Изображения страниц

answer as a substitute for this. It is imperiously demanded, and we shall continue to suffer until it is gained. I rejoice, therefore, in the prospective establishment of colleges and theological schools for Universalists. And although there are many other things, that I cannot now mention, which must constitute vital elements of an attractive and efficient pulpit, yet I humbly hope that through these facilities for a better literary and theological training, our ministry may rise to a position which it has never yet attained, and wield an inflence never before felt from any Protestant establishment.

Tufts College, and the institution at Galesburg, Ill., with the theological school about to be established in New York, are promising heralds of the better time coming. Let the denomination keep them in its thoughts. Let our men of wealth give them the needed pecuniary vitality. If they are seeking any of the decent aims of life, what better investment can our rich men make of the few thousands wanted here, which are hardly a drop in the ocean of their possessions?

M. B.


Church History.

OUR present purpose is to offer a few commendations of Church History as a part of educative reading and study for all classes. Within a few years a new interest has been awakened towards this department of church literature, to be traced, in part, to the fresh manner of treating the subjects involved, the more comprehensive and thorough spirit of research, the clearer discernment of the interlinking of the ages, and the superior candor and freedom from the power of mere class opinions. We are thankful that this new interest exists, and that so abunddant and excellent are the means afforded to nurture and expanded it. It argues good things for the church universal.

Our Master, on a certain occasion, gave a great thought which may here have our attention, affording us a leading idea for our guidance :-"Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."

Our Saviour said this in justification of his course in setting the people against the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees respecting certain forms and ceremonies which were by them deemed essential. The Pharisees had complained of his disciples for neglecting certain forms enjoined by the "traditions of the elders," and Jesus, in answer, had shown that by these traditions they "transgressed the commandments of God," and thereby he at once destroyed all the moral force of those traditions. If the traditions contravened the commandments, they had no authority, and no ceremony enjoined by them could be binding. Jesus specified instances of this contradiction between the Pharisaic teachings and the commandments of God, adding, "And many such like things do ye." Mark vii. 13.

Here he sets the example of testing all human teachings by one standard, that is, Do they carry out or modify the effect of the Word of God? And, to give us courage to battle with error, to examine its basis and claims, to trust in the grand issue which the providence of God shall secure, he said to those of his disciples who asked him if he knew that the Pharisees were offended, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."

This is a grand prophecy. Weeds drink up the life of the soil as well as useful plants, and it is good to see the labor of the husbandman where he plucks the useless plant, shakes the soil from its roots, and lays it bare to the withering influence of the sun. So must error be plucked up. While it has its root in the mind of man it drinks the life that otherwise would be given to truth. It requires for its support an expenditure that should be the supply of something good, useful and enduring. Man puts on it a false value, and it chokes the growth of whatever he may really possess of divine knowledge.

Jesus would have his disciples to be, not only teachers of truth, but destroyers of error; and he seems to intimate that they must not expect that by simply planting

the truth, they may expect its growth to crowd error out of the mind, but a work at rooting up must be performed. Error must, many times, be dislodged in order to find a place for the planting of truth; and the destruction of error may become like the withering of the plucked weeds which impart in this condition nourishment to the soil.

There is something morally beautiful in the cheerfulness with which Jesus contemplated the inevitable exposures of his truth. He foresaw, and foretold, how tares would be sown where his wheat was planted; and while "the field" was "the world," he beheld the variety of fortunes through which his kingdom must pass, and the complete victory which should, in due time, be accomplished. That soul has the most of God who has the greatest trust in the omnipotence of the truth. The truth and the mind were made for each other. Error has only human support; truth has divine; and it is a part of the best education of man to be interested in the vicissitudes through which our religion has passed, that he may see how imperishable are the teachings of Christ. By this course we shall better estimate the value of the labors of Reformers who, from age to age, have been the rooters up of error,-who have called the people from human traditions to the divine commandments, and directed to God that reverence which men were paying to their fellows. This work has yet to be continued. Traditions now usurp the place of revealed duties. Many doctrines, ceremonies, usurpations and vanities are plants which yet remain to be rooted up and laid bare to the consuming fire of the Sun of Righteousness; and how can we be interested in this duty better than by giving some attention to Church History, or to that survey of the great events, men, and opinions, which are most intimately connected with the history of doctrines and methods in the Christian church.

To this I would invite attention. It is not a matter merely for ecelesiastics, but for all to whom religion in its pu rity is of value, and who would discipline their powers to the divine labor of separating truth from modifying errors. What the Saviour said should be done, in respect to the rooting up of every plant not planted by his Father, is a

labor that man, under God, is to perform. It is unwise not to be interested in any God-like work; and if the wars and fightings in the State absorb so much attention, because the condition of humanity is so much affected by the issues, why should not Church History have our attention on the same ground? It is the history of the mightest power-a power that lies behind and gives direction to more of the world's battles than we are aware of a power which affects the condition of humanity more than any other element of social action.

Many minds are kept from all the lessons of history because they say they can retain only "general impressions" of what they read or hear. But there is great worth in these "general impressions." It is these which hold for us the benefits of preaching. We cannot retain the texts, divisions, arguments, illustrations, and applications of all the sermons we hear, but impressions favorable to our growth in religion remain our feelings, our affections, our sympathies, retain the influence of all this preaching. We are better, we are happier, for it. And wise was the church-goer who compared these general impressions to the influence of the water on the linen she was bleaching the sun dried it all up, and no trace could be seen of the quantities she had poured on the linen; "but," said she, "the linen grows whiter and whiter every hour." So, general impressions received from hearing or reading historical truths, may bleach out many an error, many an evil prejudice, which stains the soul. "General impressions will enable us to treasure up in our minds all the great leading lessons, all the philosophy of history," says one of the best teachers of that branch of learning.

Church History, equally with the history of the State, affords stirring events, dramatic scenes, remarkable characters, enlarging our knowledge of human nature and giving greater efficiency to our own ideas of right and truth. We obtain from it more comprehensive views of men and times; we see from what small beginnings great results have flowed; how evil and its remedy have sprung up together-the one luxuriant for a while, the other of slower growth, but of enduring beauty. We are made able to unite cause and effect more wisely; to become less deceived by pretension; to enhance our estimate of

[blocks in formation]

calm judgment, dispassionate speculation, the nobility of adherence to principle; and we cannot fail to see the demand for broad charity and genuine tolerance, as we look on the diversity of character and opinion where there is equal honesty of purpose, purity and strength of effort, and goodness of character. History has thus much of the influence of travel, which carries a man into new society, new scenes, different manners and customs, and shows him what diversities of forms the same human nature can put on. History may test our temper and disposition as well as travel; and thus, without leaving our homes, we may be able to obtain the moral benefits of wise travel.

And surely it seems to me that to be able to bring into one common point of view the phenomena of various religious parties to see their characteristic working, and to behold, in all this, new evidences of the vitality of the. religious sentiment and the supremacy of religious convictions, must enlarge our charity and help to the possession of a true and noble spirit of discipleship. A disinclination to engage in this labor is often a proof of contractedness of mind; of an unwillingness to see evidences for thinking better of those who differ from us. With some it is an evidence of a want of real faith in what they profess to believe-a shrinking from examination-an unworthy leaning upon others a willingness to be reduced to a mere echo; and, like a parrot, they repeat what they have been taught, without any self-use of what has been given them. They utterly deprive themselves of all means of attaining to one of the best exercises of the mind-the ability to draw inferences from an author's statements, which the author never dreamed of, and by which he is many times confuted by his own pages. With this power a man may become as a bee, finding honey where spiders are at work for only poison, and he may hive up sweets where the other laborers have no such end in view. Thus he may solve Samson's riddle,"Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." How severe is the retribution visited on the man who gives up his mind to others, and deprives himself of all true self-energy, following the traditions of men, while those traditions make him transgress the commandments of God!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »