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The doctrine of Swedenburgh respecting the trinity, while in some points it resembles the ancient Sabellian heresy, has also some features peculiar to itself. He says there is but one person in the Godhead, which person, until the incarnation of Messiah, acted in one capacity. The incarnation, he explains to be the assumption of human nature, by this one eternal and divine person, "going out,” to use his mystical and strange language, “ into ultimates.” Hence, he is called Father, the human nature is called the Son, and the operation of this “ human divine," and " divine human" he calls the Spirit. What he thinks to be precisely the intention of divinity, in this assumption of humanity, it is very difficult to assertain from his writings and those of his disciples; however, they seem to consider it as resulting from the material creation, and the union of intellectual with corporeal substances in human persons. In his system there is nothing like the atonement of the Bible. Faith with him is the same with works, and has no relation to an acceptance of a satisfaction made by Messiah. *
The Old Testament history is, he says, a mystical or allegorical history of an ancient church, which may have existed many millions of centuries ago, and the external things there spoken of all correspond to spiritual things represented by them. In this point it resembles the doctrine of Cocceius, who maintained that the history of the Jews, was a type of the New Testament church; with this difference, that Swedenburgh makes it represent a church that existed before Adam, if indeed there was really such a person as Adam, which according to his system seems to be left in doubt. His descriptions of heaven, are derived from Mahomet, or rather Mahomet's and Swedenburgh's heaven is derived from the Epicureans, from the elysia of the ancient heathens. He describes in his book on the heavens and the hells, a marriage in heaven, at which the guests was regaled with the richest nectarous wines, and dressed in gorgeous apparel. He represents God in the “form of a man," but not the “ shape;" in which he revives the heresy of the Anthropomorphites. The spiritual world, he affirms to
correspond to the material, and that the Son of God is the sun and centre of the spiritual world, as our sun is the centre of the material world, an idea derived from the Platonic philosophy, and the heathen mythology. Into heaven and the enjoyments of the spiritual world may be, and he contends are, admitted many heathens. What is all this, when stripped of its mystical dress? Perfectly the Arminian creed, except that he pushes it farther, in denying the doctrine of the atonement, and making a sensual heaven. Though per. haps, after all, his mode of explaining the incarnation may amount nearly to the indefinite atonement, or the Salmuren. sian form of Arminianism.
In his wonderful narrations, he recounts conversations with angels, and adventures in the spiritual world, with as much confidence, as he does the ordinary events of life; and with an extravagance, which makes us exclaim, “risum teneatis, amici?” At first view, we should be disposed to think no men io their senses, would embrace such a system, yet it is certain that many thousands have embraced it, and many of them, in other things intelligent, learned, and amiable. Nor is it wonderful; for the great mysteries of the Christian system he not only pretends to explain, but to make them even visible and tangible. God, he even attempts to exhibit in human form. All his heaven is visible and tangible. Human pride is flattered by being taught to believe that it comprehends fully, all the great mysteries of the bible; and to those who do not possess a taste for spiritual enjoyment, in communion with God, such a heaven as he exhibits must possess all the charms that could fascinate their minds. Owing to these considerativos, a thousand absurdities are digested.
The number of disciples which have been made to this system is very considerable. Many of the clergy of the Episcopal establishment, have not only embraced the sys. tem, with all its extravagancies, but they preach it, and defend it from the press, and yet continue in the communion of the church. In what way they reconcile it to their consciences, to profess in the most solemn manner from year
to year their belief in the Athanasian creed, and the articles and homilies of the church, all which contain principles diametrically opposite to those which they teach, is not easy to conceive. To swear most solemnly to a belief in the doctrine of the trinity, as contained in the creed of the Episcopal church, and in the doctrine of the atonement, the total depravity of human nature, and other points of the Calvinistic creed, as the Socinians and the Swedenburghians of the church of England do, and yet to write and to preach against them, and for the church to admit of all this prostitution of sacred things, evince a dreadful state of ecclesiastical order. The Rev. Mr. Clows, who has translated and published nearly all the theological works of Baron Swedenburgh, and has himself written largely in defence of them, is in full communion with the church, and the reasons which he pleads in vindication of this course of conduct, are drawn from convenience, ease and policy. Temporal support drawn from the exchequer of the state makes it easy and convenient, and his connection with the church may enable him and his brethren to deceive the unwary, into the fatal errors which they have embraced. Thus conscience is quieted. After all, those who embrace these two great'heresies, are generally among the wealthy and fashionable; but few of the poor are led away. The Socinian is too frigid, too far removed from the vital warmth, which animates the page of inspiration, and its gracious and consolatory truths, for the acceptation of the poor. As Swedenburgh teaches that the enjoyments, employments, and situations of men in heaven resemble those which they have in the present world, people oppressed with poverty have no inducement to embrace such a creed. If these systems contain any gospel, it is one not preached to the poor.
