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VIEWS IN THEOLOGY.
It gives me pleasure to express the confidence which I feel in the christian integrity of this court. It is possible for man to be so biased by interest, or Swayed by passion, or bound by party, as to supersede the vision of evidence, or its efficacy, when it is
But no member of this court has, I trust, placed himself in this predicament. Is there one of you who would be sorry, should the evidence of my innocence be made to appear; who would not rejoice, should he find his suspicions allayed, and his fears averted ? Is there a man in this court who would not as soon cut his hand off, as to lift it against me contrary to his honest convictions? Would any thing be more grateful to your heart, than to see the court united in the acquittal of Dr. Wilson and myself, and all of us united in building up the cause of Christ in the West?
You are aware, however, that integrity of purpose does not guaranty infallibility of judgment; and that rumors, and suspicions, and prejudgment from ex parte hearsay testimony, which have no place in the decisions of this tribunal, are extremely apt, through human imperfection, to thrust themselves in the
Judgment not infallible.
The Church bound to be kind.
scales, and bias seriously the judgment. This perverting influence of preconceived opinion, formed upon testimony disallowed by law, is so common and so powerful, that in criminal cases in civil courts, no man is permitted to sit in judgment who has formed an opinion touching the merits of the case. In ecclesiastical trials for heresy at the present time, there is a peculiar liability to the evil bias of a prejudgment, when accusations long and loud have filled the land, and roused suspicion, and created panic, and undermined confidence, and multiplied aggression and exasperation, and brought on the symptoms in our church of an approaching dissolution. Zeal for the truth, and divided responsibility of numbers, and the fear of suspicion of heresy, if any falter, may embolden men to act upon impressions made by testimony out of court which is not entitled to the weight of a straw. It is this extrajudicial evidence, without the forms of the law, which is invading the life and reputation of our citizens, and shaking the foundations of our republic.
This summary justice, should it enter the church, would annihilate all protection against prejudice and passion, and perpetrate injustice as much more detestable than civil outrage, as the church is bound by a special obligation to be kind, and unimpassioned, and impartial; and whenever the time comes that innocence and evidence are no guarantee of a minister's reputation in the church, the day of her dissolution is at the door.
I have no disposition to interrogate the members
Local phraseology, no evidence of heresy. of this Synod, whether they have formed an opinion | touching the merits of this appeal. But you, breth
ren, have a right to ask your own heart how it is, and to watch and pray that you do not permit a kind of evidence to prevail, which all laws, human and divine, reject, as tending to anarchy and despotism.
I have only to request, then, that you will not decide this appeal on the ground of any impressions from biases or prejudices produced out of court. It is here, by evidence to be produced in court, under the guardianship of our excellent system of discipline and laws of evidence, that you will enlighten your understandings and decide.
You will be careful not to ascribe to mę opinions which I never believed or taught, because I may have employed language, in another part of the church, which, to ears unaccustomed to it, may seem erroneous. If there be, at the same time, an obvious meaning in accordance with truth and my own declarations, charity and equity alike forbid that I should be denied the benefit and meaning I claim, and be made answerable for that which I disclaim and abhor.
You will by no means hold me guilty in propagating opinions which you yourselves hold and teach, though from difference of location and education we may
differ a little in the terms employed to explain and enforce them.
Especially will you be careful that you do not convict me of heresy for opinions I have never avowed, and have always disclaimed, and of which there is no evidence but suspicion, in or out of court
Avowed and proved opinions should be the ground of decision. -merely upon the apprehension that all is not outthat something is covered and kept back, which, if I am spared, will by and by come out and punish the church. Most assuredly I have no concealed heresies. I hold no opinions which I do not avow. All IS OUT. I am determined to be understood, length and breadth, and from top to bottom. If my doctrinal belief is adverse to the Confession of Faith, as immemorially explained, I am not only not reluctant to go out of the Presbyterian church, but I am determined not to stay in it.
Finally, you will be careful to decide on the ground of my opinions avowed and proved, and not on the ground of my suspected affinities with the assumed heresies of other men. I have refused always to be made accountable for the language or opinions of other men.
For my own statements I am accountable. They are the symbols of my faith-whatever accords with them I admit, and whatever differs from them, I disclaim as having anything to do with my creed or teaching.
The comprehensive charge against me is, that I hold and teach Pelagian and Arminian doctrines, in respect to the subject of Free Agency, and Accountability, Original Sin, Total Depravity, Regeneration and Christian Character, contrary to the Confession, and the word of God.
I COMMENCE with the subject of Free Agency, or the Natural Ability of man, as the foundation of obligation and moral government.
I begin with this first, because it is, as Dr. Wilson has said, “the hinge of the whole controversy.' This is eminently true. It is the different theories of free agency and accountability which have, in all ages, agitated the church. There is not a discussion about doctrine, at this time, in the Presbyterian church, which does not originate in discrepant opinions respecting the created constitutional powers of man as a free agent, and the grounds of moral obligation and personal accountability. Settle the philosophy of free agency-what are the powers of a free agent?-how they are put together, and how they operate in personal accountable actionand controversy among all the friends of Christ will cease. It has been often said, that it never can be settled. I believe no such thing. The perplexities of the schoolmen are passing away, and the symptoms of approximation to an enlightened and settled opinion among all evangelical denominations are beginning to appear. I have no discoveries to