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phy grows more inquisitive, and with more daring scepticism tries in its crucible opinions once held axiomatic, it is possible the creed of the Christian may be recognized by the soundest thinkers, as offering the firmest support to fundamental truths which reason is incompetent to demonstrate, and therefore as being not only the sole basis of religious hope, but also an intellectual necessity. The human spirit's possible existence apart from the body, its immateriality and immortality are questions in philosophy as well as in divinity which reason alone has appeared quite unable to solve. Then there are men who bring into doubt the reality of the external world, and even the actual substantive existence of their own mind. Perhaps no one will ever be convinced by such arguments; but the agitation of self-evident or axiomatic propositions may infuse into some minds a vague scepticism as to the certainty of any possible subject of knowledge, and thus cause a degree of recklessness in regard to truths of the most momentous import. But if Christianity is sufficiently proved, the reality of
. our own existence, of time and space, of the external world, of other human beings besides ourselves, of our relations and duties toward them, and of the eternal distinction of right and wrong become established and unquestionable truth; and perhaps on this ground alone can some inquiring and metaphysical spirits rest in perfect conviction. Happily the evidence for our religion is such as to deprive every hostile hypothesis of plausibility. There are indeed difficulties reinaining which may in some instances never be removed ; but still the vast preponderance of proof seems sufficient to dispel all rational doubt as to the essential truth of the system. Yet if corroboration were needed, one circumstance would to us afford it; though upon the point we would speak with reverence and caution, avoiding all dogmatism, and presenting merely the view which has struck our own mind. It is a principle of law that what is said of a man in his presence, if he expresses no dissent, but leaves others to act on the presumption of its truth, will in many cases charge him with a respon sibility; a rule which is founded in reason and equity. On a principle somewhat similar, it might be difficult, we appre hend, to make it appear that the Deity had maintained perfect
good faith, if he had suffered a false religion to be promulgated with such an array of evidence as confirms the pretensions of Christianity. The case is quite different from that of mere historical or scientific inquiry, in which men might be fully convinced on the strongest probable evidence of what was in reality false, without disparagement of the Divine sincerity. There is nothing in such cases that in any aspect engages the attributes of the Most High for the discovery of the truth. But when a revelation comes professedly from him, commanding under promises and threats, which Omnipotence alone can redeem, a course of conduct involving potentially the sacrifice of the dearest interests of life, and even life itself, then, if that religion were false, and he had yet allowed such credentials to attest it as suffice to produce a rational belief in minds formed as he has made ours, we do not clearly see how our great Sovereign could be exculpated from a charge which we must not venture to name.
We have expressed the hope that many metaphysical minds might, as to some important truths, find refuge from scepticism in the certainty of religious belief. It might be objected, , however, that the fundamental principles of knowledge must be settled affirmatively before the evidences of religion can be examined; that if a man doubts of time and space, his own continuing existence, or any other truth so primordial, he is in no condition to begin his investigation of a subject resting on an external proof. So indeed it would be if he were fixed in absolute disbelief, but not if only a sceptic; and, in regard to such questions, we suspect the mind can never advance beyond that twilight region into utter darkness. If, however, he merely doubts, there may be a like indecision as to the truth of Christianity; in which case, considering its transcendant importance, the most momentous question of fact that can possibly engage the human mind, he will, if quite sincere, be led to earnest inquiry. Proceeding from his own startingpoint, with all principles unfixed and floating like shapeless phantoms around him, he might, indeed, anticipate only deeper and more bewildering doubt as the result, if it were not for the peculiar definitive test proposed by the religion which claims his attention. The Saviour declares that whoever will do the
will of God (or perhaps “is willing,” 5thn) shall know whether the doctrine is true; * and similar engagements of the Divine veracity are made in other places. Here then is a challenge to the sceptic, and it may be remarked, that a religion which dares to give such a pledge, offers in its calm self-confidence a presumption of its truth. If, therefore, he undertakes the examination, with the honest purpose required, and conscientiously maintains it, then (unless we misread the text), either the religion is false or the inquirer must be led to recognize it as divine. Whatever his position, and however impenetrable the clouds that invest him, he has in this promise a principle which, if the Gospel is false, must detect the imposition, and if true, will be his guiding star through the night of darkness and error.
Art. VI.-Adjourned Meetings of the General Assemblies
ACCORDING to adjournment, at the close of their respective meetings in New York last spring, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, O. S., assembled in the First Presbyterian Church, and that of the New School in the Third Presbyterian Church, in Pittsburg, Pa., November 10, 1869, at 11 A. M.
