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FREE-THINKING CHRISTIANS are a sect of Unitarians, who sprung up in London, about ten or twelve years ago. With the Unitarians they deny the divinity of Christ's person, but believe in the divine character or nature of his mission as a teacher of religion. They regard the New Testament as the only authentic rule of faith and practice. They believe the church of God to consist of an assembly of men, believing the truth of Christianity, and united under the authority of Jesus, in the bonds of Christian fellowship. They reject Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and public social worship. In their assemblies, therefore, they have neither singing nor prayer; and they renouace all those doctrines usually termed orthodox in other societies, as the Trinity, the Atonement, original sin ; the existence of devils, and of both good and evil spirits or angels ; the eternity of future punishments ; the immateriality and immortality of the soul ; the inspiration of the bible “ as a book," though they admit the origin of revelation, and the miracles, and other parts of the sacred sciptures.
Their public meetings are conducted after the manner of an ordinary Debating or Philosophical Society; and they frequently differ in their opinions amongst themselves. They sit in their meetings with covered heads, like the Quakers, and make very free in censuring, if not condemning, all other sects of Christians whatever, being extremely lavish in their abuse of the priesthood.
DESTRUCTIONISTS, a denomination who teach that the final punishinent threatened in the gospel to the wicked and impenitent, consists not in eternal misery, but in a total extinction of being ; and that the sentence of annihilation shall be executed with more or less torment, in proportion to the greater or less guilt of the criminal. They take for granted that the scripture word destruction, means annihilation.
In defence of this system it is argued, that there are many passages of scripture in which the ultimate punishment to which wicked men should be adjudged, is defined in the most precise terms, to be an everlasting destruction. They say that eternal punishment, which is opposite to eternal life, is not a state of perpetual misery, hut total and " everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord,” which is " the second death,” from which there is no resurrection.
Against this scheme it is urged. 1. That the punishment of annibilation admits of no degrees. 2. That this destruction is not described as the end, but the beginning of misery. 3. That the punishment of the wicked is to be the same as that of fallen angels. Matth. xxv. 41-. As the happiness of the just does not consist in eternal being, but well-being, so the punishment of the wicked requires the idea of eternal suffering to support the contrast.
ANTINOMIANS. They derive their name from anti, against, and nomos, law, as being against the moral law ; not merely as a covenant of life, but also as a rule of conduct to believers. The Antinomians took their origin from John Agricola, about the year 1538, who taught that the law is no way necessary under the gospel ; that good works do not promote our salvation, nor ill ones hinder it. That the sins of the elect are so imputed to Christ, as that though he did not commit them, yet they became actually his transgressions, and ceased to be theirs; that Christ's righteousness is so imputed to the elect, that they ceasing to be sinners, are as righteous as he was. Antinomians also hold, that an elect person is not in a condemned state while an unbeliever, and should he happen to die before God call him to believe, he would not be lost. The following are some of the principal texts from whence these sentiments were defend. ed. 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. viii. 33; Heb. viji. 12; Rom. viii. 28.
JUMPERS, so called from their practice of jumping during the time allotted for religious worship and instruction. They originated in Wales, about the year 1760. They persuade themselves that they are involuntarily acted upon by some divine impulse ; and being intoxicated with this imaginary in. spiration, they utter their rapture and their triumph with great wildness and incoherence; with great jesticulation and vociferation ; and they ultimately begin to laugh and sing, dance and jump, in all directions, males and females commingled in one general mass, in the mean time calling out, in the hoarsest and coarsest manner possible, gogoniant ? gogoniant! glory! glory!
DUNKERS, a denomination which took its rise in the year 1724. It was founded by Conrad Peysal, a German, who, weary of the world, retired to an agreeable solitude, within fifty miles of Philadelphia, for the more free exercise of religious contemplation. Curiosity attracted followers, and his sim. ple and engaging manners made proselytes.
Their habit seems peculiar to themselves, consisting of a long tunic, or coat, reaching down to their heels, with a sash, or girdle, round the waist, and a cap, or hood, hanging from the shoulders, like the dress of the Dominican friars. The men do not shave the head or beard. The men and women have separate habitations and distinct governments : for the brethren and sisters do no! meet together even at their devotions. They live chiefly upon roots and other vegetables ; the rules of their society not allowing them flesh, except on particular occasions, when they bold what they call a love-feast ; at which time the brethren and sisters dine together in a large apartment, and eat mutton, but no other meat. Dunkers allow of no intercourse between the brethren and sisters, not even by marriage.
The principal tenet of the Dunkers appears to be this : That future happiness is only to be attained by penance and outward inortifications in this life ; and that as Jesus Christ by his meri. torious sufferings becaine the Redeemer of mankind in general., so each individual of the human race, by a life of abstinence and restraint, should work out his own salvation. They are charged with holding the doctrine of supererogation : they deny the eternity of future punishments, and believe that the souls of the just are employed to preach the gospel to those who have had no revelation in this life. They suppose the Jewish sabbath, sabbatical year, and year of jubilee, are typical of certain periods after the general judgment, in which the souls of those who are so far hunibled as to acknowledge God and Christ, are received to felicity; while those who contiuue obstinate are reserved in torments until the grand period typified by the jubilee arrives, in which all shall be made eventually happy. They also deny the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity. So that they are Universalists. But they disclaim violence, even in cases of self-defence, and suffer themselves to be defrauded or wronged rather than to go law; on which aecount they have been called the harmless Dunkers.
HOPKINSIANS, or HOPKINTONIANS, so called from the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D. D. pastor of the first Congregational church at Newport, Rhode Island. The following is a summary of their distinguishing tenets, with a few of the reasons by which they are supported.
