« AnteriorContinuar »
founded on an alleged obscurity in the bible, so great as to render the scripture useless, and unintelligible to those, who read it? How could he deny, that they have arrived at a knowledge of the sacred writings satisfactory to their own minds ; and that they believe similar satisfaction may be attained by all, who study the word of God with candour and diligence? How can it be his opinion, that they are charitable to others, only because unsettled themselves; and not because they consider it agreeable to the spirit and precepts of Christianity to attribute the errors of their brethren to pardonable ignorance, bias, and mistake, when to such causes they may be reasonably assigned ; and to exclude none from the fold of Christ, who offer encouraging evidence of embracing essential truths so far, as is necessary for their salvation? We are but too sensible bow wide the opinion has spread, that the charity of liberal Christjans is of the kind he describes. But it is of a very different description. They may, it is true, class a number of religious debates among the doubtful disputations, which had better be dropped. But that they proless to see notbing clear and settled in the bible to fit it to be an useful system of legislation, or render it a blessing to its possessor, is a charge, which it might beforehand be difficult to suppose could be found
Another error, against which the zeal of Mr. Beecher is directed with great success, is the “ maxim, that it is no matter what a man believes, provided his life be correct; no matter whether he believe or disbelieve in the divine existence, whether he love or hate the Lord; whether he repent of his sins or remain incorrigible; whether his motives be good or bad; if the mere motion of his lip or hand or foot be according to rule all is well.” In confuting this miserable error he employs four of the most glowing pages of his discourse; and, not to consider him as designing simply to gratify us with a display of his argunentative skill, but as seriously intimating, that it is an error embraced by persons sufficient in number and importance to be worthy of notice; we are led to inquire, where does he find a class of this description, who would say, it could be immaterial under any circumstances whatever, whether a man believe or deny the existence of a God; whether he be penitent or impenitent; whether he be actuated by good or bad motives? Is it within the limits of possibility that any human being, however weak or ignorant, can fancy that he has found them in the great body of Unitarians and Anti-Calvinists? Who can suppose, that Mr. Beecber believes it to be the opinion of his opponents or of any person living, that any outward mechanical deportment, may constitute a person religious and good, while accompanied with Atheism, impenitency, and bad motives?
“ It is the opinion of some,” he goes on to observe, “ that the obvious meaning of tbe (sacred) texts, according to the established rules of expounding other books, is not to be regarded."
We can only say, that though we know full well how many would be ready to think liberal Christians liable to the charge of violating the received laws of interpretation in their explanations of scripture, we were very little prepared to hear of them, that they openly profess to construe ibe bible without regard to these laws.
“Of the doctrines of the Trinity, total depravity, &c.,” he observes, “ that these doctrines are fundamental is evident from the violence, with wbich they have always been assailed. One," he adds, “denies the being of the lawgiver; another discards the statute book; a third subjects the laws of Jehovah to the censorsbip of reason, till he can believe without humility, obey without self denial, and disobey without fear of punishment. All representations of the character of man, at variance with the scripture account of his entire depravity, have for their object ihe evasion of the precept or penalty of the law. Faith, in the system of such persons, is intellectual assent to revealed truth without holiness. Those, who discard the doctrine of the Trinity, discard usually every other fundamental doctrine with it." These, and a multitude of similar passages toward the close of his discourse, sufficiently indicate, that it was not his design to leave it doubtful, what heretics he had in view. As concerned for the honour of the clerical profession, we regret that such sermons should be delivered; though we cannot doubt what the nature of that re-action will be, when the discovery shall be fully made, that persons may go the length of discarding the doctrine of total depravity, and evenbelieving in the entire unity of the Godhead, without "rejecting every fundamental doctrine of the scriptures;" without “libelling their Maker, as the author of an obscure and useless system of legislation ;" without "proposing it as their object to evade the precept or penalty of the Jaw;" and without deeming it immaterial, in any possible case, shether men believe or disbelieve the existence of God; be penitent or impenitent; be actuated by good or bad motives.”
ON THE LOVE OF THE WORLD.
