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Observer, Feb. I, '71.
Christianity when first introduced. The opportunities for promulging its principles were far less than now, and yet there never has been a period in the history of the Church when the triumphs of the Cross were more signal and glorious than during those primitive days. The contest was then a fair one. It was narrowed down to the single question of “ What think ye of the Christ?" This gave the advocates of truth a very decided advantage, and, for some time, the Gospel went on conquering and to conquer, bearing down all opposition, and filling the hearts of thousands with the joys of salvation from sin. But, after awhile, the conflict took on another form. The corruptions of Christianity, and the ever-changing phases of infidelity, introduced a multiplicity of new and distracting issues, which changed the whole character of the struggle, and greatly retarded the progress of the gospel in the conversion of the world. This is the chief difficulty at present. The obstacles in the way of the Gospel's success now are: 1. Rationalism. 2. Catholicism. 3. Sectarianism. These do not make a fair issue. They will not fight the truth on the primitive battle-fields; but fortifying themselves behind many of its popular doctrines, they are able to make such a defence as to partially paralyze all true Christian effort. Let us, then, examine the character of these, and see how it is that they stand in the way of the success of the Gospel.
1. Rationalism is the generalization of modern infidelity.
We are no longer troubled with the infidelity of Paine, Hume, Volney, and Voltaire. This type has been met and vanquished. But we have to contend against a far more insidious foe. What Satan could not accomplish by a bold and direct attack, he seeks to accomplish by the plausible, but mischievous influence of Rationalism. Hence, this expresses the exact character of modern infidelity. And that it is a dangerous enemy to the Church is readily admitted by all, and that it is now exerting a powerful influence against the progress of Christianity ought not to be denied by any. Under such leaders as Strauss, Renan, Colenso, and Lecky, in Europe, and a number of lesser lights in America, Rationalism has made considerable progress in leavening the minds of the people with its subtle poison. It comes to us with so many professions of friendship that we are frequently deceived. But its smile is that of a hypocrite; its kisses those of Judas Iscariot. The friends of Christ must hold no parley with it. Science has its proper place, and in that place it is useful, and its utterances should be respected. But it must not be allowed to usurp the authority of God's word. In religion we walk by Faith, and not by Sight-we rest on Authority, not on Philosophy. Truth is our guide, the precious truth of Heaven, and not the dim flickering light of poor, frail
But Rationalism is not science proper. It simply steals scientific terms in which to clothe its subtle sophistries. True science is not opposed to the supernatural; it finds in the supernatural its only rational explanation —leans on this as its only support. M. Saintes, who has given considerable attention to the whole subject, states this matter thus:
"It is indisputably true that God, in granting reason to man, has not forbidden its exercise. As religion, the queen of all minds, possesses indestructible rights over them, so has human reason also rights which cannot be disputed. Kant has justly said: Faith which should oppose itself to Reason could not longer exist.' With this view we form an idea of Rationalism similar to that conceived by the great Leibnitz, which, with our present ideas of truth, we cannot regard as unreasonable. But this
Observer, Feb. 1, 71.
right of human reason to examine and discuss, differs widely from its selfconstitution as supreme judge on religious matters, and from the wish to submit God and conscience to its own tribunal, which it declares to be infallible. This, however, has been the case in modern times, when philosophy has openly avowed itself the enemy of Christianity, and when those who were terrified by its rash demands have sought to confound them by the devices of Rationalism-thus hastening to ruin the edifice which they aspired to restore."
In view of this fact, it is easy to see why the influence of Rationalism is so pernicious. It "steals the livery of heaven in which to serve the devil," and, in this way, avoids a fair and honest issue with the religion of Christ. It is the duty of every Christian to labour assiduously for the overthrow of this popular error.
2. Catholicism is the opposite extreme from Rationalism, and is, properly, a religion of superstition.
Rationalism pretends to rest on human reason, and will accept nothing as truth in religion except that which the reason approves; but Catholicism entirely ignores reason, and finds its enthusiasm in a blind idolatry of the traditions of antiquity. What one does through philosophy, the other does through ignorance; one is religious anarchy, the other religious despotism.
It is difficult to conceive of a more absolute tyranny than that system of which Pius IX is the acknowledged head. It binds the conscience, fetters the intellect, and paralyzes the energies of the whole man. Wherever it has a controlling influence, it crushes out the spirit of progress, and turns the world's civilization back toward the Middle Ages, when the sombre nightshade of ecclesiastical despotism shut up the nations in an almost total moral darkness. Look at the countries where, at this time, it holds undisputed sway. Is further evidence necessary to demonstrate that its influence is fatal to the advancement of any people? Go to Italy, the home of clear skies and sweet songs, and the nearer you approach the Vatican the less is seen of all that life, energy, and active benevolence which mark a Christian civilization. But, on the contrary, you are haunted by the ghost of superstition, followed by the trains of poverty, and disgusted with the idolatry of passion. And all this, too, is within the streets of the Eternal City, where the bells of St. Peter's affect to ring for the great steps of the world's religious progress.
But this is only one of the many examples that might be cited. Go to Austria; go to Spain; go to Mexico; and every-where you meet the same evidence of political, social, and religious stagnation; every-where it is shown that the supremacy of Catholicism in any land is the end of all advancement, and the destruction of the highest and noblest aspirations of the soul. And yet, this terrible monster is holding its despotic sway over the destiny of millions. Is it not time that something was done to break its influence, and let the light of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God into the hearts of its benighted subjects? This must be done before the world can be converted to Christ. How it can be done, will be noticed in the proper place.
3. Sectarianism is the embodiment of all the religious bigotry and selfishness that foster and perpetuate divisions among the people of God.
Need I spend time in trying to prove the evils of Sectarianism? Certainly not to those who have a just appreciation of the great religious struggle that is now stirring society to its very foundations. When Rationalism, on one hand, is bringing to its support all the learning of
Observer, Feb. 1, '71
this wonderful age, and proudly and defiantly waging an uncompromising crusade against the Bible and the Christian religion; and when Catholicism, on the other, is rapidly spreading its deadly influence among all nations, tongues, and peoples, it does seem to me it is no time for the friends of truth and of human progress to be wasting their energies in discussing questions whose importance is measured by the relations of meum and tuum, and whose difference by that between tweedledee and tweedledum. But the greatest evil of Sectarianism, after all, lies in the fact that, like Rationalism and Catholicism, it does not make a fair issue. They have power to harm Christianity chiefly because they incorporate into their systems enough of the truth to make their plea plausible and apparently consistent; while Protestantism, becoming disintegrated through the influence of Sectarianism, has incorporated enough error to make its plea weak, and consequently, in its present divided state, is wholly inadequate to do the work which is necessary to the conversion and sanctification of the world. Hence, it is evident that the great religious contest of the present is between a feeble, divided, and hesitating Christianity, and strong, bold, defiant enemies. But, notwithstanding these disadvantages, Protestantism has done great things for the world. The age is luminous with its light, and its triumphs are seen in every land where it has controlling influence. And now, if it has accomplished so much in its divided and broken condition, what might it not accomplish if its divisions were healed, and the spirit of Sectarianism entirely cast out of it? We have now briefly examined the obstacles in the way of the Gospel's success. We have seen what these are, and how it is that they hinder that success. Let us now consider
II. HOW MAY THESE OBSTACLES BE OVERCOME?
This is a question of the greatest importance to all who love the cause of Christ, and hope for the conversion of the world. It is emphatically the question of the present age; the one which involves more of social, political, and religious interest than all other questions that have agitated the public combined. What, then, shall be done to accomplish the great end proposed? What instrumentality is equal to such a grand result? I answer: The Bible, faithfully translated into all languages, universally circulated, and its paramount authority in all matters of religion fully and completely established. When God's Holy Word shall be thus honoured, then may we fondly hope that the day is not far distant when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.
1. The Bible faithfully translated, will destroy Rationalism
It cannot be denied that the errors of the old translations have furnished food upon which this insidious infidelity has fed until grown up to its present alarming proportions. Examine the writers of this school and you will find them from the least to the greatest, depending largely upon mistranslations as the surest means of shaking the people's confidence in the Word of God. The most effective way of replying to such sceptics as Colenso, is to give to the world a faithful rendering of the original Scriptures. Rationalism is shorn of its strength the very moment it comes into the presence of the pure Word of God. There is nothing contrary to reason in the Bible when we have that Bible just as it came from heaven. True, there are many things in it that are above reason, but this can be said also of the book of nature. How many things does the philosopher meet here that are wholly beyond his comprehension ? And yet there is no discord in the wonderful works of God!
Observer, Feb. 1, 71.
heavens declare his glory, and the firmanent shows his handiwork." It is easy enough to make discord by mistranslating the Divine mind. We may, by following mere charlatans in science, and refusing to listen to those who alone are able to translate the language aright, and give us the exact meaning of the divine original, involve the whole of nature in the most palpable and monstrous contradictions. And is not this equally true of the Word of God? And is not Rationalism guilty of the veriest quackery in criticism when it stops with the mistranslations of the Bible? Give us then a faithful rendering of the Word of God, and Rationalism will soon be numbered among the things that were-a fossil, belonging to a generation when the people were afraid to expunge from their Bible its errors, lest they might in some way injure its truth.
