Изображения страниц
PDF

of the Woman. And if the Woman was first in the transgression, it is the seed of the Woman who bruises the Serpent's, head and accomplishes the salvation of Man. I beg you to reconsider the subject, and see if you cannot apportion a less share of degradation to Woman, who is at once the ornament and life of society; one with Man, as part of himself, and without whom M<in, Out pretended superior, would be a cheerless disconsolate creatttre^

"' Yours &c. >'• : .«i Mary.

Postscript., The Editor must enter bis Protest against the word "pretended" in the last sentence of his fair correspondent's letter, because it militates just as strongly against the language of scripture as it does against any thing that he has written! Whenever, therefore, Mary shall have adjusted her claims of superiority, or even of equality, with the doctrine of the apostles, Paul and Peter, the difference between her and the Editor will be easily settled. That a sensible woman may have sometimes married afool, he will not deny, but he is very certain that such an action ought not to be considered as any proof of her wisdom!^

To the Editor of the New Evangelical

Magazine.

MR,

In a recent conversation with

a.prpfessedSocinian, which turned

upon the guilt of sin, I could

not satisfactorily to my own mind

rebut the following reply made to

an argument adduced to prove the

infinitedemeritof moral evil. "If,"

said he," it be maintained that the

disobedience of man against God

is an infinite evil, or that infinite

demerit attends, sin became it is

committed against an infinite Being

—may it not, for the same reason,

be maintained, that the perfect

fccdience of a mere creature would

also possess infinite merit, because it is obedience to infinite majesty? And if so, the obedience and sufferings of Christ did not require one whose person is of infinite dignity and worth."

I shall be obliged to any of yourcorrespondents who will favor me with a solution of this apparent dilemma. G. B.

P. S. BY THE EDITOR.',.

We shall cheerfully insert any pointed and well written answer to this letter which may be sent us, having neither time nor room to go into the subject ourselves this month. We beg leave, however, in the mean time, to recommend to the serious consideration of our correspondent, Mr. M'Laurin's Essay on prejudices against the gospel (in his Sermons and Essays, p. 163, &c. 2nd edition.) where he will find this and other specious sophisms of the Socinians successfully combated.

Justice requires that we give every one his doe. Our souls and our bodiesare God's: the faculties of the one and the members of the other should be employed inhisservice. Sin robs God of his due, and turns his own workmanship against himself. The heinousness of any injury is usually measured by the dignity of the party offended by it. And on this is founded the obvious reasoning, that because the party offended by sin is infinite, an injury against him infinitely surpasses otbercrimes or injuries. As to the opposite point, viz. the obedience which is rendered to him, it may beobserved thatnomere creaturehowever perfect in his obedience, can merit at the hands of God. But it was necessary the substitute and representative of sinners should not only be holy,—there must be a fulness of righteousness in him adequate to the infinite wants of his redeemed people—and hence the necessity of his being more than man, which is the doctrine of the Scripture concerning Christ.

[ocr errors]

An Attempt to support the diversity of future rewards. London. Button and Son, pp. 64. 8vo. price 2s. stitched, 1817. This is an extraordinary pamphlet— extraordinary in more respects than one. The first thing that struck us, on taking it up, was the singular reserve and diffidence of its author; not merely in concealing his name, but in the pains he has evidently been at, to screen himself from detection. The style of his composition, too, is in strict conformity with the modesty of his title page. He seems to think with Gibbon that "the first of the pronouns is the most disgusting of the monosyllables ;" and therefore he has studiously avoided the use of it throughout his pamphlet. But unusual as these things are, if this " Attempt" had nothing of higher importance to entitle it to consideration, we should scarcely have thought of pronouncing it an extraordinary production. It is the ability with which it is written that deservedly entitles it to that appellation. Before we proceed, however, to give the reader any account of its contents, we must be indulged in another remark. We frankly confess that the author of it fairly took us by surprise. He speaks in the first page of the Preface, of his Essay having been "announced in several of the monthly publications." That may have been the case, but somehow or other it escaped our attention, and when it found its way into our hands, we took it up without the smallest prepossession, and indeed without any expectation of being much interested in it! It was chiefly as the amusement of a leisure hour that we entered upon the perusal of it; little apprehending that it was to he an hour of positive and refined enjoyment. But we had not made our way through more than a third of the pamphlet, of which every succeeding page encreased our interest in it, ere "busy, medling memory," hegan to muster up its recollections, and we at length paused to *ay, " These sentiments, which certainly are not common place, are not wholly new—we surely have heard them delivered no long time ago, from some pulpit; where eeuldit be

and who was the preacher?—he has been at considerable pains to conceal himself; but, ubi, ubi est, non potest diu celari! And the mystery was soon unravelled by a recollection of some admirable Sermons which we well remember to have heard from a country minister, delivered from the pulpit of the late Mr. Austin, in Tetter Ijane. This was the conclusion at which we arrived before we had got half way through the pamphlet, and the remainder of it had no tendency to shake our confidence therein. But as the author has stated his reasons for wishing to be unknown, (p. 6.) and as those reasons reflect great honour upon himself, it would be highly indecorous and quite unjustifiable in us to draw the curtain farther aside!

The subject on which this pamphlet is written, is one of those on which real Christians are differently minded; and which they certainly may be without detriment to their mutual charity. It is none of the first principles of the oracles of God; but it would be extremely absurd to infer from this, that correct and scriptural views of it, are of no importance to us in this world.

"Such is the intimate connexion between various parts of the divine records, that the new light through which one topic is accurately and clearly seen, very frequently illuminates another, which, till then, had been involved in great obscurity. But this, though no small benefit, is not the only one; nor the greatest. Success in one instance, excites to more strenuous exertions for obtaining increasingly correct views on every other subject; and by exercise the intellect is also prepared for new and higher attainments. In proportion as we acquire a contemplative habit, and an inquisitive turn of mind, we shall, in reading the scriptures,

"Range

Thro' provinces of thought yet unexplored.''

And, as we advance in our excursions, which may at first be very limited, we shall obtain both the desire and the capacity of commencing and prosecuting, with safety and success, a more extensive expedition of discovery, and of forming for our own satisfaction and the use of others, a map of some hitherto unknown part of this interesting territory, some undiscovered tract of these sacred regions."

Before he enters directly upon the proof of his point, namely, that "a diversity of reward will he apportioned to the saints in heaven," he anticipates and very properly obviates an objection which has frequently been started against considering the happiness of heaven under the idea of a reward, as though it militated against the doctrine of salvation by grace. Having evinced the fallacy of this objection, our author enters upon his task, and the first argument which he employs to establish the truth of his proposition is drawn from the analogy of the divine proceedings. This leads him to take a review of the conduct of the Divine Being both towards the world and the church. Having contemplated the dispensations of Providence towards the different nations of the world, as bestowing upon them that vast variety which exists in reference to soil and climate, civil and religious liberty, natural constitution and intellectual energy; he thus proceeds,

"In tracing the divine proceedings towards the church, the same "diversity of gifts" becomes conspicuous. This is visible in her internal formation, and external advantages. In the church, considered as a spiritual family, there are many relative characters; such as, babes, young men, and fathers; teachers and learners; rulers, and the ruled. Or if contemplated as a spiritual body, we shall perceive "many members." All is not the eye—not intellect; all is not the hand— not exertion; all is not the head—not authority; all is not the foot—not subjection."

"The same diversity is equally obvious in the bestowment of external advantages on the church. This is particularly the case in reference to ministerial instruction. In primitive times this was most conspicuous. "He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers." Thus also it is in these latter days of Christianity. The ascended Saviour is now giving to some of his churches, a Hall; to some, a Chalmers: to some, a Waugh; to some, a Mason. But, leaving a few individuals of this higher order, who in their contemplations seem to reside on the top of Pisgah, and in their public administrations, describe to their delighted hearers, in the most glowing colours, the immense and interesting scenery of the countries on each side Jordan; and descending, and observing, as we descend, those whose stations are appointed at different altitudes

on the sides of the mountain, whose views are more limited, and descriptions lets impressive; and coming down to the base, and surveying that numerous class which inhabits the valley, and whose prospects are bounded in almost every direction, but whose efforts to animate the weary traveller, by directing bis eye to the promised rest, and to excite others to go with them "to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you," are not overlooked by that gracious and condescending Being, who regards the bumble, and "has respect to the lowly;" and, on such a survey, it will be extremely obvious that the variety of ministerial talent conferred on the church now, is not much less than it was in apostolic times."

