhorted as they have been to forsake their sins from compassion 
for their suffering Maker ! It is a sufficient condemnation of any 
doctrine that it leads by an immediate and direct inference to so 
appalling a result as this. We know of nothing which ought more 
deeply to pain and shock the pious mind. If the perverseness of 
man has been able in one instance to prevent God from accom- 


plishing what he preferred, then may it in any instance obstruct 
the working of his preferences. Where, then, is the infinite and 
immutable blessedness of the Deity ? We cannot contemplate this 
doctrine, thus carried out into its lawful consequences, without un- 
speakable horror and dismay. The blessedness of the Deity ! what 
pious mind has not been accustomed to find in it the chief source 
of its own joy ? Who does not habitually turn from the dis- 
quieting troubles and scenes of misery that distress him here, to 
" drink of the river of God's pleasures ?" Who can bear the 
thought that the infinitely holy and benevolent God should be less 
than infinitely happy ? We see not how any heart that loves God 
can feel happy itself, unless it believes him to be, as he deserves to 
be, infinitely blessed. Nor can we find any security for the felicity 
of the creature but in the perfect and unchangeable felicity of the 
Creator. If God, therefore, be as this doctrine represents him, un- 
able to produce states of things which he prefers, and if his benevo- 
lent feelings are thus continually exposed to grief from obstructions 
to their operation, the voice of wailing and despair should break 
forth from all his moral subjects. We can see, indeed, but little to 
decide our choice between such a God as this and no God. 

Another consequence of this doctrine is that God cannot confirm 
angels and saints in holiness. If he could not prevent the introduc- 
tion of sin into our world, we see not upon what principles we are 
entitled to affirm that he can prevent its re-introduction into hea- 
ven. We see not how he can at any time hinder the standard of 
rebellion from being yet once more uplifted among the bright and 
joyous throng that now cast their crowns at his feet. We are per- 
fectly aware of the answer which Mr. Finney will make to this 
objection. He will contend that the additional motives furnished 
by the introduction of sin, such as the visible and dreadful punish- 
ment of the sinner, and the display of the divine character thereby 
afforded, are sufficient to enable God by the use of them, together 
with the means and appliances previously existing, to confirm holy 
beings in holiness. Now, independently of other insuperable objec- 
tions to this as a sufficient reply, how does it consist with that other 
part of the scheme, that "infinite motives" had been already arrayed 
against the introduction of sin 1 If these motives were infinite, 
then no addition could possibly be made to them. We leave Mr. 
Finney to reconcile this contradiction, or to admit that we have 
no reason to expect that the gates of heaven will be barred against 

This doctrine also takes away from the sinner all just ground for 
the dread of everlasting punishment. Its advocates, we know, have 
contended that it is the only position from which Universalism can 
be effectively assailed. But if, when man was tempted to sin by 
so insignificant a motive as the forbidden fruit, while " infinite mo- 
tives" were drawing him back. God could not prevent him from 
yielding, it must surely be impossible for him to prevent the sinner 
in the other world from obeying the impulse of the infinite motives 


which, more strongly there than here, will urge him to holiness. 
The sinner, then, may dismiss his apprehensions of the everlasting 
experience of the miseries of a wicked heart. If God could not 
prevent Adam from sinning, under the influence of a small motive, 
there is no reason to fear that he can prevent any inhabitant of hell 
from becoming holy, under the influence of infinite motives. We 
have dwelt upon this subject at greater length than was at first in- 
tended. Our excuse is, that the question at issue is a very serious 
and important one ; and the views of it presented by Mr. Finney 
seem to be so dishonouring to the character of God, as well as 
subversive of some of the most important truths of religion, that 
they should be carefully examined. Had our object been simply 
to criticise, Mr. Finney might have been more briefly despatched. 
There is in his pages a surpassingly rich treasure of contradictions, 
which might at every turn have furnished us with an argumentum 
ad hominem, had we been disposed to avail ourselves of it. But 
we have felt that the matter in hand was of too grave and weighty 
an import to be thus managed. 

We invite the attention of our readers, in the next place, to Mr. 
Finney's views of the nature of sin, depravity and regeneration. 
He contends that all sin consists in acts, and assures us that 
those who teach otherwise are guilty of " tempting the Holy r 
Ghost," and of a " stupid, not to say wilful perversion of the Word 
of God." He deems it absurd beyond expression to suppose that 
there can be a sinful disposition prior to sinful acts ; nay, he 
solemnly affirms that " millions upon millions have gone down to 
hell," in consequence of the doctrine of what he is pleased to 
call " physical depravity" having been so extensively taught. He 
seldom approaches this subject without breaking out in some such 
paroxysm as the following : " O the darkness and confusion, and 
utter nonsense of that view of depravity which exhibits it as some- 
thing lying back, and the cause of all actual transgression !" 

Our readers will soon be able to judge for themselves whether 
Mr. Finney has cleared away any of the darkness which rests 
upon this subject. 

In the prosecution of our inquiries into the nature of sin, two 
questions very naturally present themselves for decision; first, 
whether there can exist anything like what has been called dispo- 
sition, distinct from mental acts ; and secondly, whether, if such 
an attribute of mind can and does exist, it may be said to possess 
any moral character. Mr. Finney, with much convulsive violence 
of language, continually denies that there can be any such thing as 
a mental disposition, in the sense in which we have used the word. 
He employs the term, it is true, but he says he means by it a 
mental act, and that it is nonsensical to attach to it any other mean- 
ing. His arguments against the possibility of the existence of mental 
dispositions, apart from mental acts, may be briefly despatched ; for 
we do not reckon among the arguments his violent outcries of dark- 
ness, confusion, absurdity, nonsense, doctrine of devils, &c, nor 


his assertions that God himself cannot lead the sinner to repentance 
without first dispossessing him of the erroneous notion that his 
nature as well as his conduct needs to be changed. All the 
arguments on the point now before us, that lie scattered through 
his many pages, may be reduced to two. It is impossible, he 
contends, to conceive of the existence of a disposition of mind ; and 
again, if there be a disposition distinct from the faculties and acts 
of the mind, it must form a part of the substance of the mind, and 
hence follow physical depravity and physical regeneration with 
all their horrid train of evils. When he asserts the impossibility 
of conceiving of a disposition of mind, we suppose he means that 
it|is impossible to frame an image of it, or form a picture in which 
this disposition shall stand visible to the mind's eye. It is only 
in this sense that his assertion is true. It is true that we cannot 
form such a conception of a mental disposition, but we will not 
insult the common sense of our readers by attempting to prove 
that this is no argument against its existence. 

The other argument on which Mr. Finney relies to prove the 
non-existence of any disposition of mind, is that if there be any 
such thing it must form a part of the substance of the mind, it must 
be incorporated with the very substance of our being, with many other 
phrases of like import. Hence he charges those who teach that there 
are such dispositions, and that they possess a moral character, with 
teaching physical depravity, and representing " God as an infinite 
tyrant." He avers, in a great variety of forms, that their preaching 
has a direct and legitimate tendency to lull the sinner in his secur- 
ity, to make men of sense turn away in disgust from such absurd 
exhibitions of the Gospel, and to people hell with inhabitants. 
These are grave charges ; and as, if substantiated, they would affect 
the fair fame and destroy the usefulness of nine-tenths of the minis- 
ters of the church to which Mr. Finney belongs, so, if groundless, 
Mr. Finney must be regarded as a slanderer of his brethren, guilty 
and odious in proportion to the enormity of the unsustained charges 
against them. In one respect at least Mr. Finney is guilty of bring- 
ing false accusations against his brethren. He continually repre- 
sents them as holding and teaching all his own inferences from their 
doctrines. This is more than uncharitable ; it is calumnious. He 
has a perfect right to develope the absurdities of what he calls 
physical depravity, and present them as so many reasons for re- 
jecting any doctrine which can be proved to result in such conse- 
quences ; but he has no right to endeavour to cast the reproach of 
teaching these inferred absurdities upon men who have uniformly, 
and if more decently yet not less strongly than himself, disclaimed 
them. But we contend that these absurdities do not lawfully flow 
from the doctrine that the mind has tastes and dispositions distinct 
from its faculties and acts. It is easy to show, in contradiction to 
Mr. Finney, that it may possess such attributes, which nevertheless 
will not form any part of the substance of the mind. Nay, we can 
make Mr. Finney himself prove it. In one of his sermons, where 


he has lost sight for a brief space of physical depravity, he speaks 
on this wise : " Love, when existing in the form of volition, is a 
simple preference of the mind for God and the things of religion 
to everything else. This preference may and often does exist in 
the mind, so entirely separate from what is termed emotion or 
feeling, that we may be entirely insensible to its existence. But 
although its existence may not be a matter of consciousness by 
being felt, yet its influence over our conduct will be such, as that 
the fact of its existence will in this way be made manifest." Here 
is a state of mind recognised which Mr. Finney, with an utter 
confusion of the proprieties of language, chooses to call love ex- 
isting in the form of volition, but which we call a disposition. But 
by whatever name or phrase it may be designated, it is not a 
faculty of the mind ; it is not the object of consciousness, has no 
sensible existence, and cannot therelbre in any proper sense be 
called an act of the mind, nor yet does it form any part of the 
substance of the mind. It is not without an object (what it is will 
be presently seen) that Mr. Finney makes so queer a use of the 
term volition in the above quotation ; but the insertion of this word 
does not alter the bearing of the passage upon the point now in 
question. His subsequent qualifications show that he is describing 
something different from an act of the mind : and the single ques- 
tion now before us is, whether there can be in the mind any dis- 
position distinct from its acts, and comprising within it tendencies 
and influences towards a certain course of action, which yet does 
not form a part of the substance of the mind. The passage quoted is 
clear and explicit, as far as this question is concerned. Let us 
hope, then, that we shall hear no more from Mr. Finney on the sub- 
ject of physical depravity ; or at least that when he next chooses 
to harangue his people on this favourite topic, he will have the 
candour, the plain, homespun honesty, to tell them that there is not 
a single minister in the Presbyterian church who teaches the odious 
doctrine, or anything that legitimately leads to it, but that he has 
brought this man of straw before them to show them how quickly 
he can demolish it. We have a great aversion to this Nero-like 
way of tying up Christians in the skins of wild beasts that the dogs 
may devour them. 

But it will be said, that the dispositions which have been shown 
to exist in the mind are formed by the mind itself, in the voluntary 
exercise of its powers ; such would not be the case with a disposi- 
tion existing prior to all action. This is true, but it is not of the 
least moment in settling the question of the physical character of 
the disposition. If a disposition may be produced by the mind 
itself, which so far from being itself an act makes its existence 
known only by its influence, and which yet is not incorporated 
with the substance of our being, nor entitled to the epithet physical, 
then such a disposition might inhere in the mind prior to all mental 
action, without possessing a physical character. There is not the 
least relevancy or force, therefore, in the argument commonly and 


chiefly relied upon, that if there be such an antecedent disposition. 
it must be physical. The only plausible argument that can be urged 
here, is, that experience shows us what is the formative law of our 
dispositions, that these are always generated by the mind's own 
action ; and it is absurd therefore to suppose that any disposition 
can exist in the mind anterior to all action. The conclusion to 
which this argument arrives is wider than the premises. Its fal- 
lacy, and it is an obvious one, lies in extending a law, generalized 
from observation upon the mind's action, to a case in which by 
hypothesis the mind has never yet acted, and to which, of course, 
the law can have no application. There is here a fallacy of the 
same nature as would be involved in a process of reasoning like 
this : — All our observation proves to us that no tree can be pro- 
duced but by calling into action the germinative power of its seed. 
The seed must be planted in a fitting soil, and be subjected to a 
certain class of influences ; — it must decay and then send forth the 
tender shrub, which, in its turn, must be sustained by appropriate 
nourishment ; and years must elapse before the tree will lift its tall 
head to the skies. No man has ever seen a tree produced by any 
other means, and the nature of things is such that a tree cannot be 
produced in any other way. Therefore, no tree could have origi- 
nally come into being but through the same process. The error 
in reasoning is here apparent, nor is it less so in the case which 
this was intended to illustrate. 

Here again it will be urged, and at first sight the objection may 
seem to gather force from the illustration we have just employed, 
that if there be any such antecedent disposition as we are contend- 
ing for, formed previous to any action of the mind, it must be the 
direct effect of creative power ; and if it possess any moral cha- 
racter, as we shall offer some reasons for believing it does, then 
God is the immediate author of sin. This is the form in which 
this objection is always put by Mr. Finney and others, and we 
have therefore adopted it, although it assumes what has been 
shown to be untrue, that a disposition of mind, in the sense in 
which we use the term, implies the idea either of a physical entity 
or a spiritual substance. It does not and cannot include any such 
idea, and can in no case be considered, therefore, as the effect of 
creative power. But does it follow that a primitive disposition, 
such as we speak of, must be the direct product of the agency of 
the Deity ? Is it not evident, on the contrary, that this is only one 
out of an infinite number of modes in which it may possibly have 
been produced ? — The first tree might have been called into being 
by the power of God, and sprung up in an instant, complete in al! 
its proportions ; but it might also have been produced in an end- 
less number of ways, through the operation of some law, different, 
of course, from the existing law of vegetable production, but re- 
quiring as much time for the completion of its process, and remov- 
ing its final result to any assignable distance from the direct inter- 
ference of divine agency. So is it possible too, that a primitive 


disposition of mind may be produced in an infinite number of ways; 
and the mode of its formation may be such that it cannot be con- 
sidered the effect of the divine power in any other sense than that 
in which all the movements and actions both of matter and mind 
throughout the universe, are said to be of God. 

We think we have now shown that there are such states of 
mind as have been designated by the term disposition ; that a dis- 
position of mind may exist anterior to all mental action ; that this 
disposition does not form any part of the substance of the mind ; 
and that it is not necessary to suppose that God is the author of it, 
in any other sense than that in which He is the author of all we 
feel and do. 

We come now to discuss the question of the moral character of 
mental dispositions. Mr. Finney, with his accustomed violence 
and lavish abuse of those who teach a different doctrine, denies 
that a disposition of mind, granting its existence, could possess any 
moral character. Most of his arguments on this point have been 
already despatched by our preliminary discussion. If it be true 
that a disposition is sinful, then sin is a substance, instead of a 
quality of action : — then, too, God is the author of sin, and He is 
an infinite tyrant, since he damns man for being what He made 
him. This sentence comprises within it the substance of most that 
wears the semblance of argument in what Mr. Finney has said on 
this subject ; and how perfectly futile this is has been made suffi- 
ciently apparent. 

He argues from the text, " Sin is a transgression of the law," 
that sin attaches only to acts, and cannot be predicated of a dispo- 
sition. As well might he argue from the assertion, man is a crea- 
ture of sensation, that he possessed no powers of reflection. Until 
he can show, what indeed he has asserted very dogmatically, but 
of which he has offered no proof, that this text was meant to be a 
strict definition of sin, it will not serve his purpose. 

The only other arguments worthy of notice, which Mr. Finney 
adduces in support of his position, that all sin consists in acts, are 
drawn from the considerations that " voluntariness is indispensable 
to moral character." 

There is undoubtedly a sense in which it is true, that nothing 
can be sinful which is not voluntary. And in this sense of the word 
all our dispositions are voluntary. There are two meanings at- 
tached to the word will. It sometimes denotes the single faculty 
of mind, called will ; and sometimes all the active powers of the 
mind, all its desires, inclinations and affections. This double mean- 
ing has proved a great snare to Mr. Finney. He either never 
made the distinction, or perpetually loses sight of it, and hence is 
often inconsistent with himself. In seeking to exhibit the meaning 
which he prevalently attaches to the words will, voluntary, &c, 
we shall have occasion to present to our readers a very singular 
theory of morals. " Nothing," he says, " can be sinful or holy, 
which is not directly or indirectly under the control of the will." 


But over our emotions " the will has no direct influence, and can 
only bring them into existence through the medium of the atten- 
tion. Feelings or emotions are dependent upon thought, and arise 
spontaneously in the mind when the thoughts are intensely occu- 
pied with their corresponding objects. Thought is under the di- 
rect control of the will. We can direct our attention and medita- 
tions to any subject, and the corresponding emotions will sponta- 
neously arise in the mind. Thus our feelings are only indirectly 
under the control of the will. They are sinful or holy only as they 
are thus indirectly bidden into existence by the will. Men often 
complain that they cannot control their feelings ; they form over- 
whelming attachments which they say they cannot control. They 
receive injuries, their anger rises, they profess they cannot help it. 
Now while the attention is occupied with dwelling upon the be- 
loved object in the one case, the emotions of which they complain 
will exist of course ; and if the emotion be disapproved by the 
judgment and conscience, the subject must be dismissed from the 
thoughts, and the attention directed to some other subject, as the 
only possible way of ridding themselves of the emotion. So in 
the other case, the subject of the injury must be dismissed, and 
their thoughts occupied with other considerations, or emotions of 
hatred will continue to fester and rankle in their minds." Again, 
in another place, he says, " If a man voluntarily place himself un- 
der such circumstances as to call wicked emotions into exercise, he 
is entirely responsible for them. If he place himself under cir- 
cumstances where virtuous emotions are called forth, he is praise- 
worthy in the exercise of them, precisely in proportion to his vo- 
luntariness in bringing his mind into circumstances to cause their 
existence." Again, he says, " If he (a real Christian) has volunta- 
rily placed himself under these circumstances of temptation, he is 
responsible for these emotions of opposition to God rankling in 
his heart." We might quote pages of similar remarks. 

These passages would afford ground for comment on Mr. Fin- 
ney's philosophy. He shows himself here, as on all occasions 
when he ventures upon the field of mental science, a perfect novice. 
But we are chiefly concerned with the theological bearings of the 
passages quoted. It is evident that Mr. Finney here uses the 
words will, voluntarily, &c, in their restricted sense ; and hence we 
have the dangerous theory of morals, that nothing can possess a 
moral character which is not under the control of the volitions of 
the mind. But our emotions cannot be thus controlled. They rise 
spontaneously in the mind, they must exist when the thoughts are 
occupied with the objects appropriate to their production. Hence 
all our emotions, affections and passions, according to Mr. Finney, 
possess a moral character only in consequence of the power which 
the mind has, by an act of will, to change the object of thought, 
and thus introduce a different class of feelings. Now, we might 
object to this view of the matter, that the will does not possess the 
power here attributed to it. Our trains of thought are in some de- 


gree subject to our volitions ; but the will has by no means an ab- 
solute control over the attention of the mind. Attention is gene- 
rally indeed but another name for the interesting character of the 
idea to which the mind is attending, and is no more directly sub- 
ject therefore to the bidding of the will, than is the state of mind 
which imparts its interest to the present object of thought. The 
grounds and the force of this objection will be evident to any one 
who will reflect upon states of mind which he has been in, when 
his whole soul was so absorbed in the contemplation of some sub- 
ject, that all his efforts to break away from the scenes which riveted 
his attention, only served to break for a moment their fascinating 
power. But we will wave this objection, not because it is not suf- 
ficiently strong to be fatal to Mr. Finney's theory, but because it 
lies aside from our present course. 

A still more serious objection is, that upon this theory it is im- 
possible that our emotions should possess any moral character. Jf 
they are moral, " only as they are indirectly bidden into existence 
by the will," then they cannot be moral at all. If it is necessary 
to go back to the act of will which introduced the object, in view 
of which these emotions necessarily arise, to find their moral cha- 
racter, then upon no just grounds can morality be predicated of 
them. If a man has put out his eyes, he cannot justly be account- 
ed guilty for not being able to read, nor for any of the consequen- 
ces which result from his blindness. These consequences, if he 
could have foreseen them, do indeed accumulate the greater guilt 
upon the act of putting out his eyes ; but that act is all for which 
he is fairly responsible. So in the other case, it is upon the act of 
the will which brought the mind into contact with the objects, which 
of necessity awakened its emotions, that we must charge all the 
responsibility. All the virtue and vice, the holiness and sin of 
which we are capable, must lie solely in the manner of managing 
the power of attention. He is a perfect man whose mind is so 
trained that it takes up whatever subject of meditation the will 
enjoins ; and he is a sinful man, whose mind, without a direct voli- 
tion to that effect, reverts, as if by instinct, to holy themes and 
heavenly meditations, and adheres to them even though the will 
should endeavour to force it away. All the foundations of moral- 
ity and religion are virtually swept away by this theory. II its 
assumptions be true, we should discard all the motives and means 
now employed to promote virtue. As it makes all moral excel- 
lence reside in the readiness and skill with which the power of at- 
tention is managed, the most efficient means for the promotion of 
virtue, beyond all comparison, would be the study of the mathema- 
tics. Such are the ridiculous extremes to which Mr. Finney is driv- 
en in carrying out his doctrine, that all sin consists in acts. It can 
hardly be maintained that we have caricatured his doctrine, or run 
it out beyond its intrinsic tendency. For if, as he says, a man is 
praiseworthy or blamable in the exercise of his emotions, only 
because he has placed hi?nself under circumstances where these 


emotions are called forth, then it is plainly unjust to charge respon- 
sibility upon anything else than the act of placing himself under 
the circumstances. 

But without charging upon his theory anything beyond what 
he has developed as its admitted consequences, who does not see 
upon the face of his own statements absurdity enough to condemn 
any doctrine which necessarily involves it ? A man is responsible 
for his emotions, he says, only when he has voluntarily brought 
himself under such circumstances as to call them into existence. 
Let us suppose then, two men, brought without any direct agency 
of their own under the same set of circumstances. We will ima- 
gine them taken by force and placed in a grog shop, filled with 
tipplers quaffing the maddening drink, and uttering blasphemies 
that might make " the cheek of darkness pale." Emotions are at 
once awakened in both the spectators. The desires of the one go 
forth over the scene ; he takes pleasure in those who do such 
things ; he longs to drink and curse with them ; he knows that 
this is wrong, and endeavours to change the subject of meditation, 
but his sympathy with the scene before him is so strong that his 
thoughts will not be torn away from it, and his mind continues 
filled with emotions partaking of its hideous character. The 
heart of the other instantly : revolts at the scene. Every time 
he hears the name of God blasphemed, he thinks of the goodness 
and glory of the Being thus dishonoured, and while wondering that 
others can be blind to his excellency, the liveliest feelings of ado- 
ration and gratitude are awakened in his heart. Now, according 
to Mr. Finney, there is no moral difference between these men ; 
they are not responsible for emotions thus awakened. The one 
has not sinned, nor is the other praiseworthy. This is no conse- 
quence deduced from something else that he has said. It is a case 
put in strict accordance with his explicit statements. Such is 
the monstrous absurdity to which he is driven, by denying that 
the state of mind which would, under the circumstances above 
supposed, have disposed one of the spectators to descend and 
mingle in the filth and wickedness of the scene, and the other, to 
rise from it to heaven in his holy desires and emotions, does of 
itself possess a moral character. 

Another illustration of the absurdities in which he has involved 
himself, is furnished by his declaration, that man is praiseworthy 
in the exercise of his emotions, " precisely in proportion to his vo- 
luntariness in bringing his mind into circumstances to cause their 
existence." Mr. Finney's common method of expressing the incom- 
prehensibility of anything is by saying, "It is all algebra;" and we 
must really doubt whether he knows the meaning of the term propor- 
tion. For upon his principles, the ratio between the merit or the 
demerit of any two actions whatever, must be a ratio of equality. 
Voluntariness, in his sense of the word, does not admit of degrees. 
The will either acts or it does not, to bring the man under the pe- 
culiar circumstances. There are no degrees in its consent or refu- 


sal ; and of course there can be no degrees in moral worth, or in 
guilt. If two men have each received the same injury, and each 
by an act of will directed the attention of the mind to the injury 
and him who committed it, then they are equally guilty for their 
feelings of hatred, however much those feelings may differ in 
strength. There can be no difference of degree in the moral de- 
merit of their emotions, although the one should hate his adversary 
enough to work him some slight injury in return, and the other hate 
him so much that nothing less than the murder of his victim will 
satisfy his thirst for vengeance. The two men were equally volun- 
tary in bringing their minds under the circumstances which awak- 
en their emotions, and must of necessity, according to Mr. Finney's 
canon of morality, be equally guilty. 

There is indeed another class of passages in Mr. Finney's writ- 
ings, in which he brings forward a further criterion of morality. 
He says, " When the will is decided by the voice of conscience, or 
a regard to right, its decisions are virtuous." The change of pre- 
ference, or the decision of the will, which takes place in regenera- 
tion, must be made, " because to act thus is right." The will must 
decide " to obey God, to serve him, to honour him, and promote 
his glory, because it is reasonable, and right, and just." " It is the 
Tightness of the duty that must influence the mind if it would act 
virtuously." And again, " When a man is fully determined to 
obey God, because it is right that he should obey God, I call that 
principle." In these passages, and there are many more like them, 
he seems to resolve all virtue into rectitude. It is evident why he 
does so, for he is thus enabled to require a mental decision, an act 
of the mind, in relation to the rectitude of any emotion or action, 
in order to constitute it virtuous ; and thus defend his position that 
morality can attach only to acts. He has here fallen into the mis- 
take, however, of making the invariable quality of an action the 
motive to its performance. It is true that all virtuous actions are 
right, but it does not follow from this that their rectitude must be 
the motive to the performance of them. If this be so, then the 
child, who in all things honours his parent, does not act virtuously 
unless each act of obedience is preceded by a mental decision that 
it is right for him to obey. Mr. Finney desired to take ground 
which would enable him to deny that there is anything of the na- 
ture of holiness in the Christian's emotions of love to God, when 
prompted by his disposition to love him ; but he has evidently as- 
sumed an untenable position. 

We could easily bring forward more errors into which he has 
been betrayed in carrying out his false doctrine, that morality can 
be predicated only of acts. But we have surely presented enough. 
And this exposure renders it unnecessary that we should repeat 
what have been so often produced and never refuted, the positive 
arguments for believing that our dispositions, or states of heart, in- 
cluding the original disposition by which we are biassed to evil, 
possess a moral character, and arc the proximate sources of all the 


good and evil in our conduct. Some of Mr. Finney's pretended 
arguments against this opinion we have not answered, simply be- 
cause they are so puerile, that, though we made the effort, we 
could not condescend to notice them. All of them that had the 
least plausibility we have shown to be without any real force. 
And if any man can reject this opinion on account of the difficul- 
ties with which it is still encumbered, and adopt the monstrosities 
connected with Mr. Finney's rival doctrine, we must think that he 
strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. 

As might have been expected from what has already been said, 
Mr. Finney denies that there is any such thing as natural depravity . 
His views on this subject are easily exhibited. We might describe 
them all, indeed, in a single phrase, by saying, that they are neither 
more nor less than the old Pelagian notions. " This state of mind," 
he says, describing the commencement of sin in a child, "is entire- 
ly the result of temptation to selfishness, arising out of the circum- 
stances under which the child comes into being." " If it be asked 
how it happens that children universally adopt the principle of sel- 
fishness, unless their nature is sinful ? I answer, that they adopt 
this principle of self-gratification, or selfishness, because they pos- 
sess human nature, and come into being under the peculiar circum- 
stances in which all the children of Adam are born since the fall." 
" The cause of outbreaking sin is not to be found in a sinful con- 
stitution or nature, but in a wrong original choice." " The only 
sense in which sin is natural to man is, that it is natural for 
the mind to be influenced in its individual exercises by a supreme 
preference or choice of any object." On reading this last extra- 
ordinary declaration, the text of an inspired apostle came to mind, 
in which he assures us, that we are " by nature children of wrath." 
If both those declarations be true, we have the curious result that 
we are children of wrath, not because we are sinners, but because 
we are so made as to be influenced by a supreme choice ! But 
texts of Scripture are as nothing in Mr. Finney's way. He makes 
them mean more or less, stretches or curtails them, just as occasion 
requires. His system is a perfect Procrustean bed, to which the 
Bible, no less than all things else, must be fitted. An illustration 
of this is found in his manner of dealing with the passage, " I was 
shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." This 
text would seem, at first sight, to present a very serious obstacle to 
his views. And what does he do with it ? He first gravely proves 
that it does not mean " the substance of a conceived foetus is sin !" 
He then jumps to the conclusion, " All that can be possibly meant 
by this and similar passages is, that we were always sinners from 
the commencement of our moral existence, from the earliest mo- 
ment of the exercise of moral agency." That is, when David and 
the other sacred writers make these strong assertions, they only 
mean to inform us, that the moment we adopt the principle of su- 
preme selfishness as our rule of action, we do wrong ; or, in other 
words, that just as soon as we begin to sin, we sin ! May we not 


well say, that he has a marvellous faculty for making a text mean 
anything, or nothing, as suits his purpose ? Another illustra- 
tion of this is furnished by his interpretation of the text, " The 
carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to 
the law of God, neither indeed can be." The carnal mind, he 
says, means a minding of the Jlesh, a voluntary action of the mind, 
a choice that is supremely selfish. While men act upon the prin- 
ciple of supreme selfishness, obedience is impossible. This, he 
says, is the reason why the carnal mind, or the minding of the 
flesh, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 
Wonderful discovery ! So the apostle, in this passage, meant 
nothing more than the stale truism, that a man cannot be sinful and 
holy at the same time, — that he cannot, in the same act, transgress 
the law and render obedience to it. 

Pelagians have always found a difficulty in reconciling their 
theory with the salvation of infants by the grace of Jesus Christ. 
Pelagius himself was sorely pressed on this point. Infants are in 
no way answerable for the sin of Adam, or otherwise evilly 
affected by it than that it brings them into circumstances of temp- 
tation, and they have no sin of nature ; how then can they be sub- 
jects of pardon ? What interest can they have in the atonement of 
the Saviour 1 Let us see how Mr. Finney disposes of this diffi- 
culty. " Had it not been for the contemplated atonement, Adam 
and Eve would have been sent to hell at once, and never have had 
any posterity. The race could never have existed. . . . Now 
every infant owes its very existence to the grace of God in Jesus 
Christ; and if it dies previous to actual transgression, it is just as 
absolutely indebted to Christ for eternal life as if it had been the 
greatest sinner on earth." We have no words to express our 
aversion to this egregious trifling with sacred subjects. The Bible 
teaches us that all of our race who are saved are redeemed from 
sin ; that they are saved, not born, by virtue of the atonement of 
Jesus Christ. And when we ask Mr. Finney how this can be re- 
conciled with his theory that there is nothing connected with 
infants that can be atoned for, he very gravely tells us that they 
owe their birth to the grace of God ! 

He does not tell us why he baptizes infants. We do not know, 
indeed, whether he ever administers this ordinance to children 
previous to the supposed commencement of moral action. Cer- 
tainly, upon his principles, it could have no meaning. He rejects, 
with utter scorn and ridicule, the idea that in regeneration and 
sanctification there takes place anything that can be properly 
symbolized by " the washing off of some defilement." The ivater 
of baptism then, to whomsoever this rite be applied, cannot have 
any emblematical meaning ; and the apostle committed a rhetori- 
cal error, to say the least of it, when he wrote, " But ye are 
washed, but ye are sanctified." But with what propriety this ordi- 
nance can be administered to children, who, having never actually 
transgressed, are not sinners, who are just what they ought to be, 


we cannot conceive. Surely consistency requires Mr. Finney to 
assign to infant baptism a place among those hated abominations, 
upon which he so much dwells, that the " traditions of the elders" 
have introduced into the church. 

We shall not undertake to show in detail the inadequacy of Mr. 
Finney's theory to account for the sin there is in the world. This 
has often been done. And it still remains perfectly inexplicable 
why, if men come into the world with just such a nature as they 
ought to have, prone no more to evil than to good, and are sur- 
rounded at the same time with "infinite motives" to holiness, and 
" circumstances" that tempt them to sin, that they should all, with 
one accord, obey the force of the finite circumstances rather than 
the infinite motives. If this be the state of the case, we might 
naturally expect all mankind to become holy, excepting here and 
there some luckless one, who, not having sufficient skill so to 
manage the attention of his mind as to keep before it the infinite 
motives to holiness, would fall into sin. Here too we might ask, 
what has become of the doctrine that God has done all that he 
could to prevent the present degree of sin ? If he can so influence 
some men, after their hearts are set in them to do evil, that they 
shall become holy, could he not have induced them, at the first, to 
choose holiness instead of sin? 

We cannot pass from this part of our subject without developing 
one of the many singular results afforded by the comparison of 
different parts of Mr. Finney's writings. The one we are now 
about to present is so very peculiar that we solicit for it special 
attention. He rejects the common doctrine of depravity, because 
it makes man a sinner by necessity — it makes God the author of 
sin — it is a constitutional or physical depravity, and leads to physi- 
cal regeneration, &c. He frequently blows off the superfluous 
excitement produced in his mind by this view of depravity, in sen- 
tences like the following : " That God has made men sinners, 
incapable of serving him — suspended their salvation upon impossi- 
ble conditions — made it indispensable that they should have a 
physical regeneration, and then damns them for being sinners, and 
for not complying with these impossible conditions — monstrous ! 
blasphemous ! Believe this who can !" Now let us see how he 
gets rid of this physical necessity, which he falsely but uniformly 
charges upon the common opinions respecting depravity. Accord- 
ing to his theory, the cause of men becoming sinners is to be found 
in their possessing human nature, and coming into being under cir- 
cumstances of temptation — in the adaptation between certain 
motives which tempt to undue self-gratification, and the innocent 
constitutional propensities of human nature. But in one of his 
lectures, where he is endeavouring to persuade his hearers to use 
the appropriate means for promoting a revival, and presenting on 
that account such truths and in such forms as seem to him most 
stirring, he says : " Probably the law connecting cause and effect 
is more undeviating in spiritual than in natural things, and so there 


are fewer exceptions, as I have before said. The paramount im- 
portance of spiritual things makes it reasonable that it should be 
so." In the use of means for promoting revivals, he says again : 
" The effect is more certain to follow," than in the use of means to 
raise a crop of grain. Now, upon his system, the efficiency of all 
means for promoting revivals may be traced up ultimately to the 
tendency of eternal motives to influence the mind. We have here, 
then, the position, distinctly involved, that motives, when properly 
presented, when so presented as to produce their appropriate effect, 
operate by a surer law than any of the physical laws of matter. 
The effect of the proper presentation of a motive to the mind is 
more certain, and of course more inevitable, than that the blade of 
wheat should spring from the planted seed, or a heavy body fall to 
the ground. Now he will not deny that the motives to sin, which 
meet man soon after his entrance into the world, are thus ade- 
quately presented ; for the sad proof of it is found in the uniform 
production of their effect. That effect must of course be inevita- 
ble, beyond any idea of necessity that we can form from the opera- 
tion of physical laws. 

From the parts of his scheme already presented, our readers 
will be able to anticipate Mr. Finney's theory of regeneration. 
The change which takes place in regeneration he, of course, 
represents as a change in the mind's method of acting. As it 
originally chose sin instead of holiness, so a new habit consists in 
choosing holiness instead of sin. The idea that there is imparted 
to the heart a new relish for spiritual objects, or that any new 
principle is implanted, he rejects ; to teach this, he says, is to 
teach a physical religion, which has been the great source of 
infidelity in the church. "It is true," he says, " the constitution of 
the mind must be suited to the nature of the outward influence 
or motive ; and there must be such an adaptation of the mind to 
the motive, and of the motive to the mind, as is calculated to 
produce any desired action of the mind. But it is absurd to say 
that this constitutional adaptation must be a holy principle, or taste, 
or craving after obed.ence to God. All holiness in God, angels, 
or men, must be voluntary, or it is not holiness. To call anything 
that is a part of the mind or body, holy — to speak of a holy sub- 
stance, unless in a figurative sense, is to talk nonsense." We 
remark here, in passing, that this is the uniform style in which Mr. 
Finney caricatures the opinions from which he dissents. From one 
form of statement he habitually passes to another, as completely 
synonymous, which has not the remotest resemblance to it. He 
assumes here that a principle, or taste, cannot be voluntary, whereas 
it cannot but be voluntary, in the only sense in which voluntariness 
is essential to moral character ; and also that it must be a substance, 
or form a part of the mind or body — an assumption than which 
nothing can be more groundless and absurd. He adds, " The 
necessary adaptation of the outward motive to the mind, and the 
mind to the motive, lies in the powers of moral agency, which every 



human being possesses." Understanding, conscience, and the 
power of choice, he supposes, are all that is needful to enable man 
to receive the truth of God, and act under its influence. There is 
nothing new in all this. It is at least as old as the fifth century. 
It has been broached repeatedly since the days of Pelagius, and as 
often shown, by arguments that have not yet been refuted, to be 
utterly inadequate to account for the facts of the case. We have 
indeed its radical unsoundness fully exposed to us by the apostle 
Paul, where he declares, " The natural man receivethnot the things 
of the Spirit of God ; neither can he know them, for they are spiri- 
tually discerned." This passage of Scripture will bear no inter- 
pretation which does not place it in irreconcilable contradiction 
with Mr. Finney's theory. He generally asserts that the sinner 
knows all the truth that is necessary to induce him to make to him- 
self a new heart, and that the only reason why it fails to produce 
this effect is because he will not consider the truth. We say gene- 
rally, because here, as in everything else, Mr. Finney is inconsis- 
tent with himself. At one time he talks thus : " It is indeed the 
pressing of truth upon the sinner's consideration that induces him 
to turn. But it is not true that he is ignorant of these truths before 
he thus considers them. He knows that he must die — that he is a 
sinner — that God is right, and he is wrong," &c. But again, when 
he is seeking to make an impression upon the sinner, he assures us 
that " the idea that the careless sinner is an intellectual believer is 
absurd — the man that does not feel, nor act at all, on the subject 
of religion, is an infidel, let his professions be what they may." But 
we will leave him to explain how an infidel can be said to know 
that to be true, which he does not believe to be true. The uniform 
tenor of his representations, when treating of the subject of regene- 
ration, is that the sinner wilfully refuses to consider known truths, 
and, on that account alone, has not a new heart. The apostle, on 
the contrary, declares the natural man receiveth not the things of 
the Spirit of God, neither can he know them. We presume that 
no one but Mr. Finney himself can doubt to which of these author- 
ities we should bow. If the testimony of the apostle needed any 
confirmation, we might find it abundantly in human experience. 
Every man knows that his perception of moral truths depends upon 
the state of his heart. It is a matter of familiar experience, that 
truths which sometimes affect us scarcely at all, will, at another 
time, act so powerfully as to break up all the fountains of feeling 
within us. And this difference is not owing to the greater or less 
degree of consideration bestowed upon the truth ; — we may think 
of it as profoundly in the one case as in the other. Who has not 
felt that a familiar truth, occurring to the mind in the same terms 
with which it has often before been clothed, will suddenly display 
a hitherto unseen richness of meaning, which at once wakes up 
all the feelings of the heart? What is it that can thus modify our 
powers of moral perception but the state of the mind ? And how 
can we expect, then, that the spiritual truths of God's holy word 


should produce their appropriate effect upon the mind of the sinner, 
who is destitute not only of any fellowship with those truths, but 
of the disposition of heart by which their meaning is discerned ? 
We cannot understand how the unrenewed heart, it as Mr. Finney 
says " it hates God with mortal hatred," can even understand the 
real meaning of the truth, God is love ; or feel that this truth is a 
motive for subduing its hatred. Nor are we able to see how any 
of those considerations most frequently presented in the sacred 
Scriptures can prevail with the sinner, and produce upon him their 
appropriate effect, unless his mind be illuminated, his heart renew- 
ed, by the influences of the Holy Spirit. 

Mr. Finney's own pages will furnish us with evidence that he 
himself considers the mind as needing some further adaptation to 
the motives of the Bible, than the powers of moral agency. This 
evidence is found in the fact that the motives which he most fre- 
quently and importunately urges, are not those which are commonly 
employed in the sacred Scriptures. He seems to have a kind of instinct 
of the insufficiency of the considerations presented by the inspired 
writers, to answer his purpose. The most common form in which 
he sets forth the change that takes place in regeneration, is that of 
a change in the choice of a Supreme Ruler. He divides the 
world into two great political parties, the one with God, the other 
with Satan, at its head. When a man makes for himself a new 
heart, he changes sides in politics — he gives up the service of 
Satan, and submits to the government of God. The great duty 
which he urges upon the sinner is unconditional submission to God. 
This duty, as presented by him, is very rarely intended to include 
submission to the terms of salvation revealed in the gospel — it is a 
submission to God as the great creator and ruler of the world — 
the God of providence rather than of grace. Now it will at once 
occur to every reader of the Bible, that this is not the duty which 
the sacred writers most frequently urge upon the sinner. They 
call upon men to repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. 
But Mr. Finney says, " It is generally in point, and a safe and 
suitable direction to tell a sinner to repent" Marvellous ! that he 
should consider it generally, but not always safe to tell a sinner to 
do that which the apostles, with great uniformity, tell him to do. 
The other part of the apostolic exhortation to sinners, " Believe in 
the Lord Jesus Christ," he seems to think, should no longer be 
given in any case save where an individual is unwilling to admit 
that Christ is the Messiah of God. This exhortation he considers 
as exclusively suitable to the days of the apostles, " when the 
minds of the people were agitated mainly on the question, whether 
Jesus was the true Messiah." " They bore down," he says, " on 
this point, because here was where the Spirit of God was striving 
with them, and consequently, this would probably be the first thing 
a person would do on submitting to God." He does indeed 
number among the directions to be given to sinners, that " they 
should be told to believe the gospel ;" but he explains this to mean 


nothing more than " that trust or confidence in the Scriptures that 
leads the individual to act as if they were true." Of that specific 
act of faith in which the soul apprehends the Lord Jesus as its 
Saviour, and receives pardon and justification, he seems not to 
have the least idea. The sole value of repentance or faith, he finds 
in the manifestation which they afford of the heart's willingness to 
submit to the authority of God. " Whatever point," he says, " is 
taken hold of between God and the sinner, when he yields that he 
is converted. When he yields one point to God's authority, he 
yields all." This is evidently another gospel. The apostles urge 
all men to believe in the Saviour because faith is in itself a proper 
and a most important duty — but Mr. Finney deems it of no import- 
ance, save as it manifests submission to the authority of the Great 
Ruler, and thinks it unsuitable to urge it upon any sinner therefore, 
unless it be one whose heart has assumed a hostile attitude towards 
the claims of Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah. How widely, 
indeed, does this differ from the gospel revealed to us from heaven, 
which places faith at the head of human duties, teaching us that it 
is the instrumental cause of our forgiveness, that it unites us to the 
Lord Jesus Christ, and is the mediate source of all our spiritual 
strength ! 

As the duty presented by Mr. Finney to the sinner's mind is 
different from that commonly urged in the Bible, so does he employ 
different motives to induce compliance. The chief motive upon 
which he relies is, that it is right to acknowledge God and submit 
to him as our Great Ruler. We can now see another reason why 
he assumed the strange position upon which we have already 
commented, that " It is the rightvess of a duty that must influence 
the mind if it would act virtuously." Man in his natural state can 
be made to see that it is right for him to submit to God, but he 
cannot be made to perceive His moral glory, or to feel that His 
character is lovely. As he cannot receive the things of the Spirit 
of God, Mr. Finney is therefore driven to the necessity of seeking 
other things which he can receive. He endeavours, by developing 
the useful tendency of the principles of the divine government in 
contrast with the injurious influence of selfishness, to produce a 
conviction in the sinner's mind that it is right for God to reign ; 
and upon this conviction he relies to induce the sinner to change his 
voluntary preference, and submit to the righteous rule of his 
Creator. In one of his sermons, after describing to the sinner how 
he must change his heart, he goes through a kind of rehearsal 
of the performance. He begs the sinner to give him his attention 
while he places before him "such considerations as are best 
calculated to induce the state of mind which constitutes a 
change of heart." In presenting these best considerations, he dwells 
upon " the unreasonableness and hatefulness of selfishness," " the 
reasonableness and utility of benevolence," " the reasons why God 
should govern the universe," &c. His remarks upon these topics 
are protracted through ten or twelve octavo pages, in the whole 


of which, about as many lines are devoted to a frigid allusion to 
the justice and mercy displayed in the atonement of Jesus Christ. 
In a previous passage of the same sermon he says, " The offer of 
reconciliation annihilates the influence of despair, and gives to 
conscience its utmost power." He seems here to limit the 
efficacy of the gospel, to its opening the way for the operation 
of existing motives upon the heart of man. And his practice is 
certainly consistent with this low view of the gospel. The con- 
siderations which he brings forward, as best adapted to induce 
the sinner to change his heart, are almost exclusively such as 
are furnished by natural religion. We hear next to nothing of the 
grace and glory of God as they shine in the face of Jesus Christ, 
of the wondrous love of a dying Saviour, of the demerit of sin 
as illustrated by His death, or of the guilt of the sinner in remain- 
ing insensible to the motives which address him from Calvary 
Our Saviour intimates that all other sin is comparatively lost in the 
sin of rejecting Him ; and the apostles refer to the neglect of the 
" great salvation " provided for man, as presenting the most odious 
form of human guilt. To the life and death of Jesus Christ, indeed, 
do they continually recur for the illustration and enforcement of 
all human duties. They make known nothing save Jesus Christ, 
and Him crucified. This is the great central source of light and 
heat. Whatever may be the point of departure, how uniformly do 
they carry us to the Cross, and bid us thence look at the character 
of God, and the duty of man. But when Mr. Finney professedly 
addresses himself to the task of presenting the considerations best 
adapted to move the heart of the sinner, he thinks he can find a 
better point of view. He takes his stand amidst the wonders of 
creation ; he finds in the character there developed, and the rela- 
tions there established between man and his Maker, the right and 
the duty of God to govern and man's obligations to obey — " the 
reasonableness and utility of virtue — the unreasonableness, guilt, and 
evil of sin :" — hence he charges the sinner with having " set his 
unsanctified feet upon the principles of eternal righteousness, lifted 
up his hands against the throne of the Almighty, set at naught the 
authority of God and the rights of man !" We do not deny the 
validity of these considerations, upon which he chiefly dwells; but 
we do deny that the truths involved in them are the peculiar truths 
of the gospel, or that they are those which the apostles deemed 
best adapted to become "the wisdom of God and the power of 
God unto salvation." Throughout his whole system indeed, it is 
painful to see how small a space is allotted to the Cross of Christ. 
Often where it might be expected to stand forth conspicuous, it 
seems to be, of set design, excluded. In this same sermon, when 
defending the reasonableness of the " conditions of the gospel," 
he tells the sinner that faith is reasonable, because " nothing but 
faith in what God tells him, can influence him to take the path 
that leads to heaven." The faith of which he here speaks is a 
M condition of the gospel," and yet he represents it in no other 


light than as a general belief in the truth of God's word ; and 
justifies its requirement solely on the ground of its tendency to 
make man holy. There is no hint of that faith in the Lord Jesus 
Christ, so often mentioned in the Scriptures, by which the soul 
commits itself to Him as its Saviour, and becomes a partaker of the 
benefits of his redemption — no allusion to the reasonableness of this 
condition, on the ground of its rendering to God all the glory of 
our salvation. We see not how any pious mind, accustomed to 
look to Jesus Christ for all its strength and joy and glory can pass 
through this new system, without being constrained at every step 
to cry out, " Ye have taken away my Lord, and I know not where 
ye have laid Him." 

Another illustration, trifling it is true, when compared with the 
one we have just presented, but yet worthy of notice, of the diffi- 
culty under which Mr. Finney labours, in carrying out his views 
of regeneration, is found in the necessity which is laid upon him of 
violating the established meaning of words. A new heart is a new 
act. In regeneration no principle is implanted in the mind, but the 
beginning and end of the process is in a new act ; and consequently 
the process of the divine life in the soul of man is a series of acts — 
there is no growth of anything which lays the foundation of those acts 
and disposes to the performance of them. He not only believes this 
to be true, but thinks it vastly important that others should be con- 
vinced of its truth. The world has hitherto been ignorant of the true 
nature of religion and the method of its progress in the heart. He 
expresses his doubt whether one professor of religion out often in the 
city of New York, if asked what sanctification is, could give a 
right answer. They would speak of it, " as if it were a sort of 
washing off of some defilement," — or they would represent it as 
the growth of some principle, or germ, or seed, or sprout, implanted 
in the soul. " But sanctification," he says, " is obedience." Of 
course, to sanctify must mean to obey ; and to be sanctified is to 
be obeyed. Now we charitably hope that Mr. Finney has under- 
rated the number of those who could give a right answer to 
this question ; for we presume that more than nine out of ten of 
the professors of religion in New York have been at school, and 
can read a dictionary, if not the Bible and the catechisms of their 
church, and surely not one, thus qualified, could ever think of giv- 
ing his definition of sanctification. 

We have already exposed the insufficiency of Mr. Finney's the- 
ory ; and in testimony thereof have adduced his own departure, in 
carrying out his theory, from the instructions and motives deve- 
loped in the gospel. He thus evidently betrays his own convic- 
tion that the duties which the apostles commonly urge upon the 
impenitent are not consistent with his scheme ; and that the mo- 
tives they present are of such a nature as to require a correspond- 
ing disposition of heart. The force of the objections we have 
brought forward, is not at all diminished by the different form in 


which he sometimes states his doctrine of the new heart. He has 
a class of passages in which he represents the spiritual heart, as 
" That deep-seated, but voluntary preference of the mind which 
lies back of all its other voluntary affections and emotions, and 
from which they take their character." If by " preference," be 
meant such an inclination as he has elsewhere described under 
that name, which is not an object of consciousness, and makes 
itself known only by its influence over our acts ; and by its being 
" deep-seated," that is, seated in the will itself, using the term in its 
larger sense, and for that reason entitled to the epithet " volun- 
tary," we should have no objection to this account of the matter. 
This is precisely our idea of a disposition. But this is not his 
meaning. The preference which he here intends, is a conscious 
act of the mind. It still remains then for him to show how the 
mind can be induced to prefer the glory of God, as the supreme 
end of pursuit, when it is blind to that glory, and if we may credit 
the apostle, in such a state, that until renewed, it cannot know it. 
Another difficulty, too, is started by the passage we have just 
quoted from him. It seems that we are to look back from every 
other voluntary affection and emotion of mind to this " deep-seated 
preference," to find their moral character. But as this preference 
is itself but a voluntary exercise of mind, and differs from its other 
voluntary exercises only by being more deep-seated, it would 
seem that we ought to look back to something else for its moral 
character. It is impossible for us to imagine how one voluntary 
exercise of mind can possess a moral character, independent of the 
subjective motives which prompted it, while all other affections 
and emotions are good or evil only through their connexion with 
this one. Is it not wonderful that with such beams in his own eye, 
he should be endeavouring to pluck out motes from the eyes of 
others ! 

Mr. Finney asserts the perfect, unqualified ability of man to 
regenerate himself. It is easier, indeed, he says, for him to com- 
ply with the commands of God than to reject them. He tells his 
congregation that they " might with much more propriety ask, 
when the meeting is dismissed, how they should go home, than to 
ask how they should change their hearts." He declares that they 
who teach the sinner that he is unable to repent and believe with- 
out the aid of the Holy Spirit, insult his understanding and mock 
his hopes — they utter a libel upon Almighty God — they make God 
an infinite tyrant — they lead the sinner very consistently to justify 
himself — if what they say is true, the sinner ought to hate God, 
and so should all other beings hate him — as some have humor- 
ously and truly said, they preach, " You can and you can't, you 
shall and you shan't, you will and you won't, you'll be damn'd if 
you do, you'll be damn'd if you don't." It has been reserved, we 
imagine, for the refined and delicate taste of Mr. Finney to dis- 
cover the humour of this miserable doggerel. He is obviously 
much delighted with it, and, like all his other good things, has 


worked it up more than once. We hope the next compiler of the 
beauties of American poetry will pay a due deference to his com- 
mendation, and assign a conspicuous place to this precious morceau. 
Most professors of religion, he says, pray for sinners, that God 
would enable them to repent. Such prayers he declares to be an 
insult to God. He thinks it a great error to tell the sinner to pray 
for a new heart, or to pray for the Holy Ghost to show him his sins. 
" Some persons," he says, " seem to' suppose that the Spirit is 
employed to give the sinner power, — that he is unable to obey 
God without the Spirit's agency. I confess I am alarmed when I hear 
such declarations as these ; and were it not that I suppose there 
is a sense in which a man's heart may be better than his head, I 
should feel bound to maintain that persons holding this sentiment 
were not Christians at all." We have certainly never met with a 
more singularly extravagant and unfortunate declaration than the 
one last quoted. Who are the persons who have held and taught 
this sentiment, so inconsistent with Christianity? Why, at the 
head of the list stand our Saviour and his apostles. " No man," 
said Christ, " can come to me except the Father which hath sent 
me drawrhim." And the apostles refer continually to the abso- 
lute dependence of man upon God for the necessary strength to 
perform his duties aright. Not one of those holy men felt that he 
was of himself " sufficient for these things." Their uniform feel- 
ing seems to have been, " I can do all things through Christ, who 
strengtheneth me." Mr. Finney not only believes that we can do 
all things without any strength from Christ, but he makes this one 
of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The apostles ex- 
horted men to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and 
they prayed for those to whom they wrote, that the Lord would 
strengthen them with might by his Spirit, — that He would make 
them perfect, establish, strengthen, settle them. But Mr. Finney 
says, to pray that God would help the sinner to repent, is an insult 
to God ; as if God had commanded the sinner to do what he can- 
not do. Now the Christian has at least as much ability to be per- 
fectly holy as the sinner has to repent. God commands Christians 
to be perfect, and of course, when the apostles prayed that the 
Lord would strengthen them and make them perfect, they prayed 
" as if God had commanded the Christian to do what he cannot 
do." These prayers, then, uttered under the inspiration of the 
Holy Ghost, must have been "an insult to God!" Mr. Finney 
cannot relieve the character of his reckless, irreverent assertions, 
by saying that the sacred writers meant to represent nothing more 
than the unwillingness of the sinner to do his duty. Beyond all 
dispute they represent this unwillingness under the form of an ina- 
bility, and it is against those who describe it by precisely equiva- 
lent terms that Mr. F. raves with such infuriate bitterness. There 
is a question here, not between him and us, but between him and 
the apostles, whether they employed proper and safe language in 
describing the moral condition of man and the nature of his de- 


pendence on divine aid. He may perhaps say that the language 
employed by the apostles was perfectly proper at that time, but as 
their statements have been perverted and become the source of 
ruinous errors, it is now necessary to employ more explicit and 
guarded language. We suppose this will be the nature of his de- 
fence, as he distinctly takes the ground that it will not answer to 
preach the same class of truths, or to exhibit them in the same 
manner, in any two ages of the Church, or in any two places. At 
each time and place the sinner is entrenched behind his own pecu- 
liar errors, and the preacher must be careful not to present any 
truth which he can so pervert as to fortify himself in his refuges of 
lies. But is it true that any such change can take place, from age 
to age, in the natural character or the accidental circumstances of 
man, as to call for any important change in the matter or manner 
of religious instruction ? What error has ever existed that does 
not find its refutation in some revealed truth ? It is a very dan- 
gerous principle to admit, that we are at liberty to omit such truths 
of the Bible as we deem unsuitable to existing emergencies, and 
to exhibit others in a very different light from that in which they 
are left by inspired writers. It virtually suspends the whole of the 
divine revelation upon the discretion and wisdom of man. But if 
true, it has no application to the case now before us. There is no 
evidence that the perversion of the truth which Mr. F. thinks can 
only be met by varying the manner in which the apostles repre- 
sent man's dependence, is a modern error. On the contrary, it is 
undeniable that this very error prevailed in the days of the apos- 
tles. Paul met with the same objections that are now current, 
drawn from the divine sovereignty and human dependence ; and 
how does he refute them ? By a flat denial that man is unable of 
himself to do his duty? Or by a modification, a softening down 
of his previous statements ? No — he re-asserts the perverted doc- 
trines in the face of the objections raised against them. He does 
not, nor does any one of the sacred writers, affirm in a single 
instance that the sinner is able to obey the divine commands. Not 
a text of Scripture can be found in which this is declared, while a 
multitude can be produced which explicitly and in so many words 
deny it. Will Mr. F. say that the npostles urged upon men obe- 
dience to the divine commands, and thus virtually declared their 
ability to obey ? Then why does he not declare it in the same vir- 
tual manner? The same reasons existed then as now for a direct 
assertion of the sinner's ability, and yet it was in no case made. 
Why, then, should he make it now, and dwell upon it, and magnify 
it into an important, nay, an essential part of the Gospel, so that 
he who disbelieves it cannot be a Christian at all ? 

But. it is not true that in urging the commands of God, the sacred 
writers teach the entire and independent ability of man to obey. 
Mr. Finney does not pretend to bring forward a single passage of 
Scripture in which his doctrine is directly taught ; he finds it prov- 
ed in no other way than by his own inferences from such com- 


mands as, " Make to yourself a new heart," " My son, give me 
thy heart." His brief argument for human ability is, God com- 
mands man to obey, therefore he can obey. He does not even 
allude to the distinction often taken between natural and moral 
ability. He teaches broadly without any qualification whatever, 
that a divine command implies the possession of all the ability 
necessary to obedience. Obligation and ability, he says, must be 
commensurate. And how does he prove the truth of this last pro- 
position ? In no other way than by repeating, times without num- 
ber, th?t to teach otherwise makes God an infinite tyrant. But 
the Bible does not inform us that there is any tyranny in God's 
commanding men to do what they cannot do. It teaches us direct- 
ly the contrary, by making known the duty of man to receive the 
things of the Spirit of God, while it at the same time declares, that 
without divine assistance he cannot receive or know them. He 
must refer, then, for the truth of this maxim, to our natural sense 
of justice. We might object to this reference of a case already so 
clearly decided by a higher authority ; but we have no fear that 
there will be found here any discrepance between the teachings of 
revelation and the testimony of man's conscience, if the latter be 
rightly interpreted. Our natural sense of justice does indeed teach 
us that no obligation can rest upon man to perform any duty for 
which he has not the necessary faculties ; and that he is not 
responsible for failure in anything which he was willing to do, but 
was hindered in the execution by causes beyond his control. When 
applied to such cases as these, there is a self-evidence belonging to 
the maxim in question which places its truth beyond all dispute. 
Mr. Finney's mistake lies in extending it to cases which lie altoge- 
ther beyond the limits within which it was generalized. We deny 
that the common sense of mankind has ever required that we should 
possess the ability to change our inclinations, as the condition of 
our responsibility for their exercise. To illustrate this, let us sup- 
pose the case of a man under the influence of any dominant pas- 
sion. Before he has long indulged this passion, it would be com- 
paratively easy for him to relinquish it. As he gives way to its 
impulses, however, its power over him increases, until at length it 
binds in complete subjection to itself all the other affections of his 
nature. At each step of its progress the difficulty of subduing it is 
increased ; and yet who will deny that the sin of cherishing is 
accurately proportioned to this difficulty ? The law of continuity, 
which has place in moral reasoning, as well as in that " algebra" 
which is to Mr. F. the symbol of incomprehensibility, would teach 
us hence to infer that the guilt is greatest when the difficulty is 
greatest, and that the former has its highest form of aggravation 
in the insurmountable character of the latter. The language of 
the whole world is framed in recognition of this truth. We speak 
familiarly of the difficulty which men find in changing their incli- 
nations, without ever conceiving that we thereby lessen their obli- 
gation j nay, we consider the cup of their guilt full to the brim, 


when they have so destroyed their ability to become virtuous, that 
we may properly say of them, " They cannot cease to do evil, 
and learn to do well." When a paramount inclination, like a strong 
man armed, has taken possession of the heart, and, with a despot- 
ism peculiar to itself, banished all but its own ideas and emotions, 
how can it be dispossessed ? Will it yield to a volition of the 
mind ? We all know it will not, and Mr. Finney himself admits 
it. He says that our affections will not obey the bidding of the 
will — we cannot summon or dismiss them by a volition. This ad- 
mission is fatal to him. The mind, he says, can operate upon its 
inclinations and affections only by changing the object of thought ; 
and this change it certainly cannot effect in a moment. When any 
strong inclination is in exercise, the mind has an attraction for 
those ideas and considerations which tend to sustain and increase 
its present emotions, while it repels all others to an unseen distance, 
and some little time at least is necessary before it can succeed in 
calling up and keeping before it those objects of thought which 
may introduce a different class of feelings. Upon his own ac- 
count of the matter, no man can, in an instant, change a strong 
inclination. And yet if that inclination be an evil one, the 
obligation to an immediate change is evident. What, then, 
has become of the maxim that obligation and ability are 
commensurate ? The sinner who perceives the opposition of the 
divine government to his selfish plans, and whose heart is on that 
account filled with emotions of hatred towards God, cannot 
instantly, if at all, turn his mind to such views of the divine cha- 
racter as will inspire him with love. And yet the duty of imme- 
diate, instant submission is very evident. We see, then, that power 
is not the exact measure of obligation. One instance of the fail- 
ure of the truth of this maxim is as good as a thousand, since one 
is enough to destroy its generality, and leave the arguments for 
the inability of the sinner standing in all their force, unless they 
can be overthrown by considerations drawn from other sources. 
We do utterly deny that the sinner is able, in the sense which Mr. 
Finney contends for, to obey the divine commands. Jn proof of 
this we say that he is dead in trespasses and in sins, and as the 
dead man is insensible to all things, so is he to those objects which, 
if rightly perceived, would be adapted to kindle within him holy 
desires and affections. Until renewed, he cannot know the things 
which he must know before he can discharge his duty. And the 
arguments which we urge from reason and Scripture in defence 
of these views, are not touched by the assertion that obligation 
and ability must be commensurate with each other. We have 
already produced one instance in which, upon Mr. Finney's own 
admission, this maxim fails to be true : and we are now about to 
bring forward another, in which he virtually confesses that it is 
never true when the affections and inclinations of the heart are in 
question. In explaining why there can be no repentance in hell 
he says, when a man's " reputation is so completely gone that he 


has no hope of retrieving it, in this state of despair there is no 
possibility of reclaiming him ; no motive can reach him and call 
forth an effort to redeem his character." Now, in view of this 
admission, let it be true that obligation and ability are commensu- 
rate, and what is the consequence ? Why, that when a man has 
become so vicious as to ruin his reputation — when h^ has reached 
such a confirmed state of iniquity that he himself and all others 
despair of his ever becoming virtuous — when he has severed the 
last link that bound him to humanity, and is floating loose from 
his species, a demon or a brute — then is he released from all ac- 
countability ! Mr. Finney adds, that in hell "the sinner will be 
in despair, and while in despair it is a moral impossibility to turn 
his heart to God." But will he deny that the sinner in hell is under 
any less obligation to love God, on account of this admitted im- 
possibility of loving Him ? Betraying, as he here does, his know- 
ledge of the limitations to which his favourite standard of obliga- 
tion is subject, we should suspect him of a set design to deceive, 
when he uses it so often in its broad, unqualified sense, and takes 
his stand upon it to thunder out his furious anathemas against 
others, had he not furnished us, through all his writings, with such 
abundant evidence of his incapacity to take into view more than 
a very small part of one subject at the same time. With the ex- 
posure of the error involved in his position, that God cannot con- 
sistently command man to do that which he cannot perform, we 
shall take our leave of this part of the subject, for he has not 
brought forward the semblance of an argument in favour of the 
sinner's ability to regenerate himself, which does not directly 
involve the universal truth of this erroneous maxim.* 

We have already occupied so much space, that we cannot ex- 
hibit as fully as we would wish, Mr. Finney's views of the doc- 
trine of divine influence. His theory on this subject is expressed 
in the following extract. " The work of the Holy Spirit 
does not consist merely in giving instruction, but in compelling 
him to consider truths which he already knows — to think upon his 
ways and turn to the Lord. He urges upon his attention and con- 
sideration those motives which he hates to consider and feel the 
weight of." Again he says — " It is indeed the pressing of truth 
upon the sinner's consideration that induces him to turn." It will 
be at once perceived that he limits the 'agency of the Holy Spirit, 
in the regeneration of the sinner, to the simple presentation of truth 
to the mind. Said we not truly, that the influence of the Holy 
Spirit comes in here only by the way ? It is strictly parenthetical, 
and has about as much fitness and meaning, in connexion with the 
rest of his scheme, as " the grace of God" has in the Rex, Dei 
gratia, on the disk of a Spanish dollar. He maintains that 
the truth of God, if adequately considered, would convert the 

* For a full discussion of the " Inability of the Sinner," see* Biblical Repertory 
for 1831, p. 360, or " Princeton Essays," Series First. 


sinner ; and that he has a perfect and independent power to keep 
that truth before his mind. Surely, then, the agency of the 
Spirit is superfluous. It is a new cause introduced to account 
for the production of an effect for which we already have an 
adequate cause. But though he has, inconsistently we think, 
retained the doctrine of divine influence, he has so modified it that 
it has but few, if any, points of resemblance with the scriptural 
representations of this subject. His common method of illustrat- 
ing the nature of the Spirit's agency is by a reference to the man- 
ner in which a lawyer persuades a jury, or an orator sways his 
audience. The Spirit merely presents the truth, and the moral 
suasion of the truth regenerates the sinner, or rather induces him 
to regenerate himself. It is not thus that the Scriptures represent 
it. What mind can read his frequent illustration of an advocate 
persuading his hearers, and then pass to the scriptural one, of a 
power that raises from death unto life, without feeling that the agen- 
cies which can be properly set forth under such dissimilar symbols 
must be specifically and widely different from each other? If he 
has given us the correct account of the divine agency exerted in 
the salvation of man, then it cannot be denied that the language of 
the sacred writers, on this subject, is most delusively extravagant. 
He does sometimes describe the Spirit as forcing the truth home 
with tremendous power, — pouring the expostulation home — keep- 
ing the truth in warm contact with the mind — gathering up a 
world of motive, and pouring it in upon the soul in a focal blaze. 
Of these and similar expressions, the " warm contact," and the 
" focal blaze," seem to be his favourites, as he has most frequently 
repeated them. They are but the rays with which he seeks to 
conceal from his own view and that of others, his meagre skeleton 
of a Scriptural truth. He seems to resort to these expressions 
because he feels the inaptness and poverty of his plain statements. 
But it is as bad to lose one's self in a fog of metaphor, as in that 
" fog of metaphysics " which he so much dreads. His " close con- 
tact," and "warm contact," and "focal blaze," and "pouring home," 
mean nothing more than that the Spirit presents the truth to the 
mind. However the form of expression may be varied, this ex- 
hausts the subject of his interference. He does nothing to awak- 
en the attention any further than the truth which he offers awakens 
it; nothing to arouse the feelings — nothing to make the scales fall 
from the eye of the mind that it may perceive the truth — nothing 
to change the disposition of the heart so that it may love the truth 
and feel its constraining influence. Mr. Finney expressly and 
warmly excludes any direct operation of the Spirit upon the mind or 
heart. To suppose any such agency, he says with an irreverence of 
which we hope but few could be guilty, is to suppose a " physical 
scuffling " between the Holy Spirit and the sinner ! As the Spirit 
awakens no inclination of the heart to go forth and embrace the 
truth, the warm contact with the mind, into which he brings it, can 
refer only to its continuous presentation. When the truth is placed 


before the mind, and the attention is fixed, the contact is complete, 
and cannot be rendered any closer or warmer but by the instru- 
mentality of the affections, upon which Mr. F. asserts the Spirit 
exerts no agency. We have already shown the utter inadequacy 
of this account of the mode of regeneration. Whether the truth 
remains for a short or a long time, in cold or in warm contact with 
the unrenewed heart, it will feel in the considerations before it no 
sufficient motive for loving God. 

It will be seen from Mr. F.'s account of the Spirit's influence, 
that the agency which He exerts in the regeneration of the sinner 
is the same in kind as that exerted by the preacher. Both call his 
attention to the truth, and neither of them does anything beyond 
this. If you go to a drunkard, and urge upon him the motives 
which should induce him to abandon his cups, you have done for 
him precisely what the Holy Spirit does for the sinner in his 
regeneration. The preacher, upon this scheme, has the same right 
that God has to assume to himself the glory of the sinner's salva- 
tion. Indeed Mr. F. fully admits this in answering the objection 
that his view of the subject "takes the work out of God's hands, 
and robs him of his glory." His defence is. that the glory belongs 
to God, inasmuch as he caused the sinner to act. And mark the 
meaning and force of his illustration : " If a man," he says, " had 
made up his mind to take his own life, and you should, by taking 
the greatest pains and at great expense, prevail upon him to desist, 
would you deserve no credit for the influences you exerted in the 
case ?" Is it not amazing that any man with the Bible in his hands, 
and professing to love its sacred truths, could divide, as this pas- 
sage fully does, the glory of the sinner's salvation between God 
and man, ascribing the work in the same sense to the Holy Spirit 
and the preacher, and distributing to each a similar meed of praise ! 

Mr. Finney seems to have a great objection to the preaching of 
the doctrine of divine influence in any manner. There was a tract 
published in New York entitled " Regeneration is the effect of 
Divine Power." He twice declares that, " The very title to this 
tract is a stumbling block." He says that, " While the sinner's 
attention is directed to the subject of the Spirit's influences, his sub- 
mission is impossible ;" and that if the apostles on the day of Pen- 
tecost had gone off to drag in such subjects as dependence upon 
the Holy Spirit, it is manifest that not one of their hearers would 
have been converted. u The doctrine of election and divine sove- 
reignty," he asserts, " has nothing to do with the sinner's duty — it 
belongs to the government of God." And in another place he says, 
" To preach doctrines in an abstract way, and not in reference to 
practice, is absurd." As the doctrine of divine sovereignty then 
has nothing to do with the sinner's duty, we suppose that he in- 
tends that it should not be preached at all. Thus does he distort, 
thus would he conceal from view, a doctrine which runs through 
the whole Bible, is incorporated with all its revelations, and is the 
basement principle of so many emotions and actions ! 


It is obvious why he is thus hostile to divine sovereignty. This 
doctrine he thinks is calculated to keep men easy in their sins. If 
they are dependent upon God, they will be led to wait for his ac- 
tion upon them before they begin to act. No doubt the truth may 
be thus perverted. But is not his doctrine greatly more liable to 
perversion? He teaches the sinner that he has all the requisite 
power to convert himself. What more natural than for the sinner 
to say. I love my sins, and therefore as I can at any moment for- 
sake them and make myself holy, I will continue to indulge myself? 
It is worthy of remark, that when Mr. Finney is exposing, in one 
of his most moving paragraphs, the unfitness of a deathbed as a 
place for repentance, he alludes only to the difficulty of thinking 
and keeping the mind in warm and distressing contact with the 
truth, during the agonies of dissolution. He does not refer in the 
most distant manner to the danger that the sinner, justly abandoned 
of God, may be unable on that account to change his heart. Is 
there no danger, too, that the sinner, so repeatedly assured that 
God would be an infinite tyrant if he had commanded him to do 
what he cannot do, should find in his own experience that he can- 
not of himself make a new heart, and thus be led to condemn the 
justice of the divine requirements ? May he not also very consist- 
ently say to his instructer, It is at least as easy for you to be per- 
fectly holy as it is for me to repent — I retort upon you your charges 
that lama wicked rebel, and that my heart has been case-hardened 
in the fires of hell — physician, heal thyself. If it is easier for me 
to love God than to hate him, it is easier for you to be perfect than 
to remain imperfect. It is easier indeed for you to be holy, even 
as your Father in heaven is holy, than it is for you to walk home ; 
to do the latter requires that you should both be willing and exert 
the proper muscular action, but to do the former only requires you 
to be willing. You must be the wickedest, being in the universe, 
then, to refuse to perform a duty so obvious and so easy. 

We here dismiss this subject for the present. As we have occu- 
pied ourselves with Mr. Finney's doctrines, we have been led to 
seek them chiefly in his Sermons, from which most of our extracts 
have been taken. We propose in our next number to examine his 
Lectures more particularly, and develope the measures and the 
spirit of this new system. As we have shown that its doctrines 
are not those of the Bible, so will it be seen that its spirit is. any- 
thing rather than the spirit of Christianity. 

We [have not shown the discrepances between Mr. Finney's 
doctrines, and the standards of the church to which he belongs. 
This would be holding a light to the sun. It is too evident to need 
elucidation, that on all the subjects which we have gone over, his 
opinions are diametrically opposed to the standards of the Presby- 
terian church, which he has solemnly adopted. Many of the very 
expressions and forms of stating these doctrines upon which he 
pours out his profane ridicule, are found in the Confession of Faith. 
Why then does he remain in the church ? He will hold up to the de- 


testation of his people a man who refuses to pay his subscription to 
the Oneida Institute, because he conscientiously believes that insti- 
tution is doing more harm than good, asserting that he is not honest, 
and more than insinuating that he cannot go to heaven. And can 
he see no moral dishonesty in remaining in a church, whose stand- 
ards of faith he has adopted, only to deny and ridicule them ? It 
is a remarkable fact that this man, thus incorrect in his doctrinal 
views, thus dishonest in his continuance in a church whose stand- 
ards he disbelieves and contemns, should have been appointed a 
professor of theology, to assist in training up ministers for our 
churches. The trustees of Oberlin Institute had, to be sure, a per- 
fect right to appoint him ; but it seems to us very remarkable that 
they should have selected him, and rather more so that he should 
have felt willing to undertake the office of an instructer in theology. 
We suppose, however, that his object was to show the church the 
way in which her ministers should be trained. We give him credit 
for his good intentions. He declares it to be a solemn fact, that 
there is a great defect in the present mode of educating ministers, 
and that the training they receive in our colleges and seminaries 
does not fit them for their work. He assures his readers that all 
the professors in our theological seminaries are unfit for their office ; 
some of them are getting back towards second childhood, and ought 
to resign ; and none of them are such men as are needed in these 
days. Now is it not very kind in Mr. Finney, when the church is 
thus destitute of men who can adequately instruct her ministers, 
to step forward and take the office upon himself? No doubt the 
whole Presbyterian church ought to break forth in rejoicings. But 
we confess we would rather he should make the experiment of his 
ability in this line out of our church. He will, doubtless, think this 
very unkind and ungrateful, but we cannot help it. We tender 
him our thanks for the substantial service he has done the church 
by exposing the naked deformities of the New Divinity. He can 
render her still another, and in rendering it perform only his plain 
duty, by leaving her communion, and finding one within which he 
can preach and publish his opinions without making war upon the 
standards in which he has solemnly professed his faith. 


