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are preparing for the sacred office, to deprive them of the facilities and advantages which enlightened minds might secure by a judicious arrangement, and to increase the difficulties and the disadvantages with which they are ill-prepared to struggle? Are they in no danger of academic stiffness, and academic coldness of mind and of manner, in their incipient efforts in the Christian ministry? Is there no danger of sterility in their discourses, and of the want of unction and fervour in their prayers? Do we desire, even in their early efforts, a greater richness and fulness of those glorious and essential truths which give life, and spirit, and power to the ministry of the Gospel ? Do we dread crude, defective, and erroneous statements of doctrine ? Is it not then incumbent upon us, on every principle of justice and of kindness to them, and of devotedness to the glory of Him “whose we are and whom we serve,” to promote and to secure the wisest and the most efficient arra
rrangements of the academic course ? Ought not theological studies to occupy, without interruption, the latter and the most important years of the academic career ; and can we conceive that less than two full years can be at all adequate to the importance, the extent, and the rich variety of interesting subjects which are comprehended within the ample range of scriptural theology? How limited a period is even this for attaining merely elementary acquaintance with a well-arranged system of divinity, with biblical criticism, with ecclesiastical history and antiquities, and with the duties of the pastoral charge! Is it consistent with enlightened views to assign to these studies a shorter term, or to render them less available, by being mixed up with pursuits which belong to an earlier and less-important period? Do not these considerations acquire an additional weight in those instances in which our students enjoy the advantages of the University of London? It is to be feared that the ardour enkindled by associating with many talented students, and the value attached to university degrees, will stimulate to an absorbing degree of mental effort and competition, and leave but little time or energy for theological pursuits. It is too much to expect, under such circumstances, a due attention to those studies which have the most direct and important bearing on the usefulness and efficiency of the Christian ministry. For these latter, and absolutely essential pursuits, then, full time should be reserved, after graduation at the university. Who can hesitate to admit, that ministers may be extensively useful and deservedly respected without university honours, and without the attainments in scholarship and in science which those honours indi. cate? But who will venture to anticipate for a minister the efficiency to which he should aspire, in the absence or the deficiency of that knowledge which, in dependence on the grace of God, it should be the business of his life and the delight of his heart to communicate to others ?
ON ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Is the doctrine of eternal punishment a truth of revelation, or a mere theological opinion ? If it be only the latter, we have very little concern in it; if the former, however awful its nature and mysterious its aspect in the moral government of God, we are then bound to believe it. We may ask with much intelligence and piety, “What was the fall ?” but the answer can only be given by the oracles of God. Another answer is, “On the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” It has been supposed that this sentence includes what is called the second death ; and then we are led by some interpretations to conclude, that this will be literally the punishment inflicted on the ungodly; so that the idea entertained by the common people, of the wicked being for ever with the devil and his angels, is a thorough mistake, or, at least, they will only be associated for a little while ; and though there is a gulf which can never be passed, yet they may be comforted with the thought, that if they never cross it, they will be annihilated where they are. We fear a doctrine of this kind in its tendency is evil ; what infidel, what blasphemer, what vicious creature, would not take encouragement to sin, if he only thought he should at least be destroyed ; and all punishment, admitting it was severe for a time, would have an end ?
We have been asked, “Why is the body raised to be tormented for ever according to the dispensation of mercy?” Now to say nothing of the sarcasm of this, we think the reasoning a fallacy; for if it be meant that it is contrary “to the dispensation of mercy," to punish for ever, what mercy is there in a series of sufferings which are to end in the destructiou of the being? In either case there is no act of mercy. The dispensation of mercy in its efficient acts, redeems completely, and not merely lessens the extent of punishment. Before we admit that the second death is literal, we must be quite satisfied that what we call death, can be literally inflicted on spirit: we wish to make no quibble ; our desire is truth ; but if it be literally a second death which awaits the ungodly, then it is not what may be termed death, because the first death was only applicable to the body; because in the next place, as far as we are acquainted with death, it affects only material organisation; and further, because it simply decomposes, and does not effect annihilation. Now if this be death, it does not appear that there is any suffering in the body apart from its connexion with the spirit ; and the agonies of death are felt by animal existence, but this, if extinct, leaves the body without pain. On these grounds, therefore, we think the term is inapplicable to the soul in its literal sense ; and is intended to convey the suffering of the future state of the wicked, by an image which
conveys the idea of the terrible unknown. It appears difficult to make the second death, if literal, harmonise with the description given of it in the book of Revelation ; we find death and hades are cast into the lake of fire, but if the second death be really a literal destruction, how can the inhabitants of hades be tormented ?— yet this lake of fire into which they are cast is called the second death, and it is said in Rev. xx. 10, “to be tormented day and night, for ever and ever." Vitringa says upon this passage,—the temporal death will be exchanged for eternal death,—“Qualis est status opprobrii tristitiæ, malæ conscientiæ, desperationis, cum invidia et odio in Deum et sanctos conjunctæ . . . . omni vera consolatione et spe meliorum temporum cassi, triste agent ævum, quod nulla terminabunt secula.” This description of the second death accords with the idea of sufferings most intense ; which appear to be expressed by the word torment, and described by a figure which, perhaps, of all others, gives us the idea of most dreadful pain ; now if figures are intended to convey some moral ideas, we can come to no other conclusion but that the wicked will suffer eternally, and that the second death, instead of being literally the annihilation of the soul, is but a bold figure to describe the utter loss of everything which renders mental and moral life valuable.
It is not a little surprising how men imagine that the topic which deeply engages their attention, has not been much investigated by others; but this is a little piece of self-flattery. Errors have their cycles, and there really is no new error, nor any new argument to support it. In reference to this doctrine of eternal punishment, it is hinted that “teachers of religion have not instituted a search into the foundations of a doctrine supposed to lie at the basis of all religious truth.” Surely this is a misapprehension. What! did the man who wrote the splendid sermon, “The wicked shall be turned into hell,”— did Howe not search ? Did Bates not search, when he wrote his Four Last Things ? Did Bolton not search, when he maintained this doctrine in the same train of subjects? Did Edwards not search, when he wrote on the “ Eternity of Hell Torments ?” We hardly do the ancients justice, in supposing our researches are so much greater, and so much more intelligent than theirs. These names are sufficient to show that this awful subject was not believed by persons of feeble intellect, but by those who had an enlightened reverence for the word of God. In affixing the idea of literal death to the second death, is it not just as reasonable to affix the idea of perpetuity to punishment when we find the term everlasting; and especially as the latter can with difficulty be converted into a figure without doing away with punishment altogether, while the former seems rather to have the aspect of figure than to furnish a positive idea of the nature of that punishment which awaits the ungodly. “In proportion (says a
N. S. VOL. IX.
writer in the 'Eclectic'*) to the infinite moment of revealed truth, is the importance of adhering to the principle that inspired persons spoke and wrote under the presumption that they should be heard and read as other men are heard and read : . so that when they employ mere uncompounded forms of speech, which are ordinarily understood to convey an absolute sense, they also shall be allowed to intend an absolute sense. He who informs us of an intelligible fact in customary terms, has a right, on the strength of his credibility, to be exempt from an etymological scrutiny of the words he employs. A person of grave character assures us, that he has witnessed a shipwreck, and that the people on board were lost. But the word lost, it may be argued, primarily signifies, not found; and, therefore, the statement may only mean, that the crew were cast upon the shore of some distant country, from whence it is probable they will find an opportunity of returning to their homes. They are thus relatively lost to their country and friends. Or lost may mean, distressed, undone, ruined in their affairs ; and so nothing more, after all, may be affirmed concerning them, than that they escaped from the sea with their bare lives. At any rate, when there is this acknowledged ambiguity in the sense of the term, where it may bear a more favourable construction, is it not the symptom of a malignant complacency in misfortune needlessly to apply to it so harsh an import, as to conclude, that these unhappy persons were literally and irrecoverably drowned? If the common-place criticism amounts to anything better than such trifling in truth, it escapes our apprehension.” We cannot dismiss this article without cautioning the rising ministry, especially, not too easily to indulge in speculations upon the great doctrines of revealed truth ; nor if a subject be of doubtful disputation in their own minds, to bring it into the pulpit, and so gradually loosen the hold which the great doctrines of the Gospel should have on the hearts of the people.
TO THE SUN AFTER A STORM.
FRIEND of the sad !
My heart is glad
'Twas kindly done To scatter far those clouds of gloom, And for thine own sweet smile make room !
* " Eclectic Review," December, 1818.
1. The Antiquities of the Christian Church. Translated and Compiled from the Works of Augusti ; with numerous additions from Rheinwald, Siegel, and others. By the Rev. Lyman Coleman.
London : Ward and Co. Med. 8vo. pp. 224. 2. A Church without a Prelate. The Apostolical and Primitive Church
Popular in its Government, and Simple in its Worship. By Lyman Coleman. With an Introductory Essay by Dr. Augustus Neander.
London : Ward and Co. Med. 8vo. pp. 120. 3. Church Principles Considered in their Results. By W. E. Glad
stone, Esq., late Student of Christchurch, and M.P. for Nework. London : Murray; Hatchard and Son. 8vo. pp. 562.
(Concluded from page 445.)
To a careful reader of our two authors, it will be further obvious that Mr. Gladstone does not deal fairly by his opponents. He asserts and proposes to show, the great superiority of these church principles over those of his opponents, and especially over those of the Calvinists or Independents. But if Mr. Coleman is trustworthy, the principles attributed to them, they never held, -either during the first three centuries or now.
He charges us, for instance, with reducing the Christian doctrine to the standard and measure of the human understanding; with divorcing the affections from the reason, and the body from the soul, and thus debasing the former from their place in religion ; with holding that each particular congregation is, in the strictest and highest sense, a church, ought to acknowledge on earth no authority superior to its own, and in its relations with other churches, to behave itself as a sovereign and independent power ; with regarding the sacraments as appropriate signs or figures merely, addressing themselves to man in the way of extrinsic motive alone ; and with lightly esteeming alike the order and validity of the Christian ministry. Now these representa. tions are either altogether erroneous, or greatly defective; they are not our sentiments; and those that come nearest to the truth require such modifications or additions as quite to change their character. Nothing is easier than to confute an opponent when you have misre. presented him ; but the victory gained over a man of straw earns no