Page images
PDF
EPUB

-a mind, heart, and spirit assimilated to that of Christ is the highest essential of his religion, and unspeakably raised above doctrinal correctness, right belief, logical accuracy, or what is termed an orthodox faith.

Such, then, are the three distinct answers which may be returned to the question of, What are the essentials of Christianity? According as we view it as consisting of the series of facts embodied in the life of Christ, or as teaching one benevolent Deity, the source of all blessing, the Father of the human race, forgiving their sins on repentance, training them by the discipline of life, giving them light, and motive, and direction, to conduct them

up the ascent of virtue, and so leading them through eternity; or, Christianity may be regarded as man's ideal of the excellence he should seek, of the temper he should cultivate, of a truthful and honest mind, obeying the truth already realised, and open to receive more.

To some, all this may appear more systematic and ingenious than true; and they will ask, is this taught in Scripture? Is it countenanced by the authoritative and authentic records of Christianity? We venture to answer in the affirmative. The whole of the four Evangelists, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles, may be referred to in proof of our first idea of Christianity. The facts of the life of Christ are essential. There could be no Christianity without them. He who has these, has, in this sense, the essentials. The Evangelists give their testimony to the facts which fell under their observation -those instructive facts which Providence has sent forth on a mission to enlighten and purify the human race. The preaching of Peter in the Acts, is only a reciting of the facts of Christ's life, with their natural commentary of personal appeal, moral exhortation, and the stirring call to the great duties of life, which these facts afforded. Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection, everywhere. Christ's life, then, is the essence of Christianity.

In proof of the other two views which we have offered of the essentials of our religion, we shall, for the sake of brevity, refer at present to only two distinct testimonies of Scripture. The first is contained in Luke (x. 42), “ One thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her.” What is it that is here declared by Jesus to be needful or essential? There is no reference to any doctrinal views in the context; there is no enumeration of speculative principles which she had received, clenched with the distinct affirmation, that they are to be held without doubt, whole and undefiled, on pain of perishing everlastingly--nothing of all this. It is not the correctness of Mary's faith that is commended, and singled out for commendation, and contrasted with the bustling officiousness and well-meant kindness of her sister; but it is, we conceive, her simple and truth-loving disposition, by which she sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.” It is the Christian temper of humility, meekness, and thirsting after the wisdom that is from above; it is a mind open to pure and holy influences, from whatever direction they may come, whether from the history of human excellence, the outspread volume of the divine works, the whisperings of conscience within us, the influence of our human and social relations of neighbour, friend, brother, parent, or patriot-from the pointings of Providence in the conduct of human affairs, or from the recorded wisdom and recorded example of those who have gone before us, into whose labours we enter, that we may carry on their work. Simplicity and sincerity of mind, are the objects of Christ's approval.

The second passage of Scripture which we shall reason from, is Mark xii. in which are contained, directly, or by implication, all the truths which we have referred to as essential doctrines of Christianity. At the 28th verse, a Jewish teacher comes forward to ask Christ a question, very like what we have proposed to ourselves here to answer:-“ Which is the first commandment of all?" said he; What is the essential of religion? as if he had said. « Then Jesus answe

wered, The first of all the command. ments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” The unity of God is here, so is his goodness: “ Thon shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” &c. verse 30. He must, then, be worthy of our human trust and love. This is the first commandment. We could not be called to love a being who has made no provision for our happiness, who is indifferent to our well-being, who has abandoned the creatures of his power, and rules them by no providence, and calls them into life for no end worthy of himself and of rational existence; or who has made the conditions of salvation such, that the sincere and honest-minded may err therein, or the truthful and expanding intellect may wander therefrom. The same law of religion, which defines our duty by the obedience of love—the heart's repose on God—implies the moral perfection of the Creator. The God whom we are to love with heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, is himself the God of love. And can we doubt that this again draws after it the principle of free forgiveness, when we repent and turn from sin? Can benevolence, and the love of holiness, and the desire that all men should come unto repentance, and to the rest of faith, and to the peace of hope, and to the bliss of love, and to the freedom of truth,—be other than essential, spontaneous, and unprompted by any extrinsic agency in the high Being whom we are called to love, trust, reverence, and obey ? We have said, that the moral doctrine of Christianity, or its law of love, was a grand characteristic, an essential. We find it also here, in the words of Christ (verse 31), “ The second is like, namely this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Love is the Christian law; not only like for like, good for good, far less evil for evil, or the spirit of retaliation and revenge; but that spirit of love in which the Creator himself is blessed, as he presides in high authority and ever-bountiful providence over all creation; that spirit which bears, and forbears, and forgives, and still hopes the best, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. And the brotherhood of man is here also. He is our neighbour and our fellow-man, however removed in distance, separated by climate or complexion; or yet more parted asunder, by sectarian difference, class interest, prejudice, or diversity of taste and education. The supremacy of holiness or moral obedience, is here emphatically stated by the Jewish teacher, in a manner which drew forth Christ's approval (verse 33), “ To love God with all the heart, and understanding, and soul, and strength; and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” This is the true sacrifice, the moral sacrifice, even the devotement of the heart to the love of God and the service of man. Verse 34, “ When Jesus

