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incalculable service which he rendered mankind by his ethics, altogether independently of his philosophy.
Art. II.-1. History of Rationalism. By Rev. JOHN F. HURST,
M. A. New York: Scribner & Co. 1865. 2. The Church and the Churches. By Dr. DÖLLINGER. Lon.
don. 1866. CHRISTIANITY has now had a sway, complete or imperfect as it may have been, of nineteen centuries, over the fairest and most highly favoured portions of the world. Whether the founders of this religious system had, at first, a clear knowledge of the extent to which the results of their labours were destined to reach, or whether the aspiration to universal conquest grew upon them gradually, as success crowned their efforts, is a point upon which varying opinions may be entertained, even by the most professedly orthodox. The geographical knowledge of the most learned contemporaries of the first apostles, was somewhat liniited ; nor are we required to believe that these first preachers of the Word, had, by inspiration, or otherwise, any superiority over their neighbours in the acquisition of human science. No authoritative teaching of any Church requires its members to believe that the authentic biographers had the assistance of inspiration in the narration of historical facts, or in the recording of truths not necessary or useful to salvation.
We may safely assert, then, that the apostles, and even Christ himself, regarded as a human being, when speaking of the “whole world,” spoke in accordance with common usage around them, and, consequently, what appeared to them to be the whole world, or the "universe," was, in reality, but a portion of it. This might be more clearly shown by referring to the usage of sacred writers antecedent to the Christian epoch, such as may be seen in the prophets, and notably in the Pentateuch. When Tertullian, in the second century, gloried that the Church was known to the ends of the earth, he must have spoken in the same sense, and given his limited knowledge an unlimited expression. It is not very likely, or, at least, it would not be very rash to deny, that the new ideas had been borne to all nations, especially as there were then many countries with pop
ulous cities and civilized communities entirely unknown. But Tertullian was a rhetorician, and it is not probable that his faith would deny him the modest use of a figure of speech. It is fair to state, then, that the first propagators of the gospel may not have entertained the idea of universal dominion for their religious principles; and, that they were as well satisfied with the progress made by their doctrines in that early period, as the Christians of the present day are content with the result of their own labours to the same end.
Had they equally good grounds to support that feeling of satisfaction? Upon examination, their labours will appear to have partaken largely of that spirit of self-devotion só explicitly recommended in the writings of the first apostles. A more cordial co-operation than that exhibited in the labours of the multifarious forms of Christianity in our day, distinguished the original fol. lowers of the Galilean regenerator. Their action was more combined, whilst it enjoyed more unrestricted freedom from conventional rule.
These two qualities must have wonderfully aided in the attainment of success. They evinced less anxiety, and, in fact, had less need to oppose the divergent opinions that began to be developed in the nascent Church, than we witness around us at the present day. Per. haps, too, circumstances lent them better aid. A degeneracy had taken place in the natural civilization which had for ages diffused its influence over the nations of antiquity, and the colossus of the Roman tyranny was about to topple from its own corruption. When, at a later period, the barbarians of the North had shattered to pieces the crumbling mass, they could not help being awed by the majestic ruins, nor could they deny the science of those whom they had enslaved.
Physical force, whilst dominant over mental greatness, must yield ulteriorly to the invincible superiority of the latter. Since this is the order of nature, whose laws constitute the providence of God, we need not be surprised at the numerous evidences of it in the history of our race in the past, whilst we may with greater confidence rely upon its fuller manifestation in the future. In this principle we may discover a reason which will explain the success that crowned the efforts of Christianity in the first centuries of our era. The advocates of religion pretend, whether wisely or not we do not now discuss, that this success must be ascribed to miraculous
VOL. XVII.-NO. XXXIII.
of our race in numerous evid God, we need
intervention—to supernatural, or, at least, preternatural agency.
No sooner had idolatry fallen, and triumph crowned the general principles of Christianity, than its human elements began to develop themselves in the form of internal discord and external disunion. Men, high in authority, were more desirous of preserving their personal pre-eminence, than of propagating the doctrines of their religion. Even in the Council of Nice, looked upon by all Christians as the first ecumenical assembly, the congregated bishops required the yet unbaptized Constantine, to compel his subjects by physical force to embrace the predominant doctrines decreed in the Council. This example soon became universal in the Church, and from that remote period, down to the past century, we are presented with the edifying spectacle of Christians using the fervid arguments of fire and sword, in order to convince each other of true Christian virtue.
