« 上一頁繼續 »
Each sentiment has been formed under the inspiration of a sincere desire to know the truth, or it has not under suitable efforts of every kind to know the truth, or it has not. Even the opinions to which we have been bred, are criticised by the balances of the sanctuary : and born Moslem and Pagan, Christian and Jew, fall alike within the scope of a tekel which treats with equal respect the novelty of yesterday, and the heirloom of a hundred generations. Even all our mathematical conclusions have a moral character: and the mind of Euclid marched along its diagrams, and that of La Place went triumphing in oriental majesty along the highways of its splendid analysis, under the burdens of as actual a responsibility as oppressed the great St. Bernardin resolving cases of conscience. Birth and education do not force opinions : they only exert a powerful influence to determine them. The stringency of geometry on the mind never amounts to compulsion: it never does more than ensure a result which it cannot necessitate. Its theorems are never launched upon us with such precision and force as neither to be missed nor repelled. A vicious mode of study, such as we may form if we will
, is more than a match for the heaviest park of artillery. In fine, no conclusion whatever is reached except through the avenues of serious responsibilities. Some of its attributes are under the control of the will, if not its relation to truth.
Neither does it follow from what has been said, that we are not responsible for vastly the greater part of our errors of opinion.
We have surveyed three concentric classes of opinion. Of each of these we have shown that it contains some views, for the error of which we are not responsible. We did not say how many. They may be as few as they are undesirable. They may resemble islets in the ocean, or planets in the skyseparated and almost absorbed by abysmal solitudes. We are inclined to think it is so. When I bring together all the errors I can remember in my own history, I think I can see how I might have avoided by far the greater part of them. When I recall the various mistakes which my friend has committed since I knew him, I think I can see how he might have done as much. And when I generalize my view so as to embrace all the mistakes which oppress an extended community, I find no difficulty in admitting that while many are unavoidable by those who commit them, as much cannot be said of the most : that the number is comparatively small, which do not carry with them whither they go, the responsibility of an evil which could have been prevented.
It is but a single word in addition which our limits will allow : and it so happens that the chief lesson of our subject is so obvious, that but a single word is needed. They rend the mantle of charity who stretch it over all varieties of opinion. Within a certain range of which infidelity is the centre, we are at liberty to draw an inference from the state of the intellect, to that of the heart, and to esteem the faith of the errorist, as the errorist's sin. But beyond this narrow and well-defined circle, our highest severity should recognize the possibility of mistake without blame-a recognition which should soften our tone toward all the evangelical sects, and abate for all the asperities of theological controversy.
ART. III.—REVIEW OF CLARKE ON THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN.
The Christian Doctrine of Forgiveness of Sin. An Essay.
By James Freeman CLARKE. Boston: William Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1852. 16mo. pp. 172.
The author of this little book is ranked with the Unitarians. Yet he seems, in this work, to have taken a position in advance of the great body of Unitarians, with respect to some of the points of controversy between them and the Orthodox. Indeed his aiın is to act as arbiter between the two parties, and to point out opinions and theories on both sides, which in his view are contrary to, or fall short of, the true doctrine of forgiveness. Looking from the orthodox point of view, we have been gratified to see the earnestness and candor with which the matter is discussed, and still more to find a close similarity of the author's views in some cases, and the entire accordance of them in others, with the teachings of orthodox divines.
The style of the work is admirably clear, direct and terse, and as free as possible from the technical terms of the theological schools. Without apology or preface, the author proceeds directly to the discussion which he has undertaken, as one who feels that his subject is weighty, and that it now presents itself in such a form to the minds of both the Orthodox and the Unitarians, as to demand a new examination with reference to the points of difference.
For our own part, we care not how frequently discussions of these points of difference take place. Such discussions are to be strongly desired, if they be conducted with the fine temper and style which characterize this essay; and no other than a good result is to be expected from them. If ever the two great classes of professing Christians, the orthodox and the unitarian, are to “come into the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God,” it can only be by means of friendly discussions, like that before us. There must be a continual effort to reach the precise points of difference between the two parties, and to set ihem forth in such a way, that they shall be mutually understood, and mutually acknowledged to be fairly stated.
It scarcely need be said, however, that an agreement between the two parties will never be purchased by the Orthodox, at the cost of what they now hold as fundamental truths of Christianity. However much in the progress of such discussions forms of statement may change, as it is an historical fact that they have repeatly changed, yet none can ever be regarded as orthodox Christians, who do not hold as fundamental the great truths which the Orthodox now receive, and which the great body of Christians have always held.
There can be as little doubt that speculative theories of Christian truth, will, in the minds of many, be renounced, and that the distinction between the human theory, and the revealed fact, will be more and more clearly drawn. Modified forms of statement of Christian doctrines will come into use in the place of the old forms. Thus, those of both sides with whom the error is more in the head than in the heart, more in the knowl. edge than in the faith of the Son of God, will be drawn together into such an agreement, as will do honor to the Christian name, and give a powersul impulse to Christianity.
