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Mr. Sumner infers the Apostles' be- and rise again for our justification,' it lief of the atonement, from their would neither have occurred to them to constant enforcement of deep hu- conceive such an humbling disposition of mility, is indeed out of the ordinary
or self-abasement, nor to require it of all
who should embrace the religion.”
se process of reasoning, but appears
pp. to us solid as well as ingenious. We do not remember. ever before, to All the remarks in this chapter have seen this idea fully brought are valuable; but they are not, we out and developed.
think, all perfectly relevant in re
gard to its title, the Originality of “ It may seem an unexpected course o
the Christian Character. We have argument, to adduce doctrines in proof of
our doubts whether, in maintaining facts. But it is nevertheless true, that when the Apostles insist upon this self- this originanty, Mr.Sumner bas not, abasement and humiliation as the ground though most undesignedly, detractwork of the Christian character, we have ed from the excellence of many strong evidence of their being personally characters under the Old-Testament convinced that the death of Jesus was dispensation. Many of those woractually ordained as a ransom for men; a thies displayed the seeds at least ransom required by sin. If they did not of Christian humility, benevolence, really believe this, no reason appears why
patience, and meekness; though, in these new teachers should promulgate doctrines so unpopular and so difficult; should
consequence of the imperfect light inculcate the strictest possible morality,
they enjoyed, they doubtless wantand yet deny to man the gratification of ed some of the principal motives self-complacency; should allow them no and principles peculiar to the disother satisfaction, either from the faith ciples of Christ. The following which they professed or the obedience remarks, though we do not see which they performed, than that of evi- their precise bearing on the subject dencing their title to the benefits which
of the present chapter, are so imChrist's death had procured. If the con
portant that we cannot refuse them dition of the world were not such as the incarnation of Christ supposes; if there
a place. They furnish a decisive is not that holiness in God, and that un- answer to the common objection, worthiness in man, which sets one at a
that the patience and meekness of distance from the other; then there is no the Gospel are inconsistent with the propriety in a confession of unprofitable- peace and well-being of society, as ness which sues for pardon, but dares not society is at present constituted. claim reward; which looks forward to eternal life, not as a recompense which is « It has been truly observed, that the to be earned and deserved, but as a boon virtues inculcated in the Gospel, are the which is to be bestowed through the me, only virtues which we can imagine a heavenrits of the Redeemer. Take away the ly Teacher to inculcate. As selfishness, judicial purpose of the Cross, take away rapacity, violence, malice, and revenge, its expiatory effect, and there remains no are the vices which occasion a great part basis for humility like the Christian. And of the distress which prevails in human therefore it is a natural consequence, that society; so in proportion as these are disthose who do not receive the doctrine of couraged,and the contrary virtues establishatonement, do not pretend to any such ed, peace, comfort, and harmony are rehumility as the Gospel prescribes, and the stored. No doubt men have often urged, Apostles profess. If, on the other hand, that meekness and patience under injuries human sinfulness is so heinous in the sight are incompatible with the condition of of the Moral Governor of the world, that it mankind, and would surrender the feeble required a sacrifice like that of Christ, and as a prey to the violent, and expose the if every individual is indebted to that sa. best to be trampled upon by the worst crifice for reconciliation with God, or still and vilest of their species. And we can remains unreconciled to him; the humi- readily conceive, that this reasoning would liation inculcated in the Gospel becomes bave occurred to a mere man, who might riatural, nay, necessary. But unless there have assumed to himself the title of a had been, on the part of the promulgators Divine legislator. Reverse the case, then, of the religion, an intimate conviction and suppose, that the Christian law, inthat Jesus did indeed die for our sins, stead of requiring forgiveness, permitted
retaliation. Do we not at once acknow- upon the ground of irrationality, ledge, that this would be strong internal equally with the other two? We evidence against its high pretensions?
think, therefore, that they might What is the actual state of society, when he private vengeance is suffered to prevail ?
have been noticed. Mr. Sumner On the other hand, it is proved by expe
has, however, unquestionably singled rience. that meekness and forbearance out that doctrine which is most prevent and check the evils which inso- violently and most frequently denied lence and oppression create, and often dis- the eternity of future punishments. arm the violence which resistance tends There are a vast number of professed to exasperate. Christianity, moreover, is Christians, in the present day, who, designed for all; proposes to itself uni- without any of the piety or learning versal sway and dominion; and therefore
e of Origen, plunge into all his hetero
of cannot be expected to provide for disobedience to its enactments, or be made
doxy on this subject. Our author, in accountable for evils which would cease
shewing the truth of the awful docto exist if its precepts were generally fol- trine of future punishment, has perlowed. This would justify the rules in haps rather too much lost sight of the question, in a dispensation whose object circumstance of its endless duration. looks beyond this world, even if they This is the appalling circumstance, were found to occasion present inconve- and the great « rock of offence." nience. But we possess a further proof We believe the doctrine, because of its emanating from more than human
we hold it to be unequivocally wisdom, when it issues a law of which human wisdom would dread the conse
taught in Scripture; and we even quences; yet that law is found to correct
see difficulties in the supposition of and diminish mischief, even when imper- a release from punishment after a fectly obeyed.” pp. 248, 249. .. certain period, if not accompanied
. We proceed to “ the reasona. with the moral renovation of the bleness of the Christian doctrine," sufferers. Here, however, we must the subject of the next chapter. Mr. “ lay our hands upon our mouths," Sumner conceives, that a supposed confessing that God is just, but want of reasonableness in the Chris- that “the thunder of his power," tian doctrines lies at the root of all and the terrors of his indignation, unbelief. Men doubt or deny the none can perfectly understand. Of Christian revelation, in spite of its all that has been written on this overpowering evidence, because of subject, we consider one of Saurin's the extraordinary and unpalatable sermons ae the most convincing and nature of the things disclosed by satisfactory. It is decided, yet mothat revelation. He adduces the derate, and comprises nearly all future punishment of the ungodly, that is important, within a small and the vicarious sufferings of the compass. We recommend it to the Redeemer, as the two points at perusal of those of our readers whose which sceptics and unbelievers are minds may be inclined to waver most disposed to cavil. But are with regard to this doctrine. After these the only points against which all, our author says what ought to the charge of unreasonableness is silence the objector, if it cannot preferred? Do not the doctrines satisfy him.
Isrc of the Trinity in unity, of original. “Many will be disposed to argue that sin, of the influences of the Holy God would not have placed mankind in Spirit, and of the permitted agency circumstances where he must have foreof satan, almost equally provoke seen their fall, if the consequences of fallthe obstinate contention of the in- ing were so fatally serious." He would riot fidel? These doctrines are all de have created a race, of whom so large a cidedly Scriptural; nor can any one
portion would perish everlastingly.
“ We touch here upon a great difficulty, of them be proved contrary to rea
which, in our present state of knowledge, son, how much soever it may sur or rather of ignorance, it is impossible to pass the reach of our present facul- clear up. There would be more force in ties. But are not these attacked, the objection, if this were the only fact in
the appearance of the world which baffled Paul to the Ephesians with those which our inquiries, or contradicted our expecta- he addressed to an unconverted audience: tions. But it is only one of a series of when we examine the conduct attributed difficulties, which meet us at every view to the Jews: their open persecution at of the creation ; which revelation does Jerusalem, and their indirect accusation not enable us entirely to unravel ; but at Thessalonica; the ingenuity with which which are still more inexplicable, if we the adversaries of the Apostles address set aside revelation.” pp. 267, 268. themselves to the passions and interests
of men in the different cities : the characThe tenth chapter is on the early
ters of Gallio, of Felix, of Lysias, of promulgation of the Gospel, and Agrippa : it seems impossible to suppose « traces the manner in which our this an invented narrative of things which religion first gained ground." It never took place, or of persons who never abounds with excellent remarks; had a real existence. This argument, inyet we cannot but think that the deed, can have no weight with a person matter is hardly arranged with suf. who is not sensible of the air of truth and ficient perspicuity. The argument
ant reality which pervades the whole history.
But whoever is alive to this, whoever does of the first part of the chapter, if we understand Mr. Sumner rightly,
perceive in almost every page the marks
of a writer detailing the account of actual is to infer the probability of mi- transactions and circumstances, should raculous interference from the ac- observe that the proof which arises from counts, given in the Acts, of the evidence of this kind, is not to be deemproceedings of the Apostles, first in ed far-fetched or imaginary, because it is Judea, and afterwards in heathen incapable of being drawn out in words, or countries. In drawing this conclu- of being presented to the mind of the sion, the proper mode, we conceive. sceptic in any other way than by sending would have been to have argued di
him to the books themselves." pp. 311, rectly from the ordinary facts to such as are extraordinary and miraculous. In the latter part of this chapter,
This is what Mr. Sumner intended : Mr. Sumner obviates the favourite but his premises and conclusion are objection of Hume, founded on the not sufficiently prominent; nor are pretended insurmountable difficulthe steps of his argument sufficient- ties with which the proof of miracles ly distinct. He appears in some is encumbered. This objection parts to assume those miraculous against miracles, as contrary to facts which attended the preaching experience, has been fully met and of the Apostles ; an assumption evi- overturned by Campbell and by Padently out of place in any work on ley; but the following remarks are the evidence of Christianity. His striking, and furnish an answer to argument, however, appears con- it which we do not remember to densed in the following paragraph, have elsewhere seen. of which the most important remarks are confessedly extracted from
" The argument stands thus. The laws
of nature are fixed and uniform, being esPaley's Horæ Paulinæ.