We proceed to exhibit to our readers the measures recommended 
and the spirit displayed in Mr. Finney's Lectures on Revivals. We 
do this at the known hazard of being denounced as enemies to 
revivals, and friends of Satan. But it is a very small thing with us 
that we should be judged of Mr. Finney's judgment. We, in com- 
mon with all the iriends of pure and undenJed religion, have a 


sacred duty to discharge in relation to this subject, from which no 
considerations of fear or favour should deter us. Mr. Finney, and 
his followers, have shown a resolute determination to persevere in 
their course. It is surely then the duty of those who believe that 
course to be detrimental to the best interests of religion, to proclaim 
their dissent. We believe, therefore will we speak. 

Our first remark is upon the disingenuousness of which Mr. 
Finney is guilty, in stating the question of New Measures. These 
measures, he says, are opposed " on the ground that they are in- 
novations.' 1 '' Now he knows perfectly well, and all the world 
knows, that this is not the ground on which they are opposed. Of 
the many testimonies against them, which have been published, we 
defy him to point to a single one in which their novelty is made the 
cause of their condemnation. And yet he seeks continually to 
make upon his reader the impression, that naught has been or can 
be said against them, save that they are new. Who, but himself, 
ever supposed that they were new? Who does not know that he 
has picked up his measures, as well as his theology, among the 
castaway rubbish of past times ? The only novelty in the matter 
is, that these measures should be employed in the Presbyterian 
church, in combination with a false theology and a fanatical spirit. 
Why then, when Mr. Finney is professedly defending his course 
from the objections which have been urged against it, does he con- 
fine himself so exclusively to the single ground of opposition, that 
his measures are new ? Why, if he felt himself equal to the task, 
did he not fairly and honestly meet the real objections which have 
been urged against him 1 Such disingenuous evasions always 
injure the cause in defence of which they are employed. 

A similar artifice may be detected in his enumeration of New 
Measures. " They are Anxious Meetings, Protracted Meetings, 
and the Anxious Seat." He must have known, while uttering this 
sentence, that the public estimation has never ranked these three 
things together ; and we very much doubt whether he has ever 
heard the term New Measures applied to the Inquiry Meeting or 
the Protracted Meeting. Meetings* of the kind thus designated 

* We are aware that the Editor of the New York Evangelist has said that " before 
Mr. Finney arose, Mr Nettleton was much blamed for his irregularities and impru- 
dence." This piece of information it seems came to Mr Leavitt, all the way round 
by St. Louis. Such statements are intended to cast over Mr Finney the broad man- 
tle of Mr Nettleton's reputation ; or possibly the design may be to make Mr. N. 
jointly responsible for the evils which are now seen to be pouring in upon the 
church, through the flood-gates which the modern reformers have hoisted What- 
ever may be the object, it is exceedingly unfair and dishonourable to attempt to 
associate the name of Mr. Nettleton with a class of men, of whom we know, and 
they too, he has ever said, " Oh, my soul, come not thou into their secret !" Would 
it not be well for the Rev. Editor, before putting forth statements which reach him 
by such a circuitous route, to make some inquiry as to their truth nearer home ? 
Mr Nettleton's life has been spent chiefly in New England, and we challenge Mr. 
Leavitt to produce, as authority for his statement, the opinion of any settled minister 
in New England, of the denomination to which Mr. N. belongs, who was not an 
avowed enemy to all revivals. 



have been held in all parts of our church, and when wisely insti- 
tuted and controlled, have never within our knowledge met with 
any opposition. Why then should he place the Anxious Seat in 
the same category with these institutions, unless it were furtively 
to borrow for it a portion of their admitted respectability ? Doubt- 
less he intended that his triumphant vindication of things which no 
one has opposed, should leave a general impression on the reader's 
mind, of which the Anxious Seat might receive the benefit. But 
does he not know, that while there are some who will be imposed 
upon by such chicanery, there are others who will penetrate the 
flimsy deception, and turn with disgust from a cause thus advocat- 
ed ? Or does he take it for granted, that among his " fit audience," 
would that we could add, " though few," there will be no discrimi- 
nation of mind ? 

In his formal defence of his peculiar measures, Mr. Finney un- 
dertakes to establish the position, " that our present forms of public 
worship, and ever) thing, so far as measures are concerned, have 
been arrived at by degrees, and by a succession of New Measures." 
His remarks under this head are so curious that we are sure they 
would amaze our readers. We wish we could quote them all. 
He descants with most admirable perspicacity and force upon 
cocked-hats, fur caps, bands, silk gowns, stocks, cravats, wigs, and 
small-clothes. He then passes on to the discussion of Psalm Books, 
lining the hymns, choirs, pitch-pipes, whistles, and fiddles. In the 
course of his profound and edifying remarks upon these topics, he 
relates several stories, of which the following may be taken as a 
specimen : " I have been told that some years ago, in New Eng- 
land, a certain elderly clergyman was so opposed to the new mea- 
sure of a minister's wearing pantaloons that he would on no 
account allow them in his pulpit. A young man was going to 
preach for him who had no small-clothes, and the old minister 
would not let him officiate in pantaloons. ' Why,' said he, ' my 
people would think I had brought a fop into the pulpit, to see a 
man there with pantaloons on, and it would produce an excitement 
among them.' And so, finally, the young man was obliged to 
borrow a pair of the old gentleman's small-clothes, and they were 
too short for him, and made a ridiculous figure enough. But any- 
thing was better than such a terrible innovation as preaching in 
pantaloons." Again, he says : " I remember one minister who, 
though quite a young man, used to wear an enormous white wig. 
And the people talked as if there was a divine right about it, and 
it was as hard to give it up, almost, as to give up the Bible itself." 
We dare not reproach him for these instructive little stories in 
which he abounds, since he is a strenuous advocate for the pro- 
priety, nay, the necessity, of tell ng such stories from the pulpit. 
" Truths, not thus illustrated," he says, "are generally just as well 
calculated to convert sinnners as a mathematical demonstration." 
But as, besides himself, " there are very few ministers who dare 
to use these stories," he calls upon them to " do it, and let 


fools reproach them as story-telling ministers." Speaking, too, of 
such as contend for the dignity of the pulpit, he cries out. " Dignity, 
indeed ! Just the language of the devil" We do not pretend to be 
as well acquainted as Mr. Finney seems to be with the language 
of the devil; but knowing who it is that has said, " Whosoever 
shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire," we would 
rather abide the consequences of the malediction against those who 
censure " story-telling ministers," than stand in the predicament 
of him who uttered it. " Fool" and " devil" are in truth very 
hard names, but we will not be angry with Mr. Finney for employ- 
ing them; we can bear them from him, and it would be cruel to 
deny him the use of his most effective weapons. We trust that 
we may be excused, however, from attempting to reply to such 
arguments. Nor can it be reasonably expected that we should 
answer his stories about cocked-hats, wigs, whistles, &c. ; or 
controvert the important truths they were intended to illustrate. 
Indeed, so far are we from wishing to controvert them, that we 
will furnish him with an additional truth of like kind, and one 
of such vital moment, that we can only wonder how it escaped 
his penetrating survey. It is unquestionably true that the minis- 
ters in New England, within the last half century, were very 
generally in the habit of wearing long queues, and riding on 
switch-tailed horses ; and if he will apply to us, we can furnish 
him with some instructive stories to illustrate this truth. We shall 
leave to him, however, the duty of explaining how the " new 
measure" of cutting off the queues, carried through like that of 
wearing pantaloons, black stocks, and round hats, in the face of 
persecution and danger, was made instrumental in promoting the 
purity and power of revivals of religion. We should be glad if he 
would inform us too, whether the men, who in the spirit of mar- 
tyrs introduced these innovations, regarded conformity to them as 
the only credible evidence of true piety. Did any of these wor- 
thies ever say of" wearing pantaloons instead of small-clothes," as 
he has said of the " Anxious Seat," that it occupied the precise 
place that baptism did with the apostles ? Or has the signal 
honour been reserved for him of discovering and introducing a 
measure co-equal in importance with a divine institution ? 

The object of Mr. Finney, in this miserable farrago, is to produce 
the impression that the objections which have been brought against 
his measures are as trivial and ridiculous as those which were 
urged against the innovations of which he here speaks. Whether 
he has succeeded, however, in making any other impression than 
that of pity for the man who can thus ineptly trifle with a serious 
subject we leave our readers to judge. 

It has often been objected against the modern reformers, that 
granting the beneficial tendency of their measures, they unduly* 
magnify their importance? This charge they have denied, and 
have maintained that they considered them important, but yet 
unessential, circumstances, attending and favouring the exhibition 


of truth. We rejoice that evasion of this kind is no longer possible. 
Mr. Finney throughout his Lectures insinuates, and often directly 
asserts the paramount importance, nay, the indispensable necessity 
of the new measures. " The object of the ministry," he says, 
using that " Saxon colloquialism" which his reporter so much 
admires — " is to get all the people to feel that the devil has no 
right to rule this world, but that they ought all to give themselves 
to God, and vote in the Lord Jesus Christ as the governor of the 
universe. Now what shall be done ? What measures shall we 
take ? Says one, ' Be sure and have nothing that is new.' 
Strange ! The object of our measures is to gain attention, and you 
must have something new. As sure as the effect of a measure 
becomes stereotyped, it ceases to gain attention, and you must try 
something new." In the exercise of a wise economy " of our new 
things," he thinks public attention " may be kept awake to the 
great subject of religion for a long series of years, until our present 
measures will by and by have sufficient novelty in them again to 
attract and fix the public attention. And so we shall never want 
for something new." All this would be abundantly unintelligible, 
if interpreted by the light of Mr. F.'s own definitions. On the 
page preceding that from which it is taken, he says, " building 
houses for worship, and visiting from house to house, &c, are all 
4 measures,' the object of which is to get the attention of the people 
to the gospel." And in another Lecture from which we have 
made some extracts, he dignifies with the name of " measures" the 
several articles of the clergyman's dress, the chorister's pitch-pipe, 
and various other like things. As "building houses for worship" 
is a " measure," it must, according to his theory, soon cease 
to produce its effect; and the gospel cannot gain attention then 
unless we " try something new," such for instance as preach- 
ing in tents instead of our present church edifices. In the revolv- 
ing cycle of these " measures," too, the time will come when the 
cocked hat, small clothes, and wig, must be restored to their former 
honours, or the truth cannot make any impression upon the minds 
of men. Will Mr. Finney calculate the length of this cycle, that 
the public may know when they will be favoured with the oppor- 
tunity for observing the impulse which will be given to the spread 
of the truth by the return of these ancient observances ? Admit- 
ting the truth of Mr. Finney's favourite maxim that " obligation 
and ability are commensurate," he cannot perhaps be considered 
bound to write with anything like logical precision or consistency. 
But we have a right to expect honesty. We are entitled to de- 
mand that he shall not use terms in one sense, when seeking to 
relieve his system from odium, and then artfully change the mean- 
ing to subserve his purpose. This he has evidently done in the 
passage above quoted. Let us assign, however, to the term 
" measures," in this extract, the signification which it was intended 
here to bear, and yet how revolting is the doctrine taught ! Ac- 
cording to this theory, the gospel, which its divine author left 


complete in all its parts and proportions, and most admirably 
adapted to secure its destined ends, must utterly fail of its effect 
unless there be added to it a set of machinery of man's invention. 
A great, if not the chief part of ministerial wisdom is made to con- 
sist " in devising and carrying forward measures " for exciting 
public attention. The very perfection of Christian wisdom, the 
height of religious prosperity, are to be sought in that state of 
things in which " we shall never want for something that is new." 
How is the temple of God dishonoured by this alleged necessity 
for a continual shifting of its services, like the scenes of some 
raree-show, to attract the vulgar gaze ! How is the Gospel de- 
graded by being thus made dependent for its effect upon a kind of 
jugglery which shall be studiously adapted to surprise and startle 
beholders, and thus " attract their attention !" It is the' very 
nature of truth to be severely simple ; and in this simplicity she 
delights to go forth to win her victories. She leaves to error the 
use of stratagem and guile. 

The quotation we have made is not a solitary passage in which 
the writer, in an unguarded moment, has claimed for his new 
measures a degree of importance, which, in his more sober moods, 
he would rather disavow. Deliberately and often does he assert 
the unqualified necessity of these new measures, to the success of 
the Gospel. " Without new measures," he says, " it is impossible 
that the church should succeed in gaining the attention of the 
world to the subject of religion." And again, " But new measures, 
we must have." It will be seen in the sequel, that this is only one 
illustration of Mr. Finney's disposition to claim infallibility and 
supreme importance for all his own opinions, even when the 
smallest matters are in question. His argument, in the paragraph 
from which the sentences last quoted are taken, may certainly 
claim the merit of originality. " There are so many exciting sub- 
jects constantly brought before the public mind, such a running to 
and fro, so many that cry ' Lo here,' and ' Lo there,' that the 
church cannot maintain her ground, cannot command attention, 
without very exciting preaching, and sufficient novelty in measures 
to get the public ear." . He then proceeds to explain what these 
" exciting subjects" are, which call upon the church to institute 
specific measures for producing a counteracting excitement. 
They are such as " the measures of politicians, of infidels and 
heretics, the scrambling after wealth, the increase of luxury," &c. 
It should seem, then, that the church must vary the method of 
celebrating divine worship, and modify all the arrangements for 
presenting religious truth to the minds of men, according to the 
dainties of their tables and the elegance of their furniture and 
equipage, the degree of commercial enterprise among them, or the 
extent of infidel machinations, the number of railroads and canals 
in progress, and of Presidential candidates in the field. The mea- 
sures we must use are some determinate function of all these vari- 
able quantities ; and its form should be, in each case, most care- 


fully calculated. Every change in the state of speculation, trade, 
or politics, must call for such a change of measures as will be "cal- 
culated to get the attention of men to the gospel of Christ," under 
these new circumstances. Religion must descend from her vantage 
ground, and on the level with all this world's concerns and by 
kindred arts, must she bustle, contrive, and intrigue " to get the 
public ear." To make use of one of Mr. Finney's own illustrations, 
because " the politicians get up meetings, circulate handbills and 
pamphlets, blaze away in the newspapers, send their ships about the 
streets on wheels with flags and sailors, send coaches all over town 
with handbills to bring people up to the polls, all to gain attention to 
their cause and elect their candidate," the church is bound to imitate 
their wisdom, and institute a similar system of manoeuvres. Where 
then is the contrast which Paul so often draws between the wea- 
pons of our warfare, and those with which the world contends ? 
How widely do these ad captandum measures differ from the direct, 
single-hearted course of the apostles ! They evidently relied upon 
the truth, as the only instrument they could lawfully employ in the 
accomplishment of their errand. Their miracles were not intended, 
like the glaring show-bill of some exhibition, to attract the atten- 
tion of the public ; their object was to convince, not to amaze the 
people. They felt that they were the heralds of God, commis- 
sioned to bear a weighty message to the children of men ; and 
while to their miracles they appealed for the proof of their com- 
mission, upon the intrinsic overwhelming importance of their mes- 
sage they founded their claim to the public attention. If we may 
credit their own statements, they " renounced the hidden things of 
dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God 
deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commending them- 
selves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." They seem 
to have had no idea that they must set in operation some prelimi- 
nary mechanism to awaken the attention of conscience to the truth. 
If this complicated and ever-shifting system of " exciting mea- 
sures" is necessary to the success of the Gospel, why do we find 
no trace of it in their practice, and not a syllable of it in their writ- 
ings ? If, as Mr. F. says, " new measures jare necessary from time 
to time to awaken attention, and bring the Gospel to bear upon 
the public mind," why has it been left for him to reveal to us these 
necessary means for the propagation of the Gospel ? 

Mr. Finney refers distinctly to the character of the present age 
as furnishing a special argument for the use of new measures in 
religion, and as determining the kind of measures to be employed. 
The substance of his argument is, that this is an age of great excite- 
ment, and therefore the same kind of preaching and of measures, 
which did very well in the days of our fathers, will not answer 
now ; we must have something more exciting, or religion cannot 
obtain a hearing. From the same premises, we should arrive at a 
very different conclusion. This is, indeed, an age of extraordinary 
excitement. The great improvements in the mechanic arts, and 


the wide diffusion of knowledge, have given a strong impulse to the 
popular mind ; and everywhere the social mass is seen to be in 
such a state of agitation, that the lightest breath may make it heave 
and foam. This being the case, should religion fall in with this 
excitement, and institute measures for fostering it up to a certain 
point, that she may gain a favourable moment for presenting her 
claims 1 We had thought that one great object of religion was to 
allay this undue excitement of the human mind ; to check its fever- 
ish outgoings towards earthly objects, and to teach it without 
hurry or distraction, in self-collectedness, to put forth its energies 
in a proper direction, and to their best advantage. This self- 
possession being included in the final result at which religion aims, 
can it be wise to commence the attempt to produce it, by exaspe- 
rating the contrary state of mind ? Paul was once placed among 
a people who were proverbial for their excitability. Their feelings 
would kindle and flame with the lightest spark, and, like all persons 
of this mercurial temperament, they delighted in excitement, and 
were continually seeking its procuring causes. " For all the Athe- 
nians and strangers which were there, spent their time in nothing 
else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing." Here, then, 
according to Mr. Finney's theory, was the very people upon whom 
it would be necessary to play off some preparatory measures to 
excite them, and gain their attention to the Word. But the apostle 
appears to have felt that nothing was necessary beyond the simple 
declaration of the Word. He looked upon the truth, declared by 
his lips, and prospered in its course by the energy of the Holy 
Spirit, as amply sufficient to secure the needful attention, and 
accomplish the purpose whereunto it was sent. Nay, so desirous 
was he to prevent the surprise of novelty, that he represents him- 
self as aiming, by the truth which he exhibits, merely to supply a 
chasm in their knowledge which they had themselves discovered. 
He presents Jehovah to them as the God of an altar already exist- 
ing, and declared to them Him, whom they had ignorantly wor- 
shipped. Nor did this apostle ever vary his course to suit the 
latitude of the place he was in, or the temperament of the people 
around him. Among the pains-taking and thrifty Jews ; the learn- 
ed and witty Athenians; the dissolute Corinthians; the more 
phlegmatic and martial Romans, he employed but one measure, the 
declaration of the truth. Will it be said that, in his day, the Gos- 
pel was so novel, its truths so surprising, that the necessity for 
other measures was superseded, but that now, when men have 
become familiar with the revelations of the Gospel, something else 
than the " thrice-told tale" must be employed to awaken public 
attention ? And is it conceivable, then, that the Great Head of the 
Church, foreseeing that the time would come when the preaching 
of the Gospel would lose its effect, and other means become neces- 
sary for its propagation, should leave human reason to grope in 
the dark for these additional measures ? Such imperfection does, 
indeed, often mark the ways and proceedings of man, but may not 


be attributed unto Him, " whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, 
nor his ways as our ways." 

We have assumed, thus far, that the new measures cannot be 
defended under the pretext, that they are only a particular mode of 
preaching the Gospel, or of exhibiting the truth, and are therefore 
virtually comprised in the appointed means for the promotion of 
religion. The measures for which Mr. Finney pleads are something 
distinct from the truth, aside from it, and intended to exert a sepa- 
rate influence. He plainly presents them as the precursors of the 
Gospel, to prepare the way for its coming. It is surely incumbent 
on him, therefore, to explain why the Scriptures make no allusion 
to these indispensable appendages, or rather prefixes, of the 

Pressed with this difficulty, and unable to work a miracle in 
confirmation of his right to supply the deficiencies of the revela- 
tion already made, will he yield the position that these new mea- 
sures are necessary, and content himself with maintaining, that as 
they tend to favour the impression of the truth, and it is our duty 
to preach the truth in its most efficient form, it is both expedient 
and right to make use of them ? Upon this ground some of Mr. 
Finney's fellow labourers have rested their cause, and have con- 
structed for it a much better defence than he has made. The 
principle is here assumed, that it is the right and the duty of every 
man to make use of any measures for promoting religion that seem 
to him well adapted to co-operate with the truth and aid in its 
work ; and this principle is, within certain limits, both just and 
safe, but when pressed beyond them it is false and dangerous. If 
there be no restraint upon the application of this principle, then 
are the means for the diffusion of Christianity left, as before, at the 
mercy of human discretion. Each minister should, in this case, be 
keen as a Metternich in foreseeing the final effect of the machi- 
nery he puts in operation ; and the most eagle-eyed would often 
find themselves mistaken. Hence experiment after experiment 
must be made to try the efficacy of different measures ; and the 
house of God becomes transformed into a kind of religious labora- 
tory. Upon this same principle the Roman Catholic church has 
introduced the worship of images and pictures, and overlaid the 
simplicity of the Gospel with the tinsel and glare of her pompous 
ritual. She has cast upon religion such a profusion of ornaments 
wherewith to deck herself, that she has expired beneath the bur- 
den. The measures of the Catholic church, though adopted with 
the honest design of favouring the operation of the truth, are rea- 
dily condemned by all Protestants. We might imagine, too, many 
other measures which would temporarily assist the impression of 
the truth, and which would yet meet with universal condemnation. 
It was Domitian, we believe, who invited some of his senators, on 
a certain occasion, to sup with him, and when they arrived at his 
palace, they were ushered into a room hung with black, and against 
the walls of which were placed coffins, each one, by the dim, blue 


light of a sulphur lamp placed within it, showing the name of one 
of the horror-stricken guests. At a signal from the emperor, execu- 
tioners rushed into the room, each with a drawn sword in his hand. 
There can be no doubt, that a homily on death, delivered just then, 
would have produced a wonderful effect upon the audience. But 
would any one recommend such measures for giving effect to the 
truth of man's mortality ? Or would any one, save the preacher 
and the trumpeter who are said to have actually tried the trick, 
approve of stationing a man in the belfry of the church to give 
emphasis, by a blast from his horn, to the preacher's account of 
the blowing of the archangel's trump ? Phosphoric paintings 
might be drawn upon the walls of the church, which being ren- 
dered suddenly visible by the extinguishment of the lights, at the 
proper point in the preacher's discourse, would most powerfully 
aid the impression of the truth he was delivering. A thousand 
devices equally effective, and equally objectionable, might be 
invented by the exercise of a little ingenuity. Where then shall 
we draw the line between what is right and what is wrong ? If 
compelled to run this boundary line, we should make it divide 
between those measures which might be considered vehicles 
of the truth, or intended simply to provide for the exhibition 
of the truth, and those which are designed of themselves to 
produce an effect. There are various methods in which the 
truth may be presented, such as from the pulpit, in Bible 
classes, or Sunday-schools, and in private conversation. Of 
all such measures, if measures they must be called, those are best 
which are best adapted to make the truth effective. Means must 
also be provided for the proper exhibition of truth, such as build- 
ing convenient houses for public worship, collecting children in 
Sunday-schools, visiting from house to house, forming Bible and 
other benevolent societies. To this class may be referred also pro- 
tracted meetings and inquiry meetings. The design of these 
meetings is simply to collect the people together that they may 
hear such truths as are deemed suitable to their state of mind. It 
was never intended that the mere institution of such a meeting, or 
the act of going to attend upon it, should produce any religious 
effect. Such arrangements as these may undoubtedly be made if 
they are fitted to favour the operation of the truth. And this limi- 
tation will be found to include the condition that the measures 
themselves, the bare mechanism of the arrangements for the pre- 
sentation of the truth, instead of being constructed with the design 
and the tendency to surprise and captivate the attention, should be 
so ordered as to attract no notice. The perfection of pulpit elo- 
quence is when the manner of the preacher attracts no attention, 
and the truth is left to work its unimpeded effect, upon the hearer ; 
and so those are the best measures which themselves pass unre- 
garded, and suffer the mind to be entirely occupied with the truth. 
The measures which are peculiar to Mr. Finney and his followers 
are of a very different class. The anxious seat, for instance, is 


intended to produce an effect of its own. Its object is not simply 
to collect in one place those who are in a particular state of mind, 
that they may be suitably instructed and advised. No, there is 
supposed to be some wonder-working power in the person's rising 
before the congregation and taking the assigned place. This mea- 
sure then, and all that resemble it in its tendency to occupy and. 
excite the mind, we should condemn on scriptural grounds as inex- 
pedient and unauthorized. 

The distinction we have here made we think is just and impor- 
tant : and we could urge many reasons why it should be taken as 
the dividing line between right and wrong measures for promoting 
religion. But this position might be contested by some, and we 
are anxious here to reason from premises universally conceded. 
There are many cases where right and wrong run into each other, 
and the bounding line between them, like that between neighbour- 
ing states, is involved in dispute and doubt. We will grant there- 
fore, to save all cavil, the universal truth of the principle that it is 
right to make use of any measures in our efforts to promote religion 
that are adapted to aid the truth in its operation upon the minds of 
men. Here then we are called upon to examine the tendency of 
the particular measures proposed and insisted upon by Mr. Finney ; 
and when he shall have worn out these, and, in accordance with 
his Athenian notion that we must continually find something new, 
introduced others, we shall be under the necessity of testing them 
in like manner. 

For reasons already given we shall throw out of consideration 
inquiry meetings and protracted meetings. We shall first consider 
what Mr. F. calls the anxious seat. His formal definition of this 
measure is, " the appointment of some particular seat in the place 
of meeting, where the anxious may come and be addressed parti- 
cularly, and be made subjects of prayer and sometimes conversed 
with individually." Let this definition be well marked. It points 
out with sufficient distinctness the nature and design of this mea- 
sure. What then will be the surprise of the reader to learn, that 
on the same page he implicitly admits that the real design is totally 
different from the avowed one! In defending this measure from 
objection, he says, "the design of the anxious seat is undoubtedly 
philosophical and according to the laws of mind : — it has two bear- 
ings." These two bearings are, that "it gets the individual (who 
is seriously troubled in mind), willing to have the fact known to 
others ;" and secondly, " it uncovers the delusion of the human heart 
and prevents a great many spurious conversions, by showing those 
who might otherwise imagine themselves willing to do anything 
for Christ that in fact they are willing to do nothing." In defend- 
ing this measure, who would not have supposed that his arguments 
would have been drawn from the importance of having those who 
were troubled in mind collected together that they might " be ad- 
dressed particularly," &c. ? But there is not one word of his defence 
that has the remotest connexion with the avowed object of this mea- 


sure. He was evidently thrown off his guard ; and the plainness 
with which he thus incautiously reveals the true in distinction from 
the professed design is only a new instance to illustrate the diffi- 
culty of maintaining a consistent system of deception. We have 
understood from the beginning the guileful character of this measure, 
and it has constituted in our minds a strong objection against it ; 
but we had not expected to find so distinct an acknowledgment of 
it in Mr. Finney's defence. Can any measures, thus marked by 
insidiousness, be lawfully employed in the promotion of religion ? 
How careful is the Apostle Paul to inform us that he did " not 
walk in craftiness;" and when some of his enemies at Corinth 
charged him with having " caught them with guile," how prompt- 
ly did he repel the odious accusation ! We are told too that in 
the Saviour's lips, " there was found no guile ;" but that his ene- 
mies used crafty measures to ensnare him. Christian wisdom be- 
comes worldly cunning the moment that it ceases to be united with 
the artlessness and simplicity of the dove. But we need not 
multiply arguments to prove that deception can never be lawfully 
employed in the support and furtherance of the truth. The only 
difficulty heretofore has been to substantiate the charge of guile 
against the new measures, and Mr. Finney has saved us all further 
trouble on this score. 

Deception may seem, for a time, to aid the progress of truth, but 
its ultimate effects must always be injurious. In the case now un- 
der examination, it is easy to foresee the evil. Many will doubt- 
less go to the anxious seat, and finding that no counsels or prayers 
are offered on their behalf, which might not have been delivered 
with as much propriety and effect while they occupied their 
former seats, will perceive that the apparent and professed de- 
sign of this measure was intended merely as a lure to draw them 
within the sphere of its real operation. They will feel that they 
have been deceived, and there is nothing which the mind more in- 
stinctively and quickly resents than the least approach to fraud or 
imposition upon itself — nothing which more surely awakens its un- 
friendly and hostile feelings. A still larger class will see at once 
the deception of this measure, and will turn away in disgust from 
a cause which calls in the aid of such fantastic trickery — a disgust 
which we should not hesitate to pronounce reasonable, if the con- 
duct which excites it were lawful and righi. The best cause 
imaginable, on trial before a jury, would be prejudiced and probably 
lost, by any appearance of fraud in the matter or management of 
it. What impression then must be made respecting religion, when 
her friends employ such measures, and represent them as essential 
to the success of the Gospel ! What multitudes will conclude, and 
conclude justly, if the sayings and doings of these reformers are 
true and right, that the cause itself thus supported, must be a bad 
one ! The character of religion is known to the world chiefly 
from the conduct of its professed friends ; and they cannot be too 
careful, therefore, to pursue such an open and honest course, as 


will plainly show, that, in the strong consciousness of the merits of 
their cause, they reject with disdain the tortuous policy and in- 
triguing arts of worldly men. 

The substance of Mr. Finney's first argument in defence of the 
anxious seat is comprised in the following extract. " When a 
person is seriously troubled in mind, everybody knows that there 
is a powerful tendency to try to keep it private that he is so, and 
it is a great thing to get the individual willing to have the fact 
known to others. And as soon as you can get him willing to make 
known his feelings you have accomplished a great deal." The 
anxious seat he supposes will produce this willingness, will " get 
him to break away from the chains of pride," and thus " gain an 
important point towards his conversion." It is true that there is 
often found the tendency, here spoken of, to conceal the state of 
the feelings from public observation. But this is not always the 
effect of pride. However strange and inconceivable it may be to 
Mr. Finney, there can be no doubt that there is such a thing as a 
diffidence, which has its origin in modesty rather than pride. 
There are those, and they form perhaps a much larger class than 
he supposes, whose minds shrink from everything like a parade, 
or public display of feeling. Every refined mind possesses more 
or less of this retiring delicacy. Its tenderest, most cherished 
feelings are those which are least exposed save to the objects of 
them ; it feels indeed, that its affections would be profaned by being 
laid open to the stare of vulgar curiosity. It is easy to see how 
such a mind will be affected by the anxious seat. In proportion 
ordinarily to the intenseness of the feelings awakened within a man of 
this mood, will be his aversion to make the public exhibition of them, 
which is demanded. He knows that there is, in every community, a 
circle of religious gossips, who are always found among the earliest 
and warmest patrons of the anxious seat, and who attend continu- 
ally upon it, to satisfy their prurient curiosity, and gather materials 
for conversation from the disclosures there made of the feelings of 
their neighbours. And he cannot bear the thought that his most pri- 
vate and sacred emotions should be thus idly bruited about. After 
a severe struggle of mind, he will decide not to go to the anxious 
seat, and, as he has been taught to consider this step necessary to 
his conversion, there is much reason to fear that his decision not to 
take it will put an end to his seriousness. The spark, which, pro- 
perly fostered, might have been kindled into a bright and ever-dur- 
ing rlame, is thus quenched by a kind of rude and harsh dealing for 
which the word of God affords no warrant. There are others, in 
whom the unwillingness to make known their religious concern 
proceeds from the dread of ridicule. This dread has a place in 
most minds, and with some men it constitutes one of the strongest 
feelings of their nature. There are many young men who could 
better brave almost any danger than endure the laugh or face the 
sneer of their thoughtless companions. The religious anxiety of 
such must become deep and strong, before it will drive them to 


break through the restraints which this fear imposes upon them. 
Can it be deemed wise or sale then to expose them unnecessarily to 
so severe a trial as the anxious seat ? This trial may in some cases 
effect, so far as this is concerned, the desired result, but there is a 
dreadful risk incurred of repelling some, upon whom the truth had 
taken hold, to their former state of thoughtless unconcern. And 
what is the counterbalancing advantage to warrant this risk? 
Why, the anxious seat, argues Mr. Finney, " gets the individual, 
who is seriously troubled in mind, willing to have the fact known 
to others ; and as soon as you can get him willing to make known 
his feelings, you have accomplished a great deal." The true state 
of the question is here very artfully concealed from view. The 
real operation of the anxious seat is not to make the individual 
upon whom it takes effect, willing to have his feelings known to 
" others ;" it is to make him willing to display them before the 
whole congregation. And this is so far from being " an important 
point gained towards his conversion," that it should be deprecated 
as fraught with almost certain evil. It is important that some one 
or more should be made acquainted with his state of mind, that he 
may receive the instructions adapted to his case; but it is highly 
undesirable that the whole community should know it, lest the 
thought that he is the object of general observation and remark 
should turn away his mind from the contemplation of the truth, and 
call up an antagonist influence, which shall prevail over that which 
had begun to work within him. The risk, then, which is involved 
in the use of this measure, is incurred for the attainment of an end, 
which is of itself a positive and serious disadvantage. 

In this connexion, too, we would remark, that the tendency of 
the anxious seat, and of the whole system of public pledging, vot- 
ing, &c, or, as Mr. Finney calls it in his Saxon English, " of speak- 
ing right out in the meeting," is to obstruct the operation of the truth. 
They distract the mind and divert it from the truth, by producing 
a distinct and separate excitement. Suppose an individual, listen- 
ing to the message of God, feels the truth manifested to his con- 
science. As the preacher proceeds, the truth takes deeper hold 
upon him, I he penitential tear starts from his eye, and he resolves 
that he will begin to seek the Lord. When the sermon is closed, 
his heart still meditates upon the truth he has heard, and h.s feel- 
ing of anxious concern becomes each moment more intense. But 
now comes the call to the anxious seat. He hears himself exhorted in 
the most impassioned manner, to exchange the seat he now occupies 
for another designated one ; and the vehemence with which this 
measure is urged upon him, and the motives and illustrations em- 
ployed to enforce it, seem to imply that the salvation of his soul 
depends upon his taking this step. Here is a new subject present- 
ed to his mind, and one of a very agitating nature. The divine truth, 
which was but now occupying his mind, is forced away, while he 
revolves the questions, Shall I go or not? Who else will go? 
What will they say of me ? The excitement thus produced, oblite- 


rates the impressions which the truth had made, and, but for the 
consideration we are now about to present, it would then be a 
matter of small moment whether he went to the anxious seat 
or not. 

The consideration just alluded to, is the tendency of the anxious 
seat to form and cherish delusive hopes. Mr. Finney has, in- 
deed, assigned as his second argument, and the only additional one 
to that already examined, in favour of this measure, that its 
bearing is " to detect deception and delusion, and thus prevent 
false hopes." This argument would have astonished us beyond 
measure, had we not ceased to be startled by anything which 
Mr. Finney can say or do. He has worn out all our suscepti- 
bilities of this kind, and no measures from him, in argument or 
action, however new, could now surprise us. This case is but one 
out of several similar ones, in which Mr. F. resorts to the forlorn 
hope of reversing what he knows and feels to be the most formi- 
dable objections' against him, and changing them into argu- 
ments in his favour. As might have been anticipated in every at- 
tempt of this kind, he has utterly failed. He supposes that the 
anxious seat operates as a test of character. " Preach," he says 
" to him (the awakened sinner) and at the moment he thinks he is 

willing to do anything, but bring him to the test, call on him to 

do one thing, to take one step, that shall identify him with the peo- 
ple of God, or cross his pride — his pride comes up, and he refuses ; 
his delusion is brought out, and he finds himself a lost sinner still ; 
whereas, if you had not done it he might have gone away flatter- 
ing himself that he was a Christian." This argument involves the 
capital error that no sinner who is truly awakened can refrain from 
obeying the call to the anxious seat. It assumes that to go to 
the anxious seat is " to do something for Christ," and that it is im- 
possible for him who refuses to go, to be a Christian. It supposes 
that these things are true, and that every awakened sinner is igno- 
rant or undiscerning enough to believe them true. Some test of 
this kind, he says, the church has always found it necessary to 
have. " In the days of the Apostles, baptism answered this pur- 
pose. It held the precise place that the anxious seat does now, as 
a public manifestation of their (the people's) determination to be 
Christians." So it appears that baptism, like all other measures, 
wears itself out, and must be replaced by something new. Will 
Mr. Finney inform the church how long we must wait before this 
measure will be again fitted to accomplish the purpose for which 
the Saviour intended it 1 Though he supposes that the anxious 
seat occupies " the precise place" that baptism did, we can by no 
means consent to receive it as an equivalent. Baptism was, 
indeed, a test of character, since obedience or disobedience was 
exercised in view of a divine command ; but the anxious seat cannot 
operate thus, except by arrogating to itself a similar authority. 
We trust that this may be deemed a sufficient answer to Mr. F.'s 
argument for the anxious seat as a test of character. 


The tendency of this measure to foster delusion and create false 
hopes is very evident. There are some persons who are fond of 
notoriety, and ever ready to thrust themselves forward on any 
occasion, or in any manner which will attract to them the notice 
of others. To such the anxious seat holds out a powerful tempta- 
tion. This measure, if used at all, must be used without discrimi- 
nation. It applies the same treatment to all, and does not permit 
us, according to the apostolic direction, to make a difference, " hav- 
ing compassion on some," "and pulling others out of the fire." 
While it unduly discourages, and in many cases overwhelms with 
despair, the timid and diffident, it invites forward the noisy and 
bustling, who need to be repressed. Others again will go to the 
anxious scat, who are not properly awakened, upon whom, indeed, 
the truth has produced no effect ; but they go because they have 
been persuaded that to do so is •' to do something for Christ," and 
that it will be " an important point gained towards their conver- 
sion." Mr. Finney agrees with us in supposing that such public 
manifestations will often be made by persons who have not the feel- 
ings indicated ; for however irrational a man's theories may be, he 
cannot refrain, sometimes, out of connexion with them, from talking 
common sense. On one occasion, when he is out of his controver- 
sial attitude, he says to his congregation, " perhaps if I should put 
it to you now, you would all rise up and vote that you were agreed 
in desiring a revival, and agreed to have it now ;" and he then goes 
on to prove to them, that nevertheless they are not agreed. Doubt- 
less it would be so, and in like manner will many go to the anxious 
seat, who are not " anxious." And the great majority of all who 
go will go under the influence of erroneous impressions and wrong 
excitement. Whatever may be the theory of the anxious seat, in 
practice it is not used for the purpose of making visible and thus 
rendering permanent the impressions made by the truth, nor is such 
its effect. This is most fully disclosed by Mr. Finney. Those 
who have been affected by the truth, and who obey the summons 
to the anxious seat, will not go with the view of making known 
their state of mind to their spiritual adviser. They will ordinarily 
make this ' pilgrimage to Mecca,' because they have been deceived 
into the belief that it is a necessary step towards their salvation ; 
and that they are rendering to Christ an acceptable service by thus 
attending upon an institution which is as good as baptism, or per- 
haps a little better. The excitement which draws persons of these 
different classes to the anxious seats, not being produced by the 
truth, and yet partaking of a religious character, must tend 
to conduct the mind to error and delusion. Some, no doubt, 
who, in the heat of the moment, have taken this step before 
so many witnesses, will feel that they are committed, and 
rather than be talked of as apostates through the whole congre- 
gation, they will be induced to counterf it a change which they 
have not experienced. We have not been surprised, therefore, 
to learn, what is an unquestionable fact, that where this measure 


has been most used, many hypocrites have been introduced into 
the church — men professing godliness, but living in the practice 
of secret wickedness. And a still greater number, through the 
operation of the same influence, have been led to cherish false 
hopes. In the mind of an individual who has gone to the anxious 
seat, an important place will be filled by the desire to come out 
well in the estimation of the multitude who have looked upon this 
declaration of his seriousness; and, already too much disposed to 
judge favourably of himself, he will be thus still more inclined to 
rest satisfied with insufficient evidences of a gracious change. 
Every extraneous influence of this kind, which is brought to bear 
upon a mind engaged in the delicate business of forming an esti- 
mate of itself, must tend to mislead and delude it. 

The anxious seat, no matter how judiciously managed, is liable 
to the objection here advanced. It excites the mind and thus 
urges it forward, at the same time that it thrusts aside the truth, 
the attractive power of which is alone sufficient to draw it into its 
proper orbit. But the intrinsic tendency of this measure to lead 
the mind astray is very greatly enhanced by the manner in which 
it is conducted by Mr. Finney and his imitators. The ordinary 
course of proceeding with those who come forward to occupy the 
anxious seat is on this wise. They are exhorted to submit to God 
during the course of the prayer which the preacher is about to 
offer. They are told that this is a work which they can perform 
of themselves. They have only to summon up all their energies, 
and put forth one Herculean determination of will, and the work 
is done. A strong pull, as in the case of a dislocated limb, will 
jerk the heart straight, and all will be well. At the conclusion of 
the prayer, they are called upon to testify whether they have sub- 
mitted. All who make this profession, without any further exami- 
nation, are at once numbered and announced as converts. Some- 
times a room, or some separate place, is provided to which they 
are directed to repair. Those who remain are upbraided for their 
rebellion, and again urged to energize the submitting volition dur- 
ing another prayer. And this process is continued as long as there 
is a prospect of its yielding any fruit. Does it need any argument 
or illustration to show, that the anxious seat, thus managed, must 
be a very hot-bed of delusion?- The duty here urged upon the 
sinner is not, as we have shown in our former article, the duty 
which the Bible urges. We are at no loss to understand why Mr. 
Finney presents the sinner's duty in this form. Submission seems 
to be more comprised than some other duties within a single men- 
tal act, and more capable of instant performance. Were the 
sinner directed to repent, it might seem to imply that he should 
take some little time to think of his sins, and of the Being whom 
he has offended ; or if told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, 
he might be led to suppose that he could not exercise this faith 
until he had called up before his mind the considerations proper to 
show him his lost condition, and the suitableness of the offered 


Saviour. Repentance and faith, therefore, will not so well answer 
his purpose. But with submission, he can move the sinner to the 
instant performance of the duty involved, or, as he says in his 
Saxon way, can " break him down," "break him down on the 
spot," " melt him right down clear to the ground, so that he can 
neither stand nor go." In the mental darkness, consequent upon 
this unscriptural exhibition of his duty, and while flurried and be- 
wildered by the excitement of the scene, the sinner is to perform 
the double duty of submitting, and of deciding that he has submitted. 
Who can doubt that, under these circumstances, multitudes have 
been led to put forth a men'al act, and say to themselves, "There, 
it is done," and then hold up the hand to tell the preacher they 
have submitted, while their hearts remain as before, except, indeed, 
that now the mists of religious delusion are gathering over them? 
Had this system been designed to lead the sinner, in some plausi- 
ble way, to self-deception, in what important respect could it have 
been better adapted than it now is to this purpose? 

The test-question propounded to the occupant of the anxious 
seat is not always made as definite as we have represented. 
Sometimes it is proposed in as loose and vague a form as this: 
" Would you not be willing to vote that God should be the Supreme 
Ruler?" and an affirmative answer to this question has been 
deemed and proclaimed adequate evidence of submission, and the 
assenting individual filed off among the "new converts." So 
unbecoming and foreign from the true nature of religion have 
been the attempts often made by these preachers to produce an 
excitement ; so indecent the anxiety manifested to force upon the 
anxious sinner some expression or sign which might authorize them 
to make use of his name to swell their list of converts, that we 
can liken it only to the manner in which the recruiting serjeant, by 
the display of drum and fife and banner, and if this will not an- 
swer, by the intoxication of his dupe, persuades him to accept a 
piece of the king's money, and thus binds him to the service and 
increases his own reward. The chief difference is, that the enlist- 
ed soldier soon perceives that he has been caught with guile, and 
bitterly deplores the consequences of his delusion, but the deceived 
sinner will, in many instances, remain deceived until he learns his 
mistake at the bar of his Judge. 

Lest the proclamation, upon the most slight and insufficient 
grounds, that the anxious sinner is a convert, should not act with 
sufficient power upon his sense of character to make him counter- 
feit a Christian deportment, or deceive himself into the belief that 
he is a true disciple of Christ, there is provided an additional new 
measure, the immediate admission to t/ie Lord's Supper of all who 
profess themselves converts. It will be at once seen how this mea- 
sure plays into the rest of the system, and assists the operation of 
the whole. Mr. Finney, to perfect his system, has but to take one 
further step, and maintain that no church has the right to discipline 
any of its members who have been thrown in by the operation of 



the new measures. This is evidently wanting to complete his plan, 
which ought to provide some method for retaining his converts in 
the church, as well as for their easy introduction into it. And 
why should he hesitate to make this small addition ? It is surely 
more defensible than many other parts of his system. We should 
not be surprised to find a denial that the "set of old, stiff, dry, cold 
elders," that have crept into our churches, have any authority to 
discipline his converts, figuring at large in the neat pattern-card 
which he issues, of the newest fashion in measures. Mr. Finney 
endeavours to show that it is the duty of the young convert to 
apply immediately for admission to the Church, and the duty of the 
church to yield to this application. In Chatham-street Chapel, it 
seems, their practice is to propound applicants for a whole month, 
but the reason of this long delay is, that in a city many strangers 
will apply, and it is necessary for the session to have opportunity 
to inquire respecting them. In the country, however, the church 
will " sin and grieve the Holy Spirit," by debarring from the com- 
munion any who apply, " if they are sufficiently instructed on the 
subject of religion to know what they are doing, and if their gene- 
ral character is such that they can be trusted as to their sincerity 
and honesty in making a profession." " Great evil," he says, " has 
been done by this practice of keeping persons out of the church a 
long time to see if they were Christians." No doubt great evil 
has been done to the credit of his system, wherever the converts 
made by it have been thus tried, but this is the only evil that we 
have ever known to result from the practice. Under the ordinary 
ministrations of the Gospel there is much that springs up having 
the semblance of piety, but without root, so that it soon withers 
away. And it cannot be doubted that much more than the usual 
number of these fair-looking but rootless plants will start up in 
Mr. Finney's forcing-bed. Surely, then, the voice of wisdom and 
of duty calls upon the church to wait until the blossom, if not the 
fruit, shall have appeared. When the seeming but deceived con- 
vert has been once admitted within the pale of the church, the 
motives and means of continued self-deception are so greatly mul- 
tiplied, as to leave but little ground for hope that he will ever be 
awakened from his false security until the dawning light of another 
world breaks in upon him. Tbe church also owes a duty to her- 
self in this matter. The addition of unworthy members to her 
communion, by rendering frequent acts of discipline necessary, 
will expose her to distraction within, and to scandal without. But 
these weighty considerations, plainly involving the eternal welfare 
of individuals and the true prosperity of the church, must all give 
way to provide for the effectual working of Mr. Finney's sys- 
tem. Better that the church should be filled with the hypocriti- 
cal and the deluded, than that the new measures should lose their 

Many of Mr. F.'s opinions tend to this same point, to provide 
for smuggling his converts into the church, before they themselves, 


or the session to whom they apply, can have had full opportunity 
to judge whether they have undergone a change of heart. " There 
is no need," says he, " of young converts having or expressing 
doubts as to their conversion. There is no more need of a person's 
doubting whether he is now in favour of God's government, than 
there is for a man to doubt whether he is in favour of one 
government or another. It is, in fact, on the face of it, absurd 
for a person to talk of doubting on such a point, if he is intelligent 
and understands what he is talking about." Though it might 
perplex a man of plain understanding to conceive how such 
instruction as this could be reconciled with the scriptural account 
of the deceitfulness of man's heart, yet its meaning and drift are 
perfectly intelligible. Its tendency, and it would hardly be 
uncharitable to say, its design, is to form a bold, swaggering, Peter- 
like confidence, which may preserve the fresh convert from mis- 
givings of mind during the brief interval of a few hours, or at most 
days, which must elapse between his professed submission and his 
reception into the church. The next thing is to impress him with 
the belief that it is his duty to apply at once for admission to the 
Lord's Supper, and this is most fully done. He is told that if he 
waits, " he will probably go halting and stumbling along through 
life." No, there must be no waiting — drive on, or the tempestuous 
gust will die away. Then the church must be taught to throw 
open her doors, and this she is told to do under the pains and 
penalties of " grieving the Holy Spirit" if she refuse. Some 
examination, however, must be held, and the result of this might 
be to show that many of the applicants had been insufficiently or 
erroneously instructed in the plan of salvation. And see how 
beautifully Mr. Finney provides for this difficulty. " In examining 
young converts for admission to the church, their consciences 
should not be ensnared by examining them too extensively or 
minutely on doctrinal points." The meaning of the phrase, " too 
extensively or minutely," may be readily understood from the 
exposition we have given of Mr. Finney's theological system. 
The church session who should ask of one of these converts, what 
is the ground of your hope of salvation ? might receive for an 
answer, " My submission to God : — the world is divided into two 
great political parties, the one with Satan, the other with God at 
its head ; and I have energized a mighty volition, and resolved to 
join the latter and vote in the Lord Jesus Christ as governor of 
the universe." Suppose the examination to proceed a little further 
— Have you been led to see the depravity of your heart ? "I 
know nothing of a depraved heart. All I know on this subject is, 
that ever since Adam sinned, every person begins to sin when he 
becomes a moral agent." — But does not David say, I was shapen 
in sin 1 u Yes, but the substance of a conceived fetus cannot be 
sin, and David only meant that he sinned, when he sinned." Have 
you any reason to believe that your soul has been washed in the 
fountain set open for the remission of sin ? " I know nothing of 


any such operation. I have been taught that it is a great error 
introduced into the church by the accursed traditions of the elders, 
to speak as though in religion there occurred anything like the 
"washing off of some defilement." — Upon whom do you rely for 
strength in the conflict which is before you ? " Upon the might 
of my own arm." — Do you not pray to God to strengthen you and 
enable you to discharge your duties I " No, it would be an insult 
to God to pray thus, as though he had commanded me to do what 
I am not able to perform." — Do you believe that God is all-power- 
ful ? " Yes ; that is, I believe he can do some things, and others 
too, if his creatures will not oppose him." — Can he preserve and 
promote the prosperity of the church ? " Yes, by taking advan- 
tage of excitements." The session, somewhat dissatisfied, we may 
suppose, with this examination, resolve to question the candidate 
more closely on some of these points. But — Hold, hold, cries Mr. 
Finney, take care how you ensnare the conscience of this young 
convert by examining him too extensively or minutely on doctrinal 

The way is thus laid perfectly open for the entrance of his con- 
verts into the church. But how shall they be kept there ? There 
are two new measures proposed by him that might seem to aim at 
this end, but both of them inadequate. The first is, that they shall 
be kept in ignorance of the standards of the church they have 
entered. Young converts, he says, ought to be indoctrinated, but 
he avowedly excludes from the means of indoctrination, " teaching 
the catechism." This would answer if he could only keep in the 
first ones, until he had introduced a majority into every church 
who should know nothing of the catechism or confession of faith. 
The other measure proposed is, that his converts should not be 
made to " file in behind the old, stiff, dry, cold members and elders." 
No doubt, if they could be permitted to take the lead and manage 
all things in their own way, there would be no difficulty. But 
there is reason to apprehend, that age, combined with Christian 
experience and clothed with official pre-eminence, will still insist 
upon its right to direct the young and inexperienced. 

Nothing can be more evident than that these new measures are 
remarkably adapted to form and propagate a false religion. Indeed, 
we have little doubt that the whole system has originated in a total 
misconception of the true nature of religion. This charge* was, in 

* See a pamphlet, published in 1S2S, entitled " Letters of the Rev. Dr. Beecher 
and Rev. Mr. Nettleton on the New Measures in promoting Revivals of Religion." 
This pamphlet contains a masterly discussion of the subject Though it was written 
bsfore the new measures had as fully disclosed themselves as now, its allegations 
have been more than sustained, and all its prophecies of evil time has already con- 
verted into history. We fear that the continued press of new publications has crowd- 
ed this pamphlet out of sight. It deserves more than an ephemeral existence, and 
we shall be glad if this notice has, in any degree, the effect of calling attention to it. 
It has never been answered. Mr. Finney, we are told, makes it his rule never to 
reply to any attacks upon him, — it should have been added, save by bitter vitupera- 
tions from the pulpit A very convenient principle this. 


substance, alleged against Mr. Finney several years since, and sub- 
stantiated from the only production which he had then given to the 
public. It was fully made out, to the conviction, we imagine, of 
every candid mind that examined the evidences, but its only effect 
upon Mr. Finney, so far as we can perceive, has been to induce 
him to throw in an unintelligible paragraph upon the difference 
between emotion and principle. " One of the first things," he says, 
" young converts should be taught, is to distinguish between 

emotion and principle in religion By emotion I mean, that 

state of mind of which we are conscious, and which we call feeling, 
an involuntary state of mind that arises of course when we are in 
certain circumstances, or under certain influences. But these 
emotions should be carefully distinguished from religious principle. 
By principle. I do not mean any substance or root or seed or 
sprout implanted in the soul. But I mean the voluntary decision 
of the mind, the firm determination to act our duty and to obey 
the will of God, by which a Christian should always be governed." 
Does he intend here, by maintaining that our emotions are invo- 
luntary, to deny them any moral character ? Does he mean to 
tell us, that the emotion of complacency towards holiness is not an 
adequate or proper motive for the cultivation of holiness in our- 
selves ? Are all those actions which are prompted by our emo- 
tions divested of morality, or, if moral, are they sinful ? And, 
then, what a definition of a principle, as distinguished from an 
emotion ? A voluntary decision of mind ? A man decides to do 
some act because he thinks it right. His decision is a principle. 
He has stumbled into this arrant nonsense, over his dislike to mental 
dispositions. But we will not puzzle ourselves or our readers in 
the attempt further to analyse this mysterious paragraph. What- 
ever may be its meaning or design, it will not turn aside the charge 
that the general tendency of Mr. Finney's representations is to give 
an undue predominance to the imaginative emotions in religion. 
We are susceptible of two very different classes of emotion, — the 
one connected with the imagination, the other with the moral sense ; 
the one awakened by objects that are grand, terrible, &c, the 
other called into exercise by the perception of moral qualities. 
These two kinds of emotion produce widely different effects upon 
the animal frame. Let a predominant emotion of terror fill the 
mind and it will fever the blood, quicken the pulse, blanch the cheek, 
and agitate the whole frame. Each moment that the emotion 
becomes more intense, the bodily excitement increases, and it may 
be heightened until life is destroyed by it. But let the mind be 
occupied with disapprobation of moral evil, and in the in tensest 
degree of this emotion, how feeble in comparison is its effect upon 
the powers and functions of animal life ? This close sympathy of 
the imaginative emotions with the bodily frame gives them a dan- 
gerous pre-eminence. The same object often calls into simultane- 
ous action emotions belonging to both these classes. The contem- 
plation of his sinful life may call up at once in the mind of a man 


abhorrence of sin and dread of its evil consequences, and there is 
reason to fear that, without great care, the latter feeling will absorb 
the former. Now, it is just here that we think Mr. Finney has erred, 
and gone over into the regions of enthusiastic excitement. He is 
evidently possessed of an ardent temperament, and the calm and 
gentle excitement attending the exercise of the moral emotions, 
disconnected with the imaginative, has not sufficient relish for him. 
It is comparatively tame and tasteless. For the same reason, he 
discards as " animal excitement," all the gentler feelings ; such as, 
like the "soft and plaintive music of an Eolian harp," spread them- 
selves through the soul and dissolve it in tender sadness or pity. 
He turns from these to the stronger and more boisterous emotions, 
which, stirring both soul and body like the sound of the trumpet, 
can yield the luxurious play and revel of intense sensation. When 
a feeling of this character is awakened by religious objects, though 
it should swallow up the accompanying emotion inspired by con- 
science, yet the imaginative mind entertains no doubt of the religious 
character of the passion which fills and moves it. It is in this region, 
where prevails the awakening din of the storm and tempest of pious 
passion, that Mr. Finney, as it appears to us, has constructed the 
chief dwelling-place of religion. For the proof of this, we appeal 
to the general tone of swelling extravagance which marks all his 
sentiments, and to the habitual tenor of his illustrations and instruc- 
tions. He teaches in various places and ways, that the progress 
of religion in the heart cannot properly be set forth under the 
symbol of the growth of " any root or sprout or seed, implanted 
in the mind." Now it so happens that one of these figures, 
the growth of a seed, was employed for this very purpose, on 
more than one occasion, by our Lord himself, and by his apostles. 
And it must be acknowledged that this is a very fit and instruc- 
tive emblem, if the progress of religion be dependent on the 
growth of principle — that is, of that which is the beginning, or 
which lays the ground for a series of actions, and determines them 
to be what they are ; but inappropriate and deceptive, as he repre- 
sents it to be, if religion has its origin in a " deep-seated" act of 
the mind, and for its increase depends on the fitful gusts of pas- 
sionate fervour. To the same effect are the many representations 
which he puts forth, of the repugnance which the Christian will 
feel when brought into contact with a fellow Christian who is more 
spiritual than himself. This electric repulsion will take place only 
when their minds are under the dominion of the imaginative emo- 
tions. The Christian, whose religion is the offspring of principle, 
and has its range among the emotions of the moral sense, will love 
Christian excellence, and be attracted by it in proportion to its 
purity and brightness. The effect of greater holiness than his 
own, whether seen in men, in angels, or in God, will be to increase 
his admiration and draw him onward in the divine life. This re- 
pellent effect of the exhibition of greater piety, Mr. Finney sup- 
poses, will take place only in those who are considerably below it. 


If those around are anywhere "near the mark," it will "kindle 
and burn'' among them, until it has warmed them all up to its own 
temperature. Hence, in a prayer meeting, if a spiritual man leads, 
who is " far ahead" of the rest, " his prayer will repel them ;" but 
it " will awaken them if they are not so far behind as to revolt at 
it and resist it." And again he says, " In the midst of the warm 
expressions that are flowing forth, let an individual come in who 
is cold, and pour his cold breath out, like the damp of death, and 
it will make every Christian that has any feeling, want to get out 
of the meeting." A precise account this of the operation of a 
kind of religion which has cut loose from principle and conscience, 
and surrendered itself to the emotions of the imagination. And 
in accommodation to this species of religion must all the arrange- 
ments of the prayer meeting be ordered. " There should be," he 
says, " but one definite object before the meeting." Forgetful, — 
perhaps we ought to say, reckless, — of the model our Saviour has 
given us, in which there are as many objects brought before the mind 
as it contains sentences, he censures and ridicules every prayer 
which is not confined to a single point. Unless some short pas- 
sage of scripture can be found which bears upon this specific 
point, he says, no portion of the Bible should be read at the meet- 
ing. " Do not drag in the word of God to make up a part of the 
meeting as a mere matter of form, — this is an insult to God." 
There must be no " joyful singing." " When singing is introduced 
in a prayer meeting, the hymns should be short, and so selected as 
to bring out something solemn, some striking words." There 
must be no adoration of the Deity. Yes, incredible as it may ap- 
pear, Mr. Finney proscribes and burlesques that sublimest, holiest 
exercise of the human mind, in which it rises to the contemplation 
of Infinite Excellence, and prostrates itself before it, rehearsing the 
perfections which it feels it cannot worthily celebrate. " Some 
men," he says, " will spin out a long prayer in telling God who 
and what he is ! !" The tendency of all this is easily perceived. 
We have mentioned the correspondence which always takes place 
between the movements of imaginative emotions and of the ani- 
mal frame. Mr. Finney contends that the spirit of prayer is, in its 
very nature and essence, a spirit of agony ; and he mentions with 
commendation a state of mind in which " there is but one way to 
keep from groaning, and that is by resisting the Holy Ghost." 
Nay, he brings forward, with very special praise, the case of a 
man " who prayed until he bled at the nose ! /" Another pattern 
is afforded by a woman, " who got into such a state of mind that 
she could not live without prayer. She could not rest, day nor 
night, unless there was somebody praying. Then she would be at 
ease ; but if they ceased, she would shriek with agony." Of himself 
he says, " Brethren, in my present state of health, I find it impossible 
to pray as much as I have been in the habit of doing, and continue 
to preach Now will not you, who are in health, throw your- 
selves into this work, and bear this burden, and lay yourselves out 


in prayer ?" Again, it is well known that persons who are un- 
der the dominion of imagination soon become a prey to delusion. 
All their inward impressions are projected into the form of exter- 
nal realities. Their forebodings of mind are to them the shadows 
of coming events, and they assume the character and authority of 
prophets. This peculiarity is fully endorsed by Mr. Finney, 
under the name of" spiritual discernment." There was a woman, 
in a certain place — almost all his stories of this kind are about 
women — who " became anxious about sinners, and went to pray- 
ing for them — and she finally came to her minister and talked with 
him, and asked him to appoint an anxious meeting, for she felt that 
one was needed. The minister put her off, for he felt nothing of 
it. The next week she came again, and besought him to appoint 
an anxious meeting ; she knew there would be somebody to come, 
for she felt as if God was going to pour out his Spirit. He put 
her oft' again. And finally she said to him, ' If you don't appoint 
an anxious meeting / shall die, for there is certainly going to be a 
revival.' The next Sabbath he appointed a meeting." The result 
of course was, as in all other published predictions of this kind, 
that the oracle was fulfilled. He had several other stories to the 
same effect ; and the expectation of these women, founded on no 
evidence save that of individual feeling, he calls " spiritual dis- 
cernment;" and gives warrant to those who possess it to arraign 
their ministers and elders, and fellow members of the church, as 
" blind " and " sleepy." " Devoted, praying Christians," he says, 
" often see these things so clearly, and look so far ahead, as greatly 
to stumble others. They sometimes almost seem to prophesy." 
They do indeed not only almost, but altogether, seem to prophesy, 
and so has many an enthusiast before them. This disposition to 
put faith in spectral illusions is indeed a very common mark of 
enthusiasm, and the reason of it is well understood by all who are 
acquainted with the philosophy of the human feelings. 

In like contradiction to the true nature of religion, but in perfect 
keeping with the false notion of it which we suppose Mr. Finney 
to have adopted, are his opinions respecting the absolute necessity 
of excitement to the general prosperity of religion in the world, 
and to its growth in the Christian's heart. " The state of the 
world is still such, and probably will be till the millennium is fully 
come, that religion must be mainly promoted by these excitements." 
His professed theory on this subject is that there must be an alter- 
nation of excitement and decline — that after a great religious stir 
among the people, they will decline and keep on declining "till 
God can have time so to speak, to shape the course of events so as 
to produce another excitement," — then comes another decline, and 
so on. He represents this same spasmodic action as taking place 
in each Christian's experience. It is impossible, he thinks, to keep 
a Christian in such a state as not to do injury to a revival, unless 
he pass through the process of "breaking down" every few days. 
" I have never laboured," he says, " in revivals in company with 


any one who could keep in the work and be fit to manage a 
revival continually, who did not pass through this process of break- 
ing down as often as once in two or three weeks." He adds, " I 
was surprised to find a few years since that the phrase ' break- 
ing down' was a stumbling block to certain ministers and professors 
of religion — they laid themselves open to the rebuke administered 
to Nicodemus, ' Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these 
things V " We are surprised that any one should have been igno- 
rant of the meaning of this " breaking down." It is very intelligi- 
ble. In consequence of the law to which we have several times 
referred, when the imaginative emotions are strongly excited the 
bodily frame sympathizes powerfully with the excitement, and all 
the chords of the system are so tensely strung that they cannot 
long bear it. Hence follows reaction, exhaustion, " breaking down." 
If religion be founded in principle, if its peculiar and cherished 
emotions be those of the conscience, then can there be no call for 
this breaking down and jumping up — this cicadic movement. But 
we have dwelt at sufficient length upon this point. We were anx- 
ious to present as complete evidence of the truth of our position 
as our limits would permit ; for we do believe that Mr. Finney's 
mistaken views of the nature of religion lie at the bottom of his 
measures, and have given to them their character and form ; and 
that these measures, therefore, wherever used, will tend to propa- 
gate a false form of religion. 

These measures might have had their origin in the " New Divi- 
nity," for they are in harmony with the theology as well as the 
religion of the system. Historical facts, however, have guided us 
in assigning their origin to erroneous views of religion. The new 
measures, we believe were in full action before the theology of New 
Haven shed its light upon the world. We recollect that it was 
matter of surprise to many when the conjunction took place be- 
tween the coarse, bustling fanaticism of the New Measures, and the 
refined, intellectual abstractions of the New Divinity. It was a 
union between Mars and Minerva — unnatural, and boding no good 
to the church. But our readers will have observed that there is a 
close and logical connexion between Mr. Finney's theology and 
his measures. The demand created lor the one by the other, and 
the mutual assistance which they render, are so evident, that we 
will spend no time in the explanation of them. 

There is one argument of Mr. Finney in favour of the new 
measures which we have not noticed, and to which we should not 
now allude, but for a purpose which will soon disclose itself. This 
argument is, in true importance, on a perfect level with that drawn 
from the small-clothes, wigs, and fur caps. It consists in pro- 
ducing the names of a great number of wise and eminent men who 
have been prominent in introducing innovations. All this has 
nothing to do with the question — it is perfectly puerile indeed to 
introduce it — unless these men introduced such innovations as he 
contends for. Anions these new-measure men he introduces the 


name of President Edwards. And on several occasions he makes 
such a use of the name of this great man, as is calculated to leave 
upon the reader's mind the impression that Edwards had sanction- 
ed his proceedings. He has no right thus to slander the dead, or 
impose upon the living. It is well known that Davenport, against 
whose extravagant fanaticism Edwards wrote at length, is redivivus 
in Mr. Finney, and that the same scenes over which he grieved 
and wept have been re-acted in our day under Mr. Finney's 
auspices. For one of his measures, lay exhortation, he does dis- 
tinctly claim the authority of Edwards. "So much opposition," 
he says, " was made to this practice nearly a hundred years ago 
that President Edwards actually had to take up the subject, and 
write a laboured defence of the rights and duties of laymen." 
We were not surprised by Mr. Finney's ignorance in confounding 
Mary, Queen of Scots, with " bloody Queen Mary" of England ; 
we do not demand from him historical accuracy ; we do not look 
indeed for anything like a thorough knowledge of any one subject, 
for, should he obtain it, it would surely pine away and die for want 
of company. But we were not quite prepared for such ignorance 
of Edwards's opinions and writings. Can it be ignorance ? Charity 
would dispose us to think so, but we cannot. In the same work 
from which Mr. Finney has taken long extracts, and to which he 
often refers, as if familiar with its contents, Edwards makes known 
with all plainness his opposition to lay exhortation. He expressly 
condemns all lay teaching which is not " in the way of conversa- 
tion." He censures the layman " when in a set speech, of design, 
he directs himself to a multitude, as looking that they should com- 
pose themselves to attend to what he has to say .... and more still, 
when meetings are appointed on purpose to hear lay persons ex- 
hort, and they take it as their business to be speakers." In a pub- 
lished letter of his to a friend, who had erred in this matter, he 
tells him, " You have lately gone out of the way of your duty, and 
done that which did not belong to you, in exhorting a public con- 
gregation ; . . . . you ought to do what good you can by private, 
brotherly, humble admonitions and counsels ; but 'tis too much for 
you to exhort public congregations, or solemnly to set yourself by 
a set speech, to counsel a room full of people, unless it be children 
or those that are much your inferiors." These are the sentiments 
of Edwards, and it is hardly possible that Mr. Finney should have 
been unacquainted with them. Whence then this bold misrepre- 
sentation ? This is one illustration of that unscrupulousness in the 
use of means for the attainment of his ends, which he too often 
manifests. With perfect nonchalance, he will make figures, facts, 
scripture, everything, bend to the purpose he has in hand. We 
have often been reminded, while reading his pages, of the calcula- 
tor who, being applied to, to make some computations, asked his 
employer with perfect gravity, " On which side, sir, do you wish 
the balance to come out ?" Another illustration of Mr. F.'s pecu- 
liar facility in this way is at hand, and we will give it. In one of 


his Lectures, when endeavouring to persuade the people not to 
contradict the truth preached, by their lives, and, as usual, inflating 
every sentiment to the utmost degree for the accomplishment of 
his purpose, he says, " If Jesus Christ were to come and preach, 
and the church contradict it, it would fail — it has been tried once." 
But in another Lecture, where he is labouring might and main 
to prove that every minister will be successful in exact propor- 
tion to the amount of wisdom he employs in his ministration, he 
is met with the objection that Jesus Christ was not successful 
in his ministry. But, reader, you do not know the man if you 
imagine that this difficulty staggers him at all. Not in the 
least. In disposing of it he begins by showing that " his ministry 
was vastly more successful than is generally supposed," and ends 
by proving that " in fact, he was eminently successful." And no 
doubt, if his argument required it, he could prove that Christ was 
neither successful nor unsuccessful. This unscrupulous use of any 
means that seem to offer present help, whether for the attainment 
of their objects within the camp or without, was early noted as a 
peculiar mark of the new-measure men. Dr. Beecher says, in a 
letter written eight years since, " I do know, as incident to these 
new measures, there is a spirit of the most marvellous duplicity 
and double-dealing and lying, surpassing anything which has come 
up in my day."* And the heaviness of this accusation will not be 
much lightened by any one who has been an attentive observer of 
their movements since. 

There only remains to be noticed, the argument for the new 
measures which Mr. Finney draws from their success. We shall 
not stop to dispute with him the position which he assumes, that 
the success of any measure demonstrates its wisdom and excel- 

* This letter was addressed to the Editor of the Christian Spectator. It seems 
that there had been some symptoms of a disposition on the part of this Editor, to 
compromise with the new measures, from a desire to promote the circulation of his 
work in those regions where these measures were then burning in all their fury. 
Dr. B. immediately writes this letter of strong remonstrance, in which in the most 
rousing strain, he exhorts to firm, open and decided resistance. " The more tho- 
roughly we do the work," he says, •« of entire demolition of these new measures, the 
sooner and safer we can conciliate." His opinion of Mr. Finney, at that time, may 
be gathered from the following extract. ; ' Now, that such a man as he (Mr. 
Nettleton) should be traduced, and exposed to all manner of evil falsely, in order to 
save from deserved reprehension such a man as Finney (who, whatever talents or 
piety he may possess, is as far removed from the talent, wisdom, and judgment, and 
experience of Nettleton, as any corporal in the French army was removed from the 
talent and generalship of Bonaparte), is what neither my reason, nor my conscience, 
nor my heart will endure." These were Dr. Beecher's sentiments in 1827. Since 
that time he is understood to have patronised the Corporal, when he visited Boston; 
and but lately he delivered a high eulogy upon him at the West, in the course of 
which he says, " I have felt the beating of his great, warm heart before God," and 
professes to have heard more truth from him than from any other man in the same 
space of time. Dr. B.'s opinions, expressed in the letter from which we have 
quoted, profess to have been formed from the most full and accurate acquaintance 
with facts. Dr. Beecher has an undoubted right to change any of his opinions, but 
he cannot expect the public to give him their confidence if he makes such changes 
as this, without rendering a more satisfactory account of them than he has yet given 
of this one. 


lence. No man can maintain the ground which he takes upon 
this subject, without denying that it forms any part of the plan of 
God in the government of the world, to bring good out of evil. 
But there is no need of discussing this matter now. We will grant 
him the benefit of the criterion. It is too late in the day for the 
effect of this appeal to success. The time was when an argument 
of this nature might have been plausibly maintained. Appearances 
were somewhat in favour of the new measures. At least wher- 
ever they were carried, converts were multiplied, and though the 
churches were distracted ministers unsettled, and various evils 
wrought, yet it might have been contended that, on the whole, the 
balance was in their favour. But it is too late now for Mr. Fin- 
ney to appeal, in defence of his measures, to the number of con- 
verts made by them, to the flourishing state of religion in the west- 
ern part of New York, where they have been most used, and to 
the few trivial evils which have been incident to them. Indeed, he 
seems to have a suspicion that the public possess more information 
on this subject than they did a few years since, and he pours out 
his wrathful effusions on the informers. He is animated with a- most 
special dislike to letter-writing. " Some men," he says, " in high 
standing in the church, have circulated letters which never were 
printed. Others have had their letters printed and circulated. 
There seems to have been a system of letter-writing about the 
country." " If Christians in the United States expect revivals to 
spread, they must give up writing letters," &c. "If the Church 
will do all her duty, the millennium may come in this country in three 

years; but if this writing of letters is to be kept up, &c 

the curse of God will be on this nation, and that before long." " Go 
forward. Who would leave such a work and go to writing letters?" 
" If others choose to publish their slang and stuff, let the Lord's 
servants keep to their work." Who will not feel thankful that 
Jack Cade's day is gone, and a man cannot now be hung " with 
pen and ink-horn around his neck," for being able to write his name? 
But thanks to these much abused letter-writers, we have received 
their testimony, and neither Mr. Finney's assertions nor his ravings 
will shake the public confidence in it. It is now generally under- 
stood that the numerous converts of the new measures have been, in 
most cases, like the morning cloud and the early dew. In some 
places, not a half, a fifth, or even a tenth part of them remain. They 
have early " broken down," and have never got up again. And 
of those that yet remain, how many are found revelling in the 
excesses of enthusiastic excitement, ready to start after every new 
vagary that offers, and mistaking the looming appearances, the 
" fata morgana" of the falsely refracting atmosphere in which they 
dwell, for splendid realities ! How many more, the chief part of 
whose religion consists in censuring the established order ol things 
around them, in seeking to innovate upon the decent and orderly 
solemnities of divine worship, and in condemning as unconverted, 
or cold and dead, the ministers, elders, and church-members, who 


refuse to join them ! From the very nature of these measures 
they must encounter the conscientious and decided opposition of 
many devout Christians, and hence wherever they have been intro- 
duced, the churches have been distracted by internal dissensions, 
and in many cases rent asunder. Ministers who have opposed 
them have been forced to abandon their charges ; and those who 
have yielded to them have been unsettled by their inability to sti- 
mulate sufficiently the seared surface of the public mind ; so that 
it is now a difficult matter among the western churches of New 
York to find a pastor who has been with his present flock more 
than two or three years. Change and confusion are the order of the 
day. New ministers and new measures must be tried, to heighten 
an excitement already too great to admit of increase, or to pro- 
duce one where the sensibility has been previously worn out by 
overaction. Rash and reckless men have everywhere rushed in 
and pushed matters to extremes, which the originators of these 
measures did not at first contemplate. Trickery of the most dis- 
gusting and revolting character has been employed in the conduct 
of religious assemblies ; and the blasphemous boasts of the revival 
preachers have been rife throughout the land. Mothers have 
whipped their children with rods to make them submit to God ; 
and in this have done right, if there be truth in the theology, and 
fitness in the measures of Mr. Finney. Men of taste and refine- 
ment have been driven into scepticism by these frantic absurdities 
of what claims to be the purest form of religion, or they have 
sought refuge in other denominations from these disorderly scenes 
in ours. Doctrinal errors and fanatical delusions of the wildest 
kind have started into rank existence. The imposture of Matthias 
and the Perfectionism of New Haven, are monster-growths, in 
different directions, of this same monster-trunk.* And no one can 
tell what new and yet more monstrous growths it will cast out. 
No form of enthusiasm developes at once, or soon, all its latent ten- 
dencies. Though its present course may be comparatively regu- 
lar and near the truth, no mind can predict in what erratic wan- 
derings it may be subsequently involved. The path of the comet 
within ihe limits of the solar system can scarcely be distinguished, 
by the nicest observations, from the regular orbit of the planet ; 
but it ultimately rushes off into unknown fields of space : and the 
course of enthusiasm while in sight, like that of the comet, will not 
suffice to furnish us with the elements of its orbit. To what black- 

* See the history of "Matthias and his Impostures," by Col. William L. Stone. 
Col. Stone has rendered an important service to the public by the publication of this 
work. It furnishes a train of facts which will astonish those who have looked upon 
this noted imposture as a sudden and isolated freak of the human mind. It was our 
purpose to make copious extracts from this work to illustrate the opinion of its 
author, that the delusion of Matthias and of his victims " originated in the same 
spirit of fanaticism which has transformed so many Christian communities in the 
northern and western parts of New York, and states contiguous, into places of moral 
waste and spiritual desolation." But we must content ourselves with this reference. 
We hope the work will circulate widely. It furnishes a salutary lesson of warning 
to all who can learn from the past. 


ness of darkness it may finally rush, we know not. We might fill 
a volume with describing evils already wrought by the new divi- 
nity and new measure system, and then fill many more by collating 
this system with history, and showing what evils are yet within 
the limits of its capabilities. 

