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Bible and the practices, theories, methods, and forms of social and civil existence around us, and of the compatibility of the teachings and preachings of the apostles and their Master with the common life of the church and the world. Perhaps the question might have been better debated had it been asked, "Do men's deeds har. monize with their creeds ?' Nor is it without reason that such a question as this should arise at the present time. We have the Mormons with a new bible of their own, proclaiming the inadequacy of the Bible ; the Roman Catholics eagerly engaged in the endeavour to get the Pope declared to be an infallible dictator on all that concerns life and faith, the church and the world, heaven and hell, that he may supply the felt want of adaptation between our times and the Scriptures ; the action of the spiritualists, the free lovers in America, our own Divorce Courts, our recent parliamentary dealings with marriage and with education; and the actual existence among all people of men who are essentially secularists, and recognise no fitness in the Bible to them and their requirements. It is quite evident that there is a field here for debate, and matter very worthy of consideration. Besides all that we have noted above, we have the New Evangel of M. Comte, whose Positive Philosophy is, or is to be, the consummation of all religion, science, letters, life, and worship; and professes to break for modern thinkers the thraldom of delusion and superstitious religiosity, to make free men of the inhabitants of the universe, and to drive away alike the Cross and crosses from the earth by a new faith and feeling-an improved worship and better practices.
In this point of view I note first that "the gospel ” is not 'adapted to modern society" ethically.
Ethics is the science of morals, and morals are the manners, modes or customs of life to which men by inclination or babit give themselves up, or by which they regulate themselves.
Ethics is a system of duties to which man is bound either by nature, contract, or revelation. Ethics is the governor of human life in regard to duty, in all the relations in which man is placed. It is evident, therefore, that as the relations of men become more intimate, minute, intense, diversified, &c., the code of morals applicable to a state of society simple in its structure, and but little intricate in its relations, must differ greatly from the system of obligations which must be brought to bear upon a state of civilization of a more com: plex, if not of a higher character. The principle here enunciated is acknowledged in every kind and sort of civilized requirement. The simple rude arithmetic of the literal calculus, or small pebble, has been developed and complicated till it has given us the mighty calculus of Newton as improved by Airy, Jellet, Boole, Sylvester, &c. The chemistry of dyeing which served for ancient fabrics has been eclipsed by the wondrous resources of modern ingenuity and investigation, so as to enable the dyer to simulate almost all the colours of the “ flowers of the field.” The machinery of our day has been developed into a much more complicated and difficult
branch of ingenuity than the simple mechanics of ancient times could have been applied to. · Political economy has become more extended and refined. Trade has been alaost entirely changed, and the social relations of men hare been so enlarged as, to introduce into all languages words and terms which were quite unnecessary,
in ancient times. These facts show that the sense of adaptation has been felt in these different forms and modes of effort; and these are only samples of the universality of change which has passed over the face of modern as compared with ancient society. The ethics of the gospel are quite unsuitable to the age in which we live. Its doctrines do not come home directly and efficiently to the heart and conscience of transgressors. They are too general, and fall wide of the mark. They are too indefinite and can be preached about with such an amount of general acquiescence and practical disregard, that those who most constantly and almost overtly disregard the commandments of the gospel are the main supporters of the churches and chapels in which the doctrines are preached, and the proprietors or occupiers of the shops, warehouses, &c., in which the said doctrines are most widely and systematically violated. False weights and measures abound, the tricks of trade are proverbial, the adulteration of foods, beverages, and even medi. cines, is rife and only thinly disguised-are, in fact, almost legalized under the euphemism of a customs of trade." Were the ethical precepts and doctrines of the gospel adapted to modern society, such things could not be. It is proved," says the Pall Mall Gazette, “beyond question that we habitually consume potato meal, plaster of Paris, alum, and sulphate of copper, in our bread; tallow, suet, soda, and manganese in our butter; water, chalk, and annat. to, in our milk; Prussian blue, catechu, and terra japonica in our
