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Siegvolk, Stonehouse and Chauncy. The 'Conversations' contain as much novelty in the argument as the design of the work could well admit; and several of the illustrations, not absolutely new, are peculiarly apt and striking. Our limits allow us to give but one or two examples. Treating of that oft refuted but still favorite objection, the force of the word everlasting, Mr. Streeter observes, in the character of Univertalist,
'If we indulge the advocates for endless misery, and allow that everlasting does necessarily mean withimt end, it will prove as disastrous to them as to ourselves. That being admitted, the covenant of circumcision and the Levitical priesthood are of perpetual obligation, and the New Covenant, by which they are said to be abrogated, is an imposition. Of course, it undermines
Christianity itself I heard an intelligent Jew remark, in
the city of New York, that those who arrogated to themselves the orthodoxy of the age, and yet maintained that everlasting, connected with punishment, was any proof of its endlessness, were of all Christians, the most inconsistent or blindly bigoted. For, said he, according to their reasoning, Christianity is a gross imposition; its founder was as great an impostor as Mohammed, and his Apostles as real dupes as the mufties of the Prophet. I thought his remarks were just, and worth remembering.' pp. 128, 129.'
An objection is often made against all reasoning from the goodness of earthly parents to that of our heavenly Father. That objection, if not forcibly stated, is certainly well solved, in the following passage:
'Inquirer : . . . . Have you never heard it said, that no kind and benevolent father would permit his offspring to be miserable at all, or to suffer any misfortunes or afflictions, if he could prevent it; and hence, as God is the Father of all mankind, and yet does permit or appoint numerous and immense evils, he is not good and gracious as earthly parents are? That his goodness is of a higher and more sovereign character than theirs?
'Universalist. Indeed, I have heard this argument, or objection, or whatever it may be called, a thousand times, and generally by those who had just been arguing that Deity was perfectly benevolent in creating with a certain knowledge, to say the least, that "the being he gave" would prove a dateless curse! How inconsistent! If they have eyes to discern that the momentary evils of this life are incompatible with the best desires and feelings of a heart and mind capable of preventing them, how can they believe, that kindness and goodness, infinitely greater, would dictate and devise a plan, by which temporary evils should
be lengthened out to eternal 1 It is a fact that no kind
and benevolent parent would occasion one unnecessary pang in the bosom of his child, or permit a train of disappointments and sufferings, unless he meant to overrule them for the greater good, all things considered. Good old Jacob would have been cruel in directing the ten brethren to sell the son of his parental partiality into Egypt, because his finite capacities did not comprehend the gracious result of that scheme of operations of which
the selling of a brother was an important part But it was
not cruelty, but pure benevolence, in "the Ancient of Days," as he saw " the end from the beginning," and " set one thing over against another, to the intent" that all things should work together for good. And could Jacob have devised and executed the whole plan to equal advantage, the permission of the servitude and imprisonment of the one, and the malice and humiliation of the many, would have evinced similar benevolence. .
'The betrayal, persecution, and crucifixion of the Son of God, and all the eventful circumstances connected therewith, admit of a similar application. No earthly father would have been benevolent in permitting such a scene of sufferings; for the simple reason that he could not have contemplated and effected the same all-glorious result. "But God commended his love to us," and to the whole world, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world." "And every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear, saying, surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength."' pp. 114- 110.
But we must come to a conclusion. The greatest fault, as it seems to us, in the work, is a frequent quaintness or eccentricity of diction, here and there an extravagant simile, and sometimes a vulgarism. We may indeed misjudge as to the existence of the fact; but we think there can be no doubt that if such instances really occur, they are a blemish, though a blemish that may be easily removed. The immediate influence of a work of this kind is far greater on the community than that of more systematic and heavier treatises. If it gain the circulation which we believe it may be made to command, it will certainly tend to give a tone to the religious conversation of our infant sect; and it is highly important that the standard itself should be unexceptionable. H. B. w
Art. XXV. State of the Doctrine and Denomination of Universalists.
It will be recollected by the readers of the 'Expositor and Review,' that in the number for January last, a full" account was given, so far as it was practicable, of the existing state and prospects of the Universalist denomination. It cannot be expected that a review of a like character, following so closely upon the other, will embrace a very considerable number of additional facts, since we propose to take up only the circumstances of principal interest which have occurred since that time.
