« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
disparagement of either, but use both in their proper seasons and according to their appointed order ;" yet there are some inspired eulogiums on the work of preaching that can well befit no other mode of Christian appeal. It were a singular fancy to conceive of Paul as saying in his first chapter to the Corinthians, 'I thank God that I preached the gospel to none of you but Crispus and Gaius, and I preached also to the household of Stephanas; besides I know not whether I preached to any other, for Christ sent me not to preach the gospel but to administer sacraments. The true language of an apostle is,—"A necessity is laid upon me, yea, wo is me, if I preach not the gospel."
We have spoken of the sacred office as the chief instrument of glorifying God. And here is its chief dignity. If it were nothing but the means of refining and saving men, it would command our homage; but whatever it does for men, it also does, as a thing of course, for the illustrating of the Maker's excellence. In more senses than one, whoever presents a cup of water to a sick man performs thereby a service unto God. It is the highest privilege conceivable to be an instrument of setting forth the grace of Jehovah by enlarging the number of his redeemed. But if the preacher fail of this highest honor, he still may not weep as one bereaved of all hope. His faithful message shall not return void to heaven, but shall accomplish a great work. All is not lost when man is lost, but the wrath of man shall pay a reluctant tribute to the doctrines which the preacher reveals. He magnifies the law and is sure of illustrating the holiness and justice of the Lawgiver, even if he be the melancholy savor of death unto men. Whatever right step he takes, is taken for the exaltation of the divine character in some one of its features. The honor of the law he is certain of, or else the brighter glory of the gospel. Nor does he illustrate the Creator's excellences for the whole world merely; he is a minister to the praise of God for other ranks of being. The apostle who “magnifies his office ” may say, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by
VOL. IV. —NO. XVI.
Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
Exalted and momentous as is the work of him who is called to be the ambassador and even the mouth of Jehovah, the work will rise yet higher in its worth and grandeur, as it is performed with increased ability. If a sermon is great in its theme, and good in its influence, then the more carefully the theme is studied so much the more important will be the sermon; the more skilfully the preacher adapts his style to the nature of man, so much the more exuberant is the fruit he may anticipate. True, he is only an instrument and God is a sovereign and may bless the feeblest agency rather than the strongest. He may do so, but commonly does not. If he require means, he thereby requires the best means. If he approve of preaching, then he gives most of his approval to the best, most real preaching. It is generally his sovereign purpose to honor with the greatest success such instruments as are in themselves most wisely fitted to secure the end which he secures by them. He rules the wind and the tide as he pleases, and yet the cunningest mariner will so adjust the sails, and prow, and helm, as to receive the largest share of the blessings coming from absolute sovereignty. The man who is wise in winning souls to Christ will find out what are the laws according to which the decrees of heaven are usually fulfilled among hearers of the word, and he will strive to shape his discourses so as to meet these laws. And he is the best husbandman in the moral vineyard who studies most faithfully the nature of the soil and the qualities of the seed, who plants and waters at the hour and in the way which the soundest discretion advises, and moreover is sending up the devoutest and most persevering prayers to heaven whence alone cometh increase. But what manner of man must he be who is making these intricate observations, and toiling for a perfect conformity to the laws of God's highest workmanship! What agonizing of the inner spirit must he often endure, when selecting and aiming the dart which may save or destroy a hearer dear to him as an own son! If a Christian is the highest style of man, what must a preacher be ? If an undevout astronomer is mad, what shall we say of an undevout pastor and bishop? If any man should be
one of various learning and severe, protracted study, of generous impulses and painful watchings, of intense longing after improvement, and of daily progress in mental and moral culture, what must be the character and purposes of the consecrated man who stands between the great God and a hostile congregation,—who knows that at every opening of his mouth he may so affect his hearers as to make them gems in the crown of his rejoicing, or make himself responsible for their blood ? The homely words that Philip Henry wrote on the day of his ordination over a small people, express the feelings of every true preacher: “I did this day receive as much honor and work as ever I shall be able to know what to do with. Lord Jesus ! proportion supplies accordingly.”'
1. A Discourse on the Latest Form of Infidelity ; delivered at the request
of the “Association of the Alumni of Cambridge Theological School,” on the 19th of July, 1839. With Notes. By ANDREWS Norton. pp. 64. 8vo. Cambridge. John Owen. 1839.
We profess to feel something more than a mere literary or even historical interest in such a production as the one now before us. The subject discussed is one of momentous concern ; it involves nothing less than the general conception which we are to form of Christianity as a whole. Coining, too, as it does, from one whose authority in the higher branches of theological learning has long been leaned on by the religious denomination to which he belongs, and representing as it does the anti-transcendental party in the new division which seems to be springing up among them, it has so much the stronger claims upon the attention of those who are not indifferent to the character of public religious sentiment at the present crisis.
A few extracts will put the reader in possession of the strong points of the Discourse. The author introduces his leading topic thus:
“But we meet in a revolutionary and uncertain state of religious opinion existing throughout what is called the Christian world. Our religion is very imperfectly understood, and received by comparatively a small number with intelligent faith. In proportion as our view is more extended, and we are better acquainted with what is and what has been, we shall become more sensible of the great changes that have long been in preparation, but which of late have been rapidly developed. The present state of things imposes new responsibilities upon all, who know the value of our faith and have ability to maintain it. Let us then employ this occasion in considering some of the characteristics of the times and some of those opinions now prevalent, which are at war with a belief in Christianity.
* By a belief in Christianity, we mean the belief that Christianity is a revelation by God of the truths of religion ; and that the divine authority of him whom God commissioned to speak to us in his name was attested, in the only mode in which it could be, by miraculous displays of his power."
He speaks in a very desponding tone in regard to the grounds on which alone we may bope for a pure theology. Though intelligent men have to a great extent rejected what was false in the systems of former times, they have not adopted correct views of Christianity.
“On the contrary, the inveterate and enormous errors, that have prevailed, have so perverted men's conceptions, have so obscured and perplexed the whole subject, have so stood in the way of all correct knowledge of facts and all just reasoning; there are so few works in Christian theology not at least colored and tainted by them; and they still present such obstacles at every step to a rational investigation of the truth ; that the degree of learning, reflection, judgment, freedom from worldly influences, and independence of thought, necessary to ascertain for one's self the true character of Christianity is to be expected from but few. The greater number, consequently, confound the systems that have been substituted for it with Christianity itself, and receive them in its stead, or, in rejecting them, reject our faith. The tendency of the age is to the latter result." "There is much truth in the following remarks:
“ But at the present day there is little of that avowed and zealous infidelity, the infidelity of highly popular authors, acknowledged enemies of our faith, which characterized the latter half of the last century. * * * But infidelity has but assumed another form, and in Europe, and especially in Germany, has made its way among a very large portion of nominally Christian theologians. Among them are now to be found those whose writings are most hostile to all that characterizes our faith. Christianity is undermined by them with the pretence of settling its foundations anew. Phantoms are substituted for the realities of revelation."
The last assertion, though certainly true of no small number of professed theologians, can be safely applied only in the use of great discrimination. Honest and good men may hold to many speculative errors without becoming downright infidels. Would the author submit without complaint to being called an intidel by the large body of Christians who think he has advanced some false and dangerous doctrines ?
Again he says: “In Germany the theology of which I speak has allied itself with atheism, with pantheism, and with the other irreligious speculations, that have appeared in those metaphysical systems from which the God of Christianity is excluded.”
If the allusion here is to such men as Strauss and others of his class of Hegelians, it is in the main just. The charge of atheism, however, can fairly be brought only against a very few. Pantheism, in the genuine sense of the term, may be more properly applied to them. To maintain that the universe is but an emanation from God and a part of him, or that the universe, including the Divine Mind, is God, is a very different thing from denying the existence of God in any form. There is, probably, as much truth in pantheism, which, when christianized, is little more than the belief that God actually resides in all his works, as in deism, which places a great gulf between God and his works. If, as would seem probable from the notes appended to the Discourse, the allusion is designed to extend to Schleiermacher and De Wette, nothing could be more unjust.
Mr. Norton's exposure of the weakness of the grounds on which miracles have been set aside by many, appears to us entirely successful. The discussion of this part of his subject will give to his Discourse a permanent value. We quote a few passages.
“ To deny that the truth of a miracle may be established, involves the denial of creation ; for there can be no greater miracle than creation. It equally implies, that no species of being that propagates its kind ever had a commencement; for if there was a first plant that grew without seed, or a first man without parents, or if of any series of events there was a first without such antecedents as the laws of nature equire, then there was a miracle. So far is a miracle from being incapable of proof, that you can escape from the necessity of believing innumerable miracles, only by believing that man, and all other animals, and all plants, have existed from eternity upon this earth, without commencement of propagation, there never having been a first of any species.”
* But incredulity respecting the miracles of Christianity rarely has its source in any process of reasoning. It is commonly produced by the gross misrepresentations which have been made of Christianity. It has also another cause, deeply seated in our nature ;the inaptitude and reluctance of men to extend their view beyond the present and sensible, to raise themselves above the interests, the vexations, the pleasures, innocent or criminal, that lie within the horizon of a year or a week; and to open their minds to those thoughts and feelings, that rush in with the clear apprehension of the fact, that the barrier between the eternal and the finite world has been thrown open. * * * * * * But let us imagine, if we can, what would be the feelings of an enlightened philosopher, were he to witness an unquestionable miracle, a work breaking through the secondary agency, behind which the Deity ordinarily veils himself, and bringing us into immediate connection with him. We can hardly conceive of the awe, the almost appalling feeling, with which it would be contemplated by one fully capable of comprehending its character and alive to all its relations. The miracles of Christianity, when they are brought home to the mind as realities, have somewhat of the same power; diinmed as they are by distance, and clouded over by all the errors that false Christianity has gathered round them. If they be true, if Christianity be true, if its doctrines be certain; it is the most solemn fact we can comprehend, as well as the most joy