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Now in the beginning of this chap ter we read of Christ's ascent to a mountain, and of his feeding on that mountain five thousand persons with a few loaves and fishes; and it clearly appears that those whom he now addresses, are the very same persons who had on the preceding day followed him up to the mountain, and were fed by his miraculous supply.
It seems, therefore, extremely na tural to suppose, that in the words, "where he was before," Jesus had an exclusive, and, on the part of his hearers, a well-understood reference to the mountain on which he had wrought the miracle.
By a natural association, his allusion to the mountain would at once suggest the idea of the miracle he had just wrought upon it. The sentence we are naturally led to understand as implying that, after having seen him perform such a mighty and truly miraculous work for the supply of their want and the confirmation of his mission, and nevertheless remaining unconvinced of the truth of his pretensions and his doctrines, they would certainly remain so even though he should again ascend the mountain and perform on it the same astonish ing kind of miracle he had done before.
J. S. H.
N the paper with which the Chrisis introduced, it is observed, that in the present day "high points of doctrine are only here and there asserted," and that "the majority of congregations calling themselves orthodox are contented with the name without the reality of ancient orthodoxy." In this representation, which I have no doubt is just, I find, as in many other things, an evil blended with a good. That the improved state of theological knowledge should have led the nominal followers of Calvin to moderate their doctrine, so that the human heart should not shrink from it with horror, (in which case, however, it is Calvinisin no longer,) must afford satisfaction to every sincere Christian, the true Calvinist alone excepted. This state of things may safely be regarded as an omen of still better
days, and portends an important change of opinion which will be experienced at no very distant period. Nor will any one who is acquainted with human nature be surprised that the progress of religious inquiry should, in a certain stage of it, exhi bit the phenomenon above described. Though here and there an individual has possessed mental energy enough to pass at once from Calvinism to the simple doctrine of the Unitarian, this is too much to expect from the public mind, which always moves slowly, and is obstinately tenacious of ancient prejudices. But, as I intimated above, the good of which I have been speaking is not unmixed with evil. That an unscriptural system, which, if presented in its real colours, could not now maintain its ground, should be so softened and palliated as to be admitted under a certain modification, when otherwise it would repel belief, is a circumstance which is calculated to prolong the dominion of error, and consequently to retard the progress of truth. And the mischief is the greater because the system (if a system it can be called) which is sometimes substituted for the genuine doctrine of Calvin, assumes no fixed and definite character. A creed which is distinctly laid down, and so far clearly understood, submits itself to examination, so that its truth or falsehood may by impartial inquiry be easily ascertained. But a doctrine (or rather a phraseology) which wears an ambiguous and
of popular prejudices, addresses itself to the ear rather than to the understanding, eludes instead of inviting inquiry, and retains possession of the feelings, while it makes no distinct impression on the mind. When the preacher tells his hearers, in so many words, that the blood of Christ has saved the elect from the vindictive justice of the Father, the thoughtful mind may start at the declaration, and may be disposed to ask in what part of the sacred volume this doctrine is to be found. But when, instead of being thus explicit, the orator contents himself with merely haranguing on the great scheme of redemption without explaining what it is, every man is left at liberty to accommodate the description to his preconceived opinions; and as few hearers are so cap.
tious as to quarrel with their instructors for treating them with words instead of ideas, all may agree to admire that which none can justly be said to comprehend. Here I cannot help noticing, as a thing much to be lamented, that preachers who enter tain what are called moderate views in religion, should sometimes continue to use a language which they know will be misapprehended by those who hear them. They may say in their defence that the language which they employ is chiefly the language of scripture. But this in my judgment makes the case still worse. He who uses scriptural phraseology to which he is aware that ideas which he deems unscriptural will be attached, wilfully converts the oracles of truth into the means of confirming prejudice and error. If he must encourage the be lief of opinions which he does not himself admit, let him adopt language of his own, that the mistaken views of men may rest on the basis of human authority. This authority many might dare to dispute, but what is considered as the authority of the word of God, is to the serious-minded Christian overwhelming and irresistible. And thus when erroneous opinions which have originated in the misinterpretation of scripture phraseology, are cherished by the perpetual application of this phraseology, the evil scarcely admits a remedy. Some Christian teachers endeavour to reconcile their consciences to this abuse of scriptural language by pleading, that were they to speak their whole mind they should injure their usefulness. It is not mine to pronounce a harsh judgment upon their conduct, but I must be allowed to say, that mistaken indeed must be those views of usefulness which shall lead a teacher of Christianity intentionally to refrain from declaring the whole counsel of God. If there is a class of men upon earth in whom simplicity and plain dealing are more eminently important and more peculiarly becoming than in all other men, they are the ministers of the gospel of Christ.
