图书图片
PDF
ePub

the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. xxi. 2–5). This is the condition of the new Jerusalem, the everlasting abode of those who are the “ blessed and holy” partakers of the first resurrection : “ in it shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (xxii. 3–5).

But during the Millennium there shall also be an earthly Jerusalem, and nations in flesh upon the earth, over whom the risen saints in the new Jerusalem shall reign; and the not keeping in mind these two cities, so different in their conditions, and yet co-existing, has given occasion to much error in interpreting, and excited much prejudice against inquiry. In the last chapters of Isaiah and Ezekiel, which concern the earthly Jerusalem,- the habitation of men in flesh, it is considered as the portal of the new Jerusalem : and both are mentioned in Rev. xx. 9; “ the camp of the saints” being the earthly, and “ the beloved city” being the heavenly Jerusalem, then descended upon the earth. Rev. xxi. and part of xxii. describe that heavenly or new Jerusalem : " And the nations of them which are saved walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it....and they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it” (vers. 24–26); clearly shewing that it shall be upon this earth, and during the existence of “ kings” and “nations :" who, moreover, still need healing, for it is written of the tree of life (xxii. 2), “ And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations ;" limiting the absence of pain to the new Jerusalem,- the beloved city, alone. Every thing, therefore, which is said of “the church triumphant ” in sermon xiv, must be transferred from heaven to the new Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven; and with this important change we should have little to object further.

We need make no apology for noticing this xv th sermon particularly, and passing over the others: for the prefacer, Mr. Bickersteth, considers this one as “ peculiarly important, as conveying Mr. Milner's sentiments on a subject which engages much the attention of Christians at the present moment ;

and the Christian Observer not only puts it prominently forward in reviewing the volume, but has condensed it as a "Family Sermon.” In its review, some of our remarks on the numerous volumes of practical sermons monthly issued from the press are commented on, and, we think, misunderstood. In a former review we quoted an extract from the Christian Observer, to shew, that, in the opinion of that influential journal, eloquence and a wide range of literature constituted the highest order of theological writing. We are accused in the number for April, p. 240, of greatly misstating (for the writer is too courteous to call it falsifying) his sentiments, inasmuch as he maintained that eloquence, &c. was

not the highest range, but that “ a brighter meed was sound, useful, scriptural preaching ;" by which term he means practical sermons. Our argument was this: Theology is divided into three classes : that mentioned as the highest range aimed at by the practical sermons of this day, and which the Christian Observer praises as the best that appear, still ranks only in the lowest of these three divisions. Our argument is equally true whether eloquence and a wide range of literature, or what he calls sound, useful, scriptural preaching, be the object. We could, therefore, have no motive to misstate his sentiments, because in either case our position is the saine.

We cannot close these remarks without making a few observations on the signs of the times, and the plausible delusions by which so many holy men are blinded to what we think they ought to see so clearly, and under which blindness they endea vour to seal the eyes of others, wherever their influence extends. Till the time of the French Revolution, the Protestant churches slumbered in a state of careless lethargy, brought on by a long period of undisturbed security. Every duty was engaged in with the drowsy listlessness of men quite at their ease, and, as the Scripture expresses it, “ settled upon their lees.” Learning, theology, and discipline, were scarcely to be found beyond the precincts of our schools and universities (where, thanks to the pious care of our ancestors, we trust they will ever be enabled by God to keep a firm footing); and the labours of Wesley and Whitfield, and their coadjutors, indicated in their success little more than the goodly apparel and attractive demeanour of Christianity, shewn amongst the least promising classes of society ; while, in the opposition raised against Methodism, scarcely any stronger feeling was elicited than contempt of its vulgarity. To this lethargic age of the church, Milner, and most of those who are quoted against us, belonged: he saw just the beginnings of that mighty impulse under which we now act and feel, but did not live long enough to experience its transforming energy. Our contemporaries acknowledge it in their revivals, their societies, their schools, their missionaries, their institutes, in every thing external ; nay, more, they allow it in science, in the march of intellect, in the mind itself, as far as utility is concerned; while they would bind fast the spiritual part of a man, force its God-ward longings to creep behind the go-cart of our ancestors, and fetter us down to plod our weary way in their footsteps! When knowledge and civilization force themselves into every creek and harbour, giving and receiving in reciprocal usury; when science spreads its wing to every quarter of the heaven, expatiating with inexhaustible delight over the boundless regions which lie open to it; shall the wing of faith be clipped, and manacled to the limits of past times? Shall the

as

noblest field for the exercise of the faculties of man be the only forbidden ground ? Shall the contemplation of the purpose of God, of his ways as revealed in his word—that which has ever been heretofore the joy and rejoicing of the heart of saints on earth, and which shall be their resurrection-joy for ever and ever-shall this be cried down as foolish; taking “ people's attention off from better things, and from the serious discharge of their duties!”

