網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

iv.

amount of testimony he intended to have introduced. The exclusion of the former will not be deemed very important, in this place, inasmuch as it is not within the present issue. He has said nothing upon that portion of the work Reviewed which refers to "An Original Church of Christ," as it is expected this will be Reviewed by Dr. Bangs, to whom the matter properly and entirely belongs.

In placing this work before the public the author wishes to be distinctly understood as putting aside all claims to a high literary standard. He simply asks for it the consideration of his readers as a work of facts; being fully aware that judged of as a work of literary merit it will be found greatly deficient. The hurried manner in which it has been made up is considered to be ample apology for its many errors.

The author would be pleased to use towards Mr. Bolles as flattering language as Mr. B. has used towards him in the “ Advertisement to the Reader" of his work; but not believing Mr. B. is "the most able, learned and eloquent preacher of the" Protestant Episcopal Church, "in this section of the country," he cannot for the sake of flattery or to elevate on false grounds the ability of his opponent, go so far from the truth. With these few prefatory remarks, he asks from the reader a fair' and unprejudiced consideration of all the subjects named in the two works.

ALLEN STEELE. BATAVIA, August 4th, 1843,

REVIEW.

CHAPTER I.

A full understanding of the matters at issue necessary--the spirit

in which the review is to be conductedthe hostile position assumed by Mr. Bolles-defense of religious controversies--necessity of this review plan of the reriew.

The work announced some time since as forthcoming from the pen of Mr. Bolles, or rather, as being made up of a series of letters, being a correspondence between Mr. Bolles and myself, necessity calls upon me to redeem my promise made, to review it. In entering upon this duty it is manifest, that a fair and full understanding of all matters at issue can only be obtained by going over the whole premises, and I shall, therefore, at the outset, have to claim the indulgence of the reader while I ask his attention to the preliminary observations which I shall make relating to local matters involved.

I enter upon my task, I trust, with proper feelings and under a just sense of the duties I owe to community. I disclaim any

intention to produce unfriendly views and emotions, and have no desire to provoke a spirit of contention or rivalry between Methodist and Protestant Episcopalians. I come before the public, divested, as far as it is possible for one to divest himself, of all prejudices; and in the spirit of liberality and good will, shall endeavor to speak reasonably of all differences of opinion which exist between my own and other denominations; desiring on all occasions to cherish and promote the most extended grounds of christian liberality, and freely cultivating in my social intercourse and in my pulpit efforts, an enlarged spirit of toleration. I shall endeavor, therefore, to keep in "the bonds of peace;" sedulously avoiding an undue dwelling upon those points on which differences of opinion rest, and seek to notice those more essential and important doctrines of christianity on which all sects unite. Be. cause the author of the work I review has placed himself in a belligerant attitude, is no reason why I should occupy a similar position. The task of the Reviewer does not require that he should denounce; he can differ without condemning, as well as praise without adopting, either the language, sentiment or doctrine reviewed; and hence, as I may be permitted to choose my

of

[ocr errors]

own ground, I shall select that of a just and not that of an antagonist reviewer. It is because Mr. Bolles has assumed positions and advanced statements which, if sustained, place Methodists in a situation in which neither he nor his people can consistently recognize them—however pious or however sincere as a part the church of God they may be—that I feel called upon to notice his work.

Mr. Bolles has been pleased to assail us, not upon some speculative point of Theology—the reception or rejection of which is of little or no importance—but upon doctrines which, if not founded in the truths of pure religion, must consign us to the “ uncovenanted mercies of God”-must place the eternal salvation of all without the pale of Protestant Episcopacy on less tenable ground than the heathen-must stamp the brand of Impostor upon the ministrations of all who do not follow and observe the ordinances and canons of the “CHURCH OF THE UNITED STATES.” It cannot be expected then, that silence will be maintained under such imputations; for however strong the obligations to promote the harmony and social intercourse of all “who call themselves Christians,” there may be circumstances under which “forbearance ceases to be a virtue," and as a minister of the CHURCH OF CHRIST one may be called upon to act upon the defense against such imputations. Mr. Bolles, certainly, must not expect that I shall overlook his reasonings nor fail to examine the ground upon which he claims to stand, when he seeks to convict Methodists of the sin of Korah, Dathan and Abiram--the sin of being in open and wilful rebellion against God: nor must he expect that I shall avoid the use of plain terms; for though I do not wish to speak harshly, I nevertheless, shall not hesitate to speak frankly, freely and pointedly.