I will conclude this desultory letter by replying to an objection which has sometimes been brought against Unitarian preachers. It has been said, that when treating of certain topics, they are sparing in the use
of scriptural language, as though they were secretly conscious that their doctrine is but feebly supported by the authority of revelation. The fact may be admitted, but the inference is false; they have not the slightest suspicion that their doctrine is unscriptural, but they know that in a mixed congregation there as yet may remain many in whose minds unscriptural notions have been associated with scriptural phraseology; and rather than use a language which, if they did not perpetually explain it when used, would be liable to misconception, they may reasonably prefer to express what they believe to be the truths of the gospel in terms which cannot be misunderstood. Moreover, there is a kind of language in the New Testa ment, which, in the age of the writers, was perfectly natural, and therefore perfectly proper; but which, if the general views of the Unitarian are just, it is now rather the business of the Christian teacher to explain than to adopt. Of this kind are the sacrificial allusions which the apostles make use of in relation to the death of Christ, allusions which it was scarcely possible for them not to employ; but which, if employed in the present day, unless illustrated by a just interpretation, must infallibly lead to error. I will only add, that if in the study of the New Testament a due attention had always been paid to the times and circumstances of the writers, the tenets of Calvinism would never have been heard of; tenets which ought not to have found an advocate in the world after sufficient time was allowed for the circulation of Dr. Taylor's Key to the Apostolic Writings, a work in which these tenets are refuted as fully and unanswerably as any error ever was refuted in any branch of science or of knowledge.
E. COGAN. P. S. When I wrote the paper of which your correspondent G. B. W. does me the honour to speak so favourably, (p. 160 of your last number,) I was aware of the passage 1 John ii. 12, a passage which I think that your correspondent has explained satisfactorily enough. Had the expression for Christ's sake been a scriptural expression, the phrase dia To voua avre might reasonably have been interpreted so as to bear the same
meaning. But as the case now stands, the language of John is to us somewhat ambiguous. Had I been asked what I conceived to be the meaning of the passage in which it is found, I should perhaps have replied, that the general import of it might be expressed as follows: "I write unto you little children, because by your profession of the Christian faith you are redeemed from Heathenism and idolatry, and introduced into a state of moral and religious privilege." That this change of moral condition is what is meant by the forgiveness of sins, as spoken of in connexion with the death of Christ, I feel more and more convinced. I should, however, like to see the subject fully discussed by men (and many such men there are) who are better qualified for such a discussion than myself. From the habit of my mind, and the nature of any occupation and pursuits, I can only throw out hints, leaving to others every thing like minute examination and inquiry.
is too well known that an express Act of Parliament, or rather the unrepealed portion of an Act, (9 and 10 of William and Mary,) still remains in force, by which persons who openly assail the truth of the Christian religion, are made subject to fines and imprisonment. It is remarkable, however, that in the late frequent prosecutions instituted against the publishers and venders of Deistical books, this statute has seldom been referred to as the principal ground of these legal proceedings. To justify such prosecutions, we hear it asserted by the expounders of the law, that Christianity is an established portion of the common, or unwritten law of the land; and that therefore, independently of any existing statute pointing out the nature of the offence and the specific penalties attached to it, all open endeavours to bring this religion into disrepute, are offences indictable in every competent court of justice. This
circumstance appears to demand the attention of every friend to an unrestrained discussion of opinions; and especially of every Christian, who, besides his abhorrence of persecution for whatever purpose, cannot but feel the deepest interest in such broad declarations concerning the religion which he believes and venerates.
