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the awakening had but just commenced, when eleven-sixteenths of the lawful voters of the parish, raised an outcry against “night meetings,” “religious stirs," etc. and in an angry mood conformed to the church of England, took exclusive possession of the meeting-house, and thus forced the feeble minority to encounter the hardship of rearing another place of worship for themselves and their children.
But we must present a brief outline of the exceptionable conduct of numbers, who, while they hailed the revival as the work of God, did much to bring it into disrepute.
Their doctrinal system derived its general complexion from antinomianism. Made up as it was of some fundamental truths, and not a few dangerous errors collected from different sources, as ignorance and misguided feeling prompted, their doctrinal scheme as a whole countenanced enthusiasm, and led to much extravagance of language and conduct. Some of their leading opinions have been already noticed. Influenced by those, together with others scarcely less fanciful and wild, their proceedings were often eccentric, rash, and subversive both of civil and religious order.
They railed against nearly all the ministers in the colony, whether friendly or hostile to the revival, calling them legalists, hypocrites, and hirelings; and therefore encouraged laymen to exhort, preach, and perform the various other offices pertaining to the christian ministry. They strenuously advocated lay ordination; and proceeded, in several instances, to invest their own ignorant exhorters who stood pre-eminent in zeal and effrontery, with the sacred office by prayer and the imposition of hands. Their meetings were excessively frequent, and were generally protracted to a late hour; thus deranging, if not their secular affairs, at least the religious order of their respective families. Indeed, many justified the entire omission of both family and secret prayer, by pleading the superior importance of more public devotion. Besides, their religious meetings were commonly scenes of disorder and tumult. The zeal of the exhorters elevated their voices to the pitch of vociferation, producing at the same time violent gesticulations, and frightful contortions of the countenance. The effect of these irregularities, in connection with the crude sentiments which were advanced, was frequently tremendous. The raptures of the supposed convert, and the agony of the agitated sinner, were equally irrational and frantic. In the midst of their worship, some shouted for joy, and others cried aloud for mercy. Some exulted and laughed, from a confident impression that their peace was made with God; others sobbed and groaned in almost total despair of relief. Many quaked from an involuntary agitation of the nerves; some fell into what they called a trance, and others swooned
and lay senseless on the floor. The excitement of multitudes was so high when going to a meeting, and especially when returning, that the streets resounded with their singing and outcries. And what was worse, they justified these irregularities, strove to promote them, construed them into certain signs of divine influence on the heart, and denied the piety of all who endeavored to repress such extravagances. In prayer, besides their shockingly irreverent familiarity with the Almighty, they not unfrequently trampled on the duty by mentioning individual persons and interceding for them by name, as opposers of the good work, full of prejudice, hard-hearted and nigh unto cursing. Sometimes the character and conduct of certain men were minutely described; and thus their addresses to God were but the instruments of disclosing and gratifying their own personal resentment. Some went even beyond this, and publicly prayed that God would either convert certain persons expressly named, or cut them off and send them to destruction, before they should corrupt others and contract more guilt themselves.
They said much about the prayer of faith, and from some peculiar impressions on their mind while praying for others, they often declared with great confidence, whether a given individual would, or would not, be eventually converted and saved. As a general truth, it was impossible to reason with them in regard to their principles and proceedings; and whoever labored to show them their errors, mild and affectionate as his manner might be, was little less than sure to incur reproach, and be denounced as a formalist or a hypocrite. They seem to have settled it as a first principle, that themselves were right, and every body else necessarily wrong. But the subject, though far from being exhausted, is too painful to be pursued to a much greater extent. One mischievous step of theirs, however,--the legitimate result of their enthusiastic and uncompromising spirit,-must not be omitted. We refer to their violent separation from the churches and societies to which they had belonged. Bitterly opposed to their pastors and brethren, and cherishing the confident persuasion that they were led by the Spirit of God in all their extravagances of faith and practice, it is manifest that they were ill prepared to remain where they were, and hold christian fellowship with those who could not but regard them as deluded fanatics. Accordingly they withdrew in great numbers, claimed to be more holy than others, and established churches of their own. And as there was no minister in this colony who countenanced their distinctive principles or practical extravagances, they could not obtain ordination for their exhorters. They proceeded, therefore, to select from among themselves such persons as were most zealous and fluent, and to constitute them spiritual teachers by lay ordination. In the choice of these individuals, as
well as in regard to many other things, not a few professed to be directed by special revelation from heaven. The revelation, however, with which they claimed to be favored, was of a species from which they often found it necessary to withdraw their confidence. Thus, in a certain town, the Separatists affirmed it to be revealed to them from above, that a particular man was to become their pastor ; bnt" in less than one year they chose, ordained, silenced, cast him out of the church, and delivered him up to Satan.”
It should be observed that these misguided people were comparatively, a very inconsiderable body. They established in all but about a dozen churches: the most of which were exceedingly small and in a few years became extinct. That many of them were truly pious cannot be reasonably doubted. And not a few of them, after their animal fervor had spent itself, listened to the instructions and arguments of the orthodox, renounced their more exceptionable tenets, became regular in their deportment, and, though they did not in many instances return to the bosom of the churches from which they had seceded, treated them with a good degree of christian courtesy and kindness. Scarcely a vestige of
a their churches now remains in the State.
