Imágenes de páginas

principle embraced in it-assuring you, at the same time, that I will maturely weigh and candidly attend to any remarks you may please to favour me with on any topic embraced in this reply, or on any other embraced in this work. I hope always to possess, and to be able to exhibit the spirit and temper of a disciple of Him who taught his followers to love and to obey the truth, and who gave us an example in his own person, that the most exalted, glorious, and happy course of life, is to do the will of our Heavenly Father.

“ With sentiments of the highest respect and affection, I emain your fellow-servant in the hope of immortality,




“ Dear Sir,

My continual engagements have heretofore prevented my accomplishing my first intention of offering some remarks on some of the leading topics on which there is so wide a difference of views between you and myself. I have little leisure, and subjects of this sort require much to do them justice. Finding, however, so many able pens employed in defence of the truths I have so long held dear, I shall content myself with saying less than I had at first designed.

I am no controversialist, as my friends can testify. Neither from the pulpit or press have I been fond of disputation. A forty years' ministry have found me almost constantly labouring to establish principles about which the leading Christian sects in the United States do not essentially differ. I have been testifying to all sorts of people repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that Christians should bring forth fruits meet for repentance. I said but little upon baptism ; or, however, but few laboured discourses, because I thought it so plainly laid down in the Bible, or rather New Testament, as the duty of believers, that little need be said. As a Calvinist I preached clearly and distinctly free and sovereign grace in the salvation of a sinner. The mysterious doctrines of predestination and election I touched but rarely, because I saw them but rarely touched in the Scriptures. Yet as they were there, however mysterious, I believed them and preached them, and still believe them and preach them, giving them their proportional weight compared with other doctrines, such as I thought I saw in the Scriptures. Experimental and practical divinity have been my ordinary themes, and these were so because I saw that they were the ordinary themes of Christ and his Apostles, as

well as Moses and the Prophets. Nothing but an assault upon these vital principles could induce me to enter the field of controversy. I shall, therefore, be as concise as possible, and shall withdraw as soon as my conscience tells me I have faithfully testified to the truth.

“ There are a few things which I consider vital principles, on some of which, in my estimation, you are fundamentally erroneous. The first which I shall name is the Scriptures of Truth. He that has the Bible wrong, can furnish no proof of having any thing right. This is the standard of godliness. If this be deranged every thing measured by it must be uncertain. Indeed, it is not only important to have this standard just as God designed it, but that the minds of all should be settled and at rest respecting it. Now, Sir, to me it appears that your writings have denied material parts of the Scriptures, and have so altered, by your translation, the other parts, as greatly to unsettle the minds of many on this very important subject. In a sermon of yours, said to be delivered before the Redstone Association, Sept. 1816, and printed, you say, page 15, · From what has been said, it follows that there is an essential difference betwixt the Law and the Gospelthe Old Testament and the New. In a note made upon this assertion you say, ' There are not a few professors of Christianity who suppose themselves under equal obligations to obey Moses, or any other Prophet, as Christ and his Apostles ; nor can they see any reason why the New Testament should be preferred to the Old.' And in a long note, with your

usual ingenuity, you advance arguments to prove it, i. e. to prove that there is an essential difference betwixt the Old Testament and the New. Now against this sentiment I must beg leave enter my most solemn protest. I aver that the Old and the New Testaments are essentially the same as to obligation, and stand in the same relation to each other and to us, as different parts of the New Testament do to each other. Some parts of the Old Testament have been declared in the New Testament as abrogated; and many others, being obviously temporary, ceased to be obligatory, because every object has been accomplished for which they were originally given. This is also true of the New. A Christian feels no more obligation to sell his property and live on common stock with others, than he does to go through the ceremonies of the Levitical law. He feels no compunction of conscience in not obeying either, because he considers both as inapplicable to his day. The whole Bible is a precious temporary gift of Heaven, afforded us by the Father of Lights, as a lamp to guide our feet through this dark world, and will be laid aside when we arrive at the world of perfect day. Parts of it are more limited as to their duration, and by you

applicable only to particular seasons and places. It is, to my mind, worse than wanton to endeavour to invalidate the unquoted parts of the Old Testament (and which are much the larger proportion), because others have accomplished their day. It is not sound reasoning to say a divine law is not obligatory because not re-enacted. This may be true, as you say, as to the old British laws in Virginia, because in this case there is a new government and new governors ; but not so as to God's laws towards his people. There is but one Lawgiver, and all his laws remain in force until repealed or until the accomplishment of their purpose. I would ask you, what authority has any man to assert that any part of Holy Writ has ceased to be obligatory unless Holy Writ itself declares it? And what part of the New

Testament has declared that the whole of the Old is abrogated, except those texts that are quoted into the New? The onus probandi here lies with you. The quotations from the Old into the New are plainly made not for re-enactment, but to establish the points advanced by the New Testament writers. I take up this subject because it is a vital principle, and was not only advanced by you fourteen years ago, but has been since defended


Christian Baptist. If, however, any change has taken place in your views, I would gladly retract what is here said.

