« הקודםהמשך »
lent to that of an eternal Decree, takes responsibility entirely away. The Assembly of Divines took great pains to crush the notion that God is the author of evil; and yet have made the declaration quoted above, which includes all actions of whatever kind; and thus attribute to God directly what, in other parts of the Confession, they declare impossible.
“ Although,” they continue, "in relation to the Foreknowledge and Decree of God, the First cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; yet by the same Providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of Second Causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently."
Is God ashamed of being appealed to as the first cause, that He attempts to blind us, according to the divines, by means of Second Causes ? Surely we cannot so think of God, as to imagine Him a cruel being ; yet the doctrine involves the supposition that He is so. All things whatever, it is said, from the greatest to the least, are directed by God's providence; and we therefore state an example that may suffice to show how rashly such declarations have been made. Suppose that a worthy man is decreed to break his leg. Are we to imagine that to inflict this undeserved misfortune, God in his Providence placed a stone in the good man's path, called his attention to something in order to make him look some other way so that he may not observe it, and that he may stumble on it and fall? Would it be any inducement to the poor man to believe the doctrine, to be told that his leg was not broken because he was heedless of his steps; that his family is deprived of the support his labour afforded them, not because he should have looked before him and not about him; that he is to be confined during many weeks, and his family sent to beg, not because of his own carelessness, but because he, an innocent and industrious man, was decreed under Providence to suffer, while his less virtuous neighbour should be prosperous ?. A man may see something belonging to his neighbour which he desires to possess; and he steals it, and is detected. He pleads before the Judge that he is not guilty, because his act was compulsory under the direction of Providence; and he calls as witnesses in his favour several clergymen, who testify that such is the doctrine of the Church established by law. But, unhappily for the thief, it was also foreordained that he should be punished; and thus the doctrine makes Providence punish that which Providence directed to be done. It is impossible to see how cruelty, or the bringing about of immoral actions, can contribute to the praise and glory of God's wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.
“ God in his ordinary Providence maketh use of means; yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.
The meaning of this, in reference to the doctrine, is not very clear; it may indeed imply that, although God has pronounced a decree to which his providence is subordinate, he nevertheless may give it effect without the intervention of means.—No one can deny the Power of God to decree or to act in whatever way may seem good unto Him. But whether He acts in the manner laid down in the doctrines of the Confession, is an open question to all men.
“ The Almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his Providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful Bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing them, in a manifold dispensation to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be, the author or approver of Sin.
Here it is distinctly admitted, that man fell by the intervention of the Providence of God, and that by the same intervention sins of every kind are committed. This is the same thing as admitting God to be the cause of every man's guilt. Since the doctrine allows of no option in the Creature to escape from the Providence of God, but compels him to obey, the doctrine admits that guilt must rest in the cause, and not in the effect. The act of alms-giving, and the act of stealing, are effects of the Providence of God, and not of the individual will, according to the doctrine; and therefore no merit can be imputed to the one, nor guilt to the other, and so the doctrine leaves no motive for good conduct.
“ The most wise, righteous and gracious God, doth often times leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependance for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and Holy ends."
The outset of this proposition is flatly contradicted by the quotation from Scripture brought in support of the previous
It is from James i. 13, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted
with evil, neither tempteth he any man." We are disposed to take the word of James, in preference to that of the Divines who render the idea of providence so strange and unaccountable, by unwarranted propositions. The last one, in plain terms, affirms that God leaves men to commit repetitions of Sin in order to punish former Sin. How can one Sin atone for another Sin? how can men be induced to place reliance on a Providence that acts in contradiction to itself?—which does not leave them to choose between good and evil? But this is not all.
“ As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former Sins doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon in th hearts, but sometimes also withdraweth the gift which they had, and exposeth them to such objects, as their corruption makes occasion for Sin; and withal gives them over to their own lusts, the Temptations of the world, and the power of Satan ; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.”
Is this the description of a Righteous Judge? Is this the character of the Father whose name we call hallowed ? Is the God of the Confession of Faith, the same God who sent Jesus to seek and to save? Impossible. That God whom Jesus called his father, and our father, cannot withhold the grace by which sinners may be saved. He cannot hinder the prodigal son, by hardening him and blinding him, from returning to his father. He cannot prefer one sinner over another. Is he a merciful God, who withholds the means by which repentance and amendment may
be induced ? Is he a God at all worthy of reverential love, who can create beings for the express purpose of rendering them wicked and miserable? There is no such God as the God of the Confession of Faith.—Mark the last proposition of the Divines, in their explanation of Providence.
