Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

us on a work of mere self-culture, producing, it may be, another sect of Pythagoreans, or another Academy somewhat more illustrious than the old, but scarcely a religion ; for it is the distinction of a religion, that the soul adheres by faith, to being out of itself, and lays itself recumbently on causes which are not in its own superintendence.”—P. 240.

Still more happily it is added in one short and pithy sentence

Any experience which drops out self, to be filled, guided, animated by God, is sure to be happy, free, and triumphant.”P. 243.

a

But we affirm all true religion has this effect. It is the test of its genuineness and reality.

The point which Mr. Bushnell has laboured with most care in his objective view of the Atonement, and which furnishes the main application of his theory of languageis the assumption, that a series of physical types or bases had been instituted from the beginning of the world, to create a phraseology capable of adaptation to the sufferings and death of Christ. This is only a modified expression of the type and antitype of the early interpreters of prophecy. Speaking of sacrifice, he says

“There is a certain forelooking in this ritual, and then, when Christ appears, a certain retrospection, one answering to the other, one preparing words and symbols to express the other, and a beautiful and even artistic correspondence kept up, such as argues invention, plan, appointment, and indicates a Divine Counsel present, connecting the remote ages of time, and weaving them together into a compact and well-adjusted whole. And if the redemption of man is the great work of the world, that in which all existences here find their highest moment, as most assuredly it is, then what may better occupy the wisdom and the greatness of God, than the preparation of so great a work !"-P. 201. Compare also pp. 42 and 236.

[ocr errors]

Much stress is also laid on the mysterious efficacy attached by ancient notions to the blood of sacrifices, as if there were a latent reference in the dim feeling respecting it, to some great provision in the Divine economy of the world, and to the more precious blood that was destined to be ultimately shed on Calvary. That such ideas were widely diffused throughout antiquity, cannot be denied. But we put a different construction on them from Mr. Bushnell. We read their history in quite a reverse order. What he regards as specific and exceptional, we view as universal and inevitable. We do not believe heathenism borrowed its notions and its practices from revelation; but we are convinced by the clearest testimonies of the past, that the development of the religious sentiment among the Hebrews and all other ancient nations-notwithstanding certain vital distinctions between the twohas been exposed to common influences, and presents in consequence many parallel phenomena.* It would be easy to show that the language of Scripture respecting sacrifice, has had its roots in the same anthropomorphic conception of Deity, which everywhere pervades the religion of the earliest ages. Sacrifices at first were for the most part eucharistic or propitiatory. As moral ideas blended themselves more intimately with the religious sentiment, they became piacular : and when human legislation enacted fines and punishments for the commission of sins, on a principle of apparent equivalence-the same notions were transferred to man's relations with God, and the doctrines of satisfaction, and even of vicarious satisfaction or substitution, found their way into theology. The costliness of the oblation measured the enormity of the offence. Whatever was most precious—what man himself could not replace, if once destroyed—what was looked upon as the special gift of God-it was thought, must be most acceptable to Him as a sacrifice. Hence the value of blood, inasmuch as the life is in the blood.To be sprinkled with it, was regarded as a peculiar means of purification. When such ideas were taken up by popular fanaticism, and pushed to excess in the decline of heathenism—they led to the disgusting rites of the Taurobolia and Criobolia, which have furnished Prudentius with a subject for one of his most revolting pictures. The certain effect of the wide diffusion of such ideas and usages, was a current religious phraseology respecting human intercourse with the Deity, which was gradually systematised by those who superintended the religion of the people. We have long feīt, that much of Paul's language on this subject is imperfectly comprehended by us, in consequence of its manifold but unperceived allusions to a subtle theology that had been developed in the more learned schools of his countrymen. A phraseology so prevalent as this, could not be all at once cast aside-especially as the ideas which it had generated and fostered, had grown into the very substance of the popular creed, and mingled with every new impression it received. This was equally the case with the Heathens and with the Jews. With so obvious an explanation of the origin of these forms of speech, why should we seek for any other ? Simply because an application has been made of them to the case of Christ ? Yet this could not have been otherwise-considering the new relation in which he was believed to have placed men towards God-considering also the resistless desire of his earliest followers to avert from his ignominious death the repelling influences associated with it, and to invest it with the mystical efficacy which, with the prepossessions of their education, it was impossible for them to detach from it. But though such association was perhaps inevitable—nay, in the first instance might even be necessary as a conduit for truth into the mind-by its artificial preservation and that vast accumulation of theological refinements, of which it has been made the nucleus, it has obscured instead of unfolding, the true value of the death of Christ. The objective, has been set up as an indispensable counterpart to the subjective, view—and a significance distinct from the purely moral and spiritual has been attached to it. And yet if the subjective view, as developed by Mr. Bushnell himself, were to acquire in any mind its utmost spiritual force, the objective elements of the doctrine would hang very loosely on the interior belief, with little more of adhesiveness than a simple figure of rhetoric. All that was primitive and characteristic in those elements, would be felt to require explanation and apology-and whatever influence they might still retain, would not be moral, but due to long-established association, acting on the feelings

