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much experience; for they have continually laboured with all their might, and in every possible way, to deprive me of truths and goods, but in vain. From what has been adduced, it may in some degree appear, that by tooth is signified what is true or what is false in the sensual principle, which is the ultimate of the intellectual life of man; that this is signified by tooth, is evident from the Lord's reply, in which the perception and the understanding of truth are treated of, which the evil intended to take away from the good.”
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
REMARKS UPON A RECENT CONTROVERSY.
In our first numbers we noticed a sermon and the reviews of it, in which were the efforts and the evidence of a controversial spirit ; and this spirit has already found or made another occasion to manifest itself. A gentleman of this city, who was a zealous unitarian, has become a zealous calvinist; and has published the history, reasons and motives of his conversion, in a letter to a clergyman eminent among unitarians for excellence of mind and character, and of corresponding influence. This clergyman has published his reply; and both the letter and the answer are sold in great numbers, and are sought, read and recommended by the respective parties whose sentiments they represent and support.* We certainly do not regret this, at all. It affords another proof that men are earnestly inquiring after truth; and, in its own way, it will help forward the manifestation of truth. The fountains of the great deep are breaking up; and before long it must become manifest to all, who having eyes will see, that their whole effect is not yet anticipated from “ the causes lying deep in the singular state of the world;" (we quote from the “Reply,” above alluded to,) from the spirit of inquiry which is abroad, scrutinizing systems and tests and creeds, asking of every man the reason of his faith and hope, and searching into the most secret places of human opinion,-and from that eager and universal demand for spiritual knowledge which is refusing to be satisfied with words that have no meaning, or with doctrines that have nothing to administer to the needs of man's moral or intellectual nature; it must soon become clear that the work which is doing, will not then be done, when some one of the many forms of sectarianism has subdued and supplanted its thousand or ten thousand of kindred fallacies. It is not difficult to discern the uses of these controversies. Doubtless they change the convictions of very few, if any. But they may disturb convictions which they cannot remove. Something is done when the hold of error upon the mind is weakened; the soul is healthier and will be happier, even if the delusions which oppress it are only shaken; the clouds which are broken cannot utterly shut out the day, and may yield to its influence and be dissipated. Among the many whom these works of controversy, in this day of controversy, reach, there must be some who will see distinctly the exposition which every sect is giving of the wants and weaknesses of every other sect; and when such readers feel that they need something more than is to be found in any of the countless fragments into which christianity has been broken, they may be brought to believe that the divine mercy has provided something more, and they may come where it is to be found.
* These pamphlets are entitled, “ Letter from a Gentleman in Boston to a Uni. tarian Clergyman of that City,” and “Reply of a Unitarian Clergyman to the Letter of a Gentleman in Boston.” There is also a “ Review of a Letter,” &c. This letter was first published but a short time since, and we have now lying before us the fourth edition of it.
A considerable change has already taken place in the kind of authority demanded and acknowledged as the ground of religious belief. An adherence to ancient systems is, at length, renounced almost openly. All parties, and especially the orthodox, have found themselves obliged to abandon the declarations and express doctrines of other days, and they seem to be willing now to acknowledge this abandonment. In conversation, this kind of acknowledgment has been common for some time; it is not unfrequently stated or alluded to in preaching, at least in this neighbourhood; and this “Letter," which we must remember is zealously enforced and affectionately adopted by the orthodox party, closes with the following exhortation :—“ Permit me to entreat you to review the arguments in support of orthodoxy; not what is quoted from ancient times, but the orthdoxy of this day," &c. And now we would entreat those who yet belong to the orthodox denomination, but who nevertheless love the truth better than their party, and would seek and welcome truth for its own sake, we entreat them to consider what and how much the “orthodoxy of this day" has gained over that of “ ancient times.” In the ages in which the existing creeds of orthodoxy were created and its favourite phrases adopted, reason was oppressed by many external burthens. The civil power mingled its interests with those of religion, and persecution and patronage were alike hostile to free and fair discussion. Moreover, that which bore the name of religion had its own earthly sovereignty, which it sought to maintain by any means, and difference of opinion was rebellion against it. But even under these circumstances, the inherent essential falsity of orthodoxy was attacked; and the conflict was fierce, though unavailing. In these days, opinion is delivered from external bondage; or, at least, the chains which bind it are neither so many nor so strong as in other times. Argument is free, and its power is felt; and now, orthodoxy, unable any longer to hold its broad, distinct assertion of its creed, modifies and explains and disguises it, and declares that it no longer abides by the landmarks which its fathers planted. But what is gained by this? enough to satisfy the demands of our own souls-enough to fill out the measure of divine mercy? Let us see what is gained, as we may find it in the account of orthodoxy, given by this its last proselyte and advocate, who has turned to the orthodoxy of this day." Take, for instance, the doctrine of election; he says, “I consider it, in some respects, a merely speculative subject.” But does he not consider it wholly and in every possible respect speculative and without meaning, if he is honest in saying, in the same paragraph, " I believe that God is always ready to grant this influence (of the Holy Spirit) to all men, who sincerely and properly seek it. Of course it is the fault of every person if his heart is not renewed.”
