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two great classes. And, finally, in referring to certain “indications of a fanatical spirit,” considers them as “exhibitions, from fact, of the miserable effects which are produced by narrow, and gloomy, and mistaken views of religion, and of this grand truth, that the only religious views which are fitted to keep pace with the order of nature and the great arrangements of society, must be of a liberal, and cheerful, and enlightened cast.
Now, however we may be disposed to assent to the correctness of these sentiments, we do not see how they can be honestly entertained, or consistently avowed by one, who, as a condition of being admitted to the sacred office of a Christian minister, and holding his place as such, must have formally given his assent to, and made public profession of, such articles as the following, which we copy from the constitution of the Scotch National Church.
“Do you sincerely own and believe the whole Doctrine of the Confession of Faith, approved by the General Assembly of this National Church, and ratified by law in the year 1699, to be the truths of God, and do you own the whole doctrine therein contained, as the confession of your faith ?” The confession of faith here spoken of is the “ Westminster Confession,” together with what are called the “Larger and Shorter Catechisms," which are ordinarily bound up with it. This form of subscription is required even of the lay elders of the Church, and it is mournful to think that the author of the Waverley Novels, and multitudes of others, whose spirit and faith are as little Calvinistic as his own, have given in their public and solemn adhesion to it.
The author before us, in addition to the above, as a Probationer of the Scottish Church, before receiving license to preach, must have given, according to law, an affirmative answer to this question :
“Do you renounce all doctrines, tenets, or opinions whatsoever, contrary to, or inconsistent with, the said doctrine ?" that is, the Confession above mentioned.
Again : -as presentee to a recent parish, in the solemn act of ordination, in the face of the congregation, he must have assented to the following :
“Do you sincerely believe the whole doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith (that is, the Westminster Confession above spoken of] to be founded on the word of God; and do
you acknowledge the same as the confession of your faith; and will you firmly and constantly adhere thereto, and, to the utmost of your power, assert, maintain, and defend the same ?"
“Do you disown all Popish, Arian, Socinian, Arminian, Bourignian, * and other doctrines, tenets, and opinions, whatsoever, contrary to, or inconsistent with, the aforesaid confession of faith
It is an exceedingly unwelcome task thus to note the discrepancy between the avowed sentiments and the solemn and publicly professed faith of an author, in other respects so consistent and right-minded as the one now before us. aware, too, that it is the legitimate result, if not the necessary consequence, of the system wbich requires this imposition of creeds and formularies of faith. They are, and must, in the nature of things, often prove to be snares to the consciences of good men, while they do nothing to secure the purity of the church against the access of the unscrupulous. aware too of the extremely loose morality which prevails among professed Christians on this point. The author who has called forth these remarks is kept in countenance, at least to a great degree, in thus solemnly professing what he does not believe, either in letter or spirit, by such men as his countrymen Robertson, Blair, and the great body of the liberal party of the clergy of Scotland, whose opinions, it is well known, lean strongly towards Arminianism. He is kept in countenance too in this by great numbers in England, on the continent, in our own country, including professors of our Theological Institutions, and in all other places, where these creeds and confessions are imposed. But the commonness of the sin only renders it a more fitting subject of reprobation. We know, too, with what cunning pretences and ingenious glosses men endeavour to excuse to themselves this tampering with their solemn protestation ; - how they talk of " signing for
* It is somewhat singular that Antoinette Bourignon, should have found more proselytes in Scotland than anywhere else. One reason may be, that in many respects, as, for example, in her views of the freedom of the will, the doctrine of election, the unchangeable love of God, the forms of worship and formularies of faith, her opinions were vastly more rational and Scriptural, than those imposed by the National Church.
substance," and of “articles of peace," and of “not being able to keep a conscience.” But all this is a poor mockery. Does not every child, in any of the lower classes of a Sunday School, know, that assenting to a creed, either by word or act, directly or indirectly, is assenting to the import and meaning of that creed ; and that this import and meaning are that, and nothing else or less than that, which its language plainly expresses, and which it is understood to express by all parties concerned? And if a man assent to this with any mental reservation whatsoever, does he not thereby, and to the same extent he does so, falsify his settled convictions and act a deceiver's part ? Is it not a deception moreover, and a voluntary one too, in regard to the most sacred of all subjects? But what is meant by “ signing for substance ?"
substance of what ? substance of the creed ? that is, as we have said, what the creed is understood and known to mean? — or is it the “substance” of something that is neither understood or known in the signer's mind, or something that is known or understood to be very different from the plain import of the creed? And as to signing creeds, as “articles of peace”; is it not a plain matter of history that these very creeds and confessions of faith have, again and again, proved to be nothing but sources of alienation, war, and bloodshed ? And then, again, as to “not being able to keep a conscience;' we should like to be informed, what a Christian man can afford to keep if he cannot keep this ? — Is it his place ? his pulpit ? his professorship ? his standing in society? And if so, shall he be permitted to keep them by a subterfuge in religious matters, which if perpetrated in the common business of life, would jeopard his character for common honesty ?
