« AnteriorContinuar »
stantially the words recorded by the Evangelists; that he was crucified by unbelieving Jews; and that he rose from the dead. For the truth of these facts, human nature can be no authority. There is nothing in instinct or reason to identify these as facts. They rest wholly and forever upon external evidence. To us the evidence is satisfactory ; it compels our belief. The Scriptures contain numerous facts kindred with these. They all have a place in Christian theology; but the authority on which they rest is not inherent in man.
4. The numerous instances of wise and benevolent adaptation in the world of mind and of matter; the primary facts given outright by the awakened soul ; the revelations of divine wisdom and love given through the mouths of prophets, evangelists, and apostles; more particularly the words and the life of Jesus, — all furnish the human reason with abundant material out of which religious convictions may be wrought. The possession of these valid truths leads us to attribute to the Creator a vast plan, whereby all experiences and all events are made to contribute to a common issue, in which the highest good of every human soul shall be forever secured. The progress of the world, “ the logic of history,” the lessons of individual experience, the clear intimations of providence, all blend in the development of a system of faith the central promise of which is the ultimate regeneration of all the souls that God has made. To us, the same promise is clearly expressed in revelation, and we can rejoice in it on the strength of that authority. It finds a confirmation in the aspirations and yearnings of our spirit ual nature ; and on this foundation the promise can securely rest.
But, so far as it is a deduction of our reason, we will only say, that we firmly believe in it - we will not claim for it, as deduced, an absolute certainty — by no means the authority of human nature.
In conclusion, we will add, that in every sense in which human nature is an authority, that authority, with us at least, is final — the word implies as much as this. Hence, we affirm, that no creed, no dogma, no interpretation of Scripture, which does palpable violence to our spiritual instincts, is entitled to our belief; and that, too, no matter by what external authority it may seem to be supported. Concede for argument's sake (what, in point of fact, we do by no means concede), that the last verse in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, that the verses which speak of the Sin against the Holy Ghost, that the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and any number of other Scripture passages,
concede that these seem to teach the dogmas of a vindictive God, of a personal Devil, of total depravity, and of endless sin and suffering; concede for argument's sake, that we are utterly unable, by our exegetical skill, to resist these interpretations of Scripture ; what then?
We answer, these dogmas are loathesome to the soul which God has made -- are at war with every divine instinct, with every spiritual aspiration and desire; and hence are repudiated by an authority which is final — are declared false by a verdict, the correctness of which no conceivable form of external ev. idence has the right to question.
Understand, the conclusion is not that these several Scriptures are untrue — nothing of the kind. The conclusion is, that as all human interpretation is universally conceded to be fallible, and so may mistake in the instances of interpretation under notice, the falsity of the interpretation must be assumed - assumed, no matter how futile all critical skill may be to discover in what the falsity consists. The interpretation, by the concession of all, may be false — the voice of the soul, which is the voice of God himself, cannot be false.
We should do violence to our feeling in this connection, did we fail to state, that, in point of fact, none of the Scriptures specially referred to trouble us on even exegetical grounds. The fallacy of the interpretations which have become traditional, is to us palpable in every instance. No dogma which violates our moral and spiritual sense, even seems to have the warrant of Scripture." Reason, the soul and revelation, all blend harmoniously, and by concurrent voice proclaim doctrines which honor God and glorify man. But, as matter of supposition, if in any instance an interpretation of Scripture seemingly obvious - irresistable as seen in the light of all available critical skill - does unequivocal violence to the spiritual instincts of our being, our course is plain. We shall concede the truth of the Scripture, and assume — in the exercise of the spiritual prerogative inherent within us, authoritatively assume- that the interpretation must be false which dishonors the Bible, and outrages the image of God in man.
G. H. E.
A Preacher on Preaching.
