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main reliance for mighty changes. He does not devise any system of means for this result; but the principle is all important, and he has done good service in showing that in it alone is our hope. To the existing Churches he recommends a more lively interest in man, in the earthly man, to break up the fallow of men's souls by sowing in them any seeds of good.
“I have no pet project to recommend. What might be suitable for one vicinity, may be simply ridiculous for another. This village may stand in need of something which it would be preposterous to propose for that town—this city may require very different remedial measures from that hamlet. Here, water may be needed—there, drainage ; here, improved dwellings—there, baths and wash-houses; here, education—there, books. A wise solicitude for man's welfare, here and hereafter,—which the Churches profess to feel, might, in my judgment, do worse than exercise itself in looking round with an inquiring eye, marking the most copious source of suffering within reach : devising some expedient for its removal, and making energetic efforts to secure and organize, and apply that assistance which promises most effectually to compass the object. All this kind of work, it may be said, may be done, and yet leave men spiritually just where they were. This is a mistake. They are not
a where they were, any more than Manchester is in relation to the metropolis where it was prior to the construction of a railway between them. Literally, it is true, Manchester has not changed places, but really, instead of being at a travelling distance of twenty hours from London, it is brought within five. And literally it may be the fact that temporal advantages wrought out for men by the activities of the religious world would not produce the smallest actual approach of their minds to the truth of the gospel—but really, they render those minds much more accessible by the gospel, much more susceptible to its healing influences. A striking display of care for man's interests is a sure method of gaining man's sympathy. Why should not every Church be anxious to exhibit this care ? Why, if it is so, should it not show such care where, when, and how, it will be best understood and appreciated ? What organization of believers would not rejoice in the increase of its moral influence which would accrue from the possibility of men pointing to some beneficial achievement, and saying, “This we owe to the energy and agency of such and such a religious Society ?' And if the Churches might legitimately rejoice in the issue, why might they not as legitimately find delight in employing the means to secure it? More than five-sixths, probably, of the happy proposals which are approved of by Society, are abortions, because no one steps forward to give them practical effect. If the British Churches were on the watch for usefulness and influence, might they not cherish and nurse such proposals into strength enough to make their own way, and fulfil their own ends? .... The Churches would lose nothing of their spirituality in such increased attention to temporal affairs, so long as their own motive and end were spiritual—and they would gain an amazing accession to their moral power—their ability to attract, to win, and to reward, popular confidence.”—P. 439.
We have confined ourselves to the humble office of giving some account of the contents of Mr. Miall's earnest and suggestive work. At a time when the Establishment is clothing herself in the garments of foolishness, the paltry rags of priesthood, and bringing contempt upon herself by pretensions that have as little relation to any thing real as sick men's dreams, it is something to hear so deep a voice from the bosom of orthodox dissent,-pleading on behalf of practical and vital Religion, of spirit and truth, in opposition to all that comes short of the inward union of our souls with God,-a pleading for Christianity as the religion of Life, with a fitting scorn for all that is only ecclesiastical, ritual, sacerdotal, or speculative. Would that, in the exposure and degradation of the Establishment, the other British Churches were in a condition to instruct her by example, in the performance of her noblest work, that of worthily representing the Faith, feeding the Devotion, expressing the Worship, and teaching the earthly Duties of the British People!
ART. V.-LETTER AND SPIRIT.
Letter and Spirit : a Discourse on Modern Philosophical
Spiritualism, in its Relation to Christianity. By
Robert Vaughan, D.D. London: 1849. This discourse was delivered before the ministers and delegates of the Congregational Union. The audience was choice; the subject, great; the preacher, eminent: and the hearer,--still more, the reader,-might reasonably expect a thoughtful contribution towards the settlement of a deep and intricate question. He will be disappointed. Should he already be in Dr. Vaughan's state of mind, alarmed at the freedom with which the outward authority of Scripture is often treated, and startled by the tones of a Christian piety apart from the reputed essentials of Christian dogma,
-he will find vigorous expression here given to his own disturbed feelings and offended attachments. Should he, on the other hand, be in any sympathy with Theodore Parker or Francis Newman, or even J. D. Morell, he will experience the peculiar style of cruel candour distinctive of pulpit polemics; being first mildly coaxed into the preacher's hands, and then sharply beaten. But should he be an earnest thinker, needing real guidance between these two directions, he will receive no help, unless he can extract it from this riddle, which contains the substance of the sermon,—that he must take both paths, and for that end never quit the preacher's one. You must believe nothing against the spirit: you must believe everything according to the letter: which may be easily done, by just accepting the letter as the rule for the spirit.”
The object of Dr. Vaughan is to counteract the influence of the writers just named, by assailing a position common to them all, viz. that we are “ to subject everything religion may be supposed to include, to the test of an intuitive susceptibility or power of the mind, which, quite apart from the ordinary lights of the understanding, is held to be our great denominator in respect to all religious truth, and all certainty in relation to it.” This “dreamy theory" (the “Religion of the Spirit”) he re
CHRISTIAN TEACHER.-No. 48.
gards as an extravagant reaction against the “Religion of the Letter,"—the “superstition which looks more to documents, institutions, observances, than to any of those realities which are among the necessary elements of an inward and spiritual life.” He undertakes to weigh the good and evil of both these opposite tendencies, and to find the point of equilibrium where they combine in a partnership of wisdom.
If Dr. Vaughan had fulfilled this promise; if he had adjusted the claims of the inward Soul and the outward Book; if he had shown how the one is to be the judge without ceasing to be the disciple of the other,—to impose on it conditions and yet be ruled by it as a law;he would have relieved the religion of the age from one of its most oppressive embarrassments. The problem is in truth the ecclesiastical form of the great struggle between Idealism and Realism,-between the rights of subjective consciousness and those of objective tuition. As, in the doctrine of Perception, the question is raised, whether the mind spontaneously provides Space as a condition for apprehending Body, or from experience of Body learns the lessons of Space; as, in the logic of the natural Sciences, it is doubted, whether our thought throws out the law of Causation upon phenomena, or gathers it from them; as, in ethical Philosophy, there is a controversy, whether the sense of Obligation indigenously springs from reflection on our own acts, or is imported into us by observation of the acts of others :-so, in Religion it is asked, how far the native faiths of our purer mind are to bear authority, and how far we are dependent on the historical testimony of physical miracle, and the propositions of a verbal revelation. This last question cannot be discussed, any more than the others, without carrying the research pretty deep into the constitution of human nature, so as to determine the precise relation of the faculties to one another and of all to their outward opportunities. Whoever contends for intuitive apprehensions of divine truth supposes the mind spontaneously active; whoever denies them, conceives of it as merely receptive. He who never doubts a faith to be true which he feels to be holy, places his understanding at the disposal of moral sentiment and affection : while he who cannot own
it as holy till witnesses have proved it to be true, postpones the suggestions of conscience to the intellectual estimate of probabilities. A different conception of the mind's action, and a different ranking of its several powers, evidently lie at the bases of these contrasted theories; and a discussion which does not sink to these foundations must remain without result; superficially exhibiting an antipathy which it cannot radically resolve. Our author's unconsciousness of this renders his whole treatment of his subject loose and unsatisfactory.
The very problem on which he is engaged is so unsteadily conceived as to fluctuate with almost every statement. The antithesis of "letter and spirit” is employed chiefly to contrast intuitive with testimonial authority in matters of religion; and the rivalry between these two sources or antecedents of faith is the main topic of discussion. But on one page (p. 1) “ the letter” is defined to mean the truth which our Lord taught,” and “the spirit” to be “that condition of our spiritual nature which is the natural result of Christian truth.” On another (p. 5), “the letter” becomes “the Church system to which a man has given his adhesion;" “the spirit,"_"the character he has realized.” On a third (p. 6) the opposition lies between the form of godliness" and "the power of it.” On a fourth (p. 10) “ the state of a man's soul towards the object of religion” is given as the true definition of the word "spirit:” this,” we are told, “is our Lord's meaning in the text” (John vi. 63); yet is not “its strictly evangelical signification !” In short, the preacher's ideas, directed only by the metaphor of his text, visit irregularly anything to which that metaphor applies; contrasting now the Pharisee and the Mystic; and now opposing orthodoxy to deism. Habitually he employs the word “spirit” to denote the moral affections produced by faith; and not, as his argument requires, the moral affections producing it. A thesis thus inconstant forbids all durable result.
And even where the question under consideration is rightly presented, the method adopted for its determination can produce no conviction. Recourse is had exclusively to the argument of promise and threat: the reader is to be frightened or enticed into his conclusions