Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

authority of a revealed God, the retributions of eternity ; these combined and formed the great lever which put this reformation in movement. If this power had been wanting in consequence of a universal rejection of Revelation, what could have been effected, even with all the moralities of a once received Revelation yet lingering among us? What good would it have done to hold up, before the eyes of men, the spectacle of thirty thousand dying drunkards per annum, and all the other horrors of the vice, and to speculate, however finely, about the turpitude of drunkenness, and the miseries which it inflicts, while there was no operative belief, no practical conception of that future account with God, and of that irretrievable ruin of the soul, which are approaching? What would the all-grasping avarice of some, and the cold, interested, and partisan selfishness of others, have cared for all the evils of the vice, especially as the worst of those erils do not often meet the eye, and even when seen, would be regarded as about to terminate, like the sufferings of the dying brute-in the grave ? We have a firm persuasion, that, under such circumstances, not only wonld the most scanty effects have followed an attempt at reformation, but also, no attempt at reformation would have ever been made. What, then, would have been the result, had not only Revelation itself been rejected, but all its old moralities also finally died out from among us and left us both infidel in theory and licentious in principle? Why, instead of men attempting a reformation, the god of wine would again have been worshipped, and his praises have been sung in Bacchanals through our streets !

But the argument from this case of illustration is not yet complete. We inquire still further; if the strong influences and sanctions of the Bible are so evidently necessary in effecting a merely partial reformation from a single vice, in a nation as moral as any upon earth, what could mere Reason, unaided by such influences and sanctions, with nothing but its native intuitions, consciousness, and conscience, hope to effect in a case of universal degeneracy; when not only one nation, but the whole human race, lay sunk, not only in one vice, but in every species of vice; and when there was no universally acknowledged standard, no divinely sanctioned rules of truth and duty, to which an appeal would lie, to which all consciences would bow, and to a conformity with which all conduct might be elevated; nothing but the uncertain conjectures, the dimly seen probabilities, of mere human speculation? In such a case, what could have been done? Is it not perfectly apparent that Reason, powerful as she might be in matters of science, would here find herself utterly at fault, not only in her efforts to discover the needed truths of God, of religious duty, and of future destiny, but also, and especially, in her endeavors to give even the little which she might conjecture, a practical influence upon individual character, and upon a great world's welfare ?

It is abundantly confirmatory of this conclusion, that the mind of the ancient heathen world, even with the light which it increasingly received from the Bible, although it wrought shining results in literature, science, and the arts, yet, instead of effecting any great amelioration in systems of moral and religious truth, and in moral character and conduct, only witnessed the gradual increase of confused ethical theories, and the gradual deterioration of all moral character, until, finally, one broad night of religious falsehood, and of moral corruption set in and ruled in profound darkness round the earth! It would be impossible, even with ample leisure, to do justice, by way of description, to the fearful horrors of the scene thus presented. The moral degeneracy of the old heathen world beggars description. In relation to God, and to religious truth and duty, they were indeed “given over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which were not convenient." They were "filled with all uncleanness," and the earth groaned under the enormity of its load of tolerated guilt!

Is it said that modern heathenism has grown purer ? Hear what a late traveller,* of great intelligence and veracity, has to say on this point: “ Of all the idolatries I ever heard or read of, the religion of the Hindoos really appears to me the worst, in the degrading notions which it gives of the Deity; in the endless round of its burthensome ceremonies ;" " in the filthy acts of uncleanness and cruelty, not only permitted, but enjoined, and inseparably interwoven with those ceremonies; in the total absence of any popular system of morals, or any single lesson, which the people at large ever hear, to live vir. tuously and to do good to one another. In general, all the sins which a Soodra is taught to fear, are killing a cow, offending a Brahmin, or neglecting one of the many frivolous rites, by which their deities are supposed to be conciliated. Accordingly, I really never met with a race of men, whose standard of morality is so low; who feel so little apparent shame in being detected in a falsehood, or so little interest in the sufferings of a neighbor, not being of their own caste or family; whose ordinary and familiar conversation is so licentious; or, in the wilder and more lawless districts, who shed blood with so little repugnance. The good qualities that are among them” .. “are, in no instance, that I am aware of, connected with, or growing out of their religion, since it is in no instance, to good deeds, or virtuous habits of life that the future rewards, in which they believe, are promised."

