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ART. I. The works of Nathanael Emmons, D. D. late Pastor of the Church in Franklin, Mass., witha Memoir of his life. Edited by Jacob Ide, D. D. Boston: Crocker & Brewster. 1842. Six volumes, 8vo.
EMMONISM, Or Emmonsism, for the names are equally barbarous, denotes a theological system which took its name, if not its origin, in New England, during the latter half of the last century, and which may be regarded as a monstrous growth from the trunk of Calvinism; such, that if let alone, the supplanting fungus would leave at length no grace in the parent trunk. Or, if critics will allow us still further to mingle our metaphors, it is a frightful child of a comely parent, with just enough of the family likeness to make one avert the face in dread. Its great leading features are so repugnant to universal feeling, reason, and scripture, that, after having agitated for one generation the clergy of Connecticut, and vexed the souls of simple Christians, after having driven some to distraction and others to infidelity, it was in a fair way of dying a natural death, after bequeathing its least horrible but most seductive qualities to New Haven, when an attempt at revivification is made, in the shape of
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a new and very beautiful edition in six volumes, with a dull biography by the Rev. Dr. Ide, and a very sprightly addendum to the same by Professor Park, of Andover. Of the latter we will say, that a more readable production we have seldom seen. The author meant it to please youthful hearers and readers, and he has succeeded. He meant to leave it uncertain on which side of the great theological question his opinion lay, and he has done so; in this being in signal contrast to old Dr. Emmons, who never went about in regard to an opinion, but let his readers know at the first dash the very worst of his dreadful creed. But the Professor's treatise is rich in matter, and could have been written by none but a man of genius, a wit, and a New Englander.
At our distance from the sphere of Dr. Emmons's great influence, we have always been filled with surprise at the awe with which his name has been mentioned, and the comic dread with which his dogmatic chair has been approached, and we opened volume after volume of the work now before us, in hopes of finding some new revelation of his doctrine, or some more thorough explanation of its great power in the past generation of Massachusetts and Connecticut ministers. But we are disappointed. There is little here that has not been printed before, and the body of the ponderous work is eked out with a species of theological and homiletical literature, such as our knowledge of books cannot pretend to match. The sermons in the first and second volumes are entirely occasional,' to employ a phrase familiar in the east; those in the third are about as exclusively funeral sermons; all indeed having marks of the great hand of their author, who could not have written a note to his blacksmith but in the clearest, tersest, concisest manner; but none of them bearing any great relation to his creed, and few of them demanding preservation. The excellent editor, with much naiveté, tells us that "the materials for ten volumes, as valuable as those with which these six are composed," are in his hands; we can believe it, even if for ten we should read twenty. Emmonsists, in the proper sense, would enshrine as a relic the shoe-latchet of their father; these we believe, however, to be few, feeble, and decreasing. Yet around the darkness produced by the hideous eclipse, there was a penumbra, which includes we fear a large number of those who call themselves the Calvinistic divines of New England; and who, having receiv
ed their first views of anti-Arminian doctrine in the shape of the old fashioned new divinity,' have mistaken the reverse of wrong for right, and, whether for good or evil, never see the face of Calvinism but under the gorgon mask. As Calvinists, therefore, we take no pleasure in the reproduction of this system. We have already suffered by it, as one would suffer who is burnt in an exaggerated effigy. We disclaim its aids. If Arminianism is to be destroyed only by such allies, let Arminianism flourish. What new discoveries does the Calvinistic student find in Dr. Emmons? He finds, first, that God is the efficient cause of sin; that "God can make men act right freely, and act wrong freely;" that "he is now exercising his powerful and irresistible agency upon the heart of every one of the human race, and producing either holy or unholy exercises in it." He finds the fall of Adam cleared of all mystery, since "God wrought in Adam both to will and to do in his first transgression." He finds that man has natural power to frustrate the decrees of God. He finds, contrary to scripture and to Calvinism, that "all sin consists in the free, voluntary exercise of selfishness." He finds that "if infants die before they become moral agents, it is most rational to conclude that they are annihilated. He finds that conscience is "entirely distinct from the heart, and every other power of the mind," and, in the human body, "that conscience is seated in the breast." He finds that "the Spirit of God, in regeneration, produces nothing but love;" and that the order of the Christian graces is reversed, being this, Love, Repentance, Faith. He finds too that the sinner is bound to be willing to be damned; and that after all this "believers, at the time of their justification, are only partially and conditionally forgiven." Such is Emmonism. To say that it is not Calvinism, is only to say that black is not white, or that preposterous and exorbitant absurdity is not scriptural wisdom.
Believing in our souls that the tendency of the scheme called Emmonism, is evil and only evil, seeing its results in the Pelagianism of Professors Fitch and Taylor, who have whitewashed and re-erected its least hateful parts, and the desolations wrought even among good men by its exhausting, parching, attenuating influence, and especially knowing and feeling that its whole spirit and tone are diametrically opposed to the scriptures, so much as to be not so much a different scheme, as a different religion, when fairly acted