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owe the denomination to which they belong, and the cause of truth and piety in its communion, to sustain by a wide, effective circulation of those valuable works, that most important undertaking in which they originated. And of the elaborate work, which we are now to introduce to the notice of our readers, we will only, in passing, at present observe, that it will be our surprise and regret, and the loss and reproach of our churches, if by extensive and permanent circulation there be not a necessity for successive editions. It is worthy to be a standard work, while it possesses a peculiar adaptation to present and immediate usefulness.
Were the present a proper occasion, we could say much that we feel to be of urgent importance to the cause of literature and truth, as connected with our own body. That great argument in favour of simple, scriptural, voluntary modes and support of christianity now so rife, which in England so entirely devolves on Congregationalists, that, if it be not maintained by them, it will altogether cease, appears to us languishing for want of that thorough, searching investigation which an accomplished scholar can alone supply. We are deeply impressed with the necessity of advancing to a much higher efficiency the education of our rising ministry. We want to see in our colleges a longer term and wider range of study, with an increased number of tutors. In that honourable and arduous office our learned ministers ought to find, to a greater extent than now, their appropriate recompence, labour, and retreat from more active pursuits. When the liberal government of our country is at last making literary honours accessible without religious tests, we are anxious to see many, both of our clergy and laity, attain an eminence in learning, that would reflect more honour on the degrees they may attain, than the degrees on the scholars they distinguish. We desire to see learning duly honoured and appreciated by our whole denomination, that the entire influence of opinion, property, and institutions among us, may contribute to its advancement. The literature of the episcopal church is often appealed to in support of the state establishment and wealthy endowment of that denomination of Christians. Far be it from us to write a word in depreciation of the noble scholars of that community, or of their invaluable works. Genius and learning applied to defend, investigate, and promote religion, are sacred in the view of every right-minded Christian. They are the common property and the common glory of the entire church, without regard to mere denominational differences. We give them in full measure their ungrudged, deserved honour. We delight to drink from those full streams of knowledge, and should despise our own sectarian bigotry if we turned from them because they are the productions of episcopalians, or could, even when perusing them, remember the fact, except when they announce opinions peculiar to that denomination. But poor and voluntary, yea, persecuted churches have had their scholars too; their men of mighty mind, profound learning, indefatigable labour. Our own denomination has its imperishable names on the rolls of sacred learning; and we have come forward before the world as a body of Christians to avow our belief that the whole cause of religion, and all that is required to sustain it, has been committed by
Christ to the voluntary, affectionate efforts of his friends. But neither religion nor sacred learning will flourish on voluntary neglect. It is by the energy and efficiency of voluntary efforts that they must be sustained. The world will look to us for proof as well as argument, practice as well as theory. We must devise liberal things for the promotion of learning and godliness, if we would convince and convert men to the voluntary principle. It were a long debate to enter upon, how far the learning of the episcopal church can be fairly used as an argument in favour of state endowments. Before that argument could become conclusive it would require to be shown, no easy matter, that the wealth and honours of that body had been honestly employed to promote and reward scholarship. Then that wealth and honour, when so bestowed on learned men, did actually promote their further studies and labours. And still further, that this mode of stimulating and rewarding learned men, is more effectual to its end than those which the same great and wealthy body of Christians would have adopted, had they been left to their own energies and resources, without the controul of state authority, without the sedative of state endowment. These are points which could not easily be proved in the affirmative. A true principle is true in all its applications. Such a principle we verily believe the voluntary system to be; and are convinced that to it, religion and religious learning may be committed with perfect safety, with perfect success. Meanwhile sacred literature is not with us in a sinking state. Let that gratifying fact encourage to those wise, liberal, energetic measures on the part of every scholar, every lover of knowledge and learning in our denomination, which will advance it to an eminence, an efficiency never heretofore attained.
