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WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?
THE CHRISTIAN Teacher bears in its name the office it has to execute. It is a teacher of Christianity. But what is Christianity? It has been variously expounded; it exists under different forms; we pretend to no authority to define that about which the wisest and best of men have disagreed; but we have our opinions; and, while we leave every one to judge for himself, we shall briefly set forth what our views of Christianity are.
Christianity is the religion of Christ. It arose indeed out of Judaism, but is independent of it. In no way, therefore, is Christianity necessarily concerned with the elements or the evidences of the Mosaic institutions. An attachment at the first there was between the two, inasmuch as the one sprung from the other—but the cord was quickly severed, and the offspring, relying on its own resources, grew to the full stature of a perfect man. It concerns us, then, comparatively little what may be the fate of Judaism, or what the difficulties which may hang about certain parts of the Jewish annals. Individually, indeed, we admit the divine original of the Mosaic institutions. This, however, is mentioned only to prevent misapprehension. The point to which we draw attention is, that Christianity is an independent system, based on its own evidences, and complete in its own principles. Let Judaism, therefore, stand or fall; let doubts be exaggerated into disproofs ; let the wand of scepticism strike from the cloud of antiquity the lightning that shall smite the temple of Zion to ruin, let these things be, if they can be, still Christianity is unimpaired. The divinity of the mission of Christ is in no way dependent on the slaughter of the Canaanites, nor does the authenticity of the Gospels rely on the authenticity of the Pentateuch.
Christianity is the religion of Christ. In his teachings it stands perfect, entire, lacking nothing. Others may expand, and illustrate, and enforce what he taught, but not even Paul can plant another doctrine, nor Apollos water another vineyard. Nor, in spite of such reasoners as the author of • not Paul, but Jesus,' who, in seeming to vindicate Jesus against Paul, designs to subvert the authority of both, is there any fair show of evidence that Paul, though he expounded the doctrines of Christ so as to fit them to existing circumstances, and recommend them to general acceptance, gave, by the slightest addition to his instructions, room for the charge that he preached another Gospeľ than that he received from Jesus. 'Should there, however, be persons who disagree with us in this conviction, they are still to remember that Christianity is the religion of Christ; and so long as they receive all that Jesus taught, as recorded by his historians, so long they are not at liberty to disown Christ, because they may misinterpret Paul.
If the authority of an apostle is not above his master, the teachings of uninspired men cannot be even co-ordinate with the doctrine of the Son of God. Our motto is, then, not human, but divine authority.'. Brethren may be helpers of each other's faith as well as joy, but no one is Lord over God's heritage. Their call is to aid, not controul. They may unseal a blind eye, but cannot kindle another sun. They may quicken an intellect, but their power is in Christ, not themselves. Animation they may infuse into dead bones, but the fire is from heaven. We therefore repudiate all mere human authority. We ask not what the councils have determined, nor what are the doctrines of the Reformation, nor what are the principles of Protestantism, much less what Calvin defined, or Wesley enforced, but what Jesus said, promised, or threatened. He, and he only, is the way, the truth and the life; sole and paramount in all things pertaining to man's duty and expectations, what he declared we receive, and when he is silent we dare not speak. All that he taught we wish to be ours; more than he taught our reverence for him induces us to refuse. Where he is clear, there we can be positive; what he has left dark or doubtful, we have no warrant and no will to attempt to illustrate and define.
Christianity is the religion of Christ ;—not of Plato, though his lofty and imaginative speculations may have earned for him the name of divine, nor of Socrates, though, for his wise, practical and homely instructions, he was said to have brought philosophy down from heaven. Christianity may harmonize with, but it needs not the sanction of, philosophy.' It is complete in the elements of its own existence, and claims our obedience on its own merits. They, therefore, are wrong who reason when they should expound, speculate when they should learn, and enforce obedience by sanctions, which, however good to those who knew no better, are tares instead of wheat in the Christian church, and are superseded by the perfect law of Christ.
Christianity stands in the New Testament—but not in a series of systematic definitions, aiming at the impossibility of bringing the endless varieties of human obligations under certain fixed categories, but developed by casual circumstances, expounded in connexion with existing junctures and wants, folded up in parables, displayed in facts, living and breathing in the character of its founder. The record is not Christianity, but Christianity is in the record. Even the actions of Christ himself are models for our imitation only so far as parity of circumstances may justify. Much less is every word to be taken in all the fulness of its original import. It is true, that all that he taught and did is for us and for our children; not, however, in the servile adherence to the letter, but the wise application of the spirit. What is essential must be separated from what was occasional ; the form and manner must be sacrificed to the substance, or often the substance will elude us in cleaving to the form. There is a principle involved in all Jesus said and did, which it is our duty to extract and bring home to our own business and bosoms, while we leave the original application of his addresses to those for whom exclusively it was designed; and the great duty of the expounder of the Gospel is to unfold and apply the essential truths of Christianity to the changeful aspects of social and individual life in each successive age. The fire on its altar is inextinguishable; it is for us to take thereof in order to kindle a flame on our own hearths. But in this matter mistake abounds. The personal application of the Gospel consists with most in taking to themselves every thing found in the New Testament, as if designed immediately for their own case; whereas, mostly, its immediate purpose was answered in its primary application. To them of old times it was said to them it belonged, and, in its literal and full acceptance, to them exclusively. Our share is in the spirit, the principle, not the word, and the amount of our portion is in each case to be determined by the analogy of the circumstances in their case and ours.
The message, however, when it does come, comes with authority. It is a command, not a recommendation. It asks obedience, not deliberation. Thus do, and thou shalt live,' is its language; not that its office is to supersede reason, but to direct and raise it. Congenial with the holier workings of the intellect, it far transcends them; not, however, to oppress, but to bear them up to its own elevation. The spirit of God is kindred with the spirit of man, since God's inspiration gave man understanding ; and the supremacy of the first is the perfection and blessedness of the second, because it is a supremacy founded
not on force, but love, and working in the way of a father, not a tyrant. Obedience, however, is as much an element in the paternal relation as benignity, and the intellect must be trained to obey before it is fitted to rule ; for we set little account by those systems of domestic discipline, whose authors pride themselves on rendering a reason before a child can appreciate a motive, and, in a vain effort to create premature self-reliance, lead children to be self-willed, intractable, conceited and boisterous. Men are nothing more than grown-up children, bearing the same relation to God that children bear to their parents ; and those who acknowledge no higher authority than their own intellect, will have more restlessness than power of mind, more agitation than repose of heart, and it is well if, in the illusions of their own confidence and the recklessness of their own wills, they do not throw themselves loose from the holiest restraints of nature and religion, and make shipwreck of faith, hope, and, finally, of conscience too. The Gospel, therefore, must always be studied as a message from God. It is the business of tħe intellect to learn what it teaches, and immediately consequent on the discovery, of the whole man to submit to its guidance. The mind is the interpreter, and in the truth elicited resides our safeguard, and our guide, and our warrant. There must be the labour of digging for the treasure, but the ore, when found, is gold. We have not to ascend up into the heaven of our own imaginations, nor into the depths of our own intellect—but the truth is nigh unto us, being brought of Christ from God.
What is that truth? In our opinion, it does not consist in formularies of human device: none of them contains all the truth, each of them contains more than the truth, and they all err in the implication that Christianity is a system of abstract propositions, and not a spirit of power, because of love and of a sound mind. We do not deny that Christianity has its positive doctrines, but those doctrines are rather of a practical than a metaphysical nature. Its philosophy is concerned with the formation of character, not the resolution of mysteries. It seeks not to reveal the invisible, nor to unfold the abstruse, nor to solve the questions raised by man of God's nature, the nature of the soul, the plurality of worlds, the freedom of the will, of the origin of evil, and the final issue of events, but rather, taking the world as it is and man as he is, to make both as happy as possible, by the infusion of a spirit of faith, love and gentleness, and the introduction of the powerful motives derived from God's paternity, Christ's sacrifice, and the sanctions of the eternal world. The doctrines which have a bearing on these great purposes, it enforces with line upon line, and precept upon precept. But how little to do with them has the greater part of those points about which professed Christians have from the