Evan's sketch of all religions abridged
NEW AND IMPROVED SERIES,
SKETCH OF ALL RELIGIONS
EXHIBITING A CONCISE VIEW OF THE
DIFFERENT SECTS AND DENOMINATIONS INTO
WHICH THE CHRISTIAN WORLD IS DIVIDED.
The great lesson which every sect, and every individual of every sect, ought to learn from the history of the Church, is Moderation. Want of genuine moderation towards those who differ from us in religious opinions seems to be the most unaccountable thing in the world.—Watson, Bishop of Landaff.
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SKETCH OF ALL RELIGIONS.
The Christian world is divided into denominations, each of which is discriminated by sentiments peculiar to itself. To delineate the nature, point out the foundation, and appreciate the tendency of every individual opinion, would be an endless task. My only design is briefly to enumerate the leading tenets of the several parties which attract our notice, and to make this variety of religious opinions a ground for the exercise of moderation, together with the improvement of other Christian graces. The moderation here recommended, lies at an equal distance between an indifference to truth and the merciless spirit of uncharitableness. It is a virtue much talked of, little understood, and less practised.
But before we delineate the tenets of the several parties, we shall just notice the Atheist and Deist, two descriptions of persons frequently confounded together, and also give a general outline of Paganism, Judaism, Mahometanism, and Christianity. These topics will form a proper introduction to an account of the sects and denominations of the religious world.
The Atheists do not believe in the existence of a God. They attribute surrounding nature and all its astonishing productions to chance, or a fortuitous concourse of atoms, and entirely renounce the opinion of a creating and superintending Providence.
The Deists believe in a God, but reject a written revelation from him. Their ideas of natural religion are extravagant, and differ much respecting its nature, extent, and obligation. There are four classes of Deists. The first are such as believe that God created the world, but that he has no concern in the government thereof. The second are those who believe in the being and providence of God, but deny that he takes any notice of the good or evil actions of men. The third class are those who believe that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another, without any further restoration or renovation of things. The fourth class of Deists are those who believe in the existence and providence of a supreme Being, and the obligations of natural religion, but so far only as these are discoverable by the light of nature alone, without the intervention of any divine revelation.
Under the term Pagan, are comprehended those nations who worship stocks or stones, idols or false gods; in other words, the whole heathen world.
The most cursory view of Paganism presents its striking features as essentially the same. Human sacrifices are the first and the most distinguishing of the horrible atrocities of the Pagans. The slavery and degradation of the female sex is another common feature, discoverable in all the domestic occupations and restrictions of heathen life, but chiefly in the dreadful sacrifice of wives upon the death of their husbands. Infanticide naturally follows. Another revolting trait is the murder of the aged, when unable to support themselves.
But the most inhuman feature of the Pagan is displayed in Cannibalism. This repulsive custom exists still upon the continent of Africa, in New Zealand, New Caledonia, and many of the South Sea Islands.
The regions where Paganism prevails are especially the dark places of the earth, the habitations of horrid cruelty; and it must be to Christians a lamentable truth, that of the whole population of the world, at least one-half is living in ignorance of the true God, degraded and debased by the absurdity idolatry, and immorality of heathenism.
Judaism is the religious doctrines and rites of the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, a person of eminence, chosen by God soon after the flood to preserve the doctrine of the divine unity among the idolatrous nations of the earth. А complete system of Judaism is contained in the five books of Moses, their great lawgiver, who was raised up to deliver them from their bondage in Egypt, and to conduct them to the possession of Canaan, the promised land.
The expectation of a Messiah is the distinguishing feature of their religious system. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, in whom all the Jewish prophecies are accomplished; but the Jews, infatuated with the idea of a temporal Messiah, who is to subdue the world, still wait for his appearance.
The Talmud is a collection of the doctrines and morality of the Jews. Their confession of faith consists of thirteen articles, and distinctly affirms the authenticity and genuineness of the books of Moses.
From the time of the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus, A. D. 70, the Jews have been without a common country—without a temple—without a sacrifice—without a prophet—and, as was predicted respecting them, have ever been "an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word," among all the nations whither the Lord hath scattered them.
Mahomet, the famous impostor and founder of this religion, was born in the year 570, at Mecca, a city of Arabia. Losing his father in his infancy, he was employed by his uncle to go with his caravans from Mecca to Damascus. In this occupation he continued till he was twenty-eight years of age, when, by marrying Khadijah, a rich widow, he became one of the wealthiest men in his native city.
A disposition to religious contemplation seems to have attended him from his early youth; and having remarked in his travels the great variety of sects which prevailed, he formed the design of forming a new one. He accordingly spent much of his time in a cave near Mecca, employed in meditation and prayer. With the assistance of two Christians and a Persian Jew, he framed the celebrated Koran or Alkoran, a book which he pretended to have received from heaven, by the hands of the angel Gabriel.
At the age of forty, he publicly assumed the prophetical character, calling himself the apostle of God. At first he had only nine followers, including his wife; but in three years the number was considerably increased.
