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necessarily, he who is exclusively employed in thinking on heavenly themes; nor he who detaches himself from all interest in present things, that he may become wholly absorbed in things future ; nor he who retires from the incumbent duties of his condition in the present state, that he may bury himself in religious musings, and spiritual abstractions, and devotional services, - since this is to desert the sphere in which Providence has placed him, to neglect the duties which his great Task-master has assigned to him, and to bury the talent that was committed to his keeping; and it will signify nothing that it is inhumed in what he may deem to be consecrated earth. Still less is he a heavenly-minded man, who, shutting up all his sympathies and charities within the enclosure of his own narrow creed, makes it his sole business to thrust this creed upon all within his reach, and, in his proselyting rage, frightens away, by his noise and violence, all the sweet Christian graces, and outrages all the common proprieties and decencies of life. This is any thing but heavenlymindedness. But he is entitled to this high distinction, who, under a deep impression of his religious accountability, and a conviction that he is acting beneath the inspection of God, his present Witness and future Judge, faithfully, kindly, considerately, generously, honorably, attends to every incumbent duty of his place and station in life; enjoys, with a glad and grateful heart, all its innocent pleasures; and feels that he cannot be too earnestly devoted to each and all of these present interests; provided he regards them as parts of that divine discipline, which is to prepare bim for bigher truth and better enjoyments in those more glorious developements of God's all-comprehending kingdom, which are not yet revealed to mortal eyes.
The author dwells, much at large, on the uses and benefits of this view of human duty. We cannot now even glance at them in detail. There are two especial advantages, however, which it presents to us, that we deem too important to be wholly passed over. One is, that it gives a definite aim to conduct. If we could look into the minds of many persons, who are sincerely desirous of forming a religious character, and of living a religious life, we should find that their notions are extremely vague concerning what is required of them as religious beings. They are subject to a continual struggle between an impression, not easily dismissed, of the im
3D S. VOL. II. NO. III. 39
portance of the engagements of this present state, and that supremacy of regard which they cannot but feel to be due to things eternal. They are continually striving after a spiritual state and condition of character, of which they have no distinct conception, but which they apprehend to be something wholly distinct from that palpable and visible scene of things in which they are placed. But in the "plan” here given, a definite object is proposed as the leading aim of existence; and this is the continual improvement of all our capacities, in the use and by means of all the duties and circumstances of our condition, under an habitual impression of our religious responsibleness, and in the full developement of our religious natures. This aim evidently embraces all minor aims; as there is no spiritual state or condition of character, that is, or can, or ought to be obtained, which is distinct from present objects and engagements, since, be it repeated once more, it is precisely in, and by, and through these, that a truly spiritual state of character is to be formed.
The other advantage referred to, is this. It brings all the employments, duties, business, and true pleasures of life into one harmonious scheme, and consecrates them all to religious uses. And in nothing is this more delightfully apparent, than in the small duties and minor engagements of life. These, in the estimate of those persons whose religious systems lead them to separate religion from morality, spiritual culture from actual, every-day duties, are considered as hindrances and interruptions to their religious progress, and they are seen avoiding and neglecting them, that they may give an unbroken attention to services, which they deem more specifically religious, and by which alone, or principally, a religious character can be formed. But in the view here presented, all the incumbent duties of life, the small as well as the great, nay, even the most trivial and unimportant, are equally parts of one great scheme of religious advancement. All are comprehended in the vast plan. The unobtrusive virtues and quiet graces of humble life ; faithful, pains-taking cares for subsistence; the education of those committed to our trust; the care of our families ; the promotion of order, peace, and concord in the sphere of our influence, however narrow; kindness and fidelity in the circle of our social and domestic relations, however small; faithfulness in every duty, however humble; patience and acquiescence under the lesser
crosses and slighter ills of life ; cheerfulness and gratitude in the reception of the smallest pleasures that shine out upon us, like transient sunbeams, in the dark and weary path of humble toil; all the good that we have, or can impart to others, bowever trilling it may appear; - all are rendered religious acts, all receive a high consecration, all are illumined with the light of a purer and brighter world, by being used by us as a part, and an important part, of our duty as members of the universal“ kingdom of God," and in habitual subserviency to those aims and hopes, that centre upon an Everlasting Life.
