Page images
PDF
EPUB

certainly true that the scholastic system owes all its perfection and scientife establishment to the Arabian schools, and this fact is sufficient for my purpose. It must further be adBitted to me, that a principal branch of the studies thus brought into vogue, consisted of the theological speculations in question, and the popular importance of the latter would certainly be greatly increased by such a connexion, if they did owe their existence to it.

However absurd many of the speenlations of the schoolmen, it is impossible to refuse them their utility in exercising the human mind, in preparing it for more serious investigations, and, above all, in stimulating it to resistance to the shackles which it was the tendency of the Papal govern ment to impose. If the scholastic reasoners had only given rise to the Biblicists, (who laboured, and in the end effectually, to expose their sophistries, and draw the mind to nobler objects,) they would have deserved some gratitude at our hands. The orthodox Biblicists little thought that, in vindicating the Scriptures as the test of theological and moral truth, they were laying the foundation for heresy much more dangerous to the church, than could have been brought upon it by those who were content to give outward submission to its authority, in exchange for free liberty to pursue their subtle disputations in nonessentials.

The cultivation of the scholastic taste, however, continued to the æra of the Reformation. Huss was a zealous Realist, Luther a Nominalist. Immediately previous to this epoch, it met a powerful corrective in the revival of Greek learning; and a beneficial result would doubtless (independently of the actual Reformation) have shewn itself in the formation of minds who would have extracted the marrow of the ancient "philosophy, illustrated it by the aids of genuine literature, and the rules of good criticism, and corrected it by the dictates of right reason, and the doctrines and principles of true religion." Even if the German Reformation had not broken out, this collision must have etablished, in the bosom of the church, a liberal, enlightened and eclectic spirit, which, in many respects, the violence of the

Reformers checked. We are not to look to the Reformers as immediately introducing any great extension of freedom of inquiry on those religious subjects, at least, which had not been considered as immediately essential to the interests of the church. The pes culiar doctrines which they enforced, may all of them be said to belong to the schoolmen; and, of course, (if the origin of that school is correctly placed,) primarily to the Arabian Universities. Instead of increasing the freedom with which these points were to be canvassed, the immediate effect of the Reformation was to limit the boundary, (at least so far as the church itself was considered,) and it will be difficult to say, that the peculiar doctrines which it made essential to salvation, and based on scriptural authority, had not a contracting influence on the mind.

It is true, that some of the Reformers, in the difficulty which they might well feel in warranting their peculiar dogmas from the Scriptures, professed to found much on the authority of St. Augustin, preferring a Christian father to a Mahometan doctor or his scholastic disciples: and if these Reformers had been the first broachers of the opinions they so zealously enforced, as essentials to salvation, and had not merely adopted doctrines which had been for many ages the common subject of discussion in the schools, we might have overlooked the intermediate progress of opinion, and admitted, that the doctrines now broached arose from actual investigation, and early Christian authority, however obscurely developed. At present there seems no reason why the Motazalite sectary should not at least equally share the credit of them with the Christian father.

The distinction between the tenets held by Luther and his followers, and the same opinions in the mouths of the Arabians and schoolmen, seems only to be, that the latter had treated them merely as matters of philosophic speculation; the former warranted them solely from Scripture, and thereby gave them a deeper, and, if erro neous, a more pernicious influence. In this view, the good effects of the Reformation are to be sought not in its immediate results, not in the superiority or originality of the dogmas

which it delighted to inculcate, but in the principle which it cherished, to be in time the destroyer of its own absurdities, and in the recognition of biblical authority as the ultimate argument, which, when falsely applied, might, for a while, only sanctify and give weight to error, but must in the end complete its work, in overturning the systems of those who brought it into operation.

The early Biblicists who stood forward, perhaps in a bad cause, and to support the dogmatic corruptions of the church, were the persons whose efforts first led the way to the overthrow of that fabric which they sought to protect, and their successors have, in like manner, furnished a corrective for the absurdity of their creed, in the very authority on which they sought to place it, and in the testimony of the witnesses by whom they intended to give it a more durable existence. E. T.

SIR,

ALCKENAER, in his Scholæ on thians, p. 153, thus renders part of the last verse of the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: Amabiles et gratiosos vos exhibete inter vos invicem, sicuti Deus in Christo sese vobis exhibuit gratiæ plenum. It is, indeed, well known that the Common Version is wrong; but the authority of Valckenaer is not without its value, as his orthodoxy will not be called in question, and his profound skill in Greek is the just admiration of the literary world. But when this verse is properly translated, there remains no passage in the Christian Scriptures in which God is said to bestow any blessing on mankind for the sake of Christ. Whence, then, did this expression intrude itself into the Received Version of the New Testament, and whence has it found its way into the ordinary language of professing Christians? The answer is at hand; because it naturally arises out of the views which have been entertained of the end proposed and effected by the mediation of Christ. It flows from the orthodox doctrine of the Atonement, as the stream from its fountain; and I am much mistaken if any force of criticism or of argument could induce our Calvinistic

brethren to lay this phraseology aside. But what is the just conclusion to which we are led by the absence of this phraseology from the sacred volume, contrasted with its prevalence in the dialect of modern Christians? That the views, of which it is the natural expression, were not the views of the sacred writers. The same ideas will and must give rise to the same language; and no stronger argument can be brought to prove that two persons do not think alike on any topic than that when treating of this topic they do not speak alike. And it will appear incredible to any man, who is at all acquainted with the constitution of the human mind, that if the apostles had regarded the death of Christ as the procuring cause of every spiritual blessing, they should never have adopted that phraseology which is so frequently in the mouth of every Christian who holds this doctrine. I know that the mere sound of one text of Scripture will weigh, with the generality of Christians, more than fifty negative arguments, not less convin

stated; but to an impartial man who possesses comprehension of mind to estimate the force of such arguments, this reasoning will appear to fall little short of demonstration. But this is not the only instance in which our orthodox brethren confute themselves, by deviating from the language of Scripture. When they talk of God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, when they speak of an infinite satisfaction made to infinite justice for the sins of mankind, when they speak of God as being reconciled to the world by Jesus Christ, &c. &c., they speak as Scripture never speaks. And why?

This reasoning applies to every view which has been taken of the doctrine of the Atonement. Whether Christ be supposed to have paid a full satisfaction to the offended justice of God, or by his obedience and death to have vindicated the honour of the Divine government, so that sin may, with propriety, be forbe forgiven on account of what he has given, in either case sin may be said to done and suffered, in other words, for his sake. And if the apostles never used this language, the obvious conclusion is, that they did not entertain the views of which this language is the symbol.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Because they think as the writers of the New Testament never thought. Much as they reproach their theological adversaries with wresting the declarations of Scripture from their obvious meaning, they themselves use a phraseology, inseparable indeed from their system, but which is no where to be found in the sacred volume; and a phraseology which, were they to cease to use, their doctrine, I verily believe, would not long survive its disuse. They make it their constant boast that their views of Christianity are conveyed in the New Testament from beginning to end, as though their doctrines were there expressed with the same clearness with which they are sometimes expressed in their own creeds and confessions; and it never seems to occur to them that their system (granting for a moment that it is not unscriptural) is laid down in no part of the sacred volume as a connected scheme, and that no one article of it is promulgated in terms which do not at least admit of a different interpretation. And yet their doctrine is capable of being laid down, and is laid down by themselves, in language which no man can misunderstand. For instance, that all mankind were sentenced to everlasting misery in consequence of the sin of their first parents, is a proposition, the terms of which are perfectly intelligible. And it would have been as easy for a man, to have stated this proposition in language which would have equally precluded mistake and evasion. And if the belief of the Calvinistic doctrine is essential to our future happiness, the least that we might have expected would have been, that it should be clearly defined in that volume which is intended to make us wise unto salvation, and not be left to be inferred from it by the interpretations of fallible men. The orthodox divine, indeed, will tell us that his interpretations of Scripture are obvious and certain, and can be rejected only by a mind which is perversely and wilfully blind to the truth. So says the Catholic; and so, if he pleased, the Unitarian might say too. But who is to judge between them? In truth, the whole Calvinistic system is neither more nor less than an hypothesis to explain a certain phraseology which is found in

VOL. XVIII.

C

the New Testament, and an hypothesis
so abhorrent to reason as (previously
to all inquiry) to afford no small pre-
sumption of its falsehood. And grant-
ing that it would explain some pas-
sages in the volume, there are many
others (to say nothing of the general
tenor and spirit of the book) to
which it stands manifestly and dia-
metrically opposed.
When I said th

the Calvinistic system is abhorrent to reason, I said nothing more than what is acknowledged by some of its advocates, who vehemently object to reason as an arbiter in matters of religion. But reason is like nature, expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret. It may indeed be misemployed, but employed it will be. Calvinists themselves reason in behalf of their doctrine, though, in my judgment, they reason ill. Their system is deduced from Scripture by reasoning, though reason impartially exercised will never find it there. Reason, indeed, we must, if we wish to reconcile the sacred volume with itself. Otherwise, we may believe any thing and every thing; as there is no doctrine which certain passages of Scripture, detached from their connexion, will not appear to support.

E. COGAN.

SIR,

Birmingham, December 6, 1822. many

HAVONG our applications for nagement and success of the SundaySchools belonging to the Old and New Meeting Societies in this town; and each such request subjecting me to a lengthened detail in writing of particulars, which even leisure itself would rather avoid, I beg leave to trouble you with the insertion of the following proposal in your liberal Miscellany.

Some time ago, I published a statement of the establishment and progress of the said institution, with the display of its laws and management, together with a few lectures prepared for and delivered to the youths therewith connected, under the title of "Moral Culture." [See Mon Repos. XIII. 767.] This contains all the general information in my power to give, as it was not intended to enter into the minutiae of the arrangements, but rather to exhibit such an outline as would be better filled up by the

judgment and discretion of such persons as may be desirous of making similar attempts, and who must be guided by local and undefinable circumstances. Whoever, then, of your correspondents or readers may be anxious to avail themselves of the experience necessarily connected with such a large establishment, and of so long standing, and will apply through the medium of their booksellers or to your publishers, I shall be glad to supply the demand by sending each of them a copy of the work as far as fifty of them may extend, or more if they can be made useful, and shall feel honoured by their acceptance. I propose waiting two months to see what applications may be made, and then one arrangement will do for all. The books to be then forwarded with the Numbers of the Repository, and whatever trouble and expense may attach, I will cheerfully remunerate.

I cannot refrain from improving the present opportunity, by stating the great encouragement held out to others by the uniform and gratifying success of this establishment. There are two buildings exclusively erected for the purpose, each of them at not less than £1000 expense, in which there is an average of 1200 children regularly instructed in the duties they now or hereafter may owe to themselves, to society, and to their Maker. Their teachers are upwards of fifty in number, all giving their attention and instruction gratuitously, most of whom were themselves educated by the institution, and have now unitedly almost the whole management of the concern in their own hands. The discipline of the schools and of their own society is steady and effective; and the organization of the whole seems to admit no doubt of its being well calculated to provide for its continuance and improvement. The fund connected with the provision for relief in cases of illness has realized nearly £600; the Committee having honourably, and in some cases generously, discharged every claim which the rules enjoined; and most of the teachers are themselves interested in the benefit they may hereafter derive from this valuable part of the plan.

Could the most sanguine enthusiasm have anticipated such a result from the apparently small resources which

presented themselves at the commencement of the institution? One of the resolutions of the original committee, in the year 1787, was, that the number of children should be limited to twenty! On the present and ultimate consequences I need not attempt to enlarge. The advantages of public instruction are now almost universally admitted, and any attempt to direct the benevolent zeal of its patrons, will by the public be duly appreciated. JAMES LUCKCOCK.

SIR,

Liverpool. December 3, 1822. HE following is an extract from one of the first numbers of a periodical publication, lately established at Charleston, South Carolina, entitled the "Unitarian Defendant;" a work conducted with no little talent, and certainly in the same excellent spirit which shines so conspicuously in the writings of our Unitarian brethren in America. It may not be unknown to your readers that at Charleston there is a very large and respectable society who profess to worship the Father only, and who, in consequence, have been subjected, to use the language of the "Unitarian Defendant," to a species of persecution that has sprung up within a few years against that class of Christians, who, believing in the strict unity of God, have ventured to conform their worship to this great and impressive doctrine."