A conspiracy having been formed against him in Mecca, he retreated to Medina. It is from this event, called the Hegira, or flight, that the Mussulmans compute their time; it corresponds with the 6th of June, 622.
From this period his affairs went on prosperously. Having declared his resolution to propagate the new faith by the sword, he added the hopes of booty to the religious zeal of his partisans; and having made himself master of Arabia, he extended his conquest into Syria. While engaged in this victorious career, a Jewess poisoned some food which was set before him, and of which he partook heartily. He died at Medina, in the sixty-third year of his age, of a fever, though he ascribed his death to the effects of the poison.
The religious system of Mahomet is a compound of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. The fundamental doctrine of the Koran is, "There is but one God, and Mahomet is his prophet;" but the impostor suited his subsidiary doctrines to the grosser propensities of our nature, and allured disciples by the promise of unbounded sensual gratification, not only in the present, but in the future state. The Koran is obviously founded on the Scriptures, but is blended with extravagant and blasphemous tales and dogmas.
After the death of Mahomet, his successors used every art of seduction, fraud, and violence, to diffuse his religion, so that in less than a century, it displayed its victorious banners over all Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor, Persia, Egypt, and the coasts of Africa, and is now zealously believed from the Ganges to the Atlantic, by fully a hundred and twenty millions of people.
Christianity, (to which Judaism was introductory,) is the last and more perfect dispensation of revealed religion. It was instituted by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who appeared in Judæa nearly two thousand years ago. He was born at Bethlehem, brought up at Nazareth, and crucified at Jerusalem. His lineage, birth, life, death, and sufferings, were minutely predicted by the Jewish prophets, and his religion is now spread over a considerable portion of the globe. The evidences of the Christian religion are comprised under historical testimony, prophecies, miracles, the internal evidence of its doctrines and precepts, and the rapidity of its first propagation among the Jews and the Gentiles. Though thinking men have in every age differed widely respecting some of the doctrines of this religion, yet they are fully agreed in the divinity of its origin, and in the benevolence of its tendency.
TRINITARIANS, ATHANASIANS, SABELLIANS.
The Trinitarian believes the doctrine of a Trinity, by which is generally understood, that there are three distinct persons in one undivided Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Trinitarians may be divided two classes:—those who believe there is no proper divinity in Christ, beside that of the Father; and the Tritheists, who maintain that there are three equal and distinct Gods.
Nearly allied to the latter class are the Athanasians, a name derived from Athanasius, a father of the Christian Church, who lived in the fourth century.
The Sabellian reduces the three persons in the Trinity to three characters or relations. This has been called a modal Trinity, and the persons who hold it Modalists. Sabellius, the founder of this sect, espoused the doctrine in the third century.
The Arian derives his name from Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who flourished about the year 315, and the propagation of whose doctrine occasioned the famous Council of Nice, assembled by Constantine in the year 325. Arius owned Christ to be God in a subordinate sense, and considered his death to be a propitiation for sin. The modern Arians acknowledge that the Son was the Word, though they deny its being eternal, contending that it had only been created prior to all other beings. According to the different degrees of dignity assigned by this sect to Christ, in his state of existence previous to his incarnation, do they receive the appellation high and low Arian.
SOCINIANS, OR UNITARIANS.
The Socinian takes his name from Faustus Socinus, an Italian, who died in Poland, 1604. There were two who bore the name Socinus, uncle and nephew, and both disseminated the same doctrine.
The followers of this sect assert that Christ had no existence until born of the Virgin Mary; and that, being a man like ourselves, though endowed with a large portion of the divine wisdom, the only objects of his mission were to teach the efficacy of repentance without an atonement, as a medium of the divine favour—to exhibit an example for our imitation—to seal his doctrine with his blood—and, in his resurrection from the dead, to indicate the certainty of our resurrection at the last day. The simple humanity of Christ, which forms a principal article of their creed, is held lay them in such an exclusive sense, that they have, on this account, sometimes received the appellation of Humanitarians.
But the Socinians have appropriated to themselves the appellation of Unitarians, and by this name they are now generally distinguished. The miraculous conception, and the worship of Christ, together with many other opinions propagated by the Socini, are, however, rejected by the modern Unitarians.
John Calvin, or Cauvin, after Luther, the most eminent of the religious reformers, was born at Noyon, in Picardy, 1509. He was educated for the Romish Church, in which he officiated a short time as curate, when he resigned his living, and attached himself to the profession of the law. He continued the study of divinity, however, and in his twenty-third year, having gone to Paris, he abandoned every secular pursuit, and consecrated himself to the service of God. Being accused of heresy, he was obliged to leave the kingdom, and saved himself from persecution by retiring to Basil in Switzerland.
In 1536, he was appointed professor of divinity in Geneva. It was here he laboured so zealously in establishing the Reformation, and succeeded in causing the senate and people openly to abjure the Church of Rome, and swear to a summary of doctrine and discipline, which recognized the Presbyterian form of church government.