“ As the Providence of God doth in general reach to all creatures ; so after a most SPECIAL manner, it taketh care of his Church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof."
As no Church is allowed to be a true Church in England, but the one established by law in that kingdom; and as in Scotland no church is allowed to be true but the one established there, it is probable that some compromise was made, so that form of government and of worship should not interfere in the concoction of a creed which could be supported by the State. We must hold, therefore, the word Church, in the above proposition, to mean the two established churches, and none other. Why God should take more care of the teachers than of the taught is not easily perceived. The Church is understood to consist of no other persons but those set apart by the corporations to pray and to preach in public; at least by themselves. They take care to assume precedence whenever they are mentioned. Church is uniformly placed before State. Church is publicly prayed for before the Sovereign, and is thrust into the prayers expressly allotted to Royalty; though in the Litany Priests follow the Royal family, they have precedence of all others; and even in the form of our act of Parliament, the Lords Spiritual are mentioned first. All this exhibits how much the example of Christ in the quality of humility is followed by those who pretend to expound what He taught, and to discover that Providence especially protects them. Nevertheless the true Spirit of God is at work in men's minds. Craft will not much longer be suffered to conceal that the law unhappily sanctions deceit, and ignorantly nourishes pride and covetousness. Craft, when directed to the acquirement of power or wealth, commonly deceives itself. It is strange that the Presbyterian clergy do not claim to be represented in Parliament; why, since they disdain to be called bishops, do they not seek to have the means of looking after their interest in the lower house? We should not lament seeing such a claim put forward, because it would probably be the signal to the country to drag the Bishops from the upper house, and to abolish Establishments altogether. Our hope rests on that which has been pronounced by high authority,—“ a house divided against itself cannot stand."
The next chapter of the Confession relates to the Fall of Man. We refer on this subject, to the Inquiry into the Doctrine of Human Corruption, in No. XI., page 46, of Volume III., New Series.
As it would be a mere repetition of arguments already stated against that doctrine and the others we have considered, to take the propositions of other doctrines of the Confession seriatim, we propose now to take a general view of some points which have not met with due attention, but which are of importance to the inquiry, What am I to Believe?
Many very excellent persons have bestowed much labour, and exhibited considerable ingenuity, to discover, under the appellation of Types, Figures, and Shadows of things to come, what they imagine to be a mode of prophesying, pervading the contents of every book of which the Bible is made up, and tending, as they believe, to elucidate the plans of the Deity in
reference to mankind. They do not, however, seem to have considered that their imaginations have hurried them into the act of impeaching the Attributes of Him they desire to ho
It is a lamentable thing to fear that it has been the wish of a certain class of teachers, whose pride has led them to assume a title which they are far from deserving, to bewilder the brains of ignorant men and silly women by means of mystery ;-to impress the belief that their salvation depends on outward things-on mere words—on what is truly papistrywhile the only religion of any value to a human creature is that “ within which passeth show,”—which is individually felt, and not seen in any display by those who feel—whose only demonstration is made, under the command of Jesus, to the God of the heart, when the closet door is shut. The religion, par excellence, of the present day, consists more in show than in substance—and the more violently and ravingly a minister can preach, the more he is followed, and in reality substituted for the Spirit and the Truth, and for the meek and quiet Jesus, who never enforced his doctrine by noise and gesticulation, but by speaking home to the feelings and intellect of his hearers. There are too many instances in which what is called preaching the Gospel, might be proved with facility to be preaching perdition. A struggle for power over the human person and faculties is going on; and the worldly mindedness of those who seek it has been exposing itself. Their reward awaits them, as it does all systems of religion which depend on state support or selfish interests.
The types and figures which are sought out and held forth most conspicuously, are those that are supposed to relate to the promise of a deliverer of the Jews. Let us consider this. A promise is an obligation come under by one person to another, to do, or to give something specific that is desired ;—or a promise may be given from motives of voluntary benevolence. In either case it is, by conscientious men, held sacred; and any one who fails in fulfilling a promise is looked upon as a dishonourable person.
A promise may be conditional; so that if the party to whom it is made shall not fulfil his part of the engagement, the other party is entitled to withdraw, and is not to be blamed.
The first question, therefore, that arises is, was the promise made to the seed of Abraham a specific, or a conditional promise ? Christians say that it was actually fulfilled in the person of Christ; therefore they consider it specific. The expectation of the Jews is also specific, and they still await the fulfilment.