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creatures ought to submit to that will ; that the law of God is perfectly just, and they ought to approve of it, though it condemn their conduct; that they ought to feel that they deserve to be cast off, and that it would have been mere grace to have delivered them from eternal sin and misery ?”
But will those who are finally cast off exercise any true submission? Is a sense of moral obligation to obey God the same as obeying him? Is a sense of our desert of being punished for disobeying God, the same as submitting to his hand and heart in punishing us? Is there any thing in Mr. S.'s definition of submission, that an unregenerate man, remaining unregenerate, may not feel and express? I regret that the doctrine of unconditional submission, has not been better defined, and more repeatedly and forcibly inculcated in our churches than it ever has been, and especially of late. “Young men think old men to be fools;” but it would be well if young men would remember the last clause of the proverb.
EFFECTS OF HIS MINISTRY.—THE HONOR WHICH GOD CONFERRED
Some have thought and said that the ministry of Dr. Emmons was unsuccessful. But there never was a greater mistake. His influence was, indeed, more like “the still small voice," than like the wind and the earthquake; but although comparatively noiseless and unobtrusive, it was powerful, pervading, and salutary. He has given us, in his Memoir, an account of three interesting revivals, which took place under his ministry, the first of which was very extensive and powerful. During the fifty-four years in which he performed the active duties of his office, there were added to his church three hundred and eight; thirty-six by letter, and two hundred and seventy-two by profession. If it be considered that the greater part of his ministry was during the great declension of religion in Massachusetts, when the enemy came in like a flood, when revivals of religion were little known, and when a majority of the churches in his vicinity were either overrun or torn asunder by the prevalence of Unitarianism and its kindred errors, these
facts indicate much more than ordinary success in the conversion of sinners. It is well known to the people in the immediate vicinity of his labors, that conversions among his people were much more frequent and striking, than in the neighboring societies generally. His success as a preacher was once a common subject of remark. The number that was added to his church during the long period of his ministry, is not indeed great for these days of revivals and increased population. But for the times in which the vigor of his life was spent, and for the population of the place in which he lived, it was uncom
But the greatest success of Dr. Emmons did not consist in the number of sinners whom he was directly instrumental of converting. His influence in preserving his church and congregation from the corrupting influence of error, which in his day undermined the foundation of many generations, was a most important achievement. So thoroughly were they established in the faith once delivered to the saints,” that they were not even shaken in their faith by all the various forms of error with which they were assailed, or by the overwhelming popular influence which the friends of the misnamed liberal principles, for a long time, exerted around them. Only one or two of his church were affected with the prevailing heresies of the day. And the influence of these was immediately neutralized by the kind and faithful exercise of the discipline of the church. Though the leaven of error began to work in the congregation, and some few expressed their preference for “liberal Christianity," "falsely so called," yet the great body of the people remained firmly united with the church through all the changes that occurred in the vicinity, and in the face of all the efforts that were made to draw thern off from the principles and practices of their fathers. While almost every other society in the county has been divided, and many of them subdivided, his people still remain one people, worshipping in the same temple, and adhering steadfastly to the great principles of the gospel which they were accustomed to hear from his lips.
It has often been said that the preaching of such doctrines as he preached, and especially the dwelling upon them so much as he did, is suited not only to prevent a revival of religion, but to divide and distract a people. But the experiment which he made proves very satisfactorily that it need not have either of
* It ought to be considered here, that the place of Dr. Emmons' labors was one from which a great multitude of young people emigrated. A large number of those who became pious under his ministry, professed their faith in other places. And he had not, as many preachers in our fourishing villages have at the present day, a great increase of hearers from abroad every year.
these effects. To a friend of his he writes: "In three or four seasons of special religious attention among us, I preached more doctrinally than usual, which I found made deeper and better impressions upon the minds of the awakened and unawakened, than loud and declamatory addresses to the passions. Strangers occasionally preached among us in such a manner, but with litile effect. Discourses upon the divine character, the divine law, the total depravity of sinners, the sovereignty of special grace, and the immediate duty of submission, produced the most convictions, and the most conversions." The notion that a full exhibition of the great doctrines of the gospel has a tendency to prevent or check a revival of true religion, has been proved to be false, whenever the experiment has been fully and fairly made.
As to the tendency of Dr. Emmons' opinions to create divisions among a people, this is a fact only where they have already embraced dangerous and destructive errors. The truth in operation in the midst of error will indeed create divisions. But the only way to unite a people intelligently, firmly and permanently togeiher, is to preach the truth to ihem so plainly and so frequently, that they cannot help understanding it. It is doubtless owing to the plain and faithful manner in which Dr. Emmons instructed his people in the self denying and unpopular doctrines of the gospel, that he so effectually guarded them from the encroachments of error, and kept them so generally and closely united. He has given the ministry one of the most important lessons which they have ever received upon the best manner of keeping their societies united.
