Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

of its happiness will consist, we are not told, except by negatives ; it will not hunger, thirst, or be subject to any pain or privation ; by which we may understand positively that it will be filled with whatever of felicity is congenial to it as “a glorified body."

But it is chiefly to delights of a spiritual character, that Scripture directs our attention. To be " for ever with the Lord” is the Apostle Paul's summing up of heavenly enjoyment; and the descriptions in the book of the Revelation speak of love, joy, adoration, and praise, as the peculiar characteristics of heaven ; combined with the joyous exercises of enlarged as well as refined intellectual powers; for we shall see and know as we are seen and known. But all these are connected, and spring out of, the regenerated character; for heaven would not be heaven, to one who wished to be there only as an escape from hell.

And so of the world of condemnation. Scripture addresses us not only as possessed of an immaterial spirit, but as corporeal beings capable of enduring corporeal suffering; and as the body is the slave of the corrupt soul, so it will be its companion in punishment. The plain declarations of the inspired Word lead to this conclusion; which has always been regarded by the universal church as a portion of revealed truth, not to be overlooked, but to be enforced in the few but awfully emphatic words of Holy Writ, in order that knowing the terrors of the Lord we may persuade men.

But there is great danger, as is strikingly shewn by your Corres. pondent, of appealing merely to physical alarms, instead of to the fearful punishment which awaits the soulI use the word discriminatingly-in the future world of righteous retribution. Our Lord, I think, intended to teach us this lesson, when, in reply to the rich man's entreaty to be allowed to warn his ungodly relatives of the punishment he was enduring, lest they also should go to that place of torment, he tells us that Abraham answered, “ They have Moses and the Prophets; if they believed not them, neither could they believe though one rose from the dead.” It is “ with the heart" that "man believeth unto righteousness," and though the terror of physical agony may alarm the transgressor, it has no power to change the heart. Your Correspondent strikingly depicts the different manner in which the “condemnation of hell" is regarded by the spiritually-minded man, and by the man who, having no taste for holy enjoyments, thinks of future punishment only as the terror of it affects his animal instincts. He has expressed himself stronglyperhaps too strongly, considering the mysterious nature of the subject; but while he scripturally asserts that hell is the centre of all "physical" as well as “moral" evil; a place without “one redeeming comfort," as well as “one redeeming virtue;" he does well to remind us how inadequately we are apt to regard the latter; forgetting that the soul is not physical, and that hell is hell to Satan and his angels, who, as spirits, cannot be affected by “physical" endurance.

Oh that men would consider these things! When Adam fell away from God, the retribution was not merely that he “brought death into the world and all our woe,” as men ordinarily confine those expressions ; but, far worse, that he brought spiritual death and spiritual woe; and also the “ second death," with its immeasurable woes. Hell upon earth began in the conscience of our first parents, as they attempted to conceal themselves amidst the trees of the

garden from the presence of Him in whom they lived and moved and had their being, and their communion with whom had been the exalted delight of Paradise. The service of sin is often a foretaste of hell here ; but what will be its wages hereafter? If wickedness causes such intense misery upon earth, where it is so much restrained in its effects by divine interposition and mercy, what must be its results where it revels and riots unchecked ? where all that is base, and barbarous, and polluted, and revengeful, and blasphemous, and horrible, and fiend-like, swelters for ever in its own bloated malignity? God is not there, except in the inflictions of righteous retribution; and where he is absent there is hell. It is not enough, as your correspondent has justly shewn, that we tremble at the thought of penal visitation ; we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind; Christ must be formed in our heart the hope of glory, while upon earth; we must be preparing for the enjoyments of heaven, as by following our fallen propensities we are ripening ourselves for hell. What is “physical ” is not to be overlooked in exhorting men to repentance (and I do not understand your correspondent as overlooking it); but the Bible, not Dante, is the guide of the Christian minister; and most important is it to lead the sinner to perceive that “ to flee from the wrath to come” implies infinitely more than mere alarm, unaccompanied by faith, or love, or hatred to sin, or renovation of spirit, or holiness of life.

R. G.

FAITH FRUSTRATED IN DEFENDING IT.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. It is not asserted so often, or so broadly, as formerly, that the doctrine of justification through faith is unscriptural, anti-Anglican, and demoralising; nay, it is even defended by some whose cast of theology is in other respects the same as that of its former impugners. But the improvement is in many instances more specious than solid. I have lately heard discourses which commenced with a zealous assertion of this fundamental doctrine ; but the doctrine was virtually set aside by asserting that we are justified by faith as a fruitproducing grace : which is only a more elaborate way of saying that we are justified by works.

