The GOSPEL TRUTH
A GENETIC HISTORY OF THE
NEW ENGLAND THEOLOGY
FRANK HUGH FOSTER
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
CHAPTER I: The First Century In New England, 1620-1720JONATHAN EDWARDS
CHAPTER II: Edwards' Earlier Labors
CHAPTER III: The Treatise On The Freedom Of The Will
CHAPTER IV: Edwards' Remaining Metaphysical TreatisesEDWARDS' CONTEMPORARIES AND COLABORERS
CHAPTER V: Joseph Bellamy
CHAPTER VI: Samuel Hopkins
CHAPTER VII: Hopkins' System Of TheologyTHE DEVELOPING SCHOOL
CHAPTER VIII: Eschatology And Atonement
CHAPTER IX: The Development Of The Theory Of The WillTHE GREAT CONTROVERSIES
CHAPTER X: The Unitarian Controversy
CHAPTER XI: The Universalist Controversy Concluded
CHAPTER XII: The Systems Of Theology, 1800-1840THE RIPENED PRODUCT
CHAPTER XIII: Nathaniel W. Taylor I. THE CONTROVERSY WITH HARVEY
II. THE CONTROVERSY WITH WOODS
III. THE CONTROVERSY WITH TYLER
CHAPTER XIV: The Later New Haven Theology
CHAPTER XV: The New School In Presbyterianism
CHAPTER XVI: The Oberlin Theology
CHAPTER XVII: Edwards A. Park
The following work--suggested by the professional obligations of a professor of church history; continued and at last completed under a sense of pious duty toward the great men who toiled to hand down to their posterity an undiminished and perfected system of doctrinal truth; necessarily the fruit of long labors, interrupted by other engagements, but resumed and completed when opportunity has offered--is now presented to the public. It has been written directly from the sources. The selection of material has been determined by the purpose to write a genetic history, and not a mere record of opinions, however interesting they might be in themselves. By the aid of great libraries, above all that of Harvard University, from which I have received hundreds of tracts for examination, but also of that in the Congregational House, of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Athenaeum, the Boston Public Library, and the libraries in Union Theological Seminary, New York, in Oberlin and Olivet Colleges, and in Andover and Pacific Theological Seminaries, it has been possible to examine all the important sources. Acknowledgments are hereby made to the publishers of the American Journal of Theology and of the Bibliotheca Sacra for permission to use matter which had already appeared in their pages. There have been no predecessors in this particular line of study of our theology from whom I could draw; but I take the opportunity to acknowledge my indebtedness to the late Professors Gottfried Thomasius, of Erlangen, for my conception of historical method, and Edwards A. Park, of Andover, for much help of a historical character, both personal and through his historical writings, as well as for the dogmatic point of view of the whole period. Professor George P. Fisher has afforded a splendid example of scientific treatment of our theology in his historical articles, by which he became the pioneer and unsurpassed chief of American dogmatic history. And to ease and success in discovering and handling the vast apparatus which has passed under my eye, the marvelous bibliography of the great historian of Congregational polity, Dr. Henry M. Dexter, has contributed indispensable aid. Some considerable additions to Dr. Dexter's lists will be found in the notes to the following text.
Descendant of Puritan and Pilgrim as I am, born and baptized in one of our most ancient Massachusetts churches, trained at our oldest university, and taught my profession at the center of intensest interest in "the New England theology," it would be strange if I had not begun this history with a feeling of the warmest appreciation of our New England Fathers and a conviction that they had originated a school destined, under whatever changes, to the exercise of a long-extended influence. These sentiments are reflected upon the earlier pages of the book in many a phrase which I have left standing. With the progress of the work my point of view and my feeling have changed together. The final historical review of the whole period has made me a critic of the school and its work, and led me to the perception of a fact that was long hidden from me--that it was not without reason that a strong reaction set in against this theology about the year 1880. I find myself no longer reckonable to its adherents. But all the more does it seem to me important to learn from this great movement the lessons it has to teach the present time and all the future, to appropriate its good and to avoid its evil. And, certainly, no American theological scholar can claim to understand the course of religious thought among us, who has not made himself familiar with this greatest indigenous school of American theology.
