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church rather than in the world; that Abbana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, are quite as good as all the waters of Israel. What then is the fact? Are the great mass of members of episcopal churches in our land more serious, devout, humble, prayerful and exemplary, than other professing christians; less "conformed to the world,” more zealous for the cause of Christ, and more abundant in all works of righteousness? Are their societies found in a higher degree than any other to attract spiritual, zealous and engaged believers, and to repel the gay, the worldly and the openly irreligious? We bring no charge against our episcopal neighbours; we arrogate no superior excellence to ourselves. The great Searcher of hearts knows that we have no special reason for self-complacency, far less for boasting. We only say, that if episcopalians form the only church among us, and all others are without, they ought, upon every principle of reason and Scripture, to exhibit more, far more pure, elevated, consistent and devoted piety than any other class of religious professors. Is this, we ask again, the FACT? Let those who have the best opportunity of comparing the body of that church with other churches in our country, whom some of her members would deliver over to the “uncovenanted mercies of God," bear witness.
We shall here, for the present, take leave of the subject. It was with much reluctance, and constrained by a deep sense of duty, that we entered on the discussion. It is our earnest desire to live on the most amicable terms with our brethren of all denominations. We love peace; and especially in a day like this, when all the resources and energies of the christian church are put in requisition for purposes far more benign and holy than sectarian bickerings. The presbyterians in the United States never attacked their episcopal brethren; never in any one instance, as we believe, commenced a controversy with them; never called in question the validity of their orders or ministrations; never manifested the slightest disposition to draw away from them any who conscientiously preferred their government or worship. And we hope and believe that a great majority of that denomination in our country are disposed to reciprocate these feelings. But when, every now and then, such a volume as that now before us is cast forth, by one of those prelatists whom archbishop Wake calls “madmen;" and when, not content with this, its praises are trumpeted in
episcopal periodicals, and individuals attacked are called upon by name to come forth and speak in their own defence; when these things are done, we lament them; not because we have the slightest apprehension for the safety of presbyterianism; for we trust she will always have sons able and willing to come forward, in the name and strength of the King of Zion, to defend her; but because we are very sure that such conflicts among professing christians are not calculated to promote the best interests of vital piety in any denomination.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF PELAGIANISM.
With propriety the term militant has been applied to the church upon earth. No sooner was the light of truth sent down from heaven than it fell into interminable conflict with the darkness of error. And not only was it necessary to contend with the powers of darkness without the kingdom of Christ, but hideous forms of error were generated within the bosom of the church; according to the prophetic warning of our Saviour, " Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing;” and that of the apostle Paul, in his solemn valedictory to the elders of Ephesus, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Even while Paul lived the churches were exceedingly disturbed and distracted by false teachers, who brought in another gospel,” and endeavoured to overthrow from the foundation the doctrine of gratuitous justification by faith without works; and to substitute a legal system, according to which justification before God could be expected only from obedience to the ceremonial law of Moses. A large portion of the inspired writings of this apostle have direct reference to the opinions of these Judaizing heretics. Others arose in the church who denied the resurrection of the body, and maintained that all the resurrection to be expected was already past. They seem to
have explained all that our Lord had said respecting the resurrection spiritually, or as relating to the purification or revivification of the soul. As the former errorists manifestly came out from the sect of the Pharisees, the latter might have derived their origin from the Sadducees, or from some of the schools of heathen philosophy. From these facts in the history of the apostolic church we learn, that when converts were made to the society of christians, many of them retained something of the leaven of their old errors, and endeavoured to modify and corrupt the pure doctrines of the gospel by accommodating them to their preconceived opinions. And as all the first christians had been brought up in another religion, it is not wonderful that errors abounded among those professing christianity, even in the times of the apostles. This is, indeed, contrary to the vulgar opinion, which considers the primitive church as being in all respects near perfection. This opinion, however, is not founded on any information given to us in the apostolic writings ; for in addition to what has already been observed, we may refer to the epistles of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia for further proof of the existence and prevalence of error in the days of the apostles. And towards the close of that age the impudence and licentiousness of the propagators of error may be learned from the catholic epistles of John, the second of Peter, and the epistle of Jude; all of which are filled with descriptions of false teachers, and warnings against their pestiferous influence.
Of the age immediately succeeding that of the apostles our information is very imperfect; either because there were few who had leisure or inclination for writing; or because their works have perished; which we know to have been the fact in regard to some important records. But from all the authentic history which has reached our times we learn that swarms of heretics infested the church, even while she was struggling under the direful strokes of sanguinary persecution. No age has produced more monstrous errors than the second century, of which Irenæus has given us a detailed account. And all this congeries of extravagant opinions originated in the false philosophy of those who professed to embrace christianity. The loathsome spawn of Gnosticism was cast upon the church from the corrupt but fertile source of the oriental philosophy. The original fountain of this extraordinary inundation of absurd heresy was
a fanciful doctrine of the nature of God. It would be interesting to pursue this subject, but we are admonished by the narrowness of our limits to forbear.
It does not appear, however, that, amidst the multifarious errors which were broached in the first four centuries, any controversy arose respecting the doctrines of sin and grace. In regard to the person of the Mediator, error had assumed almost every possible shape, both as it related to his humanity and divinity, and the nature and effects of the union between them. Council after council had been convened to discuss and decide on points connected with this important subject; and theologians of the first learning and highest reputation employed their pens in defence of the catholic doctrine.
But early in the fifth century a new doctrine began to be published by Pelagius, a British monk, on the subject of man's natural condition, and the connexion which subsisted between Adam and his posterity. That the doctrine of Pelagius was new, and different from the opinions which had commonly been received in the church, needs no other proof than the impression which it made on the minds of the great majority of learned theologians who lived at that time. And that the doctrine of original sin then received by the church was the same which had been always held from the times of the apostles, is exceedingly probable, from the fact that the subject never underwent any public discussion, and it is rarely the case that a doctrine entirely new can be introduced and propagated every where without giving rise to much controversy, and exciting much public attention. Pelagius did, indeed, in his controversy with Augustine, allege, that this father had invented the doctrine of original sin, which was unknown to preceding ages; but in answer to this charge Augustine appealed to many writers of the first ages, to show that they entertained the same views as those which he now advocated. These testimonies are not so explicit as could be collected from the writings of those who lived after the discussion of this subject took place. But this is always the case. When any point of doctrine is undisputed and received by all, while it is every where tacitly admitted or incidentally referred to, it is never made the subject of accurate definition; nor is it expounded with that fulness and caution which become necessary after it has been called in question or opposed. When Augustine was urged to bring forward proofs from the fathers who preceded him, he answered the demand in the following sensible manner : “Quid igitur opus est ut eorum scrutemur opuscula, qui priusquam ipsa hæresis oriretur, non habuerunt necessitatem in hac difficili ad solvendum questione versari, quod procul dubio. facerent si respondere talibus cogerentur." That is, “What occasion is there that we should search the works of those who, living before this heresy arose, had no necessity of handling this difficult question, which doubtless they would have done if they had been obliged to answer such men as we have to deal with."
Jerome, in several places in his works, ascribes the new opinions propagated by Pelagius to Rufin, who, he alleges, borrowed them from Origen: but as Jerome is known to have cherished an implacable hostility to Rufin, and also to the memory of Origen, his testimony on this subject ought to be received with caution. And we cannot find that he brings forward any passages from the writings of Rufin which are sufficient to gain credit to the allegation against him.
Pelagius is admitted, by his keenest opposers, to have been a man of learning, and of estimable character. And on other points, especially on the warmly contested doctrine of the trinity, he was not only orthodox, but wrote three books in defence of the catholic opinion, in which he gave deserved praise to Athenasius for his great constancy and soundness in the faith, and did not hesitate to pronounce the opinions of Arius impious. He, moreover, published fourteen books containing an exposition of the epistles of Paul, which, in the opinion of several learned men, are still. extant in the commentaries subjoined to those of Jerome on Paul's episules. One thing is certain in relation to these commentaries; they do not contain the opinions of Jerome on the subject of original sin, but precisely those of Pelagius. Besides the books already mentioned, he wrote many letters to distinguished individuals, most of which are lost; and also a book, DE NATURA, in which he extols the powers and virtues of human nature; and a small book, addressed to pope Innocent, containing a confession of the catholic faith, as he had received it. But it was a complaint against him by some of his contemporaries, that he left it to his disciples, principally, to write; so that he might have the opportunity, when he judged it expedient, of denying that the opinions pub