« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
FOR NOVEMBER, 1840.
To the Editor of the Western Messenger. Although I have been a member of an orthodox church for upwards of twenty years, yet for several years past, I have not only differed in opinion in relation to some doctrinal subjects, held by my brethren, but have been thoroughly convinced that if ever rational and scriptural piety shall prevail over any considerable part of our world, that men must enjoy mental and intellectual liberty. If I am called by my Lord and Master to believe the truth, as revealed in his word, should I not have the liberty, according to my own understanding and conscience so to believe. Who is to believe for me? Who will take the responsibility to believe for me? And yet many are not willing that I should believe what I conceive to be the truths of heaven. Again, if I am called of God or feel it my duty to preach the gospel of Christ, I must believe as my orthodox friends believe, before I can be permitted to
preach. I must preach their notions as gospel, and their opinions as infallible, before they will approve of my labors.
Now these assumptions, on the part of our orthodox brethren, are calculated to prevent free and rational investigation. Ifl have only to believe as they do, I need only get the creed. If I must only preach orthodoxy, I need only to go to the orthodox for lessons, like a school-boy to his master. If my faith and labor are all to be dictated, prescribed and proscribed by orthodoxy, why need I go to the bible, or acknowledge any teacher or master in heaven, for we cannot serve two masters-but our orthodox brethren tell us they are liberal, yet they denounce us as hereticks, call us ugly names, shut their doors against us, and will not let us partake of the sacramental bread and wine with them, as though St. Paul commanded them to examine us, and so forbid us to eat. This kind of orthodox
liberty we think may do for other nations, or other ages, but is unsuited to rational christianity.
made a God to Pharaoh and to Israel, so Christ was highly exalted, and a name given him above every name, viz. "God with us"-his name shall be called "Immanuel,' viz. "God with us," because he was to us instead of his Father. I receive Jesus Christ in all he says and does, as the express image and precise 'will of the Father.The Son hath declared the Father to the world. Christ and the Father are one in their gracious purposes to the world but as distinctly two characters in their existence, as the disciples, who were to be one with Christ, even as Christ and the Father were one.
I have been compelled to withdraw from the Methodist church, because I could not believe that Jesus Christ was equal with his father, and that there were three persons in the God-head. I believed God was simple and uncompounded in his existence, as well as absolutely perfect in all his character; and that, besides him, there was no God. 1 believed Jesus Christ the firstbegotten, brought into the world, or sent into the world, as a teacher from God-that he was the first-born of every creature that he was the beginning of creation-and that he possessed a glory with the Father before the world was. I believed he had given sufficient evidence of his divine mission in the world, not only by his doctrines and miracles, but by his spotless life and glorious resurrection. He possessed power over all things, for all power in heaven and earth was given him. He spoke the words of his Father. He did the works of the FathHe did the will of the Father-and as Moses was
However opposed and misrepresented we are in this region, the liberal and holy doctrines believed by Unitarians are like leaven taking effect in the country. Not a few, in words, denounce Unitarianism, and when you learn their true sentiments, they are UniWhen tarians themselves. once the reason and good sense of the public mind shall get the better of the prejudices and fears that have been conjured up, the truths of God must be appreciated.
MEREDITH RENEAU. Helena Parish, La. Oct. 8, 1840.
Devoted to Religion and Literature.
RELATION OF THE BIBLE TO THE SOUL.
THE value and importance of the Bible are generally ac knowledged. We call it the Book of Books, the Holy Bible; the Divine Book; the Book of Life. We generally, at least in theory, regard it as differing from all other books, that have been, are, or shall ever be, in respect to its origin, design and utility. Other books we refer to the free action of the human mind; this to a direct action of God's own Spirit. Other books we take for what they seem to be worth. If they interest us, we read them: if their doctrines appear reasonable, we accept; if false or inadequate, we reject them, never fancying we sin by using REASON as the last standard whereby to measure their merits or defects. But with the Bible, a different method is pursued: men read it as a duty; assent to its doctrines without understanding them; admit its binding authority, even when its precepts consist not with the univer sal sense of justice, but seem arbitrary. Thus attempts are made to justify some of the sanguinary laws of Moses. and the alleged command made to Abraham to sacrifice his son. The Bible is honored above all other books. Men form Societies, and make great personal sacrifices-the poor servant girl contributing her hard earned shilling to circulate this book VOL. VIII. 43.
in other lands. It is in all hands. It is a well known friend in the poorest cottage. It is admitted to the proudest palace. It has a place in the pedlar's crowded pack, and cheers him when he rests from his toil, and sits down dusty and faint upon his burthen. It goes with the pilgrim who ventures untrod lands; beguiles his toil, comforts his sorrows, and kindles his hopes. Perhaps there is not a Christian bark afloat on the ocean, that sails without a Bible.
Now this lofty place, this universal reception, is granted to no other book: None other speaks equally and with the same authority to the lofty and the low, the learned and the ignorant. None other can sanction an oath, solemnize a marriage, dry a mourner's tear, or arm the soul for sadness, deepest affliction and death. Surely a book to which so lofty a place has been assigned, must possess rare merits. What are they? What are the distinguishing features of this book, which give it precedence to all others? or rather, what is the relation of the Bible to the Soul?
Before answering this latter question, it may be well to determine what it is not.
The Bible is not the master of the Soul. The disciples of Jesus were forbidden to be called masters. If they cannot bear that title, still less can their writings, some thousands of years after the writers are dead. The old prophets have still feebler claims to that distinction; for the very least in the new dispensation, (the kingdom of heaven,) is above the greatest of those men. Chistianity acknowledges no master to the soul. God is its Father; the Spirit of our Faith is that of freedom, not bondage. Its chief apostle says," Cali no man your master;" still less can we call any Book, "master." However much we may venerate the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament, they are never to hold the Soul in bondage. The artist is not to be crushed by his instruments, but is to apply them to their proper ends.
The Bible is not the foundation of Religion. It is sometimes fancied Religion is based upon the Bible; it is said, if a man should disbelieve that book, he would of necessity cease to be religious. But Religion is older than the Bible. Enoch walked with God without its support. Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Solomon, and Daniel, knew nothing of it. Religion is not founded on the Scriptures, more than the sense of justice is based on the "common law." The reverse of this is true, for the Bible is founded on the indestructible religious sentiment, as the "common law" rests on the sense of justice in the Soul. Men sometimes think the
statutes of the land were providentially struck out, in some happy moment, which will never return-that if these should. perish, so would Order and Justice decease from being. They say the same of the Bible, and assert that Morality and Religion would have been quite lost from the world, if the Bible had chanced to perish.
Still farther, the Bible, or the New Testament, is not the sole and exclusive foundation of Christianity, but simply its historical form. Christianity at this day does not rest merely on the New Testament. Its essential truths were before Abraham, when there was no Bible. It is the word, that was in the very beginning, the true Light, which has always shone, enlightening every man, so far as he was enlightened at all; for all the real religious light of the world has only come from true Religion, which is essentially the same with Christianity: though it may differ in form, Christianity was ordained before the creation of the world; so that it is not simply "as old as the creation," but far older; ancient as the eternal ideas of Justice, Love, Holiness and Truth. It is sometimes imagined, if the New Testament had been lost in the dark ages, that Christianity also would have ceased to be. But can this be true? Had this temple of Christianity been destroyed, the Spirit of Christianity could not have perished; for, granting it were shewn, in opposition to the greatest amount of historical evidence ever brought to bear on one point,-that the facts related in the Gospels, were not facts, but fictions; that Jesus never rose from the dead; never died, as it is related; never wrought miracles, taught doctrines, or even lived-still Christianity would be as true, as lasting, as now it is, when environed by all these historical statements. It is true that Christianity is intimately connected with its Galilean founder, but not inseparably. Its truths are laid in human nature; they will live with the Soul. They are the Soul's law. Heaven and earth may pass away, but not one jot or tittle of Christianity can fail.
The Bible is not greater than Conscience and Reason. They are directly from God, God's voice heard plainly in the heart, as ever on Horeb, or Sinai, or the Mount of Transfiguration. Nothing can be superior to these instructors. The Bible may agree with Reason; utter the same sentiments with Conscience; and so far it will have authority. It can never contradict these counsellors, and yet claim obedience. What God has made, cannot be unmade by any power short of his own: so nothing arbitrary or capricious can ever become binding on Reason and Conscience, let it be taught on what