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doctrine that have tossed us hither and thither, the latitudes of polar cold, the dreadful length of the voyage, the immense uncertainty of the harbor, the beclouded heaven, the fog-clothed headlands-oh! how often have these, the necessary experiences of all heterodoxy, taught us the inadequacy of mere individualism to bring us peace and rest.”1

Among the multitude, the tendency involves suspicion, doubt, and indifference, and ends frequently in the yielding up of all the functions of life to an aggressive worldliness. Common people do not readily discriminate. If a Church has abused their confidence, they make religion responsible. If a sectarian dogma is refuted, they begin to distrust the faith delivered to the saints. If they see an interpretation of the Bible overthrown, they question its essential verity, or try to justify an evasion of its authority. It is one of the temporary evils incident to religious revolutions, that multitudes are emancipated from wholesome restraints, armed with plausible sophistries or convenient doubts, and committed to the dubious direction of their passions. And it has been thoughtfully remarked-in view of this incidental mischief-that "it is a serious perplexity with a well-trained Christian man of our time, whose mind has been filled and expanded by the highest culture, with a full or partial enfranchisement from old prejudices, and with an outlook on the broad, fair, unfenced fields of truth,-it is more than a perplexity, it is a trial of all his sincerity and of all his wisdom,-to decide how much of what he himself believes, or doubts, or knows, he shall communicate to others, even to those who look to him for instruction. There is the risk of destructiveness; the risk of shocking people; the risk of communicating too much or not enough; the risk of not giving something new and true in place of what you take away that is simply doubtful; the risk of opening dismal conflicts in a mind which you can not afterwards compose; the risk of transferring your doubts without your resources." 2 Yet these considerations can not release a man from the obligation to bear witness to the truth, or justify him in suppressing convictions that have become paramount in the light of conscience. Truth will

1 Re-Statements of Christian Doctrine. First Sermon.
2 Christian Examiner for November, 1800.

be published, and God will take care of the conse


In England, the hopeless alienation of the national life from the ecclesiastical institutions-intimated through a series of years in successive eruptions of heterodoxy, and in a growing audacity of periodical criticism-is now proclaimed in the seven Oxford Essays with a freedom and fearlessness, with a philosophic serenity and dignity, and with a scholarly resonance, that indicate a consciousness of being supported by a triumphant public conviction. Whatever we may think of the soundness of the criticism, in particular instances as, for example, the endorsement of Bunsen, the estimate of the value of the "evidences," and the examination of the Mosaic cosmogony-the confidence and composure that breathe through those essays declare, unmistakably, that their authors are the vanguard of a rebellion that has the nation at its back.

As a specimen of the testimony borne by the Oxford witnesses, we here cite a page or two from Mr. Wilson's essay on The National Church, where he calls our attention to the "very wide-spread alienation, both of educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity which is ordinarily presented in our churches and chapels. Whether it be their reasons or their moral sense which is shocked by what they hear there, the ordinances of public wor ship and religious instruction provided for the people of England, alike in the endowed and unendowed churches, are not used by them to the extent we should expect if they valued them very highly, or if they were really adapted to the wants of their nature as it is. And it has certainly not hitherto received the attention which such a grave circumstance demanded, that a number equal to five millions and a quarter of persons should have neglected to attend means of public worship within their reach on the census Sunday in 1851; these five millions and a quarter being forty-two per cent of the whole number able and with opportunity of then attending. As an indication, on the other hand, of a great extent of dissatisfaction on the part of the clergy to some portion, at least, of the formularies of the Church of England, may be taken the fact of the existence of various associations to procure their revision, or some liberty in their use, especially

that of omitting one unhappy creed. It is generally the custom of those who wish to ignore the necessity for grappling with modern questions concerning biblical interpretation, the construction of the Christian creed, the position and prospects of the Christian Church, to represent the disposition to entertain them as a disease contracted by means of German inoculation. At other times, indeed, the tables are turned, and theological inquirers are to be silenced with the reminder, that, in the native land of the modern scepticism, Evangelical and High-Lutheran reactions have already put it down. . . But, in fact, the influence of this foreign literature extends to comparatively few among us, and is altogether insufficient to account for the wide spread of that which has been called the negative theology. This is rather owing to a spontaneous recoil, on the part of large numbers of the more acute of our population, from some of the doctrines which are to be heard at church and chapel; to a distrust of the old arguments for, or proofs of, a miraculous revelation; and to a misgiving as to the authority, or extent of the authority, of the Scriptures. In the presence of real difficulties of this kind, probably of genuine English growth, it is vain to seek to check that open discussion out of which alone any satisfactory settlement of them can issue." 3