But we crave leave to advert to the theology of our denomination. On this vital point we have had our fears; but we rejoice to add they are relieved, diminished. We were apprehensive lest that sober, moderate, scriptural Calvinism, which has been, from their first origin, the distinctive faith of the Congregational Churches of England, should be deteriorated, and a mode of preaching inconsistent with it come to prevail among us. Certain transatlantic publications gave us uneasiness. Some practices and modes of dealing with the souls of men, connected with American revivals, appeared to us likely to exert a sinister influence on the views of divine truth entertained by those who should deeply interest themselves in those grand, but (as it respects human instrumentality) mixed events. We were not even without apprehension that the doctrine, in itself so true as well as important, that man's impotency is entirely moral, his inability to believe altogether unwillingness, might be so exclusively regarded and employed, as to compromise the sovereign freeness of divine grace and heavenly influence. Now in all its main principles we would abide by the theology of Owen, and Charnock, and Howe. We say in the chief principles they maintained, for that increased clearness of thought and accuracy of statement on divine subjects, in many subordinate yet important points, are not unattainable by careful and unwearied study, the work now under consideration affords gratifying proof. But we are jealous with a
godly jealousy for sound Calvinistic theology. We believe it to be the truth of God, the glory and life of our churches. We are convinced that in it alone our impartial interpretation of the sacred witings is attained, in which it becomes necessary to reject no portion, to do violence to no portion of the infallible oracles. The admirable volume of Mr. Gilbert on Atonement and Substitution, and the equally excellent work of Dr. Payne we are now to review, prove that our living masters in Israel are equal to the height of this great argument, and are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of our longcherished scriptural faith. We cannot avoid the remark in passing, that it is of infinite importance to the interests of truth and religion, that the influence of the British and American churches should be reciprocal. If the torpor and feebleness incidental to Christians in this country, as partaking in the influence of national antiquity, require a rousing impulse to be communicated by the vigorous action and enterprise of those youthful, robust communities; they, on their part, may no less need an infusion of that wise, sober caution which nothing but experience can procure for nations or churches, any more than for individuals. Our churches have passed through controversies, and experienced the mischiefs of errors which may wear to them a more specious air of novelty. We must not refuse to be roused, nor they to be cautioned. As the great fraternity of Christians extends; as the great truths of the gospel come to be tried and discussed under widely different national peculiarities; as the experience of ages accumulates; as the interchange of thought and discussion on sacred subjects become daily more extensive and constant, doubtless mutual influence will correct errors, enforce truth, and every way benefit the great commonwealth of Christians. These are the benefits and glories to be hoped for in richest measure, when the latter ages of the church shall possess the labours of the divines of China and India, of Africa and Australia, in addition to the present stores of sacred learning, and the purity and blessedness of the church shall be scarcely less increased than its numbers. Of Dr. Payne's work we will at once say, it is eminently calculated for usefulness in America as well as in England. We wish it, most cordially, an equal reputation and influence among transatlantic and British churches, and turn with pleasure from this long discussion to the more particular notice of a work, for which we are most grateful to the author, and which we have read with peculiar gratification and advantage.
Dr. Payne's work is evidently the production of a mind of high moral and intellectual excellence, in which the love of truth and the power of patient investigation are equally developed. Every page of this volume affords evidence of a rare union of these admirable qualities. If it should be thought by any reader deficient in fervour and glow, let it be remembered those attractions could hardly have been infused into its profound discussions, but at the risk of sacrificing the lucid accuracy and guarded care of its statements. Here are no uncandid mis-statements of opposite opinions; no unfair arguments; no evasions to escape difficulties; no acquiescence in modes of stating and defending the truth, which are thought by the author to be erroneous, merely because they have been employed by Calvinistic divines of eminent reputation. The exact truth, not victory over an opponent, or strict accordance with a party, is the evident object of the unwearied pursuit of this able divine. We think neither friend nor adversary of the views advocated in this work, could peruse it without great esteem for the writer. His candour and freedom from prejudice; his conscientious, scrupulous solicitude to avoid in his statements and reasonings any offence against truth, fairness, and brotherly love; his great reverence for the divine themes he discusses, are so apparent that they cannot be overlooked, and to an ingenuous mind it is as impossible not to be impressed by them, as it is not to discern them. Dr. Payne is besides an accurate, clear, patient, independent thinker. He has thought and felt profoundly, as well as read extensively. His work being thus completely the product of his own mind, possesses an air of originality which could hardly have been expected on subjects that have been discussed times innumerable by the ablest men the christian church has ever produced. It is matter of the highest satisfaction that so excellent, able, and truly christian a divine as Dr. Payne should preside over one of our theological institutions, and infuse into the minds of so many of our rising ministers his own admirable qualities and scriptural opinions.
The reader will find subjects of the greatest difficulty and interest, discussed in this volume with singular ability. The sovereignty of God; and the personal, eternal election of believers to be the subjects of gracious influence in order to their conversion and salvation. This latter holy, awful mystery of our faith is defended against the objections of opponents, and the difficulties with which it is confessedly attended are relieved with most happy success. In particular the discussion, in the sixth and seventh lectures, of the objection that election is incompatible with the free agency and accountability of man, is highly interesting. Many volumes, and those too of high pretensions, do not contain so much good sense and clear statement on the subject of human freedom as will be found in the short compass of the sixth lecture of this work. The grand doctrine of atonement and satisfaction, and the great christian privilege of justification, are amply and ably examined. The discussion in lectures sixteen and seventeen, on the nature of that faith which is the medium of justification, deserves most careful attention. The subject of regeneration and the nature and mode of those spiritual influences in which that great change in the human heart originates, as well as the effect of the divine word on the soul in producing the new character of the regenerate man, are inquired into with the same caution, accuracy, and independence of thought which characterize the other portions of the volume. We do not pledge ourselves to an exact agreement with Dr. Payne in all his statements, but we have rarely met with a writer whose sentiments are so deserving a careful and respectful attention; and in no instances more, in none so much, as when he differs from Calvinistic divines of deservedly high eminence, and assigns his reasons for preferring his own views to theirs. There is nothing in which Dr. Payne is more happy than precision
and clearness in stating shades of difference, and minute accuracies of opinion; and by this quality he has communicated ease and interest to discussions that would otherwise have been laborious, if not unintelligible, to his readers. It might seem that such minute accuracy on the simple themes of the gospel is unnecessary, if not positively injurious. But let it be remembered how those divine doctrines have been obscured and perplexed by almost every error human ingenuity could invent; how what may appear at first sight a minor error, affecting only the modes not the substance of truth, may injuriously influence the entire manner and spirit of stating the gospel; how happily accuracy of theological opinion, obtained by patient inquiry in the study, may guide and regulate the most fervent and popular proclamation of the gospel from the pulpit; and it will appear, that if for those who are to learn, it may be less important; for those who are to teach the truth of God, it is indispensable, if they would be workmen needing “not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” that they should search to the utmost of their ability and opportunity into the exact meaning of the sacred oracles, and the whole harmony and consistency of the doctrines of grace and holiness.
We should extend this article to an undue length, were we to extract all the passages we had marked for quotation, either on account of the importance of the sentiments they contain, or because characteristic of the genius and manner of the writer. Indeed, quotations from this work is rendered difficult, because it consists throughout of close, continuous reasoning, and it is therefore not easy to detach a passage from its connexion. There is this great excellence and recommendation of Dr. Payne's views, especially those more peculiarly his own, that they are marked by simplicity. His perspicacious mind rejects what is obscure, involved, superfluous. The cases, not few and rare, in which popular terms are employed, when no meaning at all, or at best a very vagnie and indistinct signification is attached to them, are by Dr. Payne searched out and exposed. His mind cannot be satisfied with sound, it demands words clearly expressive of distinct, well-defined meaning. His careful and accurate distinction between the rectoral character of God as ruler and judge, and his paternal sovereign character as creator and source of all good, is employed with great success to relieve difficulties and elucidate truth throughout his masterly discussion on election and atonement. The view of faith given by the author, as the belief of the truth, (using the term belief as in case of any other testimony received by the mind as surely true,) when the gospel stands in the view of the believing mind in its true light, its divine, spiritual glory being distinctly perceived, is worthy of attentive consideration. The author, of course, maintains that the Spirit of God enables the believing soul to discern distinctly what it was before blind to, the divine glory of gospel truth; and that it is the truth thus discerned and believed that sanctifies and saves the soul. Equally worthy of careful thought is his view of divine influence on the human soul in regeneration as direct and immediate, communicating both a power of discerning, and a taste to relish the excellence of divine truth,