« PreviousContinue »
that we may say of systems and suns, and worlds, including our own, and man, and all the tribes of animated being below him :
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul." From the minutest atom up to the grandest orb that burns amid the awful depths of the central universe—from the tiniest organism, the merest speck on the outermost verge of animal life, to the mightiest arch-angel standing unveiled amid ineffable glories—all are linked together, and subserve the all-embracing purpose of Infinite wisdom and love.
What a beautiful and happy thought it is, that one day we shall be enabled to trace this purpose in its length and breadth, and height and depth,—that with anointed vision we shall read all the sublime and solemn secrets of the past
-translate from the unknown into the known the history of the creation from its conception, and of all life, embracing the ways of Providence, now light, now dark, and see how that an Infinite benevolence has planned, and wrought, and consummated, and caused all things to blend harmoniously together in one great design, and to work together for a supreme good!
Man shall live, though all beings below him may perish. Like the lark which mounts up on its continually widening spiral, ascending higher and still higher, until it is lost to the eye, and only the notes of its clear, sweet song come warbling down like liquid melody from the upper sky; the soul winds upward to the serene heights by ever enlarging curves, so as gradually to command broader fields of observation and experience, and to have revealed new and diviner forms of beauty to the enchanted gaze. And the song which at first was weak and tremulous, and of narrow compass, increases in volume, sweetness and variety of tone as the soul mounts aloft—swelling and enlarging and growing more impassioned with the widening of the ascending spiral, until its strains finally merge and mingle with the song which the seraphim sing. A. C. B.
ak and tremness and waing and
tonto the Print as yet puitholly unhild deny
Undebatable Theology. It is the standing charge of Catholicism that Protestantism leaves all doctrinal points unsettled. The notion that every man has the right of private judgment, which notion is the central principle of Protestantism --if carried into practice, would (so the Catholic charges) lead to as many different theologies as there are individuals. By common consent, the Protestant has a right to assail any and every theological point as yet put forth, and substitute points wholly peculiar to himself, wholly unlike anything believed in by his fellow-men. If he should deny the being of God, the soul's immortality, and even the fundamental axioms of morality ; if he should agsert as being right and proper, what the whole world has heretofore assumed to be grossly wicked and mischievous ; if he should assert theft, treason, and murder to be virtues, and integrity, and acts of kindness to be heinous vices, --in any and every such case, he is merely exercising his right of “private judgment;” and upon Protestant grounds, who is authorized to gainsay his conclusions ? That there must be something stable in the world of thought seems to be usually felt. That, in the world of moral and religious thought especially, there must be some settled points points not even to be debated-every one spontaneously assumes. And the Catholic thinks that he has fixed his opponent in the awkward position, that as a Protestant he cannot have undebatable points—it being the logical consequence of Protestant principles, that every point may be · debated, and by every body.
If the Protestant is really placed in this unpleasant position, if, in the lack of what is technically known as the “ infallible interpreter,” he can have no fixed theological points—points to which all theologians must defer,--points which are not even debatable,--if such is the logical sequence of Protestantism, it may be a comfort to find, that on points not theological or ecclesiastical, the Catholic must acknowledge himself, must acknowledge every body, to be in a similar predicament. We will cite an example.
In the matter of bodily locomotion as to the method by which men, in the voluntary exercise of their muscles, shall move their bodies from one place to another—we are not aware that the existence of any specific external direction or authority is assumed by any one. On this point at least, the “ private judgment" of each individual has the largest liberty. Catholic and Protestant alike aver that each individual for himself must determine by what method he will exercise his powers of locomotion. If, then, one man assumes that the true method of bodily locomotion is by the joint action of hands and feet; if a second concludes to walk upon his head; if a third, perceiving his form to be somewhat cylindrical infers that Nature's method must be rotary ; if a fourth finds the model method in the example enforced on the deceiver of the mother of our race ;-in all and every case, the result is but the logical sequence of Protestantism as applied to the subject of locomotion. And if in point of fact we should find our streets made the theatre of the varied forms of bodily locomotion specified, we simply find the notion of private judgment consistently carried out! Each person settles the point for himself; and who or what has authority to gainsay his conclusion ?
