The GOSPEL TRUTH
NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR
Nathaniel William Taylor
A Connecticut Liberal
SIDNEY EARL MEAD
THIS is a study of the birth and growth of Taylorism, an offspring of the forced marriage of New England Calvinism with revivalism. Taylorism was descended from pre-Revolutionary Old Calvinism. It was born during the revivals under Timothy Dwight following the War for Independence. It grew to a maturity during the orthodox controversy with the Unitarians in the 1820's, which enabled it to withstand the conservatives' attack following 1828.
Back of the study is the conviction that the history of religious thought cannot be separated from the history of the religious community out of which it springs. The author supposes that religious thinking grows out of religious living--that back of every theology there is a theologian who is a human being. His theology is the sum of the answers he formulated to the persistent and unavoidable questions posed by the life he lived in his religious situation. As a historian, therefore, the author is concerned with asking not only what the man said but perhaps, even more, why he said it when he did and why it seemed significant. Taylorism is to be studied through the life of Nathaniel W. Taylor.
This approach seems especially valid when dealing with American religious thought because so much of that thought has been produced by practical men who were active in the ongoing life of the churches-by parish ministers, revivalists, and missionaries. Further, the issues they debated were not created out of a vague and abstract chaos by the theologians. The questions were forced upon them by the continuous necessity of adjusting the life of the churches to a rapidly changing environment. Timothy Dwight, Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Charles G. Finney, who fashioned one great strain of American theology, were not closeted scholars who whimsically spun webs of theological fancy to be suspended from nothing more tangible than the rafters of heaven. They were active men who by day fought the battles of their generation and who by candlelight wrote their theological treatises. There are traces of earnest living in every work.
Perhaps of primary interest to the present-day student is the fact that Taylor's work cleared the way for Horace Bushnell and those who formed the fountainhead of the stream of progressive orthodoxy and liberalism in America. Hence a great deal of the credit that Bushnell has received rightfully belongs to his theological teacher. Not that Taylor was a theological pioneer. In fact, he was probably not intentionally progressive at all, for he fought to preserve the essential principles and broad general doctrines of a Calvinism that was already passing. But he also fought for his right and for the right of his students to state those doctrines and principles in their own words and to defend them in their own way. Those who feared that doctrine was being subverted as well as restated and defended roused his ire by questioning his right to remain within the fold of Congregational orthodoxy. So successfully did Taylor defend that right that the later liberals had an open road. When Bushnell was attacked in 1847 for sentiments expressed in his Christian Nurture, he merely had to reply that his assailant's views hung on theories that had been "debated to the complete satisfaction of the public some fifteen years ago and .... forever exploded."
A second point of interest is the view here developed of the background of Taylorism. When I began this study, it was with the common notion that Dwight, Beecher, and Taylor were' the theological heirs of the Edwardeans or Consistent Calvinists of the period before the Revolution. But further study seemed to make it more probable that the basis of their thought was a legacy from the Old Calvinists." Theological controversy followed the Second Great Awakening as it had followed the First. The Old and Consistent Calvinists debated the problems raised by the Colonial revivals-the divine permission of sin, man's ability and freedom of choice under the gospel appeal, the status of "unregenerate doings," the "use of means" to bring men to God, and the use of the term "self-love" to designate natural and neutral powers in unregenerate men to which the revival message might be addressed. The same problems were raised by the revivals following the Revolution. And on everyone of these controverted points the New Haven men took what had been Old Calvinist ground-indeed, they used the Old Calvinists' words at times. They were the descendants of the Old Calvinists.
This conclusion leads me to suppose that we may soon be called upon to revise radically our common view of the development of religious thought in New England. Recent studies, as, for example, the work of Perry Miller, indicate that the Calvinism of the New England Puritans was already, greatly modified by their "Covenant theology." In this view it also appears that the pre-Revolutionary Old Calvinists, not the Edwardeans or Consistent Calvinists, were the direct theological descendants of the Puritans. It seems, then, that the line can be drawn from Puritanism to Old Calvinism to Taylorism, each the system of the dominant party in its era. It is possible, in brief, that Edwardeanism or Consistent Calvinism was never the New England theology.
It is my opinion that a bibliography, listing the published works cited and appended to this study, would neither contribute to its usefulness nor serve its chief purpose. To quote the Preface to Joseph Priestley's History of the Corruptions of Christianity, "my object is not to give my readers a high idea of the extent of my reading, but simply a credible account of such facts as I shall lay before them." I have attempted to achieve this object through a generous use of footnotes, including, where it seemed that it might be helpful to anyone following in my footsteps, an extensive bibliographical note. To my mind, this makes a relisting of the works in bibliographical form superfluous. It has seemed advisable to append a list of the manuscripts consulted, in order to indicate their location, their nature, and their extent. The list is not long and is not intended to be exhaustive, but it will be useful to anyone who wishes to see Taylor as his contemporaries, and especially as his parishioners and students, knew him. I acknowledge my indebtedness to the librarians of the libraries of Yale University and of Yale Divinity School and to the minister and others of Center Church, New Haven, who kindly gave their permission to use and publish this material.
Only a few of the many persons who helped to make this book can be mentioned here. Above all, Mildred La Due Mead, whose great patience and untiring co-operation alone made it possible. Professor William Warren Sweet of the University of Chicago first suggested the study to me and acted as godfather to the dissertation that preceded the book, offering many helpful suggestions and much encouragement during the long process that brought it to completion. Professors Clarence H. Faust and Edwin E. Aubrey of the University of Chicago, in the classroom and at the luncheon table, gave me several new insights that aided greatly in the work. They read the completed manuscript, and their constructive criticisms made the revision a better job than it otherwise would have been. Greatly appreciated were the pertinent suggestions of Professor Perry Miller of Harvard University, who squeezed time to read the manuscript into a crowded schedule. I am particularly indebted to Dean Emeritus Shirley Jackson Case and to Dean Ernest C. Colwell of the Divinity School, under whose administrations I was granted the opportunity to devote myself to the study. They also gave personal aid and encouragement of inestimable value. The librarians of the University of Chicago, and especially those of the Divinity School Library, where most of the work was done, helped greatly by making available and by facilitating the use of materials. I am grateful to Dr. John T. Wayland and to Dr. Gerald E. Knoff for their permission to read and use their doctoral dissertations on the history of Yale Divinity School done at Yale University in 1933 and 1936, respectively
SIDNEY E. MEAD
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO August 4, 1942
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Family Heritage
2. Religious Heritage
3. Education, 1800-1812
4. Timothy Dwight And Disestablishment
5. Pastor Of Center Church
6. Lyman Beecher's Campaign, 1810-18
7. Old Calvinist To Taylorite
8. "The Orthodox Sleep"
9. "We Must Have A Seminary"
10. "Logic And Tears"
11. Connecticut Attacks Unitarianism, 1821-27
12. "Disturbers Of The Churches"
13. The Conservatives Revolt, 1828
14. "Taylorites" And "Tylerites"
15. "There Was Vastly More In The Man" List Of The Manuscript Materials
THE attainment of American independence brought few social and political changes to Connecticut. The pre-Revolutionary ruling class survived the war almost intact, and "the snug little commonwealth" came into the Federal Union with a minimum of factionalism. The ruling class was made up of the clergy of the established Congregational churches, the local magistrates, and the officials of the state. Most were persons of some wealth, even of culture in a provincial sort of way, and they constituted the aristocracy of the commonwealth. Close union of church and state brought these men and their families together, and by the time of the Revolution they were closely interrelated through marriage as well as strongly intrenched in position. Further, since the ministers were usually settled for life, and state officials and local magistrates generally enjoyed long terms of office, the aristocracy was, in a very real sense, permanent. The class lines were never sharply drawn, however, and might be crossed by persons of industry and frugality on their way up or by those who were shiftless and prodigal on their way down. To the New England mind wealth and position were the natural and rightful rewards of virtue, and a lack of worldly goods tended to be the accepted sign of indolence. It was, then, an aristocracy based upon a conception of individual merit. To be born into a family noted for long and faithful service in church and commonwealth as well as for diligence and well-rewarded success in both farming and business was to enjoy from the start all the benefits and prestige accruing to the rich and well born, plus the moral eminence contingent upon -the widespread belief that such position was the providential reward of virtue! Such was the good fortune of Nathaniel William Taylor.
At the time of his birth there (June 23, 1786), New Milford, Connecticut, was a town of about three thousand inhabitants no inconsequential size when it is remembered that Connecticut then contained only about seventy towns and villages ranging in population from two or three hundred to around seven thousand. Situated in the southwest corner of Litchfield County in the Housatonic River Valley, the rich lands formed a natural foundation for a prosperous agricultural community. It was about thirty-five miles from New Haven, and through its village ran one of the post roads over which passed numbers of the great and famous of Colonial times.
In the earlier days of towns like New Milford there had been little difference in customs and manner of living between the people of village and country. Still close to the energy-consuming task of subduing the wilderness, all worked hard and lived frugally. But by the close of the Revolution wealth and position brought distinctions of a very tangible sort. The village families began to build larger and finer houses -- "stately specimens of the best New-England architecture," as Noah Porter characterized them. They bought and read books published at home and abroad, they wrote some and read most of the innumerable pamphlets on religious and political questions that were shaping public opinion, they had their portraits done by visiting English artists, and, in short, they assumed an outward show of what they considered their rightful position in the general scheme of things. Among these families in New Milford the family of Nathaniel William Taylor held an elevated position. In the meeting-house on Sunday morning his grandfather occupied the pulpit, and the rest of the Taylors sat well forward in the pews reserved for those whose wealth placed them high on the tax lists.
John Taylor, first of this family to appear in New England, came from England with the Reverend Ephraim Hewitt in 1639 and was in Windsor, Connecticut, as early as 1640. When the merchants of the New Haven colony gathered together "almost all the strength which was left them .... and built one ship more, which they fraighted for England with the best part of their tradable estates," John Taylor was among the "sundry of their eminent persons who embarked themselves in her for the voyage." In January, 1647, they sailed from New Haven with the blessings of the Reverend John Davenport ringing in their ears and were never heard from again. Later the story grew that "God had condescended [an] extraordinary account of his sovereign disposal of those for whom so many fervent prayers were made" in the form of a phantom ship of cloud, which appeared and sank in the New Haven harbor before the eyes of the assembled people.
John Taylor's widow was remarried to a man named Hart and removed to Norwalk, taking her youngest son, Thomas (born 1643), with her. In Norwalk, Thomas Taylor grew to manhood and married. His family was one of the eight families that made the first permanent settlement in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1685. There he became a "prominent and useful man," dying in 1735 in his ninety-second year. Of his ten children, not one died under the age of fifty-six; but two of them under eighty; seven reached the age of ninety; and one, one hundred. Daniel, a son born in 1676, spent his entire life in Danbury as a "respectable farmer" and died August 12, 1770, in his ninety-fourth year, "much esteemed for his integrity and piety." He was the father of the Reverend Nathanael Taylor (1722-1800), with whom our story properly begins.
Of rugged farm stock, Nathanael Taylor achieved some reputation as an athlete in Yale College, from which he graduated in 1745, being long remembered as the first and perhaps the only student to kick a football over the college building. After supplying various pulpits, he was ordained over the New Milford Church on June 29, 1748. Perhaps the fact that he had married Tamar Boardman, daughter of the previous minister, on the preceding February 23 had something to do with the unanimous call he was tendered. As was customary at that time in New England, in addition to his salary, which was to be paid in cash, produce, and labor, the new pastor was granted a settlement of one thousand pounds by the town. Most of this was in "Parsonage land," from which he was expected to make what he could as his parishioners did from their land." Since it was generally supposed that a minister would stay in one place for life, his parish and farm became his lifework in a very real sense.
Taylor's early years in the ministry were hard. The parish was the largest in the state. High ridges and sharp, deeply cut valleys, all heavily wooded, divided it into sections that might be isolated for months at a time by bad roads. The members of the church were widely scattered and difficult to reach. The rugged land was hard to clear, though fertile when once under cultivation. At first he supplemented his salary, like so many of his fellow-ministers, by preparing boys for college. And from the first he applied himself with diligence to his ministry, his school, and his farm.
The church in some apprehension once sent a committee to remonstrate with him "on account of his encumbering himself with other affairs whereby he is too much diverted from his studies and ministerial work." To this committee he replied with true Yankee shrewdness by pointing out that, since the town had given him a large tract of land instead of bank dividends as a settlement, he had to produce the dividends by hard work. Thenceforth his fellow-citizens fully appreciated Taylor as an exemplar of the New England virtues. It was noted with much favorable comment that in his life "no time was suffered to pass unemployed -- no waste, no extravagance, no misapplication of things where he could prevent it was permitted." And his neighbors who knew him and traded with him for many years agreed that, "as a man of business, few were his equals."
As the years passed, such industry and frugality were rewarded, and Taylor accumulated a substantial fortune which ranked him among the wealthier clergy of the state. He lived in the large parsonage by the side of his church, with his family of three sons and two daughters around him, each a source of pride and joy. Rewards and honors, a measure of fame also, were his. During the French and Indian Wars he served as chaplain with a Connecticut regiment engaged against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. At the close of the campaign he preached a farewell sermon to the assembled officers and men, in which he commended all for their excellent service, praised the former for their leadership, admonished the latter for profane swearing, and, above all, praised God for all he seemed to be "doing for the Protestant Interest," especially in the final reduction of Canada, "that great Scourge to the American Colonies."
This sermon was published at the request of the hearers and attracted some attention. Like most of the ministers of the Standing Order, he was a "zealous advocate" of the Colonial cause during the Revolution. Two of his sons, Augustine and William, served with distinction in the Colonial armies, and he contributed by remitting an entire year's salary to his church, which was hard pressed financially. His descendants were justly proud of this.
Long a friend of the erudite and liberal President Ezra Stiles, he often visited him in New Haven and preached to the students in the college chapel. In 1774 he was appointed to membership in the Yale Corporation and thenceforth "was never absent from the stated meetings" .. in a single instance, until his last .... illness," being from first to last an ardent defender of the prerogatives of the clergy in the college councils. His integrity and business ability were recognized by his fellow-members of the Corporation, and for years he assumed oversight of the farms located in various parts of Litchfield County belonging to the college and "was at such pains to preserve and promote her interests" that much was spoken "to his praise through the state." He, in turn, no doubt felt a well-deserved fatherly pride when two of his sons graduated from his alma mater -- Augustine in 1777 and William in 1785.
This, then, was the Reverend Nathanael Taylor of New Milford as he appeared to his contemporaries; wealthy, respected, influential among the clergy and in the councils of Yale College, shedding his benediction over a growing family and community, "his whole influence .... adapted to improve the physical as well as the intellectual and moral condition of society." He was "a friend of good morals," preaching to his congregation "plain and practical" sermons "fitted to edify both the humbler and more intelligent classes," and, being part and parcel of the Standing Order, "zealous to promote a spirit of due subordination and quiet submission to the laws." It was recalled with relish that, "though a minister, Mr. Taylor could associate with fellow creatures," and his piety, said Griswold in the funeral discourse, "was neither stiff nor ostentatious. He could take part in innocent discourse, and an occasional stroke of pleasantry was by no means offensive to him."
In 1787, having reached the age of sixty-five and having been their pastor for thirty-nine years, he requested the church and Society to seek a co-pastor for him. This they did, and in 1790 Stanley Griswold, recently graduated from Yale College, was ordained, upon which Taylor "voluntarily relinquished his salary .... and consented to accept a moderate sum for all the remainder of his days."
The fortune that he had built up was not dissipated by his three sons, each of whom, between business and farming, accumulated a fortune of his own. Nathaniel, the eldest (1753-1818), preferred to go into business and did not graduate from Yale College, as did his two brothers. He remained in New Milford and, between agriculture and the business of apothecary, built up a fortune, the growth of which can be traced through the successive tax lists. He was married in August, 1774, to Ann Northrup, of another well-established New Milford family, and moved into the new house next to the church that his father had built for the young couple. Into this rather cultivated home on the green, three of the four children born lived to a very respectable maturity; John (September 20, 1777), Charlotte, (March 20, 1782), and Nathaniel (June 23, 1786).
A kindly Providence gave much for which he might be thankful to the younger son of this family. Specific details of his boyhood are not numerous, and unfortunately we must depend for most of them upon memorial sermons and upon the published recollections of his youngest daughter. One view is preserved in a letter written by Deacon Sherman Boardman, son of New Milford's first minister and for fifty years an important figure in the affairs of the town:
He was a remarkably fine and fair-looking-boy. His appearance was aided by the very neat and handsome attire in which his parents, especially his mother, who idolized him, always kept him dressed. His manners were good and his conduct free from reproach. He was, I believe, little, if at all, addicted to any of the mischievous tricks which most boys are prone to indulge and take pride in. At the common schools he was said to be always at the head of the classes in which he was successively placed, and he gave his instructors no trouble.
That Taylor was "a remarkably fine and fair ... looking boy" is well attested. Rev, Samuel Dutton, who preached a memorial sermon in the North Church of New Haven, recalled that his (Dutton's) father, who had been in Dr. Backus' school with the young Nathaniel, spoke of him often, "especially of his boyish beauty and amiableness." And we may believe that, as the youngest child of the family, his mother idolized him and kept him neatly dressed in handsome clothes. He, in turn, was known to be deeply attached to his mother, "of whom he rarely spoke without manifest emotion." By those who heard it, the sermon "he preached to his people after returning from her funeral .... was described as one that would melt a heart of adamant."
But over against Boardman's picture of the nice boy, not addicted to the usual boyish pranks, we must place the recollections of others that he was "remarkable for his strength of body," that he "had a hearty relish" for outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing and kept them up all his life, that he was very fond of domestic animals, and, as was probably natural considering that both his grandfather and father raised fine horses, that he became noted among his friends for "his uncommon skill in horsemanship. There is no good reason for doubting that he shared in the experiences common to boys in the rural towns of Connecticut. He must have worked on his father's farm, probably acquiring there the skill in gardening which was later to make his fine fruits and vegetables a delight to himself and a pleasure to his friends. No doubt he tended the pigs when they were fed in front of the house and hunted and fished with the other boys along the river -- lived, in short, the normal life of a boy in his circumstances. Years later "many of the illustrations with which he illumined his subjects and amused his students" were drawn from "the scenes of his early life on the farm."
One of his childhood playmates was his second cousin, Rebecca Marie Hine, destined to become his life-long companion. She was three years younger than Nathaniel and the only daughter of Beebe Hine, the hotelkeeper who lived beside the Taylors on the village street. The two children grew up together, son and daughter of two of the most favored families of that favored town, and their early companionship grew naturally into marriage and a happy life together.
In preparation for college, Nathaniel was sent to a school conducted by the Reverend Azel Backus (1765-1817) at Bethlehem, Connecticut, where Joseph Bellamy had "preached and reigned." Backus graduated from Yale College in 1789 and soon after his ordination opened a "select school for boys," which he continued with great success until he left the state to become president of Hamilton College in 1812. As a minister Backus is said to have had one fault -- "an exuberance of the keenest wit," much frowned upon by some, because he "could not keep his drollaries out of the pulpit" and because his witticisms "were sometimes of at least questionable propriety." This fault, regarded with great seriousness by many of his colleagues in the ministry, probably added to the great popularity Backus achieved as a speaker for special occasions, and it is hard to believe that his young students liked him the less for it. Taylor, years later, was fond of repeating the stories and humorous remarks of his teacher.
Although one of the youngest pupils in the school, Nathaniel became a general favorite, and friendships were formed that lasted through life. Backus became very fond of his young pupil and lived to rejoice in his early successes. Dutton describes the scene when Backus met Taylor soon after the latter had been ordained over Center Church in New Haven. "His old instructor pressed towards him, with tears of joy streaming down his face, exclaiming, 'I've heard about you! I've heard about you!' " Because he was comparatively forward in his studies, he was but fourteen years old-still a child who "liked to sit on his mother's lap and be called 'Natty' " -- when he rode down the Derby Road to New Haven, mounted on his grandfather's best pacer, to enter Yale College in the fall of 1800.
His grandfather, the first Nathanael, lived long enough to give his blessing to his grandson and namesake as he entered college, but he died soon after (December 9, 1800), in the seventy-eighth year of his life and the fifty-second year of his pastorate. He had lived a long life of worthy service in the Connecticut Standing Order, and Griswold in the funeral sermon pithily summed up the contemporary view of its peculiar excellence: "The virtues of the deceased, are now testified before our eyes, by the decent estate he has left, and the flourishing circumstances of his family." But his grandson, scion of the Connecticut clerical aristocracy, who was to follow his grandfather's footsteps through Yale College and into the ministry of the established church, received also a rich heritage of religious opinion and position that was to color much of his later life and work.
NATHANIEL WILLIAM TAYLOR'S religious heritage from his grandfather can all be summed up by saying that the older man was an Old Calvinist, but more extensive explanation of the terms is necessary. And, like so many things in New England's religious history, the explanation begins with Jonathan Edwards, whose preaching precipitated the great revivals and in whose genius New England's religious thought reached its peak. The chief events of his life are now generally familiar. As a student at Yale College he became intoxicated with "a delightful conviction" of God's sovereignty. As a tutor a few years later he "used greatly to long for the conversion of some" that he "was concerned with." As the minister at Northampton, Massachusetts, his intense preaching of the doctrine of God's complete sovereignty, which to him "often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet," lighted the fires of revivalism in New England, where long religious sterility combined with widespread latent fear due to a series of natural and man-made disasters to provide the fuel. Then carne the golden-tongued George Whitefield in 1740 to spread the flames of revivalism far and wide.
Revival enthusiasm, partly generated by the widespread belief that the unprecedented movement presaged the imminent coming of the millennium,4 soon ran out into irregularities. Some ministers itinerated and were accused of invading other ministers' parishes without invitation. There were extravagant excesses at some of the meetings, and exaggerated physical manifestations made their appearance. Soon the leaders on both sides were hurling harsh invectives at one another. Edwards rose to the defense of his handiwork, especially in his Thoughts on the Revival of 1740. Charles Chauncey, of the First Church in Boston, placed himself at the head of the anti-revival group by the publication of, his Seasonable Thoughts three years later. Soon ministers and churches were sharply divided into two parties: New Lights, who supported the revival, and Old Lights, who opposed it. In Connecticut, in which we are primarily interested, where the Charter of 1692 had "placed the control of religious matters entirely in the hands of the magistrates"6 and where the Saybrook Platform of 1708 had practically Presbyterianized and firmly established the Congregational churches, the conflict was immediately involved in politics. An attempt to suppress irregularities with "An Act for Regulating Abuses and Correcting Disorders in Ecclesiastical Affairs," passed in May, 1742, led to great bitterness, open schism, and the withdrawal of some of the more radical New Lights into Separate congregations, appealing back to the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
Partly because of the very complicated politico-religious situation involved, partly because they left so few records, the complete history of these Separates has never been written. But there is general agreement among those who have studied them that they were, by and large, not of the rich and well-born class but of the "lower and younger sort." The older ministers, as Trumbull wrote, "did not know how to bear opposition from 'younger men" or, for that matter, from those neither rich nor well born. The controversy took on the appearance of a class conflict from the beginning, and in at least one ordaining council "the debate was with so much passion, that fists were doubled." Of course, not all the New Lights became Separates, nor was more than a small percentage of them involved in the wild extravagances which culminated in the eccentric career of James Davenport, who was said to have given "great occasion of scandal to the enemies of the revival." But, as might be expected in such a heated controversy, the scandal of the most violent excesses fell alike upon all the New Lights and lingered to fall upon their natural and immediate successors.
The revival passed almost as suddenly as it had arisen, and a measure of stability was soon restored. By 1750 the Separates had won their right to separate existence and recognition under the law, and the New Lights were coming into power in the state. The reasons for the earlier controversies, largely over politically tinged matters of church polity, likewise passed.
The attention of both parties was directed to other matters; that of the anti-revival liberals to the political problems aroused by growing discord with the mother-country, that of the leaders of the New Lights to the doctrinal questions brought up by the revivals. Edwards himself had in the course of his prolific writing touched upon everyone of the questions that were to agitate his followers. So, when the noise of the great revival subsided, it left behind a few New Light, but not Separate, ministers, somewhat disillusioned by the excesses of the movement they had helped to sponsor, ruminating in their isolated rural parsonages over the published works and manuscripts of their idolized leader, Jonathan Edwards. They accepted his ideas as highest truth, but, in the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, each was "cheerfully busy" making his own emendations and improvements.
They were rugged, frontier men, used to looking open eyed upon the harshest realities of their hard New England surroundings. Character and temperament destined them to adopt and stress, of all Edwards' concepts, that of God's absolute sovereignty, in a day when frontier life and political upheaval were increasingly emphasizing human freedom. Indeed, the history of the Edwardean, or New England, theology, as it came to be known, might well be written in terms of the extraction by these unimaginative men of hard and solid metaphysical entities from Edwards' writings, which had never lacked an element of poetry, and in pushing his implications without poetic insight to their logical, though bitter, limits.16 And always they worked under the relentless pressure which they sensed but did not fathom, of the growing individualism and humanitarianism of the day, by which their Calvinism was slowly being shouldered aside. Under them the controversy between New Lights and Old Lights gave way to a controversy between New Divinity and Old Divinity, as they sought to be "consistent Calvinists" and to preserve the ancient faith. They developed in the process what Frank Hugh Foster considered the "greatest indigenous school of American Theology," but sober judgment seems to agree that they were only incidentally progressive.
To the people of the time the relationship between New Light and New Divinity must have seemed obvious enough. Edwards, whose works provided the foundation of the New Divinity, had precipitated the first revival, had itinerated widely, had been a friend of Whitefield, and had become the revival's most noted, reasonable, and convincing apologist. Seemingly his ardor for revival cooled somewhat as the years passed, but naturally enough his theological treatises, though written in the quiet seclusion of the Stockbridge mission, smelled of the New Light. Joseph Bellamy had studied theology with Edwards and had become the most eloquent of the itinerating revival preachers, often being favorably compared with Whitefield himself. He had followed Edwards' lead in attempts to purify the church through rejection of the Half-way Covenant, and his most important theological work, written to guard against formality, on the one hand, and enthusiasm, on the other, after the shocking excesses had dimmed his faith in the revival, had been produced under Edwards' critical eye. Samuel Hopkins also had studied theology with Edwards, living in the latter's home for more than eight months. There he was very much impressed by the demure Sarah Pierpont Edwards' sweet resignation to the sovereign will of God, even to the point of being "fully willing .... to die in horror, .... yes, and live a thousand years in horror," even to be eternally damned, "if it be most for the glory of God." Hopkins, at Edwards' request and through the agency of this same Sarah Pierpont Edwards, when Edwards died in 1758 came into possession of his manuscripts. Thereafter, through two long pastorates, over a period of more than fifty years, he perused and pondered the charmed words of his master.
Meanwhile he developed his tremendous system of theology, largely by unflinchingly pressing to the utmost logical limits --the real and supposed precepts of Edwards and by incorporating in the same harsh way Mrs. Edwards' feminine sentiment of complete submission. Willingness to be "damned for the glory of God"-- became popularly synonymous with "Hopkinsianism." Similarly the stories of Samuel West, John Smalley, and Nathaniel Emmons, the other important leaders of the New Divinity, make it obvious why to the mind of the time the exponents of the New Divinity inherited most of the odium cast on the New Lights. The Reverend Stanley Griswold summed up the attitude of Taylor's class in his centennial sermon of 1800. The people who first settled about New Milford, he said, were "a plain, hardy, stout, sober, friendly people," and their piety, "though fervent, was unmingled with that wild frenzy and spirit of enthusiasm which sprung up about the middle of the century." The preaching of the ministers of that time "was not boisterous" or "filled with metaphysical jargon." But, then, he continued, "New Light and fire were introduced," and the, churches "were called to bid adieu to their former peace and quietness." Soon "divisions and fierce disputations ensued," and "the country was ranged on two general sides" -- on the one side, "the friends of the old steady order of things"; on the other, "those called New Lights." For fifty years) then -- roughly the years of the Reverend Nathanael Taylor's pastorate in New Milford (1748-1800) -- Connecticut Congregationalism was disturbed and torn by sharp doctrinal clashes and pamphlet skirmishes between the New Lights and those who were very conscious of being "the friends of the old steady order of things." Taylor definitely belonged to the latter group.
He graduated from Yale College in 1745, the year that the Corporation under the leadership of the then anti-revivalist, President Clap, had followed the authorities of Harvard College in making a formal declaration against the revivalist, George Whitefield. Taylor was given a unanimous call by the First Church of New Milford after having preached there for six months-the unanimity having been secured after four years of disagreement and deadlock between the Old and New Lights only because all the latter withdrew from the church. Hence his ministry began there with a large group of disgruntled New Lights in his parish, who by law were not permitted even to build their own meeting-house until 1753. Further, the Old Light majority who had given Taylor his call had taken definite steps to secure a minister of their own sentiments. The town records of January 22, 1744-45, contain the following entry:
Voted, that the house-lot, so-called, and the ten acre division laid out in the township of New Milford to the Parsonage or Proprietors' Right shall and is hereby given to the first gospel minister that shall be regularly settled in the work of the ministry in said New Milford, according to the laws and constitution of the Colony, and according to the Platform agreed upon at Saybrook, in way of settlement, except the above said minister shall renounce the laws and rules above mentioned, and if so, then the above land to return to the proprietors of said town.
We may agree with Samuel Orcutt that undoubtedly "the logic of that argument had a strong influence to keep him sound in the topics of the day, if he was like other men."
A staunch group of Old Light ministers officiated at his ordination on June 29, 1748. Isaac Stiles (I679-1760), known as "a most bitter enemy" of the revival, who compared its leaders to "Will with his wisp and Jack with his lanthorn" and pointed "the artillery of heaven, in a tremendous manner, against them," gave the charge to the candidate.
Small wonder that with such beginnings the Reverend Nathanael Taylor in a sermon in 1788 aimed some barbed shafts at the Separates from the text, "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the spirit," and again cried out, "oh how is the peace of the Church disturbed, by the many unchristian divisions, and separations in this land. -- Ministers differing, and people differing, dividing and subdividing; which introduceth all confusion and disorder." During the controversy over the Half-way Covenant, which the New Lights rejected, he wrote a pamphlet in answer to Bellamy's Dialogue between a Minister and His Parisioner concerning the Half-way Cotenant" and preached sermons to his own congregation from Increase Mather's book containing the congenial doctrine of the right to baptize the children of those who were not church members. Probably, to make their position even clearer in the midst of this controversy, the members of his church in a meeting held in March, 1769, to "enquire of those who had owned ye covenant, the reasons why they did not come to ye Lord's Supper, and to attempt to remove their scruples and to know our sentiments with regard to admission," voted that "this church looks upon it that there is no half-way covenant land] those who renew the covenant have a right to privileges in full."
This wholesale avowal of "Stoddardeanism"31 by the New Milford church must have caused some reverberations in the Litchfield Association, of which Taylor was a member. For this association, organized in July, 1752, was dominated by Joseph Bellamy and was largely New Light from the beginning.
At this point it is well to call attention to the fact that the Half-way Covenant, in effect, admitted to the churches a large number of persons who could not relate an experience of saving grace. "It does not appear," says Trumbull, "that ministers in general, at that time, made any particular enquiry of those whom they admitted to communion, with respect to their internal feelings and exercises." Hence the New Lights' rejection of the practice was but part of their attempt to purify the churches by insisting upon a converted membership. This insistence led them to place a great deal of stress upon the necessity for a definite conversion experience and inevitably to devise arguments and means to induce their hearers to make this definite commitment. In short, conversion was not stressed in Old Light churches like Nathanael Taylor's -- it was all important in the New Light churches. In general, Taylor's Old Light sympathies and sentiments were well described by Griswold in the funeral sermon. The deceased, he said, was a minister "sound in doctrine," who was "not fond of advancing things beyond the comprehension of mankind" and who "held Metaphysics, in the unintelligible sense of the word, as very unprofitable to be introduced into public discourses."
Further, though "a firm believer in the Christian doctrines, he was no bigot. He was for free toleration and good agreement among the christian sects" and even "supposed that real goodness might exist in other professions besides his own." In fact, he had been heard to say that "he believed some of the Heathen might be saved." And, as for baptism, "he held that children might be baptized on their own account."
Griswold's statement of Taylor's tolerant attitudes and desire for "good agreement among the sects" reminds one of the sentiments of Ezra Stiles and serves to recall again the friendship between the two men, extending over a long period of time. Stiles, although "intensely conservative in regard to all academic interests" and motivated seemingly by "a constant impulse to communicate his stores of learning," which made him incomprehensible to most people, was in many respects the finest flower of New England's Old Calvinism and one of the great liberals of his day. While a pastor at Newport, he had been a friend of the "Romish priest" and had spent hours in the Jewish synagogue studying Hebrew. He carried on a correspondence in Latin with scholars all over the world and counted Benjamin Franklin as his friend. While president of Yale College he winked at-the dramatic plays the students produced and permitted them to attend a dancing school opened in New Haven. He corresponded with Jefferson, who visited him at least once in New Haven, and under his presidency Yale College conferred a degree upon that leader of the Democrats."
No doubt his successor (Timothy Dwight) found this act hard to forgive. Stiles studied French and introduced at least one French text into the school, and "in the stronghold of Federalism" he "elevated a rank republican [Josiah Meigs, 1757-1822] to the principal professorship." When we have this picture of Ezra Stiles in mind, the words of the Reverend Thomas Robbins become eloquent testimony to the sentiments and character of the man under whose patriarchal influence Nathaniel William Taylor spent the first fourteen years of his life. Mr. Nathanael Taylor's theology, wrote Robbins, was "in the main Calvinistic [but] not after the strictest form of Calvinism, [and] .I suppose he sympathized much more with President Stiles than with Dr. Bellamy, with both of whom he was contemporary [and] more or less intimately associated." Further, Robbins adds, stressing the inherent conservatism of the elder Taylor, "I am not aware that he was ever charged by any religious party with anything like a tendency to extremes."
We may suppose, then, that Nathaniel, just fourteen, however unformed his religious ideas may have been, must have ridden down the Derby Road that day thrilled at the prospect of entering Yale College and thoroughly imbued with the idea that he was not of the New Lights, not of those who made "enthusiasm and metaphysics" the order of the day and brought "divisions and fierce disputations," but of the sober, industrious people who were the "friends of the old steady order of things." He could not be expected to know that the "old steady order of things" was already passing away and that, because he was rooted in it and received his college and theological training during the period of most active transition to the new order, he was peculiarly fitted to bridge the gap between the two. Further, as is not uncommon in such circumstances, he was to be misunderstood by representatives of both periods.
KNOWLEDGE of specific events in Taylor's life while in college is very fragmentary and can be briefly given. He did not attend many months in the fall of 1800 before he was forced to leave because of "an affection" of the eyes and rheumatism. He was able to return after a year to join the next class (of 1805), but the trouble returned with greater severity sometime during the Sophomore year, and he was forced to give up school altogether for about two years more, returning in 1805 to continue and graduate with the class of 1807.
At some period during his college life he served as the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, then a literary and debating society, the members of which were selected largely on the ground of excellency in scholarship. There he debated with his classmates such questions as: "Are those actions which are recorded as miracles really such?" "Ought religion to be supported by law?" "Can the benevolence of the Deity be proved from the light of nature?" In the subjects debated, and in the decisions uniformly in favor of religion and the- established church, the influence of Dwight is plainly seen. Membership in this society, as well as the election to a college tutorship three years after his graduation perhaps indicate that he led his classes in college as in the previous schools he had attended.
At the public commencement in 1807 he took part in a dialogue on the death of Domitian and delivered an oration entitled "On the Advantages of National Adversity," which, as his daughter was pleased to recall,4 received the high praise of President Dwight at a reception held in one of New Haven's best mansions following the commencement program.
Of his intimate associates while in college, we catch only one glimpse, but that a significant one. His daughter records that he formed a friendship with Stephen, the eldest son of General Stephen Van Rensselaer of Albany, one of the last of the patroons. This friendship continued through the years and extended to Taylor's family. Such a connection no doubt indicates that Taylor in college continued to move in the best circles.
Although little is known of specific events, the general background of Taylor's college life can be delineated and is very important for an understanding of the man. It is largely summed up in the figure of Timothy Dwight and the stirring events of his presidency of Yale College. From the time he entered college in 1800, at the age of fourteen, until Dwight died in 1817, when Taylor was thirty-one-a period of seventeen years-he was in intimate association with that forceful man, and there are many indications that Dwight played a very large part in shaping his life and in determining his future work. Taylor became one of Dwight's favorite students, as he had previously been a favorite pupil in the schools, and in turn "revered and loved that eminent man .... and felt that no other ever exerted so great an influence over him."
There are good reasons for supposing that the young aristocrat from one of the best families in New Milford, where the New Lights did not belong to the "best families," must have been somewhat prejudiced against Dwight when he entered college. For Dwight, though not with entire correctness as we shall see, was widely supposed to be tainted with the New Light of his grandfather, the first Edwards, and his uncle, the second.
Further, President Stiles, the friend of Taylor's grandfather, was unsparing in his criticism of all the New Lights and heartily disliked Dwight in particular for his overbearing manner, referring to him as "his Loftiness" and saying that "he meditates great things & nothing but great things will serve him -- & every thing that comes in the Way of his preferment must fall before Him." The boy no doubt shared in some measure at least the opinions and prejudices of his family and friends, and his words written years later hardly conceal the surprise he felt when he realized that Dwight, the supposed New Light, "before the entire community .... stood up boldly,-in the face of the greatest of them, greater than they." Thenceforth, he seems to have been considerably impressed, as were many others, and especially the students, with Dwight's bigness and magnificence, until later he seems to have been just as surprised to see the eminent man "show as much interest in a theological conversation with the college joiner, as he would have done with the profoundest Divine" and to take "as much pleasure in conversation" with "men like him, in the humblest walks of life," as with men "of cultivated minds."
We have in his own words an account of what very probably was the first if not the most important instance of Dwight's influence over him. "When I came to College the last time," he wrote, "I had abandoned the thought of either doing or being much in future life [and] it was rather to gratify my parents, than with any expectation or intention of being a scholar, [for] though I previously felt an intense interest in study, I had I ... entirely lost it."
But in his Senior year, he continues, the students read before Dwight their essays "on the question -- 'Is virtue founded in utility?' -- .... in which he always felt a peculiar interest." To those who preceded Taylor, Dwight said, " 'Oh, you do not understand the question,' " but "when I had finished my argument he remarked with great emphasis, 'That's right,' and. added some other commendatory remarks which, to say the least, were adapted to put a young man's modesty to rather a severe test." In general, we love no one so much as he who expresses genuine appreciation for our merits, and Taylor thenceforth was, no doubt, more inclined to be lenient in his judgment of his teacher and more susceptible to influence from him. This incident alone, Taylor thought, "certainly had one good effect -- it determined me to make intellectual efforts 'which, otherwise, I probably never should have made."
But Dwight's influence on the students was almost all exerted in one direction. For though by birth and training an heir of the Consistent Calvinists, he had stepped out of their ranks to adopt the Old Calvinist conception of the use of "means." Having adopted this view, he used and exhorted others to "use the means of grace" with all the power of his forceful personality. Under President Stiles, who was always somewhat preoccupied with erudition, the rigorous standards of Yale College had been relaxed. Lyman Beecher, who spent his first three college years under that learned man's administration, declared that "the college was in a most ungodly state. The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical, and rowdies were plenty." For "that was the day of the infidelity of the Tom Paine school," and the students "read Tom Paine and believed him .... and called each other Voltaire, Rousseau, D'Alembert, etc., etc." Some allowance must be made for Beecher's habitual effervescence of expression, but this is the not very promising situation which Dwight faced when he became president in 1795.
Although the opinion became widespread that he "had long coveted the position," perhaps we ought to give more consideration to the sentiment he expressed in a letter written just before his election. "I do not court the appointment," he wrote, "let those who do, take it. 1 am already happily settled, and in a station little exposed to envy or obloquy. To build up a ruined college is a difficult task. It is a pity the man who wishes for it should not be gratified. 1 am not that man." But, being appointed, he set to work with characteristic vigor to build up the "ruined college," and the impact he made upon its life was great. Beecher describes with customary enthusiasm Dwight's tactics with the students:
They thought the faculty were afraid of free discussion. But when they handed Dr. Dwight a list of subjects for class disputation, to their surprise he selected this: "Is the Bible the word of God?" and told them to do their best. He heard all they had to say, answered them, and there was an end. He preached incessantly for six months on the subject, and all infidelity skulked and hid its head.
By the time Taylor entered college in the fall of 1800 there were evidences of the beginnings of a great revival."
Taylor's young mind was probably rather vague regarding the whole matter of conversion, the pattern of which had by then become so stereotyped. The Stoddardean position adopted by his grandfather, in whose church he had received his early religious influences, would lead one to infer this. For there conversion was not emphasized. His own father and mother were received into the church under the Half-way Covenant in 1777 -- in other words, only upon attainment of adult life and three years after their marriage.
All that his daughter could say regarding her grandfather's religion was that, judging from papers found among her father's things, "he must have been a person of religious principle, if not a professing Christian." To the Taylors and their social set in New Milford "conversion" was part of the religious practice of those who made "enthusiasm" the order of the day and created "divisions and fierce disputations." To Nathaniel it would mean turning his back on the "friends of the old steady order of things," to go the way they considered less respectable. Perhaps, in very tangible form, it was a choice between his college friend, Stephen Van Rensselaer, and all he represented in terms of culture and trips abroad, on the one hand, and Dwight, with all he represented, on the other.
Small wonder that, with this choice being forced upon him, the youth during his Junior year was "under months of depression," and his mind so greatly agitated, his conviction of sin so painful, that Dwight himself "feared that his reason would be deranged." But finally the overwhelming influence of Dwight won. Taylor first noticed the change, and gained his first faint hopes in the mercy of God, through the affecting way in which his spiritual father in one of his prayers in chapel quoted the passage: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench." For Dwight could be affecting and tender where conversions were concerned and could converse with the students on their personal problems as easily as he could discuss politics with the lawyers or theology with the "college joiner." He made himself the students' counselor and is said to have been the first of the college pastors to give them real religious guidance, freely inviting them to come to his home whenever they were sincerely concerned about the salvation of their souls.
Hence when one night young Nathaniel was out walking with a friend who was similarly "concerned for his eternal interests," and they had told each other of their convictions, it was natural for one of them to suggest that they ought to call on President Dwight. Still talking about this, they arrived at Dwight's gate. "There they stopped and hesitated. At length Taylor said, 'Well, I shall go in.' 'Well, (said his companion) I think I will not, today.' Taylor went in, and the result of his conversation with that eminent Christian guide was that he gave himself to Christ in a covenant never to be broken." Thus it is, continued Dutton, dwelling on this incident in his memorial sermon and probably reflecting Taylor's own thoughts, that "companions travel together till they come to where they see plainly the open path to Christ. They consider; they decide; the one taking the way to everlasting life, and the other pursuing the way to everlasting death." Conversion was an experience that momentous.
