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won my regard, and awakened in me a strong desire to hear him.
"Rising at length, he came forward, and read the opening hymn. There was certainly a most peculiar utterance, in the manner of reading, and a deliberation wonderful exceedingly; but the sense of the words came fully to the surface. While the hymn was being sung, the question was running through our mind whether, after this singular display of style, we should or should not like the preacher.
"The prayer which followed, though in the same unusual manner, was a fair type of what the address to Deity should ever be. It was direct, simple, earnest, and comprehensive. But knowing myself to be in a Methodist church, it was far less vehement and boisterous than was expected; in fact, there was nothing of such characteristic in it.
"The chapter read, though an old acquaintance, seemed either to be altered in text or changed in sense. There was certainly more meaning in it than we were ever before aware of. Many ideas and sentiments suddenly came to view that before had escaped notice. The chapter was well read.
"And then the style of the sermon. In the first place there was no hurry or flurry in clearing, as it were, the decks for action. There was no humming or hawing; no running of fingers through the hair; no twisting the body from side to side, as if seeking for the true center of gravity; no tumbling about of books; no awkward display of any kind.
"The heads of the discourse, drawn out on a small slip of paper, purely clean and undefaced, he laid upon the Bible. The text was announced, and the divisions made of it set forth in a manner so plain, and with an articulation so distinct and deliberate, that no one present could fail to understand. These were taken up severally in order, discussed or explained, and passed. Really,' we thought, 'how easy a matter it is to preach!' And it may not be improbable that many others in that densely crowded hall, who witnessed the apparent ease with which the master sermonizer moved from point to point, fastening the attention and moving the fountain depths of every heart, were impressed with the like thought. Yet neither they nor I, in the deep emotion of the hour, took heed of the labor bestowed in marshaling this grand array of Bible truths and
logical deduction, or thought of that toil of practice whence came a method, a manner, a pulpit style so chaste, so inimitable, and in the occasional thunder peals the orator's lips put forth, so overwhelming, so majestic. This was John P. Durbin."
ART. VI. THE DOCTRINE CONCERNING GOD.
Ir will be universally conceded, we suppose, that God defines himself perfectly in his works and in his word. Where shall we take our stand to contemplate him? From what points in his works and word shall we essay to lift our eyes to look on him? Our present material position, wherever it be, is as available as any in this world for the study. No advantage would be gained by 'sounding the depths of space, in the center or vast circumferences of the universe, or in microscopic powers, or in sublimated material, electricity or odic force. All and each are alike distant from Spirit, and all and each are alike in and distinct from God. The geologist, with his hand lovingly upon a stone, may dream like Jacob* in his sleep, (fit emblem of the men of science,) and behold in the strata of earth “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven, and the LORD standing above it." But it is as a dream; something projected from the mind itself, " created in the image and likeness of God," from which all nature appears clothed from a divine and spiritual being. Dreams may be the soap-bubbles of the soul, which the childish may play with, and the practical man despise, but in which the Newtons of divine science may analyze the light of heaven, study the laws of truth's refraction, and contemplate its rainbow beauties. Nature is a perfect mirror in which the divine is reflected just in proportion as the divine is in us. If a man is without God in himself, he cannot see God in nature; fill man with God and he sees God in all things. For when God appears before us in nature it is really the reflection of his image formed in our reason and understanding.
Nor is God's book of Sacred Scripture essentially different from his book of nature. It is true that the Scripture is a *Gen. xxviii, 12, 13.
higher plane, a more verbal utterance, yet the mere intellect will search in vain for God here also.
It is in accordance with true philosophy, not mere theological dogma or conceit of superior intelligence, that the apostle declares that the "natural man cannot know the things of the spirit of God." They are only known by the spiritual [inner?] man who "judgeth all things," because he has "the mind of Christ."*
God reveals himself universally. But like all things which exist, there is a particular method attached to our apprehension of him. The eye beholds objects in light, the ear tries sounds, and the intellect arranges, numbers, and orders, according to the senses, and the soul feels what is right and wrong, and has its sights of spiritual truth, and tastes of goodness and consciousness of God. From the measure we have of God in us by doing his will in faith, we must judge of God above us.
Every man is casting his image or shadow on all things around him; but only the sensitive surface, properly treated by the artist, retains that image, which may be transferred indefinitely, so that the original would be universally recognized. So God's image, which is his very substance of goodness and truth, falls on all things, and is in degree in all beings; but only in souls prepared by truth and love is this image eminent in such degree as to enable us to know the Original. When man was unfallen, his interior faculties were all opened, and God flowed into him in life and power. He saw God directly; but when sin entered, his faculties were closed, and he had no elements left alive in himself by which to apprehend God. Then in redemption God gathered all his rays of glory and goodness into his Son. The Word, which was God in substance, was made flesh. God stood before man's exterior perceptions in the humble person of a man, and spake unto the world, and glorified himself. In contemplating obediently this history of his Word, our understandings are again opened, § sin is removed, and God shines again upon our quickened spirits, his image is formed in us, and we know him. We become the sons of God by adoption; we are gods to whom the word of God comes; Christ is in us and we know Him that is true. We can then
* 1 Cor. ii, 13-16.
John i, 14; Rom. ix, 5.
Heb. i, 1-3.
John x, 30-37. T2 Cor. xiii, 5; and 1 John v, 20.
truly reason of God, for we have all the divine elements in degree in ourselves, and can understand the doctrine which affirms these elements in their infinite and absolute relations in God himself.
We have often inquired in ourself if the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, such a distinguished feature of Methodism, were made sufficiently prominent as a basis of theology among us? Has not the time come to construct theology from the divine word entirely, in the light of the Christian consciousness?*
These two principles, the letter without us, and the Spirit of God within us, are the two immutable pillars of theology. We learn what the word is by the life it operates in our hearts, and we know whether we have obtained the true life by its correspondence with the letter of the word.† On one pillar alone, the letter of the word, theology is converted into a graven image; a statue that cannot move; an iron groove of the soul; a mere dogmatic naturalism; a creed more or less irrational that must defend itself by fagots and falsehood. On the other pillar alone, the religious consciousness, theology gyrates from the conceited self-consciousness deified, to the cold negations of Herbert Spencer. Unite the two, and theology arises a living form of beauty, clad in the robes of humility, with the light and love of truth in the countenance, stooping to guide the wayfarer in the wilderness, giving water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, and clothing to the naked, and boldly breaking the
*We need not define this to any true Christian, for he knows the term expresses the sum of the experience of the life of God in the soul. But such writers as Henry Thomas Buckle confuse the whole subject. He tries to conceive of consciousness as a separate faculty, and does not find it. (See his Introduction to History of Civilization, vol. i, pp. 11-20.) Others do not make anything or but little of consciousness, or the life of all the faculties, in religion. Their religion is cold, or a simple intellection. But with Methodists and Freedomists the consciousness is the ultimate appeal. (See Whedon on the Will, pp. 81, 82, 367, 358.) Why not put the "inward experience, considered as embracing the whole of the objective Revelation," as the ultimate and perfect method of demonstration in Christianity? (See Wesley's Sermons, vol. i, Sermons 8, 9, 10; and his Letter to Dr. Middleton, Works, vol. v, p. 757; Bibliotheca Sacra for August, 1846, Article on the Trinity, by Dr. A. D. C. Twesten.)
"Now the testimony of our own spirit. . . is a consciousness of our hav ing... the tempers mentioned "in the word of God as belonging to his adopted children; . . . a consciousness that we are inwardly conformed by the Spirit of God to the image of his Son, and that we walk before him in justice, mercy, and truth."-Wesley's Sermons, vol. i, p. 87.
See his Principles of Philosophy.
bars of death, demolishing the prison-house of the soul, and leading triumphantly up the starry pathway of light, through the opening gates of glory on to immortality.
But this position, so uniformly set forth in Scripture,* and maintained now among Christians more or less distinctly, reaches to conclusions not usually announced in theology. Our knowledge of God, growing in such good part from the life of God in us, will necessarily be progressive. And there is no theme on which we should be less dogmatic and more open to new views than that of the doctrine concerning God. It is the command of an apostle to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.†
The next important position to secure in the study of God is the proper stand-point in the Holy Scriptures. We may correct the human defects and divergences of thought by properly arranging before us their historic and doctrinal statements. Most theologians commence their study of God with Genesis, and leave it at the "burning bush," and Sinai "wrapped in clouds of fire." They stun with gorgeous images of terror. The Gospel is in their hands the seeming interposition of another God to soften these terrors and open heaven to sinners. This method I think defective and misleading. The mind imposes upon itself the naturalistic ideas of God contained in the law, which prevent the apprehension of him in Jesus Christ. The doctrine of the Trinity, so important in revelation, spreads out unconsciously into the heresy of three Gods, or negations and confusions arise which leave men in the same unbelief that characterizes the Jews, who "have Moses and the prophets," and
*The Lord considers the powers of the human mind entirely reliable: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he . . . therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God." Isa. xliii, 10-12. The word and the living presence of God are united. "Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John xiv, 22, 23. The knowledge of God is progressive: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth," etc. (See John xvi, 12-16.) St. John considered the "anointing" superseded the necessity of his epistle, while it confirmed it. (1 John ii, 27.) "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you," etc.
2 Pet. iii, 18. See also Eph. iii, 14–21; Col. ii, 2, 3.