This spirit is, however, but feebly represented in the present age. That there are still some who would too willingly lend a hand in piling up the stake to test the obstinacy of a dissenting brother, cannot be denied by any person who has taken the pains to learn the secret wishes of some religionists. But, in our opinion, the time for such arguments has passed away, never to return; and the only persuasion that can henceforth be effective in propagating religious doctrines, must be grounded on reason and charity. This is nothing more than reverting to the too often neglected teaching of the divine Founder of Christianity. The religious party that ignores this truth, and adheres to antiquated notions of intolerance and domination by forcible means, is but an obstruction to its own aspirations-clogging the wheels of its own progress, and drying up the fountains of sympathy between itself and advancing humanity.
These brief considerations, necessarily prefatory to what we have to say, will lead us to view the most prominent features which the Christian world of the present day presents to us. We must confine our judgment to the external form, indeed, although from this we may frequently divine the internal spirit. But as not even the Catholic Church pretends to judge the internal life of her own members, much less do we presume to pass judgment upon the spirit of any denomination, or of any individual." We can only judge that of which we have cognizance, and which is subject to our perception.
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The first thing that will strike an impartial observer, and produce impressions for which he could not be expected to have been prepared, is the disunion, the discord, or the domestic hostility between the different bodies that call themselves Christians. More than this, there appears between them an antipathy wholly irrecon. cilable with the clearest maxim of their common Master. If there is an expression upon whose meaning there can be no theological quibbling, it is that in which his followers are told to love one another.” Hermeneutists can find but one meaning in these words, nor can exegetists discover more than one sense. Yet, has there been a principle more rigorously pursued by the different de. nominations than that of hostility to each other?
It sometimes appears that there is amongst them a stronger desire to combat or secretly thwart the designs of a rival body, than to forward their own interests. Are there not cases—we hope exceptional-in which the aim of one party is directed to spoil the prospects, or ruin the projects of another, rather than aid or wish success to the missionary enterprises of its neighbour? A noble emulation in good is commendable, but a spirit of opposition to the works of another, because of another, is disreputable. This is more unaccountable in Christian bodies when we consider the action of their Master in a similar case. His disciples brought him word upon one occasion, that other men were doing good works in his name, without his express commission. Far from approving of his disciples' jealousy, he forbade them to interfere, and approved the works of the strangers.
Although we judge that his spirit is not the most prominent feature in his modern disciples, our remarks here are rather suggestive than otherwise, as we desire those interested to draw their own conclusions. Our view is that the internal discord and external hostility between the various branches of Christianity within the last three hundred years, have been highly injurious to its efficiency, and an impediment to the propagation of its principles among heathen nations.
Moreover, this discordance and unfriendly spirit have been productive of disastrous consequences to the Christian body at large, with respect to its own standing in the light of the present age. It is not too much to say-for it is patent to the eyes of every thinking man who wishes to see it-that the bonds by which the interests of religion and civil society might be expected to be now drawn closely together, have, on the contrary, become strained, and, to some extent, dissevered more than is well for either. There is a wide-spread feeling of dissociation, if not a threatened total disruption, between the secular elements of modern social life, and what is regarded as the religious element.
This is more so in Europe than in our own country. Religious criticism and religious discussion have gone farther in advance in the old seats of Christianity than with us; although there is an undeniably rapid progress in imitation of the same springing up around us, and even boldly mounting into pulpits most stiffly conservative. The ultimate effects of this powerful current of human thought, it is not for us to predict; we are more particularly concerned with its immediate results. One of these, and not the least important, is the gradnal removal of many old landmarks which were fondly believed to have indicated the limits of human science. The strong tendency to which we have alluded above, i.e., of separating the secular from the religious elements of social life, or of ignoring the supernatural in any restricted sense, and taking cognizance only of the natural, must be chiefly owing to the internal dissension and consequent weakness superinduced by the domestic strife for which Christian polemics have been, and still are, the field.
A Christian maxim, of no difficulty to comprehend, says that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." If this be true, those who profess the deepest interest in the Christian republic may find much to disturb their dreams of universality in the present state of the various churches, divided and indefinitely subdivided as they are. If this process of disintegration continue and we see no satisfactory reason to think it may cease-what hope can the future hold out to even the most ardent zealot ? We are aware that a few enlightened believers take another view of this phase of their religion, and, instead of regarding it with feelings of regret, deem it a natural, if not a necessary consequence of Christian principles, and one, moreover, highly desirable, because highly beneficial. As this is the opinion of only a few, it cannot be looked upon as of much importance; it is by no means prevalent to any respectable extent. There being an indescribable variety of doctrines in Christianity, it is certain that there is no one doctrine of all these not denied by members of the Christian body.