Слике страница
PDF
ePub

orthodoxy; and even this it can never consistently maintain, without admitting the fundamental principles of that system, with whose spoils it has strangely and absurdly decked itself. Experience has shown that, among those who deny the divinity of Christ, there exists no uniformity of opinion concerning his character. This is accounted for by the view we have just taken. They see a multitude of assertions and acts on the part of Christ, like those we have specified, which they feel to be inexplicable and unjustifiable on any other supposition than his divinity. Hence many who have lost their hold of this, begin to make free with their comments upon his strange conduct, detecting some acts, which they cannot but reprove and condemn, in any created beiny—all the while bewildering themselves amid these inconsistencies, losing their respect for the character of Christ, degrading him step by step, till at length, struck with his many expressions, which they cannot reconcile with the perfection of an exemplar, they give up all, reject the Savior, and die, like Robinson and Priestley, substantially deists.

The evidence in favor of the evangelical system, drawn from erperience, is incontrovertible. The grand peculiarities of that system are matters of consciousness with many. In all such matiers, they hold themselves more capable of judging than any man living. Others may say that they have not experienced these things themselves. This is all they can say. But surely, negative evidence cannot invalidate positive testimony. The experimental christian possesses a degree of evidence, which cannot be diminished by the most elaborate argument. He has a little world of his own, with the joys and sorrows of which no stranger intermeddleth. He may, perhaps, be too ignorant to parry the attacks of infidelity ; but he can retire within himself and say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He can appeal to his own heart for testimony, with a degree of assurance that ought to put to the blush the men who would cruelly disturb his faith. Shall he then give up his hope, his faith, his Savior, because others prefer to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine? No. He has “tried the word of the Lord” for himself. These are realities which he has felt: nothing can deprive him of the evidence of his own consciousness.

The manner in which Unitarians dispose of this argument from experience, is indeed “passing strange.” We will illustrate it by their treatment of what is usually called conviction of sin. By this is meant nothing else, than the testimony of conscience to one's own guilt ; and we see it equally in all classes, as well among the amiable, exemplary, and refined, as among those who have been openly vicious. Leaving out of account the innumerable passages of the bible, which represent men, as a race, to be guilty beings, and therefore proper subjects of conviction ; we maintain

that such a state of mind is an absolute impossibility, among the class of persons referred to above, unless the doctrine be true, that man is by nature guilty and ready to perish. A man of the character described, under conviction of sin, is the most solemn and irresistible witness to evangelical truth. To our own minds, nothing this side the judgment seat can be more awful than such an one, conscious of his guilt, and trembling, like Felix, under the reproaches of conscience. It is as though the fires of the last judgment were already kindled at a remote distance, and some flashes, flying before the rest, were lighting upon the face of that sinner's sou).

The sentiments of Unitarians concerning conviction of sin, are well known. We confess that we never can read their expressions of derision and mockery at this work of the Holy Spirit, without an involuntary shudder. Let it not be thought that our language is too strong. We might quote passages from Unitarian productions on this point, which border more upon blasphemy than truth. But we are now only concerned with the fallacy of their reasoning. “ There is no occasion,” say they, "for this conviction of sin." 6. The man is not such a sinner as he thinks himself to be.”, “He has been imposed upon by false and exaggerated representations of his own character. His sympathies have been excited. His fears have been unkindly wrought upon. He is weak, and his alarm on account of sin, is a mere chimera, lodged in a distempered fancy, by oflicious and sectarian zeal." Now we confidently ask any candid man, whether it is possible for rational beings to feel this selfcondemnation on account of sin, if there is no reason for it in the nature of the case. Look at such men as Jonathan Edwards, and David Brainerd, and Henry Martyn, and ten thousand others of the soundest intellect, and the purest morals, and ask whether all these men have been the subjects of a weak and driveling superstition. If they really needed “no regeneration," no change of heart, how is it possible they should be thus deceived, as to their true character? The simple matter of fact then, that such men are often alarmed on account of sin, and forced to cry out, “What shall I do to be saved ?" is demonstrable evidence, that they are ruined sinners. If their true characters were such as Unitarians represent, nothing could convince them that they were radically corrupt. It is in vain to contend that such men by thousands, in every condition in life, are deceived, as to their own consciousness, by the influence of sympathy or terror. They know, by the testimony of their own feelings, that they are deeply guilty, that in them “dwelleth no good thing. If the fact were not so, it would be as impossible to awaken these convictions in their minds, as to make that innocent neighbor of yours, who is falsely accused of theft, and who knows that he is innocent, cry out for pardon, under the conviction that he is guilty.

And now, which is the more unphilosophical, which is the greater act of enthusiasm, to say that there is no ground for this conviction of sin(profanely called by a doctor of divinity, a “ dreadful spasm of conscience,")—and ascribe it, whenever it takes place, either to the weakness of him, who is the subject of the impression, or to an unjustifiable imposition upon his sympathies and passions, (means which are altogether inadequate to produce the effect;) or, to hold the orthodox theory of human character, and thus be able at once to account for these facts, without the palpable absurdity of supposing an innocent man to be affected contrary to his own consciousness?

We cannot but remark in this connection, how inadequate is the general tenor of Unitarian preaching, to the great and sublime end of the gospel ministry. It does not awaken men from the stupefactions of sin and pleasure. It does not arrest men in their mad and headlong chase after vanity. One has acknowledged it to be an alarming question, “ Whither is this flood of cares and pleasures and varieties driving men?” Ah! there “is but one name given under heaven among men, by which they can be saved.The Lord Jesus stands upon the brink of the tide which is bearing the gay and the thoughtless to destruction, and says, “ Look unto me, and be ye saved.” Let vain man cry, peace, peace,-let him discourse upon the beauty of this creation, or dwell upon the pleasures of virtue ; let him become the delight of admiring auditors, till they bend towards him, like a field of grain, to catch the strains of music ; the fruitfulness of all such display is a fit comment on the words of the prophet, “Lo! thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but do them not." Guilty, perishing man, will never be converted by the mere display of taste and sensibility in a preacher, any more than by the imposing exhibition of canonical dress, or the symphonies of an organ. “ Men do not gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles.” If it were the only object of preaching to please, and awaken admiration, the preacher has at hand the noblest of all materials, in that inexhaustible fountain of beauty, power and glory, into which the Holy Ghost has poured the full splendors of inspiration. The poet Burns said that he never could read the description, given in the Apocalypse, of those who were saved out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, without being affected to tears. There is scarcely a fact revealed in scripture, which is not invested with such irresistible appeals to the sensibilities of genius, as well as of piety, that it may be made, by an imaginative preacher, the means of the highest degree of pleasurable excitement. Thus it happens, that men, who never convert sinners from the error of their ways, find much in the drapery of religion, upon which to frame their discourses. One preaches on the “religion of the sea;" and the sermon, we believe, never lost the popularity it won when pronounced from the pulpit, after it was transferred to the gilded pages of an annual. Another gives us the poetry of death,' describing pathetically the parting scene—the last thrilling pressure of the hand, and the loneliness of bereaved affection, exclaiming, “ how is my strong staff broken, the beautiful rod,”—and then comes the prayer of the living for the dead, and the dead for the living, till sensibility has been moved, conscience lulled to sleep, and the melodious speech won its tribute of applause. We have seen a sermon on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, by one of the most celebrated of that sect, which denies his divinity and atonement. The writer essays his utmost power of language in an elaborate description of the scene itself, with all its attendant circumstances of grandeur and pathos, till he bears away himself and his readers from the sphere of religious feeling, to the region of poetic excitement. The

escription of the scene, so effectually casts into shade the great moral causes, on account of which it “ behoved Christ to suffer," that it may aptly be compared to a celebrated picture of the Lord's Supper, by an eminent Spanish painter, in which the silver vases are so magnificent, as to divert the eye of every spectator from the great subject of the piece. No wonder that the sons and daughters of fashion and gaiety crowd to the ministrations of such a preacher : for this species of display draws from them the same delicious tears, which they are accustomed to shed over the representations of the stage. “Weep not for me,” said the expiring Savior, “ but weep for yourselves and your children.” If the stupendous truths of revelation were intended for something more than dramatic effect, every attempt to impose upon men, who are “ hungry for the bread of life,” by mere appeals to diseased sensibility, is but a strange refinement on the cruelty of Nero, who, in the midst of a raging famine, imported costly sand for his theaters, instead of bread for his starving subjects. We often wonder that those preachers, who indulge in this kind of discourse, are not heartily convinced of its inadequacy to arrest and convert men. When they can say with Paul, “ My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,”—when they ascend the pulpit bending under the burden of the Lord,” and like the apostle, weeping," as they tell their hearers that“ they are enemies to the cross of Christ," then the tribute to their usefulness will consist in something more enduring than human acclamations ;--those tears of penitence which are the occasion of joy among the angels of God." Let them, like Baxter, and Brainerd, and Edwards strip hell and destruction of their covering—warn men to flee from the wrath of God, and point to the cross of Christ, saying, with the disciple, “ Behold the Lamb

of God," and they and their hearers will be forced to exclaim, in view of the effects of truth, “Behold what God hath wrought!" The eager inquiry which comes to us, across the Atlantic, from those who witness, with amazement, the wonderful work of the Lord in our land, “ who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows ?” relates only to the ministry of those, who preach the gospel of Christ as held by our godly fathers. The mode of preaching practiced by those unrivaled men, and the invaluable legacy of their writings, if more diligently studied and imitated by those who have degenerated from their faith, would electrify them and their hearers with a strange and miraculous agency, as the bones of Elisha imparted a new life to the dead man, who was let down into his sepulcher.

ART. V.-WORKS OF LEIGHTON. The Select Works of Archbishop Leighton, prepared for the use of prirate christians; with a view of the life of the author. By George B. CHEEVER. Bos.

ton; 1832

In introducing to our readers the Select Works of Leighton, we have an object in view, which we wish distinctly to state at the commencement of our remarks. It is to show how this eminent prelate, one of the brightest ornaments of the church, felt, and wrote, and acted, in those times of angry controversy, in which bis lot was cast; and, with such an example before us, of sound Calvinistic orthodoxy, and of great urbanity and kindness of feeling towards those who differed from him, to urge on all who are engaged in the theological discussions of the present day, the duty and practicability of maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

ROBERT LEIGHTON was born at Edinburgh, in the year 1611. His father was a presbyterian clergyman of considerable distinction, who, in consequence of some intemperate publications against the established church of England, was made to feel the tender mercies of the star chamber under the first Charles. Young Leighton was educated in his native city; and after traveling several

years on the continent, was ordained to the work of the ministry at Newbottle, near Edinburgh, in 1641, being then thirty years of age. He continued at this place, discharging the duties of the sacred office in a most exemplary manner, till 1652; when, wearied out by the bitter controversies of that period, and grieved at the want of christian charity with which many of his own brethren carried on their disputes, he resigned his ministerial trust into the hands of the presbytery from which he had received it, and lived for a time in retirement from the world. To this course he felt himself driven, by the extreme acrimony and violence of temper which characterized all parties in the controversies of that day.

« ПретходнаНастави »