and chicory, roasted beans, mangel wurzel, bullock's liver, and black-jack in our coffee. We imbibe water, sulphuric acid, turpentine, methylated alcohol, grains of paradise, cocculus indicus, nux vomica, treacle, and salt in our spirits, beer, and porter. And if all this should happen to disagree with us, the jalap, opium, calomel, and scammony to which we resort for relief are iu all probability to a great extent fabricated of powdered wood, wheat flour, French chalk, resin, and sand.” And according to the same authority, Mr. Philips, the chief chemical officer of the Inland Revenue Office, has great difficulty in keeping, though aided by an able staff of subordinates, pace with the ever-increasing ingenuity of the adulterators of the necessaries and luxuries of life. There can be no doubt in any body's mind that “giving short weight is not less a crime than picking pockets, and that adulteration is a form of obtaining money under false pretences;" yet men professing Christianity, gloze over the criminality of such actions, and practise them, because the ethics of the gospel do not take a firm enough grip of their consciences, and do not directly, in application to them, denounce them as crimes against society as well as against God. Though it is distinctly the precept of the gospel, “ As ye
would that others should do unto you, do ye even so to them,” yet in ordinary conversation you will find men, professedly Christian men, extolling the duty of looking to yourself, of minding No. 1, and not only asserting but acting upon the principle that " everything is fair in war, in love, and in trade.” * Nay, so far has the intricacy of the relations of civilized life gone on in this course of “ diamond cut diamond” style of transacting business, that men 80 high in moral character and position, so notable and so knowingly adhering by profession to Christianity, as Mr. Bright, proclaim, even in the Christian Parliament of Christian England, the inapplicability of the morality of the Gospels to modern life, by asserting that adulteration and short weight are only a form of competition; that adulteration was quite legitimate under the pressure of trade necessities, that it did little harm to the purchaser who was igno• rant of it; and that when men got sufficiently well educated to detect it, it would become impossible. When such things occur, can it be affirmed that the gospel is suited to modern times ?
I remark, in the next place, that the gospel is not adapted to modern life socially.
The social conditions of life have altered not less remarkably than those of men’s moral relations. The simplicity of pastoral society, the existence of a slave caste, the few laws, but direct bearing of the personal will of superiors, have all passed away. City life was a rare thing in ancient times, the great accumulations of wealth and the exclusive possession of large landed estates, the extreme division of labour, and the consequent excessive complica. tion of society, are all new, and all affect men in such a way as to require new and more detailed laws closely adapted to modern society. The charities of life are now no longer able to be exercised with safety to one's self or benefit to others. Personal almsgiving is a crime against the prosperity of the State, and tax-paying alms is not only grudgingly given, but is received with thanklessness. The relations of life have called into existence the science of selfishness—the philosophy of commerce, political economy, the science of wages, and value, and labour, and unionism-organizing life on principles to which the social laws of the gospel have no adaptation and little applicability. There have also arisen among us the crimes of great cities as well as their sins and their sorrows; and individual Christians, as well as Christian parliaments, believe in the propriety of licensing them. The marriage laws are now, though founded on the gospel, felt to be so little adapted to modern life, that divorce has been simplified and made easy by Act of Parlia. ment and the gospel doctrines concerning marriages of affinity and consanguinity are being gradually repealed. Women, instead of being in subjection to their own husbands, are aiming at equality or supremacy; and husbands, instead of loving their own wives, are getting into the habit of loving other people's wives, or bestowing their love elsewhere. We do not now seek to do justice between man and man ,still less between man and woman, but we proclaim it as a social duty, distinctly taught by economic science, that we should buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market. It has been proclaimed that not the law of God given in the Gospels is or ought to be omnipotent over our lives, but that the decisions of a parliamentary majority of a House of Commons, elected-exclusive of bribery or corruption, intimidation or personation, probably even without personal responsibility for the vote given by the whole body of the people who have houses to live in and can pay poor-rates, ought to be the omnipotent determiner of social duty, civil rights, and individual obligation, thus directly affirming that the gospel is not adapted to modern life. Who, even among professing Cbristians, now acknowledge the gospel so suited to the present age as to abstain from presenting their cases in the