The chief peculiarity of the style of the book is the large use made of quotation from the authors discussed. My object has been, not merely to secure thereby the true objectivity of the report I have given, but also, in the certainty that very few of my readers will have access to the originals, to give them an acquaintance at first hand, though brief, with these pioneers and fathers of our theology.
So I send out the book; and to the historian's commendation I add the dogmatician's exhortation: Prove all things; hold fast that which is true.
F. H. F.
Rise of a school of theology in southwestern New England. Influence upon America. Place in the course of the world's thought. A result of life. Pursued the same cycle as other movements elsewhere. A homogeneous school. A microcosm. The history to be genetic. General view.
CHAPTER I. The First Century in New England, 1620-1720
John Robinson. Harmony with the common Calvinism of his day. The Puritans. William Pynchon's book. Norton's reply. Pynchon's rejoinder. Essentially a protest, not constructive. Systems of divinity in these early days. Anne Hutchinson. Her exaggerations of Calvinism. Confusion upon the nature of faith. Degeneration of the churches. Depressing preaching. The doctrine of inability to repent. Half-Way Covenant. Further decline. Solomon Stoddard and the Lord's Supper. Unconverted ministry.
CHAPTER II. Edwards' Earlier Labors
Edwards the man for his times. Early intellectual history. His Calvinism. Personal qualifications for the problem before him. Beginning of his ministry. Boston sermon in 1731. Sermons on Justification in 1734. Edwards' conception of his task. Holds to inability. Treatise on the Religious Affections. Witness of the Spirit. Place of Christian Experience. Qualifications for Communion.
CHAPTER III. The Treatise on the Freedom of the Will
Edwards' view of the fundamental difficulty of the times. His starting-point in the treatment of the will. Was the motive an efficient cause? Division of the faculties of the mind. Whitby and his theory of the will. Edwards' reply. Relation to Locke. Substance of Edwards' work. Edwards' meaning. Necessity. Ability. Liberty. The reductio ad absurdum. Criticism. Service of the work. Origin of evil. Edwards' place in the history of this doctrine.
CHAPTER IV. Edwards' Remaining Metaphysical Treatises .
John Taylor's Doctrine of Original Sin. Good features of the work. Its true meaning. Various replies to Taylor. Edwards' reply. The argument. Mediate imputation. All sin voluntary. Connection of the race with Adam. Results for New England theology. Edwards' growth as a constructive theologian and controversialist. Dissertation concerning the Mature of True Virtue. Previous history of ethical theory. Cumberland. Hutcheson. Substance of Edwards' work. Relation to the previous thinkers. Summary of Edwards' services to theology.
EDWARDS' CONTEMPORARIES AND CO-LABORERS
CHAPTER V. Joseph Bellamy
Bellamy a pastor. Minor tracts. The True Religion Delineated. Relation to the theory of virtue. Suggestions as to ability. Preaching immediate repentance. Original sin. Election. This not arbitrary. The atonement. Grotius and his theory. Introduction of this theory into New England. Connection of Grotius' thought with Bellamy's view of God's character. Transfer of the theory to the Grotian standpoint. General atonement. Total depravity. Treatise upon the permission of sin. Connected with Edwards' brief treatment of the theme. Philosophy lacking. Optimism. "Sin the necessary means of the greatest good." Moody's attack. Bellamy's Vindication. The question of freedom. Summary. The gain the school has made.
CHAPTER VI. Samuel Hopkins
Difference between Bellamy and Hopkins. Hopkins' first tract upon Sin an Advantage to the Universe. Mayhew's sermons on Striving to Enter the Strait Gate. The answer of his error to be derived from the new theory of virtue. Total depravity the center of the contest. Avoidance of philosophy in the reply. Nothing short of immediate repentance acceptable with God. Controversy with Mills. With William Hart and Moses Hemmenway. The new treatise upon the Nature of Holiness. Hopkins identifies sin with selfishness. Willingness to be damned.
CHAPTER VII. Hopkins' System of Theology
Hopkins' learning. His agreement with the past. Idea of a system. The Scriptures. Order of arguments in proof of the existence of God. Trinity. Greek elements. Modifying ideas of Hopkins' system. Treatment of freedom. Progress upon Edwards. The doctrine of decrees. God's plan. Leibnitzian optimism. Relation of decrees and foreknowledge. Hopkins' supralapsarianism. Original sin. All sin voluntary. Ability and inability. The atonement: objective; Grotian in its view of the relation of God to the sinner; Christ's obedience a part; general. Regeneration. Conversion. Saving faith. Imputation. General estimate of the system.
THE DEVELOPING SCHOOL
CHAPTER VIII. Eschatology and Atonement
Jonathan Edwards the Younger. Introduction of Universalism into America. Relly and John Murray. Huntington's Calvinism Improved. The early interest of the New England school in eschatology. Edwards, Bellamy, Hopkins. Good to arise from eternal punishment. Hopkins' unpopularity. Number of the lost. Success of Murray. Smalley's reply to Rellyanism. Suggestion of a new theory of the atonement. The younger Edwards' sermons introducing the new theory to general acceptance. Stephen West. Charles Chauncy's Salvation of all Men. Edwards' reply. Its relation to the new theory of the atonement. Strong's reply to Huntington. Successive steps in the development of the New England theory of the atonement: Emmons; Griffin; Burge; N. W. Taylor; Finney. Relation of election to the atonement. Artificial elements of the doctrine rejected.
CHAPTER IX. The Development of the Theory of the Will
Early modifications of Edwards. Reception of Edwards' theory. James Dana attacks Edwards' determinism. Stephen West's reply. Driven by Dana to make all efficiency to reside in God. Relation to Hopkins. Dana's rejoinder. Samuel West's reply to Stephen West. First proposal of the threefold division of the faculties of the mind. Good statement of freedom. Presses Edwards hard. Why he received little attention. The younger Edwards replies to Samuel West. Does not accept West's suggestion as to the faculties of the mind. New explanation of the elder Edwards' causation. Edwards removes efficient causation even from God. Emmons and his doctrine of created free volitions. Burton's Essays introduce a new epoch. Threefold division of the faculties of the mind. Burton's necessitarianism. N. W. Taylor. Previous New Haven philosophy. Taylor maintains a true efficiency in second causes. "Power to the contrary." Influence of motives. "Certainty." Relation to Edwards. Upham. Place in American philosophy. The laws of the will. Freedom. Finney: the argument from consciousness. Fairchild and the classification of motives. Samuel Harris as the highest point of this development. Definitions of choice and freedom. How was Taylor's proposal of freedom to be received in Andover? Edwards A. Park. Relation to Edwards. Adopts the explanation of Edwards given by the younger Edwards. Still substantially a supralapsarian. False view of the nature of God. The emphasis of Park really thrown upon freedom. Consequences of this. The dissonance never reconciled in Park's system. The doctrine of freedom sacrificed to that of the divine perfection.
