Samuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) Worcester.

The life and Labors of Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D.; former pastor of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass online

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Christ." What a contrast between such Sermons, at



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 197

ordinations and installations, and those of the " fash-
ionable " order, like that of Dr. Kendall, with others
more brilliant, in the same department of theological
literature and eloquence I

" If the view which has been given of our subject be
correct, it certainly cannot be a matter of indifference
how Christ is preached, or whether in reality he
be preached or not. It cannot be a matter of indiffer-
ence whether he be represented as a being truly divine,
or only as a mere creature ; or whether his death upon
the cross be represented as a proper atonement for the
sins of the world, or only as a confirmation of his di-
vine mission and doctrine ; or whether the salvation of
mankind be represented as being exclusively of grace
through the merits of the Savior, or only the reward of
personal good works.

Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Gospel ; and
in proportion as his character and dignity are lowered
down, the whole gospel of salvation is lowered down
with him, and the glory of all the divine perfections
and works is eclipsed. It is only, therefore, when
Christ is represented in his true character, and the
great design of his death upon the cross set forth in its
true light, that the gospel is truly preached.

Let those who will, preach Jesus Christ as a mere
man, or even a superangelic creature ; let then descant
upon his death as a distinguished instance of heroic
virtue, and a splendid confirmation of his ministry ;
and, instead of exhibiting the great doctrines of the
cross, let them dwell only on the topics of morality,
delineating the excellency and beauty of the moral and
social virtues, and urging the importance of a regular
and good life as necessary to present and future hap-
piness : but let them not call this, preaching the Gospel.
It was not thus that Paul preached ; it is not thus that
the ministers of Christ are commissioned to preach ;
it is not by preaching of this sort that men are to be
made wise unto salvation. The moral and social vir-
tues are certainly to be delineated in all their loyelif

VOL. IL 17*



19B MEMOIR OP

ness, and the importance of a regular and good life is
to be inculcated with all the force of persuasion, by the
christian minister ; but the moral and social virtues are
to be represented as genuine in the sight of Heaven,
only when they spring from a heart renewed by di-
vine grace, and purified by the faith of the Gospel :
and the importance of a regular and good life is to be
enforced by motives drawn from the cross of the
Redeemer,

' Talk they of moFals? O thou bleeding love,
The grand morality is love ofthee.'

- * We preach Christ crucified,' says the apostle, ' unto
the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks fool-
ishness ; but unto them which are called, both Jews
and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom
of God.' This, my brethren, is the doctrine, and the
only doctrine, of salvation ; and as important as it is
that fallen mankind should be saved from the wrath
to come, be reconciled to God, and raise to immortality
and glory, so important it is that this doctrine be
clearly, and faithfully, and constantly, preached."

In the address to the pastor elect, it was said, " We
are fallen, my brother, on evil times in which those
who are set for the defence of the Gospel are to expect
many and great trials and conflicts ; in which they are
to 'wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in
high places.' " — But the greatest confidence was ex-
pressed, that he would stand firm, as he did to the end.
And the profoundest silence must have reigned, when
the " men and brethren " of the " numerous assembly '*
were first congratulated in respect to the settlement of
the new pastor, and next admonished of the " infinite
hazard" of "disregarding the ministry of the cross"
and " neglecting the great salvation." — " If any man
refuse to hear the words of this grace, and will not
love our Lord Jesus Christ — what shall we say ? What
does the great apostle to the Gentiles say ? — Let him
be Anathema. Maranatha!"



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 199

For some time after the publication of " Bible News,"
Dr. Worcester did not apprehend that his brothers
would ever go as far as they subsequently did, in op-
posing the received doctrine of the Trinity. But in
no event could he be drawn into a formal controversy
with either of them. He endeavored, however, to
counteract the baneful influence of their errors, as far
as he might be able, by such expositions of the truth,
in different places and upon special occasions, as
would encourage the stable and confirm the^vavering ;
or at the least, leave none in doubt of his personal per-
suasions and unshaken reliances. A few months after
the " Bible News " had first been proclaimed, and
when the " Letters " were the subject of universal at-
tention, he preached at the ordination * of Rev. E. L.
Parker, of Derry, N. H., a characteristic and very time-
ly discourse, from Deut. xxix : 29 ; The secret things
belong unto the Lord our God; but those things
which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children
forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

" ' The text,' it was suggested, ' though primarily it
referred to the covenant and its sanctions, fairly ad-
mits of a general application, and affords this impor-
tant instruction, viz., With respect to the doctrines

OF RELIGION, THERE ARE SOME SECRET THINGS WHICH
BELONG TO GoD, AND SOME REVEALED THINGS WHICH

BELONG TO US AND TO OUR CHILDREN. — My present de-
sign, therefore, is to notice, under several leading ar-
ticles, some things which are revealed, and some
which are not.

* Sept 12, ISIO. The week previous, Dr. W. was in Farmington, Conn.^
at the first meeting of the A. B. C. F. M. The week following, he delivered
the address on Sacred Music, which is noticed above, chap. 1. Comp. p. ISO.

Mr. Parker had studied awhile under his guidance. He died recently.
" He was a good man," as Barnabas was, " and full of the Holy Ghost; and
of faith : and much people was added unto the Lord."



200 MEMOIR OP

1. Relating to the high subject of the divine Trin-
ity, there are some secret things, and others which are
revealed.

The word of God presents to us a Trinity, under
the dictinctive names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
These three names are abundantly applied in such a
manner, as clearly to denote that they belong to three
distinct persons. In reference to each of them, the
personal pronoun is distinctly used ; and to each of
them, distinct agency is attributed, and distinct offices
assigned. Thus much is plain and indisputable ; and
is sufficient to warrant us in considering the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, as three distinct hypostases^ or
persons. Nor is it less plain and indisputable, that
each of these three persons is called God; and to each
of them, divine titles, divine attributes, divine works,
and divine honors, are ascribed. Either, therefore, they
must be three Gods, having each a separate existence,
or else three persons only, co-existing in the same di-
vine essence. But nothing surely is more amply de-
clared in the Scriptures, than that there is but one
God. The obvious and unavoidable conclusion is,
that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are not three
Gods, or beings separately existing ; but only three
divine persons, existing in one eternal and unchange-
able Godhead. — Accordingly the ministers of the Gos-
pel are expressly directed to baptize in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; the
form of apostolic benediction is, ' The grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the com-
munion of the Holy Ghost be with you;' and in vari-
ous instances and ways these three divine persons are
represented, in the Scriptures, as being, not in affec-
tion and purpose merely, but also in nature and glory.



one.*



It is then revealed, that, in the unity of the God-

* " For strong confirmation of the evidence of the real Divinity of Christ,
and for most decisive proofs of the Personality of the Holy Spirit, the reader
is referred to Sharp, Wordsworth, and especially Middleton, on the Greek
Article P



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 201

head, there is a Trinity of persons, Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit ; and this great truth belongs to us and to
our children. Clearly, however, as this important
doctrine is revealed, there are some things respecting
it which are not revealed.

In particular, the modus, or manner of the existence
of the three divine persons in the Godhead is not re-
vealed. We have not such a view of the divine es-
sence, as clearly to see how this Trinity in Unity sub-
sists. This is a profound mystery, which, probably,
we shall never be able fully to unfold or to fathom.
Some, indeed, have adventurously attempted to ex-
plain it ; but instead of throwing light on the subject,
they have rather been chargeable w^ith ' darkening
counsel by words without knowledge.' — Nor is this
the only thing pertaining to the divine nature, with
respect to which we are ignorant ; for ' who by search-
ing can find out God ? ' Who indeed is not lost at
once in attempting to conceive of the simplest thing
pertaining to God, his eternal existence, — existence
without beginning and without cause!

Content, then, it becomes us to be with the clearly
revealed truth, that God exists in three persons ; and
humbly should we leave the secret things, relating to
this subject, to him to whom they belong."

