Page images
PDF
EPUB

Like a miasma of whose presence one is all unaware till his whole system is affected by the malaria inhaled, so does this subtle skepticism permeate the religious atmosphere of our own country, and infect it with its poison unperceived for a season.

But even the system itself has its uses.

1. It demonstrates that there is no middle ground except in transitu between Evangelical piety and skepticism

2. It demonstrates the absolute impossibility of denying successfully that there was a Jesus of Nazareth who established the Christian religion, and that in all the researches of lynx-eyed skepticism no facts, Facts, can be found, and no reasonable conjectures formed, which damage the testimony of the evangelists.

3. That the infallable reason of those men who try the word of God by their own inspiration is like those who testified against Christ at his arrest—though all testify, yet their testimony does

not agree.

4. That no human ingenuity is able to cope with the evidence which Christ's miracles furnish that he was divine, since these men do not, and dare not confess the possibility of miracles under any circumstances so long as they deny that Christ wrought miracles. This is scarcely less than a confession that if miraculous power could prove the divinity of any being, Christ by his miracles proved himself divine.

5. It shows how low a standard of morals, and what monstrous conceptions of God, can satisfy the demands of philosophy, when in the same chapter a philosopher can talk of Christ and the apostles as practising deception on the multitude to maintain a power over them, and yet bear testimony to the apostles as the best of men and “demigods,” and say of Christ“He will never be surpassed,” and “between thee and God there will no longer be any distinction.”

ART. VII.-CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE.

LECTURES ON THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE NINETEENTH

CENTURY. Delivered in the Mercer Street Church, New York, January 21 to February 21, 1867. On the “ Ely foundation" of the Union Theological Seminary. By Albert Barnes, author of "Notes on the New Testament," etc. New York: Harper & Bros. 1868. 12mo pp. 451.

The Bampton foundation in England has become well known through the valuable Courses of Lectures which it has secured and caused to be sent into the world. Mansel and Rawlinson have given us volumes whose appearance marked an epoch in religious literature, and indicated the importance and value of the gift which continues to preach so effectually long after the donor himself goes up to the great Source of truth. The gift of Graham some years since in New York for a similar object was hailed with high satisfaction, and now Mr. Ely of the same city puts down $10,000 as a basis for a Christian Lectureship, and Mr. Barnes is very properly selected to deliver the first course.

No man could well be found whose words promise more weight than do those of Mr. Barnes, and on no branch of the great general topic whose discussion is contemplated, would he find a field of inquiry to which his studies and his habits of mind are more admirably adapted. The field has been often traversed by many able and original thinkers, so that there is little to be said that is really new. But the need of restating in fresh forms the evidences upon which the Christian revelation makes its appeal to our judgment and faith is constant, strong and pressing. If they are old foes that are met they wear new faces; and if they only repeat old arguments they aim to utter them in a novel and taking dialect.

Mr. Barnes's volume is one of solid worth. He is a calm, clear reasoner; his style is plain and simple, but his thought is weighty; seldom brilliant, he is eminently convincing; rarely irradiating a topic by ? flash of genius, he does not often leave it till his analysis has reached its core and his ample statement has fairly spread it before us; seldom carrying his point by means of taking epigrams or a rhetorical charge, he plans his campaign with a wary eye and a cool brain, captures a fortification by siege and steady advances, and conquers by the use of reserved forces and assaults in detail. Candid, thoughtful, serious, never diverted by any side issue, keeping his end always in sight, putting a dignified courtesy into his words and an oaken strength into his arguments, patient as though sure of his ground and persistent as though he meant that nothing should hinder him from reaching his goal, he has supplied a large amount of material which perplexed minds may use in building up within themselves an intelligent and well fortified faith, and from which the preacher may draw often and freely in giving force to the appeals with which he would win the understandings and hearts of his hearers.

THE

FREEWILL BAPTIST QUARTERLY.

No. LXII.-APRIL, 1868.

ARTICLE I.-THE BLESSEDNESS OF GIVING, AS COM

PARED WITH THAT OF RECEIVING.

a sin.

There is a good surely in receiving, if it be with gratitude and meekness ; but there is a greater good in giving, if done wisely and heartily. There is a choice between good things ; as also between evil things. If a lesser good is preferred to a greater, that good becomes relatively an evil, and the choice of it

Or if an alternative of evils is presented, the lesser becomes a good comparatively, and the choice of it—a virtue. We say

evils—and not sins ! An alternative of sins is inconceiyable. Where but two possible courses or choices are before one, both of them cannot be sinful.

