« הקודםהמשך »
who profess the gospel of adulterating goods, and of giving short weight and measure, the custom of women aiming at supremacy, or of husbands not loving their wives, or the practice of any other thing that is contrary to gospel precept, is no proof that the gospel is not adapted to modern life. On the contrary, the existence of these practices shows that the gospel is exactly adapted to modern life, as a counteractive of customs that are vicious, and that it is the very gospel which is now needed. This position we shall attempt to prove. The gospel being a divine revelation, and its divine author not intending to reveal any other—the canon of Scripture being closed-it is necessarily adapted to all times, and therefore.to modern times. The author of the gospel has not acted with such want of wisdom as to give a revelation for all time that is not adapted to some particular period. This fact is sufficient to prove the adaptation of the gospel to modern life, and we might close our argument here without fear of confutation.
But we shall come a little more to particulars. It appears to us that, so far is the gospel from not being adapted to modern life, that it bears an especial fitness thereto. Its doctrines are specially adapted to modern times. Besides those features of modern life which we have already noted, we may observe these :--an ungrounded conceit of man's capacities, a pride of reason, a belief in the capability of men to understand spiritual things without the special teaching of God, a pouring of ridicule on the belief in the reality and necessity of any divine revelation to be now made from God to men, as well as on the belief in the necessity of a supernatural religion, together with a setting of the discoveries of science above the teachings of Scripture, and where these clash with each other, a determination to make Scripture bend to science.
Now to these characteristics of modern life the gospel is peculiarly adapted, for it presents to them a decided opposition, teaching us in a very unequivocal manner the profound darkness of men by nature, and their complete incapacity to know God and spiritual things without the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and not only thus implying the absolute necessity of that teaching, but declaring in express words the indispensableness thereof to make men wise unto salvation. There being, then, in the gospel nothing to foster, but much to counteract that pride and conceit which are so specially ripe and rampant at the present time, it is eminently adapted to this time.
Not merely the doctrines of the gospel, but its precepts also, are exactly suited to modern life. Let us examine a few of these precepts. In Matt. vii. 12 we find inculcated upon Christians the practice towards others of all things which they would that others, should practise towards them. And is not this gospel precept adapted to modern life? If men were ruled by it, would they not abstain from the practice of enriching themselves by any dishonest means ? Wishing themselves not to be in any way defrauded, would they not abstain from defrauding others? If ever there
were a period to which this precept is adapted, it surely is so to this cozening age, in which such gigantic frauds have been perpetrated, and perpetrated too by men moving in the most apparently respectable positions. Is not this precept peculiarly adapted to this age of great appearances, in which a gilded exterior is maintained by thousands at the expense of others, and when good faith and common honesty are evidently such scarce commodities ? Again, to put the mildest interpretation possible on Matt. vi. 19, is not this portion of the gospel a gentle hint against that vehement thirst for riches which is such a characteristic feature of modern life-80 muoh so that with some the body, with others the mind, and with others both, are starved for the sake of amassing material wealth? Is not John xiii. 14 a suitable, and at this time a needful, injunction to Christians to practise towards each other acts of condescension and kindness? And not to particularize further--are not the commands of the gospel enjoining self-denial, the recompens-, ing of evil with good, the practice of mercy, as also the avoidance of display and of seeking fame in almsdeeds, commands adapted to modern life? And if we view the epistles as a continuation of the gospel-which they certainly are--are not the precepts and exhortations with which they abound strictly adapted to modern life? Do not the epistles enjoin sincerity, liberality, honesty, temperance, chastity, and every good thing? Do they not enjoin on wives obedience to their husbands, and on husbands kindness to their wives? Do they not urge children to honour their parents, and parents to seek the welfare of their children: Do they not
prescribe to servants obedience to their masters, and to masters fair. ness and justice of dealing with their servants? And are not such injunctions adapted to all times ? And if so, they are adapted to modern life. And do not the epistles reprove and denounce deceit, hypocrisy, drunkenness, fornication, adultery, extortion, malice, and all vileness? And is modern life so free from these iniquities that those who are now living have no need to be reminded of their evil nature, or to be admonished against them? The very maintenance of the principle that the gospel is not adapted to modern life occasions a suspicion that it is an indisposition to conform to so stringent a code as the gospel which is the cause of such an opinion being entertained. That the gospel is not in conformity with the taste of the majority of living persons, or that the practices of many who profess it do not correspond with its precepts, is no evidence that it is not adapted to modern life. A sick man may be strenu. ously opposed to the use of a dietary prescribed by a skilful physician, yet that to which he is so opposed may be just that which is most suited to his case. Crimes of all kinds abound. The gospel denounces them. Which is more adapted to modern life: a gospel that tolerates cheating, lying, stealing, murder, and uncleanness, or a gospel that rebukes those crimes ?