We would not be understood to mean that no good has been 
produced under the preaching of the new divinity, and the opera- 
tion of the new measures. They have, doubtless, in some cases, 
been overruled for good, and been made instrumentaj in producing 
true conversions. But we do maintain, for we fully believe it to 
be true, that the tendency of this system, of all that is peculiar to 
it as a svstem of doctrine and of action, is unredeemedlv bad. We 

ml ' m ml 

have brought forward every argument which we could find in Mr. 
Finney's pages, in favour of his reforms, and in canvassing them 
have presented our own objections. And our readers must now 
judge between us. 

We have one more objection still to present, and it would alone 
be sufficient to outweigh all the considerations which Mr. Finney 
has presented in favour of his measures. We mean the spirit 
which accompanies them. We shall be under the necessity of giv- 
ing a much briefer development, and fewer illustrations of this 
spirit than we had intended, but we shall succeed, we think, in 
snowing that it is the essential spirit of fanaticism. 

The first feature of it to which we invite attention, is its coarse- 
ness and severity. Mr. Finney's language is habitually low and 
vulgar. He revels in such Saxonisms as these: "Let hell boil 
over if it will, and spew out as many devils as there are stones in 
the pavement." " Look at that sensitive young lady ; is she an 
impenitent sinner? then she only needs to die to be as very a devil 
as there is in hell." " Devil" and "hell" are, indeed, familiar to 
him, "as household words." The young men in some of our theo- 
logical seminaries, he says, "are taught to look upon new measures 
as if they were the very inventions of the devil. So when they 
come out, they look about and watch, and start, as if the devil 
was there." We imagine that all the young men in our semina- 
ries know that there are men who are equal to these things, with- 
out any help from the devil. In condemning those who pray, 
" Lord, these sinners are seeking thee, sorrowing," he says, " It is a 
Lie." The men who had promised to pay, each, a yearly sum to 
the Oneida Institute, but who afterwards refused, on the ground, 
as one of them assured us, that the pledge under which they sub- 
scribed, that a thorough course of instruction should be established 
in the institution, had been violated, are rated after this manner : 
" Is this honest? Will such honesty as this get them admitted into 
heaven ? What ! break your promise, and go up and carry a lie 
in your right hand before God? If you refuse or neglect to fulfil 
your promise, you are a liar, and if you persist in this you shall 
have your part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." 
He subsequently adds, " You cannot pray until you pay that 


money." In dealing with impenitent sinners, he will allow no 
symptoms of compassion or pity. The church, in all her conduct, 
must show that she " blames them." We must at all times make 
it plain, by our deportment, that we " take God's part against the 
sinner." He thinks it a dreadful error even for us to make use of 
our Saviour's language in praying fur sinners, " Father, forgive 
them, they know not what they do." Every sentence and every 
term must be charged with fierce accusation against them. To 
this harsh severity all the tender amenities of social intercourse, 
and the still more tender charities of the domestic affections, must 
be sacrificed. He maintains that parents can never pray for their 
children "in such a way as to have their prayers answered, until 
they feel that their children are rebels" And he narrates a story 
to show that no mother can expect her son to be converted, " until 
she is made to take strong ground against him as a rebel." Had 
we space for comment here, we might easily show that no spirit 
can claim fellowship with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which thus 
runs rough-shod over all the tender sympathies and affections 
of the human heart. But it is thoroughly consistent with the 
fierceness of fanatical zeal, which has its play among the stronger 
passions of our nature, and looks with contempt upon whatever is 
kind, tender, gentle, or compassionate. 

The next feature of Mr. Finney's spirit to which we turn, is its 
extravagance. It is a peculiar mark of the fanatic that every dog- 
ma, every little peculiarity to which he is attached, is made to be 
infallibly certain, and infinitely important. Should he admit any- 
thing less than this he would feel the ground sliding from under 
him. To hold natural sentiments, and express them plainly, and 
with proper limitations, would be to sink all his advantage 
and bring himself down to a level with others. His own mind, 
too, is often in an uneasy and self-doubting state which needs 
confirmation. Hence for the double purpose of making a strong 
impression on others, and of strengthening himself, every opinion 
and sentiment are inflated entirely beyond their natural limits. 
To quote all the illustrations of this disposition to extravagance 
which Mr. Finney's lectures afford, would be to cite no inconsider- 
able portion of the whole volume which contains them. The mi- 
nutest things are made matters of indispensable necessity. Every 
rag which he touches is henceforth endowed with the power of 
working miracles. He is himself addicted to telling stories and 
parables from the pulpit to illustrate the truth, and we have no 
objection to this provided it is done — as Mr. F. says the devil 
wishes it done — so as to comport with the proper dignity of the pul- 
pit. We have known many preachers who excelled in this style 
of preaching. But Mr. F. is not content with maintaining that 
this is a good, and for some men, the best way of presenting and 
enforcing the truth. No, nothing less will satisfy him than that 
" truths not thus illustrated are generally just as well calculated to 
convert sinners as a mathematical demonstration." Many excel- 


lent men. who have no taste or turn for this illustrative method of 
preaching, will be astonished and grieved to learn that to deliver a 
plain, unvarnished statement of scriptural truth to their congrega- 
tions, is as hopeless a means of doing good, as to prove to them 
that two sides of a triangle are greater than the third side. Again, 
Mr. Finney is given to extemporaneous preaching, and of course 
this is not merely the best, it is the only way of preaching. He 
can find no resting place for the sole of his foot but on the broad 
ground that " we never can have the full meaning of the gospel 
till we throw away our notes." We do not like forms of prayer, 
not thinking them adapted to promote the spirit of prayer ; and we 
shall always oppose them, unless they should be found necessary 
to protect us from such prayers as Mr. Finney is in the habit of 
offering. But we can by no means agree with him in saying that 
"forms of prayer are not. only absurd in themselves, but they are 
the very device of the devil." We have seen many a pious old 
lady, when she had finished reading a portion of her Bible, placing 
a piece of paper or a string, or perchance her spectacles, between 
the leaves, that she might readily open to the place again, and it 
certainly never occurred to us that this custom was any evidence 
of want of piety. But Mr. Finney says to all such, "The fact that 
you fold a leaf or put in a string demonstrates that you read rather 
as a task than from love or reverence for the word of God." Of 
the prayers of pious females, who have assembled by themselves 
without inviting impenitent sinners to be present, he says, " such 
prayers will do no good — they insult God." To those who are in 
the habit of praying with submission to the divine will, he says, 
" You have no right to put in an if. and say, Lord, if it be thy will, 
give us thy Holy Spirit ; this is to insult God." Mr. Finney, like 
all other fanatics, makes additions of his own to the scriptural code 
of morals. Matthias forbade his disciples the use of pork. Mr. 
Finney condemns tea, coffee and tobacco, evening parties, ribbons, 
and many other things. He is just as confident in supporting his 
false standard, as extravagant too in denouncing those who trans- 
gress it, and in launching against them the thunderbolts of divine 
vengeance, as if it had been communicated to him by express reve- 
lation. He says, "if you are not doing these things" — among 
which he has enumerated the disuse of tea. coffee and tobacco — 
" and if your soul is not agonized for the poor, benighted heathen, 
why are you such a hypocrite as to pretend to be a Christian ? 
Why, your profession is an insult to Jesus Christ." Again, he says, 
"Perhaps he is looking upon it (the use of tobacco) as a small sin," 
and he then proceeds to prove that the sin is as gross as a mer- 
chant's clerk would commit in robbing the money drawer. He 
lifts up his hands in astonishment at an agent who is in the city 
soliciting funds for some charitable purpose, and actually uses 
all three of these abominations ; and he enters his protest against 
the Home Missionary Society for aiding churches in which the 
members use tea, coffee, or tobacco. Again, speaking of the minis- 


try as refusing to give up the use of coffee, he cries out, " Is this 
Christianity ? What business have you to use Christ's money for 
such a purpose ?" Matthias surely could not have raved in better 
style over a delinquent caught in the horrible act of eating a piece 
of pork. Of evening parties, even when none but " Christian friends 
are invited, so as to have it a religious party," he says, " this is the 
grand device of the devil." These social assemblies are often con- 
cluded with prayer : — " now this," he says, " I regard as one of the 
worst features about them." When there is to be a circle of such 
parties in a congregation he advises them "to dismiss their minister 
and let him go and preach where the people would be ready to 
receive the word and profit by it, and not have him stay and be 
distressed, and grieved, and killed, by attempting to promote reli- 
gion among them while they are engaged heart and hand in the 
service of the devil." To the young lady who wears " a gaudy 
ribbon and ornaments upon her dress," he cries, "' Take care. You 
might just as well write on your clothes, No truth in religion." 
And over this fondness for dress, tight-lacing, &c, he says, " Hea- 
ven puts on the robes of mourning, and hell may hold a jubilee." 
The man who stands aloof from the temperance cause has " his 
hands all over red with blood" — he who drinks cider, beer, or any- 
thing else, until " you can smell his breath," is a drunkard, — and no 
slave holder " can be a fit subject for Christian communion and fel- 
lowship." We had marked some twenty other passages, many of 
them worse than any we have given, but we suppose enough has 
been furnished to satisfy our readers of Mr. Finney's extravagance. 
We turn, then, to his spiritual pride and arrogance. We have 
not been able to find one sentence in his book which wears the sem- 
blance of humility. But there is arrogance and assumption beyond 
anything which it has ever been our fortune previously to encoun- 
ter. Such a swelling, strutting consciousness of self-importan:e 
looks forth from -almost every page, that we have been com- 
pelled again and again to turn from it, not in anger but in pity. 
Any one who should read his book and believe it, would be led to 
suppose that until he came forth in the plenitude of his wisdom 
and goodness to instruct mankind, all had been darkness. The 
Bible had been misunderstood, and its doctrines perverted : min- 
isters had been preaching " an endless train of fooleries ;" the 
pulpit had never " grappled with mind ;" " very little common 
sense had been exercised about prayer meetings ;" everything had 
been managed in the most ignorant and bungling way. But he 
comes and all things are set right, or at least would be. if his 
measures were not opposed. All the wise and good, however, 
fully agree with him. We encounter this arrogant and exclusive 
spirit at the very outset. In his preface he says, " But whatever 
may be the result of saying the truth as it respects S'xne, I have 
reason to believe that the great body of praying people will 
receive and be benefited by what I have said." Speaking, in one 
of his Lectures, of " ministers, who by their lives and preach- 



ing give evidence to the church, that their object is to do good 
and win souls to Christ," he says, " This class of ministers will 
recognise the truth of all that I have said or wish to say." In 
the lull magnitude of a self-constituted bishop of all the churches, 
fully entitled by his superior wisdom to rebuke with authority 
all other ministers, he exclaims in another place, " I will never 
spare ministers from the naked truth." " If the whole church," 
he says, " as a body had gone to work ten years ago, and con- 
tinued it, as a few individuals, whom I could, name, have done, 
there would not now be an impenitent sinner in the land." The 
greatest appearance of modest humility which we have seen in 
him, is his refusing, on this occasion, to name himself at the head 
of the " few individuals." He claims, in no guarded terms, the 
exclusive approbation of God for his doctrines and measures. 
" They" (the church) " see that the blessing of God is with those 
that are thus accused of new measures and innovation." Desirous 
as he is to monopolize the favour of Heaven, we do not wonder at 
finding him, in another place, declaring, with great naivete, " I have 
been pained to see that some men, in giving accounts of revivals, 
have evidently felt themselves obliged to be particular in detail- 
ing the measures used, to avoid the inference that new measures 
were introduced." And if the accounts of all the revivals that 
have occurred without any help from the new measures, were as 
much noised abroad as those aided by them have been, he would 
be still more " pained" by the more abundant evidence that the 
symbol of the Divine presence does not shine exclusively upon his 
camp. In presenting to his hearers " the consequences of not 
being filled with the Spirit," he says to them, " You will be much 
troubled with fears about fanaticism — you will be much disturbed 
by the measures that are used in revivals ; if any measures are 
adopted that are decided and direct, you will think they are all 
new, and will be stumbled at them just in proportion to your want 
of spirituality : you will stand and cavil at them, because you are 
so blind as not to see their adaptedness, while all heaven is 
rejoicing in them." Again, of those that are opposed to *' new mea- 
sures," to " this new-light preaching," and to " these evangelists 
who go about the country preaching," he says, "Such men will 
sleep on till they are awakened by the judgment trumpet, without 
any revival, unless they are willing that God should come in his 
own way" This fanatical claim to the exclusive favour of God, 
this arrogant identification of all his opinions and measures with 
the Divine will, is very frequently put forth. After having proved 
that his system has been greatly prospered, that it has been suc- 
cessful beyond anything the world had yet seen, he says, " If a 
measure is continually and usually blessed, let the man who thinks 
he is wiser than God call it in question — take care how you find 
fault with God." Of the Cedar-street church, in New York, which 
had taken a decided stand against the new divinity and new mea- 
sures, or, as Mr. Finney states it, had pursued a course " calculated 


to excite an unreasonable and groundless suspicion against many 
ministers who are labouring successfully to promote revivals," he 
says, " They may pretend to be mighty pious,~and jealous for the 
honour of God, but God will not believe they are sincere." Of 
this same church he afterwards says, in allusion to their requiring 
an assent to the Confession of Faith from all applicants for admis- 
sion to the Lord's Supper, a step which would exclude his con- 
verts, unless their consciences should be as elastic as their teacher's, 
" No doubt Jesus Christ is angry with such a church, and he will 
show his displeasure in a way that admits of no mistake, if 
they do not repent." In the prospect of a rupture with France, 
he tells his people, " No doubt" — it will be observed that he 
never has any doubt about the divine feelings, when his measures 
are in question — " No doubt God is holding the rod of war over 
this nation ; the nation is under His displeasure, because the 
church has conducted in such a manner with respect to revivals." 
The " dear fathers," who have the training of our young men for 
the ministry, he thinks unfit for their office, and in this opinion he 
is perfectly confident that he has " the mind of the Lord." 
" Those dear fathers," he says, " will not, I suppose, see this ; and 
will perhaps think hard of me for saying it ; but it is the cause of 
Christ." But we have given specimens enough of this offensive 

In close connexion with this trait stands his censoriousness. 
The passages we have already adduced, for other purposes, so far 
illustrate this disposition, that it will not be necessary to produce 
many in addition. Of those who have circulated what he calls 
"slanderous reports of revival men and measures," he says, "It 
is impossible, from the very laws of their mind, that they should 
engage in this work of death, this mischief of hell, if they truly 
loved the cause of Christ." " Hell" is with him nothing more nor 
less than the state prison of his system, to which all are condemned 
who dissent or doubt. Again he says, " No doubt the devil 
laughs, if they can laugh in hell, to hear a man pretend to be very 
much engaged in religion, and a great lover of revivals, and yet 
all the while on the look-out for fear some new measures should 
be introduced." And of prayers which ask " that sinners may 
have more conviction," or " that sinners may go home, solemn and 
tender, and take the subject into consideration," he says, " All such 
prayers are just such prayers as the devil wants" This is but a 
common and very vulgar method of cursing. It contains no 
argument. It would be very easy for his opponents to reply, that 
the devil is thus exclusively busy among the adversaries to the 
new opinions and measures, because he is aware that among their 
friends his work is well enough done without him. And the argu- 
ment would be as good in the one case as in the other. Mr. Fin- 
ney has some mystical notions respecting the " prayer of faith," — 
notions in which none, we believe, out of his own coterie agree 


with him.* But here as elsewhere, he condemns without mercy 
all dissentients. Having spoken of a public examination at a theo- 
logical seminary, in the course of which his peculiar opinions on 
this subject were controverted, he says, " Now, to teach such sen- 
timents as these, is to trifle with the word of God." And he 
declares, that all persons who have not known by experience the 
truth of his enthusiastic views of this matter, " have great, reason 
to doubt their piety," and adds, " this is by no means uncharitable." 
Everything which has, at any time, or in any quarter of the land, 
been said or done that seems adapted to operate to the prejudice 
of his measures, is dragged into the pulpit, and made the occasion 
of denunciation against the transgressors. "Some young men in 
Princeton came out a few years ago with an essay on the evils of 
revivals." We cannot see what necessity there was for Mr. Fin- 
ney to tell the people of Chatham-street Chapel, that the young 
men in Frinceton, some years before, had published their opposi- 
tion to the new measures. But he does tell them, and adds, " I 
should like to know how many of those young men have enjoyed 
revivals among their people, since they have been in the ministry ; 
and if any have, I should like to know whether they have not 
repented of that piece about the evils of revivals ?" We can 
inform Mr. Finney, that that " piece" affords " no place for repent- 
ance," though it should be sought " carefully with tears." He tells 
his people again, that "one of the professors in a Presbyterian 
theological seminary felt it his duty to write a series of letters to 
Presbyterians, which were extensively circulated ;" and in these 
letters the new measures were condemned. This incident is made 
the occasion of a tirade, in the course of which he breaks out with 
the exclamation, it is a " shame and a sin that theological professors, 
who preach but seldom, who are withdrawn from the active duties 
of the ministry, should sit in their studies, and write their letters, 
advisory or dictatorial, to ministers and churches who are in the 
field, and who are in circumstances to judge what needs to be done." 
And he says it is "dangerous and ridiculous for our theological 
professors, who are withdrawn from the field of combat, to be 
allowed to dictate in regard to the measures and movements of the 
church." We shall see whether his theological professorship will 
put a bridle on his tongue. It will be seen that no venerableness 
of years or wisdom or Christian excellence can turn aside the ful- 
minations of his displeasure. To disapprove of his measures, no 
matter with what otherwise excellent qual.tics this disapproval may 
be associated, is to give decisive evidence of wickedness, and not 

* It was ouv purpose, had our limits permitted, to notice at length his wild opi- 
nions on this subject. We the less regret the necessary exclusion of our intended 
remarks on this topic, as we are able to refer the reader to a very excellent discus- 
sion of it, in two Lectures, lately published, from the pen of Dr Richards, of the 
Auburn Seminary. Since the publication of these Lectures, Mr. Finney no doubt 
has another argument for proving that this venerable servant of Christ is not *' such 
a man as is needed for training our young ministers in these days of excitement and 


only to offend him, but to insult God. Nor is he ever startled by 
the number of his victims. All, whether a few individuals or a 
whole church, who will not fall down and worship the golden 
image which he has set up, are doomed to the fiery furnace. The 
General Assembly, a few years since, issued a Pastoral Letter, in 
which the new measures were condemned. But neither Mr. Fin- 
ney's modesty nor his tenderness is at all troubled by the array of 
the whole church against him. When he saw their pastoral letter 
he says, "My soul was sick, an unutterable feeling of distress came 
over my mind, and / felt that God would visit the Presbyterian 
church for conduct like this." How to the very life is the fanati- 
cism of this sentence, — this turning from general opposition to 
solace and strengthen himself in the singular prerogative which he 
enjoys of a back-door entrance into the court of Heaven, and of 
unquestioned access to its magazines of wrath. In a like spirit he 
says of the "Act and Testimony warfare," that " the blood of mil- 
lions who will go to hell before the church will get over the shock, 
will be found in the skirts of the men who have got up and carried 
on this dreadful contention." And of the General Assembly, that 
" No doubt there is a jubilee in hell every year about the time of 
meeting of the General Assembly." Of all ministers, be they 
few or many, " who will not turn out of their tracks to do anything 
new" he says, " they will grieve the Holy Spirit away, and God 
will visit them with his curse." At the close of these extracts, for 
we must put a period to them from other causes than lack of ma- 
terials to furnish more like them, we would ask, was there ever a 
fanatic who was more intelligible in his claim to a close relation- 
ship of his own with the Most High, or more indiscriminate and 
wholesale in his condemnation of those who refused submission to 
his peculiar dogmas 1 Was there ever a Dominic who was more 
exclusive or more fierce 1 

There remains one more feature of Mr. Finney's spirit to be 
noticed, his irreverence and profaneness. This is a topic which we 
would gladly have avoided. It is painful to us to contemplate this 
trait of character, and we would not willingly shock the minds of 
others, as we have been shocked by some of the passages which 
we must quote under this head. But it is necessary to a correct 
understanding of the spirit of the new measures, that this feature 
should be exhibited. It has been seen all along that Mr. Finney's 
theology is not a barren vine, and we trust it has at the same time 
been seen, that its fruit is the grapes of Sodom and the clusters of 
Gomorrah. We will now show what are the practical results of 
his theory of the divine government ; though for reasons just hint- 
ed, we shall give no more illustrations under this allegation than 
are necessary distinctly to sustain it. In urging the necessity of 
new measures to the production of revivals, he says, " Perhaps it 
is not too much to say, that it is impossible for God himself to 
bring about reformations but by new measures." Here we might 
pause, for the man who is capable of uttering such a sentence as 


this, is capable of almost any degree of profaneness. But lest it 
might be urged that this may be a solitary instance of unpremedi- 
tated rashness, we must furnish a few more. He says of a certain 
class of people that " they seem determined to leave it to God 
alone to convert the world, and say, If he wants the world con- 
verted let him do it. They ought to know," he continues, " that 
this is impossible : so far as we know, neither God nor man can 
convert the world without the co-operation of the church." Again, 
when speaking of the duties of church members " in regard to 
politics," he says, " God cannot sustain this free and blessed coun- 
try, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right 
ground." In rebuking those who do not " exhibit their light," he 
tells them, " God will not take the trouble to keep a light burning 
that is hid." To cast ridicule upon a certain kind of prayers, he 
says, that they who offer them pray in such a manner, that " every- 
body wishes them to stop, and God wishes so too, undoubtedly." 
And in reference to the subscribers to the New York Evangelist, 
who have neglected to pay in their dues, he says, " Why, it would 
be disgraceful to God to dwell and have communion with such per- 
sons." We will close these extracts with two passages of a still 
more extraordinary character. Speaking of the Saviour, he says, 
" He ivas afraid he should die in the garden before he came 
to the cross." And yet again, and more astounding still, he 
says " Jesus Christ when he was praying in the garden, was in 
such an agony that he sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling 
down to the ground ; — I have never known a person sweat blood, 
but I have known a person pray till the blood started from the nose" ! ! 
Who that has ever dwelt in holy contemplation over the sacred 
mysteries of his Saviour's sufferings, does not feel indignant at this 
unhallowed, vulgar profanation of them ? And what extremes 
can appal the mind that could perpetrate this without shrinking 1 

Let it be noted that the spirit which we have here pictured, is 
not the spirit of Mr. Finney alone. Had it belonged to the man, 
we should not have troubled ourselves to exhibit it. But it is the 
spirit of the system, and therefore deserves our careful notice. 
And it is seen to be, as Dr. Beecher called it eight years ago, " a 
spirit, of fanaticism, of spiritual pride, censoriousness, and insubor- 
dination to the order of the Gospel."* It is prurient, bustling and 
revolutionary — harsh, intolerant and vindictive. Can the tree 
which produces such frnit be good ? The system from which it 
springs is bad in all its parts, root, trunk, branches, and fruit. The 
speculative error of its theology and religion is concrete in its 
measures and spirit. Let it prevail through the church, and the 
very name revival will be a by-word and a hissing. Already has 
it produced, we fear, to some extent this deplorable result. Such 
have already been its effects, that there can be no doubt, if it should 
affect still larger masses, and be relieved from the opposing influ- 

* See Dr. Beecher's Letter in the pamphlet on New Measures, before referred to. 


ences which have somewhat restrained its outbreakings, it will 
spread desolation and ruin, and ages yet to come will deplore the 
waste of God's heritage. To the firm opposition of the friends of 
truth, in reliance upon the Great Head of the Church, and prayer 
for His blessing, we look for protection from such disaster. 

We have spoken our minds plainly on this subject. We intended 
from the beginning not to be misunderstood. It is high time that 
all the friends of pure doctrine and of decent order, in the house of 
God, should speak plainly. Mr. Finney was kindly and tenderly 
expostulated with at the commencement of his career. Mr. Nettle- 
ton, than whom no one living was better qualified or entitled to 
give counsel on this subject, discharged fully his duty towards him. 
Others did the same. But their advice was spurned, their coun- 
sels were disregarded. To envy or blindness did he impute their 
doubts of the propriety of his course. He had a light of his own, 
and by it M he saw a hand they could not see." All the known 
means of kindness and expostulation have been tried to induce him 
to abandon his peculiarities, but without success. It is the clear 
duty of the Church now to meet him and his co-reformers with 
open and firm opposition. Let us not be deluded with the idea 
that opposition will exasperate and do harm. Under cover of the 
silence and inaction which this fear has already produced, this 
fanaticism has spread, until now twelve thousand copies of such a 
work as these Lectures on Revivals are called for by its cravings. 
And there is danger that this spirit will spread still more exten- 
sively. The elements of fanaticism exist in the breast of every 
community, and may be easily called into action by causes which 
we might be disposed to overlook as contemptible. 

We conclude this article, as we did our former, by pointing out 
to Mr. Finney his duty to leave our church. It is an instructive 
illustration of the fact that fanaticism debilitates the conscience, 
that this man can doubt the piety of any one who uses coffee ; and 
call him a cheat, who sends a letter to another on his own business, 
without paying the postage ; while he remains, apparently without 
remorse, with the sin of broken vows upon him. In this position 
we leave him before the public. Nor will we withdraw our 
charges against him until he goes out from among us, for he U" 
not of us. 



This work had its origin in the prosecution of Dr. Beecher upon 
charges of heresy, before the presbytery, and subsequently before 
the synod of Cincinnati. By both these bodies he was acquitted; 
but the synod at the same time requested him to publish, at as early 
a day as possible, " a concise statement of the argument and design 
of his sermon on native depravity, and of his views of total 
depravity, original sin, and regeneration, agreeably to his declara- 
tion and explanation before the synod." In compliance with this 
request, Dr. Beecher published his Views in Theology, which is an 
enlarged and illustrated edition of the defence made upon his trial. 
The opinions of a man so eminent in abilities and in station would 
be matter of public interest, independent of the peculiar circum- 
stances which in this case imparted to them additional importance ; 
and we intended, therefore, at the time when his work appeared, 
to make it the subject of examination and remark. But this pur- 
pose was then laid aside, for reasons with which it is not necessary 
to trouble the public ; and it is now resumed, because recent events 
and discussions have again broken the silence which had begun to 
prevail in relation to Dr. Beecher and his opinions, and rendered it 
important to ascertain how much ground he has really given for 
the doubts and suspicions which many seem to entertain. We have 
therefore recurred to his Views in Theology, in contrast with his 
other publications, and the result of this comparison we are about 
to lay before our readers. 

We cannot sympathize with Dr. Beecher in the complaints which 
he makes that he should be called upon to defend his orthodoxy 
before an ecclesiastical tribunal. He speaks of " the necessity of 
explanation imposed on him by unfounded accusations ;" and com- 
pares himself with "an aged merchant of long-established reputa- 
tion called upon to prove his honesty by the exhibition of his books ; 
or a physician of age and experience to repel the suspicion oi 
quackery by publishing an account of his cases and his practice." 

* Originally published in 1837, in review of " Views in Theology," by Lyman 
Beecher, D.D., President of Lane Theological Seminary, 

dr. beecher's theology. 153 

We must be permitted to say, without intending any disrespect 
to Dr. Beecher, that his comparisons seem to us very inapposite. 
In his analogous cases of hardship, the merchant and physician are 
called upon to prove that they possess qualities which the public 
estimation, founded on long observance of their conduct, has 
assigned to them. But we are not aware that Dr. Beecher has 
ever enjoyed the reputation of possessing views of theological 
truth that were profound, well-defined, and carefully adjusted to 
the standards of Presbyterian orthodoxy. A reputation he has 
indeed had, and well has he earned it, of a man of commanding 
intellect, of comprehensive grasp of mind, capable of seizing upon 
the great features of any subject and holding them up, covered 
with light, to the view of others. The reputation, too, be has had 
of a zealous and successful preacher of the gospel. And who has 
called in question his substantial merit in any of these respects ? 
Had he been arraigned for weakness of intellect, or accused in 
relation to any of the matters upon which his public reputation 
rests, we would have been ready to make common cause with him, 
and lift up our voices higher even than his own, in outcry upon the 
injustice and cruelty of the accusation. But no such charge has 
been made : no one within our knowledge has sought to detract 
aught from the reputation which Dr. Beecher has acquired ; or so 
far questioned the justice of the public award on his behalf, as to 
call upon him now at an advanced stage of life to prove that he is 
entitled to it. His prosecution touched upon matters entirely 
distinct from those excellences which public estimation has 
assigned to him. So far was Dr. Beecher's reputation for ortho- 
doxy from being extensively and firmly established, as in the case 
of the merchant or physician which he brings forward, that, before 
he left New England, many were the doubts and fears entertained 
of him in this respect among those who had the best opportunities 
for ascertaining his opinions. If the accusations against him are 
so utterly groundless, if his defence of his orthodoxy be a mere 
gratuity, forced from him only by the unreasonable prejudices of 
others, it surely becomes him to explain the remarkable fact that 
he should have been so grievously misunderstood, not only by Dr. 
Wilson, but by Dr. Porter of Andover, and by many others in 
New England, who must be supposed capable of understanding 
even the subtlest discussions in theology, and who were under no 
bias save one that would dispose them to judge favourably of Dr. 
Beecher. The Doctor's writings are not ordinarily marked by 
obscurity. On the contrary, we do not know any writer who, in 
general, seizes more directly or illuminates more strongly any 
subject which he undertakes to discuss. Why is it then that the 
soundness of his views on the subjects of original sin, depravity, 
and regeneration, were called in question before he left New 
England by many of his brethren who were most intimately 
associated with him ? Had these doubts of his orthodoxy arisen in 
some remote region, they might be supposed to have proceeded 

154 dr. beecher's theology. 

from the misconstruction of some isolated passage in his writings, 
or from the erroneous reports of others upon his opinions. If the 
ignorant only had entertained them, we might suppose that they 
had been merely alarmed by some new phraseology in which Dr. 
Beecher was preaching familiar truths ; or had they been found 
only among his enemies, we might conclude that prejudice had led 
them to torture his words into an unfavourable meaning. But 
these misgivings had their origin in the sphere within which he 
lived and laboured ; among those who were most familiar with his 
writings, and sermons, and conversation ; among men who, having 
been trained to theological investigation, would not be likely to 
mistake an old truth merely because it was presented in a new dress ; 
and among men, too, who had been accustomed to respect and love 
Dr. Beecher, and whose minds would be slow, therefore, in taking 
up any opinion to his hurt. If he was misunderstood at the west 
because his brethren there were not able to draw the distinction, 
of which he is so fond, between a theological doctrine and the 
philosophy of that doctrine, why was he misunderstood in New 
England ? He surely will not deny that there are men there, and 
men, too, among those who have questioned or doubted his ortho- 
doxy, who can dive with him into any of the depths of philosophy, 
or ascend with him, pari passu, to any of its heights. Until Dr. 
Beecher will condescend to give some rational explanation of the 
origin of these doubts of his orthodoxy in New England, and 
the subsequent and independent origin of similar doubts at the 
west, we cannot but consider his complaint of " unfounded accu- 
sations" as unbecoming and slanderous. The effect of this com- 
plaint is to present his prosecutor as coming forward, in the 
mere gratuity of mischief, to interrupt his labours, and to 
distract the church with needless controversy and litigation ; 
and it throws upon all who have expressed their doubts of his 
soundness, the odium of weakening that harmony and mutual 
confidence which ought to exist between ministers of the same 
church. We cannot, therefore, suffer the assertion that the 
charges against him were groundless to pass unchallenged. We 
cannot believe that so many men, as wise and good as Dr. Beecher, 
would permit their confidence in him to be destroyed or weakened, 
unless he had been imprudent enough to give them some cause for 
it. And we are persuaded that Dr. Beecher would have added 
to his reputation if, instead of bespeaking in a tone of arrogant 
superiority the mercy of the court for his prosecutor,* and main- 
taining his own entire blamelessness, he had frankly admitted, at 
least, that he had made use on some occasions of incautious and 
imprudent phraseology which had naturally given rise to misappre- 
hension of his views. The blame of the interruption of ministerial 
confidence, as far as he is concerned, would, to be sure, have been 
fixed upon himself by this avowal ; but there it must be fixed, 
whether he be willing to receive it or not ; there, if we mistake 
* See Defence before the Presbytery, p. 80. 



not, public estimation has already fixed it; and his frank assump- 
tion of it would have done him good instead of harm. 

So much ground has Dr. Beecher really given for misapprehen- 
sion of his theological opinions, that it is no easy matter even now 
to understand what he really believes. If we had only his Views 
in Theology to consult, we could readily understand him ; but 
when we compare certain statements of doctrine in this work with 
his previous writings we are perplexed beyond measure. We find 
him at different times avowing directly contrary opinions on the 
same subject. With an ordinary man, we should at once settle this 
difficulty, by saying that he had doubtless seen good reason to 
change his opinions, and that we must learn what his present sen- 
timents are from the latest publication of them. But Dr. Beecher 
cuts us off from this explanation in his own case by assuring us. 
" that his doctrinal views have been unchanged from the beginning," 
"that he is in doctrine what he ever was ;" and we are left there- 
fore utterly at a loss in our conjectures, whether his earlier or his 
later writings contain the true exposition of his present views. 
There are statements in these writings, which no ingenuity of 
explanation can reconcile — there are discrepances which no sophis- 
try can bridge over — and the perception of these, in connexion with 
his declaration that he has never changed his views, has involved 
us in bewilderment and doubt. 

That we may not be accused in our turn of bringing forward 
"unfounded accusations," and thus imposing upon Dr. Beecher the 
necessity of further explanations, we will proceed to adduce evi- 
dence of the inconsistencies and contradictions to which we have 
alluded. The first subject discussed in his Views in Theology is 
Natural Ability ; but we shall pass this topic for the present and 
commence with the more important one of Original Sin. This 
doctrine is universally admitted to be fundamental to the Calvinis- 
tic system. He who denies this doctrine, as taught in our Confes- 
sion of Faith, and in the writings of the Reformers, however good a 
Christian he may be, cannot be a good Calvinist ; a logical neces- 
sity is laid upon him to abandon most of the distinctive peculiarities 
of the Calvinistic system. If there is one doctrine which lies more 
broadly than any other at the base of this system, this is that doc- 
trine ; and if this be removed, the whole structure must fall. It 
might naturally be supposed, therefore, that every professed Cal- 
vinist would have his opinions on this subject so well settled and 
defined, that he would not be blown about by every wind of doc- 
trine, or, when discussing it at different times, express himself in 
contradictory terms. The Pelagian and Calvinistic views of the 
effect of the fall of man upon the race, are so luminously distinct 
from each other, and they touch, too, upon so many points of the 
respective systems to which they belong, that he who makes it 
doubtful which of these views is his own, cannot assuredly, escape 
the just censure of paltering in a double sense, save under the plea 
of incredible ignorance. How far any of these remarks apply to 

156 dr. beecher's theology. 

the case before us, our readers will judge for themselves, after 
reading the extracts which we are about to adduce. 

We will first exhibit the opinions which Dr. Beecher held on 
the subject of original sin, previous to his impeachment and trial. 
In his second lecture on, " The Causes and Remedy of Scepticism," 
we find the following passage : " The points to which I allude, as 
violated by a false philosophy, are the principles of personal 
identity, by which the posterity of Adam are distinct from or 
confounded with their ancestor, and the principles of personal 
accountability and desert of punishment, as men are made account- 
able and punished for his conduct, or become liable to misery as 
a universal consequence. The nature of sin and holiness, con- 
sidered as material qualities, or the substance of the soul, or as 
instincts, or as the spontaneous action of mind under moral govern- 
ment, in the full possession of all the elements of accountability." 
It is very evident which of the opposite principles here stated, the 
author adopts as his own. Any one who was acquainted with the 
theological controversies on this subject, would be led. to suppose, 
in reading this passage, that Dr. Beecher meant to condemn, as 
false philosophy, the opinion that men are in any sense held respon- 
sible for the sin of Adam, or punished on account of it, and to 
maintain in opposition to this philosophic dogma of the dark ages, 
that all the sin and misery which men suffer is merely the conse- 
quence of Adam's transgression. Now this true philosophy of 
Dr. Beecher would not be objected to by most Pelagians. They 
would admit that we are involved in misery by the fall of Adam 
— one main hinge upon which the whole controversy turns, is 
whether this misery is punitive or not in its character. But pun- 
ishment for Adam's sin, according to the apparent meaning of the 
above extract, is a figment of that false philosophy which has been 
employed for the exposition of the Calvinistic system, and which, 
in Dr. Beecher's deliberate opinion, "has done more to obstruct 
the march of Christianity, and to paralyse the saving power of 
the gospel, and to raise up and organize around the church the 
unnumbered multitude, to behold., and wonder, and despise, and 
perish, than all other causes beside." 

In the other sentence of the passage quoted, the false philosophy 
of the nature of sin and holiness is that which considers them " as 
material qualities, or the substance of the soul, or as instincts," 
and he admits no alternative to this view, save that which restricts 
them to "the spontaneous action of mind under moral government." 
This is the very language of the New Haven school. The mode 
of stating the question leaves us in about as much doubt as to the 
theology of the writer, as we should feel respecting the political 
opinions of one who should assert that the parties to the contro- 
versy which has been for some years waged in our country, were 
the people on the one side, and the bank monster on the other. 
Whenever we see a statement of the question touching the nature 
of sin and holiness, which assumes that there is no intermediate 

dr. beecher's theology. 157 

ground between the thoery that restricts them to acts, and that 
which supposes them to be physical entities infused into the mind, 
or created instincts of the soul, we are at no loss to name the 
banner under which the writer, however disguised, is doing battle 
upon the theological arena. It would be strange, indeed, if a Cal- 
vinist, in enumerating the true and false theories upon this subject, 
should omit the only one which is consistent with the doctrine of 
our standards respecting the corrupt and sinful nature which we 
inherit from our fallen parent; and not the less strange, if in giving 
what he intended to be the orthodox account of this matter, he 
should so broadly misrepresent and caricature it, as to make it 
absurd and repulsive. If we were compelled to choose between 
making sin a material property or adjunct of the soul, or limiting 
it to the spontaneous action of the mind, we certainly would choose 
the latter, since it is impossible to state the other opinion in terms 
that are not self-contradictory; but we would choose it with the 
distinct understanding, that it compelled us to abandon the Calvin- 
istic system. It is not, in our view, more absurd to hold that sin 
is a material substance, than to maintain that sin is confined to the 
spontaneous action of the mind, and in connexion with this, that 
man inherits a sinful nature. The first proposition is absurd, 
because there is an essential opposition of meaning between sin 
and substance ; the other two in their conjunction, are no less 
absurd, because a nature is not in any sense an act, and of course, 
by the previous definition, cannot be sinful. 

Is it wonderful then, when Dr. Beecher comes forward, lisping 
the very shibboleth of the New Haven school, teaching that all 
who do not restrict the nature of sin to spontaneous acts of the 
mind, believe in physical depravity, that he should be considered 
as having abandoned the Calvinistic doctrine of original sin? 
Ought he to complain of his brethren because they were not wil- 
ling to charge upon him the monstrous absurdity of believing that 
a nature is an act, and may therefore be sinful 1 And what shall 
be thought of the modesty of the man, who, having printed such 
sentiments, has the face to declare to the world that the accusations 
against him are groundless ; and in the plenitude of his compassion, 
to beg the court before which he is tried, that they will not punish 
his prosecutor as a slanderer? 

Our next extracts shall be taken from Dr. Beecher's sermon on 
the " Native Character of Man." In this sermon he makes the 
following assertions : " Neither a holy nor a depraved nature are 
possible without understanding, conscience, and choice. To say 
of an accountable creature, that he is depraved by nature, is only 
to say, that rendered capable by his Maker of obedience, he diso- 
beys from the commencement of his accountability." "A depraved 
nature can no more exist without voluntary agency and accounta- 
bility, thnn a material nature can exist, without solidity and exten- 
sion." '• If, therefore, man is depraved by nature, it is a voluntary 
and accountable nature which is depraved, exercised in disobe- 

158 dr. beecher's theology. 

dience to the law of God." " Native depravity, then, is a state of 
the affections, in a voluntary accountable creature, at variance with 
divine requirement, from the beginning of accountability." " The 
entireness of human depravity consists, therefore, in the constant, 
voluntary refusal of man to love the Lord his God with supreme 
complacency and good will." All this seems to be sufficiently 
explicit. There is no obscurity to occasion a doubt as to the au- 
thor's meaning. The terms used are such as are commonly em- 
ployed in the discussion of this subject, and the statements are all 
so clear and precise that no commentary is needed to educe or 
illustrate their meaning. We doubt whether the writings of the 
New Haven divines could furnish an equal number of sentences, 
which more completely deny the actual or possible existence of a 
depraved nature in man prior to moral action. 

Of this famous sermon Dr. Beecher has. however, given a still 
more famous explanation. It was written, he says, with the view 
of refuting the error which claims as moral excellencies the various 
amiable qualities and kindly feelings which are found in unregene- 
rate men, and thus undermines the doctrine of man's total depravity. 
At least this is one account of the object he had in view in writing 
the sermon ; for we shall presently show that he has given a differ- 
ent one. In refuting the error above named, he contends that as 
he had no occasion to speak of anything but actual sin, all that he 
says should be applied only to adult man. The substance of his 
defence, on this ground, consists, therefore, in interpolating the words 
actual and adult before depravity in all the passages where it 
occurs. This is so extraordinary an explanation of the matter 
that we feel really embarrassed to know how to deal with it. 
There are some things so plain that they cannot be made plainer ; 
there are explanations and arguments sometimes adduced in the 
course of discussion which are so foreign to the subject that nothing 
can be done with them but to declare that they are impertinent. 
Even thus is it with this defence of Dr. Beecher; we despair of 
being able to illustrate its incongruity to any one who does not at 
once perceive it. Because the primary object of the writer was 
not to discuss the subject of original sin, is it therefore certain that 
this subject would not be incidentally alluded to ? Is it considered 
a sound rule of interpretation to endeavour to ascertain what was 
the author's main design, and then to assume that every word has 
strict reference to this one subject ? This is, in effect, what Dr. 
Beecher claims on his own behalf. " The sermon," he says, " was 
not designed to have any reference to original sin ; it spake only 
of the present actual condition of adult mind ; the question how 
man came into such a state was not so much as touched." 
Throughout* the whole of his defence of this sermon there is an 

* Bishop Berkley wrote a treatise, called Siris, which had for its professed object 
to make known the healing virtues of tar-water, but in the course of which he goes 
into a discussion of the ancient philosophy, the harmonies of the universe, the nature 
of virtue, &c. Allowing him the same latitude which Dr. Beecher claims, he might 
insist upon his right to insert tar-water before virtue wherever it occurs. 

dr. beecher's theology. 159 

assumption that no part of it includes or refers to anything beyond 
his original design in writing it. There is no argument beyond 
this assumption to show that the passages objected to do not teach 
what they have been supposed to teach. Because he did not 
intend to discuss the question how man came into his present state, 
therefore this question was not touched, though there are the 
passages in which, according to the common understanding of the 
English language, he has not only touched it, but decided that the 
present condition of man is owing to his voluntary disobedience. 
Because he designed to prove in the sermon that all men are actual 
transgressors, therefore whenever he speaks of depravity we must 
prefix the qualifying term, adult, no matter with what confusion 
of grammar or sense. The design and drift of a writer ought 
indeed to be consulted in interpreting obscure passages, and should 
decide the question between two doubtful meanings. But we have 
never before met with any one who would carry this canon of 
exegesis so far as to pervert entirely the ordinary construction and 
force of words, for the sake of accommodating them to the one 
main argument of the writer. The subject of original sin is so far 
germane to that of actual transgression that we should not be sur- 
prised to see it alluded to by the most logical writer upon total 
depravity ; and in attempting, therefore, to discover the meaning 
of any passage in his discourse, we should be guided by the 
most obvious signification of the terms employed. And surely 
there can be no doubt what is the most obvious meaning of the 
passages we have quoted from Dr. Beecher. They are so plain 
that, if his explanation of them is admissible, we must abandon 
language as the means of communicating ideas, and invent some 
less dubious method. If a " depraved nature" means actual trans- 
gression, then black may mean white, and square may mean round, 
and root may mean branch, and language may be thrown aside as 
less explicit than dumb signs. 

Let us take one of these sentences and try Dr. Beecher's expla- 
nation upon it. "Neither a holy nor depraved nature is possible 
without understanding, conscience, and choice." In his Defence 
he interprets this to mean, that "neither a holy nor depraved 
nature, in respect to actual depravity, is possible." There is no 
difficulty in understanding the first of these assertions. By a 
depraved nature in man, all the world understand that disposition 
or bent of mind by which he is inclined to evil, and which is the 
source of all actual transgression. The declaration that such a 
nature is impossible, without understanding, reason, and choice, 
can only mean that depravity cannot be affirmed of man until he 
has reached the period at which personal accountability commen- 
ces ; and this is well known to be one of the prevalent theories 
upon this subject ; and these are the very terms in which that 
theory is generally announced by those who confessedly hold it. 
But we are utterly at a loss to divine the meaning of the phrase, 
"a depraved nature, in respect to actual depravity." If the term 

160 dr. beecher's theology. 

actual is used in the sense of real, as opposed to imaginary, then it 
would seem to teach that the depravity which exists prior to moral 
action is only a kind of metaphysical fiction, holding the same sort 
of relation to the truth that the square root of a negative quantity 
docs to a real expression in algebra. If he uses the word actual 
as opposed to potential, and means to distinguish between a depra- 
ved nature in esse and in posse, we must deny the correctness of 
the distinction. A depraved nature is itself the potential existence 
of actual transgression. Had it been Dr. Beecher's intention 
merely to teach that all actual sin is voluntary, it would have been 
very easy for him to have expressed this idea ; but we cannot 
understand how the extracts which we have given can be made 
to convey it. however modified they may be by the expletives, 
actual and adult. The original garment refuses to receive these 
heterogeneous patches. 

We have said that Dr. Beecher has given two different accounts 
of his object in writing this sermon. One of them we have already 
given, the other is contained in the following extract from his 
Defence ; " The question was as to the voluntariness of the depra- 
vity of an adult man. Keep this in remembrance, and then let me 
explain the drift of that sermon. After proving that the depravity 
of man is very great, I proceed in the sermon to say that it is 
voluntary, and this doctrine I advance in opposition to the philos- 
ophy which represents the existence of a great black pool some- 
where behind the will ; I don't know how bisr, but which continually 
pours out its waters of death — waters which turn the will as if it 
were a mill-wheel attached to some sort of patent model, which is 

continually working out sin The doctrine I meant to oppose 

was that of a physical, natural, constitutional depravity, totally 
involuntary; and as instinctive as the principle which teaches a 
robin to build her nest, or a lion to eat flesh and not grass. Against 
this notion of instinctive depravity, leading men of necessity to do 
nothing but sin, I composed the sermon, in which I declare that 
the depravity of man, implied in his destitution of religion, is volun- 
tary," &c. We have no objection to this account of the matter, 
save that it is inconsistent with the one previously given. If the 
sermon were written to counteract the notion that men are partially 
holy on account of their natural amiableness, it seems to us that 
this by-play with the black-pool and robin-red-breast theories of the 
will is quite as foreign to the topic as a touch at original sin would 
have been. Dr. Beecher has, however, just as good a right to 
quarrel with this great big black poo], as Don Quixote had to fight 
with the windmill. And if he should see fit to exercise this right, 
we cannot find it in our hearts to blame him ; we can only express 
our wonder that a man of his undoubted strength should expend it 
in beating the air, or in creating a big black pool, and then splash- 
ing in its dirty waters only to his own defilement. Dr. Beecher is 
not too old to learn. He has recently discovered to his great 
amazement, that the doctrine of free agency, which he had previ- 


ously thought was the product of New England wisdom, has been 
held in all ages of the Church in connexion with the Calvinistic 
system. Yet it was upon this very point that Jie was formerly in 
the habit of breaking out into the most copious expressions of horror 
over the evils produced by that false philosophy which had been 
employed for the exposition of Calvinism. We have no doubt that 
he has since sincerely repented the injustice of which he has thus 
been guilty towards others, and regretted the loss of his own time, 
which, as he has now discovered, was wasted in contending with 
shadows. And as he is now upon the right track, he will probably 
soon discover that there are other forms of that false philosophy 
which he has attributed to old Calvinists, that are, in truth, nothing 
more than the spectra of his own distempered fancy. 

We cannot see how this second account of the object of the 
sermon sheds any light upon the passages which we have quoted 
from it. Let us again take one of these extracts, and see 
whether there is the least relevancy in the explanation. " To say 
of an accountable creature that he is depraved by nature, is only 
to say, that, rendered capable by his Maker of obedience, he dis- 
obeys from the commencement of his accountability." This, by 
itself, seems sufficiently plain. It is the precise account which 
Prof. Fitch gave of man's depravity in his sermon on the "Nature 
of fSin," and which has since been repeatedly given from the New 
Haven school. It could hardly be made more definite than it is. 
And we do not see that it receives the least illustration from the 
author's information, that his object in writing the sermon was to 
drain off the big black pool which some explorers have found lying 
back of the will, or that his aim was to describe the depravity 
of adult man. He speaks here of the depravity which is by nature, 
and, as plainly and forcibly as words can do it, he excludes from 
it everything but actual disobedience. 

The difficulty under which Dr. Beecher felt himself to labour in 
his defence, will be further perceived in the claim which he, 
with apparent seriousness, puts forward, that in this very sermon 
he does teach and establish the doctrine of original sin. And how ? 
why, " by proving two of the fundamental doctrines always relied 
on by the orthodox church, and by Edwards in particular, to prove 
the doctrine of original sin — I mean the doctrine of total depravity, 
and the doctrine of regeneration." Verily the narrow portals of 
the Calvinistic platform must be widened, if all who teach total 
depravity and regeneration are to be therefore considered as good 
believers in our doctrine of original sin. Upon this principle, it 
should seem, if a man agrees with us in any one fact or doctrine, 
we are to assume that he agrees with us in all our inferences from it. 
Dr. Taylor believes and teaches that all men are sinners, that ihe 
first moral act, and all the successive acts of every man, until he is 
renewed, are sinful. He has urged this point quite as strenuously 
as Dr. Beecher. Are we therefore to conclude that Dr. Taylor 
believes the doctrine of original sin as taught in our standards ? 


162 dr. beecher's theology. 

We are astonished and grieved when we see a man of Dr. 
Beecher's high standing engaged in the attempt to palm off such 
wretched sophistry — it hardly deserves so respectable a name — 
upon the Presbyterian church. 

Dr. Beecher further asserts, that in one of the very passages 
" claimed to deny original sin, he does expressly allude to and 
recognise its existence as a reality." Our readers will doubtless 
be curious to know what he considers a recognition of this doc- 
trine. We quote the passage which contains it. " Whatever effect, 
therefore, the fall of man may have had on his race, it has not had 
the effect to render it impossible for man to love God religiously ; 
and whatever may be the early constitution of man, there is noth- 
ing in it, and nothing withheld from it, which renders disobedience 
unavoidable and obedience impossible." There can never be any 
lack of believers in the doctrine of original sin, if the vague, nega- 
tive allusions, "whatever effect the fall of man may have had on 
his race," and " whatever may be the early constitution of man," 
are to be considered a sufficient profession of faith. Who can 
withhold his sympathy from Dr. Beecher, in the affliction which 
he must have felt, when compelled to resort to such means as this 
to prove his orthodoxy ? There is not a Pelagian or Socinian in the 
land who might not, with perfect consistency, have uttered this 
sentence ; and he must have felt himself hard pressed before he 
could have been driven so far to trifle with the public, and with his 
own character, as to allege it in proof of his recognition of the 
doctrine of original sin. 

We have one more extract from Dr. Beecher's writings which 
we shall produce in evidence of his opinions on this subject prior 
to his trial. We solicit special attention to this passage, since its 
explicitness will be seen, il examined, to preclude all evasion and 
subterfuge. Through some neglect or oversight, which we deeply 
regret, it was not produced upon his trial. Had it been, we see 
not how the synod could have avoided convicting Dr. Beecher of 
having denied the doctrine of the Confession of Faith upon this 
point. The passage occurs in the controversy in which Dr. 
Beecher was engaged with the editor of the Christian Examiner, 
in the year 1828.* It is in the following words : 

" The Reformers also, with one accord, taught that the sin of 
Adam was imputed to all his posterity, and that a corrupt nature 
descends from him to every one of his posterity, in consequence of 
which infants are unholy, unfit for heaven, and justly exposed to 
future punishment. Their opinion seems to have been, that the 
very substance or essence of the soul was depraved, and that the 
moral contamination extended alike to all its powers and faculties, 
insomuch that sin became a property of every man's nature, and 

was propagated as really as flesh and blood Our Puritan 

fathers adhered to the doctrine of original sin, as consisting in the 
imputation of Adam's sin, and in a hereditary depravity ; and this 

* See Spirit of the Pilgrims, vol. i„ p. 158. 

dr. beecher's theology. 163 

continued to be the received doctrine of the churches of New Eng- 
land until after the time of Edwards. He adopted the views of 
the Reformers on the subject of original sin, as consisting in the 
imputation of Adam's sin, and a depraved nature transmitted by 
descent. But after him this mode of stating the subject was gradu- 
ally changed, until long since the prevailing doctrine in New Eng- 
land has been, that men are not guilty of Adam's sin, and that 
depravity is not of the substance of the soul, nor an inherent or 
physical quality, but is wholly voluntary, and consists in the trans- 
gression of the law, in such circumstances as constitute account- 
ability and desert of punishment." 

Here, at least, if never before, Dr. Beecher, to use one of his own 
expressions, is " fairly out" upon the subject of original sin. It is 
impossible to read this passage, and then doubt what his opinions 
were at the time he wrote it. Will he pretend that he was merely 
giving what was the prevalent doctrine in New England, and not 
stating his own views ? The connexion in which this passage 
occurs precludes such a plea. The controversy which he was 
waging was occasioned by a note to his sermon on the Moral 
Government of God, in which he had denied that the Calvinistic 
scheme involved the opinion that infants are damned. The editor 
of the Christian Examiner replied to this note ; and Dr. Beecher 
in his letter to him complains bitterly, that in maintaining his argu- 
ment that Calvinists hold the offensive opinion in question, he 
makes use of exploded representations on the subject of original 
sin, instead of taking those which he knew were then generally 
adopted in New England. Dr. Beecher therefore, was certainly 
guilty of duplicity in seeking to obtain for himself what he deemed 
the benefit of these modified views of original sin, if he did not 
really hold them. But there is no doubt, there can be none, that 
he is here stating his own opinions. Were there any, it would be 
removed by the following passage which is found in close con- 
nexion with the one above quoted. " The pamphlets and treatises 
on this subject were written, and the subject settled, before my 
recollection. But I have read them, and have searched the Scrip- 
tures, and have from the beginning accommodated my phraseo- 
logy to opinions which had been adopted as the result of an inves- 
tigation which commenced more than seventy years ago, and has 
been settled more than fifty years." Dr. Beecher here declares, 
that the opinions which he had just presented on the subject of 
original sin, were his own, that he had adopted them after careful 
study, and that he had preached them from the beginning. 

Will he urge that he is here speaking of actual or adult depra- 
vity ? We should feel that we were unjust towards Dr. Beecher, 
in intimating the possibility of his resort to such grounds of 
defence, were it not for the specimen which he has already given of 
his wonderful capabilities in this line. But all the changes which 
he can ring upon the words actual and adult will not help him 
here. He is, in this part of his letter, professedly giving what he 

164 dr. beecher's theology. 

deems the true view of original sin, in opposition to the old Calvin- 
istic doctrine, from which his adversary had drawn some of his 
arguments. It is then of infants, not adults, that he is writing ; it 
is of a depraved nature, existing prior to moral action, in distinc- 
tion from whatever it is that he means by«" a depraved nature in 
respect to actual depravity." 

Assuming what cannot be questioned, that this passage contains 
Dr. Beecher's views of original sin, it suggests several very obvi- 
ous reflections. We see that Dr. Beecher here, as in his other 
writings, misrepresents and caricatures the orthodox doctrine, that 
doctrine which he admits was generally held from the time of the 
Reformation until after Edwards. Alter stating correctly the doc- 
trine which they taught, he adds his own version of it in these 
words, " that the very substance or essence of the soul was 
depraved." And in giving an account, of the change which had 
taken place in the mode of stating the subject, he makes the nega- 
tive part of it to consist in the denial " that men are guilty 
of Adam's sin, and that depravity is of the substance of the 
soul, or an inherent or physical quality," This, then, was 
the doctrine which had been previously taught by Edwards, 
and his predecessors. But he otherwise represents their doc- 
trine as teaching that " a corrupt nature descends from Adam 
to every one of his posterity," or that "original sin consists in the 
imputation of Adam's sin, and in a hereditary depravity," or " a 
depraved nature transmitted by descent." Let it then be distinctly 
marked and held in remembrance, that when Dr. Beecher rails at 
physical depravity, he means hereditary depravity ; when he 
attacks the opinion that the substance or essence of the soul is 
depraved, his shafts are levelled against the doctrine of a corrupt 
nature descending from Adam to his posterity. We have often 
been much perplexed in the attempt to understand what is meant 
by certain men, when they declaim against physical depravity, 
material sin, &c. ; and we have sometimes been uncharitable 
enough to think that they had no meaning at all, and made use of 
these phrases merely to round a sentence or point an antithesis. 
But Dr. Beecher makes his meaning sufficiently plain. He uses 
physical depravity, and a depraved nature transmitted by descent, 
as convertible phrases ; and he leaves no halting-place between 
the theory that depravity consists in a voluntary action, and that 
which makes it a physical quality. If this is done ignorantly — if 
Dr. Beecher is really unable to perceive the difference between 
the orthodox doctrine of a corrupt nature, and that of moral 
depravity in the physical structure of the soul, then he ought cer- 
tainly to lay aside the office and the air of an instructer of his 
brethren in theology. But if the misrepresentation is made wilfully, 
we will venture to recommend to him the same discipline which 
he once advised in a similar case, the careful study of the ninth 
commandment. We are willing, however, in the present instance, 
to endure the pain of this evil report of our opinions, and even feel 

dr. beechek's theology. 165 

grateful to Dr. Beecher on account of it, because of the key which 
it furnishes to the passages in which he fulminates against physical 
depravity, and those who hold and teach it. 

We were moreover struck, while reading this passage, with the 
wonderful similarity between its statements and those already 
quoted from the sermon on the Native Character of Man. It is 
truly surprising that there should be such a strong likeness, a per- 
fect identity indeed, between the two, when we consider that in the 
one he is describing actual depravity, or adult depravity, or a 
depraved nature in respect to actual depravity, and in the other, that 
depravity which belongs to original sin. Speaking of a depraved 
nature in respect to actual depravity, he says, " If, therefore, man 
is depraved by nature, it is a voluntary and accountable nature 
which is depraved, exercised in disobedience to the law of God ;" 
and speaking of a depraved nature in respect to original sin, he 
says, " Depravity is wholly voluntary, and consists in the trans- 
gression of the law in such circumstances as constitute account- 
ability and desert of punishment." We may surely be pardoned 
the natural error of supposing, that in these sentences he was 
describing the same thing. Especially do we think we may be 
forgiven this offence, when it is further observed that he uses the 
same phrases, native depravity, depraved nature, &c, in the one 
case to denote actual depravity, and in the other that which is not 
actual. And yet, further, would we plead in extenuation of our 
error, that Dr. Beecher informs us in this letter, that the views 
which it presents of original sin were those which he had held from 
the beginning, and to which he had always accommodated his 
phraseology. What then could have been more natural than for 
us to suppose, when we found in this letter a certain assertion made 
respecting " native depravity," and then found the same assertion 
respecting " native depravity," in a sermon written previously, 
that they both had reference to the same thing. If we have, 
indeed, erred in this supposition, we must pronounce it hazardous 
to attempt to interpret any production of Dr. Beecher, until he has 
first been tried for it, and had an opportunity to put in his explana- 
tion and defence. 

Our last remark upon this exposition of the doctrine of original 
sin is, that the author himself cannot have the hardihood to deny 
that it is in direct conflict with the Confession of Faith. He ex- 
pressly rejects the doctrine, whatever it was, which had been 
taught by the Reformers, the Puritan fathers of New England, and 
by Edwards, and it has never been denied or doubted that the 
doctrine which they taught is that of our Confession. He denies 
that men are guilty of Adam's sin, and thus rejects the doctrine 
of imputation. He asserts that all depravity is voluntary, and 
consists in the transgression of the law, discarding, as plainly 
as language can do it, the doctrine of a depraved nature transmit- 
ted from Adam to his posterity. Yet this doctrine, thus discredited, 
and contemptuously given over to the tender mercies of his 

166 dr. beecher's theology. 

Socinian adversary, is the doctrine of our standards. He does 
not simply modify the orthodox mode of stating this doctrine, 
he altogether rejects the doctrine itself. In a passage following 
the one we have given, he says, " These (the New England 
divines) while they disclaim the language held hy Calvin 
and Edwards on the subject of imputation, do, in accordance with 
the Bible and the Reformers, teach that there is a connexion of 
some kind between the sin of Adam and the universal, voluntary, 
and entire depravity of his posterity ; so that it is in consequence 
of Adam's sin that all mankind do sin voluntarily, as early as they 
are capable of accountability and moral action." This restriction 
of the whole matter to " a connexion of some kind" between Adam 
and his posterity, in consequence of which they all sin voluntarily 
as soon as they become capable of moral action, does more than 
discard our mode of representing the doctrine of original sin, as 
consisting in the imputation of Adam's sin, the want of original 
righteousness, and the corruption of man's whole nature. By 
denying that we are in any sense guilty of Adam's sin, and reject- 
ing the idea of a corrupt nature transmitted by descent, while it 
confines all depravity to actual transgression, it removes the whole 
ground of distinction between original and actual sin. It is mere 
quibbling, or something worse, to retain the phrase, when every- 
thing that could be meant by it has been rejected. Besides actual 
transgression, Dr. Beecher teaches that there is nothing but " a 
connexion of some kind" existing between Adam and his posterity. 
But he certainly cannot contend for the absurdity of applying the 
term original sin to this connexion. Sin denotes something in the 
subject, not out of him. The phrase cannot be applied to the con- 
nexion itself, nor are we at liberty to affix it to the effect of this 
connexion upon the subjects of it, for this, he assures us, is actual 
transgression, not original sin. He believes that accountability 
does not " commence from the womb," and that the time when it 
does commence "is not and cannot be exactly known to any but 
the eye of God." Previous to this period, upon his theory, nothing 
more can be affirmed of the infant than that, in consequence of the 
sin of Adam, it is certain that it will sin voluntarily, as soon as it 
becomes capable of moral action. This is the utmost extent to 
which his doctrine can carry us ; and what more gross misappli- 
cation of language is possible than to term this undefined con- 
nexion with Adam, or the certainty arising from it that the being 
will actually sin, original sin. This phrase should, in fairness, be 
thrown aside, if there can be no depravity or sin without " a 
transgression of the law under such circumstances as constitute 
accountability and desert of punishment." We should despair of 
being able to construct a categorical denial of every semblance of 
the doctrine of original sin, if this be not one. 

We expressed regret that the passage upon which we have been 
commenting had not been produced in evidence upon the trial, but 
we recall this expression. We doubt whether such regret is con- 

dr. beecher's theology. 167 

sistent with the proper degree of kindly feeling towards Dr. 
Beecher. No friend of his, who has beheld the pitiable plight to 
which he was reduced by the extracts that were brought forward 
from his sermon, the hopeless conflict in which he felt himself com- 
pelled to struggle with the obvious meaning of his words, and the 
wandering mazes of confusion and nonsense in which he was lost, 
can desire that his calamity should have been so much increased 
as it must have been had this passage been produced. 

When it is considered that out of the little that Dr. Beecher had 
published which touched at all upon controverted points in theo- 
logy, there was so much that denied the doctrine of original sin — 
that his sermons and conversation were said, by many competent 
judges who were in the habit of hearing them, to contain much 
more to the same effect — that he had declared, in his letter to Dr. 
Porter, that there were some things in which he agreed with Dr. 
Taylor — and that it was publicly known that during the contro- 
versy between Dr. Taylor and Dr. Tyler, in the Spirit of the Pil- 
grims, either as the locum tenens of the editor, or in some other 
capacity, he acted as second to Dr. Taylor — is it wonderful, when 
these things are considered, that Dr. Beecher should have been 
more than suspected of heresy ? Were the accusations against 
him so entirely groundless, that he is entitled to assume the attitude 
and tone of an injured man ? Truly, we think the merchant or phy- 
sician who had given as much reason for suspicion of his honesty 
or his skill, however aged, might not only be justly called upon to 
exhibit his books, or give an account of his cases and practice, 
but that he ought to esteem himself fortunate if he escaped con- 
viction of fraud, or quackery, and humbly resolve to amend his 
course, instead of censuring those who had called him to an 

We will now take up Dr. Beecher's Views in Theology, and 
seek to ascertain what opinions he there avows on the subject of 
original sin. And here we find an account so different, so diame- 
trically opposed to that which he had previously given, that we 
can hardly believe them to have proceeded from the same pen.* 
The voice that we hear is no longer the exulting tone of one pro- 
claiming new and important truths in theology ; it sounds like an 
echo from the tomb of the dead and buried orthodoxy of the 
Reformers and the Puritan fathers. Let the following extract be com- 
pared with those which we have given from his previous writings. 

* We have indeed heard it said, that after the publication of his Views in Theo- 
logy, Dr. Beecher, as if doubtful of his own identity, sought to assure himself by 
going on to New Haven and ascertaining whether Dr. Taylor would recognise him. 
It is added, that the result of the experiment was entirely satisfactory. But this 
story must be apocryphal. We can readily conceive that Dr. B. might feel himself 
in the predicament of Amphitryo when he exclaimed, 

Num formam perdidi ? mirum quin me norit Sosia. 
Scrutabor : eho die mihi, quis videor ? num satis Amphitruo ? 

But the incredible part of the story is that Sosia recognised Amphitryo. 

168 dr. beecher's theology. 

" What the precise errors are which I am supposed to hold I do 
not know; but from the evidence relied on, and the general course of 
the argument, it would seem that I am supposed to hold the Pela- 
gian doctrine on the subject (original sin) ; that I deny that Adam 
was the federal head and representative of his race ; that the 
covenant was made not only with Adam, but also with his poste- 
rity ; that the guilt of his sin was imputed to them; that there is 
any such thing as native depravity ; or that infants are depraved. 
That, on the contrary, 1 hold and teach that infants are innocent, 
and as pure as Adam before the fall; and that each one stands or 
falls for himself as he rises to personal accountability ; and that 
there is no such thing as original sin descending from Adam by 
ordinary generation ; and that original sin is not sin, or in any 
sense deserving God's wrath and curse. 

" Now every one of these assumed errors of my faith / deny to be 
my faith. They ascribe to me opinions which I have never held 
nor taught, and as I shall show, there is no evidence that I ever 
taught one of them." 

This confession leaves us nothing to desire on this subject. The 
most orthodox cannot go beyond it. Translated from its present 
negative into the equivalent positive form, it would read thus : " I 
hold and teach, that Adam was the federal head and representative 
of his race ; that the covenant was made not only with Adam, but 
also with his posterity ; that the guilt of his sin was imputed to 
them ; that there is such a thing as native depravity, and that in- 
fants are depraved. I hold and teach that infants are guilty; that 
they are already fallen, before they rise to personal accountability ; 
that there is such a thing as original sin, descending from Adam 
by ordinary generation ; and that original sin is properly sin, and 
deserving of God's wrath and curse." 

Those who are acquainted with the controversies to which the 
subject of original sin has given rise, will at once perceive how 
explicitly this confession meets and rejects every error that has at 
any time prevailed. We have never seen, within the same com- 
pass, so close and strict a statement of the doctrine, one which so 
fully yielded all that the orthodox demand, and so carefully guarded 
against everything to which they object. We do not believe that 
there is upon record a Calvinistic statement of this doctrine, which 
adds anything which is not included in the view that Dr. Beecher 
here presents as his own. It would have been entirely satisfac- 
tory, therefore, and we should have rejoiced in it beyond measure, 
if in connexion with this profession of his faith, he had made a 
recantation of his former errors. Or we should have been satis- 
fied with the virtual recantation, implied in this profession, if he 
had not seen fit to accompany it with the express declaration, 
" Such, on the subject of original sin, are the views which I have 
always held and taught since I have been in the ministry." Again, 
he says, " My doctrinal opinions have been unchanged from the 
beginning." " And yet again, " In doctrine I am what 1 have ever 

dr. beecher's theology. 169 

been." These declarations are the source of our perplexity and 
our misgivings. Here he declares, that ever since he has been in 
the ministry he has held and taught, " that original sin descends 
from Adam to his posterity, by ordinary generation," or, as he 
again expresses it in another passage, that "it descends from Adam, 
by natural generation to all his race." But in his letter to the 
editor of the Christian Examiner, he informs us, that he has from 
the beginning adopted those opinions of original sin which reject 
the idea presented by the Reformers, " of a depraved nature, trans- 
mitted by descent." * Here he professes to believe, " that the guilt 
of Adam's sin is imputed to his posterity ;" in his letter he states 
his opinion to be, " that men are not guilty of Adam's sin." Here 
he affirms that " it (original sin) is involuntary ;'** in his letter he 
declares that there is no depravity save that which is " wholly 
voluntary." Here he teaches that infants are guilty, before they 
rise to personal accountability, and deserving God's wrath and 
curse ; in his letter he tells us that there is no depravity or guilt, 
but that which arises from "the transgression of the law under 
such circumstances as constitute accountability and desert of pun- 
ishment." Here he says of original sin, that "it is denominated by 
Edwards, and justly, an exceedingly evil and depraved nature ;"f 
in his letter he declares that he has always repudiated the views 
and language of Edwards upon this subject. 

Here is contradiction palpable and broad. The two views pre- 
sented by Dr. Beecher, in his earlier and later publications, belong 
to two entirely different, two opposite systems. They have no 
common points of resemblance, and the same man can no more 
hold the two simultaneously in his faith, than he can believe both 
in the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems of the universe. Yet 
Dr. Beecher assures us again and again that he has never changed 
in doctrine ; that he has always taught that native depravity is 
voluntary, and always taught that native depravity is involuntary. 
We know not which way to turn for a solution of this paradox. 
We are unwilling to believe that Dr. Beecher is so obtuse in his 
perception of truth, that he does not see the wide and bridgeless 
gulf between these two systems. We are reluctant, too, to believe 
that pride or false shame would keep him from acknowledging a 
change in his views, if himself conscious that such a change had 
taken place. And we would fain avoid the belief that in his ortho- 
dox professions, he uses words and terms in a different sense from 
that which he knows others will attach to them, thus reserving to 
himself the liberty of retreat, under the shelter of the esoteric sense, 
to his former views, whenever the days of trial for heresy shall 
have passed by. We can conceive no other solution, save that 
which is afforded by one of these hypotheses ; — but we are unwil- 
ling to choose between them, and wdl leave our readers, alter this 
exhibition of the facts and the difficulties of the case, to form their 
own conclusion. 

* See Views in Theology, p. 193. t See Views, p. 194. 

170 dr. beecher's theology. 

We regret most sincerely and deeply the result of our exami- 
nation into Dr. Beecher's opinions. It is painful to bring forward 
such charges as are implied in the exhibition we have made, 
against one whom we are constrained on so many accounts to 
admire and respect. But truth and justice are superior in their 
claims to personal considerations ; and we have felt that under the 
peculiar circumstances of the case they required this exposure at 
our hands. 

