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AMES MARTINEAU, a distinguished English theologian and philos
opher, of Huguenot descent, was born at Norwich, Norfolk, April 21, 1805. He was educated at the grammar school in the cathedral close and at Manchester New College (then at York), and in pursuance of early formed desires studied for the ministry, and in 1828 was ordained junior pastor of Eustace Street Presbyterian (more properly Unitarian) Church in Dublin. In 1832 he was called to Paradise Chapel in Liverpool, where he soon became known as the most brilliant Unitarian preacher in England, remaining there nearly twenty-five years. In 1840 he was appointed professor of mental and moral philosophy at Manchester New College, a post which he retained until 1885. While his congregation were building a new chapel in Hope Street, Liverpool, 1848-49, Martineau spent some fifteen months in Germany, in which period he gave himself up to the most careful examination and study of the German philosophy of that day, the result of which was what he described as “a new intellectual birth." In 1859 he was called to the pastorate of Little Portland Street Chapel in London, remaining its minister until 1870. During this latter period the chapel was visited by English and American statesmen and men of letters, attracted thither by his lofty eloquence and his wide range of thought. As old age came on, the sphere of his influence continually widened until he came to be recognized as the foremost theologian and philosopher in Great Britain. On his eighty-third birthday he was presented with an address signed by nearly seven hundred men, representing the foremost thinkers and men of letters of Europe and America, testifying to their appreciation of his work. He continued his labors up to the very close of his life, writing and studying as industriously after he had entered his ninth decade as he had done for the seventy years preceding. He died in London January 11, 1900. In figure he was tall and spare, and even in his latest years exhibited few signs of physical infirmity. His principal writings include The Rationale of Religious Inquiry" (1836); “Endeavors After the Christian Life (1843-47); " Miscellanies (1852); “ Studies of Christianity (1858); “Essays--Theological and Philosophical
Religion and Modern Materialism (1874); “ Hours of Thought (1876);
“ A Study of Spinoza” (1882); “ Types of Ethical Theory (1885); “ The Study of Religion, Its Sources and Contents" (1888), by some critics considered his greatest work; “ The Seal of Authority in Religion " (1890); Essays, Reviews, and Addresses” (1890-91); “ Faith the Beginning, Self-Surrender the Fulfilment of the Spiritual Life" (1897).
SERMON: THE GOD OF REVELATION HIS OWN
DELIVERED AT HOPE STREET CHURCH, LIVERPOOL, JUNE 15, 1851
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, tbat the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”—2 Corinthians iv, 7.
HE old adage, “Man proposes, but God disposes,"
receives its proper illustration, not from individual
life, but from the long courses of history. If men do but limit their aims to that which is proportioned to their power and opportunity, their“ proposals ” will receive little contradiction from God's "disposal;” and the expectation of success, however qualified by the quiet sense of dependence, is little less than a faith in the divine constancy. We can perhaps conceive of a world, where every one should form his plans so wisely and so modestly, as to encounter no disappointment, and where the all-ruling hand should endorse all his drafts upon the morrow.
But even in such a world it would soon become apparent that the human will, though always acting and never failing, was not the only power. If not against it yet without it and beyond it, ends would be accomplished which it never contemplated; which take it altogether by surprise; which eclipse all its personal intentions; and before which it stands and
says, “ This is no thought of mine."
The first party of painted savages that raised a few huts upon the Thames did not dream of the London they were creating, or know that in lighting the fire on their hearth they were kindling one of the great foci of time. When the Athenians refused earth and water to the Persian king, they
were intent only on repelling the insolence of foreign ambition and did not foresee that they were opening for the genius of their nation a channel of perpetual influence that should ever widen as the ages advance. The Puritans who could not tolerate a surplice or bend their necks to bow at the bidding of a rubric or a priest, spent their zeal upon the merits of a gesture or a form; and were little aware that they were educating a national character and creating a practical liberty which should be the pride and hope of two worlds. All the grand agencies which the progress of mankind evolves are formed in the same unconscious way. They are the aggregate results of countless single wills, each of which, thinking merely of its own end and perhaps fully gaining it, is at the same time enlisted by Providence in the s 'cret service of the world.
Thus it is that out of separate acts, directed, it may be, on something quite distinct, politics, literature, religions, arise ; the very influences which acquire in the end an ascendency over all individual life and become the school of nations. Nothing is more startling than to see, as we compare the biography of persons with these great powers of history, how the latter absorb and appropriate the former; how private purpose often drops into insignificance and vanishes in higher ends that use it up; how gigantic schemes of action, making perhaps the turmoil and the torture of an age, die away like thunder on the summer air; while a silent thought or aimless deed emerges from obscurity and speaks with royal voice through many a century.
To lose sight of this principle in estimating Christianity, and to insist on judging it not by its matured character in Christendom, not by the unconscious spirit of its founders, but by their personal views and purposes, is to overlook the
divine in it in order to fasten on the human; to seek the winged creature of the air in the throbbing chrysalis; and is like judging the place of the Hebrews in history by the court and the proverbs of Solomon, or the value of Puritanism by the sermon of a hill-preacher before the civil war. The primitive Christianity was certainly different from that of other ages; but there is no reason for believing that it was better. The representation often made of the early church as having only truth, and feeling only love, and living in simple sanctity, is contradicted by every page of the Christian records. The Epistles are entirely occupied in driving back guilt and passion or in correcting errors of belief; nor is it always possible to approve of the temper in which they perform the one task, or to assent to the methods by which they attempt the other. Principles and affections were, indeed, secreted in the heart of the first disciples which were to have a great future and to become the highest truth of the world.
But it was precisely of these that they rarely thought at all. The apostles themselves speak slightingly of them as baby's food; and the great faith in God, the need of repentant purity of heart, with the trust in immortality, the very doctrines which we should name as the permanent essence of Christian faith, are expressly declared by them to be the childish rudiments of belief, on which the attention of the grown Christian will disdain to dwell. And what did they prefer to these sublime truths as the nutriment of their life and the pride of their wisdom? Allegories about Isaac and Ishmael, parallels between Christ and Melchisedec, new readings of history and prophecy to suit the events in Palestine, and a constant outlook for the end of all things.
These were the grand topics on which their minds eagerly
worked and on which they labored to construct a consistent theory. These give the form to their doctrine, the matter to their spirit. These are what you will get if you go indiscriminately to their writings for a creed; and these are no more Christianity than the pretensions of Hildebrand or the visions of Swedenborg.
The true religion lies elsewhere, just in the things that were ever present with them but never esteemed. your friend may spend his anxiety on his station, his usefulness,
repute, and fear lest he should show nothing deserying your regard, while all the time you love him for the pure graces, the native wild flowers of his heartso do the choicest servants of God ever think one thing of themselves, while they are dear to him and revered by us for quite another. “The weak things” in the church not less than in “ the world, hath he chosen to confound the mighty; the simple, to strike dumb the wise; and things that are not, to supersede the things that are.”
The life of Christ in Palestine was a brief phenomenon, justly regarded by every disciple as the point of divinest brilliancy in the course of providential affairs. At the time and when it was in recent remembrance little notice was taken of its intrinsic character and real peculiarities; its moral perfectness and spiritual beauty is handed down to us by those who perceived it very imperfectly; and had he perceived it himself the reality would have vanished in the preception. From that gracious life itself all eyes were turned away in order to join it on to the past which it finished and to the future which it began. “ How did it come out of the ages which it closed? What did it augur in those which it led on?” These were the two questions with which the first disciples, with the power of his soul sleeping