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Oberlin Perfectionists.


even, for the salvation of the world. The doctrine of holiness, consists in such a sympathy with the love of Christ, as constrains the subject to consecrate his entire being to the glory of Christ, in the salvation of men. 4. Perfectionism substitutes the direct teaching of the Spirit, falsely called, in the place of the word.' This expects such teachings only in the diligent study of the word, and tries every doctrine by the ‘law and the testimony,' —

the law and the testimony,' expounded in conformity with the legitimate laws of interpretation. 5. Perfectionism surrenders up the soul to blind impulse, assuming, that every existing desire or impulse is caused by the direct agency of the Spirit, and therefore to be gratified. The doctrine of holiness, consists in the subjection of all our powers and propensities to the revealed will of God. 6. Perfectionism abrogates the Sabbath, and all the ordinances of the Gospel, and, in its legitimate tendencies, even marriage itself. The doctrine of holiness, is a state of perfect moral purity, induced and perpetuated by a careful observance of all these ordinances, together with subjection to other influences of the Gospel, received by faith. 7. Perfectionism renders, in its fundamental principles, all perfection an impossibility. If, as this system maintains, the Christian is freed from all obligation, is bound by no law, in short, if there is no standard with which to compare his actions, (and there is none,) if the moral law, as a rule of action, is abrogated, — moral perfection can no more be predicated of the Christian, than of the horse, the ox, or the ass. The doctrine of holiness, on the other hand, contemplates the moral law as the only rule and standard of the moral conduct, and consists in perfect conformity to the precepts of this law. 8. Perfectionism, in short, in its essential elements, is the perfection of licentiousness. The doctrine of holiness, is the perfect and perpetual harmony of the soul with 'whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, and, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,' with these things also. What agreement then has the doctrine of holiness with Perfectionism?– pp. 70–72.

We have thus presented a sketch of the origin and character of the peculiar religious views of the Oberlin Perfectionists. These views are gradually extending in the community. Many, of different Communions, are either embracing them in full, or allowing their opinions to be very much modified by their influence. They have now, devoted to their defence and spread, the Oberlin Evangelist, a paper, published every alternate week; and the Oberlin Quarterly Review, edited by President Mahan and Professor Cochran. “This Review is designed,” say its

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Editors, " to sustain a pure Literature, a correct Theology, a practical Morality and a spiritual Religion.” We have felt that these peculiar views, - embraced, as they are, by men of piety and talents, — already sufficiently extended to encourage the publication of a Quarterly devoted principally to their defence and further extension, destined, as we believe, to effect an important and beneficial modification of the rigid features of Calvinism, and adapted, at the same time, to infuse a greater degree of spiritual life into the more rational and practical faith of Unitarianism, when brought in contact with it, — demanded a notice and a record on their own account. And we have also thought that this sketch was needed, to prepare the way for a better appreciation of Professor Upham's “ Life of Faith,” which we suppose originated in the views we have noticed.

Professor Upham has for some time sympathized, to a greater or less extent, with these views. Some years since he published a series of articles in the “Guide to Perfection, which were afterwards republished, with additions, in a volume entitled “ Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life.” This was not a controversial, but a practical work, devoted, not to the defence, but to the explanation and application of his peculiar views. The peculiar structure of Professor Upham's mind, the influence of his previous investigations and labors in the department of mental philosophy, and, above all, his humble and truly devout religious spirit, all serve to lead him to analysis and application, rather than to argument and controversy. And yet, in analyzing the general philosophical principles of the 6 hidden life,” he does more, perhaps, than he could have done in any other way, to establish and confirm his peculiar views. The principal question at issue between Professor Upham and those with whom he sympathizes in sentiment on the one side, and the great body of Orthodox Christians on the other, relates to the possibility of attaining to perfection in holiness in this life. Professor Upham enters into no controversy upon this subject. But, in his analysis of the philosophical character of the religious life, he discovers and states two distinct principles, which seem to establish his own views. They are these, — " that we can never feel under moral obligation to do a thing, which we believe impossible to be done; and that no person can put


Professor Upham's Writings.


forth a volition to do a thing, which at the same time he believes impossible to be done.” If then, as the great body of Orthodox Christians contend, it is impossible for men to attain to perfection in holiness in this life, it will follow, if these principles are correct, that no one can feel himself morally bound to strive after that attainment, and that no one will put forth a volition to secure it. The simple statement of these general principles of the philosophy of the mind shows, at once, the glaring inconsistency of those, who in one breath exhort men to strive for perfection in holiness, and in the next teach them that it is impossible to attain it. With Professor Upham's work on the “ Interior Life” we became acquainted soon after its publication. We were soon deeply interested in it, and we have derived much spiritual instruction from the frequent perusal – of it. We have kept it upon our table, as a manual of practical reading. We have freely lent it to our friends, and circulated it among the people of our charge. Without entering into an analysis of its contents, and while stating distinctly that there are expressions and views contained in it from which we differ, we would freely aver, that its influence both upon ourselves and upon those to whom we have lent it, if we may credit their testimony, has been highly favorable. While it has not diminished zeal in outward efforts for the promotion of the moral improvement of man and the spread of the Redeemer's kingdom on the earth, it has awakened a deeper sense of the importance of ever keeping the inner state of the soul pure before God, and ever cherishing a spirit of acquiescence in the will of God in regard to the result of our exertions.

Professor Upham has now followed out, in his “ Life of Faith,” some of the trains of thought, upon which he entered in his former work. And the latter is, to use the words of the author, " to some extent, kindred, in its nature, with the Interior Life.'” There is nothing of a controversial character in either. The object of both is to promote practical godliness. One great difficulty with most writers on Faith is, that they have treated of religious faith as something so different from the ordinary operations of natural faith, that they have involved the subject in an almost impenetrable mystery. Professor Upham had been led, by his previous investigations, to an acquaintance with

faith as an element of mental philosophy. He avails himself of this acquaintance, to illustrate Christian faith by a comparison of it with natural faith, shewing wherein they are the same, in character, operation and influence, and pointing out wherein they differ. In this way, he has cleared the subject of many of its difficulties, and of most of its mystery, and has rendered it intelligible to all who will reflect upon it. He has not only analyzed the nature of Christian faith, but has pointed out its relations to the various elements of the spiritual life, and its bearings upon the various parts of the Christian character. And this he has done, we think, in a clear and happy manner; while the whole book is so written, as to awaken a devout and religious state of the feelings in the reader. And this we regard as no slight recommendation. It is too often the case, that writers upon these difficult and abstruse subjects so conduct their inquiries, and so word their statements, as to leave their readers in a speculative frame of mind, a state somewhat hostile to heartfelt devotion and the spiritual life of the soul. Such is not the case with Professor Upham. No one can rise from the perusal of either of the two works we have noticed, how much soever he may

differ from some of the views advanced, without finding - himself in a purer and more religious frame of soul. This

peculiarity arises from the spirit of the writer, which is a devotional and practical spirit, and also, in part, from the stand-point he occupies in viewing the subject. Professor Upham is viewing the subject, not in its relation to those who differ from him in speculation, but in its relation to the spiritual life and Christian character. He is seeking, not to convince or vanquish an opponent, but to promote true spirituality of the affections, and the control of Christian faith and religious principle over all the conduct, first in himself, as he writes, and afterwards in the readers who may peruse what he has written. And this object his work is well adapted to accomplish, not by means of direct exhortation or labored argument to that effect, but simply because the spirit and feelings of the writer are so diffused through the work, as to awaken, by the power of sympathy, the corresponding spirit and feelings in the reader. Professor Upham has imbibed, and sheds through his writings, something of the spirit of the mystics, of Fenelon, Madame

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Guyon and others. But it is mysticism in the mind of a clear-headed, analytical investigator of mental philosophy. It does not lead him to write in the manner of the mystics; it only gives to his philosophical analysis and statements a spiritual tone and a holy unction. If he has kept company with the mystics, it has not resulted in his becoming himself one of them, but has enabled him to bring from his – intercourse with them that which is truly valuable in itself, and which, when incorporated with abstract speculation, serves to make it more truly practical in its character, and more highly spiritual in its influence.

There are two particulars, in regard to which we anticipate great good to the Christian community from these works of Professor Upham. It is well known, that in many of the Orthodox denominations great account is made of religious emotions, of striking and vivid religious experiences. Especially is this the case in seasons of revival, as they are technically called. It seems to be expected that men, in becoming truly religious, must pass through a season of deep anguish of soul, and be driven almost to spiritual despair, and that from this state of darkness and distress they must emerge into one of great spiritual peace and ecstatic joy. These vivid emotions and striking experiences are regarded as the elements of true Christian conversion, and as essential ingredients in vital religion. It seems to be thought that no one can be a true follower of Christ, unless he has been favored with them. They become identified, in the minds of many, with pure and undefiled religion in the soul. We have long known that these views have exerted an injurious influence upon many individuals; have either been, in the minds of some, a hindrance to the reception and enjoyment of the Gospel, or, in the minds of others, the basis on which they rest their spiritual hopes. Some we have known, who had not enjoyed these vivid emotions and striking experiences. And therefore they dared not indulge the hope that they could be accepted of God, or regarded with favor by Christ. They dared not go forward in a Christian profession, and were paralyzed in their efforts to cultivate the Christian virtues and graces. And yet they were, to all appearance, humble, devout and prayerful, studying carefully the Bible, and seeking in all things to obey its instructions. But, in

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