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sympathy with popular feeling, and even with popular prejudice, except in the one point where change and reformation are immediately sought, seems to be an indispensable condition of rapid and extensive popular success.
Compare, for example, the different results that have attended) the labours and writings of two very eminent men in the last century, Wesley and Priestley. The former addressed himself to the heart and conscience, and appealed for this purpose to convictions that were inherent, though slumbering, in the general mind. What has been the consequence? Myriads now bear his name, and exhibit in their numbers, their zeal and their organization, one of the most remarkable moral phenomena of the age. The latter, with the purest motives and the highest views, directed his instructions to the calm reason of mankind; went before his age instead of sympathizing with it; blended his religion with the speculative principles of a philosophical school, rather than with the feeling, the habitudes and the convictions, of our actual humanity: but, instead of leaving behind him a large and flourishing church, while he has scattered the seeds of extensive good, and excited impulses that must ultimately lead to valuable results, he has hardly created the materials for building up a sect.
Let us apply these general remarks to the case of Paul. His doctrinal system we shall examine in its details by and by ; for the present we may assume it as a fact, which stands out conspicuous from his history and writings—that the great idea, which had seized and which governed his mind, and which he ascribed to divine revelation,—was the resurrection and ascension of Christ, to become the Saviour of Jew and Gentile who believed in him, and the expectation of his approaching reappearance from heaven, to raise the dead, to judge the world, and to gather the faithful into the kingdom of God. Possessed with this idea, Paul went out into the world. It was the animating principle of his whole being. It imparted its own spiritual fervour to the entire circle of his existing feelings and opinions, which seemed to furnish him on every side with illustrations of its importance and evidences of its truth. . We have no ground to infer from reason, or the language of Scripture, that any revelation ever bas altered, or ever could alter, the intellectual conditions under which men's minds must admit and apply the influences of moral and religious truth, the forms and measures of which always bear a relation to the standard of the contemporaneous civilization. What we call revelation, seems rather the infusion of a divine strength into moral conviction and moral impulse—the direct quickening from
heaven into clearer consciousness, a more energetic life, and a purer form, of those fundamental principles of religious belief which are planted deep by the hand of the Creator in the original constitution of the human soul, than the distinct communication to the understanding of any fresh measures of objective truth; in other words, it is a moral rather than an intellectual influence.* If this be a correct view, the utterance of an individual, whether in speech or by the pen, under the influence of a revelation, must necessarily clothe itself with the opinions and feelings of the time-must come into operation and produce its effects through the medium of those opinions and feelings, without any clear and habitual consciousness of the distinction between that which is a divine impulse, and that which is only the human instrumentality through which it acts. Paul indeed appears occasionally to have been sensible of some such dis
In the New Testament we find nothing corresponding to the idea which our scientific theology has attached to the term 'Revelation, as a system of new truths, accompanied by miraculous sanctions, and required to be admitted on that authority into the understanding; but rather, in the various passages, where either the verbal or the substantive form of the term occurs, the notion of a direct influence of the spirit acting on the mind in a particular instance-to determine the will, to suggest a thought, to strengthen a conviction, to disclose a view, or to place in a new light men's relation to God, to Christ, and to each other. Comp. Ephes. iii. 3,5. Gal. ii. 2; i. 12. Rom. xvi. 25. Philipp. iii. 15. 1 Cor. ii. 10. Matt. xi. 25. Luke x. 21. Matt. xi. 27. Luke x. 22. The manifestation of a moral influence, Gal. i. 16. Very frequently the appearance of Christ from heaven at the last day is called åmokánkis. 2 Thess. i. 7. 1 Peter i. 7, 13; iv. 13; v. 1. Luke xvii. 30. In this sense, the last book in our Canon is called the Apocalypse.
The following observations from a French writer, though very different from the views usually entertained on this subject, may furnish matter for reflection, and certainly cannot be considered as sceptical in their tendency. “ A toutes les époques critiques des sociétés il s'est fait de ces grands mouvemens d'idées dont rien ne rend raison, si ce n'est la force des choses, ou, pour mieux dire, la puissance de la vérité, qui se découvre d'elle même, et tombe vive et nue dans les intelligences qu'elle eclaire.--Il est peu de siècles qui n'aient eu leur révélation ; mais c'est particulièrement au premier âge du monde qu'a dû se deployer plus näive et plus pleine cette faculté de simple vue, cette intelligence d'un seul jet, dont l'homme dans sa nudité native avait un si pressant besoin.--Autrement la société, sans idées, sans ces idées vitales qui etaient nécessaires à sa conservation et à son etat, n'eût pu que se dépraver et perir. La première loi de son existence était d'avoir immédiatement des principes positifs d'action ; il était de la sagesse divine de les lui donner en la constituant, de les lui donner par grace prompte et spéciale.—Le rôle de revélateur a dû succeder pour Dieu à celui de créateur. Comme pére des lumières, il s'est fait sentir aux ames et les a inspirées : ainsi s'est passée la révelation, ainsi du moins l'entendons nous. Les idées venues par revélation sont essentiellement vraies--parce qu'elles sont la pure et simple expression des réalités qui les font naître. Ce ne sont pas des connaissances, quoiqu'elles aient de la vérité au fond : c'est plutôt de la poesie ; elles en ont tout le caractère." Damiron, Essai sur l'Histoire de la Philosophie en France. Tom. ii. p. 241–44.
Might we not expect, that many difficulties in theology would be diminished, if the psychology of the religious principle were more thoroughly investigated ? At present the prevailing notions of revelation and inspiration render such an investigation hardly possible.
tinction, but his language shows that he felt it was attended with uncertainty.* In fact, the unconsciousness of which we speak seems almost indispensable to that perfect sincerity and earnestness of mind without which there can be no success ;-necessary to create an element of sympathy,-a medium of communication between the informing and the recipient mind,—without which zeal and eloquence would be consumed in vain. But this same circumstance, which is the cause and condition of immediate success, is the occasion of obscurity, and a source of error, when the instructions that flowed originally from inspiration, on being reduced to writing, become for distant ages a rule of faith and practice; for, while the moral necessities of mankind continue unaltered, the whole intellectual and scientific constitution of the mind has undergone, in the interval, the greatest change; so that the form and outward application under which important moral convictions are brought home to the mind and conscience, can no longer remain the same that they were two thousand years ago. • Our moral convictions have often to contend against the obstructions which imperfect knowledge and a reason oppressed with prejudice oppose to their free development. In moments of moral enthusiasm and religious inspiration, we catch glimpses of high and solemn truths, the full and unconditional recognition of which would compel an utter renunciation of many practices and some opinions, to which we mechanically and almost unconsciously conform, and from the influence of which we cannot deliver ourselves. Feeble and speculative minds are paralysed for great practical efforts by the consciousness of this invincible contrariety between what they sometimes perceive might be, and what they observe actually is. But the ardent and the energetic defy the inconsequentialities which they are perpetually encountering; obey all the convictions which come forcibly home to them, without inquiring whether, if pushed to their results, they would fully harmonize; and thus give effect and ascendancy to great moral principles, which, once rooted in society, outlive, cast from them, triumph over, and finally extirpate, the less perfect conceptions of God and duty, which in the first instance were sincerely and honestly associated with them, and without which they would never have obtained an entrance into the minds of men. We shall attempt to show hereafter, that there are some principles taught by Paul, and furnishing the vital power of his instructions, which, drawn out into their legitimate consequences, would prove utterly subversive of others, which he
reasons from with the greatest apparent earnestness, and which we can see no reason to doubt were entertained by him with perfect sincerity. In the New Testament generally, but parti. cularly in the writings of Paul, a consideration for the moral and the spiritual everywhere prevails over that for the philosophical and the speculative. The latter is left very much where the teacher finds it, resigned to those whose business is rather philosophy than religion, and is rarely appealed to, and then only in the habitual unquestioning persuasion of the time, for the illustration and enforcement of the former. It has been unfortunate for Christianity and the peace of the Church, that the process has been generally reversed in later ages.