tablished by the Creator as the most suit“ He must have unusual confidence able for the world he has made. To supin the inventive powers of the early pose that he would alter what he has once Christians, who can look upon these nar- established, is to suppose mutability in ratives, and the many others which are his counsels, or imperfection in his laws. contained in the Acts of the Apostles,' Therefore it is more probable that men as a mere fabrication : remembering, at should deceive or be deceived, than that the same time, the age to which the book he should have suffered that temporary indisputably belongs, and the persons by change in the constitution of things which whom it must have been composed. When we call a miracle. we consider the immense quantity of mat- “ The most satisfactory answer to any ter and the great variety of facts contain abstract argument is that which can be ed in it; the minute circumstances de drawn from matter of fact. In speaking tailed: when we compare the speeches of of the Deity, more particularly, it is chiefPeter with those of Paul; and those of ly by considering what he has done, that
we can safely decide what it may be con. The eleventh chapter is entitled, sistent with his attributes to do. And « First Reception of Christianity." with regard to the present question, it is We think that the headings of some has already seen fit to interfere with what
of the chapters might be made more was before established, and to alter the
explanatory of the line of argument actual order of things.
adopted by the author. The per« Where our world now exists, and spicuous announcement of the subthe innumerable worlds which philosophy ject of a chapter is a great help to opens to our view, before they were creats the majority of readers. The subed there must either have been vacantject of the present is that evidence space, or matter in another form. That for the truth of the Gospel, which space, or that form of matter, was then results from the permanent change the order of nature. And a being of some other sphere might have argued with the
of moral character produced in the same plausibility, that God could not,
first Christians; a most important consistently with his attributes, alter the line of argument, but rather imexisting state of things, and create a world perfectly and ambiguously express. like ours. But that being would have ed by-" The first Reception of been mistaken. He would have been re- Christianity." The importance of futed by the act of creation. We believe the following passage will excuse its that God did interpose his power, and length. did create our world. Wherever we look around us, whenever we are conscious of
“What the morals of the world were,
at the period when Christianity was first that very Divine interference which is de
preached, we know from unquestionable clared to be so improbable. Whether we
authority. We know that the only Divine go back six thousand years, or six thou
worship practised at all, was idolatrous
worship, and that this idolatrous worship sand ages, or six thousand centuries, we must believe, if we are not altogether
was commonly attended with profligacy atheists, that this world, and all that it
of the most debasing kind, and often with contains, once had no existence in its pre
heinous cruelty. We know that no resent form, and received its being and its
straint was laid upon the evil passions of properties contrary to the order of things
our nature, except by public laws and previously existing.
public opinion. But public laws never did “ That, then, which God certainly saw
nor can extend to many of the worst vices; fit to do for one purpose, he might see fit and public opinion, judging from experito do for another; for another, and not a
ence, in order that it may become an efless glorious purpose. For when we re
ficient correction of vicious passions, refect on the difference which Christianity
quires a higher standard of reference than
human nature ever supplied. I have no • has already wrought in the moral world, and the still greater difference which it is
desire to disparage the characters of those calculated to work, and probably will ef
who used to the best purpose the light fect in the progress of time, we cannot
which they possessed, and exalted the think it a less important exercise of power
age in which they lived by noble exhibito have introduced the Gospel by suspend
tions of temperance, probity, disinteresting the laws of nature, than to have creat
edness, or fortitude. Nor have I any wish ed the world by first establishing them.”
to derogate from the honour of those pp. 322–324.
