Billeder på siden


animals quadrupeds, fishes, and birds—step into existence in their perfect forms,—diminutive, it is true, but still complete; all they want is either a little more hair, or a robe of feathers, or teeth to bite with after they have been weaned, as the may be. But insects, and several other of the lower tribes of creatures, go through a very wonderful sequence of changes. Every butterfly begins life as a grub; then it becomes a “chrysalis;" only in its third and last stage is it a winged creature. Not that the grub is metamorphosed: it contains within its soft little body the whole of the future butterfly, and when the chrysalid condition is assumed, the butterfly often shews as plainly in it as a flower while wrapped in its calyx. In other words, the transition from the grub to the butterfly is not a "transmogrification," but a simple casting away of outer vestments, and a growth of the immature creature within to full and royal ripeness. This it is which gives so much beauty to the correspondence theologians are so fond of pointing out between the life of man and his entry upon the angelic state, and the gradual development of the insect. All is in man that he will ever have: “there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body;" the former is cast off by degrees,-first the grub-skin, then the chrysalid skin; and lastly, the genuine immortal, who was always there, stands free and unclogged, and can mount aloft, just as the new-born insect-angels, with their lovely wings—representative of man's new and magnificent spiritual powers when he is disencumbered of his “natural body"-soar up sunwards, our mortal eyes in vain essaying to follow.


It is cheering amid all the strife and tumult of the present day—which may well be deemed to realise the prophecies of Scripture concerning the latter end of the first Christian Church-to note the various religious movements which, inevitably partaking in some degree of the character of struggle and ferment peculiar to a state of transition, yet gratifyingly attest that general revival of religious life and earnestness which the receivers of a New Dispensation cannot fail to recognise as the legitimate effect of the gradual, though little-heeded, diffusion of its heavenly light. The very driest of old, dry, doctrinal bones seem, on all sides, to be vivified by a new spirit, and to arise clothed in that practical life of charity and obedience to the Lord's will, which is true religion, whatever be the creed of him who lives it.


But another result of this revival of true religion amongst us is, in many cases, an intellectual awakening to the falses and errors of old forms and creeds, now seen by the light dawning from within to be inconsistent with, and subversive of, the very truths they profess to embody. And this feature of the religious progress we rejoice to witness, has given more than usual prominence to a question which is one indeed of no small moment, inasmuch as it is a question of duty, affecting those who have been, or may be, most vitally influenced, most effectually aided, by the influx of Divine light and truth so beneficently working around us. The question to which we allude may be briefly stated as follows: Whether a man, and more especially a minister of religion, who, while professing adherence to any one church or sect, has imbibed and accepted new views of truth, not taught in, or consistent with, the doctrine of the church to which he belongs, should, or should not, secede from its communion, and join (or assist in forming) a communion in which those doctrines are received and inculcated, which now present to his mind a satisfactory embodiment of Divine Truth?

Now it must at first sight appear as if an affirmative answer to this question were altogether inevitable, on the ground of that simple truth and straightforwardness in deed as well as in word, which demand that a man should as much as possible seem, and profess to be, that which he really is. Yet it is impossible to look abroad upon the signs of the times, and overlook a growing tendency to favour the opposite solution of the question, and the practice of what we may call Non-secession in the emergency pre-supposed. We have seen, for instance, but a short while since, a body of highly-cultivated, and we have every reason to believe truth-loving, conscientious men, put forth a series of writings involving opinions quite inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church of England, of which all, or nearly all, were not merely members, but ordained ministers; yet it is clear that none of these gentlemen have considered, or do consider it their duty to resign their connection with the church to much of whose doctrine they no longer subscribe. Nor is it to be denied that, among the laity, at least, of the Established Church, there very widely prevails a far stronger sympathy with these Non-seceding dissenters, than with the ecclesiastical authorities who would fain compel their secession. Again, in the case of a minister of the same church, whom we have seen, within the last few months, resign his benefice on the conscientious grounds that he could no longer reconcile to his convictions, in any sense, several of the doctrines that church teaches, we have heard it positively objected, while the motives of his act received due respect, that he ought by no means to have

resigned, but rather to have retained the position of usefulness and influence his pastorship afforded, as the best means of diffusing his own dissentient views of such truth as he deemed best calculated to promote the eternal welfare of his fellow-men. We have heard it moreover asserted, on the best authority, that no inconsiderable number of clergymen still officiate in the Established Church, who are nevertheless sincere receivers and even teachers of New Church truths; some such instances we ourselves can avouch; and we not unfrequently find this course advocated as the right and correct one; for this reason among others: that if the National Church be not what any man deems it ought to be, he should, far from quitting it, remain in it and do his best to reform it.

This last argument is indeed feeble and untenable; because the Established Church is no more the National Church than any other of the religious communities amongst us. The State Church it still in some sense is, because supported by State funds; but only in that one sense, since State trusts and employments of every kind, but clerical, have been opened to all indiscriminately, without distinction of religious profession. The National Church can only be such a church as shall include within its fold all religious communities throughout the nation ; and this true national, though invisible church, no man should indeed quit, nor can he; and he is then most certainly doing his best to reform and elevate it, when he abandons the profession and practice of doctrines and forms which no longer command his rational assent, for the profession and practice of those which, according to his conviction, afford the purest embodiment of Divine Truth, and which he is, therefore, bound to commend, both by precept and example, to the favour of his fellow-countrymen.

