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LETTER FROM MEADVILLE.

MEADVILLE, AUGUST 1, 1838. Brother CLARKE:LI approve the suggestion you made recently, in the Messenger, that the watchmen stationed on the walls of the several outposts of our Zion, might transmit useful and interesting intelligence, for the encouragement or · edification of the brethren “ scattered abroad;" and herewith send my own portion.

Our congregation in this place is respectable in numbers; and includes, as you know, no small amount of christian knowledge, devotedness and zeal. Owing to the number of societies in our village we should not expect to enlarge suddenly or greatly, but both in spirit and numbers we are becoming stronger gradually. We rejoice in the prevalence of a better spirit in our neighboring churches, than existed formerly. We are not only less proscribed, but receive many indications of a kind neighborly spirit, from members of each of the societies. This is always I conceive, one of the first indications of christian harmony, if not of fellowship. As such, I rejoice in, and endeavor to promote it.

I have preached several times during the summer, at Erie. This town contains upwards of four thousand inhabitants; is a prosperous and growing place; is the shire town of Erie county; possesses the best harbor on the Lake, and contains four religious societies. Of course there is room for a good Unitarian society. Rev. Mr. Hosmer, of Buffalo, Ripley, of Boston, and myself, held services there four successive Sabbaths, in June and July. The congregations were large, and attentive. Several individuals of wealth, intelligence, and influence, are much interested; and many who believed not in the correctness of our faith, until they came and heard for themselves, have expressed the opinion, that the excellence thereof exceedeth the fame which they had heard.

I have just returned from Pittsburgh. On the way down I had an opportunity of explaining Unitarian views of the Bible and Christianity, having been requested by a fellow passenger to state them. During the conversation, a gentleman whom I had ascertained to be a Lawyer, listened with manifest attention. At the close of the conversation he addressed me thus: “I am, sir, a member of the Episcopal church, but for fifteen years I have had similar views of christianity to yours, and until this hour I was ignorant that another being existed on the

earth who believed the same." The opportunity to enlarge upon our belief, and present a view of the state of our denomination was not onnitted.

At Pittsburgh, I preached two Sabbaths, on the manifestation of God in Christ, on the enjoyments and the effects of the teachings of the sanctuary, on the sources of love to Jesus Christ and the excellence of religion. On the last Sabbath I enjoyed the happiness of “breaking bread” to the brethren, and of welcoming several adults to the baptismal waters. The society here is small, but I think there is room for building up a large one, which should be founded on the principle of the ministry at large. The poor they have with them, and if the effort was made, in the true spirit of christian philanthropy, they might be gathered around the altar, to listen to words glowing with life and immortality. Brother Silsbee expects to

East in the fall. I hope that either he, or some one else imbued with a missionary spirit, will enter on that work with zeal and faith.

A letter addressed to the Presbytery of Wilmington, appeared a few weeks since, which has elicited considerable surprise, some lamentation, and much fear. It breathes an excellent spirit, calm, kind, truth loving. It commences with a statement of the difficulties experienced by the writer in relation to the doctrice of a vicarious atonement. The history of these difficulties is related succinctly, and is a natural account of the trials which a modest, sincere, and conscientious mind would encounter, educated in the Calvinistic faith, and gradually working its own way to christian light and liberty. The conclusion of his deliberation is thus given: "after nearly two years anxious thought and earnest enquiry, I am fully satisfied that the popular doctrine of a vicarious atonement, is a doctrine of human invention, and does not properly belong to the christian religion."

He appears to consider, we think justly, that when a minister materially modifies the views of religious doctrine, which he was accustomed to teach, he is under an obligation from respect for the views he formerly considered worthy of being inculcated, as well as for the friends with whom he co-operated, to assign the motives which have induced the alteration. The reasons assigned by the writer for dissenting from this doctrine are

1. It is based on a gratuitous assumption.

2. The Saviour himself, as far as we have any record of his preaching and instructions, never taught it.

3. It deprives of much of its glory and efficacy the media torial work of the Saviour.

4. It involves absurdities and contradictions.

5. It is so recondite as to be utterly incomprehensible to most minds.

6. It cuts off from salvation, and the possibility of salvation, the great mass of the human family.

He then gives his own view of atonement. Man has become alienated from God by wicked works. God's pity was moved. He sent his Son to reconcile man and be the Saviour of a perishing world. Jesus came not to make God placable. Nothing of this kind was needed. His object was to soften man's heart and change his disposition, and thereby to remove the moral disability under which he labored ; to bring him to repentance and reconcile him to God.

This letter was designed principally for circulation among the friends to whom it is addressed. The author has been requested, however, to give his permission to have it reprinted for general circulation. It is hoped his modesty will not prevent his granting this request. And should he yield it, I trust it will be published by the American Unitarian Association as one of their tracts. It is just the thing to be useful as a tract; clear, scriptural, and conciliatory.

While reading it my own mind was transported into the study, and held a sweet communion” with the gentle, conscientious, self-sacrificing spirit of the writer. I know not, nor do I care to know in what rank he now stands.

Such a man is of no party but God's; and however he may agree with or differ from us in the use of implements we welcome such a laborer into the Master's vineyard.

I hope I shall not do violence to the feelings of the writer, by transcribing a single passage, as a specimen of the spirit of the letter.

“And now, although it has cost me some sacrifices, I rejoice that I have come to this decision. I rejoice in the change which my mind has undergone. It is such a change as gives higher and brighter conceptions of the character of God, and more comprehensive and delightful views of his government. It makes the character and mission of Jesus more interesting. It admits us to close communion with him, and awakes in the heart more vivid emotions of admiration, confidence and love. Besides, the views which I now entertain, I believe, divest religion of much of the mystery thrown around it by the philosophy of the schools, and present it in its rationality and beauty.

I cannot help, therefore, rejoicing in the new views of truth into which my mind has been led, and heartily desiring that others, and especially those in whose happiness and spiritual

welfare I feel an especial interest, may be partakers with me in my joy. But my feelings in contemplating this change of my

doctrinal sentiments are not all of joy; they are mingled with sensations of the keenest pain. The duty which it devolves upon me, and which I am now performing, I feel to be one of the most painful kind. It brings me into collision with the prejudices, (I use not the word in an unkind sense,) of brethren whom I love, and cuts me off from their fraternal sympathies and fellowship. This to me is a severe trial. From you I have received the kindest and most friendly treatment, and for each and all of you I cherish the most affectionate regard. I cannot, therefore, withdraw from my connection with you, as by this communication I virtually do, without the most unfeigned reluctance. A sense of duty however, compels me, and I dare not hesitate.”

Ve sympathise with the writer in his grief, and rejoice with him in his joy. May he think and speak more words like those he has now uttered.

The Philadelphia Observer, (the organ of New Schoolism,) of course, speaks in a tone of lamentation over a fallen brother, though in the language of respect and tenderness. We think, from the tone of its strictures, that the writer of this letter is a man of more than ordinary influence. An effort is evidently made to win him back.

“Knowing Mr. McK. well,” the writer says, “ I feel disposed to give him credit for sincerity; and to believe that he felt constrained to pursue the course he has taken by a settled conviction of duty. This however," he remarks, “ will not exempt Mr. McK. from blame, as it does not the writer from fears for his fate.” Accordingly he says, “ it will doubtless be startling, as Mr. McK. anticipates, to the Presbytery of Wilmington, to be informed of his defection. If the errors were trifling, or secondary in importance, we might not be surprised or affected by them; but when they lie at the very foundation of our faith and hope, and claim kindred with Unitarianisn, we mourn over the defection—we fear for the issue."

“It was to be expected, that Mr. McK., born and bred under the influence of the truth, and illuminated as he had been by the sunbeams of evangelical religion, would experience "great conflicts and tumultuous emotions,” when he came to surrender himself to counter influences and listen to the wily suggestions of him who transforms himself from deepest darkness into an angel of light.” Then follows a lament that he had not spared himself these tumultuous emotions, and resisted the suggestions of“ the dim, distant twinkling of reason's star,"

We also lament, that any of our brethren thus wilfully shut their own eyes, and essay to blindfold others to the illumination of truth, by decrying the “candle of the Lord.”

The day must close when the strugglings of an honest and independent mind for God's truth, are smothered by the graveclothes bandages of human creeds. Their utter inefficacy is daily becoming apparent. They could not fetter the aspirings of the spirit of Watts, when about to assume supremacy over the body; they are unable to hold together the present body of living Presbyterians, nor can they confine the speculations of those who have once started from their palsying influence. The defection of Mr. McK. we regard as one of the first fruits which we have anticipated would be produced by the planting of a new scion of this church. The New School can no more stop where they are than the sun can cease his midway career through the heavens. The cause of scripture truth and rational interpretation will go onward. Each day witnesses its advance. The signs of the times are auspicious. The vista of the future unfolds the vision of new truths still breaking forth from God's word, and of the prevalence of a deeper philanthropy and more comprehensive charity.

We believe that Western Pennsylvania is not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Prejudices are wearing away. Views of christian piety and truth, far in advance of the days of Luther and Calvin, are spreading throughout the church; the number of believers is increasing who ask a reason for the faith that is in them; and a faith held sacred and dear by us as the everlasting truth of God and his Christ is finding a welcome reception in many minds, who like Mr. McK. will perhaps experience “great conflicts and tumultuous emotions,” before they will avow a change in their opinions, and thereby separate themselves from those with whom they have taken sweet counsel, and gone up to the house of God in company.

Your friend and brother,

H. E.

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