« AnteriorContinuar »
have been much tried with physical infirmities. He had a serious one, a thorn in the flesh. But he was not overborne by them. He did not suffer them to tie his hands or to put him to bed. The power of Christ in him triumphed over all invalidity or weariness or pain, and nerved him to an endurance of labor and fatigue and hardship such as to make his life a marvel of the ages.— Mystery of Creation and of Man.
NOTES ON CURRENT OPINIONS AND EVENTS.
Revisions In The Scotch Assemblies.—The Rev. C. A. Briggs, D. D., Professor in the Union Theological Seminary, is now in Scotland, and writes to The Independent concerning the progress made toward revision of the Confession, or a change in the terms of subscription. From his letter we note the following:
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Established Church alluded to this subject in his opening address in these words:
"It will not do for the Church, for any Church, to face an age, all astir with inquiry and investigation, on the assertion that it is disabled from learning anything or unlearning anything—especially a Church that claims no infallibility, a Church resting on Scripture, whose wonderful structure is fitted to attract continual fresh search, and to furnish fresh lessons. But then just as little can the Church take up the ground that it has been dealing with uncertainties for the last 1,800 or the last 300 years. To do that would be to deny its own essence—would be as much, in fact, as to renounce the faith. It is the Church's assured confidence in the substance of her message, it is the cheerful steadfastness with which she proclaims her faith, that enables and prepares her to wait with like cheerfulness and equanimity any fresh light that may arise, or any readjustment which may be seen to be called for. Because she is sure that her treasure is sale, that her great Lord lives, that the Spirit is given, and that the word of the LiOrd endureth forever; therefore she can contentedly entertain any valid admonition that may either enable her more fully to possess her treasure, or lead her to hold it more free from mixture."
These words grant everything that can be desired. They freely admit that God has something yet to teach His church, and that she is bound to, hold herself open at all times to the reception of new light. Only she must be sure that it is from Him. In view of this confessed duty and calling of the church, what a miserable mistake the founders of some of our theological seminaries made in shutting up their Professors by an iron-clad oath not to teach anything contrary to, or inconsistent with, the full Westminster Standards. And how pitiable the position of such Professors, to be thus forbidden to learn anything outside of that system, or what is just as bad, to be prohibited from teaching the highest and best thoughts that may come to them in these days when God is pouring fresh light from so many quarters upon His Word, unless these thoughts can somehow be squared to the intelligence of a document framed two centuries and a half ago.
In the same Assembly an overture was received from the Presbytery of Selkirk asking that a change be ordered in the terms by which elders are required to subscribe to the Standards. Principal Cunningham moved that the overture be received, and that a Committee be appointed to consider the whole subject of subscrip tions now required by office-bearers of the church, and to report any modifications that may be desirable. He called attention to the fact that ministers needed relief, as well as elders. This motion was carried.
In the Free Church Assembly the subject came up in a different shape. Our readers will remember the movement toward revision in the Presbytery of Glasgow, made this spring, by Prof. Candlish. The Synod of Glenelg took offence at this movement, and complained to the Assembly. After a severe rebuke of the Synod by Dr. Walter Smith, of Edinburgh, and a brief discussion, the Assembly refused to entertain the complaint.
Prof. Briggs adds,
"ThemovementofDr. Candlish was defeated in his own Presby. tery by a small majority of the elders, the majority of the ministers being in favor of it. But the movement has only been postponed for a year. It will come before the next General Assembly withont doubt."
It is unaccountable to us that our American Presbyterian Church should be so far behind the Scotch Churches in a movement which the Spirit and Providence of God are urging upon us, and which we all know must sooner or later be made.
Future Retribution.—The Rev. C. A. Row, M. A., Prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral, author of the "Bampton Lectures on Christian evidences " and other valuable works in defence or explanation of the Christian faith, has recently published a work on the above subject. The New York Churchman of July 2d says of it:
"Any work from the pen of Prebendary Row is sure to exhibit clearness of style, thoroughness of preparation and the judicial tone befitting the critical spirit.
"In this present important treatise the author if not at his best is certainly very near it. It is quite impossible to exhaust this subject, much less the literature of it, within the limits of any single volume. At the same time the prebendary's work is a most valuable storehouse of information concerning it. It represents what is probably the prevailing view among the scholarly clergymen of the English and perhaps the American Church.
"Alter giving a brief and cutting analysis of the different schools of thought on the subject of future retribution, and after especially condemning the popular views which are, as he claims, • too awful to be really accepted in this age,' and after laying down in a polemical way the basis of our knowledge and judgment concerning God's attributes of justice, holiness, etc., he subjects the teachings of the Old and New Testament to a very exhaustive analysis so far as they refer to future life and retribution.
"It is out of the question to enter into any adequate criticism of the author's positions and conclusions in this place. Suffice it to say that he evades no difficulties and leaves no vexed points untouched. He states his own views, and his own reason for these views with perfect candor and good taste. The general' conclusion at which he arrives, as set forth on pages 379 and 380, and more extensively in the concluding chaptar, is that 'Some opportunity of embracing His [Christ's] Gospel will be afforded to those innumerable multitudes of mankind, whose earthly probation has been passed under equally [with the antediluvians] unfavorable conditions—a conclusion to which the attributes of God, as they are revealed in Jesus Christ evidently point,' etc. He regrets Universalism, because while it is 'an approximation to the truth,' it fails of the 'entire truth.' There are souls in whom the reign of evil has become so absolute that they must, in the light of our Saviour's and of the Apostle's teachings, be held unredeemable.
"Eternal destruction awaits these. But the author maintains that a careful analysis of the language used in Scripture will Bhow that eternal destruction is not a never-ending torture, but a final annihilation, due either to 'an exertion of God's Almighty power, or because He has so constituted the moral universe that, under His providential government, the disease of evil will ultimately destroy man's spiritual and moral being, just as incurable physical disease destroys his bodily life.'"
This book, and these remarks upon it, confirm what was said in our last number concerning the drift of the highest and best Christian thought in both Europe and America away from the old creeddoctrine of the hopeless doom of all mankind who have died without knowing Christ. And this larger hope, instead of being an evidence of a weakening faith in Christianity and the Bible as from God, is only proof that men are beginning better to take in the meaning of its wonderful system of truth and grace. The conclusions at which this eminent evangelical writer arrives are very similar to those to which we have been led, although we fear he has not reached them in the right way. We suspect that, like too many writers of this class, he locates the gracious opportunities he hopes for in an imaginary intermediate Btate, overlooking the fact that the state of death into which sinful men pass is essentially penal, and that no hope can arise upon them in it, except as it connects itself with the hope of their resurrection out of death. What Christ heralded to "spirits in prison," and therefore under punishment, was the fact of His resurrection, which brought with it the hope of their future release. This would bring with it the opportunities Of another trial in the life of manhood, out of which they had been ejected by death.
We observe also that, as in the case of Prof. Harris' book noticed last month, this author is compelled to believe that no life which sin has permanently separated from God can be immortal, and that therefore not eternal torment but a punishment ending in extinction awaits all such.
The Higher Cbiticism.—The Presbyterian seems to be as much concerned about Prof. Briggs' departure in this direction as it was some time ago over our view of the redemptive character of Resurrection. We do not agree with the new school of critics in their free dissection of the letter of Scripture. We have not, indeed, fully examined the evidences upon which they base their claims. But the criticism in our June number upon Prof. Briggs' mode of explaining certain prophetic passages which glow with the light of a hope toward God that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, shows how we believe he has missed some of the great landmarks which can alone constitute a man a safe guide through Scrip, ture. We do not therefore propose to follow him. But we should greatly deplore any attempt on the part of the church to prevent the free discussion of his views. Modern scholarship has raised these questions. They cannot be settled by suppression. A church that cannot stand a free and reverent discussion of matters of interpretation or of dogma that are thrust upon her in the energy of modern investigation must be weak indeed. Her defence must not be, and cannot be, in a timid shrinking within the shell of old and time-worn systems, but in the consciousness that the ever-present Spirit of God has been given unto her to guide her into all truth, and to cause the light of God in her and through her to break through all surrounding darkness. Brethren, let us trust less to creeds for our defence, and more to the in-dwelling presence of the Spirit of God. And let us remember that where He is, there must be liberty, and that we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth.
"Is Princeton Humanizing?"—Under this title the Rev. Newman Smyth, D. D. replies in the Forum to thejarticle of Professor Patton, "Is Andover Romanizing?" He maintains that, notwithstanding the apparent reactionary features of Professor Patton's article, the theological system he represents is growing . humane. And he finds proof of this in the "admissions and reticences, and evasions of difficulties" which are found in this very attempt of Professor Patton to criticise the Andover position. But, inasmuch as the humane opinions which are being admitted into Calvinism, such as the salvation of all infants and of some heathen, are "extra-biblical," he claims that Professor Patton's right to criticise the Andover opinions on this ground is vacated.
We are glad to agree with Dr. Smyth in observing that the old Calvinism is growing more humane. The recent erection of large and well-appointed hospitals in three of our largest cities, where the sick and wounded of all races and creeds may be ministered unto, gives evidence that the Presbyterian Church is "humanizing " in its practice, as well as its opinions. The idea that Christ's Church has been made the depositary of His grace and bounty, not merely