66

The article alluded to is headed by the Editor, “Signs of the Times."

"One of the most grateful and satisfactory indications of the progress of correct opinions on the subject of religion in our country, is the rapid increase of periodical publications of a decidedly liberal character. By this term we mean to designate, in general, all such publications as maintain, in its broadest sense, the right of private judgment in matters of faith. We hold it to be the privilege and the duty of all men to examine the records of our faith for themselves; to form their own opinion of the facts and doctrines which they contain, and of the duties thence resulting; and to hold and express these opinions without let or molestation-without incurring a liability, on account of their sentiments merely, while they are

[ocr errors]

guilty of no conduct that violates the law of Christian kindness, or disturbs the peace of society, to censure or reproach; to any injury to their feelings or reputation; or to exclusion from the charity and fellowship of their Christian brethren. This is what we mean by liberality in application to this subject; and we consider those as liberal Christians, by whatever name they may be known, who agree with us in this fundamental principle.

"Six years since, there was but one periodical publication in the United States to which the above description could apply, and this one, though conducted with ability by its venerable Editor, had a very limited circulation. There are now twelve, at least, of this character, and most of them well supported. From some of these we do indeed differ, and differ widely, on certain points of doctrine; neither can we aftogether approve of the manner in which some of them are conducted, on the ground either of taste or principle. But they are all, each in his way and manner, the strenuous advocates of religious freedom; the fearless assailants of bigotry and spiritual domination; and on this ground we hail them as fellow-labourers, and cordially bid them God-speed. The efforts of these publications are daily becoming more conspicuous and striking. There is, unquestionably, a growing attention to religious subjects in almost every part of our country; and especially among that portion of the community whose influence and example, if engaged on the side of truth, will be likely to produce the most salutary effects; we mean persons of strong sense and cultivated minds. Men of this character have been too often driven into the ranks of infidelity by the repulsive form which Christianity, in the hands of bigots and sectarians, has been made to assume. The absurdities of the vulgar system, which they were taught to consider as the system of the gospel, their minds instinctively, as it were, rejected. They were too busy, too much engrossed with other pursuits, to institute a laborious investigation for themselves, and the gospel in its native truth and beauty had never, perhaps, been presented to their minds. They were left, therefore, to a cold and comfortless scepticism, if

not to downright disbelief. Incalculable is the injury which society has in this way sustained. The influence of many of its brightest ornaments, in every other respect, has, with regard to this, its highest interest, been neutralized at least, if not rendered positively hurtful. The progress of liberal Christianity is, we rejoice to think, effecting a remedy of this evil. This interesting portion of the community are fast returning to their natural allegiance. We say natural, and we speak advisedly; for it is not, whatever our opponents say or think, it is not natural for well-informed men to reject the gospel, when fairly presented to their minds. It approves itself at once to the judgment and the conscience; and they are guilty of a libel on human nature, or the gospel, or both, who affirm otherwise. There is in the minds of all men an inherent love of truth. Error is never embraced for its own sake; it is only admitted under the disguise of truth.

"The cause of truth and righteousness has nothing to fear, if they can but fairly meet their adversaries in open day. They are meeting them in every quarter with triumphant success, and they will go on 'from conquering to conquer.' On this state of things we heartily congratulate the friends of the good cause throughout the world."

H.T.

SIR,
January 6, 1823.
THOUGH I have noticed with sa-

rian opinions in various parts of the world, yet I am inclined to believe the accounts which have been received of late from Eastern India, hold up to us appearances of a more glorious victory in favour of genuine Christianity than even those which it has already obtained. The conversion from Idolatry of that wonderful man Rammohun Roy, and the singular conversion of Mr. Adam, the Baptist Missionary, cannot fail to make a strong sensation at Calcutta, and the Unitarian doctrines will gradually work their way without European aid. But the efforts of our humbler friends at Madras call upon us for assistance, and I hope they will not call in vain : approving, therefore, of your proposal of a contribution from those friends to

« PreviousContinue »