« AnteriorContinuar »
they will do in the outset, simply to set forth the charms and value of these higher pursuits ; and they think much is gained when they have won over the devout attention of their auditors and disciples. And being themselves more practised in this way, they will next lead on the others kindly by persuasions, by the force of example, and by giving them tastes of knowledge in anticipation of their own study and researches. Now, all this applies to Divine truth likewise ; for, although the Bible is plain and all sufficient of itself, still only the few
are inclined to study it devoutly; and hence, these of necessity must become the guides and Teachers of the others, until that day of universal illumination come, when it shall be no longer necessary for every man to teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord ; for all shall know him from the least to the greatest.
In teaching the Sciences, some last authority is always appealed to, as in natural science, experiments and observations are appealed to which all men may make for themselves; and the clearness and authoritativeness of the Science, to the general mind, will be just according to the perfection of this last authority. Now, it is just this relation which the Bible holds to all human teachers of Divine things; it contains the last authority to which every man may appeal for himself. Human teachers by their learning may clear
doubtful passages by a more accurate translation, and by biblical geography and archæology; and, in respect to these, the common mind will repose upon the universal consent of the learned, as well as upon the greater consistency of the whole, made apparent to them by simply comparing_Scripture with Scripture : but any received translation, like our English translation, for all the ends of a Revelation, is clear as noon-day. As God's book, the Bible is a perfect and unquestionable authority; and, therefore, to it must the teacher of religion refer at last, as the natural philosopher refers to the phenomena of nature.
The Bible, however, as a last authority, is more simple and available, and involves far less of learned authority than any acknowledged criteria of Science. For, although there be many facts of Science which are open to all men, still there are many also, and these, too, of the last importance, which lie beyond the field of ordinary observation; while the most momentous and central facts of Christianity—those which absolutely determine and fix the character of the religious system, are just those which lie most open to the common reader. Hence, hermeneutics, and philology; biblical archæology, and geography, have cast light only upon isolated passages without modifying essentially the great body of Truth : what the early Christians received and found efficacious to the Salvation of the Soul, we, at the present day, receive and find efficacióus in like manner. From the age of the Apostles, onward through every subsequent age, there has been
but one genuine and vital Christianity; and this has been known to every true disciple, however he may have been led through custom or philosophy, to add on extraneous dogmas—or however he may have failed, through lack of learning, to perceive some curious secondary points.
A question has been raised respecting the progressive nature of our knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. It has been maintained, that with the advance of science and philosophy, there must be a corresponding advance in biblical interpretation; and hence, that many conclusions drawn by the dim lights of crude and unripened knowledge, must necessarily be modified, or even laid entirely aside under the splendors of modern discovery—that the Bible, like nature, is a collection of facts which are imperfectly apprehended and liable to misinterpretation, until a ripened philosophy gives the exact laws of observation and interpretation. Astronomy, geology, and psychology, are particularly noted for their bearing upon Biblical interpretation. But astronomy, geology, and the natural sciences, generally, do not bear upon the construction of any passages which involve the moral interests of man; and as the Bible does not profess to teach these sciences, but only alludes, incidentally, to certain phenomena connected with them, and in terms according with the popular conceptions, it is hardly probable that we shall obtain any clearer view of its teaching through their advancement. The great aim of the Sacred Writers, in alluding to natural phenomena, is to represent God as the Creator and Governor of the Universe, and to illustrate his Majesty, Wisdom and Benevolence—this it does without deciding between the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems, or revealing the laws and processes of geological formations.
Psychology, or the philosophy of the human soul, is, indeed, intimately connected with the moral and central truths of the Bible; and it cannot be denied, that when this philosophy is perfected, these truths, as connected both with God and man, will stand forth in a more resplendent light. But psychology, in its essential and practical aspects, appears, in certain cardinal facts, well known to the universal human consciousness. The distinction between right and wrong-moral obligation based upon moral freedom-the adaptation of the laws of duty to the well-being of man—the evil of Sin-immortality and retribution-and the being and attributes of God, can be apprehended without any nice psychological analysis. All things in heaven and earth have their philosophy. The insensate mechanism of nature hath its philosophy; and the living mind hath its philosophy. But as the philosophy of nature governs atoms and masses in their unthinking passivity, so the mind spontaneously yields to the great principles of its interior constitution, where reflection or philosophical selfrecognition is still undeveloped. And in the harmony and fitness of the universal order, this spontaneous action is most easy and lively just where it is most needed, in everything relating to the social and moral state of man. Hence, man readily unites in the constitution of society, acknowledges the authority of law, and becomes a subject of government. Now, there is nothing in the Bible but what addresses itself plainly to the conscience, moral sense, and spontaneous reason of man. The mind here, as in many other things of daily and vital moment, naturally apprehends and judges without staying to reflect psychologically upon the nature and laws of its cognitive faculties.
* See page 97, note.
As to its grand scope, its moral ends, therefore, the Bible is to be received as both complete and clear in itself. When first given it did not develope itself in sciences and philosophies then extant, so that the learned had to approach its meaning through preliminary investigations, profound, difficult, and doubtful; nor did it conceal itself in sciences and philosophies afterwards to be wrought out by human genius and industry, and thus adjourn its blessed illumination to a distant day. It rose upon our world, at first, as the bright and beautiful Sun of the young Creation, giving light to every eye, and making all things plain to behold; and, it has been the same bright and beautiful Sun ever since, revealing the heaven and the earth, and cherishing by its genial warmth the soul of man.
We may not comprehend how its exhaustless urn is supplied with light, or how its rays so swiftly travel from the far distant heavens, or how it produces its gracious effects; but this does not hinder us from experiencing these effects, nor lessen the joyous beauty of its shine. The philosopher who measures the orb of the sun, analyses the eye, and discovers the laws of light, hath no keener sense of light than the unlettered man who goeth forth to his work from the morning until the evening. The truths and facts of the Bible stand connected with great and curious questions in philosophy; but it is only the truths and facts which it propounds. The truths and facts may receive a philosophical explanation, and thus certain demands of the speculative reason may be answered, but it is only by the truths and facts that the Bible accomplishes its mission. When the great questions in philosophy shall be solved, human reason will have done its work, and will receive its crown of light: but even then, the truths and facts of the Bible, as the basis of duty, as the source of hope, as the efficacious means of salvation, will stand just where they did before. It will then be as tr
It will then be as true as it is now, "except ye be converted and become like little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The human reason has ever been struggling to do its work-it has sought to solve the great philosophical problems springing up in the path of Christianity. But here began a great and portentous error. Philosophy is progressive; but Christianity, in its true sphere, and, as to its true aims, is complete. Dogmatic Theology is constituted by philosophical speculation upon revealed truths. Had philosophy first been perfected, and then legitimately applied, Dogmatic Theology would have been a determinate and indisputable science. But as philosophy has ever been assuming new phases, and branching out itself into a variety of schools, often fiercely opposed to each other, Dogmatic Theology has correspondingly appeared under various systems, some of which have possessed points of agreement, while others have diverged into open hostility. It was unavoidable that philosophy, in its progress towards a complete development, should assume various and conflicting forms. It was unavoidable that Theology, as a Science, should go along a similar track in its progress to a clear noontide. And what was here demanded, was unlimited freedom of thought and investigation. It is only in this way that the Speculative reason can legitimately and adequately do its work. The portentous error was the ever renewed attempt to identify a particular dogmatic science with Christianity. Some crude and unripened philosophy gave birth to a crude unripened science. The particular science was adopted by the Church; the Church lay embosomed in worldly power, wealth, and dignities; the Schools which gave birth to the science, lay embosomed in the Church. Thus the particular science became ascendant; and the hope both of the scholar and the ecclesiastic—the hope of all fame, of all preferment, hung upon it. The philosophy triumphs through the dread authority of the Church-authority which she professes to have derived from the Holy Apostles—from the great author of Christianity himself; to the keys of the kingdom of heaven, she adds the sword of State, and thus it triumphs through the state likewise, as the adjunct of the Church. "The creed embodying the dogmatical science is formed—the very language is stereotyped, and made sacred and authoritative. Heaven and earth defend the creed. Woe be to him who opposes the creed! He is a heretic, a traitor-let his body be burned—let his soul take its place among the damned !
The evil is manifold. Philosophical investigation is impeded or even brought to a pause. Free thought may give birth to new conclusions ; and new conclusions may attack the dogmatical science of the creed. There must be no thought, therefore, beyond the established forms and dogmas. Thus the natural rational criteria of truth are exchanged for the voice of the Church and the State ; and no hope remains for the progress of philosophy unless through the violence and crimes of a revolution, the only effect of which may be to transfer the sceptre of this tyranny over mind from one school to another. On the other hand,
instead of the simple majesty of gospel truth speaking in the language which she brought from her native heaven, we are imposed upon by the stately antics of ambitious men, and our ears stunned with the barbarous jargon of scholastic ignorance : we have lost the teaching of the prophets of Christ and his Apostles, and we have instead thereof the teaching of Doctors and Fathers; the blessed Gospel which every man might carry about him in his bosom, is sealed up and laid away, and spacious libraries are opened where huge tomes in triple rows stand frowningly to teach us what to believe and how through the Church to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The discourses of Christ, as if too miscellaneous, and disjointed, and unscientific, are supplanted by elaborated creeds, confessions, and didactic systems ! We have thus developed a Christianity of the Church and State, and of the Schools. These are leagued together, and yet possess distinct elements, and, therefore, require to be analyzed apart, in order to be comprehended in their union. The Christianity of the Church represents the Church as endowed with Divine gifts, clothed with Divine authority, as containing within herself a vicegerency from the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, by virtue of which she interprets the word, enacts ecclesiastical laws, prescribes rituals, decides controversies, bestows privileges, enjoins penances, works miracles, regulates kingdoms, anathematises heretics and infidels, forgives penitentsin fine, holds the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, opening and shutting the gates with a plenary wisdom and power.
The Christianity of the State is simply the Church, uniting its authority with the secular power. There is thus a mutual sustentation. The State enables the Church to awe into submission by the dread of civil penalties; and the Church gives the State the majesty and force of Divine sanction.
The Christianity of the Schools is the form of doctrine determined by the form of philosophy which has received the sanction of the Church.
Now, to all there is opposed the Christianity of the Word :Christianity, not under the interpretations, remodellings, and additions of the Church, and not under the expositions and explanations of any school of philosophy; but Christianity as fully and clearly set forth in the simple Word itself. A Christianity not requiring the interpretations of the Church, for the interpretations of the Church are but the interpretations of men; but this comes from the Father of lights himself, and is its own sufficient interpreter to every one who will give his heart and his mind to it : a Christianity not requiring the remodellings and additions of the Church-for, coming from a Divine hand, the touch of a human hand can only mar what God hath perfected, and can give no additional grace to what hath sprung from the fullness of the Divine conception : and a Christianity not requiring the dogmatism of the