The principles and practices both of the Arminians and Separatists, are incapable of justification, and yet they admit of a limited apology. The revival was a new scene to them; and considering how deficient their instructions from the pulpit had generally been, in regard both to doctrinal and experimental religion, it is not strange that the former class should, from the first, look upon that wonderful work with suspicion ; nor that the latter, equally ignorant of the real nature of such a revival, but powerfully impressed, should ascribe all that they felt, directly to a divine influ
It was to have been expected, that men in such opposite states of feeling, would entertain different opinions of that work of grace; and that while one portion of them opposed it, the other, not knowing the difference between great animal excitement and holy emotion, would in their zeal, mar it by many imprudences. If some few of those with whose writings the opposers of the work were chiefly conversant, believed in the special outpouring of the Spirit, they were confused and sometimes contradictory, in their representations concerning it. Under the direction of such authors,—we allude to the best of the kind,—they were but too liable, independent of any positive aversion to religion itself, to form an unfavorable opinion of the scene before them, and to impute the misconduct of the fanatics to the revival, rather than to the unresisted promptings of excited imagination. In behalf of those enthusiasts also, it may be said, that they were nearly all persons of uncultivated minds. Not only had they not been well instructed in religion, but their literary education was grossly defi
cient, and some of them could neither read nor write. That such people under very strong impressions in regard to a subject so infinitely momentous, as the alternative of endless happiness or everlasting destruction, should betray their solicitude by involuntary sighs and groans, and that upon finding relief in either real or supposed conversion, they should be filled with rapture bordering on frenzy, is a phenomenon neither inexplicable, nor very uncommon. Mr. Fuller, speaking of the Antinomian system, observes that "it has been embraced not so much by the learned, as by the illiterate part of professing christians;" and adds, that “it is especially calculated for the vulgar meridian.” Had those bewildered
" people possessed considerable general information, and above all, had they been favored with competent doctrinal knowledge, these advantages would unquestionably have formed such a counterpoise to their highly excited feelings, as to have prevented most of their hurtful abberrations. Besides, they were to some extent literally persecuted; and this, by producing exasperation, tended to urge them on to greater irregularities. While Episcopalians and Quakers were fully tolerated, the laws withheld the same indulgence from them. Their doctrinal system, although it contained many fundamental truths of the gospel, was ridiculed and condemned in the gross; and many of their practices, adopted no doubt with honest but mistaken views, were termed oddities, and then contemptuously laughed at; or considered as fatal to the soul, and then branded with the most odious epithets. All this was calculated to exasperate their feelings, and had its influence, no doubt, in propelling them onward to further degrees of mental and practical obliquity. Nor must it be forgotten that very many of the churches, however quickened and refreshed by the Spirit of God, gave them no little reason for dissatisfaction, by continuing to practice upon the “half-way covenant,” and to admit members without requiring an account of their religious experience.
We plead thus in behalf of both these classes, not because we regard them as innocent, but that the palliating circumstances of their case may not be entirely overlooked by the present generation of the orthodox, whose more consistent doctrinal views, and eligible external situation, might otherwise dispose them to pass too severe a sentence upon their ancestors. They could not indeed have been innocent; the one class in violently opposing, and the other in marring, and hastening to a close, a revival in which it has been computed, that within the period of little more than two years, more than thirty thousand souls were brought to a saving knowledge of Christ in New-England, besides many thousands in New-Jersey and other southern colonies. In our next number we shall call the attention of our readers to the writings of Dr. Bellamy, which were principally directed against the errors in doctrine and practice, which we have here detailed.
ART. X.- INQUIRIES RESPECTING
THE DOCTRINE OF IMPUTA
TO THE EDITORS OF THE QUARTERLY CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR.
GENTLEMEN.-In the Biblical Repertory for Jan. 1830, I have read an essay entitled, Early History of Pelagianism. Who the author of it is, I know not; but I beg leave through the medium of your work, to submit a few inquiries and difficulties which I have, in respect to some statements which he has made.
Aster stating on page 92, that some “ who would be esteemed orthodox, and Calvinistic too,” consider it so absurd to hold the
," doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, that they will “ not even condescend to argue the point," the historian goes on to say that “all theologians from the days of Augustine, who were not acknowledged heretics, believed firmly in this doctrine."
I would beg leave to ask is this true ? Is it true, that all theologians since the days of Augustine, who were not“ acknowledged heretics," have firmly believed in the doctrine of imputation, as held by Augustine, or the writer of the history in question? Or are the statements to the contrary, in Hahn's admirable system of theology, recently published, and so replete with select historical notices which testify most honorably to the diligence, accuracy, and widely extended research of the author, are these statements to be relied on, which are accompanied with copious extracts, and with references to chapter and verse; or are we rather to credit the declaration of the historian, unaccompained by either? I have been accustomed to believe, after a somewhat extended and painful investigation, that between the time of Augustine and the reformation, there were very many theologians, who did not believe in Augustine's view of imputation, and who yet were not “acknowledged heretics." Am I in an error here? And is Dr. Hahn wandering in the like darkness?
The historian proceeds. “Now we confess ourselves to be of the number of those who believe, whatever reproach it may bring upon us from a certain quarter, that if the doctrine of imputation be given up, the whole doctrine of original sin must be abandoned. And if this doctrine be relinquished, then the whole doctrine of redemption must fall; and what may then be left of christianity, they may contend for that will; but for ourselves, we shall be of opinion, that what remains will not be worth a serious struggle.” pp. 92, 93.
Here then permit me to inquire? Have men no sins of their own, from which they need to be redeemed? Or is it true, as the historian's position seems plainly to imply, that the whole object of