But we deny in toto the imputation that these studies do take people from their duties; while we maintain, on the contrary, that there are no men more exemplary in the discharge of all their duties, than those who study God's prophetic word. We make the assertion knowingly and confidently, and we dare our opponents to disprove it. We take no credit for this ; it cannot be otherwise ; we should belie our profession were we idle. is our firm conviction that the time is very very short ; that the Master is even now at the door ; that every thing stands ready for his rending the heavens and coming down; and all we ask of the church is this, “Search the Scriptures whether these things be so:” take nothing on our word, but believe GOD'S WORD, if you would save your souls. And, finally, we adjure you, as you are Christians, as you love the souls of men, shew' US wherein you think US in error. If you love God, whom you have not seen, you must love your brethren, whom you have seen : AS LOVE GOD THEN, shew us our error? We have often asked it in vain. One tells us, Such, subjects are not profitable ; another says, They may be important, but he has not studied them; another, that They are dangerous: but no man gives us a fair, full, scriptural, well-digested answer: and, till we receive such an answer, we boldly pronounce such studies to be most practical, most profitable, and most sanctifying. “And whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto man rather than unto God, JUDGE YE.'

YOU

ON THE SECONDARY CAUSES WHICH INFLUENCE THE CHA

RACTER OF CONTROVERSIAL WRITINGS, ILLUSTRATED BY RECENT EXAMPLES.

A POSTHUMOUS work from the pen of the late Mr. Chenevix has been recently published, “being an Inquiry into some of the principal Causes which contribute to form or modify the Characters of Nations in the State of Civilization.” Amongst other “considerations on the study of national character,” reflections on " religion,” “morality,” and “ intellect” occupy conspicuous places.

- It is a fact too obvious, and too universally acknowledged, to render it necessary to do more than to call the attention of our readers to the circumstance, that there is a remarkable and constant connection between particular climates and the manifestation of certain forms of vice. The same causes produce similar results on the character of the poetry, sculpture, painting, and music of different countries. A more difficult point has often been discussed-namely, whether men are the creatures of the civil institutions under which they live, or whether those institutions are the expressions of the characters of the people. In one and all of the above cases, however, the same radical principle is to be observed ; which is, that there are peculiar characteristics of nations considered as aggregate bodies, as well as peculiar characteristics in each individual of which such aggregate bodies are composed.

The complexion of the theology which is current in any nation is dependent upon similar circumstances. Excellence in the fine arts, the prevalence of any particular vice, or the resistance to oppression and struggle for freedom, will shew themselves in their several kinds to a greater or less extent at one period than at another, but the national characteristic will pervade them equally. In like manner, one form of theology may be more prominent at one time, and another form at another time ; but, still, the intensity and circumstantials of that form will be modified by the moral character of the nation in which it prevails.

We, who live in the old age of the world, can look back upon the errors of its childhood, and perceive distinctly, that whenever an erroneous creed or practice, has come into general use its correction has been brought about by producing, in the first instance, a strong re-action of a contrary nature. To go no further back than the times of the Commonwealth ; it is obvious, that, but for the open profligacy of the King's party, Cromwell's adherents would not have affected that austerity which has rendered the very name of a Roundhead synonimous with hypocrite; while, on the other hand, the Cavaliers found no way so obvious of shewing their detestation of hypocrisy, as to avow and glory in the excesses which the others pretended most to abhor. The amount of real religion--that is, the number of really religious men—was in all probability equally balanced in both those factions.

It is a great mistake to suppose that the Romans, in turning from Paganism to Christianity, really changed their religion. Jupiter, indeed, was metamorphosed into Peter; and instead of a temple being inscribed DivÆ JUNONI, the dedication was altered to DIVÆ MARIÆ, as may be seen in the eternal city at the present day. Splendid processions, choragic bands, lustra

tions, incense, gorgeous dresses, suited Popery as well as Paganism : but these things were the attractions of a southern climate, and found little sympathy in the colder regions and more gloomy superstitions of the North. At no time did Popery hold so fast a sway over the descendants of the Gothic tribes, as it did over the successors of the conquerors of the world ; and in Germany, Britain, Denmark, &c. it was comparatively easy to shake it off.

The new theology-new,that is as a popular creed—introduced at the time of the Reformation, partook, in every country where it was established, of the same modifications which the creed that it supplanted had also been obliged to undergo. In England, adapting itself to the circumstances of a highly-cultivated and polished court, it became in many points scarcely to be distinguished in externals from the superstition that it had overthrown : a point which was held desirable by some, and a deadly blow on its escutcheon by others. In Scotland it was introduced with stern rigidity, insulting the young and beautiful queen, waging war against all the little refinement and elegance which were then to be found in that distracted country, and at length settling down into a form, whose chief excellence consisted, in the opinions of many of its supporters, in its being the most dissimilar to Popery of any thing known to exist at that time. These characteristics have gone on to mark the theological lineaments of the two parts of our island ever since. If in the South we have a shade of resemblance to the ceremonies of Rome, we have also the elegancies, the refinements, and the polish of a courtly ritual : if in the North we have a more marked separation from the mother of abominations, we have with it a colder, harsher, and more forbidding scaffolding. Of course, in these observations we have been alluding to externals only, well knowing that the work of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of individuals is quite independent of place, form, or circumstance.

In England, theological writings have been far more rich in philological and classical learning than those in the North : whilst, on the other hand, more (that is comparatively) exact divinity, up to a certain point, seems to have been maintained in the Presbyterian Church. With the latter, however, a hard Calvinistic creed, differing little but in words from Mohammedan fatalism, disguised in technical phraseology, has made the religion of the bulk of the people. “Just as in the ancient schools of philosophy, each pretended expounder of the mysteries of nature first framed his theory, and then imposed upon all phenomena such an interpretation as would best accord with his hypothesis; so have Biblical expositors, in long succession from the ancient Jewish doctors to the Christian divines of the last century, with very few exceptions, followed the method of

« 上一页继续 »