The friendship with young Stephen Van Rensselaer, which was encouraged by the fathers of both, survived Taylor's conversion and "decided religious turn," although admittedly it "waned somewhat." The year following their graduation the two young men went to Montreal together to study French, with 'plans in mind for a trip to Europe the following spring. In Montreal "they were both introduced to the best English society." But Taylor, under the influence of Dwight's tremendous purposefulness, was soon bored with its triviality. "The gay life became so irksome .... that after a few months he returned to New Haven and entered Dr. Dwight's family," to take up the study of theology in earnest, being urged by that forward-looking man to do so. For Dwight, in Taylor's words, "always advised and even urged young men,-when the fashion was to be licensed to preach within a few months, or even weeks, after they were graduated, to remain and study Theology, at least for one or two years." And the younger man freely admitted that "it was in compliance with his counsel that I did so, though it was a thing nearly or quite unprecedented [and] though my classmates, and even ministers, regarded it as time and labour little better than lost."
Altogether Taylor spent four years after his graduation studying with Dwight, being employed for the first two (1808-9) as his secretary. Dwight had ruined his eyes when in youthful zest while in college he determined to study fourteen hours a day in art attempt to master all knowledge. During his presidency he could read only with the greatest difficulty and pain, and all his later work was done with the aid of a secretary. When in 1805 he accepted the permanent appointment as professor of divinity, which previously, since 1795, he had held only by annual appointment, the Corporation allowed him fifty pounds a year to employ this help. While the pay in money was not great, the obvious advantages to a young man of this close contact with one of the most outstanding figures in New England made the position a coveted one, always applied for long before it was vacated. Nathaniel was honored by the appointment and for two years lived in Dwight's home, taking his meals with the family and for several hours each day reading to Dwight or taking dictation from him. Dwight at this time was putting into final form the series of doctrinal sermons which he delivered Sunday mornings as college pastor. These were published in four volumes under the title, Theology: Explained and Defended in a Series of Sermons.
Beginning a sermon Monday morning, he dictated with a speed limited only by the ability of the secretary, usually finishing it during the second day. The rest of the week was spent in writing his Travels: In New England and New York, gleanings from two thousand miles of walking and three thousand miles of horseback-riding begun when a college breakdown made outdoor exercise and diversion imperative. The secretary had the rare privilege of working with Dwight as he was formulating his most profound theological work and of reliving with him the sights and incidents of his remarkable travels.
Knowing the great influence Dwight had already exerted over Taylor, and knowing the vigorous personality of the older man, we may be sure that these two years of intimate association were years of great importance for the student. Few particulars of definite influence have been preserved, but we may think with one who knew both men that "it cannot have been insignificant."
Dr. Dwight's attainments in theological science, for that day, were remarkable; and the enthusiasm with which he discussed every subject, as well as his intelligence and ability, could not fail to impress themselves upon his pupil. The daily intercourse upon the great subjects of their common pursuits; the old authors they reviewed together, and the new ones- whom they perused with a sympathetic interest, must have bound them strongly to each other; while the theological events of the time-the preaching of the day; .... all those topics which kept the minds of the orthodox divines of those days in New England on the qui vive, must have brought up constantly fresh subjects of animating discussion .... the intercourse between them was familiar and free.
Taylor himself gave a glimpse of this familiar intercourse. We have noted his conversion, but under even the modified Calvinism of Dwight one could never be absolutely sure that he was of the elect, and it was considered somewhat presumptuous to express belief that he was. "Indeed," said Dutton, "Dr. Taylor, through life, was not accustomed to express confident assurance of hope, though he had a degree of hope which gave him, for the most part, peace and joy." So the convert's peace was not complete even after that evening interview with Dwight, and, he says, "after indulging the Christian hope in some faint degree while a Junior in College, I had very many doubts and perplexities respecting my religious character. These I had often stated to Dr. Dwight." But, he continues, "when I was his amanuensis, he took a deep interest in me on this account, and would often introduce the subject as one of which he knew I was glad to hear and to learn." Especially "on one or two occasions, wishing evidently to encourage my hope, he was led to speak of his own." This conversation "was one of the most affecting and instructive that I ever heard on the subject. His own heart melted under it, and the tears flowed freely." If we would really understand the import of Taylor's words, we ought first to read one of Dwight's hard and bitter tirades against infidelity and then compare its spirit with the picture of the same majestic man, discussing the hope of his soul's salvation with a single student in the secluded study, while the tears streamed down his face. Small wonder that the young man was brought almost completely within Dwight's orbit.
It was sometime during his stay with Dwight that, upon coming into the study one day, the youthful secretary found a "rather small, plain-looking man" waiting and "supposed that he was a farmer from one of the neighboring towns, and that he had come to arrange with the doctor for his winter supply of potatoes." But, when Dwight came in, he greeted the stranger with great cordiality and introduced him as Mr. Lyman Beecher, then of East Hampton, Long Island.
Taylor realized that this was the Mr. Beecher whose sermon against dueling, inspired by the shooting of Hamilton by Burr in 1804, had attracted so much attention. Even as told by his daughter so many years later, the story of this meeting hardly conceals Taylor's first contempt for the small plain man who looked like a farmer. But nevertheless he soon found much to admire and much to love in the energetic and amiable Beecher, who, in turn, developed for Taylor, as Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, "an unbounded and romantic attachment. The chance meeting grew into one of those rare, lifelong friendships. The two men became inseparable. When both were aging, Taylor reminded Beecher of their first meeting. "Ah, yes," Beecher replied, "we took hold of hands in, Dr. Dwight's study, and we never let go!"
On August 21, 1810, after having been with Dwight for slightly more than two years, Taylor was licensed to preach by the West Association of Ministers of New Haven County. This gave him the status of an acceptable candidate for the ministry, and as such he supplied pulpits as opportunities were offered. Probably the most trying sermon was that preached in his grandfather's old church in New Milford before many of the young men and women with whom he had grown up and the older people who had known him and his family for years. As Orcutt says, many of them did not approve of or sympathize with his new "faith and fervor."
He had adopted a more enthusiastic type of religion, with some hesitation at first to be sure, but now after four years under the intimate tutelage of Dwight his perplexities were passing and he was gaining more assurance in his convictions. He had found "the Truth," so he took as the text for his discourse that day, "If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" and "preached the gospel then, as always afterwards, as though he believed it to be true." He did, and that question might well serve as the text for the story of his life. It was one he was to dwell upon, and "often to repeat with peculiar emphasis," until it haunted the minds of his students too. That same plaintive question was to trouble all the great revivalists from Taylor's day to our own. For, according to their fundamental belief, the truth of the Gospel when fully presented ought automatically to compel acceptance. This they could never doubt, though they might sincerely doubt their ability to present that truth fully. The fault, they would say, lay not in the Gospel but in themselves.
Meanwhile, events important in Taylor's personal life had been taking place. Apparently at about the time he first entered Yale College, Rebecca Marie Hine, his childhood playmate, had been sent to New Haven to attend school. She lived in the home of Rector Hubbard of Trinity Church. During this time, her daughter is careful to make clear, she formed friendships with many-of the "best families" in town but most intimately with the daughters of Noah Webster. Nathaniel, probably because it was a pleasant task, carried notes and letters between Emily Webster and Rebecca Hine, gaining for himself the title "Adonis himself," a feminine way of expressing appreciation of "my father's personal beauty, which was very great," his daughter not too modestly explains. And this opinion was apparently shared by many contemporaries. Dr. Storrs of Braintree, Connecticut, who entered college with Taylor in 1800, said that "he never could forget the impression that his beauty made upon him; it was more than he could describe." And further confirmation is found in a bit of verse descriptive of the class of 1807, which contains the following:
Nat Taylor, fair beyond compare,
The pride of all Yale College O---
He wins each heart and makes it smart,
And glories in his conquest O!
However, in one of his conquests, at least, there was no smart, and, although the urge for rhyme, or emulation of Robert Burns, seems to have triumphed over the use of her real name, the sentiment of the following bit of verse is impeccable. Mrs. Hatch says it was sent by "Nat" to "Becky" during his Sophomore year.
There is something in her air
That greatly hits my fancy;
'Tis not her face, her shape, her hair,
But 'tis the whole of Nancy.34
Taylor "once said to a friend that they were never engaged, for there was never any need of it." Years later, after his death, his youngest daughter records: "I said to my mother, when she was talking to me of those days of her youth: 'I suppose you were engaged at that time?' 'Oh, yes,' she replied, 'we were always engaged.' " The wedding was held at the bride's home in New Milford, and she was fond of telling her daughter, how "the Sunday after I was married, as was then the fashion, I went to church and wore my wedding dress, with a pretty light silk shawl, and a cottage straw bonnet, trimmed with broad white satin ribbon." Then she would continue with an added sparkle in her old eyes, "And your father preached, and I couldn't tell you how handsome he looked."
After being licensed to preach and married, a young man would ordinarily have been ordained and settled over a parish within a short time. But, although Taylor apparently supplied many pulpits, he was not ordained but continued his studies with Dwight for nearly two years more. Then in 1812 he received a call from the First Church in New Haven, the most eminent pulpit in the state of Connecticut, beneath whose ministrations sat most of the locally prominent families and many visiting dignitaries of state and church attracted to New Haven by Yale College and by the sessions of the legislature and courts. It was a high place for a young man. He was twenty-six years old. The long years of preparation were over. He was about to become the Reverend Nathaniel William Taylor.
Meanwhile Timothy Dwight, who so strongly advocated the use of "means," was using all the means at his command in the battle in Connecticut and New England for far more than the souls of the students in Yale College. Almost alone at first, he later enlisted and trained his own lieutenants to wage a mighty war against the insidious invasion of "French infidelity." In that war what later became "Taylorism" was born.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT AND DISESTABLISHMENT
Here see the man whose philosophic soul
Mounts on the day and flies from pole to pole,
Thro vast expanses on daring pinions soar
Eye nature's system and its parts explore;
Or see him dare a guilty world engage
And curb the excursions of a vicious age;
Rouse slumbering man from folly's vile embrace
Or light a smile in sorrow's clouded face;
Diffuse the balmy dew of sacred truth
Support old age and guide the devious youth.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT was already a man of great prominence in the affairs of Connecticut and its church before he was appointed president of Yale College in 1795, and his influence and prestige were greatly enhanced after he assumed that position. Foreshadowing what was to be his chief concern, he had already expressed his decided aversion for what he called "French infidelity" in a long satirical poem of enough merit to be mentioned in most histories of American literature but in language so harsh that Ezra Stiles thought it had harmed rather than helped the Christian cause, "since the author had not confined himself to criticism of the deists, but had gone so far as to vilify them with an acrimony decidedly un-Christian."
Even the notably conservative Noah Webster thought Dwight's language would never pass with men of "Christian candor and meekness, either for sense, satire or reasoning; much less for an honest zeal for religion." But in spite of such adverse criticism that mounted rather than lessened as time passed, for twenty two years Dwight led the hosts of those who battled valiantly for true religion, good morals, and sound government as they conceived them. His belligerency rose to such extremes at times that Noah Webster characterized him as "a theological dogmatist, who has found the right way to heaven by creeds and systems; and with more imperiousness than would become infinite wisdom and power, damns all who cannot swallow his articles of faith," and even wondered if Dwight could "be a candidate for that heaven of love and benevolence which the scripture informs us is prepared for good men." But few doubted then, as few would question now, that Dwight fought a good fight and made himself felt. An understanding of his battle will help to make many things clearer.
Many forces combined to make the latter half of the eighteenth century, the period following the Great Awakening in New England, one of decline and apathy on the part of organized religion.8 But to Timothy Dwight it seemed that almost all the ills from which religion suffered might be traced to the infiltration of deistic and infidel thought, brought to this country, first, by the British officers in the wars with the French following 1755 and, later, by our French allies during the Revolution. "War," he wrote, "is at least as fatal to morals, as to life, or happiness."9 The English infidel, to his mind, was neither so dangerous nor so reprehensible as the French, since he "has commonly exhibited, in appearance at least, some degree of reverence for the Creator," has usually admitted "the distinction between right and wrong" and the possibility of a hereafter, and has rarely denied that "he may be an accountable being." But the French infidel, he continues, has despised God, "knows a priori, that there is nothing beyond the grave," and, at your mention of right and wrong and accountability, "pities you for your weakness; is astonished at your ignorance; and.is irresistibly compelled to despise the clownishness of your moral sentiments." In short, the infidelity "formed in the English School of philosophy .... where good sense and sound logic had always supported their reputation," was respectable, had been respectably and reasonably defended, and, since it presented "something which could be understood, and which, therefore, could be answered," had been as respectably and reasonably refuted. But the French loose and undefined atheism "was a system of abstract declarations, which violated common sense, delivered in an abstract style, equally violating all just taste, and sober criticism, .... designed to amuse, perplex, and beguile."
Hence, although during the Revolution Americans did not contact so many foreigners as in other wars, yet those with whom they were thrown were "far more dissolute characters. They were Frenchmen; disciples of Voltaire, Rousseau, D'Alembert and Diderot"; and because of this fact "all the evils which flowed from the former wars were multiplied in the latter." For it was this French infidelity--and here is one of the main points in Dwight's thinking -- "with which it was intended to overwhelm these states." Once firmly convinced of this, Dwight set forth to battle the threatened engulfment of America and Christianity by French infidelity.
In Connecticut, as on former occasions, religious and political issues were hopelessly confused from the beginning. Dwight was unable to conceive of true religion and good morals without the support of a sound government or, conversely, of a sound government without true religion as he conceived it, since, with his predecessors, he believed that all government is ordained by God and bolstered up by an established church. But seemingly before 1800 the definitely religious issues took precedence to such an extent that Purcell declares that "there was practically no political life in the modern sense," in Connecticut during the decade 1790-1800. It was during this period that Dwight launched his most vigorous campaign against the French "Philosophists" and their "Philosophism" and for a return to true religion.
We have noted the effects of this campaign on Yale College. He cried the dangers of French infidelity from the housetops and worked himself into a frenzy declaiming against the religious and moral anarchy it threatened, reaching a climax of fervid utterance in his Fourth of July address in 1798:
For what end shall we be connected with men, of whom this is the character and conduct? Is it that we may assume the same character and pursue the same conduct? Is it that our churches may become temples of reason, our Sabbath a decade, and our psalms of praise Marseillais hymns? Is it, that we may change our holy worship into a dance of Jacobin phrenzy, and that we may behold a strumpet personating a Goddess on the altars of Jehovah? Is it that we may see the Bible cast into a bonfire, the vessels of the sacramental supper borne by an ass in public procession, and our children, either wheedled or terrified, uniting in the mob, chanting mockeries against God and hailing .... the ruin of their religion, and the loss of their souls? Is it, that we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution; soberly dishonoured; speciously polluted; the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, and the loathing of God and man? .... Shall we, my brethren become partakers of these sins? Shall we introduce them into our government, our schools, our families? Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat; our daughters the concubines of the Illuminati?
This strictly religious phase of the struggle passed when the election of Jefferson in 1800 brought the political issue home even to Connecticut. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, as Dwight said, "the minds of the Americans anticipated with a rapturous enthusiasm the emancipation of twenty-five millions of their fellow-men from the thraldom of despotism and superstition." The religious leaders of Connecticut approved even the attack on the Catholic church as the predicted overthrow of Anti-Christ and as the work of the Lord. But then, Dwight continues, "the infidelity of Voltaire and his coadjutors began to make its appearance," and, according to Purcell, the later excesses of the Revolution led the clergy, and the upper social classes generally, to conclude that Jacobinism was not only anti-Catholic but also anti-Christian. Dwight, though maintaining staunchly that he was no friend to the Catholic system, was one of the first to point this out, later not too modestly recording the fact, for he obviously counted himself among those of New England who had seen the danger and given the alarm.
For many reasons Jacobinism had been closely associated with the beginnings of Republicanism in America. This was enough to arouse the fears of the clergy of the Standing Order, who came to look upon it as the political counterpart of French infidelity, and, led by Dwight, they launched a vigorous attack against the Democratic-Republican party from the French-infected infidel, Thomas Jefferson, on down.19 But apparently New England Federalists generally underestimated the political strength of the Democrats until the election of Jefferson forced it upon their attention. Then, when some Federalists were removed from office, Theodore Dwight, brother of Timothy and his strong supporter, declared that it was now clear that "the great object of Jacobinism, both in its political and moral revolution, is to destroy every trace of civilization in the world, and to force mankind back into a savage state." Referring directly to the Jeffersonian administration, he continued:
We have now reached the consummation of democratic blessedness. We have a country governed by blockheads, and knaves; the ties of marriage with all its felicities are severed and destroyed; our wives and daughters are thrown into the stews; our children are cast into the world from the breast and forgotten; filial piety is extinguished, and our surnames, the only mark of distinction among families, are abolished. Can the imagination paint anything more dreadful on this side of hell?
And as for the local situation, the growth of the Democratic party meant that "the outlaws of Europe, the fugitives from the pillory, and the gallows, have undertaken to assist our own abandoned citizens, in the pleasing work of destroying Connecticut."
The Republican party, meeting such opposition and fighting for political recognition, found the established church and its clergy the strongest bulwarks of conservative Federalism and attacked them as such.22 Not unnaturally this attack enlisted the favorable support of the several dissenting sects of the state, the Strict Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Universalists, and some smaller groups that had long smarted under the favoritism shown the Congregational establishment. Thus anti-clericism became a chief Republican plank, and as early as 1802, says Purcell, Republican success had become a religious hope for the Baptists and Methodists. Hence the way was paved for the union of all the dissenters with the nonbelievers and the Republicans which alone could give the necessary working majority of the popular vote-a union which materialized in the joint Republican-Episcopalian meeting in New Haven on February 21, 1816. This marked the beginning of the Fusion, or Toleration, party, which consolidated all factions in opposition to the Federalists and the clergy of the Standing Order and described itself as a union of all those who "detested political Congregationalism." This combination proved too much for the establishment, and, in spite of Dwight's efforts, disestablishment was accomplished in 1818.
Dwight had many reasons for dreading disestablishment, but in brief we may say that to him it meant the "triumph of Infidelity," and "Infidelity," he thought, "naturally, and necessarily, becomes, when possessed of the control of national interests, a source of evils, so numerous, and so intense, as to compel mankind to prefer any state to those evils."
It never occurred to him that true religion might survive that event, and so he waged his war against the impending moral and political collapse of infidelity and the forces that threatened to bring it about. Back of all the sound and fury in which religion and politics were inextricably mixed as the Standing Order Federalists led by Dwight fought the gradual encroachments of the sects who made common cause with the Episcopalians and the Republicans against the establishment was ever the gnawing fear of disestablishment. It was in the shadow of that dread specter that Dwight did his notable work following 1800, and only as we realize this can we grasp the full significance of what he tried to do. In that shadow he was not a speculative metaphysician of the line of Edwards, Bellamy, Hopkins, and West, as has many times been thought, but a practical man, "armed at all points, and walking among his fellows with magnificent confidence in his powers. He was a man with a job on his hands, the importance of which outweighed fine considerations of doctrine and practice and gave him the reputation for being conciliatory in both. His chief, if not his only, argument against infidelity, against "the reasonings of Herbert and Chubb; the subtle frauds of Tindal, the pompous insinuations of Shaftesbury; the eloquent, but empty, declamations of Bolingbroke; the wire-drawn metaphysics of Hume; .... the splendid impositions of Gibbon." was not philosophical but moral-the argument from the supposed moral tendency naturally resulting from infidelity as opposed to the tendency naturally resulting from Christianity. Infidelity, that plan "for exterminating Christianity," he shouted, "presents no efficacious means of restraining Vice, or promoting Virtue; but on the contrary encourages Vice and discourages Virtue."
"So evident is the want of morals on the part of Infidels, in this country, generally," he continued, "that to say -- 'A man is an Infidel' -- is understood, of course, as a declaration, that he is a plainly immoral man." In fact, "in New England the name Infidel proverbially denotes an immoral character, even in the mouths of those who profess no peculiar attachment to the Scriptures." Hence he rallied, not New Light or Old Light, not New Divinity or Old Divinity, or even Calvinism, but "true religion" to defend itself, good morals, and sound government against the supposed onslaughts of irreligion, immorality, and government by the rabble. The basic issue as he conceived it is suggested by the title he chose for his chief work: Theology: Explained and Defended. For Dwight thought that theology, the science of religion, was on the defensive, but only because it was misunderstood by minds clouded with infidelity. What was needed was explanation and enlightenment, for no rational mind which thoroughly understood the implications of infidelity and Christianity could choose the former. In this sense he picked up the very weapons of the infidels and turned them back on the infidels themselves. They insisted that the age of reason had arrived, and Dwight showed them that he could sound as reasonable as they, and on top of that he could outtalk and out argue the best of them.
We have seen the effect of his slashing attack on infidelity in Yale College. Meanwhile he turned with equal vehemence upon the community, especially upon the rich and well born. When Dwight became president, said Roger M. Sherman, "infidelity .... of The French school" was prevalent in the state, and "laymen of distinction generally, and our most eminent lawyers especially, were its advocates." When the legislature and courts were in session in New Haven, these men were attracted to the college chapel, and there Dwight met "the prevailing errors of the day" with "sound argument and overwhelming eloquence." The effect, says Sherman, "was wonderful. The new philosophy lost its attractions. In Connecticut it ceased to be fashionable or even reputable," and Christianity, "which was fearfully threatened with extermination, regained its respectability and influence." Dwight hammered home to these eminent men the dangerous consequences of the unbelief they at least tacitly indorsed, and, looking back in later years, he mentioned some of the arguments he had used and the effects they had produced.
No fact of a political nature was ever more instructive to thinking men, than the torpid submission of France to the rod of the Emperor Napoleon. Even the Infidels of this country, particularly the intelligent ones, saw in this fact and in those which preceded it, the efficacy of their own principles, and the danger, which they threatened mankind. Alarmed by the prospect, they first ceased from their endeavours to make proselytes; then began to speak favourably of the Christian Religion, and finally insisted, that it was absolutely necessary to good Government, liberty, and safety.
Out of Dwight's sledge-hammer attack on infidelity and deliberate efforts to rally Christian people to the defense of their religion, the new revivalism was born. The vivid presentation of the two alternatives, Christianity and infidelity, with the moral tendencies of each and the fervid insistence that the individual could and must choose between them, was its substance. For the essence of all revivalism is the demand, "Choose ye today whom ye will serve." And the revivals under Dwight and his immediate successors in New England differed from the earlier revivals in that area, and from the great revivals which began in the West around 1800, in that the leaders had very practical and tangible ends in view -- Christianity, the Standing Order, and Federalism were to be saved from infidelity, Jacobinism, and the Democrats. Couched though the sentiments were in religious language of personal and eternal salvation from the horrors of a burning hell for the glories of heaven, they sometimes scarcely conceal the solid substance of everyday life behind them. Dwight could not dissociate true religion from the established church -- he could hardly dissociate Christianity from Federalism. His converts were saved almost indiscriminately from Jacobinism and hell. The leading revivalists always had both feet firmly planted on the ground. They were very practical men and wanted definite results. This meant that they were not as a rule deeply concerned with fine theological distinctions and subtleties. In this sense Dwight was conciliatory in both doctrine and practice, and under his leadership the old lines of cleavage began to fade in importance or were largely forgotten. The shades of difference between those of the Standing Order were dwarfed into insignificance in the face of the supposed threat to the existence of all parties contained in the encroachments of infidelity as Dwight dramatized it. It is certainly not without significance that, when Moses Stuart, one of Dwight's star preaching prodigies, became pastor of Center Church in New Haven in 1806, the two other Congregational societies in town, estranged since the coming of James Dana to that pastorate in 1789 because their New Light ministers disapproved of his Old Light position, again joined with the Center Church in the communion lectures.
Nor is it without significance that the aged Dana, who had been too offended by his dismissal from Center Church to sit under the ministrations of his own successor, returned to his old church upon the ordination of Taylor, another of Dwight's favorite pupils. But, though Dwight and his successors were willing to overlook fine doctrinal points, they are not therefore to be thought of as changeable and vacillating. For in what they considered the real issue of the day, be it infidelity, or Episcopalianism, or Unitarianism, they showed no conciliatory tendencies at all. In his opposition to infidelity, Dwight remained adamant.
Nathaniel William Taylor, then, whose intimate association with Dwight during this period we have noted, received his training and baptism in action under the direct influence of that father of the new revivalism. As a religious leader he literally was born in revivalism.
Dwight was never able to dissociate true religion from the state-established Congregational church, and hence he fought for retention of the prerogatives of the Standing Order as the only means of stemming the flood of infidelity. In a sense, then, he failed in his main objective, for the church was disestablished just a few months after his death. It seemed to his supporters who survived him, now about to assume leadership, that all the dire things he had predicted must immediately follow this triumph of infidelity. When the Fusion party's candidate, Oliver Wolcott, won the election of April, 1817, the Reverend Thomas Robbins wrote in his diary, "We deserve the divine judgments and are now called to bear them."
And when the same party won the election of May, 1818, making disestablishment certain, Lyman Beecher, upon whom the mantle of Dwight was to fall in large degree, sank into a depression low even for that volatile man. "I remember," says his son Charles, who edited his father's Autobiography, "seeing father, the day after the election, sitting on one of the old-fashioned, rush-bottomed kitchen chairs, his head drooping on his breast, and his arms hanging down. 'Father,' said I, 'what are you thinking on' He answered solemnly, 'THE CHURCH OF GOD.''' And Lyman himself wrote that "it was a time of great depression and suffering ..... It was as dark a day as ever I saw. The odium thrown upon the ministry was inconceivable. The injury done to the cause of Christ, as we then supposed, was irreparable."
But soon thereafter a great light dawned upon Lyman Beecher, and a revolutionary idea, for him, was born! True religion might be dissociated from the Standing Order. "For several days [after disestablishment became a foregone conclusion] I suffered what no tongue can tell," he says, ''for the best thing that ever happened to the State of Connecticut." For "it cut the churches loose from dependence on state support. It threw them wholly on their own resources and on God." Before the change, he continues, "our people thought they should be destroyed if the law should be taken away from under them ..... But the effect, when it did come, was just the reverse of the expectation." We were then "thrown on God and on ourselves, and this created that moral coercion which makes men work. Before we had been standing on what our fathers had done, but now we were obliged to develop all our energy." Further, Beecher continues, noting with elation the new alignment of religious forces that took place in the state, by the repeal of the law compelling everyone to pay toward the support of some church, "the occasion of animosity between us and the minor sects was removed, and the infidels could no more make capital with them against us." On the contrary, "they then began themselves to feel the dangers of infidelity, and to react against it, and this laid the basis of co-operation and union of spirit." And, besides, he goes on in the full-flush of. his new enlightenment, "that tax law had for more than twenty years really worked to weaken us and strengthen them." For "all the stones that shelled off and rolled down from our eminence lodged in their swamp.
Whenever a man grew disaffected, he went off and paid his rates with the minor sects; but on the repeal of the law there was no such temptation." And as for the clergy, Beecher continues in some scorn, "they say ministers have lost their influence." But "the fact is, they have gained. By voluntary efforts, societies, missions, and revivals, they exert a deeper influence than ever they could by queues, and shoe buckles, and cocked hats, and gold-headed canes." Probably it takes considerable familiarity with the history of the Standing Order in Connecticut, and with Dwight, who fought the last great battle for its preservation, fully to appreciate the momentous revolution that was taking place in Lyman Beecher's head. Few if any of his predecessors in the succession of divines in the establishment had been able to conceive the possibility of their church without state support, and no man fought harder for the preservation of that connection than did Beecher himself. No doubt he was wise only after the event, but then, as will become clear, he was very wise.
Meanwhile we may be reasonably sure that Taylor saw practically eye to eye with Beecher, and, though there is no comment of his from the actual period of disestablishment, his sermon before the legislature in 1823 summed up their position.
"Every denomination of Christians," he told the legislators, "should depend simply, for the maintenance of its numbers and its influence, on the purity of its doctrines, the sanctity of its morals, and the zeal and labors of its ministry." For "it always has been, and it always will be, an ultimate curse to any religious denomination to strengthen and build up itself by political patronage." And, he continued, indicating that perhaps they had learned a bitter lesson from the long controversy over disestablishment, "if Christians are to be less concerned for the cause of God and of souls than for the success of their religious party," and "if to augment their secular influence and to pervert it to build up their cause, they are to become political factions," and "if the community are to witness only their mutual hostility and contests," then "the most fearful results may be foretold with the certainty of prophecy."
The "zeal and labors of its ministry" were indeed to become the chief dependence of the church. Cut off from their former sources of support by political revolution, and caused thus "to look to God," says Beecher, "the ministers were united, and had been consulting and praying." The important matters upon which they consulted will form a large part of succeeding chapters, but one great result of their consultations Beecher suggests with a final note of triumph. "Revivals," he says, "now began to pervade the state."
These men had passed through the crisis of disestablishment and, though despondent for a time, were convinced that their church had emerged victorious over the forces of infidelity which had beset her from without. Flushed with victory, they immediately turned their attention to the disintegrating forces which had long been growing up within their own household, and which were, in a sense, the natural heirs of the deistic movement they had just vanquished. Because of that conflict they found themselves experienced and fully armed for the new one. In the Christian Spectator's "Prospectus," for the year 1819, Lyman Beecher sounded the call for the new battle:
It is true indeed, and it is a truth, for which we devoutly thank God, that the external conflict of the church is at an end. After a struggle for twenty years, the battle with infidelity has been won, and few men can be found, who deny the truth of the christian system.
All, however, do not receive the truth in the love of it. The church is called to an internal conflict. Its attention must be directed to the dangers which now threaten it. It must be cautioned against an abandonment of the faith once delivered to the saints; and must be taught to guard against an amalgamation with the world.
Connecticut orthodoxy had become aware of Unitarianism.
PASTOR OF CENTER CHURCH
Lo! where fair Science gives to taste its birth,
And rears a monument of liberal worth;
See the proud Spire; a shining pageant, rise,
Like virtue pointing to her native skies,--
Hail beauteous pile!--another Bethlehem's star,
To guide our footsteps to a world afar;
A modern Ark! to bear our souls above
A flood of evils to our Maker's love.
o may my soul, like thy high towering dome,
Look down on follies of this transient home.
Within thy walls its best affections raise,
And chant my Maker's,--my Redeemer's praise.
Benignant Heav'n! still on this structure smile,
And bless the modern, as the ancient pile.
Be every blessing to its Pastor given,
Whose path of duty is the road to Heaven.
Long may he live, approv'd by God above,
The faithful Guardian of his People's love.
IN FEBRUARY, 1812, Taylor accepted a call from the First Church and Society in New Haven, usually known as Center Church because of its central position in the line of three churches on the green. The decision to accept this eminent position was not hastily arrived at. After preaching in the church for six Sabbaths "on probation" early in 1811, he had somewhat curtly declined to accept the call tendered him. But, when the call was repeated a few months later, he accepted at once.
There were many reasons why a young man might feel unequal to the demands Center Church was likely to put upon him. It was known to be in an unsettled and divided state. For ten years after Timothy Dwight became president of Yale and pastor of the college church, Center Church had continued on its unruffled way under the ministry of James Dana, its pastor since 1789. Dana, an aging and tired liberal, beset by heresy-hunters for almost fifty years, had naturally "acquired the habit of preaching on many of the most important and stirring topics" with what Leonard Bacon called "that diplomatic vagueness .... which leaves little impression upon the feelings, and less upon the memory." This, of course, became more and more unbearable to people acquainted by hearsay at least with the tremendous dogmatisms and scintillating sermons of Dwight and his pupils. So when Dana was ill during the winter of 1804-5 and the pulpit was supplied by Moses Stuart, one of Dwight's most dynamic young preachers, the Society immediately decided that they must have the young man as an associate minister at least. But Dana bluntly refused to consider this, whereupon the Society voted its "consent, that the Revd Dr. Dana retire from his pastoral labor in this Society."
Stuart was ordained eight months later (March 5, 1806). Dana, bitter at his dismissal, refused to sit under the ministrations of his successor and went off to the college chapel and Dwight as the lesser of two evils. There was some dissatisfaction in the congregation. But Stuart's success was immediate. Riding the crest of the revival wave started by Dwight, Center Church experienced its first awakening in fifty years, and during Stuart's three years and ten months as pastor, two hundred members were added to the church. Then, at the peak of his success, Stuart was offered the professorship of sacred literature at Andover Theological Seminary. He accepted, and at his request was dismissed by a council in January, 1810. The church was left somewhat up in the air and somewhat discouraged, having lost a young and very popular preacher. It was inclined to be unusually particular in picking his successor and took almost two years to do so. Taylor, who knew the situation through long residence in New Haven, had good reason to hesitate before trying to fill the place left vacant by the brilliant Stuart. Perhaps, too, he was awed by the number of Connecticut dignitaries who habitually sat in the congregation, and it is possible, as his daughter suggested, that he mused over the saying that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.
But, if we cannot know just why Taylor declined the first call from Center Church, we have his own vivid account of how he was induced to accept the second. In brief, "Old Pope Dwight," had given his pupil some "urgent and almost imperative advice."
When I received a call to the church in this city, which I, in every suitable way, tried to avoid accepting; Dr. Dwight was very anxious that I should accept it. I told him frankly my principal objection. You know the great popularity of my predecessor in that pulpit [Moses Stuart]; and I told Dr. Dwight that, if I were settled there, I could expect nothing else than that I should be dismissed within a year. "Why so?" said he. "Because," replied I, "I cannot satisfy the demands of the people as a preacher." He thought I could. I said, "I think not without a miracle." He answered with emphasis, "You do not know what you can do. No young man of even respectable talents knows what he can do, and hence, in many cases, they do so little. Believe me," said he, "I have no fears of the issue and I know much better what you can do, than you know yourself.
When Dwight spoke with that "just feeling of superiority" that "lent power and dignity to all his performances," few, and certainly not his students, questioned him. Perhaps there is more than appears on the surface in the wording of Taylor's letter to the Society: "I have to signify my acceptance. I am well satisfied that this is the path of duty plainly pointed out to me."
The ordaining council met on April 7, 1812, with Taylor's father sitting as a delegate from the church in New Milford, and proceeded to ordination on the following day. Meanwhile a committee had waited upon James Dana, signifying the desire of the congregation that he return to worship where he had so long served as pastor. The old man, his prejudices softened by six years of sitting under Dwight's persuasive exposition of the doctrines and duties of religion in the college chapel, was overjoyed and murmured, "It is well, I know not but that I may say, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace."14 Thus it was that he gave his blessing to the new man and the new day by acting as moderator of the ordaining council-becoming a living symbol of the passing of the older divisive issues and the emergence of new problems. A few months later he died, in peace.
Dwight himself preached the ordination sermon and gave the charge to the people, warning the young pastor that he must "labour, earnestly, to come forth to this people in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Peace" and ever remember and feel that "you are appointed by the great Shepherd to watch this flock in the fear of God, as one who must give an account." Next he warned the people that "a listless congregation will make any preacher dull." For "to preach with fervour, and to hear with attention, are corresponding duties. Neither can easily, or long, exist alone. Take heed, therefore, how you hear," he said tersely, and "remember always, that God is present, and will record the manner, in which you hear, in the book, out of which you will be judged." He closed the address with a majestic but somber admonition to both pastor and people:
With these awful considerations in view, .... must not his heart beat; must not his voice tremble; when he rehearses to dying creatures, hastening to the judgment, the terrors of the final day, and the burnings of devouring fire? Must not his bosom heave; must not his eye kindle; must not his tongue glow .... when he puts his hand on the door of heaven; and, opening it for the entrance of his flock, discloses to them the throne of GOD and the Lamb.
"The sky hung low in the ancient world," says Shirley Jackson Case in the opening sentence of an extended study of the supernatural during the first century. And it still hung low over Timothy Dwight and his colleagues in New England only little more than a hundred years ago. Just how low it hung is hard for us to grasp, since the "acids of modernity" have largely eaten away the many bonds that bound people to tha10ther world. Their lives were dominated by belief -- in the literal reality of the invisible world and by their vivid consciousness of the all-pervading operations of God and the devil.
The supernatural to them was so much an element of experience that they felt God's eye upon them in the church, and the record out of which they were to be judged was almost as real as the pulpit Bible. But, "once human experience loses this quality, nothing can reinstate it," says a modern in almost wistful tone. "We feel as though we had at last awakened from a dream, or a night-mare, if you wish; what were vivid realities to them now fade into illusions, which, far from being elements of experience, are almost beyond our recall."18 But the historian who would adequately interpret these men must "recall," must in sober justice to them "re-instate," this quality of their experience. To fail to do so is forever to place them beyond our comprehension. To look upon them as modern men, with the mental furnishings of modern men, is to get a distorted picture of their real selves. This is the failing of V. L. Parrington, for example, who, because he did not appreciate Dwight's sincere belief in the supernatural, made of him either a fool, a conscious deceiver, or both -- surely a rash judgment to pass upon a man simply because we of a later day do not share his vivid experience of God. We may rest assured that Dwight meant just what he said in that ordination sermon and that, for Taylor, entering the ministry was to assume the awesome responsibility of opening the door for the saints of the congregation upon the literal glories of heaven, and for the sinners upon the literal woes of the damned, showing them with what vividness he could command the possibilities of their future and eternal state. At the close of every sermon he always repeated his imperative demand that they choose one or the other and stressed the necessity and possibility of their doing so at once. This was the new revivalism.
Like many of the young men trained by Dwight, Taylor proved highly successful in his ministry, in spite of the dislocations of a war and the political upheavals that culminated in the disestablishment of the church. This success was very tangibly made known to the world when a new meeting-house was built for him on the green, the pews duly advertised and sold, and the dedication held December 27, 1814. Dwight added his benediction to this evidence of his pupil's success by offering the concluding prayer.
Taylor had many natural advantages that worked in his favor. The "fine and fair-looking boy" and the Adonis-like college student had now grown into an uncommonly handsome man, long remembered for his "beautiful appearance" and, above all, for his expressive eyes. All who brought him to mind remarked first upon his beauty, and only one thought to record that "in stature he was taller than: the middle height, with a frame rather squarely built but well knit ..... He had a clear complexion, a bright beaming black eye, black or dark brown hair, and clear cut features." Dutton, who was but fourteen years old when he first heard Taylor preach, admitted he was too young to grasp the sermon but always remembered that he "had more of manly beauty than I had ever seen." Any minister who could make such an impression on his parishioners surely enjoyed an initial advantage not widely shared.
His habitual dignity verged on arrogance so that the feeling of his congregation toward him was tinged with awe. His courage was undoubted, and parishioners long told with pride how, when "a tall, active, strong man said to him, 'Were it not for your coat I would give you a whipping,' " Taylor had calmly replied, " 'I can take it off.' "
Later we shall see why at least one New Haven man might want to give him a whipping, but, since Fowler does not intimate that the coat was taken off, we may suppose that the matter ended there. Such appearance and bearing helped to impress those about him. Then, as his early doubts following his conversion gave way to deeply rooted convictions, he spoke more and more with the ring of authority. These characteristics, plus a deep and sonorous voice, made him a natural orator with a message to deliver.
As a preacher he had been trained in the school of Dwight and gave his teacher full credit. For Dwight, as Taylor said, "took great pains .... to elevate preaching, that it might command the respect of this class of men [the educated]." It is well known "how current, at one time, was what may be called metaphysical preaching-dull, dry, tedious, and, to a great extent, useless." And it was Dwight, Taylor thought, who "by his own preaching and instructions, did more to effect the requisite change in relation to this, and to bring preaching to bear on the higher classes, and on all classes, .... than perhaps any other man of his day." Taylor's stigmatization of the preaching "current at one time" illustrates well the attitude he and his revivalistic colleagues took toward many of their immediate predecessors. This, it must be noted, was criticism directed at the Edwardeans, who "made metaphysics the order of the day," rather than at the Old Calvinist ministers like Taylor's grandfather. The best example of what he condemned in that phrase was Jonathan Edwards the Younger, who had shown himself to be "at home as far down in the depths of metaphysical abstraction as any other man .... that this country has seen" and had preached sermons "too profound to be interesting, or always intelligible to ordinary minds." In contrast, Taylor's preaching was rightly characterized as "pungent."
For the essence of the new revivalism, born in a situation where immediate and tangible results were demanded, was direct appeal to the minds of men in the effort to get them definitely to commit themselves. The appeal was made on the basis that Christianity was the reasonable course to adopt, since its effects here and hereafter were infinitely more desirable than those offered by any alternative. The "Infidels" had insisted that theirs was the reasonable course. Dwight had fought reason with reason, and his successors followed in his footsteps. Taylor's memorialist recalled that he had always addressed the understanding of his listeners and had "never conceded the ground of reason to the infidel, but ever maintained, with triumphant confidence, the rationality of Christianity and the irrationality of infidelity and irreligion."
Hence close study of the arguments used by the infidels, as well as the philosophical bases for their own belief, went hand in hand with the parish ministry. As revivalists they had to appeal directly to the people and were influenced by the desires and feelings of the people in the selection of subject matter and in style of preaching. Similarly, since the infidels had appealed to the common reason, what could be understood by the people now largely determined the philosophy to be adopted by the clergy in defense of their position.
Taylor told generations of students that one potent source of prejudice against philosophy was the "unintelligible language employed by writers as Kant, Aristotle, etc." and, more bluntly, that "no proposition in mental philosophy is of any value, unless its statements can be reduced to the simple language of life." Not by accident did the Scottish "common-sense" philosophy as developed by Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart become "the great offensive weapon of New England apology as well as its great instrument of constructive reasoning.30 Taylor spoke as a revivalist when in 1825, in the midst of another controversy, he wrote to a friend, "We must have a sound, deep philosophy, and yet it must be a common-sense philosophy, such as all the world can understand, if we would defend orthodox theology."
This appeal to what the plain man could understand contained the seeds of controversy and schism, but it led Taylor while a minister to long and systematic study of philosophy and theology. Indeed, a year or two after his ordination he seriously considered giving up his church and going to Andover for the purpose of overcoming what he considered his deficiencies. This not being feasible, he sought to supply them by continued study at home. Being pressed for time because of the duties of his parish work, he followed the example set by many New England divines and rose before daylight to pore over his books. In this way he made time for a great deal of philosophical reading, familiarizing himself with the great contemporary and historical writers. It was said that he had mastered Calvin, and the other great Calvinistic writers, until he could refer almost instantly to passages he might require in an argument. He was reputed to be better acquainted than any of his contemporaries with the New England divines and, above all, with Edwards, whose writings some declared he knew almost by heart. All his life he pored over the works of these masters, remaining in that sense a diligent student to the end. As death approached, he longed to be young again that he might study German and Hebrew and begin all over in the study of the Scriptures.