“ In regard to your new translation of the New Testament, I am not prepared to say it is unlawful for any man to attempt a translation of all or any part of the Scriptures. It may be lawful, but it seems to me to be very inexpedient ; that is, if it be offered as a substitute for the Old. If one does it another may ; and, of course, the whole Christian world may be unsettled as to what is the word of God. Except Catholics and Unitarians (I think) all Christians of all denominations have adopted and are satisfied with the old translation. They believe that if it has faults, they are not material ones ; and that at best, it is very hazardous to trust any set of men in the present day to amend it. Moreover, God has owned and blessed the old translation for centuries past, to all the purposes of Scripture. I feel, therefore, greatly averse to any substitute. I have no wish to derogate from your translation. It is certainly the production of very learned men, and has its merits. But it seems to me to be more calculated to do good when found among the writings of its authors than when embodied in a volume, and called a New Testament. Respectfully yours,

“ Ro. B. SEMPLE.” October 30, 1830.

[ocr errors]


Danville, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 1830. “ BROTHER SEMPLE, “ Dear Sir, My clerk has forwarded to me a copy of your letter of October 30, to this place. I am always glad to hear from you, and so are many of my readers. Many in this commonwealth venerate you highly, and are anxious to see what you have to offer for or against any topic now in discussion. Few, indeed, expect any change in your views, although many of your friends wish it. Old men are said to be timid and prudent, while the young are generally bold and enterprising. As the mind descends the hill of life, early associations rise in their influences, and become stronger as the vigour of the constitution abates. Hence the difficulty of converting the aged. When Harvey discovered the true principles of the circulation of the blood, it is said, that while the young physicians, almost to a man, received his demonstrations and arguments, no man above forty years of age acknowledged his reasonings to be conclusive. When Bacon, the author of the inductive philosophy, developed the science which revolutionised all the colleges in Protestant Christendom, few of the old teachers could endure it. But in one generation the literary and medical worlds were regenerated by these two men. The old men died, and the young were all converted.

“ The principles of the reformation are, however, received by some very

old men, and by many who are above forty ; yet but few men of high standing and of advanced years have ever been reformers. Their friends dare not approach them, and their opponents are not to be regarded. They are placed in very unfavourable circumstances as respects conviction. But still their attempts to sustain their views are very useful to the community. The foundations of their views and systems of instruction, when laid open to the discerning, afford them either conviction or confirmation. The authority of their opinions is then correctly estimated, because the reason of them is subjected to examination. On this account as well as for my personal regard for you, I am always glad to receive any thing from you for publication. The letter before me is an interesting one,

because it contains your testimony to the truth of your opinions on some of the principal topics of your ministry

“The historical part of your communication before me, detailing the doctrines you have been teaching, is first worthy to be noticed. The Apostles testified to Jews and Greeks' repentance or reformation towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus


[ocr errors]

Christ. This you have done, you say, to all sorts of people. No doubt you have found it necessary to testify the same things to Christians which Paul did to Jews and Greeks ; for our modern Christians need both reformation towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The reformation of Christians, then, you confess to be necessary; and that even in faith, and in the doctrine of repentance.

" You said - little about baptism,' because so plainly laid down in the Bible : and much about the things not plainly laid down in the book. If the plainness of baptism was a good reason for seldom preaching it, it applies equally to repentance and faith if they be plainly laid down in the book. But the mysterious' doctrines of predestination and election you rarely touched, because ' rarely touched in the book. If, then, you seldom preached baptism because plainly taught, and seldom preached election and reprobation because seldom touched, I am at a loss to understand why you so much insisted upon other matters, as neither the plainness nor obscurity of such things could be a reason, in your judgment, for touching them. The things which you taught must, in your judgment, have been neither plain nor obscure in the book. These reasons for your ministrations place the great topics of your life in a singular attitude before my mind.

“ Another hint in your favour before me arrests my attention. You say that you

have been for almost forty years · labouring to establish principles about which the leading Christian sects in the United States do not essentially differ. Why you should labour to establish principles already established in the minds of the leading sects is to me inexplicable. Is not this to represent established principles as not established; and does it n present the labours of forty years in a very inexplicable character to the reflecting mind ?

“ But as a Calvinist' you felt yourself under the necessity of choosing this course ; for you observe that, ' as a Calvinist, you preach clearly and distinctly free and sovereign grace.' Now had this been as plainly taught as baptism, or as obscurely taught as election and predestination, your reason would not have permitted


to have made this topic the burthen of your ministry. “ As to a grace called free and sovereign, I have only to say that I know of no grace that is not free and sovereign. There can be no grace unless it flow from the will of a sovereign; and if it be not free as respects him from whom it flows, it is involuntary. But if you mean that it is free to all mankind, then all mankind are embraced in it; and if sovereign mean with you discriminating, then to call grace both sovereign and free, is to say that it is and it is not grace. But this only by the way.

« AnteriorContinuar »