صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

they have finished; they are the sons, and have inherited from the fathers churches and parsonages. We are the fathers, the first generation, and are constantly making provision for the present, and can scarcely keep up with it.

Little more than three fourths of a century ago American Methodism in this wilderness had ten preachers and eleven hundred and sixty members; Wesleyan Methodism, at the same date, had one hundred and thirty ministers, thirty thousand members, and the experience of a whole generation : thirteen times as many ministers, and almost thirty times as many members, all the experience, and a cultivated populous country. Now with such unequal beginnings, and all the difficulties of a new country to contend with, border wars and English aggressive wars, with all we shrink not from a fair comparison. In that time American Methodism has conquered and cultivated, spiritually, more territory than England governs, notwithstanding the sun never sets upon her possessions. The cost of carrying on, to its present state of completeness, such a work, would more than reverse the ratio of one hundred and fortytwo to twenty-eight! In this time American Methodism has grown from eleven hundred and sixty members to one million one hundred and seventy-nine thousand five hundred and twenty-six, and built thirteen thousand three hundred and thirty-eight churches. Wesleyanism grew in populous England from thirty thousand to about five hundred thousand members, “and has six thousand six hundred and forty-nine places of worship !" There is some room for comparison here.

But let us take the figures of“ G. R. H.," as found in the “National” referred to. He says, In 1857 the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) had eight hundred and twenty thousand five hundred and nineteen members, and six thousand one hundred and thirty-four ministers, giving one minister to be supported by about every one hundred and thirty-six members; while in 1846 the British Connection had about fifteen hundred ministers and four hundred and sixty thousand members, giving one minister to be supported by every three hundred and six members; not half the home burden in the single item of ministerial support that the Methodist Episcopal Church has, and yet we are compared disparagingly in our missionary contributions! Why not institute a comparison on this point?

The peculiar statement of “G. R. H." in regard to the houses of worship excites our curiosity. He says British Methodism“has six thousand six hundred and forty-nine places of worship. The Methodist Episcopal Church numbers eight thousand three hundred and thirty-five church edifices." What is meant by using “places of worship” in the one case, and “church edifices” in the other? We know what the latter means, but does the former mean the same thing? It is a pity that the writer in the “National,” in correcting the worthy president of the Ohio University, had not been a little more definite in his statements. We do not believe that the British Methodists have six thousand six hundred and forty-nine “church edifices," or Wesleyan chapels, or “G. R. H.” would have said so.

Dr. Thomson says they have in England about three hundred! Nor are the eight thousand three hundred and thirtyfive church edifices all the "places of worship” occupied by the Methodist Episcopal Church. If all such places are included the number will at least be doubled. Are we to understand, then, that eight hundred and twenty thousand five hundred and nineteen members of the Methodist Episcopal Church have built eight thousand three hundred and thirty-five church edifices in the last three quarters of a century, and that five hundred thousand Wesleyans have built three hundred Wesleyan chapels in the same time? According to those figures, every English congregation of about fifteen hundred has built a chapel, while every American congregation of about one hundred has done the same! And yet our missionary contributions are compared with theirs to exhibit our meanness!

And further, all the missionary money of the Wesleyans, even to the children's Christmas offerings, is reported in the great aggregate. The report of the treasurer of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church does not include, by a large amount, all that is contributed for missionary purposes by the Church. There are many other considerations to be taken into the account, in order to do justice to American Methodism, which we may not introduce here. Take our great publishing interest sustained by the Church. The American Church is publishing as much annually as the Wesleyans have for the last generation. We confess we have been provoked by these offensive and sophistical comparisons.

The truth is, while American Methodism gives all honor to her Wesleyan mother, she has far outstripped her in labor for the salvation of the world. The difference in growth indicates more accurately the difference in doing good than the amount per head of missionary contributions. In this country“ its rate of increase has been twenty-fold, while in England its increase has been seven-fold.

With equal sincerity we offer the prayer for both branches of the great Methodist family: May “the Lord God of our fathers make us a thousand times so many more as we are, and bless us, as he has promised us."

ART. IX.—THE WILL OF GOD.

The progress of true theology depends very much upon a growing precision of ideas in relation to the import of Biblical terms. Theological systems have a constant tendency to warp the legitimate sense of words as dictated by the Holy Spirit, and to make them speak the language of particular oracles, symbols, schools, or sects, It is for this reason that exegesis becomes so important as a final appeal, even when didactics and polemics have long given law to opinion. The Grammar, the Lexicon, and the Concordance will ever be the most weighty witnesses summoned to the stand, when a verdict is to be passed on any asserted tenet of Holy Writ. No matter how excellent a translation, it can never replace or supersede the inspired originals. No matter how long a specific doctrine may have enthroned itself in the Church, it can never plead a prescription 80 sacred as to exempt it from the inquest of a sound philology. No degree of metaphysical subtilty, of bold hypothesis, or ingenious speculation, can pass unchallenged by the linguistic sentinels which keep guard on the outposts of the theological domain. Sentiments that have become enshrined in the sanctity of familiar aphorisms and adages, and which are seldom thought of being questioned, are liable, like more dubious positions, to be brought to the ordeal which nothing bearing the impress of revealed truth can hope finally to escape.

