Imágenes de páginas

local supervision, but also by frequent reports to the Missionary Board and Secretaries at home.

In the actual history and personnel of missions there are numerous warrants for Charlotte Bronté's picture of St. John Rivers, an evangelical clergyman who figures in Jane Eyre, and is possessed with what Mrs. Humphry Ward calls “a fanatical enthusiasm for missionary life.” (Evangelical zeal, which alone is equal to the arduous, self-sacrificing, and heroic work of missions, always looks fanatical to the comparatively cold and feeble non-evangelical spirit.) Jane Eyre closes with these words:

“ As to St. John Rivers, he left England; he went to India. He entered on the path he had marked for himself; he pursues it still. A more resolute, indefatigable pioneer never wrought amid rocks and dangers. Firm, faithful, and devoted; full of energy, and zeal, and truth, he labors for the human race; he clears their painful way to improvement; the prejudices of creed and caste that encumber it he hews down like a giant. He may be stern; he may be exacting; he may be ambitious; but his is the sternness of the warrior Great Heart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon. His is the exaction of the apostle who speaks but for Christ when he says, • Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' His is the ambition of the high master spirit, which aims to fill a place in the first rank of those who are redeemed from the earth-who stand without fault before the throne of God; who share the last mighty victories of the Lamb; who are called and chosen and faithful. St. John Rivers is unmarried; he will never marry; himself has sufficed to the toil; and the toil draws near its close; his glorious sun hastens to its setting. His last letter drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with divine joy; he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a stranger's hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord. And why weep for this ? No fear of death will darken his last hour; his mind will be unclouded; his heart will be undaunted; his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this: 'My Master,' he says, 'has forewarned me. Daily he announces more distinctly, “Surely I come quickly," and hourly I more eagerly respond, “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus." »»




My article on the above subject, published in July, 1898, has created, as I am glad to know, not a little interest among the readers of the Reciev. Several have written words of hearty appreciation, and have said that the article ought to make a profound impression throughout the Church. If it has so done I am glad, and hope that the impression was for good and not for evil. But some persons the article has impressed, as I expected it would, quite unfavorably. Adverse criticisms from two such persons have found place in the “Arena.” In the main, these criticisms seem fair, and somewhat ably represent the traditional side of the questions discussed in my article.

There is but a simple strand, so far as I can see, running through both criticisms, and that is a frantic plea in behalf of the supernatural. In the "ages of faith,” which were also the ages of ignorance and superstition, I can understand the reason and import of such a plea; but in this age of science and light, when men, searching in every direction, are finding not miracles but law, I cannot understand how it is that it should be thought that the more law we have the less we have of God, or how it should be thought that religion can be better built on the corder stone of miracle than it can be on the corner stone of the natural. It must be that many fail to note that, since the ages of faith, the position of things has been reversed. Then, miracles were everywhere, and law was nowhere; now law is everywhere, and miracles are nowhere; that is to say, nowhere recognized now in the present working of things. Is the theologian the only one to whom that fact imports nothing? Is he, of all men, the only one who has no occasion to make concessions to the scientific spirit of the age in which he lives? And if he shall stubbornly refuse to make concessions, is he likely to make converts to his religion, or will be more probably make infidels and atheists? The history of the century just closing should answer that question, in which the most marked progress that Christianity has ever made has been coincident with this age of most marked intellectual and scientific development, and in which, as never before, theology has made concessions to science.

Now, it does seem to the writer that anyone who can rationally explain both our sacred Scriptures and nature so as to reduce the miraculous element to the minimum should be regarded in a friendly way; and I cannot see why Drs. Bilbie and Barnes should fly at me with questions like this: "If you explain this away, then how about that and that ?" Why cannot these brethren see that their argument is not advanced at all

by urging in proof of one thing other things that are on the same plane and vouched for in the same way, but rather, that the larger the number of stories which are difficult of belief the greater will be the diffi. culty of explaining them ? And if this be not so, why not add, as helpful to a belief in the miraculous stories about Jesus, those also in the same line about Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, and Mohammed ? And why not add to the miracles of ancient times, and, as explanatory of them, the miracles of mediæval and modern times ? That is what the Roman Catholic does, and in that he is consistent; but, like the average Protestant, he also attempts to prove the fact of miracle in one case by the fact of miracles in other cases; and if we inveigh against his proof of miracles in one case he will ask, “What, then, about the miracles of 'Our Lady of Lourdes,' and what of those of La Salette ?”. Of course we cannot reason with such men, because their habit is faith, and not reason and logic.

But the real difficulty with my critics, as with others like them, is that God, according to their ideas, is doing nothing in this age of the world, and in the olden times he did nothing in the way of inspiration and revelation and miracle-working except among the Jews. And so. if we urge. that God is now inspiring men and revealing himself to them, their reply is that this discredits the fact that he has ever revealed himself to anyone; and if we say that God, in the ages long gone by, revealed himself to other nations besides the Jews, then they say that this is the same as to declare that he never revealed himself to the Jews. To such persons God is not, however they may think of him, “the same yesterday and to-day and forever;” and, because he is not, they can assume that while God works by law now he did not always do so, and that while he did once inspire men and reveal himself to them he is not doing that now. It ought to be plain enough that on those who make such assumptions rests the burden of proof, and that they have plenty to do besides standing around and asking questions. For, if questions are to be asked, I would like to ask some: Do my critics believe that the universe was created out of nothing in six days? Do they believe that the earth is the center of the system of which it is & part, and that it was made before the sun and stars? Do they believe that grass and herbs grew on the earth before the sun was created ? Do they believe that the sun stood still over Ajalon at Joshua's command ? And do they believe that they who were with Paul on his way to Damascus stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man, according to Acts ix, 7; or do they believe, according to Acts xxii, 9, that they who were with Paul “ heard not the voice,” but “saw, indeed, the light ?" When my critics have answered these inquiries it will, perhaps, be their turn to ply my argument with questions, but not till then.