No doubt his extended study was prompted in part by the attempt to clear up the religious doubts and perplexities growing out of his own experience. Some questions, especially that of human responsibility, "he felt obliged to solve, under the alternative of giving up his faith," and his theological views were developed first, it was said, as "his own personal convictions." But, important as the personal factor undoubtedly was, it must not be overlooked that the revivalists had avowedly entered the arena to compete on the basis of common sense for the attention of plain people. They depended upon the reasonableness of their position and its clear exposition to bring conviction to the minds of their hearers. Hence Taylor tried to find adequate answers to all the current objections brought against his doctrinal views.
Only then could he "preach with a fearless tongue" and "go before his impenitent hearers, conscious of his ability to beat down every refuge which gave them shelter, from the arrows of conscience." In his own mind he was able to do this, attributing all his success to it and probably never becoming aware of the other factors which were perhaps as important as his logical arguments. Further, the New England revivalists inherited from their Calvinistic forebears, and found deeply ingrained in the minds of many of their church members, some doctrines very troublesome to those who wanted to preach immediate repentance to plain people and back its possibility with common sense. Such were the current interpretations of the doctrine of inability, which made men feel unable to accept the offers of the Gospel, and of the doctrine of election, which made the only common-sense course that of waiting for its execution. These doctrines Taylor studied long and concluded by effectively eluding them, preaching powerful sermons on "Immediate Repentance Practicable," "Salvation Free to the Willing," and "The Sinners Duty To Make Himself a New Heart."
Such sermons were prepared with laborious care, were "written with the coat off," as one of his parishioners expressed it, and became in delivery "those solid and massive discourses, full of linked and twisted logic, yet giving out at every point sharp flashes of electric fire," as Leonard Bacon, no mean preacher himself, said with almost wistful admiration. "Indeed," said Dutton, himself a preacher of some reputation, "for the effective presentation in a discourse of a solid body of pertinent scriptural truth," for "continued and powerful cannonading, more and more powerful to the end, on the fortress of the reason, the conscience, the will, and heart of those unreconciled to God," he had "no equal in his day among those I have had the privilege to hear." And all the linked and twisted logic, all the flashes of electric fire, all the cannonading on the fortress of the reason, were rooted in Taylor's one and only purpose -- "to convict men of sin and lead them to Christ."
To this end he bent all his energies, until some of his fellow-ministers were dubious and felt that perhaps his preaching "was disproportionately devoted to this purpose-not enough to the edification, instruction and completion of the Christian character." But Taylor never doubted the wisdom of his course. Every incident was used as grist for his revivalistic mill. His daughter recalled a "time of special religious interest" when extra services were being held and the young people had been asked to come on Saturday afternoon "for personal conversation." But some girls "my father had hoped would be there" had instead gone for a picnic to East Rock. When this was made known, he was "greatly disappointed" and exclaimed, " 'Oh! their rock is not as our rock.' " Immediately "he went to his study, wrote a sermon on this text, and preached it the next morning." And that sermon was "the instrument of bringing [not only] all those young people into the fold, but also many others."
Basing his sermons on such timely incidents and seeking to convince people of the error of their ways and the rightness of his own-in short, to convert them -- Taylor, for all his logic and metaphysics, did not become unintelligible. As he worked out his views, he preached them plainly, though "occasionally, some zealous adherent of the old form of orthodoxy would scandalize the congregation, by forcing his, or perhaps her, way out of the church, when some obnoxious sentiment was uttered." Even Dwight is said to have "hesitated to approve" the new doctrines his favorite was teaching, and some of Taylor's ministerial brethren "found themselves unable to cooperate with him." But Taylor overcame the opposition and carried the church with him. His very handsome appearance, strong personality, and oratorical ability, combined with skill in dealing effectively with individuals, played no small part in his success. But, above all, was his obvious effectiveness in the object of his special concentration, in luring sinners into the kingdom of God, in getting people converted. In this he was by common consent "eminently successful," among his own people and wherever he preached.
Just as the historian, if he is to give a sober and just appraisal of these men, must recapture their feeling for the awesome reality of the next world, so he must also recapture the complementary feeling for the tremendous importance of a conversion experience. Life was dominated by the reality of the supernatural realm, and, according to the prevailing orthodox opinion of the day, the only guaranty that one would go to eternal bliss and not to eternal torment when he crossed the divide was a conscious experience of regenerating grace. Parents suffered untold agonies over anticipated eternal separations when children remained unconverted. Even cursory reading of their books and letters makes this clear. Through all the lively pages of Lyman Beecher's Autobiography runs the undercurrent of bitter sorrow as he contemplates the unregenerate state of his children.
One child out of danger would give me joy to which I am yet a stranger, and relieve the sickness of heart occasioned by hope deferred ..... I cannot endure the thought that .... you should continue unawakened and unconverted . My heart is pained, is terrified at the thought that you should be left . Oh my dear son, agonize to enter in. You must go to heaven, you must not go to hell.
The story of the exquisite suffering of his daughter, Catharine Beecher, and all concerned when her fiancee, the young professor Alexander Metcalf Fisher, was lost at sea in 1822 is further striking illustration. For Fisher, considered one of the most brilliant young men on the Yale faculty, though by no means a profligate person and though he had studied theology for two years and though his articles confuting skepticism were published in the religious journals, was not known to have been converted.
There was but one conclusion. "It was not so much the ruined hopes of future life" in this world, Catharine wrote her brother Edward; "it was dismay and apprehension for his immortal spirit. Oh, Edward, where is he now? Are the noble faculties of such a mind doomed to everlasting woe?" And so strong was the grip of inexorable doctrine on even Lyman Beecher's great heart that all the comfort he could offer his sorrowing daughter was that "many did and will indulge the hope that he was pious, though without such evidence as caused him to indulge hope." But, he continued sorrowfully, "on this subject we can not remove the veil which God allows to rest upon it, and have no absolute resting place but submission to his perfect administration." If only Fisher had given "such evidence" of hope. If only he had shown some indication of an experience of regenerating grace. If only he had been converted-then this grisly specter of apprehension regarding his eternal state would have been removed.
Conversion was thus a momentous thing. It was the only thing that really mattered for many church people during the time of Taylor's ministry. And Taylor secured conversions. Under his vigorous preaching there was a revival in 1815, followed by others in 1816, in 1820, and in 1821. Leonard Bacon recalled as a day "for which an earnest and willing pastor might well be willing to die," the last day of 1820 when more than seventy persons "old and young and of every condition in life filled these aisles, as they came from their seats to take the vows of God upon them."
Much in the way of doctrinal aberration might be forgiven a minister who was so successful in promoting the one thing that the church constituency of the day valued above all things. Dwight, as we have noted, was somewhat reluctant to indorse Taylor's theological views. But his son Sereno, who, in spite of his father's earnest endeavors and great effect on others, had grown to manhood and become a practicing lawyer without having a conversion experience, capitulated under Taylor's preaching in the revival of 1815 and was converted. Then it was that Dr. Dwight's "pious and paternal joy overcame every other feeling; and if he retained any lingering doubts [about Taylor's doctrines], they went down with him to the grave, unspoken. There were many others like Dwight.
But sermons were not the only means the pastor used to convert the members of his church. He was a good pastor as well as a preacher, and all "knew that he loved their souls, and sincerely desired their spiritual welfare." He endeavored to become acquainted with them individually and to ascertain "their state of feeling respecting religion." He "assiduously sought opportunities to confer with them on their salvation" and "commended 'the truth as it is in Jesus' to their hearts." Thus he reputedly became especially adept in dealing with the individuals who came to him with personal religious problems, a gift he shared with many of his contemporary and following revivalists, and helped them to iron out their difficulties and turn to the Christian way of life as he conceived it.
Further, not only did he seek out the individual souls of his parishioners in sermons and personal contacts but he was also a faithful shepherd of his flock, vigilant to guard it from the doctrinal wolves that prowled ominously near at times and to keep it from tumbling into the dangerous pitfalls of infidel and other unorthodox opinions. With courage and directness he fought the encroachment of outside groups. When the Universalists tried to organize a church within his parish, "he went in uninvited, and having obtained leave to speak, he followed the Preacher with such a refutation of his discourse, that they were discouraged from their purpose," although "the first time, they were so angry, that they extinguished the lights before he had finished his remarks."
Such is the picture of the young minister as he appeared to whose who knew him during this period of his life -- revivalist preacher, pastor of his flock, defender of his faith, student, speculative thinker of recognized ability, theologian, bending all his efforts to the one purpose of securing converts. And over all, through the first five years of his pastorate, hovered the grand figure of Timothy Dwight. Many years later Taylor wrote:
After I was settled, I was occasionally at the end of the matter 'as to sermons. [Once I went to Dwight] and told him in much depression, that I could not write another that would be fit to preach. "Why," said he, "you are in as bad a plight as President Edwards said he once was, when he could not find another text in the Bible on which he could make a sermon."
Then the older man assumed again the role of teacher:
He asked me if I had thought of a subject, -- text, -- plan. I mentioned to him that I had three or four, [and told him what they were]. "Which, on the whole," said he, "do you like best?" When I had named it, he said, "go to your study, ask the Divine blessing, and make as good a sermon as you can on that text, and it will be good enough." I did so, and, with the cheerful courage which he inspired, I succeeded ..... After a while I got over these fits of despondency, and no one can tell how much I owe to him for it.
One more aspect of Taylor's ministry remains to be noted. Once having convicted men and brought them into the church, he sought with some diligence to keep them walking in the prescribed path. Hand in hand with revivalism, at least since the time of Jonathan Edwards, 'has gone the idea of a purified church, partly because the church was conceived as an association of the saved who ought to act as if regenerate, but also because God's Spirit was thought to be wounded and turned away if any unfaithful persons remained in the flock. Improper conduct on the part of even one member was thought to be a hindrance to the outpouring Of the Spirit, a bar to revivals, and must be dealt with accordingly. Hence the revivalists have quite generally been strict disciplinarians.
And Taylor was no exception to the rule. The records of the church and the Society show that a number of members were disciplined from the beginning of his ministry. The procedure was according to the somewhat complicated Congregational usage. Complaint would be brought before a regular meeting of the church, which would then appoint a special committee to investigate and report. The church acted upon the report submitted at a later meeting. This method was slow and might be very inefficient and ineffectual. So it is not surprising that in February, 1815, at Taylor's suggestion, the church appointed a standing committee of four members and the pastor to meet at least once a month "to enquire after all public offences in this Church which may come to their knowledge by complaint or otherwise." It was further stipulated that "in all cases of private offence, when the measures prescribed in the 18th of Matthew's Gospel shall have been taken complaint may be made to this Committee instead of the Church." The committee, in brief, functioned as a court of trial. It was given full "power to summon before them all members of this Church accused of any offence to examine them & to give them such brotherly counsel as may in their judgment tend to reclaim such offenders" and was to ascertain facts in the cases brought before it and report same to the church with recommendation of measures to be taken. But, it was added in the "Records" as a caution, the existence of this committee was not to "discharge or lessen the obligations of the individual members of this church to watch over, admonish & reprove one another."
The real and implied powers of this standing committee are quite remarkable in Congregational history, and the fact that it was permitted to function at all is an indication of the religious fervor of the time. But function it did, and the way it facilitated the handling of discipline cases is apparent. It was much easier to bring complaints against wayward members to one or more of those on the committee than to the whole church. Besides, the committee members themselves, as the "Records" show, were very forward in tracking down rumors and making investigations on their own account. Their diligence is indicated in the case of Lockwood De Forest, who in February, 1816, was cited for, among other things, "having played at cards, in New York in the year 1809." Such diligence meant that the number of discipline cases increased many fold. The members of the church were subjected to an inquisitorial supervision of their private lives and were liable to trial and reprimand or even excommunication for their offenses. No doubt the commoner sort when excommunicated merely dropped out of church life. Such was Brother John Monsoon, who was admonished and then cast out for keeping "a common resort of the idle intemperate & vicious & suffering them to loiter in and about his shop." But others like Captain David Phipps and Nancy Garfield refused to be bowed beneath the weight of discipline and went off to the Episcopal church, where, in the words of a contemptuous Congregationalist, "easy are the terms of salvation" and "you may indulge freely in all the innocent amusements of the world, you may go from the communion table to the ball-chamber; and if you should occasionally be found at the card table," or "get angry, and drop a profane oath," or "now and then be mellow at a tavern, you need fear no censure," for there "no rod of discipline is raised, no thunders of excommunication are pronounced."
Captain Phipps had owned a pew in the old meeting-house which had been torn down to make room for the new, and he told the committee that the church displayed "a want of brotherly love" in unjustly destroying "his property in said pew" without offering reparation that "furnished good reason for his conduct in separating from them." Through the bare story told in the "Records" one glimpses an elderly gentleman unalterably opposed to the building of a new church. The committee members visited him and pled with him but finally had to report to the congregation that Captain Phipps still "preferred to worship with the Episcopal Church." Whereupon they reluctantly struck his name from their roll.
The case of Nancy Garfield acquired that notoriety in the town that is usual where scandal involving a woman is concerned. The committee first let it be known that they had tracked down "sundry reports" that Mrs. Garfield became a mother in August, 1816, while "it was not known that she was previously married, and generally supposed that she was not." The report states that "much time has been spent, and labour employed in this investigation" by the members, without unearthing sufficient confirmation for her story of a secret wedding. A letter from the pastor was "returned unopened by her husband," and two brothers appointed to see her personally reported back with masterful understatement that there seemed to be "a determination, on the part of Mr. Garfield, that they should not see his wife." Whereupon her name was stricken off the roll -- not for her first sin but (shades of Anne Hutchinson!) "for the sin of falsehood & for contemptuously refusing to receive any communication from this Church." What had happened is made clear from a letter she had written Taylor in January, 1817 -- seven months before his church finally excommunicated her, and months before they had ceased their efforts to bring her before the committee. It clearly indicates that Nancy Garfield was no ordinary sinner but a vivacious woman of some education, able to write a very clever letter. She assures Taylor of highest personal regard for him, and if only "the rulers of your Church, had constituted you its Pastor, in fact as well as in name --1 should have had but little reason to complain of injustice." But since the real rulers -- the members of his committee -- had demonstrated "that nothing like justice or equity could be expected at the hands of men thus unreasonable," she had joined the Episcopal church. That was all she had to say, but "if you wish for any further information, please to call on Rev. Mr. Croswell. "
This was stinging sarcasm, for the Reverend Harry Croswell was the rector of Trinity Church in New Haven. Born in Connecticut and reared a Congregationalist, he early moved to New York, where for several years he conducted a strongly Federalist newspaper. In 1804 some Democrats, determined to crush him for his attacks on Jefferson, involved him in several libel suits and secured judgments far beyond his ability to pay. Then in 1811 a prominent Federalist politician had him jailed for three or four months for a small debt. This action on the part of the Federalists, for whom he had suffered so much, embittered him; he renounced politics and never again voted or attended a political meeting. Soon thereafter he conformed to the Episcopal church and in 1816 became the rector of the new Trinity Church in New Haven. Always somewhat embarrassed in the Yale atmosphere by his lack of college and ministerial training-a lack of which his opponents were not above reminding him-he remained aloof, confining himself largely to his parish duties. He did not conceal his contempt for the "sectaries" and, when goaded, was capable of attack or reply in the strong language which long training in the political journalism of the day had tutored him. Definitely he was not the man to take criticism lightly from the strongly Federalist clergy of the Standing Order or to discuss calmly with the arrogant Taylor the parishioners who chose to enter the Episcopal church. Nancy Garfield knew all this and in her letter showed the feminine finesse to touch a proud man exactly where it would hurt most.
These local events might have been just another ecclesiastical tempest in a teapot but for the fact that they occurred at exactly the right juncture in the political and ecclesiastical affairs of the state to magnify their importance. They happened, be it remembered, just after the rapidly growing Episcopal churches had joined forces with the Democrats (February, 1816) to overthrow the establishment, when the clergy of the Standing Order under the leadership of Dwight and Beecher were making a frenzied attempt to prevent the inevitable. They carried on a pamphlet and periodical warfare with the Episcopal leaders which at times stooped to scurrility. Taylor preached and published sermons pointed enough to be of local application, and Croswell replied with invective so strong that the mild Chauncey A. Goodrich threatened a libel suit. This exchange of pamphlets is to be understood, of course, in the light of the political and theological controversy of the day. But back of their unusual bitterness and free indulgence in personalities we can discern the provocative faces of Captain Phipps and Nancy Garfield -- irritating symbols of the dawning day that would brook no church discipline and would seek a connection where it did not have to be "righteous over much." In the public debate Taylor exercised enough restraint to retain a semblance of theological argument. But in a letter to Croswell about these two cases personal feelings are fully revealed. "We intend to do our own business in our own ways," he wrote, and, further:
I feel .... constrained to ask you, sir, a few questions. "By what right and under what color of authority," do you summon us to your tribunal? Where is your tiara or Legate's commission? or have we hitherto been ignorant that the whole Church of Christ is responsible for its acts to the Rector of Trinity Church in this city? -- "By what rule of the Gospel, by what principle of Christianity" does your Church open the arms of protection to the offending members of another -- invite and welcome to its embrace the accused and the convicted and thus to the utmost of their power counteract the efficacy of that discipline which Christ has established for their SALVATION? ....
Before I conclude permit me to suggest to you the propriety of sparing in future all your certificates & all your remonstrances & all your threats. It is lost breath. In God's strength we intend & we expect to preserve in our Church the discipline which he has instituted, in defiance of all its enemies, We take ground on which we say in triumph, "if God be for us who can be against us?"
LYMAN BEECHER'S CAMPAIGN, 1810-18
"CONNECTICUT," wrote a disgruntled Republican at the height of Dwight's activity, "is almost totally an ecclesiastical state, ruled by the President of the College as a Monarch," wielding the "united power of an ecclesiastic and politician. By such opponents "ministers like Trumbull, Ely, Beecher, and Huntington, were regarded as his lieutenants to lead the well-trained cohorts to the election," says a modern student in a brilliant study of the period. Just how much Beecher was Dwight's lieutenant, and how much he was independent in his actions if not actually dominating Dwight in some situations, does not clearly appear. Certainly Beecher's independence does not suffer from his own exuberant accounts in the Autobiography, which is extensively used in the following pages because in picturing the life of Taylor the chief concern is to understand how the situation appeared to men of the day. Having given some account of Dwight's campaign against infidelity in which the new revivalism was born, it remains to discuss Beecher's activities during the same period. For Beecher, in Hibben's descriptive phrase, was Taylor's "alter-ego," under their joint leadership revivalism became a consciously used means to a tangible end. Where Dwight had moderately urged the use of "means," Beecher bluntly told the clergy that they were "no longer to trust Providence, and expect God will vindicate His cause while we neglect the use of appropriate means." But "if such exertions are made as the exigency demands and we are able to make" he had no doubt that what happens "will be for the furtherance of the Gospel." Hence he shouted to his sleepy colleagues, "it is high time to awake!"
For, he later confessed with his usual assumption of remarkable foresight, "I foresaw what was coming. I saw the enemy digging at the foundations of the standing order," and "I went to work with deliberate calculation to defend it." With deliberate calculation -- those words must always be kept in mind when dealing with Lyman Beecher's varied career. Every move he made, and he made many during a long and active life, was made "with deliberate calculation," with something to be gained in view. As a minister at Litchfield he cultivated a revival in his church, as a member of the Association he pushed revivals in all the neighboring churches, and as a clergyman of the Standing Order he worked hard to organize voluntary societies throughout the state, to launch a periodical, and to publish pamphlets -- always with a larger purpose in mind. At first it was to save Christianity from the encroachments of infidelity; later it was to crush the Democrats' "Toleration party" and save the establishment. This entailed an attack on the Episcopalians that really launched Taylor into the midst of things. These events are the subject of the present chapter, which again leads up to the time when Beecher saw the great light. Then, after further "deliberate calculation," he decided that the real enemy was not infidelity from without but Unitarianism from within, and rather too abruptly for some he made peace with the sects and Episcopalians and turned to meet the new enemy. By that time he and his "General Staff" at New Haven had almost perfected their organization and had developed very effective methods. But in the process, to the minds of many, Calvinism, "the truth in the Gospel," had suffered woefully, and for this Taylor received most of the blame. They saved Connecticut from infidelity and from Unitarianism, but they could not save themselves from bitter controversy with their erstwhile companions, and "Taylorism" became a rallying cry for half the saved, a "red flag" for the other.
But to return to Beecher's "deliberate calculation" to use the "appropriate means" to "vindicate His cause" in Connecticut. Beecher had graduated from Yale College in 1796, and, after his first ministry in the rather secluded parish of East Hampton, Long Island, accepted a call to Litchfield, Connecticut, early in 1810. Within a year he wrote his fellow-minister, Asahel Hooker, in an exultant mood, that, after two or three excommunications had demonstrated the church's determination to "restore purity and preserve order," there were signs of a revival in his church. By February, 1812, he was happy to report the revival spreading not only through his parish but also through his part of the state. Not, be it noted, by accident but by deliberate design. At the last meeting of the ministers, he says,
we agreed .... upon an interchange of routine preaching between the Northwestern and Litchfield South monthly meetings. Mr. Harvey and myself took the first tour, to see the brethren and get the thing under way. We visited the two Canaans, Salisbury, and Sharon, and should have visited Cornwall had weather permitted ..... Messrs. Crossman and Prentiss are to take the southern tour, beginning at Litchfield, Tuesday.
Once this systematic campaign of the brethren was launched, revivals spread rapidly through the surrounding towns. In July he wrote Hooker again that "the revival in South Canaan is happily progressing, and in Kent also, and North Cornwall, and in South Britain ..... Appearances are favorable in Sharon, Salisbury, Washington, New Milford, and more or less so in many places besides." Then, having started the members of his Litchfield Association out on horseback to bring new life and revivals to one another's churches, Beecher immediately began to plan to extend such activity. This, however, required care. New England remembered after sixty years the "invasion" of parishes by irresponsible exhorters during the revival zeal of the Great Awakening, and "itineration" was a word to shudder at. But still Beecher thought-making one wonder if he had perhaps learned something from the Methodists-that "settled pastors with a systematic itineration would be able to embrace all the benefits of stability with all the benefits of missionary zeal and enterprise." Stability and zeal ("zeal," which meant "revivals" to Beecher). Like many another religious leader, he wanted both in the churches, and he came very near to devising a system in which the stability of "the old steady order of things" was combined with the zeal of those preachers of "enthusiasm" who had brought divisions and disorders. It has often been remarked that the revivals of this Second Awakening in New-England showed few of the wild extravagances characteristic of the western revivals of the same time, but it has seldom been noted that an important reason for this was that the New England revivals were carefully controlled. They were conducted largely by settled pastors systematically itinerating under the capable leadership of Lyman Beecher.
As soon as this system had proved its merit in and about Litchfield, he began to press for its use elsewhere. "Why can not some such effort be made in your part of the state?" he wrote Hooker in November, 1812. "Have you not missionary ground enough, and zeal enough, and encouragement enough on the part of God to make some such exertions for the revival of religion?" Remember, he argues, that "such itinerations preceded the great revivals in New Jersey," and "they have been blessed evidently in our churches." There are indications that under his leadership the Congregational clergy adopted "systematic itineration" quite generally. By the summer of 1813 the practice was widely used. The New Haven Association had adopted it, and Taylor was actively engaged, as evidenced by his letter to Benjamin Trumbull of the North Haven parish:
Understanding that you were not at our last Association I have thought you may not have been apprised of the arrangement for circuit preaching. Mr. Alling & myself expect to be with you on Monday next. You will please to notify the meetings at such hours In the afternoon or evening as you shall think proper.
Yours affectly in the Gospel Nathl W. Taylor
All this careful preparation and planning and work lay back of Beecher's simple statement: "Revivals now began to pervade the state."
But revivals were only one phase of Beecher's campaign to save the Standing Order. The second phase was an effective state-wide organization of the loosely organized Congregationalism. "When Litchfield County folks wish to carry any good plans in General Association," he wrote Hooker in February, 1812, "it is a consolation to know that we have a true man who can help to form other true men in the eastern part of the state." Such open cajolery from Beecher meant that he had something on his mind that he wanted Hooker to help with. It was that "an. attempt be made at the ensuing Commencement at New Haven to establish a reformation society for the state, [since] the state of public morals, especially with respect to the violation of the Sabbath and the prevalence of intemperance, is such as to demand some special general effort." But why a "reformation society"? Because, thought Beecher, "democracy as it rose, included nearly all the minor sects, besides the Sabbath-breakers, rum-selling, tippling folk, infidels, and ruff-scuff generally." To his mind at the time it was simple. If this Sabbath-breaking, rum-selling, tippling rough-scuff and the minor sects could only be reformed into temperate Congregational observers of the Sabbath, they would automatically cease also to be Democrats and a threat to the Standing Order. Hence, he continued to Hooker, such a society "will tend to awaken the attention of the community to our real state and danger," will "be a rallying-point for all good men," might suggest "what needs to be done and the means of doing it," and "may be the parent and patron of local auxiliary societies." Then Beecher got around to the point and continued to his true man in the eastern part of the state: "This is to request, if you approve of the design, that you will confer with such of your brethren as have not too much prudence ever to do anything." Meanwhile he was very busy lining up his men in other parts of the state. "I expect to be in Hartford soon on my way to Guilford," he wrote, "and shall return by New Haven. Shall confer with Governor Treadwell, Mr. Yates, Mr. Chapin, Dr. Dwight, and such of the brethren as I may see." Some of the brethren he was wise enough not to see himself but resourceful enough to use in the grand scheme. "Who is the best man to propose the thing to Dr. Strong, of Hartford? I am not in his books, as we Litchfield boys patronize the 'Panoplist' etc."
After these careful preparations it is not surprising that in October, 1812, he was able to report the successful outcome of the commencement-time meeting in New Haven. A select group of clergy and laymen, with Dwight in the chair, had met and voted unanimous approval of the organization of "a general society for the suppression of Vice and the Promotion of good Morals." And, having approved, they proceeded to action with the appointment of a committee of twenty-six members, representing every section of the state, for "inquiry and correspondence" and, if they find it "practicable and expedient," to prepare an "address to the Public, land] make all other necessary arrangements." But Beecher was not the man to leave it to chance whether or not the committee found it "practicable" to organize such a society. "It is impossible to make you or anyone else understand the amount of labor we went through in those days in trying to preserve our institutions and reform the public morals," he reminisced. At the time he thought it very important that "the clergy be apprised of the thing, and steadily exert their influence to prepare the way." To Hooker, as to other "true men," he made specific suggestions as to how the way might be prepared.
My request to you is that without delay you will write to Mr. Theodore Dwight, expressing to him your views on the subject in the manner your own discretion shall dictate, and that you will in your region touch every spring, lay or clerical, which you can touch prudently, that these men do not steal a march upon us, and that the rising opposition may meet them early, and before they have gathered strength.
Thus originated the Connecticut Society for the Reformation of Morals.
Beecher was thoroughly persuaded in November, 1812, that "the time has come when it becomes every friend of this state to wake up and exert his whole influence to save it from innovation and democracy." And, first, it is to be noted that "every friend" included both ministers and laymen. Where Timothy Dwight had spoken so effectively to "the laymen of distinction," Lyman Beecher, a born promoter, organized and utilized them. It was, he realized, "a new thing in that day for the clergy and laymen to meet on the same level and co-operate." Hitherto the ministers had arranged things by themselves. They "were all politicians. They had always been used to it from the beginning." And "on election day they had a festival" where they would "walk in procession, smoke pipes and drink." And the "fact is, when they got together, they would talk over who should be governor, and who lieutenant governor, and who in the Upper House, and their counsels would prevail." But now that "the ruff-scuff generally" had "made a deadly set at us of the Standing Order," it was time to meet the shock "in all possible ways," and "one was this association of the leading minds of the laity with us in council." Second, because so many seem to misunderstand this, it is important to stress that Beecher and his coworkers never tried to conceal that the endeavors of the Moral Society were political as well as religious. Years later he wrote that "it was the anticipation of the impending revolution and downfall of the standing order that impelled me to the efforts I made at that time to avert it." This could only mean political action. At the time he harangued both clergy and laymen in language even more pointed. "If we stand idle," he threatened, "we lose our habits and institutions piecemeal, as fast as innovation and ambition shall dare to urge on the work." And why, he plaintively inquired, "should this little state be sacrificed? Why should she, at such a day as this, standing alone amid surrounding ruins [the country had gone Democratic], be torn herself by internal discord?" He found it almost impossible to conceive that men could be so wicked as to want to change Connecticut. "What a wanton effort of ambition! Lord, what is man?" Even the Episcopalians long "conjured us to holdfast our usages, and now they are about to invite the aid of democracy to pull them down. If this thing succeeds it is because God has given us up to madness that He may destroy us." If Dwight, then, was the "monarch" of Connecticut, Beecher was the general in command of the forces in the field.
But Beecher's campaign included more than revivals and a state-wide organization. A third phase was concerned with literary attacks to be met and made. "In one of my last interviews with Dr. Dwight [died February 11, 1817], he said he had been trying to get up a religious and literary magazine, but was about discouraged, and thought -- the project must fail." Though already carrying on a score of projects, a mere magazine could not daunt Beecher. "'Why doctor,' said I, 'there is no doubt it can be done. Just take your pen and jot down the names of the good writers there are in New Haven, in Hartford, and elsewhere.' .... And I counted up forty or fifty or more excellent contributors." This led, he continues significantly, "to a few of us, Taylor, Tyler, Harvey and I, and some others, writing a series of tracts, some half a dozen or so, on existing questions. Several were prepared and published."
For a few pious ministers to get together and write "half a dozen or so" tracts "on existing questions" sounds innocuous and natural enough until we stop to consider when they did this and the nature of the existing questions as they conceived them. Through the year 1815 the enemies of the Standing Order, to Beecher's mind, were the Democrats and the sects, and there is little evidence that its dignitaries considered it necessary to carryon: a literary warfare with them. But when at the meeting in New Haven the Episcopalians threw in their lot with the Democrats, that decidedly was another matter. Beecher reviews the situation in brief. The sects, he says, had grown and complained of having to get tax certificates.
Our efforts to enforce reformation of morals by law made us unpopular; they attacked the clergy unceasingly, and [of course], myself in particular, in season and out of season, with all sorts of misrepresentation, ridicule and abuse; and finally the Episcopalians, who had always been stanch Federalists, .... went over to the Democrats.
Taylor, the young pastor of the First Church in New Haven, had long been irked at the tendency of his disgruntled parishioners to transfer themselves to the religious oversight of Rector Harry Croswell of Trinity Church. Hence there is little reason to suppose that it was entirely by accident that he now published a stinging attack on Episcopalianism and its doctrines under the outwardly harmless-looking title, Regeneration the Beginning of Holiness in the Human Heart. This sermon, so far as it is theological at all, is an elaborate argument against the "scheme," as he called it, that "as all mankind lost their power to do good works in Adam," so "this power is restored in Christ"; and that
although all that is merely natural in men is sinful, in other words, although there is no moral goodness in men, except it be produced by the Divine Spirit, yet, that in consequence of the first promise of a Saviour, light and grace are given to all men; and that thus something good is produced in the hearts of all men by the Spirit of God.
This scheme, he adds in a footnote, "is universally adopted by the Wesleyan Methodists," and "so far as it respects the restoration by grace of lost powers, to enable men to perform their duty, by the Episcopalians in this country."
But Taylor in this, as in most of his later theological writings, exhibited almost uncanny tactlessness through a combination of arrogance and "holier-than-thou" attitude which was bound to rub the fur of any opponent the wrong way. In an introduction he apologizes for the production, saying that it was written arid preached "without thought of publishing." However, he adds, the manuscript was circulated, as well as "imperfect and mutilated copies," and consequently the author "is charged with grossly misrepresenting the opinions which he opposes." Hence he "must publish to prevent any improper use which might be made of these copies, and effectually to repel this charge of misrepresentation." Of course, he continues rather sweetly, it was not preached or published "to provoke a controversial discussion."
On the eighteenth page of the sermon itself, and in summary, he finally says with a show of magnificent self-restraint: "I am aware, my brethren, that this is a delicate subject. But it ought to wound no one's feelings, that error is exposed. If it does, "he adds with martyr-like spirit, also characteristic, "it cannot alter the duty of a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ." With that introduction he launches into his summary in the style which brought forth from a contemporary the comment that Taylor's arguments unfolded like an apocalypse:
I have thought that a scheme fraught with so many and so great errors, a scheme which makes the terms and promises of salvation palpably inconsistent; which denies that faith and repentance and regeneration are the work of God's Spirit; which places mankind in a state of salvation without a particle of holiness; which rests the power of doing this in the hands of a particular set of men; which includes in this state of salvation all who are baptized by them, and excludes from it, and from final salvation, all who are not; which maintains that a change of heart is not the dividing line between sinners and saints, between the heirs of heaven and the heirs of hell, a scheme too, which with the face of liberality and charity is zealously maintained and propagated, I say I have thought that such a scheme needed exposure. I have felt, that I being set to watch for your souls as one who must give account, ought to show you what that system of error is which you are so often invited to embrace. If anyone thinks an apology necessary, mine is, my responsibility to my Divine Master.
This sermon, however, was an isolated shot, and Beecher had in mind more united and co-operative efforts. Just when in 1816 the publication appeared is not clear, but it was probably before September 30, when Beecher, in the same letter that announced the death of his wife, invited Taylor, Nettleton, Harvey, and Tyler to meet at his home to discuss the preparation of tracts. "Each," he said, is to bring "a number of his best sermons to be made into a doctrinal tract. Two or three days are to be spent in reading and criticism, and then each is to take a subject to write a tract upon. We must have a set of doctrinal tracts just right, and to have such we must make them." But Beecher knew when he wrote this letter that Taylor had already opened the war on the Episcopalians, for he adds significantly: "How do the bishop's people come on? Do they continue to squib you in the newspapers, or are they waiting for the great gun to be loaded and fired?" And then, like a general who wished to goad his cohorts to action: "Are we to be revolutionized by Churchmen and Democrats? What is your opinion?"
Perhaps the "great gun" to which Beecher referred was the forty-page review of Taylor's sermon that the Reverend Menzies Rayner published for the Episcopalians sometime early in 1817. Rayner was at some disadvantage in grappling with Taylor's involved arguments, and after thirty-six pages somewhat abjectly says: "It is, I confess, difficult to treat with seriousness, such palpable arrogance." However, he is heartened by the thought that the reader cannot help observing that the author of the sermon has perverted the scriptures, and wrested them from their obvious meaning: that he has unfairly quoted, and grossely misrepresented the writings of Bishop Hobart: that he has contradicted, and set at utter defiance, the standards of his own Church: and that the sermon is written in a style the most uncharitable, positive and dogmatical.
Taylor in the course of a long career of controversial writing was to hear and read those charges reiterated in substance against him from many different opponents. But now Beecher, always the general, wrote him on March 4, 1817: "I want to hear from you about Rayner's book, and what you are about to do. Can you answer it, or is it unanswerable for lack of anything to be answered?" With that "dig" he proceeded to the business at hand. "We are to have a tract-meeting at my house the last Tuesday of April, of which I now give you due notice. You are .... requested to come with a doctrinal tract in your pocket, without fail." The battle at this time was increasing in intensity, and the Episcopalian writers had shown themselves able and aggressive opponents. Beecher was "more and more convinced that we must attack and defend by tracts."
Perhaps the minister of the First Church in New Haven shrank from involvement in this public controversy. But Beecher, who knew his pride, knew how to urge him on. "Have you concluded to avail yourself of the liberty to display the courage of thinking for yourself? Yea, of writing and publishing also?" Tracts, he insisted, showing a mastery of the best advertising principles, are the best means, for they "are anonymous, and call no names; cheap, and easily multiplied; short, and easily read; plain, and easily understood; numerous, and capable of being spread everywhere; and as to answering them, of that there would be no end should it be attempted." Further, since they are anonymous, they cause "less irritation, for it is tract against tract, and not Taylor vs. Hobart & Co., and Hobart & Co. vs, Taylor." Our assailants, he concludes with a flourish, "are bold and active, and we must be bold and active in meeting them."
Thus the production of doctrinal tracts proceeded under Beecher's direction, and the publication of three of them early in 1818 left no doubt as to their intent and nature. One, written by Luther Hart, proposed to give Plain Reasons for Relying on Presbyterian Ordination, the anti-Episcopal slant of which is obvious. Another, by Bennett Tyler, suggested General Reasons for Believing the Doctrines of Grace, said doctrines being, of course, the Calvinism of the Standing Order. In a third tract
Taylor showed himself unrepentant and unsubdued, in spite of Rayner's review and Croswell's aspersions, and reasserted the general theological position of his already-published sermon, under the more specific title, Man, a Free Agent without the Aids of Divine Grace. Obviously this tract was a direct blow at the Arminian doctrines of the Episcopal church. It indicated that Taylor's natural inclinations and training were leading him to devote himself to theological rather than to political or organizational matters. In this he made up for what Beecher lacked, the two men exactly complementing each other.
This tract was not particularly important at the time and was almost overlooked in the shadow of more startling events, as we shall see. But since a bold assertion of "man, a free agent" naturally would, and, as later matters proved, did, sound somewhat startling to Calvinistic ears; and since Taylor was to repeat that assertion through the following years, causing no little trouble to himself and others, it is worth while to deviate at this point to examine more closely what he said in this early publication. He begins thus:
Few persons will deny that man is a free agent, and a fit subject of the moral government of God. But the enquiry what constitutes him a free agent, has often been agitated. Some suppose that he is a free agent from physical structure and faculties of the soul. Others contend, that this free agency was lost by the fall of Adam, and that man is now a free agent only by Supernatural grace through Jesus Christ.
This view, he continues, indicating the opponents he had in mind, "contains one of the fundamental principles of Arminianism, as taught at the present day," and he proceeds to his own satisfaction to reduce it to absurdity. For, he argued, it is an "undeniable position that without free agency, there can be no sinful act." But, "according to the opinion now opposed, there is no free agency in man, but as the result of supernatural grace." But "if there can be no sin, without free agency, and if there can be no free agency without supernatural grace, then there can be no sin without supernatural grace!" And "thus God is the author of sin in a higher sense, than any Hopkinsian ever conceived; he is so not by a common or natural influence on the minds of men, but by a supernatural influence." In brief, the position leads to the absurd conclusion that "God suspends the very laws of nature to enable men to sin, by the aid of his grace." Such a line of argument was all very well when the opponent was an Arminian. But when Taylor asserted that, "without free agency, there can be no sinful act," he armed the Unitarians of subsequent days for their attack on the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity. And when he asserted that "the same free-agency which enables man to do wrong, enables him to do right," he left himself open to the sharp inquiry from strict Calvinists as to just how he proposed to account for the certain occurrence of sin in every person. Since he reduced the Arminian position to absurdity by pushing it to extreme logical conclusions, he had suggested to both Unitarians and strict Calvinists the method they might use in embarrassing him in his own position. It is to be noted here that Taylor first asserted this kind of "natural" free agency against the Arminians. Later his Calvinistic colleagues were to drive him to further assertions.
But the three doctrinal tracts mentioned above attracted little notice in the Congregational-Episcopalian controversy then raging, because, in Beecher's words, among the pamphlets the Standing Order men were issuing, "Tyler wrote a pungent thing on Episcopalianism," the scent of which was so great that nothing else for a time could be followed. This pamphlet, twenty-four pages of the most bitter sarcasm, was published, without date, name of publisher, or place of publication on the title-page, under the title, A Serious Call to Those Who Are without the Pale of the Episcopal Church: To Which Is Added an Appendix, Containing Animadversions upon the Conduct of Inconsistent Churchmen, by "A Consistent Churchman." Some may wonder because this is published anonymously, the author begins. But if I were passing your houses in the night and saw them in flames, "I should not stop to tell you my name or place of abode, till I saw you safe from your danger." But burning houses are "but a faint emblem of the danger, from which I am now to exhort you to flee." That danger is this, "that except you become members of the Episcopal Church, you cannot be saved." This principle is derived from two sources-the writers of the church and the Word of God-and the author proceeds to quote especially the former for several pages, concluding that "it is vain presumption, therefore, to imagine that you have religion while out of the Episcopal Church. -- I have demonstrated that the thing is totally impossible." I have also demonstrated, that out of the Episcopal Church, there is no regeneration." Then what about "our dear fathers and mothers, who taught us to remember our Creator in the days of our youth? Are they lost?" I answer, "They were not Episcopalians -- therefore; they are unquestionably lost." And what about the infants who die unbaptized "by a minister of our church?" I answer, "They are also unquestionably lost" and "no doubt 'hell is paved with the skulls of infants,' for no other reason but because they were never sprinkled by an Episcopal Priest!!" It is enough "to make every tender hearted mother run crazy, to think how many poor infants must be eternally miserable when they might have been so easily saved. O! ye parents, how can you suffer your children to remain unregenerate? Fly with them to the Church."
The pamphlet concludes with a climactic summary, the tone and nature of which make it obvious why Taylor was immediately suspected, and accused of authorship and lead the candid reader of today to suspect that he had more to do with it than merely correcting the proof sheets -- which is all he ever admitted.
Let the Syren song of charity, then, be sung no longer. Let all the ministers of our Church assume a tone of consistency. Let them no longer crouch to their adversaries, nor tremble at the epithet of bigot. Let them not be afraid or ashamed to proclaim upon the house-top, that out of the Episcopal Church, there is no salvation. Let the pulpit thunder and the press groan, "EPISCOPACY OR PERDITION." Let the sound ring from house to house, from neighborhood to neighborhood, from town to town ..... Let it be proclaimed in the highways and hedges, in the street and at the market, in the tavern and the grog shop, "EPISCOPACY OR PERDITION;" and no doubt the poor Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists will be frightened out of their wits, and rush Into the Church by scores and hundreds. The Saybrook Platform will be cast to the moles and the bats, no man will dare have a Bible without a Prayer-Book by its side, and at no distant period, as Dr. How predicts, Episcopalians will be the predominant sect in Connecticut.
If the writers of the tracts wished to cause a furor, they succeeded beyond even their expectations, and the Episcopalians must have thought that insult was heaped upon insult when at least one poor post-rider, a zealous churchman deceived by the utterly sarcastic nature of the pamphlet, distributed copies gratis all along his route.
All this was too much for the Reverend Harry Croswell, whose past journalistic experience had made a master of invective, and he rushed into print with A Sober Appeal to the Christian Public, which was neither sober nor appealing. "The attempts of certain illiberal and narrow-minded sectarians," he begins, "to injure the Protestant Episcopal Church by exciting popular prejudices against its government, worship and doctrines, have been many and frequent." So long as such attacks were "open and undisguised," the church had nothing to fear and did not complain. But now "a new scheme has been devised" which is "so disingenuous -- so unfair -- and .... so palpably dishonest" that every sober Christian must protest. "Four-and-twenty pages of this foul abuse, calumny, and falsehood" have been published, and "in manner [it] is ungentlemanly, -- in spirit unchristian -- and in object and design, wholly unjustifiable." With this introduction Croswell got down to cases. "This pamphlet is supposed to have been written by a minister of the Congregational order, who had previously distinguished himself for hostility to the [Episcopal] Church: And it was printed at the press of a Congregational deacon." As far as Croswell was concerned, no other minister had so distinguished himself for hostility to the church as the pastor of the neighboring church on the green, and no one doubted whom he suspected.
Taylor himself made no reply to Croswell's attack, but his friends were not slow to answer. Alling Brown published, anonymously, A Candid Appeal to the Author of the "Sober Appeal to the Christian Public": Containing an Examination of the Charges Advanced in That Work against the Writer, Printer, and Abettors of the "Serious Call," &C. The title of this pamphlet is sufficient indication of the contents, which call Croswell to task for his abusive language and assertions without proof of misrepresentation and garbling, closing with a gibe at the Episcopalians for denying that they "as a body have endeavored to take advantage of the political commotions of the State."
More to the point was another anonymous reply written by the scholarly and usually mild Chauncey A. Goodrich in the form of A Letter to the Rev. Harry Croswell, A.M. on the Subject of Two Publications Entitled "A Serious Call," and "A Sober Appeal." For Goodrich assumed that tone of injured innocence and condescension that must have been especially provoking under the circumstances. "In a man of ardent feelings, whose early years have been past [sic] in the busy agitation of politics," he begins, reminding Croswell both of his, checkered journalistic career and of his lack of college and ministerial training, "we do not expect an uniform command of temper. An indulgent public has admitted the excuse on many occasions," and "if the Christian and the minister have for a moment been lost in the man, and the politician, they have been ready to cast a veil over the weakness of our common nature." But this time, Croswell, you went too far; "you DENOUNCED, in a manner too pointed to be misunderstood, a distinguished minister of the gospel in this city, as the author of a publication, which you stigmatize as" (and the view this gives of Croswell's work and the nature of the controversy makes an extended quotation not out of place)
"ungentlemanly," "unchristian," "false," "abusive," "slanderous," "foul," "calumnious," "palpably immoral," "palpably dishonest," "a gross and wanton violation of every principle of moral rectitude," written "with deliberate intention to deceive his readers," "to deceive the public," "to slander and defame the ministers generally," "to ridicule and disparage the ordinances of the church," containing "dishonesty," "egregious falsehood," "foul abuse, calumny, and falsehood," "slander foul and unfounded," "hatred," "malice," "envy," "abuse," "spleen," "inveterate prejudices," and "a vulgar profanity -- a cold blooded mocking in its style and manner, which none but the worst infidels have ever equaled."
Undoubtedly Croswell had "stigmatized" the supposed author of the Serious Call. Goodrich then proceeds, still with the same nice touch, to castigate Croswell for blaming the authorship on Taylor and for using such language about the publisher that a suit in slander is possible. "Your past experience should have made you more cautious to keep within the bounds of the law," he concludes, pressing salt into the wound in Croswell's nature made by his months in prison.
The Episcopalians were now thoroughly aroused and bristled in self-defense. Naturally enough when the first issue of the Christian Spectator was being prepared by the same well-known "association of gentlemen" who had produced the Serious Call and similar attacks on the church, though it professed as its purpose only the inculcation of those "doctrines of grace .... which have ever prevailed in the great body of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches," they thought it was aimed at them and rose to the defense of their institution and doctrines with a counter-publication -- the Watchman. "The design, of this publication may be expressed in a few words," they say in their preface.
It appears that "an association of gentlemen" has been formed, professedly for the purpose of "inculcating the doctrines which have ever prevailed in the great body of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches," -- but really as one of its members [Beecher?] is said to have unwarily advanced, "to write down THE CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT!" Some of the fruits of this combination are already before the public in the shape of malignant and slanderous pamphlets-all breathing a spirit of hostility to the Protestant Episcopal Church, -- misrepresenting its doctrines --defaming its ministers and people-and ridiculing its ordinances.
That they were correct in supposing that the primary purpose of the proposed periodical was to "write down the [Episcopal] Church in Connecticut," our knowledge of Beecher's activities leaves little room for doubting. The Watchman continues that "it cannot be supposed that the good friends of the Church will view attacks of this nature with indifference, "but, on the other hand, neither will they "condescend to enter upon a mere scribbling match, or personal contest, with such an association." However, "it is their indispensable duty, to defend and explain the principles which they profess, in such a manner, as to repel unfounded imputation, and to turn the weapons of assault back upon their adversaries."
Thus, as a result of the literary phase of Lyman Beecher's campaign to save the Standing Order, the Episcopalians of Connecticut stood ready to defend themselves at the beginning of 1819. They could not know in advance that Lyman Beecher, following the actual disestablishment of the Congregational church, was to see a great light and was henceforth to be fraternally disposed toward them; that the organizations he had built up to fight the enemies without were to be turned about to suppress an uprising within the ranks of Congregationalism itself. The Christian Spectator never became an instrument to "write down the Church in Connecticut," but it was to glory in its effectiveness in writing down Unitarianism.
OLD CALVINIST TO TAYLORITE
THE New England mind was never barren where religious thought was concerned, but for a hundred years after Jonathan Edwards it was exceptionally prolific in the production of subtle doctrinal discussions, turning out hundreds and thousands of dissertations, systems of divinity, reviews, strictures, remarks, replies, explanations, inquiries, refutations, examinations, letters, and animadversions in an endless stream of pamphlets, books, and articles. Contrary to what might be at first supposed, it was not a battle between two great systems of divinity that stimulated this unusual productivity. All the participants were nominally Calvinists. What general opposition Calvinism had was summed up in the loosely used term "Arminianism." But the battles waged against it were as nothing compared with the battles waged among the Calvinists themselves. They divided into parties and fought their most bitter fights for the exclusive right to be called "Calvinist." Their harshest invective was reserved for fellow-Calvinists who seemed about to depart from "the truth in the Gospel." When a common enemy threatened, they were capable for a time of standing together -- as against "infidelity" and later against the Unitarians. But invariably they fell to quarreling among themselves over just what constituted the Calvinism they were defending. Confusion was compounded by the fact that the typical theologian of the time, especially of the Edwardean line, was the largely self-educated; ultra-individualistic pastor of an isolated rural parish where in happy seclusion he worked out his own Yankee "improvements" on the grand system and stood ready to defend them against all comers. He was inclined to glory in the fact that the peculiarities of the Congregational system were such that "the task of correcting abuses and repressing error devolves on the clergy individually, in their private capacity," and was not "negligent to discharge this duty." Since, however, all clung tenaciously to the same famous five points it was inevitable that their differences, based as they were so many times on individual peculiarities, became more and more minute and their discussions ran off into extremely fine distinctions and definitions and shades of meaning, the understanding of which seems at times to have baffled even the protagonists themselves. Leonard Bacon spoke the truth about a great deal of this New England theology when he said of Taylor and Tyler that their basic difference was so subtle that it would be harder for them to state that difference than to come to an agreement on it when stated. Perhaps most exasperating of all to the modern mind is the assumption of every theological aspirant in the lot, no matter how insignificant, that he possessed the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that it was his duty to correct all who, differing from him, were obviously in error.
The discussions produced what Schneider has called that "desert" of Western thought with "no signs of life in it," through which few modern scholars have had the hardihood to hew their way. The first step along that way is not primarily intellectual but appreciative -- the realization that these involved arguments had a terrible fascination for their authors because they dealt with the awful things of the sovereign God and that they were vitally important to the everyday life of minister, theologian, and people because that life was lived along an unbroken way in which the New England village street merged imperceptibly with the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. Once this is realized, the dry bones of these abstruse discussions begin to come together with a semblance of the flesh and blood of life clinging about them, and the rugged integrity and honesty of their authors can be seen. Crabbed some of them were, and overbearing, perhaps because the minister was likely to be the monarch of his local domain, not used to contradiction. Their language many times was as harsh as the boulder-strewn hills from which they wrested their living, they held their positions as uncompromisingly as the granite rock that everywhere lay just beneath the surface soil of their land, and they had an irritating tendency born of long hours of quiet meditation to spin out a point until the fine line of reasoning became all but invisible. But always they were serious men, never flippant, seriously treating the things they thought were important for eternity. These realizations, and patience, are the first steps through the maze of the New England theology.
The attempt should not be made to systematize that theology overmuch, to trace a succession of thinkers, a development of thought, or to place every man in a category. Independence was their most common characteristic, and whatever systematization is done must leave ample room for the numerous individualistic loose ends. But, roughly, after the Great Awakening three parties emerged. A liberal party, centered largely about Boston and the other seaport towns, was fast discarding Calvinism and laying the foundations for New England Unitarianism. This party would have formed eventually to break with the orthodox had there been no Great Awakening. But the revivals definitely split the orthodox into two parties -- the so-called Old Calvinist group, which continued the moderate Calvinism developed down to the time of Edwards, and the Edwardeans, or Consistent Calvinists, as they liked to call themselves.
The basic difference between these two, as Haroutunian pointed out, was one of "temperament," which made "the emotional and practical contents of such words as will, cause, mind, necessity, etc." -- "the key words of the controversy" -- "profoundly different for the two." The Old Calvinists were temperamentally inclined to the manipulation and use of "what God did" for practical ends; the Consistent Calvinists were temperamentally inclined to speculative thinking and the striving for a logically consistent explanation of the relationship between God and man. The former were content to know that God did certain things and to define what he did. The latter were driven to explain how God did these things and why. Reasoning to them meant the process whereby such explanations were worked out, logically, consistently, and systematically. To the Old Calvinists, on the other hand; reasoning was primarily the process of explaining and justifying their actions.
The two parties carried on their heated controversy over the issues raised by the Great Awakening for several years before the Revolution. Doctrinal discussions languished during the years of war, as did vital religious life generally. But not long thereafter, as has often been noted, revivals began once more to pervade New England. What is not so often noted is that, as in the time of the First Great Awakening, these revivals also brought theological matters up for discussion, the two parties stirred and came to life, and the old controverted questions were argued over anew, often in the same language, always with the same heat.
These grand questions that so long agitated the minds of New England divines grew out of the basic tenet of their inherited Calvinism, the absolute sovereignty of God. First was the question of the freedom of the will-or rather not the freedom of the will so much as the justice of God in the condemnation of his creatures who had only such freedom of choice and ability to help themselves as his absolute sovereignty made room for. The rest followed from this -- the ability of human reason to cope with divine things, the nature of regeneration, the status of "unregenerate doings" (as the striving of the unconverted for salvation were called), the use of "means" to bring men to God, and "self-love" or the natural and neutral powers of man to which the appeals of the Gospel might be made. As has been indicated in preceding chapters, the revivalists who took the lead after the Revolution in New England's Second Awakening -- men like Dwight, Beecher, and Taylor -- were very practical men who consciously used revivals as a means of furthering their cause. It is obvious, then, that in temperament at least they were more nearly like the Old than the Consistent Calvinists who preceded them before the Revolution. Theologically, they are very hard to understand, inasmuch as "understanding" usually implies the reduction of a man's thought to a coherent system that can be mastered. These men were never so concerned with building a coherent system of thought as in getting results. With Dwight the desired result was the triumph of Christianity over infidelity. With Beecher and Taylor it was, first, the preservation of the establishment, which theologically entailed an attack on the Arminianism of the Episcopal church, and, second, a defense of "orthodoxy" against the Unitarians, which entailed a restatement of Calvinism in terms more acceptable to the age, and then a defense of their restatement against the conservatives. Because results were primary, their doctrines were customarily tempered to what they thought the shorn lamb of public sentiment could stand. Said Taylor: "I believe that both the doctrines of dependence and moral accountability must be admitted by the public mind, to secure upon that mind the full power of the Gospel." But, he hastily added, "I also believe, that greater or less prominence should be given to the one, or the other of these doctrines according to the prevailing state of public opinion."5 Expedience, not principle, was to determine which doctrine received greater prominence. The exuberant Beecher made the point clearer in his more colorful language: "The people [of Boston] did not need high-toned Calvinism on the point of dependence; they had been crammed with it, and were dying with excessive ailment, and needed a long and vigorous prescription of free-agency to produce an alternative and render the truth salutary by administering the proper portions in. due season."
It is hard to make a coherent system of theology out of the writings of men who consciously preached and wrote what they thought the public mind needed at a given time. The key to understanding them, therefore, is to ascertain what desired result they had in mind when they formulated a particular argument. Their ideas, in other words, are best understood at the point of origin.
It is, then, to speak only in roughest terms, to say that the revivalists quite early formulated a system of doctrines in the course of -- almost as a by-product of -- their activities. Being temperamentally akin to the Old Calvinists, it is not surprising that they found their arguments and statements of doctrine congenial, and in many instances they built upon the foundation already laid down for them or even moved into the partially completed structure bodily. Their opponents, too, in temperament more closely related to the pre-Revolutionary Consistent Calvinists, also found positions and arguments waiting and used them.
The view has been widely prevalent that Dwight and Taylor stood within the Edwardean galaxy and, indeed, were its last but most brilliant stars. This view took root perhaps because their names, like Edwards', were associated with revivals and because it was assumed, as Dana did, that Dwight must be a follower of the two Edwards, his grandfather and uncle.
But theological opinions are not hereditary, as Dana discovered by sitting under Dwight's preaching. As for the revivals, Edwards' connection with the First Awakening was much different from Dwight's connection with the Second. Edwards preached sincerely and vividly of what he had experienced and apparently was genuinely surprised when the revival began. Dwight deliberately set out to start a revival in the college and among the eminent men of the state, and Beecher and Taylor perfected methods of fostering them. To Edwards the revival was a byproduct of his shared experience; to the latter men revivals were the calculated means to an end.
Frank Hugh Foster, referring to the New Haven theology, said that "the full measure of his departure from Edwards remained concealed from Taylor himself" and added by way of explanation that
neither his opponents nor he had a fine historical sense, nor perceived that they were in the midst of a great theological development, and themselves the actors in it. To agree with Edwards was still the high ambition of them all; and when they consciously disagreed, as did Taylor, they thought they were only expressing better, Edwards' true meaning.
But Foster based this notion of Taylor's work upon the assumption that many have followed him in making -- that the Concio ad clerum of September, 1828, was the first public declaration of such ideas that Taylor had made -- and upon a consideration only of the writings of the later controversy with the conservatives when the question of relationship with Edwards came up for discussion. The error of this assumption is made clear through a study of Taylor's part in the controversies with the Episcopalians and the Unitarians, during the course of which he published every basic idea that later aroused the opposition of the conservatives. But that as early as January, 1819, Taylor knew he had departed from Edwards' thought, wherein he had departed, and why, we have his own words in a letter to Beecher of that month.
The two men had then been close friends for several years, and the letter clearly indicates a background of long discussions and thinking together. "I am well satisfied," Taylor wrote with more enthusiasm than he was wont to show, "that something should and may be done toward settling points which Edwards did not aim to settle, and which will, to some extent, change the current of theological sentiment." To do this, he suggested a series of joint articles to show, first, that Edwards' only object was "to demolish Arminianism," all the pillars of which rested "on the self-determining power," and, second, that in so far "he accomplished his object." Then, thought Taylor, they ought to go on to show that there are imperfections in the work "consisting generally in the fact that the writer went no farther into the nature of moral agency" and "left some points .... unsettled, and almost untouched." For Edwards had "thought it to be enough to show that certainty of conduct and moral agency did coexist in fact, without venturing any hypothesis concerning the quo modo." The result is that "the reader feels that Edwards has prostrated his antagonists, but still [is] at a loss [to know] what is truth." His first great defect, then, "is his definition, of moral agency and free will," and Taylor "cannot but think this defect even a gross one." For "if language has any meaning, a free will is a will which is free, and to say that free will is a power to do as we please or as we will is saying nothing to the purpose." No doubt his opponents "had some floating ideas about this point which they never fully grasped and exhibited, which, after all, were attended in their own minds with an impression of their truth and reality." Had Edwards, therefore, "entered more fully into the nature of moral agency, showing wherein it consisted," instead "of being satisfied with merely exposing their absurdities of self-determination," he, might have done more "if not toward convincing, at least toward silencing his opponents." We, then" Taylor concludes with some ardor, shall "attempt to supply his defects" and "give to the world that desideratum which shall show that good sound Calvinism, or, if you please, Beecherism and Taylorism, is but another name for the truth and reality of things as they exist in the nature of God and man, and the relations arising therefrom." Not only, then, did Taylor at this time show a lack of what Foster called the "high ambition" to "agree with Edwards," but it does not appear that he thought he was "only expressing better Edwards' true meaning," and, in fact, he indicated that he was not even very interested in defending Calvinism as such. It is somewhat ironical that he was later enlisted as Calvinism's champion against the Unitarians.
But Taylor's early assertion of independence from Edwards is only moderately convincing alone and so leads naturally to a consideration of the points of difference between the revivalists and their opponents. The cornerstone of Calvinism from the beginning was emphasis on the divine will and God's absolute sovereignty in the disposal of all things. On this point all Calvinists agreed, even the many-minded Calvinists of New England. All might say with the Old Calvinist, Samuel Cooke of Stratford, that God "as an absolute Proprietor, makes what Difference he pleases in the Bestowment of his Gifts; as not being Debtor nor accountable to any. May not he do what he will with his own?" Calvin taught that he might and did unreservedly, that even right was subordinated to will, and that God does not will anything because it is right but rather what he wills is right.
The will of God is so the highest rule of righteousness, that whatsoever he willeth, even for this that he willeth it, it ought to be taken for righteous. When, therefore, it is asked why the Lord did it, it is to be answered, because he willed it. But if thou go further in asking why he willed it, thou askest some greater and higher thing than the will of God, which cannot be found.
In general, this was the ultimate answer that the Old Calvinists gave to all objections to the harsh doctrines of their grand system.
But the whole trend of eighteenth-century thought pressed upon Calvinists the necessity of formulating a. more satisfying answer to that persistent question of "why the Lord did it" as he did. And, after much travail of soul, those who built up New England's Consistent Calvinism came to broad general agreement on the answer that "though God be sovereign in his decrees," and they are fixed and unchangeable, "yet they are not arbitrary," that is, they are not "determined and fixed, without any reason why he should purpose and decree as he has done rather than the contrary." For the decrees originated in "infinite wisdom" and goodness and were designed to exhibit the "divine perfections" through "effecting or producing the greatest possible moral excellence and felicity in his creation."
This answer satisfied no one but the Consistent Calvinists themselves. The Old Calvinists balked at the presumptuous attempt to explain God's actions, and a rising Arminian group insisted that it left unanswered the really important question regarding the justice of God in the damnation of sinners, who apparently could not help themselves. They asserted that the Calvinistic doctrine of original sin left man no choice in the matter; therefore, that his condemnation was unjust and that only free will, or the power of self-determination, provided sufficient basis for man's responsibility. Hence Edwards wrote his great treatise on the will to answer these assertions of the Arminians, and in that fact we seek the key to it. As the title indicates, he did not write to assert any positive theory of free will, but only to make A Careful and Strict Enquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of That Freedom of Will Which Is Supposed To be Essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame. Thus, like a good tactician, he placed the Arminians on the defensive as dissenters from an established system upon whom fell the necessity of proving the error of that system. Naturally he devoted more space to reducing their arguments to absurdities than to establishing any positive views on the subject, concluding that he had shown that "there is not, and never can be, either in existence, or so much as in idea, any such freedom of will, consisting in indifference and self-determination, for the sake of which this doctrine of original sin is cast out." But, he adds, getting back to the main point, "no such freedom is necessary, in order to the nature of sin, and just desert of punishment," for "this doctrine [of original sin] supposes no other necessity of sinning, than a moral necessity; which, as has been shewn, does not at all excuse sin."
Here originated that most subtle tool of all the New England theology--the nice distinction between "moral" and "natural" ability and inability, which enabled Edwards to take the two horns of the dilemma, God's sovereignty and man's freedom, in a firm grasp and force them together, and which enabled his followers to perform marvels of dialectical ingenuity, even to hold apparently diametrically opposite ideas as entirely consistent. Here Edwards can be understood only by realizing what he was trying to do: --namely, from pietistic motives to make appear reasonable the revealed facts that God is absolutely sovereign and that man has freedom to sin of a kind which makes him justly deserving of punishment.
That both these propositions were true was not called into question. Edwards did not have to prove God's sovereignty, since this was a matter of revelation and not in dispute, even between Calvinists and Arminians. Nor did he have to prove that man was free, for he took the only freedom conceivable in his eyes -- freedom to do as one willed -- for granted. His task was to show why this freedom was sufficient and justifiable basis for responsibility to the end that God's honor and justice in the condemnation of the sinner might be preserved. In brief, his answer was that it is sufficient because man wills to disobey the law, hence is wilfully disobedient, and wilful disobedience may rightfully be punished regardless of how the will is determined. The possibility of self-determination -- of willing what one was to will -- he reduced to the absurdity of an endless regression and/or an effect without a cause. He asserted, in other words, that culpability lies in the sinful act, not in its causes or the motives back of it.
Now this argument remains forever unconvincing to those who insist upon asking why, if man cannot choose what he shall will, he can be considered responsible for its choices. But this is to miss the whole point of the Edwardean position, namely, that man's responsibility, no less than God's sovereignty, is a revealed fact. To overlook this is to throw away the key to understanding these men and their beautiful argument. The position is clearly stated by Joseph Bellamy in his True Religion Delineated. Bellamy, unlike his teacher Edwards, was not a mystic, had little poetic insight or imagination, and his language is almost brutally plain. It should not be forgotten, however, that Edwards read Bellamy's work before it was published, and gave his approval of its sentiments in the Preface. Back of Bellamy's discussion is his implicit belief in the Scriptures wherein God "has told us what he has done, and what he intends to do; and so has delineated his glorious perfections in the plainest manner." One will search the writings of this divine in vain for any hint that he ever doubted that his theological ideas were other than elucidations of what God had written "in the plainest manner." He assumed, like Edwards, that the only conceivable freedom is freedom from physical compulsion.
And since there is no physical compulsion forcing men to "a bad temper of mind," therefore "sinners are free and voluntary in their bad temper." They have, in brief, full "natural power" to obey the law. Now, "if we were continually forced to be of such a bad temper entirely against our wills, then we should not be to blame," for "it would not be at all the temper of our hearts." But "so long as our bad temper is nothing else but the habitual frame, disposition, and inclination of our hearts, without any manner of compulsion, we are perfectly without excuse and that whether we can help being of such a temper, or no." For, he argues, and this is the crucial point, "you have as much power to help being of such a temper as the Scribes and Pharisees had; but Christ judged them to be wholly to blame, and altogether inexcusable," although "they could not like Christ or his doctrine."
Ye cannot hear my word, says Christ; but their cannot, their inability, .... he plainly saw, arose from their bad temper, and their want of a good disposition. And although they had no more power to help being of such a temper than you have, yet he judged them wholly to blame, and altogether inexcusable. (John viii, 33-47; xv, 22-25.)
Thus Bellamy wrested from the Scriptures the conclusion that the sinner was "wholly to blame" although utterly helpless to change his sinful "temper." In brief, revelation itself assures us that responsibility is not limited to what man can "help," or, in more Edwardean terms, responsibility is not limited by the extent of "moral ability" but only by the extent of "natural ability," or again, in negative terms, man is responsible so long as no "natural inability" (physical impediment) stands in the way of his obedience to the law of God. A "moral inability," which means that he cannot will to do so, is no excuse. This view was held by all the Edwardeans from Edwards down to Woods.
It was arrived at not through a process of reasoning but through acceptance of the supposed revelation. And it was jealously guarded with a curse. Such is God's way, Bellamy concluded, and "it is horrid pride and imprudence for us to pretend to know better than the infinitely wise God, and infinite wickedness for us to pretend to find fault with his conduct."
Now the reason why this argument remained so long unanswered was not primarily because his opponents were "unable to handle its 'puzzles,'" as Haroutunian says, but rather because to men who shared Edwards' vivid belief in the revelation and primary interest in a metaphysical and logical consistency the position was practically unassailable. Granted the two basic and revealed propositions--that God is sovereign and that man is held responsible and punished for his sin--Edwards' explanation was as good as any other. Edwards himself took pains to point this out. The real "puzzle" for the Old Calvinists was how to assert man's freedom in a way that their century would recognize, and yet not appear to deny, the revelation. Therefore, the history of the New England theology that Haroutunian, wrote so well in terms of "piety versus moralism" might also be written in terms of revelation versus human reason. Taylor got around Edwards' conclusions respecting the freedom of the will not because he found a way to outlogic Edwards but because, unlike Edwards, he was willing to insist that the Divine Author "demands only a rational faith of rational beings" and even consents that "the book .... shall be tried at the bar of human reason."
As for arguments like that of Bellamy that the position was based on what was revealed in the "plainest manner," Taylor retorted that "the mere form of expression decides nothing" and that "we are left to the decisions of common-sense and sound reason," whose decisions "are to be relied upon as infallible judgments."
This is not the place to trace all the factors in the genesis of Taylor's willingness to assert the primacy of reason over the letter of revelation. But it is to be noted that his position was in line with that of the Old Calvinists, who had long defended the use of reason against the aspersions of the Consistent Calvinists. The Reverend William Hart had argued typically in 1742 that "reason is the Candle of the Lord, set up in our Souls, inabling us to discern the objects of the Mind, and distinguish between Truth and Falsehood, moral Good and Evil; and its eminent Province is in the things of Religion." Further, "it is a true Light; and is no more carnal than the Light of Truth itself." For reason, he continues, "was given us by God principally for this End; that by a diligent honest and impartial Exercise of it in the Affairs of Religion; we may come to a just understanding and belief of the great Doctrines .... by which we are regenerated." And he railed against those (Consistent Calvinists) who "do what they can to perswade us to put out this Candle of the Lord ..... to slight its Dictates and despise its Counsels, as of a blind erring and faithless Guide," because "THEY tell us we are Carnal and Unconverted; and therefore cannot judge of Divine and Spiritual things by our Reason, because it is Blind and Carnal."
So the Old Calvinists had argued for the trustworthiness of reason. Taylor's teacher had gone one step farther and left the revelation at the mercy of reason. In his very candid discussion of the use of "means," Dwight noted that some people objected that his views were unscriptural. To which he replied that "the doctrine, for which I contend, is as plainly asserted, and in as many passages of the Scriptures, as that, which is alleged in the objection." If then, we "deny the former of these doctrines; we shall do violence to as many, and as plain, scriptural declarations, as if we deny the latter. Our dislike to the doctrine; asserted in this discourse, will in no degree justify us in rejecting, or contravening, those passages of Scripture, in which it is asserted." Dwight did not here suggest how a choice between two such batteries of scriptural declarations was to be made, but he frankly recognized that they might exist in apparent contradiction, and this made some "basis for choosing imperative. Taylor, then, merely took the next natural step in asserting that God consents that "the book shall be tried at the bar of human reason."
And this provided him with the tools with which to grapple with the perennial problem of the freedom of the will. The first step was a rather cavalier annihilation of the one distinction between "moral" and "natural" ability and inability. Bellamy had argued that according to revelation the "cannot" of the Scribes and Pharisees (their moral inability), which they could not help, had not excused them and that neither would it excuse other sinners. Taylor brought this revelation before the bar of common sense. He thought it was an "obvious absurdity" to say that man "is to blame for what he cannot help." To his mind "moral inability" was a mere unwillingness or disinclination within the realm of free choice. For, he argued, the most common use of "cannot" implies only "want of inclination," as we say of an honest man that "he cannot cheat and lie," and "we as easily apprehend the meaning of one who says that he cannot go to New York today when nothing but business at home prevents, as if he used the same language on a bed of sickness." This, he concludes, "is the import of the term, when used to describe the inability of the sinner to obey the divine commands." Our common sense tells us, then, that the Scribes and Pharisees were not damned arbitrarily but because they wilfully disobeyed the divine injunctions when they might have chosen to obey them.
Taylor, it is evident, approached the problem of freedom from exactly the opposite end of the scale from the Consistent Calvinists. They argued in general from God's sovereignty that he decreed the election of some to salvation and the damnation of others. Since he is infinitely good and wise, even the damned must serve some purpose. That purpose is his glory and the greatest good of being in general. Even if the sinners have no choice in the matter, their damnation still might serve that purpose. Taylor, on the other hand, began with the sinners and common sense and argued from the fact that they are punished that it must be because they have freely and willingly chosen evil when they might have chosen good instead. For "the human mind," he said bluntly, "never did and never can conceive of any other principle on which blame can be attached to any being but this: that he will not do what he Can do." Therefore, the fact that the just and sovereign God punishes the sinner indicates that the sinner has free will. Indeed, it is an "undeniable position, that without free-agency, there can be no sinful act." And, if God withholds free agency, "man may insist on it, that he is not accountable, and that God cannot be just in his condemnation."
The sovereignty of God must somehow make room for the freedom of man.
Such free agency, Taylor thought, consists in the three faculties --
of understanding, conscience, and will; by which I intend, those powers, capacities, or qualities of the soul of man by which he is inabled to see the difference between good and evil, to feel accountability, and to choose good or evil, or to love one and hate the other. That the being who possesses these faculties or qualities is a free-agent, is as obvious and undeniable, as that he who can thus perceive the difference between good and evil, and can choose between them, is free, to choose between them; in other words, that he who can thus choose, is free to choose.
"Give these faculties to the stones of the street, and they become at once free-agents," he concludes; "take them from angels and their accountability ceases." But both Arminians and Consistent Calvinists argued that man lost this free agency in the Fall, to which Taylor retorted, not "unless he ceased to be man; for understanding, conscience, and will, which make him a free-agent, are constituent parts of his nature; without which he must be ranked with another species of beings."
As for Edwards' famous Enquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of That Freedom of Will .... , Taylor thought that it demonstrated that "Edwards' mind was all confusion on the subject." For in this "book which professes to be an 'Inquiry into the freedom of the will,' there is no passage that brings forward the fact that men have power to will otherwise than they do." Edwards, in other words, discusses only "the question of liberty of action," and "liberty to exercise .... overt actions .... is very different from freedom of volition." For
if freedom to will is predicable of man it must mean freedom to choose otherwise in the same circumstances, [and] he is not a free agent who possesses merely power to choose otherwise had the antecedents been different, or to choose otherwise when the antecedents are different. If one has not power to choose otherwise than this present choice with the same antecedent, he is not a free agent, for there is no power to the contrary, nor any power to will in any circumstances.
But Taylor was somewhat irked by the whole discussion of whether or not man possessed freedom. With Dana, he might have said, "Let it man look into his own breast, and he cannot but perceive inward freedom -- inward freedom -- For if freedom be not in the mind, it is no where. And liberty in the mind implies self-determination."
This to Taylor was so obvious that he told his students that "if it had not been for philosophers there would never have been any dispute about 'the liberty of the will.' " And no wonder. "Who ever asked what it is we see with?" and "how many have made it a question whether they think or not?" Men of common sense "do not raise a question in respect to absolute cognitions; they act upon them without any question. Go and contradict any such cognition and see if men do not deny and say they know better." Here the active revivalist who preached on "Immediate Repentance Practicable" spoke out through the speculative theologian and philosopher. The preacher who swayed men to repentance knew that
man is an intelligent voluntary being. He is capable of knowing his duty, and of performing it. He has understanding; the power of knowing what is right and what is wrong. He has the capacity of feeling the motives to right and wrong action. He has a will or heart; the power of choosing and refusing, or of loving and hating.
And his eternal salvation depends upon his making the right choice.
It is to be noted that Taylor worked out his views of free will early in his career, while still the pastor of Center Church-indeed, Beecher intimates, while still Dwight's secretary. His strongest assertions of "natural" free agency with culpability limited thereto were made as one of the doctrinal tract writers in opposition to the Arminian notion that the power to choose good was lost by the Fall but restored to all man by the death of Christ. Perhaps he did not then anticipate that later he would be called upon to reconcile his views with the prevailing Calvinism. Here, too, Dwight's teaching had led right up to Taylor's more vigorous assertion of free agency. When that practical-minded man came to discuss the cornerstone of Calvinism -- God's sovereignty -- he began by remarking with disarming frankness that "metaphysical arguments, which are customarily employed for the purpose of establishing this, and several other doctrines, of theology, are, if I mistake not, less satisfactory to the minds of men at large, than the authors of them appear to believe."
Hence he proposed to confine himself to "facts" which "are attended with a superior power of conviction," and he spoke persuasively of divine sovereignty in the sense that circumstances of birth, place, time, nationality, family, wealth, and position, etc., over which a man has no control, have most to do with determining his moral character. But this father of the revivalists wanted it "distinctly understood, and carefully remembered" that, under God's providence, no one "is placed in a situation, in which, if he learns, and performs, his duty to the utmost of his power, he will fail of being finally accepted." For within his situation every person "is absolutely a free agent; as free as any created agent can be. Whatever he does is the result of choice, absolutely unconstrained, [since] in the moral conduct of all these individuals no physical necessity operates."
The text most dear to the heart of the revivalist is the "whosoever will may come." And no system of theology--indeed, not even what is considered revelation itself--can long withstand the relentless pressure to base his preaching and thinking upon that fundamental thought. To this doctrine all other doctrines must eventually conform. Dwight's theology "represented no special school in New England Divinity," as Foster was somewhat at a loss to explain, because its cornerstone was man's freedom, not God's sovereignty. What his teacher asserted, Taylor accepted and step by step went along the whole way -- for, if man is truly free, then God, by implication at least, must somehow be limited. As the Old Calvinists and Dwight had prepared the way for free will, so they made the first steps along the road to revision of contingent doctrines.
Revivals inevitably brought up the question of the nature of regeneration. Here again all shades of Calvinists agreed that God was sovereign. If he does convert any, wrote the Old Calvinist William Hart in 1742, it is "because it is his Sovereign and good pleasure to glorify his free and unmerited Grace towards them, to the Honour of his own name." For the Lord "hath Mercy on whom he will have mercy; and that, because he will have mercy; Not because the Objects of his mercy are Worthy."
But the Old Calvinists in general were reluctant to attempt to probe God's mind and motives in the matter and, rather than become involved in theological profundities, were willing to accept and use what God did. Hence, Hart continues,
the manner in which these things are effected is utterly Inconceivable by us; and for that reason, wholly inexplicable. The wind blows where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes; so is it with everyone that is born of God: John iii, 8 ..... But notwithstanding We know not the Manner in which the Spirit opens the mind to a just View of divine Truths, and impresses them with power upon the Heart, yet the fact is nevertheless Certain.
Further "the Lord Jesus Christ hath commanded Sinners to exert themselves to the utmost in Quest of Grace here and Glory hereafter," and the Gospel promises "afford unto Sinners great Ground of Encouragement in seeking Conversion." Indeed, the sinner, through observing the "almighty Power and infinite Goodness" of God "in the Conversion and Salvation of the worst Sinners," may first "be assured of the Possibility of his own Conversion" and then of its "Probability, when he finds .... an Heart given to seek regenerating Grace." . And "the more earnest and persevering he is help'd to be, the higher the probability still rises." And "what more can be expected or desired?" Hart asked in conclusion. Thus, while the Old Calvinists asserted God's sovereignty in strong terms, they at the same time argued from their observation of events that those sinners who sought regeneration were more likely to find it than those who did not. At least they were certain that "the Careless negligent Sinner, continuing so, hath no Ground at all to hope that he shall ever be saved."
Meanwhile the Consistent Calvinists asserted the primacy of God's sovereignty and then labored for a system of logically consistent deductions from that premise. In general, their view was that man was created with power to choose either good or evil, could make, in other words, either unselfish or selfish choices. But the power of unselfish choice was lost with Adam's fall, and man thenceforth under a "moral inability" to choose the good could choose only selfishly, which is sinfully. Only direct intervention of God could restore the lost power of unselfish choice. There was no middle ground. All "moral exercises" were either sinful or holy, and, in the unregenerate, sinful only. "The best designs and prayers of sinners," said Nathaniel Emmons, are "altogether selfish, criminal and displeasing to God," since all proceed from a sinful heart. Regeneration, then, is the restoration by God of the lost power to make unselfish choices -- that is, the restoration of the power to will to obey him. Thus man regains his "moral ability" to obey God. The "natural ability" to obey God was never lost. "Sinners are as really able to repent and believe, and do every other duty before they are born again, as after they are born again," said Emmons. But they are unable to will to repent and believe. Hence "all God does in regenerating sinners, by the almighty power of his Holy Spirit is to make them willing to do, what they were really able to do, before." They are able but unwilling, with an unwillingness that only God's intervention can remove.
God's sovereignty was guarded by a rigorous insistence that he must make the first move in the process. This was, according to Hopkins, an act of God by which he produced "the exercise of a new heart." In this act man is passive and is "the subject on which, or in which, the effect is wrought." That effect is a "holy volition," the exercise of which is conversion or turning from sin to God, in which man is active. All suggestion that man might take some initiative in the process, might, for example, place himself in the way of salvation through using the means of grace, were strenuously rejected. Uncompromisingly, Hopkins held that '''the unregenerate sinner is an enemy to God, the whole bent, and all the exercises of his heart are in opposition to God's true character," and "no influences on his mind, whether by the spirit of God, or anything else, antecedent to regeneration, or any change whatsoever, do in the least degree remove this opposition and enmity."
Therefore, he concluded, "all the exertions and exercises of the heart" under such influences "by which the conscience is inlightened and awakened, are no more friendly to God, but as corrupt and as opposite to him as ever." Indeed, as he was pressed in controversy on this point, Hopkins went on to argue long and vehemently that "the awakened, convinced sinner is more guilty and vile in the constant and painful attendance on the means of grace, than when he was in a state of security and open "profligacy." For, since selfishness was the essence of all sin, the awakened sinner who showed thereby increased concern for his own selfish security must be more sinful than one who showed no concern. At this point the Old Calvinists thought that the mighty endeavors of some to be "consistent" Calvinists led them to grotesque ends, and Hart in 1770 felt called upon to protest to Hopkins : "You sir .... with some others among us, have carried orthodoxy to such prodigious excess that it is, in your hands, degenerated in heterodoxy."
Against this strenuous objection to the use of "means", the Old Calvinists argued, as we have seen, that obviously those sinners who exerted themselves were more likely to be regenerated. For, as the Reverend Moses Hemmenway put it, "as human endeavours are the appointed means by which God gives and we obtain the meat that perisheth," so "human endeavours are also the appointed means in and by which God bestows and we receive the gift of eternal life."
[God] has commanded sinners to read and hear, and meditate on His word, to implore his mercy, to avoid wilful sins, and temptations thereto, because it is his will to awaken and humble them, to work faith and holiness in them, in the way of their attendance to these prescribed duties. These are, by the appointment and blessing of God, means whereby the work of conversion is affected.
God's sovereignty they asserted as strongly as the Consistent Calvinists, but it was a sovereignty preserved in the "appointed means" and not inquired into or explained down to the last detail. Man, they thought, was totally depraved, and only grace could save him. Nevertheless, they quoted as their own the sentiment of Owen:
Under the ashes of our collapsed nature there are yet remaining certain sparks of celestial fire, consisting in inbred motives of good and evil, or rewards and punishments, of the presence and all-seeing eye of God, of help and assistance to be had from him, with a dread of his excellency where anything is apprehended unworthy of him or provoking to him ..... There is in human nature a sense of duty or moral obligation, a conscience which directs us what we ought to do, and warns us what we are to expect. And these natural principles may be so wrought upon by motives, as that men may really desire and endeavour, in some sort, to obey the divine commands, previous to regeneration.
The Holy Spirit works upon these "natural principles," entering into the mind "by means of the light of knowledge," and thus "a disquieting sense of the guilt of sin is excited, with fear of punishment, and some kind of sorrow and compunction, accompanied with anxious thoughts and contrivances how to obtain pardon and deliverance." This is part of the "preparatory work" of the Holy Spirit, and thus he, "by means of that common illumination and conviction before mentioned, worketh in men to will and to do many things, which have a tendency and subservience to their obtaining faith and the grace of regeneration."
But to Hopkins and the Consistent Calvinists generally, it was obnoxious to suppose that the Holy Spirit might traffic with men before their regeneration. This was to commit the gross mistake of supposing that regeneration consists "chiefly, if not wholly, in renewing the understanding .... antecedent to any change of the heart, and in order to it." Thus to represent that, by letting light into the understanding, "the will is inclined and turned from sin to holiness .... is turning the matter upside down."
In brief, the Consistent Calvinists argued that man's sinfulness was due to a "moral inability" which rendered him unable sincerely even to desire to be saved, whereas the Old Calvinists thought that it was "consistent with a state of sin, that a man should desire to be saved, and so become disposed to seek salvation by attending to these instrumental duties for this end."
So after the First Great Awakening went the clash of temperaments over the problems of regeneration and the use of "means." And there can be no question that Dwight of the Second Awakening walked squarely in the path of the Old Calvinists who had preceded him. As a practical man with his heart set upon results, he rejected firmly the idea of the utter sinfulness of all "unregenerate doings" and argued like an Old Calvinist that, as a matter of fact, "wherever the Gospel has been preached, and read, mankind have actually been made disciples of Christ," whereas in those countries where it has not been preached, "disciples have not been made." Since then "it is the soul, which is thus taught, alarmed, and allured, upon which descends the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit," therefore "the Means of Grace ought to be used by sinners; and by Christians, for the purpose of promoting the salvation of Sinners." As for ministers, and Dwight was especially interested in getting ministers to act, they "ought to advise, and exhort, sinners to use the means of Grace."
But exhortation to "use the means of Grace" was as far as even Dwight would go. Although he held that the great probability was that a man would not be regenerated unless he used these means, yet the ultimate act must be God's, not man's. So all the sinner could do was to put himself in the way of salvation and then hope. But the chief theologian of the revivalists was impatient with this hesitancy to go all the way. It was the sinner's duty, he thought, to make himself a new heart.
"But some [Consistent Calvinists] will tell us God has made the soul wrong and he must make it right. He has implanted that in every mind which he only can remove, or he must implant something there which he only can implant." Retorted Taylor: "Well, then, let God, I say, be responsible for his own work. If he has made men sinners, it belongs to him to unmake them. To talk of a work which God only performs, as my duty, is out of the question." As for using the means of grace and then waiting hopefully, he preached on "Immediate Repentance Practicable," urging that "the sinner is authorized to regard immediate compliance with the terms of salvation, as a practicable duty." Here he fell back upon his notion of free moral agency, for, he argued, "that is practicable to man which he has power to perform." Man, being a moral agent, "has power to perform every duty which God requires, and is therefore fully authorized to regard immediate compliance with the terms of salvation as a duty which can be done." Of course, the sinner cannot "compel" God -- that much sovereignty Taylor left -- or have an "absolute certainty" that his heart will be changed. But "I mean that he has ample warrant for the conclusion that compliance with the terms of salvation, is an event which may take place the next moment."