To changes in the form of stating Christian doctrines, there certainly can be no solid objection. It is not necessary to adopt the precise form of words of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, or at Saybrook, in order to hold the truths which they held, or in order to hold a clear and settled creed. The truths contained in those forms may be taught in other words as well, and perhaps even better, at least better for these times, and nearer the level of the apprehensions of men of this day. Ancient creeds have their peculiar significancy, in that they were shaped with reference to the exigencies, philosophical and theological, of the age in which they arose. Creeds which in their day were thought to be the most philosophical statements of the Christian doctrines, are now as forms of doctrine virtually dead, whatever efforts may be made to revive them. They are dead, because the mode of philosophizing, and other
circumstances which gave them their peculiar character, have ceased to exert influence upon religious belief. It is not only vain, then, but it is ridiculous, to urge an antiquated creed upon the adoption of a later age. For even though it may be
. intrinsically the best, yet wanting adaptation, as it may easily be conceived to do, to another age, and to the apprehensions of men under a different training, it becomes inoperative. And he who attempts to wear a creed which is thus out-worn, makes as seemly a figure as would one who should go about dressed in the old-fashioned, mouldy and threadbare clothes of his great-grandfather. It is not necessary, in order to be a Puritan in spirit, that one should adopt the peculiar fashion of dress which was used in the seventeenth century. It is possi. ble, without doing this, to believe in clothes, and to wear good Christian clothes. So may we have a good orthodox creed, a creed as sharply defined as need be, and yet as a form of words that creed may vary, and rightfully vary, from the orthodox creeds of other times.
What is most needed, then, in the matter which lies between the Orthodox and Unitarians, is, that by discussion and comparison of the modes of statement employed by each other, such forms of words may be reached as shall embody in a manner least objectionable to all, the whole Scriptural truth, and nothing but the Scriptural truth, with respect to the points at issue.
We have been insensibly led into this course of remark by the tenor of the book before us. The author has been very successful in shunning the phraseology of creeds, and in presenting his views in clear language suited to all minds. He approaches the subject as though there had never been any such thing as theology, and thus clothes with the aspect of originality, thoughts which on such a subject could hardly be original.
How far he will succeed in harmonizing the views of the two parties, is another question. This can be better determined after a direct examination of the contents of the book, which we now proceed to make. We doubt not that others, as we ourselves have been, will be gratified to see in it, an entire agreement with the Orthodox in many fundamental Christian doctrines. The reader will find in most, we are sorry not to be able to say in all instances, a correct statement of the doctrines taught by the Orthodox, quite unlike those caricatures which have so often and so absurdly been put forth by Unitarians, as truthful accounts of orthodox views.
The book is divided into five parts, entitled severally : 1. State of the Question. 2. Nature of Forgiveness. 3. Faith and Works; or Conditions of Forgiveness. 4. Obstacles and Helps to Forgiveness. 5. Results of Forgiveness. We propose, following the method of the author, to point out what in our view is correct in his statements, and in a spirit of friendliness and candor to notice his mistakes and deficiencies.
In the first part, the author very justly assigns a high rank among Christian doctrines to the doctrine of Forgiveness, as having great prominence in the teachings of Christ and his Apostles, and as being found in Christian experience, of absolute necessity in order to spiritual peace and progress. It is a pretty good proof of the impartiality of the author, and of his earnestness for the truth, that he takes occasion, under this head, to utter in its most rigid form the profound truth, which is however a doctrine of the stiffest orthodoxy, that "the moral law makes men worse instead of better.” This he maintains to be a Scriptural doctrine, and explains it satisfactorily, on psychological grounds, and on the ground of the depravity of the natural desires of men. The revelation of a perfect standard of duty does not give man power to perform the duty. It also sets before man duties which, in his natural state, he does not wish to perform. The sense of failure and guilt, in case an attempt to obey is made, produces discouragement and desperation.
But this truth is so well stated by the author, and affords so good an instance of his coincidence with the Orthodox, besides being a fine specimen of his usual style, that we will allow him to speak to our readers in his own words :
We all know that the conscience, when unenlightened or misinformed, may lead to crime ; and that men (like the apostle Paul) have “verily thought that they ought to" persecute heretics and burn errorists
. But the apostle Paul was the first to recognize the fact, which no one since his time has dared to state as plainly as bimself, that moral teaching by itself, instead of strengthening, may weaken the moral energies. “The law," he says, “ is boly, just, and good;” but “though ordained for life, it becomes death” in consequence of human weakness, (Rom. vii, 8—13.) 'Sin," he says, " takes occasion by the commandment,” and being dead before the moral law comes, is developed by it, and becomes active. The way in which this takes place is plain. The law (that is, the sight of moral truth) arouses the conscience, and shows us our duty, but does not give us strength to perform it. It produces a disproportion between our moral powers and our moral aims. In order that we may make moral progress, two things are necessary,-a new aim, and a new power; a clearer sight of what we ought to be, and stronger motive to induce us to become it. Now, the moral law only fulfills one of these conditions. It shows us what we ought to be. We endeavor to obey it, and may succeed to a certain extent, but never wholly; for the moral law demands perfect obedience, and consequently it always leaves us with a sense of failure. This, of itself, unnerves us. But more than this. It sets before us duties which are opposed to our wishes, and which we do not even try to fulfill. This leaves us not only with a sense of failure, but with a sense of sin, of guilt. But a sense of guilt no one can endure; and to escape from it, we must stifle the voice of conscience, cease to think of duty, and plunge recklessly into that other kind of satisfaction which comes from the gratification of desire. Consequently, we go further into guilt than we should have done if the conscience had not been enlightened at all.