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our controversial lectures, our expository lectures, or our singletext sermons, might be conveyed—we speak with reference to the stated wants of well-established congregations—with singular efficiency and acceptableness, through the medium we now suggest, and with a most felicitous exemption from certain drawbacks and inconveniences that attach to the ordinary modes of public religious teaching. The evidences might be so presented as not to unsettle or disturb the good simple souls that are contented to believe without evidence, and are too well satisfied with the superstructure, to feel much anxiety about the foundation; controversy would not be made repulsive by being disproportionately insisted upon; the dry bones of textual exposition would be clad in the flesh and blood of historical life; and moral exhortation would gain the loss of the desultoriness and consequent inefficiency resulting from an aimless wandering from text to text. Christianity is an historical religion, and should be historically taught; it is a religion of facts, and he is the best Christian teacher who can best expound those facts in their historical and moral bearings, to the understandings, imaginations, hearts, and consciences of an auditory.
We take our leave of the Author of the Apostolical Harmony, in the earnest hope that health and strength may be abundantly continued to him for the preparation of those other works, of which we thankfully accept the promise.
Arr. VIII.–POLITICAL ECONOMY AND
There is a class of passages in the New Testament, in which the utterances of Jesus appear to be contradictory to all practical wisdom, and to the soundest principles of Economical Science. They wear an aspect of high-flown super-spiritualism, and look very like fanatical or mystical abuses of the doctrine of a Providence.
If this charge could be justly fixed on Christianity, we should hold it to be at once destructive of its authority; nor, whatever might be its external evidence, should we have one word to say in favour of a religion found to be in opposition to the moral experience, and to the practical philosophy of mankind.
In vindication of its true spirit on these subjects, the object of the present article is to show, that Christianity is a rule which is thoroughly adapted to the practical affairs of life; that it embraces every real interest of man; that it has no sympathy with that flimsy and miscalled spiritualism which, in pretended devotion to the supremacy of the soul, would bring upon it a jejune imbecility, by severing it from the discipline, excitement, and nourishment, which God has constructed for it in all its healthful and unnumbered connexions with the outward, in the influences, conditions, and agencies of the material world. We would show that practical men can raise no objection to Christianity as a standard of moral adjustment; that it neglects no circumstance which it ought to respect; that it is a Rule of so large and broad a wisdom, as to exclude no known interest, and to contradict no known truth.
It has been sometimes felt as a difficulty against the authority of the Scriptures, that they contain statements not to be reconciled by any ingenuity with the later discoveries of natural science. Now the best way of breaking the force of such a statement is by at once admitting it. There are averments in the Bible which no ingenuity whatever, and much has been wasted in the attempt, can harmonize with the established truths of physical science. Such strained and unnecessary labours as issue from the press from time to time, under the name of Mosaic Cosmogonies and Scriptural Geologies, only prove the violent efforts which men will make to set aside plain facts, when they do not fall in with some dogmas which they have determined to maintain at all hazards; and the incredible ignorance of the true character of a revelation, in which they have taken upon themselves the desperate task of such superfluous distortions.
What is the idea of a Revelation? What are the objects it seeks ? What the faculties in man to which it is addressed ? Revelation, as such, is simply a disclosure of the moral image or character towards which all influences and all knowledge should contribute. Revelation teaches no new truths, either of mental or of physical philosophy—this is not its province. It contains no new view, except one, and that is a manifestation of what ought to be the practical issue or result of all the complex influences under which we live-a revelation of the ideal man after whose likeness we should model our souls and lives —an exhibition of the moral personality which in this world of spiritual education every child of God, every student of His Providence, should labour to build up within himself. In Christ and Christianity, we know of no novelty, but this, the greatest of all novelties, that the man Christ Jesus represents that character which God wishes the influences of this life to create in every man who is placed within them. This is the revelation of Jesus. He is the revelation himself: out of him there is no revelation. It does not consist in abstract views and scientific statements. The revelation is simply and solely this, the character, which our moral circumstances ought to produce. If a man understood himself—if he understood his God—if he understood the bearings of all outward things upon the well-being of his own soul, he would be in action, in thought, in temper, in sentiment, such a being as was Jesus, the son of Man, the son of God, faithful alike to both, and therefore styled, in oriental phrase, the Son of both—faithful to the capabilities of human nature, and to its connexions with its Father in the skies--a man in the image of God.