common law courts, " forbearing one another; and forgiving one another, if any man hath a quarel against any ?" (Col. iii. 13; see also 1 Cor. vi. 1). May we not here use the very words of a contributor in the June issue of this Magazine - Has every saved person given his coat to the man that took away his cloak ? Has every saved person given to every man that asked of him, and sought pot again his goods of the man who stole them P" (p. 439). The way in which Christian church-going people put away these things from them as quite inapplicable to their case, the manner in which the plainest requirements of the gospel, in regard to social life, are set aside, even in our churches, gives good evidence that they who attend them do not think the gospel suitable to our times. Let us apply one individual instance. We read, "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and
unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or, sit here under my footstool : are ye not then partial in yourselves ?” (Jas. ii. 1–4). May we not then ask, if this is a plain and explicit duty of the members of the church in their assemblies—and compare what goes on, not merely at our great May meetings, but in our regular congregational assemblies—do not the churches themselves declare that the gospel is not adapted to modern life! Again, it is certain that the Gospels teach that the members of churches were brethren, who held it a right and a duty to exercise discipline over each other in all matters relating to morals or social life, having a co-accountability to each other. In our days law and legislation have nearly superseded all these things, and it is even dangerous now in some cases to exercise moral discipline over church members. The Gospels evidently require bome education, and especially home education in religion; but in this matter, too, they are inapplicable to our times. The same remark applies to the relations of master and servant; to manufacturers, and to those employed under them; to police officials and poor-law guardians, to legal agents and to business generally, the Gospels are not adapted to them. They do not seem to anticipate any such life as ours, and they are unsuitable in their requirements.
We remark, in the third place, that the gospel is not adapted to modern times politically.
The nature and the form of government have entirely altered since the days of the Scripture, and we bave changed with the changing times. We are no longer subject one to another, either in the fear of the Lord or in the eye of the law. We are all equals, and we are all masters by proxy as well as subjects. We have altered the very tenure of sovereignty, of priesthood, of magistracy, and of citizenship. The Scriptures affirm that it is by God that kings reign and princes decree judgment; we affirm that the voice of the people is the
voice of God, and that sovereigns hold their power in reality from an actual or an assumed plebiscite. Law is no longer the decalogue, but Acts of Parliament of uonumbered complexity and incomprehensible multiplicity of provisions. We have created for the people an artificial conscience, so that those who satisfy the law, or rather keep clear of its officers' grip, hold themselves to be good, and are gratified at their stainless character. It is undeniable that in many cases legal expedients are employed and sanctioned which are excessively mean and deceptive. In all these ways the gospel has shown that it is not adapted to the spirit of the agehas lost its hold upon the hearts of men, and is gradually being supplanted by philosophical notions and legal fictions which operate from without instead of acting upon the inner spirit of man. I shall only advert in a single sentence to one or two of the social phenomena of the day wbich go to prove that the gospel is not adapted to modern society. The great spasmodic efforts which are ever and anon being made to excite a revival of Christian enthusiasm which almost as inevitably as they are begun collapse, and often leave men more regardless than they were. This shows that it is, as it is, effete and ineffective upon the state of the social civilization of these times. The frequency with which books on the evidences of Christianity are published, combined with the steady spread and prevalence, not only of practical but theoretical infidelity, affords ground for fearing that the salt has lost its savour. The popularity of spiritualism, either as a means of bolstering up present beliefs, or as a substitute for them, or as a means of gaining word of prophecy,” is a very strong fact suggestive of the impotence of Christianity in our day. To this we must add the frequency of attempts made to bring communistic and socialistic plans of life into practical working. Then there is Mormonism and polygamy,the former a direct assertion that “the true faith of a Christian" has lost its hold on many hearts, and the latter giving proof that many have ceased to believe that God in the beginning made man male and female as an indication that each man should be the hus. band of one wife, and that they two, and they only, so long as they both shall live, should be one flesh. The recent advent among us
a more sure