Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

pulpit “controverted topics of Divinity” would be a large measure of popular ignorance in those particular subjects.

Discussion elicits truth, just as the collision of flint and steel brings out the spark. Let the representative of each religious communion, in his time and place, fairly present the peculiar views of his sect, and the people at large will be better prepared to determine what is orthodoxy.

Nothing is lost to the cause of charity by having each denomination of Christians distinctly define its position. On the contrary,

, they would better harmonize with one another if their respective views were better understood. Let the sects see plainly where they differ, and then let them agree to differ. And, if clearly-marked views in theology be so desirable with private members of the church, how much more are they so to the public functionary—the minister! But nothing can be more conducive towards fixing the clerical mind in the faith than thorough investigation for the purpose of preaching on “ the controverted topics of Divinity.”

Nor should it be overlooked that many of the fundamentals of religion come within that category :-for example, the indispensable necessity of regeneration, the true Messiahship of Jesus Christ, the endless duration of hell's torments, and the all-sufficient advocacy of our arisen and exalted Saviour. And, in the same connection, it is proper to remark that the subterfuges where sinners seek to hide, and the supports upon which Christians depend for life and salvation—that both of these are, to a considerable extent, involved in what are known as “controverted doctrines.” The preacher must therefore in turn present these several doctrines, alike to disarm the wicked and to feed the saints.

The testimony of facts is in conformity to and corroboration of the foregoing. Turn your eyes any direction in Christendom where the citadel of truth has been most seriously assailed, and you will find that a bold and uncompromising opposition to error has been most fruitful of good. Silence or shrinking would, in every such instance, have been regarded a surrender of the ground, and the enemy, accordingly, been emboldened in his attacks. To adduce a case : what had become of orthodoxy in Boston; many years ago, if Doctors Griffin and Beecher had declined to preach up controverted doctrine of our Saviour's Divinity”? Of Mr. Nettleton we have this record:—“He brought forth from his treasure the doctrines of total depravity, personal election, reprobation, the sovereignty of Divine grace, and the universal government of God in working all things after the counsel of his own will. And these great doctrines did not paralyze, but powerfully promoted, the good work. At no time were converts multiplied so rapidly, and convictions, and repentance so deep, as when these doctrines were pressed home to the conscience."

w

66 the A BRIEF PLEA WITH THE INFIDEL.*

Some, possibly, tinctured with skeptical doubts, repel any attempt to press the claims of religion upon them as a personal matter, with a feeling bordering upon contempt.

We shall not err if we assume that this latter feeling, or something akin to it, is widely prevalent among the young men of our day, particularly those belonging to the educated classes. Their studies have made them familiar with the names of Voltaire, Gibbon, Hume, and other champions of infidelity, or they have listened to the specious objections against the Bible forged in the laboratories of modern science; and henceforth Christianity is to be with them a myth and a fable — a scheme of faith fit only for women and children. It might be worth while to ask the young men who espouse these opinions with so rare a facility, how far they have examined the system on which they venture to pronounce this grave condemnation. Of course, in dealing with a volume which claims to be the only written revelation of the Divine will, and as such challenges the confidence of every human being, you have refused it your homage only after the most careful and patient investigation. You have read every page of it. You have weighed the arguments in support of its authenticity derived from its style, its originality, the harmony of its several parts, its lofty morality, the matchless character of the personage it presents to us as the Redeemer of the world, its prophecies, its miracles, its triumphs, its consolations, its beneficent effects upon society, and the salutary changes it is still producing before our eyes in the moral condition of individuals and of nations. All these arguments you have examined with the frankness and the thoroughness of men intent only upon ascertaining the truth; and, having exhausted this ground, you have, in the same spirit, dissected the schemes with which it is proposed to replace the exploded" system of Revelation. You have gone to the astronomer, the geologist, the anatomist, the ethnologist, and the oracles of infidelity, and asked them in succession, with a profound conviction of the solemnity of the inquiry, “If I discard Christianity, what substitute can you furnish me? What positive information can you give me concerning the Supreme Being, my own relations and responsibilities as an accountable creature, the destiny which awaits me after death, and the possibility of a reconciliation with that God whom I am conscious of having offendled ?” Of course you have taken all these precautions before severing yourselves from the common faith of Christendom, and enrolling your names on the long and cheerless catalogue of unbelievers ?