Indeed, as the gospel denounces all vices and inculcates all virtues, it cannot be otherwise than adapted both to these and to all times ; and to say that the gospel is not adapted to modern life is a libel on Him from whom it emanated, and to lead us to whom it was given.
NEGATIVE ARTICLE. II. IP ought to be recollected that the gospel has had more or less to do with the educating of man since the world began; it should be remembered particularly that Christianity has, in one form or another, been an established fact for more than a thousand years ; and that it has had, in many countries, everything its own way for the greater part of that time. No competitor has been permitted to rise up agaiost it, and even different opinions concerning it were for a long time abhorrent to most minds. This lengthened period of power has given full opportunity of testing the efficacy of the gospel as an agent in reforming mankind, and we fear that those who speak truth must make the humiliating confession that it has not had a success at all commensurate with the just expectations of
How little of gospel life is infused into the masses of France, Prussia, Spain, Austria, England or America! In philosophy, politics, commerce, literature, legislation, how small an amount of Christianity has been effectively exerted! Do not the churches mourn and communities complain about the defective state of Christian feeling in their members ? It is a very proper thing, therefore, to inquire whether the gospel is adapted to the life of modern times or not. In looking at the question we have been compelled to form the opinion that the reply should be in the negative; and we proceed, without further preface, to present some reasons for our opinion.
This is an age of reasoning, while the gospel demands faith. The reader will please observe that I have not said an age of reason," but of reasoning. I do not look upon the age as even reasonable ; but it is critical, inquiring, controversial, and hesi. tating. Strauss and the Tübingen school ; Renan and the French Illuminati ; and the Unitarian theologians, may be mentioned as proofs that criticism is more active than faith. Faith is the highest virtue of the Christian life. On faith, in fact, the being or not being à Christian depends. Criticism and Christianity are thus antagonists. We hear everywhere from our pulpits and in the religious press that criticism is waging a destructive warfare against the true faith. Science denies the moral government of God, the possibility of miracles, the accuracy of the accounts the gospel gives of creation ; and expresses an unequivocal denial of the likelihood of many of the incidents in the lives of the prophets and the history of the chosen people. Positivism wages war with the gospel on the ground that it is superstitious to believe in its records, and that it is unintellectual to submit one's mind to the dominion of opinions such as it requires men to submit to.
This is an age of extreme civilization-of civilization, too, quite opposed to the principles of the gospel. Our laws are alien to the spirit of the gospel in many points, especially in their favour for the rich rather than the poor; for the poor, being the weaker, are those who need the help of the strong hand of the law. There is a harsh, unforgiving, revengeful, and unfeeling spirit in our law towards the poor. The rich man can have almost any crime he may commit commuted into a money fine; imprisonmenttimes most unscrupulously inflicted-is the only tender mercy for the poor. Charity has by the law been chilled down to a poor's. rate, and our political economy opposez charity as inexpedient, while it coldly affirms the wrougfulness of obeying “nature's great law” of love, and life, and loving life by the icy Malthusianism of its doctrines. The selfishness of the age in maintaining the rich in their sumptuousness and the poor in their poverty; in preaching and enforcing Malthusianism to such an extent as to bring almost all men into one of the categories of those whom Heaven has declared, in the gospel, shall not inherit eternal life, most palpably pronounces against the adaptation of the gospel to the age. Had the gospel penetrated into the spirit of the age, the sects would not have quarrelled for half a century over the education of the people --they would have gone and done it; having agitated against sins of sex, they would have been reduced to a minimum; neither would we have been discussing now the questions concerning land tenure, emigration, church establishments, compulsory education, and war, which have been keeping society in a ferment. In fact, the age 18 departing more and more from the spirit of the gospel, and is riveting upon men a new law of commandments, which is superseding the gospel in anything but an advantageous way. I do not choose to do more than allude to the absolutely ungodly legislation of several Contagious Diseases Acts; and to Acts that are as hostile to godliness in regard to marriage, seduction, adulteration of goods, honesty of measures and weights, licensing laws in connection with drinks, dramatic performances, games, gaming, &c. This exbibits no symptoms of applying the gospel to the times. The law itself, with all its trickeries and intricacies, its enforceability on the poor and its permissibility to the rich, is an evidence against the adaptation of the gospel to the age; for (1) were the gospel adapted to the age, law would be unnecessary, or (2) if necessary, would be in conformity with the gospel in its aims and in its formu. Law is the essence of civilization, but our civilization is not a civilization of love, such as the gospel, advocates and enforces; it is a civilization of selfishness; of antagonistic interests adroitly balanced so as to give the rich, the powerful, the possessory classes the firmest hold on the goods of society and the pleasures of life. But the gospel civilization is that of self-sacrifice, and its principle is Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.".
This is an age of excessive competition-competition of sects, nations, trades, grades, individuals, and even sexes. Every effort 1870.
is made to acquire and keep something for ourselves of which another cannot get the benefit. Sects fight for privileges and powers ; nations contend for pre-eminence and glory ; trades have constant warfare of masters against men, and men against masters, and their unions are not communions, but associations for mutual defiance and defence; class clamours against class, and arms and agitates for the protection of the rights of the one and the destruction of the privileges of another; persons compete one with another with pertinacity sharpened by the knowledge that only so can life be maintained, however little it may be enjoyed; and, as we have said, even the sexes now enter into competition, and are engaged in a warfare indicated in the discussion taking place elsewhere in these pages on the topic, “Ought the subjection of women to be continued ?" That such a subject should be discussed is, perhaps, as clear a proof as any that the gospel is not adapted for the age ; for it is an express declaration of the Scriptures that “the woman was made for the man, and not the man for the woman.” The above paragraph contains sorely grievous proof that the gospel is not adapted to the age; for the gospel advocates community of feeling, endeavour, life, worship, and intercourse, and commands men to dwell together in love.
That the gospel is not adapted to modern life is made most evi. dent by the churches themselves. They do not accept the gospel as their standard, but proceed to adapt it by creeds, confessions, articles, expositions, catechisms, &c., to the age and circumstances. If the gospel, pure and simple, was adapted to this age or any age, it would not require the manipulation it has got from the various sects to shape it into congruency with the modes of thinking prevalent among men in different ages. Moreover, the constant sermonizings, disquisitions, expositions, apologies, &c., which are brought before the public show that there is a want of adaptation in the gospel to the necessities of the case. What do our Bampton Lectures, Boyle Lectures, Hulsean Essays, Congregational Lectures, Burnet Prizes, Bridgewater Treatises prove? what do all the endeavours at persuasion and conviction made by the writers on "The Evidences of Christianity,” from William Paley to Thomas Ragg mean, but that the gospel requires to be brought into har. mony with the mind of the age? The gospel is so overlaid with comment and remark, enforcement and argument, that it seems as if those who were most officially entrusted with the ministration of its comforts were those who most doubted its efficacy in itself, unless it had first been moulded into some adaptation or other to the persons addressed and the opinions expressed. This shows that they do not think it adapted to the age, or why do they act as they do?
Another great proof of the want of adaptation to the age in the gospel is the prevalence of sectarianism. The gospel has not im. pressed the age with a divine unity of Christian faith; far less with a divine unity of Christian practice; though it has brought about a