The author traces a similar analogy in the diversified degrees in which God manifests to his people his approbation of their conduct. Of the seven churches of Asia, no two of them were characterised alike or received the same commendation. Of Caleb and Joshua alone it is recorded that " they followed the Lord fully;' of Moses that "the Lord spake to him face to face as a man speaketh to his friend;" of David that" he was a man of God's own heart, &c.;" only Peter, James, and John were permitted to witness their Lord's transfiguration, and only the latter of thes« enjoyed the endearing familiarity of leaning on his masters bosom.

Another point of analogy which adds strength to the argument, is found in the degrees of punishment which await the enemies of God in a future state, agreeably to the doctrinelofChrist, Matt. xi. 2 L—24. Luke x. 18—15.

"Now, to sum up the preceding point* of analogy.—as the Divine Being bestows temporal favours on the world, and spiritual blessings on the church, in various portions,—and as be distinguishes some churches, and many individuals, by extraordinary testimonials in their favour, and that according to their christian attainments; is it not probable, that the same kind of conduct will be observed hereafter. And particularly, if different degrees of punishment will be inflicted on his enemies in another world, in proportion to their guilt in this, and in order to show his abhorrence of sin; is it not reasonable to conclude that he will treat his friends in a manner analogous with this, and for the purpose of evincing his love ofholiness."

The writer next proceeeds to argue the truth of the sentiment from tht great dmrtity of Christian exptmnu. It is true, as he justly observes, in relation to both our depraved and our renewed nature, that "as in water face answereth to face, so doth the heart of man to man." But this concession does not affect the truth of the premises which are restricted to the light and shade—the general cast of countenance—the diversified dispensations of Providence, &c. &c. and this kind of diversity is quite consistent with a general uniformity. He observes that a recollection of what we have already passed through, forms a medium and contrast by which our present circumstances and future prospects are greatly embittered or sweetened. IF a person by extravagance and vice, fall from affluence and honour into poverty and disgrace, the remembrance of his former dignity and enjoyment, and the manner in which he lost them, will aggravate his sufferings. On the other hand; if a man be raised from a state of poverty, obscurity and wretchedness, to riches, fame, and happiness, the recollection of his past distresses will heighten and sweeten his enjoyments. To be brought into " a wealthy place" is very grateful; but this, after having been " led through fire and water" is unspeakably more delightful.

"Now, is it not very natural to suppose that in the state of future blessedness —the.heavenly Canaan, wc shall remember all the way in which we have been led through the wilderness of this world, and that we shall he "glad according to the days wherein we have been afflicted, and the years wherein we have seen evil." Surely we shall acknowledge that we were "led by the right way, that we might go to the city of habitation." Bat this acknowledgement supposes the remembrance of what is acknowledged; otherwise it must be senseless and disingenuous formality. And these recollections will certainly have an influence on our happiness. The length and roughness of the way, the trials and difficulties of the journey, will sweeten the comforts of home;—the dangers which we have escaped, will add pleasure to our security; —the alarm* and fears with which we have been disturbed, will endear to us our "quiet habitation;" the conflicts which we have sustained, will sweeten our final and everlasting discharge from all the exertions and perils of warfare ;— the sufferings which we have endured, J»ill heighten our enjoyments;—the labours jn wbich wr have been engaged, *iH render repose the more refreshing;— •II the "prayers "and supplications," which, "withi strong crying and tears," "e have offered up to God, will add

transport to praise, melody and energy to the song of salvation ;—all the hardships, fatigues, and privations, the marches and counter-marches, the alternate failures and successes, attendant on a scene of perpetual contest, terminating in our being made "more than conquerors through him that hath loved us," will swell the shout of victory, and add honour, and happiness, and glory to the triumphant state;—looking back on this world, the wilderness which we have left, and recollecting its thorns and briars, its gins and snares, its serpents and beasts of prey, its bitter waters and poisonous fruits, will add richness, and sweetness, and exuberance to "the land flowing with milk and honey;" beauty and glory to "that goodly mountain and Lebanon," that "holy mountain" into which nothing shall enter to destroy, derile, or disturb."

"Now, if all this be admitted, and it is not easy to conceive how it can be denied, degrees of happiness will follow of course. As all the redeemed throng will not have passed through the same depths of distress, the same floods of tribulation, the same violence of Satanic assanlt, tho same flames of persecution; as all will not have performed the same services, made the same sacrifices, sustained the same conflicts, or achieved the same victories; as, in these respects the experience of each individual will differ from that of every other in this world, so must their recollections vary in the next. As no one can remember that, in the history of his pilgrimage, which never existed; recollection cannot in every one, in the same degree, heighten, and deepen, and enlarge the contrast between the present world, and the future. The happiness of heaven, therefore, if affected at all by recollection and contrast, must exist in various degrees,"

Another argument in favour of this sentiment is deduced from the vast variety of' natural capacity, with which Christians are endowed in the present state. He conceives that on our admission into heaven, no previous acquirements will be destroyed; no new capacities imparted; no act of uniformity passed respecting their strength, extent, or exercise. The* complete renovation of our nature, then tobe accomplished, will improve our powers of intellectual vision; but it appears unnecessary, unreasonable, and unnatural to suppose that those powers, which are so diversified here, will be brought to one invariable standard hereafter; and, admitting this, it is easy to show how different degrees of happiness must necessarily result from such variety. In heaven, all will be perfectly happy,

yet not equally so. If, indeed, they | of the other a thousand fold, one will were infinitely happy, as some rather absurdly suppose, then there would exist no possibility of degrees; but this neither is nor can be the case. The interminable continuation of happiness cannot make it infinite. Endless duration is not an infinite attribute; to be such, it must be both eternal and everlasting, without beginning and without end. Or, if happiness were something entirely negative, consisting only in an exemption from evil, it would then be absolute, and of course insusceptible of degrees. But that is not the case. An exemption from evil both natural and moral is indeed essential to happiness, but not sufficient for it. Happiness arises chiefly from a full and free access to a suitable good—and hence it must follow that all will be happy in proportion to their capacity of being so. The inhabitants of heaven who will be led to "living water," may drink in proportion as they are able to draw; and according to their natural capacities, when perfectly sanctified, will be the strength of their spiritual apprehensions, desires, and anticipations—their discoveries of the character, and perfections, and works of God, as well as of the displays of his glory around them, and the enjoy ment of his love within them.

Our author also infers the truth of the sentiment for which he contends from the different degrees of moral excellence which will exist in the heavenly state. This is that part of his pamphlet which will be the last digested by his opponents, and that will probably, at first view, stagger many of his readers. He admits that the saints in heaven will be as free from sin as God himself, for they will be presented " faultless before the throne of his glory—without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;" but it does not thence follow that they will possess positive holiness in the same degree as the Divine Being. "That were an absurdity, says he, beyond all toleration." To be so, requires infinity of nature. Holiness in any creature cannot exceed the extent of his natural capacities or rational powers. It cannot exist either without or T>eyond them. Two persons may " love God with all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength;" but if the natural talents, or intellectual powers, or mental strength of one, exceed those

of course, and of absolute necessity, too, love God a thousand times more than the other.

An argument in favour of diversity of reward is also drawn from its superior tendency to advance the happiness of the whole society of the redeemed. If every person's talents and attainments and feelings were alike, no one could communicate to another an idea which the individual addressed did not previously possess; nor exhibit an excellence which he had not already attained, nor excite a pleasing emotion which he had not before experienced. Nothing new, at least through the medium of social intercourse, could be produced: no new discovery could be conveyed; no new feeling imparted; no new desire excited; no new anticipation formed— all would be perfect sameness. There would be an immense multitude, without variety; an innumerable company without society. All would be equal in knowledge, in honour, in attainments, and in enjoyment—all would be equality, uniformity, identity. But, admit all this variety of natural talent, all those degrees of moral excellence, and all that diversity of individual happiness, for which the author pleads, and the society of heaven assumes new preperties, and a new character.

But the last and best source of proof, in support of this doctrine is, the testimony of scripture. In entering upon this part of his subject, our author furnishes a noble instance of his own candour and attachment to the cause of truth, by wholly discarding the two texts of scripture which are most generally adduced in favor of his position; and by shewing, which he has' done most satisfactorily, that they are irrelevant to the point in hand, and therefore improperly quoted in support of this sentiment. These texts are, 1 Cor. xv. 41. "One star differeth from another star in glory." The apostle's object here is not to shew that our bodies in a future state will possess various degrees of honor, when compared with each other; but that when they are constituted celestial bodies, they will receive a glory which does not belong to them while they are terrestrial bodies. The other passage is, 2 Cor. ix. 6. "He that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparine'.*'' and he that soweth bountifully so*

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »