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and while throwing a shade of doubt, of statement in order to screen himnot only over the particular narra- self, and his doctrine, from the contive, but over numerous passages in sequences that might have followed a the sacred story besides, commits more manly avowal. the writer to no definite position Our business, however, is with the at all. A general principle is laid opinion rather than with the man, and down, but the reader is left to him- that is certainly as untenable as it is self to determine whether this or
Not a word does Dr. any other case comes within the Stanley allege by way of proof.
We range of its application. The effect, all knew before, that the sacred undoubtedly, is to leave the impression writers sometimes attribute to God that the supposed Divine call, in acts done by His command, or even obedience to which Abraham prepared with His permission, but the question to surrender the heir of those glorious is whether it is so in the present inpromises made to himself and his stance, and there is not a shred of seed, was the prompting of the Devil, evidence to justify an affirmative not the intimation of God.
answer. On the contrary, all the any one were to assert that Dr. statements of the narrative point to a Stanley had actually ascribed the directly opposite conclusion. If, inconduct of Abraham to the working of deed, the Devil did tempt Abraham, it the Evil One, he might reasonably can hardly be denied that he was sucobject that his language falls far short cessful. If he suggested a false view of anything so positive or distinct. It of the Divine character, Abraham as is to statements of this kind, suggest- certainly adopted it, and was ready to ing so much and saying so little, that act in accordance with its demands. He unfriendly critics point when seeking left his own home, and journeyed to establish charges of insincerity towards the mountain, with the deagainst Dr. Stanley, and undeniably liberate purpose of sacrificing his the facts have an ugly appearance. innocent son under the belief that But they are susceptible of a more such an offering would be acceptable charitable interpretation. We should to God, and was in fact required by be more disposed to think that the Him at his hands. It is quite true mode in which this notion is pro- that in his readiness to surrender one pounded indicates rather that the round whom all his tenderest affections author himself had felt considerable had gathered, and in whom all his difficulty in connection with the nar- brightest hopes centred, he showed a rative, and that this was one form of spirit of trust, obedience, and selfsolution which had suggested itself, sacrifice worthy of the highest praise ; and which, therefore, he states though but it is equally true that in adopting without positively adopting it. All this mode of manifesting it, he, on this this is very undesirable in one who supposition, accepted the Devil's idea seeks to be a teacher of others; but it relative to God's requirements; and is at least very different from the that the very service which he prounworthy conduct imputed to the posed to render, was essentially sinful. Dean, by those who will have it that Yet not a hint of this is anywhere he has deliberately chosen this mode given—not a word of censure is mingled with the high eulogium Him to a level with the gods of the pronounced upon him; and his nations round! conduct, instead of being branded The event is referred to in the New with any mark of Divine repro- Testament, and there too, the same bation, issued only in his receiving tone is always employed in relation to promises richer and fuller than any it. In reciting the achievements of that had hitherto been vouchsafed to faith in that marvellous 11th chapter him.
of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul Let us look carefully at the facts expressly quotes this, and dwells upon themselves. Isaac, indeed, is spared, it as one of the most signal triumphs but an oblation is prepared in his
of Abraham's faith, accumulating in stead; the assurance of Abraham's his own characteristic style, all the faith that God would provide Himself circumstances which increased the a lamb for a burnt-offering is fully severity of the trial, and enhanced the realized ; the ram is caught in the glory of the victory. “By faith, thicket, and sacrificed, and the Divine Abraham, when he was tried, offered approval is expressed in these striking up Isaac : and he that had received terms, “By myself have I sworn, the promises offered up his only said the Lord, for because thou hast begotten son; of whom, it was said, done this thing, and hast not withheld that in Isaac shall thy seed be called. thy son, thine only son : that in Accounting that God was able to blessing I will bless thee, and in raise him up even from the dead, multiplying, I will multiply thy seed from whence also he received him in as the stars of the heavens, and as the a figure." (Heb. xi. 17–19). But sand which is upon the sea-shore; if Abraham had received no Divine and thy seed shall possess the gates injunction at all, and had only been misof his enemies; and in thy seed shall led by the craft of the Devil,-surely, all the nations of the earth be blessed; instead of discovering faith, he showed because thou hast obeyed my voice." only a spirit of unbelief, alike in (Genesis xxii. 17–19). Strange lan- God's righteousness and mercy, and guage indeed, if the voice which his sad pilgrimage to Moriah was a Abraham had obeyed was the voice of revelation of miserable weakness, not the Devil and not of God. We have, to say a positive sin. In such case, in fact, only to compare this history instead of being exhibited as an with that of the sad passage in David's example, he should have been held up life to which Dr. Stanley refers, to rather as a beacon, to show us see how utterly futile is the attempt how prone are the best to err, to institute a parallel between two in their attempts to do God's
so essentially diverse. In service; how easily we may be misled David's case, compliance with the even by the purest instincts of our diabolical suggestion meets with the hearts; and how great the need of condemnation and punishment which constant watchfulness against an might naturally have been anticipated. adversary who, as he first corrupted Here, on the contrary, God rewards Eve by his subtlety, was able by the Abraham for an act which involved an same art to transform himself into an insult on His character, and reduced angel of light, and pervert a spirit so
noble as that of Abraham, making his and that whatever authority may very faith in God the instrument of attach to their express statements of alluring him into an act dishonouring doctrine, the same does not belong to to the Most High.