The light which Dr. Emmons threw upon the doctrines of the gospel, served to establish the members of other churches, as well as his own, in the faith once delivered to the saints. In almost all the churches in which he was accustomed to preach, there were many who felt themselves peculiarly instructed by his luminous exbibitions of the truth; and some of them still cherish a grateful remembrance of the knowledge of Christianity derived from his preaching.
From the perusal of his writings also, many within and beyond the reach of his voice, have obtained a view of the gospel which has given them great strength and satisfaction. The following extract of a letter containing a liberal donation to the Massachusetts Missionary Society, of which he was then President, from a female in the State of New York, an entire stranger to him, is a specimen of a multitude of others which he received from those whose faces he never saw in the flesh. “I embrace the first opportunity of communicating my sincere thanks to you, as an instrument in the bands of God, of convincing me of the truth, and establishing me in the belief of the doctrines contained in the Bible more than I ever was before, or probably should have been, had I never read your sermons.” “ So far as my ideas of divinity are correct, it is in a great measure, if not wholly, owing to the light which I have received from reading your sermons on doctrinal subjects, and of course I feel myself very much indebted to your labors and study." How much light has been diffused among the American churches, by the circulation of the single sernions and volumes which he published, and the communications which he made to various religious periodicals, it is impossible to form any definite estimate. But no one who is extensively acquainted with the religious views and feelings of professors of religion in New England, can doubt that his ministry has in some form or other exerted a great influence in forming them. Could all the knowledge of Christian doctrine which they have derived either directly or indirectly from his ministry, be now abstracted from these churches, their want of orthodoxy would be strikingly apparent. Those in the immediate vicinity of his labors would suffer an irreparable loss by such a process.
It was his object to produce salutary and permanent effects by his preaching and measures, rather than high and temporary excitement. He was fully aware of the fact, that in efforts to promote religion, as well as in secular concerns, a present good might be gained by the use of means which, in their ultimate results, would be evils more than sufficient to balance it. He guarded against the use of all such measures. And that he might be safe in his movements, he relied upon those means only which are obviously sanctioned by the word of God. Knowing that the word of God is the great instrument which he has appointed for the conversion of sinners, the sanctification of saints, and the prosperity of the church; he always laid himself out to make a clear, an appropriate and powerful exhibition of divine truth, and with a prayerful reliance upon the gift of the Holy Spirit, left the result of his efforts with God. When he could not accomplish a desired object without the use of means which were not of divine appointment, and evidently of a doubtful tendency as to their permanent influence; he felt that he ought to be willing to leave it for the present unaccomplished, and to direct his efforts to the attainment of others which the providence of God had placed within his reach. In this way he always retained his influence with his people, and set before his church an exarnple of practical wisdom, which prepared the way for their permanent usefulness, as well as his own. During his ministry his church was not only large, but well disciplined and well instructed. Their intelligence, their example, and their united and well directed efforts in the cause of Christ, gave them an infiuence in the town, which was felt by every family and every individual in it. Though in his best days, there were among his people as well as every other, much sin and many overt acts of wickedness; yet it is well known that they were as a body, remarkable, not only for the depth and consistency of the piety which prevailed among them, but for their industry, honesty and sobriety, for their observance of the Sabbath, their domestic order and regularity, their attendance upon the public worship of God, and the respect which they paid to all the institutions of the gospel. The good influence of religion was felt, and continued to be felt, through the community over which Dr. Emmons presided as a spiritual watchman.
But perhaps one of the most important of all the effects of his ministry is the influence which he exerted upon ministers themselves. No less than eighty-seven young men studied theology under his direction, and enjoyed the advantages of his instruction and example in their preparation for the sacred office. That the influence which he exerted upon them was both powerful and salutary we have the most satisfactory evidence, both from their own testimony and from the high character as ministers of the gospel, which most of them subsequently sustained. One of them * says, 6 In the instruction of students in theology, of whom he had a large number, he excelled every teacher of whom I have ever had any knowledge, in any department of education, whether literary, scientific or professional.” The young men who studied under his directions, obtained a more systematic and thorough knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel than was common arnong young ministers of their day. The sermons of many of them were distinguished for their logical arrangement, for their weight of matter, for the perspicuity of their style, and for the independent and fearless manner in which they announced the distinguishing truths of the Bible. These young men were generally devoted to their work, and in a very good degree successful in securing the great object of their high vocation. What an extensive and powerful influence did he exert upon the world through the medium of all these ministers, whose characters had been formed under the immediate influence of his instruction and example!
But those who were placed under his personal instruction were not the only ministers on whom he has exerted a great and salutary influence. Many with whose primary instruction
* Rev. Thomas Williams.