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That Mr. Stoddard sincerely believed the principles, which he maintained, to be taught in the word of God, cannot be doubted. He also declares explicitly, in the commencement of the Appeal, that he does not maintain, that churches ought to admit to their holy communion such as are not, in the judgment of charity, true believers; and that his object was to direct those, that might have scruples of conscience, about participation of the Lord's Supper, because they had not a work of saving conversion.*
The adoption of these principles by the people of Northampton, is not however to be imputed chiefly to the influence of Mr. Stoddard. It was the lax side of the question, which he had espoused; the side, to which the human heart, in all cases, instinctively inclines -that, to which every church, unless enlightened and watchful, is of course in danger of inclining. Another circumstance, which probably had considerable influence in persuading that church, as well as many others, to adopt the practice in question, may be found in the unhappy Connexion of Things Spiritual, and Secular, in the early history of New-England. So vast a proportion of the first planters of this country were members of the christian church, that not to be a church-member, was a public disgrace; and no man, who had not this qualification, was considered capable of holding any civil office. The children of the first planters, also, with comparatively few exceptions, followed the example of their parents, and enrolled their names in the church calendar; and there is reason to believe, that a large proportion of them were possessed of real piety. Still there can be no doubt, that a considerable number of them, on the whole, were of a different character. the third and fourth generations, the number of this latter class inereased to such a degree, as to constitute, if not a majority, yet a large minority, of the whole population; but, such is the influence
Lord's Supper: 8. It is lawful for some unsanctified persons to carry themselves as saints, and therefore they may attend on that Sacrament:10. Some unsanctified persons convey to their children a right to the sacrament of Baptism, and therefore have a right to the Lord's Supper: 11. The invisible church catholick is not the prime and principal subject of the seal of the covenant, and therefore some unsanctified persons have that right.
It is not improbable, that Dr. Mather published a reply to the " Appeal to the Learned." If he did not, it could not have been owing to any inherent, nor probably to any supposed, difficulty in answering the arguments which it presents. At this day the only difficulty, which the controversy can occasion, is this:-How such arguments could have satisfied a man of so much acuteness and worth as Mr. Stoddard. But the distinctness, with which objects are seen, depends not merely on the light which shines upon them: the eyes also must be fully open, and films, if they exist, must be removed.
* How Mr. Stoddard could reconcile these and various similar declarations with his main principle, probably every one will be at a loss to explain.
of national customs, it was still thought as necessary to a fair reputation, and to full qualification for office, to make a public profession of religion, as before; and the Church, by thus inclosing within its pale the whole rising generation, gathered in a prodigious number of hypocrites; and to make a profession of religion, began to be, on the part of numbers, an act of the same import, as it has long been on the part of the civil, military and naval, officers of England, "to qualify," by partaking of the Lord's Supper. In this case, however, there was a real difficulty, that pressed upon the conscience. A profession of religion, while it was viewed as a most solemn transaction, on the part of the individual making it, was also at first universally regarded as a profession of personal piety; and to make it without piety, was looked upon as a sin of most aggravated character. In this crisis, when the only alternative was, loss of reputation and ineligibility to office, or the violation of conscience; any plan, which prevented that loss, and yet offered a salvo to the conscience, must have met, very extensively, a welcome reception. It is however far from being true, as Dr. Hopkins appears to suppose, that Mr. Stoddard was the first, who introduced this practice into the churches of New-England. The General Synod of Massachusetts, which met at Boston in 1679, speak of the prevalence of this practice, even at that early period, (twenty-six years before its introduction into the church at Northampton,) as one cause of the Divine judgments on New-England; and insist on a general reformation in this respect, as one means of averting those judgments.* Yet, so far as I have been able to discover, Mr. Stoddard was the first, who publicly advocated this practice; and there can be no doubt, that the unhesitating support of it, by a man of his excellence, and weight of character, contributed, not a little, in the existing circumstances of the country, to satisfy the scruples of many conscientious minds, and to introduce it into a considerable number of churches.
At the settlement of Mr. Edwards, in 1727, this alteration in the
*Two questions were presented for the consideration of that Synod: 1. "What are the evils, which have provoked the Lord to bring his judg ments upon New England?" 2. "What is to be done, that these evils may be reformed?" In answer to the second question, the Synod observe, 1. "Inasmuch as the present standing generation, both as to leaders and people, is for the greater part another generation than what was in NewEngland forty years ago; for us to declare our adherence to the Faith and Order of the Gospel, according to what is from the Scripture expressed in the Platform of Church discipline, may be a good means to recover those, who have erred from the truth, and to prevent apostacy for the future." 2. " It is requisite that persons be not admitted unto Communion in the Lord's Supper, without making a personal and public profession of their Faith and Repentance, either orally or in some other way, so as shall be to the just satisfaction of the church; and that therefore, both elders and churches be duly watchful and circumspect in this matter."-Mr. Stoddard
qualifications required for admission into the Church, had been in operation about twenty-two or three years; a period, during which, the great body of the members of any church will be changed. This lax plan of admission has no where been adopted by a church, for any considerable length of time, without introducing a large proportion of members who are destitute of piety; and, although Mr. Stoddard was in other respects so faithful a minister, and so truly desirous of the conversion and salvation of his people, there can be no doubt that such must have been the result during so long a period in the Church at Northampton.
"Mr. Edwards," observes Dr. Hopkins, "had some hesitation about this matter when he first settled at Northampton, but did not receive such a degree of conviction, as to prevent his adopting it with a good conscience, for some years. But at length his doubts increased; which put him upon examining it thoroughly, by searching the scriptures, and reading such books as were written on the subject. The result was, a full conviction that it was wrong, and that he could not retain the practice with a good conscience. He was fully convinced that to be a visible christian, was to put on the visibility or appearance of a real christian; that a profession of christianity was a profession of that, wherein real christianity consists; and therefore that no person, who rejected Christ in his heart, could make such a profession consistently with truth. And, as the ordinance of the Lord's Supper was instituted for none but visible professing christians, that none but those who are real christians have a right, in the sight of God, to come to that ordinance: and, consequently, that none ought to be admitted thereto, who do not make a profession of real christianity, and so can be received, in a judgment of charity, as true friends to Jesus Christ.
"When Mr. Edwards' sentiments were generally known in the spring of 1749,* it gave great offence, and the town was put into a
was a member of this convention, and voted for these Propositions. Mr. Mather, at the close of his Treatise, quotes this result of the Synod with some force; yet without directly urging on Mr. Stoddard the charge of inconsistency, or even mentioning that he was a member of that Synod. Mr. Stoddard, in his Appeal, to avoid the imputation of having changed his sentiments, alleges that a part of the Synod proposed to recommend, that persons, previous to their admission to the Church, should make a relation before the church, of the work of the Holy Spirit on their hearts ; that he opposed this, and voted with the majority, for the second proposition as a substitute; and that that was still his opinion.-This statement, however, does not relieve the difficulty; for the principle, for which he actually voted, is directly inconsistent with that, which he avows in the Sermon on the Lord's Supper, and in the Appeal to the Learned.
*Mr. Edwards divulged his sentiments to some of his people, several years before this; and in 1746 unfolded them clearly, in the Treatise on Religious Affections; but they were not officially made known to the church, nor do they appear to have been generally known to the public, until he communicated them freely to the Standing Committee, in February, 1749.
great ferment; and, before he was heard in his own defence, or it was known by many what his principles were, the general cry was to have him dismissed, as what would alone satisfy them. This was evident from the whole tenor of their conduct; as they neglected and opposed the most proper means of calmly considering, and so of thoroughly understanding, the matter in dispute, and persisted in a refusal to attend to what Mr. Edwards had to say, in defence of his principles. From the beginning to the end, they opposed the measures, which had the best tendency to compromise and heal the difficulty; and with much zeal pursued those, which were calculated to make a separation certain and speedy. He thought of preaching on the subject, that they might know what were his sentiments, and the grounds of them, (of both which he was sensible that most of them were quite ignorant,) before they took any steps for a separation. But, that he might do nothing to increase the tumult, he first proposed the thing to the Standing Committee of the church; supposing, that if he entered on the subject publicly with their consent, it would prevent the ill consequences, which otherwise he feared would follow. But the most of them strenuously opposed it. Upon which he gave it over for the present, as what, in such circumstances, would rather blow up the fire to a greater height, than answer the good ends proposed." This unhappy state of feeling in Northampton was owing to various causes; among which may be mentioned the following:
1. The proposal, in 1744, to investigate the conduct of some of the younger professors of religion, who were said to have circulated obscene and licentious books:-a proposal, which had been originally approved of, and voted, by the whole church unanimously, and to accomplish which, they had at once appointed a Committee of inquiry; but to which many of them became violently opposed, as soon as they feared, that the discipline of the church might fall on their own children :—had proved, such is the nature of manthe occasion of a settled hostility to Mr. Edwards, on the part of a considerable number of the most influential families in the town. He, who, in injuring another, does violence to his own conscience and dishonour to religion, finds usually but one practical alternative he either repents and acknowledges his sin; or he goes on adding injury to injury, and accumulating a more rancorous hatred against the person whom he has injured.
2. The lax mode of admitting members into the church, had prevailed about forty-five years; and though both Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Edwards had been most desirous of the prevalence of vital religion in the church, yet, a wide door having been thrown open for the admission of unconverted members, as such, it cannot but have been the fact, that, during this long period, many unconverted members should, through that door, have actually obtained admission into the church. In powerful revivals of religion, it is
no easy task, even where the examination is most strict, and the danger and guilt of a false profession are most clearly exhibited,to prevent the admission of a considerable number of unconverted members into the church.
3. All the unconverted members of the church, and the great body of the congregation, would of course be friendly to the lax mode of admission. To relinquish it, would have been, on their part, to relinquish the only resting place, which human ingenuity had discovered, in which an unconverted person might-for a time at least―remain unconverted, both securely and lawfully.
4. The lax mode of admission had been introduced by Mr. STODDARD, a man greatly venerated for his wisdom and piety; and a large majority of the more serious members of the church, as well as all of a different character, regarded it as unquestionably scriptural, and verily believed that the mode, recommended by Mr. Edwards, would unlawfully exclude multitudes from the Lord's Supper, who were fully entitled to partake of that sacra
5. All the churches in the county, except two, and all the clergy, except three, approved of the lax mode of admission. Many of the clergy also were, at this time, very favourably inclined to the sentiments usually denominated Arminian; and very hostile to those, of which Mr. Edwards was known to be a champion not easily met, with success, in the field of argument. Several of these gentlemen proved by their conduct, that they were not unwilling to assist the cause of disaffection at Northampton. One of them was connected by marriage with the family of -, already mentioned, (a family of considerable wealth and influence in an adjoining town, which had long discovered a personal hostility to Mr. Edwards;) and had himself entered so warmly into their feelings, that, when the case came to its issue, even the opposers of Mr. Edwards did not, for with decency they could not, propose him as a member of the Council. Another in an adjoining town was a member of that family, and cherished all its feelings.
6. Another individual of the same family, living in a town adjoining, a kinsman of Mr. Edwards, and from his standing, both civil and military, possessed of considerable influence, was, for the six years previous to the final separation, the confidental adviser of the disaffected party in the Church and congregation. In this course, he had the countenance of other members of the family, of a character superior to his own.
"Mr. Edwards," observes Dr. Hopkins, "was sensible that his principles were not understood, but misrepresented, through the country; and finding that his people were too warm, calmly to attend to the matter in controversy, he proposed to print what he had to say on the point; as this seemed the only way left him to have