Why has not this grand idea of a revelation, this practical view, put an end to the war of opinions, to the conflict of metaphysical creeds, and united all Christians on the undebateable ground, the strict and proper province of a revelation-of the moral model which all should study, of the moral impersonation, which all should regard as the sole object of their lives to make reappear in themselves? The spirit of priestcraft is still too strong for the spirit of Jesus. That spirit is nourished by two of the strongest tendencies of human nature—the love of power in the priest, and the love of dependence, the love of resting upon others in the priest-led people. The spirit of caste in the priest would be scorned were it not for the spirit of indolence in the people. The weakness of the one fosters the arrogance of the other. The inclination to lean upon external props—to seek adventitious support and safety--to find some easier way of being a Christian than to mould the soul and the life after the image of Christ, has generated the inclination to
bow to authority, to throw the burden off one's self, to look upon religion as a mystery; a charm to be received from the hands of its authorized administers; in a word, an inclination to be saved not by the virtues of practice, not by the metaphysics of faith, not by the process of doing, but by the process of believing. Hence metaphysical creeds; hence schemes of salvation; hence orthodoxy, I mean the spirit of orthodoxy, the idea of a doctrinal safety, that monstrous birth of priestly arrogance acted upon and tempted by popular submissiveness; hence the whole system of infallibility, of a set of doctrines logically drawn from the words of a book, and constituting a saving faith; hence every thing in religion that has departed from the undebateable, the practical spirit of Christ and Christianity, and has taken up with the mystical, the metaphysical spirit of priests and priestcraft. It is worthy of being remarked, that those who twist and torture the Bible into agreement with the ascertainments of physical science, or with a still bolder championship, uphold the science that appears in the Scriptures against the science which is collected from the only proper field of science, the actual facts of the material world; who prefer the evidence of Scripture upon the subject of geology, to the evidence of the earth itself upon that subject, and until very lately, for now we believe not even in Rome is there one so daringly consistent, preferred the astronomy that appeared casually in the Scriptures to the astronomy announced by the Heavens themselves—we say it is worth observing of this class of believers, that they are invariably those who lose sight of the practical character of revelation, of its moral embodyment in Jesus, and make it consist in the logic of texts, in the verbal inferences that constitute the doctrines and mysteries of a saving faith.
We hold that the idea of a revelation, which we have attempted to give, namely, the exhibition by a man of that moral character which God wishes the moral influences of life to create in men, so completely separates Revelation, as such, from Physical science as such, that the truth of Christianity can in no wise be disturbed by the progress of discovery; and that though every scientific allusion, in the Scriptures, turned out to be incorrect, this would only show that on such subjects the writers followed the ideas of their own age; and it would leave untouched the proper province of the Revelation, as a practical manifestation of the moral purposes of God's Providence, and of the high duties and destinies of man. But, though this line of argument is a sound defence of Christianity, in relation to disagreements between Revelation and Physical Science, it would not be a sound defence in relation to disagreements between
Christianity and moral or social science. One such disagreement, if it could be established, since this moral ground is the very province of a Revelation, would effectually prove it to be of no worth. Jesus, indeed, delivered nothing in a scientific form. Moral truth appeared in him only in the shape of sentiment and of action. Christianity is not a philosophy but a life. In this respect, as in many others, it is not a Law, but a Spirit: for what you find in it is not a statement of the investigated laws of social science; but the moral spirit and active tendencies which those laws would produce if they were understood, and had a practical sway over the tastes, the temper, and the life. What then we ought to look for in Christ and Christianity is not a Moral Philosophy, not a Political Economy, not a Social Science, but a practical spirit true to all these sciences; and though not investigating their Laws, yet acting in harmony with them, and exhibiting in all the manifestations of Christ's mind and character a sympathy with their profoundest truths. What we look for in Christ is not the investigation of moral and social science, but the results of all these exhibited in the temper of his mind—in the habits of his action-in the spirit of his precepts. The only question is this : Has Political Science, has Social Science, has Moral Philosophy found any thing in the life of Jesus, in the spirit of his Views, that cannot be harmonized with their own teachings? If not, then, though not the Scientific Expounder, he is the actual Embodyment of them all ; and, as this living image, the moral Revelation is complete. We shall cite a few instances in which the spirit of Jesus has been supposed to clash with the spirit of Political Economy, and attempt to show how Christianity contains within itself the seminal principles, the practical tendencies of the most profound Social and Economical Science; or, to use the words of a distinguished Economist, the supreme importance of a right Christian to a right Economical state of the Community, and the harmony between them evidenced by the sufficiency of the first to produce the second.
1. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” Certain interpreters have construed this into a doctrine which neither History nor Economical Science countenance—that Riches are less favourable to the right moral condition of an individual or a people than poverty; and that the primitive states of Society, the age of few wants and of few temptations, are to be preferred before that crowd of growing desires which are generated by the physical refinement of a more advanced civilization. This is one aspect of that Monkish Christianity,
Vol. I. No.3.-New Series,