The language of the gospel concerning the Love of the World is very strong. It pointedly and decidedly condemns it, as unworthy a place in the Christian's heart. It denounces it as the hinderer at least, and finally the destroyer of true piety. If any man love the world, says the Apostle, the love of the Father is not in him. These two affections are inconsistent with each other; they cannot dwell together in the same soul. But one of them is the first and great commandment, which if we keep not, we want the essence of our religion. Therefore, the only thing to be decided is, wbat is the nature of these opposing principles; when we have determined this, we have only to govern ourselves accordingly,
There is an assertion of Paul apparently coincident with that above quoted from John. The carnal mind is enmity against God ;-i. e. the sensual mind, the mind devoted to sensual things, is enmity against God; for, adds the Apostle, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Hence, the being subject to God's law, is a sign of love to him. “The mind, subject to sensual things, cannot, at the saine time, be subject to the law of God, and therefore is enmity against God.” Consequently, the mind not subject to sensual things, may be subject to the law of God, and therefore love him. Thus subjection to God's law is love to God. So says our Saviour ;
Then are ye my friends if ye keep my commandments. So says John: this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
If this, then, be the definition of the love of God, that we keep his commandments; the question arises, What are his commandments? By careless attention to this language we might be inisled. The term commandments carries our mind to the ten precepts of the Jewish law-Ihe code of external morals; and we turn away at this explanation of the love of God, imagining it a very simple thing, and satisfied that we are in no danger of failing to answer all its demands. But a little serious consideration of the nature of our religion and our connexion with a future state, must convince us, ibat this view is deficient. The term commandment must by no means be understood to exclude the regulation of the inner man, the control of the thoughts, the purifying of the affections, the watching over the motives, the listing up of the heart, the feeling, affectionate, devoted heart, to that excellent Being. All this, so far from being excluded, is certainly included, because it is all part of the commandment. Christianity is a religion of the affections; it lays its first restraint on the affections; and it maintains its influence over the whole man by means of the control it exercises there. We, therefore, in vain strive to escape the obligations of an internal, spiritual religion, by taking up this definition of the love of God.
Indeed, it is possible to keep all the commandments of exterpal duty, which some are so ready to suppose the whole love of God, without any reference to his authority, without the de. sign of obeying him, without being influenced in any proper sense by the knowledge of bis existence. There are men, from all whose calculations the Deity is excluded; in all whose plans, praise-worthy as they may be, his will is unconsulted. They may not oppose bis will, because it coincides with their own inclination; yet they would not besitate to oppose it, if it thwarted their inclinations. It cannot, therefore, be said that the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. This must be something in the motive, something which influences the will; a principle within, which pervades the affections and is the living spring of all the character.
It is with such a spirit as this, that the love of the world is irreconcilable ; by which appears to be intended, in one word, worldly mindedness. By ibe love of God is meant such an affection as makes a reference to him the ruling principle and motive. Consequently by love to the world can be meant, nothing less than that devotedness to the world, which makes a reference to it the ruling principle and motive; that is, nothing less than worldly mindedness.
For it cannot be pretended that every degree of attachment to the world, is inconsistent with the love of God, or true piety, and therefore to be avoided as sinful. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; and a man may be religiously attached to it, as displaying the glory of his Maker, It has been to him the scene of many blessings; and he may therefore love it as part of his Father's house. In the world, too, are included its inhabitants; our parents, children, relatives, friends ; and certainly natural affection is not opposed to piety. It is true, there is some very strong prohibitory language on this point. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and bretbren, and sisters, and his own life also, be cannot be my disciple.” But it is universally allowed that such strong expressions cannot be received literally; but must mean precisely what is meant when our Lord says, “ He who loveth father or mother more than me, is not wortby of me.” The affection is not condemned, but the degree of it; extravagant, unreasonable affection. So where his apostle speaks of " lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God," he inplies not the sinfulness of every pleasure, but the wickedness of its excess. So also, the love of the world is condemned, not absolutely, but comparatively; it is condemned because it interferes with the love of God, that is, just so far as it interferes.
The doctrine of indifference to the world, must not be carried to a gloomy and superstitious excess. Certainly neither reason nor religion demand of us to renounce any thing of the world, except its sins; and accordingly our Lord's prayer for his disciples was, “ I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil.” Indifferent to it we should be, so far as not to place our dependence upon it for happiness, so that we can bear its changes cheerfülly, and feel the denial of its pleasures no oppressive evil, and can give up all, and still find that our most valuable possessions are left us. For if mere worldly good is essential to our peace; if our pleasures become dissipation, and unfit us for duty; if our bibles are unopened, our closets unvisited, our bearts unexamined, and our future existence an unwelcome thought ; then we love the world too well, and are too much absorbed in things temporal. But we do not love it too well, so long as religious duties are a pleasure, and christian privileges dear to us.
But we are not to be enquiring how near we can go to the borders of the forbidden land, and yet be safe. It is no wisdom to be nourishing the utmost attachment to the world which is allowable. We shall naturally have enough ; the real danger is, that we shall have too much ; for there is nothing which so easily runs to excess. Our affections will readily enough be set on things below; our duty is to prevent their being absorbed there, and to place them on things above. Let us remember then; that there is an attachment to them wholly incompatible with a religious character. Devotion to the world leaves no room for devotion to God. Worldly mindedness must and will destroy piety. In the nature of things, they are opposed to each other. All sin, of whatever kind it be, has its origin in the undue influence of the world; all temptations spring from the power which present scenes have over the mind; and there is no reason why faith is weak, and piety cold, and virtue irresolute, except this influence of the world. If we were in the midst of things eternal, as we are of things temporal, and they pressed directly upon our senses as these do; then our thoughts would be filled with them, our hearts devoted to them, our lives consecrated to them. Our alienation from them now, is owing to the more importunate presence of sensual things, in many respects more welcome to imperfect beings, which crowd away the objects of faith. This is the Ner Series.-vol. I.