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“ Some consolation in that."
“ To call such men miserable pettisoggers and shallow sophists is —"
" To use soft words, which turn away wrath.”
“ Why, would you censure me for not calling them by harder names ? I might have easily done so, but I wished to spare your prejudices as much as possible.”
“ I tell you, John, that, in becoming a miserable idolatrous Papist, and drunk with the cup of that sorceress of Babylon, the mother of every abomination, you seem to have lost all sense of dignity, all sell-respect, and all regard for the proprieties of civilized life.”
“ Because I do not rave and rant, every time I have occasion to allude to the chiefs of the Protestant rebellion ?
“ No ; you know that is not what I mean. You degrade yourself in speaking so contemptuously of the glorious Reformers."
“ And what does my most excellent, amiable, polite, and sweet-spoken brother do, when he calls God's Holy Church the sorceress of Babylon, &c., and brands the members of her holy communion with the name of idolaters ?”
Art. II. - 1. Religious Dissensions : their Cause and Cure. By PHARACELLUS CHURCH. New York: Gould & New
1838. 12mo. pp. 400. 2. The Catastrophe of the Presbyterian Church in 1837, including a full View of the recent Theological Controversies in New England. By ZEBULON CROCKER, Delegate from the General Association of Connecticut to the General Assembly of 1837. New Haven : B. & W. Noyes. 1838. 12mo.
THESE works, published some nine years ago, may seem in these days, when all with our Protestant neighbours is in commotion and changes under the very eye of the spectator, to be quite out of date, and to have lost all their interest and importance for our contemporaries ; but if all with heretics is perpetually changing, all remains ever essentially the same. They are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowl
edge of the truth ; ever seeking unity, and never finding it, uniformity, but always departing farther from it, and involving themselves anew in the same old discussions and dissensions. These works are therefore, in reality, as fresh and as important as if they were still damp from the press, and may well be made the text for a few observations which we wish to offer on Protestant dissensions, and appropriately drawn upon for proofs and illustrations of those dissensions as they have been manifested in our own country, especially by the hightoned and arrogant Presbyterians, - the most bigoted and
the most influential of all the sects in the United States.
The dissensions and countless divisions, to which the socalled Reformation, by carrying out its fundamental principle of private judgment, has given birth, have been the standing reproach of Protestantism from its commencement, and must, assuredly, at no very distant day, lead to its total disorganization and ruin, unless some effectual means are soon discovered of bringing its discordant elements into harmony, or at least of retaining the soi-disant Evangelical sects under their respective standards of orthodoxy. Aware of their position, and alarmed by the progress of this cancer, which, under every conceivable form of dissent, eats into the vitals of the “glorious Reformation," the Evangelicals, from time to time, have devised various plans of harmony and union ; but every plan they have been able to devise has, thus far, proved utterly insufficient to arrest the evil they deplore.
The arrogant assumption of church authority by the original authors of the “godly Reformation” was resisted by subsequent innovators, who contended that they had as much right as any to read the Bible for themselves and exercise private judgment in the investigation of truth, and that they were at perfect liberty, when arriving at different conclusions, to reform the Reformation according to their own views of what the Gospel teaches. This right could not be denied without violating the cardinal principle of the Reformation itself, and its exercise has led to the formation of innumerable discordant sects among its deluded followers, each professing to be guided by one and the same infallible rule of faith,
« THE Bible, AND THE BIBLE ALONE." Finding, however, that the Bible alone -- or rather the Bible as interpreted in Luther's Commentaries and Calvin's Institutes was insufficient for the preservation of the faith once delivered to the Saints, – of the Reformed stamp, - they had recourse to “Confessions
of Faith,” by subscription to which they hoped that both preachers and people would be held together in the bonds of peace. Vain hope! Their confessions of faith being composed by fallible men, and confessedly destitute of all claim to infallible authority, were only so many ropes of sand. They contained different doctrines and systems of church government, which it seemed impossible to reconcile with the essential unity of the ONE FAITH of the Gospel ; and it became necessary, from time to time, to amend them, and, finally, to leave them to the private judgment of each individual, who, it was admitted, had a perfect right to examine for himself, and receive or reject each and every article, as it should or should not seem to him to harmonize with the “ law and the testimony” to which he appealed. Under such circumstances, it was impossible to preserve unity of faith, and consequently the several sects were reduced to the extreme necessity of “ agreeing to differ,” not only one sect from another, but also as to the individual members of each, so long as they should hold what were termed, in general, the essential articles of the Christian faith. But even this expedient did not avail; for they could not agree among themselves what doctrines were to be held as essential to the soundness and integrity of the Christian faith. Hence it came to pass, that doctrines, held to be essential by one sect, were set aside by another as unessential ; and even among the Evangelical denominations themselves, there is not one in which differences and dissensions do not obtain respecting what are considered essential doctrines, and parties are formed under the distinctive appellations of Arminian and Calvinistic, New School and Old School, High Church and Low Church, &c.