THE GREAT CONTROVERSIES
CHAPTER X. The Unitarian Controversy
The problem before New England theology at the opening of the nineteenth century. Roots of the Unitarian controversy reach back to the beginning of English Protestantism. Change in England from Arminianism to Unitarianism. Emlyn's Humble Inquiry. His real objection to the doctrine of the two natures in Christ. Calvinism had not answered this objection. King's Chapel, Boston, becomes Unitarian. James Freeman. Timothy Dwight. The Hollis professorship at Harvard and Henry Ware. Noah Worcester's Bible News. The year 1815. Summary of positions then held by New England theology. Channing's Baltimore sermon. Attacks the Trinity, reiterates Emlyn's objection, but presents no distinct view of Christ himself. Channing's relation to the New England school. Stuart's reply to Charming. Emphasizes the numerical unity of the Godhead. Reduces "personality "to" some distinction" in the Godhead. Rejects the idea of eternal generation. Discloses the essential fallacy of Unitarianism. Fails to answer the peremptory challenge of the doctrine of the two natures. The true strength of the orthodox position. Depotentiation of the doctrine of the Trinity as a result of the controversy. Andrews Norton. His Statement of Reasons. Introduces the historical argument. His general statement of the Unitarian position. Woods's Letters to Unitarians. Ware's reply to Woods. The Unitarian movement begins in the doctrine of depravity. Common ground between the Unitarians and orthodox. Reiteration and enforcement of the Unitarian demand for a rationale. N. W. Taylor. Summary of the situation at the close of the controversy.
CHAPTER XI. The Universalist Controversy-Concluded
Progress of Universalism to Unitarianism. Winchester. His doctrine, ultimate restoration of all. Hosea Ballou. His Atonement. Effected the transfer to Unitarianism. His final doctrine, no future punishment. Balfour's exegetical labors. Popularity. No future punishment. Numerous replies. Emmons. Efforts to sustain restorationism. Moses Stuart and his exegesis. Final repudiation of Ballou and Balfour.
CHAPTER XII. The Systems of Theology, 1800-1840
Form of Emmons' system. Effect of this upon the system itself. His philosophy. Park's view of Emmons' "Berkeleianism." Connection with Hopkins. Early services of Emmons in the controversies. Belongs to the generation before the Unitarian controversy. His doctrines of the Trinity and Christology. Eight distinctive tenets of Emmons. (1.) Holiness and sin consist in free voluntary exercises. The "exercise" and "taste" schemes. Burton's theories. Emmons' replies. (2) Men act freely under the divine agency. Emmons' appeal to two separate faculties of reason and consciousness. Does not distinguish between guilt and deformity, nor between repentance and self-loathing. (3) The least transgression of the divine law deserves eternal punishment. (4) Right and wrong are founded in the nature of things. (5) God exercises mere grace in punishing or justifying men through the atonement of Christ and mere goodness in rewarding them for their good works. (6) Notwithstanding the total depravity of sinners, God has a right to require them to turn from sin to holiness. (7) Preachers of the gospel ought to exhort sinners to love God, repent of sin, and believe in Christ immediately. (8) Men are active, not passive, in regeneration.
Woods. General characteristics of his system. Mediating position. The "judicious" divine. Comparison with Emmons. Holds to the "taste scheme." Summary of his views.
Dwight. General characteristics. Conformity to the New England school. Rejection of extremes. Obscuration of the philosophical element. The system of duties. Founds virtue in utility, but was not a "Utilitarian."
THE RIPENED PRODUCT
CHAPTER XIII. Nathaniel W. Taylor
His innovations the result of his desire to defend the truth. Place of his doctrine of the will. The Concio ad Clerum. His position as to the prevention of sin. The outworking of the new idea of freedom. (1) The controversy with Harvey. Harvey's inability to understand Taylor's position on the will. His further misunderstandings. Taylor's reply. He introduces the idea of a true moral government. Taylor unable to answer fully Harvey's questions as to certainty upon the basis of the new theory. Taylor's explanation of the origin of sin in the child. (2) The controversy with Woods. Incapable of understanding Taylor. Takes himself a middle position between Hopkins and Taylor. Difficulty in the subject of the will. Taylor's reply. Makes Woods agree substantially with himself. (3) Controversy with Tyler. Spring on the means of regeneration. Taylor's review of Spring. Taylor's description of the process of regeneration. "Self-love." A neutral point in the soul to which motives could appeal. Reply of Bennet Tyler. Failure to understand Taylor and the reason of this. Taylor not without blame. Summary of Tyler's positions. Taylor's reply. The true question, What is a free moral agent? Further course of the controversy without practical results. Tyler's positions unchanged to the last. Taylor's change in his positions as indicated by his posthumous lectures. Breaks away from subjection to Edwards. Change in his views as to the prevention of sin. Place of Taylor in the history.