1. That all true holiness consists in disinterested benevolence. The law of God is the standard of all moral rectitude, or holiness. This is reduced into love to God and to our neighbour ; and universal good will comprehends all the love to God, our neighbour, and ourselves, required in the divine law, and therefore must be the whole of holy obedience.
2. That all sin consists in selfishness. By this is meant an interested affection, by which a person sets himself up as the supreme, or only object of regard ; and nothing is lovely in his view, unless suited to promote his private interest. This selflove is, every degree of it, enmity against God: it is not subject to the law of God, and is the only affection that can oppose it. It is the foundation of all spiritual blindness, and the source ot all idolatry and false religion. It is the foundation of all covetousness and sensuality ; of all falsehood, injustice, and oppression; as it excites mankind by undue methods to invade the property of others. Self-love produces all the violent passions ; envy, wrath, clamour, and evil speaking : and every thing contrary to the divine law, is briefly comprehended in this fruitful source of iniquity, self-love.
3. That there are no promises of regenerating grace made to the actions of the unregenerate. For as far as men act from self-love, they act from a bad end : for those who have no true love to God, really fulfil no duty when they attend on the externals of religion
4. That the impotency of sinners, with respect to believing in Christ, is not natural, but moral : for it is a plain dictate of common sense, that natural impossibility excludes all blame. But an unwilling mind is universally considered as a crime, and not as an excuse ; and it is the very thing wherein our wickedness consists.
5. That, in order to faith in Christ, a sinner must approve in his heart of the divine conduct, even though God should cast him off for ever; which however neither implies love to misery, nor hatred of happiness. For if the law is good, death is due to those who have broken it ; and the judge of all the earth cannot but do right. Geri. xvii. 25. It would bring everlasting reproach upon his government to spare us, considered merely as in ourselves. When this is felt in our hearts, and not till then, we shall be prepared to look to the free grace of God, through Christ's redemption.
6. That the infinitely wise and holy God has exerted his omnipotent power, in such a manner as he proposed should be followed with the existence and entrance of moral evil in the system. For it must be admitted on all hands, that God has a perfect knowledge, foresight, and view of all possible existences and events. If that systein and scene of operation, in which moral evil should never have existence, was actually preferred in the divine mind, certainly the Deity is infinitely disappointed in the issue of his own operations.
7. That the introduction of sin is, upon the whole, for the general good. For the wisdom and power of the Deity are displayed in carrying on designs of the greatest good; and the existence of moral evil has, undoubtedly, occasioned a more full, perfect, and glorious discovery of the infinite perfections of the divine nature, than could otherwise have been made to the view of creatures.
8. That repenance is before faith in Christ. By this is not intended, that repentance is before a speculative beliet of the being and perfections of God and of the person and character of Christ ; but only, that true repentance is previous to a saving faith in Christ, in which the believer is united to Christ, and entitled to the benefits of his meditation and atonement. So Christ commanded, Repent ye, and believe the gospel; and Paul preached repentance towards God, and faith ioward our Lord Jesus Christ. Mark i. 15. Acts xx. 21.
9. That, though men became sinners by Adam, according to a divine constitution, yet they were, and are accountable for no sins but personal : for, (1.) Adam's act, in eating the forbidden fruit, was not the act of his posterity ; therefore, they did not sin at the same time he did. (2.) The sinfulness of that act could not be transferred to them afterwards : because the sinfulness of an act can no more he transferred from one person to another, than an act itself. (3.) Therefore Adam's act, in eating the forbidden fruit, was not the cause, but only the occasion
of his posterity's being sinners. Adam sinned, and now God brings bis posterity into the world sinners.
10. That though believers are justified through Christ's righteousness, yet his righteousness is not transferred to them. For personal righteousness cannot be transferred from one person to another ; nor personal sin, otherwise the sinner would be innocent and Christ the sinner.
The Hopkinsians warmly advocate the doctrine of the divine decrees, that of particular election, total depravity, the special influences of the spirit of God in regeneration, justification by faith alone, the final perseverance of the saints, and the consistency between entire freedom and absolute dependence ; and therefore claim, since the world will make distinctions, to be called the Hopkinsian Calvinists.
SHAKERS, or SHAKING QUARERs, a sect which originated in Lancashire, England, with James Wadley, a tailor, and his wife Jane. They pretended to extraordinary visions and new revelations, which however gradually subsided, till a new impetus was given by Anne Lee, who became a distinguished leader of this denomination. She was received and acknowledged by the Shakers as the first mother, or spiritual parent, in the line of the females, and the second heir in the covenant of life, according to the present display of the gospel. In 1774, she, and a number of her followers, set sail from Liverpool for New York. Being joined by others here, they settled near Albany, where they have spread their opinions, and increased to a considerable number.
The tenets on which the Shakers most dwell, are those of human depravity, and of the miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit. Their leading practical tenet is the abolition of marriage, or indeed the total separation of the sexes. They assert that the day of judgment is past, and consider their testimony as a new dispensation, which they call Christ's second appearance. They maintain that it is unlawful to take oaths, game, or use compliments to each other. In their worship they practice a regular, solemn, uniform dance, to a regular, solemn hymn, which is sung by the elders, and as regularly conducted as a proper band of music. They practice a community of goods, and hold that nothing short of this union in all things, both spiritual and temporal, can constitute a true church. The government of the Society is vested in a ministry, consisting of male and female.
In the beginning of the year 1780, the Society consisted of only ten or twelve persons, all of whom came from England. At present, the first and largest Society is at New-Lebanon, in the state of New York, and consists of between 500 and 600 persons. There is also one at Watervliet, near Albany, contain: ing upwards of 200 persons. One at Hancock, in the state of Massachusetts, containing about 300 members. One at Tyringham, in the same state, containing about 100 members. One