Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

made, the intellectual world must stand still. Whilst men differ in sentiment, they must debate. What are most of the branches of science but controversy reduced to system ! Truth is one, and eternal. If it possess any value, it ought to be contended for ; indeed, if it be not contended for, it will inevitably be lost. To condemn controversy, then ; what is it but to say that truth is not more valuable than error! Labor is the destiny of man. His mind, no more than his body, can be nourished without effort. Not more certain is it that weeds will overrun and choak a neglected field, than that error will spring up, and spread every where, unless firmly and perseveringly opposed. The moral, not less than the physical soil, must be cultivated with incessant care.

Controversy rouses the human mind into action ; sharp. ening and invigorating its powers. Truths, which are made the subject of discussion, are always better understood, and their importance more correctly estimated. That liberality, which places all opinions upon a level, is a false liberality; indicating, in the mind which it sways, a much stronger love of ease, than of duty. Where such spirit prevails, the characteristic doctrines of the gospel must soon be forgotten, or despised. Look at the immortal works, in defence and illustration of divine truth, which learned men have produced! We owe these to the spirit of enquiry ; and, if that strong dislike to religious controversy, which appears to be now so prevalent, had governed the conduct of Christian scholars, we might, even at this day, have been groping in the darkness of papal idolatry and superstition.

Consider, for a moment, the incomparable writings of the DIVINES of the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. How do they enrich the republic of letters! What an impregnable bul. wark do they oppose to the assaults of infidelity! What a clear and splendid light do they shed upon the whole system of revealed truth! At one period, you find these unrivalled scholars contending, with all their zeal, against the errors and corruptions of popery; at another, enforcing the obligation of Christian morals, against the fanatical opinion which exalted faith, at the expense of works; and, of late, how triumphantly have they vindicated the great doctrines of the divinity of the Savior, and of his meritorious sacrifice and death, which lie at the very foundation of the whole Christian scheme! At all periods, you see them

illustrating the sense of scripture; explaining the particular nature of its language; pointing out the superior excellence of its moral system ; and unfolding those evidences which irresistibly establish the divinity of its origin.

Such have been the fruits of controversial discussion.

As long as we value truth, we must contend for it. Striving, and striving incessantly, is the condition on which it is possessed. Man was intended for activity. Vigorous and persevering exertion, therefore, is rendered necessary to the acquisition and enjoyment of every important blessing.

The scriptures speak, on this subject, a plain and a strong language; expressly commanding us to “ hold fast the form of sound words,” and “ earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” This, like every other injunction of holy writ, is founded in a deep knowledge of the state of the world, and of the nature of man. Truth will be opposed; religion will be abused and ridiculed ; and, unless you contend, and contend earnestly, you will lose both the one, and the other.

Deeply, indeed, is it to be lamented that controversy should, so often, be disgraced by the arts of chicane, and by the rage of invective. But what good thing is there that is not liable to abuse ; or, that is not frequently abused ! Every thing reminds us that this is a probationary state; and few cases are there which call, more loudly, for self government, than the management of a dispute in which an important truth is to be rescued from the arts of misrepresentation, or to be defended against the clamors of violence. The apostles themselves knew not what temper they were of; for they would have called down fire from heaven upon a city which refused to receive them. Let the rebuke of their blessed master, on the occasion, be a lesson to all his followers! He requires us to fight his battles, and strenuqusly to support and propagate his doctrine ; but he requires us to do it in the mild spirit of his own celestial wisdom.

You will not suppose, sir, that these remarks have any individual application ; or, that I consider you as entertaining an opinion different from that which I have been endeavoring to enforce. No. The observations are intended to be general ; and I have thought it not improper to say a few words, in a preliminary way, relative to the uses of controversy, the unreasonableness of the prejudice against it, and the spirit in which it ought to be conducted.

LETTER II.

SIR,

[ocr errors]

I PROCEED to examine your letters; and it gives me pleasure to observe that they are expressed, for the most part, in terms of politeness, and courtesy. But, while I readily acknowledge this, the sacred regard, which is due to truth, compels me to say, that they are, not infrequently, marked with a spirit of extreme bitterness; and that they, too often, present assertions and insinuations, which, on every principle of consistency, and of candor, should have been spared. They appear to me, also, to be, not a little, distinguished by that positiveness which you so freely charge upon Episcopal writers; settling the questions, which they discuss, in a tone of the most peremptory decision.

Before entering upon an examination of your reasoning, I think it proper to take a brief notice of some passages, in your letters, which do great injustice to the Episcopal church and its advocates.