In the same manner the preacher enforced the pro-
positions respectively, that " in regard to the divine
government," — " the divine purposes," — " the incarna-
tion of the Redeemer for the redemption of mankind,"
— and " the subject of the resurrection, — -some things
are revealed and others are not." In the " Applica-
tion," instructive and impressive remarks were offered,
enforcing the several deductions, viz. that " the Scrip-
tures were designed, not for unprofitable speculation,
but for religious improvement;" — that "it must be
highly unreasonable to reject those things which are
revealed, because others are not revealed ;" — that



202 MEMOIR OF

" many of the complaints against the Scriptures, as
being difficult to be understood, are without founda-
tion ;" — that it is pertinent to " consider what charac-
ters are chargeable with presumptuously prying into
the secrets of God, and affecting to be wise above
what is written ;" — " that ministers of the Gospel
ought not to withhold from their people any of the
doctrines of revelation ;" and that " it urgently be-
hoves all, ministers and people, diligently, candidly,
and prayerfully, to study the Scriptures."

* * * a Q^ j^Yie deep things of God, it is the general
manner of the divine word simply to state that things
are so ; without going into such reasonings and illus-
trations, as would only serve to gratify an unhallowed
curiosity. Striking specimens to this effect are exhib-
ited in the doctrines which have now passed under
review.

On the subject of the Trinity, the Scriptures plainly
teach us, that there are, in the divine nature, three
distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and
that these three are one God : but they do not conde-
scend to explain this high doctrine, or to shew us how
three divine persons can exist in one simple essence.
Now, it is of great importance to us to know, that the
ever blessed Deity does exist in three persons ; for this
doctrine is fundamental to the Gospel ; and without
it we could have but very inadequate conceptions of
reconciliation to the Father, of redemption by the
blood of the Son, or of access in his name to the
throne of eternal mercy by the Holy Spirit. But,
knowing that God does exist in these three persons,
we see at once the basis, on which the stupendous
scheme of the Gospel rests ; are let into a view of the
harmony of the divine operations, for the recovery of
lost men ; and are in a situation to discern how we
must proceed, in transacting on our part the great
concerns of our eternal salvation. It would be, how-
ever, of no religious importance to us to know the



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 203

manner of the divine existence, so as to explain the
mystery attending this doctrine of a Trinity in Unity ;
and here, therefore, we are called to subject the pride
of reason to the humble exercises of faith.

* * * An astronomer tells an unlearned man, that
he can calculate when the next eclipse of the sun will
happen ; but this the unlearned man will not believe,
because he cannot comprehend it. But if the astron-
omer would explain, and make the whole process
clear, the unlearned man would then believe. So
when God tells us that he exists in three persons, that
his purposes and his government extend to all beings
and events, that there is a union of human nature
with the divine in the person of the Redeemer, and
that the dead shall all be raised at the last day; we
will not believe him, because there are mysteries at-
tending these truths, and we cannot comprehend them.
But if he will clear up the mysteries, and shew us
every thing in broad light, we will then believe ! Is
there nothing unreasonable in this ?

God has declared to us that things are so ; and his
veracity stands pledged for the truth of his declara-
tions. To say, then, that we will believe nothing
which we cannot comprehend, or about which there is
any mystery ; what is it less than to say, that we have
no confidence in God's veracity, and will believe
nothing on his bare word ! Is not this an audacious
insult to the Holy One I The astronomer, if a man of
truth, would feel himself injured, if the unlearned man
would give no credit to what he said. How much
more the infinite God, who cannot lie nor mistake!
Had God undertaken fully to explain to our compre-
hension every thing relating to the truths of his word,
the world would not have contained the volumes re-
quisite for the purpose, nor would the life of man have
sufficed for the time necessary to read them. He has
graciously revealed as much respecting things, as, in
his infinite wisdom, he saw best : shall we then say,
that we will not believe what he has revealed, because
he will not reveal more ? Is not his .word eternal
truth ? — and are we not warranted, are we not bound



204 MEMOIR OP

to believe what he says, however great the mystery
may be ?

Will it be said, that no doctrine which is mysterious
can be a doctrine of revelation, because what is re-
vealed is no longer a mystery ? It is obvious to re-
ply, that so much of the doctrines as is revealed, is no
longer a mystery ; but the mystery lies in something
respecting it, which is not revealed.

