« AnteriorContinuar »
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, By BROWN AND PARSONS, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, for the
THIS volume contains the matter of an answer made to the Ministerial Association of which I am a member, for the doctrines of my book, entitled “GoD IN CHRIST :” a book in which, it was rumored and extensively believed that I had published dangerous, or even fundamental errors. This answer was made, and the inquiry itself formally terminated, more than a year ago. Since that time I have been frequently importuned by my brethren, sometimes by letter, sometimes personally, to give it to the public. It has more than once been declared, in the religious prints, that I was about to do so.
For two reasons I have not been in haste to make the publication, though I will not disguise the intention I had in preparing it, to give it to the public at some future time. First, I had expressed my determination not to be drawn into a controversy; and, for a time, it was hardly possible to publish any thing, without being charged with receding from my purpose. But the condition of things appears to be changed. If still there is a degree of agitation continued in respect to my book, the public, I think, will not judge that it is of such a kind as compels me to break silence; which, if I now do, (for this is the first word I have printed regarding my book since its publication,) I think it will generally be seen that I am not descending at all to controversy, but simply performing a duty which I owe to the truth. It will be seen, too, by my readers, that the matter of this volume could hardly have been classed among writings of controversy at any time. It is not a handling of my
adversaries or critics, to any such extent as involves controversy. It is simply an ecclesiastical defense; and still it is rather a dissertation than a proper defense. Indeed, my intention was not so much to defend as to complete my doctrine by a fuller exposition of certain points, and by a reference to the opinions of others and of the church in this and other ages. My principal endeavor in it is to make my positions more intelligible; in accomplishing which, I rely, to a great extent, on tracing their import comparatively; which, in my book, I had scarcely done at all. My experience has led me to expect a good deal of unfairness; but I can not anticipate that any one, who cares to maintain even a show of justice, will impute a violation of my engagement. The time appears to have come when the heat of controversy and the pressure of assault are exhausted, and I publish now simply as regarding the truth. I hope my argument may be read and considered in the same manner. I have no victory to gain, and I see not that I have any to fear. As little have my brethren, who have been disturbed by my heresies. Whatever is now to be gained must be gained by truth and lost by error, and with that we may all be content. I have also shrunk from the publication of this volume, so often requested, for a more private reason, which will be sufficiently suggested by citing the true maxim which a servant of God drew from his own experience, when he said, “I am now satisfied that the main cause of man's spiritual blindness is his letting his will into somewhat, or into that which he hath wrought, of whatsoever nature it be, and setting his heart and affections upon the work of his own hands or head.” It is possible, I think, and even easy, to bear the most violent public assaults, from unreasonable and bitter multitudes of men, without disturbance; yea, to have one's peace consolidated by their pressure, and purified by the fires they kindle. But it is a very different thing to espouse, voluntarily, the work of one's “own head” before them, even though it be to speak for the truth, and for that only; for there is like, in that case, to be somewhat of one's will speaking through the interstices of the truth; or, what is worse, through
the interstices of a shattered peace and a corrupted simplicity. Really to cease from one's own works, as God did from his, while maintaining the truth of them, is possible; but only by a most nice and subtle possibility, in which, if there be a failure, the rest of faith is lost and the sabbath of the spirit is broken. If still, despite of much self-distrust and some caution, the evil has been stealthily suffered, may God pardon so great infirmity; as also the infirmity of others, who, mixing their will with the truth, have been harsher judges, possibly, against me than he. Perhaps it is required of me to state that I have taken what liberties I pleased with my manuscript since it was prepared. Only about half of it was read to the Association. In preparing it for the press, I have altered modes of arrangement and expression where it suited my convenience. Some parts I have omitted, some I have added; careful only to preserve the substance of the argument, and assuming the right to give it greater clearness and effect. Suffice it to say that nothing has been altered in such a way as to involve a change of position, or in such a way as to present a different case to the public from that which I presented to my brethren. As my former volume was called “God IN CHRIST,” I have called the present “CHRIST IN THEology,” with a design that will be sufficiently obvious. To complete the descending series begun, there is wanted another volume, showing the still lower and, as it were, sedimentary subsidence of theology itself, precipitated in the confused mixtures of its elements; a volume that shall do upon the whole body of theological opinion, in New England, what my anonymous friend C. C. has done, with such fatal effect, upon the particular strictures of my adversaries. To see brought up, in distinct array before us, the multitudes of leaders and schools and theologic wars of only the century past-the Supralapsarians, and Sublapsarians; the Arminianizers, and the true Calvinists; the Pelagians, and Augustinians; the Tasters, and the Exercisers; Exercisers by Divine Efficiency, and by human Self-Efficiency; the love-to-being-in-general virtue, the willingto-be-damned virtue, and the love-to-one's-greatest happiness
virtue; no ability, all ability, and moral and natural ability distinguished; disciples by the new-creating act of Omnipotence, and by change of the governing purpose; atonement by punishment, and by expression; limited, and general; by imputation, and without imputation; trinitarians of a threefold distinction, of three psychologic persons, or of three sets of attributes; under a unity of oneness, or of necessary agreement, or of society and deliberative council;-nothing I think would more certainly disenchant us of our confidence in systematic orthodoxy, and the possibility, in human language, of an exact theologic science, than an exposition so practical and serious and withal so indisputably mournful, so mournfully indisputable.
I very much desired, in my exposition of the Trinity, to present some illustrations from a manuscript dissertation of President Edwards, on that subject. Only a few months ago, I first heard of the existence of such a manuscript. It was described to me as “an a priori argument for the Trinity,” the “contents of which would excite a good deal of surprise,” if communicated to the public. The privilege of access to the manuscript is declined to me, as I understand, on the ground of “the nature of the contents.” As this manuscript has just now come into the possession of Dr. Dwight of Portland, it is to be hoped that, unless some restrictions on the use of it have descended as a trust from the author, he will disburden himself, as soon as may be, of the very important responsibility, so faithfully exercised, for a whole century now past, by persons not more competent, certainly, than Jonathan Edwards, to guard the orthodoxy of this very distinguished name.