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to give any intelligent account, while its practical influence has been absolutely incalculable.
We need not inform the intelligent reader, that very often systems of science or of faith which have been enforced by the strong arm of civil or ecclesiastical power, and which have darkened ages and continents with their shadow, have been based upon the crudest notions, loosely assumed as first truths. And certainly in no department have these crudities abounded more, or arrogated more of the authority of truth, than in that of theology. The tendency to view God as devoid of sensibility is forcibly expressed and earnestly deprecated in the following eloquent passage from Dr. Chalmers on Romans:
“It is with great satisfaction that I now clear my way to a topic the most salutary, and, I will add, the most sacramental within the whole compass of revealed faith; even to the love wherewith God so loved the world as to send his Son into it to be a propitiation for our sins. . I fear, my brethren, that there is a certain metaphysical notion of the Godhead which blunts our feelings of obligation for all the kindness of his good-will, for all the tenderness of his mercies. There is an academic theology which would divest him of all sensibility; which would make of him a Being devoid of all emotion and all tenderness; which concedes to him power, and wisdom, and a sort of cold and clear, and faultless morality, but which would denude him of all those fond and fatherly regards that so endear an earthly parent to the children who have sprung from him. It is thus that God hath been presented to the eye of our imagination as a sort of cheerless and abstract Divinity, who has no sympathy with his creatures, and who, therefore, can have no responding sympathy to him back again. I fear that such representations as these have done mischief in Christianity; that they have had a congealing property in them, towards that affection which is represented the most important, and, indeed, the chief attribute of a religious character, even love to God; and that just because of the unloveliness which they throw over the aspect of our Father who is in heaven, whereby men are led to conceive of Him as they would of some physical yet tremendous energy, that sitteth aloft in a kind of ungainly and unsocial remoteness from all the felt and familiar humanities of our species. And so it is, we apprehend, that the theism of nature and of science has taken unwarrantable freedoms with the theism of the Bible; attaching a mere figurative sense to all that is spoken there of the various affections of the Deity, and thus despoiling all the exhibitions which it makes of him to our world, of the warmth and power to move and to engage, that properly belong to them. It represents God as altogether impassive; as made up of little more than of understanding and of power: as having no part in that system of emotions which occupies so wide a space in the constitution of man, made after his own image and according to his own likeness.”
This we think is by no means an extravagant representation of the conception of Deity which predominates in a great many minds, if, indeed, it does not pervade the mass of Christendom. At the same time we will allow that there are probably few minds in which this idea does not give place, at times, and for short seasons-lucid intervals, we might appropriately say--to juster views.of God; for there cannot
we hope be many, so entirely unmoored from their higher instincts as not occasionally to find their crude conceptions of the Deity overruled by the decisions of their own inner being.
The idea that God has little or no sensibility, is so strange and involves so much, (the denial of one of the essential elements of a moral being,) that it may well be asked, How did it ever find a place in the humaņ mind ?-much more, How did it ever 'obtain any considerable prevalence? This inquiry opens an extensive field of investigation, sufficient alone for a separate article. We can now barely hint at a few thoughts which may throw light upon this singular fact.
1. We notice the prevalence, both among the learned and the unlearned, and among nearly all schools of religion, of erroneous views in relation to the sensibility itself. Some regard the sensibility as purely fleshly--seeing the animal part so commonly predominating over the spiritual, they mistake that for the whole. Others estimate the sensibility from the specimens of it furnished by the history of fallen humanity, and hence form a very unfavorable notion of it. Unfortunately for the poor sensibility, the chief ruin and blight of the fall came upon it, and it still bears the mark of the curse--the Cain-like mark of God's displeasure at “man's first disobedience.” It was the sensibility, too, that'was the most eager accessory before the fact, and therefore it wears, like the illfated daughters of Eve, the stigma of being foremost in the transgression. Still more unfortunately for poor Sensibility, it has not learned better behavior since that first misstep, but has been going on in the same prying, curious, lusting way, waxing more and more wanton, blinding the judgment and seducing the will, and making the wide world a scene of strife and blood. Others have contemplated an entirely different phase of the sensibility, but one leading to quite as derogatory a conception of its true character, namely that of excessive tenderness and extreme amiability, amounting to imbecility. This, if it have less of the sensual than the former view, has also less of the heroic, and is on the whole, perhaps, quite as foreign from the conception of a perfect being. As a consequence, then, of these grossly perverted views, it has been inferred that God has no sensibility.
