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great and precious ground of encouragement that their beloved offspring will be converted to Christ. And all efforts and systems which do not aim directly at the regeneration of the heart, are deficient in the first great principle of Christian education, and contain no promise of the first great result of the pious parent's desire. Still, if we would not undervalue or do injustice to sovereign grace, special care must be taken not to connect any merely human agency even with so desirable an end, in such a manner that there shall of necessity be an infallible connection between human instrumentality and the result. Is not the danger of such an impression one apparent defect in the theory of Dr. Bushnell? It would be a great practical error for Christian parents to suppose, that their children cannot possibly be converted till they have lived some years in sin. It is well to urge upon the church the possibility of early and even infant conversions, and they ought to be labored for more as if expected. But we are not to expect that God will have children so nurtured, that the fact of a great change cannot and will not be tangible and manifest. So important a doctrine of the gospel as regeneration is not to rest upon simple theory. But does not the theory of Dr. Bushnell tend to such a result? And granting it to be correct, and that by a faithful application of its principles, it should become a universal fact, and that when all parents become Christians, their children shall grow up so from the cradle, how could the great fact of regeneration be made apparent? If we are to expect any such state of things in this world, when it does occur, will not the doctrine of regeneration then, for a while at least, exist only in theory, and from being a matter of mere theory and speculation, will not the almost certain result be its flat denial and final rejection? And so when we shall see infancy and childhood, as well as mature age, uniformly developing the feelings and principles of Christianity, where will be the reason in fact for any belief in the doctrine of entire native depravity, and the consequent need of the all sufficient atonement of a divine Saviour? Does not Dr. Bushnell's theory, as commonly understood, though not, perhaps, as he intended, assume, like the chimerical principles of nonresistance, a condition of things which may never be realized in a state of probation? Does it not imply a state of actual perfection, whether it be considered the fruit of grace or of native
goodness, which would suppose this world to become what God never designed it should be?
Nevertheless, there is a great practical duty for Christian parents. They have, undoubtedly in too great measure neglected it; and "seeing they have forgotten the law of their God, he has forgotten their children." It is to be hoped that they will be stimulated by what has been published in the recent treatises on the subject of Christian nurture, to reëxamine the whole question of the covenant of grace, and of parental and filial responsibilities; and not put over their own peculiar work to be done up by the wholesale, and by those who, in the nature of things, cannot possess the requisite qualifications. Let us have no "ready made" religion, but rather such as is made strictly "to order" of Him who governs the world.
CAUSES OF UNITARIANISM IN BOSTON.
THE causes of spiritual declension in New England, were of a general nature. They operated alike on the whole community. They tended evidently and powerfully to prepare the way for the spread of error and false religion; but not in any one particular section of the country, more than in others. Why then did Unitarianism make its first appearance, and its most formidable onset, in the region of Boston? The same mistakes were made by our fathers, previous to the revival of 1740, in other parts of New England, as in Boston. The abuses of the revival, and the opposition to it, were even greater in some parts of Connecticut, than in Boston. The wars, too, with the French, and with the parent country, were common evils; and the commercial prosperity which succeeded to the war of the revolution, was of common influence. All these things tended, doubtless, to break down religious principle, and prepare the way for the introduction of Unitarian errors; but what reasons can be assigned for the particular locality of these errors? Why did they not appear in other places as early, and prevail as extensively, as in the neighborhood of Boston? These are the questions now to be considered.
In replying to these questions, it will be necessary to turn back, and consider the bearing of certain events which took place near the middle of the last century. It is true, that the opposition to the revival of 1740 was more violent in some parts of Connecticut, than it was in Massachusetts, and in the neighborhood of Boston. In Connecticut it arose to the most disgraceful persecution. It arose to such a height that it produced a reaction, defeated itself, occasioned the disgrace and overthrow of its abettors, and brought the revivalists again into favor. The opposition to the revival in Connecticut proceeded to the enacting of laws for the purpose of suppressing it; and to the arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and transportation of numbers who promoted it. Some of the best ministers in the colony were openly insulted, deprived of their salaries, subjected to heavy pecuniary charges and bonds, and were even carried by public authority out of the jurisdiction. Laymen, too, were deprived of their civil offices; and some who were accustomed to exhort in religious meetings were cast into prison. Such was the liberality of an anti-revival governor and legislature.
Nor was the work of persecution confined to the civil powers. Some of the revival ministers were expelled from the Associations to which they belonged, cut off from ministerial fellowship, and even dismissed from their charges, for no other crime than that of laboring to promote the work of God. Church-members, also, were in some instances excommunicated, for hearing the revivalists preach; and, in short, the friends of the revival were sadly harassed by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.
