« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
It is intolerable that such an intellectual animalcule as man should sit in judgment on the infinite God, and lay down the law for Him, and decide he must do this and abstain from doing that. Our only business is to ascertain, from his word and providence, what he does do, and on the facts thus furnished construct our scheme of doctrine.
Dr. Bushnell's theory, as it ignores or denies some of the plainest facts of the Bible and the most articulate declarations of the common consciousness of men, so it is destructive of practical religion. If his doctrine be true there can be no conviction of sin. There may be a sense of pollution and degradation, but there can be no sense of guilt, no remorse of conscience, no apprehension of the wrath and curse of God; none of those feelings which arise from the apprehension of the glory of God's justice. Yet the Bible is filled with the record of those feelings; and all Christian experience, and, indeed, all religious experience include them as one of their most essential elements. Without the conviction of sin, as involving a sense of guilt, there can be no genuine repentance. Repentance is not only sorrow for sin and a purpose to forsake it, but an acknowledgment of our desert of punishment, and conviction that we lie at the mercy of God; that it would be just and right, consistent with all his perfections, to leave us to bear the penalty of our transgression. This is not a dictum. The Scriptures abound with evidence that repentance includes the conviction and acknowledgment that the penitent deserves, notwithstanding all his service and all his reformation, to be punished for his sins; that his acceptance by God is a matter purely of grace. The Psalmist says, “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest.” Our Lord puts the language of true repentance in the mouth of the prodigal son, who said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants." This sense of unworthiness, this conviction of ill-desert, after reformation and in despite of it, is expressed in all the supplications of repenting sinners for pardon. With Dr. Bushnell there is no pardon; any more than for a broken leg. With
him repentance is restoration to holiness, followed by deliverance from the natural evils of a sinful state of mind. It is mere restoration to health. God has nothing to forgive, and forgives nothing, any more than a mother forgives a sick child when she rejoices over its recovery.
Saving faith, or those acts of faith, which secure salvation, includes a receiving and resting upon Christ alone, as he is offered in the gospel. It is the recognition of him as God manifest in the flesh, obeying and dying for the sins of men. It is faith in his blood as an expiation for our offences; a resting upon his merits as the ground of our acceptance with God. It is receiving him not only as a prophet and king, but as a priest to make an atonement for our sins. This is not a transient act merely. It is an abiding state of the mind. It is a habitual relying upon Christ as the ground of pardon, as well as the source of sanctification and of all good, temporal and spiritual. This is the received doctrine of the Bible, inwrought into all the confessions, formulas of prayer and of praise, as well as into the hearts of God's people. It is their life. Sin, as they know, must be expiated, before they can be made holy. All this, Dr. Bushnell denies. Not indeed so much in words, as in reality. The Rationalists of Germany, while holding only the doctrines of natural religion, deliberately retained the use of all scriptural language and representation. They too talked of justification by faith; (meaning by it substantially what Dr. Bushnell does); they did not hesitate to say that Christ saves us; that he is the Lamb of God; that he bore our sins; that he is our high priest ; that he makes intercession for us, &c. But the ideas attached by Christians to these words they utterly rejected. So Dr. Bushnell defends the use of the same or similar formulas in an esoteric sense. He is honest enough to admit that his views are very different from those commonly expressed by the same terms. He says he is well aware how insufficient his exposition of the great doctrine of justification by faith will appear to many. P. 439. With him, as we have seen, justification is inward renovation, and of which faith is the necessary condition; it is the receptivity, or susceptibility for the moral power of the gospel.
Of Luther's doctrine of justification by faith, which is the
Protestant and Pauline doctrine, he confesses that calling it, "articula stantis, vel cadentis ecclesiæ, I could more easily see the church fall than believe it." P. 439. “We only speak,” he says, “ of justification by faith, as a new footing of salvation, because there is such a power obtained for God, by the human life and death of Christ, and the new enforcements of his doctrine, as begets a new sense of sin, provokes the sense of spiritual want, and, when trust is engaged, creates a new element of advantage and help, to bring the soul up into victory over itself and seal it as the heir of God. And thus it is, or in the sense thus qualified, that we speak of justification by faith, as the grand result of Christ's work, and the all-inclusive grace of his salvation.” P. 405. The simple meaning of all this, in plain English, is, that Christ has made such an exbibition of the goodness and greatness of God, that those who recognize it are thereby strengthened to overcome sin, love God, and are thus delivered from all the evils naturally connected with a sinful state of mind. How sad a prospect the dying thief, or any other perishing sinner, must have had, if that is the way in which Christ saves us; if that be the meaning of justification by faith.
It follows, moreover, from the theory of this book that prayer has no objective power. If God is striving to the utmost, under the necessary operation of love, to convert and save all sinners; if this work is effected not by “fiat-power” but by expression, or moral influence, what is the use of praying that God would send his Spirit to regenerate or sanctify, or to do us any good ? Dr. Bushnell is bold enough to ridicule the scriptural doctrine on this subject. “We have a way of saying,” he tells us, “as regards successful prayer, that it prevails with God. Is it then our meaning that it turns God's mind, makes him better, more favorable, more inclined to bestow the things we seek? .... But the true conception is this—that God has instituted an economy of prayer to work on Christian souls and brotherhoods, and encouraging them to come and make suit to him, for the blessings they need;" and so on through a paragraph all tending to prove that the effect of prayer is purely subjective. P. 521. Was this the design of the prayers of Christ ? Were they intended to get him “into
VOL. XXXVIII.-30. II. 25
a state more configured to God," so that the Father could be able to grant, or dispense, things which before he could not ?" Was such the intent of the prayer of Elias when he prayed that it might not rain, and it rained not for three years? Is this the prayer of faith which heals the sick? or the effectual fervent prayer for others of a righteous man which availeth much? Is such the mother's prayer for her child, or the constant prayers of the people of God for the conversion of the impenitent?
It is not worth while to continue this review further. It is evident that Dr. Bushnell's theory is at variance with the plainest facts and truths of the Bible; with the facts of Christian experience, or the inward teachings of the Spirit as avouched by the inspired records and the whole history of the church; with the most obvious facts of providence as well as of revelation. It subverts the very foundations of evangelical religion as well as of Christian theology. And all for what? Simply because Dr. Bushnell does not like the idea of expiation. He says, it revolts him. As there is no expiation, there can be nothing in God which demands it—no justice); nothing in sin, which requires it, (no guilt); nothing in Scripture which teaches it; no atoning sacrifice, only lustrations; no efficacy in Christ's blood beyond what belongs to the blood of martyrs ; no judicial, or even rectoral justification; no intervention in our behalf possible even for God himself, but to operate on our guilty, depraved, dead souls, in the “way of expression.” This surely is a costly sacrifice to make to propitiate an aversion.
ART. II.— The Samaritans, Ancient and Modern.
NABULUS, the Neapolis of ancient history, the Sychar of the New Testament, and the Shechem or Sichem of the Old, has from time immemorial been the residence of the Samaritans. They are, according to their own tradition, a remnant of the Ten Tribes of Israel, the only true Israelites, “to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” Hovering about the sacred mount of their fathers, they are guarding with zealous care the rites of the ancient people of God, as taught by their interpretation of the sacred books of the great lawgiver and leader of the children of Israel.
Let us accept these traditions of their fathers, and their own settled convictions respecting their origin, their religious rites, and their faith, and at once this strange religious sect are invested with wonderful interest. Of all religious sects they are the most extraordinary, the most ancient, the most venerable, and yet the most inconsiderable, the fewest, feeblest, in the world. They consist of some thirty families, and one hundred and thirty or forty souls. Among the countless millions of the human race, they are the only true worshippers of God, the sole depositaries of his revealed will. The fire that was kindled from heaven on the sacred altar of the Jews has long been extinguished. The light that, age after age, shone out upon the surrounding darkness from the holy mount at Jerusalem, has been quenched in endless night; but its latest illuminations linger still on the cliffs of Gerizim in the mountains of Samaria, a gleam of inextinguishable light. Clinging to these cliffs and steadfastly watching that heavenly light, these ancient Samaritans, as the chosen seed of Israel, are awaiting, in sure and certain expectation, the coming of the cheerful morn that shall yet arise on the dark and dreadful night that is still gathering around them. “We know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things."
Nabulus consists essentially of one long narrow street run