« AnteriorContinuar »
ART. I.--REPLY TO PROFESSOR Pond's ARCLE ON VOL
By Rev. NATHANIEL Hewitt, D. D., Bridgeport, Conn.
The observations and experience of three years at the head of a Voluntary Society, first led me to suspect the soundness of the voluntary principle. The course of events of the subsequent seven years, together with careful and thorough investigation, have confirmed all of my former apprehensions, and brought me to the full belief that, in secular as well as in sacred concerns, it is fraught with mischief. It assumes the independence of man, and invests him with self-sovereignty. Traced to its source, it originates in Pelagianism in religion, and the worst forms of Jacobinism in politics. It promises union, but it is the mother of discord. It pretends to love and good-will ; but, as it is the offspring of pride, it generates ambition, and ends in despotism. Whenever it has had amongst ourselves full scope, and time sufficient to develope itself fully, we can trace its progress by the wreck of laws and usages, and principles which have proceeded from the wisdom of ages, and the authority of God.
When, therefore, the author of the “ Inquiry respecting Voluntary Societies," which appeared in this work in the No. Vol. V.
for March last, submitted his papers to my inspection, before they went to press, I was prepared to appreciate the importance of the subject, and to enter into his views, and feel the power of his reasonings, and to justify its main positions; and to advise its publication. It is therefore a matter of course, that I should bear with him the burden, which his opinions and the avowal of them, imposes on his shoulders. Of these, the animadversions of Dr. Pond in the last number of this work, are the most onerous which have as yet been laid upon him; and these are “grievous to be borne,” not so much on account of their intrinsic weight, as in consideration of the person from whom they proceeded, and some of the qualities by which they are distinguished. The spirit and manner of his piece, afford ample evidence, that the “ voluntary principle,” whatever else it may do towards human perfectability, does not dispose and enable its warmest admirers and abettors to "give a reason of the hope that is in them in meekness and fear;" and that, however tolerant it renders its disciples to all denominations of men, it will not patiently endure dissent from its own supreinacy and infallibility.
Dr. Pond's article purports to be a reply to our author's; but it is so only in part. The voluntary principle, and not this or that voluntary society, is the subject treated by our author, and Dr. Pond undertakes to answer him and explode his doctrines, by a defence of a select few religious voluntary societies, and that not so much on the ground of the principles of their construction, as on that of the benefits resulting from their practical operation. The voluntaryprinciple works well, in these societies, and therefore it is a good and safe principle, is about the amount of Dr. Pond's reply. If one were to defend universal suffrage, by showing that the right of voting worked well in the landed proprietors and farmers of New-England, he would pretty closely imitate Dr. Pond's proceeding in the present case. I do not say that he has precisely and exclusively followed this method, but that he has done so mainly. As, however, Dr. Pond has chosen his own ground, whereon to contend for the voluntary principle, I am prepared to follow him; although our author himself is under no obligation to do it. He discussed a general principle, and showed that as a principle of universal application, and as developed in various societies, it is unsound and dangerous. If Dr. Pond had met him fairly, he
should have espoused the opposite side " for better or for worse."
The great principle for which we contend, and in so far as the subject relates to the Church of Christ, and which Dr. Pond has in various ways impugned, is—that ecclesiastical works ought to be performed in an ecclesiastical way.
The truth of this proposition is so obvious, and the reasonableness and propriety of its universal observance in all the affairs of the church so indisputable, that Dr. Pond is constrained to admit it, although in doing so he gives up the main position which he labours to support. Thus, on pp. 399, 400, he says:
“ The grand objection to the right of forming voluntary societies for religious purposes, is grounded on a false assumption. It takes for granted that the societies are separate from the church, and independent of it; whereas their connexion with it is most intimate, and their dependence entire. They cannot move, but as the church moves them ; nor farther or faster than she moves them. Their acts are virtually the acts of the Church. They are the organization, the instrument, through which, for the sake of efficiency, the Church chooses to act in accomplishing the work which has been given her to do. No consistent advocate of voluntary societies insists upon the right to set up institutions out of the Church, and independent of it, with which to accomplish the Church's work.”
If these declarations of Dr. Pond, and many others of - similar import which will readily occur to our attentive readers, are to be taken in their plain and obvious meaning, it is most evident that we have no controversy with him as to the great principle which it was the aim of our former article to state and defend, and we wonder that he should have any with us.
Before passing to the question of fact in this case, we will for a moment inquire of Dr. Pond, why those societies which, as he affirms, are connected most intimately with the Church, and dependent on it entirely, should not in a formal manner be subject to the oversight and direction of the Church? If they are virtually in the Church, and dependent on it, as he insists they are, why should they not be formally so ? If a woman is virtually the wife of a man, “most intimately connected with him, dependant on him, and subject to him," is it not " orderly and best" that she should be
formally so; be lawfully married and be called a wife, and take the name of her husband, and behave as other married women do?
We proceed to the question of fact. Dr. Pond asserts that these societies are in and under the Church, because they were instituted and sustained, and managed chiefly by church members. “ The Church is identical with its embodied members. Hence may not the Church be said to do whatever, of a public religious nature, its members do? And may it not justly be held responsible for whatever it favours, or so much as tolerates in its members?" p. 398. How is this? The Church identical with its members, and yet separate from its members so as to have authority over its members, and be responsible for the conduct of its members ! How can this be? Just above the passage under consideration, Dr. Pond says-—" From the manner in which some persons speak of the Church, it might be supposed to be a substance, an essence of itself, of which its members were but the accidents, and which might very well exist, if not flourish, without members. But this is all an illusion of words." Verily, Dr. Pond is in the same predicament with these victims of an “illusion of words." For, if the Church be not something distinct from its members, how can it be responsible for the conduct of its members, except on the absurd supposition that the members are members of themselves, and thus responsible to themselves ? “ The Church identical with its members !" Yet Dr. Pond, after mentioning that the voluntary associations formed for the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, are composed to a great extent of church members, adds, “had the Church merely looked on and tolerated her members in the forming and the sustaining of these societies, she would have become connected with them and responsible for them. But to her honour be it said, she has encouraged and patronized the societies, &c." But who is this that has thus approved of church members forming and sustaining these societies, and, as he afterwards says, “has made them her own ?” What substance or essence is it? Who or where is this benig. nant mother of good works, whom he calls the Church? “ From the manner in which some persons speak of the Church, it might be supposed to be a substance, an essence of itself, of which its members were but the accidents, and which might very well exist, if not flourish, without mem
bers. But this is all an illusion of words." We could not dispose of Dr. Pond's argument more effectually than he has done it for himself.
Our reviewer further contends that the societies in ques. tion, are subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and controul, because, as he affirms on pp. 411, 412, “The directors of our benevolent societies are responsible, individually and directly, to the respective churches of which they are members. They are responsible for their official acts." These are Dr. Pond's own words, and he wishes us to take particular no. tice of this statement, for he prefixes to it the solemn intensive, “ I repeat it.”
It is not, then, an inadvertent and unweighed assertion. But, we must confess, that it is a new idea to us, and we venture to say, that it is to our readers also. The particular churches of Boston and vicinity, for example, are the authorized visiters of the Executive Committee, and Secretaries and Treasurer of the A. B. C. F. M., and of the American Education Society! So Dr. Pond lays down the law. “They are directly responsible for their official acts to the churches of which they are members.” If there is any meaning or force in this language, it invests those churches with all the prerogatives and powers of visiters, in the technical sense of the term. We shall leave this legal opinion of Dr. Pond in the hands of the Hon. Samuel Hubbard, of Boston ; barely subjoining that if he had taken counsel of that gentleman, he would not so much as have given him the most distant intimations of a notion of that sort, much less have announced it with so great solemnity. The only remaining argument which I can find, after a thorough search, in support of Dr. Pond's assertion that these societies are de facto in and under the Church, is that they are dependent on the free contributions of the churches, and may therefore be estopped at will. But if this method of controulling institutions of the magnitude, dignity, and power which the Bible, Missionary, Education, and Tract Societies possess, was of easy and ready application, whenever occasion should require, as all experience proves that it is not in all cases of a similar nature ; yet it is a means of the last resort, and justifiable only in cases of the most flagrant corruption, and when there is no hope of amendment. The use of this remedy for abuses, supposes that the parties to be affected by it are inaccessible by any other means, and