The sentiment, indeed, which would exclude all
mystery from the Scriptures, would also exclude all
faith from religion ; for when a matter is so complete-
ly explained as to be cleared of all mystery, it is no
longer properly a matter of faith ; it is strictly a sub-
ject of knowledge. Those, therefore, who hold this
sentiment, may well dispense with being called be-
lievers.

* * * The Unitarian error, that there is but one per-
son in the Godhead, may seem much less mysterious,
than the opposite truth of the Trinity ; and the case
may be similar in numberless instances. But because
things are easy to be understood, are we therefore to
believe them to be true ? — or because the opposite
doctrines are more difficult to comprehend, are we
therefore to believe them to be false ? No, most as-
suredly. The easiness of a doctrine is no certain evi-
dence of its truth ; the mysteriousness of a doctrine is
no certain evidence of its falsity. This is important
to be settled in the mind as a salutary caution against
the delusive speciousness of error. ' To the law and
to the testimony, if they speak not according to this
word, it is because there is no light in them.' "

At the opening of the year 1811, Dr. Worcester
preached a discourse to his people, occasioned by the
establishment of the First Universalist Society in Sa-
lem. As his " Six Sermons on Future Punishment,"
were delivered at the time he began to enlist himself
in the objects of the Massachusetts Missionary So-
ciety ; so now at the commencement of his labors as
Secretary of the A. B. C. F. M., he lifted up his voice



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 205

against the same impipus device of error, delusion,
and corruption, which, twelve years before, had so
disturbed his ministry, and afflicted his heart. He
could not hold his peace, unpopular as might be the
effect. His discourse was much approved by his con-
gregation, and was soon afterwards published, under
the title of " God a Rewarder." Heb. xi. 6.

" The plain doctrine of the text is this : There can

BE NO TRUE RELIGION, WITHOUT A BELIEF IN GoD, AS

A REWARDER OF THE TRULY PIOUS. * * * In God's be-
ing A REWARDER of the truly pious, it is implied,
(1.) That he regards them with complacency ; (2.)
That he is disposed to let his complacency in them
be known ; (3.) That he will eventually make a visi-
ble and public distinction, between them and the
wicked." In the second part of the subject, as divid-
ed, it was shown, that " there can be no true religion,
without a belief in this part of the divine character,"
because " (1.) There can be no true acknowledgment
of the divine perfections; (2.) There can be no right
affections, or feelings of heart towards God ; (3.) There
can be no true compliance with any of his require-
ments." — Hence, " (1.) The doctrine of future punish-
ment is a fundamental article of true religion ; (2.) A
denial of future punishment is virtually a denial of
the probationary state, — (3.) A denial of the wisdom,
the goodness, and the equity of divine providence, —
(4.) A denial of the Gospel, — (5.) A denial of the
moral perfections of God. (6.) That religion which is
founded on a denial of a future punishment, is a false
religion. (7.) That religion which pretends to be
Scriptural, and yet is founded on a denial of future
punishment, is worse than Deism, worse than Pagan-
ism."

VOL. II. 18



206 MEMOIR OF

Upon each of these points, the argument burns like
a furnace. And as the " Improvement" advances, the
fire blazes with augmented intensity. — " Those who
deny future punishment, make this denial not only a
part of their theory, but the very foundation of their
religion ; and conformably to it, they shape their whole
system : their notions of God, of his Law, and of his
Gospel, of holiness and of sin, of the present world
and of the future. And as the foundation is false, the
superstructure throughout is false."

" Their views of the character of God are false.
Instead of a being of infinite holiness, justice, good-
ness, and truth ; they make him a being devoid of all
these glorious perfections. Their views of the law of
God are false. Instead of a perfect law of rectitude ;
they make it a law unreasonable in its precepts, and
unrighteous and cruel in its sanctions. Their views
of the providence of God are false. They make it a
providence without wisdom, without goodness, and
without equity. Their views of holiness and of sin
are false : for according to them, between holiness and
sin, there is no very essential or important difference ;
surely no such difference, that there should be a re-
ward for the one, or a punishment for the other, be-
yond the present state. Their views of the Gospel
are false. Instead of a ' doctrine according to godli-
ness,' which holds out salvation with eternal glory, to
all who truly repent and believe, and damnation with
everlasting infamy, to the impenitent and unbelieving ;
they make it an unholy and unjust proclamation of
exemption from punishment, of liberty in sin, and of
eternal felicity to the wicked as well as to the right-
eous. Their Adews of the present state of mankind
are false. Instead of a state of probation, with refer-
ence to future rewards and punishments ; they make
it a scene of darkness and confusion, without any wise
design, or benevolent end. Their views of the world
to come are false. Instead of a world of glorious, and



