תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

“The treatment is but too well known. The very name of Christians is denied us. In the current nomenclature of the day, we are denied a place among the denominations called Christians. Our duty, I believe, is earnest remonstrance. We hold this name too dear, to be silently bereft of it. “Jesus Christ is precious to us, as he is to 10 all them that believe.' His character, his revelations, his doctrines, his promises, lay us under an obligation, and fill us, we trust, with a gratitude, which do not permit us calmly to bear the imputation of being his rejectors and enemies. Our accusers might weil denomi. nate us cold and indifferent to the Gospel, if we could sit down silently under this imputation.

I do hold, that this is a very serious matter, and one that ought to be brought into discussion. For the controversy has come to this. It is not so much between Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Uni. tarians, as between the EXCLUSIVE Sect and the Catholic Sect. These are the parties now arrayed against each other. It is on this ground, that a new division of the community is taking place. And for my own part, it is the only question that has ever touched me very nearly. That a man is a Calvinist or a Trinitarian, does not offend me. He differs with me, only in the matter of a metaphysical creed. I can still have the most agreeable conversation, and happy intercourse, and intimate friendship, with him. But if he says, “I cannot acknowledge you as a Christian ; you hold a belief which undermines the very foundation of piety and of all religious virtue; I consider you, and all who believe with you, as preparing for the fellowship of accursed spirits ;' if this is the language he holds, or if this is the meaning of his heart, the case is totally changed. All valuable ties between us are broken. I want no bollow courtesies from that man. I can understand no hair-breadth distinctions, between a good man, and a bad Christian. I know of but one kind of goodness, but one kind of worth, but one kind of piety; and if he denies me that, there is no foundation for respect and confidence, and without respect and confidence there can be no friendship nor society. I wish the man, who denies me these, no ill. I will feed him, if he is hungry ; I will clothe him if he is naked ; and if needy, I will accept the same offices from him. But for the intercourse of minds, for the best ties of society, no ground nor support is left."

The part of the Cursory Observations that would perhaps meet with most difference of opinion, is that on Future Punishment. It is lucid, and as an appeal impressive, but as an argument it is not complete. It does not satisfy us wholly, nor have we ever seen or heard anything on that subject that did satisfy us wholly ; probably because it is so fearful a subject in itself, and is left by revelation just at that point where we tremble, but do not know. Here, too, it passes all conception, that any can dogmatize. Do men consider what they do, when they doom

a fellow-being, a society of fellow-beings, a sect, a nation, to eternal woe, to literal lurid fire forever and ever? We speak not of the doctrine itself, its truth or its falsehood. We speak of the willingness which many betray, not only to hold the doctrine, but to pass the judgment, and so far as in them lies, to execute the sentence. It is dreadful to see the coolness, the calculation, the seeming unconcern, with which this is done. What must be the feelings of that man who walks the streets of a busy city, and sees written upon the front of almost every indi. dividual in the thronging thoughtless crowd, “everlasting destruction?" Yet thousands hold the opinion that leads to this, glory in the doctrine that requires such a conclusion, and give it bold expression, as if it were merely part of a system to which they were pledged, and something in which they may find comfort.

Mr. Dewey gives some fearful illustrations of the necessary consequence of " literally eternal punishment," as that doctrine is commonly held,—for strict and alarming views of the true doctrine of future punishment he holds himself. One of these illustrations is that of a childa child that has just reached the age of moral accountableness, and possesses the capacity of being sinful or holy but one hour or one day. During this brief term of probation it is selfish and sinful-exhibiting a disposition, and a character, so far as it can be called character, which the gospel disapproves and condemns. The question is then asked—and it would seem enough to settle some points-can you believe “ that this child, the creature of weakness and ignorance, is actually, and in one single day, setting the seal to a misery that is eternal, and eternally increasing ? " We suppose no one does believe it, no one can. And yet its necessity is involved in the common doctrine. It may give some idea of the tenor of this writer's view of the true doctrine, to state that he begins with the principle, that “ the penal suffering of a guilty mind, wherever, and when. erer it comes, must be great," and ends with the moral, that “it is not our wisdom to speculate, but to fear."

The other series of papers to which we referred, in this volume, treats of The Analogy of Religion with Other Subjects, in four discourses. We have no time to speak of them, except to commend them to all, particularly to those, who, as children of the world, think themselves wiser than the children of light.

They are followed, and the book finished, by a discourse on Liberality and Strictness, and another on Moderation. Both of these are new to us, and we suppose are now first published. They are good, but not so remarkable as several that precede them.

As a whole, the volume is a most acceptable contribution to our religious collection. And there are few who have contributed so liberally, or so richly, as this author. There are none who have done more to cure sermon-reading of the plague of dulness. His three volumes, now before the public, are as free from that infection, as any with which we are conversant. They are wholly distinct in character, but strikingly similar in style, and pervaded by the same power of simplicity, honesty, directness, life, earnest conviction, and solemn appeal. Their temper and tenor, the mind and aim of their author, are well set forth in the single passage with which we close-taken from the conclusion of the first article, on the Unitarian Belief.