The death of Servetus is a deep and lasting stain on the character of this eminent reformer. While vindicating the liberty of conscience, he so far forgot his own principles, and the behests of the gospel, as to consign to the flames the unfortunate Socinian.
Calvin's writings are very numerous, his principal work being "The Christian Institute." He died at Geneva, 24th May, 1564.
The Calvinist adheres to the doctrines which Calvin promulgated at Geneva. These, which are termed the five points, are Predestination, Original Sin, Particular Redemption, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. The most prominent feature of this system is the election of some, and the reprobation of others, from all. The Assembly's Catechism, the Confession of Faith, and Calvin's Institutes, contain a just account of the religious opinions of this body of Christians.
Calvinists form no particular distinct society, but are found among various denominations of Christians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Independents. It is the creed of the Established Church of Scotland, and of the Seceders; the doctrine of the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England; it is also acknowledged by the Dutch legalized churches; and by the generality of the Presbyterians in America.
The Arminian favours the tenets of Arminius, an eminent professor of divinity at Leyden, who flourished about the year 1600. Thinking the doctrine of Calvin with regard to free-will, predestination, and grace, directly contrary to the mild and amiable perfections of the Deity, he adopted sentiments more nearly resembling those of the Lutherans than of the Calvinists.
His tenets include the five following propositions: 1st, That God has not fixed the future state of mankind by an absolute, unconditional decree, but determined from all eternity to bestow salvation on those whom he foresaw would believe faithfully in Jesus Christ, and to inflict punishment on those who should continue in their unbelief. 2d, That Christ by his death and sufferings, made atonement for the sins of all mankind, but that those only who believe in him shall be partakers of this divine benefit. 3d, That mankind are not totally depraved, and that mortality and natural evil only are the direct consequences to posterity of Adam's sin. 4th, That there is no such thing as irresistible grace. And, 5th, That those who are united to Christ by faith, may fall from their faith, and forfeit finally their state of grace.
This striking opposition to the doctrines of Calvin, caused Arminius and his followers to be much persecuted, and in 1611, they presented to the States General a Remonstrance, stating their grievances and praying for relief, since which time they have been known by the name of Remonstrants.
The Baxterian strikes into a middle path, between Arminianism and Calvinism, and thus endeavours to unite both schemes. With the Calvinist he professes to believe that a certain number, determined upon in the divine councils, will be infallibly saved; and with the Arminian he joins in rejecting the doctrine of reprobation; admits that Christ, in a certain sense, died for all, and supposes that such a portion of grace is allowed to every man, as renders it his own fault if he doth not attain to eternal life.
The name of this sect is derived from Richard Baxter, an eminent non-conformist divine of the seventeenth century, who espoused this doctrine, and defended it by his great learning and talents in controversy.
The favourite tenet of the Antinomian, as his name implies, is, that the law is not a rule of life to believers. This position seems to carry the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, and of salvation by faith without works, to such extremes as to injure, if not wholly destroy the very obligation of moral obedience.
The sect of Antinomians sprung up in England during the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, but the original founder was Agricola, a disciple of Luther. Some of their teachers maintained, as one of the essential and distinctive characters of the elect, that they cannot do any thing displeasing to God, or prohibited by the law.
In Germany and other parts of the continent, there are many Antinomians who condemn the moral code as a rule of life, and yet profess a strict regard for the interests of practical religion.
The Papists are so denominated from their leading tenet—the infallibility and supremacy of the Pope. By the infallibility of the Pope is understood that he cannot err in ecclesiastical matters; and by his supremacy is meant his authority over all the churches. The Roman Catholics, or Papists, profess to believe, 1st, In seven sacraments—baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, or the anointing the sick in the prospect of death, orders, and matrimony. With respect to the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper, they hold the doctrine of transubstantiation, or that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ; the paying divine worship to the host or consecrated wafer, and the allowing communion only in one kind, viz., bread, to the laity. 2d, In works of supererogation, or that the good works of saints are meritorious enough to supply the deficiency of others. 3d, In the celibacy, or single life of the clergy. 4th, In the worship of images and sacred relics. And, 5th, In the celebration of divine service in an unknown tongue. On the second article of their creed, enumerated above, is founded their doctrine of Indulgences, the sale of which, by a Dominican friar in the sixteenth century, eventually brought about the Reformation. Many of the adherents of Popery, in the present day, reject some of the above tenets, and especially the supremacy of the Pope, distinguishing themselves by the name of Catholic Dissenters.Among the Roman Catholics there are to be found several monastic orders, such as the Augustines, the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, &c., and also a variety of sects, such as the Jesuits, the Jansenists, the Molinists, and others, some of whom were sects of celebrity.
The Greek, or Russian Church, which now spreads itself over the eastern parts of Europe, is very ancient, and bears a considerable resemblance to the Church of Rome. Denying, however, the infallibility and supremacy of the Pope, they are in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Amongst other articles of belief, they are distinguished for these three:—1. The rejection of images. 2. The doctrine of consubstantiation, or the union of the body of Christ with the sacramental element. 3. The administration of baptism, by immersing the whole body in water.