Controversies upon religious subjects, if properly conducted, may be beneficial. I am far from subscribing to that popular sentiment of the age which proclaims, " that it inatters not what a man believes upon the subject of religion, provided he is only honest and sincere in his belief;" for I conceive this sentiment, when viewed correctly and definitely analyzed by the rules of common sense, as absurd as it is unscriptural. Fundamental errors with all their evil tendencies should be boldly exposed, and even non-essential disferences may be profitably examined. The testimony of Dr. Dick, upon this point, will have weight with all who have studied his works. Says the Doctor, “In the department of polemic theology, the controversies are considered which have been agitated in the church, with respect to the doctrines, and precepts, and institutions of religion. The term is derived from a Greek word, which signifies warlike. A polemic divine

. is a warrior, he goes forth into the field to encounter the adversaries of the truth. The word has an odious sound, and seems to

!

accord ill with the character of a teacher of religion, who ought to be a minister of peace. On this ground, polemic theology is often held up as the object of scorn and detestation, and it is loudly demanded, that the voice of controversy should be heard no more within the walls of the church, that the disciples of Christ should bury all their disputes in oblivion, and, without minding differences of opinion, should dwell together as brethren in unity. There is much simplicity and want of discernment in this proposal, when sincerely made. It is the suggestion of inconsiderate zeal for one object, overlooking another of at least equal importance, accounting truth nothing and peace every thing, and imagining that there may be solid peace, although it does not rest upon the foundation of truth. Often, however, it is intended to conceal a sinister design, under the appearance of great liberality; a design to prevail upon one party to be quiet, while the other goes on to propagate its opinions without opposition. Every man who has observed from what quarter these cries for peace most frequently come, must have noticed that they are as insidious as the salutation of Joab to Amasa, whom he stabbed under the fifth rib when he took him by the beard, and said, 'Art thou in health my brother ??-2 Sam. 20, 9.

“Nothing is more obvious, than that when the truth is attacked it ought to be defended, and as it would be base pusillanimity to yield it without a struggle to its adversaries, so it would be disgraceful, as well as criminal, in one of its professed guardians, not to be qualified to sustain the dignity of his office, and to uphold the sacred interests of religion, by his arguments and his eloquence. He should be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers. If controversial theology be accounted an evil, it is a necessary one; and let the blame be imputed to the men who have labored and are still laboring to pervert the oracles of God, not to those whom a sense of duty has compelled to come forward and defend them, against the rude assaults of presumption and impiety.”Dick's Theology, vol. 1,

p. 10.

We

To the same effect is the testimony of the eloquent Melvill

. 'Though controversy have its evils, it has also its uses. never infer, that, because there is no controversy in a church, there must be the upholding of sound doctrine. It is not the stagnant water which is generally the purest. And if there are no differences of opinion which set men on examining and ascertaining their own belief, the probability is, that, like the Samaritans of old, they will worship they know not what.'-John 4, 22. Heresy itself is, in one sense, singularly beneficial. It helps to sift a professing community, and to separate the chaff from the wheat. And while the unstable are carried about by the winds of false doctrine, those who keep their steadfastness find, as it

[ocr errors]

*

*

*

[ocr errors]

were, their moral atmosphere cleared by the tempest. We consider this statement to be that of St. Paul, when he says to the Corinthians, there must be also heresies amongst you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.-I. Cor. 11: 19. And it is not the mere separation of the genuine from the fictitious which is effected through the publication of error. We hold that heresies have been of vast service to the Church, in that they have caused truth to be more thoroughly scanned, and all its bearings and boundaries explored with a most pains-taking industry.

Thus controversy stirs the waters, and prevents their growing stagnant. We do not, indeed, understand from the must be' of St. Paul, that the wellbeing of the Church is dependent on heresy, so that, unless heresy enter, the Church cannot prosper.

But the 'must be' refers to human depravity and satanic influence. It indicates a necessity for which the creature alone is answerable, whilst the end, which heresies subserve, is that which most engages the interferences of the Creator. If never called to defend the truth, the Church would comparatively lose sight of what truth is. And therefore, however the absence of controversy may agree with a millennial estate, we are amongst the last who would desire that it should not now be heard in the land. We feel that if now the wolf should dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid,'—Isa. 11: 6., we should have nothing but the millennium of liberalism; the lamb being nothing more than the wolf in disguise, and the kid the leopard with his spots slightly colored. Such is the constitution of man--and such it will be, till there pass over this globe a mighty regeneration—that, unless there be opposition, we shall have no purity." -Melvill's Sermons, vol. 1, p. 263.

Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace” declares he came to bring a sword

upon the earth, and his word is spoken of as the “sword of the Spirit," and even the Apostolic injunction " if it be possible as inuch as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” Rom. xii: 18, plainly intimates, that cases would occur, in which it would not be proper to maintain peace—when one branch of the Church may so oppressively, injuriously, and erroneously array itself against its sister branch, that it becomes a duty to adopt measures of self defense, when not to do it, would be to sanction error, would be to betray truth.

If it is a duty at any time to combat religious errors, it is, most surely, a duty to do it when those errors are mingled with personalities and incorporated with matters pertaining to private differences; and it is on this account that Mr. Bolles’ letters addressed to me, should not be permitted to continue before the public unanswered. The medium of the press, through which he has communicated, being one of his own selection, how muchsoever to

« 上一頁繼續 »