The only other topic which we intended to make the subject of 
extended comment, is the theory which Dr. Beecher gives of the 
will, in his discussion of Natural Ability. But we have already 
occupied so much space that we must defer our remarks on this 


In resuming the examination of Dr. Beecher's views, with the 
object of discussing his theory of moral agency, we feel that we 
are undertaking a task of considerable difficulty. It is by no means 
easy to cull from the mass of heterogeneous and irrelevant matler 
which he has brought together, a consistent account of his peculiar 
opinions. When we think we have caught his meaning upon one 
page, the next is sure to unsettle us. At one time he seems to be 
contending with the Antinomian fatalist — at another, with the old- 
fashioned Calvinist — and not seldom, as if unable to find other 
antagonists worthy of his prowess, he is reduced to the necessity 
of fighting with himself. It might bean amusing, and certainly 
would be an easy exercise to answer one part of his book by quo- 
tations from another. He gives ample evidence of the correctness 
of the late Dr. Porter's opinion, that Dr. Beecher is no metaphysi- 
cian. At every step he manifests a most singular incompetency 
for discussions of this nature. He seldom defines the words or 
phrases which he employs — and when he does, it is generally with 
such want of precision, that he might better have left them unde- 
fined. Where we feel the need of a clear and definite statement 
of the point in debate, we are treated often to an unmeaning jingle 
of words ; and where we have a right to expect an argument we 
have a metaphor unexpectedly played off upon us. Instead of 
giving us, in a lucid train of consecutive reasoning, a defence of 
the opinions in debate, he deals out page after page of glowing 
declamation in proof of positions which no one has ever denied. 
There may be much good rhetoric in all this, but it is sadly 
wanting in logic. It might make a deep impression if delivered, 
ore rotundo, before a popular audience, but it will make no con- 
verts among those who are accustomed to study the subject which 
it treats. 

dr. beecher's theology. 171 

The theory of the will, beyond all other subjects within the range 
of mental and moral science, demands precision in the use of lan- 
guage. The terms employed, being of necessity those cf the fire- 
side and the forum, possess many different shades of meaning, and 
cannot well serve the purposes of scientific discussion, unless 
they are first precisely defined, and then used in the single sense 
attached to them. Without the most scrupulous and vigilant care, 
any attempt to elucidate this subject can end only in multiplying 
words without knowledge. Dr. Beecher might have learned an 
important lesson upon this matter from an author of whom he 
would hardly have spoken as he has done, if he had been familiar 
with his writings, and from whom we quote therefore the following 
sentence for his benefit. " Seeing then that truth consisteth in the 
right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh 
precise truth hath need to remember what every name he uses 
stands for, and to place it accordingly ; or else he will find him- 
self entangled in words, as a bird in lime-twigs."* There are very 
few authors, who have written extensively upon the abstruse 
subject of the will, who will not be found occasionally open 
to censure upon this score, so extremely difficult is it to guard 
entirely against the snare set for them in the ambiguity of language. 
But there is a vagueness in the terms and statements of Dr. 
Beecher, and a looseness in his method of reasoning as well as his 
phraseology which are altogether peculiar to himself. This would 
have been the more surprising to us on account of the seeming con- 
sciousness of strength with which he comes forward to grapple with 
the difficulties of the subject, had wenot longsince learned to consider 
a manifestation of such confidence no proof of extraordinary fitness 
for the undertaking. " Settle," he says, "the philosophy of free 
agency — what are the powers of a free agent — how they are put 
together, and how they operate in personal, accountable action — 
and controversy among all the friends of Christ will cease. It has 
often been said that it never can be settled. I believe no such 
thing. The perplexities of the schoolmen are passing away," &c. 
It has been said by one who delved much more than we have done 
among the tomes of the middle ages, that it was " impossible for 
any mortal living to tell what a schoolman ever meant by his 
words ;"f but there can hardly be anything in Duns Scotus or 

* Hobbes's Treatise on Human Nature. 

f We doubt very much the wisdom or justice of sneering by wholesale at the 
schoolmen The logical subtleties to which they devoted themselves, though per- 
plexing, yet on this very account sharpened in a high degree their intellect, and 
quickened their powers of discrimination and argument; and it was the opinion of 
Leibnitz, frequently avowed, at a time when such an avowal was dangerous to one's 
reputation and almost to his personal safety, " that there was much gold in the 
impure mass of scholastic philosophy." This great man often confesses his own 
obligations to the scholastic writers, and his high estimate of the value of many of 
their works. It would be a useful undertaking, would some competent scholar, who 
could gain access to their productions, examine them carefully and gather from them 
what is worth preserving. We have little doubt that much sterling ore might be 
dug out from this mine. 

172 dr. beecher's theology. 

Thomas Aquinas more perplexing than would be the attempt to 
educe an intelligible meaning from many of Dr. Beecher's sen- 
tences. Let the following formal definition be taken for a sample. 
"By natural inability, I understand that which an agent, though 
ever so willing, cannot do, from defect of capacity." According 
to this definition the natural inability of a loose and careless thinker 
would be a compact, well-digested piece of reasoning. The inabi- 
lity is not an attribute of the agent — it is the thing which he cannot 
do. And were this mistake rectified, the definition would still be 
incomplete. It limits natural inability to the want of power which 
is consequent upon " defect of capacity." But it is obvious that 
though the eyes of a man should be ever so good, yet if he were 
deprived of light, he would labour under a natural inability of seeing. 
So far as the applicability of the term natural is concerned, it is a 
matter of indifference whether the inability result from a defect in 
the faculties of the agent, or in any of the conditions required by 
nature for the appropriate exercise of his faculties. 

Other instances of a like kind are not wanting. There is 
a vagueness, remarkable even in Dr. Beecher, attending his 
use of the terms, cause and effect. The following passage 
furnishes an example. " The supposition of accountability for 
choice, coerced by a natural necessity, is contrary to the nature of 
things as God has constituted them. The relation of cause and 
effect pervades the universe. The natural world is full of it. It 
is the basis of all science, and of all intellectual operation, with 
respect to mind. Can the intellect be annihilated, and thinking go 
on ? No more can the power of choice be annihilated, and free 
agency remain." The power of choice, or, in other words, the 
faculty usually denominated the will, is certainly requisite to free 
agency. This we suppose no one has ever denied, since no defini- 
tion of free agency can be given which does not virtually imply 
the existence of a will in the agent. But it is certainly a very 
strange use of the words to call the will a cause, and free agency 
its effect ; and the analogical argument founded on this assumed 
relation is most lame and impotent. Dr. Beecher however is so 
partial to this analogy that he introduces it again under a subse- 
quent head of argument. " The supposition," he says, " of con- 
tinued responsibility, after all the powers of causation are gone, is 
contrary to the common sense and intuitive perception of all man- 
kind. On the subject of moral obligation all men can see and do 
see that there can be no effect without a cause. That nothing 
cannot produce something is an intuitive perception, and you can- 
not help it. This is the basis of that illustrious demonstration by 
which we prove the being of a God." Though this passage occurs 
within a page of the one last quoted, it will be observed that the 
application of the analogy of material causes and effects has been 
changed within this brief compass. In the first, the effect was 
free agency, — here it is responsibility or moral obligation. There 
is still another passage in which he says, " Material causes, while 

dr. beecher's theology. 173 

upheld by heaven, are adequate to their proper effects ; and the 
mind of man, though fallen, is, while upheld, a cause sufficient, in 
respect to the possibility of obedience, to create infinite obligation." 
Respect for Dr. Beecher restrains us from employing the only be- 
coming and adequate mode of exposing such argumentation as 
this. It is impossible to enter upon a serious refutation of the 
analogy assumed in these extracts ; or to undertake, with a grave 
face, to prove that the will, or the mind of man, does not stand in 
the relation of a cause to free agency, responsibility, the possibility 
of obedience, or infinite obligation. These latter terms character- 
ize abstract properties or relations which are not the object of 
power, and would not therefore be termed effects by any one who 
was at all attentive " to the right ordering of names." Such rea- 
soning might be tolerated in a public oration before a promiscuous 
audience, — it might be overlooked in a popular sermon, — but it must 
leave its disparaging mark upon one who employs it in a set expo- 
sition of the subject of free agency, cleared of the perplexities of 
fog and mist in which the schoolmen have involved it. No one 
who reads the extracts we have given, or still less if he reads the 
treatise from which they are taken, will wonder that Dr. Beecher 
should have felt it necessary to inform Dr. Porter, and through 
him the public at large, that his method of philosophizing was the 

There is another case of the perversion of terms in Dr. Beecher's 
work more serious than those we have quoted, because it has 
betrayed him into some erroneous opinions. The phrases natural 
ability and moral ability have been for many years currently em- 
ployed in discussions upon the subject of the will and free agency. 
Their meaning has been well defined by long usage, and Dr. 
Beecher professes to use them in their common acceptation. We 
have given his own definition of natural inability. He subse- 
quently gives, with approbation, as coincident with his own, 
the definitions of President Edwards. " We are said to be natu- 
rally unable to do a thing which we cannot do if we will, 
because what is commonly called nature docs not allow of it. 

* See Dr. Beecher's published letter to Dr. Porter. In this letter he gives this 
truly original definition of Philosophy. " Philosophy is the nature which God has 
given to things, to mind and to matter ; with the laws of their operation." He sub- 
sequently adds, " If I understand my own mode of philosophizing, it is the Baco- 
nian ; — facts and the Bible are the extent of my philosophy." The latter part of this 
sentence is somewhat obscure. He can hardly mean that his philosophy embraces 
only the knowledge of facts and of the Bible, without regard to the disposition of his 
knowledge in systematic order. We suppose he intended to inform us that he 
applied to facts and to the Bible, the principles of the Baconian philosophy. We 
have once before, in a single instance, met with the notion of improving theological 
science, by applying to the Bible the principles and methods of the inductive philo- 
sophy. About as fitly might one talk of getting a purer system of truth from the 
Bible, by applying to it the new method of boring for water. It is to be wished that 
Bacon were more read or less talked about His name is getting to be so much a 
stalking horse for pretenders, that it is now almost a suspicious circumstance to be 
caught making any use of it. 

174 dk. beecher's theology. 

Moral inability is the want of inclination, or a contrary incli- 
nation." The correlate phrases, natural and moral ability, will of 
course denote, the one, the ability which results from the posses- 
sion of physical powers and opportunities ; the other, that which 
arises from inclination or disposition. But Dr. Beecher applies 
these terms to the will itself, as well as to the agent. He speaks 
of the " natural inability of the will," " the natural power of choice." 
" the natural power of the will," &c. Had he paused a moment 
upon these phrases, he must have felt that they were destitute of 
meaning. Their absurdity is at once made apparent by substitut- 
ing the word will in the definition which Dr. Beecher himself gives. 
It would run thus : " By the natural inability (of the will), I under- 
stand that which the will, though ever so willing, cannot do, from 
defect of capacity," that is, in this case from defect of will. As 
it is important to get light upon these phrases, if any can be 
had, we will try whether the definition which he has adopted from 
Edwards can help us to see what is meant by the natural inability 
of the will. " The will is said to be naturally unable to do a thing 
which it cannot do if it will, because what is commonly called 
nature does not allow of it." Now as the question is only about 
acts of the will, and it is very plain that if a thing is willed it is 
willed, the only hinderance which nature can interpose here must 
be bv the destruction of the will itself To assert, then, that a man 
labours under a natural inability of will, must mean that he is alto- 
gether destitute of this faculty. It is in like manner apparent that 
the moral inability of the will must mean the want of will in the 
will, or rather that it has no intelligible meaning whatever. 

It would be difficult, too, to tell what can be meant by the follow- 
ing remark : " The will is under no such necessity as destroys its 
own power of choice." We do not recollect that Dr. Beecher has 
defined the sense in which he uses the word will. He seems, how- 
ever, usually to employ it in its common acceptation, as denoting, 
according to Locke, " the power or ability to prefer or choose," or 
in the language of Edwards, " that power or principle of mind by 
which it is capable of choosing." What then can be intended by 
"the will's own power of choice," that is, by the power of choice 
possessed by the mind's power of choice ? When we assert that 
an agent in order to be accountable must possess the power of 
choice, the assertion is both intelligible and true. It means that 
the agent in question must possess the faculty of will. But that 
"the will is under no such necessity as destroys its power of 
choice" can convey no meaning beyond what is involved in the 
identical proposition that the will is no longer the will after it has 
been destroyed. These instances will show how easy it is in the 
discussion of this subject, to slide from the clear to the obscure, 
from the significant to the unmeaning ; and the knowledge of this 
danger to which he is exposed should admonish every one who 
undertakes the discussion, to employ all possible precaution and 

dr. beecher's theology. 175 

vigilance. Better far the endless niceties of the scholastic distinc- 
tions, than this vague, slip-shod use of terms.* 

Other passages might be produced which are open to censure 
of a somewhat lighter kind, as manifesting an undue predominance 
of the imagination over the reason — passages in which the objec- 
tionable phrases cannot, in strictness of speech, be pronounced 
absurd, but nevertheless are so vague or hyperbolical as to be 
exceedingly out of place in a treatise of this kind. We quote the 
following specimen : " There must exist the power of intellect, 
perception, comparison, judgment, conscience, will, affections, taste, 
memory, the discursive power of thought, the semi-omnipotence 
of volition, and those exercises of soul which constitute personal 
excellence and inspire affection." We have here, among the attri- 
butes of a moral agent, the power of intellect, and then again, the 
discursive power of thought ; the will is not enough, — he must 
have in addition the semi-omnipotence of volition ; affections are 
needed, and then besides these, the exercises of soul which consti- 
tute personal excellence. One set of these phrases might surely 
have been spared. But Dr. Beecher is seldom satisfied with the 
simple, quiet statement of a truth. The boisterous exaggerations 
of oratory delight him far more. "The semi-omnipotence of voli- 
tion," one would think could hardly be beaten. But the following 
sentence may at least contest the palm with it : " The will of man 
is stronger than anything in the universe, except the Almighty 
God." We thought Dr. Taylor had gone quite fir enough in cha- 
racterizing the will as a "giant rebel," but he is fairly outdone by 
Dr. Beecher. No one has ever given an intelligible account of 
any active power that man can exert, save to move the muscles 
of his body, or to direct the attention of his mind, and that only 
within certain limits. This beggarly power is strangely glorified 
when clothed in the princely habiliments of semi-omnipotence and 
strength inferior only to the Almighty God. 

The method of argument pursued by Dr. Beecher, as might 
have been expected from the looseness of his phraseology, is inco- 
herent, d ffuse, and often self-contradictory. One of his heads of 
argument in defence of his theory of moral agency, is the ibllow- 
ing. " That man possesses, since the fall, the powers of agency 
requisite to obligation, on the ground of possibility of obedience, is 
a matter of notoriety." It would be easy to point out a defect of 
precision in this sentence, but it is not for that purpose we have 
quoted it. It asserts that the truth of his own opinions on the sub- 

* We refer Dr. Beecher to the author, whose method of philosophizing he thinks 
he has adopted, for the following weighty sentences : " Itaque mala et inepta verbo- 
rum impositio, rniris modis intellectum obsidet." " Sed verba plane vim faciunt 
intellectui, et omnia turbant." Nov. Organ. Aph. 43. He will find too this instruct- 
ive caution in the same author's Proficience and Advancement of Learning : " Here, 
therefore, is the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter. 
It seems to me that Pygmalion's phrensy is a good emblem of this fault ; for words are 
but the images of matter; and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall 
in love with them, is all one as to fall in love with a picture." 

176 dr. beecher's theology. 

ject of man's moral agency is a matter of notoriety. Then surely 
he might have spared himself the trouble of filling the hundred 
pages which follow. For evidence of its loose and declamatory 
style of arg .merit, we must refer our readers to the book itself. 
They cannot open it amiss. We might almost say the same of its 
inconsistencies. We select at random an instance or two, illus- 
trating the latter feature. The author repeatedly denies that 
motives are, properly speaking, causes of volition, — they are the 
ground, occasion, or reason, but not the cause. This is urged most 
strenuously. But in discussing the question whether the word of 
God is employed as the instrument in regeneration as well as in 
conversion, he has the following argument. " But why should the 
efficiency of God defraud the word of its alleged instrumentality, 
or the instrumentality of the word exclude the power of God ? Is 
the union of both impossible ? It cannot be impossible, because, 
unquestionably, in the government of the natural world, God's 
almightincss is associated with the instrumentality of natural causes, 
and may be just as possibly, if God pleases, in the moral world, 
associated with the instrumentality of moral causes " We do not 
intend to dispute the truth of the opinion advocated in this passage; 
we wish simply to call attention to the argument employed. Why 
is the j'»int efficiency of motives and of the power of God possible, 
in the production of a given effect upon the mind ? Because in the 
natural world the power of God acts in conjunction with natural 
causes. Here the author assumes that a motive is a cause, or at 
least so near akin to one, that an argument may be founded on the 
similarity in their mode of operation, — a notion that he has been 
most vigorously combating all along through the previous pages. 
Another example in the same kind will suffice for the present. In 
his defence of the natural ability of man, we find the following 
observations. "Accountability for personal transgression does 
require some ability to refuse the evil and choose the good. There 
must be the faculties and powers of a free agent, bearing the rela- 
tion of possibility to right action. Faculties that can do nothing, 
and powers that have no relation of a cause to its effect, in possi- 
ble action, are nonentities.'" Again, he asks, " Do the requisitions 
of law continue, when all the necessary antecedents to obedience 
are destroyed? Has God required effects without a cause?" 
There is much more to the same effect. The ability to choose 
right is continually represented as a cause, of which the effect is 
variously stated to be the possibility of a right choice, or right 
choice itself. Th.s power is magnified and exalted. It is made 
the basis of God's moral government, the essential element of man's 
accountableness. Let the reader peruse again the extracts we have 
just given, and then look at the following sop which Dr. Beecher 
throws to the Cerberus of orthodoxy, when he comes to discuss 
the subject of original sin. " The thing to be accounted for is the 
phenomenon of an entire scries of universal actual sin ; and to 
ascribe the universal and entire obliquity of the human will to the 

dr. beecher's theology. 177 

simple ability of choosing wrong, is to ascribe the moral obliquity 
of a lost world to nothing" It is certainly impossible for a man, 
who has only the ordinary powers of vision, to see how the ability 
to choose wrong can be a mere nothing, while the ability to choose 
right is everything. If one of these species of ability be not a 
sufficient cause, ground, or reason, determining the mind to a par- 
ticular kind of action, then the other cannot be ; and not having 
the relation of a cause to its effect, it is, according to the previous 
account of the matter, a nonentity. Such are the mistakes and 
contradictions into which the rhetorician falls when he undertakes 
to deal with the niceties of logical reasoning. As an orator, Dr. 
Beecher has few equals. He excels greatly in popular appeals 
from the pulpit, the platform, and the press. He has uncommon 
powers of imagination, and great facility in gathering from all 
quarters luminous illustrations and bold imagery, to give to the 
truth a visible and substantial form. His stirring notes have often 
reached and aroused us, and, on fitting occasions, there is no one 
whose white plume we would more willingly see leading the van. 
But he mistakes his calling, and therefore forfeits our confidence 
in him as a guide, when he attempts to unravel the difficulties of 
that department of theology which is intersected by metaphysical 
science. The same qualities which raise him to pre-eminent 
excellence in his appropriate sphere, operate rather as a disqualifi- 
cation here. The orator is not called upon to use his words in a 
steady and determinate sense, approaching the fixed precision of 
mathematical terms, nor is it necessary that all his arguments be 
such as would bear the test of severe scrutiny. An analogy will 
often be as good as an argument, and a well-timed metaphor 
better than either. The rigorous exactness which scientific inves- 
tigation demands, the cold prudence with which it rejects every- 
thing that is not strictly allied to the subject in hand, and the severe 
restraint which it imposes upon the imagination in its grasping 
after such sensible forms as may materialize the truth, are not 
likely to be learned in the school of oratory. 

The extracts which we have as yet brought forward from Dr. 
Beecher's views have been adduced mainly with the view of illus- 
trating the difficulties which must be encountered in the attempt to 
discover what are the opinions which he really intends to avow 
and defend. We have laboriously endeavoured to understand 
his drift ; we are conscious of an honest purpose ; and if the com- 
mon cry of misapprehension shall be raised, we think Dr. Beecher's 
obscurity ought at least to divide the blame with our dulness. 

To a cursory reader it might seem that Dr. Beecher means to 
inculcate nothing more than the common doctrine of man's natural 
ability. To all that he says which is strictly applicable as a 
defence of this doctrine we have nothing to object. There is a 
clear and important distinction between the inability which results 
from the defect of natural faculties, and that which arises from the 
want of inclination. According to the intuitive judgment of all. 


178 dr. beecher's theology. 

men an inability of the former kind absolves from all accountable- 
ness and guilt. No man can be under an obligation to perform 
any action which, though he will to do it, is yet impossible of 
execution. There cannot be any difference of opinion on this 
point, where the terms which enter into the discussion are pro- 
perly understood. It will accordingly be found that in nearly all 
cases, where the natural ability of man for the performance of his 
duty is denied, there is a misapprehension of what is really meant 
by this form of statement ; or else the objector intends merely to 
deny the suitableness of the language to express the thing signified. 
It cannot be disputed that man possesses all the faculties which 
are necessary to constitute him a free moral agent. But it may 
be disputed, and with considerable show of reason, whether the 
mere possession of these faculties can be said, in strictness of 
speech, to confer upon him the ability to change the moral state of 
his heart, and perform the spiritual duties required of him by his 
Maker. The sole question here is respecting the fitness of the 
term ability in this connexion. This word, in its ordinary use, 
always bears a reference to actual results. A machine is able to 
do only what it actually will do, if it be set in motion, and in form- 
ing our estimate of its power we are guided by our observation of 
its effects when in operation, or by our knowledge of what has 
been produced heretofore by such combinations as enter into its 
structure. Man, it is true, is not a machine, nor is he compelled 
like inanimate matter to exert at every instant all the power which 
he possesses. But while it would not be safe, on this account, to 
infer that an individual had, in any particular instance, put forth 
his whole ability, we should follow only our usual rule of judgment 
in declaring that man is unable to do that which no one of the 
human race, however favourably situated, has ever performed, and 
which it is admitted no one ever will perform. If another power, 
in addition to man's natural ability, is always concerned in his 
regeneration and conversion, we may safely infer that this further 
power is necessary to the production of the effect. And it is an 
obvious impropriety to call that an ability to do a given thing, which 
yet requires an additional power to be combined with it to render it 
efficient in the production of its result.* While we fully adopt, there- 
fore, the opinions of President Edwards upon this subject, we cannot 

* It is singular to observe how absurdities and errors that have been reasoned or 
laughed out of existence in one age are revived in another. Much of the fine satire 
of Pascal has as keen an edge for existing follies, as it had for those against which it 
was originally aimed. We quote the following detached passages, and would recom- 
mend the reader to turn to his Provincial Letters, and read all that he has written on 
the subject of efficacious grace. 

" My good friend the Jansenist seemed pleased with my remarks, and thought he 
had already gained me. He said nothing to me, however, but turning to the Father, 
' Pray,' said he, ' in what respects do you agree with the Jesuits ?' He replied, 
' In this, that we both acknowledge that sufficient grace is given to all men.' ' But,' 
returned he, ' there are two things in the term sufficient grace ; the sound, which is 
mere air, and the sense, which is real and significant. So that when you avow an 
agreement with the Jesuits in the word, but oppose them in the sense, it is obvious 
;that you disagree with them in the essential matter, though you accord in the term. 

dr. beecher's theology. 179 

but consider his phraseology as eminently unhnppy. However 
guarded and explained, it is still calculated to mislead. We need not 
go further for proof of its unhappy tendency than to the writings of 
Dr. Beecher. In his Sermon on Free Agency and Dependence he 
says, " The moment the ability of obedience ceases, the commission 
of sin becomes impossible." It will be observed that the ability 
which is here said to be essential to the commission of sin, is not 
Is this acting with openness and sincerity ?' ' But,' said the good man, ' what cause 
of complaint have you, since we deceive no one by this mode of speaking? for in our 
schools we publicly declare that we understand the expression in a sense quite 
opposite to the Jesuits.' * I complain,' said my friend, ' that you do not declare to 
all the world, that by sufficient grace you mean a grace which is not sufficient. 
Having changed the signification of the usual terms in religion, you are obliged in 
conscience to declare, that when you admit of sufficient grace in all men, you really 
intend that they have not sufficient grace.' 

" « Christians inquire of divines what is the real condition of human nature since 
the fall ? St. Augustine and his disciples reply, that it does not possess sufficient 
grace, unless it pleases God to bestow it. The Jesuits come forward and assert that 
all do absolutely possess it. Consult the Dominicans upon this contradictory repre- 
sentation, and what is the consequence ? They coalesce with the Jesuits. By this 
artifice their numbers appear so considerable They divide from those who deny 
sufficient grace, and declare that all men have it; and who would imagine otherwise 
than that they sanction the Jesuits? When, lo ! they proceed to intimate that the 
sufficient grace is useless, without the efficacious, which is not bestowed upon all 
men \ 

" * Shall I present you with a picture of the church amidst these different senti- 
ments ? I consider it like a man who, leaving his native country to travel abroad, is 
met by robbers who wound him so severely that they leave him half dead. He sends 
for three physicians resident in the neighbourhood. The first, after probing his 
wounds, pronounces them to be mortal, assuring him that God alone can restore him ; 
the second, wishing to flatter him, declares he has sufficient strength to reach home, 
and, insulting the first for opposing his opinion, threatens to be the ruin of him The 
unfortunate patient, in this doubtful condition, as soon as he perceives the approach 
of the third, stretches out his hands to welcome him who is to decide the dispute. 
This physician, upon examining his wounds, and ascertaining the opinions already 
given, coincides with the second, and these coalesce against the first to turn him out 
with contempt: and they now form the strongest party. The patient infers from this 
proceeding, that the third physician agrees with the second, and upon putting the 
question, he assures him most positively that his strength is sufficient for the pro- 
posed journey. The wounded man, however, expatiating upon his weakness, asks 
upon what he founds his opinion ? ' Why, you have still got legs, and legs are the 
means which, according to the constitution of nature, are sufficient for the purpose 
of walking.' ' Very true,' replies the wounded traveller ; ' but have I all the strength 
which is requisite for making use of them : for really they seem useless to me in my 
present languishing condition?' ' Certainly they are,' returns the physician, 'and 
you never will be able to walk unless God vouchsafes some extraordinary assistance 
to sustain and guide you.' ' What then,' says the infirm man, ' have I not sufficient 
strength in myself to be fully able to walk ?' ' no, far, very far from it ' ' Then 
you have a different opinion from your friend respecting my real condition.' ' I can- 
didly admit I have.' 

" ' What do you suppose the wounded man would say to this? He complains of 
their strange proceeding, and of the ambiguous language of this third physician. 
He censures him for coalescing with the second, when he was in fact of a contrary 
opinion, though they agreed in appearance, and for driving away the first with whom 
he really coincided; and then, after trying his strength, and finding by experience 
the truth of his weakness, he dismisses them both, and, recalling the first, puts him- 
self under his care, follows his advice, and prays to God for the strength which he 
confesses he needs. His petitions are heard, and he ultimately returns home in 
peace.' " 

Has not the time nearly or quite arrived in our church, when sober argument hav- 
ing accomplished all that it can do, the pen of satire becomes a legitimate and effec- 
tive weapon ? Is there not some Pascal among us, who will come forth to castigate 
the follies of the day ? 

180 dr. beecher's theology. 

qualified by the epithet natural. The declaration is as broad as it 
could be made ; and it seems to us impossible to pen a sentence 
which would more palpably conflict with the plain language of the 
Scriptures upon this subject, or more directly tend to absolve the 
sinner from the terrors of an evil conscience. Every sinner knows 
that his ability to obey, using these words according to their ordi- 
nary meaning, is lessened by every sin that he commits. The 
more profligate he becomes, the less able is he to rise from the 
depths into which he has sunk. How comforting to him to hear 
that as his ability is thus diminishing his sins are becoming less 
criminal, and that when he has become so depraved that he can no 
more recover himself than the Ethiopian can change his skin, then 
he can no longer commit sin ! Dr. Beecher would of course 
explain by saying that he meant only natural ability. But the sen- 
tence as it now stands is at least ambiguous, and in one of its 
senses, and that one in perfect accordance with the ordinary use of 
language, it is untrue and dangerous. It is no small objection to 
the use of the phrase, natural ability, that such a man as Dr. 
Beecher should have been led by it to preach in a style so well 
adapted to lead his hearers into serious error. In the same Sermon 
we find the following still more alarming sentence. " And most 
blessed and glorious, I am confident, will be the result when her 
ministry everywhere shall rightly understand and teach, and their 
hearers shall universally admit, the full ability of every sinner to 
comply with the terms of salvation." Could Edwards have foreseen 
that such a declaration as this would have grown out of the phrase- 
ology which he cast around this subject, he would surely have 
paused and sought some less beguiling words. But he could not 
have anticipated that from his effort to overthrow Arminianism there 
would arise the very error he was combating, or something worse. 
Had it been Dr. Beecher's intention to announce the opinion com- 
monly held by Pelagians respecting man's ability, could he have 
taught it except in words of equivalent import with those in the pas- 
sage above quoted ? Would not the " full ability of every sinner to 
comply with the terms of salvation" be naturally understood to 
mean all ability of whatever kind that is necessary to the end in 
view ? And if the sinner has within himself all the ability that is 
requisite, with what propriety can it be said that the influence of 
the Spirit is necessary 1 We quote another passage to the same 
effect from Dr. Beecher's Sermon on the Faith once delivered to 
the saints. "Men are free agents, possessed of such faculties, and 
placed in such circumstances, as render it practicable for them to 
do whatever God requires." It will be seen that the same doctrine 
of plenary ability is here taught, though in a somewhat stronger 
form. Without attempting to define the precise difference between 
the two words, practicable and possible, it will be admitted that 
the former conveys a lower idea of the difficulty to be overcome 
than the latter. No aid is ever deemed necessary to enable a man 
to accomplish a practicable enterprise. And if it is practicable for 

dr. beecher's theology. 181 

man to do all that God requires, then is he cast upon his own 
resources, independent of any help from without. Will Dr. Beecher 
reply that the influences of the Spirit are necessary not to make 
him able, but to render him willing? We reply, that if they are in 
any sense, or for any reason, necessary, it is a gross perversion of 
language to say that the work, for the accomplishment of which 
they are necessary, is practicable without them. And besides this, 
the sinner's willingness constitutes the chief element in the practi- 
cableness of his duty. These extracts from Dr. Beecher's sermons 
show that he has given sufficient reason for ranking him with the 
modern improvers of the Edwardean theory of natural and moral 
ability. The characteristic mark of these improvers is that they 
reject, as Dr. Beecher does, the terms natural and moral, and 
assert without qualification that man possesses all the ability which 
is requisite for discharging the duties required of him. We have 
never heard from any of them stronger statements on this point 
than those we have quoted from Dr. Beecher ; and if he contends 
that he meant to teach only the natural ability of the sinner, we 
take the liberty of exhorting him to be, in future, less reckless in 
his use of words. 

If further proof is wanted that the doctrine taught by Dr. 
Beecher in these extracts from his sermons is not the natural 
ability of the New England theologians, it may easily be furnished 
from the writings of Edwards. Dr. Beecher teaches that the 
sinner must possess " full ability" to do all his duty, so that if there 
be anything which he has not sufficient power to perform, he 
cannot be under any obligation to do it. Full ability, commen- 
surate with requirement, he represents as the only equitable foun- 
dation of God's moral government. How wide this is from the 
notions of Edwards on natural ability, may be inferred from the 
following passage, which is found in his work on Original Sin, in 
the course of his argument against the Pelagian opinions of Dr 
Taylor of Norwich. " It will follow on our author's principles, 
not only with respect to infants, but even adult persons, that 
redemption is needless, and Christ is dead in vain. Not only is 
there no need of Christ's redemption in order to deliverance from 
any consequences of Adam's sin, but also in order to perfect 
freedom from personal sin and all its evil consequences. For God 
has made other sufficient provision for that, viz. a sufficient power 
and ability in all mankind to do all their duty, and wholly to avoid 
sin. Yea, he insists upon it, that when 'men have not sufficient 
power to do their duty, hey have no duty to do. We may safely 
and assuredly conclude (says he) that mankind, in all parts of the 
world, have sufficient power to do the duty which God requires of 
them ; and that he requires of them no more than they have 
sufficient powers to do.' And in another place. 'God has given 
powers equal to the duty which he expects.' These things fully 
imply, that men have, in their own natural ability, sufficient means 
to avoid sin, and to be perfectly free from it. And if the means 

182 dr. beecher's theology. 

are sufficient, then is there no need of more, and therefore there is 
no need of Christ's dying in order to it."* The principles of the 
celebrated champion of Pelagianism, which are here controverted, 
are precisely those of Dr. Beecher. We can conceive of no 
jugglery upon his words which can possibly separate between 
them. And so far are these doctrines from being coincident with 
the views of Edwards, that he rejects them with abhorrence, as 
tending to make the death of Christ of none effect. And yet these 
are the doctrines for which the sanction of his venerable name is 
now invoked ! 

A careful examination of Dr. Beecher's views will make it 
evident that he still teaches a different doctrine from what is com- 
monly understood by man's natural ability. While his professed 
object is to defend this doctrine, he slips in some important additions 
of his own. At the very outset of his discussion, in stating the 
question at issue, he places himself in direct opposition to Edwards. 
" The point at issue," he says, " is, in what manner the certainty of 
the continuous wrong action of the mind comes to pass ? Does it 
come to pass coerced or uncoerced by necessity ? Does fallen 
man choose, under the influence of such a constitution of body and 
mind and motive, that every volition bears the relation of an effect 
to a natural and necessary cause, rendering any other choice than 
the one which comes to pass impossible, under existing circum- 
stances ?" Again he says, " The question of free-will is not whether 
man chooses — this is notorious, none deny it — but whether his choice 
is free, as opposed to a fatal necessity." He contends throughout, 
that in order to ascertain whether man is a free agent, we must inquire 
into the causes of his volitions, and see whether they are necessary 
in their operation ; and that to render him accountable it is not 
sufficient that his actions are voluntary — his will also must be free. 
Let us compare this notion of freedom with that given by Edwards. 
" But one thing more I would observe concerning what is vulgarly 
called Liberty ; namely, that power and opportunity to do and 
conduct as he will, is all that is meant by it ; without taking into 
the meaning of the word anything of the cause of that choice, or 
at all considering how the person came to have such a volition ; 
whether it was caused by some external motive or internal 
habitual bias ; whether it was determined by some internal 
antecedent volition, or whether it happened without a cause ; 
whether it was necessarily connected with something foregoing, 
or not connected. Let the person come by his choice any how, 
yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pur- 
suing and executing his will, the man is perfectly free, according 
to the primary and common notion of freedom."-j- " Liberty is the 
power, opportunity, or advantage that any one has of doing as he 
pleases, or conducting himself in any respect according to his 
pleasure, without considering how his pleasure comes to be as itis"% 

* Edwards's Works, vol ii., p. 515. 

t Freedom of the Will, p. 39. { Ibid., p. 291. 

dr. beecher's theology. 183 

The ground of blame-worthiness too, as stated by Edwards, is 
essentially different from that given by Dr. Beecher. The latter 
requires, in addition to voluntariness, that the agent should possess 
the power of controlling his own choice. But Edwards says, " The 
idea which the common people through all ages and nations have 
of faultiness, I suppose to be plainly this ; a person being or doing 
wrong with his own will and pleasure," — he adds, " and this is the 
sum total of the matter." 

A few more extracts from Dr. Beecher will show that he advo- 
cates, sometimes at least, a theory very different from that of Ed wards 
and of Calvinistic writers in general, respecting natural ability. 
" Choice," he says, " in its very nature, implies the possibility of a 
different or contrary election to that which is made. There is 
always an alternative to that which the mind decides on, with the 
conscious power of choosing either." He states the question in 
debate respecting man's freedom to be, " whether it (his choice) is 
the act of an agent who might have abstained from the choice 
he made, and made one which he did not." He speaks very often 
of the necessity that man should possess what he calls the power 
of choice, with the power of contrary choice, in order to constitute 
him a responsible agent. " But if any man does not possess the 
power of choice, with power to the contrary, he sees and feels that 
he is not to blame ; and you cannot, with more infallible cer- 
tainty, make men believe and fix them in the belief that they are not 
responsible, than to teach them that they have not the power of 
alternative election." Speaking of a man committing some sin, 
he asks, " When he has done it, does he not know, does he not feel 
that he could have chosen the other way ?" He affirms that man's 
" obligation to choose good and refuse the evil, originates in his 
constitutional power of choice, with power of contrary choice." He 
contends that the supposition, " that man is not after all able to modify 
and diversify his choice indefinitely, &c, destroys the credibility 
of the Bible as an inspired book ;" since the Bible assumes "every- 
where that man is free to choose with power of contrary choice." 
He speaks repeatedly of the necessity of determining whether 
" choice is free ;" whether man " in his mode of voluntary action, 
is coerced or free," &c, in order to settle the question of his free 
agency and responsibility. 

It is not a little surprising that in the book which contains these 
passages, Dr. Beecher should quote from Edwards, thus showing 
that he had read at least some part of his Treatise on the Will, and 
yet claim agreement with him on the subject of free agency. Re- 
specting the power of the will to choose differently from what it 
actually does, we quote the following passage from Edwards. 
After the definition of liberty which we have already quoted, he 
adds : " And I scruple not to say, it is beyond all their wits to 
invent a higher notion or form a higher imagination of liberty : let 
them talk of sovereignty of the will, self-determining power, self- 
motion, self-direction, arbitrary decision, liberty ad utrumvis, power 

184 dr. beecher's theology. 

of choosing differently in given cases, &c, as long as they will. It 
is apparent that these men, in their strenuous dispute about these 
things, aim at they know not what, fighting for something that they 
have no conception of, substituting a number of confused, unmean- 
ing words instead of things and instead of thoughts. They may 
be challenged clearly to explain what they would have, but they 
never can answer the challenge." And in relation to the liberty of 
the will which Dr. Beecher maintains to be vitally essential to free 
agency, Edwards has the following remarks. " In strict propriety 
of speech, neither liberty, nor its contrary, can properly be ascribed 
to any being or thing but that which has such a faculty, power or 
property, as is called will. For that which is possessed of no will, 
cannot have any power or opportunity of doing according to its 
will, nor be necessitated to act contrary to its will, nor be restrained 
from acting agreeably to it. And therefore to talk of liberty or the 
contrary as belonging to the very will itself, is not to speak good 
sense." The question whether the will itself is coerced or free, 
which Dr. Beecher maintains to be the only question in debate, 
Edwards refuses to entertain, pronouncing it to be not good sense. 
The power of choosing differently in given cases, which Dr. 
Beecher holds to be essential to moral agency, is, according to 
Edwards, a thing of which we can form no conception, a confused, 
unmeaning jumble of words. The inquiry which Dr. Beecher con- 
tends that we must institute into the causes of choice, in order to 
ascertain whether it be free or not, before we can attribute blame- 
worthiness, is rejected by Edwards and by all Calvinistic writers, 
for the reason already given, that the question whether the will is 
free, is nonsense, and also because when the other conditions neces- 
sary to constitute a moral act are present, it is sufficient that the 
agent be voluntary to render him accountable. Whatever agree- 
ment there may be between Dr. Beecher and " the ablest writers on 
free agency" in the final results of their reasoning, it is apparent that 
there is rather a startling difference in some of their first principles. 
We have shown with whom Dr. Beecher, in the extracts 
which we have given, does not agree. We will now show 
with whom he does agree. Dr. Reid gives the following 
definition of liberty. " By the liberty of a moral agent, I under- 
stand a power over the determinations of his own will. If in any 
action he had power to will what he did, or not to will it, in that 
action he is free. But if, in every voluntary action, the determina- 
tion of his will be the necessary consequence of something involun- 
tary in the state of his mind, or of something in his external circum- 
stances, he is not free ; he has not what I call the liberty of a moral 
agent, but is subject to necessity."* This is the definition of liberty 
which has been substantially adopted by all subsequent Arminian 
and Pelagian writers upon the will ; and granting them their defi- 
nition, we know not how to resist their conclusion. And we can 

* Reid's Works, vol. ill., p. 326, 

dr. beecher's theology. 185 

see no difference between the idea of liberty which is here taught, 
and that for which Dr. Beecher so strenuously contends. He main- 
tains explicitly that it is not enough that man chooses, and is not 
hindered from acting according to his preference, to constitute him 
a free agent ; he must possess also a power over the determinations 
of his will, so that in any given case he might have chosen differ- 
ently. We might quote abundantly from other writers than Reid 
to prove that Dr. Beecher's notion of liberty is precisely that which 
is taught by Arminians and Pelagians in general ; but we will refer, 
in addition, only to the writings of the New Haven divines. This 
same idea of liberty runs through all Dr. Taylor's writings in the 
Christian Spectator. It is succinctly expressed in the following 
sentence. " They (theologians) have supposed it to be impossible 
for God to foreknow the actions of a truly free agent, that is, of one 
who, whatever may be his choice in a given case, was entirely 
able to make the contrary choice."* It has always hereto- 
fore been supposed by the most competent judges that the 
notion of moral liberty, which includes in it this power over 
the determinations of the will, was inconsistent with the Calvin- 
istic scheme. If Dr. Beecher has discovered their consistency, 
he ought, in justice to his own reputation, to withdraw the ac- 
knowledgment, which was doubtless prompted by his modesty, 
that " he had no new discoveries to announce." He has, in truth, 
made one of the most wonderful discoveries of the age. We 
are inclined to think, however, that it ought to be ranked as an 
invention rather than a discovery. And as in the case of many 
other inventions, though the ingenious author seems to place great 
confidence in it, we are disposed to see how it will work before we 
adopt it. In the meantime we admit and feel, that Dr. Beecher's 
own case furnishes a stronger argument than we had thought it 
possible to produce in favour of some extraordinary kind of liberty 
possessed by man ; since he has shown by his own example that 
the Pelagian philosophy of the will can be held in unison with the 
doctrines of Calvinism. \ 

From the specimens which we have given of Dr. Beecher's 
looseness and inaccuracy in reasoning, it will not be expected that 
he should trace out very clearly the connexion between the different 
parts of his system so as to show their mutual coherency. On 
the contrary, such sentences and phrases as we have quoted are 
often found in close connexion with others entirely different in 
their meaning, and yet given as if they were of equivalent import. 
The natural ability of choice, the natural ability of the will in 
respect to the power of choice, and the natural ability of man, are 
used interchangeably, without any apparent suspicion on the part 

* Christian Spectator, vol. iii., p. 469. 

t A German author has recently obtained two prizes, one for an essay in defence 
of the medical theory of homoeopathy, the other for an essay against the same theory. 
This exploit, however, is by no means equal to that which Dr. Beecher aims to 
accomplish. The German did not aspire to obtain a favourable verdict upon both 
bis essays from the same body of men. 

186 dr. beecher's THEOLOGY. i 

of the author that he is not describing the same thing by each of 
these phrases. The question of free agency, which he generally 
states to be the question whether man's will is free in such a sense 
that he always has power to make a contrary choice to the one 
actually made, is sometimes represented as involving only the 
inquiry whether man has liberty to act according to his will. By 
thus interchanging phrases of different import, and shifting the 
question at the proper turn, he is enabled to array upon his side a 
formidable list of authorities from the days of the fathers down to 
the present generation. Any theory of moral agency might be 
thus confirmed by first assuming that it is the only true or possible 
theory, and then quoting in its support every author who has 
taught that man is a moral agent. 

We proceed to examine, somewhat more in detail, the peculiar- 
ities of Dr. Beecher's theory. Under the strange, and to us 
unmeaning head, of " fatality of choice," we have the following 
paragraph: "The question of free-will is not whether man chooses 
— this is notorious, none deny it ; but whether his choice is free 
as opposed to a fatal necessity — as opposed to the laws of instinct 
and natural causation ; whether it is the act of a mind so qualified 
for choice as to decide between alternatives, uncoerced by the 
energy of a natural cause to its effect ; whether it is the act of an 
agent who might have abstained from the choice he made, and 
made one which he did not. To speak of choice being free, which 
is produced by the laws of a natural necessity, and which cannot 
but be when and what it is, more than the effects of natural causes 
can govern the time and manner and qualities of their being, is a 
perversion of language." We quote the following additional pas- 
sages in connexion with this. " That choice is in accordance with 
the state of body and mind and character and external circum- 
stances may be admitted, or that it is as the greatest apparent good, 
may be admitted ; but that it is so necessarily, to the exclusion of all 
ability of any kind to be other than it is, cannot be admitted without 
abandoning the field of God's government of accountable crea- 
tures, and going to the centre of fatalism." " If obedience to com- 
mands, exhortations and entreaties, is prevented by a constitutional 
necessity, a natural impossibility of choosing right ; and the diso- 
bedient choice is also the unavoidable, coerced result of a consti- 
tutional necessity, over which the will has no power, but of which 
it is the unavoidable effect ; then choice is as much the effect of a 
natural cause, as any other natural effect." These extracts pre- 
sent the question in debate in the form which is usually given to it 
by Dr. Beecher, except when some authority is to be adduced. 
The inquiry raised is whether choice is free. He must of course 
mean by choice, in this connexion, the power of choice, or the will. 
We have already given the decision of Edwards respecting this 
question, that it is "not good sense," since liberty must be the attri- 
bute of an agent, and not of a faculty. Both Locke and Hobbes 
had previously made a similar remark. It would be difficult for 

dr. beecher's theology. 187 

Dr. Beecher to give any intelligible definition of liberty which 
would not show the absurdity of his form of stating the question. 
Hobbes defines a free agent to be " he that can do if he will, and 
forbear if he will." And this is substantially the definition which 
has been given by Leibnitz, by Collins, and by Edwards, and all 
Calvinistic writers. We derive our notion of freedom from the 
dependency of our actions upon our volitions. If, when we will a 
particular act, the act follows, we are free. This is the primary, 
original notion of freedom. Liberty then can be affirmed with 
propriety only of agents that are possessed of a will, and in rela- 
tion to such actions as are consequent upon volition. We do 
indeed, in common language, attribute liberty to inanimate objects, 
as when we say of a stone that it descends freely ; but this is only 
in accommodation, and from an analogy suggested by another idea 
involved in the liberty of an agent, that he is subject to no impedi- 
ment extrinsic to himself. If a man is bound hand and foot, or 
held by a superior muscular force to his own, we say he is not free 
to move ; but if he is lame, or confined to his couch by disease, 
he does not want liberty but power or strength to move. It is in 
analogy with this idea that we say of inanimate objects that they 
act freely, meaning thereby that there is no external impediment 
to hinder them from acting according to their intrinsic qualities. 
We think it. will be found, upon examination, that in every sup- 
posable case in which we can properly affirm that an agent is free, 
there is involved the idea that the impediment denied is without 
himself. If this be correct, then we may give this definition of a 
free agent, one who is not hindered by any extrinsic impediment 
from acting according to his own will. How then can we raise 
the question whether the will itself be free ? In order to this, we 
must suppose each volition to be the effect of a previous volition. 
But we never will to will. " Proprie loquendo volumus agere, 
non vero volumus velle ; alioqui dicere etiam possemus, velle nos 
habere voluntatem volendi, quod in infinitum abiret."* And besides 
this, whatever hinderances can be supposed to force or impede the 
will must be within itself, and if it labours under any difficulty there- 
fore, it must be from a defect of power, not of freedom. 

In entire consistency with this confusion at the outset, we find 
him in a subsequent sentence speaking of the choice itself not hav- 
ing power to be other than what it is, any more than effects in the 
physical world can control their causes ! And yet again he speaks 
of the " disobedient choice being the unavoidable result of a con- 
stitutional necessity over which the will has no power, but of 
which it is the unavoidable effect." Here choice and the faculty 
of will are each made the effect of necessity, or else in two 
dependent members of the same sentence the word will in the one 
denotes the faculty known by that name, while in the other the 

* Leibnitzii Opera, torn, i., p. 136. 

188 dr. beecher's theology. 

pronoun which refers to it denotes not the will, but a volition or 
act of the will. 

There are still further difficulties attending the interpretalion of 
these passages. Dr. Beecher denies that choice (the will) is sub- 
ject to necessity. When we look further to see what this means, 
we find it sometimes described as a fatal, unavoidable and irre- 
sistible necessity. And quite as often it is said that the will is not 
free if the cause which influences its volitions be a natural or con- 
stitutional cause. We should naturally be led to conclude that, in 
Dr. Beecher's opinion, a natural or constitutional cause established 
a fatal necessity. But let his readers beware how they attempt to 
interpret Dr. Beecher by comparing him with himself. He him- 
self elsewhere teaches that the cause which determines man's will 
to a particular kind of action is both natural and constitutional. 
He says, " I hold and teach that such a change in the constitution 
of man was produced by the fall as creates a universal and preva- 
lent propensity to actual sin, preventing in all men the existence 
of holiness, and securing the existence of actual total depravity." 
Speaking elsewhere of this same cause he calls it " a prevalent 
bias of nature." And again he sa) s, " This impotency of will to 
good, according to the Bible, and our Confession, and the received 
doctrines of the church, includes the constitutional bias to actual 
sin, produced in all men by the fall, anterior to intelligent, volun- 
tary action." We here have the determining cause of volition in 
fallen man styled a bias of nature, and a constitutional bias. The 
will, then, being operated upon by a natural and constitutional 
cause, is subject to a fatal necessity ; it is not free, and no respon- 
sibility attaches to any of its acts. This contradiction is to be 
avoided only by the plea that the terms constitutional and natural are 
used in different senses in the two cases. Doubtless they are, but 
it is to be regretted that they should be used to convey such opposite 
meanings, without any notice of a change of signification, or any 
attempt in either case to define the sense in which they are employed. 
This is the more to be regretted, because when Dr. Beecher asserts 
that if choice be the product of a necessity of nature, man can- 
not be an accountable agent — if instead of bringing argument 
after argument to prove it, he had simply defined what he meant 
by nature, he would have saved himself all further trouble upon this 
point. He cannot mean that it is not in accordance with the nature 
of things in general, or of the will in particular, that it should be 
moved by the causes which act upon it. Nor will he deny that 
there is any less certainty, the state of mind of the agent, his sus- 
ceptibilities, and all the circumstances under which he acts being 
known, that a particular volition will follow, than that any physi- 
cal cause will be succeeded by its appropriate effect. Nature is 
often used to denote the settled order of things which we observe 
in the world around us. An event is said to be natural, or to be 
according to the course of nature, when it is seen to be regularly 
connected with its cause, and in harmony with the manner of sue- 

dr. beecher's theology. 189 

cession which we observe in other things. And it is called unna- 
tural when it seems, through our ignorance, to fall without the 
ordinary fixed course of things, or to vary greatly from the esta- 
blished order of similar events. But the laws which govern the 
will are as invariable as those which govern matter, and whatever 
distinction exists between them must be sought elsewhere than in 
respect to the regularity of their operation. But there is a sense 
of the word nature in which Dr. Beecher's declaration contains a 
truth, though certainly a very harmless one, to any conflicting the- 
ory of morals. This word is frequently employed to signify the 
assemblage of material causes which are continually working their 
effects around us. Numberless changes are every moment occur- 
ring to which the will of man contributes no influence, and the 
causes which produce them are characterized by the general term 
nature. But our own volitions are also causes of motion, and often 
interfere to modify or interrupt the course of events around us. 
Nature and choice come thus to be considered as diverse and even 
opposite to each other. A proposition may be constructed, found- 
ed upon this notion, of some kind of opposition between nature 
and choice, which shall be true, but the misfortune is, it will be too 
true, — it can be nothing else than a truism. But a natural cause 
may be distinguished from a moral cause, if we denote by the first 
a cause which produces its effect upon matter, and by the other 
a cause which acts upon the mind. This, we admit, is a usual and 
legitimate use of the epithet natural. Here we have an opposition 
between nature and choice, or rather between nature and the cause 
of choice, which is founded upon the difference between the objects 
upon which they act ; the effect of the one is some change in mat- 
ter, of the other, an act of the mind. There must of course be a dif- 
ference in nature between these two classes of causes to adapt 
them to the production of their different effects. The mind cannot 
be directly acted upon by such causes as are comprehended in our 
notion of nature ; it is moved by motives presented to the under- 
standing, or by its own habitual dispositions. We should esteem 
it therefore a work of supererogation, to deny vociferously that a 
man can be responsible for a choice, which is the result of a natu- 
ral cause. No correct definition of a natural, as distinguished 
from a moral, cause, can be given, which would not exclude cjioice 
from the sphere of its operation. Dr. Beecher is the only writer 
we have ever met with who seemed to suppose that the will could 
be moved by water-power or propelled by steam. He gives a 
very characteristic illustration of what he calls " the fatality of 
agency," in which he supposes volitions to be produced by "the 
motion of a great water-wheel and the various bands which keep 
the motion and the praise and the blasphemy agoing." This illus- 
tration he introduces, not for the purpose of showing the absurdity 
of the thing supposed, but to prove that no " accountability would 
attach to these voluntary praises and blasphemies produced by the 
laws of water-power." Now we are quite as ready to grant, 

190 dr. beecher's theology. 

that a man is not responsible for any volition that is sucked or 
forced out of him by a pump, or squeezed out by a screw, as we 
would be on the other hand to contend, that if one of the stones 
that bounded up at the call of Orpheus's music, had struck and 
killed a man in its frantic joy, it ought to have been tried and con- 
demned for, murder. Either of these propositions we imagine 
would unite all suffrages, for one of them is just as true as the other. 
We trust this will be deemed a sufficient answer to the much that 
Dr. Beecher has said respecting choice being the " effect of natu- 
ral causes, as really and entirely as the falling of rain, or the elec- 
tric spark, or the involuntary shock that attends it." 

It is evident that if we would get at Dr. Beecher's meaning we 
must seek it elsewhere than among these first principles of his rea- 
soning. We will be more likely to find it a little further on in his 
system. The stream, which is muddy at its origin, sometimes 
becomes more clear as it proceeds. Dr. Beecher has obviously 
reasoned backward from certain ulterior truths which he wished to 
maintain in search of the first principles which were adapted to 
uphold them. One of these starting points is the position, that in 
every particular case a moral agent might have abstained from the 
choice which he made, and made one which he did not ; and he 
seems to think that this is established when he has proved that 
man is not accountable for those of his volitions that are worked 
out of him by water-power. Thus that man " cannot but sin 
when he does sin, more than rivers of muddy water can purify 
themselves," and that he " is not able to modify and diversify his 
choice indefinitely," are used as synonymous expressions. The 
soul being " exempt from the laws of natural necessity," is 
assumed as equivalent with the existence " of a possibility in 
every case of a different or contrary choice." And in one of the 
passages which we have previously quoted there are found the 
following inquiries put, as if they were but repetitions of the same 
idea : " Whether it (choice) is the act of a mind so qualified for 
choice as to decide between alternatives, uncoerced by the energy 
of a natural cause to its effect;" and, " whether it is the act of an 
agent who might have abstained from the choice he made, and 
made one which he did not." There is here an assumption tacitly 
made, without any shadow of proof, respecting natural causes, 
which really involves the whole question in dispute. It is adroitly 
taken for granted, that any effect which is produced by other than 
a natural cause, might have been different from what it is. It is 
impossible not to admire the convenience of this mode of reason- 
ing. It saves a world of trouble. Having proved, what it would 
be very foolish in any one to deny, that no man is responsible for 
such of his volitions as are produced " by the motion of water- 
wheels," there is nothing more to be done but to take possession of 
the ground, that a man is not accountable for his acts, unless he 
possesses the power of willing differently from what he does in 
every particular case. 

dr. beecher's theology. 191 

We have admitted the truth of the first of these statements ;* 
we are not yet prepared, however, to adopt the second. Before 
discussing this question it will be expedient to define the terms will 
and volition. These words are used with considerable latitude of 
meaning. Under the division of our faculties, made by the earlier 
writers, into the powers of the understanding and those of the will, 
this latter term included all our inclinations, desires and passions. 
And the word is still often used in this large sense. According to 
Mr. Belsham, " every volition is a modification of the passion of 
desire," and Dr. Priestley asks, " is not every wish a volition ?" 
This is the popular sense of the word, as when the apothecary in 
Romeo and Juliet says, " My poverty but not my will consents ;" 
and nothing is more common than to hear people speak of doing a 
thing against their wills, in which nevertheless they acted volun- 
tarily. The acts of the will are thus confounded with the desires 
and affections; and the faculty of will is not to be distinguished 
from our susceptibility of emotion. But when we consider what 
passes in our minds, we find that while some of our desires remain 
immanent, there are others of them that are followed by action. 
When the idea of some action of our own, which we conceive to 
be in our power, is contemplated by the mind, associated with 
some object or end which we desire to attain, there results a deter- 
mination to act, and this is followed by the action determined 
upon. It is this determination which is followed by some act of 
the body or mind that philosophers have very generally agreed to 
call volition, and the power that produces it, the faculty of icill. 
Locke defines volition to be, " an act of the mind knowingly 
exerting that dominion it takes itself to have over any part of the 
man by employing it in, or withholding it from, any particular 
action." No definition can be given, however, of a simple act of 
the mind that will convey any idea of it to those who do not 
reflect upon what passes within them. To obtain a clear notion 
of what is meant by a volition, or an act of the will, we must refer 
to our own consciousness of what takes place when we resolve 
to do any particular thing — the state of mind immediately pre- 
ceding the action is a volition, and the faculty or power, in virtue 
of which we are enabled to form such a determination to act, 
is the will. 

The cause of any particular volition, or that which moves the 
mind to determine to act in any instance, is called a motive. It 
seems to have been the opinion of Locke that the immediate 
motive of every volition is some uneasiness. He supposes the 
external object to awaken desire, that this desire, while ungratified, 
produces uneasiness, and that to get rid of this uneasiness the 
will determines upon the appropriate action. It may be doubted 

* The term truth is not strictly applicable to such propositions as the one here 
referred to. Of such an assertion as this, " a man is not bound to cultivate any of 
the virtues, which are square or red," we could not in strict propriety say it was 
either true or false, but we might very safely let it pass without dispute. 

192 dr. beecher's theology. 

whether this is altogether a correct account of the matter. But if 
there be in all cases, immediately preceding the determination to 
act, a state of mind that is properly described by uneasiness, it is 
not to this that the term motive is usually applied. It is generally 
employed to denote either the external object or action, or the state 
of the agent's mind in relation to it. We associate action as a 
motive with object, for it is an important fact towards the solution 
of some of the phenomena of the will, that in its volitions the mind 
is often not so much conversant with the objects presented, as with 
its own action in relation to these objects. There are many cases 
in which action, simply considered, is the end at which the mind 
aims. It gives rise to much confusion and error, if, in speaking of 
the motives of volition, we leave out of consideration the state of 
mind of the agent. The same object which is a powerful motive 
to action at one time, is viewed with indifference at another, in 
consequence of the different state of the mind to which it is pre- 
sented. The motive is not properly the external object, but the 
affection of the mind in relation to that object. 

Let us now resume the inquiry whether, in any given case, a 
man might have willed contrary to what he did ? And here it 
may be observed that the mode of putting the question virtually 
makes a change in the conditions under which the supposed choice 
took place. The only sense in which it is true that the man might 
have willed differently, is, that he might, if he had been inclined to 
do so. But his being inclined to will as he did, was the determin- 
ing cause of his volition. The word might therefore implies a 
change in the antecedents of the particular choice in question, and 
is on this account inconsistent with the hypothesis that all the 
circumstances remain the same. If it is urged that he might have 
willed differently, because he might have changed the state of his 
mind, we reply, that to do this would require, of course, an act of 
the will, and that act must have a previous inclination for its 
motive, and so on without end. We are thus driven to hunt along 
an infinite chain for the first link. 

Consciousness is appealed to by Dr. Beecher for proof that we 
always have power to will differently from what we do. We 
agree with him that " consciousness is the end of controversy," 
but it is necessary to be very careful in taking its testimony. What 
then is the witness of consciousness in this matter? For ourselves, 
in every process of volition, we are conscious only of the presence 
of certain views and considerations, some inclining us to will in 
one way and some in another, and also of a power which we 
possess to will as we please. We are not conscious of any power 
to will contrary to our prevailing inclination. Our consciousness 
concurs with other considerations in proving that a man might, in 
any case, have made a different or contrary choice, if he had been 
inclined so to do, and it proves nothing more than this. 

It is now very plain what kind of power Dr. Beecher attributes 
to the will. His position is, that all the circumstances under which 

dr. beecher's theology. 193 

any choice is made remaining the same, the man had power never- 
theless to will the contrary. His hypothesis supposes that the 
views and inclinations of the mind remain unchanged, and that the 
man can will in direct opposition to them. This is the most disas- 
trous power that can well be conceived of, and if any man possesses 
it, he ought to make it his daily prayer to be delivered from it. 
No man, while cursed with such a self-determining power as this, 
could be safe for a moment. With his whole soul bent in one 
direction, he might be borne, and that too by his own will, in 
another. With the most anxious desire to escape from danger, he 
might be carried immediately into it. He could form no plans for 
his own conduct, nor would others be able to anticipate in the least 
degree what they might expect from him. 

But perhaps Dr. Beecher intended to exclude from the unchanged 
circumstances of the agent, his own state of mind. He may mean 
that the agent has power to will differently, because he has power 
to change his inclination. This involves the absurdity, already 
pointed out, of requiring an infinite series of antecedent volitions ; 
or else it assumes that the will can act to modify the inclination of 
the mind, without any motive to determine it, and we are thus led 
to the common notion held by Arminians of the self-determining 
power of the will. 

In contending then that in every given case a man might have 
made a different choice, Dr. Beecher contends for one of the 
following things. In the first place, that under the same conditions, 
that is, with an inclination to will in a particular direction, he had 
power to will the contrary. Now if man possesses any such 
power as this, it may on some occasions be exercised. A power 
that cannot be put in action is no power at all. On some occasion, 
then, when a man desires with all his heart to do a particular thing, 
there may spring up a volition to do something directly contrary, 
towards which he has no desire, and which he even hates with perfect 
hatred.* It would be very singular if such a power as this, which, 
if it existed, would deprive all its acts of a moral character, and 
render man incapable of being governed by a moral law, should 
yet be necessary in order to render him accountable. If this is not 
Dr. Beecher's meaning, then he must mean, in the second place, 
that in every case of volition, the man might have abstained from 
the choice he made, because he had the power to alter the incli- 
nation which led to the choice. And in this case we have a resurrec- 
tion of the theory of self-determining power of the will, which 
we thought every Calvinist at least had considered twice dead and 

But how then, it is asked, can man be responsible for any voli- 
tion, if he has not the power of willing differently ? " Is not ability 

* If so light a remark may be tolerated here, we would say that the only illustra- 
tion with which we are acquainted of such power a<i the one in question, is afforded 
by some of our new-school brethren, who, with a great desire apparently to be ortho- 
dox, are yet continually willing the contrary. 


194 dr. beecher's theology. 

the ground and measure of obligation?" If it is, then to be sure 
man must possess the power, however incomprehensible or absurd 
it may seem, since there can be no question that he is bound to 
will right. But we deny the truth of this maxim in the sense in 
which it is held by Dr. Beecher ; and since this is one of the fixed 
centres around which many forms of error revolve, we will endea- 
vour to point out its unsoundness. We have already admitted that 
a man cannot be bound to perform any act, which, though he be 
willing to do it, is impracticable. If he is deprived of his limbs, or 
if they have been paralysed by disease, he cannot be under any 
obligation to walk. He cannot be bound to fly, or, in short, to do 
anything which would be out of his power, provided he was wil- 
ling and desirous to do it. In all such actions as are properly con- 
sequent upon volition, it is true that ability is the ground and mea- 
sure of obligation. Dr. Beecher's error consists in extending the 
maxim to a case which lies beyond the premises within which it 
was generalized, and in this application of it we utterly deny its 
truth. We can find nothing in the Bible, or in the general judg- 
ment of mankind, to prove that a man is not responsible for his 
volitions, unless he possesses in each case the power to will con- 
trary to his desires, or the power to change in an instant, by an 
act of the will, his inclinations and affections. The first of these 
powers he could not possess and exercise without ceasing to be a 
moral agent ; and the second, it is notorious that he does not pos- 
sess. There is no fact in the operations of the mind better esta- 
blished, than that the affections cannot be immediately acted upon 
by the will. No man ever loved any object or ceased to love it 
in obedience to a volition. If any one doubts this, we have no 
way of proving it but by bidding him to make the trial. If he pos- 
sesses this power he can surely exercise it, and a few experiments 
upon the subject will satisfy him whether he has it or not. The only 
power which man possesses of destroying existing affections, or 
creating new ones, is that of directing the attention of his mind to 
such considerations as may be adapted to exert the required influence 
upon it. This is a matter of universal experience. But at the 
instant of making any particular choice, he has no motive to induce 
him thus to direct the attention of his mind to adverse considera- 
tions. To suppose this, is to suppose that he has a desire to change 
his existing desire, or that he has towards the same object, at the 
same moment, two contrary desires, equally strong, since either of 
them is capable of producing a corresponding choice. If this be 
required to render man accountable, it is very certain that there 
is no accountability in our world. The only plausibility which the 
maxim "that ability is the ground and measure of obligation" pos- 
sesses, when applied to volitions and affections, is derived from its 
being intuitively true when referred to a different class of acts, and 
from the proper discrimination not being made between the two 
cases. Dr. Beecher appeals to the common sentiments and con- 
duct of men to prove that " the lunatic ought not to be treated as a 

dr. beecher's theology. 195 

subject of law," " that the poor idiot is not responsible for its acts," 
and that a woman, whom he knew, whose mind had lost the power 
of association, ought not to be required to deliver a Fourth of July 
Oration, and then, because she failed, " be taken to the whipping 
post and lacerated for that which she wanted the natural abil ity to do." 
It is from instances like these, in which he must, of course, carry 
universal conviction with him, that he arrives at the general truth 
that ability is the measure of obligation. The general conclusion, 
thus obtained, is immediately applied to prove that no man can be 
responsible for a volition, unless at the same time he made it, he had 
power to will to the contrary ; nor for any inclination, unless, when 
cherishing it,he was able to divest himself of it by a single act of will, 
both of them cases greatly dissimilar to those which furnished the 
general axiom, and incapable therefore of receiving any illustration 
from it. The common judgment of man's conscience in relation to these 
cases, is that a man is accountable for every act of his will, because 
it is the act of his own will, and for every inclination, because it 
is his own inclination. The axiom that ability and obligation must 
be commensurate, in the extensive sense given to it by Dr. Beecher, 
is false and dangerous. He seems to have a special horror of 
fatalism, and we know no more likely way to make men fatalists 
than by teaching them to believe the truth of this maxim. It is 
not more certain that man is an accountable agent, than it is that 
he does not possess the power at any moment to divest himself of 
an evil inclination or affection by an act of his will. Teach him 
then that this power is essential to accountability, and the infer- 
ence made, in a majority of cases, will be, not that he really has a 
power which all his experience convinces him he does not possess, 
but that, being destitute of it, he is not responsible for his evil 
temper. The insensibility to the difference between right and 
wrong which will thus be produced is the distinctive mark of the 

Dr. Beecher refers to the Bible for proof of the truth of his 
opinions, but it is almost needless to add that he receives from it 
no aid, except in establishing what no one has denied, that man 
possesses the powers requisite to free agency. The substance of 
his reasoning under this head, is to show from the Bible that man 
is a free, accountable agent, and then virtually to assume that the 
Bible maintains his peculiar theory of free agency and account- 
ableness. He does not succeed, however, in proving the common 
doctrine of man's natural ability, without committing some singular 
mistakes. The following passage will show how little reliance 
is to be placed upon Dr. Beecher as an interpreter of the Scrip- 

" The manner in which all excuses are treated in Scripture, 
which are founded on the plea of inability, confirms our exposition. 
There were impenitent sinners of old, who pleaded a natural 
inability of obedience. In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, there 
were those who alleged that God's decrees created the unavoid- 

196 dr. beecher's theology. 

able necessity of sinning. They said they could not help it. But 
God, by his prophet, instead of conceding the doctrine, repelled it 
with indignation. 

" ' Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye 
steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn 
incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not ; 
and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my 
name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations V — 
Jer. vii., 8, 9, 10. 

" Does God approve of men's reasoning, when they say, God 
has decreed it, and God executes his decrees, and a resistless fate 
moves us on to evil. Far from it. In what stronger language 
could the Lord speak to hardened and impudent men, who laid 
their sins at his door ? Now the fall itself was somehow com- 
prehended in God's decrees : and if it be true that the fall took 
away all man's natural ability, wherein were those Jews wrong ? 
Their excuse was that their sins were produced by the fatality of 
God's decrees. They were delivered to do all these abominations. 
Their fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth were 
set on edge. By the sin of Adam they had lost all free agency, 
and therefore they were not to blame ; all was just as God would 
have it ; an inexorable fate drove them on, and how could they 
resist the Almighty 1 But if God did indeed require spiritual 
obedience from men who lay in a state of natural impotency, how 
is it that he frowned so indignantly, when they pleaded their impo- 
tence in bar of judgment ?" 

He subsequently refers to the same passage again in the follow- 
ing words : 

" So the same opinions operated among the Jews, as we learn 
by the terrible interrogations of the prophet — ' Will ye lie, and 
steal, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense 
unto Baal, and come into this house which is called by my name, 
and say we are delivered to do all these abominations ? We have 
no power over ourselves. We do but obey the irresistible laws of 
our nature. We are delivered by the constitution God has given 
us to do all these things.' The only difference between these 
ancient and modern licentious antinomians is, that the ancient 
denied accountability entirely ; while the latter attach it to 
fatality, and bring in the grace of God to deliver from a natural 

The whole force of this passage turns upon the words "we are 
delivered," and it is unfortunate that Dr. Beecher should have 
made so strong a use of it, and founded upon it so much rhetoric 
and logic, without ascertaining what the word thus translated 
meant. It never, in any instance of its use, has a signification at 
all approaching that which he assigns to it. It is the same word, 
and in the same tense, that is used in Isaiah xx., 6 : " Behold such 
is our expectation whither we flee for help, to be delivered from the 
king of Assyria." It never means, to be bound fast by a divine decree 

dr. beecher's theology. 197 

or by anything else, but in opposition to this, to be free, to be saved. 
In the passage quoted by Dr. Beecher, the sense evidently is, " Will 
ye come and say, We are free to do these abominations, we shall 
have immunity in the perpetration of them, we shall escape the 
punishments threatened by the prophets." A preterite tense, 
instead of the future, is used, says Michaelis, to denote the firm 
persuasion of safety. The grossness of Dr. Beecher's mistake is 
apparent. This comes of applying the principles of the Baconian 
philosophy, instead of the Hebrew Lexicon, to the interpretation 
of the Bible. 

It is not necessary to follow Dr. Beecher regularly through the 
course of his argument and declamation. Most of his arguments 
go merely to prove that man is a free, accountable agent. We 
believe we have already replied to every consideration which he 
has brought forward in defence of his own theory of free agency. 
There is one of his topics, however, which deserves a passing com- 
ment, principally for the sake of showing how far it is safe to trust 
to Dr. Beecher's accuracy in matters of history. One of his heads 
of argument is this. " Choice, without the possibility of other or 
contrary choice, is the immemorial doctrine of fatalism." He is 
kind enough to add, " I say not that all who assert the natural ina- 
bility of man are fatalists. I charge them not with holding or 
admitting the consequences of their theory — and I mean nothing 
unkind or invidious, in the proposition I have laid down, and truth 
and argument are not invidious." There will be observed here 
that adroit and confounding together of distinct things to which we 
have several times alluded. In the proposition, he is declared to 
be a fatalist, who denies that, at the time of every volition, the 
agent might have made a different or contrary one, and in the next 
sentence this is changed into asserting the natural inability of 
man. The method of argument pursued, in fixing the charge of 
fatalism on those who differ from him, may certainly lay claim to 
originality. His theme is, " That choice without the power of 
contrary choice is fatalism in all its diversified forms, is obvious to 
inspection, and a matter of historical record." For the proof of 
this position we might reasonably expect to find evidence produced, 
from a careful examination of the systems of fatalists, that they 
all held the precise opinion in question respecting the nature of 
choice. But instead of this, the author gives us a list of fatalists, 
for the most of whom he has manufactured a creed by the exer- 
cise of his own ingenuity, instead of searching their writings to 
see what they really believed and taught, and all of whom, with 
one or two exceptions, according to his account of them, were 
materialists. We might prove, in this way, that to believe in the 
existence of matter is to adopt fatalism, for it is obvious to inspec- 
tion, and matter of historical record, that all fatalists have believed 
in it. We will now examine the value of Dr. Beecher's historical 
record. His list of fatalists comprises the Stoics, the Epicureans, 
the Gnostics, the Manicheans, Spinosa, Descartes, the French revo- 

198 dr. beecher's theology. 

lutionary atheists, Bolingbroke, Hume, Hobbes, Priestley, and Bel- 
sham. He states, at some length, and in an oracular manner, their 
different systems, as if he knew all about, them, and were well 
qualified to instruct others. For the fatalism of the Stoics we refer 
the reader to the first instance of the Enchiridion of Epictetus, 
where he will find as strong a statement as could well be given of 
the liberty of the will : and to Dugald Stewart, who is high 
authority in matters touching the history of philosophy, and who 
declares that the " Stoics, with their usual passion for exaggera- 
tion, carried their notions of the liberty of the will to an unphilo- 
sophical extreme."* 

The fullest exposition which has come down to us of the sys- 
tem of the Epicureans, is to be found in the writings of Lucretius, 
and we refer Dr. Beecher to his Rerum Natura, lib. 2, v. 250- 
261, for proof that one of their avowed objects in maintaining their 
notion of the ' declination of atoms,' was to avoid the difficulties 
of fate. In this passage, Lucretius makes use of the free will of 
man, libera voluntas, to prove that each cause is not linked in with 
a previous cause from infinity, and that there is a principle which 
can break the decrees of fate, quod fali foedera rumpat. He 
expressly calls the will of man, a will set free from the fates, fatis 
avolsa voluntas, in virtue of which we go whithersoever our plea- 
sure leads us. He declares it to be far from doubt, dubio procul, 
that each man's own will is a principle of motion and action sepa- 
rate and independent of fate. Cicero also, in his book de Fato, 
alludes to what he calls the " commentitias declinati ones" of the 
Epicureans, as having been introduced by them for the avowed 
purpose of freeing " the voluntary motions" of man from the con- 
trol of fate. Of Spinosa we know nothing save from the writings 
of his opponents, though we comfort ourselves here, in our igno- 
rance, with the remark which Voltaire somewhat makes, that there 
are not ten persons in Europe who have read Spinosa's works. If 
Dr. Beecher has read them, we are willing to receive his account 
of what they contain ; but if he has drawn upon his own imagina- 
tion for his system, as he has done with most of his other fatalists, 
we must still hold the matter in doubt. It would be impossible for 
us to convey, within the limits which we can devote to it, any- 
thing like an adequate idea of the metaphysical system of Hobbes, 
though it will not be difficult to show that Dr. Beecher has done 
him injustice. Hobbes is distinguished beyond most authors for 
his sententious brevity. He is the most pithy and laconic of all 
philosophical writers. After he has once defined a term, or stated 
a proposition, he is seldom at the trouble of repeating them, taking 
it for granted that his readers will understand and remember every- 
thing that he has once said. Hence, though his style is remark- 
ably clear, his language, as Sir James Mackintosh says of it, never 
having but one meaning, and that one never requiring a second 

* Stewart's Works, vol. vi., p. 241. 

dr. beecher's theology. 199 

thought to find, he is nevertheless liable to be misapprehended by 
one who reads only detached portions of his writings. Thus he 
denies in many passages that the affections and passions of the 
heart are voluntary, but his meaning is elsewhere explained. 
" Appetite, fear, hope, and the rest of the passions, are not called 
voluntary, for they proceed not from, but are the will, and the will 
is not voluntary ; for a man can no more say he will will, than 
he will will will, and so make an infinite repetition of the word 
will, which is absurd and insignificant."* If careful attention be 
paid to his own definitions of terms, it will be found that Hobbes 
maintains neither more nor less than the common doctrine of phi- 
losophical necessity. He gives the same definition of freedom with 
Edwards. " A man is free," he says, " when, in such things as he 
has strength and wit to do, he is not hindered to do what he has a 
will to."f He first pointed out that for which Locke generally 
receives credit, the impropriety of affirming freedom of the will 
itself. "From the use of the word Free- Will, no liberty can be 
inferred of the will, desire or inclination, but the liberty of man, the 
which consisteth in this, that he finds no stop in doing what he has 
the will or inclination to do."J In the commencement of his letter 
to the Marquis of Newcastle, in reply to some strictures of Bishop 
Bramhall, he states the question thus : " His Lordship may think it 
all one to say, I was free to write, and it was not necessary I should 
write ; but I think otherwise, for he is free to do a thing that may 
do it if he will to do it; and may forbear if he have the will to 
forbear. I acknowledge this liberty, that lean do if I will ; but to 
say, I can will if I will, I take to be an absurd speech. In fine, 
that freedom which men find in books, that which the poets chaunt 
in the theatres, and the shepherds on the mountains ; that which 
the pastors teach in pulpits, and the doctors in the universities, and 
that which the common people in the markets, and all mankind in 
the whole world do assent unto, is the same that I assent unto, 
namely, that a man hath freedom to do if he will, but whether they 
have freedom to will, is a question neither the bishop nor they ever 
thought of." To the objection, that if liberty of will be taken 
away, " the nature and formal reason of sin is taken away," he 
makes this reply : " I deny the consequence. The nature of sin 
consisteth in this, that the action done proceeds from our will, and 
be against the law. A judge, in judging whether that be sin or no 
which is done against the law, looks at no higher cause of the 
action than the will of the doer. Now when 1 say that the action 
was necessary, I do not say it was done against the will of the 
doer, but with his will, and necessary, because man's will, that is, 
every volition or act of the will, had a sufficient, and therefore a 
necessary cause. An action may therefore be voluntary and a sin, 
and nevertheless be necessary ."§ Another extract will illustrate 

* Human Nature, p. 29. f Commonwealth, p. 183. X Ibid., p. 189. 

§ Of Liberty and Necessity, p. 478. 

200 dr. beecher's theology. 

still further his use of the word necessary. " If there be an 
agent, he can do something ; and if he do it, there is nothing want- 
ing of what is requisite to produce the action ; and consequently the 
cause of the action is sufficient, and if sufficient, then also necessary, 
as has been proved before."* The necessity for which he contends 
is declared to be perfectly consistent with human liberty ; he denies 
that it removes the distinction between the nature of virtue and 
vice, praise and blame, reward and punishment ; or that it renders 
useless admonitions and counsels, promises and threatenings. We 
do not believe that a single passage can be produced from all his 
writings in which he has been led to slide into the notion of a prac- 
tical necessity, or a necessity at all different from that which Ed- 
wards has since taught. But Dr. Beecher calls him a fatalist, and 
Dr. Beecher doubtless is a learned man ! Then Edwards too was a 
fatalist. We have not yet done with our catalogue of errors. Boling- 
broke too is included in the list of fatalists, and the peculiar form 
of fatalism which he held is particularly described. We are told 
that he supposed "motives, as the antecedents of volition, to be 
clothed with the coercive power of material causes to their effects, 
and thus destroyed the liberty of the will," &c. This rather passes 
anything we have had yet. Bolingbroke was one of the most 
rampant of all advocates for the self -determining power of the will. 
He uniformly contends for this power, and often becomes angry 
and foul-mouthed in his abuse of those who deny it. He speaks 
of " the free-will of man which no one can deny without lying, 
or renouncing his instinctive knowledge."! He says again, " To 
acknowledge the latum of ancient philosophers, to hold with the 
Mahometans the absolute predestination of all events, with Spinosa 
and Calvin the necessity of all our actions, or with Leibnitz his 
whimsy of a pre-established harmony, would be somewhat almost 
as mad as to take the true history of Lucian for such."J ■' I am 
not unacquainted," he says, " with the various refinements of inge- 
nious men about the freedom of the human will. Some of them 
have assumed it to be a freedom from external compulsion only, 
and not internal necessity. Others have assumed it to be a. free- 
dom from both. This second opinion is so evidently true, that I 
cannot conceive it would have been liable to any contradiction, if 
philosophers had not done in this case what they do in many, if 
they had not rendered what is clear, obscure, by explanations, and 
what is certain, problematical, by engraftments."§ In another 
passage of the same tract, after stating what the Creator has done 
for us, he adds, " What we shall do for ourselves he has left to the 
freedom of our own elections ; for free-will seems so essential to 
rational beings, that I presume we cannot conceive any such to be 
without it." We should not be surprised after this to see Dr. 
Whitby and Dr. Taylor, the ancient and the modern, with sundry 

* Of Liberty and Necessity, p. 480. f Philosophical Works, vol. v., p. 85. 

\ Philosophical Works, vol. viii., p. 280. § Ibid., p. 355, 

dr. beecher's theology. 201 

others of like sentiments, figuring in the next catalogue of fatalists 
which Dr. Beecher may have occasion to draw up. But the most 
surprising instance yet remains. Descartes, too, among the fatal- 
ists ! We give his account of Descartes' philosophy. "The fatal- 
ism of Descartes was the atomic theory, the fortuitous concourse 
of atoms — intelligence in results without an intelligent being — 
design without a designer — and choice, the product of the happy 
concurrence of material accidents." We are here lost in amaze- 
ment. We could not have believed it. possible for any man to pen 
such a paragraph as this of the great father of the modern mental 
philosophy, the man who forms an era in the history of metaphy- 
sics, physics, and mathematics, and whose opinions we had thought 
were somewhat known to everybody who reads at all.* Descar- 
tes a materialist, an atheist, and a fatalist ! His atheism consists 
in assuming that, next to the existence of his own mind, the most 
certain and indisputable of all truths is the existence of God. 
His materialism is to be sought in his opinion, which Condorcet, 
D'Alembert, and many others, assert never had been before dis- 
tinctly taught, that the mind, the thinking principle in man, is 
strictly and properly immaterial. And his fatalism can be found 
only in hi; many strenuous defences of man's " freedom of will." 
At the very outset of his Principia Philosophiae, he calls upon his 
reader to reject everything of the existence of which it is possible 
for him to doubt. "We can easily suppose, he says, that there is 
no God, no heaven, no bodies ; and that we have neither hands nor 
feet, nor body ; but we cannot thus suppose that we who think 
these things do not exist, for it is absurd to suppose that that which 
thinks, at the very time while thinking, does not exist." He thus 
proves the actual existence of a thinking principle, which is not 
characterized " by extension, by figure, by local motion, or by any 
property like those which we attribute to matter ; which is there- 
fore purely immaterial; and of which we have an earlier and 
more certain knowledge than of any material thing."f He then 
proceeds to establish the being and perfections of God, truths 
which he considers as necessarily involved in the idea which we 
are capable of forming of an eternal, self-existent, and perfect 
being. It is upon the veracity of God that he founds his whole 
faith in the evidence of his senses, and the conclusions of his 
reason. He then returns to prove by his senses the existence 
and properties of the material world, and to apply his reason- 
ing powers to the investigation of truth. He repeatedly affirms, 
in the strongest manner, the liberty of the will. A single passage 

* Condorcet, Stewart, and most metaphysical writers, agree in styling Descartes 
"the father of the Modern Experimental Philosophy of the Mind." 

t In the second of his Philosophical Meditations, he asks, " What am I ? A 
thinking bein^— that is, a being, doubting, knowing, affirming, denying, consenting, 
refusing, susceptible of pleasure and pain. Of all these things I might have had 
complete experience without any previous acquaintance with the qualities and laws 
of matter." This is a queer way of teaching that " choice is the happy concurrence 
of material accidents." 

202 dr. beecher's theology. 

will sufficiently illustrate his opinions on this subject. " It is 
wrong," he says, " to imagine that we can do anything which has 
not been fore-ordained by God. But we may readily embarrass 
ourselves with great difficulties if we attempt to reconcile this fore- 
ordination of God with the liberty of our will) arbitrii nostri liber- 
tate). But we may extricate ourselves from these by remember- 
ing that our minds are finite ; but that the power of God by which 
he not only foresaw from eternity, but also willed and fore-ordained 
all things that are or can be, is infinite. And though we may so 
far attain the idea of infinite power as to perceive clearly and dis- 
tinctly that it is an attribute of God ; yet we cannot sufficiently 
comprehend it, to see in what manner it leaves the actions of men 
free. But we are so intimately conscious of the liberty and indif- 
ferency which we possess, that there is nothing which we can more 
obviously and perfectly comprehend. And it would be truly absurd, 
on account of a thing which we know from its very nature ought 
to be incomprehensible, to doubt respecting another thing which we 
perfectly comprehend, and of which we are intimately conscious."* 
Even the physical theory of this illustrious philosopher was not, as 
Dr. Beecher asserts, " the atomic theory." Descartes supposed 
that the material universe was a machine originally constructed 
and put in motion by the Deity, and that the multiplicity of effects 
that have since taken place may all have proceeded from one single 
act of his power. It was to connect the present motions and 
changes in matter, with the original impulse imparted to it by the 
Creator, that he invented his hypothesis of " vortices," in direct 
and avowed opposition to " the atomic theory," and thereby 
involved himself in a protracted discussion with Gassendi, the 
great defender of the Epicurean system of physics. It is strange 
that Dr. Beecher should have so misunderstood his physical theory ; 
and still more strange that he should have made it the ground of 
charging materialism, atheism, and fatalism, upon the man, who 
was the first to establish clearly the distinction between mind and 
matter as separate and heterogeneous objects of human knowledge ; 
who taught that we have no reason for trusting even our own 
senses, or our reason, save our confidence in the veracity of our 
Maker ; and who maintained that no truth can be more certain and 
undeniable than the liberty of the human will. 

We could easily show that there are other mistakes in Dr. Beecher's 
account of the fatalists, but we have sufficiently redeemed our 
promise. Our readers must be, by this time, satisfied how far it is 
safe ever to trust to Dr. Beecher's accuracy in reporting upon the 
opinions of others. We may now freely admit " that truth and 
argument are not invidious," without thereby relieving Dr. Beecher 
from the charge. The next time that he wishes to hurlf the calum- 

* Princ. Phil., § xl. 

t For a deserved reproof of Dr. Beecher on this point, as well as for a detailed refu- 
tation of the errors of his book, we refer the reader to Dr. Harvey's work on Moral 
Agency, recently published. 



nious epithet of fatalist against those who differ from him, let him 
at least see to it that he chooses his ground better. 

Before closing this examination of Dr. Beecher's work we wish 
to state distinctly, that it contains much of orthodoxy. The very 
errors which we have condemned, as we have already remarked, 
are often given as the equivalents of orthodox statements. And 
there are many such assertions as the following. " When this per- 
verse decision is once made, the heart is fully set, and incorrigible 
to all motives and immutable in its way." " The Scriptures speak 
of the permanence and immutability of man's depravity." " It is a 
part of the terrific nature of sinful man, to baffle all motives, and 
be voluntarily but unchangeably wicked." We desire to be thank- 
ful that it belongs to Dr. Beecher, not to us, to show that that which 
is incorrigible may nevertheless be corrected, and though unchange- 
able, that it can be changed. In a single sentence we sometimes 
have the two brought together. " Nothing is better supported 
from Scripture than that man by nature is in fact incapable of 
recovery without the power of God specially interposed, though 
not an impossibility such as the sinner cannot overcome." We 
fear our readers will think that a work, in which the same thing is 
thus affirmed and denied within the compass of a single sentence, 
has already received too extended a notice. We dismiss it, there- 
fore, with the expression of our best wishes for the author, and our 
sincere desire that he may in future be more cautious and guarded, 
should he undertake to deal with the controverted topics of meta- 
physics and theology. 

Since the foregoing article was commenced, we have received 
two publications from Dr. Beecher through the columns of the 
Cincinnati Journal. In the first of these we are arraigned, in 
company with Dr. Wilson, Dr. Hoge, Mr. Nettleton, Dr. Har- 
vey, and the editors of the Presbyterian, the Southern Chris- 
tian Herald, and the Hartford Watchman, as parties to a con- 
spiracy against him. Though he thinks these conspirators have 
all done him great wrong, yet he believes that " their sin and shame" 
may be forgiven, if they will suitably " bewail the evil they have 
done." The object of the conspiracy is " to write him down in 
reference to the present crisis in our church ;" the proof of it is, 
that his book, and the consistency of his conduct, have undergone 
examination at the hands of several of the individuals named within 
a recent period, and that period so chosen as to preclude the possi- 
bility of a reply from him prior to the session of the late General 
Assembly. We have turned the subject in every possible way, 
and we are utterly at a loss to conceive what connexion the review 
of Dr. Beecher's book had with the sessions of the General Assem- 
bly. He was not upon trial before that body — he was not a dele- 
gate to it — he had no other interest in it, that we can discern, than 
every other Presbyterian minister had. It is useless, however, to 
reason with the fears of the imagination. And yet we wish there 
was some way to lay the phantom of evil which Dr. Beecher has 

204 dr. beecher's theology. 

conjured up. The most miserable man we have ever known was 
one who was persuaded that Bonaparte was employing the whole 
resources of the French empire for his capture, and that if this 
attempt was successful, there would then be nothing to hinder the 
subjugation of the rest of the world. The inconvenience and 
suffering, occasioned by such fears, are not less than if the appre- 
hended danger were real. We do therefore solemnly assure Dr. 
Beecher that our article was written without concert or collusion 
with any one, without a hint or suggestion from any quarter ; and 
that the proximity in the time of its appearance to the session of the 
General Assembly, was purely accidental. It never once entered 
our thoughts that a review of his book could have any influence on 
the proceedings of that body. 

Dr. Beecher also finds reason, from the simple fact that his con- 
sistency has been impugned, and his book in some respects cen- 
sured, both at East Windsor and at Princeton, to suggest to the 
public whether there is not sufficient evidence of " a coalition of 
Theological Seminaries," for the sake of" intimidating" their pupils 
and others into their own theological peculiarities, and thus getting 
up " a second papal system." We shall make no other comment 
upon this note of alarm than to quote the following sentence from 
his Views in Theology. "And never was there a moment when 
a little panic of alarm, or impatience of feeling, may turn, for good 
or for evil, the life-giving or destroying waters of such a flood 
down through distant generations." 

Dr. Beecher's second communication to the public is occupied 
entirely with our former article, but it will not be necessary for us 
to notice it at any great length. Every reader of the review and 
the reply will at once see that he has not touched upon the diffi- 
culties of the case. The real question is turned aside, and a new 
issue presented. We will merely illustrate this by a reference to 
the manner in which he disposes of the extract which we produced 
from the Spirit of the Pilgrims. In this passage it will be remem- 
bered that, after stating the opinions which had been held by the 
Reformers, the Puritans, and Edwards, he states that a change had 
taken place, and that the New England divines had long since 
rejected " the views of the Reformers on the subject of original sin, 
as consisting in the imputation of Adam's sin, and a depraved 
nature transmitted by descent ; that in opposition to this they held 
" that depravity is wholly voluntary, and consists in the transgres- 
sion of the law under such circumstances as constitutes accounta- 
bility and desert of punishment." We then quoted another passage 
to show that Dr. Beecher himself held these views which he attri- 
buted to the New England divines. And how does he dispose of 
this case ? Even thus. " To prove that I deny the doctrine of 
original sin, it is necessary to prove that the standard New England 
divines denied it, for the change is one which they made, and my 
concurrence is with them. If they deny original sin, I deny it, and 
if they do not, I do not." Then follows a string of quotations from 

dr. beecher's theology. 205 

New England writers, which we have not read, because they are 
nothing to the purpose ; and moreover we do not need to be 
informed by Dr. Beecher that they taught the doctrine of original 
sin. We know they did. But what does this prove ? Only what 
we also knew before, that Dr. Beecher grossly misrepresented them 
in the extract in question. We were aware that Dr. Woods and 
others had complained that he did not truly state the New England 
opinions, in this very controversy with the Christian Examiner ; 
but we did not think it becoming, at the time, to take any notice of 
this misrepresentation, little imagining that he himself would lay hold 
of it as the weapon of his defence. The only effect of his reply is 
to draw down upon himself the additional charge of having misre- 
presented the opinions of his brethren. There stand his own 
words, expressly denying, on behalf of the New England divines 
in general, and of himself in particular, the doctrine ot original sin. 
To prove now that they did not deny it, is only to convict himself 
of having slandered them. His own denial still stands in connex- 
ion with his explicit avowal of the same doctrine in his Views in 
Theology, and his declaration that he has never changed his opi- 
nions upon the subject. 



Our readers may be somewhat surprised at seeing, in our 
margin, the title of a book published near a century ago. The 
character of this periodical, however, does not restrict us to 
the notice of works of a recent date. The past is the mirror of 
the present, as the present is of the future. What is now has 
been before, and shall be hereafter. It is well, at times, to look 
back and see how the trial's of our forefathers agree with our own ; 
to observe how the errors and disorders with which we have to 
contend afflicted them ; to notice how the methods adopted in for- 
mer ages to secure the introduction of false doctrines answer to 
the devices of the present day ; and how signally God blessed the 
faithful efforts of his servants in defence of his truth, and how uni- 
formly compromise and subserviency have been followed by the 
triumph of error and the decline of religion. The history of the 
church is replete with instructions on all these points ; and these 
instructions are presented in the history of the church in our own 
country in a form peculiarly adapted to our present circumstances. 
The pious founders of the Congregational and Presbyterian 
churches in America brought with them the very doctrines which 
the friends of truth in those churches are now struggling to main- 
tain ; they had to contend with the same errors and disorders, and 
they resisted them by the same means which we are now endea- 
vouring to employ, viz., testimony, discussion and discipline. 
Their fidelity produced just the same outcry about ecclesiastical 
tyranny, inquisitorial powers, freedom of thought, march of intel- 
lect, new discoveries, with which the ears of the public are now 
assailed. The same plea of essential agreement, of mere shades 
of difference, of the evils of controversy, was urged then, as now. 
But blessed be God, not with the same success. The men of those 
generations did not allow themselves to be either frightened or 

* Origimlly published in 1839, in review of the following work:—" A Brief His- 
tory and Vindication of the Doctrines received and established in the Churches of 
New England, with a specimen of the New Scheme of Religion beginning to pre- 
vail." By Thomas Clap, A. M., President of Yale College. 


beguiled. And as long as they retained their courage and fidelity, 
their efforts were crowned with success. 

There is another instructive feature in the history of the last 
century. Those who could not endure sound doctrine, would not 
endure sound discipline. As soon as they had departed from the 
faith, they got their eyes wide open to the evils of ecclesiastical 
authority. This opposition to supervision manifested itself in Con- 
necticut in two ways. Some objected to the examination into 
the doctrinal opinions of ministers, or to the exercise of disci- 
pline for the prevailing errors ; while others withdrew from the 
consociated churches and set up for themselves. These separat- 
ists called themselves strict Congregationalists. One of their 
standing subjects of complaint was the supervision of the consoci- 
ation. This was ibund to be very inconvenient. It is readily 
admitted that many Christians have honestly and from good 
motives preferred the purely independent system of church 
government, yet there can be no doubt that then, as now, many 
who advocated that system did it because of the convenient lati- 
tude which it affords for all kinds of doctrine. 

So much has been said of late years of the contentions in the 
Presbyterian church ; such assiduous efforts have been made to 
produce the impression that there is either some great evil in Pres- 
byterianism, or that its present advocates are peculiarly and wick- 
edly bigoted, that we have thought it wise, and likely in various 
ways to be useful, to recall attention to one chapter of the eccle- 
siastical history of Connecticut. It will be seen that so long as 
there is a regard for divine truth and for real religion in the 
church, there will be controversy and contention when errorists 
arise and endeavour to propagate their doctrines. There can be 
no surer sign of degeneracy than the peaceful progress of error. 
If, therefore, the same or analogous errors and disorders which 
a century ago agitated many parts of New England to its 
centre, are now allowed to prevail without opposition, it will 
prove to all the world that the faith and the spirit of the 
Puritans have perished among their descendants. It is not 
our intention, though largely in the debt of a certain class of our 
New England brethren, to read them a lesson out of their own 
history. It is not for their benefit so much as for our own, that 
we bring to the notice of our readers President Clap's Defence of 
the Doctrines of the New England Churches. It will serve to 
confirm the purpose and strengthen the faith of the friends of truth 
in our church, to see that they are fighting the same battle which 
has once before been fought and won, and that on New England 
ground. It will serve to refute the calumny of those who represent 
the struggle in our church, as an opposition to genuine New 
England doctrines. It will show that we are now opposing what 
all sound and faithful Puritans ever have resisted ; and that the 
reproaches which we now suffer were just as freely lavished on 
New England men a hundred years ago. 


There is so little in this pamphlet which is not directly applica- 
ble to the present times, that we shall do little more than extract 
its contents, giving, it may be, an occasional remark by way of 
application or improvement. 

" The great motive," says President Clap, " which induced the 
first planters of New England to leave their pleasant European 
seats, and settle in this howling wilderness, was, that they might 
enjoy religion in the purity of its doctrines, discipline and worship, 
and transmit the same down to the latest posterity. The doctrines 
which they believed and professed, were those which had been 
generally established in all ages of the Christian church ; and more 
especially summed up, and declared in the several confessions of 
faith in the various Churches of the Protestant Reformation ; though 
there were some lesser circumstances in their ecclesiastical discipline 
which were in some measure peculiar to themselves. For the sake of. 
these inestimable privileges, they undertook to settle a new and uncul- 
tivated country, filled with the most savage and barbarous enemies ; 
and nothing but these religious prospects could induce them to believe 
that they did not purchase it at too dear a rate. And the leaving the 
gospel in its purity, they judged to be a better inheritance to their 
posterity, than the valuable soil which they acquired with such 
incredible hardship, danger, and fatigue : therefore any attempt 
to deprive them of their religion is as injurious as to deprive 
them of their lands, or to change their happy form of civil govern- 

" Soon after their first settlement, there was a general Synod of 
the elders and messengers of all the churches in New England, in 
the year 1648, wherein they unanimouslydeclared their sentiments in 
the doctrines of the gospel, in these words, viz. * This Synod, hav- 
ing perused and considered (with much gladness of heart, and 
thankfulness to God) the Confession of Faith lately published by 
the Reverend Assembly in England, do judge it to be very holy, 
orthodox and judicious in all matters of faith ; and do therefore 
freely and fully consent thereunto, for the substance ; only in 
matters of church government and discipline, we refer ourselves 
to the platform of church discipline agreed upon by this assembly.' 
And accordingly published it as ' their Confession of Faith, and as 
the doctrine constantly taught and professed in these churches.' 

" In their preface they say, ' that it has been the laudable prac- 
tice of the churches of Christ, in all ages, to give a public account 
to the world of the faith and order of the gospel among them ; 
and that it has a tendency to public edification, by maintaining the 
faith entire in itself, and unity and harmony with other churches.' 

" Our churches, say they, believe and profess the same doctrine 
which has been generally received in all the reformed churches in 
Europe. I suppose the Assembly's Catechism was not expressly 
mentioned, because before this it had been generally received and 
taught to children. 

" A few years after there was a Synod of Congregational 


churches held at the Savoy, in London ; wherein they consented 
to the Westminster Confession aforesaid ; only they left out some 
things relating to church discipline and divorce, and amended some 
few expressions. This is called the Savoy Confession. 

" A general Synod of the elders and messengers of the churches 
in New England, in 16S0, approved of and consented to this con- 
fession ; and the general court at Boston ordered it to be printed 
' for the benefit of the churches in the present and after times.' 
The Synod, in their preface, say, ' That it must needs tend much 
to the honour of the blessed name of the Lord Jesus, when many 
churches join together in their testimony for the truth. That the 
Lord hath signally owned the Confessions of the four first general 
Councils or Synods for the suppression of heresies in the primi- 
tive times. That the Confessions of the Bohemians, Waldenses, 
and other Protestant reformed churches (which also show 
what harmony of doctrine there is among all sincere profes- 
sors of the truth) have been of singular use, not only to those 
who then lived, but also to posterity, even to this day. That 
it must needs be a work pleasing unto God, for his servants to 
declare to the world what those principles of truth are, which they 
have received, and purpose to live and die in the profession of ; 
nor are they worthy of the name of Christians, who refuse to 
declare what they believe.' They conclude with these words : 
' What hours of temptation may overtake these churches, is not for 
us to say ; only the Lord doth many times so order things, that 
when his people have made a good confession, they shall be put 
upon the trial some way or other concerning their sincerity in it.. 
The Lord grant that the loins of our minds may be so girt about 
with truth that we may be able to withstand in an evil day, and: 
having done all to stand.' 

" In the year 1690, there was a meeting of the Presbyterian and 
Congregational ministers in England, who, agreeing perfectly in 
points of doctrine, compromised those small circumstantials wherein 
they had disagreed in church discipline. This they published under 
the title of Heads of Agreement assented to by the united Ministers 
formerly called the Presbyterian and Congregational ; in which 
they declare their approbation of ' the doctrinal articles of the 
church of England ; the Confession of Faith ; the larger and 
shorter Catechisms composed by the assembly of divines at West- 
minster, and the Savoy Confession, as agreeable to the word of 

" In the year 1708, there was a general Synod of all the churches 
in the colony of Connecticut, assembled by delegation, at Saybrook, 
in which they unanimously consented to the Savoy Confession, 
and the heads of agreement before mentioned ; and drew up some 
articles for the administration of church discipline. One principal 
thing wherein these articles differed from what had been before 
generally received and practised in the New English churches, 
was this, that whereas the Cambridge platform had said in general 



terms, that councils should consist of the neighbouring churches, 
and some questions had arisen who should be esteemed the neigh- 
bouring churches, and what number should be called in particular 
cases : these articles reduced it to a greater certainty, that councils 
should consist of the neighbouring churches in the county ; 
they forming themselves into one or more consociations for that 

" These three things, viz., the Confession of Faith, Heads of 
Agreement, and Articles of Church Discipline, were presented to 
the General Court at Hartford in May, 1708; and they declared 
their great approbation of them, and ! ordain that all the 
churches in this government, thus united in doctrine, worship 
and discipline, shall be owned and acknowledged established by 

" The Synod of Saybrook, in their preface, say, that ' the usage 
of the Christian church, whose faith rested wholly on the word of 
God, respecting Confessions of Faith, is very ancient, and necessary 
for the correcting, condemning, and suppressing of heresy and 
error. For^this purpose, ancient and famous Confessions of Faith 
have been agreed upon by Oecumenical Councils, e. g. of Nice, 
against Arius ; of Constantinople, against Macedonius, &c. That 
the several reformed nations agreed upon Confessions of Faith, 
famous in the world, and of special service to theirs and the suc- 
ceeding ages. That the faith of these churches is the same which 
was generally received in all the reformed churches in Europe. 
This Confession of Faith they say they offer as their firm persua- 
sion, well and truly grounded on the word of God, and commend 
the same to the people of this colony to be examined, accepted 
and constantly maintained. That having applied the rule of holy 
Scripture to the articles of this Confession,* and found the same to 
be the eternal truths of God, you remember and hold them fast : 
contend earnestly for them, as the faith once delivered to the saints : 
value them as your great charter ; the instrument of your salva- 
tion, and the evidence of your not failing of the grace of God, and 
of your receiving a crown that fadeth not away. Maintain them, 
and every of them, all your days, with undaunted resolution 
against all opposition, whatever the event may be ; and the same 
transmit safe and pure to posterity ; having bought the truth, sell 
it not : believe the truth will make you free. Faithful is he that 
hath promised. Let no man take away your crown.' 

" In this state our pious forefathers established the pure religion 
of Christ in this land, and left it as the best legacy to their 
posterity. They were doubtless men of great piety ; fervent in 
prayer, and assiduous in studying the sacred Scriptures, in order 
to find out the truth and recommend it to their posterity. They 
did not undertake to make a religion, but to declare it from the 

• " By this is meant, not the applying those few texts of Scripture only, which 
are set in the margin (for it is probable they were not put there by the Assembly of 
Divines), but every text of Scripture applicable to these articles." 


word of God : nor did they suppose that their faith or belief should 
be the ground and foundation of ours, but resolved all into the 
authority of God speaking in his word. 

" Among the various means they used to propagate this pure 
religion to their posterity, they esteemed the erecting of colleges 
and subordinate schools to be the principal. To this purpose the 
general synod at Boston in 1679 fully express their sentiments. 
1 Thnt we read of schools and colleges in scripture ; 1 Chron. xxv., 
8 ; Mai. ii., 12 ; Acts xix.. 9, and xxii., 3. That Samuel, Elijah and 
Elisha, were presidents of the schools of the prophets: 1 Sam. xix., 
18. That Ecclesiastical History informs us that great care was 
taken by the apostles and their immediate successors, to settle 
schools at all places ; that so the interest of religion might be pre- 
served, and truth propagated to all succeeding generations. We 
have reason to bless God, who hath put it into the hearts of our 
fathers to take care in this matter ; for these churches would have 
been in a deplorable state if the Lord had not blessed the college, 
so as thence to supply most of our churches." 

" ' When the people in New England were poor and but few in 
number, there was a spirit to encourage learning ; and as we desire 
that religion should flourish, it concerns us to endeavour that the 
college and inferior schools be duly inspected and encouraged.' 
Thus far that synod. 

"The fathers of the colony of Connecticut, from the same pious 
and religious design, erected a college among themselves in the 
year 1701 : the scheme was concerted principally by the ministers, 
with an especial design to maintain and propagate that pure reli- 
gion, which was before settled among them ; as appears by sundry 
letters to and from those ministers who first undertook to found this 
school, dated before the charter, and still extant. 

" The charter is predicated ' upon the petition of sundry well- 
disposed persons, of their sincere regard to, and zeal for, upholding 
and propagating of the Christian Protestant religion, by a suc- 
cession of learned and orthodox men.' And the grant was made 
' to encourage such a pious and religious undertaking.' At their 
first meeting they came into the following solemn act. 

" At a meeting of the collegiate undertakers holden at Saybrook, 
November 11, A..D. 1701, present, the Revs. Israel Chauncey, 
Thomas Buckingham, Abraham Pierson, Samuel Andrew, James 
Pierpoint, Noadiah Russel, Joseph Webb. 

" ' Whereas it was the glorious public design of our now blessed 
fathers, in their remove from Europe into these parts of America, 
both to plant, and under the Divine blessing, to propagate in this 
wilderness the blessed reformed Protestant religion, in the purity 
of its order and worship ; not only to their posterity but also to the 
barbarous natives : in which great enterprise they wanted not the 
royal commands and favour of his majesty king Charles the Second 
to authorize and invigorate them. 

" ' We, their unworthy posterity, lamenting our past neglects of 


this grand errand, and sensible of the equal obligations better to 
prosecute the same end, are desirous in our generation to be ser- 
viceable thereunto. 

" ' Whereunto the religious and liberal education of suitable 
youth is, under the blessing of God, a chief and most probable 
expedient. Therefore, that we might not be wanting in cherishing 
the present observable and pious disposition of many well-minded 
people, to dedicate their children and substance unto God in such 
a good service : and being ourselves with sundry other Reverend 
Elders, not only desired by our goodly people to undertake as trus- 
tees for erecting, forming, ordering and regulating a collegiate 
school for the advancement of such an education : but having also 
obtained of our present religious government, both full liberty and 
assistance by their donations to such an use : tokens likewise that 
particular persons will not be wanting in their beneficence : do, in 
duty to God, and the weal of our country, undertake in the afore- 
said design. And being now met, according to the liberties and 
aids now granted to us for the use aforesaid, do order and appoint, 
that there shall be, and hereby is erected and formed a collegiate 
school, wherein -shall be taught the liberal arts and languages, in 
such place or places in Connecticut, as the said trustees with their 
associates and successors, do or shall, from time to time, see cause 
to order. 

" ' For the orderly and effectual management of this affair, we 
agree to, and hereby appoint and confirm the following rules : 

" ' 1st. That the rector take special care, as of the moral behaviour 
of the students at all times, so with industry to instruct and ground 
them well in theoretical divinity ; and to that end shall neither by 
himself nor by any other person whomsoever, allow them to be 
instructed and grounded in any other system or synopsis of divinity 
than such as the said trustees do order and appoint : but shall take 
effectual care that the said students be weekly, at such seasons as 
he shall see cause to appoint, caused memoriter to recite the Assem- 
bly's Catechism in Latin, and Ames's Theological Theses ; of which, 
as also Ames's Cases, he shall make, or cause to be made, from 
time to time, such explanations as may (through the blessing of 
God) be most conducive to their establishment in the principles of 
the Christian Protestant religion. 

" ' 2d. The rector shall also cause the Scripture daily (except 
on the Sabbath), morning and evening, to be read by the students 
at the times of prayer in the school, according to the laudable order 
and usages of Harvard College, making expositions upon the same, 
and upon the Sabbath shall either expound practical theology or 
cause the non-graduated students to repeat sermons, and in all 
other ways according to his best discretion shall at all times stu- 
diously endeavour in the education of the students, to promote the 
power and purity of religion and the best edification of these New 
England churches.^ 

" The founders of the college and their successors have, upon 


several times and occasions, come into some further and more 
explicit resolves, in pursuance to the original fundamental plan ; 

" At a meeting of the trustees of Yale College, in New Haven, 
October 17,1722: present, the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Andrew, 
Timothy Woodbridge, Samuel Russell, Joseph Webb, John Daven- 
port, Thomas Buckingham, Stephen Buckingham, Thomas Rug- 
gles, Eliphalet Adams. 

"' 16. Voted, That all such persons as shall hereafter be elected 
to the office of rector or tutor in this college shall, before they are 
accepted therein, before the trustees, declare their assent to the 
Confession of Faith owned and consented to by the elders and mes- 
sengers of the churches in the Colony of Connecticut, assembled 
by delegation at Say brook, Sept. 9, 1708, and confirmed by act 
of the General Assembly ; and shall particularly give satisfaction 
to them, of the soundness of their faith, in opposition to Arminian 
and Prelatical corruptions, or any other of dangerous consequence 
to the purity and peace of our churches : but if it cannot be before 
the trustees, it shall be in the power of any two trustees, with the 
rector, to examine a tutor with respect to the confession and sound- 
ness of faith in opposition to said corruptions. 

Hl 17. Voted, That upon just ground of suspicion of the rector 
or tutor's inclination to Arminian or Prelatic principles, a meeting 
of the trustees shall be called as soon as may be to examine into 
the case. 

"' 18. Voted, That if any other officer or member of this col- 
lege shall give just grounds of suspicion of their being corrupted 
with Arminian or Prelatical principles,* or of any other of dan- 
gerous consequence to the peace and purity of our churches, the 
rector and tutor shall call them upon examination according to the 
articles of the said Confession ; and in case they refuse to sub- 
mit thereto, or do not give a satisfactory account of their uncor- 
ruptness, they shall suspend them to the next meeting of the 

" N. B. Five of the first founders were at this time alive, and 
four present at the passing of these acts. 

" At a meeting of the president and fellows of Yale College, 
November 21, 1751, present, the Rev. Mr. Thomas Clap, Presi- 
dent ; the Rev. Messrs. Jared Eliot, Joseph Noyes, Anthony Stod- 
dard, Benjamin Lord, William Russel, Thomas Ruggles, Solomon 
Williams, and Noah Hobart, Fellows. 

* " By Prelatical principles, I suppose, they intend the opinion that Prelacy or 
Episcopacy is, by divine right, absolutely necessary to the being of the Christian 
ministry and church ; which opinion being entirely subversive of these churches 
which the college was founded to support, those who endeavour to propagate it 
counteract the fundamental design of the college : but such as suppose that Episco- 
pacy is only most convenient as tending to maintain unity and order, and don't nul- 
lify Presbyterian ordination (which is the opinion of the greatest part of the church 
of England, in England), may consistently be admitted members of our college, and 
to the communion of our churches too, as has been the practice ever since there 
have been churchmen in the colony." 


" ' Whereas "the principal design of the pious founders of this 
college was to educate and train up youth for the ministry in the 
churches of this Colony, according to the doctrine, discipline and 
mode of worship received and practised in them ; and they par- 
ticularly ordered that the students should be established in the 
principles of religion and grounded in polemical divinity, accord- 
ing to the Assembly's Catechism, Dr. Ames's Medulla and Cases 
of Conscience ; and that special care should be taken, in the edu- 
cation of students, not to suffer them to be instructed in any dif- 
ferent principles or doctrines ; and that all proper methods or 
measures should be taken to promote the power and purity of reli- 
gion, and the best edification and peace of these churches : 

" • We, the successors of the said founders, being in our own 
judgments of the same principles in religion with our predeces- 
sors, and esteeming ourselves bound in fidelity to the trust com- 
mitted to us to carry on the same design, and improve all the col- 
lege estate descended to us for the purpose for which it was given, 
do explicitly and fully resolve, as follows, viz. : 

'"1. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are 
the only rule of faith and practice, in all matters of religion, and 
the standard by which all doctrines, principles and practices in 
religion are to be tried and judged. 

" ' 2. That the Assembly's Catechism and the Confession of 
Faith, received and established in the churches of this Colony 
(which is an abridgment of the Westminster Confession), contain 
a true and just summary of the most important doctrines of the 
Christian religion ; and that the true sense of the sacred Scriptures 
is justly collected and summed up in these compositions ; and all 
expositions of Scripture, pretending to deduce any doctrines or 
positions contrary to the doctrines laid down in these composures, 
we are of opinion are wrong and erroneous. 

" ' 3. If any doubt or dispute should happen to arise about the 
true meaning and sense of any particular terms or phrases in the 
said composures, they shall be understood and taken in the same 
sense in which such terms and phrases have been generally used 
in the writings of Protestant divines, and especially in their public 
confessions of faith.* 

" '4. That we will always take all proper and reasonable mea- 
sures, such as Christian prudence shall direct, to continue and pro- 
pagate the doctrines contained in these summaries of religion, in 
this college, and to transmit them to all future successions and 
generations ; and to use the like measures to prevent the contrary 
doctrines from prevailing in this society. 

" ' 5. That every person who shall hereafter be chosen a presi- 
dent, fellow, professor of divinity, or tutor, in this college, shall 
before he enters upon the execution of his office, publicly give his 
consent to the Catechism and Confession of Faith, as containing a 

* " The general rule of interpreting all writings is, that words and phrases shall 
be taken in the same sense in which they are commonly used in other writings upon 
the same subject." 


just summary of the Christian religion, as before expressed, and 
renounce all doctrines or principles contrary thereunto : and shall 
pass through such an examination as the corporation shall think 
proper, in order to their being fully satisfied that he shall do it 
truly without any evasion or equivocation. 

" ' 6. That since every such officer is admitted into his post 
upon the condition aforesaid, if he shall afterwards change his sen- 
timents, entertain any contrary set of principles or scheme of reli- 
gion, and disbelieve the doctrines contained in the said Catechism 
or Confession of Faith, he cannot, consistent with common honesty 
and fidelity, continue in his post, but is bound to resign it. 

" ' 7. That when it is suspected by any of the corporation, that 
any such officer has fallen from the profession of his faith, as before 
mentioned, and is gone into any contrary scheme of principles, he 
shall be examined by the corporation. 

" ' 8. That inasmuch as it is especially necessary that a profes- 
sor of divinity should be sound in the faith ; besides the common 
tests before mentioned, he shall publicly exhibit a full confession of 
his faith, drawn up by him in his own words and phrases, and shall 
in full and express terms renounce all such errors as shall in any 
considerable measure prevail at the time of his introduction ; and 
if any doubt or question shall arise about any doctrine or position, 
whether it be truth or error, it shall be judged by the word of God 
taken in that sense of it which is contained and declared in the said 
Catechism and Confession of Faith ; as being a just exposition of 
the word of God in those doctrines or articles which are contained 
in them.* 

" ' 9. That every person who shall be chosen president, fellow, 
professor of divinity, or tutor in this college, shall give his consent 
to the rules of church discipline established in the ecclesiastical con- 
stitution of the churches of this Colony : it being understood that 
our ecclesiastical constitution may admit of additions or alterations, 
in such circumstances as according to our Confession of Faith are 
to be regulated by the light of nature and the rules of Christian 
prudence. And it is especially declared that if any person shall 
deny the validity of the ordination of ministers of this Colony, com- 
monly called Presbyterian or Congregational, or shall hold that it 
is necessary or convenient that such ministers should be re-or- 
dained in order to render their administrations valid, it shall be 
deemed an essential departure from our ecclesiastical constitution, 
and inconsistent with the intentions of the founders of this college, 
that such a person should be chosen in it. 

" ' 10. Yet we would suppose that it is not inconsistent with 
the general design of the founders, and is agreeable to our own 
inclination, to admit Protestants of all denominations to send their 

* " This does not make the catechism and confession the rule of expounding Scrip- 
ture (as some have suggested), for the best rule of interpreting Scripture, is the 
Scripture itself, i. e., comparing one place with another. See Confession, chap. 1, 
sect. 9 It was principally by this means, the Assembly found out the true meaning 
of Scripture, and expressed and declared it in those composures." 


children to receive the advantage of an education in this college : 
provided that while they are here they conform to all the laws 
and orders of it. 

As we understand this matter these statutes were in force until 
within a few years. It has been said indeed that the usage of the 
institution, since the accession of President Stiles in 1773, allowed 
of considerable latitude in this subscription ; that the substance of 
the confession is all that any officer was required to assent to. In 
reference to this subject the Rev. Daniel Dow of Connecticut, in 
the appendix to his pamphlet on the New Haven Theology, asks 
the following question : " Whether the ancient Confession of Faith 
be not a part of the constitution of Yale College, upon which the 
funds of the college are established. And if it be, whether the 
Corporation have any more right or authority to alter it, or repeal 
it, or to accept of any adscititious creeds as containing the substance 
of it, than any other corporate body has to alter the conditions of 
their charter ?" We presume Mr. Dow had a right to ask this 
question. We have never heard whether he has been favoured 
with an answer. It would seem, however, that the Dwight Pro- 
fessor of Theology must be greatly straitened in order to avail 
himself of the liberal usage above referred to. It seems the found- 
ers of that professorship required that " Every professor who 
shall receive the income or the revenue of this fund, shall be exa- 
mined as to his faith, and be required to make a written declara- 
tion thereof, agreeably to the following : ' I hereby declare my free 
assent to the Confession of Faith and Ecclesiastical Discipline 
agreed upon by the churches of the state in the year 1708.' " 
They further say : " If at any future period, any person who fills 
the chair of this professorship, holds or teaches doctrines contrary 
to those above referred to, then it shall be the duty of the Corpo- 
ration to dismiss such person from office forthwith." We are no 
further interested in this matter than the New Haven gentlemen 
are in the affairs of the Presbyterian church ; or than the whole 
Christian community is interested in the maintenance of good faith 
and true religion. We proceed with our extracts. 

" The body of the ministers in the Colony of Connecticut, in 
their public conventions, have several times renewed their consent 
to their Confession of Faith ; particularly at the general council 
at Guilford, in 1742, and at the general association at Fairfield, 
1753, in these words : 

" ' We recommend it to the particular associations, that they be 
very careful, that the true and great doctrines of the gospel, agree- 
able to the Confession of Faith, be maintained and preached up, 
against the Arminian, Antinomian and other errors, and that espe- 
cial care and pains be taken with our youth to instruct them in the 
principles of our holy religion and articles of our faith.' 

" At a general association of the Colony of Connecticut at Mid- 
dletown, June 17, 1755, present, the Rev. Messrs. Jared Eliot, 
Moderator; Benjamin Colton, John Graham, William Worthing- 


ton, Solomon Williams, Jacob Elliot, Noah Hobart, Elnathan 
Whitman, Nathaniel Eells, Jonathan Todd, Edward Eells, Joseph 
Bellamy, Noah Wells, James Beebe, Izrahiah Wetmore. 

" ' This association apprehending that various errors contrary 
to the doctrines owned in the churches of this Colony, are spread- 
ing and prevailing in the land, and that it is highly necessary for 
ministers to bear testimony against those prevailing errors ; this 
association earnestly recommend it to the particular associations 
of this colony to agree among themselves, frequently to insist 
upon these doctrines contained in our Confession of Faith, which 
are contrary to the prevailing errors of the day ; and particu- 
larly that they would bear a sufficient testimony against Socinian- 
ism, Arminianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, and Antinomianism, or 
any other errors that may arise among us. 

" ' And whereas one particular association of this colony have 
declined coming into the proposal of a general consociation till 
the several associations have declared their adherence to the Con- 
fession of Faith owned in our churches ; we freely declare our 
adherence to the doctrines contained in our Confession of Faith, 
and we would recommend it to particular associations strictly to 
adhere to the doctrines of our Confession of Faith.' 

" It was the practice of the once famous French Protestant 
churches at every meeting of their national Synod, to read and 
give their assent to their Confession of Faith ; and promise to 
preach according to it. # And it might be well if this was prac- 
tised among us, notwithstanding the opposition made by those 
who dislike the doctrines. 

" Although the Protestant churches in general, and those of New 
England in particular, have been thus fully fixed and established in 
the pure doctrines of the Gospel, yet sundry persons of late have 
risen up openly to oppose and deny them ; and have by various 
means endeavoured to introduce a new scheme of Religion, and 
an easy way of salvation, unknown to the Gospel of Christ. To 
this purpose a great variety of books have been written, either 
expressly denying, or artfully endeavouring to misrepresent, per- 
plex, and undermine the great doctrines of the Gospel. Although 
those authors do not perfectly agree among themselves, yet their 
scheme is, in the main, tolerably consistent with itself, inasmuch 
as the denying of some of the doctrines of the Gospel (amongst 
which there is a necessary connexion) naturally undermines and 
destroys all the rest. 

" I shall present the reader with a general view of this new- 
scheme of religion, as I some years ago collected it from the 
writings of Chubb, Taylor, Foster, Hutcheson, Campbell and 
Ramsey, and other books, which are by some highly extolled and 
assiduously spread about the country. 

" ' The only end and design of the creation is the happiness of * 
the creature ; and this end shall certainly be attained, so that all 

* See " Quick's Synodicon." 


rational creatures shall finally be happy ; or at least taken together 
as a body, shall be as happy as they can possibly be ; and if some 
individual should be eternally miserable, it is because it is beyond 
the power of God to make them happy ; it being impossible that 
a creature should be happy against its will, and the will cannot be 
immediately changed without destroying the nature of the agent. 
God has no authority over his creatures as creator, but only as 
benefactor, and has no right to command his creatures, but only so 
far as he annexes rewards to obedience, and makes it their interest 
to obey: the only criterion of duty to God is self-interest; and 
God commands us to do things, not out of any regard to his own 
glory or authority, but merely because the things commanded 
naturally tend to promote our own interests and happiness. That 
he annexes penalties only for the good of the creature, and the 
only end of punishment is the good of those upon whom it is 
inflicted ; or, at least, for the good of the system of moral agents 
in general. 

" The natural tendency which things have to promote our own 
interest, is the sole criterion of moral good and evil, truth and false- 
hood, right and wrong, duty and sin. That sin consists in nothing 
but a man's doing or forbearing an action contrary to his own 
interest ; and duty to God is nothing but the pursuit of our own 
happiness, with this view, that it is the will of God that we should 
be happy. 

" We ought to have no regard to God, but so far as he is or may 
be a means or instrument of promoting our own happiness, and 
that to act from a view to the glory of God, his perfection, 
authority or laws considered as over and above, beside or distinct 
from our own happiness, is but a chimera ; it being impossible that 
any moral agent can have any rational view or design, but only its 
own happiness. 

" Since the nature of all sin consists in man's doing what he 
knows to be contrary to his own interest and happiness : every sin 
must be known and voluntary ; and consequently there can be no 
sin of ignorance, derivation or imputation ; nor any sinful nature, 
state or disposition. That Adam was not created in a state of 
holiness, but only had a power to act virtuously, that is, to pursue 
his own interest if he pleased : that he had in his original consti- 
tution strong dispositions and inclinations to do acts that were 
sinful, i. e. contrary to his own interest, and he could not refrain 
from those particular acts without considerable pain and uneasi- 
ness : that God gave him inclinations which he ought not to 
gratify, and that an inclination^ to sin, being the gift of God, is 
no sin, but is designed for the exercise of his virtue in restraining 
of it.* 

" Every man is now born into the world in as perfect a state of 

* The author of " Heaven Open to all Men" says, if our appetites are irregular> 
he who gave them is responsible for them. 


rectitude as Adam was created ; and has no more of a disposition 
to sin than he had ; and in all respects stands as fair for the favour 
of God as Adam did ; not being obliged to be conformed to any 
standard of moral perfection, but only to pursue his own interest 
and happiness. 

" And though it should be supposed, that men have some weak- 
nesses now, which Adam had not at first, yet nothing can be a man's 
duty which is not now in his power, even though he has lost it by 
his own fault ; for the law is abated in proportion with the power 
to obey. 

" Adam, in a state of innocence, being liable to sickness, wounds 
and death, there is reason to suppose that the special providence 
of God would interpose to preserve him from them. The present 
miseries and calamities of human life are no evidences of a sinful 
state or tokens of God's displeasure ; but are primarily designed 
as means for the trial of men's virtue, and to make them capable of 
a reward. 

" Every man has a natural power to prosecute his own interest, 
and to do all that is necessary to be done by him for his own hap- 
piness. The actions of moral agents can be neither virtuous, 
vicious nor free, unless they are done by a man's own power, nor 
unless he has also a power to do the contrary ; and therefore it is 
absurd to suppose that God should implant grace or holiness in 
any man, or keep him from sin, or decree or foreknow his actions ; 
because all these suppositions destroy the free agency of a man, 
and consequently his moral virtue. 

" That God cannot certainly foreknow the actions of free agents, 
because they are not in their own nature foreknowable ; they not 
depending upon any antecedent causes, but merely upon the free 
and self-determining power of the will. 

" Since sin is nothing else but a man's not pursuing his own interest 
so well as he might, no punishment is properly and justly due to 
him ; but only that he should suffer the natural ill consequences of 
his own misconduct ; consequently no satisfaction is necessary in 
order to the forgiveness of sin ; and therefore Christ did not die 
to make satisfaction for sin, and so there is no need to suppose 
him to be essentially God, but only a most perfect and glorious 

" The great design of the gospel, and of Christ's coming into the 
world, was to revive the light of nature, and to cultivate moral 
virtue, which had been greatly obscured by Jewish and heathenish 
superstitions, and to give men more full assurance, that if they 
endeavoured to promote their own interest in this world, they 
should be happy in the next, than the mere light of nature could do : 
and therefore there is no great weight to be laid upon men's believ- 
ing Christ's divinity, satisfaction, or any of those speculative points 
which have been generally received as the peculiar and fundamen- 
tal doctrines of the gospel (some of which are prejudicial to moral 
virtue), but we ought to have charity for all men, let their specula- 


tive principles be what they will, provided they live moral lives, 
whether they be Papists, Jews, Mahomedans or heathens: or, at 
least, for all that say they believe the Bible, though* they put no 
certain meaning to it, or construction upon it : but only that they 
believe it to be a good system of morality, and don't profess to 
believe anything more about Christ, than the Mahomedans gene- 
rally do. 

" And some have charity for all who are willing to be happy, 
and have a benevolent temper towards their fellowmen, though 
they do not so much as believe the being of a God ; yea, some 
extend their charity to the devils themselves, so far as to suppose, 
that though they are at present very much out of the way, yet 
they shall at length see their error, and all be finally happy in 
heaven ; and pretend to produce plain demonstration for it in this 
form : 

" ' The ultimate end and design of God in the creation, is the 
happiness of the creature. 

" ' God's ultimate end and design never can be finally frustrated 
or defeated ; therefore all intelligent creatures shall finally be 

Here let the reader pause. Let him review this new scheme of 
religion, and ascertain its leading features. He will find that what 
we call new now, was called new a hundred years ago, and for the 
same reason. The doctrines were no more new then than they 
are at present ; but it was a new thing that those doctrines should 
be avowed in the midst of orthodox churches. The reader cannot 
fail to notice, that every doctrine characteristic of the system which 
is now agitating the country, is embraced in the scheme which 
pious and orthodox men of New England were called to oppose 
during the last century. These doctrines are, 1. That the promo- 
tion of happiness is the grand end of creation. 2. That self-inte- 
rest is the ultimate foundation of moral obligation. 3. That God 
cannot control the acts of moral agents, or prevent sin in a moral 
system. 4. That he cannot, of course, decree the„ acts of free 
agents. 5. That all sin consists in the voluntary transgression of 
known law ; consequently that there is no such thing as a holy or 
unholy nature. Adam was not created holy, but formed his own 
moral character; and his posterity are not born corrupt, but become 
corrupt by their own voluntary transgression of known law. 6. 
That plenary ability and full power to the contrary are necessary 
to the morality of any act. 

There are some points embraced in the new scheme as given by 
President Clap, which do not belong to the new divinity of our 
day : as, for example, the speculations about the divinity of Christ ; 
and there are some which belong to the new divinity, as, for exam- 
ple, making regeneration to consist in the choice of God, as a 
source of happiness, or in a change of purpose, which are not 

* " These call themselves Bibliarians." 


expressly stated, though they are implied in the new scheme of 
the last century. It would be easy and perhaps useful to point 
out the striking coincidence, even in language, between these two 
schemes, did our limits permit.* We must Aitent ourselves here 
with a very few illustrations. With regard to the first point Pre- 
sident Clap remarks : " This fundamental principle, ' That the hap- 
piness of the creature is the sole end of creation,' naturally leads 
to most if not all the rest." We are afraid this is too true, though 
many who adopt this principle, or at least the theory of virtue of 
which it is the expression, repudiate many or all of these conse- 
quences. It is a strange perversion to make happiness the end, 
and holiness but a means ; as though enjoyment were superior to 
excellence. The theory that virtue is founded in utility ; that a 
thing is right simply because of its tendency to promote happi- 
ness ; this tendency being not merely the evidence of its excel- 
lence, but that excellence itself, is the copious fountain of specula- 
tive errors, and of perversion of the moral feelings. If happiness 
is the great end of creation ; if anything is right that promotes 
happiness, then the end sanctifies the means, and it is right to do 
evil that good may come. If it is right for God to act on this 
principle, it is hard to make men feel that it is wicked for them to 
do so. The only difficulty is, that they may not have knowledge 
enough to enable them to apply the principle correctly, but the 
principle itself must be good. We think it might easily be made 
to appear that the theology and morals of the church have suffered 
severely from the adoption of this false theory of virtue. 

That this theory is a constituent part of the new divinity is plain 
from almost every page of the writings of the advocates of that 
system. " Why is righteousness or justice," asks the Christian 
Spectator, " better than injustice ?" After rejecting other answers, 
he says, " We must come back to the tendency to good or evil, 
pleasure or pain, happiness or unhappiness. The same relation is 
implied in saying that righteousness or justice is better or prefer- 
able to injustice or oppression. How better? In what respect 
preferable ? What fitness or adaptedness has it, unless to good ? 
and what is good, except as it tends to promote happiness ?"f 
According to this doctrine there is no such thing as morality. 
Pleasure is the only good, and pain the only evil. There are 
means of pleasure, and causes of pain ; but there is no such thing 
as sin or holiness. There is no specific difference between beauty 
and moral excellence ; between a crime and a burn. There is, 
however, no more sense in asking, as is done by the Spectator, 
" How righteousness is better than injustice ?" than in asking, how 
pleasure is better than pain. Every sentient being knows that 

* This is the less necessary, however, as our readers have access to the admirable 
letters on the origin and progress of the New Haven Theology, from a New England 
minister to one at the South ; to Mr. Dow's pamphlet on the New Divinity, and to 
Mr. James Wood's work, entitled Old and New Theology. 

f Christian Spectator, vol. x., p. 538. 


pleasure is better than pain ; and every moral being knows that 
righteousness is better than injustice. No reason need be given in 
either case. Right is as much a primary idea as pleasure. If a 
man had never felt' 'pleasure it would be impossible for him to 
understand it ; and if a man has no moral sense he can have no 
conception of the meaning of the terms right and wrong. To tell 
him that right is the quality of any act which tends to produce 
happiness, and wrong of one which tends to produce pain, would 
make him think these words synonymous with expedient and inex- 
pedient, agreeable and disagreeable. It would convey no idea of 
the specific meaning of the terms. Happiness is the mere shadow 
of virtue. It must always follow it. But virtue is no more defined 
by saying that it is that which tends to produce happiness, than the 
nature of a solid body is defined by saying it is that which casts a 

People are very apt to imagine that they gain a victory when 
they ask a question which does not admit of an answer. This is a 
great mistake. We are no more concerned because we cannot 
tell an inquirer what there is in virtue besides its tendency to pro- 
duce happiness, than we are because we cannot tell a deaf man 
the difference between a loud sound and a bright colour. The dif- 
ficulty does not arise from the identity of the two things, but from 
a want of capacity in the questioner to perceive the difference. 
Such interrogations, therefore, as those of the Spectator, produce 
in us no other feeling than that of wonder how they can be put by 
any man with a moral sense. 

But the plague-spot of the new divinity is the second point above 
specified, the principle that self-interest is the ultimate foundation 
of moral obligation. This is its point of alliance with the lowest 
form of speculative opinions on this subject, and which gives it a 
character which must degrade the moral and religious feelings of 
every human breast in which it gains a lodgment. This offensive 
doctrine is not only incidentally stated, or indirectly implied, it is 
formally propounded and vindicated in writings of recognised 
authority in reference to the new divinity. Thus we are told, 
" This self-love or desire of happiness is the primary cause or rea- 
son of all acts of preference or choice, which fix supremely on any 
object." And more plainly still, " Of all specific, voluntary action 
the happiness of the agent in some form is the ultimate end."* Can 
there be a human heart which does not revolt at such a monstrous 
assertion ? Has every act of piety, every deed of benevolence, 
every attention of maternal love, the happiness of the agent as its 
ultimate end 1 The assertion contradicts the consciousness of 
every human being. All religion, all benevolence, all the social 
affections do not centre in self. Any man whose own happiness is 
the ultimate end of all his specific voluntary actions is a bad man. 
If such a being could be found, he would not deserve the name of 

* Christian Spectator, 1S29, p. 21-24. 


a man. Every one performs a multitude of acts because they are 
right; and in which the happiness of others and not of himself is 
the ultimate end. It may be said, we do not analyse our feelings 
with sufficient accuracy. We have, however, no faith in this ana- 
lysing one thing into another ; a sense of right into a desire of hap- 
piness ; self-denial into self-seeking ; the love of God into the love 
of self. We pray to be delivered from all such metaphysics. 

Lest our readers should think that we assume on too slight 
grounds that this doctrine is a part of the new scheme of religion 
of our days, we refer them to an article on moral obligation in the 
last number of the Christian Spectator. They will find it there 
taught that " the ultimate foundation of moral obligation is the ten- 
dency of an action to promote the highest happiness of an agent, 
by promoting the highest welfare of all," p. 531. The last clause 
of the sentence has nothing to do with the doctrine. The ground 
of obligation is the tendency of the act to promote the happiness 
of the agent. The fact that his happiness is best secured by acts 
which tend to promote the highest welfare of all, is not, according 
to the theory, the reason of their being obligatory. And this the 
article teaches with abundant plainness. The nature of the doc- 
trine taught is clear from the whole drift of the piece ; and will be 
sufficiently indicated to the reader by such sentences as the follow- 
ing: " It will perhaps be said, that by making moral obligation to 
rest on the tendency to promote the highest happiness of the agent, 
we make it wholly a selfish thing," p. 541. " Perhaps it may here 
be said, if this is the evil of sin — the disregard of the agent's highest 
welfare — and if this oftentimes results from a state of ignorance, then 
the only remedy necessary is to supply the requisite knowledge — 
to enlighten the mind," p. 550. It is taught no less explicitly that 
the primary reason why we are bound to obey God is, that he 
knows best what will make us happy. Nay, we are told that it 
has been said, by at least one advocate of the new divinity, that if 
the devil could make him happier than God can, he would serve 
the devil.* It is hard to conceive how he could serve the devil 
more effectually than by making such declarations, which, after all, 
are only an irreverent statement of the doctrine of the Christian 
Spectator. On p. 529 the question is started, Why ought we to 
obey the will of God ? After a good deal of circumlocution it 
comes out that this obligation rests on his wisdom and benevolence, 
that is, upon his knowing what will render us most happy, and upon 
the assurance which his benevolence affords, that he will not 
deceive us as to this point. " The rule," we are told, exists, " and 
what its foundation is we have seen. As a matter of fact it exists, 
however it may be made known, and the tendency, or bearing, or 
relation to happiness, whence it arises, would exist even if the rule 
or law was unknown. It is the province of the moral governor to 
make this truth known and to sustain it. The fact that he is such 

* We would not state this on slight grounds. We have received it from a source 
on which entire reliance may be placed. 


a being, that he is competent to the task, forms a reason, why he 
should be obeyed. In this competency, his capacity to judge 
what is best, what is most productive of good or of happiness, 
and his disposition to do it, in other words his infinite wisdom 
and benevolence, is the prime element to be taken into the 
account," p. 537. On a previous page it was said, that if there 
was " no feeling of gratification in the act (of obedience to God) . . . 
the force of obligation would be unfelt." And on 538, it is asked, 
" On what ground is obedience claimed ? Jt is that the law is 
holy, just and good. The very reason that God assigns is, that it 
is good — that it is the surest way of making us most happy. [The 
words holy and just, it seems, have no meaning for this writer.] 
His declaration in the form of law, is the highest evidence which 
we have of the fact, for it is the testimony of one who sees in all 
things the end from the beginning, and who has no disposition to 
mislead us, but who, with all the sincerity of infinite love, seeks to 

promote our highest happiness Men do not distinguish 

between God's competency to discern and to make known to us the 
way of happiness, and his creating a particular line of conduct 
right or wrong." Again, " Does any one hold that the will of 
God is the foundation of moral obligation, we show that this, when 
carefully examined, can mean nothing more than the objective 
ground, or the indication or proof to us, wherein our true welfare 
lies, so as to supply to us our defect of knowledge," p. 543. 
According to this doctrine there is in fact no such thing as moral 
obligation in the universe. A man is bound to promote his own 
happiness in the best way he can, and this is his whole duty. All 
his obligation is to himself. He owes nothing to God, or to his 
fellow men. It is expedient for him to observe the divine direc- 
tions, but he is bound to do so only so far as they promote his own 
welfare. We would fain hope that such a doctrine needs no refu- 
tation in a Christian country. Its naked statement is enough to 
secure its reprobation. 

The third specification given above is, that God cannot control 
the acts of free agents, or that he could not prevent the introduc- 
tion of sin into a moral system. " It is a groundless assumption," 
says Dr. Taylor, " that God could have prevented all sin, or at 
least the present degree of sin in a moral system .... Would not 
a benevolent God, had it been possible to him in the nature of 
things, have secured the existence of universal holiness in his moral 
kingdom ?"* " Free moral agents," says the Christian Spectator, 
" can do wrong under every possible influence to prevent it."f 
" God not only prefers on the whole, that his creatures should 
for ever perform their duties rather than neglect them, but proposes 
on his part to do all in his power to promote this very object."J 
God, it is said, determined on his present course of providence, 
" not for the sake of redemption in the universe, rather than have 

* Concio., p. 28. \ Vol. 1S30, p. 563. % Ch. Spect. 1832, p. 660. 


a universe without sin; but for introducing redemption into a 
universe from which sin could not, by any providence, be exclud- 
ed."* " The nature of things, as they now exist, forbids, as far 
as God himself is concerned, the more frequent existence of holi- 
ness in the place of sin."f " The prevention of sin did not enter 
into his determination because he saw it to be impracticable," p. 15. 
" It is to him a subject of regret and grief, yet men transgress ; 
they rebel in spite of his wishes ; they persevere in sin in spite of 
all which he can do to reclaim them," p. 19. 

Fourth, that the assumption that God cannot effectually control 
the acts of moral agents, is inconsistent with the doctrine of 
decrees, is too evident to need remark. The doctrine is therefore 
rejected, though the terms, for the sake of convenience, or for some 
other reason, are retained. That God decrees that an event should 
occur, and yet " proposes to do all in his power" to prevent its 
occurrence, no one can believe. He may permit its occurrence, or 
submit to it rather than destroy the system, but to say that he 
decrees it, appears to be a contradiction. The statement of the 
doctrines of predestination and election given by the New Haven 
writers and others of the same school, is in accordance with this 
fundamental principle of their system, and is a virtual denial of 
those doctrines. " Whatever degree or kind of influence," says 
the Spectator, " is used with them (sinners) to favour their return 
to him at any given time, is as strongly favourable to their con- 
version as it can be made amid the obstacles which a world of 
guilty and rebellious moral agents opposed to God's works of 
grace."J In another place the writer, speaking of the influence 
which operates on the sinner, says, " Election involves nothing 
more, as it respects his individual case, except one fact — the cer- 
tainty to the divine mind, whether the sinner will yield to the means 
of grace, and voluntarily turn to God, or whether he will continue 
to harden his heart until the means of grace are withdrawn." 
That is, God exerts an influence on sinners as strongly favourable 
to their conversion " as it can be made," and he knows who will 
yield, and this is election ! To the same effect Mr. Tyler teaches, 
" God foresees whom he can make willing in the day of his power, 
and resolves that they shall be saved," p. 14. And Mr. Finney, 
" The elect were chosen to eternal life, because God foresaw that 
in the perfect exercise of their freedom they could be induced to 
repent and embrace the gospel."§ It is really surprising that the 
New Haven divines should still assert that they hold the doctrines 
of predestination and election in the ordinary sense of the terms. 
President Fiske, in answer to the review of his sermon in the 
Christian Spectator, justly complains of this unfairness. " I can- 
not," he says, " but express my deepest regret that a gentleman of 

• Ch. Spect., p. 635. 

t Sermon by Edward R. Tyler, New Haven, 1829, p. 9. 
\ See Review of Dr. Fiske's Sermon on Predestination and Election. 
§ Sermons on Important Subjects, p. 25. 



the reviewer's standing and learning should lend his aid and give 
his sanction to such a perversion of language, to such a confusion 
of tongues. Do the words predestinate, foreordain, decree, mean 
in their radical and critical definition, nothing more than to per- 
mit, not absolutely to hinder, to submit to as an unavoidable and 
offensive evil? .... Why then should the reviewer, believing as 
he does, continue to use them in the symbols of his faith? . . His 
mode of explanation turns the doctrine into Arminianism." 

Fifth, that all sin consists in the voluntary transgression of 
known law. This is so much a favourite topic with the writers of 
this chiss, that it is hardly necessary to bring examples. As they 
explain and apply the principle, it involves the denial both of origi- 
nal righteousness and original sin. " Neither a holy nor a depraved 
nature is possible," says Dr. Beecher, " without understanding, 
conscience and choice. To say of an accountable creature that 
he is depraved by nature, is only to say, that, rendered capable by 
his Maker of obedience, he disobeys from the commencement of 
his accountability."* " It is obvious," says Mr. Duffield, " that in 
infancy and incipient childhood, when none of the actions are deli- 
berate, or the result of motive, operating in connexion with the 
knowledge of law, and of the great end of human actions, no 
moral character can appropriately be predicated."! " Why then 
is it necessary," asks the Christian Spectator, " to suppose some 
distinct evil propensity, some fountain of iniquity in the breast of 
the child previous to moral action 1"J " Animals and infants, pre- 
vious to moral agency, do therefore stand on precisely the same 
ground in reference to this subject." The doctrine of " a native 
propensity to evil," according to Dr. Taylor, makes '• God the 
responsible author of sin," destroys responsibility, &c, &c. See 
his Review of Dr. Tyler in the Christian Spectator, 1832. It is 
useless to multiply quotations. 

Sixth, that plenary ability and full power to the contrary are 
necessary to the morality of any act. There are three views of 
the doctrine of ability. The old one is, " That man by his fall 
into a state of sin hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spirit- 
ual good accompanying salvation ; so as a natural man, being alto- 
gether averse from that which is good, and dead in sin, is not able 
by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare him there- 
unto." Inasmuch as the inability here spoken of is very different 
from that under which a man lies to create a world, and inasmuch 
as it results from sin or the moral state of the agent, it may pro- 
perly be called moral. On the other hand, as fallen man is a free 
moral agent, as the things to be done do not transcend his nature 
as a man, there is a sense in which he may be said to have a natu- 
ral ability to obey all the commands of God. So long as the 
expression natural ability was used in this sense, there was no con- 

* Sermon on the Native Character of Man. 

t Regeneration, p. 378. J Christian Spectator, 1829, p. 367. 


troversy as to the thing, but only as to the propriety of the terms. 
There are two prominent objections to this form of expression. 
The one is the perpetual and puzzling contradictions in which it 
involves the preachers of the gospel ; who tell sinners in the same 
breath they can and they cannot ; as well as the incongruity of 
saying that a man is able to do what it is admitted that, in another 
and equally true and important sense, he is unable to do. It is 
always an evil for the declarations of ministers to come into 
conflict with the consciousness of their hearers. A man may, 
metaphysically speaking, be said to have a natural ability to love 
one person as well as another, yet to tell him he can love all per- 
sons alike, he feels to be absurd. The other objection is, that this 
form of expression is unscriptural. It is not worth while for us to 
be more philosophical or accurate than the Bible. The word of 
God never tells the sinner he can do all that God requires of him, 
though it often presses on him his obligation. They know but 
little of the human heart, who so confidently maintain that a sense 
of obligation is incompatible with the deepest conviction of help- 
lessness and inability. 

The second view of this doctrine is the Arminian. It does not 
differ from the preceding except in one point. It admits that men 
have by the fall lost all ability of will to that which is spiritually 
good, but it teaches that the common influences of the Spirit, given 
to all men who hear the Gospel, impart sufficient strength for the 
performance of all duty. 

The third view is that which may, with propriety and therefore 
without offence, be called Pelagian. It is that which President 
Edwards attributes to Dr. Taylor of Norwich, viz., that there is 
"a sufficient power and ability in all mankind to do all their duty, 
and wholly avoid sin;" or, that "God has given powers equal to 
the duties which he expects." If th.s is so, says Edwards, "redemp- 
tion is needless, and Christ is dead in vain."* This is the doctrine 
of the New Divinity. "What notion," asks the Christian Specta- 
tor, "can be formed of a subject of moral government, who is des- 
titute of moral liberty? or in other words, who in every instance 
of obedience and disobedience does not act with inherent power 
to the contrary choice."f "Choice in its very nature," says Dr. 
Beecher, " implies the possibility of a different or contrary election 
to that which is made." Again, "The question is not whc'her 
man chooses, that is notorious, but whether his choice is free as 
opposed to a fatal necessity." (The reader will perceive that these 
two sentences contradict each other.) "If a man does not pos- 
sess the power of chcice, with power to the contrary, he sees and 
feels he is not to blame."J The New Haven gentlemen constantly 
represent what has hitherto been represented as moral inabil.ty as 
inconsistent with free agency. Dr. Tyler had stated that there 

* Edwards's Works, vol. ii., 515. f Spectator, 1835, p. 377. 

X Views in Theology, p. 32, el passim. 


was in man " a native propensity to evil." His reviewer replies, 
" With such a propensity, man has not a natural ability to avoid 
sin. And this is alike true, whether this propensity be supposed 
to be sinful or innocent." In like manner, because Dr. Tyler 
mnintained that there was a moral change in the sinner anterior to 
right moral action, he is represented as teaching physical depravity, 
physical regeneration, natural inability, &c, &c. # " Talk not," 
says the Spectator, "of the distinction of natural and moral ability, 
you have done it for ever away. If the change in question consists 
in anything prior to voluntary exercise, such a change I can in no 
sense produce."f 

It is therefore abundantly manifest that the New Divinity is, in 
its essential features, identical with the " New Scheme of Religion," 
with which the pious people of Connecticut had to contend a cen- 
tury ago. If it was right for them to oppose it, it is right it should 
be opposed now. It was the friends of evangelical religion who 
resisted the introduction of the New Scheme ; and it is the friends 
of religion who now oppose the New Divinity. The history of 
the church may be challenged to produce a single case in which 
true religion, we do not say has flourished, but has survived under 
the operation of that system of doctrine. It has been called Ar- 
minianism. But this is a great mistake. There is fourfold more 
truth and aliment for piety in Arminianism than in these new doc- 
trines : Far more truth in the Arminian doctrine of original sin, 
of divine influence, of regeneration, of the atonement, of justifica- 
tion. And what has Arminianism to do with the doctrine that all 
virtue is founded in utility ? (So too we suppose all beauty is 
founded in utility, and the only reason that a cascade gives plea- 
sure is that it is adapted to turn a grist-mill.) And more especially, 
what has Arminianism to do with the monstrous doctrine that self- 
love is the ultimate foundation of moral obligation ? The churches 
ought not to be deceived upon this subject. The New Divinity is 
not Arminianism, but something far, very far worse. Those men 
are to be pitied who can see nothing but a shade of difference 
between this system and the common orthodoxy of evangelical 
churches ; and still more are those to be commiserated who, for 
party purposes, or for any other reason, call that a shade, which 
they know to be a bottomless gulf. It remains yet to be seen 
whether the faith and spirit of the Puritans have still sufficient 
vigour in New England effectually to withstand the progress of 
this system. It has received, we trust, its death blow in the Pres- 
byterian church. 

We resume our extracts from President Clap's Defence. "The 
reading of this new scheme of religion will doubtless differently 
affect the minds of different readers : some will be filled with indig- 
nation to see the great and fundamental doctrines of the gospel 

* Christian Spectator, 1S32, Review of Dr. Tyler. 

f Spectator, 1833, p. 6G1. See a lull discussion of the theory of free agency on 
which all these representations are founded, in a foregoing review of Dr. Beecher. 


thus subverted and denied: others will think it scarcely possible, that 
any men of sense should run into such absurd notions : others, who 
have been inconsiderately led into some of the principles, will start, 
when they come to see how naturally they lead to some other of 
these principles, which at present they abhor. For this fundamental 
principle,' that the happiness of the creature is the sole end of the cre- 
ation,' naturally leads to most, if not all of the rest: for this must be 
the sole rule and measure of all God's conduct towards us, and of 
ours towards him ; and it is certain that God's sole end and ultimate 
design never can be frustrated. Others will be grieved and pro- 
voked to see their whole scheme exposed to open view ; since 
they find it most politic to conceal some parts of it, till they can 
get the minds of men pretty well riveted into the rest. 

" In order, therefore, to bring men to an indifferency, and prepare 
them by degrees for the reception of this new scheme, sundry 
artifices have been used. 

" That there ought to be no creeds or confessions of faith but the 
Bible : that there are no fundamental principles in religion, or any 
certain set of doctrines necessary to be believed, in order to salva- 
tion : that those which have been commonly esteemed such, are 
but mere disputable, speculative points, which have no influence 
upon practice : and that the greatest heresy is an immoral life : that 
public orthodoxy has been very various in different countries ; and 
in the same country at different times ; that councils and assemblies 
of divines, not being infallible, have no right to make or impose 
upon others any creeds or confessions of faith, or public tests, or 
standards of orthodoxy ; or to fix any particular sense or meaning 
on the Scripture : that no man is bound to believe as our fathers 
believed ; but every man has a right to judge for himself; and that 
is truth to every man which he believes to be the truth : that every 
man shall be saved in that way or religion which he thinks is right, 
let it be what it will ; provided he lives according to it ; that it is 
sufficient, if men say that they consent to the substance of our 
Catechism and Confession, without rigorously insisting upon every 
article and doctrine in it : that.great condescension ought to be used, 
and sundry doctrines ought to be given up, either in whole or in 
part, or different explications allowed for the sake of unity. 

" That no man ought to be so uncharitable as to exclude another 
from salvation, or any public office of instruction, because he does 
not think as he does : that men's way of thinking is as different as 
their faces ; and to endeavour to make all men think alike, is to 
make them bigots, and hinder all free inquiry after truth." 

That is, the " artifices" employed in President Clap's time to 
favour the introduction of error, were, 1. Undervaluing creeds and 
confessions, and subscribing them for substance of doctrine. 2. 
Making light of the points of difference, as mere philosophy, or 
matters of speculation, or modes of explanation. 3. Declaiming 
on the sin of destroying the unity of the church for the sake of 
doctrine ; on the duty of charity towards errorists ; on the right of 


free inquiry ; and 4. Concealing the truth, as he says, p. 42 : " Men 
of this character are not always open and frank in declaring their 
sentiments." Such, it seems, were the devices employed by the 
advocates of the New Scheme of religion a hundred years ago. 
Cannot the reader, without our aid, furnish modern illustrations in 
abundance under each of these heads? Our limits do not admit of 
our doing it for him, and the facts are so notorious, it can hardly 
be necessary. A standing topic of declamation, is the folly of 
expecting men, who think for themselves, to join in adopting an 
extended creed. If the substance be adopted, that is all that can 
be required. And the substance is often a very small part of what 
is really characteristic of the formula. Is it not also a common 
method in our days of introducing the New Divinity, to make 
much of the distinction between the doctrines and the philosophy 
of them ? to claim to hold the doctrines and differ only in the expla- 
nation, as even John Taylor professed to hold to original sin, with 
a new explanation? How much too have we heard of the sin of 
heresy hunting, of producing disturbance in the church, and of the 
duty of living in peace let men teach what they may ? Who, 
however, is chargeable with the sin of controversy ? the innovators, 
or those who defend the faith once delivered to the saints? Is 
there no sin in attacking brethren, who hold the faith of the very 
standards which the aggressors have adopted, and great sin in 
asserting what both parties have professed to believe ? How true 
it is what the famous Mr. Foxcroft, of Boston, remarked of his 
generation, " that false moderation, which sacrifices divine revela- 
tions to human friendships, and under colour of peace and candour 
gives up important points of gospel doctrine to every opposer, is 
still consistent with discovering a malignity towards others that 
appear warm defenders and constant asserters of those evangelical 

The grand device, however, of errorists in every age, has been 
concealment. They do not come out boldly and frankly with their 
true sentiments, but endeavour to introduce them gradually as the 
public mind will bear them. The reader will probably remember, 
when the doctrine was in these days first broached, that God 
could not prevent sin in a moral system, how delicately it was 
insinuated ; it was merely said that the contrary could not be 
proved, or ought not to be assumed ; the idea was thrown out as a 
hypothesis for further consideration. It may also be within the 
knowledge of the reader how virtuously indignant the Spectator 
was with Dr. Woods because he " changed Dr. Taylor's question 
into an assertion — his hypothetical statement into a positive affir- 
mation."! Since that time, however, the doctrine has been asserted, 
interrogatively and affirmatively ; categorically and inferentially. 
It has been assumed as the basis of argument; the denial of it has 

* Preface to President Dickinson's Second Vindication of God's Sovereign Grace. 
Boston, 1748. 

f Spectator, 1S30, p. 541. 


been made the fountain of all manner of heresy and blasphemies. 
Notwithstanding all this, the simple hypothesis is still resorted to 
in times of peculiar emergency. 

Another favourite method of concealment adopted in past ages 
was the introduction of new opinions under the patronage of 
revered names. This may remind the reader of the numerous 
attempts to make Edwards. Bellamy, D wight, and others, teach 
the very doctrines which they strenuously opposed, in order to 
gain the sanction of their names for the errors which they endea- 
voured to refute. And finally, as we must stop somewhere, ano- 
ther method of concealment, is the use of ambiguous terms, or the 
introduction of errors under the old formulas of expression, 
employed in a new sense. Can anything be more seemingly 
orthodox than the phrase " total depravity by nature ?" How little 
it seems to differ from natural depravity, or depravity of nature! 
Yet they are, as to the sense intended, the poles apart. God is 
said to foreordain whatsoever comes to pass. What Calvinist 
could desire more ? Yet to foreordain turns out to mean, as it 
regards sin at least, to submit to its occurrence as an unavoidable 
evil, and to propose to do all in the power of Him who foreordains 
it, to prevent that occurrence. Original sin used to mean, in the 
language of President Edwards, "an innate sinful depravity of 
heart." The term is still retained by those who teach with the 
New Haven Spectator, Mr. Duffield, and others, that infants have 
no moral character. Prof. Fitch says : " Nothing can in truth be 
called original sin, but his first moral choice or preference being 
evil." Mr. Duffield says, indeed, "original sin is a natural bias to 
evil."* Here, to the uninitiated it would appear that two things are 
asserted, first that this bias to evil is sin ; and second, that it is 
natural. But no such thing. This same Mr. Duffield says, " Instinct, 
animal sensation, constitutional susceptibilities create an impulse, 
which, not being counteracted by moral considerations or gracious 
influence, lead the will in a wrong direction and to wrong objects. 
It was thus that sin was induced in our holy progenitors. No one 
can plead in Eve an efficient cause of sin resident in her nature (any 
prava vis) or operative power, sinful in itself, anterior to and apart 
from her own voluntary act. And if she was led into sin, though 
characteristically holy, and destitute of any innate propensity to 
sin, where is the necessity for supposing that the sins of her pro- 
geny are to be referred to such a cause ?" ..." Temptation alone 
is sufficient under present circumstances."! Thus after all it ap- 
pears that this " natural bias to evil " is nothing more than the con- 
stitutional susceptibilities of our nature, such as it existed before the 

* Minutes for the General Assembly for 1837. Protest by George Duffield, E. W. 
Gilbert and others, against the adoption of the report on so much of the memorial of 
the Convention as relates to erroneous doctrines. The statement of doctrines con- 
tained in that Protest, as explained by the writings of its leading signers, is the most 
extraordinary example of the use of old terms in a sense directly opposite to their 
ordinary meaning, which we have ever seer.. 

t Duffield on Regeneration, p. 379, 3»U. 


fall, yet this bias is said to be Sin. Rather than not be orthodox 
and hold to original sin, he makes it exist in our " holy progenitors" 
before the first transgression ! Can this be exceeded in the whole 
history of theological diplomacy ? Yet it is a fair interpretation 
of the language of the Protest, as explained by the writings of some 
of its authors. 

We wish it were in our power to insert the whole of President 
Clap's pamphlet ; but we have already much exceeded the limits 
assigned for this article. We must therefore conclude with a few 
citations given without remark. 

" The doctrines contained in our Catechism and Confession of 
Faith, particularly the divinity and satisfaction of Christ, original 
sin, the necessity of special grace in regeneration, justification by 
faith, &c, have been universally received, established and taught in all 
ages of the Christian church : and upon all the search I have been 
able to make into antiquity, I can find no single instance of any 
public Confession of Faith, drawn up by any council, or generally 
received and established in any Christian country in the world, 
wherein any of these doctrines have been plainly and expressly 

" For though there have been some men scattered up and down 
in the world, and sometimes convened in assemblies, who have 
not believed these doctrines, and have sometimes endeavoured 
covertly to disguise them and let them drop, and by degrees to 
root them out of the Christian church ; yet they never dared openly 
and formally to deny them by any public act, because they knew 
that these doctrines had been so universally received in the 
Christian church, that all antiquity would condemn them, and that 
such an open denial would bring upon them the resentment of all 

On page thirty-seven we find the following passage : " Some 
will say that they own the doctrine of original sin; but they mean 
nothing but a contracted disposition or inclination, arising from a 
vicious habit or practice, and deny that any disposition or inclina- 
tion to sin is naturally derived from Adam, and assert that every 
child comes into the world like a clean, white piece of paper. 

"Mr. Taylor calls the doctrine of original sin a Scripture doc- 
trine ; and yet when he comes to explain it, with regard to Adam's 
posterity, he makes it no sin at all, and allows nothing but that, 
upon the sin of Adam, God subjected him and his posterity to tem- 
poral sorrow, labour and death :* And these are not punishments 
for sin, but primarily designed for the benefit of mankind, con- 
sidered as innocent creatures. For, he says, that upon the occasion 
of Adam's sin, God appointed our life frail, laborious and sorrowful, 
and at length to be concluded by death, not to punish us for another 
man's sin, but to lessen temptation, f 

" And, therefore, I cannot think that public orthodoxy in teach- 

* " Page 63." t " Page 68." 



ers can be sufficiently secured barely by men's saying that they 
consent to the substance of our Catechism and Confession of Faith, 
and differ only in some small circumstantials, leaving it to them to 
judge what those circumstantials are : for a man may suppose or 
pretend that the ten commandments are the most substantial part 
of the Catechism, and that the doctrine of the divinity and satis- 
faction of Christ, original sin, &c, are but mere speculative cir- 
cumstantial points, upon which no great weight ought to be laid. 
Such persons ought at least to declare what particular articles they 
do except, so that others may judge whether they are mere cir- 
cumstantials or not. 

" But then it is difficult, if not dangerous, to give up any one 
proper doctrine or article of faith contained in our Confession, for 
all the articles of faith in a system or body of divinity have a 
necessary relation to and connexion with each other ; whoever, 
therefore, gives up any one article of faith, must, if he is consistent 
with himself, give up another which has a necessary connexion 
with it or dependence upon it, and so on till he gives up the whole. 
Indeed, some men seem to be partly in one scheme of religion and 
partly in another ; but such men are always inconsistent with them- 
selves ; although for want of accurately tracing their own ideas 
they are not always sensible of it. 

"Some men will pretend to consent to an article of faith, and 
yet believe nothing of it, in the true grammatical construction of 
the words, and the meaning of the composers; e. g. : Some who 
pretend to consent to the thirty-nine articles, by original sin, and 
the corruption of human nature, mean nothing but bodily weak- 
ness and sickness ; and by its deserving God's wrath and damna- 
tion, mean nothing but bodily sickness and pain, and the temporal 
miseries of this life. 

" So the meaning of that article, according to them, is that Adam's 
sin is the occasion of our undergoing bodily sickness and weak- 
ness, which deserve bodily sickness and pain. 

"Condescension, charity and unity, are very excellent things, 
when applied to promote the ends of the gospel ; and there- 
fore it is a pity they should upon any occasion be perverted to 
destroy it. 

" But condescension has no more to do with articles of faith than 
with propositions in the mathematics. And though a man ought 
in many cases to give up his own right or interest, yet he cannot 
in any case give up the truth of God revealed in his word. 

" Charity is but another name for love, and the consequent effects 
of it, in believing or hoping the best concerning any man, which 
the nature of the case will allow ; and considering how apt cor- 
rupt nature is to intermix self-interest, passion and prejudice with 
matters of religion, it is a virtue which, in that view, ought to be 
much insisted upon: but charity no more consists in inventing or 
believing new terms of salvation unknown to the gospel than it 
does in believing a sick man will recover, when the symptoms of 


death are evidently upon him. Such charity as that is the great- 
est uncharitableness, as it tends to lull men in security to their eter- 
nal destruction. 

" Unity in a joint-declared consent to the great and fundamental 
principles of religion, and practice of the duties of it, is a matter of 
great importance : but without such a consent unity is founded 
upon nothing, and can never answer any of the great ends 
proposed in the gospel. Men must be agreed at least in the object 
of their worship, whether it be the eternal self-existent God, or a 
mere creature : and in order to maintain this unity in the Christian 
church, there always have been public creeds and confessions of 
faith (all agreeing in substance) to which all, especially the teach- 
ers, have given their joint consent. 

" Neither can those who adhere to the ancient doctrines of the 
Christian church, be properly called a party : that odious name 
properly belongs to each of those particular sects, which, from 
time to time, oppose those doctrines, and thereby make themselves 
a party. 

" The Bible is indeed the only foundation of our Christian faith ; 
and all the question is, in what sense we are to understand it : but 
so far as any regard is to be had to the judgment of great and 
good men in expounding of it (and I think it is an argument of 
great self-sufficiency, if not self-conceit, to have none at all), yet 
the number and quality of those who have at any time opposed 
these doctrines bear no comparison to the vast number of martyrs, 
and other eminently wise and good men, who have constantly 
maintained them. And the opinion of Arius, Pelagius, Socinus, 
Arminius, Foster, Chubb, Taylor, and all their followers, are but 
as the small dust of the balance, when put into the scale against the 
opinion of the whole Christian church in all ages. 

" But I am free, that every man should examine for himself, and 
then openly declare what he finds. 

" For my part, I have critically and carefully, and I think, with 
the utmost impartiality, examined into the doctrines contained in 
our Catechism and Confession of Faith, and believe they are fully 
and plainly contained in the sacred oracles of truth, perfectly 
agreeable to reason, and harmonious with each other; and that 
most of them are of the utmost consequence to the salvation of 
the souls of men. And therefore look upon myself in duty bound 
to do all that lies in my power, to continue and propagate those 
doctrines ; especially in the college committed to my care, since 
that is the fountain from whence our churches must be supplied. 

" And I hope that all the ministers of this colony, according to 
the recommendation of former synods and later general associ- 
ations, will be careful and zealous to maintain and propagate the 
same in all our churches : that they will clearly and plainly preach 
all the doctrines contained in the sacred oracles of truth, and 
especially the more important of them, summed up in our Cate- 
chism and Confession of Faith ; that they will not endeavour to 


conceal or disguise any of these doctrines, nor shun to declare the 
whole counsel of God. That they will be careful not to introduce 
into the sacred ministry any but such as appear to be well-fixed in 
these principles upon which our churches are established. It is a 
pleasure to me to observe, that no person, who has lately been 
licensed to preach as a candidate, lies under any suspicion of that 



Tins appears to be the work of a pious, intelligent lawyer, who 
was removed by death a few weeks before it issued from the press. 
It is dedicated to " The Reverend David Abeel, American Mis- 
sionary to South Eastern Asia ;" and breathes, throughout, a spirit 
of fervent attachment to the honour and kingdom of the Redeemer. 
No one, we think, can peruse this volume without receiving an 
impression of profound respect for the piety and benevolence of the 
author. And while we suppose it impossible for a judicious mind 
to adopt all his views and anticipations, we are still willing to 
believe that what he has written cannot be read without some profit. 
His apparent soundness in the faith ; his zeal for the honour and 
spread of true religion ; and the animating hope which he che- 
rishes of the speedy union of all who bear the Christian name, can 
scarcely fail of warming the heart of every reader who wishes 
well to the progress of the religion of Christ in our revolted 

We do not differ from our author as to the desirableness and 
importance of "Christian Union." If the invisible Church consists 
of all those, throughout the world, who are united to Christ by 
faith and love ; and if the visible Church consists of all those, also 
in every part of the world, who profess the true religion, together 
with their children, it must, in the very nature of things, be, that 
each is one. All real Christians belong to the former. All pro- 
fessing Christians belong to the latter. Now, as there is but one 
Christ, and but one true Religion, it is manifest that the " body of 
Christ can be but one." We, being many, says the apostle, are one 
body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Again, he 
asks, The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the 
body of Christ ? For we, being many, are one bread, and one body ; 
for we are all partakers of that one bread. Now ye, adds he, 
in the same epistle, are the body of Christ, and members in par- 

* Originally published in 1836, in review of " Christian Union ; or an Argument 
for the abolition of Sects." By Abraham Van Dyke, Counsellor at Law. 


Of course this unity, though in a sad degree marred, is not wholly 
broken by diversity of denomination. All who profess the true 
religion, however divided by place, by names, or by form, are to 
be considered as equally belonging to that great family denominat- 
ed the Church. The Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the 
Episcopalian, the Independent, who hold the fundamentals of our 
holy religion, and who, of course, " hold the Head," in whatever 
part of the globe they may reside, are equally members of the 
same visible community ; and if they be sincere in their profession, 
will all finally be made partakers of its eternal blessings. And the 
more closely they hold the " unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" 
and love, the more decidedly they are one, and one in a sense more 
richly significant and precious than can be ascribed to millions who 
boast of a mere external and nominal union. They have one Head, 
one hope, one baptism ; they " all eat the same spiritual meat, they 
all drink the same spiritual drink," and will assuredly all meet in the 
same heavenly family. They cannot all meet together in the same 
sanctuary here below, even if they were disposed to do so ; but 
this is not the worst. They are not all disposed thus to meet. 
They are not all willing to acknowledge one another as fellow- 
members of the same body. Yet, in spite of this blindness and 
infatuation in regard to their own relation to each other, they are 
still one, in a sense, and to a degree, of which they themselves are 
not conscious. 

We also concur with the author of the work before us in our 
estimate of the sin and mischief of every measure which is 
unfriendly to this unity, or which tends to make " a schism in the 
body." " Nothing," says the eloquent Robert Hall, " more abhor- 
rent from the principles and maxims of the sacred oracles can be 
conceived, than the idea of a plurality of true churches, neither in 
actual communion with each other, nor in a capacity for such 
communion. Though this rending of the seamless coat of our 
Saviour, this schism in the members of his mystical body, is by far 
the greatest calamity which has befallen the Christian interest, and 
one of the most fatal effects of the great apostasy foretold by the 
sacred penmen, we have been so long familiarized to it, as to be 
scarcely sensible of its enormity ; nor does it excite surprise or 
concern in any degree proportioned to what would be felt by one 
who had contemplated the church in the first ages. Christian 
societies regarding each other with the jealousies of rival empires, 
each aiming to raise itself on the ruin of all others, making extra- 
vagant boasts of superior purity, generally in exact proportion to 
their departures from it, and scarcely deigning to acknowledge the 
possibility of obtaining salvation out of their pale, is the odious 
and disgusting spectacle which modern Christianity presents. 
The evils which result from this state of division are incalculable. 
It supplies infidels with their most plausible topics of invective ; it 
hardens the consciences of the irreligious ; it weakens the hands 
of the good, impedes the efficacy of prayer, and is probably the 


principal obstruction to that ample effusion of the Spirit which is 
essential to the renovation of the world."* In all this we heartily 
concur, and wish it were duly impressed on every mind in Chris- 

We of course, too, agree with our author in all the earnest 
wishes expressed by him for the perfect restoration of the unity 
of the Church. To every Christian heart the anticipation of that 
blessing is unspeakably delightful. Behold, how good and how 
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity ! It is like the 
precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the heard ; 
even Aaron's beard ; that went down to the skirts of his garments ; 
as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the 
mountains of Zion ; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, 
even life for evermore. Yes, when the time shall come, as assur- 
edly it will come, when the followers of Christ shall all speak 
the same thing — when there shall be no divisions among them; but 
when they shall be perfectly joined together in the same mind and 
in the same judgment ; then every beholder will be satisfied that 
it is a blessing worth all the labour and importunate prayer which 
can be employed for its attainment. 

But when Mr. Van Dyke proceeds to the consideration of the 
great problem how the " Union" for which he pleads is to be 
brought about, and how difficulties which stand in the way are to be 
obviated, we cannot adopt either his confidence, or what we under- 
stand to be his plans. He seems indeed in a great measure to 
overlook the fact, that although the preservation of peace and 
harmony among professing Christians is precious, and ought never 
to have been interrupted ; yet that the great interests of truth and 
righteousness are still more indispensably precious. He seems, 
though he professes the contrary, not to have had an adequate 
impression of the character of that " wisdom which is from above, 
which is first pure, then peaceable." If we are not deceived, 
we desire to see the unity of the church of Christ perfectly real- 
ized, in all its beauty and power, as much as our author ever did, 
and as much as any of his most sanguine friends can do. Yet we 
could not, in conscience, recommend that all denominations of 
Christians, who profess to hold the fundamentals of religion, in 
present circumstances, and with their present views, convictions, 
habits and feelings, should throw down all the fences which sepa- 
rate them from one another, and unite all their heterogeneous 
materials under one name, and one organization. Even if that 
name and organization were our own, the proposal would still be 
revolting to our judgment. We should regard such an event with 
entire disapprobation, for the following reasons. 

1. If the individuals composing this multifarious, united mass, 
came together without any alteration of opinion or conviction ; 
each entertaining his own former sentiments on all the points of 

• Hall's Works, vol. i., p. 2S9. 


doctrine and order which once separated them, and still resolving 
to unite, at every sacrifice, however vital, for the sake of a nomi- 
nal and formal union ; what could be expected from such a dis- 
honest coalition, but a curse instead of a blessing ? Every attempt 
to reconcile differences among professing Christians, which involves 
the relinquishment of truth ; or a compromise with important cor- 
ruption, either in doctrine or worship ; or giving countenance to 
what is deemed an injurious departure from what Christ has com- 
manded, is undoubtedly criminal and mischievous. We are com- 
manded to hold " fast the form of sound words" which we have 
received; nay, to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered 
to the saints ;" and, no doubt, one great purpose for which a visible 
church was founded in our world was that it might preserve pure 
and entire all such religious truth, worship, and ordinances, as God 
hath revealed and appointed in his word ; that it might bear a 
faithful testimony against the introduction of error, by whomsoever 
attempted, into " the household of faith." If so, to surrender any 
essential part of the trust committed to it, for the sake of peace, is 
to make a sacrifice which the word of God forbids. We are 
required "as much as in us lies to live peaceably with all men." 
But there are those with whom we cannot live in peace without 
offending our Master in heaven. 

2. Let us suppose, however, the case to be different ; and then 
an objection equally strong against the union which seems to be 
contemplated, immediately presents itself. Let us suppose that the 
members of all the various denominations which agree to come 
together, do so under the impression that all their diversities of 
doctrine and order, as long as they do not affect the fundamentals 
of religion, strictly so called, are of no acconnt, and ought not to 
forbid the most intimate union. What would be the natural effect 
of their settling down on this principle ? Would it not be to dis- 
courage the study of Christian truth ; to take away a large part 
of their interest in " searching the Scriptures ;" and to terminate at 
a stroke, all that " contending earnestly for the faith once delivered 
to the saints," to which we just referred, as an expressly com- 
manded Christian duty ? We can scarcely conceive of anything 
more adapted to take oflT the minds of men from discriminating 
views of truth, and thus gradually to undermine enlightened piety, 
than unreserved union upon such principles. Show us a people, 
by whatever name they may be called, who in regard to doctrine 
content themselves with vague generalities ; who are equally satis- 
fied with Calvinistic, Ar mini an, and Pelagian preaching; and who 
think it wrong to make any d fficulty, or even inquiry, respecting 
the theological opinions of him who is called to minister to them 
in holy things, and we will engage to show you a people of small 
and crude knowledge ; of superficial piety ; and liable to be " car- 
ried about by every wind of doctrine," and the "cunning craftiness 
of those who lie in wait to deceive." Almost every chapter of 
our pious author shows, that while he pleads for union with all who 


hold truth enough to become instrumental in saving the soul, he 
would have been himself altogether out of his element in listening 
to any other instruction than that which accorded with the pre- 
cious system of free grace through the atoning sacrifice of our 
divine Redeemer. But, after all, 

3. Supposing that such a union of all Christian denominations 
could be attained without any dishonest sacrifice, and without any 
immediate mischief, what would be the benefit of it ? What solid 
good would result from it, either to the body, or to the individuals 
who might compose it? Would mere coming together produce 
genuine Christian affection ? Would those who were thus drawn 
together, necessarily, or even probably, love one another the more ? 
We have no doubt that the profound and pious Dr. Owen, the 
learned Independent, spoke the truth on this subject, when he said, 
" I should be very sorry that any man living should outgo me in 
desires that all who fear God throughout the world, especially in 
these nations, were of one way, as well as of one heart. I know 
that I desire it sincerely. But I do verily believe, that when God 
shall accomplish it, it will be the effect of love, not the cause of 
love. It will proceed from love, beibre it brings forth love. There 
is not a greater vanity in the world than to drive men into a par- 
ticular profession, and then suppose that love will be the necessary 
consequence of it ; to think that if, by sharp rebukes, by cutting, 
bitter expressions, they can but drive men into such and such prac- 
tices, love will certainly ensue." If half a dozen families should be 
drawn, by ardent attachment to each other, to take up their abode 
together in the same spacious mansion, they might live together 
in peace and comfort, because the previously existing affection 
which drew them together, would dispose them to overlook, or 
at any rate to surmount many of the difficulties of their new situation. 
But what man in his senses would think of prevailing on the same 
number of families, hitherto strangers to each other, and with no 
decisive congeniality of feeling, to abandon their separate dwellings, 
and all come under the same roof? l^ he were a thinking man, 
and at all instructed by experience, he would expect to find their 
peace, their real enjoyment, destroyed, instead of increased, by 
their local and nominal union. The fact is, Christian union in name 
and outward form is worthless, unless the spirit of Christian love 
accompany and pervade it. The nearer different denominations 
approach to each other without this, the more apt they will be to 
quarrel and fight. We have no doubt that one great feature of the 
" latter day glory" will be that the " watchmen on the walls of 
Zion," and the great mass of the people of God, will all " see eye 
to eye," and walk together in the love of God, and in the consola- 
tions of the Holy Ghost. But this harmony will be produced and 
maintained by love. Love will pervade the world, binding all its 
inhabitants together, and. therefore, all will " speak the same thing," 
and walk together in peace and concord. We hope that some now 
alive will see the day when all the different classes of Presbyte- 


rians in the United States, whether of the Dutch Church, the 
German Reformed, the Associate, the Associate Reformed, and the 
Reformed Presbyterians, shall be united with those of the General 
Assembly. In what mariner it will be accomplished, whether by 
our joining them, or their joining us, we cannot predict ; nor do we 
care, provided the great interests of truth and holiness be secured 
in the union. But we must say, that if it were now proposed by 
any one to commence a system of measures for bringing about 
such an event at once, we should be found in the opposition ; not, 
of course, from unfriendliness to the object ultimately aimed at ; 
but from a deep persuasion that none of the parties are yet ready 
to unite ; that if they could be prevailed upon to come together, at 
present, it would be a calamity instead of a blessing ; and that no 
union worth attaining can ever be formed, until all the parties shall 
be actuated by such a spirit of love, that they can no longer be 
kept apart. Then, and not till then, will their union be a real 
blessing; and then arguments and importunity to unite will be 
wholly unnecessary. 

One of the great boasts of the Romish Church is that it is one. 
It reproaches Protestants as broken up into sects, wholly incon- 
sistent with unity ; while it claims for itself to be a perfectly united 
body, and lays great stress on this alleged union, as one of the 
indubitable marks of the only true Church. But to what, after all, 
does their union amount ? Is there more of real, Christian, scrip- 
tural unity among the Papists than among other denominations 
who bear the Christian name ? Nay, is there anything like as 
much ? We utterly deny it. There may be more verbal, nominal, 
technical unity among them than among most branches of the 
Protestant body; that is, there may be more verba! acknowledg- 
ment of a kind of deified individual ; more general agreement in 
praising and wondering after a human idol ; more fixed staring of 
all eyes at the great central seat of idolatry, and of unhallowed 
dispensations. But is there more knowledge of the truth among 
them? more love of the truth ? more love of one another? more 
love to the Saviour? more holy concurrence in honouring his law, 
his atoning blood, his justifying righteousness, his life-giving Spirit? 
Is there more enlightened, spiritual communion of saints, with their 
living Head, and with one another? Is there more of what the 
Scriptures denominate, all " eating the same spiritual meat, and all 
drinking the same spiritual drink?" This is the "unity of the 
Spirit" which the Bible describes, and which alone either deserves 
the name, or is adapted really to bind the family of Christ together. 
Have the Papists more of this than the Protestants, whom they so 
studiously vilify ? Let those judge who know what the Papacy is. 
This claim, like all their other claims, is founded in falsehood and 
deception. There is far more real Bible unity among many bodies 
of Protestants, with all their apparent discord, than among the 
members of that much larger family, who are for ever boasting that 
they exceed all others in Christian unity, because they are all 



equally related by name to the " man of sin," the " son of perdition," 
who shall be consumed with the breath of the Saviour's mouth, and 
destroyed with the brightness of his coming." 

4. But we would go one step further. Not only do we believe that 
different denominations of Christians would find no real advantage in 
uniting, until they shall be drawn and bound together by such a spirit 
of love, as will make their union a source of pleasure and edification ; 
but we are persuaded that, as matters now stand, there are many 
advantages resulting both to themselves and to the civil community, 
from their remaining in a state of separation from each other. We 
hope that in attempting to maintain this position, we shall not be 
misunderstood. We consider every schism in the body of Christ 
as a sin ; and of course, can never commend or rejoice in it, in 
itself considered. But is it a new doctrine that the infinitely wise 
and Almighty Governor of the world, continually overrules error, 
and even atrocious crimes, for good ? That what ought never to 
have happened, yet, having happened, in the adorable providence 
of God, is often so bounded, controlled and disposed of as to 
result in much benefit on the whole? Surely the wrath of man 
shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain. 

If man were what he ought to be, it would be a great happi- 
ness to the world, if all Europe were one mighty monarchy. For 
then there would be one system of laws ; one equitable, consistent 
mode of treating all mercantile and other sojourners ; one uniform 
circulating medium over the whole continent. But taking man as 
he is, what a misfortune would it be to the world, if one such 
great overpowering empire governed that whole quarter of the 
globe ! What systematic and wide-spread oppression would afflict 
the human family ! Every other portion of the world would be 
held in terror. How the matter actually stood when our supposi- 
tion was, many centuries ago, in a considerable degree, realized, 
all know who have any acquaintance with history. As it is, there 
are many powerful monarchies on that continent, which balance 
each other's power ; which keep one another in check ; and thus 
make it the interest of all to be mutually respectful, equitable and 
accommodating. It is true, these rival monarchies are often 
involved in painful and offensive conflicts. Their pride, their ava- 
rice, and their various hateful passions, lead to scenes of strife and 
war of the most revolting character. These are highly criminal, 
no doubt, and deeply to be deplored. But they are less evils than 
the unquestioned and gloomy reign of a giant tyranny, brooding 
over a continent ; without check or balance ; without any one 
even to say " what doest thou ?" 

A similar train of thought may be indulged with respect to the 
actual divisions in the Church of God. They ought never to have 
happened. They never would have happened had it not been for 
the pride, the prejudices, the selfishness, and the ambition of 
depraved man. They were sinful in the outset. They are sinful 
still. There is more or less sin in their daily continuance. Yet 


all this may be so, and it may notwithstanding be certain and 
manifest that the Almighty King of Zion is continually bringing 
good out of them. They exercise a watch and care over one 
another analogous to that which is exercised over each other by 
the members of the same church. They superintend, and, to a 
considerable extent, influence the movements of each other. They 
produce in each other, in various ways, a salutary watchfulness 
and emulation. Who does not know that the presence and influ- 
ence of Protestants when residing in large numbers, and bearing a 
respectable character, within the bosom of communities predomi- 
nantly Roman Catholic, have been visible, though not often in con- 
verting, yet always in more or less restraining and purifying the 
corrupt mass around them ? Who can doubt that the Bible is 
more studied than it would otherwise be when rival denominations 
search its pages day and night to find support for their respective 
creeds and claims? Who needs to be told that the amicable 
efforts and struggles of different sects to maintain their peculiar 
opinions, have served to keep the world awake and active, and to 
prevent religious society from sinking into a stagnant and pestife- 
rous apathy ? There is every reason to believe that the established 
Church of Scotland, ever since the rise of the Secession body in 
that country, has been materially benefited in various ways by 
the zeal, the strictness, and the exemplary piety, which generally 
characterized the Seceders. And Dr. John Edwards, a learned 
divine of the established Church of England, expressly declares 
that " If we would but open our eyes, we should see that we are 
beholden to the Dissenters for the continuance of a great part of 
our theological principles : for if the High Churchmen had no 
checks, they would have brought in Popery before this time by their 
overvaluing pomp and ceremony in divine worship. So that if 
there had been no Dissenters, the Church of England had been 
long since ruined." — Preacher, II., p. 133. 

Mr. Van Dyck, after urging union among Christians by the 
usual popular topics, which are, on the whole, well exhibited, and 
always with pious earnestness and ardour, proceeds to answer 
objections. Accordingly, he takes up in order, and attempts to 
dispose of the objections against his scheme drawn from six 
sources — as, "1. That, if the proposed union should take place, the 
benefit of emulation would be lost. 2. That it would involve a sacri- 
fice of principle to unite with Christians who have not the same 
faith. 3. That divers denominations are necessary to preserve the 
purity of doctrine. 4. That divers denominations are necessary to 
operate to advantage upon all classes of the people. 5. The 
danger of uniting church and state. 6. That if sects were abolished, 
the Church would soon be again divided." In reply to all these 
objections our author writes with unabated fluency, ardour, and 
confidence ; but in several cases, we must say, by no means to our 
satisfaction. Some of these objections, we acknowledge, are not 
very formidable in their import ; but in regard to others, we are 


far from being as sanguine as Mr. Van Dyck, that they can be 
easily set aside. For example, what he says on the first objection, 
viz., that " if the proposed union of all sects should take place, the 
benefit of emulation would be lost," appears to us of little weight. 
We are not prepared, with some, to condemn all emulation as cri- 
minal. If we do not mistake, the inspired Paul, in more than one 
or two places, in his Epistles to the Churches, tries to impel Chris- 
tians to increased zeal and diligence in duty by setting before them 
what others had done, and expressing reluctance that others should 
outdo them in laudable zeal and effort. Emulation, we suppose, 
like anger, is lawful or wicked, according to circumstances, and 
according to its character. The greater part of the emulation in 
our world, we take for granted, is unhallowed and utterly indefen- 
sible. And even the greater part of that which exists and operates 
among professing Christians, we feel willing to unite in condemn- 
ing, as corrupt in its origin, and corrupt in its exercise. But what 
then ? We ask again, Is it a new thing for sin to be overruled for 
good ? Can any man who has eyes to see, and ears to hear, doubt 
that different denominations of Christians have been impelled to 
make efforts, and to accomplish an amount of labour which would 
by no means have been attempted, if the presence and efforts of 
rival sects had not operated as a continual excitement ? Condemn 
the motive and welcome. You have, in many cases, a right to do 
so. But we are so happy as to live under the government of 
Zion's Almighty King, who can bring good out of evil, and light 
out of darkness. The inspired apostle seems, as we understand 
him, to have felt and argued thus. " Some indeed, says he, preach 
Christ, even of envy and strife, and some also of good will. What 
then ? notwithstanding everyway, whether in pretence or in truth, 
Christ is preached ; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." 
Now it is evidently no part of our duty to wish that unhallowed 
tempers may be indulged, because infinite wisdom and power can 
and does bring good out of them. But if we see plainly, that one 
hundred thousand Christians, divided into jour parts, will accom- 
plish, and are accomplishing, four, if not ten times as much as the 
same number would accomplish if externally united, supposing the 
united body to have the same amount of real piety with the best 
portion of the divided body ; we say, if this be manifest, while we 
ought to mourn over everything unhallowed both in the separa- 
tion and in the exercises of the respective divisions, we may surely 
rejoice, as the apostle did, in the general result ; and pray for the 
gift of the Holy Spirit, that everything inconsistent with the will 
of God may be taken out of the way. 

But we are, if possible, still less satisfied with the manner in 
which our author disposes of the second objection, viz. : " That it 
would involve a sacrifice of principle to unite with Christians who 
have not the same faith." We are quite ready to concede that 
there are doctrinal differences among Christians which ought not 
to keep them apart ; and that even some doctrinal differences not 


destitute of importance, but short of fundamental, are entirely con- 
sistent with affectionate ecclesiastical communion. But still, when 
we find Mr. Van Dyck, after insisting on this, appearing to find 
no further difficulty, and to consider his argument as triumphantly 
made out, we must say, that thereat we do greatly marvel. The 
consideration of a single case, we think, demolishes all that he has 
advanced in support of his theory, and demonstrates that his plan 
is not feasible. A pious, conscientious Baptist fully coincides in his 
doctrinal belief with a pious, orthodox Presbyterian. They can 
listen to the same public instruction with cordial pleasure, and unite 
in the same prayers with unmingled fervour of devotion. In regard 
to all these things they are one in spirit, and could, without any 
sacrifice, be one in name and form. But the Baptist conscien- 
tiously believes that no baptism is valid but that which is adminis- 
tered to adults, and by immersion. He would be glad to be 
united with his Presbyterian brother whom he " loves in the truth," 
and to sit down with him at the same sacramental table. But 
he is prevented by a conscientious scruple which he can by no 
means dismiss. He verily believes that the Presbyterian is not 
a baptized man ; and of course, according to his view of truth 
and duty, he cannot commune with him. On the other hand, 
the Presbyterian has equally serious and immovable scruples. 
For although he has no doubt that his Baptist friend is a truly 
baptized man, and can, therefore, without hesitation, admit him to 
occasional communion at his sacramental table ; yet he is deeply 
persuaded that the Baptist doctrine and practice by which infants 
are shut out from all membership and privileges in the Church of 
Christ, are not merely unscriptural, and of course wrong, but 
amount to a most serious and mischievous error. He is honestly 
convinced not only that the Baptist system in relation to this point 
is contrary to Scripture ; but also that its native tendency is to 
place children, who are the hope of the Church, in a situation less 
friendly to the welfare of Zion, and less favourable, by far, to their 
own salvation, than that in which they are placed by the Paedo- 
baptist system ; and that its ultimate influence on the rising gene- 
ration, on family religion, and on the growth and purity of the 
Church, must be deeply injurious. We ask, what is to be done in 
this case ? It is evident there can be no compromise here, if the 
sincere and solemn convictions of each party be such as we have 
supposed. And yet such cases exist in great numbers, at the pre- 
sent hour. What would be the consequence if large bodies of 
Christian professors, thus differing, were to attempt to unite in a 
church-state ! Could they commune together ? Every one sees 
that it would be impossible. The Baptist could not indulge, how- 
ever strongly his inclination might plead for it, even in occasional 
communion with his Presbyterian friend, without relinquishing a 
deeply conscientious conviction, not about a speculative, but a 
practical matter. And even the Presbyterian, though not restrained 
from occasional communion with his Baptist friend, could not 


possibly unite with him in a regular church-state, without aban- 
doning principles which he regarded as vitally important to the 
interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. Upon the plan of Mr. Van 
Dyck, we should be utterly non-plussed by such a difficulty. And 
yet we see not but that such difficulties must present themselves at 
every turn, in attempting to carry into execution the plan for 
which our author so earnestly pleads. But we have not room fur- 
ther to pursue the train of his reasoning. 

When we first heard of the publication and character of the 
work before us, we were forcibly reminded of a hero in the same 
vocation, who flourished about a hundred and seventy or eighty 
years ago ; who devoted more than half his life assiduously to the 
benevolent enterprise ; and whose want of success, we fear, is 
destined to be again exemplified in the case of the benevolent 
American labouring in the same field. We refer to the celebrated 
John Dury, a native of Scotland, who was born about the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth century, and who, from 1631 to 1674, was 
constantly and laboriously engaged in bringing about a general 
pacification and union throughout the Protestant world. He 
devoted himself to this object with an ardour and a perseverance 
altogether without a parallel. He seems to have been an honest, 
amiable, pious, and learned man ; but by no means remarkable for 
the soundness of his judgment. He conceived the plan of uniting 
all the Lutherans and Reformed in one great body. For this pur- 
pose he laboriously travelled through every Protestant country in 
Europe ; wrote letters ; personally addressed the clergy and the 
people of both communions ; persuaded, entreated, warned, and, 
by every variety of means, exerted himself to terminate the strife 
and conflicts of Protestants, and to bring them all together under 
one general name and form. He took unwearied pains to engage 
in this enterprise, kings, princes, and magistrates, as well as 
ecclesiastical dignitaries, and all others whom he could approach. 
Archbishop Laud at first approved and recommended his plan ; 
but afterwards threw difficulties in his way, intending, it would 
appear, to use him only as far and as long as he thought he could 
employ him as an instrument for promoting prelacy. Bishop Hall 
also, and Bishop Bedell, gave him and his enterprise their counte- 
nance and recommendation, in the beginning of his career ; but how 
long they continued to encourage him is not known. Mr. Dury 
was bred a Presbyterian, and received in early life Presbyterian 
ordination. He was a member of the Westminster Assembly of 
Divines, and signed the Solemn League and Covenant ; but was 
prevailed upon, on the principle that it might facilitate the attain- 
ment of his grand object, to submit to a re-ordination in the Church 
of England. He spent more than forty years in this benevolent 
enterprise ; travelled again and again, with wonderful perse- 
verance, throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and from one end 
to the other of the continent of Europe ; consulted Universi- 
ties, and when their answers were favourable, communicated 


them to the public. He published himself more than twenty books ; 
some in Latin, for circulation throughout the Continent, and 
others in English. After making, for many years, the union 
of all the Reformed and the Lutheran Churches his professed 
object, he extended his views, and seemed to think the union 
of all professing Christians practicable ! He alleged, and en- 
deavoured to convince those whom he addressed, that all who 
could agree to receive the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and 
the Ten Commandments, ought to be united in one family. And 
finally, appearing to adopt the opinion that all religion consisted in 
certain mystical feelings which might be found in connexion with 
almost any and every form of doctrinal belief, he seemed to con- 
sider scarcely any diversity of opinion as a sufficient ground for 

It is scarcely necessary to say that Mr. Dury, in this enthusiasm 
of liberality, found few enlightened and respectable adherents. 
The majority of those who favoured his plan belonged to the 
Reformed Churches. The great mass of the Lutheran body 
opposed him throughout, and many of them with warmth and even 
violence. John Matthiae and George Calixtus were almost the 
only conspicuous Lutheran divines who fell in with his plan, and 
appeared as his advocates. On the whole, there can be no doubt 
that Dury's enterprise rather increased alienation than promoted 
unity. He wore out his days in unprofitable toil ; bore rebuffs, 
insults and multiplied troubles with wonderful patience, until he 
finally died in obscurity and poverty, neglected by those who had 
once encouraged him to go forward in the prosecution of his Uto- 
pian scheme. Nor was this all. The influence of what was done 
on the Lutheran Church was peculiarly unhappy. The publica- 
tions of Matthiae, under the title of the Olive Branch, were pub- 
licly condemned as pestiferous, and by a royal edict excluded from 
Sweden, in which kingdom the author lived. And with regard to 
Calixtus. while he endeavoured, as Mosheim remarks, to free the 
Church from all sects, he was considered by great numbers of his 
brethren as being the father of a new sect, that of the Syncretists ; 
a sect which was considered as pursuing peace and union at the 
expense of divine truth. He became instrumental in throwing the 
whole Lutheran body into a most unhappy commotion, which was 
a long time in passing away. 

Before taking leave of this work, we cannot forbear to speak of 
another review of it published in the month of September last, in 
a contemporary and highly respected periodical,* from the pen of 
the Right Rev. B. B. Smith, Episcopal Bishop of Kentucky.f 

* The Literary and Theological Review, conducted by the Rev. Leonard Woods, 

t We arc aware that commenting on an ano?iymous review might be considered as 
unusual, and of questionable delicacy. But in the present case, as the writer gives 
his name to the public, we suppose there is no more impropriety in referring to it, 
than in animadverting on any other publication made under the author's name. 


Before reading the article we felt some curiosity to see how a gen- 
tleman, once somewhat known as a low-churchman, but since 
advanced to the prelacy, would speak of a work by a pious Dutch 
Presbyterian, pleading for the union of all Christians. We had 
not read far, however, before we perceived that the scope and evi- 
dent purpose of the whole, though ostensibly liberal, and conducted 
throughout with great respectfulness and delicacy, is as purely 
sectarian as possible ; and contains, though not in so many words, 
yet in spirit, a kind invitation of the whole world into the Episcopal 
Church. On the character of this article we take the freedom to 
make a few remarks, not in the polemical spirit, but that the imper- 
fectly disclosed purpose of Bishop Smith may be distinctly under- 
stood ; and especially as the periodical work which contains it cir- 
culates extensively among Presbyterians. 

1. Our first remark in relation to the article in question is, that 
one of the most striking ecclesiastical incongruities we can think 
of is to find a thorough-going " high-churchman" speaking with 
complacency, and with raised expectation, of Christian union. 
By high-churchmen every one will understand us to mean those 
members of the Episcopal Church who make high and exclusive 
claims in favour of their own sect ; who maintain confidently that 
the power of ordination to the gospel ministry is confined to pre- 
latical bishops ; that ministers not ordained by them have no valid 
commission, and of course no right to administer gospel ordi- 
nances; and that, out of the Episcopal denomination, there can be 
no lawful ministers ; no valid sacraments ; in fact, no church, but 
all out of the appointed way of salvation, and given over to the 
" uncovenanted mercy" of God. That this doctrine is really held 
by considerable numbers, both of the clergy and laity of that 
denomination, will appear from the following distinct avowal, found 
in a manual extensively used and admired among American Epis- 

" The Judge of all the earth will indeed do right. The grace of God quickens 
and animates all the degenerate children of Adam. The mercy of the Saviour 
is co-extensive with the ruin into which sin lias plunged mankind. And, 'in 
every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of 
him.' But where the gospel is proclaimed, communion with the Church by the 
participation of its ordinances, at the hands of its duly authorized priesthood, is 
the indispensable condition of salvation. Separation from the prescribed govern- 
ment, and regular priesthood of the Church, when it proceeds from involuntary 
and unavoidable ignorance or error, we have reason to trust, will not intercept 
from the humble, the penitent and obedient, the blessings of God's favour. But 
when we humbly submit to that priesthood which Christ and his apostles consti- 
tuted ; when, in the lively exercise of penitence and faith, we partake of the ordi- 
nances administered by them, we maintain our communion with that Church 
which the Redeemer purifies by his blood, which he quickens by his Spirit, and 
whose faithful members he will finally crown with the most exalted glories of his 
heavenly kingdom. The important truth which the universal Church has uni- 
formly maintained, that, to experience the full and exalted efficacy of the sacra- 
ments, we must receive them from a valid authority, is not inconsistent with that 
charity which extends mercy to all who labour under involuntary error. But 
great is the guilt and imminent the danger of those who, professing the means of 



arriving at the knowledge of the truth, negligently or wilfully continue in a state 
of separation from the authorized ministry of the Church, and partake of ordi- 
nances administered by an irregular and invalid authority. Wilfully rending the 
peace and unity of the Church, by separating from the ministrations of its author- 
ized priesthood; obstinately contemning the means which God, in his sovereign 
pleasure, hath prescribed for their salvation, they are guilty of rebellion against 
their Almighty Lawgiver and Judge; they expose themselves to the awtul dis- 
pleasure of that Almighty Jehovah, who will not permit his institutions to be con- 
temned, or his authority violated with impunity."* 

In plain English, the scope of these and similar passages in 
writings of acknowledged authority in that denomination, is, that 
the Episcopal " priesthood" is the only authorized ministry — 
that their sacraments are the only valid sacraments — that those 
who are out of the Episcopal body are no part of the Christian 
Church ; that they have no hope founded on " covenanted mercy ;" 
but however penitent, humble, and deeply spiritual they may be, 
the fact that they are not in communion with the Episcopal 
Church, proves that they are " aliens from the commonwealth of 
Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise." 

In full accordance with this representation, Mr. Grant, the Epis- 
copal Ivgh-church historian of England, does not scruple to avow 
the doctrine which has been stated, in all its length and breadth. 
" This opinion," says he, " supposes a charm, a secret virtue, by 
which — to state an extreme case — a vicious minister of the Church 
of England can confer something necessary to salvation, as a sacra- 
ment is ; while the same office performed by a, pious sectary, who 
has in his heart devoted himself to God, is an absolute nullity." 
After stating the case in this strong and unequivocal manner, he 
does not hesitate to declare that, in his opinion, the fact is really 
so. " Truth is sacred and immutable," says he, " and must be 
received, whatever inconvenience may attend its reception."! 

There are, indeed, some high-churchmen whose mode of stating 
their opinions in reference to this subject, is somewhat less offen- 
sive in terms. They do not undertake decisively to exclude all 
others but themselves and the Romanists from the "covenanted 
mercies of God ;" but they refuse to acknowledge any others. 
Their language is, " we know that we are right, and on safe 
ground ; but we do not know that others are. We do not posi- 
tively deny that they are true churches ; but we cannot see our 
way clear to recognise them as such." There is still a third por- 
tion of the general class of high- churchmen, who, maintaining the 
Popish doctrine that lay-baptism is valid, and that any body of 
baptized persons may properly be called a church, do not deny the 
title of churches to Presbyterian assemblies. But while they con- 
cede this — on most erroneous ground as we suppose — they deny 

* Companion for the Altar, by J. H. Hobart, afterwards Bishop Hobart, 1804, p. 

| Crant's Hi; 'orv of the Church of England, and the Sects dissenting from her. 
Vol. ii., 7, 8. 



that these churches have any authorized ministers, and contend 
that all the claims and acts of such ministers are usurpation and 

These are the opinions to which popular parlance has assigned 
the title of high-church. The title is just. They are not only 
revolting, but really schismatic in their character. We do not 
pretend to know how extensively such opinions are cherished by 
the ministers and members of the Episcopal Church in the United 
States. We have no doubt that many of the best of both cor- 
dially reject them, and cultivate towards other churches a fraternal 
spirit. Nor do we intend at present to enter into an inquiry 
whether these revolting opinions are correct or not. We, of 
course, believe them to be both absurd and unscriptural. But. that 
is not, at present, the question. The question is, can it be consi- 
dered as congruous for a man who holds these opinions to talk or 
think of promoting " Christian union ;" of holding out the olive 
branch, in any intelligible sense, to other denominations, when he 
regards them all as out of the way of salvation? Now we 
happen to know that Bishop Smith freely states it as his opinion, 
that non-episcopal ministers have no commission ; no authority 
whatever to administer gospel ordinances. His plan of union, 
then, is, that all other denominations are at liberty, if they please, 
to turn Episcopalians ; and that, if they do, he will then, and not 
till then, regard them favourably, and acknowledge them as Chris- 
tians. This is surely a wonderful sacrifice at the shrine of 
" Christian union !" The Papist could say this ; and he could say 
no more. 

2. Our second remark is, that Bishop Smith's views of " Chris- 
tian union" are such that he is constrained to regret that the reform- 
ers ever separated from the Church of Rome. He is such a wor- 
shipper of the form of ecclesiastical communion, without its 
power, that he seriously asks, " whether one of the grand mistakes 
of the Reformation was not a separation from the Church, instead 
of reformation in the Church ?" As if effort after effort to reform 
the Church, without going out of it, had not been actually made 
by one noble-minded man after another, for nearly two hundred 
years before that time, without success. As if hundreds of men, 
some of them among the best on earth, had not been hurried to the 
stake, for daring to whisper a doubt concerning the pure and scrip- 
tural character of the dominant Church. As if most of the Reform- 
ers had not been violently cast out of the Church, instead of first 
departing themselves. Nay, as if when Christ the Lord had been 
virtually taken away from the Headship of his Church, there was 
any scriptural object to be gained by continued " union" with such 
a body. We have no doubt that Bishop Smith in the multitude of 
his yearnings towards what appears to be his idol — the Episcopal 
succession — wishes there never had been a severance of connexion 
with the Church of Rome. He feels probably a little as Arch- 
bishop Laud did, when he said, " I do believe the Church of Rome 


to be a true Church. Were she not a true Church, it were hard 
with the Church of England, since from her the English bishops 
derive their apostolic succession." For our part we think the 
Reformers did wisely in " coming out from among the Romanists 
and being separate." We cannot doubt that in abandoning the 
habitations of gross superstition and idolatry, they took the only 
feasible course. Necessity impelled them to it. Duty required it. 
The Church of Rome, not the Reformers, was the real schismatic, 
since she required the friends of the reformation to obey man rather 
than God, or go to the stake or gibbet, or go out from her pale. 
In this case we may say of " union" as our blessed Lord does of 
the holy Sabbath: Union was made for man, not man for union. 
It ought to be sacredly and inviolably maintained as long as it can 
be made subservient to the great purpose for which it was appointed ; 
mutual edification in faith and holiness. But when it becomes an 
alliance to corruption, idolatry and misery, it has lost both its pur- 
pose and its value. It is, undoubtedly, a sin to sacrifice everything 
to the name when the substance is gone. 

3. Our third remark on Bishop Smith's Review is, that he seems 
to hold a doctrine in regard to the essential nature of the " union" 
for which he pleads, in which we can by no means concur with 
him. " What sort of union" he asks, " amongst the followers of 
Christ should be proposed ? Shall they be called upon to unite in 
some way or other, as they now stand divided ; or are they bound 
to agree in one outward form of Christianity ? Mr. Van Dyck, 
and multitudes with him, appear to entertain no other idea of union 
amongst Christians, than an agreement that they shall not bite and 
devour one another. For our part we most explicitly avow our 
conviction, that every attempt to put a stop to the dissensions and 
subdivisions which distract the Church, must for ever prove futile, 
until Christians are agreed in one outward form of Christianity. 
To talk about union in feeling and spirit, whilst there is disunion in 
fact, is about as wise as to exhort those to love one another, between 
whom occasion of deadly feud actually exists." 

We acknowledge that we do not take exactly this view of the 
subject. Conscientious and firm as our persuasion is, that the Pres- 
byterian form of government and of worship was the form actually 
adopted in the apostolic Church, and which ought to be the univer- 
sal form ; yet we are very far from thinking the adoption of this 
form, or of any other single form, by the different existing denomi- 
nations, essential to Christian union in its best sense. We think 
"the unity of THEsriRiT" the most important part of this whole mat- 
ter. We confess, indeed, that we love to see union among the fol- 
lowers of Christ complete in all its parts, external as well as inter- 
nal. We love to find large communities of Christians all " speaking 
the same thing," and walking by the same rule and order. But we 
cannot doubt that there may be much love, much of the real precious 
communion of saints, where there is considerable diversity of exter- 
nal order. We are perfectly persuaded that there was more 


scriptural, practical " unity of the spirit in the bond of peace," 
between the Church of England and the Presbyterian Churches of 
France, Holland, Germany, Geneva, and Switzerland, in the days 
of Bucer, Martyr, Bullinger, Calvin, Cranmer, &c, than there is 
at this hour between the different portions of the English establish- 
ment. What pious Presbyterian would find the least difficulty in 
cherishing the most delightful Christian fellowship with such men 
as the late Mr. John Newton, Dr. Scott, and other similar worthies 
of the Church of England ? He would certainly take more plea- 
sure in the conversation and ministry of such men, than in those of 
some men belonging to his own nominal communion, of less zeal 
and spirituality. We do, indeed, anticipate that when the Mil- 
lennium shall open on the world, there will be greater uniformity in 
the outward aspect, as well as in the interior of the Church of God, 
than has ever yet been seen. But we do not feel quite sure that 
the uniformity, with regard to external order, will be perfect and 
universal. However this may be, we are perfectly satisfied in 
cherishing the assurance that the favoured believers of that age 
will be " of one heart and of one way," in love to the Saviour ; in 
love to one another ; in bearing one another's burdens and infirmi- 
ties ; and in seeking to promote their common happiness, and to 
glorify their common God. We do not believe that a conflict or 
a thought will ever arise in the minds of the Christians of that 
generation respecting ecclesiastical rank or succession. Let any 
one glance at the Apocalyptic delineations of that happy period, 
and say whether a single stroke of the pencil of inspiration 
appears to point to matters of that kind. The glory of the 
blessed Redeemer, and the affection of his people to him and to 
one another, evidently occupy and adorn the whole picture. 

4. Again, Bishop Smith asks, " whether effacing the scriptural 
and primitive distinctions between clerical and lay officers in the 
church, has not, by lessening the respect for the sacred order, and 
fostering a spirit of misrule and insubordination, greatly tended to 
the multiplication of sects ?" Whatever influence this thing may 
have had in affecting either the peace or unity of the Church, we 
can think of no sect to which the query more strikingly applies 
than to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. We 
know of scarcely any other denomination than theirs, in the 
ecclesiastical assemblies of which laymen are permitted to sit and 
give votes, which may be absolutely controlling, without the least 
semblance or plea, even on their own showing, for divine authority 
in the case. It is well known that the ruling elders of the Presby- 
terian Church occupy a place in all their ecclesiastical assemblies. 
But then they are not, strictly speaking, in our estimation, laymen ; 
that is, we consider them as spiritual officers, appointed by Christ 
to bear rule, and therefore just as much authorized to sit and act* 

* It is well known that in the early Church, soon after the apostles' dajs, all 
church officers, from the highest to the lowest, were called clergymen, to distinguish 
them from the body of the people. 


in the place assigned to them, as any minister in the whole church. 
But our Episcopal brethren, if we understand their system, intro- 
duce into all their assemblies, from the Vestry to the General 
Convention, numbers of mere laymen invested with high authority, 
and yet in whose behalf they do not pretend to plead any divine 
appointment or institution. We cannot but think, therefore, thai it 
is with a very ill grace that Bishop Smith singles out this feature 
in modern times, as favourable to the multiplication of sects, and 
the production of insubordination and disorder in the Church. If 
he is deliberately of this opinion, he ought to exert himself to alter, 
as soon as possible, the constitution of his own church. But we 
have no such apprehension from this source as he appears to enter- 
tain. We cannot think of any prominent sect in our land that was 
commenced, or even planned, by laymen. No, the clergy — we 
repeat it — the clergy have been, in almost all cases, the disturbers 
and corrupters of the church ; and we verily believe that the 
greatest danger is now to be apprehended from them. If the 
leaders and guides of all denominations were all deeply imbued 
with the humble, charitable, disinterested, and truly benevolent 
spirit of their Master, we cannot doubt that the greatest obstacle 
to "Christian union" would be taken out of the way. 

5. We have but one more remark, or rather query, to offer on 
the view which Bishop Smith appears to take of the subject. 
Assuming that there can be no valuable or effectual unity, without 
a concurrence in some one external form of organization ; that 
this is not only important, but essential ; he professes, in one 
place, the most entire indifference " in what direction these prin- 
ciples may guide him." " With us," says he, "' it would matter 
nothing to which of the existing denominations they would con- 
duct ; or what modifications they would demand of each." Yet, 
he evidently, in another place, gives us to understand what denomi- 
nation he thinks ought to be adopted, and would be adopted, if 
proper principles presided over the choice. At this partiality to 
his own sect, we are not surprised ; nor should we be disposed to 
criminate him for it, had his declaration in its favour been much 
more pointed and positive. The leading principle which he sup- 
poses ought to regulate the choice of this universal denomination 
is that which he quotes from Tertullian — " whatever is first is true ; 
whatever is more recent is spurious." We accede to the general 
principle ; and have no more doubt that the most faithful "induc- 
tion" of historical, and every other kind of testimony, would show 
that Presbyterian doctrine, government and worship was "first," — 
was the truly primitive and apostolic form, than we have that the 
same " inductive" testimony would show that in the first century 
there were Christian Churches planted in Jerusalem, Antioch, 
Rome, and Philippi. On this, however, we shall not insist. We 
will suppose for argument's sake that the Episcopal form of Church 
order were universally adopted in our country in all its parts ; that 
all the denominations in the United States were prevailed upon, 


without one perverse " dissenter" interposing his veto, to assume 
the name and adopt the government and formularies of that deno- 
mination. Suppose this to be done; and suppose the whole body, 
when thus united, to bear the very same character, as to piety, 
zeal, humility, and diffusive Christian benevolence, which the body 
actually distinguished by that denomination now bears. Would 
our country be the better for it ? Would the interests of " pure 
and undefiled religion" be really promoted ? Would a greater 
amount of evangelical labour be likely to be accomplished ? Would 
the poor neglected wanderers " in the highways and hedges" be 
more likely to be brought in? Would the conversion of the whole 
world to God be likely to be more speedily effected 1 What would 
be its probable influence on the civil government of the country ; 
on the rights of conscience ; and on all the privileges of the citi- 
zens ? Would such a community, judging from all experience, be 
wakeful, active and enterprising in its religious character ; or sunk 
in the torpor and formality which usually characterize those bodies 
from which emulation is gone, and where there are none to call in 
question the course pursued ? We should have no fear as to any 
of these points if the " latter day glory" had begun. The univer- 
sal prevalence of true religion would be the best universal con- 
servative. But the supposition is, that all sects were merged in 
one, and the whole remaining, in every other respct, just as they 
are. Would the country be safe under snch a transformation ? 
Would religion be safe ? Would the interests of the world be 
safe ? We trow not. If the denomination in question were our 
own, we should say, By no means. 

Bishop Smith, in sketching the union, which he seems to con- 
template, speaks of each denomination giving up something for the 
sake of harmony. It may excite a smile in some of our non- 
presbyterian readers, when we say, that, in casting about, in our 
own minds, what peculiarity Presbyterians might reasonably be 
called upon and feel willing to surrender as a tribute to "Christian 
union," we felt deeply at a loss to specify a single particular. 
There is not, we will confidently affirm, a denomination of Chris- 
tians in the United States, or in the world, more free from offen- 
sive claims ; more ready to unite with all other denominations in 
communion or in effort ; or having fewer peculiarities to keep us 
asunder from our neighbours. We freely acknowledge the church- 
character, and the validity of the ministrations of Congregation- 
alists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, and in short, 
of all sects who hold the fundamentals of Christianity. We repel 
none of them from our communion; and in all our private and 
public ministrations we insist, almost exclusively, on the great 
duties of " repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, 
and holiness of heart and of life," in which all evangelical Protest- 
ants profess substantially to agree. Where one sectarian claim or 
statement is made in our pulpits, we may safely venture to say 
that fifty are made in the pulpits and writings of our Baptist, Epis- 


copal, and Methodist brethren. What then, in the proposed mutual 
concession for the sake of "union," shall we give up? Our exclu- 
sive claims ? We have none. Our abuse of other denominations ? 
We have none. We are everywhere loaded with calumny, but have 
never yet engaged in any other warfare than that of the purest self- 
defence. Even our most mild and respectful self-defence, we know, 
is made matter of accusation and reproach ; but be it so. We can- 
not surrender this right. Shall we give up our endeavours to main- 
tain a learned ministry, which was, for a long time, matter of accu- 
sation with more than one sister denomination? We cannot con- 
sent to do this. As it is, our ministry has far too little learning ; and 
those very churches which once reproached us for our requisitions in 
regard to this matter are now adopting similar plans, and are follow- 
ing close at our heels in the maintenance of the same system. Shall 
we consent, for the sake of universal ecclesiastical amalgamation, 
to give up all our rules and efforts for maintaining -purity of 
doctrine ? Here again we must demur. We contend only for 
that precious system of grace and truth, which all the leading 
Reformers, both in Great Britain and on the continent of Europe, 
uniformly maintained. In struggling to defend and propagate the 
pure doctrines set forth in our venerated Confession, we contend 
for no new or doubtful theories. We contend for the same system 
of doctrine which was taught by the Cranmers, the Hoopers, the 
Latimers, and the Whitgifts, as well as the Luthers, of the six- 
teenth century, and for which several of them laid down their 
lives. We believe that, important as the government of the Church 
may and ought to be considered, the maintenance of pure gospel 
truth is a thousand-fold more important ; and that to compromise 
its interests out of regard to any question of ecclesiastical order, 
would be a high offence against our Master in heaven, and against 
all the interests of his kingdom. 

We think we do no injustice to any other portion of Protestant 
Christendom, when we say, that we are confident no denomination 
of Christians exceeds the Presbyterian Church in genuine Christian 
liberality, and in a readiness to unite in Christian effort with all 
classes of credible professors of Christianity. Our system is abso- 
lutely less exclusive, and more pacific than any other in our 
country, which admits the importance of truth at all. We are 
really almost the only denomination of Christians in the United 
States whose views of truth of the Gospel ministry, and of eccle- 
siastical order, present no obstacle to our communing and co- 
operating with any and every denomination who hold fast the 
essentials of true religion. Nor can we hesitate to assert that 
the most conspicuous and edifying examples of such union and 
co-operation, within the last twenty years, have been actually 
presented by the Presbyterian Church. Why, then, it is, that we 
are everywhere calumniated as eminently sectarian in our cha- 
racter ; why the most mild and respectful attempts to defend our 
own opinions, and to show to our members our reasons for differing 


from sister denominations around us, are stigmatized as violent and 
unprovoked attacks ; and why these charges happen to be most 
clamorously urged by those of our neighbours whose sectarism is 
acknowledged on all hands to be the most, rampant and exclusive 
in the land ; are questions, the responsibility of answering which, 
we are glad does not lie at our door. 

We agree with Bishop Smith in the opinion that the spirit of 
sect is more rife and more powerful at this time than it was some 
years ago. We think this has grown out of some of the very 
measures prematurely and unwisely adopted to produce the diame- 
trically opposite effect. And we are persuaded that much that is 
now written and done, with the intention of promoting union, is 
adapted to retard, rather than promote, the great object recom- 
mended in the volume before us. We lament that such should be 
the case, but we cannot close our eyes against the fact. Were we 
to attempt to offer a set of counsels as to the best means of pro- 
moting " Christian union" — we should say — " Be much more 
engaged in cherishing a spirit of charity and concord, than in 
urging different denominations to come together. Let the strain of 
preaching be practical, affectionate, and strictly scriptural, rather 
than controversial. Be more intent on describing and inculcating 
the religion of the heart, than on pleading the cause of a particular 
form of external organization and order. Let each denomination 
maintain its own peculiar opinions with regard to doctrine and 
discipline, meekly and candidly, but with firmness, without com- 
promitting a single dictate of conscience. Study to cultivate inter- 
course with other denominations, to converse and pray together, 
and co-operate in every pious and benevolent enterprise, as far as 
may not be forbidden by conscientious peculiarities. Be very sure 
that what is made a term of communion be something distinctly 
and clearly taught in the word of God. Let none imagine that the 
" Christian union," so much sought after, and so truly desirable, 
can be reached at once, or by rapid movements ; it must be the 
work of time, and brought about by gentle means ; just as the 
gradual change of a nation's character or language is effected by 
almost insensible degrees. And, in the meanwhile, it is not wise 
to be for ever harping on the duty of " union." All the world 
knows that if we wish to produce in any mind strong emotions, 
either of love or hatred, the true way to succeed is not to employ 
our time in directly exhorting to the exercise of this emotion ; but 
in presenting such views of the object in question, as are 
adapted favourably to excite and impress. No one was ever 
induced to love an object by being scolded and reproached for 
not loving it. And they are surely the worst enemies to " Chris- 
tian union," who, while they declaim against sectarism, and 
paint in strong colours the sin and mischief of multiplied reli- 
gious denominations, are constantly " compassing sea and land" 
to make proselytes to their own sect, and representing all others as 
" aliens from the covenant of God." 


That our views in relation to this interesting subject may not be 
misapprehended, we will close our protracted remarks by the fol- 
lowing brief summary of the conclusions in relation to it, to which 
we have come, and which we regard as most scriptural, rational 
and safe. 

1. All who profess the true religion in its essential characteristics, 
belong to the visible Church catholic, notwithstanding the diversity 
of forms and names by which they are externally separated ; and 
oufht to be so regarded by all who believe that Christ is one, and 
his religion one. Of course, 

2. Entire concurrence in the same outward form of Christianity 
is not essential to Christian union, or to the real communion of 

3. Yet everything that tends to divide the body of Christ, or to 
interfere with entire harmony among the members of his b "dy, is 
sinful and ought to be avoided. 

4. The day is coming, and is probably not far distant, when all 
the professing people of God will be so united, if not in every point 
of external form, yet in spirit, in cordial affection, as to feel that 
they are "one body in Christ, and everyone members one of 

5. The mere quiet, formal coalition of all sects into one body, 
and under one name, would not be " Christian union." 

6. We cannot look for the consummation of this desirable out- 
ward union, nor even reasonably wish it to take place, unless and 
until the spirit of sectarism shall be previously slain, and the spirit 
of universal charity shall become triumphant in every part of the 
Church. Were the union contemplated to come before the esta- 
blishment of this, it could not live, much less diffuse its appropri- 
ate blessings. Therefore, 

7. All attempts to break down the barriers which now divide 
professing Christians into different denominations, anterior to the 
pouring out upon them the spirit of love, will be of little or no 
efficacy in promoting the great object contemplated ; perhaps may 
even retard its approach. A community of goods once existed in 
the Christian Church, and may possibly exist again, when the 
spirit of pure and fervent love shall pervade the Church ; but if a 
proposal were made to restore that community now, when the pre- 
vailing spirit of Christendom is so remote from it, it would be con- 
sidered as doing discredit, rather than honour, to the cause and 
the proposer. 

8. Those denominations of Christians which stand aloof from 
other Christian Churches, or which refuse, on grounds not sup- 
ported by the word of God, to commune with them, are chargeable 
with schism. The dominant powers in the Church of England, in 
ejecting two thousand of the very best ministers of that Church in 
1662, because they refused to conform to unscriptural ceremonies, 
were the real schismatics, and not the ejected ministers themselves. 
Mr. Locke pronounces that event " fatal to the Church and religion 



of England, in throwing out a very great number of worthy, 
learned, pious and orthodox divines."* 

9. The volume before us has appeared a number of years too 
soon for the prompt adoption of its principles. We are not yet 
prepared for the " abolition of sects." When this precious bless- 
ing shall be vouchsafed to the Church, we have no expectation that 
it will be brought about by some great man, by discovering the 
causes of the opposite evil, and proposing some new and wonder- 
ful remedy. It will be the result of the same power, which, when 
the disciples were tossed on the heaving sea, and filled with fear, 
said to the raging winds and waves, " Peace, be still ;" and there 
was a great calm. There will probably, however, be no miracle 
in the common sense of that word ; but the same gracious agency, 
which blesses the Church now, given in a much larger measure. 
Before the Christian community can be ready for a movement of this 
kind, the Holy Spirit of sanctification and love must be poured out 
upon churches to an extent, and with a power, hitherto unknown 
since the day of Pentecost. The spirit of those who are constantly 
" scrambling for proselytes ;" who are far more anxious to convert 
men to their own denomination, than to the knowledge and love of 
holiness ; and especially the spirit of those who " hate the gos- 
pel, while they love the church," must be brought to yield to the 
genuine spirit of Christian charity. The miseries of a perishing 
world must bear with a hundred-fold more weight than they now 
do on the hearts of Christians ; and they must feel, with a force 
and tenderness of which they at present know little, their supreme 
obligation to send the simple, pure gospel to every creature. 
They must be absorbed in the great work of converting the world 
to God. Then, and not till then, will sectarism gradually expire. 
Then, and not till then, will the exclamation of the early ages be 
renewed, " behold how these Christians love one another !" 
The Lord hasten in his time a consummation so devoutly to be 
wished ! Every Christian heart will say — Amen ! 

