Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

than in anger,” more in the form of remonstrance than reproach, may not, perhaps, be altogether unprofitable.

If "God, from all eternity, did freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” then is he the author of sin as well as of holiness ; for murders, adulteries, thefts, perjuries, hypocrisies, per, secutions, tyrannies, and the entire train of human villanies, from the sin of Abel 'till the present hour, “have come to pass by the ordination of God”-of Him “who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without displeasure”-of Ilim "who is the Father of mercies and the God of love”-of Him “who delighteth to behold brethren dwelling together in unity!” . And, where, according to this revolting dogma, is the moral responsibility of man, if he be only a mere instrument in the hand of irresistible power—the mere slave of a destiny from which he cannot escape? If this be true, there was no crime in Nero of Rome, or in the eighth Henry of England; and no virtue in Socrates of Athens, or benevolence in Howard of Britain : all were but running a prescribed career; and to punish or reward them for their conduct would be essentially unjust in Him who, “from all eternity," had ordained their course! Yet, we are told in the Bible, that “God is a just God,” who “will render unto every man, according as his works shall be :" and, in the same Word of Truth, we are constantly addressed as free and responsible agents—threatened with penalties for our crimes, and promised rewards for our virtues. And are all these promises and threatenings, nothing but mere delusions practised by our Creator? Are we enjoined to do what He has ordained we cannot do ; and to avoid what He has decreed, we must perform? Would this not be a mockery and a juggling, of which we would scarcely accuse a fiend? Yet of this, the Father and the friend of all is directly accused by John Calvin.

“God," saith he, has two wills--the one outward and revealed, whereby he most tenderly invites sinners to his grace, and most graciously calls them to repentance, seeming as though he were earnestly desirous of their salvation ; whereas, the other will is inward and secret, which is irresistible and takes effect infallibly; and by this He brings men, through ways which are unavoidable, to an estate and course of sin here, and then to eternal damnation hereafter! At the same time, their own sins, so far from injuring the Saints, the rather, under God's providence, promote their salvation !"

All this appears very shocking; and yet, it is only a plain and manly exposition of the doctrine of “ Election and Reprobation," in which every father, connected with the Irish General Assembly, is bound to express his own belief, on presenting his child for baptism, and in which he is bound to train up that child, in coming years ;-yes, and every intending communicant is bound to profess the same belief, or to be excluded from the Table of the Lord! Do the laity know these things? I am convinced that ninety-nine out of every hundred do not know them; and, if so, how deplorable is the condition of a Church, where the people ignorantly and patiently endure such a yoke, and where the Ministers force a profession and exact promises, where the laity are utterly unacquainted with the creed which they profess to believe, and solemnly pledge themselves to inculcate opinions, on their children, of which they themselves are utterly ignorant. In their worldly affairs, the laity would not submit to be so blindled; and it can only be from want of consideration, that they permit themselves to be so guided in the concerns of religion. The Presbyterian people are abundantly clear-sighted, when they calmly direct their attention to any subject; and I am persuaded that not one in a thousand of them really holds the doctrine which I have been exposing; or believes that "God has predestinated some men and angels to everlasting life, and fore-ordained others to everlasting death, without any foresight of faith or good works, or any other thing in the creature, as causes moving him thereto.” Neither do they believe that “God hardens men in their sins and withholdeth from them His grace,” in order to their condemnation ; or that, "of angels and men, predestinated and fore-ordained, the number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.” The Presbyterian people of Ulster do not, I am convinced, believe these things : for they are not presumptuous enough to speak so arrogantly of God's dealings with his angels, or so defective in reverence for God's providence and grace, as to advocate the doctrine of unconditional and unchangeable election, which would render utterly valueless all the ordinary means and instrumentalities of salvation, and would prevent even the teachings, the sufferings, and mediation of the Redeemer, from "snatching one brand from the burning!” Do the Calvinistic Presbyterian Ministers of Ulster believe these things? I confess that I have my doubts of their practical conviction : for they talk loudly of their "winning souls to Christ," and of our "leading men to Satan;" they send missionaries to Heathens, Jews, and Catholics, to reclaim them from error; they are active and untiring in preachings and labours; and they loudly denounce the erring, whether in faith or practice. Now, why all these things, if "the number predestinated and fore-ordained, be unchangeably designed, and cannot be either increased or diminished?" In that case, they can save none, and we can ruin none; and if our opinions be wrong, they ought not to call us evil names, on that account; for our errors have been fore-ordained as well as their truth. It will not mend the matter to say that their exertions have been fore-ordained as the means of good; for their own creed expressly declares that God "saves or condemns without any causes or conditions moving Him thereto." Neither will it do to adopt the common cant apology, that “God ordains the means as well as the ends ;" for that is nothing but a repetition of the old libel upon the Divine character—representing God as, in the first place, compelling men to sin ; and, in the second place, as punishing his wretched creatures for acting in conformity with his own irresistible decree!

Blessed be God, few men are practical predestinarians. The plain teachings of his Holy Word, and the native impulses of the human beart, rise up against those vain, metaphysical speculations, which equally impugn the goodness and justice of the Creator, and which, if practically carried out, would rapidly demoralize the world. All men reason and act as free-agents, both in relation to themselves and others. They are proud of their good, and ashamed of their evil, actions, because they feel them to be their own ; and, on the very same principle, they award praise or blame to those around them. Happily, in a country like this, where error has been so long patronized and fostered, most men are far better than their creeds—the influences of society and the broad principles of the Gospel elevating them above the narrow and peculiar theories of their churches. Consequently, we have worthy men in all sects, in spite of their Creeds ; and whilst it is our duty, on the one hand, to do our utmost for the removal of error, which, even under the most favourable circumstances, must be more or less injurious, it is equally our duty, on the other hand, to exercise forbearance towards human weakness, and to cultivate the spirit and practice of Christian good-will.

[blocks in formation]

Like amaimed linnet, nursed with care, But memory brings to sunless bowers
She graced a home of bliss,

The light they knew before;
And dwelt in thankful quiet there, And Hanna's quiet smile is ours,
To show what goodness is.

Though Hanna is no more.

INTELLIGENCE.

SUNDAY-SCHOOL ENTERTAINMENT.

Grimshaw, Esq. Richard Rothwell, On Saturday evening, the 5th of Esq. Rev. H. Montgomery, LL.D. September, the children of the Sunday James Grimshaw, Esq. James Moore, School in connection with the Second Esq. Rev. Henry Alexander, Newry, Presbyterian Congregation, Belfast, Wm. Burden, Esq. M.D. Rev. George to the number of 120, were entertained Hutton, Rev. John Porter, Michael by their teachers, in the Botanic Andrews, Esq. Rev. C. J. M'Alester, Gardens.

Wm. Hartley, Esq. Thos. Chermside, The novelty of the occasion, the Esq. Wm. Campbell, Esq. Rev. J, beautiful appearance of the Gardens, Scott Porter, Benjamin A Gamble, and the presence of the teachers, who Esq. J. K. Newsam, Esq. Lenox kindly took a part in their innocent Drennan, Esq. Rev. Hugh Moore, amusements, conspired to render the George K. Smith, Esq. Rev. - Hall, evening a delightful one for the Rev. S. C. Nelson, Downpatrick, scholars, and one which will not soon John G. Smith, Esq. &c. be forgotten. After partaking of some Shortly after seven o'clock, on the refreshments, they quietly dispersed motion of the Rev. Joan Scott POR to their several homes.

SION OF CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,

TER, the chair was taken by ROBERT
ANDREWS, Esq. LL.D. president of

the Irish Unitarian Christian Society. UNITARIAN SOCIETY FOR THE DIFFU

The CBAIRMAN said, he obeyed the

call which had been made upon him On Sunday, the 27th ultimo, two to take the chair on that occasion, not eloquent sermons were delivered in only without hesitation, but with unthe meeting-houses of the First and affected pleasure, enhanced as the Second Presbyterian Congregations, honour done to himself was by the Rosemary-street, by the Rev. James handsome terms in which his name Madge, of London, after which col- had been mentioned, as president of lections were made in aid of the funds the Irish Unitarian Christian Society of the above society. They were both --(cheers)—a society which, as his numerously and most respectably at- reverend 'friend had remarked, had tended, and the impression made by done something to show its sympathy the reverend preacher was most gra- towards them, and to sustain those tifying. The collections at the two principles, for the furtherance of which services amounted to £59 16s. 6d.; their association had been organized. that of the First Congregation to (Hear.) They were assembled there, £30 16s. 4d, and of the Second to in pursuance of a rule of the society, £29 08. 2d.

that a meeting should be held once in

every year; and as not only here, on On Monday evening, the 28th ult. former occasions, but also in Dublin, the annual meeting of the members he had felt it a privilege to be allowed and friends of the society was held in to take part in the proceedings of a the school-room of the First Presby- society such as theirs--established for terian Congregation, Fountain-street. the maintenance of right views and The attendance was numerous and principle-he could not, on this occamost respectable, including a great sion, regard it otherwise than an number of ladies. Among the gen- honour to be called upon to fill that tlemen present we observed the fol- chair. That meeting represented, he lowing-W.Gihon, Esq. Ballymena; was happy to say, much worth and Rev. Thomas Madge, London; Major intellect, and not the least influential Fulton, London ; W. J. C. Allen, body of Christians in this country. Esq. Robert Patterson, Esq. C. B. When that society had been first

UNITARIAN SOCIETY.

established, persons who differed with could be said stronger in proof of the them in their views had asked, why progress they had made. There was, seek to spread such principles as theirs, however, after the establishment of which consisted of so many cold nega- their principles on a sure footing, a tions? Such had been the question duty which they owed it to themselves put to them by those who were igno- to perform; and this was to banish all rant of their views, and worse, by those the feelings which might have arisen who, knowing them, sought to misré- out of that secession, and to seek to present them. Now, he would wish co-operate with those from whom to know what course was open to one they differed, in all good actions and who objected to the views of those benevolent undertakings. (Hear.) around him, but to dissent, and dissent He then adverted to the calamity was denial. As long as a man con- which has befallen this country in the scientiously agreed with the views failure of the potato crop, and the held by his fathers, or by others, of distress which must be the result of course denial would be unjust and it, as furnishing still stronger evidence unwise ; but if he found himself com- of the necessity of co-operation among pelled to adopt different ones, then those who were sincerely actuated by there was, as he had remarked, no charitable feelings; and concluded by course left for him but negation. The calling on the secretary to read the learned gentleman then proceeded to Committee's report. show, that, as long as their principles The Rev. J. Scott PORTER here as a church only were regarded, they read the following: could be charged with no such thing; REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO THE and that it was only where certain matters were put forward, which they The affairs of the Unitarian Society conceived to be in opposition to the have proceeded, during the past year, Word of God, that they could be said in a steady and satisfactory manner, to be prone to dissent. He then re- but without any striking examples ferred to the error which some had of either success or disappointment, fallen into, of not joining in their so that they present but few circumefforts, because they were so few in stances of interest, which call for numbers, a circumstance which should especial notice in the Committee's have quite the contrary effect; and, Report. with regard to those who asserted Agreeably to the resolution of the they had been unsuccessful, he utterly last annual meeting, one of the serdenied that such was the case. He mons preached before the Society, by instanced the rapid spread of their the Rev. Dr. Montgomery, was printed principles in America and on the con- by your Committee, and has been tinent of Europe, as a proof that such extensively circulated. An edition of was not the case. (Hear, hear.) He considerable extent was struck off, in then entered into a review of the pro- the first instance; but, as the number gress made by themselves, since the of copies of which it consisted, was period, now fifteen years since, in found to be inadequate to meet the which they had felt themselves obliged demand, a second issue, to a still to separate from a number of those greater amount, was determined upon, with whom they were wont to hold and very few copies now remain on communion. Considering all the cir- hand. cumstances attending that secession, Your Committee, agreeably to a he felt bound to say, that a most suggestion which was thrown out at marked success had attended their the last annual meeting, took into exertions for the establishment of a their consideration the propriety of church ; and he believed he was right engaging a suitable person to act as in asserting, that no fewer than four. Scripture Reader, in this town and teen or fifteen congregations had since neighbourhood; and, having thought joined them. (Cheers.) They had it their duty to give a trial to that made the term Unitarian, which was mode of operation, they procured the first, as it were, applied to them in services of one who was recommended scorn, respected, and those who had to them as being versed in the duties applied it to them, in this sense, at of such an office, and quite competent first, now turn round, and say they to their fulfilment. Your Committee had no right to assume it. Nothing are fully convinced of his sincerity

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »