Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“Do you use the miracles as proofs of the revelation ?'

66. No. Because the evidence I have of the truth of the reve. lation, is stronger than that which I have of the fact, that the miracles actually took place. The miracles rest on historical testimony, the weakest kind of testimony ; the truth of the revelation rests on the testimony of a witness I have within. I do not use them as proofs, because I have as much ability to detect the presence of God in a moral doctrine, as I have in the display of physical power. If I know nothing of God, I cannot detect him in the extraordinary display of physical power; if I know enough of him to detect him in the miracle, I must needs know enough of him to detect him in the doctrine, and, therefore, I do not need the miracle.'

66. What, then, is the use of miracles ? '

666 I do not know what was the actual purpose for which they were wrought ; nor do I know what purpose they actually sery. ed. I can conceive, however, of a purpose they might have answered, and there is a use I can make of them now. As for the purpose they might have served : Mankind, especially when but partially enlightened, are much more attracted by extraordinary displays of physical power, than by the exhibition of moral grandeur. Had Jesus, for instance, appeared in the simple dress of a Jewish peasant from the obscure village of Nazareth, out of which it was proverbially said no good thing could come, whatever had been the purity of his life, the truth and excellence of his doctrines, he would hardly have secured a single listener. The miracles he performed, therefore, were necessary, to draw attention to him, and induce, people to listen to him. To the simple peasant-teacher nobody would have paid any attention. But from the man who could cast out devils, open

the of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, enable the lame to walk, and cause the dumb to sing, who could still the raging tempest, and compel the grave to yield up the dead to life, they could not so easily turn away.

Here was something extraordinary ; here was a wonderful 'man, what had he got to say?

Again ; you cannot have failed to observe how prone men are to regard nature as possessed of causative power. Nature moves on so harmoniously, with so much regularity and unifor. mity, that we are exceedingly liable to regard all her phenomena as the effects of her own independent causality ; thus stopping at second causes, and virtually banishing God from the universe. Now it seems necessary that this order, this uniformity, should at times be broken through, so that we may see that an omnipotenu Will rules in the affairs of the world ; that there is a God,

eyes

who holds nature in his hand, and does with it as he pleases. Miracles, which are interruptions of the natural course of events, occurring at distant intervals, seem to me admirably calculated to produce this effect, to raise men's minds from second causes to the First Cause, and to show them that nature is but what He wills.

6. There is another use of miracles, or rather of the events termed miracles, which I can make. I may regard them as so many symbols, each covering a great truth, or an important moral lesson. This use of them is, perhaps, the principal one to be made of them now, and it is affected by no theory we may adopt as to their having actually occurred. Take, as an illustration of what I mean, the miracle of the resurrection. I of course admit the miracle in its literal sense. But, suppose I could not make it out that the body of Jesus actually rose, yet the great lesson taught us by the story of the resurrection remains unimpaired. Jesus was engaged in a great work, that of the complete and final redemption of man from every species of thraldom. In this work he encountered opposition, he was taken and cruci. fied, buried in a new tomb, closed up and guarded with armed soldiery ; but on the third day he rose from the dead, and after a few days ascended in triumph to God. So runs the narrative.'

- pp. 235 - 239. It will be a question with many, whether Mr. Elwood comes to what can properly be called Christianity. Some will decide at once in the negative. But before the question can be fairly decided one way or the other, we must know what Christianity specially is ; wherein consists its distinctive peculiarities, which one must receive in order to be a Christian. If either Papists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Calvinists, or any sect whatever, choose to say, that the distinctive features of their sect are the essential peculiarities of Christianity, then they may deny the Christian name to all who do not belong to their denomination. we see the danger of judging by partial views, and the impossibility almost of freeing ourselves from such views in forming our judgments. We, who profess to be liberal Christians, should certainly be very backward in refusing the Christian name to any who desire it, and sincerely think they deserve it, as Elwood and Morton certainly did. Doubtless, Christianity is something. It consists not only in a state of the soul, but also in a faith in certain truths, which, if one does not receive, he can have no right to be called a Christian. But what is this something? While we labor under such difficulties as we now do,

By this

in the

way of determining, we had better take care to err on the side of charity, rather than on that of exclusiveness. If Christianity was intended to be a religion for all, then it must meet the wants of all; it can be so presented as to commend itself to the minds and hearts of all. If, then, there is a class of minds like those. Mr. Brownson represents in Mr. Elwood, that can receive Christianity in no other way than as it is here presented, and we may not deny the testimony of their own consciousness to the fact; if Christianity was intended for all, and can be so presented as to commend itself to the minds and hearts of all; and if Mr. Brownson, in the character of Morton, has so represented what he sincerely believes to be Christianity, that it commends itself to this class of minds, then the presumption, at least, is in favor of calling it Christianity. But, after all, it is, perhaps, of no great consequence, that we should decide the question. That to which he comes is infinitely better than his former disbelief. If it be not Christianity, and Christianity be something higher than it, then we cannot doubt it will be a preparation for the reception of Christianity. We must be charitable. Christianity is wide enough for us all, if we have the spirit of Christ, without which we are none of his.