* Letter from a Person of Quality. Works, vol. ix., p. 202. 



The measures adopted by the last General Assembly have now 
been the subject of constant discussion for more than nine months. 
The press has teemed with arguments both for and against their 
validity and justice. Almost all our inferior judicatories have 
subjected them to a rigid examination, and pronounced an opinion 
either in their justification or condemnation. It may therefore be 
taken for granted, that the minds of all interested in the matter 
are by this time finally settled on the one side or the other. We 
are not about to re-open the subject, or to traverse anew the 
ground passed over in our number for July last. Since that time, 
however, events have occurred which have an important bearing 
on the prospects of our church and the duty of its members. To 
some of these it is our purpose to call the attention of our readers. 

It must constantly be borne in mind that according to the repeated 
declaration of the General Assembly, the object of the acts com- 
plained of, was the separation of Congregationalism from the Pres- 
byterian Church. For this purpose they abrogated the Plan of 
Union, and declared that no judicatory composed, agreeably to 
that plan, partly of Congregationalists and partly of Presbyterians, 
can have a constitutional standing in the Presbyterian church. As 
Congregationalism was known to prevail extensively in four of our 
synods, the Assembly applied the above principle to them, and 
declared that they could not, as at present organized, be any longer 
regarded as belonging to our church. Several other synods, within 
whose bounds there was more or less of this irregularity, were 
directed to correct the evil as far as it was found to exist, so that 
all the churches connected with the General Assembly should be 

* Originally published in 1838, in review of the following works : 1. -' Facts and 
Observations concerning the organization and state of the Churches in the three 
Synods of Western New York, and the Synod of the Western Reserve." By James 

2. " Legal Opinions respecting the Validity of certain Acts of the General 
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church." By Messrs. Wood, Hopkins, and Kent. 


organized agreeably to the provisions of the constitution. Such 
ministers and churches, within the bounds of the excluded synods, 
as were strictly Presbyterian in doctrine and order, and should 
wish to unite themselves with our church, were directed to apply 
to those presbyteries most convenient to their respective locations. 
And in case there were any regular presbyteries thus situated, they 
were directed to make application to the next General Assembly.* 
It is obvious that there were three courses open to those affected 
by these measures. The first was to submit to them. This 
course was. adopted by the synod of New Jersey. In obedience 
to the requisition of the General Assembly, they directed 
the only presbytery within their bounds embracing Congrega- 
tional churches " to take order as soon as it can conveniently be 
done, to bring all churches within its bounds to an entire con- 
formity with our standards, and to inform such churches that they 
can retain their present connexion with the presbytery on no other 
terms." " In giving," it is said, " the foregoing direction to the 
presbytery of Montrose, the synod have no desire to interfere with 
the friendly relations hitherto existing between the presbytery and 
the Congregational churches under its care, further than to 
separate them from their present connexion, so that they shall not 
be considered a constituent part of the said presbytery, nor be 
entitled to a vote or representation in it." These resolutions were, 
as we understand, adopted unanimously ; having received the 
support of some of those who, on the floor of the General Assem- 
bly, had been most prominent and zealous in resisting the abroga- 
tion of the Plan of Union. The same course was open to the 
four excluded synods. By separating themselves from their 
Congregational and accommodation churches, they could, in 
obedience to the General Assembly, apply either as individual 
churches or ministers to the most convenient presbytery ; or as 
presbyteries to the next General Assembly. 

* That this is a fair exhibition of the proceedings of the General Assembly is plain 
from their own declarations. The Plan of Union is declared to be " an unconstitu- 
tional act," and as such it was abrogated. Minutes of the General Assembly, p. 421. 
Secondly, it was resolved, " That by the operation of the abrogation of the Plan of 
Union of 1S01, the synod of the Western Reserve is, and is hereby declared to be, no 
longer a part of Presbyterian Church in the United States of America." Thirdly, it 
was resolved that in consequence of the abrogation of the Plan of Union, the synods 
of Utica, Geneva, and Genesee, " are, and are hereby declared to be, out of the 
ecclesiastical connexion of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America." 
Minutes, p. 444. Fourthly, the synods of Albany, New Jersey, and Illinois, are 
enjoined to correct the "irregularities in church order charged upon their presby- 
teries and churches." Min., p. 497. In answer to the Protest of the commissioners 
from the presbyteries belonging to the synod of the Western Reserve, the Assembly 
say : the Assembly of ISO] " had no authority from the constitution to admit officers 
from any other denomination of Christians to sit and act in our judicatories; and 
therefore no presbytery or synod thus constituted is recognised by the constitution 
of our church, and no subsequent General Assembly is bound to recognise them." 
" The representatives of these churches, on the accommodation plan, form a consti- 
tuent part of these presbyteries as really as the pastors or elders, and this Assembly 
can recognise no presbytery thus constituted, as belonging to the Presbyterian church. 
The Assembly has extended the operation of the same principle to other synods 
which they find similarly constituted." Min., 451. 



This course would indeed require submission to measures which 
these brethren regarded as unkind and even unjust ; and might for 
a time have occasioned many inconveniences. But on the other 
hand, it cannot long be regarded either as an injustice or hardship, 
that the General Assembly should require that all churches entitled 
to representation in our judicatories, and to participation in our 
government, should conform to the constitution which they admi- 
nister. It was submitted to the option of all the presbyteries 
within these synods either to separate from Congregationalism or 
from the General Assembly. If they refused to do the former, 
they cannot long expect the" sympathy of the public, should they be 
shut up to the other alternative. 

The second course open to these synods, and to those who side 
with them, was to act upon the conviction which they avowed 
on the floor of the Assembly, that the time had come for an amica- 
ble division of the church. It will be recollected that a committee 
of ten, five from the majority and five from the minority, was 
appointed to effect this object. The committee agreed as to its 
expediency, under existing circumstances, and differed only as to 
the mode, not the terms of separation. The one party wished it to 
be made immediately by the Assembly, the other to have it referred 
to the presbyteries. By acting upon their own plan, and requesting 
those presbyteries which agreed with them to appoint commis- 
sioners to meet and organize as the " General Assembly of the 
American Presbyterian Church," the division would have been 
effected in their own way. In this, manner all contention might 
have been avoided, and all questions been amicably adjusted 
between the two bodies. 

The third method was to assume that the acts in question 
were illegal and void, and to determine to proceed as though they 
had never been passed. This is the course which has been adopted ; 
whether wisely or unwisely it is not for us to say. Without 
presuming to question either the motives or the wisdom of those 
who have advised this course, it may not be out of place to 
examine its probable results, and the correctness of some of the 
assumptions on which it is publicly defended. 

Soon after the rising of the last Assembly, the presbyteries 
particularly interested were called together, and in most instances, 
resolved that they would retain their present organization; that 
they considered the Plan of Union a sacred compact, and therefore 
could not consent to the dissolution of the connexion between them 
and the Congregational churches under their care ; that they would, 
as usual, commission delegates to the next General Assembly, and 
instruct them to demand their seats in that body. As far as we know, 
not a single presbytery within the four synods has consented to 
withdraw from their Congregational churches. Not satisfied with 
this separate action of the presbyteries, delegates were appointed 
who met in convention at Auburn, August 17, 1837, and resolved 
unanimously, that the acts of the General Assembly, disowning the 


four synods, " are null and void ;" they declared that they consider 
the rights accruing to the churches from the Plan of Union to be 
inviolable, that '• an almost immemorial usage and acquiescence 
have committed the original confederated parties by whom the 
constitution itself was framed and adopted, to guarantee the validity 
of that important pact ;" and that these churches " cannot now be 
dismembered and disfranchised."* That these brethren had a 
perfect right to take this course, no one can doubt. When it was 
submitted 1o their option either to separate from their Congrega- 
tional churches, or from the General Assembly, they were certainly 
at liberty to make their selection. The question is, whether their 
refusal to submit to the abrogation of the Plan of Union is consist- 
ent with their continued or renewed connexion with the Presby- 
terian church? It certainly cannot be on any other ground than 
that the General Assembly had no authority to decree that abroga- 
tion, and to order the inferior judicatories to carry it into effect. 
This, however, is a position which we are persuaded cannot be 
maintained. It is expressly relinquished in the legal opinion given 
by Mr. Wood, and is virtually renounced in that of Chancellor 
Kent. These brethren, therefore, have their own lawyers against 
them. Besides, there are comparatively few persons, not con- 
nected with one or the other of the four synods, who question the 
right of the Assembly to abolish the Plan of Union ; there are more 
who doubt the propriety of the act disowning the synod of the 
Western Reserve, and still more who disapprove of that in relation 
to the three synods of New York. These brethren, however, can 
depend on the co-operation of those only who go the whole length 
with them. They have selected the weakest, instead of the 
strongest position, at their command. To justify any one to vote 
that the commissioners from these synods should take their seats 
in the next Assembly, it is not enough that he should disapprove of 
the acts by which they were disowned, he must deny the right of 
the Assembly to decide that Congregationalists shall no longer sit 
and act in our judicatories, or be represented in our General 
Assembly. The whole controversy is made to hinge on this one 
point. The entire synod of New Jersey has committed itself as to 
this matter, by acting in obedience to the command of the Assem- 
bly, and requiring the Presbytery of Montrose to carry the abro- 
gation of the Plan of Union into effect. Admitting the constitu- 
tionality and validity of that abrogation, the synod could not expect 
the commissioners from the presbytery of Montrose to be admitted 
to their seats in the next Assembly, had the order of the previous 
Assembly been disregarded. And we presume that the synods of 
Albany and Illinois cannot expect that the delegates from their 
mixed presbyteries can be allowed to sit. The Assembly has 
declared that " the existence of such presbyteries is recognised 

* See Minutes and Address of the Auburn Convention, New York Observer, Octo- 
ber 7, 1S37. 


neither in the former nor the amended constitution of the church," 
and that they can recognise none such. These brethren say they 
must recognise them. The controversy is thus narrowed to the 
smallest possible limits. Those who think that the Plan of Union 
is inviolable, will of course vote for the admission of the delegates 
from the mixed presbyteries ; but those who think the Assembly 
had a right to set it aside, must vote for their exclusion. Here is 
a general principle, adopted by the Assembly, applicable not to the 
presbyteries of the four synods only, but to all others of a similar 
character. Has then the General Assembly a right to say that 
they will no longer recognise any presbytery composed partly of 
Presbyterians and partly of Congregationalists 1 This seems to us 
a very plain point. Chief Justice Ewing says, an ecclesiastical 
body which is not organized in the manner provided and sanctioned 
by the constitution of a church, cannot be deemed a constitutional 
judicatory of that church.* Our constitution says that " a presby- 
tery is a convention of bishops and elders within a certain district ;" 
these presbyteries are, to a greater or less extent, conventions 
of Presbyterian ministers and Congregational laymen. Beyond 
doubt, therefore, they are unconstitutionally organized. It has been 
attempted to evade this argument by assuming that the Assembly 
had a right to set aside the constitution ; or that the original error 
has been so long acquiesced in, as to be now legally sanctioned ; 
or that, admitting the right to repeal the Plan of Union, the 
abrogation, though it might prevent the formation of new churches 
under its sanction, could not deprive of its benefits those already 
formed. The first of these assumptions need not be argued. 
For nothing can be plainer than that a body acting under a con- 
stitution cannot alter it. A corporation might as well pretend 
to change its own charter. The second assumption is much more 
plausible. It is not necessary, however, to argue the question, how 
far long continued and general acquiescence can sanction uncon- 
stitutional acts. It is enough for our present purpose to show, 
that admitting all that can be demanded on this point, does not help 
the case. We may safely grant that the long acquiescence in the 
Plan of Union had given it such a sanction, that Congregational 
laymen had a legal right to sit and vote in our judicatories, as long 
as it continued in force. But how does this prove that they have 
the right now it is abrogated? As long ago as 1794, the Assem- 
bly formed an agreement with the Association of Connecticut, and 
subsequently with those of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massa- 
chusetts, by which the Congregational delegates of these bodies 
were allowed to sit and vote in the General Assembly of the Pres- 
byterian Church, even in judicial cases. This arrangement was 
palpably unconstitutional. And yet during its continuance, the 
right of these delegates to vote, sanctioned by silent acquiescence 
for ten, twenty, or thirty years, could not, perhaps, on a given 

* Halstcd's Reports, vol. vii., p. 219. 


occasion, be successfully questioned. Now the arrangement is set 
aside, have they still this right 1 May delegates from all these 
Associations appear in the next Assembly, and vote on all the great 
constitutional questions which may come before it ? The supposi- 
tion is absurd. And it is no less absurd to maintain that because 
Congregationalists had, under the Plan of Union, a right to sit 
and vote in our judicatories, therefore they have still the right after 
its abrogation. 

It is obvious, therefore, these brethren are driven back to the 
extreme position that the Plan of Union could not be abrogated, 
which they must maintain in the face of common sense and of 
their own lawyers ; or they must make the scarcely less desperate 
assumption, that the effect of the abrogation is only to prevent the 
introduction of new Congregational Churches, but cannot affect 
our relation to those already connected with us. That is, that the 
repeal of a law only forbids its extension, not its continued opera- 
tion. The Plan effected a union between us and Congregational- 
ists, its abrogation dissolves that union. This is the common 
sense view of the case. The Plan says that Christians of another 
denomination may sit in our presbyteries, and be represented in all 
our church courts ; its repeal says that they can do so no longer. 
Such is admitted to be the effect of the abrogation of this term of 
agreement with the Associations of New England. Such is the 
acknowledged operation of the rightful rescinding of any compact 
between the different states or churches. If our civil government 
had by law allowed the citizens of France or England certain 
commercial or political privileges, they might be rightfully enjoyed 
as long as the law continued in force, but would necessarily cease 
when the law was repealed. Had such citizens for a series of 
years been allowed to vote at all our elections, could they continue 
to claim the right when the law giving them the privilege was 
repealed ? Admitting the right to repeal, there can be no question 
as to its operation. 

We maintain, therefore, that if it be conceded that the General 
Assembly had the constitutional authority to abrogate the Plan of 
Union, everything is conceded. If the Assembly had a right to 
say they will no longer recognise presbyters composed partly of 
Presbyterians and partly of Congregationalists, then the whole 
case is decided ; for it all turns on this one point. All that the 
Assembly did is included in that one declaration. They knew 
that all the presbyteries of the Western Reserve were thus organ- 
ized, and they therefore said they could not any longer regard 
them as connected with the Presbyterian Church. They thought 
they had sufficient evidence that such was the fact also with regard 
to the presbyteries of the three synods in New York ; and they 
therefore made the same declaration with regard to them. In case, 
however, there was a mistake in any instance as to this point, it 
was ordered that any presbytery that could make it appear that 
its organization was purely Presbyterian, should so report itself to 


the next General Assembly. If the Presbyterians within these 
synods, chose to separate themselves from Congregationalists, 
they would place themselres out of the scope of the above men- 
tioned declaration, and no obstacle was placed in the way of their 
being recognised.* The whole question therefore is, whether this 
declaration of the General Assembly, with regard to mixed presby- 
teries, is constitutional and valid ? Can it be that such lawyers as 
Mr. Wood and Chancellor Kent have pronounced it to be " illegal 
and void ;" that the General Assembly is bound, to the end of 
time, to allow Congregationalists to sit in our judicatories, to 
decide on the standing of our ministers, to form and administer 
our laws, pronounce authoritatively on our doctrines, while they 
themselves neither adopt our Confession of Faith, nor submit to 
our form of government ? We can scarcely believe this to be 
possible. We are prepared to show, not that these distinguished 
gentlemen are bad lawyers, but that a false issue has been pre- 
sented to them, and that they have consequently given an opinion 
which has no relation to the real point in debate. We think it can 
be made to appear, that admitting every one of the legal princi- 
ples on which their opinion rests, the true point at issue is left 
untouched. The error is not in the law, but in the facts. We are 
not, therefore, about to enter the lists with these gentlemen as law- 
yers, but to show that their clients did not put them in possession 
of the real state of the case. It is no presumption on our part to 
claim to be better acquainted with the constitution of the Presby- 
terian church, and with the acts of the General Assembly, than the 
distinguished gentlemen above mentioned. 

As far as we can discover, the opinions of Mr. Wood and Chan- 
cellor Kentf rest on the following principles and assumptions. 1. 
That the Plan of Union was not of the nature of a contract per- 
petually binding. 2. That the General Assembly had authority to 
form that plan. 3. That long-continued usage and general acqui- 
escence forbid its constitutionality being now called into question. 
4. That the revision of the constitution, in 1821, after the forma- 
tion of the plan, was sufficient to sanction it ; no objection having 
then been made to it. 5. That the abrogation of the Plan of 1801 
could not affect that of 1808, and the churches formed under it. 
6. That the acts relating to the four synods were of the nature of 
a judicial process. 7. That previous notice and opportunity of 
being heard are essential to the validity of any such process. 8. 

* The General Assembly say, "The Assembly has made provision for the organi- 
zation into presbyteries and annexation to this body of all the ministers and churches 
who are thoroughly Presbyterian." — P. 452. 

t We do not make any particular reference to the opinion of Mr. Hopkins, for he 
expressly waves the great point at issue, viz., " the constitutional right of repealing 
the Plan of Union of 1801." However clear and just may be the legal principles 
which he advances, they do not, except so far as they are identical with those con- 
tained in the opinions of the other gentlemen, appear to us to have any bearing on 
the case. 


That the repeal of a law cannot annul or impair acts rightfully- 
done under its authority. 

1. As to the first of these points, Mr. Wood is very explicit. 
He says the Plan of Union was not a compact, " so as to render 
it obligatory on the General Assembly to carry into effect the mea- 

deem proper. It was a measure originating with and belonging 
exclusively to the General Assembly." This is no doubt, true. 
This concession is all that need be asked. The Assembly has 
done nothing more than is here admitted to be within their power. 
They have put an end to the operation of the Plan in question. 
On this point Chancellor Kent is not so explicit, and, we must take 
leave to say, is not quite consistent with himself. He, however, 
says expressly : "lam by no means of the opinion that the Pres- 
byterian churches were to be always bound by such agreements, 
when they are found to be ultimately injurious." This certainly 
means that the Presbyterian church was at liberty to set this 
agreement aside, when it proved to be injurious. The assent of 
the other party, he adds, " could not be decently withheld." At 
most, then, there was an error as to courtesy ; for no right is vio- 
lated in not asking for an assent which the other party had no 
right to withhold. The General Assembly, however, agreed with 
Mr. Wood, that this was a measure belonging exclusively to them- 
selves, and therefore did not think it necessary to make any appli- 
cation on the subject. 

2. These gentlemen think that the formation of this Plan was 
within the legitimate authority of the General Assembly. As this 
is a point relating to the construction of our own constitution, we 
feel at liberty to question the correctness of this opinion. It is on 
all hands admitted, that the Assembly has no authority to alter the 
constitution in the smallest particular. Does the Plan in question 
effect any such alteration ? The constitution prescribes one 
method in which churches are to be organized and governed, the 
Plan prescribes another ; the constitution lays down certain essen- 
tial qualifications for the members of our judicatories, the Plan 
dispenses with them ; the constitution grants the right of appeal in 
all cases, the Plan denies it. Are not these alterations ? We 
cannot conceive a plainer point. 

3. It is said, however, that long-established usage and general 
acquiescence have great effect in determining the rights and 
powers of bodies. We admit the principle as thus stated. It 
is, however, liable to many limitations. In the first place, it 
is applicable only to doubtful cases. " Where the intent of a 
statute is plain," say the Supreme Court of the United States, 
" nothing is left to construction."* " The constitution fixes 
limits to the exercise of legislative authority, and prescribes 

* Coxe's Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, &c, 
p. 183. 


the orbit in which it must move. Whatever may be the 
case in other countries, yet in this there can be no doubt that 
every act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is 
absolutely void." — P. 167. " The framers of the constitution must 
be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and 
to have intended what they have said ; and in construing the 
extent of the powers which it creates, there is no other rule than 
to consider the language of the instrument which confers them in 
connexion with the purposes for which they were conferred.'' — P. 
177. The rights and liberties of the people could in no country 
be preserved, if usage and precedent were allowed to close their 
mouths against oppressive and illegal acts When Charles I. 
claimed the right to give to his proclamations the force of law, and 
to exact money under the name of benevolences, and without 
consent of parliament, he could plead, especially for the former, 
the usage of a hundred years. Henry VIII., Elizabeth, James I. 
had, over and over, done the same thing. Parliament had been 
silent ; the people had acquiesced. Had the nation then lost its 
rights? Had Magna Charta become, by a contrary usage, a dead 
letter ? Was Hampden justly condemned for refusing to pay these 
exactions? Nine, indeed, out of the twelve judges, decided for usage 
against the constitution. But did this alter the matter? Does any 
one now think Hampden wrong and the judges right ? Under our 
own government it is a doubtful point whether congress have a 
right to establish a national bank. In this case, the decisions of the 
supreme court, the repeated acts of both houses of the legislature, 
the long-continued acquiescence of the people, might perhaps be 
allowed to settle the matter. But is this the fact? Does the 
country feel itself precluded from raising the constitutional objec- 
tion ? And if. instead of being a doubtful case, it were one of 
palpable violation of the constitution, does any one imagine that 
the plea of usage and acquiescence would be listened to a moment? 
Our General Assembly, though a representative and legislative 
body, was long in the habit of inviting any minister, who hap- 
pened to be present at its deliberations, to sit and vote as a 
corresponding member. No one objected. The thing went on, 
year after year, until it became an established usage. At last, 
however, when the church was enlarged, it was seen that this 
custom operated most unfairly on the distant portions, and was in 
fact subversive of the very character of the house as a represent- 
ative body. Could usage be pleaded in defence of such a rule, 
or against its abrogation? It was in equal violation of the consti- 
tution that the Assembly so long allowed the delegates of the New 
England Associations to vote in its meetings. For this agreement 
long usage might be urged. But does this prove either that the 
thing was right, or that the hands of the Presbyterian church were 
tied up so that they must forever submit to it? John Randolph 
said he never could forget that the book of Judges stood just 
before the Book of Kings. We do not admit the justice of the 


insinuation which he intended to convey by this remark. No 
country has less to fear or more to admire in its judges. But we 
do believe there is no principle more dangerous to the rights and 
liberties of nations and churches, than that usage may be set up 
in opposition to express constitutional provisions. 

A second limitation is suggested by Chancellor Kent himself, 
who says, this assent must be " given understandingly, and with a 
full knowledge of the facts." The acquiescence pleaded in behalf 
of the Plan of Union was not thus given. As first assented to, it 
was regarded as a mere temporary arrangement for a few frontier 
churches. It continued to be regarded as such for a long series of 
years. The distant portions of the church scarcely ever heard or 
thought of it, or had the least idea of the extent to which it had 
been carried. When they came to learn that it was the basis of 
entire synods containing hundreds of Congregational churches, 
they were astonished. This was a state of things of which they 
had not the least conception. The churches had no means of 
becoming acquainted with these facts. The reports of the western 
presbyteries to the General Assembly, the only source of inform- 
ation on this subject, do not, except in a few instances, state which 
of their churches are Congregational and which are Presbyterian. 
Thus in the minutes for last year, there are, we believe, less than 
half a dozen churches within the three synods, reported as Congre- 
gational, when, as appears from Rev. Mr. Wood's Pamphlet, there 
are at least one hundred and seventy-three.* The fidelity, candour 
and talent with which this report of Rev. Mr. Wood is prepared, 
entitle it to great confidence. He has performed a valuable ser- 
vice in spreading the information which it contains before the 
public. This is the more important as there seems to be a strong 
disinclination, on the part of those concerned, to allow the facts to 
be known. The Auburn convention appointed a committee on the 
statistics of the three synods, but no detailed report of the result 
of their labours, as far as we are informed, has been published. 
Seeing, therefore, that the churches generally knew little on this 
subject, it would be most unjust to infer acquiescence from igno- 
rance. Because the distant presbyteries long assented to here and 
there a solitary individual voting as a corresponding member in 
the General Assembly, is it believed they would consent, with their 
eyes open, to all the neighbouring synods thus voting ? In the 
present case the churches were ignorant of the facts ; they thought 
themselves assenting to one thing, which proves to be another. 
They thought themselves assenting to a plan for sustaining feeble 
churches in " new settlements ;" when it turns out to be, in their 
estimation, a plan for permanently establishing Congregationalism 
in the Presbyterian Church, to the entire subversion of its consti- 
tution. The plan, with good intentions no doubt, had been mon- 
strously perverted, both by extending and perpetuating it far 

* We quote from the second edition as published in the Presbyterian. 


beyond its original intention, and by an open disregard of its most 
import int provisions. All this was done silently ; the churches 
knew nothing about it. Can acquiescence, yielded under such cir- 
cumstances, be used either in proof of an acknowledgment of the 
authority of the Assembly to form the Plan, or in bar of its abro- 
gation 1 The argument from consent is used for both these pur- 
poses, though not by Mr. Wood. We are persuaded it is entirely 
worthless for either. 

4. It is argued that as the constitution was revised and amended 
in 1821, and as no objection was then made to the Plan of Union, 
it must be regarded as constitutional. Had these gentlemen been 
acquainted with the facts in the case, it is hardly possible they 
could have advanced this argument. The Plan of Union was 
nothing but a series of resolutions on the minutes of the General 
Assembly. The revision of the constitution afforded no occasion 
to express any opinion on this subject. It was never alluded to. 
And we presume there was not a single presbytery in the whole 
church that so much as thought of it, when they assented to 
amendments proposed to them. It seems to us a monstrous pro- 
position that the churches, in assenting to the rule that presbyteries 
must consist of ministers and ruling elders, are to be held to have 
thereby assented to their being composed of ministers and Con- 
gregational laymen. The only use that can be made of the fact 
referred to is, to show the church was not sufficiently aware of 
the danger of these unions, to lead it to insert an express prohibi- 
tion against any such violations of the constitution, on the part of 
the General Assembly. This, however, would be so completely a 
work of supererogation, that were the constitution to be revised 
to-morrow, we do not believe the strictest man in the church would 
think it necessary to insert one word on the subject. The silent 
revision of the constitution, therefore, affords no argument for the 
acknowledgment of the power of the Assembly to form the Plan 
of Union, nor for the assent of the churches to that Plan, supposing 
it to be a compact. Mr. Wood uses the fact for the one purpose ; 
Chancellor Kent for the other. 

5. The abrogation of the Plan of Union of 1801, it is said, could 
have no effect upon that of 1808, or on the churches received under 
it. This has always appeared to us the most extraordinary argu- 
ment connected with this whole subject. It is not surprising that 
these legal gentlemen, being told that all the Congregational 
churches wiihin the three synods came into connexion with us, 
under the latter, and not under the former Plan, should say just 
what they have said. But it is surprising that the assertion upon 
which the argument is founded, should ever have been made. 
The Plan of 1808, according to the extracts from the minutes of 
the synod of Albany, published in the New York Observer, Sept. 
12, 1835, and in the Presbyterian, Sept. 16, 1837, arose out of a 
request of the synod of Albany to the General Assembly to sanc- 
tion their union and correspondence, upon certain terms, with the 


Middle Association, and the Northern Association Presbytery. 
To this request the Assembly acceded. The former of these 
boHies, according to the report of 1809, embraced twenty-one 
churches, the latter, as we understand, about twelve or fifteen. 
Here then was permission to receive, on certain conditions, two 
definite ecclesiastical bodies, with their thirty-three or thirty-six 
churches. Can any one conceive how permission to receive thirty- 
six churches can be tortured into a permission to receive two hun- 
dred ? The number received must indeed far exceed two hundred ; 
for almost the entire basis of three synods, embracing upwards 
of four hundred churches, was the Congregational churches 
of that region.* Yet we are gravely told that all these churches 
were received in virtue of the permission to receive the two bodies 
just mentioned, with their thirty-six congregations. We do not 
understand this ; and those who make the assertion are bound to 
explain it. What do the Auburn convention mean by saying, 
" The whole territory embracing the three synods of New York 
came into connexion with the Presbyterian church, so far as they 
were Congregationalists," in virtue of the Plan of 1808. Does 
this mean that the Assembly, in consenting to receive two ecclesi- 
astical bodies, consented to receive the whole territory covered 
by the three synods, and therefore all the churches which then 
existed, or have since been formed upon it ? If this explanation 
is too monstrous to be possible, what does it mean ? There is no 
clause in the agreement which admits of its indefinite extension 
It refers to those two bodies as then constituted, and to no 
others. If, then, the Congregational churches within these synods 
did not come in under the Plan of 1801, there is not a shadow of 
a warrant for the connexion, as it relates to by far the greater por- 
tion of them. That plan is the only one which covers the whole 
ground. It permitted a union with Congregational churches 
wherever found. There is indeed a sense in which this plan does 
not reach the case of many, perhaps of most of these churches. 
It allowed of a connexion with those congregations only which 
were of a mixed character, and which had a standing committee 
as a substitute for a session. In a multitude of cases, however, 
churches purely Congregational have been allowed to come in 
under its sanction.^ The stated clerk of the presbytery of Buf- 

* Dr. Peters said on the floor of the Assembly, that the obligation resulting from 
the Plan of Union, " had now been transferred to a body twice, yes, five times as 
large as the Association of Connecticut. All these presbyteries and synods were 
not only organized on this Plan, but have called our ministers, &.c." This was said 
in reference to the plan of 1SUI, when we presume he knew as little of that of 1S0S 
as we did. We refer to the statement merely as an admission of the fact referred to 
in the text. 

f " The Plan of Union being adapted to a state of things where Congregationalists 
and Presbyterians were mingled in one congregation, and there being, in fact, in 
these churches, no Presbyterians, and none who understood their peculiar discipline, 
the churches were not in fact, strictly speaking, admitted on that Plan. In nine 
cases out of ten there were no standing committees, and the only difference between 
their then situation and their previous one, was the fact that one of the brethren 



falo says it was " an uniform rule in such cases'' to wink at this 
irregularity, " bv considering the whole church the standing com- 
mittee." We think, by the way, that Chancellor Kent would 
admit that here was such a "new circumstance" as would justify 
the abrogation even of a compact ; that an agreement to receive 
mixed churches is not an agreement to receive such as are purely 
Congregational. The conditions on which this Middle A.ssocia- 
tion°wal received were, 1. That it should assume our name ; 
though this was not insisted upon. 2. .That it should adopt our 
standards of doctrine and government. 3. That the congrega- 
tions, if they insist upon it, might manage their internal discipline 
agreeably to their old method, and that their delegates might sit as 
ruling elders. It is doubtful whether these conditions were com- 
plied with. Mr. Smith, the stated clerk of the synod of Albany, 
says the association acceded to the invitation (which in the first 
instance proceeded from themselves), "declining, however, the 
terms of adopting the standards" This may indeed be understood 
of the 'internal government of the churches. But if it refers to a 
refusal of the ministers to adopt our standards, then the whole thing 
is void, and the union never was sanctioned. This Plan then, at 
most, was nothing more than the permission to apply that of 1801, 
somewhat modified, to two ecclesiastical bodies. That this iso- 
lated fact should be made the basis of an obligation to receive all 
the Congregational churches in New York, is a perfect absurdity. 
Nothing can be plainer than that the General Assembly, in abo- 
lishing the Plan of Union, did, according to their own declaration, 
state that as the constitution does not recognise presbyteries com- 
posed partly of Presbyterians and partly of Congregationalists, 
they can no longer recognise them. If this declaration be consti- 
tutional and valid, it matters not now where these presbyteries 
may be found, whether in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylva- 
nia, Ohio, Illinois, or South Carolina; nor when, nor by what 
means they were organized and connected with the Presbyterian 
church. All this debate, therefore, about the Plan of 1801 and 
that of 1808, as we understand the action of the Assembly, has 
nothing to do with the subject. 

6. It is assumed that the acts of the General Assembly, relating 
to the four synods, were of the nature of a judicial process. 

7. That previous notice and opportunity of being heard are 
essential to the validity of any such process. These two points 
may be considered together. To begin with the latter. The 
correctness of the general principle which it states is readily 
admitted. There are, however, exceptions to it. The grand 
object of a judicial investigation is to arrive at a knowledge of 
facts ; and the design of the various rules directing how such inves- 

occasionally went as a delegate to Presbytery, who was regularly returned in their 
minutes as an elder." See the Circular Letter of the Association of Western New 
York, N. Y. Evangelist, Nov. 21, 1830. The above statement is made with special 
reference to the churches west of the Genesee river. 


tigation is to be conducted, is to prevent misapprehension or per- 
version of those facts. There may, however, be cases so clear 
and notorious as to supersede the necessity of any such investiga- 
tion, and to free any court from the obligation to observe those 
rules. It is a general principle that no man can be deprived of his 
liberty or property but by due process of law. Yet a judge may 
send any man to jail without trial, for a contempt committed in 
open court. In like manner, were any minister to be guilty of open 
profaneness in the presence of his presbytery, he might be sus- 
pended or deposed by a simple vote. Or if a presbytery or synod 
had publicly and officially rejected the standards of the church, 
and avowed heresy, they might be declared out of the church by 
a vote of a superior judicatory. In all such cases, however, the 
offence must be public and flagrant. We make these remarks, not 
because they have any bearing on the present case, but because, 
having admitted the principle, it was necessary to state the limit- 

This principle can have nothing to do with the case of the four 
synods, except on the assumption that the acts of the Assembly in 
relation to them were of a judicial nature. This, however, the 
Assembly deny. They state explicitly that they do not intend 
"to affect in any way the ministerial standing of any members of 
either of the said synods ; nor to disturb the pastoral relation in 
any church ; nor to interfere with the duties or relations of private 
Christians in their respective congregations," but simply to declare 
in what relation they stand to the Presbyterian church. The 
ground of this declaration is not error in doctrine, nor immoralities 
in conduct, nor any other judicial offence ; it is simply and solely 
unconstitutional organization. A General Assembly may assuredly 
entertain the question, whether an inferior judicatory is constituted 
according to the requirements of our form of government ; and a 
decision of that question in the negative, is not a judicial decision. 
The Assembly first abrogate the Plan of Union, and then say they 
consider that abrogation as putting an end to their connexion with 
all bodies formed in pursuance of that Plan. This is no more a 
judicial process than the severing our connexion with the Reformed 
Dutch church, or the Association of New Hampshire, would be. 

The "gross disorders" mentioned in the second resolution, in 
relation to the three synods of New York, are not mentioned as the 
ground of the declarative act contained in the first resolution, but 
merely as an inducement for the immediate decision of the whole 
subject. Not one word is said of erroneous doctrine, nor of any 
other disorders than those connected with the Plan of Union.* The 
Assembly simply say that the fact that the Plan has been abused, 
greatly increased their desire to put an end to its operation. All 

*The Assembly say, " Gross disorders which are ascertained to have prevailed in 
those synods, it being made clear to us that the Plan of Union itself was never con- 
sistently carried into effect by those professing to act under it." The disorders 
referred to, therefore, were irregularities connected with that Plan. 


the remarks, therefore, in these legal opinions, about the injustice of 
a condemnation founded on vague charges and uncertain rumours, 
though true and important, have no relation to the present case. 
These synods were not judged on the ground of vague charges, 
nor on the evidence of uncertain rumours. They were not judged 
at all. The principle that the constitution does not recognise 
mixed presbyteries was applied to them ; and it was left to their 
decision, whether they would continue in this mixed condition and 
stay out of the church, or separate from Congregationalism and 
come in. They have, it appears, decided for the former. 

There are two misapprehensions in Mr. Wood's opinion which 
ought to be corrected. He seems to think that the ground of the 
decision of the Assembly was the previous, and not the present 
condition of these churches and presbyteries. " If a congregation," 
he says, "at present Presbyterian, were originally infidels, that 
circumstance would not furnish a reason for cutting them off from 
their ecclesiastical connexion." Certainly not. And no church 
or presbytery is now cut off, because it once was Congregational. 
It is the present mixed character of the ecclesiastical bodies effected 
by the action of the Assembly, which was the ground and reason 
of their exclusion. 

The second misapprehension is nearly allied to the former, and 
runs through the whole opinion. He supposes the declaration of 
the Assembly to relate to purely Presbyterian bodies, and to 
deprive them of their acknowledged rights. This, however, is not 
the fact. No regularly organized church is affected by that decla- 
ration except in virtue of its connexion with a mixed presbytery, 
and even then, only so far as to require it to seek a new presbyte- 
rial connexion. And no regularly organized presbytery is affected 
by it, except by being required to make its regularity known. The 
Assembly has not assumed the power of cutting off any regular 
ecclesiastical body. It has simply said it will no longer recognise 
mixed ones. Churches being connected with the Assembly only 
through their presbyteries, they can, even when regular, maintain 
that connexion in no other way than being connected with a 
regular presbytery. If their presbytery be disowned, they must 
join another, if they wish to continue the connexion. If a Presby- 
terian church, no matter how regular it may be, should put itself 
under the care of an Association, or any other body not in con- 
nexion with the General Assembly, it would be separated from us. 
And by parity of reason, if it continues in connexion with a body 
which the Assembly say they can no longer recognise, it forfeits 
its rights. But then it is its own act, not that of the Assembly. 

8. Finally, it is said the repeal of a law cannot annul or impair 
acts rightfully done under its authority. This, too, we cheerfully 
admit. The law, however, must be a constitutional one ; other- 
wise it is no law ; it is a nullity. Our new-school brethren pro- 
nounce certain acts of the last Assembly null and void. If so, 
would it be right to deprive their commissioners of a seat in the 



next Assembly, under its authority ? They no doubt agree with 
us that nothing can be valid which rests upon an unconstitutional 
enactment. The principle above stated, however, has no applica- 
tion to the present case. The Assembly do not propose to annul 
or impair any acts rightfully done, even under the Plan of Union. 
No church or presbytery is to be cast off because it was originally 
organized under that Plan. The Assembly propose to act on the 
simple principle that the repeal of a law puts an end to its author- 
ity. It was formerly the law, whether right or wrong, that Con- 
gregationalists might sit in our presbyteries and be represented in 
the General Assembly. This is the law no longer. Of course 
they cannot now thus sit, or be thus represented. This is the 
whole case. It is a case with but one point in it. Has the Gene- 
ral Assembly a right to put an end to the Plan of Union ? or, is it 
bound to the end of time, to allow Congregationalists to be repre- 
sented in all our church courts, and to make laws for us, to which 
they will not themselves submit ? On this point the judgment of 
Mr. Wood is clear and explicit. " But supposing," he says, " the 
assent of the Association to have been indispensable : when it was 
given they had nothing further to do with the Plan. It then became 
the measure of the General Assembly alone, to be dropped, or 
acted upon, or modified, as they should deem advisable." It is upon 
this undoubted right the Assembly have acted. Nor have they gone 
beyond it. They have simply declared they will no longer 
allow what that Plan freely permitted. If therefore commission- 
ers come up as the representatives in whole or in part of Congre- 
gational churches, that is, delegated by presbyteries in which those 
churches are entitled to a vote, they cannot, consistently with the 
abrogation of that Plan, be allowed to take their seats. Should 
any one deny the propriety or justice of Presbyterians thus refus- 
ing to be governed by Christians of another denomination, when 
they conscientiously believe their doctrines and discipline are 
thereby seriously endangered, he certainly is entitled to his opinion, 
but we cannot think it worth while to try to convince him of his 

We think we have now redeemed our promise, to show that the 
conclusions at which these legal gentlemen have arrived, are 
founded on false assumptions as to facts.* All the legal principles 
which they advance may be freely admitted, without at all affect- 
ing the real question at issue. One of them expressly, the other 
virtually, concedes the point on which the whole case depends. 

* There cannot be a clearer proof of the ignorance in which these gentlemen were 
left of the proceedings of the Assembly than the following remark of Mr. Wood. 
" The dissolution of the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia," he says, " is, I think, 
subject to the same objection of want of notice and opportunity of defence." This 
act of the Assembly is thus placed in the same category with those relating to the 
four synods, though it is of an entirely different character. The dissolution of a 
presbytery does not disconnect its members with the Presbyterian church. The 
erection, division, or dissolution of presbyteries, occurs more or less every year, and 
in the regular operation of our system. 


They admit that the General Assembly had the right to disconnect 
itself from the trammels of the Plan of Union ; to resolve that they 
would no longer carry it into effect; that they could not allow 
Congregationalists, or their representatives, any longer to take 
part in the government of the Presbyterian church. If this is 
constitutional, valid, and proper, the case appears to us to be decid- 
ed. Every presbytery within the four synods is, more or less, of 
a mixed character. Their commissioners, therefore, must appear 
as the representatives of Congregationalists as well as of Presby- 
terians, and consequently can be entitled to their seats only on the 
assumption that the abrogation of the Plan of Union is illegal and 

Supposing this first step, marked out in the course proposed by 
our new-school brethren, to be decided by the commissioners from 
all mixed presbyteries, being refused a seat in the next Assembly, 
what is to be the next step 1 This has not been very clearly 
stated. It has, however, been often said, and, if we understand 
the meaning of the resolutions of several of their public bodies, 
publicly intimated, that it is proposed that these commissioners 
and those who agree with them, should withdraw and organize 
themselves as the true General Assembly of the Presbyterian 
church in the United States. We do not know that this measure 
will be attempted. It is, however, so important, that it may not 
be improper to inquire for a moment into its probable results. 
There would then be two bodies, each claiming to be the General 
Assembly. We are not lawyers enough to say how the point at 
issue between them might be brought before a civil tribunal, but 
we presume a question as to the ownership of some property 
might easily be raised, which should turn on this point. Suppos- 
ing this to be done, how would the case stand ? 

It is on all hands admitted that the only point for the court to 
decide, is, to whom the property in controversy belongs. In order 
that any claimants should make out their ownership to the pro- 
perty of a religious society, or to any part of it, they must make 
it appear that they are members of that society. Mr. Wood tells 
us, " Though a religious society has an equitable beneficial inte- 
rest in property held in trust for them, yet they take it, not in their 
individual, but in their social capacity ; they take it as members, 
and only so long as they have the qualifications of members."* 
Again, on p. 54, he says, "An individual having an interest in pro- 
perty thus held, has not a vested interest. He is benefited by it 
in his social capacity, and when he of himself and others with him, 
forming a party, cease to be members, from whatever cause, of 
that particular society, they cease to have an interest in the pro- 
perty of that society." Governor Williamson, the other counsel 
in this case, teaches the same doctrine. " If they withdraw and 

* See the Arguments of the Counsel of John Hendrickson, in a case (the Quaker 
case) decided in the court of chancery of New Jersey, p. 9. 


establish a new society, .... they cease to be members of the 
original society, and they cease to have any claim to the property 
when they cease to be members, their claim being merely as mem- 
bers, not as individuals." P. 164. 

What then is necessary to constitute membership ? Being the 
majority of the individuals of which the society was composed, 
does not decide the point. Suppose the majority of a Protestant 
society should become Roman Catholics or Mahommedans, would 
they constitute the original society, or continue members of it ? 
This is a point very plain in itself, and happily one on which the 
authorities are very explicit and united. Mr. Wood tells us, 
" That when a majority of a church secede .... those that 
remain, though a minority, constitute the church .... and retain 
the property belonging thereto." " The secession of the majority 
of the members would have no other effect than a temporary 
absence would have on a meeting which had been regularly sum- 
moned." P. 54. " It matters not," says Mr. Williamson, " how 
many go, or how many stay ; if five remain, or if only one remain, 

the trust must remain for the benefit of that one Suppose 

the majority of the meeting had become Presbyterians, would they 
still be the same preparative meeting, or could they take the pro- 
perty with them ?" P. 110. " The principle of majority has never 
been made the ground of decision in the case of a schism in a 
congregation or religious society. Such a principle is not to be 
found in our law books or systems of equity." P. 166. If this 
point does not depend upon numbers, upon what does it depend ? 
There are two things necessary to membership in a religious soci- 
ety, adherence to its doctrines and submission to its discipline. 
This also is very plain. The doctrines of many religious socie- 
ties are the same ; as, for example, the Reformed Dutch, the Pres- 
byterian, the German Reformed. A member of the one is not, on 
that account, a member of the other. And though he maintains 
the same doctrines, if he disconnect himself from one society and 
either joins, or in connexion with others organizes another, his 
membership with the former, and all the rights accruing from it, 
cease of course. It is hardly necessary to quote authorities for a 
truth so obvious. When a certain portion of the Dutch church 
withdrew and claimed to be the true Reformed Dutch church, the 
case was decided against them on this very ground. They had 
separated from the constituted authorities of the church, and 
thereby forfeited their membership, though they retained their doc- 
trines. " These persons," says Chief Justice Ewing, " after they 
withdrew, did not continue members of the Reformed Dutch 
church simply because they held the same religious faith and 
tenets with the members of that ecclesiastical body."* 

Where there is in any religious society a regular series of 
depending judicatories, as in our case, the session, presbytery, synod 

* See Halsted's Reports, vol. vii., p. 214. 


and General Assembly, the question of membership depends on 
communion with the supreme judicatory. A session or presbytery, 
not in communion with the true General Assembly, is not a session 
or presbytery of the Presbyterian Church. In the society of 
Friends there are preparative, monthly, quarterly, and yearly 
meetings in regular subordination ; hence a preparative meeting, 
not in connexion with the regular yearly meeting, does not belong 
to that society. This was the point on which the great Quaker 
case, so often referred to, principally turned. J. EL, the treasurer 
of the preparative meeting of Chesterfield, had loaned $2000 to 
T. S., the interest of which he had received for a series of years. 
In 1828, however, a schism occurred in that meeting. One party, 
the orthodox, withdrew, the other, being the majority, remained 
and appointed S. D. their treasurer. Here then were two trea- 
surers, both claiming the right to receive from T. S. the interest 
on the loan of $2000. T. S. applies to the Court of Chancery to 
compel them to decide their claims, that he might know to whom to 
pay the money. The immediate question for the court to decide 
was, who was the true treasurer ; and this of course depended 
on which was the true preparative meeting. To determine this 
it was inquired which is in connexion with the yearly meeting 
through the intervening links of a regular monthly and quarterly 
meeting? It then appeared that there were two bodies claiming 
to be the regular yearly meeting, the one meeting in Arch street, 
the other in Green street, Philadelphia. The preparative meeting 
of Chesterfield, of which J. H. was treasurer, was in connexion 
with the former ; that of which S. D. was treasurer, was in con- 
nexion with the latter. The question now was, which was the 
true yearly meeting ? the orthodox in Arch street, or the Hicksites 
in Green street? On the decision of this question the whole case 
depended. It appeared that for more than a hundred years, there 
had been a yearly meeting of the society in Philadelphia, con- 
tinued by regular appointment. This meeting was held in 1827 
at the prescribed time and place, both parties being present and 
participating in the business; and when it adjourned, it was appointed 
to meet at the same time and place on the following year. Accord- 
ingly a body did thus meet in 1828. This was the orthodox meet- 
ing. In the meantime, however, the opposite party, dissatisfied with 
the proceedings of the meeting of 1827, had appointed a yearly 
meeting to be held at a different time and at a different place from 
those prescribed at the regular adjournment of the yearly meeting 
of 1827. Agreeably to this appointment, a yearly meeting assem- 
bled in Green street, claiming to be the ancient yearly meeting of 
the society of Friends. Here then were two bodies laying claim 
to the same character. As the orthodox meeting in Arch street 
met agreeably to adjournment, at the time and place regularly pre- 
scribed, the presumption was of course in its favour. Those who 
called the other meeting, and its defenders, were obliged to assume 
and to attempt to prove, that the regular yearly meeting of 1827 


had, by its proceedings, destroyed itself, and therefore that the 
meeting assembled by its direction, in lf>28, was not the regular 
successor of the ancient yearly meeting of the society. As they 
failed in this attempt, judgment was given against them. 

In like manner, on the supposition that our new-school brethren 
should organize themselves as the General Assembly, to substan- 
tiate their claim they must prove that the body from which they 
withdrew has forfeited its legal existence. The burden must lie 
on them. The presumption of course will be in favour of the 
body which shall assemble agreeably to the requisition of the 
General Assembly of 1837, and be constituted in the ordinary 
manner. This presumption will be greatly strengthened by the 
fact, that these brethren must recognise its character, by claiming 
their seats in it as the General Assembly. They will be driven 
therefore to prove that its refusal to admit them destroys its nature, 
so that it ceases to be what it was before that refusal, the General 
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. It 
matters not where the controversy about property may begin ; 
whether it be a suit between two sets of trustees of an individual 
congregation, or between two men, each claiming to be the trea- 
surer of the General Assembly ; to this point it must come, and 
upon this hinge the case must turn. Is the General Assembly 
destroyed by its refusal to acknowledge the rights of the delegates 
from mixed presbyteries to take their seats as members ? Must it 
continue to allow Congregationalists to take part in the govern- 
ment of our church, or cease to be the General Assembly? 

It appears from what has already been said, that the decision of 
this question cannot depend upon the number of delegates who may 
choose to withdraw. It matters not whether they are a minority 
or majority ; if they have a quorum behind, it is the General 
Assembly, unless it can be proved to have destroyed itself. As 
courts of chancery have the right to protect trusts and to prevent 
their abuse or perversion, it is certainly possible for the highest 
authority of a church so to act as to forfeit its claim to the pro- 
perty of the society which it represents. In order to this, how- 
ever, it must openly renounce either the faith or discipline of the 
society. Had the yearly meeting of 1827, of which the Hicksites 
complained, and from which they separated, declared themselves 
Presbyterians or Episcopalians, they could no longer be regarded 
as the yearly meeting of the society of Friends. Majorities are 
not omnipotent. " They have no power," says Mr. Wood, " to 
break up the original landmarks of the institution. They have no 
power to divert the property held by them in their social capacity 
from the special purpose for which it was bestowed. They could 
not turn a Baptist society into a Presbyterian society, or a Quaker 
into an Episcopalian society. They could not pervert an institu- 
tion and its funds formed for trinitarian purposes, to anti-trinitarian 
purposes." P. 53. Mr. Williamson says, " If the superior churches 
change their doctrines, the subordinate ones are not bound to 


change theirs. If a part of the head changes its doctrines, and a 
part of the subordinate branches change theirs also, then those 
who separate and form a new head, will lose their right to the pro- 
perty ; but if there is no dispute about doctrine, those who sepa- 
rate from the head will be considered as seceders, and will lose the 
benefit of the property. If the whole head changes its religious 
principles, the society which separates from it, and adheres to the 
religious principles of the society, will not lose its rights." P. 165. 
A case strongly confirming this last position is cited by Mr. Wood, 
p. 55. A large part of a congregation left the jurisdiction of one 
of the Scotch synods. But they claimed to hold the property on 
the ground that they were the true church, inasmuch as they 
adhered to the original doctrines of the church, and they alleged 
that the synod had departed from those doctrines. The court 
below decided in favour of the party who still adhered to the synod. 
In the House of Lords where Lord Eldon presided, the court under 
his advice decided, that if these allegations of the seceders were 
true, they were entitled to the property, notwithstanding their 
secession. It being determined, however, that there was no depar- 
ture from the faith of the church on the part of the synod, judg- 
ment was given against the seceders. We admit, therefore, that 
it is possible for the supreme judicatory of the church to take such 
a course as to forfeit their character and authority, and to justify 
a portion of its members in withdrawing from it as no longer the 
supreme judicatory of the church to which they belong. It is obvi- 
ous, however, that nothing short of such a dereliction of the 
doctrines or order of the church as is a real rejection of its faith or 
form of government, can work such a result. It is not pretended 
that the Assembly has departed from the doctrines of the Confes- 
sion of Faith ; the only question therefore can be, whether the rejec- 
tion of the delegates from mixed presbyteries is so inconsistent 
with our form of government, that the Assembly, which decides on 
such a measure, ceases to be the General Assembly of the Presby- 
terian church ? Nothing short of this will suffice to establish the 
claim of the opposite party. " If this new society have separated 
from us," says Governor Williamson, "if they have withdrawn ; 
if they cannot show that the original meeting was dissolved, they 
can have no claim to the property." P. 164. It is not enough, 
therefore, that the court should disapprove of any particular act of 
the Assembly, thinking it uncalled for or severe ; they must pro- 
nounce that it is a secession from the Presbyterian church ; that it 
is such a renunciation of its doctrines or discipline as to justify its 
being deprived of its legal existence and privileges. As the simple 
question is, Which of the conflicting bodies is the General Assem- 
bly ? the new one cannot be recognised as such, except on the 
assumption that the old one is destroyed ; destroyed too by the exer- 
cise of an undoubted constitutional right, viz. that of judging of the 
qualifications of its own members. This right is inherent in every 
representative and legislative body, and is essential to its indepen- 


dence and purity. It is a right, moreover, from the exercise of 
which there is no appeal. To whom can an excluded member 
of the House of Commons look for redress from its decision 
that he is not entitled to a seat ? To what court can the repre- 
sentatives elect from Mississippi now appeal from what they 
regard as an unjust decision of the House of Representatives, 
denying them their right as members ? What would our religious 
liberties be worth, if this privilege were denied to religious bodies ? 
if they were not allowed to say who do, and who do not conform 
to the standards of their church ? or if every decision of an 
Episcopal convention, or Methodist conference, were liable to be 
brought under the review of the secular courts ? " While the 
law," says Mr. Wood, " protects individuals, it would be short- 
sighted indeed if it did not protect religious societies in their social 
capacity." They are to be protected in the maintenance of their 
doctrines and discipline, and in the preservation of their property. 
" How," he asks, " are they to be protected in these important 
particulars ? By guaranteeing to them the power of purgation, of 
lopping off dead and useless branches, of clearing out those who 
depart essentially from the fundamental doctrines and discipline of 
the society." P. 5. That is, by guaranteeing to them the right 
of judging of the qualifications of their own members. This right 
has ever been respected. " In determining the great question of 
secession (and of course of membership) the court," says the same 
legal authority," always looks to the highest ecclesiastical tribunal, 
which exercises a superintending control over the inferior judica- 
tories." P. 56. He refers to a case in New York, in which it 
was decided " that the adjudication of the highest ecclesiastical 
tribunal upon this matter (the standing and membership of a minis- 
ter) was conclusive on the subject." He quotes also from Halsted's 
Reports to prove that the dissatisfied party cannot get clear of 
such decision " by changing their allegiance." In the case 
referred to, Chief Justice Ewing says, that civil courts are bound 
to give respect and effect to the constitutional decisions of eccle- 
siastical judicatories, " without inquiring into the truth or suffici- 
ency of the alleged grounds of the sentence." 7 Halsted, p. 220. 
" The decision of the church judicatory would not be final, if 
we may afterwards examine its merits. ... If we ask, as 
we doubtless may do, by what warrant individuals exercise the 
powers and duties of ministers, elders and deacons (who were the 
trustees of the property in controversy), they may answer, by an 
election, appointment, or call, the validity of which has been 
decided and sustained by the superior judicatory to which the 
congregation is subordinate. Such being the fact, ulterior inquiry 
on our part is closed, and I think with much propriety and wisdom." 
P. 223. There would be no security for church property if this 
principle were not admitted. What would be thought of a decision 
which should strip Trinity Church of its property for an act 
sanctioned as regular and constitutional by all the authorities of 


the Episcopal Church ? We have in our own church many men 
who are avowed anti-sectarians ; who think* that the barriers 
which separate the different denominations of Christians should be 
broken down. It is a possible case, that men of these opinions 
should have on some occasion, an accidental majority in the 
General Assembly. Suppose they should avail themselves of the 
opportunity to enact a Plan of Union, by which, not the favoured 
Congregationalist only, but the Episcopalian, the Baptist, and even 
the Papist, should be allowed to sit and vote in all our presbyteries. 
This would be hailed with delight by many as the commencement 
of a new era, as the adoption of " a principle that could stand the 
test of the millennium." Would it then be all over with the Pres- 
byterian Church ? Must its General Assembly forfeit its existence 
and be deprived of all its property, should it repeal this Plan, and 
refuse to recognise presbyteries thus constituted ? We have no 
fear that any decision so subversive of established principles, so 
destructive of the rights and liberties of ecclesiastical bodies will 
ever be made. 

We should think the monstrous injustice of any decision which 
could answer the purpose of our new-school brethren, must alarm 
the conscience of the most obdurate man in the country. Here, in 
the event supposed, are two bodies claiming to be the General 
Assembly. The one, continued by regular succession, is the repre- 
sentative of those by whom almost the whole of the property held 
by their trustees has been contributed. The other, the represent- 
ative of some three or four hundred Congregational churches, and 
of about an equal number of Presbyterian ones, most of which 
were originally Congregational. It is proposed to apply for a 
decision which shall declare this mixed body the true Presbyterian 
Church, and as such entitled to all the property collected and 
funded by the other party ! And for what reason ? Because the 
regular Assembly has resolved not to allow Congregationalists to 
vote, or to be represented in Presbyterian judicatories. We doubt 
not that every good man on the opposite side would rather see 
the property at the bottom of the ocean, than that any such deci- 
sion should be made. 



Every one must be sensible that a very great change has, within 
a few years, been produced in the feelings, if not in the opinions 
of the public in relation to slavery. It is not long since the 
acknowledgment was frequent at the south, and universal at the 
north, that it was a great evil. It was spoken of in the slave- 
holding states, as a sad inheritance fixed upon them by the cupidity 
of the mother-country in spite of their repeated remonstrances. 
The known sentiments of Jefferson were reiterated again and again 
in every part of his native state ; and some of the strongest 
denunciations of this evil, and some of the most ardent aspirations 
for deliverance from it ever uttered in the country, were pro- 
nounced, but a few years since, in the legislature of Virginia. A 
proposition to call a convention, with the purpose of so amending 
the constitution of the state as to admit of the general emancipa- 
tion of the slaves, is said to have failed in the legislature of Ken- 
tucky by a single vote.f The sentiments of the northern states 
had long since been clearly expressed, by the abolition of slavery 
within their limits. That the same opinions and the same feelings 
continued to prevail among them, may be inferred, not only from 
the absence of all evidence to the contrary, but from various 
decisive indications of a positive character. In the year 1828 a 
resolution was passed by an almost unanimous vote in the legisla- 
ture of Pennsylvania, instructing their Senators in Congress to 
endeavour to procure the passage of a law abolishing slavery in 
the District of Columbia. In 1829 a similar resolution was adopt- 
ed by the assembly of New York. In 1828 a petition to this effect 
was presented to Congress, signed by one thousand inhabitants of 
the District itself ; and the House of Representatives instructed 
the proper committee, in 1829, to inquire into the expediency of 

* Originally published in 1836, in review of " Slavery. By William E. Chan- 

t It is probable that many reasons combined to make a convention desirable to 
those who voted for it. But to get rid of slavery, was said to be one of the most 


the measure.* How altered is the present state of the country ! 
Instead of lamentations and acknowledgments, we hear from the 
south the strongest language of justification. And at the north, 
opposition to the proceedings of the anti-slavery societies seems 
to be rapidly producirig a public feeling in favour of slavery itself. 
The freedom of discussion, the liberty of the press, and the 
right of assembling for consultation, have in some cases been 
assailed, and in others trampled under foot by popular violence. 
What has produced this lamentable change? No doubl, many 
circumstances have combined in its production. We think, how- 
ever, that all impartial observers must acknowledge, that by far 
the most prominent cause is the conduct of the abolitionists. They 
indeed naturally resist this imputation ; and endeavour to show its 
injustice by appealing to the fact that their opinions of slavery have 
been entertained and expressed by many of the best men of former 
days. This appeal, however, is by no means satisfactory. The 
evil in question has been produced by no mere expression of 
opinion. Had the abolitionists confined themselves to their pro- 
fessed object, and endeavoured to effect their purpose by arguments 
addressed to the understandings and consciences of their fellow- 
citizens, no man could have any reason to complain. Under ordi- 
nary circumstances, such arguments as those presented on this 
subject in Dr. Wayland's Elements of Moral Science, and in Dr. 
Channing's recent publication, would have been received with 
respect and kindness in every part of the country. We make this 
assertion, because the same sentiments, more offensively, and less 
ably urged, have heretofore been thus received. 

It is not by argument that the abolitionists have produced the 
present unhappy excitement. Argument has not been the charac- 
teristic of their publications. Denunciations of slaveholding, as 
man-stealing, robbery, piracy, and worse than murder ; consequent 
vituperation of slaveholders as knowingly guilty of the worst of 
crimes ; passionate appeals to the feelings of the inhabitants of the 
northern states ; gross exaggerations of the moral and physical 
condition of the slaves, have formed the staple of their addresses 
to the public. We do not mean to say that there has been no 
calm and Christian discussion of the subject. We mean merely to 
state what has, to the best of our knowledge, been the predominant 
character of the anti-slavery publications. There is one circum- 
stance which renders the error and guilt of this course of conduct 
chargeable, in a great measure, on the abolitionists as a body, and 
even upon those of their number who have pursued a different 
course. We refer to the fact that they have upheld the most 
extreme publications, and made common cause with the most 
reckless dcclaimers. The wildest ravings of the Liberator have 
been constantly lauded ; agents have been commissioned whose 
great distinction was a talent for eloquent vituperation ; coincidence 
of opinion as to the single point of immediate emancipation has 

* Jay's Inquiry, pp. 157, 161. 


been sufficient to unite men of the most discordant character. 
There is in this conduct such a strange want of adaptation 
between the means and the end which they profess to have in 
view, as to stagger the faith of most persons in the sincerity of 
their professions, who do not consider the extremes to which even 
good men may be carried, when they allow one subject to take 
exclusive possession of their minds. We do not doubt their sin- 
cerity ; but we marvel at their delusion. They seem to have 
been led by the mere impulse of feeling, and a blind imitation of 
their predecessors in England, to a course of measures, which, 
though rational under one set of circumstances, is the height 
of infatuation under another. The English abolitionists addressed 
themselves to a community, which, though it owned no slaves, 
had the power to abolish slavery, and was therefore responsible 
for its continuance. Their object was to rouse that community to 
immediate action. For this purpose they addressed themselves 
to the feelings of the people ; they portrayed in the strongest 
colours the misery of the slaves ; they dilated on the gratuitous 
crime of which England was guilty in perpetuating slavery, and 
did all they could to excite the passions of the public. This was the 
very course most likely to succeed, and it did succeed. Suppose, 
however, that the British parliament had no power over the subject; 
that it rested entirely with the colonial Assemblies to decide whether 
slavery should be abolished or not. Does any man believe the 
abolitionists would have gained their object ? Did they in fact 
make converts of the planters ? Did they even pretend that such 
was their design ? Every one knows that their conduct pro- 
duced a state of almost frantic excitement in the West India 
Islands ; that so far from the public feeling in England producing 
a moral impression upon the planters favourable to the condition 
of the slaves, its effect was directly the reverse. It excited them 
to drive away the missionaries, to tear down the chapels, to mani- 
fest a determination to rivet still more firmly the chains on their 
helpless captives, and to resist to the utmost all attempts for their 
emancipation or even improvement. All this was natural, though 
it was all, under the circumstances, of no avail, except to rouse the 
spirit of the mother country, and to endanger the result of the 
experiment of emancipation, by exasperating the feelings of the 
slaves. Precisely similar has been the result of the efforts of the 
American abolitionists as it regarded the slaveholders of America. 
They have produced a state of alarming exasperation at the south, 
injurious to the slave and dangerous to the country, while they 
have failed to enlist the feelings of the north. This failure has 
resulted, not so much from diversity of opinion on the abstract 
question of slavery, or from want of sympathy among northern 
men in the cause of human rights, as from the fact, that the com- 
mon sense of the public has been shocked by the incongruity and 
folly of hoping to effect the abolition of slavery in one country, by 
addressing the people of another. We do not expect to abolish des- 


potism in Russia, by getting up indignation-meetings in New York. 
Yet for all the purposes of legislation on this subject, Russia is not 
more a foreign country to us than South Carolina. The idea of induc- 
ing the southern slaveholder to emancipate his slaves by denuncia- 
tion, is about as rational as to expect the sovereigns of Europe to 
grant free institutions, by calling them tyrants and robbers. Could 
we send our denunciations of despotism among the subjects of those 
monarchs, and rouse the people to a sense of their wrongs and a 
determination to redress them, there would, be some prospect of 
success. But our northern abolitionists disclaim with great ear- 
nestness all intention of allowing their appeals to reach the ears 
of the slaves. It is therefore not to be wondered at, that the 
course pursued by the anti-slavery societies should produce exas- 
peration at the south, without conciliating sympathy at the north. 
The impolicy of their conduct is so obvious, that men who agree 
with them as to all their leading principles, not only stand aloof 
from their measures, but unhesitatingly condemn their conduct. 
This is the case with Dr. Channing. Although his book was writ- 
ten rather to repress the feeling of opposition to these societies, 
than to encourage it, yet he fully admits the justice of the principal 
charges brought against them. We extract a few passages on this 
subject. " The abolitionists have done wrong, I believe ; nor is 
their wrong to be winked at, because done fanatically, or with 
good intentions ; for how much mischief may be wrought with 
good designs ! They have fallen into the common error of enthu- 
siasts, that of exaggerating their object, of feeling as if no evil 
existed but that which they opposed, and as if no guilt could be 
compared with that of countenancing and upholding it. The tone 
of their newspapers, as far as I have seen them, has often been 
fierce, bitter, and abusive." P. 133. " Another objection to their 
movements is, that they have sought to accomplish their object by 
a system of agitation ; that is, by a system of affiliated societies 
gathered, and held together, and extended, by passionate elo- 
quence." " The abolitionists might have formed an association ; 
but it should have been an elective one. Men of strong princi- 
ples, judiciousness, sobriety, should have been carefully sought as 
members. Much good might have been accomplished by the co- 
operation of such philanthropists. Instead of this, the abolition- 
ists sent forth their orators, some of them transported with fiery 
zeal to sound the alarm against slavery through the land, to gather 
together young and old, pupils from schools, females hardly arrived 
at years of discretion, the ignorant, the excitable, the impetuous, and 
to organize these into associations for the battle against oppression. 
Very unhappily they preached their doctrine to the coloured people, 
and collected these into societies. To this mixed and excitable mul- 
titude, minute, heart-rending descriptions of slavery were given in the 
piercing tones of passion ; and slaveholders were held up as mon- 
sters of cruelty and crime." P. 136. " The abolitionists often speak 
of Luther's vehemence as a model to future reformers. But who, 


that has read history, does not know that Luther's reformation was 
accompanied by tremendous miseries and crimes, and that its pro- 
gress was soon arrested ? and is there not reason to fear, that the 
fierce, bitter, persecuting spirit, which he breathed into the work, 
not only tarnished its glory, but limited its power ? One great 
principle which we should lay down as immovably true, is, that if 
a good work cannot be carried on by the calm, self-controlled, 
benevolent spirit of Christianity, then the time for doing it has not 
come. God asks not the aid of our vices. He can overrule them 
for good, but they are not the chosen instruments of human hap- 
piness." P. 138. " The adoption of the common system of agita- 
tion by the abolitionists has proved signally unsuccessful. From 
the beginning it created alarm in the considerate, and strengthened 
the sympathies of the free states with the slaveholder. It made 
converts of a few individuals, but alienated multitudes. Its influ- 
ence at the south has been evil without mixture. It has stirred 
up bitter passions and a fierce fanaticism, which have shut 
every ear and every heart against its arguments and persuasions. 
These effects are the more to be deplored, because the hope of 
freedom to the slave lies chiefly in the dispositions of his master. 
The abolitionist indeed proposed to convert the slaveholders ; and 
for this end he approached them with vituperation and exhausted 
on them the vocabulary of abuse ! And he has reaped as he 
sowed." P. 142. 

Unmixed good or evil, however, in such a world as ours, is a 
very rare thing. Though the course pursued by the abolitionists 
has produced a great preponderance of mischief, it may incident- 
ally occasion no little good. It has rendered it incumbent on 
every man to endeavour to obtain, and, as far as he can, to com- 
municate definite opinions and correct principles on the whole 
subject. The community are very apt to sink down into indiffe- 
rence to a state of things of long continuance, and to content them- 
selves with vague impressions as to right and wrong on important 
points, when there is no call for immediate action. From this 
state the abolitionists have effectually roused the public mind. 
The subject of slavery is no longer one on which men are allowed 
to be of no mind at alj. The question is brought up before all our 
public bodies, civil and religious. Almost every ecclesiastical 
society has in some way been called to express an opinion on the 
subject ; and these calls are constantly repeated. Under these 
circumstances, it is the duty of all in their appropriate sphere, to 
seek for truth, and to utter it in love. 

" The first question," says Dr. Channing, " to be proposed by a 
rational being, is not what is profitable, but what is right. Duty 
must be primary, prominent, most conspicuous, among the objects 
of human thought and pursuit. If we cast it down from its supre- 
macy, if we inquire first for our interests and then for our duties, 
we shall certainly err. We can never see the right clearly and 
fully, but by making it our first concern Right is the 


supreme good, and includes all other goods. In seeking and 
adhering to it, we secure our true and only happiness. All pros- 
perity, not founded on it, is built on sand. If human affairs are 
controlled, as we believe, by almighty rectitude and impartial 
goodness, then to hope for happiness from wrong doing is as insane 
as to seek health and prosperity by rebelling against the laws of 
nature, by sowing our seed on the ocean, or making poison our 
common food. There is but one unfailing good ; and that is, 
fidelity to the everlasting law written on the heart, and re-written 
and republished in God's word. 

" Whoever places this faith in the everlasting law of rectitude 
must, of course, regard the question of slavery, first and chiefly, 
as a moral question. All other considerations will weigh little 
with him compared with its moral character and moral influences. 
The following remarks, therefore, are designed to aid the reader 
in forming a just moral judgment of slavery. Great truths, inalien- 
able rights, everlasting duties, these will form the chief subjects 
of this discussion. There are times when the assertion of great 
principles is the best service a man can render society. The pre- 
sent is a moment of bewildering excitement, when men's minds 
are stormed and darkened by strong passions and fierce conflicts ; 
and also a moment of absorbing worldliness, when the moral law 
is made to bow to expediency, and its high and strict requirements 
are decried or dismissed as metaphysical abstractions, or imprac- 
ticable theories. At such a season to utter great principles with- 
out passion, and in the spirit of unfeigned and universal good will, 
and to engrave them deeply and durably on men's minds, is to do 
more for the world than to open mines of wealth, or to frame the 
most successful schemes of policy." 

No man can refuse assent to these principles. The great ques- 
tion, therefore, in relation to slavery is, what is right ? What are 
the moral principles which should control our opinions and con- 
duct in regard to it ? Before attempting an answer to this ques- 
tion, it is proper to remark, that we recognise no authoritative rule 
of truth and duty but the word of God. Plausible as may be the 
arguments deduced from general principles to prove a thing to be 
true or false, right and wrong, there is almost always room for 
doubt and honest diversity of opinion. Clear as we may think the 
arguments against despotism, there ever have been thousands of 
enlightened and good men, who honestly believe it to be of all 
forms of government the best and most acceptable to God. Un- 
less we can approach the consciences of men, clothed with some 
more imposing authority than that of our own opinions and argu- 
ments, we shall gain little permanent influence. Men are too 
nearly upon a par as to their powers of reasoning and ability to 
discover truth, to make the conclusions of one mind an authorita- 
tive rule for others. It is our object, therefore, not to discuss the 
subject of slavery upon abstract principles, but to ascertain the 
scriptural rule of judgment and conduct in relation to it. We do 


not intend to enter upon any minute or extended examination of 
scriptural passages, because all that we wish to assume, as to the 
meaning of the word of God, is so generally admitted as to render 
the laboured proof of it unnecessary. 

It is on all hands acknowledged that at the time of the advent 
of Jesus Christ, slavery in its worst forms prevailed over the 
whole world. The Saviour found it around him in Judea ; the 
apostles met with it in Asia, Greece and Italy. How did they 
treat it ? Not by the denunciation of slave-holding as necessarily 
and universally sinful. Not by declaring that all slaveholders 
were men-stealers and robbers, and consequently to be excluded 
from the church and the kingdom of heaven. Not by insisting on 
immediate emancipation. Not by appeals to the passions of men 
on the evils of slavery, or by the adoption of a system of univer- 
sal agitation. On the contrary, it was by teaching the true nature, 
dignity, equality and destiny of men ; by inculcating the principles 
of justice and love; and by leaving these principles to produce 
their legitimate effects in meliorating the condition of all classes 
of society. We need not stop to prove that such was the course 
pursued by our Saviour and his apostles, because the fact is in 
general acknowledged, and various reasons are assigned by the 
abolitionists and others, to account for it. The subject is hardly 
alluded to by Christ in any of his personal instructions. The 
apostles refer to it, not to pronounce upon it as a question of 
morals, but to prescribe the relative duties of masters and slaves. 
They caution those slaves who have believing or Christian mas- 
ters, not to despise them because they were on a perfect religious 
equality with them, but to consider the fact that their masters 
were their brethren, as an additional reason for obedience. It is 
remarkable that there is not even an exhortation to masters to 
liberate their slaves, much less is it urged as an imperative and 
immediate duty. They are commanded to be kind, merciful and 
just ; and to remember that they have a Master in heaven. Paul 
represents this relation as of comparatively little account. " Let 
every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art 
thou called being a servant (or slave), care not for it; though, 
should the opportunity of freedom be presented, embrace it. 
These external relations, however, are of little importance, for 
every Christian is a freeman in the highest and best sense of the 
word, and at the same time is under the strongest bonds to Christ." 
1 Cor. vii., 20-22. It is not worth while to shut our eyes to 
these facts. They will remain, whether we refuse to see them 
and be instructed by them or not. If we are wiser, better, more 
courageous than Christ and his apostles, let us say so ; but it will 
do no good, under a paroxysm of benevolence, to attempt to tear 
the Bible to pieces, or to extort, by violent exegesis, a meaning 
foreign to its obvious sense. Whatever inferences may be fairly 
deducible from the fact, the fact itself cannot be denied that Christ 
and his inspired followers did treat the subject of slavery in the 


manner stated above. This being the case, we ought carefully to 
consider their conduct in this respect, and inquire what lessons 
that conduct should teach us. 

