Imatges de pÓgina

whatsoever which conduce to excellence, and these in a degree indefinitely beyond the power of the human mind to measure.

2. Over and above what He is in Himself, He is conceived of as standing in certain relations to us; as carrying on a moral government of the world. He is held to prescribe and favour what is right; to forbid and regard with displeasure what is wrong; and to dispose the courses of events in such a way that, in general and upon the whole, there is a tendency of virtue to bring satisfaction and happiness, and of vice to entail the reverse of these, even when appearances, and external advantages, might not convey such an indication.

3. The same wide consent of mankind, which sustains belief in a God, and invests Him with a certain character, has everywhere perceptibly, though variably and sometimes with a great vagueness of outline, carried the sphere of the moral government which it assigns to Him beyond the limits of the visible world. In that larger region, though it lie beyond the scope of our present narrow view, the belief of theistical mankind has been, that the laws of this moral government would be more clearly developed, and the normal relation between good and evil, and between their respective consequences, fully established.

4. Along, therefore, with belief in a God we have to register the acknowledgment of another truth, the doctrine of a future state of man, which has had a not less ample acceptance in all the quarters from whence the elements of authority can be drawn; and has, indeed, in the darkest periods and places of religion, been found difficult to eradicate, even when the Divine Idea had been so broken up and degraded, as to seem divested of all its most splendid attributes.

In the second place, I come to the proposition of Sir George Lewis, that the acceptance of Christianity is required of us by a scientific application of the principle of authority, but without any reference to this or that particular form, or tenet, of the religion.

But as we found, in the prior instance of simple theism, that the authority of consent would carry us much beyond the acknowledgment of a disembodied abstraction, so, upon examining the case of Christianity, we shall find that what has been handed down to us under that name as part of the common knowledge and common patrimony of men is not a bare skeleton, but is instinct with vital warmth from a centre, and has the character, notwithstanding all the dissensions that prevail, of a living and working system not without the most essential features of an unity.

This I shall endeavour to show as to the following points:

1. The doctrine of Revelation.

2. The use of Sacraments.

3. The Christian Ethics.

4. The Creed.

5. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.

1. Regarded historically, believers in Christ, casting anchor, so to speak, in an older dispensation, have uniformly acknowledged that God had at sundry times and in divers manners 30 made Himself known to the rational mind of man by a special communication or inspiration, over and above that knowledge of Himself which He had imparted by the books of nature and of life or experience. And this finally in the Gospel. They therefore have held themselves to be in possession of a special treasure of divine knowledge, communicated in a manner which carried with it a peculiar certainty; and such a belief, called the belief in inspiration, and pervading the whole of Christendom from the very first, is of itself a material amplification of the idea conveyed by the mere name of Christianity.

2. Next, there is a similar universality of Christian testimony in favour of the use of certain rites called Sacraments, as essentially belonging to, and marking out to view, the Christian scheme. I have nothing here to do with the question whether the Christian Sacraments are two or seven, or any other number in particular, or whether, as was suggested by Bishop Pecock in conformity with St. Augustine and others, the word be in itself susceptible of even a wider application. Nor again with the various bodies of separatists who at different times have rejected infant baptism. The fact that, rejecting the catholic and immemorial practice of baptism in infancy, they should still have retained the rite, renders them even stronger witnesses in its favour than they would have been if they had agreed as to the proper season of administration. Again, it is to be observed that the sacraments have not been held as bare signs. Even the Scotch early Reformers, who may be said to represent a kind of ultima Thule in the opinions of the day, did utterly damn' those who thus held. They have been deemed, according to the Anglican definition, to be 'outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.' When the exact relation of the sign to the thing signified comes to be considered, then indeed no inconsiderable body of differences comes into view, and the argument of consent can hardly be pressed within the definitions of our author. But up to that point it is strictly applicable. The very limited exception of a society founded among the English more than sixteen hundred years after Christ, scarcely embracing a thousandth part even of that race, and unable to quote by way of precedent 31 more than a handful of dubious individual cases in all history, cannot, however respectable on social grounds, constitute an appreciable deduction from the weight of the Christian testimony. It could hardly be taken into account if it had, which it has not, at any time developed into a theology that basis of sentiment on which it mainly reposes.

3. Thirdly, the entire breadth of the Christian consent sustains a

31 Barclay's Apology, Prop. xii. Objection 6.

30 Heb. i. 1.

system of morality which is no less distinctive of the Gospel than is its doctrine.

Lewis has nowhere applied to morality the limitations to which he considered that religion must submit before it could take the benefit of the scientific principle of authority. He appears to hold that morality enjoys authority in a manner substantially the same as other established knowledge. It is plain that the authority of consent tells in its behalf more widely than in behalf of Christianity. Not, however, as to any complete code, for here too we have to contend with something of the same difficulty, arising from diversity about particulars, as in the case of Christian doctrine; but as to this great and broad proposition, that there exists a law of duty, what Sophocles called a víπovs vóμos, binding man and man. We find abundant evidence of this in a multitude of quarters beyond the precinct of Divine Revelation: in the various systems of religion, especially as they were projected by their founders, for example in that of Mahomet; in the provisions of public law, in the works of many philosophers, in primitive manners as they are developed by the monuments of Egypt, or, much more fully and less conventionally, by the poems of Homer. All these were with great variation, both as to the behaviour enjoined, and as to the persons towards whom such behaviour was binding. But the Christian morality, gathering together the scattered fragments, and building them into a great temple of Duty, was a new thing as a whole, though in respect to its basis, and to the acknowledgment and even the practice of its parts disjointedly, it was able to call in the aid of non-christian and pre-christian testimony. The culmination and perfection of the Christian morality was found in that high and severe doctrine of marriage, against which, we may confidently anticipate, and almost venture to predict, that the anti-christian spirit will direct its first great attack, encouraged by those preliminary operations in the legislative recognition of divorce which have already, from a variety of ill-omened causes, found a place upon our own, as well as upon other statute-books.

Some have been bold enough to say that the wide recognition, at the present day, of ethical doctrines in practical forms is due not to Christianity, but to the progress of civilisation. In answer to them, I will only halt for a moment, to ask the question how it came that the Greek and, in its turn, the Roman civilisation, each advancing to so great a height, did not similarly elevate the moral standards. And I shall by anticipation put in a caveat against any attempt to reply merely by exhibiting here and there an unit picked out of the philosophic schools, or the ideal pictures which may be found in the writings of a tragedian; pictures which have no more to do with the practical life of contemporary Greece, than have the representations of the Virgin and the Child, so much admired in our

galleries, with the lives and characters of those who look on them, or in most instances of those who have painted them. A comparison between Epictetus and Paley, or between Aristotle and Escobar, would be curious, but would not touch the point. I do not inquire how low some Christian may have descended, or how high some heathen may have risen, in theory, any more than in practice. When I speak of the morality of a religion, I mean the principles and practices for which it has obtained the assent of the mind and heart of man; which it has incorporated into the acknowledged and standing code of its professors; which it has exhibited in the traditional practices, sometimes of the generality, sometimes only of the best. But this is a large subject, and lies apart. My present argument is only with those who, like Sir George Lewis, hold that Christianity lies within the true scope of the principle of authority, but do not develope the phrase Christianity into its specific meanings.

To such it may be fairly put that under this name of Christianity we are to understand something that has some sort of claims and sanctions peculiarly its own; for it is not religion only, but Christian religion, which comes to us accredited by legitimate authority. Now I hope to obtain a general assent when I contend that Christianity can have no exclusive or preferential claim upon us, unless that, which distinguishes it as a religion, has some proportionate representation in the sphere of morality. In its ultimate, general, and permanent effects upon morality, largely understood, the test of the value of a religion is to be found; and if mankind, in its most enlightened portions, has lent the weight of its authority to Christianity, we must needs understand the word to carry and include some moral elements due and peculiar to the religious system.

And it is not difficult to sketch in outline some at least of the features which give speciality to Christian morals, without disturbing their relation to the general, and especially the best, non-Christian morality of mankind. First and foremost, they are founded on the character and pattern of a Person, even more, if possible, than on his words. In Him they recognise the standard of consummate and divine perfection. Secondly, they draw all forms of duty, to God, to men, and to ourselves, from one and the same source. Thirdly, they are to be practised towards all men alike, independently of station or race, or even life or creed. Fourthly, they are meant and fitted for all men equally to hold; and their most profound vitality, if not their largest and most varied development, is within the reach of the lowly and uninstructed, in whose minds and hearts it has, for the most part, fewer and less formidable barriers to surmount, or 'strongholds,' in the Apostle's language, to cast down. Fifthly, the Christian law has placed the relation of man and woman, as such, in the great institution of marriage, and the provision for the continuance through the family of the species, upon such a footing as is

nowhere else to be found. I do not say that this is not a restitution of a primitive law; but, if so, it was one the strain of which was found too great for those to whom it was given to bear. This law, with all its restraints of kin, of unity, and of perpetuity, is perhaps the subtlest as well as the most powerful of all the social instruments which the Almighty has put into use for the education of the race; and it is one, I am firmly persuaded, which no self-acting force, no considerations of policy, will ever be able to uphold in modern societies, when it shall have been severed from its authoritative source.

I will not dwell in detail on the mode in which the Gospel treats the law of love, the law of purity, or that which is perhaps most peculiar to it, the law of pain; but will be content with saying, sixthly and lastly, that Christian morals, as a whole-as an entire system covering the whole life, nature, and experience of man-stand broadly distinguished by their rich, complete, and searching character from other forms of moral teaching now extant in the world. The limitation implied in these last words has been introduced simply because it would be inconvenient on this occasion to examine whether, and in what respects, the Christian morals exhibit a reproduction of a primitive law once in force among the whole or a portion of mankind.

It seems, then, that, if the argument of authority, or consent, be available on behalf of Christianity, we cannot do otherwise than include in the scheme thus recommended a peculiar body of moral teaching, together with the notions of an inspired origin, and of certain outward or sacramental rites, universal, perpetual, and inseparable from the system to which they are attached.

4. I now proceed a step further; and contend that this Christianity must in reason be understood to include a doctrinal, as well as a moral and a symbolical, system. I am not so desirous to fix the exact particulars of that doctrinal system, as to show that, when we speak of Christianity as having received the favourable verdict of the portion of mankind alone or best qualified to judge in such a matter, we do not mean the mere acknowledgment of a name, but we mean, along with other things, the acceptance of a body of truths which have for their centre the person and work of Christ. This body of truths has its foremost expression in the Creed known as that of the Apostles, and in a document of greater precision and development and of equal and more formal authority-the Creed of Constantinople, commonly called the Nicene Creed. If the authority of civilised and intellectual man be available on behalf of something that we agree to call Christianity, my contention is that it is likewise available for these two great historic documents. We cannot reasonably make any sensible deduction from the weight of the propounding authority when, in the formula of consent, for the word Christianity we substitute the Creed of the Apostles, together with the Nicene Creed.

The human mind (I have said) is accustomed to play tricks with

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