Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ter in controversy laid before them, and finding the sentiments of the pastor and church concerning the qualifications necessary for full communion, to be diametrically opposite to each other; the pastor insisting upon it as necessary to the admission of members to full communion, that they should make a profession of sanctifying grace; whereas the brethren are of opinion that the Lord's supper is a converting ordinance, and consequently that persons, if they have a competency of knowledge and are of a blameless life, may be admitted to the Lord's table, although they make no such profession : and also finding that, by reason of this diversity of sentiments, the doors of the church have been some years, so that there has been no admission : and not being able to find out any method wherein the pastor and brethren can unite; consistent with their own sentiments, in admitting members to full communion : the council did then, according to the desire of the church, expressed in their letters missive, proceed to consider the expediency of dissolving the relation between pastor and people; and, after hearing the church upon it, and mature deliberation of the case, the questions were put to the members of the council severally :

i. Whether it be the opinion of this council that the Reverend Mr. Edwards persisting in his principles, and the church in theirs in opposition to his, and insisting on a separation, it is necessary that the relation between pastor and people be dissolved ? Resolved in the affirmative.

2. Whether it be expedient that this relation be immediately dissolved ? Passed in the affirmative.

However, we take notice that notwithstanding the unhappy dispute which has arisen, and so long subsisted between the pastor and church of Northampton, upon the point before mentioned, we have no other objection against him, but what relates to his sentiments upon the point aforesaid, laid before us : and although we have heard of some stories spread abroad, reflecting upon Mr. Edwards' sincerity with regard to the change of his sentiments about the qualifications for full communion ; yet we have received full satisfaction that they are false and groundless : and although we do not all of us agree with Mr. Edwards in our sentiinents upon the point, yet we have abundant reason to believe that he took much pains to get light in that matter; and that he is uprightly following the dictates of his own conscience; and with great pleasure reflect upon the Christian spirit and temper he has discovered in the unhappy controversy subsisting among them; and think ourselves bound to testify our full charily towards him, and recommend him to any church or people agreeing with him in sentiments, as a person eminently qualified for the work of the gospel ministry.

And we would recommend it to the Rey. Mr. Edwards and the first church in Northampton, to take proper notice of the heavy frown of divine Providence, in suffering them to be reduced to such a state as to render a separation necessary, after they have lived so long and amicably together, and been mutual blessings and comforts to each other.

And now, recommending the Rev. Mr. Edwards, and the church in Northampton, to the grace of God, we subscribe,

JONATHAN HUBBARD, Moderator,

In the name of the Council.
Northampton, June 22, 1750.
A true copy examined by

CHESTER WILLIAMS, Scribe.

AN

HUMBLE INQUIRY

INTO THE

RULES OF THE WORD OF GOD,

CONCERNING

THE QUALIFICATIONS

. REQUISITE TO A COMPLETE STANDING AND FULL COMMUNION

IN THE

VISIBLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

PREFACE.

My appearing in this public manner on that side of the question, which is defended in the following sheets, will probably be surprising to many, as it is well known, that Mr. Stoddard, so great and eminent a divine, and my venerable predecessor in the pastoral office over the church in Northampton, as well as my own grandfather, publicly and strenuously appeared in opposition to the doctrine here maintained.

However, I hope, it will not be taken amiss, that I think as I do, merely because I herein differ from him, though so much my superior, and one whose name and memory I am under distinguishing obligations on every account, to treat with great respect and honor. Especially may I justly expect that it will not be charged on me as a crime, that I do not think in every thing just as he did, since none more than he himself asserted this scriptural and Protestant maxim, that we ought to call no man on carth Master, or make the authority of the greatest and holiest of mere men the ground of our belief of any doctrine in religion. Certainly we are not obliged to think any man infallible, who himself utterly disclaims infallibility. Very justly Mr. Stoddard observes in his Appeal to the Learned, p. 97: “All Protestants agree that there is no infallibility at Rome; and I know nobody else that pretends to any since the apostles' days." And he insists in his preface to his sermon on the same subject, that it argues no want of due respect in us to our forefathers, for us to examine their opinions. Some of his words in that preface contain a good apology for me, and are worthy to be repeated on this occasion. They are as follow :

“It may possibly be a fault (says Mr. Stoddard) to depart from the ways of our fathers: but it may also be a virtue, and an eminent act of obedience, to depart from them in some things. Men are wont to make a great noise, that we are bringing in innovations, and depart from the old way: but it is beyond me to find out wherein the iniquity does lie. We may see cause to alter some practices of our fathers, without despising of them, without priding ourselves in our wisdom, without apostasy, without abusing the advantages God has given us, without a spirit of compliance with corrupt men, without inclination to superstition, without making disturbance in the church of God: and there is no reason, that it should be turned as a reproach upon us. Surely it is commendable for us to examine the practices of our fathers; we have no sufficient reason to take practices upon trust from them. Let them have as high a character as belongs to them; yet we may not look upon their principles as oracles. Nathan himself missed it in his conjecture about building the house of God. He that believes principles because they affirm them, makes idols of them. And it would be no humility, but baseness of spirit, for us to judge ourselves incapable to examine the principles that have been handed down to us. If we be by any means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel, we are capable to judge of these matters : and it would ill become us, so 10 indulge ourselves in ease, as to neglect the examination of received principles. If the practices of our fathers in any particulars were mistaken, it is fit that they should be rejected ; if they be not, they will bear examination. If we be forbidden to examine their practice, that will cut off all hopes of reformation.”

Thus in these very seasonable and apposite sayings, Mr. Stoddard, though dead, yet speaketh: and here (to apply them to my own case) he tells me, that I am not at all blamable, for not taking his principles on trust; that notwithstanding the high character justly belonging to him, I ought not to look on his principles as oracles, as though he could not miss it, as well as Nathan himself in his conjecture about building the house of God; nay, surely that I am even to be commended, for examining his practice, and judging for myself; that it would ill become me, to do otherwise ; that this would be no manifestation of humility, but rather show a baseness of spirit; that if I be not capable to judge for myself in these matters, I am by no means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel ; that if I should believe his principles, because he advanced them, I should be guilty of making him an idol. Also he tells his and my flock, with all others, that it ill becomes them, so to indulge their ease, as to neglect 6xamining received principles and practices; and that it is fit, mistakes in any particulars be reiected: that if in some things I differ in my judgment from him, it would be very unreasonable, on this account to make a great noise, as though I were bringing in innovations, and departing from the old way; that I may see cause to alter some practices of my grandsather and predecessor, without despising him, without priding myself in my wisdom, without apostasy, without despising the advantages God has given me, without inclination to superstition, and without making disturbance in the church of God; in short, that it is beyond him, to find out wherein the iniquity of my so doing lies; and that there is no reason why it should be turned as a reproach upon me. Thus, I think, he sufficiently vindicates my conduct in the present case, and warns all with whom I am concerned, not to be at all displeased with me, or to find the least fault with me, merely because I examine for myself, have a judgment of my own, and am for practising in some particulars different from him, how positive soever he was that his judgment and practice were right. It is reasonably hoped, and expected, that they who have a great regard to his judgment, will impartially regard his judgment, and hearken to his admonition in these things.

I can seriously declare, that an affectation of making a show as if I were something wiser than that excellent person, is exceeding distant from me, and very far from having the least influence in my appearing to oppose, in this way of the press, an opinion which he so earnestly maintained and promoted. Sure I am, I have not affected to vary from his judgment, nor in the least been governed by a spirit of contradiction, neither indulged a cavilling humor, in remarking on any of his arguments or expressions.

I have formerly been of his opinion, which I imbibed from his books, even from my childhood, and have in my proceedings conformed to his practice; though never without some difficulties in my view, which I could not solve: yet, however, a distrust of my own understanding, and deference to the authority of so venerable a man, the seeming strength of some of his arguments, together with the success he had in his ministry, and his great reputation and influence, prevailed for a long time to bear down my scruples. But the difficulties and uneasiness on my mind increasing, as I became more studied in divinity, and as I improved in experience; this brought me to closer diligence and care to search the Scriptures, and more impartially to examine and weigh the arguments of my grandfather, and such other authors as I could get on his side of the question. By which means, after long searching, pondering, viewing and reviewing, I gained satisfaction, became fully settled in the opinion I now maintain, as in the discourse here offered to public view; and dared to proceed no further in a practice and administration inconsistent therewith : which brought me into peculiar circumstances, laying me under an inevitable necessity publicly to declare and maintain the opinion I was thus established in; as also to do it from the press, and to do it at this time without delay. It is far from a pleasing circumstance of this publication, that it is against what my honored grandfather strenuously maintained, both from the pulpit and press. I can truly say, on account of this and some other considerations, it is what I engage in with the greatest reluctance, that ever I undertook any public service in my life. But the state of things with me is so ordered, by the sovereign disposal of the great governor of the world, that my doing this appeared to me very necessary and altogether unavoidable. I am conscious, not only is the interest of Religion concerned in this affair, but my own reputation, future usefulness, and my very subsistence, all seemed to depend on my freely opening and defending myself, as to my principles, and agreeable conduct in my pastoral charge; and on my doing it from the press : in which way alone am I able to state and justify my opinion, to any purpose, before the country (which is full of noise, misrepresentations, and many censures concerning this affair), or even before my own people, as all would be fully sensible, if they knew the exact state of the case.

I have been brought to this necessity in divine providence, by such a situation of affairs and coincidence of circumstances and events, as I choose at present to be silent about; and which it is not needful, nor perhaps expedient for me to publish to the world.

One thing among others that caused me to go about this business with so much backwardness, was the fear of a bad improvement some ill minded people might bo ready, at this day, to make of the doctrine here defended; particularly that wild enthusiastical sort of people, who have of late gone into unjustifiable separations, even renouncing the ministers and churches of the land in general, under pretence of setting up a pure church. It is well known, that I have heretofore publicly remonstrated, both from the pulpit and press, against very many of the notions and practices of this kind of people; and shall be very sorry if what I now offer to the public, should be one

« AnteriorContinuar »