« AnteriorContinuar »
ceptions. Every fresh manifestation of truth is looked at through the teachings of the peculiarism' in which we have been trained, and consequently we are as unlikely to judge of its peculiar significance as a man would be likely to judge of the colours of a flower if his eyes were covered with blue spectacles. If our beliefs are only the prejudices of training, it is no credit to us that we are Protestants and not Catholics or Mohammedans.”
It is in this spirit that the two hundred and seventy-seven short pieces of which the work consists are written, and the sentiments expressed are of an elevating tendency. There is a remarkable freshness and boldness in the exposure of the false conceptions of Christian life and character, and many clear statements of the intrinsic excellence of the precepts of the Gospel. One feature which runs through the book is the clear statement of the unselfishness of Christianity, and the author is unsparing in his exposure of the self-seeking and comfort-hunting of a good deal of modern profession. Another feature of the work is the clear and variously presented truth of the growth and progress of the Christian life. God,” says the author, "has more difficulty to shape us into moral beauty than to forgive our sins” (p. 51). “To yield to the marring forces of sin, and at the same time to suppose that the robe of Christ's righteousness makes us appear spotless in the sight of God, is a most strange delusion. God must always
If we fall into sin, our only way of escape from Divine displeasure is to repent of it, and to seek by faith for grace to overcome in our next conflict with temptation.”
It would be easy to multiply examples of shrewd and practical reflections on a great variety of subjects. Several of the paragraphs give a moral turn to some common incident in life which will remind New Church readers of some statements in Swedenborg, although we have no reason to suppose that the author is at all familiar with our author's writings. The following somewhat abbreviated is an example :
“ While staying at a friend's house one night, on retiring to my chamber I was much annoyed by the presence of a great ferocious-looking bee. It had probably flown in during the day, and was taking its night's repose, when the lighting of the gas awoke it from its slumbers. Its buzzing was most terrific, and I determined, if possible, to silence it. I made several attempts to catch it in my handkerchief, but failed. At last I thought I would leave it to itself for a time. I had not ceased my efforts to capture it a minute before it flew into the flame of the gas and destroyed itself ! My bee-hunt that night taught me a lesson. It was this, That it is often better to leave those who annoy us to themselves than to trouble ourselves to silence them. Many buzzing busybodies, talebearers, and slanderers will go down of their own accord into silence if we only let them alone; we only lengthen their lives by hunting them.”
see us as we are.
YOUNG'S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE.
Two appendixes to the Concordance are now before us, and may be recommended to those for whose use they are designed, as well adapted to assist them in their studies and their work. The first appendix contains an analytical survey of all the books of the Bible, its facts and its idioms, with Bible themes, questions, etc. One of the first requisites in a Sunday-school teacher is a knowledge of the literal sense of the Bible, which includes not merely a well-stored memory, but a well-informed understanding. These appendixes will be a help in both respects. The idioms will give the teacher some useful insight into the original forms of expression and shades of meaning, which cannot always be conveyed in a translation. They are not, however, always to be relied on. For instance, under Rule 5, we are told that“ in our image, after our likeness," is to be read,“ in our exact image;" “the firstlings of the flock, and of the fat thereof," is to be read, “ of the fatted firstlings;" "judgment and righteousness" is to be "righteous judgment;"
;" “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” is to be “the true and living way.” The removal of these distinctions would destroy the basis of the spiritual sense. Yet the New Church teacher may profitably use this part of the book with discrimination. The sixteen well-executed maps and plans of Bible lands and places will assist the teacher to acquire an exact geographical knowledge of the countries, and a local knowledge of the places he will have occasion to speak about and explain to his class.
The Hebrew and English lexicon of the Old Testament, and the Greek and English lexicon of the New, are concise, and may be of service to those who are entering on the study of the original languages of the Scriptures. With this part of the work there are twenty-three pictorial views of Scripture scenery and twenty-five facsimiles of ancient Biblical MSS.
Each part contains sixty-four large quarto pages of matter printed in small type, so that the an of reading is equal to that of a thick octavo volume. It is the result of immense labour and is calculated to be of great
THE Anti-Slavery Reporter for September shows that, notwithstanding the efforts of the civilized world for the abolition of slavery and the suppression of the slave trade, both are still in a flourishing condition. Their area is becoming less, but their horrors are not being diminished. A writer, the greater part of whose letter has already appeared in the Times, says, “ The slave trade is just as brisk as ever it was. ... The African slave trade, especially the Soudan traffic, is a disgrace to the civilized world. How Africa is ever to rise and its commerce increase with the steady drain going on as there is now, I can form no idea, and I can only see ruin for the whole Nile valley and the most fertile parts of Africa.” The Reporter contains much information on the subject, and gives a rough but graphic print of a slave caravan. In contemplating this horrid traffic, we may well exclaim, O Lord, how long ? How long will it be ere Thy Divine benevolence so descend into the hearts of Christian men and nations that they will “loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?”
I know not if my heart is Thine
To mould unto Thy will,
Thy love will guide me still ;
And when the clouds are rent in twain,
The sunlight will appear; My life will not all desert be,
Thy love will cast out fear. Religion's voice will calm the strife That rages in the inward life.
In weariness we tread our way,
In doubt we onward go,
And find our progress slow,
Thy truth will be a guiding light,
A lamp along my way,
A cloud throughout the day;
And looking back o'er all the scenes
That mark our time on earth,
In God alone have birth ?
Have faith, my soul, whate'er betide,
And place thy trust in God;
And griefs His chastening rod.
ON THEOLOGICAL TESTS IN “INTRODUCTION” AND
MEMBERSHIP. THERE are some radical subjects about which it were well that a consensus of opinion should be arrived at early in the Church's history; and inasmuch as the wisdom of our predecessors is not much available in these directions--though the founding of the organization would have been the fitting time for their consideration and settlement-it behoves those of us to move in them upon whom the mantle of need that way has fallen ; and this we do, knowing well that custom is prevalent against us with its unconscious dead-weight of fallacy that whatever is is right, and the consequent conservative inertia and unwillingness to move where no necessity for movement has been transmitted. One of such questions is this of Theological Tests, and a good example in yet another may be found in the more external one of the Order of Church Organization, about the first of which we have already some dreamy apprehension that we have reached its ultimate limit (though possibly we may be just as sectarian in practice as other men with an “ism"); while as to the second, some are so far steeped in the unconsciousness of an unconsidered question as to ask you with wonder where the need of change can possibly lie, or even the very meaning of the terms of your proposal. The facts of the case, then, are the justification for the disturbance of slumber.
And this question of Theological Tests is in its own nature, as George Eliot says of second sight, a flag over a disputed territory.' The test is the boundary line between you and me; and must I not keep such a boundary? Or rather, is there not such a boundary? Why then may I not mark it with a line? Thus the very statement of the question, even in the simplicity of its nakedness, is as direct a provocative of fight between your Old Synagogue and your New as the proverbial red rag is supposed to be to a certain horned cousin once removed. Do away with theological tests ! Impossible; that would be to abolish all guarantee of a pure communion. And may not men who agree together say that they agree together? It is only what we do in everything else, why not then in religion? Witnesses and jurymen are sworn, a member of Parliament takes his oath, a total abstainer his pledge, a mason accepts his rites of initiation and declares his belief in a God, and a servant gives a character:" in what instance, where men accept service or express a common agreement, is a test dispensed with or dispensable ?
