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works, both of the last and the present century? Why do they not attack an Edwards, a Fuller, and a Wardlaw, a Scott, and a Magee? Dr. B. never looks such champions in the face ; but with great magnanimity he attacks a few antiquated sentiments—sentiments a thousand times attacked, and long since abandoned.
6 Thrice he routed all his foes-
I will not imitate Dr. B. I will not pollute my pages by recording the absurd and blasphemous expressions of Arius and his followers. I will not attack the dead, but the liding. I will show to the world, that our venerable reformers were not the only men, in whose voluminous writings a few unguarded or foolish expressions may be found. I will make it appear that even Arian Doctors, now in the nine teenth century, are not altogether exempted from this common frailty of our nature, and that the learned Dr. B. himself is not quite infallible. A few quotations from his works will show, that, in writing silly and absurd things, he is not bebind “ the very chiefest” of our reformers.
In his Treatise on the Being and Attributes, (p. 88, 89,) the Doctor denominates creation, “ that superlative act of power." When we read a few sentences farther, we find him declaring, that other “ acts may require MORE power " than creation itself.” Having thus compared these different acts of power ; and having shown us that other acts may be greater than the superlative act; he gravely informs us, that it is idle to pretend to compare things that are ** unknown, and to institute a comparison between degrees “ of power, when they are all equally incomprehensible !"*
He compares acts of power, and then tells us that it is idle to compare them ! He pronounces one to be the superlative act, and then tells us, that other acts may be greater ! And all this confusion of ideas is exhibited in that very specimen, inserted in the Belfast News-Letter, for the purpose of showing off, and recommending the Doctor's Treatise.
Passing over the two next sentences, we find him writing thus :
“The power that could produce a single plant, is a sub"ject of wonder. Its structure and growth, the expansion * of the leaves, the penciling of the flowers, the ripening " of the fruit, and, above all, the mysterious configuration " of the seed, are alike inimitable and inexplicable by the " most ingenious naturalist.”
In this paragraph the Doctor declares, that all the circumstances mentioned are alike inimitable and inexplicable; and yet, in the very same paragraphı, he affirms that they are not alike inimitable: The configuration of the seed is above all !
Dr. B. commences his abstract proof of the Being and Attributes of God thus : (p. 27.) “ In order to lay a firm “ foundation for proving the existence of God, we must
carry back our thoughts beyond the period of creation, " into that vast vacuity, that dark abyss without matter or " motion, where time itself stood still. The mind is swal“ lowed up in its own idea. It feels à similar vacuum " within itself, the same darkness, the same inanity, the " same inactivity : yet here we must lay the corner-stone “ of the universe ; here must we seek for the cause of all
things. In this unsubstantial void of metaphysical ab“ straction, let us look out for some fixed point, on which
we may rest, till we bring the world into being, and put us the mighty machine in motion. This point is our own « existence."
In this beautiful paragraph, the Doctor directs us to carry back our thoughts beyond the period of creation, into that vast vacuity, that dark abyss without inatter or motion, where time itself stood still. In this vast vacuity we must look out for some fixed point, on which we may rest, till we bring the world into being, and put the mighty machine in motion; and this point is our own existence. So then, the vast vacuity was no vacuity ; for our own existence was a fixed point in it !-So then, we existed before we existed !--we existed before the creation !-before there was any matter, or any motion !—where time itself stood still !and upon our own existence we take our stand !
Our author assures us, that in reflecting upon this " vast vacuity,” the mind feels a similar vacuum within itself-the same darkness—the same inanity—the same inactivity. That the Doctor's mind felt all this, no person who reads the preceding paragraph can reasonably doubt.
It is impossible to dismiss the passage under review without remarking, that it is the commencement of the Doctor's abstract proof of the Being and Attributes of God the most important part of that proof, for which he modestly expected the Aberdeen prize!
From our author's Treatise on the Being and Attributes, let us now turn our attention to his polemical sermons, that volume, on which I design more particularly to animadvert.
In page 19th, he assures us that the Almighty, through the medium of the Jews, " communicated to the whole “ world a full declaration of his will, a free dispensation of
grace, and a glorious immortality, reserved for all his “ faithful servants by the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What! did the Almighty ever communicate through the Jews, a full declaration of his will to the whole world? NEVER! One quarter of the world has never yet enjoyed this privilege.
Did the Almighty ever communicate through the Jews, a free dispensation of grace to the whole world ? NEVER ! One quarter of the globe has never yet enjoyed this privilege.
Did the Almighty ever communicate through the Jews, a glorious immortality to the whole world? NEVER! Had he communicated a “glorious immortality” to the whole world, the whole world was consequently saved! A comfortable doctrine indeed, and sufficiently liberal! But how does it accord with the doctrine which the same Dr. B. teaches ? (p. 49.) It is stated thus : “But it is a strange “ imagination, that our Saviour should leave this world as “ he found it, ignorant of those essential principles, with“ out which they could not be saved.”