2. The Bible, universally circulated, will overcome the power of Catholicism. The secret of the Pope's success is found in the ignorance of his subjects in reference to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Bible knowledge is the death of Catholicism. It was this that broke its spell in the sixteenth century. Away from the busy scenes of active life, in the dismal cell of an Augustine monk, God demonstrated to the world the power of His own truth. Luther was permitted to study the Word of God, without the fear of Rome before his eyes. Full of its glorious inspiration, he carried this word to the people; and they, with joyful hearts, rolled on the Protestant Reformation. The contest to-day does not differ materially from what it was then. It is still an infallible Bible against a pretended infallible Church. But, after all, Catholicism does not make an issue so much with the Bible itself, as with the Bible circulated. The Bible in the hands of the priests is one thing, but in the hands of the people is quite another. A notorious robber was in the habit of murdering his victims, "because," said he, "dead men tell no tales." For a similar reason Catholicism strangles the circulation of the Word of God, for where no Bibles are, there is not much danger of the people learning the truth, We must put the Bible into the hands of the masses. Not the Bible, however, as translated in the interest of the Papal Apostacy, but the Bible as the exact representative of the DIVINE ORIGINAL. And when this shall be done, we may reasonably expect that great Babylon will fall, and the nations of the earth be free.
3. The paramount authority of the Bible, in all religious matters, fully established, will destroy sectarianism.
It cannot be denied successfully that the present divisions of Protestantism are largely owing to a want of proper respect for the authority of God's Word, The Bible is no enigma that it cannot be understood. It is God's revealed will to man, and, as such, it must be written in intelligible language. But the hypothesis that divisions among the people of God are necessary, assumes the impossibility of all understanding this revelation alike. But it must be evident to every thoughtful person that this hypothesis is false.
Sectarianism has its origin and support in the selfishness of human nature. It does not ask What does the Lord say, but does the Lord say what it says? It is willing to abide by the teachings of the Word of God only so far as those teachings are in harmony with its selfish interests. Christian union is evidently a possible thing, for Christ prayed for it, and the Apostles enjoined it upon the Churches, but there must be Christian unity first. All efforts in this direction have partially failed, because they did not begin at the beginning. We must work from the centre to the circumference. No other plan will ever succed, this is the
Observer, Feb. 1, '71
course of all life; death comes the other way. We must inspire the hearts of all with a proper respect for the Word of God; then Christian union will be easily accomplished. Make men Christians instead of sectarians; let them grow up into the benevolence of the Gospel, catch the inspiration of its glorious purposes, and go forward into its splendid activities, and Christian union will soon follow; follow, not as a mere formal thing, but as a glorious life-giving and life-sustaining reality. And who does not devoutly pray for the time to come, when the prayer of the blessed Saviour shall be answered: "And I pray not for these only, but also for those who believe on me through their word; that all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me."
Christian union is certainly most desirable, but a union that is not a union in reality, that has only a name to live by, and is dead," would only make matters worse, and compromise the possibility of our ever coming to the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." But in order to have such a union as is desirable, the paramount authority of God's Word must be established in all hearts. There must be no half-way matters here. The language of every follower of Christ must be "Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth."
But how shall this supreme authority be established? Is such a thing possible? And are the means of its accomplishment within our reach? I answer, without hesitation, that it is not only possible, but we have the means at hand; and furthermore that God will hold us fearfully accountable for any neglect of duty in reference to this matter. What, then, shall be done?
First, let the Word of God be faithfully translated; let it speak to us just as it speaks in the original. This will at once remove, or at least greatly modify, the difficulties concerning what the Word of God says; and this will be a point of immense importance gained, one which cannot be overestimated in its bearings on the subject of the union of the people of God. In the second place, we must take this Bible, thus translated, as an all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, follow its precepts, and be guided by its light in all matters pertaining to religion.
It has been truly said, that "All the lights of science and philosophy are like lights hung out upon the bows of a ship, or upon the topmast; they rock with the ship's motion, and cast their light only around the ship; but the Bible is like the light in the light-house, burning steadily in the sunshine or in the gloom, by day and by night, by that haven into which you may enter, and in the entrance of which there is alone calm, and protection, and safety." Let us, then, cling to our Bibles; cling like the shipwrecked mariner to his life-boat, and then the storms of faction will rage around us in vain; we shall reach the haven of peace, and join hands with all the people of God, in token of the Church's redemption from Sectarianism, and its union in the bonds of universal fraternity.
III. TO WHAT EXTENT ARE WE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD?
If the foregoing conclusions be correct, then it follows, with overwhelming certainty, that every Christian of the present day has a great and responsible work to perform. Never before, in the history of the world, was there such a crisis in religious matters as at this time. And never before was there so much necessity on the part of the people of God for earnest, prayerful, and self-sacrificing labour. We have forced upon us a mighty and a fearful contest; a contest in which the highest and noblest