The great object of these meetings, it is hardly necessary to say, was to receive duly attested reports of the votes of the Presbyteries on the overture sent down to them touching re-union, and if they found it sanctioned by two-thirds of the Presbyteries of each body, to declare the same to be of
binding force.” Thus the re-union would be consummated, and the two churches become one body organically, in fact and in form.
Some items of unfinished business, laid over to this meeting,
* John vii, 17.
comprised principally of the reports of committees appointed ad interim, required first to be disposed of in each body. the New School Assembly this consisted chiefly of a report on amusements by a committee, of which the Rev. IIerrick Johnson was chairman, which is judicious and discriminating. It however prescribes little to relieve the practical difficulties of the subject, beyond what may be found in an elevated tone of piety. They also uttered a strong protest against the present tendency in our State and municipal governments to appropriate the public moneys to the support of Papal schools, and exclude the Bible from all. They likewise took decided action in favor of having manses provided in all congregations. They further adopted some measures respecting their relations to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, rendered necessary by the re-union, to which we may briefly recur hereafter. Their other work, outside of re-union, was mostly formal or devotional.
Our own Assembly had two reports from committees ad interim of the gravest importance--we refer to those on the Chicago and Danville seminaries. The conflicts among the friends of these seminaries have been so earnest, protracted, and, in some cases, embittered, that it was feared by many that the measures and discussions necessary to their pacification at Pittsburg, would greatly mar, if not delay, the consummation of re-union. Thanks to the thorough, patient, and wise labors of the respective committees sent to examine and report upon the difficulties of these institutions, such fears proved groundless. Owing to the patient and judicious labors of the respective committees, the troubles had already been composed on such a basis as commanded universal assent, and left nothing to be done by the Assembly but to accept and adopt the reports of the committees without debate. This was accomplished during the first day of the session. The substance of the settlement by compromise at Chicago was flashed through the country by telegraph a few days before the meeting of the Assembly, and sent a thrill of joy through the whole church. It is contained in the following extract from the report of the committees, of which Senator Drake was chairman :
" After having heard all the evidence in the case, the committee determined it to be their duty to make an effort to secure an amicable adjustment of the difficulty. They therefore appointed two of their number (Drs. Musgrave and Backus), to undertake this delicate duty. The effort, we are happy to say, proved successful by the great mercy of our Lord; and the following are the terms of this adjustment, accepted by all the parties, the original copy of which, signed by a representative of each party in the presence and with the concurrence of all, is herewith submitted to the Assembly :
"The parties to the controversy in regard to the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest, have agreed to this amicable adjustment, viz.: I. That by-gones shall be by.gones. No further controversy respecting past issues to be indulged in, and all shall cordially unite in efforts to promote the prosperity of the institution in the field of usefulness now about to widen so greatly before it. II. That, on the one hand, Dr. Lord shall retain the chair of Theology, to which he has been assigned by the General Assembly; and that, on the other hand, the General Assembly will order the release of Mr. McCormick from the fourth instalment of his bond, and that the instalments of the endowment already paid shall be regarded as a fultilment of his entire obligations. III. That the three trustees last elected shall resign, and their places shall be supplied by others not unacceptable to either party. IV. That hereafter, all the friends and patrons of the seminary shall have a proper share in the management of the institution; and that, as far as practicable, all the Synods particularly concerned shall be duly represented; it being understood that those friends of the seminary, who have not contributed to its endowment, shall make a prompt and earnest effort to raise for it the sum of at least twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).
“Signed on behalf of the parties we respectively represent, on this third day of November, A. D. 1869.
D. C. MARQUIS, "(Sigued),
H. F. SPAFFORD.”
We should be glad, if we had space, to copy the entire report. The main feature of it is the argument which the release of Mr. McCormick from the legal obligation of his bond to pay the last $25,000 of his munificent subscription of $100,000 to endow the seminary, after having already paid $75,000. The argument is simply this, that Mr. McCormick stipulated to pay it in view of a mutual understanding between him and the Assembly which founded the seminary, that its professors should not agitate the subject of slavery. In the altered state of the country since that time, the Assembly cannot and will not impose such conditions on its professors. They cannot therefore fulfil their part of the understanding with Mr. McCormick. They cannot, of course, in Christian honor, however they might in law, compel him to