It was on this point that Dwight hesitated to approve the doctrines his young pupil was preaching in Center Church. Beecher recalled that "there was a time when a question came up among us about the doings of unregenerate men. Taylor and I pushed for immediate repentance." Of course, "I didn't go quite so far as Taylor." But, "instead of using means of grace, reading, prayer, etc., we drove them up to instant submission." Dwight, however, "felt as though there might be some use of means. So, although Taylor was his amanuensis, there arose a kind of feeling between them." Beecher characteristically took full credit for bringing Dwight around to their position, or at least to admitting that there was little practical difference between them. When Dwight was at Beecher's home in Litchfield one night, the younger man induced him to talk about the matter and then led him on to one admission after another, until
"Now, Doctor," said I., "I told you so. The only difference between you and Taylor is, that, if called to direct an awakened sinner, you would give him a larger dose of means than Taylor, and Taylor a larger dose of repentance."
The magnificent Dwight had met his match. Says Beecher, "He agreed to it." But the spirits of all the Consistent Calvinists must have stirred uneasily when one of the finest and most fought-over points of theology was reduced to a larger or smaller "dose of means." And even Beecher probably did not realize that the conversion of Sereno Dwight under Taylor's preaching might have been a more potent influence in bringing the Doctor around than all his arguments.
In all the pre-Revolutionary discussions of regeneration one phrase aroused more animated exchanges than any other-the term "self-love." The Old Calvinists argued that previous to regeneration itself the Holy Spirit might begin his "preparatory work" by working upon the "natural principles" within the sinner. For, they argued, "there is in human nature a desire of happiness and dread of misery" so strong that "mankind are capable of being moved by the promises and threatenings of the gospel, to desire deliverance from guilt and punishment of sin, and be happy hereafter in the favour of God." This "desire of happiness and dread of misery" through which men might be "prompted to reform their lives and attend on the means of grace" the Old Calvinists chose to call "self-love," defining it as "that affection or propensity of heart to ourselves, which causes us to incline to our own well being, or disposes us to desire, and take pleasure in our own happiness."
This very important principle they were careful to distinguish from "selfishness."
Both self-love, and the love of our own happiness are different from selfishness. Selfishness is a regard to ourselves and our own good, exclusive of all regards to others or their good. Two things are expressed in this definition. First a love to ourselves and our own happiness. Secondly an exclusion of love to others and their happiness. Observe here, that the exclusion or privation of love to others added to self-love changes the idea. It is adding wickedness to it. For the viciousness of selfishness consists not at all in the love of ourselves or of our happiness, but wholly in the exclusion of love to others and their happiness.
But the Consistent Calvinists could admit of no such neutral point and, with Hopkins, reiterated again and again that "self-love" must be either a practically meaningless phrase, or just plain "selfishness, or a person's selfish regard and respect to himself, his own private, separate interest and happiness, without any disinterested regard to any other being." And this "is itself sinful, and is the principle and source of all sin."
Taylor's views of regeneration and his use of the term "self-love" are to be discussed below. At this point it is enough to say that he practically adopted the Old Calvinist position in its entirety. Here he who runs may read that the professor of didactic theology in Yale's Divinity School was not in the Consistent Calvinist tradition. His controversy with the men of that temperament in 1829 and 1830 was carried on in almost the same words as had been used by the Old and by the Consistent Calvinists before 1770.
Enough of the controversy between the Old and the Consistent Calvinists as it was carried on during the years following the Great Awakening has been discussed to emphasize that there were two such parties before the Revolution. The distractions of war as usual kept theological discussion at a minimum, but it was inevitable that, once peace was restored, religious leaders would turn their minds once more to the old problems. But theological differences were largely overlooked during the early years of the nineteenth century, while Dwight and Beecher in Connecticut were rallying Congregational Calvinists of all shades to the defense of the Standing Order and religion against the inroads of infidelity and democracy and while Old and Consistent Calvinists in Massachusetts were co-operating under the leadership of men like Jedidiah Morse and Leonard Woods in the fight against the liberal or Unitarian "infidelity" of the Boston clergy. However, although the two parties within the nominally orthodox fold might overlook their differences in the face of a common enemy, the differences were always present. This fact has often been overlooked by those who express some surprise that, in the midst of the controversy with the Unitarians, the orthodox party of Connecticut was itself split in to two factions. The split came, not, as has sometimes been supposed, because of the discovery of new issues--it was rather the resumption of old hostilities that had been temporarily forgotten.
The issues of the pre-Revolutionary controversy have been dealt with at some length, together with enough of Taylor's early thought to indicate that, contrary to widespread opinion, the revivalists were temperamentally and intellectually the heirs of the Old rather than of the Consistent Calvinists. This will appear with even greater clarity in the following discussions of Taylor's thinking. It is not surprising that one from a staunch Old Calvinistic background became the leading theologian of the new revivalists, for even our brief consideration of the two parties suggests that the thinking of the Old Calvinists provided a more sympathetic atmosphere for revival activity than did that of the Consistent Calvinists. The idea that the latter were more active revivalists than other Calvinists in New England seemingly is based largely on the fact that the First Awakening there centered about Edwards and his followers. But this awakening was long past before "Edwardean" thought had been defined. Indeed, the chief basis of that thought, as Hopkins and his opponent Hart both admitted, was Edwards' treatise on The Nature of True Virtue, published after the author's death. Study of the works of those Consistent Calvinists who participated in the awakening leaves the impression that they were men who had burned their fingers in revival fires and thenceforth feared those fires.
Haroutunian has pointed out that the two treatises of Edwards that formed the basis for "Edwardeanism" grew out of what he had learned to his dismay during the First Awakening and were written to guard true religion against the excesses that had resulted from his earlier work. Joseph Bellamy was at least as anxious to guard "true religion" from "enthusiasm," on the one hand, as from "formality," on the other." And all the Edwardean leaders, with the possible exception of Bellamy, were notoriously bad preachers, whose dry, metaphysical, unintelligible sermons were roundly condemned by both Old Calvinists and the later revivalists. After Edwards and those about him had reaped from the winds of the small revivals they had sown the mighty whirlwind of the Whitefieldian revival, with its later excesses and extravagances, they seem to have retired to the seclusion of their studies to ponder these things in their hearts. They developed what they liked to call "Consistent Calvinism." But revivals thenceforth, until Dwight came along, were the work of the Separate Congregationalists, the Baptists and Methodists, and, in general, the "enthusiasts." No doubt the revival activity of the Consistent Calvinists has been overestimated. Their temperament and type of thought were not congenial to it. The Old Calvinists were not particularly effective revivalists during that period of religious enervation either, but their general temperament provided a more likely foundation for the type of revivalism that followed the Revolution.
Thus far the concern has been with Taylor's early thought, by which is meant that which he developed while still an active minister. During this period his opinions on all the basic points were formed, and the foundations of "Taylorism" were laid, a supposition that is borne out by George P. Fisher's statement that Taylor permitted him to read an essay written early in his ministry, which contained all his later theological "peculiarities." The most potent influence exerted before 1819 upon this youth from a definitely Old Calvinist background was that emanating from the great revivals that marked Dwight's work. All his early speculations, then, revolved around the problems raised by revival activity. Since he had been nurtured in the very liberal or even tenuous Calvinism of Ezra Stiles and his own grandfather, these speculations were not controlled by an overpowering desire to preserve intact "the great doctrines of the Reformation" or even to follow the paths blazed by Edwards. In fact, he and Beecher preferred to call their views "evangelical Christianity," or even "Taylorism" and "Beecherism" rather than Calvinism. Later in controversy with the Unitarians they posed as the champions of orthodoxy, and the Unitarians forced them to consider their exact relationship to the "prevailing orthodoxy" which was a more strenuous Calvinism. Then, and not before, they began to plead that they were Calvinists, but in this they were not very successful, failing to persuade a large group of their Calvinistic brethren who thereupon renounced their leadership.
But the central ideas of "Taylorism" remained throughout the "revival doctrines" of the early days, and, as has been noted, the foundation of the whole structure was Taylor's enlargement of the "whosoever will" of the revivalists into a genuine theory of free agency in man. All the rest of "Taylorism" or "Beecherism" was built upon that rock and, taking on the complexion of a prevailing interest of the day, was stated in terms of government. God was conceived to be the great ruler of a "moral government," not the irresponsible monarch of abject and helpless creatures, and he ruled through the medium of established laws. "A moral government," said Beecher in one of the earliest published outlines of their joint system, "is the influence of law upon accountable creatures. It includes a law-giver, accountable subjects, and laws intelligibly revealed, and maintained by rewards and punishments." As the medium of moral government, law, "in all its parts, must be intelligible" to the subjects, and it "includes precepts and sanctions ..... The precept is directory; it discloses what is to be done. The sanctions are influential; they present the motives to obedience." For, said Beecher, the central concept of their system was that the ruler of the moral government "governs mind by motive and not by force." The influence of the law, then, "is the influence of motives upon accountable creatures," which influence "cannot destroy free agency; for it is the influence of persuasion only, and results only in choice, which, in the presence of understanding and conscience, is free agency." Without understanding and conscience and the power of choice, there could be no more free agency "than there could be vision without external objects of sight." This is far from Consistent Calvinism, which Beecher specifically rejects: "Direct irresistible impulse, moving the mind to action, would not be moral government; and if motives, in the view of which the mind chooses and acts, were coercive of choice, accountability and moral government would be impossible."
These views were announced by Beecher in September, 1817, when an outstanding exhibition of their effectiveness for revival preaching, Sereno Edwards Dwight, was ordained over the Park Street Church in Boston. That they were pre-eminently revival doctrines needs no elucidation. For if the reduction in effect of God's power over his creatures to "persuasion only" did not make the revivalists all happy bards of the Holy Ghost, as Emerson thought all ministers ought to be, it did make them co-workers with the Spirit to effect that persuasion -- and how they worked at it. But hardly were these clear views well formulated when Connecticut became aware of Unitarianism, and the authors became the self-appointed champions of orthodoxy. Then they were forced to prove that they were orthodox Calvinists, but the forced marriage of "Taylorism or Beecherism" with Calvinism, never a happy one, brought forth an extremely elusive statement of doctrines that verged on incomprehensibility.
"THE ORTHODOX SLEEP"
FOR fifty years after the tremendous enthusiasms of the Great Awakening religion was tired in New England, and during this period of general languor few noticed or were concerned about the gradual drift away from the prevailing Calvinism oil the part of Boston and the other seaport towns grown somewhat mellow through long acquaintance with far-off lands and somewhat indifferent because the primary concern was commerce. Meanwhile the Consociated Congregationalism of Connecticut, following the adoption of the Saybrook Platform in 1708, drew closer and closer to the Presbyterianism of New York and New Jersey until it was practically Presbyterianized with the adoption of the Plan of Union in 1801, and thus what attention it could spare for things outside was effectively drawn from the developments about Boston. During this period, too, the orthodox were unhappy and divided as they threshed out the problems raised by the revivals, and the Old Calvinists, who were in the majority, were not too concerned about the Boston liberals from whom at times they got effective aid. But, looking back from the vantage point of later years, it is obvious that, once the distractions of the War for Independence were passed and vital religion awoke again, the orthodox must inevitably reckon with this widespread rejection of Calvinism. The separation was real. Eastern and western New England were rapidly drifting apart religiously, and open schism waited only for one party to carry an aggressive campaign into territory where the other was strong.
Such a campaign was begun by the orthodox when Jedidiah Morse was settled over the First Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in April, 1789. For Morse very "early formed the purpose of doing his utmost" to separate "the Unitarians from the Orthodox," and the following thirty years of controversy between the two parties can be told in terms of his activities Their differences came out into the open with the first organized avowal of antitrinitarian sentiments by the Episcopal King's Chapel of Boston in 1785, and by 1801 at least one church had been split over the issue.6 But the first important break came when the Calvinistic Dr. David Tappen died in August, 1803, vacating the Hollis Professorship of Divinity in Harvard College, since all concerned knew that the choice of his successor would determine whether Harvard was thenceforth to be dominated by orthodox or Unitarian sentiments. Morse, then a member of the Board of Overseers, led the opposition to the appointment of the liberal Henry Ware, on the grounds that he was not a Calvinist and could not fulfil the stipulated requirements for the position. There was a sharp controversy which served to accentuate party differences, but Ware was appointed in February, 1805.
The controversy drew the Old Calvinists and Hopkinsians of Massachusetts into closer co-operation largely through the efforts of Jedidiah Morse and Leonard Woods -- a co-operation evidenced by the merger of their separate periodicals into the Panoplist, first issued in July, 1805, with the challenging statement that appearances "plainly indicate that it is the duty of the friends of evangelical truth and christian morality, to be 'up, and doing,' to 'take unto themselves the whole armour of God,' and with one heart and one soul to 'contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.'" The most noticeable immediate result of their "up, and doing" was the founding of Andover Theological Seminary, in which Morse, again with the help of Woods, manipulated things to secure the co-operation of Hopkinsians and Old Calvinists. Timothy Dwight preached the sermon at its opening in September, 1808 -- significantly enough omitting direct reference to the controversy between orthodox and Unitarians that had called it into being. But his presence there indicated that Morse had placed Connecticut Congregationalism behind the institution and no doubt was anxious to enlist its leaders in the attack on the liberals. Taylor at this time was studying with Dwight and lived with the older man through the events of the day. Dwight, he recalled, had some influence "in getting up the institution at Andover." The leaders of the project "came from Massachusetts to consult him on this subject," and "he entered into the subject with the deepest interest, unfolding his views of the advantages and necessity of such an institution." His enthusiasm was so great that "the gentlemen were evidently greatly influenced by his views in their determination to go forward with the enterprise."
There is no more in Taylor's recollection of events than in Dwight's sermon to indicate that the Connecticut men were aware of the controversy with the liberals that Morse was at that time pushing with such vigor.
Meanwhile the Unitarians largely shunned controversy and deplored Morse's subversive activities. But the publication of Ezra Stiles Ely's A Contrast between Calvinism and Hopkinsianism in 1811 seemed to give them a point of departure, and the book was reviewed in their General Repository in 1813 with an unsparing attack on the combination of Hopkinsians with Old Calvinists. The separation became more apparent thereafter; the liberals began to exclude Morse from their pulpits, and soon such pastoral exclusion was practiced on both sides. This was the beginning of open schism, but the distractions of the War of 1812 restrained further separation until the declaration of peace. Then Morse exploded a real bomb by financing the publication of American Unitarianism. The publication excused a long review in the June issue of the Panoplist and gave Morse his first real opportunity to make a frontal attack on the liberals. The reviewer stressed the identity of the American liberals with the English Unitarians, denounced them for trying to conceal their true opinions and thus remain within the church, and made a strong demand for separation. Now the controversy broke out openly and in earnest.
William E. Channing championed the Unitarians with the publication of A Letter to the Rev. Samuel C. Thatcher, on the Aspersions Contained in a Late Number of the Panoplist, on the Ministers of Boston and Vicinity. Dr. Samuel Worcester took up the controversy for the orthodox, and he and Channing exchanged several letters, remarks, and replies." But John Lowell, a lay member of the Harvard Corporation, spoke most sharply for the Unitarians in his publication, the title of which indicates the contents:
Are You a Christian or a Calvinist? or Do You Prefer the Authority of Christ to That of the Genevan Reformer? Both the Form and Spirit of These Questions Being Suggested by the Late Review of American Unitarianism in the Panoplist, and by the Rev. Mr. Worcester's Letter to Mr. Channing, to Which Are Added Some Strictures on Both These Works.
Lowell complained that the orthodox leaders falsely confused Arians and Socinians and wrongly imputed to the Boston liberals the Socinian views of Belsham and the English Unitarians. He attacked specific Calvinist doctrines with some vehemence, but his most biting remarks were reserved for Morse and Worcester personally. For he thought that if some future church historian should relate that "in the beginning of the nineteenth century, in a country whose constitutions secure the freedom of religious opinion," that "a set of men combined to write down all who ventured to think for themselves" and "to raise the cry of heresy against those who preferred the scriptures as the rule of their faith to any human creed," it would be deemed incredible. "Posterity will require some collateral evidence of the fact," and Lowell proposed to furnish "such a document," and he did so in scathing terms.
At last Jedidiah Morse had succeeded in causing an open break between the orthodox and Unitarians in Massachusetts and in creating a strong consciousness of party in the minds of both. But there is little indication that this "Philistic giant, imported from Connecticut," had as yet drawn the religious leaders of his native state into the controversy or, indeed, that they were seriously interested in the events taking place in the neighboring state.
The proverbial provincialism of Connecticut may be cited as a partial explanation of this. The little land of "sober habits," as its citizens proudly called it, remained in thought and action part of what Van Wyck Brooks has termed "the hinterland" long after Boston, Newport, and the other seacoast towns had been liberalized through long contact with foreign lands and customs. "As far back as New England History went, the 'Connecticut School' had had its own tone, distinct from that of the 'Massachusetts School'" -- a tone, it is to be added, which was highly individualistic and deeply tinged with a concern for the affairs of Connecticut that almost excluded concern for things outside its borders. Typical of the thought of its leaders in every crisis was the cry of Lyman Beecher when his church faced disestablishment: "Why should this little state be sacrificed?" And through these years the religious leaders of the little state had been completely absorbed in the practical affairs which have been the, general subject of the preceding chapters. Timothy Dwight knew what was taking place in Massachusetts. His frequent correspondence with Jedidiah Morse and his interest in the founding of Andover Seminary show this. But Dwight was chiefly concerned just then with preserving the peculiar institutions of Connecticut from the flood of infidelity, and he criticized the men of eastern Massachusetts for raising theological controversies. Where Morse said he would fear "and deprecate a revolution in our university more than a political revolution." Dwight was of the opinion that, if the threatened political revolution could be averted, the affairs of the universities would take care of themselves.
Lyman Beecher, busy as he was in saving Connecticut, was not entirely unaware of Unitarian developments either, although looking back later with his characteristic assumption of prescience he probably exaggerated a bit in saying that "from the time Unitarianism began to show itself in this country, it was as fire in my bones." Beecher watched it, he continues, "and read with eagerness everything that came out on the subject." As a result his mind "had been heating, heating, heating," and in his sermon at the ordination of Sereno Edwards Dwight over the Park Street Church in Boston he "had a chance to strike" and "took sight and struck out on all the points. The Unitarians were out. The interest grew to the last as blow after blow hit every nail on the head." But this sermon was definitely a side excursion for Beecher at that time. "It was the first time I had ever been in Boston," he wrote, and he was still fully occupied in Connecticut directing revivals and fostering the production of tracts against the Episcopalians. It indicated, however, that if to his mind the situation in Connecticut became less tense, or if Unitarianism became a more potent threat to its churches, he might give it more attention.
Both of these things happened in close conjunction. The tensions in Connecticut were relaxed when disestablishment became a fact in 1818, and Beecher soon forgot his differences with the Episcopalians and the sects because .his mind had been turned to the real threat of Unitarianism by developments in Massachusetts. There the controversy was being waged with increasing intensity on both sides, and churches were being divided one after another. The climax came with the split in the Dedham church in 1818, which resulted after a long lawsuit in the decision of the supreme court of the state that an orthodox majority of church members might be overruled and the church property taken by the society or parish in which the actual communicants might be in the minority. This meant, as Beecher said, that "civil associations of men" might take over duly constituted churches and turn the members out. Thus to his mind the Dedham case radically changed the nature of the Unitarian controversy. What had been merely growing doctrinal disagreement, now became a fight for church property. Worse yet, the "heretics" were placed in a position to cast the members of the "true churches" out of their own buildings. Beecher was thoroughly aroused and realized that the only way to save the local church for the orthodox was to win a majority of the parish to orthodox views.
Hence it is not surprising that when the installation of his young friend and theological pupil, Elias Cornelius, as associate pastor of the Tabernacle Church in Salem in July, 1819, presented an opportunity to attack the enemy on their own territory, he aimed his blows, not at Unitarian doctrines, but at the Unitarian threat to the constitution of local churches. With good Congregational precedent he conceived the local church to be an association of regenerated persons. The first and fundamental qualifications "for membership in a church of Christ," he argued, "are personal holiness in the sight of God, and a credible profession of holiness before men." Therefore, even "a regularly ordained ministry, an orthodox creed, and devout forms of worship, cannot constitute a church of Christ, without personal holiness in the members, [and] much less can civil associations of men, though formed for religious purposes." The "civil associations," of course, referred to the Unitarian societies which, in the Dedham case at least, ecclesiastical council had already ruled might take over a church in spite of the protest of orthodox members. The heart of the matter, thought Beecher, is that the Unitarians blot out "the doctrine of regeneration by the special influence of the Holy Ghost." After erasing thus "the scriptural distinction between the regenerate and the unregenerate," and hence abolishing in effect "the revealed terms of membership in the church of God," the attempt is made to form churches "without reference to doctrinal opinion, or experimental religion, and only by location within parish limits, and by certain civil qualifications."
This "system of aggression which would break down the sacred enclosures about the church," as the Dedham case demonstrated, "is accomplished by giving to ecclesiastical societies the spoils of the church." And this, to Beecher's mind, "is the most pernicious infidelity that was ever broached. It breaks the spring of motion in the center of God's system of good will to men, and stops the work of salvation." So Beecher analyzed the threat of Unitarianism and determined to do something about it.
But he was never the man to wage individual warfare. He loved organizations, and he thrived on campaigns, and now, having seen the great light and having been convinced that Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and the sects must unite against their common enemy, Unitarianism, he began to proclaim the most ominous danger of the moment. "All the churches of our Lord, and all the ecclesiastical societies, and all men who wish well to the civil as promoted by the religious order of our fathers," he announced, "have more cause to fear and to execrate such a system of aggression, than all the infidel books that were ever printed. It is high time, then, he thought, that "churches of different denominations, who regard each other as composed generally of members giving evidence of personal holiness, though differing in their forms of worship and! modes of administration and to some extent, in their views of doctrine," should endeavor "to regard each other with christian affection; to abstain from all acts of mutual aggression," and as soon as possible "to mature a system of efficient co-operation, for promoting those interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, which are common to them all." Beecher never hesitated to change his mind and tactics when he thought the time had come, and perhaps the only common thread that runs through all his work and binds together statements and acts that appear contrary and at cross-purposes is, as his son-in-law, Calvin Stowe, pointed out, his primary concern for the Congregational churches. He was always institutionally minded first -- a "Church man" and many times what he thought would promote the welfare of the church was put ahead of doctrinal scruples.
It is doubtful if he ever understood why those who differed "to some extent in their views of doctrine" could not get together to face a threat to their corporate life.
Hence so far as he could, he now turned Connecticut orthodoxy that he had so effectively organized, and that now after disestablishment was "all dressed up with no place to go," from its attack on democracy and the Episcopalians to an attack on the new foe. The Unitarians, he thought, were gaining everywhere. With "their power of corrupting the youth of the commonwealth by means of Cambridge," they were "silently putting sentinels in all the churches, legislators in the hall, and judges on the bench, and scattering everywhere physicians, lawyers, and merchants." They "sowed tares while men slept and grafted heretical churches on orthodox stumps." Wherever a minister dies, "some society's committee will be cut and dried, ready to call in a Cambridge student, split the Church, get a majority of the society, and take house, funds, and all." So long as they are "mingled with the orthodox, coaxing some, threatening others, and hampering all," they have had easy work of it. Hence, he concluded, "there is no remedy while the orthodox sleep, and Socinians are allowed to lodge in the same fold with us." The "apathy of the orthodox is more ominous than the activity of the Unitarians. It is time, high time, to awake out of sleep, and to call things by their right names."
So Beecher led his cohorts into the new campaign. Once aware of the situation, he showed characteristic impatience with the literary attack and defense upon which those who had long before him been crying the dangers of Unitarianism had chiefly relied. "The Unitarians," he protested, "can not be killed by the pen, for they do not live by the pen. They depend upon action, and by action only can they be effectually met." And the action Beecher contemplated was that which had already proved so effective in Connecticut-revivals. Back of his faith in revivals was his belief that Unitarianism was a movement among a few leaders and that the defection of whole churches from orthodoxy was possible largely because the members were ignorant of true "evangelical" doctrines. "The fact is," he wrote to Taylor in suggesting what he ought to preach in Boston, "that the Unitarian people, with the exception of a few veterans, are no more Unitarians than any uninformed people, who know nothing except that they do not believe in Calvinism as caricatured in terrorem." So when the truth "divested of obnoxious terms, is mildly, and kindly, and luminously explained and earnestly applied, they have no shield, and are easily impressed and awakened, and even easier than some of our hardened orthodox hearers." Hence, he continues, "we need now no ordination, knocking down sermons. These have had their use and done their work." But the people must be wooed, and the two leading objects "are to remove misapprehension and prejudice concerning our doctrines, and to commend them powerfully to the conscience," and then "to extend clear conceptions of the nature and evidences of vital religion and of the several Christian graces, so explained as to compel sinners to see" that the religion of the Bible "is a reasonable service" and "that they have not got it." Then "when their false confidence is undermined, .... press them kindly, but earnestly, to obtain religion, throwing on themselves the responsibility if they fail." The Unitarians from the beginning had pressed upon the Calvinists the harshness of their doctrines and their seeming inconsistency with the will of a God of love and justice. Stuart, Woods, and others defended these doctrines, as they had always been defended, by appeal to the Scriptures and to sound argument. But Beecher and the Connecticut men were of a different temperament and concerned first with the church as an institution. They went directly to the heart of the matter at once by deliberately seeking "to remove misapprehension and prejudice concerning our doctrines" -- to make them more appealing to the people than Unitarianism. Men who stood by doctrine regardless of consequences could not understand and contested bitterly what to them seemed Beecher's easy tendency to compromise principles for the sake of polity.
But that is for later discussion. Here it is enough to note that the revivals that Beecher sponsored were definitely didactic in purpose -- a means of weaning people away from Unitarianism and, in that sense, a means of attack on the Unitarian system. In them he placed great faith. The "Unitarians will gain the victory if we are left without revivals," he asserted, "but they will perish by the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming if revivals prevail.
But revivals alone were not enough, and even though the Unitarians could not be "killed by the pen," nevertheless, like the Episcopalians, they could be "written down" by the pen. The flood of Unitarianism, said Beecher, must be turned back to "save the land from inundation," but "to accomplish this, as Voltaire said to the abbé, 'We must be read.' " Hence the "association of gentlemen" who had harassed the Episcopalians into belligerent self-defense with the Serious Call and similar "doctrinal" tracts now turned with equal avidity against the Unitarians and with such celerity that their erstwhile opponents were still braced to parry the blow from the first issue of the Christian Spectator that fell elsewhere. Their apprehension was not unfounded, for apparently Dwight and Beecher had first projected the periodical as a means of attacking the Episcopal church in Connecticut. However, it became instead the chief instrument of the literary attack on the Boston liberals. For Beecher's campaign against the Unitarians followed the same general plan and used the same methods that had been worked out in the campaign to save the Standing Order--organization, revivals, and "writing down."
Meanwhile the theological issues between the orthodox and the Unitarians were brought out for full discussion by William E. Channing's Unitarian Christianity: A Sermon Delivered at the Ordination of the Rev. Jared Sparks, to the Pastoral Care of the First Independent Church in Baltimore, May. 5, 1819. The intricacies of the theological debate that followed have no place in this study except at one or two points. It is sufficient to note that a great deal of interest was aroused, and the champions of both sides girded themselves to do battle for their cause. Moses Stuart of Andover published the first orthodox reply to Channing, confining himself largely to the argument over the Trinity and Christology. Andrews Norton answered Stuart's Letters, reiterating the Unitarian rejection of the Trinity. Then Leonard Woods of Andover took up the controversy for the orthodox with Letters to Unitarians, bringing up the discussion of depravity, and closing with brief comments on the practical effects of the two systems-points that were to echo down through all the succeeding controversy. Henry Ware of Harvard now published Letters Addressed to Trinitarians and Calvinists," in answer to Woods's Letters to Unitarians, pressing the inconsistency of the doctrine of depravity with the moral perfection of God; and the "Wood'n Ware Controversy," as it came to be known, thus started was carried on for the following three years.
This exchange served to make perfectly clear to both parties that the fundamental differences between them all rooted back in their respective conceptions of human nature. "The question, 'what is the natural character of man,' lies at the very foundation of the controversy between the Unitarians on the one hand and Trinitarians and Calvinists on the other," said Ware.36 Channing had insisted that the orthodox opinions of the natural depravity of man and of the manner in which God designated the heirs of salvation (election) were inconsistent with the moral perfection of God and therefore false. To which Woods countered along accepted lines of Calvinistic apology that "we have nothing to do with the inquiry, whether the common doctrine of depravity can consist with the moral perfection of God, or with any difficulty whatever in the attempt to reconcile them." And to say that this doctrine cannot be true "because I cannot reconcile it with the goodness of God" is to say "I am an infallible judge, and my opinion must stand, though opposed by the declarations of Scripture, and the evidence of facts." In theology, as in natural science, we must regulate ourselves "by the maxims of Bacon and Newton" and inquire "not what we should expect the properties and laws of the physical world would be, nor whether this or that thing can be reconciled with the infinite wisdom and goodness of God," but only "what do we find from observation and experience, that the properties and laws of nature really are?" To which Ware replied in accepted Unitarian terms that "if the doctrine of depravity .... cannot be perceived by us to be consistent with the moral perfection of God, the presumption is very strong, that it is not true." This bald reassertion of the original statement of the Unitarian position Woods found somewhat disconcerting. But he patiently reiterated his view that the character of man was to be judged from "observation and experience" and not from supposed consistency or inconsistency with God's moral perfection, which, it is rather presumptuous to suppose, "mere reason" can fathom anyway.
Hence, he continues, if he is to prove such consistency, "I shall consider it as valid evidence of a real consistency, if I show by proper arguments, first, that God possesses moral perfection, and secondly, that man is by nature depraved." In brief, Woods argued soundly enough that, if two things can be shown to be, it is out of place to argue further that one of them is not, because the two are not obviously consistent. It is to be noted that Calvinists like Woods arrived at any conception they had of the consistency of depravity with God's moral perfections by induction from the facts as they observed them. Three "facts" are here concerned: God's perfection, man's total depravity, and man's responsibility. Accepting these, they concluded that, since God was sovereign and ordered all things according to his will, they must somehow accord with his benevolence. When they wished to explain how this might be, they quite generally adopted some variation of the notion that God overruled sin and evil for the greatest good of the universe in general. But for them the question of consistency was secondary.
The Unitarians made it primary and went on to argue that depravity was inconsistent with God's love and justice because it meant mankind was damned without giving them any choice in the matter. This became their chief, in fact, their only, argument against the doctrine. For the early Unitarians did not doubt the universality of sin, and Ware asserted it with as much force as any Calvinist. To say that all have sinned is, he said, to assert "a fact, which none will deny, the universality of sin, that all have sinned .... all who are capable of sinning, all as soon as they are capable of it, all as soon they are moral agents." He went even further and asserted that "the descendants of the first transgressor, accordingly, commence their existence under circumstances of increased liability to- sin, and greater difficulty of preserving their innocency." But he further argued, and herein was supposed irreconcilably to reject the doctrine of depravity, that every individual becomes a sinner for himself "by a voluntary violation of known duty in obedience to either of the appetites or passions."
He would, in short, insist that culpability is exactly commensurate with free agency in any given situation.
At this point Woods simply could not agree but fell in line with all the leading Consistent Calvinists from Jonathan Edwards and Joseph Bellamy on down. He wished, he said, to make his position perfectly clear in order "to prevent, if possible, the endless repetition of the saying, that man cannot be culpable for anything which he has by nature -- for anything which is not the fruit or consequence of his choice." For "nothing .... can be more groundless than this notion," since "whenever, and in whatever way, man has what the divine law forbids, or is destitute of what it requires, he is culpable; unless the law itself is in fault." At this point the discussion obviously must reach a stalemate, for the Unitarians assumed God's moral perfection first and deduced from this that he must limit responsibility by the extent of free agency according to the best of their modern thought -- hence that man, in direct contrast to Woods's statement, is culpable only for "the fruit or consequence of his choice."
Woods apparently sensed this basic difference, and, being a generous and candid controversialist, he did not assert finality for his own view but pointed out that "a moral depravity, existing from the first, involves no greater difficulty respecting the divine agency, than the scheme advocated by our opponents;" or "any other theory which admits that man is a sinner," since the "only difference in this respect is, that, according to one, man begins to be a sinner earlier, than according to the other." He asks Ware to explain how it is that "men can, according to the fixed laws which regulate the mind, be uniformly induced to sin, by any causes whatever," and still be said to have free choice in the matter. For, and this is basic Calvinism, "are not all the causes, which operate upon them, under the direction of the Almighty?" Suppose they are led to sin "by temptations arising from external objects. Who is it but God that formed and arranged those objects?" Or "suppose he is drawn into sin by his appetites and passions? .... And who gave them power thus to influence his conduct? Or who gave him a moral constitution so weak, as to be uniformly overcome by such an influence?" Even "say if you please, that man's conduct and character are owing to his own free will. Did not God give him his free will?" Hence, he concludes, the difficulty it behooves Ware to solve is that "reasonable, moral beings, coming into existence with a nature perfectly pure-with a nature not in the least inclined to evil, should universally become sinners, as soon as they are capable of action." After thus saying in effect that "if my system is inadequate, yours is no better," Woods, unable to go farther, permitted the matter to rest.
But in his own mind he found no peace at this point, and, having explored every bypath of the argument in the course of the long discussion with Ware, he returned to the fundamental question between the two parties: "What is the natural character of man?" Now it seemed clearer than ever to him that "the grand, fundamental error of Unitarians" is that their religious system "overlooks the ruined state of man." This "conviction of sin and ruin .... is the basis of evangelical religion," and "it must be obvious even to our opponents, that such a conviction necessarily involves the belief of the other doctrines with which it stands connected in our system." Similarly "it is very obvious to us, that where this conviction is wanting, there will always be difficulties and perplexities respecting the doctrines of Orthodoxy." In this view, then, he concluded, having done all that sound argument could do to convince his opponent, "the controversy appears .... to be as much a matter of feeling, as of reasoning; and it ought to be treated accordingly." This statement deserves careful consideration. It reveals the limits to which the man who was probably the most eminent defender of New England's orthodox Calvinism against the Unitarians had been pressed. It was tantamount to admission that whether or not one was a Calvinist on the basic question from which all the other doctrines were derived, depended upon how one felt about the matter, which in turn conditioned one's interpretation of the relevant facts. The discussion could go no farther.
But the day had not yet come, would never come, when Calvinists might defend their magnificent system, with the bald assertion that it "felt" true to them and that sufficed. If the orthodox were to remain on the field, they must, as the popular expression has it, think up some new answers. It might be expected that the versatile activists from Connecticut would be able to do this.
Meanwhile Taylor was gaining valuable experience and developing his strength as a minister, a revivalist, and controversialist, and Beecher spoke often of the "great pleasure it gave to see him coming up." No doubt Taylor was "coming up" at the time, but the prospect did not give all such pleasure. He had demonstrated his effectiveness as well as his propensity to irritate his opponents in the heated exchanges with the Episcopalians. Now, preparing to take up his pen and to follow Beecher in "writing down" the Unitarians, he perhaps gave that ardent lover of good feeling among the orthodox a shiver of apprehension when he candidly said, "It will be impossible for us to write what we wish to write, and shall write if we write at all, and give entire satisfaction to our brethren." That he would begin his answer to the Unitarians just where he had left off the controversy with the Episcopalians might be expected, and that point has been suggested in the preceding discussions of his tract, Man, a Free Agent without the Aids of Divine Grace. Further, he had reason to suppose that his answer might not "give entire satisfaction," for he had asserted free agency and the limitation of culpability thereby in words that sounded very much like the sentiments Ware expressed in opposition to Woods. It was long remembered that during that particular controversy he had indicated great dissatisfaction with the way Woods conducted the argument for the orthodox. Openly he said that, at least in the discussion of native depravity, Ware had the better of the exchange. Woods, he affirmed with a customary tactlessness, had put the controversy with the Unitarians back fifty years.
There was much discussion of the matter in New Haven. Asahel Nettleton, who was there conducting a revival during the winter of 1820-21, recalled that the arguments of Woods and Ware seemed to form the chief topic of conversation. "Dr. Beecher, at that time, did not fully agree with Dr. Taylor, and they were often, as I expressed it, 'like two cocks, by the gills,' -- Dr. Taylor clear over the mark, and Dr. Beecher so far over that I could agree with neither." The upshot of it was that Taylor himself wrote out an answer to Ware, intending to publish it in the Spectator. He read it, as was customary, to the members of his association for their approval and criticism. Their reaction is indicated by the stanza one apprehensive brother penciled during the reading:
Immortal Edwards, whom religion hails
Her favorite son, a Taylor overthrew:
A Taylor now the great man's ghost assails,
His doctrine doubts, and error vamps anew.
Thus, at almost the same time that Connecticut became aware of Unitarianism, some among the brethren had an ominous awareness of vital differences existing among themselves.
"WE MUST HAVE A SEMINARY"
By the opening of the nineteenth century it was becoming evident to religious leaders of all denominations and all over America that more adequate facilities were needed for the training of a competent ministry for the churches. Throughout the Colonial period most candidates for the ministry received whatever professional training they got from the private instruction of a settled pastor. Older ministers customarily added a bit to their meager salaries, and, incidentally, added greatly to their wives' work, by taking under their tutelage young men preparing for the ministry, who usually lived in the pastor's home. This system had all the advantages of intimate association with an older minister, sympathetic supervision while taking the first steps in the active parish ministry, and more or less competent instruction in the fundamentals of the prevailing orthodox thought as interpreted by the instructor. But in the period of rapid growth and expansion following the Revolution it soon became evident to the more alert leaders of the churches that a system of professional education must be developed to meet the greatly increased demand for ministers and to give the prospective candidates training more adequate to meet the new conditions. Higher standards of education in other fields with consequent establishment of professional schools was an added stimulus to such endeavors. Further, rapid expansion of the churches necessarily involved no little competition between them for position and members and even competition between factions within each denomination seeking to control its doctrines and policies.
Such competition played an important part in the founding of the seminaries, as each denomination or faction sought to assure itself of perpetuity by providing schools where the future leadership might be well indoctrinated in the peculiar tenets of the group. Once began, the movement to found seminaries gained momentum, and during the twenty-year period between 1807 and 1827 no less than seventeen permanent institutions had their beginnings. Among them was the Theological Department in Yale College, and all these factors played a part in its origin.
Timothy Dwight, both as a parish minister and later as president of Yale College, had personally supervised the professional education of many candidates, and he spoke with feeling and understanding of the inadequacies of this system as he rejoiced with its founders over the opening of Andover Seminary. Heretofore, he said, the entire professional training of candidates has been furnished by an individual, "and that while encumbered by the superintendence of a parish, and the labour of writing, and preaching, two sermons in a week." Instruction "so interwoven with other perplexing concerns" obviously could not be adequate. But even if the instructor were in a position to devote his whole time to such education, and were he "ever so competent; it would be impossible for him to communicate the knowledge which ought to be considered indispensable."
Consequently, Dwight, under whose administration the college had begun to take on the first appearance of a modern university with the establishment of a professorship of law in 1801, a professorship of natural sciences in 1802, a medical lectureship in 1806, and a medical school with four professors in 1813, had long cherished the idea of enlarging the professorship of divinity into a school of theology, as was done at Harvard in 1815. It was "in consequence of his wishes on this subject, that his eldest son, Timothy Dwight, Esq., of this city, had then appropriated a certain stock in trade, with its profits," toward that end. But Dwight did not live to see the actual establishment of such a seminary, which had to wait upon a combination of fortuitous events.
It had always been the custom for some students to stay at the college after their graduation for advanced theological instruction. This was analogous to private study with a regular minister, since the professor of divinity was the pastor of the college church. After the death of Dwight, Eleazer T. Fitch had been appointed to fill that position, and in the fall of 1817 two graduates decided to remain for theological training under his instruction. They met two evenings a week in Professor Fitch's home. Other students joined the group, and by the end of the second term the class numbered twelve members. During that term Professor Kingsley of the college was induced to instruct them in Hebrew and Professor Goodrich in elocution and sermon composition. Beginning in January, 1818, they met in the Hopkins Grammar School, having been invited to do so by W. C. Fowler, one of the original two and at that time rector of the school. With three professors the class "pursued much the same course as the one pursued at Andover." Thus Yale's school of theology "by a voluntary association" grew and flourished during the following years and came into special prominence during the awakenings in 1820, 1821, and 1822. Indeed, in the opinion of Taylor, who was the outstanding preacher of these revivals, they began through the work of members of the class.
The clergy became greatly interested in the class. Connecticut Congregationalism was passing through trying times. It had seen in quick succession the death of its most able champion and leader, Timothy Dwight; the disestablishment of its church; and the open schism with Unitarianism and the consequent loss of many churches to the new heretics. Gloom was widespread, and the sight of a flourishing theological school at Yale which many had expected to languish after Dwight's death was a cheering sight. The seasons of revivals associated with the labor of the students were most reassuring. Associations let it be known that they would welcome applications for licensure. Invitations to preach as candidates came in with greater rapidity than they could be supplied, and the students were found to be very acceptable to the churches. Inevitably the great enthusiasm generated must have reflected favorably on Beecher and his coworkers, who were busy rallying the orthodox and giving them their most effective leadership. Hence when in 1822 they began to press for the establishment of a permanent theological department in Yale College, they found widespread support. Naturally, too, when the great importance attached to revivals is considered, many perceived the "fitness of Dr. Taylor for the post of theological professor" and "wished that young men who were looking forward to the ministry should be taught by him."
With this background things moved rapidly after fifteen of the theological students, in 1822, petitioned the Corporation to establish a theological department. Professor Fitch supported the petition in an elaborate paper, and President Day and Professors Kingsley, Silliman, and Goodrich also submitted a paper, suggesting that $20,000 would be necessary for the endowment of the proposed professorship of didactic theology. An appeal was now presented to the people of New Haven, emphasizing the great financial and other benefits of such a school to the whole community. Timothy Dwight, Jr., as was noted, had had this project in mind since before the death of his father, and he now came forward with a subscription of $5,000.
A campaign was started immediately to raise the remaining $15,000 deemed necessary. A testimony to the zeal with which Fitch and Goodrich supported the proposed professorship, and their great desire to have it established in 1822, is their note, dated September 10, 1822, binding themselves to pay to the president and fellows the $5,000 yet needed, if other subscriptions did not make up the deficit. That day the Corporation voted that "whereas Eleazer T. Fitch and Chauncey A. Goodrich have agreed for the balance, the body will proceed to establish the Professorship of didactic Theology," and that the professors of divinity' and theology should "establish the course of instruction and necessary rules and regulations for the management of the Theological department for the ensuing year." Everyone concerned knew who was to be invited to fill the new professorship; indeed, it was widely supposed that it had been endowed largely in order to provide Taylor the opportunity to train ministers.