These sects and divisions create discord and dissensions in the Christian community, and not only disturb social order, but inevitably tend to destroy all faith in divine revelation ; for, as Lord Bacon justly observes, — “ Divisions in religion, where they prevail, are the cause of atheism.”
Such being the lamentable effects and tendency of sects and divisions among nominal Christians, it must be to the Protestant a subject of interest to investigate the cause of these scandalous dissensions, with a view to discover a cure before the evil becomes irremediable, and draws down upon our common country the curse of atheism, with all its dreadful consequences. To the Catholic the cause and cure of dissensions in religion are so manifest, that he can hardly conceive how men, who have read the history of Protestantism, can be so blind as not to see them. But unfortunately, the Protestant commences the inquiry by taking for granted that the foundation on which his whole system rests is sound and of divine institution, and he looks elsewhere for the cause of the evil which he is desirous to eradicate. But though he may discover secondary causes, they are of such a nature, that even their removal — were that possible in our present fallen state — would not effect the cure of the spiritual malady under which his system labors, except at the sacrifice of all the prerogatives of divine truth, and the establishment of latitudinarian principles and practice, which would render divine faith a matter of no moment, - a word of no meaning.
The history of the dissensions in the Presbyterian Church in the United States is, with slight variation, the history of the schisms and. divisions of other Reformed communions in this and other countries where they have prevailed ; and it serves to exemplify and illustrate the remarks we have made on the general tendency of Protestantism. That we may not be suspected of partiality in our sketch, we shall avail ourselves of the authority of the Calvinistic author of the Catastrophe for our facts.
“ The Presbyterian Church in the United States,” says Mr. Crocker," was originally composed of Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland, and Congregationalists, chiefly from New Eng. land. The Congregationalists were, at first, the majority, and the two denominations united on the common ground of a belief in the great doctrines of the Bible, and of saving faith in Jesus Christ. This union was continued for a period of twenty-five years, without any written confession or form of government. In 1729, the synod of Philadelphia ..... passed an act, not, however, with. out considerable opposition, adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith with the Assembly's larger and shorter Catechism, as being, in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words, and systems of Christian doctrine.' By this act, a declaration of assent to the Confession and Catechisms was required, . in all the essential and necessary articles,' by members of the synod and candidates for the ministry ; at the same time it was provided, that, in case any minister of this synod, or any candidate for the ministry, should have any scruple with respect to any article or articles of said Confession or Catechisms, ..... the presbytery or synod shall, notwithstanding, admit him to the exercise of the ministry, ..... if they shall judge his scruple or mistake to be about articles not essential and necessary, in doctrine, worship, or government. The synod also do solemnly agree, that none of us will traduce or use any opprobrious ters of those that dif. fer from us in those extra-essential and not necessary points of doctrine ; but treat them with the same friendship, kindness, and brotherly love, as if they had not differed from us in such sentiments.'
“ Two facts are strikingly exhibited in the adopting act from which these quotations are made. One is, that diversity of sentiment existed in the members of the synod of 1729; the other is, that, in the exercise of a catholic [Protestant] spirit, they were ready to overlook minor differences of opinion, and make an agreement, in substance of doctrine, the basis of union. They declared, that we do not claim or pretend to any authority of imposing our faith upon other men's consciences; . . . and utterly disclaim all legislative power and authority in the Church, being willing to admit to fellowship in sacred ordinances all such as we have grounds to believe Christ will at last admit to the kingdom of heaven.' For nearly twenty years, the Congregationalists and Presbyterians, thus united, maintained general harmony; the exercise of Christian catholicism [Protestantism] preventing serious contentions and unhappy divisions. A difference of views, however, respecting presbyterial order and ministerial qualifications distinctly marked two parties in the Church ; and so widely did they differ in sentiment and feeling, that there was needed only a sufficiently exciting cause to produce a separation. That cause was furnished by the labors of Mr. Whitfield. ..... The strict Presbyterians regarded Mr. Whitfield and his friends as . ignorant and extravagant enthusiasts.' The other party, called the New Side or New Lights, viewed their opponents as · Pharisaical formalists.'Animosities increased, until the synod of Philadelphia, after violent controversy, was rent asunder, and two rival synods were formed, viz., New York and Philadelphia. .
“ These synods, after remaining divided for seventeen years, at length, in 1758, were united. The evils which they had experienced by division taught both parties salutary lessons respecting forbearance and toleration ; but diversity of opinion on many important subjects was not removed. The Scotch and Irish Pres. byterians, and their descendants, in general, were Old Side still ; while those of New England origin and sentiments were New Side, and almost as distinctly marked as ever. These two parties ..., have formed the basis of the two great parties which now divide the Presbyterian Church. The Old School and New School are the Old Side and New Side, the old divinity and new divinity men of former times. The nucleus of each of the present parties not only existed in 1704, but has ever since existed, the same thing as ever, and now essentially determines the character of the ag. glomerated mass. Liberal Presbyterianism, being of New