« PreviousContinue »
tion. Her clergy have done more than all Christendom beside, to advance our knowledge of those subjects in theology to which they have devoted their peculiar attention. Edwards instructed the divines and philosophers of Europe on the subject of the freedom of the will; and many treatises have been presented by them to the world, which, for philosophical accuracy, force of argumentation, and ardour of piety, are not surpassed by the publications sent forth during the same period by any division of the Church. And no inconsiderable part of their works has been polemical, and specifically designed to counteract the errors with which the churches around them were infested. Such were some of President Edwards's, most of Bellamy's, Dr. Edward's, part of Smalley's, Dwight's, and those of others; and more recently, the Unitarian controversy has called forth several publications from the orthodox, honourable to their authors, and worthy of the churches which they represent.
The intelligence, the vigilance, the promptitude, to meet and check the encroachments of error, for which the clergy of New-England have been distinguished, have excited the hope and expectation that the subject of this Review would, ere this, have aroused to attention, and called forth to controversy, some one of their number, more competent to its refutation, and, from a proximity to the scene of its publication, more immediately interested in it than ourselves. We know not whither to look for the cause, that so novel, and, in our apprehension, so heterodox and pernicious a doctrine, should have so long been permitted to be taught and diffused, almost without an effort to develop to the churches its character, and arrest its progress. Whether the individuals, on whom the task of opposing it would properly have devolved, have
been diverted from it by other controversies, of which that section of New England has been the scene , or have been withheld from it by respect for the talents and piety of its author ; whether they have been deterred from it by the hope that the truths which are intermingled, and taught in connexion with it, would intercept its dangerous tendency ; by the apprehension, that its absurdity would prove a sufficient obstacle to its prevalence and permanency; or whether other causes, in conjunction with these, have hitherto prevented its being subjected to the ordeal of public controversy, which is usually the lot of novelties and innovations, we are at loss to decide. That it has not arisen from the popularity of the theory we are certain. We cannot but regret, that some one has not appeared to controvert it, both that we might have been released from the task, and that the churches might have enjoyed an earlier and more able vindication of the truth.
We have deemed it our duty, however, to present to the public our views of its erroneousness, and to solicit to them the serious attention, especially of you, Reverend Friends, the Congregational Clergy of New-England, who are set to guard the faith of the churches, and to whom we must look for co-operation, in endeavouring to give supremacy to the truth as it is in Jesus.
We cannot but regard it as claiming your most solemn consideration. Is it safe for the church to slumber, while even the most harmless errors are diffusing their influence ? And allow us to ask, whether this theory, if our views of its erroneousDess are correct, is not fraught with an alarmning share of danger to the cause of the Redeemer ? How had it been viewed had it come from the hands of Antinomians, Unitarians, or Infidels ? Would it
not have been regarded as wearing a threatening as. pect, and have awakened apprehension ? May not many of its principles be employed, by the enemies of religion, most naturally and successfully, to perplex and subvert the faith of men in the truth of the Gospel ? Or at least, if not thus dangerous in its tendency, is it not untrue, and to be denied a place among the acknowledged doctrines of revealed religion ?
We entreat you deliberately to weigh our reasonings ; and examine whether the dictates of common sense, of reason, of revelation, do not concur in forcing us to the conclusions to which we have advanced. If we have established our views, we conjure you by the responsibilities of your office, to unite with us in suppressing the error, and calling back the churches to soundness in the faith.
We have not deemed it necessary to trace the history of this theory, nor to allude to any of the publications in whose pages, to a greater or less extent, its principles may have obtained a place, besides those of Dr. Emmons; nor considered it important to designate the points in which it resembles other errors in theology and philosophy, which have obtained a currency in the world.
We bave not been prompted to this work by sectional feeling, nor the love of controversy ; but by a conviction of the truth of our views, and a solicitude for the welfare of the church. We trust, that those who shall patiently examine our pages, and comprehend the import of our reasonings, will discern that we have not adopted those views with out consideration, nor reposed them on a foundation which shall be easily shaken.
Dr. Emmons has presented to the world, in two volumes of Sermons, the first published in 1800, and the second in 1812, a Theory of God's Agency on Mankind, by which He gives existence to their agency, and controls all its events.
It is novel and peculiar, as it is a theory of the mode of the divine agency.
The theories of Calvinistic theologians on this subject, as far as we possess an acquaintance with them, merely respect the existence, the extent, and the effects of God's agency; leaving the mode, at most excepting the question whether, in certain cases, it be direct or indirect, untouched. The Doctor's is a theory of the mode, and seems, from his use of it, to have been constructed for the purpose of solving those difficult cases in metaphysics; the consistency of a divine influence on men, with their moral agency; the fall of Adam; the depravity of his posterity;
the renovation of the heart; and the mixed character of the saints in this life; which other theories leave unexplained: and did it furnish a solution of those difficulties, and come sustained by competent evidence, it would undoubtedly constitute an important accession to our knowledge, and entitle him to the respect and gratitude of the world.
Whether such is its character or not, is worthy the consideration of all. In our judgment he has ventured into
-“ A dark,
Illimitable ocean; without bound,
And time and place are lost :' where he,
Ten thousand fathom deep." He has presented to us a fiction of fancy, instead of a doctrine of revelation; assertions and unsound reasonings, in place of indubitable deductions from known truths; and added darkness to the subject, instead of pouring on it the light of intelligibility and consistency.
To evince this, we will present a statement of his theory, and the reasonings on which it rests; exhibit some considerations, showing those reasonings to be er