Accordingly, the Corporation on September 14, 1822, officially notified Taylor of his appointment to the new position on the Yale faculty, and Professor Fitch, on behalf of the Prudential Committee, prepared a long memorial to the First Church and Society in New Haven, stating the reasons that had led the college to its decision and concluding that "several indications of providence" had served "to point out to us your beloved pastor as the most prominent candidate for the office among the pastors of the churches." Taylor immediately laid the vote of the Corporation and the memorial before the church and "proposed that an Ecclesiastical Council be called to decide whether it be his duty to accept the call." No doubt he anticipated some difference of opinion, for at that time there was still a general feeling in the Congregational churches that the pastor was wedded to his church and ordinarily separated from it only by death. Many in Center Church remembered the loss of Moses Stuart to Andover Seminary and the difficulty encountered in finding a suitable successor for him and resented this repetition of events. Further, Taylor had been a very successful and much-liked pastor for ten years, whose resignation many regarded with alarm. Hence opposition to the change was strong, and the church gave its consent only after two rather heated meetings. The Society, after a stormy session, voted bluntly that "this Society do not consent that Revd Nath W. Taylor, their Pastor, accept the call made by the Corporation of Yale College." Taylor had for once, indeed, been discreet in insisting that the matter be submitted for decision to an impartial council, for feelings ran so high that many feared the dignitaries of college and church were in danger of a serious collision. In this charged atmosphere the Council convened in New Haven on November 6, 1822. Taylor, President Day and a committee of the Corporation, a committee of the church favoring dismissal, and a committee of the Society opposed to it were summoned in turn and heard. Then after "due deliberation" the council concluded that, since general opinion pointed to Taylor as the man for the professorship, they therefore felt "decisively called to advise Mr. Taylor to accept his appointment" and to advise the church and the Society that it was "their duty to resign him."
To this decision the members of the Society finally yielded a somewhat grudging consent, but only after Taylor had written them a rather sharp request to call a meeting "for the Purpose of adopting such measures .... as may be necessary to my compliance with the advice of Council." They then voted to follow the lead of the church in making the necessary arrangements for "dissolving the pastoral relation between him & this church."
Taylor immediately took up his new duties as the Dwight Professor of Didactic Theology, signifying his conformity to the requirements of the college by signing his assent to the Saybrook Platform and Creed, as had been required of all Yale professors since the defection of Rector Timothy Cutler and others of the faculty to Episcopacy in 1722." It is to be noted here that the new department of theology was from the beginning "a distinct institution' in its funds, its officers, and its government from Yale College. Like the schools of law and medicine and the professorship of chemistry, it was looked upon as a mere secondary appendage of the college. Right down to the time of Taylor's death, the professors were distracted by the necessity of conducting an annual campaign to raise funds to pay their own salaries. Thus the school was kept in very close touch with the churches, sensitive to their desires, guided at least in part by their wishes--a factor that played no small part in later developments.
All during the period with which we are dealing, New Haven, co-capital with Hartford, held a peculiar position of prestige and influence in the state. There the legislature met, there the courts were held, and there Yale College, the training place for so many leaders in state and church, was located. There Timothy Dwight had appealed to the "laymen of distinction generally, and our most eminent lawyers especially," and there Lyman Beecher had pushed the organization of the various societies which were to promote the interests of the Standing Order. Beecher, as has been seen, traveled widely through the state, had extensive acquaintance with the ministers, and, in the interests of the campaign he was waging, was instrumental in placing reliable men in strategic positions. Not unnaturally New Haven was his headquarters, and the men who made up the faculty of Yale College were his special friends and supporters. Of these men, two stand out as especially active in promoting the religious interests for which he campaigned: Eleazer T. Fitch, the professor of divinity, and Chauncey A. Goodrich, appointed professor of rhetoric in 1817. These two men had been children together, had attended Hopkins Grammar School together, and had graduated from Yale College in the same class (1810). They, like Taylor, had grown to maturity in the college under the influence of Dwight, and Taylor, as pastor of the First Church in New Haven, was intimately associated with them.
Each of these four men -- Beecher, Taylor, Fitch, and Goodrich-had his peculiar talents, and together they formed a well-rounded and strong combination. Fitch, who suffered from general ill-health and was timid and ineffective in face-to-face contacts, nevertheless preached acceptably to the students and lectured well on his system of divinity. Goodrich, though holding no official position of religious leadership, really took Fitch's place as the college pastor and personal adviser to the students and probably did more to stimulate revivals in the college than any other man. Beecher, of course, was the politician and the organizer, while Taylor had early shown his ability as a theologian and controversialist.
Beecher and Taylor shared the honors as powerful revival preachers and were in great demand by the churches. All during what has been called "Lyman Beecher's campaign," these four men worked together, not only as colleagues in the enterprises, but as close friends and personal intimates. They read and criticized one another's sermons and doctrinal tracts and conferred on all matters of doctrine and policy until it is very difficult to distinguish the peculiar position of anyone of them. Beecher may be thought of as the "field marshal" of Connecticut orthodoxy, and, similarly, his close friends in New Haven -- Taylor, Fitch, and Goodrich -- may not inappropriately be called his "general staff." Though all these men were on the most friendly terms, there is no doubt that the closest friendship existed between Beecher and Taylor, dating from their first meeting in Dwight's study. Beecher was a frequent caller at the Taylor home in New Haven. Taylor's daughter long remembered how "he would rush into the house, speak to no one, rush out and promenade back and forth over the wide garden walk, then in, .and up the back stairs to my father's study." Arm-in-arm they would walk the rooms for hours, often deep into the night, in the glow of discussions," working out abstruse points of theology or devising new tactics to be used against their opponents.
Meanwhile for several years after its founding, the seminary at Andover was the natural training center for orthodox ministers in New England. All the orthodox had united in its founding. Dwight, representing Connecticut Congregationalism, had given it his blessing. Edward Dorr Griffin, staunch Presbyterian from New York, graced its faculty; and, says Baird, "the students of Yale, who were destined for the ministry, had, generally, and, almost as a matter of course, gone to Andover, to study theology."
But there are indications that the New Haven men were not entirely satisfied with the ministerial candidates that Andover was turning out or with the doctrinal position of some of its professors. Beecher, almost as soon as he had become fully aware of the real threat of Unitarianism, and had called for an orthodox crusade against it, expressed dissatisfaction with the apathy of the Andover students. "I must say I have been troubled at the complaints which have been made at the want of animation of the Andover students," he wrote Leonard Woods. "Your preachers," he insisted, "must wake up, and lift up their voice. They must get their mouths open, and their lungs in vehement action." Experienced organizer and politician that he was, he thought it easy enough for the older ministers to "subdue too much feeling or violence," but what could they do for the man "who, in the morning of his days and fire of youth, needs a mustard-paste all over his body to stimulate him to animation"? Beecher just then was intensely interested in getting revivals started in the churches and had no patience with "learned dullness" in the preachers of repentance. "If a man has no feeling, let him not attempt to preach. If he have feeling, let him show it," was his formula.
But if the New Haven men were dissatisfied with the Andover students' lack of vitality and revival enthusiasm, they were perhaps even more dissatisfied with the doctrinal position of some of its leading professors, the Hopkinsian (Consistent Calvinist) bias of which they felt was untenable in the face of the Unitarian attack. This lay back of Taylor's open disapproval of the way Woods defended orthodoxy against Ware and back of his expressed belief that Ware had the better of that controversy, The New Haven men, more than any of the other orthodox, realized the force of the Unitarian "moral argument" against Calvinism and sought to restate their Calvinism to meet it. In order to give their restatement wide currency and practical efficacy, they were pressed with the necessity for a seminary where young men might be trained in the newer views and sent out to meet the threat of Cambridge.
In the light of these considerations more weight may be given to the opinion of the Reverend J. J. Foot regarding the founding of Yale Divinity School than the unsupported statement of a member of the opposition ordinarily would warrant. Foot recalled that in the spring of 1822 it began to be whispered in association meetings that "Drs. Taylor, Beecher, and others" were working for the "founding [of] a new seminary; being apprehensive that Andover might not be what they desired it to be." Beecher, it was said, insisted that" 'we must have another seminary; and then, if we lose one, we shall have one left.' " This, some of the ministers felt, sounded like "good logic," but knowing "Stuart's letters to Channing" and "Woods' letters to Unitarians" they did not think that "the cause of orthodoxy was, at that time, in such peril as to demand another seminary." Hence they "appeared to suspect" Beecher's real meaning to be, "If Andover will not inculcate our views, we must have a seminary that will."
There are, then, indications that although dissatisfaction with Andover Seminary's student preachers and indefensible doctrines was but one among many factors that led to the establishment of the Theological Department in Yale College in 1822, yet it was an important factor which must not be/over, looked and was perhaps decisive in the choice of Taylor for the position of theological instructor, around whom the school was to be built. The New Haven men were being forced to admit that their doctrinal statements differed from many of their orthodox brethren and to realize that they needed a strong statement of their position, both as a defense against the Unitarian attack and as an attempt to carry their brethren with them. They desired also a host of energetic young preachers to spread the new gospel truth that brought revivals, rallied the churches to orthodoxy, and discomfited the Unitarians.
"LOGIC AND TEARS"
THE assumption of his new duties as professor of didactic theology did not mean such a radical change in Taylor's daily life and work as might be at first supposed. He did not give up preaching but continued to supply pulpits almost every Sunday throughout his life until too feeble from advancing age to do so. He was officially a pastor for ten years and a professor of theology for thirty-six years. Yet, in the judgment of Leonard Bacon, who succeeded him in the pulpit of Center Church and was intimately associated with him through most of his active life, "it was by his power as a preacher of the word, more than by any power which he exerted as a mere teacher of theology that he was a burning and a shining light." He remained to the end a preacher who taught theology. Nor did his conception of his mission in life change with the change in official positions. The conversion of sinners continued to be his primary object, and he became one of the most powerful revival preachers of the time, much in demand for the "protracted meetings" or short revivals then common in the churches. He thrived best in periods of "religious excitement," and "all his theology was shaped and framed with reference to the doctrine and work of the conversion of sinners to God." No better illustration of this could be found than the effect delivery of the lectures constituting his theological masterpiece produced. Twice, he recalled, these lectures had been delivered to the college students at their request, and "both times their delivery was followed by powerful revivals in the college."
In brief, as "revivals had always followed his preaching .... now they followed his teaching."
Basic to the thinking of Taylor and his fellows was the conception of fixed and eternal "truth," to which all reasonable minds must give assent as soon as it is made clear to them. Hence as revivalists they sought, first, to make their doctrines conform to this "truth" and, second, to present them so clearly that the common mind could understand them. Once the "truth" was seen and understood, acceptance was automatic for a rational mind, and only perversity and unwillingness could account for its rejection. This provided splendid speculative background for revivalistic preaching. It is almost as hard for the modern mind that has substituted statistics-for logic and changing and growing "probability" for absolute and final "truth" to recapture this conception of "truth" as to recapture the sense of the closeness of the supernatural world. But only thus can Taylor's typical abhorrence of the idea of mere probability be understood. "I would rather have ten settled opinions, and nine of them wrong," he told his students, "than to be like my brother Gibbs with none of the ten settled." To this mind the even balancing between two views of a subject is incomprehensible, and the man who does not have "settled opinions" is thought to he a weak-minded drifter. Taylor was certain that man may know the "truth," indeed, that he knew it, and hence he "stood firmly and confidently in positive conclusions."
As for method, the truth was arrived at through definition and logic. Taylor loved to define, would not concede that some subjects do not admit of clear definition, and had "little respect for any thought that could not be cast into a lucid proposition." Once having made a clear definition, the next step was the use of correct logic, and conclusions reached through this method were unimpeachable. "His mind rested in this process with absolute confidence," T. T. Munger recalled fifty years later, and even "if false, it was splendid." Taylor "knew no such thing as the personal equation, or another's point of view." He had enough heart, but what was heart before logic based on sound premises rightly defined?"
Through this method alone, Taylor thought, he corralled the "truth" and not unnaturally found it to be "that reality of things which the Gospel reveals." In brief, the
great system of doctrines, of laws, of precepts, of promises, of threatenings, to which Christ has testified, is a simple declaration of things as they are. These things are what they are asserted to be, not because Christ declared them to be so, nor because his testimony is supported by signs and wonders wrought by the finger of God. They are realities just as they are declared to be, independently of all testimony. They are a part of the reality of things, as this comprises the nature, the relations, and the fitness of things.
Thus, conveniently enough, he found his theology to be the "truth." And, since he supposed that only correct definition and inexorable logic had forced him to his conclusions, he supposed also that other intelligent persons must yield to the same irresistible forces. Small wonder, then, that both his preaching and his teaching revealed "an instinctive and ineradicable confidence in the power of logic to convince" and that, having presented the "truth," he demanded acceptance of it. So sure was he of his conclusions that he was impatient and inclined to doubt the intelligence of those who differed from him and to impute weakness or deficiency to minds that did not acknowledge the "truth" he clearly presented to them. "A very stupid young man entered the Seminary," he used to relate, "so stupid that he could not see the point of an argument." But his colleagues long remembered that Taylor never despaired of any unbeliever who could be induced to "lend a patient ear to reasoning." Hence he often expressed a desire "to go to Paris, and associate himself with the students and educated men there, for the purpose of proving to them the claims of the Gospel." He could not conceive of even the staunchest unbelievers of Paris, that fountainhead of irreligion, resisting his presentation of "truth."
With such robust confidence that the system of doctrine he held was rooted in the very nature of things, Taylor naturally thought also that unlimited investigation would bring anyone to his views. Only mental deficiency or a failure to use clear definitions and sound logic could prevent this happy termination. Hence in the classroom he magnanimously insisted that his students investigate for themselves and "follow the truth if it carries you over Niagara." Frequently he quoted to them the saying of Joseph Bellamy, "Do not be afraid of investigation and argument -- there is no poker in the truth." And he gave them ample opportunity, for at the close of every class session he encouraged another hour or more of questions, discussion, and argument, during which, likely as not, the current theological controversy would be threshed out and the opponents of New Haven thinking annihilated. The students' objections were likely to be brushed aside in somewhat cavalier fashion, for he had a way of making it clear that "the difficulties which might be troublesome to those who presented them had been already met and set aside in his personal thinking."
But he loved to discuss fine points of theology with them, and he glowed and expanded in the heat of classroom arguments until sometimes, especially if the topic was the moral government of God, his voice trembled and the tears flowed freely. So, said T. T. Munger, "as a matter of course we all fell in and believed with him. Who could stand out against logic and tears?" Eventually, then, he won every argument and attributed this uniform success to the soundness of his logic. But many students, like Munger, as they looked back on their seminary days were likely to name other factors as more important. As youthful candidates for the ministry they exulted with their doughty champion in his theological victories, grew enthusiastic over his propositions, and were moved by his great earnestness. Fascinated by his courage and independence of character and convinced by his sincerity, they grew to love him as he loved them. He arrested their attention, awakened their enthusiasm, and made them feel the great importance of their work as ministers. Here lies the secret of his power over them, which made some accept what he said without question. And even those of more independent mind were likely to say, with Julian M. Sturtevant, that the Doctor "impressed his system indelibly upon my mind."
But more important than the "truth" he sought to capture and deliver to them in a doctrinal' system was his insistence upon self-reliance and the contagion of his own independence. He urged his students not to accept his instructions blindly but "to throwaway the authority of names and to think for themselves." He "challenged them to examine all his teachings in the light of their own intelligence." He "taught them to call no man master, and go for the truth themselves to its sources." By precept and example, he encouraged his students "to question and argue." These are typical expressions from those who were inspired by the early work of the new professor of didactic theology to discard the old masters and launch out on their own thought.
So literally did many of them take this advice that they were thought by some of the older ministers to show an "inordinate self-confidence and a too liberal disregard of seniors and superiors, and good authorities." This was bound to cause trouble in the immediate situation, but in the long run it made for progress. Firmly rooted in the past as he was, Taylor could not break completely the bonds of the older orthodoxy, but his students when encouraged to cast authorities aside and strike out for themselves were likely to arrive at a view of the "truth" quite different from that held by their teacher. Many of them found, like Sturtevant, that "his teaching became the starting point, not the end of my religious thinking." These men became the leaders in the great surge of liberal thought that dominated Congregationalism during the next generation. Horace Bushnell, it is to be remembered, was Taylor's pupil, and, although the Professor recalled him in after years as the one who was always "on t'other side," Bushnell said with gratitude that this theologian of the older day "taught me one thing -- that it doesn't hurt a man to think for himself." If Taylor did no more than that, he richly deserves more credit than many ardent Bushnellites have accorded him. His was the new voice crying in the theological wilderness that sprang up when the old Calvinism proved incapable longer to restrain the lush growth of speculation in New England. He never found his way completely out of that wilderness. His work has been overlooked along with that of less worthy precedessors by succeeding generations of religious thinkers too absorbed in traveling forward along their own broad highroads of "progressive thought" to be curious about the paths to progressivism. Nevertheless, he prepared the way for them. After Taylor, "progressive orthodoxy" was seldom seriously challenged, at least within Congregationalism.
During this period of his prime Taylor was an exceptionally well-knit and vigorous man, whose handsome appearance still impressed almost everyone who met him." Always serious, he penned a solid essay on virtue in the "Memory Book" of a friend, wherein others penned sweet nothings. Even his closest friends felt that he never permitted "unseemly familiarity," and some who knew him less intimately were alienated by what they thought to be an overbearing manner and lofty conduct. "Dr. Taylor would not condescend to take notice of me. I am not big enough," a lesser opponent confided to Beecher. Tactless he was -- even Beecher called him "indiscreet" -- usually bristling in self-defense, and, according to Leonard Bacon, rushing "to argument like a war-horse to battle." This tendency many knew and trod softly in his presence. Once when he and Professor Fitch were serving on a committee for revising the hymns, a line of Watt's version of Psalm 112 came up for consideration -- "I'll speak thy word though kings should hear." Fitch, during the discussion, repeated the line in various forms and varying emphasis: "I'll speak, I shalt speak, I will speak." Mrs. Fitch was in the next room and, knowing that Taylor was on the committee, assumed as a matter of course, albeit with some fear, that he had started a theological argument with her husband.
Soon after he came to Center Church the Society bought a house on the southwest corner of Temple and Wall streets in New Haven and deeded it to their new minister. Here within three or four blocks of his church and the college Taylor lived during the entire period of his active life.
There his five daughters and one son were born, and, except for the fifth daughter, Emily Webster, who died in infancy, grew to adulthood. The first daughter, Mary, born in 1811, was thought of all the children most to resemble her father in "energy of character." She was married to Noah Porter in April, 1836, and the young couple spent the first seven years of their married life in the old home of the bride's father, New Milford, where Porter was pastor. After three years in Springfield, Massachusetts, Porter was called to a professorship at Yale College and later was made president. The second daughter, Harriet, was married to Samuel Giles Buckingham in May, 1837. Buckingham was a graduate of Yale College and of the Theological Department under Taylor. He was ordained over the Second Congregational Church of Milbury, Massachusetts, in 1837 and remained there for ten years. In 1847, when Noah Porter vacated the pulpit of the South Congregational Church in Springfield, Taylor's second son-in-law succeeded the first as pastor of that church. Harriet died in October, 1863, after a long illness. Her husband survived her by thirty-five years, dying in July, 1898. Susan, the third daughter, was born in 1816. In October, 1841, she married Abel Bellows Robeson, a physician who had studied medicine at Columbia, South Carolina, and in Boston. After their marriage he practiced in New York but died in March, 1853, when only thirty-six years old. His widow returned to live with her father in New Haven, where she died of consumption in March, 1856. Rebecca, fourth and youngest daughter to live to adult life, was born in September, 1818. In November, 1840, she was married to Walter T. Hatch, who graduated from Yale College in 1837 and who, after a year in the Theological Department, went into business in New York. First as a merchant, then as a banker and broker, he accumulated a substantial fortune. The family lived in Brooklyn and were active in the Church of the Pilgrims of that city.
Hatch died in June, 1896, and his widow survived him until December, 1904. It is to her that we owe most of our glimpses of the intimate life of her family In New Haven, preserved in her Personal Reminiscences, which have been extensively quoted.
Taylor's only son, Nathaniel W. Taylor, Jr., was born in July, 1823. He graduated from Yale College in 1844 and from the medical department in January, 1846, and became a resident physician in Bellevue Hospital, New York. After a year he returned to New Haven, where he practiced until the summer of 1851, apparently ill a great deal of the time, for he spent the greater part of the years 1851-53 on a whaling ship, voyaging to the South Seas and back, in an effort to regain his health. Returning, he practiced in Springfield, Massachusetts, for about a year, took a trip to England, and again returned to New Haven. In July, 1857, he sailed from New London, Connecticut, as physician on a ship going into the South Atlantic in search of sea elephants. He was away on this voyage when his father died (March, 1858) and returned to New Haven in April, 1859. After farming for a year at Bloomfield, Connecticut, he resumed practice in Blandford, Massachusetts. In August, 1862, he enlisted with a Massachusetts regiment and continued in active service until October, 1864. Returning then to Bloomfield, he farmed for two years, then took a trip to India in 1866 and 1867. This was his last long voyage, and, returning from it, he settled down for the remainder of his life. He died in August, 1876. He did not marry until 1865 and left no children. It is interesting to speculate concerning this apparently unstable only son of Nathaniel W. Taylor, with his lifelong ill health, which, however, did not prevent his taking several extended voyages on the poorly equipped sailing vessels of the day. But there is hardly a clue to his personal characteristics or relations with his family, in his own writings or those of his father, sisters, or others.
He left logbooks from his whaling voyages of 1851-53 and 1857-59 which contain some good descriptions of the life on board a whaling ship, much very ordinary philosophizing of the type commonly called "homely," and a few rather feeble and too obvious attempts to be clever. But little is actually revealed about the author, except perhaps that, unlike the seven sons of Lyman Beecher, who all became ministers, he did not share his father's interest in things religious.
With four daughters and a son growing up in his home, and with wide acquaintance among the people of New Haven and indeed of the entire state, Taylor's house was remembered as "the center of a very bright intellectual and social life." To it came men like Noah Webster and Judge Daggett to sit and talk. Jedidiah Morse, aging but still full of his battle with the Unitarians of Boston, was a frequent visitor, as was his son, Samuel F. B. Morse, the artist and inventor. There Professors Goodrich and Fitch called to discuss with Taylor the latest developments in their campaigns. Nettleton, the evangelist, came often-an earnest man who frightened the small daughters by catching them up on his knee and then forgetting all about them in the heat of theological debate. There also came Catharine Beecher, resented by the children because she usurped the hour their father usually devoted to them at the table. Albert Barnes, whose trial in the Presbyterian church was so significant, came to discuss theology with Taylor, and upon at least one occasion Charles G. Finney is said to have spent the night there.
As the daughters grew older, Sunday evening was likely to find a large group of callers in the Taylor house--theological or academic students to see the girls, ministers from near and far, professional men and others to talk with the father, wives from the near-by homes to visit with Mrs. Taylor. "Conversation was not a lost art in our home," said Rebecca (Mrs. Hatch) years later. Best loved of all who came was Lyman Beecher, and the shared interests of the two men ranged from theology to the raising of early cucumbers.
The Theological Department during the period of Taylor's professorship was very informally organized. It had no dean and was only loosely connected with Yale College, whose officials practically let the four professors go their own way. Wayland has shown that what organization the school had was very similar to that of the theological department of the University of Halle in Germany. The general plan of study was the same, Yale differing only in offering fewer courses and omitting entirely the study of church history. Every prospective student had to submit to the professor of didactic theology "satisfactory testimonials of his piety and talents for usefulness; and .... of his having completed a course of liberal education, and of his intention to engage in the ministry of the Gospel." These testimonials came from college administrators and professors, clerks and pastors of churches, and from other responsible persons.
The most important course in the second half of the first year of study in the department was Taylor's "Mental Philosophy," in which he laid the foundation for the courses in theology of the subsequent year. The second year was almost entirely given over to theological study under his guidance. His methods were quite simple.
Besides the lectures and discussions noted above, each student apparently wrote papers to be read before the class for criticism. Judging from a manuscript volume of 902 pages preserved in the Library of Yale University, containing 117 dissertations written by a student during the years 1828-29, the work must have been considerable. The highest enrolment for the school was reached between the years 1833 and 1843, during the time of the most vehement controversy with the conservatives.
In general cultural outlook Taylor shared in large degree the typical Connecticut provincialism of his day. He did not travel much. We know that as a student he spent a few months in Montreal, studying French. Beecher mentions that the Taylors went with him to Niagara Falls in 1821. But beyond these two trips he apparently showed little interest in things outside New England. His attitude is indicated by his consistent discouragement of missionary work. Julian Sturtevant, one of the famous Illinois Band, recalled that Taylor "rather discouraged their going into distant fields of missionary effort" because "he felt himself to be environed with peculiar difficulties" and "wanted his pupils, as speedily as possible, to come to his rescue, by filling at least some of the prominent pulpits of New England. Nor was Beecher's later enthusiasm for the West shared by his friend. In fact, when it became known that that energetic leader of many campaigns contemplated another great campaign to save the West, Taylor did what he could to discourage him. He wrote, urging Beecher to remain in New England, and pled that it would be much better if Arthur Tappan could "be induced to give his $20,000 to found a professorship for you at Yale." He even offered to go to New York to help to persuade the great philanthropist to this end. "I know how the interests of the West fall on the heart of that good man," he wrote, but "I think [we] could satisfy him that more would be done in this way than in that proposed." Indeed, he argued, "the cause of truth and the interests of Religion require that you come here. You have tried to qualify yourself to do what must be done in this part of the country," and "we feel as if we had a prior claim."
And Taylor, having argued his good friend to a standstill many times, and no doubt thinking he might do so now, concluded with the request: "Brother, don't come to any final conclusion without farther conferring with us." Whether or not there were such further conferences is not known. But if there were, Taylor for once did not prevail. Beecher left New England to answer the call of the great West. His younger friend retained to the last his more provincial outlook.
CONNECTICUT ATTACKS UNITARIANISM
By THE opening of 1821 the orthodox of Connecticut had been made fully aware of the threat of Unitarianism to their churches, and under Beecher's vigorous leadership the aggressive campaign against the Boston liberals was in full swing. Strong orthodox ministers had been placed in strategic churches within the Unitarian domain, Stuart had answered Channing, Woods was doggedly carrying on the argument with Ware, the Christian Spectator was systematically harassing the Unitarian writers, and Beecher was pushing revivals in several places at once. Now, thought he, "the time has at length fully come to take hold of the Unitarian Controversy by the horns." Hence the January issue of the Spectator carried a challenging warning that "the enemies of the doctrines of the Reformation are collecting their energies and meditating a comprehensive system of attack," which "ubiquity of indefatigable assault seems to require a like ubiquity of indefatigable defense;" Never can "the enemy" triumph "without deplorable prevalence of errour and prostration of truth," and "to avert so great a calamity .... we feel ourselves called upon .... to lay aside all prejudices, if we have any, to forego in part the demands of local avocation, and even to lay upon ourselves additional burdens, that we may at once meet the enemy."
This public appeal through the pages of the Spectator, Beecher bolstered with pointed letters to his cohorts, especially urging on the literary attack. "More must be done to extend the patronage of the Christian Spectator, or it will fail," he wrote his son-in-law, Cornelius, and then "we shall be given over to Christian Examiners and North American Reviews -- a calamity which, if we do permit, the blood of souls will be required at our hands." Personally, he confided, "I have set apart four days in each week to be devoted to close and constant labor for the Christian Spectator." At the present time "a review of Channing, Stewart, and the Christian Examiner is in a state of forward preparation," and these are to be "followed by a review of Drs. Woods and Ware." Then, "when we have settled up our arrearages, we propose to pay orders at sight." There were definite things that a minister like Cornelius could do to further the cause, and Beecher was not slow to point them out. "Call around you a circle of your most intelligent Christians" and "such brethren in the ministry as may be trusted" and "attempt to stir them up to take the work [the Christian Spectator], and introduce it among their people." He knew that if they were to be read, they must attend to the very mundane matter of building up circulation.
At about this time Taylor definitely joined the great effort being made to "write down" Unitarianism with a review in the February issue of the Spectator, having selected the newly appointed Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature at Harvard, Andrews Norton, for his attention. It will be recalled that by this time, after long and systematic goading from Jedidiah Morse, William E. Channing for the liberals had definitely thrown down the gauntlet to the orthodox in his famous Baltimore sermon-the first clear exposition of "Unitarian christianity" to be made in America. The Connecticut men welcomed this sermon as the breaking by the Unitarians of "a twenty years silence consisting in telling the world what they did not believe," and the publication "to the world of what they do believe, on the subject of religion."
And now, Taylor exulted, "we shall know fairly what to oppose." As long as "sneers and insinuations only are produced we know not what to say in reply; but when arguments or something in the shape of arguments are brought forward, we can meet them with arguments." As for the Discourse being reviewed, Norton does exhibit "a portion of good sense, of manly eloquence, and of correct and elegant composition," qualities eminently desirable in a theologian, but, characteristically Unitarian, he leaves out religion. "The glory of God and the sinner's salvation are the paramount interests" of theology. And Norton does indeed introduce "the name of the Supreme Agent in a general way, and speaks of man as an immortal being," but, in overlooking "the peculiarity of human nature as depraved, and the consequent relation which the divine character bears towards it," he really misses the whole point of theology. His resulting "unhallowed, cold-hearted philosophy" would despoil us of our salvation -- a catastrophe naturally to be expected "if that theology only shall be known and taught, which instead of making men new creatures, will, by illuminating their minds only elevate and improve those moral principles and feelings which they naturally possess." The New Haven champion of orthodoxy, then, had begun just where Woods was to drop the argument -- on the question of human depravity, which was recognized to be the crux of the whole controversy. But Woods, when hard pressed in the debate, could only fall back on the assertion which he reiterated-that human nature was depraved as observation and experience ought to make clear to all. This resulted in a stalemate, for the Unitarians as many times reiterated that man was not radically depraved. Taylor gave a new twist to the issue which permitted the argument to go on: He asked, in brief, "What do Calvinists mean by depravity?" But, before considering the debate that followed, some notice must be given to Beecher's more active campaign.
Beecher was now busily conducting revivals and cheering and strengthening the efforts of other ministers to start them. For revivals, as he conceived them, were a means of swinging church opinion away from Unitarianism. In them a great public, untouched by the written arguments, were reached for the claims of the old churches. Every revival he conducted during this period was a battle for orthodoxy, every converted sinner added a vote against Unitarianism. And Dwight's old lieutenant, who had led the "well-trained cohorts to the election" during the campaign to save Connecticut from democratic infidelity, was so successful in winning votes against the Unitarians that their movement was effectively penned up in the city of its origin. Says one of its own historians, "A radius of thirty-five miles from Boston as a center would sweep almost the whole field of its history and influence." and the Congregational historian, Williston Walker, was solidly pleased to note that "no Connecticut church has ever become Unitarian, except that of Brooklyn, and there the evangelical portion has kept the name and maintained the field in large measure. This localization poses a not always recognized problem for the social historians, many of whom have been likely to argue that Unitarianism owed its success to the fact that its ideas fitted in so well with the growing scientific outlook and democratic individualism of the young republic. But they must remain somewhat at a loss to explain in these terms why it did not spread through the Connecticut churches and, for that matter, throughout the country. A common explanation given -- that Connecticut was notoriously provincial in outlook and Hence not so soon affected by the new currents of thought -- hardly suffices. Indeed, at this time Yale was far ahead of Harvard in scientific interests and influence and had a much more cosmopolitan student body, and democratic ideas had prevailed to such an extent in the state that the church was disestablished fifteen years before Massachusetts took that step.
So the most plausible explanation for the geographic limitation of Unitarianism remains the effectiveness of the campaign waged by Connecticut orthodoxy against it.
Certainly Beecher thought this, and he further supposed that the decisive battle was fought in Hartford early in 182I. The Unitarian "onset" in that region, he said, had "been systematic, keen, and persevering, and the stream here, and in Windsor and Wethersfield, had begun to veer the wrong way." Had a breach "been made in the mounds here, in the heart of the state, no one can foresee how extensive the desolation had been." By the opening of 1821, however, "the revival was approaching," thanks to the valiant labors of "Brother Hawes," but it needed "more impulse than his feeble health enabled him to give." Beecher rushed to the rescue, "feeling that for four years the doctrines of the Reformation had been trodden down of the Gentiles in Connecticut," and soon he was happy to report that "the city is greatly moved, and the doctrines of the Cross are rolling back the aspersions which have been cast upon them." The "Spirit of the Lord is lifting up a standard, and the stream is beginning to flow in favor of those truths which have been every where spoken against." Thus, he exulted in the conclusion of his letter, "revivals are breaking in upon us in Connecticut most gloriously," and "I weep for joy to behold so dark and dreary a night ending in so glorious a morning."
But Beecher did not confine his campaign to defensive measures on Connecticut soil, and early in 1823 he was in Boston itself, carrying the fight into the Unitarians' capital. His activities there are summed up in a letter of April 16 to his son Edward. He explains that "on the whole, the tone of my preaching and the effect is about the same as in the revival at Hartford, so far as commanding deep attention is concerned and the convocation of the people." He is pleased to note that "there is unquestionably a great and auspicious change going on in Boston in respect to evangelical doctrine and piety."
The "Unitarian population begin to be apprehensive about the soundness of their foundation. They are moved evidently and shaken," and "numbers attend neighborhood meetings and other religious associations of the orthodox; and there is, with the more sober part of Unitarian congregations, dissatisfaction and continual leaving of persons of wealth and consequence." The Unitarian leaders, he notes with some glee, even those who at first openly opposed the revival, "have been obliged to strike and come under its lee or into its wake, pretending to like it if properly conducted." They have even set up night meetings of their own, but ineffectively, for "they can not talk to the conscience and make people feel." Best of all, about six Unitarians a week "are found to hope" at the inquiry meetings in connection with the revival. And the sum of it is that "the numerical, and political, and secular influence of the evangelical population is becoming powerful in this city, compelling Unitarian ambition to show less contempt and more courtesy to the orthodox." Great and good things are to be hoped for, "but one able man needs to be here constantly to aid the stated pastors."
Hence on April 24 he wrote to his closest friend in New Haven, "A light is shining in this benighted city which can not be hid, and impressions are extending which can not be effaced or arrested." But "it is doubtful whether I can stand it longer than next Sabbath," and "you are the man to follow up that which has been begun." In fact, "I know of nothing now so important as your presence here. Let nothing but impossibility prevent your coming on instantly." We "must have some one on the ground before I leave," for "now is the time to strike for all New England and the United States." On the first of May he wrote to express his elation to know that Taylor would come to carryon the work. The revival, he says, is still progressing favorably, and "the style of conviction in inquiry meeting is becoming more marked, definite, and deep, and it seems a little more like home in a Connecticut revival." Hence "it is all-important that some one like yourself should be here to aid in that assimilation and consolidation of evangelical influences which is beginning, but may never be consummated without help ab extra."
And Beecher knows of no man who can bring to the revival lectures "the power of intellect they need, and the style of execution they need, like yourself." Taylor, he concludes, will come forewarned, and "accommodating your sermons .... to what your experience will soon indicate as demanded" will take the course of "luminous exposition" which is calculated to "prevent objections" but at the same time encourages Christians "to feel that they have religion," and compels sinners "to conclude that they have not." Come, he urges, and "I shall commit to your hands this most important charge, for the moment, in these United States." These letters to Taylor are important to the present study because they emphasize that Beecher and Taylor looked upon their revivals definitely as campaigns against the Unitarians, that they considered Boston the most important place in the country to evangelize just then for "the doctrines of the Reformation," that they consciously and deliberately tried to make those doctrines appealing to the people, and that Beecher considered Taylor, above all his numerous friends, as the man best fitted to carryon such a revival campaign -- a reflection both of Taylor's ability and of the firm personal friendship between the two men. The campaigns were continued through the following years, Beecher himself going to Boston in 1826 to carryon a continuous revival in his Hanover Street Church. The details, however, belong more to the story of Beecher's life than to that of Taylor's, so attention must be directed back to the doctrinal warfare in which Taylor was fast becoming the outstanding champion of orthodoxy. It is to be kept in mind, of course, that always back of the theological controversy that ensued was the sound and fury of the revivals.
As soon as doctrine became the subject of debate, both Calvinists and Unitarians realized that the question of human depravity was basic. With this question remaining central, the debate may be said to have passed rapidly through three phases, with the emphasis successively on the biblical, the philosophical, and the "moral tendency" arguments.
The latter is the argument for or against a belief on the ground that it produces, on the whole, desirable or harmful moral effects in the person or group that holds it. It was really the basic argument of the Unitarians against Calvinism from the beginning. Channing, in his sermon at the ordination of Jared Sparks, said he was going to discuss Unitarian Christianity under the two heads: principles of scriptural interpretation and "doctrines which the Scriptures, so interpreted, seem to us to express." But it is made abundantly clear that the real objection to orthodox Calvinism is not that it is unscriptural or philosophically unsound but that
it tends to discourage the timid, to give excuses to the bad, to feed the vanity of the fanatical, and to offer shelter to the bad feelings of the malignant. By shocking, as it does, the fundamental principles of morality, and by exhibiting a severe and partial Deity, it tends strongly to pervert the moral faculty, to form a gloomy, forbidding, and servile religion, arid to lead men to substitute censoriousness, bitterness, and persecution, for a tender and impartial charity . . . . . This system, which begins with degrading human nature, may be expected to end in pride; for pride grows out of a consciousness of high distinctions, .... and no distinction is so great as that which is made between the elected and abandoned of God."
In brief, belief in the doctrines of Calvinism is morally degrading; therefore, those doctrines cannot be true.
The first champions of orthodoxy failed utterly to grasp the significance of this argument from "moral tendency" and tried to meet their foes with the older accepted methods of theological combat. Moses Stuart produced in his Letters to Dr. Channing the outstanding biblical argument for the orthodox position; Leonard Woods's writings against Ware were the outstanding philosophical defense. Both, it may be conceded, were worthy vindications of the orthodox position.
But they resulted only in a draw, not because Stuart's biblical reasoning or Woods's philosophical reasoning was unsound, but because such reasoning was beside the point once the Unitarians had introduced the argument from "moral tendency." For that so-called "argument" is not actually a discussion of the points of difference with an opponent at all but a method of appealing over the opponent to the sentiments and prejudices of an interested third party. It is a frank recognition and use of the fact that unimpeachable arguments for a position will not save it if prevailing public sentiment is against it. The protagonist who resorts to the argument from "moral tendency" is no longer trying to persuade or convince his opponent so much as to make that opponent look bad and himself look good to a larger group, and thenceforth his remarks are not addressed to the opponent but to the grandstand. The sentences from Channing quoted above contain not one sentiment calculated to meet the mind of an orthodox Calvinist, and it is futile to try to understand them as a theological debate with such an opponent. Considered, however, as an appeal to the public to reject Calvinism and accept Unitarianism, they are perfectly understandable. The argument from "moral tendency" in brief is an advertising technique in which it is more or less subtly insinuated that one's own wares are better than the wares of a competitor because the aftereffects are more pleasant to contemplate. In the Unitarian controversy, then, the discussion soon passed beyond the biblical and philosophical arguments, because both sides were intent upon appealing to a larger public for things as tangible as church members and meeting-houses. But only when orthodoxy brought forth champions who grasped this basic nature of the argument from "moral tendency" could the Unitarians be fairly met.
The New Haven men were peculiarly fitted to defend orthodoxy and attack Unitarianism on the grounds of the moral tendency of the two systems. They realized the basic necessity to carry the issues to the public, and in previous campaigns they had developed techniques for doing so. Dwight, their great teacher, had successfully stopped the spread of infidelity by pointing out to the men of influence its deplorable social and moral effects, with an adroitness and, it may be added, a lack of delicacy not unlike that of a modern advertiser intent upon making people conscious of the disastrous social consequences of halitosis. Similarly Beecher sought to save the Standing Order and to stem the rising tide of "democracy" by organizing what was in reality a state-wide advertising campaign calculated to bring the favorable claims of the former and the catastrophic effects to be expected from the latter before the public, whom, he knew, would make the final decision. That campaign was well under way when Beecher realized that the real threat to the churches was Unitarianism. Then the methods that had been worked out proved admirably suited to make the church public acutely conscious of the deleterious effects on the churches to be expected from Unitarianism and hence the necessity of preserving the old orthodoxy, which, after all, was not so bad as it had been pictured. It is not surprising that the veterans of these campaigns, when they turned their attention to Unitarianism, gave the exponents of that system their first real setback in the use of the argument from moral tendency.
Andrews Norton's "Thoughts on True and False Religion," published early in 1820, was a masterful presentation of that argument against Calvinism. Taylor reviewed these "Thoughts" in the Christian Spectator" two years later. Norton, he says, coming at once to the heart of the issue, attempts to "recommend his own peculiar views" of religion "in opposition to other christians" by pointing out its moral tendency. Taylor would not object to "arguments for the truth or falsehood of a doctrine from its moral tendency" or "deny the propriety of this kind of reasoning, or of its application to revealed religion" if only the great difficulties in the way of applying the method are recognized.
In the first place, a real inductive method is practically impossible, because of the difficulty in ascertaining what is "the actual influence, and, of course, the genuine tendency, of particular opinions." We may "form a judgment of the influence which we think they would have upon our character .... if we should adopt them," or, with more correctness, "of the influence they actually have upon ourselves." But "the effects which they might, or do produce upon ourselves, afford but doubtful evidence of their general influence," for "the particular effects of any given opinion vary, according to the character of the mind which holds it." On the other hand, "to determine with absolute certainty the proper tendency of a doctrine from its actual effects, it seems necessary that all those effects should be known" and "that they should' be traced throughout" all history. This is obviously impossible, so, since real induction cannot be used, the Unitarians fall back upon another method -- namely, "by considering directly the influence which they must have on the conduct and enjoyments of men, according to the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of its active principles." This method, Taylor admits, is indeed "less laborious," but "it leads, also, directly into the regions of metaphysical speculation, where it is so easy to reason without facts, and where each one supposes that what he presumes to be the effect of a doctrine in his own mind, will be the actual effect on the minds of all others." To make this armchair method convincing, "our views of the philosophy of the human mind" and "of the influence of opinions on the conduct and happiness of men, should be in perfect accordance with the facts, and, if our argument is to convince others, it must also be founded on philosophical doctrines, concerning which there is no doubt or dispute." Norton, in effect, presumes as much for his ideas, but such presumption is absurd.
