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HIS RESIDENCE AT NEW HARTFORD, CONN.
After leaving Bridgeport and enjoying a little rest which he needed, he was called to the pastorate of the Congregational church in New Hartford, Conn., just vacated by the removal of Dr. Willis Lord, now of Chicago, to another field. This is a retired agricultural town, surrounded by beautiful scenery, lying in the eastern part of the delightful mountainous region of Litchfield County, about twenty miles from Hartford. No place could be more favorable to quiet study, or more congenial to his feelings after the heats and strifes of nearly seven years of city labor. It was also hallowed in his mind with many pleasing associations. It was the scene of the first pastoral labors of Dr. E. D. Griffin, and the remarkable revivals instrumentally promoted by his earnest preaching of the great doctrines of grace; and where he enjoyed prayerful intercourse with brethren of kindred doctrinal views and revivalistic zeal ; “ with whom," he says, “ I have prayed, and wept, and triumphed.” 0, for such praying and weeping, and triumphing ministerial associations now! How would drooping Zion lift up her head and rejoice in anticipation of abundant harvest !
This hallowed interest was increased by the publication of Dr. Griffin's “ Life and Sermons " the very year of his installation at New Hartford. Ilere, as a most fitting place, he wrote his affectionate review of them. It commences thus : “We have been refreshed by these volumes.
The beautiful portrait, the diary, the incidents narrated, the style, the spirit, the weighty truth, the not unfrequent cogency of
argument, the pungent application, and the sweet, tender, and powerful eloquence of numerous passages, have called forth many a tear, many an ejaculation of gratitude, from the vivid recollection they have awakened of one whom we have long venerated, and whose memory we love to cherish, amoug the most dear and hallowed of our associations. We could almost fancy ourselves in company with the honored dead, soothed by his gentle tones, comforted by his sympathy, instructed by his wisdom, charmed by his illustrations of evangelical subjects, as though we listened to some seer of the olden time, and carried now to the foot of the Cross, and now to Pisgah's top, in the effusions of his affectionate heart before that throne of
which was for so many years his loved retreat and resting-place.”
Not far from the time of his settlement at New Hartford the doctrine of Christian Perfection was broached at Oberlin, Ohio, and during his residence there was passing through its most active stage of discussion. Dr. Asa Mahan had published a little volume on the subject. Rev. Charles Fitch had written his noted letter, and Dr. Wm. R. Weeks had replied to it. One of our leading quarterlies, the “ American Biblical Repository," had opened its pages to its discussion. Dr. Enoch Pond had written an article in refutation of the doctrine. Rev. Mr. Fulsom had reviewed Dr. Mahan's book. Dr. Mahan had been permitted to publish a rejoinder for the purpose of stating more fully his views. Dr. Finney had published the same sentiments in his lectures. The “Oberlin Evangelist” had been started in the interest of Oberlin Perfectionism, and was widely circulated at the East as well as at the West. Dr. Leonard Woods had entered into the controversy, and was issuing a series of articles in the Repository. At a meeting of the General Association of Connecticut in 1841, Rev. L. H. Atwater introduced a series of resolutions expressive of the sense of the Association on Perfectionism. A discussion
ensued in which Dr. Woodbridge took part. We will give a portion of it, as it furnishes us with the only opportunity of hearing him in debate.
“Rev. A. Dutton expressed the hope that the resolutions would not pass, for two reasons: 1. Although we ought to meet and resist fundamental error, it was not necessary to set up our particular Shibboleth against every sentiment deemed erroneous. He was opposed to making a schism in the church by rejecting communion with every one who may differ from us in some points. And although he did not believe the doctrine of Perfectionism, yet he did not consider it so great an error as to be prepared to shut the pulpit against its advocates, especially when he saw among them some of the most amiable and lovely 'men of the land, (one of whom was named as an example,) and whom he had no doubt we should meet in heaven. Another reason was, that this is the very way to spread the error. The day is past in which you can put down men by denouncing their opinions. It is contrary to the genius of the age. It is regarded as persecution, and awakens sympathy, which raises up fivc friends where there were but two. The only way to meet error at present, is by free discussion. If the advocates of the doctrine in question are essentially erroneous, or if they are in the incipient stage of error, they will soon show it, and then it will be time to meet them. Instead of excluding them from our pulpits, let us treat them with kindness, and by friendly discussion, not by cutting them off from our connections, endeavor to convince them of what we may consider erroneous.
