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dom. Of the latter, indeed, which is confined chiefly to Connecticut, it can hardly be said, that, in its proper latitude and spirit, it has respect to civil, much less to religious liberty. May the day soon arrive, when the only platform of christian faith, practice, and discipline, shall be the unadulterated word of God.
Sparks' Letters on the Episcopal Church.
Our brother editors of the Richmond Evangelical and Literary Magazine, have had this work under their notice during the last five months, and have at length closed their labours. Their remarks are chiefly confined to the two last letters. Let none of our readers imagine, however, that this deliberate movement of the reviewers indicates any want of talent for despatch. By a dexterous management, they have contrived to embrace two objects in the same plan. A late work of the Rev. John Pye Smith is united with the Letters on the Episcopal Church, and made to take a leading part in the article.
The reviewers' principal task has been to give a sort of abridgment, or abstract, of Dr. Smith's work. Through their optics, every thing here is seen in most captivating colours; and to their judgment, all is wise, and profound, and learned, and convincing. But when Mr. Sparks' two last letters cross their vision, all these images suddenly vanish, and the unfortunate reviewers are left to brood over a melancholy wreck of perverted intellect, and wasted attainments. The author's temerity is discovered to be inconsiderate, his arguments weak, his decisions inconclusive, his interpretations forced, his criticisms unnatural, his knowledge limited, his opinions ridiculous. All he has said, in fact, is represented as running into some extreme either of folly or extravagance, of weakness or absurdity. Our greatest wonder has been, that the learned reviewers should think it worth while to bestow so much consideration on a work of such a character.
But we are not about to solve this problem, nor to discuss the accuracy of their opinions, or the merits of their performance. We have a word or two only to say on some of their closing observations. In alluding to Mr. Sparks' Letters they remark;
“We can neither approve the spirit nor the execution of the work before us. We admit, that he says many things truly, and many things well; but considering that no small part of the work is not an answer to Dr. Wyatt's Sermon, but a direct attack on the Episcopal Church, we do think that he, without occasion for it, says many things calculated to wound the feelings of our episcopal brethren. In many instances there is an air of haughtiness and of scorn, which Mr. Sparks is not warranted to assume. Because Dr. Wyatt showed himself unacquainted with biblical criticism, in its present improved state, did Mr. Sparks take him as a fair sample of southern clergymen, and suppose that he might without check or control throw out the rash interpretations of unitarian critics? One would imagine, that he thought his opponents ignorant of the first principles of their profession, as scripture interpreters, and that he might give himself full license on this subject.”
Now in regard to the spirit of Mr. Sparks' work, we are persuaded the reviewers have been more hasty than discreet in their judgment. They are too sharp sighted and fastidious. The general voice of its readers is decidedly adverse to them. If we mistake not, it has been universally approved for its mildness of spirit, deference of manner, and fairness of argument, even by such readers as have had no sympathy with its sentiments. Some parts, no doubt, are expressed with more earnestness than others, and with an evidently sincere and firm conviction on the part of the author, that his views are accurate and important. But we deny, that a reprehensible temper is any where indicated, or any other than a candid, friendly, and christian spirit. We know of pothing, which ought to wound the feelings of episcopalians, unless their nerves are so delicate as to be painfully excited by direct arguments, and a statement of evident facts.
As to Dr. Wyatt's qualifications for a tbeologian, we cannot conjecture by what authority these reviewers have ventured to insinuate, that he has "showed himself unacquainted with biblical criticism in its present improved state.” We are not aware of any thing in Mr. Sparks' book, which could have encouraged them to hazard such an insinuation. We are not engaged to vin. dicate or defend Dr. Wyatt, yet we may be permitted to give our opinion, that it seems hardly fair to throw out such a hint, accompanied with the impression, that it is sanctioned by the Reply to his sermon.
Whether he is to be “taken as a fair sample of southern clergymen," is no concern of ours to inquire. We should deem it a praise, however, with which they ought to be gratified, if it could be said of them all, that they were as learned divines, and as good men. We are not umpires, and shall not undertake to decide, whether all the southern, or all the northern clergymen deserve this praise.
The question is asked, whether Mr. Sparks “supposed that he might without check or control throw out the
rash interpretations of unitarian critics?" In reply, we beg permission to ask another question, namely, whether these reviewers “suppose they may without check or control throw out the rash interpretations of trinitarian critics?" If so, they will not, most surely, deny to Mr. Sparks the same privilege. Let them answer the latter question, and they will encounter no perplexities in the former. Christianity is a religion of freedom. It is not only a right, but the most solemn duty of every man to give such interpretations of the Scriptures, as he thinks they demand. Mr. Sparks seems to have discharged this duty according to the convictions of his understand. ing. He was not contending with "opponents,” but simply exhibiting and illustrating what he conceived to be scripture truth, and doctrine. He undoubtedly has as good a right as any other man to "give himself full license on this subject." Nor do we perceive why the Richmond reviewers should imagine themselves exclusively entitled to this "license.” In their use of it, we presúme they will be ready to acknowledge, that they have not felt so tremblingly alive to its offence, or impropriety, as to be deeply troubled with qualms of conscience, or the pain of an ungrateful duty. Let them be as indulgent to others as to themselves, and they will no longer be inclined to restrict the privileges, or encroach upon the rights and liberty of christians.
Rev. Mr. Eastin's Protest.
[In a former number, Vol. I, p. 289, we inserted a leto ter from the Rev. Mr. Eastin of Kentucky, giving an interesting account of his conversion to the unitarian faith. It will be recollected by our readers, that his conviction was produced solely from perusing the Scriptures, and collating and carefully weighing every passage, which has been supposed to have a bearing on the trinity. He was at that time a Baptist, had charge of three churches, and belonged to an Association called the Elkhorn Association. When his change of opinion became known, certain charges were preferred against him, a meeting of the Association was ordered, and he was summoned to appear and vindicate himself. He was ultimately expelled from the Association, with a majority of the three churches to which he ministered. In the mean time, he and his brethren, sent a protest to the churches assembled to pass judgment on them, and also a letter explaining and defending their opinions. From these two manuscript documents we present a few extracts below, with the spirit of which our readers cannot fail to be pleased.
Heresy has been used as a term of reproach ever since the commencement of christianity. It is the watchword of the ruling party; and although it has never been defined in plain words, yet many an honest man has lost his life by it, and many more their reputation. Perhaps this latter is all that was intended, by the application of the term heretics to us. But admitting the allegation to be true, what a noble opportunity was offered to our brethren for the exercise of love and charity in adminis. tering the first and second admonition before they proceeded to reject. This method, however, which the gospel enjoins, and which reason approves, was neither resorted to, nor approved.
We have not willingly, or knowingly given offence to any.
We do not believe a difference of opinion is always a difference in principle. Or, supposing it is, has