The Socinian and Swedenburghian heresies have undoubtedly grown out of Arminianism as the parent stem, and they employ the same arguments which were long ago urged by Pelagius, and by Arminius, in relation to freewill, the moral powers of man, and the divine decrees. . All are different corps marshalled in the same cause, and uniting
their forces to demolish the citadel of truth, and banish the atonement of the sacred oracles from the church of God. Thousands, by an easy transition, have gone over to the camp of deisa. Indeed the objections urged by deists against the bible, from the time of Celsus, to the days of Thomas Paine, are the same that errorists and heretics urge against the doctrine of the atonement; the degradation of human nature, the merciless character of God, and the injustice of his plans.
We pass over numerous other sects, which have infested the church in Britain, all of which attack, in some manner, the doctrine of the atonement, and multitudes of which swarm in the bosom of the established church.
It is consolatory to the friends of truth, that notwithstanding these errors, the cause of true religion has not been altogether abandoned in the established church of England. There have always been able, learned and pious men, within it, who have raised their voices in vindication of the true Christian system, and in opposition to the errors, which have been overrunning it. Mr. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, is a work which has been highly useful to all Christians into whose hands it has fallen, and all orthodox divines have drawn largely upon it, for aid in their pulpit exhibitions. It possesses a fund of valuable remark and practical deduction from the source of divine truth, which have rendered it savory to all the pious. The views which Mr. Henry entertains of truth are altogether Calvinistic. Like the scriptures on which he comments, he exhibits God as merciful in consistency with justice, and man as a fallen, impotent creature, whose sole dependence for future blessedness must rest upon the unmerited goodness of God, as this has been revealed through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In perfect accordance with Henry, are the commentaries of Mr. Burkitt, a highly valuable exposition of the New Testament, which abounds with evangelical and Calvinistic sentiments. These with the work of Mr. Henry, may be considered as an antidote against the Armi
nian commentaries of Dr. Clarke, whose work, while it contains much curious matter and learned research, is encumbered with no small portion of literary lumber, and pedantry; and is, upon the whole, a special pleading for the tenets of the Arminian school. Whenever an opportunity offers, and even when none is offered, the annotator attacks, with great asperity, the Calvinistic system, of which he evidently possesses but an imperfect knowledge. He also passes over many portions of Scripture, which are richly stored with evangelical truth in a very superficial manner, and scarcely ever unlocks the treasures of gospel truth. The work is better calculated to gratify a vain curiosity, than to feed the soul of a Christian, with the bread of life which cometh down from heaven.
Ridley, Latimer, Jewell, Reynolds and Wilkins, have distinguished themselves, in vindicating ably, many points of the Calvinistic creed, against the attacks of errorists and heretics. The Rev. Dr. John Pye Smith, has published a small work, containing some very judicious remarks on Dr. Priestley's heresies, and detecting many misrepresentations, in his works, especially in his History of Early Opinions.
No one has distinguished himself more as a scholar, and a critic, than the Rev. Dr. Magee, of Dublin Col. lege, in a late work on the atonement. We rejoice to hear the voice of Ireland raised in favour of the truth. We might have presented from Dr. Magee's work many specimens of the heresies of Priestley and his coadjutors in the business of tearing down the glorious fabric of divine truth, erected in the eternal councils of Jehovah, and exhibited in the scriptures. He has ably combated Taylor, Geddes, Lindsey, Belsham, Priestley, and the whole host of heretics; he has encountered them single-handed and completely vanquished them. He has also exposed the errors of many of the divines of the church of England who were tenacious friends of the doctrine of atonement, but who have erred on some minor points; such as Warburton, who, in his Divine Legation of Moses, main