But, abominating as we do every thing even approaching to indirectness in the concerns of religion, we are yet willing to believe that there are cases, where this disingenuousness, to give it no harsher name, may be nothing more reprehensible than one of that numberless class of deceptions which men practise on themselves. It may, sometimes, be a species of unconscious compromise which a well-intentioned mind makes with a bad faith, between what it thinks it must, but knows not how to believe ;— between a form of faith, hallowed it may be with all the ineffaceable associations of our early homes, and a questioning state of mind, dissatisfied with itself, and verging onward towards a brighter light and manlier self-avowal. We VOL. XX. - 30 S. VOL. II. NO. II.
all know, too, or may, or ought to know how difficult a thing it is to the best of us, " to read our own consciousness without mistakes," and to give to even a rational faith, a living, forming, realizing power. But still, after making every charitable allowance for thus professing one thing and believing another, we must think, as we have said, that there is a strange apathy prevailing even in good men's minds in respect to this sin, and it is quite time, therefore, in regard to this, as Coleridge says on another point, that the “word duty” were sounded in the ears of this generation."
But in reference to the author before us, however difficult it may be to reconcile the pervading tenor of his book, with his adherence to the Established Church of Scotland, with her forms and articles, we would not only gladly acquit him of all suspicion of disingenuousness, but are happy in commending, as worthy of all praise, the largeness and comprehensiveness of his views, his enlightened piety, and the open, free, benignant, and truly catholic spirit with which they are laid before us.
To whatsoever sect he may belong by profession or by subscription, in all these respects we claim him as our own. And we welcome these volumes, and the favorable reception they have met with in their own country, as auspicious tokens, that the creed, which Knox transplanted from Geneva to the sterner soil of Scotland, and which the Covenanters watered with tears and blood, and wbich was afterwards, by public authority, fenced round with the Westminster Confession of Faith, is undergoing a meliorating process, and that from the combined influences of a better nurture, a kindlier exposure, and a more genial warmth and light, its fruits are losing their native acerbity and bitterness, and becoming, at once more palatable and more nutritive.
The object of the work before us is thus stated in the words of the author ;
As, therefore, in the Author's former treatises, it was his object to give a just direction to the devotional feelings of men, and to found these upon natural and human affections, present, it has been his endeavour, by adherence to the same general plan, to give a corresponding character to the moral and religious ambition of mankind ; — in the favorite words of the Saviour, - to bring the kingdom of Heaven upon earth;' and to teach religious men, that the serious thoughts which have been awakened in their minds, can only be really gratified,
so in the
and are only directed towards their proper objects, when they are employed, not to lift the imaginations of those who cherish them into a state of listless abstraction, or of enthusiastic rapture, — but rather, when they are so happily managed as to lead the aspirant after heaven to look with a warmer, a nobler, and a more religious interest on every thing on earth, to be thankful that God has thus enabled him, by the due management of a definite trust in time, to prepare himself for a greater trust, when the kingdom of God shall be more fully disclosed, — and to believe, that it is simply by the manner in which he conducts himself amidst present interests, that his future station in the universe shall be determined.”
xiii. The following the author considers as the distinctive features of the work, subordinate to the general purpose now mentioned ;
“ The view which he has given of the extent of the Divine kingdom on earth, and of the means employed by Providence for the extension of that kingdom ; next, the reasonings which are submitted to the reader respecting the proper meaning and use of the term perfection, and of the idea which it expresses ; then, the account given of the proper nature of those services which are more strictly religious, and of the place occupied by our religious feelings in the general structure of human nature;
still farther, the place assigned, in the same structure, to the power which man possesses of forming notions of ideal excellence, and the distinction between this power, and that of aiming at what is more vaguely and commonly called perfection; - also, the account given of the importance of attending to small duties, in our attempts to make real progress in the 'way that leadeth unto life ;' finally, the picture of a 'good life,' with which the work is concluded, and which the Author hopes has been so managed, as at once to present a clear conception to the minds of his readers of a style of conduct which every one of them is in a condition to realize, and also to admit into this their training for immortality, the most common duties and interests of life.” — pp. xiv., xv.
In the following account of the circumstances in which the plan of the treatise was first sketched, our readers will recognise a deep tone of sincerity and self-abandonment to his theme on the part of the author ; and on these accounts, no other, will be predisposed to lend him a willing and candid attention.
“Of the confidence which the Author has in the truth of the principles by which the present work is characterized, and