The phrase, “will of God,” standing at the head of the present article, would probably suggest to the casual reader as little involving matter of debate as any three words that could be conveniently framed together, yet they are not beyond the reach of a stern interrogation on the score of their genuine Scriptural significance, and we shall be somewhat mistaken if the sequel do not evince that a very marked modification must come over our conceptions of the phrase before it conveys to us the precise sense of the original. This we propose to endeavor to determine by a large induction of instances displaying the ruling usus loquendi of the sacred writers as concerns the phrase in question, and deducing from the whole a train of inferences bearing upon some of the most important teachings of Christianity.

That the object we propose to ourselves may be as clearly defined as possible in the outset, we remark that the term will, in the present connection, stands in most minds as synonymous with purpose, resolve, fixed decree, etc., denoting certain results that the Divine wisdom designs to have accomplished, whether in the field of physical or moral action. The mass of readers, when they meet with the phrase, are probably conscious of no special ambiguity in it, and think of the "will of God," in its degree, somewhat as they do of the will of Napoleon, of the will of the Russian Czar, of the will of a Parliament, of a Congress, or any other legislative body. The substantive will carries with it, quite invariably in this connection, at least in the mind's estimate, the latent epithet decretory, denoting a certain absoluteness of purpose which it is our object to eliminate from the genuine import of the word as applied to the will of Jehovah. A subtler analysis marks the processes of didactic theology, and hence it would be easy to cite a long list of scholastic distinctions which divines have thought indispensable to a correct apprehension of the subject. Of these the most important by far is the distinction of the secret and the revealed will of God, of which the former is supposed to be the rule of his own action, and the latter of ours. The justice of this distinction we shall have occasion to consider at length ere long; let it suffice at present to remark, that the phrase, "will of God," in common parlance, conveys no very clear or emphatic idea of emotion or affection in the Divine mind, but either that of simple urbitrium, or determinate purpose; whereas will, in the sense of voluntas, points to the affectional state of the willer, and identifies the will with the love. Our English language suffers from the lack of that nice discrimination in regard to this class of words which distinguishes the Latin. There we have voluntas, volitio, arbitrium, defining distinct shades of mental status or action; while our will, choice, volition, etc., come far short of that accuracy of import which the exigencies of sound reasoning require.

In the exhibit which we propose to make of the Scriptural usage of the term, we assume as a postulate the reality of the all important distinction between the intellectual and moral departments of our own nature and of the Divine nature. We would have no one startled at the idea that there is & divine as well as a human psychology; for we could never conceive how we were made after the image and likeness of God, if we could not look upon the main constitution of God's being as the archetype of ours. If we have intellect, love, and volition as distinguishing properties of our own nature, why should we not recognize these as essential attributes of the Divine nature also ? The assignment of the will to the moral or emotional province of our being, instead of the intellectual, or instead of making it a distinct faculty by itself, may not appear, at the first glance, of so much importance as our results may prove it to be. We trust at least to show that by making will, when predicated of the Most High, identical with voluntas instead of arbitrium, and resolving it into a prevailing state of affection, a ruling velleity, we exhibit it under a very different aspect from that in which it is ordinarily contemplated. But of this the reader will judge. In the conduct of the argument we make no apology for the free array of Greek and Hebrew type, as our object cannot be otherwise attained.

To the classical scholar the fact is familiar that the leading term in Greek used to denote the act of willing is dew, of which another form, governing the formation of some of the tenses of dew, is Edew, ethelo. The rendering given of the verb is to will, to be willing, to be pleased to do anything, to wish, to desire, to choose, to delight in, to have pleasure in, to love. The dominant idea is that of complacency. The emotion indicated by the term may sometimes be heightened to purpose or resolve, but for the most part a strong affectional propension toward an object is the prominent import of the word. A few illustrative examples will here be in place.

Matthew i, 19: “Then Joseph ... not willing (un berwv) to make her a public example." Not disposed.

Matthew viii, 2: “If thou wilt (0ɛdels) thou canst make me clean." If thou art pleased to do it.

Matthew xii, 7: "I will have (0€w) mercy, and not sacrifice." I have delight or complacency in mercy.

Matthew xv, 32: "I will not (ov new) send them away fasting.” Here, as in hundreds of other cases in our version, the mere English reader could not determine whether the word "will ” were simply a sign of the future tense, or indicated by a separate verb. The latter is the fact, and the import is clear of a peculiar state of feeling in the Saviour's breast, making him averse to sending away the multitude in a fasting condition. Indeed, in the former clause he says, I have compassion on the multitude," etc.

Mark xii, 38: “Beware of the scribes, which love (02OVTES) to go in long clothing."

Luke v, 39: “No man having drunk old wine straightway desireth (θελει) new.»

1 Corinthians xv, 3: “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, (ηθελησε.)”

2 Peter iii, 5: “For this they are willingly (DɛNovTES) ignorant of.”

Nothing can be plainer than that the verb to will in these cases carries with it a predominantly affectional import, and we have found no instance, either in the Old Testament or the New, where it seemed necessary to depart from this meaning. The affirmative

« السابقةمتابعة »