« PreviousContinue »
in the path of Christianity. But here began a great and portentous error. Philosophy is progressive; but Christianity, in its true sphere, and, as to its true aims, is complete. Dogmatic Theology is constituted by philosophical speculation upon revealed truths. Had philosophy first been perfected, and then legitimately applied, Dogmatic Theology would have been a determinate and indisputable science. But as philosophy has ever been assuming new phases, and branching out itself into a variety of schools, often fiercely opposed to each other, Dogmatic Theology has correspondingly appeared under various systems, some of which have possessed points of agreement, while others have diverged into open hostility. It was unavoidable that philosophy, in its progress towards a complete development, should assume various and conflicting forms. It was unavoidable that Theology, as a Science, should go along a similar track in its progress to a clear noontide. And what was here demanded, was unlimited freedom of thought and investigation. It is only in this way that the Speculative reason can legitimately and adequately do its work. The portentous error was the ever renewed attempt to identify a particular dogmatic science with Christianity. Some crude and unripened philosophy gave birth to a crude unripened science. The particular science was adopted by the Church; the Church lay embosomed in worldly power, wealth, and dignities; the Schools which gave birth to the science, lay embosomed in the Church. Thus the particular science became ascendant; and the hope both of the scholar and the ecclesiastic—the hope of all fame, of all preferment, hung upon it. The philosophy triumphs through the dread authority of the Church-authority which she professes to have derived from the Holy Apostles—from the great author of Christianity himself; to the keys of the kingdom of heaven, she adds the sword of State, and thus it triumphs through the state likewise, as the adjunct of the Church. The creed embodying the dogmatical science is formed—the very language is stereotyped, and made sacred and authoritative. Heaven and earth defend the creed. Woe be to him who opposes the creed! He is a heretic, a traitor-let his body be burned-let his soul take its place among the damned!
The evil is manifold. Philosophical investigation is impeded or even brought to a pause. Free thought may give birth to new conclusions ; and new conclusions may attack the dogmatical science of the creed. There must be no thought, therefore, beyond the established forms and dogmas. Thus the natural rational criteria of truth are exchanged for the voice of the Church and the State ; and no hope remains for the progress of philosophy unless through the violence and crimes of a revolution, the only effect of which may be to transfer the sceptre of this tyranny over mind from one school to another. On the other hand, instead of the simple majesty of gospel truth speaking in the language which she brought from her native heaven, we are imposed upon by the stately antics of ambitious men, and our ears stunned with the barbarous jargon of scholastic ignorance : we have lost the teaching of the prophets of Christ and his Apostles, and we have instead thereof the teaching of Doctors and Fathers; the blessed Gospel which every man might carry about him in his bosom, is sealed up and laid away, and spacious libraries are opened where huge tomes in triple rows stand frowningly to teach us what to believe and how through the Church to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The discourses of Christ, as if too miscellaneous, and disjointed, and unscientific, are supplanted by elaborated creeds, confessions, and didactic systems! We have thus developed a Christianity of the Church and State, and of the Schools. These are leagued together, and yet possess distinct elements, and, therefore, require to be analyzed apart, in order to be comprehended in their union. The Christianity of the Church represents the Church as endowed with Divine gifts, clothed with Divine authority, as containing within herself a vicegerency from the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, hy virtue of which she interprets the word, enacts ecclesiastical laws, prescribes rituals, decides controversies, bestows privileges, enjoins penances, works miracles, regulates kingdoms, anathematises heretics and infidels, forgives penitentsin fine, holds the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, opening and shutting the gates with a plenary wisdom and power.
The Christianity of the State is simply the Church, uniting its authority with the secular power. There is thus a mutual sustentation. The State enables the Church to awe into submission by the dread of civil penalties; and the Church gives the State the majesty and force of Divine sanction.
The Christianity of the Schools is the form of doctrine determined by the form of philosophy which has received the sanction of the Church
Now, to all there is opposed the Christianity of the Word :Christianity, not under the interpretations, remodellings, and additions of the Church, and not under the expositions and explanations of any school of philosophy; but Christianity as fully and clearly set forth in the simple Word itself. A Christianity not requiring the interpretations of the Church, for the interpretations of the Church are but the interpretations of men; but this comes from the Father of lights himself, and is its own sufficient interpreter to every one who will give his heart and his mind to it : a Christianity not requiring the remodellings and additions of the Church—for, coming from a Divine hand, the touch of a human hand can only mar what God hath perfected, and can give no additional grace to what hath sprung from the fullness of the Divine conception : and a Christianity not requiring the dogmatism of the Schools, because given in the simplicity of a higher wisdom to all the simple hearted, that those whom human wit has only dazzled or led astray, may find, without mistake, the way to Heaven, and walk therein with a cheerful and certain hope: a Christianity by which every man is brought, without any human mediation, directly to the Great Mediator himself, for light and salvation.
No religion ever appeared in our world under so meek and unpretending a form as Christianity; and yet none ever appeared with such divinity and dignity ; none ever appeared with so little display of argument or erudition, and yet none ever appeared with such authority of truth. It came into our world without causing its voice to be heard in the streets, without garments rolled in blood-it came in gentleness and love, and calmly reposing upon the consciousness of its own worth and purposes, it performed its mission without respect of persons, and in perfect independence, fearing no man, Aattering no man, but loving all men. It claimed to abrogate the priesthood and priestly rites, by fulfilling at once their whole intent. It claimed to supersede all philosophies, in the matter of human salvation, by a Wisdom from on High. It claimed to separate itself from all earthly dominion by proclaiming its kingdom not of this world, and the true authority and might of this kingdom to be manifested in the heart of man.
It was unavoidable that such a system should meet with stern opposition. The Hierarchies opposed it—the Judæan Hierarchy put to death its Divine Author, and with mortal hate persecuted his disciples. And they fled from Jerusalem only to be met by the Pagan Hierarchy at Rome with fire and sword, and the fury of wild beasts in the arena. The schools of philosophy opposed it, whether at Jerusalem or at Athens, when they denied the resurrection of the dead; and in the pride of learning and eloquence, despised as foolishness the preaching of the Cross. The State opposed it. The imperial Cæsar frowned upon a system which, instead of deifying his authority and clothing his decrees with the terrors of superstition, reduced him to the condition of a culprit before the King of Kings.
But all opposition melted away before the unendurable splendors of heavenly Truth; and the Priest, the Philosopher, and the Emperor, were alike fain to make friends with the majestic visitor. But how did they make friends? Did the priest yield up his sacred pretensions, the philosopher become a little child at the feet of Jesus, and the Cæsar throw down his royal diadem to receive it again only from the hands of Love and Justice? By no means. The priest assumed to be the appointed and only legitimate minister of the heavenly grace-to be Christ's Vicegerent; and reared an altar on which, in a portentous mystery, he professed to offer daily the victim who was once offered on the Cross of Calvary. The philosopher boasted himself the expounder of the truths and facts of Christianity. And the emperor, emblazoning the Cross upon his standard, proclaimed, By this sign we conquer. The Hierarchy, the schools, the State, indeed, adopted Christianity, but it was only to corrupt, to debase, and to mould to their own purposes. They bowed to the universal voice of humanity in yielding to Christianity an apparent triumph; but in reality they triumphed still. They assumed the titles and professions of the kingdom of heaven; but they only the more securely established the ancient mysteries of error and the kingdom of this world. A true Church remained, but it was a Church in the wilderness; there were faithful souls who still, as at the beginning, bore and had patience, and labored and did not faint, but as at the beginning they were confessors and martyrs. At the beginning they were put to death under the infamy of the Christian name; it was a strange revolution by which they were now put to death as heretics from the Christian Faith! The enemy sowed tares among the wheat, and the dark counterfeit overtopped the golden ears.
“ Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on : but when he ascended, and his Apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down, gathering up limb by limb, still as they could find them.” As the “ sad friends of Truth," let us seek for her scattered limbs, and attempt something for the restoration of her glorious form, still looking, with the noble Milton, for “her Master's second coming," when he shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection.”
CHRISTIANITY IN CONFLICT WITH POLITICS.
By Rev. JAMES W. McLANE, Williamsburgh, N. Y.
Antagonist intluences exist in our world. Principles of action, differing in character essentially from each other, obtain as the basis of sentiment in the community. There is on the one hand the wis-. dom which is of this world, and which is throughout affected by the poison of an ignorant and narrow-minded selfishness; on the other, there exists the legislation of Heaven-Christianity, inculcating the lessons of an enlightened and expansive benevolence. In most cases, the former has ever had the control of the human mind,-has shaped the thoughts and directed the conduct of men. But with this the latter is in stern conflict-pronounces it foolishness, and seeks to overthrow its dominion, and to introduce in its place higher principles—the wisdom which is from above, and which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Our object at present is to speak of this latter system of influence in one of its many aspects; namely, its conflict with politics. We use this term in its widest sense, as comprehending both the frame-work and the administration of government. We wish to call attention to some of the more prominent points of this conflict, and then to show that Christianity will triumph-will bring all the arrangements of man's political condition into sympathy with its own legislation. Its great object, we are well aware, is a spiritual one-the salvation of men; but in effecting this it will gain other victories—will subdue opposing influences, and convert them into important auxiliaries to its main design. Whatever, therefore, there is in the principles and practices of men, or in the arrangements of their social and political condition, which is unfriendly to the great object of Christianity, is destined, we believe, to be known only as that which has been. It matters not where or what the obstacle may be; if it is in the way of the coming of that kingdom which is righteousness and peace, it cannot continue. The decree has gone forth. Christianity, in the attainment of its chief object, is to triumph on the soil of our sinburdened world. In gaining this it will effect many subordinate ends—will bring into friendly relation to man's spiritual interests the whole influence of his political condition.