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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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 28 of 42)
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* When Andrew Fuller was ready to give the whole influence of his
mind and exalted character to the plans of Carey, — he wrote his great work,
" The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems examined and compared, as to their
Moral Tendency ; in a Series of Letters addressed to the Friends of Vital
and Practical Religion." 1792.

Another coincidence. The evangelical movement in Geneva, the city of
Calvin — in opposition to the Arian and Socinian pastors, who had acquired
place and emoluments in the Swiss churches, hy the concealment of their
real opinions, — was undertaken in 1815 ; and so far as known, with an en-
tire unconsciousness of the movement in the city of our Puritan fathers !
See Correspondence, N. Y. Observer, April, 1S4S.

VOL. II. 28*



330 MEMOIR OF

excitement was that of sorrow and not of anger. He
could not have said at any moment, or for any pur-
pose, — " / could dip my pen in galW His aroused
feelings were so controlled, that his calm and dispas-
sionate manner of discussion presented a striking con-
trast to the incensed vehemence of Dr, Channing,
There was a frankness and ingenuousness, an up-
rightness and magnanimity, in joining issue with his
opponent, which could not escape the notice, or be
denied the admiration of very many, whose sympa-
thies were not with him. Nothing was evaded, and
nothing relevant was omitted. No artifice of any
kind was indulged. No false issues were introduced.
There was not a line of misrepresentation, through in-
advertence or any other cause. Not a word was writ-
ten for popular effect. All the annals of controversy
might be challenged for an example of a more manly,
more conclusive, and more honorable refutation of the
arguments of an opponent, than the Letters of Dr.
Worcester to Dr. Channing.

The suggestion may not be unseasonable, that, at
the commencement of the Controversy, the main ques-
tion did not relate to the truth or error of Trinitarian
sentiments ; but it was to be decided, whether there
were clergymen of the Congregational order, that
were Unitarians at heart and in general influence ;
and whether this being a fact, it was the duty of the
Orthodox Congregationalists to separate from them,
and to withhold fellowship from all, who did not
avowedly recognize as their faith, the great doctrines
of the evangelical system.

" Rev. and dear Sir, —

I have read your letter to your friend and brother,
the Rev. Samuel C. Thatcher, with some pleasure, and



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 331

with much regret. The causes of the one and of the
other will in part be laid open in the subsequent re-
marks, which I have thought proper to address in the
form of a letter to you. I need make no apology :
the subject is deeply and extensively interesting; and
involves considerations of infinite moment to the gen-
eral cause, to which you and I profess to be sacredly
devoted. Nor shall I make any professions of candor,
or charity : for I have been taught by the best of
books, that ' charity vaunteth not itself, doth not be-
have itself unseemly ;' from other books I have learned,
that high professions too often serve to cover a temper
very different from that which ' is not easily provoked,'
but ' suffereth long and is kind ;' and I am thoroughly
convinced, that persons who have the greatest confi-
dence in their good dispositions, do not always know
' what manner of spirit they are of.'

I wish it to be understood, distinctly, that I have no
connection, or privity in this business, with the writer
of the Review, which is the subject of your strictures.
I write not in his behalf; but in behalf of the general
interests of truth, and justice, and mercy. He proba-
bly will answer for himiself ; and to him I shall leave
the particular vindication of himself, his statements
and conclusions, his spirit and style : a labor which
does not belong to me, and Vv^hich I should be less dis-
inclined to undertake, were the Review in all respects
exactly such as I could wish it to have been. It
might perhaps have been better, had the E^eviewer
been less intent on exciting those whose cause he
espouses, and consulted more the conviction and
benefit of those against whom his animadversions are
directed.

With what justice, and to what extent, a similar
remark might be applied to your Letter, you, my dear
Sir, and your friends will consider. It cannot, how-
ever, but be regretted, that you should have found it
necessary to sit down to write, while ' breathing an
atmosphere to which you were not accustomed ;'
while perturbed with the feelings, which, in spite of
all^your efforts to restrain them, are so copiously in-



332 MEMOIR OP

fused into the entire body of your Letter. But all
reasonable allowance should be made for the urgency
of the case. Had you waited till the excitement had
subsided, your opportunity for preventing or counter-
acting the impressions which the Review was likely
to make, might have been lost. I frankly confess,
that a similar reason has induced me to avail myself
of the earliest remission of other pressing calls of duty,
for bestowing some attention on your subject. Could
you, however, have waited till the cool of the day,
though probably your Letter would have been less
animated, and less adapted to a particular purpose, it
would not, I am persuaded, have displayed less of the
meekness of wisdom, or been less correct in its repre-
sentations.

You bring, dear Sir, against the Reviewer an accu-
sation of '■falsehood:^ an accusation certainly of no
trivial kind, and never to be lightly preferred against
any one. ' The Review,' you say, ' asserts, 1. That
the ministers of this town [Boston] and its vicinity
and the great body of liberal Christians are Unitarians,
in Mr. Belsham's sense of the word. 2. That these
ministers and liberal Christians are guilty of hypocriti-
cal concealment of their sentiments, and behave in a
base, cowardly, and hypocritical manner.' In these
two assertions, especially in the first of them, it should
seem, lies the alleged falsehood of the Reviewer.
These also make the first two heads of your Letter.
The 3d is this : ' Christians are called to come out
and separate themselves from these ministers and the
liberal body of Christians, and to withhold from them
christian communion.' Under these three heads, in
their order, the remarks, which I have to submit to
your consideration, will chiefly be arranged."

" One other passage, under this head, remains to be
considered : — ' The liberal party mutilate the New
Testament, reject nearly all the fundamental doctrines
of the Gospelj and degrade the Savior to the condition
of a fallible, peccable, and ignorant man.' This is the



SAMUEL WORCESTER.



343



last of the three passages which you have cited to
show that the ' Review asserts, that the ministers of
Boston and the vicinity, and the great body of liberal
Christians, are Unitarians, in Mr. Belsham's sense of
the word,' and upon which you ground your principal
accusation of falsehood. But is it here asserted, that
all the individuals of the liberal party actually do the
things, and all of them, which the party is said to do ?
•Is this a fair interpretation of the passage? Or if it
admits of this, does it fairly admit of no other ?

The apostles. Sir, as you very well know, repeated-
ly charge the Jewish rulers and people, generally, even
' the great body ' of the nation, with having ' crucified
and slain the Lord of life and glory.' Yet, as you also
know, but a very small part of that great body actual-
ly imbrued their hands in his blood. But some of
them did ; and of the rest, some more, and others less
directly, consented to the deed. Hence they were
generally involved in the guilt, and brought under the
charge ; and upon the great body, eventually, ' wrath
came to the uttermost.' Such was the judgment of
the apostles, and such the judgment of Him, whose
throne is established in righteousness. — And, Sir,
if among the liberal party, the things charged by
the Reviewer are done ; if some of the party do ac-
tually ' mutilate the New Testament, reject nearly all
the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, and degrade
the Savior to the condition of a fallible, peccable, and
ignorant man,' — and of the rest, some more, and others
less directly, consent to all this ; if, as a party, or as
individuals of the party, they bear no decided testimo-
ny against these deeds, and do nothing effectually to
secure, or to purge themselves from the guilt of them ;
then, is it not true, and right, and proper to say- of the
party generally, that they do these things ? And will
they not generally, with all who adhere to them, be
held to answer for them at the bar of the righteous
Judge ?

But are not these things done ? — I tremble, my dear
Sir, while I put this question to your conscience, —
tremble, not because I feel that lam doing wrong;



334 MEMOIR OF

but because T consider it a question of infinite solem-
nity. — It surely will not be denied, that ' the New Tes-
tament is mutilated ; ' — it will not be denied, the ' Sa-
vior is degraded to the condition of a fallible, pecca-
ble, and ignorant man ; ' — nor should it any more be
denied, that ' nearly all the fundamental doctrines of
the Gospel are rejected.' I do believe you will your-
self admit, that nearly all the doctrines are rejected,
which, by the venerable founders of the New England
churches, were held as fundamental ; — which the great
body of the Protestant churches, since the Reforma-
tion, have held as fundamental.

How great a proportion of the liberal party actually
do all this, and to how great an extent the rest of them
consent to it, I would be devoutly thankful, that I am
not particularly concerned to determine. But I must
seriously ask, whether, from the representations made
in your Letter, were there no other means of judging
in the case, there would not be most fearful reason to
apprehend, that you and your liberal brethren, gener-
ally, have done but very little, to secure yourselves
from the general charge, or, I must add, to purge your-
selves from the general guilt ? — It grieves me, dear Sir,
to state, that in your Letter, you tell us, in so many
words, that ' to believe with Mr. Belsham is no crime ; '
— ^by which I understand, no sin, — no offence against
God — against Christ — against the Gospel — against
the cause and kingdom of truth and holiness. — No sin
— no offence, to hold Christ to have been no more than
* a fallible, peccable, and ignorant man ; ' — to discard
those parts of the New Testament which assert his
pre-existence, his miraculous conception, his divinity,
and his atonement, as either spurious, erroneous, or
extravagantly hyperbolical ; — to deny that his death
was an expiatory sacrifice for sin, that ' we owe him
any gratitude for the benefits which we are now re-
ceiving,' that 'we have any reason to hope for his fu-
ture interposition ; ' — to deny the inspiration of the
Scriptures, generally, and reject all the fundamental,
all the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel! — You are also
most studiously careful, most exquisitely tender, lest



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 335

any ' statement you make should be considered, as
casting the least reproach on those amongst us, who
believe in the simple humanity of Jesus Christ;' and,
of course, agree with Mr. Belsham, if not in all, yet
certainly in the most material articles of his creed. —
Most studiously careful, most exquisitely tender, lest
you should wound their feelings, abridge their influ-
ence, or hinder their success in propagating their sen-
timents! And from other parts of your Letter, it
would seem that such has been the uniform feeling,
and conformable to it the uniform practice, not only of
yourself, but of your liberal brethren in general.

Now, Sir, if such is the real fact, however small a
proportion of the liberal party those may be, who ac-
tually do the things in question ; yet is it not perfectly
correct to say, generally, that the liberal party do them ?
And if so, where is the foundation for the serious
charge of falsehood, so vehemently urged against the
Reviewer ? "

The unreasonableness an(f absurdity of the claims
of Dr. Channing, in respect to fellowship with Ortho-
dox churches, are irrefutably exposed.

* * " The Orthodox churches must give up their
creeds and covenants, their psalms and hymns and
doxologies ; must cease to insist on, as important, the
great doctrines which they now hold to be fundamen-
tal and essential to the Christian faith ; must exclude
from their pulpits all mysterious and all controverted
doctrines, — all that are not included in what is fash-
ionably called liberal or rational Christianity ; must
consent, in a word, to have their preaching and wor-
ship conducted on such principles, and in such a man-
ner as will not disturb the minds of liberal Christians,
or Unitarians of any class ! — Is not this. Sir, precise-
ly the way most distinctly marked out, and most stren-
uously insisted on, in your periodical publications, in
your ordination sermons, and in all your discourses
and conversations on this subject ? If the Orthodox
ministers and churches will only consent to all this, the



833 MEMOIR OF

thing is done ; all will be love, and peace, and fellow-
ship. That is, if they will consent to yield up as un-
scriptural or unimportant the doctrines of faith and the
principles of worship, which they now hold most es-
sential to Christian character, devotion, and practice,
— to hold it 'no crime to believe as Mr. Belsham be-
lieves,' and to worship as he worships ; and thus cease
to be Orthodox, or in any respect materially different
from those called liberal Christians ; all the difficulty
will be removed, and the way will be open and easy
for an established and permanent fellowship, between
them and Unitarians of all degrees. — Yes, Sir ; and if
Unitarians would cease to be Unitarians, and become
Orthodox Christians, the way would be equally unob-
structed." *

!^ Tf ^ W TV W

" Your last assumption which I shall particularly
consider is this : — That it can be only from a bigoted,
uncharitable, and malignant spirit, — a ' proud, censo-
rious and overbearing temper,' that a separation can
be proposed. — In this, as well as in what you say on
the subject of schism and heresy, you seem to forget
that your liberal brethren in England have not only
proposed a separation, but have actually carried the
proposition into effect ; and that your heavy charges
against your opponents here, recoil with all their force
upon your trans- Atlantic friends. This, however, is
no concern of ours.

We have been, my dear Sir, so long accustomed to
hear the vehement charges of uncharitableness, illiber-
ality, and bigotry, vociferated against us from your

*'' But here lies the difficulty. The Orthodox ministers and churches
will not consent thus to yield up their faith and their worship ; and from the
earnfest and abundant labor and pains which you and your liberal brethrea
have employed, to bring them to these terms, it is manifest that, unless they
will consent, you do not yourselves suppose there can be fellowship between
you and them. Because they do not consent, you continually charge them
with being bigoted, illiberal, uncharitable ; and now seem disi)osed to charge
them even with schism and heresy. But, Sir, if on account of their stead-
fast adherence to their faith and worship, a separation and non-fellowship
ensue, does it not deeply concern you, as well as them, very seriously to
consider on which side the guilt will lie ? "



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 347

quarter, that we have ceased to be greatly disquieted by
them. We ' hear the angry thunder murmur at a dis-
tance, with as little concern as if it were the thunder of
the Pope, from whom it seems indeed to be borrowed.'
The reason of these charges has been explained in the
foregoing remarks. Your modesty and consistency
in them are notable. You set out with asserting, that
religion consists in charity ; in charity, to be sure, in
your own sense of the word ; you then claim all this
same charity as belonging to yourselves, and allow
none of it to us ; and thus, in effect, you deny that we
have true religion. Yet the very reason why we are
thus ' denounced' as destitute of charity is, that we do
not, as you allege, allow the genuineness of your reli-
gion. You may then deny the genuineness of our re-
ligion, and yet be most charitable ; but if we entertain
any doubt of the genuineness of yours, we must be ut-
terly destitute of charity I " *

* * " You will certainly agree with me, that what-
ever tends directly to the maintenance and promotion
of truth, cannot be incompatible with love to God, or
love to men. Jesus Christ came into the world to bear
witness to the truth. His apostles were appointed to
be witnesses to the truth ; which they were to propa-
gate at every hazard, and which they, like their divine
Master, finally sealed with their blood. His church

* " There is no word more abused than charity. Its Scriptural meaning-,
as you very well know, is love ; holy love to God and men ; that love which
is ' the end of the commandment ' and ' the fulfilling of the law.' Tn this
sense it is indeed the essence — the sum of religion. Is it then a violation of
the great law of love, for the friends of truth to decline communion with its
rejecters? — We have nothing to do here with slight diversities of opinion;
with differences about modes, or forms, or inconsiderable points of faith or
practice. Our concern is with differences of a radical and fundamental na-
ture ; such as exists between Orthodox Christians and Unitarians of all de-
grees, even down to the creed of Mr. Belsham ; for to this point you have
yourself fairly reduced the present question. — Yes, Sir, the simple point here
at issue is, Whether it be a violation of the law of love, for believers in the
true Gospel of Jesus Christ, to separate from believers in another and an op-
posite Gospel ? If yours is the true Gospel, then ours is another; if ours i8
the true Gospel, then yours is another. In either case, the great question,
respecting fellowship, remains the same."

VOL. II. 29



338 MEMOIR OP

was established to be the ' pillar and ground of the
truth.' The great design of the Christian ministry in
all ages is, to maintain and promote the truth. It is
by means of the truth, that the glory of God is ad-
vanced in the world ; and that mankind are guided
into the way of peace, and sanctified for the kingdom
of immortal glory. Love to God and men then re-
quires, as a duty of primary obligation, that the church-
es of Christ, the ministers of the Gospel, and all Chris-
tians should do what they can for the promotion of
truth.

We advance then to another question : — Would it
conduce more to the promotion of truth for the believ-
ers in the true Gospel, to hold fellowship with the be-
lievers in another Gospel, than to separate from
them." *

* * " ' Whatsoever maketh manifest is light.^
Would not the separation in question make manifest ?
Would it not serve to hold up the distinguishing truths

*'' We have seen in wlitat way only this fellowship can be maintained.
If it is lo be maintained, the principal doctrines of the Gospel must cease la
be clearly preached ; divine worship must cease to be conducted on princi-
ples distinguishingly Christian ; every principle or truth which is controvert-
ed, must be yieldeei up, as no longer to be urged or defended ; and the
friends of truth must conform to the abettors of error. All this must take
place to a degree proportionate to the extension and closeness of the fellow-
ship. — But, is this. Sir, the way to maintain and promote the truth in the
church and in the world ? Is it not rather the way to extinguish at once the
light of the ministry, the light of the church, the hght of the Gospel ? to throw
back the children of light into darkness and the shadow of death, and to leave
the prince of darkness to triumph in an unlimited and undisturbed empire?
Would not the first and most certain effect be, the general prevalence of the
opinion and the feeling, — already, alas ! too prevalent, — that truth is not worth
contending for, that the great doctrines of the Gospel are of very Ihlle im-
portance ? What then would be the consequence ? Show me the man who
cheri:*hes this opinion, this feeling, and I will show you one, who, far from
going lo the cross or lo the stake, like the apostles and the host of holy mar-
tyrs, will make no sacrifice, no exertion, for the spread or the support of the
trulh ; nay, one, who is all already himself bound hand and foot with the
silken colds of error, and whose ' deceived heart hath turned him aside, that
he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ? '
And let this opinion and feeling generally prevail, and where shall we find
those who will be ' valiant for the truth upon the earth I ' "



SAMUEL WORCESTER. 339

of the Gospel, and to show their importance, to the
greatest advantage and with the best effects ? Would
it not not tend to wake up the slumbering multitude,
to excite them to earnest and serious inquiry, and to
prevent their perishing for lack of knowledge, 'fast by
the oracle of God ? '

Is it then certain, that a proposal, that even an earn-
est call for this, can only proceed from a 'malignant,
proud, and censorious spirit ? ' Is it certain, that such
a proposal or call might not proceed from the same
spirit of holy charity, which ruled the hearts and fired
the zeal of the apostles and faithful brethren of the
primitive times, and of the distinguished ministers
and confessors of the Reformation ? the spirit which
achieved such wonders for the honor of Christ and the
salvation of men ; but which in those illustrious peri-
ods, as it has been in all succeeding ages, was violently
denounced, as the spirit of fanaticism, malignity, and
pride.

Far be it from me to stand forth the advocate of a
violent ' system of denunciation and exclusion,' or of
rash, disorderly, or uncharitable measures. I am fully
aware that there is danger, great danger on this hand.
And did it belong to me to assume prelatical dignity,
and like you to give, ex cathedra ' admonitions ' to my
brethren, the sum of my advice and exhortations should
be, Brethren, ' let all things be done decently and in
order;' — 'let all your things be done with charity.' —
The spirit of Christianity is not to be violated ; the
rules of the Gospel are not to be disregarded; the vastly
interesting considerations, belonging to the subject on
ihe, one side and on the other, are not to be treated
with lightness."

The spirit of the whole letter is the same which an-
imates j:he concluding passages. What could be more
felicitous than his figure of " heaven-born Charity,
weeping and lamenting ! "

* * " The differences which exist between the
Unitarians and the Orthodox Christians are certainly



340 MExMOIR OP

of a nature, to demand the most serious and earnest
attention. They concern; most directly and essential-
ly, the glory of God, the honor of the Savior, the wel-
fare of the church, and the salvation of men. Jn com-
parison with these, the differences between Dissenters
and Episcopalians, between Pedobaptists and Anti-
pedobaptists, are matters of mere feature and complex-
ion. Utterly in vain is the attempt to put these differ-
ences out of sight, to conceal their magnitude and
momentous consequences ; or by a raised cry of big-
otry, illiberality, and intolerance, to divert the public
attention from them. They must and will be fearlessly
discussed and seriously considered ; and ministers and
churches, professed Christians and all others, must and
will be brought to the solemn decision, — whether they
will be for Christ or against him, — whether they will
receive and hold fast his truth, or despise and reject
it, — whether they will bow to his authority and trust
in his grace, or refuse to have him to reign over them
and contemn his salvation.

In the mean time. Charity, heaven-born Charity,
must be allowed to weep and lament over the inroads
of error and the desolations of Zion. Yes, Sir, charm-
ed not at all with the so loudly chaunted praises of
increased 'light,' — abashed not at all by the disdainful
sneers at imputed fanaticism, — she will weep — that
her adored Lord is denied his divine honors, in the
beloved city of our solemnities, where our fathers saw
his glory, and delighted to celebrate his wonderful



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 28 of 42)