Слике страница
PDF
ePub

tween us. The circumstances of the case, certainly required this. If he originally understood the statements which he undertook to defend, in so peculiar an import, it devolved on him to bave said so from the first. Not doing this, there was every reason for supposing him to adopt those statements in the very import whicha they had always borne in the previous public discussions. For reasons which need not be repeated, I had made a statement of my opinions in opposition to the doctrines, that “sin is the necessary means of the greatest good;" and that “man is born with a propensity to sin, which is a constitutional or physical property of the mind.” I had shown clearly what I understood by these doctrines. They had been exhibited not only in the very language of those who held them, but with such explanatory statements, as, it would seem, must preclude the possibility of any misapprehension of my meaning. The discussion had been continued for several years. It had been conducted to a considerable extent by others as well as by myself. The points at issue, it was reasonably supposed, liad been presented with so much precision as to be perfectly understood; while the very statements which I had used, and in the very import in which I had used them, had been adopted and defended by opposing writers. It was in such circumstances, that Dr. Tyler appeared as the advocate of these opinions; adopting without objection or qualification, the language in which others and myself had stated them; and explaining that language, as the public certainly understood, in the very iinport in which we bad used and explained it. Even in his last communication, Dr. Tyler still retains substantially some of his original statements, without being aware of what I must consider, an incongruity between those statements and his present explanations. That the charge of “palpable and gross misrepresentation,” should be made by Dr. Tyler in these circumstances, I cannot but regard with surprise and regret. That other advocates of the doctrines in question, find no occasion to complain of the misrepresentation of their views, is obvious from the fact, that they tenaciously, and without qualitcation, adhere to the very statements which have been used. Nor can it be doubted, that neither the high Hopkinsians, por the advocates of physical depravity, or the taste scheme, will, in view of Dr. Tyler's last explanations, consider him as any longer on their side of the question.

Be these things, however, as they may,-be it true or be it not true, that Dr. Tyler's language would justify me in the representations of his opinions which I have made, one thing is now undeniable, Dr. Tyler disclaims the opinions, which I had most sincerely and honestly supposed him to maintain. He does not hold the doctrine that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, nor the doctrine that man is born with a constitutional propensity

to sin, as I have understood and opposed these doctrines. On the contrary, if I rightly understand his last statements and explanations, we perfectly ayree in every particular respecting these important subjects. This I trust is to be the final, as it will be a happy, result of this theological discussion. It is with this cheering hope, that I have consented so far to wave the question, whether Dr. Tyler's original statements authorized my representation of his opinions. It is painful, indeed, to suffer what I deem a groundless charge of misrepresentation, to pass without a more formal refutation. My personal vindication on this point, however, is of far less moment, than truth, and harmony of opinion. To such harmony between Dr. Tyler and myself, I see no obstacle, while he adheres to the explanations made in his last communication. I hope then, he will unite with me in turning from a strife about words, to the higher and worthier object of agreement in things. That one should triumph over the other as a fallen adversary, would be degradation and dishonor, compared with exhibiting an example of ultimate union in sentiment and fellowship in Christ.

NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR.

ART. VII.-THOMPSON'S SERMONS ON INFIDELITY.

Sermons on Infidelity, BY ANDREW THOMPSON D. D. Minister of St. George's

Edenburgh. l'irst American Edition, with a Preliminary Essay. Windsor, Vt. Richards and Tracy. New-York: Jonathan Leavitt. 1833

One characteristic of these Sermons is, that they bear internal evidence of having been prepared to meet the actual wants of the congregation to whom they were addressed. It is evident, that both in the pulpit and the study, the author felt his mind to be in contact with the minds of at least some who were infidels in fact, if not in name. There is a directness in the arguments, and an earnestness in their application, which could spring only from a mind excited and warmed by a personal intellectual encounter with the enemies of the gospel. Indeed, through the whole of his attack upon them, while he manages his weapons with sufficient gracefulness and dexterity, he bears himself in such a manner as to remind us of some stout warrior, engaged with his whole soul in mortal strife against the foes of his country, rather than of some errant knight showing forth his skill in arms at a tournamant.

And from other sources we know that this was the case. At the time when Dr. Thompson commenced his ministrations at St. George's, the leaven of infidelity was fermenting in the mass of the population of Edenburgh, just as it was then, and is now, more or less, in all the large cities in christendom. It was

It was no longer con

1

fined to a few speculative minds, but was extending its influence to every class of the community. We are not speaking so much of that open-mouthed, brawling infidelity which we sometimes meet with, as of a secret, indefinite unbelief of the peculiar doctrines of the christian system. When Hume first sent forth into the world his writings in opposition to christianity, they generally met with a cold reception, even in the country and city of his birth. The Scotch were a cautious, as well as a religious people. We have it on good authority, that the controversy between him and his antagonists, was regarded with interest, rather as an exhibition of the intellectual strength of the parties, than because great interests were staked on the decision of the question. They seemed to have looked upon the struggle between that “prince of doubters,” and such a master of reason as Reid, Campbell, or Beattie, as each rushed to attack him in defense of truth and christianity, with the same feelings with which the Roman people witnessed the coinbat between two accomplished gladiators. Each of the combatants, indeed had his partisans; but the great body of even the higher classes, were interested mainly in the contest itself, and not in its issue.

But, in time, the infidel opinions then first promulgated, were adopted, in part at least, by a class of men, who by their valents and learning exerted a controlling influence upon public sentiment, Indeed, there was a period, when it was to a considerable extent the opinion in England, that the learned men of Scotland were all infidels, and the common people all christians. At least, it was true that some of the most celebrated public instructors and witers were conversant with the works of Hume, and gave currency among their countrymen to doubts concerning the peculiar doctrines and duties of the gospel. Unbelief was rife in certain circles in Edinburgh, and church-going was a thing comparatively out of fashion in the New-Town of that metropolis, till Andrew Thompson was removed from a church he had formerly held in the old-Town, and established under the splendid dome of St. George's."

It was for the especial benefit of the intelligent and fastidious unbelievers of his own congregation, that these discourses were prepared; and to this circumstance, they owe much of their uncommon excellence. A minister who fixes his view upon ity as it exists among his own people, can see its real form, and describe it more accurately, and argue it down more conclusively

, than if he should look all over christendom to find what infidelity is in the abstract, and should then write a book to confute it. which should be so general in its arguments, as to be as well fitted to one age as another. He who would write a truly effective volume on this subject

,

infidel

3

must have access to the hearts of reflecting men, who having read the writings of distinguished infidels, find themselves unable to meet their objections; and who with some appearance of candor, and some show of reluctance, have become unbelievers. He should have conversed with them freely and familiarly, and thus have become acquainted with their mental history, and the causes of their unbelief. He should have humbled himself to hold intercourse with another class of infidels, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, and who show clearly that they hate the light of truth. He should, likewise, have conversed with still another class, whose opinions are vague and unsettled, and who are carried about by every wind of doctrine; and with those who are too unreflecting to think much, and too stupid to feel much, either of attachment or dislike on the subject of religion. Besides this acquaintance with individuals, he should have witnessed the effects of infidelity upon communities,--observing how it dries up the springs of the social virtues, withers whatever is fair and lovely in social happiness, and, as if it were the hot breath of the pit, kindles into a consuming flame the passions of men. With a preparation like this, he would be qualified to come forth to the world in opposition to infidelity, either from the press or the pulpit ; and without some such preparation superadded to learning obtained from books, what he publishes or preaches must be deficient in many important particulars.

We are strengthened in this opinion, by calling to mind in what manner the bible was written. It was written, at least a considerable part of it, not to supply the general wants of the church, but to meet some local or individual exigency. Read the Epistle to the Romans, or those to the Corinthians, or indeed any of the Epistles, and you will be convinced, that each one of them was composed for the purpose of instructing and edifying the particular church or person to whom it was addressed, and that froin this circumstance is derived its principal excellence. Mere generalities, either in doctrines or in precepts, are not what we want, and are not what we have in the bible. The sacred penmen wrote in view of actual existences. Their language is, “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life—declare we unto you.” The bible being prepared by those who were thus intimately acquainted with what they undertake to conmmunicate, for the purpose of meeting the wants of particular individuals or communities, in certain definite exigencies, presents facilities for being understood, like those presented by statute law, when explained by commentaries and the reports of adjudicated cases. And being prepared in this manner, it is found to be altogether better adapted to exert a moral influence upon the great mass of mankind, than if it were made up of ten thousand precepts delivered in a abstract form.

The additional circumstance sliould be taken into view, that in modern times many causes are in operation to assimilate men in civilized countries, to each other, in their sentiments and opinions ; so that a work on religion which is adapted to one large town, inay be considered as well adapted to almost any other in christendom. The press circulates every new opinion which may be broached on the subject of religion, with wonderful promptitude. We have met with persons from the valley of the Mississippi, who were well versed in the works of Mirabeau the Atheist. Hume is read, more or less, throughout the countries denominated christian. Paine's works are circulated in India, even among the natives. But more than this; many of the popular writers of the present and the la generation, have read these same authors, and not unfrequently have contributed, perhaps in some cases unwittingly, to introduce some of the subtle poison of infidelity into the public mind. A work which is well adapted to unbelievers in Edenburgh, will d course, then, be well suited to unbelievers elsewhere. But unles written with a distinct reference to some people, and some actua state of public opinion, it will be of but little use. An ingenios man by the help of books solely, can prepare a work against ini delity; just as Phormio the Peripatetic, who had never seen rultary service, spoke some hours in the presence of Hannibal on the art of war and the duties of a commander; but he will espera himself to the ridicule of some thorough-bred infidel, just as the philosopher brought upon himself the contempt of the accorplished Carthagenian general.

Another characteristic excellence of these sermons, is that they are evidently the result of close observation, on the

part thor. He was not only placed in favorable circumstances, as have seen, for preparing this work, but he was qualified by de mental habits, to avail himself perfectly of these circumstances In other words, he had that acquaintance with men and this which is usually denominated a knowledge of the world. We learned theologians, we need not say, have been wofully deficie in this kind of knowledge; and, as the necessary consequence, her exerted less influence than they would otherwise have done, uze men of cultivated minds who were accustomed to fashionable li This, we suppose, was to some extent true in the case of the great theologian of our country, President Edwards. Until the when he entered Yale College, he was educated at home in cur pany with his sisters; when a member of that institution her very greatly devoted to his books ; and in subsequent life was occupied almost constantly by his preparations for the pulp and by the works which he published. He seems, indeed, 1

[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »