« EelmineJätka »
argument. The assertion is, that Christianity is set up for the exclusive benefit of our ininute and solitary world. The argument is, that God would not lavish such a quantity of attention on so insignificant a field." p. 44.
What is meant by quantity of attention is indicated on p. 56. Andover edition.
“ Such a humble portion of the universe as ours, could never have been the object of such high and distinguishing attentions as Christianity has assigned to it. God would not have manifested himself in the flesh for the salvation of su palíry a world. The monarch of a whole continent would never move from his capital, and lay aside the splendour of royalty; and subject himself for months, or for years, to perils, and poverty, and persecution; and take up his abode in some small islet of his dominions, which, thougla swallowed by an earthquake, could not be missed amid the glories of so wide an empire; and all ibis to regain the lost affections of a few families upon its surface. And neither would the eternal Son of God-he who is revealed to us as having made all words, and as holding an empire, amid the splendours of which the globe that we inherit, is shaded in insignificance ; neither would be strip bipself of the glory be bad with the Father before the world was, and light on this lower scene, for the purpose imputed to him in the New Testainent. Impossible, that the concerns of this puny ball, which floats its little round among an infinity of larger worlds, should be of such mighty account in the plans of the Eternal, or should have given birth in heaven to so wonderful a movement, as the Son of God putting on the form of our degraded species, and sojourning among us, and sharing is all our infirmities, and crowning the whole scene of humiliation, by the disgrace and agonies of a cruel martyrdom." pp. 56, 57.
In the following very characteristic passage similar thoughts
“In like maner did the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, surrounded as he is with the splendours of a wide and everlasting monarchy, turn him to our humble habitation ; and the footsteps of God manifest in the flesh, have been on the narrow spot ng ground we occupy; and small though our mansion be, amid the orbs and the systems of immensity, hither the King of glory bent his mysterious way, and entered the tabernacle of men, and in the disguise of a servant did he sojourn for years under the roof which canopies our obscure ant solitary world. Yes, it is but a twinkling atom in the peopled infinity of worlds that are around ithut looks to the moral grandeur of the transaction, and not to the material extent of the field npon which it was executed and from the retirement of our dwelling.place, there may issue forth such a display of the Godhead, as will circulate the glories of his name among all his worshippers. Here sin entered. Here was the kind and universal beneficence of a Father, repaid by the ingratitude of a whole family. Here the law of God was dishonoured, and that too in the face of its proclaimed and unalterable sanctions. Here the mighty contest of the attributes was ended—and when justice put forth his demands, and truth called for the fulfilment of its warnings, and the immutability of God would not recede by a single iota. from any one of its positions, and all the severities he had ever uttered against the children of iniquity, seemed to gather into one cloud of threatening vengeance on the tenement that held us did the visit of the only-hegotten Son chase away all these obstacles to the triumph of mercy--and buible as the tenement may be, deeply shaded in the obscurity of insignificance as it is, among the statelier mansions which
are on every side of it-yet will the recal of its exiled family never be forgotten and the illustration that has been given here, of the mingled grace and majesty of God, will never lose its place among the themes and acclamations of eternity." pp. 88, 99.
He speaks p. 83, of the dignity, justice, and wisdom of God, being put to a trial, and afterwards “ of the lustre of the God bead being obscured.” p. 120.
We believe that this objection so far as it has any force, only adds one other difficulty to a false theology. It affects not the revelation of the New Testament, but a certain set of dogmas, to which, as we believe, our Saviour never gave his sanction, which were unknown to the evangelists and apostles and their immediate followers; but which spring up in ibe hot and murky night of religious controversy. We refer to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the other doctrines connected with it, in their purest or most absurd form, in which they assert the mysterious union of Three co-equal and co-eternal Persons, absolutely distinct, yet essentially the same ; one of which Persons may be said (though to be sure without meaning what is said) to have suffered on the cross, in the person of the Saviour; and to have thus suffered for the sins of men. Now the objection of the unbeliever is founded altogether on the character of that Being, to whom this work of atonement is ascribed. He alleges, that it is incredible that the eternal God, in and through whow all things subsist, whose equal and impartial care extends to systems vast and numberless beyond all comprehension, that the Infinite Spirit should clothe himself in flesh, come upon our earth, submit to contumely, pain, and death, for the sake of making satisfaction to his own justice, and delivering men, or rather some portion of men, we know not how small, on this lit. tle speck in the universe, from the effects of the sin of their first ancestor, which he had himself before inflicted on the whole race.