saw that he had answered discreetly, he said unto him,
Thou art not far from the kingdom of God;" that king-
dom which, in its highest sense, is within us, which is
begun in the repentance from dead works, and advances
in the brightening path of holiness more and more, and
shall be carried yet higher in that kingdom where all
that is
pure and lovely shall grow

and endure for ever.

A. M.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

THE MATERIALISM OF ORTHODOXY: A DISCOURSE.

BY WILLIAM MACCALL. “ God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit

and in truth."-John iv. 24. If we bad not this declaration directly from the lips of Jesus, we should still be compelled, by all that we know of the Divine nature and the human soul, to admit the teaching that it embodies. Religion, divested of the errors that have dimmed its brightness and paralysed its power, is the spontaneous reverence which the consciousness offers to an invisible agency with which it is instinctively brought into communion. It is not the perception of creative energy or of creative guidance in the universe, that excites the feeling of devotion. That perception may maintain, and expand, and animate the feeling; but it cannot create it. The feeling arises, not from outward suggestions, but from self-analysis and self-appreciation. The moment that we discover that there is something in our being that we cannot grasp-an infinite beyond the finite in our capacities and sentiments; the moment that we discover this, we lay the foundations of the temple in which our future worship is to be given. It is the inner man that indicates to our gaze the first fresh footsteps of the Deity. If we could explain the mysteries relating to ourselves that contemplation exhibits, we could never be brought to believe that there were mysteries anywhere else. The unknown that stands in our heart by the side of the known, the incomprehensible by the side of the understood, the metaphysical by the side of the logical; these, from their very dimness, are pregnant with revealings; because they awaken the necessary conviction, that what we cannot know, comprehend, or analyse, and which is yet included in our personal existence, must be some

[ocr errors][merged small]

thing grander than ourselves, and therefore worthy of our veneration. If we could seize and employ this portion of our mind, as we seize and employ its more ordinary and practical portions, it would cease to be unknown, incomprehensible, metaphysical; it would therefore cease to be wonderful, and, by an obvious consequence, it would cease to be venerable. For mystery is the parent of wonder, and wonder of reverence, and reverence of piety. Our earliest astonishment at something inexplicable in our thinkings, is thus our earliest homage to the Eternal. It is the recognition of a principle that we cannot definitely picture in idea, or definitely express in speech. Now, all this process of introspection, by which we arrive at the conception of a God, is a spiritual process,we feel it, we know it to be such, as intuitively as we feel and know the process itself. When we commence to reflect, we easily see that reflection is not carried on by the same material modes and mechanism by which we unfold our individuality as a moulding and a moulded power to the material world. Sense, and the instrument of sense, do not here suffice. They are too slow, local, and limited in their activity and influences, to account for the result which, at a subsequent period of our mental history, we call thought. What more obvious, what more just, then, than that this element of our constitution, which unpausing experiences inform us to be essentially different from its physical element, should be so considered by us, and honoured with a different appellation? It signifies little what that appellation is; whatever term we use, characterises something purer, nobler, more etherial than matter. Name it spirit-name it anything you please, there is scarcely any point of resemblance between it and the gross vehicle by which it assumes a tangible shape. Spiritualism and materialism will ever remain antagonist facts in the beliefs of men, and even in the beliefs of those who battle speculatively for what they denominate materialism. A persuasion will ever insensibly blend itself with the other persuasions that rise up in the mental growth of the individual—a persuasion that he is endowed with a real vitality superior to, distinct from, all apparent vitalities, such as his corporeal frame, or any other foreign objects which have a semblance of life,

« PreviousContinue »