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ful. It requires that our whole character should be conformed to the new relations which it makes known. All things around us change their aspect. Life and death are not what they were. We are walking on the confines of an unknown and eternal world, where none of those earthly passions, that now agitate men so strongly, can find entrance. They bear upon them the mark of their doom, soon to perish. But from the revulsion of feeling that must take place when the character of all that surrounds us is thus changed, and the objects of eternity appear before the mind's eye, it is natural that many should shrink, and endeavor to escape from the view, and to forget it among the familiar things of life; clinging to a vain conception, vain as regards each individual, of an unchanging stability in the order of nature.
“ Vain, I say, as regards each individual. Whatever we may fancy respecting the unchangeableness of the present order of things, to us it is not permanent. If we are to exist as individuals after death, then we shall soon be called, not to witness, but to be the subjects of a miracle of unspeakable interest to us. Death will be to us an incontrovertible miracle. For us the present order of things will cease, and the unseen world, from which we may have held back our imagination, our feelings, and our belief, will be around us in all its reality.”
The author, in rigidly constructing his system, has set forth in bold relief some important truths, but, if we mistake not, he has also set up some artificial boundaries. His own words are:
“ It has been vaguely alleged that the internal evidences of our religion are sufficient, and that miraculous proof is not wanted; but this can be said by no one who understands what Christianity is, and what its internal evidences are.
“But Christianity was a revelation from God; and, in being so, it was itself a miracle. Christ was commissioned by God to speak to us in his name; and this is a miracle. No proof of his divine commission could be afforded, but through miraculous displays of God's power. Nothing is left that can be called Christianity, if its miraculous character be denied. Its essence is gone; its evidence is annihilated.
“ The proposition that the history of Jesus is miraculous throughout, is to be understood in all its comprehensiveness. It is not merely that bis history is full of accounts of his miracles; it is that every thing in his history, what relates to himself and what relates to others, is conformed to this fact, and to the conception of him as speaking with authority from God. This is what constitutes the internal evidence of Christianity; a term, as I have said, often used of late with a very indistinct notion of any meaning attached to it.”
If the principle that lies at the bottom of his assertion be well founded, and we see no philosophical objection to it, provided it be sufficiently explained, that every thing divine in Christianity is miraculous, miraculous because it is above and beyond what nature produces, we see not how it can be limited to the life of Christ, or even to the age of the apostles. Has Christianity lost its divine efficacy? Is it, now that it is introduced, a mere natural agency? If it can be
said that “ Christianity was itself a miracle ;" it can, for a similar reason, be maintained that it is a standing miracle still, and, therefore, that its present existence and operation are proof of its divine origin. By excluding from the field of evidence the propagation of Christianity after the time of Christ, and its effects upon the individual and upon the mass, he limits both external and internal evidence in an unwarrantable degree. According to his hypothesis, the moral change wrought in an individual by the gospel is no evidence of its divine origin; the remarkable agreement between the effect it has on him and that which it has on thousands and thousands of other individuals is no evidence; the agreement between his new spiritual affections and the descriptions given of them in the word of God is no evidence; the adaptation of Christianity to men of all ages and of all countries, and of all grades of improvement, is no evidence ; the moral consciousness of all human beings, whether holy or unholy, responding to the voice of revelation, is po evidence; for nothing of all this belongs to the personal history of Christ, to which all er ance is limited. The conformity of his character, or of his dc. ones, or of his work, to man's nature and moral necessities, is impertinent to the subject. Nothing but the conformity of what he did to what he professed to be, can be regarded as proof of his divine mission.
But why so much stress laid on this distinction; why this rejection of one kind of evidence and exclusive adherence to another ? Obviously to clear the ground of probable evidence, to make the more room for that which is positive. And yet we fear that this latter will, in its original character, avail with but very few. The great body of Christians, who have not the facilities for learned research, must take their evidence upon trust, a circumstance which brings it down to a level with probable evidence. Our author comforts such with the assurance that on many other important subjects they have no better evidence. We are far from wishing to invalidate this kind of proof. We have as much faith in it as the learned writer himself. Still we cannot perceive how it appears that the other kind of evidence, which is the property of every Christian, whether learned or unlearned, is worthless ; and that this kind is so reasonable that it ought to satisfy the good people. Why not let them have both ?
We have attempted to represent Mr. Norton's views on this subject as accurately and as fairly as possible. There is ope infelicity in his application of it to certain German writers, which is liable to mislead his readers. He either forgot the unusual breadth of signification in which he had used the word " miracles," or he inconsiderately interpreted the word the same way when examining the systems of others. To make the case plain, we will suppose that Christ had come into the world and lived and taught precisely as he did, with the exception of healing the sick, rajsing the dead, and the like ; and that the gospels were conformed to this exception; could it then be said: "Nothing is left that can be called Christianity, if its miraculous character sin this respect] he denied ; its essence is gone; its evidence is annihilated ?" The German writers, to whom Mr. Norton refers, take the negative. They maintain that the great doc
trines of revelation, the divine nature and the spotless character of Christ, the method of salvation by him, remain substantially the same; and that no small amount of evidence of the divine character of Christianity would still survive the “annihilation.” Now those parts which they believe would remain, after the outward and direct miracles alleged to be wrought in attestation of the divine mission of Jesus were removed, are included by Mr. Norton under miracles, as he uses the word. “Christianity itself,” he says, “ was a miracle ;" and certainly these are parts of Christianity, according to his own view. That which constitutes the internal evidence of Christianity,” according to his theory of it, and which, consequently, is miraculous in his estimation, is, though not termed miraculous, still adhered to as strenuously by his opponents as by him. Either his mind was in a little confusion here,-a charge that cannot often be brought against him,-or be labored under a misapprehension in regard to the real sentiments of some of those men whose theory he was opposing.
We pass to notice some of the theological views of two of these men.
Schleiermacher and De Wette agree in this, that piety is not so much a matter of science as of moral feeling ; that its seat is more in the affections than in the understanding. Knowledge, feeling and action all meet in the ordinary Christian. But the first may exist without the second, and it is then not religion, but mere science. The third, also, may exist without the second, the form without the power, the act without the Christian motive. The essence of piety cannot, therefore, exist in mere action. The middle member, feeling (devout affections), always includes piety, and therefore, piety or religion is essentially a matter of feeling. Knowledge is an indispensable condition, and action the necessary consequence of religious feeling, but neither of them is religion itself.
Now religion, as a matter of experience, say they, carries its own evidence with it. A small amount of historical knowledge, the simplest statements, relating directly to Christ and his work, without any array of learned proof, are a sufficient intellectual basis for the most deeply religious character. An individual of such a character cares but little what the learned say about the historical evidences of Christianity. There is a divine reality within him, of which he is immediately conscious. This experience is founded on Christ, and is always referred to him as its author. He reads the Scriptures without any inquiries about their genuineness, authenticity and canonical authority, and finds in them, as they reveal Christ and the way of salvation, a confirmation of his inward impressions. He compares his religious emotions with those of other Christians and with the Scriptures, and in consequence of such remarkable coincidences, finds himself surrounded with evidence on the whole subject satisfactory to his mind. This, in our apprehension, is all true. Only we should be careful not to substitute a part of the truth for the whole truth. Religion, if genuine, consists of two parts, or perhaps we had better say the word designates two distinct things, 1, a system of truth altogether independent of us, 2, a spiritual life, which exists necessarily within us. The former, as a subject of
scientific investigation only, will be of no benefit to us in securing our salvation. Mr. Norton says: “Of the facts on which religion is founded, we can pretend to no assurance, except that derived from the testimony of God, from the Christian revelation. He who has received this testiinony is a Christian.” Now if this reception be merely on scientific principles, the assent of the understanding to the reality of certain facts, because they are supported by testimony, we must maintain that it is still but objective religion, the intellectual admission, willing or unwilling, of something that exists without us. The great stress laid by Mr. Norton on learned investigations, in respect to the historical evidence, leads us to suppose, that he fixes the seat of religion too much in the understanding. How many have that kind of religion, and are yet strangers to vital godliness! The latter, or second sense in which the word religion is used, relates to what is subjective, or to our inward religious feelings and spiritual life. Of these two things, religion without us, and religion wiihin us, the former can exist alone and can even be believed, as we believe in the principles taught in chemistry for example, and still be without us as a matter of intellectual observation. But the latter cannot exist alone; it is founded on the former. Here we must take middle ground between Mr. Norton and his German opponents. The question at issue is, In what proportions ought these to be combined in the Christian; what is the relative importance of religious knowledge and religious feeling? The writers referred to maintain that love is the essence of religion ; that where this exists there is faith, and that without it there is no faith; that yielding assent to a truth or withholding it, is a moral act only so far as moral feeling governs that act ; that unbelief is not an intellectual difficulty arising from a want of evidence, but is itself essentially a moral aversion to truth; that to convert an unbeliever one must aim more to arouse his conscience than to enlighten his understanding ; that the difficulty does not consist in his ignorance, but in the perverseness of his feelings. Now while these considerations are weighty against some of the doctrines of Mr. Norton's discourse, he offers other considerations equally weighty against the opposite extreme. The deficiency of the system he opposes is, that objective truth as the guide and test of our inward religious feelings is not made sufficiently prominent; bence pious feeling is liable to degenerate into mere sentimentalism, or fanaticism, or superstition. Their views of the nature of religion, which we must regard as founded in truth, distorted only because pushed to an extreme, modify the form and character of their systems of theology. Theology, according to them, is not a system of metaphysical truths, but is rather the analysis and scientific exhibition of experimental piety. Their language on this subject, though perfectly perspicuous and definite, appears to Mr. Norton very obscure and unmeaning. That both of these men had too great a horror of positive authority in religion, and attached too much importance to moral consciousness as a source of religious knowledge, we, for our part, fully believe. That the light of pure Christianity is obscured by them, that its facts are undervalued, and that, in attempting to make
VOL. IV.-NO. XVI.
religion more divine (spiritual) they have made it more human, is to us equally clear.
Upon the whole we inust regard this Discourse as a serious and honest effort to guard the sacred interests of religion. Its tendency is to rationalism, in the philosophical sense of the term, as opposed to mysticism. The author sympathizes more with Aristotle than Plato, and would probably place a higher estimate upon ten solid pages in John Locke than upon all the works of the spiritual philosophers from Kant to Cousin.
2. The latest form of Infidelity examined. A Letter to Mr. Andrews
Norlon, occasioned by his Discourse before the Association of the Alumni of the Cambridge Theological School, on the 12th of July, 1839. By an Alumnus of that School. pp. 160. 8vo. Boston, James Munroe & Co. 1839.
This long and elaborate epistle came under our notice while we were preparing our remarks on Mr. Norton's discourse, but too late to be examined in connection with that. The anonymous author complains of the impropriety of pronouncing an illiberal and intolerant discourse on the first anniversary of an association of liberal theologians; still more, of openly attacking the sentiments entertained by a large part of the association; and most of all, of classing them with Spinoza and Hume and denouncing them as infidels. But as the author of the Discourse is not very explicit in pointing out the men in whom “the latest form of infidelity” bas manifested itself, and as he is particularly indefinite in regard to the American theo. logians who might be supposed to lie open to his rebukes, it was necessary for the exaininer, in reply, to make out the case from allusions and from what was implied in the circumstances of the occasion. On this point he says: “If you meant to say that the opinions of Spinoza and Hume on the doctrine of miracles were adopted by that portion of your audience who differed from yourself, your discourse was unjust; if you did not mean to say this, it was nugatory."
In all such cases, it is extremely difficult to avoid misunderstanding. Who can ascertain the exact quantity of an allusion, or the measurement of what is meant, but not said? Could not Mr. Norton have in view a gross forın of infidelity fully developed in Germany, and hold it up in terroren, before those who might be supposed to be in danger of adopting it, and yet not attribute to the latter all the doctrines which he should cause to pass in review? But it will be said, if there be nothing to limit the application, the reader will naturally make it in its fullest extent. This is undoubtedly true, and the “ Alumnus” cannot be alone in the construction he has put upon the discourse. Still, we doubt whether the author of it designed to be so understood. But we leave the work of mediation to other hands.
Mr. Norton is next represented as holding opinions at variance with those of the church generally, and of testing by his own peculiar opinions the Christian character of his brethren. It is the object of the letter to coutrovert those opinions. “The doctrine," says the writer, " to which I allude, and which I now mean to dis