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tolic commission in this sense, the question is, How shall we most effectually promote the cause of truth and the kingdom of Christ? I say, by association, by joining with those who are nearest to us in theological or ecclesiastical position; by connecting ourselves with that one of the various ecclesiastical bodies for which, on the whole, we have the strongest affinity, although our affinity with it may be very imperfect, as in the case of a free and original mind it always must be. Even Paul was obliged to do this at last. He either could not, or from conscientious conviction would not, maintain to the end the position of uncompromising individuality with which he began. Compare the Epistle to the Galatians with the later Epistles, and see the change. He was stronger than any one of his Christian contemporaries ; but the Church, combined, was stronger than he, and swept him in.
Christianity is once for all committed to churches and sects and organizations. That is a foregone decision, which we cannot reverse if we would. And the action and success of Christianity, at any given time, must depend on the vigor, the soundness, and prosperity of the various sects which represent Christianity at that time. Such being the case, it seems to me the duty of every one, who has the cause of Christianity at heart, to throw the weight of his influence into that denomination of Christians with which he can best adjust himself, and in which he can work with the best faith, to the best effect; to incorporate himself with it, to become an organic part of it, and, by sympathetic coaction, to give it all the impulse, aid, and support in his power.
As a sect, we want concentration, sympathy, the organic strength which comes from a common feeling and a common aim. I would that all the nominal members of our body might realize and make good their membership by frank consent and hearty coöperation. In our limited connection, we cannot spare one voice or heart or hand that might fairly be claimed as ours. And with us there is less excuse for standing aloof from the body to which we properly belong, than there is in other communions, from the fact that we impose no formulas or confessions of faith, and that those who belong to us by general sympathy and agreement of VOL. LI. -4th S. VOL. XVI. NO. I.
views need not be repelled by dissent on minor points, and are not required to do violence to their convictions, in coöperating with a sect with no one of whose members, perhaps, they entirely agree. This absence of formulas is another important advantage which we possess, and which, if we are wise, we shall not rashly abandon. We lose nothing by want of uniformity. The truths of the Gospel will shape themselves differently to different minds. They gain no additional value or power by being grouped into creeds; as the stars are no brighter, and no more, for being mapped and constellated into those arbitrary figures which a plain man is puzzled to make out after he is told that they are there. Besides, we must not falsify our history; we must not act unhistorically, on pain of losing our real significance, and forfeiting a characteristic principle, without any certainty of an adequate compensation for so doing.
But while we avoid dogmatic impositions, let us gather more closely and unitedly around those ideas which we hold in common, and which we are called to represent; offering a solid, serried front to error and
pretence in the Church and in the world. I have no faith in any measures or devices for creating a union and a sympathy which do not exist. But I would we might so ponder our place and calling, as to feel ourselves drawn into nearer communion and closer polity, and more effective action; and have a consciousness waked up in us which has not yet been.
We, brethren, as ministers, have a duty in this matter, beyond our special sphere and our daily work. We owe a duty to the time, to the Church Universal, above all, to the truth; a threefold duty, as old Melancthon defined it to the Clerus of his day. The ministers of the Gospel, he says, God has chosen to be the "keepers of the prophetic and apostolic books and the true doctrines of the Church." " Quare diligentiam et fidem, in re omnium maxima, Deo, ecclesiæ, et posteritati præstemus. Veritatem inquiramus, amemus, tueamur.”
NOTICES OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS.
The Creed of Christendom; its Foundations and Superstructure.
By WILLIAM Rathbone Greg. London: John Chapman. 1851. 8vo. pp. xx. and 307.
This book is compounded of Strauss's Life of Jesus, and Parker's Discourse of Religion. It is more plausible, attractive, and dangerous than either, the absurdity of the former being somewhat modified by the leaven of Anglo-Saxon good sense, and the irreverence of the latter kept under the control of a purer taste and a more respectful deference to the religious sensibilities of Christians. But it is no less than either an embodiment of complete and destructive infidelity. In its details it not only shuns originality, but is composed in a great measure of express quotations, of which the two above-named writers furnish a conspicuous portion. In its aggregate, it displays great ingenuity and no mean modicum of talent; for its method is comprehensive, its discussion exhaustive, and its arrangement eminently adapted to cloak its fallacies and to give point to its reasonings. The author commences with the easy task of demolishing the untenable dogma of plenary verbal inspiration. In treating of the various modifications of this doctrine, he wholly ignores the theory towards which rational believers of all Christian sects are rapidly gravitating, - that which regards the Scriptures as the authentic record of a series of Divine reve. lations. He next assails the credibility of the Old Testament, depriving it of the support which it receives from its connection with the Christian religion and Scriptures, and laying chief stress on those deficiencies in its external evidence which necessarily result from the remote antiquity of its authorship, and from the non-existence of such sources of proof as are available only for more recent records, but which are more than counterbalanced by the collective testimony of the Hebrew nation, and by internal marks of authenticity and divinity, such as can be “known and read of all men." His treatment of prophecy is singularly disingenuous. From the doubt that rests on the precise date of some of the prophetical writings, he argues, or rather affirms, that those which contain fulfilled predictions were all written subsequently to the events which they describe, though he proposes no solution, either for the adoption of the future tense in nar. ratives of the past, or for the admission of books so absurdly written to the most sacred place in a nation's reverence. He is silent with regard to the many existing monuments of fulfilled prophecy in the present condition of the Jews, of Tyre, of Idumæa, and of Babylon.
