Images de page

which the endlessly various combinations of those influences will develop—these things duly considered might compel the conclusion, that if he does communicate to mankind any instructions as to the mode in which his truth is to be dealt with, and how best it may be brought in contact with the hearts of rebels, there must be consequences dependent upon our obedience to those instructions, of infinitely larger moment than we are able to comprehend. That haste of ours which, from a knowledge that sinners have been and are brought home to God by instrumentalities within the pale of the establishment, leaps to the conclusion that so long as gospel truth be exhibited, it matters little upon what system of means, is a haste which neither reason nor religion can commend. It is sternly rebuked by the fact that a system of means has been ordained by God, and bears upon it the stamp of “So I will it.' Why did he give it, why set his seal upon it, if it imported little to the interests of our race? What, if in the feebleness of our minds, we cannot, after even the most intense and protracted gazing, catch sight of the reasons which justify the divine choice, nor imagine how any deviation from his prescribed method can diminish the intrinsic efficacy of christian doctrine, does it become our ignorance to infer that He, the all-wise, acted, in this respect, unlike himself? Is it not more seemly, more in tone with the intelligent veneration which should distinguish his worshippers, to take it for granted that every act of the Supreme is but an outward shape into which his wisdom has passed-is the bodying forth of his unspeakable goodness? and that the act proclaims the God? And although it may be very far beyond the compass of our thoughts to determine the pitch of moral power which christianity might by this time have attained had God's plan for exhibiting and enforcing it been uninterruptedly adhered to—what triumphs it might have achieved over human ignorance and depravity-to what extent it might have assimilated to itself the various institutions of society, or in what degree called out the energy of spiritual character; we are able in some measure to interpret the records of the past, and by the light of history to read the lesson, worthy of being deeply pondered, that no ordinance of the church's Head can be set aside without entailing the most lamentable consequences upon mankind. That some souls, perhaps many, have been reclaimed to holiness by the agency of a church which deliberately tramples upon one of Christ's laws, is only one more illustration, added to the ten thousand others, of his exuberant mercy, which will sometimes break through all the obstructions of our disobedience to accomplish his ever benevolent designs—but assuredly it does not warrant us in casting an imputation upon

the wisdom of his appointments. In the terrible influence everywhere exerted by the compulsory system upon ministerial character, in the prevalence of nominalism-in the desolating ravages of infidelity-we have a deplorable set off against the amount of good which has been done in connection with establishments. All things considered, we have small reason for regarding as a matter of secondary and trivial importance the mode in which the truth as it is in Jesus' is brought to bear upon a lapsed and ruined world.

Now we beg to put it in all seriousness to the class of ohjectors for whom our remarks are especially intended, whether it be or be not, in their judgment, a duty binding upon all devout christians, to adhere with conscientious and scrupulous obedience to the method revealed by God for promulgating his own truth. We ask them whether the neglect of that duty be not sin—whether the erasure of it from the code of christian ethics be not presumption-and whether that sin and that presumption do not draw after them a train of moral results such as every enlightened friend of religion must deeply deplore. But do they not see that forth from these admissions there leaps a fire to consume their own sophistries? Will they defend that mode of preaching the gospel, which avowedly and of set purpose refuses to enforce one of its most solemn duties? Are men ignorant in this matter—who is to enlighten them, save those who are themselves enlightened? Are they wilfully blind —who is to rebuke them but the simple-hearted and the conscientious ? What partial anti-nomianism is this which, like a one-sided paralysis, seizes upon the church of Christ, and in reference to one whole sphere of doctrine and of discipline, destroys it vitality? Does it then belong to us to select, out of the whole circle of duties which christianity imposes, those which we will enforce, and those upon which we will maintain a studied silence? Where drunkenness is prevalent, is any disciple of our Lord at liberty, under the pretence of preaching Christ crucified,' to disclaim all intention of denouncing the sin of inebriety? When lust runs riot, entangling its myriads, is it for him to decline all reference to the obligations of chastity? Why, in any case, is it given him to overcome temptations by which others have fallen? Why is he favoured with clearer views of what truth requires of him than other men ? Is he not a steward ? Does not he hold every advantage in trust? Can he, consistently with his relationship to his fellow-probationers, and to Him who has provided grace for both himself and them, decide that he will leave the world in hopeless error, so far as his own exertions are concerned, and see it delnded by a lie which he can expose, but will not ? If this may be done in reference to one of the duties which we owe to Christ, why not to all? If we may impose silence upon ourselves in respect of one glaring act of disobedience, why not of all ? Surely this maimed exposition of divine truth cannot be that 'foolishness of preaching' by which the world is to be saved.

And what is it, we would further ask, that the world wants ? Why does it lie prostrate under the power of a moral sickness which breaks out in loathsomeness over the whole surface of society? Why is its countenance ploughed up with the wrinkles of distress? Why roll its restless eyes, and heaves its labouring bosom? Is it not after truth-heaven-given truth? Can this be given it in too great abundance ? Is it not this which will purge it of every grosser humour, and send a new and bounding life through all its veins? To our view there is a fulness of significance in the apostle's declaration, “The whole creation groaneth and travelleth in pain together until now . . . . waiting for the adoption. Behold the wide desolation caused by disobedience to God's moral government! See how the deadly poison which has wrought our ruin permeates the whole frame of society, and perverts the choicest gift of paternal love, into the heaviest and most afflictive evils ! Civil government, designed to defend the defenceless, and protect the weak from the aggressions of the strong, is it not, in almost every nation, the first to trample upon all human rights, the last to redress the real grievances of the poor? And the christian church itself, has not pride turned it into an engine of tyranny, and made it the instrument of intenser misery to mankind than any other institution under the sun? Slowly alas, but, thanks be to heaven, surely, does the work of regeneration go forward. Scantily as yet, fall the fertilising showers upon the scorched and gaping soil. Who can gaze upward into the moral firmament and see the clouds without water, carried about of winds,' without betraying emotions of passionate regret? Whence is it that men filled with the truth of God, resolve to retain it, or at least to let it fall in such niggard drops-in portions so nicely measured, that the soil can derive from it no strength to bring forth fruit ? Humanity, enervated and trembling under the operation of the curse, calls out for truth—for all truth which the Creator has vouchsafed to communicate for its advantage. Let those who have it beware how they hold it back! Theirs is but a weak and worthless faith that fears to publish in every ear, what God has spoken in theirs. They know little of the power of right principles who hesitate to proclaim and enforce them, lest in doing so they should do more harm than good. Let them rest assured that the social system will absorb, by a process more or less rapid, all that knowledge of the divine will which christians can impart. They cannot overdo their work. Their labours are not likely, for some time to come, to overtake the evil which requires them. What they know, therefore, it were well that they dispersed with liberal hand. All times should be with them the time of sowing—all truths derived from scripture, the seed to be scattered. Let them pour out of every kind, in imitation of that benevolence which bas blessed them with every kind! Wherever error reigns, thither should they carry the truth which will confound and overturn it.

One more consideration we submit to the notice of the candid, and with it we shall close the present argument. It is not a little remarkable that not a single promise of the divine blessing is extended to the sagacious management of the trust committed to us. No stress is laid in Scripture upon the importance of exercising a prudent forethought as to the effects likely to follow from the exhibition of truth. No intimation is given of the necessity of a far-seeing statesmanship in our attempts to rid the world of error. We are cautioned against leaning to our own understanding—we are commanded to be fools that we may be wise-we are told that 'this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. The cautious suppression of any portion of the divine mind, dictated by whatever motive, can fall back for encouragement upon no promise, no pledge, with which Christ has condescended to bless his church. To honesty of purpose, to the courage which braves all shame, to simple-hearted reliance upon the power of God's word, to industry, perseverance, fortitude, zeal, there are assurances given upon which they may confidently lean in the darkest hour of difficulty and danger-to policy, none whatever. Were any one of those who counsel silence and inaction in regard to the spirituality of the Redeemer's kingdom, called to account before his heart-searching Master for this feature of misconduct, what direction contained in the New Testament could he offer as a valid plea. He thought, looking at the present position of parties, and at the anomalous state of society in this empire, that an earnest exhibition of particular truths would peril the safety of evangelical religion. But where did he find written in his commission an injunction to regulate his duties by such considerations? Who devolved upon him the management of events? Who bade him consult the clouds before he sowed ? Who required it at his hands that he should be weather-wise and understanding in times and seasons ? That which he had freely received, he might with a clear conscience have freely given. What, now, is his answer? What can it be? Whereas, for proclaiming the truth which is in him, he has sure warrant. The very fact that he has something God-given in his heart, is his commission to preach it to the world. That the world turns away from it is proof strong enough that the world specially needs it. And it is precisely to those who, in the discharge of their duty, are likely to be involved in perplexities and perils, that the promise of assistance from on high is graciously extended. The simplicity which speaks—'whether men will hear or whether they will forbear,'—the fidelity which will not allow sin to sleep unmolested, -the courage which walks forth for God, heedless whether there be or be not 'a lion in the way'— the faith which 'frets not itself in anywise to do evil-these are qualities in the christian disciple which can always reach high enough to pluck a blessing from the tree of revelation. But wariness ending in defeat, where will it find consolation ? Whither will it turn for support? What cordial has Scripture to administer to disappointed foresight, or to mistaken sagacity? The answer to these questions—for they admit of but one answer,-is full of significance. It implies that the real vocation of christians is to proclaim the truth, not to reserve it—to bear witness, not to play the advocate-to give what they have received, not to hoard it against future exigences. And the conclusion which we thus gather from the tenor of divine revelation, experience has amply confirmed--for the church of Christ may in every instance trace her best and richest acquisitions to the foolishness' of those who would not and could not hold their peace, even when the world was up in arms against them. The laurels belong not to the brows of skilful statesmanship-and, certainly, the history of the progress of God's truth on earth justifies in this, as in other respects, the humbling inquiry of the apostle, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world ? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?'

The foregoing remarks may, possibly, beget in some minds, for the first time, a suspicion that a resolute determination to stand aloof from all attempts to sever the connexion between church and state can hardly be based upon enlightened piety. In some cases, we fear, men have admitted the conclusion, as an opiate, to ease the twinges of an upbraiding conscience. In other, and, we hope, the great majority of, instances, the conviction has been produced, as erroneous convictions usually are, by looking exclusively at one side of the question. It is with this latter class that we have now especially to deal. We have endeavoured to meet their objections, and in doing so, we have marked out the grounds upon which our own decision rests. If, in the conduct of our argumen

we have turned up a single thought worth further consideration-one in which truth seems to glitter, as grains of precious metal in the ore,—we intreat

« PrécédentContinuer »