There are some unavoidable inconveniences attached to the influence and authority of every religion which is founded on the interpretation of ancient writings, yet the absence of such writings would be attended with far greater evils than any which may occasionally result from the misuse of them. If God has ever communicated a divine spirit to the minds of men, and given a divine impulse to the course of human affairs, the influence of that spirit and impulse can be perpetuated through future ages, and the form and character of civilization be permanently moulded by it, only through the existence of authentic monuments recording its origin and earliest operations. The idea of a Church or communion of believers and worshippers implies the existence of a doctrine and an example, which they consider to be derived from God, and consigned to the preservation of a book, which they agree to recognise as the fountain of their moral life, the source of their faith and principles. Without such a standard to appeal to, and left to the ordinary influences of reason and nature, the experience of ages may convince us, that men would find no medium between the vague and powerless speculations of philosophy, and the rude conceptions of the multitude, now sunk in the grossest fetichism, now disguised by a licentious poetry, or wrought perhaps at length by an artful priesthood into an instrument of spiritual domination. If mankind are ever destined to realise the beautiful idea of an universal brotherhood, dwelling in peace, and in the grateful acknowledgment of an universal father--there exists no means of conducting us to so happy an issue, but the gradual determination, with the progress of learning and free inquiry, of an enlightened, uniform and selfconsistent principle of interpretation, to be applied to the sacred writings, which are the source of our religious ideas, combined with the general diffusion through society of that truly fraternal spirit which the adoption of such a principle would naturally inspire.
Instead therefore of complaining that the faith of mankind has been made dependent on the interpretation of ancient and, obscure books, we should recollect that this is the unavoidable condition of having any access at all to the mind of Christ without the exercise of a constant and stupendous miracle: and while we admit the errors and abuses to which this constitution of our spiritual condition has given rise, we should not forget that such errors and abuses are in themselves neither unavoidable nor invincible; and direct our attention in future, to the first means of obviating them.
We may notice three periods in the historical development of Christianity : first, during the two first centuries, when faith was nourished by preaching, fresh from the primeval fountain of apostolical earnestness and zeal, and while the Christian Scriptures, which were to form the future mind of the Church, were only gradually coming into existence: secondly, after the completion of the canon and the development of the hierarchy, when the Church became the only authorized interpreter of the Gospel ; when the faith of Christendom was determined by the decrees of councils; and the multitude, shut out from all access to the Scripture, derived their notions of religion entirely from the traditions of the clergy; thirdly, after the Reformation, when the Bible in Protestant communities was submitted to the free examination of the learned, and appealed to as a final authority in matters of faith, coupled, however, with the assumption of its plenary inspiration, and the belief that an entire and self-consistent system of doctrine could be constructed out of the comparison and combination of the whole mass of its multifarious contents. In the first of these periods, we witness the fervour and simplicity of an unlearned and popular faith, taking strong hold of men's consciences and hearts, and busying itself, but remotely and gradually, with the deeper questions of philosophy. In the second, we are made aware of the mischievous effects of an irresponsible priesthood, overwhelming with its traditions and decrees the original truths of the Gospel, and upholding throughout Christendom, an uniformity of doctrine, discipline and ritual. In the third, we notice the application of an artificial learning to the Scriptures, for the purpose of extracting from them a dogmatic system, that should embrace every question of practical wisdom and religious belief.
But new wants have made themselves felt during this third period, and new means have been devised for meeting them. With the progress of knowledge and free inquiry that has marked every century since the Reformation, an increasing difficulty has been found in reconciling all the views deduced by a fair interpretation from every part of Scripture, with the