« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
as since the Fall has never been seen. And is not a result somewhat like this to be expected in religious matters? The Christian world are getting acquainted with each other. They are having not only the denominational interchange of delegations, but congresses, and conventions, and alliances, and all on a larger and larg. er scale. The asperities of sectarian feeling are thus softened. There has been a great advance in this respect, within a century past. Those seem to us strange times, in which a man like Lightfoot could style one of his own controversial works, “ A Battle with a Wasp's Nest,” or a man like Toplady-author of soine of the tenderest and sweetest hymns in our language, could entitle one of his pieces against John Wesley, “An Old Fox tarred and feathered." Now with this increase of kind intercommunication, will not the various sects learn of each other? May not combinations of excellence result, in doctrine and polity, unknown before? Is it not thus, possibly, millennial perfectness in those respects is to be attained ? And where is it so likely to be first witnessed as in this free land of ours ? Let us maintain, then, fraternal intercourse with our brethren in Christ of every denomination. Let us candidly study their creeds and their forms. Let us not disdain to be profited thereby, and the issue may be a more symmetrical faith both in us and in them. Let us not imagine that the church to which we happen to belong, or any other, is a perfect one. That name would be due, if at all on earth, only to an embodiment of all the excellences of every existing church.
We may be aided to avoid extremes, it may be further observed, by the study of ecclesiastical history. It is of great importance in this view. Not that in remote and shadowy antiquity we are to look for unmingled truth. Not that patristical literature is to be deemed the great thesaurus of divinity. It may be compared rather, like the kingdom of heaven, to “a net which was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.” Not that the voice of the church is the voice of God ;—that is heard only in the utterances of in. spiration. The religion of Protestants is to be found wholly in the Bible. We would heartily repudiate, in the study suggested, all Puseyitish views—all resting upon tradition—all undue regard for human authority. It is chiefly useful, not so much, perhaps, in bringing to light old and precious forms of truth—though in this respect it may be of some service-as in exhuming, and for admonitory purposes showing forth old and odious forms of error. The heresies of the present day are far from being, as some fancy, new things under the sun; they are but reproductions. They have all had existence in other ages; and they come up now, much like one of the old books—the same matter in new type and binding, with now and then, under the hand of a genius, rare pictorial illustrations. It is of no little importance that this should be understood, especially by the teachers of Christianity; and that they
THIRD SERIES, VOL. VI., No. 1 4
should see too in what these errors have ordinarily had a begin. ning-in what slight departures from truth, what minor obliquities and extravagances of doctrine. The lights to be sought for in ecclesiastical history, are to great extent beacon lights. Let it be resorted to with this view. Let it be well noted with what frequent oscillations of opinion the church has held on her waylike the tempest-beaten ship driven to and fro by varying winds, now nearing rocks on the one hand, and now quicksands on the other. Let the harm which has actually resulted from such alternations be well pondered, and we shall gain for the faith of the gospel an additional safeguard.
But far above all aids of this sort, we remark once more, must be placed the study of the Scriptures. It is one of the clearest proofs of the inspiration of the Bible, that though written by so many different men of so many different ages-men so diverse in their circumstances and modes of life, their intellectual and moral peculiarities, it is yet one harmonious whole. The utmost ingenuity of the whole race of skeptics, has failed to discover a single discrepancy. The stones of this wondrous temple, like those of Solomon's, were, as shaped apart, so exactly fitted to each other, that in their coming together there was no need of the stroke of the hammer upon them. There is nothing unduly magnified-nothing improperly belittled-nothing forced awry-nothing out of position, or in any respect out of keeping. Every doctrine, every precept, every argument, every illustration, every appeal, is just as it should be. The more our theology is drawn from the Bible, then, the more perfect will be the adjustment of its several parts, the greater the completeness and symmetry of the whole. It is from deficiency here, giving ampler scope to all other perverting influences, that many a good man has fallen into hurtful extremes. You see, at once, in the writings of some, just why they err. The Scriptures are little referred to; it is reason, evidently, or human authority, that rules, rather than God's Word. A particular doctrine is first adopted, or a system of doctrines, and then, if ever, the Bible is resorted to for proofs. The texts are made to fit the system, not the system the texts. They seem often, indeed, under treatment of this sort, to be of waxen pliability-elastic as the consciences that can thus desecrate them. The minister of the gospel, especially, should, in this regard, be very jealous over himself. For the avoiding of all error-particularly of that species of it now under consideration-he cannot be too solicitous to cast all his teaching in the moulds of inspiration.
As a crowning means to the same end, we notice, finally, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who gave the truth. It is He who prepares the heart to receive it. His work there, is the exact counterpart of his work in the Bible. He takes of the things that are Christ's, and shows them to the be
liever; and it is by His gracious influence alone, soundness in the faith is maintained. What shall keep dead orthodoxy from palpable putrescence? How naturally, when the love of the truth has declined, do men pass to at least a partial rejection of it. If they dare not cast it out entirely, they at least reshape it, in accordance with their own corrupt inclinations and habits. When the great deep of the human heart becomes “like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” how is it possible the glorious things of the firmament should be reflected from it, save in imperfect and unsightly forms? We cannot insist too earnestly on the indispensableness of deep and habitual spirituality, to the clear apprehension and right unfolding of Divine things.
We had chiefly in mind, however, those special visitations of the Holy Spirit not peculiar to our land, but with which our churches have been so signally favored. It is not alone out of compassion for dying souls around us, we should desire revivals of religion. They are of immense consequence with reference to purity of doctrine. The gracious operations already adverted to, so helpful to correctness of belief, are at such seasons enjoyed in unwonted measure. Those worldly influences, which corrupt at once the practice and the faith of men, are held in check. The whole atmosphere is instinct with truth. God is manifestly present, and in his light we see light. It is noontide with the church, when, as with the ship at sea, those solar observations are taken which show where she is, and how far she has been drawn from her course by head winds and deceitful currents. At no time do men see so clearly just what God's truth is, as when He who revealed it is writing it anew, as it were, upon all hearts, yea, writing it upon all creation. Object not that from revivals of religion extravagances have been known to result. This may have been the case, ever so abundantly, with spurious revivals. Nay, we deny not that it may sometimes have happened in connection with a genuine work of grace. For where the master soweth wheat, the enemy soweth tares. With great good of any sort, in this imperfect world, some evil is apt to be associated. Under the genial and fructifying rains of heaven, worthless and cumbersome weeds spring up; yet, what are they to the waving harvest ? Under bright tropical skies there may be poisonous plants and fruits; yet how little are they to be accounted of, in comparison with those rich and noble products of the earth which have ripened under the same sunshine? Revivals of religion are never quite perfect, just because imperfect man has ever to do with them.
Yet a woful day will have come to our land, when they shall have ceased from among us. Even now, in their partial suspension, in the incipient laxness of doctrine, the world-ward and flesh-ward extremes which seem here and there to be creep
ing in--we have ample occasion to utter the prayer of the prophet, "Oh Lord, revive thy work!"
FAITH IN THE GOSPEL THE FOUNDATION OF HUMAN
By Rev. L. CURTIS, Woodbury, Ct. There are two classes in whom the leading sentiment of this article may provoke a smile. Unbelievers, who regard all religious faith as degrading to the human mind, and believers who have thought of faith only as a condition of justification with God, and as a passport to heaven. And few, comparatively, seem to perceive that fuith in the gospel is essential to man as man; must be the principle of his true greatness on earth. This fact was seen by Paul, and was expressed not obscurely by him in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews. The illustrious men of the Jewish nation, owed their greatness to faith. This inspired their noble aims, and nerved them for heroic deeds. Through this they “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, waxed valiant in fight, out of weakness were made strong.” Nor must we imagine, as some do, that faith was merely a condition on which God wrought success for them by miraculous power. This was sometimes true. To inspire their confidence in Jehovah, it was occasionally necessary to show them that the most formidable array of power could accomplish nothing without him; while, with him, the most incompetent means would insure success. We are not to conclude, therefore, that faith has no more natural connection with great deeds, than the blowing of ram's horns had with the fall of Jericho. Nor shall we infer that faith is a mere form of obedience consisting in blind credulity, in shutting the eyes to all earthly connection between means and ends, and in fólding to sleep every power of personal activity. On the contrary, nothing can so quicken and expand both the mind and heart, and so kindle every natural energy into efficient and permanent action as faith; and faith too in that gospel which was but imperfectly apprehended by the ancient Jews. No other principle is so deep and powerful, nor so ennobling to the entire character. The time will come when men will not have two standards of human excellence popular opinion for the present life, and the gospel for the future. The two will coincide. Those only will be "great" among
” men, as well as in “ the kingdom of God," who “do the work of
God.” And that work will be, to "believe on Him whom he hath sent.” Whatever is essentially great in man as a moral being, does not depend upon the caprice of human opinion, or on the relation of time and place. It stands upon relations permanent as truth; and is to be estimated by principles which are as universal in the world of mind, as the laws of light and gravity are in the world of matter. God's standard must be the true one for all latitudes. As a separate principle, indeed, faith is inferior to love; but it implies and involves it. In respect to some of its objects, too, faith will become vision : but it will not cease to be a basis of excellence for all worlds. The highest archangel will
. never fathom the depths, nor measure the circumference of infinity. There will forever be an ample field lying far out beyond the limits of his vision, which faith alone can traverse. And that is a fallen archangel who will not stretch his confidence beyond his vision.
It is our purpose, however, to consider faith only in its relations to sinful beings; and, more particularly, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as the foundation of human greatness.
We do not assert that all who exercise this faith possess greatness. Other conditions must be fulfilled; but where this is done, faith in the gospel not only imparts greatness, but constitutes its chief element. And here we only take for granted the truth of the gospel as a Divine system for human redemption, and use the term greatness in the highest and broadest sense.
But we must examine here, more particularly, the elements of human greatness, and the influence of natural faith. True greatness does not lie in any one element of character.
It does not consist in extraordinary natural capacities merely, as great power of intellect, or energy of will, or depth of emotion. With all these, one may be greatly contemptible. Nor does it consist in the right direction of the natural powers; for these may be feeble. It lies in the union of capacity and right voluntary direction; that is, in character, natural and moral. It pertains to the whole man. A great poet, a great scholar, a great hero, is not, of course, a great man.
The latter involves far more than any one excellence, natural or acquired, which protrudes itself in a given direction, and overshadows or absorbs every other human excellence. We must bring ourselves up toward the Divine standard. Otherwise we shall be subject to every caprice of human opinion, and accord greatness now to some Nimrod for his, prowess in subduing beasts, and now to some chieftain for equal success in hunting men. Or, in an age of peace and cultivation, when intellect is enthroned, we shall ascribe it to him who overpowers by the majesty of his conceptions, or astonishes by the inventions of his skill, or charms by the creations of his fancy. We want a standard broad and "permanent, which will