CHAPTER XIV. The Later New Haven Theology
Horace Bushnell. His personality. Qualifications and disqualifications for the task of theological construction. His theory of language. Emphasis on the religious life. Doctrine of the Trinity. Comparison with Ritschl. Christian nurture. Bushnell as an apologist. The atonement. Bushnell's heroism. Fisher. Chiefly an apologist. Samuel Harris.
CHAPTER XV. The New School in Presbyterianism
Relations of Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. Lyman Beecher. Effects upon him and other Presbyterian leaders of their obligation to the Confession. His interpretation of Augustine. Henry B. Smith. Pupil of Enoch Pond. Pond's system. Smith's relation to Emmons, Pond, and Woods. His German education. Remained a member of the New England school. Did not accept all of the advanced positions of the school. Theory of the atonement. Does not follow Taylor in his modifications. On the other hand, has nothing himself to say in removing defects or advancing the New England system. Smith as an apologist. Failure to understand the new age. Shedd. Reacts from the New England school to the elder Calvinism. Albert Barnes. Agreed substantially with New England. General atonement the central doctrine of the gospel. Light cast by this phase of our theology upon its true meaning.
CHAPTER XVI. The Oberlin Theology
Finney. Relation to Taylor. Early accepted the main New England views. The rise of the Oberlin theory of sanctification. Relation to Edwards' theory of original sin. The simplicity of moral action. Cochran's discussion of the subject. The contribution of this discussion to New England theology. The doctrine of the simplicity of moral action not original in Oberlin. Emmons. Finney's system. Agrees with New England as to the Scriptures, the existence of God, the Trinity, and Christology. The foundation of the theology in free will. Moral obligation. Finney's remarkable agreement with Taylor. Rise of sin in the child. J. H. Fairchild.
CHAPTER XVII. Edwards A. Park
Place of Professor Park in the history of New England theology. Follows the Scotch school in philosophy. His system. Method and spirit. Distinguished between natural and revealed theology. Method in obtaining proof of the Bible. Proof of the divine benevolence. Method of this proof. Immortality. The prevention of sin. Relation to Taylor. The divine benevolence God's comprehensive moral attribute. The theory of virtue. The idea of justice. The love of God the determining principle of the theology. Proof of the Bible. Rationalistic character of this. Preparation for further discussions. Definition of inspiration. Miracles. The Trinity. Proof of the divinity of Christ exclusively scriptural. Remains substantially upon Stuart's ground. Characterization of the "New School." Decrees. Calvinism. Doctrine of sin. "Sin consists in sinning." Definitions of sin. The proximate occasion of sin, corruption or original sin. The remote occasion, the fall of Adam. Our connection with Adam left unexplained. Hesitation between the taste and exercise schemes. The atonement. The most comprehensive form of the New England theory ever presented. Regeneration. Does not follow Taylor fully here. Held back by his allegiance to Edwards. Means of regeneration. The "essential Christ." The author of regeneration. Sanctification. Utilitarianism. Eschatology.
The sudden collapse of New England theology as an accepted system of thought. Calvinism, apparently essentially aggressive, really paralyzing to spiritual activity. Injurious to practical religion. Calvinism had to be subjected to a thorough criticism and reconstruction. Attitude of the early New England fathers: Calvinism substantially right, only needing restatement. Things effected by the theology in this effort at restatement. Ethicizing the theology. Familiarizing the mind with the idea of modification. This constituted a preparation for the future. But New England theology failed (1) when it sacrificed freedom to the Calvinism of the system; (2) when it failed to grasp the full meaning of an a posteriori method in theology; (3) when it failed to answer the objections put to it by Unitarians and other opponents. Hence it was unable to furnish methods or materials for the new epoch. Hence it perished.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Among the great events of the eighteenth century was the rise, in an obscure corner of the civilized world, of a new school of theology. The place was southwestern New England, the region fed intellectually and spiritually by the recently founded Yale College. The leaders were natives of New England, of the pure English stock, educated for the most part at Yale--parish ministers in small villages and hamlets, and occasionally missionaries upon the near frontier, practical religious leaders who were stimulated to constructive thought by definite religious necessities in their own charges. One might have thought that a movement so originating and in such a place, far from the great centers of thought and the great accumulations of scholarly material, led by men indifferently trained, could never be of interest to the Christian world beyond. But New England was destined in the divine providence to become the principal element in the development of a great nation; and the theological movement begun by Jonathan Edwards when he preached his sermons upon "Justification by Faith" in Northampton, in 1734, acquired an importance for the whole Christian civilization when it became the molding force of a great part of the constructive religious work done in the United States of America. For this was its future. It became the dominating school of thought in New England Congregationalism, and this denomination took the initiative in the greatest forward movements of American Christianity in all its formative years. In foreign missions, in home missions, in the founding and equipping of theological seminaries in the planting of colleges, in revivals, in denominational co-operation, Congregationalism, during the period of the supremacy in its midst of the Edwardean theology, took the unquestioned lead among American churches. Its practical labors grew directly out of its theology, just as its theology grew directly out of its practical problems. Thus the obscure fountain widened into the mighty stream.
In its wider relations and its deepest sources this movement is not to be fully comprehended unless it is put in its place among the religious movements of the whole Protestant world. However prominent it may be in American thought, it is but one of the movements which have begun here. American history is in many respects unique. For the first time since the church passed out from the freedom which its obscurity and weakness had given it into the light of publicity and under the yoke of the state, in the time of Constantine, it has found in America an opportunity on a large scale to develop its thought and to form its life under the unconstrained operation of its own inherent forces. At the same time a multitude of problems of the most weighty kind have been presented to it. It has not only had a new country to subdue, repeating thus in some respects the problem which Rome had to attempt after the beginning of the German migrations, but it has had conditions to meet which have sprung from the rise of a new civilization largely made by itself and then brought into conflict with the older civilizations of Europe as maintained by myriads of immigrants. While its problems have been chiefly practical, their solution has reacted upon the formation of doctrine. Far from hindering the modification of theology or the attainment of new views of truth, this attention to the practical has favored change and progress. Indeed, such has always been the case. It was the vigorous life of the early church that made its doctrinal productivity so great. The rise of the missionary orders and the development of Scholasticism in the Middle Ages were two phases of the same vital growth. The Reformation, which was first of all a movement in the sphere of life, was also productive of the greatest development of systematic thought which the church has seen in any one age. It has therefore been in perfect conformity to the law operating elsewhere that multitudes of speculations have arisen in America, resulting sometimes in the creation of new ecclesiastical communions, sometimes in the development of heresies, sometimes merely in the formation of distinct theological schools. Some have perpetuated themselves to the present day; many have perished after having contributed their portion to the influences, good or bad, which are forming the religious life of the nation. And such is doubtless to be the course of things through a long period, the end of which is far beyond the limits of vision.
But the relations of New England theology are not exclusively, or even principally, to other currents of thought in America. The Reformation united the great nations of the Teutonic family which it took out of the fold of Rome by a community of interests, not only political and religious, but also theological. The same currents of thought flow successively through them all. The same cycle of intellectual events recurs in each. Even the periods are remarkably coterminous. Internal forces of similar character in some cases, in others the direct influence of thought communicated by all the methods by which men exert influence upon one another, lead to similar results. Differences of language and customs are not able to prevent this. Remoteness and rarity of communication do not destroy it. Ties of blood and intimate political relations serve only to facilitate it. The channels of communication, like subterranean streams, it may sometimes be impossible to trace. The whole phenomenon depends upon and illustrates the fundamental unity of Protestantism amid all its superficial diversity.