Receiving, then, is a good, if it be in the right spirit, and is not preferred to the greater good of giving. We gain what we give properly ; we lose what we withhold selfishly. It is not he who lays up for self, but he who lays out for Christ and the poor, that becomes truly rich! The worldly man says—it is more blessed to get than to give; but the good man says, it is more blessed to give than to gain. With the one, gain is godliness; with the other, godliness is great gain! But Christ settled this question when he said—it is more blessed to give than to receive. We shall not undertake to prove this truth. We assume that the

words of Christ are themselves proof from which there is no appeal. We shall aim only to interpret and illustrate these words of the Lord. Let me then refer

1. To consciousness and experience. Does not giving awaken pleasanter reflections than can come of mere receiving? Does it not excite more exalted feelings and foretastes than ever connect themselves with bare possession? Who has ever made a noble sacrifice, and not been the happier and the better for it? Who ever regretted almsgiving, if done wisely and usefully? The mere recipient of favors can never have the sweet reflections that give joy to those who love and give, and who love to give.

We need not name here the trials that come often of large receiving and large possession ; the anxieties and perplexities, treacherous friendships and trembling forebodings; but these never enter into the experiences of the benevolent and self-sacrificing.

We could refer to another experience at life's close, when honest thoughts come, and just reflections throng. Which will seem the greater good then, at the sunset of earthly things, a life of receiving and accumulation, or of noble disinterested giving? Oh, the thought at that hour that we had done what we could for Christ, and those for whom he died, how much happier, sweeter, holier, than ever comes of the recollection of what we had received or possessed on earth!

2. The principle of giving is affirmed also in nature, not less than in experience. We ask, is it more natural for us to be givers than receivers? We use the word in a good sense. Benevolence accords with true nature, right nature, upright nature,-as God created it, and not as man has perverted it. God made man upright, in his own image, to be a benefactor to others, not less than a beneficiary from his own hand. God is love.

God is love. Giving is in accordance with his own infinite nature. And his offspring were made to be like him in this. Receiving is simply the necessity of nature; giving the grand law of nature.

We were made to be a providence to others. Our welfare consists in doing as we were made to do. Selfishness is an unnatural thing. It is a perversion of nature. We were made for usefulness and disinterestedness. The selfish man is a miserable man. He is

we had

not himself; he is beside himself. Avarice and covetousness are crooked things, ugly growths, hostile to nature, and antagonistic to all good. They are contrary to God, contrary to man; they are against nature, and hence unnatural.

The principle of communicating prevails everywhere. Nature is full of illustrations. The sun, the moon, the stars, do not shine for themselves, but for other worlds. The winds do not blow for themselves, nor the clouds wing the skies for themselves, but for earth, for nature, for man. Everywhere one thing respects another, gives to another, blesses another. Nothing exists for its own sake. Nature is one vast contributor to man and to animal. God's law and love are written out legibly and beautifully upon all things. The dew, the brook, the mist, the sunbeams are all sermons to us,

if

to see, ears to hear, and hearts to appreciate. They tell us how to live, how to act, and how to bear ourselves toward others. How feelingly is life's great lesson impressed on all the handiworks of God! Not for myself but for others, is inscribed upon everything, the meanest as well as the sublimest. The moss on the rock—the cheapest thing,—the wave of the sea—the mightiest,each breath of air and blossom of the field—the sweetest and purest,—the beam of the morning, the blush of the eveningthe most beautiful, -are continually contributing themselves, giving themselves to other natures. This is God's plan and way in all the universe. He has put us to school in the presence of these great facts and emblems, where every object is a teacher or a type, to impress upon us this great lesson of love. For if all above us, and around us, and beneath us, have this truth wrought into their very nature and texture, should we expect to find an exception in man-God's noblest work-next to the angel? We should not expect it, we do not find it. Man is not thus degraded in his rank in creation ; but was made to be, like his Creator, a benefactor and a providence to his kind. Everything in nature and in providence points to this one duty of giving. In all the activities of creation, seen in these grand processes of imparting and communicating, we have a symbol of God's goodness and purpose concerning man. This law of benevolence, stamp

eyes

« PreviousContinue »