* On the mystic significance assigned to blood in the sacrificial rites of different religions, there are some instructive observations in Le Maistre's Soirées de Petersbourg, tom. ii. Essai sur les Sacrifices. # Van Dale, De Origine ac Ritibus Sacri Taurobolii, c. iii.

and imagination, but with no direct effect on the .conscience. The old theory of Atonement, which, in his objective view, Mr. Bushnell substantially receives, though he dresses it up in the newest fashion of philosophical diction -involves a vicious circle of reasoning. The old sacrifices, it is said, show what was meant by the death of Christ; and the death of Christ gives a spiritual meaning to the old sacrifices. But we cannot interchange these terms at will -taking sometimes the one and sometimes the other, as a datum. We must assume one of them as fixed, and abide by it. If we start from the old sacrifices, and limit our views to them, we have not the slightest reason for regarding them in any other light, than an expression of anthropomorphic feeling towards God. If, on the other hand, we begin with Christ's death,—and survey it by itself as an historical event—apart from the language which popular conceptions have associated with it-we discern in it nothing mystical, but something far higher—the spirit of noble-minded martyrdom of self-sacrifice to truth and duty—and of unreserved and confiding devotedness to the Divine Will. But on the ordinary theory, the terms of comparison-type and anti-type-like bankrupt merchants, draw on each other with fictitious bills, for a wealth of significance which is to be found with neither.

To us the most pleasing and satisfactory of all the Discourses is the last. To its general spirit and tendency we give our almost unqualified assent. We should merely embrace within the less favourable designation of Dogma, and exclude from the essentials of Religion-some things which the author would retain under the milder name of Doctrine. The distinction between the religion of the heart and the religion of the head—so often misunderstood—is well put and strikingly illustrated—though with obvious amplification of a familiar line in Pope-in the following passage

“In this matter of head and heart, you may figure the head or understanding, it seems to me, as being that little plate of wood hung upon the stern of the vessel, that very small helm by which the ship is turned about, whithersoever the governor listeth. But the heart is the full deep body of the ship itself, with its sails lifted to the breath of a divine inspiration, containing in itself the wealth,

а

[ocr errors]

the joy, and all the adventuring passions, wants and fears of the soul. In a certain superficial sense, you may say that the helm is everything, because by that, so great a body is so bravely steered and turned about in the sea. And the man at the helm may fancy, too, that he is the moving and directing cause of all. But look again, and you shall see how foolish a thing this little piece of wood may be; for when the wind sleeps, when the great heart of the ship receives no inspiring breath, then how idly does it swing from side to side, as a vain and silly thing! It is by the love of the heart only that we know God. Here is all inspiration, all true motion and power. And when the great heart of faith is not parting the waves of life before it, and rushing on to its haven, the busy understanding is but a vain and idle thing, swinging round and round with an addled motion, whose actions and re-actions are equal, and which, therefore, profit nothing."-P. 302.

This is the tone of Cudworth and the old Latitudinarians. In the Spirit which Mr. Bushnell would fain sub

. stitute for Dogma-we trace the rising of that finer element of faith and love, in which the now divided Churches of the earth are destined hereafter to unite and co-operate, and in which he will himself-we are sure—have to part with some peculiarities which he still clings to as essentials. It was not their rejection of his own reserved dogmas of the Incarnation and the Atonement, that made the older Unitarians less susceptible to the impulse and breathing of this quickening spirit; nor will their resumption of them bring the Unitarians of the present day more deeply and decidedly under its influence. It was the antagonism of inevitable rationalism against the metaphysics of orthodoxy, that superinduced this cold intervening phasis of the religious life in both parties-the preponderance of logical caution, and a dread of those warm and earnest spiritual feelings towards God and Christ and a Heavenly Life, which they sometimes saw artificially excited in connection with the orthodox dogmas, but which will really become purer and more intense, when disjoined from every dogmatic form. Still, we agree with Mr. Bushnell, that sectarian divisions of opinion may yet have work to accomplish in healthfully developing the true kingdom of Godand that so long as one deep, discriminating or repellent conviction subsists at the heart of any party-every forced amalgamation of disagreeing elements—every com

« AnkstesnisTęsti »