Page images

best inhment iter is hand direct. cion, avec

who will not sell their best inheritance—their free and independent mind—for the embellishment and accommodation of any princely church. To write an answer is not so easy; and they are too much employed in tormenting and disheartening the very class of men who could do it with most effect. And men whose object is mere acquiescence in the received religion, and not knowledge, will trust to public indifference for their protection, and would rather a heretical book were not known than that it were made more known by being refuted. But this policy will not serve much longer : they will soon have to fight, and with unpractised weapons, not for the outworks, but for the very citadel of orthodoxy. Utterly astonished, indeed, will people feel a hundred years hence, when they shall learn that, in the present crisis of the religious mind of Europe, the majority of the Oxford divines actually set up a holy tribunal of the faith to maintain a strict adherence to the Thirty-nine Articles.

J. B. W.

religious when theshed, indeed but for the

[blocks in formation]



A truth-telling set of men is a glory to any people, and the salvation of any age. And yet the enunciation of truth would seem a simple and easy consequence of the attainment of truth. This, however, is a mistake, at least so far as the fact of a thing not being done, goes to prove that there must be difficulty in doing it. If we were asked what injunction with regard to Truth has been most needed by the human race, as far as its history is known to us, it would be Tell it.To search for it, ponder on it, embrace it—these are things done in all ages by some, and in some ages by many. But utterance-ah! it is a rarer quality. · Of how many possessors of important truth may it be said, 6 he died, and made no sign !” Alas! how many treasures have been laid by and buried to abide the verdict of « unprofitable !" It is common to say, “ such facts or truths were not discovered till such a period;" it would be nearer the truth in many instances to say, “ they were not spoken.The bulk of us are automatons in the hands of a few thinkers. A man without moving a muscle except those of the right hand that traces the magic letters, agitates the breasts, and stimulates the actions of thousands. Dr. Channing sat in his study, or walked by the flowers of his Rhode Island garden, and suddenly, as though by the passage of some mysterious fluid from his inkstand, a million hearts were moved, a million hands were doing. In various degrees, from high to humble influence, the thinker has been , parent to many actors. But wherefore alone is this? Because the thinker has spoken, and because he has spoken as he thought. .What matters it to a single fellow-creature what a man thinks, if he thinks to himself?

Dr. Channing might have held precisely the same sentiments on slavery as he has now professed, but what would the world have been the better for them if he had not uttered them? Why do crowds listen with delight to opinions which accord precisely with their own, and therefore possess no novelty to them? It is because truth is having free course—the man is speaking them. Did no one hate the sale of indulgences except Luther? Had no man held the sentiments of Reformation before the Reformers? Had the foul errors and mumming follies of those times escaped the notice of all previous intellects in England till the precise one of Wickliffe encountered them? Had no man thought all these ages, that the church of Christ was mocking the name of Christ? Undoubtedly multitudes had so thought:

them. Did se truth is and theret

then why signalize these men as the discoverers, as it were, of hidden truths—as the Reformers? Because they spoke.

Were this one word obeyed, the world would be moved; for mark, who are they that need the exhortation? The better and more closely thinking men. And by these terms of course we must indicate those who by thinking more wisely than the mass, think differently from them. Now the lovers of received opinion always in effect speak; they speak in the persons of others, if not in their own; nay, they speak and produce echoes—the world is full of their sweet voices.

Who then do need the exhortation to speak? The holders of opinions not received. No one speaks if they do not. There is not an echo to them, for there is not a sound from them. If O'Connell's cry of “ justice to Ireland,” had a few years since been the received one, it would have been the merest inanity to utter it; every body would have been uttering it. If O'Connell had uttered it, he would have done so among six hundred and fifty men, the majority of whom were uttering the same, and he would neither have commanded nor have received the attention that, raising it when and wherefore he did, he did receive.

We need not ask men to think; they are doing that now and will do it; there never was an age when they did not. Speak not of the dark ages as though unpenetrated by a single ray of light; there was many a wise man gravely thinking in them; many a sneerer mocking. Heretics and doubters rose with every generation. But we speak not in harshness; how few lips would be justified vehicles of objurgation !—but for all that, these will be the talent-hiding gentry in the day of account-for they spake not.

There was perhaps no such thing as a Unitarian before the days of Priestley? No one had thought as he did on these subjects till he taught them? What made three men do what three hundred merely agreeing with them in sentiment never had and never could have done? They spoke—they spoke, and heard ten thousand echoes. If Priestley, Lindsey, and Belsham had thought, and held their peace, we should have gone on in peace till some one chose to do what, under this supposition, they would not have done-speak.

Did Blair, and Robertson, and a multitude of their contemporaries and immediate successors, (with some of whom we have held strange colloquies,) did these men need to be urged to consider and to doubt the doctrine of the Trinity? If the common impression be true, not a whit. And yet why have they left the balance of opinion as regards this topic unaffected by a feather's weight? It was because they did not speak.

We repeat, then, “ Think” is not the exhortation needed, but “ Say what you think,” in any generation. It is precisely in the proportion in which the latter follows the former, that good is done. If a man speaks to a friend, he does something; he has at least told where the treasure lies; the knowledge of its hidingplace does not, for all he knows to the contrary, die with him : he has told where it is, and the person informed may put out to interest what he kept hidden. If he tell it to a circle-it is more. If to a town, to a country, to the world—it is better still. It is just in proportion as he speaks, that his thinking will have availed his race. The politicians of Pitt's time might have thought, and done nothing towards really establishing the liberties of their land; but they spoke, and the scattered stones of each district marshalled themselves, to the music of that speaking, into city walls.

The world has never been without the knowledge of truth; of course we always speak of truth comparative, not truth absolute. In surveying the past, we must not judge solely by what appears. From the voices of the multitude we cannot learn what were the whispers of the closet. From what was received we cannot derive certain knowledge of what was thought. It has not been because men could not see, that the world has been in error, but because they would not speak.

Therefore say we that a Truth-telling set of men is pre-eminently the glory and the salvation of an age. No age perhaps has been without truth-knowers, many without truth-tellers : at periods, however, most nations have been blessed with those who were both.

There were such among the Jews. They were not the Judges; they were not the Kings; they were not the Priests; they were the Prophets. And yet, according to the inadequate conception extensively entertained of the nature of their office, what were the Prophets ? A set of persons raised up at sundry times by the Deity, inspired with the power of foreseeing future events, and laid under the obligation to declare them. The subject matter of these revelations of futurity was the destiny of particular men among them, chiefly kings; of the nation at large in various periods, either proximate or remote, and of a future religion, to succeed the then established one-Christianity.

Now this being the office of the prophets, their vocation is clearly gone. Their writings relating to futurities, and those futurities being now for the most part confessedly merged into the category of things past, they discharge no office towards the present age. They are gone by. No! it will be replied, “they discharge a very important office towards the present age, in the

Fenhets. And yet of the nature op at sundry tin

evidence they afford to the divinity of the Christian religion.” Christianity wants no other evidence of its divinity than that contained within itself. The words that it speaks unto us, they are themselves the only decisive and final test of its falsehood or its truth. The liberal theologian of modern times, even though he do not deny that the prophets may contain predictions of Christianity, will at least allow that the ground is too insecure to build argument upon with confidence; that on the validity of this branch of evidence it is unwise to lay much stress. The clearly false and absurd results in which too unscrupulous a desire to find Christianity in every page of the Old Testament has landed numbers of our so-called orthodox brethren, have tended to increase this caution on the part of others.

Indeed, the zeal which found proofs of the Trinity in the trefoil and the syllogism, is surpassed by the zeal which discovers indications of Christianity in all events of Jewish history, and all the penmanship of Jewish scribes; so that Judaism would appear actually to be only instituted for the purpose of giving an uncertain sound of Christianity; solely to be the shadow which the coming event cast before it; to be, not simply a schoolmaster to Christ, an introducer to Christianity, but its very shell, the actual vehicle of its transmission to us.

While this style of criticism has been going on with one set of Christians and “the Church,” or “ Christ,” has begun to head almost every other chapter of the prophecies, and be the esoteric burden of all Jewish history, another set have been making the following discoveries : that often where Christ was said to be prophesied of, there was not the slightest ground or reason, but an inveterate habit of accommodation, for any such assertion; that often where the circumstances described were in themselves applicable to Christ, it did not appear that they were applied to him, but, on the contrary, to some other person acting a part in the history of the times, and dead long before Christ was born. The Unitarian was especially keen in prosecuting these discoveries, as they laid open to him the weakness of some of the arguments and texts advanced against his faith.

This inquiry proceeding, it appeared also, that as the prophecies said to concern Christ, in reality concerned other men of a nearer date, so those put down as referring to Christianity, evidently appeared general auguries, entertained by enlightened and philanthropic minds, of some blissful state of happiness and prosperity and virtue, which they anticipated indeed for their own particular race, but which has not as yet been effected for any nation in the world, far less for the poor Jews. Nevertheless, as these beautiful picturings very well described

« PreviousContinue »