%. The fact that in all operations purely intellectual, as investigating, analyzing, inferring, proving, discriminating, judging, tracing relations that in mathematical processes, scientific researches, and metaphysical abstraction, the sensi
bility must be held in abeyance as unfriendly to success—has operated greatly to its disparagement, especially with that large class who make the intellect "the standard of the man," and exalt its achievements far above all moral attainments. When it is seen that philosophers, mathematicians, and profound thinkers generally, repress their emotions and subdue their passions, and that they condemn high excitements in others, as disqualifying them for literary pursuits; when the sensibility is decried on every hand as the foe to nice discernments in the field of truth; when philosophers, from Aristotle down, almost without exception, proscribe all appeals to the passions; when Christian divines even warn men against being led by their feelings in matters of religion, and ring the changes upon the evils and dangers of excitement; it certainly need not be wondered at if after all this the sensibility should come to be regarded as something, the possession of which even man ought to confess as a sin and a shame—as something which the popish monk and the pagan mendicant do well to strive (though in vain) to eradicate by life-long abnegations—as something consequently which it were blasphemy to ascribe to the Infinite Intellect--God. Add to this, that great and learned men have for the most part so neglected the cultivation of their sensibility, that while their intellects have towered in collossal dimensions, their sensibility has had a mere pigmy growth; and yet these great and learned men have sat enthroned in the empire of human mind, have been admired, feared, and almost worshipped, by their colemporaries, and become the demigods of after days. These mighty intellects, these monster creatures, with huge heads and shrivelled hearts, have been to very many the model from which they have shaped their conception of God. He was just like these, only infinitely more so! It is manifest that the course of training to which such men have subjected their minds, has been as pernicious as it has been partial, and that it is far better calculated to make hideous monstrosities, than perfect men. It reverses the practice of that tribe of Indians who flatten their heads by confining them for years between fixed boards; it flattens the heart instead of the head-ho improvement, certainly, upon Indian barbarity. It out-Chinas the Chinese women; for while they thrust the infant foot into an iron shoe, this enlightened system of education binds a crown of iron upon the superior faculty of the soul !
3. Mankind are accustomed to associate with the possession of wealth and honor, overbearing insolence, hardness of
heart toward the poor, and indifference to the wants and distresses of the mass. Our Savior has drawn some singularly characteristic sketches, illustrative of this connection, which it cannot be denied too often obtains in this world. Dives, and the unjust judge are specimens. At the gate of the former the famished beggar lies, to die unpitied and unattended save by dogs. At the bar of the latter the helpless widow pleads in vain for redress, until by her importunity she wearies him into a reluctant exercise of his official duty. Beggars and poor
widows fare but ill with the rich and the powerful. In a sort of unreasoning way men associate God with such characters, characters who are a disgrace to humanity. They ought to know that the object of drawing such pictures in the scriptures is to hold up the character of God in the strongest possible contrast. Hence in the cases just mentioned, Lazarus, repulsed from the rich man's table, and consigned to the mercy of brutes, is represented as being taken immediately after death, by angels to Abraham's bosom; and in the other case God is described as hearing his children who cry unto Him day and night and avenging them speedily.
4. The views of many in reference to God have been formed after the models of earthly monarchs. These it is well known, generally keep themselves aloof from their subjects. They evince no feeling of personal kindness or sympathy, indeed they are personally seldom seen. When they go forth from the mysterious recesses of their guarded palaces, they roll in burnished chariots, attended by the pomp of a dazzling train. If the charioted sovereign were a being of another race, or a graven image, he could not have less fellow feeling for the cowering millions among whom he rolls in state than he actually seems to them to have. The only manifestations that the monarch usually makes, are those of majesty and authority. He appears to be a gloomy, inapproachable, arbitrary, resistless organ of POWER. From such an idea of the monarch it is very natural to infer that the King of kings is such a monarch, on an infinite scale!
5. We next mention as a source of the prevailing tendency to conceive of God as having no sensibility the impressions made in childhood by those whom the youthful mind instinctively regards as representatives of God. The father more than any other human being is to his children a reflection of their heavenly Father-far more so even than the mother. Now, fathers are almost universally deficient in their mani
festations of sensibility to children. In no point do they commonly differ more widely from mothers than in this. How seldom are fathers seen to evince
sympathy with their little ones in their childish joys and griefs! Even when they do not wear a habitually stern and repulsive aspect, chilling the very life's blood of their awe-struck children, they are usually engrossed by day with their business, at evening with their cares, and they allow themselves almost no time for easy familiar intercourse with their children. If little Tom ventures to ask Pa a question, he is either answered with an air of freczing abstraction, or repulsed with a “don't bother me, my son, go ask your mother.” Alas, how many a noble boy has striven modestly to cultivate an acquaintance with his father, and to find some easy avenue to his heart, and has at last been obliged to abandon the undertaking as utterly hopeless. Here is formed the child's first idea of manhood, and it is subsequently confirmed by the conduct of other men with whom he occasionally meets. If he ventures in passing to look up into their faces, he is greeted by no smile, by no friendly salutation. Men don't notice him! That must be manly, he concludes. His own heaving little bosom, restless with ever varying feelings, is to him the badge of his boyhood, and he begins to blush at his rising emotions, and to long for the day to arrive when he shall become a man and put away childish things. His sensibilityalbeit he is ignorant of the name—becomes odious in his sight, and his passage to manhood is a scene of incessant conflicts with a view to exterminate the last vestige of a heart. Thus the boy enters manhood with the fixed impression that the sensibility is one of the foibles of boyhood-one of the frailties of womanhood! By this time too, he has had another impression stamped with equal depth upon his soul, namely, that God must be infinitely superior to the weakness of a sensibility. Like all early impressions this one becomes exceedingly. strong, and meeting with little or no counteracting influence in after life, it grows with his growth. It is sanctioned and fostered by well nigh every leading influence around him in the world. He observes that sensibility is made little of in this cold and selfish world, and that when it is, in a merely sensual form. He observes that the great ones have no sensibility, that the educated have no sensibility, that the rich have no sensibility, that the powerful have no sensibility, that kings have no sensibility, that philosophers proscribe it, and that Christians repudiate it. What conclusion then can he come to but this--that God has no sensibility?