The Greek Church equals that of Rome in the number of ceremonies, festivals, and superstitious customs. The Russians have likewise a great number of abstinences, or fasts, and among the rest four lents annually.
Under the appellation of Protestants, we include all who dissent from Popery, in whatever country they reside, or into whatever sects they have been since distributed. Abroad they are divided into two sorts—the Lutherans, who adhere to Luther's tenets; and the Reformed, who follow the dissipline of Geneva. They were called Protestants, because, in 1529, they protested against a decree of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and declared that they appealed to a general council. At present this vast class comprehends those whom Papists used contemptuously to style Hugonots in France; Refugees in Holland, who fled thither upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantz, 1684; the Presbyterians in Scotland; the Episcopalians and Non-conformists in England; together with a numerous body of Christians in America.
Martin Luther, the great reformer of the Church, was born in 1483 at Eisleben, in Prussian Saxony. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the school of Magdeburg, from which he removed to Eisenach, and thence to the university of Erfurt. He was destined by his father for the legal profession but the impression produced on him by the fate of his friend Alexis, who was struck dead by lightning while walking by his side, induced him to devote himself to the monastic life, and he entered the monastery of Augustines in 1505. Two years afterwards he was constituted priest, and in 1508 was made professor of philosophy in the university of which lay unheeded by his brethren, a Latin copy of the Bible. This he studied with intense eagerness, and soon began to inculcate its doctrines. His profound learning, and the fame of his eloquence, drew the attention of the most eminent scholars, and rendered him a powerful advocate of the new light which was breaking upon the world. Great, therefore, was the sensation excited in 1517 by his ninety-five propositions, openly impugning the doctrine of Indulgences.. While in the monastery Luther found a treasure
Being called upon by many of the German nobility to defend the new doctrine, he presented himself at the diet of Worms, April, 1521, where he made an elaborate defence before the emperor, and a vast assemblage of the princes and prelates of Germany. After this he was concealed for nine months in the castle of Wirtemberg, which he called his Patmos, and then returned to, where he published a sharp reply to Henry VIII., who had written a book against him on the seven sacraments. In 1524 he married a nun, by whom he had three sons. Luther's greatest work, a translation of the whole Bible into the vulgar tongue, was given to the world in 1534. At length, worn out more by labour than age, this illustrious man died at his native place, 1546; having lived to see that his doctrines had taken such deep root, that no earthly power could eradicate them.
The Lutherans, of all Protestants, differ least from the Romish Church, as they affirm that the body and blood of Christ are materially present in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, though in an incomprehensible manner; they likewise represent some religious rites and institutions, as the use of images in churches, the distinguishing vestments of the clergy, the private confession of sins, the use of wafers in the administration of the Lord’s Supper, the form of exorcism in the celebration of baptism, and other ceremonies of the like nature as tolerable, and some of them useful. The Lutherans maintain that the divine decrees respect the salvation or misery of men, in consequence of a previous knowledge of their sentiments and characters, and not as free and unconditional, and as founded on the mere will of God, which is the tenet of the Calvinists.
The appellation Hugonots, was given to the French Protestants in 1561. During the reign of Charles the Ninth, in 1572, happened the massacre of Bartholomew, when 70,000 Protestants throughout France were butchered, in circumstances of aggravated cruelty. The famous Edict of Nantz, which secured to the Protestants the free exercise of their religion, was passed in 1598. It was revoked by Louis the Fourteenth. Their churches were then razed to the ground; and after the loss of innumerable lives, 50,000 of them were driven into exile. Many fled to Holland, where they built several places of Worship, and had amongst them some distinguished preachers.
The Episcopalians, in the modern acceptation of the term, belong more especially to the Church of England, and to its off-shoots, the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and of America. They insist on the divine origin of the office of bishops and other church officers.
The Church of England broke off from the Romish Church in the time of Henry VIII., when Luther had begun the Reformation in Germany. In early life, and during the first few years of his reign, Henry was a bigoted Papist; and having written a book against Luthier, in defence of the seven sacraments, the Pope honoured him with the title, Defender of the Faith. Henry, afterwards falling out with the Pope, took the government of ecclesiastical affairs into his own hands; and having reformed many enormous abuses, entitled himself Supreme Head of the Church.
The doctrines and discipline of the Episcopal Church are nearly connected with the reformation of Luther in Germany; the thirty-nine articles of their faith in the Book of Common Prayer, were established in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The Church of England is governed by the king or queen, who is the supreme head; by two archbishops, and by twenty-five bishops, who have each a seat and vote in the House of Peers. The Established Church of Ireland is the same as that of England, and is governed by four archbishops and eighteen bishops. It sends four spiritual lords to the British Parliament.
Dissenters from the Church of England made their first appearance in Queen Elizabeth's time, when, on account of the extraordinary purity which they proposed in religious worship and conduct, they were reproached with the name of Puritans. By the Act of Uniformity passed in 1662, in the reign of Charles the Second, two thousand ministers were obliged to quit the Established Church, refusing to conform to certain conditions, whence they were called Non-conformists. Their descendants are known by the name of Protestant Dissenters, and rank under the three denominations of Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists.
The principles on which the Dissenters separated from the Church of England, may be summarily comprehended in these three:—1. The right of private judgment. 2. Liberty of conscience. And, 3. The perfection of Scripture the only rule of faith and practice.
KIRK OF SCOTLAND.
The Presbyterian form of church government adopted in Scotland, was brought thither from Geneva by John Knox, the celebrated Scottish reformer, and who has been styled the apostle of his country, for the same reason that Luther was called the apostle of Germany.
Contrary to the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians maintain that the Church should be governed by Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies. In the Kirk of Scotland there are fifteen synods and sixty-nine presbyteries. Their articles and creed are Calvinistic, and their General Assembly is held annually in the month of May at Edinburgh.
THE REFORMED SYNOD.
This body represents the adherents of Presbytery when that form of church government was in its purest state, as finally settled at the second Reformation in 1649. They were reproached with a variety of titles, as Whigs, Cameronians, Mountain-men, &c. &c. The name by which they are now commonly known is Cameronians, from the Rev. Richard Cameron, who fell at Airsmoss, in Kyle, 1680; or Covenanters, from adhering to that famous bond of union.
At the Revolution, 1688, they were deserted by their pastors, who chose to comply with the principles of the times, and own an authority in the Church which the more strict covenanting people believed to be a sinful compliance. Patronage in any shape they resisted; and although they allowed the right of Christian magistrates to hold a place in Christian Churches, according to the covenant, they would not submit to what they believed to be an undue or Erastian interference. They continued for some time without regular ministers, but in 1743, they constituted a Presbytery in the name of Christ, the alone King and Head of his Church, under the title of the Reformed Presbytery. There are altogether thirty-five congregations in this connection, which is now called Synod, from the increase of their numbers.
The numerous body of Dissenters from the Church of Scotland, who bear this name, originated under two brothers, Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, about the year 1730. The causes of the secession were many, differences both in doctrine and discipline. The Seceders accused the National Church of retaining in her bosom ministers who favoured the scheme of Arminius, and who were lax and defective in their parochial duties—of imposing upon the people pastors to whom they were totally averse—of directly supporting the system of patronage—and of tyrannical conduct to those who wished to revert to the primitive practice of the Scottish Church.
Through a difference as to civil matters, they divided into two parties, Burghers and Anti-burghers. These have again been united, and form one body, under the title of the United Associate Synod, consisting of twenty-two presbyteries, with upwards of three hundred congregations.
There are, besides these, two divisions of Seceders, who remain separate, chiefly differing from their brethren with regard to the power of the civil magistrate in religious matters, and the binding obligation of the covenants. The first style themselves the Associate Synod of Original Seceders, which consists of four Presbyteries, and has under its inspection thirty-three congregations; the other, the Original Burgher Associate Synod, six Presbyteries, with fifty-one congregations.
The Seceders adhere rigidly to the tenets of Calvin, and are rather austere in their manners and discipline.
This section of Presbyterians in Scotland owed its origin to the violent intrusion of ministers contrary to the inclinations of the people. In 1752, Mr. Thomas Gillespie, minister of Carnock, having absented himself from the induction of an obnoxious presentce to Inverkeithing, was deposed from the office of the holy ministry by the General Assembly. Some years afterwards, Mr. Gillespie was joined by Mr. Boston, minister of Oxnam, and in 1761, these two formed themselves into a Presbytery, under the name of Relief. They soon received an accession of numbers, and continued steadily to increase. They lately joined the Seceders, and both are called the United Presbyterian Church.
This appellation is appropriated to a large denomination of dissenters from Episcopacy, although they have no attachment to Presbytery as established in Scotland. Their mode of church government is the same as that of the Independents; but they differ from that sect in being less attached to Calvinism, and consequently admitting a greater latitude of religious sentiment.
The first Independent or Congregational Church in England, was established by a Mr. Jacob, in the year 1616. The Independents deny not only the subordination of the clergy, but also all dependency on other assemblies. Every congregation (say they) has in itself what is necessary for its own government, and is not subject to other churches, or to their deputies. It is this independency of one church with respect to another that has given rise to the appellation Independents, though the same form of church government is adopted by the Dissenters in general.
The Baptists are distinguished from other denominations respecting the mode and subject of Baptism. They contend that this ordinance should be administered by immersion only, and those alone who profess their belief in the Christian religion, and their determination of regulating their lives by its precepts. Some of them allow mixed communion, by which is understood, that those who have not been baptized by immersion on the profession of their faith, (but in their infancy, which they themselves deem valid,) may sit down at the Lord's table along with those who have been thus baptized. There are two great classes of Baptists, the general, who are Arminians, and the particular, who profess Calvinistic principles.
