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of the difficulty of obtaining accurate information on the object of his pursuit; and, in a proper sense, the more sceptical he becomes—that is, the more does he sift and weigh evidence and opinions. When writers upon divinity betray haste and intemperance, it follows, in necessary consequence, that they must be wrong, even when they are engaged on the right side.
It seems to be no easy matter for some persons to determine upon what is the true light in which controversial writings, such as those to which we have been alluding, ought to be viewed. This difficulty proceeds from the epithet “religious" being annexed to the word "
writings.”. The subject matter of the writing is indeed “religious,” that is, it relates to the duty of man to God: but a heathen man, or an infidel, may in that sense write a religious essay, as well as a Christian. Since, therefore, the writer may be irreligious, though the writing be on a religious subject, it follows that there is nothing whatever in the subjects themselves which can shew the spirit in which they are handled. If, however, by the term a "religious writing” be meant the writing of a religious man, that is to be determined, not by the nature of the subject which is handled, nor by the perspicuity with which it is discussed, but by the love which is manifested in it. The writings of a man are as complete an index of his mind and disposition, as his speech. No one would consider a person as under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, whose habitual conversation consisted in blaming others, fastening upon their faults, magnifying them, suppressing the good points of their characters, and propagating tales derogatory to their reputation : neither, therefore, ought any one to be counted a Christian who pursues a similar course, and testifies a similar propensity, in his writings.
The duty and practice of a Christian is to be very slow in detecting error, and still slower in proclaiming it. A mind very sensitive to error, is one that habitually lives on finding subjects of difference. The one passes through the crowd and takes offence at nothing; the other fancies every body is ridiculing or insulting him. That forbearance which is so often inculcated is set at nought; and, instead of " bearing another's burden, and so fulfilling the law of Christ,” the object seems to be to aggravate his load, and to encourage the profaneness and wickedness of “those that are without," if it can be made subservient to the downfall of one who is within. How much of all this evil has been fostered by the decay of ecclesiastical discipline; by allowing ministers of the word to arraign their brethren at the bar of the world, rather than at the bar of the church; by permitting them to enact the part of Popish priests, and pronounce of their own authority men to be heretics on whom the church has not passed that verdict; and by suffering churchmen to associate
for ecclesiastical purposes with avowed schismatics, is a matter well worthy of consideration, but too extensive to be entered
“ By their fruits ye shall know them.” It is not said, " by their creeds,” nor by their clearness of writing, nor by their zeal, nor by their activity; but simply by the single test of the love which is manifested by them. The idolatry of intellect and love of personal distinction, which is the besetting sin of the Scots, is the cause of the delusion under which many of them labour with respect to the true nature of their theological publications. The term “sweet spirit” has been abused in the South ; but, nevertheless, the spirit that pervades a man is the sole criterion of a Christian, or of a Heathen man. The idolatry of intellect, to which we have before referred, is that which causes many to mistake orthodoxy for Christianity: and controversy for orthodoxy may be carried on more successfully by an unregenerate than by a regenerate man.
The error which immediately tends to this unrighteous course, is that which guided Cromwell during the whole course of his flagitious career-namely, the doctrine of absolute and unconditional perseverance. This doctrine is the certain result of a Calvinistic creed taking hold of the minds of men with violent tempers and unregenerate affections, and was denounced in the Articles of the Church of England as necessarily leading them “ into wretchlessness of most unclean living.”_" By their fruits ye shall know them :" the fruits of the religion of Messrs. Erskine, Campbell, Storey, &c., is thus given by an opponent: “When piety and holiness are ascribed to them, I cheerfully concur in the commendation. If all the tribute that is claimed for them have respect to their personal and spiritual worth, that is a tribute which is justly due ; which I pay down at this moment; and which I pay not merely without reluctance, but with pleasure. And I only wish that they could be prevailed upon to cast away the heresies to which they are so eagerly attached, in order to make our esteem unqualified ; and that
who censure their zeal in propagating these, would imitate them in their heavenly conversation, their devotedness to God, and their benevolence to man.” Such is the homage which Dr. Thomson pays to these gentlemen in Sermon x. p. 266 : such are “the fruits” of the doctrines (which their opponents call heresies) of Mr. Erskine, Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Storey.
The following simple statement of facts will demonstrate the character of Scotch controversialists better than the most conclu. sive arguments. Dr. Hamilton says of himself, “ Prophecy and the Millennium have attracted less of my attention than the other parts of revelation :” “ I never found myself called on to make them the subject of particular investigation :"-THERE
FORE he writes a book in which he asserts that all those who have paid particular attention to these subjects know infinitely less than he does. Doctor Wardlaw says, “ The general field of unfulfilled prophecy is a field on which, in the present state of my reading and information in the various departments of it, I should deem it the most unpardonable presumption for me to enter;”—Therefore he writes a sermon against the opinions of those who have studied and laboured in that particular part of revealed truth.,
It has been shewn, in former pages of this journal, that other opponents avow similar want of study on the subject of the Human Nature of our Lord : and therefore they censure all who, after studying it, endeavour to prove the orthodox view.
And be it remembered, that these gentlemen are men of talents and the acknowledged leaders of the Scotch religious world. It is not owing to the success which has attended these works that we have any cause to regret the conduct of their respective authors – for in each instance we know several examples of their having done more to shew inquirers the unsoundness of the views that they have severally supported, than any thing which we, or any of their other opponents, have been able to set forth ;- but we do regret the state to which the church is reduced : we regret that the root of its disease is so little understood; we regret that, until its spirit is changed, no power of argument can convince it.