Alas for the integrity and fair dealing of this school of philosophic skepticism! There is, probably, not one in a thousand of

An extract from Dr. BOARDMAN'S Sermon on the Death of George RAMSAUR.

them who has ever read the Bible through, or who has explored the wide range of its evidences with an ingenuous, truth-loving spirit. For the most part, they are far more conversant with the attacks upon Christianity than with its “apologies ;” credulous in listening to objections, while the refutations of them are unnoticed; eager in embracing the anti-Scriptural deductions of some embryo science, and impatient of the barriers which genuine science and true learning have reared around the ark of the covenant;-in a word, anxious at heart to have Christianity proved a fraud, and as disdainful of its requisitions as a man of chivalric principles would be if asked to stoop to some dishonourable action.

That inquiries prosecuted in this spirit should lead to infidelity is unavoidable. A similar spirit would defeat its own end in any other science. Medicine, jurisprudence, political economy, all have their sciolists and pretenders, who deal with principles and facts very much in the style which has been described; but they soon find their level. It is only in theology, the noblest of all sciences, that this rank injustice is tolerated. The BIBLE is the only book which the world will permit to be condemned without a hearing.

Not to attempt a vindication of its Divine origin here, (which would divert me from the main design of this discourse,) it might be well to consider, before you discard the Bible, what you are to get in place of it. Unless you are prepared for the absurdities of pantheism or of annihilation, you must be looking to a conscious personal existence in another world. Shut up your Bible, and what do you know of that world? What do you know of God, of yourself, of retribution, of the possibility of forgiveness? You have a witness within your bosom which tells you

that

you are a sinner; but what does conscience, or reason, or the light of nature, reveal concerning the pardon of sin and future happiness ? Nothing — literally nothing. The insatiate craving of the soul for information on this vital question is met only by guesses and conjectures, baseless, illusive, without authority, and, therefore, without consolation.

I was once sojourning at a watering-place, when there came there an aged man, who had retired from the bench and was now a leading politician in a distant State. A mortal disease had laid its inexorable hand upon him, and his friends saw that his days were numbered. They pressed him to see some minister of the gospel; but he steadfastly refused, -refused, I presume, with cursing and oaths, for he was a bitter infidel, and horribly profane. One morning, about four or five o'clock, a servant knocked at my cabin-door, and called to me that Judge

desired to see me. I hastened across the lawn to his room, and the scene which ensued was so appalling that I shall not venture to describe it.

* *
Of terror, foul and ugly to behold,
Horrid to think, how horrible to feel!"

*

“Oh sight

Suffice it that the king of terrors was there with all his hideous retinue. His wretched victim quivered with anguish in his mighty grasp, and seemed already to be anticipating the scorpion-stings of the second death. And thus, after four or five hours of excruciating suffering, his sun went down in midnight darkness. Before we committed his remains to their rude and lonely grave, in a field too desolate for any sepulture but one like this, I made some inquiry of the faithful servant who had waited on him respecting his conversation. He told me — and it is for this incident I have introduced the narrative here—that on the day before his death, as he was alone with him, the sick man said to him, “What sort of a world is that to which I am going ?"