Further, his attempt to "help us to distinguish 'True and False Religion' by the effects of each on the moral character of those who embrace their doctrines" is specious in the present controversy, "and a moment's reflection is sufficient to lead any one to doubt its propriety." For "when it is admitted that the Bible contains a revelation from God, "as both orthodox and Unitarians readily agree that it does, it is not reasonable or right to reject its revealed teachings "until we are satisfied of the effect which each will produce upon the heart and character of the believer." In other words, if Unitarians believe in the revelation, why do they propose to check it by induction before they accept it? This, be it noted, turns the. argument from tendency back on the Unitarians by insinuating that the tendency of their views is toward the outright rejection of revealed religion.
However, continues Taylor, presumptuous and even specious as we think it to be, we propose to accompany Mr. Norton "in his investigation of the effects of different religious opinions on the heart and conduct of those that adopt them." Now "the safest and most obvious method" of ascertaining the "genuine tendency of any particular opinion, or system .... is, to examine its known effects." And "surely the experience of near two thousand years, during which every form of doctrine has been received and has operated on the heart, is abundantly sufficient to evince the tendency of each." But Norton shies away from looking back in history for facts with which "our conclusions from a priori reasonings on such a subject as the influence of particular truths on the conduct" might be compared. And anyone acquainted with the studies of this question which have been made will understand why he "has chosen to retreat from the region of acknowledged facts, to that of general and abstract speculations; -- where it is easy to enlarge on fancied tendencies and supposed effects, where there is abundant room for appeals to the passions and prejudices of his readers," and "where, while morality is not brought to the test of God's commands, it cannot be difficult to persuade almost any man to view with complacency the actual effects which his own opinions have produced on his own character." On such vague grounds, Taylor points out, Norton has condemned the disastrous moral effects of Calvinism.
But the only evils "even hinted at in the whole book" are charges of "zeal and bigotry," which no Calvinist would be interested in denying, since it is obvious that by bigotry he intended "an inflexible adherence to that which is believed to be revealed truth, from a sense of its infinite importance." Lastly, Norton had argued that the doctrines of Calvinism were bad because they were revolting to people who therefore would not believe even in true religion. "It is the indirect effects of orthodoxy, in other words, its effects on those who do not believe its doctrines, that is principally insisted on by the author." And this, says Taylor with scorn, "is truly an admirable method of reasoning -- which places the disbelief of a doctrine among its indirect consequences, and regards the fruits of that disbelief as evidence of the moral tendency of the doctrine rejected."
Thus the reviewer relentlessly pursues Norton's abstractions through several pages, holding them up to ridicule, finally challenging him actually to show that Unitarianism has produced better fruits than orthodoxy. For, says Taylor "unless he can show that the actual fruits of Unitarianism have been more abundant and desirable" than the "actual effects of orthodoxy in those who have professed its doctrines," he has said nothing to help his point. So much for the argument from moral tendency.
In the course of this long review Taylor had repeated what almost every Calvinist who wrote against Unitarianism had complained of-that the Unitarians misrepresented the doctrines of Calvinism. "We are often compelled to complain," he wrote, "that the opponents of Calvinism, never fairly attack its doctrines, as they are stated by Calvin himself, or exhibited in the creeds of the churches, or the writings of the authors which bear his name." And why, he asks, "if this system of doctrines be really so absurd, and dangerous, and 'blasphemous' too, as is represented, -- why it cannot be shown to be so, without resorting to misrepresentation?" At this point the argument was to be taken up.
The real strength of Taylor's review is perhaps best indicated by Norton's reaction to it. His subsequent reviews are somewhat peevish in tone and lack the jaunty air exhibited in "True and False Religion." He rose on his honor as a gentleman, but he did not again refer to the argument from tendency. In a letter to the Spectator, dated July 8, 1822, he begins with some dignity: "In turning over the leaves of this review, my eye was caught by a charge against me, made in very coarse language, of having wilfully and knowingly misstated the doctrines of Calvinism." This constitutes "a gross attack upon my character, not as a writer, but as a man." Thus stung, Norton did exactly what the conductors of the Spectator no doubt wished him to do -- he pinned the controversy down to one very definite issue. "The passage referred to by the reviewer [Taylor], as a gross misstatement of the doctrines of Calvinism" is this:
True religion is an unestimable blessing, because it teaches that God is the everlasting Friend and Father of his creatures; a God of infinite goodness. But what shall we say of a religion which teaches, that he has formed men, so that they are by nature wholly inclined to all moral evil; that he has determined in consequence to inflict upon the greater part of our race the most terrible punishments; and that unless he has seen fit to place us among the small number of those chosen out of the common ruin, he will be our eternal and infinite tormentor ..... Whatever may be the worth of true religion, it surely does not follow, that this system of blasphemy must be also of great value, and very beneficial in its effects.
Now, continues Norton, I have not "asserted that the doctrines in question are doctrines of Calvinism. I do now assert it." And he proceeds to prove to his own satisfaction that they are, by long quotations from Calvin, the Westminster divines and Edwards. Hence, he concludes, the main question at issue remains "whether I have misrepresented the doctrines of Calvinism," and "everything which does not bear upon this point will be irrelevant and impertinent." In order to show that I have, "it will be necessary, in the first place, to show that my quotations from Calvinistic authors do not coincide with, and confirm my propositions; and then, to point out specifically, the errors in those propositions, and to show by proper authorities, that they are errors. No reply of this sort, I am confident, will be given." His confidence in that respect was due to be badly shaken.
Norton was obviously out of patience when he wrote this letter to the Spectator, and he closed with the threat that if "you do not insert it in your work; I shall take every other means in my power to give it publicity" so that it will "find its way to many of your readers, and that they will receive it with an impression particularly unfavourable to yourself and your cause." This was playing into the Spectator's hands, and in their August number they acknowledged receipt of Norton's letter, but said they would refuse to publish it until "it is purged of those reproachful and menacing expressions which he well knew could be endured by no man who is not lost to every feeling of self-respect." As for his threats, surely he "could not expect us to submit to this haughty dictation, without regarding us as abandoned to a sense of character," so, "serious as the alternative is, we must therefore prepare ourselves with becoming fortitude to meet the fearful consequences of his anger."
Norton's reply to this brief notice of his letter was to publish a long article in the July-August issue of the Christian Disciple, carrying out his threat by including extensive quotations from Taylor's review, his letter to the Spectator, and the Spectator's short reply. He then comments on the point at issue and on the Spectator's refusal to publish his letter. "These gentlemen," he says, "complain of the asperity of my language." But in replying to such a grave charge "urged against me without regard to truth or common decency, I, to be sure, did not think it necessary to avoid all expression of displeasure, or to keep out of view the opinion which I must, necessarily, have of the character of their reviewer, and of the editor, who admitted such communications into his work." That "high-minded" gentleman and his friends could not submit to insert my letter "without being 'abandoned to a sense of character.' Abandoned to a sense of character! It is a humble labor to be engaged in controversy with men, who cannot write our language with common correctness. But it may be a useful labor, and therefore I submit to it."
This less commendable aspect of Norton's writing is pointed out because it played an important part in the conduct of the controversy. The Unitarians generally, and Norton in particular, in their writing against the orthodox, commonly assumed a superior attitude and a tone of polite condescension toward those considered of less cultural refinement, literary elegance, and moral loftiness than themselves. Indeed, a great part of their argument from moral tendency barely concealed the implication that the proof of the morally degrading effects of belief in the doctrines of Calvinism lay in the fact that the representatives of orthodoxy were lacking in the social and literary niceties of cultured Boston gentlemen. And it is not to be supposed that such an astute politician as Lyman Beecher overlooked this implication or underestimated its importance in appealing his side of the controversy to the public. In 1817 he had written to a friend, in the midst of another controversy, that their "duty as well as policy is explanation and self-defence, expostulation and conciliation. They must be the persecutors, we the persecuted; and in that case the result is not doubtful." The present controversy was conducted exactly along those lines. The deliberate way in which the conductors of the Spectator delayed extended answer to Norton and emphasized his threats, his menacing expressions, and his unbecoming language indicates that they were leading him on to exhibit the Unitarian temper in as unfavorable a light as possible. The more Norton fumed and raged, the more the writers for the Spectator assumed an air of injured and shocked sensibilities, becoming, indeed, "the persecuted" in the eyes of its readers. "
The publication was not designed to be mainly or even to any considerable extent controversial, much less to be the arena for Theological pugilists, or a vehicle of embittered personal recrimination," they said. It is not our policy "to defile our pages with angry controversy," and "though Professor Norton should continue to load us with degrading epithets and to attribute to us the most unworthy motives of action; we hope we may never be betrayed into the use of similar language" or be led "to indulge feelings unbecoming that religion upon which rests our only hope of salvation." Thus it did not take the New Haven men long to expose the Unitarians' generalizations regarding the moral tendencies of orthodoxy, by pinning them down to definite points, and almost to reverse the relative positions of the two parties so that the Unitarians themselves appeared to be as rude and culturally insensitive as they had long insinuated the Calvinists must be. There is much to be learned from contemplation of the picture of Beecher in Hartford, and in Boston, wooing the people with gentle statements of his Calvinism, while Taylor baits the eminent Unitarian representative into blustering threats and rough language. And the picture is too perfect to suppose that it came about through pure accident.
Having emphasized this aspect of the controversy, attention may now be turned to the doctrinal issue which so potently influenced the development of "Taylorism." We have seen that Norton brought the issue down to one point-what is the doctrine of Calvinism on total depravity. "Though I have not before used these precise words," he said, "I now affirm it to be a doctrine of Calvinism, that God creates men with a sinful nature." Two questions only follow upon this, he affirms:
"Whether God be the creator of men" and "whether their nature be sinful." It seemed evident to Norton that if God creates men, and their nature is sinful, that God must create them with a sinful nature.
About a year passed before Taylor's reply was printed in the form of a "Review of Norton's Views of Calvinism."
He accepts Norton's definition of the sole issue between them but insists that only "the inferences which they [Calvinists] have made or admitted" are pertinent. Now, he continues, when Norton says that Calvinists teach that "God creates men with a sinful nature," he means that they
charge the sinful nature of men upon God as its author at the formation of their being. By the term "nature" as used by Professor N[orton] is meant, not a state of voluntary moral action, but the original structure and constitution of our being; for it is a created nature of which he speaks, an effect of God's agency alone, and of course a nature prior to and independent of human action. Depravity in such a nature, must therefore be a PHYSICAL PROPERTY of which God is the efficient cause.
Taylor thinks that the language of Calvinists will not bear this interpretation. They "assert in the strongest language" the depravity of man, that "he is sinful even from the womb, but they do not charge this depravity on God, or give the most distant intimation that he "creates men with a sinful nature.' " In fact, he continues, supporting his contention with many quotations, even the authors Norton referred to "explicitly deny the doctrine ascribed to them." Norton just does not understand Calvinistic language. When Calvinists use such phrases as "depraved by nature" or "naturally depraved." they "do not denote that sin in man is a physical attribute." On the contrary, their language admits and indeed requires "a meaning consistent with complete free agency in man."
But Norton had argued that it is inconsistent, absurd, and atheistical to say that something" 'may be by nature, and may be natural, which is not from God.''' And here, says Taylor, we are fairly at issue with him, "for we do affirm that, that may be said to be by nature, and to be natural, which is not from God, or which is not created by God." It is perfectly proper to say that man is "a sinner by nature" or "depraved by nature" without meaning by "a created nature," that is, by a created physical property which is the efficient cause of his sinning, precluding free choice.
We speak of pride, or vanity, or selfishness, or avarice, as natural to some men, .... without a suspicion, that we shall be thought to mean a created nature. No one supposes, that we .... preclude the idea of perfect freedom of choice in its subject, or to assert that it is from God by the physical operation of a physical cause, or by a creative act. We are understood to speak of such a trait of character as resulting from that in the constitution and circumstances of the individual, which is not the physical cause, but merely the occasion of "the abstract certainty" of it; "which," as Dr. Ware says, "would neither affect his freedom nor accountability."
The words "nature" and "natural" do thus have two meanings. Sometimes they denote "certainty and uniformity which result from the operation of physical causes and which are inconsistent with moral agency," as we say, a stone "unsupported in the air, naturally or by nature, falls toward the earth." But sometimes, and as properly, they denote "certainty and uniformity which are occasioned by moral causes, and which are perfectly consistent with moral agency," as "we say 'angels are by nature holy,' without, denying as in the case of the unsupported stone, adequate physical power to an opposite result." Now, Taylor argues, when the Calvinists use the phrase "depraved by nature," they are using "nature" in the second sense. They do not mean that man's nature is such that he sins from physical necessity but only that his created nature is the occasion of his sinning without precluding the possibility of the opposite result. His nature is such that it is certain that he will sin, but it does not impinge upon his power to the contrary.
Taylor's "certainty with power to the contrary" is a phrase worthy to be put alongside Edward's nice distinction between "natural" and "moral" ability, for it also gave a doomed Calvinism a new lease on life. Taylor taught generations of students that "if you will only remember the axiom 'certainty with power to the contrary,' you will have no difficulty in the controverted points of theology, as election, foreknowledge, prayer, &c." There are, in brief, antecedents to an event which make its happening certain, but, looking back (and that is the only way one can look at his experience), one is sure that at any point in the past he had full power to choose otherwise than he did choose. So Taylor would argue to the members of his congregation that the fact that they were there indicated that it was "certain" that they "would come to the house of God," that evening. Nevertheless, as they looked back on the time when they decided to come, their common sense would tell them that this "certainty" did not impair their freedom, for it did not destroy their "power to have done otherwise." They always had, in other words, full power to, the contrary, even though God knew in advance what they would do. For "it is one of the plainest and most certain of all truths, that one being may act according to the will of another and yet act freely." Indeed, "if any two things are consistent, certainty of action, and freedom of action, are consistent." And Taylor went on to affirm: "I believe in predestination and free agency at the same time because I believe this axiom"-- certainty with power to the contrary. Thus common sense triumphed over both the letter of revelation and the inexorable logic of Edwards, and man, to Taylor's mind, was free because he felt free, although a sovereign God from the foundation of the world had foreknowledge of his ultimate destination.
This was a very elusive argument, and it is not surprising that many of Taylor's contemporaries, Unitarians, on the one hand, and conservative Calvinists, on the other, failed to follow it or to be convinced. But to the New Haven revivalists and their large following "certainty with power to the contrary" became a campaign slogan. Perhaps it is much easier to understand what its author was trying to do than to understand any statement of the position he took. Very early in his career as a minister and revivalist he had arrived at the conviction that man must be a free agent, and this he had asserted during the controversy with the Episcopalian Arminians -- at a time when he was not concerned to defend Calvinism. But, once having assumed the leadership of the orthodox controversy with the Unitarians, the New Haveners were pressed to reconcile their "evangelical doctrines" with Calvinism.
The dilemma was very real. As revivalists their convictions were such that they could not surrender free agency, but as the champions of orthodoxy neither could they surrender the doctrines of foreknowledge and election. They retained both by sheer forceful assertion of each in turn and held the irreconcilables together, or at least filled up the gulf between them, with the subtle cement of their phrase. Inevitably the gulf appeared again, and it was not long before it was generally recognized that "Taylorism meant the forsaking of that ancient doctrine [Calvinism]." But that belongs to another story.
Meanwhile in this review of Norton, Taylor, still intent upon disproving that Calvinists held that God created man with a sinful nature, went on to argue that the doctrine which is opposed "as the doctrine of Calvinism is at most a particular theory, adopted by some Calvinists, to account for the great doctrine of Calvinism, that all will sin." Terms like "Arminianism," "Unitarianism," "Calvinism," he explains, are "adopted to designate systems of faith differing from one another in some prominent and general doctrines," but "the individuals embracing each system differ so widely among themselves, that they cannot be classed together on the ground of an exact and minute accordance in matters of faith," but only "on the ground of their agreement in those general doctrines, which distinguished one class from another." Further, there are great differences of opinion and manner of statement even among those who agree on the general doctrine. Thus Unitarians would agree that "Christ is not God," but they differ widely in their explanations of the person of Christ. Similarly, then, Calvinists all agree that men are depraved, but they differ widely "respecting the mode of accounting for the general fact, maintained in the doctrine of human depravity."
And all who call themselves Calvinists
will agree that, Mankind come into the world in such a state, that without the interposition of divine grace, all as soon as they become moral agents, sin in every accountable act, No one who should admit this statement, would be rejected from the Calvinistic community by his brethren on the ground of heterodoxy on this point; and everyone who should admit it, would be ranked in this community by Unitarians, as differing too much from them to be admitted into their fraternity.
The general truth as stated is considered by all Calvinists as an essential point of Christianity, but "anything beyond it, as a point of speculative philosophy, which may be believed or disbelieved, without affecting the real doctrine of Calvinism." Taylor then lists more than six of the "theories concerning the origin of human depravity" which leading Calvinists have held and insists that these points of speculative philosophy "are to be discussed by Calvinists themselves," and, respecting them, "they may all be wrong and yet be Calvinists. It belongs to them therefore to settle the question without Unitarian interference." For "Calvinism" on the article of human depravity "is not, of course, to be identified with everything believed and taught by Calvin, or by any Calvinistic author."
The Unitarians were not slow to take advantage of the opening which these remarks gave them. In a long review, probably written at least in part by Norton; they are no longer so ready to affirm what is the doctrine of depravity as held by Calvinists but insist that Calvinism "teaches by necessary implication, that God is the author of sin, and man is a mere machine," thus side-stepping Taylor's attempt to limit the discussion to statements that Calvinists had "made or admitted."
Calvinists, the reviewer holds, can no longer disown this implication. Hence "the more learned and philosophical among the orthodox" now realize that "they must either contrive to put a new face on Calvinism, or else abandon the system altogether." No wonder, then, that they have shifted the whole controversy from a consideration of "whether Calvinism be true" to the question of "what Calvinism is" and have pressed the charge of misrepresentation against the Unitarians. However, to say that Calvinism has been misrepresented merely because some who call themselves Calvinists "will not admit the representation, or perhaps expressly disclaim it," is nothing to the point. It would, in fact, be nearer the truth to argue not that "we have misrepresented Calvinists, but that the modern Orthodox of New England are not Calvinists." Of course, "they may hold another system resembling Calvinism, and better than Calvinism, but not, unless our logic fails us, a system which shall be at once the same with Calvinism, and yet different from it." And if they "feel themselves to be aggrieved, because they have been represented as holding the principles and doctrines of Calvinism, let them renounce that system." But our opponents in their sense of the high importance of their own system, seem to have forgotten that
the Calvinism of the straitest creeds is still the Calvinism publicly professed by the great body of Calvinistic Churches in our country. The Westminster Confession and Catechisms are the public standards of faith of the whole Presbyterian Church in the United States. This same Confession is the standard of all the Scotch churches in America; nay, it is the foundation of the Saybrook Platform which .... is the professed standard of the Calvinism of Connecticut.
And many honest followers of Calvin in New England, who have always regarded all their distinctive doctrines as equally true and indisputable, will "be not a little startled at some of the apparent concessions, that are now made by their own leaders." Perhaps when they read that "many of the old fashioned doctrines of Calvinism, which but yesterday were deemed essential parts of the system, must now be abandoned before the increasing light, that is bursting in upon God's word and the human mind," they may be led to anticipate the same doom for the rest of the system. However, the reviewer continues, now obviously with his tongue in his cheek,
with respect to the differences, here intimated as existing between the nominal Calvinists of New England, and Calvinists elsewhere, we, of course, if we thought them material, should be the first to wish to put them upon record; and our only fear would be, that by continually recurring to the subject, we might expose ourselves to the imputation of attempting, in an unworthy manner, to promote groundless divisions and jealousies among our opponents.
Here the controversy may be said to have taken on a different color, when the Unitarians began with telling effect to dwell upon the differences between the "nominal Calvinists" of New England and the "Calvinists" of the Presbyterian church. They began deliberately to drive wedges between New Haven and Princeton, between New Haven and Andover, defending themselves by fostering division in the orthodox camp.
The Christian Spectator did not give notice to the "State of the Calvinistic Controversy" until a year later, when it was answered in the June and July issues under the title, "Review Reviewed." Although this article was published without signature, it bears definite marks of Taylor's handiwork. It is long and somewhat dreary reading, since the writer insists upon taking up in succession every point mentioned by his opponent and commenting upon it. Nothing new is added to the doctrinal discussion, but the article bears evidence that Taylor, like Woods, has faced up to the question of sin in a universe: ordered by an all-powerful God. "As to the fact," he says, "that God is the Disposer of events in such a manner, that sin will certainly follow, who that admits that sin is in the world and also believes that there is a God, will doubt it? How came sin to exist, unless an omniscient God has permitted it?" But, he argues in defense of Edwards' position which has been thrust upon him, to say that God is "the permitter and not a hinderer of sin in free moral agents" is not the same as saying that "God is the author of sin." God merely withholds his grace, and man "by his own free choice" certainly sins.
But in either case, the Unitarians rejoined, the blame is God's. Taylor admits as much but inquires "how then .... can there be sin in the creatures of God, and the blame not belong to God? An omniscient God might at least have prevented all sin by the act of annihilation." And so he leaves the problem, like Woods, with the question which he intimates is unanswerable:
Cannot God be the author of a constitution of things, in which sin will certainly exist, without being the author of it, and as really so as were he to produce it by a creative act? Whose constitution of things then is it under which all the sin in this world has come into existence? The constitution doubtless of God our Maker. And is it not the only solution of this difficulty, that men are complete moral agents who sin through the permission of an omniscient God? Is not this the very solution which the Reviewer himself would give?
This, then, is the terrible dilemma in which all thoughtful Calvinists were finally caught. Five years later Taylor was to precipitate the controversy with the conservatives by boldly grasping one horn of this dilemma--he had been forced to realize the impossibility of the compromise solution.
But when Taylor comes to grapple with the Unitarian insinuation that the New England orthodox are really not Calvinists at all, he soon shows that he has utterly failed to grasp the significance of the new turn the controversy has taken. The Unitarian reviewer wrote not without humor, and perhaps it is not strange that such a serious controversialist as Taylor did not appreciate the joke. We are not "to be gulled into the admission that those only are Calvinists, 'properly so called,' who adopt the exact creed of Calvin," he writes. "Such a Calvinist is not to be found in this country." The Unitarian reviewer suggested that the Westminster Confession and catechisms and the Saybrook Platform were "the professed standard of the Calvinism of Connecticut." By this he seems to mean that "the assumed creed of these formularies, in regard to the point at issue is the actual belief of that portion of the community of whom he speaks." But we have said before and now repeat that "there is not only no evidence of this fact, but decisive evidence to the contrary.''' Further "it is a well known fact that a very large part, we believe a majority, of the Presbyterian ministers and churches in this country embrace what the Reviewer styles 'the distinguishing peculiarities of the Orthodox clergy in New England.' " The Unitarians have forced this question upon us. "The modern Orthodox of New England not Calvinists? Who then are Calvinists in the Unitarian vocabulary?" Thus the champion of orthodoxy had walked upright into the trap that had been set for him. The Unitarians could ask for nothing better than for, the New Haven men to emphasize the differences in doctrine existing between them and other Calvinists and between New England Calvinists and those farther south. Taylor had been led to ask the fatal question -- "Who then are Calvinists?" And, once that question was asked, Calvinists of every shade who had temporarily forgotten differences in the face of the Unitarian threat began to wonder. The Unitarians, on the other hand, did not permit the orthodox to forget to ask "Who are Calvinists?" Thenceforth practically everyone of their reviews and controversial articles played upon the "peculiarities" of the New England orthodox. Thus, when in October, 1823, Beecher preached his famous sermon, The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints, at Worcester, Massachusetts, the Unitarians promptly reviewed it.
But the reviewer did not oppose the doctrines Beecher set up as "the faith"; he merely quoted them from the sermon in some detail and then added that "what makes this statement of Christian doctrine remarkable, considered as coming from a reputed calvinist, is its decidedly anti-Calvinistic bearing; expressly denying some of the peculiarities of calvinism, distinctly asserting none of them, nor even implying anyone of them in such a manner, as to make it obvious to a common reader." In fact, "it begins with asserting, in as strong and unqualified language as was ever used by an Arminian or Unitarian, the doctrine of man's actual ability and free agency." Further, "on the subject of original sin, and native depravity, our author is hardly less unsound in his orthodoxy," and his statement of the atonement "might also be adopted by all Unitarians of whom we have any knowledge." Even "upon the difficult and much disputed question respecting the first motion in the conversion of an individual, Dr. Beecher advances the opinion, directly in the face of calvinism," that conversion "is 'inseparably associated with the use of means by the SINNER!' Indeed, upon this abstruse point, .... he seems .... to accord entirely with Whitby, the great oracle of pure Arminianism."43 And so on through the review, until it is concluded that "enough has been said to show, that, according to Dr. Beecher, 'the truth once delivered to the saints' is decidedly anti-calvinistic, This concession, considering the quarter from which it comes, is certainly an important one, and we thank him for it." Not only is Beecher's position "anti-Calvinistic"; he would be hard pressed to prove that "Professor Ware, and Dr. Channing do indeed maintain a system made up of doctrines the opposite to those, which he himself has here advanced."
Finally, Beecher had argued that the fact that revivals occurred much more frequently under orthodox than under Unitarian auspices indicated the moral superiority of the former. But the reviewer does not attempt to rehash the argument from "moral tendency" which is thus raised -- he merely inquires if Beecher knows in this connection that "the most remarkable revival of religion that has ever occurred, METHODISM, commenced in a denial of the leading peculiarities of Calvinism, and in the maintenance of the most obnoxious and least tenable dogma of Pelagius, human perfectability."
Thus in the space of one short review the reviewer succeeded in insinuating that Beecher's doctrines were decidedly anti-Calvinistic, that in fact they were very much like those of the Unitarians, that on some points he advocated "pure Arminianism" and on others verged very close to Pelagianism, and that the results of his preaching were practically the same as that of the Methodists. It seems obvious that this review was not prepared primarily for Unitarian consumption but for the consideration of the great body of Calvinists who had been working together under Beecher's leadership.
It is to be noted here in passing that at this time two men who later became outstanding leaders of the conservatives seem to have been one with Beecher in sentiment. Dr. Bennet Tyler wrote him in January after the sermon was published, commending it .and indorsing its sentiments. Not long after the Unitarian review appeared, Asahel Nettleton, the evangelist, wrote Beecher; elated to note that the Unitarian had not attempted to refute a single article in Beecher's faith but could only say that "you are not a Calvinist" and "are at war with the orthodox of the present day." And, Nettleton continues, "I believe it to be a matter of fact that you and I are really a different kind of Calvinist from what Unitarians have imagined or been accustomed to manage." But if the reviewer thinks Beecher's sentiments are at war with the orthodox "he is grandly mistaken so far as Connecticut is concerned." We do "preach moral obligation and dependence different from many of bur old divines"; indeed, "in some things the Calvinism of Connecticut or New England has under gone an important change." So "why not take this ground with Unitarians? We feel no concern for old Calvinism. Let them dispute it as much as they please; we feel bound to make no defence."
Now the full agreement of these two men with Beecher, and Nettleton's willingness even to give up Calvinism itself for the new "evangelical system" of that leader, is somewhat remarkable, since less than four years later they were to lead the revolt of the conservatives against the New Haven men. Certainly neither was in 1824 such a stickler for Calvinism as in 1828, and their change of sentiment typical of other Connecticut orthodox, was the result of the convergence of several factors which are to be taken up in the next two chapters.
"DISTURBERS OF THE CHURCHES"
THE charge reiterated by the Unitarians that the New Haven version of Calvinism was in some respects far removed from the orthodox Calvinism generally prevailing was not entirely unfounded. There was enough truth in it to make it highly effective. And a great deal of its effectiveness was due to the close connection existing between the Congregational church of Connecticut and the Presbyterian church, especially in New York. The Saybrook Platform, adopted in 1708, had practically Presbyterianized the Connecticut churches, and the Plan of Union of 1801 had provided a working cooperation between the two churches that was very intimate. Ordained ministers passed readily from one church to the other, as Beecher, who belonged to a presbytery while at East Hampton, went directly to the Congregational church in Litchfield and later was to go from the Congregational church in Boston to the Second Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati.
Congregationalism, however, was practically self-limited, the opinion being widespread among its leaders that its system was of maximum efficiency only in New England, that its western boundary was the Hudson River, and that, beyond that, Presbyterianism must be the accepted form of church government. So ministers from Connecticut who went west entered the Presbyterian church as a matter of course. Yale College and Andover seminary were therefore training grounds for Presbyterian as well as Congregational ministers, and there was a steady infiltration of New England and especially of Connecticut young men into the ministry of the Presbyterian church, where they formed the nucleus of what became the "New School."
Hence that church had a lively interest in the doctrinal soundness and the practical measures of the New England leadership and schools from the beginning. The Unitarians knew this and as a matter of strategy were wise to point out to the Presbyterians that their doctrinal stream was being polluted at the source by the departure from strict Calvinism of the New England leaders. Of course, Connecticut Congregationalism is not to be thought of as a unit either in church polity or in doctrine. All during the period under discussion there were definite factions. There were those who fought the Presbyterianization of the Connecticut churches as well as those who fostered that movement. Doctrinally there was a decidedly conservative group of Calvinists largely descended from the Hopkinsians, as well as the New Haven liberalizing party, heirs of the Old Calvinists, and immediately of Dwight. True, these parties tended to overlook their differences during the post-Revolutionary slump in religious interest and during the progress of the campaigns led by Dwight and Beecher. Nor had their differences become acute during the early progress of the campaign against the Unitarians. But it was inevitable that, when in the course of that campaign the liberal orthodox who were leading it should make a vigorous statement of their views, there would be dissent on the part of their conservative brethren. Taylor apparently realized this from the beginning. Beecher, never very sensitive to doctrinal differences where a matter of polity was concerned, probably did not. As soon as the Unitarians began to emphasize the doctrinal peculiarities of Beecher and his New Haven supporters, and the Presbyterians began to express some apprehension on this score, the conservative group in Connecticut showed signs of resenting the implication of complicity in the supposed Arminian and Pelagian New Haven trend. They began to extricate themselves from it and turned more and more to the Presbyterian church. This, of course, was exactly what the Unitarians hoped for.
But doctrinal issues were not the only factor to be considered. Revivals were a tremendously important part of the orthodox campaign against Unitarianism. Through revival campaigns the tide of infidelity which had threatened their church had been turned back, and now Unitarianism was driven from Connecticut and attacked in its own stronghold. Revivals had proved to be the most effective method for capturing the churches and the public mind for orthodoxy. Small wonder that by 1824 Beecher and his followers, flushed with victory, were exalting the recurring revivals as a sign of God's favor and the chief evidence for the trueness of their religious views. The Unitarians might say they were unimpressed, but their criticism sounded weak in the face of the obvious successes of the revivalists against them. So long as such practical success attended their efforts, Beecher and his party among the orthodox were almost unassailable, even in their doctrinal aberrations.
But revivals were a dangerous weapon to employ. The fires, once lighted, were likely to get out of hand. And now at the very peak of the orthodox success, when Beecher was carrying on an almost continuous revival in his Hanover Street Church in Boston; a great clamor arose in the Presbyterian churches of western New York, a region well known to be closely related to Connecticut Congregationalism. Charles Grandison Finney had embarked upon his turbulent revivalistic career.
Finney before his conversion used to say that Christians were not sincere, that "it was not possible to believe that he and others were on the verge of hell, and yet be so indifferent in regard to the terrific fact." If ever he served God, he said, he would be in earnest and would "pull men out of the fire." Good as his word, when he was converted during the winter of 1821, he immediately forsook his law practice and set out to bring others to God. Bluntly renouncing the formal ministerial training offered at Princeton, because he did not want to be molded after the pattern of his ministerial advisers, he presented his gospel in the straightforward language of common life.
With his "great staring eyes .... (never was a man whose soul looked out through his face as his did)," and with the tremendous force of utter simplicity and sincerity, he fomented wild revivals wherever he preached. At first glowing accounts of this awakening were circulated. "Not a town in Oneida county had been passed by. Not less than twenty-five hundred were subjects of hopeful conversion." The Synod of Albany reported that "in consequence of this display of divine power, the theatre has been deserted, the tavern sanctified; blasphemy has been silenced, and infidelity confounded." Beecher rejoiced with the rest, hoping that this presaged the birth of such a moral sentiment as would "raise a rampart around the sabbath, and check the burning tide of intemperance, and the progress of heresy and error."
But soon more disquieting news began to come from the revival center, and "a rumor floated on the breeze to excite solicitude." Asahel Nettleton, the New England evangelist who was said to be almost morbidly afraid of exciting measures in revivals, was the first to be aroused. From Albany, whither he had gone to conduct a revival and to watch Finney, he began to urge Beecher to do something to curb the western man. Seven years ago, he wrote, two thousand were hopefully converted in that very region with "comparative stillness." But now, he complained, the kingdom of God "cometh with great observation." A contemporary contrasted the methods of the two men -- whereas Nettleton had "set snares for sinners," Finney "rode them down in a cavalry charge.
The one, being crafty, took them with guile; the other, being violent, took them by force." Much began to be heard about Finney's "new measures." Harsh invectives, sounding like "the accredited language of profanity," were said to be hurled from the pulpit. In long public prayers, punctuated with audible groans, sinners were called out by name and the Lord advised with unbecoming familiarity what he ought to do about them. Women were encouraged to exhort and to pray in public. Meetings were prolonged far into the night. Revivals were protracted for several weeks at a time. A "holy band" of helpers urged the repentant to the "anxious seat" for prayer and persuasion. Parishes were invaded against the wishes of the settled ministers, and all opposition was "crushed" and "broken down." Nettleton insisted that irregularities were "prevalant to such an alarming extent that the character of revivals had gone back half a century."
The Unitarians, of course, could have asked for nothing more helpful to their cause than this discountenancing of revivals. Their Christian Examiner immediately began to call the attention of its readers to the "revolting scenes" and the "extravagances committed of late, in various parts of our country, under the abused name of Revivals of Religion" which are "profanely called" a work of God.
We suspect, they add, that many among the Orthodox have learned at last, what we have had occasion to intimate before as one of the worst features of the revival system," namely, that "it gives an activity and ascendancy to coarse and vulgar men, which the judicious and better informed of their own party can neither prevent, calculate, nor control. Hence Finney is to be thanked for thus fully exposing the whole revival system and "showing to what it must lead, if fully and honestly acted out." And the New England revivalists, although they have raised their voices against the prevailing excesses, are nevertheless responsible for them, on the ground that whoever "begins by countenancing licentious and disorganizing principles" is "responsible for the consequences," even though he does not "foresee, nor wish" them. For "when these excesses and outrages do in fact follow, they follow as the real consequences, and the natural consequences of the revival system. Certainly, then, it is a valid objection to the whole system, not only if these excesses and outrages follow from it necessarily and in all cases, but if they follow from it really and naturally, when there is nothing in the existing circumstances to oppose, limit, or qualify its manifest tendencies." Thus the Finney revivals were used to discredit Beecher and his revivalistic group of orthodox in New England and to undermine their campaign against the Unitarians.
No one appreciated the threat of this situation more fully than Beecher himself. He was convinced that "Satan, as usual, is plotting to dishonour a work which he cannot withstand." Finney's "new measures," he said, "introduce into revivals another spirit" -- it is "a spirit of fanaticism, of spiritual pride, censoriousness, and insubordination to the order of the Gospel, which, if not met by the timely and decided disapprobation of ministers and churches, threatens to become one of the greatest evils which is likely to befall the cause of Christ." Hence, he insisted, something must be done to "stop the mouths of Socinians and others who would be glad to blast revivals by the evils arising from the West." It was necessary, he thought, to justify Finney and the western group "against the opposition of formalists and the haters of revivals of religion."
But this in turn "makes it necessary that Brother Finney should come upon ground on which we can sustain him, for we can not justify his faults for the sake of his excellencies." However, he would try "silent measures first, by correspondence and forming public opinion, .... and publish only when it becomes manifest there is no hope of reformation." Accordingly he wrote a letter addressed to Finney and Beman which he intended should be circulated privately among the leaders. He accompanied this letter with a personal note to Nettleton, in which, he says, he poured out his "feelings, and thoughts, and fears in respect to principles and prospective evils in such language as the occasion inspired" and his "habits of confidential intercourse with Brother Nettleton justified." But Nettleton, alarmed at the thought that Finney might invade New England, was impatient with Beecher's "silent measures," which he thought were giving the westerners the advantage. Correspondence "with our friends who are already firm and need no correction" does not touch the evil, he argued. It is "the irregulars themselves, and the ignobile vulgus, and the whole host of insurgents, that need to know our opinion and our determination to make a firm and decided stand against these measures." And at this time "it is not mere argument, but names, that will turn the current against the ragamuffins." Nettleton was determined to make Beecher speak out, and hence the personal letter found its way into print in the form of a handbill, the effect being, as Beecher said, "as if a man should throw a firebrand on a train of powder which another was attempting to guard against ignition." Feelings ran high, and it appeared that a violent controversy between the eastern and western men was inevitable. Beecher had no heart for such controversy within the orthodox church. For him the unity of that church was of supreme importance. It was for such unity that he worked; it was the desire to preserve that unity that controlled almost all his policies and doctrinal statements. Here is the key to the understanding of the words and acts of this seemingly so contradictory man.
Dr. Beecher, when fighting with the Philistines, was perfectly fearless, and never hesitated to deliver a free and hard blow wherever he could. But when Judah was pitched against Ephraim and Ephraim against Judah his whole feeling and policy changed. Then he could never bear to strike. He hesitated, temporized, compromised. The harmony of the Congregational ministers of New England with each other, the union of the Congregational with the Presbyterian churches, this was to him the glory of Christ's kingdom, the threshold of the millennium, it must not be disturbed. He made every sacrifice to preserve it.
This attitude lies back of Beecher's conduct in the handling of every controversial matter that came up during his long career as a leader in the church. Uniformly he sought to suppress and avoid controversial questions that threatened the unity of the church.
In the present instance, having failed to secure peace through "silent measures," he next suggested that a convention of the western and eastern men be held to iron out their differences. "Ministers must come together and consult, and churches must be instructed and prepared to resist the beginnings of evil," he wrote. "The mask must be torn off from Satan coming among the sons of God, and transforming himself into an angel of light." Accordingly, in co-operation with the Reverend N. S. S. Beman, of Troy, New York, he called a convention of ten of the western men and eight or nine eastern representatives. They met at New Lebanon, New York, in July, 1827, and discussed their differences for nine days." The eastern representatives were in a delicate position. They did not want to appear to oppose revivals or to question the doctrinal orthodoxy of their western allies. The first would seem to be inconsistent with their whole revivalistic campaign against the Unitarians; the second would cause a split in the orthodox ranks.
"It was not a question of orthodoxy, nor of the reality of the revivals, but of wrong measures, "Beecher insisted. "We stood out against them as having been disturbers of the churches." On the other hand, Finney and the westerners felt that the eastern revivalists objected to the "new measures" because of the "cold and grovelling state of their own affections." The easterners, they said, were not "up to them," not having reached "that degree of fervor and spirituality with which their Western brethren had been blessed." Naturally the results were neither decisive nor satisfactory to either party. Nettleton especially remained disgruntled, feeling that Beecher had not backed him up. Beecher himself was puzzled and worried. On the way home he remarked to the landlord of a hotel where he stopped for dinner: "We crossed the mountains expecting to meet a company of boys, but we found them to be full-grown men."
The Unitarians were elated. They printed the proceedings of the convention in full in their Christian Examiner, adding only the brief comment: "There can be but one deep feeling of regret and even shame among all enlightened Christians at the disgrace, which such proceedings as we have here recorded, are adapted to bring on our religion." But Beecher did not stop working for a peaceful settlement, and in the spring of 1828 he finally got all parties to sign an agreement to cease further open controversy. The effect of this, he said, "was good." The excesses "we had complained of, though real, were effervescent and evanescent. The men were beginning to be ashamed of them themselves. They soon sobered down." But this was glowing retrospect on his part.
At the time he apparently was not so happy about the situation and certainly must have acquiesced in the publication of the letters on the "new measures," in the Preface of which an attempt was made to disavow all responsibility for them. If these measures succeed under God, the Preface states, we want those responsible for them to have all the credit, of course. But if these measures fail (and there was no doubt in the writers' minds that they would),
If they induce desolation to the churches; if their pathway shall hereafter be traced by the burning of their progress; if their consequences should prove widely ruinous, and confessedly wrong in the end; if the worst anticipations of these letters should be at last realized --
then the writers hope that
it may be at least known, though our heads should then be low in dust, and known by witnesses that we furnished, and that shall survive and faithfully interpret us, that some were NOT their patrons; and especially that such names as NETTLETON and BEECHER, and PORTER, to say nothing of others, were not responsible for their devastation!
Such an attempt to pacify Finney and bring him within the orthodox circle, while at the same time renouncing all responsibility for the effects of his revivals, is quite typical of the political gymnastics of Beecher. No doubt in this instance the influence of Nettleton is most strongly seen.
At all events, although Finney and the westerners might be calmed down a bit, and although Beecher and the easterners might disavow all responsibility, the damage had been done. The Unitarians continued to make the most of the obvious "dissensions among the revivalists" and to discredit the New Haveners by holding up Finney's excesses as the natural result of their endeavors. Meanwhile Nettleton and his group remained dissatisfied with Beecher's failure to use strong measures against Finney and the western revivalists. Beecher, after having persuaded those concerned to cease printed controversy, immediately wrote Nettleton to convince him that this was the best policy, urging that "there is such an amount of truth and power in the preaching of Mr. Finney, and so great an amount of good hopefully done," that if he can only "be so far restrained as that he shall do more good than evil, then it would be dangerous to oppose him, lest at length we might be found to fight against God; for, though some revivals may be so badly managed as to be worse than none, there may, to a certain extent, be great imperfections in them, and yet they be, on the whole, blessings to the Church." But Nettleton was not to be so easily satisfied. "He wanted the battle to go on," said Beecher, because "he felt as though he had fought a battle, and we had not duly appreciated it." And that feeling, Beecher thought, "was the real origin of all his bitterness against Taylor."
Thus the great Finney revivals served to discredit the revivals conducted by Beecher and the Connecticut orthodox in their campaign against the Unitarians, who deliberately used the excesses of the "new measures" as a weapon against the revivalists in New England. Meanwhile Presbyterian leaders also looked upon New Haven as the source of the Finney excesses and began that split between Presbyterians and the Connecticut Congregationalists that the Unitarians desired and helped to produce. Finally, and perhaps most important, Finney's activities were a source of friction between the New Haven men and some of their brethren led by Nettleton, which was to result in a split in the orthodox party itself.
THE CONSERVATIVES REVOLT, 1828
IT HAS been indicated in previous chapters that during the first quarter of the nineteenth century the factions within Connecticut Congregationalism were united in opposition to one common enemy after another. During these years, under the impetus given by Timothy Dwight, the men at Yale College became the foremost champions of the orthodox position. And, as is not uncommon in such circumstances, these leaders deliberately modified their statements of Calvinist doctrines in an attempt to make them more harmonious with current thinking and thus easier to defend and also to make them more appealing and preach able as the content of effective revival sermons.
So long as the threat from without was real, and no striking exhibition of departure from accepted orthodoxy took place, essential harmony was maintained. But a party opposed to the New Haven trend away from strict Calvinism existed from the beginning, and by 1826-27 the controversy with the Unitarians was losing interest. Just when the threat from without which had so long united the orthodox was dwindling in importance, Charles G. Finney's tumultuous revivals provided a startling exhibition of the supposed results of the New Haven trend in doctrine and practice. These factors precipitated what may be called the revolt of the conservatives, or those who insisted upon preserving "the ancient faith" in all its purity against the innovations emanating from Yale College.
Even Timothy Dwight had hesitated to approve the doctrines Taylor preached during his early ministry in Center Church, and there were others among both clergy and laymen who were alarmed by them. This provides some basis for accepting Asahel Nettleton's statement that Taylor's views had given anxiety to the "friends of sound doctrine" as early as 1808. He differed from Taylor at that time, he said, on the "nature of the doings of the unregenerate" (Dwight's point of disagreement also), and added that Taylor had read a dissertation on the doctrine of the divine decrees and the free agency of, man which Nettleton "regarded as a virtual denial of the former, and an avowal of the self-determining power of the will." These, it will be noted, are the exact points of disagreement all down the line. However, this early apprehension on the part of the conservatives was drowned in the rising tide of revivalism in the churches.
Opposition to the New Haven leaders of another kind is seen in the antagonistic review of Beecher's sermon called "The Design, Rights, and Duties of Local Churches," which appeared in the December, 1819, issue of the Christian Spectator. It is all very pleasing for Beecher, said the reviewer, to go about speaking of the duty of unity and peace in the churches, but at the same time he very positively expresses sentiments regarding the constitution of the church "known to him to be in opposition to what a great majority of his Presbyterian brethren hold as most dear." This is "sounding the trumpet of war" and "if the course of proceeding adopted by some men of high standing and great influence, is not checked by a firm resistance from some quarter, it will not be long before their victory will be complete." Beecher took the editors of the Spectator to task for publishing this review, and thenceforth that periodical contained no similar sentiments. But it was during the progress of the debate between Woods and Ware in the winter of 1820-21 that more open hostility toward the New Haven doctrinal trend was aroused. Taylor thought Ware had the better argument on the matter of depravity and was indiscreet enough to express this opinion with some force. The article he wrote in reply to Ware caused a flutter of apprehension among the ministers of his association. This, thought Bennet Tyler, was "the first indication that the New Haven divines were beginning to adopt opinions at variance with those which commonly prevailed among the orthodox."
The New Haven men, in brief, realized that one great weakness of the orthodox defense lay in its anachronistic language, and they tried to restate Calvinism in more acceptable terms. The doctrine of total depravity was central, since Unitarians argued that it made God the author of sin and man responsible for what he could not help. Professor Chauncey A. Goodrich stated the new position in a lecture to the students of Yale College in December, 1821. He argued that, since there can be no transgression where there is no law, or no ability to understand the law, or no moral sense, or no capacity of distinguishing between right and wrong, therefore "previous to the first act of moral agency, there is nothing in the mind which can strictly and properly be called sin--nothing for which the being is accountable to God." Man, in brief, is responsible only for voluntary transgression of known law. But there is in the human constitution, Goodrich affirmed, "some permanent and adequate cause of the great fact that every individual of our race sins 'from the moment that he can sin." This, he thought, could not be accounted for by "the force of example, education, etc.," and hence there must be "a reason or cause in the structure of our constitution." This cause, he admitted, "was frequently said to be sinful," but such language "meant only that it terminated in sin from the moment that sin was possible in a human being." This view of original sin, says Baird, an ardent opponent of the New Haven ideas, "the better informed students recognized as bearing a striking resemblance to that with which Dr. Ware had opposed Dr. Woods." And so it did, and Beecher was alarmed. Goodrich seemed to "imply the denial of original sin -- nothing sinful in infants," he wrote. And "the minute I heard of that I saw the end. I never felt so bad. I wrote a long letter to him and Taylor, telling them they must take that back, or they would have the old fight over under new names."
But Goodrich was not perturbed. The view, he said, had been worked out with Brother Taylor many years before. They were not denying the doctrine of original sin but only bringing into question a current theory of its cause or reason. The fact that "every individual of our race sins from the moment that he can sin" is the doctrine; that this is because his nature is sinful is the explanation offered of this fact. To question or deny the latter does not mean that one denies the doctrine itself, except to those "who consider a doctrine as inseparably connected with the theory or solution which they have attached to it."8 Goodrich thought that discussion at that time would lead most of the orthodox to take his view of the matter. Beecher, very intent upon rallying the orthodox to present a united front to Unitarian encroachments, did not so much question their statement of the doctrine as the expediency of airing their theories just then. But Goodrich, less of a politician than Beecher, cheerfully assumed that "truth can never suffer by discussion," and he insisted that the situation demanded his new statement of original sin. For the Unitarians were parading the horrors of infant damnation as a necessary implication of Calvinist doctrine. But "on my statement of the subject," Goodrich argued, "the complaint is taken away from the enemies of truth that we make God the author of sin in our constitution previous to voluntary agency." Further, he added, speaking now as a revivalist, "the whole guilt of our total apostacy is brought to press on the conscience of the man himself, who is the sole author of his rebellion."
Beecher was not the only one who was alarmed at the sentiments of Goodrich's lecture. "The gentlemen at New Haven must take care," wrote one brother to Asahel Nettleton, who was then conducting a revival in Beecher's church at Litchfield.
"This proclaiming their hasty opinions upon the housetops will do infinite mischief," and, as for Taylor, in reviewing Dr. Woods he "must be guarded." For should he or anyone else "say publicly that there is no innate depravity in man -- that there is no bias, propensity, or disposition toward sin, the Unitarians will just send out a boat to tow him in." They could then "shout victory. I hope, therefore, that nothing of this kind will be advanced in the Spectator."
Nettleton too was aroused by this apparent forsaking of the old doctrines. He wrote Taylor that, with all his love and respect for Taylor, Beecher, and Goodrich, he could go with them no further. "Whatever. you may say about infants, for one, I solemnly believe that God views and treats them, in all respects, just as he would do if they were sinners." He had been interested in the controversy with the Unitarians, he affirmed, as long as it was kept out on the open field of "total depravity, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, divine sovereignty, and election," but now you have given the discussion a bad turn with your speculations, and "I have lost all my interest in the subject, and do not wish my fellow-sinners to hear it." And piqued by what he considered Taylor's assumption of superior reasoning powers, he added as a warning to that gentleman, "You may speculate better than I can; but I know one thing better than you do. I know better what Christians will and what they will not, receive; and I forewarn you, that, wherever you come out, our best Christians will revolt."
Others were similarly alienated by Taylor. Beecher, with his usual garrulity, said that the Reverend Nathaniel Hewitt of Fairfield, Connecticut, became hostile to Taylor because of a private matter and then turned against his doctrines. "What Goodrich said about original sin gave him a handle, and he began to canvass against New Haven."11 He told Beecher once that he had called on thirty or forty ministers to arouse them against the ideas emanating from that place.
When Beecher suggested that he ought to have it out with Taylor face to face, Hewitt shrugged and said "it would be of no use." But, he added as a warning afterthought, "we will let him know that what we may lack in talents we will make up in numbers." Apparently Hewitt, like Nettleton, resented Taylor's lofty airs, and both threatened thus early an organized revolt against New Haven. Both canvassed the churches in person and with letters.
But the time for such revolt was not yet come, and antagonism was to simmer for almost six years more. Beecher, leading the attack on the Unitarians, took measures to keep everyone in line. To Nettleton he said bluntly, "Dr. Taylor and I have made you what you are, and, if you do not behave yourself, we will hew you down." This he later explained was, of course, meant for a jest-but jest or not it was also a pointed warning. Most of the ministers did not need to be so definitely suppressed, for although they might have some qualms about the theological drift at Yale, they were likely to overlook them so long as the controversy with the Unitarians absorbed their interest and fared so well under the New Haven leadership. But the public interest in that controversy was dying down by the opening of 1826. The Unitarian threat to the Connecticut churches was seen to be past, and Unitarianism was in fact recognizably confined to the Boston area. The doctrinal issues had been threshed out to a recognized stalemate on the part of both. The Unitarians had practically ceased to argue the matter altogether, and indeed during 1826 do not appear even to have pressed the charge of departure from Calvinism upon the New Haven group with any vigor. That group in turn reduced their literary attack in the Spectator to taunting the Unitarians for their lack of missionary enterprise, to which the Unitarians made reply in the Examiner in rather light and genial tone.
It is interesting to note in this connection that, although it has long been assumed that Beecher went to Boston in 1826 largely to combat Unitarianism, yet neither in his communications with the church at the time nor in his reminiscences does he mention this object. In fact, he specifically stated at the time that the "plea of greater usefulness" was not his chief reason for making the change, but the necessity for more salary. Once in Boston he carried on revivals to be sure, but he does not mention the Unitarians except to say that, although some Unitarians of distinction attend his meetings, yet "it is not on this kind of celebrity that I chiefly rely." This decidedly is not the Beecher of 1821-25.
Meanwhile the Theological Department of Yale College had been growing in numbers and influence, and its theological position was being defined and shaped in the course of the controversy with the Unitarians. The professors, said Baird, "were occupied in. the quiet propagation of their sentiments, through the instruction of their classes, without any public demonstrations, on the subject." But this was hardly a just appraisal, since the sentiments were not concealed but expressed with vigor in the debate with the liberals at Boston. However, students were sitting under Taylor's instruction and, drinking in the elements of the theological position being taken in the controversy. Since some of the first graduates were said to be too outspoken and to be lacking in respect for their seniors in the ministry, their bearing no doubt served to arouse a smoldering resentment against Taylor and the school in the minds of the older and more conservative ministers.
As the interest in the controversy with the Unitarians waned, murmurs against the New Haven doctrines became more persistent and more audible. One of the conservative ministers, who spent some time in New Haven early in 1826, was reputedly troubled by talk among the students and professors that "our views," or "Dr. Taylor's views," are indeed a "New Divinity."
Rumors began to be circulated "in a certain quarter" that Taylor was unsound in the faith, that he was, indeed, tending to Unitarianism.19 Beecher on the eve of his departure for Boston wrote Taylor, indicating the rising opposition: "How comes on Brother H[ewitt]'s cry of heresy? .... Is he acting badly still? Is he gaining strength, or going down?"
It was in the midst of this rising tide of dissent from the trend of the Theological Department that Professor Fitch preached his Two Discourses on the Nature of Sin (July 30, 1826), in which he upheld the familiar New Haven views that "sin, in every form and instance, is reducible to the act of a moral agent in which he violates a known rule of duty," that "there is not a sinful heart, in any moral agent, distinct from his own sinful choices, determinations, or preferences," and, hence, that in the connection of Adam with his posterity, "no sin of his is reckoned theirs." These views, it will be recognized, are but an elaboration of the views Taylor had urged against the Episcopalians in 1818, that Goodrich had expressed to the students in 1821, and that Taylor had used against the Unitarians in 1823. The most plausible explanation of Fitch's restatement and publication of them at this time is that the New Haven men hoped by clear exposition of them to allay suspicion and foster better understanding. Crocker claimed that they did have that effect in most of New England.
But events were culminating in an open schism in the orthodox ranks. The Discourses were reviewed in the March and April issues, 1827, of the Presbyterian Christian Advocate, published in Philadelphia and edited by Ashbel Green of that city." It is to be remembered that the conservatives of Connecticut had no periodical of their own at the time, but, as later events showed, the Christian Advocate expressed their sentiments.
In opposition to Fitch the reviewer contended that the nature of the soul, previous to any voluntary action, is sinful and that the causes of the sinful choices which exist in the disposition or temper of the soul itself are sinful. But, above all, the reviewer expressed alarm that the professors at Yale, called "orthodox," were promulgating a system subversive of the principles of orthodoxy, and insinuated that the institution was in imminent danger of surrendering to heresy. "The publick," he thought, "cannot be too vigilant in regard to the doctrines taught in our colleges and theological schools, for these are fountains from which many streams issue; and erroneous opinions inculcated in them, will be widely diffused through the community." This, of course, was a challenge to the conservatives to do something about the situation at Yale.
To this review in the Christian Advocate, Professor Fitch replied in a long pamphlet, restating his position and enlarging upon it. The review had indicated that the Old School party of the Presbyterian church was to be hand in hand with the conservative party in Connecticut as the tide of opposition rose. Further, it was during the discussion started by Fitch's Discourses that the Yale men were being especially embarrassed by the revivals of Charles G. Finney in New York and that Asahel Nettleton and others were being alienated because of Beecher's refusal openly to denounce the "new measures." Meanwhile the Reverend Nathaniel Hewitt continued to canvass in opposition to Taylor's supposed heresy, and, said Beecher, "when Nettleton wanted us to break fellowship with the New-Measure men, and we would not, he became dissatisfied, and availed himself of what Hewitt had begun, and they began to work on Porter of Andover, and Tyler of Portland, and others." There was, he continued in explanation, "some little jealousy just then between Andover and New Haven because Taylor was drawing away students, and this made Porter .... more susceptible to their influence."
It is indicated, then, that gradually through the years following 1822, a group was consolidated in opposition to the doctrinal views of the men at New Haven, made up of those alienated from Taylor for personal reasons, those who were concerned because of his departure from strict orthodoxy as they interpreted it, and those who resented the refusal of Beecher to denounce Finney's "new measures." This group was in close league with the Old School party of the Presbyterian church. They accepted the challenge of the fateful question Taylor had posed to the Unitarians -- "Who then are Calvinists?" -- by asserting that they were and that the men of Yale's Theological Department were not.
Matters were brought to a head, according to Crocker, when the Reverend Hubbard Winslow, collecting funds for the Theological Department in 1826, preached one Sunday morning from the pulpit in Fairfield, Connecticut. The Reverend Nathaniel Hewitt was present and, occupying the same pulpit in the afternoon, took the opportunity to attack Taylor "as heretical, respecting the nature and extent of depravity, and respecting regeneration, divine influence, decrees, and election," and represented him as a Pelagian and Arminian. He also spoke of the Theological Department of Yale College "as a nuisance which ought to be removed," using Winslow's sermon of the morning as an example of the heresy proceeding from it. Taylor was told about this attack and invited to defend himself and the school from the same pulpit. This was especially appropriate, since one of his students was preaching in Fairfield as a candidate. In his defense Taylor prepared and preached the sermon that later became famous as the Concio ad clerum of 1828. There seems to be no good reason for doubting the essential truthfulness of Crocker's account of the origin of this sermon. It was, in brief, not a provocative attack on the theological opinions of others, or a new, positive statement of belief, but rather an exposition and defense of a position taken at least ten years before. It proved, however, to be a focal point for the attack of the mixed forces that had long been gathering in opposition to Taylor and the New Haven school. The conservatives were aroused. "Shall we sustain our Calvinism or see it run down to the standard of Methodists, and laxer men?" they cried. "It is time that a note of remonstrance be struck up somewhere." In the midst of peace among ourselves, and united action against the common foe, wrote Dr. Porter of Andover to Beecher, "a battery is opened in Connecticut, and a standard raised, and a campaign begun that threatens to divide our forces." And so it was. In spite of all attempts to quell the brewing storm and maintain a united front against the Unitarians, the break came. The conservatives could no longer remain quiet, and soon thereafter the Reverend Joseph Harvey of Westchester, Connecticut, published a stinging critique of Taylor's serrnon.
"TAYLORITES" AND "TYLERITES"
The thing has gone thus to its "ne plus" from a dread of division; but push it farther, and a battle royal is inevitable.
THE study of the background and development of Taylor's thought really closes with the publication of his Concio ad clerum in 1828. "Taylorism" or the "New Haven theology" was formed before he was called upon to defend it in that sermon. Thenceforth the New Haven group was on the defensive, and nothing really new was added to its position. Hence the significance of the so-called "Taylor and Tyler" controversy is not primarily theological at all, in the sense that it led to changes and developments in theological thought. It was rather political, that is, a controversy over whether or not the New Haven version of Calvinism was to be permitted to continue in the Congregational churches of Connecticut. The conservatives held that the New Haveners had departed from orthodox Calvinism in essential points; hence, they were heretics from whom the churches ought to withdraw their support. The New Haveners, on the other hand, argued that they had not forsaken any essential doctrines of Calvinism but had only offered more acceptable and convincing explanations of those doctrines. Since the conservatives could not point to any actual disavowal of the Calvinistic doctrines on the part of Taylor and the Yale men, they had to fall back on the argument that the New Haveners held principles that necessarily would lead to a disavowal of those doctrines.
It was the familiar argument from "tendency" carried out to the last degree. Unavoidably the ensuing controversy ran off into finer and finer distinctions, and more and more elaborate definitions and involved arguments, until for following generations it has become "a kind of symbol for all that is incomprehensible and unimportant" in theological discussion. Why this is so becomes apparent when it is recognized that the parties were arguing over the results and tendencies each guessed were to follow from the theoretical explanations that the other gave for certain doctrines of the complicated system of Calvinism. Taylor's Concio ad clerum and Harvey's Review were the opening exchanges of a long and tedious controversy that was carried on for a decade-long after the public interest in the issues had finally and completely lapsed.
The chief ground of misunderstanding and disagreement between the two parties can be briefly stated. Taylor, in line with the Old Calvinists, held that God "demands only a rational faith of rational beings" and that the divine Author consents that "the book. . .. shall be tried at the bar of human reason." To Harvey and the conservatives, as to the earlier Consistent Calvinists, this was to forsake revealed religion. They complained that the tendency of Taylor's thought was unavoidably "to exalt human reason above revelation." "Is not the Bible to be our standard of truth," Harvey inquired, "and is it not our duty to 'contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,' however contrary it may be to human wisdom or human feelings." For "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and if he has revealed a system of truth, it is no doubt our wisdom and our duty to follow it, and leave the consequences with him."
So "with Bible in hand" Harvey would consider it "neither improper nor hazardous, were it necessary, to 'bid defiance to the powers of human reason.' " This is essentially what he and the conservatives continued to do, while the streams of progressive and liberal religious thought rolled on around and past them. The argument could never be decisive, for there was no real meeting of minds. The differences, as in the controversy before the Revolution, were not logical, and the parties could not get onto common ground. Hence in all the writings no complaint is more frequently made than that the opponent has misunderstood and misrepresented one's position. With Taylor it became almost a mania, and he used to tell his students that no one would understand him until his book was published and that then it would be so large that no one would read it.
As soon as it became evident in 1828 that the New Haven views were to be forced into the defensive, Chauncey A. Goodrich bought the Christian Spectator in order to make it even more exclusively an organ for the expression and defense of those views. Thenceforth it was published as a quarterly. Goodrich kept it until 1836, when the object proposed was thought to have been accomplished.
It is not necessary to deal with the intricacies of this controversy, which has been on the whole adequately treated. But it is important to note that the doctrinal positions Taylor defended were not new but had been taken in his earlier controversies.
The actual points of disagreement between the parties were very few in number. Taylor himself thought they might be "reduced to two," the nature of sin and of depravity, and the divine permission of sin. Later, regeneration was discussed at some length and may be added as a third point. These three issues were the centers of disagreement.
One acquainted with the material of the preceding chapters of this study will find nothing new in the Concio ad clerum. Baird, with reason, called it an elaboration of Fitch's Two Discourses and pointed out that Goodrich in defending it incorporated his own lectures on the subject, of December, 1821. In it Taylor merely reiterated in somewhat different words the familiar New Haven view that depravity is man's own act, consisting in a free choice of some object other than God as his chief good.
It is not, he argued as he had argued against the Unitarians, anything created in man by God, or a sinful nature corrupted by being one with Adam, or any inherited, physical propensity -- nothing, in short, that man cannot help. In a long note he dealt with the problem of the divine permission of sin, one of the perennial problems of the New England theology. Pressed on the horns of the Calvinist's dilemma by Norton in 1824, he had argued that the only reasonable solution was that "men are complete moral agents who sin through the permission of an omniscient God." Now in the Concio he stated this position in more definite terms, although trying to retain the advantages of the negative. Moral beings, he argued, must have the power of sinning. There is no evidence that God could have overruled that power and yet have sustained a moral system.
[Man] sins freely, voluntarily. There is no other way of sinning ..... Do you then say, that God gave man a nature, which he knew would lead him to sin? What if He did? -- Do you know that God could have done better, better on the whole or better, if he gave him existence at all, even for the individual himself? The error lies in the gratuitous assumption, that God could have adopted a moral system, and prevented all sin, or at least, the present degree of sin. For, no man knows this -- no man can prove it.
Against these views the conservatives argued bluntly that there is a sin in man which is not his own act -- native, sinful, depravity, "which does not consist in voluntary acts against known law," and which is the efficient cause of all actual sin. Thus they demonstrated that they had been practically uninfluenced by the events and movements that had led to the New Haven modifications of Calvinism. Taylor's question regarding the divine permission of sin, they construed as a positive affirmation that "in a moral system, God could not have prevented all sin, nor the present degree of it," and they roundly censured Taylor for presumptuously setting limits to God's powers.
This is the gist of the debate contained in the Concio, Harvey's Review, and Woods's Letters to Rev. Nathaniel W. Taylor.
Meanwhile in the successive numbers of the Quarterly Christian Spectator for 1829 Taylor reviewed a work by Gardiner Spring on the means of regeneration.16 his express purpose being to outline and comment upon Spring's work "and to present our own views of the general subject." The latter, of course, was the most important part of the review and brought the doctrine of regeneration up for discussion. Taylor, the revivalist, thought Spring had not answered the question why the sinner should do anything before regeneration nor "made our way clear to the conscience and the heart, with the call to immediate repentance." He, in keeping with his view of free agency, held that regeneration was "the act of the will or heart which consists in preference of God to every other object" and is the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit on 'the mind. He agreed with the conservatives that "sin universally is no other than selfishness" and that "no acts of the sinner, done while the selfish principle remains active in the heart, constitute using the means of -regeneration," But he asserted that such acts are not necessary steps to regeneration, for "the sinner is the subject of that constitutional desire of happiness called self-love, to which no moral quality pertains," and his act of comparison is "dictated not by selfishness, but by self-love."
In brief, the act of preference which constitutes regeneration involves "the suspended influence of the selfish principle," so that this principle, for the time being, has lost its controlling power, and the sober contemplations of the unregenerate man
are prompted by that first and essential principle of our nature, the desire of happiness. The man is not thinking and acting to accomplish any worldly, selfish purpose whatsoever; but, as a being capable of happiness and desiring it, is considering whether he will not, for the purpose of obtaining the highest degree of it, renounce every inferior object of affection, for the supreme good.
Spring and the conservatives, on the other hand, denied, as the Consistent Calvinists had denied before them, any principle of "self-love" and argued that there was nothing in depraved man to which holy motives could appeal, and hence that the initiative act in regeneration must be God's, in which he directly and miraculously changed the human heart so that it might thenceforth have the power of unselfish choice. This act of God is necessary, they argued, because "unregenerate men are enemies to God and holiness, and their hostility is so unyielding that no light communicated to their understanding, no obligations addressed to their conscience, no motives presented to their hopes or their fears, can produce holy love." But you, Dr. Porter wrote to Beecher in 1829, are "reviving the Arminian notion of gradual regeneration by light, or what has been sometimes termed reliance on unregenerate doings." It is obvious that this phase of the controversy over regeneration was a direct continuation of the debate between Old and Consistent Calvinists which had been carried on around 1770. Taylor and the New Haveners upheld what had then been the Old Calvinist position against Spring, Tyler, and the conservatives, who pressed what had been Consistent Calvinism at this point. In many paragraphs the debate of 1828-29 was carried on in. almost the same words as that of 1767-72.
Depravity, the divine permission of sin, regeneration -- these continued to be the topics of debate. The New Haveners, who had knowingly modified their Calvinism, were now called upon to defend their new version against those who persistently and as a matter of principle resisted change.
These latter interpreted the New Haven developments as weakness, as a yielding to "the grand danger of the ministry .... to modify the Gospel to appease opposition." Beecher and Taylor were accused of an easy inclination "toward a modification of the truth by undue efforts of policy .... to make it palatable to men," until anti-Calvinists, especially the Unitarians, were saying that they were not Calvinists at all. This was true, and the conservatives thought it demanded some explanation. Or, as Porter insisted to Beecher, if you must go on as you have been, then "in good conscience you can not use the plural pronoun in debate with Unitarians. You should speak for yourself only." Thus abruptly did Beecher's great campaign against the Unitarians collapse.
In vain the New Haveners argued that the real differences between themselves and the conservatives related "not to those great fundamental facts, or doctrines," but "to certain theories and philosophical explanations by which those doctrines are defended, and reconciled with other acknowledged truths. The conservatives thought otherwise and insisted that Taylor had "adopted principles in his explanations and statements" which would "lead, by inevitable consequences, to the denial of important doctrines"; and "his speculations will pave the way for the gradual influx of error upon the American churches." They wanted no part in the anticipated defection and continued to resist the New Haven tendency. Dr. Bennet Tyler," one of Taylor's college classmates, proved to be their most persistent and able leader.
When Taylor's Concio was published in 1828, this archconservative scented heresy and gave up his pastorate in Portland, Maine, to return to Connecticut for the purpose of stemming the new flood. Thenceforth his life was devoted to opposing "Taylorism," but his first Strictures on Taylor's review of Spring, or his following Replies and Reviews aimed at the New Haven position, did not add any new issues to the discussion. Soon after he entered the controversy a move was made more formally to organize the opposition to the Theological Department of Yale College.
The first step was taken when a select group of the conservatives met rather secretly at Norwich, Connecticut, on October 12, 1831, and organized a doctrinal tract society, the professed purpose of which was to defend their orthodoxy. How such a society might emerge from the pamphlet warfare is apparent and reminds one of the origin of the New Haven group in the "Association of Gentlemen" that in 1818 proposed to write "doctrinal" tracts against the Episcopalians. In July, 1832, the Doctrinal Tract Society published the first issue of its Evangelical Magazine. In it they stated that "the distinct and avowed object of the proposed magazine is to explain and defend the system of revealed truth commonly denominated Calvinistic." This, it is made clear, is defense against the New Haven trend. At about the same time a very pointed attack on Taylor's views appeared in a pamphlet generally attributed to Joseph Harvey, the first assailant of the Concio. This pamphlet, called Letters on the Present State and Probable Results of Theological Speculations in Connecticut, urged that open separation of the Connecticut churches was desirable, imminent, and "unavoidable, if the friends of Dr. Taylor insist on obtruding upon us, him and his doctrines."
Acquiescence in his theology is utterly out of the question, and the crisis is rapidly approaching, when there will be a final division of the churches and ecclesiastical bodies in this State. And if Yale College continues to be environed with this influence, the friends of sound doctrine in the State, will soon seek other seminaries of their children, and Yale will become in Connecticut what Harvard is in Massachusetts.
With these preliminaries, the conservatives took steps to organize themselves more completely. At the call of Harvey a group met at Hartford on January 8, 1833, to propose measures "for the defense of truth and the suppression of Heresy." Tentative articles of agreement were drawn up, and the first steps taken for the formation of a pastoral union. After canvassing the state, the group met again at East Windsor on September 10 and, after two days of deliberation, completed the organization of the Connecticut Pastoral Union. Twenty articles of agreement were accepted, strongly emphasizing the conservatives' views of Calvinism as opposed to the New Haven views. Membership in the Union was carefully guarded. Those who at the first meeting subscribed to the articles were members. Subsequently only persons nominated by a member, and receiving a two-thirds vote of the members present at an annual meeting, and who would sign the Articles of Agreement would be accepted. At the time of this East Windsor meeting Harvey published a second blast, The Address to the Congregational Churches of Connecticut, which accused the New Haveners of responsibility for theological views, for "new measures," and for spurious revivals which threatened the moral desolation of the land. He denounced Yale College as a fountain of heresy, warned parents against sending their children there for education, and advised the churches no longer to go to its Theological Department for their ministers. But most cutting of all for those who had been the champions of orthodoxy against the Unitarians for fifteen years, he closed with an urgent plea for the immediate separation of "the orthodox" from "those infected with new divinity and new measures." The nature of this attack serves to emphasize what was said at the beginning of this chapter-that the so-called "Taylor and Tyler" controversy was basically an attempt on the part of the conservatives to put "Taylorism" out of the Congregational churches and, on the other side, a fight by the "Taylorites" for the right to remain in those churches.
So far as theological positions were concerned, each side merely stood its ground, the conservatives pointing with alarm to the supposed aberrations of the New Haveners, while that group continued to maintain that it was not heretical.
At its first meeting on September 11, 1833, the newly formed Pastoral Union also took steps to found a seminary to be called the "Theological Institute of Connecticut." Careful measures were adopted to keep the proposed seminary under the direction of the Union. The trustees were to be appointed yearly by the Union, and all officers and trustees were to be required to subscribe to the Articles. By January, 1834, the required twenty thousand dollars had been raised for endowment, the Old School Presbyterians of New York having subscribed liberally toward this effort to found a seminary in Connecticut more to their liking. In May the Theological Institute was incorporated by an act of the general assembly. On May 13 the cornerstone of the first building was laid, Bennet Tyler and Jonathan Cogswell were inducted into office as president and professor of ecclesiastical history, respectively, and the school was formally opened."
With the establishment of the Theological Institute all hope of reconciliation between the two parties vanished, and from that day each remained firmly entrenched in its respective theological school. So great was the rift between them that efforts made to unite the two seminaries just before the deaths of Taylor and Tyler in 1858, and again in 1864, completely failed. The organization of the Pastoral Union and the foundation of the East Windsor seminary really amounted to open schism in the Congregational churches, which for years in Connecticut were divided between "Taylorites" and "Tylerites." But schism in the very loose organization of the Congregational churches can hardly be actual unless, as was the case with the Unitarians, one party chooses to adopt a peculiar name for itself.
"THERE WAS VASTLY MORE IN THE MAN"
AFTER the public interest in the theological controversies had finally and definitely passed, Taylor continued in the quiet provincial life of a theological professor at Yale College until his death. He had fought a good fight and to his own mind, at least, had kept the faith, although he was never able to convince the Tylerites of this. He was the outstanding representative in Connecticut of what Van Wyck Brooks in another connection called the "buffer generation that lay between the hard old Puritan ways and the minds of the younger people .... as a kind of cordon sanitaire against the repressive habits of the past." Firmly rooted though he was in "the old steady order of things," he yet reached out toward the future and "his thought formed the main bridge from the inherited orthodoxy of the eighteenth century" to the liberal theology of the nineteenth. "In doctrinal belief he was nearer the first group; in the spirit of free inquiry, and of earnest and fearless search after truth, he was nearer the last." His was the battle for the right of that new theological liberalism to exist within the orthodox churches of Connecticut, and, because he and his colleagues fought so well, later leaders like Leonard Bacon, Horace Bushnell, and T. T. Munger, who made Congregationalism practically synonymous with liberalism, were permitted to develop their position practically unchallenged. When Tyler attacked Bushnell's Christian Nurture in 1847, that leader, who has received most of the credit for the liberalizing of Congregationalism, had merely to reply that Tyler's views hung "on a certain theory of depravity and regeneration that was debated to the complete satisfaction of the public some fifteen years ago, and forever exploded."
The Theological Department was continued in the same loose way that had characterized its administration from the beginning. Taylor continued to deal in his lectures with what had been the live issues of theological debate during the twenties and thirties of the century. The program of the school remained unchanged during the entire period of his professorship. He and the other professors read the same lectures year after year, as industrious students wrote them down word for word, while others bought books of class notes from students who had preceded them. Naturally, after interest in the controverted points died down, and the questions at issue came to be either accepted without comment or forgotten, Taylor was regarded more and more as a living anachronism. "Even before he ceased to teach, his students could, with difficulty, believe that what was accepted by them as an obvious truism, had a few years before been assailed as a dangerous heresy." Because he and his companions had defended their position so convincingly, Taylor, when he continued to go over the same points, "came to be regarded as a kind of relic of a bygone era, who devoted his lectures .... to the discussion of forgotten issues." Under the circumstances one is not surprised to learn that the enrolment in the school fell off rapidly after 1844 and that during the last five years of Taylor's life (1853-58) the average attendance was below what it had been the first five years of the school's existence (1822-27). It is significant, however, that the average enrolment of the middle year, which was largely given over to the study of theology under Taylor, was always higher during his professorship than the average enrolment of either the first or the Senior years.
Wayland attributes the falling-off of attendance to a lack of funds, to the aging of the professors, but especially to "the failure on the part of the faculty to realize that in the area of religious thought the theological emphasis had changed to one of a Biblical nature."
But there is another side of Taylor to be kept in mind. He retained his striking appearance to the end of his life. Munger, who met him first in 1856, remembered Taylor's erect carriage, fine bearing, and the great beauty of his dark eyes, which still flashed with the old fire and spirit. The issues he dealt with in his lectures were dead issues, but he still retained the power to enthuse his students, and they loved him. "The chief effects of his teaching, I think, are these, "Munger wrote to a friend who was thinking of coming to Yale; "he makes you feel a few important truths strongly. He makes you think for yourself; and no man can be effective without some degree of these." To the end he continued the practice of informal discussion after every class lecture. At the close of the hour he would remove his spectacles, take a chew of tobacco, and say, "Now, gentlemen, I'll hear you," and many times the discussion would continue for two hours or more. He took a rather fussy interest in the personal appearance of the students, calling attention to unpolished shoes, unwashed hands, unkempt hair, and warning them to be careful in their dress, as became ministers of the Gospel. Especially he warned them to avoid extremes in color, saying in his precise way, "You would not have liked to see President Day wearing butternut trousers." He enjoined upon them the necessity of keeping up what he called "the preaching habit," in order "to preserve one's spirituality." "There is Stuart of Andover," he pointed out. "He gave up preaching and even going to meeting; he lost his spirituality, but by constant preaching I have kept mine."
The theological classes during these years met in an old building with loose and rattling windows which were often broken. The lecture-room was heated with a large coal stove that "emitted more gas than heat," said Munger, who could not recall that the room was ever warm in winter. Taylor often lectured in his overcoat and upon at least one occasion muttered to the students in" disgust at the inadequate heat and the broken windows, "Money enough for breaking glass in the laboratory, but not a penny for theology." This, Munger adds, was the form in which the conflict between science and religion was then raging. It was "raging" too in other forms, for one of Taylor's closest friends during his later years was Professor Benjamin Silliman. Yale's great scientist used to chide the theologian for using tobacco, Taylor being the only professor in the college at the time who did, and the theologian labored with the scientist for contradicting the Bible as to creation. Silliman pointed to fossils in the stones of the cemetery wall and assigned a date some millions of years in the past. To which Taylor retorted "God can create fossils in stone, and you can't prove that he didn't." Since Silliman, of course, could not, the victory rested with the theologian.
Toward the end of his life Taylor, with his last flash of the old fire and spirit, took up the question of slavery. The New England Congregationalists were among the first to indorse the measures and methods of the Colonization Society, and by and large they continued to be Colonizationists down through all the years of agitation. Study of the articles on slavery that appeared in the Christian Spectator indicates unwavering indorsement of colonization and denunciation of the abolitionists as a hindrance to the peaceful settlement of this great national problem. Wayland's study of Taylor's decisions on the slavery questions that were debated while he was president of the rhetorical society of the college indicates that he was a colonizationist and antiabolitionist.
But when the Kansas-Nebraska bill was passed in 1854, the Yale men were among those who rose up in violent protest.
Taylor, Leonard Bacon, Benjamin Silliman, and others addressed the anti-Nebraska meetings held in New Haven on March 8 and 10,1854. Taylor charged into the new fray with the old eagerness, beginning his address with words that brought his audience to their feet:
If I could, I should like to say the first thing, which I have to say on this subject, in capitals: THE NEBRASKA BILL IS A MEAN ATTEMPT TO VIOLATE A FAIR BARGAIN. Its authors know it, -- we know it -- the whole country knows it.
He concluded with words that were drowned, says the published report, in "tremendous and long continued cheering and shouts of applause." "Sir, if worst comes to worst, I could lay off the garments of my profession and put on a soldier's coat in the cause of freedom!"
He was among those who went over to the newly formed Republican party about this time and was active in its behalf during the election campaign of 1856. He was generally supposed to have written an electioneering pamphlet denouncing the pro-slavery attitude of the Buchanan Democrats and upholding the Republican party. This pamphlet is known through a reply by a Democrat calling himself "Peyton," who said he knew Taylor wrote the first pamphlet, although it was published anonymously, because of its "peculiarity of expression, its dogmatism of opinion, and its boldness of assertion."
"Peyton" denounces Taylor for forsaking his sacred calling to take up political issues and for giving the weight of his name and influence to the cause of "black Republicanism." From the time of Taylor's address to the anti-Nebraska meeting in 1854, he charges, "you have been classed by your fellow-citizens as a supporter and sympathizer with the very men whom you once so truly denounced as traitors." Since then "you have taken your stand in public with a Beecher, a Parker, and a Thompson, -in name a divine, too often in practice a political agitator."
No doubt Taylor almost welcomed these political attacks as he had earlier relished theological attacks, and in July, 1857, he joined forty-two of his fellow-citizens of New Haven in addressing a protest to President Buchanan against the use of United States troops in Kansas to enforce the "laws of the Missourians." To this protest Buchanan replied in August, but in terms that did not at all satisfy the protestors. After several meetings in New Haven, during which three replies to the President were considered, that written by Taylor was accepted and published. The contents of this "Reply" written in the involved and stilted language of his earlier religious writings, need not detain us here. Ironically enough, this one venture into affairs of national concern was at the time not attributed to Taylor at all but to his friend and fellow-professor, Benjamin Silliman. The "papers call it the 'Silliman Letter' to President Buchanan," wrote Silliman, "and I am everywhere treated as the author of the movement."
This proved to be Taylor's last public act. He did not retain his vigor long enough to be among the list of New Haven signers of the letter to the American Tract Society written by Chauncey A. Goodrich, which insisted that even though "it be morally certain that the entire South will fall off from the Society, provided we now publish on the subject of Slavery," yet, "even in that case, we ought to publish."
At the time this letter was written the aged and weary warrior had already resigned His professorship with a brief note "To the Rev. President and Fellows of Yale College":
Such are my age and infirmities, that I am well convinced that to retire from my official duties in the College would be alike for my comfort, & for the best interests of the Theological Department. I hereby therefore offer my resignation of my professorship in this department; with the request, that I may relinquish my labours in instruction, as soon as you in your wisdom shall deem it expedient.
NATHl. W. TAYLOR 19
Yale College, July 13, 1857
Thereafter he declined gradually through several months. When too feeble longer to lecture, his last class gathered in his parlor to hear one of their number read his lecture and then to listen to his exposition. When too weak to read, he used to ask his daughter to read his lectures to him. Of the last one, written about two months before his death, his wife said, "How I wish that could be put into the form of a sermon, and that you could preach it!"
"And O," he answered, "how I wish it. O that I could be permitted to preach again, and to preach to ministers!"
As death approached, he had a strong aversion to an exciting deathbed scene, and, calling his wife to him when he knew the end was near, he said to her, "I shall not be with you long; and when I am called to go, I want you to be very calm and very quiet, and to let me go." His passing was calm even beyond his wish. His attendants had helped him to an easy position not long after midnight and left him sleeping. After some time one of them remarked that he was sleeping more quietly and longer than usual. They went to him and found that he was dead. The funeral services were conducted by Leonard Bacon in Center Church, with which Taylor had been so closely associated for more than fifty years. Memorial services were held in the North Church and in the college chapel.
On his monument in the New Haven cemetery, at the suggestion of his youngest daughter, the inscription was placed:
"Oh, how I love thy law!" But by far his noblest monument was in the lives of the students he had influenced and prepared a way for, and in the Yale Divinity School, in which he was the leading figure during the first thirty-six years of its existence.
Lyman Beecher survived his lifelong friend by five years, dying in January, 1863. During his last days, spent at the home of his famous son, Henry Ward Beecher in Brooklyn, as the memory of past events faded with advancing years, he retained his memories of his old friends and especially of Taylor. In 1858, shortly after Taylor's death, while visiting in New Haven, Beecher asked Mrs. Taylor if he might be buried beside her husband. Goodrich, who was present, and who feared the question might upset Mrs. Taylor, said, "Brother Beecher, there is room in my lot in the cemetery, if you wish to be laid in New Haven." But Beecher was riot to be put off. "I wish to lie beside Brother Taylor and in his lot," he replied. The summer before he died, he again visited New Haven with Mrs. Beecher, and, as he said goodbye at the door, he pointed toward the cemetery without speaking. "Mrs. Taylor, he wishes to know if you are still willing that he should lie beside your husband," his wife explained. Mrs. Taylor assured him that she was, and, says Rebecca Hatch, "he went down the steps 'Twixt smiles and tears.'" During his last months Taylor was much on his mind.
Seating himself before his [Taylor's] portrait, Dr. Beecher would exclaim:
"Ah, why did Taylor die, and why do I live?" Again he would sit before it and weep, without a word. And when his mind was weakened by age, and other friends were forgotten, one would say: "Surely you remember Dr. Taylor," and he quickly replied, "Oh, yes, yes, Taylor, a part of me, a part of me."
A preacher all his life, Beecher in his desire to be buried beside Taylor indicated his wish to continue to preach even in death. He wanted to be buried "where it would do the most good," said Leonard Bacon in the funeral sermon, and he thought that New Haven was the place, for, said he, "the young men [the students] will come and see where Brother Taylor and I are buried, and it will do them good."
Beecher's request was granted, and the two men lie side by side in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven -- "a memorial both of their strong personal friendship and their agreement in theological opinions." But no doubt the most fitting memorials of these two men are the lectureships founded in their names, which provide a series of lectures on theology and preaching in the school they founded and fostered. In 1871 Mr. Henry W. Sage, of Brooklyn, New York, a member of Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church, contributed funds to found the Lyman Beecher Lectureship on Preaching in the Yale Divinity School. The stated purpose of the lectureship was to provide the students, "in addition to their general and professional studies, a course of practical instruction in the art of preaching, to be given by those actually engaged in the practice of it." In 1902 Rebecca (Mrs. Walter T.) Hatch, of Brooklyn, by a gift of five thousand dollars, created the Nathaniel W. Taylor Lectureship in Theology. These lectureships have been filled year after year by eminent preachers and theologians. And so the names of Beecher and Taylor continue to be a source of instruction and inspiration in the fields to which they devoted their lives.
Fittingly enough, Henry Ward Beecher was the Lyman Beecher lecturer for the first three years.
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