« AnteriorContinuar »
We, too, as has been said, have our theory of development. For us Mr. Newman goes too far, and not far enough. We believe that the development of Christianity, of the yet undeveloped or dormant part of Christianity, since the Reformation, has been immense ; the development, we mean, of its morality, of its social influence, of its humanity.
So, then, the morality of Christianity, its social influence, and its humanity, are the undeveloped or dormant part of Christianity, and yet their development, since the Reformation, has been immense ! !
But I will not detain you any longer from the passage which principally induced me to trouble you with this communication ; like others, it is not free from inaccuracies of style :
We are persuaded that the New Testament is not merely the sole authority for the eternal and immutable great Christian truths, as they were revealed by our Lord and His Apostles, and received in the first ages, but for their relative importance in the scheme of salvation. All is in exquisite and finished unison. Strike one chord too strongly, dwell too long on one note, and you destroy the harmony. All religious error (we emphatically repeat, religious error) is an exaggeration of some Christian truth, with a necessary depression or obscuration of other Christian truths. Calvinism is an exaggeration of God's sovereignty, to the utter extinction of human free will ; Unitarianism is an exaggeration of the unity of God; in its Socinian form an exaggeration of the moral to the depression of the mysterious, we may say, perhaps, the transcend ental element. So Mediæval Christianity is a graduai exaggeration of many true principles ; it is an undue elevation of that which is mutable above that which is eternal ; of that which is subordinate above that which is primal and essential ; of that which is accessory and in some degree foreign, obscure, doubtful—at least-for that which is the everlasting Gospel ; of form above spirit, of that which shall pass away, above that which shall never pass away.
Granting, for instance, that the most profound reverence would be [Qy. is] inferentially enjoined by the simple fact, that the Virgin was so honoured of God as to become the mother of His incarnate Son. Elevate that reverence into adoration, and will it any longer retain any due proportion? Is it possible that two worships can be thus coincident, and the one not become dominant over the other, in proportion to the popular feeling, and the manifest, the visible effect watched and fostered, perhaps at first from pure devotional feelings, by an ignorant priesthood --p. 455
In the first place, will it not strike the most indifferent observer of theological differences, that the position sought to be established by this paragraph, is erroneous ? that all religious error does not consist in an “exaggeration of some Christian truth ? ”-that much of it is occasioned by palpable misconception and perversion of the spirit and letter of the Divine records ? I will not descend to particulars in the compass of a brief letter like this, but I think many of your intelligent readers will be able to bear me out in this assertion.
But, “Unitarianism is an exaggeration of the Unity of God ! " Now, if the Unity of God be a truth, it cannot be exaggerated. It may be often repeated, much dwelt upon, mainly enforced by those who hold the doctrine as being the basis, the essential, fundamental tenet of their whole system, but “exaggerated,” surely, it cannot be. You cannot make the foundation of an edifice too secure, or too strong.
Moreover, if the coincidence of two worships is likely to have the tendency so justly described by the reviewer, what shall be said when the object of adoration is tripartite ? Is not one of the three, à fortiori, likely to “ become dominant over the others, in proportion to the popular feeling ?” Experience proves that it is : in neither case, however, unfortunately, as we humbly conceive, does the “popular feeling” centre upon the right object. Hence the greet and paramouut necessity that the worship of the one true and only God should be held up continually to the “popalar” view, and enforced on the popular” apprehension. I am, respectfully, &c.,
SENEX. April 4, 1846.
POLITICAL PIETY, AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S PRAYER
OF THANKSGIVING FOR VICTORY OVER THE SIKHS; “SAID "
ON SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 1846.-BY THE REV. J. R. BEARD, D.D. MATT. V.
43, 44, 45—“Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
for them who despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven, for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
So spake the Light and the Saviour of the world, with an elevation, purity, and largeness of heart, that are as beautiful and touching as they are original. Let us now hear the words of His chief successor, and approved representative in these dominions :
O Lord, God of hosts, in whose hand is power and might irresistible, we, Tbine unworthy servants, most humbly acknowledge Thy goodness in the victories lately vouchsafed to the armies of our Sovereign over a host of barbarous invaders, who sought to spread desolation through fruitful and populous provinces enjoying the blessings of peace under the protection of the British Crown. We bless Thee, O merciful Lord, for having brought to a speedy and prosperous issue a war to which no occasion had been given by injustice on our part or apprehension of injury at our hands. To Thee, O Lord, we ascribe the glory ; it was Thy wisdom which guided the councils, Thy power which strengthened
the bands of those whom it pleased Thee to use as Thy instruments in the discomforture of the lawless aggressor and the prostration of his ambitious designs. From Thee alone cometh the victory, and the spirit of moderation and mercy in the day of success. Continue, we beseech Thee, to go forth with our armies whensoever they are called into battle in a righteous cause ; and dispose the hearts of their leaders to exact nothing more from the vanquished than is necessary for the maintenance of peace and security against violence and rapine.