This alienation of so large a part of the community from established schools of Religion, can be traced only to some powerful and widely-operating cause. It is a trite observation, that man is, naturally, a religious being. He is not merely susceptible of having religion ingrafted upon his nature, he is born with religious instincts and aspirations, that impel him to perform devotional rites. How this fact can be reconciled with the notion of his complete natural depravity, we leave for others to explain; but the fact itself is so self-evident that naturalists, in discriminating man from the other tribes of creation, have described him as a religious animal.*

With this powerful religious proclivity implanted in his nature, if the growth of man sways him toward infidelity or exhausts his spiritual sensibilities, it can only be in con

3 Recent Inquiries in Theology, pp. 168-170.

4 Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, pp. 36, 37.

sequence of some foreign agency coming in collision with his divine instincts, darkening the soul's vision, and diverting him from the natural course of development. There must be some grave mistake in the apprehension, and in the administration of religion, to account for the distaste (and even disgust) which are exhibited toward it, in our time, by multitudes in the leading Protestant countries. For, to adhere to the good Latin maxim, Suum cuique tributo, let it be understood that the irreligious and skeptical men of this age are not universally depraved. The moral characters of large numbers among them, on the contrary, are irreproachable. They have never provoked, except by the blunt statement of their doubts, the inuendoes that have been levelled at them from pious circles, where passive assent is so often mistaken for vital faith. Many of these doubters and aliens have as much personal merit as their self-elected censors and self-righteous judges. They are faithful husbands and revered fathers, genial neighbors and public-spirited citizens. Their irreligion and infidelity were not fostered by any peculiar or virulent depravity. They do not consciously resist the spirit or the evidence of the gospel; but the atmosphere of our churches does not warm their hearts, nor do the arguments of our logicians convince their minds. Neither can we esteem it the fault of a narrow understanding, a neglect of reflection, or a poverty of knowledge. Many of these persons are endowed with a vigorous reason, which they have employed in the cause of learning, and disciplined in the conquest of the sciences. They are not to be suspected as incompetent to apprehend a rational proposition, or to discern a spiritual verity. They are not insensible of the importance of the problem presented by Christianity; they only desire a solution of that problem which shall not stultify common sense nor outrage the generous instincts that adorn humanity.

In our judgment, the original difficulty lies in the fact that the churches have substituted an irrational and offensive theology for the consistent and attractive principles of the Christian religion; and have endeavored to impose upon society fables and speculations, paradoxes and creeds, until the more sagacious and independent minds have become weary of the barren dogmatism, or angry at the domineer

ing insolence, of those who assume to interpret the providence and kingdom of the Almighty. Between the soul of man and the truth of God, there is always concord, if the will or thought of the Creator expands harmoniously throughout all his manifestations; but the ideas of the past can not be imposed upon the present, nor the convictions of to-day become the creed of to-morrow, if they contradict its clearer insight or riper experience. All attempts to compress the advanced intelligence, and the more vital instincts, of the present century, into the narrow and rigid formulas of the sixteenth, must provoke, sooner or later, wrath, revolt, and revolution. Every form of ecclesiasticism that refuses to expand with the growth of society, and hardens into a despotism, will be exploded by a law as irresistible as that which bursts the acorn in order that a new oak may


It is the persistent habit of the churches to refer to past interpretations of Christianity as authoritative upon present and coming ages. The habit appears to be predicated of the idea that there was, somewhere in the direction of antiquity, a perfect embodiment, or realization, of the Christian faith. People commonly locate this transitory reign of absolute Christianity in the Apostolic age. They usually appeal all the sects appeal to the conception of the religion then prevalent and imagine they have indicated a standard by which subsequent heresies may be accurately measured. We scarcely know any fallacy that rests upon scantier evidence. What student of the Christian annals, tracing the progress of the Church through various periods and over many lands, ever lighted upon the happy spot where faith was perfect, controversy quenched, and the unity of organization hallowed by the unity of a loving spirit?5 No; the golden age of the Church is a fiction of the reverential fancy, looking fondly back toward the blessed sunrise of the Christian day; it is no historical verity; it has glorified no age of Christendom; and there is no period, therefore, that can be fairly cited as qualified to become the authoritative exponent of our religion.

This position will appear quite incontrovertible, we think, by considering that Christianity has attained its present

5 Isaac Taylor "Ancient Christianity."


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