Thus, the Reformation in Germany as a constructive period may be said to have been brought to a close by the compilation of the "Formula of Concord" in 1577. Upon construction always follows systematization, and the next period was that of the scholastic Lutheran orthodoxy, the natural course of which was interrupted by the Thirty Years' War, which brought in its train great religious demoralization and theological deadness. Pietism, which began with Spener's Collegia Pietatis in 1670, was an unsuccessful attempt to revive the national spiritual life, and resulted in scarcely anything more than helping to introduce the rationalistic movement, which began about 1750 and terminated about the time of Schleiermacher's death in 1834. The restored Lutheran orthodoxy has since that time been seeking to deepen its insight into the Christian system, and, amid the distractions of a peculiarly unfavorable position, to develop the life of the church. Construction, systematization, corruption, restoration--such are the cycles through which Lutheran theology ran.
The same cycles reappear in Calvinism. It had its constructive period in Switzerland, France, and Holland, ending formally in the Synod of Dort in 1618. In this period was embraced its first great conflict, that with Arminianism. Thereupon follow side by side the development of scholastic orthodoxy and that of Arminianism, till both end in theological decay. The principal arena of conflict transferred to England, where for more than a century the reformed theology had been constructing its system, and had constantly grown more Calvinistic and more Puritan, we have for a time, after the Synod of Dort, the theological struggle merged in the political, till Calvinism, triumphant with the triumph of Parliament, could formulate its theology in the Westminster Confession in 1646. This was the period of the great systematic divines. It is overwhelmed with reverse when in 1660 Charles II brings in the monarchy again, and with it the period of Latitudinarianism (1680-1700). The Latitudinarians were Arminian in their tendencies, and this form of theology may be said to have had control in England largely during the eighteenth century in connection with an Arian movement, both constituting a real corruption of the evangelical theology of Westminster. But in the same century an evangelical Arminianism under the lead of John Wesley (1738 ff.) began the movement of restoration, as a result of which a mild Calvinism prevailed very largely in the churches of England, established and dissenting, from about 1800 to 1832.
The fundamental connection of New England with all this international ferment and development is seen in the remarkable fact that, in spite of its apparent and real isolation, the same great periods of theological history are repeated here with almost identical dates. The Puritans and Pilgrims had shared in the constructive period of English Protestantism at home. They planted New England just as Puritanism was on the eve of triumph in the mother-country, though they were far from perceiving this. They shared in its victory, and appropriated its results when in 1648 they adopted the Westminster standards as their own. They had their period of theological corruption, arising from indigenous causes, but also originated and promoted in part by influences communicated from the debased England of the Restoration after the year 1660. From 1720 to 1750 the Arminian tendencies of the mother-country powerfully affect the life of the colonies. In 1750 these begin to give place to Arianism, which continues to be a threatening force within the New England churches till the year 1833. But in New England there is a more immediate reaction against theological corruption than in either Germany or England. The Arminian movement is met almost at its beginning by the youthful Jonathan Edwards in his sermons on justification in 1734, and by his Freedom of the Will in 1754. With the earlier of these dates New England theology as a distinct school begins. It thus long antedates the labors of the German Schleiermacher, and coincides closely with the conversion of Wesley (1738). It soon develops the disposition to meet the new conditions with a new presentation of the truth, which is the principal merit of Schleiermacher, and it displays the same devotion to evangelical truth and to the practical work of saving souls which appear in Methodism. Its restoration is a restoration of the historic Calvinism, which it modifies, but to the spirit of which it remains true to the end.