England, it appears, was in the very position contemplated by the Lord Jesus Christ. She had an enemy : what was her course ? An ancient disciple of the same high authority, that bad Christians love their enemies, entered into particulars and explained the nature of the love required. Paul enjoins, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves; if thine enemy hunger feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. x. 19, 21.) Here, then, we have in the clearest and the fullest terms, the instructions of Jesus, the Head of the Church, and of Paul, His Apostle to the Gentiles, touching the conduct we should observe towards our enemies. What has England done? She has acted in direct opposition to the spirit and the letter of these precepts. Instead of loving, she has done her utmost to destroy this enemy. He was an hungered and she gave him no meat ; thirsty and she gave him no drink; on the contrary, for bread she gave him a bullet, and a bayonet instead of the wish of peace; and that, too, though the Judge of all the earth has added, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt. xxv. end.) I know not how any teaching can be more plain, simple, emphatic. I know not how duty can be more explicitly set forth. I know not how human obligations can be more strongly enforced. Nor do I know what Christianity is, if this is not at least an essential feature of Christianity. I am equally at a loss to say how these explicit injunctions can by any ingenuity be explained away. There they stand, free from ambiguity, as clear as the love is pure and lofty which they recommend. You may deny the authority of the speakers, and so get rid of the precept. But what shall be said of his consistency, who, admitting the authority, contravenes the precept ? Has not the
Saviour expressly condemned those who called Him “Lord, Lord,” but did not the things which he commanded ? Notwithstanding these facts, England has again slaughtered, instead of loving her enemies. Perhaps, however, it is a solitary act? It is part of a long-continued, and carefully supported system. Perhaps it is the outburst of sudden passion. It is the natural and inevitable consequence of a deliberate plan. At any rate, it is the act of soldiers—men more distinguished for bravery than Christian knowledge. The Church of this country is part and parcel of the British Constitution. Why are our Bishops near the throne ? Why do they sit in the chair of authority, and the upper hall of the Legislature ? And what else than what our priests have made it—our priests located in every district and corner of the land—what else is the general character of this nation, which, while proud of the name of Christian, sanctions and supports the war proceedings of our legislators, and hates, starves, and destroys, instead of loving its enemies. But the concurrence of its spiritual guides in the recent sanguinary deeds on the Indian Sutlej is, alas! put beyond a doubt by the prayer issued at the command of her Majesty by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and recited on the last Lord's-day in every church and chapel in England and Wales. Here the head of the Anglican Church appears in his own proper person, and in words which he either wrote or adopted, expresses
his entire approval of the aims and purposes of the conquerors, and, by implication, of the passions which raged in their breasts, and the deeds of blood and death which they performed. It may, indeed, be pleaded that the Archbishop wrote not spontaneously, but on the command of his Sovereign. What then, is it an extenuation that a teacher of the people teaches error only when expressly bidden; that a minister of Christ stirs himself
up to pray when political influences bear upon him ? Is true piety the offspring of command? Can it be prepared and vended as a merchandise ? Is gratitude to God dependent in its flow on the fountain head of civil power? This political piety is most spurious. Where in the New Testament is the precedent for this union of devotion and regal authority—of blood and prayer? The High Priest who put forth this form of supplication may have com.
plied with the claims of his duty as a subject to an earthly potentate, but how stands he in the sight of the King of Kings, whose messenger and son, Jesus Christ, said, “ Love your enemies ? ” He may have fulfilled duties imposed on him by his position, but that position is one of his own choice, long sought after, and earnestly and tenaciously held. For the acts which it imposes on him he is, in consequence, wholly responsible. Here, then, is a minister of Christ making himself a party to a proceeding which is a practical contradiction to one of the most important and explicit commands of his Master. Such is one, and a very lamentable, consequence of the union of Church and State. Political piety, coming from political religion, has never yet failed, and never will fail to be corrupt. But, in truth, the writer of this song of triumph would appear to have found pleasure in the performance of his task. The whole tone of the composition discloses a mind in harmony with the occasion. The organ would not, indeed, have swelled into a full chorus of gratulation and praise, had not the hand of the great mistress touched the keys. But the instrument appears to have been quite ready, waiting only those delicate yet potent fingers ; on whose approach its “sleeping music” pealed forth in strains both full and glad. Anglican episcopacy, then, is, in full, answerable for this prayer of thanksgiving, which, as we have seen, asks of God the very opposites of what Christ approved and enjoined. The objection involved in these facts is fundamental. Whatever the form of supplication may contain, it cannot, if it approve of war, be acceptable to the enlightened and faithful disciple of Christ. All thanksgivings for victory are bad. They all imply some approval of slaughtering enemies. In consequence, they are so far not only unChristian but anti-Christian. The Gospel must be constructed anew, or such practices must be given up.
But, to my mind, these triumphal odes in devotional prose, wear too much the character of impiety. God is thanked for the victory. He in consequence fought the battle. From Him the skill to plan, and the force to execute the murderous undertaking. This is what every prayer of the kind declares, directly or by implication. Now, what right have we to make these assumptions? What right have we to claim the special aid of Heaven?