“ And oh! when nature shrinks, as oft she may,
Art. III. — An Impartial Erposition of the Evidences and
Doctrines of the Christian Religion, addressed to the better educated Classes of Society, by J. H. McCulloh, JR., M. D., Author of “Researches, Philosophical and Antiquarian, concerning the Aboriginal History of America." Baltimore : Armstrong & Berry. 1836. 8vo. pp. 346. It is not often that we are presented with a theological treatise by a layman; not so often as we could wish. There are reasons why we should regard such productions with peculiar interest. Though usually less furnished with theological learning, laymen possess some decided advantages for religious investigation. They can speak out without fear of a congregation, presbytery, bishop, or synod; and though they cannot be supposed to be so far exempt from the common weaknesses of our nature as to be free from all party biases, they are certainly less liable to partiality than the professed divine, who must be supposed to be enlisted by connexion, by interest, or by sympathy on one side or the other of the great questions which divide the Christian church.
These considerations apply with peculiar force to a work on
the Evidences. What has a layman to gain by vindicating the truth of Christianity ? His temporal interests are not at all at stake. His pride cannot be enlisted to establish the respectability of that wbich makes him respectable. disposed, then, to receive what he says as his simple and honest convictions, wbich he promulgates to the world, only because he deems them true and important.
Another consideration, which makes lay theology peculiarly worthy of regard, is the fact, that the clergy, as a body, are apt to lag behind the people in the march of opinion. Such has been hitherto the organization of church establishments, that it has been unsafe for the clergy, either to examine for themselves, or to avow their opinions. It is certainly folly, — when a man's opinions have been manufactured to his hand by some provident council ages ago, and he has pledged himself to maintain thein at all events, — to go over again the grounds on which they are understood to rest. If he comes to the same result, be only believes with evidence what he before believed without. If he comes to a different conclusion, he has condemned himself to be either a heretic or a hypocrite for the rest of his life. The clergy, therefore, need occasionally to hear some awakening note from the people to urge them forward, or at least to save them from being left entirely in the rear.
We repeat it, therefore, we are glad to see such books as this. We are glad to see a full, free, independent expression of individual opinion. It is in this way alone, that any thing valuable can be added to theological knowledge. The repetition of other men's ideas, the emptying of one book into another, does us no good. Let every man state precisely what is in his own mind. No matter if it be eccentric or paradoxical, provided that it is sincerely held, and has been well considered. Let him give us the impressions which any subject makes on his own intellect, and then we have another independent suffrage, or at least one more distinct intellectual phenomenon, to further our investigation of truth.
The treatise under review had its origin, as the author states in his Preface, in parental solicitude.
“When I first undertook to write the following Essay, I had no intention whatever of making it public. I was solely influenced by the suggestions of parental solicitude to prepare something that should assist my own children to the better comprehension of
a subject, which I deemed of all others most important. But, when the work was nearly finished, it seemed to me that its publication could not but have a beneficial influence at the present time, when the institutions of the civilized world seem to be on the eve of a great change, in which new opinions must subvert ancient prejudices, and society be regulated by a theory of principles very different from those, which have hitherto influenced the interests of mankind.”
We are glad that he has published his thoughts. As yet, it is true, they have not made much noise except in his own immediate vicinity, and probably, never will make much. They present, nevertheless, a sufficiently clear and able exposition of a state of mind on religious subjects by no means peculiar to the Author, but common to a large number of religious and inquiring laymen throughout the country, who, like him, still continue attached to Orthodox churches, though they have renounced Orthodoxy itself, and are feeling about, with such helps as they can command, to find some other and better foundation of trust. The volume is interesting and valuable, therefore, as indicating a change which is everywhere passing over intelligent and active minds arnong the Orthodox, not professionally fettered, and the direction which this change is beginning to take ; and it is chiefly on this account, that we are led to notice it so much at length in this journal.
The plan here pursued in the discussion of the Christian Evidences, though not new,
differs from the common one. Most writers on this subject have availed themselves of whatever assistance they supposed might be derived to our faith, from Natural Religion and man's moral constitution. Butler, Locke, Hartley, Clarke, Priestley (who professes to have derived most of his principles on the subject from Hartley), Jenyns, Paley, and very lately Lord Brougham, have all considered the cause of revealed religion to be strongly corroborated by what we know of God and duty by the light of nature. Our author finds this ground preoccupied by the Deists. Here they have entrenched themselves, and here they have erected their batteries against Christianity. They say, that revelation cannot be true, because it contains things which are inconsistent with the moral attributes of God, and the immutable distinctions of moral propriety established in the mind of man. Before any progress can be made in demonstrating the truth of Christianity, these assailants must