These facts show how fully New England theology is a world-phenomenon. Beginning in the first half of the eighteenth century, it continued till late in the nineteenth. Within these limits it was always in motion. It struggled with great forces. It produced great treatises. It developed great truths. It inspired great activities. But it was singularly homogeneous, since it derived its motive forces from a single source. The materials with which the New England writers wrought, and the later impulses which they received from various quarters, were English, Puritan, Calvinistic exclusively. Universalism, which like a flint struck out the ablest thoughts which New England set forth upon the atonement, was an English distortion of Calvinism. Unitarianism, which furnished the occasion for the perfection of many of the characteristic New England doctrines in anthropology, was transplanted from England to America, and developed in the isolation of a country which knew no source of fruitful ideas but the mother-land. If Moses Stuart dealt with German writers, translated German grammars, and referred copiously to German authorities in his doctrinal discussions, it is doubtful whether he ever received a single dogmatic idea from any source outside of the line of English Puritan thought, orthodox and unorthodox. Nathaniel W. Taylor was a purely American product. Edwards A. Park, who had studied in Germany and was familiar with the German language and literature, introduces no materials from such quarters into his theological lectures. Nevertheless, New England theology was a world-phenomenon. It was borne upon the same currents as carried the theology of other lands through similar rounds of degeneration and restoration. The English sources upon which it depended were themselves replenished from the universal Protestant thought. Unknown modes of communication brought ideas upon invisible wings to this remote comer of the world from many another. The life which pulsates in all its veins is the one life of all Protestant Christendom.
This double interest, therefore, belongs to the study of New England theology: that of a restricted subject of investigation, where the phenomena can be all brought into the field of vision, and their causal connections determined, and that of a significant and representative movement, in which as in a mirror the great movements in the onward march of the world are reflected. Even the microscopic can be microcosmic. In many respects New England theology is a microcosm.
These considerations increase our sense of the importance of its study; but they also prescribe the method of that study. It is a growth, a development, which we have before us. An adequate history cannot, therefore, be mere annals, a "chronicle," an unconnected heap of opinions. A history of doctrine is not the same thing as a register of discordant and meaningless theories. Ideas grow. One writer is dependent upon another. A thought is found in one man as a seed, it germinates in another, it comes to form and fruitfulness in others. The stages of this growth should be marked, the connections of these men noted. The action and reaction of mind upon mind, of idea upon idea, is the interesting thing in the history. A true history must therefore be genetic. Ideas in their genesis, their growth, and their fruit are its theme. Not all of the opinions of every writer need to be considered by it, but what has had an influence, contributed to growth, or in some way carried on the work of the school of thought.
The object of this book is, therefore, to construct a truly genetic history of New England theology, a history which shall perform the service, not merely of recording the various distinguishing views of the several writers, but of setting forth their productive work in the circumstances under which they developed, in comparison with the errors which they were designed to meet, in their consistency with other views which the writers held, and in their connection with the theology which has sprung out of them as productive intellectual causes.
The story begins with the first landing of immigrants upon the New England shores, and traces the history of the first century as the background upon which the growth of the New England theology proper is to be depicted, a century in which the natural results of the defective theories of the original Calvinism of England and New England united with the universal tendencies of frontier life to produce degeneration and decay. The influence of theological degeneration--in the mother-country, with its Deism and Arminianism, contributed to accelerate the downward movement. The protagonist of the theological revival was Jonathan Edwards, who, dying in 1758, left to his two friends, Hopkins and Bellamy, the task of extending and developing the new views of truth which he had more suggested than formulated. Before Hopkins left the stage, the controversy with the original Universalists, in which the younger Jonathan Edwards was the leader, was in full course. Then came with the beginning of the last century the Unitarian controversy, with its attendant development of anthropology. The school of Taylor, its antagonism against Tylerism, the rupture with Presbyterianism, the foundation of Oberlin, till we have at last the Andover of Park and the Oberlin of Fairchild, crowd the scene with a various and brilliant succession of figures of the highest interest and importance. Such is the theme of this work in briefest outline, and to its development the history may now turn without further delay.
HOME | FINNEY LIFE | FINNEY WORKS | TEXT INDEX | SUBJECT INDEX | GLOSSARY | BOOKS STORE