* Bishop Heber.

Heathenism, then, in its descent to our times, has passed through no purifying process. We may rather say, with an. other author :* " In India, we behold all around us smeared with blood, and polluted with lust and cruelty; scenes of such detestable barbarity, as seem to be intended for the very purpose of displaying the triumph of infidelity over all the instincts of human nature; rendering parents destroyers of their children, and children of their parents; in short, in every way of horror, that can be conceived, mocking and rioting in deadly triumph over all the tender feelings of the human heart, and all the convictions of the human understanding."

Such are the results of the working of the mind of man when left with little more than the mere light of nature ! Nor is there any force in the suggestion that improved education might be expected to remedy, at length, these deep and wide. spread disorders; since the tendency of moral and religious

. Wilberforce. See Bishop Wilson's Christian Evidences, $ 3.

degeneracy is, not to improve education, but 'to interrupt its progress, to pervert or neutralize its influence, and finally to banish it from all common use.

It is important to recall, in order to keep in mind, the remark, that there is strong ground for believing that our race has never been wholly unenlightened by alleged revelation. The first communications from God reached and were held by Noah; and, from him, at the dispersion of mankind, were carried, in more or less faint remembrances, wherever the race wandered; so that the heathen world has been indebted, for the little light which it has enjoyed, in relation to God, to religious truth, and to man's future destiny—not to the discoveries of unaided reason; but to the faint traces, yet remaining on it, of an alleged early revelation. Probably the human mind has never been without something of divine light; or, if it have, in any tribes of men, on the far outskirts of our system, wholly lost that light, it is there that we see our nature sunk most nearly to a level with the brute; wallowing in filth, and lust, and cannibalism, and demonstrating what human beings are likely to become when left with no knowledge of divine things beyond what mere nature can impart.

We pause on the conclusion, which we think the argument supports, that a revelation from God is indispensable, in order that, as rational beings, we may attain to right—to adequately clear and full views of God, of religious truth, and of our future destiny; and that these views may have their needed effect in the formation of human character, in the regulation of human conduct, and in the control of human affairs.

From this conclusion we are entitled to the full force of the following inquiries : Is it reasonable to suppose that God, the great Creator and Governor of the universe, would have formed man, so capable, under right culture, of all that is great and good, of knowing and serving his Maker when revealed, and of appreciating and obeying religious truth when disclosed ; so noble, under right influences, in his spiritual aspirations, in his practical attainments, and in his longing after the perfect; and that He would have placed man, thus constituted and thus capable, in such a world as this, so full of wonders and mys

teries, yet so full of snares and dangers, to the benighted soul; is it reasonable to suppose that God would have done all this without giving man any sure and certain light by which to trace the way of truth, to settle on fixed and certain rules of duty, and to realize operatively the destiny that awaits him? Is it not fearfully absurd to suppose that God would have appointed to man any future destiny, without also informing him distinctly of its nature, and showing him how to make it forever blessed ? Endoubtedly. Whatever reason we have to believe that there is a God, that He has created man, and that He has made man immortal, the same reason we have to believe that He has made a sufficient revelation of His will and of our own duty and destiny, and that we have that revelation in our own blessed Bible!

ARTICLE II. Nature and the Supernatural, as together constituting the One

System of God. By HORACE BUSHNELL. New-York: Charles Scribner. 1858.

Not the least remarkable in the chapters of the work before us is that in which Dr. Bushnell, with even more than his usual raciness of style and energy of thought, maintains the present existence of miracles and supernatural gifts. He starts with the presumption that what once existed still continnes, and he applies this to the miracles of the gospel era. He then meets the argument that miracles, being adapted to the special purpose of authenticating Christianity, may be a priori presumed to cease when that authentication is complete. Next he takes up and replies to the objections that the present alleged supernatural phenomena "make so bad a figure in the end,” are so mixed up with shams and fraud. And then he seeks to prove by induction that these miracu. lous or supernatural gifts still continue.

« ElőzőTovább »