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INTRODUCTORY Remarks. Religious reformation the greatest question of
First Review. Truth and custom. Mental equilibriums. The modern
SECOND REVIEW. Conflict between the affections and understanding.
Third Review. Retrogression. The supernatural realm. A war of
Fourth Review. The theologic fabric. Liberties with an infallible Word.
CONCLUSION. Causes of the coming crisis. A struggle between Catholics
Faithful to my spiritual impressions, I watch, with constantly deepening interest, all the important and momentous changes of this eventful Era.
All superior intelligences regard the origination and universal application of the Art of Printing, as a power of immense and never-ending value. By it, the world is fast becoming illuminated with the scintillations of wisdom, and with the principles of a spiritual republicanism. By it, the early Alteration in the Church became widely diffused—an alteration, which, owing principally to educational convictions, the Catholic Church stigmatizes as the great “Heresy.” But all Protestants know, from the various sources of civil and religious experience derived therefrom, that the alteration alluded to was a decided improvement or "REFORMAtion” in all matters pertaining to Christianity. Printing first enlightened the people concerning the irreligion and atrocious ceremonies practiced by the early Church. And the world has at last come to see that religious reformation is both possible and beneficial. This conviction has attained a high place in nearly all well-educated and healthy minds. Changes and consequent improvements in almost every department of human interests, are confidently expected by those who live in the Nineteenth Century. While those who are confessedly mortgaged to the dogmatic organization of Old Opinions, can not bring their minds to contemplate Reformations in any thing as possible without being accompanied by some overwhelming disaster either in the church or state. The enlightened and clear-seeing intellects, however, can read the events of this epoch,-recognizing plainly, in the long, well-defined shadows which approaching changes cast before them, the peculiar crisis or interregnum that is certain to precede the establishment of a higher form of ecclesiasticism and a nobler type of republicanism and religious freedom.
Religious reformation is demonstrated to be both practical and beneficial to mankind. Deeply impressed with this conviction, and believing also that the highest point of improvement, in social arrangements and religious institutions and faith, has not yet been reached by man, I obey my inflowing impressions, and strive to help move forward the ponderous Car of human progression. Accordingly, hearing that HORACE Bushnell, D.D., of the City of Hartford, had in contemplation the delivery of a course of lectures, bearing, as I supposed, on the great general question of religious Reformation, I made it a point, by interior direction, to be present on all the occasions, and listen to his disclosures.
Immediately after the pronunciation of his introductory discourse, I penned and addressed the following letter through the Hartford Times; the import of which will appear on perusal :
A LETTER TO REV. DR. BUSHNELL.
HARTFORD, Dec. 15, 1851. Dear Sir,—The simple announcement that you had in contemplation the formation and deliverance of a course of lectures “On the Naturalistic Theories of Religion as opposed to Supernatural Revelation,” gave me much pleasure. Nor did that pleasure experience any diminution on hearing the first lecture of the proposed course, delivered by you last evening. Indeed, I can scarcely express the gratification excited in my mind by the clearness of your definitions, the broadness of your premises, the fairness of your statements, and by the goodness of your intentions, manifested in the introductory discourse to which I now refer. Your position in the question is, it seems to me, entirely unlike any other ever assumed by the clergy of Christendom. And your appreciation of the magnitude and importance of the subject-nay, its intrinsic momentousness to the welfare of mankind—is also vastly different and far more just, it seems to me, than I have ever before discovered in any other member of your exalted profession. That the clergy of this city have manifested wisdom in the selection (by suggestion and compliment) of yourself as the person most calculated to approach and treat this great question with ability and candor, is very evident; and that the enlightened portion of this community will be attracted, gratified, and instructed by the manner and method you design to adopt, there can be no doubt. You approach the subject, define your position, and declare your intentions and arguments in a manner considerably unlike the method pursued by most clergymen, viz., with a firm reliance upon your own reason or judgment, with with which you design to address the corresponding faculty in the mind of the hearer. This, as you must be aware, is quite a new method to adopt in the analysis and examination of a Bible question, so undoubtedly important. Although you seemed not to acknowledge the “Sovereignty of Reason,” in matters pertaining to a supernaturalistic revelation and faith; yet you very evidently rely upon that faculty (reason) to perform its appropriate functions in order to convince your audience of the soundness and legitimacy of your conclusions.
In addressing you thus publicly, I aim not at discussion or controversy; but simply to make a suggestion to you, and also to the Hartford community, that this course of lectures be delivered by you in a place where all parties interested can have an opportunity, should they desire it, to analyze and examine before the same audience the various positions you may assume in the discussion. · As the case' now stands, the matter at issue is not properly apprehended by half the number of minds that may listen to your discourses. The people do not so clearly realize that very many thousands are more or less involved in the insinuating infidelity of this age; indeed, I was myself surprised at the statistical information which you imparted on this head. Hence, to most minds, the question has not yet attained that imposing magnitude which, in your own opinion, and in fact, it undoubtedly pos
I concur entirely with you, and with the clergy of Hartford, that the greatest question of this day is the one you have resolved to answer, viz.: Whether Rationalism or Supernaturalism shall be triumphant? You propose, as I apprehend you, to reconcile the two forms of faith, and show that Miracles, in the theological definition of the term, are not inconsistent with the operations of unchangeable law and system.
Now I think, Reverend Sir, that you will most willingly accede to the foregoing proposition; inasmuch as you affirmed, toward the termination of your discourse last evening, that in announcing the course of lectures, you had no design to draw people to the North Church, or to imply that you undertook the task from any consciousness of personal qualification. But you very nobly and ingenuously took upon yourself this work of reconciliation from a love of truth, or from an unmixed sense of the magnitude and vital importance of the question to the generality of mankind. I perfectly harmonize in the latter conviction; and, therefore, suggest the Free