Wednesday, 27 August 2014


To the Editor of the Examiner. Sir.--I was rather amused at the attempt of Mr. Stokes to smother up the hetrodoxy of the above-named distinguished clergyman. If Mr. Beecher, after speaking, writing, and acting, as he has been doing of late, can be allowed to remain in the Congregational Church as an "orthodox Christian minister," it is a very significant sign of the times. In his article on " The Progress of Thought in the Church," in the North American Review, he says—" To admit the truth of evolution is to yield up the reigning theology; it is to change the whole notion of man's origin, the theory of sin, the structure of moral government as taught in the dominant theologies of the Christian world, the fall of man in Adam, the doctrine of original sin, the nature of sin, and the method of atoning for it. The decrees of God as set forth in the Confession of Faith and the machinery supposed to be set at work for man's redemption, the very nature and disposition of God, as taught in the falsely called Pauline, but really Augustinian theology—popularly known as Calvinistic—must give way. Even if the great truth of evolution led to unbelief, it could not be so bad as that impious and malignant representation of God and His Government which underlies all medieval and most of modern theology." And in a sermon which has been printed Mr. Beecher says:—
" There is a growing impression among eminent private thinkers throughout our community that Christianity is losing its hold upon men, and that the Church is a waning power. The discourses which are preached concerning doubt and infidelity show this. In the first place, and upon a general view, I think there can be no doubt that the drift of educated thought in science, in art, and in philosophy is away from church life.  .  .  .  . The Church and its ordinances no longer hold the respect and veneration which were once felt in regard to them. That there are millions who look upon the Church with affection, veneration, and superstition even, cannot he denied, but that these feelings are passing away from the distinctively educated classes of Christendom I suppose no one who has made himself acquainted with the facts would care to deny. Then, again, there has been a wandering, a drifting, an uncertainty among Christian teachers. The sermons that are preached today are as unlike the sermons that were preached in my childhood as it is well possible to conceive. The pulpit is changed, showing that it has consciously or unconsciously sympathised with the wants of men. There are thousands of men in our churches who, from one cause or another, listen to sound orthodox preaching every Sunday for a score of years, and do not believe a word of it."
Now my sympathies have always been with Congregationalism, but if a person can publicly express views like the above without giving offence, I shall for the future feel more kindly still towards this system.
Besides, Mr. Beecher speaks in glowing terms of Colonel Ingersoll, who is denounced by the Church as the "most virulent of infidels," publicly shook hands with him, said he considered him " one of the greatest men of the age," and that he "admired Ingersoll because he is not afraid to speak what he honestly thinks." If Mr. Stokes is really quoting from a paper the views of Mr. B., re the atonement, there must be a mistake somewhere. In several papers I have read that "he does not believe in original sin, nor in the orthodox hell, nor in the atonement, but he does in a personal God and in the divinity of Christ." Referring to the affair the New York Times says:—"It is the judgment of one of the most important Congregational Associations in the country that a minister can deny the infallibility of the Scriptures, reject the orthodox doctrine of the fall and the atonement, and scoff at the doctrine of eternal punishment, and yet be entitled to membership in any Congregational Association." And the Commonwealth says—" The fact that a great heretic like Mr. Beecher is implored not to sever his connection with the church of his fathers, while over and anon we hear much smaller men guilty of a much smaller heresy cast out of their pulpits and thrown ruthlessly upon the world, would seem to indicate that in theology as well no in other matters "in the captain is but a choleric word, while in the soldier it is flat blasphemy." Yet Mr Stokes says—"The sum and substance of his offending appears to be his disbelief in a material hell." What minister does believe in a "material hell" now-a-days ?—
Yours, etc.,
January 28, 1883.

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