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ceived in christendom. Now how is it possible, that men could ever have invented a notion, which not only confounds and shocks reason, but absolutely contradicts the senses? They must have derived it from the scriptures, the papist might say,—for had not the apostles taught and transmitted it to their successors, it is too monstrous ever to have entered into men's minds. And with the more plausibility might he urge this argunent, since he can quote the very words of scripture, in their literal sense, in behalf of his opinion, without being obliged to resort to construction or inference,—an advantage which the trinitarian cannot pretend to claim. Indeed, there is no kind of extravagance in religious speculation, to which this principle would not afford ample protection; for we have only to draw conclusions, according to our own good will and pleasure, from the scriptures, and the more irrational and inconceivable they are, the more probable we may suppose it to be, that they are of divine origin.
Besides, so far is it from being incredible that men should invent strange doctrines in religion, at which 'reason stands aghast,' that these are precisely the things, which they are most likely to invent. One must have been a very superficial or careless observer, not to have learned, that mankind are by no means disposed to be satisfied with the plain, direct, intelligible instructions of Christianity, but are ever seeking something more refined, curious, and mystical. Ecclesiastical history will tell us that, from the time when the fathers of the church mingled with the truths of the Gospel the philosophical crudities and speculations, which they brought with them from the schools, down to the present day, there has been a prevalent and strong passion for mystery in religion, for something more imposing than the simplicity of scriptural Christianity. The lovers of dark, shadowy, indistinct statements and theories in scriptural things, under various forms, have always outnumbered those, who have deemed clearness and consistency essential to the evidence and the value of their belief. The imagination finds a pleasant excitement in hovering round a subject, to which obscurity has given an appearance of grandeur, however false.—' Atque omne ignotum pro magnifico est.'—There is much more of what may be called poetical effect in mysterious than in rational religion, more of that indefinite something, which feeds and gratifies the love of the marvellous, and the same reason may be given for it, which Waller gave to king Charles for having written better poetry in praise of Cromwell than of him. 'Poets, Sir, succeed better in fiction, than in truth.' And then this taste for the wonderful and the incomprehensible in religion is well adapted, in many instances, to give scope to that very pride of wisdom, which it professes to humble and to extinguish; for certainly there are not wanting those, with whom to be wiser than others is only to be more unintelligible; and in the same degree in which a doctrine is inexplicable, it forms the better subject for theories, and schemes, and systems. Nowhere does the vanity of speculation find a more busy scene of action, than on topics, in which there is as much darkness and incongruity on the one side, as on the other; and this, we think, might be eminently illustrated by the history of some theological disputes. On the other hand, there are many, who think it no mean merit to sacrifice reason to faith, and deem themselves to have performed a praiseworthy service, an act of moral worth, when they have prostrated their understanding before their religion. Now this disposition, which from these and other causes has always been so general in the christian world, the instructions of our Saviour have no tendency to nourish or encourage; for it is one of their most striking traits, that they have none of the incongruities, or of the parade of obscurity, which captivate the imagination, while they confound the understanding. They are more remarkable for nothing perhaps, than for beautiful simplicity, and for meeting the intellect and the feelings of man in a forthright course. They bring the most solemn truths,—truths concerning God and futurity, and the relation in which man stands to his Creator and Redeemer,—directly to the mind and heart, in all their plainness and power, without turning aside to amuse or perplex us with paradoxical and half revealed doctrines. They are full of that practical and earnest character, which, least of all things, savours of the mystical spirit; and in them every thing is brought to bear in the shortest way on those awful and momentous topics, which constituted the great objects of the Saviour's heavenly mission. It will readily be perceived, that all this is far from being adapted to flatter and employ the passion for the marvellous and the inexplicable; and accordingly men have turned away from the simplicity of the Gospel, and have been better pleased with idols, which their own hands have made. Instead, therefore, of its being impossible lor mankind to have invented doctrines appalling to reason and defying explanation, these are the very subjects to invite and exercise their invention. Their rational faith might be fixed, and their moral affections moved and sanctified by the plain and direct instructions of Jesus; but in them their invention finds no room to act, and it is theretbre forced out to seek its objects elsewhere. It has found them; and one might say beforehand, without knowing how the fact stood, that the doctrine of the trinity and some of its fellow doctrines, were precisely such notions as human ingenuity would be busy in framing and recommending, either creating them wholly from its own resources, and then pressing scripture to their support, or founding them on unjustifiable interpretations of an obscure passage, which occurs here and there in the sacred writings, indeed with so little truth can it be said that men are not ready to invent and cherish strange and startling opinions, that on the contrary, one of the greatest apprehensions we have sometimes entertained, as to the rapidity of the spread of Unitarianism is, th.it it does not carry with it the materials for satisfying that craving appetite for mystery, which has been found to prevail so generally under Christianity, as well as under other religions. The attempt, to which we have now adverted, of converting to the defence and recommendation of a doctrine what seemed to be a formidable objection to it, might be deemed a piece of good generalship, were it not so easily exposed. It is in a spirit kindred to that of the following curious sentences from Sir Thomas Brown's 'Religio Medici,' concerning which one is left in doubt, whether they were written with the sneer of irony, or in the honest weakness of enthusiasm. 'Methinks there bo not impossibilities enough in religion for an active faith. I love to lose myself in a mystery, and to pursue my reason to an O Jlltitudo. I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason, with that odd resolution I learned out of Tertullian,—' certum est, quia impossibile est.' This I think is no vulgar part of faith, to believe a thing not only above, but contrary to reason, and against the arguments of our proper senses.
THE BEGINNING AND PERFECTION OF THE GOSPEL. [Continued from page 23.]
It was the saying of an eminent theologian,* who wrote a hundred years ago, that theology, like the art of the statuary, must reach its perfection, not by adding but by chipping away. 'As much of the material must be taken off,' he says,' as is useless or out of proportion, till what remains may be the new man sculptured according to the divine image.' This description may need some explanation; but when understood, conveys a very beautiful and important truth. It must not be suspected to imply that any thing need be taken off from the written word, or that the fulness of the sacred law and promise is ever to be diminished, or that there is any thing superfluous or out of shape in the form of our religion, as it was seen by the gifted mind of our Lord and Saviour. To suppose either of these would be to mistake greatly his intention. He means only, that the testimony of our faith will grow simpler as it is better understood; that it is to attain to its glory, not by new accumulations of human system-making and tradition, but by the removal of those which now cleave to it; that in order to correspond to that faultless model, of which its author has given us the idea, it must gradually part with much that now stands connected with it; and that the effect of the progress of intelligence will be to reduce it to its own proper and perfect symmetry.
In the last number, the beginning of the Gospel was represented as imperfect, whatever point we assume as that beginning. Let us now try to define what the perfection is, to which it is continually looking forward and which it is designed at last to reach.
It may not be necessary to repeat,—but on such a subject it is impossible to be too explicit, or too cautious against being misunderstood,—that when our religion is spoken of as having not yet arrived at its perfection, this is said not of its nature and character, but of its developement and our apprehensions of it;—not of what it is in its essence, but of what it appears to us and accomplishes among us. We must consider it as seen by Jesus in its full light and excellence; but it is not
seen so now by his followers. To him it was the divine gift, which they have failed to use and estimate aright; the revealed instruction, which they have been dull in comprehending; the mighty influence which they have been slow to feel and to spread; the glorious ideal which they have never realized. He received it as the direct commandment, and promise, and manifestation of the Father; and we receive it out of ancient records, and the corruptions of centuries. He beheld it in the spirit, while whole beautiful simplicity, which has been allowed so long to be encumbered and concealed; and in its abundant blessings, of which the world has so long deprived itself, through unworthiness; and he discerned with a prophetic eye its holy triumphs, for which we must wait and pray.
This view of the subject is rational and safe. It teaches in the first place what the perfection of Christianity is not, and thus exposes several errors relating to it, which even at the present day find place and advocates. That perfection is not to be sought for in any abstruse theories, or mystical interpretations, or any new and preternatural enlightening from the spirit of truth. There are some, who think that it is to be attained by extraordinary means and a special influence, and they are expecting some inexplicable flash and feeling of conviction to be afforded them from heaven. Others imagine it to be locked up in the words of the bible, and are groping among all the dreaming fancies of superstition for some key that shall open to them the whole. Some are even giving heed to the pretensions of a Swedish visionary, claiming to be the bearer from God of a new revelation to reveal the past one. These extravagancies of credulity are owing to the false estimate which is so general of the nature and uses of the holy scriptures; as if they were really written by the hand of the Almighty, and the essence of religion were left to be extracted from them alone and forever. On the contrary they are but witnesses and helps for us. It is as such wholly that we are to prize them, and as such we cannot prize them too much. They are our vouchers for the most important facts in the history of man and of his religious improvement, and are intended to assist us in discovering and possessing ' the mind of Christ.'
This account ought not to seem to any to be too loose, more than liberal and'dangerous. It is serious, it is useful; it will help
vol. in.—No. II. 14
He conceived it in its