the arguments and illustrations by The language of James on this which they are sustained—that their subject is equally strong and decisive. logic is often imperfect, their allusions “ Was not Abraham, our father, to Old Testament Scripture fanciful justified by works when he had offered and unconvincing, and that on these up his son upon the altar? Seest points, they show the errors of thou how faith wrought with his works, humanity not the infallibility which and by works was faith made perfect? belongs to a Divine revelation. To And the Scripture was fulfilled which examine these assertions in detail saith, Abraham believed God, and it would lead us far beyond the limits of was imputed unto him for righteous- the present paper.
Suffice it to say, ness, and he was called the Friend of that such principles, however guarded God.” (James ii. 21—23). Accept the language in which they may be ing the theory suggested by the Dean conveyed and however great the of Westminster, how are we to explain reverence for sacred Scripture proa statement so direct and conclusive fessed by some of their advocates, as this?
The Devil puts it into cannot be admitted without destroying Abraham's heart, that God requires the distinctive character of the Bible him to slay his son; Abraham altogether. For ourselves, we prefer believes him, and at once proceeds to to abide by the interpretations given reduce his faith to practice, and this of the Old Testament by men who faith in the Devil is accepted as faith spake as they were moved by the Holy in God, this readiness to do the Ghost, rather than to accept the gloss Devil's bidding is imputed to him for of modern critics, whose notions, howrighteousness. The very act, which ever ingenious, would change the of all others we should deem the most character and lower the authority of questionable in Abraham's course, is the sacred record. thus represented as that which secured The real origin and tendency of such for him the most distinguished honour; a speculation as that we are here conand the loftiest title which was ever sidering, it is not hard to discover. bestowed on man, the “Friend of The error seems to us to spring God,” is conferred upon him, because, from a disposition to judge all these ' unable to detect the wiles of the Devil, narratives by our own a priori notions he had supposed that a sacrifice of what the Divine procedure ought to which hell alone had prompted would be. Men ask in relation to the parbe acceptable in the sight of heaven. ticular case before us, “Is it credible Such a conclusion is certainly suffi- that God could give a command which ciently monstrous, and yet we do not he never intended should be obeyed, see how it can be escaped, if the or that He would thus give even an premises be once conceded. Perhaps apparent sanction to the fearful pracwe shall be told by some that the tice of human sacrifice, which formed apostles were but Jews, sharing the one of the greatest abominations of notions of their nation and their time; the Heathen ?" We can only answer
that we are in no position to judge. see that great purposes were subThere were certain truths which God served by the trial of Abraham, that was then teaching the world through his faith was manifested, that the agency of His chosen servants : human sacrifice was rejected, and in what way, He, in His infinite condemnation the most emphatic wisdom, might see fit to instruct those passed upon the practice,—and that who were thus themselves to become an illustrious type was furnished of teachers, we are unable to decide. the Saviour yet to come, the “ Lamb We know only that He would do that of God who taketh away the sins of the which was right and good, and can world;" and we are content to believe rest in that assurance even though that God, having these lessons to imunable ourselves to explain all the part, chose to do it in the way
described mysteries of His procedure. We can by Moses.
OUR HOME MISSIONS AND EVANGELISTS. At a meeting of two hundred and plish the same end, should be regarded fifty clergymen, held in Islington on with jealousy, by those whose eyes are the 11th of January of this year, the open to the true nature and magnitude question was gravely and earnestly of the evil which afflicts England. discussed, " Whether the Church of Turning for a moment to the dark England is duly fulfilling her office as side of the picture," said the Rev. a Missionary Church ?” There were Edward Hoare, at Islington,“ he would some things said in the discussion observe that there were multitudes of which we are sorry to read. But we parishes where nothing was being done. wish most heartily, that good men in
He did not know how to express
his the Church of England could under- deep compassion for some of those stand, how sincerely Evangelical Dis- poor people who lived in villages senters rejoice in every sign of spiritual where there was no Gospel, where life and spiritual progress in the
a cold, dead, lifeless Established Church. Their objections ministry, and the only object of the to the connexion of the Church with minister was, as he said, to keep the State, and to many things in the things quiet. That quietness, what constitution and services of the Church was it? The stillness of the grave; herself, are too strong and radical to a deep sleep had fallen on the people; be easily removed. But that loyalty and when he heard brethren speak of to Christ and His truth which compels the parochial system as if it were a them to “ come out and be separate,” panacea for all evils, he wondered compels them likewise to regard, with whether they had been in some of the honest Christian satisfaction, every dark, dead, country parishes where the Scriptural endeavour of those within people was asleep and the people the Church to gather the people into loved to have it so ? Again, there the one fold of the Chief Shepherd. were many parishes where there was We only regret that the endeavours of real activity and zeal, but a sad those without the Church to accom- absence of that Gospel which was the
power of God unto salvation. While whether on the week-day or on Sunon this point he must remark that day. Follow that poor boy a step having had an opportunity of observing further, and you saw him, perhaps, the the working of what was termed the mate of a waggoner, being raised in sacramental system in bringing com- life by living with horses instead of municants, he had been perfectly pigs; and he was again employed amazed at its total failure. In every week-day and Sunday. When churches where the services were at last he married, he presented a conducted on that system, there were spectacle of stolid indifference; and, not half as many communicants as in when he came to die, the clergyman churches where the object of the who was sent for, found before him a clergyman was simply to exalt Christ poor, dark, ignorant creature, with and lead souls to accept His salvation.” no thought that he could work upon
In illustration of the state of the a man who had a sort of dim, misty rural population in Kent, Mr. Hoare idea about God and about Jesus made statements which, but for his Christ, but nothing beyond." knowledge of the facts, might be If such be the spiritual condition deemed incredible. “Throughout even now, of a “multitude of parishes,” Kent nearly all the boys were leaving in which “ the Church " so-called has school before they were ten years of had it all its own way, undisturbed
many at eight or nine. either by infidels or dissenters, and Take the history of one of those from which the ministers of other boys removed from school at eight or parishes are excluded by law, why nine years of age, and sent out to should Mr. Hoare, and men likeminded spend the whole of every day, Sunday with him, deprecate the intrusion of included, an involuntary prodigal, Nonconformist preachers of his own feeding swine, and living in their Gospel? Is it better that the people society. That poor lad asked you at should perish, than that they should one or two o'clock in the afternoon, be saved by the labours of those whose what o'clock it was, in the hope that consciences keep them without the the time was coming when he might pale of the Established Church ? return home, perhaps hungry, cold,
When our Home Missionary Society and weary. There he was, week after was formed in 1819, its constitution week, perhaps, with no one to speak was Catholic, and both Churchmen to him all the week, and there was no and Dissenters contributed to its funds. Sunday-school for him because he The first work of the Committee was was still with his pigs on Sunday. to ascertain, by careful inquiry, the These poor Kentish boys occupying true condition of the rural populations that position, had certain hieroglyphics in certain given districts. The reports on their pig-whips which they used presented were of a very depressing as a sort of charm. It was called in character. From Northumberland it Kent the Hog's prayer.' He could was reported that the “ more internal never make out the meaning of it, parts were awfully destitutė,” and that but the boys who tended swine in “the people were living in the greatest Kent all knew it by heart, and it was darkness and wickedness"
gam almost their only form of devotion, bling and drunkenness, especially on