A lively pen-painter or critic, L. Bungener, in one of his vivacious books, has portrayed a scene that stands in the imagination invested with dramatic interest. The enterprising Frenchman has not adhered to the literal verity of history, in the event he describes; but the heroic fidelity, attributed to the central personage, radiates an inspiration that justifies the poetic license. The scene is located in the Royal Chapel at Versailles, where, on a certain good Friday, Bourdaloue-- then in the meridian of his great fameis about to deliver a searching sermon before Louis XIV. It has been rumored throughout the Court, that this sermon is charged with some special amunition, to be aimed at the royal conscience; and the auditory palpitate with reasonable excitement. In order to appreciate the anxious interest gathering around the event, it is necessary to consider, in the first place, that Louis XIV. is a most imperious, despotic, and licentious Sovereign. He rules with an iron sceptre, and there are few that can face his frown. His immoralities are the scandal of European society ; and the license of the monarch scorns decorum and defies rebuke. The preachers share the servility of the Court; wink at the king's vices; and refresh the royal person with showers of flattery whenever he is pleased to listen to their florid eloquence. What man, then, dare rise above the obsequious monotone of adulation, and launch the terrors of truth upon this crowned sinner? What man dare lay his hand upon the sacred ermine of Etiquette, rend asunder the imposing pageantry of Versailles, and reveal the judgments of God silently marshalled round the haughtiest throne in Christendom? Bourdaloue is the man for the occasion. Not that he has been guiltless of adulation : he has flattered the pride of the king, and soothed his conscience, agreeably to the bare fashion of
It is pleasant to please the royal patron ; to have one's genius nourished in the glass-house of court favor; to see brave knights, bronzed in the storm of battle, surrender
to the charms of rhetoric, and to receive notes from the fairest lilies of France applauding the eloquence that never made them ashamed of their sins. But how does the King of kings regard the sycophancy that shelters the royal beast from the thunders of his Word ? It is this pertinent query that troubles the popular preacher. His mind is agitated by conflicting impulses. He dreads to rasp his tender reputation upon that rough imperious will; and he fears, also, to ignore longer the obvious requirement of God. Before entering the pulpit, he commits to memory two perora, tions — one, laudatory and faithless; the other, pungent and terrible — being unable to decide which the occasion will call forth. The monarch sits with clouded brow. The courtiers are hushed in breathless expectation. The preacher's brain burns with excitement, as he reaches the line where he must decide whether he will please God or the king. The stringency of the crisis suspends his breath. There is an instant's pause, a final conflict between interest and duty. Now, his head is raised in triumphant resolution ; his voice resounds like a trumpet ; his burning glance darts its fervid lightnings on the king, and the sovereignty of righteousness grapples with the sovereignty of the sceptre. The conscience of the great Bourbon responds to the minister of heaven. Pale, confounded, and self-condemned, the haughty sinner bends in momentary contrition, and suffers the magnanimity of the prince to plead for the virtue of the preacher.
This scene—so impressive to the imagination, and so consistent with the proper dignity of the pulpit-serves well to introduce the observations we propose to make on Preaching. Indeed, this picture of Bourdaloue rebuking in public the greatest monarch of his age, suggests the first consideration we desire to present-namely, the fidelity the preacher is obligated to manifest.
In assuming his office, he makes a solemn engagement to announce God's law, and to communicate the Divine will, irrespective of human favor. Speaking the truth in love, and blending the humanity of the servant with the authority of the Master, he is not to esteem the favor of men any farther than that may be consistent with the approval of God. He is, primarily, in God's employment, ordained to make known his pleasure, to vindicate his law, to obey the
incentives of his spirit, to apply his truth to the various needs of his people; and, by these instrumentalities, to aid in creating a kingdom of practical righteousness in human society, to be expanded, in due time, round the world, and to become the paramount authority of mankind. Now, where the pleasure of God is matched with the toleration of men, the preacher has, what would be esteemed in the judgment of this world at least,“ a goodly heritage.” But how much more frequently must it come to pass, that the Divine will -- which the preacher represents and the will of men, are displayed in open opposition. So long as he confines his discussion to the abstract region of the credenda, the hostility of the heavenly and the human may be veiled in the mists of speculation ; but when the regenerating word enters the better defined sphere of the agenda, the preacher may expect either passionate protests from wilful supporters of wrong, or an overwhelming effusion of the Holy Spirit, bearing down opposition in the force of conviction.
Some social wrong is being meditated ; somebody's selfinterest is choking a public good; truth is down in the street, and the mob are pelting it with sophistries. There is nothing surprising in this emergency; for we all confess that evil is yet in the ascendent; that men are passionate, impulsive, selfish and unjust; and that even the best sometimes go astray. The preacher looks out upon the scene; apprehends the state of the case, or believes that he does; and his conscience impels him to declare what God's law and the truth of Christ have to do with these things. He may err, in the opportunity he selects, and in the spirit he manifests; for he is fallible, and must act under human limitations. But he is as liable to be correct to apprehend the business in its proper relations, and to discuss it with discretion - as those who are mining in the dark for gain, or casting the horoscope of ambition in the political sky.
The office of the preacher, as the expositor of Divine truth, and the herald of the Divine kingdom, brings him into collision with the passions and interests of the world. Whenever an issue is raised between the eternal truths and some lying tradition ; between the eternal justice and some ruffainly wrong; between the eternal purity and some scandalous license — he must either desert his colors, and commit