It is proper to be stated, however, before I proceed further, that it is by no means my object to dispute the foundation of this maxim in the recorded decisions of our judges. Such an undertaking, it is to be apprehended, would be hopeless in any hands, and would be particularly presumptuous in one altogether unlearned in books of cases and records. It appears not to be entirely a novel maxim. And perhaps some persons may be of opinion, that its antiquity is its best apology; inasmuch as such à maxim could have become established only in an age when the true nature of Christianity, and the just province of civil government, were but very imperfectly understood. It savours not a little of those past times, when the priest and the ruler were allowed the most extensive power of affording each other mutual assistance, in their endeavours to fetter the freedom of
the human mind.
sume, ever, it is not necessary, I pres
maxim in law, in order to justify our condemnation of it, should it appear, upon inquiry, to be unreasonable, a violation of the principles of Christianity, injurious to the interests of truth, and conducive to no good purpose in the present state of society. He who commits upon me a manifest act of injustice, or occasions injury to any good cause for which I am concerned, has scarcely a right to demand, that I should confute him by quotations and precedents, before I can be allowed to lift up my voice in reprobation of his conduct.
The following thoughts have been suggested to my mind, by considering
"In the 34th year of Henry VI. Chief Justice Prisot declared in the Court of Common Pleas, Seripture est common ley, sur quel touts manières de leis sont fondes."-Blackstone, B. iv. C, iv. S. iv.
this maxim of the law, in connexion with some striking traits in the character of Christianity, and especially with the present condition of the Christian world.
I would first remark, then, that so long as this maxim continues to maintain its authority, it appears to afford a particularly strong hold for the practice of prosecuting unbelievers. And, doubtless, this circumstance is not overlooked by those who shew so much partiality for this sage portion of the common law. The increasing liberality of the times might lead us to hope, that the legislature would shortly be induced to repeal all actual statutes that infringe the freedom of discussion upon religious subjects. But this, it appears, would not be sufficient to secure Christianity against the unwarrantable interference of the civil power in its behalf; for, notwithstanding such repeal, except the legislature, by a positive declaration, should make it lawful to deny the truth of the Christian religion, attacks of this kind might still be regarded as offences at common law, and prosecuted upon these grounds. Now it is to be supposed, that many of our most liberal senators would think such a declaration too much like holding out an encouragement to the enemies of Christianity and thus the reign of persecution may be prolonged, and a considerable obstacle opposed to the progress of enlightened legislation upon this subject, through the practice of justifying religious prosecutions by the maxim under consideration. It is not, indeed, very probable, that our judges would long continue to sanction proceedings which the legislature had shewn a manifest inclination to discountenance, by the repeal of all penal statutes bearing upon the subject. Yet, without some express Act to the contrary, the power would be lodged in the hands of Attorneys-General and others, to display their pure and disinterested zeal for religion, by calling in the arm of the law for its defence.
be made of a maxim, which in itself means little or nothing? and which, therefore, in the mouth of an ingenious Judge or Attorney-General, may be made to mean almost any thing. It is well calculated to serve as a very convenient screen, behind which the hateful spirit of intolerance may lie concealed, and look forth upon suitable occasions, with a greater or less degree of boldness, according as the light of the age shall be found to endure its presence.
These are sufficient reasons why this maxim should be reprobated by every jealous friend to complete freedom of opinion; but, if I mistake not the nature and genius of Christianity, there are yet other reasons to be stated of greater weight. As we see this maxim at present applied to justify the inflicting of penalties on those who assail Christianity, it appears to me wholly at variance with the spirit of our Lord's solemn declaration, that "his kingdom is not of this world.” We say, with the spirit of this declaration; for we need not insist, that when our Lord uttered these words, he had any particular view to the future patronage of Christianity by the civil power. But he meant, I presume, to deliver a general truth respecting the character of his religion, and the proper means of its being spread and supported in the world, which renders such a maxim as the one before us utterly inadmissible. Men whose High-Church-and-State prejudices teach them to look upon religion principally as an instrument of secular government, and a means of preserving what they are pleased to call "social order" among the people, may not comprehend the whole force of this objection; but every one who rightly estimates the peculiar genius of Christianity, will feel himself bound to protest against its being held forth to the world in a light so degrading, and so foreign from its true character.
It is also to be observed, that a maxim so indefinite is highly objectionable and dangerous from its vagueness. An Act of Parliament, in a great measure, defines the offence against which it is intended to be directed, and prescribes the penalty. But who shall say what use may not
Even Church Establishments appear to the Nonconformist, in this point of view, open to very serious objection. For these, however, a kind of apology has been often urged by their most judicious advocates, which cannot be applied to the case in question. It is said, that these establishments are, avowedly, only civil regulations, for
providing the nation with religious instruction and the conveniences of public worship: it is not pretended that they are any part of Christianity, and therefore they cannot be fairly represented as any encroachment of the civil power upon the kingdom of Christ. When, however, not merely a form of worship and an order of teachers, but Christianity itself, as a system of true religion, is identified with the law of the land, and protected from the assaults of its adversaries by temporal penalties, I know not how it would be possible to represent it more completely as a kingdom of this world. Every Christian, by virtue of his discipleship, possesses a right, and a right which he is in duty bound to exercise, to proclaim that such a representation amounts to a libel on the character of Christianity. We ask for the warrant from the lips of the Author of Christianity, for this alliance between his doctrine and systems of human jurisprudence. If the maxim be true in law, it has become so by a gross usurpation of that law, and ought therefore to be abandoned. Its title to authority was vicious from the beginning, and its long standing is therefore no just reason for its being continued. It has, in short, precisely that mark, which a great authority in these cases has laid down as a sufficient reason for its being no longer followed, it is " clearly contrary to the Divine law."
But, quitting this positive declaration of the Author of Christianity, let any one compare the nature of this religion with the power and objects of human laws; and they will appear too essentially dissimilar ever to amalgamate. The one can never be justly regarded as part of the other, until the broadest distinctions in nature can be annulled at the will of advocates and judges. Christianity is a system of faith, resting for the evidence of its claims chiefly upon the authenticity and genuineness of certain historical narratives. Its entire authority depends upon its truth, and its authority with every individual upon his belief of its truth. Can the law determine that the Christian histories shall be
The following noble sentiments of one of the few Archbishops that ever made sacrifice for conscience' sake, de
worthy of credit, and that they shall appear so to all his Majesty's subjects, under pain of imprisonment? Or, can the law justly render it criminal, to deny the truth of that which is true or false, independently of any decisions which the law can make? Histories and doctrines appear, from their very nature, to be placed beyond the sphere of judicial interference. What should we think of being told that the History of Rome, or the latest Theory of Combustion, had been made part of the law of England? Surely, then, this maxim can be nothing more than one of those many amusing fictions, with which the law delights to charm away the tediousness of its proceedings. And however useful it may be found, to enable lawyers to effect what they would otherwise have no warrant for, when examined by the tests of reason and common sense, it appears altogether worthy to be classed with the well-known pleasantry of vi et armis.
A system of religion which, like the Pagan, or even the Jewish, should partly consist of certain ceremonial observances, essentially belonging to it, might, with some little show of propriety, be incorporated with the laws of a country; for, the interference of the magistrate in such a case would not be wholly absurd and inefficient, though it should be ever so unjust. The religion consisting in external forms and actions, would bear some analogy to the proper objects of civil jurisprudence. But human laws ought, surely, to be bounded in their contemplated operation, by the natural limits of human power: and what can human power effect for a religion, which has nothing in it of a positive and arbi
serve the attention of our modern Church
men, who wish to surround Christianity with penal sanctions: "The true and genuine Christian religion is a plain, and honest, and disinterested thing, full of sweet candour and holy simplicity, hath no tricks in it, no designs upon auy man, but only to make him wise and good, and so, happy for ever: and it suits not at all with the noble fine spirit and ingenuousness of it, to pretend or desire to be taken upon trust, or to obtrude itself upon any man without examination."— Archbishop Sancroft's Address to James, Duke of York,