As to the New Testament, Mark and Luke are disqualified as witnesses to the life of Christ, because they were not Apostles, and Matthew and John on account of the long interval which elapsed between the death of Jesus and the composition of their Gospels ; though in fact the best critics assign to the Gospel of Matihew a date but little subsequent to the crucifixion. Then the slight discrepancies of the Gospels, which only prove their mutual independence, and thus their general authenticity, are drawn out in their fullest array and in artificially magnified forms, while the omissions of each of the Evangelists are held as conclusive evidence that the events recorded by the others never occurred. Great use is made of the different complexion of John's Gospel from that of the other three ; and we for the first time learn from this author, (it is almost the only original idea in his book,) that the narrative of the beloved disciple is “decid. edly inferior in moral sublimity and purity to the other representations of Christ's teachings which have come down to us”! The various tests of credibility applied by Mr. Greg to single events are such as might easily prove all history a fable. Supernatural narratives are suspicious ; for the biography of any illustrious person is prone to slide into the marvellous and the legendary. Incidents not strictly in keeping with our notions of what should have occurred are attended with an improbability which testimony cannot remove. Incidents in themselves probable are such as could hardly have failed to suggest themselves to the imagination of the writers, and we cannot, therefore, be sure that they had their counterpart in fact. Where time and place are distinctly marked, that very precision bears a legendary aspect in writers not literally journalists. Where time and place are not given, the authors of course were ignorant of the when and the where, and therefore could have had no accurate knowledge of the fact. Long discourses were too long to have been remembered, and consequently were fabrications. Short sayings are given with some verbal difference by the several Evangelists; and, as all the transcripts cannot be literally accurate, neither can be virtually so. John's Gospel is so filled with the phantasms of the special mission and the Divine Sonship of Jesus, as to be wholly unreliable. The other three Evangelists so manifestly fell short of a full appreciation of Christ's teachings, that it is difficult to say how far they are to be depended upon. Yet their narratives leave us no room to doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was a wise and a benevolent man, who like Socrates lived to make men better, and like him was martyr to a standard of theology and morality higher than that of his nation. The Apostles supposed that he rose from the
dead, and thought that they saw him, nor is it easy to explain their delusion ; but they, unlike our author, were not men of critical, inquiring, or doubting minds, nor accustomed to sift or scutinize testimony."
Christianity, then, is not a Divine revelation in any other sense than that in which Platonism is. The communication of truth from without, from above, is impossible. Innate truth alone can be believed. The only infallible gospel is that written on the heart, and that is its own sufficient evidence. Christianity is in part conformed to this native faith of the heart, and in part irration. al and incredible. The doctrines of the efficacy of prayer and of the remission of sin are pronounced absurd, and the Christian grounds of resignation are declared to be utterly unsubstantial.
his concluding chapter, the author goes beyond the range of revealed religion, to show the worthlessness of all the arguments which natural theology can offer in behalf of a future life, dogma which is left without any proof beyond the instinctive feeling that we shall live again.
It is, if we remember aright, in one of Smollett's novels, that a naval commander, left without a chaplain or a prayer-book at the opening of an engagement, offered the only form of prayer that he could recall to his memory, the chaplain's usual grace
before meat," " For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us thankful.” With as little seeming congruity, we can express our sincere thankfulness for this assault upon our Christian faith, and for several good and sufficient reasons.
1. In the first place, we are reminded how long it is since the canon of infidelity was closed. Unbelievers of our own day can find nothing new. This book contains not a single argument or objection which has not been refuted and vanquished time and time again. Meanwhile the mass of Christian evi. dence is increasing from age to age ; and every discovery of science, every added measure of knowledge, every new phasis of human experience, brings its contribution to illustrate the doctrines or accredit the records of our faith.
2. We deem it a ground for gratitude, that infidelity itself has grown reverent, and seeks shelter under the wings of Christianity. A sense of the beauty and majesty of Christ's character, and of the excellence of his teachings, has so pervaded the heart of civilized humanity, that it can no longer bear the ribaldry of the Voltaire and the Tom Paine school. Deists of the lowest grade, nay, very Pantheists, still cling to the name of Christian as “ the highest style of man.”
3. We are thankful for our author's admission, that, “in consequence of this view [i. e. his view] of Christianity, a future life becomes to us no longer a matter of positive knowledge, - a revealed fact, – but simply a matter of faith, of hope, of earnest desire; a