In the year 1797, when the scheme of missions to heathen lands was strongly advocated, the question being often tauntingly asked by opposers, "Have we no heathens at home?" it occurred to some individuals to give a practical answer; and accordingly three laymen set out from Edinburgh upon an itinerancy to the North of Scotland, to preach and distribute tracts. Robert Haldane of Airthry, having sold his estate, promoted the project with great zeal and liberality, and built tabernacles of great size at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, &c. The places of worship thus opened were conducted upon the principles of free communion, and a regular communication with the English Independent ministers. The success was amazing, but short-lived; for Mr. Haldane soon after changed his views, and a separation took place; one party continuing attached to him, till they became insulated from all other Christian societies, and are now a kind of nondescript Baptists.
The great majority, however, retained their original sentiments, and have lately formed themselves into a Congregational Union of Independent Churches. Their tenets are Calvinistic, but they have no formal confession of faith. Their infants are baptized, and the ordinance of the Lord's Supper is administered the first day of every week. In religious matters they own no authority but that of the Word of God, but in civil affairs they believe it to be the duty of Christians to submit to the powers that be. The total number of churches in the connection is eighty-two.
FRIENDS, OR QUAKERS.
George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, was born at Drayton, Leicestershire, in 1624. He appears to have been of a thoughtful and serious turn from his youth, and at the age of nineteen, having persuaded himself that he had received a divine command to devote himself solely to religion, he forsook his relations, and wandered about from place to place, leading a life of itinerancy, in which he fasted much, and walked abroad in retired places, studying the Bible. In 1648, he began to propagate his opinions, and commenced public preacher. At Derby his followers were first called Quakers, from their tremulous manner of delivery. He was repeatedly imprisoned by the country magistrates for his frequent interruption of ministers while performing divine service. In 1666, he was liberated from prison by order of Charles II., and immediately commenced to form his followers into a distinct and united society. His efforts were attended with great success; and in the course of a few years, meetings of Friends were established in almost every part of England, and in many places in Scotland and Ireland.
The Society of Friends advocate the principle, that human learning, though highly valuable in itself, is altogether insufficient to make a minister of the gospel; and that the gift of publicly preaching or praying ought never to be exercised except under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. Hence, when they assemble for worship, if they believe this gift is not called forth into exercise by the great Head of the Church, they continue during the whole time of their meeting in silence. The work of the ministry devolves on the women as well as on the men, the Society considering it the sole prerogative of Christ to call into his service whomsoever he sees meet for it.
In some matters of a moral and practical nature, Friends have adopted a line of conduct different from that pursued by other Christians; as in refraining from all use of oaths, not only on trifling occasions, but even in courts of justice; in refusing to kneel before kings and governors, and to take off the hat in honour of man; in addressing single individuals by pronouns in the singular number; and giving numerical names to the months and days of the week, objecting to those in common use as being mostly derived from the names of heathen deities. They are also distinguished by the plainness and uniformity of their dress, as they entirely disregard the changeable fashions of the world in this respect. They consider themselves enjoined, by the great moral code, under every circumstance to suffer wrong rather than to avenge it, and to abstain from all participation in warfare, whether offensive or defensive.
The Society of Friends believe that the baptism of Christ, (which is by the Holy Ghost,) and a participation by faith in his body and blood, are essential to membership in his Church, and to the salvation of the soul; but they disuse the outward ceremonies of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper as now practised among Christians, believing that they do not correspond with the spirituality of true worship.
They likewise believe in the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; in the incarnation of the Son, and the atonement made by him on the cross for the sins of all men; in his resurrection, ascension, and supreme government; in the immortality of the soul, and resurrection of the body; in the future glorious appearing of Jesus Christ; and in the final and universal judgment of quick and dead.
This numerous sect sprung up at Oxford in 1739. In November of that year, John Wesley, and his younger brother Charles, with a few other students at the University, formed themselves into a small sociсty, for the purpose of mutual edification in religious exercises. So singular an association excited considerable notice; and among other names bestowed upon the members, that of Methodists was applied to them, from the exact regularity of their lives. Their numbers continued gradually to increase; and, in the year 1735, they were joined by the celebrated George Whitfield. The Society professed an attachment to the articles and liturgy of the Established Church, but adopted the mode of worship which prevails among the Dissenters. Whitfield and the Wesleys being excluded from the pulpits in many churches, took to preaching in the fields, until spacious meeting-houses were built for them in London, Bristol, and other places.
In the year 1741, these leaders having differed on account of the doctrine of election, the Methodists separated into two parties; one section adhering to Mr. Whitfield, who contended for particular redemption; the other to the Wesleys, who were for universal redemption: the former being Calvinists, the latter Arminians. Many of the Wesleyan preachers, however, incline to Baxterianism.
The distinguishing principles of Methodism are,—Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ; perceptible, and, in some cases, instantaneous conversion; and an assurance of reconciliation to God, with which, they say, the new birth is inseparably attended.
In the year 1797, a number of the followers of Mr. Wesley separated themselves from the great body of the sect, and formed what is called the New Methodist Connection. They accuse the original Methodists of having constituted a hierarchy or priestly corporation, and have thus deprived the people of those privileges which, as members of a Christian Church, they were entitled to. The New party profess to have promoted the union of ministers and people as much as possible, by establishing their church government on popular principles. They do not differ in their doctrines from the Wesleyan Methodists.