philosophers who employed their reason
to its noblest purpose ; and, in some in With respect to the obstinate un
stances, endeavoured to raise their followbelief of the Jews, Mr. Sumner just ers above the dominion of selfish appetite ly remarks, that “ the preaching of or worldly ambition. It is enough to the Apostles made the Jews a divid. know, as we do know, what the Asiatic, ed body, and the majority of the and Greek, and Roman world was, in earliest Christians were in fact con spite of individual exceptions, and in de verted Jews. The conversion of fiance of the exertions of philosophy. one part removes the objection ris
Wickedness, indeed, will take the same ing from thé obduracy of the other.
course, and bear in many points the same
aspect, in every age. But with the hea For what account can be given of
then world, taken collectively, habits of that conversion, if the whole his life were allowed and uncensured, which tory is untrue ?
we are accustomed to consider as proof that the restraints are thrown astde by God.' He says the same, in effect, to the which the rest of the community are converts from Colosse, Ephesus, and bound. Even their moralists appear as Rome, and insinuates it universally: libertines, when tried by the standard of with the intent we might suppose of the Gospel. Nor did the world give any magnifying the extent of his conquests, if signs of melioration, or progressive im- his object had not been evidently to exprovement. In all those points which hort, and not to prove a point; and if we form the real distinction between vice and had not collateral evidence of the greatvirtue, Athens and Lacedæmon were no ness of the change. So great a change, better than Sardis or Babylon; and im- indeed, that it is commonly expressed by perial Rome had no superiority over the the strongest imaginable comparisons; and Grecian democracies which it supplanted. is represented as a new birth, a new creaThales, Pythagoras, Solon, Socrates, Ci- tion. Neither will these figures be deemcero, had effected no general change, ed overstrained by those who have a clear either in the theory of religion or the historical acquaintance with the state of practice of morals.
that world out of which the first Chris“On a sudden, in the midst of idolatry, tims were taken ; and those who have or of utter carelessness as to all religion, not such acqnaintance, are necessarily and in the midst of selfish gratifications without one of the most striking proofs and sensual indulgences with which they of the Divine origin of our religion. The were still on every side surrounded, there Mohammedan and the Christian are daily grew up in Italy, and in the principal now, in common language, set in opposicities of Greece and of Asia, parties of tion to each other. Yet a Mohammedan men, more or less numerous, who professed and a Christian may be considered as broa way of life entirely new both in practice thers in opinion, compared with a Gentile and in principle. Renouncing the idols before and after his conversion to the and imaginary deities which they had been Gospel. The perplexities and inconsis. educated to worship, they acknowledged tences of the best philosophy; the gross one Almighty Creator and Governor of ignorance of the mass of mankind; the the world, as revealed to them by his Son depraved habits of all; form a contrast so
the man Christ Jesus.'. Removed alike remarkable to the clear views, the authofrom the ignorant thoughtlessness of the ritative tone, and the purity of the Gospel, vulgar, and the sceptical hesitation of the that we seem to have been suddenly con philosophers, they believed in the immor- veyed from an opposite hemisphere, and tality of the soul, the resurrection of the to emerge in a moment from darkness to body, and a state of future retribution. light." pp. 339—345. Steadfastly relying on this expectation,
To the pretence, that the prosthey treated with indifference the honours and gratifications of the present life; and,
pect of future happiness may alone for the sake of future reward, cultivated a
be deemed sufficient for the produccharacter. unknown before, and, now that
tion of the change described, we it became known, often despised, and sel have this admirable reply im dom much esteemed : a character of which “Unqnestionably, the prospect of eterthe conspicuous features are piety, humi nal happiness is calculated to raise and lity, charity, purity, and moderation. animate the best hopes of human nature ;
« And the persons who entered upon and, being confidently entertained, is more this new course of life, were not persons than equal to the effects above described. whose previous habits rendered them But when a present sacrifice is demanded, more likely to embrace it than their neigh- and definite qualifications are to be labobours, whose society they left. They are riously acquired, the prospect must be spoken of, nay, they are personally ad- unexceptionably assured before things dressed, as having been brought from seen and temporal are resigned for things darkness to light, with respect to habits as unseen and eternal. Let a stranger come well as principles. Paul, in his Epistle to with the offer of a noble estate, to revert the Corinthians, nfter enumerating some to us after a certain period. We have no of the worst vices of our nature, and hesitation in closing with so generous an those to which we know from history that offer. But when we proceed to learn that the Corinthians were particularly exposed this estate is in a distant country; and goes on to say, 'Such were some of you when he annexes as a condition of our enbut ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, jaying it, that we acquire the language of but ye are justified in the name of our that country, and the manner of its inhaLord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our bitants, and devote our whole attention
CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 274.