Thus confusion of thought and question-begging illustrations—in which creeds and tests, theology and religion, are all confounded in one common muddle-serve to perpetuate, even in the crown of all the Churches, the ancient fallacy born in the glorious old times when men believed that the truth needed protecting, that it was their province to protect it, and that, too, by the simple, straightforward, and quite physically, efficient method of converting its opponents to tinder. Contrary to all devices of truth-protecting is the spirit and meaning of the New Church; but we regret to be compelled to think that that spirit has not been sympathetically imbibed along with its doctrinal embodiments. We judge by fruits, and should be only too glad to think otherwise ; but the laughter with which, in the last Conference, the expressed desire to do away with doctrinal tests in one instance was met, the description of that wish as covering a sentimental grievance, and the passing of an Introductory Service in which a test of belief is applied to juveniles of fifteen, show only too clearly-fatally, we think-how little feeling we yet have for the subtler inner life and spirit of our own teaching. One sees that the notion of having reduced the doctrinal test to its minimum, of the necessity now of taking a firm stand on that minimum, and of introducing it at every seemingly fitting opportunity, would be likely to jump well enough with the coarser popular apprehension ; but a somewhat finer appreciation of the matter, of the place, scope, and
purpose of tests, is not an unreasonable requirement; and the growing perception of the more thoughtful, that having gone so far we are bour in consistence to go further, may fairly be hazarded as a prophecy. It is this further step which we here advocate; and although the recession from the last doctrinal stronghold of Christian fellowship may look an alarming proposition to some, we trust to make it clear even to the devoutest heart that we have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by the change proposed. I
The question resolves itself into this, Is doctrine, or is something else than doctrine, the centre of religious unity? If doctrine be, then keep your doctrinal tests by all means, and enlarge them to the bounds of your intellectual horizon ; but if doctrine be not, then its tests, addressed to the centre of Christian fellowship, are an impertinence, because a serious misapplication. Find a form of test consonant with the centre of unity in the Lord's New Church-the affection, emotion, desire of a holy life for Him; let such test address itself directly to that desire instead of to any doctrinal belief; and we shall be taking the one step necessary towards righting ourselves with that religion which has relation to life, and no longer applying our tests in the wrong place.
As matters stand at present, however, it does not appear that the necessity for such a step is seen. One wishes to make this part of the subject plain, therefore, and help to create such necessity, by showing the evils of our present position. We think that that position involves a fallacy, that it implicitly contains a reassertion of an Old Church falsity, and that it is distinctly opposed to the spirit and meaning of the New Church writings.
First, our attitude in relation to tests involves a fallacy, viz. that there is no difference between a creed and a test; or, to put it otherwise, that because a creed is a creed it may be used as a test.
It requires only to be stated that a creed and a test are not identical. A creed, of course, is the expression of the individual apprehension of truth, but a creed becomes a test when our apprehension of the truth believed is made the measure of our neighbour's apprehension and of his consequent fellowship with us.
Creeds in their very nature are peculiar to the individual and his mental relations, and as creeds are no basis of such fellowship as could constitute a formal society in a religious sense. The creed of the New Church, for instance, was given for individual acceptance, and is a sign of the truth which the individual must receive; but when and where in the writings of the Church has that creed been appointed as a test? That is our perversion to party purposes of an inherently individual relation to the Lord's truth. It is necessary to have a creed ; it is necessary also to have an external organization; it is necessary, further, we may grant, to have some test of adhesion to such organization ; but who drew for us this false inference that it is necessary to wrest the creed from its proper place and function as the intellectual sign of the individual's spiritual manhood into a test of adhesion to the external organization. It was a wonderful invention, which we have been quick to borrow, or rather, which we have been too slow to get rid of; but it was the invention of naturally-minded men, from whom was hidden the very rudiment of a conception of a genuine religious society. If there were no consequences to think of, the distinction here is valid, and intellectual clearness will preserve it intact; yet, strange to say, it is this rudimentary distinction which our resolutions in Conference show that we are chargeable with serenely obliterating.
“But,” it is argued, " if youth or adults assent, or are assumed to assent, to the creed in order to their admission into a religious communion, where is the harm of putting that as a question to which they are already supposed to be giving a private assent?” But who does not see that the attempted justifica, tion only brings out more clearly the absolute difference here pointed to ? and the onus of proof surely lies with the other side. Why, because a creed is a creed, should it be made into a test? That the applicants already believe it is nothing to the purpose ; that you should not have clearly apprehended the proper basis and binding-point of your organization is just as little to the purpose of defence; neither of these things constitute a shadow of justification for abstracting and conv from its own proper uses the candidate's mental and individual property of theological beliefs, especially for converting it to a
1 The question of Ordination and other tests is reserved.