What sentence was ever written by Luther, by Calvin, or by any of our reformers, half so absurd or uncharitable as this ?--A sentence as inconsistent with liberality as with grammar. What! Did Jesus Christ find the world ignorant of those essential principles without which they could not be saved ? If so—tremendous idea !-so long as they had previously remained in that state, the whole human family were damned !
When Dr. B. finished his volume of sermons, he pronounced it consistent both with itself and the gospel. (See preface, p. 2.)—How far it is entitled to so high an encomium, let the reader of the preceding pages judge.
The quotations I have given—and I have given only a few—are sufficient to show, that were I to rake together all the foolish and absurd things written by Dr. B.; and were I'to imitate the example he has set me, by ransacking the writings of Arians for centuries past; it would be an easy thing to exhibit a picture a thousand times more dark
and gloomy, than that exhibited in the Doctor's sermons. For every foolish or absurd expression found in the writings of Luther, Calvin, or any other eminent reformer, I will engage to point out ten in the same number of pages written by the learned Doctor. Are we accountable for all the foolish or absurd things written by any of our venerable reformers? No more accountable than modern Arians are accountable—than the Antrim Presbytery is accountable, for all the foolish and absurd things written by the Ex-principal of the Belfast Academy.
I come now to
OBJECTION III. In opposing the orthodox, our author resorts to another stratagem, still more despicable. He not only rakes together -or rather retails—the most foolish and absurd expressions, found in their writings for centuries past; but he misrepresents, misstates, and puts in their mouths, sentiments which they never entertained, never uttered, never wrote. He forms a man of straw, knocks him down, and shouts victory. He forges sentiments, and triumphantly
Whilst flourishing away in this manner, his superficial reader thinks he sees orthodoxy bending under his manly blows, and crumbling under his victorious feet.
These severe and heavy charges, the following quotations will fully substantiate.
In page 86, he declaims thus : « How can men bear to o hear this glorious and holy Being blasphemed, and to “ have their own sacred feelings insulted, by being told, so that mankind were created, only to be plunged into the
abyss of hell, to wallow in lakes of inextinguishable fire, " and writhe in ever-during torments ?”
But in the name of candour and common sense, where did Dr. B. ever hear such blasphemy? No WHERE ! Who preaches such blasphemy? NOBODY !—If the members of the first Presbyterian congregation in Belfast believe such rhapsodies, they must be extremely credulous indeed they must regard their fellow Christians, not as men, but as monsters.
In the same licentious strain of invective, he proceeds thus : (Appendix, p. 313.)
“ All these feelings may be indulged with enthusiasm, in “the good sense of that word, without being shocked by cruel
“and unrelenting decrees, an unjust and tyrannical sacri“ fice, the ruin of human nature, and the eternal torments " of mankind, without regard to principle or conduct."
To say nothing of the blasphemous epithets, cruel, unrelenting, unjust, and tyrannical, applied to the decrees of God, and the atonement of his Son ; who ever believed in “the eternal torments of mankind, without regard to prinsciple or conduct ?” Who ever taught that monstrous doctrine ? NOBODY.--No Jew, no Heathen, no Mahometan, no Christian, of any denomination, ever taught it, or ever believed it! It is an insult on Christianity, and an out-rage on common sense.
Another extraordinary specimen of invective against error which no where exists, is exhibited in the Doctor's second sermon on the atonement, (page 244.)
“i Beside the controverted doctrines which have already
passed under review, there is one detestable opinion, “ which has been hitherto overlooked as unworthy of dis"cussion. There are, at this day, and in these countries,
multitude of wretched and ignorant enthusiasts, whose “ pernicious fanaticism engages them to delight in the pre6 valence of vice. Considering the conversion of every in6 dividual sinner as a miraculous and instantaneous opera- tion of the holy spirit, they glory in their rapid progress - towards the extremes of desperate wickedness, imagining " that every step brings them nearer to the period of their os conversion, and makes them fitter objects for the grace of “God. The profligate votary of fanaticism rejoices in the " indulgence of his most criminal passions, and in the in"creasing depravity of his heart, looking forward to his in6 voluntary, and indeed imaginary conversion. The fanatic, - who has already undergone this wonderful operation, ex“presses his satisfaction at the depravity of his neighbour,
as the surest presage of an approaching restoration, while, os with respect to himself, he indulges his basest and most “pernicious propensities, under a persuasion that he can
never fall from his state of grace ; and throws up the “ reins to his licentious passions, lest any attempt at moral C virtue zould seem
question the efficacy, or control the “ progress of that heavenly guide, who has condescended " to undertake the government of his soul. He supplicates - the pardon of God for every instance of reliance on the
practice of virtue for divine mercy or favour, of which he