« ForrigeFortsæt »
fact remains, and we can all see sufficiently far into the fact to perceive that it is a necessity.
In this way, and in no other, can the portentous truth of universal hereditary evil be accounted for. Each generation of men, since the fall, has inherited biases and inclinations to evil. Each generation has aggravated this bias, and confirmed these inclinations by indulgence; fostered the propensity to sin by sinning, and inereased the tendency to evil by doing evil. Such augmented hereditaments they transmitted to the succeeding generation, who repeated the acceleration of iniquity, waxing worse and worse, till destruction loomed before humanity, that was sinking into universal corruption and universal death. The constantly increased weight of hereditary evil pressed like an incubus upon man, demanding the arms of the Almighty to hurl off the horrible load ;-contaminated the race, till “there was po sound place,” from head to foot; from ruling loves to minor affections, all was a seething mass of corruption, "rottenness, and putrefying sores,” requiring the help of the Great Physician to heal our wounds ;-unmanning men, till very devils could obsess their very bodies, till even a legion of them could possess one unhappy wretch, requiring Jehovah of Hosts to fight our battles, "drive out the strong man armed,” subdue our infernal foes; and become the Conqueror of the conqueror of man ;-fettering man, captives in loathsome dungeons of evil, hopeless and helpless, till the Great Deliverer should burst our prison doors, free us from our hereditary shackles, and say to the prisoners__"Go forth!”
It must be the law of being that “like should produce their like." There is no more injustice in the hereditary transmission of mental and moral character than in the transmission of physical peculiarities. Physical disease is perpetuated, and must be perpetuated in the offspring, not always active as malady, but latent as constitutional infirmity. Evil is a moral scrofula, a moral leprosy, a moral consumption, and we cannot escape from the transmission of the hereditary taint, and from the tendency in our mental constitution to its actual development. Pregnant with weighty consequences, as we shall presently show it to be, we cannot evade it. It is as necessary a fact as that a man's child shall be a man. Our spiritual sons and daughters—our thoughts and affections, must be concreted and ultimated into the natural plane in our physical sons and daughters. They are the results and embodiments of our passions and our thoughts. The correspondence between them is complete, and it is inevitable; for the spiritual song and daughters are the efficient causes of our desiring to obtain and our obtaining sons and daughters after the flesh. We entail
upon 'mankind, by means of our children, the perpetuation of our individualities, the influences of our characters, and the potentialities of our life. Though dead, and passed away from the lower plane of natural ac ty, we live by proxy in our children, and they are the pages of the chapter we have written in the history of man. A machine, a picture, a statue, or a book, is the offspring of the producer's mind; it is like its parent's mind, the like of it. It lives after he is dead, and exercises the influence after his decease that he exercised during his life. The more of his life that was in it, the more influential will it be. The more that life is in harmony with the everlasting Divine Goodness and Truth, the longer will it survive him. For while the iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of the Lord's haters, His mercy extends unto the thousandth generation of them that love Him and keep His commandments.
Good has greater vitality and endurance than evil. It is thus with his works; it is more startlingly thus with his children. They are forms of far higher life derived, through him, from the Lord. They bear his mark; they are the reproductions of his character. They are, to a certain extent, the results of his life, his conduct, his education, his example. They perpetuate as well his character as his name. They would do this as inevitably as his book, or picture, or statue, or machine, were it not for the existence of another fact of vast individual importance, that when a child arrives at years of judgment, each one is free to choose, to confirm his hereditary character or to overcome it. This thought will receive consideration presently. There can be no question that the transmission of physical, mental, and moral character is a fact; and being a fact, that it is a necessity.
(To be concluded in our next.)
ORDER THE BASIS OF TRUE FELLOWSHIP.
(Concluded from our last.) ONE grave--and in our eyes insuperable—difficulty, moreover, seems to us to have been overlooked by all the advocates of Non-secession, at least in so far as their arguments affect those who belong to the clergy of any denomination. In every church, we believe-certainly in all the principal churches of Christendom-every minister in accepting ordination, induction, or whatever, according to the usage of different sects, it may be styled, pledges himself, in the most sacred manner, to preach and teach the specific doctrines of that church, his belief in and acceptance of which he openly declares as an indispensable condition of such ordination. Now without wishing to imply any censure on those who may conscientiously differ from us herein, we cannot refrain from
expressing our own profound and earnest conviction, that the solemn pledge thus given is inevitably violated by a minister's retention of his post when he has ceased to hold the doctrines to which he pledged himself,-violated either in the spirit or the letter, or both, whether he adopt the alternative of preaching doctrines at variance with these, or that of continuing to preach doctrines he, in any important particulars, no longer conscientiously accepts; most especially if his dissent involve any vital question, such, for instance, as that of the Vicarious Atonement,—the doctrine of all others, perhaps, most questioned and dissented from at the present day. Can any trust be honourably retained, when the conditions are violated on which alone it was obtained or obtainable? There may indeed be cases not presenting this difficulty, among the smaller Christian bodies, where congregations may retain in their own hands the sole power of appointing and removing their ministers; and in such a case, if the congregation prefer their minister and his new teachings to the older traditionary doctrines of their sect, there can be no reason that minister and flock should part; though even then we can see no reason why they should shun the straightforward avowal of their changed convictions involved in acceptance of the “ name” indicative of their change of faith. In more than one instance, lately, have we heard of such accessions to the New Church on the part of a minister accompanied by a large number of his congregation, and we have regarded the occurrence as creditable alike to the pastor and his flock.
But in every case where an ordination pledge of any kind is given, we cannot but hold that this pledge is violated by the retention of benefice or charge, when convictions are materially changed; and that a departure from the life of truth, whether in deed or word, can ever promote, or can fail seriously to cramp and injure, a man's true usefulness, appears to us an absolutely untenable hypothesis. Truth, as we know, is only "good in form;" and in violating the form, we shall most certainly damage, not promote, the operation and effect of good, which is use.
We hold, therefore, that a man most truly consults the law of use when he simply acts the truth, and abandons the outward profession-at whatever apparent sacrifice of influence, or pastoral opportunities—of any tenets which, on mature conviction, he can no longer accept as truth.
With a layman, undoubtedly, the case is somewhat different. He is not so solemnly pledged to any given doctrines; nor is he bound to inquire, and many never do inquire, into doctrinal questions, as it is the indefeasible duty of a minister to do, who especially undertakes to
impart the doctrine of truth to his fellows. But this is, in a lesser degree, the duty of every man, according to capacity and opportunity; and even in the case of a layman, therefore, should he have been led so to enter into doctrinal questions as to have adopted new tenets, we must still hold as a general rule (not exempt, of course, from exceptional instances which may exist in every category) that the better and wiser course, both for the sake of his own unfettered action and his means of usefulness to his fellows, is to avow himself what he really is; and if he wear the badge of any communion, to accept that of the one to which in heart and faith he belongs. We recognise, too, a wide distinction beween those two broad classes of human minds which are respectively ruled, the one chiefly by the affections of the will, the other more especially by the intellect; and we fully believe that in the former there are many who, seizing new views of truth with their hearts, as it were, never clearly see the difference between these and those they externally profess, and never, therefore, realise the necessity for any change of profession. And these may be, and often are, among the very best of men, loving the truth in their hearts, and living it in their lives. But even the best of men are not perfect; and we venture to opine that even in such cases, were intellectual development proportioned to zeal and purity of intention, the result would involve the abandonment of what must be more or less a disorderly position,—à position, namely, in which conviction and profession are not at one.
But if, then, it be so clear, as we confess it seems to us, that none of these pleas for Non-secession stand on any valid ground, how are we to account for the prevalence of so strong a feeling in its favour (and that too in quarters deserving of all respect) as to give rise to the above and many
other arguments which we will not now pause to particularise, and to account for the facts previously alluded to? This feeling springs, as we believe, from a very natural re-action, which has its parallel in a former phase of the religious life of Christendom.
Religion in the middle ages had well-nigh degenerated into a sort of profane sale and barter, by which, for fees, penances, and so-called "good works” (the building and endowing of churches and monasteries, and the like,) indulgences and absolutions, which were imagined able to secure salvation, or to shorten purgatory by the ascription to the sinner of the supposed supererogatory works of saints, were indiscriminately bestowed by the self-styled vicars of Christ and their priesthood. By a natural but excessive and mischievous re-action, the Protestant Reforming Churches rushed to the opposite extreme, denying that good works or obedience had anything to do with salvation, which they placed in faith
alone,—in an implicit acceptance, that is, of certain dogmas respecting the satisfaction made for sinners by the death and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cardinal error of Protestantism lay in this separation of faith from charity and life, -of knowing and believing, from doing the truth; and a necessary consequence was that undue exaltation of doctrines, forms, and creeds, which has so often rendered the profession of religion a mere mask for malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness ; inasmuch as while men were taught to suppose their own salvation absolutely secure, independent of any life-service of their own, if they would only absolutely believe it to have been secured for them, they were also taught to regard as heirs of perdition and vessels of wrath, all those of their fellow men, whether they did good or evil, who might not have been instructed in, or be willing to accept, these same peculiar dogmas concerning atonement and redemption. A fresh re-action against this false and dangerous feature of Protestantism has now long been gathering ; and like the former, overstepping the just medium, it carries men to the extreme of supposing that doctrines and forms are of no importance or value, and that provided a man be truly religious in heart and life, it is matter of indifference what creed he may profess or what form of worship he may practice. But this, too, is assuredly an error; and if not so vital a one as its opposite, is, nevertheless, like all error, certain to produce evil results unless detected and shunned. Body as well as soul, head as well as heart, and in respect to religion, doctrines and forms as well as affections and life, all have their respective uses, their appropriate functions to fulfil. thing needful is to ascertain what such respective uses and functions may be, and to assign to all their proper value, neither unduly exalting nor depreciating any.
Now, we may at once concede that doctrines and forms are not of primary importance. True heart- and life-worship, though united to false opinions and superstitious observances, are undoubtedly far more acceptable to the Lord than could be the most exalted views of truth and the practice of the purest forms of worship, unassociated with a life according to them. It may, therefore, truly be said that doctrines and forms are not of such vital importance as to ensure or endanger a man's salvation. If he live a life of obedience to the Lord's will, according to the light bestowed on him, then, though this may have been dim, and his knowledge small, yet, because he has been faithful in his few things, he will surely be called hereafter to be ruler over many things, and to enter into the joy of his Lord. Out of his own mouth, not out of ours, will every servant of the Lord be judged, and therefore