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Title: Studies of Christianity; Or, Timely Thoughts for Religious Thinkers

Author: James Martineau

Editor: William Rounseville Alger

Release date: August 1, 2012 [eBook #40387]
Most recently updated: September 1, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Delphine Lettau, Douglas L. Alley, III and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


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Introductory Thoughts, from Mr. Martineau's Writings v
Distinctive Types of Christianity 1
Christianity without Priest and without Ritual 35
Inconsistency of the Scheme of Vicarious Redemption 83
Mediatorial Religion 147
Five Points of Christian Faith 177
Creed and Heresies of Early Christianity 201
The Creed of Christendom 266
The Ethics of Christendom 299
The Restoration of Belief 356
One Gospel in Many Dialects 399
St. Paul and his Modern Students 414
Sin: What it is, What it is not 466
The Duties of Christians in an Age of Controversy 478

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The American Unitarian Association in 1835 reprinted from the English edition, among their Tracts, a Sermon on "The Existing State of Theology as an Intellectual Pursuit and of Religion, as a Moral Influence." Its rare merits elicited great praise. Its author was the Rev. James Martineau, then a settled minister in Liverpool. Since that time, his occasional publications from year to year have been winning a wider audience, and awakening a deeper admiration. The history of his mind has been a broadening track of light. And now the Association feel that they cannot do a greater favor to the reading public, or better aid that cause of Liberal Christianity whose servants they are, than by printing a collection of the later writings of this gifted man, whom they first introduced to American Unitarians a quarter of a century ago.

The list of works prefixed to the article here entitled "Distinctive Types of Christianity," as it appeared in the Westminster Review, and the opening sentence referring to them, have been accidentally omitted. Two or three of the papers belong to the author's earlier years, but are inserted here equally on account[Pg viii] of their eminent ability, their special timeliness, and their striking adaptation to the general purpose of the work; namely, to throw light on the true nature of Christianity. They will also be new to most of those whom they now reach. The last paper in the volume is one of the first its writer published, in his comparative youth. We shall be disappointed if the benignant wisdom and moral fidelity of its catholic lessons do not secure a sympathetic response in many a quarter once closed against such appeals.

In selecting from Mr. Martineau's numerous invaluable articles, not already published in book-form, the contents of the present work, the rule has not been so much to choose the ablest productions, as to take those best fitted to meet the wants of the time, by diffusing among ministers, students of divinity, and the cultivated laity a knowledge of the most advanced theological and religious thought yet attained. We regret that the necessary limits of the volume exclude several of the author's most instructive and inspiring essays; particularly the magnificent one in the National Review upon "Newman, Coleridge, and Carlyle"; also the one upon "Lessing as a Theologian."

We have called this volume "Studies of Christianity," simply as a convenient indication of the general character of its contents. In justice to the author, it should be borne in mind that the separate papers were prepared to meet various occasions, without a suspicion that they would ever be brought together to form a book. Of course they do not express his complete views of the mighty subject which they fragmentarily treat. The relative order and rank of his convictions, the interpretation of Christianity from its inner side, appear much better in his "Endeavors after the Christian[Pg ix] Life,"—by far the richest and noblest series of sermons in the English language. Still, a kind of unity pervades the different pieces composing this collection. One Christ-like strain of sentiment breathes through them all. The same consecrating fealty to truth presides over them all. The same grand outline of principles and unvarying standard of judgment are constantly evident. The same marvellous acumen, breadth of learning, and exquisite culture, everywhere appear. Each article is more or less directly an illustration of Christianity, as something moral, spiritual, vital, dynamic, to be practically assimilated by the soul, in distinction from the common exposition of it, as something sacerdotal, dogmatic, formal, forensic, once enacted and now to be mimetically observed. The energetic patience of labor, the detersive intellect, the unalloyed devoutness of spirit, the telescopic range both of faculty and equipment, revealed even in these wayside products, awaken in us an unappeasable desire for a more purposed and systematic work from the same mind, now in its fullest maturity. In the mean time we will express our grateful appreciation of the contributions already furnished, by giving them further circulation, assured that no truly pious and intelligent person, free from bigotry and shackles, can peruse them without receiving equal measures of delight and profit.

Mr. Martineau is so thoroughly acquainted with the processes and results of spiritual experience, with the sciences of nature, and with the whole realm of metaphysical philosophy, and his own wealthy faculties are so tenacious in their activity and freshness, that every subject he touches receives novelty, light, and ornament. He is emphatically a teacher for the teachers,—a greater guide and master for the common[Pg x] guides and masters. Traversing the whole domain of human contemplation with the defining lines of analysis, clothing the severe materials of science with the colors of æsthetic art, he sheds on every theme the illumination of intellectual genius, and transfuses every thought with the distinctive sentiments of piety. Thus is afforded that rarest of all spectacles,—and the one now most needed by the cultivated religious world,—of a man who is greatly endowed at once as philosopher, poet, and Christian, and who with simultaneous earnestness in each capacity is devoted, by the whole labors of his life, to the instruction of mankind.

For these reasons, we feel it a duty to attract as much attention as possible to Mr. Martineau's past and expected publications. The peerless intelligence, the bracing fidelity, the essential nobleness and catholicity, the tender beauty and reverence, of his utterances, his consummate mastery of the great topics he handles, seem to us fitted in a solitary degree to meet the highest wants of the age,—to do divine service in the conflict of scepticism, sensuality, and decay against all that is truest and purest in the religious faith and moral life of Christendom. Therefore, to persons who, unacquainted with the author's previous works, may read the papers here collected, we would recommend as the best books for educated and earnest Christian thinkers, Mr. Martineau's "Rationale of Religious Inquiry," the volume of his "Miscellanies" edited by the Rev. T. S. King, and the two series of "Endeavors after the Christian Life" recently republished in one volume by Messrs. Munroe and Company.

We shall make up the rest of this introductory paper by quoting from some of Mr. Martineau's articles, not generally accessible, a few specimens of those thoughts[Pg xi] which, if freely received in these times of theological doubt and turmoil, would lead many a religious thinker towards the truth and peace he covets.

How clearly the following passage shows the true


The contempt with which it is the frequent practice of divines to treat the grounds of natural religion, betrays an ignorance both of the true office of revelation and of the true wants of the human heart. It cannot be justified, except on the supposition that there is some contradiction between the teachings of creation and those of Christ, with some decided preponderance of proof in favor of the latter. Even if the Gospel furnished a series of perfectly new truths, of which nature had been profoundly silent, it would be neither reasonable nor safe to fix exclusive attention on these recent and historical acquisitions, and prohibit all reference to those elder oracles of God, by which his Spirit, enshrined in the glories of his universe, taught the fathers of our race. And if it be the function of Christianity not to administer truth entirely new, but to corroborate by fresh evidence, and invest with new beauty, and publish to the millions with a voice of power, a faith latent already in the hearts of many, and scattered through the speculations of the wise and noble few,—to erect into realities the dreams which had visited a half-inspired philosophy, interpreting the life and lot of man;—then there is a relation between the religion of nature and that of Christ,—a relation of original and supplement,—which renders the one essential to the apprehension of the other. Revelation, you say, has given us the clew by which to thread the labyrinth of creation, and extricate ourselves from its passages of mystery and gloom. Be it so; still, there, in the scene thus cleared of its perplexity, must our worship be paid, and the manifestations of Deity be sought. If the use of revelation be to explain the perplexities of Providence[Pg xii] and life, it would be a strange use to make of the explanation were we to turn away from the thing explained. We hold the key of heaven in our hands. What folly to be for ever extolling and venerating it, whilst we prohibit all approach to the temple whose gates it is destined to unlock.

One would search long to find a finer illustration than is here given of the real


In Devotion there is this great peculiarity,—that it is neither the work nor the play of our nature, but is something higher than either,—more ideal than the one, more real than the other. All human activities besides are one of these two things,—either the mere aim at an external end, or the mere outcome of an inner feeling. On the one hand, we plough and sow, we build and navigate, that we may win the adornments and securities of life; on the other hand, we sing and dance, we carve and paint, that we may put forth the pressure of harmony and joy and beauty breaking from within. Mechanical Toil terminates in a solid product; graceful Art is content with simple expression; but Religion is degraded when it is reduced to either character. It is not a labor of utility; and he who looks to it as a means of safety, to ingratiate himself with an awful God, and bespeak an interest in a hidden Future, is an utter stranger to its essence; his habits and words may be cast in its mould, but the spark of its life is not kindled in his heart. When fed by the fuel of prudence, the fire is all spent in fusing it into form; and the finished product is a cold and metal mimicry, that neither moves nor glows. Nor is Religion a simple gesture of passion; and to class it with mere natural language, to treat it as the rhythmical delirium of the soul working off an irrepressible enthusiasm, is to empty it of its real meaning and contents, and sink it from a divine attraction to a human excitement. The postures and movements and tones which[Pg xiii] simply manifest the impassioned mind are content to go off into space, and pass away; they direct themselves nowhither; they have no more object than a convulsion; they ask only leave to be the last shape of a feeling that must have way; and be the inspiration what it may, they close and consummate its history. But he who prays is at the beginning of aspiration, not at the evaporating end of impulse; he is drawn, not driven; he is not painting himself upon vacancy, but is surrendering himself to a Presence real and everlasting. If he flings out his arms, it is not in blind paroxysm, but that he may embrace and be embraced; if he cries aloud, it is that he may be heard; if he makes melody of the silent heart, it is no soliloquy flung into emptiness, but the low-breathing love of spirit to Spirit. Devotion is not the play even of the highest faculties, but their deep earnest. It is no doubt the culminating point of reverence; but reverence is impossible without an object, and could never culminate at all, or pass into the Infinite, unless its object did so too. In every case we find that the faculties and susceptibilities of a being tell true, and are the exact measure of the outer life it has to live; and just as many and as large proportions as it has, to just so many and so great objects does it stand related; so that from the axis of its nature you may always draw the curve of its existence. Human worship, therefore, turning to the living God as the infant's eye to light, is itself a witness to Him whom it feels after and adores; it is "the image and shadow of heavenly things," the parallel chamber in our nature with that Holy of Holies whither its incense ever ascends.

In a similar strain is this argument to show that


Be assured, all visible greatness of mind grows in looking at an invisible that is greater. And since it is inconceivable that what is most sublime in humanity should spring from vision[Pg xiv] of a thing that is not, that what is most real and commanding with us should come of stretching the soul into the unreal and empty, that historic durability should be the gift of spectral fancies, we must hold these devout natures to be at one with everlasting Fact,—to feel truly that the august forms of Justice and Holiness are at home in heaven, the object there of clearer insight and more perfect veneration. There are those who please themselves with the idea that the world will outgrow its habits of worship; that the newspaper will supersede the preacher and prophet; that the apprehension of scientific laws will replace the fervor of moral inspirations; that this sphere of being will then be perfectly administered when no reference to another distracts attention. But, for my own part, I am persuaded, that life would soon become intolerable on earth, were it copied from nothing in the heavens; that its deeper affections would pine away and its lights of purest thought grow pale, if it lay shrouded in no Holy Spirit, but only in the wilderness of space. The most sagacious secular voice leaves, after all, a chord untouched in the human heart: listening too long to its didactic monotone, we begin to sigh for the rich music of hope and faith. The dry glare of noonday knowledge hurts the eye by plying it for use and denying it beauty; and we long to be screened behind a cloud or two of moisture and of mystery, that shall mellow the glory and cool the air. Never can the world be less to us, than when we make it all in all.

Our author makes a striking reply to the common assertion that


It may, however, be retrogressive; and it is sure to repay flippant neglect by lending its empty space to mean delusions. To its great problems some answer will always be attempted; and there is much to choose between the solutions, however imperfect, found by reverential wisdom, and the degrading[Pg xv] falsehoods tendered in reply by the indifferent and superficial. Even in their failures, there is a vast difference between the explorings of the seeing and the blind. We deny, however, that Christian theology can assume any aspect of failure, except to those who use a false measure of success. It is not in the nature of religion, of poetry, of art, to exhibit the kind of progress that belongs to physical science. They differ from it in seeking, not the phenomena of the universe, but its essence,—not its laws of change, but its eternal meanings,—not outward nature, in short, except as expressive of the inner thought of God; and being thus intent upon the enduring spirit and very ground of things, they cannot grow by numerical accretion of facts and exacter registration of successions. They are the product, not of the patient sense and comparing intelligence which are always at hand, but of a deeper and finer insight, changing with the atmosphere of the affections and will. Instead of looking, therefore, for perpetual advance of discovery in theology, we should naturally expect an ebb and flow of light, answering to the moral condition of men's minds; and may be content if the divine truth, lost in the dulness of a material age, clears itself into fresh forms with the returning breath of a better time.

Most readers will find suggestions of great freshness in the passage next cited:—


To lose sight of this principle in estimating Christianity, and to insist on judging it, not by its matured character in Christendom, not by the unconscious spirit of its founders, but by their personal views and purposes, is to overlook the divine in it in order to fasten on the human; to seek the winged creature of the air in the throbbing chrysalis; and is like judging the place of the Hebrews in history by the court and the proverbs of Solomon, or the value of Puritanism by the sermon of a hill-preacher before the civil war.[Pg xvi] The primitive Christianity was certainly different from that of other ages; but there is no reason for believing that it was better. The representation often made of the early Church, as having only truth, and feeling only love, and living in simple sanctity, is contradicted by every page of the Christian records. The Epistles are entirely occupied in driving back guilt and passion, or in correcting errors of belief; nor is it always possible to approve of the temper in which they perform the one task, or to assent to the methods by which they attempt the other. Principles and affections were indeed secreted in the heart of the first disciples, which were to have a great future, and to become the highest truth of the world. But it was precisely of these that they rarely thought at all. The Apostles themselves speak slightingly of them, as baby's food; and the great faith in God, the need of repentant purity of heart, with the trust in immortality,—the very doctrines which we should name as the permanent essence of Christian faith,—are expressly declared by them to be the childish rudiments of belief, on which the attention of the grown Christian will disdain to dwell. And what did they prefer to these sublime truths, as the nutriment of their life and the pride of their wisdom? Allegories about Isaac and Ishmael, parallels between Christ and Melchisedec, new readings of history and prophecy to suit the events in Palestine, and a constant outlook for the end of all things. These were the grand topics on which their minds eagerly worked, and on which they labored to construct a consistent theory. These give the form to their doctrine, the matter to their spirit. These are what you will get, if you go indiscriminately to their writings for a creed: and these are no more Christianity than the pretensions of Hildebrand or the visions of Swedenborg. The true religion lies elsewhere, just in the things that were ever present with them, but never esteemed. Just as your friend may spend his anxiety on his station, his usefulness, his appearance and repute, and fear lest he should show nothing deserving your regard, while all the time you love him for the pure graces, the native wild-flowers, of his[Pg xvii] heart; so do the choicest servants of God ever think one thing of themselves, while they are dear to him and revered by us for quite another. "The weak things" in the Church not less than in "the world hath he chosen to confound the mighty; the simple, to strike dumb the wise; and things that are not, to supersede the things that are."

In rude ages, and amid feudal customs, it has perhaps been no unhappy thing that this image of servitude has been transmitted into the conceptions of faith: it may have touched with some sanctity an inevitable submission, and mingled a sentiment of loyalty with religion. But the external relation of serf and lord is no type of the internal relation of spirit to spirit, which alone constitutes religion to us. To God himself, with all his infinitude, we are not slaves; we are not his property, but his children; he regards us, not as things, but as persons; he does not so much command us, as appeal to us; and in our obedience, it is not his bidding that we serve, but that divine Law of Right of which he makes us conscious as the rule of His nature only more perfectly than of ours. To obey him as slaves, in fear, and with an eye upon his power, is, with all our punctuality and anxiety, simply and entirely to disobey him; nor is anything precious in his sight, except the free consent of heart with which we apprehend what is holy to his thought and embrace what is in harmony with his perfection. Still less can we be slaves to Christ, who is no autocrat to us, but our freely followed leader towards God; the guide of our pilgrim troop in quest of a holy land; who gives us no law from the mandates of his will, but only interprets for us, and makes burn within us, in characters of fire, the law of our own hearts; who has no power over us, except through the affections he awakens and the aspirations he sets upon the watch. We have emerged from the Religion of Law, whose only sentiment is that of obedience to sovereignty; we have passed from the religion of Salvation, whose life consists in gratitude to a Deliverer; and we are capable only of a religion of reverence, which bows before the authority of Goodness. And in the infinite ranks[Pg xviii] of excellence, from the highest to the lowest, there are no lords and slaves; the dependence is ever that of internal charm, not of external bond; the authority is but represented and impersonated in another and a better soul, but has its living seat within our own; and in this true and elevating worship, the more we are disposed of by another, the more do we feel that we are our own. This is a relation which the political terms of the expected theocracy are ill adapted to express; and if we have required many centuries to grope our way to this clearest glory of religion, to disengage it from the impure admixture of servile fear and revolting presumption; if it has taken long for us to melt away in our imagination the images of thrones and tribunals, of prize-givings and prisons, of a police and assizes of the universe; if only at the eleventh hour of our faith, the cloud has passed away, and shown us the true angel-ladder that springs from earth to heaven, the pure climax of souls whereon each below looks up and rises, yet each above bends down and helps;—the discovery which brings such peace and freedom to the heart, has been delayed by the mistaken identification of the entire creed of the first age with the essence of Christianity. Now that God has shown us so much more, has tried the divine seed of the Gospel on so various a soil of history, and enabled us to distinguish its fairest blossoms and its choicest fruits, a much larger meaning than was possible at first must be given to the purpose of his revelation. Even to Paul, Christ was mainly the great representative of a theocratic idea; and was in no other sense an object of spiritual belief, than that he was not on earth and mortal, but in heaven and immortal. That faith in Christ, which then prominently denoted belief in his appointed return, and allegiance to him as God's viceroy in this world, is now transferred into quite a different thing. It is altogether a moral and affectionate sentiment: an acknowledgment of him as the highest impersonation of divine excellence and inspired insight yet given to the world; a trust in him as the only realized type of perfection that can mediate for us between ourselves and God;[Pg xix] a faithfulness to him, as making us conscious of what we are and what God and our conscience would have us to be. It is vain to pretend that revelation is a fixed and stereotyped thing. It was born, as the divinest things must be, among human conditions; and into it ever since human conditions have perpetually flowed. The elements of Hebrew thought surrounded the sacred centre at first, and have been erroneously identified with it by all Unitarian churches in every age. The Hellenic intellect afterwards streamed towards the fresh point of life and faith, and gathered around it the metaphysical system of Trinitarian dogma in which orthodox communions of all times have, with parallel error, sought the essence of the Gospel. The true principle of the religion has been secreted in both, and consisted in neither: it has lain unnoticed in the midst, in the silent chamber of the heart, around which the clamor of the disputatious intellect whirls without entrance. The agency of Christ's mind as the expression of God's moral nature and providence, and as the realized ideal of beauty and excellence,—this is the power of God and the wisdom of God, which has made vain the counsels of the world, and baffled the foolishness of the Church. This is the Gospel's centre of stability,—"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."

Few persons can be insensible to the sublimity of this expression upon the relation between


In conclusion, then, I revert, with freshened persuasion, to the statement with which I commenced. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God hath presented to us simply in his inspired humanity. Him we accept, not indeed as very God, but as the true image of God, commissioned to show what no written doctrinal record could declare, the entire moral perfections of Deity. We accept, not indeed his body, not the struggles of his sensitive nature, not the travail of his soul, but[Pg xx] his purity, his tenderness, his absolute devotion to the great idea of right, his patient and compassionate warfare against misery and guilt, as the most distinct and beautiful expression of the Divine mind. The peculiar office of Christ is to supply a new moral image of Providence; and everything, therefore, except the moral complexion of his mind, we leave behind as human and historical merely, and apply to no religious use. I have already stated in what way nature and the Gospel combine to bring before us the great object of our trust and worship. The universe gives us the scale of God, and Christ, his Spirit. We climb to the infinitude of his nature by the awful pathway of the stars, where whole forests of worlds silently quiver here and there, like a small leaf of light. We dive into his eternity, through the ocean waves of time, that roll and solemnly break on the imagination, as we trace the wrecks of departed things upon our present globe. The scope of his intellect, and the majesty of his rule, are seen in the tranquil order and everlasting silence that reign through the fields of his volition. And the spirit that animates the whole is like that of the Prophet of Nazareth; the thoughts that fly upon the swift light throughout creation, charged with fates unnumbered, are like the healing mercies of One that passed no sorrow by. The government of this world, its mysterious allotments of good and ill, its successions of birth and death, its hopes of progress and of peace, each life of individual or nation, is under the administration of One, of whose rectitude and benevolence, whose sympathy with all the holiest aspirations of our virtue and our love, Christ is the appointed emblem. A faith that spreads around and within the mind a Deity thus sublime and holy, feeds the light of every pure affection, and presses with omnipotent power on the conscience; and our only prayer is, that we may walk as children of such light.

It seems as if no one capable of understanding could resist the convincing cogency of the following exhibition of

[Pg xxi]


It is only natural that the parable of the Prodigal Son should be no favorite with those who deny the unconditional mercy of God. The place which this divine tale occupies in the Unitarian theology appears to be filled, in the orthodox scheme, by the story of Zaleucus, king of the Locrians; which has been appealed to in the present controversy by both the lecturers on the Atonement, and seems to be the only endurable illustration presented, even by Pagan history, of the execution of vicarious punishment. This monarch had passed a law condemning adulterers to the loss of both eyes. His own son was convicted of the crime; and, to satisfy at once the claims of law and of clemency, the royal parent "commanded one of his own eyes to be pulled out, and one of his son's." Is it too bold a heresy to confess that there seems to me something heathenish in this example, and that, as an exponent of the Divine character, I more willingly revere the Father of the prodigal than the father of the adulterer?

Without entering, however, into any comparison between the Locrian and the Galilean parable, I would observe, that the vicarious theory receives no illustration from this fragment of ancient history. There is no analogy between the cases, except in the violation of truth and wisdom which both exhibit; and whatever we are instructed to admire in Zaleucus, will be found on close inspection to be absent from the orthodox representation of God. We pity the Grecian king, who had made a law without foresight of its application, and so sympathize with his desire to evade it, that any quibble which legal ingenuity can devise for this purpose passes with slight condemnation; casuistry refuses to be severe with a man implicated in such a difficulty. But the Creator and Legislator of the human race, having perfect knowledge of the future, can never be surprised into a similar perplexity; or ever pass a law at one time which at another he desires to[Pg xxii] evade. Even were it so, there would seem to be less that is unworthy of his moral perfection in saying plainly, with the ancient Hebrews, that he "repented of the evil he thought to do," and said, "It shall not be," than in ascribing to him a device for preserving consistency, in which no one capable of appreciating veracity can pretend to discern any sincere fulfilment of the law. However barbarous the idea of Divine "repentance," it is at least ingenuous. Nor does this incident of Zaleucus and his son present any parallel to the alleged relation between the Divine Father who receives, and the Divine Son who gives, the satisfaction for human guilt. The Locrian king took a part of the penalty himself, and left the remainder where it was due; but the Sovereign Lawgiver of Calvinism puts the whole upon another. To sustain the analogy, Zaleucus should have permitted an innocent son to have both his eyes put out, and the convicted adulterer to escape.

The doctrine of Atonement has introduced among Trinitarians a mode of speaking respecting God, which grates most painfully against the reverential affections due to him. His nature is dismembered into a number of attributes, foreign to each other, and preferring rival claims; the Divine tranquillity appears as the equilibrium of opposing pressures,—the Divine administration as a resultant from the collision of hostile forces. Goodness pleads for that which holiness forbids; and the Paternal God would do many a mercy, did the Sovereign God allow. The idea of a conflict or embarrassment in the Supreme Mind being thus introduced, and the believer being haunted by the feeling of some tremendous difficulty affecting the Infinite government, the vicarious economy is brought forward as the relief, the solution of the whole perplexity; the union, by a blessed compromise, of attributes that could never combine in any scheme before. The main business of theology is made to consist in stating the conditions and expounding the solution of this imaginary problem. The cardinal difficulty is thought to be the reconciliation of justice and mercy; and, as the one is represented under the[Pg xxiii] image of a Sovereign, the other under that of a Father, the question assumes this form: How can the same being at every moment possess both these characters, without abandoning any function or feeling appropriate to either? how, especially, can the Judge remit?—it is beyond his power; yet how can the Parent punish to the uttermost?—it is contrary to his nature.

All this difficulty is merely fictitious, arising out of the determination to make out that God is both wholly Judge and wholly Father; from an anxiety, that is, to adhere to two metaphors, as applicable, in every particular, to the Divine Being. It is evident that both must be, to a great extent, inappropriate; and in nothing, surely, is the impropriety more manifest, than in the assertion that, as sovereign, God is naturally bound to execute laws which, nevertheless, it would be desirable to remit, or change in their operation. Whatever painful necessities the imperfection of human legislation and judicial procedure may impose, the Omniscient Ruler can make no law which he will not to all eternity, and with entire consent of his whole nature, deem it well to execute. This is the Unitarian answer to the constant question, "How can God forgive in defiance of his own law?" It is not in defiance of his laws: every one of which will be fulfilled to the uttermost, in conformity with his first intent; but nowhere has he declared that he would not forgive. All justice consists in treating moral agents according to their character; the inexorability of human law arises solely from the imperfection with which it can attain this end, and is not the essence, but the alloy, of equity; but God, who searches and controls the heart, exercises that perfect justice, which permits the penal suffering to depart only with the moral guilt; and pardons, not by cancelling any sentence, but by obeying his eternal purpose to meet the wanderer returning homeward, and give his blessing to the restored. Only by such restoration can any past guilt be effaced. The thoughts, emotions, and sufferings of sin, once committed, are woven into the fabric of the soul; and are as incapable of being absolutely[Pg xxiv] obliterated thence and put back into non-existence, as moments of being struck from the past, or the parts of space from infinitude. Herein we behold alike "the goodness and the severity of God"; and adore in him, not the balance of contrary tendencies, but the harmony of consentaneous perfections. How plainly does experience show that, if his personal unity be given up, his moral unity cannot be preserved!

The author himself is the best exemplification of the man described in this account of the


The difference between the ordinary visual gaze upon the external universe, and the interpreting glance of science, is felt by every cultivated understanding to be immeasurable;—and the contrast is not less between that dull sense of what passes within him, which is forced upon a man by mere practical experience, and the exact consciousness, the discriminative perception, the easy comprehension of his own (and, so far as they are expressed by faithful symbols, of others') states and affections, possessed by the patient analyst of thought and emotion, and careful collector of their laws. The mighty mass of human achievement and human failure, in intellectual research, in moral endeavor, in social economy and government, lapses into order before him, and distributes itself among the provinces of determinate laws. The structure of a child's perplexity, and the fallacies of the most ambitious hypothesis, lie open to him as readily, as to the artisan a flaw in the fabric of his own craft. The creations of art fall before him into their elements; and, dissolving away their constituent matter, which is an accident of their age, leave upon his mind their permanent form of beauty, as his guide to a true and noble criticism. The progress and the aberrations of human reason, in its quest of truth, are as clearly appreciated by him, as the passages of happy skill or ignorant roving in some voyage of discovery, when the outlines[Pg xxv] and relations of the sphere on which it is made become fully known. Discerning distinctly the different kinds of evidence appropriate to different departments of truth, and weighing the scientific value of every idea and method of thought, he is not at the mercy of each superficial impression and obtrusive phase presented to him by the subjects of his contemplation; but he attains a certain rational tact and graduated feeling of certainty in abstract matters of opinion, by which he escapes alike the miseries of undefined doubt, and the passions of unqualified dogmatism. In short, the great idea of Science is applied by him to the complicated workings of the mind of man; interprets the activities of his nature, and gives laws to the administration of his life; and, with wonderful analysis, investigates the properties, and establishes the equation, of their most labyrinthine curves.

What a rebuke upon dogmatic sciolists, what a glorious invitation to study, are conveyed in the genial, broad, mental hospitality of the succeeding paragraph!


If there is one department of knowledge more than another in which a contemptuous disregard of the meditations and theories of distant periods and nations is misplaced, it is in the philosophy of man,—which can have no adequate breadth of basis till it reposes on the consciousness and covers the mental experience of the universal race; and to construct which out of purely personal materials, is like attempting to lay down the curves and finish the theory of terrestrial magnetism on the strength of a few closet experiments. No man, however large-thoughted and composite his mind, can accept of himself as the type of universal human nature. It will even be a great and rare endowment, if, with every aid of exact learning and unwearying patience, he is able to penetrate the atmosphere of others' understanding, and to observe[Pg xxvi] the forms and colors which the objects of contemplation assume, when beheld through this peculiar medium. Simply to avail one's self of the experience of mankind, and know what it has really been, demands no little scope of imagination and versatility of intellectual sympathy. When these qualities are so deficient in a thinker that he cannot well achieve this knowledge, it is a great misfortune to his philosophy; when the want is such that he does not even desire it, it amounts to an absolute disqualification. Without, therefore, pledging ourselves to the eclectic principles which prevail in the present school of philosophy in France, we must beware of the intolerant dogmatism of Bentham in England, sanctioned, as we have seen, by one of the masters of the antagonist metaphysics in Germany. Indeed, it will be a chief purpose of all my lectures to enable you to profit by the light of other minds; in every province of the vast region which we shall explore together, to indicate the paths which they have traversed before, nor ever to turn away from their points of discovery, without raising some rude monument at least of honest and commemorative praise. To introduce you to the works, to interpret the difficulties, to do honor to the labors, to review the opinions, of the great masters of speculative thought in every age and in many lands, will be an indispensable portion of my duty;—a task most arduous indeed, but than which none can be more grateful to one who loves to trace, through all their affinities, the indestructible types of truth and beauty in the human mind; and to mark the natural laws, connecting together the most opposite continents and climes of thought, as parts, successively colonized and cultivated, of one great intellectual world. But in addition to the study of the several classes of psychological and moral doctrine as they present themselves in the order of science, it will be important to spread out the literature of philosophy before us in the order of time; to gain an insight into the natural development of successive modes of thought on speculative subjects; to notice the action and reaction of philosophy and practical life; to ascertain whether opinion[Pg xxvii] on these abstract matters really advances into knowledge and has any determinate progression, or whether it oscillates for ever on either side of some fixed idea, or line of mental gravitation. In short, having surveyed our subject systematically, we shall go over it again chronologically; and call upon philosophy, when it has recited its creed, and revealed its wisdom, to finish all by writing its history.

The hints given in Mr. Martineau's frequent references to the bearing of scientific knowledge and laws upon theological speculations are very important. We adduce a single example.


An accomplished and thoughtful observer of nature—Hugh Miller, the geologist—has somewhere remarked, that religion has lost its dependence on metaphysical theories, and must henceforth maintain itself upon the domain of physical science. He accordingly exhorts the guardians of sacred truth to prepare themselves for the approaching crisis in its history, by exchanging the study of thoughts for the apprehension of things, and carefully cultivating the habit of inductive research. The advice is excellent, and proceeds from one whose own example has amply proved its worth; and unless the clergy qualify themselves to take part in the discussions which open themselves with the advance of natural knowledge, they will assuredly be neither secure in their personal convictions nor faithful to their public trust. The only fault to be found with this counsel is, that in recommending one kind of knowledge it disparages another, and betrays that limited intellectual sympathy which is the bane of all noble culture. Geology, astronomy, chemistry, so far from succeeding to the inheritance of metaphysics, do but enrich its problems with new conceptions and give a larger outline to its range; and should they, in the wantonness of their young ascendency, persuade men to its neglect, they will pay the[Pg xxviii] penalties of their contempt by the appearance of confusion in their own doctrine. The advance of any one line of human thought demands—especially for the security of faith—the parallel movement of all the rest; and the attempt to substitute one intellectual reliance for another, mistakes for progress of knowledge what may be only an exchange of ignorance. In particular, the study of external nature must proceed pari passu with the study of the human mind; and the errors of an age too exclusively reflective will not be remedied, but only reversed, by mere reaction into sciences of outward fact and observation. These physical pursuits, followed into their further haunts, rapidly run up into a series of notions common to them all,—expressed by such words as Law, Cause, Force,—which at once transfer the jurisdiction from the provincial courts of the special sciences to the high chancery of universal philosophy. To conduct the pleadings—still more to pronounce the judgment—there, other habits of mind are needed than are required in the museum and the observatory; and the history of knowledge, past and present, abounds with instances of men who, with the highest merit in particular walks of science, have combined a curious incompetency of survey over the whole. Hence, very few natural philosophers, however eminent for great discoveries and dreaded by the priesthood of their day, have made any deep and durable impression on the religious conception of the universe, as the product and expression of an Infinite Mind; and in tracing the eras of human faith, the deep thinker comes more prominently into view than the skilful interrogator of nature. In the history of religion, Plato is a greater figure than Archimedes; Spinoza than Newton; Hume and Kant than Volta and La Place; even Thomas Carlyle than Justus Liebig. Our picture indeed of the system of things is immensely enlarged, both in space and duration, by the progress of descriptive science; and the grouping of its objects and events is materially changed. But the altered scene carries with it the same expression to the soul; speaks the same language as to its origin; renews its ancient glance with[Pg xxix] an auguster beauty; and, in spite of all dynamic theories, reproduces the very modes of faith and doubt which belonged to the age both of the old Organon and of the new.

The ultimate problem of all philosophy and all religion is this: "How are we to conceive aright the origin and first principle of things?" The answers, it has been contended by a living author of distinguished merit, are necessarily reducible to two, between which all systems are divided, and on the decision of whose controversy, all antagonist speculations would lay down their arms. "In the beginning was Force," says one class of thinkers; "force, singular or plural, splitting into opposites, standing off into polarities, ramifying into attractions and repulsions, heat and magnetism, and climbing through the stages of physical, vital, animal, to the mental life itself." "On the contrary," says the other class, "in the beginning was Thought; and only in the necessary evolution of its eternal ideas into expression does force arise,—self-realizing thought declaring itself in the types of being and the laws of phenomena." We need hardly say, that the former of these two notions coalesces with the creed of Atheism, and is most frequently met with upon the path of the physical sciences, while the latter is favored by the mathematical and metaphysical, and gives the essence of Pantheism. Each of them has insurmountable difficulties, with which it is successfully taunted by the other. Start from blind force; and how, by any spinning from that solitary centre, are we ever to arrive at the seeing intellect? Can the lower create the higher, and the unconscious enable us to think? Start from pure thinking, and how then can you get any force for the production of objective effects? How metamorphose a passage of dialect into the power of gravitation, and a silent corollary into a flash of lightning? In taking the intellect as the type of God, this difficulty must always be felt. We are well aware that it is not in this endowment that our dynamic energy resides. The activity which we ascribe to our intellect is not a power going out into external efficiency, but a mere passage across the internal field of successive thoughts[Pg xxx] as spontaneous phenomena. Nor have we, as thinking beings only, any option with respect to the thoughts thus streaming over the theatre of rational consciousness; our constitution legislates for us in this particular, and the order of suggestion is determined by laws having their seat in us. Finally, we are not, by mere thinking capacity, constituted persons, any more than a sleeper who should never wake, yet always be engaged with rational and scientific dreams, would be a person. Without some further endowment, we should only be a logical life and development. All these characters are imported into the conception of God, when he is represented as conforming to the type of reason. The activity of intellect being wholly internal, the phenomena of the Universe could not be referred to Him as a thinking being, were they not gathered up into the interior of his nature, and conceived, not as objective effects of his power, but as purely subjective successions within the theatre of his infinitude. Intellect again having no option, the God of this theory is without freedom, and is represented as the eternal necessity of reason. And lastly, in fidelity to the same analogy, He is not a divine Person, but rather a Thinking Thing, or the thinking function of the universe; we may say, universal science in a state of self-consciousness. The necessity under which Pantheism lies, of fetching all that is to be referred to God into the interior of his being, and dealing with it as not less a necessary manifestation of his mental essence than are our ideas of the mind that has them, explains the unwillingness of this system to allow any motives to God, any field of objective operation, any special relation to individuals, any revealing interposition, any supernatural agency.

Is it however true, that human belief can only choose between these two extremes, and must oscillate eternally between the Atheistic homage to Force, and the Pantheistic to Thought? Far from it; and it is curiously indicative of the state of the philosophic atmosphere in Germany, that one of her most discerning and wide-seeing authors should find no third possibility within the sphere of vision. In any latitude[Pg xxxi] except one in which moral science has altogether melted away in the universal solvent of metaphysics, it would occur as one of the most obvious suggestions, that the intellect is not the only element of human nature which may be taken as type of the Divine, and as furnishing a possible solution to the problem of origination. Quitting the two poles of extreme philosophy, confessedly incompetent in their separation, we submit that Will presents the middle point which takes up into itself Thought on the one hand and Force on the other; and which yet, so far from appearing to us as a compound arising out of them as an effect, is more easily conceived than either as the originating prefix of all phenomena. It has none of the disqualifications which we have remarked as flowing from the others into their respective systems of doctrine. It carries with it, in its very idea, the co-presence of Thought, as the necessary element within whose sphere it has to manifest itself. Its phenomena cannot exist alone; it acts on preconceptions, which stand related to it, however, not as its source, but as its conditions, and are its co-ordinates in the effect rather than its generating antecedents. If therefore all things are issued by Will, there is Mind at the fountain-head, and the absurdity is avoided of deriving intelligence from unintelligence. While it thus escapes the difficulty of passing from mere Force to Thought, it is equally clear of the opposite difficulty of making mere Thought supply any Force. The activity of Will is not, like that of Intellect, a subjective transit of regimented ideas, but an objective power going out for the production of effects; nay, it is a free power, exercising preference among data furnished by internal or external conditions present in its field; and it thus constitutes proper Causality, which always implies control over an alternative. We need hardly add, that all the requisites are thus complete for the true idea of a Person; and an Infinite Being contemplated under this type is neither a fateful nor a logical principle of necessity, but a living God, out of whose purposed legislation has sprung whatever necessity there is, except the self-existent beauty of his holiness.[Pg xxxii] Thus, between the Force of the physical Atheist, and the Thought of the metaphysical Pantheist, we fix upon the fulcrum of Will as the true balance-point of a moral Theism.

It would be impossible, perhaps, to find anywhere a finer instance of perspicuity in condensation, than is given in the following reference to


Lessing refused to surrender Christianity, on proof of error in its first teachers, uncertainty in its reported miracles, contradictions in its early literature, misapplication of Messianic prophecies. All these he regards as but the external accidents, the transitory media, of the religion, constituting, it may be, its support in one age and its weakness in another. They do not belong to its inner essence, in which alone the real evidence of spiritual truth is found; and he who detects anything amiss with them may even render a service by driving men from sham-proofs, that really persuade no one, to true ones that lie at the heart of things. Religious doctrine cannot be deduced from mere historical facts without a μεταβασις εις αλλο γενος vitiating the whole process. Facts indeed may become the proper ground of moral and spiritual faith; but then they must be facts which come over again and again, and betray an element that is permanent and eternal; which form part of the experience and consciousness of humanity; and ally themselves with the Divine by not losing their presence in the world. But unrepeated facts, which limit themselves to a moment, which are the incidents of a single personality, and are left behind quite insulated in the past, show—were it only by your not expecting them again—that they are detached from the persistent and essential life of the universe and humanity. They are but once and away; and least of all, therefore, can testify of the untransitory and ever-living. The real can teach us only so far as it[Pg xxxiii] has an ideal kernel, redeeming it from the character of a solitary phenomenon. Among the various expositions and applications of this favorite theme of Lessing's, we select the following sentences from his Axiomata.

1. "The Bible evidently contains more than belongs to Religion."

2. "That in this 'more' the Bible is still infallible, is mere hypothesis."

3. "The letter is not the spirit, and the Bible is not the Religion."

4. "The objections therefore against the letter and against the Bible, are not on that account objections against the spirit and against the Religion."

5. "Moreover there was a religion ere there was a Bible."

6. "Christianity was in being before Evangelists and Apostles had written. Some time elapsed before the first of them wrote, and a very considerable time before the whole canon was constituted."

7. "However much, therefore, may depend on these writings, it is impossible that the whole truth of the Christian religion can rest upon them."

8. "If there was a period during which, diffused as the Christian religion already was, and many as were the souls filled already with its power, still not a letter had yet been written of the records which have come down to us; then it must be also possible for all the writings of Evangelists and Apostles to perish, yet the religion taught by them still to subsist."

9. "The religion is not true because Evangelists and Apostles taught it; but they taught it because it is true."

10. "Its interior truth must furnish the interpretation of the writings it has handed down; and no writings handed down can give it interior truth, if it has none."

In his controversy with Göze, he illustrates this distinction between the essence and the historical form of Christianity, by a parable to the following effect. A wise king of a great realm built a palace of immense size and very peculiar architecture.[Pg xxxiv] About this structure, there came from the very first a foolish strife to be carried on, especially among reputed connoisseurs, people, that is, who had least looked into the interior. This strife was not about the palace itself, but about various old ground-plans of it, and drawings of the same, very difficult to make out. Once, when the watchmen cried out "Fire," these connoisseurs, instead of running to help, snatched up their plans, and, instead of putting out the fire on the spot, kept standing with their plans in hand, making a hubbub all the while, and squabbling about whether this was the spot on fire, and that the place to put it out. Happily, the safety of the palace did not depend on these busy wranglers, for it was not on fire at all; the watchmen had been frightened by the Northern lights, and mistaken them for fire. It is impossible to convey by a clearer image Lessing's feeling, that a Christianity once incorporated in the very substance of history and civilization, seated deep in human sentiment and thought, and developed into literature, law, and life, subsists independently of critical questions, and is with us, not as the contingent vapor that a wind may rise to blow away, but as the cloud that has dropped its rain and mingled with the roots of things.

In immediate contrast with the foregoing application of a critical method to the historic documents of Christianity, it is beautiful to see the same genius turned with eager joy to a practical recommendation of the experimental life of Christianity.


It is quite true, that self-cure is of all things the most arduous; but that which is impossible to the man within us, may be altogether possible to the God. In truth, the denial of such changes, under the affectation of great knowledge of man, shows an incredible ignorance of men. Why, the history[Pg xxxv] of every great religious revolution, such as the spread of Methodism, is made up of nothing else; the instances occurring in such number and variety, as to transform the character of whole districts and vast populations, and to put all scepticism at utter defiance. And if some more philosophic authority is needed for the fact, we may be content with the sanction of Lord Bacon, who observed that a man reforms his habits either altogether or not at all. Deterioration of mind is indeed always gradual; recovery usually sudden; for God, by a mystery of mercy, has established this distinction in our secret nature,—that, while we cannot, by one dark plunge, sympathize with guilt far beneath us, but gaze at it with recoil till intermediate shades have rendered the degradation tolerable, we are yet capable of sympathizing with moral excellence and beauty infinitely above us; so that, while the debased may shudder and sicken at even the true picture of themselves, they can feel the silent majesty of self-denying and disinterested duty. With a demon can no man feel complacency, though the demon be himself; but God can all spirits reverence, though his holiness be an infinite deep. And thus the soul, privately uneasy at its insincere state, is prepared, when vividly presented with some sublime object veiled before, to be pierced, as by a flash from heaven, with an instant veneration, sometimes intense enough to fuse the fetters of habit, and drop them to the earth whence they were forged. The mind is ready, like a liquid on the eve of crystallization, to yield up its state on the touch of the first sharp point, and dart, over its surface and in its depths, into brilliant and beautiful forms, and from being turbid and weak as water, to become clear as crystal, and solid as the rock.

One of the most elaborate and valuable productions from Mr. Martineau's pen, an article closely allied in all respects to the ensuing Studies of Christianity, is the one of some portions of which we herewith present an epitome.

[Pg xxxvi]


The Divine sentiments towards right and wrong every man naturally believes to be a reflection of whatever is most pure and solemn in his own. We cannot be sincerely persuaded, that God looks with aversion on dispositions which we revere as good and noble; or that he regards with lax indifference the selfish and criminal passions which awaken our own disgust. We may well suppose, indeed, his scrutiny more searching, his estimate more severely true, his rebuking look more awful, than our self-examination and remorse can fitly represent; but we cannot doubt that our moral emotions, as far as they go, are in sympathy with his; that we know, by our own consciousness, the general direction of his approval and displeasure; and that, in proportion as our perceptions of duty are rendered clear, our judgment more nearly approaches the precision of the Omniscient award. Our own conscience is the window of heaven through which we gaze on God; and, as its colors perpetually change, his aspect changes too;—if they are bright and fair, he dwells as in the warm light of a rejoicing love; if they are dark and turbid, he hides himself in robes of cloud and storm. When you have lost your self-respect, you have never thought yourself an object of Divine complacency. In moments fresh from sin, flushed with the shame of an insulted mind, when you have broken another resolve, or turned your back upon a noble toil, or succumbed to a mean passion, or lapsed into the sickness of self-indulgence, could you ever turn a clear and open face to God, nor think it terrible to meet his eye? Could you imagine yourself in congeniality with him, when you gave yourself up to the voluble sophistry of self-excuse, and the loose hurry of forgetfulness? Or did you not discern him rather in your own accusing heart, and meet him in the silent anguish of full confession, and find in the recognition of your alienation the first hope of return? To all unperverted minds, the verdict of conscience sounds with a preternatural[Pg xxxvii] voice; it is not the homely talk of their own poor judgment, but an oracle of the sanctuary. There is something of anticipation in our remorse, as well as of retrospect; and we feel that it is not the mere survey of a gloomy past with the slow lamp of our understanding, but a momentary piercing of the future with the vivid lightning of the skies. Our moral nature, left to itself, intuitively believes that guilt is an estrangement from God,—an unqualified opposition to his will,—a literal service of the enemy; that he abhors it, and will give it no rest till it is driven from his presence, that is, into annihilation; that no part of our mind belongs to him but the pure, and just, and disinterested affections which he fosters, the faithful will which he strengthens, the virtue, often damped, whose smoking flax he will not quench, and the good resolves, ever frail, whose bruised reed he will not break; and that he has no relation but of displeasure, no contact but of resistance, with our selfishness and sin. In the simple faith of the conscience it is no figure of speech to say, that God "is angry with the wicked every day," and is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." So long as the natural religion of the heart is undisturbed, to sin is, in the plainest and most positive sense, to set up against Heaven, and frustrate its will.

Soon, however, the understanding disturbs the tranquillity of this belief, and constructs a rival creed. The primitive conception of God is acquired, I believe, without reasoning, and emerges from the affections; it is a transcript of our own emotions,—an investiture of them with external personality and infinite magnitude. But a secondary idea of Deity arises in the intellect, from its reasonings about causation. Curiosity is felt respecting the origin of things; and the order, beauty, and mechanism of external nature are too conspicuous not to force upon the observation the conviction of a great Architect of the universe, from whose designing reason its forces and its laws mysteriously sprung. Hence the intellectual conception of God the Creator, which comes into inevitable collision with the moral notion of God the holy[Pg xxxviii] watch of virtue. For if the system of creation is the production of his Omniscience; if he has constituted human nature as it is, and placed it in the scene whereon it acts; if the arrangements by which happiness is allotted, and character is formed, are the contrivance of his thought and the work of his hand,—then the sufferings and the guilt of every being were objects of his original contemplation, and the productions of his own design. The deed of crime must, in this case, be as much an integral part of his Providence, as the efforts and sacrifices of virtue; and the monsters of licentiousness and tyranny, whose images deform the scenery of history, are no less truly his appointed instruments, than the martyr and the sage. And though we remain convinced that he does not make choice of evil in his government for its own sake, but only for ultimate ends worthy of his perfections, still we can no longer see how he can truly hate that which he employs for the production of good. That which is his chosen instrument cannot be sincerely regarded as his everlasting enemy; and only figuratively can he be said to repudiate a power which he continually wields. There must be some sense in which it appears, in the eye of Omniscience, to be eligible; some point of view at which its horrors vanish; and where the moral distinctions, which we feel ourselves impelled to venerate, disappear from the regards of God.

Here, then, is a fearful contradiction between the religion of conscience and the religion of the understanding; the one pronouncing evil to be the antagonist, the other to be the agent, of the Divine will. In every age has this difficulty laid a heavy weight upon the human heart; in every age has it pointed the sarcasm of the blasphemer, mingled an occasional sadness with the hopes of benevolence, and tinged the devotion of the thoughtful with a somewhat melancholy trust. The whole history of speculative religion is one prolonged effort of the human mind to destroy this contrariety; system after system has been born in the struggle to cast the oppression off,—with what result, it will be my object at present[Pg xxxix] to explain. The question which we have to consider is this, "How should a Christian think of the origin and existence of evil?" I propose to advert, first, to the speculative; secondly, to the scriptural; thirdly, to the moral relations of the subject; to inquire what relief we can obtain from philosophical schemes, from biblical doctrine, and from practical Christianity.

Let us then, for final decision, consult the practical spirit of Christianity, and ascertain to what view of the origin of sin it awards the preference. Is it well for the consciences and characters of men, to consider God—either directly or through his dependant, Satan, either by his general laws or by vitiating the constitution of our first parents—as the primary source of moral evil? or, on the contrary, to regard it as in no sense whatever willed by the Supreme Mind, and absolutely inimical to his Providence? Are we most in harmony with the characteristic spirit of the Gospel when we call sin his instrument, or when we call it his enemy? For myself, I can never sit at the feet of Jesus, and yield up a reverential heart to his great lessons, without casting myself on the persuasion, that God and evil are everlasting foes; that never, and for no end, did he create it; that his will is utterly against it, nor ever touches it, but with annihilating force. Any other view appears to be injurious to the characteristic sentiments, and at variance with the distinguishing genius, of Christian morality.

(1.) Christianity is distinguished by the profound sentiment of individual responsibility which pervades it. All the arbitrary forms, and sacerdotal interpositions, and hereditary rights, through which other systems seek the Divine favor, are disowned by it. It is a religion eminently personal; establishing the most intimate and solitary dealings between God and every human soul. It is a religion eminently natural; eradicating no indigenous affection of our mind, distorting no primitive moral sentiment; but simply consecrating the obligations proper to our nature, and taking up with a divine voice the whispers, scarce articulate before, of[Pg xl] the conscience within us. In this deep harmony with our inmost consciousness of duty resides the true power of our religion. It subdues and governs our hearts, as a wise conqueror rules the empire he has won; not by imposing a system of strange laws, but by arming with higher authority, and administering with more resolute precision, the laws already recognized and revered.

To trifle in any way with this plain and solemn principle, to invent forms of speech tending to conceal it, to apply to moral good and ill language which assimilates them to physical objects and exchangeable property, implies frivolous and irreverent ideas of sin and excellence. The whole weight of this charge evidently falls on the scheme which speaks of human guilt as an hereditary entail; a scheme which shocks and confounds our primary notion of right and wrong, and, by rendering them impersonal qualities, reduces them to empty names. No construction can be given to the system, which does not pass this insult on the conscience. In what sense do we share the guilt of our progenitor? His concession to temptation did not occur within our mind, or belong in any way to our history. And if, without participation in the act of wrong, we are to have its penalties, crimes in the planet Saturn may be expected to shower curses on the earth; for why may not justice go astray in space, as reasonably as in time? If nothing more be meant, than that from our first parents we inherit a constitution liable to intellectual error and moral transgression,—still it is evident that, until this liability takes actual effect, no sin exists, but only its possibility; and when it takes effect, there is just so much guilt, and no more, than might be committed by the individual's will: so that where there is no volition, as in infancy, cruelty only could inflict punishment; and where there is pure volition, as in many a good passage of the foulest life, equity itself could not withhold approval.

(2.) I submit as a second distinguishing feature of practical Christianity, that it makes no great, certainly no exclusive, appeal to the prudential feelings, as instruments of duty;[Pg xli] treats them as morally incapable of so sacred a work; and relies, chiefly and characteristically, on affections of the heart, which no motives of reward and punishment can have the smallest tendency to excite.

The Gospel, indeed, like all things divine, is unsystematic and unbound by technical distinctions, and makes no metaphysical separation between the will and the affections. It is too profoundly adapted to our nature, not to address itself copiously to both. The doctrine of retribution, being a solemn truth, appears with all its native force in the teachings of Christ, and arms many of his appeals with a persuasion just and terrible. But never was there a religion (containing these motives at all) so frugal in the use of them; so able, on fit occasions, to dispense with them; so rich in those inimitable touches of moral beauty, and tones that penetrate the conscience, and generous trust in the better sympathies, which distinguish a morality of the affections. In Christ himself, where is there a trace of the obedience of pious self-interest, computing its everlasting gains, and making out a case for compensation, by submitting to infinite wisdom? In his character, which is the impersonation of his religion, we surely have a perfect image of spontaneous goodness, unhaunted by the idea of personal enjoyment, and, like that of God, unbidden but by the intuitions of conscience and the impulses of love. And what teacher less divine ever made such high and bold demands on our disinterestedness? To lend out our virtue upon interest, to "love them only who love us," he pronounced to be the sinners' morality; nor was the feeling of duty ever reached, but by those who could "do good, hoping for nothing again," except that greatest of rewards to a true and faithful heart, to be "the children of the Highest," who "is kind unto the unthankful and the evil." In the view of Jesus, all dealings between God and men were not of bargain, but of affection. We must surrender ourselves to him without terms; must be ashamed to doubt him who feeds the birds of the air, and, like the lily of the field, look up to him with a bright and loving eye; and he, for our much love, will pity[Pg xlii] and forgive us. In his own ministry, how much less did our Lord rely for disciples on the cogency of mere proof, and the inducements of hope and fear, than on the power of moral sympathy, by which every one that was of God naturally loved him and heard his words; by which the good shepherd knew his sheep, and they listened to his voice, and followed him; and without which no man could come unto him, for no spirit of the Father drew him. No condition of discipleship did Christ impose, save that of "faith in him"; absolute trust in the spirit of his mind; a desire of self-abandonment to a love and fidelity like his, without tampering with expediency, or hesitancy in peril, or shrinking from death.

There is, then, a wide variance between the genius of Christianity, and that philosophy which teaches that all men must be bought over to the side of goodness and of God, by a price suited to their particular form of selfishness and appetite for pleasure. Our religion is remarkable for the large confidence it reposes on the disinterested affections, and the vast proportion of the work of life it consigns to them. And in thus seeking to subordinate and tranquillize the prudential feelings, Christ manifested how well he knew what was in man. He recognized the truth, which all experience declares, that in these emotions is nothing great, nothing lovable, nothing powerful; that their energy is perpetually found incapable of withstanding the impetuosity of passion; and that all transcendent virtues, all that brings us to tremble or to kneel, all the enterprises and conflicts which dignify history, and have stamped any new feature on human life, have had their origin in the disinterested region of the mind,—in affections unconsciously entranced by some object sanctifying and divine. He knew, for it was his special mission to make all men feel, that it is the office of true religion to cleanse the sanctuary of the secret affections, and effect a regeneration of the heart. And this is a task which no direct nisus of the will can possibly accomplish, and to which, therefore, all offers of reward and punishment, operating only on the will,[Pg xliii] are quite inapplicable. The single function of volition is to act; over the executive part of our nature it is supreme, over the emotional it is powerless; and all the wrestlings of desire for self-cure and self-elevation, are like the struggles of a child to lift himself. He who is anxious to be a philanthropist, is admiring benevolence, instead of loving men; and whoever is laboring to warm his devotions, yearns after piety, not after God. The mind can by no spasmodic bound seize on a new height of emotion, or change the light in which objects appear before its view. Persuade the judgment, bribe the self-interests, terrify the expectations, as you will, you can neither dislodge a favorite, nor enthrone a stranger, in the heart. Show me a child that flings an affectionate arm around a parent, and lights up his eyes beneath her face, and I know that there have been no lectures there upon filial love; but that the mother, being lovable, has of necessity been loved; for to genial minds it is as impossible to withhold a pure affection, when its object is presented, as for the flower to sulk within the mould, and clasp itself tight within the bud, when the gentle force of spring invites its petals to curl out into the warm light. As you reverence all good affections of our nature, and desire to awaken them, never call them duties, though they be so; for so doing, you address yourself to the will; and by hard trying no attachment ever entered the heart. Never preach on their great desirableness and propriety; for so doing, you ask audience of the judgment; and by way of the understanding no glow of noble passion ever came. Never, above all, reckon up their balance of good and ill; for so doing, you exhort self-interest; and by that soiled way no true love will consent to pass. Nay, never talk of them, nor even gaze curiously at them; for if they be of any worth and delicacy, they will be instantly looked out of countenance and fly. Nothing worthy of human veneration will condescend to be embraced, but for its own sake: grasp it for its excellent results,—make but the faintest offer to use it as a tool, and it slips away at the very conception of such insult. The functions of a healthy body go on, not by[Pg xliv] knowledge of physiology, but by the instinctive vigor of nature; and you will no more brace the spiritual faculties to noble energy and true life by study of the uses of every feeling, than you can train an athlete for the race by lectures on every muscle of every limb. The mind is not voluntarily active in the acquisition of any great idea, any new inspiration of faith; but passive, fixed on the object which has dawned upon it, and filled it with fresh light.

If this be true, and if it be the object of practical Christianity, not only to direct our hands aright, but to inspire our hearts, then can its ends never be achieved by the mere force of reward and punishment; then no system can prove its sufficiency by showing that it retains the doctrine of retribution, and must even be held convicted of moral incompetency, if it trusts the conscience mainly to the prudential feelings, without due provision for enlisting the co-operation of many a disinterested affection.

We cannot refrain from affording those into whose hands this volume will go, the pleasure and the lofty encouragement which they must derive from the perusal of an extract on


It is a law of Providence in communities, that ideas shall be propagated downwards through the several gradations of minds. They have their origin in the suggestions of genius, and the meditations of philosophy; they are assimilated by those who can admire what is great and true, but cannot originate; and thence they are slowly infused into the popular mind. The rapidity of the process may vary in different times, with the facilities for the transmission of thought, but its order is constant. Temporary causes may shield the inferior ranks of intelligence from the influence of the superior; fanaticism may interpose for a while with success; a[Pg xlv] want of the true spirit of sympathy between the instructors and the instructed may check by a moral repulsion the natural radiation of intellect;—but, in the end, Providence will re-assert its rule; and the conceptions born in the quiet heights of contemplation will precipitate themselves on the busy multitudes below. This principle interprets history and presages futurity. It shows us in the popular feeling and traditions of one age, a reflection from the philosophy of a preceding; and from the prevailing style of sentiment and speculation among the cultivated classes now, it enables us to foresee the spirit of a coming age. Nor only to foresee it, but to exercise over it a power, in the use of which there is a grave responsibility. If we are far-sighted in our views of improvement; if we are ambitious less of immediate and superficial effects than of the final and deep-seated agency of generous and holy principles; if our love of opinions is a genuine expression of the disinterested love of truth;—we shall remember who are the teachers of futurity; we shall appeal to those, within whose closets God is already computing the destinies of remote generations,—men at once erudite and free, men who have the materials of knowledge with which to determine the great problems of morals and religion, and the genius to think and imagine and feel, without let or hinderance of hope or fear.

We linger over the pages from which the preceding selections have been made, unwilling to end our grateful task of love. But one quotation more must be the last. With it we commend these Studies of Christianity, these timely thoughts for religious thinkers, to the candid and affectionate inquirers within all sects, confident that, so far as the work obtains a fit reception, it will exert that purifying, liberalizing, and sanctifying power which is the genuine influence of Christ.

[Pg xlvi]


The sectarian state of theology in this country cannot but be regarded as eminently unnatural. Its cold and hard ministrations are entirely alien to the wants of the popular mind, which, except under the discipline of artificial influences, is always most awake to generous impressions. Its malignant exclusiveness is a perversion of the natural veneration of the human heart, which, except where it is interfered with by narrow and selfish systems, pours itself out, not in hatred towards anything that lives, but in love to the invisible objects of trust and hope. Its disputatious trifling is an insult to the sanctity of conscience, which, except where it is betrayed into oblivion of its delicate and holy office, supplicates of religion, not a new ferocity of dogmatism, but an enlargement and refinement of its sense of right. It is the temper of sectarianism to seize on every deformity of every creed, and exhibit this caricature to the world's gaze and aversion. It is the spirit of the soul's natural piety to alight on whatever is beautiful and touching in every faith, and take there its secret draught of pure and fresh emotion. It is the passages of poetry and pathos in a system, which alone can lay a strong hold on the general mind and give them permanence; and even the wild fictions which have endeared Romanism to the hearts of so many centuries, possess their elements of tenderness and magnificence. The fundamental principle of one who would administer religion to the minds of his fellow-men should be, that all that has ever been extensively venerated must possess ingredients that are venerable. If, in the spirit of sectarianism, he sees nothing in it but absurdity, it only proves that he does not see it all; it must have an aspect, which he has not yet caught, that awes the imagination, or touches the affections, or moves the conscience; and those who receive it neither will nor should abandon it, till something is substituted, not only more consonant with the reason, but more awakening to these higher faculties of soul. Hence, a rigid accuracy and logical penetration[Pg xlvii] of mind, the power of detecting and exposing error, are not the only qualities needed by the religious reformer; and in a deep and reverential sympathy with human feelings, a quick perception of the great and beautiful, a promptitude to cast himself into the minds of others, and gaze through their eyes at the objects which they love, he will find the instrument of the sublimest intellectual power. The precise logician may sit eternally in the centre of his own circle of correct ideas, and preach demonstrably the folly of the world's superstitions; yet he will never affect the thoughts of any but marble-minded beings like himself. He disregards the fine tissue of emotions that clings round the objects which he so harshly handles; and has yet to learn the art of preserving its fabric unimpaired, while he enfolds within it something more worthy for it to foster and adore.

As, then, it is to the moral and imaginative powers of the human mind that religion chiefly attaches itself, as it is by these that the want of it is most strongly felt, so is it to these that its ministrations should be, for the most part, addressed. While theologians are discussing the evidences of creeds, let teachers be conducting them to their applications. Let their respective resources of feeling and conception be unfolded before the soul of mankind; let it be tried what mental energy they can inspire, what purity of moral perception infuse, what dignity of principle erect, what toils of philanthropy sustain. Thus would arise a new criterion of judgment between differing systems; for that system must possess most truth which creates the most intelligence and virtue. Thus would the deeper devotional wants of society be no longer mocked by the privilege of choice among a few captious, verbal, and precise forms of belief. Thus, too, would the alienation which repels sect from sect give place to an incipient and growing sympathy; for when high intellect and excellence approach and stand in meek homage beneath the cross, how soon are the jarring voices of disputants hushed in the stillness of reverence! Who does not feel the refreshment, when some stream of pure poetry, like Heber's, winds[Pg xlviii] into the desert of theology! when some flash of genius, like that of Chalmers, darts through its dull atmosphere! some strains of eloquence, like those of Channing, float from a distance on its heavy silence!

Such, then, are the objects which should be contemplated by those who, in the present times, aim at the reformation of religious sentiment;—first, the elevation of theology as an intellectual pursuit; secondly, the better application of religion as a moral influence. Both these objects are directly or indirectly promoted by the Association whose cause I am privileged to advocate. It aids the first, by the distribution of many a work, the production of such minds as must redeem theology from contempt. It advances the second, by establishing union and sympathy among those whose first principles are in direct contradiction to all that is sectarian, and who desire only to emancipate the understanding from all that enfeebles, and the heart from all that narrows it. The triumph of its doctrines would be, not the ascendency of one sect, but the harmony of all. Let but the diversities which separate Christians retire, and the truths which they all profess to love advance to prominence, and, whatever may become of party names, our aims are fulfilled, and our satisfaction is complete. When faith in the paternity of God shall have kindled an affectionate and lofty devotion; when the vision of immortality, imparted by Christ's resurrection, shall have created that spirit of duty which was the holiest inspiration of his life; when the sincere recognition of human brotherhood shall have supplanted all exclusive institutions, and banded society together under the vow of mutual aid and the hope of everlasting progress, our work will be done, our reward before us, and our little community of reformers lost in the wide fraternity of enlightened and benevolent men.

The day is yet distant, and can be won only by the toil of earnest and faithful minds. In the mean while, it is no light solace to see that the tendencies of Providence are towards its accelerated approach. And however dispiriting may sometimes be the variety and conflicts of human sentiment,—however[Pg xlix] remote the dissonance of controversy from that harmony of will which would seem essential to perfected society, it is through this very process that the great ends of improvement are to be attained. Hereafter it will be seen, much more clearly than we can see it now, that opinion generates knowledge. Like the ethereal waves, whose inconceivable rapidity and number are said to impart the sensation of vision, the undulations of opinion are speeding on to produce the perception of truth. They are the infinitely complex and delicate movements of that universal Human Mind, whose quiescence is darkness,—whose agitation, light.

To the fit and numerous readers whom we trust they will find, these papers are now submitted, in the earnest hope that the author will at no distant day follow them with some more systematic and rounded survey of the same great subject,—the components and developments of Christianity.

W. R. A.

[Pg 1]



If unity be the character of truth, no generation was ever so far gone in errors as our own: nor is the weariness surprising, with which statesmen and philosophers turn away from the Babel of Divinity, and, in despair of scaling the heavens, apply themselves to found and adorn the politics of this world. But the confusion of tongues is too positive and obtrusive a fact to be escaped by mere retreat: it bids defiance to polite evasion: it pursues life into every public place and private haunt; invades the home, the school, the college, the court, the legislature; and, besides the problems which it fails to solve, constitutes in itself a new one, not undeserving the closest study and reflection. To the believers in doctrinal finality, who imagine the whole sacred economy to be settled by a documentary revelation, the reopening of every question, down to the very basis of religious faith, must be an appalling phenomenon, charging either failure on the presumed designs of God or a traitorous perversity on even the most gifted and upright of men. And not a whit better is the conclusion of a conceited illuminism, which, either boldly recalling the human mind to the sciences of induction, despises all faith as false alike; or, conscious at least of its own incompetency, pleases itself with a more indulgent scepticism, and accepts them all as true. If no better revenge can be taken on pious dogmatism than by falling into the cant of an eclectic neutrality or an impious despair, there is little encouragement for any high-minded[Pg 2] man to take part against the bigotries of the present on behalf of sickly negations in the future. The world is better left in the hands of the poorest interpreter of Paul, and most degenerate heirs of Augustine and Pascal, than transferred to the dialectic of Proclus or the materialism of the living "Fondateur de la Religion de l'Humanité."[1] There are those, however, who deny that we are left to any such alternative; who cannot conceive that human aspirations after divine reality shall for ever pine and sigh in vain; who contend that objective truth in reference to morals and religion is attainable, and has been largely attained;—and who, accordingly, despairing of neither philosophy nor Christianity, require only the free intercommunion of the two to appreciate the contradictions of the present without foregoing the hope of greater unity in the future. The controversies of the hour are but ill understood by one who remains enclosed within them, and judges them only on their own assumptions. Like a village brawl, which, with only the sound of vulgar noise, may be the ripe fruit of oppression and the germ of revolution, they have an assigned place in the unfolding of modern civilization; and not till their place is computed in the life of the human race, and the law which brings them up in our age is observed, can their real significance be apprehended, and all anger at their clamorous littleness be lost in hope of their ulterior issues. Regarded from this higher point, the surface of religious belief in England, at first sight a mere troubled fermentation of struggling elements, betrays some organic principle of order, and many salient points of promise.

We hazard no theory of religion in saying that there is a natural correspondence between the genius of a people and the form of their belief. Each mood of mind brings its own wants and aspirations, colors its own ideal, and interprets best that part of life and the universe with which it is in sympathy. John Knox would have been misplaced in Athens, and[Pg 3] Tanler could not have lived on the moralism of Kant. No doubt the ultimate seat of human faith lies deep down below the special propensities of individuals or tribes,—in a consciousness and faculty common to the race. But ere it comes to the surface, and disengages itself in a concrete shape, its type and color will be affected by the strata of thought and feeling through which it emerges into the light. Without pretending to an exhaustive classification, we find four chief temperaments of mind expressed in the theologies and scepticisms of civilized Europe: the quest of physical order, the sense of right, the instinct of beauty, and the consciousness of tempestuous impulses carrying the will off its feet. Variously blended in the characters of average persons, these tendencies are liable to separate their intensities, and severally dominate almost alone in minds of great force and periods of special action or reaction. Were each left to itself to form its own unaided creed, the doctrine of mere Science would be atheistic; of Conscience, theistic; of Art, pantheistic; of Passion, sacrificial. The evidence of this distribution of tendencies is equally conclusive, whether we look to its rational ground or to its historical exemplification; and a few words on each head will suffice to clear and justify it.

Notwithstanding some occasional attempts to exhibit natural theology as a necessary extension of natural philosophy, it is plain that the maxims, which are ultimate for physical Science, stop short of contact with Religion; that the final appeal of the two is carried to different faculties; and that the scope and sphere of the one may be complete without borrowing any conception from the other. The assumption, for instance, that "we can know nothing but phenomena," directly excludes all permanent and eternal Being as the possible object of rational thought. And as "phenomena" are apprehensible only by the observing faculties, whatever refuses to put in an appearance in their court is nonsuited as an unreality. And again, physical knowledge has accomplished its aim, as soon as it can predict all the successions that lie within its field of time and space; and nowhere in this system of series, nor in the calculated[Pg 4] forces which yield it to the view, does any divine Person look in upon the mind. Whoever, by the restraints of a hypothetical necessity, detains his intellect within nature, debars himself ipso facto from any faith that transcends nature, and recognizes no reserve of supernatural possibilities, hidden in a Mind of which the actual universe is but the finite expression. We do not, of course, intend to affirm that scientific culture cannot coexist with religious belief;—so preposterous an assertion would be confuted by a manifold experience;—but only that, where the canons of inductive knowledge are invested with unconditional universality, and are logically carried out as valid for all thought, they shut the door upon the sources of faith. It is the old battle, of which history supplies such abundant illustration; which brought Parmenides and Protagoras upon the lists at opposite ends on the field of philosophy; which Bacon profoundly avoided by assigning separate empires, without common boundary, to science and religion; but which his modern disciples have rashly renewed, by invading the realm left sacred by him. Uneasy relations have always subsisted in Christendom between the investigators of nature and the trustees of the faith: the men of science rarely quitting, unless for signs of unequivocal aversion, the attitude of polite indifference to the Church; and in their turn watched with the jealous eye of sacerdotal vigilance. It is no untrue instinct that has hitherto maintained them in this posture of mutual suspicion: to exchange which for a hearty and intelligent reverence for each other is an achievement reserved for a higher philosophy than we yet possess.

As Science pays homage to the force of nature, so Conscience enthrones the law of right. The conscious subject of moral obligation feels himself under a rule neither self-imposed and fictitious, nor foreign and coercive;—neither a home invention nor an outward necessity;—a rule invisible, authoritative, awful; carrying with it an alternative irreducible to the linear dynamics of the physical world; incapable of being felt but by a free mind, or of being given but by another. He is aware that his will follows a call of duty not at[Pg 5] all as his body adapts itself to the force of gravitation; and as within him the conscientious obedience wholly differs from the corporeal, so in the universe of realities beyond him does the moral legislation differ from the natural, and express the will of a person, not a mere constitution of things. No ethical conceptions are possible at all,—except as floating shreds of unattached thought,—without a religious background; and the sense of responsibility, the agony of shame, the inner reverence for justice, first find their meaning and vindication in a supreme holiness that rules the world. Nor can any one be penetrated with the distinction between right and wrong, without recognizing it as valid for all free beings, and incapable of local or arbitrary change. His feeling insists on its permanent recognition and omnipresent sway; and this unity in the Moral Law carries him to the unity of the Divine Legislator. Theism is thus the indispensable postulate of conscience,—its objective counterpart and justification, without which its inspirations would be illusions, and its veracities themselves a lie. To adduce historical proofs of this conjunction is at once difficult and superfluous in a world whose theism is almost all of one stock. But it will not be forgotten that Socrates, in whom Greek religion culminated, avowedly based his reform on the substitution of moral for physical studies. It is undeniable too that, in spite of their fatalism, the monotheistic Mohammedans have been surpassed by few nations in their sense of truth and fidelity; and that wherever the same type of belief has been approached by Christian sects, the heresy has been said to arise from an exaggerated estimate of the moral law.

Art, we have said, is pantheistic. Its aim, often unconsciously present, is to read off the expressiveness of things, and find what it is which they would speak with their silent look. To its perceptions, form, color, sound, motion, have a soul within them whose life and activity they represent: and even language, by flinging itself into the mould of rhythm and music, acquires, beyond its logical significance, a second meaning for the affections. As if waked up and tingling beneath[Pg 6] the artist's loving gaze, matter lies dull and dead no more; opens on him a responding eye; communes with him from its steadfast brow; and becomes instinct with grace or majesty. Instead of being the drag-weight and opposite of spiritual energies, it becomes to him their pliant medium, the docile clay for the shapes of finest thought, the brilliant palette for the spread of inmost feeling. He melts the barrier away that hides from mere sense and intellect the interior sentiment—the formative idea—of all visible things; and his glance of sympathy changes them not less than a burst of amber sunrise changes a leaden landscape and picks out the freshest smiles. Thus he finds himself in a living universe, ever striving to show him a divine beauty that lurks within and presses to the surface; and he stands before a curtain only half opaque, watching the lights and shadows thrown on it from behind by the ceaseless play of infinite thought. Not that the interpretation is by any means self-evident, or accessible except to the apprehensive instinct of sympathy. For it seems as though no form of being, no object in creation, could ever represent completely its own type: something is lost from its perfection in the realization; and the actual, falling short of the ideal, can give it only to one for whom a hint suffices. This conception of the world as an incarnate divineness does not, we are well aware, amount to pantheism, unless it become all-comprehensive, so as to take in not simply physical nature, but the human life and will; and there are numbers who are saved from this extreme, either by knowing where to draw the lines of philosophical distinction, or by the natural force of moral conviction restraining the absolutism of imagination. But so far forth as the tendency operates, it substitutes for the theistic reverence for a Holy Will the pantheistic recognition of a Creative Beauty, and presents God to the mind less as the prototype of Conscience than as the apotheosis of Genius. The spontaneity of poetic action is supposed to illustrate His procedure better than the preferential decisions of the moral sentiment; and the genesis of whatever is good and fair is referred not so much to deliberate[Pg 7] plan as to the eternal interfusion and circulation, through the great whole, of a Divine Essence, which flings off the universe and its history as a mere natural language. That this is the religion of art, is proved by the literature of every creative period, Greek, Italian, or Teutonic; and negatively by the comparative absence of artistic feeling and production in ages and nations that have most intensified at once the Unity and the Personality of God. Beauty was the Bible of Athens; and Plato, its devoutest and most comprehensive expounder, shows everywhere, in his metaphysics, his morals, and his myths, the mould into which its faith inevitably falls.

In passionate and impulsive natures there is a self-contradiction which makes their religious tendency peculiarly difficult to describe. They are not less conscious than others of moral distinctions, and own the sacred authority of the better invitation over the worse. Indeed, when surprised into a fall, their remorse shares the vehemence of all their emotions, and from the black shadow in which they sit, the sanctity of the law which they have violated looks ineffably bright; and they speak of its holy requirements, and of the infinite purity of the Divine Legislator, in such fervid tone, that whatever else they may endanger, the perfection of God's character, you feel assured, and the obligations of human morality, are secure of reverential maintenance. Yet the truth is precisely the reverse. At the very moment that the law of duty is thus loftily extolled, it is on the point of total subversion; lifted to a height precarious and unreal, it overbalances on the other side and disappears. For the very same stormy intensity which makes these men strong to feel the claim of good, makes them weak to obey it. Their personality wants solidity; and an atmosphere of tempestuous affections sweeps over it like a hurricane on water. They can do nothing from out of their own resolves, and are for ever drawn or driven from the fortress they were not to surrender. What remains for them, solicited thus by forces which are an overmatch for their just self-reliance? Is it surprising that they no sooner confess how they ought to obey, than they declare that they cannot[Pg 8] obey? The thing is a contradiction; but it all the better for this expresses what they are: with their centre of gravity in the wrong place, they cannot but hold the truth in unstable equilibrium. Repose on contradiction is, however, impossible; and the necessary result of these co-existent feelings of obligation and incapacity is a substitute for obedience. The resort to sacrifice which thus arose expressed no more, prior to the Christian era, than the sentiment, "Take this, O Lord, 't is all I have to give"; and afforded but a fictitious relief to the laboring spirit. It acknowledged and attested the incompetency of the will, but made no use of the excess of the emotions. It was the Pauline doctrine of faith which first turned this great power to account; and virtually said, "Are you in slavery because you cannot manage your affections? turn their trust and enthusiasm on Christ in heaven, and let them manage you, and you shall be free." The soul that falls in love with immortal goodness rises above the region of ineffectual strife, and spontaneously offers what could never be extorted from the will by the lash of self-mortifying resolve. This is the truth which underlies the sacrificial doctrine in Christian times,—the emancipating power of great trusts and high inspirations; and its very nature indicates its birth from impassioned temperaments, and its affinity with their special wants. The vicarious sacrifice is a mere plea, an ideal point of attraction, for a profound allegiance of heart; which minds of this class would hardly yield without an intense appeal to their gratitude; but which, if really awakened by a clear and tranquil moral reverence, would no less triumph over the gravitation of self. The one needful condition for the redemption of these natures is the objective presence and action upon them of a divine person to lift them clear out of themselves, and render back on the healing breath of trust the strength that only pants itself away in feverish effort. Every doctrine of sacrifice necessarily contradicts its own premises; because for guilt, which is personal and inalienable, it offers a compensation which is foreign, and meets a moral ill with an unmoral remedy. True and sound as a mere confession of[Pg 9] weakness, it runs off from that point into mere confusion and morbidness. But add to it the doctrine of faith, and it acquires its proper complement; balances its human disclaimer with a divine resource; and instead of sending its captive through dark labyrinths of vain experiment, opens a direct way from the chambers of humiliation to the prophet's watch-tower of prayer and vision. Without this complement, the doctrine created priesthoods; with it, destroys them. Without it, men are caught up in their moments of helplessness, and handed over to ritual quackeries; with it, they are seized in their hour of inspiration, and flung into the arms of God. The susceptibility for either treatment depends on the predominance of impulse and passion over breadth of imagination and strength of will. In short, there are minds whose power is shed, if we may say so, in protension, precipitated forwards in narrow channels with impetuous torrent. There are others whose affluence is in extension, and spreads out like a still lake to drink in light from the open sky, and reflect the look of wide-encircling hills. And there are others yet again, whose character is intension, and that move on in full volume, and with steady stream of tendency, rising and falling little with the seasons, and holding to the limits within which they are to go. The faith of the first is sacrificial; of the second, pantheistic; of the third, theistic.

Of the four cardinal tendencies we have named, the scientific has never been provided for within the interior of Christianity; whose organic life and structure are complete without it. It remains, therefore, sullenly on the outside, without renouncing at present its atheistic propensions: and the part it has played, however important, has been that of external check and antagonism, in the assertion of neglected rights of knowledge, and slighted interests of mankind. This cannot possibly continue for ever; nor is it at all consistent with experience to suppose, that either of the opponent influences will obtain a victory over the other. Their reconcilement, through the mediation and within the compass of some third and more comprehensive conception, is a task remaining for[Pg 10] the philosophy and charity of the future. We feel no doubt that it will be accomplished; and will spare us that revolutionary extermination of theology and metaphysics which is proclaimed, on behalf of positive science, by the self-appointed Committee of the "République Occidentale." The other three tendencies early worked their way into the Christian religion, and vindicated a place within its organism. Indeed, the historical genesis of the Catholic Church consists of little else, on the inner side of dogma and ethics, than the successive and successful self-assertion of each of these principles; and, on the outer side of ecclesiastical polity, than the construction of a social framework which held them in co-existence till the sixteenth century. The genius of three distinct peoples conspired to fill up the measure of the early faith; and each brought with it a separate constituent. The Hebrew believer contributed his theistic conscience; the Hellenic, his pantheistic speculation; the Romanic, his passionate appropriation of redemption by faith. The elements were, from the first, mixed and struggling together; so that the phenomena of no period, probably of no place, serve to show them disengaged from one another and insulated. But the Ebionitish period, with its rigorous monachism, its historical and human Christ, its scrupulous asceticism, its sternness against wealth, represents the ethical principle in its excess. The Logos idea, and indeed the whole development of the Trinitarian doctrine, exhibits the effort of the Greek thought to obtain recognition, and qualify the Judaic. And the Augustinian theology, pleading the wants of fervid natures, on whose surface the web of moral doctrines alights only to be shrivelled and disappear, completes the triad of agencies from whose confluence the faith of Christendom arose. In the Catholic system the three ingredients unite in one composite result; and hence the tenacity with which that system keeps possession of the most various types of human character, and, baffled by the spirit of one age, returns with the reaction of another. The ethical feeling finds satisfaction in its theory of human nature; the pantheistic, in its scheme of supernatural grace; the sacrificial,[Pg 11] in its conditions of redemption. Through the realism of the mediæval schools, its eucharistic doctrine, which is only the theological side of that philosophical conception, becomes a direct transfusion of Hellenic influence into the Church. And its faith in perpetual inspiration, in the unbroken chain of physical miracle, in the ceaseless mingling of sacramental mystery with the very substance of this world, so far softens and diffuses the concentrated personality of the Divine Essence, as to indulge the free fancy of art. Nor can we deny the same capacity of beauty to its hierarchy of holy natures,—from the village saint, through the heavenly angels, to the Son of God,—all blended in living sympathies that cross and recross the barriers of worlds. This comprehensive adaptation to the exigencies of mankind is a reasonable object of admiration. But nothing can be more absurd than the appeal to it in proof either of preternatural guidance, or of human artifice, in the constitutive process of the Roman Church. There is nothing very surprising in the fact, that a system which is the product of three factors should contain them all. No doubt if these factors are, as we contend, primary and indestructible features of our unperverted nature, no religion can be divine and completely true which refuses to take any of them up; and this one condition of the future faith we may learn from the Christendom of the past. The condition, however, must be satisfied otherwise than by the strange congeries of profound truths and puerile fancies which is dignified by the name of "Catholic doctrine."

For, be it observed, this system has no intrinsic and necessary unity, which would hold it together when abandoned to the free action of the mind, whose requirements it is said to meet. It has something for conscience, something for art, something for passion, each in its turn; but it is not a whole that can satisfy all together. Its contents, gathered by successive experiences, cohere through the external grasp of a sacerdotal corporation; and if that hand be paralyzed or relaxed, it becomes evident at once how little they have grown together. Hence the phenomena of the sixteenth century, whose revolt was the expression,[Pg 12] not of theological dissent, but of ecclesiastical disgust; and in which doctrine only accidentally fell to pieces, because the authority that guarded and wielded it became too rotten to be believed in. The secondary revolution, however, was incomparably more momentous than the primary. The treasured seeds that dropped from the shattered casket of the Church had to germinate again in the fresh soil of the richer European mind; and the great year of their development is still upon its round. The outward dictation of the Apostolic See being discarded, it became necessary to find another clew to divine truth; and the inner wants of the human soul and the passing age came into play, with no restraint within the ample scope of Scripture. A reconstitution of Christianity began,—on the basis, no doubt, of materials already accumulated,—more eclectic, therefore, and less creative, than in the infancy of the religion; but proceeding, nevertheless, by the same law, and commencing a similar cycle. The order of development in this second life of Christendom has not been the same as in the first; but the stages, though transposed, do not differ taken one by one. It is only this,—that whilst in the formation of the faith the dominant influences were Conscience, Art, and Passion, in its Re-formation they are Passion, Conscience, Art. At the moment when Luther shattered the fabric of pretended unity, and compelled the husk to shed its kernels, the season and the field were unfavorable to two out of the three, and they lay dormant till more genial times. The moral element had been discredited by the casuistry of the confessional, the "treasure of the Church," and the trade in meritorious works; and, decked in these vile trappings, was flung away in generous disgust. The æsthetic element had become so paganized in Italy, and was so identified with the reproduction of the very tastes and vices, the thought and style, nay, even the mythology itself, which the primitive religion had expelled as the work of demons, that the new piety shrank from it, and let it alone. In an age when episcopates were won by an ear for hexameters or a Ciceronian Latinity, when priests defended materialism in Tusculan disputations,[Pg 13] when popes frequented the comic theatre and Plautus was acted in the Vatican, when the proceeds of a purgatorial traffic were spent in destroying ancient basilicas and raising heathenish temples over the sepulchres of saints, it was inevitable that beauty should become suspected by sanctity. There remained, yet unspoiled by the adoption of a corrupt generation, the impetuous devotion and tremendous theory of Augustine; and this, accordingly, was the direction in which the whole early Reformation advanced. It was not the accident that Luther was an Augustinian monk, which determined the character of his movement. The sickened soul of Europe could breathe no other air. Emaciated with the mockery of spiritual aliment, revolting at the chopped straw and apples of Sodom that had been given for fruit from the tree of life, it sighed for escape from this choking discipline into some region fresh with the mountain breath of faith and love, and not quite barren of "angels' food." The burdened moral sense, so long deluded and abused, reduced to self-conscious dotage by vain penances and vainer promises, flung away all belief in itself, asked leave to lay its freedom down, and went into captivity to Christ. So exclusively did the feeling of the time flow into this channel, that no doctrine which had an ethical groundwork, or attempted to soften in the least the implacable hostility of nature and grace, obtained any success; while every enthusiastic excess of the anti-catholic ideas spread like wildfire. The irreproachable innocence and piety of the Salzburg Gärtner-brüder did nothing to save them from quick martyrdom to their Ebionitish faith; while the atrocities and ravings of the Anabaptists of Münster scarcely sufficed to stop the triumph of their hideous kingdom of the saints. The movement of the brave Zwingli, earlier and more moderate than either Luther's or Calvin's, was easily restrained by them within the narrowest range, whilst the Genevan Reformer, cautious and ungenial, had but to collect his logical fuel, and kindle the terrible fire of his dogma, and it spread from the icy chambers of his own nature and wrapt whole kingdoms in its flames. That men without passion or[Pg 14] pathos themselves, who do their work by force of intellect and will, should be successful disseminators of a doctrine that can live in no cool air, only shows how wide was the preparation of mind, and how the coming of this time fulfilled the long desire of nations.

The first stage, then, of the new development of Christianity was its Puritan period. The natural perdition of man, the radical corruption of his will, the religious indifference of all his states and actions, and the consequent worthlessness of his morality, except for civil uses and social police, constitute the fundamental assumptions of the system. From this basis of despair its doctrine of atonement comes to the rescue. The obedience of Christ is accepted in place of that which men cannot render, and his sacrifice instead of the penalty they deserve. Not, however, for all, but for those alone who may appropriate the deliverance by an act of faith, and present the merits of Christ as their offering to God, with full assurance of their sufficiency. Nothing but a divine and involuntary conversion can generate this faith, which follows no predisposition from the antecedent life, but the inscrutable decree of Heaven. Once transferred from the state of nature into that of grace, the disciple becomes, through the Holy Spirit, a new creature; is conscious of a sacred revolution in his tastes and affections; gives evidence of this by good works, which, now purified in their principle, are no longer unacceptable to God; and knows that, though he is still liable to the sins, he is redeemed from the penalties, of a son of Adam. The Church is the body of the converted, and while the Sacrament of Baptism initiates the candidate, and provisionally secures him, the Communion seals his adoption afterwards; the efficacy of both being conditional on the inner faith of the participant. The intense and unmediated antithesis of nature and grace, and the gulf, impassable except by miracle, between their two spheres, may be regarded as the most characteristic feature of this scheme. Its text-book contains the Pauline Epistles, and opens most readily at the Romans or Galatians; and its favorite writers are Augustine,[Pg 15] Luther, Calvin, and Edwards. With vast internal differences in their particular conceptions of Christian truth and of ecclesiastical government, the so-called Evangelical sects retain the impress of their common origin in the dearth of any ethical or æsthetic element in their religion.

From this alone must have resulted the fact which a plurality of causes has concurred in producing; viz. that the Reformation soon (within a century and a half) reached its apparent limit of extent, and propagated itself only internally by further evolutions of thought. It had taken up and exhausted the class of minds to which it was specially adapted; and after appropriating these, found itself arrested. Under the impulse of a newly-awakened piety men are disposed to feel that they cannot attribute too much to God; and there will always be large numbers who, from the absorbing intensity of religious sentiment, or the dominance of predestinarian theory, or the ill balance of partial cultivation, abdicate all personal power of good in favor of irreversible decrees. But as the tension relaxes or the culture enlarges, the moral instincts reassert their existence; and the monstrous distortions incident to any theory which denies their authority become too repulsive to be borne. Hence a reaction, in which the natural conscience takes the lead, and insists on obtaining that reconciliation with God which has already been conquered for the affections. Men in whom the sense of right and wrong is deep cannot divest themselves of reverence for it as authoritative and divine; nor can they truly profess that it is to them an empty voice, which, venerable as it sounds, they are never able to obey. They know what a difference it makes to them, in the whole peace and power of their being, whether they are faithful or whether they are false; that this difference belongs alike to their state of nature and their state of grace; that it is as little possible to withhold admiration from the magnanimity of the Pagan Socrates as from that of the Christian Paul; and that the sentiment which compels homage to both is the same that looks up with trust and worship to the justice and holiness of God: how, then, can they consent to draw[Pg 16] an unreal line of impassable separation between ethical qualities before conversion and the very same qualities after, and abrogate in the one case the moral distinctions which become valid in the other? The two lives,—of earth and heaven; the two minds,—human and divine; the two states,—nature and grace; which it is the impulse of enthusiasm to contrast, it is the necessity of conscience to unite. When Luther first blew up the sacerdotal bridge which had given a path across to the steps of centuries, the boldness of the deed and the inspiration of the time lightened the feet of men, and enabled them to spring over with him on the wing of faith. But when the van had passed, and the more equable and disciplined ranks of another generation were brought to the brink, there seemed a needless rashness in the attempt, and foundations were discovered for a structure based on the rock of nature, and making one province of both worlds. Even Melancthon, long as he yielded to his leader's more powerful will, could not permanently acquiesce in the complete extinction of human responsibility; and vindicated for the soul a voluntary co-operation with divine grace. This semi-Pelagian example rapidly spread; first among the later Lutherans, especially of Brunswick and Hanover; next into the school of Leyden; and finally into the Church and universities of England. Quick to seize the reaction in the temper of the times, the Jesuits put themselves at the head of the same tendency in their own communion; defended against the Jansenists a doctrine of free-will beyond even the limits of Catholic orthodoxy; upheld Molina against Augustine, as among the Protestants Episcopius was gaining upon Calvin. Among patriotic theologians the authority of the Latin Church gave way in favor of the early Christian apologists and Greek Fathers, who knew nothing of the scheme of decrees. Divinity, under the guidance of More and Cudworth, no longer disdained to replenish her oil and revive her flame from the lamp of Athenian philosophy. And the conception of a universal natural law was elaborately worked out by Grotius. As the sixteenth century was the period of dogmatic theology,[Pg 17] the seventeenth was that of ethical philosophy; the whole modern history of which lies mainly within that limit and half a century lower; and conclusively attests the decline of a scheme of belief incompatible with the very existence of such a science. When the Protestantism which had produced a Farel, a Beza, and a Whitgift, offered as its representatives Locke and Limborch, Tillotson and Butler, the nature of the change which had come over it declares itself. It was the revolt of moral sentiment against a doctrine that outraged it,—the re-development, under new conditions, of the ethical principle which had fallen neglected from the broken seed-vessel of the Catholic faith.

The second season of the Reformation, though treated now with unmerited disparagement, was not less worthy of admiration than the first. High-Churchmen may be ashamed of an archbishop who proposed a scheme of comprehension; Evangelicals, of a preacher who applauded the Socinians; and Coleridgians, of a theologian who was no deeper in metaphysics than the "Grotian divines"; but neither the Erastianism, the charity, nor the common sense of a Tillotson would be at all unsuitable at this moment to a church openly torn by dissensions and really held together only by dependence on the state. It has been a current opinion, perseveringly propagated by adherents of the Geneva theology, that the spread of Arminian sentiments was equivalent to a religious decline, and concurrent with the growth of a worldly laxity and selfish indifference of character. The allegation is absolutely false. In literature, in personal characteristics, and in public life, the Latitude-men and their associates in belief bear honorable comparison with their more rigorous forerunners. There is not only less of passionate intolerance, but a nobler freedom from an equivocal prudence, in the great writers of the second period, than in the Reformers of the first: and there is more to touch the springs of disinterestedness and elevation of mind in Cudworth and Clarke than in Calvin and Beza. Nor did the return of ethical theory weaken the sources of religious action. The very enterprises in which evangelical zeal most[Pg 18] rejoices,—missions to the heathen, and the diffusion of the Scriptures,—were not only prosecuted but set on foot in new directions and with more powerful instrumentalities, in the very midst of this period, and by the very labors of its most distinguished philosophers. The Society for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, were both born with the eighteenth century; and while the latter addressed itself to the natives and slaves of the American provinces, the former first made the Scriptures known on the Coromandel coast. It was Boyle who, of all men of his age, displayed the most generous zeal for the multiplication of the sacred writings, himself procuring their translation into four or five languages. For thirty years he was governor of a missionary corporation. Yet the complexion of his theology is sufficiently indicated by the fact that he bought up Pococke's Arabic translation of Grotius (De Veritate Christianæ Religionis), and was at the cost of its wide distribution in the East. And who that has ever read it can forget Swift's letter to the Irish viceroy (Lord Carteret), introducing Bishop Berkeley (then Dean of Derry), and his project for resigning his preferment at home in order that, on a stipend of £100 a year, he might devote himself to the conversion of the American Indians? The imperturbable patience with which the good Dean prosecuted his object, the self-devotion with which he embarked in it his property and life, the gratefulness with which he accepted from the government the promise of a grant, and the treachery which broke the promise, and after seven years compelled his return, make up a story unrivalled for its contrast of saintly simplicity and ministerial bad faith. These and similar features of the time superfluously refute the arbitrary and arrogant assumption, that no piety can be living and profound except that which disbelieves all natural religion, no gospel holy which does not renounce the moral law, no faith prolific in works unless it begins with despising them.

There was, however, still a defect in this gospel of conscience. Regarding the world and life as the object of a[Pg 19] divine administration, and seeking to interpret them by a scheme of final causes, it was wholly occupied with the conception of God as proposing to himself certain ends, and arranging the means for their accomplishment. In this light He is a Being with moral preconceptions and an economy for bringing them to pass. Everything is for a purpose, and subsists for the sake of what is ulterior, and forms part of a mechanism working out a prescribed problem. The tendency of this way of thinking will inevitably be, to hunt for providences. These the narrow mind will place in the incidents of individual life; the comprehensive intellect, in the laws and relations of the universe; not perhaps in either case without some danger from human egotism of referring too much to the good and ill which is relative to man. The infinite perfections of God will be concentrated, so to speak, too much in the notion of His will, and the powers which subserve its designs; and will in consequence be as much misapprehended as would be our own nature by an observer assuming that we put forth all its life and phenomena on purpose. Indeed, the exclusive and unbalanced ascendency of the moral faculty tempts a man to fancy this sort of existence the only right one for himself; to suspect every flow of unwatched feeling, and call himself to account for the burst of ringing laughter, or the surprise of sudden tears, and aim at an autocratic command of his own soul. It is not wonderful that his ideal of human character should reappear in his representation of the Divine. The error deforms his faith as much as it tends to stiffen and constrict his life. Leading him always to ask what a thing is for, it hinders him from seeing what it is; in search of the motive, he misses the look; and his interest in it being transitive, he sinks into it with no sympathy on its own account. This is only to say, in other words, that his prepossession detains him from the artistic contemplation of objects and events; for while it is the business of science to inquire their origination, and of morals to follow their drift, it remains for art to appreciate their nature. To feel the type of thought which they express, to recognize the idea which they invest[Pg 20] with form, the mind must rest upon them, not as products or as instruments, but as realities; and their significance must not be imposed upon them, but read off from them. The meaning which art detects in life and the world is not a purpose, but a sentiment; in its view the present attitudes and development of things are rather the out-coming of an inner feeling than the tools of a remoter end. To find room for this mode of conception something must be added to the ethical representation of God. He must be regarded as not always and throughout engaged in processes of intention and volition, but as having, around this moral centre, an infinite atmosphere of creative thought and affection, which, like the native inspirations of a pure and sublime human soul, spontaneously flow out in forms of beauty, and movements of rhythm, and a thousand aspects of divine expression. Religion demands the admission of this free element: and without it, will cease to speak home to men of susceptible genius and poetic nature, and must limit itself more and more to the fanatical minds that have too little regulation, and the moral that have too much. A God who offers terms of communion only to the passionate and to the conscientious, will not touch the springs of worship in perceptive and meditative men. Their prayer is less to know the published rules than to overhear the lonely whispers of the Eternal Mind, to be at one with His immediate life in the universe, and to shape or sing into articulate utterance the silent inspirations of which all existence is full. Their peculiar faculties supply them with other interests than about their sins, their salvation, and their conscience; they feel neither sufficiently guilty, nor sufficiently anxious to be good, to make a religion out of the one consciousness or the other; but if, indeed, it be God that flashes on them in so many lights of solemn beauty from the face of common things, that wipes off sometimes the steams of custom from the window of the soul, and surprises it with a presence of tenderness and mystery,—if the tension of creative thought in themselves, which can rest in nothing imperfect, yet realize nothing perfect, be an unconscious aspiration towards Him,—then there is[Pg 21] a way of access to their inner faith, and a temple pavement on which they will consent to kneel. It is, we believe, the inability of Protestantism, in either of its previous forms, to meet this order of wants, that has reduced it to its state of weakness and discredit; and the struggle of thought, characteristic of the present century, is an unconscious attempt to supply the defect, and to vindicate, for the third element of Catholic Christianity, the possibility of development in the open air of Protestant belief. The change began, like both of the earlier ones, in Germany; and it was from Plato that Schleiermacher learned where the weakness of Christian dogma lay, and in what field of thought he might create a diversion from the disastrous assaults of French materialism, and restore the balance of the fight. An Hellenic spirit was infused into the scientific theology of the Continent, and has never ceased to prevail there, though Aristotle has long succeeded to Plato as the channel of influence. When Hegel, long the rival of Schleiermacher, triumphed over him, not only in the coteries of Berlin, but in the schools of Germany, he no doubt turned the philosophy which had been invoked to preserve the faith into a dialectic, at whose magic touch it deliquesced; and no one who has followed the application of his principles to history and dogma can be surprised at the antipathy they awaken in the Church. But it would be a mistake to suppose that the step into Pantheism was made by Hegel, and that the opposing theologians raised up by the great preacher of Berlin occupy in this respect any different ground. Since the time of Jacobi theism proper has not been heard of in Germany: the very writers who mean to defend it, surrender it in the disguise of their definition of personality; and so steeped is the whole national mind in the colors of Hellenic thought, that from Neander to Strauss can be found, in our deliberate judgment, only different shades of the same pantheistic conception. What does this denote but a universal sigh after a God, who shall be neither a Jehovah, a Judaic αυτοκρατωρ, nor a redeeming Deus ex machinâ, supervening upon the theatre of history, but a living and energizing[Pg 22] Spirit, quickening the very heart of to-day, and whispering round the dome of Herschel's sky not less than in the third story of Paul's heaven? In some this feeling breaks out in devilish defiance, as in the unhappy Heinrich Heine's saying, "I am no child, I do not want a Heavenly Father any more": in others it breathes out, as with Novalis, in a tender mysticism, and is traceable by the reverent footfall and uncovered head with which they pace, as in a cathedral, the solemn aisles of life and nature. The expression of this tendency has passed into the literature of our own language, and every year is tinging it more and more with its characteristic hues. Emerson affords the purest and most unmixed example; but perhaps the earlier writings of Carlyle,—before the divine thirst had advanced so much into a human rabies,—and more especially his Sartor Resartus, may be taken as the real gospel of this sentiment. The intense operation of these essays, so entirely alien to the traditions of English thought and taste, is an evidence of something more than the genius of their authors: it is proof of a certain combustible state of the English mind, prepared by drought and deadness to burst into the flame of this new worship. This feeling, diffused through the very air of the time, has unmistakably evinced its essential identity with the instinct of art; in part, by a direct affluence and excellence of production unknown to the preceding age, but still more, in the wide extension of an appreciating love for the creations of artistic genius. The melancholy prophets who see in this spreading susceptibility only a morbid symptom of decadent civilization, are misled, we hope, by imperfect historical parallels. The flower, no doubt, both of Athenian and of Italian culture, was most brilliant just before it drooped. But the soil which bore it, and the elements that surrounded it, had no essential resemblance to the conditions of modern English society, in which, above all, there are the unexhausted juices of a moral faith and a strenuous habit, not stimulant perhaps of hasty growth, but giving hardihood against the open air and the natural seasons.

By the rules of technical theology, it may appear strange[Pg 23] to reckon the turn from theism to pantheism as a third stage of the Reformation; as if it could be at all included in the interior history of Christianity, instead of being treated as a direct apostasy. And it is in reality a very serious question, whether, without unfaithfulness to its essential character, the Christian religion can domesticate within it this new action of thought, or must from the first visit it with unqualified excommunication. On the one hand, nothing can be more absurd than to suppose that a faith of Hebrew origin, a faith whose very hypothesis is sin, and whose aspiration is moral perfectness, can ever be reconciled with a thorough-going pantheism. On the other hand, nothing can be more gratuitous than to assume that the feeling which, on getting the whole mind to itself, generates a pantheistic scheme, has no legitimate exercise, and gains its indulgence altogether at the expense of Christian truth. If we mistake not, the pith of the matter lies in a small compass. Let Christian Theism keep Morals, and Pantheism may have Nature. This rule is no mere compromise or coalition of incongruous elements, but is founded, we are convinced, on distinctions real and eternal. So long as a holy will is left to God, and a power committed to man, free to sustain relations of trust and responsibility, room remains for all the conditions of Christianity, and the field beyond may be open to the range of mystic perception, and railed off for the sacrament of beauty. But whether this or any other be the just partition of territory between the two claimants, partition there must be, for the real truth of things must correspond, not to the hypothesis of any single human faculty, but to harmonized postulates of all. It is not surprising that, on its first re-birth, the gospel of nature should deny the gospel of duty, or so take it up into its own fine essence as to volatilize all its substance away. This is but the natural revenge taken for past neglect, and the needful challenge to future attention. Each one of the three developments has in its turn run out beyond the limits of the Christian faith, and yet, hitherto, each has established a place within it. The Hegelian, or Emersonian, type of the third period is but the corresponding[Pg 24] phenomenon to the Antinomianism of the first, and the Deism of the second. And as these have passed away, after surrendering into the custody of Christendom the principles that gave them strength, so will the Pantheism of to-day, when it has provided for the safe-keeping of its charge, and seen the Church complete its triad of Faith, Holiness, and Beauty.

This question, however, will be asked: If the Reformation only repeats, with some transposition, the cycle of the primitive development, how are we the better for having thus to do our work again? Are we to end where the sixteenth century began, and to reproduce the Catholicism which was then resolved into its elements? And does some fatal necessity doom us to this wearisome periodicity? Not in the least. However little the seeds may be able to transgress the limits of species, and may remain indistinguishable from millennium to millennium, the conditions of growth are so different as practically to cancel the identity in the result. Taken even one by one, the modern forms of doctrine are far nobler than their early prototypes. The narrow Ebionitism of the original Church is not comparable, as an expression of the conscience, with the moral philosophy of Butler; and the Greek element of thought, flowing by Berlin, has entered the Church in deeper channels than when infiltrating through the theosophy of Alexandria. It is only in relation to the passionate element that the doubt can be raised, whether we have gained in truth and grandeur by passing the religion of Augustine through the minds of the modern reformers; and whether the Jansenists within the Church do not exhibit a higher phase of character than the Huguenots without it. But at any rate, the modern development, taken as a whole, is secure of an inner unity and completeness which before has been unattained. It is an obvious, yet little noticed, consequence of the invention of printing, that no one mood of feeling or school of thought can tyrannize over a generation of mankind, and sweep all before it, as of old; and then again, with change in the intellectual season, rot utterly away, and give place to a[Pg 25] successor no less absolute. Generations and ages now live in presence of each other; the impulse of the present is restrained by the counsels of the past, and, in fighting for the throne of the human mind, finds it not only strong in living prepossession, but guarded by shadowy sentinels, encircled by a band of immortals. Hence the history of ideas can never be again so wayward and fitful as it was in the first centuries of our era; losing all interest at one period in the questions which had maddened the preceding; for a time covered all over with the pale haze of Byzantine metaphysics, and then suffused with red heats of African enthusiasm. New truth can no longer forget the old, and thrive wholly at its expense, or even make a compact with it to take turn and turn about, but must find an organic relation with it, so as to be its enlargement rather than its rival. The modern moralist already understands Augustine better than did the old Pelagians; "Evangelical" teachers begin to insist on Christian ethics; and the increasing disposition, even in heterodox persons, to dwell on the Incarnation as the central point of faith, shows how credible and welcome becomes the notion of the union of human with divine, and of the moral manifestation of God in the life and soul of man. The time, we trust, is gone, for the merely linear advancement of the European mind, with all its action and reaction propagated downwards, and wasting centuries on phenomena that might co-exist. Henceforth it may open out in all dimensions at once, and fill, as its own for ever, the whole space of true thought into which its past increments have borne it. Sects, no doubt, and schools, will continue to arise on the outskirts of the intellectual realm, possessed by partial inspirations; but the world's centre of gravity will be more and more occupied by minds that can at once balance and retain these marginal excesses, that can round off the sphere by inner force of reason, and, dispensing with the outer mould of sacerdotal compression, let the tides flow free, and the winds blow strong, without alarm for the eternal harmony. This is the form in which nature will restore, and God approve, a Catholic consent.

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The idea we have endeavored to give of the genesis of Christian doctrine, and the law of its vicissitudes, is offered only as conveniently distributing the subjective sources of faith. It cannot be applied to the phenomena of particular countries apart from ample historical knowledge of the concurrent social and political conditions, without which the most accurate clews to the natural history of thought can only mislead as the interpreter of concrete events. When, for instance, we look around us at home, and seek for the English representatives of the several tendencies explained above, we may, no doubt, find them here and there, but they are so far from exhausting the facts of our time, that some of the most conspicuous parties—as the Anglicans—seem provided with no place at all. The obscurity first begins to clear away when we remember that in England Schism went before Reformation. The aim of Henry VIII. was simply to detach and nationalize the Church in his dominions; to give it insular integrity instead of provincial dependence; and could this have been done without meddling with the system of Catholic doctrine at all, the scheme of faith would have been preserved entire. While Luther and the Continental opponents of Rome were faithful to the idea of the unity of Christendom, and were calling out for a general council to restore it by a verdict on doubtful points of faith, the English monarch, undisturbed by doubt or scruple, broke off from Rome, and destroyed the traditions of centralization by taking the ecclesiastic jurisdiction into his own hands and stopping its passage of the seas. In the new movement of the time, England tended to become a petty papacy, still unreformed; Europe sought a universal church reformed. Neither aim admitted of realization. To repudiate the supreme pontiff, and substitute a civil head, involved a fatal breach in the sacerdotal system, and carried with it inevitable departures from the integrity of Catholic dogma; so that reformation was found inseparable from schism. And when no council, acknowledged as universal, was called to give authoritative settlement, arrangements ad interim became consolidated, provisional rights[Pg 27] grew into prescriptive; with the spectacle of variety, and the taste of freedom, the idea of unity faded away, till the co-existence of two churches within one land and one Christendom passed into a necessity, and reformation proved impossible without a schism. But, notwithstanding this partial approximation of the English and the Continental movements, the traces remain indelible that their point of departure was from opposite ends. In its origin and earliest traditions, in the basis of its constitution and worship, the Church of England has nothing whatever to do with Protestantism; it is but the Westminster Catholic Church instead of the Roman Catholic Church. Authoritative doctrine, sacramental grace, sacerdotal mediation, are all retained; and throughout the whole of Henry's reign, while the new laws were working themselves into habits, the seven sacraments, the communion in one kind, the Ave Maria, the invocation of saints, with the doctrines of transubstantiation and purgatory, remained within the circle of recognized orthodoxy. The impelling and regulative idea of the whole change was that of a nationalization of Catholicism. This original ascendency of the national over the theological feeling was never lost; and though channels were more and more opened, through the sympathies of exiles and the intercourse of scholars, for the infusion of Continental notions, yet the form given to the Church rendered it not very susceptible to the new learning; whose admission, so far as it took place, was rather induced by political conception than made in the interests of universal truth. The present Anglicans represent the first type of the English schism; and the High Church in general embodies the distinguishing national sentiment of the Reformation in this country, as compared with the cosmopolitan character of the Continental religious change. Doctrine is universal, administration and jurisdiction are local. Where the former becomes the bond of sympathy, as among the Evangelic Protestants, it unites men together by ties that are irrespective of the limits of country, and subordinates special patriotisms to the interests of a more comprehensive fraternity. Where the latter become[Pg 28] the objects of zeal, a flavor of the soil mingles itself with the sentiments of honor, and a peculiar loyalty concentrates itself on the inner circles of duty, often with the narrowest capacity of diffusion beyond. Hence the intensely English feeling which has always prevailed among the parochial—especially the rural—clergy of the Establishment, and the people who form their congregations. They constitute the very core of our insular society, and the retaining centre of our historical characteristics. Their admirations, their prejudices, their virtues, their ambitions, are all national. Their interest in dogma is not intellectually active, or provocative of any proselyting zeal, and is subservient to the practical aim of giving territorial action to the religious institutions under their charge. Their dealings are less with the individual's solitary soul, than with the several social classes in their mutual relations; and to mediate between the gentry and the poor, to keep in order the school, the workhouse, and the village charities,—not forgetting the obligation to ward off Methodists and voluntaries,[2]—constitute the approved circle of clerical duties. Their very antipathies, unlike those of Protestant zealots, are less theological than political; they hate Roman Catholics chiefly as a sort of foreigners, who have no proper business here, and Dissenters as a sort of rebels, who create disturbance with their discontents; and were old England well rid of them both, the heart of her citizenship, they believe, would be[Pg 29] sounder. They stand, indeed, in a curious position, pledged to hold a proud Anglican isolation between two cosmopolitan interests,—the Popish theocracy and the Evangelical dogma,—refusing obedience to Rome, yet declining the alliance of foreign Protestants. Their enmity to the Papal system is quite a different sentiment from that which animates Exeter Hall; they do not deny the absolute legitimacy of the elder corporation in general, but only its relative legitimacy here; and Scottish ravings against it as "Babylon" and "Antichrist" offend them more than the confessional and the mass. Twice in their history—under the Stuarts and in our own day—have they seemed to forget their destiny, and make overtures to the Vatican; in both instances it was when Puritanism had threatened to take possession of the Church, and reduce it to a federal member of an Evangelical alliance; and if its separate integrity were in peril, they had rather fling it back into the Apostolic monarchy, than enroll it in the Genevan league. But the first real sight of danger from the Papal side has dissipated this reactionary inclination, and rekindled the instinct of local independence. Thus, in our Church, ideal interests and purely religious conceptions have held the second place to a predominating nationalism. The Church has embodied and handed down the leading sentiment of the Tudor times; and though not guiltless of share in many a Stuart treachery, and often cruel to the stiff-necked recusant, has, on the whole, been true to the English feeling, that[Pg 30] the Pope was too great a priest, and Calvin too long a preacher.

The reason then is evident why the Church of England cannot be referred to any of the heads of classification we have given; neither coinciding with Romanism, nor exemplifying distinctively any of the tendencies springing successively out of the disintegration of Catholic dogma. It arose out of an ecclesiastical revolt; other communions, out of a theological aspiration. Its original conception involved no serious modification of belief, no invention or recovery of strange usages, but a mere separation of the island branch from the Roman stem, that it might strike root and be as a native tree of life. The first alterations in doctrine were slight, and merely incidental to this primary end: and the whole amount of change, instead of being determined by the intellectual dictatorship of a Luther or a Calvin, was the illogical result of social forces, seeking the equilibrium of practical compromise. The phenomenon therefore which we observed in the elder Church is repeated in this younger offshoot: the several elements of faith co-exist (though in greatly spoiled proportions) without unity or natural coherence; and the English Church, as the depository of a creed, occupies no place in the history of the human mind: its individual great men must be put here or there in the records of thought, without regard to the accident of their ecclesiastical position. The one real idea which has permanently inspired its clergy and supporters is that of nationalism in religion. To the time of the Restoration they attempted, since then they have pretended, to represent the nation in its faith and worship. Once, their aim appeared to be a noble possibility, struggling still and unrealized, but unrefuted. Now, thousands of Non-conformist chapels proclaim its meaning gone, and its language an affectation and an insolence. The English Church has become an outer reality without an inner idea.

In contrast with the insular feeling predominant in the English schism, we have placed the cosmopolitan zeal of the foreign Puritanism. With this, however, was combined the[Pg 31] very opposite pole of sentiment,—a certain egoism and loneliness in religion, from which have flowed some of the most important characteristics of Protestantism. Having flung away, as miserable quackeries, the hierarchical prescriptions for souls oppressed with sin, Luther fell back upon an act of subjective faith in place of the Church's objective works. For the corporation he substituted the individual: whom he put in immediate, instead of mediate, relation with Christ and God. The Catholic's unbloody sacrifice had no efficacy, no existence, without the priest; the Lutheran's bloody sacrifice was a realized historical fact, to be appropriated separately by every believer's personal trust. It was not, therefore, the Church which, in its corporate capacity, occupied the prior place, and held the deposit of divine grace for distribution to its members; but it was the private person that constituted the sacred unit, and a plurality of believers supplied the factors of the Church. The grace which before could not reach the individual except by transit through accredited officials, now became directly accessible to each soul: and only after it had been received by a sufficient number to form a society, did the conditions of spiritual office and organization exist. This essential dependence of the whole upon the parts, instead of the parts upon the whole, is the most radical and powerful peculiarity of Protestantism. A system which raises the individual to the primary place of religious importance, places him nearest to the supernatural energy of God, and makes him the living stone without which temple and altar cannot be built, naturally draws to it minds of marked vigor, and trains men in self-subsisting habits. By giving scope to the forces of private character, it sets in action the real springs of healthy progress, and happily with such intensity as to defy the checks it often seeks to impose in later moods of repentant alarm. This emancipation of the personal life from theocratic control, at first achieved in connection with the doctrine of justification, was sure to present itself in other forms. In its spiritual application Protestant egoism assumes the shape of reliance on inner faith; in its political, of voluntaryism; in its intellectual, of free inquiry and private judgment. These several[Pg 32] directions may be taken separately or together, but where, as in the Church of England, not one of them is unambiguously marked, the very principle of reformed Christianity is unsecured, and Protestantism is present, not by charter, but by social accident. Puritanism everywhere—conforming or nonconforming, English or Continental—exhibits the first direction; "Evangelical" Dissenters add the second; while Unitarians occupy the third,—not perhaps completely, and not altogether exclusively, but characteristically nevertheless. For it is impossible to unite the orthodox with the intellectual egoism. So long as the inner faith, which is the presumed condition of justification, includes a controverted doctrine, like the scheme of Atonement, the need of faith imposes a limit on the right of judgment: and you are only free to think till you show symptoms of thinking wrong. But when the sacrificial Christianity has passed into the ethical, and no other condition of harmony with God is laid down than purity of affection and fidelity of will, then honest thought can peril no salvation, and the devotion of the intellect to truth and the heart to grace is a divided allegiance no more.

It was for some time doubtful how far this Protestant egoism was likely to go. Luther was clear and positive that it was faith that justified; and fetching this doctrine out of a deep personal experience, he paid little respect to any one who contradicted it, and regulated by it his first choice of religious authorities. Led by this clew, he arrived at results strangely at variance with modern canons. He neither accepted as a standard the whole Bible, nor at first rejected the whole tradition of the Church; loosely attempting to reserve the Augustinian authorities, and to repudiate the Dominican. When he had renounced altogether the appeal to councils and patristic lore, it was in favor, not of the external Scriptures, unconditionally taken as the rule of faith, but of the private spirit of the Christian reader, who was himself "made king and priest," and could not only find the meaning, but pronounce upon the relative worth, of the canonical books. Accordingly, the Reformer made very free with portions of the Old Testament, and with the more Judaic elements of the New,—the[Pg 33] Epistle to the Hebrews, that of James, and the Apocalypse; and avowedly did this because he disliked the flavor of their doctrine, and felt its variance from the Pauline gospel. He thus tampered with his court before he brought forward his cause, and incapacitated the judges whose verdict he feared. In short, the religious life of his own soul was too intense and powerful to be prevailed over by any written word: he appropriated what was congenial, and threw away the rest. Uneasy relations were thus established between the subjective rule of faith found in the believer's own mind, and the objective standard of a documentary revelation: they were soon constituted, and have ever since remained rival authorities, commanding the allegiance of different orders of minds. The vast majority of Protestants, of less profound and tumultuous inner life than Luther, and less knowing how to see their way through it, subsided into exclusive recognition of the sacred writings; denying alike the regulative authority either of church councils or of the private soul. In every branch and derivative of the Genevan Reformation, throughout the whole range of both the Puritan and the Arminian Churches, a rigorous Scripturalism prevails; and the Bible is used as a code or legislative text-book, which yields, on mere interpretation, verdicts without appeal on every subject, whether doctrine or duty, of which it speaks. But Luther's spiritual enthusiasm kindled a fire that he scarce could quench; and while he himself, flung into perpetual conflicts with opponents, was obliged more and more to refer to evidence external to his personality, others had learned from him to look upon their own souls as the theatre of conscious strife between heaven and hell, and to recognize the voice of inspiration there. Carlstadt was the first to catch the flame of his teacher's burning experience, and, touched by prophetic consciousness, to set the Spirit above the Word. Luther, so often recalled from the tendencies of his own turbulent teaching by seeing their mischiefs realized in other men, instantly turned on Carlstadt with his overwhelming scorn: "The spirit of our new prophet flies very high indeed: 't is an audacious spirit, that would eat up the Holy Ghost, feathers and all. 'The Bible?'—sneer these fellows,—'Bibel,[Pg 34] Bubel, Babel!' And not only do they reject the Bible thus contemptuously, but they say they would reject God too, if he were not to visit them as he did his prophets." Carlstadt had got hold of a doctrine that was too much for his ill-balanced mind, and Luther easily destroyed his repute. But a principle had been started which has never been dormant since; the very principle which afterwards constituted the Society of Friends, and finds its best exposition in the writings of their admirable apologist, Barclay; and which in our times reappears in more philosophic guise, and fights its old battles again as the doctrine of religious intuition. No period of awakened faith and sentiment has been without some increasing tincture of this persuasion; and under modified forms, with more or less admixture of the ordinary Puritan elements, it has played a great part among the Quietists in France, the Moravians in Germany, and the Methodists in England. In all these, far as they are from being committed to the notion of an "inner light," spiritualism has predominated over Scripturalism, and permanent life in the Spirit has engaged the affections more than the transition into the adoption of faith.

In this endeavor to lay out the ground-plan of modern Christian development, and trace upon it the chief lines both of psychological and of historical distinction, our design is to prepare the way for a series of sketches exhibiting the sects and types of religion in England. It is scarcely possible to notice the phenomena present here and to-day without referring to their antecedents in a prior age, their counterparts in other lands, and their permanent principles in human nature; and if our chart be tolerably correct, our future course will be rendered less indeterminate by the relations and points of comparison which have been established. The age, and even the hour, is teeming with new interests and pregnant auguries in relation to the highest element of human well-being. From a desire to approach these in a temper of just and reverential appreciation, we have abstained from recording the first impression of them, and sought rather, by a preliminary discipline, to detect some criteria by which prejudices may be checked, tendencies be estimated, and criticism acquire a clew.

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"To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious; ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."—1 Peter ii. 4, 5.

The formation of human society, and the institution of priesthood, must be referred to the same causes and the same date. The earliest communities of the world appear to have had their origin and their cement, not in any gregarious instinct, nor in mere social affections, much less in any prudential regard to the advantages of co-operation, but in a binding religious sentiment, submitting to the same guidance, and expressing itself in the same worship. As no tie can be more strong, so is none more primitive, than this agreement respecting what is holy and divine. In simple and patriarchal ages, indeed, when the feelings of veneration had not been set aside by analysis into a little corner of the character, but spread themselves over the whole of life, and mixed it up with daily wonder, this bond comprised all the forces that can suppress the selfish and disorganizing passions, and compact a multitude of men together. It was not, as at present, to have simply the same opinions (things of quite modern growth, the brood of scepticism); but to have the same fathers, the same tradition, the same speech, the same land, the same foes, the same priest, the same God. Nothing[Pg 36] did man fear, or trust, or love, or desire, that did not belong, by some affinity, to his faith. Nor had he any book to keep the precious deposit for him; and if he had, he would never have thought of so frail a vehicle for so great a treasure. It was more natural to put it into structures hollowed in the fast mountain, or built of transplanted rocks which only a giant age could stir; and to tenant these with mighty hierarchies, who should guard their sanctity, and, by an undying memory, make their mysteries eternal. Hence, the first humanizer of men was their worship; the first leaders of nations, the sacerdotal caste; the first triumph of art, the colossal temple; the first effort to preserve an idea produced a record of something sacred; and the first civilization was, as the last will be, the birth of religion.

The primitive aim of worship undoubtedly was, to act upon the sentiments of God; at first, by such natural and intelligible means as produce favorable impressions on the mind of a fellow-man,—by presents and persuasion, and whatever is expressive of grateful and reverential affections. Abel, the first shepherd, offered the produce of his flock; Cain, the first farmer, the fruits of his land; and while devotion was so simple in its modes, every one would be his own pontiff, and have his own altar. But soon, the parent would inevitably officiate for his family; the patriarch, for his tribe. With the natural forms dictated by present feelings, traditional methods would mingle their contributions from the past; postures and times, gestures and localities, once indifferent, would become consecrated by venerable habit; and so long as their origin was unforgotten, they would add to the significance, while they lessened the simplicity, of worship. Custom, however, being the growth of time, tends to a tyrannous and bewildering complexity: forms, originally natural, then symbolical, end in being arbitrary; suggestive of nothing, except to the initiated; yet, if connected with religion, so sanctified by the association, that it appears sacrilege to desist from their employment; and when their meaning is lost, they assume their place, not among empty gesticulations,[Pg 37] but among the mystical signs by which earth communes with heaven. The vivid picture-writing of the early worship, filled with living attitudes, and sketched in the freshest colors of emotion, explained itself to every eye, and was open to every hand. To this succeeded a piety, which expressed itself in symbolical figures, veiling it utterly from strangers, but intelligible and impressive still to the soul of national tradition. This, however, passed again into a language of arbitrary characters, in which the herd of men saw sacredness without meaning; and the use of which must be consigned to a class separated for its study. Hence the origin of the priest and his profession; the conservator of a worship no longer natural, but legendary and mystical; skilful enactor of rites that spake with silent gesticulation to the heavens; interpreter of the wants of men into the divine language of the gods. Not till the powers above had ceased to hold familiar converse with the earth, and in their distance had become deaf and dumb to the common tongue of men, did the mediating priest arise;—needed then to conduct the finger-speech of ceremony, whereby the desire of the creature took shape before the eye of the Creator.

Observe, then, the true idea of Priest and Ritual. The Priest is the representative of men before God; commissioned on behalf of human nature to intercede with the divine. He bears a message upwards, from earth to heaven; his people being below, his influence above. He takes the fears of the weak, and the cries of the perishing, and sets them with availing supplication before Him that is able to help. He takes the sins and remorse of the guilty, and leaves them with expiating tribute at the feet of the averted Deity. He guards the avenues that lead from the mortal to the immortal, and without his interposition the creature is cut off from his Creator. Without his mediation no transaction between them can take place, and the spirit of a man must live as an outlaw from the world invisible and holy. There are means of propitiation which he alone has authority to employ; powers of persuasion conceded to no other; a mystic access to the[Pg 38] springs of divine benignity, by outward rites which his manipulation must consecrate, or forms of speech which his lips must recommend. These ceremonies are the implements of his office and the sources of his power; the magic by which he is thought to gain admission to the will above, and really wins rule over human counsels below. As they are supposed to change the relation of God to man, not by visible or natural operation, not (for example) by suggestion of new thoughts, and excitement of new dispositions in the worshipper, but by secret and mysterious agency, they are simply spells of a dignified order. Were we then to speak with severe exactitude, we should say, a Ritual is a system of consecrated charms; and the Priest, the great magician who dispenses them.

So long as any idea is retained of mystically efficacious rites, consigned solely and authoritatively to certain hands, this definition cannot be escaped. The ceremonies may have rational instruction and natural worship appended to them; and these additional elements may give them a title to true respect. The order of men appointed to administer them may have other offices and nobler duties to perform, rendering them, if faithful, worthy of a just and reverential attachment. But in so far as, by an exclusive and unnatural efficacy, they bring about a changed relation between God and man, the Ritual is an incantation, and the Priest is an enchanter.

To this sacerdotal devotion there necessarily attach certain characteristic sentiments, both moral and religious, which give it a distinctive influence on human character, and adapt it to particular stages of civilization. It clearly severs the worshippers by one remove from God. He is a Being, external to them, distant from them, personally unapproachable by them; their thought must travel to reach the Almighty; they must look afar for the Most Holy; they dwell themselves within the finite, and must ask a foreign introduction to the Infinite. He is not with them as a private guide, but in the remoter watch-towers of creation, as the public inspector of their life; not present for perpetual communion, but to be[Pg 39] visited in absence by stated messages of form and prayer. And that God dwells in this cold and royal separation induces the feeling, that man is too mean to touch him; that a consecrated intervention is required, in order to part Deity from the defiling contact of humanity. Why else am I restricted from unlimited personal access to my Creator, and driven to another in my transactions with him? And so, in this system, our nature appears in contrast, not in alliance, with the divine, and those views of it are favored which make the opposition strong; its puny dimensions, its swift decadence, its poor self-flatteries, its degenerate virtues, its giant guilt, become familiar to the thought and lips; and life, cut off from sympathy with the godlike, falls towards the level of melancholy, or the sink of epicurism, or the abjectness of vicarious reliance on the priest. Worship, too, must have for its chief aim, to throw off the load of ill; to rid the mind of sin and shame, and the lot of hardship and sorrow; for principally to these disburdening offices do priests and rituals profess themselves adapted;—and who, indeed, could pour forth the privacy of love, and peace, and trust, through the cumbrousness of ceremonies, and the pompousness of a sacred officer? The piety of such a religion is thus a refuge for the weakness, not an outpouring of the strength, of the soul: it takes away the incubus of darkness, without shedding the light of heaven; lifts off the nightmare horrors of earth and hell, without opening the vision of angels and of God. Nay, for the spiritual bonds which connect men with the Father above, it substitutes material ties, a genealogy of sacred fires, a succession of hallowed buildings, or of priests having consecration by pedigree or by manual transmission; so that qualities belonging to the soul alone are likened to forces mechanical or chemical; sanctity becomes a physical property; divine acceptance comes by bodily catenation; regeneration is degraded into a species of electric shock, which one only method of experiment, and the links of but one conductor, can convey. And, in fine, a priestly system ever abjures all aim at any higher perfection; boasts of being immutable[Pg 40] and unimprovable; encourages no ambition, breathes no desire. It holds the appointed methods of influencing Heaven, on which none may presume to innovate; and its functions are ever the same, to employ and preserve the ancient forms and legendary spells committed to its trust. Hence all its veneration is antiquarian, not sympathetic or prospective; it turns its back upon the living, and looks straight into departed ages, bowing the head and bending the knee; as if all objects of love and devotion were there, not here; in history, not in life; as if its God were dead, or otherwise imprisoned in the Past, and had bequeathed to its keeping such relics as might yield a perpetual benediction. Thus does the administration of religion, in proportion as it possesses a sacerdotal character, involve a distant Deity, a mean humanity, a servile worship, a physical sanctity, and a retrospective reverence.

Let no one, however, imagine that there is no other idea or administration of religion than this; that the priest is the only person among men to whom it is given to stand between heaven and earth. Even the Hebrew Scriptures introduce us to another class of quite different order; to whom, indeed, those Scriptures owe their own truth and power, and perpetuity of beauty: I mean the Prophets; whom we shall very imperfectly understand, if we suppose them mere historians, for whom God had turned time round the other way, so that they spoke of things future as if past, and grew so dizzy in their use of tenses, as greatly to incommode learned grammarians; or if we treat their writings as scrap-books of Providence, with miscellaneous contributions from various parts of duration, sketches taken indifferently from any point of view within eternity, and put together at random and without mark, on adjacent pages, for theological memories to identify; first, a picture of an Assyrian battle, next, a holy family; now, of the captives sitting by Euphrates, then, of Paul preaching to the Gentiles; here, a flight of devouring locusts, and there, the escape of the Christians from the destruction of Jerusalem; a portrait of Hezekiah, and a view of Calvary; a[Pg 41] march through the desert, and John the Baptist by the Jordan; the day of Pentecost, and the French Revolution; Nebuchadnezzar and Mahomet; Caligula and the Pope,—following each other with picturesque neglect of every relation of time and place. No, the Prophet and his work always indeed belong to the future; but far otherwise than thus. Meanwhile, let us notice how, in Israel, as elsewhere, he takes his natural station above the priest. It was Moses the prophet who even made Aaron the priest. And who cares now for the sacerdotal books of the Old Testament, compared with the rest? Who, having the strains of David, would pore over Leviticus, or would weary himself with Chronicles, when he might catch the inspiration of Isaiah? It was no priest that wrote, "Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering: the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." It was no pontifical spirit that exclaimed, "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting: your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them." "Wash you, make you clean." Whatever in these venerable Scriptures awes us by its grandeur and pierces us by its truth, comes of the prophets, not the priests; and from that part of their writings, too, in which they are not concerned with historical prediction, but with some utterance deeper and greater. I do not deny them this gift of occasional intellectual foresight of events. And doubtless it was an honor to be permitted to speak thus to a portion of the future, and of local occurrences unrevealed to seers less privileged. But it is a glory far higher to speak that which belongs to all time, and finds its interpretation in every place; to penetrate to the everlasting realities of things; to disclose, not when this or that man will appear, but how and wherefore all men appear and quickly disappear; to make it felt, not in what nook of duration such an incident will happen, but from[Pg 42] what all-embracing eternity the images of history emerge and are swallowed up. In this highest faculty the Hebrew seers belong to a class scattered over every nation and every period; which Providence keeps ever extant for human good, and especially to furnish an administration of religion quite anti-sacerdotal. This class we must proceed to characterize.

The Prophet is the representative of God before men, commissioned from the Divine nature to sanctify the human. He bears a message downwards, from heaven to earth; his inspirer being above, his influence below. He takes of the holiness of God, enters with it into the souls of men, and heals therewith the wounds, and purifies the taint, of sin. He is charged with the peace of God, and gives from it rest to the weariness and solace to the griefs of men. Instead of carrying the foulness of life to be cleansed in heaven, he brings the purity of heaven to make life divine. Instead of interposing himself and his mediation between humanity and Deity, he destroys the whole distance between them; and only fulfils his mission, when he brings the finite mind and the infinite into immediate and thrilling contact, and leaves the creature consciously alone with the Creator. He is one to whom the primitive and everlasting relations between God and man have revealed themselves, stripped of every disguise, and bared of all that is conventional; who is possessed by their simplicity, mastered by their solemnity; who has found the secret of meeting the Holy Spirit within, rather than without; and knows, but cannot tell, how, in the strife of genuine duty, or in moments of true meditation, the Divine immensity and love have touched and filled his naked soul; and taught him by what fathomless Godhead he is folded round, and on what adamantine manhood he must take his stand. So far from separating others from the heavenly communion vouchsafed to himself, he necessarily believes that all may have the same godlike consciousness; burns to impart it to them; and by the vivid light of his own faith speedily creates it in those who feel his influence, drawing out and freshening the faded colors of the Divine image in their souls, till they too become visibly[Pg 43] the seers and the sons of God. His instruments, like the objects of his mission, are human; not mysteries, and mummeries, and such arbitrary things, by which others may pretend to be talking with the skies; but the natural language which interprets itself at once to every genuine man, and goes direct to the living point of every heart. An earnest speech, a brave and holy life, truth of sympathy, severity of conscience, freshness and loftiness of faith,—these natural sanctities are his implements of power; and if heaven be pleased to add any other gifts, still are they weapons all,—not the mere tinsel of tradition and custom,—but forged in the inner workshop of our nature, where the fire glows beneath the breath of God, framing things of ethereal temper. Thus armed, he lays undoubting siege to the world's conscience; tears down every outwork of pretence; forces its strong-holds of delusion; humbles the vanities at its centre, and proclaims it the citadel of God. The true prophet of every age is no believer in the temple, but in the temple's Deity; trusts, not rites and institutions, but the heart and soul that fill or ought to fill them; if they speak the truth, no one so reveres them; if a lie, they meet with no contempt like his. He sees no indestructible sanctuary but the mind itself, wherein the Divine Spirit ever loves to dwell; and whence it will be sure to go forth and build such outward temple as may suit the season of Providence. He is conscious that there is no devotion like that which comes spontaneously from the secret places of our humanity, no orisons so true as those which rise from the common platform of our life. He desires only to throw himself in faith on the natural piety of the heart. Give him but that, and he will find for man an everlasting worship, and raise for God a cathedral worthy of his infinitude.

It is evident that one thoroughly possessed with this spirit could never be, and could never make, a priest; nor frame a ritual for priests already made. He is destitute of the ideas out of which alone these things can be created. His mission is in the opposite direction: he interprets and reveals God to[Pg 44] men, instead of interceding for men with God. In this office sacerdotal rites have no function and no place. I do not say that he must necessarily disapprove and abjure them, or deny that he may directly sanction them. If he does, however, it is not in his capacity of prophet, but in conformity with feelings which his proper office has left untouched. His tendency will be against ceremonialism; and on his age and position will depend the extent to which this tendency takes effect. Usually he will construct nothing ritual, will destroy much, and leave behind great and growing ideas, destructive of much more. But ere we quit our general conception of a prophet, let us notice some characteristic sentiments, moral and religious, which naturally connect themselves with his faith; comparing them with those which belong to the sacerdotal influence.

In this faith, God is separated by nothing from his worshippers. He is not simply in contact with them, but truly in the interior of their nature; so that they may not only meet him in the outward providences of life, but bear his spirit with them, when they go to toil and conflict, and find it still, when they sit alone to think and pray. He is not the far observer, but the very present help, of the faithful will. No structure made with hands, nay, not even his own architecture of the heaven of heavens, contains and confines his presence: were there any dark recess whence these were hid, the blessed access would be without hinderance still; and the soul would discern him near as its own identity. No mean and ignoble conception can be entertained of a mind which is thus the residence of Deity;—the shrine of the Infinite must have somewhat that is infinite itself. Thus, in this system, does our nature appear in alliance with the Divine, not in contrast with it; inspired with a portion of its holiness, and free to help forward the best issues of its providence. Human life, blessed by this spirit, becomes a miniature of the work of the great Ruler: its responsibilities, its difficulties, its temptations, become dignified as the glorious theatre whereon we strive, by and with the good Spirit of[Pg 45] God, for the mastery over evil. Worship, issuing from a nature and existence thus consecrated, is not the casting off of guilt and terror, but the glad unburdening of love, and trust, and aspiration, the simple speaking forth, as duty is the acting forth, of the divine within us; not the prostration of the slave, but the embrace of the child; not the plaint of the abject, but the anthem of the free. Is it not private, individual? And may it not by silence say what it will, and intimate the precise thing, and that only, which is at heart?—whence there grows insensibly that firm root of excellence, truth with one's own self. The priestly fancy of an hereditary or lineal sacredness can have no place here. The soul and God stand directly related, mind with mind, spirit with spirit: from our moral fidelity to this relation, from the jealousy with which we guard it from insult or neglect, does the only sanctity arise; and herein there is none to help us, or give a vicarious consecration. And, finally, the spirit of God's true prophet is earnestly prospective; more filled with the conception of what the Creator will make his world, than of what he has already made it: detecting great capacities, it glows with great hopes; knowing that God lives, and will live, it turns from the past, venerable as that may be, and reverences rather the promise of the present, and the glories of the future. It esteems nothing unimprovable, is replete with vast desires; and amid the shadows and across the wilds of existence chases, not vainly, a bright image of perfection. The golden age, which priests with their tradition put into the past, the prophet, with his faith and truth, transfers into the future; and while the former pines and muses, the latter toils and prays. Thus does the administration of religion, in proportion as it partakes of the prophetic or anti-sacerdotal character, involve the ideas of an interior Deity, a noble humanity, a loving worship, an individual holiness, and a prospective veneration.

We have found, then, two opposite views of religion: that of the Priest with his Ritual, and that of the Prophet with his Faith. I propose to show that the Church of England,[Pg 46] in its doctrine of sacraments, coincides with the former of these, and sanctions all its objectionable sentiments; and that Christianity, in every relation, even with respect to its reputed rites, coincides with the latter.

The general conformity of the Church of England with the ritual conception of religion will not be denied by her own members. Their denial will be limited to one point: they will protest that her formulas of doctrine do not ascribe a charmed efficacy, or any operation upon God, to the two sacraments. To avoid verbal disputes, let us consider what we are to understand by a spell or charm. The name, I apprehend, denotes any material object or outward act, the possession or use of which is thought to confer safety or blessing, not by natural operation, but by occult virtues inherent in it, or mystical effects appended to it. A mere commemorative sign, therefore, is not a charm, nor need there be any superstition in its employment: it simply stands for certain ideas and memories in our minds; re-excites and freshens them, not otherwise than speech audibly records them, except that it summons them before us by sight and touch, instead of sound. The effect, whatever it may be, is purely natural, by sequence of thought on thought, till the complexion of the mind is changed, and haply suffused with a noble glow. But in truth it is not fit to speak of commemorations, as things having efficacy at all; as desirable observances, under whose action we should put ourselves, in order to get up certain good dispositions in the heart. As soon as we see them acquiesced in, with this dutiful submission to a kind of spiritual operation, we may be sure they are already empty and dead. An expedient commemoration, deliberately maintained on utilitarian principles, for the sake of warming cold affections by artificial heat, is one of the foolish conceptions of this mechanical and sceptical age. It is quite true, that such influence is found to belong to rites of remembrance; but only so long as it is not privately looked into, or greedily contemplated by the staring eye of prudence, but simply and unconsciously received. No; commemorations must be the spontaneous[Pg 47] fruit and outburst of a love already kindled in the soul, not the factitious contrivance for forcing it into existence. They are not the lighted match applied to the fuel on an altar cold; but the shapes in which the living flame aspires, or the fretted lights thrown by that central love on the dark temple-walls of this material life.

It is not pretended that the sacraments are mere commemorative rites. And nothing, I submit, remains, but that they should be pronounced charms. It is of little purpose to urge, in denial of this, that the Church insists upon the necessity of faith on the part of the recipient, without which no benefit, but rather peril, will accrue. This only limits the use of the charm to a certain class, and establishes a prerequisite to its proper efficacy. It simply conjoins the outward form with a certain state of mind, and gives to each of these a participation in the effect. If the faith be insufficient without the ceremony, then some efficacy is due to the rite; and this, being neither the natural operation of the material elements, nor a simple suggestion of ideas and feelings to the mind, but mystical and preternatural, is no other than a charmed efficacy.

Nor will the statement, that the effect is not upon God, but upon man, bear examination. It is very true, that the ultimate benefit of these rites is a result reputed to fall upon the worshipper;—regeneration, in the case of baptism; participation in the atonement, in the case of the Lord's Supper. But by what steps do these blessings descend? Not by those of visible or perceived causation; but through an express and extraordinary volition of God, induced by the ceremonial form, or taking occasion from it. The sacerdotal economy, therefore, is so arranged, that, whenever the priest dispenses the water at the font, the Holy Spirit follows, as in instantaneous compliance with a suggestion; and whenever he spreads his hands over the elements at the communion, God immediately establishes a preternatural relation, not subsisting the moment before, between the substances on the table and the souls of the faithful communicants: so that every partaker[Pg 48] receives, either directly or through supernatural increase of faith, some new share in the merits of the cross. Whatever subtleties of language then may be employed, it is evidently conceived that the first consequence of these forms takes place in heaven; and that on this depends whatever benediction they may bring: nor can a plain understanding frame any other idea of them than this; first, they act upwards, and suggest something to the mind of God, who then sends down an influence on the mind of the believer. From this conception no figures of speech, no ingenious analogies, can deliver us. Do you call the sacraments "pledges of grace"? A pledge means a promise; and how a voluntary act of ours, or the priest's, can be a promise made to us by the Divine Being, it is not easy to understand. Do you call them "seals of God's covenant,"—the instrument by which he engages to make over its blessings to the Christian, like the signature and completion of a deed conveying an estate? It still perplexes us to think of a service of our own as an assurance received by us from Heaven. And one would imagine that the Divine promise, once given, were enough, without this incessant binding by periodical legalities. If it be said, "The renewal of the obligation is needful for us, and not for him"; then call the rites at once and simply, our service of self-dedication, the solemn memorial of our vows. And in spite of all metaphors, the question recurs, Does the covenant stand without these seals, or are they essential to give possession of the privileges conveyed? Are they, by means preternatural, procurers of salvation? Have they a mystical action towards this end? If so, we return to the same point; they have a charmed efficacy on the human soul.

In order to establish this, nothing more is requisite than a brief reference to the language of the Articles and Liturgical services of the Church respecting Baptism and the Communion.

Baptism is regarded, throughout the Book of Common Prayer, as the instrument of regeneration: not simply as its sign, of which the actual descent of the Holy Spirit is independent;[Pg 49] but as itself and essentially the means or indispensable occasion of the washing away of sin. That this is regarded as a mystical and magical, not a natural and spiritual effect, is evident from the alleged fact of its occurrence in infants, to whom the rite can suggest nothing, and on whom, in the course of nature, it can leave no impression. Yet it is declared of the infant, after the use of the water, "Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate," &c.: at the commencement of the service its aim is said to be that God may "grant to this child that thing which by nature he cannot have,"—"would wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost," that he may be "delivered from God's wrath." Nothing, indeed, is so striking in this office of the national Church, as its audacious trifling with solemn names, denoting qualities of the soul and will; the ascription of spiritual and moral attributes, not only to the child in whom they can yet have no development, but even to material substances; the frivolity with which engagements with God are made by deputy, and without the consent or even existence of the engaging will. Water is said to possess sanctity, for "the mystical washing away of sin." Infants, destitute of any idea of duty or obligation to be resisted or obeyed, are said to obtain "remission of their sins";—to "renounce the Devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world"; "steadfastly to believe" in the Apostles' Creed, and to be desirous of "baptism into this faith." Belief, desire, resolve, are acts of some one's mind: the language of this service attributes them to the personality of the infant (I renounce, I believe, I desire); yet there they cannot possibly exist. If they are to be understood as affirmed by the godfathers and godmothers of themselves, the case is not improved: for how can one person's state of faith and conscience be made the condition of the regeneration of another? What intelligible meaning can be attached to these phrases of sanctity applied to an age not responsible? In what sense, and by what indication, are these children holier than others? And with what reason, if all this be Christianity,[Pg 50] can we blame the Pope for sprinkling holy water on the horses? The service appears little better than a profane sacerdotal jugglery, by which material things are impregnated with divine virtues, moral and spiritual qualities of the mind are sported with, the holy spirit of God is turned into a physical mystery, and the solemnity of personal responsibility is insulted.

That a superstitious value is attributed to the details of the baptismal form, in the Church of England, appears from certain parts of the service for the private ministration of the rite. If a child has been baptized by any other lawful minister than the minister of the parish, strict inquiries are to be instituted by the latter respecting the correctness with which the ceremony has been performed; and should the prescribed rules have been neglected, the baptism is invalid, and must be repeated. Yet great solicitude is manifested, lest danger should be incurred by an unnecessary repetition of the sacrament: to guard against which, the minister is to give the following conditional invitation to the Holy Spirit; saying, in his address to the child, "If thou art not already baptized, I baptize thee," &c. It is worthy of remark, that the Church mentions as one of the essentials of the service, the omission of which necessitates its repetition, the use of the formula, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." By this rule, every one of the apostolic baptisms recorded in Scripture must be pronounced invalid; and the Church of England, were it possible, would perform them again: for in no instance does it appear that the Apostles employed either this or even any equivalent form of words.

That this sacrament is regarded as an indispensable channel of grace, and positively necessary to salvation, is clear from the provision of a short and private form, to be used in cases of extreme danger. The prayers, and faith, and obedience, and patient love, of parents and friends,—the dedication and heart-felt surrender of their child to God, the profound application of their anxieties and grief to their conscience and[Pg 51] inward life,—all this, we are told, will be of no avail, without the water and the priest. Archbishop Laud says: "That baptism is necessary to the salvation of infants (in the ordinary way of the Church, without binding God to the use and means of that sacrament, to which he hath bound us), is expressed in St. John iii., 'Except a man be born of water,' &c. So, no baptism, no entrance; nor can infants creep in, any other ordinary way."[3] Bishop Bramhall says: "Wilful neglect of baptism we acknowledge to be a damnable sin; and, without repentance and God's extraordinary mercy, to exclude a man from all hope of salvation. But yet, if such a person, before his death, shall repent and deplore his neglect of the means of grace, from his heart, and desire with all his soul to be baptized, but is debarred from it invincibly, we do not, we dare not, pass sentence of condemnation upon him; not yet the Roman Catholics themselves. The question then is, whether the want of baptism, upon invincible necessity, do evermore infallibly exclude from heaven."[4] Singular struggle here, between the merciless ritual of the priest, and the relenting spirit of the man!

The office of Communion contains even stronger marks of the same sacerdotal superstitions; and, notwithstanding the Protestant horror entertained of the mass, approaches it so nearly, that no ingenuity can exhibit them in contrast. Near doctrines, however, like near neighbors, are known to quarrel most.

The idea of a physical sanctity, residing in solid and liquid substances, is encouraged by this service. The priest consecrates the elements, by laying his hand upon all the bread, and upon every flagon containing the wine about to be dispensed. If an additional quantity is required, this too must be consecrated before its distribution. And the sacredness thus imparted is represented as surviving the celebration of[Pg 52] the Supper, and residing in the substances as a permanent quality: for in the disposal of the bread and wine that may remain at the close of the sacramental feast, a distinction is made between the consecrated and the unconsecrated portion of the elements; the former is not permitted to quit the altar, but is to be reverently consumed by the priest and the communicants; the latter is given to the curate. What the particular change may be, which the prayer and manipulation of the minister are thought to induce, it is by no means easy to determine; nor would the discovery, perhaps, reward our pains. It is certainly conceived, that they cease to be any longer mere bread and wine, and that with them thenceforth co-exist, really and substantially, the body and blood of Christ. Respecting this Real Presence with the elements, there is no dispute between the Romish and the English Church; both unequivocally maintain it: and the only question is, respecting the Real Absence of the original and culinary bread and wine; the Roman Catholic believing that these substantially vanish, and are replaced by the body and blood of Christ; the English Protestant conceiving that they remain, but are united with the latter. The Lutheran, no less than the British Reformed Church, has clung tenaciously to the doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist, Luther himself declares: "I would rather retain, with the Romanists, only the body and blood, than adopt, with the Swiss, the bread and wine, without the real body and blood of Christ." The catechism of our Church affirms that "the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper." And this was not intended to be figuratively understood, of the spiritual use and appropriation to which the faith and piety of the receiver would mentally convert the elements: for although here the body of Christ is only said to be "taken" (making it the act of the communicant), yet one of the Articles speaks of it as "given" (making it the act of the officiating priest), and implying the real presence before participation. However anxious, indeed, the clergy of the "Evangelical" school may[Pg 53] be to disguise the fact, it cannot be doubted that their Church has always maintained a supernatural change in the elements themselves, as well as in the mind of the receiver. Cosin, Bishop of Durham, says, "We own the union between the body and blood of Christ, and the elements, whose use and office we hold to be changed from what it was before"; "we confess the necessity of a supernatural and heavenly change, and that the signs cannot become sacraments but by the infinite power of God."[5]

In consistency with this preparatory change, a charmed efficacy is attributed to the subsequent participation in the elements. Even the body of the communicant is said to be under their influence: "Grant us to eat the flesh of thy dear Son, and drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean through his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood"; and the unworthy recipients are said "to provoke God to plague them with divers diseases and sundry kinds of death." Lest the worshipper, by presenting himself in an unqualified state, should "do nothing else than increase his damnation," the unquiet conscience is directed to resort to the priest, and receive the benefit of absolution before communicating. Can we deny to the Oxford divines the merit (whatever it may be) of consistency with the theology of their Church, when they applaud and recommend, as they do, the administration of the Eucharist to infants, and to persons dying and insensible? Indeed, it is difficult to discover why infant Communion should be thought more irrational than infant Baptism. If, as I have endeavored to show, the primary action of these ceremonies is conceived to be on God, not on the mind of their object, why should not the Divine blessing be induced upon the young and the unconscious, as well as on the mature and capable soul? And were any further evidence required than I have hitherto adduced, to show on whom the Communion is conceived[Pg 54] to operate in the first instance, it would surely be afforded by this clause in the Service: by not partaking, "Consider how great an injury ye do unto God."

The only thing wanted to complete this sacerdotal system, is to obtain for a certain class of men the corporate possession, and exclusive administration, of these essential and holy mysteries. This our Church accomplishes by its doctrine of Apostolical Succession; claiming for its ministers a lineal official descent from the Apostles, which invests them, and them alone within this realm, with divine authority to pronounce absolution or excommunication, and to administer the Sacraments. They are thus the sole guardians of the channels of the Divine Spirit and its grace, and interpose themselves between a nation and its God. "Receive the Holy Ghost," says the Service for Ordination of Priests, "for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." "They only," says the present Bishop of Exeter, "can claim to rule over the Lord's household, whom he has himself placed over it; they only are able to minister the means of grace,—above all, to present the great commemorative sacrifice,—whom Christ has appointed, and whom he has in all generations appointed in unbroken succession from those, and through those, whom he first ordained. 'Ambassadors from Christ' must, by the very force of the term, receive credentials from Christ: 'stewards of the mysteries of God' must be intrusted with those mysteries by him. Remind your people, that in the Church only is the promise of forgiveness of sins; and though, to all who truly repent, and sincerely believe, Christ mercifully grants forgiveness, yet he has, in an especial manner, empowered his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people the absolution and remission of their sins: 'Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.' This was the awful authority given to his first ministers, and in them, and through them, to all their successors.[Pg 55] This is the awful authority we have received, and that we must never be ashamed nor afraid to tell the people that we have received.

"Having shown to the people your commission, show to them how our own Church has framed its services in accordance with that commission. Show this to them not only in the Ordinal, but also in the Collects, in the Communion Service, in the Office of the Visitation of the Sick; show it, especially, in that which continually presents itself to their notice, but is commonly little regarded by them; show it in the very commencement of Morning and Evening Prayer, and make them understand the full blessedness of that service, in which the Church thus calls on them to join. Let them see that there the minister authoritatively pronounces God's pardon and absolution to all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe Christ's holy Gospel; that he does this, even as the Apostles did, with the authority and by the appointment of our Lord himself, who, in commissioning his Apostles, gave this to be the never-failing assurance of his co-operation in their ministry: 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world'; a promise which, of its very nature, was not to be fulfilled to the persons of those whom he addressed, but to their office, to their successors therefore in that office, 'even unto the end of the world.' Lastly, remind and warn them of the awful sanction with which our Lord accompanied his mission, even of the second order of the ministers whom he appointed: 'He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.'" That this high dignity may be clearly understood to belong in this country only to the Church of England, the Bishop proposes the question, "What, then, becomes of those who are not, or continue not, members of that (visible) Church?" and replies to it by saying, that though he "judges not them that are without," yet "he who wilfully and in despite of due warning, or through recklessness and worldly-mindedness, sets at naught its ordinances, and despises its ministers, has no right to[Pg 56] promise to himself any share in the grace which they are appointed to convey."[6] "Why," says one of the Oxford divines, who here undeniably speaks the genuine doctrine of his Church,—"Why should we talk so much of an Establishment, and so little of an Apostolic Succession? Why should we not seriously endeavor to impress our people with this plain truth, that, by separating themselves from our communion, they separate themselves not only from a decent, orderly, useful society, but from the only Church in this realm which has a right to be quite sure that she has the Lord's body to give to his people?"[7]

Of course this divine authority has been received through the Church of Rome, so abominable in the eyes of all Evangelical clergymen; and through many an unworthy link in the broken chain. The Holy Spirit, it is acknowledged, has passed through many, on whom, apparently, it was not pleased to rest; and the right to forgive sins been conferred by those who seemed themselves to need forgiveness. A writer in the Oxford Tracts observes: "Nor even though we may admit that many of those who formed the connecting links of this holy chain were themselves unworthy of the high charge reposed in them, can this furnish us with any solid ground for doubting or denying their power to exercise that legitimate authority with which they were duly invested, of transmitting the sacred gift to worthier followers."[8]

In its doctrine of Sacraments, then, and in that of ecclesiastical authority and succession, the Church of England is thoroughly imbued with the sacerdotal character. It doubtless contains far better elements and nobler conceptions than those which it has been my duty to exhibit now; and solemnly insists on faith of heart, and truth of conscience, and Christian devotedness of life, as well as on the observance of[Pg 57] its ritual; with the external it unites the internal condition of sanctification. But insisting on the theory of a mystic efficacy in the Christian rites, it necessarily fails to reconcile these with each other: and hence the opposite parties within its pale; the one magnifying faith and personal spirituality, the other exalting the sacraments and ecclesiastical communion. They represent respectively the two constituent and clashing powers, which met at the formation of the English Church, and of which it effected the mere compromise, not the reconciliation; I mean, the priestliness of Rome, and the prophetic spirit of the Reformers. Never, since apostolic days, did Heaven bless us with truer prophet than Martin Luther. It was his mission (no modern man had ever greater) to substitute the idea of personal faith for that of sacerdotal reliance. And gloriously, with bravery and truth of soul amid a thousand hinderances, did he achieve it. But though, ever since, the priests have been down, and faith has been up, yet did the hierarchy unavoidably remain, and insisted that something should be made of it, and at least some colorable terms proposed. Hence, every reformed church exhibits a coalition between the new and the old ideas: and combined views of religion, which must ultimately prove incompatible with each other; the formal with the spiritual; the idea of worship as a means of propitiating God, with the conception of it as an expression of love in man; the notion of Church authority with that of individual freedom; the admission of a license to think, with a prohibition of thinking wrong. In our national Church the old spirit was ascendant over the new, though long forced into quiescence by the temper of modern times. Now it is attempting to reassert its power, not without strenuous resistance. Indeed, the present age seems destined to end the compromise between the two principles, from the union of which Protestantism assumed its established forms. The truce seems everywhere breaking up: a general disintegration of churches is visible; tradition is ransacking the past for claims and dignities, and canvassing present timidity for fresh authority, to withstand the wild[Pg 58] forces born at the Reformation, and hurrying us fast into an unknown future.

Let us now turn to the primitive Christianity; which, I submit, is throughout wholly anti-sacerdotal.

Surely it must be admitted that the general spirit of our Lord's personal life and ministry was that of the Prophet, not of the Priest; tending directly to the disparagement of whatever priesthood existed in his country, without visibly preparing the substitution of anything at all analogous to it. The sacerdotal order felt it so; and, with the infallible instinct of self-preservation, they watched, they hated, they seized, they murdered him. The priest in every age has a natural antipathy to the prophet, dreads him as kings dread revolution, and is the first to detect his existence. The solemn moment and the gracious words of Christ's first preaching in Nazareth, struck with fate the temple in Jerusalem. To the old men of the village, to the neighbors who knew his childhood, and companions who had shared its rambles and its sports, he said, with the quiet flush of inspiration: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." The Spirit of the Lord in Galilee! speaking with the peasantry, dwelling in villages, and wandering loose and where it listeth among the hills! This would never do, thought the white-robed Levites of the Holy City; it would be as a train of wildfire in the temple. And were they not right? When it was revealed that sanctity is no thing of place and time, that a way is open from earth to heaven, from every field or mountain trod by human feet, and through every roof that shelters a human head; that, amid the crowd and crush of life, each soul is in personal solitude with God, and by speech or silence (be they but true and loving) may tell its cares and find its peace; that a divine allegiance might cost nothing, but the strife of a dutiful will and the patience of a filial[Pg 59] heart,—how could any priesthood hope to stand? See how Jesus himself, when the temple was close at hand, and the sunshine dressed it in its splendor, yet withdrew his prayers to the midnight of Mount Olivet. He entered those courts to teach, rather than to worship; and when there, he is felt to take no consecration, but to give it; to bring with him the living spirit of God, and spread it throughout all the place. When evening closes his teachings, and he returns late over the Mount to Bethany, did he not feel that there was more of God in the night-breeze on his brow, and the heaven above him, and the sad love within him, than in the place called "Holy" which he had left? And when he had knocked at the gate of Lazarus the risen and become his guest,—when, after the labors of the day, he unburdened his spirit to the affections of that family, and spake of things divine to the sisters listening at his feet,—did they not feel, as they retired at length, that the whole house was full of God, and that there is no sanctuary like the shrine, not made with hands, within us all? In childhood, he had once preferred the temple and its teachings to his parents' home: now, to his deeper experience, the temple has lost its truth; while the cottage and the walks of Nazareth, the daily voices and constant duties of this life, seem covered with the purest consecration. True, he vindicated the sanctity of the temple, when he heard within its enclosure the hum of traffic and the chink of gain, and would not have the house of prayer turned into a place of merchandise: because in this there was imposture and a lie, and Mammon and the Lord must ever dwell apart. In nothing must there be mockery and falsehood; and while the temple stands, it must be a temple true.

Our Lord's whole ministry, then, (to which we may add that of his Apostles,) was conceived in a spirit quite opposite to that of priesthood. A missionary life, without fixed locality, without form, without rites; with teaching free, occasional, and various, with sympathies ever with the people, and a strain of speech never marked by invective, except against the ruling sacerdotal influence;—all these characters[Pg 60] proclaim him, purely and emphatically, the Prophet of the Lord. It deserves notice that, unless as the name of his enemies, the word "Priest" (ἱερευς) never occurs in either the historical or epistolary writings of the New Testament, except in the Epistle to the Hebrews. And there its application is not a little remarkable. It is applied to Christ alone; it is declared to belong to him only after his ascension; it is said that, while on earth, he neither was, nor could be, a priest; and if it is admitted that he holds the office in heaven, this is only to satisfy the demand of the Hebrew Christians for some sacerdotal ideas in their religion, and to reconcile them to having no priest on earth. The writer acknowledges one great pontiff in the world above, that the whole race may be superseded in the world below; and banishes priesthood into invisibility, that men may never see its shadow more. All the terms of office which are given to the first preachers of the Gospel and superintendents of churches,—as Deacon, Elder or Presbyter, Overseer or Bishop,—are lay terms, belonging previously, not to ecclesiastical, but to civil life; an indication, surely, that no analogy was thought to exist between the Apostolic and the Sacerdotal relations.[9] I shall, no doubt, be reminded of the words, in which our Lord is supposed to have given their commission to his first representatives: "Whatsoever ye bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"; and shall be asked whether this does not convey to them and their successors an official authority to[Pg 61] forgive sins, and dispense the decrees of the unseen world. I reply briefly:—

1st. That the power here granted does not relate to the dispensations of the future life, but solely to what would be termed, in modern language, the allotment of church-membership. The previous verse proves this, furnishing as it does a particular case of the general authority here assigned. It directs the Apostles under what circumstances they are to remove an offender from a Christian society, and treat him as an unconverted man, as a heathen man and a publican. Having given them their rule, he freely trusts the application of it to them: and being about to retire erelong from personal intervention in the affairs of his kingdom, he assures them that their decisions shall be his, and that he may be considered as adopting in heaven their determinations upon earth. He simply "consigns to his Apostles discretionary power to direct the affairs of his Church, and superintend the diffusion of the glad tidings: they may bind and loose, that is, open and shut the door of admission to their community, as their judgment may determine; employing or rejecting applicants for the missionary office; dissociating from their assemblies obstinate delinquents; receiving with openness, or dismissing with suspicion, each candidate for instruction, according to their estimate of his qualifications and motives."

2dly. It is to be observed, that there is no appearance of any one being in the contemplation of our Lord, beyond the persons immediately addressed. Not a word is said of any official successor or any distant age. No indication is afforded, that any idea of futurity was present to the mind of Jesus: and a title of perpetual office, an instrument creating and endowing an endless priesthood, ought, it will be admitted, to be somewhat more explicit than this. But where the power has been successfully claimed, the title is seldom difficult to prove.

The alleged ritual of Christianity, consisting of the sacraments of Baptism and the Communion, will be found no less destitute of sanction from the Scriptures. The former we[Pg 62] shall see reason to regard as simply an initiatory form, applicable only to Christian converts, and limited therefore to adults; the latter as purely a commemoration: neither therefore having any sacramental or mystical efficacy.

For baptism it is impossible to establish any supernatural origin. It is admitted to have existed before the Christian era; and to have been employed by the Jews on the admission of proselytes to their religion. It is certain that it is not an enjoined rite in the Mosaic dispensation; and, though prevalent before the period of the New Testament, is nowhere enforced or recognized in the writings of the Old. It arose therefore in the interval between the only two systems which Christians acknowledged to be supernatural; and must be considered as of natural and human origin, invested, thus far, with no higher authority than its own appropriateness may confer. There seem to have been two modes of construing the symbol: the one founded on the cleansing effect of the water on the person of the baptized himself; the other, on the appearance of his immersion (which was complete) to the eye of a spectator. The former was an image of the heathen convert's purification from a foul idolatry, and his transition to a stainless condition under a divine and justifying law. The latter represented him, when he vanished in the stream, as interred to this world, sunk utterly from its sight; and when he reappeared, as emerging or born again to a better state; the "old man" was "buried in baptism," and when he "rose again," he had altogether "become new."[10] The[Pg 63] ceremony then was appropriately used in any case of transition from a depressed and corrupt state of existence to a hopeful and blessed one; from a false or imperfect religion to one true and heavenly.

But it will be said, whatever the origin of baptism, it was employed and sanctioned by our Lord, who commissioned his Apostles to go and baptize all nations. True; but is there no difference between the adoption of a practice already extant,—of a practice which was as much the mere institutional dress of the Apostles' nation, as the sandals whose dust they were to shake off against the faithless were the customary clothing of the Apostles' feet,—and the authoritative appointment of a sacrament? They were going forth to make converts: and why should they not have recourse to the form familiarly associated with the act? Familiar association recommended its adoption in that age and clime; and the absence of such association elsewhere and in other times may be thought to justify its disuse. At all events, a ceremony thus taken up must be presumed to retain its acquired sense and its established extent of application: and if so, baptism must be strictly limited to the admission of proselytes from other faiths. This accords with the known practice of the Apostles, who cannot be shown to have baptized any but those whom they had personally, or by their missionaries, persuaded to become Christians. Not a single case of the use of the rite with children can be adduced from Scripture; and the only argument by which such employment of it is ever justified is this: that a household is said to have been baptized, and all nations were to receive the offer of it; and that the household may, the nations must, have contained children. It is evident that such reasoning could never have been propounded, unless the practice had existed first, and the defence had been found afterwards.

With the system of infant baptism vanish almost all the ideas which the prevalent theology has put into the rite; and it becomes as intelligible and expressive to one who believes in the good capacities of human nature, as to those who[Pg 64] esteem it originally depraved. "How unmeaning," say our Orthodox opponents, "is this ceremony in Unitarian hands, denying, as they do, the doctrines which it represents! Of what regeneration can they possibly suppose it the symbol, if not of the washing away of that hereditary sin which they refuse to acknowledge? for when the infant is brought to the font, he can as yet have no other guilt than this." I reply, the objection has no force except against the use of infant baptism in our churches,—which I am not anxious to defend; but of course those Unitarians who employ it conceive it to be the token, not of any sentiments which they reject, but of truths and feelings which they hold dear. For myself, I believe, with our opponents, that the doctrine of original sin and the practice of infant baptism do belong to each other, and must stand or fall together; and therefore deem it a fact very significant of the Apostles' theology, that no infant can be shown ever to have been "brought to the font" by these first true missionaries of Christianity. And as to the new birth which baptism (i. e. recent and genuine discipleship to Jesus) may give to the maturely convinced Christian, he must have a great deal to learn, not only of the Hebrew conceptions and language in relation to the Messiah, but of the spirituality of the Gospel, and of the fresh creations of character which it calls up, who can be much puzzled about its meaning.

In Christian baptism, then, we have no sacrament with mystic power; but an initiatory form, possibly of consuetudinary obligation only; but if enjoined, applicable exclusively to proselytes, and misemployed in the case of infants; a sign of conversion, not a means of salvation; confided to no sacerdotal order, but open to every man fitted to give it an appropriate use.

I turn to the Lord's Supper; with design to show what it is not, and what it is. It is not a mystery, or a sacrament, any more than it is an expiatory sacrifice. To persuade us that it has a ritual character, we are first assured that it is clearly the successor in the Gospel to the Passover under the[Pg 65] Law. Well, even if it were so, it would still be simply commemorative, and without any other efficacy than a festival, filled with great remembrances, and inspired with religious joy. Such was the Paschal Feast in Jerusalem; the annual gathering of families and kindred, a sacred carnival under the spring sky and in sight of unreaped fields, when the memory was recalled of national deliverance, and the tale was told of traditional glories, and the thoughts brought back of bondage reversed, of the desert pilgrimage ended, of the promised land possessed. The Jewish festival was no more than this; unless, with Archbishop Magee and others, we erroneously conceive it to be a proper sacrifice. So that those who would interpret the Lord's Supper by the Passover have their choice between two views: that it is a simple commemoration; or that it is an expiatory sacrifice: in the former case they quit the Church of England; in the latter, they fall into the Church of Rome.

But, in truth, there is no propriety in applying the name "Christian Passover" to the Communion. The notion rests entirely on this circumstance: that the first three Evangelists describe the last Supper as the Paschal Supper. But the institutional part of that meal was over before the cup was distributed, and the repetition of the act enjoined. Nor is there the slightest trace, either in the subsequent Scriptures, or in the earliest history of the Church, that the Communion was thought to bear relation to the Passover. The time, the frequency, the mode, of the two were altogether different. Indeed, when we observe that not one of these particulars is prescribed and determined by our Lord at all, when we notice the slight and transient manner in which he drops his wish that they would "do this in remembrance of" him, when we compare these features of the account with the elaborate precision of Moses respecting hours, and materials, and dates, and places, and modes in the establishment of the Hebrew festivals, it is scarcely possible to avoid the impression, that we are reading narrative, not law; an utterance of personal affection, rather than the legislative enactment of an everlasting[Pg 66] institution. However this may be, no importance can be attached to the reported coincidence in the time of that meal with the day of Passover; for the Apostle John, who gives by far the fullest account of what happened at that table (yet never mentions the institution of the Supper), states that this was not the paschal meal at all, which did not occur, he says, till the following day of crucifixion.

"But," it will be said, "the Gospels are not the only parts of Scripture whence the nature of the Eucharist may be learned. Language is employed by St. Paul in reference to it, which cannot be understood of a mere memorial, and implies that awful consequences hung on the worthy or unworthy participation in the rite. Does he not even say, that a man may 'eat and drink damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body'?"

The passage whence these words are cited certainly throws great light on the institution of which we treat; but there must be a total disregard to the whole context and the general course of the Apostle's reasoning before it can be made to yield any argument for the mystical character of the rite. It would appear that the Corinthian church was in the habit of celebrating the Lord's Supper in a way which, even if it had never been disgraced by any indecorum, must have struck a modern Christian with wonder at its singularity. The members met together in one room or church, each bringing his own supper, of such quantity and quality as his opulence or poverty might allow. To this the Apostle does not object, but apparently considers it a part of the established arrangement. But these Christians were divided into factions, and had not learned the true uniting spirit of their faith; nor do they seem to have acquired that sobriety of habit and sanctity of mind which their profession ought to have induced. When they entered the place of meeting, they broke up into groups and parties, class apart from class, and rich deserting poor: each set began its separate meal, some indulging in luxury and excess, others with scarce the means of keeping the commemoration at all; and, infamous to tell, the blessed[Pg 67] Supper of the Lord was sunk into a tavern meal. So gross and habitual had the abuse become, that the excesses had affected the health and life of these guilty and unworthy partakers. They had made no distinction between the Communion and an ordinary repast, had lost all perception of the memorial significance of their meeting, had not discriminated or "discerned the Lord's body"; and so they had eaten and drunk judgment (improperly rendered "damnation" in the English Version) to themselves; and many were weak and sickly among them, and many even slept. Well would it be, if they would look on this as a chastening of the Lord; in which case they might take warning, and escape being cast out of the Church, and driven to take their chance with the unbelieving and heathen world. "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."

In order to remedy all this corruption, St. Paul reminds them, that to eat and drink under the same roof, in the church, does not constitute proper Communion; that, to this end, they must not break up into sections, and retain their property in the food, but all participate seriously together. He directs that an absolute separation shall be made between the occasions for satisfying hunger and thirst, and those for observing this commemorative rite, discriminating carefully the memorial of the Lord's body from everything else. He refers them all to the original model of the institution, the parting meal of Christ before his betrayal; and by this example, as a criterion, he would have every man examine himself, and after that pattern eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Hence it appears,—

That the unworthy partaker was the riotous Corinthian, who made no distinction between the sacred Communion and a vulgar meal:

That the judgment or damnation which such brought on themselves, was sickliness, weakness, and premature but natural death:

That the self-examination which the Apostle recommends[Pg 68] to the communicant is a comparison of his mode of keeping the rite with the original model of the last Supper:

That in the Corinthian church there was no Priest, or officiating dispenser of the elements; and that St. Paul did not contemplate or recommend the appointment of any such person.

The Lord's Supper, then, I conclude, was and is a simple commemoration. Am I asked: "Of what? Why, according to Unitarian views, the death on the cross merits the memorial more than the remaining features of our Lord's history,—more even than the death of many a noble martyr, who has sealed his testimony to truth by like self-sacrifice"? The answer will be found at length in the Lecture on the Atonement, where the Scriptural conceptions of Christ's death are expounded in detail. Meanwhile, it is sufficient to recall an idea, which has more than once been thrown out during this course; that, if Jesus had taken up his Messianic power without death, he would have remained a Hebrew, and been limited to the people amid whom he was born. He quitted his mortal personality, he left this fleshly tabernacle of existence, and became immortal, that his nationality might be destroyed, and all men drawn in as subjects of his reign. It was the cross that opened to the nations the blessed ways of life, and put us all in relations, not of law, but of love, to him and God. Hence the memorial of his death celebrates the universality and spirituality of the Gospel; declares the brotherhood of men, the fatherhood of providence, the personal affinity of every soul with God. That is no empty rite which overflows with these conceptions.

Christianity, then, I maintain, is without Priest and without Ritual. It altogether coalesces with the prophetic idea of religion, and repudiates the sacerdotal. Christ himself was transcendently the Prophet. He brought down God to this our life, and left his spirit amid its scenes. The Apostles were prophets; they carried that spirit abroad, revealing everywhere to men the sanctity of their nature, and[Pg 69] the proximity of their heaven. Nor am I even unwilling to admit an apostolic succession, never yet extinct, and never more to be extinguished. But then it is by no means a rectilinear regiment of incessant priests; but a broken, scattered, yet glorious race of prophets; the genealogy of great and Christian souls, through whom the primitive conceptions of Jesus have propagated themselves from age to age; mind producing mind, courage giving birth to courage, truth developing truth, and love ever nurturing love, so long as one good and noble spirit shall act upon another. Luther surely was the child of Paul; and what a noble offspring has risen to manhood from Luther's soul, whom to enumerate were to tell the best triumphs of the modern world. These are Christ's true ambassadors; and never did he mean any follower of his to be called a priest. He has his genuine messenger, wherever, in the Church or in the world, there toils any one of the real prophets of our race; any one who can create the good and great in other souls, whether by truth of word or deed, by the inspiration of genuine speech, or the better power of a life merciful and holy.

And here, my friends, with my subject might my Lecture close, were it not that we are assembled now to terminate this controversy; and that a few remarks in reference to its whole course and spirit seem to be required.

That the recent aggression upon the principles of Unitarian Christianity was prompted by no unworthy motive, individual or political, but by a zeal, Christian so far as its spirit is disinterested, and unchristian only so far as it is exclusive, has never been doubted or denied by my brother ministers or myself. That much personal consideration and courtesy have been evinced towards us during the controversy, it is so grateful to us to acknowledge, that we must only regret the theological obstructions in the way of that mutual knowledge which softens the prejudices and corrects the errors of the closet. From such errors, the lot of our fallible nature, we are deeply aware that we cannot be exempt, and profoundly wish that, by others' aid or by our own, we could[Pg 70] discover them. Meanwhile, we do not feel that our opponents have been successful in the offer which they have made, of help towards this end. They are too little acquainted with our history and character, and have far too great a horror of us, to succeed in a design demanding rather the benevolence of sympathy and trust than that of antipathy and fear. Hence have arisen certain complaints and charges against our system and its tendencies, which, having been reiterated again and again in the Christ Church Lectures, and scarcely noticed in our own, claim a concluding observation or two now.

1. We are said to be infidels in disguise, and our system to be drifting fast towards utter unbelief. At all events, it is said we make great advances that way.

It is by no means unusual to dismiss this charge on a whirlwind of declamation, designed to send it and the infidel to the greatest possible distance. My friend who delivered the first Lecture noticed it in a far different spirit; and in a discussion where truth and wisdom had any chance, his reply would have prevented any recurrence to the statement. Let me try to imitate him in the testimony which I desire to add upon this point.

Every one, I presume, who disbelieves anything, is, with respect to that thing, an infidel. Departure from any prevalent and established ideas is inevitably an approach to infidelity; the extent of the departure, not the reasonableness or propriety of it, is the sole measure of the nearness of that approach; which, however wise and sober, when estimated by a true and independent criterion, will appear, to persons strongly possessed by the ascendant notions, nothing less than alarming, amazing, awful. In short, the average popular creed of the day is the mental standard, from which the stadia are measured off towards that invisible, remote, nay, even imaginary place, lodged somewhere within chaos, called utter unbelief. Christianity at first was blank infidelity; and disciples, being of course the atheists of their day, were thought a fit prey for the wild beasts of the amphitheatre.[Pg 71] Every rejection of tradition, again, is unbelief with respect to it; and to those who hold its authority, it is the denial of an essential. It is too evident to need proof, that the average popular belief cannot be assumed, by any considerate person, as a standard of truth. To make it an objection against any class of men, that they depart from it, is to prove no error against them; and no one, who is not willing to call in the passions of the multitude in suffrage on the controversies of the few, will condescend to enforce the charge.

But only observe how, in the present instance, the matter stands. In the popular religion we discern, mixed up together, two constituent portions: certain peculiar doctrines which characterize the common Orthodoxy; and certain universal Christian truths remaining, when these are subtracted. The infidel throws away both of these; we throw away the former only; and thus far, no doubt, we partially agree with him. But on what grounds do we severally justify this rejection? In answer to this question, compare the views, with respect both to the authority and to the interpretation of Scripture, held by the three parties, the Trinitarian, the Unbeliever, the Unitarian. The Unbeliever does not usually find fault with the Orthodox interpretation of the Bible, but allows it to pass, as probably the real meaning of the book, only he altogether denies the divine character and authority of the whole religion; he therefore agrees with the Trinitarian respecting interpretation, disagrees with him respecting authority. The Unitarian, again, admits the divine character of Christianity, but understands it differently from the Trinitarian; he therefore reverses the former case, agrees with the Orthodox on the authority, disagrees respecting interpretation. It follows, that with the Unbeliever he agrees in neither, and is therefore farther from him than his Trinitarian accuser.

I have given this explanation from regard simply to logical truth. I have no desire to join in the outcry against even the deliberate unbeliever in the Gospel, as if he must necessarily be a fiend. Profoundly loving and trusting Christianity[Pg 72] myself, I yet feel indignant at the persecution which theology, policy, and law inflict on the many who, with undeniable exercise of conscientiousness and patience of research, are yet unable to satisfy themselves respecting its evidence. The very word "infidel," implying not simply an intellectual judgment, but bad moral qualities, conveys an unmerited insult, and ought to be repudiated by every generous disputant. The more deeply we trust Christianity, the more should we protest against its being defended by a body-guard of passions, willing to do for it precisely the services which they might equally render to the vulgarest imposture.

2. We were recently accused, amid acknowledgments of our honesty, with want of anxiety about spiritual truth; and the following justification of the charge was offered: "The word of God has informed us, that they who seek the truth shall find it; that they who ask for holy wisdom shall receive it; but it must be a really anxious inquiry,—a heart-felt desire for the blessing. 'If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.' Such promises are express,—they cannot be broken,—God will give the blessing to the sincere, anxious inquirer. But the two qualities must go together. A man may be sincere in his ignorance and spiritual torpor; but let the full desire for God's favor, his pardoning mercy, and his enlightening grace spring up in the heart, and we may rest assured that the desire will soon be accomplished. Admitting, then, the sincerity of Unitarians, we doubt their anxiety, for we are well persuaded from God's promises, that, if they possessed both, they would be delivered from their miserable system, and be brought to the knowledge of the truth."[11]

The praise of our "sincerity," conveyed in these bland sentences, we are anxious to decline: not that we undervalue the quality; but because we find, on near inspection, that it[Pg 73] has all been emptied out of the word before its presentation, and the term comes to us hollow and worthless. It affords a specimen of the mode in which alone our opponents appear able to give any credit to heretics: many phrases of approbation they freely apply to us; but they take care to draw off the whole meaning first. We must reject these "Greek presents"; and we are concerned that any Christian divine can so torture and desecrate the names of virtue, as to make them instruments of disparagement and injury. This play with words, which every conscience should hold sacred, and every lip pronounce with reverence,—this careless and unmeaning application of them in discourse,—indicates a loose adhesion to the mind of the ideas denoted by them, which we regard with unfeigned astonishment and grief. What, let me ask, can be the "sincerity" of an inquirer, who is not "anxious" about the truth? How can he be "sincerely" persuaded that he sees, who voluntarily shuts his eyes? Unless this word is to be degraded into a synonyme for indolence and self-complacency, no professed seeker of truth must have the praise of sincerity, who does not abandon all worship of his own state of mind as already perfect, who is not ready to listen to every calm doubt as to the voice of heaven,—to undertake with gratitude the labor of reaching new knowledge,—to maintain his faith and his profession in scrupulous accordance with his perception of evidence; and, at any moment of awakening, to spring from his most brilliant dreams into God's own morning light, with a matin hymn upon his lips for his new birth from darkness and from sleep. The earnestness implied in this state of mind is perhaps not precisely the same as that with which our Trinitarian opponents seem to be familiar. The "anxiety" which they appear to feel for themselves is, to keep their existing state of belief: the "anxiety" which they feel for us is, that we should have it. We are to hold ourselves ready for a change; they are not to be expected to desire it. If a doubt of our opinions should occur to us, we are to foster it carefully, and follow it out as a beckoning of the Holy Spirit: if a doubt of their[Pg 74] sentiments should occur to them, they are to crush it on the spot, as a reptile-thought sent of Satan to tempt them. "Our aim," says the concluding Lecturer again, "has been to beget a deep spirit of inquiry";[12] and so has ours, I would reply: only you and we have severally prosecuted this aim in different ways. We have personally listened, and personally inquired, and earnestly recommended all whom our influence could reach, to do the same: and few indeed will be the Unitarian libraries containing one of these series of Lectures that will not exhibit the other by its side. You have entered this controversy, evidently strange to our literature and history; and any deficiency in such reading before, has not been compensated by anxiety to listen now. Your people have been warned against us, and are taught to regard the study of our publications as blasphemy at second hand; and were they really so simple as to act upon your avowed wish "to beget a deep spirit of inquiry," and plunge into the investigation of Unitarian authors, and judge for themselves of Unitarian worship, they would speedily hear the word of recall, and discover that they were practically disappointing the whole object of this controversy.

Having said thus much respecting the unmeaning use of language in the Lecturer's disparaging estimate of Unitarian "anxiety," we may profitably direct a moment's attention to the reasoning which it involves. It presents us with the standing fallacy of intolerance, which is sufficiently rebuked by being simply exhibited. Our opponents reason thus:—

God will not permit the really anxious fatally to err:
The Unitarians do fatally err:
Therefore, The Unitarians are not really anxious.

Now it is clear that we must conceive our opponents to be no less mistaken than they suppose us to be. They are as far from us, as we from them; and from either point, taken[Pg 75] as a standard, the measure of error must be the same. Moreover, we cannot but eagerly assent to the principle of the Lecturer's first premise, that God will never let the truly anxious fatally miss their way. So that there is nothing, in the nature of the case, to prevent our turning this same syllogism, with a change in the names of the parties, against our opponents. Yet we should shrink, with severe self-reproach, from drawing any such unfavorable conclusion respecting them, as they deduce of us. Accordingly, we manage our reasoning thus:—

God will not permit the really anxious fatally to err:
The Trinitarians show themselves to be really anxious:
Therefore, The Trinitarians do not fatally err.

Our opponents are more sure that their judgment is in the right, than that their neighbors' conscience is in earnest. They sacrifice other men's characters to their own self-confidence: we would rather distrust our self-confidence, and rely on the visible signs of a good and careful mind. We honor other men's hearts, rather than our own heads. How can it be just, to make the agreement between an opponent's opinion and our own the criterion of his proper conduct of the inquiry? Every man feels the injury the moment the rule is turned against himself; and every good man should be ashamed to direct it against his brother.

3. Our reverend opponents affect to have labored under a great disadvantage, from the absence of any recognized standard of Unitarian belief. "We give you," they say, "our Articles and Creeds, which we unanimously undertake to defend, and which expose a definite object to all heretical attacks. In return, you can furnish us with no authorized exposition of your system, but leave us to gather our knowledge of it from individual writers, for whose opinions you refuse to be responsible, and whose reasonings, when refuted by us, you can conveniently disown."

[Pg 76]

Plausible as this complaint may appear, I venture to affirm, that it is vastly easier to ascertain the common belief of Unitarians, than that of the members of the Established Church; and for this plain reason, that with us there really is such a thing as a common faith, though defined in no confession; in the Anglican Church there is not, though articles and creeds profess it. The characteristic tenets of Unitarian Christianity are so simple and unambiguous, that little scope exists for variety in their interpretation: to the propositions expressing them all their professors attach distinct and the same ideas;—so far, at least, as such accordance is possible in relation to subjects inaccessible both to demonstration and to experience. But the Trinitarian hypothesis, venturing with presumptuous analysis far into the Divine psychology, presents us with ideas confessedly inapprehensible; propounded in language which, if used in its ordinary sense, is self-contradictory, and if not, is unmeaning, and ready in its emptiness to be filled by any arbitrary interpretation;—and actually understood so variously by those who subscribe to them, that the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Tritheist and the Sabellian, unite to praise them. Indeed, in the history of the English Church, so visible is the sweep of the centre of Orthodoxy over the whole space from the confines of Romanism to the verge of Unitarianism, that our ecclesiastical chronology is measured by its oscillations. Our respected opponents know full well, that it is not necessary to search beyond the clergy of this town, or even beyond the morning and afternoon preaching in one and the same church, in order to encounter greater contrasts in theology, than could be found in a whole library of Unitarian divinity. What mockery, then, to refer us to these articles as expositions of clerical belief, when the moment we pass beyond the words, and address ourselves to the sense, every shade of contrariety appears; and no one definite conception can be adopted of such a doctrine as that of the Trinity, without some church expositor or other starting up to rebuke it as a misrepresentation! How poor the pride of uniformity, which contents itself with lip-service to the symbol, in the midst of heart-burnings about the reality!

[Pg 77]

In order to test the force of the objection to which I am referring, let us advert, in detail, to the topics which exhibit the Unitarian and Trinitarian theology in most direct opposition. It will appear that the advantage of unity lies, in this instance, on the side of heresy; and that, if multiformity be a prime characteristic of error, there is a wide difference between orthodoxy and truth. There are four great subjects comprised in the controversy between the Church and ourselves: the nature of God; of Christ; of sin; of punishment. On these several points (which, considered as involving on our part denials of previous ideas, may be regarded as containing the negative elements of our belief) all our modern writers, without material variation or exception, maintain the following doctrines:—

Unitarian Doctrines, opposed to Church Doctrines.

1. The Personal Unity of God.1. The Trinity in Unity.
2. The Simplicity of Nature in2. Two Distinct Natures in
3. The Personal Origin and3. The Transferable Nature
Identity of Sin.and Vicarious Removal
 of Sin.
4. The Finite Duration of Future4. The Eternity of Hell

Now no one at all familiar with polemical literature can deny that the modes and ambiguities of doctrine comprised in this Trinitarian list are more numerous than can be detected in the parallel "heresies." I am willing, indeed, to admit an exception in respect to the last of the topics, and to allow that the belief in the finite duration of future punishment has opposed itself, in two forms, to the single doctrine of everlasting torments. But when the systems are compared at their other corresponding points, the boast of orthodox uniformity instantly vanishes. Since the primitive jealousy between the Jewish and Gentile Christianity, the rivalry between the "Monarchy" and the "Economy," the believers in the personal unity of God, though often severed by ages[Pg 78] from each other, have held that majestic truth in one unvaried form. Never was there an idea so often lost and recovered, yet so absolutely unchanged: a sublime but occasional visitant of the human mind, assuring us of the perpetual oneness of our own nature, as well as the Divine. We can point to no unbroken continuity of our great doctrine: and if we could, we should appeal with no confidence to the evidence of so dubious a phenomenon; for if a system of ideas once gains possession of society, and attracts to itself complicated interests and feelings, many causes may suffice to insure its indefinite preservation. But we can point to a greater phenomenon: to the long and repeated extinction of our favorite belief, to its submersion beneath a dark and restless fanaticism; and its invariable resurrection, like a necessary intuition of the soul, in times of purer light, with its features still the same; stamped with imperishable identity of truth, and, like him to whom it refers, without variableness or shadow of a turning. Meanwhile, who will undertake to enumerate and define the succession of Trinities by which this doctrine has been bewildered and banished? Passing by the Aristotelian, the Platonic, the Ciceronian, the Cartesian Trinity,—quitting the stormy disputes and contradictory decisions of the early councils, shall we find among even the modern fathers of our National Church any approach to unanimity? Am I to be content with the doctrine of Bishop Bull, and subordinate the Son to the Father as the sole fountain of divinity? Or must I rise to the Tritheism of Waterland and Sherlock? or, accepting the famous decision of the University of Oxford, descend, with Archbishop Whately, to the modal Trinity of South and Wallis? Are we to understand the phrase, three persons, to mean three beings united by "perichoresis," three "mutual inexistences," three "modes," three "differences," three "contemplations," or three "somewhats"; or, being told that this is but a vain prying into a mystery, shall we be satisfied to leave the phrase without idea at all? It is to the last degree astonishing to hear from Trinitarian divines the praises of uniformity[Pg 79] of belief; seeing that it is one of the chief labors of ecclesiastical history to record the incessant effort, vain to the present day, to give some stability of meaning to the fundamental doctrines of their faith.

The same remark applies, with little modification, to the opposite views respecting the person of the Saviour. It is true, that Unitarians, agreed respecting the singleness of nature in Christ, differ respecting the natural rank of that nature, whether his soul were human or angelic. But, for this solitary variety among these heretics, how many doctrines of the Logos and the Incarnation does Orthodox literature contain? Can any one affirm, that, when the Council of Ephesus had arbitrated between the Eutychian doctrine of absorption, and the Nestorian doctrine of separation, all doubt and ambiguity was removed by the magic phrase "hypostatic union"? Since the monophysite contest was at its height, has the Virgin Mary been left in undisputed possession of her title as "Mother of God"? Has the Eternal Generation of the Son encountered no orthodox suspicions, and the Indwelling scheme received no orthodox support? And if we ask these questions: "What respectively happened to the two natures on the cross? what has become of Christ's human soul now? is it separate from the Godhead, like any other immortal spirit, or is it added to the Deity, so as to introduce into his nature a new and fourth element?" shall we receive from the many voices of the Church but one accordant answer? Nay, do the authors of this controversy suppose that, during its short continuance, they have been able to maintain their unanimity? If they do, I believe that any reader who thinks it worth while to register the varieties of error, would be able to undeceive them. If the diversities of doctrine cannot easily and often be shown to amount to palpable inconsistencies, this must be ascribed, I believe, to the mystic and technical phraseology, the substitute rather than the expression for precise ideas,—which has become the vernacular dialect of orthodox divinity. The jargon of theology affords a field too barren to bear so[Pg 80] vigorous a weed as an undisputed contradiction.

It is needless to dwell on the numerous forms under which the doctrine of Atonement has been held by those who subscribe the articles of our National Church; while its Unitarian opponents have taken their fixed station on the personal character and untransferable nature of sin. One writer tells us that only the human nature perished on the cross; another, that God himself expired: some say, that Christ suffered no more intensely, but only more "meritoriously," than many a martyr; others, that he endured the whole quantity of torment due to the wicked whom he redeemed: some, that it is the spotlessness of his manhood that is imputed to believers; others, that it is the holiness of his Deity. From the high doctrine of satisfaction to the very verge of Unitarian heresy, every variety of interpretation has been given to the language of the established formularies respecting Christian redemption. Nor is it yet determined whether, in the lottery of opinion, the name of Owen, Sykes, or Magee shall be drawn for the prize of orthodoxy.

And if, from those parts of our belief to which the accidents of their historical origin have given a negative character, we turn to those which are positive, not the slightest reason will appear for charging them with uncertainty and fluctuation. All Unitarian writers maintain the Moral Perfection and Fatherly Providence of the Infinite Ruler; the Messiahship of Jesus Christ, in whose person and spirit there is a Revelation of God and a Sanctification for Man; the Responsibility and Retributive Immortality of men; and the need of a pure and devout heart of Faith, as the source of all outward goodness and inward communion with God. These great and self-luminous points, bound together by natural affinity, constitute the fixed centre of our religion. And on subjects beyond this centre we have no wider divergences than are found among those who attach themselves to an opposite system. For example, the relations between Scripture and Reason, as evidences and guides in questions of doctrine, are not more unsettled among us, than are the relations[Pg 81] between Scripture and Tradition in the Church. Nor is the perpetual authority of the "Christian rites" so much in debate among our ministers, as the efficacy of the sacraments among the clergy. In truth, our diversities of sentiment affect far less what we believe, than the question why we believe it. Different modes of reasoning, and different results of interpretation, are no doubt to be found among our several authors. We all make our appeal to the records of Christianity; but we have voted no particular commentator into the seat of authority. And is not this equally true of our opponents' Church? Their articles and creeds furnish no textual expositions of Scripture, but only results and deductions from its study. And so variously have these results been elicited from the sacred writings, that scarcely a text can be adduced in defence of the Trinitarian scheme, which some witness unexceptionably orthodox may not be summoned to prove inapplicable. In fine, we have no greater variety of critical and exegetical opinion than the divines from whom we dissent; while the system of Christianity in which our Scriptural labors have issued, has its leading characteristics better determined and more apprehensible than the scheme which the articles and creeds have vainly labored to define.

The refusal to embody our sentiments in any authoritative formula appears to strike observers as a whimsical exception to the general practice of churches. The peculiarity has had its origin in hereditary and historical associations; but it has its defence in the noblest principles of religious freedom and Christian communion. At present, it must suffice to say, that our societies are dedicated, not to theological opinions, but to religious worship; that they have maintained the unity of the spirit, without insisting on any unity of doctrine; that Christian liberty, love, and piety are their essentials in perpetuity, but their Unitarianism an accident of a few or many generations,—which has arisen, and might vanish, without the loss of their identity. We believe in the mutability of religious systems, but the imperishable character of the religious affections;—in the progressiveness of[Pg 82] opinion within, as well as without, the limits of Christianity. Our forefathers cherished the same conviction; and so, not having been born intellectual bondsmen, we desire to leave our successors free. Convinced that uniformity of doctrine can never prevail, we seek to attain its only good—peace on earth and communion with Heaven—without it. We aim to make a true Christendom,—a commonwealth of the faithful,—by the binding force, not of ecclesiastical creeds, but of spiritual wants and Christian sympathies; and indulge the vision of a Church that "in the latter days shall arise," like "the mountain of the Lord," bearing on its ascent the blossoms of thought proper to every intellectual clime, and withal massively rooted in the deep places of our humanity, and gladly rising to meet the sunshine from on high.

And now, friends and brethren, let us say a glad farewell to the fretfulness of controversy, and retreat again, with thanksgiving, into the interior of our own venerated truth. Having come forth, at the severer call of duty, to do battle for it, with such force as God vouchsafes to the sincere, let us go in to live and worship beneath its shelter. They tell you it is not the true faith. Perhaps not; but then you think it so; and that is enough to make your duty clear, and to draw from it, as from nothing else, the very peace of God. May be, we are on our way to something better, unexistent and unseen as yet, which may penetrate our souls with nobler affection, and give a fresh spontaneity of love to God and all immortal things. Perhaps there cannot be the truest life of faith, except in scattered individuals, till this age of conflicting doubt and dogmatism shall have passed away. Dark and leaden clouds of materialism hide the heaven from us; red gleams of fanaticism pierce through, vainly striving to reveal it; and not till the weight is heaved from off the air, and the thunders roll down the horizon, will the serene light of God flow upon us, and the blue infinite embrace us again. Meanwhile we must reverently love the faith we have; to quit it for one that we have not, were to lose the breath of life and die.

[Pg 83]


"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."—Acts iv. 12.

The scene which we have this evening to visit and explore, is separated from us by the space of eighteen centuries; yet of nothing on this earth has Providence left, within the shadows of the past, so vivid and divine an image. Gently rising above the mighty "field of the world," Calvary's mournful hill appears, covered with silence now, but distinctly showing the heavenly light that struggled there through the stormiest elements of guilt. Nor need we only gaze, as on a motionless picture that closes the vista of Christian ages. Permitting history to take us by the hand, we may pace back in pilgrimage to the hour, till its groups stand around us, and pass by us, and its voices of passion and of grief mock and wail upon our ear. As we mingle with the crowd which, amid noise and dust, follows the condemned prisoners to the place of execution, and fix our eye on the faint and panting figure of one that bears his cross, could we but whisper to the sleek priests close by, how might we startle them, by telling them the future fate of this brief tragedy,—brief in act, in blessing everlasting; that this Galilean convict shall be the world's confessed deliverer, while they that have brought him to this shall be the scorn and by-word of the nations; that that vile instrument of torture, now so abject that it makes the dying slave more servile,[Pg 84] shall be made, by this victim and this hour, the symbol of whatever is holy and sublime; the emblem of hope and love; pressed to the lips of ages; consecrated by a veneration which makes the sceptre seem trivial as an infant's toy. Meanwhile, the sacerdotal hypocrites, unconscious of the part they play, watch to the end the public murder which they have privately suborned; stealing a phrase from Scripture, that they may mock with holy lips; and leaving to the plebeian soldiers the mutual jest and brutal laugh, that serve to beguile the hired but hated work of agony, and that draw forth from the sufferer that burst of forgiving prayer, which sunk at least into their centurion's heart. One there is, who should have been spared the hearing of these scoffs; and perhaps she heard them not; for before his nature was exhausted more, his eye detects and his voice addresses her, and twines round her the filial arm of that disciple, who had been ever the most loving as well as most beloved. She at least lost the religion of that hour in its humanity, and beheld not the prophet, but the son:—had not her own hands wrought that seamless robe for which the soldiers' lot is cast; and her own lips taught him that strain of sacred poetry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" but never had she thought to hear it thus. As the cries become fainter and fainter, scarcely do they reach Peter standing afar off. The last notice of him had been the rebuking look that sent him to weep bitterly; and now the voice that alone can tell him his forgiveness will soon be gone! Broken hardly less, though without remorse, is the youthful John, to see that head, lately resting on his bosom, drooping passively in death; and to hear the involuntary shriek of Mary, as the spear struck upon the lifeless body, moving now only as it is moved;—whence he alone, on whom she leaned, records the fact. Well might the Galilean friends stand at a distance gazing; unable to depart, yet not daring to approach; well might the multitudes that had cried "Crucify him!" in the morning, shudder at the thought of that clamor ere night; "beholding the things that had come to pass, they smote their breasts and returned."

[Pg 85]

This is the scene of which we have to seek the interpretation. Our first natural impression is, that it requires no interpretation, but speaks for itself; that it has no mystery, except that which belongs to the triumphs of deep guilt, and the sanctities of disinterested love. To raise our eye to that serene countenance, to listen to that submissive voice, to note the subjects of its utterance, would give us no idea of any mystic horror concealed behind the human features of the scene; of any invisible contortions, as from the lash of demons, in the soul of that holy victim; of any sympathetic connection of that cross with the bottomless pit on the one hand, and the highest heaven on the other; of any moral revolution throughout our portion of the universe, of which this public execution is but the outward signal. The historians drop no hint that its sufferings, its affections, its relations, were other than human,—raised indeed to distinction by miraculous accompaniments; but intrinsically, however signally, human. They mention, as if bearing some appreciable proportion to the whole series of incidents, particulars so slight, as to vanish before any other than the obvious historical view of the transaction; the thirst, the sponge, the rent clothes, the mingled drink. They ascribe no sentiment to the crucified, except such as might be expressed by one of like nature with ourselves, in the consciousness of a finished work of duty, and a fidelity never broken under the strain of heaviest trial. The narrative is clearly the production of minds filled, not with theological anticipations, but with historical recollections.

With this view of Christ's death, which is such as might be entertained by any of the primitive churches, having one of the Gospels only, without any of the Epistles, we are content. I conceive of it, then, as manifesting the last degree of moral perfection in the Holy One of God; and believe that, in thus being an expression of character, it has its primary and everlasting value. I conceive of it as the needful preliminary to his resurrection and ascension, by which the severest difficulties in the theory of Providence, life, and[Pg 86] duty are alleviated or solved. I conceive of it as immediately procuring the universality and spirituality of the Gospel; by dissolving those corporeal ties which gave nationality to Jesus, and making him, in his heavenly and immortal form, the Messiah of humanity; blessing, sanctifying, regenerating, not a people from the centre of Jerusalem, but a world from his station in the heavens. And these views, under unimportant modifications, I submit, are the only ones of which Scripture contains a trace.

All this, however, we are assured, is the mere outside aspect of the crucifixion; and wholly insignificant compared with the invisible character and relations of the scene; which, localized only on earth, has its chief effect in hell; and, though presenting itself among the occurrences of time, is a repeal of the decretals of Eternity. The being who hangs upon that cross is not man alone; but also the everlasting God, who created and upholds all things, even the sun that now darkens its face upon him, and the murderers who are waiting for his expiring cry. The anguish he endures is not chiefly that which falls so poignantly on the eye and ear of the spectator; the injured human affections, the dreadful momentary doubt; the pulses of physical torture, doubling on him with full or broken wave, till driven back by the overwhelming power of love disinterested and divine. But he is judicially abandoned by the Infinite Father; who expends on him the immeasurable wrath due to an apostate race, gathers up into an hour the lightnings of Eternity, and lets them loose upon that bended head. It is the moment of retributive justice; the expiation of all human guilt: that open brow hides beneath it the despair of millions of men; and to the intensity of agony there, no human wail could give expression. Meanwhile, the future brightens on the elect; the tempests that hung over their horizon are spent. The vengeance of the lawgiver having had its way, the sunshine of a Father's grace breaks forth, and lights up, with hope and beauty, the earth, which had been a desert of despair and sin. According to this theory, Christ, in his death, was a[Pg 87] proper expiatory sacrifice; he turned aside, by enduring it for them, the infinite punishment of sin from all past or future believers in this efficacy of the cross; and transferred to them the natural rewards of his own righteousness. An acceptance of this doctrine is declared to be the prime condition of the Divine forgiveness; for no one who does not see the pardon can have it. And this pardon, again, this clear score for the past, is a necessary preliminary to all sanctification; to all practical opening of a disinterested heart towards our Creator and man. Pardon, and the perception of it, are the needful preludes to that conforming love to God and men, which is the true Christian salvation.

The evidence in support of this theory is derived partly from natural appearances, partly from Scriptural announcements. Involving, as it does, statements respecting the actual condition of human nature, and the world in which we live, some appeal to experience, and to the rational interpretation of life and Providence, is inevitable; and hence certain propositions, affecting to be of a philosophical character, are laid down as fundamental by the advocates of this system. Yet it is admitted, that direct revelation only could have acquainted us, either with our lost condition, or our vicarious recovery; and that all we can expect to accomplish with nature, is to harmonize what we observe there with what we read in the written records of God's will; so that the main stress of the argument rests on the interpretation of Scripture. The principles deduced from the nature of things, and laid down as a basis for this doctrine, may be thus represented:—

That man needs a Redeemer; having obviously fallen, by some disaster, into a state of misery and guilt, from which the worst penal consequences must be apprehended; and were it not for the probability of such lapse from the condition in which it was fashioned, it would be impossible to reconcile the phenomena of the world with the justice and benevolence of its Creator.

That Deity only can redeem; since, to preserve veracity,[Pg 88] the penalty of sin must be inflicted; and the diversion only, not the annihilation of it, is possible. To let it fall on angels would fail of the desired end; because human sin, having been directed against an Infinite Being, has incurred an infinitude of punishment; which on no created beings could be exhausted in any period short of eternity. Only a nature strictly infinite can compress within itself, in the compass of an hour, the woes distributed over the immortality of mankind. Hence, were God personally One, like man, no redemption could be effected; for there would be no Deity to suffer, except the very One who must punish. But the triplicity of the Godhead relieves all difficulty; for, while one Infinite inflicts, another Infinite endures; and resources are furnished for the atonement.

Amid a great variety of forms in which the theory of atonement exists, I have selected the foregoing; which, if I understand aright, is that which is vindicated in the present controversy. I am not aware that I have added anything to the language in which it is stated by its powerful advocate, unless it be a few phrases, leaving its essential meaning the same, but needful to render it compact and clear.

The Scriptural evidence is found principally in certain of the Apostolical Epistles; and this circumstance will render it necessary to conduct a separate search into the historical writings of the New Testament, that we may ascertain how they express the corresponding set of ideas. Taking up successively these two branches of the subject, the natural and the Biblical, I propose to show, first, that this doctrine is inconsistent with itself; secondly, that it is inconsistent with the Christian idea of salvation.

I. It is inconsistent with itself.

(1.) In its manner of treating the principles of natural religion.

Our faith in the infinite benevolence of God is represented as destitute of adequate support from the testimony of nature. It requires, we are assured, the suppression of a mass of appearances, that would scare it away in an instant, were[Pg 89] it to venture into their presence; and is a dream of sickly and effeminate minds, whose belief is the inward growth of amiable sentimentality, rather than a genuine production from God's own facts. The appeal to the order and magnificence of creation, to the structures and relations of the inorganic, the vegetable, the animal, the spiritual forms, that fill the ascending ranks of this visible and conscious universe;—to the arrangements which make it a blessing to be born, far more than a suffering to die,—which enable us to extract the relish of life from its toils, the affections of our nature from its sufferings, the triumphs of goodness from its temptations;—to the seeming plan of general progress, which elicits truth by the self-destruction of error, and by the extinction of generations gives perpetual rejuvenescence to the world;—this appeal, which is another name for the scheme of natural religion, is dismissed with scorn; and sin and sorrow and death are flung in defiance across our path,—barriers which we must remove, ere we can reach the presence of a benignant God. Come with us, it is said, and listen to the wail of the sick infant; look into the dingy haunts where poverty moans its life away; bend down your ear to the accursed hum that strays from the busy hives of guilt; spy into the hold of the slave-ship; from the factory follow the wasted child to the gin-shop first, and then to the cellar called its home; or look even at your own tempted and sin-bound souls, and your own perishing race, snatched off into the dark by handfuls through the activity of a destroying God; and tell us, did our benevolent Creator make a creature and a world like this? A Calvinist who puts this question is playing with fire. But I answer the question explicitly: All these things we have met steadily, and face to face; in full view of them, we have taken up our faith in the goodness of God; and in full view of them we will hold fast that faith. Nor is it just or true to affirm, that our system hides these evils, or that our practice refuses to grapple with them. And if you confess that these ills of life would be too much for your natural piety, if you declare, that these rugged[Pg 90] foundations and tempestuous elements of Providence would starve and crush your confidence in God, while ours strikes its roots in the rock, and throws out its branches to brave the storm, are you entitled to taunt us with a faith of puny growth? Meanwhile, we willingly assent to the principle which this appeal to evil is designed to establish; that, with much apparent order, there is some apparent disorder in the phenomena of the world; that from the latter, by itself, we should be unable to infer any goodness and benevolence in God; and that, were not the former clearly the predominant result of natural laws, the character of the Great Cause of all things would be involved in agonizing gloom. The mass of physical and moral evil we do not profess fully to explain; we think that in no system whatever is there any approach to an explanation; and we are accustomed to touch on that dread subject with the humility of filial trust, not with the confidence of dogmatic elucidation.

Surely the fall of our first parents, I shall be reminded, gives the requisite solution. The disaster which then befell the human race has changed the primeval constitution of things; introduced mortality and all the infirmities of which it is the result; introduced sin, and all the seeds of vile affections which it compels us to inherit; introduced also the penalties of sin, visible in part on this scene of life, and developing themselves in another in anguish everlasting. Fresh from the hand of his Creator, man was innocent, happy, and holy; and he it is, not God, who has deformed the world with guilt and grief.

Now, as a statement of fact, all this may or may not be true. Of this I say nothing. But who does not see that, as an explanation, it is inconsistent with itself, partial in its application, and leaves matters incomparably worse than it found them? It is inconsistent with itself; for Adam, perfectly pure and holy as he is reputed to have been, gave the only proof that could exist of his being neither, by succumbing to the first temptation that came in his way; and though finding no enjoyment but in the contemplation of God, gave[Pg 91] himself up to the first advances of the Devil. Never surely was a reputation for sanctity so cheaply won. The canonizations of the Romish Calendar have been curiously bestowed on beings sufficiently remote from just ideas of excellence; but usually there is something to be affirmed of them, legendary or otherwise, which, if true, might justify a momentary admiration. But our first parent was not laid even under this necessity, to obtain a glory greater than canonization; he had simply to do nothing, except to fall, in order to be esteemed the most perfectly holy of created minds. Most partial, too, is this theory in its application; for disease and hardship, and death unmerited as the infant's, afflict the lower animal creation. Is this, too, the result of the fall? If so, it is an unredeemed effect; if not, it presses on the benevolence of the Maker, and, by the physical analogies which connect man with the inferior creatures, forces on us the impression, that his corporeal sufferings have an original source not dissimilar from theirs. And again, this explanation only serves to make matters worse than before. For how puerile is it to suppose that men will rest satisfied with tracing back their ills to Adam, and refrain from asking who was Adam's cause! And then comes upon us at once the ancient dilemma about evil; was it a mistake, or was it malignity, that created so poor a creature as our progenitor, and staked on so precarious a will the blessedness of a race and the well-being of a world? So far, this theory, falsely and injuriously ascribed to Christianity, would leave us where we were: but it carries us into deeper and gratuitous difficulties, of which natural religion knows nothing, by appending eternal consequences to Adam's transgression; a large portion of which, after the most sanguine extension of the efficacy of the atonement, must remain unredeemed. So that if, under the eye of naturalism, the world, with its generations dropping into the grave, must appear (as we heard it recently described[13]) like the populous precincts[Pg 92] of some castle, whose governor called his servants, after a brief indulgence of liberty and peace, into a dark and inscrutable dungeon, never to return or be seen again, the only new feature which this theory introduces into the prospect is this: that the interior of that cavernous prison-house is disclosed; and while a few of the departed are seen to have emerged into a fairer light, and to be traversing greener fields, and sharing a more blessed liberty than they knew before, the vast multitude are discerned in the gripe of everlasting chains and the twist of unimaginable torture. And all this infliction is a penal consequence of a first ancestor's transgression! Singular spectacle to be offered in vindication of the character of God!

We are warned, however, not to start back from this representation, or to indulge in any rash expression at the view which it gives of the justice of the Most High; for that, beyond all doubt, parallel instances occur in the operations of nature; and that, if the system deduced from Scripture accords with that which is in action in the creation, there arises a strong presumption that both are from the same Author. The arrangement which is the prime subject of objection in the foregoing theory, viz. the vicarious transmission of consequences from acts of vice and virtue, is said to be familiar to our observation as a fact; and ought, therefore, to present no difficulties in the way of the admission of a doctrine. Is it not obvious, for example, that the guilt of a parent may entail disease and premature death on his child, or even remoter descendants? And if it be consistent with the Divine perfections that the innocent should suffer for others' sins at the distance of one generation, why not at the distance of a thousand? The guiltless victim is not more completely severed from identity with Adam, than he is from identity with his own father. My reply is brief: I admit both the fact and the analogy; but the fact is of the exceptional kind, from which, by itself, I could not infer the justice or the benevolence of the Creator; and which, were it of large and prevalent amount, I could not even reconcile with[Pg 93] these perfections. If then you take it out of the list of exceptions and difficulties, and erect it into a cardinal rule, if you interpret by it the whole invisible portion of God's government, you turn the scale at once against the character of the Supreme, and plant creation under a tyrant's sway. And this is the fatal principle pervading all analogical arguments in defence of Trinitarian Christianity. No resemblances to the system can be found in the universe, except in those anomalies and seeming deformities which perplex the student of Providence, and which would undermine his faith, were they not lost in the vast spectacle of beauty and of good. These disorders are selected and spread out to view, as specimens of the Divine government of nature; the mysteries and horrors which offend us in the popular theology are extended by their side; the comparison is made, point by point, till the similitude is undeniably made out; and when the argument is closed it amounts to this: Do you doubt whether God could break men's limbs? You mistake his strength of character; only see how he puts out their eyes! What kind of impression this reasoning may have, seems to me doubtful even to agony. Both Trinitarian theology and nature, it is triumphantly urged, must proceed from the same Author; ay, but what sort of author is that? You have led me, in your quest after analogies, through the great infirmary of God's creation; and so haunted am I by the sights and sounds of the lazar-house, that scarce can I believe in anything but pestilence; so sick of soul have I become, that the mountain breeze has lost its scent of health; and you say, it is all the same in the other world, and wherever the same rule extends: then I know my fate, that in this universe Justice has no throne. And thus, my friends, it comes to pass, that these reasoners often gain indeed their victory; but it is known only to the Searcher of Hearts, whether it is a victory against natural religion, or in favor of revealed. For this reason I consider the "Analogy" of Bishop Butler (one of the profoundest of thinkers, and on purely moral subjects one of the justest too) as containing, with a design directly contrary, the most terrible[Pg 94] persuasives to Atheism that have ever been produced. The essential error consists in selecting the difficulties,—which are the rare, exceptional phenomena of nature,—as the basis of analogy and argument. In the comprehensive and generous study of Providence, the mind may, indeed, already have overcome the difficulties, and, with the lights recently gained from the harmony, design, and order of creation, have made those shadows pass imperceptibly away; but when forced again into their very centre, compelled to adopt them as a fixed station and point of mental vision, they deepen round the heart again, and, instead of illustrating anything, become solid darkness themselves.

I cannot quit this topic without observing, however, that there appears to be nothing in nature and life at all analogous to the vicarious principle attributed to God in the Trinitarian scheme of Redemption. There is nowhere to be found any proper transfer or exchange, either of the qualities, or of the consequences, of vice and virtue. The good and evil acts of men do indeed affect others as well as themselves; the innocent suffer with the guilty, as in the case before adduced, of a child suffering in health by the excesses of a parent. But there is here no endurance for another, similar to Christ's alleged endurance in the place of men; the infliction on the child is not deducted from the parent; it does nothing to lighten his load, or make it less than it would have been, had he been without descendants; nor does any one suppose his guilt alleviated by the existence of this innocent fellow-sufferer. There is a nearer approach to analogy in those cases of crime, where the perpetrator seems to escape, and to leave the consequences of his act to descend on others; as when the successful cheat eludes pursuit, and from the stolen gains of neighbors constructs a life of luxury for himself; or when a spendthrift government, forgetful of its high trust, turning the professions of patriotism into a lie, is permitted to run a prosperous career for one generation, and is personally gone before the popular retribution falls, in the next, on innocent successors. Here, no doubt,[Pg 95] the harmless suffer by the guilty, in a certain sense in the place of the guilty: but not in the sense which the analogy requires. For there is still no substitution; the distress of the unoffending party is not struck out of the offender's punishment; does not lessen, but rather aggravates, his guilt; and, instead of fitting him for pardon, tempts the natural sentiments of justice to follow him with severer condemnation. Nor does the scheme receive any better illustration from the fact, that whoever attempts the cure of misery must himself suffer; must have the shadows of ill cast upon his spirit from every sadness he alleviates; and interpose himself to stay the plague which, in a world diseased, threatens to pass to the living from the dead. The parallel fails, because there is still no transference: the appropriate sufferings of sin are not given to the philanthropist; and the noble pains of goodness in him, the glorious strife of his self-sacrifice, are no part of the penal consequences of others' guilt; they do not cancel one iota of those consequences, or make the crimes which have demanded them, in any way, more ready for forgiveness. Indeed, it is not in the good man's sufferings, considered as such, that any efficacy resides; but in his efforts, which may be made with great sacrifice or without it, as the case may be. Nor, at best, is there any proper annihilation of consequences at all accruing from his toils; the past acts of wrong which call up his resisting energies are irrevocable, the guilt incurred, the penalty indestructible; the series of effects, foreign to the mind of the perpetrator, may be abbreviated; prevention applied to new ills which threaten to arise; but by all this the personal fitness of the delinquent for forgiveness is wholly unaffected; the volition of sin has gone forth, and on it flies, as surely as sound on a vibration of the air, the verdict of judgment.

Those who are affected by slight and failing analogies like these, would do well to consider one, sufficiently obvious, which seems to throw doubt upon their scheme. The atonement is thought to be, in respect to all believers, a reversal of the fall: the effects of the fall are partly visible and[Pg 96] temporal, partly invisible and eternal; linked, however, together as inseparable portions of the same penal system. Now it is evident, that the supposed redemption on the cross has left precisely where they were all the visible effects of the first transgression: sorrow and toil are the lot of all, as they have been from of old; the baptized infant utters a cry as sad as the unbaptized; and between the holiness of the true believer and the worth of the devout heretic, there is not discernible such a difference as there must have been between Adam pure and perfect and Adam lapsed and lost. And is it presumptuous to reason from the seen to the unseen, from the part which we experience to that which we can only conceive? If the known effects are unredeemed, the suspicion is not unnatural, that so are the unknown.

I sum up, then, this part of my subject by observing, that, besides many inconclusive appeals to nature, the advocates of the vicarious scheme are chargeable with this fundamental inconsistency. They appear to deny that the justice and benevolence of God can be reconciled with the phenomena of nature; and say that the evidence must be helped out by resort to their interpretation of Scripture. When, having heard this auxiliary system, we protest that it renders the case sadder than before, they assure us that it is all benevolent and just, because it has its parallel in creation. They renounce and adopt, in the same breath, the religious appeal to the universe of God.

(2.) Another inconsistency appears, in the view which this theory gives of the character of God.

It is assumed that, at the era of creation, the Maker of mankind had announced the infinite penalties which must follow the violation of his law; and that their amount did not exceed the measure which his abhorrence of wrong required. "And that which he saith, he would not be God if he did not perform: that which he perceived right, he would be unworthy of our trust, did he not fulfil. His veracity and justice, therefore, were pledged to adhere to the word that had gone forth; and excluded the possibility of any free and[Pg 97] unconditional forgiveness." Now I would note, in passing, that this announcement to Adam of an eternal punishment impending over his first sin, is simply a fiction; for the warning to him is stated thus: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die"; from which our progenitor must have been ingenious as a theologian, to extract the idea of endless life in hell. But to say no more of this, what notions of veracity have we here? When a sentence is proclaimed against crime, is it indifferent to judicial truth upon whom it falls? Personally addressed to the guilty, may it descend without a lie upon the guiltless? Provided there is the suffering, is it no matter where? Is this the sense in which God is no respecter of persons? O what deplorable reflection of human artifice is this, that Heaven is too veracious to abandon its proclamation of menace against transgressors, yet is content to vent it on goodness the most perfect! No darker deed can be imagined, than is thus ascribed to the Source of all perfection, under the insulted names of truth and holiness. What reliance could we have on the faithfulness of such a Being? If it be consistent with his nature to punish by substitution, what security is there that he will not reward vicariously? All must be loose and unsettled, the sentiments of reverence confused, the perceptions of conscience indistinct, where the terms expressive of those great moral qualities which render God himself most venerable are thus sported with and profaned.

The same extraordinary departure from all intelligible meaning of words is apparent, when our charge of vindictiveness against the doctrine of sacrifice is repelled as a slander. If the rigorous refusal of pardon till the whole penalty has been inflicted, (when, indeed, it is no pardon at all,) be not vindictive, we may ask to be furnished with some better definition. And though it is said, that God's love was manifested to us by the gift of his Son, this does but change the object on which this quality is exercised, without removing the quality itself; putting us indeed into the sunshine of his grace, but the Saviour into the tempest of his wrath. Did[Pg 98] we desire to sketch the most dreadful form of character, what more emphatic combination could we invent than this,—rigor in the exaction of penal suffering, and indifference as to the person on whom it falls?

But in truth this system, in its delineations of the Great Ruler of creation, bids defiance to all the analogies by which Christ and the Christian heart have delighted to illustrate his nature. A God who could accept the spontaneously returning sinner, and restore him by corrective discipline, is pronounced not worth serving, and an object of contempt.[14] If so, Jesus sketched an object of contempt when he drew the father of the prodigal son, opening his arms to the poor penitent, and needing only the sight of his misery to fall on his neck with the kiss of welcome home. Let the assertions be true, that sacrifice and satisfaction are needful preliminaries to pardon, that to pay any attention to repentance without these is mere weakness, and that it is a perilous deception to teach the doctrine of mercy apart from the atonement, and this parable of our Saviour's becomes the most pernicious[Pg 99] instrument of delusion,—a statement, absolute and unqualified, of a feeble and sentimental heresy. Who does not see what follows from this scornful exclusion of corrective punishment? Suppose the infliction not to be corrective, that is, not to be designed for any good, what then remains as the cause of the Divine retribution? The sense of insult offered to a law. And thus we are virtually told, that God must be regarded with a mixture of contempt, unless he be susceptible of personal affront.

(3.) The last inconsistency with itself, which I shall point out in this doctrine, will be found in the view which it gives of the work of Christ. Sin, we are assured, is necessarily infinite. Its infinitude arises from its reference to an Infinite Being, and involves as a consequence the necessity of redemption by Deity himself.

The position, that guilt is to be estimated, not by its amount or its motive, but by the dignity of the being against whom it is directed, is illustrated by the case of an insubordinate soldier, whose punishment is increased according as[Pg 100] his rebellion assails an equal or any of the many grades amongst his superiors. It is evident, however, that it is not the dignity of the person, but the magnitude of the effect, which determines the severity of the sanction by which, in such an instance, law enforces order. Insult to a monarch is more sternly treated than injury to a subject, because it incurs the risk of wider and more disastrous consequences, and superadds to the personal injury a peril to an official power which, not resting on individual superiority, but on conventional arrangement, is always precarious. It is not indeed easy to form a distinct notion of an infinite act in a finite agent; and still less is it easy to evade the inference, that, if an immoral deed against God be an infinite demerit, a moral deed towards him must be an infinite merit.

Passing by an assertion so unmeaning, and conceding it for the sake of progress in our argument, I would inquire what is intended by that other statement, that only Deity can redeem, and that by Deity the sacrifice was made? The union of the divine and human natures in Christ is said to have made his sufferings meritorious in an infinite degree. Yet we are repeatedly assured, that it was in his manhood only that he endured and died. If the divine nature in our Lord had a joint consciousness with the human, then did God suffer and perish; if not, then did the man only die, Deity being no more affected by his anguish, than by that of the malefactors on either side. In the one case the perfections of God, in the other the reality of the atonement, must be relinquished. No doubt, the popular belief is, that the Creator literally expired; the hymns in common use declare it; the language of pulpits sanctions it; the consistency of creeds requires it; but professed theologians repudiate the idea with indignation. Yet by silence or ambiguous speech, they encourage, in those whom they are bound to enlighten, this degrading humanization of Deity; which renders it impossible for common minds to avoid ascribing to him emotions and infirmities totally irreconcilable with the serene perfections of the Universal Mind. In his influence on the[Pg 101] worshipper, He is no Spirit, who can be invoked by his agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion. And the piety that is thus taught to bring its incense, however sincere, before the mental image of a being with convulsed features and expiring cry, has little left of that which makes Christian devotion characteristically venerable.

II. I proceed to notice the inconsistency of the doctrine under review with the Christian idea of salvation.

There is one significant Scriptural fact, which suggests to us the best mode of treating this part of our subject. It is this: that the language supposed to teach the atoning efficacy of the cross does not appear in the New Testament till the Gentile controversy commences, nor ever occurs apart from the treatment of that subject, under some of its relations. The cause of this phenomenon will presently appear; meanwhile I state it, in the place of an assertion sometimes incorrectly made, viz. that the phraseology in question is confined to the Epistles. Even this mechanical limitation of sacrificial passages is indeed nearly true, as not above three or four have strayed beyond the epistolary boundary into the Gospels and the book of Acts; but the restriction in respect of subject, which I have stated, will be found, I believe, to be absolutely exact, and to furnish the real interpretation to the whole system of language.

(1.) Let us then first test the vicarious scheme by reference to the sentiments of Scripture generally, and of our Lord and his Apostles especially, where this controversy is out of the way. Are their ideas respecting human character, the forgiveness of sin, the terms of everlasting life, accordant with the cardinal notions of a believer in the atonement? Do they, or do they not, insist on the necessity of a sacrifice for human sin, as a preliminary to pardon, to sanctification, to the love of God? Do they, or do they not, direct a marked and almost exclusive attention to the cross, as the object to which, far more than to the life and resurrection of our Lord, all faithful eyes should be directed?

[Pg 102]

(a.) Now to the fundamental assertion of the vicarious system, that the Deity cannot, without inconsistency and imperfection, pardon on simple repentance, the whole tenor of the Bible is one protracted and unequivocal contradiction. So copious is its testimony on this head, that if the passages containing it were removed, scarcely a shred of Scripture relating to the subject would remain. "Pardon, I beseech thee," said Moses, pleading for the Israelites, "the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word." Will it be affirmed, that this chosen people had their eyes perpetually fixed in faith on the great propitiation, which was to close their dispensation, and of which their own ceremonial was a type?—that whenever penitence and pardon are named amongst them, this reference is implied, and that as this faith was called to mind and expressed in the shedding of blood at the altar, such sacrificial offerings take the place, in Judaism, of the atoning trust in Christianity? Well, then, let us quit the chosen nation altogether, and go to a heathen people, who were aliens to their laws, their blood, their hopes, and their religion; to whom no sacrifice was appointed, and no Messiah promised. If we can discover the dealings of God with such a people, the case, I presume, must be deemed conclusive. Hear, then, what happened on the banks of the Tigris. "Jonah began to enter into the city," (Nineveh,) "and he cried and said, yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even unto the least of them." "Who can tell," (said the decree of the king ordaining the fast,) "if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not." And when the prophet was offended, first at this clemency to Nineveh, and afterwards that the canker was sent to destroy[Pg 103] his own favorite plant, beneath whose shadow he sat, what did Jehovah say? "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night and perished in a night; and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?"—and who are not likely, one would think, to have discerned the future merits of the Redeemer.

In truth, if even the Israelites had any such prospective views to Calvary, if their sacrifices conveyed the idea of the cross erected there, and were established for this purpose, the fact must have been privately revealed to modern theologians; for not a trace of it can be found in the Hebrew writings. It must be thought strange, that a prophetic reference so habitual should be always a secret reference; that a faith so fundamental should be so mysteriously suppressed; that the uppermost idea of a nation's mind should never have found its way to lips or pen. "But if it were not so," we are reminded, "if the Jewish ritual prefigured nothing ulterior, it was revolting, trifling, savage; its worship a butchery, and the temple courts no better than a slaughter-house." And were they not equally so, though the theory of types be true? If neither priest nor people could see at the time the very thing which the ceremonial was constructed to reveal, what advantage is it that divines can see it now? And even if the notion was conveyed to the Jewish mind, (which the whole history shows not to have been the fact,) was it necessary that hecatombs should be slain, age after age, to intimate obscurely an idea, which one brief sentence might have lucidly expressed? The idea, however, it is evident, slipped through after all; for when Messiah actually came, the one great thing which the Jews did not know and believe about him was, that he could die at all. So much for the preparatory discipline of fifteen centuries!

There is no reason, then, why anything should be supplied in our thoughts, to alter the plain meaning of the announcements[Pg 104] of prophets and holy men, of God's unconditional forgiveness on repentance. "Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." "Wash you, make you clean," says the prophet Isaiah in the name of the Lord; "put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Once more, "When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he hath robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die." Nor are the teachings of the Gospel at all less explicit. Our Lord treats largely and expressly on the doctrine of forgiveness in several parables, and especially that of the prodigal son; and omits all allusion to the propitiation for the past. He furnishes an express definition of the terms of eternal life: "Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good save one, that is God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And Jesus adds, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." This silence on the prime condition of pardon cannot be explained by the fact, that the crucifixion had not yet taken place, and could not safely be alluded to, before the course of events had brought it into prominent notice. For we have the preaching of the Apostles, after the ascension, recorded at great length, and under very various circumstances, in the book of Acts. We have the very "words whereby," according to the testimony of an angel, "Cornelius and all his house shall be saved"; these, one would think,[Pg 105] would be worth hearing in this cause: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and showed openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he who was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Did an Evangelical missionary dare to preach in this style now, he would be immediately disowned by his employers, and dismissed as a disguised Socinian, who kept back all the "peculiar doctrines of the Gospel."

(b.) The emphatic mention of the resurrection by the Apostle Peter in this address, is only a particular instance of a system which pervades the whole preaching of the first missionaries of Christ. This, and not the cross, with its supposed effects, is the grand object to which they call the attention and the faith of their hearers. I cannot quote to you the whole book of Acts; but every reader knows, that "Jesus and the resurrection" constitutes the leading theme, the central combination of ideas in all its discourses. This truth was shed, from Peter's tongue of fire, on the multitudes that heard amazed the inspiration of the day of Pentecost. Again, it was his text, when, passing beneath the beautiful gate, he made the cripple leap for joy; and then, with the flush of this deed still fresh upon him, leaned against a pillar in Solomon's porch, and spake in explanation to the awe-struck people, thronging in at the hour of prayer. Before priests and rulers, before Sanhedrim and populace, the same tale is told again, to the utter exclusion, be it observed, of the essential doctrine of the cross. The authorities of the temple,[Pg 106] we are told, were galled and terrified at the Apostle's preaching; "naturally enough," it will be said, "since, the real sacrifice having been offered, their vocation, which was to make the prefatory and typical oblation, was threatened with destruction." But no, this is not the reason given: "They were grieved because they preached, through Jesus, the resurrection from the dead." Paul, too, while his preaching was spontaneous and free, and until he had to argue certain controversies which have long ago become obsolete, manifested a no less remarkable predilection for this topic. Before Felix, he declares what was the grand indictment of his countrymen against him: "Touching the resurrection of the dead, I am called in question of you this day." Follow him far away from his own land; and, with foreigners, he harps upon the same subject, as if he were a man of one idea; which, indeed, according to our opponents' scheme, he ought to have been, only it should have been another idea. Seldom, however, can we meet with a more exuberant mind than Paul's; yet the resurrection obviously haunts him wherever he goes: in the synagogue of Antioch you hear him dwelling on it with all the energy of his inspiration; and, at Athens, it was this on which the scepticism of Epicureans and Stoics fastened for a scoff. In his Epistles, too, where he enlarges so much on justification by faith, when we inquire what precisely is this faith, and what the object it is to contemplate and embrace, this remarkable fact presents itself: that the one only important thing respecting Christ, which is never once mentioned as the object of justifying faith, is his death, and blood, and cross. "Faith" by itself, the "faith of Jesus Christ," "faith of the Gospel," "faith of the Son of God," are expressions of constant occurrence; and wherever this general description is replaced by a more specific account of this justifying state of mind, it is faith in the resurrection on which attention is fastened. "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again." "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." "Faith shall be imputed to us for righteousness, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our[Pg 107] Lord from the dead." Hear, too, the Apostle's definition of saving faith: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." The only instance in which the writings of St. Paul appear to associate the word faith with the death of Christ, is the following text: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood"; and in this case the Apostle's meaning would, I conceive, be more faithfully given by destroying this conjunction, and disposing the words thus: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation by his blood, through faith." The idea of his blood, or death, belongs to the word propitiation, not to the word faith. To this translation no Trinitarian scholar, I am persuaded, can object;[15] and when the true meaning of the writer's sacrificial language is explained, the distinction will appear to be not unimportant. At present I am concerned only with the defence of my position, that the death of Christ is never mentioned as the object of saving faith; but that his resurrection unquestionably is. This phenomenon in Scripture phraseology is so extraordinary, so utterly repugnant to everything which a hearer of orthodox preaching would expect, that I hardly expect my affirmation of it to be believed. The two ideas of faith, and of our Lord's death, are so naturally and perpetually united in the mind of every believer in the atonement, that it must appear to him incredible that they should never fall together in the writings of the Apostles. However, I have stated my fact; and it is for you to bring it to the test of Scripture.

(c.) Independently of all written testimony, moral reasons, we are assured, exist, which render an absolute remission for the past essential to a regenerated life for the future. Our human nature is said to be so constituted, that the burden[Pg 108] of sin, on the conscience once awakened, is intolerable; our spirit cries aloud for mercy; yet is so straitened by the bands of sin, so conscious of the sad alliance lingering still, so full of hesitancy and shame when seeking the relief of prayer, so blinded by its tears when scanning the heavens for an opening of light and hope, that there is no freedom, no unrestrained and happy love to God; but a pinched and anxious mind, bereft of power, striving to work with bandaged or paralytic will, instead of trusting itself to loosened and self-oblivious affections. Hence it is thought, that the sin of the past must be cancelled, before the holiness of the future can be commenced; that it is a false order to represent repentance as leading to pardon, because to be forgiven is the prerequisite to love. We cannot forget, however, how distinctly and emphatically he who, after God, best knew what is in man, has contradicted this sentiment; for when that sinful woman, whose presence in the house shocked the sanctimonious Pharisee, stood at his feet as he reclined, washing them with her tears, and kissing them with reverential lips, Jesus turned to her and said, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." From him, then, we learn, what our own hearts would almost teach, that love may be the prelude to forgiveness, as well as forgiveness the preparative for love.

At the same time let me acknowledge, that this statement respecting the moral effects of conscious pardon, to which I have invoked Jesus to reply, is by no means an unmixed error. It touches upon a very profound and important truth; and I can never bring myself to regard that assurance of Divine forgiveness, which the doctrine of atonement imparts, as a demoralizing state of mind, encouraging laxity of conscience and a continuance in sin. The sense of pardon, doubtless, reaches the secret springs of gratitude, presents the soul with an object, strange before, of new and divine affection, and binds the child of redemption, by all generous and filial obligations, to serve with free and willing heart the God who hath gone forth to meet him. That the motives of self-interest[Pg 109] are diminished in such a case, is a trifle that need occasion small anxiety. For the human heart is no laborer for hire; and, where there is opportunity afforded for true and noble love, will thrust away the proffered wages, and toil rather in a free and thankful spirit. If we are to compare, as a source of duty, the grateful with the merely prudential temper, rather may we trust the first, as not the worthier only, but the stronger too; and till we obtain emancipation from the latter,—forget the computations of hope and fear, and precipitate ourselves for better or for worse on some object of divine love and trust,—our nature will be puny and weak, our wills will turn in sickness from their duty, and our affections shrink in aversion from their heaven. But though personal gratitude is better than prudence, there is a higher service still. A more disinterested love may spring from the contemplation of what God is in himself, than from the recollection of what he has done for us; and when this mingles most largely as an element among our springs of action; when, humbled indeed by a knowledge of dangers that await us, and thankful, too, for the blessings spread around us, we yet desire chiefly to be fitting children of the everlasting Father and the holy God; when we venerate him for the graciousness, and purity, and majesty of his spirit, impersonated in Jesus, and resolve to serve him truly, before he has granted the desire of our heart, and because he is of a nature so sublime and merciful and good;—then are we in the condition of her who bent over the feet of Christ; and we are forgiven, because we have loved much.

(2.) Let us now, in conclusion, turn our attention to those portions of the New Testament which speak of the death of Christ as the means of redemption.

I have said, that these are to be found exclusively in passages of the sacred writings which treat of the Gentile controversy, or of topics immediately connected with it. This controversy arose naturally out of the design of Providence to make the narrow, exclusive, ceremonial system of Judaism give birth to the universal and spiritual religion of the Gospel;[Pg 110] from God's method of expanding the Hebrew Messiah into the Saviour of humanity. For this the nation was not prepared; to this even the Hebrew Christians could not easily conform their faith; and in the achievement of this, or in persuading the world that it was achieved, did Paul spend his noble life, and write his astonishing Epistles. The Jews knew that the Deliverer was to be of their peculiar stock, and their royal lineage; they believed that he would gather upon himself all the singularities of their race, and be a Hebrew to intensity; that he would literally restore the kingdom to Israel; ay, and extend it too, immeasurably beyond the bounds of its former greatness; till, in fact, it swallowed up all existing principalities, and powers, and thrones, and dominions, and became coextensive with the earth. Then in Jerusalem, as the centre of the vanquished nations, before the temple, as the altar of a humbled world, did they expect the Messiah to erect his throne; and when he had taken the seat of judgment, to summon all the tribes before his tribunal, and pass on the Gentiles, excepting the few who might submit to the law, a sentence of perpetual exclusion from his realm; while his own people would be invited to the seats of honor, occupy the place of authority, and sit down with him (the greatest at his right hand and his left) at his table in his kingdom. The holy men of old were to come on earth again to see this day. And many thought that every part of the realm thus constituted, and all its inhabitants, would never die: but, like the Messiah himself, and the patriarchs whom he was to call to life, would be invested with immortality. None were to be admitted to these golden days except themselves; all else to be left in outer darkness from this region of light, and there to perish and be seen no more. The grand title to admission was conformity with the Mosaic law; the most ritually scrupulous were the most secure; and the careless Israelite, who forgot or omitted an offering, a tithe, a Sabbath duty, might incur the penalty of exclusion and death: the law prescribed such mortal punishment for the smallest offence; and no one, therefore, could feel himself ready with[Pg 111] his claim, if he had not yielded a perfect obedience. If God were to admit him on any other plea, it would be of pure grace and goodness, and not in fulfilment of any promise.

The Jews, being scattered over the civilized world, and having synagogues in every city, came into perpetual contact with other people. Nor was it possible that the Gentiles, among whom they lived, should notice the singular purity and simplicity of the Israelitish Theism, without some of them being struck with its spirit, attracted by its sublime principles, and disposed to place themselves in religious relations with that singular people. Having been led into admiration, and even profession, of the nation's theology, they could not but desire to share their hopes; which indeed were an integral part of their religion, and, at the Christian era, the one element in it to which they were most passionately attached. But this was a stretch of charity too great for any Hebrew; or, at all events, if such admission were ever to be thought of, it must be only on condition of absolute submission to the requirements of the law. The Gentile would naturally plead, that, as God had not made him of the chosen nation, he had given him no law, except that of conscience; that, being without the law, he must be a law unto himself; and that, if he had lived according to his light, he could not be justly excluded on the ground of accidental disqualification. Possibly, in the provocation of dispute, the Gentile might sometimes become froward and insolent in his assertion of claim; and, in the pride of his heart, demand as a right that which, at most, could only be humbly hoped for as a privilege and a free gift.

Thus were the parties mutually placed to whom the Deliverer came. Thus dense and complicated was the web of prejudice which clung round the early steps of the Gospel; and which must be burst or disentangled ere the glad tidings could have free course and be glorified. How did Providence develop from such elements the divine and everlasting truth? Not by neglecting them, and speaking to mankind as if they had no such ideas; not by forbidding his messengers and[Pg 112] teachers to have any patience with them; but, on the contrary, by using these very notions as temporary means to his everlasting ends; by touching this and that with light before the eyes of Apostles, as if to say, there are good capabilities in these; the truth may be educed from them so gently and so wisely, that the world will find itself in light, without perceiving how it has been quitting the darkness.

So long as Christ remained on earth, he necessarily confined his ministry to his nation. He would not have been the Messiah had he done otherwise. By birth, by lineage, by locality, by habit, he was altogether theirs. Whoever, then, of his own people, during his mortal life, believed in him and followed him, became a subject of the Messiah; ready, it was supposed, even by the Apostles themselves, to enter the glory of his kingdom, whenever it should please him to assume it; qualified at once, by the combination of pedigree and of belief, to enter into life, to become a member of the kingdom of God, to take a place among the elect; for by all these phrases was described the admission to the expected realm. If, then, Jesus had never suffered and died, if he had never retired from this world, but stayed to fulfil the anticipations of his first followers, his Messianic kingdom might have included all the converts of the Israelitish stock. From the exclusion which fell on others, they would have obtained salvation. Hence, it is never in connection with the first Jewish Christians that the death of Christ is mentioned.

It was otherwise, however, with the Gentiles. They could not become his followers in his mortal lifetime; and had a Messianic reign then been set up, they must have been excluded; no missionary would have been justified in addressing them with invitation; they could not, as it was said, have entered into life. The Messiah must cease to be Jewish, before he could become universal; and this implied his death, by which alone the personal relations, which made him the property of a nation, could be annihilated. To this he submitted; he disrobed himself of his corporeality, he became[Pg 113] an immortal spirit; thereby instantly burst his religion open to the dimensions of the world; and, as he ascended to the skies, sent it forth to scatter the seeds of blessing over the field of the world, long ploughed with cares, and moist with griefs, and softened now to nourish in its bosom the tree of Life.

Now, how would the effect of this great revolution be described to the proselyte Gentiles, so long vainly praying for admission to the Israelitish hope. At once it destroyed their exclusion; put away as valueless the Jewish claims of circumcision and law; nailed the handwriting of ordinances to the cross; reconciled them that had been afar off; redeemed them to God by his blood, out of every tongue, and kindred, and people, and nation; washed them in his blood; justified them by his resurrection and ascension; an expression, I would remark, unmeaning on any other explanation.

Even during our Lord's personal ministry his approaching death is mentioned as the means of introducing the Gentiles into his Messianic kingdom. He adverts repeatedly to his cross, as designed to widen, by their admission, the extent of his sway; and, according to Scripture phrase, to yield to him "much fruit." He was already on his last fatal visit to Jerusalem, when, taking the hint from the visit of some Greeks to him, he exclaimed: "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." He adds, in allusion to the death he should die: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." It is for this end that he resigns for a while his life,—that he may bring in the wanderers who are not of the commonwealth of Israel: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd: therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again." Many a parable did Jesus utter, proclaiming his Father's intended mercy to the uncovenanted[Pg 114] nations: but for himself personally he declared, "I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." His advent was a promise of their economy; his office, the traditionary hope of their fathers; his birth, his life, his person, were under the Law, and excluded him from relations to those who were beyond its obligations. On the cross, all the connate peculiarities of the Nazarene ceased to exist: when the seal of the sepulchre gave way, the seal of the law was broken too; the nationality of his person passed away; for how can an immortal be a Jew? This, then, was the time to open wide the scope of his mission, and to invite to God's acceptance those that fear him in every nation. Though, before, the disciple might "have known Christ after the flesh," and followed his steps as the Hebrew Messiah, "yet now henceforth was he to know him so no more"; these "old things had passed away," since he had "died for all,"—died to become universal,—to drop all exclusive relations, and "reconcile the world," the Gentile world, to God. Observe to whom this "ministry of reconciliation" is especially confided. As if to show that it is exclusively the risen Christ who belongs to all men, and that his death was the instrument of the Gentiles' admission, their great Apostle was one Paul, who had not known the Saviour in his mortal life; who never listened to his voice till it spake from heaven; who himself was the convert of his ascension; and bore to him the relation, not of subject to the person of a Hebrew king, but of spirit to spirit, unembarrassed by anything earthly, legal, or historical. Well did Paul understand the freedom and the sanctity of this relation; and around the idea of the Heavenly Messiah gathered all his conceptions of the spirituality of the Gospel, of its power over the unconscious affections, rather than a reluctant will. His believing countrymen were afraid to disregard the observances of the law, lest it should be a disloyalty to God, and disqualify them for the Messiah's welcome, when he came to take his power and reign. Paul tells them, that, while their Lord remained in this mortal state, they were right; as representative of the law, and filling[Pg 115] an office created by the religion of Judaism, he could not but have held them then to its obligations; nor could they, without infidelity, have neglected its claims, any more than a wife can innocently separate herself from a living husband. But as the death of the man sets the woman free, and makes null the law of their union, so the decease of Christ's body emancipates his followers from all legal relations to him; and they are at liberty to wed themselves anew to the risen Christ, who dwells where no ordinance is needful, no tie permitted but of the spirit, and all are as the angels of God. Surely, then, this mode of conception explains why the death of Jesus constitutes a great date in the Christian economy, especially as expounded by the friend and Apostle of those who were not "Jews by nature, but sinners of the Gentiles." Had he never died, they must have remained aliens from his sway; the enemies against whom his power must be directed; without hope in the day of his might; strangers to God and his vicegerent.

But, while thus they "were yet without strength, Christ died for" these "ungodly"; died to put himself into connection with them, else impossible; and, rising from death, drew them after him into spiritual existence on earth, analogous to that which he passed in heaven. "You," says their Apostle, "being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him"; giving you, as "risen with him," a life above the world and its law of exclusion,—a life not "subject to ordinances," but of secret love and heavenly faith, "hid with Christ in God"; "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." God had never intended to perpetuate the division between Israel and the world, receiving the one as the sons, and shutting out the other as the slaves of his household. If there had been an appearance of such partiality, he had always designed to set these bondmen free, and to make them "heirs of God through Christ"; "in whom they had redemption through his blood" from their[Pg 116] servile state, the forgiveness of disqualifying sins, according to the riches of his grace. Though the Hebrews boasted that "theirs was the adoption," and till Messiah's death had boasted truly; yet in that event God, "before the foundation of the world," had "blessed us" (Gentiles) "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places"; "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, according" (not indeed to any right or promise, but) "to the good pleasure of his will," "and when we were enemies, having reconciled us, by the death of his Son"; "that in the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ"; "by whom we" (Gentiles) "have now received this atonement" (reconciliation); that he might have no partial empire, but that "in him might all fulness dwell." "Wherefore," says their Apostle, "remember that ye, Gentiles in the flesh, were in time past without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometime were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (not between God and man, but between Jew and Gentile); "having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances; for to make in himself, of twain, one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God, in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace to you who were afar off, as well as to them that were nigh. For through him we both have an access by one spirit unto the Father."

The way, then, is clear and intelligible, in which the death and ascension of the Messiah rendered him universal, by giving spirituality to his rule; and, on the simple condition of faith, added the uncovenanted nations to his dominion, so far as they were willing to receive him. This idea, and this only, will be found in almost every passage of the New Testament (excepting the Epistle to the Hebrews) usually adduced[Pg 117] to prove the doctrine of the Atonement. Some of the strongest of these I have already quoted; and my readers must judge whether they have received a satisfactory meaning. There are others, in which the Gentiles are not so distinctly stated to be the sole objects of the redemption of the cross; but with scarcely an exception, so far as I can discover, this limitation is implied, and either creeps out through some adjacent expression in the context, or betrays itself, when we recur to the general course of the Apostle's argument, or to the character and circumstances of his correspondents. Thus Paul says, that Christ "gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time"; the next verse shows what is in his mind, when he adds, "whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an Apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity"; and the whole sentiment of the context is the Universality of the Gospel, and the duty of praying for Gentile kings and people, as not abandoned to a foreign God and another Mediator; for since Messiah's death, to us all "there is but One God, and One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus": wherefore the Apostle wills, that for all "men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,"—without wrath at their admission, or doubt of their adoption. And wherever emphasis is laid on the vast number benefited by the cross, a contrast is implied with the few (only the Jews) who could have been his subjects had he not died: and when it is said, "he gave his life a ransom for many"; his blood was "shed for many, for the remission of sins"; "thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth"; "behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world";[16]—by[Pg 118] all these expressions is still denoted the efficacy of Christ's death in removing the Gentile disqualification, and making his dispensation spiritual as his celestial existence, and universal as the Fatherhood of God. Does Paul exhort certain of his disciples "to feed the church of the Lord, which he hath purchased with his own blood"?[17] We find that he is speaking of the Gentile church of Ephesus, whose elders he is instructing in the management of their charge, and to which he afterwards wrote the well-known Epistle, on their Gentile freedom and adoption obtained by the Messiah's death. When Peter says, "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,"—we must inquire to whom he is addressing these words. If it be to the Jews, the interpretation which I have hitherto given of such language will not apply, and we must seek an explanation altogether different. But the whole manner of this Epistle, the complexion of its phraseology throughout, convinces me that it was addressed especially to the Gentile converts of Asia Minor; and that the redemption of which it speaks is no other than that which is the frequent theme of their own Apostle.

In the passage just quoted, the form of expression itself suggests the idea, that Peter is addressing a class which did not include himself: "Ye were not redeemed," &c.; farther on, in the same Epistle, the same sentiment occurs, however,[Pg 119] without any such visible restriction. Exhorting to patient suffering for conscience' sake, he appeals to the example of Christ; "who, when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously; who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness": yet, with instant change in the expression, revealing his correspondents to us, the Apostle adds, "by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." With the instinct of a gentle and generous heart, the writer, treating in plain terms of the former sins of those whom he addresses, puts himself in with them; and avoids every appearance of that spiritual pride by which the Jew constantly rendered himself offensive to the Gentile.

Again, in this letter, he recommends the duty of patient endurance, by appeal to the same consideration of Christ's disinterested self-sacrifice. "It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing: for Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." And who are these "unjust" that are thus brought to God? The Apostle instantly explains, by describing how the "Jews by nature" lost possession of Messiah by the death of his person, and "sinners of the Gentiles" gained him by the resurrection of his immortal nature; "being put to death in flesh, but quickened in spirit; and thereby he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who formerly were without faith." This is clearly a description of the heathen world, ere it was brought into relation to the Messianic promises. Still further confirmation, however, follows. The Apostle adds: "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." If we cannot admit this to be a just description of the holy Apostle's former life,[Pg 120] we must perceive that, writing to Pagans of whom it was all true, he beautifully withholds from his language every trace of invidious distinction, puts himself for the moment into the same class, and seems to take his share of the distressing recollection.

The habitual delicacy with which Paul, likewise, classed himself with every order of persons in turn, to whom he had anything painful to say, is known to every intelligent reader of his Epistles. Hence, in his writings too, we have often to consider with whom it is that he is holding his dialogue, and to make our interpretation dependent on the answer. When, for example, he says, that Jesus "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification"; I ask, "For whose?—was it for everybody's?—or for the Jews', since Paul was a Hebrew?" On looking closely into the argument, I find it beyond doubt that neither of these answers is correct; and that the Apostle, in conformity with his frequent practice, is certainly identifying himself, Israelite though he was, with the Gentiles, to whom, at that moment, his reasoning applies itself. The neighboring verses have expressions which clearly enough declare this: "when we were yet without strength," and "while we were yet sinners," Christ died for us. It is to the Gentile church at Corinth, and while expatiating on their privileges and relations as such, that Paul speaks of the disqualifications and legal unholiness of the heathen, as vanishing in the death of the Messiah; as the recovered leper's uncleanness was removed, and his banishment reversed, and his exclusion from the temple ended, when the lamb without blemish, which the law prescribed as his sin-offering, bled beneath the knife, so did God provide in Jesus a lamb without blemish for the exiled and unsanctified Gentiles, to bring them from their far dwelling in the leprous haunts of this world's wilderness, and admit them to the sanctuary of spiritual health and worship: "He hath made him to be a sin-offering for us (Gentiles), who knew no sin; that we might be made the justified of God in him"; entering, under the Messiah, the community of saints. That,[Pg 121] in this sacrificial allusion, the Gentile adoption is still the Apostle's only theme, is evident hence: that twice in this very passage he declares that he is speaking of that peculiar "reconciliation," the word and ministry of which have been committed to himself; he is dwelling on the topic most natural to one who "magnified his office," as "Apostle of the Gentiles."

To the same parties was Paul writing, when he said, "Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us." Frequently as this sentence is cited in evidence of the doctrine of Atonement, there is hardly a verse in Scripture more utterly inapplicable; nor, if the doctrine were true, could anything be more inept than an allusion to it in this place. I do not dwell on the fact that the paschal lamb was neither sin-offering nor proper sacrifice at all: for the elucidation of the death of Jesus by sacrificial analogies is as easy and welcome as any other mode of representing it. But I turn to the whole context, and seek for its leading idea, before multiplying inferences from a subordinate illustration. I find the author treating, not of the deliverance of believers from curse or exclusion, but of their duty to keep the churches cleansed, by the expulsion of notoriously profligate members. Such persons they are to cast from them, as the Jews, at the passover, swept from their houses all the leaven they contained; and as for eight days, at that season, only pure unleavened bread was allowed for use, so the Church must keep the Gospel festival free from the ferment of malice and wickedness, and tasting nothing but sincerity and truth. This comparison is the primary sentiment of the whole passage; under cover of which the Apostle is urging the Corinthians to expel a certain licentious offender: and only because the feast of unleavened bread, on which his fancy has alighted, set in with the day of passover, does he allude to this in completion of the figure. As his correspondents were Gentiles, their Christianity commenced with the death of Christ; with him, as an immortal, their spiritual relations commenced; when he rose, they rose with him, as by a divine attraction, from an earthly[Pg 122] to a heavenly state; their old and corrupt man had been buried together with him, and, with the human infirmities of his person, left behind for ever in his sepulchre; and it became them "to seek those things which are above," and to "yield themselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead." This period of the Lord's sequestration in the heavens Paul represents as a festival of purity to the disciples on earth, ushered in by the self-sacrifice of Christ. The time is come, he says; cast away the leaven, for the passover is slain, blessed bread of heaven to them that taste it! let nothing now be seen in all the household of the Church, but the unleavened cake of simplicity and love.

Paul again appears as the advocate of the Gentiles, when he protests that now between them and the Jews "there is no difference, since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"; that the Hebrew has lost all claim to the Messianic adoption, and can have no hope but in that free grace of God, which has a sovereign right to embrace the heathen too; and which, in fact, has compassed the Gentiles within its redemption, by causing Jesus the Messiah to die; "by whose blood God hath set forth a propitiation, through faith; to evince his justice, while overlooking, with the forbearance of God, transgressions past;—to evince his justice in the arrangements of the present crisis; which preserve his justice (to the Israelite), yet justify on mere discipleship to Jesus." The great question which the Apostle discusses throughout this Epistle is this: "On what terms is a man now admitted as a subject to the Messiah, so as to be acknowledged by him, when he comes to erect his kingdom?" "He must be one of the circumcised, to whom alone the holy law and promises are given," says the Jew. "That is well," replies Paul; "only the promises, you remember, are conditional on obedience; and he who claims by the law must stand the judgment of the law. Can your nation abide this test, and will you stake your hopes upon the issue? Or is there on record against you a violation of every condition of your boasted covenant,—wholesale and national transgression,[Pg 123] which your favorite code itself menaces with 'cutting off'? Have you even rejected and crucified the very Messiah, who was tendered to you in due fulfilment of the promises? Take your trial by the principles of your law, and you must be cast off, and perish, as certainly as the heathen whom you despise; and whose rebellion against the natural law, gross as it is, does not surpass your own offences against the tables of Moses. You must abandon the claim of right, the high talk of God's justice and plighted faith;—which are alike ill suited to you both. The rules of law are out of the question, and would admit nobody; and we must ascend again to the sovereign will and free mercy of Him who is the source of law; and who, to bestow a blessing which its resources cannot confer, may devise new methods of beneficence. God has violated no pledge. Messiah came to Israel, and never went beyond its bounds; the uncircumcised had no part in him; and every Hebrew who desired it was received as his subject. But when the people would not have him, and threw away their ancient title, was God either to abandon his vicegerent, or to force him on the unwilling? No: rather did it befit him to say: 'If they will reject and crucify my servant,—why, let him die, and then he is Israelite no more; I will raise him, and take him apart in his immortality; where his blood of David is lost; and the holiness of his humanity is glorified; and all shall be his, who will believe, and love him, as he there exists, spiritually and truly.'" Thus, according to Paul, does God provide a new method of adoption or justification, without violating any promises of the old. Thus he makes Faith in Jesus—a moral act, instead of a genealogical accident—the single condition of reception into the Divine kingdom upon earth. Thus, after the passage of Christ from this world to another, Jew and Gentile are on an equality in relation to the Messiah; the one gaining nothing by his past privileges; the other, not visited with exclusion for past idolatry and sins, but assured, in Messiah's death, that these are to be overlooked, and treated as if cleansed away. He finds himself invited into the very penetralia of[Pg 124] that sanctuary of pure faith and hope, from which before he had been repelled as an unclean thing; as if its ark of mercy had been purified for ever from his unworthy touch, or he himself had been sprinkled by some sudden consecration. And all this was the inevitable and instant effect of that death on Calvary, which took Messiah from the Jews and gave him to the world.

With emphasis, not less earnest than that of Paul, does the Apostle John repudiate the notion of any claim on the Divine admission by law or righteousness; and insist on humble and unqualified acceptance of God's free grace and remission for the past, as the sole avenue of entrance to the kingdom. This avenue was open, however, to all "who confessed that Jesus the Messiah had come in the flesh"; in other words, that, during his mortal life, Jesus had been indicated as this future Prince; and that his ministry was the Messiah's preliminary visit to that earth on which shortly he would reappear to reign. The great object of that visit was to prepare the world for his real coming; for as yet it was very unfit for so great a crisis; and especially to open, by his death, a way of admission for the Gentiles, and frame, on their behalf, an act of oblivion for the past. "If," says the Apostle to them, "we walk in the light, as he is in the light" (of love and heaven), "we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin": the Israelite will embrace the Gentiles in fraternal relations, knowing that the cross has removed their past unholiness. Nor let the Hebrew rely on anything now but the Divine forbearance; to appeal to rights will serve no longer: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Nor let any one despair of a reception, or even a restoration, because he has been an idolater and sinner: "Jesus Christ the righteous" is "an advocate with the Father" for admitting all who are willing to be his; "and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (not merely for our small portion of Gentiles, already converted); but also for the whole world," if they will but accept him.[Pg 125] He died to become universal; to make all his own; to spread an oblivion, wide as the earth, over all that had embarrassed the relations to the Messiah, and made men aliens, instead of Sons of God. Yet did no spontaneous movement of their good affections solicit this change. It was "not that we (Gentiles) loved God; but that he loved us, and sent his Son, the propitiation for our sins"; "he sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." That this Epistle was addressed to Gentiles, and is therefore occupied with the same leading idea respecting the cross which pervades the writings of Paul, is rendered probable by its concluding words, which could hardly be appropriate to Jews: "Keep yourselves from idols." How little the Apostle associated any vicarious idea even with a form of phrase most constantly employed by modern theology to express it, is evident from the parallel which he draws, in the following words, between the death of our Lord and that of the Christian martyrs: "Hereby perceive we love, because Christ laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Are, then, the Gentiles alone beneficially affected by the death of Christ? and is no wider efficacy ever assigned to it in Scripture? The great number of passages to which I have already applied this single interpretation will show that I consider it as comprising the great leading idea of the Apostolic theology on this subject; nor do I think that there is (out of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which I shall soon notice) a single doctrinal allusion to the cross, from which this conception is wholly absent. At the same time, I am not prepared to maintain, that this is the only view of the crucifixion and resurrection ever present to the mind of the Apostles. Jews themselves, they naturally inquired, how Israel, in particular, stood affected by the unanticipated death of its Messiah; in what way its relations were changed, when the offered Prince became the executed victim; and how far matters would have been different, if, as had been expected, the Anointed had assumed his rights and taken[Pg 126] his power at once; and, instead of making his first advent a mere preliminary and warning visit "in the flesh," had set up the kingdom forthwith, and gathered with him his few followers to "reign on the earth." Had this—instead of submission to death, removal, and delay—been his adopted course, what would have become of his own nation, who had rejected him,—who must have been tried by that law which was their boast, and under which he came,—who had long been notorious offenders against its conditions, and now brought down its final curse by despising the claims of the accredited Messiah? They must have been utterly "cut off," and cast out among the "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," "without Messiah," "without hope," "without God"; for while "circumcision profiteth, if thou keep the law; yet if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." Had he come then "to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe,"—had he then been "revealed with his mighty angels" (whom he might have summoned by "legions"),—it must have been "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that knew not God, nor obeyed the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ"; to "punish with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." The sins and prospects of Israel being thus terrible, and its rejection imminent (for Messiah was already in the midst of them), he withheld his hand; refused to precipitate their just fate; and said, "Let us give them time, and wait; I will go apart into the heavens, and peradventure they will repent; only they must receive me then spiritually, and by hearty faith, not by carnal right, admitting thus the willing Gentile with themselves." And so he prepared to die and retire; he did not permit them to be cut off, but was cut off himself instead; he restrained the curse of their own law from falling on them, and rather perished himself by a foul and accursed lot, which that same law pronounces to be the vilest and most polluted of deaths. Thus says St. Paul to the Jews: "He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made[Pg 127] a curse for us; for it is written, 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.'"[18] In this way, but for the death of the Messiah, Israel too must have been lost; and by that event they received time for repentance, and a way for remission of sins; found a means of reconciliation still; saw their providence, which had been lowering for judgment, opening over them in propitiation once more; the just had died for the unjust, to bring them to God. What was this delay,—this suspension of judgment,—this opportunity of return and faith,—but an instance of "the long-suffering of God," with which "he endures the vessels of wrath (Jews) fitted to destruction, and makes known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory"? If Christ had not withdrawn awhile, if his power had been taken up at once, and wielded in stern and legal justice, a deluge of judgment must have overwhelmed the earth, and swept away both Jew and Gentile, leaving but a remnant safe. But in mercy was the mortal life of Jesus turned into a preluding message of notice and warning, like the tidings which Noah received of the flood; and as the growing frame of the ark gave signal to the world of the coming calamity, afforded an interval for repentance, and made the patriarch, as he built, a constant "preacher of righteousness"; so the increasing body of the Church, since the warning retreat of Christ to heaven, proclaims the approaching "day of the Lord," admonishes that "all should come to repentance," and fly betimes to that faith and baptism which Messiah's death and resurrection have left as an ark of safety. "Once, in the days of Noah, the long-suffering of God waited while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water: a representation, this, of the way in which baptism (not, of course, carnal washing, but the engagement of a good conscience with God) saves us now, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; who is gone into heaven, and is on[Pg 128] the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject to him." Yet "the time is short," and must be "redeemed"; "it is the last hour"; "the Lord," "the coming of the Lord," "the end of all things," are "at hand."

I have described one aspect, which the death of the Messiah presented to the Jews; and, in this, we have found another primary conception, explanatory of the Scriptural language respecting the cross. Of the two relations in which this event appeared (the Gentile and the Israelitish), I believe the former to be by far the most familiar to the New Testament authors, and to furnish the true interpretation of almost all their phraseology on the subject. But, as my readers may have noticed, many passages receive illustration by reference to either notion; and some may have a meaning compounded of both. I must not pause to make any minute adjustment of these claims, on the part of the two interpreting ideas: it is enough that, either separately or in union, they have now been taken round the whole circle of apostolic language respecting the cross, and detected in every difficult passage the presence of sense and truth, and the absence of all hint of vicarious atonement.

It was on the unbelieving portion of the Jewish people that the death of their Messiah conferred the national blessings and opportunities to which I have adverted. But to the converts who had been received by him during his mortal life, and who would have been heirs of his glory, had he assumed it at once, it was less easy to point out any personal benefits from the cross. That the Christ had retired from this world was but a disappointing postponement of their hopes; that he had perished as a felon was shocking to their pride, and turned their ancient boast into a present scorn; that he had become spiritual and immortal made him no longer theirs "as concerning the flesh," and, by admitting Gentiles with themselves, set aside their favorite law. So offensive to them was this unexpected slight on the institutions of Moses, immemorially reverenced as the ordinances of God, that it[Pg 129] became important to give some turn to the death of Jesus, by which that event might be harmonized with the national system, and be shown to effect the abrogation of the law, on principles strictly legal. This was the object of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews; who thus gives us a third idea of the relations of the cross,—bearing, indeed, an essential resemblance to St. Paul's Gentile view, but illustrated in a manner altogether different. No trace is to be observed here of Paul's noble glorying in the cross: so studiously is every allusion to the crucifixion avoided, till all the argumentative part of the Epistle has been completed, that a reader finds the conclusion already in sight, without having gained any notion of the mode of the Lord's death, whether even it was natural or violent,—a literal human sacrifice, or a voluntary self-immolation. Its ignominy and its agonies are wholly unmentioned; and his mortal infirmities and sufferings are explained, not as the spontaneous adoptions of previous compassion in him, but as God's fitting discipline for rendering him "a merciful and faithful high-priest." They are referred to in the tone of apology, not of pride; as needing rather to be reconciled with his office, than to be boldly expounded as its grand essential. The object of the author clearly is, to find a place for the death of Jesus among the Messianic functions; and he persuades the Hebrew Christians that it is (not a satisfaction for moral guilt, but) a commutation for the Mosaic Law. In order to understand his argument, we must advert for a moment to the prejudices which it was designed to conciliate and correct.

It is not easy for us to realize the feelings with which the Israelite, in the yet palmy days of the Levitical worship, would hear of an abrogation of the Law;—the anger and contempt with which the mere bigot would repudiate the suggestion;—the terror with which the new convert would make trial of his freedom;—the blank and infidel feeling with which he would look round, and find himself drifted away from his anchorage of ceremony;—the sinking heart with which he would hear the reproaches of his countrymen[Pg 130] against his apostasy. Every authoritative ritual draws towards itself an attachment too strong for reason and the sense of right; and transfers the feeling of obligation from realities to symbols. Among the Hebrews this effect was the more marked and the more pernicious, because their ceremonies were in many instances only remotely connected with any important truth or excellent end; they were separated by several removes from any spiritual utility. Rites were enacted to sustain other rites; institution lay beneath institution, through so many successive steps, that the crowning principle at the summit easily passed out of sight. To keep alive the grand truth of the Divine Unity, there was a gorgeous temple worship; to perform this worship there was a priesthood; to support the priesthood there were (among other sources of income) dues paid in the form of sacrifice; to provide against the non-payment of dues there were penalties; to prevent an injurious pressure of these penalties, there were exemptions, as in cases of sickness; and to put a check on trivial claims of exemption, it must be purchased by submission to a fee, under name of an atonement. Wherever such a system is received as divine, and based on the same authority with the great law of duty, it will always, by its definiteness and precision, attract attention from graver moral obligations. Its materiality renders it calculable: its account with the conscience can be exactly ascertained: as it has little obvious utility to men, it appears the more directly paid to God: it is regarded as the special means of pleasing him, of placating his anger, and purchasing his promises. Hence it may often happen, that the more the offences against the spirit of duty, the more are rites multiplied in propitiation; and the harvest of ceremonies and that of crimes ripen together.

At a state not far from this had the Jews arrived when Christianity was preached. Their moral sentiments were so far perverted, that they valued nothing in themselves, in comparison with their legal exactitude, and hated all beyond themselves for their want of this. They were eagerly expecting[Pg 131] the Deliverer's kingdom, nursing up their ambition for his triumphs; curling the lip, as the lash of oppression fell upon them, in suppressed anticipation of vengeance; satiating a temper, at once fierce and servile, with dreams of Messiah's coming judgment, when the blood of the patriarchs should be the title of the world's nobles, and the everlasting reign should begin in Jerusalem. Why was the hour delayed? they impatiently asked themselves. Was it that they had offended Jehovah, and secretly sinned against some requirement of his law? And then they set themselves to a renewed precision, a more slavish punctiliousness than before. Ascribing their continued depression to their imperfect legal obedience, they strained their ceremonialism tighter than ever; and hoped to be soon justified from their past sins, and ready for the mighty prince and the latter days.

What, then, must have been the feeling of the Hebrew, when told that all his punctualities had been thrown away,—that, at the advent, faith in Jesus, not obedience to the law, was to be the title to admission,—and that the redeemed at that day would be, not the scrupulous Pharisee, whose dead works would be of no avail, but all who, with the heart, have worthily confessed the name of the Lord Jesus? What doctrine could be more unwelcome to the haughty Israelite? it dashed his pride of ancestry to the ground. It brought to the same level with himself the polluted Gentile,—whose presence would alone render all unclean in the Messiah's kingdom. It proved his past ritual anxieties to have been all wasted. It cast aside for the future the venerated law; left it in neglect to die; and made all the apparatus of Providence for its maintenance end in absolutely nothing. Was then the Messiah to supersede, and not to vindicate, the law? How different this from the picture which prophets had drawn of his golden age, when Jerusalem was to be the pride of the earth, and her temple the praise of nations, sought by the feet of countless pilgrims, and decked with the splendor of their gifts! How could a true Hebrew be justified in a life without law? How think himself safe in a profession,[Pg 132] which was without temple, without priest, without altar, without victim?

Not unnaturally, then, did the Hebrews regard with reluctance two of the leading features of Christianity; the death of the Messiah, and the freedom from the law. The Epistle addressed to them was designed to soothe their uneasiness, and to show that, if the Mosaic institutions were superseded, it was in conformity with principles and analogies contained within themselves. With great address, the writer links the two difficulties together, and makes the one explain the other. He finds a ready means of effecting this, in the sacrificial ideas familiar to every Hebrew; for by representing the death of Jesus as a commutation for legal observances, he is only ascribing to it an operation acknowledged to have place in the death of every lamb slain as a sin-offering at the altar. These offerings were a distinct recognition, on the part of the Levitical code, of a principle of equivalents for its ordinances; a proof that, under certain conditions, they might yield: nothing more, therefore, was necessary, than to show that the death of Christ established those conditions. And such a method of argument was attended by this advantage, that, while the practical end would be obtained of terminating all ceremonial observance, the law was yet treated as in theory perpetual; not as ignominiously abrogated, but as legitimately commuted. Just as the Israelite, in paying his offering at the altar to compensate for ritual omissions, recognized thereby the claims of the law, while he obtained impunity for its neglect; so, if Providence could be shown to have provided a legal substitute for the system, its authority was acknowledged at the moment that its abolition was secured.

Let us advert, then, to the functions of the Mosaic sin-offerings, to which the writer has recourse to illustrate his main position. They were of the nature of a mulct or acknowledgment rendered for unconscious or inevitable disregard of ceremonial liabilities, and contraction of ceremonial uncleanness. Such uncleanness might be incurred from various[Pg 133] causes; and, while unremoved by the appointed methods of purification, disqualified from attendance at the sanctuary, and "cut off" "the guilty" "from among the congregation." To touch a dead body, to enter a tent where a corpse lay, rendered a person "unclean for seven days"; to come in contact with a forbidden animal, a bone, a grave, to be next to any one struck with sudden death, to be afflicted with certain kinds of bodily disease and infirmity, unwittingly to lay a finger on a person unclean, occasioned defilement, and necessitated a purification or an atonement. Independently of these offences, enforced upon the Israelite by the accidents of life, it was not easy for even the most cautious worshipper to keep pace with the complicated series of petty debts which the law of ordinances was always running up against him. If his offering had an invisible blemish; if he omitted a tithe, because "he wist it not"; or inadvertently fell into arrear, by a single day, with respect to a known liability; if absent from disease, he was compelled to let his ritual account accumulate; "though it be hidden from him," he must "be guilty, and bear his iniquity," and bring his victim. On the birth of a child, the mother, after the lapse of a prescribed period, made her pilgrimage to the temple, presented her sin-offering, and "the priest made atonement for her." The poor leper, long banished from the face of men, and unclean by the nature of his disease, became a debtor to the sanctuary, and on return from his tedious quarantine brought his lamb of atonement, and departed thence, clear from neglected obligations to his law. It was impossible, however, to provide by specific enactment for every case of ritual transgression and impurity, arising from inadvertence or necessity. Scarcely could it be expected that the courts of worship themselves would escape defilement, from imperfections in the offerings, or unconscious disqualification in people or in priest. To clear off the whole invisible residue of such sins, an annual "day of atonement" was appointed; the people thronged the avenues and approaches of the tabernacle; in their presence a kid was slain for their own transgressions, and for the high-priest[Pg 134] the more dignified expiation of a heifer; charged with the blood of each successively, he sprinkled not only the exterior altar open to the sky, but, passing through the first and holy chamber into the Holy of Holies (never entered else), he touched, with finger dipped in blood, the sacred lid (the Mercy-seat) and foreground of the Ark. At that moment, while he yet lingers behind the veil, the purification is complete; on no worshipper of Israel does any legal unholiness rest; and were it possible for the high-priest to remain in that interior retreat of Jehovah, still protracting the expiatory act, so long would this national purity continue, and the debt of ordinances be effaced as it arose. But he must return; the sanctifying rite must end; the people be dismissed; the priests resume the daily ministrations; the law open its stern account afresh; and in the mixture of national exactitude and neglects, defilements multiply again till the recurring anniversary lifts off the burden once more. Every year, then, the necessity comes round of "making atonement for the holy sanctuary," "for the tabernacle," "for the altar," "for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation." Yet, though requiring periodical renewal, the rite, so far as it went, had an efficacy which no Hebrew could deny; for ceremonial sins, unconscious or inevitable (to which all atonement was limited[19]), it was accepted as an indemnity; and put it beyond doubt that Mosaic obedience was commutable.

Such was the system of ideas, by availing himself of which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews would persuade his correspondents to forsake their legal observances. "You can look without uneasiness," he suggests, "on your ritual omissions,[Pg 135] when the blood of some victim has been presented instead, and the penetralia of your sanctuary have been sprinkled with the offering: well, on no other terms would I soothe your anxiety; precisely such equivalent sacrifice does Christianity exhibit, only of so peculiar a nature, that, for all ceremonial neglects, intentional no less than inadvertent, you may rely upon indemnity." The Jews entertained a belief respecting their temple, which enabled the writer to give a singular force and precision to his analogy. They conceived that the tabernacle of their worship was but the copy of a divine structure, devised by God himself, made by no created hand, and preserved eternally in heaven: this was "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man"; which no mortal had beheld, except Moses in the mount, that he might "make all things according to that pattern"; within whose Holy of Holies dwelt no emblem or emanation of God's presence, but his own immediate Spirit; and the celestial furniture of which required, in proportion to its dignity, the purification of a nobler sacrifice, and the ministrations of a diviner priest, than befitted the "worldly sanctuary" below. And who then can mistake the meaning of Christ's departure from this world, or doubt what office he conducts above? He is called by his ascension to the pontificate of heaven; consecrated, "not after the law of any carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life"; he drew aside the veil of his mortality, and passed into the inmost court of God: and as he must needs "have somewhat to offer," he takes the only blood he had ever shed,—which was his own,—and, like the High-Priest before the Mercy-seat, sanctifies therewith the people that stand without, "redeeming the transgressions" which "the first covenant" of rites entailed. And he has not returned; still is he hid within that holiest place; and still the multitude he serves turn thither a silent and expectant gaze; he prolongs the purification still; and while he appears not, no other rites can be resumed, nor any legal defilement be contracted. Thus, meanwhile, ordinances cease their obligation, and the sin against them has lost its power.[Pg 136] How different this from the offerings of Jerusalem, whose temple was but the "symbol and shadow" of that sanctuary above. In the Hebrew "sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sins every year"; "the high-priest annually entered the holy place"; being but a mortal, he could not go in with his own blood and remain, but must take that of other creatures and return; and hence it became "not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," for instantly they began to accumulate again. But to the very nature of Christ's offering a perpetuity of efficacy belongs; bearing no other than "his own blood," he was immortal when his ministration began, and "ever liveth to make his intercession"; he could "not offer himself often, for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world,"—and "it is appointed unto men only once to die"; so that "once for all he entered into the holy place, and obtained a redemption that is perpetual"; "once in the end of the world hath he appeared, and by sacrificing himself hath absolutely put away sin"; "this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God," "for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The ceremonial, then, with its periodical transgressions and atonements, is suspended; the services of the outer tabernacle cease, for the holiest of all is made manifest; one who is "priest for ever" dwells therein;—one "consecrated for evermore," "holy, harmless, undefiled, in his celestial dwelling quite separate from sinners; who needeth not daily, as those high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's; for this he did once for all when he offered up himself."[20]

[Pg 137]

Nor is it in its perpetuity alone that the efficacy of the Christian sacrifice transcends the atonements of the law; it removes a higher order of ritual transgressions. It cannot be supposed, indeed, that Messiah's life is no nobler offering than that of a creature from the herd or flock, and will confer no more immunity. Accordingly, it goes beyond those "sins of ignorance," those ceremonial inadvertences, for which alone there was remission in Israel; and reaches to voluntary neglects of the sacerdotal ordinances; insuring indemnity for legal omissions, when incurred not simply by the accidents of the flesh, but even by intention of the conscience. This is no greater boon than the dignity of the sacrifice requires; and does but give to his people below that living relation of soul to God which he himself sustains above. "If the blood of bulls and of goats ... sanctifieth to the purifying of the[Pg 138] flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purify (even) your conscience from dead works (ritual observances) to serve the living God!" Let then the ordinances go, and the Lord "put his laws into the mind, and write them in the heart"; and let all have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which he hath consecrated for us"; "provoking each other to love and to good works."

See, then, in brief, the objection of the Hebrews to the Gospel; and the reply of their instructor. They said: "What a blank is this; you have no temple, no priest, no ritual! How is it that, in his ancient covenant, God is so strict about ceremonial service, and permits no neglect, however incidental, without atonement; yet in this new economy throws the whole system away, letting us run up an everlasting debt to a law confessedly unrepealed, without redemption of it or atonement for it?"

[Pg 139]

"Not without redemption and atonement," replies their evangelical teacher; "temple, sacrifice, priest, remain to us also, only glorified into proportions worthy of a heavenly dispensation; our temple, in the skies; our sacrifice, Messiah's mortal person; our priest, his ever-living spirit. How poor the efficacy of your former offerings! year after year, your ritual debt began again: for the blood dried and vanished from the tabernacle which it purified; the priest returned from the inner shrine; and when there, he stood, with the interceding blood, before the emblem, not the reality, of God. But Christ, not at the end of a year, but at the end of the great world-era of the Lord, has come to offer up himself,—no lamb so unblemished as he; his voluntary and immortal spirit, than which was nothing ever more divinely consecrate, becomes officiating priest, and strikes his own person with immolating blow; it falls and bleeds on earth, as on the outer altar, standing on the threshold of the sanctuary of heaven: thither he ascends with the memorials of his death, vanishes into the Holy of Holies of the skies, presents himself before the very living God, and sanctifies the temple there and worshippers here; saying to us, 'Drop now for ever the legal burdens that weigh you down; doubt not that you are free, as my glorified spirit here, from the defilements you are wont to dread; I stay behind this veil of visible things, to clear you of all such taint, and put away such sin eternally. Trust, then, in me, and take up the freedom of your souls: burst the dead works, that cling round your conscience like cerements of the grave; and rise to me, by the living power of duty, and a loving allegiance to God.'"

So far, then, as the death of Christ is treated in Scripture dogmatically, rather than historically, its effects are viewed in contrast with the different order of things which must have been expected, had he, as Messiah, not died. And thus regarded, it presented itself to the minds of the Apostles in three relations:—

First, to the Gentiles, whom it drew in to be subjects of the Messiah, by breaking down the barriers of his Hebrew[Pg 140] personality, and rendering him spiritual as well as immortal.

Secondly, to the unbelieving Jews; whom his retirement from this world delivered from the judgment due to them, on the principles of their own law, both for their general violation of the conditions of their covenant, and for their positive rejection of him. His absence reopened their opportunities; and to tender them this act of long-suffering, he took on himself the death which had been incurred by them.

Thirdly, to the believing Jews; the terms of whose discipleship the Messiah's death had changed, destroying all the benefits of their lineage, and substituting an act of the mind, the simpler claim of faith. It was therefore a commutation for the Ritual Law, and gave them impunity and atonement for all its violations.

With the last two of these relations, beyond their remarkable historical interest, we have no personal concern. The first remains, and ever will remain, worthy of the glorious joy with which Paul regarded and expounded it. God has committed the rule of this world to no exclusive prince, and no sacerdotal power, and no earthly majesty; but to one whose spirit, too divine to be limited to place and time, broke through clouds of sorrow into the clearest heaven; and thither has since been drawing our human love, though for ages now he has been unseen and immortal. An impartial God, a holy and spiritual law, an infinite hope for all men, are given to us by that generous cross.

It is evident that all three of the relations which I have described belonged to the death of Jesus, in his capacity of Messiah; and could have had no existence if he had not borne this character, but had been simply a private martyr to his convictions. The foregoing exposition gives a direct answer to the inquiry, pressed without the slightest pertinence upon the Unitarian, why the phraseology of the cross is never found applied to Paul or Peter, or any other noble confessor, who died in attestation of the truth; why "no record is given that we are justified by the blood of Stephen;[Pg 141] or that he bare our sins in his own body, and made reconciliation for us."[22] I know not why such a question should be submitted to us; we have assuredly no concern with it; having never dreamt that the Apostles could have written as they did respecting the death on Calvary, if they had thought of it only as a scene of martyrdom. We have passed under review the whole language of the New Testament on this subject; and in the interpretation of it have not even once had recourse to this, which is said to be our only view of the cross. We have seen the Apostles justly announcing their Lord's death as a proper propitiation; because it placed whole classes of men, without any meritorious change in their character, in saving relations: declaring it a strict substitute for others' punishment; on the ground that there were those who must have perished, if he had not; and that he died and retired, that they might remain and live: describing it as a sacrifice which put away sin; because it did that for ever, which the Levitical atonements achieved for a day: but we have not found them ever appealing to it either as a satisfaction to the justice of God, or an example of martyrdom to men. The Trinitarians have one idea of this event themselves; and their fancy provides their opponents with one idea of it; of the former not a trace exists, on any page of Scripture; and of the latter the Unitarian need not avail himself at all, in explaining the language whereof it is said to be his solitary key.

Nowhere, then, in Scripture do we meet with anything corresponding with the prevailing notions of vicarious redemption; everywhere, and most emphatically in the personal instructions of our Lord, do we find a doctrine of forgiveness, and an idea of salvation, utterly inconsistent with it. He spake often of the unqualified clemency of God to his returning children; never once of the satisfaction demanded by his justice. He spake of the joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth; but was silent on the sacrificial[Pg 142] faith, without which penitence is said to be unavailing. Nor did he, like his modern disciples, teach that there are two separate salvations, which must follow each other in a fixed order: first, redemption from the penalty, secondly, from the spirit, of sin; pardon for the past, before sanctification in the present; a removal of the "hinderance in God," previous to its annihilation in ourselves. If indeed there were in Christianity two deliverances, discriminated and successive, it would be more in accordance with its spirit to invert this order;—to recall from alienation first, and announce forgiveness afterwards; to restore from guilt, before cancelling the penalty; and permit the healing to anticipate the pardoning love. At least, there would seem, in such arrangement, to be a greater jealousy for the holiness of the divine law, a severer reservation of God's complacency for those who have broken from the service of sin, than in the system which proclaims impunity to the rebel will, ere yet its estrangement is renounced. If the outward remission precedes the inward sanctification, then does God admit to favor the yet unsanctified; guilt keeps us in no exile from him: and though the Holy Spirit is to follow afterwards, it becomes the peculiar office of the cross to lift us as we are, with every stain upon the soul and every vile habit unretraced, from the brink of perdition to the assurance of glory: the divine lot is given to us, before the divine love is awakened in us; and the heirs of heaven have yet to become the children of holiness. With what consistency can the advocates of such an economy accuse its opponents of dealing lightly with sin, of deluding men into a false trust, and administering seductive flatteries to human nature?[23] What! shall we, who plant in every soul of sin a hell, whence no foreign force, no external God, can pluck us, any more than they can tear us from our identity,—we, who hide the fires of torment in no viewless gulf, but make them ubiquitous as guilt,—we, who suffer no outward agent[Pg 143] from Eden, or the Abyss, or Calvary, to encroach upon the solitude of man's responsibility, and confuse the simplicity of conscience,—we, who teach that God will not, and even cannot, spare the froward, till they be froward no more, but must permit the burning lash to fall, till they cry aloud for mercy, and throw themselves freely into his embrace;—shall we be rebuked for a lax administration of peace, by those who think that a moment may turn the alien into the elect? It is no flattery of our nature, to reverence deeply its moral capacities: we only discern in them the more solemn trust, and see in their abuse the fouler shame. And it is not of what men are, but of what they might be, that we encourage noble and cheerful thoughts. Doubtless, we think exaggeration possible (which our opponents apparently do not) even in the portraiture of their actual character: and perhaps we are not the less likely to awaken true convictions of sin, that we strive to speak of it with the voice of discriminative justice, instead of the monotonous thunders of vengeance; and to draw its image in the natural tints provided by the conscience, rather than in the preternatural flame-color mingled in the crucibles of hell.

In making penal redemption and moral redemption separate and successive, the vicarious scheme, we submit, is inconsistent with the Christian idea of salvation. Not that we take the second, and reject the first, as our Trinitarian friends imagine; nor that we invert their order. We accept them both; putting them, however, not in succession, but in super-position, so that they coalesce. The power and the punishment of sin perish together; and together begin the holiness and the bliss of heaven. Whatever extracts the poison cools the sting: nor can the divine vigor of spiritual health enter, without its freedom and its joy. That there can be any separate dealings with our past guilt and with our present character, is not a truth of God, but a fiction of the schools. The sanctification of the one is the redemption of the other. The mind given up to passion, or chained to self, or anyhow alienated from the love and life divine, dwells, whatever be its faith, in the dark and terrible abyss;[Pg 144] while he, and he only, that, in the freedom and tranquillity of great affections, communes with God and toils for men, understands the meaning, and wins the promises, of heaven. Am I asked: "What, then, is to persuade the sinful heart thus to draw near to God;—what, but a proclamation of absolute pardon, can break down the secret distrust, which keeps our nature back, wrapped in the reserve of conscious guilt?" I reply; however much these fears and hesitations might cling round us, and restrain us from the mystic Deity of Nature, they can have no place in our intercourse with the Father whom Jesus represents. It needs only that Christ be truly his image, to know "that the hinderance is not with him, but entirely in ourselves";[24] to see that there is no anger in his look; to feel that he invites us to unreserved confession, and accepts our self-abandonment to him,—that he lifts the repentant, prostrate at his feet, and speaks the words of severe, but truest hope. Am I told, "that only the gratitude excited by personal rescue from tremendous danger, by an unconditional and entire deliverance, is capable of winning our reluctant nature, of opening the soul to the access of the Divine Spirit, and bringing it to the service of the Everlasting Will"? I rejoice to acknowledge, that some such disinterested power must be awakened, some mighty forces of the heart be called out, ere the regeneration can take place that renders us children of the Highest; ere we can break, with true new birth, from the shell of self, and try and train our wings in the atmosphere of God. The permanent work of duty must be wrought by the affections; not by the constraint, however solemn, of hope and fear; no self-perfectionating process, elaborated by an anxious will, has warmth enough to ripen the soul's diviner fruits; the walks of outward morality, and the slopes of deliberate meditation, it may keep smooth and trim; but cannot make the true life-blossoms set, as in a garden of the Lord, and the foliage wave as with the voice of God among the trees. I gladly admit that, to a believer in the vicarious sacrifice, the[Pg 145] sense of pardon, the love of the Great Deliverer, may well fulfil this blessed office, of carrying him out of himself in genuine allegiance to a being most benign and holy. And perceiving that, if this doctrine were removed, there is not, in the system of which it forms a part, and which else would be all terror, anything that could perform the same generous part, I can understand why it seems to its advocates an essential power in the renovation of the character. But great as it may be, within the limits of its own narrow scheme, ideas possessed of higher moral efficacy are not wanting, when we pass into a region of nobler and more Christian thought. Shall we say that the view of the Infinite Ruler, given in the spoken wisdom or the living spirit of Christ, has no sanctifying power? Yet where is there any trace in it of the satisfactionist's redemption? When we sit at Messiah's feet, that transforming gratitude for an extinguished penalty, on which the prevailing theology insists, as its central emotion, becomes replaced by a similar and profounder sentiment towards the Eternal Father. If to rescue men from a dreadful fate in the future be a just title to our reverence, never to have designed that fate claims an affection yet more devoted; if there be a divine mercy in annihilating an awful curse, in shedding only blessing there is surely a diviner still. Shall the love restored to us after long delay, and in consideration of an equivalent, work mightily on the heart,—and shall that which asked no purchase, which has been veiled by no cloud, which has enfolded us always in its tranquillity, nor can ever quit the soul opened to receive it, fail to penetrate the conscience, and dissolve the frosts of our self-love by some holier flame? Never shall it be found true, that God must threaten us with vengeance, ere we can feel the shelter of his grace!

In truth, the Christian idea of salvation cannot be better illustrated, than by the doubt which has been entertained respecting the proper translation of my text. Some, referring it to spiritual redemption, adhere to the common version; others, seeing that the Apostle Peter is explaining "by[Pg 146] what power or by what name" he had cured the lame man at the temple gate, refer the words to this miracle of deliverance, and render them thus: "Neither is there healing in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we can be healed." It matters little which it is; for whether we speak of body or of mind, Jesus "saves" us by "making us whole"; by putting forth upon us a divine and healing power, by which past suffering and present decrepitude disappear together; which supplies the defective elements of our nature, cools the burning of inward fever, or calls into being new senses and perceptions, opening a diviner universe to our experience. The deformed and crooked will, bowed by Satan, lo! these many years, and nowise able to lift up itself, he loosens and makes straight in uprightness. The moral paralytic, collapsed and prostrate amid the stir of life, and incapably gazing on the moving waters in which others find their health, has often started up at the summons of that voice, though perchance "he wist not who it was"; and, going his way, has found it to be "the sabbath," and owned the "work" of one who is in the spirit of "the Father." From the eye long dark and blind to duty and to God, he has caused the film to pass away; and shown the solemn look of life beneath a heaven so tranquil and sublime. Even the dead of soul, close wrapped in bandages of selfishness,—that greediest of graves,—have been quickened by his piercing call, and have come forth, to learn, "when risen," that only in the meekness that can obey is there the power to command, only in the love that serves is there the life of heart-felt liberty. To call, then, on the name and trust in the spirit of Christ, is to invoke the restoring power of God; to give symmetry and speed to our lame affections, and the vigor of an athlete to our limping wills. There is not any Christian salvation that is not thus identical with Christian perfection: "nor any other name under heaven given among men, whereby we may be (thus) made whole." Let all that would "be perfect be thus minded"; seek "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"; and they shall find in him a "power to become the sons of God."

[Pg 147]


The Nature of the Atonement, and its Relation to Remission of Sins and Eternal Life. By John M'Leod Campbell. Cambridge: Macmillan & Co. 1856.

This is a strange book. A Greek would have hated it. A Puritan would have found it savory, even where it was unsound. Rosenkranz, who has written on the Æsthetik des Hässlichen, would have been thankful for such a fund of illustration. Cumbrous, tiresome, monotonous, it has few attractions for the natural man, who may have a weakness in favor of pure English and nice grammar. It despises the graces of carnal literature, and treats all the color and music of language as the Roundheads treated a cathedral, silencing the "box of whistles" and smashing the "mighty big angels in glass." And yet, if you can get over its grating way of delivering itself, you will find it no barbaric product, but the utterance of a deep and practised thinker, charged with the richest experiences of the Christian life, and resolute to clear them from every tangle of fiction or pretence. Beneath the uncouth form there is not only severe truth, but great tenderness and beauty,—a fine apprehension of the real inner strife of tempted men, and an intense faith in an open way of escape from it, without compromise of any sanctity. The author, though not tuneful in his speech, has the gifts of a true prophet; and often enables one to fancy what Isaiah might have[Pg 148] been if he had heard nothing but the bagpipe, and had set his "burdens" to its drone. Whether Mr. Campbell's style has been formed north of the Tweed, we know not. In any case, it is trained in the school of Calvinism; is untouched therefore by any feeling for art; and runs on with a sort of extemporaneous habit, insufficiently relieved by occasional flashes of grotesque and forcible expression. It is only in exterior aspect, however, that he presents the features of the rugged old Calvinism: and though the first-born of that system and its younger sons are distinguished like Isaac's children, "Esau is a hairy man, and Jacob is a smooth man," yet no true patriarch of the school can be so blind as not to see beneath our author's goat-skin dress, and know that he is other than the heir. In fact, the peculiarity of this work as a theological phenomenon is, that it is a destruction of Calvinism without any revolt from it,—an escape from it through its own interior. Its postulates are not denied. Its phraseology is not rejected. Its statement of the problem of redemption is in the main accepted. Its provision for the solution,—the Incarnation of the Son,—is sacredly preserved. Yet these elements are put into such play as to make it checkmate itself on its own area. Its definitions are shown to be suicidal; and its sharp-edged logic is used to cut through the ligaments that constrain and shape it.

We have spoken first of the style of this book, because it strikes the reader at the outset, and is not unlikely to repel him if he is not warned. Of one other feature, derived from the same school, we must say a word, to qualify the admiration and gratitude which we shall then ungrudgingly tender to the author. In common with all the great masters of the "Evangelical" school, he is too much at home with the Divine economy; knows too well how the same thing appears from the finite and the infinite point of view; can tell too surely how a mixed nature, both divine and human, would feel on looking from both ends at once; and altogether goes with too close a search to the "secret place of the Most High." Not that he speaks unworthily on these high themes; we have[Pg 149] nothing truer to suggest, except more silence. But we must confess that when a teacher lays down the conditions of divine possibility, expatiates psychologically on the sentiments of the Father and the Son, and seems as though he had been allowed a peep into the autobiography of God, we shrink from the sharp outlines, and feel that we shall believe more if we are shown less. With so many soundings taken, and so many channels buoyed, the sense of the shoreless sea is gone, and we find only a port of traffic, with coast-lights instead of stars. The temptation to this theological map-making has always proved peculiarly strong among the disciples of Geneva: and the reason is to be found in the very nature of the problem they have attempted to resolve. Religion has two foci to determine,—the divine nature and the human. Athanasius and the Greek influence fixed the doctrine of the Godhead: Augustine and the Latin Church defined the spiritual state of man. The one, it has been said, produced a theology; the other, an anthropology. In the construction of the former, it is obvious that the appeal could be made only to positive authority, whether of Scripture or the Church. On the Nicene question no one could pretend to have personal insight or scientific data: it must be decided by arbitrary vote on impressions of testimony. But for establishing a doctrine of humanity, the living resources of consciousness and experience were present with perpetual witness; every proposition advanced could be confronted with its corresponding reality: the disciple could not help carrying the dogma inward to the test of his self-knowledge. The scheme of the Trinity partook of the nature of a Gnosis, which dwelt apart from the stir of phenomena, and, having once set and crystallized, could only be hung up for preservation. The dogmas of human depravity and helplessness partook of the nature of a Science, coming in contact with the facts of life and character at every point. Moral experience had something to say to them: and unless they could keep good terms with it, they could not hope to hold their ground. Hence the Augustinian divines have been constrained to seek a philosophy of religion, and[Pg 150] to collate the text of their Scriptural system with the running paraphrase of actual life. No writers have contributed so much to lay bare the inmost springs of human action and emotion; have tracked with so much subtilty the windings of guilty self-deception, or so found the secret sorrow that lies at the core of every unconsecrated joy. If we must concede to the Roman Catholic casuists and the problems of the confessional the merit of creating an ethical Art embodied in systems of rules, we owe to the deeper Evangelical spirit, whether in its action or its reaction, the ground-lines of an ethical Philosophy;—or, if you deny that such a thing as yet exists, at least the true idea and undying quest of it. The disciples of Augustine, belonging to an anthropological school, have been naturally distinguished by a reflective and psychologic habit.

If it was the function of the Greek period to settle the doctrine of God, and of its Latin successor to define the nature of man, it was the aim of the Reformation, leaving these two extremes undisturbed, to find the way of mediation between them. So long as the great sacerdotal Church, living continuator of Christ's presence, was intrusted with the business, private Christians wanted no theory on the subject; all nice questions went into the ecclesiastical closet and disappeared. But as soon as ever the hierarchy fell out of this position, there was an immense void left to be filled. On the one hand, Infinite Holiness, quite alienated; on the other, Human Pravity, quite helpless: how was any approximation to be rendered conceivable? True, the great original Mediation on Calvary, which the papal priesthood pretended to prolong, remained; for it was fixed in history. But it lay a great way off, a fact in the old past; and its intervention was required to-day by Melancthon, and Carlstadt, and a whole generation quite remote from it. How was its power to be fetched into the present? how applied to men walking about in Wittenberg or Zürich? This was the problem which flew open by the cancelling of the Romish credentials: and the various answers to it constitute the body of Protestant theology. In[Pg 151] one point they all agree, that, to replace the priestly media that are thrust out, Personal Faith is the element that must be brought in. In what way this subjective state of the individual mind draws or appropriates the efficacy of the Incarnation; in what order the redeeming process runs among the three given terms,—the alienated Father, the mediating Son, the believing disciple; whether any part of the process is moral and real, or all is legal and virtual;—these are questions which the Reformation has found it easier to open than to close. But answer them as you will, they entangle your thoughts in the mutual relations and sentiments of three persons; and cannot be discussed without establishing some principles of moral psychology, as the common grounds of intercommunion between minds finite and infinite, and dealing with hypothetical problems of divine as well as human casuistry. Hence the inevitable tendency of the doctrine of Mediation to venture on a natural history of the Divine Mind,—to construct a drama of Providence and Grace, with plot too artfully wrought for the free hand of Heaven, and traits too specific and minute for reverent contemplation.

It is deeply instructive to observe the pulsation of religious thought in men. Revealed religion is ever passing into natural, and natural returning to re-interpret the revealed. We can almost see the steps by which sacred history was converted into dogma; while dogma, assumed in turn as the starting-point, is ever producing new readings of the history. This world may be regarded as a human theatre, where the Wills of men perform the parts; or as the stage of Divine agency, using the visible actors as the executants of an invisible thought. Its vicissitudes, presented in the former aspect, yield only history; in the latter, give rise to doctrine. Noticed by Tacitus, the life of Christ is a provincial incident of Tiberius's reign, and his death a judicial act of Pontius Pilate's government. In the three first Gospels and the book of Acts, the crucifixion is still the act of wicked or misguided men, inflicted on an expostulating victim; not, however, without being foreseen as the appointed precursor of a resurrection.[Pg 152] The event is thus in the main simply historical; but with a divine comment which gives it an incipient theological significance. It appears under another aspect in the Gospel of John; there, Christ not only foresaw, but determined his own death: his life "no man taketh it from him," but he "lays it down of himself"; he is not merely the submissive medium, but the spontaneous co-agent of a Divine intent. Finally, in St. Paul,—to whom the person and ministry of Christ were unfamiliar, who, as a disciple of his heavenly life, looked back upon them from a higher point,—the historical aspect almost wholly disappears in the ideal; and the cross becomes the Gospel, the wisdom of God and the power of God, the self-sacrifice of the Son the reconciling way to the Father, the very focus and symbol of all the mystery and mercy comprised in humanity. The movement of thought through these successive stages is obvious. An event is at first accepted as it arises. But in proportion as its concrete impression retires, the need becomes more urgent to find its function: instinctive search is made for all those elements, accessories, and effects of it, which promise to bring out its meaning and idea, until at last its doctrine absorbs itself, and enters the human mind as a permanent factor of positive religion. It is thus that the great antitheses, of Law and Gospel, of the Natural and the Spiritual man, of dead Works and living Faith, of self-seeking enmity and self-surrendering reconciliation with God, have settled upon the consciousness of Christendom, and grown into the very substance of its experience. They have become part of its natural religion. But in this character they may, conversely, be taken as the initiative of a new version of the history whence they sprung. They could not be born into unmixed and formed existence at once; but, like all new affections, must feel their way out of an early indeterminate state, into clear self-apprehension and settled purity. The testimony of the Christian conscience needs time to become articulate and collected. The shadow of human guilt may lie so dark upon the mind, the dawn of the divine holiness may so dazzle the inward vision, that blindness in part[Pg 153] may linger for a while; and the eye, in very opening to Christ's healing touch, may fail to see. Once accustomed to the new light of life, men are no longer occupied with it alone, but find in it a medium for truer discernment of objects around. The special sentiments awakened by the Gospel test themselves afresh, like any other theory, by being fully lived out, and tried as experiments upon the soul. The type of character,—the edition of human nature,—in which they take embodiment, becomes a distinct object of critical appreciation; and while all its deep expressive traits speak for the inner truth whence they are moulded, every mixture of disharmony or defect calls for some revision of idea. In the thirsty spiritual state to which men were reduced on the eve of the Reformation, they drank up with intense eagerness the most turbid supplies of evangelical doctrine. With purer health and finer perception they become aware that not all was water of life; and that coarse notions of the nature of justice, the conditions of mercy, and the measurement of sin, were intermixed and must become mere sediment. Cleared of these, the theory is taken back to the facts of revelation, and so washed through them, that they may also emerge as from a sprinkling of regeneration. Through such re-baptism does our author, furnished with a purified conception of "atonement," pass the history of Christ.

In looking for the whereabouts of the atonement, we are guided, as in search for the pole-star, by two pointers whose indications we are to follow. Its function was double,—to cancel a guilty past, to make a holy future: and it must be of such a nature as to disappoint neither of these conditions. In determining its form, the great anxiety of theologians hitherto has been to fit it for its retrospective action, and disembarrass the problem of salvation of the burden of accumulated sin. It is Mr. Campbell's distinction that he lays the superior stress on its prospective action, and requires that it shall positively heal the sickness of our nature, and evolve thence a real and living righteousness. God's moral perfectness could be satisfied with nothing less. If, indeed, He looked on our[Pg 154] guilt merely as an obstacle to our "salvation," and desired to remove it as a hinderance out of the way,—if He rather sought a pretext for making us happy than a provision for drawing us to goodness,—then the work of Christ might be so devised as simply to tear out the defiled page of the past, and register an infinite credit not our own, without inherent care for ulterior personal holiness. But were it so, the divine love would amount only to an unrighteous desire for our happiness, and the divine righteousness to an unloving repulsion from our sin. Such spurious analysis corresponds with no reality; and in the truth of things there can be no heavenly affection that is not holy, nor any holiness that is not affectionate.

"While in reference to the not uncommon way of regarding this subject which represents righteousness and holiness as opposed to the sinner's salvation, and mercy and love as on his side, I freely concede that all the Divine attributes were, in one view, against the sinner, in that they called for the due expression of God's wrath against sin in the history of redemption: I believe, on the other hand, that the justice, the righteousness, the holiness of God, have an aspect according to which they, as well as his mercy, appear as intercessors for man, and crave his salvation. Justice may be contemplated as according to sin its due; and there is in righteousness, as we are conscious to it, what testifies that sin should be miserable. But justice, looking at the sinner not simply as the fit subject of punishment, but as existing in a moral condition of unrighteousness, and so its own opposite, must desire that the sinner should cease to be in that condition; should cease to be unrighteous, should become righteous: righteousness in God craving for righteousness in man, with a craving which the realization of righteousness in man alone can satisfy. So also of holiness. In one view it repels the sinner, and would banish him to outer darkness, because of its repugnance to sin. In another, it is pained by the continued existence of sin and unholiness, and must desire that the sinner should cease to be sinful. So that the sinner, conceived of as awakening to the[Pg 155] consciousness of his own evil state, and saying to himself, 'By sin I have destroyed myself. Is there yet hope for me in God?'—should hear an encouraging answer, not only from the love and mercy of God, but also from his very righteousness and holiness. We must not forget, in considering the response that is in conscience to the charge of sin and guilt, that, though the fears which accompany that response are partly the effect of a dawning of light, they also in part arise from remaining darkness. He who is able to interpret the voice of God within him truly, and with full spiritual intelligence will be found saying, not only, 'There is to me cause for fear in the righteousness and holiness of God,' but also, 'There is room for hope for me in the Divine righteousness and holiness.' And when gathering consolation from the meditation of the name of the Lord, that consolation will be not only, 'Surely the Divine mercy desires to see me happy rather than miserable,' but also, 'Surely the Divine righteousness desires to see me righteous,—the Divine holiness desires to see me holy,—my continuing unrighteous and unholy is as grieving to God's righteousness and holiness as my misery through sin is to his pity and love.' 'Good and righteous is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners the way which they should choose.' 'A just God and a Saviour'; not as the harmony of a seeming opposition, but 'a Saviour, because a just God.'"—p. 29.

From this justly-conceived passage the characteristics of Mr. Campbell's theory may already be divined. He sets his faith on a concrete, living, indivisible God, whom you can never understand by laying out His abstract attributes one by one, with their separate requirements, and then putting them together again to compute the resultant. He insists on the absolute dominance of a moral and spiritual idea throughout the revealed economy: of this nature is the evil to be met,—sin and estrangement; of this nature is the good to be reached,—righteousness and reconciliation; and only of this nature can be the mediation which effects the change; related upward to the Father and downward to men, in a way accordant[Pg 156] with the laws of conscience, and intelligible by its self-light. He craves, therefore, a natural juncture, a real causal nexus, between the several parts of the process, to the exclusion of all forensic fictions and arbitrary scene-shifting and sovereign tours-de-force. In short, he will have no tricks passed off, no quasi-transformations upon the conscience; he feels the moral world to be above the range of mere miracle; any change in it irreducible to its solemn laws would ipso facto fall out of it and become a mere dynamical surprise. Of physical miracle our author avails himself to the full amount; the incarnation of the Son of God being, with him, as with others, the central fact and essential medium of Christian redemption. But the august power thus supernaturally set up—the Person at once divine and human—works out his great problem naturally, without requiring the suspension of one rule of right, or holding any magical dealings with the character of God or man. His problem, therefore, is to show how the life and death of Christ—considered as God in humanity—were fitted, and alone fitted, to blot out the sins of the world before God, and to introduce among men a new state of real righteousness and eternal life.

The common Evangelical scheme of redemption so far affects to be deduced from certain general principles, and to render the way of redemption conceivable, that it is stigmatized as rationalistic by Catholics and Anglicans. It is so, however, only in the sense of hanging well together, and serving the purpose of a theological Mnemonic to those who want a religion ready more than deep. In the higher sense, of occupying any natural ground of reason, it does not earn its reproach. The propositions which it lays down, as to the inability of a holy nature to forgive unless circuitously and with compensation, and as to the commutability of either penal liabilities or moral attributes, are without any support from our primary sentiments of right and wrong, and could be carried out by no sane man in the conduct of life. The doctrine is taught in two principal forms;—the earlier and more exact scheme of "Satisfaction," elaborated by Anselm of Canterbury,[Pg 157] and perfected by Owen and Edwards; and the modern theory of "Public Justice," maintained in the writings of Dr. Pye Smith and Dr. Payne, and prevailing wherever the first decadence from the old Calvinism is going on. The first of these prepares its ground by laying down these principles as fundamental;—that the connection between sin and suffering is inviolably secured on the veracity of God; that "when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants," and have only rendered our strict due; that, far from "doing all," we have done and can do nothing, except accumulate guilt, which, measure it as you will,—by the majesty of the authority defied, or the multitude of the offenders and their sins,—is practically of infinite amount. Here, then, is a case of utter despair: infinite debt; nothing to pay; remission impossible; punishment eternal; death unattainable. But we are brought into the labyrinth on one side, to emerge from it on the other. While men can only multiply demerit, there are natures conceivable to which merit is possible. A Divine Person, laying aside a blessedness inherently his, and assuming sorrow not his own, and doing this out of a pure love, fulfils the conditions; and when the Son takes on him our humanity, the act, carried out unto the end, has a merit in it which in amount is a full set-off against the guilt of men. Still, this only leaves us with two opposite funds—of infinite good desert and infinite ill desert—which sit apart and unrelated. In due course, the one ought to have a boundless reward, the other a boundless punishment. But to render his affluence available for our debt, the Son consummates his self-sacrifice, substitutes himself for us as the object of retribution, and dies once for all,—one infinite death for many finite hereafters of woe. The Father's justice is satisfied; the allotment of suffering to sin has been accurately observed; His desire to pardon is released from its restraint. Having dealt with the person of the Son as if it were mankind, He may deal with mankind as if they were the Son, and look upon them as clothed with a perfect obedience.

The wholly artificial structure of this scheme, which is its[Pg 158] greatest condemnation, has been its chief security. It is by approaching within conducting-distance of reality, that a doctrine elicits resistance and meets the stroke of natural objection; and if it only keeps far enough aloft in the metaphysic atmosphere, it may float along unarrested from zone to zone of time. Men know not what to make of propositions so much out of their sphere, so evasive of any real encounter with their consciousness, and are apt to let them pass for their very strangeness' sake. But surely we are bound to demand for them some "response of conscience," and, with Mr. Campbell, to demur to such of them as will not bear this test. Limiting ourselves to the mediatorial part of the theory, we will assume the problem of moral evil to be correctly stated, and only ask whether, from the supposed case of despair, the offered solution affords any real exit of relief. Nor do we assume this for argument's sake alone. We can perfectly understand any remorseful sense, however deep, of human unworthiness; any appreciative reverence, however intense, of Christ's self-sacrifice. Set the one under the shadow of the Father's infinite disapproval, the other in the light of His infinite complacency; so far we go; there let them lie. But what next? Here, on the left hand, is Sin with its need of punishment; there, on the right, a perfect Holiness with its merits. While they are thus spread beneath the Father's eye, they break up their inviolable alliances; each moral cause crosses over and takes the opposite effect. If such change took place, the seat of the fact must be sought partly in the consciousness of Christ, partly in the Father's view of things. In reference to the first, must we say that the Crucified felt himself under Divine wrath and punishment, and esteemed that wrath to be just,—the fitting expression of his own inward remorse? If so, can we affirm that his consciousness was veracious? or did he not feel, in regard to others' sins, sentiments and experiences that are false except in relation to one's own? And, ascending to the other point of view, shall we affirm that the Father saw sin in the Son and was angry with him; so that, in the hour of sublimest obedience,[Pg 159] the words ceased to be true, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"? And on the other hand, what is meant when it is said that beneath the Divine eye men in their guilt are seen "clothed with" a perfect righteousness? Is such an aspect of them true? or is it akin to an ocular deception? We seem to be reduced to this dilemma;—the change of apparent moral place implied in "imputation" is either a faithful representation, or a quasi-representation, of the reality of things. If the latter, then the Divine consciousness is illusory, and the world is administered on a fiction; if the former, then the moral law, in assuring us of the personal and inalienable nature of sin, gives a false report, and there is nothing to prevent a circulating medium of merit from passing current through the universe. Mr. Campbell's deference for the great advocates of this marvellous doctrine does not obstruct his perception of its difficulties.

"I freely confess," he says, "that to my own mind it is a relief, not only intellectually, but also morally and spiritually, to see that there is no foundation for the conceptions that when Christ suffered for us, the just for the unjust, he suffered either 'as by imputation unjust,' or 'as if he were unjust.' I admit that intellectually it is a relief not to be called to conceive to myself a double consciousness, both in the Father and in the Son, such as seems implied in the Father's seeing the Son at one and the same time, though it were but for a moment, as the well-beloved Son, to whom infinite favor should go forth, and also as worthy, in respect of the imputation of our sins to him, of being the object of infinite wrath, he being the object of such wrath accordingly; and in the Son's knowing himself the well-beloved of the Father, and yet having the consciousness of being personally, through imputation of our sin, the object of the Father's wrath. I feel it intellectually a relief neither to be called to conceive this, nor to assume it as an unconceived mystery. Still more do I feel it morally and spiritually a relief, not to be required to recognize legal fictions as having a place in this high region, in which the awful realities of sin and holiness, spiritual death[Pg 160] and spiritual life, are the objects of a transaction between the Father and the Son in the Eternal Spirit."—p. 310.

The second form of mediatorial doctrine, to which we have referred as the modern type of Calvinism, has arisen from the endeavor to evade some of these perplexities. The riddle that haunts its teachers is still the same,—how it can become possible to show mercy to sinners; but the difficulty in the way is differently conceived, and therefore met by a different expedient. It is not an obstacle in God, arising from his personal sentiment of equity, which must be satisfied; but springs out of the necessity of consistent rectitude, and adherence to law in his administrative government. The Father himself, it is intimated, would be quite willing to forgive, were there nothing to consult except his own disposition. But it would never do to play fast and loose with the criminal law of the universe, and, notwithstanding the most solemn enactments, let off delinquents on mere repentance, as if nothing were the matter beyond a personal affront. Something more is due to Public Justice. If the due course of retribution is to be turned aside, it must be in such a way and at such a cost as to proclaim aloud the awfulness of the guilt remitted. This, we are told, is accomplished by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, which were substituted for our threatened punishment, not as its quantitative equal paid to the Father, but as a moral equivalent in the eyes of men. Their validity is thus conceived to depend by no means on their particular measure, but on the meritorious obedience of love which was their sustaining and animating soul, and which, being on the scale of a Divine nature, gave infinite value to the smallest sorrow. Within the casket of his grief was held such a priceless righteousness, that, on beholding it, the Father might regard it as an adequate plea for acts of mercy to sinners. He does not indeed impute to them the actual moral perfectness of Christ, so as to see them invested with it, any more than he imputed to Christ their guilt, and frowned on Calvary. It is the effects only of that holiness which he imputes; he offers to men the benefits of it, without reckoning it as really theirs,[Pg 161] and giving them the legal standing which its possession would bestow.

No doubt this scheme gets rid of the penal mensuration and moral conveyancing of the older Calvinism. It shifts also the bar to free mercy away from the inner personality of God, and sets it in his outer government. But when we again attempt to seize the mediatorial expedient, what is it? It is said to be a display of the enormity of that guilt which needs to be redeemed at such a cost. But is that need real? Have we not been told that it has no place in God? Does he then hang out a profession that is not true to the kernel of things, but only a show-off for impression's sake? If Eternal Justice in its inner essence does not require the expiation provided, why in its outer manifestation pretend that it does? As nothing can become right for "the sake of good example" that is not right in itself, so is "Public Justice," unsustained by the sincere heart of reality, a mere dramatic imposture. Mr. Campbell has supplied us with a forcible statement of this truth:—

"Surely rectoral or public justice, if it is to have any moral basis,—any basis other than expediency,—must rest upon, and refer to, distributive or absolute justice. In other words, unless there be a rightness in connecting sin with misery, and righteousness with blessedness, looking at individual cases simply in themselves, I cannot see that there is a rightness in connecting them as a rule of moral government. 'An English judge once said to a criminal before him: You are condemned to be transported, not because you have stolen these goods, but that goods may not be stolen.' (Jenkyns, 175, 176.) This is quoted in illustration of the position, that 'the death of Christ is an honorable ground for remitting punishment,' because 'his sufferings answer the same ends as the punishment of the sinner.' I do not recognize any harmony between this sentiment of the English judge and the voice of an awakened conscience on the subject of sin. It is just because he has sinned and deserves punishment, and not because he says to himself that God is a moral governor, and must punish him[Pg 162] to deter others, that the wrath of God against sin seems so terrible,—and as just as terrible."—p. 79.

Even were the expression backed up by reality, we cannot but ask about the fitness of the medium for the thought to be conveyed. God's horror at guilt is publicly proclaimed by the most awful crime in human history! To explain the difficulty of letting off the offender, he exhibits the anguish of the innocent! The spectacle would seem in danger of suggesting the wrong lesson to the terrified observer,—of raising to intensity the doubt whether, in a world that gives its silver to a Judas, its judgment-seat to a Pilate, and the cross to the Son of God, any Providence can care for rectitude at all. Even when the death of Christ is contemplated exclusively as a self-sacrifice, without remembering the guilt which compassed it, we are at a loss to understand how it could be "an honorable ground for remitting punishment." What difference did it make in the previous reasons of the Divine government, so that penalties right before should be less right afterwards? If Catiline were undergoing his just retribution at the date of the Last Supper, what plea was there for releasing him at or before the date of the resurrection? That obedience rendered and suffering endured by one soul should dispense with the liabilities of another, is a supposition at variance with the personal and inalienable nature of all sin; and to say that God "imputes the effects" of Christ's holiness to those who are not partakers in the cause, is to accuse the Divine government of total disregard to character and evasion of moral reality. The old Calvinism represents the Father as having an illusory perception of men, as if they were clad in a divine righteousness. The new Calvinism represents him as having indeed a true perception of their unrighteousness, but, notwithstanding this, falsifying the truth in action, and proceeding as if the facts were quite other than they are. Inasmuch as unveracious vision is intellectual, while unveracious practice is moral, the younger doctrine appears to us a positive degradation of the elder, not only in logical completeness, but in religious worth. Both of them make the redeeming economy[Pg 163] proceed upon a fiction; but there is all the difference between unconscious and conscious fiction; between an inner "satisfaction" brought about by an optical displacement of merit, and an outward "exhibition" set up for the sake of impression. The theory of Owen, stern as it is, bears the stamp of resolute meaning consistently carried through into the inmost recess of the Divine nature. The newer doctrine is the production of a platform age, which obtrudes considerations of effect even into its thoughts of God and his government, and can scarce refrain from turning the universe itself into a theatre for rhetorical pathos and ad captandum display.

With good reason, therefore, does our author feel that this whole subject is in need of reconsideration. His own doctrine diverges from its predecessors at a very early point, and is seen at its source in the following proposition of Edwards, as cited by Mr. Campbell:—

"In contending that sin must be punished with an infinite punishment, President Edwards says, 'that God could not be just to himself without this vindication, unless there could be such a thing as a repentance, humiliation, and sorrow for this (viz. sin) proportionable to the greatness of the Majesty despised,'—for that there must needs be 'either an equivalent punishment, or an equivalent sorrow and repentance'; 'so,' he proceeds, 'sin must be punished with an infinite punishment'; thus assuming that the alternative of 'an equivalent sorrow and repentance' was out of the question. But, upon the assumption of that identification of himself with those whom he came to save, on the part of the Saviour, which is the foundation of Edwards's whole system, it may at the least be said, that the Mediator had the two alternatives open to his choice,—either to endure for sinners an equivalent punishment, or to experience in reference to their sin, and present to God on their behalf, an adequate sorrow and repentance. Either of these courses should be regarded by Edwards as equally securing the vindication of the majesty and justice of God in pardoning sin."—p. 136.

The side of the alternative which Edwards abandoned, our[Pg 164] author takes up and follows out. The work of Christ, as a ground of remission, consisted in the offering on behalf of humanity of an adequate repentance. Adequate it could not have been but for his Divine nature; which attaches to his holy sorrow an infinite moral value, to balance the infinite heinousness of the sin deplored. The only reason why human penitence does not in itself avail to restore, lies in its imperfect purity and depth. Through the cloud of evil, and with the eye of self, we are disqualified for true discernment of sin as it is: both the limits of a finite nature, and the delusions of a tempted and fallen one, hinder us from appreciating the measure of our guilt and misery. Even when our better mind reasserts itself, our very compunction carries in it many a speck of ill, and our repentance needs to be repented of. But were it not for this, there would be "more atoning worth in one tear of the true and perfect sorrow which the memory of the past would awaken," "than in endless ages of penal woe." It is not the inefficacy, but the impossibility, of due penitence that constitutes our fatal disability; to be relieved from which we need to be taken out of ourselves, to be identified with a perfect spirit; our humanity must cease to be human, and become one with the Divine nature. This is precisely the condition which realized itself in Christ. As God in humanity, he had perfect sympathy with the holiness of one sphere, and the infirmities of the other; he saw the whole amount of the world's moral estrangement, not only with infinite pity for its misery, but with infinite horror at its guilt. He could both make a plenary confession for us, and respond unreservedly to the Father's righteous judgment; could bear our burden on his heart before heaven, and utter the Miserere of holy sorrow, which our most plaintive cry can never approach. This is the true nature of his sufferings. He "made his soul an offering for sin," yielded it up to be filled with a sense of our real aspect beneath the Omniscient eye, and an Amen to its condemning look. Hence his sorrows had nothing penal in them, any more than the tears of a devout parent over a prodigal child are penal. They are[Pg 165] incident to that attitude of soul which a perfect nature cannot but have in the presence of a brother's sin. They are altogether moral and spiritual; and their efficacy as an expiation is that of true repentance; expressing at once our entire confession, acceptance of the Father's just displeasure, and sympathy with his compassionate grieving at our alienation.

At the same time, this mere retrospective confession would not of itself avail, were there no better hope for the future of mankind. But our Mediator's own experience in humanity, his consciousness of intimate peace and communion with the Father, opened to him the other side of our nature, assured him of its secret capacity for good, and filled him with hope in the very moment of contrition. As his sympathy could have fellowship with our temptations, so could ours have fellowship with his righteousness; and the light of Divine love that rested actually on himself was thereby a possibility for the universal human soul, and was already hovering round with longing to descend. It was on the strength of this assurance that his intercession on our behalf was presented; it would never have pleaded for indemnity in relation to the past, but as the prelude to a real righteousness, a true partnership in his life of filial harmony with God. The validity of his transaction on our behalf consisted in its perfect seizure of the whole reality, its entire "response to the mind of the Father in relation to men"; sorrow for their estrangement, conviction of their possible return, and desire to draw them into the spirit of genuine Sonship.

It was needful, then,—so we conceive our author's meaning,—that the sentiments of God towards the world's sin and misery should quit their absolute position, and should come and take their station in humanity; and from that field should turn their gaze and expression upward to meet the Father's downward and accordant look. As this "Amen of the Son to the mind of the Father" constitutes the essence of the atonement on the Divine side, so does it consist on the human side in "the Amen of each individual soul to the Amen of the Son." The reproduction in us of the filial spirit of[Pg 166] Christ,—his confession, his pleading, his trust,—is our fellowship with him and reconciliation with God.

"This is saving faith,—true righteousness,—being the living action, and true and right movement of the spirit of the individual man in the light of eternal life. And the certainty that God has accepted that perfect and divine Amen as uttered by Christ in humanity is necessarily accompanied by the peaceful assurance that, in uttering, in whatever feebleness, a true Amen to that high Amen, the individual who is yielding himself to the spirit of Christ to have it uttered in him is accepted of God. This Amen in man is the due response to that word, 'Be ye reconciled to God'; for the gracious and Gospel character of which word, as the tenderest pleading that can be addressed to the most sin-burdened spirit, I have contended above. This Amen is sonship; for the Gospel call, 'Be ye reconciled to God,' when heard in the light of the knowledge that 'God made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,' is understood to be the call to each one of us on the part of the Father of our spirits, 'My son, give me thine heart,' addressed to us on the ground of that work by which the Son had declared the Father's name, that the love wherewith the Father hath loved him may be in us, and he in us. In the light itself of that Amen to the mind of the Father in relation to man which shines to us in the atonement, we see the righteousness of God in accepting the atonement, and in that same light the Amen of the individual human spirit to that divine Amen of the Son of God is seen to be what the Divine righteousness will necessarily acknowledge as the end of the atonement accomplished."—p. 225.

In this view, it is not the rescue from punishment, not any favorable change in our legal standing, not any imputed righteousness, that Christ's mediation obtains, but a real transformation of soul and character through the divine infection and infusion of his own filial spirit. Only in so far as his mind thus spreads to us are we united to him, or in any way partakers of his gift of life. Personal alienation can have no[Pg 167] reversal but in personal return; nor can anything "extraneous to the nature of the Divine will itself, to which we are to be reconciled, have part in reconciling us to that will." The fear of hell is not repentance; the assurance of heaven is not salvation; nor under any modification can the desire of safety, or the consciousness of its attainment, constitute the least approach to holiness. The good alone can touch the springs of goodness; and the divine and trustful life of Christ must speak to us on its own account, and win us by its own power, or not at all. Not that it acts on us merely in the way of example. We do not so stand apart from him in our independent individuality, that by an external imitation we can copy him, and become, as it were, each another Christ, repeating in ourselves his offering of propitiation. He is the Vine, of which we are the branches. The sap is from him, drawn through the eternal root of righteousness, and does but flow as a derived life into us. The Son of God is not a mere historical personage, to be contemplated at a distance in the past, but ever with us in the power of an endless life; still succoring us when we are tempted, and ministering to conscience a present help and peace. It is not, therefore, by following him, but by abiding in him, that we have our fellowship in his harmony with God.

The essence, then, of the scheme of redemption, in the view of our author, seems to be this: that the Divine nature entered humanity to open the Fatherliness of God by living the life of perfect Sonship; and that, having awakened that life in us by this its visible realization, he sustains it by the inner presence of his Spirit. It is one of the obvious consequences of this doctrine, that no exclusive or exceptional value is to be ascribed to the death of Christ. It is simply the final and crowning expression of the same filial mind which is the continuous essence of his whole existence upon earth. Nor does the theory attach importance to any sufferings of Christ, as such; but only as media and measures of moral expression. Had men sinned as spirits, his reconciling work would not have involved death at all: but since in our constitution mortality[Pg 168] is "the wages of sin," his response to the Divine mind in regard to sin would have been incomplete, had he not honored this law and tasted its realization. Not to lose sight of the main features of the doctrine in pursuit of details, we must pass without notice many curious and subtle thoughts of our author on this part of his subject. Indeed, everywhere the reader who has patience with the entangled style will find deep hints and delicate turns of reflection. But we must withdraw to a little distance from his system, and endeavor to look at it as a whole; fixing attention especially on the central point of all,—the mediatorial provision, which replaces the penal "satisfaction" of the elder Calvinism, and the "exhibition of rectoral justice" of the modern divines.

Instead of an infinite punishment endured or represented, the theory offers us an infinite repentance performed. Repentance for what?—for human sin. Repentance by whom?—by Him "who knew no sin." Is this a thing that can be? Is vicarious contrition at all more conceivable than vicarious retribution? It is surely one and the same difficulty that meets them both. On what ground is the transfer of either moral qualities or their effects regarded by our author as impossible?—because at variance with our consciousness of the personal and inalienable nature of sin. But not less is this truth contradicted when we say that the guilt may be incurred by one person, and the availing repentance take place in another. Nor can any imagination of Christ's state of mind identify it with penitence. Mr. Campbell himself describes it (p. 135) as having "all the elements of a perfect repentance in humanity for all the sin of man—a perfect sorrow—a perfect contrition,—all the elements of such a repentance, and that in absolute perfection—all—excepting the personal consciousness of sin." This exception, however, contains just the essential element of the whole. Penitence without any personal consciousness of sin is a contradiction in terms; and the requisition of the Divine law is, that the sinner shall turn from the evil of his heart, not that the righteous shall make confession for him. The entire moral value of[Pg 169] contrition belongs to it as the sign of inner change of character from prior evil to succeeding good; and it admits of no transplantation from the identical personality which has been the seat of the evil and is the candidate for the good.

Further, it seems a paradox to say, with our author, that true repentance is impossible to man, who alone needs it; and can be realized only by the Son of God, in whom there is no room for it. It would indeed be a hopeless realm to live in, which should annex to all sins both an imperative demand and an absolute disqualification for adequate contrition, and first open the fountain of availing tears in holy natures that have none to shed. It is, in truth, of the very essence of repentance to have its seat in mixed and imperfect moral beings: and our author lays upon it quite an arbitrary requisition, when he insists that, to pass as adequate, it must contain a perfect appreciation of the sin deplored,—a view of it coincident with that of God. Under such an aspect as this it could never have appeared to us, though we had remained guiltless of it, and recoiled from it: and we can hardly be required to reach, in the rebound of recovery, a point beyond the station which would have prevented the fall. Many errors in theology arise from applying absolute conceptions to relative conditions, and forgetting that religion, as realized in us, is a life, a movement, a progress, and not an ultimate limit of perfection. Repentance is a transitional state, to which it is absurd to apply an infinite criterion: it is a change from the worse to the better mind, and cannot need the resources or belong to the experience of the best. To pronounce it impossible to the wandering and fallen, and make it the exclusive function of the All-holy, implies the strangest metamorphosis of its meaning.

But how, it may be asked, could a paradox so violent find favor with an author everywhere intent on the exclusion of fiction from Christian theology? To refer a moral act to the wrong personality, to toss about a solemn change like penitence between guilty and innocent, as if its particular seat were a matter of indifference, is so serious an error, that it[Pg 170] could never enter a mind like Mr. Campbell's, unless under some plausible disguise. Can we find the shape under which it has recommended itself to his approval?

The sentiment ascribed to the Son of God in regard to sin,—wanting as it does the essential penitential element of personal compunction,—is simple sorrow for others' guilt, founded on perfect apprehension of its nature. But this attitude of soul in him awakens the conscience of his disciples, and is reproduced in them by fellowship. Spread into their consciousness, it is no longer clear of the immediate presence of sin, but, falling in with it, assumes the missing element, and becomes repentance. When the Christian sense of evil, which ever partakes of true contrition, is thus contemplated as a transmigration of the Mediator's own spirit into the soul, the two are so identified in thought, that what is true only of the human effect is referred to the Divine cause; and the moral sorrow of Christ is regarded as potentially equivalent to repentance, because that is actually the form of the corresponding phenomenon in us. If this, however, explains our author's position, it hardly justifies it. Intercession for others in their guilt may move them to remorse for their own, but is a fact of quite different nature. As attributes and expressions of character, the two phenomena are not to be confounded; and as affecting our relation to God, there is the obvious and admitted distinction, that intercession avails not for those who remain impenitent, and would not be needed for the spontaneously penitent. The sorrowful expostulations of the Son of God have only so far a reconciling effect as they become the medium, in the hearts of men, of an awakened contrition, aspiration, and faith. We cannot conceive them to have immediately altered—as repentance does—the personal relation between God and the transgressors of His will; else the change would be a change in the Divine sentiment whilst its objects still remained unchanged. The effect waits for its development in souls melted and renewed. And thus the atoning sorrow of Christ becomes simply a provision for a healing penitence in men.

[Pg 171]

The ascription of "repentance" to Christ is curious in another point of view. It arises from a blending together of his consciousness and his disciples'; from slurring the lines of personality between them; from regarding their spiritual state as an organic extension of his, and his as the vital root of theirs. In his endeavor to recommend it to us, our author instinctively runs into abstract expressions in speaking of mankind; fusing down concrete men into "humanity"; referring to the Mediator as "God in humanity"; and so, dealing with our nature as if it were a single existence, carrying or turning up all its individuals as partial phenomena of one essence. On the other hand, in our endeavor to correct his doctrine, we have had to lay stress on the inalienable and separate character of all particular persons, taken one by one; to insist on the solitude of each responsible agent, and the impassable barriers which forbid the transference of moral attributes from mind to mind. Which of these two modes of conception is the truer? For according as we incline to the one or the other,—according as we treat humanity as the organic unit of which individual samples of mankind are numerical accidents, or take each man as an integer, of which the race is a multiple,—shall we lean towards mediatorial or towards direct religion. We are firmly convinced that no doctrine of mediation—in the strict sense implying transactions with God on behalf of men, as well as in the opposite direction—can be harmonized with the modern individualism; and that it is precisely in the attempt to unite these incompatibles, that the forensic fictions to which Mr. Campbell objects, and the moral fiction in his own theory to which we object, have had their origin. They are mere artificial devices to compensate the loss of that realistic mode of conception in which alone a true atoning doctrine can rest in peace. So long as you contemplate the Redeemer as a detached person, not less insulated in his integrity of being than angel from archangel or from man, the difficulty will remain insuperable of making his moral acts avail for other human individuals, unless by a fictitious transference, against which conscience[Pg 172] protests. Punishment by substitute, righteousness by deputy, vicarious repentance, are notions at variance with the fundamental postulates of the Moral Sense: and in the attempt to defend them we are liable to lose the solemn, living, face-to-face reality of the strife within us, and to weave around us a web of legal and formal relations, as little like any heart-felt veracity as a chancery decree to a law of nature. In proportion as the soul is pierced with a sharper contrition, and attains a deeper and clearer insight into her own unfaithful disorder, will the inherent impossibility of any foreign exchange of righteousness become apparent, and the desire to be shielded from punishment will pass away: nor is the conscience truly awakened which does not rather rush into the arms of its just anguish than start back and fly away. And the more you hold up to view the holiness of Christ, the darker will the personal past appear to grow; for self-reproach will say: "Yes, I see him as the holy Son of God; the guiltier am I that the vision did not keep me from my sin." Talk to such a one of Christ's transactions on our behalf, as "federal head" of a redeemed people; and his misery will take no notice of the cold pretence, unless to think, "Whatever engagements he made for me, I have broken them all." In short, while Christ is regarded simply as an historical individual, with the chasm of an incommunicable personality between him and us, no ingenuity can construct, except from the ruins of moral law, any other bridge of mediation than the suasion of natural reverence, by which his image passes into the heart of faith.

It is otherwise when we break through the restraints of the modern individualism, and strive to enter into that literal identification of Christ with Christians which is so frequent with St. Paul. If, instead of saying that Christ had our human nature, we could put our thought into this form,—"He was (and is) our human nature,"—if we could suppose our type of being not merely represented in him as a sample, but concentrated in him as a whole,—we should read its essentials and destination in his biography: his predicates would be its predicates: and in his sorrows and sanctity it[Pg 173] might undergo purification. Humanity thus made into a person would then be the corresponding fact to Deity embodied in a person: both would be Incarnations,—essential Manhood and essential Godhead,—co-present in the same manifested life. In the ordinary conception of the doctrine of two natures, Christ is represented, we believe, as a man; in the mode of thought to which we now refer, he appears as Man. The difficulties which arise in the attempt to carry out this form of thinking are evident enough, even to those who know nothing of the Parmenides of Plato. Indeed, they are rendered so obtrusive by our modern habits of mind, that even a momentary seizure, for mere purposes of interpretation, of that older intellectual posture, scarcely remains possible to us. The apprehension of it, however, is indispensable to one who would appreciate the mediatorial theology of Christendom,—a theology which never could have sprung up if our present conceptualist and nominalist notions had always prevailed, and which, ever since their ascendency in Europe, has been driven to deplorable shifts of self-justification. The parallel between the first and second Adam, the fall and the restoration, the death incurred and the life recovered, acquire new meaning for those who thus think,—that as the incidents of Adam's existence become generic by descent, so the incidents of Christ's existence are generic by diffusion; that if in the one we see humanity at head-quarters in time, in the other we see it at head-quarters in comprehension; so that, like an atmosphere which, purified at nucleus, has the taint drawn off from its margin, our nature is freed from its sickliness in him. It becomes intelligible to us in what sense we are to take refuge in him as our including term, to find in him an epitome of our true existence, to die (even to have died) with him, to suffer with him, to be risen with him, to dwell above in him. On the assumption of such a union, his life ceases to be an individual biography; what is manifested in him personally, becomes true of us universally; and it is as if we were all—like special examples in a general rule, or undeveloped truths in a parent principle—virtually present[Pg 174] in his dealings with evil and with God. It is evident, that in this view his mediation has no chasm to cross, no foreign region to enter, but is an inseparable predicate of his own personal acts. The facility of conception afforded by this method is betrayed by Mr. Campbell's resort to an analogous hypothesis as a mere illustrative help to the mind. Witness the following striking passage:—

"That we may fully realize what manner of equivalent to the dishonor done to the law and name of God by sin an adequate repentance and sorrow for sin must be, and how far more truly than any penal infliction such repentance and confession must satisfy Divine justice, let us suppose that all the sin of humanity has been committed by one human spirit, on whom is accumulated this immeasurable amount of guilt; and let us suppose this spirit, loaded with all this guilt, to pass out of sin into holiness, and to become filled with the light of God, becoming perfectly righteous with God's own righteousness,—such a change, were such a change possible, would imply in the spirit so changed a perfect condemnation of the past of its own existence, and an absolute and perfect repentance, a confession of its sin commensurate with its evil. If the sense of personal identity remained, it must be so. Now, let us contemplate this repentance with reference to the guilt of such a spirit, and the question of pardon for its past sin and admission now to the light of God's favor. Shall this repentance be accepted as an atonement, and, the past sin being thus confessed, shall the Divine favor flow out on that present perfect righteousness which thus condemns the past, or shall that repentance be declared inadequate? Shall the present perfect righteousness be rejected on account of the past sin, so absolutely and perfectly repented of? and shall Divine justice still demand adequate punishment for the past sin, and refuse to the present righteousness adequate acknowledgment,—the favor which, in respect of its own nature, belongs to it? It appears to me impossible to give any but one answer to these questions. We feel that such a repentance as we are supposing would, in such a case, be the true and proper satisfaction[Pg 175] to offended justice. Now, with the difference of personal identity, the case I have supposed is the actual case of Christ, the holy one of God, bearing the sins of all men on his spirit,—in Luther's words, 'the one sinner,'—and meeting the cry of these sins for judgment, and the wrath due to them, absorbing and exhausting that Divine wrath in that adequate confession and perfect response on the part of man which was possible only to the infinite and eternal righteousness in humanity."—p. 143.

The case which our author here presents as an aid to the imagination was to Luther the literal reality; to whom, accordingly, Christ was "the one sinner," without "the difference of personal identity," which is here so innocently slipped in, as if it were of no consequence. Christ, in the Reformer's view, was humanity, our humanity; and the grand function and triumph of faith is to feel ourselves included in him, to merge our individuality, sins and all, in his comprehending manhood and atoning obedience. Hence the stress which Luther lays on "the well-applying the pronoun" our, in the phrase, "who gave himself for our sins"; "that this one syllable being believed may swallow up all thy sins." The effect of this realism on the theology of Luther has not been sufficiently remarked. We believe it to be the key to much that is obscure in his writings, and the secret source of his antipathy to the Calvinistic type of the Reformation. Absorption of Manhood into Christ,—distribution of Godhead into humanity,—these were the correlative parts of his objective belief,—Atonement and Eucharistic Real Presence: and neither in themselves nor in their correspondence can they be appreciated, without standing with him at the point of view which we have endeavored to indicate.

Whether mediatorial religion shall continue to include in its scheme some provision for dealing with God on behalf of men, will mainly depend on the successful revival or the final abandonment of the old realistic modes of thought. Mr. Campbell's compromise with them, taking refuge with them for illustration while disowning them in substance, answers no[Pg 176] logical or theological purpose at all. If he follows out the natural tendencies and affinities of his faith, he must rest exclusively at last in the other half of the doctrine, which exhibits the dealing with man on behalf of God. In this best sense mediatorial religion is imperishable, and imperishably identified with Christianity. The Son of God, at once above our life and in our life, morally divine and circumstantially human, mediates for us between the self so hard to escape, and the Infinite so hopeless to reach; and draws us out of our mournful darkness without losing us in excess of light. He opens to us the moral and spiritual mysteries of our existence, appealing to a consciousness in us that was asleep before. And though he leaves whole worlds of thought approachable only by silent wonder, yet his own walk of heavenly communion, his words of grace and works of power, his strife of divine sorrow, his cross of self-sacrifice, his reappearance behind the veil of life eternal, fix on him such holy trust and love, that, where we are denied the assurance of knowledge, we attain the repose of faith.

[Pg 177]


It is at all times difficult, even for the wisest, to describe aright the tendencies of the age in which they live, and lay down its bearings on the great chart of human affairs. Our own sensations can give us no notice whither we are going; and the infinite life-stream on which we ride, restless as it is with the surface-waves of innumerable events, reports nothing of the mighty current that sweeps us on, except by faint and silent intimations legible only to the skilled interpreter of heaven. It is something, however, to have the feeling that we are moving, and to be awake and looking out; and perhaps there never was a period in which this consciousness was more diffused throughout society than in our own. No one can look up and around at the religious and social phenomena of Christendom, without the persuasion that we are entering a new hemisphere of the world's history,—a persuasion corroborated even by those who disclaim it, and who insist on still steering by lights of tradition now sinking into the mists of the receding horizon. Wherever we turn our eye, we discover some symptom of an impending revolution in the forms of Christian faith. The gross materialism and absolute unbelief diffused for the first time among vast masses of our population; the fast-spreading (and, as it appears to us, morbid) dislike to look steadily at anything miraculous; the extensive renunciation, even among the religious classes on the Continent, of historical Christianity; the schisms and ever-new peculiarities[Pg 178] which are weakening all sects, and, like seedlings of the Reformation, are obscuring the species, by multiplying the varieties, of opinion; the revived controversies, penetrating all the great political questions of the age, between the ecclesiastical and civil powers,—are not the only indications of approaching theological change. That very conservatism and recoil upon the high doctrine of an elder time, which is manifest in every section of the Christian world, is a confession by contrast of the same thing. For opinion does not turn round and retreat into the past, till it has lost its natural shelter in the present, and dreads some merciless storm in the future. The outward strength which the older churches of our country seem to be acquiring arises from the rallying of alarm and the herding together of trembling sympathies; and though fear may unite men against external assaults upon institutions, it cannot stop the decay of inward doubt. It would seem as if Christianity was threatened by the mental activity which it has itself created; as if the intellectual weapons which have been forged and tempered by its skill were treacherously turned against its life. It is vain, however, to strike a power that is immortal; nothing will fall but the bodily form cast for a season around the imperishable spirit.

Protestantism, with all its blessings, has after all greatly disfigured Christianity, by constructing it into a rigid metaphysical form, and setting it up on a narrow pedestal of antiquarian proof;—by destroying its infinite character through definitions, and developing it dogmatically rather than spiritually;—by treating it, not as an ideal glory around the life of man, but a logical incision into the psychology of God. The wreck of systems framed under this false conception will but leave the pure spirit of our religion in the enjoyment of a more sacred homage;—you may dash the image, but you cannot touch the god.

In the following remarks we shall seek to make this evident;—to show what principles of religion in general, and of Christianity in particular, may be pronounced safe from the shocks of doubt. In times of consternation and uncertainty,[Pg 179] it behooves each one to look within him for the heart of courage, and around him for the place of shelter, and to single out, amid countless points of danger, some refuge immutable and eternal. With this view, we propose to trace an outline of Christian truths which we consider secure and durable as our very nature;—a chain of granite points rising, like the rock of ages, above the shifting seas of human opinion. In doing so, we shall be simply delineating Unitarian Christianity, according to our conception of it;—expounding it, not as a barren negation, but as a scheme of positive religion; exhibiting both its characteristic faiths, and something of the modes of thought by which they are reached.

I. In the first place, We have faith in the Moral Perceptions of Man. The conscience with which he is endowed enables him to appreciate the distinction between right and wrong; to understand the meaning of "ought," and "ought not"; to love and revere whatever is great and excellent in character, to abhor the mean and base; and to feel that in the contrast between these we have the highest order of differences by which mind can be separated from mind. And on this consciousness,—the basis of our whole responsible existence,—no suspicion is to be cast; no lamentation over its fallibility, no hint of possible delusion, is to pass unrebuked; it is worthy of absolute reliance as the authoritative oracle of our nature, supreme over all its faculties,—entitled to use sense, memory, understanding, to register its decrees, without a moment's license to dispute them. That Justice, Mercy, and Truth are good and venerable, is no matter of doubtful opinion, in which peradventure an error may be hid;—is not even a thing of certain inference, recommended to us by the force of evidence;—is not an empirical judgment, depending on the pleasurableness of these qualities, and capable of reversal, if, under some tyrant sway, they were to be rendered sources of misery. The approval which we award to them is quite distinct from assent to a scientific probability; the excellence which we ascribe to them is not identical with their command of happiness, but altogether transcends this, precedes[Pg 180] it, and survives it; the obligation they lay upon us is not the consequence of positive law, human or divine, or in any way the creature of superior will; for all free-will must itself possess a moral quality,—can never stir without exercising it,—and cannot therefore give rise to that which is a prior condition of its own activity. And if (to pursue the thought suggested above) we could be snatched away to some distant world, some out-province of the universe, abandoned by God's blessed sway to the absolutism of demons, where selfishness and sensuality, and hate and falsehood, were protected and enjoined by public law, it is clear that, by such emigration, our interests only, and not our duties, would be reversed; and that to rebel and perish were nobler than to comply and live. The discernment of moral distinctions, then, belongs to the very highest order of certainties; it has its seat in our deepest reason, among the primitive strata of thought, on which the depositions of knowledge, and the accumulations of judgment, and the surface growths of opinion, all repose. As experience in the past has not taught it, experience in the future cannot unteach it. The difference between good and evil we cannot conceive to be merely relative, and incidental to our point of view,—variable with the locality and the class in which a being happens to rest,—an optical caprice of the atmosphere in which we live;—but rather a property of the very light itself, found everywhere out of the region of absolute night; or, at least, a natural impression, belonging to that perceptive eye of the soul, through which alone we can look out, as through a glass, upon all beings and all worlds; and if any one will say that the glass is colored, it is, at all events, the tint of nature, shed on it by the ineffaceable art of the Creator. The modes in which we think of moral qualities are not terrestrial peculiarities of idea, like foreign prejudices; the terms in which we speak of them are not untranslatable provincial idioms, vulgarities of our planetary dialect, but are familiar, like the symbols of a divine science, to every tribe of souls, belonging to the language of the universe, and standing defined in the vocabulary of God.[Pg 181] The laws of right are more necessarily universal than the physical laws of force; and if the same agency of gravitation that governs the rain-drop determines the evolutions of the sky, and the Principia of Newton would be no less intelligible and true on the ring of Saturn than in the libraries of this earth,—yet more certain is it that the principles of moral excellence, truly expounded for the smallest sphere of responsibility, hold good, by mere extension, for the largest, and that those sentiments of conscience which may give order and beauty to the life of a child, constitute the blessedness of immortals, and penetrate the administration of God. This is what we intend, when we insist on implicit faith in the moral perceptions of man. They are to be assumed by us as the fixed station, the grand heliocentric position, whence our survey of the spiritual universe must be made, and our system of religion constructed. Whatever else may move, here, as in creation's centre of gravity, we take our everlasting stand. Whatever else be doubtful, these are to be simply trusted. The force of certainty by which nature and God give them to the conscience exceeds any by which, either through the understanding or through external supernatural communication, they might seem to be drawn away. No revelation could persuade me that what I revere as just, and good, and holy, is not venerable, any more than it could convince me that the midnight heavens are not sublime.

There is nothing to move us from this position, in the objection, that different men have different ideas of right and wrong, and that the heroic deeds of one latitude are regarded as the crimes of another. This moral discrepancy is, in the first place, infinitely small in proportion to the moral agreement of mankind, so that it is even difficult to find many striking examples of it; and when the subject is mentioned, everybody expects to hear the self-immolation of the Indian widow, and other superstitions of the Ganges, adduced as the standing illustrations. What, after all, are these eccentricities of the moral sense, compared with the scale of its common consent? As well might you deny the existence of an atmosphere,[Pg 182] because you have found the air exhausted from a pump! Where is the nation or the individual, without the rudiments, however imperfectly unfolded, of the same great ideas of duty which we possess ourselves?—where the language, in which there are no terms to denote good and evil,—the just, the brave, the merciful?—where the tribe so barbarous as not to listen, with earnest eye, to the story of the good Samaritan? And if such there were, should we not call them a people but little human (inhuman), and deem them, not the specimens, but the outlaws of our nature? Moreover, the variances of moral judgment are usually only apparent and external. The action which one man pronounces wrong and another right, is not the same, except upon the lips: enter the minds of the two disputants, and you will find that it is only half taken into the view of each, and presents to them its opposite hemispheres; no wonder that it shows the darkness of guilt to the one, and the sunshine of virtue to the other. And accordingly, these differences actually vanish as the faculty of conscience unfolds itself, and the scope of the mind is enlarged. Like the discrepancies in the ideas which men have of beauty, they exist principally between the uncultivated and the refined: and the well-developed perceptions of the best in all ages and countries visibly agree. Nay, while yet the discordance lasts, it introduces no real doubt: for heaven has established a moral subordination among men, which reveals the real truth of our own nature. Do we not always see, that the lower conscience bows before the higher;—that the heart, without light or heat itself, may be pierced, as with a flash, by a sentiment darted from a loftier soul, and own it to be from above;—that, simply by this natural allegiance of the lesser to the nobler, classes and nations and sects are raised in dignity and moral greatness;—that they, and they only, have had any grand and sublime existence in the history of the world, who have been gifted with power to create a new religion,—a fresh development of what is holy and divine;—and that every one so endowed has always gathered around him the multitudes ever praying[Pg 183] to be lifted above the level of their life, and blessing the benefactor who wakes up the consciousness of their higher nature? And if so, the general direction of the moral sentiment is the same, however its intensity may vary: and the irregular indications which it gives are not due to any inherent vacillation, but to the disturbing causes which deflect it from the celestial line of simplicity and truth.

We keep our foot, then, on this primitive foundation,—faith in the moral perceptions of man. We say, that we know what we mean, when we affirm that a being is just, pure, disinterested, merciful; that these terms describe one particular kind of character, and one only; that they have the same sense to whomsoever they are applied, and are not to be juggled with, so as to denote quite opposite forms of action and disposition, according as our discourse may be of heaven or of earth; that whenever they lose their ordinary and intelligible signification, they become senseless; and that what would be wrong and odious in any one moral agent, can be, under similar relations, right and lovely in no other. These positions, which we take to be fundamental, are in direct contradiction to the theological maxims with which most churches begin;—viz. that human nature is so depraved that its conscience has lost its discernment, sees everything through a corrupted medium, and deserves no trust; that it may surrender its convictions to anything which can bring fair historical evidence of its being a revelation;—in other words, that it may be right to throw away our ideas of right, and, in obedience to antiquarian witnesses, suppose it holy in God to design and execute a scheme which it would be a crime in man to imitate. These principles are defended by the assertion, that the relations of the Divine and the human being are so different as to destroy all the analogies of character between them. The only tendency, both of this defence and of the principles themselves, is to absolute scepticism;—to atheistical scepticism, inasmuch as our propositions respecting God, if not true in the plain human sense, are to us true in no other, and represent[Pg 184] nothing; to moral scepticism, inasmuch as, the sentiments of conscience being exposed to distrust, and all its language rendered unsettled, the very ground on which human character must plant itself is loosened; the rock of duty melts into water beneath our feet, and we are cast into the waves of impulse and caprice.

II. We have Faith in the Moral Perfection of God. This indeed is a plain consequence of our reliance on the natural sentiments of duty. For it is not, we apprehend, by our logical, but by our moral faculty, that we have our knowledge of God; and he who most confides in the instructor will learn the sacred lesson best. That one whom we may call the Holiest rules the universe, is no discovery made by the intellect in its excursions, but a revelation found by the conscience on retiring into itself; and though we may reason in defence of this great truth, and these reasonings, when constructed, may look convincing enough, they are not, we conceive, the source, but rather the effect, of our belief,—not the forethought which actually precedes and introduces the Faith, but the afterthought by which Faith seeks to make a friend and an intimate of the understanding. Does any one hesitate to admit this, and think that our conceptions of the Divine character are inferences regularly drawn from observation,—not indeed observation on the mere physical arrangements, but on the moral phenomena, of our world,—from the traces of a regard to character in the administration of human life? We will not at present dispute the conclusion; but, observing that the premises which furnish it are certain moral experiences, we remark that the very power of receiving and appreciating these, of knowing what they are worth, belongs not to our scientific faculty, but to our sense of justice and of right. On a being destitute of this they would make no impression; and in precise proportion to the intensity of this feeling will be the vividness and force of their persuasion. And is it not plain in fact, that it is far from being the clear and acute intellect, but rather the pure and transparent[Pg 185] heart, that best discerns God? How many strong and sagacious judgments, of coolest capacity for the just estimate of argument, never attain to any deep conviction of a perfect Deity! Nay, how much does scepticism on this great matter seem to be proportioned, not to the obtuseness, but rather to the subtlety and searchingness of the mere understanding? But when was it ever known that the singularly pure and simple heart, the earnest and aspiring conscience, the lofty and disinterested soul, had no faith in the "First fair and the First good"? Philosophy at its ease, apart from the real responsibilities and strong battle of life, loses its diviner sympathies, and lapses into the scrupulosity of doubt, and from the centre of comfort weeps over the miseries of earth, and the questionable benevolence of heaven; while the practically tried and struggling, with moral force growing beneath the pressure of crushing toil, look up with a refreshing trust, and with worn and bleeding feet pant happily along to the abodes of everlasting love. The moral victor, flushed with triumph over temptation, feels that God is on his side, and that the spirit of the universe is in sympathy with his joy. Never did any one spend himself in the service of man, and yet despair of the benignity of God. Our faith, then, in the Divine perfection, forms and disengages itself from the deeps of conscience: and the Holiest that broods over us solemnly rises—the awful spirit of eternity—from the ocean of our moral nature.

It is in conformity with this doctrine of the moral origin of our belief in the first principles of religion, that to every man his God is his best and highest, the embodiment of that which the believer himself conceives to be the greatest. The image which he forms of that Being may indeed be gross and terrible; and others may be shocked, and exclaim that he trusts, not in a Divinity, but in a Fiend: but will the worshipper himself perceive and acknowledge this?—will he not indignantly deny it?—will he not eagerly vindicate the perfection of the Deity he serves? He can do no otherwise; for he discerns nothing more sublime, and cannot be convinced[Pg 186] that that is low which stands at the summit of his thoughts. This uniform phenomenon in the history of religion could not exist, if human faith were an inference of intellectual origin. There would be nothing then to prevent some men, in their reasonings on the probable character of God, from assigning to that character a place beneath their own conceptions of what is most excellent; and amid the infinite varieties of speculation, many forms of this opinion would undoubtedly arise. Let any one, then, who dissents from the account which we have given, ask himself this question: Why is it, that to discover a blemish in a divinity is the same thing as to renounce faith in him; and that, even in pagan times, to assail the character of the gods was the constant mark of an unbelieving age? Is it not clear that, by a constraining necessity of our being, we are compelled to regard the godlike and the perfect as identical, and to look to heaven through the eye of our moral nature? The Intellect alone, like the telescope waiting for an observer, is quite blind to the celestial things above it,—a dead mechanism dipped in night,—ready to serve as the dioptric glass, spreading the images of light from the Infinite on the tender and living retina of Conscience.

If, then, there is no discernment of Deity except through our moral sense, the importance of confiding in the perceptions of that sense,—of rendering our consciousness of them vivid and distinct,—and the corresponding mischief of distrusting and repudiating these our appointed instructors,—become evident. Faith in the human conscience is necessary to faith in the Divine perfection: and this again is the needful prelude to the belief in any special revelation. For, unless we are first assured of the truth and excellence of God, we cannot tell that his communications may not deceive us, giving us false notices of things, and agitating us with illusory hopes and fears. This might be apprehended from a Being of undetermined benevolence and integrity: and that this idea of a mendacious revelation has never seriously entered the minds of men, is a strong proof of their[Pg 187] natural and necessary faith in the rectitude and goodness of the Divine Administrator of creation. This Moral Perfection of God being assumed as a postulate in the very idea of a Revelation, no system of religion which contradicts it can be admitted as credible on any terms.

Now the whole scheme of Redemption, as it is represented in the popular theology, appears to us to fall under this condemnation. Under the names of Justice, Sanctity, Mercy, it ascribes to the All-perfect a course of sentiment and of practice which—it is undeniable—no other moral agent, placed in analogous relations, could adopt without the deepest guilt. The Holiness of God, so often adduced to justify the severities of this scheme, we would yield to no one in earnestly maintaining; believing, as we do, that his abhorrence of moral evil is absolute and everlasting, his resistance to it real and true, and his love of excellence simply infinite as his nature. But purity of mind does not express itself by implacable vengeance against the impure, or oblige its possessor to engage himself in physically smiting them,—much less limit him through all eternity to this mode of administration. Rather does it incline away from a treatment which too often adds only torment, and removes no guilt,—which makes no advance towards the blessed dispositions it loves,—which fevers and parches instead of cooling and melting the passions of a culprit nature. It is a coarse and wretched error to suppose that anguish is a specific for sin, to the incessant infliction of which the Sinless is bound. God never departs indeed from his devotion to the laws of goodness, and his design of calling wider and wider virtue into existence: but he pursues them with the fertility of his infinite free-will;—now by the severities of his displeasure,—now by the openness of his forgiveness,—now by the solicitations of his love. His purpose, as one whose perfection is not merely spotless, but active and productive, cannot be, as some Christians seem to say, the penal publication of his personal offence against the insulters of his law, but the spread and cultivation throughout his spiritual universe of pure and high affections:[Pg 188] and whenever the new germs of these appear in the garden of the Lord, no vernal sunshine or summer dews can more gently cherish the bursting flower, than does his mercy foster the fair and early growth. The assertion that God cannot pardon and recall to goodness till he has expended his tortures upon the evil, seems to us a plain denial of his moral excellence. Theologians speak as if there were some crime, or at least some weakness, in the clemency which freely receives a repentant creature into favor; as if the mercy which exacts no penalty, when penalty is no longer needed, were an amiable imbecility of human nature, which only a loose-principled and unholy being can exercise! as if absolute unforgiveness were the perfection of sanctity! True, this is disclaimed in words; and the Eternal Father is called merciful, for remitting the sinner's doom and transferring the burden of his guilt to a victim divine and pure. But surely this disclaimer is more insulting to our moral sense than the accusation. For, either this transference of righteousness and guilt is a mere figure of speech, denoting only that, from the death on Calvary, God took chronological occasion to pass his own spontaneous pardon, and set up the cross to mark the date of his volition; or else, if the vicariousness be not this mere pretence, it describes an outrage upon the first principles of rectitude, a reckless disregard of all moral considerations, from the thought of which we are astonished that all good men do not recoil.

We press once more the question which has never been answered: How is the alleged immorality of letting off the sinner mended by the added crime of penally crushing the Sinless? Of what man—of what angel—could such a thing be reported, without raising a cry of indignant shame from the universal human heart? What should we think of a judge who should discharge the felons from the prisons of a city, because some noble and generous citizen offered himself to the executioner instead? And if this would be barbarity below, it cannot be holiness above. Moral excellence and beauty, we repeat, are no local growths, changing their[Pg 189] species with every clime; nor are the poisonous weeds of this outer region the chosen adornments of paradise. The principles of Justice and Right embrace all beings and all times, and, like the indestructible conception of space, attach themselves to our contemplation of objects within the remotest infinitude. It is no more possible that what would be evil in man should be good in God, than that a circle on earth should be a square in heaven. Having faith, then, in the absolute perfection of our Creator, we dare ascribe to Him nothing which revolts the secret conscience He has given us.

III. The relation which thus subsists between the human conscience and the Divine excellence leads us to avow, in the next place, a faith in the strictly Divine and Inspired Character of our own highest Desires and best Affections. We do not mean by this, that these affections are of miraculous origin; that their appearance breaks through any regular law; or that they do not belong to our own nature so as to form an integrant part of its history; or that they do not arise spontaneously within it, but require to be precipitated upon it from without. They are as much properties of our own minds, as our selfishness and sin: we are conscious of them, and so they cannot but be parts of our personality.[25] But in admitting them to be human, I do not deny that they[Pg 190] are divine: in regarding them as indigenous to our created spirit, I do not treat them as foreign to the Creator's; nor is there any inconsistency in believing them to be simultaneously domesticated with both. That which is included within the mind of man, is not therefore excluded from the mind of God; much less is it true that occurrences agreeable to the order of nature are, by that circumstance, disqualified from being held the immediate products of the Heavenly Will. The Supreme Cause, so far from being shut out by his own secondary causes and natural laws, has now at least no residence, no activity, no existence, except within them; He covers, penetrates, fills them; thinks, speaks, executes, through them, as the media of his volition: and His energy and theirs not only may coincide, but even must coalesce. He is not to be brought down from his universal dominion to the rank of one of the physical causes active in creation, doing that only which the others have left undone. Will any one stand with me by the midnight sea, and, because the tides in the deep below hang upon the moon in the heavens above, forbid me to hear in their sweep the very voice of God, and tell me that, while they roll untired on, He sleeps through the silent vault around me?[Pg 191] It is by the law of gravitation that the planets find an unerring track in the desert space; and is it false, then, that He "leadeth them forth with his finger," and bids us note, in pledge of his punctuality, that "not one faileth"? Is there any error in ascribing the very same event at one time to gravitation, at another to God? Certainly not; for this is but one of the forms of his personal activity. And it is the same in the world of Mind; its natural laws do not exclude, but, on the contrary, include, the direct Divine agency: and though my thought, or hope, or love, cannot be yours, they may yet be God's; not emanations from the God without us, but inspirations of the God within. Why should we start to think that there is a part of us which is divine?—why image to ourselves a distant, external, contemplative God, seeing all things and touching nothing, gazing on the unconscious evolutions of things, as the retired Mechanist of nature?—why enthrone Him in the inertness of dead space, without even a sacred function there, and exclude Him from the tried, and tempted, and ever-trembling soul of Man? If we found Him not at home in the secret places of strife and sorrow, vainly should we wander to seek Him in the colder regions of nature abroad. We have no sympathy with any system which denies the doctrine of a Holy Spirit; which discerns nothing divine in the higher experiences of human nature; which owns no black abyss and no heavenly heights in the soul of man, but only a flat, common, midway region, neither very foul nor very fair,—well enough for the streets of traffic, but without a mount of vision and of prayer. Nothing noble, nothing great, has ever come from a faith which did not deeply reverence the soul, and stand in awe of it as the seat of God's own dwelling, the presence-chamber of his sanctity,—the focus of that infinite whispering-gallery which the universe spreads around us.

Nor can we doubt at what point of our own nature we must stand, in order to hear the voice and feel the inspiration of the Eternal. The pure in heart—each in proportion to his purity—see Him. Our Conscience, our Moral[Pg 192] Perceptions, as we have seen, are our only revealers of God. In proportion to their clearness do we discern Him; and behind the clouds that obscure them, He becomes dim, and vanishes away. The aspirations of duty, the love of excellence, the disinterested and holy affections, of which every good heart is conscious, constitute our affinity with Him,—by which we know Him, as like knows like: they are the expression of his mind, the pencil of rays by which He paints his image on our spiritual nature. God is related to our soul, like the sun in a stormy sky to the windowed cells in which mortals live; and as we sit at our work in the chamber of conscience or of love, the burst of brilliancy or the sudden gloom within reports to us the clear-shining or the cloud of the heaven without. Nor can any philosophy, falsely so called, permanently expel this conviction from the Christian heart. Every devout and earnest mind naturally feels that its selfishness and sin are of the earth, earthy,—the most offensive of all attitudes to God,—the infatuated turning of the back to Him: and, on the other hand, welcomes the fresh glow of pure Resolve, the heart-felt sob of Penitence, the glorious Courage that slays Temptation at his feet,—each as the gracious gift of a divine strength, and the authentic voice of the Inspirer, God. By this natural faith (natural, however, only to the Christian mind) we are prepared to abide; and, with the Apostle Paul, to own ourselves, not without deep awe, the very temple of the Holiest.

IV. We have said, that in the Conscience and Moral Affections we have our only revealers of God. Let it be understood that we mean our only internal revealers of Him; the only faculty of our nature capable of furnishing us with the idea and belief of Him, with any perception of his character, and allegiance to his will. We mean to state that, without this faculty, the bare intellect, the mere scientific and reasoning power, could make no way towards the knowledge of divine realities; could never, by any system of helps whatsoever, be trained or guided into this knowledge, any[Pg 193] more than, in the absence of the proper sense, the ear of the blind can be taught to see; and that nature, life, history, miracle, notwithstanding their most sedulous discipline, would leave us utterly in the dark about religion, except so far as they addressed themselves to our consciousness of what is holy, just, beautiful, and great. But we do not mean to state that the Moral Sense can stand alone, dispense with all outward instruction, and supply a man with a natural religion ready made. Nor do we mean that the every-day experience of man, and the ordinary providence of God, are enough, without special revelation, to lead us to heavenly truth. And we are therefore prepared to advance another step, and to say, that, while regarding the human conscience as the only inward revealer of God, we have faith in Christ as his perfect and transcendent outward revelation. We conceive that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died, not to persuade the Father, not to appease the Father, not to make a sanguinary purchase from the Father, but simply to "show us the Father"; to leave upon the human heart a new, deep, vivid impression of what God is in himself, and of what he designs for his creature, man; to become, in short, the accepted interpreter of heaven and life. And this he achieved, in the only way of which we can conceive as practicable, by a new disclosure in his own person of all that is holy and godlike in character,—startling the human soul with the sudden apparition of a being diviner far than it had yet beheld, and lifting its faith at once into quite another and purer region. If it be true, as we have ventured to affirm, that to every man his God is his best, you can by no means give to his faith a higher God, till you have given to his heart a better best,—till you have touched him with a profounder sense of sanctity and excellence, and purified and enlarged the perceptions of his conscience. Nor can you do this, except by presenting him with nobler models, with the living form of a fairer and sublimer goodness, visibly transcending every object of his previous reverence. No verbal teaching, no didactic rules, can transform any man's moral taste, and place before his mental view a lovelier and[Pg 194] truer image of perfection: as well might you hope, by definition, and precept, and book-wisdom, to train an artist with a soul like Raffaelle, or an eye like Claude. But only give the glorious model to the mind, produce the most finished excellence and harmony, and our instinctive sympathy with goodness feels and discerns it instantly, and, though unable to conceive it inventively beforehand, recognizes it reverently afterwards. And so Christ, standing in solitary greatness, and invested with unapproachable sanctity, opens at once the eye of conscience to perceive and know the pure and holy God, the Father that dwelt in him and made him so full of truth and grace. Him that rules in heaven we can in no wise believe to be less perfect than that which is most divine on earth; of anything more perfect than the meek yet majestic Jesus, no heart can ever dream. And, accordingly, ever since he visited our earth with blessing, the soul of Christendom has worshipped a God resembling him,—a God of whom he was the image and impersonation;—and, therefore, not the God of which philosophy dreams,—a mere Infinite physical Force, without spirituality, without love, chiefly engaged in whirling the fly-wheel of nature, and sustaining the material order of the heavens, and weaving in the secret workshop of creation new textures of life and beauty; not the God of which natural theology speaks, the mere chief of ingenious mechanicians, more optical, and dynamical, and architectural, than our most skilful engineers,—a cold intellectual Being, in the severe immensity and immutability of whose mind all warm emotions are absorbed and dissolved; not the God of Calvinism, creating a race with certain foresight of the eternal damnation of the many, and against the few refusing to relax his frown except at the spectacle of blood;—but the Infinite Spirit, so holy, so affectionate, so pitiful, whom Jesus felt to be in him as his Inspirer; who passes by no wounds of sin or sorrow; who stills the winds and waves of terror, to the perishing that call on him in faith; who stops the procession of our grief, and bids bereaved affection weep no more, but wait upon the voice that even the dead obey;[Pg 195] who scathes the hypocrite with the lightning of conviction, and permits the penitent to wash his feet with tears; who reckons most his own the gentlest follower, that rests the head and turns up the trustful eye on him; and bends that look of piercing love upon the guilty which best rebukes the guilt. Jesus has given us a faith never held before, and still too much obscured, in the affectionateness of the Great Ruler; has made Him our own domestic God, whose ample home encircles all, leaving not the solitary, the sinner, or the sad without a place in the mansions of his house; has wrapped us in the Divine immensity without fear, and bid us claim the warm sun in heaven as our Paternal hearth, and the vault of the pure sky as our protecting roof.

We have spoken of Christ's personal representation, in his own character and practical life, of the spirit of the Divine Mind, and have explained how in this way we believe that he has "shown us the Father." This, however, is not all. His direct teachings, perfectly in harmony with his life, confirm and extend its lessons; and we listen, with venerating faith, to his inimitable exposition of all divine truth. Purity of soul makes the most wonderful discoveries in heavenly things, and is indeed the pellucid atmosphere through which the remoter lights of God are "spiritually discerned." As we have said, the knowledge of him which any mind (be it of man or of angel) may possess, is just proportioned to its sanctity: and our Messiah, having the very highest sanctity, was enabled to speak with the highest and most authoritative knowledge, and was inspired to be our infallible guide, not perhaps in trivial questions of literary interpretation, or scientific fact, or historical expectation, but in all the deep and solemn relations on which our sanctification and immortal blessedness depend. And both to his person and to his teachings do the miracles of his life, the tragedy of his crucifixion, and the glory of his resurrection, articulately call the attention of all ages, as with the voice of God. In every way we discern in Christ the transcendent revelation of the Most High. We are told, that this is to[Pg 196] dishonor Christ. We think it, however, a more glorious honor to him, to be thus indissolubly folded within the intimacy of the Father's love, than to be blasted by the tempest of his wrath; nor could we ever trust and venerate a God who—like the barbarians in the judgment-hall—could smite that meek lamb of heaven with one rude blow of vengeance.

V. But we hasten to observe, finally, that we have faith in Human Immortality, as exemplified in the heavenly life to which Jesus ascended. To assure us of this great truth, it were enough that Jesus assumed and taught it; that it was his great postulate, essential to the development of his own character, and to all his views of the purposes of life,—an integrant part of his insight into human responsibility and his version of human duty. For if he did not teach the reality of God in this matter, sure we are that none else has ever done so; and most of all, that the sceptics who doubt the heavenly futurity have no claim to take his place as our instructors. For if this hope were a delusion, who would the mistaken be? Will any one tell me, that the voluptuary, who, from abandonment to the body, cannot imagine the perpetuity of the spirit;—that the selfish, who, looking at the meanness of his own nature, sees nothing worth immortalizing;—that the contented Epicurean, who, in prudent quietude of sense and sympathy, finds adequate satisfaction in this mortal life;—that the cold speculator, who looks at the fouler side of human nature, and, showing us on its features the pallor of sensualism or the hard lines of guilt, deems it less fit for the duration of the angel than for the extinction of the brute;—that these men are right; while Christ, who walked without despair through the deepest haunts of sin, with faith that succumbed not to wretchedness and wrong, but stood up and conquered them; who embraced our whole nature in his love, and displayed it in its perfectness; who lived and died in its utmost service, with prayers and tears and blood; to whom our most binding[Pg 197] affections cling almost with worship as the holiest glory of our world;—that he could be under a delusion here?—that when, sinking in trustful death, he laid his meek head to rest on the bosom of the Father, he was cast off, and dropped on the cold clod?—that he sobbed into the Infinite by night with a vain love that met no answer?—that God rather takes part in his providence with the mean-souled, the cynic, the morbid, the selfish? There is no greater impossibility than this, on which evidence can fall back. Nay, we confess that, even apart from his doctrine, the mere mortal history of Christ would have settled with us the question of futurity. For the great essential to this belief is a sufficiently elevated estimate of human nature: no man will ever deny its immortality who has a deep impression of its capacity for so great a destiny. And this impression is so vividly given by the life of Jesus,—he presents an image of the soul so grand, so divine,—as utterly to dwarf all the dimensions of its present career, and to necessitate a heaven for its reception. At all events, it is allowable to feel this, when we see that this natural sequel was actually and perceptibly appended; that this "Holy One of God could not see corruption," but rose, above the reach of mortal ill, to the world where now he welcomes the souls of the sainted dead. That other life we take to be a scene for the mind's ampler and ampler development, apart from those animal and selfish elements which now deform and degrade it by their excess. And this alone, if there were nothing else, would render it a life of awful retribution. For to the wicked, what is this loss of "the natural man," but total bereavement and utter death of joy?—what to the good, but a glad and sacred birth?—to the one, a Promethean exile on a mid-rock in the ocean of night, under the bite of a remorse that gnaws impalpably, felt always, but never seen,—to the other, a welcome to the loving homes of the blest, amid the sunshine of the everlasting hills? Yet precisely because we believe in Retribution, do we trust in Restoration. The very abhorrence with which a man's better mind ever[Pg 198] looks upon his worse, while it inflicts his punishment, begins his cure: and we can never allow that God will suspend this natural law impressed by himself on our spiritual constitution, merely in order to stop the process of moral recovery, and specially enable him to maintain the eternity of torment and of sin. And so, beyond the dark close of life rise before us the awful contrasts of retribution; and in the farther distance, the dim but glorious vision of a purified, redeemed, and progressive universe of souls.

Here, then, are our Five Points of Christianity, considered as a system of positive religious doctrine, viz.:—1st. The truth of the Moral Perceptions in man,—not, as the degenerate churches of our day teach, their pravity and blindness; 2dly. The Moral Perfection of the character of God,—in opposition to the doctrine of his Arbitrary Decrees and Absolute Self-will; 3dly. The Natural awakening of the Divine Spirit within us,—rather than its Preternatural communication from without; 4thly. Christ, the pure Image and highest Revelation of the Eternal Father,—not his Victim and his Contrast; 5thly. A universal Immortality after the model of Christ's heavenly life; an immortality not of capricious and select salvation, with unimaginable torment as the general lot, but, for all, a life of spiritual development, of retribution, of restoration.

To the Moral doctrine which, in our view, the Gospel conjoins with this religious system, it is impossible for us at present to advert. Suffice to say that, with Paul, we exclaim, "not Law, but Love":—love to God, to Christ, not simply for what they have done for us, but chiefly for what they are in themselves;—nothing like the narrow-hearted gratitude for an exclusive salvation, but a moral affection awakened by their holiness, rectitude, truth, and mercy,—by the sublimity and spirituality of their designs, and the sanctity and fidelity of their execution: love also to man, looking to him not merely as a sentient being who is to be made happy, but as a child of God, who is to be raised[Pg 199] into some likeness to the Divine image; as a brother spirit, noble in nature, even though sinful in fact, glorious as an immortal in the eye of God, though disfigured by this world's hardship or contempt.

Does any one ask, where we get our system of faith and morals? What are the principles of reasoning which we apply to nature and Scripture to extract it thence? The reply would require a volume of exposition. Suffice it to say, that we think we have full warrant for this belief from the Scriptures of the New Testament, with which alone we conceive that Christians have any practical concern; that, in interpreting these Scriptures, we follow the same rules which we should apply to any other books; that not even could their instructions make us false to that sense of right and wrong which God has breathed into us; that if they taught respecting him anything unjust or unholy, we should not accept it, but reject them; and that, as to the points of faith on which we have dwelt, some receive these truths because they were taught by Christ; others receive Christ because he taught these truths.

On this faith we desire to take our stand, with the firmness, but without the ferocity, of the first Reformers. Opposing churches tell us, we "are so frigid"! Why, it is the very thing our own hearts had often said to us; for there is nothing that so promptly rebukes the coldness of our nature as the warmth of our faith. We do not, however, much admire this mutual criticism of each other's temperature; and strongly suspect the reality of that earnestness which prides itself on its own intensity. We must not propose to assume any artificial heats, in order to spite and disprove this frequent accusation; but be resolved, in an age diseased with pretence, to remain realities, to profess nothing which we do not believe, to withhold nothing whereon we doubt, to affect nothing which we do not feel, to promise nothing which we will not do; holding, with Paul, that simplicity and sincerity are truly the godliest of things. With Heaven's good help, may we bear our testimony thus; deeming it a small thing[Pg 200] to be judged by man's judgment; and, with such light and heat as God shall put into our hearts, delivering over our portion of truth to generations that will give it a more genial welcome. There is greatness in a faith, when it can win a wide success or make rapid conquest over submissive minds. There is a higher greatness in a faith that, when God ordains, can stand up and do without success;—unmoved amid the pitiless storms of a fanatic age; with foot upon the rock of its own fidelity, and heart in the serene Infinite above the canopy of cloud and tempest.

[Pg 201]


1. Ωριγενους Φιλοσοφουμενα η κατα πασων αιρεσεων ελεγχος. Origenis Philosophumena sive omnium hæresium refutatio. E codice Parisino nunc primum edidit Emmanuel Miller. Oxonii: e Typographeo Academico. 1851.

2. Hippolytus and his Age; or the Doctrine and Practice of the Church of Rome under Commodus and Alexander Severus; and Ancient and Modern Christianity and Divinity compared. By Christian Charles Josias Bunsen, D.C.L. In Four Volumes. London. 1852.

When a stranger knocks at the gate of the Clarendon Printing-house, and presents his petition for aid, the University of Oxford maintains its national character for good-natured opulence,—gives its money and signs its name, without very close inquiry into the case. The documents are really so respectable that there cannot be much amiss; and a venerable institution, well known to be fond of the house, cannot be expected to go trudging through the back-lanes of history, and exposing its nostrils in the purlieus of heresy, in order to identify a literary petitioner, evidently above all common imposture. So it supplies all his wants upon the spot, dresses him handsomely, and sends him out into the world as its worthy (though eccentric) friend, the catechist of Alexandria. The introduction, being left at the Prussian Legation, falls[Pg 202] into the hands of no stay-at-home benefactor, but of one who knows the by-ways of human life, and has an ear for the dialects of many a place. M. Bunsen—as Oxford might have remembered—is not unacquainted with Egypt; and no sooner does he raise his eyes from the credentials to the person of the stranger, than he discovers him to be no disciple of the Alexandrine Clement; recognizes the accent of the West; is reminded of the voice of Irenæus; and, finally, being even more familiar with the Tiber than the Nile, detects a Roman beneath the mask of Origen. We do not in the least grudge the friend of Niebuhr the honor of a discovery which no one could turn to more effectual account; but every English scholar must feel mortified that the Imprimatur of our great Ecclesiastical University should appear on a title-page manifestly false; that the first reader should see at a glance what the learned proprietors had missed; and that their Editio Princeps of a recovered monument of Church antiquity should be superseded within a year or two of its publication. They are not principals, it is true, but only secondaries to the Editor, in the commission of this error: still, a lay bibliographer might reasonably expect, in resorting for aid to so renowned and reverend a body, that his own judgment would be kept in check; and their very consent to issue the work implies some critical opinion of its value, as derived from age and authorship. Whether they are called upon to adopt at once M. Bunsen's proposed title-page, and substitute the name of Hippolytus for that of Origen, we will not say; but that the present title gives the book to the wrong author, seems placed beyond the reach of doubt.

M. Emmanuel Miller, one of the curators of the National Library in Paris, was the first to make himself acquainted with the contents of this work, and to appreciate their importance. Among the manuscripts under his care was one on cotton paper of the fourteenth century, which had been brought from Mount Athos in 1842, by M. Mynoïdes Mynas, a Greek agent employed by the French government to search the neglected treasures of that celebrated spot. The[Pg 203] superscription, "On all Heresies," was not inviting; but on turning over the leaves, some lines, unknown before, of Pindar and of another lyric poet, were found and copied; and the value of these excerpts being ascertained, M. Miller's attention was directed to the body of the treatise containing them. The treatise had already been described, in the Moniteur of the 5th of January, 1844, as a Refutation of all Heresies, in ten books, but with the first three missing, as well as the conclusion of the whole; and he soon became aware, that, of the three missing books, the first already existed, and had been printed under the name of "Philosophumena," in the editions of Origen's works. Its very title is found in the manuscript at the end of the fourth book, and denotes that the portion of the work there concluded completes the sketch of philosophical systems, which the author prefixes to his account of ecclesiastical aberrations; and there are mutual references, backwards and forwards, between the printed book and the manuscript, which leave no doubt that the latter is a sequel to the former. The Editor, therefore, has very properly reprinted the "Philosophumena" as the commencement of the newly recovered work; which thus exhibits a regular plan, and consists of two parts, viz.: first, four books,—of which the second and third are lost,—expounding the Pagan philosophies, especially the Greek, from which, the author contends, the various heresies of Christendom are mere plagiarisms; then six books, containing an account, in an order prevailingly historical, of thirty or thirty-two heresies, supported by extracts from their standard writings, and wound up in the recapitulary book at the end by the writer's own profession of faith. Now who is the author?

Not Origen; for, as Huet had already remarked respecting the "Philosophumena," the writer speaks of himself in terms implying an episcopal position; and, in the ninth book, he gives an account of transactions in Rome, extending over many years, in which he was evidently an eyewitness and an actor. While the scene is thus laid at a distance from Origen's sphere, and the date also of the personal matter runs[Pg 204] back into his boyhood, the cast of the theological doctrine is wholly different from his; for instance, in a certain "Treatise on the Universe," to which the author refers as his own, and of which a fragment is preserved, the penal condition of the wicked after death is said to be immutable;[26] but Origen, it is well known, taught a doctrine of final restoration. Add to this, that no such work as the present is attributed to Origen by any ancient witness, and the case against his name may be regarded as complete.

The evidence which disappoints this claim narrows also our choice of others. The personal transactions to which we have referred took place at Rome, while Zephyrinus and his successor, Callistus, presided over the Christian community there, that is, during the first twenty years of the third century. We must, therefore, look for our author among the metropolitan clergymen of that period. Still closer is the circle drawn by the fact, that the writer largely borrows from the treatise of Irenæus on the same subject; and, though vastly improving on that foolish production, and copiously contributing fresh materials, betrays the general affinity of thought which unites the stronger disciple with the feebler master.

The problem then being to find a pupil of the Bishop of Lyons among the ecclesiastics of Rome, at the beginning of the third century, two names are given in as answering the conditions,—those of Hippolytus, a suburban clergyman, and of Caius, whose charge lay within the city itself. In order to vindicate the claim of the first, it has been necessary for M. Bunsen to prove that his locality is right; and that the "Portus Romæ," of which he was bishop, was not, as Le Moyne[Pg 205] and Cave had groundlessly supposed, the Arabian "Portus Romanus" of the district of Aden, but the new harbor made, or at least enlarged, by Trajan, on the northern bank of the Tiber, immediately opposite to Ostia. That he suffered martyrdom there, and was buried in a cemetery on the Tiburtine road, is generally admitted, on the evidence of Prudentius, who has left a poem describing his memorial chapel on that spot, and of a statue of him, seated in a cathedra, which was dug up there three hundred years ago, and now stands in the library of the Vatican. It is certainly perplexing to find Jerome avowing ignorance of the see over which he presided, if, for a quarter of a century, he was active at the centre of the Christian world; and not less so to discover in Rome itself, nay, in a Pope, or his transcriber, at the end of the fifth century, the impression that his scene of labor had been in Arabia; and under the influence of these facts it has been supposed that though, coming to Italy, he had fallen among the martyrs of the West, he ought to be reckoned among the bishops of the East. On the whole, however, the reasons preponderate in favor of his residence, as "Episcopus Portuensis," within the presbytery of Rome. The title itself is an old one, still always assigned to some dignitary of the curia, and, no doubt, deriving its origin from the time when the Northern Harbor of the Tiber—of which in the ninth century, scarce a trace was left—was a flourishing emporium. The name of Hippolytus is associated by tradition with the spot; it is given, our author assures us, to a certain tower, near Fiumicino; and in the eighth and ninth centuries, a basilica of St. Hippolytus was restored at Portus by Leo III. and IV. An episcopal palace still remains. By acute and skilful combinations, effected with evidence scanty as a whole, and suspicious in every part, M. Bunsen has endeavored to reproduce the historical image of Hippolytus. His office of "bishop" implied simply the charge of the single congregation at Portus; the members of that congregation were the "plebs" committed to his supervision; the city or village in which they lived was his diocese. His vicinity to the great[Pg 206] capital drew him, however, into a wider circle of duties. For while Rome itself was divided into several ecclesiastical districts, each of which had its own clergyman and lay deacons, the suburban bishops were associated with these officers to form a committee of management, or presbytery, presided over by the metropolitan. By his seat at this board, he was kept in living contact with all the most stirring interests of Christendom, which, wherever their origin might be, found their way to the imperial city, and more and more sought their equilibrium there. At a commercial seaport, his own congregation would largely consist of temporary settlers and mercantile agents, Greek brokers, Jewish bankers, African importers, to whom Italy was a lodging-house rather than a home; and by the continual influx of foreigners he would hear tidings of the remotest churches, and carry to the clerical meetings in the city the newest gossip of all the heresies. Possibly this position, with its opportunities of various intercourse, may have contributed to form in him the agreeable address, and faculty of eloquent speech, which tradition ascribes to him; and induced him to commence the practice of writing with studious care the homilies which were to be delivered in the congregation. At all events he is the first of whom we distinctly hear as a great preacher. His period extends, it is supposed, from the reign of Commodus (180-193) to the first year of Maximin (235-6); and so brought him into the same presbytery-room with five popes,—Victor (187-198); Zephyrinus (201-218); Callistus (219-222); Urbanus (223-230); and Pontianus (230-235); with the last of whom he shared, in the last year of his life, a cruel exile to Sardinia, and returned only to fall a victim to fresh informations, and suffer martyrdom by drowning in a canal. It cannot be denied that, in order to recover this picture of Hippolytus, and still more in order to fix his literary position, the materials of evidence have to be dealt with in somewhat arbitrary fashion, and their lacunæ to be filled by conjecture. Prudentius, for instance, is called as an historical witness, yet convicted of fable in much of what he says. His poem[Pg 207] declares that at one time Hippolytus had supported Novatus in his attempt to close the gates of repentance against the Lapsi, but had been reconciled to the catholic doctrine before he died. He must in this case have joined in the opposition raised by Novatianus (in 251) to the election of Cornelius to the papacy, and have died in the Decian persecution, which continued till the year 257. Moreover, the painting seen by the Spanish versifier on the walls of the memorial chapel introduces us to so ridiculous a story, as only to show how completely the martyrological legends had already escaped all the restraints of history. In this fresco the mythical fate of Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, is transferred to the Roman presbyter: he is represented as torn to pieces by horses; while the faithful follow to pick up his limbs and hair, and sponge away the blood upon the ground. If the sanctuary exhibiting this scene received the martyr's remains from their original resting-place as early as the time of Constantine,—and such is our author's opinion,—into what a state of degradation had the history of Hippolytus sunk in three quarters of a century! And if already memorial painting could thus impudently lie, how can we better trust the statue, admitted to be later still? Yet this statue, on whose side is a list of the writings of Hippolytus, is appealed to in determining the martyr's written productions, as the painted chapel in evidence of facts in his personal career. We fully admit the success of M. Bunsen in eliciting a possible result from a mass of intricate and tangled conditions, and presenting us with a highly interesting personage. But perhaps, as the venerable image of the good bishop has grown in clearness before his eye, and attracted his affection more and more, the very vividness of the conception may have rendered him insensible to the precariousness of the proof. Ecclesiastical fancy, in its unrestrained career, has torn his personality to pieces, and left the disjecta membra so rudely scattered on the strand of history, that we almost doubt the power of any critical Æsculapius to restore him to the world again.

At the same board of church councillors with Hippolytus[Pg 208] sat another λογιωτατος ανηρ,[27] the presbyter Caius; and as an urban clergyman, he would be more constantly there than his suburban brother, separated by a distance of eighteen miles. To form any living image of him from the scanty notices of him which begin with Eusebius and end with Photius, is quite impossible. In one respect only do the personal characteristics attributed to him distinguish him from the bishop of Portus. He was a strenuous opponent of the peculiarities favored by the Christians of Lesser Asia, and especially of the claims to prophetic gifts, and the appeal to clairvoyant skill, by Montanus and his followers. With one of these, by name Proclus, he held a disputation; from which Eusebius has preserved a passage or two, showing, in conjunction with the title, not very intelligibly assigned to him, of "Bishop of the Gentiles," that he belonged to the most advanced anti-Jewish party in the Church, lamented the grossness of the popular millenarian dreams, vindicated the apostolic dignity of the Roman against the pretensions of the Eastern Christianity, and disowned the Epistle to the Hebrews. This feature in the figure of Caius, though constituting the distinction, does not, however, necessarily oppose him to Hippolytus, whose attitude towards the Montanists may not have been very different, but only less positively marked. Still the suspicions directed against the two men are of an opposite kind: with Hippolytus, the difficulty is to set him clear of sympathy with Montanism;[28] with Caius, to prevent his being classed with its unmeasured opponents, the Alogi.[29] And a report even reaches us, that among the Chaldean Christians there exists, or did exist in the fourteenth century, a controversial treatise of Hippolytus against Caius.[30]

[Pg 209]

Between these two men, so similar in position, and not, perhaps, unused to sharp argument face to face, springs up, at the end of all these ages, a rival claim to property in the "Refutation of all the Heresies." The chief counsel for Hippolytus, besides our author, are the eminent Professors Jacobi, Duncker, and Schneidewin,—all, we believe, belonging to the Neander school of theology; and as the last two are about to edit the work anew, and probably to give it its final form, their opinion of its authorship may be expected to prevail. The other side, however, advocated by Dr. Fessler, is sustained by perhaps the greatest of living historical critics, F. C. Baur, representative of the much-abused Tübingen school. Into so intricate a question we might be excused for inviting our readers, had we anything fresh to offer towards its solution; but the chief impression we have brought from its study is one of astonishment at the extreme positiveness with which the learned men on either side affirm their own conclusion. A more equal balance of evidence we never remember to have met with in any similar research; and the faint and slender preponderance which alone the scale can ever exhibit, amusingly contrasts with the triumphant assertion, of both sets of disputants, that not a reasonable doubt remains. The leading points of M. Bunsen's case are these. A work "On all Heresies" is attributed to Hippolytus, and in no instance to Caius, by Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius, and Peter of Alexandria, at the beginning of the fourth century. Such a book was still extant in the ninth century; for Photius, the celebrated patriarch of Constantinople, has given us an account of its contents in the journal and epitome of his studies which he has left us. On comparing his report with the newly discovered book, the identity of the two works is established in some important respects: the number and concluding term of the series of heresies are the same; they both of them include materials taken from Irenæus, while reversing his order of treatment. Further, in the newly found treatise reference is made by the author to other works of his, in which he has discussed certain points of early Hebrew[Pg 210] chronology in proving the antiquity of the Abrahamic race. Now, Eusebius was acquainted with a certain "Chronicle" of Hippolytus, brought down to the first year of Alexander Severus; and such a chronicle, in a Latin translation, is found in Fabricius's edition of Hippolytus, only that its list of Roman emperors terminates, not with the beginning, but with the end, of Severus's reign. It has, however, in common with our work, a peculiar number of tribes,—viz. seventy-two, derived from Noah. Thus, the author of the "Heresies" and of the "Chronicle" would appear to be the same, and, according to Eusebius, to be Hippolytus. Lastly, both in our new work, and also in a book called the "Labyrinth," written against some Unitarians of the second century, reference is made to a treatise "On the Universe," which the author mentions as his own production. By printing a fragment of this last in his edition of "Hippolytus," Fabricius has shown to what name all three should, in his judgment, be set down; and that they cannot be given to Caius is rendered evident by the occurrence, in the fragment, of certain Apocalyptic fictions inconsistent with his rejection of the Book of Revelations. Moreover, the list of works on the statue of Hippolytus includes a disquisition "Against the Greeks and against Plato, or Respecting the Universe."

What can be said to weaken so strong a case? Two doubts at once arise upon it, which we find it by no means easy to set aside. Granted, Hippolytus wrote a book "On all Heresies"; is it the same which is now delivered into our hands? One medium of comparison we possess, enabling us to place the original and the present book, for a short space, side by side. The very Peter of Alexandria who is one of the early witnesses called on Hippolytus's behalf has handed down to us a passage or two (preserved in the Paschal Chronicle) from the book which he attests, with a distinct reference to the place where they are to be found. We turn to the right chapter, and the passages are not there. Nor is it a mere want of verbal agreement which we have to regret; the same topic—the controversy about the time of Easter—is[Pg 211] treated; the same side—that of the Western Church—is taken, in both instances; but the arguments are different, and so far irreconcilable, that no one who had command of that which Peter gives would ever resort to the feebler one which our work contains. With the dauntless ingenuity of German criticism M. Bunsen makes a virtue of necessity, and endeavors to convert this unfortunate discrepancy into a fresh proof of identity. He thinks that, in this and some other parts, our work is but a clumsy abstract of Hippolytus's original, which the citations of Peter enable us to recover and complete. This, however, is a plea which, it strikes us, damages his case as much by success as it could by failure. For if the book presented to us by the Clarendon Press reflects the original no better than would appear from this only sample which it is in our power to test, it may indeed be a degenerate descendant from the pen of Hippolytus; but all reliable identity is lost, and the traces of his hand are no longer recoverable. The second doubt is this:—Is the work which Photius read the same that has now been rescued? Of the few descriptive marks supplied by the patriarch, there are as many absent from our work as present in it. The treatise which he read was a "little book" or "tract," as Lardner calls it (βιβλιδαριον), a word which can scarcely apply to a volume extending (as ours would, if complete) to four hundred and twenty octavo pages. M. Bunsen cuts down this number to two hundred and fifty, by supposing Photius to have only the last six books, containing the historical survey, without the groundwork of the philosophical deduction, of the heresies. The curtailment, if conceded, seems scarcely adequate to its purpose, and appears to us a very questionable conjecture. The manuscript, stripped of the first four books, would want the very basis of the whole argument; and, if such a mutilation were conceivable, it is impossible that Photius should fail to observe and mention it; for the fifth book opens, not like an independent treatise, but with a summary statement of what has been accomplished "in the four books preceding this." Again, Photius mentions the Dositheans as the first[Pg 212] set of heretics discussed; whereas their name does not occur at all, if we remember right, in our work, and their place is occupied by the "Ophites." M. Bunsen treats this as a mere inaccuracy of expression on the part of Photius, who meant, by the name "Dositheans," to indicate the same "earliest Judaizing schools" that are better described as "Ophites." The name, however, is so unsuitable to this purpose, that it would be a strange wilfulness in the learned patriarch to substitute it for the language of the author he describes. He could not be ignorant that Dositheus, Simon, Menander, were the three founders of the Samaritan sect, exponents of the same doctrine, if not even reputed avatars of the same divine essence;[31] and if he had applied the name Dositheans to any of the heretics enumerated in our work, it would assuredly have been to the followers of Simon, who stand fourth in the series of thirty-two, and not to Phrygian serpent-worshippers, who commence the list. Further, the author whom Photius read stated that his book was a synopsis of the Lectures of Irenæus. In our work no such statement occurs; and the use made of Irenæus does not agree, either in quantity or character, with the substance of the assertion. And, lastly, the patriarch's Hippolytus said "some things which are not quite correct; for instance, that the Epistle to the Hebrews is not by the Apostle Paul." In our work there is no such assertion; and when M. Bunsen suggests that perhaps its place might be in the lost books, he forgets that, according to his own conjecture, these books were no more in Photius's hands than in ours, and that he cannot first cut them off in order to make a βιβλιδαριον, and then restore them, to provide a locus for a missing criticism on the Epistle to the Hebrews. The identity of our "Philosophumena" with the treatise which Photius read and Hippolytus wrote, appears, therefore, to be extremely problematical.

One fixed point, however, is gained in the course of the argument, and gives an acknowledged position from which the[Pg 213] opposite opinions are willing to set out. Whoever wrote the disquisition "On the Universe" wrote also our work. This fact rests on the assertion of the author himself; yet, if the author be Hippolytus, and our "Philosophumena" be his "Refutation of all Heresies," it is strange that no list of his writings mentions both books: the catalogues of Eusebius and Jerome naming the "Heresies" without the essay "On the Universe"; and the engraving on the statue giving the essay "On the Universe" without the "Heresies." How can we explain it, that these ecclesiastical writers, in knowing our work, did not know what is contained in it about the authorship of the other book; and that this book should have wandered anonymously about down to the ninth century, side by side with an acknowledged writing of Hippolytus, which all the while was proclaiming the solution of the question? We should certainly expect that the book of avowed authorship would convey the name of Hippolytus to the companion production for which it claims the same paternity; but, instead of this, it not only leaves its associate anonymous for six hundred years, but afterward assumes the modest fit, and becomes anonymous itself. Even if no previous reader had sense enough to put the two things together, and pick out the testimony of the one book to the origin of the other, are we to charge the same stupidity on the erudite Photius, who had both books in his hand, and has given his report of both? In his account of Hippolytus's treatise, he nowhere tells us that it contains a reference to the essay "On the Universe," as being from the same pen; and that he found no such reference is certain; for he actually discusses the question, "Who wrote the essay on the Universe?" without ever mentioning Hippolytus at all. Just such a reference, however, as he did not find in Hippolytus, he did find in another work, of which he speaks under the title of "The Labyrinth"; and, strange to say, it was at the end of the work,[32] precisely where it stands in our[Pg 214] "Philosophumena." Who can resist the suspicion, that the anonymous "Labyrinth" of Photius is no other than our anonymous "Philosophumena"? This conviction forced itself upon us on first weighing the evidence collected by M. Bunsen, in support of his different conclusion; and we observe that it is the opinion sustained by the great authority of Baur,[33] who even finds a trace in our work of the very title given by Photius; the writer observing, at the beginning of the tenth book, "The Labyrinth of Heresies we have not broken through by violence, but have resolved by refutation alone with the force of truth; and now we come to the positive exposition of the truth." At all events, the difference of title in the case of a work having probably more names than one, is of no weight in disproof of identity. With this new designation in our possession, we may return to search for our book in the records of ecclesiastical antiquity; and we have not far to go, before we alight on traces affording hopes of a result. No "Labyrinth," indeed, turns up in the literary history of earlier centuries than Photius; but a "Little Labyrinth" is mentioned by Theodoret,[34] as sometimes ascribed to Origen, but as evidently not his; and from his account of it, confirmed by the matter which he borrows from it, we learn that it was a controversial book, against a set of Unitarians in Rome, followers of Theodotus. It so happens that the very passage from this tract which Theodoret has used appears also, with others from the same source, in Eusebius, only quoted under another title,—the book being called a "Work against the Heresy of Artemon" (who was another teacher of the same school in the same age). The extracts thus preserved to us are not found in our work; which, therefore, if it be the "Labyrinth," is a distinct production from the "Little Labyrinth"; but they are so manifestly from the same pen,[Pg 215] occupied in the same task, as to render it perfectly conceivable that the two books might receive the same name, with only a diminutive epithet to distinguish the lesser from the greater. Nor are we left, as Baur has shown, without a distinct assertion by our "great unknown," that he had already composed a smaller treatise on the same subject; for, in the introduction to the "Philosophumena," he says of the heretics, "We have before given a brief exposition of their opinions, refuting them in the gross, without presenting them in detail." This shorter work would naturally treat of the particular forms of error most immediately present and mischievous before the author's eyes; and if he dwelt especially on the doctrines of Theodotus and Artemon, it is just what we should expect from an orthodox Roman. This essay, on a limited range of heresy, would naturally be issued at first with the special title by which Eusebius refers to it. But if it led the author to execute afterwards a much enlarged design, to which, from its intricate extent, he gave, on its completion, the fanciful designation of "The Labyrinth," he might naturally carry the name back to the earlier production, and, to mark the relation between the two, issue this in future as "The Little Labyrinth." Photius speaks of the tract against the heresy of Artemon as a separate work from "The Labyrinth,"[35] and says the same thing of the latter[36] that Theodoret had remarked of the former, that by some it was ascribed to Origen. The result to which we are thus led is the following. Our newly found work is not Hippolytus's βιβλιδαριον "On all Heresies," but the book known to Photius as "The Labyrinth"; the author of which had previously produced two other works, viz. "The Little Labyrinth" mentioned by Theodoret, and quoted under another name by Eusebius, and the "Treatise on the Universe," whose contents[Pg 216] Photius reports. Whatever, therefore, fixes the authorship of any of these, fixes the authorship of all.

Notwithstanding, however, our threefold chance, we have only a solitary evidence on this point. Attached to Photius's copy of the "Treatise on the Universe" was a note, to the effect that the book was not (as had been imagined) by Josephus, but by Caius, the Roman presbyter, who also composed the "Labyrinth."[37] In the absence of other external testimony, this judgment appears entitled to stand, unless the books themselves disclose some features at variance with the known character of Caius.

But, it is said, such variance we do actually find. For while our work expressly appeals to the Apocalypse as the production of John, we know from Eusebius that Caius ascribed it to Cerinthus, and, in opposing himself to Montanism, rejected the millenarian doctrine which is taught in the Revelations. This argument, we admit, would be decisive if its allegations were indisputable. It is curious, however, that the one locus classicus,[38] from which is inferred the presbyter's repudiation of the Apocalypse, is confessedly ambiguous; and the charge it prefers against Cerinthus may amount to either of these two propositions; that he had composed the Book of Revelations and palmed it on the world as the production of[Pg 217] the Apostle John; or, that he had given himself the air of a great Apostle, and published accordingly some revelations affecting to be imparted, like those of John, by angels. According to this last interpretation, the work of Cerinthus would be a book distinct from our Apocalypse, written in imitation of it, and seeking to share its authority. The contents of the production are briefly described by Caius; but they present such a mixture of agreement and disagreement with our canonical book, as to leave the ambiguity unresolved. They affirm, that after the resurrection will follow an earthly kingdom of Christ, in which the lower nature of man will, in Jerusalem, be again in servitude to passion and pleasure; and that the number of a thousand years are to be spent in the indulgence of sense. So far as the place and the duration of the kingdom are concerned, our Apocalypse might here be referred to; but it has nothing answering to the description of a gross and luxurious millennium. Taking the passage in conjunction with the similar statement of Theodoret, that "Cerinthus invented certain revelations, pretending that they were given in vision to himself," we think it unlikely that our Apocalypse can be meant; and conceive the indictment to be, that Cerinthus had put forth a set of apocryphal visions, in which he abused the style and corrupted the teachings of a great Apostle to the purposes of a sensual fanaticism. This[Pg 218] is a charge which Caius might bring, in consistency with the fullest acceptance of the Apocalypse as authentic and true. It was not the doctrine of a reign of Christ on earth, not the millenarian period assigned to it, to which he objected in Cerinthus; but the coarse and demoralizing picture given of its employments and delights. In proportion to his respect for the real Apocalypse and its teachings, would he be likely to resent such a miserable parody on its lofty theocratic visions. His opposition to the Montanists in no way pledged him to renounce the eschatological expectations which they were distinguished from other Christians not by entertaining, but by exaggerating. If our work, in its notice of their heresy, passes by in silence this particular element of the system, and treats their claim to special gifts of prophecy with less contemptuous emphasis than might be looked for in the antagonist of Proclus, there is nothing that ought really to surprise us in this. It does not follow that, because in our scanty knowledge we have only one idea about an historical personage, the man himself never had another. Caius did not live in a perpetual platform disputation with Proclus; and either before that controversy had waked him up, or after it was well got over, he might naturally enough dismiss the Montanists with very cursory notice; in the one case, because they had not yet adequately provoked his antipathy; in the other, because they had already had enough of it.[39]

Nothing therefore presents itself in our work which should deter us from attributing it to Caius; and the more we ponder the evidence, the more do we incline to believe it his. This[Pg 219] result is to us an unwelcome one; both because we know how strong the presumption must be against a critical judgment condemned by the masterly genius of M. Bunsen, and because he has really made us in love with his ecclesiastical hero,—has put such an innocent and venerable life into that old effigy, that after wandering with him about the quays of Portus, and entering with listening fancy into the Basilica[40] where he preached, it is hard to return him into stone, and think of him only as a dead bishop who made a bad almanac. Should our readers have contracted no such ideal attachment, we fear that this discussion of authorship may appear as trivial as it is tedious. Somebody wrote the "Philosophumena," and whether we call him Hippolytus or Caius, whether we lodge him on the Tiber within sight of the Pharos, or of the Milliarium Aureum, may seem a thing indifferent, so long as the elements of the personal image do not materially change. This utilitarian impression is by no means just, and indeed is at variance with all true historical feeling. But it is time that we should give it its fair rights, and turn from the name upon our new book to its substances and significance.

Many sensible persons are at a loss, we believe, to understand why this refutation of thirty-two extinct heresies should be regarded with so much interest. Is it so well done, then? they ask. Far from it: better books are brought out every year; and such a controversial argument offered in manuscript to Mr. Longman or Mr. Parker to-morrow, would hardly be deemed worth the cost of printing. Does it add materially to our knowledge of the early heresies? Something of this kind it certainly contributes; but the gain is not large, and will make no essential change in the conclusions of any competent historical inquirer. Is any light thrown by it on the authenticity of our canonical books? This can hardly be expected from a production of the third century; and M. Bunsen's application of it to this purpose appears to us, for[Pg 220] reasons which we shall assign, extremely precarious. Perhaps it supplies the want which every student of that period must have felt, and organically joins ecclesiastical to civil history, so that they no longer remain apart,—the one as the stage for saints and martyrs, bishops and books, the other for soldiers and senators, emperors and paramours,—but mingle in the common life of humanity. When we think how the author was placed, it is impossible not to go to him with an eager hope of this nature. He lived at the centre of the vast Roman world, and felt all the pulsations and paroxysms of that mighty heart. He witnessed the ominous decline of every traditional maxim and national reverence in favor of imported superstitions and degenerate barbarities. Under Commodus he saw the ancient Mars superseded by the Grecian Hercules, and Hercules represented by an emperor who sunk into a prize-fighter, and the administration of the empire in the wanton hands of a Phrygian slave, who was only less brutal than his master. In the midst of pestilence, which had become chronic in Italy from the time of M. Antoninus, and of which a Christian bishop could not but know more than others, the city was still adding to its semblance of splendor and salubrity; and the magnificent baths and grounds that were opened to the public service at the Porta Capena, with the multiplied festivities and donatives, attested how little mere physical attention to the people can arrest the miseries of a moral degradation. Nor could the Christians of that age be wholly without insight into the habits of the highest class in Rome, for, in that great colluvies of heterogeneous faiths, the caprice of taste, if not some better impulse, determined now and then an inmate of the palace to favor the religion of Christ; and the favorite mistress of Commodus, who ruled him while she could, and then had him drugged and strangled in his sleep, is the very Marcia whom our presbyter describes as φιλοθεος and at whose intervention the Christian exiles were released from their banishment in Sardinia. If he was at home when the excellent Pertinax was murdered, and cared to know what tyrant was to have the world instead, he[Pg 221] was perhaps in the throng that ran to the Quirinal, and heard the Prætorians shout from their ramparts that the empire was for sale, and saw the bargain with the foolish senator below, who bought it with his money, and paid for it with his head. Caius and his people had reason to tremble when they saw in Septimius Severus not only the implacable conqueror who suffered no political opponent to live, but the worshipper of demons, the gloomy and fitful devotee of astrology and magic, pliant only to sacerdotal hate; and when the young Origen came to be their guest awhile, and told of the terror in Alexandria which had joined his father to the band of martyrs, the post that just then brought the news of the Emperor's death in Britain would seem to take off a weight of fear; especially as one son at least of the two inheritors of the empire had in childhood been committed to a Christian nurse, and been said to shrink and turn away from the savage spectacles of the amphitheatre. They were doomed to be disappointed, if they had placed any hope in Caracalla, and to find that what they had taken in the boy for the nobleness of grace, was but the timidity of nature; the murder, before his mother's face, of his only brother, and then of his best counsellor, for refusing to justify the fratricide, would soon make them ashamed of remembering that he had ever heard the name of Christ. It would be curious to know how the Christians comported themselves when the Priest of the Sun became monarch of the world, and seemed intent on dethroning every divinity to enrich the homage to his own. The grand temple on the Palatine, which he built for the god of Emesa, every passer-by must have seen as it rose from its foundations. And when the black stone was paraded on its chariot through the streets, and the elder deities were compelled to leave their shrines and attend in escort to the Eastern idol, or when the nuptials were celebrated between the Syrian divinity and the goddess of Carthage, and Baal-peor and Astarte succeeded to the honors of Jove, no Christian presbyter could fail to witness the gorgeous and humiliating procession,—renewed as it was year by year,—or to ask himself into what deeper abomination[Pg 222] the city of the Scipios must sink, ere the catastrophe of judgment made a sudden end. The orgies of Helagabalus were more insulting to the elder Paganism of Rome than injurious to the new faith, which equally detested both; and the offended moral feeling of the city reacted perhaps in favor of the Christian cause, and prepared the way for that more public teaching of the religion, in buildings avowedly dedicated to the purpose, which was first permitted in the succeeding reign. The natural recoil in the imperial family itself from the degradation of the court tended, perhaps, in the same direction, and drove the astute Mamæa to seek, amid the universal corruption, for some school of discipline which might save the young Alexander Severus from the ignominy of her sister's son. Whether from this motive, or from suspicion of the growing force of Christianity as a social power, she had sent for Origen, and had an interview with him at Antioch; and the Roman disciples had reason to rejoice that her intellectual impressions of their system should have been derived from such a man, and her political estimate of it formed in the East, where the crisis of conflict between the dying and the living faiths was more advanced than in the West, and afforded a less disguised augury of the result. From their fellow-believers trading with the Levant, or arriving thence, the pastors of the metropolis would learn the propitious temper of the young Cæsar and his mother; and would feel no surprise, when he succeeded to the palace of his cousin, that he not only swept out the ministers of lust and luxury, but in his private oratory enshrined, among the busts of Pagan benefactors, the images also of Abraham and of Christ. They could not, however, but observe how little the morals of the court and the wisdom of the government could now avail to arrest the progress of decay, and reach in detail the vices and miseries of a degenerate state. When they passed the door of the palace, they heard the public crier's voice proclaim, "Let only purity and innocence enter here"; they visited a Christian tradesman in a neighboring street, and found him just seized by a nobleman whom he had dunned for an outstanding debt,[Pg 223] charged with magic or poisoning, doomed to pine in prison till he gave release, and no redress or justice to be had. The Emperor who, gazing in his chapel on the features of Christ, recognized a religion human and universal, was the first under whom a visible badge was put upon the slave, and a distinctive servile dress adopted; the slave markets were still in consecrated spots, the temple of Castor and the Via Sacra; and if ever some captive Onesimus, recommended by letters from the East to the brethren in Rome, was brought to the metropolis for sale, thither must the deacon or the pastor go to find how the auction disposes of their charge, and learn which among the chalked feet it is that are "shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." The commonwealth had never boasted of so many great jurists as in the age of Papinian and Paulus; but as the science of Law was perfected, the power of Law declined; and Alexander Severus, the justest of emperors, was unable to protect Ulpian, the greatest of civilians, from military assassination in the palace itself, or to punish the perpetrators of this outrage on popular feeling as well as public right. The three days' tumult, in which this master of jurisprudence fell the victim of Prætorian licentiousness, our presbyter Caius must have witnessed; and countless other momentous scenes, during a generation painfully affluent in vicissitude, must have passed before his eyes; and had he but known of what value his reports would be to this age of ours, he would have said more of the life he saw, and less of the speculations he denounced. To us it would have been worth anything to know just what was too close to him to catch his eye;—how the Christians lived in such a world; what thoughts stirred in them as they walked the streets and heard the news; what happened and was said when they met together, and how this could adjust itself with the real facts of an inconsistent and tyrannical present; and how, as the corrupted State became ever more incapable of vindicating moral ends, the rising Church undertook the secret governance of life, and penetrated with its authority into recesses beyond the reach, not of the arm of administration[Pg 224] only, but of the definitions of the widest code. But in this respect also our author fails to realize our hopes. He gives us a book of fancies rather than of facts, and instead of painting existence, which is transient, and must be caught as it flies, occupies himself in describing nonsense, which is always to be had. The enormities of Helagabalus, though staring him in the face, are nothing to him in comparison with heresy in Lesser Asia, which keeps Easter on a wrong day. He is shut up within the interior circle of the community of believers, and gives but a single glimpse beyond; and builds for us no bridge to abolish the mysterious separation of ecclesiastical and ideal from civil and real existence in the early ages of our faith. He is not peculiar in this defect. We all of us live in the midst of history without knowing it, and ourselves make history without feeling it; and that which will most clearly paint us in the thought of other times, which will seem our power to them, our romance and nobleness, with which, therefore, they will most crave to satiate their eye, is precisely what is least consciously present to us,—the natural spirit and daily spring of our common being, through which not the will of man, but the providence of God, works its appointed ends. At all events, the insight which we should be best pleased to gain into the life of the third century is not given even incidentally, except in the scantiest measure, by the "Philosophumena," which we must rank, in this respect, below the Apologies, and with the writings of Irenæus and Epiphanius. The book is dogmatic and controversial, and the interest attached to it arises entirely from its being a register of opinion, a new witness to the thoughts about divine things, which the Christianity of its period owned and disowned. For those who care at all to know the state of belief a century before the Council of Nice, the work possesses a high value. But the worth of this sort of information is itself a thing disputed, at least its religious worth; and will be very differently estimated, according to the preconception which occupies us as to the nature of Divine Revelation, and the sources open to us for the attainment of sacred truth.[Pg 225] Here it is that we find M. Bunsen's great and peculiar strength. His religious philosophy, taken by itself, brings us occasionally to a pause of doubt. His historical criticism is not always convincing. But his doctrine of the relation between religion and history, of the mingling of divine and human elements in the theatre of time, and of the special agency of Christianity in the spiritual education of mankind, appears to us profoundly true and beautiful. This it is that makes him attach so much importance to the creed of the second and third centuries, and to the new light now thrown upon it; an importance which, from every ordinary point of view, can scarcely fail to appear fanciful and exaggerated.

The Roman Catholic, for instance, entertains a conception about what sacred truth is, and how it is to be had, which, leaving nothing to depend on new discoveries, discharges all the richest interest from any fresh knowledge we may gain of religion in the past. With him divine truth, so far as it is special to Christendom, is something wholly foreign to the human mind, intrinsically unrelated to any faculty we have. In being supernatural, it belongs to another sphere than that to which our thought is restricted, and is totally withdrawn from all the movements of our nature. It consists, indeed, in a set of objective facts from which we are absent, and which no ratiocination of ours can seize, any more than our ear can tell whether there be music on Saturn's ring. There is no human consciousness answering to it; and to resort thither for it is like asking the dreamer or the blindfold to describe the scene in which he stands, or consulting your own feelings to learn what is going on in Pekin or Japan. On this theory, the objects of faith are conceived of as objects of perception, only by senses otherwise constituted than ours; we can have no surmise about them, till they are announced to us by qualified percipients, and no comprehension of them even then, but only reception of them as facts imported for us from abroad. The bearing of this doctrine of invisible realism on the treatment of ecclesiastical history is manifest. The inaccessible facts are deposited with the sacerdotal corporation;[Pg 226] with whom alone is vested the duty and the power of stating and defining them. They are not indeed all stated and defined in their last amplitude at once; for definition is always an enclosure of the true by exclusion of the false; and it is only in proportion as the dreaming perversity of men throws forth one delusive fancy after another, that the Church draws line after line to shut the intrusion out. If the creeds seem to enlarge as the centuries pass, it is not that they have more truth to give, but only more error to remove. The divine facts were conceived aright and conceived complete in the minds of Apostles and Evangelists, but they were not contemplated then as against the follies and contradictions opposed to them in later times; but as soon as the hour came for this antagonism to be felt, the infallible perception secured in perpetuity to the living hierarchy supplied the due verdict of rejection. To the Catholic, therefore, Christianity was made up and finished, its treasury was full, in the first generation; its power of development is only the refusal of deviation; and its intellectual life is tame as the story of some perfect hero, who does nothing but stand still and repel temptations. The history of doctrines thus becomes a history of heresies; the primitive stock of tradition and Scripture must, on the one hand, be maintained entire in the face of all possible exposures by critical research; and, on the other, remain in eternal barrenness and produce no more. Natural knowledge, whether of the world or of humanity, may grow continually, but the new thoughts it may lead us to entertain of God are either not new, or not true; and every pretended enrichment of truth is nothing but evolution of falsehood. This removal of all variety from religion, this expulsion of life and change into the negative region of aberration and denial, eviscerates the past of its devout interest, rests the study of it on contempt instead of reverence for man; with all its pious air, it simply betrays history with a kiss, and delivers it over for scribes to buffet and chief priests to crucify. Short work is made in this way of any fresh witness, like the author of our book, who turns up unexpectedly from an early age. Does[Pg 227] he speak in agreement with the hierarchical standards? He only flings another voice into the consensus of obedient believers. Does he say anything at variance with the regula fidei? Then have we only to see in what class of heretics he stands. His testimony is either superfluous or misleading.

The Protestant, of the approved English type, arrives, under guidance of a different thought, at the same flat and indifferent result. Though he gives a more subjective character to divine truth than the Roman Catholic, and brings both the want and the supply of it more within the attestation of consciousness, he puts its discovery equally beyond the reach of our ruined faculties, and equally cuts it off from all relation to philosophy and the natural living exercise of reason and conscience. He further agrees that his foreign gift of revelation was imported all at once, and all complete, into our world, within the Apostolic age; that the conceptions of that time are an authoritative rule for all succeeding centuries; and that every newer doctrine is to be regarded as a false accretion, to be flung off into the incompetent and barren spaces of human speculation. He denies, however, the twofold vehicle of this precious gift; and, cancelling altogether the oral tradition and indeterminate Christian consciousness of the early Church, shuts up the whole contents of religion within the canonical Scriptures. The guardianship of unwritten tradition being abolished, and the canon requiring no guardianship at all, the trust deposited with the hierarchy disappears; and no permanent inspiration, no authoritative judicial function, in matters of faith, remains. Whatever Holy Spirit continues in the Church is not a progressively teaching spirit, which can ever impart thoughts or experiences unknown to the first believers; but a personally comforting and animating spirit, whose highest climax of enlightenment is the exact reproduction of the primitive state of mind. The apprehension of Divine truth is thus reduced to an affair of verbal interpretation of documents; and though in this process there is room for the largest play of subjective feeling, so that different minds, different nations, different ages, will[Pg 228] unconsciously evolve very various results; these are not to be regarded as possible Divine enrichments of the faith, but to be brought rigidly to the standard of the earliest Church, and disowned wherever they include what was absent there. This view is less mischievous than the Roman Catholic, only because it is more inconsequent and confused. The canon which you take as sacred was selected and set in authority by the unwritten consciousness and tradition which you reject as profane. The Church existed before its records; expressed its life in ways spreading indefinitely beyond them; and neither was exempt from human elements till they were finished, nor lost the Divine spirit when they were done. So arbitrary a doctrine corrupts the beauty of Scripture, and deadens the noblest interest of history. If the New Testament is to serve as an infallible standard, it is thus committed to perfect unity and self-consistency; and you are obliged to contend that the various types of doctrine found within its compass—the Messianic conceptions of Matthew and John, the "Faith" of Paul and James, the eucharistic conceptions of the first Evangelists and the last, the eschatology of the Apocalypse and the Epistles—are only different sides of one and the same belief, colored with the tints and shadings of several minds. How utterly inadequate such an hypothesis is to the explanation of the Scriptural phenomena, what a distorted and absurd representation it gives of the sacred writers, and their mode of thought, is best known to those who have honestly tried to deal with the fourth Gospel, for instance, as historically the supplement of the others, and dogmatically of the Book of Revelation; to suppose the Logos-doctrine tacitly present in the speeches of Peter; to detect the pre-existence in Mark, or remove it from John; or to identify the Paraclete with the gifts of Pentecost. All feeling of living reality is lost from our picture of the Apostolic time, when its outlines are thus blurred, its contrasts destroyed, its grouped figures effaced, and the whole melted away by the persevering drizzle of a watery criticism into a muddy glory round the place where Christ should be. If, moreover, we are to[Pg 229] find everything in the first age, then the second, and the third, and all others, must be worse, just in so far as they differ from it; and the whole course of succeeding thought, the widening and deepening of the Christian faith and feeling, the swelling of its stream by the lapse into it of Oriental Gnosis and Hellenic Platonism and the Western Conscience, must be a ceaseless degeneracy. Thus to the Bibliolater as to the Romanist, Divine truth has no history among men, unless it be the history of decline, or of recovery purchased by decline. He also will accordingly care nothing about what the people of Caius or Hippolytus thought. Is it in the Bible? If so, he knew it before. Is it not in the Bible? Then he has nothing to do with it but throw it away. By a fitting retribution, this moping worship of the letter of a book and the creed of a generation brings it to pass that both are lost to the mind in a dismal haze of ignorance and misconception; and if the "Evangelical" believer could be transported suddenly from Exeter Hall into the company of the twelve in Jerusalem, or the Proseucha which Paul enters on the banks of the Strymon, or the room where the Agape is prepared at Rome, we are persuaded that he would find a scene newer to his expectations than by any other migration into a known time and place.

But now let us abolish this isolation from the rest of human existence of the incunabula of our faith, and throw open that time to free relation with the whole providence of humanity. Suppose Christianity to be the influence upon the world of a Divine Person,—in quality divine, in quantity human,—whose Epiphany was determined at a crisis of ripe conditions for the rescue, the evolution, the spread of holy and sanctifying truth. What are those conditions? They consist mainly in the co-presence, within the embrace of one vast state, of two opposite races or types of men, both having a partial gift of divine apprehension, and holding in charge an indispensable element of truth; both with their spiritual life verging to exhaustion and capable of no separate effort more; and each unconsciously pining away for want of the complement of[Pg 230] thought which the other only could supply. The Hebrew brought his intense feeling of the Personality of God; conceiving this in so concentrated a form as to exclude the proper notion of infinitude, and render Him only the most powerful Being in the Universe, its Monarch,—wielding the creatures as his puppets,—acting historically upon its scenes as objective to Him, and by the annals of his past agency supplying to the Abrahamic family a religion of archives and documents. The sovereignty of Jehovah raised him to an immeasurable height above his creation; dwarfed all other existence; placed him by nature at a distance from men, and only by condescension allowing of approximation. And hence his worshippers, in proportion as they adored his greatness, felt the littleness of all else; acquired a temper towards their fellow-men, if not severe and scornful, at least not reverent and tender; and regarded them as separate in kind from Him, mere dust on the balance or locusts in the field. The religion of the Hellenic race began at the other end,—from the midst of human life, its mysteries, its struggles, its nobleness, its mixture of heroic Free-will and awful Destiny; and their deepest reverence, their quickest recognition of the Divine, was directed towards the soul of a man vindicating its grandeur, though it should be against superhuman powers. In proportion as men were great, beautiful, and good, did they appear to be as lesser gods, and earth and heaven to be filled with the same race. Thought, conscience, admiration in the human mind were not personal accidents separately originating in each individual; but the sympathetic response of our common intellect, standing in front of Nature, to the kindred life of the Divine intellect behind Nature, and ever passing into expression through it. When this feeling of the Hellenic race became reflective, and organized itself into philosophy, it represented the universe as the eternal assumption of form by the Divine thought, which we were enabled to read off by our essential identity of nature. Hence a whole series of conceptions quite different from the Hebrew representations; instead of Creation, Evolution of being; instead of Interposition[Pg 231] from without, Incarnation operating from within; instead of Omnipotent Will, Universal Thought; assigning as the ideal of man's perfection, not so much obedience to Law, as similitude of Mind to God; and tending predominantly not to strength in Morals, but to beauty in Art. These two opposite tendencies had run their separate course, and expended their proper history; and were talking wildly, as in the approaching delirium of death. But they are the two factors of all religious truth: and to fuse them together, to make it impossible that either should perish or should remain alone, the Christ was given to the world, so singularly balanced between them, that neither could resist his power, but both were drawn into it for the regeneration of mankind. In the accidents of his lot given to the one race, and only baffling the visions of prophets to transcend them; in the essence of his nature, so august and attractive to the other that the faith in Incarnation was irresistible; presented to the Hebrews by his mortal birth, and snatched from them by his immortal; stopping by his holiness the mouth of Law, and carrying it up into the higher region of Faith and Love; in the Temple wishing the Temple gone, that there might be open communion, Spirit with Spirit; translating sacrifice into self-sacrifice;—he had every requisite for conciliating and blending the separated elements of truth which, for so many ages, had been converging towards him. But if this was the function providentially assigned to him, and for which the divine and human were so blended in him, it is a function which could not be accomplished in a moment, in a generation, in a century. It is an historical function, freely demanding time for its theatre; and as the separate factors had occupied ages in attaining their ripeness for combination, so must their fusion consume many a lifetime of effervescing thought, ere the homogeneous truth appeared. The words of Christ are not in this view the end in which Revelation terminates; but the means given to us of knowing himself, contributions to the picture we form of his personality. Nor are the sentiments of his immediate followers about his office and position in the scheme of Providence[Pg 232] anything more authoritative to us than the incipient attempts made, when his influence was fresh, to grasp the whole of his relations while only a part was to be seen. The records of the great crisis are no doubt of superlative value, as the vehicles by which alone we understand and feel its power; but their value is lost if they are to dictate truth to our passive acceptance, instead of quickening our reason and conscience to find it: they stop in this way the very development which they were to lead, and disappoint Christ of the very work he came to achieve. Human elements were inevitably and fully present in the first age and its Scriptures, as in every other; and the transitory ingredients they have left, it is a duty to detach from the eternal truth. And as conditions of finite imperfection cannot be banished from the central era, neither can the guidance of the Infinite Spirit be denied, whether among the Hebrew, the Hellenic, or the Christian people, in the ages before and after. In that new development of human consciousness and knowledge in regard to God, which we call Christianity, all the requisite conditions—viz. the factors taken up, the Person who blends them, and the continuous product they evolve—include Divine Inspiration as well as Human Reflection,—the living presence and communion of the Eternal with the Transitory Mind, of the perfectly Good with the good in the Imperfect. To disengage the one from the other, to treasure up the true and holy that is born of God, and let fall the false and wrong that is infused by man, is possible only to Reason and Conscience, is indeed the perpetual work in which they live; the denial of which is not merely Atheism, but Devil-worship,—not the bare negation, but the positive reversal, of religion,—the virtual affirmation that God indeed exists, but exists as Un-reason and Un-good. No mechanical, no chronological separation can be effected of the Divine from the Human, the Revealed from the Unrevealed, in faith; there is no person, no book, no age, no Church, in which both do not meet, and require to be disentangled the one from the other; but the perseverance of God's living and self-harmonious Spirit[Pg 233] throughout the discordant errors of dying generations enables the men most apt and faithful to his voice to know more and more what his reality is, and drop the semblances by which it is disguised. The effect of this view on our estimate of ecclesiastical literature is evident. As, according to it, the Apostolic period is not exempted from critical judgment, so neither are succeeding times to be without their claim on religious reverence. The canonical books of the New Testament fall back into the general mass of literature recording the earliest knowledge and consciousness of the disciples, neither detached, as a mysterious whole, from other productions of their time, nor excluding the greatest diversities of value among themselves. They exhibit the first struggling efforts—not always concurrent in their direction—of an awakening spiritual life, to interpret a recent Divine manifestation, and to solve by it the problem of the world's Providence. Their very freshness and proximity to the great figure of Christ was by no means an unmixed advantage to these efforts; and they were not so complete and successful as to supersede their continuance in the next and following generations, which lay under no incompetency for their prosecution, and are as likely, so far as antecedent probability goes, to have enriched and improved, as to have impoverished and spoiled, the earlier doctrine of Christ's relation to God and to mankind. The chasm thus disappears between the Apostolic age and its successor; the products of the first are not to be accepted simply because they are there, nor those of the second rejected because they are absent from the first; nor is everything to be admitted on showing that it stands in both, and even had a tenure long enough to become the prescriptive occupant of the Church. The Catholic is right in clinging to the continuous thread of Divine Inspiration binding the centuries of Christendom together; and in maintaining that the expression of true doctrine grows fuller with time. He is wrong in making the Spirit over to an hierarchical corporation; and in treating the ostensible growth of doctrine as the mere negation of heresies. The Protestant is right in rescuing[Pg 234] from the haze of uncertain tradition the real historical ground of his religion, and setting it in the focus of an intense reverence; and in rejecting whatever cannot be adjusted with the clear facts and essential Spirit of that primitive Gospel. He is wrong in his insulation of that time as a sole authoritative age of golden days, in which the faith had neither error nor defect, and from which it must be copied, with daguerreotype exactitude, into every disciple's mind. Keep the positive elements, destroy the negative limitations of both these systems, and the true conception of Christianity emerges. As a system of self-conscious doctrine, it is a religious Philosophy, starting from the historical appearance of Christ as an expression of God in human life, and always detained around this one object as its centre; and in its development consulting not the idiosyncrasies and conceits of private and personal reflection, but the devout consciousness and spiritual consensus of all Christian ages and all holy men. All religion is the product of an action of the Infinite mind upon the finite: in the Christian religion that action takes place upon souls engaged in the contemplation of Christ as the manifestation of God's moral nature. This given object remaining the same, there is room for indefinite expansion and variety; and every developed form is to be tried, not by its date, but by the tests of truth relevant to religious philosophy.

How far M. Bunsen would recognize his own doctrine in this exposition we cannot say; but without intending in the least to make him responsible for it, we think it does not essentially deviate from his scheme of thought. The philosophical aphorisms in which he has embodied his speculative faith follow an order which we should have spoiled, had we, for our present purpose, so brought them together as to make them speak for themselves. And though they display the same astonishing command of our language, in which the author never fails, the cast of the thoughts is so Teutonic, that few English readers, it is to be feared, will appreciate their depth and richness. The complaint, which we have heard and seen, that they are wholly unintelligible, is indeed purely ridiculous,[Pg 235] except that it sadly illustrates the extent to which reflection, and even feeling, on such subjects has ceased in England. M. Bunsen, we can assure our readers, knows what he means, and lucidly states what he means; and those who miss his meaning have for the most part no slight loss. The following sentences, which the greatest sufferer from philosophobia may drink in without convulsions, will explain his idea of Revelation, in its bearing upon the use of written records. The mere "Natural Religion" of the Deist, he observes, was—

"The negative reaction against the equally untenable, unphilosophical, and irrational notion, that revelation was nothing but an external historical act. Such a notion entirely loses sight of the infinite or eternal factor of revelation, founded both in the nature of the infinite and that of the finite mind, of God and man.

"This heterodox notion became still more obnoxious, by its imagining something higher in the manifestation of God's will and being than the human mind, which is the divinely-appointed organ of divine manifestation, and in a double manner; ideally in mankind, as object, historically in the individual man, as instrument.

"The notion of a merely historical revelation by written records is as unhistorical as it is unintellectual and materialistic. It necessarily leads to untruth in philosophy, to unreality in religious thought, and to Fetichism in worship. It misunderstands the process necessarily implied in every historical representation. The form of expressing the manifestation of God in the mind, as if God was himself using human speech to man, and was thus himself finite and a man, is a form inherent in the nature of human thought as embodied in language, its own rational expression. It was originally never meant to be understood materialistically, because the religious consciousness which produced it was essentially spiritual; and, indeed, it can only be thus misunderstood by those who make it a rule and criterion of faith, never to connect any thought whatever with what they are expected to believe as divinely true.

[Pg 236]

"Every religion is positive. It is, therefore, justly called a religion 'made manifest' (offenbart), or, as the English term has it, revealed; that is to say, it supposes an action of the infinite mind, or God, upon the finite mind, or man, by which God, in his relation to man, becomes manifest or visible. This can be mediate, through the manifestation of God in the Universe of Nature; or a direct, immediate action, through the religious consciousness.

"This second action is called revealed, in the strictest sense. The more a religion manifests of the real substance and nature of God, and of his relation to the universe and to man, the more it deserves the name of a divine manifestation, or of Revelation. But no religion which exists could exist without something of truth, revealed to man, through the creation, and through his mind.

"Such a direct communication of the Divine mind as is called Revelation has necessarily two factors, which are unitedly working in producing it. The one is the infinite factor, or the direct manifestation of eternal truth to the mind, by the power which that mind has of perceiving it; for human perception is the correlate of divine manifestation. There could be no revelation of God if there was not the corresponding faculty in the human mind to receive it, as there is no manifestation of light where there is no eye to see it.

"This infinite factor is, of course, not historical; it is inherent in every individual soul, only with an immense difference in the degree.

"The action of the Infinite upon the mind, is the miracle of history and of religion, equal to the miracle of creation.

"Miracle, in its highest sense, is therefore essentially and undoubtedly an operation of the Divine mind upon the human mind. By that action the human mind becomes inspired with a new life, which cannot be explained by any precedent of the selfish (natural) life, but is its absolute contrary. This miracle requires no proof; the existence and action of religious life is its proof, as the world is the proof of creation.

"The second factor of revelation is the finite or external.[Pg 237] This means of divine manifestation is, in the first place, a universal one, the Universe or Nature. But, in a more special sense, it is a historical manifestation of divine truth through the life and teaching of higher minds among men. These men of God are eminent individuals, who communicate something of eternal truth to their brethren; and, as far as they themselves are true, they have in them the conviction, that what they say and teach of things divine is an objective truth. They therefore firmly believe that it is independent of their individual personal opinion and impression, and will last, and not perish, as their personal existence upon earth must.

"The difference between Christ and other men of God is analogous to that between the manifestation of a part, and of the totality and substance, of the divine mind."—Vol. II. p. 60, seq.

The newly-found work, like other productions of the same period, can have only a disturbing interest for the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Protestant. For, in conjunction with previous evidence, it shows that the unbroken unity of teaching is altogether a fiction; that what afterwards became heresy was, in the latter part of the second century, held in the church of the primacy itself, and by successors of St. Peter; that the clergy of Rome, so far from owning the apostolic authority of their chief, could resist him as heterodox; and that the contents of the Catholic system, far from appearing as an invariable whole from the first, were a gradual synthesis of elements flowing in from new channels of influence brought into connection with the faith; and as against the approved type of Protestant, it shows that his favorite scheme of dogma was still in a very unripe state, and that further back it had been still more so; so that if he binds himself to the earliest creed, he may probably have to accept a profession which he hardly regards as Christian at all. But from the third point of view, which assumes that development is an inherent necessity in a revelation, and may add to its truth, instead of subtracting from it, the monuments of Christian literature from the secondary period have a positive interest, free[Pg 238] from all uneasiness and alarm. They arrest for us, in the midst, the advance of theological belief towards the form ultimately recognized in the Church, and expressed in the established creeds; they render visible the beautiful features and expanded look of the faith, when its Judaic blood had been cooled by the waters of an Hellenic baptism; and though they leave many undetermined problems as to the successive steps by which the original Hebrew type of the Gospel in Jerusalem was metamorphosed into the Nicene and hierarchical Christianity, they fix some intermediate points, and make us profoundly conscious of the greatness of the change.

The author of the "Philosophumena," for instance, would be stopped at the threshold of every sect in our own country, and excluded as heterodox. He crosses the lines of our theological definitions, and trespasses on forbidden ground, in every possible doctrinal direction. Cardinal Wiseman would have nothing to say to him; for he is insubordinate to the "Vicar of Christ," and profanely insists that a pope may be deposed by his own council of presbyters. The Bishop of Exeter would refuse him institution; for his Trinity is imperfect, and he allows no Personality to the Holy Ghost. The Archbishop of Dublin might probably think him a little hard upon Sabellius; but, if he would quietly sign the Articles, (which, however, he could by no means do,) might abstain from retaliation, and let him pass. At Manchester, Canon Stowell would keep him in hot water for his respectable opinion of human nature, and his lofty doctrine of free-will. In Edinburgh, Dr. Candlish would not listen to a man who had nothing to say of reliance on the imputed merits of Christ. The sapient board at New College, St. John's Wood, would expel him for his loose notions of Inspiration. And the Unitarians would find him too transcendental, make no common sense out of his notions of Incarnation, and recommend him to try Germany. This fact, that a bishop of the second and third centuries would be ecclesiastically not a stranger only, but an outcast among us, is most startling; and ought surely to open the eyes of modern Christians to the false and[Pg 239] dangerous position into which their churches have been brought by narrow-heartedness and insincerity. It will not be M. Bunsen's fault if our Churchmen remain insensible to the national peril and disgrace of maintaining unreformed a system long known to have no heart of modern reality, and now seen to have as little ground of ancient authority. Again and again he raises his voice of earnest and affectionate warning. As a foreigner domesticated among us, as a scholar of wide historical view, as a philosophical statesman who, amid the diplomacy of the hour, descends to the springs of perennial life in nations, as a Christian who profoundly trusts the reality of religion, and cannot be dazzled by the pretence, he sees, with a rare clearness and breadth, both the capabilities and the dangers of our social and spiritual condition. He sees that God has given to the English people a moral massiveness and veracity of character which presents the grandest basis of noble faith; while learned selfishness and aristocratic apathy uphold in the Church creeds which only stupidity can sign without mental reservations,—a Liturgy that catches the scruple of the intellectual without touching the enthusiasm of the popular heart,—a laity without function,—a clergy without unity,—and a hierarchy without power. He sees that our insular position has imparted to us a distinctive nationality of feeling, supplying copious elements for coalescence in a common religion; while obstinate conservatism has permitted our Christianity to become our great divisive power, and to disintegrate us through and through. He respects our free institutions, which sustain the health of our political life; but beside them he finds an ecclesiastical system either imposed by a dead and inflexible necessity, or left unguided to a whimsical voluntaryism, which separates the combinations of faith from the relations of neighborhood, of municipality, of country. With noble and richly-endowed universities at the exclusive disposal of the Church, he finds the theological and philosophical sciences so shamefully neglected, that Christian faith notoriously does not hold its intellectual ground, and in its retreat does nothing to reach a firmer[Pg 240] position; but only protests its resolution to stand still, and raise a din against the critic or metaphysic host that drives it back. Is there no one in this great and honest country that has trust enough in God and truth, foresight enough of ruin from falsehood and pretence, to lay the first hand to the work of renovation? Is statesmanship so infected with negligent contempt of mankind, that no high-minded politician can be found to care for the highest discipline of the people, and reorganize the institutions in which their conscience, their reason, their upward aspirations, should find life? Has the Church no prophet with faith enough to fling aside creed and college, and fire within him to burn away mediæval pedantries, and demand an altar of veracity, that may bring us together for common work and "common prayer"? Or is it to be left to the strong men, exulting in their strength, and storming with the furor of honest discontent, to settle these matters with the sledge-hammer of their indignation? Miserable hypocrisy! to open the lips and lift the eyes to heaven, while beckoning with the finger of apathy to these pioneers of Necessity! Would that some might be found to lay to heart our author's warning and counsel in the following sentences:—

"While we exclude all suggestions of despair, as being equally unworthy of a man and of a Christian, we establish two safe principles. The first is, that, in all congregational and ecclesiastical institutions, Christian freedom, within limits conformable to Scripture, constitutes the first requisite for a vital restoration. The second fundamental principle is, that every Church must hold fast what she already possesses, in so far as it presents itself to her consciousness as true and efficacious. In virtue of the first condition, she will combine Reason and Scripture in due proportions; by virtue of the second, she will distinguish between Spirit and Letter, between Idea and Form. No external clerical forms and mediæval reflexes of bygone social and intellectual conditions can save us, nor can sectarian schisms and isolation from national life. Neither can learned speculations, and still less the incomparably more arrogant dreams of the unlearned.[Pg 241] Scientific consciousness must dive into real life, and refresh itself in the feelings of the people, and that no one will be able to do without having made himself thoroughly conversant with the sufferings and the sorrows of the lowest classes of society. For out of the feeling of these sufferings and sorrows, as being to a great degree the most extensive and most deep-seated product of evil,—that is, of selfishness,—arose, eighteen hundred years ago, the divine birth of Christianity. The new birth, however, requires new pangs of labor, and not only on the part of individuals, but of the whole nation, in so far as she bears within her the germs of future life, and possesses the strength to bring forth. Every nation must set about the work herself, not, indeed, as her own especial exclusive concern, but as the interest of all mankind. Every people has the vocation to coin for itself the divine form of Humanity, in the Church as well as in the State; its life depends on this being done, not its reputation merely; it is the condition of existence, not merely of prosperity.

"Is it not time, in truth, to withdraw the veil from our misery? to point to the clouds which rise from all quarters, to the noxious vapors which have already well-nigh suffocated us? to tear off the mask from hypocrisy, and destroy that sham which is undermining all real ground beneath our feet? to point out the dangers which surround, nay, threaten already to engulf us? Is the state of things satisfactory in a Christian sense, where so much that is unchristian predominates, and where Christianity has scarcely begun here and there to penetrate the surface of the common life? Shall we be satisfied with the increased outward respect paid to Christianity and the Church? Shall we take it as a sign of renewed life, that the names of God and Christ have become the fashion, and are used as a party badge? Can a society be said to be in a healthy condition, in which material and selfish interests in individuals, as well as in the masses, gain every day more and more the upper hand? in which so many thinking and educated men are attached to Christianity only by outward forms, maintained either by despotic power, or by a not less[Pg 242] despotic, half-superstitious, half-hypocritical custom? when so many churches are empty, and satisfy but few, or display more and more outward ceremonials and vicarious rites? when a godless schism has sprung up between spirit and form, or has even been preached up as a means of rescue? when gross ignorance or confused knowledge, cold indifference or the fanaticism of superstition, prevails as to the understanding of Holy Scripture, as to the history, nay, the fundamental ideas of Christianity? when force invokes religion in order to command, and demagogues appeal to the religious element in order to destroy? when, after all their severe chastisements and bloody lessons, most statesmen base their wisdom only on the contempt of mankind? and when the prophets of the people preach a liberty, the basis of which is selfishness, the object libertinism, and the wages are vice? And this in an age the events of which show more and more fatal symptoms, and in which a cry of ardent longing pervades the people, re-echoed by a thousand voices!"—III. xv.

Sorry, however, as we should be to see our Roman presbyter disconsolately wandering from fold to fold in modern England, and dismissed as a black sheep from all, we should not like to find him metamorphosed into chief shepherd either, and invested with the guidance of our ecclesiastical affairs. Though he is above imitating the feeble railing of Irenæus at the heresies, he deals with them in the true clerical style; often missing their real meaning, he does not spare them his bad word; and fancies he has killed them before he has even caught them. He has an evident relish also for a tale of scandal, as a make-weight against a theological opponent. In the "Little Labyrinth," he had told us a story about a Unitarian minister, who, for accepting his schismatical office, had been horsewhipped by angels all night; so that he crawled in the morning to the metropolitan, and gave in his penitential recantation. And now, in the larger work, the author flies at higher game, and makes out that Pope Callistus was an incorrigible scamp; originally a slave in the household of a wealthy Christian master, Carpophorus, whose confidence he[Pg 243] abused in every possible way. First, having been intrusted with the management of a bank in the Piscina publica, he swindled and ruined the depositors, and decamped, with the intention of sailing from Portus, but was found on board ship; and, though he jumped into the sea to avoid capture, was picked up, and condemned by his master to the hand-mill. Next, being allowed to go out, on the plea of collecting some debts which would enable him to pay a dividend to the depositors, he created a riot in a Jews' synagogue, and, being brought before the prefect, was sentenced to be flogged and transported to Sardinia. Thence he escaped by passing himself off among a number of Christians, released from their exile through the influence of the Emperor's concubine, Marcia, and on the recommendation of Victor, the Pope. As he was not included in the list of pardons, he no sooner made his appearance in Rome than his master sent him off to live on a monthly allowance at Antium. On the death of Carpophorus, he seems to have attained his freedom by bequest; and his fertility of resource having made him useful to the new Pope Zephyrinus, he acquired influence enough to succeed him in the Primacy. We must confess that the evident gusto with which our presbyter tells this scandal, the animus with which he accuses Zephyrinus also of stupidity and venality, and the predominance in his narrative of theological antipathy over moral disgust, leave a painful impression on the reader respecting the spirit then at work in the Apostolic See. And though his scheme of belief, especially in relation to the person of Christ, was more rational than the definitions of more modern creeds, yet we fear that he would be not less nice about its shape, and intolerant of those who move about in freer folds of thought, than a divine of the Canterbury cloisters or the Edinburgh platform. His quarrel with the two popes whom he abuses shows pretty clearly the stage of development which the Christian theology had then reached. On this matter we must say a few words.

Whatever may have been the precise order of combination which brought the Hebrew and Hellenic ideas of God into[Pg 244] union, there can be no doubt about the two termini of the process. It started from the monarchical conception of Jehovah, as a Unity without plurality; and it issued in the Athanasian Trinity, with its three hypostases in one essence. Of these, the Father expressed the Absolute existence, the Son the Objective manifestation, the Holy Spirit the Subjective revelation of God. In the presbyter's creed, the third term was not yet incorporated, but still floated freely, diffused and impersonal. Leaving this out of view, we may observe, in the remaining part of the doctrine, two principal difficulties to be surmounted, arising from the double medium of divine objective manifestation,—Nature, always proceeding,—and Christ, historically transient. The first problem is, How to pass at all out of the Infinite existence into Finite phenomena, and conceive the relation between the Father and the Son; the second, How to pass from Eternal manifestation through all phenomena into temporary appearance in an Individual, so as to conceive the relation between the Son and the Galilean Christ. Thus, excluding all reference to the Holy Spirit, there were, in fact, four objects of thought, whose relations to one another were to be adjusted; viz. the Father, the Son evolving all things, the Christ or divine individualization in the Gospel, and Jesus of Nazareth, the human being with whose life this individualization concurred. Among all these there were, so to speak, two clearly distinct Wills to dispose of; that of the man Jesus at the lowest extremity, and that of the Supreme God, which the Jew, at least, would fix at the upper. These two Wills act, in the whole development of doctrine on this subject, as the secret centres of Personality; and the remaining elements obtain or miss a hypostatic character according as they are drawn or not into coalescence with the one or the other. The volitional point of the Divine Agency being once determined, it may be regarded as enclosed between the Thought, or intellectual essence out of which it comes, and the Execution by which it is realized; or it may be left undistinguished from these, and may be made to coincide with either. According to these variable conditions arise[Pg 245] the several modes of doctrine in reference to the Divine element in God's Objective manifestation. The differences, for instance, between our presbyter's doctrine and Origen's, will be found to depend on the different points which they seize as the seat of divine volition, and the germ of their logical development. Our author, exemplifying the Hebrew tendency, seeks his initiative up at the fountain-head, and puts himself back before the first act of creation; he starts from the One God, with whom nothing was co-present, and fixes in Him the seat of the primeval Will. There, however, it would remain, a mere potentiality, did not the Eternal Mind, by reflection in itself, pass into self-consciousness, and give objectivity to its own thought. This primary expression of his essence, in which it enters into relation, but relation only to itself, is the Logos, or Son of God, the agent in the production of all things. The potentiality is thus reserved to the Father; the effectuation is given to the Son; who, coming in at a point lower down than the seat of Will, and simply bridging over the interval that leads to accomplishment, is felt without the essential condition of a numerically distinct subsistence; and has either the instrumental and subordinate personality of a dependent being, or is imperfectly hypostatized.[41] In this impersonal character does the Logos manifest the Divine thought in the visible universe; in the minds of godly men, which are the source of law; in the glance of prophets, which catches and interprets the divine significance of all times; and first assumes a full personality in the Incarnation. Having left the primary Will behind in the Father's essence, the Logos remains but an inchoate hypostasis, till alighting, in the human nature, on another centre of volition. As if our author were half conscious, in reaching this point, of relief from an antecedent uneasiness, he now holds fast to the personality which has been realized, represents it as not dissolved by the death[Pg 246] on the cross, but taken up into heaven, and abiding for ever. It is, in this view, the two extreme terms that supply the hypostatizing power; of the others, the Logos has no personality but by looking back to the Father; nor the Christ, but by going forward to the Son of Mary. This shows the yet powerful influence of the Judaic Monarchianism, and the embarrassment of a mind, setting out from that type of faith, to provide any plurality within the essence of God. Origen, on the other hand, yielded to the Hellenic feeling, and, instead of going back to any absolute commencement, looked for his Divine centre and starting-point further down; and took thence whatever upward glance was needful to complete his view. As the Greek reverence was not touched but by the Divine embodied in concrete life and form, so the Alexandrine catechist instinctively fixed upon the Son, the objective Thought of God, proceeding, not once upon a time or ever first, but eternally, from Him, as the initiative position for his doctrine. Here was placed the clearest and intensest focus of Will; and only in this ever-evolving efficient were the full conditions of personality realized. The Father was conceived more pantheistically, as the universal νους, the intellectual background, whence issued the acting nature of the Son. In meditating on them in their conjunction, Origen would think of the relation between thought and volition; our author, of that between volition and execution. Both doctrines show the imperfect fusion of Hebrew and Hellenic elements, and illustrate the characteristic effect of an excessive proportion of each. Where the Hebrew element prevails, the personality of the Son is endangered; where the Hellenic, the personality of the Father. Even our presbyter's doctrine of the Son, however, gave too strong an impersonation to Him for the party in Rome who sided with Zephyrinus and Callistus. These popes accused him, it seems, of being a Ditheist; and themselves maintained that the terms Father and Son denoted only different sides and relations of one and the same Being,—nay, not only of the same Being, but of the same προσωπον; and that the spirit that dwelt in Christ was the Father, of[Pg 247] whom all things are full. For this opinion the two popes are angrily dealt with by our author, and charged with being half Sabellian, half humanitarian. His rancor justifies the suspicion, that, though he represents the party which triumphed at Rome, his opponents had been numerous and powerful, as, indeed, their election to the primacy would of itself show, and that even his own imperfect dogma was superinduced, not without a protracted struggle, upon an earlier faith yet remote from the Nicene standard.

And this brings us at once to a question of historical research, which, though far too intricate and extensive to be discussed here, we feel bound to notice, as far as it is affected by the newly discovered work. How long did it take for the Christian faith to assume the leading features of its orthodox and catholic form, and especially to work itself clear of Judaism? It is an acknowledged fact, that the earliest disciples, including at the lowest estimate all the converts of the first seven years from the ascension, not only were born Hebrews, but did not regard their baptism as in any way withdrawing them from the pale of their national religion; that, on the contrary, they claimed to be the only true Jews, differing from others simply by their belief in a personally appointed, instead of a vaguely promised Messiah; that they aimed at no more than to bring over their own race to this conviction, and persuade them that the national destinies were about to be consummated, and, so far from relaxing the obligations of their Law, adhered with peculiar rigor to its ritual and its exclusiveness. So long as none but the twelve Apostles had charge of its diffusion, Christianity was only a particular mode of Judaism, and its whole discussion a ζητησις των Ιουδαιων. It is further admitted, that the first inroad upon this narrowness was made by St. Paul, who insisted on the universality of Christ's function, and the abrogation of the Mosaic Law in favor of inward faith, as the condition of union with God. Nor, again, is it denied that this freer view met with great resistance, and that its conflict with the other, apparent throughout the Pauline Epistles, formed the most animating feature[Pg 248] of the Apostolic age. During that period, two distinct parties, and two separate lines of development and growth, may be traced; one following out in morals the legal idea into asceticism, voluntary poverty, and physical purity, and in faith the monarchian idea into theocratic and millenarian expectations; the other, proceeding from the notion of faith to substitute an ideal Christ for the historical, a new religion for an old law, the free embrace of divine reconciliation for the anxious strain of self-mortifying obedience. But how long did this struggle and separation continue? According to the prevalent belief, it was all over in a few years; and, by the happy harmony and concurrence of the Apostles, was determined in favor of the generous Pauline doctrine; so that St. John lived to see the Hebrew Christians sink into a mere Ebionitish sect outside the pale, and their stiff Unitarian theology disowned in favor of the higher teachings of his Gospel. Against this assumption of so easy a victory over the Jewish tendency, several striking testimonies have often been urged. Tertullian, in a well-known passage of his treatise against Praxeas, describes the dislike with which the unlearned majority of believers regard the Trinitarian distinctions in the Godhead, and the zeal with which they cry out for holding to "the Monarchy."[42] In the time of Pope Zephyrinus, as we learn from Eusebius, a body of Unitarians in Rome, followers of Artemon, defended their doctrine by the conservative plea of antiquity and general consent; affirming that it was no other than the uninterrupted creed of the Roman Church down to the time of Victor, the preceding pope; and that the higher doctrine of the Person of Christ was quite a recent innovation.[43] Nor are we without ecclesiastical literature, of even a later date, that by its theological tone gives witness to the same effect. The "Clementine Recognitions," written somewhere between 212 and 230, occupy a dogmatic position, higher indeed than the disciples of Artemon, but only in the direction of Arius, and, to save the Unity of God, deny the[Pg 249] Deity of Christ.[44] Relying on such evidence as this, Priestley, in his "History of Early Opinions," and his controversy with Bishop Horsley, maintained that the creed of the Church for the first two centuries was Unitarian. But this position was attended with many difficulties, so long as the present canonical Scriptures were allowed to have been in the hands of the Christians of that period, and recognized as authorities; for the narratives of the miraculous conception, the writings of Paul, and the Gospel of John, are irreconcilable with the schemes of belief attributed to the early Unitarians. Moreover, if for two centuries the Church had interpreted its authoritative documents in one way, and formed on this its services and expositions, it is not easy to conceive the rapid revolution into another. During a period of free and floating tradition, there is manifest room for the growth of essentially different modes of faith; but after the reception of a definite set of sacred books, the scope for change is much contracted. To treat the doctrine of the Logos as an innovation, yet ascribe the fourth Gospel to the beloved disciple; to suppose that justification by works was the generally received notion among people who guided themselves by the authority of Paul,—involves us in irremediable contradictions. Avoiding these at least, possibly not without the risk of others, the celebrated theologians of Tübingen have maintained a bolder thesis than that of Priestley, including it indeed, but with it also a vast deal more. Their theory runs as follows. The opposition which St. Paul's teaching excited, and of which his letters preserve so many traces, was neither so insignificant nor so short-lived as is commonly supposed; but was encouraged and led by the other Apostles, especially James and John and Peter, who never heartily recognized the volunteer Apostle; and was so completely successful, that he died without having made any considerable impression on the Judaic Christianity sanctioned from Jerusalem. Accordingly, the earliest Christian literature was Ebionitish; and no production was in higher[Pg 250] esteem than the "Gospel of the Hebrews," which, after being long current, with several variations of form, at last settled down into our Gospel of Matthew. In almost all the writings known to us, even in Roman circles of the second century,—the Shepherd of Hermas, the Memorials of Hegesippus, the works of Justin,—some character or other of Ebionitism is present,—millenarian doctrine, admiration of celibacy and of abstinence from meat and wine, denunciation of riches, emphatic assertion of the Messiahship of Jesus, and treatment of the miraculous conception as at least an open question. The labors of Paul, however, had left a seed which had been buried, but not killed; and from the first, a small party had cherished his freer principles, and sought to win acceptance for them; and as the progress of time increased the proportion of provincial and Gentile converts, and the Jewish wars of Titus and Hadrian destroyed the possibility of Mosaic obedience and the reasonableness of Hebrew hopes, the Pauline element rose in magnitude and importance. Thus the two courses of opposite development ran parallel with each other, and gradually found their interest in mutual recognition and concession. Hence, a series of writings proceeding from either side, first of conciliatory approximation only, next of complete neutrality and equipoise, in which sometimes the figures of Peter and Paul themselves are presented with studiously balanced honor, at others their characteristic ideas are adjusted by compromise. The Clementine Homilies, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Epistle of James, the Second Epistle of Clement, the Gospel of Mark, the Recognitions, the Second Epistle of Peter, constitute the series proceeding from the Ebionitish side; while from the Pauline came the First Epistle of Peter, the Preaching of Peter, the writings of Luke, the First Epistle of Clement, the Epistle to the Philippians, the Pastoral Epistles, Polycarp's, and the Ignatians. These productions, however, springing from the practical instinct of the West, deal with the ecclesiastical more than with the doctrinal phase of antagonism between the two directions; and end with establishing in Rome a Catholic[Pg 251] Church, founded on the united sepulchres of Peter and Paul, and combining the sacerdotalism of the Old Testament with the universality of the New Gentile Gospel. Meanwhile, a similar course, with local modifications, was run by the Church of Asia Minor. Rome, with its political aptitude, having taken in hand the questions of discipline and organization, the speculative genius of the Asiatic Greek addressed itself simultaneously to the development and determination of doctrine. Here the Epistle to the Galatians marks, as a starting-point, the same original struggle between the contrasted elements which the Epistle to the Romans betrays in Italy; while the Gospel of John closes the dogmatic strife of development with an accepted Trinity for faith, just as the Ignatian Epistles wind up the contests of the West with a recognized hierarchy for government. And between these extremes the East presents to us, first, the intensely Judaical Apocalypse; next, with increasing reaction in the Pauline direction, the rudiments of the Logos idea in the Epistles to the Hebrews, Colossians, and Ephesians; and as Montanism, in the midst of which these arose, had already made familiar the conception of the Paraclete, all the conditions were present for combination into the Johannine doctrine of the Trinity; and then it was, in the second quarter of the second century, that the fourth Gospel appeared. The speculative theology thus native to Lesser Asia was adopted for shelter and growth by the kindred Hellenism of Egypt, and gave rise to the school of Alexandria. In the whole of this theory great use is made of Montanism: it spans, as it were, the interval between the parallel movements of Italy and Asia; and is the common medium of thought in which they both take place. Singularly uniting in itself the rigor, the narrowness, the ascetic superstitions of its Hebrew basis, with a Phrygian prophetic enthusiasm and an Hellenic theosophy, it imported the latter into the doctrine, the former into the discipline, of the Church. The Roman Catholic system betrays its Jewish or Montanist origin in its legalism, its penances, its celibacy, its monachism, its ecstatic phenomena, its physical supernaturalism, its exaggerated appreciation of martyrdom.

[Pg 252]

Such, in barest outline, is the theory which M. Bunsen characterizes as the "Tübingen romance." Its leading principle is, that the antagonism between the Petrine and Pauline, the Hebrew and the Hellenic Gospel, which has its origin and authentic expression in the Epistles to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians, continued into the second century; determined the evolution of doctrine and usage; stamped itself upon the ecclesiastical literature; and ended in the compromise and reconciliation of the Catholic Church. It is evident that, in the working out of this principle, the New Testament canon is made to give way. With the exception of the greater Pauline Epistles and the Apocalypse, both of which are held fast as genuine productions of the Apostles whose names they bear, and the first Gospel, which is allowed to have at least the groundwork in the primitive tradition, the received books are all set loose from the dates and names usually assigned to them, and arranged, in common with other products of the time, according to the relation they bear to the Ebionitish or to the Pauline school, and the particular stage they seem to mark in the history of either. This proceeding, however, is not an original violence resorted to for the exigencies of the theory; but, for the most part, a mere appropriation to its use of conclusions reached by antecedent theologians on independent grounds. The Epistle to the Philippians is the only work, if we mistake not, on the authenticity of which doubt has been thrown for the first time,—in our opinion, on very inadequate grounds. In this, as in many other details of the hypothetical history, there is not a little of that straining of real evidence and subtle fabrication of unreal, which German criticism seems unable to avoid. But the acerbity displayed by the North German theologians towards the Tübingen critics appears to us unwarranted and humiliating; and we certainly wish that M. Bunsen, whose prompt admiration of excellence so nobly distinguishes him from Ewald, could have expressed his dissent from Baur and Schwegler in a tone still further removed from the Göttingen pitch. At least, we do not find the positive assertion that the Tübingen theory is[Pg 253] finally demolished by the "Philosophumena" at all borne out by the evidence; and are inclined to think that the case is very little altered by the new elements now contributed to its discussion. The critical offence which he thinks is now detected and exposed, is the ascription of a late origin to the fourth Gospel,[45] and the treatment of it as the perfected product, instead of the misused source, of the Montanist conceptions of the Logos and the Paraclete. It cannot, however, be denied, that, in the previous absence of any external testimony to the existence of this Gospel earlier than the year 170,[46] the internal difficulties are sufficiently serious to redeem the doubt of its authenticity from the character of rashness or perversity. The irreconcilable opposition between its whole mode of thought and that of the Apocalypse is confessed by M. Bunsen himself, when he suggests that the proem on the Logos was directed against Cerinthus,—the very person whose sentiments the Apocalypse was supposed to express, and to whom, accordingly, it was ascribed by those who rejected it. One of the two books must resign, then, the name of the beloved disciple; and, of the two, we need hardly say that the Apocalypse is incomparably the better authenticated. Moreover, the traditions which unite the names of James and John, as the authorities followed by the Church of Lesser Asia, render it hard to conceive that their doctrines can have taken precisely opposite directions; and that, while James represented the Judaic Christianity of the deepest dye, John[Pg 254] can have produced the standard and conclusive work on the other side. In particular, the well-known fact, that the Asiatic Christians justified their Jewish mode of keeping Easter by the double plea, (1.) that James and John always did so, (2.) that Christ himself had done so before he suffered, seems incompatible with any knowledge of the fourth Gospel, which denies that Jesus ate the passover before he suffered, and makes his own death to be the passover. How could this Quartodeciman controversy live a day among a people possessing and acknowledging John's Gospel, which so bears upon it as to give a distinct contradiction to the view of the other Gospels, and to pronounce in Asia Minor itself an unambiguous verdict in favor of the West? These are grave difficulties, which, after all the ingenuity, even of Bleek, remain, we fear, unrelieved; and in their presence we cannot feel the justice of M. Bunsen's sentence, that Baur's opinion is "the most unhappy of philological conjectures." Everything conjectural, however, must give way before real historical testimony; and, if new evidence is actually contained in the "Philosophumena," every true critic, of Tübingen or elsewhere, will be thankful for light to dissipate the doubt. Now, it is said that our Roman bishop, in treating of the heresy of Basilides, supplies passages from the writings of this heresiarch which include quotations from the fourth Gospel; and thus prove its existence as early as the year 130. This argument, as stated by M. Bunsen, appeared to us quite conclusive, and we hoped, that a decided step had been gained towards the settlement of the question. Great was our disappointment, on reading the account in the original, to find no evidence that any extract from Basilides was before us at all. A general description of the system bearing his name is given; but with no mention of any work of his, no profession that the words are his, and even so little individual reference to him, that the exposition is introduced as being a report of what "Basilides and Isidorus, and the whole troop of these people, falsely say" (καταψευδεται, sing.). Then follows the account of the dogmas of the sect, with the word φησιν inserted from time to[Pg 255] time, to indicate that the writer is still reporting the sentiments of others. The singular form of this word implies nothing at all; it occurs immediately after the word καταψευδεται, and has the same avowedly plural subject. The statement, therefore, within which are contained the Scripture citations, is a merely general one of the opinions of a sect which continued to subsist till a much later time than the lowest date ever assigned for the composition of the fourth Gospel. If the actual words of any writings current among these heretics are given, they are the words of an author or authors wholly unknown, and to refer them to Basilides in particular is a mere arbitrary act of will. The change from the singular to the plural forms of citation in the midst of one and the same sentence, and the disregard of concord between verb and subject, show that no inference can be drawn from so loose a system of grammatical usage. All that can be affirmed is, that our author had in his hand some production of the Basilidian χορος, in which the fourth Gospel was quoted; but this affords no chronological datum that can be of the smallest use.[47] The[Pg 256] same remark applies to the use of John's Gospel by the Ophites. That they did use it is evident; that they existed as far back as the time of Peter and Paul is certainly probable; yet it does not follow that the fourth Gospel was then extant. For they continued in existence through two or three centuries, dating, as Baur has shown, from a time anterior not only to the Christian heresies, but to Christianity itself, and extending down to Origen's time; and to what part of this long period the writings belonged which the author of the "Philosophumena" employed, we are absolutely unable to determine. We do not know why M. Bunsen has not appealed also to a quotation from the Gospel which occurs (p. 194) in an account of the Valentinian system. If, as he affirms (I. 63), this account were really in "Valentinus's own words," the citation would be of particular value in the controversy. For it has always been urged by the Tübingen critics as a highly significant fact, that while the followers of Valentinus showed an especial eagerness to appeal to the Gospel of John, and one of the earliest, Heracleon, wrote a commentary upon it, no trace could be found of its use by the heresiarch himself. From this circumstance, they have inferred that the Gospel was not available for him, and first appeared after his time. A single clause cited by him from the Gospel would demolish this argument at once. But the assertion that we have here "full eight pages of Valentinus's own words" appears to us quite groundless. No such thing is affirmed by the writer of the eight pages. He promises to tell us how the strict adherents to the original principle of the sect expounded their doctrine (ὡς εκεινοι διδασκουσι); and then passes over, as usual, to the singular φησι, returning, however, from time to time, to the plural forms,—θελουσι, λεγουσι, &c.,—and thus leaving no pretext for the assumption that Valentinus is before us in person. The later Gnostics indisputably resorted to the Gospel[Pg 257] of John with especial zeal and preference; and if their predecessors, Basilides and Valentinus, were acquainted with the book, it is surprising that no trace of their familiarity with it has been found; and that the former should have sought to authenticate the secret doctrine he professed to have received by the name of Matthew or Matthias instead of John. It deserves remark, that the citations preserved by our author are made, like those of Justin Martyr, as from an anonymous writing, without mentioning the name of the Evangelist; a circumstance less surprising in reference to the Synoptics alone, which present only varieties of the same fundamental tradition, than when the fourth Gospel, so evidently the independent production of a single mind, is thrown into the group. The Epistles of Paul and the books of the Old Testament are frequently quoted by name; and why this practice should invariably cease whenever the historical work of an Apostle was in the hand, it is not easy to explain. The Apocalypse is mentioned not without his name.[48]

For these reasons we are of opinion that the question about the date and authenticity of the fourth Gospel is wholly unaffected by the newly-discovered work. On this side, no new facilities are gained for confuting the Tübingen theory. The most positive and startling fact against it is presented from another direction. We know that the system of Theodotus, which was Unitarian, was condemned by Victor in the last decade of the second century.[49] Now Victor was the very pope to the end of whose period, according to the followers of Artemon, their monarchian faith was upheld in the Roman Church, and in the time of whose successor was the first importation of the higher doctrine of the Logos. On this complaint of the Artemonites, Baur and Schwegler lay great stress; but is it not refuted by Victor's orthodox act of expelling a Unitarian? Undoubtedly it would be so, if Theodotus were excommunicated precisely for his belief in the uni-personality of God. But his scheme included many articles; and we[Pg 258] know nothing of the ground taken in the proceedings against him. There was one question, however, which, however indifferent to us, was evidently very near to the feelings of the early Church, and on which Theodotus separated himself from the prevailing conceptions of his time,—viz. At what date did the Christ, the Divine principle, become united with Jesus, the human being? "At his baptism," replied Theodotus.[50] "Before his birth," said the general voice of the Christians. We are disposed to think this was the obnoxious tenet which Victor construed into heresy; and if so, the strife had no bearing upon the doctrine of the personality of the Logos, which the pope and the heretic might both have rejected. Of the Unitarianism of that time, it was no essential feature to postpone till the baptism the heavenly element in Christ. We remember no reason for supposing that the Artemonites did so, though Theodotus did; and if they knew that the objection which had been fatal to him did not apply to them, their claim of ancient and orthodox sanction for what they held in common with him was not answered by pointing to his condemnation for what was special to himself. But is there, it will be asked, any evidence that the Roman Church attached importance to this particular ingredient of the Theodotian scheme, so that their bishop might feel impelled to visit it with ecclesiastical censure? We believe there is, and that too in the "Philosophumena." In the author's confession of faith occurs a passage which produces at first a strange impression upon a modern reader, and appears like a violence done to the Gospel history. It affirms that Christ passed through every stage of human life, that he might serve as the model to all. Nor is this idea a personal whim of the writer; but is borrowed from his master, Irenæus, who gives it in more detail, and winds it up with the assertion, that Christ lived to be fifty years old.[51] Irenæus thus falsifies the history to make good the moral; our presbyter, by respecting the history, apparently invalidates the moral: for it can scarcely[Pg 259] be said of a life closed after thirty-one or thirty-two years, that it supplies a rule πασα ἡλικιη; at least it would seem more natural to apologize for its premature termination, than to lay stress on its absolute completeness. The truth is, there was a certain, obnoxious tenet behind, which these writers were anxious to contradict, and which their assertion exactly meets,—viz. the very tenet of Theodotus, that the Divine nature did not unite itself with the Saviour till his baptism. Irenæus and his pupil could not endure this limitation of what was highest in Christ to the interval between his first public preaching and his crucifixion. They thought that in this way it was reduced to a mere official investiture, not integral to his being, but externally superinduced; and that such a conception deprived it of all its moral significance. The union of the Logos with our nature was not a provision for temporary inspiration or a forensic redemption; but was intended to mould a life and shape a personal existence, according to the immaculate ideal of humanity. To accomplish this intention it was necessary that the Logos should never be absent from any part of his earthly being; but should have claimed his person from the first, and by preoccupation have neutralized the action of the natural (or psychic) element, throughout all the years of his continuance among men. The anxiety of Irenæus's school to put this interpretation on the manifestation of the Logos, their determination to distinguish it, on the one hand, from the mediate communication of prophets as an immediate presentation (αυτοψει φανερωθηναι), and, on the other, from the transient occupancy of a ready-made man, as a permanent and thorough-going incarnation (σαρκωθηναι in opposition to φαντασια or τροπη), is apparent in their whole language on this subject. In the Son, we are carried to the fresh fountain-head of every kind of perfection, and find the unspoiled ideal of heavenly and terrestrial natures. In one of the fragments of Hippolytus, published by Mai, and noticed in M. Bunsen's Appendix, this notion is conveyed by the remark, that He is first-born of God's own essence, that he may have precedence of angels; first-born of a virgin, that he may[Pg 260] be a fresh-created Adam; first-born of death, that he might become the first fruits of our resurrection.[52] This doctrine it is, we apprehend, which amplifies itself into the Irenæan statement, that the divine and ideal function of Christ coalesced with the historical throughout, so that to infants he was a consecrating infant; to little children, a consecrating child; to youth, a consecrating model of youth; and to elders, a still consecrating rule, not only by disclosure of truth, but by exhibiting the true type of their perfection.[53] The teaching of Theodotus, that the heavenly εικων remained at a distance till the baptism, was directly contradictory of this favorite notion; and might well produce hostile excitement, and provoke condemnation, in a church where the Irenæan influence is known to have been powerful. The attitude that Victor assumed towards the Theodotians is thus perfectly compatible with Monarchian opinions, and with an attitude equally hostile, in the opposite direction, towards the advancing Trinitarian claims of a distinct personality for the Logos. Though only the one hostility is recorded of Victor, the other is ascribed, as we have seen, to his immediate successors, Zephyrinus and Callistus, who maintained that it was no other person than the Father that dwelt as the Logos in the Son. The facts taken together, and spreading as they do over the periods of three popes, afford undeniable traces of a struggle at the turn of the second century, between a prevalent but threatened Monarchianism, and a new doctrine of the Divine Personality of the Son.

After all, why is M. Bunsen so anxious to disprove the late appearance of the fourth Gospel? Did he value it chiefly as a biographical sketch, and depend upon it for concrete[Pg 261] facts, a first-hand authentication of its contents would be of primary moment. But his interest in it is evidently speculative rather than historical, and centres upon its doctrinal thought, not on its narrative attestation; and especially singles out the proem as a condensed and perfect expression of Christian ontology. The book speaks to him, and finds him, out of its mystic spiritual depths; sanctifies his own philosophy; glorifies with an ideal haze the greatest reality of history; blends with melting tints the tenderness of the human, and the sublimity of the divine life; and presents the Holy Spirit as immanent in the souls of the faithful and the destinies of humanity. But its enunciation of great truths, its penetration to the still sanctuary of devout consciousness, will not cease to be facts, or become doubtful as merits, or be changed in their endearing power, by an alteration in the superscription or the date. These religious and philosophical features converse directly with Reason and Conscience, and have the same significance, whatever their critical history may be; and are not the less rich as inspirations from having passed for interpretation through more minds than one. There is neither common sense nor piety, as M. Bunsen himself, we feel certain, will allow, in the assumption that Revelation is necessarily most perfect at its source, and can only grow earthy and turbid as it flows. Were it something entirely foreign to the mind, capable of holding no thought in solution, but inevitably spoiled by every abrasion it effects of philosophy and feeling, this mechanical view would be correct. But if it be the intenser presence, the quickened perception of a Being absent from none; if it be the infinite original of which philosophy is the finite reflection; if thus it speaks, not in the unknown tongue of isolated ecstasy, but in the expressive music of our common consciousness and secret prayer;—then is it so little unnatural, so related to the constitution of our faculties, that the mind's continuous reaction on it may bring it more clearly out; and, after being detained at first amid sluggish levels and unwholesome growths which mar its divine transparency, it may percolate through finer media, drop[Pg 262] its accidental admixtures, and take up in each stratum of thought some elements given it by native affinity, and become more purely the spring of life in its descent than in its source. If, before the fourth Gospel was written, the figure of Christ, less close to the eye, was seen more in its relations to humanity and to God; if his deep hints, working in the experience of more than one generation, had expanded their marvellous contents; if, in a prolonged contact of his religion with Hellenism, elements had disclosed themselves of irresistible sympathy, and the first sharp boundary drawn by Jewish hands had melted away; if his concrete history itself was now subordinate to its ideal interpretation;—the book will present us still with a Christianity, not impoverished, but enriched. In proportion as its thoughts speak for themselves by their depth and beauty, may all anxiety cease about their external legitimation; their credentials become eternal instead of individual; and where the Father himself thus beareth witness, Christ needeth not the testimony of man. It cannot be, therefore, any religious issue that depends on the date of this Christian record; it cannot make truth, it can only awaken the mind to discern it; and whether it has this power or not, the mind can only report according to its consciousness of quickening light or stagnant darkness. The interest of this question cannot surely be more than a critical interest, to one who can feel and speak in this noble strain:—

"No divine authority is given to any set of men to make truth for mankind. The supreme judge is the Spirit in the Church, that is to say, in the universal body of men professing Christ. The universal conscience is God's highest interpreter. If Christ speaks truth, his words must speak to the human reason and conscience, whenever and wherever they are preached: let them, therefore, be preached. If the Gospels contained inspired wisdom, they must themselves inspire with heavenly thoughts the conscientious inquirer and the serious thinker: let them, therefore, freely be made the object of inquiry and of thought. Scripture, to be believed true with full conviction, must be at one with reason: let it, therefore,[Pg 263] be treated rationally. By taking this course, we shall not lose strength; but we shall gain a strength which no church ever had. There is strength in Christian discipline, if freely accepted by those who are to submit to it; there is strength in spiritual authority, if freely acknowledged by those who care for Christ; there is strength unto death in the enthusiasm of an unenlightened people, if sincere, and connected with lofty moral ideas. But there is no strength to be compared with that of a faith which identifies moral and intellectual conviction with religious belief, with that of an authority instituted by such a faith, and of a Christian life based upon it, and striving to Christianize this world of ours, for which Christianity was proclaimed. Let those who are sincere, but timid, look into their conscience, and ask themselves whether their timidity proceeds from faith, or whether it does not rather betray a want of faith. Europe is in a critical state, politically, ecclesiastically, socially. Where is the power able to reclaim a world, which, if it be faithless, is become so under untenable and ineffective ordinances,—which, if it is in a state of confusion, has become confused by those who have spiritually guided it? Armies may subdue liberty; but armies cannot conquer ideas: much less can Jesuits and Jesuitical principles restore religion, or superstition revive faith. I deny the prevalence of a destructive and irreligious spirit in the hearts of the immense majority of the people. I believe that the world wants, not less, but more religion. But however this be, I am firmly convinced that God governs the world, and that he governs it by the eternal ideas of truth and justice engraved on our conscience and reason; and I am sure that nations, who have conquered, or are conquering, civil liberty for themselves, will sooner or later as certainly demand liberty of religious thought, and that those whose fathers have victoriously acquired religious liberty will not fail to demand civil and political liberty also. With these ideas, and with the present irresistible power of communicating ideas, what can save us except religion, and therefore Christianity? But then it must be a Christianity based upon[Pg 264] that which is eternally God's own, and is as indestructible and as invincible as he is himself: it must be based upon Reason and Conscience, I mean reason spontaneously embracing the faith in Christ, and Christian faith feeling itself at one with reason and with the history of the world. Civilized Europe, as it is at present, will fall; or it will be pacified by this liberty, this reason, this faith. To prove that the cause of Protestantism in the nineteenth century is identical with the cause of Christianity, it is only necessary to attend to this fact; that they both must sink and fall, until they stand upon their indestructible ground, which, in my inmost conviction, is the real, genuine, original ground upon which Christ placed it. Let us, then, give up all notions of finding any other basis, all attempts to prop up faith by effete forms and outward things: let us cease to combat reason, whenever it contradicts conventional forms and formularies. We must take the ground pointed out by the Gospel, as well as by the history of Christianity. We may then hope to realize what Christ died for, to see the Church fulfil the high destinies of Christianity, and God's will manifested by Christ to mankind, so as to make the kingdoms of this earth the kingdoms of the Most High."—p. 172.

We have given our readers no conception of the variety and richness of M. Bunsen's work; having scarcely passed beyond the limits of the first volume. It was impossible to pass by, without examination, the recovered monument of early Christianity, whence his materials and suggestions are primarily drawn; and it is equally impossible to pass beyond it, without entering on a field too wide to be surveyed. We can only record that, in the remaining volumes, which are, in fact, a series of separate productions, the early doctrine of the Eucharist is investigated, and the progress of its corruptions strikingly traced; the primitive system of ecclesiastical rules or canons, and the "Church-and-House Book," or manual of instruction and piety in use among the ante-Nicene Christians, are carefully and laboriously restored; and genuine Liturgies of the first centuries are reproduced. In this arduous[Pg 265] work of recovery, there is necessarily much need of critical tact, not to say much room for critical conjecture. But the one our author exercises with great felicity; and the other he takes all possible pains to reduce to its lowest amount by careful comparison of Syrian, Coptic, and Abyssinian texts. The general result is a truly interesting set of sketches for a picture of the early Church; which rises before us with no priestly pretensions, no scholastic creeds, no bibliolatry, dry and dead; but certainly with an aspect of genuine piety and affection, and with an air of mild authority over the whole of life, which are the more winning from the frightful corruption and dissolving civilization of the Old World around. That our author should be fascinated with the image he has re-created, and long to see it brought to life, in place of that body of death on which we hang the pomps and titles of our nominal Christianity, is not astonishing. But a greater change is needed—though a far less will be denied—than a return to the type of faith and worship in the second century. To destroy the fatal chasm between profession and conviction, and bring men to live fresh out of a real reverence instead of against a pretended or a fancied one, a greater latitude and flexibility must be given to the forms of spiritual culture than was needed in the ancient world. The unity of system which was once possible is unseasonable amid our growing varieties of condition and culture; and the methods which were natural among a people closely thrown together and constructing their life around the Church as a centre, would be highly artificial in a state of society in which the family is the real unit, and the congregation a precarious aggregate, of existence. Nothing, however, can be finer or more generous than the spirit of our author's suggestions of reform; and we earnestly thank him for a profusion of pregnant thoughts and faithful warnings, the application of one half of which would change the fate of our churches,—the destiny of our nation,—the courses of the world.

[Pg 266]


1. The Creed of Christendom; its Foundations and Superstructure. By William Rathbone Greg. London: Chapman. 1851.

2. St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians; an Attempt to convey their Spirit and Significance. By John Hamilton Thom. London: Chapman. 1851.

These two books are placed together without the least intention to intimate a resemblance between them, or to represent either author as sharing in the conclusions of the other. They are, indeed, concerned with opposite sides of the same subject; viewed, moreover, from the separate stations of the layman and the divine; and are the expression of strongly contrasted modes of thought. Mr. Greg deals principally with the external vehicle of the primitive Christianity; Mr. Thom with its internal essence. The one seeks in vain for any outward title in the records to suppress the operations of natural reason; the other clears away from the interior every interference with the free action of conscience and affection. The one, in the name of science, demolishes the outworks of ecclesiastical logic with which the shrine of faith has been dangerously guarded: the other, in the name of Christ, expels both priest and dogma from the sanctuary itself. The one, selecting deep truths from the words of Jesus, would construct religion into a philosophy; the other, with eye upon[Pg 267] His person as an image of perfect goodness, would develop it from a sentiment. As all opposites, however, are embraced in the circumference of the same circle, so are these works complements of each other. Mr. Greg, in common with the Catholics and the Unitarians, evidently looks for the strength of Christianity in the Gospels; Mr. Thom, with the majority of Protestants, in the Epistles. For want of some mediating harmony between the two, each perhaps requires some correction: the historical picture of Christ saved by the former is but a pale and meagre outline; while the Pauline ideal presented by the latter is a glow of rich but undefined coloring. Mr. Greg, who, in spite of particular errors, manifests a large knowledge and a masterly judgment in his criticism of the Evangelists, appears to have, in his own sympathies, no way of access to a mind like that of Paul, and to be much at fault in estimating the place of the Apostle both as a witness and a power in the organization of Christian tradition and doctrine. Had the acuteness and severity of his understanding been a little more qualified by such reflective depth and moral tenderness as Mr. Thom brings to the work of interpretation, his religion, we fancy, would have retained a less slender remnant of the primitive Christianity.

Measured by the standard of common Protestantism, there can be no doubt that the second of these books would be condemned for heresy, and the first for unbelief. These ugly words, however, have been too often applied to what is fullest of truth and faith, to express more than a departure, which weak men feel to be irritating, from a favorite type of thought. They have lost their effect on all who are competent to meditate on the great problems of religion, and are fast taking their place in the scandalous vocabulary of professional polemics. It is a thing offensive to just men when divines, who have succeeded in smothering, or been too dull to entertain, doubts which rend the soul of genius and faithfulness, and insist on a veracious answer, meet them, not with sympathy, still less with mastery, but with the commonplaces of incompetent pity and holy malediction. And the offence is doubled[Pg 268] in the eyes of instructed men, who know the state to which Biblical criticism has brought the theology of the Reformation. It is notorious that, in the revolt from Rome, the Scriptures—like a dictator suddenly created for the perils of a crisis—were forced into a position where it was impossible for them permanently to repose; that they cannot be treated as infallible oracles of either fact or doctrine, and were never meant to bear the weight of such unnatural claims; that the authority once concentrated in them, and held even against the reason and conscience, must now be distributed, and ask their concurrence. These are not questionable positions, but so irresistibly established, that learning of the highest order would no more listen to an argument against them, than Herschel or Airy to a disquisition against the rotation of the earth. When a clergyman, therefore, treats them with horror, and denounces them as infidelity, he produces no conviction, except that he himself is either ill-informed or insincere. Professional reproaches against a book so manly and modest, so evidently truth-loving, so high-minded and devout, as this of Mr. Greg's, are but a melancholy imbecility. We may hold to many things which he resigns; we may think him wrong in the date of a Gospel or the construction of a miracle; we may even dissent from his estimate of the grounds of immortal hope and the ways of eternal Providence: but we do not envy, and cannot understand, the religion which can feel no thankful communion with thought so elevated, and trust so sound and real. No candid reader of the "Creed of Christendom" can close the book without the secret acknowledgment that it is a model of honest investigation and clear exposition; that it is conceived in the true spirit of serious and faithful research; and that whatever the author wants of being an ecclesiastical Christian is plainly not essential to the noble guidance of life, and the devout earnestness of the affections.

It is highly honorable to an English layman, amid the pressure of affairs, to take up a class of critical inquiries, which the clergy seem to have abandoned for a narrower and[Pg 269] more passionate polemic. It is a remarkable characteristic of the present age, that, when the most startling attacks are made upon the very foundations of existing churches, nobody repels them. Nothing is offered to break their effect, except the inertia of the mass that rests upon the base assailed. For every great sceptical work of the last century there was some score of reputable answers; but half a dozen books of the same tendency have appeared within a few years, all of which have been copiously reviewed, have spread excitement over a wide surface, and set an immense amount of theological hair on end, but not one of which has received any adequate reply. Yet the slightest of these productions would favorably compare, in all the requisites for successful persuasion,—in learning, in temper, in acuteness,—with the best of the last age, excepting only the philosophical disquisitions of Hume and the ecclesiastical chapters of Gibbon. The first in time,—Hennell's "Inquiry into the Origin of Christianity,"—though the most open to refutation, was permitted to pass through an unmolested existence; and its influence, considerable in itself, and increased by the sweet and truthful character of the author, is still traceable in the pages of Mr. Greg. To the effect of Strauss's extraordinary work, the good Neander's Leben Jesu offers but a mild resistance, and is itself, through the extent of its concessions, an open proclamation that the problems of theology can never be restored to the state in which all churches assume them to be. Parker was excommunicated by his sect; but his "Discourse of Matters pertaining to Religion" has walked the course unchallenged, and displayed the splendor of its gifts, within the entire lines of the English language. Newman, Foxton, and Greg have since entered their names on the index expurgatorius of Orthodoxy; but they also will be simply excluded from the sacred circle of readers bound over not to think; and, beyond this, will make their converts undisturbed, and accumulate fresh charges of threatening power in the intellectual atmosphere which surrounds the Church. Whence this pusillanimous apathy? Is it forgotten that creeds always assailed and[Pg 270] never defended are sure to perish? Or is it felt that the defence, to be sound and strong, must be so partial—so limited to points of detail—as to promise a mere diversion, instead of a repulse, and be more dangerous than the attitude of passiveness? Or does the Church resignedly give up her hold on the class of earnest, intellectual men who cannot degrade religion into a second-hand tradition, but must "know what they worship"? Certain it is that her whole activity has long abandoned this class, and addressed itself exclusively to the narrower and lower order of mind, whose vision is bounded by the periphery of a given creed, and whose life is satisfied with the squabbles and the gossip of articles forced into neighborhood, but no longer on speaking terms. If the efficacy of "holy orders" is called in question, streams of sacerdotal refutation flow from the press; but if the inspiration of the twelve Apostles is denied, it is a thing that neither bishop nor priest will care to vindicate. If a word of mistake is uttered about the drops of water on the face of a baptized baby, it conjures up a storm that rolls from diocese to diocese; but if you say that pure religion has no rite or sacrament at all, the ecclesiastic atmosphere remains still as a Quaker's silent meeting. The deepest interest is felt about the origin of liturgies, and the history of articles, but nobody heeds the most staggering evidence that three of the Gospels are second-hand aggregations of hearsay reports, and the fourth of questionable authenticity. You deny the self-consistency of the Church of England and call it a compromise; and the sudden rustle of gowns and sleeves proclaims a great sensation. You analyze the accounts of Christ's resurrection; you ask whether they are not discrepant; you point out that, apparently, the oldest record (Mark's) contained, in its original form, no account of the event at all, and that the others bear seeming traces of distinct and incompatible traditions. You cry aloud for help in this perplexity, and hold yourselves ready to follow any vestiges of truth; and, except that the creeds are still muttered every Sunday, all the oracles are dumb. If you want to find the true magic pass into heaven,[Pg 271] scores of rival professors press round you with obtrusive supply: if you ask in your sorrow, Who can tell me whether there be a heaven at all? every soul will keep aloof and leave you alone. All men that bring from God a fresh, deep nature, all in whom religious wants live with eager power, and who yet are too clear of soul to unthink a thought and falsify a truth, receive in these days no help and no response. The Church feels its interest, as an educated corporation, to consist in overlaying and covering up the foundations of faith with huge piles of curious learning, history, and art, which, by affording endless occupation, may detain men from search after the living rock, or notice of the undermining flood. And, as an established corporation, she relies on the lazy conservatism of mental possession; on the dislike felt by the comfortable classes towards the trouble of thought and the disturbance of feeling, and their usual willingness to hand over these operations to the prayer-book and the priest. We are grateful to Mr. Greg for shaking this ignoble and precarious reliance, which he notices in these admirable sentences.

"A more genuine and important objection to the consequences of our views is felt by indolent minds on their own account. They shrink from the toil of working out truth for themselves out of the materials which Providence has placed before them. They long for the precious metal, but loathe the rude ore out of which it has to be extricated by the laborious alchemy of thought. A ready-made creed is the paradise of their lazy dreams. A string of authoritative, dogmatic propositions comprises the whole mental wealth which they desire. The volume of nature—the volume of history—the volume of life—appall and terrify them. Such men are the materials out of whom good catholics of all sects are made. They form the uninquiring and submissive flocks which rejoice the hearts of all priesthoods. Let such cling to the faith of their forefathers, if they can. But men whose minds are cast in a nobler mould, and are instinct with a diviner life,—who love truth more than rest, and the peace of[Pg 272] Heaven rather than the peace of Eden,—to whom 'a loftier being brings severer cares,'—

'Who know man does not live by joy alone,
But by the presence of the power of God,'—

such must cast behind them the hope of any repose or tranquillity, save that which is the last reward of long agonies of thought; they must relinquish all prospect of any heaven, save that of which tribulation is the avenue and portal; they must gird up their loins and trim their lamp for a work which cannot be put by, and which must not be negligently done. 'He,' says Zschokke, 'who does not like living in the furnished lodgings of tradition, must build his own house, his own system of thought and faith for himself.'"—p. 242.

The work of Mr. Greg derives its interest, not from anything in it that will be new to the studious theologian, but from the freshness and force with which it presents the results of the author's reading and reflection on both the claims and the contents of Scripture. Adopting the ordinary notion of "inspiration," as equivalent to a supernaturally provided "infallibility," he reviews and condemns the reasonings by which this attribute has been associated with the Bible; and decides that the mere discovery of a statement in the Scriptures is no sufficient reason for our implicit reception of it. Having cleared away this obstacle to all intelligent criticism, he pursues his way, chiefly under the guidance of De Wette, through the earlier literature of the Hebrews; and adds another to the many exposures of the humiliating attempts, on the part of English divines, to reconcile the cosmogony of Genesis with modern science; attempts which we should call obsolete, did we not remember that Buckland and Whewell are both living, and have not yet attained the episcopal bench. Mr. Greg adopts the views of which Baur is the best known recent expositor, but which Lessing long ago traced out, as to the gradual formation of the Hebrew monotheism; and shows the striking contrast between the family Jehovah of the Patriarchs and the universal God of the later Prophets. Whatever be the origin of the doctrine of a Messiah, and under[Pg 273] whatever varieties it appeared, it never pointed, the author conceives, to such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, or such a product as the Christian Church; and it is only by perverse interpretations, unendurable out of the field of theology, that any passages in the Old Testament can be made out to prefigure the events in the New. In the argument, therefore, between the early missionaries of the Gospel and the unconvinced Jews, Mr. Greg maintains that the latter were the more faithful to their sacred books. The phenomena of the first three Gospels are next examined sufficiently to explain the several hypotheses respecting the order and materials of their composition. The author rests on Schleiermacher's conclusion, that a number of fragmentary records of incident and discourse formed the groundwork, partly common, partly exclusive, of the triple Evangile. He thus removes us, in this portion of the Scriptures, from first-hand testimony altogether; and throws upon internal criticism the task of discriminating between the original and reliable elements on the one hand, and those on the other which did not escape the accidents of floating tradition and the coloring of later ideas. This delicate task the author attempts; and manifests throughout an acquaintance with the methods and models of the higher criticism, fully qualifying him to form the independent judgment which he sums up in these words:—

"In conclusion, then, it appears certain that in all the synoptical Gospels we have events related that did not really occur, and words ascribed to Jesus which Jesus did not utter; and that many of these words and events are of great significance. In the great majority of these instances, however, this incorrectness does not imply any want of honesty on the part of the Evangelists, but merely indicates that they adopted and embodied, without much scrutiny or critical acumen, whatever probable and honorable narratives they found current in the Christian community."—p. 137.

The peculiarities of the fourth Gospel are next dealt with: its apparent polemic reference to the gnosis of the first and second centuries; its absence of demoniacs and parables; the[Pg 274] length, the mysticism, the dogma of its discourses, and their uniformity of complexion with the historian's own narrative and reflections; the narrowness of its charity, and the apocryphal appearance of its "first miracle." Without questioning the probability that within the contents of this Gospel is secreted a nucleus of facts, Mr. Greg thinks the book so clearly imbued throughout with the writer's idiosyncrasy, as to be inferior in historical value to the Synoptics; and the discourses of Jesus, in particular, must be regarded as free compositions by the Evangelist. In our author's management of this subject there seems to us to be an unfavorable change. The style of thought peculiar to John, as well as that characteristic of Paul, lies out of the latitude native to him; and with every intention to be just in his appreciation, he fails, we think, to reach the point of sympathy from which the fourth Gospel should be judged. The realism of his mind makes him a better critic of the hard Judaical element of the Christian Scriptures, with its objective distinctness and its moral beauty, than of the more ideal Gentile ingredients, where a subjective dialectic traces forms of thought in the intense fires of spiritual consciousness.

In a separate discussion of the question of miracles they are restored to the subordinate position, as compared with moral evidence, assigned to them by the early Protestant divines. Adopting the position of Locke, that "the miracles are to be judged by the doctrines, and not the doctrines by the miracles," he can admit with the less pain his conviction, that, even in the instance of the resurrection of Jesus, the historical evidence is too conflicting and uncertain to bear the supernatural weight imposed upon it. He admits, indeed, that Jesus may have risen from the dead; the Apostles manifestly believed it; and that the marked change in their character and conduct, from despair to triumph, affords the strongest evidence of the sustaining energy of this belief. But, in our ignorance of the grounds of this belief, (the Gospels and book of Acts containing no correct or first-hand report of the facts,) it is impossible, he conceives, to form any rational estimate[Pg 275] of their adequacy. In Mr. Greg's decision on this important point, we see the effect of his entrance on the problem of Christianity from the historical end. If, instead of addressing himself first to the Gospels which lie most remote from the source of the religion, and represent the latest and most constituted form of the primitive tradition, he had begun with the earliest remains of Christian literature, and traced the doctrine of the resurrection from the Epistles of Paul into the story of the Evangelists, we think he would have arrived at a different conclusion. In dismissing the testimony of Paul as "of little weight," he throws away the main evidence of the whole case. We can understand the critic who, having put the miraculous entirely aside, as logically inadmissible, makes light of the Pauline statements on this matter, and appeals to their writer's openness to impressions of the supernatural in proof of a certain vitiating unsoundness of mind. But one who, like our author, regards this à priori incredulity as an unphilosophical prejudice, and upon whose list of real causes, never precluded from possible action, supernatural power finds a place, cannot consistently condemn another for believing in concrete instances what he himself allows in the general; and put the Apostle out of court, on the plea that we have no evidence but his assertion of his intercourse with the risen Christ. Is not his assertion the only evidence possible of a subjective miracle? and is there any ground for restricting supernatural agency to an objective direction? No doubt, facts presented to external perception have the advantage of being open to more witnesses than one; and if it be deliberately laid down as a canon, that in no case can any anomalous event be admitted on one man's declaration, we allow the consistency of refusing a hearing to the Apostle. But such a rule would only be an example of the futility of all attempts to reduce moral evidence to mathematical expression. Facts of the most extraordinary nature have always been, and will always be, received on solitary attestation; and if so, it makes no logical difference whether they be called "objective," or "subjective."[Pg 276] A man has faculties for apprehending what passes within him, as well as what passes without; nor do we know any ground for trusting the latter which does not hold equally good for the former. If it be said that the reporter of a miracle not only announces what he sees or feels,—which we may accept on his veracity,—but proclaims its supernatural source,—which we may repudiate from distrust of his judgment,—the remark is perfectly just, only that it applies alike to all testimony, and not exclusively to miraculous reports. Our disposition to receive the evidence of a witness assumed to be veracious, depends on our having the same preconceptions of causation with himself. In the ordinary affairs of life, this common ground is sure to exist, and therefore remains a mere latent condition of belief. But the slowness to admit a miracle arises from the failure of this common ground; and if the hearer reserved in the background of his mind, and in equal readiness for action, the same supernatural power to which the witness's assertion refers, he would feel no more temptation to incredulity than in listening to some matter of course. The reluctance to believe, is proof that his store of causation is limited to the natural sphere; and every phenomenon irreducible to this drops away from all hold upon his mind. As there is no such thing as a fact perceived without a judgment formed, so is there no belief in the attestation of a fact without reliance on the soundness of a judgment; and that reliance depends on the hearer having the same list of causes in his mind as the witness. If, then, Mr. Greg holds, with Paul, that the power exists whence a subjective miracle might issue, and if from the nature of the case such miracle must remain a matter of personal consciousness, why reject the Apostle's report of his experience? In choosing from among the causes which both parties admit, it cannot be denied that Paul alights upon that which, if there, gives the easiest and most certain explanation; and to find a satisfactory origin for his impressions and conduct in natural agencies is so difficult, that critics would never attempt it, but to escape the acknowledgment of miracle. On his own principles we do not see[Pg 277] how our author could excuse himself to the Apostle for rejecting his testimony; which does but communicate, in the only conceivable way, that which is allowed to be possible enough, and which best clears up the mystery of an astonishing revolution in personal character, and in the convictions of an earnest and powerful mind.

The whole question of miracles, however, loses its anxious importance with those who, like our author, would still, amid their constant occurrence, look to other sources for the credentials of moral and religious truth. If anything is positively and incontrovertibly known respecting the Apostles,—and in proportion as we trust the synoptical Gospels must we allow Mr. Greg to extend the remark to their Master,—it is this: that whatever powers they exercised, and whatever communications they received, were inadequate to preserve them from serious error; and from delivering to the world, as a substantive part of their message, a most solemn expectation which was not to be fulfilled. This fact, no longer denied by any reputable theologian, alone shows that, even in the presence of the highest Christian authority, the natural criteria of reason and conscience cannot be dispensed with. In the application of these to the teachings and life of Christ, our author finds, if not any truths of supernatural dictation, at least the highest object of veneration and affection yet given to this world.

"Now on this subject," he says, "we hope our confession of faith will be acceptable to all save the narrowly orthodox. It is difficult, without exhausting superlatives, even to unexpressive and wearisome satiety, to do justice to our intense love, reverence, and admiration for the character and teachings of Jesus. We regard him, not as the perfection of the intellectual or philosophic mind, but as the perfection of the spiritual character,—as surpassing all men of all times in the closeness and depth of his communion with the Father. In reading his sayings, we feel that we are holding converse with the wisest, purest, noblest Being that ever clothed thought in the poor language of humanity. In studying his life, we feel[Pg 278] that we are following the footsteps of the highest ideal yet presented to us upon earth. 'Blessed be God that so much manliness has been lived out, and stands there yet, a lasting monument to mark how high the tides of divine life have risen in the world of man!'"—p. 227.

We differ altogether from our author in his notion of inspiration, and his reduction of Christianity within the limits of human resource. But we must say, that while there is such an estimate as this of what Jesus Christ was, it is a matter of subordinate moment what is thought about the mode in which he became so.

By a process of "Christian Eclecticism," Mr. Greg draws forth from the Gospels the elements which he regards as characteristic of the religion of Jesus; distinguishing those which make it the purest of faiths from others which appear to him irreconcilable with a just philosophy. The doctrine of a future life is reserved for a separate discussion; the general result of which we know not how to describe, otherwise than by saying that the author discards all the evidence and yet retains the conclusion. All the arguments, metaphysical and moral, for human immortality, he condemns as absolutely worthless; he confesses that he has no new ones to propose; he affirms that all appearances, without exception, proclaim the permanence of death, the absence of any spiritual essence in man, and the absolute sway of the laws of organization; yet, on the report of that very "soul" within him, whose existence nature disowns, he holds the doctrine of a future existence by the irresistible tenure of a first truth. We do not wonder that the rigor with which Mr. Greg has pushed his principles through other subjects of thought should relent at this point, and refuse to cast the sublimest of human hopes over the brink of darkness. We respect, as a holy abstinence, his refusal to silence the pleadings of the inner voice. But we admire his faith more than his philosophy; and are astonished that he does not suspect the soundness of a scientific method which lands him in results he cannot hold. No scepticism is so fatal,—for none has so wide a sweep,—as that[Pg 279] which despairs of the self-reconciliation of human nature; which flings among our faculties the reproach of irretrievable contradiction; which sets up first truths against deductions, conscience against science, faith against logic. Ever since Kant balanced his Antinomies, and employed the gravitation of Practical reason to turn the irresolute scales of the Speculative, this unwholesome practice has been spreading, of assuming an ultimate discordance between co-existing powers of the mind. In the language of rhetoric or poetry, in the discussion of popular notions on morals and religion, it would be hypercritical to complain of the antitheses of understanding and feeling,—sense and soul. But to an exact thinker it must be apparent that an ambidextrous intellect is no intellect at all; and that, were this all our endowment, the life of the wisest would be but a chase after mocking shadows of thought. The following words of our author, with all their tranquil appearance, describe a state of things which, were it real, might well strike us with dismay:—

"There are three points especially of religious belief, regarding which intuition (or instinct) and logic are at variance,—the efficacy of prayer, man's free-will, and a future existence. If believed, they must be believed, the last without the countenance, the two former in spite of the hostility of logic."—p. 303.

This is absolute Pyrrhonism, and though said in the interest of religion, is subversive alike of knowledge and of faith. The pretended "logic" can be good for very little, which comes out with so suicidal an achievement as the disproof of first truths. The condition under which alone logic can exist as a science is the unity in the human mind of the laws of belief,—a condition which would be violated if any first truth contradicted another in itself, or in its deductions. The moment, therefore, such a contradiction turns up, a consistent thinker will either regard it as a mere semblance, and proceed to re-examine his premises, and test his reasoning; or he will treat it as real; and then it throws contempt on logic altogether, and relegates it into impossibility. In neither case can his[Pg 280] reliance incline to the logical side. Mr. Greg, however, sticks to his logic whenever, as in the two cases mentioned in the foregoing extract, it loudly negatives a point of religious belief; and abandons it only where it restricts itself to cold and dumb discouragement. A bolder distrust of his logic, and a firmer faith in the logic of nature, would perhaps have harmonized the differing voices of the intellect and the soul, blending them in a faith neither afraid to think nor ashamed to pray.

Had our author been as familiar with the Catholic and Arminian divines, as with the literature of inductive science and Calvinistic theology, he would have known that there is a philosophy from which the religious intuitions encounter no repugnance; and would, at least, have noticed its offer of mediation between Faith and Reason. He is, however, entirely shut up within the formulas of a different school, which press with their resistance on his religious feeling in every direction, and produce a conflict which he can neither appease nor terminate. With an intellect entirely overridden by the ideas of Law and Necessity, no man can escape the force of the common objections to any doctrine of prayer, or of forgiveness of sin; and if those ideas possess universal validity, the very discussion of such doctrines is, in the last degree, idle and absurd. But what if some mediæval schoolman, or some impugner of the Baconian orthodoxy, were to suggest that, though Law is coextensive with outward nature, Nature is not coextensive with God, and that beyond the range where his agency is bound by the pledge of predetermined rules lies an infinite margin, where his spirit is free? And what if, in aggravation of his heresy, he were to contend that Man also, as counterpart of God, belongs not wholly to the realm of nature, but transcends it by a certain endowment of free power in his spirit? Having made these assumptions, on the ground that they were more agreeable to "intuitive" feeling, and not less so to external evidence, than the one-sidedness of their opposites, might he not suggest that room is now found for a doctrine of prayer? Not that any event bespoken and planted in the sphere of nature can be turned aside by[Pg 281] the urgency of desire and devotion; not that the slightest swerving is to be expected from the usages of creation, or of the mind; wherever law is established—without us or within us—there let it be absolute as the everlasting faithfulness. But God has not spent himself wholly in the courses of custom, and mortgaged his infinite resources to nature; nor has he closed up with rules every avenue through which his fresh energy might find entrance into life; but has left in the human soul a theatre whose scenery is not all pre-arranged, and whose drama is ever open to new developments. Between the free centre of the soul in man, and the free margin of the activity of God, what hinders the existence of a real and living communion, the interchange of look and answer, of thought and counterthought? If, in response to human aspiration, a higher mood is infused into the mind; if, in consolation of penitence or sorrow, a gleam of gentle hope steals in; and if these should be themselves the vivifying touch of divine sympathy and pity, what law is prejudiced? what faith is broken? what province of nature has any title to complain? And so, too, (might our mediæval friend continue,) with respect to the doctrine of forgiveness. If men are under moral obligation, and God is a being of moral perfection, he must regard their unfaithfulness with disapproval. Of his sentiments, the clear trace will be found in the various sufferings which constitute the natural punishment of wrong. These are incorporated in the very structure of the world and the constitution of life; and to persistence in their infliction, the Supreme Ruler is committed by the assurance of his constancy. They fasten on the guilty a chain which no pardon will strike off, but which he will drag till it is worn away. Not all the divine sentiment, however, is embodied in the physical consequences. Besides this determinate expression of his thought, written out on the finite world, there is an unexpressed element remaining behind, in his infinite nature: on the visible side of the veil is the suggestive manifestation; on the invisible, is the very affection manifested. There is a personal alienation, a forfeiture of approach and sympathy,[Pg 282] which would survive though creation were to perish and carry its punishments away; and would still cast its black shadow into empty space. This reserved sentiment, and this alone, is affected by repentance. But it is no small thing for the heart of shame to know this. The estrangement lasts no longer than the guilty temper and the unsoftened conscience; and when, through its sorrow, the mind is clear and pure, the sunshine of divine affection will burst it again. In this the free Spirit of God is different from his bound action in nature. Long after he himself has forgiven and embraced again, necessity—the creature of his legislation—will continue to wield the lash, and measure out with no relenting the remainder of the penalty incurred; and he that yet drags his burden and visibly limps upon his sin, may all the while have a heart at rest with God. And thus is retribution—the reaping as we have sown—in no contradiction with forgiveness,—the personal restoration.

How far such modes of thought as these would help to reconcile the conflicting claims,—and how they would stand related to Mr. Greg's terrible friend, "Logic," we do not pretend to decide. We refer to them only as possible means of escaping—at least of postponing—his desolating doctrine, that intuitions may tell lies; and in support of our statement, that his theoretic view lies entirely within the circle of a particular school,—a school, moreover, so little able to satisfy his aspirations, that he is obliged to patch up a compromise between his nature and his culture. The curious amalgamation which has taken place in England, of the metaphysics of Calvin with the physics of Bacon, has produced, in a large class, a philosophical tendency, with which the distinctive sentiments of Christianity very uneasily combine. The effacing of all lines separating the natural and moral, the limitation of God to the realm of nature, and the subjugation of all things to predestination, are among the chief features of this tendency, and the chief obstacles to any concurrence between the intellectual and the spiritual religion of the age.

If some of the elements in the early Christianity are too[Pg 283] hastily cancelled by our author, there is one sentiment whose inapplicability to the present day he exposes with an irresistible force;—that depreciating estimate of life which, however natural to Apostles "impressed with the conviction that the world was falling to pieces," is wholly misplaced among those for whose office and work this earthly scene is the appointed place. The exhortations of the Apostles, "granting the premises, were natural and wise."

"But for divines in this day—when the profession of Christianity is attended with no peril, when its practice, even, demands no sacrifice, save that preference of duty to enjoyment which is the first law of cultivated humanity—to repeat the language, profess the feelings, inculcate the notions, of men who lived in daily dread of such awful martyrdom, and under the excitement of such a mighty misconception; to cry down the world, with its profound beauty, its thrilling interests, its glorious works, its noble and holy affections; to exhort their hearers, Sunday after Sunday, to detach their heart from the earthly life, as inane, fleeting, and unworthy, and fix it upon heaven, as the only sphere deserving the love of the loving or the meditation of the wise,—appears to us, we confess, frightful insincerity, the enactment of a wicked and gigantic lie. The exhortation is delivered and listened to as a thing of course; and an hour afterwards the preacher, who has thus usurped and profaned the language of an Apostle who wrote with the fagot and the cross full in view, is sitting comfortably with his hearer over his claret; they are fondling their children, discussing public affairs or private plans in life, with passionate interest, and yet can look at each other without a smile or a blush for the sad and meaningless farce they have been acting!... Everything tends to prove that this life is, not perhaps, not probably, our only sphere, but still an integral one, and the one with which we are here meant to be concerned. The present is our scene of action,—the future is for speculation and for trust. We firmly believe that man was sent upon the earth to live in it, to enjoy it, to study it, to love it, to embellish it,—to make[Pg 284] the most of it, in short. It is his country, on which he should lavish his affections and his efforts. Spartam nactus es—hanc exorna. It should be to him a house, not a tent,—a home, not only a school. If, when this house and this home are taken from him, Providence, in its wisdom and its bounty, provides him with another, let him be deeply grateful for the gift,—let him transfer to that future, when it has become his present, his exertions, his researches, and his love. But let him rest assured that he is sent into this world, not to be constantly hankering after, dreaming of, preparing for, another, which may or may not be in store for him, but to do his duty and fulfil his destiny on earth,—to do all that lies in his power to improve it, to render it a scene of elevated happiness to himself, to those around him, to those who are to come after him. So will he avoid those tormenting contests with nature,—those struggles to suppress affections which God has implanted, sanctioned, and endowed with irresistible supremacy,—those agonies of remorse when he finds that God is too strong for him,—which now embitter the lives of so many earnest and sincere souls; so will he best prepare for that future which we hope for, if it come; so will he best have occupied the present, if the present be his all. To demand that we love heaven more than earth, that the unseen should hold a higher place in our affections than the seen and familiar, is to ask that which cannot be obtained without subduing nature, and inducing a morbid condition of the soul. The very law of our being is love of life, and all its interests and adornments."—pp. 271, 272.

With all that is admirable in our author's book, he contemplates the whole subject from a point of view which exhibits it in very imperfect lights. He professes to treat of "The Creed of Christendom." Yet, in examining only the canonical Scriptures and the primitive belief, he totally ignores the "Creed" of the greater part of "Christendom," namely, of the Catholic Church. For it is only Protestants that identify Christianity with the letter of the New Testament, and settle everything by appeal to its contents. According to the older[Pg 285] doctrine, Christianity is not a Divine Philosophy recorded in certain books, but a Divine Institution committed to certain men. The Christian Scriptures are not its source, but its first product; not its charter and definition, but its earliest act and the expression of its incipient thought. They exhibit the young attempts of the new agency, as it was getting to work upon the minds of men and trying to penetrate the resisting mass of terrestrial affairs. They are thus but the beginning of a record which is prolonged through all subsequent times, the opening page in the proceedings of a Church in perpetuity; and are not separated from the continuous sacred literature of Christendom, as insulated fragments of Divine authority. The supernatural element which they contain did not die out with their generation, but has never ceased to flow through succeeding centuries. Nor did the heavenly purpose—precipitated upon earthly materials and media—disclose itself most conspicuously at first; but rather cleared itself as it advanced and enriched its energy with better instruments. The sublimest things would even lie secreted in the unconscious heart of the new influence, and only with the slowness of noble growths push towards the light; for the noise and obtrusiveness of the human is ever apt to overwhelm the retiring silence of the divine. The disciples, who, when events were before their eyes, and great words fell upon their ears, "understood not these things at the time," are types of all men and all ages; whose religion, coming out in the event, is known to others better than to themselves. A faith, therefore, should be judged less by its first form than by its last; and at all events be studied, not as it once appeared, but in the entire retrospect of its existence.

No doubt this doctrine of development is made subservient, in the Romish system, to monstrous sacerdotal claims. A priestly hierarchy pretends to the exclusive custody, and the gradual unfolding, of God's sacred gift. But sweep away this holy corporation; throw its treasury open, and let its vested right, of paying out the truth, be flung into the free air of history; gather together no Sacred College but the collected[Pg 286] ages; appeal to no high Pontiff but the Providence of God;—and there remains a far juster and sublimer view of the place and function of a pure Gospel in the world, than the narrow Protestant conception. Christianity becomes thus, not the Creed of its Founders, but the Religion of Christendom, to be estimated only in comparison with the faiths of other groups of the great human family; and the superhuman in it will consist in this,—the providential introduction among the affairs of this world of a divine influence, which shall gradually reach to untried depths in the hearts of men, and become the organizing centre of a new moral and spiritual life. It is a power appointed—an inspiration given—to fetch by reverence a true religion out of man, and not, by dictation, to put one into him.

For this end, it would not even be necessary that the bearers of the divine element should be personally initiated into the counsels whose ministers they are. Philosophy must know what it teaches; but Inspiration, in giving the intensest light to others, may have a dark side turned towards itself. There is no irreverence in saying this, and no novelty: on the contrary, the idea has ever been familiar to the most fervent men and ages, of Prophets who prepared a future veiled from their own eyes, and saintly servants of heaven, who drew to themselves a trust, and wielded a power, which their ever-upward look never permitted them to guess. Nay, to no one was this conception less strange, than to the very man who, in his turn, must now have it applied to himself. With the Apostle Paul it was a favorite notion, that the entire plan of the Divine government had been a profound secret during the ages of its progress, and was opening into clear view only at the hour of its catastrophe. Not only was there more in it than had been surmised, but something utterly at variance with all expectation. Its whole conception had remained unsuspected from first to last; undiscerned by the vision of seers, and unapproached by the guesses of the wise. Never absent from the mind of God, and never pausing in its course of execution, it had yet evaded the notice of all observers;[Pg 287] and winding its way through the throng of nations and the labyrinth of centuries, the great Thought had passed in disguise, using all men and known of none. Nor was it only the pagan eye that, for want of special revelation, had been detained in darkness, or beguiled with the scenery of dreams. The very people whose life was the main channel of the Divine purpose did not feel the tide of tendency which they conveyed; the patriarchs who fed their flocks near its fountains, the lawgiver who founded a state upon its banks, the priests whose temple poured blood into its waters, and the prophets at whose prayer the clouds of heaven dropped fresh purity into the stream,—all were unconscious of its course; assigning it to regions it should never visit, and missing the point where it should be lost in the sea. Nay, Paul seems to bring down this edge of darkness to a later time; to include within it even the ministry of Christ and the Galilean Apostles; to imply that even they were unconscious instruments of a scheme beyond the range of their immediate thought; and that not till Jesus had passed into the light of heaven did the time come for revealing, through the man of Tarsus, the significance of Messiah's earthly visit, and its place in the great scheme of things. Paul, in claiming this as his own special function, certainly implies that, previous to his call, no one was in condition to interpret the secret counsels of God in the historic development of his providence. He feels this to be no reflection on his predecessors, no cause of elevation in himself; steward as he is of a mighty mystery, he is less than the least of all saints. He simply stands at the crisis when a conception is permitted to the world, which even "the angels have vainly desired to look into"; and though he may see more, he is infinitely less than the Prophets and the Messiah whose place it is given him to explain. He is but the interpreter, they are the grand agencies interpreted. He is but the discerning eye, they are the glorious objects on which it is fixed.

In seeking, therefore, for the divine element in older dispensations, the Apostle would assuredly not consult the projects[Pg 288] and beliefs of their founders and ministers. In his view, the very scheme of God was to work through these without their knowing what they were about; to let them aim at one thing while he was directing them to another; to pour through their life and soul an energy which should indeed fire their will and flow from their lips in their own best purposes, but steal quietly behind them for his; so that what was primary with them was perhaps evanescent with him; while that which was incidental, and dropped from them unawares, was the seed of an eternal good. What Moses planned, what David sung, what Isaiah led the people to expect, was not what Heaven had at heart to execute. Even in quest of God's thought in the Christian dispensation, Paul does not refer to the doctrines, the precepts, the miracles of Jesus during his ministry in Palestine,—to the memorials of his life, or the testimony of his companions. He assumes that, at so early a date, the time had not yet come for the truth to appear, and that it was vain to look for it in the preconceptions of the uncrucified and unexalted Christ; who was the religion, not in revelation, but in disguise. If, therefore, any one had argued against the Apostle thus: "Why tell us to discard the law? your Master said he came to fulfil it. How do you venture to preach to the Gentiles, when Jesus declared his mission limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? No vestiges of your doctrine of free grace can be found in the parables, or of redeeming faith in the Sermon on the Mount";—he would have boldly replied, that this proves nothing against truths that are newer than the life, because expounded by the death, of Christ; that God reveals by action, not by teaching; that no servant of his can understand his own office till it is past; and that only those who look back upon it through the interpretation of events, can read aright the divine idea which it enfolds.

This view it was that made the Apostle so bold an innovator, and filled his Epistles with a system so different from that of the synoptical Gospels as almost to constitute a different religion. He had seized the profound and sublime idea[Pg 289] that, when men are inspired, the inspiration occupies, not their conscious thought and will, but their unconscious nature; laying a silent beauty on their affections, secreting a holy wisdom in their life, and, through the sorrows of faithfulness, tempting their steps to some surprise of glory. That which they deliberately think, that which they anxiously elaborate, that which they propose to do, is ever the product of their human reason and volition, and cannot escape the admixture of personal fallibility. But their free spontaneous nature speaks unawares, like a sweet murmuring from angels' dreams. What they think without knowing it, what they say without thinking it, what they do without saying it, all the native pressures of their love and aspiration, these are the hiding-place of God, wherein abiding, he leaves their simplicity pure and their liberty untouched. The current of their reasoning and action is determined by human conditions and material resistances; but the fountain in the living rock has waters that are divine. If this be true, then must we search for the heavenly element in the latencies rather than the prominencies of their life; in what they were, rather than in what they thought to do; in the beliefs they felt without announcing; in the objects they accomplished, but never planned. We must wait for their agency in history, and from the fruit return to find the seed.

It is not peculiar to Mr. Greg that, in estimating Christianity, he has neglected, and even reversed, this principle. All who have treated of it from the Protestant point of view have done the same. They have assumed that the religion was to be most clearly discerned at its commencement; that the divine thought it contained would be, not evolved, but obscured by time, and might be better detected in ideal shape at the beginning of the ages, than realized at the end; that its agents and inaugurators must have been fully cognizant of its whole scope and contents, and set them in the open ground of their speech and practical career. In the minds of all Protestants the Christian religion is identified exclusively with the ideas of the first century, with the creed of the Apostles, with the[Pg 290] teachings of Christ. The New Testament is its sole depository, in whose books there is nothing for which it is not answerable. The consequence is a perpetual struggle between untenable dogma and unprofitable scepticism. The whole structure of faith becomes precarious. If Luke and Matthew should disagree about a date or a pedigree; if Mark should report a questionable miracle; if John should mingle with his tenderness and depth some words of passionate intolerance; if Peter should misapply a psalm, and Paul indite mistaken prophecies; above all, if Jesus should appear to believe in demonology, and not to have foreseen the futurities of his Church,—these detected specks are felt like a total eclipse; affrighted faith hides its face from them and shrieks; and he who points them out, though only to show how pure the orb that spreads behind, is denounced as a prophet of evil. The peaceful and holy centre of religion is shaken by storms of angry erudition. Devout ingenuity or indevout acuteness spend themselves in vitiating the impartial course of historical criticism; neither of them reflecting, that, if the topics in dispute are open to reasonable doubt, they cannot be matter of revelation, and may be calmly looked at as objects of natural thought. It is a thing alike dangerous and unbecoming that religion should be narrowed to a miserable literary partisanship, bound up with a disputed set of critical conclusions, unable to deliver its title-deeds from a court of perpetual chancery, whose decisions are never final. The time seems to have arrived for freeing the Protestant Christianity from its superstitious adhesion to the mere letter of the Gospel, and trusting more generously to that permanent inspiration, those ever-living sources of truth within the soul, of which Gospel and Epistle, the speeches of Apostles and the insight of Christ, are the pre-eminent, rather than the lonely, examples. The primitive Gospel is not in its form, but only in its spirit, the everlasting Gospel. It is concerned, and, if we look to quantity alone, chiefly concerned, with questions that have ceased to exist, and interests that no longer agitate. It often reasons from principles we do not own, and is tinged with feelings[Pg 291] which we cannot share. Often do the most docile and open hearts resort to it with reverent hopes which it does not realize, and close it with a sigh of self-reproach or disappointment. With the deep secrets of the conscience, the sublime hopes, the tender fears, the infinite wonderings of the religious life, it deals less altogether than had been desired; and in touching them does not always glorify and satisfy the heart. We are apt to long for some nearer reflection, some more immediate help, of our existence in this present hour and this English land, where our enemies are not Pharisees and Sadducees, or our controversies about Beelzebub and his demons; but where we would fain know how to train our children, to subdue our sins, to ennoble our lot, to think truly of our dead. The merchant, the scholar, the statesman, the heads of a family, the owner of an estate, occupy a moral sphere, the problems and anxieties of which, it must be owned, Evangelists and Apostles do not approach. Scarcely can it be said that general rules are given, which include these particular cases. For the Christian Scriptures are singularly sparing of general rules. They are eminently personal, national, local. They tell us of Martha and Mary, of Nicodemus and Nathaniel, but give few maxims of human nature, or large formulas of human life: so that their spiritual guidance first becomes available when its essence has been translated from the special to the universal, and again brought down from the universal to the modern application. They are felt to be an inadequate measure of our living Christianity, and to leave untouched many earnest thoughts that aspire and pray within the mind. One divine gift, indeed, they impart to us,—the gracious and holy image of Christ himself. Yet, somehow, even that sacred form appears with more disencumbered beauty, and in clearer light, when regarded at a little distance in the pure spaces of our thought, than when seen close at hand on the historic canvas. It is not that the ideal figure is a subjective fiction of our own, more perfect than the real. Every lineament, every gesture, all the simple majesty, all the deep expressiveness, we conceive to be justified and demanded[Pg 292] by the actual portraiture: our least hesitating veneration sees nothing that is not there. But the original artists' sympathy we feel to have been somewhat different from ours. They have labored to exhibit aspects that move us little; and only faintly marked the traces that to us are most divine. The view is often broken, the official dress turned into a disguise. The local groups are in the way; the possessed and the perverse obtrude themselves in front with too much noise; and the refracting cloud of prophecy and tradition is continually thrown between. So that the image has a distincter glory to the meditating mind than to the reading eye.

All this, oftener perhaps felt than confessed, is perfectly natural and innocent. It betrays the instinctive analysis by which our own affections separate the divine from the human. Paul was right in his principle, that in history the divine element lies hid; is missed at the time, even by those who are its vehicle; and does not parade itself in what they consciously design, but lurks in what they unconsciously execute. It comes forth at "the end of the ages,"—the retrospect of fifty generations instead of the foresight of one. This doctrine is true of individuals, in proportion as they are great and good. They labor at what is most difficult to them, and make it their end; but their appointed power lies in what is easiest. They chiefly prize the beliefs and the virtues most painfully won; but their highest truth dwells in the trusts they cannot help, and their purest influence in the graces they never willed, or knew to be their own. And it is true in history; Paul himself signally illustrating the rule which he had applied to earlier times. He had found, as he supposed, the Providence of the Past, which all had missed, from Moses to Christ; but in his turn he missed, as we perceive, the Providence of the Future, from himself to us. The kind of agency which he anticipated for Christ bears no resemblance to that which his religion has actually exercised. The only fault we can find with Mr. Thom's admirable exposition is, that he attributes to the Apostle too distinct an apprehension of Christ as an impersonation of moral perfection; and supposes[Pg 293] the purpose of the Pauline Christianity to have been the establishment, as sole condition of discipleship, of reverential sympathy with the type of character realized in the Galilean life of Jesus. He says:—

"In contrast with such teachers" (the Ritual and the Dogmatic), "St. Paul, in our present chapter (1 Corinthians ii.), refers both to the matter and the manner of his own ministration of the Gospel. He did not teach it as a Rhetorician, to attract admiration to himself, and give more lively impressions of Paul the Orator than of Christ the Redeemer from sin, nor as a Philosopher, to raise doubtful questions on metaphysical subjects, and become the leader of a speculative school; but as the Apostle of Jesus Christ, he proclaimed to the hearts of men the practical and life-giving Gospel, that 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself'; that by the universal Saviour all distinctions were for ever destroyed, and the whole family of God to grow into the common likeness of that well-beloved Son,—for that now neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but the renewal of the affections after the image of the Lord. Where could an entrance be found for party divisions in a doctrine that professed nothing, that aimed at nothing, except to awaken the consciousness of sin within the heart, and, through trust in the God of holiness and love revealed in Jesus, to lead it to repentance and life? All who felt this love of Christ constraining them, cleansing their souls by the divine image that had taken possession of their affections, and, through the mercy it proclaimed, encouraging their penitence to look for pardon from their God, must, of necessity, be one communion; for this Gospel sentiment and hope could create no divisions amongst those who had it,—and those who had it not were outside the Christian pale, and, so far, could make no schisms within it. Now, whence comes this Gospel sentiment, this new principle of life? Were there any who had the exclusive power of communicating it? Did it require to be introduced by any intricate reasonings, by any subtle dialectics, which only the Masters in philosophy had at their command?[Pg 294] Not so, says St. Paul;—it is a spiritual feeling, excited by moral sympathy, as soon as Christ is offered to the hearts that are susceptible of the sentiment;—and in whatever bosom there is not enough of the Spirit of God to cause that moral attraction to take place, neither philosophy nor outward forms, nor aught else but the divine image of goodness kept before the heart, can awaken the slumbering sensibilities which are the very faculties of spiritual apprehension, and which, as soon as they are alive, behold in Christ the solution of their own struggling and imperfect existence, their ideal and their rest. In regard to a sentiment so spiritual, a sympathy with the image of God, where is the possibility of introducing party divisions, and violating Christian unity? There can be but two parties,—those that have the sentiment, and those that have it not. All Christians constitute the one,—and as for the other, in relation to Christian unity, they are not in question. Such is the argument of St. Paul in this second chapter."—p. 30.

It may be quite true that the essential power of Christianity resides in the image, ever present to the heart of Christendom, of a God resembling Christ, and loving those who aspire to approach him through the same resemblance. But we cannot find any traces of such a conception in the writings of Paul. The "faith" on which he exclusively insisted would be very incorrectly defined, we conceive, as a reverence of Christ's character as morally like God. If we may judge from the negative evidence of his letters, he appears to have had no insight into the interior of his Master's earthly life, and no great concern about it. There is an entire absence of any moral picture of Jesus, who is presented in the Apostolic writings as an object, not of retrospective veneration, but of expectant reliance; not of admiring trust for personal qualities realized in a past career, but of hope grounded on his official destiny in the future. One beauty of his character is, indeed, appealed to in the Pauline writings, viz. his humility and self-renunciation;[54] but even this is recognized, not[Pg 295] on historical, but on theocratic grounds; it is illustrated, not by anything in his life, but by the fact of his death, conceived as a voluntary postponement of his theocratic prerogatives, and an abrogation of his exclusive nationality. He was a "spiritual" object to the Apostle of the Gentiles, not from perception of the inner marks and graces of his spirit, but from his being invisible and immortal, reserved in heaven under external escape from the conditions of earthly life. Mr. Thom's doctrine is a happy development of modern truth from ancient error; but regarded as a mere interpretation, it perhaps sets down to the Apostle's account a just moral appreciation of the past, instead of an erroneous conception of the Providence of the future. The religion of Christ has assuredly turned out a very different phenomenon from anything that was anticipated at its origin. It was announced as a Kingdom; as the king did not come, it became a Republic. It was conceived as a State; it grew up into a Faith. It was proclaimed as the world's end; it proved to be a fresh beginning. It was to consummate the Law and the Prophets; and it confounded both. It was to cover Pagan nations with shame and destruction; it embalmed their literature, and was transformed by their philosophy. It was to deliver over the earth to the pure and severe Monotheism of the Hebrews; which, however, it so relaxed as to provoke Islam into existence to proclaim again the monarchy of God. Its subjects were to be gathered from the Jews and half-castes of the Eastern Synagogue; and its most signal glories have been among the Teutonic nations, and the then unsuspected continents of the West. In every element of its internal power, in every direction of its external action, it has burst all the proportions, left behind all the expectations, with which it was born; and how can we continue to try it by the standard of its origin? Are we to say, that, having promised one thing and become another, it is not of God? That might be well, if it had fallen short of its own professions,—disappointed us of dreams it had awakened of glory and delight. But if it has been far better than its word; if, instead of winding up[Pg 296] the world's affairs, it has given them a new career; if for Messiah's tame millennium we have the grand and struggling life of Christendom, and for his closed books of judgment the yet open page of human history; if for the earthly throne and sceptre of Christ, sweeping away the treasures of past civilization, we have his heavenly image and spirit, presiding over the re-birth of art, the awakening of thought, the direction of law, and the organism of nations; if from the dignity of outward sovereignty he has been raised to that of Lord of the living conscience, not superseding the soul, but exercising it with sorrow and aspiration; then, surely, in so outstripping itself, the religion should win a more exceeding measure of trust and affection. Had it only realized its first assurances, we should have thought it divine; since it has so much surpassed them, we must esteem it diviner. There is no reason for the common assumption that a religion must be purest in its infancy. It is no less surrounded then, than at each subsequent time, with human conditions, and transmitted through human faculties; and when delivered to the world, embodied in action or in speech, necessarily presents itself as a mixed product of divine insight and of human thought,—of the living present and the decaying past; a flash of heavenly fire on the outspread fuel upon the altar of tradition. So it is with the Scriptures of the New Testament; which are not the heavenly source, but the first earthly result and expression of Christianity, and which present the perishable conditions as well as the indestructible life of the religion. Only by the course of time and Providence can these be disengaged from one another, and the accidents of place and nation fall away. If there dwell in the midst a divine productive element, the further it passes from the moment of its nativity, the clearer and more august will it appear. It is like the seed dropped at first on an unprepared and unexpectant ground; which in its earliest development yields but a struggling and scanty growth, but each season, as another generation of leaves falls from the boughs, becomes the source, through richer nutriment, of fuller forms; till at length, when[Pg 297] it has spread the foliage of ages, making its own soil, and deepening the luxuriance of its own roots, a forest in all its glory covers the land, and waves in magnificence over continents once bare of life and beauty. So is it with the germ of divine truth cast upon the inhospitable conditions of history; it is small and feeble in its earlier day; but when it has provided the aliment of its own growth, and shed its reproductive treasures on the congenial mind of generations and races, it starts into the proportions of a Christendom, and becomes the shade and shelter of a world.

Much, therefore, as we value all attempts to illustrate the first records of Christianity, and to detach what was purely human and transient in its original form, we think that the religion itself cannot acknowledge the competency of such investigations to decide upon its claims. From a verdict on its first works, it has a right to appeal for judgment upon the whole. It is the religion, not of John and Paul alone, but of Christendom; without a comparative estimate of whose moral and social genius, it can by no means be appreciated. The weakness and inadequacy of all narrower methods of defence will in the end drive the clergy to occupy this larger basis of operations. And the change will be not more favorable to the logic of their cause than to the charity of their disposition. So long as the Scriptures alone are taken as the standard, no more than one creed, at most, can be regarded as concurrent with the Christian faith. But when the entire existence of the religion through eighteen centuries is adopted as the measure, the very interests of advocacy themselves require that the best construction rather than the worst be put upon the errors and eccentricities of all churches within the compass of Christendom. The evidences would, in that case, be destroyed by exclusiveness, and widened in their foundations by comprehensiveness of temper; and the firmness of every disciple's faith and the energy of his zeal would become assurances, not of his limitation of mind, but of his largeness of heart. Instead of endless divisions, multiplied in the search after unity, we might hope to see the lines of separation become[Pg 298] ever fainter; and every test of Christianity withdrawn except that of moral sympathy with the spirit of Christ; a test which, as God alone can apply it, man cannot abuse; and according to which many that, in the ecclesiastic roll, have been first, shall be last, and the last first.

[Pg 299]


The Temporal Benefits of Christianity exemplified in its Influence on the Social, Intellectual, Civil, and Political Condition of Mankind, from its first Promulgation to the present Day. By Robert Blakey. London. 1849.

Small Books on Great Subjects. Edited by a few Well-Wishers to Knowledge. No. 19. On the State of Man subsequent to the Promulgation of Christianity. London. 1851.

The Connection of Morality with Religion; a Sermon, preached in the Cathedral of St. Patrick, at an Ordination held by the Lord Archbishop of Dublin, Sunday, September 21, 1851. By William Fitzgerald, A.M., Vicar of St. Ann's, and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Dublin. London. 1851.

Of these works, the third treats theoretically, the others practically, of the relation of Christianity to human nature. The preacher seeks in the natural conscience for the moral ground and receptacle of revelation; while the historians trace its moral operation in society and life. Were both tasks perfectly performed, we should be furnished with a complete image of the religion at once in its idea and its expression; should be able definitely to compare its promise with its achievements and to submit it, as a whole, to philosophical appreciation. But the two halves of the subject are exhibited with very unequal success. It is much easier to show the intended than the[Pg 300] actual influence of the Christian faith upon the character of its disciples,—to determine by a priori methods what it must be, than by an a posteriori induction to estimate what it has been, and is. Mr. Fitzgerald, as becomes a professor of ethical science, has well contended that the religion which he recommends from the pulpit is neither indifferent nor supercilious towards the morals which he teaches from the University chair,—but assumes their obligation, appeals to their authority, and, in its mode of reconciling the human will with the Divine, raises them into eternal sanctities. It addresses itself to man as a being already conscious of responsibility; and simply proposes to restore reason and conscience to that supremacy in fact which of right they can never lose. How far has this aim been visibly realized? Are the traces of a Divine renovation clear upon the face of Christendom? Is there the difference between ancient Greece and modern England, or between the empire and the papacy of Rome, which might be expected between an unregenerate world and a regenerate? The historical answer to these questions is attempted by Mr. Blakey, with perhaps adequate resources of knowledge, but with so imperfect an apprehension of the requisites of his argument, that his book, though often instructive in detail, is altogether ineffective as a whole. He is content to select and enumerate the most salient and favorable points in the transition from ancient to modern civilization, and to set them down to the credit of Christianity; without care to disengage the action of concurrent causes, or to balance the account by reference to more questionable effects. A much finer analysis is needed, in order to draw from history its real testimony on this great matter; and nothing can well be more arbitrary, than to stroll through some fifteen centuries, and, gathering up none but the most picturesque and beneficent phenomena, weave them into a glory to crown the faith with which they co-exist. In Christendom, all the great and good things that are done at all will of course be done by Christians, and will contain such share of the religious element as may belong to the character of the actor or the age; but before you can avail yourself of them[Pg 301] in Christian Apologetics, it must be shown that, under any other faith, no social causes would have remained adequate either to produce them or to provide any worthy equivalent. Because Charlemagne, after baptizing the Saxons in their own blood, displayed a better zeal by establishing cathedral and conventual schools, therefore to put the horn-book of the liberal arts into the hand of his religion, while leaving the wet sword to stain his own; because chivalry blended in its vow "fear of God" with "love of the ladies," therefore to trace all loyalty and courtesy to the doctrine of the Church; because the mediæval schoolmen imported into every science the canons of Divinity, and decided between Realism and Nominalism on eucharistic principles, therefore to give the priesthood all the honors of modern philosophy and intellectual liberty,—is, to say the least, very vulnerable logic and very superficial history. Of a far superior order is the little book "On the State of Man subsequent to the Promulgation of Christianity." In a previous treatise, "On the State of Man before the Promulgation of Christianity," the author had passed under rapid review the ancient systems of civilization,—stationary, progressive, aggressive; and having seized on their characteristic features, he now brings with him determinate points of comparison into his survey of the post-Apostolic times. The view which he spreads beneath your eye of the world, as it lay ready to afford a channel for the Christian faith, is remarkable for breadth and truth. Conducting you, with the wide picture in your mind, to the pure head-spring in Galilee, and keeping close to the stream as it descends and opens from these sequestered heights, he enables you to see, reach by reach, where it fertilizes and where it destroys; the new fields of life it enters, the old landmarks of habit it overwhelms. The author is not more familiar with the Christian Apologists and Fathers, than with the later Latin and revived Greek literature from Trajan to Aurelian; and by skilfully noting the moments when Pagan and Christian life not only stood in silent co-presence, but came into active contact, he brings out into clear relief the new type of character which[Pg 302] formed itself within the communities of disciples. That type is so strikingly original, its features so conspicuously express an order of passions and ideas strange alike to the Hellenic and the Italian races, as to betray the creative action of some vast moral power unborrowed from the established civilization. When the free Roman breaks the bread of communion with slaves,—when the slippery Syrian forswears lying and theft,—when the heedless Greek changes his eagerness of the moment into a living for eternity,—when a people ignorant of Stoic maxims display a contempt of torture and death sublimer than the ideal of the Porch,—an influence is plainly at work which has penetrated to hitherto unawakened depths of the human soul. The phenomenon is the more impressive, when regard is had to the materials from which the early Christian communities were gathered. It cannot be imagined that they were composed of elements particularly choice; and, indeed, amid the universal corruption of morals and exhaustion of wholesome life, it is difficult to conceive how, if the Christian doctrine had enforced a rigorous selection, instead of indiscriminately inviting innocence and guilt, any decent elements could have been collected. Without adopting Gibbon's contemptuous estimate of the body of primitive believers, we cannot doubt that it comprised very mixed ingredients; we know that it contained great numbers of the servile class, and very few whose station and culture gave them access to the higher ideas familiar to the schools of philosophy: yet from these unpromising sources arose a society, which, in severity of morals, in intensity of affection, in heroism of endurance, reversed the habits of the world to which they belonged. It seems to us an idle question for sceptical criticism to raise, whether the religion of Christ comprised in its teachings any ethical element absolutely new. If genius had conceived it all before, life had not produced it till now; and the more you affirm the philosophers' competency to think it, the more do you convict them of inability to realize it. But in morals scarcely can there be clear intellectual conception of principles not yet embodied in living character. As in the highest works[Pg 303] of art, the thing seen is far other than the thing imagined and described; not doctrines, but persons, are here the only expression of the truth; and till they appear, ethical forms are but as the human clay without the vital fire. In the statement of thought, the early Christians, not excepting the Scripture writers, are rude and unskilled; and a taste formed from the study of Plato and Seneca may be offended by the rusticity of Mark, and the abruptness of Paul. But whoever can rise above the level of a merely intellectual critique, and embrace, with our anonymous author, the whole phenomenon of the first centuries of our era, will see a glow of self-denying faith, and a deep movement of conscience, affording manifest announcement of a new edition of human nature.

That edition has now been extant for many centuries; and is variously legible in the literature, the institutions, the private manners of Christendom. The Christian ideal of human life lies as an open book before us; yet as a book so various in its versions, and so overlaid with comments, that the fresh flavor of its language, and even the finer essence of its thought, are in danger of being lost. The actual Christianity of each successive age, and each contemporary nation, is the express result, not only in its dogma, but in its life, of two component terms,—a given matter, and a given faculty of faith. However full and constant the former may be in itself, the latter is perpetually variable with the knowledge and passions of the time, and the special genius of individual leaders; nor can this variation of insight in the mind fail to neutralize some portion of truth, and to give disproportionate magnitude to others. The data supplied by inspiration itself form no exception to this rule. Delivered into the charge of the human soul, they fall into the moulds of its recipient nature, take their immediate form from the laws of its life, and are reacted on from its independent activity. The immutable custody of anything by a finite thinking subject, involves the most evident contradiction; the very contact with human intelligence reduces universal truth to partial, the permanent to the variable, the secure to the contingent. It is only in the essential Unity[Pg 304] of Reason and Conscience in every age, that we find the means of correcting the aberrations and verifying the insight of all particular men. Not that we are to conceive of the human race collectively as one large person, of which individual minds are vital organs, and which has a necessary growth and development, entitling each century to boast of advance beyond its predecessors. We know of no spiritual units, of no personalities, except each single and separate will; nor do we find anything in their mutual relation which necessarily determines them to uninterrupted improvement, and excludes the encroachment of degeneracy and falsehood. Indeed, no sorrier product is there of human conceit and ignorance than the cant of "progress," which assumes that every newest phase of thought is wisest. But if all men are endowed with radically the same faculties, however various in their intensities and proportions, there is a court of appeal in permanent sitting, where the normal laws of intellectual and moral apprehension are administered against all provincial prejudices and transient verdicts of error. In the long run, the healthy perceptions of good eyes will outvote the discoloring effects of all ophthalmic epidemics, how obstinate and wide soever they may be. And the moral vision of mankind will no less vindicate its natural rights, by returning again and again into clear discernments, and settled admirations, and discharging the illusory forms and false tints of each separate age. To deny the ethical competency of the mind for this office,—to say that there is no power given for deciding what, among the claimants on reverence, is really noble, true, and good,—is, with all its pietistic pretences, an act of the profoundest scepticism, washing away, as a quicksand, the only rock on which any faith can be built. It is to treat the durable source of truth as evanescent and uncertain, and shut out the possibility of all religion. On the other hand, to set up and idolize the life and thought of any one time as an unquestionable rule for all times, and stereotype it for unmodified reproduction, is to treat the evanescent as the durable, and build on whatever stands above the water, heedless whether it be the quicksand or the[Pg 305] rock. Yet, strange to say, this particular superstition, and that general unbelief,—an apparent antithesis of error,—usually meet in the same mind, and constitute together the chief theology of most visible churches. Having deposed and insulted the eternal sanctities, they coax and flatter the letter of Scripture to accept the vacant throne, and exchange the holy modesty of its administration for a universal empire of pretence. They drain off the springs of inspiration at their fountain-head, and turn all history into a plain of sand, that they may magnify their Hebrew reservoir as the world's sole supply; forgetting that, when cut off from the running waters, the choicest store loses its fresh virtues, and the fairest lake, shut up without exit, turns into a Dead Sea. In contradiction of both errors, we shall assume that transitory elements cannot fail to mix themselves with the expression of the purest inspiration,—the horizon of human relations and expressible things around even the divinest soul being limited; and that, as the inspiration tries itself upon age after age, bringing into distinct consciousness now one side of truth and now another, it becomes more and more possible to find its essence and eliminate its accidents, to save its catholic beauties apart from its sectional distortions. The Christian ideal of life is not to be looked for in what is special to the Crusader or the Quaker,—to Puritan or Cavalier,—to Platonists of the second century or Aristotelians of the twelfth,—to Aquinas or Luther,—to John or Paul; but in such sentiment as was common to them all, and attached to them as citizens of Christendom. When this element is disengaged from all that encumbers it, it will be found pervading and animating still whatever is noblest in our modern life; while all that is narrow, and weak, and unworthy in the moral doctrine of our age, springs from a forced attempt to perpetuate the accidental modes of the Apostolic period.

Every one is sensible of a change in the whole climate of thought and feeling, the moment he crosses any part of the boundary which divides Christian civilization from Heathendom; yet of nothing is it more difficult to render any compendious[Pg 306] account. It is easy to enumerate in detail the phenomena which are modified or disappear; just as on entering a new physical region the travelling naturalist may register the new species of plants and animals, that, one after another, present themselves to his research. But these do not paint the scene before even the learned eye; they are the separate out-comings of a great life-thrill, into whose current their roots penetrate; the landscape, as a whole, speaks differently to the mind, and the whole heaven and earth seem pregnant with a thought unfelt before. To read off that thought, requires an apprehension the converse of the analytic vision of science. The same difficulty occurs when we endeavor to seize the latent principle of a natural realm of history. Such principle, however, there must be. Beneath all the moving tides of Christian thought there lie still depths that supply them all, and a centre of equilibrium around which they sweep. We believe that the fundamental idea of Christendom may be described to be the ascent through Conscience into communion with God. Other religions have lent their sanctions to morality, and announced the Divine commands to the human will; but only as the laws of an outward monarch within whose sovereignty we lie, and who, ruling in virtue of his almightiness, has a right to obedience, ordain as he will. Other religions, again, have aimed at a union with God. But the conditions of this union, dictated by misleading conceptions of the Divine nature, have missed on every side the true level of human dignity and peace. Manichæism, deifying the antithesis of matter, takes the path of ascetic suppression of the body. The Indian Pantheist, imagining the Divine Abyss as the realm of night and infinite negation, strives to hold in the breath and sink into self-annulment. Plato, seeing in God the essence of thought, demands science and beauty, not less than goodness, as the needful notes of harmony with him, and appoints the approach to heaven by academic ways. The modern Quietists, worshipping a Being too much the reflection of their own tenderness, have lost themselves in soft affections, relaxing to the nerves of duty, and unseemly in the face of[Pg 307] eternal law. Christianity alone has neither crushed the soul by mere submission, like Mohammedanism; nor melted it away in the tides of infinite being, like Pantheistic faiths; but has saved the good of both, by establishing the union with God through a free act of the individual soul. Assigning to him a transcendent moral nature, sensitive to the same distinctions, conservative of the same solemnities, which awe and kindle us, it singles out the conscience as the field where we are to meet him,—where the bridge will be found of transit between the human and the divine. No fear or servility remains with an obedience consisting, not in mystic acts and artificial habits, but in the free play of natural goodness; and rendered, not in homage to a Supreme Autocrat, but in sympathy with a Mind itself the infinite impersonation of all the sanctities. Nor are any dizzy and perilous flights incurred by a devotion which meets its great Inspirer in no foreign heaven, but in the higher walks of this home life, and misses him only in what is mean and low. The place assigned in Christianity to the moral sentiments and affections has no parallel in any other religion. The whole faith is as an unutterable sigh after an ideal perfection. Holiness eternal in heaven, incarnate on earth, and to be realized in men,—this is the circle of conceptions in which it moves. Its very name for the Inspiration which mediates all its work, expresses the same thing. It is not simply an ενθουσιασμος,—not μανια,—not βακχεια,—but the πνευμα ἁγιον. The Dæmon of Socrates—the least heathenish of heathen men—was but an intellectual guide, and checked his erring judgment; the Holy Spirit guards the vigils of duty, and succors the disciple's tempted will. This profound sense of interior amity with God through faithfulness to our highest possibility, appears in the Christian Scriptures under two forms,—the positive and the negative,—each the complement of the other. In the Gospel, Jesus himself, as befits the saintly mind lifted above the strife of passion, describes the aspiration after goodness as the native guidance of the soul to her source and refuge. In the Epistles, Paul, pouring forth the confessions of a fiery nature, proclaims the[Pg 308] sense of sin to be the contracted hinderance that bars the ascent, and against which the wings of the struggling will beat only to grow faint. These representations are evidently but the two sides of the same doctrine seen from the heavenly and from the earthly position. Whether we are told what the good heart will find, or what the guilty must lose, the lesson equally recognizes the Divine authority of conscience. The benediction and the curse are but the bright and the dark hemisphere of one perfect truth. The Apostle, standing in the shadow of the world's night, and regarding its averted face, dwells on the gloom of alienation,—the "foolish heart that is darkened,"—the "reprobate mind" from which God is hid. Christ, conscious of the holy light, and knowing how it penetrates the folds of willing natures, and wakes what else would sleep, speaks rather of the glory that is not denied, and utters that deepest of blessings,—"The pure in heart shall see God." To this bright side also the Pauline view in the end comes round. For though in him we miss that recognition of a natural human goodness which gives such grace and sweetness to many of the parables; though in his scheme the human will has not only betrayed its trust, but hopelessly crippled its powers; yet he does not leave it in the collapse of paralysis, with the hard saying that it can in no wise lift up itself, but points to a hope that bends over it from above. The soul that is too far gone to act, may still be capable of love; if unable to trust itself, it may trust another; if it cannot command its volitions, it may surrender its affections; can reverence, can aspire, can yield its hand, like a child, to an angel of deliverance. Beyond the precincts of this world is an Image of divine excellence and beauty,—one recently withdrawn from human history, and soon to have a more august return. It is but to turn the eye and give the heart to that ideal and immortal perfection, and in the light of so pure a love, the clouds will clear from the conscience, and lift themselves as a nightmare away; the lame will, forgetting its infirmities, will spring up and walk; and the restoration, impossible by flight from deformity and ill, will come through the[Pg 309] attraction of a Divine sanctity and goodness. Thus does the Apostle snatch the disciple at last into the right perceptions which Christ assumes to be possible at first; and in both its primitive developments the Christian religion implies the communion of man with God through purity of heart.

To this sentiment, conveyed with living realization in the person of Jesus Christ, may be referred whatever is distinctively great in Christian ethics. Proposing, as an end within their reach, the ascent of the soul to a divine life, and as the means, a simple surrender to its own highest intimations, they have melted away the interval between earthly and heavenly natures,—not by humanizing God, but by consecrating man. In treating the lower desires of sense and self as the steams that intercept, the tender reverences as the clear air that transmits, the light of lights, they have struck the deepest truth of human consciousness. Hence the temper of aspiration,—the earnest ideality,—the sense of infinite want, with faith in infinite possibilities,—the sorrowful unrest in the present, with irrepressible struggle for a better future,—which are impressed on the poetry, the art, the social life of Christendom. Unlike the expression of the Hellenic mind, they are rather a prayer for what might be, than a joy in what is. Hence, too, the predominance of the psychological and subjective element in the philosophy of modern times, and the conversion of the ancient "metaphysics" into the form of "mental science." Man would never have ceased to be merged in nature, and registered merely as a part of its contents; his self-knowledge would not have vindicated its independent rights; his mind would not have been recognized as the court of record for the moral legislation of the universe,—had not his religion taken him deep into himself, and from a new point shown him his relation to all else; kindling his own consciousness to a point of intense brilliancy, in correspondence with a divine centre, which must be sought on the same axis of being,—like the two determining foci of an infinite curve, that find each other out, while the realm of determined nature lies around, as the configured area, or the bounding[Pg 310] curve. Of the external world, indeed, too little account has been made in the faith of Christians. They have not cared to recognize it as the shrine of immanent Deity;—have stood in uneasy relations to it; often inimical to it; sometimes trying to get rid of it as an illusion; usually regarding it as a foreign object, like a great statue on the stage of being, with only stony eyes and ears for the real play of passions that whirl around. Existence, in its essence, has been felt as an interview between man and God, at which space and nature have been collaterally present, but in which it was not apparent what they had to do. Physical science and the plastic arts may have reason to complain of the depressing influence of this imperfect view, and of the hard necessity under which it places them of pursuing their ends with only scanty and grudging recognition from religion. But, for the philosophic knowledge of human nature, and the practical regulation of human society, this isolation of the soul within its own consciousness,—this concentrated personality,—this vivid interchange of life with God without diffusion through benumbing media,—must be held eminently ennobling.

If, from the fundamental Christian sentiment, we descend to the scheme of Applied Morals which it organized and inspired, the principle still vindicates itself in its results. The great problems of life are supplied from two sources,—the Persons that may engage our affections, and the Pursuits that may invite our will. The light in which the personal relations are presented before the eye of Christendom is undeniably benign and true. It has never been obscured without the social spread of injustice and discontent; nor ever cleared again, but as the precursor of reformation. That every human soul has its sacred concerns and its divine communion, is the simplest of thoughts; but so deep and moving, that, where it is received and acknowledged, it calls up angelic virtues; where it is insulted and denied, it lets slip avenging fiends. Wherever it is sincerely held, it secures that reverential feeling towards others, beneath whose spell the selfish passions sleep, and without which the precept of courtesy and[Pg 311] the definition of rights are an ineffectual form. Power loses its insolence, and dependence its sting, where their mutual relation does not carry the whole individuality with it, but stops with the limits of social and political convenience, and lies under the restraining protection of a supreme equality before God. The "Fraternity" that is the offspring of political theories, and aims to neutralize by fellow-citizenship the diversities and antipathies of nature, is often the watchword of envy and egotism, shouted by the voice of hatred, and announcing the deed of violence. It is for want of faith in that highest brotherhood of worship and responsibility which Christianity assumes, that impatient schemes are formed for artificially equalizing the weak and the strong, and abolishing the relations of necessary dependence. Nor, where that faith is absent, can they ever be answered so as to satisfy the feeling from which they spring. They may be shown to be impracticable, and crushed by the relentless argument of fact; but the fact will be protested against as unnatural, and the impossibility will seem a cruelty. How differently is this topic handled by the logic of science and the sentiment of religion! How much less justly does the former draw the line between natural subordination among men and tyrannous oppression, than the latter! Aristotle undertakes the defence of slavery on grounds both of philosophy and of experience. Nature, he contends, pursuing a definite end in every act of creation, assigns to some things, from their very origin, a destiny to rule, while imposing on others a necessity of being ruled. Wherever a plurality of parts concur to form a general whole, dominant and subordinate elements present themselves. Even within the inanimate realm this is apparent, as in the case of harmony in music. But it is chiefly conspicuous in the sphere of animal existence; the body being, by nature, servitor, of which the soul is lord. In the highest stage of animate being, the constitution of well-organized men, this law comes into the clearest light; for here the soul sways the body with absolute command, while reason exercises over the passions the prerogatives of a royal and constitutional[Pg 312] power; and were equality to be substituted for these modes of subjection, mischief would ensue on all sides. Not less evidently does Nature announce the dependence of inferior on superior in the rank allotted to the brutes in relation to man; and again, in the case of the two sexes, of which the male, as the more distinguished, is rendered dominant. The same necessary law adjusts the positions of mankind inter se. All those who are as intrinsically inferior to their neighbors as the body to the soul, or the brute to the man,—(and this is precisely the case of the mere manual laborer,)—are slaves by nature; and for them, as for the body and the brutes, it is better to be servile than to be free. Any man who can be made property of by another, and who is competent to understand a master's intelligence without a spontaneous stock of his own, is naturally a slave. Such a one performs functions in the world not essentially distinguished from those of the domestic animals; the destiny of both is to contribute their corporeal energies to the service of society; and creatures fit for this alone are brought into the slave-market by Nature herself. Consistently with this conception of the laborer as a living tool (δουλος εμψυχον οργανον), Aristotle lays it down that the relation of master and slave admits no rights, and excludes friendship. To our modern worshippers of strength, this will appear commendable doctrine, very much because they have themselves relapsed into the old Hellenic way of studying the problems of the universe; descending, in the Pantheistic method, from the whole upon the parts; fetching rules from the wider sphere (therefore the lower) to import into the narrower; entering the human world from the physical,—the οικουμενη from the κοσμος; approaching society as a specialty superinduced on a groundwork of nomadic barbarism; and determining the functions of the individual as member of the vital organism of the state. So long as this logical strategy is allowed, the Titans will always conquer the gods; the ground-forces of the lowest nature will propagate themselves, pulse after pulse, from the abysses to the skies; and right will exist only on sufferance from might. But there is a[Pg 313] heaven, after all, which the most trenchant giant cannot storm, and where justice and sanctity reserve a quiet throne. Without disputing the inequality of gifts and consequent law of natural ranks, religion qualifies it by an addition which overarches and absorbs it. Were man only the choicest, most intelligent, most gregarious of the mammalia,—were the theory of his affairs a mere extension of natural history,—we might reasonably discuss, in Aristotle's way, the conditions under which he may fitly be put in harness. But there is in him an element that takes him beyond the range of a Pliny or a Cuvier, that lifts him out of the kingdom of nature and gives him kindred with the preternatural and divine. He is not simply an instrument for achieving a given fraction of a universal end, but has a sacred trust which, on its own account, he is empowered and commissioned to discharge. He is watched by the eyes of infinite Pity and Affection, braced for his faithful work, succored in his fierce temptations. The conditions of dutiful, loving, noble life must be preserved to him. Let his task, indeed, be suited to his powers; and if he cannot rule, by all means let him serve; but still with a margin and play of spiritual freedom secure from encroachment and contempt. Those on whom Heaven lays the burden of duty no power on earth may strip of rights. The conscience with which the Highest can commune, the spirit which is not too mean for His abode, can be no object of slight and scorn from men. By law and usage you may have the disposal of another's lot and labor; but in the reality of things the lord of a province may be less than the conqueror of a temptation. You may be Greek, and he barbarian; but in the heraldry of the universe, the blood of Agamemnon is less noble than the spirit of a saint. In thus snatching the individual, as bearer of a holy trust, from the crush of nature and the world, Christianity became the first human religion,—that absolutely took no notice of race and sex and class. It created a new order of inalienable rights, neither the heritage of birth, nor the franchise of a state, but inherent in the moral capabilities of a man. The free opening of sanctity and immortality to every[Pg 314] willing heart could not fail to exercise an intense influence on the better portion of a world, like the declining empire of Rome, sickened with corruption and confused with unmanageable oppressions. That it did so, is proved by the whole tenor of the early Christian literature; and the effect is well described and accounted for by the writer "On the State of Man subsequent to the Promulgation of Christianity."

"The mockery of adoring as gods the licentious tyrants who had occupied the imperial throne, seems to have put an end to everything like religious feeling among the nations under the sway of Rome. The free satire of Lucianus shows how completely it had faded away, for it introduces the gods of Olympus complaining that they were starving for lack of offerings; not altogether because Christian or philosophic doctrines prevailed widely, but rather on account of the total indifference of the people to their ancient mythology; for even if it ever had symbolized the truth, its meaning was now forgotten; and, even so far back as the time of Cicero, had become totally unintelligible to the learned, as well as to the multitude. It was useless, therefore, and wanted but a slight impulse from without to overthrow it. But to the philosopher who was in earnest in his pursuit of this truth, buried under the rubbish of time, the doctrine of Christ afforded it; there he found all that the master minds whom he honored had taught and hoped; but he found it simplified, purified, and confirmed by sanctions such as Plato had wished for, but scarcely dared to expect;—to the Roman patrician, if any there were who still looked back with fond memory to the purer morals and stern courage of his forefathers, the Christian simplicity of manners and firm endurance of torture and death was the realization of what he had heard of and admired, but scarcely seen till then;—to the slave, sighing under oppression and condemned to homeless bondage, the doctrine of the Gospel gave all that was valuable in life; the Christian slave was the friend of his Christian master, partook of the same holy feast, shared the same painful but glorious martyrdom; he was raised at once to all his intellectual[Pg 315] rank, found freedom beyond the grave, and lived already in a happy immortality;—to the woman, degraded in her own eyes no less than in those of the tyrant to whose lusts she was the slave, it offered a restoration to all that is most dear to the human race; it offered intellectual dignity, equality before God, purity, holiness. The Christian woman could die; she could not, therefore, unless consenting to it, be again enslaved to the vile passions of men; before God she was free, and with Him she trusted to find shelter when the hard world left her none. Can we wonder, then, that Christianity found votaries wherever a mind existed that sighed after better things? for the preacher of Nazareth had at last expressed the thought which had been brooding in the minds of so many, who had found themselves unable to give it utterance."—p. 55.

Nor was it merely within the pale of the Christian fraternity that relations of mutual reverence and tenderness attested the power of an ennobling faith. Intensity of internal combination is often balanced, in religious brotherhoods, by vehemence of external repugnance; and were we to accept the fiery declamation of Tertullian as fairly expressing the spirit of his fellow-believers, we could ill defend them from the charge of fierce antipathy to the persons as well as the creed of their Pagan neighbors. But many silent mercies appear which contradict this loud intolerance. When the Decian persecution and its attendant tumultuary movements had filled Alexandria with such slaughter as to breed pestilence from the bodies of the dead, the Christians, instead of sullenly permitting the physical calamity to avenge their cause, assumed the duties of public nurses, and performed the loathsome tasks from which priests and magistrates had fled. Referring to this occasion, the author just cited says:—

"The plague made its appearance with tremendous violence, and desolated the city, so that, as Dionysius, the Christian bishop, writes, there were not so many inhabitants left of all ages, as heretofore could be numbered between forty and seventy. In this emergency the persecuted Christians forgot all[Pg 316] but their Lord's precept, and were unwearied in their attendance on the sick; many perishing in the performance of this duty by taking the infection. 'In this way,' says the bishop, with touching simplicity, 'the best of the brethren departed this life; some ministers, and some deacons,' the heathens having abandoned their friends and relations to the care of the very persons whom they had been accustomed to call 'Men-haters.' A like noble self-devotion was shown at Carthage when the pestilence which had desolated Alexandria made its appearance in that city, and, I quote the words of a contemporary, 'All fled in horror from the contagion, abandoning their relations and friends as if they thought that by avoiding the plague any one might also exclude death altogether. Meanwhile the city was strewed with the bodies, or rather carcasses of the dead, which seemed to call for pity from the passers-by, who might themselves so soon share the same fate; but no one cared for anything but miserable pelf; no one trembled at the consideration of what might so soon befall him in his turn; no one did for another what he would have wished others to do for him. The bishop hereupon called together his flock, and setting before them the example and teaching of their Lord, called on them to act up to it. He said, that if they took care only of their own people, they did but what the commonest feeling would dictate; the servant of Christ must do more; he must love his enemies, and pray for his persecutors; for God made his sun to rise and his rain to fall on all alike, and he who would be the child of God must imitate his Father.' The people responded to his appeal; they formed themselves into classes, and those whose poverty prevented them from doing more gave their personal attendance, while those who had property aided yet further. No one quitted his post but with his life."—p. 162.

This self-devotion in times of distress, strangely contrasting with habits and temper apparently unsocial, has too steadily reappeared in every earnest church not to be accepted as a Christian characteristic. During the fatal famine and epidemic which desolated Antioch in the third century, the Pagan[Pg 317] governor, when urged by the inhabitants to make authoritative arrangements for relieving the sufferings of a perishing populace, replied that "The gods hated the poor"; while the Christians, prevailingly poor themselves, plunged into the centre of the danger, and carried into the recesses of fever and despair the quiet presence of help and hope. If disciples have thus freely rendered to "those without" services which Pagans refused to one another, it is not simply in stiff obedience to a precept of love to their enemies, but from a heart-felt sentiment of honor for human nature and consequent tenderness of human life. There was no man who, though he might be a persecutor to-day, might not be a comrade to-morrow; he had a soul susceptible of consecration; and day and night the gates of the Church were ready to fly open to the touch of penitence; and whether he throws off the mask of delusion or not, he must be treated as a brother in disguise. Only by reference to this conception of all men as possible subjects of sanctifying change, can the fact be explained, that even where the creed has opened an infinite gulf between believer and unbeliever, the active charities have detained in lingering embrace the persons whom the theoretic fancy has flung into the ultimate horrors. A religion that is superior to the external distinctions of lineage and class, and draws its lines only by the invisible coloring of souls, must ever be a religion open to hope, and therefore apt to love. Even where the severest doctrine of exclusion has prevailed, the fundamental sentiment of Christian faith has saved the heart from the most withering of all passions,—the blight of scorn. Human nature may appear beneath the eye of an austere believer in an awful, but never in a contemptible light. The very crisis in which it is suspended can belong to no mean existence. What it has lost is too great a glory, what it has incurred is too deep a terror, to be conceivable except of a being on a grand scale. He is no worm for whom the eternal abysses are built as a dungeon and the lightnings are brandished as a scourge. Accordingly, the very alienations of intolerance itself have acquired a higher and more respectful[Pg 318] character than in ancient faiths. The sort of feeling with which the Jew spurned "the Gentile dog" is sanctioned by piety no more. The Oriental curl of the lip is scarcely traceable on the features of Christendom; and is replaced by an expression of tragic sorrow and earnestness, where lights of admiring pity flash through the darkest clouds.

It seems, then, that the essential sentiment of all Christian faith—the communion through conscience with God—carries with it, not only noble personal aspirations, but also, towards others, affections of singular generosity and depth; affections which demand for every man a position in which he may work out the moral problem of life, which dignify every lot where this is possible, and which soften even actual alienations with possible reverence and hope. The sphere of action which these feelings may shape for themselves, the particular enterprises they may undertake, the external pursuits they may assume, will necessarily depend on many foreign and accidental conditions. The work which it would fall to the hands of the same faithful man to do, if he lived on through the changes of the world, would greatly vary from age to age. The work which contemporary men, of equal and similar fidelity, will set themselves to accomplish, will vary with their several positions. The same act, or even habit, which is innocent (though possibly not innocuous) in one place, may assume quite an altered significance in another. It would be absurd, for instance, to set down the double marriages of patriarchal times in the same moral rank with modern cases of bigamy. And the doctrine of Plato's Republic respecting marriage, startling as a comment on the manners of his age, by no means expresses the odious state of mind which would be implied in its substitution now for the sanctities of private life. The devotion to studious and peaceful acts which may usually be either blameless or laudable, may become a guilt like treason in an hour when the interests of public liberty claim every citizen for the council or the field. Indeed, the conduct in such contrasted instances is in no proper sense the same; it has only an external identity; it is a physical self-repetition,[Pg 319] with a moral contrariety; and unless, in speaking of a human action, we mean to shut out the soul which makes it human, and to denote only the muscular flourish and spasm of limb, the sameness is but a semblance with a reality of difference. The moral values of actions, taken in this narrowest sense, are inevitably variable; and any code that should present a list of them as obligatory in perpetuity, without regard to the changes of their meaning to the mind, would mistake the very nature of human duty. Not that we deny the existence of permanent grounds for the adoption of some habits and the avoidance of others. There are reasons, unchangeable as the corporeal frame of man, why opium should not be taken as an article of food, and why cousins should not intermarry. But the grounds of prohibition in these cases are rational, not moral; they are found in the outward effects, not in the inward sources, of conduct; and only when its outward effects are known to the agent, so as to enter among its inward sources and modify its meaning, does he pass from unwise to immoral. External action, in short, stands as an indifferent phenomenon, between the mind that issues it and the world into which it goes. The thought and affection whence it springs in the former give its moral, the results to which it tends in the latter its rational value. Whoever makes a correct estimate of the several affections and impulses which stir the will, and throughout their scale reveres the better and disapproves the worse, possesses moral truth. Whoever perceives and computes the real consequences of voluntary conduct, possesses rational discernment in human affairs. The former—an interpretation of the conscience and its sacred contents—is the permanent essence of ethical and root of religious wisdom. The latter—an apprehension of physical laws and historical tendencies—is conditioned by the progress of science and the facilities for social vaticination. Errors in this are inevitable to the limitations of human intellect. Perfection in that is possible only to the highest divine insight in the soul. The fallible judgment respecting outward relations affects only the accidents of morals, though the essence of[Pg 320] scientific truth. Where the inner apprehension is deep and true, the outward judgment contains a principle of self-correction; the miscalculation of one age is checked by that of a succeeding; opposite errors cancel each other; and the spirit of a pure faith, like a just feeling of beauty and greatness in art, works itself clear of the false data of usage amid which its inspiration arose, and transmigrates into ever-improving forms. If, however, the reverence due to the inspiration should become a traditional affair, losing its living eye and spiritual tact, it will extend itself as a moping idolatry to the imperfect media and rude materials through which the new glory first gleamed; an incapable era of renaissance will appear; the very works which were given as the spring of ever-fresh creation will be used to stifle it; in servile imitation of an original period, its whole character will be lost, and the moment of exactest reproduction will be that of intensest contrast.

This is precisely the way in which the spiritual life of the primitive Christians has been dealt with. The thought and meaning that lay at its heart are little apprehended; its applied morals, in which these are mixed up with the errors incident to their point of view, are distorted into a rigid code of obligation, in which the original idea is often entirely reversed. If it be really true that the Apostolic age was impressed with the belief of a speedy end of the world, such an outlook must undeniably have affected the disciples' whole estimate of the value of human pursuits. The plan of life commendable in a passage-ship may be questionable in a settled home; and the proceedings of an army on the eve of battle are not like the habits of the same people tilling their fields and sitting at their hearths. To apply to a permanently constituted planet the rules promulgated to preserve discipline amid a general breaking-up, is surely an eccentric kind of legislation. Yet by just such a process have modern churches derived a number of ethical extravagances offensive to the eye of chastened conscience, and condemned by their impracticability to the insincere existence of perpetual talk. The manner in which[Pg 321] English divines conduct themselves towards this error of the first century appears to us not simple and ingenuous. Some still affect to deny it, and to treat its reiterated assertion as a mere perverseness and impudence of heresy; yet they leave the statement without serious refutation, though well aware that the weight of critical authority is altogether in its favor, and though avowing their own theory of revelation absolutely to require that it be false. Others incidentally and grudgingly admit it, and then pass on as if nothing had happened; immediately relapsing into the same authoritative appeal to Scripture, the same direct and mechanical use of its precepts, the same assumption of it as an instrument yielding on interpretation nothing but truth, which had been habitual with them before their eyes were opened. Now, if anything be certain on such a matter, it is that to suppose one's self in the world's last year,—the admission paid to the panorama of judgment and the spectacle only waiting to begin,—is no small and sleepy idea, which might ineffectually turn up now and then, and sink back below the surface without further trace. A man who could live in presence of such a vision, and not carry its crimsoned light upon every object that fixed his eye, could be no apostle of truth or preacher of earnestness; nor do we know that anything more contemptuous could be said of him than that, no doubt, he held such an expectation, but it was of no consequence. To convert the author of the Pauline Epistles into a dilettante believer of the pattern of the nineteenth century, and say of his most tremendous gleams of thought that they were but transitory fireworks which meant nothing, is no less an offence against his character than a misunderstanding of his writings; and we conceive that, in affirming the deep penetration of his mistaken world-view into the substance of his monitory teaching, we shall be vindicating the fundamental veracity and noble clearness of his soul.

To exhibit the Christology of the Apostles with the fulness necessary for tracing pseudo-Christian morality to its origin, would require a volume. We can only advert to one or two points, indicating the direction which such an inquiry would[Pg 322] take. It is admitted on all hands, that a second advent of Christ is announced in almost every book of the New Testament; that, if we except the Gospel of John, it is spoken of invariably as a real, personal return, an objective and scenic event, to be seen, heard, and felt; and cannot be explained away into a spiritual access to the world, or a subjective drama in the soul of disciples. It is further admitted, that with this advent are integrally connected many incidents which, however difficult to group into a complete picture, constitute, under every variety of possible arrangement, a final consummation of human affairs. Indeed, the article in the Creed which declares that Christ "shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and at his coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works," shows how the Church understands the doctrine, and conjoins the end of the world with the advent. The nature of the event being so far undisputed, the question which separates the mass of scientific interpreters from the popular expounder, refers only to its date. The Apostle Paul, it is urged by the critics, writes to his Thessalonian converts, in answer to a distressing doubt which could have no existence but in minds on the watch for the return of Christ; and his answer, far from checking this outlook, raised it to such intensity that, to soothe their excitement, he wrote to them again to remove the event from the immediate foreground of their imagination; yet even then detained it quite within the limits of their natural lives, and, simply interposing one or two signals of its approach that had not yet appeared, counselled them not to lose their composure, but maintain a "patient waiting for Christ." The original doubt which had disturbed them seems to have been one instructively characteristic of the early theocratic faith. Some member of the community had died; his friends, in addition to their natural sorrow, were apparently taken by surprise, that, after enrolment among the citizens of the approaching kingdom, he was taken from their side, and would not be with them when they hailed the arrival of Christ. What would become of him? They thought he would have[Pg 323] to remain in his sleep till Messiah should exercise his function of raising the dead, which was not to be at first; and so, during the great crisis, and for an uncertain continuance beyond, he would linger behind the privilege which they enjoyed. This seems, at first sight, a strange subject of distress. That the second advent should take place in the presence of the living only, and should leave the dead without part or lot in the matter, is so completely at variance with the picture which has become fixed in the common Christian imagination, that scruples may readily be felt about attributing so mutilated a conception to the Thessalonian church. The commonly received picture, however, is made up of elements incongruously brought together from several Scripture writers, to whom the expected event presented itself under different aspects; and nowhere can they be found combined into such a whole as the ecclesiastical faith represents. To understand and account for the Thessalonian state of mind, we have only to read over the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew, and to surrender ourselves to the images there presented, without adding anything of our own. These chapters contain the fullest description of the advent, the last judgment, and the end of the world, that can be found in Scripture; yet the dead are not brought upon the scene at all, nor is any resurrection found among its elements. The whole idea is evidently of a return of the Son of Man, within the limits of a generation, to take account, in his theocratic capacity, of the very persons who had known him in his Galilean humiliation and disguise,—of those who, having joined him in his days of trial, had been intrusted by him with the administration in the interval of his heavenly absence,—and of those who, after rejecting him personally, had hardened themselves no less against the preaching and overtures of his subsequent ambassadors. The nations gathered before him are furnished from the surviving population of the earth; and the ground of their admittance or rejection is the reception they have given to Messiah in the persons of his missionaries and representatives. In supposing the dead to have lost their chance of participating in this scene, the[Pg 324] Thessalonians did but paint it to themselves as Christ, according to the first Gospel, had described it to his hearers. Their misgiving plainly assumes that the advent was sure for the living and was lost for the dead. The Apostle answers by denying the distinction, and putting both classes into the same condition ere the great hour strikes: but what condition? Does he say that the living will die first? No; but that the dead will live first: so that the departed companion will come back at the right moment for mingling with the troop of friends that shall go "to meet the Lord in the air." The same order of events is given in the sublime, but little understood, chapter on the resurrection in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, where the Apostle places himself, at the advent, not among "the dead" that "shall be raised incorruptible," but among the survivors that "shall be changed" into immortals without ever quitting life. It is a topic of praise to the disciples at Corinth that they are "waiting for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." He assures his Philippian friends that "the Lord is at hand," and prays that they may "be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ." Having come out safe from his examination and hearing at Rome, he avows his persuasion that he will be similarly delivered "from every evil work," and preserved unto Christ's heavenly kingdom. Though amid his toils and weariness he earnestly desired to be endowed with his immortal frame,—to be invested, as he expresses it, with his house from above; yet he was unwilling to put off the corruptible, till he could put on the incorruptible; he would have his mortality "swallowed up of life"; he did not wish the great hour to find him naked, but clothed, not, that is, a disembodied spirit, but a living man. He stands at the era on which "the end of the world has come"; and begs his correspondents to let certain existing disputes lie over, and to "judge nothing before the time until the Lord come." Not less explicit evidence is afforded in the writings of other Apostles. James says, "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh; ... behold,[Pg 325] the Judge standeth before the door." Peter, "The end of all things is at hand." John, "Children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." If the author of Christianity did not himself entertain the same expectation of an early return to assume his Messianic prerogatives, he has been greatly misrepresented by his biographers. For though one of them represents him as disclaiming a knowledge of the specific "day and hour" appointed for his "coming in the clouds with great power and glory," the disclaimer follows immediately on his announcement, that at all events it will take place within the existing generation. Does any reader doubt whether this "coming in the clouds" really describes the judgment? or whether "this generation" denotes the natural term of human life? Both questions are answered at once in Matthew's report of a single sentence, which simultaneously defines the event and its date: "For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." It is certainly possible enough that the discourses in which these expressions occur may be incorrectly reported, and have acquired from the writer's state of mind a definiteness not belonging to the original production. But, at any rate, they reveal the historian's conception of what was in Jesus's thought; and the false coloring of expectation which they threw over his prophecies could not fail to extend in their reports to his preceptive discourses, and thus to have almost the same influence on the recorded Christian ethics, as if the error were his as well as theirs.

The evidence on this point is so positive and overwhelming, that critics such as Olshausen, whose testimony is undoubtedly reluctant, no longer think of resisting it. Nothing, indeed, can be opposed to it but a kind of interpretation which is the opprobrium of English theology; and whose problem is, not simply to gather an author's thought from his words, but from[Pg 326] among all true thoughts to find the one that will sit the least uneasily under his words. Thus "the end of all things" is explained away into the founding of the Christian Church; the "coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven," into the Jewish war under Titus; the last judgment, which "rewards every man according to his works," into the escape of the Christians and the slaughter of the Jewish zealots at the destruction of Jerusalem. No doubt, many good and well-instructed men have persuaded themselves that by such exegetical sleight of hand they could save Apostolic and other infallibility. We can only say, that when piety supplies the motive, and learning the means, for bewildering veracity of apprehension, two rich and noble endowments are spent in corrupting a nobler, which is the life of them both.

To the moral sentiments which should occupy the soul, it may make little difference how long the world is to last. But to the course of action which should engage the hand, it is a matter of primary moment. All human occupations rest on the assumption of permanence in the constitution of things; nor is it less true of a planet than of a farm, that mere tenants at will, unsecured by lease and even served already with notice to quit, will undertake no improvements, and will suffer the culture to decline to the lowest point. What profession could remain respectable if society had no future? What interest would attach to the administration of law, on behalf of property which was not worth six months' purchase, and life which, stripped of survivorship, had lost all sacredness to the affections? Who would sit down to study the Pharmacopœia on board a sinking ship? What zeal could be felt by the statesman or general in repelling from his country an injury that could never be repeated, or removing a grievance on the point of supernatural death? The fields would scarce be tilled which the angels with flaming sword might come to reap; or the vineyards be dressed in sight of him "who treadeth the wine-press alone." All the crafts of industry, all the adventures of commerce, are held together by a given element of time; and, when deprived of this, fall away into inanity. No[Pg 327] one would build a house on ice melting with hidden fires; or freight ships over an ocean which earthquakes were to drain away; or fabricate silks and patent-leather for appearance at the last tribunal. And the loosened hold of these pursuits upon human zeal, so far from implying their exchange for anything higher and more spiritual, involves the direct reverse. They cannot be abandoned; the stern punctuality of hunger, the peremptoriness of instinctive or habitual want, compel their continuance; and Paul himself made sail-cloth for a world on its last voyage. But they are kept up only because there is no help for it; they sink into mere bread-trades; and are thrown back many stages from the tranquil human towards the grim cannibal level. All work in this world, no doubt, rests at bottom on the elementary animal requirements of our nature; but it is then most worthily performed, not when these requirements are most obtrusive, but when they are most withdrawn. It is the specific moral benefit which social organization confers upon man, that it enables him to retreat from the constant presence of sheer necessity, and stand at a sufficient distance from it to allow other and higher feelings to connect themselves with his industry. It is a lower thing to consult for the natural wants of primitive appetite, than for the artificial love of order, neatness, security, and beauty; and a craftsman works in a better spirit when earning some unnecessary gift for his wife or child, than when toiling for the bitter loaf that staves off starvation. An art prosecuted without pride in its ingenuity, without intellectual enlistment in its methods of skill, is degraded from an instrument of discipline into a prowling for food,—from a mode of life into a makeshift against death. To take away the future, therefore, from secular pursuits, is simply to draw off from them whatever redeems them from meanness; to plant them in greedy isolation, as mere personal necessities; and cut them off from the great human system which lends to them a color of nobleness and dignity. Among the early Christians this tendency was greatly checked by the fresh aims and employments which their religion created; and in devotion to which the more enthusiastic[Pg 328] spirits found ample scope for their affections. The Church, subsisting like an intrenched camp in a hostile land, had to make sallies in all directions for rescue of the wandering, and for captives to the faith. An aggressive activity of compassion and conviction found tasks for the energies disengaged from secular pursuits; and the new relations into which their religious profession threw them towards the synagogue, the magistrate, the Pagan worshipper, supplied them with continual problems of conscience, severe, but wholesome to the mind. So peculiar, indeed, was their position, that, even if they had reckoned on a continuance of human affairs, they could hardly, perhaps, have mingled much with a world that drew them with such slender sympathies. Separated in ideas and affections, they must in any case have created a new and detached centre of social life. Still it is undeniable that their isolation was favored and exaggerated by their faith in an approaching end of all things; and that they withdrew from human interests, not simply because honorable contact with them was impossible, but because they were taught entire indifference to them as elements of a perishing system. Not only is no recognition given to the pursuit of art and letters, and the citizen's duty presented only on the passive side; but even the relations of domestic life are discouraged, and the slave is dissuaded from care about his liberty, on the express ground that it is not worth while, on the brink of a great catastrophe, to assume any new position, or commit the heart by new ties. The time is too short, the crisis too near, for the career of a free life, or the building of a human home. It is better for every one to continue as he is; and instead of waiting to have the world perish from him, to regard himself as already dead to the world. To stand impassive and alone, neutral to joy or sorrow, with soul intent on the future, and disengaged from impediments of the past, earnest to keep bright on its watch-tower the beacon of faith, but resolute to descend no more into the plain below, appeared to the Apostle Paul the highest wisdom. And how could it be otherwise? Seen from his point of view, all temporal claims sank into[Pg 329] negation. The constitutions, the arts, the culture, of civilized nations were about to be superseded; and the Christians who had already retired from them needed no new ones to take their place, except such provisional arrangements as might serve during the world's brief respite. Equally natural and suitable to their conceived position were the non-resistance principles of the early disciples. What right could be worth contending for on the dawn of a great day of redress, when every wrong would be brought to its account? Who would carry a cause before Dikast or Proconsul to-day, when Eternal Justice was pledged to hear it to-morrow? Who refuse to resign to human coercion what a retributive Omnipotence would soon restore? When the great assizes of the universe are about to be opened, it were a poor thing for the suitors to begin fighting in the vestibule. In all these respects the practical code of the Apostolic age was inevitably influenced by the mistaken world-view prevalent in the Church. For the plaintiff, the hour was fixed when his suit would be called; for the slave, the emancipation-day was declared; and from him that bound himself in heart to the past, the past was about to be snatched away. The rules of action dictated by these notions are mere accidents of the first age,—correct deductions from a misconceived system of external relations. They are wholly dependent on this misconception, and have no necessary connection with the interior spirit, the characteristic sentiments and affections which distinguish Christianity as a religion. If the Apostles had lived on till their mistake had worn itself out, and they had discovered the permanence of the world,—had they postponed all writing of Scripture till this lesson of experience had been learned,—we apprehend that their scheme of applied morals would have been very different; a more genial recognition would have been given to natural human relations; the social facts of property and government, the private concerns of education and self-culture, the personal responsibilities of genius and intellect, would have been less slightingly dismissed, and reduced to clear moral order; and the sentences would have been greatly modified[Pg 330] which now support the delusions of the improvident, the ascetic, the exclusive, and the non-resisting. Unhappily, Apostles do not live for ever, so that we are denied that chance; and successors of Apostles, though seldom scarce, are not a helpful race, being chiefly marks of an absent inspiration. The task, therefore, of applying the essential Christian sentiments to a permanent world,—though avowedly undertaken by the Roman Catholic Church,—remains unperformed; and instead of it we have, in the common Protestantism, a violent misapplication to human nature and all time of the accidents and errors of the first age, resulting, we fear, in a caricature injurious alike to that first age itself, and to all true apprehension of the nature and proportions of human duty.

Expressions abound in the literature of modern Christendom implying an antithesis between temporal and spiritual things, between morality and religion, between the world and God. No one can fail to observe that this antithesis, whether founded in reality or not, has become a social fact. There are two standards of judgment extant for the estimate of character and life; one set up in the pulpit, the other recognized in the forum and the street. The former gives the order in which we pretend, and perhaps ineffectually try, to admire men and things; the latter, that in which we do admire them. Under the influence of the one, the merchant or the country gentleman is professedly in love with the innocent improvidence of the ravens and the lilies; relapsing into the other, he sells all his cotton in expectation of a fall, or drains his farms for a rise of rent. On the Sunday, he applauds it as a saintly thing to present the patient cheek to the smiter; on the Monday, he listens with rapture to Kossuth's curse upon the house of Hapsburg, and the Magyar vow of resistance to the death. He assents when the Apostle John is held up to his veneration as the beloved disciple, but, if the truth were known, the Duke of Wellington is rather more to his mind. Supposing it all true that is said about the vanity of earthly pleasures and ostentations, he nevertheless lets his daughters send out next day invitations to a grand ball, and makes his[Pg 331] house busy with dress-makers and cooks. He is accustomed to confess that in him there is no good thing, and that all his thoughts and works are only evil continually; yet he is pleased with himself that he has provided for the family of his gardener who was killed on the railway last week. In these and a thousand other forms may be noticed the competition between two coexisting and unreconciled standards, the relations between which are altogether confused and uneasy. Whoever is interested in following up the genealogy of ideas, and would search for the origin of this mixed and mischievous state of mind, must look first to the influence of Luther, and thence to the Pauline doctrine, which he improperly generalized and exaggerated. We will endeavor to trace the development of the sentiment in the opposite direction, from the ancient germ to the modern fruit.

Paul the Apostle proclaimed Faith to be the condition of regeneration and acceptance. To appreciate this message of his, we must remember two things;—namely, (1.) what it was from which men were to be rescued on these terms; (2.) what other conditions had been elsewhere insisted on instead of this, and were put aside by Paul in favor of this. Now enough has been said to show that what he feared for the world which he labored to convert was, primarily, exclusion from the theocratic empire which Messiah would return to erect; nor is it clear what ulterior consequences, if any, he conceived this exclusion to carry with it. This banishment was the negative of that "salvation" to which the disciples were called; and which consisted in their registration as qualified citizens of the kingdom for which the earth was about to be claimed. The picture before his mind was so far altogether Jewish; not at all the modern idea of heaven and hell,—spiritual regions to which individuals, one by one, pass after death for moral retribution; but a terrestrial scene, the winding up of history, affecting men in masses, and completing the purpose for which God had created this world. While, however, the thought of the Apostle's mind was national, the compass of his heart was human; and as the hour drew nigh,[Pg 332] he felt that the future could not be closed upon the great Gentile world; that his own people were not so sublime a race as to have the issues of Providence all to themselves; that he must get rid of their conceited pedigrees, and let the Divine plan, which for a while had narrowed its original universality within the current of Hebrew history, flow out at its end into the full breadth of its first scope. But if so, a new qualification must be found; one open alike to Hebrew and to alien, yet nursing the pride of neither. These requisites are fulfilled in simple Faith, which, as a catholic possibility of every human heart, Paul substitutes for prescriptive rights and untenable merits. It was the only condition which there was time to realize. To insist instead on a mere moral fitness, on a character of mind suitable to meet the eye of infinite purity, would be a mockery in a state of society at once decrepit and corrupt. The hour pressed: it was not the case of a young and fresh generation, that might be brought back, by heedful training, to the sanctities of nature and conscience; but an old and callous world, that could do little for itself, had to be got ready in hot haste. A kindled enthusiasm, a new allegiance, a resurrection of sleeping reverences, is the only hope. Once fix the gaze of faith, the simplicity of trust, on the Divine Human Being, who, having been clad in the sorrows of this earth, waits to bring in its everlasting peace; and this affection alone, comprehending in it every lesser purity, will soften even arid natures, and enrich them with forgotten fertility and grace. Preach your moral gymnastics to a school of young heroes, whose soul is noble and whose limbs are free; but at the baths of Baiæ, amid paralytics that drag the foot, and cripples with worn-out bodies and halting wills, if you cannot touch the spring of faith, you may spare your pedantic rules of exercise. Thus the Apostle's demand of faith was a generous stimulant of hope and recovery to an invalided world, whose natural forces were broken, and which had but little time for restoration. It was a provision for pouring a mountain-breath of healing reverence upon the sickly souls and languid levels of this world. It was an attempt to meet[Pg 333] a quick emergency, and, by an intense action, condense the powers of preparation. It was therefore an expression, not of the narrowness, but of the universality of the Gospel. It shows the great heart of the religion bursting bounds, and the strong hand of its noblest servant tugging at the gates to get them open, grinding off the rust of tradition and crushing the scrupulous gravel of obstruction.

The doctrine, however, assumes quite a different significance when snatched by Luther out of its historical connection, and held valid as a sufficient theory of human nature, and its only possibility of religion. The palsy of will, the incapacity of self-cure, the hopeless moral prostration into which long corruption had brought the world, as it lay beneath the eye of Paul, Luther assumes as the normal condition of the soul, and treats as a congenital incompetency of faculty, instead of a contracted depravity of state. Not that he disowns the human will as an executive power, or denies it a sphere of operation. It can go forth variously into action,—can do what, in the view of mankind, is better or worse,—can commit a murder or can rescue from it; but in these outward doings, however differently they affect men, there is no real good or evil; in the supreme view they are neutral automatic exhibitions, simply physical as a flash of lightning or a fall of rain; their real character all lies in the inner spiritual springs from which they issue in the soul: on these alone is the infinite gaze fixed; and these are turbid all through, and all alike, with the taint and poison of a ruined nature. As all natural actions derive an equal guilt from the impurity of their source, so, when the source is purified, is the guilt equally removed from all; whilst nothing which the unconverted may do can please God, nothing that is performed in faith can come amiss to him. Be it what men call crime or what they praise as virtue, it makes no difference if only it be done in faith. Furnished with this supernatural charm, the believer may pass through any mire and come out clean.

"A Christian cannot, if he will, lose his salvation by any multitude or magnitude of sins, unless he ceases to believe.[Pg 334] For no sins can damn him, but unbelief alone. Everything else, provided his faith returns or stands fast in the Divine promise given in baptism, is absorbed in a moment by that faith."[55]

Here is a conception of faith altogether distinct from Paul's. It is here no act of reverential enthusiasm and affection, no kindred movement of the soul towards an object beautiful and holy, but a mere willingness to trust a verbal assurance of atonement,—a willingness, moreover, itself foreign to the mind, and superinduced as an unnatural state by special gift. Nor is its efficacy to be sought in its transforming power on man, but in its persuasiveness with God. It does not ennoble anything that is the worshipper's own, but simply hangs on to it externally the compensating sanctity of another; it is, indeed, described by Luther as the mere vessel put into the hands of the believer, and charged with the treasures of Christ's obedience,—treasures so acceptable that they charm away the foulness, and prevent the rejection, of anything that accompanies them. Thus the effect of faith on the disciple is not to inspire him with a God-like mind, but to prevent his corruptions being any damage to him. By this strange theory, both sin and sanctity are made entirely impersonal to man; sin, by being a transmitted inability; sanctity, by being a foreign donation; and his individual character sits in the midst, at a point of spiritual indifference, neither chargeable with the dark hue native to its complexion, nor etherealized by the veil of borrowed light which it wears as a robe. No room is found, either in the child of Adam, or in the redeemed of Christ, for any responsibility, any personal guilt or goodness whatsoever. The misery and deformity in which the Gospel finds him is un-moral,—the mere scrofula of inheritance; the redemption into which it lifts him is un-moral,—the mere usufruct of an alien purity: and thus the whole business of[Pg 335] religion begins and ends without approaching, and without improving, any law of conscience at all; morality remains absolutely cut off from its contact, unaffected by it except in being disowned and degraded, and losing the prestige of a Divine authority. This consequence of his doctrine is not in the least disguised by Luther, whose impetuous audacity never tires of forging phrases of opposite stamp, by which he may put the brand of insult upon Morals, and burn characters of glory into the brow of Religion. The latter, he again and again insists, is to be set in the heavenly realm; the former, on the other hand, detained upon the ground; the two being kept as absolutely apart as the sky from the earth, regarded as not less incapable of a common function than light and darkness, day and night. Do we speak of faith and our relations to God? then we have nothing to do with morals, and must leave them behind lying on the earth. Do we speak of conduct and our relations with men? then we stop upon the ground, and get no nearer to heaven and its lights. The protests of our better nature against our own shortcomings, the sadness of repentance, and the alarms of guilt, so far from being confirmed by true religion, are shown to be mere delusion and idle self-torture; and the conscience that can feel such compunctions is a stupid ass struggling in the dust and flats of this world beneath a servile burden it need never bear. To trouble the heart with any moral anxieties or aspirations is the most fatal act of unbelief,—a downright plunge from heaven over the precipice of hell. The moral law may rule the body and its members, but has no right to any allegiance from the soul.[56] In any personal and historical estimate of Luther there would be much to say in palliation of these monstrous positions; it would be easy to show their connection with some of the noblest characteristics of his genius, and their antagonism to some of the worst features of his times. But regarded in their influence on Christendom, when detached from their living origin, and made the ground of a theory for the governance of life, they can only be lamented[Pg 336] as an explosion of mischievous extravagance. For in what light do they present Morality to us, after stripping it of all sacredness? What ground is left on which its obligation may repose, and what end is given for its aim? It exists, as Luther himself declares, only as a provision for social order and external peace. It is not concerned with the perfection of the individual, but with the organization of the world; and is nothing but the system of rules and customs requisite for the safe coexistence of many persons on the same field. It is thus reduced from an inspiration of conscience to an affair of police; the private sentiment of duty, operating in the hidden recess of life, keeping vigils over the temper of the mind and habits of the home, is a mere substitute for public opinion, and no representative of the eye of God. In this way, moral usages are first voted into existence as matters of convenience, and imposed by the general voice, yielding as their product in the individual an artificial sense of obligation; and it is a delusion to invert this order, and say that the natural sense of obligation, inherent in each individual, creates by sympathy and concurrence the moral usages of mankind. This extreme secularization of morals places Luther in curious company with Hobbes; and the followers of both have not been altogether unfaithful to the original affinity of their ethical ideas. Both schools have withheld from their conception of morality any touch and color of religion; both have been jealous of its mingling itself much with sentiment and feeling; both have applied to it purely objective criteria, and regarded it as a statutory affair, susceptible of codification, and then needing only a logical interpreter. This singular alliance between sects regarding each other with the greatest antipathy, exhibits the irresistible tendency of a wholly super-natural religion to produce an infra-natural morality.

The result of this sharp separation of the ethical from the spiritual province of life is, that both are deprived of elements indispensable to their proper culture. Our devout people are not remarkable for either clear notions or nice feelings on moral questions; while the conscientious class are apt to be[Pg 337] dry and cold precisians, truthful, trustworthy, and humane, but so little genial, so devoid of ideality and depth, that poet or prophet is struck dumb before their face. Till the two classes had discovered their mutual alienation and collected themselves round distinct standards,—evangelical and worldly,—the evil was inconspicuous. For some time after the Reformation, both coexisted, without articulate repulsion, in every church, and each silently qualified the other extreme. Besides, in spite of Lutheran or other dogma, deep personal faith, grateful trust in such a one as Christ, could not be awakened in a people into whom God, whatever they might say of themselves, had actually put a conscience, without carrying the moralities with it. It might take the liberty of calling them "stupid ass," but would nevertheless object to have the ass abused. In truth, no sooner was the law of Duty driven from Christianity, than the claim of Honor was invoked to take its place; and the believer was exhorted not to take unworthy advantage of his redemption from legal liability, but to render in thank-offering the service exacted by penalty no more; worthless as it was, it was all he had to give. Such appeal touches a spring powerful in noble hearts, and is, in fact, only the awakening of a higher order of moral feelings than before,—a fetching back, under the disguise of transfiguration, of that very sense of duty which had been professedly expelled. In the first enthusiasm of faith, while men's souls, having just flung off the sacerdotal incubus of centuries, were burning to breathe freely, and felt the healthy throb of a new joy, this appeal would meet a full response. The doctrine of faith was but the appointed way of bursting through the miserable scrupulosities, the life of petty debts and casuistic book-keeping, by which a priesthood had maintained a balance against the world,—of seizing a Divine indemnity and recovering the wholesome existence of devout instinct. If the inspiration of the sixteenth century could be permanently maintained, if all men were equally susceptible of being snatched up by a whirlwind of heavenward affection, if the surprise at finding that the soul had wings of its own[Pg 338] could last for ever, the principle of gratitude and pious honor might answer every end, and human duty be all the better done by taking no security for it; for you may hurl as a missile, in hot blood, a weight which otherwise you will scarce drag upon the ground. But the fire of an age of Reformation cannot be permanent; nor is gratitude an affection on whose tension life can be securely built;—you cannot educate people by the force of perpetual surprise. There is a large natural order of minds, little susceptible of a self-abandoning fervor, for whom you vainly bring the chariot of fire and horses of fire by which prophets fly to heaven, and who are content with the humble mantle of the humanities thrown aside by more daring spirits in their ascent. Quiet, reflective, self-balanced persons are not to be taken by storm, and brought to betray the solid citadel of this world, and say ugly things of the moralities with which they have lived in friendly neighborhood. They are capable of being led by reverence for what is better, but not of being kindled by the rays of what is intenser. If they are ever to be lifted into a life beyond conscience, where reluctance and resistance are felt no more, and the instincts of affection may flow of their own pure will, it must be by beginning at the other end,—by the religious discipline of conscience, by pious consecration of this earth and its instant work, by faithful and frugal care of the smaller elements of duty, as of the sacred crumbs of eucharistic bread, not without a Real Presence in them. This class, whose religion, by a decree of their nature, can only exist under ethical conditions, are wholly unprovided for in the Protestant system. In the Lutheran view they belong to the school of worldly unbelief; and though their number, as must be the case in quiet times, has been increasing for a century and a half, and constitutes the vast majority of educated people in this country, they are without any recognized religion; either veraciously disbelieving and waiting for something nobly credible, or uneasily subsisting, suspected by clergymen, in the midst of churches whose theory of life has ceased to be a reality to them. With a faith traditionally shy of morals,[Pg 339] and morals not yet elevated into faith, we have two separate codes of life standing in presence of each other,—one religious, the other secular,—and neither of them with any true foundation in human nature as a whole; the secular, an accidental congeries of mixed customs and inherited opinions; the religious, the product of an arbitrary spiritualism, lax and ascetic by turns.

It is the peculiarity of modern Christianity that these two codes coexist within the same social body, and even rule over different parts of each individual. The Pauline antithesis between the world and the Church was not less sharp than ours; but it was a distinction of persons and classes, and nobody could occupy both the opposite ends of it. Once within a society of disciples, he was out of the world, and belonged to "the assembly of the saints"; and the whole realm of heathendom beyond constituted the contrasted term. He did not stand and move with one leg on holy ground and the other on the common earth; whatever were the principles of the community he had joined, they served him all through, and did no violence to the unity of his nature. Praying or dining, weeping or laughing, in the workshop or the prison, he was the same man in the same sphere. As the circle of the Church enlarged, we should therefore expect the world to be driven to a distance, till it was absent from whole countries and continents. But a new "world" has been discovered, not only within the Church, but within the person of every disciple; his body and limbs, his business and pleasures, being under the law of a morality quite secular; his soul and its eternal affairs sitting apart in a love quite spiritual. Who shall draw the line between the provinces, and know practically, hour by hour, where he stands? Living confusedly in both, a man is apt to acquire a sort of double consciousness, and fluctuate distractedly between Cæsar and God. He believes, perhaps, that the kingdoms of nature and of grace are destined always to remain side by side, neither absorbing the other till the day of doom. In that case, he will let other men create all the secular usages, the moralities of trade, the maxims of politics;[Pg 340] standing aloof from them as not belonging to his realm, and falling in with them freely in his own case. They may be of questionable veracity and justice; but they belong to the Devil's world, and are as good rules as can be expected from legislators sitting in the synagogue of Satan. Why should he decline to profit by them, now that they are there? When Eve has plucked the apple, it is too late for Adam not to taste the fruit. The pious broker comes on 'Change as into a foreign world, on which he is pushed by humiliating necessities, and in which he feels an interest derived from them alone: he has his citizenship elsewhere; he disdains naturalization; he is but a temporary settler; he wants no vote about the laws; but, taking them as they are, cuts his crop and retires. The coolness with which people who live above the world sometimes avail themselves of its lowest verge of usage is truly amazing. An affluent gentleman of high religious profession, subscriber to Gospel schools, believer in prevenient grace, and otherwise the pride of the Evangelical heart, found himself not insensible to the approaches of the Hudson mania, speculated far beyond the resources of his fortune, declined to take up his bad bargains, and thus, at the expense of utter ruin to his agent, escaped with comparatively easy loss to himself. The agent, being but an honorable sinner of the worldly class, was struck down by the blow into great depression. His employer was enabled to take a more cheerful view, and, on meeting his poor victim, rallied him on his dejected looks and hopeless thoughts, so different from his own resigned and comfortable state of mind:—"But ah! I forgot," he added with a sigh, "you are not blessed with my religious consolations!" Where no such positively odious results as these are produced, there is still often observable the negative selfishness of indifference to political welfare and political morals,—an affected withdrawal from temporal interests in the neighborhood or the State, and an insensibility to public injustice strangely disproportioned to the zeal displayed against innocent amusements and the nervousness on behalf of invisible subtilties of creed.

The false opposition, however, between the world and the[Pg 341] Church is not always thus passive and quiescent. It is not always recognized by those who hold it, as being a permanent fact to be merely sighed over and let alone. Many men are too earnest and truthful to settle down and pitch their tent upon a ground rocking with contradiction; to live two lives wholly unreconciled, one in the shame of nature, the other in the confidence of grace; or to belong to two societies,—one political, the other spiritual,—conducted on principles at incurable variance with each other. That a rule of action should be secularly good and religiously hateful,—that a sentiment should be fitly applauded in Parliament and groaned over in the conventicle,—is to them an intolerable unreality, like the celebrated verdict of the University of Paris, that a doctrine might be true in philosophy and false in theology. In their hands, accordingly, the antithesis between the human and the divine is not a quiescent, but a conflicting dualism, in which their religious ideas become aggressive, and assume a commission to drive back and humble the world. They claim the earth for God, and think the surrender incomplete while anything natural remains;—while any instinct is uncrushed, any laughter unstifled, any genius, however pure, a law unto itself. The crusade against temporal interests and pursuits, consequent upon this state of mind, changes its form with the culture and habits of the age. In the early years of the Reformation, when the whole Bible was spread open beneath the thirsting eye of an undistinguishing enthusiasm, the effect threatened at one time to be more terrible than glorious. The full thunder-cloud of the Hebrew prophets, stealing over a world in negative stagnation, waked the sleeping lightnings of the soul, and for a while streaked the atmosphere of history with fearful portents. Everything that had been written of the chosen people, their exodus, their law, their poetry, their passions,—everything except the relentings of their nature and the unsteadiness of their faith,—became consecrated alike. The military clang of their early history, the harp of their sweet singer, the choral pomp of their priestly rule, the mystic voices of their lonely men of God,—all were Divine[Pg 342] music alike, often more exciting than the Sermon on the Mount, and not less piercing than the anguish in Gethsemane. Such was the sequence and connection of the Divine dispensations supposed to be, that Christianity was simply the Jewish theocracy, only let loose out of Palestine to make a promised land of the whole world. The downtrodden serfs of Franconia had not long heard the glad tidings from Wittenberg, ere they began to draw parallels between themselves and the old Israel when the desert had been passed. They had been brought to the brink of new hope, and looked, as across Jordan, to an inheritance verdant and tempting to their eye. The earth was the Lord's, and the army of the saints was come to take it; the bannered princes, the ungodly priests, the "men with spurs upon their heels," all the carnal who peopled this Canaan and perched their "eagle's nests" on every height, must be smitten and cleared off. The time of jubilee was come, when every believer should have his field of heritage; nay, the birds in the forest, the fish in the stream, the fruits of the ground, whatever has the sacred seal of God's creative power, should be free to all, and the noble should eat the peasant's bread or die. The lawyers should take their heathenish courts away, and men of God should sit and judge the people, according to the spirit and the word. The harvest was ripe, when the tares must be burned in the fire and the pure wheat be garnered for the Lord. These were the ideas which thousands of armed men, with a clouted shoe and a cart-wheel for their standards, and a leader who signed himself "the sword of Gideon," preached as their Gospel through the forests of Thuringia and beneath the citadel of Würzburg. Nor was the ripest learning, much less the most generous spirit of the time, any security against the adoption of their doctrine. It was not Münzer alone who breathed the fierce inspiration, exhorting his swarthy miners to "lay Nimrod on the anvil, and let it ring bravely with their strokes"; but the honest Carlstadt, too, scholar, preacher, dialectician as he is, lays aside his broadcloth, and appears in white felt hat and rustic coat at the cross of Rothenburg, to[Pg 343] preach encouragement to the people and bring fresh sorrow on himself. Throughout the great movement which in the third decade of the sixteenth century spread insurrection from the Breisgau to Saxony, the peasants were animated with the belief that the Gospel, armed with the sword of Joshua, was to subjugate the world, and that all the conditions of property, of law, of civil administration, under which secular communities exist, were to be superseded by institutions conformed to a divine model. The leading Reformers, terrified by the religious socialism which they had raised, were ready enough to denounce and crush it. But in truth their own idea differed from this insurgent faith more in form than in essence; lodging the power in different hands, and prescribing to it a different method, but assigning to it a similar trust for the same ultimate ends. The kingdoms of this world were to be made the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ; and the temporal power was everywhere to assume a spiritual function, and make aggression on whatever opposed itself to the severity and sanctity of the Divine Word. The converts of Knox, the troopers of Cromwell, the town-councillors of Geneva, acting on this doctrine, claimed the whole of human life as their domain, and pushed the inquisitions of police into private habits, and even the secret inclinations of personal belief. Playing-cards and song-books were denounced and seized, as if they came from the Devil's printing-press; dancing prohibited, as a profane escape of the natural members into mirthful agitation; concerts silenced, as enslaving immortal souls to the delusive sweetness of strings and wind; the caps of women and the coats of men shaped to evangelic type; and, as if the world were a great school, the gates of cities, and even the doors of houses, were closed at temperate hours by vesper bell or signal gun. Asceticism grasped the sceptre and the sword, and demanded the capitulation of the world. How vain and dangerous this tyrannous repression of nature is, the reaction during the seventeenth century into reckless and fatal license emphatically declares; and the contrast shows the necessity of finding some mediating term, some reconciling wisdom, by[Pg 344] which the antagonism may cease between the world and heaven, between natural morals and Christian aspiration. Yet under a change of form the struggle is still continued; and with those who most prominently assume to represent the aims of Christianity, the present life, the temporal world, has no adequate recognition of its rights. They have no trust in human nature as divinely constituted, and as having no part or passion without some fitting range. They dare not leave it out of sight for an instant: they must draw up a dietary for it, of sufficing vegetables and water; they must watch its temper, and see that it behaves with winning sweetness to all rascality; they must guard its purse, and teach it that to live cheaply, spending nothing for ornament and beauty, nothing for honor and right, but only for subsistence and charity, is the great wisdom of man; they must stifle its indignations, lest it should cease to hold out its cheek to Russia, and, having gone one shameful mile with "the nephew of my uncle," should refuse to go with him another. Both the ascetic doctrine and the extreme peace principles of the present day, as well as its tendency to renounce all retributory punishment, betray, in our opinion, a morbidly scrupulous apprehension of evil, quite blinding to the healthy eye for good,—a crouching of moral fear, singularly at variance with the free and noble bearing of the Apostle, who found that "to the pure all things are pure." As for the non-resistance principle, we have shown that it meant no more in the early Church than that the disciples were not to anticipate the hour, fast approaching, of Messiah's descent to claim his throne. But when that hour struck, there was to be no want of "physical force," no shrinking from retribution as either unjust or undivine. The "flaming fire," the "sudden destruction," the "mighty angels," the "tribulation and anguish," were to form the retinue of Christ and the pioneers of the kingdom of God. It was not that coercion was deemed unholy, and regarded as the agency appropriate to lower natures and left behind in ascending towards heaven; it was simply that natural coercion was not to fritter itself away, but leave the field open for the[Pg 345] supernatural. The new reign was to come with force; and on nothing else, in the last resort, was there any reliance; only the army was to arrive from heaven before the earthly recruits were taken up. Nothing, indeed, can well be further from the sentiment of Scripture than the extreme horror of force, as a penal and disciplinary instrument, which is inculcated in modern times. "My kingdom," said Jesus, "is not of this world; else would my servants fight";—an expression which implies that no kingdom of this world can dispense with arms, and that he himself, were he the head of a human polity, would not forbid the sword; but while "legions of angels" stood ready for his word, and only waited till the Scripture was fulfilled and the hour of darkness was passed, to obey the signal of heavenly invasion, the weapon of earthly temper might remain within the sheath. The infant Church, subsisting in the heart of a military empire, and expecting from on high a military rescue, was not itself to fight; not, however, because force was in all cases "brutal" and "heathenish," but because, in this case, it was to be angelic and celestial. It is evident that precepts given under the influence of these ideas can have no just application to the actual duties of citizens and states, whose problems of conduct, whose very existence, they never contemplated; and that to urge them upon modern society as political canons is to introduce a doctrine which, under cover of their form, violently outrages their spirit.

The mistaken antithesis between temporal and spiritual things runs into the greatest excess, wherever the inherent pravity of human nature is most exaggerated. There are churches, however,—the Catholic and the Arminian,—in whose doctrines the natural condition of man is painted in colors far removed from the deepest shade; and which deem him not so much incapable of right moral discernment, as weakened for faithful moral execution. In this view, the function of Christianity is not to supersede and cancel, but to supplement and guide, the native energies of the soul; not to raise it from a mad trance, in which all thought and feeling[Pg 346] are themselves but a false glare, but to apply a tonic and healing power, enabling it to do the right which it has already light enough to see. Professor Fitzgerald is an adherent to this doctrine, and justly contends that no lower estimate of human nature can consist with responsibility at all.

"I am not to be ranked," he says, "amongst those who assume that human corruption has not affected the natural power of the moral sense. I think it has. No doubt sinful depravity, wherever it is indulged, is, as Aristotle long ago remarked, φθαρτικη των αρχων,—it tends to weaken or deprave the sentiment of moral censure, and to blunt the perception of moral evil.

"An eloquent but superficial French moralist has compared the conscience to a table-rock in the ocean, its surface, just above the ripple, bearing an inscription graven in the stone, which a genius, hovering over it, reads aloud. At times the waves arise and sweep over the tablet, concealing the mystic characters. Then the reader is compelled to pause. But after a while the wind is lulled, the waves sink back to their accustomed level, the inscription stands out clear and legible, and the genius resumes his interrupted task.

"This comparison might gain something in correctness if we imagine the inscription traced upon a softer substance. For the stormy waves of passion not only conceal, while they prevail, the sacred characters of virtue, but, as billow after billow passes over the tablet, they tend to obliterate the lines.

"But in making these large concessions, (which I do very willingly,) I do not feel that I am surrendering the cause. It is one thing to say that the discriminating power of the moral judgment is affected and impaired by human corruption, and quite another to say that it is destroyed. It is one thing to say that it sometimes goes wrong, and another that we can never depend on its decisions. Most men's experience has often brought them acquainted with persons who had impaired, in some way or other, their natural powers of perceiving truth or excellence in some respects, without losing either sound principles of reason or sound principles of honesty in others.[Pg 347] And the way to correct such obliquities of intellectual or moral judgment is, not to tell men that they should distrust their natural faculties altogether, but to avail ourselves of so much as remains sound to discover the mistake or imperfection which we seek to remedy or supply. The appeal, in such cases, is from the reason or conscience perverted or impaired, to the same faculties in what physicians would call their normal state. When the effaced portions of the inscription are to be restored, the evidence of the correction results from its harmonizing with the part which has not been obliterated; and an interpolation may be detected by its disturbing the coherence of the context,—an omission by leaving it imperfect or unintelligible."—p. 26.

On this principle alone, unhappily but little congenial with the spirit and traditions of Protestant churches, can Christianity coexist with natural ethics. Faith adopts morals, purifies and sublimes them, and especially changes the character of their force;—for a law of compulsion from below, substituting a love of God above. The enmity ceases between the world and heaven; the physical earth is not more certainly afloat in space, and on the muster-roll of stars, than the present life is plunged in eternity, and not behind its chiefest sanctities. There is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be slurred over as an unmanageable necessity, in the natural constitution and relations of men; whatever acts they prescribe, whatever combinations they require, are within the scope and consecration of religion. The whole compass of the world and its affairs, all the gifts and activities of men, are brought within moral jurisdiction, and included in the embrace of a genial reverence. No narrow interpretation is longer possible of the province of human piety, and the true type of a noble goodness; as though they demanded a definite set of actions, rather than a certain style of soul, and denied a place to any affection or pursuit which can adorn and glorify existence. Divine things are not put away into foreign realms of being, and future reaches of time, attainable by no path of toil, no spring of effort, only by miraculous transport; but are[Pg 348] met with every day, shining through the substance of life and hid amid its hours. Whatever original endowments, whatever acquired virtues, enrich and elevate our immediate sphere,—the Thought which finds its truth, the Genius that evolves its beauty, the Honor that guards its nobleness, the Love which lightens the burden of its sorrows,—are not mere temporal embellishments indifferent to its sacredness, but attributes that bring men nearer to the sympathy and similitude of God. Art, literature, politics, employing the highest human activities, and constituting the very blossom and fruit of all our culture, are recognized as having an earnest root, and not being the light growth of secular gayety and selfishness. We have no sympathy with the sentimental and immoral propensity, which corrupts the newest Continental philosophy, to recognize whatever comes into existence as ipso facto divine. But we do believe that the great change for which the secret religiousness of this age pines, and which it is sorely straitened till it can accomplish, is the deliberate adoption into "heavenly places" of this world, its faculties and affairs, just as God has made them, and man's unfaithfulness has not yet spoiled them. The products of human baseness, hypocrisy, and ambition,—let them remain hateful, eternally contrary to God, things scarce safe to pity; but believe not that they have got this planet entirely to themselves, and have snatched it as their peculium quite out of the Supreme Hand. Men are tired of straining their thought along the diameter of the universe to seek for a Holy of Holies in whatever is opposite to their life; they find a worship possible, even irresistible, at home, and on the road-side a place as fit to kneel as on the pavement of the Milky Way. The old antagonism between the world that now is, and any other that has been or is to come, has been modified for them, or has even entirely ceased. The earth is no place of diabolic exile, which the "prince of the power of the air" ever fans and darkens with his wing; and were it even, as was once believed, appointed to perish, this would be not because its failure was complete, but because its task was done. No vengeance burns in the sunshine which[Pg 349] mellows its fruits and paints its grass; no threatenings flash from the starry eyes that watch over it by night. It is not only the home of each man's personal affections, but the native country of his very soul; where first he found in what a life he lives, and to what heaven he tends; where he has met the touch of spirits higher than his own, and of Him that is highest of all. It is the abode of every ennobling relation, the scene of every worthy toil;—the altar of his vows, the observatory of his knowledge, the temple of his worship. Whatever succeeds to it will be its sequel, not its opposite, will resume the tale wherever silence overtakes it, and be blended into one life by sameness of persons and continuity of plan. He is set here to live, not as an alien, passing in disguise through an enemy's camp, where no allegiance is due, and no worthy love is possible, but as a citizen fixed on an historic soil, pledged by honorable memories to nurse yet nobler hopes. Here is the spot, now is the time, for the most devoted service of God. No strains of heaven will wake him into prayer, if the common music of humanity stirs him not. The saintly company of spirits will throng around him in vain, if he finds no angels of duty and affection in his children, neighbors, and friends. If no heavenly voices wander around him in the present, the future will be but the dumb change of the shadow on the dial. In short, higher stages of existence are not the refuge from this, but the complement to it; and it is the proper wisdom of the affections, not to escape the one in order to seek the other, but to flow forth in purifying copiousness on both.

We have said that men are tired of having their earthly and their heavenly relations set up in sharp opposition to each other, and are eager to live here in a consecrated world. This tendency has already found expression in two remarkable and apparently dissimilar phenomena,—the partial success of the Anglican and Catholic reaction, and the vast influence on English society of the late Dr. Arnold's character. Both were virtual protests against that removal of God out of the common human life, that unreconciled condition of Law and[Pg 350] Gospel, which had made the evangelical theology sickening and unreal. A path had to be opened for the re-introduction of a divine presence into the sphere of temporal things. Newman resorted to the supernatural channel of Church miracle; Arnold to the natural course of human affairs, and the permanent sacredness of human obligation. Both restored to us a solemn mystery of immediate Incarnation; the one putting life, in order to its consecration, into contact with the sacraments; the other spreading a sacramental veneration over the whole of life. Arnold, especially, saw the great moral evils which have arisen from the evangelical depreciation of the "profane" world. The secular, he was well aware, has become too secular, the spiritual too merely spiritual. Human nature is permitted to have play with unchecked wilfulness in the one, and is allowed no place at all in the other. The obligations of natural law are held in light esteem, as if, in being social, they fell short of being sacred. The exercises of intellect, in the survey of nature or the interpretation of history, are often stigmatized as a mere earthly curiosity, permissible to reason, but neutral to the soul. The worst of it is, that these notions, once become habitual, fulfil their own predictions. As there is nothing which the heart cannot sanctify, so is there nothing which it may not secularize. Tell men that in their natural affections there is nothing holy, and their homes will soon be nests of common instinct. Assure them that in their business it is the unregenerate will, and the animal necessity, that labor for the bread which perisheth, and soon enough will an irreverent greediness and a cankered anxiety usurp the place. Persuade them that to study the order of creation or the records of past ages is but a "carnal" pursuit, and the student's prayer for light will become a mere ambition for distinction, the meditations of wonder be stifled in the dust of mental day-labor, and the tears of admiration drop no more on the page of ancient wisdom. This was what Arnold could not abide; to see religion flying off on wings of pompous pretence to other worlds, and leaving no heavenly glory upon the earth, but letting her very fields[Pg 351] be paved into a street. There was no attempt to save a spot for any earnest reality, except the poor little enclosure behind the altar rail. The Church will consecrate a graveyard for the dead, but leaves the market of the living still unblessed: you may dissolve away in benediction, when your years are over of toil and sweat beneath the curse. To one who acknowledges a natural conscience and a natural element in faith, there is a religion in little in every part of life; it gives at least a note in the chords and melody of worship. Hence Arnold's curious doctrine of the Church as covering all human relations whatsoever, and including the whole organism of the State. He would have nothing which the laws of this universe imposed on the will of man done without a clear and pious recognition; it was not to be illicitly smuggled in, as if run ashore in a gale of confusion that could not be helped, but must be steadily accounted for and stored in open day. Ethically, this doctrine, though, from its adaptation to a permanent world, it is the least Apostolic in appearance, is, of all interpretations of Christianity, the most true; and if it were not for clinging ideas of extra-moral dogma and special priesthood, as limiting the conception of "the Church," would go far to repeat for our age the work of Socrates for his, and bring down our divine philosophy from heaven to earth. It gets rid entirely of the false spiritualism which has either withheld religious men from political affairs, or induced them to urge on statesmen rules applicable only where government can be dispensed with altogether. It rescues Christianity from the degradation of being hypocritically flattered as the great persuasive to peace by rulers whom it does not restrain from going to war, and relieves it of an oppressive weight of false expectation, as though it broke its promise to the world every time a new case of strife appeared. Nothing can well be more damaging to a religion, than to commit it to unqualified disapprobation of anything which must exist while human nature lasts, and to set it frowning with ineffectual sublimity on the passions and events which determine the whole course of history. The amiable enthusiasts who propose to conduct the[Pg 352] affairs of nations on principles of brotherly love, and who, till that consummation is reached, can only stand by and protest, do but weaken their country for purposes of justice and bring their faith into merited commiseration. It is commonly said that they are a harmless class, who may even form a useful counterpoise to the warlike susceptibilities of less scrupulous men. We have no belief, however, in the efficacy of falsehood and exaggeration, or in the attainment of truth and moderation by the neutralizing action of opposite extravagances. The reverence for human life is carried to an immoral idolatry, when it is held more sacred than justice and right, and when the spectacle of blood becomes more horrible than the sight of desolating tyrannies and triumphant hypocrisies. Life, indeed, is just the one thing—the reserved capital, the rest, the ultimate security—on whose disposability in the last resort, and on the free control over which, the very existence of society depends. The first and highest social bond is no doubt to be found in a religious sentiment, a common veneration for the same things as right and intrinsically binding on men that live side by side; and the worship, with its institutions, of every community, is its instinctive attempt to get these things spontaneously done by the force of reverence. Could this point be really carried, nothing would remain to be accomplished; religion would complete and perfect the incorporation of mutual loyalty which it had begun. But there are some in whom the sentiment of common reverence fails, and for whose fidelity to the moral ends of the social union there is therefore no natural guaranty. To reach these cases, society has no resource but coercive methods, actual or threatened; the threat is Law; the actuality is Punishment; the power to which both are committed is a Government; the commonwealth on whose behalf they exist is a State. The very constitution of a state thus presupposes the possible violation of moral right, the partial failure of religion to secure its observance, and the determination to enforce on the reluctant an obedience refused of free will. Force, however, is applicable only to men's bodies; it is a restraint and pressure on the[Pg 353] functions of their life; and if that life be sacred from infringement, the political existence of nations is itself an offence against the law of God. All law, all polity, is a proclamation that justice is better than life, and, if need be, shall override it and all the possessions it includes; and nothing can be weaker or more suicidal than for men who are citizens of a commonwealth to announce, that, for their part, they mean to hold life in higher esteem than justice. Moreover, there is a low-minded egotism often disguised in this doctrine of passive meekness. As an inducement to quiet endurance of wrong, we are reminded of the duty of "mutual forgiveness." Is all the wickedness, then, that I am doomed to witness, nothing but a personal affront? When a rascal threatens to blow out my neighbor's brains, or to blast his character by infamous accusations, am I in a position to forbear and pardon? Must I not own myself under a solemn trust, to see the right done and the guilty punished? Nay, would not the injured man himself greatly mistake the nature of the crime, and measure it by a paltry standard, if he took it for a mere private offence which it was his prerogative to punish or to overlook? "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" The eternal laws of justice are not of our enacting; and no will of ours has title to suspend or to repeal them. The real and only demand of Christian magnanimity is, that we visit them with no vengeance, but merely with moral retribution;—that is, with no more severity when directed against ourselves, than when we see them at an impersonal distance. But to regard and treat the guilty as if he were an innocent,—that is given to no man, and is even inconceivable of God. Rulers, at all events, as trustees of rights other than their own,—and each generation of a people, as charged with the interests of successors in perpetuity,—have but a limited privilege of forbearance; the meekness of the saint would in them be treason to the world. Even in international disputes, where each party may have a conviction of right, the controversy, but for the possibility of force, could have no end. It is a delusion to rely on courts as a substitute for armies, and to suppose that judicial decision[Pg 354] can supersede military. The judge would be of small avail without the constable; and the arbitrator between nations would need a European army to enforce his decrees. Where the stake is large and the feeling strong, it is notorious that the private disputant rarely acquiesces in an arbitration that goes against him; but carries his case to the last appeal, where it is stopped by a barrier of impassable force. You might as well pull down your jails in preparation for the assizes, as destroy your fleets and arsenals in quest of international arbitration. We speak only of the ultimate theory of this matter, and simply affirm, that wherever law and government exist, somewhere in the background force must lurk. It may, no doubt, be provided in excess, and paraded without need; and with the progress of a civilized order, the circle may be ever widened within which the idea of coercion, with the habits it creates, may be substituted for the obtrusive reality; till possibly a family of nations may be gathered, like a group of counties, into a common jurisdiction. But this only shifts the camp without disbanding it; and, after all, the tipstaffs of your supreme court could be no other than the legions of a grand army. We have, therefore, no more doubt that a war may be right, than that a policeman may be a security for justice, and we object to a fortress as little as to a handcuff. A religion which does not include the whole moral law; a moral law which does not embrace all the problems of a commonwealth; a commonwealth which regards the life of man more than the equities of God,—appear to us unfaithful to their functions, and unworthy interpreters of the divine scheme of the world. Quaker histories, written with omission of all the wars, are not less morbid as moral mistakes, than a doctrine of Providence, leaving out the whole realm of heathendom, is narrow as a religious theory; and the misuse of Scripture which has led to both, is most dangerous to its authority in an age remarkable for the breadth of its historical survey and the variety of its ethnological sympathies.

In other ways than those which we have indicated has a mischievous direction been given to modern thought and feeling,[Pg 355] by perverting the accidental and transient form of the primitive Christianity into essential and permanent doctrine. But our exposition must proceed no further. The alternation of ascetic spiritualism and worldly laxity, the indifference to natural affections and relations, the exclusiveness at once devout and selfish, the jealous denial of their rights to intellect and art, the false apprehension of the true dignity of law and true life of states, have been the more earnestly dwelt upon from the conviction that these ethical infirmities are producing a perilous reaction,—a distrust of all ethical laws whatsoever, a disposition to hold everything divine that finds strength to realize itself,—a worship of what is, in place of an aspiration to what ought to be. To this we cannot consent. We cannot look on all forms of human life and character with the neutral eye of an equal admiration, as alike suitable products of formative nature. We cannot forego the right of judgment,—of embracing with reverence or spurning with abhorrence; or part with the ideal type of a perfect soul, to which all others rise as they approach. Neither do we believe with Luther, that human nature is a mere devilish anarchy, reducible only by supernatural irruption; nor with the newest school, that it is a divine anarchy, equally uncontrollable from within, and to be accepted as a wild fact; but that it is a hierarchy of powers, each having and knowing its rightful place, and appealing to us to maintain it there. To listen to that appeal, and, in answer to it, strive to harmonize the de facto with the de jure administration of the soul, destroying the usurpation of mean errors, and restoring the sway of kingly truth, is the aim of morals in action and in philosophy.

[Pg 356]


The Restoration of Belief. No. I. Christianity in Relation to its Ancient and Modern Antagonists. Cambridge: Macmillan & Co. 1852.

We have heard it quoted as the remark of a distinguished foreigner, conversant with the choicest society in several of the capitals of Europe, that nowhere is the alienation of the higher and professional classes from all religious faith so widespread and complete as in England. That the masses at the other end of the social scale are indifferent or disaffected to the institutions which visibly embody the Christianity of our age, can be no secret to any observant inhabitant of a large English town. It is on the middle class alone that the various forms of Protestant worship have any real hold. Removed alike from the passionate temptations of the homeless artisan, and from the mental activity of the statesman or man of letters, the rural gentry and the urban tradespeople are detained under traditional influences, partly by the wholesome conservatism of moral habit, partly by helpless accommodation to conventional standards. Men of this class, if once really touched and possessed by earnest conviction, are the best defenders of a religion from political assault. But a faith exposed to an intellectual struggle finds among them but a precarious shelter; especially if their attachment to it is less a living persuasion than a fear of the blank which its removal[Pg 357] would create. Persecuted by the magistrate, they know how to defend their worship from the oppression of law. Assailed by the critic, they can offer but the resistance of a dumb impenetrability; they cannot bring their sterling personal qualities to bear upon the contest; they are obliged, for all active conduct in the strife, to trust to a body of literary Swiss, engaged to protect the Vatican of their faith, and accustomed never to report defeat. In proportion as the methods of sceptical aggression become more formidable, and its temper more earnest, it is found necessary to improve the training of the band of Church defenders;—a measure at once indispensable and fatal; for it lifts them into an intellectual position, which spoils the blind singleness of their allegiance, discloses the hopelessness of the task expected from them, and often destroys their antipathy to the noble revolutionary foe. It is the vainest of hopes, that a body of clergy, brought up to the culture of the nineteenth century, can abide by the Christianity of the sixteenth or of the second; if they may not preserve its essence by translation into other forms of thought, they will abandon it, in proportion as they are clear-sighted and veracious, as a dialect grown obsolete. The number accordingly is constantly increasing, in every college capable of training a rich intellect, of candidates for the ministry forced by their doubts into lay professions, and carrying thither the powerful influence, in the same direction, of learning and accomplishment. The higher offices of education are, to no slight extent, in the hands of these deserters of the Church; and through the tutor in the family, or the master in the school, or the professor in the lecture-room, contact and sympathy are established between the best portions of the new generation, and a kind of thought and culture with which the authorized theology cannot co-exist. College friendships, foreign travel, current literature, familiarize all educated young men with the phenomenon of scepticism, and in a way most likely to disenchant it of its terrors. Thus by innumerable channels it enters the middle class at the intellectual end of their life, assuming in general the form of historic and critical[Pg 358] doubt; while from below, from the classes born and bred amid the whirl of machinery, and shaped in their very imagination by the tyranny of the power-loom, it pushes up in the ruder form of material fatalism. The intermediate enclosure, safe in the dull innocence of an unsuspected creed, is growing narrower every day; and, though reserved to the last for its hour of temptation, will be the least prepared to win its victory.

No one who appreciates the real sources of a healthy national life, and knows what to expect from the dissolution of ancient faiths, can look without anxiety at a prospect like this; especially in a country whose religious institutions, rigid with usage, overloaded with interests, charged with the bequests of the past, are manifestly unequal to the crisis, and, in their attempt to train the affections of the Future, wield every power but the right one, and are indeed already regarded, like the Court of Chancery with its wards, as a dry nursery for grown babies. A people that reverences nothing—nothing at least that stretches a common heaven over all—has lost its natural unity. Incipient decay is spreading through the secret cement of its civilization, which, far from bearing the weight of further growth, precariously holds its existing mass together. So far we are entirely at one with those who see something to deplore in the "Eclipse of Faith," and something to desire in the "Restoration of Belief." They do not overrate the evils of a state of society in which, if you think with the wise, you must cease to believe with the vulgar. We would join with them, heart and hand, in the effort to terminate this fatal discrepancy, and find some language of devotion and aspiration, veracious alike from the lips of the richest knowledge and the most primitive simplicity. But when, like the author whose publication is before us, they would abolish the discrepancy by simply reinstating the taught in the creed of the untaught; when they insist on the surrender without terms of modern philosophy and criticism to the "unabated" authority of the Bible; when they pretend to wipe out from calculation all the theological researches of the[Pg 359] last half-century, as if they were mere ciphers made in sport on the tablet of history, and had no effect on our computed place at all,—we separate sorrowfully from them, largely sympathizing with their wish, but wholly despairing of their method. The received theory of the origin of Christianity from agencies exclusively divine, and of the infallible character of the canonical books, can no more be "restored," than Roman history can be put back to its state before Niebuhr's time, or Greek mythology be treated as if Heyne and Ottfried Müller had never lived. The present age is not more distinguished by its advance in the material arts, than by its astonishing progress in the interpretation and true painting of the past; a Boeckh or a Grote carries in his mind a picture of Athenian life in the days of Pericles more perfect, it is probable, than could be formed by Plutarch or Longinus; and it would be strange if the Christian era—certainly the object of the most elaborated study—were the only one to escape the work of reconstruction, or to undergo it without considerable change. The limits of that change are at present definable by no consentient estimate; but that they are such as to remove the old lines of Christian defence, and require the choice of more open ground, can no longer be denied, except by the astute consistency of a Romanist hierarchy, and the innocent unconsciousness of English sects. When the time shall come for a dispassionate history of the first two centuries,—a history which, resolving the canon back into the general mass of early Christian literature, shall find an original clew for tradition, instead of accepting one from its posthumous hand,—which shall detect opinions before they were heretic or orthodox, and trace the several streams of tributary thought to their confluence in a determinate Christianity,—the narrowness of our present polemic will be apparent of itself; its fears and triumphs be regarded with a smile; and many, both of its positive and negative results, will vanish from the interests of religion, and be absorbed in a higher view of the relation between the Divine and Human in this world.

[Pg 360]

We had hoped at first that the author of "The Restoration of Belief" was about to take up the problem of Christianity with a real appreciation of its altered conditions, and with unaffected justice towards those who cannot solve it like himself. His present essay is but the commencement of a series, designed to arrest the progress of educated scepticism, to expose the sophistries of modern criticism, and re-establish the plenary authority, as oracles of faith, of the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures. It would perhaps be unreasonable to complain that his argument does not march very far in this first movement; and engages us rather by the stateliness of its step, than by the clearness of its direction. Nevertheless, we do think that the discursive license of introductory exposition is carried by him to an extreme which promises ill for the exactitude of his method. At the outset he declares that the difficulties which embarrass modern faith go down to the very depths of philosophy, and can be resolved only by reaching the ultimate roots of thought. Yet he remains on the upper surface of history, and, without once hinting how this is to lead him to the pith of the controversy, dwells only on facts which are undisputed, and his conception of which might be as readily gathered from Gibbon as from Neander. Like many writers whose eye is caught by grandeur of effect, and whose imagination is sensitive to wonder, he is fascinated by the moment in human affairs when the Roman Empire was exactly poised between the forces of external unity and of internal decay, and the political organism of the Past, so august in its mass and its proportions, held no soul but the young spirit of the Future. Of this crisis, assigned to the reign of Alexander Severus, our author presents an impressive and, we believe, a faithful sketch. Amid the splendor, the misery, the decay of belief and hope, the universal incertitude of that period, there emerges into notice the beautiful and beneficent phenomenon of a real Faith,—a Faith that can live, a Faith that can die. The inevitable conflict between this new power and the Pagan prerogatives of the Cæsars is well brought out by the essayist; and the victory[Pg 361] of Christianity is justly ascribed to the peculiar character of the religion, as a feeling directed to a person rather than the simple assent to an idea. It was the force of this personal feeling which first awakened in men the sentiment of obligation in regard to religious truth, and substituted faithful veracity for indifferentism and laxity of profession. The author thus sums up the positions which he regards the present essay as establishing:—

"That the Christian communities did, during the period that we have had in view, make and maintain a protest against the idol-worship of the times, which protest, severe as it was in its conditions, at length won a place in the world for a purer theology, and set the civilized races free from the degrading superstitions of the Greek Mythology.

"That in the course of this arduous struggle, and as an unobserved yet inevitable consequence of it, a New Principle came to be recognized, and a New Feeling came to govern the minds of men, which principle and feeling conferred upon the individual man, however low his rank, socially or intellectually, a dignity unknown to classical antiquity; and which yet must be the basis of every moral advancement we can desire, or think of as possible.

"That the struggle whence resulted these two momentous consequences, affecting the welfare of men for ever, was entered upon and maintained on the ground of a definite persuasion, or Belief, of which a Person was the object.

"That this belief toward a person embraced attributes, not only of superhuman excellence and wisdom, but also of superhuman power and authority. If we take the materials before us as our guide, it will not be possible to disengage the history from these ideas of superhuman dignity."—p. 106.

These positions we certainly conceive to be unassailable. But they lie so completely out of the field of modern doubt and controversy, that we are at a loss to imagine what possible use the author can make of them. The general features of the Christian faith, and the character of the Church, had assumed in the third century a determinate form, about which[Pg 362] there is no important question between believer and unbeliever. Who would deny that the disciples for whom Clement of Alexandria and Origen wrote, whom Tertullian and Minucius Felix defended, and to whose institutes Cyprian was a convert, believed in Jesus Christ as a person at once historical and divine, and were strengthened by that belief to the endurance of martyrdom? The real and only difficulties lie higher up, in the attempt to trace the sources and earlier varieties of this belief; and if our author can show that, in winding its way through two centuries, and traversing several distinct regions of thought, it dropped or rounded off no primitive facts, and became mingled with no foreign ideas,—if he can establish the essential constancy and uniformity, from the first, of the tradition and doctrine which obtained ascendency at last,—he will indeed reduce legitimate scepticism within very narrow limits, and deserve a niche in the Valhalla of critical renown. But if he contemplates clearing these centuries by an argumentative leap; if, from the martyr faith of an age later than the Antonines, he means to conclude the certainty of the Incarnation two hundred years before,—then we must say, he attempts a logical feat which puts to shame the cautious steps of such reasoners as Paley, Marsh, and Whately. The catena of well-linked testimonies, with its bridge of safe footing, which they have endeavored to sling across the chasm of the post-apostolic age, is but a paltry cowardice of ecclesiastic engineering to one who can pass the gulf upon the wing of inference. An advocate is intelligible, and proceeds upon admitted rules of evidence, who says with these earlier divines: "Here are the writings of Paul, of John, of Matthew, and of other men who were present at the events they relate or assume; whose lives were turned into a new channel by their influence; and who went to prison and to death rather than deny them. They positively declare that they witnessed the most stupendous miracles, and, after their Master had been visibly taken up through the clouds, themselves habitually exercised the same supernatural power. You must admit that the guaranties of testimony can go no[Pg 363] further: surrender yourself therefore to the Gospel." This is an argument which accomplishes all that is possible with historical evidence in such a case; and were its allegations of fact sustainable, it would still be the best form into which the reasoning could be thrown. Unfortunately, we can no longer feel assured that any first-hand testimony exists, as a distinguishable element, in the narrative books of the New Testament; so that we can regard them only as monuments of the state of Christian tradition during a secondary period. Still, this flaw is not repaired by striking into the course of belief three or four generations lower down, and substituting the "Martyr literature" of the third century for the Evangelist memorials of the second or the first. And when our author transfers to Clement and Origen the praise of unaffected simplicity usually awarded to the Apostolic writers, and actually presents it as sufficient proof of divine attributes in Christ, we can only suppose that, in his opinion, some truths are too good to have any bad way to them. What else can be said of the following mode of inference?

"Much do we meet with in these writers that indicates infirmity of judgment or a false taste; yet does there pervade them a marked simplicity, a grave sincerity, a quietness of tone, when He is spoken of whom they acknowledge as Lord. If there be one characteristic of these ancient writings that is uniform, it is the calm, affectionate, and reverential tone in which the Martyr Church speaks of The Saviour Christ!

"I am perfectly sure that, if you could absolutely banish from your mind all thought of the inferences and the consequences resulting from your admissions, you would not, after perusing this body of Martyr literature, fall into the enormity of attributing the notions entertained of Christ, as invested with Divine attributes, to any such source as 'exaggeration,' or 'extravagance,' or to 'Orientalism,' or 'enlarged Platonism.' Exaggeration and inflation have their own style: it is not difficult to recognize it. No characteristic of thought or language is more obvious. You will fail in your endeavor to show that this characteristic does attach to the writings in[Pg 364] question; and why should you make such an attempt? There can be no inducement to do so, unless it appears to be the only means of escaping from some consequence which we dislike."—p. 107.

Our author professedly opposes "Ancient Christianity" to modern scepticism, because "History," as he observes, "is solid ground," and no region of atmospheric phantasms, births from the refracted rays of metaphysic light. History, however, is solid ground only so far as it is really explored; and the trending of the land and curving of the shore in one latitude of time no more enables us to lay down the map of another, than an anchorage at the Ganges' mouth would enable us to paint the gorges of the Himalayas, and distinguish the real from the fabulous sources of the sacred stream. To take us into the basilicas and show us how Christians worshipped in the days of Alexander Severus, to introduce us to the Proconsul's court and bid us witness their refusal of divine homage to Cæsar's image, and then ask us whether a faith like this could have had any origin but one,—this is not history, but the mere evasion of history. We want to know, not what must have been the source, but what was the source, of the great moral power that rose upon the world as Rome declined. Whoever wishes to shut out human ideas and natural agencies from participation in the matter, must go patiently through the entire remains of the early Christian literature; must trace the conflict between the Hebrew and the Pauline Gospel; find a place for the peculiar version of the religion given by the Evangelist John; fix the limits of Ebionitism, of Chiliasm, of Docetism; and show that these modes and varieties of doctrine stop short of the substance of the early faith, and do not enter the canonical Scriptures with any disturbance of their historic certainty. Nothing of this kind do we expect from our author. For he entertains a conception, respecting the logic of Christian evidence, which, however prevalent among English divines, betrays in our judgment a mind not at all at home with the present conditions of the problem. He seems to think that we can first prove the historic truth[Pg 365] of the Scriptures in general; and then get rid of the difficulties in particular; and requires us, in obedience to this pedantic law of logical etiquette, to carry into our investigation of every successive perplexity the rigid assumption that the writings with which we deal are "inspired," and their contents of "Divine authority."

"When a collection of historic materials, bearing upon a particular series of events, is brought forward, it will follow, upon the supposition that those events have, on the whole, been truly reported, that any hypothesis, the object of which is to make it seem probable that no such events did take place, must involve absurdities which will be more or less glaring. But then, after the truth of the history has been established, and when the trustworthiness of the materials has been admitted, as we proceed to apply a rigid criticism to ambiguous passages, we shall undoubtedly encounter a crowd of perplexing disagreements; and we shall find employment enough for all our acumen, and trial enough of our patience, in clearing our path. And yet no amount of discouragements, such as these, will warrant our falling back upon a supposition which we have already discarded as incoherent and absurd."—p. 110.

We cannot call this a vicious canon of historical criticism; for it simply excludes historical criticism altogether. The critic's work is not a process which can go on generically, without addressing itself to any particular matters at all, and vindicate comprehensive conclusions in blindness towards the cases they comprise. The judgment that, on the whole, a certain book contains a true report of events, can only be a provisional assumption, founded on natural and childlike trust, and can claim no scientific character, till it comes out as a collective inference from an investigation in detail of the narrative's contents. No doubt, the bare fact of the existence of Christianity as a great social phenomenon in the age of the Antonines, may afford evidence enough that Jesus of Nazareth was no imaginary being; the genius of the religion, and the traditional picture of its author, may indicate the cast of his[Pg 366] mind and the intensity of his influence; the institutions of the Church may betray its origin in Palestine, and the approximate date of its birth. But these conclusions, founded entirely on reasonings from human causation, can never carry us into the superhuman; or enable us to say more respecting the memorials of the life of Jesus, than that they may be true, and do not forfeit, ab initio, their title to examination by fundamental anachronism, misplacement, and moral incongruity. How far the existence of this primâ facie case falls short of "establishing the truth of the history," and "the trustworthiness of the materials," we need not point out to any one accustomed to deal with questions of evidence. And as for the great proposition, that "the Gospel of Christ is a supernaturally authenticated gift," we cannot imagine how it is to be proved in general, without research into a single miracle. Is it indifferent to the fact of the Incarnation, that the only two accounts of the birth and infancy of Jesus are hopelessly at variance with each other? Is the evidence of the Resurrection unaffected by the discrepancies on which harmonists have spent a fruitless ingenuity? Are we as sure that, in reading the Apostles' works, we have to do with "inspired writers," as if they had not made any false announcements about the end of the world? What does our author mean by admitting these things as "difficulties," yet denying them any just influence in abatement of our confidence? He may form one estimate of their weight, and his opponent another; but in neither case can they be postponed for treatment in a mere appendix to the discussion of Christian evidence: they are of the very pith of the whole question, and, so long as they lie in reserve as quantities of unknown magnitude and direction of influence, render historical belief and unbelief alike irrational.

Nor can we for a moment allow that the failure of ever so many "German theories" to give a satisfactory account of the origin of Christianity, is any good reason for contented acquiescence in the received doctrine. Our author insists, that we must make our definitive choice between some modern[Pg 367] hypothesis and the Evangelical tradition; and either take the facts as they are handed down to us, or else replace them by some better representation. By what right does he impose on us such an alternative necessity? Is the critic disqualified for detecting false history, because he cannot, at his distance, write the true? Is it a thing unknown, as a product of scholarship, that fabulous elements disclose themselves amid the memorials of fact? and is it not an acknowledged gain to part with an error, though only in favor of an ignorance? If a modern hypothesis as to the mode in which the religion arose may "break down" by mere internal incoherence and improbability, why may not the ancient account, if it should be chargeable with similar imperfections, be liable to the same fate? It is surely conceivable that all the finished representations we possess,—Hebrew and Alexandrine, as well as German,—furnish, more or less, an ideal and conjectural history of the infancy of Christendom; and that the reproduction of that time may not only be now impossible, but have already become so ere a hundred years were gone. The baffling of one solution implies therefore no triumph of another; and if the tradition on which we stand be insecure, our position is not improved by clipping the wings of every adventurous hypothesis on which we had thought to escape the common ground.

Our author cannot then change the venue of the great Christian cause from the first century to the third, and, on the evidence present there, give even preliminary judgment. The conflict between the new religion and the old which characterized that period, he paints with striking and truthful effect; and, contrasting the severe and holy veracity of martyred disciples with the careless indifference of Paganism to religious truth, he rightly refers the superiority of the Christians to their faith in a Person, instead of mere assent to an Opinion. Is it, however, correct to regard this as original and exclusive to the Gospel, and to set it on the forehead of the Church as the very mark of her distinctive divinity? We think not. The same feature is manifest in Judaism, to which again it[Pg 368] belongs, not as a peculiarity, but in common with every faith whose Only God is the apotheosis of humanity. It is the one grand moral characteristic of genuine Theism, as opposed to Pantheism; rendering it more than the enthusiasm of poetry, the earnestness of philosophy, the inspiration of genius, and constituting it, in the deepest sense, Religion. Nor is the ground of the distinction far to seek. Religion, in its ultimate essence, is a sentiment of Reverence for a Higher than ourselves. Higher than ourselves, however, can none be, that have not what is most august among our endowments; none, therefore, by reason of size, of strength, of duration; none simply by beauty or by skill; none even by largeness of discerning thought, but only by free and realizing preference of the most Just and Good. A Being of living Will can alone be nobler than myself, lift me above the level of my actual mind by looking at my latent nature, and emancipate me into the captivity of worship. In other words, reverence can attach itself exclusively to a Person; it cannot direct itself on what is impersonal,—on physical facts, on unconscious laws, on necessary forces, on inanimate objects and their relations, on space, though it be infinite, on duration, though it be eternal. These all, even when they rule us, are lower than ourselves; they may evade our knowledge, defy our power, overwhelm our imagination, but never rise to be our equals, or conspire to furnish even the symbol of our God. The mere deification of Nature, the recognition of oneness pervading her variety, the sense of an absolute ground abiding behind her transient phenomena, may supply a faith adequate to the awakening of wonder and the apprehension of ideal beauty, but not to the practical consecration of life; glorifying the universe as a temple of Art, but railing off within it no oratory of Conscience. In order to extract anything like a religion of conduct from this type of belief, its hierophants are obliged to approach as near as they can to the language of proper Theism, and not even despise typographical aid for pushing personification to the verge of personality; uttering various warnings not to neglect the "intentions of Nature," or insult[Pg 369] the "Relentless Veracities," and inviting sundry offenders to blush before "the Eternal Powers." The whole force of such expressions is evidently due to the false semblance of living thought and will with which they clothe the conceptions of mere abstract relations or physical tendencies. These rich tints are no self-color, but a borrowed light reflected from a grander Presence studiously withdrawn from view; and when their gloss is gone, no positive residuum is found, but a doctrine of hope and fear, without any element of Duty. It were a mockery, an inanity, to bid a man spend his affections on hypostatized laws that neither know nor answer him. In his crimes, it is not the heavy irons of his prison, but the deep eye of his judge, from which he shrinks; and in his repentance he weeps, not upon the lap of Nature, but at the feet of God. In his allegiance, his vow is made, not to the certainty of facts, but to the majesty of Right, and the authority of an Infinitely Just; and his acts of trust are directed by no means to the steadiness of creation's ways, but to the faithfulness of a perfect Mind. In short, all the sentiments characteristic of religion presuppose a Personal Object, and assert their power only where Manhood is the type of Godhead. This condition was imported, or rather continued, from the Hebrew to the Christian system; and brought with it the devout loyalty of heart, the singleness of service, the incorruptible heroism of endurance, which had encountered Antiochus Epiphanes at Jerusalem, as it now met Pliny in Bithynia, and Quadratus at Smyrna. The Paganism of the Empire, on the other hand, failed entirely of this condition. It was a mere nature-worship, expressive of the political dynamics by which, through the award of a mysterious necessity, Rome had become the centre of the world. If, among the deities whose congress was now assembled on the Tiber, there were any which once, in their indigenous seats, had commanded the full moral faith, and touched the true theistic devotion, of a people, that time had passed; and the conquered tribes suffered a more fatal loss when the victorious city adopted their religion, than when she crushed their liberty. Removed to[Pg 370] Rome, the rites of a provincial worship expressed nothing except that its gods were gods no more, but had descended from divine monarchic rights to a place among a pensioned hierarchy. Vanquished divinities inevitably become delegated powers of nature, and resign their sceptre to the sovereign they are compelled to own. As the administration of the Empire embraced a congeries of checked nationalities, so did its pantheon include a collection of extinguished religions. While as Imperator the head of the state was the embodiment of its unity by natural force, as Divus he represented its unity by preternatural sanction; and the divine honors paid to him were the acknowledgment of a necessity more than human in the culminating majesty of Rome. These honors would be freely rendered to him by those who looked on all realized existence, on everything charged with force enough to come up and be, as equally decreed by "the Eternal Powers,"—equally divine. Such homage would appear to them the mere expression of a fact, and a graceful owning of mysterious fates in its production; and no scruple could withhold them from an act which contradicted nothing in their mind, and did but fling a breath of pious incense around the thing that veritably was. It were absurd to expect the protest of a martyr from a man whose religion you cannot contradict; who will see a God wherever you ask him; and whose worship asserts nothing but that, a phenomenon being there, an occult power is behind it. A faith of this sort is deficient, as an Hegelian would say, "in the moment of negation"; it is all unobstructed affirmation, and can strike no light because it thus finds nothing to dash itself against. But let the divine element in the universe cease to be impersonal and impartially coalescent with the whole, let it live an Individual Mind, and the requisite antagonism immediately appears. To the Jew, the worship of Cæsar would be no other than high treason to Jehovah, whose tool, whose whip of lightning, and whose cup of consolation the Pagan Emperor might become; but whose emblem and incarnation he could so little be, that he rather stood defiantly at the head of the opposing realm,[Pg 371] and, even when forced to be the organ, did not cease to be the competitor of God. For opposing realm there must be, wherever proper Theism exists. Man feels that his personal attributes, his will, his character, his conscience, demand conflict for their condition, and without the possibility of ill could never be; and when he carries them out into the infinite region, to serve as his image of the Highest, they bear with them the inseparable shadow of evil, and give it place in the universe, as the darkness in whose absence light would want its distinction, the privative without which the beauty of holiness were nothing positive. Hence, expressed or unexpressed, a dualism mingles with all genuine theistic faith. All is not divine for it. It has a devil's province somewhere. Face to face, as Ebal to Gerizim, the frown of blighted rock to the smile of verdant heights,—hostile as the priest of falsehood to the true prophet,—there stand contrasted in this creed two domains of the world,—one surrendered to insurgent powers, the other reserved as the nursing ground from which right and truth shall be spread. To the Hebrew, the Pagan world was given over to a false allegiance, and inspired with diabolical delusions. For him to sacrifice to the genius of Cæsar, would have been, therefore, a desertion to the enemies of God, forbidden by every claim of faithfulness and veracity. Thus we conceive that the moral conditions of the martyrs' protest against idol-worships were complete within the limits of Judaism before the mission of Christ; and that the essence of it lies, not in the exclusive characteristics of the Gospel, but in the difference between Theistic reverence for a Personal Being, and the Pantheistic acknowledgment of an impersonal divineness. The peculiar function of Christianity in this respect was to become missionary to the world of this heroic fidelity transmitted from the parent faith, and hitherto bounded by its limits; and to find a place in the universal conscience of civilized nations for the duty of bearing testimony, though with tortures and death, to the pricelessness of truth and the sanctity of conviction. True it is that the Gospel was qualified for this office by directing human faith upon[Pg 372] a Person; and would have exercised no such power, had it been a mere philosophy presenting propositions for assent, instead of a Living Mind for trust and reverence. But this condition would have been attained by the simple extension of the Jewish Theism. The Personality, which is needed as a centre of intense fealty and affection, is found in the God of Hebrew tradition, and, for its effects in kindling a martyr courage and constancy, did not require to be sought in the historical Jesus of Nazareth. He, no doubt, as the mediate expression of the Supreme Will, as the Being with whom the Church stood in direct contact, as the presence of the Divine in the Human, was the object of the disciples' actual allegiance. We do not in the least question this as a fact, but only as a necessity, ere we can account for the moral features of a martyr age.

In singling out, as one of the grandest practical results of Christianity, the recognition it has obtained for the obligations of religious truth, our author has rightly seized a characteristic distinction of modern from ancient society. The principle is a real agency of the first order in history; we do not accuse him of overrating its importance, but of mistaking its genealogy. And now we must add, that if we differ from him as to the source whence it comes, we differ still more as to the issues whither it conducts. So inconsiderately does he allow himself to be borne away by his evangelical zeal, that he claims for the Gospel, not only the glory of first revealing, but the exclusive right of ever practising, the duties of religious veracity. None but historical believers have the least title to attach any sacredness to their convictions, or to feel any hesitation about denying them. What business have the authors of the "Phases of Faith," and the "Creed of Christendom," to any better morality of belief than Gallio or Lucian? If they have not fallen back into the Pagan indifferentism, they ought to have done so, and our author will continue very indignant till they do. He is offended with Mr. Newman for asking judgment on his "argument and himself, as before the bar of God"; and with Mr. Greg for saying that, in the[Pg 373] process of changing cherished beliefs, "the pursuit of truth is a daily martyrdom," and for giving "honor to those who encounter it, saddened, weeping, trembling, but unflinching still!" And he is not ashamed to declare that the guileless veracity which in himself would be a martyr's constancy, would be in another an overweening conceit. So astonishing, logically and ethically, are his statements on this subject, and so curiously do they determine his intellectual position, that we must present them in his own words:—

"We Christian men of this age, along with our venerated martyr brethren of the ancient Church, in making this profession,—that we may not lie to God, nor deny before men our inward conviction in matters of religion; we (as they did) affirm that which is consistent within itself, and which, in the whole extent of its meaning, is certain and is reasonable, grant us only our initial postulate, that Christianity is from heaven.

"But how is it, when this same solemn averment comes from the lips of those who deny that postulate, and who scorn to recognize the voice of God in the Book? It is just thus; and those whom it concerns so to do, owe it to the world and to themselves to make the ingenuous avowal.

"In the first place, the style and the very terms employed by these writers in enouncing the fact of the martyrdom they are undergoing, are all a flagrant plagiarism, and nothing better! A claim, in behalf of the Gospel, must be made of what is its own, and which these writers, without leave asked, have appropriated. As to every word and phrase upon which the significance of this their profession turns, it must be given up, leaving them in possession of so much only of the meaning of such phrases as would have been intelligible to Plutarch, to Porphyry, and to M. Aurelius. A surrender must be made of the words Conscience, and Truth, and Righteousness, and Sin; and, alas! modern unbelievers must be challenged to give me back that one awe-fraught Name which they (must I not plainly say so?) have stolen out of the Book; when they have frankly made this large surrender, we may return to them the το θειον of classical antiquity.

[Pg 374]

"Yet this plagiarism, as to terms, is the smaller part of that invasion of rights with which the same persons are chargeable. It is reasonable, and it is what a good man must do, to suffer anything rather than deny a persuasion, which is such that he could not, if he would, cast it off. So it was with the early Christian martyrs; their persuasion of the truth of the Gospel had become part of themselves; it was faith absolute, in the fullest sense of the word. The same degree of irresistible persuasion attaches to the conclusions of mathematical or physical science; but it can never belong to an opinion, or to an undefined abstract belief. A man may indeed choose to die rather than contradict his personal persuasion of the truth of an opinion; but in doing so he has no right to take to himself the martyr's style. So to speak is to exhibit, not constancy, but opinionativeness, or an overweening confidence in his own reasoning faculty.

"Polycarp could not have refused to die when the only alternative was to blaspheme Christ, his Lord; but Plutarch could not have been required to suffer in attestation of his opinion,—good as it was,—that the poets have done ill in attributing the passions and the perturbations of human nature to the immortal gods; nor Seneca, in behalf of those astronomical and meteorological theories with which he entertains himself and his friend Lucilius.

"When those who, after rejecting Christianity, talk of suffering for the 'truth of God,' and speak as if they were conscience-bound 'toward God,' they must know that they not only borrow a language which they are not entitled to avail themselves of, but that they invade a ground of religious belief whereon they can establish for themselves no right of standing. They may indeed profess what opinion they please as to the Divine attributes; but they cannot need to be told that which the misgivings of their own hearts so often whisper to them, that all such opinions are, at the very best, open to debate, and must always be indeterminate, and that at this time their own possession of the opinion which just now they happen to cling to, is, in the last degree, precarious. How[Pg 375] then can martyrdom be transacted among those whose treading is upon the fleecy clouds of undemonstrable religious feeling?"—pp. 92-94

If, being orthodox, you die at the stake, you are a martyr; if, being heretic,—why, then you are a man burnt;—a doctrine which Robert Hall compressed within the narrowest compass, when he said, "It is the saint which makes the martyr, not the martyr the saint." This is the very Gospel of intolerance; and whoever preaches it may feel assured that he can lend no help in any worthy "Restoration of Belief"; for he is himself infected with the most profound and penetrating of scepticisms,—scepticisms of moral realities. The rule, "that we may not lie to God, nor deny before men our inward conviction in matters of religion," is, in our author's view, the gift and glory of Christianity. Be it so. This rule either holds for all men at all times, or it does not; if there be persons who, notwithstanding it, may lie to God, and deny their inward conviction, then the Scriptures, in communicating it, have revealed no universal principle of duty, no obligation having its seat in the nature of things and the constitution of the human soul, but a mere sectional by-law, an arbitrary precept for the security and good ordering of one exclusive community. Then must we talk of it no more so exceedingly proudly, as if it were a hidden truth revealed, a latent beauty opened; it is no part of the holy legislation of the universe, but a statutory enactment under which we fall, or from which we escape, as we pass in or out at the door of a certain historical belief. Need we say that this side of the alternative strips Christianity of every pretension to be a moral revelation at all? If, to take the other side, the rule in question does hold for all men, then it is no less binding on Mr. Newman and Mr. Greg than on our author; and in bowing to its authority and owning its sanctity, they render a homage as devoutly true as his, only different in this, that, while they feel no disturbance from his kneeling in the sanctuary at their side, he cannot be at peace till he has sprung to his feet and hurled them from the place. They are guilty of[Pg 376] "plagiarism" forsooth! And in what? In knowing their duty, without knowing where they learned it! O shame upon this greediness, that would turn moral truth itself, and struggling aspiration, into a property! As if Christ were one to stand upon the copyright of revelation, and, unless his name were in the title-page, would suffer neither thought nor prayer to dedicate itself to God! Our author, as public prosecutor in the Supreme Court, demands that the defendants shall empty themselves out of every earnest sentiment, and surrender back the words conscience, and truth, and righteousness, and sin, and God, "as stolen from the Book"! What then was "the Book" given for, but that it might freely furnish these?—and how better can it fulfil its end, than by opening for them a sacred welcome wherever the things are which they disclose? Let their spirit breathe where it listeth; it will not be less a Holy Spirit that we know not "whence it cometh": nor let it be forgot how old a feature of evangelic blessing it is, that "he that was healed wist not who it was." As "the Book" does not, by its presence, create the facts which it reveals, so neither does its absence or rejection destroy them. Conscience, as an element of human nature, does not come or go,—God, as reality in the universe, does not live or perish,—according as the Bible is kept in the pocket or laid upon the shelf; even if their first witness were in Scripture, they themselves are in the world,—as active, as near, as certain, in the transactions of to-day, as in the affairs of distant history. Scientific truth, once well ascertained, can take care of itself, without being everywhere attended by the report of its first discovery; it is in the safe keeping of the objects on which it writes a new meaning, and the phenomena amid which it introduces a fresh symmetry. And moral truth, when once embodied and revealed, is not less independent of its earliest expression; it finds its response in human consciousness, its reflection from human life, and weaves itself up into the very fabric of many souls, whose pattern bears no motto of its origin. Thus "revelation"—just in proportion as it is revelation, and tells us what is cognate to[Pg 377] ourselves, and bound up with the realities around us—passes of necessity into "natural religion"; and precisely according to the measure in which it does so, will it acquire strength and permanence, and dispense with evidence by merging into self-evidence. Did it awaken in us no confirming experience, did it nowhere link itself with the visible system of things,—then, solving nothing, glorifying nothing, missed by all the moving indices of nature and Providence, it would sit apart, and become incredible. That could hardly be a truth at all, which, after roaming the world and searching the soul for eighteen centuries, has found no natural ground on which to rest, and must wander as an ipse dixit still. And if natural ground it has acquired, that is surely a proper basis for its present support; it may innocently cease to be held on mere authority; the very "plagiarism" so vehemently denounced is rather the fulfilment than the destruction of the faith, for it is only that men no longer resort to an oracle for things which the oracle has enabled them to see for themselves.

Our Christian advocate, however, is not content with reserving to his side the sole power of discerning the duty of religious veracity; he further claims the sole right to practise it. He teaches that it is not binding on all men at all times; and that its obligation is in any case conditional on the "initial postulate, that Christianity is from heaven." He thinks, apparently, that the duty is not so much revealed as constituted by the Gospel, so as to have no existence beyond the pale. We can collect from his words two considerations, under whose influence he seems to pronounce this strange judgment. He evidently assumes that the duty of veracious profession is contingent partly on the object-matter of belief; partly on the degree of evidence. If my faith is directed towards a Person, then, he implies, there is treachery, even blasphemy, in denying it; but if not, my disclaimer gives no one any title to complain, and I cannot be expected to die on behalf of a proposition. Polycarp must not renounce Christ, his Lord; but Plutarch might very properly recant, without at all altering,[Pg 378] his judgment against the poets, for ascribing passions to the gods. Is it so, indeed? Then there is no harm in a lie, unless some one is betrayed or insulted by it besides the hearers whom we deceive,—and we may report as falsely as we please our persuasion about things, provided we are true to our sentiments about persons? With full recollection of the questionable verdicts, on problems of veracity, which are given by Xenophon and Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, we doubt whether any Pagan moralist can be quoted in favor of a doctrine so unworthy as this. The author seems to imagine that the obligation to speak the truth is a mere duty of personal affection; and that in the absence of this element, its claims altogether disappear. Identifying falsehood with detraction and ingratitude, he concludes that, since an abstract theory is insensible to what people say about it, and can have no services owing to it, it may be blamelessly repudiated by those who really believe it. This is tantamount to an expunging of veracity from the list of human duties altogether; for it gives importance to what is purely accidental, and slights what is alone essential to it. The conditions of a lie, in all its full-blown wickedness, are quite complete, when there is a person to speak it, a person to hear it, and a social state to be the theatre of the deception; should there be also a person spoken of, that is a circumstance in no way requisite to constitute the guilt, but a supplementary condition, flinging in a new element of pravity, and turning falsehood into faithlessness. The introduction of this additional person into the case may doubtless render the offence much more flagrant, especially if he be one who has acknowledged claims on gratitude and reverence. Calumny and perfidy are justly held in deeper abhorrence than equivocation unstained with malignity. But to be unaffected by the criminality till it kindles with this diabolical glare, and not even to believe in it unless it smells sulphurous and burns red, betrays a perception too much accustomed to melodramatic contrasts of representation to appreciate the more delicate tints and finer moral lights of the real and open day. And so far from the glory of martyrdom being heightened[Pg 379] by the presence of deep personal affection as its inspiration, this very circumstance renders the act a less arduous sacrifice; just as to fall in the hot blood of battle may need less heroism of will, than to die under the knife upon the surgeon's table. In proportion as the denial of Christ in the hour of trial would be the more intolerable blasphemy, must the temptation to it be less overwhelming, and the merit of a good confession less amazing. And those who, in matters touching no such deep affection, can yet be true,—those who, in simple clearness of conscience, can dispense, if need be, with the help of enthusiasm, and so shut their lips against a lie, that not the searing iron can open them,—those who do not want a grand occasion, but just as certainly use the smallest, to fling back the thing that is not,—have assuredly a soul of higher prowess and more severely proved fidelity to God. And it is a heartless thing to turn round upon these men, and taunt them with having no one at whose feet to lay their offering, and no popular sympathy to redeem their uprightness from the imputation of conceit.

There is, however, another consideration which weighs with our author in granting to "modern unbelievers" a dispensation from the duty of religious veracity. They have only a "personal persuasion" resting on precarious grounds, and not the certitude attaching to "the conclusions of mathematical and physical science"; and it would be folly to suffer on behalf of "undemonstrable religious feeling"! Are we then to lay it down as a canon in ethics, that intensity of assurance is the measure of our obligation to speak the truth,—so that we are to state our certainties correctly, but may tell lies about our doubts? If so, scrupulous fidelity is incumbent on us only within the limits of deductive science and of immediate personal observation; and in the great sphere of human affairs, in matters of historical, moral, and political judgment, nay, in the incipient stage of all knowledge, we may say and unsay, may play fast and loose with our convictions, according as the favor or the fear of men hangs over us. Newton was bound to stand by his "Principia"; but Locke might have[Pg 380] renounced his treatise on Government and taken his oath to the divine rights of kings! Were he indeed to refuse so easy a compliance, it would be a great reflection upon his modesty; for if a man, on being threatened with death, will not belie his own persuasion of probable truth, he is chargeable with "overweening confidence in his own reasoning faculty"! It is happy for the world that it does not always except the morals of the Church, but brings an unperverted feeling to correct the twisted logic of belief. "Opinion," a wise man has said, "is but knowledge in the making"; and how little knowledge would get made, if opinion were emptied of its conscience, and looked on itself as an egotism rather than a trust! If there is one fruit of intellectual culture which more than another dignifies and ennobles it, it is the scrupulous reverence it trains for the smallest reality, its watchfulness for the earliest promise of truth, its tender care of every stamen in the blossoming of thought, from whose flower-dust the seed of a richer futurity may grow. To cut against this fine veracious sense with the weapons of unappreciating sarcasm, and crush its objects into the ground as weeds with the heel of orthodox scorn, is a feat which can advance the step of Christian evidence only by betraying the Christian ethics. Our author has entangled himself in the metaphor indicated by the word "martyrdom"; he thinks of the confessor as bearing witness to something,—which is indeed quite true; and supposes that the things to which he bears witness must be the facts or doctrines held by him; and this is not true at all. For that which we attest in the hour of persecution is simply our own state of mind; our belief, and not the object believed. We are required to utter words, or to perform acts, that shall give report of our persuasion; this persuasion is a fact in our personal psychology about which there is no ambiguity; which, as a presence in our consciousness, is wholly unaffected by the question how it got there, and by what logical tenure it holds its seat. Whether we have demonstrated it into the mind or fetched it thither in a dream, whether we had it yesterday or shall continue to have it to-morrow,[Pg 381] are matters in no way altering the fact that it is there; and if we say "No" to it, while conscious of a "Yes," the sin is neither greater when the belief concerns the properties of a geometric solid, nor less when it touches some indeterminate problem of metaphysics. The logical ground of our judgments is various without end,—perception, testimony, reasoning, in every possible combination. But the persuasion, once attained, is a simple phenomenon, whose affirmation, or denial, being always positively true, cannot change its moral complexion with every shade in the evidence now left behind. It is plain that, in our author's favorite case of martyrdom, no testimony could be borne by the Christian to anything but his own conviction. Polycarp and Cyprian could only answer in the face of death, that they were Christians; it was not "on behalf of" any outward fact, but simply because they would not belie their inward belief, that they laid down their lives. And had Plutarch been dragged before some anthropomorphist inquisition, and been called on publicly to declare his belief that the immortal gods were well and truly painted by the poets as having passions like mankind, the lie to which he was tempted would have been precisely of the same kind; and had it passed his lips, would have made him despicable as an apostate. He had no power, nor had the Church confessor, over the truth or evidence of his opinion; neither of them had any witness, in the strict sense, to bear; but both might veraciously scorn to deny a fact unambiguously present to their self-knowledge. If the heathen's firmness is an example of "overweening confidence in his own reasoning faculty," by what favoring difference does the Christian's escape the same imputation? That his faith is "absolute," his persuasion "irresistible," so far from furnishing a vindication, only avows the fact that his "confidence" is intense; whether it be "overweening" too, must depend on the proportion between the certitude he feels and the grounds of just assurance he possesses. But at all events it is a confidence—in this case as in the other—undeniably reposed "in his own reasoning faculty." How else could[Pg 382] any belief—except a groundless belief—reach the convert's mind at all? It is vain to pretend that the receivers of an historic doctrine plant their reliance piously on God, while its rejecters proudly trust themselves. There is no less subjective action of the mind on the positive side than on the negative; and on the soundness of that action does the worth of the result in either instance depend. The evidence on both sides comes into the same court of criticism; and pleading and counter-pleading must ask a hearing from the same judicial intelligence. If our author refers the Gospels to the first century, and his opponents to the second; if he finds a miracle in the gift of tongues, they a delusion; if he thinks that the reasoning out of the Old Testament in the New is exegetically and logically sound, they that it is in both respects unsound;—is he not concerned with the same topics, conducting the same processes, liable to the same mistaken estimates, as they? How then can he flatter himself that the same thing is believed on one tenure, and disbelieved on quite another? How affect, even while playing the advocate, to be raised above the contingencies of the "reasoning faculty," and entitled to rebuke its pride? How renounce it for himself, appeal to it for your assent, abuse it for your dissent, in the wayward course of two or three pages?

Our author stands, therefore, in spite of every effort to escape it, on the same logical ground as his opponents; and they, notwithstanding his objection to their companionship, are on the same footing of religious obligation with himself. He is offended to find such a one as Mr. Newman on the same sacred pavement, and to overhear from unbelieving lips the genuine tones of prayer; and, thanking God, apprises men that he "is not as this publican." He prosecutes for trespass all who, after rejecting his Christianity, can dare to profess allegiance to the "truth of God," and "speak as if they were conscience-bound towards God." Are they then not so bound? Has no one a conscience except the approved historical believer? Is it not in others also a Divine voice,—a Holy Spirit,—which to resist and stifle were the true[Pg 383] and only "Infidelity"? Surely the faith in God, and the earnest acceptance of the laws of duty as the expression of his authority, are not forbidden to men who cannot assume the disciple's style. These sentiments, so far from waiting on revelation for their possibility, are the pre-requisite conditions of all revelation, the state of mind to which it speaks, the secret power by which it finds us out; and if men cannot be "conscience-bound towards God" before and without Christianity, never can they become so after it and with it. It does not take us up as atheists and brutes, and supply us with the faculties as well as the substance of faith; else were there no medium of suasion across the boundary of unbelief;—but it appeals to us as knowing much and aspiring to more,—as already before the face, only shrinking from the clear look of God,—as feeling the divine restraint upon us of justice, purity, and truth, but unable, without some emancipating power, to turn it into freedom and joy. This spirit of profound sympathy, not of arrogant insult, towards the highest faiths and affections of our nature, we recognize in the portraiture and teachings of Jesus Christ; and when we find one who, like our author, instead of rejoicing that the sacred embers of nature are yet warm, instead of kneeling over them to fan them with a breath of reverence into a flame, flings them with scattering scorn on the damp ground of his own moral scepticism to show how little they will burn,—we see reversed in the "Restorer of Belief" the divine temper of the "Author of Faith." Such a teacher will vainly endeavor to recover by severity of warning the influence he forfeits by want of sympathy. He cannot frighten men like Parker, Newman, Greg, by appealing to fancied "misgivings of their own hearts" respecting the precariousness of their convictions, and uttering dismal prophecies about yawning gulfs; which, however alarming as a shudder of rhetoric, can disturb no quiet trust in reality. Let us hear the words, however:—

"Educated men should not wait to be reminded that those who, after abandoning a peremptory historic belief, endeavor[Pg 384] to retain Faith and Piety for their comfort, stand upon a slope that has no ledges: Atheism in its simplest form yawns to receive those who there stand; and they know themselves to be gravitating towards it.

"It would be far more reasonable for a man to die as a martyr for Atheism,—a stage beyond which no further progress is possible,—than to do so at any point short of that terminus, knowing as he does that every day is bringing him nearer to the gulf. The stronger the mind is, and the more it has of intellectual massiveness, the more rapid will be its descent upon this declivity. Minds of little density, and of much airy sentiment, may stay long where they are, just as gnats and flies walk to and fro upon the honeyed sides of a china vase; they do not go down, but never again will they fly."—p. 94.

This is one of the conventional minatory arguments which betray the absence of security and repose from the heart of the received theology; whose teachers could never propound it, except from a position of conscious danger. They must imagine in their own case that, if they were to find the Gospels no longer oracular, they would plunge at once into endless depths of negation; and that, unless they can refute an interpretation of De Wette's, or correct a date of Baur's, there will be eternal night in heaven. They feel the universe, and life, and love, and sorrow, and the history of times and races unbaptized, to be all atheistic through and through,—profane to the core,—untraced by a vestige, untransfigured by a color, of divine significance. What they can think of a Being who creates all reality and lives in it on these blindfold terms, we will not attempt to decide; but it is no wonder that, having once brought themselves to believe in Him, they feel how a single move would overset them into disbelief. This thing, however, is true of their own state of mind alone; whose spaces, dark throughout with scepticism but for one distant lamp, might easily be left without a ray. It is consistent neither with reason nor with experience to threaten with this rule men who have opened their souls to something else[Pg 385] than documentary authority. It is notoriously false that the career of historic doubt usually terminates in the loss of all faith in God; nor do we suppose that our author would have awarded to the atheist, for actually reaching this point, the praise of "intellectual massiveness," had he not wanted a heavy weight to slide down his metaphorical inclined plane,[57] and outstrip the slippery believers who try to stop half-way. The accusation against Theism, of being possible to the light-minded and superficial,—a mere sweet-bait to entrap the silly insects of the intellectual world,—is confuted by the whole history of philosophy and human culture; all whose grandest names have connected themselves with the recognition of a religion indigenous or accessible to the faculties of the soul. Let our author collect on one side of his library all the giants and heroes of utter disbelief, and on the other the literature of natural faith; nay, let him ransack for fresh names and forgotten suffrages Lalande's "Dictionnaire des Athées"; and if, having weighed the various merits of Leucippus and Lucretius, of Baron d'Holbach and La Mettrie, of Robert Owen and Atkinson, he thinks them of more sterling mass than the pure gold of thought and life accumulated by Socrates, Plato, Antoninus,—by Anselm and Abelard, Descartes and Arnaud,—by the authors of the "Theodicée," the "Essay on the Human Understanding," and the "Principles of Human Knowledge,"—by Kant and Cousin,—by Butler and Paley and Arnold,—we can only profess a dissent from his intellectual taste, not less than from his moral judgment.

The few pages on which we have been commenting were the first—though they are near the end of the treatise—that[Pg 386] fully opened our eyes to the author's theological animus. For a while, his large professions, and, no doubt, sincere purpose of fairness,—his apparent breadth of view, and his free hand in putting down his subject on the canvas,—secured our admiring confidence, and made us feel that here at length justice, earnestness, and accomplishment will go together. One feature, indeed, we noticed as giving a suspicious appearance to his equity of temper; it displays itself more in censoriousness towards his friends, than in large-heartedness towards his antagonists. He readily allows faults in the advocates of his own side, but is never carried away into even a momentary appreciation of the other. This particular form of impartiality, which consists in detracting from the merits of allies, instead of delighting in those of opponents, is the ecclesiastic counterfeit of candor,—the half-shekel, which is alone payable in the temple-service, but which nowhere, save at the sacred money-table, is deemed equivalent to the good Roman coin of common life. Much as we dislike the chink of this consecrated metal, we hoped that it would only ring for a passing instant on the ear. But alas! it is an indication seldom deceptive; and we feel constrained to report that there are, in this tract, quotations from both Mr. Newman and Mr. Greg, which, if we were in the court of veracity, and not of theology, we would say are unconscientiously made. The quotations are made anonymously as well as unfaithfully, so that the reader, unless haunted by the checking impressions of memory, cannot correct the injustice of the writer. The "Phases of Faith" describes, it will be remembered, the gradual course of Mr. Newman's defections from his original orthodoxy. His first movements of doubt were naturally timid and inconsiderable, bringing him only to the conclusion, that the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew was copied wrong, and counted wrong, from the Old Testament. On this step followed a second, and a third, each more important than the preceding, and necessitating a next more momentous than itself. The latter stages of his progress included an inquiry into the evidence of the Resurrection, the miraculous[Pg 387] gifts ascribed to the early Church, the claims to credit of the Apostle Paul, and other topics, undeniably affecting the very essence of Christian evidence. Having traced the successive advances of his doubts, Mr. Newman, in a recapitulary "Conclusion," makes a solemn appeal to his readers, to say at what point he could have stopped, and to lay a finger distinctly on the place at which the guilt of his scepticism began. One by one he counts out the steps by which he had proceeded, and asks, "Was this the sinful one?" The whole effect of the appeal is certainly an impression that the series, if not an inevitable sequence, is very difficult to break; and that, small as the beginnings were, they linked themselves, by close connection, with very momentous results. From this chapter our author cites a sentence or two, but in such a way as immediately to conjoin the small initial steps of doubt with the great ultimate conclusion, and to make it appear that Mr. Newman renounced Christianity because he could not make out the pedigree of Jesus to his satisfaction. The genealogical difficulty is the only one which he quotes, and as to which Mr. Newman is permitted to speak for himself. Presenting this as a specimen, and suppressing all the rest, he says that he could have shown "this writer" a course far better "than, on account of difficulties such as these, to renounce Christianity"! His citation from Mr. Greg is introduced as follows:—

"Let another witness be heard; and in hearing him one might think that his words are an echo that has come softly travelling down, through sixteen centuries, from some field of blood, or some forum, or some amphitheatre, where Christian men were witnessing a good confession in the midst of their mortal agonies! This witness is one who assures us that 'he can believe no longer, he can worship no longer; he has discovered that the creed of his early days is baseless, or fallacious.' Yet he too takes up the Martyr Truth, that we must not lie to God."—p. 91.

Here, then, Mr. Greg (with concealment of his name) is represented as one who, by his own confession, can neither believe nor worship any more. Turning to the preface of "The[Pg 388] Creed of Christendom," we find the following original to this quotation:—

"The pursuit of truth is easy to a man who has no human sympathies, whose vision is impaired by no fond partialities, whose heart is torn by no divided allegiance. To him the renunciation of error presents few difficulties; for the moment it is recognized as error, its charm ceases. But the case is very different with the Searcher whose affections are strong, whose associations are quick, whose hold upon the Past is clinging and tenacious. He may love Truth with an earnest and paramount devotion; but he loves much else also. He loves errors, which were once the cherished convictions of his soul. He loves dogmas which were once full of strength and beauty to his thoughts, though now perceived to be baseless or fallacious. He loves the Church where he worshipped in his happy childhood; where his friends and his family worship still; where his gray-haired parents await the resurrection of the Just; but where he can worship and await no more. He loves the simple old creed, which was the creed of his earlier and brighter days; which is the creed of his wife and children still; but which inquiry has compelled him to abandon. The past and the familiar have chains and talismans which hold him back in his career, till every fresh step forward becomes an effort and an agony; every fresh error discovered is a fresh bond snapped asunder; every new glimpse of light is like a fresh flood of pain poured in upon the soul. To such a man the pursuit of Truth is a daily martyrdom,—how hard and bitter let the martyr tell. Shame to those who make it doubly so; honor to those who encounter it saddened, weeping, trembling, but unflinching still."—p. xvi.

Our author would snatch from Mr. Greg the right to say, we must not lie to God. Which has the better right to say, "Thou shalt not lie to men"?

The more ingenuously the modern Orthodoxy lays bare its essence, the more evident is it that a profound scepticism not only mingles with it, but constitutes its very inspiration. The dread of losing God, the impression that there is but one patent[Pg 389] way, not of duty, but of thought, of meeting him, haunt the minds of men, driving some to Anglicanism to compensate defect of faith by excess of sacrament, some to Rome in quest of the Lord's body, and prompting others to conservative efforts of Bibliolatry, conducted with ever-decreasing reason and declining hope. We have seen, however, no such exemplification of this radical distrust as in the treatise before us. Already has the writer declared that the moral side of the universe sends in, with regard to religion, an empty report. And now he hastens to tell us that, on the physical side, the watchmen from every observatory of nature cry out, "No God." He represents the natural sciences as a huge Titanic, resistless mass of knowledge, perfectly demonstrable, and completely irreligious; descending, like a glacier, from the upper valleys of frozen thought; sure to scrape away the wild pine woods and the green fields of natural religion, yet considerate enough, for some reason unexplained, to spare the foundations of the village church. Designating every faith except his own by such phrases as "theosophic fancies," and "pietistic notions," he assures us that they will all be put "right out of existence" by "our modern physical sciences"; and he borrows from the "Positive Philosophy" (apparently by unconscious sympathy) the following maxim to justify his prediction:—

"In any case, when that which on any ground of proof takes full hold of the understanding, (such, for example, are the most certain of the conclusions of Geology,) stands contiguous to that which, in a logical sense, is of inferior quality, and is indeterminate, and fluctuating, and liable to retrogression,—in any such case there is always going on a silent encroachment of the more solid mass upon the ground of that which is less solid. What is sure will be pressing upon what is uncertain, whether or not the two are designedly brought into collision or comparison. What is well defined weighs upon, and against, what is ill defined. Nothing stops the continuous involuntary operation of Science in dislodging Opinion from the minds of those who are conversant with both.

[Pg 390]

"A very small matter that is indeed determinate, will be able to keep a place for itself against this incessantly encroaching movement; but nothing else can do so. As to any of those theosophic fancies which we may wish to cling to, after we have thrown away the Bible, we might as well suppose that they will resist the impact of the mathematical and physical sciences, as imagine that the lichens of an Alpine gorge will stay the slow descent of a glacier."—p. 97.

Here it is alleged that Science and Opinion cannot coexist,—that the demonstrable will banish the probable. And be it observed, this is to take place, not simply where contradiction arises between the two orders of belief, but in all cases, from the mere distaste which quantitative studies produce towards everything which evades their rules. In this allegation there is, we believe, with much exaggeration, a certain small amount of truth,—a truth, however, which, so far from supporting our author's plea against natural religion, offers it a conclusive refutation. It may be admitted that the exact and mixed sciences do disincline their votary to put trust in the processes by which judgments of probability are formed, and alienate him from thinkers who read off the meaning of the universe by another key than his. Accustomed to deal with Number and Space, with Motion and Force alone,—to reason upon them by a Calculus which is helpless beyond their range,—to exercise Faculties involving nothing beyond the interpretation of mensurative signs and the conception of relative magnitudes,—he owes it to something else than his peculiar discipline, if he has either the instruments or the aptitudes for moral and philosophical reflection. He carries into the world, as his sole means of representing and solving its phenomena, the notion of physical necessity and linear sequence, secretly defining the universe to himself as Leibnitz defined an organized being,—"a machine, whose smallest parts are also machines,"—and naturally grows impatient when he finds himself in fields of thought over which this narrow imagination opens no track. With respect, therefore, to a certain class of minds, rendered perhaps increasingly numerous by the long[Pg 391] neglect of the moral sciences in England, it may be quite true, that a spirit of utter disbelief towards everything beyond the range of necessary matter may more and more prevail. Let us further grant to our author, for the moment, three things assumed by him, all of them, however, false:—1. That this tendency of the "demonstrable sciences" is their only one having a bearing on "theosophic systems." 2. That it is so new, at least in degree, as to give "opinion" a worse chance for the future than it has had in the past. 3. That it is a good tendency, favorable to human knowledge and character. Still we must ask, How is the oracular authority of the Bible to escape the fate predicted for all probabilities? Our author assures us that it will escape; but he gives no faintest hint of a reason for so singular an exception to his own canon. It cannot be contended that the evidences of Christianity and Judaism belong to any of the "demonstrable" or "physical" sciences. It cannot be denied that they lie wholly within the limits of contingent knowledge, and terminate only in "probabilities"; that the authorship, for instance, of the fourth Gospel, the credibility of the introductory chapters of Matthew, the correctness of the prophecies about the second advent, are matters which, "standing contiguous" to the laws of refracted and reflected light, occupy the position of the less sure in relation to the more sure; that the relative chronology of the Scripture books is more indeterminate than that of the geologic strata, and their actual dates more uncertain than those of the eclipses fatal to Nicias and to Perseus. What, then, is to exempt these judgments of verisimilitude from being pushed "right out of existence" by the "silent encroachment of the more solid mass" of knowledge beside it? Nothing can be plainer than that all testimonial knowledge whatsoever, all history, criticism, and art, the whole system of moral and political sciences, must fall under our author's fatal sentence; and how the propositions which sustain the infallible authority of the canonical books are to hold their ground against the huge glacier on which Herschel, Airy and De Morgan, Comte and Leverrier, triumphantly ride, it is not easy to conceive.[Pg 392] Amid the universal crash of probabilities, may not the Mosaic tables of stone, broken once, be pulverized at last? With the abrasion of all the alluvial soil in which the growths of wonder strike their roots, will the garden of Eden, will the blighted fig-tree, remain to mark a verdant and a barren spot in history? Will these riding philosophers from their cold observatory find Paul's "third heaven"? May not their icy mountain slip into "the abyss" whence all the demons came, and fill it up? These questions, indeed, are answered for us in experience. It is notorious that, whenever an unbounded devotion to science has produced a prevalent tendency to disbelief, Revelation, so far from being spared, has been usually the first object of attack; and, both at the origin of modern science in the sixteenth century, and during its accelerated advance towards the close of the eighteenth, the widening conception of determinate Law was found to threaten nothing so decisively as the faith in supernatural dispensations. The greater scepticism includes the less; and the habit of mind which lets slip all beliefs not legitimated by the canons of natural science, cannot possibly retain Christianity.

But our author has only half described the mental effect of studies purely scientific. They do not, in the nature of things they cannot, simply push out of the mind all contingent judgments. Human life and action are one continuous texture of such judgments, with some interweaving, no doubt, of mathematic forms, which could not be picked out without spoiling the symmetry of its pattern; but were you to withdraw the threads of probable opinion, still more, to cut the warp of primitive assumptions that stretches through it, the web would simply fall to pieces. No youth can decide on a profession, no man appoint an agent in his business, no physician prescribe for a patient, no judge pronounce a sentence, no statesman answer a despatch, without a constant resort to "surmises," a reliance on slender indications, often even a deliberate adoption of very doubtful hypotheses. All men are driven from hour to hour into positions demanding combinations of thought which can be borrowed from no natural science; where not[Pg 393] the laws of matter and motion, not the equilibrium of forces, not the properties of things, are chiefly concerned, but the feelings and faculties of persons, the action and reaction of human affairs. Mathematicians and natural philosophers, being in no way exempt from these conditions, are obliged to have just as many "opinions" and "guesses" as other men; they cannot, if they are to keep their footing on this world at all, have a smaller stock than their neighbors of this "logically inferior" order of persuasions. They are unable to abdicate the necessity of having these persuasions; and their only peculiarity is, that they sometimes import into contingent affairs the methods with which habit has rendered them familiar in another sphere, and so find the conditions of belief unsatisfied; and at others, from consciousness that their own clew will not serve, yet inaptitude for seizing a better, surrender themselves to the fortuitous guidance of ill-balanced faculties and external solicitations. Hence their judgments are frequently fantastic, frequently sceptical,—not less liable to be too easy from one cause than to be too reluctant from another; and were a history to be written of the most remarkable extravagances, positive as well as negative, by which religion and philosophy have sprung aside from the centre of common sense and feeling, it would contain more names of great repute in the exact sciences than from any other intellectual class whatever. From Pythagoras to Swedenborg, the eccentricities of mathematical and physical imagination have been the chief disturbers of a natural and healthy faith. Harmonic theories of the universe, Ideal Numbers, Geometric Ethics, Rosicrucian fraternities, Vortices and Monads, Apocalyptic studies, New Jerusalems, and Electrobiological Metaphysics, have all borne testimony to the aberrant fancy of eminent proficients in the sciences. It is, therefore, far from being universally true, that disputable theosophies and conjectural systems of the universe are distasteful to minds schooled in the "demonstrable sciences." If to men of this order we owe the successive dislodgement of one such hypothesis after another, to them also do we owe their continual reproduction. Whether the unsoundness of judgment[Pg 394] which is contracted in the absence of historical, moral, and metaphysical studies shall show itself in an excessive slowness or an excessive facility of belief, will depend on accidents of personal character and social position. But of this we may be sure;—if the sceptical temper be the direction taken, the Bible will not be spared; if the credulous, "theosophic fancies" will be copiously saved.

Can there, after all, be a more paradoxical spectacle than that of a religious writer allying himself with the sceptical propensities of science, in order to get rid of gainsayers of the Bible? It is the counterpart in logic of the Italian game in politics,—the Pope appealing to Parisian swords to drive out the Republic, and save the head of Christendom. Is it possible that our author can approve the agency which he thus invokes? that he can really wish to see it in the intellectual ascendant, and garrisoning every sacred fortress of the world? Does he remember what are the fundamental canons of its logic,—that we know nothing but Phenomena,—that Causation is nothing but phenomenal priority,—or else, that Force is the prior datum of which Thought is a particular and posterior development? And what, on the other hand, are the "theosophic fancies" against which he would plant this barbaric artillery of Fate? They are such as these,—that our faculties give us trustworthy reports, not of phenomena only, but of their abiding ground,—Soul within, God without;—that the moral Law of Obligation in the one is the expression of Holy Will in the other;—that faithfulness in the Human mind to its highest aspirations, brings it into communion with the Divine;—that as the Soul is the free Image, so is Nature the determinate Handiwork of God. If these doctrines, spurned by our author with so rude a flippancy, were to surrender to the hostility on which he relies, is he unaware of the character the conflict would assume, and of the dynasty of thought which would reign undisputed at the close? Fighting by the side of such allies against "theosophic fancies," he may skirmish with the "fancies," but they will bear right down upon the "Theism" in the centre; and when the day is over,[Pg 395] the standard they will plant upon the conquered towers will be, not the sacred dove he took into the field, and lost to the defeated foe, but their own blind black eagle of necessity. How strange is the perversion of instinctive sympathies, when a theologian disparages the sciences of reflection and self-knowledge, and takes his stand on the evidence of sense and measurement alone!—when he proposes to sweep out beliefs that trouble him with their neighborhood, by a general crusade against all probabilities,—and when, with this design, he violates the just balance of power among the kingdoms of human knowledge, and flatters, as if it were a virtue, the pretensions of a mental habit, which, out of its own province, is one of the most incapacitating, yet destructive, of intellectual vices! There is, however, a certain secret affinity of feeling between a Religion which exaggerates the functions and overstrains the validity of an external authority, and a Science which deals only with objective facts, perceived or imagined. The point of sympathy is found in a common distrust of everything internal, even of the very faculties (as soon as they are contemplated as such) by which the external is apprehended and received. And between this sort of faith and the mathematics there is another analogy, which may explain so curious a mutual understanding. Both rest upon hypotheses, which it is beyond their province to look into, but after the assumption of which, all room for opinion is shut out by a rigid necessity. Once get your infallible book, and (supposing the meaning unambiguous) it settles every matter on which it pronounces; and once allow the first principles and definitions in geometry to express truths and realities, and you can deny nothing afterwards. It is the business of philosophy to go below the mathematics, and determine whether they are more than hypothetical science,—whether their assumptions are a mere play of subjective necessity, or are objectively trustworthy. It is the business of both reflective philosophy and historical criticism to go below "the book," and determine whether it has more than hypothetical infallibility,—whether the conditions, inner and outer, of such a claim, are or are not[Pg 396] satisfied. If even the Mathematics, which have little to fear from the investigation of their basis, have not been on the best terms with Metaphysics, it is hardly surprising that a Religion of mere external authority should feel antipathy for the studies which pry into its foundations, with the inevitable effect of showing that what is certainty above ground is opinion below. Nor is it wonderful that both sets of beliefs are fond of forgetting their hypothetical origin, contemplating only their acquired semblance of security, and speaking as if they disowned contingency altogether, and despised the detractors who could suspect such a taint in their blood. Hence the fellow-feeling which occasionally unites a rigid theology, and an exclusive physical and mathematical science. It is founded on their joint antipathy to the sources of moral knowledge,—their common blindness to one half of human culture. Like all alliances resting on antipathy alone, it is neither honorable nor durable. It is the function of Religion to occupy a tranquil seat above the contests of partial pursuits and narrow interests; as, in the world of action, to hold the balance of Right, so, in the world of intellect, to preserve the equities and the equilibrium of Truth; and her trust is betrayed by any one who flings himself, as her representative, into the civil wars of the sciences, and in her name signs away whole provinces of thought, and abandons them to outrage and confiscation as conquered lands. Human faith has nothing to fear from the unity and perfection of all the sciences; but much from the blind ambition of each one. It is from this persuasion alone, and not from any defective appreciation of physical studies, that we have spoken freely of their tendency, when the mind is entirely enclosed within them. The undoubted source of inestimable blessings to mankind, and an indispensable element of culture to the individual, they are mischievous only when they grow dizzy with success, and propound schemes of universal empire. The moment they undertake either to create or destroy a religion, the sign is unmistakable that this intoxicated ambition has begun to work.

The relation of Religion to History our author appears to[Pg 397] us to conceive much more correctly than its relation to Science. On this great topic, however, our limits forbid us to enter. One remark only we will make. The author misconceives the objection of Theodore Parker and others to the ordinary doctrine of historical revelation. They do not, as he affirms, "disjoin religion from history," or in the least decline the "travelling back to ages past" on its account. It is not the presence of God in antiquity, but his presence only there,—not his inspiration in Palestine, but his withdrawal from every spot besides,—not even his supreme and unique expression in Jesus of Nazareth, but his absence from every other human medium,—against which these writers protest. They feel that the usual Christian advocate has adopted a narrow and even irreligious ground; that he has not found a satisfactory place in the Divine scheme of human affairs for the great Pagan world; that he has presumptuously branded all history but one as "profane"; that he has not only read it without sympathy and reverence, but has used it chiefly as a foil to show off the beauty of evangelic truth and holiness, and so has dwelt only on the inadequacy of its philosophy, the deformities of its morals, the degenerate features of its social life; that he has forgotten the Divine infinitude when he assumes that Christ's plenitude of the Spirit implies the emptiness of Socrates. In their view, he has rashly undertaken to prove, not one positive fact,—a revelation of divine truth in Galilee,—but an infinite negative,—no inspiration anywhere else. To this negation, and to this alone, is their remonstrance addressed. They do not deny a theophany in the gift of Christianity; but they deny two very different things, viz.:—1. That this is the only theophany; and, 2. That this is theophany alone;—that is, they look for some divine elements elsewhere; and they look for some human here. It is not therefore a smaller, but a larger, religious obligation to history, which they are anxious to establish; and they remain in company with the Christian advocate, so long as his devout and gentle mood continues; and only quit him when he enters on his sceptical antipathies. This, in spite of every resistance from the rigor of the older[Pg 398] theology, is an inevitable consequence of the modern historical criticism. Its large and genial apprehension opens for us new admirations, new sympathies, clearer insight into human realities, throughout the nations and ages of the past. It melts away from our ancient moral geography the ideal contrasts of coloring which made the world the scene of an unnatural dualism, and reinstates the great families of man in unity. It is doing for our conception of the moral world what science has already done for our conception of the natural: it is expanding our notion of Divine agency within it. As, in reference to physical nature, we have learned to think that God did not enact creation but once, and cease; so are we beginning to perceive, in relation to the human mind and life, that he did not enter history only once, and quite exceptionally. Whoever opens his heart to this great thought will find in it, not the uneasiness of doubt, but the repose of faith. He will no longer fancy that, in order to keep Christianity as the divinest of all, he must fear to feel aught else divine. He will worship still at the same altar, and sing his hymn to the same strain; only with a richer chorus of consentient voices, and in a wider communion of faithful souls.

[Pg 399]


"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, according as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were sojourning at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together; and they were confounded because every one heard them speaking in his own language."—Acts ii. 4-6.

In that marvellous scene, the anniversary of which coincides on this Whitsunday with our Centenary, a question long pending between the Rabbis and the Holy Spirit came to an open issue. They were Aramæan scholars, and had their Kingdom of Heaven set forth in the best Hebrew, which, true enough, was of no great human currency, and not strictly a living tongue at all; but then had been distinguished by Divine use from the earliest time. Was it not in this that the Call had come to Abram? and the promises been repeated to the Patriarchs? and the music been flung from the harp of David? and the burdens of inspiration been treasured on the Prophet's scroll? Who could quote a word that God had ever spoken in any other language? It was the one sacred idiom, from which all others are divergent corruptions, and to which, when the world's confusion is over, they must again return. However few in these decadent ages might understand it still, it was intrinsically fitted to be universal. And who could call that speech provincial, at whose sound the heavens and earth arose? or esteem it temporary, when it[Pg 400] persevered through the dispersion at Babel, and was present on the world before the Flood? So there must be nothing else allowed in the liturgies of the Synagogue, in the reading of Scripture, or in any intercourse between man and God. Only when men began to converse with one another, to compare their human thoughts, and descend from prophetic to didactic gifts, might they resort to the media of profaner life. The language of Worship was but one; though the jargons of Opinion were many. And so the Scribes and the Rabbis of the written Word supposed themselves to hold the only key of life.

But the Holy Spirit goes into no one's keeping, and is no respecter of tongues. Free as the wind to blow where it listeth, it sweeps wherever souls are genial to its breath, and will yield to it their gifts, of love, of lips, of life. It seemed to have had enough of Hebrew, ever since it had gone into the hands of the philologists, and been made a sacred language, and begun to drone. It had long been feeling its way in other directions, tempting men to pray out of the fresh heart, and never mind the words, till now at last the secret broke, that on any native tongue by which souls most freely flow together, may all pass out to God; that the home-sounds are the devoutest too; that the speech into which men are born, and which has become to them as a stringed instrument answering to the faintest touch of their affections, is the true vehicle by which "the Spirit giveth utterance." The prayer of faith, ascending in the idioms of every latitude, converges into one in heaven. And God's truth, descending to this world, breaks into all the moulds of expression native to our various race.

One Gospel in many dialects,—that is the great Pentecost lesson, construe the miracle as we may. And there are dialects of Thought as well as speech,—natural differences of temperament and character,—to which the Gospel, still without prejudice to its unity, adapts itself with the same divine flexibility. What private observer—still more what student of history—can doubt that we are not all made in the same mould,—that the proportions of our humanity are variously[Pg 401] mixed,—that not only do we individually differ in moral susceptibility and spiritual depth, but fall into permanent groups marked by distinct and ineradicable characters, and reproducing the same religious tendencies from age to age? Transpose the souls of Plato and Pascal into the right place and time, and do you suppose they would turn up as Latitudinarian Divines? Deal as you will with the lot of Priestley and Belsham, and could you ever enroll them among the Christian Mystics? Close in the fires of Augustine's nature with what damps you may, and could you ever find him peace in a Gospel of Good Works? No; we touch here on differences deeper than accident, and irremovable by culture,—differences that vindicate their reality by crossing the lines of dissimilar religions and reappearing in all times. They necessarily give us differing wants and experiences; they set into differing shapes of faith; and on souls equally faithful they fix very differing expressions. They are so many vernacular idioms of the inner mind: all have divine right to be: no one of them is entitled to call itself the sacred language alone intelligible between man and God; and the pretension of any to supersede the rest, and reign alone, is not less vain than the complaints of ignorance against foreign dialects, and the ambition to exchange the many running waters of local literature into the huge tank of a universal language. They may not be able to understand each other, or even with the key of outward comparison always bear translation into idioms other than their own. But let them speak in their own way, and pray their own prayer. Not only are they all clear to Him that readeth the heart; there will thus be more heart for Him to read: for faith and love, large as they may be, are ever deepest in their special tones; and the prayer, the hymn, which is touched with the spirit's local coloring, comes to us like the aroma of native fields, and assuages our thirst like the sweet waters of some well given to our fathers and made sacred by a Saviour's noonday rest.

On this principle,—that different types of natural genius in men cannot but throw their Christianity into different forms,—we[Pg 402] may not only justify the divisions of Christendom, but even cease to wish that they should disappear. Unity no doubt there must be: God is one; Truth is one; the Gospel is one; and a mind that could take in the whole, and spread its insight and affections in all dimensions at once, would reach the Divine equilibrium, in which nothing partial preponderates. But from our watch-tower we can look through only one window at once; the blind walls of our mental chamber shut out all the rest; and as we kneel, like Daniel, at the open light, the breeze upon our face seems sacred, because it comes from our Jerusalem. The question is not, whether there is such a thing as truth, rounded off, self-balanced, and complete; in the mind of God,—the final seat of reality,—of course there is. Nor is it a question, whether each individual man can attain a faith consistent in its parts, agreeable to fact, and adequate to his nature. This also is possible. But when he has attained it, on what terms is it to co-exist with other faiths presenting parallel pretensions? Is he in his heart to identify his own with the absolute truth, sufficient for all as for himself? Is he to expect them to come round to it, and altogether throw away their own? Or is he to confess to himself his own limitations, to suspect that he may have his blind sides, and reverently to seek something he has missed in that which others persist in seeing? In which direction is he to seek unity? By antipathy to all beliefs save one?—or by inviting all of them to live their life and show their place in human nature? It is the genius of Romanism to seek unity by suppression; of Protestantism, by free development;—of the former, to protect the consistency it has; of the latter, to press forward to one that it has not. Are we taunted with our "Protestant variations"? Why, the more they are, the richer is our field of experience, the finer our points of comparison; provided, however, that we hold fast to the noble trust in a Gospel of identity at bottom, and seek it rather in the religious heart of all the churches, than in the theologic wisdom of our own. No man can proclaim the principle of "One Gospel in many dialects," unless he is prepared to admit that his[Pg 403] own faith is one of the dialects, and nothing more; to presume a meaning in the others, however hid from him; and while they remain to him a mere inarticulate jargon, to ascribe it sooner to his own incapacity than to their insignificance. When God's truth, refracted on its entrance into our nature, shall emerge into the white light again, not one of these tinted beams can be spared. Let us for a moment arrest and examine them. Let us look at the chief varieties which Christianity assumes as it penetrates the soul; at once recognizing our own place, and appreciating that of others.

There are three great types of natural mind on which the Spirit of Christ may fall; and each, touched and awakened by him, "utters the wonderful works of God" in a language of its own.

(1.) There is the Ethical mind, calm, level, and clear; chiefly intent on the good-ordering of this life; judging all things by their tendency to this end; and impatient of every oscillation of our nature that swings beyond it. There is nothing low or unworthy in the attachment which keeps this spirit close to the present world, and watchful for its affairs. It is not a selfish feeling, but often one intensely social and humane; not any mean fascination with mere material interests, but a devotion to justice and right, and an assertion of the sacred authority of human duties and affections. A man thus tempered deals chiefly with this visible life and his comrades in it, because, as nearest to him, they are the better known. He plants his standard on the present, as on a vantage-ground, where he can survey his field, and manœuvre all his force, and compute the battle he is to fight. Whatever his bearing towards fervors beyond his range, he has no insensibility to the claims that fall within his acknowledged province, and that appeal to him in the native speech of his humanity. He so reverences veracity, honor, and good faith, as to expect them like the daylight, and hear of their violation with a flush of scorn. His word is a rock, and he expects that yours will not be a quicksand. If you are lax, you cannot hope for his trust; but if you are in trouble, you easily move his pity.[Pg 404] And the sight of a real oppression, though the sufferer be no ornamental hero, but black, unsightly, and disreputable, suffices perhaps to set him to work for life, that he may expunge the disgrace from the records of mankind. Such men as he constitute for our world its moral centre of gravity; and whoever would compute the path of improvement that has brought it thus far on its way, or trace its sweep into a brighter future, must take account of their steady mass.

The effect of this style of thought and taste on the religion of its possessor is not difficult to trace. It may, no doubt, stop short of avowed and conscious religion altogether; its basis being simply moral, and its scene temporal, its conditions may be imagined as complete, without any acknowledgment of higher relations. But, practically, this is an exceptional case. A deep and reverential sense of Moral Authority passes irresistibly into Faith in a Moral Governor; and Conscience, as it rises, culminates in Worship. And to such natural religion, the hearty reception of the revealed Gospel is so congenial a sequel, that Christianity has enlisted its chief body-guard—its band of Immortals—from the writers of this school. In the form which they give to the faith, they are true to themselves, still keeping close to the human, and, except to sanction and glorify this, not apt to dwell upon the Divine. The second table of commandment has more reality to them than the first; and the whole of religion presents itself to their mind under the idea of Law. God in Christ teaches us his Will; publishes the punishment and the reward; and requires our obedience; aiding us in it by the perfect example of Christ, and reassuring us under failure by the offer of pardon on repentance. Now this is a true Gospel; not a proposition of it can be gainsaid; and whoever from his heart can repeat this creed;—God is holy; morality, divine; penitence, availing; goodness, immortal; guilt, secure of retribution; and Christ, our pattern for both lives,—is not far from the kingdom of Heaven, and has a faith as much beyond the practice, as it is short of the professions, of the great mass of Christians. If he has an equable, rational, and[Pg 405] balanced nature; if he can depend on himself, and reduce his will to the discipline of rules; if he have affections temperate enough to follow reason instead of lead it, and to love God by sense of fitness and word of command; if moral prudence is so strong in him that he can bear the idea of "doing good for the sake of everlasting happiness"; if no wing ever beats in his soul that takes him off his feet;—his wants are provided; he has guidance for the problems that will meet him on his way,—indications of duty,—grounds of trust,—and a path traced through every Gethsemane and Calvary of this world, to the saintly peace of another.

But while this is a true Gospel, is it the whole Gospel? Not so; unless the voice of the Saviour is to reach only a part of our humanity, and in response draw but a "little flock." For not many of our race are made of this even and unfermenting clay. Who can deny that there abound,—and among the greatest names of Christian history,—

(2.) Passionate natures, that cannot thus work out their own salvation, but ever pray to be taken whither of themselves they cannot go? It is not that they are necessarily weak of will, deficient in self-control, and unequal to the human moralities. Rather is it, that they get through all these, and yet can find no peace. Duty, as men measure it, may be satisfied; but still the face of God does not lift up its light. For want of that answering look, it is all as the tillage of the black desert; digging by night without a heaven above, and sowing in sands which no dew shall fertilize. Intense and effectuating resolve was certainly not wanting in Luther; what his young conscience imposed, his will achieved,—wasting asceticism, persevering devotion, humble charities; yet the shadow of death brooded around his irreproachable obedience. Is it not that the same sorrow which, in more level minds, is brought by a fall of the will, arises in these men from the ascent of their aspirations? Haunted by the image of God's Holiness, drawn to it, yet fluttering helplessly at immeasurable depths below it, they strain after an obedience they cannot reach, and never lose the sense of infinite failure. Measured by their aims,[Pg 406] their power is nothing. Did the law of Christ require nothing but works which the hand could do, its conditions would be finite, and might be satisfied. But its claims sweep through the affections of the soul; and who can make himself love where he is cold? who set himself behind his own thoughts, and keep guilty intruders outside the door of his nature? Impossible! the inner life, which is the special seat of our divine concerns, evades our laboring prudence, and tortures conscience without obeying it. How then do these sufferers find their emancipation? They have a Gospel, according to which Christ is not given as the Teacher of Law, but set up as the personal object of pure Trust and Love. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to mitigate the Divine into gentleness, to elevate the Human into holiness, and show how there is one moral perfection for both; surrendered him to humiliation and self-sacrifice; placed him in heaven; and offered to accept pure faith and love towards him as the reconciling term for the human soul,—as the substitute for an unattainable ideal of obedience. Here then is the salvation of these passionate natures. This simple trust, this intense affection, is precisely what they have to give. They cannot direct themselves; but only fix their love, and you may lead them as a child. Self-discipline is impossible; self-escape triumphant. Try from within to hold the struggling winds of their nature with iron bands of law, and you do but stir the sleeping storms. Set in the heavens without an orb of divine attraction,—a new star in the East,—and you carry their whole atmosphere away. Engage their faith; and for the first time they will prevail over their work. Let there be an appeal of Grace to their enthusiasm,—a whispered word, "Lovest thou me?"—and the very burden that was too heavy to be borne loses all its weight; and the drudging mill of habit, that seemed so servile once, they pace with songs and joy. There are men who so need to be thus carried out of themselves, that without it their nature runs to waste, or burns away with self-consuming fires. They are like one who, in a dream, should set himself to climb a far-off mountain-top; if[Pg 407] he tries to run, he cannot even creep, and only wakes himself to find that he lies still on the bed of nature. But if the thought of his mind should be, that an overmastering power—chariot of fire and horses of fire—lifts him away, he floats through the clear space, till, without effort, his feet stand upon the visionary hills.

Here then, again,—in this doctrine of Faith,—we have a true Gospel, speaking to many hearts impenetrable by the doctrine of Works. But have we even yet the whole Gospel? Has the Good Shepherd, in these two words, made his voice known to all that are his? Or are there other sheep still to be gathered that are not of these folds? I believe there are. For thus far we have looked only at the moral side of Christian doctrine,—at its different answers to the problem of Sin,—at the conditions of ultimate acceptance with God, notwithstanding deep unworthiness. Whether you say, Patiently obey, and you shall grow into perfection of faith and love; or, Fling yourself on faith and love, and you will find grace for patient obedience;—in either case you are prescribing terms of salvation; you have the future life specially in mind, and are anxious to make ready the soul there to meet her God. But there are persons who cannot fix any particular solicitude upon that crisis, as if all before were probation, and all after were judgment,—as if here were only faith in an absent, and there sight of a present God;—who cannot dramatically divide existence into a two-act piece, first Time, then Eternity, and wait for the Infinite Presence, till the curtain rises between them; but are haunted by the feeling that, as Time is in Eternity, so is Man already shut up in God. This is the indigenous sentiment of another natural type of mind, which may be called,—

(3.) The Spiritual. God is a Spirit; man has a spirit; both, Now; both, Here; and shall they never meet? shall they remain without exchange of looks? shall nothing break the seal of eternal silence? is there really love between them, and thought, and purpose, and yet all recognition dumb? Why tell us of God's Omniscience, if it only sleeps around us[Pg 408] like dead space, or at most lies watching, like a sentinel of the universe, not free to stir? Who could ever pray to this motionless Immensity? who weep his griefs to rest on a Pity so secret and reserved? Surely if He is a Living Mind, he not merely remains over from a Divine Past to appear again in a Divine Future, but moves through the immediate hours, and awakens a thousand sanctities to-day. Urged by such questionings as these, men of meditative piety have thirsted for conscious communion with the All-holy;—communion both ways: appeal and response; a crossing line of light from eye to eye; a quiet walk with God, where all the dust of life turns, at his approach, into the green meadow, and its flat pools into the gliding waters. They have retired within to meet him; have believed that all is not ours that it is ours to feel; that there is Grace of his mingling with the inner fibres of our nature, and flinging in, across the constant warp of our personality, flying tints of deeper beauty, and hints of a pattern more divine. And all have agreed, that, in order to reach this Holy Spirit, and through its vivifying touch be born again, the one thing needful is a stripping off of self, an abandonment of personal desire and will, a return to simplicity, and a docile listening to the whispers spontaneous from God. They find all sin to be a rising up of self; all return to holiness and peace a sinking down from self, a free surrender of the soul,—that asks nothing, possesses nothing, that relaxes every rigid strain, and is pliant to go whither the highest Will may lead. Nature, of her own foolishness, ever goes astray in her quest of divine things; wandering away in flights of laboring Reason to find her God; panting with over-plied resolve to do her work; scheming rules, and artifices, and bonds of union for forming her individuals into a Church. Reverse all this, and fall back on the centre of the Spirit, instead of pressing out in all radii of your own. Let Intellect droop her ambitious wing, and come home; there, in the inmost room of conscience, God seeks you all the while. Lash your wearied strength no more; sit low and weak upon the ground, with loving readiness hitherward or thitherward, and[Pg 409] you shall be taken through your work with a sevenfold strength that has no effort in it. Leave yourself awhile in utter solitude, shut out all thoughts of other men, yield up whatever intervenes, though it be the thinnest film, between your soul and God; and in this absolute loneliness, the germ of a holy society will of itself appear, a temper of sympathy and mercy, trustful and gentle, suffuses itself through the whole mind: though you have seen no one, you have met all; and are girt for any errand of service that love may find. So then, if there were twenty or a thousand in this case, their wills would flow together of their own accord, and find themselves in brotherhood without a plan at all.

So speaks this doctrine of the Spirit. It matters not now under which of its many theologic forms we conceive it; simplest perhaps, that the Indwelling God, who in Christ was the Word, is in us the Comforter. But surely, this also is not altogether a false Gospel. It rescues the conception of direct communion between the human spirit and the Divine,—a conception essential to the Christian life,—which an Ethical Gospel does not adequately secure: for communion must be between like and like, while obedience may be from slave to lord, nay, in some sense, from machine to maker. Nor is it a slight thing to take the scales from our eyes that hide from us the sanctities of our immediate life; to abolish the postponement of eternity; and, wayfarers as we are, make us feel, as we rise from our stony pillow and pass on, that here is the abode of God, and here does the angel-ladder touch the ground! Yet this too is not the whole Gospel. It absorbs too much in God. It scarcely saves human personality and responsibility. It does no justice to nature, which it regards as the negative of God. It melts away Law in Love, and hides the rocky structure of this moral world in a sunny haze that confuses earth and air.

What, then, shall we say of these three types of Christian faith? Do you doubt their reality? It is demonstrated within the century which we close this day. For while our forefathers were dedicating this house of prayer to the first,[Pg 410] the Gospel of Christian Duty, Wesley had already become the prophet of the last,—the new birth of the Spirit; and erelong Evangelicism started up, and proclaimed the second,—the Salvation by Faith. Do you doubt their durability and permanence? It is proved by eighteen centuries' experience, for the New Testament is not older. There, within the group of sacred books themselves, do they all lie; the Jewish Gospels represent the first; the Gentile Apostle's letters, the second; the writings of the beloved disciple, the third. Matthew, as every reader must remark, is for the Law; Paul, for Faith; and John, for the Spirit. And, in every age, the great mass of Christian tendencies break themselves into these three forms:—Ebionite, Pauline, and contemplative Gnostic; Pelagian, Augustinian, and Mystic; Jesuit, Jansenist, and Quietist; Arminian, Lutheran, and Quaker; all proclaim the perseverance of the same essential types, wherever the spirit of Christ alights upon the various heart of man.

Is Christ then divided? Is he not equal to the whole of our humanity? Rather let us say, that we are small and weak for the measure of his heavenly wisdom. Doubtless, if we take what we can hold, and put it to faithful application, we have grace enough for every personal exigency. But there is, surely, an evil inseparable from all partial developments of religion, which only satisfy the immediate cravings of the mind, and leave parts of our nature—asleep perhaps at the moment—liable to wake and thirst again. Such separate growths run out their resources and exhaust themselves in a few generations. At first, they answer to some felt want; they collect a congenial multitude, and open to them a spiritual refuge that ends their wanderings. But the sentiment, once brought into a contented state, ceases to be importunate and prominent; and by its abatement gives opportunity for other feelings to vindicate their existence. When the wound is bound up and has lost its smart, the natural hunger begins to tell. The children grow up other than the fathers, perhaps quite as limited, only in different ways,—with affections pressing into just the vacant places of an earlier age. Meanwhile,[Pg 411] the imperfection of the original basis has provoked reactions equally of narrow scope,—equally incapable of permanently filling the capacities of the Christian mind. Hence the danger, if the separate veins of thought be still worked on as they thin away, that the sects should degenerate into poor theological egotisms, and wear themselves insensibly out. It cannot be denied that all the three religious movements of the last century—represented by Taylor, by Wesley, by Cowper—exhibit the symptoms of spent strength, and are little likely to play again the part they have played before.

Yet every one of their Gospels is true at heart; and the tree that holds that pith is a tree of life, which the Eternal husbandman hath planted; and if he prune it, it is only that it may bear more fruit. The weakness of these faiths is in their isolation; and if their sap could but mingle, if no element were lost which they can draw from the root of the vine, a young frondescent life would show itself again. Those who think that the future can only repeat the past, will deem this impossible; though least of all should it appear so to us who profess ourselves "Christians and only Christians," pledged to nothing but to lie open to all God's truth. For myself I indulge a joyful hope that the next century of Christendom will be nobler than the last; that the great Faiths which have struggled separately into the light of the one, will flow together on the broader and less broken surface of the other. If, however, this is to be, it will arise from no mere intellectual scrutiny, whose function will ever be to distinguish, and not to unite, and, in proportion as it dominates alone, to trace ever-new lines of critical divergency. When the problem of Christendom is, to deliver the individual mind from the operation of an overwhelming social power, then it is seasonable to insist on the principle of free inquiry; because then you have a dead mass to disintegrate, ere any young and living force can urge its way. But when you have won this victory, and when individualism ceases to be devout and tends to party self-will, the hour comes to proclaim the[Pg 412] converse lesson, and break up the vain reliance on mere liberty of thought. Depend upon it, Unity lies in profounder strata of our nature than any tillage of the mere intellect can reach. Sink deeply into the inmost life of any Christian faith, and you will touch the ground of all. Did we do nothing with our religion except live by it; did we forget the presence of doubt and contradiction; did it cease to be a creed about God and become simply an existence in God; did we exchange self-assertion before men for self-surrender to him;—we should find ourselves side by side with unexpected friends, should be astonished at our petulant divisions, and replace the poor charity of mutual forbearance by the free consciousness of inward sympathy. For us especially, who feel the temptations of an exceptional position, is it the prime duty to live and move and have our being in the divine sanctities that hold us, in that which we have not been obliged to throw away; else might our Gospel be no fruit-bearing branch, drinking from the root of the vine, but a dead residuum, withered and hopeless. Remember that, if Sin be not original, all the more must it be actual, and the deeper should its shadow lie upon the Conscience, and touch us with the mood of faithfulness and prayer. If, in reconciling man with God, there is no vicarious sacrifice possible, so much the more remains over for self-sacrifice, as the only path of communion and peace. If you will have it that Christ is only human, so much the more Divine is your humanity to be; you cannot assume that as the type of your nature, without at least owning that its essence lies, and its glory is found, not in the natural man, but in the spiritual man; and by this very confession, you renounce the low aims of the worldly mind, and take on yourself the vows of the saintly. Let believers only be true to the grace they have, and more will be given; and enter where they may the many-gated sanctuary of the Christian life, they will tend ever inwards to the same centre, and meet at last in the holiest of all. Keeping a reverent eye fixed on the person and spirit of Christ, they cannot but find their partial apprehensions corrected and enlarged; for his[Pg 413] divine image is complete in its revelation, and rebukes every narrower Gospel. Moral perfectness, divine communion, free self-sacrifice,—all blend in him,—indistinguishable elements of one expression. In that august and holy presence, our divisions sink abashed, and hear, as of old, the word of recall, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of." Or if, through our infirmities, that gracious form, appearing in the midst as we discourse among ourselves and are perplexed and sad, do not suffice to open our eyes and make us less slow of heart to one another and to him, at least in that higher world, whither our forerunners are gone, his living look will perfect the communion of saints. There at length the guests of his bounty will find that, though at separate tables, they have all been fed by the same bread of life, and touched their lips with the same wine of remembrance: there, the voices of the wise, often discordant here,—of Taylor and Wesley, of Enfield and Cowper, of Heber and Channing,—will blend in harmony;—and the notes of the last age will not be the least in that mighty chorus which crowds the steps of eighteen centuries, and, converging to their immortal Head, sings the solemn strain, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are all thy ways, thou King of Saints!"

[Pg 414]


The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. By the Rev. W. J. Conybeare, M.A., late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and the Rev. J. S. Howson, M.A., Principal of the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool. 2 vols. 4to. Longmans. 1852.

The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians: with Critical Notes and Dissertations. By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, M.A., Canon of Canterbury, late Fellow and Tutor of University College, Oxford, &c. 2 vols. 8vo. Murray. 1855.

The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans: with Critical Notes and Dissertations. By Benjamin Jowett, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford. 2 vols. 8vo. Murray. 1855.

These treatises, bearing on their title-pages the names of our two ecclesiastical Universities, give happy signs of a new era in English theology. They show how effectually we have escaped from the morbid religious phenomena represented by Simeon at Cambridge, and the counter-irritants applied by John Henry Newman at Oxford; and come as the returning breath of nature to those who have witnessed the fevers of "Evangelical" conversion or the consumptive asceticism of "Anglican" piety. On looking back, from the position now attained, it seems wonderful that we could ever,[Pg 415] with St. Paul's writings in our hands, have been betrayed into either of these opposite extravagances: for anything more absolutely foreign to his breadth and universality than the Genevan dogma, or more at variance with his free spirituality than the sacramental system, it is impossible to conceive. But it is the peculiar fate of sacred writings, that the last thing elicited from them is their own real meaning. The very greatness of their authority puts the reader's faculties into a false attitude; creates an eagerness,—an inflexible intensity,—that defeats its own end; and, in particular, gives undue ascendency to the uppermost want and feeling that may be craving satisfaction. Hence the tendency of Scriptural interpretation to proceed by action and reaction; an easy ethical Arminianism being succeeded by a severe Calvinism, and the reliance on individual grace giving way before the advance of sacerdotal and Church ideas. When the opposite errors have spent themselves, the requisite repose of mind will be recovered for reading just the thought that lies upon the page: here and there an eye will be found, neither strained with pre-occupying visions, not scared by sceptic shadows, but clear for the apprehension of reality, as God has shaped it for our perception. At length we have reached this crisis of promise; and critics are found who, instead of interrogating St. Paul on all sorts of modern questions, listen to him on his own; and draw from him, not a fancied verdict on the sixteenth century, but a faithful picture of the first.

And for this historical purpose, the writings of the great Gentile Apostle are of paramount value, and justly occupy the inquirer's first researches. The most considerable of them are of unimpeachable authenticity. They are the very earliest Christian writings we possess. They are the productions of a man more clearly known to us than any of the first missionaries of the Gospel. They are letters: abounding in disclosures of personal feelings, of biographical incident, of changing moods of thought, of outward and inward conflict. They are addressed to young communities, scattered over a vast area, and composed of differing elements; and exhibit[Pg 416] the whole fermentation of their new life, the scruples, the heart-burnings, the noble inspirations, the grievous factions, of the Apostolic age. The Gospels and the Book of Acts treat no doubt of a prior period, but proceed from a posterior, of whose state of mind, whose retrospective theories concerning the ministry of Christ, it is of primary importance to the criticism of the Evangelists that we should be informed; and on these points the Pauline Epistles are the indispensable groundwork of all our knowledge or conjecture. In them we catch the Christian doctrine and tradition at an earlier stage than any other canonical book represents throughout. Although the narratives of the New Testament doubtless abound in material drawn faithfully from a more primitive time, they are certainly not free from the touch and tincture of the post-Pauline age. How powerful an instrument the Apostle's letters may become for either confirming or checking the historical records, may be readily conceived by every reader of Paley's "Horæ Paulinæ." In fine, if it be a just principle, in historical criticism, to proceed from the more known to the less known,—to begin from a date that yields contemporary documents, and work thence into the subjacent and superjacent strata of events,—the elucidation of Christian antiquity must take its commencement from the Epistles of St. Paul.

Except in its general similarity of subject, the first of the three works mentioned at the head of this article admits of no comparison with the other two. It is rather an illustrated guide-book to the Apostle's world of place and time, than a personal introduction to himself. The authors are highly accomplished and scholarly men, and could not fail, in dealing with an historical theme, to bring together and group with conscientious skill a vast store of archæological and topographical detail; to weigh chronological difficulties with patient care; to translate with philological precision, and due aim at accuracy of text. They have accordingly produced a truly interesting and instructive book: so instructive, indeed, that by far the greater part of its information would, probably,[Pg 417] have been quite new to St. Paul himself. His life seems to us to be injudiciously overlaid with what is wholly foreign to it, and for the sake of picturesque effect to be set upon a stage quite invisible to him. He was not "Principal of a Collegiate Institution," accustomed to examine boys in Attic or Latian geography; was not familiar with Thucydides or Grote; was indifferent to the Amphictyonic Council; and, in the vicinity of Salamis and Marathon, probably read the past no more than a Brahmin would in travelling over Edgehill or Marston Moor. The world of each man must be measured from his own spiritual centre, and will take in much less in one direction, much more in another, than is spread beneath his eye. He cannot be reached by geographical approaches. You may determine the elements of his orbit, and yet miss him after all. It is an illusory process to paint the ancient world as it would look to an Hellenic gentleman then, or a university scholar now; and then think how St. Paul would feel in passing through it to convert it. The indirect influence of this kind of conception seems to us apparent both in Mr. Conybeare's translation and Mr. Howson's narrative and descriptions. The outward scene and conditions of the Apostle's career are elaborately displayed; but more with the modern academic than with the old Hebrew tone of coloring; and the English version, scrupulous and delicate as it is, has, to our taste, a general flavor quite different from the original Greek. Unconsciously entangled in the classifications and symbols of the Protestant theology, the authors are detained outside the real genius and feeling of the Apostle.

Of a far higher order are the other two works,—produced, we infer from their numerous correspondences of both form and substance, not without concert between the authors. Indeed, the same explanation of the merits of Lachmann's text (printed without translation by Mr. Stanley, and with the adapted authorized version by Mr. Jowett) is made to serve for both. So clearly and compendiously is this explanation drawn, that, in the next edition of Lachmann, Mr. Jowett's introduction might usefully be annexed to the great critic's[Pg 418] rather tangled and awkward preface. Of the superior fidelity of this recension, we think no habitual reader of the Greek Scriptures can reasonably doubt; and the recognition of its authority fulfils a prior condition of all scientific theology. The text being chosen on grounds purely critical, the notes are written in a spirit purely exegetical; they aim, simply and with rare self-abnegation, to bring out, by every happy change of light and turn of reflective sympathy, the great Apostle's real thought and feeling. How very far this faithful historic purpose in itself raises the interpreter above the crowd of erudite and commenting divines, can scarcely be understood till it has formed a new generation, and fixed itself as a distinct intellectual type. It is not, however, an affair of mere will and disposition; but, like most of the higher exercises of veracity, comes into operation only as the last result of mental tact and affluence. With the most honest intentions towards St. Paul, a critic without psychological insight and dialectic pliancy, without power of melting down his modern abstractions and redistributing them in the moulds of the old realistic thought,—a critic without entrance into the passionate depths of human nature,—a critic pre-occupied by Catholic or Protestant assumptions, and untrained to imagine the questions and interests of the first age,—cannot surrender himself to the natural impression of the Apostle's language. The disciple and the master are, in such case, at cross-purposes with one another; the questions put are not the questions answered; the interlocutors do not really meet, but wind in a maze about each other's loci, not to end till the unconscious interpreter has set his fantasies within the shadow of inspiration. No such blind chase is possible to our authors. They have achieved the conditions of fidelity; and bring to a task, in which the truthful and sagacious spirit of Locke had already fixed the standard high, the ampler resources of modern learning, and more practised habit of historic combination. In the distribution of their work, the difference of natural genius between the two authors has perhaps been consulted, and is, at all events, distinctly expressed.[Pg 419] Mr. Stanley's aptitude for reproducing the image of the past, his apprehensive sympathy with the concrete and individual elements of the world, fitly engage themselves with the composite forms of Corinthian society, and the most personal, various, and objective of the Apostle's letters. For the more speculative Epistles to the Galatians and the Romans, there was need of Mr. Jowett's philosophical depth and subtilty. The strictness with which he restrains these seductive gifts to the proper business of the interpreter, is not less admirable than their occasional happy application. Instead of being employed to force upon the Apostle a logical precision foreign to his habit, they are chiefly engaged in detecting and wiping out false niceties of distinction drawn by later theology, and throwing back each doctrinal statement into its original degree of indeterminateness. It is not in the notes,—which are wholly occupied in recovering St. Paul's own thought,—but in the interposed disquisitions, which avowedly deal with the theology of to-day, that a certain breadth and balance of statement, and delicate ease in manœuvring the forms and antitheses of abstract thought, and fine appreciation of human experience, make us feel the double presence of metaphysical power and historical tact. The author, accordingly, appears to us, not only to have seized the great Apostle's attitude of mind more happily than any preceding English critic, but also to have separated the essence from the accidents of the Pauline Christianity, and disengaged its divine elements for transfusion into the organism of our immediate life. Mr. Stanley appears to have more difficulty in unreservedly adhering to the purely historical view, and clerically flutters, without clear occasion, on the outskirts of "edification";—the critic in his notes, the preacher in his paraphrase; conceding in act more readily than in name, and apologizing for finding human ingredients in the Apostles and their doctrines, as if it were he, and not God, that would have them there. This tendency to blur the lines which he himself draws between the temporary and the permanent in the Scriptures with which he deals, is the only fault we can find with Mr. Stanley;[Pg 420] whose associate, clinging less to the past, in effect preserves more for the present. To learn the external scene of the Apostle's career, we would refer our readers to Messrs. Conybeare and Howson; to appreciate his moral surroundings, and the problems it presented, especially on the ethnic side, they may take Mr. Stanley as their guide; but for insight into the Apostle himself, and outlook on the world as it seemed to him, they must resort to Mr. Jowett.

The Pauline Epistles are interesting, apart from all assumption of inspired authority, because the elements are seen fermenting there of the greatest known revolution both in the history of the world and in the spiritual consciousness of individual man. Judaism was the narrowest (that is, the most special) of religions; Christianity, the most human and comprehensive. Within a few years, the latter was evolved out of the former; taking all its intensity and durability, without resort to any of its limitations. This marvellous expansion of the national into the universal was not achieved without a process and a conflict. Divine though the work was, it had to be wrought upon men, and through men, whose character, interests, convictions, habits, and institutions furnished the data conditioning the problem, and whose remodelled affections and will supplied the instruments for its solution. The laws of human nature, therefore, and the action of human events, necessarily enter into the study of this great revolution; and it cannot be detained out of the hands of the historian by any exclusive rights of the divine. When we endeavor to trace the successive steps of faith from Mount Zion to the Vatican, many parts of the progress appear to have left but scanty vestige. We know the beginning, in the doctrine of the Hebrew Messiah; we know the end, in the recognition of a Saviour of the world. We know the intermediate fact,—that Judaism did not surrender its own without a struggle, or readily give away the keys of its enclosure just when it was passing from a prison of affliction into a pal