« ForrigeFortsæt »
to which he declares himself not to know at all, what he must know in one of his characters, if he be the Supreme God. But I ask you to consider how this doctrine favors the emancipation of the human understanding, the sense of personal responsibility, the deep conviction of individual unworthiness ? how does it support the great and glorious idea of our time, of personal, strictly individual independency? How is the private man like to feel his isolation in his accountableness under the influence of this federal-headship of Adam, or this systematic atonement of Jesus? What is the effect upon the clearness of human conceptions as to right and wrong, vice and virtue? Above all, what relation does it establish between the human soul and God its great original? Can any thing be so important as just, affecting, elevated ideas of God? Does not man necessarily conceive of God, by his image in his own soul, and does not his conception of God, form his ideal of character ? If then you debase human nature you
debase human ideas of God; and if you give cruel, or coarse, or repulsive conceptions of God, you introduce a degrading standard of character among men. Nations have always conceived of their gods through their own passions, and justified their passions by the authority of the gods they have conceived. And so in all ages of the Christian church, the conceptions of God have been the standard of its progress. The cruelties and outrages of the church have always quoted the authority and copied the conduct ascribed to the Supreme Being. The slaughter of the Canaanites has been the death-warrant of millons. The anger and wrath of God, so called in the figurative or sensual language of oriental Hebrew poetry, has inflamed the worst passions of men calling themselves Christians. The vindictive justice of God, manifested as it is supposed in the sacrifice of Christ, has nerved the arm of a persecuting hierarchy in its murders of men, too pure to subunit to its authority.
The application of different standards of rectitude to God and inan, by which that has been justified in the divine, which would be abhorred in human conduct, has introduced the most fatal confusion into the common conscience. What but this supported the pious frauds of the Catholic Church, and what but this sustains many of the popular doctrines of Christianity, which raise the cry of mystery,
when the human conscience condemns them and takes shelter under a standard of rectitude too high for man to understand. I see nothing but danger, nothing but oppression, in the popular doctrine of the atonement. It confuses men's ideas of justice; it lowers their reverence of God as a holy Being; it substitutes fear of punishment, for love of goodness; it holds out false hopes to men, in the merits of Christ. If sin is imputed, holiness may be imputed, and if man can borrow or beg, he will not work righteousness. It introduces complexity into a perfectly plain matter. It appeals to the passions and not to the conscience. It demands a surrender of common sense, and an artificial sense of sinfulness before it can be adopted, and supplies a hope based upon technicalities, upon an ingenious scheme of theology, nowhere expressly taught in the Bible, for the inward confidence of pardon and acceptance with God, which a true self-respect ought to give every moral being. In its tendencies (I know how greatly they are modified and withstood) but in its native tendencies, it is hostile in an eminent degree, to the emancipation of the human intellect from the bondage of ignorance, of the human conscience from the torpor. of sin, and the human affec. tions from low and unworthy objects. Viewed from the centre, the freedom and elevation of the individual man, it
appears alike erroneous and banefu).
I might apply this same rule to an endless number of parallels, between Liberal and Orthodox Christianity. But I must draw these protracted observations to a close.
But I beg none to suppose that the view I have now presented, is that in which Liberal Christianity appeals most forcibly to our confidence. I have only incidentally referred to the Scriptural test of truth; nor have I time to say any thing more than this
that however earnestly we may labor to adjust our views to reason, it is only after we have first found them in the Bible. The New Testament, and especially the words of Jesus himself, is the armory of Liberal Christianity. To the law and to the testimony is our cry. We conceive that the strength of our position is in its scripturality; that the undivided unity of God - the derived and dependent character of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord — the sufficiency of repentance to salvation are laid down as the great doctrines of the Bible, in texts so plain and numerous, that a Unitarian could not invent better ones for his purpose; that the opposite dogmas are inferences from obscure and disputed passages, considered out of their connexion, and brought together from the opposite ends of the Scriptures, in a manner which, if it be allowed, any thing can be proved from the Bible. We see therefore a new attack upon the freedom of man, in the popular use of the scripture - that servility to a part of the letter, and disrespect to other parts, casts contempt upon the free and rational action of human inquiry, and baffles all unsophisticated minds. We see in this a perpetuation of the Catholic pretension to the exclusive right of the
church to interpret the word of God - for the received rules of interpreting the scriptures are such as none but theologians can apply, and the common people are thus dispossessed of the right to read and interpret their Bibles for themselves. The effect is to shackle all independent thinking upon religious matters; and this is but one way of enslaving the human intellect, under the plea of honoring the word of God, while the human soul, to which that word came, is trampled under the foot of its human administrators. And this is the position from which Liberal Christians are charged with setting up reason against scripture, because they defend the Protestant doctrine, that the private man is its sole interpreter !
As the Sabbath was made for man, so the Bible was given to man. In seeking to interpret it by the full light which God has given him, the only wrong he does is to the arrogance of those who would substitute their reason for his; for, in the name of common sense, how does, or can, any one read and understand the scriptures except by his rational nature? Alas, the cry against reason is the deadliest form of attack upon human freedom, upon Christian progress! Men know not what they do when they raise it. It was this insane cry that so long defended the divine right of kings to oppress their people; that established and sustained the Catholic mass and the inquisition; and has made the progress of the church every where so much a work of blood and sin. Until reason, the divine spark within us, is fully vindicated, man has no recognised worth as an individual. Masses, brute force, authority of numbers, rule. Science is at war with religion; common sense in league with infidelity; and the great central point, where all truth meets, is as yet undiscovered, or pronounced profane !