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interpreting each separate portion of Scripture by the aid of a previously formed theological hypothesis. . And although these theories of divinity have been, perhaps, fairly founded upon Scriptural evidence, partially obtained, they have often exerted an influence scarcely less blinding and pernicious than as if they had been altogether erroneous. The system, once admitted to constitute a synopsis of truth, has been suffered to exercise the most arrogant domination over every part of Scripture in detail.” (Essay on Enthusiasm.)-Among the higher orders, who by education had discernment sufficient to pierce through this unsightly exterior, the effect has been a bolder and more general scepticism than is to be found in the South. When the spread of intelligence took a religious direction, it could neither brook the infidelity of their philosophers, nor the bald technicalities of the conventicles. A re-action was sure to take place here, as occurs in all similar cases. Various writers have come forward ; but the first who produced any very sensible effect is Mr. Erskine. He has ventured to write on theology in the language which he would employ on any other subject; and the consequence has been, that the mere traders in five points and catechisms have had their ideas completely bewildered. Accustomed to consider the essentials of religion as identical with its usual technicology, they either suppose that the same truths which they have hitherto believed themselves are no longer true, because the terms in which those truths are sought to be conveyed are different; or else, whilst using language which has expressed truth to the hearers, the speakers have, in fact, been holding error behind a correct phraseology. From one or other of these two causes they have set to work right manfully to scold and write down the intruder, as a heretic, and no one knows what worse besides. This conduct is quite secundum artem.
It is impossible to look at the history of religious feuds, whether in the present day or informer times, even in the days of the Reformation and of the Fathers of the church, and to contrast the tone and language of controversialists with the tone and language of our Lord and the Apostles, without perceiving, that, if we are to take the Scriptural rule of judging who are the Lord's people and who are not, we shall be obliged to cut off some of the most renowned disputants who have ever appeared on the field of orthodox warfare, and whose names have been handed down as the most celebrated and useful in the church. This, no doubt, is owing to more causes than one; amongst which may be mentioned the general coarseness of language and turbulence of manners general in those days; and also, that, as the bulk of professors of religion have been found amongst the lower orders of the community, so have the principal disputants risen from those ranks likewise, bringing with them the habits, manners, and vocabulary of their associates. The most violent personalities on subjects of divinity which have appeared in times immediately preceding the present day, are probably to be found in the writings of Porson, in answer to Travis on the heavenly witnesses; and in the disputes between Toplady and Wesley. Porson, though the most accurate Grecian philologist of his day, was an habitual drunkard, and college recluse: both the latter were, in one respect, like him, inasmuch as they were little used to the society of their superiors in early life, nor of their equals afterwards. Of the Scottish clergy as a body, Sir Walter Scott, a most partial observer, says, Their morals are equal to those of any church in the world, and superior to most. As, in the usual course of their studies, they are early transferred from the university to the pulpit, the Scottish church has not produced so many deep scholars or profound divines as those of the sister kingdom, whose colleges and fellowships afford room and opportunity for study till the years of full intellect are attained.” (History of Scotland, p. 73.)--From some, or from all these causes combined, certain it is that publications are tolerated north of the Tweed, under the name of religious, which mark the writers to be clearly irreligious men, as manifesting any spirit rather than that of the Gospel.
The confounding of orthodoxy with Christianity was too obvious to be denied the moment it was pointed out. The leaders of this substitute for Christianity found their craft set at nought; their bald Calvinism, not opposed to a less orthodox Arminianism, but reduced to its proper level, and no longer suffered to usurp the place of what is better; and the really unchristian character of the most virulent of the religious periodical works set before the world in their true light. Mr. Erskine's first work was purely doctrinal, and contained not the smallest allusion to any man, or party of men; but, after having experienced such strong and unmeasured censure as naturally flows from persons of coarse and undisciplined habits, be followed up his first attack by a contrast of what he conceived to be the proper mode of setting forth the love of God to mankind, with the mode in which the same was set forth, or obscured, by many of the Scottish clergy.
Mr. Erskine, and Mr. Campbell of the Row, maintain that the ordinary method of preaching in Scotland (and we can vouch for the accuracy of the description as applied to many in England) represents the Father as unwilling to love man until propitiated, or induced to do so, by the Son; that it also speaks of the Son's work as only undertaken for the sake of a few ; and that no one can at once receive the consolation of believing his acceptance with God, because he is directed by those preachers to trust for this acceptance to some work wrought in himself, and not
exclusively to the work of Christ out of himself. The justice of this charge; the arguments by which it is supported; or those by which it is refuted, it is not our present purpose to discuss. It appears from the pamphlet of Dr. Burns, p. 26, that there
young ladies whose voice of disputation or of prayer is heard in the streets: who tell, sang froid, their acknowledged seniors in years and intellect and experience, that they perceive, with grief, that they do not yet know the truth,” &c. * If this be so, it only proves that there are in Scotland some young ladies who are not very wise; and some old doctors who are not a whit more so, for publishing their conduct in a book. It is undoubtedly much to be lamented that there should be silly young ladies any where; but it is much more to be lamented that those who ought to be their guides should proclaim themselves wanting in the discretion requisite to direct their erring sisters. Dr. Burns, however, may rest assured that the “heady, high-minded” spirit of the age, which induces young persons, or any persons, to pay so little deference to the sacred office of their pastor, has been engendered by those very pastors themselves. If scolding, disputation, controversy, and personal abuse is the habitual practice of the clergy; and if such practice is applauded in others by those who do not practise it themselves; and if such writings are circulated by them as appropriate spiritual food; how is it possible that the clergy can be respected; or that the people shall pay them any deference, when they are perpetually excited to take one side or other in questions where the majority, both of pastors and people, must be incompetent to arrive at accurate conclusions but after much patient study and meditation? In this very pamphlet of Dr. Burns there is one of the most extraordinary arguments that ever was addressed to a Protestant reader: it is no less than an appeal to “ numbers” as a criterion of truth ! pp. 25, 26. Dr. Burns did not reflect that by such a test he must give up Protestantism in favour of Popery, and this last in favour of Heathenism.
Dr. Burns is perfectly right to condemn the conduct which he would have been more judicious in not exposing in public. To judge from his pamphlet alone, the dispute between him and Mr. Campbell is either upon mere words, or else upon a very subtle distinction, which he himself does not understand. Many of the passages he has selected from Mr. Erskine's work are perfectly unobjectionable : others seem to be objectionable only because they are insulated ; and the apparent objections de fensible by coupling them with statements in other parts of the work. Dr. Burns refers his readers to “ Dr. Thomson," who
" has been directing his mighty mind to the subject, p. 6. Dr. Thomson has undoubtedly great strength of mind, which is a valuable quality for certain purposes ; but this disVOL. 11.-NO. II.
pute is not one which requires strength to settle. The end of
similar disputes : such, for example, as that on the date of a sinner's justification, whether it takes place from eternity, or whether on believing? Into this, however, it is not our purpose to enter ; but if our entreaties could avail aught, they should be used to implore these worthy men not to be so unmeasured in their terms; for they may rest assured that the being so re-acts, and has re-acted already, upon themselves, to the detriment of their own souls, and of the success of their ministry, in a thousand ways.
The title of Dr. Hamilton's book is, “ On Universal Redemption : ” that of Dr. Thomson's is, on “ Universal Pardon;" against which doctrine, as the author understands it to be held by his opponents, it is of course directed. The expression, which is taken from a work of Mr. Erskine, to which we alluded in a former number, is certainly not a happy one, though more is fastened upon it than is just, or than the author intended. It would seem, from the titles which Drs. Thomson and Hamilton have given their respective works, as if they considered that “universal pardon” is only another phrase for
" universal redemption.” General and universal pardon ought, correctly, to have the same relative bearing to each other that general and universal redemption have: and since one of the disputants in this controversy, confounded, in a former work upon another subject, the one idea with the other; and since the Evangelical Magazine lately did the same; it appears to be necessary to remind our readers, that general redemption means that the efficacy of Christ's death extends to all the world, and not only to the elect; but that universal redemption means that the punishment in hell is not eternal, and is to be ultimately reversed—whereby hell, in fact, becomes only a purgatory.
It is hard to say whether it be more a subject of regret than of joy, to find, what every one must do who is acquainted with the views which Dr. Hamilton controverts, that he is in a total misconception of the statements he professes to oppose. The difficulty is to ascertain from whence this can have arisen. It is scarcely possible that a man of Dr. Hamilton's abilities could be so deficient in discernment as to misapprehend every point on which he proposes to present the sentiments of his opponents; and yet one would be most unwilling to believe that he could have been so uncandid as to have derived his opinions from the representations of others, without having heard their statements, or read their publications. Yet from what other source can such palpable misconceptions arise, but a deficiency of power to comprehend a clear statement, or from the injustice of deciding in a case without a hearing ? Dr. Hamilton's book opens with an excellent illustration of the question at issue, drawn from the brazen serpent in the wilderness, and the mode of its operation upon those who were healed by it; but when he commences, at p. 22, to represent the opinions which he means to controvert, he seems entirely to take leave of his former perspicuity. In the course of the very first pages there are some errors, which would scarcely be worth pointing out in any other work, but are of great importance in the subject which Dr. Hamilton undertook to handle--and this importance he ought to have perceived, and, perceiving, to have attended to-as, for example, he quotes from Scripture, p. 14, “ God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself," instead of “ God was," &c. : again, in p. 15 he writes “ his righteousness ;” the relative referring to Christ, and not to God, as it does in Scripture; and the same error is repeated at the bottom of the page.' For what reason he designates his opponents as “the modern Bereans," we know not; nor have we any further objection to his doing so, than that nick-names are always bad things. Setting aside the men, the things which he impugns as their opinions are as follow : -" The substance of this multifarious system may be comprehended in the following propositions : God, for Christ's sake, loves every human creature, and has redeemed all by the