Charles Elwood is an attempt to present Christianity so that it shall satisfy the philosophic element of our nature. In this consists its peculiar merit, and its distinctive characteristic. Such a book was certainly very much needed. We have no doubt that it will lead many a doubter to a cheerful faith, and confirm many a feeble mind in the faith it has already professed. But it should be borne in mind that Mr. Brownson addresses but one part of the human family; and, of course, he presents a partial view of the grounds upon which a faith in Christ

may

rest. This must be distinctly borne in mind in our estimate of the work before us. He addresses the philosophic element, and the men in whom this element is predominant; and, of course, he presents the arguments that would be the most striking and satisfactory to this class of men. In so far as he has succeeded, he must be considered to have done a meritorious work. We think Mr. Brownson eminently qualified for this task, and that his success is complete. But we do not think him qualified, nor do we think that he has attempted in the book before us to present Christianity and its grounds so as to satisfy the wants and tastes of all classes of persons.

We think that all must feel, — the author and all,

that the views to which his logic leads do not entirely satisfy. Logic has to do with the intellect and thought, — the philosophic element in man. To this element Mr. Brownson has addressed himself satisfactorily. But the heart, and its affections and sentiments, the fancy, the love of the beautiful, have wants which logic cannot satisfy; they require a faith in what the logical understanding can not prove to exist ; nay, they often require a faith in what it pronounces to be impossible or absurd. Mr. Brownson, however, will say, and rightly too, that his philosophy underlies the faith, that rests upon their instincts and affections, inasmuch as it proves that they are worthy of confidence. So it does; but then we must recollect that it is the philosophic element that asks the question, whether these instincts and affections are worthy of trust and faith, and, therefore, the question can be asked by those only, in whom this element predominates. Persons have the most confidence in the predominant trait of their character. Hence persons, who have more affection than thought, would never ask their philosophy to legitimate their instincts and affections, because they have less confidence in their philosophy than they have in those affections and instincts, which it is called upon to legitimate. No; these persons must wait to see whether the deductions of their reasoning are agreeable to their instincts and feelings, before they will receive and avow them to be true. Mr. Brownson's argument, then, is partial ; and when regarded merely as an argument, it will fall quite powerless upon many hearts. These minds must be addressed by some other and different arguments and considerations. But we most heartily commend this book to the study of that class of persons, for whom it is intended. It can hardly fail to have a most happy effect upon them in bringing them into the fold of Christ. "It will, also, doubtless, be the means of giving composure and serenity to the faith of many, who are as yet weak in the faith, or halting between two opinions.

W. D. W.

Art. VI. Domestic Worship. By W. H. FURNESS, Pas

tor of the First Congregational Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Philadelphia : James Kay, Jr. & Brother. 1840. 12mo. pp. 274.

We are glad to see this book. It is a work of great and peculiar excellence. It is not a compilation from other books of devotion; nor is it made up of conventional phrases and scripture quotations, which have been so long employed as the language of prayer, that they are repeated without thought and without feeling. It is admirably adapted to the purpose for which it was written'; and it may be read again and again with great interest and profit by any one, who desires to enrich his mind with the purest sentiments of devotion, and with the language in which it finds its best expression. Here we have the genuine utterances of religious sensibility, — fresh, natural, and original, as they come from a mind of singular fertility and beauty, and a heart overflowing with love to God and love to man. They seem not like prayers made with hands, to be printed in a book, but real praying, full of spirit and life. They are written in the universal language of the soul; not tortured into technical and theological forms, but simple, reverential, and earnest, adapted to waken the sympathy, and give fit expression to the feelings of every pious heart. They are affectionate, tender, humane, rather than ecclesiastical. We like not to speak of eloquence in devotional exercises, but these prayers are eloquent in pure and elevated thought, clothed in language so true, so fresh, so natural, that it is hardly possible to read them without making them our own. So remarkable is their tone of reality and genuineness, that we cannot bring ourselves to regard them as compositions written for a purpose, but rather as the actual utterances of a pure and elevated soul in reverent and immediate communion with the Infinite Father.

The book is above our criticism. We accept it thankfully as Mr. Furness has given it to us, without cavil or objection. If we were disposed to have it other than what it is, we might express the wish that the prayers had been shorter ; for there are great objections to long devotional exercises, especially in families where there are young children, whose attention is soon wearied. But, perhaps, we should have lost more than we should have gained, if the author had restrained himself within

« ZurückWeiter »