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ecclesiastics, for holding communication with stern republicans, we pretend not to determine. It seems, however, pretty certain, that we shall never have it in our power to do good directly to any but Dissenting Christians in Europe.
It is equally certain that Dissenters have done much to keep alive piety in established Churches. Had it not been for English non-conformists, there would now, in all proba bility, be no British and Foreign Bible Society to bless the world; no Church Missionary Society to send faithful preachers to the heathen; no religious Tract Society; no Jews Society; no Continental Society, aiding in the extension of the Redeemer's Kingdom.
For although established Churches regard Dissenters with perpetual jealousy; yet they are often, in self-defence, obliged to imitate their zeal and activity; lest the majority of the people should be drawn away to the cause of non-conformity. It is equally true, that the extensive knowledge, and elaborate writings of men supported in "learned leisure" by the wealth of the nation, have been greatly useful to Dis
In times of excitement, however, mutual benefits are forgotten, and the strong oppress the weak. It was in the 19th century, since the overthrow of Napoleon, that the Protestants of France endured the horrible persecutions before adverted to. And even now it is found necessary for the Three Denominations of Dissenters in England to keep up a Society for the preservation of religious liberty. Even in this age of the world, after all that has been said about "the march of mind," and the progress of liberal opinions, there is very little religious liberty, or genuine liberality. There are but two countries in the world, where religion is perfectly free; the United States-and the Sandwich Islands, since the success of the American Missionaries! It may appear surprising, but we believe it to be true, that since the year 1815, the spirit of liberality has
rather declined, than risen in Christendom. Popery has certainly become bolder-Jesuitism has been revived-High Church principles have become higher and fiercer—and in our country the various denominations of Christians have, after a little trial, refused, as far as they dared, to co-ope rate in general enterprises of Christian charity. High Church-men have strongly opposed the American Bible Society. The General Conference of the Methodist Church has, by a formal vote, determined to have a Bible Society exclusively their own. So also of the Tract Society, and the American Sabbath School Union. Many things indicate in the Church Universal, an increase of sectarian spirit. There is a rousing up too, of the spirit of infidelity. There is a disposition in all the enemies of vital religion to unite. Universalists approximate to Unitarians, and Unitarians to Deists. Whither do all these things ter.d?
We know that many, on reading these pages, will dissent from our opinions; and probably will appeal to the recent acts of the British Government; to the tranquillity at present enjoyed by the French Protestants; and to events in the religious history of this country, to disprove our positions. But Catholic disabilities were not removed until the English ministry were convinced of the absolute necessity of the measure, to preserve the peace of the country, and main tain the influence of England on the continent of Europe. Mr. Peel, in the British House of Commons, acknowledged this necessity, and confessed that he consented to the repeal of the law of exclusion, because he could do no better. So that the measure rather proves the growth of Popery, than the increase of liberality. And in France, the persecutions which ensued on the restoration of the Bourbons, were continued until the Dissenting denominations in England procured a notice of the subject in the British Parliament.
We have not time for a particular consideration of this subject at present. It deserves, however, to be remarked,
that zeal for religious liberty may proceed from two causes-infidelity, which utterly casts off the moral influence of religion, and aims to get rid of it altogether, and genuine piety, which makes a man feel the value of freedom to worship his Maker according to his conviction of duty. The first of these causes, drives men, as with the force of a tornado, to the opposite extreme. It is the second only, which secures rational liberty. And if there is an increase of piety in the present age, there is also an increase of infide, lity, as well as of Popery.
Still, however, there is an immense advantage possessed by this "age of the press," and of "extending intercourse," over all past ages. And in the struggle which is now going on in the world, it is in the highest degree important that there should be correspondence, cordial co-operation, and a thorough understanding between the sincere friends of genuine religious liberty, in all parts of the world. In any particular case of oppression, such, for instance, as that endured by the French Protestants, the strong decided expression of displeasure by millions in the United States, and millions in England, will be heard and regarded. And in the present growing power of public opinion, certainly it is important that all throughout the world, who own no authority over conscience but that of the Deity, should be prepared to speak out, and to speak all together, whenever a sufficiently important occasion demands it. This, then, is one of the reasons why, in our opinion, the correspondence so happily begun, ought to be carried on with spirit and cordiality. It will unite the friends of religious liberty in this country and in Europe.
But again; immeasurable injury has been done to Christianity, by building systems of religion on other foundations, than that of the sound interpretation of the Bible. When philosophy is employed to prove theology, the Scriptures are stripped of their honours, and the study of them is
greatly neglected. When Christians of different nations, however, write to each other on their common religion, they must refer to the Bible, as the only authentic source of information; and see to it, that their opinions are founded, not on the ever changing systems of men, but on the oracles of eternal truth. This is the more important, because the philosophy of different nations, even in the same age, is widely different. English and American, differs from French philosophy; and both, from the German. An equal difference is discernible in the theological systems of these different nations. Indeed it is quite curious to trace the changes which have taken place in theology, under the influence of philosophical systems, in different ages and countries. But we cannot now pursue this subject. Of all the expedients devised by human wisdom to prevent these mutations, the most efficacious have been well constructed Confessions of Faith. But, inasmuch as these do not claim authority to bind the conscience, they have always, at length, given way before the force of public opinion. The Lutherans have their confession of Augsburg; the English Church their Thirty-Nine Articles; the Scotch and the French Calvinists have a confession still more extended, and minute:-but the Lutherans are Neologists; the English are Arminians; the Scotch have their moderate men, which is but another name for Arminians; and the French, as a Church, have now, if we are rightly informed, no creed at all. Philosophy, as it is called, has produced these changes. And it is not in human wisdom effectually to guard against them. We see corresponding changes taking place, even in the best constituted Churches in this country. Our own denomination affords a very striking instance of this kind. We advert not to others, for that might be invidious. We are persuaded too, that these changes, whatever may be thought of their value, have not been produced by a study of the Bible. Look only at the polemical essays with which the press now teems;
and observe how little Scripture, and how much reasoning is to be found in them. Be the subject what it may, the case is all the same. The great questions, for instance, concerning Predestination, Election, Original Sin, the Atonement, and even in some instances, the Divinity of Christ, are attempted to be settled, not by the plain decisions of the holy Scriptures, soundly interpreted, but by philosophy!
Now all these changes would never have taken place, had the teachers of religion adhered to the Bible, and to the common-sense method of interpreting the sacred volume. Two reasons convince us of the truth of this remark.
1st. The Bible contains the whole of the Christian religion. Its gracious author gave this book to man, for the very pur pose of letting him know what he must believe and do, in order to salvation. The same things are now to be believed and practised, which the apostles received from the Lord Jesus. There is no change here. There can be none. But from the very nature of the case, the meaning of the Bible is ascertainable. Otherwise it would be no revelation at all. Let this meaning then, be discovered, and we know the whole of the Christian religion. But it is not learned from the philosophy of Locke, Reed and Brown; of Malebranche and Buffier; of Leibnitz, Kant and Fichte; but from the careful study of Hebrew and Greek; in other words, from the cultivation of sound philology.
2d. The Maker of man, is the author of the Bible. The religion of the Bible, then, is adapted to human nature in all ages, and in all climes. It applies itself to all the faculties of man as a religious being; brings them to the highest state of improvement; and gives them the best possible direction. There is no danger of error, or excess, if only the whole of Bible truth is brought to bear on man's heart and conscience. But so "fearfully and wonderfully are we made," that much of human nature lies beyond the ken of philosophy; and it is not at all to be wondered at, if, when men undertake to