Page images

be worth while to produce one or two speci


Lord Bacon gives us this account of the belief of a Christian:

"He believes a Virgin to be a Mother of a Son; and that very Son of hers to be her Maker. He believes him to have been shut up in a narrow room, whom heaven and earth could not contain. He believes him to have been born in time, who was and is from everlasting. He believes him to have been a weak child carried in arms, who is the Almighty; and him once to have died, who only hath life and immortality in himself."*

The following passage is from a sermon by Dr. South:

"But now was there ever any wonder comparable to this! to behold Divinity thus clothed in flesh! the Creator of all things humbled not only to the company, but also to the cognation, of his creatures! It is as if we should imagine the whole world not only represented upon, but also contained in, one of our little artificial globes; or the body of the sun enveloped in a cloud as big as a man's hand; all which would be looked upon as astonishing impossibilities; and yet as short of the other, as the greatest Finite is of an Infinite, between which the disparity is immeasurable. For that God should thus in a manner transform Himself, and subdue and master all his glories to a possibility of human

Characters of a Believing Christian.

[ocr errors]

apprehension and converse, the best reason would have thought it such a thing as God could not do, had it not seen it actually done. It is (as it were) to cancel the essential distances of things, to remove the bounds of nature, to bring heaven and earth, and (which is more) both ends of the contradiction, together."

To one wholly ignorant of theological controversy, these passages might have the air of malicious irony. But a little further acquaintance with creeds and theological systems would satisfy him that such language may be used in


It is with some hesitation that I adduce another passage from the same sermon of South, which occurs a few pages after what has been quoted. When thus treating, as it were, of the morbid anatomy of the human mind, it is often a question how far one ought to proceed in exhibiting to common view the more disgusting cases of disease. The reverence due to the subjects which are profaned, and an unwillingness to shock the feelings of his readers, should restrain a writer from any unnecessary display. But it is not a little important that the character of the doctrine under consideration, and the monstrous extravagances to which it leads, should be well understood. In reading, then, the following words, it is to be recollected that the author was a man distinguished as a fine writer, whose uncommon natural talents

* South's Sermons, 6th ed., 1727, Vol. III. p. 299. Sermon on Christmas Day, 1665.

had been cultivated by learning. From the works of grosser minds, it would be easy to produce many passages more intolerable.

"Men," says South, "cannot persuade themselves that a Deity and Infinity should lie within so narrow a compass as the contemptible dimensions of an human body; that Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence should be ever wrapt in swaddling-clothes, and abased to the homely usages of a stable and a manger; that the glorious Artificer of the whole universe, who spread out the heavens like a curtain, and laid the foundations of the earth, could ever turn carpenter, and exercise an inglorious trade in a little cell. They cannot imagine that He who commands the cattle upon a thousand hills, and takes up the ocean in the hollow of his hand, could be subject to the meannesses of hunger and thirst, and be afflicted in all his appetites. That he who once created, and at present governs, and shall hereafter judge, the world, shall be abused in all his concerns and relations, be scourged, spit upon, mocked, and at last crucified. All which are passages which lie extremely cross to the notions and conceptions that reason has framed to itself, of that high and impassible perfection that resides in the divine nature."

There is a short poem written by Watts after the death of Locke," in which, on account of "the wavering and the cold assent" which that great

* On Mr. Locke's Annotations, left behind him at his death. [Sec Watts's Works, IV. 396, 397.]

man was supposed by him to have given to "themes divinely true," he invokes the aid of Charity that he may see him in heaven. What were these "themes divinely true," appears in the following verses : —

"Reason could scarce sustain to see

The Almighty One, the Eternal Three,
Or bear the infant Deity;
Scarce could her pride descend to own
Her Maker stooping from his throne,
And dressed in glories so unknown.
A ransomed world, a bleeding God,
And Heaven appeased by flowing blood,

Were themes too painful to be understood."

The Eternal Three! The Deity an infant! God bleeding! The Maker of the universe appeasing Heaven by his flowing blood! These are not doctrines to be trifled with. Consider what meaning can be put upon these words; take the least offensive sense they can be used to express, and then let any one ask himself this question: If these doctrines are not doctrines of Christianity, what are they? It is a question that deserves serious consideration. There is but an alternative. If they are not doctrines of Christianity, then they are among the most insane fictions of human folly the monstrous legends of Hindoo superstition present nothing more revolting, or more in contrast with the truths of our religion.

But, in fact, some of the most portentous of these expressions are used utterly without meaning. They can express nothing which an intelligent man will admit that he intends to express.

Attempt to give a sense to the propositions, God was an infant; God poured out his blood; God died. Even he whom familiarity has rendered insensible to language really equivalent, may shudder at so naked a statement of what he professes to believe. Let him attempt to give a sense to these words, and just in proportion as he approaches toward the shadow of a meaning, will he approach toward a conception, from which, if he have the common sentiments of a man and a Christian, he will shrink back with abhorrence.


Since Christianity, then, has been represented as teaching such doctrines, and even as suspending the salvation of men upon their belief, is it wonderful that it has had, and that it has, so little power over men's minds and hearts? means more effectual have been devised for destroying its credit and counteracting its efficacy? If TRUE RELIGION be the great support of the moral virtues, and essential to the happiness of individuals and the well-being of society, is it strange that there has been so little virtue, happiness, or peace in the world? And what, then, are our duties as Christians, and as friends of human. kind? What is the duty of all enlightened men, of all qualified to inquire into the character and history of these doctrines, of all who profess or countenance them with an uncertain faith? Of such as are fitted to think and act upon subjects of this nature, there is but one class to whom a solemn appeal may not be made. It consists of

« EelmineJätka »