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Can the rush grow up without mire ?
Can the flag grow without water?
Job viii. 11. For the last half century or more, as is well known, an active controversy has been going on in this country, and to some extent in the most enlightened parts of Europe also, in relation to the final destiny of the human race, or rather, perhaps I should say, in relation to the destiny of an important portion of the race. For it is agreed on all sides in Christendom, that the virtuous, the good in the christian sense of the term—those who have lived in accordance with the requirements of our holy religion, and died in possession of its faith and hopes-shall in the world to come be received to heaven and exalted to a state of felicity beyond all that our poor hearts are here able even to conceive. But this favored class embraces, unfortunately, but a small portion even of the christian world ; for we behold on every hand unbelief and crime, and a too obvious want of the spirit of Christ and his gospel. It would, of course, be in vain, to attempt any accurate estimate of the relative proportion of saints and sinners, of true christian believers and of unbelievers or false believers in Christendom. But it would be a liberal estimate which should give them as one to three ; one saint to three sinners! Perhaps one to nine would be a nearer approximation to the truth.
Beyond the sphere of Christendom, which as yet embraces but about one quarter of the habitable earth, all is of course darkness and death.There is no gospel, no Savior, no salvation. For who can expect to find christian faith where christianity itself is unknown? Who will look for christian virtues where the spirit of Christ has never been diffused ?
You will readily perceive, then, that the controversy to which I allude, is by no means one of idle speculation, as some would have us believe. It concerns the everlasting weal or wo of far the larger portion of mankind; it concerns not merely indifferent persons--the Hottentots of Africa or the Tartars of Asia—but our own fellow citizens, our neighbors, our friends, and our kindred. It concerns our own households, our wives, our children -those whom we love as we love our own life. It concerns ourselves, if in no other way, at least in the same proportion as we are christians, and feel interested in the welfare of those whom it
has pleased God to make in the same image, endow with the same faculties, and finally design alike for an immortal existence beyond the grave.
If this be a question of idle curiosity, of refined speculation, that lies beyond the sphere of human inquiry and duty, what question, let me ask, is or can be of deep, permanent and soul-absorbing interest ? I frankly confess that I know of none that should appeal to men’s intellects or hearts with a more commanding power.
Nor can I persuade myself that this great question, which springs up so spontaneously in every good mind, and demands an answer, is left unsolved, as some would have us think, in the Oracles of divine Truth. I can not believe that when God revealed himself to the world as the universal Father, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel of Jesus Christ-I can not believe, I repeat, that—he closed the fountain of eternal truth and consolation over a subject like this: a subject which, he foresaw, would agitate the great heart of humanity in its seasons of deepest thought; and the soul of the mourner in the night watches, when it yearns over lost affection and goes with its speechless agony to the very grave, that hides what it loved best on earth, from the outward
eye In the domain of revelation, this question has been discussed, on the part
with great learning and zeal. They have brought to
the discussion much research and the fruits of pains-taking study. They have summoned all the zeal which interest in a dogma, rendered veneraable in their eyes by antiquity, could impart; and have heightened it, by persuading themselves that in assailing our faith they were virtually rallying for their own, for the defence of ancient standards, and for repelling what must prove most dangerous to man's welfare here, and his everlasting happiness hereafter. They have come to the struggle, as we all know, in some respects, well prepared, and have too often met but raw and undisciplined combatants. And yet what has been the result? Have their learning and zeal enabled them to gain the victory? Have they left the field in triumph? They can not persuade themselves that it is so. theories have been, and unskilled in all the higher branches of criticism and exegesis, as most of our friends confessedly were, they have still sustained the onset manfully, and have given full proof, if not of their own prowess, at least of the soundness of their cause, and the mightiness of truth, which no tact, no learning, no talent can over
Crude as many
But let us not deceive ourselves. These hattles, my friends, are all to be fought over again. The time is coming, when in the field of exegesis, of scripture interpretation, we are to meet our opposers once more, and meet them, I trust, on equal