« PrécédentContinuer »
Calvinist and Arminian, Arian, Trinitarian, Socinian and Sabellian, all have gone out of the way more or less. On the principles of Christian liberty and unity only could I fraternize with any one of them all: for if my communion with any one of them is to be regarded as a declaration of my acquiescence with that party in all its allegations and disquisitions upon the one Lord and the one faith, I would never break the loaf with it while the world stands.
The only question, then, is, how far a vicious philosophy may be, endured in those who practically admit but one Lord and but one sacrifice for sin; who will strongly affirm that without Christ's blood there is no remission, and yet in their speculations apparently deny both its importance and practical utility. Here is the precise case:A. communes with those who in his view are right in the theory, but in their works practically disown the unbounded authority of the Lord.* B. communes with those who practise the Christian morality, regardless of their tenets at all. But C. demands such an acknowledgment of both as is not repulsive to any declaration, preeep!, or promise in the Book, without requiring a stipulated phrase, an invariable form, a sort of patented shibboleth pass-word; and in the meantime goes into a candid, free, and full discussion of all leading questions of importance, with reference to a more clear and full agreement. Now which of the three most conform to the principle and practice enjoined in the Good Book?
Many of all parties have come into the reformation for which we toil. The most of them, like old casks, still smell of the first wine which they contained. But a marked and rapid progress to one great concord in all the apostolic doctrine has eviden ly distinguished our progress. We call Bible things by Bible names; and were you to hear Father Stone," and many others of different parties, now pleading this great cause, you could not, perhaps, in a whole year detect a single squinting to the old partizan idol.
I know, indeed, that in the recent discussions of the Christian name, a thing, by the way, not originating in its own merits; and also in the correspondence between this very exemplary and excellent veteran leader of public opinion and myself, some little sectarianism came out upon the skin, indicating old affinities and associations. You and I both agree that in Corinth Paul regarded him that said "I am for Christ, (a Christian,) as great a sectary as he that said "I am for Paul." So I still find it. The greatest sectaries and dogmatists I know contend for the Christian name exclusively.
I admit, therefore, that the skin over these old scars is more tender than the general surface, and will not bear to be rubbed quite so hard.
Still in process of time a race of Israelites will grow out of these-a new amalgam, that are not now learning these dogmata, and will be men and women of a purer speech.
You Virginia Baptists are, as you well know, a heterogeneous mass-a Gillite, Fullerite, Arminian, Calvinistic, Whitfieldite compound, not chemically combined, but mixed as the gases of our atmosphere. Still you are approximating towards a sextum quid—a new species of Regular Baptists.
For myself, I acknowledge that my sectarian partialities, as well as my more mature convictions, are all on the side of the general views of the Protestant reformers in those questions which involve the per. son, office, and work of the Messiah.
Modern partyism has not improved the views of the first Saxon, German, English, and French reformers. They were men of solid learning for the age-of much mental independence—bold, zealous, and untiring as well as unflinching in their defence of the great doetrine of atonement, with all the leading correlate principles. Many of their technicalities I cordially abjure as rude, barbarous, and unscriptural; still I find the marrow and fatness in the bone, and can endure the roughness of its appearance. I can never doubt that "Jesus died for our sins” according to the prophecies, and that by one offering of himself he has obtained an eternal redemption for us. This is the most fixed principle in the gospel.
I do not, indeed, make common cause with those who allow no more atoning efficacy to the blood of the Son of God than to that of Peter or Paul. Others may put that construction upon their views, but those with whom I would commune repudiate that style with all their heart, and do not so contemplate the atoning sacrifice.
If our Lord gave the supper to the Twelve on the night in which he was betrayed, and communed with them in all their vulgar misconceptions of himself, his mission, and kingdom, well may we commune with all those in our communities who acknowledge those seven items of which Paul speaks to the Ephesians, although in many points they may err both in theory and practice. I thank my Lord that I feel myself so authorized and so enabled; and I trust, my dear sir, that you will yet see the day when you will as cheerfully extend the right hand of fellowship to me, and to all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ sincerely, as I could to many Baptist Christians and other sectaries that now falsely accuse our good behaviour in Christ.
Sincerely and truly yours in Christ Jesus,
BETHPAGE, April 20th.
It would be but a poor return, my dear E, for your descriptions of Mexican scenery, to give you an account of the quiet vales, and sloping hills of this part of Virginia. Yet I have no doubt you would admit that the beneficent Creator has vouchsafed even to us peculiar gifts, could you from this eminence survey with me a landscape, which, however familiar, can never lose its charms. At a distance of perhaps 30 miles, a chain of high and irregular hills, covered with groves of trees, and robed in those soft empurpled tints by which "distance lends enchantment to the view," form, by their wavy outline, faintly sketched, as it were, upon the sky, the circumference of an immense circle, whose sweep the eye may follow for more than 80 miles.— Within this field of vision, seenery of a varied character presents itself. Upon the right, a succession of hills seem gradually to blend with each other as they become more and more remote; presenting, upon their steep ascents, the rich foliage of the oak or the maple; and, upon their summits, extensive ranges of undulating table-land, divided into cultivated farms. The farm-houses, embosomed in blooming orchards, the deep green woods, the clumps of locust upon neighboring summits, the brighter green of the wheat-fields, and the graceful rounded form of lofty eminences dotted over with flocks of sheep, give to this part of the picture the attributes of the beautiful. Contentment, security, and peace seem here to reign; fertility of soil insures plenty, and salubrity of climate, health. In viewing this scene, I am reminded of the divine promise to his ancient people—"I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel." What cause of unbounded gratitude we also have, that in the midst of these natural blessings, we have not been left in ignorance of the source from whence they flow; that we too are privileged to know that "God hath made us, and not we ourselves"-that we too are "the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand”!
Upon the left a prospect presents itself of a more wild and romantie character. It is here that a thousand fountains, which rising upon the hills, and falling in glittering spray from rock to rock, and flowing thence through deep and shady glens to commingle their waters in the valley, have formed at length a large and rapid stream, whose winding
course is distinctly traced by steep and rocky cliffs, projecting alternately from either side, until at a distance of eight miles they are lost in the highlands which border the Ohio river. Here and there upon the sides of these ridges, dark green pines grow upon naked rocks down to the water's edge, while their summits are covered with their pative forests, and few signs of human inhabitation appear, except that one may perceive at an immense distance, like a stain upon the sky, in the verge of the horizon, the smoke of a town upon the river, or hear occasionally, borne upon the sultry breeze, the regular breathing of the engines of steam-boats passing up and down.
But it is when we advance to the brow of the hill in front that we enjoy a view the most picturesque and interesting. A green and fertile valley, about one mile in width and two in length, spreads itself out, like a beautiful painting upon canvass. Lofty hills enclose it apparently on every side, yet it is evident that they must retire and open a passage both at the upper and the lower end for the stream which is seen to flow through its whole extent in a serpentine course, distinctly marked by the leafy elms and marbled sycamores which line its banke and lean towards its waters. At the upper end of the valley may be perceived partially concealed by a projecting ridge, the white out houses and enclosures of the retired and pleasant abode known as Bethany. A little lower down upon an eminence immediately adjacent to the stream, a house of worship may be noticed, almost hidden in a clump of oaks. A few small but neat tenements, with their enclosures, are scattered here and there, and add to the cheerfulness of the scene. A little lower down, however, and upon a considerable eminence near the centre of the valley, we are presented with the more imposing dimensions of Bethany College. Two large brick buildings, three stories from the basement, are already completed. One of these, by its neat cupola, you would recognize as the College Proper; the other is the Steward's Inn-already thronged with inmates. The brick-kilns, however, and other preparations which you might observe upon the premises, indicate the speedy extension of the buildings, a circumstance which has doubtless for a time postponed any efforts to give to the grounds that culture, improvement, and ornament of which they are so highly susceptible. Here, far from the pride, extravagance, and dissipation of cities, may youth be nurtured and instructed. As no neighboring fens can infect the purity of the atmosphere around, or poison the springs of life; so no corrupting example can here impair the strength of moral principle, or overcome the power of habitual virtue. Amid these rural and peaceful scenes, the giddy and tumultuous vanities of life may find no place; but studious youths may store
their minds with useful knowledge, spending the intermediate hours in social converse, or with some loved companion seated upon a grassy bank musing upon former scenes, or future joys, may be trained to usefulness and honor, in the midst of influences every way calculated to facilitate this object, while they leave unrepressed the genial feelings, and warm affections which in the spring-time of life, are fountains of delight, gushing forth from unselfish hearts
"Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possess'd;
Boast then no more, my dear E, of volcanic mountains whose intestine fires and flaming tops penetrate into the very regions of perpetual
now, and whose fearful explosions burst forth even beneath the ocean, elevating the solid land above its former level, and in the awful convulsions of the carthquake burying thousands in the ruins of their dwellings: nor glory in the charming scenery and genial climate of a region where vice and misery, ignorance and bigotry, tyranny and op pression every where prevail; and where revolutions in government vie in frequency and in desolating power, with earthquakes and tornadoes. Ah! never would I exchange the peaceful and beautiful scenery of this happy land, blessed with such civil and religious privileges, even for the "perpetual spring," the "never-fading flowers," the "dikes of porphyritic rocks," or all the romantic beauties of the plateau of Anahuac.
Having thus, I hope, fairly balanced my account with you, as far as these matters are concerned; I wish now to confer freely with you in regard to the important subject of converting influence, to which you have called my attention. Indulge me, however, in the first place, in a few general observations.
It appears to me that this subject of spiritual influence and converting power has never yet been fully and fairly treated by our religious disputants. And I confess I am as little pleased with the manner as the matter of their communications upon the subject. There has been too much confidence and dogmatism; too much moral philosophy, opinionism, and speculation in its discussion.
The whole subject of mental operations and spiritual agency is confessedly abstrase and mysterious. How, indeed, could it be other. wise? The eye cannot see itself-can the mind then understand itself? Can the spirit of man, cloistered within the narrow precincts marked out by a gross, inert, and uncongenial materiality, have so free intercourse with kindred natures—those hosts of celestial beings in that