The weak point with my critics, as it seems to me, is their clamor for the supernatural, for which just now, through some reason or other, there is such a frantic demand. But to me it seems a much stronger


position to take, that religion is natural. If the worship of higher

from a sense of need, be the foundation of all religion, why not hold that this need is natural, as undoubtedly it is, and that therefore the provision to meet that need must be natural also ? Why not find a place for religion in the very nature and constitution of things, and so end this quaking fear lest something shall come along that will overthrow it? I commend to my critics John Fiske's argument in his Through Nature to God, drawn from evolution in favor of the “everlasting reality of religion.” It gives one such a sense of security and rest to know that the foundations cannot possibly be destroyed. That question being settled, others will easily follow. Our reverence for the great Book of our religion will not keep us back from trying to learn all we can as to its origin, its teachings, and the limitations of its use. And if we shall find that Moses, or some one else, in writing the Pentateuch used material that existed in Egypt and Chaldea long before his day, we shall not on that account discredit these writings, and much less shall we exalt them into a supernatural revelation. Neither shall we take myths and legends that were similar and common among all the leading peoples of the world and say that they were everywhere false except among one people; nor shall we say that the great religions were and are everywhere false except the Jewish religion once and the Christian religion now. We may say, however, what we fully believe, that other religions are less perfect than is the Christian, although in that judgment we shall find ourselves voting with the minority. If we cannot take some such position as this, who can defend the evident partiality of the divine administration ? For, plainly enough, from the point of view of the traditionists it is sadly in need of defense. But now, if we may look at the Bible as literature-ancient, and even sacred, literature, if you please, but created like other such literature, only being both more poetical and more ethical, and also having a higher and better conception of God than any other, and as being of God through human agencies, some of a high, but some also of a very low, order—such a view would relieve us from the necessity of defending God from much that is recorded in the Bible, of which we know that he could not have been the author. Such a view would forever make it unnecessary, and even impossible, for Brother Bilbie to ask, “Is divine vengeance never just ?” How anyone who has ever looked up into the bosom of infinite Love can ask such a question is more than I can understand. Such divine vengeance is a strange thing to be predicated of infinite Love! Certain it is that Jesus did not teach after that fashion: “Be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." I therefore join with Whittier :

I know not of his hate,

I know only of his love. And in the same way my Brother Barnes would be saved from the necessity of trying to justify the slaughter of the Midianites and the worse than slaughter of their virgin women, by his most unscientific suggestion that God even now slays wicked men by earthquakes and by lightning. Men slay one another often, but God slays man never. True, men die, but death is just as much a part of the economy of God as birth is, and it is just as beneficent. And then, again, lightningelectricity--can no longer be looked upon as a malevolent force, for, since man has harnessed it for such various uses it has proved itself to be as beneficent as it is puissant. But why does Brother Barnes insert that word “wicked ?" Does he not know that earthquakes and lightning are as impartial as regards character as God's sun and rain are? Lightning, or electricity, has absolutely no relations to character, or to moral government; it follows the lines of least resistance, and the man who is killed by it is its victim, not because he is wicked, but because he is in

And then, if the suggestion of Brother Barnes be intellect, what atrocity can be imagined that could not be justified ? Brothers, let us beware! We must not malign God. It is better to let exploded theories go, and to live and to walk in the light as God gives us that light to-day. This means that we should not take our measure of God from men who lived during the childhood period of the race, but that we shall measure him in the light of our manhood knowledge as to what God has done, and therefore as to what God is, not overlooking that revelation of him made through Jesus Christ, of whom alone it may

be said that he taught religion in its best and highest form, and that in doing this, so far was he from maligning or contradicting nature that he drew many of his most beautiful illustrations from that source. Minneapolis, Minn.


its way.


A SHORT note on this great topic in the July-August Review of 1899 suggests a consideration of several questions. Probably the first question that occurs to the majority of Review readers is this: Why has there been no more marked result from the circulation of Christian literature in China heretofore? We have long had this literature, and young missionaries especially found great satisfaction in circulating it among the people. It is safe to say that nine out of ten new arrivals on the vast field jump at the chance of selling books in order not to seem utterly useless while studying the language. If these labors prove very discouraging because of the slight visible results the chief fault probably lies in the literature distributed. In order to make books for China one must realize, first, how difficult it is for the Chinese scholar to grasp a new idea; second, how difficult it is to persuade a Chinese writer (and I know of no missionary who does not employ one) to couch the new idea in the simplest ideograph; and, third, that it does not occur to one in a hundred Chinese who are able to read to read in quest of ideas or

« AnteriorContinuar »