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which he cannot do.”—How sadly we mistake, when we suppose it unnecessary now to attempt to convince men, that justice is justice, that to obey does not mean to disobey, and that God punishes men for doing what he forbids, not what he compels them to do. We thank Mr. Burnap, not only for speaking well, but also for speaking “a word in season.” Of the latter part of this volume we cannot speak with so decided approbation as of the former. With much good thought, there seems to us less strong argument and rather less charity and fair statement. The statements are true and fair So far as human creeds and written formularies are concerned, and for the most part they relate to creeds and formularies. But if taken, as they will be, as setting forth the actual opinions and reasonings of men at the present day, we doubt if they are entirely correct. Creeds are not now, if they ever were, a just criterion of minds. They do not bind them, they do not represent them. Dr. Wilson may storm as much as he will about men’s defection from the standards; he can no more prevent it, than he can prevent thought. As Jeremy Taylor says in a similar connexion, he might as well “clap his shoulder to the ground to stop an earthquake.” Men are departing from all standards and all creeds. They are forgetting that they have any creeds. They do not know what they are sworn to believe. There is nothing more common than to meet with Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and others, who deny that such and such things are in their creeds, and will not admit it until they are pointed to the articles themselves; and then they attempt to put upon them some other than the old and obvious sense. It is an instructive fact, too, that at the present moment there is not a sect in our land, that is not rent and vexed with internal dissensions, unless it be the Unitarian. Episcopacy is not now the only province that has its High and Low church. You may see it among Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Universalists, and even the peaceable Quakers. In every pale, there is a respectable and growing number, who care little for paper fences, and are fast overleaping them, or trampling them down. In this state of things we cannot but think it a mistake in Mr. Burnap, to labor with the old creeds just as they are, and charge all these absurdities upon the mass of Christians. To be sure, those who retain them are liable to this charge, and we have just seen some melancholy proofs of close adhesion to their letter in all its rigor. But these are exceptions. At all events, there are many who differ, and many who would be pained and offended by some of the language here employed. This remark applies particularly to the Lecture on the inquiry, - “How does a man become a Christian * * We do not think that Lecture, nor the one on a similar subject, “What is it to be a Christian?” which the author first published separately under the title of “Sectarianism, both Catholic and Protestant,” to be fair specimens of the volume. They are not so unexceptionable in language or so cogent in reasoning, if we may judge, as most of the Lectures. We should have been better pleased to see less about the opinions and probable motives of others, and more of independent statement and defence of our own opinions. But this the plan of the work perhaps rendered difficult. The faults, if such they are, to which we have referred, are not frequent, and we do not forget, that the writer lives in a community where such discussions may be imperiously required. We commend his book to all who would see an able exposure of the weaknesses of Trinitarianism. E. B. H.
ART. VII. — Trial of the Rev. Dr. LyMAN Beechen for Heresy. Reported for “The New York Observer.”
THE trial of Dr. Beecher for heresy sounds so oddly in this quarter, and constitutes withal so singular a fact in the religious history of the times, that we suppose it will not do for us to pass it over without particular notice. Be it understood, however, that we do not mean, in the midst of dog-days and at the very heel of the Number, to allow ourselves to be drawn into a controversy, in which we have neither part nor lot. The “Trial,” as reported, would fill a considerable volume. Our only object will be to go over it in order, extracting such passages as we think will interest or amuse our readers, and indicating, as we proceed, with some care, the leading positions taken by the parties. Or if, in a few instances, we shall be tempted to throw in a remark or two of our own on the general correctness of these positions, or on their relevancy to the question at issue, it will be with the feelings and in the character of a looker-on, to whom the decision of the question itself is a matter of absolute indifference;
“Tros Tyriusque mihi nullo discrimine agetur.”
It is understood that the report of Dr. Beecher's alleged defection from some of the distinctive peculiarities of Calvinism went before him to the Western country, and caused his reception there by a part of his brethren to be any thing but cordial. The individuial, who from the beginning has most distinguished himself in his opposition to the great eastern heresiarch, is the Rev. Dr. Joshua L. Wilson, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, the patriarch of his denomination beyond the mountains, and the acknowledged leader of the Old School party in that region. He is, we are informed, a Kentuckian, and a veteran polemic, less famed even among his friends for suavity of manner and the amenities of life, than for courage and a certain downrightness and inflexibility of character, qualities which have naturally led him to become, what he appears not unambitious of being regarded, - the malleus hereticorum of the West. All this, at any rate, is in perfect accordance with the course he has taken in relation to Dr. Beecher, to whom his opposition, whatever questions may be raised respecting its policy or courtesy, is admitted on all hands, we believe, to have been, from the moment he became fully apprized of the danger to be apprehended, honest, consistent, unceasing, and above board. He took the earliest opportunity publicly to bring into question the soundness of Dr. Beecher's orthodoxy, but was prevented from making it matter of formal adjudication, until this summer, when, at his instance, the case came on for trial before the Presbytery of Cincinnati, at an adjourned meeting convened in that city on Tuesday, the 9th of June. In the list of charges preferred against Dr. Beecher, he is accused of heresy on the subjects of original sin, total depravity, and regeneration, and in holding “a doctrine of perfection”; and, in addition to this, his character is also impeached as being guilty of the sins of slander and hypocrisy.