We think no one will deny that the plan adopted by the Saviour 
and his immediate followers must be the correct plan, and there- 
fore obligatory upon us, unless it can be shown that their circum- 
stances were so different from ours, as to make the rule of duty 
different in the two cases. The obligation to point out and esta- 
blish this difference rests of course upon those who have adopted 
a course diametrically the reverse of that which Christ pursued. 
They have not acquitted themselves of this obligation. They do 
not seem to have felt it necessary to reconcile their conduct with 
his ; nor does it appear to have occurred to them, that their violent 
denunciation of slaveholding and of slaveholders is an indirect 
reflection on his wisdom, virtue, or courage. If the present course 
of the abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apos- 
tles was wrong. For the circumstances of the two cases are, as far 
as we can see, in all essential particulars the same. They appeared 
as teachers of morality and religion, not as politicians. The same 
is the fact with our abolitionists. They found slavery authorized 
by the laws of the land. So do we. They were called upon to 
receive into the communion of the Christian Church, both slave- 
owners and slaves. So are we. They instructed these different 
classes of persons as to their respective duties. So do we. Where 
then is the difference between the two cases ? If we are right in 
insisting that slaveholding is one of the greatest of all sins ; that it 
should be immediately and universally abandoned as a condition of 
church communion, or admission into heaven ; how comes it that 
Christ and his apostles did not pursue the same course ? We see 
no way of escape from the conclusion that the conduct of the 
modern abolitionists, being directly opposed to that of the authors 
of our religion, must be wrong, and ought to be modified or aban- 

An equally obvious deduction from the fact above referred to, is, 
that slaveholding is not necessarily sinful. The assumption of the 
contrary is the great reason why the modern abolitionists have 
adopted their peculiar course. They argue thus : slaveholding is 
under all circumstances sinful ; it must, therefore, under all circum- 
stances, and at all hazards, be immediately abandoned. This rea- 
soning is perfectly conclusive. If there is error anywhere, it is in 
the premises and not in the deduction. It requires no argument to 
show that sin ought to be at once abandoned. Everything, there- 
fore, is conceded which the abolitionists need require, when it is 
granted that slaveholding is in itself a crime. But how can this 
assumption be reconciled with the conduct of Christ and the apos- 
tles ? Did they shut their eyes to the enormities of a great offence 
against God and man ? Did they temporize with a heinous evil 
because it was common and popular ? Did they abstain from even 
exhorting masters to emancipate their slaves, though an imperative 


duty, from fear of consequences ? Did they admit the perpetrators 
of the greatest crimes to the Christian communion? Who will 
undertake to charge the blessed Redeemer and his inspired follow- 
ers with such connivance at sin, and such fellowship with iniquity ? 
Were drunkards, murderers, liars, and adulterers, thus treated ? 
Were they passed over without even an exhortation to forsake 
their sins ? Were they recognised as Christians ? It cannot be 
that slaveholding belongs to the same category with these crimes ; 
and to assert the contrary is to assert that Christ is the minister 
of sin. 

This is a point of so much importance, lying as it does at the 
very foundation of the whole subject, that it deserves to be atten- 
tively considered. The grand mistake, as we apprehend, of those 
who maintain that slaveholding is itself a crime, is, that they do 
not discriminate between slaveholding in itself considered, and its 
accessories at any particular time or place. Because masters may 
treat their slaves unjustly, or governments make oppressive laws 
in relation to them, is no more a valid argument against the law- 
fulness of slaveholding, than the abuse of parental authority, or the 
unjust political laws of certain states, is an argument against the 
lawfulness of the parental relation, or of civil government. This 
confusion of points so widely distinct, appears to us to run through 
almost all the popular publications on slavery, and to vitiate their 
arguments. Mr. Jay, for example, quotes the second article of the 
constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society, which declares 
that " slaveholding is a heinous crime in the sight of God," and then, 
to justify this declaration, makes large citations from the laws of 
the several southern States, to show what the system of slavery is 
in this country, and concludes by saying, " This is the system 
which the American Anti-Slavery Society declares to be sinful, 
and ought therefore to be immediately abolished." There is, how- 
ever, no necessary connexion between his premises and conclusion. 
We may admit all those laws which forbid the instruction of slaves ; 
which interfere with their marital or parental rights ; which sub- 
ject them to the insults and oppression of the whites, to be in the 
highest degree unjust, without at all admitting that slaveholding 
itself is a crime. Slavery may exist without any one of these con- 
comitants. In pronouncing on the moral character of an act, it is 
obviously necessary to have a clear idea of what it is ; yet how few 
of those who denounce slavery have any well defined conception 
of its nature ! They have a confused idea of chains and whips, of 
degradation and misery, of ignorance and vice, and to this complex 
conception they apply the name slavery, and denounce it as the 
aggregate of all moral and physical evil. Do such persons suppose 
that slavery as it existed in the family of Abraham, was such as their 
imaginations thus picture to themselves ? Might not that patri- 
arch have had men purchased with his silver, who were well 
clothed, well instructed, well compensated for their labour, and in 
all respects treated with parental kindness ? Neither inadequate 


remuneration, physical discomfort, intellectual ignorance, moral 
degradation, is essential to the condition of a slave. Yet if all 
these ideas arc removed from the commonly received notion of 
slavery, how little will remain. All the ideas which necessa- 
rily enter into the definition of slavery are deprivation of personal 
liberty, obligation of service at the discretion of another, and the 
transferable character of the authority and claim of service of 
the master.* The manner in which men are brought into this 
condition, its continuance, and the means adopted for securing the 
authority and claim of masters, are all incidental and variable. 
They may be reasonable or unreasonable, just or unjust, at differ- 
ent times and places. The question, therefore, which the abolition- 
ists have undertaken to decide, is, not whether the laws enacted in 
the slaveholding states in relation to this subject are just or not, 
but whether slaveholding, in itself considered, is a crime. The 
confusion of these two points has not only brought the abolitionists 
into conflict with the scriptures, but it has, as a necessary conse- 
quence, prevented their gaining the confidence of the north, or 
power over the conscience of the south. When southern Chris- 
tians are told that they are guilty of a heinous crime, worse than 
piracy, robbery or murder, because they hold slaves, though 
they know that Christ and his apostles never denounced slave- 
holding as a crime, never called upon men to renounce it as a 
condition of admission into the church, they are shocked and 
offended, without being convinced. They are sure that their 
accusers cannot be wiser or better than their divine Master, and 
their consciences are untouched by denunciations which they know, 
if well founded, must affect not them only, but the authors of the 
religion of the Bible. 

The argument from the conduct of Christ and his immediate 
followers seems to us decisive on the point, that slaveholding, in 
itself considered, is not a crime. Let us see how this argument 
has been answered. In the able " Address to the Presbyterians of 
Kentucky, proposing a plan for the instruction and emancipation 
of their slaves, by a committee of the synod of Kentucky," there 
is a strong and extended argument to prove the sinfulness of slavery 
as it exists among us, to which we have little to object. When, 
however, the distinguished drafter of that address comes to answer 
the objection, " God's word sanctions slavery, and it cannot there- 
fore be sinful," he forgets the essential limitation of the proposition 
which he had undertaken to establish, and proceeds to prove that 
the Bible condemns slaveholding, and not merely the kind or sys- 
tem of slavery which prevails in this country. The argument 
drawn from the scriptures, he says, needs no elaborate reply. If 
the Bible sanctions slavery, it sanctioned the kind of slavery which 
then prevailed ; the atrocious system which authorized masters to 

• Paley's definition is still more simple: "I define," he says, "slavery to be an 
obligation to labour for the benefit of the master, without the contract or consent of 
the servant." Moral Philosophy, book iii., ch. 3. 


starve their slaves, to torture them, to beat them, to put them to 
death, and to throw them into their fish ponds. And he justly asks, 
whether a man could insult the God of heaven worse than by say- 
ing he does not disapprove of such a system ? Dr. Channing pre- 
sents strongly the same view, and says, that an infidel would be 
labouring in his vocation in asserting that the Bible does not con- 
demn slavery. These gentlemen, however, are far too clear-sighted 
not to discover, on a moment's reflection, that they have allowed 
their benevolent feelings to blind them to the real point at issue. 
No one denies that the Bible condemns all injustice, cruelty, oppres- 
sion, and violence. And just so far as the laws then existing author- 
ized these crimes the Bible condemned them. But what stronger 
argument can be presented to prove that the sacred writers did 
not regard slaveholding as in itself sinful, than that while they con- 
demn all unjust or unkind treatment (even threatening) on the part 
of masters towards their slaves, they did not condemn slavery itself? 
While they required the master to treat his slave according to the 
law of love, they did not command him to set him free. The very 
atrocity, therefore, of the system which then prevailed, instead of 
weakening the argument, gives it tenfold strength. Then, if ever, 
when the institution was so fearfully abused, we might expect to 
hear the interpreters of the divine will saying that a system which 
leads to such results is the concentrated essence of all crimes, and 
must be instantly abandoned on pain of eternal condemnation. 
This, however, they did not say, and we cannot now force them to 
say it. They treated the subject precisely as they did the cruel 
despotism of the Roman emperors. The licentiousness, the injus- 
tice, the rapine and murders of those wicked men, they condemned 
with the full force of divine authority ; but the mere extent of 
their power, though so liable to abuse, they left unnoticed. 

Another answer to the argument in question is, that " The New 
Testament does condemn slaveholding, as practised among us, in 
the most explicit terms furnished by the language in which the 
sacred penmen wrote." This assertion is supported by saying that 
God has condemned slavery, because he has specified the parts 
which compose it and condemned them, one by one, in the most 
ample and unequivocal form.* It is to be remarked that the saving 
clause, " slaveholding as it exists among us? is introduced into the 
statement, though it seems to be lost sight of in the illustration and 
confirmation of it which follow. We readily admit, that if God 
does condemn all the parts of which slavery consists, he condemns 
slavery itself. But the drafter of the address has made no attempt 
to prove that this is actually done in the sacred scriptures. That 
many of the attributes of the system, as established by law in this 
country, are condemned, is indeed very plain ; but that slavehold- 
ing in itself is condemned, has not been and cannot be proved. 
The writer, indeed, says, " The Greek language had a word cor- 

* Address, &c, p. 20. 


responding exactly, in signification, with our word servant, but it 
had none which answered precisely to our term slave. How then 
was an apostle writing in Greek, to condemn our slavery ? How 
can we expect to find in scripture, the words ' slavery is sinful,' 
when the language in which it is written contained no term which 
expressed the meaning of our word slavery ?" Does the gentleman 
mean to say the Greek language could not express the idea that 
slaveholding is sinful ? Could not the apostles have communicated 
the thought that it was the duty of masters to set their slaves free ? 
Were they obliged from paucity of words to admit slaveholders 
into the Church? We have no doubt the writer himself could, 
with all ease, pen a declaration in the Greek language void of all 
ambiguity, proclaiming freedom to every slave upon earth, and 
denouncing the vengeance of heaven upon every man who dared 
to hold a fellow creature in bondage. It is not words we care for. 
We want evidence that the sacred writers taught that it was 
incumbent on every slaveholder, as a matter of duty, to emancipate 
his slaves (which no Roman or Greek law forbade), and that his 
refusing to do so was a heinous crime in the sight of God. The 
Greek language must be poor indeed if it cannot convey such ideas. 
Another answer is given by Dr. Channing. " Slavery," he says, 
" in the age of the apostle, had so penetrated society, was so 
intimately interwoven with it, and the materials of servile war 
were so abundant, that a religion, preaching freedom to its victims, 
would have armed against itself the whole power of the State? 
Of consequence, Paul did not assail it. He satisfied himself with 
spreading principles, which, however slowly, could not but work 
its destruction." To the same effect, Dr. Wayland says, " The 
gospel was designed, not for one race or one time, but for all men 
and for all times. It looked not at the abolition of this form of evil 
for that age alone, but for its universal abolition. Hence the 
important object of its author was to gain it a lodgment in every 
part of the known world ; so that, by its universal diffusion among 
all classes of society, it might quietly and peacefully modify and 
subdue the evil passions of men; and thus, without violence, work 
a revolution in the whole mass of mankind. In this manner alone 
could its object, a universal moral revolution, be accomplished. 
For if it had forbidden the evil without subduing the principle, if it 
had proclaimed the unlawfulness of slavery, and taught slaves to 
resist the oppression of their masters, it would instantly have 
arrayed the two parties in deadly hostility throughout the civilized 
world ; its announcement would have been the signal of a servile 
war ; and the very name of the Christian religion would have been 
forgotten amidst the agitations of universal bloodshed. The fact, 
under these circumstances, that the gospel does not forbid slavery, 
affords no reason to suppose that it does not mean to prohibit it, 
much less does it afford ground for belief that Jesus Christ intended 
to authorize it."* 

* Elements of Moral Science, p. 225. 


Before considering the force of this reasoning, it may be well to 
notice one or two important admissions contained in these extracts. 
First, then, it is admitted by these distinguished moralists, that the 
apostles did not preach a religion proclaiming freedom to slaves ; 
that Paul did not assail slavery ; that the gospel did not proclaim 
the unlawfulness of slaveholding ; it did not forbid it. This is 
going the whole length that we have gone in our statement of 
the conduct of Christ and his apostles. Secondly, these writers 
admit that the course adopted by the authors of our religion 
was the only wise and proper one. Paul satisfied himself, says 
Dr. Channing, with spreading principles, which, however slowly, 
could not but work its destruction. Dr. Wayland says, that 
if the apostles had pursued the opposite plan of denouncing 
slavery as a crime, the Christian religion would have been 
ruined: its very name would have been forgotten. Then how 
can the course of the modern abolitionists, under circumstances 
so nearly similar, or even that of these reverend gentlemen 
themselves, be right ? Why do not they content themselves with 
doing what Christ and his apostles did 1 Why must they proclaim 
the unlawfulness of slavery ? Is human nature so much altered, 
that a course which would have produced universal bloodshed, 
and led to the very destruction of the Christian religion in one age, 
is wise and Christian in another ? 

Let us, however, consider the force of the argument as stated 
above. It amounts to this. Christ and his apostles thought slave- 
holding a great crime, but they abstained from saying so for fear 
of the consequences. The very statement of the argument, in its 
naked form, is its refutation. These holy men did not refrain from 
condemning sin from a regard to the consequences. They did 
not hesitate to array against the religion which they taught, 
the strongest passions of men. Nor did they content themselves 
with denouncing the general principles of evil ; they condemned 
its special manifestations. They did not simply forbid inlemperate 
sensual indulgence, and leave it to their hearers to decide what 
did or what did not come under that name. They declared 
that no fornicator, no adulterer, no drunkard, could be admitted into 
the kingdom of heaven. They did not hesitate, even, when a little 
band, a hundred and twenty souls, to place themselves in direct 
and irreconcilable opposition to the whole polity, civil and reli- 
gious, of the Jewish state. It will hardly be maintained that 
slavery was at that time more intimately interwoven with the 
institutions of society, than idolatry was. It entered into the 
arrangements of every family ; of every city and province, and of 
the whole Roman empire. The emperor was the Pontifex Maxi- 
mus ; every department of the state, civil and military, was 
pervaded by it. It was so united with the fabric of the govern- 
ment that it could not be removed without effecting a revolution 
in all its parts. The apostles knew this. They knew that to 
denounce polytheism was to array against them the whole power 


of the state. Their divine Master had distinctly apprised them of 
the result. He told them that it would set the father against the 
son, and the son against the father ; the mother against the daugh- 
ter, and the daughter against the mother ; and that a man's enemies 
should be those of his own household. He said that he came not 
to bring peace but a sword, and that such would be the opposition 
to his followers, that whosoever killed them, would think he did God 
service. Yet in view of these certain consequences the apostles 
did denounce idolatry, not merely in principle, but by name. The 
result was precisely what Christ had foretold. The Romans, 
tolerant of every other religion, bent the whole force of their 
wisdom and arms to extirpate Christianity. The scenes of blood- 
shed which century after century followed the introduction of the 
gospel, did not induce the followers of Christ to keep back or 
modify the truth. They adhered to their declaration that idolatry 
was a heinous crime. And they were right. We expect similar 
conduct of our missionaries. We do not expect them to refrain 
from denouncing the institutions of the heathen as sinful, because 
they are popular, or intimately interwoven with society. The 
Jesuits, who adopted this plan, forfeited the confidence of Chris- 
tendom, without making converts of the heathen. It is, therefore, 
perfectly evident that the authors of our religion were not with- 
held by these considerations, from declaring slavery to be unlawful. 
If they did abstain from this declaration, as is admitted, it must 
have been because they did not consider it as in itself a crime. 
No other solution of their conduct is consistent with their truth or 

Another answer to the argument from scripture is given by Dr. 
Channing and others. It is said that it proves too much ; that it 
makes the Bible sanction despotism, even the despotism of Nero. 
Our reply to this objection shall be very brief. We have already 
pointed out the fallacy of confounding slaveholding itself with the 
particular system of slavery prevalent at the time of Christ, and 
shown that the recognition of slaveholders as Christians, though 
irreconcilable with the assumption that slavery is a heinous crime, 
gives no manner of sanction to the atrocious laws and customs 
of that age in relation to that subject. Because the apostles 
admitted the masters of slaves to the communion of the church, 
it would be a strange inference that they would have given 
this testimony to the Christian character of the master who 
oppressed, starved, or murdered his slaves. Such a master 
would have been rejected as an oppressor, or murderer, how- 
ever, not as a slaveholder. In like manner, the declaration 
that government is an ordinance of God, that magistrates are 
to be obeyed within the sphere of their lawful authority ; 
that resistance to them, when in the exercise of that authority, is 
sinful; gives no sanction to the oppression of the Roman emperors, 
or to the petty vexations of provincial officers. The argument 
urged from scripture in favour of passive submission, is not so 


exactly parallel with the argument for slavery, as Dr. Charming 
supposes.* They agree in some points, but they differ in others. 
The former is founded upon a false interpretation of Rom. xiii., 
1-3 ; it supposes that passage to mean what it does not mean, 
whereas the latter is founded upon the sense which Dr. C. and 
other opponents of slavery admit to be the true sense. This must 
be allowed to alter the case materially. Again, the argument for 
the lawfulness of slaveholding is not founded on the mere injunc- 
tion, " Slaves, obey your masters," analogous to the command, 
" Let every soul be subject to the higher powers," but on the fact 
that the apostles did not condemn slavery ; that they did not require 
emancipation ; and that they recognised slaveholders as Christian 
brethren. To make Dr. Channing's argument of any force, it 
must be shown that Paul not only enjoined obedience to a despotic 
monarch, but that he recognised Nero as a Christian. When this 
is done, then we shall admit that our argument is fairly met, and 
that it is just as true that he sanctioned the conduct of Nero as that 
he acknowledged the lawfulness of slavery. 

The two cases, however, are analogous as to one important point. 
The fact that Paul enjoins obedience under a despotic government, 
is a valid argument to prove, not that he sanctioned the conduct of 
the reigning Roman emperor, but that he did not consider the pos- 
session of despotic power a crime. The argument of Dr. C. would 
be far stronger, and the two cases more exactly parallel, had one 
of the emperors become a penitent believer during the apostolic 
age, and been admitted to the Christian church by inspired men, 
notwithstanding the fact that he retained his office and authority. 
But even without this latter decisive circumstance, we acknow- 
ledge that the mere holding of despotic power is proved not to be 
a crime by the fact that the apostles enjoined obedience to those 
who exercised it. Thus far the arguments are analogous ; and 
they prove that both political despotism and domestic slavery 
belong in morals to the adiaphora, to things indifferent. They may 
be expedient or inexpedient, right or wrong, according to circum- 
stances. Belonging to the same class, they should be treated in 
the same way. Neither is it to be denounced as necessarily sinful, 
and to be abolished immediately under all circumstances and at all 
hazards. Both should be left to the operation of those general 
principles of the gospel, which have peacefully meliorated politi- 
cal institutions, and destroyed domestic slavery throughout the 
greater part of Christendom. 

The truth on this subject is so obvious that it sometimes escapes 

* It need hardly be remarked that the command to obey magistrates, as given in 
Rom. xiii., 1-3, is subject to the limitation stated above. They are to be obeyed as 
magistrates ; precisely as parents are to be obeyed as parents, husbands as hus- 
bands. The command of obedience is expressed as generally, in the last two cases, 
as in the first. A magistrate beyond the limits of his lawful authority (whatever that 
may be) has, in virtue of this text, no more claim to obedience, than a parent who, 
on the strength of the passage, " Children, obey your parents in all things," should 
command his son to obey him as a monarch or a pope. 


unconsciously from the lips of the most strenuous abolitionists. 
Mr. Birney says, " He would have retained the power and author- 
ity of an emperor ; yet his oppressions, his cruelties, would have 
ceased ; the very temper that prompted them would have been 
suppressed : his power would have been put forth for good 
and not for evil."* Here everything is conceded. The pos- 
session of despotic power is thus admitted not to be a crime, 
even when it extends over millions of men, and subjects their 
lives as well as their property and services to the will of an 
individual. What becomes then of the arguments and denuncia- 
tions of slave-holding, which is despotism on a small scale? 
Would Mr. Birney continue in the deliberate practice of a crime 
worse than robbery, piracy, or murder ? When he penned the 
above sentiment, he must have seen that neither by the law of God 
nor of reason is it necessarily sinful to sustain the relation of master 
over our fellow creatures ; that if this unlimited authority be used 
for the good of those over whom it extends and for the glory of 
God, its possessor may be one of the best and most useful of men. 
It is the abuse of this power for base and selfish purposes which 
constitutes criminality, and not its simple possession. He may say 
that the tendency to abuse absolute power is so great that it ought 
never to be confided to the hands of men. This, as a general rule, 
is no doubt true, and establishes the inexpediency of all despotic 
governments whether for the state or the family. But it leaves 
the morality of the question just where it was, and where it was 
seen to be, when Mr. Birney said he could with a good conscience 
be a Roman emperor, i. e., the master of millions of slaves. 

The consideration of the Old Testament economy leads us to the 
same conclusion on this subject. It is not denied that slavery was 
tolerated among the ancient people of God. Abraham had ser- 
vants in his family who were " bought with his money," Gen. 
xvii., 13. " Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men servants, 
and maid servants, and gave them unto Abraham." Moses, 
finding this institution among the Hebrews and all surrounding 
nations, did not abolish it. He enacted laws directing how slaves 
were to be treated, on what conditions they were to be liberated, 
under what circumstances they might, and might not, be sold ; he 
recognises the distinction between slaves and hired servants 
(Deut. xv., 18) ; he speaks of the way by which these bondmen 
might be procured ; as by war, by purchase, by the right of credit- 
orship, by the sentence of a judge, by birth ; but not by seizing 
on those who were free, an offence punished by death. f The fact 
that the Mosaic institutions recognised the lawfulness of slavery is 
a point too plain to need proof, and is almost universally admitted. 

* Quoted by Pres. Young, p. 45, of the Address, &c. 

f On the manner in which slaves were acquired, compare Deut. xx., 14 ; xxi., 
10, 11 ; Ex. xxii., 3; Neh. v , 4, 5; Gen. xiv., 14 ; xv., 3; xvii., 23; Num. xxxi., 
18, 35; Deut xxv., 44,46. 

As to the manner in which they were to be treated, see Lev. xxv., 39-53 ; 
Ex. xx., 10 ; xxii., 2-8 ; Deut. xxv., 4-6, &c, &c. 


Our argument from this acknowledged fact is, that if God allowed 
slavery to exist, if he directed how slaves might be lawfully 
acquired, and how they were to be treated, it is in vain to contend 
that slaveholding is a sin, and yet profess reverence for the scrip- 
tures. Every one must feel that if perjury, murder, or idolatry, 
had been thus authorized, it would bring the Mosaic institutions 
into conflict with the eternal principles of morals, and that our 
faith in the divine origin of one or the other must be given up. 

Dr. Channing says, of this argument also, that it proves too much. 
" If usages sanctioned under the Old Testament, and not forbidden 
under the New, are right, then our moral code will undergo a sad 
deterioration. Polygamy was allowed to the Israelites, was the 
practice of the holiest men, and was common and licensed in the 
age of the apostles. But the apostles nowhere condemn it, nor 
was the renunciation of it made an essential condition of admission 
into the Christian Church." To this we answer, that so far as 
polygamy and divorce were permitted under the old dispensation, 
they were lawful, and became so by that permission ; and they 
ceased to be lawful when the permission was withdrawn, and a 
new law given. That Christ did give a new law on this subject 
is abundantly evident.* With regard to divorce, it is as explicit 
as language can make it ; and with regard to polygamy it is so 
plain as to have secured the assent of every portion of the Christian 
Church in all ages. The very fact that there has been no diversity 
of opinion or practice among Christians with regard to polygamy, 
is itself decisive evidence that the will of Christ was clearly reveal- 
ed on the subject. The temptation to continue the practice was as 
strong, both from the passions of men, and the sanction of prior 
ages, as in regard to slavery. Yet we find no traces of the tolera- 
tion of polygamy in the Christian Church, though slavery long 
continued to prevail. There is no evidence that the apostles 
admitted to the fellowship of Christians, those who were guilty of 
this infraction of the law of marriage. It is indeed possible that 
in cases where the converts had already more than one wife, the 
connexion was not broken off. It is evident this must have occa- 
sioned great evil. It would lead to the breaking up of families, the 
separation of parents and children, as well as husbands and wives. 
Under these circumstances the connexion may have been allowed 
to continue. It is, however, very doubtful whether even this was 
permitted. It is remarkable that among the numerous cases of 

* " The words of Christ (Matt, xix., 9) may be construed by an easy implication 
to prohibit polygamy : for if ' whoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, 
committeth adultery,' he who marrieth another without putting away the first, is no 
less guilty of adultery : because the adultery does not consist in the repudiation of 
the first wife (for, however unjust and cruel that may be, it is not adultery), but in 
entering into a second marriage during the legal existence and obligation of the first. 
The several passages in St. Paul's writings, which speak of marriage, always suppose 
it to signify the union of one man with one woman." — Paley's Moral Phil., book iii., 
chap. 6. 


conscience connected with marriage, submitted to the apostles, 
this never occurs. 

Dr. Channing uses language much too strong when he says thai 
polygamy was common and licensed in the days of the apostles. It 
was contrary both to Roman and Grecian laws and usages, until the 
most degenerate periods of tire history of those nations. It was very 
far from being customary among the Jews, though it might have 
been allowed. It is probable that it was, therefore, comparatively 
extremely rare in the apostolic age. This accounts for the fact that 
scarcely any notice is taken of the practice in the New Testament. 
Wherever marriage is spoken of it seems to be taken for granted, as 
a well understood fact, that it was a contract for life between one 
man and one woman ; compare Rom. vii., 2, 3 ; 1 Cor. vii., 1, 2, 
39. It is further to be remarked on this subject that marriage is a 
positive institution. If God had ordained that every man should 
have two or more wives instead of one, polygamy would have 
been lawful. But slaveholding is denounced as a malum in se ; 
as essentially unjust and wicked. This being the case, it could at 
no period of the world receive the divine sanction, much less 
could it have continued in the Christian Church, under the direc- 
tion of inspired men, when there was nothing to prevent its imme- 
diate abolition. The answer then of Dr. Channing is unsatisfac- 
tory ; first, because polygamy does not belong to the same cate- 
gory in morals as that to which slaveholding is affirmed to belong ; 
and secondly, because it was so plainly prohibited by Christ and 
his apostles as to secure the assent of all Christians in all ages of 
the Church. 

It is, however, argued that slavery must be sinful because it 
interferes with the inalienable rights of men. We have already 
remarked that slavery, in itself considered, is a state of bondage, 
and nothing more. It is the condition of an individual who is 
deprived of his personal liberty, and is obliged to labour for 
another, who has the right to transfer this claim of service at 
pleasure. That this condition involves the loss of many of the 
rights which are commonly and properly called natural, because 
belonging to men, as men, is readily admitted. It is, however, 
incumbent on those who maintain that slavery is, on this account, 
necessarily sinful, to show that it is criminal, under all circum- 
stances, to deprive any set of men of a portion of their natural 
rights. That this broad proposition cannot be maintained, is evi- 
dent. The very constitution of society supposes the forfeiture of 
a greater or less amount of these rights, according to its peculiar 
organization. That it is not only the privilege, but the duty of 
men to live together in a regularly organized society, is evident 
from the nature which God has given us ; from the impossibility of 
every man living by and for himself, and from the express declara- 
tions of the word of God. The object of the formation of society 
is the promotion of human virtue and happiness ; and the form in 
which it should be organized, is that which will best secure the 



attainment of this object. As, however, the condition of men is 
so very various, it is impossible that the same form should be 
equally conducive to happiness and virtue under all circumstances. 
No one form, therefore, is prescribed in the Bible, or is universally 
obligatory. The question which form is, under given circum- 
stances, to be adopted, is one of great practical difficulty, and 
must be left to the decision of those who have the power to decide, 
on their own responsibility. The question, however, does not 
depend upon the degree in which these several forms may encroach 
on the natural rights of men. In the patriarchal age, the most 
natural, the most feasible, and perhaps the most beneficial form of 
government was by the head of the family. His power by the 
law of nature, and the necessity of the case, extended without any 
other limit than the general principles of morals, over his children, 
and in the absence of other regular authority, would not terminate 
when the children arrived at a particular age, but be continued 
during life. He was the natural umpire between his adult offspring 
— he was their lawgiver and leader. His authority would naturally 
extend over his more remote descendants, as they continued to 
increase, and on his death, might devolve on the next oldest of the 
family. There is surely nothing in this mode of constituting society 
which is necessarily immoral. If found to be conducive to the 
general good, it might be indefinitely continued. It would not 
suffice to render its abrogation obligatory, to say that all men are 
born free and equal ; that the youth of twenty-one had as good a 
right to have a voice in the affairs of the family as the aged patri- 
arch ; that the right of self-government is indefeasible, &c. Un- 
less it could be shown that the great end of society was not 
attainable by this mode of organization, and that it would be more 
securely promoted by some other, it would be an immorality to 
require or to effect the change. And if a change became, in 
the course of time, obviously desirable, its nature and extent would 
be questions to be determined by the peculiar circumstances of 
the case, and not by the rule of abstract rights. Under some 
circumstances it might be requisite to confine the legislative 
power to a single individual ; under others to the hands of a few ; 
and under others to commit it to the whole community. It would 
be absurd to maintain, on the ground of the natural equality of 
men, that a horde of ignorant and vicious savages should be organ- 
ized as a pure democracy, if experience taught that such a form 
of government was destructive to themselves and others. These 
different modes of constituting civil society are not necessarily 
either just or unjust, but become the one or the other according to 
circumstances ; and their morality is not determined by the degree 
in which they encroach upon the natural rights of men, but on the 
degree in which they promote or retard the progress of human 
happiness and virtue. In this country we believe that the general 
good requires us to deprive the whole female sex of the right of 
self-government. They have no voice in the formation of the 


laws which dispose of their persons and property. When mar- 
ried, we despoil them almost entirely of a legal existence, and 
deny them some of the most essential rights of property. We 
treat all minors much in the same way, depriving them of many 
personal and almost all political rights, and that too though they 
may be far more competent to exercise them aright than many 
adults. We, moreover, decide that a majority of one may make 
laws for the whole community, no matter whether the numerical 
majority have more wisdom or virtue than the minority or not. 
Our pica for all this is, that the good of the whole is thereby most 
effectually promoted. This plea, if made out, justifies the case. 
In England and France they believe that the good of the whole 
requires that the right of governing, instead of being restricted to 
all adult males, as we arbitrarily determine, should be confined to 
that portion of the male population who hold a given amount of 
property. In Prussia and Russia, they believe with equal confi- 
dence, that public security and happiness demand that all power 
should be in the hands of the king. If they are right in their 
opinion, they are right in their practice. The principle that social 
and political organizations are designed for the general good, of 
course requires they should be allowed to change, as the progress 
of society may demand. It is very possible that the feudal system 
may have been well adapted to the state of Europe in the middle 
ages. The change in the condition of the world, however, has 
gradually obliterated almost all its features. The villain has 
become the independent farmer ; the lord of the manor, the simple 
landlord ; and the sovereign liege, in whom, according to the 
fiction of the system, the fee of the whole country vested, has 
become a constitutional monarch. It may be that another series 
of changes may convert the tenant into an owner, the lord into a 
rich commoner, and the monarch into a president. Though these 
changes have resulted in giving the people the enjoyment of a 
larger amount of their rights than they formerly possessed, it is not 
hence to be inferred that they ought centuries ago to have been 
introduced suddenly or by violence. Christianity "operates as 
alterative." It was never designed to tear up the institutions of 
society by the roots. It produces equality not by prostrating trees 
of all sizes to the ground, but by securing to all the opportunity of 
growing, and by causing all to grow, until the original disparity is 
no longer perceptible. All attempts, by human wisdom, to frame 
society, of a sudden, after a pattern cut by a rule of abstract rights, 
have failed ; and whether they had failed or not, they can never 
be urged as a matter of moral obligation. It is not enough there- 
fore, in order to prove the sinfulness of slaveholding, to show that 
it interferes with the natural rights of a portion of the community. 
It is in this respect analogous to all other social institutions. They 
are all of them encroachments on human rights, from the freest 
democracy to the most absolute despotism. 

It is further to be remarked that all these rights suppose corres- 


ponding duties, and where there is an incompetence for the duty. 
the claim to exercise the right ceases. No man can justly claim 
the exercise of any right to the injury of the community of which 
he is a member. It is because females and minors are judged 
(though for different reasons) incompetent to the proper discharge 
of the duties of citizenship, that they are deprived of the right of 
suffrage. It is on the same principle that a large portion of the 
inhabitants of France and England are deprived of the same pri- 
vilege. As it is acknowledged that the slaves may be justly 
deprived of political rights on the ground of their incompetency 
to exercise them without injury to the community, it must be 
admitted, by parity of reason, that they may be justly deprived of 
personal freedom, if incompetent to exercise it with safety to soci- 
ety. If this is so, then slavery is a question of circumstances, 
and not a malum in se. It must be borne in mind that the object 
of these remarks is not to prove that the American, the British, or 
the Russian form of society is expedient or otherwise ; much less 
to show that the slaves in this country are actually unfit for free- 
dom, but simply to prove that the mere fact that slaveholding inter- 
feres with natural rights, is not enough to justify the conclusion 
that it is necessarily and universally sinful. 

Another very common and plausible argument on this subject is, 
that a man cannot be made a matter of property. He cannot be 
degraded into a brute or chattel without the grossest violation of 
duty and propriety ; and that as slavery confers this right of property 
in human beings it must, from its very nature, be a crime. We 
acknowledge the correctness of the principle on which this argu- 
ment is founded, but deny that it is applicable to the case in hand. 
We admit that it is not only an enormity, but an impossibility, that 
a man should be made a thing, as distinguished from a rational and 
moral being. It is not within the compass of human law to alter 
the nature of God's creatures. A man must be regarded and 
treated as a rational being even in his greatest degradation. That 
he is, in some countries and under some institutions, deprived of 
many of the rights and privileges of such a being, does not alter 
his nature. He must be viewed as a man under the most atrocious 
system of slavery that ever existed. Men do not arraign and try 
on evidence, and punish on conviction either things or brutes. 
Yet slaves are under a regular system of laws which, however 
unjust they may be, recognise their character as accountable 
beings. When it is inferred from the fact that the slave is called 
the property of his master, that he is thereby degraded from his rank 
as a human being, the argument rests on the vagueness of the term 
property. Property is the right of possession and use, and must of 
necessity vary according to the nature of the objects to which it 
attaches. A man has property in his wife, in his children, in his 
domestic animals, in his fields and in his forests. That is, he has 
the right to the possession and use of these several objects accord- 
ing to their nature. He has no more right to use a brute as a log 


of wood, in virtue of the right of property, than he has to use a 
man as a brute. There are general principles of rectitude obliga- 
tory on all men, which require them to treat all the creatures of 
God according to the nature which he has given them. The man 
who should burn his horse because it was his property, would 
find no justification in that plea either before God or man. When 
therefore it is said that one man is the property of another, it can 
only mean that the one has a right to use the other as a man, but not 
as a brute or as a thing. He has no right to treat him as he may law- 
fully treat his ox, or a tree. He can convert his person to no use to 
which a human being may not, by the laws of God and nature, be 
properly applied. When this idea of property comes to be ana- 
lysed, it is found to be nothing more than a claim of service either 
for life or for a term of years. This claim is transferable, and is 
of the nature of property, and is consequently liable for the debts 
of the owner, and subject to his disposal by will or otherwise. It 
is probable that the slave is called the property of his master in the 
statute books, for the same reason that children are called the 
servants of their parents, or that wives are said to be the same 
person with their husbands and to have no separate existence of 
their own. These are mere technicalities designed to facilitate 
certain legal processes. Calling a child a servant does not alter 
his relation to his father ; and a wife is still a woman, though the 
courts may rule her out of existence. In like manner where the 
law declares that the slave shall be deemed and adjudged to be a 
chattel personal in the hands of his master, it does not alter his 
nature, nor does it confer on the master any right to use him in a 
manner inconsistent with that nature. As there are certain moral 
principles which direct how brutes are to be used by those to whom 
they belong, so there are fixed principles which determine how a 
man may be used. These legal enactments, therefore, are not 
intended to legislate away the nature of the slave as a human being; 
they serve to facilitate the transfer of the master's claim of service, 
and to render that claim the more readily liable for his debts. 
The transfer of authority and claim of service from one master to 
another, is in principle analogous to transfer of subjects from one 
sovereign to another. This is a matter of frequent occurrence. 
By the treaty of Vienna, for example, a large part of the inhabit- 
ants of central Europe changed masters. Nearly half of Saxony 
was transferred to Prussia; Belgium was annexed to Holland. In 
like manner Louisiana was transferred from France to the United 
States. In none of these cases were the people consulted. Yet 
in all a claim of service more or less extended was made over from 
one power to another. There was a change of masters. The 
mere transferable character of the master's claim to the slave does 
not convert the latter into a thing, or degrade him from his rank as 
human being. Nor does the fact that he is bound to serve for life 
produce this effect. It is only property in his time for life, instead 


of for a term of years. The nature of the relation is not deter- 
mined by the period of its continuance. 

It has, however, been argued that the slave is the property of his 
master, not only in the sense admitted above, but in the sense assumed 
in the objection, because his children are under the same obligation 
of service as the parent. The hereditary character of slavery, how- 
ever, does not arise out of the idea of the slave as a chattel or thing, 
a mere matter of property: it depends on the organization of society. 
In England one man is born a peer, another a commoner ; in Russia 
one is born a noble, another a serf; here one is born a free citizen, 
another a disfranchised outcast (the free coloured man), and a 
third a slave. These forms of society, as before remarked, are 
not necessarily, or in themselves, either just or unjust ; but become 
the one or the other, according to circumstances. Under a state 
of things in which the best interests of the community would be 
promoted by the British or Russian organization, they would be 
just and acceptable to God ; but under circumstances in which 
they would be injurious, they would be unjust. It is absolutely 
necessary, however, to discriminate between an organization 
essentially vicious, and one which, being in itself indifferent, may 
be right or wrong according to circumstances. On the same 
principle, therefore, that a human being in England is deprived by 
the mere accident of birth, of the right of suffrage ; and in Russia 
has the small portion of liberty which belongs to a commoner, or 
the still smaller belonging to a serf; in this country one class is 
by birth invested with all the rights of citizenship, another 
(females) is deprived of all political and many personal rights, and 
a third of even their personal liberty. Whether this organization 
is right or wrong is not now the question. We are simply 
showing that the fact that the children of slaves become by birth 
slaves, is not to be referred to the idea of the masters property in 
the body and soul of the parent, but results from the form of 
society, and is analogous to other social institutions, as far as the 
principle is concerned, that the children take the rank, or the 
political or social condition of the parent. 

We prefer being chargeable with the sin of wearisome repe- 
tition, to leaving any room for the misapprehension of our meaning. 
We, therefore, again remark that we are discussing the mere 
abstract morality of these forms of social organization, and not 
their expediency. We have in view the vindication of the 
character of the inspired writings and inspired men from the charge 
of having overlooked the blackest of human crimes, and of having 
recognised the worst of human beings as Christians. We say, 
therefore, that an institution which deprives a certain portion of the 
community of their personal liberty, and places them under obliga- 
tion of service to another portion, is no more necessarily sinful than 
one which invests an individual with despotic power (such as Mr. 
Birney would consent to hold) ; or than one which limits the 
right of government to a small portion of the people, or restricts 


it to the male part of the community. However inexpedient, under 
certain circumstances, any one of these arrangements may be, they 
are not necessarily immoral, nor do they become such, from the 
fact that the accident of birth determines the relation in which one 
part of the community is to stand to the other. In ancient Egypt, 
as in modern India, birth decided the position and profession of 
every individual. One was born a priest, another a merchant, 
another a labourer, another a soldier. As there must always be 
these classes, it is no more necessarily immoral to have them all 
determined by hereditary descent, than it was among the Israelites 
to have all the officers of religion from generation to generation 
thus determined ; or that birth should determine the individual 
who is to fill a throne or occupy a seat in parliament. 

Again, Dr. Way land argues, if the right to hold slaves be 
conceded, " there is of course conceded all other rights necessary 
to insure its possession. Hence, inasmuch as the slave can be 
held in this condition only while he remains in the lowest state 
of mental imbecility, it supposes the master to have the right 
to control his intellectual development just as far as may be 
necessary to secure entire subjection."* He reasons in the same 
way to show that the religious knowledge and even eternal 
happiness of the slave, are as a matter of right conceded to the 
power of the master, if the right of slaveholding is admitted. The 
utmost force that can be allowed to this argument is, that the right 
to hold slaves includes the right to exercise all proper means to 
insure its possession. It is in this respect on a par with all other 
rights of the same kind. The rights of parents to the service of 
their children, of husbands to the obedience of their wives, of 
masters over their apprentices, of creditors over their debtors, 
of rulers over their subjects, all suppose the right to adopt 
proper means for their secure enjoyment. They, however, 
give no sanction to the employment of any and every means 
which cruelty, suspicion, or jealousy, may choose to deem 
necessary, nor of any which would be productive of greater 
general evil than the forfeiture of the rights themselves. Ac- 
cording to the ancient law even among the Jews, the power 
of life and death was granted to the parent ; we concede only the 
power of correction. The old law gave the same power to the 
husband over the wife. The Roman law confided the person and 
even life of the debtor to the mercy of the creditor. According 
to the reasoning of Dr. Wayland, all these laws must be sanctioned, 
if the rights which they were deemed necessary to secure, are 
acknowledged. It is clear, however, that the most unrighteous 
means may be adopted to secure a proper end, under the plea of 
necessity. The justice of the plea must be made out on its own 
grounds, and cannot be assumed on the mere admission of the pro- 
priety of the end aimed at. Whether the slaves of this country 

• Elements of Moral Science, p. 221. 


may be safely admitted to the enjoyments of personal liberty, is a 
matter of dispute : but that they could not, consistently with the 
public welfare, be intrusted with the exercise of political power, 
is on all hands admitted. It is, then, the acknowledged right of the 
state to govern them by laws in the formation of which they have 
no voice. But it is the universal plea of the depositaries of irre- 
sponsible power, sustained too by almost universal experience, that 
men can be brought to submit to political despotism only by being 
kept in ignorance and poverty. Dr. Wayland, then, if he concedes 
the right of the state to legislate for the slaves, must, according to 
his own reasoning, acknowledge the right to adopt all the means 
necessary for the security of this irresponsible power, and of con- 
sequence that the state has the right to keep the blacks in the 
lowest state of degradation. If he denies the validity of this argu- 
ment in favour of political despotism, he must renounce his own 
against the lawfulness of domestic slavery. Dr. Wayland himself 
would admit the right of the Emperor of Russia to exercise a 
degree of power over his half civilized subjects, which could not 
be maintained over an enlightened people, though he would be 
loath to acknowledge his right to adopt all the means necessary to 
keep them in their present condition. The acknowledgment, 
therefore, of the right to hold slaves, does not involve the acknow- 
ledgment of the right to adopt measures adapted and intended to 
perpetuate their present mental and physical degradation. 

We have entered much more at length into the abstract argu- 
ment on this subject than we intended. It was our purpose to 
confine our remarks to the scriptural view of the question. But 
the consideration of the objections derived from the general prin- 
ciples of morals, rendered it necessary to enlarge our plan. As it 
appears to us too clear to admit of either denial or doubt, that the 
scriptures do sanction slaveholding ; that under the old dispensa- 
tion it was expressly permitted by divine command, and under the 
New Testament is nowhere forbidden or denounced, but on the 
contrary, acknowledged to be consistent with the Christian cha- 
racter and profession (that is, consistent with justice, mercy, holi- 
ness, love to God and love to man), to declare it to be a heinous 
crime, is a direct impeachment of the word of God. We, there- 
fore, felt it incumbent upon us to prove, that the sacred scriptures 
are not in conflict with the first principles of morals ; that what 
they sanction is not the blackest and basest of all offences in the 
sight of God. To do this, it was necessary to show what slavery 
is, to distinguish between the relation itself, and the various cruel 
or unjust laws which may be made either to bring men into it, or 
to secure its continuance ; to show that it no more follows from 
the admission that the scriptures sanction the right of slavehold- 
ing, that they, therefore, sanction all the oppressive slave-laws of 
any community, than it follows from the admission of the propriety 
of parental, conjugal, or political relations, that they sanction all the 


conflicting codes by which these relations have at different peri- 
ods and in different countries been regulated. 

We have had another motive in the preparation of this article. 
The assumption that slaveholding is itself a crime, is not only an 
error, but it is an error fraught with evil consequences. It not 
merely brings its advocates into conflict with the scriptures, but it 
does much to retard the progress of freedom ; it embitters and 
divides the members of the community, and distracts the Christian 
church. Its operation in retarding the progress of freedom is ob- 
vious and manifold. In the first place, it directs the battery of the 
enemies of slavery to the wrong point. It might be easy for them 
to establish the injustice or cruelty of certain slave-laws, where 
it is not in their power to establish the sinfulness of slavery itself. 
They, therefore, waste their strength. Nor is this the least evil. 
They promote the cause of their opponents. If they do not discri- 
minate between slaveholding and the slave-laws, it gives the slave- 
holder not merely an excuse but an occasion and a reason for 
making no such distinction. He is thus led to feel the same convic- 
tion in the propriety of the one that he does in that of the other. 
His mind and conscience may be satisfied that the mere act of hold- 
ing slaves is not a crime. This is the point, however, to which 
the abolitionist directs his attention. He examines their argu- 
ments, and becomes convinced of their inconclusiveness, and is 
not only thus rendered impervious to their attacks, but is exaspe- 
rated by what he considers their unmerited abuse. In the mean- 
time his attention is withdrawn from far more important points ; 
the manner in which he treats his slaves, and the laws enacted for 
the security of his possession. These are points on which his 
judgment might be much more really convinced of error, and his 
conscience of sin. 

In the second place, besides fortifying the position and strength- 
ening the purpose of the slaveholder, the error in question divides 
and weakens the friends of freedom. To secure any valuable 
result by public sentiment, you must satisfy the public mind and 
rouse the public conscience. Their passions had better be allowed 
to rest in peace. As the anti-slavery societies declare it to be their 
object to convince their fellow-citizens that slaveholding is neces- 
sarily a heinous crime in the sight of God, we consider their 
attempt as desperate, so long as the Bible is regarded as the rule 
of right and wrong. They can hardly secure either the verdict 
of the public mind or of the public conscience in behalf of this 
proposition. Their success hitherto has not been very encourag- 
ing, and is certainly not very flattering, if Dr. Channing's account 
of the class of persons to whom they have principally addressed 
their arguments, is correct. The tendency of their exertions, be 
their success great or small, is not to unite, but to divide. They 
do not carry the judgment or conscience of the people with them. 
They form, therefore, a class by themselves. Thousands who 
earnestly desire to see the south convinced of the injustice and 


consequent impolicy of their slave-laws, and under this conviction, 
of their own accord, adopting those principles which the Bible 
enjoins, and which tend to produce universal intelligence, virtue, 
liberty and equality, without violence and sudden change, and which 
thus secure private and public prosperity, stand aloof from the aboli- 
tionists, not merely because they disapprove of their spirit and mode 
of action, but because they do not admit their fundamental principle. 
In the third place, the error in question prevents the adoption of 
the most effectual means of extinguishing the evil. These means 
are not the opinions or feelings of the non-slaveholding states, nor 
the denunciation of the holders of slaves, but the improvement, 
intellectual and moral, of the slaves themselves. Slavery has but 
two natural and peaceful modes of death. The one is the increase 
of the slave population until it reaches the point of being unpro- 
ductive. When the number of slaves becomes so great that the 
master cannot profitably employ them, he manumits them in self- 
defence. This point would probably have been reached long ago, 
in many of the southern states, had not the boundless extent of the 
south-western sections of the Union presented a constant demand 
for the surplus hands. Many planters in Virginia and Maryland, 
whose principles or feelings revolt at the idea of selling their slaves 
to the south, find that their servants are gradually reducing them 
to poverty, by consuming more than they produce. The number, 
however, of slaveholders who entertain these scruples is compara- 
tively small. And as the demand for slave labor in the still unoc- 
cupied regions of the extreme south-west is so great, and is likely to 
be so long continued, it is hopeless to think of slavery dying out by 
becoming a public burden. The other natural and peaceful mode 
of extinction, is the gradual elevation of the slaves in knowledge, 
virtue, and property, to the point at which it is no longer desirable 
or possible to keep them in bondage. Their chains thus gradually 
relax, until they fall off entirely. It is in this way that Christianity 
has abolished both political and domestic bondage, whenever it has 
had free scope. It enjoins a fair compensation for labour ; it 
insists on the moral and intellectual improvement of all classes of 
men ; it condemns all infractions of marital or parental rights ; in 
short, it requires not only that free scope should be allowed to 
human improvement, but that all suitable means should be employed 
for the attainment of that end. The feudal system, as before 
remarked, has in a great measure been thus outgrown in all the 
European states. The third estate, formerly hardly recognised as 
having an existence, is becoming the controlling power in most of 
those ancient communities. The gradual improvement of the 
people rendered it impossible and undesirable to deprive them of 
their just share in the government. And it is precisely in those 
countries where this improvement is most advanced that the feudal 
nstitutions are the most completely obliterated, and the general 
prosperity the greatest. In like manner the gospel method of 
extinguishing slavery is by improving the condition of the slave. 


The grand question is, How is this to be done ? The abolitionist 
answers, by immediate emancipation. Perhaps he is right, per- 
haps he is wrong ; but whether right or wrong, it is not the prac- 
tical question for the north. Among a community which have 
the power to emancipate, it would be perfectly proper to urge that 
measure on the ground of its being the best means of promoting 
the great object of the advancement of human happiness and 
virtue. But the error of the abolitionists is, that they urge this 
measure from the wrong quarter, and upon the wrong ground. 
They insist upon immediate abolition because slavery is a sin, and 
its extinction a duty. If, however, slaveholding is not in itself 
sinful, its abolition is not necessarily a duty. The question of duty 
depends upon the effects of the measure, about which men may 
honestly differ. Those who believe that it would advance the 
general good, are bound to promote it ; while those who believe 
the reverse, are equally bound to resist it. The abolitionists, by 
insisting upon one means of improvement, and that on untenable 
ground, are most effectually working against the adoption of any 
other means, by destroying the disposition and power to employ 
them. It is in this way that the error to which we have referred 
throughout this article, is operating most disadvantageously for the 
cause of human liberty and happiness. The fact is, that the great 
duty of the south is not emancipation, but improvement. The 
former is obligatory only as a means to an end, and therefore, only 
under circumstances where it would promote that end. In like 
manner the great duty of despotic governments is not the im- 
mediate granting of free institutions, but the constant and assiduous 
cultivation of the best interests (knowledge, virtue and happiness) 
of the people. Where free institutions would conduce to this 
object, they should be granted, and just so far and so fast as this 
becomes apparent. 

Again, the opinion that slaveholding is itself a crime must 
operate to produce the disunion of the states, and the division of 
all ecclesiastical societies in this country. The feelings of the 
people may be excited violently for a time, but the transport soon 
passes away. But if the conscience is enlisted in the cause, and 
becomes the controlling principle, the alienation between the 
north and the south must become permanent. The opposition to 
southern institutions will be calm, constant, and unappeasable. 
Just so far as this opinion operates, it will lead those who entertain 
it to submit to any sacrifices to carry it out, and give it effect. 
We shall become two nations in feeling, which must soon render 
us two nations in fact. With regard to the church its operation 
will be much more summary. If slaveholding is a heinous crime, 
slaveholders must be excluded from the church. Several of our 
judicatories have already taken this position. Should the General 
Assembly adopt it, the church is, ipso facto, divided. If the opinion 
in question is correct, it must be maintained, whatever are the con- 
sequences. We are no advocates of expediency in morals. We 


have no more right to teach error in order to prevent evil, than 
we have a right to do evil to promote good. On the other hand, 
if the opinion is incorrect, its evil consequences render it a duty to 
prove and exhibit its unsoundness. It is under the deep impres- 
sion that the primary assumption of the abolitionists is an error, 
that its adoption tends to the distraction of the country, and the 
division of the church ; and that it will lead to the longer con- 
tinuance and greater severity of slavery, that we have felt con- 
strained to do what little we could towards its correction. 

We have little apprehension that any one can so far mistake our 
object, or the purport of our remarks, as to suppose either that we 
regard slavery as a desirable institution, or that we approve of the 
slave laws of the southern states. So far from this being the case, 
the extinction of slavery, and the melioration of those laws, are as 
sincerely desired by us, as by any of the abolitionists. The ques- 
tion is not about the continuance of slavery, and of the present 
system, but about the proper method of effecting the removal of 
the evil. We maintain, that it is not by denouncing slaveholding 
as a sin, or by universal agitation at the north, but by the improve- 
ment of the slaves. It no more follows that because the master 
has a right to hold slaves, he has a right to keep them in a state of 
degradation in order to perpetuate their bondage, than that the 
Emperor of Russia has a right to keep his subjects in ignorance 
and poverty, in order to secure the permanence and quiet posses- 
sion of his power. We hold it to be the grand principle of the 
Gospel, that every man is bound to promote the moral, intellectual 
and physical improvement of his fellow men. Their civil or poli- 
tical relations are in themselves matters of indifference. Monarchy, 
aristocracy, democracy, domestic slavery, are right or wrong as they 
are, for the time being, conducive to this great end, or the reverse. 
They are not objects to which the improvement of society is to be 
sacrificed ; nor are they strait-jackets to be placed upon the public 
body to prevent its free development. We think, therefore, that 
the true method for Christians to treat this subject, is to follow the 
example of Christ and his apostles in relation both to despotism 
and slavery. Let them enforce as moral duties the great principles 
of justice and mercy, and all the specific commands and precepts 
of the scriptures. If any set of men have servants, bond or free, 
to whom they refuse a proper compensation for their labour, they 
violate a moral duty and an express command of scripture. What 
that compensation should be, depends on a variety of circum- 
stances. In some cases the slaveholder would be glad to com- 
pound for the support of his slaves by giving the third or half of 
the proceeds of his estate. Yet this at the north would be 
regarded as a full remuneration for the mere labour of production. 
Under other circumstances, however, a mere support would be 
very inadequate compensation ; and when inadequate, it is unjust. 
If the compensation be more than a support, the surplus is the 
property of the labourer, and cannot morally, whatever the laws 


may say, be taken from him. The right to accumulate property 
is an incident to the right of reward for labour. And we believe 
there are few slaveholding countries in which the right is not prac- 
tically acknowledged, since we hear so frequently of slaves pur- 
chasing their own freedom. It is very common for a certain 
moderate task* to be assigned as a day's work, which may be 
regarded as the compensation rendered by the slave for his sup- 
port. The residue of the day is at his own disposal, and may be 
employed for his own profit. We are not now, however, con- 
cerned about details. The principle that " the labourer is worthy 
of his hire" and should enjoy it, is a plain principle of morals and 
command of the Bible, and cannot be violated with impunity. 

Again, if any man has servants or others whom he forbids to 
marry, or whom he separates after marriage, he breaks as clearly 
a revealed law as any written on the pages of inspiration, or on 
the human heart. If he interferes unnecessarily with the authority 
of parents over their children, he again brings himself into collision 
with his Maker. If any man has under his charge children, appren- 
tices, servants, or slaves, and does not teach them, or cause them 
to be taught the will of God ; if he deliberately opposes their 
intellectual, moral, or religious improvement, he makes himself a 
transgressor. That many of the laws of the slaveholding states 
are opposed to these simple principles of morals, we fully believe ; 
and we do not doubt that they are sinful and ought to be rescinded. 
If it be asked what would be the consequence of thus acting on 
the principles of the gospel, of following the example and obeying 
the precepts of Christ, we answer, the gradual elevation of the 
slaves in intelligence, virtue and wealth ; the peaceable and speedy 
extinction of slavery ; the improvement in general prosperity of 
all classes of society, and the consequent increase in the sum of 
human happiness and virtue. This has been the result of acting 
on these principles in all past ages ; and just in proportion as they 
have been faithfully observed. The degradation of most eastern 
nations, and of Italy, Spain, and Ireland, are not more striking 
examples of the consequences of their violation, than Scotland, 
England, and the non-slaveholding States are of the benefits of 
their being even imperfectly obeyed. Men cannot alter the laws 
of God. It would be as easy for them to arrest the action of the 
force of gravity as to prevent the systematic violation of the prin- 
ciples of morals being productive of evil. 

Besides the two methods mentioned above, in which slavery dies 
a natural and easy death, there are two others by which, as history 
teaches us, it may be brought to an end. The one is by the non- 
slaveholders, in virtue of their authority in the state to which the 
slaves and their masters belonged, passing laws for its extinction. 
Of this, the northern states and Great Britain are examples. The 

* We heard the late Dr. Wisner, after his long visit to the south, say, that the 
usual task of a slave in South Carolina and Georgia was about the third of a day's 
work for a northern labourer. 


other is by servile insurrections. The former of these two methods 
is of course out of the question, as it regards most of the southern 
states ; for in almost all of them the slave-owners have the legisla- 
tive power in their own hands. The south, therefore, has to choose 
between emancipation by the silent and holy influence of the 
gospel, securing the elevation of the slaves to the stature and 
character of freemen, or to abide the issue of a long continued 
conflict against the laws of God. That the issue will be disas- 
trous there can be no doubt. But whether it will come in the 
form of a desolating servile insurrection, or in some other shape, 
it is not for us to say. The choice, however, is between rapidly 
increasing millions of human beings educated under moral and 
religious restraints, and attached to the soil by the proceeds of 
their own labour, or hordes of unenlightened barbarians. If the 
south deliberately keep these millions in this state of degradation, 
they must prepare themselves for the natural consequences, what- 
ever they may be. 

It may be objected that if the slaves are allowed so to improve 
as to become freemen, the next step in their progress is that they 
should become citizens. We admit that it is so. The feudal serf 
first became a tenant, then a proprietor invested with political 
power. This is the natural progress of society, and it should be 
allowed thus freely to expand itself, or it will work its own destruc- 
tion. If a tree is not allowed to grow erect and in its natural 
shape, it will become crooked, knotted and worthless, but grow it 
must. This objection would not be considered of any force, if the 
slaves in this country were not of a different race from their mas- 
ters. Still they are men ; their colour does not place them beyond 
the operation of the principles of the gospel, or from under the 
protection of God. We cannot too frequently remember, that it 
is our province to do right, it is God's to overrule results.* Let 
then the north remember that they are bound to follow the exam- 
ple of Christ in the manner of treating slavery, and the south, 
that they are bound to follow the precepts of Christ in their 
manner of treating their slaves. If both parties follow the Sa- 
viour of men, both will contribute to the promotion of human 
excellence and happiness, and both will have reason to rejoice in 
the result. 

* If the fact that the master and slave belong to different races, precludes the pos- 
sibility of their living together on equal terms, the inference is, not that the one has 
a right to oppress the other, but that they should separate. Whether this should be 
done by dividing the land between them and giving rise to distinct communities, or 
by the removal of the inferior class on just and wise conditions, it is not for us to say. 
We have undertaken only to express an opinion as to the manner in which the Bible 
directs those who look to it for guidance to treat this difficult subject, and not to trace 
out a plan to provide for ulterior results. It is for this reason we have said nothing 
of African colonization, though we regard it as one of the noblest enterprises of 
modern benevolence. 



Usage often gives a comprehensive word a limited sense. If, 
in our day, and in this country, you ask a man whether he is an 
abolitionist, he will promptly answer no, though he may believe 
with Jefferson that slavery is the greatest curse that can be inflicted 
on a nation ; or with Cassius M. Clay, that it is destructive of 
industry, the mother of ignorance, opposed to literature, antago- 
nist to the fine arts, destructive of mechanical excellence ; that it 
corrupts the people, retards population and wealth, impoverishes 
the soil, destroys national wealth, and is incompatible with consti- 
tutional liberty. A man may believe and say all this, as many of 
the wisest and best men of the South believe and openly avow, and 
yet be no abolitionist. If every man who regards slavery as an 
evil, and wishes to see it abolished, were an abolitionist, then nine 
tenths of the people of this country would be abolitionists. What 
then is an abolitionist ? He is a man who holds that slaveholding 
is a great sin ; and consequently that slaveholders should not be 
admitted to the communion of the church, and that slavery should 
immediately, under all circumstances, and regardless of all conse- 
quences, be abolished. " Slaveholding," says the second article of 
the American Anti-slavery Society, " is a heinous crime in the 
sight of God," and " ought therefore to be immediately abolished." 
" The question," says the Reviewer of Dr. Junkin's pamphlet, " now 
in process of investigation among American churches, is this, and 
no other : Are the professed Christians in our respective connex- 

* Originally published in 1844, in review of the following works: 1. "The 
Integrity of our National Union vs. Abolitionism. An argument from the Bible, in 
proof of the position ; that believing masters ought to be honoured and obeyed by 
their servants, and tolerated in, not excommunicated from the Church of God, being 
part of a speech delivered before the Synod of Cincinnati, on the subject of S lavery. 
September 19th and 20th, 1843. By Rev. George Junkin, D.D., President of 
Miami University." 

2. " The Contrast, or the Bible vs. Abolitionism : an Exegetical Argument. By 
Rev. William Graham, Pastor of the Second Presbyterian church, Oxford, Ohio." 

3. ,; A Review of the Rev. Dr. Junkin's Synodical Speech, in Defence of American 
Slavery, with an outline of the Bible argument against Slavery." 

4. " Line of Demarcation between the Secular and Spiritual Kingdoms. By the 
Rev. William Wisner, D.D." 


ions who hold their fellow men as slaves, thereby guilty of a sin 
which demands the cognisance of the church, and after due admo- 
nition, the application of discipline ?" P. 17. This question aboli- 
tionists answer in the affirmative ; all other men in the negative. 
Every party has a character as well as a creed. Whatever it is 
that holds them together as a party, gives them a common 
spirit, which again leads to characteristic measures and modes of 
action. If the bond of union is coincidence of opinion on some 
great principle in politics, religion or morals, then the characteris- 
tic spirit of the party will be determined by the nature of that 
opinion. If we look at the great parties in England, the Tory, 
Whig and Radical, we shall see they have each its own charac- 
ter, arising out of their distinctive principles. The Tory desires 
to see political power confined to the holders of property ; the 
Whigs to the educated classes ; the Radicals would have it extend- 
ed to the whole population without regard to their intellectual or 
moral condition ; and we see amidst the diversity of individual 
character, arising from a thousand different sources, a common 
spirit belonging to these several parties, arising from the distinctive 
principle of each. The correctness of this remark is still more 
obvious with regard to religious parties ; because religious truth 
has a more direct and powerful influence on the character of men 
than mere political opinions. We not only see the great divisions 
of the Christian world, the evangelical, ritual, and rationalistic, 
exhibiting strongly-marked peculiarities, arising from the radically 
different views of doctrine which they entertain, but the minute 
subdivisions of the large classes have each its own distinctive 
character. It is impossible that the difference between the Calvi- 
nist and the evangelical Arminian should not manifest itself both in 
the state of their hearts and in outward acts. And who can shut 
his eyes to the influence exerted by the New Divinity, in all its 
modifications, as it has existed in this country ? The spirit of cen- 
soriousness, of denunciation, of coarse authoritative dealing, and 
the whole array of new measures, were the natural fruit of the 
peculiar doctrines of one class of the advocates of the New Divi- 
nity, and especially of their opinion that a change of heart was a 
change of purpose, which a man could effect as easily as change 
his route on a journey. If, again, a party is constituted by a parti- 
cular opinion on any question of morals, its character will depend 
upon the nature of that opinion. We may take as an illustration 
of this point the temperance society. The opinion that the use 
of spirituous liquors was in this age and country of evil tendency, 
and ought to be discountenanced by a general determination of 
the friends of temperance to abandon such use, had nothing in it 
anti-scriptural, nothing malevolent. So long, therefore, as this 
opinion continued the bond of union of the associated friends of 
temparence, their spirit was benevolent, and their measures mild. 
But as soon as the doctrine was embraced that the use of intoxi- 
cating liquors was in itself sinful, then poison was infused into the 


whole organization. Then every man who drank a glass of wine 
was a sinner, and was to be made a subject of ecclesiastical disci- 
pline. Then the holy Scriptures were put to the torture to make 
them utter the new doctrine ; and those to whose ears this utter- 
ance was not sufficiently distinct, made bold hypothetically to 
denounce them, and to blaspheme the Saviour of the world. Then 
a spirit of censoriousness, of defamation, and of falsehood, seized 
upon those in whom the virus had produced its full effect, making 
their publications an opprobrium and a nuisance. 

We have in modern abolitionism another illustration of this 
same truth. That slavery, like despotism, in its very nature, sup- 
poses a barbarous or partially civilized condition of at least one 
portion of society ; that it ought not and cannot, without gross 
injustice, be rendered permanent ; that the means of moral and 
intellectual culture should be extended to slaves, and to the subjects 
of despotic governments, and the road of improvement be left 
open before them, is an opinion which any man may hold, and 
which we believe is in fact held by ninety-nine hundredths of all 
the intelligent and good men on the face of the earth. And that 
opinion may and ought to be made the foundation of wise and 
appropriate measures for carrying it into effect. But let a man 
adopt the opinion that slaveholding is "a heinous crime in the sight 
of God," and what is the result? Then he must regard every 
slaveholder as a criminal, to be denounced and treated accordingly ; 
no matter how humble, meek, holy, heavenly-minded, just, benevo- 
lent, that slaveholder may be ; no matter how parental in the treat- 
ment of his slaves, how assiduous in their religious improvement, 
how anxious to secure their preparation for freedom, he is, by the 
mere fact of holding slaves, proved to be a hypocrite, a malevolent 
and wicked man. Now such a judgment cannot be held without 
perverting the moral sense of the man who holds it. He must 
force himself to call evil good and good evil. The exhibition of 
Christian character, which ought to command confidence and 
affection, and in every healthful mind does command them, must 
excite in the mind poisoned by that false opinion disgust and hatred. 
A holy slaveholder is in his view as much a contradiction as a holy 
murderer ; and he cannot therefore regard a slaveholder as a good 
man. But if (as what sane man can doubt?) he may be a sincere 
Christian, to be in a state of mind which forbids our recognising 
him as such, is to be morally diseased or deranged. According to 
genuine High Church doctrine, every man baptized and in com- 
munion with " the church," is a Christian, and no man not in such 
communion can be a Christian, or go to heaven. But as it often 
happens that many in " the church " arp openly wicked, and many 
out of it are eminently holy, the High Churchman, if sincere and 
consistent, must regard the former with complacent feelings of 
Christian brotherhood, and the latter with aversion. It is, how- 
ever, one of the most certain marks of a true Christian, to recog- 
nise and love the Christian character in others, and it is one of the 


surest marks of an unrenewed heart, to feel aversion to those who 
are the true followers of Christ. The influence, therefore, of High 
Church principles on those who entertain them, must, from the 
nature of the case, be evil, and such all experience shows to be the 
fact. The fundamental principle of modern abolitionism must 
produce the same effect, on those who really embrace it. It 
must lead them to hate good men; it must cause them to shut their 
eyes to truth ; to harden themselves against the plain manifestations 
of excellence. All this produces an unnatural conflict in their own 
minds. Their principle leads to the conclusion that the slaveholder is 
a "heinous criminal," they see however that he is sometimes a good 
man ; they will not give up their principle nor the conclusion to 
which it leads, they are therefore forced to deny what they see to 
be true. This exasperates them and leads to the most unnatural 
exaggeration of what they call the crime of slaveholding, in order 
to satisfy their conscience, and justify them to themselves in their 
hatred and denunciation of good men. This sometimes goes so 
far as to produce complete moral derangement, when malice 
assumes in the view of the moral maniac, the appearance and cha- 
racter of benevolence, and cursing and bitterness sound in his ears 
like the accents of love. Our country has furnished more than 
one example of this kind, and the perverting influence of the funda- 
mental error of the party is as manifest as day in the moral state 
of the great body of those in whom it exists as a practical princi- 

It is no doubt true that no man's character is formed by one 
opinion ; and therefore there are many who belong to the general 
class of abolitionists, who are in spirit and conduct, exemplary 
men. This, however, is no disproof of the evil tendency of the 
distinguishing principle of the party. In many minds it exists as 
little more than a speculation ; in others its influence is counter- 
acted by natural disposition, by the power of other and right opi- 
nions, and by the grace of God. But in itself, and as far as it is 
allowed to operate, it is evident that a principle which makes the 
man who entertains it, regard and denounce good men, who really 
love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, as heinous criminals, unfit 
for Christian communion, must pervert the heart, and, where it has 
its full effect, destroy all semblance of religion. It is not invidi- 
ous, nor otherwise improper, to appeal to the spirit and conduct of 
a party in illustration of the tendency of their distinctive doctrine, 
and while we admit, as above stated, that there are many good 
men among the abolitionists, we regard it as a notorious fact, that 
the spirit of the party, as a party, is an evil spirit ; a spirit of rail- 
ing, of bitterness, of exaggeration ; a spirit which leads to the per- 
version of facts, and to assertions which often shock the common 
sense and moral feelings of the community. What but a spirit 
which blinds the mind, and perverts the heart, could lead, for exam- 
ple, to the assertion that in our country a minister, without injury 
to his character, could tie up his slave on Sabbath morning, and 


having inflicted a cruel punishment, leave him suspended, go to 
church, preach the gospel, and administer the Lord's Supper, and 
then return to inflict additional stripes on the lacerated back of 
his wretched victim. To assert that a clergyman may be a hypo- 
crite, or a forger, or a murderer, or a monster of cruelty, would 
not shock the common sense of men, for such things have been and 
may well be again ; but to assert as characterizing the Christian 
people in our southern states, that a minister may without injury 
to his standing among them be guilty of atrocious cruelty, is a 
flagrant falsehood, which none but a fanatic could utter, and none 
but fanatics believe. And fanaticism, be it remembered, is only 
one form of the malignant passions. Speaking then in general 
terms, the spirit of the party, as manifested in their publications, is 
fierce, bitter and abusive,* as might be expected from the nature 
of their fundamental principle. Contrast with this for a moment 
the case of the early Christians. They were obliged to separate 
from the community in which they lived, to form a party by them- 
selves, to denounce idolatry as a great sin, and idolaters as unlit 
for Christian Communion. But as their distinctive doctrines were 
true, the moral influence of those doctrines upon themselves was 
good ; it did not render them as a class fierce, bitter and abusive ; 
they were mild, kind, and conciliatory. The same thing may be 
said of the modern Christian missionaries in every part of the 
world and of every denomination. Though surrounded by the 
abominations of heathenism, and in continued conflict with error, 
they are not exasperated men, dealing in denunciations and abuse. 
The reason why their minds are composed, and in the exercise of 
benevolent affections, is that truth, and not error, is the principle 
which controls them. They are not called upon to do violence to 
their own moral judgments ; they are not forced to treat the good 
as though they were wicked ; and to justify themselves by saying 
that in despite of all appearances to the contrary, the men and 
things which they denounce, must be evil. If then it is true, that 
the spirit of the abolitionists, as a party, and speaking in the gene- 
ral, is an evil spirit, it is a decisive proof that their distinctive doc- 
trine as a party is a false doctrine. For we are commanded to 
judge of things by their fruits. 

Another collateral proof of the fallacy of their peculiar views, 
is that they have failed to command the assent of the great body 
of the intelligent and pious men of the country. Every great 
moral truth has a self-evidencing light. To the ignorant or 
depraved it may sometimes be difficult .to communicate such 

* This is substantially admitted even by Dr. Channing, who is claimed as the great 
ornament of their party. "The abolitionists have done wrong, I believe : nor is 
their wrong to be winked at, because done fanatically, or with good intentions; for 
how much mischief may be wrought with good designs ! They have fallen into the 
common error of enthusiasts [fanatics?], that of exaggerating their object, of feeling 
as if no evil existed but that which they oppos