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sense, this obedience is evangelical,—this service is acceptable unto God.
It is not difficult then, if we have right views of the doctrinal system of Christianity, and of the nature of true virtue, to trace the connexion between them, and the dependence of the latter upon the former. Were Christianity barely preceptive, as many conceive it to be, its connexion with true goodness would be, indeed, obscure and remote; since the imposition of an qutward rule has no power to secure the affections, without whose concurrence there can be no acceptable goodness.-Equally unproductive of legitimate virtue would Christianity be, were it barely speculative, or designed to enlighten the mind of man respecting the perfections of God and our duty to him; since, in this disharmony of our being, the affections, by which the moral state must always be determined, may go counter to the clearest lights of reason and conscience. But thus to conceive of Christianity, is to misapprehend its peculiar nature and design.: Rightly viewed, it is less a disclosure of the mind of God to the mind of man, than an overture from the heart of God to the heart of man. It is not so much preceptive or speculative, as it is affective, addressed to the feelings of the heart, and designed to bring them, by a direct appeal, into accord with the rule of reason and conscience, or the will of God.
If now the doctrines of Christianity hold so conspicuous a place, and exert so important an influence in the economy of redemption, it is certainly right that they should be regarded with the most intense interest. Indifference to them, is indifference to the moral and religious welfare of man. Evangelical truth, with the attendant divine influences, supply that unknown remedy for human ills, which the an- . cient sage expected, in obscure presentiments, from the gods, after proving the inefficacy of the restraints of reason and of
* This remark we think true, when applied to Christianity as exhibited in the Holy Scriptures, not perhaps to Christianity as learned from books of systematic divinity. Even the doctrine of the Trinity, often treated in theological systems as if intended merely to disclose something about the mode of the divine existence, has nothing of this abstract and speculative cast in the inspired records of revelation. What is there said of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is obviously designed to teach us, not so much their mysterious relation to each other, as their relation to us in the economy of redemption, for the sake of inspiring our minds with gratitude and love to God, and with confidence and joy in him, as our Redeemer and Sanctifier.
law, of the influences of philosophy and the arts. Human wisdom and benevolence have devised many expedients by which the malady of our nature has been mitigated, but none by which the seat of the evil has been reached. reserved for the divine wisdom and love to provide for a radical renovation of man; and this provision is the Gospel. And just in proportion as human philanthropy becomes enlightened as to the means of effecting its ends, will it pass by the feeble devices of a worldly charity, and lay hold upon the doctrines of the Gospel, as the surer instruments of a more comprehensive usefulness. In proportion as benevolent men enter into the counsel of God respecting our race, the business of doing good will become simplified in their view, and lie more and more in the one point, of bringing the doctrines of Christianity to bear most powerfully and extensively upon the human heart.
There have always been those, ever since Christianity was first published to the world, to whom the evangelical system of faith, as here described, has appeared to weaken the sense of moral obligation, and to be subversive of all vir
-men of a pharasaical spirit, of philosophical pride, or of a merely moral interest. Of the latter and better class, Pelagius is the most distinguished representative.
" He was,” says Neander, “of a serious, conscientious cast of character. It was his object to arouse men from their moral stupidity, and to excite them to the fulfilment of the commands held up before them." But instead of making use of the doctrines of the Gospel,--the means divinely appointed for this end, he came out in opposition to the evangelical scheme, as endangering the cause of practical piety." He knew no better way for promoting virtue, than to point out the falsity of the excuses drawn from the natural weakness and corruption of human nature,--to show what power for goodness lies in human nature itself;—how all evil flows only from the free-will of man ;-that he can never plead for his justification, that he is borne away by an irresistible power, but that it always depends equally upon himself to do either good or evil.-His favourite theme, the one on which he spoke oftenest and most impressively, was, the moral powers with which human nature has been endued by the Creator.— The great thing with Pelagius was sincere moral effort,-a practical Christianity, exemplifying the ideal moral standard contained in the commands and counsels of Christ,
but not taken in connexion with the fundamental nature of the whole doctrine of the Gospel."*
How many are there, professing to believe the Gospel and to labour for it, by whom its most essential features are thus dimly seen! Of such persons it might be asked, whe
, ther their cold, preceptive, legal system, is not that very thing which the apostle Paul opposed, as incapable of giving spiritual life? Whether, in the conversion of men to God, it is not with the heart that the business lies ?-if conversion does not consist in gaining over the heart from its enmity, lifting it above the depression of slavish fear, and winning it back to friendship and fellowship with God?' And if this be so, whether it seems to them, that the heart, so quick to recoil from every rude access, but so open to kindly influence,--s0 obstinate in resistance to violence, but so yielding to tenderness, be more likely to be gained by legal claims and denunciations, than by the gracious overtures of the Gospel ? Or, looking to facts, it might be inquired of them, where, and under what influences, the most deep, pure, and energetic piety has been found to exist ? And if it has not ever been seen, that whatever temporary and apparent success may attend other methods, it is by means of evangelical doctrine alone, that the cause of true godliness is permanently advanced? Of such as are Christians in reality, as well as in name, it might be further inquired, to what they owe that improved condition in which they themselves are, --whence sprung that love and gratitude by which their hearts are filled, and their lives are governed ? "Received ye the Spirit by the deeds of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?"
Let us revert, now, for a moment to the objection before mentioned, against the interest manifested by some in the maintenance of the system of evangelical truth. It must be obvious that this interest can be regarded as at variance with that for practical religion, by those only who hold the Pelagian notion just described, and in whose views Christian doctrine is severed from its inherent connexion with vital godliness. No others certainly could deem it a matter of little concern what form of doctrine is believed and inculcated, or ever think that the cause of God may be carried forward by any other method of influence, than that which
Neander’s Allgemeine Geschichte der christ. Rel. und Kirche, Vol. ii. Pt. ii. Translated in Prof. Robinson's Bib. Rep.
his own wisdom has devised, and which he has always owned by making it efficacious to the salvation of men.
There are many Christians who are cherishing highraised expectations that better times are in reserve for the Church, and that we are on the very eve of a brighter day. In these hopes we joyfully participate. At the same time we must believe that they will be realized, only through the increased influence of the same truths by which the life of the Church has ever been sustained. If piety is ever again to appear in its original simplicity, loveliness and power, it will be only through the more pure and efficacious exhibition of the doctrines of faith. If the boundaries of the Church are to be more widely extended, it will be only through the wider diffusion of those same doctrines in which its deep foundations are laid. To look for the revival and spread of undefiled religion, except through the influence of the pure truth, would be to expect a harvest without the sowing of seed, or day without the sun.
There would seem, then, to be devolved upon Christians of the present day, in accordance with their larger hopes, a higher duty in behalf of the doctrines of the Gospel, upon which the whole advancement of religion depends. Our present circumstances of encouragement and
promise, instead of abating the interest of Christians in the fundamental articles of their faith, ought to raise it to an unwonted elevation; lest through the subversion of the truth, their hopes should after all be disappointed. The great system of Christian faith ought now to be more thoroughly studied, more diligently taught, more strenuously defended, than ever before, as directly tending to the universal revival of religion, and the anticipated millenial period.
The times in which we live demand a more thorough study of the doctrines of our religion, than Christians have been accustomed to bestow upon them. It would not be strange if the faith once delivered to the saints, in being transmitted through so many ages, and subjected to the ordeal of so many philosophies, should have received some human additions, and have lost some of its original elements. These redundancies must be removed, and these defects supplied, by a strict comparison of the received faith with the only infallible standard of doctrine,-the Holy Scriptures before the pristine energies of Christianity can be again exerted. VOL. I.
To recover the primitive, apostolic faith should be, then, the great endeavour with those who hope to see the primitive spirit of Christianity revived in the Church, and who would most effectually contribute to its revival. In order to this end, their resort must be, first of all, to the Bible. Any professed theological reform which does not begin in a more thorough and devout
study of the Holy Scriptures, is to be greatly suspected. This study, however, to be of any advantage, must not be prosecuted with the design of engrafting our preconceived opinions upon the Bible, or of placing our system upon divine authority ; but simply for the sake of learning, from the original and inspired records of our religion, what Christianity is.*—Next in importance to the study of the Bible, and conducive to the same end, is the study of Doctrinal History. If there is a department of Theology,
а which more than any other needs to be cultivated, and which more than any other promises great results, it is that of Doctrinal History. This study alone can inform us, both what are the grand essentials of doctrine in which all Christians have agreed, and also how much of our received system of faith may have been derived from the corrupting influence of the various philosophies and modes of thinking, which have attached themselves to Christianity.-There is still another point which deserves the attention of those who would obtain a complete knowledge of the Christian faith. It has often been remarked that we see, at the present day, but little of that thorough-going consistency of opinion which characterized our older divines and theologians. In the views of many, one part of the Christian system is unduly magnified, another greatly obscured, or entirely omitted, and different parts are totally contradictory to each other. This partiality, disproportion, and inconsistency of
. opinion, by which the symmetry of truth is marred, and its whole effect injured, can be obviated only by a more scientific
* It is a circumstance most auspicious to the cause of truth, that the critical study of the Bible does not necessarily lead the student, as heretofore, into the dangerous region of German rationalism, through which bow few have passed unharmed! The pious and enlightened zeal of Tholuck, Hengstenberg, Olshausen, and their confederate reformers, is rapidly furnishing Institutes of Interpretation, Commentaries, and a complete hermeneutical apparatus, of equal or superior learning to those which have been in use among us, wbile they are włolly disinfected of rationalism, and infused with a warm, evangelical spirit. The translation of these into English is a great desideratum.---The rising repute, republication, and extensive circulation of Calvin's Commentaries, is another indication of the better tendency beginning to prevail.