Obrazy na stronie

He says: chusetts, clergyes, which were. Arianism,

portion as Calvinistic principles were modified or discarded, He says: “In Boston and its vicinity, and along the seaboard of Massachusetts, clergymen of great talent and religious zeal openly avowed doctrines, which were variously denounced by the Calvinistic party as Arminianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Socinianism and Deism. The most eminent of these clergymen, were alumni of Harvard, active friends and advocates of the institution, and in babits of intimacy and professional intercourse with its governors;" but it is said, that “ their religious views received no public countenance from the college.” These were the opponents of Whitefield, and the strict Calvinists were his advocates. That this picture may not want its finishing touch, it is said, that “at this period the high Calvinistic doctrines prevailed throughout New England, but chiefly predominated in the interior of Massachusetts, and in the colony of Connecticut."* The reader is left to infer, that as “high Calvinistic doctrines predominated in Connecticut," the progress of Whitefield was there unresisted and irresistible.

It is not our object in these remarks to determine whether Calvinism or anti-Calvinism is right; nor is it the question, whether the supporters and opponents of Whitefield were universally, the one Calvinists and the other anti-Calvinists. If it were, we should have something to object to the statements in this work. Our only inquiry here will be, assuming President Quincy's representation as correct,—that the stricter Calvinists were the advocates of Whitefield, and that “high Calvinistic doctrines predominated in Connecticut,”—whether this theory corresponds with the facts. This is the point to which we will direct our attention. Is it true, then, that Whitefield was a general favorite in Connecticut ?

The Association of the county of New-Haven assembled in New-Haven, February 19th, 1744-5, and issued a “ Declaration concerning the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, his conduct, and the state of Religion at this day.” We can give but a few extracts from this official paper. The Association say : “ We can in no wise approve of his Itinerancy, in going from country to country, from town to town, and from one place to another, under a pretence of preaching the gospel.” After explaining themselves more fully on this subject, and declaring against“ the itinerant and strolling way of proceeding, by reason of which the way of truth is evil spoken of,they say under their second

* Vol. II. p. 52.

head : “ We account the said Mr. Whitefield hath been a publisher of false doctrines, in sundry articles," and undertake to confirm this position by particulars. In the third place, they say : “ We think him guilty of uncharitable censoriousness, and slanderous reproaching, in the vile aspersions, bitter reflections, and condemnatory censures he hath passed upon the main body of the ministry in this land, though the most of them he was a perfect stranger to, and of most of them it may be boldly said, that they are sound in the faith, and of blameless conversation, and his superiors both in age and abilities.” They refer to Whitefield's remarks upon 6 Archbishop Tillotson, to whose name the venerable Dr. Increase Mather hath affixed the epithets of Great and Good," and add : “ Yet a raw and unstudied young man starts up and assaults the character of the great and good archbishop in more opprobrious language, than that which the wicked children used toward the prophet, Go up thou bald head; for he hath had the front to say, and print, that the archbishop knew no more of Christianity than Mahomet ; which we think is very injurious, though we agree not in all points with the archbishop. Bold and daring youth! Go,tarry at Jericho, until thy beard be grown.

They allude to Whitefield's censure of the colleges. “And upon our colleges, our beauty and our glory, which have been, are, and we pray that they may be, and hope that they will be, even to the latest posterity, great and rich blessings; but Mr. Whitefield hath said of them, that their light is become darkness, even darkness that may be felt. We are astonished at the impudence of the man, and that he dare so closely imitate the accuser of the brethren.”

The Association go on to say, that Whitefield “appears to us to be justly accused of uncommon pride, arrogance and vanity of mind," and speak of him as “ a great enthusiast, in being led by impulses and impressions, and construing his little feelings, or the sudden workings of his own mind, and his dreams, to be the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, without any good Scripture ground so to do.” They add in another place : “ Nor can we forbear to enumerate some of the evils and mischiefs, which have followed his conduct.” “ The ministry is cast into much contempt, and their usefulness greatly clogged and obstructed; the minds of people in matters of religion are strangely unhinged and fluctuating-insomuch that many know not what to think or where to fix, and are tempted to suspect all revealed religion to be a mere flam and nullity. Antinomian principles are ad

vanced, preached up, and printed; Christian brethren have their affections widely alienated; unchristian censoriousness and hard judging abound, love stands afar off, and charity cannot enter.” “ Numbers of illiterate exhorters swarm about, as locusts from the bottomless pit.” After more in the same style, they declare : “For all which reasons, and others that might be mentioned, it is our judgment that the said George Whitefield should not be allowed to preach anywhere, or to have communion; and we do hereby publish and declare, that it is our purpose and determination, that we will not admit the said Mr. Whitefield into any of our pulpits, nor receive him to communion in any of our churches; and that we will caution the people under our charge against going to hear him anywhere, till he hold forth repentance according to gospel rule, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance.

We invite the particular attention of the reader to the following extract, in which he will see the Association of New Haven county administering solemn reproof to the liberal Dr. Colman, to Dr. Sewall, Mr. Webb, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Gee, and other friends and supporters of Whitefield among the clergy of Boston. “ It hath truly been matter of grief to us, that so many of the ministers of Boston did caress, applaud and follow the said Mr. Whitefield, and even bowed before him, at his first coming into the country, which we conceive hath had an unkind influence, and set the things of a bad and dangerous tendency a going; and it is still more grievous to us, that so many ministers in Boston appear so attached to him since his return, after the effects of his former visit are so manifest and glaring; nor do we see reason to dissent from the Rev. Mr. Nathaniel Eells, whose words in his printed letter are these : I verily believe, that God in judgment, and not in mercy to his people, hath sent him again into this country.'

We shall make but one more extract. The Association say: “We gladly improve this opportunity to send our public thanks to the Reverend and Honorable gentlemen of Harvard College, the Reverend associations and particular ministers, who have appeared so valiant for the truth, against the errors, enthusiasm and encroaching evils of the present day."* This declaration was signed by all the clergy of the county, with the exception of, we believe, two, one of whom was the Rev. Philemon Rob

* This “ Declaration” was written by the Rev. Isaac Stiles, of North Haven, the father of President Stiles.

[ocr errors]

bins, of Branford; who, as it happens, was a graduate of Harvard.

Six days only after the Association had taken this decisive step, that is, February 25th, 1744–5, the rector and tutors of Yale College also issued their “ Declaration against the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, his principles and designs," in which they reiterate most of the same charges, though in language a little more qualified. We think it unnecessary to quote any part of this document except the passage in which they refer to Harvard College. “We have read," say the rector and tutors, “ the several declarations of the Reverend and Honored, the President, Professors, Tutors of Harvard College, of the Reverend the ministers of four associations near Boston, and of . the Rev. Mr. Walter, of Roxbury, and others, and do in substance agree and concur with them in our sentiments.” In June of the same year, the General Association of Connecticut passed the following resolve, thus expressing the sentiments of the great body of the clergy of the state : “ Whereas there have of late years been many errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, prevailing in the churches of this land, which seem to have a threatening aspect upon the churches; and whereas Mr. George Whitefield has been the promoter, or at least the faulty occasion of many of these errors and disorders; this Association think it needful for them to declare, that if the said Mr. Whitefield should make his progress through this government, it would by no means be advisable for any of our ministers to admit him into their pulpits, or for any of our people to attend his administrations.” A short time before this, David Brainard and the two Clevelands had been expelled from Yale College, under circumstances which certainly showed no very lively sympathy with the prevailing religious excitement. Severe laws also were enacted by the government, to check existing extravagances of both preachers and people. “Every measure,” says Dr. Trumbull in his History of Connecticut,* « appears to have been taken to suppress the zealous experimental preachers and people, both by the legislature and the leaders among the clergy. Numbers of them were Arminians, preachers of a dead, cold morality, without any distinction of it from heathen morality, by the principles of evangelical love and faith. Experimental religion, and zeal and engagedness in preaching, and in serving God, were termed enthusiasm. And great ad

* Vol. II. p. 176.

· vantage was taken, by reason of the wild, enthusiastic errors,

which some unhappily imbibed, to decry the whole work as delusion, and the work of the devil.”

Dr. Trumbull, as will be perceived from his language in the above extract, favored the minority, the disciples and admirers of Whitefield. We consider it wholly unnecessary to pursue this detail further; as it must be manifest from the proofs now alleged, that President Quincy is greatly in error, in affirming, that“ high Calvinistic doctrines,” meaning the doctrines preached by Whitefield, and those who gave him their countenance and support, at the time of which he was speaking, “ predominated - in the colony in Connecticut.” On this subject there is a sort of delusion, under which a portion of the community is laboring: Numbers seem to take it for granted, we have actually fallen in with such persons,—that Connecticut is a region, where from the first, with no abatement or fluctuations, “ high Calvinism," “ strict Calvinism,” « rigid Calvinism” would meet the traveller at every turn; and that every thing in it, and about it, has been as deeply imbued with “Calvinistic principles," as Athens was with the spirit of liberty; where, according to Plato, the very horses and asses walked the streets with a republican air, and took very democratical liberties with all they met. President Quincy, without doubt, is better informed; yet his language through these volumes is strangely coincident with that of this class of historians. We are well aware that comparisons are odious, and would indulge in them with caution; yet we will venture here to say, that in Connecticut, the opposition to Whitefield was stronger, more determined, and more persevering, not only than it was in Massachusetts generally, but also than it was “ in Boston and its vicinity and along the seaboard” of that province. Whether this is to the honor, or to the reproach of Connecticut, let others judge.

The author next proceeds to give some account of the doctrines, which “ were the acknowledged instruments in producing those revivals,' which drew the college (Harvard) openly into the field of controversy.” He here brings forward Jonathan Edwards, Charles Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew as “ distinguished divines, recognized by their contemporaries and by their respective parties as their most powerful advocates, and entitled to the character of leaders.”* “In their writings,” he ob

* Vol. II. p. 54.

« PoprzedniaDalej »