You repeatedly charge your opponents with embracing every opportunity to denounce the Presbyterial ministry, and ordinances.* All this, when properly interpreted, amounts to nothing more than that we think the priesthood was constituted in one way; you, in another; and, if to presume to differ from you in opinion is to denounce you, we plead guilty to the charge.

But let us see how this matter is.

In her standards, the Episcopal church expressly declares that there have been three orders of ministers from the Apostles' times; that these orders are Bishops, Priests and Deacons; that Almighty God, by his Holy Spirit, did insti. tute them; and that no man shall be accounted a lawful

Letters, p. 19, 350, 352.

minister without having received Episcopal ordination.* In saying this, she merely expresses her sense of scripture, and her opinion as to the constitution of the priesthood. She casts no censure upon others; nor utters any denunci. ation against them. And is it not the duty of those minis. ters who have subscribed her standards to defend them? Can they preserve total silence without violating the ties which bind them to their church, and disregarding the solemn duty of delivering to their people the whole counsel of God?

What, sir, do we denounce you because we cannot be. lieve Presbyterial ordination to be valid? A stranger, upon reading your book, would suppose that the Episcopal church declares against you as unfit to be tolerated, and calls upon the civil magistrate to crush you by the force of his author. ity. He never could imagine that her crime consists in thinking for herself, on an important subject of religion ; or in decently declaring the principles in which she consci. entiously believes.

But from you, sir, this charge astonishes me. You be. long to a denomination which hold that the ministry is essential to the church;t that there is no ministry without an outward ordination ;t no outward ordination but such as is Presbyterial;ll and that, except in a church so constituted, there can be no covenanted possibility of salvation. In your letters themselves the doctrine is expressly laid down. I If, then, episcopal writers are guilty of denunciation, how will you defend your society, and yourself, from the charge!

But the presbyterian confessions of faith stop not here; expressly declaring diocesan episcopacy to be a corrupt in. novation, and all subordination, in the ministry, to be “un. scriptural and antichristian.”* Nay, your coadjutor, Mr. M'Leod, asserts that presbytertanism is essential to lawful government both in church and state; hesitating not to

* Book of consecration of Bishops and of ordering of Priests and Deacons. † Presbyterian Confession of Faith, chap. xxv. 3. Ibid. chap. xxvii. 4.

| Letters, p. 347. $ Presbyterian Confession of Faith, chap. xxv. 2. connected with chap. xxvii. 1. 4.

| Letters, p. 347. **Constitution and Standards of the Associate reformed church in North America.

charge impiety upon all the civil constitutions of this country because not constructed, throughout, upon true presbyterial principles.* · Now, sir, is it not surprising that you should thus declaim against Episcopal writers, after setting up your own denomination as the only true church upon earth, and expressly charging every society, differently constituted, with corruption and apostacy? Yes, sir, I say that you set up your own denomination as the only true church upon earth; and I trust I shall be able to prove it, to the satisfaction of every candid mind, before I cease to address you. I know, perfectly well, that you talk quite loosely, upon this subject, in many parts of your work; representing certain internal qualifications as alone necessary to constitute a church;t buig here, you are, evidently, in the regions of fancy; trampling upon the presbyterian confession of faith; contradicting your own positive declarations ; making saintship the crite. sion of church membership; and, thus, overthrowing the visible church, its ministry, and ordinances, altogether. · See how very freely your friend, Mr. M'Leod, expresses himself!

“A person who is not ordained to office by a presbytery has no right to be received as a minister of Christ : His administration of ordinances is invalid : no divine blessing is promised on his labors: it is rebellion against the head of the church to support him in his pretensions : Christ has excluded him, in his providence, from admission through the ordinary door; and, if he has no evidence of miraculous power to testify his extraordinary mission, he is an impostor."| And this, let me observe, is the spirit of all the presbyterian confessions of faith. You yourself lay the doctrine down in so many words.

" It is only so far as any succession flows through the - line of presbyters that it is either regular or valid. It is the laying on of the hands of the presbytery that constitutes a scriptural ordination ; and it is because episcopal bishops are presbyters, and assisted in all ordinations by other presbyters, that we consider their ordaining acts, on the princi, ples of scripture and primitive usage, as valid.”'S And it is

• Reformation Principles, part. I. p. 134, to 137.
+ Letters, p. 344..
Ecclesiastical catechism, p. 29, 30. $ Letters, p. 347.

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »