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grasp with which doctrines would be retained, where they are holden against the force of facts and arguments, and the equal zeal and earnestness with which new views of truth could be maintained by those who received them, doctrines, or rather opinions, would be felt to be of paramount importance; and be held, and mistaken for, the end of religion. The importance of right opinions in religion is indeed second only in importance to religion itself. But the opinion which, as far as respects religion, is of all others the most important, is, that all opinions which are called religious, are in truth to ourselves, and to all who receive them, religious opinions, no further than they exert a religious influence on the heart and life. Religion, it is admitted, is not, and cannot be, independent of opinion. But opinion, even on the subjects of most solemn concern to religion, may be, and often is, wholly independent of all influence from religion. Opinions on the subjects of religion may be, and too often are, like our garments, a mere covering. They may distinguish, and in the view of those who approve of them, they may adorn us. But religion itself, like the warm current from the heart, is the principle of moral life to the soul; and like our blood, it can maintain the life that depends on it, only by an incessant circulation through every muscle, nerve and fibre, of the moral system.
3dly. The difficulties of our ministry at the present period, arise from the inseparable connexion between ministerial influence and usefulness, and a conformity of our own characters and lives to the distinct and appropriate objects of our office.
The time has been, when the people throughout christendom, not less than do the ignorant multitudes in lands that are covered with the darkness of heathenism, have looked to the lips of the priests alone for all their religious knowledge; and for all the hope, likewise, they might indulge as christians. Very great has been the influence of our office, independent of the literary and moral character and attainments of those who have held it. And great must it necessarily have been, when it was considered as the depository of the most solemn mysteries, into which none but the priest might penetrate; and each of which was of tremendous concern to mankind. But the advance that has been made by the public mind in religious knowledge, in this respect also has greatly changed the character of society. Men are not now respected merely because they assume an office, nor merely because they are raised to an office. They must raise themselves to the elevation of public sentiment concerning their office. Comparatively, at this day, at least in this section of our country,-men do not go to church because it is a custom to go. It is not an object to worship where their fathers worshipped.
Doctrines are not received, merely because their fathers believed them. Forms are not retained, merely because usage has sanctioned them. There is every day less and less authority in the cassock and bands; and every day narrows the influence of mere bold assertion, and of dogmatical assumption. In proportion as men are acting from, and for themselves, each feeling that he has a personal stake in the community; that he has personal rights to be maintained and exercised; and that the most important of these is, the right of private judgment in religion; this judgment is to be wisely directed, and we are to approve ourselves to it. It is to be directed, not by any mere right or power of office, but by adding to the stock of public intelligence on the subjects of religion; by opposing error and vice with argument; by enlightened appeals to conscience, to the principles of God's government, and to the word by which we are all to be judged in the last day. As ministers of Christ, we can obtain a truly christian influence, and extend the genuine objects of our religion, only by keeping in advance of the public mind on the great objects of christian duty, interest and hope; by shewing ourselves to be qualified for the services and ends of the ministerial office. This is a state of society which has its great and inestimable advantages. But it demands of us proportionably great circumspection and exertions, if we would obtain the end of our office, the instruction and salvation of those who hear us.
The unreformed liturgy of the church of England, long as it has outlived the prejudices and the superstitions of the time of its formation, yet stands as a memorial of the power which the reformation retained to its ministers in that establishment; and wherever distinct forms of religion are established by law, or the church has been able to retain, without the aid of law, a creed of human device, which excludes all but those who receive it from the hope of salvation; the clergy, as defenders of this exclusive faith, and guardians of the mysteries it involves, possess much of the authority, and exert much of the influence, which this faith and these mysteries have over the minds of those who receive them. But situated as we are, without an establishment; our churches asserting each its own independence; with no other ecclesiastical tribunal than a mutual council, whose powers are defined by the parties by which it is called together; the nature, rights and duties of our office well understood by those to whom we minister; the right felt by every individual of thinking and judging for himself, on all the subjects on which we preach, and on every part of our conduct as christian ministers; in fine, the feeling that prevails, and is daily more and more extending, that it is character which gives sanctity to our office, and not office that gives sanctity to our character; and the conNew Series-vol. IV.
stant tendency of our preaching, if we are faithful, to strengthen this sentiment and feeling, and to exalt the conceptions of those who hear us, of the moral standard by which, as well as others, we are ourselves to be judged; these are circumstances, that make personal character, at this day, to be of peculiar and vital importance to the objects of our ministry. As it is more exten sively understood, and more strongly felt, that our religion is not necessarily dependent on any of the arbitrary forms which men have instituted; that it is addressed to the reason and conscience of every man, and that it is its great design, to bring every man to the holiness of the christian life; in proportion as it is understood and felt, that we are ministers of Christ, not by any extraordinary divine commission, delegating to us the authority of his ambassadors; that all our power is in our capacity of usefulness in the office we sustain, and our disposition to consecrate this capacity to our Master's service, in the business of instructing and of saving mankind; in the same proportion will our usefulness depend on our characters. The difficulties of our ministry in this respect, are the difficulties of the christian life; with this important distinction in regard to ourselves, that every precept we inculcate, and every motive we enjoin, is a principle by which we are ourselves tried at the bar of public opinion; and by which, if we are found guilty, our ministry to others is worse than vain, and will be for our own condemnation.
We cannot, christian brethren, be too strongly impressed with a sense of the connexion between our own characters, and the interest and power of the views of christianity which we preach to others. It is said of us, that we preach a worldly morality; that we conform even our morality to the taste and prevailing habits of the time. And how can we so effectually refute the charge, as by a temper, conversation and deportment, which, even our enemies being judges, are those of the gospel? We cannot raise too highly the standard of christian morality. We cannot too earnestly excite men to good works, on the ground that they are good and profitable unto men. But we shall be believed, and the truth that we teach will be felt, in proportion as it is a means of our own sanctification. Instruction received through the eye is more slow, than that which is received through the ear. But it is received more distinctly, and more impressively. It is better understood in all its parts, and of surer influence in all its bearings. Example, but above all, ministerial example, is moral analysis, brought home to the comprehension and judgment even of the most ordinary understanding. And far better will it be for us, to give up our moral preaching, than to counteract its design and tendencies, by a practical commentary, which every one will understand; at which those who oppose us will most successfully cavil; and which will cover us with confusion at the bar of God.
It would be very easy to pass from one to another of the circumstances, which each of us might have alleged, as our own peculiar difficulties; and to fill up the brief time of our meeting with a mere enumeration of individual embarrassments in the discharge of our official duties. But these may, or may not, be attributable to the circumstances and character of the time in which we live. They may belong to the ministry itself, and be subjects of general interest and sympathy, or they may have no necessary connexion with our office, nor with any of its legitimate objects. Instead of dwelling on these peculiarities, I have wished to ascend to the principles, from which the present time derives its character; and to refer you to the circumstances of the time, which demand the most serious regard of christian ministers, in view both of the encouragements, and the difficulties, of our office.
Christian Brethren, by the simplicity and spirituality of our conversation and conduct, by the fidelity and earnestness of our preaching, and by our exclusive devotion to the objects and ends of our office, let men see that our aim is, our own, and the salvation of those to whom we minister. We have difficulties to encounter, in the suspicion with which we are viewed by those who differ from us; and in the high charges brought against us, because we do not preach doctrines, which we do not find in the records of the Evangelists and Apostles. But let our first care be, the attainment and maintenance in ourselves, of a mind and heart, sincerely consecrated to the duties of our office. Let the first difficulties of our ministry, which we endeavour to surmount, be those which arise rather from ourselves, than from circumstances without us. The truth, as it is in Jesus, is great, and it will prevail. It has already done much for the world; very much, even for those who reject it. It has most essentially changed the sentiments, character and habits of society, where it has prevailed. But it has yet great revolutions to effect, and great and glorious objects to accomplish, even in this world. Let us endeavour to understand these objects, as well as those of the eternal life before us; and give ourselves wholly to them. And where truth and right are, there may God give his blessing!*
* After the first sheet of this address was printed, it was suggested to the author by a friend, that there might be thought to be a want of definiteness in the use of the word Sectarism. The Author has only to observe on this subject, that in the use of this word, he intended to consider those only as Sectarians, who separate into distinct fraternities, and refuse communion with other professors of christianity. This, he thinks, is the proper use of the word. In other words, its import is, exclusiveness. In England, the members of the establishment consider all as sectarians, who are dissenters. And the exclusives among ourselves, give the same appellation to all, who depart from what they think to be the faith, once delivered to the saints. If the word is used in this address, in a sense which some may think does not necessarily belong to it, it is hoped, at least, that its use here will be found, in every instance, to be consistent with the definition now given of it.
THE writer of 'Remarks on a mathematical argument for Trinitarian Doctrines,* in answer to one in the Christian Observer, denies that there is any proper analogy between theological propositions and those of the mathematics. The latter, as is well known, he says, 'admit of being proved by demonstration; a species of evidence which forces conviction on every mind capable of appreciating it.-But the case is widely different with the doctrines of the christian revelation.' If however the truths of revelation cannot be proved to demonstration by mathematical argument, some of its supposed doctrines, on the Cavinistic scheme, have been proved to be absurd by this method of reasoning.--The Reviewers of John Simpson's 'plain thoughts on the New Testament doctrine of atonement observe, that, considering the serious difficulties which oppress the commonly received notion of atonement and satisfaction, we desire, for the sake of truth, to have it submitted to the fullest examination; and perhaps, if, in the discussion of this, and of other tenets attached to religious creeds, the different synonymous terms which contain the essence, or supposed essence, of the subject in debate, were arranged in the form of an algebrai cal equation, controversies would be shortened, and the cause of truth promoted. Thus, for instance, original sint=the sinfulness of Adam's posterity in Adam's sin, transgression before existence guilt attached to non-entity = thinking and acting when thought and action were impossible a manifest absurdity or contradiction in terms. Again, Atonement, as it is commonly understood, satisfaction an equivalent for the debt due = the exoneration or discharge of the original debtor = exemption from farther demand a complete discharge. If the atonement, or satisfaction, be for the sin of the world, or of the human race, by the suffering of a righteous person, the satisfaction a transfer of punishment on the one hand; and taking from the person offended all right of punishing on the other, the abrogation of all claim on the sinner for the future, annihilation of religious duty or obligation. Allowing these to be just equations, have we not reason to suspect the propriety of the first terms?'-See Monthly Review, vol. xl. 1803.
By giving this a place in the Christian Disciple you will oblige some of your readers. PHILOMATH.
In the Disciple for January and February.
+ The algebraical sign— signifies equality, and in the above equation is to be read, is equal to.