" Dr. Woodbridge was in favor of treating all men with kindness and benevolence, even Catholics and Pagans, and he was disposed to conduct all controversies on that principle. And he presumed that the Lord Jesus Christ fully understood and exercised the spirit of benevolence, when he commanded his followers to reject a heretic after suitable admonition, and to account such men as heathen men and publicans. And he did not consider it inconsistent with kindness and benevolence towards men, to testify against their errors, and refuse them the opportunity to disseminate them in our churches. In regard to the harmlessness of the doctrine of Perfectionism, Dr. Woodbridge said he must differ toto coelo from the last speaker. He regarded it as the worst form of Romanism and Mysticism, (and various other isms,) and had always been accompanied with the most disastrous results. The only exception (if there was any) to this remark was to be found in the case of the Wesleyan Methodists; but this was the manifest result of those numerous guards and checks set up by their founder, (who was a very wise man,) by which his followers were prevented from embracing the kindred errors with which the doctrine of Perfection is connected. Here Dr. Woodbridge went into an examination of this doctrine in the
DEBATE ON PERFECTIONISM.
light of Scripture, and inferred that it was a most dangerous error, and not the less so because it was advocated by · amiable and lovely men.' Men may even now plead, · Have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?' and yet they may be such as we are commanded not to bid God speed, nor to receive them into our houses.' How would Edwards, and Dwight, and Payson have regarded this doctrine? They never boasted of sinless perfection, but they were good men, though he had understood that this fact in relation to Edwards and his wife had been called in question by some of the advocates of this doctrine. And the pious Baxter, too, on the last day of his life blessed God that the prayer of the publican was recorded in the Bible as a prayer acceptable to heaven, and felt the need of it in his dying hour. This doctrine, said Dr. Woodbridge, is inconsistent also with the duty of prayer. Men who feel that they are perfect, feel no need of praying for pardon.
" (Here Dr. Woodbridge was interrupted by Mr. Bartlett, who expressed a wish that the subject might be deferred till the ordinary business of the Association should be disposed of. At this interval, Mr. Dutton said, in allusion to a remark of Dr. Woodbridge, he only wished to say, 'that one of our best and most highly respected ministers had remarked to him, that he read the Oberlin Evangelist with more interest and spiritual improvement than any other periodical of the day.' Dr. Woodbridge remarked, if there were such a minister in the State, who had made such a remark, he would only say in reference to that, O TEMPORA ! MORES! He further observed, that if he was out of order he was willing to sit down; but if not, he was unwilling to be interrupted. The moderator said he regarded the doctrine in question as • an error of very material consequence,' and that there Dr. Woodbridge had not been out of order in his remarks.)
“ Dr. Woodbridge proceeded to say: The question had often been asked, whether a man embracing Unitarian sentiments could be esteemed a Christian? He would only say, if such a man had a spark of piety, he would, like Dr. Scott, eventually come out right. It was not necessary for him to say that the advocates of Perfectionism were not Christians, in order to justify him in voting for the resolution. It was sufficient that it was a great error. And the great distinguishing feature of Oberlin Perfectionism was its pretence to perfect obedience to the original law of God. And the publications inculcating this monstrous sentiment were regularly sent and circulated among the churches of Connecticut, and in some instances men came here and inculcated that doctrine, and had already caused trouble in some places. And if it had come to this that in Connecticut we cannot bear our testimony against such a doctrine, he could only say, 'Woe to the churches.'
"Mr. Crocker proposed the following substitute, which was accepted by the mover of the original resolution, viz. :
Resolved, • • That the doctrine that sinless perfection is ever attained
in this life, is, in the view of this Association, contrary to Scripture and to Christian experience, and dangerous to the welfare of Christ's kingdom.'
“ Here an unsuccessful motion was made for the indefinite postponement of the whole subject, and the amendment was adopted.
“ The discussion was renewed on the substitute.
“ Mr. Dutton said he was not greatly opposed to the substitute, though he thought it would be better to take no action upon the subject. If you come out with a condemnatory resolution against a sentiment that has so many friends, you will make a great many more. If its advocates come into your churches and make divisions, you may find fault, but you cannot stop them by denouncing their doctrine.
“Dr. Woodbridge said, the consideration that the doctrine had many friends, was no reason why he should be silent. He recollected to have read of a time when it was said, “ Athanasius against the whole world, and the whole world against Athanasius.' But he did not, on that account, desist from preaching the doctrines of the Trinity. And though opposed by emperors, and dignitaries both in church and state, he continued to contend for the truth, and was successful. (Here Dr. Woodbridge was again interrupted, when he remarked that he had been repeatedly interrupted by two brethren, who were nearly of his own age, while the younger brethren had treated him with entire courtesy, He hoped his older brethren would allow him to proceed. The moderator remarked that he presumed no discourtesy was intended, and that the interruption proceeded entirely from a desire to get through with the business of the Association.) Dr. Woodbridge proceeded to urge the necessity of prompt action on the subject. When he had concluded, a member, whose name is unknown to the writer, made some remarks in favor of a lenient mode of treating this subject, and urged it by the kind method which has been recommended for reclaiming drunkards. (N. B. The object of the resolution was not to reclaim Perfectionists, but to guard the churches against the introduction of this error.) He concluded with saying, that as there was no probability that the Association would be united in adopting the resolution, and the feelings of some might be injured by pressing it, he hoped the resolution would be otherwise disposed of.
“Mr. H. Woodbridge said, “Then the more important that the ques. tion be put, that we may know who of this body are in favor, anl who opposed to the resolution. Let the vote be taken.'
“ After some desultory remarks, the question was put, and the resolution was adopted; only two or three voting in the negative.”
Dr. Woodbridge afterwards grappled with the subject more thoroughly, and produced his powerful article on
Sanctification," which was published in the “ Princeton