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• Adjourned Meeting, May 2d. No further business being laid before the convention, it was, on motion,
Resolved, That the next general convention be held at the Temple, in Philadelphia, on Friday, the 22d day of October, 1819=63, at 11, A. M.
Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be presented to the president and secretary, for their attention to the respective duties of their appointments. The convention was then closed by prayer.
CONDY RAGUET, Secretary.
EXTRACT Of a letter from a friend in England. 66 My dear Sir, 6 Your esteemed favour, of the 16th of October, was received only about the middle of last month, and as I was too late for a ship that might have conveyed this, and no other is soon expected, to avoid extraordinary delay, I have resolved on sending it by the packet, being desirous to express to you the very high gratification which your letter has procured me. The brotherhood which the New Church is establishing among many of its distant members is delightful to contemplate, the transit of affection is quick as light and heat, and though our spiritual senses are not yet perceptibly open for boundless and instant communication, our thoughts are unconfined, and in the course of divine providence, as the Church arrives at its fulness, greater privileges will doubt. less be granted, for which the states are not yet matured. That the little treatise which fell into your hands should have been so happily instrumental in promoting domestic harmony, was a very pleasing and unexpected circumstance, for which I am truly grateful, as I wish most sincerely, in the evening of my life, to be enabled as much as possible to promote spiritual uses. My course has, by the Divine providence, been directed through extremes of privation and bodily suffering, my worldly means, which were abundant, were all taken from me, to destroy every degree of attachment to them, and have since been amply restored, since content with little, and ambition being extinct, I am
enabled to partake of the delight of assisting distress. The extremity of bodily pain, which continued for some years, is now greatly mitigated; both these circumstances have been the means of elevating the mind to immortal views, and have struck at the root of those native loves which, with all of us, form our inheritance, and stand in the way of the superior loves of God and of our neighbour.
66 What you say of your own state I cannot conceive to be permanent, since the only road to the land of Canaan lies through the wilderness, and though the loathing of heavenly manna may be less with some than others, and some may more patiently wait than others for water from the rock, yet there is, in every one, a rebellious nature, with manifold evils, that require subjugation, while there are many acquisitions that can only be painfully obtained; the victory over our degraded nature cannot possibly be gained without frequent combat, the parting with a right eye and a right hand are trying operations, the exertions of the proprium, and the powerful obstacles it will often excité, before a new proprium from the LORD can be established, will often occasion sadness and suffering even to despondency; it is true, that there is a blossoming state in the regenerate life, during which error gives way to truth, and varied scenes of delight are opened to the view; but these pleasing flowers must depart for the setting in of the fruit, and many a rueful blight will settle on many a blos som ; the mind will often be threatened with desolation, the spiritual sun will hide itself in clouds, and the wished for progress will not only appear retarded, but will have to contend with ap. parently insurmountable difficulties. I cannot but think, my dear sir, that much of all this, and much more than I have described, must fall to the lot of every true disciple who is in earnest to follow his LORD, per crucem ad cælum. As a minister of the New Church, I should suppose you would sometimes feel, however gifted, an inadequacy to the charge, from humiliating states, and frequent pain, from a view of general or partial disorder from the states of others; whenever our sight is turned inwards there is much to deplore, and much to amend, and though the in. tervals of delight are exquisite at times, these pleasing waters must occasionally be at ebb, and painful trials succeed, or no pro. gress would be made; even the celestial state of angels is occasionally obscured, as the means of their advancing states. I must
now plead excuse for these lengthened animadversions, and rejoice with you in the wide spreading influence of the Crown of all Churches, trusting that by degrees it will establish peace on eartb, and bring distant nations into one bond of amity : the , who are the most active in sending missionaries abroad, it is true, are disseminating error with truth, but may they not be considered as pioneers, who are breaking up the road for those who will follow on white horses ? The Lord only knows the best and surest means, both by appointment and permission, for promoting His own glorious Church and Kingdom, though they are oftentimes obscured to our feeble apprehension.”
An interesting Correspondence between the Rev. John Johnson,
Pastor of the first Presbyterian Church, in Newburgh, New York, and Miss Elizabeth Jones, relative to the change in her opinions, which occasioned her Dismissal from his Church, New York. Charles N. Baldwin. 1817. 4$ pp.
Infidelity has long triumphed in the divisions and dissensions of the Church; and it cannot be denied that religious controver sy, as it is usually conducted, tends rather to bewilder than to satisfy the inquiring mind. A house divided against itself is brought to desolation.”—This truth, as applied to families and nations, has been confirmed by the experience of every successive generation, and the present state of the Christian Church seems to indicate a still more fearful illustration. Since the se. paration from the Church of Rome, the continued application of the protestant principle, that every man may interpret Scripture for himself, has multiplied the divisions of Christendom almost to infinity; for every sectary has made the Bible speak his own language, and announce his own doctrines. That this state of things may continue still longer, and that new sects may arise, each applying the same principle, and each deducing different conclu. sions, seems highly probable.-Indeed it appears inevitable; for while there is no acknowledged standard by which conflicting opinions may be tried, no one can be certain that he is right rather than his neighbour, or that both may not be wrong.
If the Scriptures be a revelation from Heaven, it necessarily follows that they cannot contradict themselves. A principle of interpretation, then, seems to be wanting, which shall reconcile those diversities in the literal sense, on which various sects found their adverse opinions. This principle should be of universal application and unquestionable authority. But while it may perhaps be admitted, that such a principle is desirable, it is evident, that it is not at present generally recognized, or even supposed to exist. The protestant churches acknowledge the literal sense only as the basis of their doctrines, and seldom rise above it in their commentaries and expositions. Those, however, who adhere most closely to the letter, are compelled occasionally to deviate from it ;—but it is observable, that these deviations are not made according to any established rule, and except in some remarkable instances, they are determined by the private judgment of every individual, according to his own ideas of fitness and propriety.--Now the private judgment of the Calvinist is one thing, and that of the Armenian another. That of the Quaker differs from both, and that of the Universalist from all. Each of these, when he meets with a passage, the literal sense of which is not in conformity with the doctrines he embraces, assumes a new mode of interpretation for the text in question, by which it is made to agree with the literal sense of other passages, which favour his peculiar opinions. It is presumed that no one will deny, that this is the general practice of the most approved expositors of every denomination.
The nature of that inspiration by which the Word is written, has also been a subject of much controversy in the church, and here too we find “ a boundless ocean of opinion.” The idea affixed to the term seems to change with almost every commentator, and while most men admit the Bible to be inspired, few annex any definite meaning to the word.
Had the Church acknowledged, that as the Scriptures are the Word of God, they must be interpreted by laws peculiarly their own, we should have heard little of the mode now prevalent, of applying to them the same rules of criticism and illustration, that are applied to classic authors.-Whether this be consistent with that awful reverence, with which a communication from Heaven should be received by those to whom it is addressed, is surely more than questionable. It would seem self-evident, that the game laws cannot apply to the works of men, and the revelations of God. And it may be difficult to determine whether the profane or the ludicrous predominates, when we behold the Deity brought down, under the different characters of Historian, Rhetorician, and Poet, to stand the test of learned criticism, and to be judged by the laws of Aristotle and Quintillian.
As finite and infinite can admit no degrees of comparison, neither can the works of Almighty wisdom, and those of human ingenuity. Had this obvious inference been made, we should not have heard the Holy Scriptures compared with human compositions. The Bible has been degraded, though with a view of exalting it, by being brought into competition with the writings of men. To institute a parallel between David and Homer, and because the former may occasionally surpass the latter in sublimity of sentiment and magnificence of imagery, to pronounce that one is inspired and the other is not, is both absurd and impious. This is only to say, when we strip it of its disguise, that man can write well, but that God can write better.
We have alluded to a principle, by which the Scriptures may. be interpreted, and have ascribed to it certain characteristics. Is there, then, such a principle to be found ? If not, of what authority can a work be, which is made with every rising sectary, as with every former one, to speak a new language, and to be the herald of new doctrines ? Indeed, on common principles of reasoning and experience, it seems difficult to account for the authority, which it has for ages maintained. No human composition could have supported its reputation, while exposed to such a variety of contradictory interpretations.
We repeat the question, is there such a principle ? Can it be supposed, that the most important truths are the most uncertain ? That while on subjects comparatively trivial, we are able to arrive at absolute certainty or the highest probability, that those truths, which have eternity for their object, and salvation for their end, are involved in inextricable perplexity ? Can the Scriptures, which are the wisdom and the power of God, be destitute of those laws of order and harmony, which guide and govern the operations of nature ?
It cannot be. The Word is Truth in its fulness and its glo- , ry. The laws of its interpretation are fixed and immutable. Human Literature may try and may judge the writings of men. But VOL. I.