Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

live. To a certain extent this must be admitted to be true, and the prospect is so cheering, that we hope the vision is divine. The first step appears to be the instruction of the people. They must be taught that war is ever injurious to their interest; that it is the contrivance of tyranny for the subjugation of ignorance; and that as long as it is allowed in any country, the comfort of the people can never be secured. Convinced that this is true, we are proud to be as 'a voice crying in the wilderness' to hasten and assist the approach of human happiness." (A View of the Causes and Consequences of English Wars, by Anthony Robinson, 1798.)

LECTURE VII.

ON HUMAN PERFECTIBILITY.

Rev. xi. 15 :

The kingdoms of this world are become the kingi doms of our Lord, and of his Christ : and he

shall reign for ever and ever.

The attention with which the Course of Lectures has been favoured, which I this night bring to a conclusion, renders such a request wholly unnecessary, or I should feel it incumbent on me to solicit especially on the present occasion, your seriousness and candour for a subject very liable to misconstruction, and arguments which, though very trite perhaps, require both a calm and patient consideration, fairly to estimate their weight. The various controversies which have existed on this subject have thrown it into great confusion. Some Christians cling to the hope of a Millenium ; while others attempt its demolition. Among philosophers the notion of the Perfectibility of Man has been exulted in as true; and denounced as mischievous. These terms have been sometimes

reckoned synonymous, and at other times have been opposed to each other : while of both, and with advocates as well as opponents, there has been a great diversity of explanation. It is expedient therefore to premise, that I consider them as closely connected, and hope for that approach towards perfection in man, which Christianity in its purest and most powerful state can realize

; and which will be accomplished in that universal diffusion of its knowledge and influence which is predicted in the Scriptures, and, from the mention of a thousand years in the Revelation, called the Millenium. Whether that marks the precise term, or is to be taken for an indefinite period; and whether it will be accompanied with the personal reign of Christ on earth, and the resurrection of the most distinguished of his disciples to share its glories, are questions of considerable interest in themselves, but not being essentially connected with the present subject, I shall not embarrass it by their introduction. With the idea of human perfectibility some absurdities have been associated, for which the use of that expression should not make me responsible. Such is that of organic perfectibility—the triumph of mind over matter, so as to banish disease, and long retard, if not repel, the stroke of death. Such also are all minute and particular schemes of the condition of man in that period; which only shew the inge

nuity or folly of their inventors, and are mere fancy-pictures, with probably very dissimilar features from what the reality will present. I have merely a general anticipation of a state of very high improvement, of knowledge, liberty, peace, virtue, and felicity, to which man will be, in the latter days, conducted by Christianity. That such an anticipation is well founded, is what I attempt to prove; and all. If we love our fellow-creatures, we can scarcely be indisposed to inquire into their future destiny, nor backward to hail with gladness intimations of brighter scenes than have occupied the past, and occupy the present • of their history. That prospect seems to me to

be grounded on the plain declarations of Scripture, the express assertions of prophecy, as well as supported by rational deduction from observation and fact. Indeed, the expectation of its realization was very generally entertained. Of late, a more gloomy system has prevailed, both with religionists and philosophers, which dooms the human race for ever to alternations of good and evil, instead of allowing the hope of a gradual advance. This change is much owing to disappointed hopes. It is a revulsion of feeling after the bold expectations which, twenty-five years ago, floated on men's minds. But that embittered feeling should now be corrected. It should not become philosophy, nor the minds of the rising generation be bowed to

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

despair, unless there be convincing proof that all was fallacious. Let us rather revert, now that the storm is passing, to the inspiring faith of elder times. For ages, holy and benevolent men entertained this glorious hope, received it as a truth with gratitude, and cherished it with devotion. It was the spring and solace of their souls. In their career of successful exertion, it was the heart-stirring motive that impelled their efforts, and they hailed each triumph over vice and misery as a pledge of its truth, and an earnest of its accomplishment: and in their failures, it saved them from despondency. It was the common faith of Christians, or rather of the world; for here the speculations of philosophers' harmonized with the dictates of Heaven's commissioned teachers; and the songs of idolatrous bards pealed in transient, yet blissful, unison with the predictive strains of the harp of Judah. It ascended in evidence and loveliness from the inspiration of poetry, to that of prophecy; and from the plausibility of conjecture, to the certainty of revelation. When theological warfare raged; when systems were created, and systems destroyed; it passed unattacked and untouched through the confusion, reverenced, like the heralds of old in battle, as the sacred minister of heaven and peace, alike by hostile and infuriate parties. At length came that period of wild and daring speculation, when the unprecedented convulsions of the political world were only paralleled.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »