Page images
PDF
EPUB

46

they do not bring it forward to elucidate the subject? With regard to the words of Job, so frequently quoted as referring to a resurrection from the grave, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," &c., they appear to me to express solely the confidence he had in God, his Redeemer from his present state of suffering; and his firm persuasion, founded on the equity of his Maker, that though after his skin, already black upon him, worms should destroy his body, yet in his flesh should he see God: that is, rejoice again in health before him; and the close of the narrative shews that his confidence was just. When we, as Christians, read the Scriptures of the Old Testament, we are apt to accommodate them to our own views, and to put constructions on certain phrases, which, without our previous belief we should not do. This will, perhaps, be found to be the case with regard to most of those places where the doctrine of our immortality is supposed to be taught.

But allowing there are a few passages from which this hope may be inferred, yet the difficulty is not removed; for why are there a few only? If the writers who penned them, really believed that they should triumph over death, why are they so cautiously sparing in their statement of this belief? Why are we left to draw our conclusions respecting their opinions on this interesting point from inferences only? These are some of the difficulties that seem to me to arise, on the supposition that the Jews believed in the immortality of

mau.

On the other hand, if we suppose they had not this belief, other, and perhaps greater, difficulties present themselves. For can we easily conceive that this nation, so enlightened on the subject of religion, this chosen people of God, should aloue, of perhaps all the nations of the earth, be destitute of the animating hope of outliving the ruins of mortality? The nations that surrounded them, Heathen as they were, indulged this soothing expectation. Their poets embellished the doctrine of a future state in their writings. Their philosophers attempted, by subtle and metaphysical reasoning, to prove it; and the common people, with easy

credulity, implicitly received it. Nor can we even now readily find a nation either barbarous or learned, without some expectation of this kind; for though the clear proof of a future state can be found only in the New Testament, where it is established beyond a doubt by the mission of Jesus Christ, yet the desire of it is found every where, and this desire is usually attended with hope. How then can we suppose that the nation of Israel were strangers to this doctrine? Why should this " pleasing hope, this fond desire, this longing after immortality," be less strong in their breasts than those of the rest of mankind? If, however, they had not this hope, so general amongst men, what cause can be assigned? Was it their gross ignorance? But nations far less refined did then, and do still, possess it. Was it a perfection in philosophy, which taught them to reject the arguments on which others founded their belief of the immortality of the soul? But for philosophical knowledge they appear not have been distinguished. Their superior knowledge lay chiefly in their sublime theology; and this was not the effect of their own discoveries, but taught them by a divine revelation. Besides, if they differed from the Heathen on the subject of man's immortality, did they not expose this supposed error of the Gentiles as they did their other errors? Moreover, if the Jews in ancient time believed not in a future state, how is it that the Jews believe in that doctrine now? On what do they found that belief, and in what period of the history of their church, did so surprising a revolution in their opinions take place, as must have doue, if their fathers, when the Old Testament was penned, had not this belief? And what was the cause of that change? In some of the Apocryphal writings we find the doctrine of a future life clearly stated, especially in the 2d book of Esdras, and in the Wisdom of Solomon. When were they written?

At the time when our Saviour appeared, it seems the Jews were divided in their opinions respecting man's immortality. The Pharisees. who were probably by far the most numerous sect, believed in that doctrine; the Sadducees rejected it. How long had there existed this difference

of opinion among them? In what period of their history did these sects first arise; and which of them most resembled their forefathers, and were the most correct interpreters of their sacred writings on this point?

various places, which must be truly cheering to every friend to the diffusion of pure Christianity. BEREUS.

SIR,

Perhaps some of your learned Cor. WITH respect to the toughers,

respondents will be kind enough to communicate their thoughts on this subject. By so doing they will confer a favour on many, probably, as well as myself, who have felt the dif ficulties I have now stated.

[blocks in formation]

Burghers and

about which inquiry was made in the Repository, [p. 130,] as far as I can learn, the only difference between them was, that the Burghers left their members frce, either to take or not the oath required of all burgesses in Scotland, "to support the constitution in church and state as by law established," while the Antiburghers expelled from their communion all

I go

Articles, a Popish Liturgy, and an Arminian Clergy. This saying was, I believe, more strictly applicable to our Establishment thirty or forty years ago than it is at the present day, owing to the exertions of a society, commonly known by the title of Evangelical, to produce a closer correspondence betwixt the creed of the clergy and the articles to which they subscribe. Till within these very few years, however, no movement had been made by this society in the city of Hereford, and till the introduction here of the Rev. H. Gipps, the saying above referred to was as applicable to this town, as it had formerly been to the kingdom at large. This state of things had, however, produced a good deal of supineness and indifference upon religious topics, both amongst the clergy and laity. Mr. Gipps has, by his preaching, roused both into considerable activity, exciting much opposition on the part of the former, and making a great number of converts amongst the latter. Very recently a controversy has arisen betwixt the two parties on the nature of baptism, and pamphlets have been published on both sides, upon the subject of regeneration. Uuder all these circumstances, therefore, I can. not but regard the present as a crisis peculiarly favourable to the introduc. tion of rational notions of religion, and beg leave to call the attention of the Unitarian Fund to this untried ground, thinking it well worthy of a visit from one of their missionaries, for whose valuable labours Calvinism seems to be preparing a prospect of success in

verned by Presbyteries and Synods, and subscribe the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland; so though they may easily unite together, yet, I trust, the English Dissenters, even the Calvinists, understand the principles of Dissent too well, and are too independent, ever to submit to any human confession of faith, or to the government of Presbyteries. The best account of the Burghers and Antiburgers is to be found in the Encyclopædia Britannica, article Seceders.

I

SIR,

T. C. H.

London, May 4, 1819. BEG leave to inform your respectable Correspondent Mr. B. Flower, and those who have read his strictures in the Repository for March last, [p. 162,] that the true reason why the people called Quakers have not disowned or even censured Mr. Walker for any part of his principles or sentiments is, that Mr. Walker is not a member of that Society; nor has he ever been at any period of his life.

Permit me to add, that I cannot believe the Society of Friends will ever flourish, while their intellectual and religious darkness is so very great, as to prevent them from seeing the extreme impropriety of disowning, and ceasing to have Church-fellowship with, such sincere, such amiable, such exemplary Christians as Hannah Barnard, Thomas Foster and William Rathbone.

B. Y.

[blocks in formation]

Solatium dare, consilio juvare
Cuique dimensum prebere, calluit,
Ad omnia pietatis munia paratus
Cam summâ humanitate, tum mirâ comi-
tate imbutas.

Quâ filius, frater, conjux, amicus,
Et pastor simul ecclesiæ,
Multum inclarnit.

In hoc oppido natus Maii 19, 1715. Birminghamiæ defunctus Sept. 29, 1766.

Closely adjoining this stone, is another which is very low, and only large enough to contain the following very simple inscription:

"To the memory of Mary, the wife of Joseph Green, and daughter of John and Hannah Hornblower; she died on the 19th of March, 1744, aged 29 years.

Believe me, friend,

A virtuous life stands more in stead, Than long eulogiums when we're dead." It is observable, that Mary Green died more than twenty years before the minister; it would, therefore, be curious to ascertain whether the small stone was set up soon after her death, in which case, the sentiment it bears must have been purely accidental; or whether it was not placed there after the death of her reverend relative, and intended as a sarcastic reflection upon the person who composed the Latin epitaph, or upon those who had spent their money in erecting a stone of so unusual a size.

If this communication should meet the eye of any very old member of either of the Dissenting congregations at Kidderminster, or that of either of their present ministers, he may, perhaps, be able to explain the circumstance. It would, however, be well if some person, who feels pleasure in

cherishing the memory of the Horn

years an ornament of that town, and useful to the neighbourhood, would employ a workman to raise up the small stone above-mentioned, and redraw the letters upon it; as I perceived on visiting Kidderminster a short time ago, that this said little stone is now sunk so far into the ground, that the last line of the inscription is become quite illegible. S. P.

IN

SIR, Liverpool, May 8, 1819. IN the Twelfth Volume [p. 588] of the Monthly Repository are inserted Dr. Carpenter's Remarks on Dr. Stock's Letter, which contained an account of his conversion. In the same volume (p. 665) is also a letter from me, in which I attempted to shew that Dr. C. was apparently inconsistent in reprobating Dr. S.'s conviction, that the change in his opinions had been produced "under the special guidance of divine illumination," when at the same time he expressed his own belief, "that the Father of our spirits does afford aid to his frail children, in ways which philosophy cannot yet explain, to strengthen, to console and to guide;" and, not perceiving any difference in the nature of these divine influences, I expressed a strong wish that Dr. C. would make this matter more intelligible.

In the last volume (p. 28,) of the Repository, Dr. C. notices my observations in the following manner:"I hope I shall find an hour of leisure ere long to reply to the friendly objections of L. J. J., in your last Number, (p. 665). I suspect he does not understand me, and I shall be glad to embody my ideas on this very difficult subject."

I feel extremely impatient to receive my friend's elucidation of this confessedly very difficult subject, not only because I hope it will explain the difference between his own ideas and those of my friend Dr. Stock, respecting Divine communications, but because it will enable me to perceive what is meant by similar language often used by Unitarian Christians; for example, by Unitarian ministers, when they pray that their

people may be enlightened, directed, assisted and led to understand the Scriptures; and, in short, when they petition for many other Divine influences, both for the body and for the mind; and, I trust, it will also shew what is intended by phraseology, apparently of the same import, which so much abounds even in their modern books of devotion. Two hymn books have recently been compiled for the use of the Unitarian congregations in this town, which contain very numerous expressions, which seem to convey the same sentiment, a few of which I have thought it proper to select. They are the following:

"Guide our hearts and guide our
tongues."

"He darts from heav'n a vivid ray,
And changes midnight into day,

O Lord! thy cheering beems impart, And shine on this benighted heart." "And make thy word my guide to

heaven."

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

"And make my soul sincere." "O may thy spirit guide my feet," &c. "Thy presence now display," &c. "And may the gospel's joyful sound,

Enforced by mighty grace,

Awaken careless sinners round," &c. "Thy mercy and thy truth reveal," &c. "Guard my first springs of thought and will," &c.

"Thy spirit o'er our hearts shall move," &c.

"Come visit every pious mind," &c. "O'er sorrow's night and doubt's dark

maze

Thy love shall shed its brightest beam."

"The hand that gave it still supplies

The gracions light and heat." "Do thou our hearts incline," &c. "O Lord, our spirit lead," &c. "O shine on this benighted heart," &c. "Thy grace directs our wandering will," &c.

"Shed down, O Lord, a heav'nly ray
To guide me in the doubtful way.'
"Father divine diffuse thy light

To guide my wand'ring footsteps
right," &c.

"O let thy grace inspire my soul with strength divine.”

"Direct, control, suggest this day All I design to do or say " "Come, Lord, with strength and life and light,

Assist and guide my upward flight," &c.

When I was a Calvinist I thought I perfectly understood all such expressions, but how they can be adopted by Unitarians is to me at present inexplicable.