But there are other arguments employed in favour of Non-secession, which it may prove no loss of time to examine a little more closely. They are mainly divisible into two classes ; those which are urged on the ground of that charity or brotherly love which should prevail among all fellow Christians, and indeed fellow-men, and those which are urged on the ground of use, to which we will advert presently. For, in respect to the first class, we are frequently met by the idea, more or less openly expressed, that some breach of charity towards his fellow-worshippers, or some presumptuous assertion of superiority over them, must be involved in a man's quitting that religious body to which he has hitherto belonged, for some other, in which any new views of truth he may have imbibed are openly professed and inculcated. But how can this be ? If no breach of the law of brotherly love be involved, in the adoption of views of truth differing from those of our immediate fellow-worshippers, how can there be any in the legitimate expression of such dissentient views, by the adoption of corresponding forms of prayer and worship? If there be no presumptuous assertion of superiority over our fellows involved in our worshipping in the Established Church of England, or of Scotland, so long as we accept Episcopalian or Presbyterian doctrines, how can any such be involved in our adhesion to New Church or other forms of worship, when brought to a conviction of the truth of the doctrines such forms embody? It will hardly be alleged that the being born, or brought up, in some given communion renders adhesion to that a duty, independent of rational assent to its doctrines and practices; because, if so, a man may be bound, by the accident of birth, to remain a Buddhist or idol-worshipper, or a Thug even, part of whose religion is murder. We hold this ground for Non-secession, then, to be untenable. If on the score of rational conviction, a Buddhist be entitled to become a Christian, or an idol-worshipper a God-worshipper, each abandoning the forms of worship previously practised for those of the church to which he has been converted, it must be equally lawful for a Roman Catholic to become a Protestant, or an Old Church to become a New Church Christian, in profession as well as in faith, without any more breach in one case than the other, of the law or spirit of true brotherly love. It is no sign, or precept of true charity, to hide our light under a bushel ; be it small or great, if we deem it the true light, we are bound to set it forth, to use the words of Scripture, " in a candlestick, that all who pass by may see the light."

Passing now to the second class of arguments, those, namely, advanced on the ground of use, we find it urged that a minister who has become possessed of new views of truth is, precisely on that account, capable of being more useful than ever to the flock to which he ministers, and would clearly therefore be wrong to leave them : that if he separate himself from them, he sacrifices the opportunity of diffusing the truth he justly deems most precious, and must do so under the uncertainty of finding another sphere of use; at any rate (and this especially if he have hitherto belonged to the Established Church) another equally influential and advantageous that Providence having placed him where he is, there he should remain,-and so on. To deal first, with this last argument, let us inquire-What is meant by a man's having been placed by Providence in any given position ? Simply that Providence has overruled and afforded the circumstances and opportunities for its attainment. Now, it is undeniable that the chief determining circumstance which leads, or alone ought to lead, to a man's entrance on the ministry in one church rather than another, must be his conscientious acceptance of its doctrines; and if this be of Providence, is it less of Providence that he has been led to find and accept the truth in other doctrines, and is he by such a change of convictions any the less called away from, than he could be originally called to, his ministry in the church in question ? It cannot be otherwise, unless we assume Providence on the one hand and deny it on the other. And this being so, we must admit that only a want of faith in that Providence can lead us to attach any weight to the other pleas advanced. Is the Providence which opened the original field of labour less able to open a fresh one at need? And why should any faithful labourer despair of finding a new sphere, as well adapted to the new development of bis powers of use, exalted as they must be by the progress in truth he believes himself to have made, as was his original sphere to those powers in their less inatured activity ? There can be no reason alleged, short of a doubt, of the unerring wisdom and all-sufficing power of Providence. It may, indeed, appear as if a less honoured, or less lucrative, worldly position must of necessity involve diminished scope for usefulness, but this is a mere appearance. It is not those men, or those things, that make the most noise or fill the most space, which are in reality of most use, in the world. The tiniest rill, flowing and sparkling onwards, may be the source of far greater blessing than a very wide expanse of standing—which is stagnant-water.

M. C. H. (To be concluded in our next.)





BY THE REV. ALEX. Mc. ARTHUR. THERE are three things necessary to a profitable study and proper understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. First, a settled conviction that they are the Word of God; second, an affection for spiritual truth; and third, a knowledge of the relationship between spiritual and natural things. If one has not the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God, he will approach it as he would any human production, and apply to it those rules of criticism by which the works of men are tested; and discovering certain discrepancies in its letter, he may deem it inconsistent with that higher wisdom which it claims to possess, and so despise and contemn it. If he has no affection for spiritual truth, in coming to the study of the Word he will be like one who is not thirsty placed beside a fountain of living water, or like one who is not hungry seated at a table spread with the richest fare. And if he has not some knowledge of the relation between spiritual and natural things, he will be in danger of materializing spiritual truth.

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »