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The doctrine of the Trinity, that is, of a threefold personality in the one Godhead, is certainly a fundamental article of the Christian religion. Nor can it be denied that there is difficulty in conceiving of such a distinction in the Divine essence, undivided and indivisible as we are taught on the same authority to regard it. But is there less in forming a notion of those attributes of which the works of God clearly show him to be possessed, and with which both Deist and Socinian concur to clothe Him? Is omniscience, or ubiquity, a less marvellous condition than such a distinction as the Trinitarian contends for? Or have we not, in fine, in the modifications of our own consciousness, a fact not obscurely analogous to that so confidently impugned? Is there not in our own spiritual nature the type and mirror of Trinity? Will, reason, and affection, of which the second supposes the first, and the third the first and the second, may be regarded as the three grand elements in the human TVEμα. And yet this trine modality, which is so strongly marked that we often speak of each of the great phases of mind as of a being subsisting apart and possessed of a separate idenity, is quite compatible with the oneness of that principle from which, indeed, is derived our highest, doubtless, perhaps our only, idea of unity. In like manner the union of body and soul, the material and the immaterial, in man, may surely reconcile us to the revealed fact of the union of two natures in the person of the Son of God. No alliance between mind and mind, of whatever relative grades, can be so repugnant to our a priori conceptions as that between mind and gross matter. To a pure spirit, probably, the notion of the former coalition would be, of the two, by far the more readily reached. The same remark, somewhat modified, may be extended to the great Christian doctrine of the agency on men's hearts of the Holy Ghost. That the communication of mind with mind should be immediate, and independent on the intervention of a material organism, would have appeared, prior to observation and experience, a much more likely supposition than the contrary; and that the mind of man is not in all cases restricted to the reception of impressions through the senses, seems demonstrated by the phenomena of animal magnetism. Usually shut up in the chambers of the brain, and wholly dependent on the ministrations of the nerves, at such seasons (if I may hazard an image somewhat quaint and fantastic) she may be likened to those captive princesses, the staple of eastern romance, who contrive, on some pressing emergency, to steal forth from their seclusion, eluding for once the vigil
ance of those keepers, through whom only the law of their condition allows them to hold intercourse with their friends.
That man is a free agent and therefore accountable,—a truth made known by reason, and borne witness to by conscience, is solemnly announced, or rather constantly assumed, in that book which also teaches explicitly the foreknowledge of God. Nor are we furnished with any clue to the discovery of a principle by which these seemingly clashing and jarring dogmas may be harmonized. But the one truth, as well as the other, is known to the Theist; and, as to the method of reconciliation, natural religion is no less reserved than Christianity. On the vindication of the great doctrine of the atonement, the strongest analogies can be brought to bear. That repentance the most hearty, and reformation the most thorough, will not remedy the rashness or misconduct of the past, nor stem the torrent of disaster of which that rashness has dug the channel, is demonstrated by the shattered health, by the ruined fortunes, and by the shipwrecked reputation of thousands. And in cases where a rescue is in part practicable, is not this frequently to be effected at the cost of much self-denial, or perhaps acute suffering to those who have had no share in the vicious course of which they are struggling to avert the impending penalty? If, then, the Author of nature permits in the every-day routine of life, in the settled course of providence, the occasional substitution of the innocent for the guilty-if the generous endurance of heroic virtue (which is felt by the way to be its own reward) is often the indispensable condition of the offender's recovery,-if love must suffer or its object perish there are here a procedure and a necessity exactly analogous to those assumed in the theory of the Christian Atonement.
That parents may entail on their offspring not only physical defects but enfeebled moral sentiments, is a fact which modern science has sufficiently ascertained; and it is a fact which should dispose us to humble acquiescence in the mysterious tenet of original sin. If we may suffer from the crime of our proximate, why not from that of our remote progenitors? That a malignant spirit should be left at large; that he should be permitted to weave his snares for the innocent, to spread his seductions before the unwary and the inexperienced; that he should have leave to ply the arts of a superhuman subtilty to win them over from God and goodness; is an announcement of the christian Scriptures which certainly seems startling, harsh, anomalous. Satanic agency is not only mysterious considered simply as a fact (for this phase of that quality is common with it to the operation of
the Spirit of God) but as a power tolerated by the gracious Ruler of the universe. There is, however, to this, lying on the very surface of society, a strict moral counterpart,-I mean the pestilential agency of a bad man. That the original perplexity is not removed, nor even mitigated, by the adduction of this analogy, is readily conceded. But it is shifted, and shown to be a difficulty attaching no less tenaciously to the religion of nature, than it does to the religion of the Bible.
2. From the subject-matter of Christianity I now pass to its form. By this I intend all that falls under the inquiry How, as by that all which falls under the inquiry what revealed? The system of conditions, namely, under which the religion has appeared:-the time of its original promulgation; the preparations for its announcement to mankind; the instrumentality by which it was ushered in; the quality of the evidence by which it stands attested; its ritual manifestations, the sacraments; its record, the Bible; its custodier and expositor, the church; its theatre of action, the world. To this, as the fresher department of my subject, I had hoped to be able to assign a much greater prominence than I find I am. Of the topics just enumerated I reluctantly confine myself to the last. This, however, is the place for observing of them generally, that the mysteriousness attaching to them, in the aspect at least in which they are now introduced, is simply that of relation-a phrase the present usage of which has already been fully explained.
The imperfect diffusion of Christianity has long been a favourite objection with the sceptic, and an objection which has appeared to many of the faithful invested with a painful cogency. The religion
of Jesus of Nazareth-a religion meant for mankind-has now been in the world full eighteen hundred years, and yet how small a proportion of the human race have been brought to admit its claims, or bow to its authority! Can that system, it is urged, be from heaven, which has made so little way on earth? Has God Almighty spoken, and failed to gain the ear of man? These representations are plausible, but a very slight reference to the analogy of nature will serve to expose their hollowness and insufficiency. As has been remarked by Paley, we can only affirm of the system of things around us the action of benevolence, not the presence of optimism. The choicest of temporal blessings are withheld from large numbers of the human family. In the vast majority, for lack of proper cultivation, the intellectual powers are no less stunted and benumbed than the religious affections. How slowly have art and science, and the refined
habits they generate and foster, evolved themselves and spread? And yet man was evidently intended by his Maker for a state of high eivilization; and mental endowments so rich in capacity must have been conferred with a view to culture and exercise. These notwithstanding, for forty centuries, in the case of all the species but a fraction, have been permitted to run to waste, to wither, and to grow unworkable. Is there nothing perplexing in such a fact to the philosophical theist? Has he never been lost in wonder at the thought of the countless millions who have come short' of the 'high calling' and the bright meed of humanity; who have lived and died idealess; whose fancy never revelled among the forms of things unknown' whose reason never rose in quest of the infinite; whose minds have been blanks, whose souls petrifactions; who have trodden and passed away from the stage of existence without the registry of a single claim to take rank as the fellow-creatures of Newton and Shakspeare? Fitted to be a little lower than the angels,' they have been but a little higher than the brutes. And is not this, too, a mystery.?
That secular is of far less value to mankind than religious knowledge; that the fleeting enjoyments of this mortal life are not to be named in the same breath with the fruition of bliss in eternity, is readily granted. But if the former are of any consequence whatever, if the human being, in his perfect state, must be furnished with the accomplishments of intellect as well as filled with the inspirations of piety-the point in question is carried, and the sceptical cavil set aside. What holds true of the less may hold true of the greater.
So much for the application of analogy as an instrument of defence to the mysteries of divine revelation. And here I close the case. If mysteriousness be, as I have attempted to show, an affection of every branch of science; if it be especially implied in the notion of a message from the Deity respecting the relations to himself of his rational offspring,-their position, their duty, and their destiny; if in Christianity, in particular, along with much that is obscure, there be also much, and that of the highest moment, which is plain; if the mysteriousness of truth, and especially of Christian truth, be not incompatible with its practical utility; if what is mysterious cannot, in the nature of things, be detached from what is clear, so that the first, supposing it were worthless per se, must be communicated for the sake of the second; if, in fine, the Christian mysteries be not only vindicated by the general character of nature, but by specific analogies homogeneous to themselves;-if this be so, nothing more, I
conceive, is required in vindication of the Thesis I have undertaken to defend.
It may not, however, be improper to add that, while the appearance of mysteries in revealed religion is made inevitable by the constitution of the mind, their existence, at the same time, in the wise arrangements of Providence may be conducive to the ends of a moral probation, and the growth of a religious awe. Of the former they are parts, as testing our readiness to act on a preponderance of evidence, notwithstanding some difficulties which may give pause to inquirers too slothful to probe the matter to the bottom; of the latter they are promotive, as calling on the faithful to humble their understandings at the bidding of the Almighty, to be still and know that he is God.' Even from what he has seen fit to hide will piety extract the proper pabulum. We may look, for example, to the great fact of the Incarnation. We are far,' says a vigorous thinker and exquisite writer, 'from suppressing our conviction that this is a great mystery; we rejoice, on the contrary, in its incomprehensibility; we delight to lose ourselves in the impenetrable shades which invest the subject, because in the darkness and the cloud which envelope it, God dwells. It is the greatness which forms the mystery of the fact, -the matchless love and condescension constitute the very nucleus of the difficulty. It could only be brought within the sphere of our comprehension by a contraction of its vast dimensions, 'by a depression of its native grandeur. A prostration of it to the level of our feeble capacities would only render it incapable of being the magnet of souls, the attraction of hearts, the wonder of the universe.'*
It is pleasing to cherish the hope, not dimly sanctioned by the Christian Scriptures, that many of the problems which here perplex us, are destined for solution in another life. It is ennobling to know we shall yet pass the threshold of that awful and spacious fane of which here we are but permitted to scan the dimensions, and to circle
*Far therefore from us be the temerity, as short-sighted as it is presumptuous, which can find no other method to rid religion of cavil, save the stripping it of all which makes it what it is. Of those who thus rashly tamper with holy things it may truly be said that they know not what they do.' It is from its mysteries that religion derives, not simply its moral efficacy, but its imaginative grandeur ; and he who robs it of this element is shearing the locks which are at once the source of its splendour and the secret of its strength, and is acting a part only comparable to his who should banish night from the firmament, or pluck winter from the year.