« 上一頁繼續 »
roneous philosophy, or erroneous metaphysics, but to reform men's depravity and vices.
We object to oiher passages- in the work before us; but it is time to notice one or two faults of a more general nature— faults, we may say, which characterize the whole performance. The first is a disposition to dogmatise. This disposition betrays itself in all our author's writings, and in several instances, we lament to say, appears to be accompanied with no small share of illiberality of feeling. In fact, we believe, that the two qualities are almost uniformly found united. He who is in the habit of resting his cause on bold, hardy assertion, has seldom much tenderness for the feelings, or much respect for the arguments of his antagonist. Few writers have afforded stronger manifestations of such a habit than Soame Jenyns. He does not appear to have possessed a mind either very profound or comprehensive. He has frequently an air of originality, which is found, we think, on examination, to be only eccentricity. His views of the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity are, for the most part, such as were entertained by the commonest minds of the age. He employs no argument to defend them. All is downright unblushing assertion. The 'sum and substance' of Christianity, as he views it, is original depravity and human probation—' mankind come into this world in a depraved and fallen condition—they are placed here to give them an opportunity to purge off this guilt and depravity ;'—their inability to perform this of themselves; the necessity of a 'vicarious atonement' in order to the forgiveness of sin. 'If Christianity is to be learned out of the New Testament, and words have any meaning,' these doctrines, he asserts, form parts of it.* They have been transmitted to us in words ' as clear and explicit as the power of language can furnish'.f He calls them 'facts,' and characterizes those who oppose them, as persons, who ' pretend to disprove facts by reasoning,' and who ' have no right to expect an answer.'J Of the 'Atonement' particularly he says, that whoever denies, that it is found in the New Testament, may, 'with as much reason and truth,' assert, that in the works of Thucydides and Livy ' no mention is made of any facts relative to the histories of Greece and Rome.'
Such language, we need not say, is wholly unworthy of a man and a christian. However it might have been received
* Worka, Vol. II, p. 178. t lb. p. 388. t View &c. Prop. II.
at the time it was uttered, it is as little congenial with the charitable feelings, as with the spirit of true philosophy, prevalent at the present day.—Was Soame Jenyns ignorant of the distinction between fact and opinion 9 Did he know no difference between a doctrine expressly asserted, distinctly announced in the bible, and one, which is founded on remote inference and reasoning i He believes, that certain doctrines are taught in the New Testament; others, as honest and industrious, perhaps, find no traces of them there. Whether they are there or not is altogether matter of opinion. No one has a right to assert, that they are. This is to arrogate to himself authority to settle controversies in matters of faith. It is to assume the attribute of infallibility, and demand of others a surrender of their understandings and judgments. As Protestants, we claim the privilege of deciding for ourselves, what the instructions of the bible are. If a fellow-christian, partaking of the same fallible nature as ourselves, and responsible for his opinions to the same master, undertakes to affirm, that certain views he has adopted are without doubt, doctrines of Christianity; that to deny that they were taught by our Saviour is as absurd as to deny, that any mention is made of facts of any sort in the historical narratives, which have been transmitted to us from former ages;—we may blame his arrogance, or pity his delusion; we can never feel veneration for his understanding.
The work under review, and others of the same author, are disfigured by one fault, with which we are more disgusted than with their dogmatical spirit. It has been felt, that nearly the whole of that class of doctrines, for which he is an advocate, is encompassed with difficulties. They have appeared to be at war with our understandings and moral judgment. To compel us to yield assent to them, it has been urged, would be to inspire that distrust of human reason, which would sweep away at once the whole mass of external evidence for Christianity, and go, in fact, to invalidate all evidence whatever, by leaving us no capacity by which we can judge of its force. To these objections Jenyns attempts no reply. He allows, that the doctrines alluded to are, or appear to be irrational; that, according to the best conceptions we are able to form of them, they bear the features of absurdity; but those features, with his characteristic fondness for paradox, he asserts are evidence of their heavenly origin. We shall quote a few expressions as specimens of the general strain of language he employs on this subject. What 'he 'sum and substance' of Christianity, according to Jenyns' views, is, has been stated above.—' And so adverse,' he observes,' is it to all the principles of human reason, that if brought before her tribunal, it must inevitably be condemned.'—'To prove the reasonableness of a revelation is in fact to destroy it.'*—' In all these propositions,'—containing doctrines similar to those abovementioned,—' there appears not even a pretence to probability, and therefore, as they cannot be inventions, we may reasonably conclude, that they must be true.'I—'That three Beings should be one being, is a proposition, which certainly contradicts reason, that is, our reason; but it does not from thence follow, that it cannot be true.'} Of God's dispensations, he observes, 'their seeming impossibility may be a mark of their truth, and in some measure justify that pious rant of a mad enthusiast, 'Credo, quia impossibile.'||—'Had this revelation been less incomprehensible, it would certainly have been more incredible.'§
Such language sounds very strange in the mouth of an advovocate for Christianity. We are sorry for the cause of religion, and for the honor of our common nature, that it should ever be employed. Christianity cannot fail of receiving deep injury from it. It is just the sort of language to generate infidelity. In an age of profound darkness, men may be made to feel a blind reverence for forms and opinions the most childish and extravagant. They love and venerate mystery. But as the mind begins to feel and put forth its strength, and men's views become consequently less confined, gross, and material, they demand something which is capable of furnishing occupation for the understanding. They are dissatisfied with the marvellous, dark, and undefined. They feel no veneration for doctrines, which shrink from investigation. They reject, at once, such as ask them to renounce their reason and their senses, under whatever name of mystery they shelter themselves.
