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Church in Philadelphia-and that that respectable and important congregation would secede if their wish was denied, and last, though not least, for its preposterousness—that the First Church would decline any future contributions to the Board of Missions, because the Rev. Dr. Green and the Rev. Joshua T. Russell, the President and the General Agent of that Board, were members of the minority!* Arguments of this class, however they might indicate the policy, certainly did little credit to the understandings of those who broached them. They doubtless produced an effect upon some minds; it soon became apparent that there was a popular and an unpopular side to the question, and those who were unwilling to encounter reproach, and submit to misrepresentation, had their resort.
The motion was at length put to the house, “Shall the commissioners have leave to prosecute the call ?" and it was carried in the affirmative, by a vote of twenty.one to twelve. The minority then recorded the following Protest, and the Presbytery adjourned.
We, the minority in the above case, do hereby protest against the foregoing decision for the reasons following, viz:
The Rev. Albert Barnes, the person to whom the call from the First Presbyterian Church was directed, in a Sermon preached, and lately published by him, accompanied by notes, which he has entitled “The Way of Salvation,” and in which he professes to give "the leading doctrines of the Bible, respecting God's way of saving men,” has, as we conceive, broached errors, which we, as guardians of the purity of the Church, cannot, in any way, countenance; because we believe them to be opposed to the doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church, and in their tendency, exceedingly dangerous; as will be seen from the following particulars, viz.
1. It is believed by the undersigned that the Rev. Mr. Barnes has denied in this Sermon, with its accompanying notes, the fundamental doctrine of original sin, as plainly and expressly taught in the standards of our Church. So far from admitting the federal and representative character of Adam, and our responsibility in him, he says at page 6, “Christianity does not charge on men crimes of which they are not guilty. It does not say, as I suppose, that the sinner is held to be personally answerable for the transgressions of Adam or of any other man, or that God has given a law which man has no power to obey. Such a charge and such a requirement would be most clearly unjust.” And again, at page 7, he says, “neither the facts, nor any proper inference from the facts, affirm that I am in either case personally responsible for what another man did before I had an existence.” Again, in the same page, he asserts, that “the notion of imputing sin is an invention of modern times.” And again, in the same page, he says, “Christianity affirms the fact, that in connexion with the sin of Adam, or as a result, all moral agents will sin and sinning will die;" and then proceeds to say, “It does not affirm, however, any thing about the mode in which this would be done.
* We had regarded this as an idle threat, incautiously uttered, but we have since learned that an individual of that congregation, who had pledged himself in the 100 dollar subscription, has since declined to redeem his pledge!
Mr. Russell, from his former associations, was well qualified to engage in this debate, and expose the dangerous speculations of the new school divinity, This he did with much force and ability, and this, we are glad to say, he continued to do, although reminded that a calculating policy would best subserve his official success in the management of the Assembly's Missions.
There are many ways conceivable in which that sin might secure the result, as there are many ways in which all similar facts may be explained. The drunkard commonly secures as a result, the fact that his family will be beggared, illiterate, perhaps profane or intemperate. Both facts are evidently to be explained on the same principle as a part of moral government.” Here, it is conceived, the author of the Sermon represents the effects of Adam's fall upon his posterity as their misfortune and not as their sin. And the Protestants do further consider it to be implied in the statements of the Sermon, that infants are sinless until in the exercise of moral agency they do positively, by
their own act, violate the law. Vide Con. of Faith, cap. vi. and Catechism Larger and Shorter, on Art. “ Original Sin.”
2. On the doctrine of the atonement, the Protestants believe that Mr. Barnes maintains sentiments which are in direct contradiction to those set forth in our doctrinal standards. At page he says,
“ This atonement was for all men. It was an offering made for the race. It had not respect so much to individuals as to the law and perfections of God. It was an opening of the way of pardon, a making forgiveness consistent, a preserving of truth, a magnifying of the law, and had no particular reference to any class of men."
Again, at page 11, he says, “ The atonement of itself secured the salvation of no one ;” and again, “The atonement secured the salvation of no one, except as God had promised his Son that he should see of the travail of his soul, and except on the condition of repentance and faith.” Vide Con. of Faith, cap. viii. 5 and 8.
Again, at page 10, he says Christ “ did not endure indeed the penalty of the law;" and again, page 11, he says, “Christ's sufferings were severe, more severe than those of any mortal before or since; but they bore, so far as we can see, only a very distant resemblance to the pains of hell, the proper penalty of the law. Nor is it possible to conceive that the sufferings of a few hours, however severe, could equal pains, though far less
intense, eternally prolonged. Still less that the sufferings of human nature, in a single instance, for the divine nature could not suffer, should be equal to the eternal pain of many millions." Vide Larger Cat. Q. 38.
In all this language the Protestants do sincerely believe, that Mr. Barnes denies that Jesus Christ was a vicarious sacrificethat his atonement had a definite design-that it was in itself efficacious—and that it was a proper satisfaction to divine justice for the sins of his elect.
3. In this Sermon, the Protestants believe that Mr. Barnes employs language on the subject of man's ability, which is contrary to the standards of our Church.
In speaking of sinners rejecting the Gospel, he says, page 14, “It is not to any want of physical strength, that this rejection is owing, for men have power enough in themselves to hate both God and their fellow men, and it requires less physical power to love God than to hate him;" and on the same page, he evidently insinuates that man's sole inability is in the will, and the principal effect of conversion upon the will. Again, page 30, in speaking of the causes which exclude a sinner from heaven, he says, “It is simply because you will not be saved.” The Protestants believe that to ascribe man's inability to the will alone, is contrary to the doctrine of our Church. Vide Con. of Faith, cap. vi. 4.
In addition to the foregoing reasons founded on the doctrinal errors advanced in the Sermon, we protest also, because,
1. In the forecited Sermon, professing to give a summary of leading doctrines relating to man's salvation, no mention whatever is made of the doctrine of justification by faith through the imputed righteousness of Christ, a defect, which, under the circumstances, cannot well be accounted for, except on the supposition that it was not received by the author; and
2. Because the author of the Sermon makes certain general declarations which induce us to believe, that he does not properly regard his obligation to adhere to the doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church. Thus, at page 6, he says in relation to one of his statements, “It is not denied that this language varies from the statements which are often made on this subject, and from the opinion which has been entertained by many. And it is admitted that it does not accord with that used on the same subject in the Confession of Faith and other standards of doctrine.” And, again at page 12, he says, “The great principle on which the author supposes the truths of religion are to be preached, and on which he endeavours to act, is, that the Bible is to be interpreted by all the honest helps within the reach of the preacher, and then proclaimed as it is, let it lead where it will within or without the circumference of any arrangement of doctrines. He is supposed to be responsible not at all for its impinging on any theological system ; nor is he to be cramped by any frame-work of faith that has been reared around the Bible.
And we do hereby further protest against the forementioned decision, because,
1. We believe, for the reasons stated above, that the decision will prove injurious to the purity of the Church, and to the best interests of religion : and,
2. Because, notwithstanding it had been decided on a previous question, by a vote of 37 to 10, that it was the right of Presbytery in examining the qualifications of their own members, to bring the said printed Sermon of Mr. Barnes under review, and to draw thence arguments for or against the prosecution of the call; yet in the final vote, a number of those who voted in the majority, whilst expressing their dissent from Mr. Barnes' doctrines, declared that they were guided in their vote, by the consideration that Presbytery had no right to inquire into Mr. Barnes' theological views, or to make them a ground of objection to the prosecution of the call.
For these reasons, we consider it our solemn duty to protest against that decision, which granted leave to the commissioners from the First Presbyterian Church to prosecute a call for the Rev. Albert Barnes before the Presbytery of Elizabethtown.