In reply to the objection that the doctrine is demoralising, we may and ought to urge its practical fruitfulness; and still more are we to press this essential truth on all who profess to believe; that they may not deceive themselves by a barren faith which can profit them nothing. We must exhort them to be “ zealous of good works ;" and shew them that this is a necessary test of the validity of their faith. But in the matter of justification the fruits of faith are an unscriptural intrusion ; we are justified through faith, because by faith we become united to Christ, and are made partakers of the benefits of his redemption; or, without any reasoning upon the modus operandi, because Scripture points out to us that this, and this only, is the appointed way of a sinner's justification. The foreseen good works subsequent upon justification are not, in whole or in part, the cause of justification; and the doctrine is frustrated when it is preached apologetically; for if a nan is reconciled to it, not in the CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 31.

3 H

humbling way of a conscious sinner receiving free pardon without money and without price, but of a theorist who admits that it comes in effect, so far as good morals are concerned, to the same thing, whether we are justified by being made just, or because we were so; grace is frustrated, and man has still “ whereof to glory."

PAULINUS.

CONVENIENT FALSEHOODS.

[ocr errors]

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. HAPPENING to take up an old Canada newspaper, I met with the following paragraph :

The Henry Brougham steam-boat arrived at Beaubarnois from the Cascades at about nine o'clock on Saturday night, where, in consequence of the darkness of the night, she was to remain until morning. Shortly after the passengers, whose names we have already given, bad retired to bed, a great noise was heard on deck, and instantly the cabin was filled with armed men, who cried out that the passengers were all prisoners, and must go ashore. A cry was then set up by the rebels for the “mail! the mail! we must have the mail!” Captain Whipple, of the steam-boat, with a presence of mind which does him the bighest credit, and who, throughout the whole affair, conducted himself in such a manner as to have excited the gratitude and admiration of his passengers, instantly answered, that the rebels were great fools to suppose that the mail was carried on a Sunday; upon which, they made no further inquiries regarding it. It was well they did not, for it contained very large sums of money."

In this paragraph the doctrine that deliberate falsehood is lawful when it happens to be convenient, is taken for granted. Sir Walter Scott endeavoured to justify it; but the Canadian writer, less squeamish, does not even intimate that there could be two opinions on the subject. Captain Whipple's ready lie “does him the highest credit,” and “excited the gratitude and admiration of his passengers.

It can never be right to break the commandments of God, or to violate the obligations of veracity to mankind. The above-mentioned falsification might have been the cause of much bloodshed. Had the piratical band (for they deserve no better name) discovered the deception, they might have wreaked their vengeance most savagely upon the crew and passengers of the steam-boat; and having been once laughed at for being such “great fools” as to believe that “the mail was not carried on Sunday," they were not likely to listen to plausible statements in future; and if in consequence they acted cruelly, or committed murder, on Captain Whipple would rest much of the guilt.

I am aware that public opinion, and I believe every professed casuist, is against me. Bishop Jeremy Taylor, in his “Ductor Dubitantium (Book iii. C. 11. Rule v.) enumerates a great variety of ways of lying which he considers to be lawful; and of course that of deceiving an enemy among the number. It is frightful to read those pages; for though they contain many good and strong remarks against falsehood and equivocation in general; yet the instances in which they are advocated are so numerous, and some of them so glaringly immoral, that the treatises of the Jesuits, as denounced by Pascal, contain nothing worse. No man who had deliberately made up his mind to lie in all the cases which Taylor

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

allows, could be reasonably trusted, wherever he had any motive for disguising the truth. Sir Walter Scott's denial of authorship, and the “ ballot-lie,” would readily come under the tolerated instances. This is very culpable. The commands of God against falsehood are plain and fixed: nor do I believe they ought ever to be violated, even in those cases in which Taylor considers untruths to be not only harmless but laudable ; such as deceiving children, or lunatics," for their good.” God may be safely trusted with the administration of his providential government; we are to do what is right, leaving the event to him. We are to speak every man truth with his neighbour ; aye, and with his enemy if he have one. We are not bound to speak at all; but if we do speak, what we say should be true. The end does not sanctify the means.

In the Canada case there was a species of hypocrisy mixed with the falsehood. “What! carry the mail on a Sunday !” But if it be a sin—as it is—to violate the Sunday, it is also a sin to speak falsehoods on any other day.

VERITAS.

UNCHRISTIAN AND UNEDIFYING EPITAPHS:-HACKNEY

CHURCHYARD.

For the Christian Observer. Sir H. Jenner has decided,—what indeed was indisputable,—that the incumbent of a parish has a right, and is in duty bound, to exclude any monumental inscription which he considers improper. Whence then comes it to pass that so many of our churchyards are grievously deformed by epitaphs, not only jejune, tasteless, ungrammatical, or unedifying; but often grossly heterodox, sometimes pagan, and occasionally breathing a revengeful spirit? On the tomb of one of the persons killed in the riots of 1780, conspicuously prominent in the suburban churchyard of Newington Butts, is, or was, the inscription, “O earth, cover not thou my blood !" Such an inscription was disgraceful to the parties who suggested it, and to the Rector who allowed it; but I trust it was not breathed by the young man over whose remains it was affixed.

Passing lately through another suburban churchyard, I observed a tombstone, recently erected, with the following lines, borrowed from the darkest ages of barbarism and superstition :

“ Good friend, for Jesu's sake forbear

To dig the dust inclosed here:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones.' The late rector (Archdeacon Watson) was aged and infirm ; but was there no curate, no churchwarden, or vestryman, or inhabitant, or casual passer-by, to apprize him of what was about to be erected under his implied sanction? If such an unchristian and brutal inscription is allowed to disgrace a church-yard, publicly situated within less than two miles of the city of Londen, is it to be wondered at that our village churchyards abound with improprieties and impertinences; and sometimes worse? Might not, even yet, the bishop, or the archdeacon, or the rector, procure the obliteration of su exceptionable an inscription-epitaph it is not. If the deceased wished such a curse to be written over his bones, his executors ought to have known better than to have complied with his ungodly request; and if the device was theirs, still greater their shame.

Our whole system of monumental inscriptions and decorations needs reforms. Even when "holy texts" are strewed, they are not always appropriate ones; and often the comment is unholy. Falsehood and pharisaism deform too many of these solemn records ; which ought to be made instructive and beneficial to survivors. If sound doctrine, striking appeals, edifying example, and scriptural admonitions, were made the staple of sepulchral inscriptions, we might, by God's blessings, derive“ sermons from stones," and so learn to number our days as to apply our hearts to heavenly wisdom.

SUBURBANUS.

RELIGIOUS RECIPROCITY BETWEEN ROMANISTS AND

PROTESTANTS.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. It has always been a maxim of the church of Rome to get as much, and concede as little, as possible. Hence she forbids civil reciprocity in the public exercise of religion, and where she is powerful does not even allow partial toleration ; whereas Protestants yield to her all that she can desire. In no country in which Popery is effectively dominant is the Reformed worship freely permitted; from Rome to the Havannah she exhibits her bigoted persecuting spirit. Where she can, without incurring too much odium, she enforces an entire prohibition of the public exercise of the ordinances of the Protestant faith ; and where this might be impolitic, as in Rome itself, she thinks it wonderously liberal to allow the use of some obscure building in a back lane or suburb ; a retreat of infamy which must not be protruded upon the eyes of the faithful.

Ought Protestant nations to submit to this? Ought Romanist ambassadors to be permitted to flaunt their gorgeous rites upon the population of London, while the English in their countries are not allowed to have a place of worship? Would it be unjust or unwise, in such a case, to insist upon the reciprocity system; and to tell an ambassador that we will grant to him just as much as his court will grant to us—and no more ?

Perhaps it would; perhaps we do best in acting out our own principles, and setting a right example, whatever ingratitude we may receive in return. But let us not hope thereby to shame Rome into toleration, where she can afford to be intolerant; she only imputes our libe. rality to worldly policy and religious indifference ; and I cannot but think that such an example of fair reciprocity as I have mentioned. of which she could not with any shew of reason complain, might have a good effect.

F.

AMERICAN THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION.

For the Christian Observer. The following recent Proclamation, issued by the Governor of Connecticut, for a day of General Thanksgiving, is so excellent and in

« VorigeDoorgaan »