網頁圖片
PDF

them by the sword, erected its courts of high commission, and stretched upon its iron bed the freemen of the Lord, and waged a war of extermination with the rights of conscience. In this country, previous to the Revolution, wherever it could be, it was exclusive, intolerant, and persecuting. In New York it displayed its essential character of intolerance. While it enriched itself, and laid the foundation of its present princely revenues in that city, in extensive tracts of land, it would never allow the First Presbyterian church there a legal title to a spot of ground in which to bury their dead.” Such is prelacy in its very nature. It puts forth exclusive claims, denies the right of private judgment, dares even in this country, planted by Puritan men, made free by Puritan blood, made what it is by Puritan principles—dares even here, with cool effrontery, to brand with the name of “dissenters” the descendants of those men, who when they had secured liberty of conscience, entire freedom for themselves, gave the same priceless boon to those here, whose hand had been with the enemy in the contest,-men, who stretched out over this land the wings of a glorious constitution, which, while it favors no sect or denomination in particular, affords a full and perfect protection to all. Justice to the subject under consideration requires that we should test the influence of these opposite systems of faith on the cause of education. This, as all know, has a direct bearing on the interests of civil liberty. Free institutions can not long exist in the atmosphere of ignorance. Intelligence is essential to their continuance and prosperity. In promoting the cause of education Calvinism has always taken the lead. It made Geneva, for ages, the light of the world. In Scotland, as it ad

[ocr errors]

vanced, intelligence increased. It instructed the people, caused them to understand their duties and their privileges, scattering the darkness which for centuries had been gathering and thickening over them, and at length made that land what it long has been, the bright abode of intelligence—the dwelling place of a race of men, whose influence in the cause of literature and religion has been felt wherever the English name is known. When Calvinism gained the ascendency in England, and ruled in her councils, a new impulse was given to the cause of education. The universities were remodeled—the professorships were filled by men, distinguished for learning, abilities, and true piety. A spirit of freedom, of originality and manliness of thought, was infused into the minds of the students, which shone forth in the manhood of such men as Locke, Bayle, and Newton, with a power and splendor seldom seen. And if the efforts of those days had not been thwarted, and the free spirit of the nation again crushed by the return of a terrible despotism, the whole mass of the rising generation would have been brought under the influence of instruction. Much of the literature of England, certainly by far the best part of it, is the rich legacy of Calvinism, “the heart's blood of its master spirits, embalmed and treasured up for the benefit of all coming time.” In this country, until within a few years, almost every college and seminary of learning, and almost every academy and common school even, which existed, had been built up and sustained by Calvinists. They have taken ground, therefore, far in advance of all others here in the cause of learning. Much of that literature, also, which is the growth of our own soil—the product of free, enlightened, honest minds— much of that literature which is the glory of our young republic, which is instinct with American feeling,

suited to American wants, and pervaded with the manliness of republican virtues, and which breathes the sentiments of a lofty patriotism—of subjection to law—of love for freedom—and is destined, we trust, to pour its light over the earth—to aid in breaking the rod of the oppressor, and in elevating mankind in the scale of intellectual, social, and moral being—yes, much, very much of this literature is from the intellect and the heart of Calvinism. This system of faith, then, throws all its influence in favor of education. Wherever it has obtained dominion, whether in Geneva, in Scotland, in England, or in America, “it has secured life in the public mind by invoking intelligence for the people, by planting in every parish the common school” and the church. Now can all this be said for Arminianism 2 Has it ever taken the same deep interest in education ? IIas it made the same high demand in its qualifications for the ministry 2 or thus exerted all its energies in the intellectual elevation of men 2 We know it has not. In England the Episcopal church with all her immense resources, has to a most painful extent, neglected the education of the lower classes—has suffered them to remain ignorant of every thing almost, except her ceremonies and her saints' days; and even now seems unwilling that any general system of instruction should be adopted by the government, except such as puts the children wholly under her influence. The Methodist church in this country until quite recently, have taken but little interest in the cause of education. The influence of many of the ministry of that church, if it has favored learning at all, has not extended beyond the simple rudiments in grammar, and “the rule of three” in arithmetic. We rejoice that a different spirit is beginning to prevail in that church, and that some are making most praiseworthy efforts Wol. III. 66