The Rev. Dr. Pomroy of Hebron, besides pecuniary charges, and being laid under bonds, was deprived of his salary for seven years. Mr. Finley, afterwards President of New Jersey College, "was once or twice carried out of the colony as a vagrant." Messrs. Humphreys of Derby, Leavenworth of Waterbury, and Todd of Northbury, were cast out of Association, for assisting in the ordination of an Orthodox, New-light minister. Rev. Timothy Allen of West Haven, and afterwards of Chesterfield, Mass., was dismissed from his people by the Consociation, with this ill-natured boast, that "they had blown out one New-light, and intended to blow them all out."
But these violent proceedings, as might have been expected, at length wrought the disgrace and overthrow of those who promo
ted them. The good sense of the people of Connecticut was shocked, and after a few years of oppression and trial, the persecution ceased. The friends of the revival were restored to their rights, and received to more favor than they had lost; while their late oppressors were regarded as "haters of God, opposers to his truth, and the persecutors of his servants."
In Massachusetts, the opposition to the revival was conducted in a very different manner. Dr. Chauncy and his coadjutors had more cunning, if not more principle, than to attempt suppressing it by statutes and penalties. In place of these, the good work was here assailed by sneers, reproaches, malicious insinuations, and slanderous reports. The abuses of it were much harped upon and exaggerated, and its friends were treated in a manner which had all the effect of palpable persecution, without the odium of it. Warm, active, devoted piety was rendered disgraceful; and strong prejudices were excited and confirmed against everything which bore the appearance of a revival. By these more artful methods, the opposers of evangelical religion succeeded, in some parts of Massachusetts, in putting it down; while the result of their violence in Connecticut was, to bring it back to favor and influence, and bring themselves only into disgrace. Here, then, we have one reason why the errors, for the origin of which we are in search, made their appearance in Massachusetts, and in the region of Boston, rather than in some other portions of New England.
We have another reason for this in the fact, that the Calvinism of Boston, both before the revival and after it, was not of the most unexceptionable kind. The half-way covenant was in full operation, and the views of Mr. Stoddard, as to the qualifications for church-membership and communion, were embraced, even by the best ministers. At the time of the great earthquake, in 1727, people generally were affrighted, and were for rushing directly into the churches. "Very few came to me then," says Mr. Prince, "under deep convictions of sin, or with the inquiry, 'What shall we do to be saved;' but rather to signify that they had such a sense of their duty to come to the Lord's table, that they dare not stay away any longer." And Mr. Prince himself represents Mr. Tennent as excessively strict, "in cautioning people against running into churches, taking the sacred covenant, and receiving the Lord's supper, until they had saving grace.
It seems to me," he adds, "that where there is a thirst for Christ and his spiritual benefits, that thirst is raised by the Spirit of Christ; and in raising such a thirst, he shows his readiness to satiate it, and invites, requires, and gives sufficient grounds for the coming to these pipes of living waters," - that is to say, the
President Edwards, in his farewell sermon at Northampton, preached in 1750, speaks thus of "Arminianism, and doctrines of like tendency." "The progress they have made in the land, within these seven years, seems to have been vastly greater than at any time before. And if these principles should greatly prevail in this town, as they have lately done in another large town I could name, formerly much noted for religion," (meaning Boston,) "they will threaten the spiritual and eternal ruin of this people."
In the year 1765, Dr. Samuel Hopkins had a controversy with Dr. Mayhew of Boston, respecting "the doings of the unregenerate." It is evident from this controversy, that Dr. Mayhew, who, next to Dr. Chauncy, was then one of the most influential ministers in Boston, was certainly no Calvinist.
These facts are stated, for the purpose of showing, that the Calvinism of Boston, which, even during the revival, was not of the most unexceptionable kind, in a few years afterwards became essentially corrupted; and thus a foundation was laid for that fearful defection from the truth, which has since been witnessed.
Another reason for the prevalence of religious error in Boston, is found in its particular exposure, more especially before the revolution, to a corrupting foreign influence. It had at that time more commerce, more intercourse with foreigners, and was more exposed to deterioration from abroad, than any other place in the country. And it is indubitable, that the beginnings of most of our corruptions in New England, whether of doctrine or practice, have been imported. The writings of Whitby and Taylor scattered the seeds of Arminianism among us. The works of Clarke and Emlyn led some to doubt and deviate on the subject of the Trinity. While in later times, the works of Priestley, Lindsey, Belsham, and others, instructed and confirmed many in their Unitarian speculations.
Three-fourths of a century ago, there were a few both among the clergy and laity, in Boston and the surrounding country,