(Signed) MINISTERS.-Ashbel Green, George C. Potts, John Burtt, Joshua T. Russell, Alvin H. Parker, W. L. M'Calla, William M. Engles, Charles Williamson.
ELDERS.-Andw. Brown, Jos. P. Engles, James Algeo, Moses Reed.
A special meeting of the Presbytery was held on the 18th of June following," for the purpose of considering the subject of the reception of the Rev. Mr. Barnes, and to do what may be deemed proper in his installation.” This meeting was held in the Lecture room of the First Church, and was numerously attended by Presbyters and spectatore. The indelicacy of abandoning the usual place of meeting, and selecting this location, might be a subject of just comment; but if it had a design to influence, it totally failed; the minority neither retracted nor modified their ground. The following extract from the minutes of Presbytery will show how the business was introduced at this stage. The Rev. Albert Barnes presented a certificate of dismission from the Presbytery of Elizabethtown to join the Presbytery of Philadelphia. The minutes of the Presbytery at their last stated meeting in relation to the case of the Rev. Albert Barnes, were then read. It was then moved and seconded, that Mr. Barnes be received as a member of this Presbytery; and after some discussion, it was moved (by the Rev. Dr. Ely,) and seconded, that the motion now under consideration be postponed, that before deciding on it, any brother of the Presbytery who may deem it necessary, may ask of the Rev. Mr. Barnes such explanations of his doctrinal views as said brethren may deem necessary.” Here the question determining the right of a Presbytery to examine the qualifications of those proposing to become members, by dismission from a co-ordinate judicatory was brought prominently under debate, although it had been virtually decided in the affirmative by the first vote of the Presbytery at their April sessions. The right was strenuously contended for on the one side as one recognized by the constitution; as clearly ascertained by various decisions of the General Assembly; as inherent in Presbyteries as radical courts; as necessary as a safeguard against the rapid spread of error; and as essential to preserve the proceedings of a Presbytery against foreign interference. The argument on the other side, was the mere and confident denial of all these principles, as calculated to bring Presbyteries into conflict, and thus to interrupt the peace of the Church. Strange as it may appear, assertion prevailed over demonstration, and the right of Presbytery to examine the qualifications of its own members, was denied, by a vote of twenty to eighteen, twelve ministers voting in the affirmative and twelve in the negative. The original motion for Mr. Barnes' admission being again brought under consideration, it was moved by the Rev. Mr. Engles, that the motion now under consideration be postponed with a view to take up the following:
“Resolved, That the certificate presented to this Presbytery by the Rev. Mr. Barnes, from the Presbytery of Elizabethtown, be sent back to the Presbytery of Elizabethtown, with an attested copy of all the minutes of this Presbytery in relation to his case, with a request that the said Presbytery will consider and decide upon those doctrinal statements contained in a printed sermon of Mr. Barnes, which are referred to in a Protest signed by a minority of this Presbytery, and which are considered as grounds of objection to his admission into this Presbytery."
The majority had, in the course of argument, indicated this as the proper resort of the minority, but now feeling themselves to be sufficiently strong to carry all their measures, they changed their views and negatived the motion. The debate on Mr. Barnes' reception was then commenced anew.
To report speeches is not our intention; but we cannot refrain from adverting to that of the Rev. Mr. M.Calla, as an able and masterly defence of orthodoxy, in opposition to the spurious theology of New England, and to that of the Rev. Dr. Green, as the solemn warning of the sole representative of the fathers of our church, now fallen asleep, who, having observed the disastrous decline of the once glorious churches of France, Switzerland, and Ireland, could not suppress his grief in remarking on the present occasion, the same false spirit of liberality; the same unbounded latitude of interpretation, and the same unwillingness to arrest error in its commencement which had brought on their eclipse. At this stage of the business, the Rev. Dr. Ely, who had strenuously defended the right of Presbytery to exa