Will the young men before me who may be skeptically inclined do themselves the justice to ponder this utterance? Here was a man of education and ability, who had served the cause of infidelity for, perhaps, 'seventy years. And now, as his clay tabernacle is crumbling to ruins and the immortal spirit is about to be driven forth into another state of being, the irrepressible yearning of his nature triumphs over his towering pride, and he begs a poor African servant to tell him what sort of a world that is to which he is going.Here, when of all the crises of his life he most needs a guide, his oracle is mute. It has conducted him to those august portals which divide the visible from the invisible world. In another moment the ponderous gates may open to receive him; and, in helpless amazement and alarm, he cries, “What is beyond What is beyond ?The earth-born philosophy to which he has confided his all answers not at all, or answers with a sneer. It has extinguished the light with which Christianity irradiated the scene; and the dim taper it substituted for the Sun of righteousness now serves only to make the gloom of eternity more impenetrable.

Why should it be expected to do for a convert like him more than it was able to do for its great high-priest, Voltaire ? When this prince of scoffers found his end approaching, all his fortitude forsook him. The gorgeous fabric of unbelief which it had cost the malignant, hypocritical freethinker fourscore years to rear, death pressed with but a single icy finger, and it shrank as Satan did when touched by the spear of Ithuriel. Sending for the Abbé Gauthier, he besought him to administer to him the rites of the church. His friends never came near him, but to witness their own shame. “Sirs,” he said to them, “it is you who have brought me to my present state. Begone! I could have done without you all.” He was alternately supplicating and blaspheming God, and crying out, “O Christ!” “O Jesus Christ !" And thus the wretched man expired, a terror to all around him and an immortal witness to the true value of infidelity in a dying hour.

Other witnesses might be summoned, but I simply invoke these two to admonish you that, before you let go your hold of Christianity, it may be well to consider what you are to get in the place of it.

66

For the Presbyterian Magazine. THE SONGS OF ZION.

[ocr errors]

We all love the good old hymns our fathers loved and sang before us. They ripple back to us on the tide of our earliest

, sweetest memories. It seems but as yesterday since we were little children, and fell asleep in our “trundle-beds,” lulled to rest by one of Zion's songs. It seems but as yesterday since we sang so at worship, running away in our zeal from the tune, and leaving the elder singers at least two words behind us. Those dear old hymns ! whether sang by cradle-bed, or round the family altar, or in the midst of “the great congregation," their memory is sweet to us. And in these later years—these years of thought and care—we sing them, it may be, with graver tone and graver heart, yet not a whit less lovingly.

The world has her songs,-patriot-strains, which stir the loyal soul, and songs of feeling, which the true and tender-hearted cherish; and these are lovely; but Zion's songs are lovelier. Their themes are higher, their influences more sublime, stretching far beyond the stars. To the humblest “stake and cord of Zion" God giveth strength and beauty, and assigns to each its place and work. And spiritual songs have surely their mission, not merely to be sang but once or twice a week, and then locked up in church, hidden and silent between the well-thumbed covers. Ah no! their ministry is wider than this. It commences in the sanctuary, but there it does not end. Its field is the world, its fellow-labourers the word read, the word preached, and, in that day when the Lord of the reapers shall bring the harvest home, its sheaves of rejoicing will be many and beautiful. Said a devoted Christian minister,* now a saint in glory, “I am persuaded that the influence of hymns and spiritual songs is greater than we know. I have always thought they had a twofold mission,-one of conviction, another of consolation. I often think of a sweet scene in one of the old graveyards at

Many of the young converts were with me, and we were standing by the grave of the Rev. R-reading the inscription on the tombstone. I looked up and saw the tears coursing rapidly down his daughter's cheek as we stood there, no heart feeling as her young heart felt,—that a father lay beneath that stone. My soul yearned over her, and yet rejoiced that now a better than a fond earthly father was hers. I took out my hymn-book, and said, “We will sing, “Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee.”. We sang it in hopes that soon parents and children, minister and people, would all be where no gravestones call forth tears; and when we had finished, I saw that the beautiful consoling influence of the hymn had not been lost."

And at this very moment memory brings before me the radiant eyes and dimpled face of a dear little child, who often in her baby

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Rev. D. M'Kinley, D. D.; died December 7, 1855.

« ZurückWeiter »