“We repeat, then, that we believe in the supreme and all-absorbing importance of religion. • What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?' is to us the most undeniable of all arguments ; . What shall I do to be saved?' the most reasonable and momentous of all questions ; 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' the most affecting of all prayers. The soul's concern is the great concern. The interests of experimental, vital, practical religion are the great interests of our being. No language can be too strong, - no language can be strong enough, to give them due expression. No anxiety is too deep, no care too heedful, no effort too earnest, no prayer too importunate, to be bestowed upon this almost infinite concern of the soul's purification, piety, virtue, and welfare. No labor of life should be undertaken, no journey pursued, no business transacted, no pleasure enjoyed, no activity employed, no rest indulged in, without ultimate reference to that great end of our being. Without it, life has no sufficient object, and death has no hope, and eternity no promise."

H.

REASON AND REVELATION.

[Continued from Page 127, and Concluded.]

We have stated what we understand to be the true doctrine respecting reasou and its office, and revelation and the proof of it. We proceed to consider some objections to our views, which we have preferred to bring together in a body at the close of our own arguments. No

apparent inspiration, it is said, can establish anything contrary to reason, but reason is the ultimate appeal, the supreme tribunal, to the test of which even scripture must be brought. This we admit, but not in the sense in which it is stated. Reason must decide whether the scripture be scripture, but not whether it be true. If man were omniscient, he might sit in judgment on what Omniscience declared to be true ; but as it is, he is only to judge whether Omniscience has spoken, and reason is to be used for this purpose only.

Am I told that miracles can be no evidence that a person is sent of God, because I do not know but there may be some new development of nature: Be it so. How can we know whether he be from God or not? By knowing that he is possessed of supernatural gifts ? What is a supernatural gift? Who can tell that it is not some new development of moral or intellectual power? How, I repeat, can we obtain knowledge of the divine authority of a man, before he works a miracle? Because he utters a new truth? Then Newton, and Harvey, and Galileo, had divine authority. Am I told that the phenomena of electricity and galvanism exhibited upon the first discovery all the characteristics by which we designate miracles? We reply, in the first place, that it is not true. Means were used to accomplish the end, -means natural, and apparently sufficient. They showed no power on his part who applied the means. The philosopher did not merely say to the potash,“ be separated." There was this vital difference in the two processes.

Then again, that ceases to be a miracle which is done constantly, and by every body. Not the discoverer alone, but any body could excite the electric spark, without his cousent. Not so with miracles; he alone could raise the dead, to whom the appointed Messenger gave power.

Again, does any one say, that miracles could be no evidence of the truth of the Messenger's mission, because apparent and false miracles have been wrought ? I answer first, that if false miracles have been wrought, it shows that a real miracle was considered good proof of a divine mission. And this is all we have asserted. We have proved and attempted to prove only, that when the mind was convinced of the reality of the miracle, (and this conviction established ultimately irrespectively of the message itself,) we must assent to the divinity of his mission who wrought it. We have not said, all men would be convinced of the truth of the message from the consideration that it was miraculously supported; facts teach the contrary.

Many of those who saw Jesus' miracles were not converted. And it no more proves that miracles are not sufficient evidence of a divine mission, that some did not believe in the mission who witnessed them, than that what Jesus taught was not true, because some who heard it scoffed and contemned his teachings. Why men do not believe when there is sufficient evidence of truth, and why they do not repent when convinced of sin, are questions we do not here discuss. But that both are facts, history and experience both teach us. Neither have we said, that men have not believed false miracles to be true, and followed the teachings of those who pretended to work them. Nor have we said, that men have not believed error and followed its guidance down to death. We have said, simply, that the only evidence we can have of the authority of any person to make a revelation from God, is the manifestation of divine power over mind or matter, or both : in other words, a capacity to do what no other man can do—work miracles ; and that the final doubt whether the revelation be divine or not, must rest upon a suspicion of the reality of the miracles, and not upon the character of the revelation.

I think I have shown, that there is a presumption, that in a revelation made by God there would be some things which we could not understand, that we should be bound to receive upon the authority of the messenger who announced them, and that this authority is to be established not by the nature of the message, but by miracles. This being the case, my duty is discharged when I have considered the office of reason in interpreting this message. And here I would remark, that we are to interpret it as a revelation from God. We are not to examine it as what may or may not be true, upon the statements of which we are to decide peremptorily that they are false or true. When it is said that the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book, it is meant that the same means are to be used to ascertain its meaning as would be used in interpreting any other book; but when that meaning is found, we cannot say it is false, as we often do of portions of other books, written by men fallible and ignorant like ourselves. If I take into my hand a treatise on morals, or church government, written by my neighbor, I examine it to find out what he says, in the same way—by the same general rules, that I would the Bible ; but I reject as false what he teaches that I do not think correct; while I receive from the Bible, whatever it teaches, as true. Our business with the revelation from God is to learn what it declares only,—with other books, both what

« הקודםהמשך »