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 207

of dreadful retribution, respectively to the righteous
and to the wicked ; they make it a state where all
mankind, the bad as well as the good, shall be happy,
for what reason, or by what means, we know not.
Their boasted love to God and men is false ; their
faith is false ; their hopes are false ; their joys are false.
And when 'judgment shall be laid to the line, and
righteousness to the plummet, the hail shall sweep
away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow
the hiding place ; and their covenant with death shall
be disannulled, and their agreement with hell shall
not stand.'

As the whole system, in all its principles and in all
its parts, is false ; so it is maintained and promoted,
by means of falsehood. It is maintained and promot-
ed by forced and false constructions of the Scriptures,
and by deceptive and false representations of God
and of man, of heaven and of hell, and of every thing
pertaining to the Scriptures ; in a word, ' by the sleight
of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in
wait to deceive.'

* * * That religion which pretends to be Scriptural,
and yet is founded on a denial of future punishment,
is worse than Deism, is worse than Paganism : worse
as it evinces greater hardiness of depravity ; worse, as
it is more dangerous for those who embrace it ; and
worse as it is more pernicious in its influence on so-
ciety.

Do the deist and the pagan set aside the evidences
of revelation, and deny that the Scriptures are from
God ? This, to be sure, is much : but is it not still
more for men, who acknowledge the Scriptures to be
the word of God, yet boldly to set aside their whole
design, and deny their plainest and most important
truths ? Do the deist and the pagan, without regard
to the Scriptures, frame notions of God, and of relig-
ion, according to their vain imaginations ? This also
is much : but is it not still more for men, with the
Bible in their hands, to frame notions of God, and of
religion, according to their vain imaginations, and
presumptuously to palm their fallacious notions upon



208 MEMOIR OF

the ignorant and unwary, as the truths of inspiration ?
The deist and the pagan, indeed, go aside from God,
and do much to dishonor his holy name; but those
who pretend to hold the Scriptures, and yet deny
future punishment, go directly in the face of God ;
and while they strip him of his glory, and demolish
the whole system of his truth, have the audacious
hardiness to call upon him to sanction the impious
work I

This false religion is also more dangerous than
deism or paganism, for those who embrace it. It is
more dangerous, because it is more desperately affront-
ing to God ; and is, therefore, of greater turpitude and
criminality. But this is not all. It is, beyond all
others, a strong delusion. It pretends to higher au-
thority, than either deism or paganism ; and, in its
nature, is more suited to seduce and beguile the
hearts of men, and to hold them fast in its direful en-
chantment. Under the pretended authority of Heaven,
it promises exemption from punishment, and a future
state of happiness to all men, as matters of absolute
certainty. This is more than deism or paganism has
ventured to do ; and, than this, nothing can be more
seductive or dangerous, to those who love to be de-
ceived.

Nor less evident is it, that this false religion is more
pernicious, than either deism or paganism, in its influ-
ence on society. The deist is not certain, whether his
God is a rewarder of the virtuous and a punisher of
the vicious, or not. The pagan believes that his god,
or gods, will reward the good, and punish the bad.
Both in deism and in paganism, therefore, there is
something to impress a dread of what may be hereaf-
ter, and to hold the evil propensities and passions of
men in check. Not so in this false religion, which
pretends to have the Scriptures for its support. It
impresses upon its believers no dread of what may be
hereafter ; and lays no restraint on their evil propensi-
ties and passions. On the contrary, as it 'promises
them life, though they walk in the imagination of
their own hearts ;' it throws off, so far as- it has influ-



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 209

ence, all restraint, and gives unbounded licence to



Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Melancthon) WorcesterThe life and Labors of Rev. Samuel Worcester, D.D.; former pastor of the Tabernacle church, Salem, Mass → online text (page 17 of 42)