MR. MAITLAND ON THE 1260 DAYS.
“ The Twelve Hundred and Sixty Days, in Reply to a Review
in the Morning Watch; by S. R. Maitland*.” Some of our friends have told us that our remarks upon Mr. Maitland's system of interpretation were more severe than the occasion required : we are therefore not surprised to find, by this Reply, that Mr. Maitland himself is of that opinion; but we should feel sorry if we have given more offence than was necessary, either to him or to them. How far there was just cause for offence in what we wrote, it is not for us to decide ; but we think it quite as possible that they may have underrated the ne
* This pamphlet was sent in manuscript for insertion in our last Number ; but it did not reach us till after a considerable portion of our papers were printed, and the rest so arranged that the change necessary to introduce it was found impracticable. We state this, that we may not be charged with having rejected it; but at the same time we prefer seeing it published in a separate form, as we think it much too long for a reply, and also harsh in its tone. -EDITOR.
cessity for our making so strong a protest, as that we may have overrated it; and we therefore request our readers to bear with us while we give a few words in explanation ; and if after this they shall think, that, under the specious appearance of zeal for the truth, any unbecoming or intemperate expressions have escaped us, we desire to renounce and abjure them. We are not aware of having used any language of personal disrespect towards Mr. Maitland, whom we know not, but have from report every reason to believe to be a most pious and exemplary clergyman. We were desirous of convincing, without needlessly irritating, and endeavoured to keep close to the argument before us. But we appear to have failed in our design; for Mr. Maitland, in his Reply, has slipped away from our arguments, and fastened upon some little points, on which he allows his feelings to rankle till they break forth in strong expressions, which, after all, do not in the least affect the main argument. This we shall endeavour to avoid, and still more carefully exclude every thing tending towards personality, to give our arguments a chance of being coolly weighed by Mr. Maitland. But we are not very sanguine in our expectations of convincing, well knowing that prejudices, when rooted in the mind for years, become so entwined with all our reasonings that they can scarcely be eradicated without disturbing the whole intellectual being-a process too troublesome and too painful for the generality of men to undergo.
The importance of this discussion is not to be estimated solely by the importance of those points, or those passages of Scripture, to which it has hitherto been confined : for if the principles denied by Mr. Maitland be in these cases conceded, the concession will, of course, be applicable to every other part of Scripture, and to points of faith and doctrine as well as to prophetic interpretation : and it is this consideration which has led us to make so strong a stand in the first instance. It requires but little ingenuity to raise objections even against the certainties of science, as the frequent cavils against Newton by Friend and the Hutchinsonians prove; how much less, then, may suffice to cavil with any system of interpretation, wherein, from the nature of things, there must always be room for unbelief, and a possibility of rejection? The reasoning of Mr. Maitland seems faulty on the following ground: He demands a proof of a kind which it is not in the nature of the subject to afford ; and this demand stamps with an air of modest prudence that which is really nothing but a spirit of unwillingness to receive. Sceptics in Revelation deceive themselves in this way, when inquiring into the evidences of Christianity; and the same principles would lead to a denial, though far from a disproof, of matters within the scope of pure science itself. For example: Newton assumes VOL. II.-N0. 11.
mena we see.
the theory of gravitation, the existence of which he cannot prove, and proceeds upon this assumption to account for all the phenomena of the heavenly motions. To any one who denies gravitation because it cannot be proved, we reply, that we are ready to abandon it whenever they bring forward another theory, or principle, which is better able to account for all the pheno
When Newton first propounded it, numberless difficulties were still unresolved; many remained so for different periods; and, though not yet all removed, they are gradually diminishing every day; we assert that, upon the assumption of days for years many parts of the book of Revelation, of the Prophets, of the Gospels, and of the Epistles, have a definite meaning, which without that hypothesis they as yet wholly want. Mr. Maitland does not propose to us an alternative of a better for a bad, nor even of a bad for none; but he would take from us that which we have; that on which the progressive labours of students of prophecy for three hundred years have thrown increasing light; and leave us, without any beacon at all, at sea upon the great ocean of mingled time and eternity.
We are convinced that such “ slowness of heart” strikes at the root of all sound interpretation; and that, if followed out consistently, it would not leave us a single prophecy in Scripture of which we could say that it was satisfactorily fulfilled, or from which we could take to ourselves with confident assurance the promises it involves. Try Mr. Maitland's literal interpretation on the very first prophecy, Gen. ii. 17: "In the day that thou eatest thou shalt surely die.” Mr. Maitland is bound in consistency to say, that the day is literal and the death literal in this prophecy : but Adam did not die within twenty-four hours after his transgression, "for all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” The practical absurdity resulting from Mr. Maitland's notions is curiously exemplified in his pamphlets, in which he is driven by his hypothesis to palliate the Papal abominations, while as a son of the Protestant Church of England he is obliged to protest against them; to deny that Rome is the Apostasy, and yet to say “I have no wish to defend the foolish, blasphemous, and idolatrous impieties of Popery !” (p. 105.) Let'it not, then, be thought that we are unbecomingly warm if we use strong language, when these consequences are full before our eyes ; but rather let those who reprove our warmth doubt of the depth and sincerity of their own reverence for the word of God, every jot and tittle of which is more stable than heaven and earth, and of more importance than all the generations of men, with all their systemmongers and objectors.
Mr. Maitland dwells much on the discrepancies of various interpreters, alleging that an interpretation, if true, would gain