Nevertheless, the ludicrous consequences of Protestantism, as applied to locomotion, do not take place. Notwithstanding neither church, council, nor synod presumes to interfere with the exercise of private judgment in the matter, we find a wonderful uniformity in the styles of bodily locomotion. That man shall walk upon his feet, his head erect, forward and not backward—these points do not seem to be even debatable. They have been settled by an authority more efficient than any council ;- by human nature itself, in the very structure, instincts, and physiological functions of the well-developed and healthy human frame.
We shall not assume that the axiomatic truths of theology are as easily ascertained as are the facts pertaining to our bodily locomotion. We shall not assert that all the truths of theology are in human nature, in the sense that experience alone is able to disclose them. On the contrary, we believe revelation is necessary to the proper enlightenment of the human soul-revelation, we mean, in that sense of objective communication of truth which is quite distinct from internal experience. Still, we believe that the process by which the soul becomes established in fundamental theological truths is similar to the process by which we attain a knowledge of many physiological facts. Some truths the soul perceives intuitively; and others which it cannot discover, it identifies as truths so soon as revealed. It becomes thus an authority,--in one class of truths direct authority, in another class indirect in determining all points in theology. This is the essential principle of Protestantism,--this is basis of private judgment. But does this give every person the power to frame his own theology
to repudiate whatever doctrines he pleases to repudiate, to put forth just such notions as his caprice may suggest ? Not at all-neither in theory nor in result. He did not make his own soul, and it has laws from which he cannot escape. It has authority over him,mas much so as if it were an entity distinct from himself, and supreme over him. For the same reason that in the matter of locomotion he cannot resist the authority inhering in his physical structure, he cannot, in the matter of theological truth, resist the authority inhering in his spiritual nature.
Looking now at the results of Protestantism, we do not find that general uncertainty and vacillation in theological matters, which the Catholic assumes to be its logical sequence. It is true that there is much diversity in the matter of sectarian organization. But sectarian diversities in most particulars are superficial,--they do not by any means imply an equal diversity of opinion in the matter of theological doctrine. How many distinct sects concur in the essentials of Calvinistic doctrines. How many distinct sects concur in the essentials of Armenian doctrine. And in how many acknowledged essentials of Christian theology do all the sects agree. In the fact of immortality, of moral and intellectual accountability, in the being of God, his nature and attributes, his sovereignty and benevolence;
in these and kindred points we find a great body of theology common to every Christian sect. There are in fact
-whatever may be the logical sequence of the notion of private judgment-very many points in which all Protestants are agreed, respecting which no such thing as question or debate is even thought of. We need not specify; we simply state a fact patent to every intelligent observer, that Protestantism has, and must have, an Undebatable Theology. Further, the very notion of theology, even in the most general terms by which it can be expressed, supposes certain undebatable principles—principles which must appear in any and every theological creed. Take the definition of the term, the “ science of God," involving his relations to the universe of matter and mind—to material things and phenomena, and human souls. The mere definition implies a class of truths which a theologian, as such, is not at liberty even to question. Again, the phrase Christian theology, adding a specific element to the previous definition, supposes a class of truths pertaining to God in certain relations to Jesus of Nazareth, which to the Christian theologian, as such, are undebatable. Further, Calvinism supposes certain interpretations of Christian theology which the Calvinistic theologian, as such, must never call in question. It is thus with every creed-in every instance it necessarily assumes certain principles, which the devotee of the creed, as a devotee, must not look upon as even open to debate.
But in all this we do not overlook the primary fact, -a fact undebatable by universal consent,—that nothing is so sacred as truth, and nothing can be allowed to interfere with the free search after truth. We would guarantee to every man the right to assail, with weapons of argument, any and every theory, creed, or principle, he may elect. We simply ask that upon whatever notion he chooses to animadvert, he shall do so in an honest relation thereto. Whatever dogma or creed he attacks, let him come to it as its assailant. For a theologian to question the being of God; for a Christian to deny everything or anything essentially involved in the relations of God to Christ; for a Calvinist to demur at any of the “ five points ;” for a Universalist—to come nearer home-to debate any of the points essential to Universalism, is, in every case, to convict one'sself of a dishonest position, and of treachery to the cause with which he is in ostensible alliance. Let a man question the being of God in his true position as an atheist ; let him question the essential principles of Christianity in his true position as a deist ; let him attack Calvinistic dogmas anywhere except in Calvinistic pulpits ; let him deny the essentials of Universalism in his true position as an opponent thereof;—let such be his course, and we will do all in