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forms and ceremonies, the costume, if I may so express it, of Christianity, may put on, and perhaps with propriety, new shapes and appearances, to accommodate itself to the changes in the public taste, and the public necessities; but the great central principles which constitute its essence, its vitality, its very soul, must be, like the God from whom it emanated, without variableness or shadow of turning.
If this be so, we may conclude that they are the wisest, who, rejecting the wood, hay, and stubble, that have been built on the true foundation, are chiefly anxious to adhere to the simplicity there is in Christ, which is all that will endure. Every age has had its controversies, and these controversies have been continually changing their subjects, as the advancement of knowledge has had the effect to loosen one error after another from the mass of antiquated and cherished superstitions. Each controversy rages for its little day, and perhaps to but little purpose ; but meanwhile the great reformer, Time, goes on with his silent work, and the controverted doctrine is at last abandoned by both parties. Some may fear, perhaps, that in this process of reducing Christianity to its great elementary truths, the whole system will be refined away. Those who apprehend this, however, do injustice to that providence which is pledged to protect the church against the gates of hell. It is the opinions, the speculations, the systems of fallible men, that are continually yielding before the searching and inquisitive spirit which is
abroad. The truths of God are, and of necessity must be, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
THE LAW OF LOVE.
It is painful to witness the number of those, who have been driven to hostility against Christianity, not by what this religion is in itself, but by the spirit of hatred, exclusiveness, and dominion with which so many of its professed advocates have disgraced it.
Is this the religion,' it has again and again been asked, of which you boast, and which you would have us adopt;—a religion which, for doctrines, at best but speculative, mysterious, and hard to be understood, exalts one and another set of men to the dignity of favorites of heaven; bestowing upon them, frail and erring though they be, a sanction for warring with and oppressing their fellows; breaking up brotherhoods and families ; "slaying many a good man by that very slowest and worst of deaths, the destruction of private reputation; cursing such as God hath not cursed; and consigning to a terrible, everlasting wretchedness, even those who profess to draw from the same spiritual fountain with themselves, and who, for aught we can perceive, are as pure, and generous, and noble, as any who tread the earth? Can you imagine that we will subject ourselves to such a thraldom ?
Such is the language, at least, of practical infidelity. But is it so? Is there any sanction for such dispositions and practices to be drawn from the religion which was brought by the meek and affectionate Jesus from the benevolent Parent of the universe ? Oh, no! Our religion is a law of love, which has no fellowship with men's sectarian animosities, or their thirst for spiritual dominion ; a law, which is fitted to bind together in an indissoluble chain of brotherhood the whole family of the good; causing the soul to be perpetually going out of herself for the benefit of all around her; and exerting its influence to tame the fiercer passions of human nature, to cherish and refine the gentler affections, to graft the social on the selfish feelings, and to strengthen the former till they become the active and impelling springs of human conduct.
Our religion, we say, is the law of love. Does this need proof? Let us refer then to the teachings of that revelation from which we derive it. What exhibition does it make of the character of God, who, if he has given us a law, must have framed it according to the principles by which his own conduct is regulated ? In the simplest and most impressive imagery it tells us that, •God is love;' that “even as a father pitieth his children, so doth the Lord pity those who trust in him.' And, in still more touching language, it represents him as saying, Can a mother forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee!' How full and inexpressible the meaning of this unequalled passage! The love of a mother, which is stronger than death, may fail, yet more deep and permanent is the love of God. Can human language portray in more affecting words the benevolence of our heavenly Father, than those in which the scriptures have set it forth? If such then be the character of the law-giver what must be that of the law?
But further. Let us examine the disposition of that exalted messenger, who took this law of love from the throne of the Eternal, and brought it down to earth. How mild, how affectionate! Look at him as he weeps at the grave of his friend, with the sorrowful sisters. See him mourning over ungrateful Jerusalem. Behold him sitting at supper in close communion with his simple followers, while the head of the beloved disciple is reclining upon his bosom. Listen to him as he prays for his enemies during those last dreadful sufferings which they are inflicting upon him. Hear him commending his mother to the disciple, in these memorable words, 'behold thy mother ;'-behold thy son.' And here let us ask, why it was, that, with such undoubting confidence, Jesus committed his parent to the care of his follower? Why was he the beloved disciple? Because his master had looked into his heart, and found there the deep fountain of pure and gentle love; a love which corresponded with his own. Again. What are the terms of the very law itself, which he gave us, and, in many ways, so beautifully illustrated? We
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find them in those divine precepts, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' 'Love your enemies.' •By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.'
We have but glanced at the character of God; we have but briefly noticed the disposition and teaching of Jesus. Enough, however, has been said to illustrate the position, that the law of love constitutes our religion. We hardly need refer to the epistolary writings. The same truth is every thing with the learned Paul, and the ardent Peter. Where then ought to lie the shame and reproach of that hatred, that spirit of exclusiveness, and that passion for ecclesiastical power, with which infidelity has so often seen fit to taunt the christian professor? The true answer is obvious; not with Christianity, but with the abusers of it. proach cannot be fastened on the religion itself, for that, so far from countenancing, condemns the evils complained of, while it breathes throughout the spirit of forbearance, deference, and love. This spirit is as pure and beneficent, as that of God and Heaven. Exclusiveness, with its associated evils, must stand apart from it, working out its own earthly designs, and ultimately, its own destruction. In its violence it would think to drown the voice of our heavenly Father, who is constantly caring for all his children; but above its clamor and the noise of its warring, sounds a clear though still small voice'-Little children, love one another ;' and this will, some day, prevail. God's word shall not return to him void. K. X. C.