“Dr. Beecher being called upon to answer, said, ‘I am not guilty of heresy: I am not guilty of slander: I am not guilty of hypocrisy or dissimulation in the respect charged. I do not say that I have not taught the doctrines charged : but I deny their being false doctrines. The course which I shall take will be to justify.’ “The moderator calling upon Dr. Beecher to say what plea should be entered upon the minutes in his name, Dr. Beecher replied, the plea of ‘Not Guilty.’”
Witnesses were then called, and on being “duly sworn,” they were examined touching the specifications contained in the bill of charges. Dr. Wilson then undertook to establish and make good the impeachment, article by article ; Dr. Beecher replied, and in a long and able argument endeavoured to defend himself against it; Dr. Wilson returned to the charge, and Dr. Beecher again defended ; and then, after a few words by Dr. Wilson, the vote was taken. A week was consumed in the trial. We now shall put together what is advanced by the witnesses, and in the several speeches, on the leading topics, so as to give a connected view of the whole, as ample as our limits will allow.
To those of us who have been nurtured in Congregational liberty, for which the true-hearted among our forefathers were much more zealous than for any particular form of doctrine, the following extract, taken from Dr. Wilson's exordium, will seem better fitted for the meridian of the Vatican, than of this country.
“In the hands of church officers, the Lord Jesus Christ has placed the government of his kingdom on earth; and I can conceive of no station more responsible than that occupied by those to whom are committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven; to open that kingdom to the penitent; to shut it against the impenitent; to vindicate the truth and honor of Christ; to purge out that unholy leaven of error, which might infect the whole lump ; to deter men from the commission of offences; and prevent the wrath of God from falling on the church.
“It belongs to the officers of the kingdom of our Lord, when solemnly convened as a court of Christ, ministerially and authoritatively to determine not only cases of conscience and matters of practice, but to decide controversies; and their decisions, if consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission.”
“The keys of the kingdom of Heaven” committed not only to uninspired, but to weak, prejudiced, and guilty mortals “Officers,” forsooth, “of the kingdom of our Lord,” “a court of Christ,” “authoritatively to determine not only cases of conscience and matters of practice, but to decide controversies”. By what warrant? What do these gentlemen mean : Is our controversy with the Papists a mere scramble for office Is it admitted that the power arrogated by them, as the officers and court of the Lord Jesus Christ, “authoritatively ’’ to decide matters of faith and conscience, — is it admitted that this is a rightful power, only that it ought to be in our hands and not in theirs? “Ah, but observe the limitations,” some one will say. “It is only to the ‘penitent ' that they open the kingdom of Heaven; and only to the “impenitent” that they shut it.” Indeed We thank them for that. But the Papists also say the very same thing, in the very same words, on the subject of confession and indulgences. But again ; their decisions must be “consonant to the word of God.” Very well: but who is to judge whether they are or are not consonant to the word of God The accused ? Then his trial itself is a mere farce and means nothing. Or the court, — which seems to be implied in their commission to decide “authoritatively”; Then the qualifying clause means nothing — dust thrown into the eyes of the people; or worse than that, — a trap, a snare. The question may arise, Can Dr. Beecher brook such a despotism : We might answer that a man has but little to brook, who joins a denomination in which his own party predominates, and in the well-grounded expectation of leading that party. It does not call for quite so much humility and long-suffering to wield power, however unjustly assumed, as to submit to its tyrannical impositions. But we prefer to let Dr. Beecher speak for himself.
“The question now at issue turns then upon an exposition of the Confession of Faith, not merely as a human formula, but as our admitted epitome of what the Bible teaches. I am charged with a fundamental departure from the true intent of the Confession. I claim that I understand and interpret it truly; or that if there be any variation, it affects only such points of difference as have in every form been decided to be consistent with edification and an honest subscription and an honorable standing in the church. The confession is not a mere human composition. The statement indeed is made by man; but it is the statement of what God has said, and is to us who receive it, as God's word. Dr. Wilson has said, that we are bound to abide by it so far as it is consistent with God’s word; but we have settled that, in receiving it as the symbol of our faith. We profess that it is in all its parts according to