« AnteriorContinuar »
The ex-Premier proves himself indeed to be an able champion of the Christian faith, and it is great gain to have the witness of such a lofty mind and noble character. But he occupies himself too much in defending the outposts. Anyone who reads IngersolFs papers will see that the stress of his attack upon the Bible is that it reveals a God who is very far below an enlightened conception of what God must be, if there be a God. He claims that the Being whom Christianity holds forth for our admiration and worship is partial, vindictive, and one who has called into being immense numbers of His creatures whose destiny it is to suffer the agonies of an endless hell. He believes that such an endless torment of sinners is plainly set forth in the New Testament, and that this is an essential feature of the Christian scheme. Dr. Field was not competent to meet him on this ground, because while revealing larger human sympathies than this dogma admits of, he was handicapped in that he stands as a professed exponent of the Presbyterian system, in which this doctrine of endless torment is made an integral feature. Mr Gladstone parries his adversary's assault upon the Christian faith by some general remarks at the outset upon the deformities and excreserces which have supervened upon the faith, and which are not of its essence, but he does not fairly meet the issue. He virtually declines to "discuss the subject of future retribution," and contents himself with exposing the weakness of his opponent at less vital points. Thisunsatisfactoriness of defence is doubtless due to the fact revealed in this paper that Mr. Gladstone's own views are not fully settled here.
And this brings us to what we meant to say when we began this criticism. Mr. Gladstone, like the majority of adherents of the Christian faith, does not rise to the proper conception of it. The gospel of the resurrection has faded out largely from the Christian church before the blight and gloom of the so-called "gospel " of endless punishment. The ways of God in redemption have been hidden from the eyes of men. There is no longer any gospel " of the hope and of the resurrection of the dead " such as St. Paul preached. The hope of humanity has been pared down to the hope of an elect class of saints. What the New Testament represents as only a first fruits is put for the whole harvest. The Old Testament in which the foundations for this hope are deeply laid is not thoroughly studied in our day. The question is raised, even in the church, as to whether we need give much heed to these old Scriptures. The true answer to Ingersoll lies here—in a true conception of the " hope toward God " for mankind to which all the prophets bear witness, and of which the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the pledge. The narrow limits in which dogmatic theology has confined this hope, and within which Ingersoll received his early training, forced him to regard the gospel as a message of despair. He must be shown that it was meant to be "glad tidings of great joy to all people," and that Jesus Christ is the anointed Saviour and Judge over all the kingdoms of the dead as well as of the living, and that to Him have been given the keys of death and hades, not as a prison-keeper, but as a liberator, that even the dead might hear his voice and live. Eternal life, indeed, can never be God's gift to any who do not receive His Son. But at least an opportunity to know Him, and to believe on his name, is guaranteed to all in the fact that He gave Himself a ransom for all from the dead. And therefore the promised resurrection of all cannot bring with it the repeated doom of most of its subjects to an endless hell. It must be a gracious intervention and a boon.
Without The Camp.—Several friends have written to us expressing sympathy for us in the trial of our separation. We give them thanks. The solitariness of our position is anything but pleasant to the flesh. But " So persecuted they the prophets which were before you," Both Jesus and His Apostles were cast out for preaching a larger gospel of hope for the human race than the men of their day had arrived at. And we cannot regard our experience otherwise than as the way He has bidden us to " go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
The Presbytery of Nassau, (L. I.,) last month, without a dissenting voice, passed the following overture to the General Assembly.
"The Presbytery of Nassau hereby respectfully overtures the General Assembly that a committee be appointed to revise Chapter III of the Confession of Faith (with special reference to Sections 3, 4, 6 and 7), on the ground that in its present form 'it goes beyond the word of God and is opposed to the convictions and repugnant to the feelings of very many of our most worthy and thoughtful members, and that said revision be sent down to the Presbyteries, and, if accepted by them, be substituted for Chapter III in the Confession of Faith."
Revision Greatly Needed.—A "Long Time Presbyterian minister writes as follows to the Christian Union. It is a matter of the highest importance that a Presbytery has at last moved in the direction of the Revision of the Confession of Faith. The Presbytery of Nassau ask the coming General Assembly to revise chap. III. of "God's eternal decree," especially the sections which refer to reprobation. This is an awful chapter, in which it is said (sec. 3): "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto eternal life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." Also in sec. 4: "These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be increased or diminished." As Calvin said, "This is a horrible decree." It is the sheerest rationalism. It puts the inferences and conclusions of fallible human logic on a par with the word of God. It is a libel on the character of God, which the enlightened Christian conscience of our time will not for a moment receive as an article of faith.
The writer goes on to deprecate the proposed union with the Southern Church, for the present, as likely to "overload the conservative end of the scale with such a weight of ecclesiastical and theological fossils as to prevent needed reforms."
"We long and pray for the reunion of Christendom, but we should not try to hasten it by professing to believe the obsolete tenets of past ages which are repugnant to the moral and historical sense of the present generation."
Words Of Reconciliation.
Vol. IV.] JULY, 1888. [No. 7.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
The late meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in this city, with the accompanying centennial celebration, was one of great enthusiasm, and to the ordinary observer, was a marked success. The progress of that church during the century has been great, and there is no doubt that it has been an instrument of great good to the people of this country and to mankind, and that many souls have been brought by it to the obedience of the faith. Without any desire to disparage these results, we yet feel impelled to offer a few criticisms upon the late Assembly which was devoted largely to the celebration of this progress.
1. There was too much of this element of glorification of Presbyterianism, of its polity and doctrine, of its fidelity to truth and of its triumphs. That it has wrought diligently and largely upon the temple of God is manifest. But all human works upon that temple are yet to be tried. We do not yet know what is of man and what is of GodAll that is of gold, silver and precious stones will abide. All that is of wood, hay and stubble will be burnedEvery man's work must be tried by fire. "The day shall declare it." An imposing temple in men's eyes may not be such in the sight of God. A more modest and selfabasing strain would have better suited this summing up of results, which must all yet be exposed to the searching review of Him whom no outward appearance can deceive, and who must judge all things in the light of God.
2. There was especially an excessive glorification of Calvinism, as a complete and final expression of the truth of God. Among many addresses of which this was a marked feature, we listened to one of the most eloquent. It was indeed a pleasure to hear from the lips of so eminent a layman as the Hon. W. C. P. Breckenridge an address filled with noble thoughts, clothed in the finest language, and delivered with a grace and fervor which proved him to be a worthy inheritor of a name so eminent in the annals of the church. Nor could we find scarcely anything to object to in his forcible presentation of the great truth of the eternal and unconditioned sovereignty of God. We most heartily believe this to be not only a fundamental truth of Scripture, but, as the orator affirmed, a fact upon which the whole order of the world is based, and one to which Science gives increasing testimony. Our quarrel with Calvinism has never been for what it sees, but for what it fails to see, and for the quiet assumption that it sees all. God is indeed absolute sovereign, but His is not a mere sovereignty of power but of love. Calvinism has never fairly seen that love is at the heart of things in this system of the world. Hence this eloquent defender of it, and other speakers were obliged either to conceal the hard features of it or leave them wholly unexplained.
3. The special defect of the Presbyterian Church to which we referred in our last number was most apparent