to interest their people in this work. In the promotion of intelligence, then, Calvinism stands out far in advance of the opposite system; and exerts, therefore, a far higher conservative influence over the interests of civil liberty. But something more than knowledge is needed in a free country. The security and prosperity of our republican institutions depend in a far greater degree on the existence of a sound morality—of a pure, healthy, bracing, moral atmosphere. It is important, therefore, to our object, that we should test the influence of these opposite systems of faith, especially in this particular. When Puritanism had the control of things in England, the reformation in morals was remarkable. During its regency “the laws against vice were rigidly enforced. All kinds of games, stage-plays, and abuses in public houses, were suppressed. Profane swearing, drunkenness, or any kind of debauchery, was nowhere to be seen in the streets.” The Sabbath was strictly observed. The book of sports, that infamous license which was given by James and by Charles to the most open and shameful violations of the fourth commandment, was publicly burnt. The churches were everywhere filled with attentive, devout people, listening to the word of God on that day. In New England it accomplished yet more. It created a moral atmosphere, the purest, the most bracing to virtue, that ever existed on the face of this earth. Nowhere else has there been seen such a spectacle of obedience to law, of love for order, such a tone of public sentiment, sustaining all that is lovely, and frowning upon everything that is not of good report, as existed in this part of our country during its early history. A hue of the richest moral excellence covered the whole face of the community. But when Puritanism was overthrown in England—when its bands were cast off, and its embankments of virtue were torn down, a deluge of moral ruin swept over the land. “Then came those days never to be recalled without a blush—the days of servitude without loyalty, and of sensuality without love—of dwarfish talents and gigantic vices, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds—the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave.” The moral pulse of the nation became exceedingly weak, the whole system was relaxed, its whole action irregular. Profligacy became the test of orthodoxy. The shadow on the great dial of time went back a century and a half; —“et ruit Oceano nox Involvens umbra magna terramdue polumque.”

The faith which was now in the ascendant had much to do in producing this state of things. “With the return of Charles II,' says Toplady, “Arminianism returned as a flood, and licentiousness of manners was coèxtensive with it. It unbraced every nerve of virtue, and relaxed every rein of religious and social duty.’ The Sabbath was desecrated, and with this sunk the moral sentiments of the community. To some extent, the same injurious influence was exerted on the morals of New England in the days of Edwards, and caused him to raise his voice against it. In all instances where Arminianism has displaced Calvinism, it has lowered down the tone of morality—has diminished respect for the Sabbath, and the spirit of subjection to law, and love of order. In no community, on the contrary, has the opposite faith led men to bow more reverently before God, or to cultivate a deeper humility; in none has it awakened a higher and more general feeling of gratitude to God, or kindled into existence the spirit of a purer or more active benevolence to man. The tendency has all been the other way.

* Macauley's Miscellanies, p. 61.

In countries where Calvinism has had the control—where it has had the forming influence on the moral sentiments of the people, the tone of morals is altogether higher than it is in countries where Arminianism has been the prevailing faith. The friends and the enemies of Calvinism alike bear testimony to this fact. ‘How comes it,” asks Dr. Chalmers, ‘that Scotland, which of all the countries of Europe, is the most signalized for the rigid Calvinism of her pulpits, should also be the most signalized by the moral glory that sits on the aspect of her general population. It is certainly a most important experience that in that country, where there is the most Calvinism, there should be the least crime; that what may be called the most doctrinal nation of Europe, should at the same time be the least depraved; and that the people most imbued with the principles of salvation by grace, should be the least distempered by their week-day prof. ligacies, or by their Sabbath profanations.” The writer of the article on Predestination, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, after declaring his preference of the Arminian system, still admits what he says appears to him “somewhat singular, namely, that if Calvinists be compared with Arminians, ‘the former will be found to have excelled, in no small degree, in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues; and to have been the highest honor to their own age, and the best models for im: itation for every succeeding age.' Again, in the Edinburgh Review, which no one will accuse of any special leaning towards Calvinism, it is asked, “What are we to think of the morality of Calvinistic nations, especially of the most numerous classes of them; who seem beyond all other men to be most zealously attached to their re. ligion, and most deeply penetrated with its spirit Here, if anywhere, we have a practical and decisive test of the moral influence of a belief in necessarian opinions. In Protestant Switzerland, in Holland, in Scotland, among the English Nonconformists, the Protestants of the north of Ireland, and in the New England states, Calvinism was long the prevalent faith, and is probably still the faith of a considerable majority. Their moral education was at least completed and their collective character formed, during the prevalence of Calvinistic opinions. Yet where are communities to be found of a more pure and active virtue o' Nothing, we think, can be clearer than the preeminence of the morality produced by Calvinism above that which prevails under the influence of the opposite system. Its superior bearing, therefore, on the cause of civil liberty is equally clear. We are constrained to add a word here in reference to the peculiar spirit of patriotism which Calvinism produces in the minds of men. When the body of John Knox was lowered into the grave, one high in authority, as he stood looking down into the sepulchre, exclaimed, * There lies he, who never feared the face of man.” But what had made him thus fearless of men 2 Carlyle makes him a hero “as priest.” He might have added, a hero as patriot. Knox was a patriot in the highest sense of the word. His principles made him such— made him what he was. Calvinism produces a peculiar spirit of devotion to the interests of men. It has a strong control over the disturbing force in humanity. It strikes directly at the selfishness of the heart; and opens a broad place in the mind for patriotic and still more expansive plans for human improvement. And this spirit is conducted to measures of true patriotism, by a sacred regard for the divine law as a rule of universal expediency and duty in promoting both private and public happiness. Knox, the Covenanters, the Puritans, were patriots.