Language of this nature, and much resembling Dr. Carpenter's, is employed by the Rev. T. Browne, of Gloucester, in his reply to a malignant attack made upon the Unitarians of that city, an account of which is given in the present volume (p. 18) of the Monthly Repository. The calumniator had represented the Unitarians as not believing in the commonly-received doctrine of the " fellowship of the Holy Ghost," to which Mr. B. gives the following answer: "We are very sensible that such feeble, frail creatures as we are, stand greatly in need of the enlightening, supporting and diGod. We do not in general use the recting assistance of the Spirit of our form alluded to as a valediction at the close of our devotion, because we think there is good ground to believe that the apostle referred, in the last clause of it, to the extraordinary and miraculous gifts and endowments bestowed upon believers in the very first age of the Christian Church, and which have long since entirely ceased. Taking the clause to convey the sense of such guidance and direction as may be now and at all times hoped for from above, we have no objection, in the smallest degree, to the use of it."

Is it at all justifiable to attach a double sense to the language of Scripture? Mr. Browne admits that the apostle's words referred only to the

miraculous gifts of that age, why then does he allow them to convey any other sense? I am persuaded much evil is done by extending the meaning of the language of Scripture beyond what was originally intended by it.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The last instance which I shall mention of the expression of similar sentiments, I have observed in the late excellent work of my highly esteemed friend Mr. Belsham, The Bampton Lecturer Reproved.” Mr. B. says, (p. 49,) In the mean time I must beg leave to suspend my judgment, and to search out the pure, uncorrupted word of God in the best way that my humble means will permit, and with the utmost attention, seriousness and impartiality, looking for direction and assistance to the Father of lights; forming my conclusions according to the information which I possess."

If the Father of lights does really impart direction and assistance to the diligent inquirer after truth, who solicits them, does it not follow, that such a person cannot err in his conclusions, and, consequently, would he not be an infallible guide to others?

It has been my sole object in this and my former letter to procure decisive information, for my own satisfaction and that of others, on this very important subject; and if the New Testament does give unequivocal encouragement to expect, at this time, such agency of the Supreme Being as is not to be referred to the regular operations of his established laws, and if there are facts which demonstrate such interpositions, I do think that it behoves those who profess this opinion, most clearly to shew that it is founded both on Scripture and fact. Who, I would ask, would not avail himself of influences so useful and so efficacious, could they be obtained?

I

SIR,

the doctrine of Scripture; and when this is set aside, I do not know what compels us to affix an interpretation to the expressions in which the future punishment of sin is denounced, which would be inconsistent with that infinite goodness which we ascribe to the Creator.

I take this opportunity to suggest, that I have long doubted whether the description in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, from the 31st verse to the end, has any reference to a future life. Certainly the reason which is assigned for the acceptance of those on the King's right hand, and the rejection of those on his left, is altogether inapplicable to myriads of the human race, and therefore does not naturally direct the mind to what is called the day of judgment. I pro pose this doubt with diffidence, and should be glad to see the question discussed by some abler person who should think that there is ground for my suspicion.

SIR,

THE

E. COGAN.

Nor

HE interesting and important subject of a future state has excited the speculations of several of your Correspondents, and if you think that your readers are not wearied with such discussions, I would request the insertion of a few observations upon this topic. If we are not to understand every expression and sentence of the New Testament literally, and without admission of any thought of figure, then we must use our rea son in the translation and interpretation of figurative language. can we call the fair deductions of our judgment, additions of our fancy to the words or spirit of the gospel. The words in which our Lord describes the last judgment, are, of course, familiar to all your readers; they speak of only two states of being, "everlasting punishment and everlasting life." Elsewhere we read of punishment varying according to degrees of guilt, of some that are beaten with many stripes, and some that are beaten with few. In like manner intimation is given of gradations in the blessedness of the righteous, and degrees in the glory of the saints. As one star differeth from another star, so shall it be at the resurrection from the dead Now S D

L. J. J.

AM sorry that your Correspon. dent Homo, [p. 293,] who attri butes to me a great deal more than I dare take to myself, should look to me for that satisfaction which he has not, it seems, been able to obtain from the liberal divines of the present day. He must, however, I think, have been convinced that the doctrine of the eternity of hell torments is not

VOL. XIV.

« PreviousContinue »