Now when tbus stated we confess we feel the full force of the objection; as it is directed against a doctrine which does indeed stagger all belief and baffle all comprehension.
And let it not be said, that this is an exploded doctrine, an absurdity which has had its reign and is dead, which no one at the present day presumes to advocate. It is a prevalent doctrine, a popular doctrine, a doctrine, for disbelieving which rational cbristians are stigmatized as heretics in this world, and are delivered over to the endless tortures of the world to come. We know indeed, that they who hold this doctrine, though at one time they are ready to affirm that God suffered on the cross, (language wbich seems to us not far from being at once the most horrible and the most absurd which ever proceeded from the lips of men) yet when pressed more closely, allow that only the human nature of Christ suffered. Their system, however, requires something more. For if it do not, how was that plenary atonement made for the sins of the world, which they consider necessary, and how is God's infinite abhorrence of sin manifested? Could this be effected by the sacrifice of a mere man? And if they talk of the efficacy of the connexion of this man Christ Jesus, with the second person in the Trinity, let them define this connexion in any intelligible language, that they may know on what they rest their faith, and that we may know of what they speak.
The whole weight of the objection which we are considering, resting, as we have said, on the character of that Being who made the atonement;-it has less and less weight against every form of this Protean doctrine of the schools, as it has been modified to outrage less and less the text of scripture and the plain inferences of common sense. We, as Unitarians, have no concern with it-it cannot be urged against our apprehensions of gospel truths; for we do not believe that the Infinite God, or any coequal with him, suffered contumely and death for a sinful world. We believe that our Almighty Father sent a divinely inspired messenger, the Son of his love, fo reveal what upassisted human reason never could otherwise have known to give motives and aids to a virtuous course of life, and by his precepts, example, death and resurrection, to prepare for us the way to heaven. Is there any thing in this message of love, which our God hath vouchsafed, which jeopardizes his care of other worlds than ours ? Does it not comport with our best ap-' prehensions of the Deity ? May not this divine errand have been accomplished, without any desertion of the throne of Omnipotence; or any infringement of the attributes of the Deity ? Whether other worlds required an equivalent blessing, whether a message as benignant may have been sent to them, is an inquiry altogether irrelative as it regards us; it is not imposed op us by any doctrines which we adopt; we have no facts on which to found an argument; and it must be in the highest degree unnecessary and unphilosophical to pursue such an investigation, until we are made acquainted with the moral state of the unnuinbered worlds around us.
But as we bave seen, this objection is of no trifling importance to another class of Christians, and we proceed to sketch as briefly as we can, the answer which Dr. C. has given.
The existence of a countless multitude of worlds is not, by any means, attempted to be denied. On the contrary, in a very spirited sketch of modern astronomy, in the first discourse, the author exults, as every devout man must in this grand illustra
New Series-vol. 1. 28
tion of the attributes of the Deity. After much irrelevant matter in the second discourse, and irksome repetition with regard to Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. C. in the first place attempts to show, that the position which is the basis of the unbelievers argument" that christianity is set up for the single benefit of this earth, is unauthorized,--that it is a mere assumption, to use his own words, it is “ an assertion which has no feet to rest upon." In the third discourse this assertion is, for the sake of argument, admitted, and the inference, that “God would not layish such attention upon so insignificant a field,” is considered. He premises, that the objection “ goes to expunge a perfection from the character of God.”
“ When we are taught by astronomy, that be bas millions of worlds to look after, and thus add in one direction to the glories of bis character ; we take away from them in another, by saying, that each of these worlds must be looked after imperfectly. The use that we make of a discovery, which should heighten our every conception of God, and humble us into the sentiment, that a Being of such mysterious elevation is to us unfathomable, is to sit in judgment over him, aye, and to pronounce such a judgment as degrades him, aud keeps him down to the standard of our own paltry imagination! We are introduced by modern science to a multitude of other suns and of other systems; and the perverse interpretation we put upon the fact, that God can diffuse the benefits of his power and of his goodness over such a variety of worlds, is, that he cannot, or will oot, bestow so much goodness on one of those worlds, as a professed revelation from heaven bas announced to us. While we enlarge the provinces of his empire, we tarnish all the glory of this enlargement, by saying, he has so much to care for, that the care of every one province must be less complete, and less vigilant, and less effectual, than it would otherwise have been." p. 60.
The Doctor then, to use again his own words, “has a quarre! with the argument," and meets the objection of the unbeliever by the position, that God in attending to one part of his works, need not neglect the rest. This very plain and simple truth is most profusely illustrated by an appeal to the personal history of every individual, to the discoveries of the telescope which makes known a " system in every star," and to those of the microscope which exhibit a “ world in every atom.”
In all this, Dr. C. labours to prove what nobody doubts, and what is nothing to the purpose. It is not a question whether the equal and constant care of God do not extend to this world. This none ever thought of denying. But the question is, whether the doctrine of the incarnation of God, for the purpose of making atonement for the sins of men, is not the invention of those who fancied themselves the principal beings in the mate. rial universe, and who were altogether ignorant of their probable relative importance? Whether the mind do not revolt from
it at once when we have just views of his character and of the • extent of bis works ? Whether it do not suppose a tremendous
waste of machinery to effect a certain purpose, its connexion with which cannot be explained in intelligible language ?
But Dr. C. has felt bimself authorized to maintain, that the “ redemption of man extends in important relations to other parts of the universe.”
And he declares, “ The informations of the Bible upon this subject, are of two sorts—that from which we coufidently gather the fact, that the bistory of the redemption of our species is known in other and distant places of the creationand that, from which we indistinctly guess at the fact, that the redemption itself may stretch beyond the limits of the world we occupy.” p. 78.
The subjects of the fourth, fifth and sixth discourses are "The knowledge of man's moral history in the distant places of the creation ;" on the “sympathy that is felt for man in the distant places of the creation ;” and “ on the contest for an ascendency over man, among the higher orders of intelligence.” It will be enongh to many of our readers to have mentioned the title of these discourses. We shall not attempt to give any analysis of them. We may say in general, that they are made up of the wildest hypotheses, and fancy-flights ibat we ever have known to proceed from the pulpit. They transgress almost every rule of investigation which Dr. C. is constantly insisting upon, and which in the second discourse particularly, he urged to repletion ;--they are precisely of that bold assuming character, which mark the objection, that he is attempting to refute. Fi. nally they rest, as we think, upon almost no scriptural authority, certainly upon a few phrases which are among the most indefinite in the bible, and are easily susceptible of a different, and, as we think, a better interpretation. There is indeed nothing more remarkable, as it respects the substance of these discourses, than an ambitious oft-repeated recommendation of the cautious, humble spirit of true philosophy, standing in strong contrast with continual transgressions of its most obvious requirements. In the sixth discourse, for instance, there is a glowing description of a battle of superior beings for man; God and the Son and good spirits on the one hand, and Satan and the powers of darkness on the other. Though “ he (Dr. C.) will not affect a wisdom above that which is written, by fancying such detail of the warfare as the Bible has not laid before him” yet he can say, -"that it was the hour and the power of darkness ; that the work of our redemption was a work accompanied by the effort, and the violence, and the fury of a combat; by all the arduousness of a battle in its progress, and all the glories of a victory in its termination.” p. 121.