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system, however much it may respect these principles, makes them subordinate to a disagreeable, watery, and sometimes very indecent ceremony : for all these avail nothing for us in this case, whereas immersion introduces us to the heavenly delights of Christian fellowship. Thus, the greater submits to the less-the Creator to the creature !
In conclusion, brethren, allow me to inquire, what further evidence we need ?
Can it be that a system which gives birth and succor to such principles and practices is of divine original ? That the members of Christ are to be united to each other by such a bond? That the fundamental principles of our holy religion are as nothing in competition with a mere rite ? No, never! The ties by which Christianity unites its votaries are ethereal. Common to angels and to men, they are designed to harmonize the universe of soul in allegiance to God, in one holy brotherhood, and assimilate that brotherhood to the throne of Heaven. They are deep laid in the moral system beyond the control of locality, physical debility, or clerical caprice. Thus they associate in one family men of all grades, of all nations, tongues, and languages under heaven—men of all parties and opinions, powers and conditions—with a firmness of affection which is not easily shaken. How sublime the plan! How admirably adapted to the broken and shattered state of the moral world! Connected by these ties, we are bound to give each other the hand of fraternal regard, though we may be disconnected in every thing else. Away then with the system which questions their competency as a bond of union, and imposes upon us its own shibboleth! May it die and be forgotten, that its shame may no longer stain the holy escutcheons of Christianity; and may the time hasten when Christians shall be one in communion, as they are one in Christ!
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
REVIEW OF THE DIFFICULTIES OF ARMINIAN METHODISM.
BY REV. S. COMFORT. The Difficulties of Arminian Methodism, embracing strictures on the writings of
Wesley, Drs. Clarke, Fisk, Bangs, and others, in a series of letters, addressed to the Reo.
By Wm. ANNAN.
The above is the title of a work which recently fell into our hands, purporting to be a third edition revised and enlarged from the second; printed in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1838.
In running over the list of recommendations, we found the names of the Rev. Dr. Alexander, of Princeton, N. J., and the Rev. G. W. Musgrave, of Baltimore; gentlemen known to us only by character, but for whom we have ever cherished sentiments of the highest esteem and the warmest friendship, both on account of their distinguished talents and their reputation for deep piety and profound erudition. Finding the names of gentlemen thus distinguished among the en. dorsers for the author, and the work sent out into the world with their sanction, we were led to examine the table of contents with the greater interest and attention. The work consists of eight letters, addressed to the Rev. as in the title page. On further examining the body of the work,—to which we were led more by the promptings of mere curiosity than by any other motive,—we were constrained to admit that this is among the rare productions of the present age; and, to say the least, it does not want a high degree of novelty to recommend it, not only in view of the matter of the work itself, but also in respect to the author's style, argument, and mode of illustration. In proposing a brief review, let us here apprize the reader that it is not our design to follow the writer in every turn and crevice, into which, judging from the spirit and style of the work, he seems to have been led, in many instances, more from the predominant influence of a sort of petulent captiousness, than from a lofty principle of Christian liberality and candor. Besides, this would be to descend lower than we can obtain the consent of either our judgment or selfrespect to go; though no lower than the writer has seen fit to place himself.
But there are some points of Methodist doctrine on which the wri. ter has descanted with great freedom and boldness—doctrines which we have long held as most sacred, and which, unless we are quite mis. taken in the meaning and use of the term fundamental, when applied to the truths of the gospel, must come in for a claim to that class as they constitute some of those principles which are essential to the Christian system. To these features of the work we shall principally direct the reader's attention. Some parts of the organization, eco. nomy, usages, and discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church have received an assumed construction and a forced application, which are no less unauthorized than strange and erroneous. These we shall not attempt to review.
In letter No. I., which contains the introduction to the work, Mr. Annan labors to show, that, in setting up the banners of controversy, he is acting purely on the defensive; and, therefore, for the part he may act, and for the ground he shall occupy in the contest, he claims from his reader not only full justification, but a liberal share of sympathy for the sufferings which the denomination, in whose behalf he comes forth as the devoted champion, has received from the asper. sions, misrepresentations of her doctrines, and the misquotations of her authors, by ministers and writers of the M. E. Church. But, as we have not the authorities referred to, we shall leave these and other kindred questions to be decided by others who are better prepared than ourselves to determine the facts in the case.