We know there is a way of getting over this. It has been said, in this vicinity, lately too, by a clergyman considered by the orthodox as one of their “most enlightened men," that election is consistent with freeagency and accountability, because every man may be regenerated, if he will, although it is true, that every man cannot will to be regenerated. Were such reasoning as this used for any other purpose than that of maintaining a system of religious faith, would it not be called, by friend and foe, a miserable subterfuge? And thus it is, with their other doctrines. As to the trinity, the writer says, “I find that the orthodox, although they believe that the doctrine is true, yet have various ways of explaining their apprehensions of it, all of which, however, include the doctrine.” Now we do not imagine this writer, or any of his friends, could possibly declare, in intelligible and understood language, what “the doctrine” is, which all these various apprehensions include. - And should this remark meet the eye of any one of them, and seem severe, before he determines that it is so, we hope that he will endeavour to bring distinctly before his own mind, a doctrine (not words,) respecting the trinity of persons, in which the orthodox generally unite.
It is painful and saddening to be told, as we frequently are, by those of the orthodox party whose moral qualities we respect and whose darkness we lament, that “we do not understand their sys
We quote to them their own books, their own sermons, nay, their own just-uttered words, taking them in their plain and simple sense,—and we are told 6 we do not understand them." We ask an explanation ; we beg to be made to understand them; we inquire after the hidden sense to which our objections are not applicable; but we can get no other answer, than that we should not argue so, if we understood what orthodoxy was.
The same thing may be seen in their recent publications. Doctrines are most strongly asserted to be true, but most cloudily, we had al
most said, most timidly expressed. There is nothing of the boldness, plainness, and if we may so say, thoroughness of the orthodox books of former generations. The great difference between “orthodoxy of this day” and that of “ancient times,” is, that in those other times the language of orthodoxy was fearless and explicit, in despite of what arguments might lie against it ; but now it is not so, because such is the sway of argument, it is not safe to advance propositions which reason plainly and pointedly opposes. But this cannot last long. Certainly there must be many among the orthodox who cannot continue to sooth their wounded consciences with the flattering unction, that the cogent arguments which their own reason suggests against the truth and sufficiency of their system, seem to apply, only because that system is difficult to be understood. Certainly it cannot be long before it will be perceived and acknowledged, that truth which cannot be understood is not revealed truth, and that doctrines which can neither be learnt nor taught, are no doctrines at all.
Of the reply to the letter, we have little to say. We hope the time is not far off when such men as the writer of it will cease to be satisfied with seeing and rejecting the fallacies of orthodoxy; will demand and find a better and fuller faith than the mere negation of prevalent corruptions; will ask of his own reason, of his heart, and of his Bible, whether unitarian christianity contain indeed any truths which were not in philosophy or in religion before Christ, or which philosophy could not easily and certainly reach with the Old Testament only for her guide.
There is one passage, in this reply, which we did regret to see, and we are sure it was written hastily. He says, p. 17, “ I cannot imagine more elevated and thorough piety and goodness, than I have known to be formed beneath the influence of this very proscribed system,” (unitarianism.) Certainly this cannot be so; certainly the writer of this reply can imagine and has imagined a piety more constant, more ardent, more wise and more pure than he can have ever seen exhibited on earth by any person of any sect. Can he imagine no more perfect following of our Lord in the manifestation of the divine character, than he has seen. But we go farther than this, and ask if he cannot imagine a kind and a measure of piety which he could not attribute to the instruction or requirement of unitarianism. It is possible that a man may, availing himself of that help which is equally given to all, subdue his evils, the evils proper to his nature, until they leave him at peace, and that rest which is for the people of God becomes his; selfishness is powerless and silent, impurity is cleansed away, and every impulse of his life, is love; love, received into his will from its divine source, filling his mind with wisdom and every act with goodness; looking to the Lord alone, it is his blessing that for him the Lord is all; heaven is within, and from within, about him, for he neither seeks nor thinks of any heaven but that of doing good. Is not this possible; is it not included in the command“ be ye perfecı”? And yet must not unitarianism, if true to its
proper principles, read it with a sneer, and say it is unrequired, undesirable, inconceivable?
“ ON SEEING SPIRITS.”
WHENEVER we meet with a person who has heard any thing about Swedenborg and the New Church, but has not had an opportunity of becoming particularly acquainted with the subject, we are obliged to answer a great many questions upon this point. He inquires whether we do not set chairs and dishes for our friends who have left the natural body. It is really unaccountable that we should have such questions to answer, when it must be obvious to all, acquainted with the doctrines of the church, that no class of people would be more unlikely to do such things than the believers in those doctrines; for at the very threshold of the system we learn that it is impossible for spirits to be seen by the natural eye-to be heard by the natural ear—to sit in material chairs, and to eat material food. New churchmen cannot hear without smiling, and therefore cannot set themselves seriously to contradict reports, which are so entirely destitute of foundation in their principles and in their practice.
It is very true that we entertain many peculiar views concerning our present connexion and intercourse with the spiritual world. We do indeed believe that every man in this world is attended by spirits, whether he be a new churchman or not—whether he be sensible of it or not, and whether he believe it or not; for we believe that men are spirits who are not yet divested of material bodies, and that they are now subject to the laws and order of the spiritual world as far as natural impediments permit. Swedenborg says, and it appears very reasonable to us, that all the inhabitants of the spiritual world are arranged and associated according to character-in general that the good are separate from the evilthat the different kinds and degrees of good are separated from one another—that those of the same kind and degree live together in the same society; and that the case is similar with the evil. Now we believe that man in the natural world is subject to the same order, arrangement and association, with only two considerable points of difference, arising from his living in this world and being clothed with a material body ; the first of which is, that he is not fixed in any one society of spirits, because while he remains