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leagues and friends were in a maze with regard to my views and intentions. Shut up within the narrow confines of some old stereotyped form of faith or fancy into which they had been born, or into which they had been brought they knew not how, and afraid to change or modify one iota of their blind belief, investigation, search after truth, enlargement of thought, or change of sentiment, was with them out of the question. The very idea of anything differing from their own traditionary or haphazard belief was, in the estimation of some of them, no less than heresy, treason, or infidelity. Others, who were not so much benighted, were afraid to venture on a free examination of religious matters, or a careful comparison of their views with the teachings of Scripture. Some trusted in their elders, and feared no error so long as they kept in the track of their predecessors. I am not certain that I should go too far if I were to say, that some were under the influence of worldly and selfish motives, and were resolved to take the course which promised to be most conducive to a quiet, easy, self-indulgent life. There were some whose conversations left this impression on my mind. One young minister, when I was pointing out to him some inconsistency between a statement he had made and the teachings of Christ, put an end to the conversation by saying, "I don't want to hear anything about such matters; I know what is expected of a minister of the Methodist New Connexion, and I am resolved to be one; and I shall just hold the doctrines necessary to keep me in the office, and nothing else." And I suppose he did not stand alone.
Some lacked the power to think. They were all but mindless. Whatever they might be able to do in reference to worldly matters, they were unable to think, to compare doctrine with doctrine, or to reason in any respect whatever on religious matters. One young man, a candidate for the ministry, told me that he never had thought matters over in his own mind, but taken what came in his way in books or sermons, never troubling himself, or finding himself able, to do more than to remember and to repeat what he heard or read. He had not the faculty to compare the sayings of men with the sayings of God; or the sayings of one man with the sayings of another. He was a mere dealer in
words and phrases, and he aspired to nothing higher than to live by the ignoble occupation. How many of those with whom I came in contact, and in whose society I poured forth so freely the thoughts of my mind, were of the same stamp, I do not know. I never tested any other person so thoroughly as I tested him. There were others, however, that had been fashioned in a similar mould.
LABOR IN VAIN.
Others with whom I conversed had thought, and had embraced certain views believing them to be true; but they had fallen under the influence of teachers and books of a different cast from those by which my own mind had been chiefly influenced. And they had been led to fix their thoughts almost exclusively on one particular class of Scripture passages, and to neglect or overlook other portions of the sacred volume, though much more numerous, and much more clear in their meaning. They had also been led to adopt certain interpretations of the passages on which their attention had been specially fixed, which a consideration of other passages of Scripture had led me to reject. Thus our minds had run into different moulds, and taken different forms. We differed not only on certain points of doctrine, but in our tastes, and in our rules of judging. The consequence was, that we could never talk long on religious subjects without getting into a dispute, or coming to a dead stand. To make matters worse, this class of people had been led to believe that their peculiar notions were the essential doctrines of the Gospel, and that those who did not believe them could not be Christians. When therefore they found that I looked upon their theories as erroneous and unscriptural, they pronounced me at once an erratic and dangerous man. I imagined, at first, that I could bring these people to see things in a different light. I had such faith in the power of plain Scripture passages, and in the force of common sense, and was so ignorant of the power of prejudice, and of peculiarities of mental constitution, that I conversed and reasoned with them with the greatest freedom and the utmost confidence. But I found at length that my expectations were vain. I was conversing once with a colleague who belonged to this class, on man's natural proneness to evil. He was one of the best and most enlightened of that
school of theologians, and he regarded me at the time with very kindly feelings. And we were agreed as to the fact of man's natural tendency to evil, but he had been led to rest his belief in the doctrine on somewhat different grounds from those on which my belief rested. And this was enough. He quoted the passage from Isaiah, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: from the crown of the head, to the sole of the foot, there is no soundness, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." "Do you think that the Prophet refers in that passage to man's natural proneness to evil?" said I. "What can he refer to else?" said he. "I have been accustomed to regard the words as a figurative description of the miserable state of the Israelites under the terrible judgments of God," I replied. He instantly became red in the face, and said, "Do you mean to deny the natural depravity of man?" I said, "The question is not about the doctrine, but only about the meaning of that particular passage." But all was in vain. I had roused his suspicions and his anger, and the conversation came at once to an end, and he never afterwards regarded me with the same degree of confidence and friendliness as before.
