Images de page

priety and justice in our part of the country; and because we believe, if we may be permitted to say it, that we may trust for the confutation of these attacks to the general character of the great body of Christians who think with us. We pass them over the more readily also, because they are in truth nothing less than gross offences against common morality, upon which a man of correct principles can animadvert but in one mode-in the language of severe reprobation. This language it is not pleasant to use, however justifiable may be the occasion; and considering the rapid progress with which correct opinions in religion, and what is far better, correct feelings concerning religion, are making their way, we trust that we shall not often think it necessary or advisable, to remark at any length upon the very improper methods by which an effort is sometimes made to oppose their progress. We have, however, determined to say a word or two at this time with regard to a few which have come to our knowledge.

In our number for September and October of the last year, we reviewed the pamphlet of the Rev. Mr. Feltus of NewYork, the purpose of which was to show the near aliiance between Unitarianism and Mahometanism. We are not at all disposed, however, to be angry with Mr. Feltus; and we have no doubt that he feels a considerable degree of self-complacency in the circumstance, that his production has attracted so much of our notice, as well as received a very able answer at New-York. To speak plainly, for we cannot allow ourselves room for much circumlocution, there was nothing remarkable about his pamphlet, but its silliness; except, indeed, that it was written with a decency of style, and moderation of feeling, which in a moral point of view put him far above some of his clerical brethren of the same city. In turning back to our review, we regret to find that we have not spoken more particularly of the full and satisfactory answer which it received from Henry D. Sewall, Esq. of New-York.

Since the pamphlet of Mr. Feltus, has appeared a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Spring, of which many of our readers may recollect that some account was published not long since in the Boston Daily Advertiser, accompanied with an extract from the eloquent and powerful answer which it called forth. The sermon is entitled with singular infelicity," A Tribute to New-England," for it contains nothing which would give it claim to a moment's attention, except several pages of virulent abuse of New-Eng land. The rest of the discourse is distinguished only by its barrenness and triteness of thought, its want of propriety in the use of language, a general clumsiness of expression, and one or two

blunders in matters of history. It is the production of a very ordinary and undisciplined mind; and if it be true that its writer holds a very considerable rank among the preachers of NewYork, we have only to regret that the standard of preaching is not higher in that city. In this TRIBUTE to New-England the author tells us that her growth and prosperity has been attended by a sensible and humiliating degeneracy; that there is a manifest declension of public morals in the different states of New-England; that a regard for the institutions of the gospel is found now, with few exceptions, only on the page of some antiquated statute-book, or inscribed on the tomb of Puritanism."


But to say the truth, we believe that he did not mean to assert quite so much as is affirmed in this last quotation; his language, we suspect, in this instance, outran his temper; the sentence from which we have last quoted being somewhat long, we imagine that he blundered on to the conclusion, without perceiving the connexion of meaning, or the sense which he had actually expressed. But we proceed: There are comparatively few in the metropolis of New-England upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; that is, there are but few Christians in Boston. faith is inculcated from some of the pulpits of New-England, which so far from being humbling to the pride of man, commends itself to the unrenewed heart, and constitutes precisely the resting place for a mind awake to its obligations, and determined to maintain its rebellion against the Most High :--a faith, which the purest self-righteousness demands, and with which the most unyielding impenitence is satisfied;-a faith, which mocks at the seriousness and spirituality and self-devotement of true religion, and which considers all the tenderness of an awakened conscience, all anxiety for the salvation of the soul, all the solemnities of conviction for sin, as well as all joy and peace in believing,' the object of ridicule and sarcasm;-a faith which relaxes the obligations of personal and domestic religion; which makes no scruple in allowing ministers and people an occasional indulgence in the more refined and fashionable vices; and which often descends low enough to caricature the simplicity and purity of better days."

Indecent and infamously false as all this is, we are assured on authority which we cannot doubt, that the sermon as delivered was still more offensive; and that the author, before committing it to the press, thought proper to soften and repress some of the language, which he was shameless enough to utter from the pulpit. There is but one mode of speaking of such outrageous calumny. It constitutes essentially the same crime with that of

the common defamer. It manifests a spirit, which, if exercised in a way not very dissimilar against an individual, instead of a great number of individuals, the humanity of our laws would indeed punish only with imprisonment and hard labour, but which in other countries less merciful, might lead its possessor to make his next public exhibition in the pillory instead of the pulpit.


Addison, in one of his Spectators, tells of a country clergyman, who having a quarrel with the squire of his parish, threatened to pray for him by name before the whole congregation. We believe that we have sometimes been prayed for in a similar spirit. But if the accounts which we have heard be correct, some of the clergy of New-York have used language and manifested feelings in their addresses to the Deity, in relation to the Unitarians of that city, which exceed in brutal profaneness any thing of the sort of which we recollect to have heard. clergy of a city have, we believe, no small influence not merely upon the religious and moral character of its inhabitants, but upon the state of intellectual improvement, of taste, and of genuine refinement of feeling and manners. By their weekly services, they determine in a great degree the manner in which religion shall be presented to the minds of men; whether in its true character, or as something repulsive and odious. The opinions which they inculcate may either enlighten and improve, or debase and confound the understandings of their hearers. They may do much to give them a taste for correct reasoning and genuine eloquence; or they may accustom them to extravagant and unmeaning declamation, and call upon them to give up the exercise of their own judgments, and rest satisfied with the confident assertions of their teachers, who are dogmatical in proportion to their incapacity to gain credit for their doctrines in any other way. They may do much to produce true liberality of feeling; or they may excite a vulgar, intemperate bigotry, which frequently exists, when the zealots who are actuated by it, neither know for what they are contending, nor what they are opposing. By inculcating religion in its true character as bearing directly upon the social duties, and demanding from us constant exertions to promote the moral and physical good of our fellowcreatures, they may indirectly do much to lessen the mass of vice and misery which is constantly accumulating in great cities. And on the other hand, by a kind of teaching, the tendency of which is to make men narrow-minded and violent in believing their doctrines, or profligate in despising them, they may contri bute no inconsiderable aid to the prevalence of irreligion and immorality. We do think that the condition of that city is not a little to be lamented, in which any considerable proportion of

the clergy are distinguished by the spirit, which we have now felt it our duty to expose.

We should do injustice to our own feelings, if we forbore to mention the admirable answer to Dr. Spring by a member of the Unitarian Society at New York. We should give some extracts from it, but one of considerable length has already appeared in the number of the Daily Advertiser before referred to, and the pamphlet itself is for sale in our bookstores. While there are men among the Unitarians of New York who think and write like the author of this pamphlet; and we know of more than one of their number of whom any city might be proud; we think they have little to apprehend from any fair opposition which they are likely to encounter.

State of Religion in Holland.-[We think our readers will be interested by the following account of the state of religion in Holland, with which we have been favoured by a gentleman of the highest respectability, a native of that country. It was addressed in a private letter to one of the conductors of the Christian Disciple, and leave has been subsequently obtained for its publication.]

I have received from Holland various Reviews and Journals, published since I left that country in 1817, and observe in them, that religious opinions have undergone, and are undergoing a great change, from what they formerly were.

It appears, that a Synod of the Protestant Church for the kingdom of the Netherlands, was convened in 1817, and that among other enactments for the government of that church, it has been decreed: That at the examinations of the candidates for the ministry, no mention is to be made of the five points wherein the Arminians or Remonstrants disagree with the Calvinists; and that the subscription of ministers to the confession of faith, is to be made with this new and cautious condition, that they will teach and preach according to it, so far as they judge it to agree with the word of God.

The same Synod invited all the Protestant dissenters, 1. e. the Anticalvinists, to partake with their churches of the Lord's Supper.

One Review, formerly characterized as ultra-orthodox, disclaims for the present clergy of Holland, any attachment to the Canons of the Synod of Dort of the year 1618, and asserts in several places, that it considers all the different doctrines among the Protestants, as speculative opinions, having no connexion with the positive doctrines of Christianity.

A Sermon has been published, pronounced by a Professor of Theology at Leyden, in which the doctrine of predestination is described as a frightful doctrine, dishonourable to God,-and absurd, representing the Deity as practising a contemptible deception upon his creatures, inviting and calling them to repentance and salvation, after having predetermined the everlasting misery of the greatest part of them. The reviewers, astonished at this open attack on a doctrine preached formerly by themselves, pronounce the terms here used to be too harsh, and insulting to a doctrine which during two centuries has made an interesting part of the popular belief. They agree, however, that the word Election is to be understood, as used concerning that which is chosen or preferred on account of some better quality and disposition, as Paul is named a chosen vessel, &c. They propose to explain the word in this sense, without mentioning or reproaching the former doctrine, and trust, that in so doing, the former erroneous explication will be forgotten, and the truth insensibly prevail.

Here we see in the church of Holland, another proof of the inexpediency and injurious tendency of human forms of belief, forced under the name of Creeds on Christian ministers. It is certainly not by a suddenly received light, that the clergy in Holland have discovered, that, as far as regards the doctrine of predestination at least, the Creed till of late unconditionally subscribed by them, and forced upon others, is not in accordance with the Bible. The growing disbelief in the doctrine has at length encouraged, perhaps forced them, to make this confession; they dare not however now do this from the pulpit, where they, as their brethren the Calvinists in this country, were formerly always insisting upon it. Their now determined silence on this point cannot however fail to be observed by a people, who like that of Scotland, have always put a high value on the articles of their Creed, and make them a subject for the exercise of their ingenuity; the fanatical Calvinists will cry out against them, and they are thus in danger of losing their influence and usefulness with their congregations. And when these congregations reflect, that their ministers have preached to them at least one doctrine, which they did not themselves believe; that the Creed and the Catechism remain the same, and their children are still obliged to learn and taught to believe them; is there not danger that this may lead the half informed, the great majority in all com munities, to become sceptics, and entertain doubts on the essential parts of the christian religion? I do not blame the present clergy of Holland. Those who have gone before them have done the mischief. Creeds and Catechisms cannot be altered

« PrécédentContinuer »