The present age, we trust, needs not be told, that Christianity cannot demand an assent to what is irrational, without abandoning itself to contempt. The moment it asks us to give up our understandings, the moment it inculcates distrust of hu
• Works, Vol. II, p. 178—9. f lb. p. 369.
} View &e. Conclusion. || lb. § lb.
man reason, it furnishes weapons for its own destruction. It overthrows itself by teaching the fallacy of those capacities, which are employed in establishing it. Is it possible, that such a mind as Jenyns' could have been ignorant of the consequences, which would be drawn from his concessions? He appears to have occasionally felt, that the evidences of Christianity gather strength in proportion as its doctrines are found to harmonize with nature. He speaks of particular views it inculcates, as consonant with reason and confirmed by her conclusions. Yet the tendency of his work is to leave an impression on the minds, especially of the more susceptible and confiding, that the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity, so far from borrowing support from reason, are opposed to its decisions. Of this tendency we complain. We lament it as greatly impairing the influence, which might be hoped from the more unexceptionable parts of the work. We lament it, too, as unfriendly to Christianity. As such we cannot help viewing it.
We have said, that Jenyns showed illiberality of feeling. As an instance of this, we might mention the charge he brings against' rational Christianity' of being only deism in disguise— only a worse sort of infidelity. 'The professed deist,' he says, 'gives Christianity fair play—but the rational Christian assassinates her in the dark.'* Such language, with numerous sarcasms against the 'Rationalist,' thrown out in different parts of his writings, is beneath criticism. It can excite only pity and contempt. The more moderate of all parties view it with disgust. It can, in the end, injure those only who employ it. It may have some influence, for a time, on a few weak and ignorant minds, but men of sense will despise it. They will not surrender their opinions to escape the unpopular epithets, and foul-mouthed calumny heaped upon them by narrow bigots, arrogant pretenders to illumination, or empty, conceited and dogmatising enthusiasts.
The internal evidences of Christianity open a wide field of remark. We intended to have offered a few observations on the several branches of them. We wished to give a general sketch—to present a few of the outlines of them. But we feel, that we cannot do justice to the subject in the few pages we are allowed to devote to it. A few remarks, however, we cannot forbear adding on a topic, which we can hardly bring
'Works, Vol. II, p. 184.
into view too often, and on which it would be difficult to say too much.
What then are the marks of divinity, which Christianity bears on the face of it? We might point, in the first place, to its tendency and end. We might say, that it proposes to itself the noblest object—that of refining and exalting intelligent and immortal natures. It is not occupied with the care of the senses; it feels solicitude not for the perishable interests of earth merely; it views those interests as vain and empty in comparison with others. It is anxious chiefly to fit us for those richer gratifications, which spring from the soul—the imperishable part of us. It is desirous of ministering to the understanding and heart. It would infuse and strengthen those affections, feelings, and habits, which add to our dignity and happiness in life, prepare us to meet death with tranquillity, and fit us at last for a seat in the paradise of God.
It is impossible not to feel veneration for a religion, whose object is so beneficent and noble. We are prepared to believe, that such a religion is the gift of a Father's mercy. It proposes to itself views, which all the appearances of nature lead us to ascribe to God. Mind, and not matter, first occupies his cares. Mind is his noblest, best work. It bears the strongest impress of his hand. Of all objects he has formed, it participates most largely of a divine nature.—To form and endow mind, to confer on intelligent and moral natures the sublimest dignity, virtue, and happiness, of which they are susceptible, appears to be the one great object, which he has kept in view in all he has ever performed.
Christianity cooperates in the same design. It would form and educate spiritual natures for spiritual gratifications and employments. It would enrich us with pure, enlarged, diffusive, , ' ^.and heavenly virtue. This forms one of its distinguishing features. Other religions have had in view a temporary and inferior object. They have usually been the offspring of policy; they have aimed only at conferring benefits on man in the present life. They have been occupied chiefly with the outward and visible; they have operated feebly on the affections; they have sent no healing and sustaining influence to the heart; they have awakened no fervent aspirations after higher excellence and better modes of being. They had in comparison with Christianity, low, gross, and confined views. They bore