On another occasion a brother minister quoted, as proof that men in their unregenerate state cannot do anything towards their own salvation, the words of Jeremiah, already once referred to, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" "Do you really think," said I," that the Prophet is speaking, in those words, of men generally? "What else is he speaking of?" was the answer. "He seems to me to be speaking of a particular class of men, who have been so long accustomed to do wrong, that they have lost the power to do right-having made themselves the helpless slaves of their evil habits. He is not, I think, speaking of the state into which they were born; but of the state to which they had reduced themselves by long persistence in sin. Hence he says at the conclusion of the passage, 'Then may ye, who are accustomed to do evil, do well." "Oh! I suppose you deny the doctrine of natural depravity." "No, I do not," said I. "It is no use saying that," he replied, "when you explain away the passages of Scripture in which the doctrine is taught."
Such encounters between me and my brethren were at
one time by no means uncommon. They took place at almost every meeting. The result was often unpleasant. My brethren generally did not like to be disturbed in their notions, or in their way of talking. But few, if any of them, were prepared or disposed to enter on the investigations necessary to enable them to ascertain what was the truth on the points on which we were accustomed to converse. Some had not the power to revise their creeds and their way of talking and preaching, and bring them into harmony with Scripture and common sense. And people of this class were sure to look on all who did not see things in the same light as themselves, as dangerous or damnable heretics. They, of course, concluded that I was not sound in the faith. They felt that I was a troublesome, and feared that I was a lost and ruined man. The remarks which I made to them, they repeated to their friends; and as they seldom succeeded in understanding me properly, their reports were generally incorrect. In some cases my statements were reported with important additions, and in others with serious alterations, and in some cases their meaning was entirely changed. And the change was seldom to my advantage. A difference of expression between me and my brethren was mistaken for a difference of belief; and the disuse of an unscriptural word, was mistaken for a renunciation of a Christian doctrine. A dispute about the "eternal sonship" was mistaken for a dispute about the divinity of Christ, and a difference of opinion about the meaning of a passage of Scripture, came to be reported as the denial of Christ's authority. In one case I gave it as my judgment that there were really righteous people on earth when Christ came into the world, and that it was to such that Christ referred, when He said, He "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." This was made into an assertion that the coming of Christ was unnecessary. Inability to accept unauthorized definitions and unscriptural theories of Scriptural doctrines, was construed into a denial of those doctrines. My endeavor to strip religious subjects of needless mystery, was represented as an attempt to substitute a vain philosophy for the Gospel of Christ. An expression of dissatisfaction with a grandiloquent but foolish and mis
BIGOTRY AND INTOLERANCE.
chievous sermon on the "Cross of Christ," was set down as a proof that my views on the sacrifice of Christ were not evangelical. My endeavors to show that Christianity was in harmony with reason, were mistaken for an attempt to substitute reason for faith, and became the occasion of a rumor that I was running into Pelagianism or Socinianism. My own conviction was, that I was coming nearer to the simplicity, the purity, and the fulness of the Gospel; and that is my conviction still. And those of my brethren in the ministry who were in advance of the rest in point of intelligence and piety, and who were least infected with foolish fear and jealousy, expressed to me their satisfaction with my views and proceedings. And the people listened to my discourses with the greatest delight. They flocked to hear me in crowds; and the crowds continually increased. And many were benefited under my ministry. Sinners were converted, and believers were comforted, and stimulated to greater efforts in the cause of God.
To those, however, who had come to believe that I was drifting towards heresy, all this was the occasion of greater alarm, and my great success and growing popularity led them to make increasing efforts to lessen my influence, or silence me altogether. Their conduct caused me great uneasiness, and it was this that first awakened in me unhappy feeling towards them.
A SECOND TENDENCY.
I HAD a second powerful tendency which helped to get me into trouble, and so became an occasion of unhappy feeling, namely, a practical tendency. This was bred in me. It was a family peculiarity; it ran in the blood. My father had it. Religion with him was goodness of heart and goodness of life; fearing God and working righteousness; loving God and keeping His commandments. And his belief and life were one. I never knew a more conscientious or godly man. And I never knew a man who could more truly have uttered the words of the Psalmist: "Lord, my