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THE TAY BRIDGE DISASTER AND MODERN
(To the Editor of the “Intellectual Repository.") SIR.-In your issue for February there appeared a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Potts of Glasgow on the above subject; and, to say the least, I was very much surprised by the tone of it. And, unwilling as I am to provoke controversy, and reluctant as I am to trespass on your valuable space, I cannot allow the paper to pass without a few remarks.
Various have been the opinions entertained respecting the disaster; and, amongst others, we have, on the one hand, over-rigid Sabbatarians and self-righteous people ascribing it to the judgment of an angry and vindictive (?) God on Sunday railway travelling; whilst, on the other hand, we have here a New Church minister who, although of course not accepting the judgment theory, is yet found preaching and writing on the subject with a remarkably apparent-I would fain hope only apparent_lack of sympathy with human suffering and bereavement.
I have no wish to attempt to justify Sunday railway travelling in toto, knowing, as I do, that we have far too much of it, especially in Lancashire; but are there not circumstances under which Sunday railway journey is justifiable? However, I leave the question for your readers to answer, and pass on to Mr. Potts' remarks on the accident.
It is all very well, nay, it is even desirable, that our “modern Sadducees” should be reminded of the immortality of the soul; that this life is not to be compared in duration, etc., with the future; that "here we have no continuing city, but seek [or ought to seek] one to come;" and that it pleases the Lord to take us hence at His own good time, and in His own mysterious way. But can they not be reminded of these things whilst, at the same time, all due sympathy is felt and expressed for the fatherless and widows: even though it be by this so-called "howl of universal lamentation," and "these unmanly weepings and wailings”?
Are we not told that “Jesus wept” for the two almost broken-hearted sisters Martha and Mary when they had lost their fond and loving brother—their only earthly stay and support—and when Jesus Himself had lost one of His dearest earthly friends? Surely Jesus was not "unmanly" on that occasion-He the Lord of life and glory—the gracious Being who was, and is, “too wise to err, too good to be unkind”!
And who shall gauge or tell the mental suffering that this Tay Bridge accident has caused, even in families where the bereaved have had good ground to hope that it has brought eternal gain to the departed brother, or father, or son?
Thanks be to God for human sympathy, that sweetener of our bitter woes on this side heaven!
And is it not gratifying to know that this sympathy has been expressed throughout the length and breadth of our land, not merely by words, but by donations of money amounting to several thousands of pounds? Surely such charity—such sympathy—“is twice blest”!
But what avails pounds, shillings, or pence to fill up the gaps made by this awful calamity in many a family? For, after all, is it not awful in its suddenness, or in the very suddenness with which so many families and individuals have been bereaved? And, again, is it not awful on account of the probability that many—or shall I say some, at all events of those thus ushered into eternity would not be ready for the change; by which I mean would not have so lived in this world as to be happy throughout eternity?
Mr. Potts seems to assume that all were ready; and that “they are now all rejoicing in the light of the spiritual world.” If they are, well; but if not, then I say it is awful indeed, and says loudly to the world, “Be ye also ready,” etc. For it is true, as our own poet says, that
"All that live must die,
Passing through nature to eternity,” although it is also true, as Longfellow so beautifully puts it when speaking of the spiritual part of man—and on his lines we New Church people especially prefer to dwell — viz. :
“There is no death! what seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Whose portal we call death.” Finally, let us be careful not to suppress, or ridicule, even unintentionally, but rather encourage, all due sympathy, in case of misfortune or accident; and, on the other hand, let us ever remember that it is only by holy living that we are fitted for a joyful transition to the spiritual world, be that transition sudden or otherwise; for,
“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths ;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
To use our fancy to our own misery is to abuse it, and to sin. The realm of the possible was given to man to hope, not to fear.
CHARLES KINGSLEY. On p. 161 of Lord Brougham's Autobiography.-At Stockholm in 1799, about October, speaking of men of letters, he names Sparman (who went with Cook the voyager), whom he met at the Academy of Sciences. He says, “He is a worthy creature, and I believe skilful enough in his profession, but his scientific knowledge seems confined altogether to natural history. He is a Swedenborgian.”
THE NEW PHILOSOPHY.
a quarter, could not be allowed to pass
unquestioned. Among others a writer One of the prominent features of in the Guardian discusses the subject modern philosophy is the pressing of in two essays on the “New Philosophy. modern methods of inquiry into the The reply to the charge against the three province of religious faith and moral articles we have cited is “brief, and practice. The prevalent practice of rather suggestive than conclusive.” It certain religious teachers to extol is eminently apologetic, and would proreligious life at the expense of religious bably not be accepted by the evangelical faith is now being rebuked by the school. It is an attempt to soften the teaching of the scientists. “The rigour of strictly orthodox theology, and Ethics of Belief” is presented on a in some of its features approaches the scientific basis ; but rejecting the inner teaching of the New Church. We give wisdom of Divine Revelation, it adds the principal sentences in this brief little to the highest wants of hunianity. reply: The responsibility of man for his "As to the first, then, I am not opinions as well as for his practices is aware that it is anywhere stated that firmly maintained. It is regarded as all mankind, or indeed any portion of immoral to hold opinions upon insuf- them, are 'punished' for the sin of ficient evidence, but the ground of Adam. It is stated that they are all inevidence is so narrowed as to exclude volved in the consequences of his transthe highest and most influential truths. gression, and inherit a nature deterioThe province of faith by the scientist is rated by his fall. And this statement limited to “the beliefs about right and is in strict accordance with the law wrong which guide our actions in deal- which we find by experience to hold in ing with men in society, and the beliefs actual life. The consequences of a about physical nature which guide our man's actions do extend for good or actions in dealing with animate and evil to the remotest generations, and inanimate bodies.
the subsequent race is deteriorated or The “ Ethics of Belief” is naturally improved by the conduct of the prointroductory to the “Ethics of Religion.” genitor, fortes creantur fortibus ac bonis. And here an eminent scientist, the late The children of a man of honour inherit Professor Clifford, boldly brands religion his honourable disposition ; those of a itself with immorality. It is unques- sot and a drunkard the miserable tentionable that much that is presented in dencies of their father. These inherited professedly Christian history must be tendencies are further strengthened by condemned as immoral. But so far as example and fortified by education, and conduct becomes immoral it ceases to be all this by way of natural process, and Christian. The spirit of Christianity is independently of punishment or reward. "to love our neighbour as ourselves,
;" A tendency to evil and to error has, and “love worketh no ill to the neigh- unhappily, been recognised as universal bour.” But it is not in this general in human nature; the doctrine of oriform the accusation is now presented. ginal sin does but refer it to a source It is extended to the doctrines of consistent, at the least, with the actual Christianity, the three following being and recognised laws of descent. particularly indicated and condemned: “The second assertion is that any reli
(1) The punishment of all mankind gion is essentially immoral which allows for the sin of Adam ; (2) the vicarious the innocent to suffer for the guilty. suffering of Christ ; (3) the doctrine of “The doctrine of the atonement for the eternal punishment. A religion which sins of mankind in the death and suffercan embrace these three is, it is stated, ings of our blessed Lord is doubtless ipso facto convicted of utter immorality, one of the deep mysteries of our faith. and is held up to the scorn and repro- It is quite conceivable that some state. bation of mankind.”
ments of that doctrine, in their distor. A charge of this kind, and from such tion or exaggeration, may, in some parti. culars, justly offend the moral sense of THEOLOGICAL TEACHING IN THE COLmankind. Such statements have gene
LEGES OF THE FREE CHURCH IN rally been made either by the enemies
SCOTLAND. of revelation or by those among its disciples whose enthusiasm has been in Great alarm is felt by not a few of excess of their judgment. But revela- the ministers and laity of the Free tion is responsible neither for the repre. Church at the progress of opinions sentations of its enemies nor for the among the professors in the colleges, well-meant exaggerations of its friends ; which are said to depart from the creeds nor can it be justly charged with the of the Church and the traditions of their excesses, whether in opinion or in elders. The case of Professor Robertson action, which have from time to time Smith still lingers before the Presbytery, been perpetrated in its name. But in and a special meeting of the Presbytery reply to the objection above quoted it of Edinburgh was held on the 11th of may be stated, first, that the redemp. February to consider an overture by Dr. tion of man by Christ is effected, not Moody Stuart on the theological train. by the mere substitution of one sufferer ing of candidates for the ministry. The for another, but by the identification of overture, which recited that “there are that one with that other; of the abso- special reasons why the Free Church lutely pure and holy One with the should exercise a vigilant and wise guilty and lost; and that by His own superintendence of the theological educafreewill offering of Himself thus to be tion of students for the ministry,” went identified with, and thus to take upon on to propose “that the General AsHimself their suffering and shame. sembly take the whole matter into grave
“Thirdly, it is not as a mere excuse and deliberate consideration, and appoint that I plead the extreme difficulty of a special commission with full powers to the whole subject of 'eschatology.' It inquire into the state of theological is one which evidently transcends the teaching within the colleges of the powers not of human verification’only, Church, and into the published writings but of human thought or language. of the professors.” In the absence of The very terms eternal and everlasting Dr. Moody Stuart from ill-health, the are but imperfect attempts to express subject was introduced by Mr. Edward realities of which we have no adequate Thomson, who, in the course of his conception. Nor is it easy to say ex. address, said that “it was a notorious actly how far the doctrine of eternal fact that one of the professors was under punishment enters into the substance of libel at the bar of the Church, and that the Christian revelation. Certainly by far the majority of the other proone may find in so great and so ancient fessors had to a large extent made an authority as Athanasius statements common cause with him, at least as his consistent with other views. But I do apologists and defenders, and the way protest in limine against the use in in which some of them had done so had invidiam of such terms as eternal tor. given rise to grave suspicion of their ture, etc. Still of eternal suffering I own soundness in the faith.
He was admit that to my own mind Scripture one of those who, rightly or wrongly, does seem to speak not indistinctly. I believed that there were good grounds can only add that unless we are to sup- for suspicion, and they were not to be pose God's grace to be finally irresis. frightened from inquiring into the tible, I cannot see how it should be matter by being caīled fossil doctriotherwise. The very nature of sin un. naires, heresy-hunters, or alarmists. controlled is to produce suffering, and He thought the inquiry should be that without limit, in ever-increasing general, impartial, and thorough, and ratio. Left to themselves and isolated he did not see why it should not be in one community the wicked can be welcomed by the professors.
It was only as a knot of wreathed snakes or not in Edinburgh or Aberdeen only scorpions stinging and lashing them- that professors had exposed themselves selves and each other into agony. The to grave suspicion. There was equal subject is indeed terrible, too terrible cause for inquiry in Glasgow also. An for contemplation ; but it does not epidemic of heresy seemed to have therefore follow that it is either immoral attacked all the churches." or untrue.”
Principal Rainy, in moving that the
overture be not transmitted, said "he into which the English Presbyterian knew no man who was satisfied with Church fell when it became Unitarian, the state of things which rendered and when ministers had to pay 13s. 9d. possible a meeting of Presbytery such a day to people to go to church in as they were holding that day. But he order that they might draw their endowthought those who were impressed with ments." The end of the debate was the gravity of the issue would feel that the rejection of the proposed overture, this was a matter in which individual thirty-six voting for and twenty-six impulse was singularly reprehensible against it. It is abundantly clear, and out of place. He did not object to therefore, that those who contend for inspection, but he objected to send up things as they were are in a minority; an overture which mixed up the idea of and although there is much in the having an investigation of that sort teaching of the progressive party which with one into allegations of heresy does not commend itself to our judg. against certain professors. It seemed ment as members of the New Church, to him that the step they proposed to we cannot but regard increased liberty take would increase the impression that of thought in the
public teachers as one something generally was wrong in the of the means whereby the Lord will lead colleges. He defended generally the the Church to clearer knowledge of conduct of the professors ; and, referring the truth and a higher life of goodness. to the modifying tendencies which were at work all around them, he remarked that it would be in vain for them to MISSIONARY OPERATIONS. expect to hold the minds of men unless
MANCHESTER AND SALFORD Mis. they made it plain that they were facing all these questions, not merely with the SIONARY. SOCIETY. - The Committee of desire to fence their old views, but with this Society, at the instigation of the the desire of finding out what new
local branch of the Auxiliary Missionary lessons Christ might be teaching them Society, determined to arrange two in His Providence even by the ministry courses of lectures, one in the churches of men like Goldwin Smith and others. of Peter Street, Manchester, and the Professor Macgregor, in supporting the other in the Temple, Bolton Street, amendment, said “the real danger was
Salford, and to obtain for these lectures not what the panic-stricken people were
the services of ministers from a distance thinking about. If they were not to
as well as those in the immediate neighallow men to think beyond what was
bourhood. The lectures in Manchester dictated to them that was a more for commenced on Tuesday, January 27th, midable danger. He met Dr. Moody with a lecture by Rev. T. Child, of Stuart the other day, who said, "Oh, Bath, on the subject, “Why am I not what's to become of our poor Church ?' a Sceptic ?” Mr. Child commenced also He replied, “You good people are sit. the course at Salford on the Thursday ting on the safety-valve. Dr. Stuart evening of the same week by a lecture on said, 'Do you fear an explosion ?' and
the subject, “What may I reasonably he, the professor, replied, "There is a
believe ?” The lectures follow in this worse thing than an explosion, and that order on the succeeding Tuesday and would be making hypocrites of your The lecturers are Rev. T. Child, of
Thursday evenings until concluded. young ministers.
No discussion on a subject of this Bath ; Rev. R. Storry, Heywood ; Rev. kind would be complete without a
J. Presland, London ; Rev. P. Ramage, speech from Dr. Begg. And on this Kearsley; Rev. R. R. Rodgers, Birmingoccasion, if not particularly instructive, ham; and Revs. C. H. Wilkins and W. he seems, from the laughter and Westall, of Manchester and Salford. applause " which greeted his utterances,
The lectures are announced by large to have been singularly amusing.
"In posters, cards, and advertisements in Scotland,” he said, "" the process of the daily, papers. The following are emptying the churches had already
brief outlines of the second lectures of begun, for men would not have German Mr. Child and Mr. Presland :rubbish for sound Gospel truth. In Having first spoken of the persons in Scotland they would soon reach the whom he was most interested in these stage they were in in Germany, or that lectures, viz. outsiders and young people