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attestation are continually asserted, and the writings of Mr. Parker, where they are as continually denied, must be incapapable of discerning or measuring the relations of ideas; and he who will not see the difference because it suits his purpose to overlook it, saves his intelligence at the expense of his honesty.
The real question we conceive to be a question concerning the foundations of faith. Why shall we believe religious truths? on this turns the controversy; not, what are religious truths? The distinction is made, and we hold it to be a just one, between the truths and the facts of religion. In one sense indeed the facts of religion may be said to be among its truths, since they not only are matters of belief, but are worthy to be believed are true. So likethem at least, may
wise the truths of religion, or many of be called facts, since they present to the mind either what has been or what is or what shall be. The existence of God is a fact which has no limits in time. We may speak then of spiritual truths and of historical truths, or of spiritual facts and historical facts, as belonging to religion. But the historical facts of religion are, in strictness of speech, its proofs rather than its truths. The distinction may be allowed, and it is important in view of the present controversy.
For, adopting this distinction, we do not understand that Mr. Parker denies the Christian truths. On the contrary, he both recognizes and insists on them, makes them prominent and authoritative, and calls for faith in them as just and essential to the true life. The doctrines, not only of the Divine government and providence, but of immortality and retribution, the paternal character of God, the fraternal relations of mankind, the great principles of love to God and love to man, the absolute importance of righteousness and this not a righteousness of external propriety, but of the whole character-universal and thorough rectitude, such as is seen only where there is fidelity to all our obligations and destinies in a word, the authority of the law of duty, as expounded by Christ, all these points we understand to be as heartily believed by the one party as the other in this controversy. So far as they are concerned, he whose course has given so much pain to his brethren, is a Christian believer; and so far as the inculcation of VOL. XXXVIII. - 4TH S. VOL. III. NO. II. 22
these truths is concerned, he is most certainly a Christian teacher.*
But he denies the correctness of the grounds on which these truths are generally received as authoritative; and he presents other grounds of faith which we believe to be altogether insufficient for the purpose. He denies the miraculous character of Christianity. He denies that Jesus was sent upon a special mission, in any other sense than that in which any other great or good man has a mission to perform, growing out of the exigencies of the time in which he lives, and the capacities with which he is endowed. He denies the inspiration of Jesus, in any other sense than that in which it may be shared by any one of our race, - the same in kind with what we all have, and differing in degree only according to the larger natural endowment and moral or spiritual development of the individual. He denies the miraculous narratives of the New Testament, and holds them to be the exaggerations of an admiring but poorly enlightened faith. The resurrection even of our Lord he rejects from among the facts which he can believe, and represents the Gospels as the most singular compound of the true and the false, that the literature or the religion of any period of the world has ever known. It is plain then, that so far as faith in the supernatural mission of Christ, or in the historical record of his life, is concerned, Mr. Parker is not a Christian believer.
And yet he may be a Christian man. That is to say, he may have received from Christianity influences, which he is too slow to acknowledge, that have made him a pious and upright follower of the Master from whom he withholds this title. It may be a speculative. rather than a practical denial of Christ's authority which we observe in him, and notwithstanding the instability of the foundations on which his faith rests, he may draw from the Christian truths the strength and beauty of character which mark a true disciple. And this we are bound to admit and remember, that
* Some of our readers may regard this as a concession which we ought not to make. We do not mean it as a concession. If the qualifying phrase which we have used be kept in mind, we do not see how it is possible to make any other statement. So far as the belief or inculcation of the truths to which we have referred is concerned, Mr. Parker is a Christian believer and teacher, for the simple reason that he believes and teaches these, which are Christian truths.
while he discards what we consider a needful basis of faith, he may cherish as strong a conviction as we of the reality of the truths which our faith embraces, justifying his convictions to his own mind by reasons which to other minds, and in respect to their legitimate force, are inconclusive or scarcely worthy of examination; for how often do we see men adopting with the utmost confidence as grounds of belief, what every one else perceives to have a fatal unsoundness. We are therefore indisposed to question the veracity of one who tells us he holds to the same conclusions with us, because he has not reached them by what appears to us, or to all the rest of the world, the only
It is said, however, that it is not easy to reconcile a reverent faith with the language which has been used in this connexion respecting Christ, and the ordinances or the institutions of his Church. That language which must strike most readers as both light and sarcastic has been used by Mr. Parker, we conceive to be beyond denial; and for the frequent introduction into his writings of a tone of remark that can only wound the religious sensibilities of the community and shock those who do not take his point of view, we hold him answerable at the bar not of good taste, but of propriety and decency. Still it is a fair principle of judgment in every case, that the general tone of a book, or a life, shall be admitted to qualify the force of expressions which seem contrary to its prevalent spirit. When therefore we find many more professions of a tender reverence and profound admiration of Jesus than passages which bear the impress of scorn or levity; when we learn that the usual religious exercises of the ministry from whose incumbent these passages have proceeded breathe an humble piety; when we not only perceive that he retains his connexion with the Christian Church, but are informed that he celebrates the Christian ordinances; we are compelled to ask, whether we may not have given to those passages a stronger interpretation than they were intended by their author to bear.* And when he affirms
* We think some part of the offence which almost every reader must take at many of Mr. Parker's expressions, may be traced to his style, impetuous, glowing, careless of necessary limitations of thought, and seldom mindful of the nicer accuracies of statement; just the worst style (though doubtless the most popular) for a scientific work on religion.
that his purpose was to expose the nature of views which, though generally entertained, we have ourselves been accustomed to stigmatize as low and unworthy, and to draw attention to the imperfect realization which the Church has as yet reached of the mind of Christ, we cannot hesitate, while we regret and condemn the terms in which he chose to convey his sentiments, to believe that they were uttered with an honest heart.*
Still the utterance of these opinions involves a denial of the peculiar inspiration and authority of our blessed Lord, calls in question, nay, more than questions the credibility of the Scriptural narrative, and places the Gospel among the regular, though unusual methods of the Divine Providence. According to the theory which Mr. Parker advocates, the words of Christ derive little if any authority from the fact of his having spoken them they are to be believed, not because they are his words, but because they are absolute truth; what is represented by the Evangelists as miraculous, either did not take place or may be explained without admitting a supernatural intervention; and since Christianity cannot in any proper sense be called a revelation, not only the possibility, but the probability of a farther development of the absolute truth than has yet been made by Christ or been seen in him, may be affirmed. From such statements, both our convictions and our feelings wholly dissent. They offend our Christian faith. They grate harshly upon the associations and sensibilities, which have been formed beneath the influences of a Christian education and a Christian experience.
What then shall we do? What ought we as Christians to do? Shall we break forth into railing and abuse and menace ? Shall we throw ourselves into a paroxysm of fear or indignation, and justify the world in drawing the inference, that we dare not trust Christianity in the open field of argument? Shall we suffer ourselves to be betrayed by a zeal for the truth into a misrepresentation of what is maintained by its assailants, or even into an exhibi
* It does not fall within the purpose of our article to notice the personalities which Mr. Parker is accused of having uttered against his brethWe may only remark, that we doubt not that, in the jealous state of feeling which has been awakened, a great deal has been imputed to him which was never in his heart or mind.
tion of what is bad in their system without an acknowledgment of what is good? We cannot do this. It is neither right nor wise. We fear not that Christianity will be unable to establish its Divine claims against honest or dishonest assailants, and we will not do it the disservice of attempting to defend its impregnable bulwarks by covering them with inflammatory placards. No; let those bulwarks stand in their simple grandeur, and let it be our office to point out their strength.
It is not by names nor by reproaches nor by threats, that they who embrace erroneous views should be met in their endeavors to win the public sympathy. The views which we have now described, we deem to be unscriptural, unsound, and mischievous. But it becomes us to show that this character belongs to them, and not merely to assert it. We must state our objections calmly, and expose the defective parts of the system we would prevent from gaining favor in the community. This we propose to do, within such limits as we can now command.
In the first place, they more than leave out of sight, they directly impugn what we hold to be of incalculable value, the fact of a special revelation from God. This fact, independently of the contents of the revelation, is unutterably important. It proves an interest in man on the part of his Creator, which nothing else could prove. An interruption of the usual course of things is what we rejoice to believe has taken place. So far from accounting it an advantage to believe in an order of events which is never broken by Him on whose will that order depends, pronounce the order natural or supernatural, we care not which, so long as it is necessarily inviolable, so far is an inflexible normalism, to use a word which is thought by some to express better than any other the true condition of the universe, from being the condition of things under which we should prefer to live, we are thankful that God has spoken to man by special and extraordinary and miraculous methods. It assures us that we live under the eye of a watchful Parent. It gives us a confidence in the fatherly relations of the Supreme Being, which is worth more, yes, more than the faith which we draw from nature and providence. Philosophy overlooks a great want of man, and it denies him the most precious and significant of all tokens