This singular practice of jumping during the time allotted for religious worship, originated among the Methodists in Wales, about the year 1760. Soon after this period, some of the more zealous itinerant preachers began to recommend groaning, and loud talking, as well as loud singing, repeating the same line or stanza over and over thirty or forty times; and even went so far as to encourage the people to put themselves in violent agitation, and finally to jump till they were quite exhausted, and unable to move. It is some consolation to real religion to add, that this unbecoming practice has greatly declined, and it is to be hoped, has been abandoned for a more reasonable service.
The Universalists, properly so called, are those who believe, that as Christ died for all, so, before he shall have delivered up his mediatorial kingdom to the Father, all shall be brought to a participation of the benefits of his death, in their restoration to holiness and happiness. Their scheme includes a reconciliation of the tenets of Calvinism and Arminianism, by uniting the leading doctrines of both, as far as they are found in the Scriptures: from which union they think the sentiment of universal restoration naturally flows.
Between the system of restoration, and that of endless misery, a middle hypothesis of the final destruction of the wicked, (after being punished according to their guilt,) has been advocated by many persons distinguished for their erudition and piety. They say that the Scripture positively asserts this doctrine of destruction; that the nature of future punishment (which in the Bible is termed death) determines the meaning of the words, everlasting, eternal, for ever, &c., as denoting endless duration; that the deliverance of the wicked, after receiving a punishment apportioned to their crimes, is an act of absolute justice; and finally, that of the mediatorial kingdom of Jesus Christ, there shall be no end.
The Sabbatarians are a body of Christians who keep the seventh day as the Sabbath, and are to be found principally, if not wholly, among the Baptists. The common reasons why Christians observe the first day of the week as the Sabbath, are, that on this day Christ rose from the dead; that the apostles assembled, preached, and administered the Lord's Supper; and it has been kept by the Church for several ages, if not from the time when Christianity was originally promulgated. The Sabbatarians, however, think these reasons unsatisfactory; and assert that the Scripture doth nowhere require the observation of any other day of the week for the Sabbath but the seventh day only. There are two congregations of this sect in London, and it is said they are numerous in America.
The Millenarians are those who believe that Christ will reign personally on earth for a thousand years; their name having a direct allusion to the duration of this spiritual empire. The doctrine of the Millennium has always retained a number of adherents both in ancient and modern times; and several eminent divines have advanced different opinions respecting the nature and duration of this paradisiacal state. But, however the Millenarians may differ regarding this great event, it is very generally believed that such a revolution will be effected in the latter days, as will banish vice and its attendant misery from the earth, and terminate the grand drama of human affairs with Universal Felicity.
The Swedenborgians are the followers of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish nobleman, and philosophical enthusiast of the eighteenth century, now chiefly known as the founder of the New Jerusalem Church. His tenets, although peculiarly distinct from every other system of divinity in Christendom, appear to be drawn from the Holy Scriptures, and are supported by numerous quotations from them. He asserts, that in the year 1743, the Lord manifested himself to him in a personal appearance; and opened his spiritual eyes, so that he was enabled constantly to see and converse with spirits and angels. From that time he began to publish various wonderful things relating to heaven and hell, the several earths in the universe, and their inhabitants, with many other extraordinary particulars, the knowledge of which was, perhaps, never pretended to by any other writer.
Baron Swedenborg denies a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, but contends for a divine Trinity in the single person of Jesus Christ alone, consisting of a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He likewise denies the doctrine of atonement, or vicarious sacrifice, together with the doctrines of predestination, unconditional election, justification by faith alone, the resurrection of the material body, &c., and in opposition thereto maintains, that man is possessed of free will in spiritual things; that salvation is not attainable without repentance; and that man immediately on his decease, rises again in a spiritual body, in which he lives to all eternity, either in heaven or in hell, according to the quality of his past life.
It is further maintained by Swedenborg and his followers, that by the end of the world, or consummation of the age, is not signified the destruction of the world, but the end of the existing Christian Church, and that this last judgment actually took place in the spiritual world in the year 1757; from which era is dated the second advent of the Lord, and the commencement of a new church, which, they say, is meant by the new heaven and new earth in the Revelation, and the New Jerusalem thence descending.
The Swedenborgians use a liturgy, and instrumental, as well as vocal music in their public worship. They are numerous in England, Germany, and Sweden, and many of them are also to be found in America.
The Tractarians are a sect of recent origin in the Church of England, but whose principles have appeared from time to time, under various modifications, since the establishment of that church, and the settlement of its articles and formulas by Queen Elizabeth. The term Tractarian has been applied to them in consequence of the publication of their views in a series of pamphlets, entitled Tracts for the times. When these had reached the number of ninety, their authors issued one entitled "Remarks on Certain Passages in the Thirty-nine Articles," in which it is admitted that the tenor of the explanations is Anti-protestant. Indeed the obvious tendency of the "Tracts," appeared to be the establishment of as close an approximation to the Romish Church as could legally be tolerated within the pale of the Church of England. This opinion is amply borne out by many of those who held Tractarian views going over to the Church of Rome, while such as retain their livings adopt every means of showing how great importance they attach to external forms and ceremonies. Their teaching is characterized by extravagant views of the efficacy of the sacraments, of baptismal regeneration, and of the actual presence of Christ in the communion; while one of their chief writers look with favour on the celibacy of the clergy, and even on auricular confession and monastic vows; at the same time they claim for the clergy a spiritual power equal to the highest which the Church of Rome secured for its priesthood in the most ignorant of the middle ages.There was no further issue of the "Tracts for the Times," beyond number ninety; and that one, in which the whole force of the Articles of the Church was attempted to be subverted, has been withdrawn and nominally suppressed. Since then Dr. Pusey, one of the chief leaders of the new sect, and from whom it is frequently termed Puseyism, has been suspended from preaching for three years, and various other means have been adopted with a view to counteract the heretical tendency of these opinions.
Edward Irving, the founder of the religious sect which bears his name, was born at Annan, in Dumfriesshire, in the year 1792. After completing his studies at the university of Edinburgh, he was appointed teacher of Mathematics to an academy at Haddington, whence he removed to fill a similar situation in Kirkaldy. He continued there till the year 1819, when he came to Edinburgh with a determination of becoming a preacher of the gospel; and on Dr. Chalmers hearing him in the pulpit, he appointed him to be his colleague in St. John's Church, Glasgow. In 1823 he accepted a call to the chapel in the Caledonian Asylum, London, where those peculiar views were developed, which have given so much notoriety to his name. The force, eloquence, and novelty of style and manner of Mr. Irving, drew very large congregations to hear him; and for some time the highest circles of rank and title were to be found forming the bulk of his crowded audiences. The mysteries of the Apocalypse, and the most difficult portions of the prophetic writings became the favourite subjects of his discourse; new and startling doctrines were broached, the most prominent of which was, the sinfulness of Christ's human nature; and to this succeeded the claims to apostolic gifts among the leading members of his congregation.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland having pronounced his published works to be erroneous and heretical, he was deposed from the office of the ministry, along with several other preachers who had adopted the same opinions. A new church was immediately formed, in connexion with which congregations are to be found in most of the principal towns of the kingdom. The Irvingites have revived the names applied to the different office-bearers of the New Testament Church, having angels, prophets, teachers, and evangelists, among their members; and they encourage the exercise of apostolic gifts, such as speaking with tongues, and prophesying under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit. They believe the Millennium to be near at hand, and that Christ will reign personally on earth during that glorious period of universal peace and happiness.
The founder of this sect, Joseph Smith, jun., as he was called—born in 1805, was a digger for gold in America, previous his commencing public preacher and prophet. His followers are known by the name of Mormons, Mormonites, and Latter-day Saints. The first congregation was organized in 1831, and now, in less than twenty years, the sect numbers 30,000 people in Great Britain, and about five times that number in America. They are the principal inhabitants of a territory in the latter country, to which they have given the name of "Deseret," a word that occurs in their new Bible, or Book of Mormon, and which is said to signify a "honeybee."
They expect in a short time, by means of emigration from Great Britain, and by the gathering together of their people, to muster a sufficient number in Deseret, to claim formal admission into the American Union.
Hutchinsonians, the followers of John Hutchinson, born in Yorkshire, 1674, and who in the early part of life served the Duke of Somerset in the capacity of a steward. The Hebrew Scriptures, he says, comprise a perfect system of natural philosophy, theology, and religion. In opposition to Dr. Woodward's Natural History of the earth, Mr. Hutchinson, in 1724, published the first part of his curious book, called, Moses's Principia. Its second part was presented to the public in 1727, which contains, as he apprehends, the principles of the scripture philosophy, which are a plenum and the air. So high an opinion did he entertain of the Hebrew language, that he thought the Almighty must have employed it to communicate every species of knowledge, and that accordingly every species of knowledge is to be found in the Old Testament. Of his mode of philosophising the following specimen is brought forward to the reader's attention. "The air (he supposes) exists in three conditions, fire, light, and spirit, the two latter are the finer and grosser parts of the air in motion: from the earth to the sun, the air is finer and finer till it becomes pure light near the confines of the sun, and fire in the orb of the sun, or solar focus. From the earth towards the circumference of this system, in which he includes the fixed stars, the air becomes grosser and grosser till it becomes stagnant, in which condition it is at the utmost verge of this system; from whence (in his opinion) the expression of outer darkness, and blackness of darkness, used in the New Testament, seems to be taken."
The followers of Mr. Hutchinson are numerous, and among others the Rev. Mr. Romaine, Lord Duncan Forbes of Culloden, and the late amiable Dr. Horne, Bishop of Norwich, who published an Abstract of Mr. Hutchinson's writings. They have never formed themselves into any distinct church or society.