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§ 15. Unconditional Submission.
Various changes have been rung upon the phrase, willing to be damned.' As though our author insisted upon such willingness as essential to any well founded hope of salvation, it has been antithetically replied by others, all God requires is that men should be willing to be saved.' To this he would cordially have assented, with the simple qualification, that they must be willing to be saved on the terms of the Gospel. He neither believed nor assented, that any must be unconditionally willing to be lost. Submission to the will of God without stipulation or reserve, is by no means synonymous with an unconditional willingness to be banished forever from the presence of God. Nor does the former imply the latter. Father, thy will be done,' is the natural and comprehensive form in which genuine submission ever utters itself. A willingness to suffer any evil which the divine benevolence inflicts, and that not from love of the evil, but from love to God whose benevolence is thus expressed,' is both rational and scriptural. The will bowed in perfect submission to the great Sovereign, receives the severest chastisement as uncomplainingly as the slightest, because, in the one case and in the other, that sovereign is infinitely wise and superlatively amiable. He that cannot say from the heart, 'Not my will, but thine, O God, be done,' lacks the essential element of submission, and can have no satisfactory evidence that he is a Christian. No truth is of greater practical importance than this, that every person, in order to be saved, must be conditionally willing that God should dispose of him, for time and eternity, as shall contribute in the highest degree to his glory and the good of the universe." The sovereignty of God, resulting from his absolute supremacy, admits of no limitations."3 In dispensing evil, as in dispensing good, he is guided by his own wisdom and prompted by his own justice and goodness. To his will therefore, the submission of intelligent creatures must be without reserve. It must altogether approve of that sovereignty which is absolute and unlimited. The Judge of all the earth will do right and right only in all the diversities of his creative power, the allotments of his providence, and the discriminations of his grace. Therefore, every one should bow submissively before his throne, and cheerfully acquiesce in all the varieties of his agency. As God's sovereignty displays the concentrated glory of all his natural and moral perfections, it demands and should receive the cordial and unreserved submission of every being capable of knowing him.4
I Works, Vol. I. (Memoir) p 83.
3 lb. Vol. III. p. 123.
2 Ib. Vol. V. p. 288.
4 Ib. p. 120.
You may not be willing to accept all the statements which Dr. Emmons has made in some of his peculiar applications of this truth. You may affirm that he has in some instances gone to extremes, carrying the doctrine where it never was intended to be taken, and gathering around it a cluster of test questions which seem to intrude into the deep things of God and involve a willingness forever to suffer under the inflictions of his wrath. But who can deny his fundamental idea of submission, without involving himself in inextricable difficulties? The writer recollects often to have heard him say, 'If a man can sincerely adopt the prayer, Thy will be done, he exercises unconditional submission to the full extent I have taught it.'
We pass several points of interest, and come next to the constitutions, officers and ordinances of the
§ 16. Christian Church.
This is both visible and invisible; the former importing a society of visible saints, the latter comprehending all real saints. Visible saints are those who profess to be real saints, and such as Christian charity judges to be sincere and true.' That which constitutes a number of visible saints a proper church, is a mutual covenant.1 Where there is not a voluntary and reciprocal engagement between Christians to walk together in the commandments and ordinances of the Gospel, there is no church. Other things may be desirable; this is essential. A body of believers thus bound together by covenant engagements, is recognized by Christ as a visible church and is empowered by him to do all that is necessary for the order, harmony and prosperity of the whole body. It does not derive authority or power from the church universal, or from other churches, or from the clergy; but directly from Christ himself. 2 From him it has the right of admission, watchfulness and reproof, and discipline both by admonition and excision.3 The right to choose and install its own officers, without dictation from either ministers or other churches, is clearly, its own. A church thus formed and organized is in a condition to exercise every act of ecclesiastical power, according to the directions which Christ has given.4 Other ecclesiastical bodies are of human device. They may, or may not be invited, at the option of the church, to give advice in any emergency, but 'their advice is only advisory,' having no binding author
I Works' Vol. V. p. 445. 2 Ib. p. 446. 3 Ib. pp. 447, 448. 4 Ib. p. 450. * Dr. Emmons was far from being opposed to Councils, whether for the ordination and dismission of ministers, or for giving advice in cases of difficulty. He only objected to their action being considered as authoritative.
ity. This is the scriptural platform of church discipline, and admirably fitted to answer the ends of its ordainment. It is directly opposed to the Papacy, Episcopacy, and also to Presbyterianism. It makes every church the equal sister of every other church, and guarantees to every individual member his freedom and his rights. It recognizes no tribunal higher than the judgment of the church, when that judgment has been once fairly and definitely pronounced. There is no appeal to Presbytery, or Synod, or General Assembly, or House of Bishops, or to his holiness the Pope.
The Officers of the Church are Ministers and Deacons. These are chosen by the brethren, and ordained according to their will. The authority that elects and installs, can also set aside. The ministers of the churches may neither lord it over God's heritage,' nor claim official superiority over one another. They are brethren all one in Christ, and He their common head.
The Ordinances of the Church, are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism by affusion, or sprinkling is the only scriptural mode; 3 believers and their households are the proper subjects.4 The ordinance of the Lord's Supper is a standing memorial of Christ's death.'5 As such it is to be observed to the end of the world, or until he comes the second time without sin unto salvation. There were important reasons why the death of Christ in particular should be thus commemorated. It was the most striking scene ever witnessed in the universe; it was the strongest expression ever given of God's love to a sinful world; this alone made that great atonement whereby God can be just and yet justify the believer. It should be observed by all who love our Lord Jesus Christ, with reverence, humility, and the spirit of entire consecration to him who gave himself a ransom for them. It demands the most grateful affections towards the Father and the Son, and the renewal of that pledge by which the soul was first freely dedicated to the divine service.7
§ 17. Future Retribution.
The characters of men are formed in this life; rewards and punishments are to be justly meted out in the future. The souls of the righteous survive their bodies, and go directly to heaven.'s Those are in great error who believe that the soul sleeps in the intermediate
1 Works, Vol V p. 453. 2 Ib. p. 450. 5 Ib. p 504 Ib pp. 504-507.
3 Ib. p. 482 7 Ib. p. 508.
4 lb. pp. 482-495. 8 Ib. pp. 532-537.
state between the death and resurrection of the body. It lives, thinks, feels, enjoys or suffers. Departed saints are happy, and departed sinners unhappy. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance in that he raised him from the dead. Previous to this there will be a literal and general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.2 All things are preparing for that great day as fast as possible. The transactions of that day will be of the most solemn character;4 its decisions will be definitive and universal. 5 The punishment of the wicked will be eternal, as well as the happiness of the righteous.6 God will glorify himself in the final destruction of all his incorrigible enemies, and in the confirmed and ever increasing happiness of all who repent, and believe the Gospel of his Son.
The above is, at best, but a brief synopsis of Dr. Emmons's theological opinions. As far as it goes, however, it is believed to be impartial and correct. The more carefully it is examined, the more clearly will it be seen to correspond, in all its essential parts, with the grand system of revealed truth which has been taught in the evangelical churches by their ablest and most revered divines. The greatness of Dr. Emmons does not consist solely, or mainly, in his peculiarities. That he was an advocate for the utmost freedom and independence of thought; that he fearlessly followed his first principles to all their legitimate conclusions, no matter how bold or startling they were; in a word, that he had his mental idiosyncrasies, and stood before the world in the freedom and strength of his own individuality; there is no disposition, as there is no occasion to deny.
Some of his speculations indeed, have been considered as contradictory to sound philosophy and the spirit of revelation. But it has been found much easier to make an assertion to this effect, than to prove it. They who have studied him sufficiently to master the first principles of his reasoning, have been deeply interested to see these principles carried through all his discussions, and gratified to observe the symmetry and beauty they have imparted to his whole system of theology. He was accustomed to say to young clergymen, Be careful not to cross your own track. To avoid this, take first principles as guides.' He had this criterion of a consistent and consecutive reasoner, that the mutual harmony of his theories becomes the more apparent whenever we examine the processes by which he
arrived at them, and the peculiar relations which subsisted between them in his own mind.1
By some it has been questioned whether he made any discoveries of value in theological science, or has any just claim to originality. It would seem as though such questioners could not have made themselves acquainted with his works. A man may be original in two ways; first in the discovery of new truths, and secondly, in harmonizing old truths by presenting them in new relations. One of the most distinguished divines of our day has said, that it is glory enough for one man to have presented and applied the "Exercise scheme" as Dr. Emmons has done.' The Editor of his works truly remarks,
"By common consent, the Exercise Scheme' is his. He not only believed with others, that much of the sin and holiness of men consists in their voluntary affections, but that all of it does; and this principle he carried out in all its bearings upon the subject of human depravity, the connection of Adam with his posterity, the doctrine of regeneration, the free agency and accountability of man, and the government of God." 2
It is not so much, however, in the discovery of new truths, that Dr. Emmons exhibits originality as in more clearly elucidating and more harmoniously arranging the old. From many an old process of reasoning he has eliminated the illogical and unsound, and given us a result at once clear and reliable. Points which were obscure before, he has made plain; and propositions which involved apparent contradiction, as previously stated and defended, have been freed by him from so heavy an incumbrance, and made to lie side by side in loving harmony.3 He always had an eye upon what he called the 'joints' of a discussion. From what does this come?' To what will this lead?' were questions which he asked and answered with great care, at every step of his progress in a train of reasoning. His estimate of a theologian was always graduated by the greater or less readiness and precision with which he could hit the joint' of a controversy.
This article may be unsatisfactory to some, because it does not give sufficient prominence to those points in which Dr. Emmons differed from others. They had formed the opinion that he was a sort of theological monster; that he made every thing of a few of the sterner doctrines of Christianity, and left those of a more practical bearing
I Works, Vol. I. p. 153. (Reflections of a visitor). 2 Ib. p. 78. (Memoir.) 3 Ib. p. 82.