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understanding. It is evident, that this requisition must be precisely co-extensive with those propositions which have, in fact, received a miraculous attestation. Hence, the nature of the case, as well as express prohibitions, forbids any article, whatever may be its pretended evidence, from being appended to the Christian system, or associated with that instruction which is imparted to men under the sanction of the Divine command to preach the Gospel.
The legitimate authority of the Christian minister, is derived from the limited nature of the function he is commissioned to discharge. He is a servant, vested with power to demand from men their practical submission to those positions which are clearly contained in the written and public will of his Master. When, therefore, he urges upon men the adoption of an opinion on any other ground than that of its constituting an article in the commission under which he acts, he is not simply responsible for the truth of the particular opinion he has advanced, but is plainly chargeable with a breach of trust, both as he has digressed from the proper business of his office, and as he has fraudulently appropriated the opportunity, the sanction, and the influence he derives therefrom, to the purpose of promulgating his own profane opinions; we say profane opinions, for such they must be accounted, whether true or false, standing, as they do, opposed to a sacred and definite charge. Such conduct, we cannot question, may, with the strictest propriety, be included within the anathema of the Apostle : "But if we, or an "angel from Heaven, announce to you any glad tidings "beside those glad tidings which we have announced to you, "let him be accursed."
If, then, it appears that the Chrstian minister cannot be justified, on the ground of its supposed philosophical evidence, in holding out to men a hope not explicitly included in his commission, a case of conscience of very probable, we believe of very frequent occurrence, presents itself, in which duties, severally of the plainest obligation, are placed in apparent opposition. The case is this: The servant of a master, who has an unquestionable right to implicit obedience, is charged with the delivery of a certain message; and this message, baving the nature of a promise and a threatening, raises to the highest point the obligation of fidelity. But this servant believes himself to be in possession of a fact which implies a virtual and dishonourable falsification, if he adheres strictly to the limits of his charge. Such a case happening among men, the virtuous servant would be bound to renounce a service which demands of him to commit a perpetual outrage upon the convictions of his mind. But what if the Master is none other than the God of all Truth. May we not confidently affirm that
the charge he gives to his creatures can, in no case, imply such a moral contradiction; that the message simply as it stands, is, in fact, conformable to the real nature of the case; and that this fancied discovery, which goes to make the servant wiser than his instructions, and therefore dishonest in abiding by them, is, to say the least of it, no better than an idle dream? This, we believe, is the conclusion in which a sane mind would be content to rest, even were the subject one of those that seem to lie the most within the compass of our reasoning powers. But where the question involves the knowledge of facts, concerning which we have neither experience nor testimony, and where the argument rests upon suppositions altogether hypothetical, surely, in such a case, to venture so far from the path of obvious duty, on the faith of the speculation, implies the highest degree of irreligious temerity.
We are well aware, however, that this specious subject has a hold upon minds of a certain order, so strongly, we may say so perversely, implicated with the feelings of the heart, that the plain reason of the case will produce no further effect, than to induce that sort of gloomy reserve which has much in it of latent atheism. It is, in fact, not unusual to hear the doctrine of Final Restitution spoken of, as being essential to the comfort of the benevolent mind. We firmly believe, that many considerable fallacies are contained in this sentiment: we wish those who entertain it would bring it under a fair and thorough examination. There is a benevolence which is prompt in words, and fertile in wishes, but tardy in action, and sparing of personal sacrifices. There is a philanthropy which is nothing better than "enmity to God." There is a love of man, which has all the characteristics of a party feeling it is an espousing of that quarrel which man still carries on against his Maker. It is a benevolence that is ever gloomy in the presence of Revealed Truth; alone cheerful and pleased while following the false light of scepticism; but whether it be gay or sad, it is stiil idle and inefficient. A gilded god, made to be worshipped in the closet of the recluse, this spurious benevolence, is fit for nothing else; if brought into immediate contact with the wants and woes of men, we shall perceive, that it has eyes, but it does not see; ears, but it cannot hear; hands, but it does no service; feet, but it runs to no one's help. Every fact which meets us, and every principle of revelation, contravenes a simply speculative or philosophical benevolence. It is a sort of fever of the mind, to be allayed only, (as indeed it commonly is,) by plunging in the sleepy lake of abject Fatalism.
A genuine benevolence is that love of man which results from a supreme love to God, and from a spiritual perception of his moral attributes. The comfort of the benevolent mind, in
a mixed state, like the present, can never be derived from the endeavour to evade, or destroy, by some specious hypothesis, the painful impression caused by the contemplation of evil, natural and moral. An attempt of this kind, is at once unnatural, fallacious, and unavailing. It is nnnatural, because it substitutes the action of the mind, for the exercise of the affections; speculation, for feeling; and thus impairs the spring of benevolent zeal. It is fallacious, because it rests at bottom upon the absurdity, that Evil is Good in disguise. It is unavailing, because it is opposed to the whole evidence of facts, and therefore outrages common sense. For our own parts, we always suspect the latent operation of some such false feeling, when we hear laboured harangues, having for their object to give a palliated representation of present evil. It may, at least, be affirmed, that this mode of talking has never characterized those distinguished individuals who have done the most to lessen the sum of misery and sin.
So far from its being the feature of a genuine and efficient benevolence, that it is disposed to be sceptical as to the amount of misery, we believe the very reverse to be, in fact, the case; and, that this very disposition is the symptom of that morbid and fruitless sensibility, which wins no blessing from the lips of" them who are ready to perish." A spurious philanthropy, which is at bottom simple selfishness, manifests itself by seeking its own tranquillity, at any rate. Hence, it is ever labouring to establish the doctrine, that all is well, or will be well in the end. A freedom from painful emotions, not the diminution of misery, is the real object at which it aims; and this is sought, either by an actual retreat from the sight and hearing of suffering, or by an obstinate incredulity with respect to facts, or by some strange and unsupported hypothesis on the subject of natural and moral evil. Now, it seems to us, that the fine property and high distinction of a genuine benevolence, is the noble willingness to be afflicted, and to hold communion with misery. Where wretchedness is, thither it is drawn, as by an irresistible attraction. It is, as it were, greedy to comprehend the utmost sum of evil; and if it discovers that it has estimated too low the sad amount, it feels as if it had defrauded the sufferer, by the mistake. It cares not to speculate; nor could it derive any solid satisfaction from an uncertain opinion. It is more jealous against any abatement of zeal, than solicitous to escape from the burden of painful apprehensions. But let it be granted, that anxious anticipations, having for their object the final destinies of our fellow men, and the unknown boundaries of evil, will, at times, force themselves upon the mind. It may be admitted, that there is a plausibleness in the hypothesis to which we have already alluded, and which includes the whole of the
argument adduced in support of the doctrine of Final Restitutution; namely, that evil, moral as well as natural, is but a means in the great machinery of the universe, essential to the higher good of the creature. No one, however, unless he is altogether unacquainted with deistical writings, and an tire novice in the history of the human mind, can require to have shewn to him the inevitable consequences of this principle. We may very safely affirm, that it is wholly incompatible with revealed religion, and with every moral exercise of the mind; that, as a practical principle, it stands in naked opposition to the voice of conscience, and that, as a speculative principle, it can consistently terminate in nothing better than a refined sort of Epicurianism. But besides this, the doctrine is inadequate to the end for which it is contrived; it is too unnatural-too abstracted, to afford a solid satisfaction to the truly benevolent mind, in any other way, than as it tends to induce a stupid and selfish forgetfulness of the misery that is in the world. We question if there is a proposition more indispensable to the existence of true Religion, considered as a habit of the mind, than this, that evil is essentially and ultimately evil; and this of course implies, that it can be contemplated by holy beings, under no aspect, however comprehensive, with the feeling of acquiescence. As we worship God, the source of all good, and of good only, so we hate and deplore evil, as that which is eternally opposed alike to his NATURE, and to his WILL.
We can never admit, that the Holy Scriptures are deficient in any article that is essential to the legitimate comfort of the pious mind. They were dictated for the use of his people, by "the God of all consolation."
We have just inquired whether the Scriptures warrant the publication of a promise of life to the finally disobedient: we must now be allowed to propose a second question: viz. Do we find among those bright and cheering objects which are held up to the faith of the believer, in the inspired volume, this doctrine, now alleged to be quite indispensable to the tranquillity of the thoughtful mind? Were there room in the nature of the case for this hope, the peculiar circumstances of the first converts seemed to require the most explicit announcement of it. When individually called out of darkness into the light of the Gospel, in, perhaps, the majority of instances, they left behind them the nearest relatives, in that state of palpable disobedience, which afforded no ground for an indistinct hope with respect to their religious condition. In awaking from the sleep of spiritual death, they became alive to the state of unequivocal condemnation impending the objects of the tenderest affection. How often must it have occurred to them, in the same hour, to have witnessed some miraculous attestation of unseen realities, on the
one hand, and on the other, the dying invocation of demons, from the lips of a parent, a wife, or a child! Surely, if under the ambiguous circumstances of profession in the present day, the doctrine of Final Restitution is spoken of as essential to Christian comfort, then, had it been warranted by Apostolic authority, it must have become the subject of prominent and incessant reference. It would inevitably have transpired in the copious and familiar correspondence of the Apostles with the primitive churches. When Paul addressed the believers at Thessalonica, he must have known, that the fearful declaration which he made of the wrath to come, would excite emotions of the deepest distress in the minds of many of them, on behalf of their dearest connexions. "It is a righteous thing with God, to
recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you, "who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be "revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming "fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that "obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of "the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
The Apostle, on another occasion, cautions the members of the same church, against the indulgence of an excessive sorrow, on account of those who had fallen asleep in the faith of Christ, reminding them, that they should "not sorrow as those "who have no hope." Had none of these persons, we may ask, lost unbelieving relations? But do we ever find the inspired writers attempting to mitigate the peculiar distress which such an event must occasion? We imagine that the modern defenders of the doctrine of Final Restitution, had they occasion to refer to the death of persons under some such flagrant circumstances as quite forbade the exercise of charitable hope, would not fail, very distinctly, to adduce their opinion as affording a source of consolation: here, then, is a discrepancy of practice, as striking as that to which we have before alluded, inasmuch as a reference is made to a second or supplementary hope.
While considering the alleged connexion of the doctrine in question, with the benevolent affections, another inquiry suggests itself.
If we are to credit its advocates, the belief in Final Restitution springs up, as it were, involuntarily, from the very necessity of their feelings. It would seem, then, that these persons are distinguished from the mass of the Christian world, by the liveliness of their concern for the welfare of their fellow men in the world to come. They profess to believe, that, 'a severe and
protracted discipline is prepared for all those who die without those rectified moral habits, which may fit them for the