They saw that what is pleasing to God is best for man; and by this they determined to stand to the last. They saw that righteousness is the only thing that exalteth a nation; the foundation of all social and moral elevation in the community. They could, therefore, consent to nothing wrong in the church or in the state. Their patriotism was that of stern, unbending principle. This made them strong in the hall of debate, and fearless on the field of conflict. And this we say is true patriotism. It leads a man to forget himself, his own ease, his own safety, in his higher regard for what is right. It fears God, takes its stand by his word, and contends for its principles even unto death. It knows when to take up the sword, and, what is far greater, it knows when to lay it down. It burned in the bosom of the fathers of the Revolution. It certainly is no small proof of the correctness of our several arguments that the friends of the opposite system admit the conclusion, though it seems to them ‘very singular.” “But what an amazing inconsistency,’ say they, “these advocates of an enslaved will, are the steadiest friends of human liberty. To promote it, they have always been ready to pour out their blood like water. They are the men to confront councils and kings, though there be as many devils there as tiles on the roofs of the houses. They are the friends of education—the publishers of the Bible—the sleepless defenders of their country's liberty—the emancipators of the press—the observers of the Sabbath—the inflexible opponents of priestly domination —the friends of the people—the unblenching martyrs for the truth; how can we do otherwise than love and honor them 2 They are worthy | They are called Calvinists, but they are Christians and freemen.”

see Christian Advocate and Journal of April, 1845, from which this paragraph is taken.

The “amazing inconsistency, we think, is in the advocates of the opposite system, who admit the good practical influence of Calvinism, and yet reject the system itself. They see this tree loaded down to the ground with the most precious burden. They admire and praise the fruit; and yet profess that the tree itself “is not good.” To those who are guilty of this inconsistency, we say, in the language of the Master, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good ; or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit.”

With the belief, therefore, of this system of doctrine and ecclesiastical polity, stands connected, as we are fully convinced, the highest elevation of man in intellectual and moral excellence, and in religious and civil freedom. It has planned out free institutions, and sustained them to this hour. As long as it continues to be the prevailing faith of this nation—as long as it continues to have a principal influence in forming the character of our countrymen and in shaping public sentiment, we shall hope well for our liberty, and, indeed, for the world. As long as the spirit of the Puritans and Covenanters lives in the bosom of their descendants, we ARE Free.

It will be seen that our argument rests on the general testimony of history. Owing to the operation of peculiar causes, counteracting the matural tendency of the systems, it has happened, that Arminians have occasionally been found on the side of popular right, and Calvinists against them. Thus, in this country, the weight of public sentiment, and the popular character of our dear bought institutions, force into the ranks of the democracy, all classes of religionists, even Roman Catholics. Thus, too, in England, from the time of Henry VIII to Charles I, a large body of the bish

ops and priests were Calvinists; yet such was the perverting influence of their connection with the crown, and more especially, of their ecclesiastical polity, derived from the papal church, that little could be expected of them in the cause of human rights. But as a general fact, we think it is clear, from the voice of history, that Calvinism is prečminently favorable to the liberties of mankind. What practical value attaches to the conclusion of our argument, we hardly need say. Those views of Christianity which best promote the elevation of the people in knowledge and virtue, and which most effectually secure them in the enjoyment of religious and civil freedom, have the highest claims on the faith of men—and also on their affections. The opposition which Calvinism has had to encounter, in every age, is identical with the hostility of blind and perverse men against Christianity herself. A kingdom which is not of earth, the rewards of which are mostly in heaven, while the labor of self-denial which it demands, are immediate and constant, is fitted to repel rather than allure the embraces of selfish men. Such is Calvinism—the best friend of man—yet most distrusted by him—and most opposed. Its genial influence on all the nations where it prevails attests its truth and the sacredness of its claim on the universal belief of mankind. But it also enforces an obligation on every community, to encourage a Calvinistic ministry, and to cherish those free forms of church polity in which it is the nature of Calvinism to organize itself. Every true patriot, and every friend of human rights, are interested in extending this system of religion no less really than those who look beyond the bounds of this life for the fruits of their faith. May this be the wisdom of our times |

« 上一頁繼續 »