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REV. SOLOMON STODDARD.
term “church-membership," and those enjoying it held positions of social influence which others could seldom reach. There was consequent restiveness both in church and state. The drifting currents of thought demanded another step; and this, with the premises already assumed, was easily taken. If baptized children were “ visible saints,” and were to be regarded as such so long as they were guilty of no scandalous conduct; if it was their duty, on reaching maturity, to own the covenant; and if, by so doing, they had a right, without personal faith, to give up their children in baptism, why might they not also, by so doing, partake of the Lord's Supper without faith? So many reasoned, and the more they reasoned and talked, the more uneasy they became. At length the sentiment fomenting in the community found an efficient organ. Rev. Solomon Stoddard of Northampton advocated, both from the pulpit and by the pen, the theses that "
sanctification is not a necessary qualification for partaking of the Lord's supper,” and that “the Lord's supper is a converting ordinance."
His high reputation for piety, orthodoxy, and theological attainments, gare currency to his views. The public mind being ripe for their reception, they spread with great rapidity. In a few years the majority of pastors and churches throughout New England fell under their control. A strange organic mingling of the unregenerate with God's people in the churches ensued. The former soon became, in many instances, the controlling element. A low state of religious feeling prevailed; the current of immorality flowed with deepening volume through the community. The faithful were alarmed, wept in secret places, and adopted various public measures to check the on-rushing stream, but seem to have been strangely blind to the true cause. up the noxious weeds of “moderatism” in doctrine and “indifferentism" in Christian work; and ere long Unitarianism, striking at the very vitals of true godliness, and spreading the miasma of spiritual death, — all flowing from,
or sanctioned by, the error of one good man falling in with the tide of popular feeling. Had he seen the disastrous results, no one would have more bewailed them than himself. Well may even the best of men pray with the Psalmist, “ Lead me in thy truth, and teach me."
It cannot be thought marvellous that the little church by his side, who had for nearly forty years often heard his able and spiritual sermons, should have regarded the views of Mr. Stoddard with favor. The voice of the venerable Rus. sell was no longer beard encouraging to steadfastness, nor was the quickening example of his inflexible associates summoning to duty and heroic resistance to incoming error, longer before them. Other forces were in motion. The subtle power of anti-Puritan thought, engendered of selfinterest, which had been leavening the mind of New England for more than fifty years, had found its way into the retired fold of Hadley. It began to steal into the minds of the sons of these stalwart fathers, unconsciously perhaps to themselves, undermining the stern Puritan principles which had been carefully inculcated upon them; and they stood at last like the sturdy oak which has wrestled with a thousand wintry blasts on the wasting bank of the stream, ready to be overturned by the gentlest gale. That gale came. When Stoddard published his “Appeal to the Learned ; being a Vindication of the Right of Visible Saints to the Lord's Supper, though they be destitute of a Saring Work of God's Spirit on their Hearts ;” and maintained the doctrine taught with so much learning, force of argument, and unwearied zeal; it seemed so plausible, and selfishness pleaded so earnestly for its reception, that they at length welcomed the error, though far more ruinous than that which lurked in the “half-way covenant,” whose destructive influences their fathers determining to escape, had left their homes in Connecticut and planted themselves in the wilderness of Hadley.
A striking example this of the secret power of popular
PREACHING UP TO THE TIMES; UP TO THE BIBLE.
thought, and of the evils sometimes resulting from falling in with it. Much is said at the present day about “preaching up to the times.” Stoddard preached and published “ up to the times.” Jonathan Edwards, a few years later, was compelled to preach and write on the same topic, against the current of the times, and up to the Bible.
The full effects of Stoddard's views were not speedily felt in Northampton ; his soundness in the faith in other respects, and the spirituality and earnestness of his preaching, held them back. The same causes operated in Hadley, leaving the vitality of Christ still strong in the church. Other influences tended in the same direction. The revival at Northampton in 1734-5 extended into IIadley, checking the downward tendencies of the Stoddardean practice; and not long afterwards Whitefield came among them and preached, when “many were quickened and wept sore." The mighty Edwards also, with an intellect as profound and searching, and a piety as pure and arderit as Stoddard's, assailed his error in the very pulpit where it had been first proclaimed. He published his work, “Qualifications for full Communion in the Visible Church," in 1749. A stormy controversy arose. Northampton was powerfully agitated ; indeed, the whole religious community for leagues around was moved. The ensuing year, Edwards was hurled from his pulpit with a reputation so tarnished on account of his opinions, that few, if any, churches in New England desired his pastoral services. The people of IIadley must have entered more or less into the discussion, and been more or less affected by it. Edwards doubtless gained adherents there. But the palsying error which some of the Puritan churches had resisted from the beginning, and which others had sloughed off before it had become thoroughly fastened upon them, prevailed still in Hadley; so much easier is it to introduce poison into the system than to eliminate it when once thoroughly radicated. Their pastor, the scholarly Williams, who was scribe of the council which effected the dismission
of Mr. Edwards, and who voted for the same, gave vigor to the erratic principle. Its influence was perpetuated by his successor, Dr. Hopkins, who was a decided Stoddardean. Ilis character as a man and a minister was such as to give force to his sentiments. Ile was a faithful pastor, in the acceptation of the times, and enjoyed the reputation of an able divine. He was a man of decided ability, good practical sense, familiar with the Scriptures, and very respectable as a general scholar. As a preacher he was always instructive and pertinent, though possessing little of the “popular clement," or that imaginative fervor which glows with inward fire, and sweeps its way through a discourse on radiant wing, charming the million. As a reasoner he was clear and sagacious, and in judgment sound. In private life he was amiable, affable, and dignified, with the grace of easy condescension. He was exceedingly entertaining as a companion, and a careful cultivator of peace among his people and in all his relations. In theology he was a Calvinist, in the sense of an anti-Edwardean of the age, though far less lax than those clergymen of his time who prepared the way for the influx of Unitarianism and kindred delusions. He inculcated the salient points of the system, but not in such a way that they stood out in marked contrast with Arminianism. He had no sympathy with the peculiar views and nice distinctions of his cousin, the astute theologian of Newport. lle did not hold the specialties of the Calvinistic system in such distinctness of vision, or reason upon them with such acuteness, analyzing them so closely that each was seen in its true position and individual force; and then combining them into one consistent whole, press them with crushing weight on the consciences of his hearers. IIis general pul. pit services came not, therefore, upon the formal and lukewarm with startling effect, nor did they probe the hearts of the impenitent with lacerating point; yet they that loved the Lord were edified and helped on their way to the better land. Salvation alone by grace was his frequent theme;
STODDARDISM IN HADLEY.
but the moral virtues and ritualistic observances were enforced with little less frequency, and both as of almost equal importance. Near the close of his ministry he mourned over his little success; thus erincing both his earnest desire to do good, and his freedom from a boastful spirit. Under such a pastorate of fifty-five years Stoddardism would inevitably strike deeper its roots.
Other causes contributed to the same result. The excitement occasioned by the able discussion of the subject by Edwards, and the violent opposition it awakened at Northampton, must have extended their influence across the river. The church in Hadley had looked at it with the eyes of controversialists, and taken sides with the feelings of partisans. The intelligent majority could say, “ We have considered both sides of this subject, and we are satisfied by personal examination where the truth lies.” Besides, a man's political standing, and social position in the town, during and at the close of Dr. Hopkins's ministry, was materially affected by his connection with the church. Pride and policy were thus arrayed in defence of the unscriptural practice. Selfish ease also gave her vote in its favor. To come without faith to the communion-table as a means of grace, seemed a smoother way to heaven than the rough and narrow path of entire consecration to God and of selfrenouncing trust in redeeming blood. Thus the discussion of the subject for fifty or sixty years as partisans, its venerableness as handed down from father to son, and the soothing efficacy of the dogma itself on the unregenerate members of the church, tended to enroot it more deeply in the affections of the majority; to render it one of those settled things which the selfish prejudices desire to leave in rest.
While Dr. Hopkins seems never to have changed his views or his practice respecting the sacramental supper, yet near the termination of his long pastorate the dogma began to relax its hold on a portion of the church.
The rising sun will send his beams through the densest