During the last six months, the usual prosperity has attended the denomination. The increase of new Societies has not lessened; the call for preaching has been unabated; the number of candidates for the Ministry, although not sufficient for the actual want, has promised a large accession of pulpit talent; and the public Journals continue to be efficiently supported. In fine, the prosperity of Universalism has become a proverb among its enemies as well as among its friends. We can hardly take up a paper upon the subject, in which this fact is not acknowledged. The friend of Universalism mentions it as a cause of joy and congratulation ; the enemy, as a matter of sorrow and regret, as showing the depravity of mankind, and the eagerness with which they run into error. Thus we read, in a recent orthodox review of Universalism, ' many will rally under the banner of Universalism. To us it seems not unlikely that Universalism, very much as it is now taught, may yet become in this country a much more formidable adversary of truth and righteousness, than any other heresy. Let the moral conflict between pure christianity and all its opposites grow more intense; let those great masses of infidelity which now lie dormant, be roused into activity; let the various parties of evangelical christians be brought to act in harmony, if not in concert; let external pressure force the elements of evil into a closer combination, and it will not be strange if Universalism shall draw together, and amalgamate within itself, all the varieties of opposition to the kingdom of Christ. Unitarianism has been tried; the experiment was made, in circumstances most favorable to success; but Unitarianism does not answer the purpose; it is too refined, too literary, too negative and sceptical, to produce an impression on the multitude. Atheism has been tried; but it is too bold, too shocking to the nature of man as a social being, and it has failed entirely. A desperate effort is now put forth for popery ; but popery requires too much blind faith, too much subjection to its priesthood to carry the day with Americans. Universalism too has its obvious disadvantages. It cannot but be revolting to every intelligent man of common candor and honesty. It too peremptorily contradicts the testimony of consciousness, and the admonitions of natural conscience. Yet it has its advantages, not over the truth, but over other forms of opposition to the truth. It has none of the aristocratic refinement of Unitarianistu. It is not so undisguised and shocking as atheism. It wears the face of liberality, and seems to breathe the spirit of democracy, as if it must needs be the deadliest foe of popery. It has great versatility: while it carries its own recommendations to the professed haters of godliness, it can sometimes put on an aspect of mysticism and devotion that imposes on the weak minded.'1 Setting aside the bitterness of this author to Universalism, and his misrepresentations of the nature and tendency of the doctrine, we have here his unsolicited acknowledgment that Universalism is fast spreading, and is taking the lead, and will finally swallow up in itself all other systems of liberal christianity. There is no fact more generally admitted in New England, and we suppose it must be so in New York and Pennsylvania, if not further south, than that the denomination of Universalists enjoys an unparalleled and unaccountable prosperity.
Within the last six months, efforts have been made by certain of the Universalist editors to furnish perfect lists of the Universalist clergy in the several states. Some states have not been reported, and from others entire returns have not been made. We are enabled, however, by what has been done, to pronounce with some certainty, that the number of preachers in the United States will vary very slightly from three hundred. The exact number of societies is not known, but it must be from two to three times as large as that of the preachers.
The meetings of the Conventions and Associations the present spring have maintained their usual interest. The highest ecclesiastical bodies are the State Conventions. These are organizations of the clergy and lay delegates from the Associations, for purposes of supervision, advice and efficiency. These bodies claim no power to punish offences, except by the mere withdrawal of fellowship, which is little else than saying they can no longer recommend a man as a preacher. They perform Ordinations, and grand Letters of Fellowship, which are the testimonials that the individuals who hold them preach under the approbation of the body. The ecclesiastical organization of the order is, as yet, imperfect. Where it has been most fully matured, it observes the following plan. The societies are the basis. The number of societies in a certain section of territory constitute an Association. Above the Associations are the State Conventions, which are composed in some cases of all the clergy in the state, and lay delegates from the Associations ; in others, only of clerical and lay delegates. The formation of a United States Convention has been attempted, but whether it will be carried into successful operation, remains yet to be seen. It is to be regretted that the laymen of the denomination do not feel a greater interest in its organization. Every society within the bounds of an Association should be represented by its delegates without fail. This promptness on the part of the laymen is the life and spirit of the order, and should be constantly maintained. The meetings of these bodies are not confined to any particular place, except those of the New York Convention, which have, we believe, uniformly been held in Utica. They adjourn from place to place, as they may be invited by the societies, not meeting in any place two years in succession. The meetings are generally holden two days, and the time is occupied in the deliberations of the body, and in the performance of public services. They accomplish no small good by the latter means. Six and sometimes seven or eight different clergymen preach, and double that number, if there be as many, perform the other parts of the services. Large congregations generally collect from a distance of ten miles around, increasing in size until the close of the session.
1 See the Quarterly Christian Spectator, for June, 1833. pp. 885, 284.