Page images

enter the pulpit, to speak in the name of one whose disciples are to be known only by having " love one towards another," in the name of one who commands all men to love even their enemies, and whose avowed object was to turn men from their iniquities, to bring them to God, and to make them perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect !

Do we use strong language ? We know it, and we mean it. The interests of religion, of humanity, demand it; and he who does not bring out the great principle of the Gospel, and insist in strong terms on its being admitted, preached, and obeyed, seems to us to fail in his duty to God and to man. He is a poor missionary, who begins by saying to those to whom he addresses himself, “My brethren, the religion I bring you is an excellent thing. Its morality is of the purest and most elevated character. If obeyed it would have the most happy effect; but then you must not be so foolish as to suppose it generally practicable. A few gifted individuals alone can ever come under its influences ; the great mass of mankind can never be governed by it." Suppose one of our missionaries to the Indians should thus address his heathen audience, and what would be the influence of his preaching ? what the answer that would be returned him ? 5. Go back to your own country ; if your Gospel morality is impracticable, why come ye here to disturb our minds and the state of our society by proclaiming it ? ” Or, if he should not tell them that it is impracticable, if he should so feel, with what success would he preach ? Would he be likely to speak in those earnest and thrilling tones, which go to the heart and the conscience, fasten conviction and lead to reformation ? He who would go forth to convert the world should go in faith; he should believe what he preaches, and not only believe it true, but practicable.

The question between us and those who urge the objection we are considering is not, whether we are visionaries, dreaming of social perfection which can never be realized, but, whether the Gospel be or be not a practicable scheme of morals. We throw ourselves upon the Gospel. We have stated its morality, and what would be the social result, were it obeyed. Nobody, who reflects a moment, will accuse us of misstating that morality, or pretend that our inferences are illegitimate. There is, then, no escape for the objector but in arraigning the Gospel itself. The blow with which he would demolish us, he must reserve for our Master. Was Jesus a visionary, preaching a morality which only a few, if indeed any can practise ; or did he proclaim a moral law adapted to universal human nature, and consequently one which all men have the power to obey ? This is the question. To this question we wait a reply, leaving the objector to settle it with one who “ needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.”

We are aware that we have presented the subject in a light in which it is not usually contemplated; but we are confident that we have presented it in its true light. We believe that one great reason why the Christian ministry has not been more efficient, is, that it has not had full faith in the practicability of the Gospel morality. It has, we own, labored with great diligence and fidelity in its calling; but it has often left the people where it found them, — dead in a worldly policy, or consumed by a crackling fanaticism or an unmeasured zeal for dogmas of faith. It has had no just conception of the extent of the morality it was called to preach, and of course no belief in its practicability or in the state of society which it was destined to introduce. It has therefore been unable to speak as its Master spoke; its words have been powerless, and its tones lifeless. It could not go to the people in the fulness of faith, and consequently it could not adopt the tone and manner of reality, which alone can make a preacher successful.

We mean not to apply these remarks to the Christian ministry in its relation to religious dogmas. These have been believed, and at times so believed that the idea of proving them could not find admittance into the head of him who preached them. They have been to the preacher, not opinions, but realities; and when they have been so, he has spoken with power and fastened conviction. But it was not a moral conviction. No man has yet gone forth and preached the great law of love as the peculiarity of the Gospel, and preached it in full faith of its universal obligation and practicability; for it has not yet been so believed, except by here and there an individual. But those who do not so believe, are so far unbelievers in the Gospel, and in their influence in some respects the most fatal class of unbelievers. Here is the call for reform. Men must be brought to believe the Gospel; not its theology, for that the majority of the civilized world already believe, but its morality.

We do not make these remarks to condemn the past, nor to censure the present, but to point out what is our duty for the future. There is a time for all things. We know that men move slowly, and that the progress of ideas is like that of the apparent motion of the sun ; we cannot see the sun move, but, after a while, we see that it has moved. We do not complain, because the great truth for which we contend has not been brought out distinctly before. It required time to wear out the old morality, to exhaust theological discussions, and to fix the basis of our ever progressing religious theory. That is now done, and the epoch has arrived for extending our views, and making the exclusively theological element, with wbich the religious world has been engaged for so many ages, give place to the moral element, which alone constitutes the peculiarity of the Gospel. The Christian world is now distracted, torn into contending sects, and exhibiting a spectacle saddening to the hearts of all the real friends of humanity. These sects must be brought together, these alienated hearts must be united, and these scattered and inoperative elements must be brought into one grand and complete whole. But this cannot be done by any system of theology whatever. It can be done only by striking a chord which shall vibrate alike through all moral nature. We can do it only by a new and a higher view of Christian morality. We have cleared away the rubbish of a false and mischievous theology; we have brought men back, at least in theory, to the simple doctrines inculcated in Scripture, to those which are based on everlasting truth, which are in perfect harmony with man’s intellectual nature, those on which Jesus based his morality; and now we must bring out that morality, and hold it up to the admiration and love of all hearts.

The first step to this is to comprehend the extent of that morality, and to obtain the conviction of its practicability. We have said that it is the law of love, a law that requires us to love one another as Christ loved us, that is, well enough, if need be, to die for our fellow beings as Christ died for us. This is the principle of Christian morality. It is, we believe, practicable. Jesus preached it, commanded his disciples to preach it to “every creature," and that too without ever in-timating that all men could not obey it. Let the preacher, when he reads the discourses of Jesus to his congregation, when he calls upon his hearers to love God with all the heart, mind, and strength, and their neighbours as themselves, catch the meaning of what he utters, and he will want no arguments to prove that men can “have that mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus;” and, when he comes once to believe that they can, he will speak with such firm persuasion of the truth of what he utters, that “his words will be with power.” Let him comprehend his mission, and its grandeur will waken all the higher and better principles of his soul, kindle up a moral enthusiasm that will carry him through every difficulty, and make him mighty in the work of turning men's hearts to God. This is what is implied by the ministerial office. It is a practical answer to the objection brought against our hopes ; and, till men will admit, that the preacher is inducted into his office to preach an impracticable scheme of morals, we shall consider a further answer, at least to professed Christians, as unnecessary..

Art. VI- An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the

Principles of Christianity; and an Examination of the Philosophical Reasoning by which it is defended ; with Observations on the Causes of War and some of its Effects. By Jonathan DYMOND. With a Dedication to Sunday School Teachers and Scholars, and Notes, by Thomas Smith GRIMKÉ, of Charleston, South Carolina. Together with an Appendix, containing Extracts from several of his Writings vindicating or illustrating the Principles of Peace. Philadelphia. J. Ashmead & Co. 1834. 12mo. pp. xx. and 300.

“I was ashamed,” said Ezra, in recapitulating the circumstances of his emigration from the land of his captivity, “I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him, but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.” This sublime instance of confidence in the divine protection and promises, though under an imperfect dispensation, has too seldom found its parallel beneath the light of the Gospel. For the last fifteen centuries, the example of Ezra has been putting to shame the great body of the professed disciples of Christ. They have had too little faith to believe that " the hand of God is upon all them for good that seek him”; and have therefore “ required bands of soldiers and horsemen to help them against the enemy in the way.

And when the Quakers first appeared, one of the chief grounds on which they were persecuted by their fellow Christians, on which they were whipt, imprisoned, and hung by the Puritans of New England, was that they followed the example of Ezra, and preferred putting their trust in God to trusting in the implements of bloodshed and havock. We cannot but think that they followed the example, breathed the spirit, and obeyed the law, of a greater than Ezra. We cannot but regard all war as entirely opposed to the precepts and the spirit of the Gospel. And this is the view, which we shall present and maintain in the following article. But, while we denounce war as anti-Christian, we do not mean to deny the Christian name and character to all those, who have advocated or conducted wars. There have been some, perhaps many Christian warriors; and so there have been Christian slave-dealers, and there are still some Christian makers and sellers of ardent spirits. With regard to these latter employments, charity readily pronounces the verdict; “The times of ignorance God winked at; but now commanüeth all men everywhere to repent." We would cheerfully enter the same verdict with regard to the military profession. But let us, unbiassed by the noble examples of virtue and piety which have confessedly adorned it, view the whole subject in the light of the Gospel.

We maintain the unlawfulness of all war, first, on the ground that it is opposed to the precepts of the New Testament. “ Resist or avenge not evil; rather suffer wrong than do wrong; incur fresh insult and injustice, rather than repel insult or injustice by violence,” is allowed on all hands to be the literal meaning of the precepts contained in Matthew v. 39-42; nor is there any thing in the context to show that these precepts were designed for the special guidance of the first disciples; but they occur in that portion of the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Saviour's object is most manifestly to develope the spirituality and the fulness of his religion, in contrast with the external and imperfect character of the




« PreviousContinue »