Letter II. is on original sin. Here Mr. A. finds his first “ difficulty" in Arminian Methodism, arising from “ the vague, confused, and con. tradictory statements made upon this subject.” After quoting the seventh article of religion in the Methodist Discipline, he holds the fol. lowing language :
“ The corruption of nature, taught in this article, by which man is inclined to evil, and that continually, is manifestly the fountain whence flows all actual sin, the root of all bitterness, an evil of fearful magni. tude—a curse of tremendous extent. Who then is the guilty author of this dread calamity, by which corruption, and misery, and death are handed down from generation to generation! Is it the infant or
the parent? Must we trace it back to Adam, the primitive ancestor ef the race; or must we impute it to the Creator himself? In answer to these questions the Methodist standard of doctrine says not a word; and the members and ministers are left to believe and teach, upon this subject, whatever is right in their own eyes. Men may adopt their article and discipline, and yet maintain that God is the author of sin, the originating cause of that corruption of nature' by which •man is inclined to evil, and that continually,' and thus the author of all sin. This their religious teachers may hold and inculcate, and yet, so far as appears, be good Methodists. The whole subject is submitted to the freak, or fancy, or frenzy, of each individual, whether preacher or ordi. nary member.”—(Page 48.)
Now were there any thing in the nature and genius of that system of doctrine which Mr. A. denominates Arminian Methodism, having the least tendency to make God the author of sin; or that, by any fair construction, can be made to involve such an imputation on the divine character; then there would be some plausibility in the above stricture on the seventh article. But as it is, the stricture is perfectly gratui. tous. Taking the system of doctrine as not only laid down in the book of Discipline, but maintained by those writers who are acknow. ledged by Methodists themselves as standard authors, and as Methodist doctrine is preached by her living ministry; it is difficult to conceive of a more probable reason for the above objection than that it is a mere pretext or shift to throw off the same imputation which many have regarded as a fair deduction from the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism : as if by retorting the difficulty back upon Methodism, Mr. A. supposes he will relieve his own doctrine from the embarrassment in which it is involved by this very natural consequence. As Methodism is, in the hands of the intelligent and unprejudiced, who take large and comprehensive views of the system, and who are free from the malign spirit of captiousness, there is about as much reason to object to the alluvial banks of the turgid Missouri-if the reader will pardon the comparison--and to fault nature in not having pent her in by conti. nuous granite bluffs from her source to her mouth, lest in some “freak, fancy, or frenzy” she shall break from her natural course, or roll her. self back to her source in the Rocky Mountains, sweep the Columbia from the channel which nature has dug and assigned to her, and empty herself into the Pacific Ocean instead of the Gulf of Mexico—as to fear that Methodism should make God the author of sin.
After assuming that the corruption of nature, as taught in the seventh article, is “necessary and unavoidable,” Mr. A. endeavors to involve Dr. Fisk in a difficulty, which he seems to think is manifest from an expression the doctor employed, when, let it be remembered, he was canvassing a question the most foreign from the one under considera. tion, as growing out of the above-mentioned article. This will appear from the following quotation :
“But Dr. Fisk, speaking as the organ of the General Conference, and making a mortal thrust at the doctrine of predestination, tells us, • If God holds men responsible for what is unavoidable, what more could be said of the most merciless tyrant? (Disc. on Predes., p. 13.) It follows, therefore, that though. man is inclined to evil, and that con. tinually,' yet he is not responsible' for his wickedness, because it is
Vol. X.-July, 1839. 41
unavoidable: in other words, Original sin' is no sin, but a very inno. cent, harmless thing, which none but a merciless tyrant would ever consider deserving of punishment!" P. 50.
Leaving Mr. A. to enjoy all the satisfaction he can derive from the forced application which he has made of the doctor's language and meaning, which is so perfectly obvious when his words are thus tor. tured from their direct reference to Calvinistic predestination, into an application to the doctrine of original sin or depravity; we would beg leave to inquire of the ingenious author of the “difficulties” of Method. ism, if it is not conceivable that the offspring of our original ancestors may be involved in the consequences of their original offence—unavoid. ably, if he please—without being consequently and necessarily involved in the guilt of their original act; as if, by direct personal imputation, it were their own ? This seems to be the ground assumed by the objector. But to us it is as manifest as the meridian light, that to suffer the temporal consequences is one thing, and to lie under the imputation of the guilt of the first offence so as to be liable to eternal punishment on its account, is quite another. The former is true, but not the latter. Viewing the human family as it now is, and ever has been, since the moment the promise of a Saviour was first made, immediately after the fall of man, the first is true to the greatest extent to which the family of man is affected by the federal act of its great ancestor: but, in view of the provisions of the gospel, which are equally extensive with the effects of the fall, who will undertake to say, that the latter can be predicated of one individual of Adam's posterity ? In other words, Who prepared to say that one man, or a single child, of our fallen race, ever finally perished, merely through the imputation of Adam's sin, or because he was born with a depraved or fallen nature? If the utterance of such a declaration would not be to stain the immaculate character of God with a blasphemous imputation, we are perfectly at a loss to conceive what would. But that there is a sense in which it may in truth be said, in the language of Scripture, we are “conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, and by nature the children of wrath,” is not to be disputed. And that there is a sense in which it is equally true that the “ free gift has come upon all men unto justification of life,” it must be acknowledged, is declared by the same authority. And if there is a point between birth and the period when accountability commences, and personal guilt may be contracted, at which the dying child is not found within the range of the saving provisions and bene. fits of the atonement, the only conclusion with regard to myriads who have died at that age must be, that they have never participated in the saving benefits of Christ's death ; or that he has died for them in vain : unless the difficulty can be relieved by introducing the Calvin. istic scheme of unconditional election. This, however, will come under consideration in its proper place. Divested of all the haze, indefinite. ness, and perplexity, which have been thrown around the question, by ignorance, error, mistake, or design, Methodism and Calvinism proper are, and ever have been, at issue on the extent of the atonement and the gracious provisions of the gospel.
It is one grand object with Mr. A. to evince the difficulty involved in the gracious ability with which Arminian Methodism invests the sinner; while, at the same time, it discards the natural ability with
which Calvinism, in its modern refinements, endows him. And if, as it is conceived, it would be to offer an insult to the common sense of every discriminating mind, to attempt to establish by argument the truth of the proposition, that culpability can only be predicated of ca. pability, whether it pertain to right choice or right action; then it follows, by parity of reason, that the neglect or abuse of that grace, without which we could neither choose nor act contrary to the natural bias of our corrupt natures, must increase the magnitude of our guilt in proportion to the measure of grace we have received, and the circumstances under which we have misimproved it. But if, on the contrary, the sinner is endowed with sufficient natural ability, without grace, not only to choose, but also to perform the requirements of the gospel, then he may be both saved and lost while in a condition and possessed of a character totally graceless ! We cannot see how it can be otherwise, if the natural ability attributed to the sinner be real, and not merely nominal. However this matter may appear to others, to our mind it has always been embarrassed by inextricable difficulties, notwithstanding all the labor of its advocates to disencumber it.
In further evidence of the candid spirit in which the author prose. cutes his inquiry into the “ difficulties” of Methodism, first creating a man of straw, then arraying him with all the hostile attributes of a cruel and destroying monster, and then encountering him in serious and determined conflict, sure to obtain a signal and decided cohngest, we transcribe the following:
" It follows, therefore, according to Dr. F., that he (man) has no power of voluntary choice, and is not a free, moral agent, until. graciously assisted,' and made capable of voluntary choice—and thus, the doctor continues, through the grace of the gospel, all are born free from condemnation.' p. 30. Which is about the same as to say, that man is enabled by grace’ to escape condemnation, which, being previously unavoidable, it would have been merciless tyranny to execute. A wondrous act of grace, truly, to assist the sinner to avoid a punish. ment which none but a tyrant could inflict.” Page 52.
If the reader will bear two things in recollection he will see how Mr. A. arrives at the above conclusion. First, by a misapplication of Dr. Fisk's language, taking it out of its connection and reference, according to the doctor's obvious meaning and design, and laying hold of the epithet“ merciless tyrant,” as if he could hold the doctor respon. sible for any application or use he might please to make of it, because Dr. F. chose to employ it in a certain connection and in a given sense! And next, by an assumed and unwarranted liberty of understanding and explaining a writer by way of a mere forced construction. Let this liberty be taken with any writer, and what could he not be made to say? First, he has certain premises assigned him, without his knowledge or consent, and to which he has never subscribed ; and then from these premises conclusions are drawn involving sentiments and declarations diametrically opposite to those which the writer would maintain were he permitted to define his own meaning, and were that meaning received without distortion or perversion. Than this unwar. ranted liberty of construction, nothing is more ungenerous and illiberal toward him concerning whom it is indulged. He is left, on this prin. ciple, perfectly at the mercy, will, or caprice of the man into whose